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April 26th 2017 print

Peter O'Brien

How to Get Ahead as a Celebrity Scientist

There will be plenty of ABC seats and microphones awaiting US astrophysicist, fact-challenged warmist and tireless self-promoter Neil de Grasse Tyson when he tours Australia this year. That's the way it works if you hold little respect for actual science and a lucrative contempt for those who do

neil de gassy try-on-onAt first we had Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW). That was a pretty specific threat. It spelled out the crime, the perpetrator and the result. But when it started to become clear, after 20-odd years of research, that there wasn’t actually a great deal of warming, that the Earth was greening and worldwide crop production continued to increase, something had to be done. Changing the mantra to Beneficial Anthropogenic Global Warming wasn’t going to cut it for the trough-snouters at the IPCC, so we got Climate Change and, more recently, Climate Disruption.

These latter euphemisms for something that isn’t happening are much easier to defend when Mother Nature provides an inexhaustible supply of disasters to draw upon as proof of the coming apocalypse, notwithstanding that the evidence is that these events are not increasing in either frequency or strength.  And now, as the highly contrived warming predictions that are the IPCC’s stock in trade deviate ever more from its lurid modeling, yet another fresh mantra has emerged.

Neil de Grasse Tyson, for those of you who don’t know of him, is a celebrity astrophysicist.  Like his British counterpart Brian Cox, is a fervent believer in CAGW. Only, of course, he now doesn’t talk about CAGW or even Climate Change.  He talks about — drum roll, please — “Science!”  CAGW is now, er, science.  What were formerly mere “climate change deniers” are now full-blown “science deniers”.  What more evidence could you possibly need to conclude that those who question the extent of global warming are, at best, deluded fools or, at worst, Gaia’s eager rapists?

Tyson argues his case in a four minute video that, as we have come to expect from warmists, relies heavily on the strawman argument.  At one point he states that, up until now, he “doesn’t remember any time when people were standing in denial of what science was” – whatever that means.  To back up this rather vague proposition the video refers to anti-vaxxers, anti-GMers and then, of course, climate change deniers.  Oh, and he also throws in a clip of now Vice President Mike Pence arguing that evolution should be taught as theory rather than fact. (To be fair to Pence, that’s not quite the point he made in the full address to Congress, arguing that Charles Darwin’s view is but one perspective, that evolutionary theory is subject to constant and ongoing tweaking and that, as a Christian, he prefers to believe mankind and all the world were brought to their current state by Divine guidance. In this he differs not much from the Jesuit paleontologist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whom Pope Francis cited with approval in his recent dark-green plea for the planet, Laudato si,  which, funnily enough, Tyson endorsed to the fullest. Then again, why take anything Tyson says without a grain of salt? A famous mis-quoter, he also has trouble recalling his own past. But enough of Tyson, at least until he arrives in Australia later this year for a series of lectures, when someone might ask him a few pointed questions.)

The interesting thing about this line-up of ‘denialism’ is that of the four examples chosen, three come down to individual choice – you can choose to vaccinate or not, you can choose to eschew GM foods and you can reject evolution if you think that it is incompatible with creationism.  These are the views of fringe dwellers which have marginal impact on society. But CAGW affects everyone; you can’t opt in or out of the theory’s consequences, as evidenced by your latest electricity bill and the rent-seekers who make it o much larger than it should be. What Tyson is doing is an example of trying to impose guilt by association. According to Neil, science never gets anything wrong.

A laughable excerpt of this video is where he describes ‘peer review’ as:

my work being double checked by a rival of mine because they think I might be wrong.  They perform an even better experiment than I did and they find – hey, this experiment matches’.

In fact, peer review is not about verifying the premise of a scientific paper or finding alternative solutions.  It is simply a mechanism to ensure that there are no gross or obvious errors in a paper that would prevent its publication.  Passing peer review does not prove the correctness of a hypothesis.   In any case, peer review may be a valuable tool in most branches of science but the views of Judith Curry, a very distinguished climatologist, suggest that she’s not quite on a unity ticket with Neil on this one, at least where climate science is concerned. Would Neil brand her a science denier, I wonder?

Next, following on from the above, he introduces a new scientific concept: the ‘emergent truth’.

…oh my gosh, we’re onto something here and out of this arises the new emergent truth…

As far as I am aware this term is pretty much the brainchild of Tyson himself.  Speaking for myself, and despite having a science background, I have never heard of an ‘emergent truth’.  It appears to be a mechanism by which something that has not yet been proved or quantified, but simply has some traction in the science community, is now invested with the status of holy writ.

This is science.  It’s not something to toy with.  It’s not something to say I choose not to believe that E=Mc2.  You don’t have that option.  When you have an established scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it.

So what is the difference between a ‘scientific truth’ and a ‘scientific emergent truth’?  Is a ‘truth’ more true than an ‘emergent truth’?  Why the qualification?  Could it be that the latter is not quite as ironclad as Tyson would have us believe and therefore is it not validly subject to questioning?  This specious terminology will appeal to the credulous but is just a more subtle version of science being settled by consensus, which isn’t the way science is done, not at all.

Finally, we come to the nub of his argument:

Once you understand that humans are warming the planet you can then have a political conversation about that.

Humans are warming the planet? That’s it, that’s the “emergent truth” he is defending?  Well, fair enough, but how much are we warming the planet? Are we warming it dangerously? Are we warming it catastrophically? Indeed, are we waming it all?  Tyson doesn’t actually go into that, but then he doesn’t need to, does he, because Neil, at least as far as climate goes, is not really a scientist. At best he is an insurance salesman pitching “protection” against a dubious actuarial threat.

Oh, and in a smuch as he is a scientist he’s also a celebrity scientist and in order to remain within the club he’s got to toe  the party line. After all, look what happened to environmentalist and broadcaster David Bellamy when he broke ranks with catastropharians and denounced global warming as “poppycock”. Bellamy doesn’t get much airtime anymore.

Comments [22]

  1. Salome says:

    Science tells me that there are x chromosomes and y chromosomes and that people either have one of each, in which case they are male, or two x chromosomes, in which case they are female. Some people have an extra x or y chromosome, and some people might be born with physical characteristics that don’t readily communicate which chromosomes they have, but science tells me that these people have something a little bit wrong with them, which may or may not cause them problems, and if it does, then commonsense and ordinary human decency tell me that such people should be treated with respect and sensitivity and given appropriate medical help. What science doesn’t tell me is that ‘gender’ is a ‘construct’ that is more important than physically determinable sex and further isn’t determined until at least 4 years of age and is subject to change according to what the subject ‘feels’. But if I express myself in terms of what science tells me on this particular subject, I could land in a lot of hot water.

    • Doc S says:

      What a great analogy. I note they haven’t invented a term to shut down any ‘gender’ discussion yet like they have for climate change (i.e. ‘denier’) or a host of other topics like Islam (‘Islamophobia’), immigration (‘racist’) etc. etc. but give ‘em time!

  2. en passant says:

    Peter,
    Excellent article that will result in your immediate condemnation to the fires of Venus by our resident troll. Don’t you realise the seas are swamping us at 3mm/year (+ or minus 3mm), that you must be a denier in the pay of big ‘hydrocarbon’ and that nuclear and hydro are just as bad for the planet as … well, reliable electricity?

    I will join the Klimate Kult Klub (aka: KKK) when they answer the following seven deadly questions:

    1. What is the ideal average temperature for the world that we seek (and why)?
    2. What is the ideal concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (and why)? {Note: I recently read a website demanding the complete elimination of all atmospheric CO2. Firstly, an impossibility and secondly that would end all life as we know it, but that is just a small side issue that is best ignored).
    3. Is nuclear power and alternative to hydrocarbons as a source of reliable electricity? If not, why not. Please quote Fukushima so I can destroy the myth that it was a disaster.
    4. What is the basis for futilely trying to limiting warming to 2C?
    5. Is the total of Arctic and Antarctic ice coverage greater or lesser now than it was 20-years ago?
    6. Given that satellites are showing a greening of the planet, how is that explained, if not for warmth and CO2?
    7. Can any Dark Green name 10-benefits of +2C and a doubling of CO2?

    If these questions cannot be answered, then we have no idea where we are going, but are simply blundering around on an unreliable renewable energy darkness.

    I thoroughly enjoyed and did not question Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’, but I switched off Neil’s propaganda version after watching him convolutedly change history to suit a 20-year old pseudo-scientific fashion (that like all fashions, will soon be out of fashion). Have no fear, Tyson and Cox will morph their act into the next iteration of catastrophism. Just look at the endlessly wrong predictions of our own Tim-Flam man and Paul Ehrlich. Catastrophe is the endless last bastion of the climate alchemists.

    Once more the BoM and the CSIRO will throw themselves into the homogenisation breach to demonstrate that April 2017 was the warmist evaaaa! All it takes is a tweak, a twiddle and secret touch of obscure homogenisation for the witches brew of our temperatures to achieve the ‘correct’ result.

    Oh, that snow on the hills today, in April? An aberration and direct proof of global warming. In fact for enough money in a generous grant I can prove it. Trust me … I am a scientist.

  3. Tony Thomas says:

    Tyson says peer review = “my work being double checked by a rival of mine because they think I might be wrong. They perform an even better experiment than I did and they find – hey, this experiment matches’.
    This is utterly absurd. As if peer reviewers have the time and inclination to do experiments gratis and anonymously for the benefit of a colleague. In reality peer reviiewing is an unrewarded chore for academics involving, one hopes, careful and critical reading of a draft paper, and writing a go/no-go report on it . By and large, the cadre of peer reviewers is getting fed up with the workload, especially given the publish-or-perish mantra at universities and academic authors’ journal-shopping as the more-prestigious journals reject their work and cause them to move down towards disreputable publishers.
    I have noted cases, incidentally, of a peer reviewer not having qualifications above a Bachelor (Hons) degree.

    • LBLoveday says:

      “… a peer reviewer not having qualifications above a Bachelor (Hons) degree”.
      Keating left school after year 10 and his only subsequent formal study was TAFE-level from which he dropped out, yet I would prefer his review of an economics paper to that of one of the many PhD holders in Treasury.
      Years ago I was at a meeting where it was plain the only PhD present (university lecturer) knew less about the *practical* analysis/interpretation of statistics than even a degree-less attendee let alone those with a relevant Bachelor degree.

  4. ianl says:

    A tenuous connection, but as Waffle has invoked the Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass “social licence” for gas miners, there will be furious disinformation in abundance now.

    So please note:

    LNG = Liquid Natural Gas methane CH4 which we use in stoves, heaters and most else domestic. [CSG is also methane].
    LPG = Liquid Petroleum Gas propane C3H8, butane C4H10 which mostly are used in industrial applications, very little in households

    Obviously very different markets. Such simple distinctions will be quite deliberately and dishonestly lost in the ensuing melee, ensuring a total cock-up. This is how Australia works.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    Australia a total cock up?

    Naaaaah only those parts dominated by catastrofarians, lefties, Malcolm lovers, Abbott haters, Trump Hates, unionists, Muslims, teachers,South Australians, Tasmanians, most Victorians, all NSWelshmen, media and the ABC circus.

    • Doc S says:

      Pfft – such obvious bias Keith! How dare you leave out Palaszczuk’s Queensland (well the South Eastern bit anyway) and as for McGowan’s WA – just give ‘em time (big shoes to fill and all that)!

  6. Ian MacDougall says:

    The AGW proposition has given rise to a lot of political argument, and there is no weapon in the political arsenal more powerful than ridicule; which Peter O’Brien valiantly attempts to use in this laboured article.


    Changing the mantra to Beneficial Anthropogenic Global Warming wasn’t going to cut it for the trough-snouters at the IPCC, so we got Climate Change and, more recently, Climate Disruption.
    These latter euphemisms for something that isn’t happening are much easier to defend when Mother Nature provides an inexhaustible supply of disasters to draw upon as proof of the coming apocalypse, notwithstanding that the evidence is that these events are not increasing in either frequency or strength.

    This is at about the same philosophical level as that of a kid with his thumbs stuck in his ears and waving his fingers while yelling “nyaa nyaa nyaa nyaa .!” And about as logically consistent.
    Individual “trough-snouters at the IPCC” are free to use whatever euphemism they like. However, the ‘trough-snouting’ accusation implies that whatever they prefer to call AGW, it is all just a cynical scramble after the money of the innocent taxpayers. But that position in turn has its problems, mainly of internal consistency.
    Because by the same logic, any one of those cynical IPCC ‘trough-snouters’, whatever their personal belief might be, could really clean up by blowing the whistle on the whole rotten scam and beat-up. And the “US astrophysicist, fact-challenged warmist and tireless self-promoter Neil de Grasse Tyson when he tours Australia this year“ could turn away from the exercise of his “little respect for actual science and … lucrative contempt” for everything deemed right and proper…. (by the management of this benighted website.) He could in short, stand up in front of his TV audience of millions and say what the climate ‘sceptics’ would like him to say: provided it was the truth.
    Then the whole alleged AGW fraud and scam would crumble and shortly come crashing down. He, Neil de Grasse Tyson, would be feted wherever he went thereafter. While the coal lobbyists, Heartland Institute, Koch brothers and countless others would no doubt welcome him to come striding through their doors, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the CSIRO and the other 195 scientific organisations worldwide which presently (in their perilous Error) endorse the AGW proposition would probably split wide open on the issue. But as the AGW scammers progressively broke ranks, what was first a drip or two would become a trickle from their damned wall, then ultimately a catastrophic collapse.
    Physical laws are what cause CO2 molecules to absorb radiant heat, become energised, and then pass that energy on to other molecular species. Those laws would have to be amended, according to the needs of business-as-usual, and then also the textbooks which endorse and explain them. And not only would the textbooks on the history of science have to be revised: everything is interconnected in Nature. There would likely have to be revision of the very foundations of modern physics and chemistry, right down to quantum theory and Newtonian mechanics.
    Never in the history of human endeavour have so many been so expensively misled by so few; and so much, arguably the whole future of science and civilisation, depends on Neil de Grasse Tyson and his ilk seeing the glorious light of Reason shining forth from the dark recesses of the troglodyte Right Wing of the Liberal Party, this magnificent Quadrant Online website, and others such.

    • Homer Sapien says:

      “We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything” If Edison would be alive today he would consider his statement rather generous.We haven’t even got the language to talk about quantum mechanics, living in paltry four dimensions. Kurt Goedel’s incompleteness theorem hasn’t been refuted yet,the theory of relativity doesn’t work with time, modern genetics doesn’t fit with “evolution”, and so the list goes on. I wonder what “glorious light” Tyson is seeing?

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        modern genetics doesn’t fit with “evolution”

        Please explain?

        • Homer Sapien says:

          Ian, “Genetic Entropy” by Dr John Sanfort is one recent book that explains the issue rather nicely.

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            Homer,
            Out of curiosity, I did a bit of googling and found that “John C. Sanford (born 1950) is an American plant geneticist, and an advocate of intelligent design and young earth creationism.” Read all about it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Sanford
            In my experience, such people argue a sort of Christian fundamentalism and try to slip their old familiar God in through the back door. Invariably in my experience, it is the God of Genesis and the Old Testament. Jehovah. Never Ahura Mazda, Allah, Krishna or any of the other equally probable possibilities.
            I guess he is a Republican and voted for Trump as well: just a hunch.

    • en passant says:

      The trollster could not resist pushing his agenda, but never answers the key questions or tells us whither he leads we misguided sheeples.
      Help us out oh trollster guru and answer the Holy Grail questions of the Quest:
      1. What is the ideal average temperature for the world that we seek (and why)?
      2. What is the ideal concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (and why)? {Note: I recently read a website demanding the complete elimination of all atmospheric CO2. Firstly, an impossibility and secondly that would end all life as we know it, but that is just a small side issue that is best ignored).
      3. Is nuclear power and alternative to hydrocarbons as a source of reliable electricity? If not, why not. Please quote Fukushima so I can destroy the myth that it was a disaster.
      4. What is the basis for futilely trying to limiting warming to 2C?
      5. Is the total of Arctic and Antarctic ice coverage greater or lesser now than it was 20-years ago?
      6. Given that satellites are showing a greening of the planet, how is that explained, if not for warmth and CO2?
      7. Can any Dark Green trollster name 10-benefits of +2C and a doubling of CO2?

      Nope, didn’t think so, but let’s redouble our efforts anyway …

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Urinate off.
        On principle, I don’t engage with you, and it is not down to the overwhelming power of your intellectual brilliance, though you may kid yourself that it is.
        But you do know why.

        • en passant says:

          Yes, I know why: because you have no idea what the answers are but will troll this site with your hydro and wind rubbish.
          One day we might meet and I will remind you in no uncertain terms your racist insult to my family and refusal to apologise.

      • Homer Sapien says:

        Ian, a bit disappointing, you playing the man and not the ball, you surely can do better than that! Sanford was an atheist and only changed in his later years through sheer evidence through his studies. I highly recommend his book. If you want to win the argument for “evolution” bring God into it, if you talk science and science only you have absolutely no hope to vindicate “evolution.”

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Homer,
          There is natural selection taking place at many levels and locations in the natural world. Selection of stone, pebble, grain etc size gives us shingle beaches, sand beaches, mud flats, molecules in the atmosphere, gods, ideas, you name it. But you have to have a lot of time and patience if you are going to watch a beach form, grow or change.
          Individual organisms get selected in or out of any ecosystem in much the same way. Eg storms blow seeds of plants all over the countryside, particularly in Australia those of eucalypt species.
          Neo-Darwinian evolution is now the underlying proposition of all biology, and without it palaeontology, ecology, anatomy and a host of other disciplines become just stews of unconnected facts. John C. Sanford (born 1950) the American plant geneticist, is like the anti-AGW climatologist Judith Curry, a bit of a scientific maverick, but I dare say if times change enough, his and her ideas will be selected in by scientists and those of the present mainstreams in their disciplines selected out.
          But I would not hold my breath waiting for it to happen in either case.

          • LBLoveday says:

            Here’s a few of Darwin’s conclusions from his book at the basis of “the underlying proposition of all biology”:
            “the average of mental power in a man must be above that of women”; “the child, the female and the senile white” all had the intellect and nature of the “grown up Negro”; some of the traits of women “are characteristic of the lower races”.
            Yet his theories are cherry-picked for those parts that agree with the claims of the Left and atheists, and even taught in schools as facts that are as certain as combining H and O gives H2O.

  7. gardner.peter.d says:

    One of the strange things about humans is that some specimens who are highly intelligent with qualifications to prove it sometimes say things or act in ways that are extraordinarily silly or stupid. There is probably a scientific theory about it. But it is probably (that woolly word again) not one known to astro-physicists, physicists, chemists, atmospheric scientists, palaeontologists, botanists, marine scientists, anthropologists (possibly a subset of these if they have studied sudden decreases in human populations). Just wondering.

    My physics master at school used to quip that the more deeply physicists studied atomic or nuclear structure the more they knew about nothing. When later I got to a PhD in cybernetics I came across a rule in general systems theory that you can only prove or disprove something within its universe of discourse. Ergo, mankind will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of God.because he is not human. Equally it is fatuous to argue whether God is male or female because these are human terms. It also means science never can know everything and my favourite description of the big bang is that it is simply the point beyond which mankind has no explanations. I suspect there are very, very few, people with the mental capacity to understand all of the science of climate change. they all contribute to the best of their ability in the great communal vehicles of mathematical modelling and , for convenience ignore the mathematical certainty that the multi-variate partial differential equations at its core cannot in fact be solved, nevertheless believe their combined efforts have resulted in some foundational truth, when they only need look out of the window to see it is not true; possibly valid but not true.

    • LBLoveday says:

      Ergo, no-one can rationally claim to be an atheist, as I’ve often said. Maybe we should all be agnostics on a scale of 1/100 to 99/100 personal intensity of belief.

  8. Ian MacDougall says:

    LBLoveday: I will state it again: neo-Darwinian evolution is now the underlying proposition of all biology, and without it palaeontology, ecology, anatomy and a host of other disciplines become just stews of unconnected facts.
    This is a far cry from saying ‘In the formulation of his theories and his social attitudes, Darwin was a perfect example of modernity’. That would plainly not be true. Darwin, like all of us, was a creature of his time, and it shows in some of the social opinions he expressed as cited at the site below. However, his concept of evolution as real, and proceeding in any given species by a process of natural selection operating on each generation of progeny: that one has stood the test of time, and in its modern neo-Darwinian form underlies all the biological sciences.
    In his televised debate with Cardinal Pell on the subject, Richard Dawkins summmed up the modern view very well, IMHO, as being (as I recall) “random variation followed by non-random selection”.

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin