Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 6, 2015

Fallacy Alert! James Delingpole and the Argument from Obdurate Ignorance

One reason I love the Internet is because it makes room for more snark.  Clever satire and lampooning can sometimes be more effective than anything for getting people to stop digging in their heels and do the right thing.  Snarky commentary becomes a loathsome freak show, however, when the intransigently ignorant try it, and unfortunately, that’s the way I see Conservative political commentary moving, whether it’s amateur or professional.  (I’m a Republican myself, so I take no joy in saying this.)

Take, for instance, some of the amateur commentary on a post a friend of mine shared on Facebook the other day.  He linked a conservative political commentary lauding Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to Congress, in which he criticized the Obama Administration.  Whatever.  But then the ultra-conservative lackwits had to start chiming in with “snarky” comments about how we should elect Netanyahu as President, because apparently we don’t pay any attention to where candidates were born, anymore.  Such comments would be super witty if, for instance, there hadn’t been birth announcements for Obama in a couple Honolulu papers, and if the standard legal interpretation of the constitutional requirement that the President be a “natural-born citizen” were not that one just has to be a citizen by birth–like Barack Obama, wherever he was born.

The amateurs are usually just parroting things they’ve heard from the professionals–people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Steyn, and–because he has one of those posh-sounding British accents–James Delingpole.  The other day, Delingpole wrote a “snarky” piece attacking a new BBC documentary about climate change.  The title of the piece, “‘Climate Change is Real Because Shut Up!’ Explains the BBC. Again,” signals the snarky intent, but the content is nothing but adolescent drivel.

Here’s an excerpt.

Its arguments went something like this: climate change is real because nice, smiley girl with red hair; climate change is real because maths; climate change is real because potted history of US sea captain who standardised methods for measuring water temperature; climate change is real because Tottenham Hotspur; etc. With these ingenious distractions, it effortlessly swerved contentious issues such as the fact that the entire 20th-century temperature record has been subjected to unexplained — and probably unjustifiable — adjustments. I wonder what percentage of its presumably tiny audience it convinced.

Well, I could object that Delingpole’s point about adjustments to the temperature record are idiotic, and that people who actually do spatial and temporal statistical analyses think such adjustments are necessary, which is why all the different groups of scientists who work on this problem come up with about the same answers.  But that would miss Delingpole’s main point!  Namely, the BBC program is stupid because it uses the dreaded “Appeal to Authority.”  And as any snot-nosed 10th grader can tell you, that’s a “Logical Fallacy“!!!

Do I realise that the woman I have so peremptorily dismissed as “nice, smiley girl with red hair” is in fact none other than Dr Hannah Fry, a mathematician from University College, London?

Well yes. I thought I’d covered that particular Appeal To Authority, more or less, in the sentence which said “climate change is real because maths.” Had there been space, I suppose, I could have added “climate change is real because doctorate” and “climate change is real because University College, London.” But I’m not sure it would have added a great deal to the point I was trying to make.

“What’s wrong with pointing out a fallacious argument?” you might ask… if you are particularly dense.  The thing is, as I have pointed out before, a logical fallacy is simply an argument that doesn’t necessarily follow from the premises, but it may still be a reasonable argument.  Here’s a quick example of a fallacious Appeal to Authority.

Premise 1:  My doctor says I should lose weight.

Premise 2:  Doctors are healthcare experts.

Conclusion:  Therefore, I should lose weight.

Now, are doctors infallible when it comes to healthcare recommendations? Of course not, and therefore this is a fallacious appeal to authority.  But is it a stupid argument?  “Of course it is,” answers Aunt Matilda, as she tries to smear urine on your face to cure your acne.  You know perfectly well it isn’t a stupid argument, though, right?

Here’s why.  When we are talking about ANY complex scientific (or other) topic, there is simply no practical way around using some appeals to authority.  Suppose I were to write a paper about some scientific topic.  Certainly I would try to make a solid argument, but I would typically cite any number of other peer-reviewed sources for most of my claims.  Wouldn’t I just be appealing to the authority of the authors of those sources, in such cases?  Obviously, but what other choice do I have?  Am I supposed to redo all those experiments and observations, program my own models, etc., etc.?  Who has time for that?  And what about my audience?  Are they supposed to just take my word for it?  Are they supposed to take the word of the sources I cite?  Checking things for yourself is GREAT, and I advocate it strongly!  However, NOBODY has the time to check every single detail of the arguments surrounding a complex topic like climate change, so all we can do is spot check.

That’s what I’ve tried to do.  I’m and Earth scientist to begin with, so I have a good deal of background knowledge to help me, but I’ve also gone ahead and read quite a bit of peer-reviewed literature about the subject, and I’ve even read a lot of contrarian literature.  What’s more, I’ve even bothered to pick apart and reproduce some of the work of prominent contrarians like Roy Spencer, and I’ve even published a couple peer-reviewed papers about climate-related topics.  That was an awful lot of work, and yet I still have to rely on others for much of my information.

The bottom line is that the only way around appeals to authority is an enormous amount of work, and no matter how much work you do, you will never be able to completely get rid of them.  And that’s why appeals to authority aren’t ridiculous, even though they aren’t necessarily right.  We appeal to experts precisely BECAUSE they have put in an enormous amount of work, and have to appeal to authority less than the rest of us.

Hmmmm, that brings up a good question.  How much work has James Delingpole done, so that he feels comfortable mocking the consensus of almost all the climate change experts?  Let’s answer that question via an interview the BBC aired, in which Sir Paul Nurse, a scientist and the head of the Royal Society, asked this very thing of Delingpole.  Here’s a partial transcript, and you can see the video below.

Paul Nurse: Consensus can be used like a dirty word. Consensus is actually the position of the experts at the time, and if it’s working well, and it doesn’t always work well, but if it’s working well they evaluate the evidence. You make your reputation in science by actually overturning that. So there’s a lot of pressure to do it. But if over the years the consensus doesn’t move, you have to wonder is the argument, is the evidence against the consensus good enough?

James Delingpole: Science has never been about consensus, and this is I think one of the most despicable things about Al Gore’s so-called consensus. Consensus is not science.

Paul Nurse: I want to give an analogy in a different situation. Say you had cancer and you went to be treated. There would be a consensual position on your treatment, and it is very likely that you would follow that consensual treatment because you would trust the clinical scientists there. The analogy is that you could say, well, I’ve done my research into it and I disagree with that consensual position, but that would be a very unusual position for you to take. And I think sometimes the consensual position can be criticised when in fact it is most likely to be the correct position.

James Delingpole: Yes. Shall we talk about climategate because I don’t accept your analogy really, I think it’s very easy to caricature the position of climate change sceptics as the sort of people who don’t look left and right when crossing the road or who think that the quack cure that they’ve invented for cancer is just as valid as the one chosen by the medical establishment. I think it is something altogether different and I do slightly resent the way that you are bringing in that analogy.

Later, Nurse asked Delingpole about where he was getting his information.  Turns out it isn’t from the scientific literature.

James Delingpole:  It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers because  I simply haven’t got the time, I haven’t  the scientific expertise. What I rely on is people who have got the time and the expertise to do it and write about it  and interpret it. I am an interpreter of interpretations.

So there you have it.  James Delingpole can mock the BBC for referencing the consensus of almost all the climate change experts because it’s an “Appeal to Authority,” but when push comes to shove, he admits that he doesn’t have the background knowledge to assess the evidence for himself.  All he can do is substitute the authority of people who are… not… almost all the experts.

In my opinion, this is another sad demonstration that people like Delingpole should get out of the snark business.  Snarkiness ends up being a complete train wreck when used by someone who refuses to do the necessary work to understand anything at all about what he’s yammering.  Sorry, James, but being an obnoxious windbag does’t make you H. L. Mencken.



  1. Heck, if you were to write the paper that included the results of your attempts to redo all the science you would otherwise have referred to in the original paper, what is someone to do with that? Accepting your results would be YET ANOTHER “Appeal to Authority” fallacy.

    So the only way is for the reader to do it all over again themselves.

    But then nobody else is allowed to accept EITHER OF YOU, because that would be, again, an appeal to authority. So a third person, redoing EVERYTHING EVER LEARNED on the subject.

    None of which lets a fourth person accept the results.

    As to consensus, a consensus isn’t the cause of a truth of reality, but a truth of reality will cause a consensus.

    And lastly, why should I listen or believe in what James Delingpole says? After all, that would make him an authority appealed to, therefore wrong as far as Dellingpole believes.

    Thinking things through isn’t a denier strong point however.

    (note: killing javascript on any wordpress site seems to make it respond at more than interglacial pace)

  2. If I remember correctly, it was after that interview with Paul Nurse that Delingpole claimed to have been “intellectually raped” by Nurse.

    At very least, he was intellectually bludgeoned to a bloody pulp.

  3. James Delingpole: With these ingenious distractions, it effortlessly swerved contentious issues such as the fact that the entire 20th-century temperature record has been subjected to unexplained — and probably unjustifiable — adjustments.

    It gives the impression that Delingpole was somewhat distracted by the red hairs. Otherwise he would have noticed that the BBC showed how climatologists reduce the warming of the sea surface temperature. And that they provided one of the justifications for the adjustments, the type of bucket used. The other main justification is the change to measuring sea surface temperature at the cooling inlet.

    These adjustments that reduce the warming of the sea surface temperature are more important than the adjustments for non-climatic changes of the land surface temperature.

    Thus the net effect is that climatologists reduce global warming.

    Not sure whether political activists really prefer the warming seen in the raw data.

    • Thus the net effect is that climatologists reduce global warming.

      If that rumor is true, the climatologists in question are misrepresenting—by understating—an existential threat to humanity.

      Surely such scientific misconduct rises to the level of criminal. Or if it doesn’t, we need legislative reform to recognize the heinous nature of this kind of climate-change minimization.

      These climatologists are—if the allegations are correct—disinforming us all, lulling us into a false sense of complacency about the cliff we’re sleepwalking towards. By downplaying the truth they not only violate the honesty that is at the heart of all science, they knowingly run the risk of killing millions of people. How do they sleep at night??

      Prosecute these deniers immediately.

  4. I’m glad that Google is apparently going to change the ranking system of web pages, depending upon their trustworthiness, rather than the number of pages linking t o them. The current system has been abused by the denial industry with numerous denialist bloggers and pseudo-sceptical websites all linking to one-another. So hopefully the the entire denialist house of cards will collapse under the combined weight of its own bullshit.

  5. “Appeal to Authority” is a fallacy when you appeal to the authority of a cherry-picked individual. Appealing to scientific consensus is not a fallacy whatsoever, but the only choice you have if you want to be taken serious: It is appealing to 1) the consensus of a lot of cross-checked work plus 2) consistent experimental evidence.

    • Florifulgurator,

      your comment is pointless, thanks to your overconfidence in your ability to use the word “consensus” in a sentence. This, for example, is gibberish:

      “It is appealing to the consensus of a lot of cross-checked work”

      Please consult a good dictionary.

      On the plus side, your name is cool and that’s an interesting avatar you’ve got!

      • Nope, he’s got it right. YOUR response is gibberish, with mere claims made without proof as if they aren’t necessary.

        • Brad must be slipping. It normally takes at least a few comments before people realise that it’s gibberish. Of course, maybe you’ve encountered Brad before or you’re particularly insightful. Either way, you’re obviously quite correct; it is gibberish.

          • I’m sure Florifulgurator is intelligent enough to work out why his sentence was meaningless but I have less faith in your competence (and even less in Wow’s), ATTP.

            So let me spell it out explicitly—not to Florifulgurator but in the forlorn hope of educating you and Wow.

            “Consensus” is defined as “majority opinion.”

            So, for instance, a “scientific consensus” is an opinion shared by a majority of scientists.

            The phrase “the consensus of a lot of cross-checked work” is therefore word salad.

            Consensus measures OPINION (not RESEARCH) and only PEOPLE (not RESEARCH) can hold opinions.

            That someone calling himself a scientist would need me to explain these elementary concepts to him (and not for the first time, if memory serves) is a grim indictment of academia.

            And this is not the only Scientific Reasoning 101 refresher I’ve had to waste my own time giving you, is it ATTP? I hope you haven’t forgotten your schooling in this thread.

            You should be embarrassed, and your students should be refunded.

            • Word-salad, Brad, word-salad. Being very definite and absolutely certain in your views, does not make it not gibberish.

            • Bray gets this wrong all the time. A “Special needs” definition used to “prove” he’s right.

              OED definition:

              Definition of consensus in English:
              [usually in singular]
              A general agreement:

              Therefore the statement becomes:

              1) the general agreement of a lot of cross-checked work

              which is entirely sane English. Which may be why Brad doesn’t get it. Sanity isn’t his strong suit if it has any detriment to his rightness.

            • Wow you’re an idiot.

              It’s a general agreement AMONG PEOPLE.

              Let’s try Collins:

              consensus (kənˈsɛnsəs)


              general or widespread agreement (esp in the phrase consensus of opinion)
              Since consensus refers to a collective opinion, the words of opinion in the phrase consensus of opinion are redundant and should therefore be avoided

            • And that is EXACTLY what I was talking about with Brad. A “Special needs” definition, holding to it fast and ignoring anything that doesn’t work for him.

              It’s how he threadbombs every site he goes on.

              Hell, the moron has even been banned from WUWT and JoNova’s site.

              Look up Histrionic Personality Disorder. That’s Brad.

            • Barry,

              Wow is embarrassing the climate movement. If you care about the fate of the planet you should probably ban him from your site before he brings believalism further into disrepute and discredit. I loathe censorship generally, but if human civillization itself hangs in the balance…?

              When third parties see your “side” spouting delusional untruths, such as Wow’s assertion that I have

              been banned from WUWT and JoNova’s site

              , whose counterreality can be proven in a couple of minutes’ googling, they wonder: what else are these people fantasising about? Is the entire putative climate crisis just a figment of Wow-like psychosis?

            • LOL… speaking of Wow’s bizarre belief that I’ve been kicked off WUWT, ladies and gentlemen, you might enjoy reading the last argument I got into with Anthony… it was hilarious:


            • Guys. Nobody cares.

      • Brad, me typed too fast. The sencond “consensus” was meant to mean something differnt (but not completely so). Like, a Biologist noting a blob of quorum sensing bacteria, or a Quantum Mechanic respecting a Bose-Einstein condensate of mutually co-checking (and f.a.p.p independent) observers in a Rovellian multi-observer theory not of QM, but of reality.

        • Interesting analogy, thanks Florifulgurator & Martin.

          (Unlike our host Barry, I *do* care where knowledge comes from.)

        • Consilience is the correct, but barely known word for the agreement of multiple different lines of evidence.

          That’s not the same as consensus, which in terms of evidence is the result of multiple experiments on the same phenomena that come to agreement on the result.

          If there were no such thing as consensus, there would be no statistics, since you would be unable to define sample size, which is a consensus by sufficient sample size on the subject being detected.

          E.g. the sample size strengthens the case for smoking causing cancer when you take a sample of smokers over time and check the rates of cancer against a sample of non-smokers.

          That’s the result of consensus in experimental determination.

          Consilience would be the multiple lines of proof of the link between cancer and smoking:

          1) the study of cancer rates above
          2) checking the type of cancer against the possible cancers from cigarette smoke
          3) tissue tests in a lab for carcinogenic substance effects
          4) chemical analysis of the chemicals released in tobacco smoke

          and so on

          Consilience are multiple lines of evidence pointing to the same conclusion. Not often known

          Consensus is the multiple incidences of the same test producing the same conclusion.

          Both are correct terms, within their respective definitions. The latter is used by most people for both definitions because the former is unknown (for example the dictionary on the web browser doesn’t know the word).

          To claim you wrong, they are either wrong themselves, confused themselves, or nit-picking to shut you down and appear smarter. When they aren’t.

  6. Barry, I’m not sure I agree 100% with your epistemology there.

    No appeal to authority is ever necessary in science. When I use an existing paper as the starting point for my own research I am not, in fact, making an appeal to authority. I am just making an appeal to evidence.

    Scientific papers ARE the physical tokens of the currency of evidence.

    It is a false dichotomy to suggest that I EITHER have to appeal to or “trust” in another scientist’s authority, OR redo all her research from scratch.

    Instead all I have to do is read her *paper.* And its worth, as evidence, has nothing to do with the fact that SHE wrote it. In fact, the name of the author[s] is an irrelevant, prejudicial consideration and a recipe for bias and self-delusion, so as a proper scientist I won’t even take it into account.

    The value of a paper, as evidence, depends only on the fact that it was written using the scientific method. (Peer review is simply a way of certifying this; it saves the reader the trouble of double-checking that the paper is methodologically valid.)

    In science, a paper does NOT gain any extra value just because 100 co-authors put their names to it, rather than, say, 2. Scientists cannot magically transfer their own personal authority onto artifacts. That’s pre-scientific superstition.

    • Hi Brad,

      Anything you don’t check out for yourself, you accept on SOMEONE’s authority, whether it is the author’s, editor’s, anonymous reviewers’, or whatever. This does NOT mean that expert peer review is worthless, or shouldn’t count as backing for a reasonable argument. What it does mean is that the conclusions of arguments based on scientific evidence cannot be proven true based strictly on deductive logic. But so what? Who ever claimed they could?

      • Er, no, Barry.

        First off, I wasn’t really looking to get into a debate with you.

        I know epistemology; you (painfully obviously) do not.

        I was merely informing you, as a courtesy, that the argument you develop in your post doesn’t make a lick of sense. Because I’m a nice guy. If I’d gotten so many things so wrong on a single page, I’d certainly want to be informed ASAP so that I could fix my mistakes. So I’m treating you as I would have you treat me if I’d made a series of (say) mineralogical howlers.

        In short, you can take my help or leave it.

        Secondly, words mean things. ‘Appeal to authority’ means something. It refers to the use of a CLAIM made by an expert as evidence for the truth of that claim. By ‘claim’ I mean any assertion or expressed opinion.

        In other words:

        ‘Dr. Smith says she thinks P(x), so it’s probably true that P(x).’

        This fallacy is a perfectly suitable heuristic for a whole variety of problems in day-to-day life. After all, as you (commendably) remind readers of your blog, a fallacy isn’t necessarily delusory. It can often be better than nothing. It’s not proof, but it might provide a strong clue to the truth.

        However, there is one scenario where you CANNOT use this style of reasoning.

        You can’t reason like this *in SCIENCE.*

        Science is special.

        Scientists have to reason in a special way. Science has its own special epistemology.

        For one thing, opinions don’t mean jack f__king shit in science.

        Dr. Smith can say she *thinks* that P(x) til she’s blue in the face, but you’re not allowed to conclude that P(x) is therefore likely to be true.

        Dr. Smith is, however, allowed to write a paper testing the truth of P(x). Her paper will then become *evidence* for or against P(x).

        You can then reason for or against P(x) on the basis of the evidence constituted by Dr Smith’s paper.

        But in doing so, you are NOT appealing to Dr. Smith’s authority, because you are NOT appealing to her opinion.

        You appeal to the EVIDENCE.


        • Brad, you did not read and understand the paper so you are not appealing to evidence. You are appealing to what any of a number of scientists say about the paper. And they are giving their opinion, especially if they don’t replicate the experiments. Further, in doing any experiment, they appeal to the opinions other scientists have on the instruments (laws of nature, etc) used because they don’t have the time to mine the minerals and study the behavior of materials and redo the programming, etc, that makes the tools apparently work correctly. We all rely on faith an awful lot. The point of this blog posting in part is to “remind” us that while we all rely on trust, not all sources of trust are equal. Some people actually do study a problem more and actually redo some of the experiments and have a better idea than others.

          It is incorrect to claim that science doesn’t require relying on trust. I’d be curious to see who you name as a scientist doing or who has done noteworthy work who did not rely on others. (You may want to read the earlier comment by Wow).

          BTW, were you expecting Barry or anyone else here to rely on the authority you presented as a proxy for the point you were claiming and claiming we would likely not understand for ourselves? Why would we appeal to authority?… Or were you making a joke of some sort?

          • Jose_X, thank you for challenging me on this. You ask smart questions.

            Please see, a few comments downstream, my reply to your 3rd post. (I tried to respond to all your points in one long comment.) Let me know how satisfactorily I’ve addressed your questions.

          • Brad,

            I think we are talking past each other. I am saying that an appeal to authority is a fallacy **within the framework of deductive logic**. That’s why it is listed as a fallacy on Wikipedia, and in every 10th grade English textbook. However, appeals to authority might very well be quite reasonable, because most of the reasoning people do is not deductive logic. It doesn’t seem to me that you disagree with this in anything you’ve said–you appear to just object to how I am using some terms. I disagree with your objection.

          • Ah, you noticed the irony:

            Why would we appeal to authority?… Or were you making a joke of some sort?

            Well, I’ll put it this way—Every truth is 60-80% joke. (If you’ve seen my blog, it’s the reverse: every joke is 60-80% truth.)There is undeniably a ludic element to this for me.

            On a serious technical note, however, there’s actually no contradiction between being an insufferably pompous credentialist authoritarian *outside* science and a Feynmanite *within* science. Science is special, remember. It has its own separate epistemology. So I could lecture you on the scientific method and tell you to take my word for it, since I’ve studied it, while at the same time admonishing you against taking anyone’s word for anything on *intra-scientific* questions (questions ABOUT NATURE). That might make me an arrogant boor, perhaps, but it wouldn’t make me *inconsistent,* because there’s a radical difference between intra- and extra-scientific reasoning.

        • “For one thing, opinions don’t mean jack f__king shit in science.”

          Would you mind answering the following: In your opinion (and I don’t mind if you appeal to authority), is there any physics formula that can ever be said with certainty to be true, to represent nature faithfully?

          I’m not sure we can even be sure about the past with total certainty, but certainly when making predictions about things in the future (a primary reason why science exists), it’s rather difficult (impossible, as far as I’m concerned) to be 100% certain of any future event.

          If we believe that science can’t guarantee any predictions are correct (or certainly not predict everything), then why would we believe that “opinions don’t mean jack” in science? How would we fill the space if we don’t have 100% certainty and couldn’t use opinions?

          Can you name one formula which is true and isn’t a mathematical equality? Formulas are … opinions.

  7. You make some good points. My doctor says I should reduce cholesterol in my diet, but I suppose he’s ‘old school’ and doesn’t read the current peer reviewed publications. Well done. You have clearly resolved this thing about the logical fallacy of authority/consensus. Now that’s resolved, let’s take a vote on the existence of God and if consensus says He does exist, I want to know what church/mosque/whatever he’d go to so we can just stop all of this questioning and quibbling, after all it would reduce an “enormous amount of work”.

    • I have no problem with people going to all that work. I have a problem with people who complain about accepting expert consensus, but don’t bother to do the work to challenge it.

      • This is an incoherent thing to whine about in *scientific* contexts, Barry:

        “I have a problem with people who complain about accepting expert consensus,”

        It depends what kind of question we’re talking about.

        In *scientific* questions, people bloody well SHOULD complain if someone tells them to “accept expert consensus.” They should report such an argument to the Science Police. Because it’s suspicious in the extreme. It doesn’t belong in science. Three hundred years of scientists have managed to avoid resorting to such sleazy sales techniques.

        No self-respecting science would *ever* tell any citizen to accept something on the basis of 9x% agreement among scientists.

        No self-respecting science would even be *able* to make such an argument, because nobody would ever poll scientists to see how many of them think what. This simply isn’t a phenomenon that ever occurs in the scientific world.

        Until the half-historian, half-pseudoscientist Naomi Oreskes was chundered forth from Satan’s cloaca, nobody in their right mind would have thought of counting papers, counting opinions, or holding any other kind of Papal-conclave ceremony among scientists. It’s beneath the dignity of all scientists.

        “but don’t bother to do the work to challenge”

        It’s not OUR job, as citizens, to challenge anything scientists say, or come up with a better idea. It’s up to SCIENTISTS to come up with EVIDENCE. And if the best they can come up with is, “well, ninety nine percent of us think so,” then they don’t deserve their salary. They should find jobs better suited to their intellectual gifts, like garbology or pre-Oscar seat-warmer. Because they’ve abjectly failed as scientists.

        • How can any human know the truth about nature? It’s all just educated guesses put forward in science. If you wait for all the evidence to be in before making a judgement, you will die waiting.You have to form opinions based on partial knowledge. And we don’t have the mental resource or time to perform all experiments nor cover the “proofs” to all the math. No human can verify that all that anyone else calls “evidence” is valid evidence. If we can’t verify everything, what is left? Trust. There is no alternative unless you find it accepted to throw your hands up and quit your job and condemn all scientists for being as human as you.

          You are rather confused about science IMO.. or maybe you want people to believe that science is useless for not being perfect.

          • Jose_X, thanks for putting your objections so clearly.

            However, we’re debating unnecessarily (or arguing at cross purposes).

            What you’re saying about the provisional, partial and uncertain nature of scientific knowledge is spot on!

            I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise.

            I’m currently in the middle of responding to your comment upstream from here. (In short: I think you misinterpreted my position, so it’s up to me to articulate it better.)

            But in the meantime, please don’t feel compelled to keep arguing that scientific knowledge will always be imperfect. We’re on the same page!

            • On second thought, something you said here might make the best starting point for discussion. You made a very good point (I’m just going to change one of the words for technical reasons):

              “You have to form opinions based on partial [evidence, information].”

              Bingo. Every second of every day. That’s the best we can do, as you point out.

              And if we form those opinions (a.k.a. beliefs) *properly*, they can actually constitute *knowledge.*

              That’s all knowledge is, really: the most justifiable, rational, evidence-based subset of our beliefs. (Strictly, such beliefs also have to be true to count as knowledge.)

              Our beliefs can be probabilistic, and still count as knowledge. ‘Knowledge’ and ‘certainty’ are not the same thing!

              So then, what the heck do I mean when I belittle “opinion”—or beliefs—as meaningless (in science)?

              I don’t mean *worthless*! On the contrary, knowledge (a subset of beliefs) is, like, the most valuable thing you can possess.

              I just meant that (in science) your beliefs can never count as *evidence* to other scientists. Opinions/beliefs have zero evidentiary weight.

              In other words, you can’t use the fact that you believe something as an argument for why your peers should believe it too; nor can you use the fact that they believe something as an argument for believing it yourself.

              That’s Rule Zero of Science Club.

              Every belief should be *justified*, and the only thing that can justify beliefs (in science) is *evidence.*

              But this DOESN’T mean you have to re-perform all the classic experiments for yourself just to become a baseline-educated person! That’s a straw man (or perhaps an understandable, but wrong, inference).

              That would take far too long, as you mention.

              Instead we use a shortcut: the literature. Scientific papers stand in for physical evidence.

              A scientific paper is a kind of certificate in which you promise something like: “I carried out this study to test this hypothesis, and derived this conclusion with this degree of confidence from what I observed.”

              The point of publishing your paper is to save every other scientist in the world the trouble of doing your experiment all over again for themselves. They can simply read your paper and adjust their beliefs about the natural world *AS IF* they’d physically performed the experiment themselves.

              You mention trust. In a limited sense, yes, trust does come into play. But it’s NOT “trust” in the normal sense of the word (which is why we tend to avoid using the term “trust”). You never have to “trust” your fellow scientists in the same way that you might “trust” your friend’s recommendation in music, or “trust” your favorite historian’s conclusions about the French Revolution.

              When they read your paper, your fellow scientists have to trust that you’re not LYING about what happened.

              They also have to trust (but are free to check for themselves if they can spare the time) that your conclusions FOLLOW from what happened, rather than being asserted fallaciously or out of thin air. This is part of the checklist that peer reviewers have to go through before they certify your paper as being *internally valid.*

              So in this sense, you ARE asking your readers to trust in your basic honesty and ability to make inferences.

              But this is usually a safe bet, because MOST scientists aren’t liars, and MOST scientists know how to write conclusions based on observations (and if they don’t do this in a rational way, MOST peer reviewers will catch the error in reasoning).

              HOWEVER, and this is crucial:

              You are NOT asking anyone to trust that your conclusions are THE TRUTH about nature.

              Nor are YOU asked to trust that any paper you read draws THE CORRECT conclusions about nature.

              A scientific paper is just *evidence,* not a guarantee that anyone’s got the final answer.

              Am I making more sense now?

              (Sorry if my initial posts this morning were a bit brusque, snarky and/or lacking in detail.)

            • Brad, I think we’ll all basically agree.

              Let me give my interpretation of this one section that may have sounded a bit disagreeable, while taking into account the full context of the article

              [Barry:] “Anything you don’t check out for yourself, you accept on SOMEONE’s authority…”

              I don’t read that as: anything you don’t check out for yourself, you (are supposed to agree with and thus) accept on someone’s authority.

              I read that instead to be a mere observation about what humans do in practice (how they tick) whenever they do accept something. If you don’t verify with your “eyeballs”, you make a calculated decision essentially to accept on faith if accepting you will. [There isn’t much of a third option.]

            • So the main question is, which experts will “I” rely upon and which will I ignore, since to say we should not appeal to authority for very many (or any) of our views on science is (a) to say we are superhuman and check everything out for ourselves (impossible) or else (b) to be a bit hypocritical.

              The article was mostly directed within the limited context of climate science and led to the inescapable conclusion (eg, see the video) that Delingpole was necessarily going to appeal to some authority or other for many of his beliefs on climate science.

              Delingpole may have been complaining because of his impression that he would be expected to accept agw on faith, but the documentary was merely making the most practical presentation to an audience that would not have looked aggressively at the details of the science but would care about what the experts think. The gall of Cliff to expect us to believe their storyline without letting us read the primary for ourselves!!!

              Again, the rational question for most people (as they won’t scrutinize the science and will want more than a coin flip) is if they prefer to listen to the 97%, to the 3%, or entirely bypass the experts in the science.

            • Jose_X:

              “Again, the rational question for most people (as they won’t scrutinize the science and will want more than a coin flip)”

              When you think about it, don’t you find this an odd thing to say in the context of climate science, when the entire population has been subjected to hearing about the supposed reasons for alarm on an almost daily basis for the last quarter of a century? If there’s ANY hypothesis in science for which ordinary citizens have (forcibly) spent time familiarizing themselves with the relevant evidence, surely dangerous AGW is that hypothesis!

              And yet—after 25 years of uncontested airtime on sympathetic media—The Scientists™ have so abjectly failed to convince us that they’re resorting to a plea of Take Our Word For It, the ultimate declaration of evidentiary bankruptcy in science!

              Does that not strike you as mildly pathetic? Does the mind not rebel, as Charmaine Bucco would say?

              ” is if they prefer to listen to the 97%, to the 3%, or entirely bypass the experts in the science.”

              Like all scientifically literate people, I have a bull$hit detector that goes off when, for the first time in 300 years, soi-disant scientists have to stoop to the Argument from Opinion Survey.

              By the way, I provisionally tend to agree with what the 97% opine. But this is in spite of, not due to, the argument from consensus—a sleazebag manoeuvre that makes the whole thing much less credible than it would be otherwise. I made this assessment long before the balrog Naomi Oreskes had even resurfaced from the Western Australian mines and inflicted her two-bit rhetoric on a sickened public. It didn’t alarm me back then, and it doesn’t alarm me now.

          • Jose, Brad isn’t confused. Brad doesn’t want AGW to be accepted, therefore since experts say it is, he has to insist they have no authority to claim it’s real.

            Brad is certain of one thing: he hasn’t got anything else to disprove AGW other than remove the argument that the experts are called experts for a reason.

            • “Jose, Brad isn’t confused.”

              Well done, Wow. A true assertion for once.

              “Brad doesn’t want AGW to be accepted, therefore since experts say it is, he has to insist they have no authority to claim it’s real.”

              As someone who ACCEPTS AGW I can only shake my head in sadness at Wow’s return to type: the most inane commenter on the Internet.


              don’t bother writing to or about me from now on. I’m not going to read anything you post unless it begins with the answer you’ve owed me since 2013 (what kind of physical scientist wrote that moronic quote by John Cook?), which—let’s face it—you’ll never have either the gonads or the brains to answer.

            • Yup, you know you’re talking BS and have no other choice, Brad.

              A refreshingly honest admission by you, Brad.

        • Brad,

          It was not incoherent. A typical documentary is not “doing science”. It is trying to explain scientific findings to people who don’t have the time or interest to really dig in and personally evaluate the evidence. If someone wants to do so, that’s great! But NOBODY has the time to do that for EVERY scientific question that impacts their life.

          If you want to claim that you manage this… well, I guess we’ve got nothing to talk about.

      • Barry,

        I took the time to watch the program, read the article and honestly, I don’t think your comments have a logical leg to stand on. Simply assuming that Delingpole didn’t do the work to challenge this BBC piece is unfounded.

        As I watched this “documentary” I found myself agreeing with most of it. Almost half of the show explains how we know temperature has risen since the 1800s, as though that is some great victory. Temperature has risen over a time period and I don’t know of anyone that is arguing that. But this piece does nothing to answer the questions of the skeptics – other than to say, ‘We said so – so believe it’. (yes, I get the corrections in temperature etc – again, that’s not the point)

        However; you have clearly missed the point Delingpole is making. You seem to be trying to say, that if you disagree with the authority, then you must not have done the hard work and therefore must be obdurately ignorant and should just shut up. (You are actually making Delinpoles point quite well) I would hope that you can see at least that logical fallacy and how hopelessly unscientific that reasoning is.

        • Actually, I quoted Delingpole to back up my assertion that he hasn’t done the work. He’s the one who says he doesn’t have the time or background to read scientific literature.

          • So, you’re saying that if he hasn’t done the research himself or read the papers personally, that if he gets someone else to help him understand those papers, that he hasn’t “done the work”? (check the circularity of your reasoning)

            Are you saying that if someone else has helped him to understand the science, that what he wrote must be fallacious and obdurately ignorant?

            A careful read of Delingpole’s article will tell you the the BBC has once again supplied the age old arguments for climate change without answering the hard questions.

            • He can’t then claim that argument from authority is wrong, since he’s using it himself.

              That is Barry’s point, and that is what you insist on “not understanding” because understanding would cause you some emotional pain at being wrong over climate change denial.

            • What Wow said.

            • Nope. Citation in the literature is essential. I’m arguing that to challenge consensus and to replicate observation is scientific but to cry fallacy and ignorance (ad hominem) to quell questions is not scientific or logical. Challenges to consensus should be applauded in science not mocked.

            • “Citation in the literature is essential”???

              No it isn’t.”

              I’m arguing that to challenge consensus and to replicate observation is scientific but to cry fallacy and ignorance (ad hominem) to quell questions is not scientific or logical”

              You are arguing it, I agree. But to who? James Dellingpole is the one crying fallacy and ignorance (ad hominem it is not, please check what the phrase means) to quell questions. Barry isn’t.

              Barry is arguing that you cannot cry “authority fallacy” when he’s relying on authority himself. The fact that his authority is a false one, and that there is no error in the reliance of authority (it is the reliance on FALSE authority, or the authority of someone who is not authoritative on the subject at hand: e.g. Dyson on climate science, he’s not a climate scientist, never studied it) is besides the point.

              So you’re arguing it, but to the wrong person.

              “Challenges to consensus should be applauded in science not mocked.”

              Yes it should be mocked. If the challenge is “I don’t believe you because you’re using consensus!” is mock-worthy. If the challenge is “You cannot rely on authority, but I do and that’s fine”, it deserves mocking. If the challenge is just “I don’t believe they’re right because they have a consensus of experts” is not only mock-worthy but fatuously moronic to boot!

        • I’ve forgotten the wide-eyed lady mathematician’s name but my friend calls her Philomena Cunk, which seems as good as any. I gave up watching when she turned to the camera and asked “but IS the climate changing?”

          If vacuous, innumerate questions like that kept Dr Cunk up at night, it’s no wonder most viewers found her dog more interesting.

          Delingpole is understandably sick of boffins telling us what they OPINE about climate change, which is a naked appeal to [their] authority, or telling us HOW MANY of them agree, which is a naked appeal to [their] majority.

          He’d rather they did their job and told us the EVIDENCE one way or the other, thus appealing to [our] ability to reason for ourselves.

          Haters gonna hate him for drawing that fundamental distinction. After all, nobody likes an uppity English major who understands scientific epistemology better than most Science Communicators™.

          • Brad, you really don’t seem to understand scientific epistemology as well as you think. I got a minor in philosophy, and have published 3 peer-reviewed papers on teaching the nature of science to students, with a co-author who is a philosophy of science professor. So I figure I can safely decline the help you have so generously offered.

            One example is your insistence that citing a paper whose work you haven’t personally reproduced isn’t an argument from authority. Of course it is. You might argue that one is supposed to be able to reproduce it, in principle, and you would be right. But the ability to do something in principle, and doing it, are two different things.

            All this “Nullius in verba” chest-beating is nonsense, taken to such an extreme, as has been shown by the last 50+ years of work on the philosophy of science. Seriously, pick up any standard textbook on the subject.

            And nobody is keeping Delingpole from examining the evidence except himself, least of all the BBC. There are plenty of detailed discussions of the evidence out there, for anyone who wants to look at them. But to insist that EVERY presentation on climate science must be such a discussion is ridiculous. Why shouldn’t the BBC put together a basic presentation outlining the consensus of the experts, with some discussion of the reasoning involved? Some people might actually want to watch such a thing.

            • Barry:

              I got a minor in philosophy

              Ah, the dangers of a little knowledge.

              Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.

              and have published 3 peer-reviewed papers on teaching the nature of science to students

              Have you read any?

              with a co-author who is a philosophy of science professor.

              And by osmosis that makes you, what, an adjunct professor?

              One example is your insistence that citing a paper whose work you haven’t personally reproduced isn’t an argument from authority. Of course it is.

              Is it (in science)? Let’s test that.

              When you cite a paper (in science), do you invoke the names, academic positions, qualifications and reputations of the people who wrote it as adding weight to your argument? Yes or no?

              – If YES, you’re doing it wrong. Science is quintessentially impersonal. The evidentiary significance of a study, according to the logic of science, has absolutely nothing to do with who performed it.

              – If NO, you’re not appealing to anyone’s authority, are you? You’re just citing evidence. Good job!

            • Indeed an example of the need to reproduce to remove the “accepting authority” item is the execrable G&T paper. Many deniers take it as an authoritative proof of how AGW isn’t possible. Except if you were to work through the proofs in the paper, you’d find they are all rubbish.

              Not all deniers agree that the paper is valid. To his minor credit, Roy Spencer showed that there really IS a greenhouse effect and that the G&T paper was wrong there.

              To their everlasting shame (if they could feel it), deniers dogpiled on him for his heresy.

              Just accepting a paper is still taking the authors’ word for it and is still argument from authority.

            • The G&T paper is garbage as goes AGW. They showed nothing to attack the radiative effect of gases. Rather sad if they thought they were attacking greenhouse effect without considering the radiative effect. Skeptic Judith put it decently here

              Here is my question to non-experts. Have they read G&T? Do they realize the problems with it or are they taking a position by faith?

          • Saying someone is wrong is not hating them.

            Claiming that is a fallacy. It’s asserting that it’s not necessary to defend the claim against the charge of being in error “because it’s not a valid charge! They just hate me!”.

            For someone who gets so bent out of shape by being told you’re wrong, you need to stop snarling out that everyone else is wrong. Otherwise you will appear a psycho nutter with two faces speaking.

    • So who would be an expert on the existence of god?

      Answer: nobody.

      If people look at a horse, they’ll come to a consensus that it is a horse. The reason why they don’t come to a consensus it’s a dog is because it’s a horse, not a dog.

      But you’d have it that the consensus opinion must be wrong. If we don’t accept it, then we must accept that voting makes reality, which isn’t what’s being said at all.

      What’s being said is that consensus is good cause to accept some claim as true.

      You can come up with good cause to believe the claim false, but you have to make the case, just claiming “Consensus doesn’t make it true!” is not proof it’s wrong.

      You still have to show it’s wrong.

      • Yeah. Maybe it’s my fault but you missed my point completely.I agree with everything except what you think I’m saying.

        • Maybe it’s my fault but you missed my point completely

          Victims of conversation with Wow often blame themselves, thinking: if only I’d been more explicit! If only I’d used shorter words! If only I’d used more examples to make my point unmistakably obvious!

          Don’t beat yourself up. It’s like being victimized all over again. Wow’s incomprehension is not your fault. Nothing you could possibly have said would have prevented it.

          • Guilty.

        • Since that was a response to

          > By: DoesntThinkThingsThrough on March 6, 2015
          at 6:31 pm

          Not Steve, either

          a) you’re getting it wrong
          b) you’re imagining things
          c) you’re sockpuppeting
          d) your claim is technically correct, but irrelevant since a response to a comment made by someone else will necessarily be irrelevant to YOUR comment, to which it was not a reply

          Your choice.

        • Care to tell me what I think you’re saying, Sock? I mean you didn’t actually say what you think I think you’re saying, and you didn’t say what you think you’re saying, it’s a little unfair of you to demand I work out what you think I think you said AND work out what you think you said along with what you actually said. Oh, not forgetting what bit of what you said that I responded to that you think I misunderstood or didn’t respond to.

          In short, you claim we should go out and vote who god is. I point out that it’s not possible to get a list of experts on god, whilst it IS possible to get a list of experts on, for example, radiative transfer. So it’s possible to get a vote of meaningful measure of truth on the non-god question, but not on the god one.

          Is that what you say you agree with? If so, in what way does that indicate what I think you said, and how is that different from what you think you said?

        • Uh oh… you’ve really pushed Wow’s buttons now Steve.

          He’s calling you “Sock” now!

          Geddit? Sounds kinda like Steve, because it begins with “S”. But then, just when you’re expecting “teve,” he takes it in a whole different direction by saying “ock” instead.

          Wow turns into a comic genius when he’s emotionally exercised.

          • Yeah. It looks like I’ve upset Wow. It’s not really worth my time to explain to Wow why citations are important, that to call someone an idiot as Barry is, is an ad hominem attack, that nobody believes voting on god’s existence has any impact on truth and that ones personal belief is not a challenge to the consensus. Wow, I hope your day goes better.

            • Excuse me, Steve, but perhaps you should look up “ad hominem” on Wikipedia, or something. Calling someone an idiot (which I didn’t do, strictly speaking, but guilty as charged for strongly implying it) is an insult, not an ad hominem argument.

            • Not really, Steve. But I note that chuckling so to yourself has ensured you failed to confirm which of the several scenarios proffered is correct, nor (if scenario d were the case) what it is you think I think you think.

              I guess that it isn’t something you can answer, because you don’t know what you meant with your comment either.

              It would have been less obvious you were upset at the query if you’d said so.

            • Gotta agree with Barry.

              An ‘ad hominem’ requires more than ‘he’s an idiot.’

              It requires ‘he’s an idiot, so his statements aren’t credible,’
              or ‘he’s not an expert, so his statements aren’t credible,’
              or ‘he’s fossil-fuel-funded, so his statements aren’t credible,’
              or ‘he’s an outlier, so his statements aren’t credible,’

              or any of the other Post-Normal-Scientific arguments that have become part of everyday discourse thanks to the climate change “debate.”

            • Point taken, and I concur. Not an ad hominem attack. I retract the assertion. Furthermore, I apologize for the confusion of using both Steve and “Doesn’t think things through”

            • Steve, still nothing on why citations are essential.

              And note: you’ve shifted goalposts apparently. Now even you are backing off to them being important, rather than essential.

              Is that “why they’re essential”? “Because they’re important”? That means they’re important, not essential, and you’re now agreeing with me, they’re not essential.

              If so, then we’re done here and agreeing. They’re not essential. I’d still need to know what they’re important *for*, however. Never needed one to bake potatoes, to give a simple and silly example.

            • Steve,

              why are you apologizing for a misplaced criticism, retracting your mistake and learning from corrections? What do you think this is, a healthy, grownup discussion?? This is the climate debate, man!

            • I thought it might cheer “Wow” up a little, and I don’t have time or interest in these tangents.

              My point is that I think Barry does a disservice to science by “insulting” (see, I’ve learned something– thanks guys) those who are unsatisfied with the explanations that are offered and simply assuming they are ignorant or haven’t done the hard work of understanding.

              And Barry, just because Delingpole said he got some help to understand the literature – doesn’t mean he hasn’t done the hard work to understand. That’s just a bad assumption.

            • Steve, you are still confused about what I was arguing. I did NOT say Delingpole couldn’t understand the issue if he got some help. What I DID say is that if someone else explained it to him, and he didn’t check the state of the evidence as a whole himself, then he necessarily accepted much of his information on the basis of someone’s perceived authority. This should be a completely obvious point.

            • Barry,
              I know. And you are arguing something James Delingpole wasn’t saying. He’s not arguing authority. He’s mocking the salesmanship of the documentary – and thinks it avoids the key questions of the day. (look it up)

              My point stands.

            • Steve, given that Delingpole’s mockery of the salesmanship of the video was at least partially about how it used appeals to authority, your point is stupid, even if it does “stand”.

            • And given that Delingpole’s mockery of the salesmanship of the video included a nonsensical attack on the field of spatial and temporal statistics, I feel justified in assuming he hasn’t done the work to understand the issue, wherever he got his ideas…. Because it seems to me that “understanding” something implies that you can say something coherent about it. So, once again, your point is stupid.

            • Steve: “I don’t have time or interest in these tangents. ”

              So backtracking yet more? Citations used to be ESSENTIAL. Then they became merely important.

              Now they’re tangents…

              Well, I guess that indicates that Steve doesn’t really care about substantiating his arguments.

            • Steve, Barry’s complaint is about something Dellingpole DID say!

              What the hell thread are YOU reading?!?!?

              Dellinpole says that it’s wrong to appeal to authority, then says that he merely listens and regurgitates what an authority has told him. AN APPEAL TO AUTHORITY!

              But I guess you’re not here for discussion, you’re here to defend dull old pole and protect the rights of the moronic to be morons.

            • Barry,
              Maybe I’ve made another mistake. I assumed you had done the hard work to read the paper that you are commenting on. The paragraph you quote about “appeal to authority” is not the end of the article. He goes on to explain his point. He talks about he polished presentation and the theatrical devices used to make a point. And according to what he says in the article, his point, is NOT about appeal to authority. It seemed clear to me that the appeal to authority is just another device used. I don’t think he even says the appeal to authority is unacceptable.

              So why is my point stupid?

            • Where do you get the idea that just because he didn’t quote the entire thing that he didn’t read it all?

              Just because there’s more doesn’t change Dull Old Pole’s rant against relying on authority whilst he’s relying on authority himself for his argument? Not unless he claims that he withdraws his complaint of others doing it, which it doesn’t.

              Did you even read the title of the piece here?

              “And according to what he says in the article”???

              The quote of what he says verbatim in the article is given above and does not support your interpretation of the interpreter of interpretations.

              Are you Dull Old Pole’s love-child? Or his ghost-writer?

              Your argument is stupid because it’s relying on a nonexistent interpretation of what the words mean that ignores what the words *say*.

              I realise that you will ignore this beacuse you’re able to “justify” it on my having “silly arguments”. This would also be the reason why Barry is ignoring you, by the way. You have an incredibly stupid (or mendacious) argument, made up of fiction and mental gymnastics.

            • Do you conclude that because Delingpole said the documentary uses “appeal to authority”, that he is saying;

              ‘the use of “appeal to authority” makes the documentary wrong’?

              Yes. Of course. Why the hell else would he mention it to support his claim that the documentary is wrong if he didn’t?


              It’s not hard to engage your brain before coming to a conclusion, it’s just that you don’t seem to have bothered.

            • Do you think Delingpole says anywhere in his commentary on the documentary that the content of the documentary is wrong?

            • Yes. In the title and within the piece, he says the BBC documentary is wrong.

          • Aghh… I’ll explain it for you. 🙂
            Barry claims that the main point of Delingpole’s artcle was about the appeal to authority
            Barry quote:
            “But that would miss Delingpole’s main point! Namely, the BBC program is stupid because it uses the dreaded “Appeal to Authority.”
            Delingpole begins the follow up article talking about comments to the original article on twitter – and it sounds like the twitter sphere took him to task for not giving the red headed girl due respect as a Doctorate. So he started talking about appeal to authority. And then said…
            Delingpole Quote:
            “But I’m not sure it [appeal to authority] would have added a great deal to the point I was trying to make.”
            So he only talks about appeal to authority to say that appeal to authority is NOT his point. Follow?
            Delingpole goes on to explain in the actual article that the documentary uses good theatrical devices like lighting, and a girl with red hair and the “appeal to authority” to reassure the viewer. He never takes umbrage with the usage of these devices – he simply says they were used and that they in fact were used well.
            Initially I thought, Barry couldn’t have read this article he quotes very carefully.
            But then I looked at Barry’s post again and I can’t help but think Barry contrived this whole argument. Barry is actually making an argument against a fictitious premise. Now I thought that this might have been by mistake until you read on. Barry tries to fortify his case with this ….
            Quoting Barry:
            “Hmmmm, that brings up a good question. How much work has James Delingpole done, so that he feels comfortable mocking the consensus of almost all the climate change experts? Let’s answer that question via an interview the BBC aired, in which Sir Paul Nurse, a scientist and the head of the Royal Society, asked this very thing of Delingpole.”
            Barry makes this sound like the interview was a follow up interview to tell us how much research Delingpole did to “mock the consensus” in the article. What Barry doesn’t tell you is that this interview with Paul Nurse was published in 2011. Used in the way Barry presents it, it’s a distortion and taken out of context.
            But it doesn’t end there. Barry continues his fictional argument with…
            Quoting Barry:
            “So there you have it. James Delingpole can mock the BBC for referencing the consensus of almost all the climate change experts because it’s an “Appeal to Authority,” but when push comes to shove, he admits that he doesn’t have the background knowledge to assess the evidence for himself.”
            Now he’s expanded his fictional argument to the consensus and makes the illogical assumptions that he can’t back up his claim. Likely but illogical.
            Now if you read the article you will see that Delingpole covers his tracks and says,
            Quoting Delingpole:
            “You were hoping I was going to pick apart the programme’s tendentious arguments and the devious way it managed to pretend to answer all the key questions posed by sceptics while in fact cunningly swerving round them?
            Sod that for a game of soldiers: the mighty Booker, as I understand, is going to take care of that side of things. He can take care of the science stuff; I’ll do the cultural analysis and the goading. It’s what we free marketeers believe in: division of labour.”
            So he was ONLY commenting on the polish of the presentation and not the content. Sure he expresses concerns with the lack of content but that isn’t his point.
            I’m not sure how to make this any more clear. To me, it looks like Barry trumped this whole thing up.

            So, of course MY point is stupid. Every time he comments he validates my point.

            • Yes, THIS is where Dull Old Pole is quoted showing his rail against the argument against authority:

              Well yes. I thought I’d covered that particular Appeal To Authority, more or less, in the sentence which said “climate change is real because maths.” Had there been space, I suppose, I could have added “climate change is real because doctorate” and “climate change is real because University College, London.”

              Which is a direct quote from Jimmy.

              He says he already covered the Appeal to Authority, and finds it reason to claim the BBC article wrong.

              How much clearer does it need to be before you get it?

            • Look….. It’s checkmate.

              I think even Barry gets that. He was smart enough to call my point “stupid” and run off in a huff.

              Now you may be one of those people that needs to see your king slowly and completely removed from the table to understand. So if you are willing to concentrate, I’ll walk you through this. Let’s start where you left off.

              You quote the part where Delingpole “covered” the “appeal to authority” in your last post. Good one! But THEN you say, “[he] finds [appeal to authority] reason to claim the BBC article wrong”.

              My question to you…..

              Where does Delingpole say the “appeal to authority” makes the BBC “article” wrong ?

              ——————— Your move ———-

              And, by the way, take all the time you need.

            • Where does Delingpole say the “appeal to authority” makes the BBC “article” wrong ?


              Do I realise that the woman I have so peremptorily dismissed as “nice, smiley girl with red hair” is in fact none other than Dr Hannah Fry, a mathematician from University College, London?

              Well yes. I thought I’d covered that particular Appeal To Authority

              Is there something wrong with your eyesight?

            • Let me get this straight.

              You think that because Delingpole makes the comment that “appeal to authority” is simply used in the “article” that means he thinks the “article” is wrong?

            • Steve, you’re wasting your time. To my knowledge Wow has never been right—or admitted he was wrong—about anything.

            • Do you want to try asking that question again, but this time try it without playing the pronoun game?

              As far as i can work it out, you must have meant two different articles for the two prepositions, but that’s just guessing.

            • Sure. Let’s not call it an “article” the piece Delingpole was commenting on was a documentary. Let me break it down.

              I asked “Where does Delingpole say the “appeal to authority” makes the BBC [documentary] wrong ? ”

              You responded with a quote where Delingpole says he covered the documentary as having used an “appeal to authority” in reference to Dr. Fry.

              My question is:

              Do you conclude that because Delingpole said the documentary uses “appeal to authority”, that he is saying;

              ‘the use of “appeal to authority” makes the documentary wrong’?

              Again, take the time to check your sources. It’s a minor but important point.

              And thank you for working with me.

            • OK, so you call the BBC piece an article. Dull Old Pole didn’t talk about the fallacy of the BBC article in the BBC article. That’s where he makes the fallacists fallacy claiming “Argument from Authority is wrong”.

              Here’s where that information was right there in front of your face:

              Thee other day, Delingpole wrote a “snarky” piece attacking a new BBC documentary about climate change. The title of the piece, “‘Climate Change is Real Because Shut Up!’ Explains the BBC. Again,”

              So if you’re asking “Where in the BBC article did DullOldPole say the argument from authority was wrong?” then the answer is “Nowhere”. He also didn’t write it in infants. Nor did he write it on the back of an Elephant. There’s lots of places he didn’t make that argument.

              Where he did was in a snark piece talking ABOUT the BBC article.

            • You are correct that…

              Delingpole NEVER wrote ANYWHERE that the appeal to authority is wrong.

              By this alone you should see that you’ve lost the game, that this whole post by Bickmore is fabrication.

              – but I’d be happy to go on if you like.

            • Your’re right Steve, Dellingpole wrote that the argument from authority is wrong and that the BBC documentary relied upon it.

              Hell, if you’re going to make up what I said, I’ll turn it around.

            • This is what you said:

              “Where in the BBC article did DullOldPole say the argument from authority was wrong?” then the answer is “Nowhere”.

              I’m getting bored so I’ll jump ahead a few moves….

              Delingpole didn’t say “appeal to authority is wrong” and didn’t say the documentary was wrong. What he says is, the documentary was well done and convincing but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

              Look I think you are doing your level best to cover up a major failure on Bickmore’s part. But he is just a victim of “confirmation bias”, we all do it and it’s ok to be wrong in science occasionally. Let it go.

            • However, this does indicate why you made your mind up on this and have never moved an inch.

              You see me say:

              “Dull Old Pole didn’t talk about the fallacy of the BBC article in the BBC article.”

              And you read:

              “Dull Old Pole didn’t talk about the fallacy of the BBC article ANYWHERE”.

              Given that you will make up what you read, there’s no point continuing with you.

              Bye bye.

            • Steve,

              Delingpole says that the appeals to authority and other things (like interviewing a nice-looking mathematician who doesn’t sound boring) are devices to distract the audience from the fact that the show was glossing over the REAL arguments. And the REAL arguments include a few crackpots wondering aloud why adjustments need to be made to thermometer data to calculate a homogenized global mean temperature. So I was not claiming that Delingpole said “the appeal to authority is wrong.” I was claiming that his point was that such things make for a stupid argument. If he, in fact, agrees with me that appeals to authority can be perfectly reasonable, even if they don’t provide conclusive proof of anything, then his blog post was not only idiotic, but pointless.

            • Agreed and well said. It’s just that Delingpole isn’t saying that “such things” make for a stupid argument.

              His point is about the medium; not the content or the arguments. He states that clearly. Yes he wanders and exposes his own ignorance(my opinion), about temporal and spacial statistics and but that just isn’t his message at all. He’s says hes there just for “cultural analysis and goading”. You’ve read too far into this or not at all.

              It would be very difficult to argue otherwise. So, my point not only stands but it is also not “stupid”.

              — and by the way, I’m not sure what you pay Wow, but it’s not enough 🙂

            • Steve I don’t follow your last reply to Barry (and I skipped a lot of earlier stuff). You seem to want to excuse this guy who did attack appeal to authority by saying that because he wasn’t attacking the science and was into the cultural view (whatever that means) that he can get away with insulting the science he doesn’t understand and the appeal to authority.

              So he doesn’t understand. States that. Yet he has beliefs which in part are based on his trust in his authority people.

              If he can believe authority without understanding, then the viewer can likely believe these authority figures without understanding.

            • >> It’s just that Delingpole isn’t saying that “such things” make for a stupid argument.

              He seems to be saying that such things make for a stupid presentation, culturally speaking.

              Now, what the f does that mean, given how he seems more than willing to believe authority figures when he understands very very little if anything of the argument? How can using authorities to state a view be culturally problematic to an audience that isn’t reading the scientific papers?

              What point do you think you are making (can you highlight precisely.. long thread), and what statement of what Barry said do you still disagree with. If you could be precise for me, it would help since the thread is long and each side has yielded a little but still doesn’t buy into the other side.

            • Jose welcome to the conversation. I ll respond when I my flight lands in a few hours

            • Jose X,

              What I’m saying is that Bickmore is making argument against points never made or claimed by Dalingpole. It seems like Bickmore has just made stuff up to argue with and to call deniers obdurately ignorant. Some specific examples…

              Bickmore says, “… Delingpole’s main point! Namely, the BBC program is stupid because it uses the dreaded “Appeal to Authority.” But the problem is that Delingpole doesn’t say the program is stupid at all.

              Bickmore says Delingpole mocks the consensus – but Delingpole never mentions the consensus even indirectly.

              Bickmore presents the Paul Nurse interview to sound like it is a follow up to Dalingpoles article.

              Bickmore: “Hmmmm, that brings up a good question. How much work has James Delingpole done, so that he feels comfortable mocking the consensus of almost all the climate change experts? Let’s answer that question via an interview”

              But that interview happened years before this commentary (published in 2011). It’s out of context at best.

              Delingpole doesn’t say much of anything in his piece at all. It’s a lot of rambling and I suppose British humor. He does says he has written it to do some “cultural analysis and (the) goading”, and he says in the last 2 paragraphs that he isn’t going to comment on any of the arguments of the documentary. (That alone should have tipped Bickmore off that there is not point or argument to be had)

              So to be precise, I can’t show you what’s NOT there but I would suggest you read Delingpole’s piece on Breitbart called “‘Climate Change is Real Because Shut Up!’ Explains the BBC Again”

              As you read it, you can see for yourself where Delingpole explains that the appeal to authority is NOT his point. (here)

              Delingpole: “I’m not sure [appeal to authority] would have added a great deal to the point I was trying to make.”

              Then Delingpole explains begrudgingly, that he thinks the BBC did a good job of using Television as a medium.

              The irony is that Bickmore spends a lot of time in his blog scolding those who have not done the hard work to understand, when in fact he has proven that he is painfully guilty of the same.

            • >> But the problem is that Delingpole doesn’t say the program is stupid at all.

              Yes, it seems “stupid” is not the most accurate word to describe Delingpole’s views or to express the main point of this blog piece.

              >> Bickmore says Delingpole mocks the consensus – but Delingpole never mentions the consensus even indirectly.

              “..and she totally agrees with all the maths in this script that we’ve scripted for her” mocks this mathematician and the scientific consensus. It’s one thing if Delingpole had shown the science was wrong, but he merely assumed they were doing a song and dance for the audience without understanding the science that leads to the conclusions. It’s not his job to understand, so he wants a free pass to make any assumption he wants (that the people are putting on a show, are wrong, etc).

              “And it’s not like he’s biased because he’s a mathematician – did we mention this? – so how could he be?”

              Attacks another scientist without considering the content of the arguments/science.

              >> Bickmore presents the Paul Nurse interview to sound like it is a follow up to Dalingpoles article.

              That’s not how I interpreted it (but I understand that you could have the way you did).

              If anything, the timing strengthens the point that Delingpole is aware that he appeals to authority to help shape his beliefs yet still goes on to attack others for using their authority to represent the accepted scientific views.

  8. “…climate change is real because maths…”

    Err, kinda yeah . It’s called science. If your snarky critique of any science you don’t like is basically saying with rolling eyes “apparently I have to accept the numbers ” you truly have nothing left but denial – it’s the very definition.
    Regarding that video – it’s about time they understood the difference between science by consensus – which actually is a figment of their conspiratorial imagination – and the scientific consensus which Paul Nurse was talking about – i.e the general agreement that the current paradigm is successfull – i.e anomalies are insignificant in ratio to successfull predictions and working technologies.

    So often they act as if they are experts on the philosophy of science and yet reveal nothing but uninformed hand me down second hand and worn carbon copies of someones poorly articulated pamphlets.

    I like the desperate snark articles – they hoist the writers by their own petard.

  9. You are entirely correct in your assessment of Delingpole’s attacks and snarkiness, but I would interject one possibility here from several years of engagement on his blog with The Telegraph. Is Delingpole ignorant of the science, or is he acting as a snake oil salesman, essentially playing a role as climate change contrarian knowing enough that AGW is true, but spinning a contrarian, right wing narrative on purpose?

    I can see it both ways; his interview with Sir Paul Nurse (it has to be seen to be believed) shows Delingpole as an ignorant bumpkin, garnering a huge laugh. I can also see him as an intelligent enough person to play the role of contrarian du jour in the right wing blogosphere for which he is paid, and in which there is a huge following.

    Reading Delingpole enough, one can anticipate his next column based on whatever significant climate change news – or contrarian spin – is current. Despite Delingpole’s infrequent claims that he is just writing “satire,” his columns come across more as locker room trash talk.

    Now that he has moved to the more hermetically sealed, ultra-right wing – along with the bevy of his supporters from his Telegraph blog – he can get away with writing whatever nonsense comes to mind. Indeed, writing a comment there questioning Delingpole’s claims will get you banned faster than an ISIS beheading.

  10. I think that the problem here is the fallacious fallacy fallacy.

    I.e. “If you are appealing to authority, you are wrong” is NOT the result of the “Appeal to Authority” fallacy.

    Much like the “Godwin fallacy”, where it;’s claimed “You lost the argument, because Godwin”, where Godwin’s rule doesn’t claim a thing about the winning or losing of an argument.

    Dellingpole, Brad, and others are fallaciously calling accepting the word or evidence claims of an expert as being “proof” that you are wrong, when they have proven no such thing with their “Fallacious fallacy” claim. If someone appeals to authority, you cannot claim them wrong for it, you have to PROVE the authority is wrong.

    That was done with, for example, the G&T paper that was hilariously wrong. Done with Wegman’s piece, and with M&M’s similarly broken “Disproof” of the hockey stick evidence: they were shown to be wrong by other authorities, for papers that thought they showed how MBH was wrong.

    If you’re not going to allow authority claims, then you need to do that work disproving the authorities you wish to insist are wrong.

  11. Peeps, don’t believe Brad when he claims that he ACCEPTS AGW. He doesn’t.

    See here for evidence (he was so bad he was banned to his own thread):

    If you read it, please remember to stop facepalming when your hands start to smart.

    • Your first line contains no answer to the question you’ve been too ashamed to acknowledge for 2 whole years now, Wow: what branch of physical science was Cook a practitioner of when he wrote that scientifically-illiterate passage I quoted back in the Deltoid days?

      But then, I knew you weren’t developmentally up to that simple task.

      Stay laughable,


      PS readers will, I’m sure, enjoy scouring the entire Brangelina thread from beginning to end just to make 100% sure you’re delusional (or perhaps lying) when you say it contains “evidence” that I’m an AGW-denier. Hopefully, after their wild goose chase in search of any indication that you’re mentally lucid and honest, they’ll understand where your reputation as the most worthless participant in the entire English-speaking climate debate comes from.

      • Shush, Braddy.

        We (the internet) KNOW that your pet hate is “consensus is not evidence”, which is all you ever hear.

        People can easily see your insanity on that thread.

        There are many, many others.

        Chaps and chappettes, and Barry too, google “brad keyes deltoid” and be careful of your sanity as Brad argues with “special needs” definitions of words and refusal to adhere to anything even vaguely resemling truth if he can misquote and misattribute his way to being “right”.

        • Hey Wow,

          Comedy fans everywhere are still dying to know the etiology of your delusion that I’ve

          been banned from WUWT and JoNova’s site

          despite all my recent commenting activity there, you unmedicated Untermensch.

          • “recent” = January last year???

            • Sigh. Try today.

            • Which is three days after you claimed you were still posting, after a link to “my last argument with Watts” being January last year.

              Some would think that you have posted there merely to prove your point, not because you think it will be left there.

            • I see that you’ve decided to follow the only accepted dogma on Jo’s site. So you’ve either proved that you’re against AGW unlike your previous claim “I ACCEPT AGW!” claim, or that Jo will kick off people who question her and accept the same person if they agree with her.

              I post this because it shows how projection is in place when people claim SkS or realclimate are “holy communion” or otherwise a religious-cult-like cabal.

            • Some would think that you have posted there merely to prove your point, not because you think it will be left there.

              Only if “some” were simultaneously as fatuous and as paranoid as you, Wow.

              Which, as can be demonstrated mathematically, only one person is.

              Listen carefully, because I’m not going to waste any more time on your conspiracist fantasies:

              I’ve never been banned from WUWT or Jo Nova’s, you halfwit.

  12. Obdurate ignorance good description for Delingpole. Assuming that he is not stupid, and could with effort and homework understand the science behind climate change, surely it is lazy and sloppy journalism when you can’t be bothered to check source documents, despite their ready availability. This is not a trivial issue and his stance is irresponsible especially as he continues to disseminate and recycle others ignorance. He should be ashamed.

  13. {Having dutifully deleted my googlish browser’s cache (recently) a 3rd attempt, just for the ridicu-lousiness of contemporary technology’s sake: Now from the Gombjuder’s memory.}
    [2nd trial of post. (Them modern gombjuderz seem no longer internets-capable, not only lacking feedback, but now/here even memory, not to speak of the basic connectivity paradigm of TCP/IP.) Again, out of my own f*n memory and out of context… (Bill Gates reborn distributedly in the Google-wordpress-cloud? wrrr…) So,]

    Brad, me typed too fast. The second word “consensus” intended a slightly different meaning (elaborable from context). Like, a biologist noting a quorum sensing blob of bacteria (scientists), or, a quantum mechanic respecting a Bose-Einstein condensate of different (f.a.p.p. independent) observers in a Rovellian uni-verse of multiple observers of (not QM, but not unlike) reality.

    [Me dunno how it would be necessary to go that deep into natural philosophy, but then, the Late Homo S “Sapiens” is a looser not only in techne, but also in basic risk management, if not assessment (i.e. what once was philosophy).]

  14. All a science paper is evidence for is that the paper exists.

    It is PROOF of nothing more than that.

    Unless you work through the paper and verify yourself, you have to take it on the word of the authors that they are correct, which really is the only definition of appeal to authority there is.

  15. Brad, whatever you’re paying Steve, he’s stiffed you.

  16. Jose, Steve is doing Brad’s signature move of insisting that the words appear precisely, though they won’t themselves use a consistent phrasing or quote demand.

    IOW they’re insisting that Dellingpole HAS TO SAY EXACTLY “The BBC article is stupid” and EXACTLY THE WORDS “The argument form authority is proof the argument is wrong!”, and will change what needs to be precisely there because exactitude is something for others who he believes wrong to use, not him.

    So when you, a reasonable person interprets Dull Old Pole’s words as dismissing the proofs because “So she’s a *doctor*, huh? And I’m supposed to just believe her?”, he demands you show where exactly those words are in his message.

    • No. Read the article. Delingpole says explicitly that “appeal to authority” is not his point.

      • What we are saying is that regardless of what Delingpole says explicitly, implicitly, at least, he relies on authority just as does everyone else. It is not a logical fallacy to trust authority a high amount. It is (in contrast) a fallacy to insist that something is true based on who said it. The former is what the video likely was doing (I didn’t see it). The latter is one of Delingpole’s arguments against the video yet not supported by any quotes, and his own argument likely would be used against him on that since he significantly trusts much to authority (as does everyone else) and specifically didn’t want to read the literature on climate science to verify whether what was being said was reasonable or not.

        • I think we are talking about 2 different things. I agree that Delingpole relies on authority and that everyone does.

          I don’t have a problem with the appeal to authority and I don’t think Delingpole does either.

          Yes I see what he says about “maths”, “doctorate” etc. but when you put that into the context of his entire commentary – I just don’t see any argument or rejection of “appeal to authority”.

          Bickmore initially said Delingpole’s “main point” was an argument against the logical fallacy of appeal to authority (see original post)- then conceded that was at least part of the point (see his commentary to me on 3/11 ). I’m trying to say that if it was a point at all, Delingpole didn’t state it clearly, implicitly or explicitly and that Bickmore has read meaning into Delingpole’s commentary that isn’t there.

          Having said that, I can see that if you read a few phrases of the article and from the surface might think Delingpole was implying that appeal to authority is an unacceptable, fallacious argument. But because he says;

          ” Had there been space, I suppose, I could have added “climate change is real because doctorate” and “climate change is real because University College, London.” But I’m not sure it [appeal to authority] would have added a great deal to the point I was trying to make.”

          My understanding of that statement is that appeal to authority is not his point. As I read the original commentary and then the explanation published in Breitbart – I don’t see the basis for Bickmore’s polemic on this topic.

          Do you?

          • I read the article linked above, and I am not sure what his point is. The complaint generally seems to be that the presentation didn’t “prove” climate change or satisfy his personal areas of doubt. But he refuses to look deeply at the science, so no presentation that potentially takes hard looks would satisfy him because it would either not be hard enough to address his particular concern or it would be too hard/scientific for his liking.

            [He certainly seems to say that the presentation leverages fancy distractions, of which appeal to authority would be one type; however, if he doesn’t like appeals to “maths” yet won’t look into the publicly available papers with the math, can he really legitimately complain much?]

            He has opened himself to criticism that he is guilty of what he criticizes. He doesn’t want us to be fed claims as fact, but he won’t look at the math. Whatever he believes is almost surely based on claims-sans-math fed to him by someone.

            • “he is guilty of what he criticizes”

              If you are saying that he is criticizing the use of fancy distractions (one of which is appeal to authority), then yes, he’s guilty of using those tactics and authority. I’d ask you, do you think he hates red hair, that red hair is an unfairly used tactic? I doubt it.

              He isn’t saying that the use of these theatrical devices or appeal to authority is wrong or unacceptable. He says that the BBC has used these tools well and it appears convincing and implies that those tactics are not irrefutable proof by themselves. That is all. (see his closing comments about one sided arguments)

              Now, if you are saying that he hasn’t looked at the math, that is another illogical leap altogether that takes a great deal of speculation. That is another topic (that I’ve already covered with Bickmore in this blog)

            • >> Now, if you are saying that he hasn’t looked at the math, that is another illogical leap altogether that takes a great deal of speculation.

              My source is primarily the video at the end of this article (barry’s). Starting at minute 5, it’s Delingpole speaking:

              “It is not my job to sit down and (uh) read (ah ah ah) peer-reviewed papers because I simply haven’t got the time, I haven’t got the scientific expertise. What I rely on is people who have got the time and the expertise to do it and write about it and interpret it. You know, I am an interpreter of interpretations.”

              I think he is saying both that he doesn’t read the papers and that he significantly relies on others who have.

            • Jose,
              I get that. Your leap is that you assume James hasn’t made any changes in the last 3 years or more and still relies on others for help. If this is what he did in 2011 it might not have been what he did in his preparation for this article. Maybe the interview prompted some change in his methods. You say “almost surely claims… sans-math”? Do you have no source for that? I doubt it. If the old interview is your source, you have no idea how much effort he took to understand the current issues of this documentary. I would call that a leap of logic.

              Furthermore, if you condemn Delingpole because he relies on the expertise of others for his research, that does not mean he hasn’t done the hard work to understand. That argument would condemn even the best of scientists – they all rely on the expertise of others or everyone would have to duplicate every experiment they cite in their publications. It’s pretty common for scientist to rely on others for help.

              But I think this is a distraction. If Delingpole wasn’t’ even arguing about authority or the science, and, I don’t think he was, then how much does the math matter? (Don’t misunderstand, I think the math, observation and literature are important in the discussion of AGW, It’s just that Delingpole isn’t commenting on science and says so.)

            • Give up, Jose. Steve doesn’t appear to be one of those people who understand snarkiness. If he wants to read Delingpole as seeing nothing wrong with appeals to authority, let him. If that’s true, Delingpole’s article was not only stupid, but pointless.

            • Barry,
              It’s good to hear from you again, but you take some wild leaps assuming that I don’t understand snarkiness. Furthermore, I get the implication of being, “one of those people who doesn’t understand”. It’s disappointing that you resort to personal attacks when your Honor Code requires that you respect others. But, let’s set that aside for now…
              You may think that Delingpole’s article had no point if it wasn’t about appeal to authority. I think you are wrong. He says his commentary was “cultural analysis and goading” and not argument. You’ve fallen hook line and sinker to the goading and proven his efforts fruitful. For every time you or anyone else goes to read his commentary, he gets paid. That’s not pointless and you’ve promoted it.
              Back to respect and honor….You publicly talk of obdurate ignorance, stupid ideas and make statements like “[you] are one of those people who don’t’ understand…” I hope that I’ve treated you and your readers with respect. Furthermore; I’ll respectfully concede that I think you can have your opinion about his meaning but you’ve done little if anything to support your perspective. Having done “the hard work”, it’s my opinion that you have horribly misconstrued his meaning or that you simply didn’t take the time to carefully read his piece before you passed judgment and wrote yours.

            • You appear to be saying that, if you are right, the only point of Delingpole’s article was to goad people into reading it, so he gets paid more. Wow. You have an even less flattering view of the guy than I do. I was talking about SUBSTANTIVE points, FYI.

              You say, “He says his commentary was ‘cultural analysis and goading’ and not argument. You’ve fallen hook line and sinker to the goading and proven his efforts fruitful.”

              And yet, how can one perform an “analysis” of something without making an “argument”?

              You keep saying stuff like that, and it’s clear you think you are saying something smart, but the words you use don’t make any sense when one examines them in order, and within the cultural context. Honestly, and whether you like it or not, your reasoning seems like something some kind of hyper-literal, artificial intelligence might come up with.

            • ““analysis” of something without making an “argument”?”

              Your point is well taken. What I mean is that he isn’t making an argument about the science or the logic of the program. I could have and should have been more clear. Of course he’s making an argument/point – but it’s about medium not logical fallacy.

              If being “hyper-literal’ means I read what Delingpole wrote and don’t accept your assumptions, then call me deep blue.

              “Artificial intelligence”? I get your meaning but that simply attacks my approach not the point.

              As for my view of Delingpole – it’s his job to entertain and garner readership. He doesn’t work in academia. I don’t think Jimmy Fallon is a bad guy ’cause he does what he does. I generally like Jimmy 🙂 I don’t dislike Delingpole either.

            • >> if you condemn Delingpole because he relies on the expertise of others for his research

              A major point of this article as well as of my comments are that we all depend on others, so, no, I am definitely not criticizing him for being a human.

              >> Your leap is that you assume James hasn’t made any changes in the last 3 years

              I think the position that Delingpole has not changed that much in this regards is more likely to be accurate today than the position that he has delved into the scientific publishings significantly in the last 3 years, considering how even undergraduates of several years majoring in science aren’t usually ready to do much analysis or understand your typical paper, much less a significant portion of the field. I doubt he has dedicated the last 3 years to understanding math/science to the requisite degree. For example, I really doubt he understands an important 1978 paper on the theory behind CO2 warming, “Climate Modeling Through Radiative-Convective Models”, by Ramanathan & Coakley. [You can find the paper free online to read if you’d like.] Being a climate scientist generally doesn’t mean you understand the details of that paper, but it would likely mean you accept it in the absence of understanding the math/reasoning behind it.

              I stated, “almost surely claims”. I am going statistical on you, not deductive. If you have information that I can use to weigh in on his current approach and understanding, feel free to post it. It could even conceivably lead to a follow up article by Barry or an update to this one.

      • I did read the article, Brad. And, unlike you, understood it.

        My point stands.

      • So why does he bring up his appeals to authority if appeals to authority are not his point?

        Why does he bring up the authority credentials of the presenter (a Doctor) if appeals to authority aren’t his point?

        Are you saying that Dull Old Pole is entirely pointless?

        You’d get agreement on that. The consequence of that is why the hell is the pointless windbag employed???

        And the question would also be why the hell can’t you say that?

  17. Random sampling is a great way to test to determine if authority is presenting a good argument. Simply pick several small topics, research them, and determine the error rate.

    • Unfortunately for deniers and those chowing down on the rubbish, they don’t do well on that score.

      How many times have they proclaimed the cooling of the earth back to pre-industrial times? Not happened yet…

    • Consider this analogy:

      A couple sits down for dinner on a date. As dinner arrives one says to the other, “there are tomatoes and beans in this soup”. The second then shouts for everyone in the restaurant to hear, “Why do you hate tomatoes? You said you liked my pizza. Pizza has tomatoes on it. You lied to me. You must be a liar and if you lie you must hate me and by the way, tomatoes are healthy!”. The first says to the other, “I was just trying to make conversation”.

      Can you spot the fallacy? To be clear, the initial premise about hating tomatoes was unsubstantiated and then taken to an extreme. This is quite similar to what Barry Bickmore has done here. Barry’s initial premise is wild conjecture blaming the intransigently ignorant conservative commentary as being a loathsome freak show. He site this article written by James Delingpole as proof. Bickmore states the main point of Delingpole’s commentary is that this BBC documentary “is stupid because it uses the dreaded appeal to authority”.

      Bickmore then goes on to write a lengthy argument against such misplaced arguments. I agree with Bickmore that the appeal to authority has its place but Delingpole makes no argument against the appeal to authority and Delingpole clearly states that appeal to authority is not the point he is trying to make. That is not very scientific, if not a blindly biased and fallacious leap of logic.

      Bickmore says he was talking about “SUBSTANTIVE” points. So am I. When a scientist becomes unscientific in their thinking, it’s a problem. Barry says, , “Failing to be make critical decisions based on incomplete information is called ‘spinelessness’ , not ‘open-mindedness’.” (see Barry’s laws)

      In this case, Barry has made a decision and condemns the conservative right not just based on incomplete information but on no information at all. That is substantive.

      (Barry maybe you should retract your accusations and write piece on how biases can distort the perception of even the best of us.)

      • Yes, we can see the fallacies. Can you see them both?

        The one you probably missed was your analogy had nothing to do with the situation you’re using it for. It’s not even analogous.

        Then again, you really don’t care about facts, truth or honesty, do you, Brad?

      • Steve, I fail to see your argument. Barry states his opinion on where something is headed and then offers several examples as evidence. This business about a sole example and “proof” introduces a distortion that is easily rebuffed or is otherwise a clear error in logic.

        As for the Delingpole example, I still don’t believe you have made your case. Delingpole’s article mocks the notion of appealing to climate scientists’ words of what the published papers show while he is simultaneously apparently very willing to take the word of others who generally have a lot less experience in the subject.

      • Wow and Jose I love your loyalty and enthusiasm.

        I’ve tried to be clear about Barry’s primary assertion and pointed out that there is no evidence of it in Delingpole’s piece. I fail to see that Delingpole is mocking the notion of appeal to authority and Bickmore doesn’t even try to support it.

        I think we just disagree, and that’s okay.

        Either way, I hope Wow and Jose stay active on the forums.

        • It’s not loyalty to Barry, it’s honesty and integrity to the language and logic, Brad.

          Has anyone here said you’re just posting in loyalty to Dull Old Pole? No. Why? Because we are dealing with your errors, not your psychology. We can do that because you HAVE errors. You turn to it because you’re playing the man, not the ball, having found out that nobody is buying bullshit here.

          You’ve not tried anything other than play word games and ignorance.

          And it’s pointless to claim “Lets agree to disagree”. Raelians would say that about the existence of aliens on this planet. All it really means is “I can’t explain why I’m right, but I am, so shut up”.


          You’re wrong and doing so deliberately.

          • Wow, you sound really distraught and a little judgmental. If I’ve upset you please accept my apologies – I didn’t mean to.
            Is there something I can do to make you feel better?

            By the way, I’m not Brad. I was impressed by the way Brad completely destroyed Barry’s argument in this blog, but it wasn’t me.

            • Nope, Brad, not distraught. Cheesed off with morons like yourself arguing for the sake of arguing, absolutely dishonestly.

              A good argument for a case, even if I disagree with it, is great.

              You don’t do that, it’s far too much effort, and not worth it: you don’t have anything other than dogma on your side, so a well thought out case is beyond your ability, what with the lack of material to work with you have.

              The only way you win is by defining words so that you win, but never telling anyone what your definition is. Then congratulating yourself on how well you did.

              It’s pitiful.

          • You are mistaken to confuse me with Brad. I’m interested in this blog because Bickmore is fairly outspoken in the local community and teaches at my alma mater. I’m disappointed with the quality of his commentary. I doubt Brad has any BYU association and as you should be able to see is no longer paying attention to this blog.

            You accuse me of “errors”, dishonesty, ignorance and word games but don’t back that up. You are the one who is struggling with good logic and arguments. But if you are interested in continuing an ongoing argument with Brad, then your efforts are wasted.

            • Yes, you’re disappointed. But that’s why you insist he’s wrong, not the other way round.

              Nobody is fooled.

            • That post doesn’t even rise to the level of being specious.

            • Let’s just leave off this “discussion”, guys. The whole thing comes down to the fact that I (and others who have commented) think Delingpole meant a certain thing by what he wrote in his blog post, and Steve does not think so. No amount of explanation seems to persuade anyone to change their mind, so the only point of continuing is to trade insults and outrage.

              Nobody cares. Nobody will bother slogging through all these comments. If one of you decides to let the other one have the last word, the world will probably never know. Because nobody cares.

            • No, Barry you’re wrong there.

              If someone came up with an actual applicable argument other than “Hey, he didn’t use these exact words, therefore he didn’t say them!”, which isn’t an applicable argument, I’d be willing to concede the point.

              Just like if someone managed to come up with an actual alternative theory for climate that showed anthropogenic CO2 cannot cause warming, which included a tested and authoritative explanation of why the climate appears to track exceptionally well with CO2, then I’d change my mind on AGW.

              As would ANY skeptic.

              Deniers, such as Dull Old Pole, Loco, Brad, Steve and so on have already made up their minds. NOTHING will change it.

              I’m willing to change my mind.

              Show evidence, that’d do it every time.

            • You’re correct, Steve. Your post did fail even that very low bar.

              Never mind. Well, never yours, anyway.


  18. “Honestly, and whether you like it or not, your reasoning seems like something some kind of hyper-literal, artificial intelligence might come up with.”

    This is probably because Steve is a sock of Brad. He’s done that before, and that’s his invariant M.O.

  19. Well, the take home point, Barry, is that even the deniers who love him think he’s a joke, for entertainment purposes only.

    That’s gotta sting.

  20. Oh, good bloody grief. Science has “been about consensus” since the 1700s. Who ever this Delingpole idiot is, he’s wrong. Consensus is the goal of science and scientists.

  21. […] the two camps.  Some might object that “science isn’t about consensus” (which is misleading, at best), but it seems pretty obvious that your average Joe watching a five-minute video on “Climate […]

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