"Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS)"
[Note: Watts Up With That, one of the web's most anti-scientific blogs, is a finalist for the Weblog awards "Best Science Blog" (see "Weblog Awards duped by deniers -- again!"). Even more farcically, early voting suggests Watts has a chance of winning (see here). Since the fine science blog Pharyngula is doing well in the voting, I'd now suggest voting for it.]
In this post I’m going to present the general diagnosis for “anti-science syndrome” (ASS). Like most syndromes, ASS is a collection of symptoms that individually may not be serious, but taken together can be quite dangerous — at least it can be dangerous to the health and well-being of humanity if enough people actually believe the victims.
One tell-tale symptom of ASS is that a website or a writer focuses their climate attacks on non-scientists. If that non-scientist is Al Gore, this symptom alone may be definitive.
The other key symptoms involve the repetition of long-debunked denier talking points, commonly without links to supporting material. Such repetition, which can border on the pathological, is a clear warning sign.
Scientists who kept restating and republishing things that had been widely debunked in the scientific literature for many, many years would quickly be diagnosed with ASS. Such people on the web are apparently heroes — at least to the right wing and/or easily duped (see “The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP“).
If you suspect someone of ASS, look for the repeated use of the following phrases:
- Medieval Warm Period
- Hockey Stick
- Michael Mann
- The climate is always changing
- Temperature rises precede rises in carbon dioxide
- Pacific Decadal Oscillation
- Water vapor
- Cosmic rays
- Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark
- Ice Age was predicted in the 1970s
- Global cooling
Individually, some of these words and phrases are quite useful and indeed are commonly used by both scientists and non-scientists who are not anti-science. But the use of more than half of these in a single speech or article is pretty much a definitive diagnosis of ASS.
When someone repeats virtually all of those phrases, along with multiple references to Al Gore, they are wholly a victim of ASS — in scientific circles they are referred to as ASS-wholes.
A newly prominent ASS-whole is Harold Ambler, who managed to get this article past a HuffingtonPost intern over the weekend: “Mr. Gore: Apology Accepted.” I was not originally planning to post on this (unsourced) collection of long debunked denier talking points since, as regular readers know, my policy is not to waste time on the umpteenth debunking. Anyone who might be persuaded by Ambler’s tripe can do a simple search for each myth on RealClimate or on this blog. Relevant posts, to name but a few, include:
- Study: Sun’s contribution to recent warming is “negligible”
- Scientist: “Our conclusions were misinterpreted” by Inhofe, CO2 — but not the sun — “is significantly correlated” with temperature since 1850
- UK Ministry of Defence: Global warming goes on, deniers are deluded
- Study: Water-vapor feedback is “strong and positive,” so we face “warming of several degrees Celsius”
- Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years
For more detailed debunking (with links and citations) of every single myth that Ambler raises (without bothering to present links and citations) go to Skeptical Science. Also see “HuffPost scores a 100 on the Inhofe Scale“.
As deniers or ASS-wholes go, Ambler is quite lame. Separate from his long list of long-debunked denier talking points, who could possibly take seriously somebody who wrote the following:
Mr. Gore has stated, regarding climate change, that “the science is in.” Well, he is absolutely right about that, except for one tiny thing. It is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind.
Such a statement is anti-scientific and anti-science in the most extreme sense. It accuses the scientific community broadly defined of deliberate fraud – and not just the community of climate scientists, but the leading National Academies of Science around the world (including ours) and the American Geophysical Union, an organization of geophysicists that consists of more than 45,000 members and the American Meteorological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (see “Yet more scientists call for deep GHG cuts“).
Such a statement accuses all of the member governments of the IPCC, including ours, of participating in that fraud, since they all sign off on the Assessment Reports word for word (see “Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly“). And, of course, Ambler’s statement accuses all of the leading scientific journals of being in on this fraud, since the IPCC reports are primarily a review and synthesis of the published scientific literature.
So who could possibly take seriously Mr. Ambler? None other than “Best Science Blog” finalist Watts Up With That? Yes, Watts reprints Ambler’s entire post — and does so approvingly:
Congratulations to Harold Ambler, who frequents here in comments, for breaking the climate “glass ceiling” at HuffPo. This essay is something I thought I’d never see there. Next stop: Daily Kos? – Anthony
To reprint Ambler’s post and call it a “climate realist essay” makes Watts as anti-scientific as Ambler himself.