Category Archives: Herald Sun War on Science

Herald Sun War on Science #7: cherry picking “facts” to suit your argument.

The very definition

Its always a amusing when a climate denialist such as the Herald Sun’s (aka “The HUNs”) Andrew Bolt claims the views of a prominent climate change “sceptic” have been taken out of context.

Given that Climategate was essentially about framing snippets of emails to create a faux scandal, one wonders if Bolt is aware of the irony.

Upon reflection, I think not.

Still, Bolt rushes to defend Tony Abbot’s claims that it was “hotter” when “Jesus” was alive.

“Take last Friday, when Abbott visited Adelaide’s Trinity Gardens Primary School and told the children it had been warmer than now “at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth”.

Abbott plus Jesus plus warming scepticism? Kaboom!

What an explosion of sneering and jeering we’ve heard ever since, from followers of the new faith, mocking the old.

It was best summed up, unwittingly, by environment reporter Adam Morton, who wrote in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald: “Tony Abbott is under pressure to justify telling students it was considerably warmer when Jesus was alive after leading scientists said his claim was wrong.”

Those warmists would be some Australia’s most prominent scientists. But for Bolt scientists, who accept the science of climate change, are warmists. That the vast vast majority of scientist concur AGW is real.

However, what’s amusing is when Andrew attempts to do “science” by quoting scientific studies. I say amusing, because without exception Bolt gets it wrong or uses very dodgy sources.

Open a dictionary and look under the term “scientific illiteracy” and you will see a picture of Andrew Bolt. Still, let us examine the claims he makes in today’s HUN article:

Recent studies add to the evidence that those times were indeed warm enough for Romans to grow grapes in Britain.

Canadian and British researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science noted in March that oxygen isotopes in the shells of bivalve molluscs indicated that Iceland about 2000 years ago was probably warmer than today.

Likewise, a 2003 study of sediment cores in Spain agreed there was an RWP between 250BC and 450AD, and a 1999 Spanish study reckoned it to be about 2C warmer.

It’s the same story in Georgia, according to scientists studying growth rings of fossilised trees.

Even warmist Phil Jones, implicated in last year’s Climategate scandal, was part of a 2002 study that concluded “warm conditions of the late 20th century do not exceed those reconstructed for several earlier time intervals”, including “a ‘warm’ Roman period in the first centuries AD”.

Sorry if I go on, but the Abbott mockers need putting in their place.

To finish: last December the Hydrological Sciences Journal summed up the tree ring evidence to declare that the “Roman Climate Optimum … (had) temperatures that were (probably) higher than at present”.

Phew, so much to take in!

However, once you start digging you find all kinds of problems.

It also illustrates just how denialists like Bolt operate: throw in lots of jargon and authoritative sounding references.

Let’s take but one of the sources Bolt likes to quote, the last one.

I had to do some digging to get this one, as Bolt doesn’t understand the concept of citing your references in a scientific debate.

Here’s the important thing: Bolt fails to mention that the paper in Hydrological Science Journal is authored by scientists his work is well outside the established science. I’d also ntoe that Bolt gets the date wrong. I believe the paper he is referencing is dated April 2009, not December 2009:

DISCUSSION of “The implications of projected climate change for freshwater resources and their management”, Hydrological Sciences–Journal–des Sciences Hydrologiques, 54(2) April 2009

The paragrpah that Bolt appears to quote appears on page 400:

Figure 3(a) indicates large fluctuations of temperature during the Holocene period, with prominent minima (e.g. the recent Little Ice Age) and maxima (e.g. the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Climate Optimum and the Minoan Climate Optimum, with temperatures that were likely higher than at present).

Firstly, the language of the paper is anything but scientific:

“A common argument in favour of the political orientation of the IPCC is that its aims are good for humanity and the natural environment and that reducing emissions of greenhouse gases will be beneficial for the planet, regardless of the ultimate validity of the IPCC model predictions. However, we believe that science is a process for the pursuit of truth and that fidelity to this system should not be affected by other aims. History shows that such distractions can be detrimental to science…”

These overblown statements, references to history, politics and “big picture stuff” is not how most scientific papers are written.

But let’s look at the authors themselves, who are they?

This if unecessary “fluff”. If your data is good, you don’t need to frame it with these talking points. But denialists can’t help themselves… denialists you ask?

Isn’t this a “real” piece of research? Well, only under the most generous of definitions.

The authors include Timothy A. Cohn, a noted sceptic:

“Cohn’s most controversial research, which has not been fully embraced by the climate science community, suggests that the significance of climate trends may be greatly overstated because it does not consider the possibility that long-term persistence is a component of climatic variability.”

Cohn has published many papers with another climate sceptic, Harry F. Lins (another one of the paper’s authors):

“Since the early 1980s, Lins’ research has focused principally on characterizing the surface water response to climate, with an emphasis on regional streamflow variability, long-term trends, and the statistical techniques appropriate for such analyses. Lins’ most controversial research, which has not been fully embraced by the climate science community, suggests that the significance of climate trends may be greatly overstated because it does not consider the possibility that long-term persistence is a component of climatic variations…”

Another author is Demetris Koutsoyiannis who writes on climate sceptic Roger Pielke’s blog:

“I must say that what I’ve been reading in the recently hacked and released confidential files from the CRU (aka “Climategate” documents) is not a surprise to me. Rather, and sadly, it verifies what I had suspected about some in the climate establishment…”

Oh dear, it’s Climategate and the usual complaints about conspiracies. Bolt no doubt got a hold of this paper via Roger Pielke’s blog, where Koutsoyiannis also states

“In recent years, I have tried to publish a few papers related to climate. Some of them were initially rejected, but eventually published elsewhere—usually in journals without a specific focus on climate. From the experience I gained through the review process of the rejected papers, I became more confident about the analyses I’d performed and the significance of the results I’d presented. I have not been surprised, therefore, to see that these once-rejected papers have become the most cited among my papers.”

Uh oh, one of those “I’m the little guy going up against the establishment” types.

Koutsoyiannis et.al have been doing what climate sceptics do when their substandard work isn’t accepted into climate journals: they shop around, looking for a non-climate related journal hoping they will get accepted.

Hydrological Science Journal: edited by the papers authors

When you dig, you find that these scientists are outside the mainstream, and in fact are part of the small clique of contrarian scientists like Ian Plimer.

Actually, it gets worse as an alert reader has pointed out: Koutsoyiannis is one of the journals editors. He is self publishing his own work! [hat tip JG for excellent reserch]

Real Climate, the blog maintained by actual climate scientist offers a very good overview of the value of their work. Discussing another simular piece of work, Real Climate notes:

“…With that in mind, I now turn to the latest paper that is getting the inactivists excited by Demetris Koutsoyiannis and colleagues. There are very clearly two parts to this paper – the first is a poor summary of the practice of climate modelling – touching all the recent contrarian talking points (global cooling, Douglass et al, Karl Popper etc.) but is not worth dealing with in detail (the reviewers of the paper include Willie Soon, Pat Frank and Larry Gould (of Monckton/APS fame) – so no guessing needed for where they get their misconceptions). This is however just a distraction (though I’d recommend to the authors to leave out this kind of nonsense in future if they want to be taken seriously in the wider field).

Koutsoyiannis et.al are not taken seriously.

Not because their work is “heretical”, but because it is sloppy and poor.

This is why it is not published by serious climate journals, and why the authors shop it around.

The want the credibility of being peer reviewed. It also gives denialists such as Andrew Bolt something to wave around in the air shouting “See, this is just like real science!”

Just think for a moment how much work it took me to dig all that out.

Imagine what the average reader would think reading Bolt’s quote. This is classic anti-science tactics: cherry pick relevant facts without giving full citations and the proper context.

But this is how the denial movement works: they throw out these “facts” hoping to overwhelm the average person.

Excuse me as I go have a lie down after that exhausting piece of research that was needed to refute just one paragraph of Bolt’s nonsense.

Herald Sun War on Science #6: What the IPCC models failed to predict… more babes in bikinis

More shocking evidence that the IPCC failed to predict significant changes resulting from climate change. Fortunately, the Herald Sun as pointed out the obvious and glaring omission from their Fourth Assessment report.

As a direct result of global warming there will no doubt be an inevitable increase of more babes in bikinis.

As the HUN points out in their reporting of the record temperatures in Victoria, hotter weather means more babes.

Two recent stories in the HUN blow the lid on this shameful failure of the IPCC.

That the IPCC failed to model and predict and statistical increase in scantily clad young women is is further evidence of their incompetence. Hide the decline?

Global warming? Yes, yes, yes!

How about hiding the bikini!

Don't worry, really there is an upside to climate change...

Climate change? Phwwwwwwrrr!

Note: this is classic HUN reporting on science. As further evidence of global warming becomes clearer they’ve decided it’s an opportunity to titillate and distract us from concerns that there may be a problem. Global warming? Yes OK,… but look boobies!

Bait and switch indeed.

Herald Sun War on Science #5: Com-puh-tahs iz evil

Andrew Bolt is onto them…

Andrew Bolt continues to rage against the conveniences of modern life, this time his target of ire are “computer models”. Not just the models used by climate scientists, but computer modelling:

The revolt against the computer models whose warnings shut down Europe’s airlines gets angrier:

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) sharply criticized European governments for their lack of leadership in handling airspace restrictions in light of the Icelandic volcano eruption and urged a re-think of the decision-making process.

“We are far enough into this crisis to express our dissatisfaction on how governments have managed it – with no risk assessment, no consultation, no coordination, and no leadership. This crisis is costing airlines at least $200 million a day in lost revenues and the European economy is suffering billions of dollars in lost business. In the face of such dire economic consequences, it is incredible that Europe’s transport ministers have taken five days to organize a teleconference,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO…

IATA criticized Europe’s unique methodology of closing airspace based on theoretical modeling of the ash cloud. “This means that governments have not taken their responsibility to make clear decisions based on facts…..

“Safety is our top priority. Airlines will not fly if it is not safe. I have consulted our member airlines that normally operate in the affected airspace. They report missed opportunities to fly safely…”

The scale of airspace closures currently seen in Europe is unprecedented. “We have seen volcanic activity in many parts of the world but rarely has it resulted in airspace closures – and never at this scale. When Mount St. Helens erupted in the US in 1980, we did not see large scale disruptions, because the decisions to open or close airspace were risk managed with no compromise on safety,” said Bisignani…

This model of volcanic ash spread is maintained by the Met Office, the warmist headquarters whose global warming models are used to justify other disastrous cuts to the world economy.

Andrew would rather risk the catastrophic side effects of aircraft flying in potentially dangerous skies than admit that those “warmists” know what they are talking about.

The IATA is an industry body, whose members comprise over 230 airlines. Yes, they are hurting and their share prices are tumbling. The industry has not been in a good state for some time, and the forced closure of major air routes has hurt their bottom line:

“We are far enough into this crisis to express our dissatisfaction on how governments have managed it-with no risk assessment, no consultation, no coordination, and no leadership. This crisis is costing airlines at least $200 million a day in lost revenues and the European economy is suffering billions of dollars in lost business. In the face of such dire economic consequences, it is incredible that Europe’s transport ministers have taken five days to organize a teleconference,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

However, rather than examine the facts, Bolt assumes the industries position.The outcry had just one aircraft crashed as a result would be enormous.

Still, when one digs a little on the IATA’s position on climate change one is immediately struck by their ambivalence on accepting responsibility:

“Although the natural greenhouse effect is vital for human existence, many scientists believe that additional warming linked to human activity may cause our climate to change irreversibly. However scientists disagree over the amount, probability and nature of these changes.

There is also disagreement over aviation’s contribution to climate change. There is a good understanding of CO 2 emissions, which contribute directly to the greenhouse effect, along with water vapour. Nitrogen oxides (NO x) contribute indirectly by creating ozone in the lower atmosphere. But little is known about the effect of contrails, cirrus cloud formation and the methane-reducing capabilities of NO x.

The best estimate of aviation’s climate change impact is about 3% of the total contribution by human activities. This may grow to 5% by 2050…”

Like our friends over at the Australian Coal Association, the IATA may acknowledge the reality of AGW but really, they aren’t at fault. Note how they play up the supposed uncertainties around the science: “…may cause our climate to change irreversibly”.

So, is computer modelling of any use then?

Let’s have a look at those pernicious “computer models” and just how useless they are. I’m sure Andrew would like to challenge the following applications of computer models:

  • Computer models could personalise medicine: “Professor Michael Katze, presenting at the Society for General Microbiology’s spring meeting in Edinburgh, describes how computer modelling could be a powerful tool to allow treatments to be tailored to individuals. This approach could ultimately prevent future pandemics…”
  • Vehicle manufacturers: “Vehicle manufacturers make use of computer simulation to test safety features in new designs. By building a copy of the car in a physics simulation environment, they can save the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would otherwise be required to build a unique prototype and test it. Engineers can step through the simulation milliseconds at a time to determine the exact stresses being put upon each section of the prototype…”
  • Molecular Modelling: Molecular modelling methods are now routinely used to investigate the structure, dynamics and thermodynamics of inorganic, biological, and polymeric systems. The types of biological activity that have been investigated using molecular modelling include protein folding, enzyme catalysis, protein stability, conformational changes associated with biomolecular function, and molecular recognition of proteins, DNA, and membrane complexes…”

One wonders at the practical applications of com-puh-ta models. One really does, don’t they Andrew?

In his single-minded drive to tarnish the reputation of climate scientists, and cast doubt on climate change as a human induced phenomenon, Bolt would tear down public trust in all science.

And this from a journalist whose epithets for those he despises includes terms such as “barbarians”.

What he does not understand, he would have destroyed.

Who, I wonder are the barbarians?

Herald Sun War on Science #4: playing the man

Raising the quality of the climate change debate

[Hat tip to Deltoid, I’ve been remiss in monitoring Andrew Bolt for a week.]

The denial movement is searching desperately for a way to dismiss the continuing flow of reports that vindicate both Phil Jones and the Climate Recent Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.

Andrew Bolt, our resident climate demagogue resorts to the standard trope of all anti-science movements, the ad hominem attack:

You see…

Lord Oxburgh is so concerned at the potential destruction from globalwarming that he wants to devote more of his time to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels…

At home, Oxburgh has persuaded his wife and son to use bicycles and abandon the car ”except for trips to the supermarket”. For those, he uses a diesel capable of 60 miles to the gallon.

“‘Domestically we all ride bicycles and use the car as little as we can,’ he said. The family has also abandoned air travel for holidays – though Oxburgh still regularly has to fly on business matters.

Exactly what do you think he was likely to conclude about Climategate?

The basic form of this argument is this:

Person 1 makes claim X

There is something objectionable about Person 1

Therefore claim X is false

Little more needs to be said other than “playing the man” is well recognised as a logical fallacy.

Now, before anyone accuses of me of tu quoque and attacking Mr. Bolt, let me remind anyone that all I am doing is pointing out an obvious logical fallacy.

The Herald Sun’s War on Science #3: Boilerplate Propaganda

Boilerplate climate change denial: watch it spread

  

The HUN continues it’s fine tradition of allowing journalists with no expertise or understanding of science to wage war against it. Apart from misrepresenting the science, they also help circulate denialist propaganda by importing it from the major denialist blogs and web sites and injecting into our own media.    

Let’s look at a recent example from the HUN’s business writer, Terry McCrann    

McCrann is not a name you would normally associate with climate denialism. Alongside Andrew Bolt, he wages a personal war on science. Indeed, the two often tag-team, with Bolt frequently tipping his hat to McCrann. McCrann also writes for The Australian, another Murdoch owned publication also known for it’s continuing war on science.    

Earth Hour feeding frenzy    

In the lead up to Earth Hour, both Bolt and McCrann worked themselves up into a frenzy. What was notable was McCrann’s use of what can only be described as “boilerplate” denier propaganda: the satellite image of the Korean peninsula, showing the North in darkness and the South illuminated (Putting North Korea’s name up in lights, The Herald Sun. March 25 2010);    

…The land where the lights are permanently out, as the famous satellite photograph shows of the stunning difference between the northern and southern ends of the Korean peninsula.    

Indeed, to be more exact, the North Korean lights aren’t just out – they’ve never literally been turned on. As the country bypassed the 20th century, going from the 19th back to the 19th, picking up only nuclear weapons on the journey.    

Nothing better captures the utter inanity of the cult of global warming and its characterisation of carbon dioxide as an even greater Satan than George W. Bush’s America than Earth Hour. Insufferably smarmy, quite pointless, contradictory, utterly inchoate…”    

McCrann then works himself up with greater gusto:    

“…The ABA and its member banks are participating because Earth Hour raises awareness – not Gaia-consciousness? – of the “simple steps we can all take to reduce our carbon footprint”.    

That has beautifully twisted echoes of George Orwell’s image in 1984 of the future … “imagine a boot stamping on a human face … forever”.    

For now, as even the bankers recognise and faithfully chant, the far more horrifying image is of a “carbon footprint on the face of Gaia … forever”.    

This is the link the denial machine wants’ people to make: between climate science and totalitarianism. Yes, those nasty “greens” are wanting to stomp on our faces! This isn’t an opinion, it’s a paranoid fantasy.    

What authority McCrann has in regards to science is anyone’s guess, however the “North Korea = Earth Hour” meme is not of McCrann’s invention. It’s boiler plate denialist propaganda that was circulated in the lead up to Earth Hour.    

Don’t believe me?    

Let’s look at some of the more prominent denialist sites.    

Have boiler plate, will publish propaganda    

Nothing demonstrates just how much of an echo chamber the denial movement is then when they publish the same material over the space of a few days.    

From the paranoid US site, Prison Planet:    

Say haven't we...

  

From Watts up with that?    

...seen that image...

  

And from Andrew Bolt himself:    

...before?

  

Yes, Orwell would weep. But not for the reasons McCrann would imagine.    

(Note: I wonder what Media Watch would make of this?)

The Herald Sun’s War on Science #2: greens are by definition hypocrites

The HUN’s resident climate change denier Andrew Bolt has published a two page “demolition” of Earth Hour today. As usual it’s full of colourful language and laced with venom:

If I really thought man’s gases were heating the world so dangerously that, as Al Gore says, “the future of human civilisation is at stake”, I’d feel the call to do more than turn off some lights for just one hour a year…

…Here and there, the houses of green activists went dark. For one hour – and even then the fridge was left running, because we can’t let the peas defrost just to stop Armageddon. I mean, be reasonable…

…Reality check: anyone not already aware of the great global warming scare? Now, anyone doing much to actually “stop” it? Answer: bugger all. Judge that from Quantum Market Research’s annual social survey, undertaken to help advertisers understand what pushes consumers’ buttons. Quantum divided Australians into five groups, from “Ultra Greens” to Un-Greens”, depending on how they’d “embraced the Green culture”. No surprise, but the Ultra Greens, “the original tree loving hippies and green peace embracers”, turned out to be perfect specimens of our time. They were not only the most likely to vote Green and join green groups, but also the most likely to own a four-wheel drive and join frequent flyer clubs…

…What counts is how you seem, not what you do. Here are your modern read-the-label moralists, keen to give everything to their cause but sweat.”

The company whose research Bolt cites, Quantum Market Research is based in Melbourne. I’ve found a couple of reports on their website however they make no reference to “Ultra-Greens” and “Un-Greens”. Quantum seem to produce two large annual reports each year:

YouthSCAN
AustraliaSCAN

Most market research is available to only to those who pay for it: therefore I can’t say with any confidence what Quantum has to say about the “green market”. However, I would intimate that Andrew Bolt is misrepresenting their research. I’m very familiar with market research: it is often more nuanced than how Bolt is presenting it.

Indeed, I have contacted Quantum to clarify whether or not Bolt’s article is an accurate reflection of their research.

The obvious non-sequitur: Bolt’s faulty logic

Bolt hopes to imply that being green means you are by definition a “hypocrite”: this is an obvious non sequitur (a logical fallacy). It does not follow that one is a green and a hypocrite, just as it does not follow that one is a white Anglo-Saxon male and therefore (for example) homophobic because some are.

We can render this type of logic as follows:

  1. Men are human
  2. Patricia is a human
  3. Therefore Patricia is a man

To translate from the Latin, non sequitur, it does not follow that Patricia is a man.

However, I suspect Bolt understands this basic error in logic. What is important for his purposes is to “smear” the opposition with the charge of hypocrisy.

Once again, the HUN gives license to a rabid climate change denialist.

Sermon on the field: the world laughs at, not with, Ablett

Now that the final siren has sounded, it’s safe to assume team Ablett were crushed by team science. Let’s look at the “after the match” analysis.

PZ Myers at Pharyngula, perhaps the largest science blog in the world, picks up the story:

The rest of Ablett’s arguments are just as inane, and are similarly ripped off almost literally from common creationist canards. There’s nothing original and nothing intelligent anywhere in it — it’s just sad how feeble these guys are getting.

Jason Ball at Young Aussie Skeptics:

Ablett also talks about how abiogenesis is the theory that life can grow in peanut butter jars, that DNA has shown evolution to be false, all with large passages of the Bible chucked in at random. I dare you to read the entire thing.

It is possibly the most stupid thing I have ever read, and the funniest

Anarchist6[zero]6 has this to say:

I knew this girl who thought that the paperback copy of the Necronomicon  she owned gave her the power of call spirits from the earth. Now it is unlikely that many people would think that her views were correct. However, imagine she was famous, had been on reality TV or was a sports star; then perhaps she might be given prominent media space to shout her Cthulhu-views. Sounds crazy, I know but in Australia, a ex-footballer has been given a platform to wax lyrical about evolution.

Wikipedia picks up on the fact the article was mostly plagiarised:

On Friday March 26th, 2010, an article attributed to Ablett was published in the Victorian newspaper The Herald Sun.[2] It was soon after revealed that a large section of the article was lifted from the website of Grace Haven Ministries, a US evangelical organisation.

Radio announcer Derryn Hinch has this to say:

Ablett has decided to be the moral compass for a godless Australia. He says he is no scientist but dismisses the Theory of Evolution and atheists like Richard Dawkins in a couple of sentences.

He does admit he runs the risk of public ridicule, so here goes.

Ablett says people remember him for his on-field successes but also because of what he calls his ‘off-field moments which were not so successful’.  And says that in life we each experience our ups and downs.

Hew talks about a serious decline in moral values and drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdowns and ‘the devaluing of human life and dignity’.

He doesn’t mention Alisha Horan. That poor, star-struck teenager who died of a drug overdose – administered by Ablett – in a hotel room. Not much dignity in the way she died. And when he did a runner he didn’t place much value on her life.

About three years Ablett went down this Holy Roller route of self-justification. Also in the Herald Sun. He said he’d been ‘disappointed and grieved at how self-righteous some people can be. Considering everyone has their own skeletons in the closet’.

Not many have one concerning the death of a teenager, a friend of your daughter’s, an Ablett fan with your picture on her bedroom walls, whom you enticed on a drug-fuelled binge. Alisha Horan died in Ablett’s hotel room.

And Oztheist picks it up:

Ablett’s knowledge of evolution is basically non-existent and his regurgitating of several creationist ideas which have been well and truly debunked shows his total lack of research. It is also quite laughable of Ablett to try and lecture us on morals considering he supplied a 20 year old woman drugs from which she died whilst in his hotel room.

I have a suggestion to Mr Ablett, stick to talking about something you know – football.

I think it’s safe to assume that Ablett has kicked an own goal.

Now, all we need to do is alert the public to the fact that the claims of the denial movement are equally ludicrous.

The Herald Sun’s War on Science #1: evolution is just a “theory”

I’ll tip my hat to Tim Lambert over at Deltoid  for inspiring me. His continuing efforts to monitor The Australian’s “war on science” by casting doubt on climate science is a must read. Its a series of brilliant posts  dissecting that papers clumsy and deliberate attempts to confuse the climate debate.

The “Oz” belongs to a stable of Australian papers owned by Rupert Murdoch, which also includes Melbourne’s Herald Sun. Murdoch is also the owner of Fox News. No further comment needs to be made about just how “fair and balanced” Fox News is on science issues.

The Herald Sun declares war on all science.. not just climate science, all science.

Readers of this blog, and most Australians, are familiar with the Herald Sun. It’s a tabloid with a daily circulation exceeding one million. Its web site is popular. It is also the home of Australia’s most prominent denier of climate science, Andrew Bolt.

The Herald Sun hosts Bolt’s blog, which as Clive Hamilton has noted is one the main clearing houses for denialist propaganda in the Australian media. Bolt frequently writes misleading “opinion pieces” on the issue. Readers will know I’ve commented on Bolt numerous times.

However today I am stunned. Shocked actually.

Not because Bolt has written another one of his ill-informed and misleading attacks on climate science. No, today the Herald Sun has published two page article by ex-footballer Gary Ablett. It is nothing short than a full scale assault on the theory of evolution in an Australian major daily newspaper.

What has this to do with climate change denial?

Everything.

The link between the denial and creationist movements: denial and disdain for science

As readers of this blog will know, I’ve often drawn a link between the tactics of denialists and the creationist movement. Well, today the editors of the Herald Sun show their true colours and declare themselves at war with science.   Not just climate science, but science itself.

By allowing Ablett to publish his creationist drivel, they have given legitimacy to another anti-science movement. What’s next? An attack on the so “Copernican theory” or the so called “germ theory of disease?”. How about astronomy, or geology and evidence based medicine? Surely, these are future targets.

Ablett’s creationist howlers

Let’s look at some of the claims Ablett makes in his two page article:

“Man might look like an ape, act like a goat, eat like a pig, think like a jackass, be as stubborn as a mule and as cunning as a fox, but a man is still a man and has been that way right down through recorded history. I openly confess to being no scientist, nor will I try to pretend to be one. However, it is not hard for the average person to understand some of the basic laws and principles within the scientific world. There is so much misinformation out there called “science”, masquerading as “truth”, and because we’ve been taught to believe these falsehoods it takes an abundance of information to get these misconceptions unseated. So please bear with me as I may need to get quite technical to get my message across….”

An attack on this thing called “science”? This is no “there are other ways of knowing” argument: Ablett simply dismisses four hundred years of science in a paragraph. Let’s go on…

“…The fact is that fossil records do not support Darwin’s theory. Experts have come to realise that the gaps in the fossil records and the absence of precursor and intermediate forms are such that they can no longer be ignored or his theory be taken seriously. It was Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution himself, that confessed in a letter to Ossy Gray on September 5, 1857 that “one’s imagination must fill up the very blanks”…”

The fossil records does not support the theory of evolution? And quote mining Darwin? The fossil record provides an abundance of evidence supporting evolution (see here for the evolution of whales). Let’s go on…

“Let’s take another example. Evolution teaches that matter plus energy (light or heat) plus time equals biogenesis, the cause of new life.Yet our entire food industry relies on the fact that the evolutionary formula doesn’t work. For example, if you take a jar of peanut butter (matter), expose it to light and heat (energy) and add time you will never get new life (biogenesis) in that jar. And are we grateful about that! Why is new life impossible in a sealed jar? Because we are missing the most important aspect: information….”

Ablett confuses the theory of evolution with abiogenesis. Evolution does not attempt to address the origins of life. It is about how life evolves over time. Note how Ablett uses the incorrect terminology, biogenesis instead of abiogenesis. Abiogeneis is science’s attempt to understand the origins of life. See Wikipedia here for the distinction:

“In the natural sciences, abiogenesis (pronounced /eɪˌbaɪ.ɵˈdʒɛnɨsɪs/, ay-BYE-oh-JEN-ə-siss) or biopoesis is the theory of how life on Earth could have arisen from inanimate matter. It should not be confused with evolution, which is the study of how groups of already living things change over time, or with cosmology, which covers how the universe might have arisen…”

Biogenesis is the process of lifeforms producing other lifeforms. From eggs we get chickens, and from chickens we get eggs. No, don’t ask me which came first. And certainly don’t ask Abblet, he’ll struggle to find the appropriate scriptural verse. Let us go on…

“..But mathematicians say there is more chance of a hurricane going through a junk yard and assembling a fully operational 747 passenger jet. Now you and I may laugh at that because we can appreciate the “intelligent design”, the information, the knowledge, the creativity and skill it takes to put something so complex together.

Irreducible complexity? WTF?

I assume Ablett is a fan of Michael Behe and the Discovery Institute. Ablett is no doubt ignorant of the fact that intelligent design was clearly shown not to be science in the Kitzmiller v Dover trial in the US.  To take apart the entire article and correct the errors, logical fallacies would take days.

I’d recommend people go to The Panda’s Thumb and Why Evolution is True for a real understanding of evolutionary theory. There are dozens of books out there that easily refute Ablett’s religious propaganda.

I can only shake my head in dismay at the decision of the editors of the Herald Sun in allowing the publication of this grossly misleading attack on science.

And so begins our monitoring of “Herald Sun’s War on Science”.

(Note: I’m still shocked)

Addendum: article most likely ghost written.

As a friend of mine correctly pointed out, this article was more than likely ghost written. Not only do the Herald Sun’s editorial policies need to be called into question, but we have to feel some sympathy for Ablett who is clearly being exploited.

There are people willing to trade on Ablett’s name to push their own ideological agenda. Unfortunately, it would appear Ablett is far too trusting and has allowed himself to be their pawn. By “deferring” to those in authority, he compromises his own integrity.

Further addendum

The Young Austalian Skeptics have picked up the story, and encourage people to write to the Herald Sun. I second that, here the contact details.  It also appears that the article plagerises a great deal of material:

Update: He also plagiarized a massive amount of his article from Grace Haven Ministries. Look at Buggery​.org for details. So this is what passes for journalism at the Herald Sun? Thanks Martin Pribble for filling us in on this one.

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