Riddle-me-ree/open thread

By Gareth Renowden 04/11/2011

We haven’t had an open thread for a while, and as there seems to be some desire to discuss Matt Ridley‘s recent lecture at the RSA in Edinburgh (see Bishop Hill for the first appearance thereof), here’s your chance. There’s a lot of other interesting stuff around — feel free to roam. But first, I’d like to offer some observations on Ridley, his lecture and the response from the usual suspects.

  • Ridley is a good writer, and knows how to put together an interesting talk. His RSA lecture is well done, in a technical sense, and unexceptional until he starts talking about climate science.
  • His take on climate science is based on well-known sceptic tropes, and counter factual, to be polite about it. The “science” content is the least interesting aspect of the lecture1.
  • He starts his polemic — and explains his conversion to the cause — by accepting without question the McIntyre take on the hockey stick, as revealed by Mountford’s book.
  • He writes about confirmation bias, apparently unaware that he is exhibiting it himself (although he admits “heretics” may be guilty of it too).
  • The gushing promotion of his talk by Mountford and Watts is hardly surprising, given that he praises them:

    “It is left to the blogosphere to keep the flame of heresy alive and do the investigative reporting the media has forgotten how to do.”

  • The most interesting aspect of Ridley’s talk is that it is a great demonstration of how someone with a predisposition2 to do nothing about climate change can delude themselves by buying into an alternate reality where hockey sticks have been debunked, current temperatures are unexceptional, and future warming must be small.
  • Ridley claims:

    “The remarkable thing about the heretics I have mentioned is that every single one is doing this in his or her spare time. They work for themselves, they earn a pittance from this work. There is no great fossil-fuel slush fund for sceptics.”

    Perhaps not: but there is a well-documented and well-funded PR campaign being run from the US, which has benefitted all the brave heretic bloggers he lauds. The alternate reality they help to sustain is a carefully-crafted product of that campaign.

Anyway, enough Ridley. I have a vineyard to spray, a book to finish, and lunch to eat. Have at it…

  1. Ridley’s take on climate science has been extensively debunked by Skeptical Science, in a three part series that deals with Ridley’s books, climate scepticism, and his role in the collapse of the UK’s Northern Rock bank a few years ago.
  2. Perhaps political, perhaps financial, or perhaps just because of a reluctance to change.