Closing out dissent
By Professor Bob Carter August 1, 2010, originally published at Quadrant Online, portions republished here with permission.
The phenomena of disinvitation and the brotherhood of silence
Scientists who venture to make independent statements in public about environmental myths soon come to learn about two post-modern-science tactics used to suppress their views – namely, disinvitation and the application of a brotherhood of silence. How these tactics work is explained in this article.
The modus operandi
A member of the organising committee for one or another conference comes to one of my talks, or chances to meet a friend who has attended. Enthusiasm thereby arises for me to speak at the conference that is being planned. Prompted by the member, the conference committee approves an invitation, which I accept. Later, the Council or governing body of the society in question gets to “rubber stamp” the conference program and someone says: “Bob Carter as a plenary speaker! You must be joking”. The disinvitation follows, sometimes well after the talk has been written and travel booked.
In a variation on this, earlier this year I was invited by our ABC to contribute an opinion piece about climate change to their online blog site, The Drum. The piece was duly written and tendered, only to be declined.
Similarly, strong control has long been exercised by public broadcasters ABC and SBS against the appearance of independent scientists on their TV and radio news and current affairs programs. I first encountered this in 2007, when I participated in a broadcast discussion about Martin Durkin’s epoch-making documentary film, The Great Global Warming Swindle. Before the broadcast I had the astonishing experience of being successively invited, disinvited, prevaricated with and then finally invited to participate again, as competing interests inside the ABC battled, as they obviously saw it, to control the outcome of the panel discussion.
I have generally viewed these and similar experiences over the years as amusing irritations that go with the territory of scientific independence. But the matter starts to become offensive, and indeed sinister, when it transpires that scientists from CSIRO, and other IPCC-linked research groups in Australia, have been behind particular disinvitations; or, even more commonly, have refused to participate in public debate on climate change.
The same self-appointed guardians of the sanctity of IPCC climate propaganda also strive ceaselessly to prevent invitations from being issued in the first place. For example, when it was suggested to a Sydney metropolitan university that I might give a talk on the campus, their Distinguished (sic) Professor of Sustainability responded that:
he would not be interested in allowing anyone to present a point of view which did not support the fact that human-generated carbon dioxide has caused global warming.
Engineers Australia (Sydney)
On July 8th this year, at the invitation of the Chairman of the Electrical & ITE Branch, Engineers Australia Sydney, I delivered a lecture on climate change in Chatswood to an attentive audience of about 55 practicing engineers, retired engineers and engineering students.
EA (Sydney) run a series of about 22 such lectures every year for the continuing professional development of their members. The intent is to impart knowledge to the engineering fraternity on current subjects of interest, and lecturers are generally recognized as leaders in the field of the subject that they present.
When controversial topics are involved, the institute attempts to attract speakers who will illustrate different aspects of the debate, as indeed they did on this occasion. For the lecture that I delivered was intended to be one of a pair, in which the other speaker would explain the reasons behind the federal government’s preference for using United Nations (IPCC) advice as the basis for Australian climate policy.
Significantly, CSIRO were asked, and declined, to provide such a speaker, thereby exemplifying the brotherhood of silence, i.e. the long-held ban that all IPCC-linked research groups strive to inflict upon independent scientists by refusing to debate with them as equals on a public platform. Earlier this year, CSIRO chairperson Megan Clarke boasted that her organisation had 40 persons involved in advising the IPCC, yet not one of them was available to talk to Australia’s major engineering professional institute? Pull the other one, Megan.
Well, if CSIRO is not prepared to explain the basis for government’s science policy then there’s always the universities, so a Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at another Sydney metropolitan university was approached to participate as the second speaker. He too declined on the grounds that the envisaged two-lecture format was “flawed”, adding:
You would not have an “anti-gravity” person debate gravity and since there honestly is no debate in this space in SCIENCE the offer I made a little while ago of offering a full day to detail the science to your members stand(s).
Your society risks falling into the trap of the media in believing there is debate and that is sad, misleading and unfortunate.
This stance was supported by an experienced NSW power engineer who wrote to EA at about the same time to malign my professional standing, and who included, for good measure, a gratuitous remark about the well-regarded London publisher of my recent book on climate change, viz.:
It appears that Bob Carter is representative of the group of the relatively little-published 2% group of scientists who generally are not mainly working in real climate science (Bob Carter is a geologist not a climate scientist, and is published in You-tube and popular magazines, not peer-reviewed journals), who oppose the real climate science consensus. This appears to be correct based on your notice of the meeting and his website. In this case he does not deserve equal time to the 98% of scientists regularly published on climate change in peer-reviewed journals. There is no counter consensus! I question the wisdom of giving this man the Engineers Australia podium.
Furthermore, Stacey International is a publisher of popular works and has no specific scientific credibility.
These examples both involve the citation of private letters. Other engineers blatantly attain the same ends of denigration or censorship in full public gaze. For example, ANU’s Tony Kevin wrote recently in an invited address in Canberra to the Australian Council of Engineering Deans:
I am not going to dwell on climate change denialism. The science is in. Climate crisis denialism should simply be condemned as a socially disruptive cognitive disorder. It seduces people who are psychologically unwilling to admit limits to economic growth. Denialists cling to the arrogant “mechanical philosophy” of mankind’s infinite right and capacity to exploit and transcend his natural environment. Or, they suffer from a kind of morally indifferent, fatalistic nihilism.
Like other cognitive disorders that have in the past caused great suffering to humanity, climate denialism is impervious to observed facts. As the climate crisis worsens, denialism perversely flourishes even more, confusing the community and eroding public support for sound risk-averse policies.
Needless to say, all these statements, both the private and the public, are a confused farrago of mostly ad hominem nonsense. It is disturbing, to say the least, that organisations and persons who would be quick to claim professional status consider that it is their current duty to disparage, or to refuse to debate with, or to muzzle scientists whose views on climate change they apparently disagree with.
Disturbing too is the fact that for at least the last twenty years the practitioners of environmentalism and climate alarm have made it their business to exert special influence on our younger citizens. Many parents have shared the experience of being horrified by the imbalance of information that their children from time to time come home from school with about iconic environmental issues. The indoctrination continues, of course, at university, and through into the junior workforce.
An exemplary case follows next of the way in which the views of young Australians are manipulated.
The scientific behaviour described in this article is pathological, for the essence of scientific methodology is the free sharing of data, and the unfettered and unprejudiced discussion of those data. Issuing statements of “consensus” or “authority” is antithetical to good science, and especially so in circumstances where the originating organisations have been established with political intent, have acted to restrict public debate or have a financial conflict of interest. Those familiar with the global warming issue will know that (IPCC) authority rules, despite it being well known that some IPCC practitioners of warming alarmism have flouted correct scientific procedures since the 1990s. And, anyway, a science truth is so not because the IPCC, the Royal Society or the Minister for Science asserts it to be so, but because it is based upon a hypothesis that has survived repeated testing by many independent scientists.
The behaviour is not just pathological. It is also part of a much wider pattern of science degradation that has developed since the 1980s. The change has been caused in part by the insistence of politicians that taxpayers’ money must be used in support of scientific research that is “useful” or “in the national interest”. Such superficial diktats are attractive to bureaucrats and businessmen, but they have proved to be a recipe for turning scientists from experts in problem solution into experts in (insoluble) problem creation. Given the persistence of such attitudes, Australia will never see the Tasmanian forests, the Murray-Darling River or the Great Barrier Reef “saved”, and nor will we ever be free from the ogre of human-caused climate change.
read the rest of this article at Quadrant Online here
Professor Bob Carter is a stratigrapher and marine geologist at James Cook University (Queensland) and the University of Adelaide (South Australia). I had the honor of being accompanied by him and having him chair several of the events on the tour.
His new book in the Stacey International Independent Thinkers series is Climate: the Counter Consensus, which summarises the scientific and sociological and policy aspects of the global warming debate.