Live From Golgafrincham

Being a fan of Douglas Adams and his Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, I would normally think well of anyone who associates themselves with some aspect of his stories. However, I’m not quite sure what to make of the new Live from Golgafrincham blog. There’s an element of satire to how they’re presenting themselves, but what I’ve read so far seems serious.

The first post about climate change (Will they ever, ever, ever get it) seems particularly hard hitting and direct. It lists – assuming people want credible information about climate science – who people should be reading and who they should be avoiding. The two lists seem quite reasonable to me. The post has already attracted the usual suspect who either complain about not being on the list (and are then added), want the author to justify what they’ve said (which he’s been trying to do via emails to the commentors), or want an explanation for why they’ve been included on one of the lists (the avoid list typically).

I thought I would post this partly to make people aware of the site, but also to find out if anyone knows anything about them and what their motives are. If they are genuine, I can see them having quite a bit of trouble moderating their comments streams. I can also see complaints that their style is effectively closing down the debate and that they’re taking a very close-minded view of the situation. However, having tried – and largely failed – to have a site where polite discourse is possible, I don’t really blame them. To be clear, I haven’t completely given up on that goal, but it is a good deal harder than I at first thought and, possibly, not really worth all the effort.

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75 Responses to Live From Golgafrincham

  1. Great opportunity. My comment at LFG was not published. Where I had to defend the climate dissenters for being all bought by Big Oil. Here it is.

    Most likely not all climate change dissenters are bought. The people in the background, working for Heartland and the like are, but the direct communicators probably are not. They might get some perks once in a while, but that is not why they do it. You need people that are really convinced, they are much more convincing communicators, which is important for this kind of nonsense.

    There are people with positions that are not scientifically tenable on a number of issues. Also ones without any money behind it. Best example is evolution. People my do this stuff because they have been conned, because the want to have the some opinion as their peers.

    And, if I may refer to my last blog post, some people may like the consequences of climate change. Sure they will suffer, but they may think that others will suffer more.

  2. OPatrick says:

    I suspect he is playing with heads, though whose heads he is playing with is not clear. I suspect he thinks he is playing with ours. And perhaps he is right. Playing with heads is all too easy given the nature of this discourse.

  3. Also very funny in the comments is Latimer Alder (@latimeralder) claiming not to know the Cook et al. paper on the consensus project. Just Google Latimer Alder (@latimeralder) and consensus. :o)

    The next step is that Anthony Watts claims that he does not know about the Watts et al. manuscript. (Patiently waiting, it is taking so long that I am starting to wonder whether they send the manuscript to some Indian vanity press journal, like BEST.)

    I think LFG is real. The pictures look young. It is not uncommon behaviour for young engaged left people. They are probably just very naive and have a steep learning curve ahead of them.

  4. Yes, I think it might be real. The other posts I’ve had a quick look at seem equally serious. Be interesting to see how it progresses. I guess they’re trying to be overtly political, so Pielke Jr should approve.

  5. OPatrick says:

    Now you’re playing with my head.

  6. Bobby says:

    The post seemed reasonable as to their responses in the comments. I made a quick post and it looks like it got published. I made a similar point to Victor’s above.

  7. Eli Rabett says:

    Adler has been around.

  8. Eli, I’m almost certainly showing my ignorance, but Adler?

    [Edit : Okay, I think you meant Alder, not Adler]

  9. Victor, not sure why your comment didn’t go up, if you’d like to re-comment I’m sure it’ll work. ATTP: nice to know you’re an Adams fan too (although, just to dot an embarrassing i, it’s an ‘m’ at the end of Golgafrincham! ;-))

    Yes, we don’t see any point pulling punches, but hopefully we’ll do it with a little bit of humour. Thanks for the blog post on us, much appreciated.

  10. Marcus,
    Blast, and I checked Golgafrincham a number of times and still got it wrong. I’ve read the books a number of times, but not for quite a number of years (more than I may like to admit).

    Good to have the motivation of the site clarified. A bit of humour is, also, generally, a good thing. Good luck with it. I think you may make a number of enemies, but – as far as I can tell – that happens even if you try to be civil 🙂

  11. BBD says:

    It’s *amazing* how fast the fake sceptics fly and flock to any new source criticising their nonsense try to smother it in guano. Amazing.

  12. Some of their list makes sense. Some is showing their prejudices. I wouldn’t put the Graun on the to-read list; I’d verge towards putting it on don’t-read list. The don’t-read list isn’t differentiated between “don’t read because they are wrong, and/or are deliberately trying to confuse/mislead you” and “don’t read because you’re a bit thick and need blinkers in order to avoid confusion from correct but hard-to-understand stuff”. Tim Worstall and Tol belong in the second category (as does Pielke, to start that one again).

    Their basic 4-step process is wrong, too. Because they add as item 4:

    ” therefore we need to change our profligate, over-consumptive lifestyles ”

    This is *not* part of the WG1 consensus that you can ascribe 97% sign-up too.

    MT’s response to DB’s comment (the first one, I think) is revealingly unthinking. Most of what DB says is correct, but MT dismisses it as “almost too silly to parody”.

  13. Paul S says:

    William,

    A different abbreviation might be needed for Marcus Toynboyalé. Thought you were talking about Michael Tobis for a minute. Or is it going to be uppercase and lowercase respectively?

  14. OPatrick says:

    I’m mystified. Did I look at a different blog from you lot?

  15. Rachel says:

    Just got this tweet from Barry:

  16. William,

    I wouldn’t put the Graun on the to-read list; I’d verge towards putting it on don’t-read list.

    I like the Guardian but then that’s my bias, and I don’t believe everything I read in it.

    “don’t read because you’re a bit thick and need blinkers in order to avoid confusion from correct but hard-to-understand stuff”. Tim Worstall and Tol belong in the second category (as does Pielke, to start that one again).

    Tim Worstall, I know little about. I would argue that “correct but hard-to-understand” is a somewhat simplistic interpretation of Tol and Pielke. I would also distinguish between Tol and Pielke’s academic work and what they say publicly (social media, for example).

    The problem I have with discussing Pielke Jr, for example, is that I haven’t been through his work in any detail. However, he does appear to focus on things that are even rarer than the extreme events themselves (landfall hurricanes rather than hurricanes themselves, floods instead of precipitation, ….). He also focuses on costs/damages. So I have some sympathy with those who argue that he isn’t properly normalising his studies (i.e., how carefully does he take mitigating costs into account). Again, I don’t know enough to know for certain, so maybe my sympathy with such people illustrates my own bias. However, my main issue, is more what others appear to take from what he says, than what he actually says or does. They seem to conclude much more about extreme events than I think one should, based on what he presents.

    So, as I understand it, what he does may well tell us something about how costs/damages associated with extreme events have changed with time (or not) and may well tell us something about the near-term future. I doubt that it tells us much about the medium- to long-term, simply because I doubt we’d expect to see much of a signal in his data anyway. In some sense, I would guess that he’s really just confirming that any possible changes to extreme events are still too small to really detect anything significant in analyses that focus on cost/damage etc (although I would quite like to know more about the Munich Re analysis, which seems different to his).

    I should probably read more of Pielke’s work and, to a certain extent, I’m more interested in the physical science than in the political science (which I think is more what he does). It’s my understanding that there is evidence for trends in certain extreme events, although quite how statistically significant these trends are may be a valid question.

    I will admit that I am a little fascinated by your defense of Tol and Pielke. I certainly think the position is much more nuanced than many others acknowledge and I certainly don’t know enough to have issues with their academic work, but I’m mightily unimpressed by their public personas. In fact, in my experience, their academic performance publicly is poor. I don’t think I’ve managed to have a serious discussion with Tol. His goal seems to be to undermine, rather than be constructive. I certainly don’t really intend to bother trying again. It’s not worth my time or effort. I tried having a discussion with Pielke Jr once, but there’s only so many insincere “thanks” that I can take before realising that continuing is pointless. It would also be nice if Pielke actually referred more to work that wasn’t his own.

    Also, in my view, a serious discussion about someone’s work is not just about discussing whether what they’ve done is correct or not, it’s also about whether or not what they’ve concluded (their interpretation of their work) has merit or has issues. In my, admittedly limited, experience both Tol and Pielke like to insist that you accept their conclusions or find an error in their actual analysis, rather than showing any willingness to discuss the broader conclusions and maybe the assumptions. I think this is a crucial part of doing science (physical or political) and I think Tol and Pielke both fall flat in this regard. One should, in my opinion, be willing to acknowledge the limitations of one’s own work.

    Of course, I’m sure one could apply the same criticism to others involved in this topic, but that’s my general view, FWIW.

  17. Rachel,
    It appears that Marcus disagrees with Barry. So, either we’re really being played here, or Barry doesn’t get it.

  18. Rachel says:

    One of their team does look an awful lot like Prince Charles – http://livefromgolgafrincham.org/about/

  19. OPatrick says:

    It has the finesse of a Josh cartoon.

    That’s not a compliment.

  20. OPatrick,

    It has the finesse of a Josh cartoon.

    That’s not a compliment.

    Yes, I can see that being an issue. I was thinking a little about this on the way home. There’s not much point in becoming the non-“skeptic” equivalent of Bishop Hill or WUWT. That won’t work, I think. I also think one has to be careful of conflating science with politics. The scientific evidence doesn’t tell us what to do. It can give us hints, but it really does not tell us what to do. So, I think they have to be careful of assuming that the scientific evidence immediately tells us to do X. Having said that, I have no issue with them having explicit political goals. In my opinion, that’s fine, but they probably shouldn’t assume that their political goals are obvious given then scientific evidence. They would need to make stronger arguments than, “climate change is happening, therefore we must do X”.

  21. OPatrick says:

    errr, no – that’s not my point.

  22. OPatrick,
    Ahhh, okay, I’ve misunderstood then. What was your point?

  23. Steve Bloom says:

    It’s often difficult to know whether Barry is a Poe or not, so Barry’s opinion about whether someone/thing else is such becomes too recursive to contemplate. Hmm, recursive Poe. Is there a paper in that?

  24. OPatrick says:

    It is ‘sceptic’ ‘satire’. I didn’t think it was very good, but it appears I may have been wrong about that.

  25. Rachel says:

  26. OPatrick, if it is, then some people appear to be lying. My current view is that it’s not, but some still seem to think that it is. I’ll guess we’ll all have a good laugh once we know for sure 🙂

  27. OPatrick says:

    Well, at least there’s still the physics 🙂

  28. Rachel says:

    You might want to have a look at the comments in Geoff Chambers blog here – http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/looser-screws-than-lews/

  29. Steve Bloom says:

    “The scientific evidence doesn’t tell us what to do.” But the science combined with commonly shared values gives us more than just hints (albeit nothing so much as a roadmap). I think you’re missing a very key point here, as this is the reason the science gets attacked so viciously.

  30. Rachel,
    Hmmm, now I’m not so sure. Maybe it is just satire. In fact, maybe you’ve just convinced me. Kind of funny, I guess, although verging on the devious side. I guess all the NGO, we get money from the taxpayer, oil funded skeptics should have given it away. So much of what goes on in this debate is so odd, that it’s sometimes hard to know what’s satire and what isn’t.

    I’m trying to think if Marcus – or whoever it really is – actually said that it wasn’t. I think I interpreted it that way, but it may be that he really did not state this.

    If it is just satire, then if those who set it up put as much effort into understanding climate science, we might actually get somewhere.

    Of course, it’s easier for the “pseudo-skeptics” to do this than those with more mainstream view, as How would you satirise WUWT, for example. Just impossible to do anything that is more ridiculous than WUWT already is.

  31. OPatrick says:

    What I don’t get is that it looks like what the ‘sceptics’ constantly claim climate science communication is like, but no-one can ever give examples of climate science communication genuinely looking like this – so have people actually been convinced by the ‘sceptics’ constant drip-drip of misinformation?

  32. Steve,

    But the science combined with commonly shared values gives us more than just hints (albeit nothing so much as a roadmap). I think you’re missing a very key point here, as this is the reason the science gets attacked so viciously.

    I think it’s the “commonly shared values” that’s the main stumbling block, though.

  33. OPatrick,

    What I don’t get is that it looks like what the ‘sceptics’ constantly claim climate science communication is like, but no-one can ever give examples of climate science communication genuinely looking like this

    Well, it did stand out, so that would seem to confirm what you’re saying. I was somewhat taken with a site that appeared passionate, but misguided, as there didn’t seem to be too much of that. As I said above, though, at least there is space to satirise the “mainstream” side. I don’t think it’s really possible to satirise the “skeptics”.

  34. Rachel says:

    AndThen,

    Doesn’t the photo of Prince Charles rather give it away? And then there’s Ian Woolley’s comment at Geoff’s blog:

    Ian Woolley (@IanGWoolley) says:
    March 22, 2014 at 6:57 pm
    Is Marcus a parody by any chance? The answer is, embarrassingly, yes. More actual jokes might make it a bit more obvious perhaps. I’ll work on that. 😉

  35. Yes, that’s rather what convinced me. I hadn’t noticed Prince Charles till you pointed it out, though.

    So, I guess the question is whether or not this actually funny? I can certainly see the funny side, but there is a somewhat malicious taint to it too, though.

  36. OPatrick says:

    I find it quite disturbing, particularly that WC took it seriously enough to treat it as worthy of being distained in a similar way to some serious attempts at commentary that he may have at least an arguable point about.

  37. OPatrick, given that the satire seemed obivous to you, it appears that you’re more perceptive than I am 🙂

  38. OPatrick says:

    And that genuinely would be worrying.

  39. BBD says:

    All that effort for what, exactly?

    Taking the piss out of earnest, right-on ENGO types? And this hasn’t been done before? This is all very odd.

  40. BBD,
    Well, yes. Normally satire has some kind of meaningful message. I’m not entirely sure what this one is at the momen – although maybe it says more about the standard “skeptic” view of the mainstream than anything meaningful about the mainstream. I’m finding it moderately amusing, but other than that am not really getting the point.

  41. Steve Bloom says:

    Anders, Mark Ryan put it well in a comment on Victor’s latest post:

    It is no accident that one can almost never find anybody stating they welcome the predicted consequences of global warming. Some norms are so fundamental and universal, that most people would not dare to publicly question them, even if they question them privately. The potential damage of global warming is one of these cases. It’s why I think the argument has not been framed in terms of values, but in terms of climate science being false – if we accept the facts of global warming, we are bound by ubiquitous and deeply rooted norms to also accept it is a bad thing and must be prevented. The pseudosceptical movement is, I think, an effective way of avoiding the normative question altogether, simply because “if it isn’t true, there is no conversation about whether it is good or bad”. Note the tobacco companies realised early that they had no mileage in arguing that cancer was the smoker’s own fault, and not the cigarette maker’s responsibility – they instead tried to attack whether the link between smoking and cancer was a fact at all.

    So I think you have this quite reversed. The stumbling block isn’t the *shared* values (emphasis to note that the not-shared values are nonetheless necessary to explaining the motivations involved) but rather the desire to avoid having a discussion about what they mean for climate change.

  42. Rachel says:

    I thought Willis Eschenbach’s comments were rather funny. The two he made before getting his email from Marcus which no doubt explained everything.

  43. The post was possible for naive young people, but the about page of LFG is completely over the top, with Charles and non-existing EU departments as funding source. Seems I was lucky that my comment was not posted.

  44. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Wotts, it only seems malicious because so many on the Righteous side fell for it. I doubt that its creator expected that. He seems to have created a too-accurate pastiche rather than a satire.

  45. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Correction: Too many among both the Righteous and Wrongeous.

  46. This seems to be multiple examples of Poe’s law, Poe’s corollary, and Poe’s paradox all in one 🙂

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poe's_Law

  47. Rachel says:

    Seems I was lucky that my comment was not posted.

    Er, Victor, yes it was.

  48. Vinny, well I’m trying to see the funny side.

  49. Rather large clue in the name Golgafrincham too

    “Its people decided it was time to rid themselves of an entire useless third of their population, and so the descendants of the Circling Poets concocted a story that their planet would shortly be destroyed in a great catastrophe. (It was apparently under threat from a “mutant star goat”). The useless third of the population (consisting of hairdressers, tired TV producers*, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, management consultants, telephone sanitisers and the like) were packed into the B-Ark, one of three purported giant Ark spaceships, and told that everyone else would follow shortly in the other two. The other two thirds of the population, of course, did not follow and “led full, rich and happy lives until they were all suddenly wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone”.”

  50. Frank, it’s always obvious in retrospect.

  51. Steve,

    emphasis to note that the not-shared values are nonetheless necessary to explaining the motivations involved

    Yes, that roughly what I was implying. It seems that people either think it’s not happening or they’ll be alright (or they try to argue that new technology will be more expensive than current energy sources and hence the developing world will benefit more if we do nothing than if we insist on changes).

  52. OPatrick says:

    other than that am not really getting the point

    Maybe it’s source material for a social science paper.

  53. Oh dear.

    There has long been a widely held view in the sceptic community that climachondriacs are completely humour-resistant.

    I think this thread might earn Anders a spot in the climate Hall of Fame one day, if nothing else does 😉

  54. BBD says:

    Humour is *funny* FG.

  55. “There has long been a widely held view in the sceptic community that climachondriacs are completely humour-resistant.”

    When do you plan to put your theory to the test by being funny?

  56. OPatrick says:

    Foxgoose, I found the ‘recursive fury’ thingy quite funny. Does that count?

  57. Foxgoose is now running around on Twitter claiming that I swallowed the Golgafrincham spoof whole ( repeatedly!). Really? Sure, I did get conned. No doubt. But swallowed it whole? Really? Did FG actually read my post? Of course not, don’t be silly. That would require actually reading something and giving it some thought. Much easier just to jump to whatever conclusion seems most apt and amusing. Well, I guess a good laugh is all one can really do. When it comes to Foxgoose, laughing is certainly the only thing worth doing. Anything else would just be entirely pointless, and a waste of time 🙂

  58. This thread is one of your best ever.
    If it’s any consolation, something very similar happened with Geoff Chambers, see link in Rachel’s comment.

  59. Tom Curtis says:

    Anders, I am almost 100% certain it is satire, and satire aimed at those combating climate disinformation with hostile intent. A blog version of the Sokal affair, if you like.

    My reason for thinking so is that the reasons given by Toynbayale for not reading from the second list, and for believing the authors of the second list do it for pay match too transparently a denier misconstrual of “warmist” reasoning. In particular, it would be nice to believe that no ‘warmist’ believes that authors of major fake skeptic blogs do it for the money simply because of the views they espouse (I am realistic enough to know that some “warmists” do believe it for that reason, but they are not representative and their reasoning is invalid). Indeed, I have very good reason to believe that some (including McIntyre and Watts) do not do it for the money; but also reason to believe that some do, while some find a remarkably convenient convergence between their financial interest and their ideological proclivities. (It is difficult, or impossible to separate the latter two groups, but Fred Singer and Patrick Michaels definitely belong to one or the other.)

    That Toynbayale then goes on to “acknowledge” that he is himself blogging for money makes the parody clearer.

    As a final note, I believe the title of that particular post is a very direct dig at the targets of the satire, suggesting that they will never realize it is satire.

  60. Tom Curtis says:

    Sorry, my post was obviously too late.

    As to whether or not it is funny – only if it caught people – which it evidently did, on both sides. It is, however, certainly malicious.

  61. MikeH says:

    You probably want to check Ian Wooley’s twitter feed to get some background. He is retweeting Marc Morano which sets the bar. [Mod: snipped] from the Brad Keyes school of pretentious bloviation.

    He calls himself left-wing libertarian but he has written for the ex “Living Marxism” now “Spiked” magazine run by a former left, now hard right libertarian group. Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill does hatchet jobs on climate science and the environmental movement for Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian.

    I suspect the site was designed to draw in “warmists” but instead scored an own goal by sucking in the conspiracy theorists like Chambers. Presumably the direct emails were an attempt to warn off the climate cranks.

    And here is the link to Chambers again. Hilarious.
    http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/looser-screws-than-lews/

    I am not sure of Woolley’s association but here is the background on Spiked.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiked_(magazine)#Environmentalism_and_global_warming

  62. Tom Curtis says:

    I have to say, based on the comments at LFG, more fake skeptics were caught by the satire than “warmists”. It is particularly amusing to see Willis go on and on after he has received an email presumably letting him in on the joke.

    One exchange in particular interests me:

    “Ed Hadcock March 25, 2014 at 11:46 pm · · Reply →
    Marcus – may I call you Marcus? – just a quick thanks for your logical deduction of the confusion merchants’ motivations. That same logic you use is markedly absent from the ‘sceptical’ side of the debate. In fact, that sort of logic can only really be found within the consensus camp, and I’m grateful to see it reproduced here so effortlessly.

    Marcus Toynboyalé March 25, 2014 at 11:55 pm · · Reply →
    Thank god, another one who gets the salient point. Thanks Ed”.

    The fact is that you see parallel reasoning from fake skeptics all the time. It is the standard conspiracy theory lite, ie, that scientists are fraudulently altering/misinterpreting the data on global warming so that they can maintain a gravy chain. (I’m not sure if that theory is more or less popular than the variety of more full on conspiracy theories, ie, that they are doing it as part of a conspiracy with the IPCC to institute world government {Monckton’s version}, or to ruin the economy of the US, or of Western powers generally, or that they are doing it as a means to commit genocide.)

    The interesting question is, is Ed Hadcock being satirical in his comment; and is Toynboyale being satirical in his? In the later case, Toynboyale has aimed his satire straight down the middle. But that seems unlikely given that he apparently explained the joke to Eschenbach, and asked Eschenbach to pass on the explanation to Alder; but extended no similar courtesy to “warmists”. It appears that Toynboyale can be added to the list of those caught by his own satirical trap.

  63. Joshua says:

    Irony abounds.

  64. MikeH says:

    If its humour your after, try this article from the Melbourne Age where Richard Tol accuses Bob Ward of reaching “a new level of trolling”.

    Now anyone who has encountered Richard Tol’s online presence is probably having a good belly laugh about know.

    And then there was this piece of clickbait from the BBC. “Dissent among scientists over key climate impact report.” Turns out “scientists plural” was in fact GWPF economist Richard Tol again, this time spitting the dummy over the WG2 report.

    To be fair to Tol, his statement “The message in the first draft was that through adaptation and clever development these were manageable risks, but it did require we get our act together,” would have him labelled a dangerous radical in Australia.

  65. Steve Bloom says:

    Hmm, so the BBC has promoted an economist to scientist and, as you note pluralized him? Meh.

    That aside, his bailing out is a very good sign.

  66. Steve Bloom says:

    From the same article, “Dr. Arthur Petersen, the chief scientist at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, who is representing his government in Yokohama” says:

    “Working group I (the physical sciences) doesn’t want to sound alarmist.”

    Sad and troubling, not really news although a bit surprising to hear it from an insider. But with too many people like Richard Betts in key roles, it was inevitable.

  67. Pingback: Live from Golgafrincham – Not! | And Then There's Physics

  68. Barry Woods says:

    Tom – No courtesy to ‘warmists’ ?- may I point out my tweet to Rachel to advise you all

  69. BBD says:

    Steve

    That aside, his bailing out is a very good sign.

    Yes. He has thrown himself out of the window, so saving others the effort.

  70. Barry,
    I believe Tom was referring only to the character Toynboyale, and not making a general statement.

  71. Jan says:

    OMG, you can’t see yourselves in the satire? I just can’t.

  72. Jan,
    Sure, elements. I’m not sure why you’ve ended with “I just can’t”. Since you appear to like satire, I find this quite amusing and – at times – quite apt. You?

  73. Pingback: Another Week of Global Warming News, March 30, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  74. Pingback: The new environmental threat – Frapping | The IPCC Report

  75. Pingback: Satire, spoofs and Poe’s law | The IPCC Report

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