Teach the controversy: Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and Heartland Institute working to undermine science education?

Having failed to win the scientific argument, it would appear the denial machine has set its sights on its next target: science education in schools.

One of the most appalling revelations to come from the Heartland Institute leaks was the proposal to develop an “education” program that would “dissuade” teachers from even mentioning global warming due to its supposed “controversial nature”:

“…We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.”

Perfectly innocent right?

  • The strategy: make the science appear “uncertain” to teachers
  • Their intent: to “dissuade” teachers from teaching science.
  • Their target: the education of children.

It is also worth recalling that Ian Plimer recently launched a book aimed at confusing high school students and prompting them to throw dozens of irrelevant and misinformed questions at their science teachers.

We should also note that Plimer and the denial machine are happy to provide free copies to any schools or teachers interested…

Perhaps we can pass this all off as a coincidence.

However, it reveals a new phase in the strategy of the denial machine.

Bernardi: “teach the climate controversy” statements are poorly timed, but revealing

The denial machine has adopted the same “teach the controversy” tactic used by creationists in their attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution. I think we can see a pattern here: where the creationists once trod, the climate change “sceptics” now follow.

Nor is this tactic restricted to the good folks at the Heartland Institute and Plimer.

Ultra-conservative Senator Cory Bernardi is notorious for his denial of human induced climate change and his close relationship with the Heartland Institute appears to be reading from the same playbook.

In what can only be regarded as extremely poor timing (in light of the leaked Heartland documents), Adelaide Today has just reported that Bernardi selling the Heartland Institute’s message:

LIBERAL senator Cory Bernardi has questioned why a national scientific program for children appears to be teaching only one side of the climate change debate.

During a Senate estimates hearing today, the South Australian senator quizzed the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) about the content of its Carbon Kids program.

Senator Bernardi said the program contained a note for teachers which said climate change was a complicated topic many found “daunting and confusing” and could be controversial, leading to many different opinions.

“Yet the information that is produced and distributed to schoolchildren appears only to present a single opinion about what is driving climate change,” he said.

“How can you explain that given that the explanatory note for teachers says it leads to many different opinions?”

Without doubt, Bernardi echoing the same “talking points” and strategy highlighted in the leaked Heartland strategy document: in short make the science “seem controversial and uncertain”.

Bernardi-Heartland connections

Bernardi has spoken at Heartland events and is closely associated with the views of the think tank, as noted in a previous post. It would seem Bernardi is following Heartland lockstep in their attempts to undermine science education.

10 thoughts on “Teach the controversy: Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and Heartland Institute working to undermine science education?

  1. Mike says:

    When are these conservative scientific illiterates going to get it through their thick skulls that the “debate” over whether or not climate change is happening is NOT a scientific one? If they want to bring it up in an education context, it belongs in a social studies class, not science.

  2. Geoff Brown says:

    When are the deniers at Watching the Deniers going to admit that climate has always changed?

    • Mike says:

      Geoff, everyone knows that the climate has always changed. If however you are suggesting that the observed climate shifts of the last century are the result of purely natural phenomena, you probably need to read a few papers written by climate experts.

    • Watching the Deniers says:


      Yes Geoff.. the climate has changed in the past. This have never been questioned by science, or by me. The question is what forces those changes.

      So I’ve given you an answer.

      Your turn:Monckton: Member of the House of Lords or not?

    • Matt H says:

      It’s the accelerated rate of change that is a crucial distinction, inhibiting adaptation and causing mass extinctions in ecosystems, which in turn flow on to affect other species.

  3. Geoff Brown says:

    Mike – “you probably need to read a few papers written by climate experts.”

    Try this for example from a peer-reviewed paper in Geophysical Research Letters: http://theclimatescepticsparty.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/4000-year-history-of-greenland-surface.html

    • Mike says:

      Geoff, have you read the actual paper itself or just the cherrypicked, misrepresented part put forward on that blogsite? I have. Here is a link to the full paper. http://www.syntrillium.net/sigasaswelt/ressource/pdf/2011GL049444.pdf

      My challenge to you is to read it in its entirety. If there are any parts you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Compare it to the garbage on the blogsite. I urge you take particular note of the many caveats they put on their findings but also look at their future projections. After that, I have a list of over 100 papers that demonstrate unequivocably that AGW is occurring, if you’re interested of course.

      • Geoff Brown says:

        Actually, Mike, as quoted in the post above, it was published in GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 38, L21501, 6 PP., 2011 doi:10.1029/2011GL049444
        Here is a link: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2011GL049444.shtml

        Note the last two sentences from their conclusion:

        Therefore, we conclude that the current decadal mean temperature in Greenland has not exceeded the envelope of natural variability over the past 4000 years, a period that seems to include part of the Holocene Thermal Maximum. Notwithstanding this conclusion, climate models project that if anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue, the Greenland temperature would exceed the natural variability of the past 4000 years sometime before the year 2100.

        • Mike says:

          So, did you skip straight to the end and miss the caveats then? That final conclusion is subject to the understanding that the caveats limit the extent to which their data can be extrapolated spatially and temporally. Like I said, if you need any help understanding it, all you have to do is ask.

          So, are you interested in the vast array of papers I have references for that demonstrate the extent to which humans are affecting our atmosphere and the subsequent results? Bare in mind the evidence comes from a staggering array of natural systems. I’m talking about unprecedented range extensions in hundreds of species of birds, insects, mammals, plants, fungi and viruses. I’m talking shifts in trophic cascades and foodwebs from all corners of the globe. I’m talking about yield reductions in food crops as a result of increased temperature, altered rainfall and increased nitrification associated with human induced climate change. I’m talking about ocean acidification, changes in circulation patterns such as those occurring in the East Australian Current, melting permafrost and the list is endless. Are you interested in those things or are you interested only in that one paper, examining data from a single spot on the globe, that someone else (with no qualifications) has cherrypicked around the extremely important caveats for you, and misrepresented its findings? Please tell me Geoff that you aren’t that wilfully ignorant?

  4. SteveC says:

    Mike, thanks for joining some dots with this. A bit earlier on I did a rough-and-ready post FAO John Mashey at Deep Climate and at Tim Lambert’s Deltoid on the same Bernardi-Heartland theme, mostly as a result of two posts at Crikey’s Pure Poison Weekend talk thread by Liz A and joe2.

    Had I used The Google before I did it I’d have just linked here, so that’ll learn me.

    I also had a look-see at your Sept 2010 post on Bernardi – what’s interesting in light of John Mashey’s questions in his Fakexperts file is the link with Jo Nova, who Heartland may have also supported. And from there it’s not even a short hop to that execrable video Graham Readfearn flagged, featuring Monckton and the IPA and, before you know it, you’re in the company of Bob Carter, Ian Plimer and the hostess with the mostest, the poet laureate herself.

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