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Here’s where scientific ignorance can lead …

June 28, 2012

I set up ScienceOrNot to try to make some contribution in the fight against scientific ignorance. I think it’s important that people should be able to detect bogus science in their everyday lives so that they are not misled. So when someone who is wealthy and influential enough to affect all the lives of us falls for the tactics of deniers, it’s particularly worrying.

Gina Rinehart, apparently the world’s richest woman, appeared on the ABC’s Four Corners program this week. Subsequently, the ABC published her answers to questions that were not addressed during the program. Here are the questions on climate change, with answers supplied on Mrs Rinehart’s behalf by Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd:

1. You have clear views on the climate change debate and have helped to fund speaking tours by prominent figures like Professor Ian Plimer who is critical of much of the current climate science coming out of theuniversities. Can you indicate how much you donate to organisations and individuals that are challenging the mainstream climate scientists?

2. Did you donate to political and community organisations lobbying to block the introduction of the carbon tax last year?

Mrs Rinehart remains concerned that imposing the world’s highest carbon tax will impact Australians negatively. Imposing such a high carbon tax will add to Australia’s high costs, not only for businesses already facing problems with cost competitiveness, but also for Australians. She remains concerned by the lack of understanding in the media on this issue. To lessen the fear the media have caused over these issues, Mrs Rinehart suggests that the media should also permit to be published that climate change has been occurring naturally since the earth began, not just the views of the climate extremists. It is a fact that there have been ice ages, then periods of global warming to end the ice ages, for thousands of years, and these have occurred naturally, including due to the earth’s orbit, and not due to mankind at all.

Mrs Rinehart points out that some people received notoriety claiming only a few decades ago that the earth was about to enter an ice age and understands some of those same people are now claiming, global warming instead. Mrs Rinehart admires people like Ian Plimer who have independently chosen on their own accord to stand up against this tidal wave, which has caused fear, and despite substantial attacks by some of the media and extremists for so doing. It is noted Professor Plimer had his own views on climate change long before he knew Mrs Rinehart and had given many such informative speaking tours prior to meeting Mrs Rinehart.

The scary part is that Gina Rinehart has bought up the largest single shareholding in Fairfax Media, Australia’s only counter to the Murdoch press. She wants three seats on the board, but won’t agree to sign the necessary charter of editorial independence. It’s difficult to avoid the impression that the charter interferes with a desire to impose her opinions on the content of Fairfax newspapers.Is she obsessed with the need to “permit to be published” the amazing revelation “that climate change has been occurring naturally since the earth began”?  Graham Readfearn has a great post on this at DeSmogBlog, so I won’t go into the details. What I’d like to do is to tag all the Red Flags Mrs Rinehart has fallen for.

  • PRATT – above all, Mrs Rinehart’s claims have all been refuted repeatedly. Yes, there are natural fluctuations in global temperature, but no, the present episode is not natural. Some people may have “received” notoriety for claims about an ice age, but the scientific consensus has never been of this view. If some of those people have changed their minds, it’s because of the evidence.
  • Fake experts – Mrs Rinehart promotes Ian Plimer as someone who has authority and expertise in the climate debate. In fact, Plimer’s field is mining geology, He has published no peer-reviewed work on climate change.
  • The Galileo Gambit – Mrs Rinehart has convinced herself that Ian Plimer is a noble maverick, and to her, this means he must be correct, despite the fact that his arguments have been repeatedly shown to be unreliable.
  • False dichotomy – Mrs Rinehart’s reasoning is that fluctuations in global temperature must be either natural or “due to mankind”. Since historical changes have been natural, she reasons, all fluctuation must be natural. This is a logical fallacy.

It’s sad when anyone gets sucked in by such transparent scammer tactics. But, as I’ve said, it’s scary when it’s someone in Gina Rinehart’s position.

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  1. Martin Lack permalink

    So then, in opposition to Murdoch’s mouthpiece for the scientifically-illiterate you look set to get Fairfax fallacies for the intellectually-incompetent. Good luck with defeating the cognitive dissonance on both fronts.

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