Live from Golgafrincham – Not!

In my previous post I asked about the motives of the new site Live from Golgafrincham. The basic answer is, it’s not what it seems and it is not a genuine site. It is indeed intended to be satire or some kind of parody. It caught a number of people out, myself included – to a certain extent. Belly laughs all round. Live and learn : as Douglas Adams himself said,

“A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.’”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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26 Responses to Live from Golgafrincham – Not!

  1. Rachel says:

    Yes, well, your very first hunch was right, but then I think Marcus commenting on your post and perhaps other people being fooled made you think it was genuine. I think you’re probably a bit too trusting. You did give me administrator privileges after all 😉

  2. Yes, it all got rather confusing. I’ll go with being a bit too trusting 🙂

  3. Rachel says:

    The comments from the “Skeptics” all up in arms about his site are pretty funny, especially the ones from Willis Eschenbach.

  4. MikeH says:

    Now this is climate satire worthy of the name. Over 12 months since the last post and it is still funny. If you ever get bored with the fact that the posts are not updated, you can browse the advertising spam accumulating in the comments. They make more sense than most climate cranks. And Baron von Monckhofen – what a character.

  5. BBD says:

    Rachel

    There’s a brilliant video clip going viral right now of this guy doing his viva voce via Skype and in the background…

    NO! Only kidding. Not even satire 😉

  6. BBD says:

    The comments from the “Skeptics” all up in arms about his site are pretty funny, especially the ones from Willis Eschenbach.

    But, but… I thought “sceptics” were natural humorists and barely able to function between bellows of Faragian laughter and it was the “alarmists” who were po-faced miserable gits?

  7. Rachel says:

    Ha ha ha, BBD. I must admit that it has crossed my mind….but surely not.

  8. BBD says:

    Tactically unsound on the part of the examinee, even if such a recording existed 😉

  9. OPatrick says:

    This is a little awkward because anything I say is likely to make me look smug (see what I mean!), but I think there are important things to take away from this episode.

    Firstly it’s largely irrelevant whether or not many ‘sceptics’ got caught out by this – one more drop in a sea of embarassment is hardly going to make a difference to anyone. But ‘learning experiences’ from our ‘side’ are harder to come by.

    As I said, I was mystified that anyone could look at that blog and not see it, almost immediately, as a spoof. Many people, particularly from the sceptical end of the credible spectrum, such as Richard Betts, (and from the credible end of the ‘sceptic’ spectrum) regularly make claims about the equivalence of the two sides but rarely come up with convincing examples from the ‘consensus side’. There’s a reason for that, I believe. The only way anyone could look at this spoof and see it as representative of anything you’d be likely to see would be if they were reading it through the purulence-tinted goggles of the ‘sceptics’. William Connolley, for example, took it seriously enough to disdain (but distain works too) ‘Marcus’s’ response, which suggests something about his perceptions that worries me. (WC made a similar type of claim about examples of exaggeration over on his RP Jr thread and offered to find you examples if pushed – he didn’t accept my pushing – I think they are far rarer than he implies.)

    In gerenral I think people are working really hard to pick their words carefully and not overstate their case. The way that any genuine, or in many cases not even genuine, examples of exaggeration get picked up on and trumpeted across the ‘net highlights this. Yet it almost seems as if the perception is the opposite.

  10. OPatrick,

    This is a little awkward because anything I say is likely to make me look smug

    You have to take advantage of these moments 🙂

    As I said, I was mystified that anyone could look at that blog and not see it, almost immediately, as a spoof.

    In retrospect, I agree. I was confused by it, but considered it possible that a passionate group of people could have decided to set up such a venture. The whole NGO, taxpayer funding thing should have given it away but I guess I couldn’t see why anyone would go to all the effort. In some sense I’m still trying to work out much of what goes on in this debate and don’t always interpret things as I probably should – quite often, to my cost.

    In gerenral I think people are working really hard to pick their words carefully and not overstate their case.

    Yes, I think this is true which is why I find the whole criticism of linking GW to extreme events often unfounded, since people are often much more careful about what they said than their critics acknowledge.

    I suspect there are important things to take away from this, one of which is probably : go with your first instincts. Part of me feels, though, that there isn’t all that much to take away from this in some sense. It was a silly spoof that kind of worked but, probably, not quite as intended. It illustrated some things, but probably not what the originators think they have. Maybe how people interpreted it says something about them, but I would hesitate to judge them too harshly.

  11. BBD says:

    It was a waste of the authors’ time, and a waste of everybody else’s time as well. Even situationism offers more than this.

  12. OPatrick says:

    Maybe how people interpreted it says something about them, but I would hesitate to judge them too harshly.

    Yes – sorry – I don’t mean to be too judgemental about individuals based on this case, I was suggesting that it fitted into a general trend of how people are perceiving the nature of the debate.

  13. OPatrick,
    I think you make a valid point about that. I agree that how people perceive the debate may not be a particular good representative of the actual debate.

  14. @OPatrick

    Eh? Why bring up my name here? I don’t talk about “equivalence”. I just point out things I disagree with, sometimes it’s on one side and sometimes it’s on the other.

    If even mentioning things on one side is “false balance” then how should true balance be achieved? Should I keep count of times when I disagree with each side, and increase/decrease my commentary according to some ratio (eg. 97:3)?

    Incidentally, it’s nice to be considered to be on “the credible spectrum” …. 🙂 On this spectrum, what is the other end from “the sceptical end” called? And is there some position on this spectrum which is peak credibility? If so, where is it?

    Anyway, better go – I need to make 32.333 comments on Bishop Hill to balance this one. 😉

  15. OPatrick says:

    Richard, this is the sort of comment I’m thinking of:

    In addition to the push back against climate science from those who don’t think that climate change is a problem, there is also a push from the other direction – people who want scientists to say things a particular way, or who don’t like the uncertainties being discussed objectively, or who don’t like it when scientists call out exaggeration and misuse of the science for political ends.

    It exemplifies my point well, I think. Where are the examples of people being unhappy with scientists calling out genuine exaggeration?

  16. @OPatrick

    Here’s a very recent one.

  17. OPatrick says:

    Richard, could you expand on your example? I don’t know much about Aubrey Meyer other than the things you’ve already linked to of his, but I certainly agree with his point that “‘Cringe-worthy’ is Government’s sustained refusal to commit to doing enough soon enough”. Is there more where he attacks what you have said – and have you said anything more than that tweet?

  18. @OPatrick

    I also made a more extensive comment under the Independent article here. Quite a few people agreed with me on this. I don’t know if Meyer said any more about this (I try not to take much notice of his trolling) but he clearly thinks that my colleagues and I are somehow part of some sort of deliberate process by the government and/or big business to not act fast enough on climate change – follow us both on Twitter if you want to see.

    Another example is AMEG, who responded to Julia Slingo’s calling out of exaggerated sea ice loss claims by saying that

    Met Office (and Hadley Centre within it) is party to a complete denial of what is actually happening

    and

    We wish to hold the Met Office and its chief scientist to account for putting out scientifically unfounded and incorrect information to delude the government and public

    .

    This was to Parliament – pretty serious accusations in a formal and important setting.

    But anyway, you haven’t expanded on your remark above about “the sceptical end of the credible spectrum”. What’s at the other end of this spectrum? And does credibility vary along this spectrum? If so, why?

  19. Rachel says:

    I suspect there are important things to take away from this, one of which is probably : go with your first instincts.

    This strategy didn’t work so well for Marc Hudson from Manchester Climate Monthly.

  20. OPatrick says:

    Richard, your two examples so far seem to fit what I am saying rather than what you are saying. There doesn’t seem to be anyone objecting to your criticisms of the Independent’s article (although I couldn’t actually find your comment amongst the cesspit of comments there) and the response to AMEG’s exaggerations has been largely critical of them, not you. You can hardly argue that the people who are genuinely exaggerating are the examples of people being unhappy with you criticising genuine exaggeration.

    As to the question about credibility spectra, I didn’t answer because it looked like climateball to me. I didn’t mean anything by it other than that you are someone who is clearly credible in terms of your understanding and communication of the science but your views on the science are probably broadly closer to what the ‘sceptics’ want to hear than the majority of people who understand and communicate climate science. This is simply a broad generalisation intended to communicate something which, I think, most people on here would broadly agree with. As to what’s at the other end of the credibility spectrum, I don’t know. AMEG aren’t, in my view. Steve Bloom certainly is. Comfortably. Does that help?

  21. I guess the asymmetry can already be seen in the topic of this post. It is possible to make a parody of left wing extremists worrying about climate change. I would argue that it is nearly impossible to make a parody of WUWT that would not be seen as a credible voice by the climate dissenters. Try topping Monckton, who is cheered at by the masses at WUWT:

    There are people calling for scientists to be less honest.

    But in my experience that is very, very rare.

  22. Victor,
    That is quite remarkable. Seems like a classic example of mixing up different issues. If an activist – on any side – wants to fight for a particular policy, then that’s their right. However, expecting scientists to not speak out when the scientific evidence is misused, just shows a complete lack of understanding of how science is done, what typically motivates scientists, and how it should be used (in my opinion at least) in policy making.

  23. Steve Bloom says:

    This from Richard Betts (as quoted by Opatrick) is worth highlighting, objecting to climate activists who:

    “want scientists to say things a particular way, or who don’t like the uncertainties being discussed objectively, or who don’t like it when scientists call out exaggeration and misuse of the science for political ends.”

    Notice that the first of those three doesn’t really go with the others.

    As noted in a recent thread, my objections to Richard’s public interactions are largely about understating the science (including, as he made clear while trying to make a different point, his own science) in order to gain trust with deniers, although strictly speaking that’s more a matter of just being willing to say certain things rather than doing so in a particular way.

    Re the discussion above about the AMEG response to Slingo’s sea ice remark, this was IIRC in spring 2012 just before the big crash and her prediction was that no such thing would happen. So AMEG turned out to be basically right about this. But was their objection that she was wrong or that she should have kept her opinion to herself? The distinction seems important relative to Richard’s three categories. If Richard’s real point is that he dislikes being complained about in public, well sure, don’t we all.

    (To be clear, my view about specific seasonal predictions given the present state of the science is that it’s basically playing the horsies. Some touts do have a better track record than others, but come race day can end up with egg on their face just as much as the rankest amateur.)

  24. Steve Bloom says:

    “However, expecting scientists to not speak out when the scientific evidence is misused, just shows a complete lack of understanding of how science is done, what typically motivates scientists, and how it should be used (in my opinion at least) in policy making.”

    Let’s consider this in light of AMEG. I for one happen to agree that they’re out on a limb scientifically (and have even gotten them to make a couple corrections in their posts, although I gave up on that when it became clear that the general carelessness wasn’t going to change), but let’s consider the situation from a broader perspective, which is that BAU continues even while it is possible for such a discussion to even take place. Given the nature of the risk involved, the only term that’s really applicable here (to our whole society) is batshit crazy. That’s especially true when one considers that there are plenty of scientists, thinking especially of David Archer, who disagree that a large-scale methane blowout can happen this century but who also think that this is the century in which anything close to BAU will commit us (via warming oceans) to a perhaps slower but nonetheless inexorable blowout starting in two or three centuries. That’s just about the clathrates, BTW; now add this mechanism, which we have enough permafrost to repeat albeit probably on a somewhat smaller scale. (Really, really neat paper, BTW.)

    So yes, scientists, do criticize AMEG, but be very careful about it and especially do not neglect to reference the larger context, even if, as in Richard’s case, it would make one persona non grata at venues like Bishop Hill.

  25. Steve,
    Yes, I largely agree. That’s kind of why I added the comment that activists are entitled to fight for certain policies. That’s their right and certainly my view, FWIW, is that the risks associated with climate change far outweigh any economic risks associated with possible policy options (of course, our policy makers can quite easily make stupid policy decisions). So, I have much more sympathy with those fighting for action than I do with those who argue that we should do nothing because it’s probably not happening, climate sensitivity is low, or the economic damage will far outweigh any damage from climate change (which I’m convinced has not been determined via any known risk assessment method). However, I still agree that scientists should not be expected to say anything that isn’t entirely consistent with the evidence and should be allowed to speak out if their work is mis-used (by anyone).

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