Anti-science communication: lying about how the universe works


Tim at New Anthropocene has a great post on anti-science communication – which is a great way to describe the strategy of the various anti-science movements out there (Creationist, anti-vaccination and climate change denial).

Well worth reading (see full post):

Regardless of the chosen subject, from climate to fluoride, the anti-science community pose themselves as a credible counter-weight in the public debate. In one regard, they are correct, but certainly not how they would like you to believe them to be. 

There are obvious stepping stones between science and mainstream media, each having a valuable position in public discourse. 

> The first stepping stone is clearly the peer-reviewed scientific method itself. This happens among experts on a given subject well trained to critique and re-evaluate methods and data to test their merits and thus the confidence that can be drawn to a given conclusion.

The next stepping stone is a passive form of science communication. This form of communication demands some level of understanding of the science and the capacity to simply convert findings into a language that can be understood to a wider audience.

> The final stepping stone converts that information into answers responding to the question, “What does it mean to us?”This stepping stone in science communication is the least expert on the topic of science, but is valuable because such individuals are likely to have good understanding on related subjects, such as policies and politics and can place this understanding, drawn from the science into a much broader context.

Those of us who are engaged in countering the effects of such movements are motivated by a desire to share knowledge. Because so many of us are curious and genuinely moved by what we learn about the workings of the universe, “we” see the activities of various anti-science movements as the very antithesis knowledge sharing.

Put simply we are trying to tell the public two things:

a) you need to know these “facts” not merely because they are interesting (which they are), but from a policy perspective are kinda important

b) there are people out there willfully engaged in confusing, misrepresenting and lying about how the universe works.

Or as the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said:

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

The truth about climate change – for it as true as the sun is at the centre of the solar system – has been ridiculed and violently opposed.

We are yet to see it universally accepted as self-evident.

But that will come. Our task is to ensure that compelling evidence is not a world of 4 degrees.


26 thoughts on “Anti-science communication: lying about how the universe works

  1. mgm75 says:

    Interesting, isn’t it, in each case there is always somebody who has a vested interest in violently opposing what is apparent. The idea of geocentrism was opposed by the Catholic Church because it suggested that we were not the centre of all creation.

    Now climate denialists are doing the same thing; their vested interests are in maintaining the power base of those businesses for whom renewable energy is not an immediate and profitable proposition. They realise they cannot restrict access to the sun or water or wind and drive their profit margins up so they invent political conspiracies… using the same sort of arguments. “Anti-capitalism” is the new “heresy”.

  2. “We are yet to see it universally accepted as self-evident.”

    Outside of the English language Blog-o-sphere, anthropogenic climate change is universally accepted as self-evident since 2 decades.

    The interesting question is what is going wrong in England and especially its largest colonies.

    And even within these countries, why do conservative politicians think they can act as if the minority of climate ostriches is a majority and that they can afford to lie and refrain from acting.

    • bratisla says:

      Not wanting to burst your bubble, but I know at least one site in french (pensee unique . fr), and I have found once a german speaking “skeptical” site.

      On the french site, they even have their pet scientist Pierre Marie Robitaille. A joy to read, I assure you. But this is often a rehash of WUWT, unfortunately.

    • Then there’s the “nothing up my sleeve” – slippery as an eel.

      • I even know 4 German “skeptical” sites by now (EIKE, dieKalteSonne,, Initiative Seriöser Klimaschutz:, but they are not taken seriously and carry no political weight whatsoever. Even I did not know about their existence before I started blogging although I am professionally interested in climate and an avid newspaper reader.

  3. Exploiting the power of an incorrigible assertion or accusation, this is what so many extremist or politically driven commentators frequently do. Assisted by compliant or complicit media and the impact of their statements are magnified. When used to undermine the efforts of individuals seeking to raise the awareness of global warming and the need for action we observe the unrestrained force of self interest. Sadly, the impact of global warming is becoming self evident and responses are likely to be recriminatory rather than that of rational action.

  4. john byatt says:

    Yet Watts still feeds nonsense to his climate goons ,

    “every single reconstruction of temperatures over the past 2,000 years created since Mann’s paper was first published 15 years ago shows the same general hockey stick shape – relatively flat temperatures (the shaft) followed by a steep rise (the blade) over the past century. This was most recently confirmed by the Past Global Changes (PAGES) 2k network, which published a paper in the prestigious journal Nature involving 78 researchers contributing as co-authors from 60 separate scientific institutions around the world. Each researcher involved in the study was an expert in local temperature reconstructions in his or her region. When they put all of their data together, their result matched Mann’s hockey stick nearly perfectly.”

  5. john byatt says:

    maybe Michael Mann will get to retire a millionaire,

    good luck with the lawsuit sir, we owe you a great deal

    • Is it just me or has Watts directed his attention away from Mann and the hockey stick recently? Maybe he recognises he’ll be the target of (yet another) intellectual beating and wants to distance himself as far as possible.

      OTOH, he’s still aiming for Nuccitelli. Is nothing safe from Tony’s steely gaze? He’s discovered warmists hide their employment details in LinkedIn. Drat, we’ve been rumbled. He then flourishes some conspiracy ideation, tosses the entrails to his flying monkeys who, in turn, fling faeces upon themselves and all who read his tripe. Hey ho.

      • And is it me or has Watts not posted that much on homogenization any more the last year? Maybe my little homogenization blog has some impact. 🙂

      • Bill Jamison says:

        Has Mann published anything recently? Done anything worth commenting on? If not then why would WUWT mention Mann?

        • Oh, nothing much. Mann vs CEI. 🙂

        • Bill Jamison says:

          Well you said “s it just me or has Watts directed his attention away from Mann and the hockey stick recently?” so I thought there must be something new regarding a reconstruction from Mann but I guess I haven’t missed anything. WUWT covered the lawsuit that Mann filed although I don’t think they have covered the latest ruling.

        • With CEI, I guess people will just have to accept the hockey stick for what it is, a replicated scientific fact. Watts has little to add, hence his silence.

      • john byatt says:

        Watts is probably crying himself to sleep at night, worried that he will end up being cited as a source for the misinformation, loved CEI defense, backing away from their claims as “was only an opinion” suck shit CEI National review and watts.


  6. john byatt says:

    desdemona triggers as spam, copy and paste

    Obama’s climate plan

    highly respected Michael Mann gives his view as well as others

  7. john byatt says:

    of course reading the flying monkeys, it is another conspiracy

    • Watts plays the man. And loses. It just wastes time and money.

      It’s a Russia Doll of conspiracies, one nestled inside the other, over at the world’s most viewed conspiracy theorist haven.

      • Ahh. I think I’m getting it now. The whole “outing” of Dana feels like a smokescreen. Man puts CV on LinkedIn. Lazy sceptic finds it. Declares coup.

        It distracts from Mann vs CEI. That’s ok. The Dana thing is a one day no news wonder. Mann vs CEI is already causing denierdom some serious thought.

  8. john byatt says:



    Mann was awarded the Phillip M. Orville Prize in 1997 for an outstanding dissertation in the earth sciences at Yale University. His co-authorship of a scientific paper published by Nature won him an award from the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in 2002, and another co-authored paper published in the same year won the NOAA’s outstanding scientific publication award. He was named by Scientific American as one of fifty “leading visionaries in science and technology.” The Association of American Geographers awarded him the John Russell Mather Paper of the Year award in 2005 for a co-authored paper published in the Journal of Climate. The American Geophysical Union awarded him its Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing in 2006 to recognize his contributions in reviewing manuscripts for its Geophysical Research Letters journal.[45]
    The IPCC presented Mann with a personalized certificate “for contributing to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC”, celebrating the joint award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC and to Al Gore. The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organisation, and the prize was not an award to any individual involved with the IPCC.[46] The IPCC officially states that the certificates were issued “to scientists that had contributed substantially to the preparation of IPCC reports. Such certificates, which feature a copy of the Nobel Peace Prize diploma, were sent to coordinating lead authors, lead authors, review editors, Bureau members, staff of the technical support units and staff of the secretariat from the IPCC’s inception in 1988 until the award of the prize in 2007. The IPCC has not sent such certificates to contributing authors, expert reviewers and focal points.”[46][47] In his 2012 book Mann noted an IPCC meeting in 2009 celebrating the prize, where Working Group 1 co-chair Susan Solomon highlighted the personal sacrifice that he and Benjamin D. Santer had made in the name of the IPCC.[48]
    In 2012, he was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union[2] and awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union.[45] Following election by the American Meteorological Society he became a new Fellow of the society in 2013, as one of the small number selected each year.[49] In January 2013 he was designated with the status of distinguished professor in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, an honor restricted to fewer than 10% of full professors in the faculty.[50]


    three bloggies



  9. john byatt says:



    Anthony Watts grew up in Indiana.[9] He attended Purdue University[10][11] from 1975-1982 but never completed an undergraduate degree.[12]

    Mann was brought up in Amherst, Massachusetts, where his father was a professor of mathematics at the University of Massachusetts. At school he was interested in math, science and computing. In 1983 he was prompted by seeing the film WarGames to write a rudimentary self-learning tic-tac-toe program which made random moves and listed losing moves which it would not repeat. Mann found a “trick” of using symmetry to reduce the number of unique moves to store so that the computer would not slow down so much.[3]
    In August 1984 he went to the University of California, Berkeley, to major in physics with a second major in applied math. His second year research in the theoretical behaviour of liquid crystals used the Monte Carlo method applying randomness in computer simulations. Late in 1987 he joined a research team under Didier de Fontaine which was using similar Monte Carlo methodology to investigate the superconducting properties of yttrium barium copper oxide, modelling transitions between ordered and disordered phases.[4] He graduated with honors in 1989 with an A.B. in applied mathematics and physics.[1]
    Doctoral and postgraduate studies[edit]
    Mann then attended Yale University, intending to obtain a PhD in physics, and received both an MS and an MPhil in physics in 1991. His interest was in theoretical condensed matter physics but he found himself being pushed towards detailed semiconductor work. He looked at course options with a wider topic area, and was enthused by PhD adviser Barry Saltzman about climate modelling and research. To try this out he spent the summer of 1991 assisting a postdoctoral researcher in simulating the period of peak Cretaceous warmth when CO2 levels were high, but fossils indicated most warming at the poles, with little warming in the tropics. Mann then joined the Yale Department of Geology and Geophysics, obtaining an MPhil in geology and geophysics in 1993. His research focused on natural variability and climate oscillations. He worked with the seismologist Jeffrey Park, and their joint research adapted a statistical method developed for identifying seismological oscillations to find various periodicities in the instrumental temperature record, the longest being about 60 to 80 years. The paper Mann and Park published in December 1994 came to similar conclusions to a study developed in parallel using different methodology and published in January of that year, which found what was later called the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.[5]
    In 1994, Mann participated as a graduate student in the inaugural workshop of the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Geophysical Statistics Project aimed at encouraging active collaboration between statisticians, climatologists and atmospheric scientists. Leading statisticians participated, including Grace Wahba and Arthur P. Dempster.[6]
    While still finishing his PhD research, Mann met UMass climate science professor Raymond S. Bradley and began research in collaboration with him and Park. Their research used paleoclimate proxy data from Bradley’s previous work and methods Mann had developed with Park, to find oscillations in the longer proxy records. “Global Interdecadal and Century-Scale Climate Oscillations During the Past Five Centuries” was published by Nature in November 1995.[7]
    Another study by Mann and Park raised a minor technical issue with a climate model about human influence on climate change: this was published in 1996. In the context of controversy over the IPCC Second Assessment Report the paper was praised by those opposed to action on climate change, and the conservative organisation Accuracy in Media claimed that it had not been publicised due to media bias. Mann defended his PhD thesis on A study of ocean-atmosphere interaction and low-frequency variability of the climate system in the spring of 1996,[8][9] and was awarded the Phillip M. Orville Prize for outstanding dissertation in the earth sciences in the following year. He was granted his PhD in geology and geophysics in 1998.[1]
    Postdoctoral research: the hockey stick graph[edit]

    etc etc

  10. john byatt says:

    will watts update this post?,

    and understand the pitfalls of commenting on drafts?

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