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Disrespecting science

This article – extracted from New Scientist – provides a valuable summary of the anti-science attitudes of US Republicans. Its the usual stuff – climate change delusionism, giving equal status to Biblical and evolutionary theories of the origin of the human species, diseases caused by immunisations and so on.

This type of irrational credulity created free market fundamentalism and the GFC but is, at core, far more significant than this catastrophic economic event. It represents a backward step in the evolution of the human species towards a mindless endorsement of group irrationality.

The Australian conservative movement is becoming infected by this irrationality virus – a development which threatens both its intellectual viability and our future. The CIS, Quadrant and the IPA have not always been irrational groupthink tanks that disrespected science.

44 comments to Disrespecting science

  • hc

    In a superficial way Archbishop Pell disrespects science as a consequence of being a theologian. Its intrinsic. His job is to persuade people to believe lies and myths.

    But more substantially Pell is inaccurate (I think deceitful) in the way he assembles views on climate science. He reads the sceptics but not the mainstream scientists. Most of his claims are the well-worn lies of Plimer and the Quadrant crew.

  • anon

    “His job is to persuade people to believe lies and myths.”

    So you think he spent all his time learning theology knowing full well he was really just learning about lies and myths. You could stand there hand and heart and know this to be true, professor.

    “In a superficial way Archbishop Pell disrespects science as a consequence of being a theologian.”

    Are you always this angry?

  • IC

    Anon – are you always this angry? HC merely points out that as a theologian, it is in Pell’s nature to reject reason; the ‘Devil’s Harlot’.

  • observa

    What’s really going on in America and as usual is beginning to be experienced here too-

    And if there are the crackpots and religious zealots emerging on the right Harry, it’s a natural response to the left Green zealotry we’ve had as they rode the Apcalypse back into power after the fall of the Wall. It’s a natural reaction but in the final analysis the true science will reveal all.

  • observa

    Oh and Harry the GFC was caused by money creation and just who is responsible for that? Gummint!

  • observa

    And the sublime irony of Gummint is- ‘In God we Trust’ and plenty of it by all accounts.

  • Steve from Brisbane

    Harry, you’re always too tough on Catholicism. Despite the embarrassment of Pell, the current Pope has made many statements in support of action to deal with AGW, and thus it appears clear that the higher levels of scientific advice he gets within the Vatican is on side.

    But on the broader question, characterizing theology and religious beliefs as being about persuading people to believe lies is a crude and simplistic argument more worthy of Catallaxy. Incidentally, last night a significant number of people who comment there made confessions about being Lefties of one stripe or another in their youth! People who have these ideological conversion experiences used to change religion…now they just swap crude enthusiasm from one political ideology to another….

    For our next surprise, I hope to a photo emerge of Sinclair Davidson with hair in a ponytail at university….

  • KB Keynes

    Pell is no theologian.

    Benjamin Warfield of the Fundamentals fame saw no contradiction in believing in both the biblical account of creation and evolution.

  • Diabolical


    I see you’ve attracted the brains trust of the left now. homer.

    Good work.

  • […] to Australia: The Australian conservative movement is becoming infected by an irrationality virus, writes Harry Clarke. It’s "a development which threatens both its intellectual viability and our […]

  • Who are the people at CIS, Quadrant and IPA who practice climate change delusionism, giving equal status to Biblical and evolutionary theories of the origin of the human species, diseases caused by immunisations and so on?

    Some of them don’t share your views on climate change alarmism but that does not prove your point.

  • […] to Australia: The Australian conservative movement is becoming infected by an irrationality virus, writes Harry Clarke. It’s “a development which threatens both its intellectual viability and our future.” […]

  • Julie Thomas

    The hypocrisy virus is more worthy of contempt than the irrationality one; the Republicans, supposedly the ‘moral majority’ also disrespect the fundamental message of Jesus and the Christian ideal of justice for all.

  • While I have left the CIS, I will defend my legacy – which was to strongly support keeping CIS out of the debate about climate science. While occasionally people associated with the CIS did get involved, there was no commissioned work on it.

  • wilful

    a backward step in the evolution of the human species

    Though perhaps some conservative non-science confusion has crept in with you Harry? Coz that’s not how evolution works.

  • derrida derider

    Steve, I reckon Mark Twain had the theologians taped: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so”. If faith is indeed “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” then it systematically blinds you to visible substance and evidence.

    The Pells of this world aren’t CONSCIOUS liars, at least more than anyone else. But they do have a well developed ability to make themselves certain of beliefs that happen to be in their interest – in this case the personal prestige within his tribe of George Pell. It is a sad fact that those most achieving worldly success are often those most willing to discard intellectual honesty.

  • It would be helpful to distinguish classical liberalism from conservatism at large, so what does CIS have to do with the views of Cardinal Pell and the religious conservatives associated with Quadrant?

    As Andrew Norton pointed out, CIS kept clear of the climate debate, sticking to areas where they add maximum value.

    Nicholas Gruen ran the line at Troppo that the so-called right has hit the wall intellectually, mostly on the basis of refusing to accept climate alarmism and Keynesianism. Again you need to distinguish classical liberalism and reasonable arguments (which you don’t accept) from positions that are primarily political, which you don’t accept on account of your own politics.

  • rog

    Jeepers Rafe, you are always highlighting Jo Nova, Andrew Bolt and others as having a more reasonable argument and then recommend that classical liberalism be both reasonable and separate from politics. There are some serious faults in your argument.

  • Would you like to discuss with references to issues other than climate change to broaden the debate to other alleged areas of irrationalism on the part of classical liberals?

  • rog

    No, because the main argument raised in this thread is delusionalism created by anti science in particular climate science.

  • “Its the usual stuff – climate change delusionism, giving equal status to Biblical and evolutionary theories of the origin of the human species, diseases caused by immunisations and so on.”

    Maybe Harry can give some examples of the other “usual stuff” where classical liberals are irrational. Come on Harry, show a bit of ticker!


    You guys have contempt for people because you think they look strange?

    What a joy to be a person of the left!

  • johno

    It is NOT anti science to question the claims put by some climate scientists. Being sceptical and challenging the claims of others is the essence of science.

    Demanding that people must accept a so called ‘consensus’ is anti science as it is an attempt to stop the essential processes of science.

  • TerjeP

    US Republicans have a strong propensity to believe in creationism over evolution but the US Democrats are not exactly a scientifically pure mob.

    The following headline suggests the majority of Australians are creationists. However I’m somewhat doubtful.

    It is interesting to note that Darwin was reading Adam Smiths “Wealth of Nations” when he came up with the idea of biological evolution.

  • Come off it Rafe. You live your cyber life at a blog where the threads routinely ridicule Labor / Left figures’ appearance: you don’t get through a day there without the PM being called “duckbum” at least 30 times; Roxon’s policies are usually met with claims that she is fat and ugly; Anthony Albanese’s teeth have been noted; Garrett’ s head; Tony Jones’ weight, etc etc.

    If you’re going to be consistent, start calling out this school boy level of critique at Catallaxy, won’t you?

  • I have indicated my views about personal abuse and ad homs.

    Now I am inviting Harry to put some meat on the bones of the claim that CIS and other non-left organizations have become infected by unreason. You have declined the challenge and so has he, so far.

  • Hugh

    “Reason is the devil’s harlot” was a dictum of Martin Luther. The Catholic Church (Pell included) rejects it as a grave philosophical heresy.

  • PSC

    Harry, you’re entirely wrong. I don’t know if this document represents CIS policy (but it does have “policy” at the bottom of every page). It was written in 1998.

    The author (in 1998) argues for kicking the policy can down the road, and then says:

    “By say 2010 we should have more precise and reliable estimates of the strength of the greenhouse effect and its impact on climates, better alternatives to fossil fuels for producing energy, and better understanding of the ways of coping with whatever changes …”

    He’s right. The estimates are more precise, but the central estimate is not materially different. We definitely have better alternatives today. And there is a better understanding of the ways of coping – that they don’t really exist.

    The author suggests that it will be less costly to start acting in 1998 than 2010, and implicitly suggests that the time to start acting is 2010.

    The CIS is right. The time to act is now.

  • I know the author of the article which was published in the CIS journal called Policy, hence the word ‘policy’ on every page. You have misread the article, interestingly you found what you believe, not what he wrote. He suggested that we should delay action until 2010 because we would then have a better fix on the problem and what to do about it. You read that as the suggestion to start acting in 2010. Clearly, getting a better fix on the problem between 2008 and 2010 could result in the realisation that there is no need for any special action.

    The author is now a robust sceptic, not about the prospect of mild climate change, but about the unrealistic and unscientific efforts of alarmists to goad us into dramatic actions like the tax on plant food.

    Rationality is more than anything a matter of critical thinking and changing our views in the light of new evidence and arguments. That is why increasing numbers of people are becoming climate realists rather than climate alarmists, accepting that the amount of climate change that we can expect is not a serious issue and probably has more benefits than harms.

  • Julie Thomas

    Rafe It bothered me also that people were happy to disparage Monckton for his appearance. There is no need to do this, his behaviour provides sufficient justification for ridicule. However, the abuse and disparagement based on appearance that I read on Catalaxy is worse than that, and yet I see that you never complain there. Why is that? Is it moral cowardice, the ends justify the means thinking, or are you scared of them turning on you if you spoil their fun? They are scary people.

    This hypocrisy is also apparent in the way you ignore the irrational claims about climate science and the scientists that are made on Catalaxy. Why do you tolerate of this lack of reason?

    You must realise that the ‘moochers’ that you Randians despise, will not be sufficiently intelligent to understand the subtlety of the distinctions between climate denying, climate realism, and climate alarmists? You are debunking the whole of science, which was the best thing to come out of the enlightenment.

  • KB Keynes

    Rafe had two chances to actually say something on Troppo about his peculiar climate views but turned dyslexic.

    no Rafe the point of the Troppo article was how bad the ‘right’ are now.

    It isn’t about Keynesianism which has completely knocked classical economics out thec window but the right’s people having no credibility.

    Why did the GFC start. CRA and GSEs/ any evidence none.

    We can’t have QE now says those who advocated it for Japan.
    We cannot use fiscal policy now with unemployment at 9% but it was quite okay for bush to use it.

    Etc etc.

    Actually sounds just like Catallaxy

  • Julie, I dont think that Monckton’s behavior or his views are any more worthy of ridicule than his appearance. I have challenged some of the more abusive Catallaxy commentators to be more polite but they think this is a namby pamby attitude and I can’t help that. Still their abuse is always additional to valid points about their targets.

    What irrational claims about climate science on Catallaxy are you talking about? I think that the warming alarmists practice bad science and often enought bad manners as well. They are scary people too because they have encouraged both the government and the opposition to take on absurd policies that will cost billions for no good purpose.

    I am not debunking the whole of science, just the scientists who participate in the climate caper.

  • conrad

    “I am not debunking the whole of science, just the scientists who participate in the climate caper.”

    Do you mean, like, all those guys at Nasa?

  • rog

    Julie raises a point that Rafe seems unable to respond to properly ie Catallaxy regularly abuses everybody for everything. If Rafe feels strongly about abuse he should remove his blinkers and review his association with “the Cat “.

    But can he?

  • Maybe if I was allowed to blog on Troppo. Or even post comments there:)

    BTW Harry, congratulations on your Quantasa post, it takes some guts to say that kind of thing in leftwing/ALP circles.

  • KB Keynes

    what is irrational at Catallaxy on climate science.
    err best, hockey stick, Monkton etal

  • TerjeP

    Catallaxy regularly abuses everybody for everything.

    That is somewhat true of some of the commenters (some of whom are prolific in output). It is a pity. I think Catallaxy should be more assertive in it’s comments moderation policy although having done that previously at ALS I know how tedious it can become. However abuse is not indicative of the typical tone of the actual articles published on Catallaxy.

  • Julie Thomas

    Rafe I don’t agree with you that the abuse on Catalaxy is additional to valid points. The comments rarely even refer to the topic. I think you are fooling yourself about the site having any value for anyone except hardline conservatives and their toadies. This is easy to do; natural irrational behaviour by all people. Are you familiar with the evidence on the way that our biases affect our perception and memory?

    They are bankers aren’t they? The ones who have taken over Catalaxy; they are bankers and the hero-worshiping hypocritical tea-party types. Those type of strong willed people always take over and get to the ‘top’ just because they are such head-kickers, not because they are more intelligent or more deserving.

    Sure people on the left can be abusive but the difference, I think, is that the left try to moderate the abuse and accept that bad behaviour does need to be moderated. The real difference though is that the left have ideas for things not just prejudices against things.

  • Julie do you think it is posssible that your buases affect your perception?

    None of the people who post on Cat are bankers. Some of the commenters may be. So what?

  • hc

    I don’t want my blog to become a continuous commentary on Catallaxy and Rafe. No value in that for anyone.

  • Not interested in exchanging ideas Harry?

    Have you come up with any more examples of the irrationalisms that you listed being connected with IPA et al?

  • hc

    Not with you Rafe.

  • KB Keynes

    your blog Harry but you are adopting a callaxian viewpoint here.

    Rafe showed in his last two posts on Troppo he is clearly not on top indeed not even near the middle on this topic.

    He needs education. Help him. He clearly needs it.

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