Nazis Had it Right: Oreskes

The NY Times has a less than stellar record for science coverage (even by mass-media standards), so we were pleasantly surprised to find the following adult, nuanced story in the Gray Ladys pages. Veteran reporters Marcus Toynboyalé, Jeff Chambers and Steven Glass have taken a critical, unfawning look at the upcoming überpaper from Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University; the climate connection should be self-explanatory. Enjoy these excerpts. —Eds.

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The wisdom of crowds: “Despite what most people tend to think,” says Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes, “the majority is usually right.”
Photo: Riefenstahl estate /  http://www.skepticalscience.com

Hundred Detractors of Einstein Right Because 100 > 1,
Discovers Philosopher of Science

Using the latest scientific method, researchers have settled an age-old controversy.

One of the hoarier chestnuts beloved of deniers of evolution, vaccines and the climate is the story of Albert Einstein’s response to news that a hundred Third Reich scientists had excoriated his Theory of Relativity as “flawed.”

“Why a hundred?” the celebrity scientist is said to have retorted. “If I were wrong, one would have been enough!”

It’s a catchy line, and—as incredible as it seems today—a host of once-reputable thinkers have actually fallen for it over the years.

But a new study, to be published in Nature, will finally set the record straight and “send the zombie meme of Alfred Einstein, genius, back to the grave for good,” hopes lead author Naomi Oreskes.

“The history books are wrong,” denies the history denier and alt-historian, who teaches history at Harvard. “People often fall into the trap of viewing past centuries—the Newtonian age—through a modern [physics] lens, from the post-classical universe we live in today.

“What they don’t seem to grasp is that even if Einstein’s ideas later came true—they’re now consensus science!—it doesn’t mean Einstein was right when he peddled them,” explains Oreskes, a leading ex-scientist and climate-change fixture.

Oreskes 154

Punching above her weight: Oreskes is a pacifist who uses her words to fight science skeptics. She’s also a woman of unwavering ethics. “Character and career assassination are all well and good, but once we resort to literal [assassination] we lose the moral high ground—and you can’t put a price on that, from a PR point of view.”

“Unlike science, history requires some—as it were—skepticism,” she continues, “because it tends to be written by the victors, who have no postgraduate [training in] historiography.

“I know—weird, right? What can I say: winners don’t do historiography. Who understands these laws of nature,” shrugs the historian of science.

Brass tacks: forget everything you’ve ever been taught. It seems it was the Nazis who got it right.

To understand why, I’ll need to learn more about what scientists call the science of consensus. That’s why I’ve come straight to the cramped, paper-strewn office of one Naomi Oreskes. I’m a journalist, and for a journalist like me it’s an unmissable chance to study at the feet of the horse itself.

Few genii in history can claim to have added an entire discipline to human knowledge. Isaac Newton single-handedly gave us the science of optics. Richard Feynman not only discovered the world of quantum electrodynamics but mapped most of the territory himself. And rounding out this exclusive list, it was a petite, unassuming geologian named Naomi who taught us all we know about a new field she dubbed simply Consensuology.

“Science works by weight of opinion,” Oreskes tells me in her intimate salon in the bowels of Harvard Sci Hist.

“How do we know the Germans were right?” she continues, though something tells me the question is Socratic.

“Because that’s what knowledge is: it’s the ideas accepted by the fellowship of experts. And the voice of the experts was effectively unanimous1: ‘Nobody but Albert Einstein believes Albert Einstein’s science [denial]!’


1 For a scientist effectively is effectively the same as actually, Prof. Oreskes clarified in a subsequent email. “We often think of science as an exact science,” she writes, “but that’s a myth.”

.…

The germ of the article came to Oreskes one afternoon as she sat immersed in the “reams” of fascist propaganda she’s been studying for an unrelated project.

“When I blew the dust off a first-edition Hundert Autoren gegen Einstein [‘A Hundred Authors Against Einstein’] and reverently teased her covers ajar, it was like a thunderbolt. I’ve got two or three bookcases of totalitarian literature in my study—the rhetoric of every slave state, dark age and dystopian dictatorship you care to name—but this was a keeper.

“I devoured [the Meisterwerk of thinly-veiled Judenhass] in a single sitting. The small hours flew by unheeded. Daybreak crept up unbidden. And I don’t even understand German. That’s what’s so clever about A Hundred Authors: you don’t really need to, in a way.

“The math does itself.”

albert-einstein

Albert Hermann Einstein was a largely self-taught Swiss Jew. He survived Nazi criticism only to devote a long career to attacking 20th-century science—and being well-paid for it.
Roger Viollet / Getty Images

She remembers feeling a deep sense of duty to rehabilitate Hundred’s reputation. But she also knew that debunking an idea as ingrained as the urban meme of Einstein-as-misunderstood-genius would take all the intellectual gravitas she could muster. So she asked her teen daughter to cover her lecturing commitments for the week while she hit the phones, calling in favors from the creme of academe.

….

Albert Einstein, a German-Jewish amateur famous for his lifelong efforts to spread doubt about established physics, first came to notoriety in 1905 with four head-on assaults on science. Not for Einstein the hard slog of academic advancement, grading papers, securing a patron for his ideas or running the gauntlet at scientific conferences.

“He just went ahead and published whatever uncredentialled ‘theories’ popped into his head,” explains Oreskes.

“A bit like certain mining executives and retired TV weathermen today,” she adds obliquely.

What surprised the Harvard historian most was the level of popular credence in Einstein’s ideas at the time, as expressed in contemporary newspaper articles, radio broadcasts and even jazz lyrics—”pretty much everywhere but the legitimate literature,” as she puts it.

For Oreskes it’s been a stark lesson in the media’s addiction to conflict—a phenomenon academics call the False Balance Doctrine.

“I was a little appalled. So you know, [on one side] we have scientists from all around the world [sic]—experts who’ve been researching these topics for decades—and then on the other side we’ve got, you know, one guy,” she says with a snicker.

“And this is presented in the media as if it’s a kind of level playing field! But in reality it was, you know, thousands [sic] to one.”

Prof. Oreskes blames the heroic trope of the lone genius.

To be sure, she says, there are rare cases—very rare—when a contrarian with no publishing record to boast about can overturn thousands of scientist-years’ worth of accepted evidence.

To take the obvious example, the Nobel physicist and Presidential Science Advisor Michael Mann was just a freshly-minted PhD when he and two equally-obscure coauthors overthrew the false consensus on Medieval temperatures—an orthodoxy seconded by archaeologists, historians, geographers, oenologists and even a tiny handful of climate scientists, though ultimately based on nothing more solid than the word of a few hundred monks and chroniclers who happened to be alive at the time.

But such cases are the exception, emphasizes the novelist and leading biographer of Alfred Wegener, who says she can’t even think of a second example.

“More often than not, Galileo syndrome turns out to be glorified Dunning-Kruger [disease], I’m afraid.

“It’s hard to say this without sounding elitist, but I know Michael Mann—and you, Mr Einstein… are no Michael Mann,” she says.

Oreskes’ finding debuts next month, in a paper written in collaboration with 24 academics she proudly calls “my collaborationists.” Nature, the prestige science glossy, will devote its coveted cover to what it hopes is a bet-settling, best-selling verdict on history’s most overrated physicist.

At first, admits the decorated scholar, she was pessimistic about working with son and coauthor John Cook, a blogger at the University of Queensland.

harryfantasie

“Sick”: John Cook dressed as Prince Harry (inset). He says he only put the amateur snap online “for my wife and I’s [sic] pleasure,” but skeptics stole it by downloading it—then gleefully plastered it on the web. To Cook, it’s a perfect symbol of the mentality of his opponents. “Something’s not quite right with someone who republishes such a sick image,” he explains.

“I’m a historian of science, trained to analyze the history and development of ideas,” says Oreskes with the unpretentiousness of someone simply listing the facts. “I was invited to teach a graduate course on Consensus in Science at the Vienna Circle Institute’s Vienna International Holiday University. A graduate course.

“On the last night of that magical summer, at the Wiener­september­begin­nen­fest [Masked] Ball, I was feted by actors, archdukes and admirals. Princes asked me to dance.

“Who the hell was John Cook? Don’t get me wrong; he was my [bastard] son [by psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky], and I liked him.

“But come on. He was a bad cartoonist who’d studied undergrad physics ten years ago. Could he really be trusted to crunch a hundred years of scientific history—when he wasn’t too busy cosplaying with that little wife he runs around with—and come up with the desired answer?

”I know it makes me a terrible mother, but I genuinely thought: thank god that kid inherited my [good] looks, because he sure didn’t get my [good] IQ.”

Her doubts evaporated after spending a few minutes with Cook, who was on a North American tour to promote the latest page of his anti-skeptical blog Skeptical Science. Oreskes, mère et fils, clicked at once. They were an academic dream team, each partner contributing something unique: Naomi’s natural, selbstverständlich authority and John’s unthinking, robot-like worship of authority. They soon attracted other high-powered intellects to the project. (Lewandowsky himself would even sign on, making it a veritable family reunion.)

Nature was so impressed by the collective credibilitas of The Collaborationists that it took the unusual step of actively soliciting their anti-Einstein piece. The publishers even borrowed a leaf from rival magazine Science’s book, quietly introducing a new ‘Essays’ section just so Oreskes et al. could bypass the time-consuming and academically-dubious tradition of refereed scrutiny.

Soon the all-star authorial cast had hashed out a basic outline of the question, the methodology and the conclusion they wanted to reach. One last round of haggling over the language of the findings, and they had the green light to begin research.


‘Einstein Considered Wrong,’  henceforth OLCSSM­FHHNVPWTRVJS­GOMLSM­2016, feels like the paper Oreskes was born to write.

That the authors are able to get the right answer at all is thanks to her discovery, in 2004, that majority opinion wasn’t as meaningless as the overwhelming bulk of scientists claimed—a revelation that not only shattered 300 years of received epistemology but sparked a quantum leap in the convenience and speed of the scientific process itself. Oreskes’ Method, colloquially known as ‘science by consensus,’ has changed forever how research is done in countless fields. Whether you work on global average temperature measurement, ice-cover estimation, sea-level modeling or even climatology, chances are you can now establish the truth of hypotheses—such as man-made global warming—that had eluded conventional standards of evidence for centuries.

Prof. Oreskes is the first to admit a number of fields—like the non-climate sciences—still aren’t sold on her methods. (Despite overwhelmingly voting Democrat, scientists are so conservative, neophobic and reactionary they make your local Amish community look like visitors from the future.) But with climatology shaping up as the first scientific success story of the 21st century—the academic-curiosity-turned-minor-cottage-industry was worth $12bn in grants last year alone—it’s only a question of when, not if, the benefits of science by consensus are eagerly adopted by all. It’s a thrilling thought for science-lovers everywhere: how long before the big questions in genetics, solid-state physics, even string theory are routinely decided by telephone survey?

“There’s no reason it can’t happen this decade,” projects Oreskes.

.…

Naomi Oreskes has nothing but praise for her coauthors.

She can’t remember their exact names, but enthuses effusively about their combined citation clout and individual “trustworthiness,” a virtue synonymous—in the peculiar moral argot of the climate wars—with loyalty, omertà and a fanatical zeal for evangelizing the word of science that can sometimes threaten to border on the near-religious.

For John Oreskes-Lewandowsky, better known by his blogonym John Cook, the chance to work with the “Empress of Consensus” was a dream come true.

“Mom’s ideas were a natural fit to solve the Einstein problem,” Cook told us. “Consensuology cuts through the eternal question—How can so many Nazis be wrong? They can’t!—like scissors through the Gorgon’s [sic] knots.”

The opportunity to catch up with his dad and doctoral sponsor, Prof. Lewandowsky, only sweetened the deal.

….

Every schoolchild knows the story. Deep in denial of how outnumbered and outcredentialled he is, Einstein resorts to a deflectionary joke: “If I were wrong it would only take one of them.”

“Nonsense,” responds Oreskes. “One [Nazi’s] opinion wouldn’t have been enough. Science works by overwhelming consensus, not deadlock.

“We scientists have a saying,” says the philosopher and historian: “Science is not a debate.”

For John Cook, Einstein’s total misunderstanding of the logic of scientific discovery is sadly unsurprising.

“This just illustrates, I think, how people who’ve achieved a certain fame in one domain—say, science—generally aren’t worth listening to when it comes to that domain—say, science.”

Clearly, then, a single Nazi wouldn’t prove anything—but Oreskes and team went further. “We wanted to know: how many Nazis would be the right number [of Nazis]?”

Using a method they call mathematics, the researchers were able to determine a precise answer—nineteen—reflecting the threshold we accept for reasonable doubt in science today (p = .05).

Oreskes 046

A proper skeptic: “We don’t really know,” Oreskes stresses, “if Einstein was totally full of [crap], or just partially. His magna opera were never peer-reviewed.”

“So wasn’t 100 a case of overkill?” I suggest.

“Hang on,” snaps Oreskes. “It’s easy to pass judgment in retrospect. But if the climate wars have taught us anything, it’s that—when you’re dealing with minorities—the real danger is underkill.

“And who knows? Perhaps [the Nazi Party] understood this too. Records are sketchy but I like to think, somehow, that they did,” she muses with a wistful smile.

Oreskes likens it to the current debate.

“Medically-illiterate laypeople often ask me why we have to keep picking on [climate] contrarians. ‘Isn’t a 97:3 ratio good enough,’ they ask? ‘Isn’t it a bit fascistic to obsess over a dissenting fringe?

“‘Can’t we stop fighting climate-change denial and start fighting—I dunno—climate change or whatever?’

“But of course, that would be like taking half a course of antibiotics!”

….

”We all know science isn’t about being right,” I say, choosing my words carefully, “but wasn’t Einstein—if I can put it this way—right?”

“Look, obviously the universe no longer obeys Newtonian laws, and nobody reputable is claiming it does. You’re using a straw man [argument],” Oreskes scolds, with an abortifacient glower that reminds me how an out-of-work miner rose to the post of climate-epistemology swami to US Presidents, European Commissars and Vicars of Christ.

“Relativity might be real today,” she hammers on, “but that doesn’t justify Einstein’s one-man war on physics a hundred years ago—let alone the irreverent way he went about it, does it? As cracks did begin to open up in the consensus model of the universe over the course of the 20th century, these were acknowledged—and corrected for—by the legitimate scientific community.

“Not by some entry-level patent clerk in Zürich,” she adds derisively, without sounding elitist.

“As nature gradually became less and less classical, so too did the weight of expert consensus gradually shift. Today only a tiny minority of disproportionately-vocal ‘scientists’ would disagree with modern physics.

“When the facts change, scientists change their minds! What do you do?” asks Oreskes, dripping with disdain. “Huh? What do you do?”

“But hang on,” I stammer in my own defense, “aren’t there groups on the internet who’d argue [that] non-Newtonian phenomena like relativity and the photoelectric effect were already real as far back as 1905, when Einstein first began promoting them?”

Oreskes, however, gives such revisionism short shrift.

“ROFL,” she counters. “As a trained historian of ideas, I can tell you there’s zero documentary evidence [for that]. Are we really supposed to believe there was a global plot by the entire scientific community to keep these aspects of the universe a secret until 1905?

“Then again, that’s the defining trait of quacks and pseudo-historians everywhere, isn’t it: conspirac[y theor]ies,” sighs the blockbusting author of Merchants of Doubt, rolling her eyes without looking elitist.

.…

“We have a saying in science,” says Cook, who works in communications: “All opinions are not created equal.”

So The Collaborationists decided to dig deeper, quantifying the qualifications, citation scores and publication records of the Hundred in detail.

It was no easy task—Allied firebombing had destroyed much of the documentary trail.

“Most of this stuff has been incinerated,” says Oreskes, choking with emotion. “It’s a literal Holocaust.”

Oreskes 0161

Moral of the story: “If you’re a patent clerk,” says Professor Naomi Oreskes, “leave science to the professionals.”

But the hard work paid off with an exciting finding: when you tallied up the credentials of the mainstream scientists they outweighed Einstein not by 100:1, but by almost a hundred and fifty to one.

“This was a game-changer,” recalls Oreskes. “It meant that, just by picking and choosing our methods post hoc, we could get an ever better conclusion.”


Especially overrated, according to the new study, are Einstein’s four papers of 1905, the ‘Miracle Year’ in which we’ve always been taught he single-handedly revolutionized physics.

“People love to talk about them,” says Prof. Oreskes, “but I actually used my historical sleuthing skills to look at the science of the papers. Or, to be exact, the sociological praxis.”

(Science is a social program, she explains.)

Remarkably, it turns out they weren’t even peer-reviewed.

“As I explain in my novel Merchants of Doubt, that makes them opinion pieces—nothing more. And I don’t even have to read them: they fail the most basic test for anything that pretends to be science.”

Even more damningly, she discovered, the editor of Annalen der Physik—the journal that agreed to act as mouthpiece for Einstein’s homegrown theories—was a personal friend.

“In a strategy reminiscent of climate contrarians today, Einstein relied on nepotism [to get into the literature]!” she says, using the Latin root word for pal review.

.…

Einstein’s sidestepping of the proper channels was the most incriminating discovery for author Stephan Lewandowsky, a leader in the resurgent field of punitive psychology.

“These days, that kind of grey literature would ‘belong in the dustbin,’ as someone famous once put it,” says Prof. Lewandowsky, apologizing for not recalling the exact source.

“Peer review is literally the instrument by which scientific skepticism is pursued,” explains the Bristol, UK-based cognitive scientist—a point climate deniers have forced him to make more than once.

“Einstein might have been on to something—anything’s possible—but without the scientific skepticism you only get from the approval of two to three coworkers, he was just setting himself up for self-delusion.”

Detractors of the latest science disagree, insisting that “the instrument by which scientific skepticism is pursued” is called the scientific method. But Lewandowsky dismisses their claims, pointing out that they often have corporate links.

“These people have been pursuing, and plotting against, me and my science in the shadows since 2013, when I set out to prove that their ideas go hand in hand with [imagining] conspiracies—and succeeded,” he says.

“Apparently various secretive interests didn’t take too kindly to that, because my work then came under attack from a concerted campaign of critical examination.

“It got so bad that my editors [at the journal Frontiers in Psychology] rang me in the dead of night—lunchtime, their time—sobbing and hysterical, saying Steve, we’re sorry, we don’t have the courage to stand up for academic integrity any more. I had to send my lawyers down to make a deal with them: the journal would withdraw my paper for the ethical violations [I’d committed], and I’d insist [on my blog] that they’d been ‘gotten to’ by a shadowy, multibillion-dollar cartel of science deniers.

“So no-one lost any face,” he recounts. “Which was damn good, because in science all you’ve got is your dignity.

“In hindsight, we got lucky. This time. But what about the next retraction? And the next? These [subterranean] entities won’t rest until I feel embarrassed.”

Lewandowsky has never been able to get a good look at the interests that are out to get him; in a 2014 statement to UK police he could only describe them as wearing vests.

“While Albert Einstein wasn’t as bad as today’s anti-scientists,” says Lewandowsky, the contrarian physicist’s tactics “were certainly an early example of what I’ve dubbed Illegitimate Insertion.”

(This controversial concept has no agreed-on definition, but scientists who’ve been victim to it describe feelings of intense violation, shame and transparency.)

And it isn’t a fringe view: even his son, coauthor and doctoral protégé John Cook agrees.

“You might say there’s… a consensus [among the study’s authors]!” says the former illustrator, illustrating why he’s now a highly-paid science communicator.

“On consensus!” he adds with impeccable comic timing, just as I’m recovering from my initial paroxysm of laughter.

.…

Oreskes 063

Iconoclast: “The history [of science] is wrong,” denies history-denier and historian Naomi Oreskes.

The story has a sad footnote.

At the time of his death in 1955, Einstein still refused to accept the growing scientific consensus that climate change—or ‘global cooling,’ as it was then called—was on track to be worse than Mus­solini. The ageing physicist appears to have stridently blocked his ears, insist­ing the only thing as dangerous as Fascism was the risk of a nuclear disagree­ment between two or more nations.

Without sounding elitist, Oreskes chalks the 76-year-old’s “ideas” up to senility.

“It’s important to realize he was now… 90? 92?,” she explains.

“Scientists are people like everybody else. They get lonely, they crave attention—and especial­ly scientists who have been very famous in their earlier period of life—and sometimes it’s hard for them when they start to lose the limelight so I think we see that phenomenon [with Einstein].”


There were some legitimate concerns about the Newtonian model by the 1930s, and Oreskes is the first to acknowledge this.

“And if [these issues] had been raised respectfully, the self-correcting mechanisms of science would have dealt with them. But Einstein used minor discrepancies—not even noticeable at everyday velocities—to imply they somehow invalidated 300 years of classical physics!”

This bad faith is probably what antagonized the legitimate scientists who had dealings with Einstein, she believes. They felt attacked, and their science disrespected.

“How would you feel if your life’s work was disbelieved? As scientists, they never signed up for that. We see the same kind of bullying today. Science deniers demand toleration of their views, yet they never seem to feel any obligation to agree with the majority in return—you know, the folks who actually know their stuff.

“While nobody can say what the word ‘science’ means,” adds Oreskes, “I did hear a pretty convincing guess once. An astronomer acquaintance of mine once defined it as ‘the belief in the knowledge of experts.’ When I heard that I was all like, dude, that totally captures what I’ve always imagined [science] probably is.”

….

It’s easy to forget—which is why Oreskes reminds me—that for centuries, the very idea of a science of and by consensus was universally ridiculed as Not Even Word Salad, a punchline synonymous with the crassest, most Medieval sort of scientific il­literacy. Until, that is, she announced its existence in the pages of Science barely a decade ago.

To schoolchildren and associate lecturers in the history and philosophy of science alike, the third of December, 2004 is one of those magic dates to be learned by rote, like February 3, 1952 or March 21, 1810.

Oreskes, though, remembers it simply as The Day the Laughter Died. Overnight, a jocular oxymoron would become a metaanalytic term of art. You’d have been forgiven for thinking the world’s 2,500 best scientists—the United Nations’ IPCC—had voted to replace “er” and “um,” the most frequent words in the English corpus, with “scientific” and “consensus.”

And humanity owed its Big Idea to exactly one human: her.


Reached for its comment on our story, Harvard University would only state that Prof. Oreskes was hired on merit.

“Had a better candidate applied, she or he would have gotten the Professorship,” reads a terse press release by the venerable institution today.

45 thoughts on “Nazis Had it Right: Oreskes

  1. Yes, Tom,

    I agree—when you put it that way I guess serious, long-form science writing could be considered an artform.

    Todos kudos, therefore, to the Times for having enough faith in its readership to let Toynboyalé, Glass and Chambers tell this important story in the detail it deserves.

    May this act of faith be repaid tenfold—and may Nazis represent a new standard in thoughtful, challenging science journalism at America’s paper of record!

    Like

  2. ““Unlike science, history requires a bit of—so to speak—skepticism,…”

    This is bizarre! Was Niels Bohr not a skeptic! He studied under Arthur Eddington and then replaced Eddington’s model of the atom with his own model. Eddington’s model was non-physical, while Bohr’s model was resolved the non-physical issues.

    Professor Oreskes did author an outstanding study of the history of continental drift. However, she has not understood the history of Einstein’s harassment by the Nazis. Einstein’s position was that none of the theories of the 100 scientists could prove him wrong. But one experiment could prove him wrong. Einstein was making the same point that Karl Popper and Richard Feynman have since made.

    Interesting that when Professor Oreskes engages in these polemics she contradicts her own writings. The following paper was authored by the same person who co-authored Merchants of Doubt.

    I find it incomprehensible that a single psyche can hold these disparate views.

    Abstract: Verification and validation of numerical models of natural systems is impossible. This is because natural systems are never closed and because model results are always non-unique. Models can be confirmed by the demonstration of agreement between observation and prediction, but confirmation is inherently partial. Complete confirmation is logically precluded by the fallacy of affirming the consequent and by incomplete access to natural phenomena. Models can only be evaluated in relative terms, and their predictive value is always open to question. The primary value of models is heuristic.

    Oreskes, Naomi, Kristin Shrader-Frechette, and Kenneth Belitz. “Verification, validation, and confirmation of numerical models in the earth sciences.” Science 263, no. 5147 (1994): 641-646.

    http://tmtfree.hd.free.fr/albums/files/TMTisFree/Documents/Climate/Verification,%20Validation,%20and%20Confirmation%20of%20Numerical%20Models%20in%20the%20Earth%20Sciences,%201994.%20Oreskes%20and%20al..pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Frederick,

    I’m so glad you mention Prof. Oreskes’ excellent monograph on the rejection of plate tectonics throughout the mid-20th century.

    If Oreskes fails to show as much sympathy to scientific naysayers and advocati diaboli as one might ideally like, no doubt her views have been colored by the lonely and thankless struggles of Alfred Wegener (a figure with whom she makes no secret of deeply identifying in her own career to battle rejectionists).

    To the eternal shame of the scientific world, decades passed between Wegener’s discovery of modern mainstream geology and its acceptance by the modern geological mainstream.

    In fact, for many years, Wegener was almost literally the lone voice of the scientific consensus on continent change.

    And because he was besieged by “skeptics,” deniers, rejectors and mavericks—people who probably saw themselves as the geological heirs to Einstein—it took a criminally long time for consensus science to get the widespread credibility it deserved.

    Thankfully, Wegener never gave up. Even in his darkest hour, outnumbered by contrarians a thousand to one, he never allowed them to extinguish the flame of consensus science.

    Without the self-sacrifice and insane courage of the champions of mainstream science, people like Alfred Wegener and Ignaz Semmelweiss, where would we be? Plate tectonics, the unifying paradigm in accepted, majority geology, has changed the way we see our world unrecognizably.

    In fact, I dare say the inexorable, runaway movement of the continents will have almost as much impact on our lives, within our lives, as climate change.

    I live in the Great Southern Land. Just like global warming, the fact that Australasia is literally inching its way towards the equator isn’t a problem for my grandchildren to deal with—it’s a problem for me. Now. A clear and present danger.

    And nobody wants to talk about it. I’m surrounded by contrarians. I try not to get angry. I try to understand that their failure to share my white-knuckle terror is due to their deep-seated psychological problems. They simply can’t handle the truth. And, in their irrational shoes, I probably couldn’t either.

    After all, continent change (and our hare-in-the-spotlight political paralysis on the issue) represents not just a catastrophic failure of all the institutions we’ve been brought up to revere—democracy, the free markets, a diverse and competitive commercial media… but probably the greatest such failure since humanogenic global climate systems disruption!

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  4. “In fact, I would dare say the inexorable movement of the continents will have almost as much impact on our lives, within our lives, as climate change.”

    The eastern part of the plate is moving north 5.6 cm per year. It will take 70 years to move 4 meters closer to the equator, about the average human lifespan.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Australian_Plate

    I reckon 70 years CO2 increase at 1% per year would double the volume in the atmosphere. Without feedbacks that probably means global temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius.

    On balance this would probably be economically beneficial to mankind.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “On balance this [increasing CO2 concentrations] would probably be economically beneficial to mankind.”

    Exactly. Finally, someone who gets that plate tectonics is an even BIGGER threat to life on Earth than carbon.

    Thank you, Frederick.

    Like

  6. More Nazis, Brad Keyes? Is this infatuation with Nazis a personal obsession or is it shared by all “skeptics”?

    Like

  7. Raff Baker,

    infatuation has nothing to do with it. Yes, I’m a fascinee of what a certain Jewess called Fascinating Fascism. I’ve long believed the bad guys have all the fashion sense—a taste I share with the rest of the “skeptical” world. But what of it? I don’t write the New York Times’ copy! LOL! They happen to choose to cover a Third Reich story today; I dutifully reblog it. Simple as that. I won’t pretend I don’t enjoy it, but it’s not like I had any say in it.

    Like

  8. Now, Raff, you can either *cough cough* engage with the substance of Toynboyalé, Glass and Chambers’ report, or you can continue to “engage” in your febrile conspiracy theories by ascribing to me the supernatural power to make story decisions for America’s oldest and most-respected news desk.

    Either way, Saul Good, man.

    But you will be judged accordingly.

    Like

  9. Raff Baker,

    “A Jewess? WTF?”

    You seem almost proud of your incomprehension.

    Do you know nothing about Jew society? Jew culture? The Jew people? Not all women are shiksas, you know, Raff (despite the best efforts of certain snazzily-dressed IBM users in the early-to-mid 20th century).

    You might want to take a peek outside your WASP nest sometime. Make a couple of friends in Hollywood, banking, even the world of science, and I promise: your sheltered, shellfish-shucking country-club horizons are gonna be blown wide open.

    Seriously, dude, unless you want to keep coming across as culturally insensitive, you might want to get to know a few Jew, colored, oriental and other people.

    They won’t bite. And you may actually learn something, kemosabe.

    Like

  10. You are the one showing incomprehension, Brad Keyes. WTF does anyone’s religious heritage have to do with anything? Why do you even notice it or need to mention it? Let’s rewrite your opening paragraph in true Brad Keyes style:

    The NY Times has a less than stellar record for science coverage (even by mass-media standards), so we were pleasantly surprised to find the following adult, nuanced story in the Gray Lady’s pages. Veteran reporters homosexual John Smith, Muslim Jack Jones and Negress Jane Doe have taken a critical, unfawning look at the upcoming überpaper from Jewess Mary Smith of Harvard University; the climate connection should be self-explanatory. Enjoy these excerpts. —Eds.

    Does your tiny prejudiced little mind not see anything wrong with that? I’m an atheist if it helps – perhaps you can think of a suitable religious slur for me.

    Like

  11. “Raff says:
    10 Sep 16 at 1:12 pm

    More Nazis, Brad Keyes? Is this infatuation with Nazis a personal obsession or is it shared by all “skeptics”?”

    Who knows where such weird infatuations might lead.

    Could we have a leading sceptic dressing himself up as leader of the SS one day?

    Naah, I’m dreaming – that’d be far too bizarre to contemplate.

    Liked by 7 people

  12. RAFF (10 Sep 16 at 1:54 pm)

    A Jewess? WTF? … It is difficult with you to know what is fact and what fiction.

    To help you: Brad’s “fascinating fascism” quote is from here,
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1975/02/06/fascinating-fascism/

    For those who find Google difficult (and non-binary reality painful) Sontag the Jewess is reviewing Leni Riefenstahl the Nazi collaborationiste’s loving images of black bodies.

    I think what Brad is saying/suggesting is that the world is complex. Those who think that they can divine the temperature a thousand years ago by averaging tree ring widths on top of the Rockies with coral thickness in the Pacific have a different slant on things. I’m with smiling little sexagenarian Nazi Leni standing by those gawky blacks with their big swinging dongs. Put that in your data base Lew the self-ascribed Nazi-kike-victim and smoke something statistically significant out of it.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Raff Baker,

    your comment was TL, so I DR, but even at a glance one thing that leaped out, to my undying amusement, was this:

    You actually felt the need to boldface perfectly common ethnonyms and Kinsey diagnostic categories like ‘Negress’ and ‘homosexual’!!

    Dude, dude, dude, that’s the typographic equivalent of STARING at one of these poor people.

    Do you stare every time a Chinawoman, or a spastic, or a Chinaman gets on the freaking bus?!

    That was a rhetorical question, of course:

    yes. Yes you do.

    Because you’re racist. As your own subconscious misuse of HTML tags just revealed, for all to see.

    This is too, too funny. You could not make this shit up. You presume to lecture me on racism, and then (allegorically speaking) the moment some div kid walks by, you conspicuously let your eyes linger on him an extra beat, as if you’ve never seen a div kid before!

    Listen, Raff, we all WANT to stare. But the difference between us (civilized people) and you (racists) is that we understand the importance of pretending there’s nothing to look at, as if it’s the most perfectly natural thing in the world—What, that kid was differently-disabled? I never noticed!

    We don’t dial it up to fucking Cooper Ultrablack every time we have to use a word like ‘Negress.’ See how I do jus den? I jus use the same book-weight, Roman face of Garamond I’d use for ANY OTHER DAMN WORD.

    Because I—unlike certain people in the set {you, me}—am not an intolerant redneck.

    Dayum.

    Like

  14. Geoff,

    I think what Brad is saying/suggesting is that the world is complex.

    Oh, come on, that is a gross simplification.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. The fact that Foxgoose’s comment has still been deemed worthy of a grand total of ONE star is proof positive that speciesism is alive and well in this (supposedly enlightened) half of the climate blogosphere.

    I’m sure if he had a name like Brad StJohn-Keyes or Joffrey H. Chambers III—a good, sturdy human name—he’d have got the Likes he deserves, based on the merit of his kickass comment.

    But no, he has the name of not one, but two “lower” species. So he has to be twice as funny just to compete for the same laughs we privileged, human folk with our male/female human privilege take for granted.

    We sicken myself.

    Like

  16. So it took two and a half hours for your tiny anti-Semitic brain to go from calling me godless to calling me a racist. So slow the gears turn, one can imagine them grinding. I’ve seen enough antisemitism recently IRL not to put up with your type of sh*t without calling it out. I see no legitimate reason to identify someone as a “certain Jewess” instead of by name. Use her name and let your fellow anti-Semites read what they want into it without imposing your personal prejudice on the rest of us.

    Like

  17. Frederick, Thanks for mentioning this paper on numerical models and verification and validation. One must say that to say that models of natural systems have primarily heuristic value is I think a little extreme (and I’m pretty skeptical of these models myself).

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You’re so right Raff. I admit it all. I’m ready to roll. I’ll name names. I’ll testify against the whole skeptic power structure! Every last neoNazi one of them! All the way up to Lindzen.

    Or should I say: Count Abu von Lindzen von Amriki.

    And to think how close I came to getting away with my campaign of coded, crypto-judeophobic hate speech.

    But alas, it wasn’t crypto enough.

    I wasn’t counting on one thing: the Raff factor.

    It’s Detective Baker, Mounted Hate Squad! They say he’s so good, he can smell 1 drop of hate in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. He’s been known to sniff out acts of hate any lesser PC policeman would foolishly dismiss as “facetiousness,” “satire,” “taking the piss out of racism” or (most foolishly of all!) “non-hate.”

    Ah, but not him. Not Baker of the Yard!

    You have to wake up pretttty early in the morning to get anything past the Bakemeister.

    You’ve got me dead to rights. I know I’m going away for a long, long time. And I deserve it. But it was almost worth it, just to be able to watch a once-in-a-generation forensic intellect like yours at work.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Oh, I missed this masterful touch:

    “I’ve seen enough antisemitism recently IRL not to put up with your type of sh*t without calling it out.”

    Well, well, that certainly put me in my place.

    When calling out racists for their vile racist hatred, I think it’s just so important to redact any potentially G-rated vowels with a tasteful asterisk.

    You want to be a bit snitty, but you don’t want to come across as rude.

    They’re just antisemites, after all, not climate deniers. Gotta keep your i’s and u’s dry—you know, in case you cross paths with someone who really deserves them.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. RAFF
    ..your tiny anti-Semitic brain … let your fellow anti-Semites read what they want into it..

    Chill brother. Watch this and try and work out which gay/jewish/slav members fled to America and which ones stayed on to support the consensus. It’s not easy. We’ve all got to make a living.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I wasn’t suggesting any general antisemitism here, Geoff Chambers. My firm expectation is that everyone here except Brad Keyes finds identifying someone’s Jewishness as objectionable as identifying their sexuality or race. People who bear prejudice against Jews or other minorities are excellent at sniffing out their targets and drawing their conclusions without the rest of us needing to be dirtied by it. Maybe even Brad Keyes recognizes that he was wrong, judging by his even greater than normal verbosity in his own defense. He’d do better just to accept it.

    Like

  22. Mein Gott im Himmel hilf uns! “selbstverständlich”???
    I was expecting more like:
    Hickory dickory doc,
    Two mice ran up the clock,
    The clock struck one!
    The other one got away!

    Like

  23. Sorry! that “selbstverständlich”
    Reminded me of some Kraut piece of electronic test equipment,l where the name “is the operators manual”! Now I believe I will have another beer!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Brad Keyes says: 10 Sep 16 at 9:02 pm

    Geoff, (” I think what Brad is saying/suggesting is that the world is complex.”)

    “Oh, come on, that is a gross simplification”

    I like simple! My 5 shot Taurus “The Judge” is simple. Even now, the Sheriff deputies politely knock on the door! Criminals and terrorists find easier diggings!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Brad Keyes says: 10 Sep 16 at 9:10 pm

    “But no, he has the name of not one, but two “lower” species. So he has to be twice as funny just to compete for the same laughs we privileged, human folk with our male/female human privilege take for granted.”

    Da Shadow knows! Gots anodder baby squirrel today! Here sales tax on canned cat food is higher than on beer!

    “We sicken myself.”

    That got a “wait what”! How ’bouts, ” I sicken ourselves”?

    Like

  26. Blatently stolen from JoNova’ site

    A word, for your consideration. AUTODIDACT

    autodidact
    /ˈɔːtəʊdɪdakt /
    ▸ noun a self-taught person.
    – DERIVATIVES autodidactic /-ˈdaktɪk/ adjective
    – ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from Greek autodidaktos ‘self-taught’, from autos ‘self’ + didaskein ‘teach’.

    From the Oxford Dictionary of English iPad ap.

    Seems to apply for a number of contributors here, and can be worn as a badge of honour.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Will,

    Of the three staff reporters credited for the piece, I’d say ten to 1 it was J.C. who contributed le mot parfait ‘selbstverständlich.’ Not that coauthors Toynboyalé and Glass are slouches in the lexical stakes—not by a long shot—but, having subscribed faithfully and implicitly to the Times for many years, I’ve come to know the literary tics of some of its best writers. And when it comes to pretty Teutonic agglutinations, Jeff is something of ein Glutemeister.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Very sincere congratulations, Brad.

    You successfully did here what many others have tried to do for a long time: hold Naomi Oreskes up to the ridiculous sickly green light she pours forth so liberally. Pun very much intended.

    [I’m leaving your comment in place, Lonny, but only so that everyone can see one of the best, and certainly the first, examples of what I’ve long predicted would be the next denialist tactic: laughing appreciatively at the facts. (I call it The Improved Tobacco Strategy.) Further accusations of / congratulations on satiricality will be ruthlessly snipped!!

    This goes for everyone who stoops to the use of The I.T.S., a.k.a. T.I. Tobacco S.—unless they use it against los denialistas, which comes under the Seventh Amendment’s Fair Turnabout and Transformativeness exception.
    —BK (mod.) ]

    Liked by 1 person

  29. It’s really hard to know where the lines are between the satire and the truth here.

    That’s high praise for Brad, not so good for Naomi.

    [You’ve been warned once about your use of T. Improved T.S., Mr Eachus. Next time you won’t be. Next time your comment will simply be published in full, without notification.Mods.
    —BK (mod.) ]

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I didn’t see that my previous post made it through moderation. So I left another. Oops.

    [As our unwritten comments policy makes eminently clear, Mr Eachus, this is a science blog, not a law blog, so ignorance is no excuse. You probably didn’t know that—but that doesn’t mitigate your number of strikes one iota.

    For the benefit of others who haven’t taken the time to read our tacit rules:

    • Our motto is “moderation in all things.”
    • We are radical Voltaireans who absolutely hesitate to censor. However, freedom of speech never entailed the freedom to offend others by articulating objectively incorrect ideas or disputable tastes. De gustibus non disputandum est.
    • To put it another way, you’re entitled to your own opinions, not to the wrong opinions.

    For a detailed unpacking of our comments philosophy, see the sidebar at DesmogBlog. It should be in your bookmarks under Anti-hate Sites.

    —BK (mod.) ]

    Like

  31. Will raff EV ER comprehend that virtually everyone responding to him- not to mention the article itself- are pulling his leg? Is he really that daft?

    Liked by 1 person

  32. ClimateOtter,

    Probably not—but he can hardly be expected to get the joke of an article he’s never read, can he? Those of us who know what the OP actually says have him at something of an unfair disadvantage.

    BTW in some comments (most of them now tragically deleted) over at al-Graun, Rob “Mr. Scumbag” Honeycutt—who apparently did read our article—has accused me of narcism, being anti-Semetic and linking Oreskes to Nazi’s.

    Him:

    [Brad,] your narcism knows no limits.

    Me:

    Pity the same can’t be said for your vocab.

    Like

  33. TWR57,

    as a visitor to a science blog, it is incumbent upon you to show good faith. Science is all about how good your faith is, and quite frankly a first-time commenter who plays the Do My Homework For Me card exudes middling (at best) to bad (at worst) faith. We don’t know you, and we don’t even know if your name really is twr57. That’s what you claim, but it could easily be a pseudonym, even a sockonym. So I hope you’ll excuse the regulars for not exactly rushing to volunteer to do a simple web search for you. That’s something you earn—by showing us you’ve done your basic postgraduate-level reading on climate science.

    Nothing personal. It’s not that we don’t trust you, it’s just that we distrust you.

    Further accusations of difficulty to credit will be deleted and forwarded to the N Y Times complaints department.

    That is all.

    Liked by 4 people

  34. twr57,

    Reprinted from The Onion?

    I assumed this was a compliment on the quality of our (or rather the NYT’s reporters’) story, as The Onion seems to be a rather well-known news site of which I’ve heard nothing but good things over the years.

    However, having just spent a couple of hours examining The Onion’s wares, they don’t seem as reputable as I’d hoped. In fact some of their pieces lack the ring of truth. Mind you, why exactly such a professional-looking organization would go to the effort of producing elaborate hoaxes is a mystery. What’s the point of paying good writers to put forth dubious stories (if not outright lies)? Nonetheless, I’m apparently not alone in my suspicions—another few minutes’ research quickly revealed multiple voices online questioning The Onion’s honesty. Onionwatch.com, for instance, appears to have built up quite a comprehensive dossier on the dubious claims made by the outlet over the last several years. So something is fishy, to say the least.

    I’ll presume, for the sake of pleasant relations, that you didn’t know all this background on The Onion and were genuinely (if naively) flattering our NYT reprint by comparison with what you believed was another major, legitimate news org. But please beware—and this goes for anyone considering the use of The Onion as a source—that until the serious open questions surrounding The Onion’s credibility are answered, you should not take the “facts” on their website or in their print edition at face value.

    It’s been a sad lesson, for me, in the badness of certain actors’ faith. There are dishonorable people out there, people.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Brad, it was intended as a compliment.
    But I see I’m underestimating the rate at which I’m getting senile. …

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Guess what? John Cook has joined the RICO mob.

    http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102608159466&ca=d5965069-aa1a-4220-b822-8008bb53b34b

    “We are delighted to announce that John Cook, PhD will be joining our team as a Research Assistant Professor, beginning January 2017.

    Initially trained as a physicist, John recently completed his PhD in psychology at the University of Western Australia. His doctoral research focused on the negative influences of misinformation on climate literacy, and how to neutralize those influences.

    Despite his newly minted PhD, John has been a towering figure in the field of climate communication for the past decade. In 2007, he created Skeptical Science – a website/app devoted to explaining climate science and rebutting global warming misinformation.

    Skeptical Science is widely seen by climate scientists and other climate educators as an invaluable educational resource. [sic]

    For his efforts, John has received numerous prestigious awards including a 2012 Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge (Australian Museum), a 2013 Peter Rawlinson Conservation Award (Australian Conservation Foundation) and a 2016 Friend of the Planet Award (National Center for Science Education).”

    You will remember:
    “George Mason professors call for RICO probe of ‘climate change deniers'”
    https://aminewswire.com/stories/510639406-george-mason-professors-call-for-rico-probe-of-climate-change-deniers

    And the problems it brought them:
    “Jagdish Shukla’s #RICO20 blunder may have opened the ‘largest science scandal in US history’”
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/10/02/jagadish-shuklas-rico20-blunder-may-have-opened-the-largest-science-scandal-in-us-history/

    More on the George Mason Centre for Climate Change Communication and its founder Ed Maibach, here: “Propaganda from The Public Purse”
    http://sppiblog.org/news/propaganda-from-the-public-purse

    Kind Regards

    Dennis Ambler

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Thanks Dennis—I notice Anthony Watts has also covered George Mason’s latest triumphant acquisition, several hours after we learned of it from you.

    Like

  38. “I notice Anthony Watts has also covered George Mason’s latest triumphant acquisition”

    Looks like my e-mail to various was forwarded to Anthony. I’m flattered!

    Liked by 1 person

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