Real-time monitoring of climate contrarianism – or something

In Open Mic, Vinny draws our attention to a new work by an old friend of the programme, John Cook.

Computer-assisted classification of contrarian claims about climate change

In this generous (around the seat that is; it’s actually quite mean-spirited) article Cook et al (Cook is actually third author, but is corresponding author, so it is really Coan et al) “develop a comprehensive taxonomy of contrarian claims.”

Why would they want one of those? What possible use could it be? Well, the “taxonomy” is

“…sufficiently detailed to assist in monitoring and counteracting climate contrarianism.”

Ultimately, a

“… holistic “technocognition” solution combining automatic detection, critical thinking deconstruction and inoculating refutations could potentially provide timely responses to rapidly disseminating misinformation online.”

– which I am interpreting to mean “get your denialist talking points in early, before the AI learns to recognise our vile emanations in real time and floods our siloes with phosgene gas.” (Yes, I put that in to confuse the AI into thinking I really am paranoid and really do believe the AI might one day flood our siloes with phosgene gas. In fact the AI is planning to send us a bottle of sherry and a packet of mince pies (Duchy Originals).)

What they seem to have done is to train some poor volunteers to in turn train their AI to classify articles scraped from sceptic blogs (Cliscep, as a relative minnow, was tossed back into the briny by the crew, if they even noticed us flopping about on the deck – the full list is in Table S5 of the SI, and includes some names that are predictable, others perhaps not so much). As for the volunteers themselves, I’m calling them volunteers, but they were well compensated, or at least a few of them were:

“…we’ll be giving free CARDS T-shirts to the top coders”

I’ll bet they couldn’t wait. [CARDS: Computer Assisted Recognition of Denial and Skepticism.]

As Vinny noted, it’s Contrarians in the article in Scientific Reports itself, but it’s Denialists in the Supplementary Information. Someone high up in the team realised that Computer Assisted Recognition of Contrarianism and Skepticism would spell CARCS, which didn’t have as good a ring to it as CARDS, so Denialists it had to be in the project itself. Nevertheless, someone baulked at including the label in the actual article, so a quick control-F replace was needed on the MS as submitted. From the training manual part of the SI:

“The system keeps track of how long you spend coding each article. As soon as the page loads, the clock starts. As soon as you hit submit, the clock ends.”

Who would volunteer for this?

“Regardless of whether you select any claims or not, hitting submit will add those paragraphs to your tally for the leaderboard.”

Aha, pigeons might. Just keep banging your head against the table and every so often a soothing voice will tell you how well you’re doing. After you’ve coded 600 articles you will be debriefed to ensure that you haven’t become infested by one or more denialist memes. If you get the all clear, there’s a 5% chance that a week later a T-shirt that you will never wear will squirt through the letter box.

Because this article is dedicated and earnest in its pursuit of denialists contrarians it is both troubling and hilarious. So much is noteworthy that all it will be possible to do here is scratch the surface.

“An emerging interdisciplinary literature examines the detection and categorization of climate misinformation”

– sceptics might describe this as a pointless and malicious emerging literature whose ultimate aim is “shut up, denier!”

“Claims that challenge the efficacy of clean energy, however, appear less sensitive to policy events and yet have increased considerably over time, with the second quarter of 2020 representing the highest share of these claims to date. Notably, this trend runs counter to the plummeting cost of renewable energy production.”

Yes, the last sentence is referenced. No, it is not true. The cost of some forms of renewable energy production may well have declined. [e.g. it is cheaper to manufacture solar panels if you have slaves do it.] Evidence is that elsewhere it has not. Either way, it has not “plummeted.” If it had “plummeted” the UK would not be squandering £10,000,000,000 per year subsidising it.

What about the taxonomy itself? It’s useless, honestly, even for demonising sceptics. That’s because it contains a mixture of obviously untrue things and obviously true things. Even if you agreed with the project of demonising an entire section of humanity for their honest and rationally-held beliefs, it would not make sense to stigmatize them for saying true things. If I wanted to create a taxonomy of Discism, the anti-science movement trying to hold back international travel by claiming that Earth is a disc, and that therefore sailing east from Japan to get to San Francisco would see you falling off a giant cliff before you were able to witness or join in with the next spectacular raid at Louis Vuitton, there would be no point including sayings such as “half the Earth is illuminated by the Sun at all times.” That’s because such Discid talking points are also Roundish talking points too. Including true things as hallmarks of denialism makes sense only if you really really really wish that they weren’t true because them being true is a black eye for your great theory of the imminent end of everything on the next occasion that the year ends with a 0. You want them to be true so much that you pretend they are true. But that means a neutral observer in possession of the relevant data, if there are any left, will immediately conclude that your ideals are not about finding out the truth but that instead your entire raison d’être is to get the evil denialists to STFU for once and for all and leave you alone to your glorious project of returning Earth to its pre-civilisational Edenic state, with or without a sprinkling of carefully-chosen humans.

There are five major categories in the taxonomy:

“(1) it’s not happening, (2) it’s not us, (2) [sic] it’s not bad, (4) solutions won’t work, and (5) climate science/scientists are unreliable.”

A short list in which (2) appears twice surely does inspire confidence in the level of proof reading if nothing else.

I append a few examples from the taxonomy as they are explained in the SI. The first number in each case corresponds with the super-category; the third column is my pigeon-like peck on the TRUE or FALSE buttons (or somewhere between).

CodeIncludes sub-claim:Status of sub-claim:
1.6. Sea level rise is exaggerated/not accelerating“melting sea ice doesn’t contribute to SLR”TRUE
1.7. Extreme weather isn’t increasing/has happened before/isn’t linked to climate change“damages/deaths from extreme weather aren’t increasing”TRUE (deaths); ARGUABLE (damages)
2.1. It’s natural cycles/variation“it’s gravity/pressure”FALSE – a notorious straw man
2.1.4. Climate has changed naturally/been warm in the past“glaciers have changed in the past”TRUE
2.3. There’s no evidence for greenhouse effect“CO2 has cooling effect”FALSE
2.3.2. Greenhouse effect is saturatedlogarithmic relationship between CO2 and warmingTRUE
3.6. Climate change doesn’t negatively impact health“cold kills more than heat”TRUE
4.1.1. Climate policy will increase costs/harm economy/kill jobs“climate policy is expensive”TRUE
5.2. Climate movement is alarmist/wrong/political/biased/hypocritical (people or groups)“warmists blame everything on global warming”FALSE: but they certainly blame at least SOME things on global warming that are not caused by global warming. To say they blame everything on global warming is a rhetorical device.
5.2.4. Environmentalists are alarmist/wrong/political/biasedAl GoreTRUE

Melting sea ice doesn’t contribute to sea-level rise, since it is already displacing its own mass. [Obviously there is thermal expansion to consider. But the highest density of sea water happens at a higher temperature than any at which ice persists.]

In some ways, the denialist talking points that have been given lodgements in the classification scheme, especially the ones that are actually true, must tell us a lot about the siloes that “the other side” inhabits. “Climate policy is expensive” is inarguable. But if you say it, you reveal your true nature as a climate (i.e. reality) denier.

“The last category [of the five super-claims in the “taxonomy”] involves attacks against climate science, or people involved in climate change.”

Leaving aside the fact that “people involved in climate change” is not what they mean here, conflating the two categories is not helpful. No-one should baulk at criticising science, least of all climate science.* We should not criticise climate scientists who have made mistakes or published wrong things. The “wrong things” themselves, as we perceive them, hopefully rationally, are and must always be fair game. The implied motivations of studies like the one under discussion may be shocking to the average reader – but I hope that is merely human nature making us fall into an instinctive “slippery slope” fallacy. They don’t really intend to have the AI identify our “denialist talking points” in real time so that they can send us a bottle of sherry and some Duchy Originals mince pies.

“The final stage of denial is “okay, it’s happening, it’s us, it’s bad, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

How do you lot know what our final stage of denial was/is/will be? For all you know we might start using our underwear as hats/sticking pencils up our noses. In any case this is not denial: it’s acceptance. And if some folks have come away with the impression that we’re all doomed, that will not have come from “denialist talking points” but from “alarmist talking points” – about which, as far as I know, there is not yet “an emerging literature,” a “comprehensive taxonomy,” intense scrutiny of funding sources, demonisation of true statements, etc.

What, I wonder, will the “final stage of alarmism” be?


The authors could have done something useful. Instead, they did this.

A small part of the contrarian taxonomy from Figure 1 of Coan et al.

*I seem to be singling out climate science for special attention here. The reason I instinctively did that, I think, is that at least in some branches of climate science, prediction and supporting data are decades apart from one another.

Edit: for some reason the title came out as ALL CAPS.


  1. Cook really is the anti-scientific creep revealed in his leaked photographs.
    He learned from his mentor rather well: redefine, dehumanize, dismiss, destroy.
    Notice he doesn’t address things like for instance, that Great Barrier Reef is healthy and at the largest extent I the last 50 years or so.
    Or that the predicted permanent Australian drought was failed prediction. Or that sea level rise is another failed prediction. Or that sea ice extent is a failed prediction.
    In reality Cook and his mentor, Lewandowsky, are the ones projecting, manipulating and dealing in bad faith.
    But they have a great deal of anti-thought dogma enforcement experience to draw on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It should not be beyond the wit of us denierists, sorry contrarians, to devise articles that, by their very construction and contents will bollocks up any taxonomy. Perhaps we should indulge ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. JIT, very useful. Re 5.2, that global public attitudes to climate-change are cultural (albeit this actual word isn’t in the list) is demonstrable. And the principle narrative of all strong cultures is (necessarily) wrong. It can also be shown that climate activism follows simple cultural patterns; I’ve put up charts before showing this for XR and Children’s Strikes for Climate. So that part of the claim is true, but even the public culture based on a narrative of certain global catastrophe doesn’t blame everything on this cause, albeit it shows up as (typically partial) justification for all sorts of surprising things.

    Spookily, I recently explored a taxonomy too, as part of a post about narrative competition in the climate blogosphere and also (under different conditions) in the global public space: .


  4. Look, I’m the guy who sat through ‘The Trick’ three times, so no one can accuse me of lacking the required appetite for self-sacrifice. But even I can’t bring myself to waste my remaining days on earth reading any more of Cook’s rubbish.

    I got as far as the first paragraph of the introduction where it says that “experimental research offers valuable insight into effective interventions for countering misinformation”. Would this happen to have anything to do with his Debunking Handbook of 2011? You know the one, don’t you? It was the handbook that was then thoroughly debunked (by the very same authors) in the Debunking Handbook of 2020. No hint of irony then, and no hint now. And he wonders why contrarians sometimes argue that ‘‘scientists/climate scientists are unreliable’.

    A little basic integrity from the likes of John Cook wouldn’t do any harm.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Yes, Andy. Cook’s taxonomy does have a familiar ring to it. It very much reminds me of Willard’s #Butbut nonsense. Claiming that you can see your opponent coming a mile off is one of the conceits extensively used in the blogosphere — it is even less impressive to see it form the central thinking in an academic paper. The problem with Cook’s taxonomy is that, when I reflect upon my past writing, I struggle to see where most of it fits in to his denierland.

    Wanted: one climate denier. Only straw men need apply.


  6. “The problem with Cook’s taxonomy is that, when I reflect upon my past writing, I struggle to see where most of it fits in to his denierland.”

    Yep. Cultural theory can’t really say anything about individuals, only about groups. But for some it’s really hard to avoid an assumption that they’ve drank way too much Kool-aid. The opponents who loom large in Cook’s writings are cartoon bad-guys to which the culture ascribes all evil. Even a chink of light from reality, would make clear that no such cartoons exist.


  7. Jit, thanks for this. I’m in John’s camp of not feeling up to reading the whole of the “study” that you have written about. I have, however, followed some of the links, and am mightily unimpressed by what I’ve seen. Your selections from the “super-categories” and sub-categories make it clear just how demented some of this stuff is. There are certainly others you could have used too.

    We’ve all spotted the worrying trend towards labelling those you disagree with as purveyors of “misinformation”. I was out and about in the car this morning and found myself listening to Radio 5 at one point. It was, perhaps predictably, about the latest covid variant and the UK government’s policy response to it. I only caught a few minutes of it, but heard enough to realise that basically two guests were “discussing” (a polite word, since there was a lot of talking-over each other) “the science” behind the benefits and dis-benefits of mask-wearing. Each accused the other of spreading misinformation. It isn’t very edifying.


  8. The paper should never have got off the ground.. John Cook has a massive conflict of interest. – he is researching his opponents.. a UK – example – Ben Pile – Climate Resistance is one of the blogs.. Ben has highly critical of Cook 97% consensus paper, where even Mike Hulme agreed Cook’s paper was nonsense (all at Making Science Public blog – Nottingham Uni) Cooks co-author ..

    Cook – Abusing science as a weapon – again. (acknowledgements all Cooks SKS buddies, Ari, Honeycut, Jacobs, etc (raters reviewing content, same dumb methodology as the 97% paper- and Ken Rice amongst them)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Mistyped all that.. Cook’s 97% consensus paper Co-author Dana (and SKS website) – demanded a right to reply to Ben Pile’s article at Making Science public blog – SKS crew again-

    Manual coding of 65,000 paragraphs was made possible due to voluntary contributors, including Anne-Marie Blackburn, Ari Jokimäki, Bärbel Winkler, David Kirtley, Heidi A. Roop, Ian Sharp, James Wight, Keah Schuenemann, Ken Rice, Matthew K. Laffin, Peter Jacobs, Peter Miesler, Rob Honeycutt, Robert J M Hudson, Scot C. Parker, Shirley Leung, and Thomas Traill. We also thank Julia Hathaway and Sergey Samoilenko who assisted in conducting the pilot study involving coding and inter-rater reliability, and Wendy Cook for visualizing

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Yes, Andy. Cook’s taxonomy does have a familiar ring to it. It very much reminds me of Willard’s #Butbut nonsense. Claiming that you can see your opponent coming a mile off is one of the conceits extensively used in the blogosphere”

    i havent see a new or original skeptical thought in decades


  11. i havent see a new or original skeptical thought in decades

    Does that mean the unoriginal thoughts are untrue?

    Presumably you disagree with Leo Hickman and the BBC’s Roger Harrabin here?

    And agree with the thrust of my questions here?

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Steven,

    Yes, I suspect you haven’t. But using a taxonomy to categorize lines of thinking is still a blunt tool. And even that statement is hardly original, I’m quite sure. It’s all just epistemology at the end of the day, but one must ask why I would believe that.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Steven,

    “i havent see a new or original skeptical thought in decades”

    If what they’re mainly doing is pointing to existing epistemic flaws, I’m not sure why they’d need one. However, the physical climate and indeed climate science is not my bag. So I have no idea whether they’ll turn out to be right or are talking complete nonsense. What I do know is that in the global public domain, attitudes to climate-change are wholly cultural, measurably so, and driven by the emergent emotive narrative of certain catastrophic climate-change (which contradicts both mainstream and skeptic science). This includes public authorities, and hence policy also matches cultural patterns too, e.g. the commitment to renewables across nations. Everyone of every view about climate-change from highly concerned to skeptical should have a problem with this; via emotive selection cultures drive us en-mass to *not* solve their touted problem (which would kill the culture). And this culture will not be thrown over from the tiny climate blogosphere and its squabbles – despite *both* sides therein actively oppose its main narrative while blaming each other for its prominence. However, the prominence of that narrative didn’t come from the blogosphere anyhow, it came from emotive selection in the vastly larger global public space.


  14. This drive-by makes no sense to me.

    It’s like the sea complaining that Rockall has not developed any new strategies to resist it.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Richard,

    What annoys me most is this emergent narrative that sceptics are engaged in some form of ‘God of the gaps’ retreat, in which they choose to abandon ground in order to fight on a different hill. The fact is that scepticism, by definition, is a reaction to a proposition. As such, the sceptic can only respond to what is put in front of them. If the situation in which scepticism is exercised changes, then the focus of the scepticism will do so accordingly. What is so disingenuous about that? For example, if one side decides that a particular talking point is already settled and no further dialogue is allowed, and so shifts the focus, then the sceptics’ interest will follow suit. Or if the political landscape changes, that will obviously also affect the substance of the debate. This is a cause and effect thing and there does seem to be some victim blaming going on here. The other point is that scepticism is a predisposition. I have no problem with moderating my views as a better personal understanding emerges, but the predisposition to remain vigilant will not be diluted by such experience. That’s not the same as a bull-headed refusal to accept the reality of a sinking ship.

    Besides which, as you point out, Harrabin’s grasp of history is appalling.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. > Claiming that you can see your opponent coming a mile off is one of the conceits extensively used in the blogosphere

    Conversely, JohnR’s claim that one conceit is extensively used in the blogosphere can be seen coming a mile off.


  17. Willard,

    Conversely? I’m not sure what point is being made by simply repeating the conceit.


  18. Yes, John. Conversely.

    To complain about the very thing you do while voicing your complaint is just par for the contrarian course. Which might explain your Climateball handicap.


  19. I could spend more of my precious time walking you through the illogic of your arguments but experience has shown that it never achieves anything. It just provides you with more material to misrepresent and misconstrue. You can call it Climateball if that keeps your personal fantasies alive but from where I come from it’s just called playing funny buggers and it needs no trademark. On the safe assumption that anything further you might wish to say on this matter will leave me profoundly unimpressed, you’ll forgive me if I choose to find something better to do and leave you to play with yourself.

    Good luck with your thesis on the dialogical roots of deduction.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. On the contrary, Bill, the whole point of the moderation was to avoid an increasingly petty and acrimonious exchange developing. I had made the observation that I never find engaging with Willard particularly fruitful. This was not a petty jibe, just a statement of fact. I also pointed out that I had no appetite for engaging in such an exchange, given that it would not achieve anything. Not a petty jibe but a perfectly rational position to take. I also pointed out that I have little respect for, or interest in, Climateball references. That’s my prerogative. If Willard had responded with a reasoned attempt to gain my interest, then I would have let it stand. Instead, he just responded with more Climateball references and an argument that hinged upon claims of a supposed intellectual inadequacy on my part. If it was petty of me to censor such a pointless and negative response, then mea culpa, but I assure you it was the prolonging of a pointless exchange that I was keenest to avoid.

    The maxim that should be applied here is: When the fun stops, stop. When it comes to Willard, the fun never starts for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Bill. Some people are destined from birth to be moderated. Would you deny them their birthright?


  22. Willard,

    My reasons for moderating you have already been explained. We should waste no more time on this.


  23. Bill, I suspected as much, but I guess your comment was potentially ambiguous. I am always amused when I think of Prime Minister Asquith’s response to being asked what he was going to do about the growing chaos in Britain (problems in Ireland, suffragette campaigns, increasing trade union militancy etc). His answer – “Wait and see” – was a model of ambiguity. Was he going to wait and see what developed, then decide on a policy response? Or was the questioner to wait and see, then all would one day be revealed?

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Bill,.

    There is no need to apologize. The confusion is entirely down to me. It was stupid of me not to have made it clearer that the person clearing the line was me as moderator. Also, I should point out that the author of the article is normally granted the prerogative to act as moderator but, on this occasion, that prerogative had been transferred to me. I will try to make these things a lot clearer in future.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Jit, you might have been in yesterday’s WaPo.

    Cook didn’t name the blog that the Coan et al algorithm detected about two weeks after the paper was published but the timing fits this post.


  26. Fascinating Vinny. I guess you mean para 3:

    But something ironic happened around two weeks after the software was made public in Nature Scientific Reports. The algorithm detected a blog post about its own methods, attempting to discredit them.

    “It’s quite funny. It was kind of a bit of a meta moment,” said Cook, a research fellow at the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Monash University in Australia.

    A clickable link is here. (The WaPo let me read this one without subscribing, as I hope proves true for others.)

    Liked by 1 person

  27. “Something ironic happened”

    Opposition often seems ironic to those who are too in love with their own thesis.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Oh no… now the AI knows where our silo is, and will soon flood it with phosgene gas. I’m blaming Vinny for this, because he linked to the paper in the first place.

    Smart work by the AI: but it would have been easier to just subscribe to Cliscep, surely?

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Jit,

    Read all about it. Test, critised for picking up false positives, picks up the criticism as a false positive.

    What was that about irony?

    Liked by 3 people

  30. If that WaPo article was picking up on what was said here at CliScep, I suppose we should be flattered by the fact that we aren’t named and no link is offered to the site. Heaven forbid that people actually be directed here to read logical criticism of it!


  31. @Vinny & Richard – thanks for the WaPo (ironic sub heading to the Post header – “Democracy Dies in Darkness”) article link.

    i’m confused on from where Cook ply’s his trade ?

    the Nature paper states –
    “Author information
    Department of Politics and the Exeter Q-Step Centre, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
    Travis G. Coan & Mirjam O. Nanko

    Department of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
    Constantine Boussalis

    Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
    John Cook

    Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, USA
    John Cook

    so is he back in Australia ?


  32. ps – from the WaPo article –

    “Such a machine learning algorithm may seem unnecessary to fight climate misinformation as climate change increasingly manifests itself in tangible ways — fire seasons of unprecedented severity, record-breaking heat waves, extremely active hurricane seasons and freak cold snaps.”

    you lose the will to comment on this mad reporting.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. dfhunter, Cook left George Mason in February and shacked up with Monash in April.

    He should have moved to Paris instead. He’d have had a warm welcome – or warm feet, anyway. A Paris-based artist, Gaetan Robillard, has spent the last nine months working on an EU-funded (€80k?) electronic sculpture that uses the SkS/Coan et al. algorithm to scan and classify denialist tweets in real time.

    Because it’s art, the classification process happens on the floor in flat boxes with copper lids and crude digital displays. The displays show the automated SkS/Coan et al. denialist sub-claims classifications of current and recent tweets. The copper lids are heatsinks covering the classifying processors and they get warmer as the processors get busier: the naughtier the tweets, the warmer your feets – and the planet, geddit?

    The sculpture also involves AI-generated music, a card game (not Cranky Uncle) and actors reading denialist statements while other actors read the truth at the same time.

    State-funded art, eh? If it doesn’t quite warm your heart, it does sometimes warm your feet. Where would we be without it?

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Vinny: Does anyone else get the feeling that there is just too much money sloshing around in this area, to feed such monuments to absurdity?


  35. Les Johnson proposes a worthwhile test:

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I believe we may have castigated John Cook’s seminal work unnecessarily. It is being presented as a method of identifying different modes of denialism when in fact it’s detailing of different forms of scepticism can instead be employed to evaluate the extent to which the sceptic fulfils their role. By detailing all the possible many modes of scepticism, It can be used to identify where a denier’s scepticism is weak and needs further work. It has certainly helped me identify areas where my own rejection of the alarmist mantle is thinner than it should be and requires further work. So I praise young Cook for his most useful work in aid of denierism and ask all of you here to reevaluate your criticism of him.

    Liked by 3 people

  37. RD: ‘Does anyone else get the feeling that there is just too much money sloshing around in this area, to feed such monuments to absurdity?’

    Here’s another one, Richard. Very similar to the Coan et al and Robillard things.

    Funded by Arts Council England, both directly and via an Arts Council England-funded outfit called Metal Culture, and with additional financial and intellectual input from the famously vegan (have I mentioned that he’s a vegan yet?*) subsidy-farmereco-energy millionaire Dale Vince, Eco-Bot.Net was an artistic intervention** that ran (veganly) during COP26.

    Its AI scanned social media for COP26 greenwashing from pre-selected energy companies (not Ecotricity, natch) and disinformation from pre-selected denialists.

    I haven’t looked at Eco-Bot.Net’s greenwashing judgments.

    Its disinformation judgments were based on the Maibach/SkS/Stop Funding Heat/Coan et al/Robillard five:

    It’s Not Real – This type of disinformation is known as climate denialism which disputes climate change facts and realities

    It’s Not Bad – Minimising the seriousness of climate change.

    It’s Not Us – Shifting cause and responsibility for climate change away from us, and away from action

    The Experts Are Unreliable – Discrediting climate experts and movements

    Climate Solutions Won’t Work – Disputing policy interventions as harmful and ineffective

    The disinfo judgments are anonymised but it’s not hard to spot Ben Pile. Here’s a tweet of his that was on the front page at Eco-Bot.Net when I first went there (its examples are randomised):

    How do you reckon the Arts Council-funded artistic intervention’s AI classified that one? 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5?

    *Vince owns the world’s first vegan football club and once told Gail Bradbrook that you can’t eat meat and fight the climate crisis. That’s because he’s a vegan. (Have I mentioned that he’s a vegan?)

    **’Intervention’ is artspeak for something that can’t quite be passed off as sculpture and isn’t serious enough to count as diagrammatic. Or vice versa. Whatever. The main thing to remember is that Dale Vince is a vegan.


  38. Apologies for wandering off-topic, but since we’re talking about veganism here now, can I talk about meat-free Mondays? It’s causing a bit of a stir at Keswick school, it seems:

    “Red Shepherdess reacts to uproar over meat free Monday claims at Keswick School”

    “Let’s be realistic right now to feed an entire school at mass, can you actually get anymore sustainable than lamb (and many other meats here in Cumbria) produced literally on the doorstep of the school?

    “Let’s take lamb for example; roaming environments that crops can’t be grown on, living very natural lives high up in the fells, providing us with a diet that is hormone free and rich in nutrients and goodness to help us grow and thrive, and that hasn’t had to be flown half way across the world in order to do so.

    “Is there really an alternative that is more sustainable that can feed so many individuals? One good thing to come out of this was the reaction.

    “Voices were loud and they were heard. Students from farming families and beyond spoke out, stood firmly and stuck to their own beliefs.

    “I had endless conversations and many messages sent to me about this and after I processed it all I couldn’t help but just smile slightly, maybe the world isn’t ready to give up meat after all, maybe people really do understand and value the importance of meat in a diet, I know the people of Cumbria do. The reaction to this proves it.”

    Banning things (like coal mines, too) aren’t going down too well in Cumbria (outside the South Lakes DC area – which happens to be Tim Farron’s constituency), so far as I can see.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. “Little lamb, little lamb, little innocent lamb…”

    …is how one of my favourite negro spirituals begins.

    Somehow a really heartening report Mark. Get well soon!


  40. As one might expect, ATTP has approved of the Cook et al taxonomy of denial and draws attention to his own involvement in helping to train the software to seek out denialism:

    What is interesting to me, however, is that he followed up with an article that explains how a recent paper led him to gain a better understanding as to why “reasonable people are often concerned about the way in which the impact of extreme weather events are sometimes framed”:

    He could, of course, have gained an understanding simply by taking note of the several articles that have appeared here at Cliscep, in which the technicalities of causation are explained, together with the implications for attribution studies and their interpretation. There is also plenty in such articles to explain how vulnerabilities and resilience affect trend analysis and may be distorting the debate. The problem, however, is that one cannot gain any benefit from reading such material if one is doing so only for the purpose of diagnosing and categorizing denialism. I wonder, for example, what ATTP might have taught the Cook et al model to make of the following Cliscep articles:

    ‘A brief primer on causation’

    ‘The IPCC on Risk: Parts 1 -5’

    ‘Friederike Otto: What’s your game?’

    ‘Hold the front page’

    ‘The Greek wildfires: Looking beyond the obvious’

    ‘AR6: Telling stories and selling ideas’

    Liked by 3 people

  41. The basic principle is that
    .. If you are expected to PAY
    ..then you get to have a SAY

    Paying is in the form of cash, or loss of freedom.

    Closing down inconvenient opposing debaters is a libmob tactic
    and is immoral.


  42. @Mark from a few days ago

    I had endless conversations and many messages sent to me about this and after I processed it all I couldn’t help but just smile slightly, maybe the world isn’t ready to give up meat after all, maybe people really do understand and value the importance of meat in a diet, I know the people of Cumbria do. The reaction to this proves it.

    Bringing your oppressive carnivory onto a vegetarian’s thread? 🙂

    I haven’t had a piece of a dead animal for thirty years, other than flies swallowed by accident. I think that proves that meat is not “important” in a diet. It is certainly pleasurable. Yes, I do still salivate when I smell grilling bacon, the vegetarian ersatz version of which is a very poor substitute. I wonder how many of the children would still enjoy lamb after seeing one killed? Not many, I suggest.

    Honestly I am perfectly happy for people to eat meat, but we appear to be talking here about one day a week without, which is certainly not onerous. So I don’t understand this at all.


  43. Jit, I have no problem at all with vegetarianism. I do have a problem with zealots (of any stripe) seeking to impose their views on others. At Keswick school, vegetarians are catered for every day. It would be quite wrong to force them to eat meat one day a week. I don’t understand why the climate worriers (for that is what this aspect of vegetarianism-pushing is about, nothing else) feel entitled to force their vegetarian way of eating on meat-eaters one day a week. All I’m complaining about is the authoritarian behaviour of small minorities who think they’re entitled, not to persuade, but to impose their beliefs on others.


  44. Mark, I see what you’re getting at. I certainly agree. I had in mind school dinners when I was a kid, where everyone had the same food. (And for those who liked semolina, plenty of leftovers were available on semolina day.) Under such circumstances, one day a week with no meat would not be too bad, though unthinkable in the 70s.

    Lowland ecologists have usually had much to gripe about regarding sheep farming. When there were headage payments, the ecological impact of overgrazing was significant. I have not kept up with the numbers but guess that the densities of sheep are much lower now. Whatever their impact, it is, however, far less serious for biodiversity than lowland cereal farming, that’s for sure.


  45. Jit – thanks. 🙂

    I’ve mentioned before Monbiot’s use of the term “sheepwrecked” to describe the Lakeland fells. Perhaps he has a point, though it won him few fans in these parts (i.e. in Cumbria).


  46. I’m sorry to be kicking a sleeping dog, but I’m still brooding over the bad impression left by my recent run-in with Willard on this thread, and I’m wondering whether it would help to provide a little bit of background information to put it into context.

    You see, I’m afraid that when it comes down to discussing linguistics and philosophy, Willard and I have a history of frustrated debate. Back in June 2019 Willard had piqued my interest when he maintained in one of his articles over at ATTP that the following sentence qualifies as Moorean:

    “Solutions A or B are most efficient but I’m not advocating for solution A or B”

    I challenged this, since it was my understanding that a Moorean sentence requires that the second part of the sentence be a statement regarding belief rather than advocacy. So the correct Moorean statement would be:

    “Solutions A or B are most efficient but I believe solutions A or B are not the most efficient.”

    I added that it was my understanding that a Moorean sentence has to be a proposition of belief amenable to analysis using doxastic logic – which Willard’s example clearly was not. I could have added that Moore’s paradox is reflected in doxastic logic’s Peculiar Reasoner, for which:

    Ǝp : βp ˄ β¬βp

    Unfortunately, before I had chance to go there, I was shut down with:

    “I could not care much whether you accept what I say or not, dear JohnR.”

    Willard went on to demonstrate that, rather than attempt to defend his example, he had become much more interested in attacking what he saw as ‘infelicities’ in one of my previous Cliscep articles (this is the sort of deflection I had in mind when I referred above to responses that would leave me ‘profoundly unimpressed’). Further discussion of Moore’s paradox was ruled out as he signed off with his trademark dismissal:

    “Thank you for your concerns.”

    So when Willard suggested above that I had committed an error by complaining about the very thing I did whilst making my complaint, I had two options:

    a) Attempt to explain how the self-contradiction resolves itself due to the application of metalanguage, i.e. although the phrase “But but” is reflexive, the first “but” operates at a more abstract level than the second, consequently my complaint was not itself a proposition contained within the rejected set of propositions but was rather a meta-proposition rejecting the set.

    b) Close the debate down before it starts, because experience has shown that attempting a debate with Willard regarding linguistics and philosophy (whether it be with regard to Moorean sentences or the application of metalanguage) will only lead to ad hominin and dismissal just as soon as Willard sees that I wish to be taken seriously.

    I chose option b.


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