Welcome to the Shibbolithic

Guest parody by Brad Keyes
(Note – some video files may take time to load, try refresh if don’t see them.)

Shibbolithic /ʃɪbəlˈiθik/ n.

: the current geological age, regarded as the first of the Anthropocene epoch and distinguished by the hegemony of unconvincing impostors in the scholarly and scientific academies

Source: ‘Shibbolithic.’ Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2020.

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Bad Actors

Bad actors: they exist, they’re real, and what’s worse, they really exist. The climate debate teems with them—well, one of the teams teems with them. They may even turn out to be the keystone species of our age; not for nothing has homo nicholas cagensis been called ’the trilobite of the Shibbolithic.’

You may even have warned your kids about them. You were probably sitting around the campfire, the beam of a single flashlight throwing your facial features into grotesque counter-relief.

But little Timmy couldn’t help pressing the issue: what exactly is a bad actor, pater? Timmy’s always been like that.

Well—you reply, off the top of your head—imagine an Honest Broker broke bad and spoke in a broke or bankrupt manner, morally speaking…

You can stop guessing; allow me to explain the real answer.

If someone wants to play a doctor on TV she has to understand how stethoscopes work, in broad-stroke terms. Nobody expects her to know a pansystolic murmur from a protodiastolic gallop. But if she can’t work out why stethoscope is the odd word out in the set {microscope, telescope, otoscope, stethoscope, periscope}, she’d better hope the script doesn’t ask her to use one.

Hint: one of those words should end in –phone, not –scope.

Happily, today’s pseudo-doctors are pretty good at their jobs. I can’t remember the last medical drama where the heroine tried to see inside a patient’s thorax by sticking the rubber bits in her eyes.

Science, it’s been said, is a bit like medicine. If you don’t know the first thing about how it works, you can’t expect to sell an audience on the idea of you as a practitioner of it. (Knowing the second, third and subsequent things can add depth to your performance—just don’t expect the suburban multiplex crowd to care.)

Yet climate science—which has of course been a theatrical enterprise, not a knowledge-productive one, for some years now—seems to employ countless people who lack this rudimentary qualification. The result? A litany of bad impersonations.

Think Angelina Jolie’s Epirote-Macedonian accent in Alexander. Or Mickey Rooney as an older Japanese gentleman in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Or Keanu Reeves’ impression of a human. These are mimetic tours de force compared to certain folks’ attempts to portray scientists.

When did pseudoscience become a dying art?

Al Gore—the emphysematous moral voice of the climate movement—was invited to give the Aspen Institute’s Annual Obscenity-Filled Rant in 2011. Speaking on the theme of ‘Networks and Citizenship: Basically B*llshit,’ Gore made quite an insightful observation, in a million-monkeys-with-a-million-typewriters kind of way:

“…these same people—I can go down a list of their names—are involved in this. And so what do they do? They, they, they, they pay pseudo-scientists to pretend to be scientists to put out the message…”

Fans of the work of Dwight Eisenhower sat up and took notice. Had the terrible spectre of the Pseudoscientific-Industrial Complex come true at last?

Historically, it’s never been necessary to, to, to, to, to pay pseudoscientists to pretend to be scientists, seeing as how they’re content to do so as a matter of dictionary definition, if not of passion.

But if the Vice President Emeritus was right, a once-noble vocation was now just another way to pay the mortgage. A mere, meretricious job. And we all know careerism brings with it a decline in professional excellence as surely as day harbings night. Once that happens, where’s the dedication to the craft?

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Pictured: Al Gore (h. exaggerans) has been a household name since An Inconvenient Truth, the disinfomercial he shot for Generation Investment Management, swept the Oscars, Emmys and Nobels in 2007.†

So this post isn’t about pseudoscientists proper—people who use the Scientific Method the way thespians use the Stanislavskian Method, to make themselves plausible. It’s about really bad pseudoscientists—those who don’t even know how to be plausible.

In a word, bad actors.

All metaphors have their limitations, and ‘actors’ isn’t perfect. For starters, pseudoscience is closer to improv than to mainstream theatre.

The stars of stage and screen recite the lines someone else gave them. So if their bespectacled, pocket-protected character says something straight out of a Wachowski Brother, like…

1. “The results are clear: Efexovir has no effect on the virus. The experiment failed.”

2. “Studies show Decretussin reduces coughing, though not significantly.”

3. “Bigpharmox is what’s making these cattle obese, I know it; now I just have to prove it!”

…they can always blame bad writing. And by bad, I mean “good, unless the viewer happens to understand what the writer doesn’t.” To wit,

1. the entire point of an experiment in science.

2. the significance of ‘significance’ in science.

3. the absolute precedence of evidence over knowledge in science.

Script or no script, if the audience understands more than the character, the conditions are present for irony.

Which brings us to the issue we’ve been tiptoeing around: leakage.

Let’s talk frankly about leakage already

We can define leakage as the involuntary communication of data unhelpful to one’s own cause. You may have heard of it in the context of microexpressions, whereby fleeting facial movements can betray one’s emotional agenda to the skilled observer.

As an unskilled observer, I can only detect macroexpressions. Thank God, then, for incontinent characters like Stephan Lewandowsky (homo labilis), the skeptic-smeller pursuivant and abnormal psychologist whose truths veritably ooze from the arrases he seeks to secrete them behind. So profuse is this trickle that you probably don’t need training by Dr Paul ‘Lie to Me’ Ekman to unpack the following GIF in real time.

Pictured: Stefan ‘al-Australyi’ Lewandowsky, Professor of Punitive Psychology at Bristol University. A mercurial figure, he refuses to disclose whether he leads the anti-disclosure cult Data Haram.1

Note how Prof. Lewandowsky’s face manifests all 7 [seven] culture-invariant emotions in this short loop. My ethnoethology is a bit rusty but I think the list goes something like:

• Surprise

• Sadness

• Pomposity

• Piracy

• Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine)

• B*tshit insane

• Low to medium dudgeon

The irony arises from what we can assume is Lewandowsky’s obliviousness to how he looks to neurotypicals. (Otherwise, why do this to himself?)

But leakage can also operate at the level of ideas.

In the aftermathematics of Climategate 1.0 the Guardian ran a series of admirably even-handed stories by Fred Pearce (which nonetheless bent over forwards to sympathize with Teh Scientists, as per house style). The excerpt below, which quotes an alarmist called Tim Barnett, is one of my favorite snippets of climate commentary ever; the whole article is here. Read closely, because it tells us much more than anyone involved seems to realize.

Tim Barnett, then of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California, San Diego, joined [Phil] Jones to form a small group within the IPCC to mine this data for signs of global warming, ready to report in the next [IPCC] assessment due in 2001.

‘What we hope is that the current patterns of temperature change prove distinctive, quite different from the patterns of natural variability in the past,’ Barnett told me in 1996. Even then they were looking for a hockey stick.

This passage is not just ironic but meta-ironic: the truth unwittingly revealed by the interviewee is reported no more wittingly by the interviewer himself, giving rise to what Lewandowsky would probably call Recursive Seepage.2

For instance,

• If Barnett “hoped” to find a signal that AGW was real, he must have hoped that AGW was real. (Either that, or he hoped to find a misleading signal pointing to the reality of something that wasn’t, in reality, real—but would anyone confess such a desire to a newspaper reporter?)

• Even then, back in 1996, they were practicing ecneics. To say that someone was ‘looking for a hockey stick’ two years before the publication of Mann, Bradley and Hughes’ iconic graph in 1998 is like saying Watson and Crick set out in search of the double helix. They did no such thing, obviously—they set out in search of the structure of DNA, because (unlike ‘a small group within the IPCC’) they were practicing science, a method of inquiry that has been defined as ‘the opposite of ecneics.’

Or at least it tells me all these things, because I’ve been indoctrinated in the scientific mode of thought. Perhaps, reader—through no fault of your own—you haven’t been, and what’s so self-mansplanatory to me may therefore be less so to you.

You could be the smartest person on the planet, but if you’re on the wrong side of the so-called Sokal divide between the Humanities and Science you can’t be expected to guess how scientists reason. It’s so counterintuitive that our upright ancestors had to pace back and forth for half a million years before coming up with the modern scientific method three centuries ago. For all I know, you might be Christopher Hitchens reincarnate—a polymath who listed his two areas of ignorance as sport and science—but the implications of the Pearce article could still elude you as completely as they elude Fred Pearce, who recounts these events as if they were the most (non-post-) normal thing in the world.

If, however, you do share my doctrinal background, then I hardly need to point out that a scientist can’t hope she’ll find evidence that P(x) unless she hopes that P(x).

You may even have had the same reaction I had when I first read Barnett’s quote: this is a misprint, right? What would possess a “mainstream” climate researcher to admit to a desire that’s fully tantamount—if you’re a scientist—to a desire for man-made global warming?

The explanation, it turns out, is that the average Guardian reader is no scientist. Fred Pearce, Science Correspondent, is no scientist. Tim Barnett, the quote-unquote scientist he quotes, is no—well, you get the idea.

To people like that, ordinary people, it makes perfect sense to imagine Barnett hunched over a keyboard muttering in an honest, hardworking, underpaid voice: “I know it; now I just have to prove it in time for the Big Science Meeting!”

There’s nothing wrong with this picture as far as they can see, for theirs is not the epistemology of science but of a bad screenplay.

Shibboleths

In his 1965 essay To Tell a Chemist, Isaac Asimov wonders how to triage practitioners of chemistry from poseurs. He comes up with a heuristic: put the word “unionized” on a sheet of paper and ask the subject to read it back to you. A real chemist will use four syllables, while someone who just plays one on TV will use three.

Either way, unless she happens to be an aficionada of Asimov, she probably won’t even guess the purpose of your question. The information you’re really interested in will be leaked rather than disclosed knowingly.

Asimov’s test is an example of a shibboleth: a linguistic or paralinguistic challenge that separates in-group from out-group members, often without their awareness.

The most famous shibboleth in Western culture comes, of course, from the great escapist film Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Scene: a TAVERN in a BASEMENT in occupied France. The EPONYMOUS ILLEGITIMI are here to meet their contact in the Resistance, BRIDGET VON HAMMERSMARK, a classically attractive blonde in her thirties.

The Basterds, who are attempting to pass as SS officers, certainly look the part in their crisp John Cook regalia. Trouble is, some actual Nazis are in the same tavern at the same time. One of them overhears spokesbasterd Royal Marine Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), who was born, raised and taught foreign languages on the other side of the Channel.

It isn’t what Hicox says, per se, that arouses the suspicions of Gestapo Major Dieter Helstrom (August Diehl). If anything, the Englishman speaks hypercorrect German, as though afraid the bad guys will seize on the slightest solecism to unmask him. His paranoia is understandable: even back in the 1940s, the Germans were known for being real German Nazis.

It’s the accent he says it in. Fassbender himself is an acting Wunderkind so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just acting—rather brilliantly—as though he’s not particularly brilliant at acting German, which he is. (German, that is; on his parents’ side.) I’m not personally (German, that is) but even I know the difference between ‘gehen’ and ‘gern’; Hicox doesn’t, and he’s apparently too cereal-eared to hear himself.

After all, shibboleth comes from the Hebrew word for ‘ear of wheat.’

But Hicox’ hiccup isn’t the end of the world. Thinking on his feet without leaving his chair, he manages to explain the accent away with an unlikely tale about growing up in a dialectical enclave at the foot of the Piz Palü. Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) backs his story. It’s a masterclass in the art of the große Lüge, delivered defiantly and to the apparent satisfaction of Sturmbannführer Helstrom.

It’s only now that our hero makes his fatal faux pas. To toast the thawing of relations with his Nazi nemesis, Hicox signals the bartender for “drei Gläser” by raising three fingers, thus flunking what an ethnomathematician—yes, that’s a thing—would call a dactylonomic shibboleth. The slip-up precipitates an internecine shootout straight out of a Tarantino movie. (“You’ve just given yourself away,” says Dieter, cocking his Walther at Archie’s johnson.)

The wonders of frame advance allow us to study Fräulein von Hammersmark’s reaction the moment things go downhill (below). Despite doing her level best to hide the decline, a microexpression of dismay flickers across her face when Hicox f*ddrucks up: note a slight widening of the eyes and tension of the depressores anguli oris. Bad acting kills, but Kruger is not a bad actress by a long shot.

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Pictured: Hicox (R) commits a digital communications protocol error. Things quickly turn sinister after this dexterity fail.

Hammersmark is the sole person to limp away from the ensuing bullet-hell alive—SPOILER ALERT: don’t read that last bit if you haven’t seen the movie—whereupon she’s taken to an anti-Vichy clinic for veterinary attention. It’s there that Hauptbasterd Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), the film’s protagonist, demands a post-mortem into the botched rendezvous. The fräulein, left laterally decumbent on an autopsy table, shows Raine the gestural difference between three (à l’anglais) and sree. When ordering whisky glasses à l’allemande the thumb represents one, not five; the index finger is two, not one, and so on.

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Pictured: (L to R) The difference between a British three on one hand, and a German three on exactly the same hand for ease of comparison.

Something about the teutonically-correct manoeuvre might look odd to us—even if we can’t put our finger on it—but we have no difficulty understanding it. Nor vice versa: just before all Heil broke loose in the tavern, three glasses had arrived at the table as requested.

As plot devices go I think this shibboleth is a more plausible casus belli, or fusilli, than people give writer and director Quentin Tarantino credit for. Finger-counting is a skill we acquire on our mother’s and father’s knees, but once mastered never relearn, no matter how many European languages we take in college. We can go our whole adult lives without giving a second thought to our dactylonomic style (especially since the other styles we’re likely to encounter are mutually intelligible)—until we have kids of our own and find ourselves reënacting the rituals our parents drummed into us, into our muscle memory. From this point of view, the way we digitize numbers might be seen as even more responsive than the way we vocalize words to questions of race, nationality, blood und so weiter. Is it really such a stretch to suppose Hicox’s digital gaucherie was just as offensive as his phonetic maladroitness to the volksy sensibilities of a man like Helstrom? Might it not, in fact, have been his main gaucherie?

Tarantino, who worked in a library of some sort during high school, peppers all his films with literary allusions. So it may not surprise you that the massacre in the tavern pays homage to an even earlier and bloodier one. In chapter twelve of the Book of Judges as brought to you by King James of House Stuart, sixth and first of his name, we read:

5 And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when any of those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over, the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;

6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites.

Explaining the /ʃ → s/ shift, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 3, p. 458) says that “the sibilants are notoriously difficult in Semitic languages.”

It doesn’t have to be the word shibboleth, of course. The long, dark history of racially-unsafe spaces shows you can use almost any staple crop to sift the wheat from the chaff. The same book notes that “during World War II, the Nazis identified Russian Jews by the way they pronounced the word for corn: kookoorooza.”

Whether kookoorooza was used cereally or in parallel with lollapalooza I’m not sure, but the latter was a favorite password of the Allies, who used it to CAPTCHA many a Japanese Imperial forward scout.

You’ve heard the cliché about the Greatest Generation: if it weren’t for their valor and self-sacrifice we’d all be speaking German (or at least the Austrian equivalent). Can you imagine running around all day sounding like Bruno Ganz in Downfall? How tiring. For my money, though, the Academy Award for Best Leading Führer in a Foreign Language Film belongs to Oliver Masucci for his performance as a reanimated Hitler in the magical-realist comedy Er Ist Wieder Da (released in English as Look Who’s Back). Masucci gives his character, Er, the full kid-with-a-retainer treatment in a spitting image of the dictator’s spittle-flecked idiolect.

If there are Semitic speakers who pronounce ‘sh’ as ’s,’ it stands to reason that anti-Semitic speakers would have the opposite problem, changing /s → ʃ/.

Sure enough, Hitler gives us utterances like “Dasch war ein Schertsch!” The clip below compares Masucci’s Bavarianisms—more staccato than scherzo, to be honestwith the normative diction of August Diehl in Basterds (“Es war ein Scherz!”).

https://videopress.com/v/867VkSxo

Pictured: In order of appearance: anti-Semitic versus standard articulation of iso-semantic sentences.

And they say linguistics isn’t a predictive science.

But whether the Second World War is best read as a clash of shibbolizations, syllabizations or sibilizations writ large, we cannot help but ask the broader question of what any of this has to do with climate change.

On one level, the answer is obvious. The analogy between global warming—which scientists fear has already coaxed some butterfly species into expanding their range northwards, and may even have prolonged the blossoming season of a number of flowers—and World War II—which killed and maimed tens of millions of human beings—has been pointed out so many times, it would be derivative to belabor it here.

On another, less insane level, they have absolutely nothing in common beyond shibboleths and their utility in the rooting-out of impostors. Just as a bad spy gives himself away by doing something no Nazi would do, a bad pseudoscientist gives himself away by saying something no scientist would say.

We come therefore to the interactive portion of the evening. I invite you to put on your Toteskopfinsigniahatten and play Schibbolethfindung!® with me.

The interactive portion

In each scene, a bad actor is trying to impersonate a scientist. Your challenge is to say:

• where exactly they blow their cover, and why [5 points]

• what a proper pseudoscientist would have done [5 points]

The examples start out easy. (Scroll down for solutions.)

Scene 1. Phil Jones

How you know the name: Professor Jones (h. occultus) was the ringleader of the ClimateGate Research Unit [UEACGRU]. Ten years ago a large tranche of his emails was miraculously leaked which—as everybody knows [source: hundreds of independent inquiries on seven continents]—showed no wrongdoing whatsoever, leading him to contemplate suicide.

What he said: In response to an inquisitive email from the scientist Warwick Hughes, Jones wrote [with edits for basic literacy]:

Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it? There is IPR to consider. You can get similar data from GHCN at NCDC.

Scene 2. Ken “What’s Left of Physics” Rice

How you know the name: You don’t. Rice is an intensely modest person who wanted his efforts to save the planet by being uncivil to climate deniers to remain anonymous. To his embarrassment, however, he was eventually ‘outed’ as the Scicom genius behind such blogs as To The Left of Centre, MyGreatWottsUpWithThatSite.org and …And Then There’s Physics.

Little is known about Rice except that he identifies as a scientist and his preferred pronouns are ‘who/wott.’

What he said: A couple of years ago, Rice expounded his vacuous life philosophy that we should all defer to the expertise of specialists by believing what they say until they forfeit that respect by saying something he (Ken) doesn’t believe.

Since the great bioastrologist hadn’t banned me from his blog yet, I left a comment:

Great post. One of the most embarrassing things for me as a climate skeptic is how many people on my ‘side’ have apparently never heard the definition of science: ‘Science is the belief in the knowledge of experts.’

Rice replied:

Brad, thanks. At least we seem to agree on some things.

Scene 3. Naomi Oreskes

How you know the name: Professor Oreskes, a Connecticut-based academic, became Patient Zero in the bimbonic plague that is Consensus Science when she got a manuscript called The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change published in the December, 2004 edition of Science, a prestige glossy. Oreskes’ unreviewed, unreviewable essay shed pseudo-light on the non-problem of how many of teh scientists rejected teh science.

Pictured: Naomi Oreskes (above, far left) is a leading historian of Consensus Science, a concept she made up in 2004.

What she said: In Merchants of Doubt—the film based on the book based on the authors’ delusions—Oreskes (2015) reminisces about Oreskes (2004). To quote the screenplay:

The question was, how many of these papers disagree that most of the observed warming is due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations?

So I certainly thought we would get some that disagreed.

And when we found nothing, then I thought, ‘Oh, this is a result that needs to be published.’

When my article on the scientific consensus came out, I started getting threatening emails, saying that I was a communist, that I should be fired from my job.

Scene 4. Stephan Lewandowsky

How you know the name: Steffen ‘Stevan’ Lewandowsky (h. retractans) is an Anglo-American psychologist from Australia who’s been called God’s .gif to mankind. In 2015 he was created a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry for his nonpareil work on the understanding of, and one day—who knows?—cure for, skepticism.

Lewandowsky’s magnum opus, Recursive Fury (2013), evidenced at last what everybody had always known: that climate skeptics are conspiracy theorists. Yet barely a year after its publication, the editors of Frontiers in Psychology withdrew the study, saying they’d caved in to ethical considerations.

The official narrative wasn’t fooling Lewandowsky, however. Not for a minute. He insists his paper was actually the victim of ‘activities beneath the surface, hidden from public view’7—an echo of his earlier writings on the ‘subterranean war on science’6 (an ‘active, vicious, and well-funded campaign of denial that seeks to delay action against climate change’).4 This little-known ‘propaganda war on science and scientists’3 is waged by ‘ostensible think tanks’ and their ‘chimerical pseudo-scientific conferences’4 via the ‘thought-control machinery of the right-wing media,’ the ‘intimidation and censorship tactics of the denial industry’ and other ‘less visible means of attack,’5 Lewandowsky explains.

L’affaire Recursif certainly shed light on the paranoid nature of anti-scientific thought—though not in quite the way Lewandowsky had hoped.

Pictured: Steve Levandowsky (h. fugax) has never managed to get a good look at the shadowy interests that are out to get him, and can only describe them as “wearing vests.”

What he said: In a highly speculative blog post on the mystery of how science is done, Lewandowsky imagined that,

[C]limate denial is just that: denial, not scepticism.

Science is inherently sceptical, and peer-review is the instrument by which scientific scepticism is pursued.

Circumventing or subverting that process does not do justice to the public’s need for scientific accountability.

Scene 5. Naomi Oreskes redux

How you know the name: Oreskes is a half-historian ex-geologist who co-authored the half-true one-star alt-history conspiracy yawner Merchants of Doubt (2010).

The book exposed for the first time the diabolicalTobacco Strategy’ used by climate skeptics everywhere: disagreeing with scientific claims you don’t agree with.

(This is not to be confused with the Tobacco Strategy used by Al Gore, which basically involves raising tobacco, putting it in the plant beds with your own hands, transferring it, hoeing it, digging in it, spraying it, chopping it, shredding it, spiking it, putting it in the barn, stripping it and selling it—despite watching your own sister die after smoking it for forty years—then bragging about it to win rural votes.)

What she said: Is there anything as tedious to the criminal mind as impunity? Having gotten away scot-free with interfering with the grave of Science by Consensus, performing unspeakable rituals upon its cadaver and finally propping it up, Weekend-at-Bernie’s-style, as a proxy for scientific evidence, Oreskes must have grown bored at some point. At least I assume that’s why she put her name to the self-parodying ‘Consensus on Consensus’ paper [CoC] in 2016. When said paper was released we witnessed a chorus of self-congratulations as to the utter obviousness of its results. Oreskes sang along, reports Inside Climate News:

‘It’s really very sad that we still have to write a paper like this, but unfortunately we do,’ Oreskes said. ‘We’ve known about the science for a long time now. Can we please have a conversation about how to fix this problem?’

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Pictured: Naomi “Mica” Oreskes showing how she got her mineralogical nickname—and #tagging herself into the campaign to wit-shame Professor Tim Hunt, a Nobel-Prize-winning cancer geneticist convicted of failing to use sarc tags. (Historians consider the Tim Hunt witch-hunt somewhat unusual, in that the witches won.)

Scene 6. Anders “Wotty” Rice redunce

How you know the name: From Question 2 above.

What he said: Professor Ken Rice is proud of his participation, in 2016, in the abovementioned ‘Consensus On Consensus’ hexadecagon-jerk. But in a classic denihilist strategy, Professor Richard Tol intimidated the CoCkey Team by arguing with them. So it was up to Rice, as fifteenth co-author, to defend Teh Science on his anonyblog, where he anonyblogged:

Maybe next time Richard should stamp his little feet a bit harder and maybe he’ll get his own way. […] It might also be worth considering the irony of Richard apparently communicating his issues to a site that is best known for denying the mainstream scientific position with respect to climate science. It’s almost as if Richard doesn’t get the point of consensus studies; they’re mainly to refute claims made on, for example, sites like WUWT that there isn’t a consensus.

Suggested answers

(Some questions may have more than one solution.)

Scene 1:

Jones gives himself away by asking why he should share his data with someone whose aim is to try and find something wrong with it.

No scientist in his right mind could have failed to anticipate the comeback:

“Because my aim is to try and find something wrong with it, lackwit.”

Asking the World’s Silliest Question is a tell. But what, pray tell, does the tell tell us? It tells us it must have been several years since Phil Jones had spent any time around scientists.

A proper pseudoscientist would have kept his obscurantist philophily secret. The last thing he’d do is put it in writing to an opponent, thereby waiving any expectation of privacy even by the whiniest of Climategate-apologetics standards.

And it’s not as if Prof. Jones was unfamiliar with pseudoscientific best practice when dealing with FOI requests: i.e., run and hide.

In fact a lemma search on the Climategate emails confirms that ’hide’ was his favorite English verb. Transitively or intransitively, Phil Jones enjoyed nothing more than hiding in the simple future (‘a data protection act which I will hide behind’), future continuous (‘I will be hiding behind… the agreements we sign’), simple past (‘I hid behind the fact that some of the data had been received from individuals’), infinitive (’to hide the decline’) or just the modal of possibility (‘he has retired, so he can hide behind that’).

Here’s a tip for Jones’ successors at the CGRU. On the rare occasion when flight isn’t an option—let’s say a pride of skeptics has Serengetied you, cutting off your retreat, or whatever—there’s a whole blog post of other options to consider before doing something irreparable like blurting out your brain-felt feelings. It’s by Stephan Lewandowsky, so you know it’s safe to read.

Conclusion: Jones may have been a pseudoscientist for tax-return purposes, but this was strictly amateur hour. Better pseudoscientists, please.

Scene 2:

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Pictured: Dr Ken Rice is a ‘communicator’ who used to feign politeness. It only took him three unpopular blogs to realize it was easier to be himself.

Ken Rice gives himself away not just by taking my facetiousness at face value (who among us hasn’t done that?) but by agreeing, in deadly earnest, with my Medieval, hierophantic anti-definition of science.

A proper pseudoscientist would have done enough homework on Richard Feynman’s oeuvre—if only for the sake of Sun-Tzu diligence—to recognize the “ignorance of experts” quote. (Even ATTP’s quicker-witted denizens tried to warn him he’d bepunked himself.)

I mean really, Kenneth old bean, how do you expect to look wearily up your nose at the thinkings of thinkers as far above your contempt as Popper and Feynman—the bêtes noires of all self-respecting pseudoscientists—when you don’t have so much as a Wikipedia-level, meme-deep familiarity with them? Better pseudoscientists, please!

Scene 3:

Oreskes gives herself away by revealing, with a decorticate rictus, that she picks and chooses which results to publish:

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Pictured: Is Naomi Oreskes a real pseudoscientist, or does she just play one in movies?

A proper pseudoscientist would have had the sense to keep quiet. What Oreskes confesses to without a hint of embarrassment—publication bias—is nothing to be goofily grinned at, because it contaminates the peer-reviewed literature by skewing the balance of evidence for and against hypotheses.

To be sure, everybody does it (unless they work in a field like medical science, where the study itself costs so much that somebody is bound to notice if it doesn’t make it to print). Feynman’s dream of a world where every result is reported is still just that: an opium reverie.

In that sense, publication bias is an open secret. But it’s also a dirty secret. Even the most Chaucerian charlatan knows better than to admit to it—or so I assumed until I became the lucky 100th cinephile to fast-forward through The Protocols of the Elders of Doubt.

Better pseudoscientists, please.

Scene 4:

The unflushable Lew gives himself away by suggesting that peer review is a privileged step in the scientific process where “scientific skepticism” suddenly kicks in. I’m afraid this is what scientists would call Not Even Wrong Right Close.

Pictured: Stephan Lewandowsky (h. paranoides), who’s now on Twitter. Feel free to follow him, but no closer than five car lengths—he’s easily spooked.

“The instrument by which scientific scepticism is pursued,” to the extent that that phrase is intelligible, is not peer review; it’s a little thing we call the scientific method.

Needless to say, this method predates the post-War adoption of peer review as a postscript to the research life-cycle. The generations of scientists who lived and died before Lewandowsky was born were perfectly capable of “scientific scepticism” even without the benefit of mandatory spell-checking by two or three random colleagues.

That’s because in science, ‘skepticism’ has little to do with its colloquial meaning of suspicion or distrust of other people’s claims. (Heteroskepticism, if you’ll excuse the coinage.) Ninety percent of a scientist’s skeptical workload is self-skepticism. Every scientist on Earth groks this, and every pseudoscientist worth his or her salt pretends to. Will Lewandowsky ever be worth his salt? Maybe. Someday. Particularly if he’s reincarnated as a slug.

Like most of life’s tragedies, this gaffe could have been averted with a little Feynman. I’m sure you recall, unless your name is an anagram of What Lysenko Spawned, the great physicist’s first principle of science:

clip_image013

First principle, mind you—not afterthought; not procedural nicety; not post-Hiroshima etiquette. We’ll come back to this in a split-moment.

Feynman disdained jargon, especially philosophical -isms, being much more interested in understanding how birds work than in rattling off ornithological nomenclature. But for those of us who enjoy labeling things, there happens to be a one-word, four-syllable name for Feynman’s First Principle of Science.

The word rhymes (more or less) with peptic schism. It means trying not to fool yourself, and as I may have mentioned, it’s the first principle of science.

A proper pseudoscientist would have realized he was out of his depth when he started contradicting his own confabulations. Here’s a clue, Lew, with my emphasis: “science is inherently sceptical.” When you’re accidentally getting things right, that’s your cue to leave science to the scientists, pseudoscience to the pseudoscientists, and stick to what you’re good at. Like, say, carabiner maintenance or travel tips for the budget-oblivious frequent flyer.

Better pseudoscientists, please!

Scenes 5 and 6:

These are left as an exercise. I don’t want to prejudice your answers in the (not unlikely) event that you can think of an even better way of articulating them. I look forward to your comments. ■

Pictured: No questionnaire would be valid without a #sexy distractor item.

About the title

Anthropocene /ˈan(t)-thrə-pə-ˌsēn, an-ˈthrä-/ n.

: the period [sic] of time during which human activities have had an environmental impact on the Earth regarded as constituting a distinct geological age [sic]

Source: ‘Anthropocene.’ Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2019.

________________________

Is there anything in science—short of climate itself—that’s quite as exciting as geology? If there is I don’t want to know about it. I doubt my mitral valve could stand the thrill.

Kids these days are all about the botany, which just shows a lack of perspective if you ask me. But I’ve grown up a lot since I turned 18. For starters I now live 26cm closer to the Taj Mahal, and counting. Once you’ve experienced that kind of continental drift in real time, watching grass grow is like watching paint dry.

Sure, it’s riveting… for a couple of weeks. A month, maybe, if we’re talking a really top-quality grass like your maidencane or your hairy panic.

But past the two-month mark? Give me a menagerie of pet rocks any day. You can keep your flesh-eating fly-traps, man-killing triffids and meat-reeking arums. No plant that’s ever walked the earth can grab one’s brain by the groin, scientifically speaking, the way a good stratigraphy survey can.

Given the literally earth-shattering ramifications of geology, it’s no wonder the field can get pretty heated. Lately it’s become the focus of a rancor not seen since Luke killed it in Jedi. The cause of raised voices this time is nothing less than that eternal human question: when are we?

A few years ago the answer would have been obvious. We’re in the Holocene, that’s when. But then scientists noticed that humans had mastered the art of literally changing the very environment around them. Gone were the days when man could only look up to the mighty beaver and his dam cities in awe and resentment. At some point—the date is disputed—we’d built a dam nation of our own: Holland, an ocean-defying miracle that seemed to be dammed by God himself. The beaver had become the beavee.

Fast-forward a second or two, in geological terms, and JFK is sworn in as President of the United States. Early on in the Kennedy administration, bristlecone pine trees—having acted as thermometers for untold millennia—suddenly flip their physiology. Without warning, up meant cold and down meant hot. And it was all, somehow, because of us. To scientists the implication was clear: human influence wasn’t confined to the Netherlands (or mechanistic plausibility) any more.

The Time of Men—the Anthropocene—had begun.

But don’t break out the Golden Spikes just yet. Epochs comprise a number of subdivisions, so we also have to ask in what age we’re living. The answer, say the geologists who’ve studied the politics of science, is the Shibbolithic, a time defined by the endemicity of Bad Actors.

Hang on, you object: isn’t this the Post-Truth Age, named after the relativistic Zeitgeist that makes no distinction between fact and fiction, A and not-A, yea and not-yea, nay and not-nay?

Yes and no.

Granted, public figures have begun making false or misleading statements for the first time ever in our collective memory. On the other hand, history has a long history of oscillating between Truth and Non-Truth Ages. This back-and-forth is vividly seen in the geological record itself, with its alternating stripes of high and low stercobilin concentration (a pigment found in coprolites and associated with male aurochs, beeves and other kine).

Which is why ‘Post-Truth’ is considered a misnomer. Rather, geologists refer to the layer between a Fictionalization Event and a Reverification—corresponding to an individual stratum of b*llshit—as a Between-Truth Age, or Interfactual. The Modern Shibbolithic is simply the shallowest example thereof.

But if there’s one thing climate science has discovered about psychology, it’s that a person will dispute the nose in front of his face if it ramifies politically. So it is that a tiny, fringe majority of geologists, ideologically opposed to the Anthropocene Epoch and determined to prolong the Holocene at all costs, insists we’re merely at the dawn of a new sub-epoch they call the Meghalayan Age.

When their Meghalayan hypothesis is weighed by scientists like Mark Maslin in legitimate forums like The Conversation, however, it is found wanting—even “flawed.”

Yet rather than attack this scientific evidence, Meghalayan advocates casuistically accost their critics with caustic cries of “Holocene denier!”

To state the obvious, this is an attempt to smear scientists with Holodomor denial, the movement that seeks to sweep the genocidal starvation of Soviet Ukraine, circa 1932–3, under the carpet. Such historical revisionism is illegal throughout the European Union; how long before Anthropocene believalism itself is verboten by association? Climate anthropologists like Maslin are hard to chill, but if any prospect is chilling, it’s this one.

Meanwhile, Look Which Well-Known German Chancellor is Back! Er ist wieder da… in the Indian province of Meghalaya, no less. Coincidence? ■

___________________

An Inconvenient Truth was soon shown to be riddled with ctrl-alt-delete-facts, and it’s hard to find an adult who can watch it with a straight face these days. But while schools now represent the bulk of its DVD sales, AIT isn’t just for kids. The feature-length ad speaks, in a timeless way, to anyone whose cognitive immune system (or ‘skepticism’) is dangerously underdeveloped—whether they’re gullible… or just gullible at heart.

1 Data Haram—the name means ‘freedom from information’ in Arabic—is an anti-enlightenmentalist group opposed to Western civilization. The sect historically denied all accusations of existing, and virtually nothing was known about its aims or tactics. That changed in 2017, when DH’s manifesto was mistakenly published as a Nature article.

2 Don’t mind me, I’m just making a hilarious play on the titles of two Lew papers (Recursive Fury and Seepage).

3 Bitten by a sock puppet, but the climate is still changing

4 The Morality of Unmasking Heartland

5 Stephen Lewandowsky: Confronting the Anti-Science Thought Police

6 The Subterranean War on Science

7 Recursive Fury goes recurrent

122 thoughts on “Welcome to the Shibbolithic

    • Just like to note that the word to use to deal with the insurgent Welsh is “Ratatouille”.
      Works like a charm.

      • Excellent. Far too funny to read all at once. I need a shot of this every day.

        ” Lewandowsky, Professor of Punitive Psychology at Bristol ”

        Brilliant. Thanks.

    • No. Absolutely awful.

      Since when has WUWT relied on manipulated GIFs and images to get its points over?

      We sceptics ought to be above this kind of juvenile ad hominem mockery. How would you like it if videos of sceptic heroes were clipped and distorted as mockery?

      IMO this post should be taken down. It does not meet the high standards of this website.

      • Um I sorta take your tonal objection—I mean, since when did mockery have any place in the climate debate??—but I have to ask:

        Do you, perchance, have a mental picture of me poring over hours of footage of Lewandowsky in order to cherry-pick a few seconds worth of bizarro facial gymnastics?

        Because the opposite would be closer to the truth. It was like finding a needle in a sewing kit. It was like shooting fish in a barrel of smoked herring. If you’d like to see how little wound up on the cutting room floor, just shoot me an FOI request 🙂 Let’s just say it’s practically filler-free, end-to-end champagne comedy.

        • Stop dissembling. You know exactly what I am talking about. For aquick example, commentators should inspect what you did in frames 79-98 of universal-emotions-4w.gif.

          We knew you had a mental age of ten from the article. Your response has just confirmed that: ‘Let’s just say it’s practically filler-free, end-to-end champagne comedy.’

          • FoS,

            I dissemble that remark!

            Going back to your 12:58am criticism for a sec, I’d like to avoid the appearance of having dodged anything you put to me, so please allow me to take the following question as seriously as it deserves to be treated:

            > How would you like it if videos of sceptic heroes were clipped and distorted as mockery?

            Well, OK, let’s think.

            I doubt I’d like that very much. At best it’d be a matter of indifference, and at worst, it could be pretty annoying. I mean, nobody ENJOYS seeing their “side” on the receiving end of low blows, do they? (This is fairly obvious stuff, I would’ve thought.)

            How would I like it if videos of the OTHER side (the anti-science faction) were clipped and distorted as mockery?

            That’s a whole nother story. I expect I’d get a kick out of it. Of course I’d need to see a concrete example to say for sure, but yeah, if I had to guess, I expect it would give me pleasure, all things being equal—or at worst have no affective impact on me.

            Why do you ask, by the way? Are you building up to some sort of… I dunno… argument or something?

            (You do grasp, I trust, that just because it would be bad for person A to do X to person B, it does NOT follow that it would be bad for the converse to occur. For example, it’s a good thing when police imprison axe murderers, but not when axe murderers imprison police. My apologies if this is all self-explanatory.)

            Thanks for the feedback.

            PS Don’t leave me in suspense—let me know what you think I did wrong, ethically, in frames 79-98. ‘Cos I give up.

          • FoS,
            I do not know who you are, but obviously you are no skeptic.
            More likely a warmista troll.
            Admit it…what really upsets you is that Saul Alinsky is not the only one who ever realized the power of ridicule, eh?

            Shame on you.

            If course, you can always head over to “The Conversation” and revel in the joy and purity of one sided discussions…if ideas you do not share frighten you, humor you find distasteful terrifies you, and jokes you would not tell are intolerable.
            People ’round these here parts don’t much cotton to leftist coerced conformity diktats, or censorship guided by abject obeisance to the sensibilities of the thin-skinned.
            It gets hot in the kitchen, snowflake…best you run along now, a’forn a thought you never had melts your brain.

          • Nicholas, we can’t pour ridicule on The Conversation for its monocultural sterility one moment, then tell the one dissenting voice in this thread to go away.

            Well of course we can, but not without giving rise to an adverse inference about our ability to think clearly.

            I for one find FoS’ comments invigorating because—not in spite—of their sheer fatuity. (You could learn a thing/two from him/her and stop being so right about stuff, statistically.)

          • @Nicholas McGinley

            ‘not a sceptic’. Your inference is a step too far.

            The fact is that I have been a daily visitor to WUWT almost from its inception and an active supporter on a few specific occasions.

            From the very beginning Anthony Watts set out very firm principles for his website. He suppressed all forms of profanity, abuse and exaggeration. In contrast to the ‘kidz’ at SS, WUWT played the ball, not the man, even when sorely tried.

            That must be one of the chief reasons why WUWT has become the leading general climate blog. Anthony Watts can speak for himself, but I find that the tweaked GIFs are not in the spirit of fair play which he established for this site.

            I have as much contempt as anyone for people such as Lewandowsky and Cook, but manipulating GIFs distorts reality and moves the site into the region of fake news. IMO it was a mistake for WUWT to publish these.

            @Brad Keyes

            You are still dissembling. If you study the frames I mentioned you will see that sections of the face have been stretched or squeezed and changes in tempi applied, all for comic effect. Even without a frame-by-frame analysis tool, readers can easily see the distortions applied to Lewandowsky’s head and face.

            If you didn’t apply these manipulations yourself, then you should at least take a moment to understand what has been done in these images.

            They are ‘fake news’ and IMO WUWT should have no part in publishing these.

            ‘axe murderers vs. police’. You are an idiot.

          • Brad,
            Yes, this is true, and I realize I did not make my point very well.
            It is not that he is not amused that rankles me, it is his call to ban those with whom he takes issue, and more than that, to actually remove your essay, which so many of us are really enjoying, and some here, (no doubt graduates of a speed reading academy) having finished reading it, which few do when reading something they dislike, or so it seems to me.

            After all, nothing is easier than just, you know, not reading something!

            So yes, it is not unwelcome to hear contrary opinions, even incredibly boorish and ill-mannered ones. After all, with whom would I argue, at whom would I cast aspersions, if not for those who pipe in with, to quote eminent logician Cletus Delroy Spuckler, “stuff what’s wrong”?

            And it was merely a suggestion in any case…I was just looking out for FoS’s poow widdle feewings, really.

          • Mods: why has a calm and perfectly reasonable defence of my position been stuck in moderation for about four hours? Is there something wrong with it?

          • Nicholas

            > And it was merely a suggestion in any case…

            Ah, OK, gotcha. 🙂 I’m not very good at detecting hyperbole, probably because I have so little practice writing non-literally myself.

          • FoS,

            let me see whether I understand you (though as an ‘idiot’ with a ‘mental age of ten’ it’d be nothing short of miraculous if I did)…

            > If you study the frames I mentioned you will see that sections of the face have been stretched or squeezed and changes in tempi applied, all for comic effect.

            You seem to be arguing that stretching OR SQUEEZING a human face makes it funnier than it was before. In other words, the undistorted human face just happens to have the least-comical aspect ratio of all possible aspect ratios. If you’re right about this Goldilocks theory, as it were, it may just be the most cogent proof ever discovered of the existence of a benevolent Creator who so loved us that He created us to be as non-ridiculous as possible. So I’m dying to know more.

            Secondly, what changes in tempi have been applied by the unknown humorist, pray tell, and how do they fit your (or any known) theory of comedy? NB I can’t and won’t rule out the possibility that your web browser is of the sort that imposes a minimum frame duration of 0.05 seconds when playing back GIFs, an annoyance which can’t help but alter the perceived mood of a GIF that was extracted (as I seem to recall my Lew GIFs were) from a 30fps video.

    • Brilliant.

      Agree, I just read this. Mind-stretching to say the least. Lays bare the dismal state of much of academic science.

  1. Whew. I’m so exhausted by that, I can’t make a funny post. I’ll have to go straight:

    I don’t see any justification in declaring the Holocene as an Epoch, which means the end of the Pleistocene Epoch. It’s just another interglacial in the Pleistocene. I have been telling myself it was a simple error, that when overwhelming evidence for the last melt emerged, the full import of cyclical rhythm of the ice was not fully grasped, and the thought was: “well, end of ice, end of epoch.”

    Am I being too kind?

    For those cementing it down to “well, another melt, but this one is different,” content with this construction of reality, now the Holocene itself must be shot dead and replaced with a total myth.

    I guess that does qualify as a funny post. It’s damn funny business.

  2. Holy Cow, this ‘guest parody’ is the longest sarcastic rant I ever saw!

    I do like the idea of the “shibbolithic” era though, I mean it kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

    Definition of a ‘shibboleth’ from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shibboleth :

    ” 1a : a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning “

    • Long yes. I thought it would never end, which makes it less funny and more self indulgent, … unless you are warned at the start that it’s long as heck, and best consumed in pieces. (^_^) I’ll have to go back and read pieces to appreciate it.

      • . . . unless you are warned at the start . . .

        Wow Rob, many thanks for your comment. I just can’t tell you how happy it makes me to discover that I’m not the only moron that reads WUWT.

        Whew!

        I’ve had great success overcoming this exact problem by engaging the scroll bar on the right-hand side of my browser. The one that allows you to scroll the article from top to bottom? Before you read it? So you can see how long it is? Before you read it?

        Hope this (friendly ribbin’) helps you buddy!

        🙂

        • Good to read you, as always, SY.

          Robert is making a good point though—fatigue is the enemy of funniness (not to mention of readability in general), and if anyone has a solution to the problem of trying to fit long-form essays on an intrinsically bottomless webpage in a more reader-friendly way, I’m all ears.

    • David Blenkinsop: “Holy Cow, this ‘guest parody’ is the longest sarcastic rant I ever saw!”

      I guess you haven’t read any of Kurt Vonnegut’s work, then.

          • Thanks Steve, it’s good to know you have a functioning lib-dar. Not that I recall doubting that at any point, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to just have these things confirmed, you know, in case they ever become relevant for whatever reason, somewhere down the track.

            Mind you I get skeptical when people start claiming really preternatural abilities, like this guy:

            https://www.theonion.com/i-can-instantly-tell-whether-someone-is-african-america-1819584146

            Is it just me or is it frustratingly difficult to fact-check Onion stories? I can’t remember the last article on that site that stated its sources in anything close to enabling detail.

      • Oh, man…I think my brain tumor is back!
        Doh!
        I know it must be ’cause I cannot think of anything funny to add to “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

        In fact, I only got as far as “Then I guess blankity blank blank must be it’s beating heart, eh?
        Followed by hysterical braying fits of laughter.

        Uh….um…nope.
        Nothing.
        Coming up blank.
        Sorry Steve.

        • I cannot think of anything funny to add to “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

          Longevity is the bane of addlepate?

        • Nicholas,

          I’m sure you know as well as the next guy that improving on Shakespeare is a fool’s errand, and that “because it’s there” is not a rational argument for attempting Olympian basterds summits no matter what Rainier Wolfcastle or Edmund Hilary may or may not have said… but you can’t help trying, can you?

          In your shoes, the best I’d be able to come up with is that brevity might be the soul of wit but levity is its brain, and as a hard materialist I know which one I’d choose (if you put a gun to my pineal gland).

          Which is why I know better than to try. 🙂

          Obviously, and ironically [sic], brevity (among other organs of wit) completely eluded Polonius—a creation some hastovibrologists have argued is the prototype of the dumb P___ck recurrent in certain humor traditions to this day.

        • Coming up blank.

          Nevermind. It’s this one:

          . . . you know what? I know a liberal when I meet one.

          Yes that’s the one.

  3. Good grief, Brad Keyes, I fear you have done yourself psychological damage reviewing all of these pseudo-scientific faux paus. I can only hope that the humorous spin you put on these wonderful examples of bad science provides some theraputic value. There is, however, another level of science that is common in industry, wherein the time and/or money are not available to undertake a proper scientific review. A professor, I think from University of Kansas, described this as “Premature Scientific Discovery”. This is where analyzing clues, actually generating and reviewing data, leads a scientist to believe something is existing at such a good probability that it is appropriate to proceed as if it were proved. The classic example is a geologist studying geologic, geochemical, and geophysical data and interpreting the evidence as suggesting the existence of a valuable deposit of gold, either the black or yellow kind. The geologist speaks to management with great enthusiasm about the probability being so high that the risk/reward formula is heavily weighted on the reward side, gets drill funds and proceeds to drill the target. The drill results either prove or disprove the “Premature Scientific Discovery” (when the drill results disprove the PSD it becomes a Premature something else, and shame descends on the bad scientist, who is then relegated to cutting bait and not fishing). I will read your essay once more, this time with an adult beverage and some chips. Stay safe.

    • Thanks Ron, I love the concept of PSD—a very useful addition to my vocab. Oreskes has, predictably, suppressed the distinction between PSD and mature scientific discovery (without using that terminology) in a number of her miseducational tracts. I’ll have to fortify myself and revisit those travesties, and get back to you with more detailed thoughts/emotions about her propaganda. Thanks again.

  4. Brilliant Brad.
    A masterful p1sstake is the perfect antidote to pseudo science.
    Much more effective than arguing with the abject nonsense that makes up ‘mainstream’ climate science these days.

    • ¡Gracias Señor!

      To be really effective, though, the Deride and Conquer doctrine needs to be deployed more widely. Hint hint cough cough. It’s depressing how few of us seem to be active in the average-temperature-based-satire space. Why is our side so squeamish about taking Alinsky’s insights and [mis]using them for good?

      In any case, I’m at an age now when the best I can hope for is that the next generation will learn from my p!sstakes.

      • It’s a YUUUGE challenge, that’s for sure!
        Try posting a derisive comment to any of the ooga-booga climate stories on the msm, and the last you will ever see of it is just before the moment you click go.

      • Gee Brad, you must need a lot of cash for this research into bounder conditions in the privateer sector of peereviewed climacticology. Of course, it must be rewarding to hobnob with recidivists of Noball and Oxter Awards and bathe in the glamor of hotty PhDs in Hysterics of Science.

    • Oh and forgot to mention, Brad – your p1sstake of the climate religion here is a great bookend to my usual Easter religious experience, which is re-watching “The Life Of Brian”

      • Moshe,

        THANK YOU. Finally, someone who grasps that the OP wasn’t meant to be remotely funny! Why people are laughing at my dead-earnest, literal-minded recitation of unadorned facts is beyond me, but frankly it’s a little hurtful. If only more readers could take a leaf out of your Big Book of Humorlessness and respond with their tongues stowed safely in the extrabuccal position.

        I guess they can’t all be English majors 🙁

        • Brainworm, Still not funny. And not, strictly speaking, a parody as advertised.
          I would say it is burlesque . Diderot makes the critical distinction between parody
          and burlesque here: Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

          Relevant passage translated.

          ‘One can reduce all types of parody to two general types, one which we call simple narrative parody ; the other dramatic parody . Both should have as their purpose pleasure and utility. The rules of parody concern the choice of the subject and the manner of treating it. The subject one undertakes to parody should be a well-known, famous, and esteemed work; no author has been parodied as much as Homer. As for the manner of parodying, the imitation must be faithful, the amusement good, lively, and short, and one should avoid a spirit of bitterness, base expressions, and obscenity. It is easy to see in the excerpt that parody and the burlesque are two very different genres, and that the Virgile travesti of Scarron is nothing less than a parody of the Aeneid . A good parody is a fine amusement, capable of amusing and instructing the most sensible and polished minds; the burlesque is a miserable buffoonery which can only please the populace.”

          You base Cullion, you

          Best regards
          Capt. Bobadil

          • Steven,

            you’re overthinking this, which makes a nice change from your doing the opposite, I guess.

            It’s just satire. (I wasn’t responsible for any bold-type advertisements to the contrary.)

            Formal imitation is the sine qua non of all parody (narrative, dramatic, burlesque, whatever). If you can’t answer the question…

            “What genre, style, author, text or form is Brad parodying in his post?”

            …then Brad wasn’t doing parody, was he? End of.

            When I do parody, you’ll know it because it’ll look something like this.

      • Which three stooges were you comparing to Steven?

        If you meant the Mann, Bradley & Hughes hockey stick comedy production, then yes I agree that this article has fewer laughs per line than that.

        But I’m guessing that Mr Keyes didn’t benefit from the same generous taxpayer funding to develop material that those other 3 stand-ups did.

  5. I have been wondering where you have been Brad.
    Have not seen a single comment from you in months and months.
    Now I know why…you were writing this essay.
    I know it must be good, both because you wrote it and because I read the seven comment posted at the time I am writing this.
    My comment will probably not appear until sometime this coming weekend, but I just wanted to say I am looking for ward to reading this.
    And I may have time too, as I hear we will not be able to go outside for at least 12 to 18 months.
    So I will be able to read at least part of it by then if I read fast.
    And welcome back.
    Stop being a stranger…I get disoriented when I am the only one who ever says anything halfway close to being something like funny.

  6. This is a work of art. And the photo of Gore is priceless. Why hasn’t he had a massive cerebral vascular event of some sort yet? The rage is palpable.

  7. Apparently I can only focus on chick lit during a pandemic 🙂 Anyway, I stayed up late reading this one which I think I need to create a shelf for at this point – it was wonderful! Much better than I was anticipating. The summary blurb reads a little cliche, and the book started off abruptly, but it became such a lovely book about family dynamics, missed expectations, and love as the book went along.

  8. He lives!

    My dictionary said she loves you and greets you warmly (I hadn’t visited in some time . . . too long really).

    • Previously I had to read an essay by William F. Buckley to be driven to the dictionary on a regular basis. Or nowadays, a Google search. I count it a poor day when I don’t learn at least one new thing.

      • I count it a poor day when I don’t learn at least one new thing.

        D.J. your words are Solomonic. Unfortunately, by my own admission I’m still way below the poverty line. There really is no excuse.

        What a shame we lost Mr. Buckley so soon. Have you seen B v. V?

      • DJ
        I agree that it is a good day when I learn a new word. The problem is, at my age, to be able to remember it tomorrow.

  9. Yikes!!! A reader warning needs to be placed before that Oreskes gif link.
    Something akin to Athena warning Perseus about Medussa and to not look directly at her..

    • Her (dis)likeness froze my browser. I had to hotkey [Ctrl-Del-Oreskes] to be able to scroll away from it. Plus the screen was smelling like dirty socks. I’m surprised the server smellware protection let it through.
      🎯 Congrats to Brad! Great to laugh with him 🤣

  10. Greatest post on WUWT for years!

    The problem with Ken Rice is that he doesn’t know he’s thick and thus blunders into farce
    Worse, when he realises that he’s blundered he just goes with what kills most poor people anyway.

    The argument is that everyone knows (consensus) that it’s important to kill poor people as infants today so as their grandchildren have less unpleasant weather.

  11. Ken Rice: “It might also be worth considering the irony of Richard apparently communicating his issues to (WUWT)…”

    This is priceless! I’ve always said leftists climate hysterics are irony-proof; now we see they have no idea what the word even means. Buy a dictionary, Ken!

    • Isn’t it moronic, don’t you think? A little too moronic, yeah I really do think.

      Mind you, irony deficiency is more deeply endemic to the developed world than any cervezavirus. I’m beginning to think those of us who ‘get’ jokes are the abnormals. Take me. I’m so ironic, if I was Ferris Bueller I’d spend my entire day off riding a ferris wheel.

    • PS Tiger,

      I’m glad you substituted ‘climate hysterics’ for izquierdists, because I’ve never bought into the alleged chirality of human humorlessness. It’s not a partisan disease—not if history is any guide.

      Rather it seems that ANY coercive moralistic program—from Medieval Catholicism to contemporary Junche—has the same anaphylactic reaction to humor, because humor is subversive by definition.

      I’m talking, obviously, about funny humor. As distinct from safe, grant-friendly groanfests like [insert your favorite Using Comedy to Communicate the Science conference].

  12. I’m not sure that I caught half of it, but I enjoyed the read. Good picture of Gore; I didn’t know that Oreskes ever dolled up. I hope that I don’t have a nightmare tonight.

  13. “That changed in 2017, when DH’s manifesto was mistakenly published as a Nature article.”

    Faux Sturmbannführer Lewandowsky’s Nature faux pas expose was published in January 2016.

    • Thanks Joel, I stand discredited! If the rest of my post is as accurate as that sentence (and without having read it, I have to assume that it is), then Herr Erren @ 11.27am has the right idea.

  14. Wow, Brad, I see what you did there , and it was good. Just not sure what you were smoking before!

  15. Tim Hunt’s wife is an immunologist. They have two daughters in their 20s. Dunno if either of them is a scientist, but he’s not a sexist.

    The PC Police won’t be satisfied until humor is outlawed.

    Hunt shared the Nobel with an American and Paul Nurse, High Priest of the Church of Climate Change.

  16. Thank you, Brad. I smiled the entire time I read your post. I suspect I’ll be smiling when I read it again….and again.

    Stay safe and healthy, all.
    Bob

  17. … Chaucerian charlatan …

    Wha? I studied Chaucer in high school. There were the characters we were taught in class. And then, there were the characters that adolescent boys told each other about. I still remember, “And Nicholas thought he could improve upon the jape by making him kiss his ass before he escape.” or something like that.

    For whatever reason, our educators did not think the The Pardoner was worth studying.

    Pardoners granted papal indulgences—reprieves from penance in exchange for charitable donations to the Church. Many pardoners, including this one, collected profits for themselves. In fact, Chaucer’s Pardoner excels in fraud, carrying a bag full of fake relics—for example, he claims to have the veil of the Virgin Mary. The Pardoner has long, greasy, yellow hair and is beardless. These characteristics were associated with shiftiness and gender ambiguity in Chaucer’s time. The Pardoner also has a gift for singing and preaching whenever he finds himself inside a church.

    Lo, those many decades ago I could not foresee just how well Chaucer’s characterization would fit the acolytes of the Pseudo Church of Global Warming.

  18. About shibboleths. There’s a place near The Hague called Scheveningen. The correct pronounciation of the name is practically impossible for German or English speakers, not to mention the French. The name was used in war time by the underground resistance to identify native Dutch speakers.

    Just to explain. The English would pronounce the ‘sch’ as in school, a bit like ‘sk’. Germans would say ‘sh’ as in English ‘ship’. The natives would say ‘sg’ a nice harsh gutteral where the ‘g’ is like the Spanish ‘j’ (jota). Interestingly, Arab speakers have no problem with its pronounciation.

    • Interesting, Ed! Is that how the gh in van Gogh is pronounced too? There’s a spectrum of valid /x/ articulations in Spanish, by the way, but at least some of them ought to be achievable by Germanophones, since the phoneme overlaps with the /x/ in ‘ich’ (and indeed in ‘bisschen’, which leads me to suspect you’re talking about something more guttural than that).

      Would your surname have worked as a watchword? I’ve never known quite how to approach phthongs like ‘ui’ and ‘ij’ myself, but maybe you could describe their production…?

      I’ll refrain from reciting Eddie Murphy’s COVIDically-incorrect joke about Arabic being not so much a language as a respiratory condition 😉

      • Personally, I have never understood why anyone would invent words that cannot be pronounced correctly, unless you have enough phlegm in your throat to put someone’s eye out at the same time you give them every germ in your lungs.

      • Yes, both the g and the gh in ‘van Gogh’ are gutterals. As for my surname, I blame my father. The ‘ui’ and the ‘ij’ are common combinations in Dutch standing for vowel-like sounds. There is a place near Liverpool called Huyten. The ‘uy’ sounds almost perfectly like the ‘ij’. There’s nothing close to ui in English as far as I’m aware. Just to add to the fun, there are a few more letter combinations to denote ‘vowels inbetween’, ‘eu’ ‘au’ ‘ie’ .

        Murphy may have a point. Even after forty years of living in England you immediately know I am Dutch when I open my mouth. With only few exceptions a Dutch mothertongue produces an unmistakable accent. The explanation once suggested to me is that if your vocal motorics have mastered the sounds unique to the language they are damaged goods as regards some foreign languages.

  19. Brad Keyes,
    A linguistically witty masterpiece, joyfully cycling between artful take down and scintillating send up!
    Thanks for all the laughs!

  20. Wow, just wow. What a lovely Easter present for Naomi and Lew.

    My favorite line, having not had time to read at the deepest level of my pay-grade, has to be:

    “The Basterds, who are attempting to pass as SS officers, certainly look the part in their crisp John Cook regalia.”

    I’m pretty sure this will be supplanted when I take the next few days of solitary confinement to read it through thoroughly.

    Also, I’m thinking that the sequel with Michael Mann in the lead role will be even better.

    Bravo Brad for your Bravado.

  21. Great read so far (I’ll continue later).
    The ClimateGate emails were a great source of ‘leakages’.
    My favorite is the email Tom Wigley to Phil Jones re: the “1940s blip”.
    It reads like a discussion between a client and his tailor: could we ease the shoulders a bit and let out the trousers a fraction?
    http://sealevel.info/FOIA/1254108338.txt

  22. My first comment is…that the German three hand sign looks like someone waving goodbye while trying not to drop her train ticket.
    I wonder if maybe that is why they do it that way?

    • Hi Nicholas, that’s exactly the scenario in which I notice myself code-switching to the German dactylonomy. (Substitute car keys for train tickets.)

      Interestingly, neither system is perfect—the Anglo three and the German four (respectively) are awkward or even painful poses because the extensor tendons and muscles (extensor digitorum) governing the ring and pinkie fingers are so tightly coupled. Rare anatomical variations allow a minority of people to straighten their fourth digit independently—of little clinical significance unless they’re concert pianists, I guess.

      Also, Anglophones tend to use the German convention if counting serially—in other words, when acting out the digital analogue [sic] of “zero, one, two, three, four…” most people will extend their thumb before their index finger, no matter what it says on their passport.

      Let’s not get started on Chinese knuckle-counting systems, which are more expressive and complicated.

      • The Chinese 3 is basically the ‘ok’ sign with the index finger and thumb curled together. You can count to ten using one hand.

        • Alex
          Mapping your fingers to binary placeholders, one can count to 31 (with all fingers extended) on one hand. It is probably fortunate that writing was invented before the concept of binary numbers. Being able to keep count of large numbers of livestock on one’s hands probably would have impeded the development of mathematics. 🙂

  23. Say Brad, yr own Canterbury Tales collection of characters and their leakings, Stephan Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, Dr Phil Jones et big Al. Shibboliths revealed… so nice.

    Those uber Lewandowsky’s mood swings,
    yr can’t help noticing – are insane,
    out-pourings of the paranoid schizoid brain,
    like those cli-sci Climate-Gate leakings,
    seepage from the Sokal defined wrong side
    of the humanitees-science divide.

  24. So glad to hear “that a tiny, fringe majority of geologists, ideologically opposed to the Anthropocene Epoch and determined to prolong the Holocene at all costs, insists we’re merely at the dawn of a new sub-epoch they call the Meghalayan Age.” We can always hope the Meghalayan will cut quite a bold strata between the alternating bull coprolitic layers geologists have discovered in the interfactual periods of history. (:

  25. The finger shibboleth might be taken from the Balkan war. I was in Croatia soon afterwards and kept ordering three beers with my thumb and two fingers. The barman would shake his head and talk to me in English. My cousins eventually pointed out that it was the Serbian sign for victory so they used three middle fingers.

  26. Magnificent! Irony is deadly in the hands of an expert like Keyes.

    That said, the pictures of Naomi Oreskes really put me off my breakfast.

    • Thanks Michael. And further muddying the waters is the existence of an instrument called a phonoscope!

      Nonetheless, I will maintain until my dying stridor, rale or wheeze that ‘skopein’ has a strong visual connotation—as does the English verb “observe” for that matter.

      (But let’s not think too hard about the metaphysics of observing a minute of silence.)

  27. Very lovely. From the Ironicene to the Coprolithic, geology has always favored the drollards. Thanks be to modern Seance.

  28. From the article: “This is not to be confused with the Tobacco Strategy used by Al Gore, which basically involves raising tobacco, putting it in the plant beds with your own hands, transferring it, hoeing it, digging in it, spraying it, chopping it, shredding it, spiking it, putting it in the barn, stripping it and selling it”

    I can see ole Al saying that now! He said it over and over again. It was a stump speech.

    Thanks for the article, Brad. I would give it about a “two”. I had a good laugh about every two sentences! 🙂

  29. To this day I cannot read or hear the word “shibboleths” without harkening back fondly and hysterically to the time I heard Barney Frank, who speaks with a distinctive lisp, mispronouncing his way through the word, in plural form which makes it even funnier, during at on-air interview with Bill O’Reilly.
    I think it was Bill, but in fact all I recall with clarity is Frank saying that word…
    Guess you had to be there, as they say in the world of failed comedy.

  30. Another shibboleth. I read that a Russian spy in England (perhaps a fictional one) was detected when he pronounced “onion” with three syllables.

    • In Philly there is an extra vowel on a lot of words.
      It is why I almost came to fisticuffs with every English teacher from first grade on.
      And I studied all math and science in college…I did not even want to take Freshman English.
      I was like “Make me!”
      It was so ann-oy-in-guh!

      • By way of explanation, my computer self installed a new version of Edge browser, and it seems to have resulted in comments typed in to the comment box not being deleted after a post is sent, and so I have not been sure on several occasions if something I thought I had hit the send button on had actually sent.
        Plus…is it just me, or is the webjacking thing gotten worse, where one is on WUWT one second, and suddenly like five or six new websites just take over the tab?
        A lot of them seem to be some virus software scam site.
        Mc-something or other. Damn Micks!

  31. In Philly there is an extra vowel on a lot of words.
    It is why I almost came to fisticuffs with every English teacher from first grade on.
    And I studied all math and science in college…I did not even want to take Freshman English.
    I was like “Make me!”
    It was so ann-oy-in-guh!

    • Without English classes, how is the next generation supposed to learn the joylessness of reading? Can you imagine a world where kids only know Shakespeare through films and stage productions? They’ll probably grow up thinking his plays are enjoyable. That’s not what I call an educated person.

      Serious question: do German schoolkids have to endure German classes, and so on all over the globe? Or is the Anglosphere unique in understanding the importance of instilling vital book-hating skills at an early age?

      • The funny thing is, I spent all my time not playing sports or swimming or riding my bike, reading.
        I went to a school for most of my early years where I was allowed to just sit in the library reading, I stayed up all night reading, etc.
        (Okay, maybe that is not especially “funny” per se)
        We had three libraries in the house I grew up in, and my father and grandfather were both writers and publishers.
        I never did much writing though, until Al Gore invented the interwebs, so thank God for Him!

  32. Rather to my surprise, Bertolt Brecht got the idea of scientific skepticism pretty well. He had Galileo caution his assistants, among other things, “If something we find happens to please us, we shall view that with particular suspicion”, or words to that effect.

    • I’ve read, and filed away in my Bermuda Triangle of bookmarks, many a post in which a climate scientist In Good Standing will tell their readers—cluelessly and matter-of-factly, or knowlngly and unforgivably—that in science:

      When an observation clashes with everything you know, that’s when you have to be skeptical. (Something “skeptics” are oddly reluctant to do!) You have to really retrace your steps in great detail, and re-do the whole study if necessary, to make sure the result is genuine. So often, “skeptics” will jump up and down at the first anomaly and say “that falsifies the science!” and even honest scientists may be taken in by this and believe them, and think they’ve actually found something new, which decades of science have by some miracle managed to miss. But in the end it turns out to be a faulty thermometer or we conclude it was just interference from an as-yet-unidentified confounder, likely post-Industrial pollution or something, that’s giving us those wrong results.

      The thing in that paragraph that isn’t delusionally false is the punctuation. How such bollocks is punished at Science Nuremberg will likely depend on the IQ (and corresponding culpability) of the offender.

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