Pseudoskeptics Exposed In The SalbyStorm

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Pseudoskeptics Exposed In The SalbyStorm

Pseudoskeptics Are Not Skeptics was inspired by last year's SalbyStorm,  which highlighted the stark divide between scientific skeptics and most (pseudoskeptic) climate dismissives, who reject the mainstream consensus.

Murry Salby's unsupported, internally-inconsistent story of dismissal by Macquarie University was broadcast via blogs, to excited discussion.  Contrary evidence mounted over the next few days, including here.  Reactions differed strongly.
Update 03/09/16: Judge rejected every Salby claim against Macquarie, which is owed apologies by many.

Scientific skeptics
About 30 commenters accepted mainstream climate science and rejected Salby's wrong ideas from his lectures and 2012 book (see review). Given a one-sided employment dispute story, real skeptics were cautious or knowledgable enough to be more dubious.  In the hostile territory of these blogs, they were often insulted, sometimes for merely expressing caution. 

Real skeptics knew the science, weighed evidence, and avoided leaping to premature conclusions on Salby's story.  Some searched and found relevant history that cast doubt on Salby's credibility, but were ignored or insulted for providing unwanted facts.

Climate dismissives, pseudoskeptic behavior
By contrast, of the 400+ dismissive commenters (who reject mainstream consensus), about 40% explicitly supported Salby's erroneous CO2 ideas, seemingly desperate to believe the current rise in CO2 was natural.  That idea was rejected by a mere handful, of whom one apologized and said he expected to be downvoted for doing so, and indeed he was.
Dismissives reacted to Salby's Macquarie story in varying ways:

~5% were consistently cautious or dubious from the start, commendably able to think skeptically on Salby's story, if not on climate science or his CO2 ideas.

~5% accepted Salby's story at first, but were able to change their minds, at least to being cautious about Salby's story.

~10% said nothing about Salby's story.

However, most dismissives displayed strong pseudoskeptic behavior:

~80% rapidly accepted Salby's story without question and persisted. They either ignored contrary evidence, insulted its bringers, invented ill-informed counter-arguments or just stopped commenting when strong evidence appeared.   Graham Readfearn's story revealed Salby's mis-use of an old associate who had trusted him. Despite strong participation by Australians and 3 relevant pieces in The Australian, that story was ignored.  Even later, hundreds of comments were written in support of Salby's CO2 ideas, ignoring science-based counter-arguments and strong evidence of Salby's past deception.  As a whole, the blog network rapidly propagated ideas it liked, but not contrary data.

Salby's story confirmed their beliefs and 45% of this group amplified it into conspiracy ideas. For instance, although Salby was hired in 2008 and his odd ideas only appeared in 2011, at least 20 commenters seemed to think he had been “lured” to Australia to purposefullly harass him and sabotage his research, perhaps orchestrated by US or UK scientists.  Even ignoring the time machine required, this seems an unusual hiring practice. 

Macquarie University was pervasively vilified and sometimes sent insulting messages, for which no apologies were ever expressed.

A detailed analysis of nearly 2000 comments is nearly done, but interesting phrases are sampled below, the most popular emboldened. Commenters must be thanked for offering so much public data for a well-constrained, if inadvertent, experiment.  A  2-page, 4-column version shows phrases with rough occurence counts and may be easier to read, at front of the 380-page PDF of collected posts and comments (the “corpus”)  Readers can search for phrases and authors in context.  Quality of discourse should be clear, given background of Salby's deceptions versus Macquarie's appropriate actions.

Dismissive pseudoskeptic phrases

Salby & science
Einstein of climate science;   foremost climate scientist;   ground breaking;
hero or fine science hero;   landmark work;   maverick  like Nobel winner;
one of the world's most brilliant climate scientists;   outstanding scientist;  profoundly original thinker;   

Salby as martyr
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn;   angel who should be unsacked;   apostate;
Atlas Shrugged   John Galt?;   blackball  often with Carter;   Copernicus;
disenfranchised;   dissident;   excommunicat {-ed, ion};   exile;   Galileo;
Giordano Bruno;   heresy;   inquisition;   knife  or knive;   pilloried;
purge  (Flannery behind);   Rosa Parks;   Siberia;   threatens the religion;
Timothy Leary;   Vilif{-y, -ied, -ication};   witch hunt

Macquarie University
academatchiks;   another case of someone daring to speak the truth; 
another Climategate, or bigger;   appalling behaviour;   bad faith;   barbaric;   bastard;   being silenced BECAUSE he is right;   cheap politicking of these intellectual dwarves;   climate hysteria indoctrination;   Communist;
constructive dismissal;   corrupt  {-ion};   crime;   criminal    mostly MQ;
Dark Age superstitions;   Dean of junk science;   deliberate, targeted, vicious attacks on the academic freedom;   despicable (act);   Deutsche Physik;
dictator{-ial , -ship};   disgraceful antics;   disgusting;   dogmatic cult psyientists;   done down by the zealots;   evil tactics;
formally contact MQ and invite them to defend themselves here at WUWT;
goons;   hatchet;   he didn’t toe the party line so they sacked him;   hit man or men;   Hitler;   insanity;   Jim Jones cult;   kangaroo - {court, justice};
lawless duplicity;   lied, stolen equipment, sabotaged;   Lacky University;
Luddites;   Macabre University;   Machiavel{-i, -li};   Mao;   Mockery
pronounciation;   Mussolini;   Nazi     including envionazi;   not a University any more although it’s too ignorant to realize the fact. It’s a political party with a campus;   Orwellian;   petty machine;   poison {-ous};   Pol Pot would be proud;   ruthless and unfair employer;   Sabotage;   scandal;   scuttering like roaches from any ray of sunlight;   shabby   (treatment, etc);   shoddy;
smear {campaign, job, etc};   sociopath (-ic);   Stalin {-ist}
;   star chamber;   third-world dictatorships;   thrid rate degree factories such as James Cook, UWA, UEA,Penn State ;   unconscionable
act;   Uni heads need to be fired for such anti-scientific behavior.

Academe, generally
Australian unis are just degree factories;   centers of conspiracy  departments;  scurrilous ethics and outrageous behavior of academia;   That sums up just about ALL universities in the Western world all Marxist, all totalitarian regimes where no dissent is allowed.;   UEA or U of East Anglia;
utopian Gaia loving professors;   very dim view of universities and the people who work for them;   Whitewash     Mann or Jones;   worldwide laughing stock

Bad people, some “dog-whistles” most with no plausible connection
Cook, John;   Flannery, Tim;   Gleick, Peter;   Gore, Al;   Hansen, James;
Jones, Phil;   Karoly, David;   Mann, Michael;   Obama or Barack;
Lewandowsk {-y,-i}, Stephan;   Lewpaper or Lew paper;
Team, The;   Trenberth, Kevin

Mainstream climate science
AGW bandwagon;   AGW crackpottery;   AGW, edifice of;   AGW doctrine, lunacy, meme, movement, nutcases;   alarm{-ist, -ism};   appalling climatology, from CRU, UEA, NASA, or other enlightened dump;   CAGW gravy train;   CAGW or C/AGW;   calamatologists despise sceptics;   carefully crafted lie;   catastrophic;   charlatans;   church of CAGW;   climate cult;   Climate Scientists (outrageous) claims;   Climategate;   CO church;   consensus science;   crackpot {-tery, AGW};   cult of climatology;   cult science of climatology climate church;   Dellingpole has the answer call them out for the scum they are;   diabolically clever  to muzzle;   dissent     not allowed;
dogma {-tic};   dogmatic cult;   dud science;   dumbasses;   fraud;
fraudulence of the claims to science made by the ‘consensus scientists.’;
gatekeep or gate-keep;   God help us from these fools who claim to be climate scientists;   goose step impersonators masquerading as ‘scientists’.;
groupthink or group think;   Hansenlkosim or Hnsenkoism;   hoax;   hockey stick;   hypocrisy of the AGW proponents knows no bounds…. nor their capacity to blind themselves to facts.;   ideolog {-y, -ically, etc};   intellectually impoverished adherents of post modernism ‘science’,;   IPCC;   lying cheating warmist “scientist”;   Lysenko;   morally and ethically bankrupt;   more skullduggery by the “Team”;   orthodoxy;   Phrenology  ~climate science;
policy apparachiks;   post modern;   Propaganda;   pseudo  science;
religion;   religious {-ly-based};   sacred CAGW gospel;   scam;   “science” now means “propaganda” “idolatry”,“blindness”, “mendacity” and “venality”;
scum;   vindictive people;   pitchforks and torches and tar ….;
What swine the agw crew are

Other people
Agenda 21;   anti-human garroting of science.;   assassination  {character, etc};   brainwashed by these people;   cabal;   Clique - (~ The Team?);
Conspirac {-y,- ies};   CSIRO;   devout believers;   dirty lying verminous mendacious hypocrites;   elitist;   enforcers for the Warming dogma have their most outspoken critics publicly drawn and quartered. They mount their heads on pikes;   envirostalinist;   fascist;   freaks;   goose stepping, alarmist, fascist, progressives march along;   Greenist;   hate group known as the EPA;
high priests and political masters of AGW;   hooligans;   labor lefties;   “liberal” today actually means “selfish,” “callous,” “dishonest”, “control freaky”, “sociopathic”. ” “reactionary” and “fascistic”;   Luca Brazi (from The Godfather);   Marx {-ist, -ism};   megalomaniacs;   modern form of slavery;
Nothing is more illebral than “liberal”.  (sic);   Progressives;   satraps of climatism.  (in courts);   scaremongering;   smear  {campaign, sites};
Soviet;  squealing warmist weasel;  statists;  thought police;  thug {-s, -ery};
totalitarian;   warmers;   warmist or warmista;   warmista attack dogs;
warm-monger;   watermelon (green outside, red in)

Miscellaneous comments
Feynman is much missed;   Go away and preach to the already converted. We use our brains here. We think for ourselves.;   I decline to dignify the children at desmogblog.;   I know we are mocked for conspiracy theories;   I’m sorry, I didn’t realize we were indulging in conspiracy ideation;   no CO-AGW in a water world;   Sceptic {-al, -ism};   Scientia weeps;   The enormous difference between skeptics and the other camp is the skeptics want to get to the bottom of the issues…;   they have noticed we beat them on the science every time.

Image Credit: pjhpix /

PDF icon SalbyStorm Document Corpus4.91 MB
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Did you try working on a timeline histogram, and show rate and frequency of posting?  I.e… How long till it started tapering off?  What about tweet mining?  I'm also curious about lexical analysis of pseudo skeptic comments.   I find quite a few will launch in with words like 'CAGW'.  (I think you know I've been curious about automated filtration.)

I wonder if there is a way to model this kind of group think a la Bieber Fever;

Timing: yes, although not to the detail I might like.  Sorting otu the timings of blog conversations spread around the world is tedious, but in any case, the Stage(1)-(4) labeling was added as a good approximationm, because *what* people knew was more relevant than the exact date/time.  Threaded blogs are really painful to disentangle.

I have:

a) Counts of comments per blog post.

b) Mappings of blog posts to Wave (by when it starts) and to one or more Stages (i.e., on what was known), and conversations often persisted into later waves.

c) For each commenter, I hav the first Stage in which they commented on Salby-vs-MQ, the last Stage, and the last Stage in which they made any comment … since some just disapppeared.

Using the Wave/Stage description from p.1 of the PDF:

Wave 1: 1000 comments, most Stage(1), some (2): Rush to judgment

Wave 2: ~650 comments, mostly Stage(2), small number for (3)
  Stage(2) Argue against MQ(2), some start to get a little more cautious
  Stage(3) NSF/court cases: most ignore or have droppped out, some fight against,
  a small number change their minds about Salby

Wave 3, Stage(4): ~225 comments, Salby:Nova NSF piece revives some

Wave 4: (Salby tour in UK), didn't attempt to do counts, but much smaller.

Anyway, the huge burst of energy was in the first few days, then it slowed a bit, and then most people really didn't want to talk about the NSF/court cases.


Lexical analysis: I did mine for interesting phrases, but doign a serious lexical analysis was way beyond the scope.  If I ever do this again (I hope not), I'd collect software to parse the blogs, assign consistent timestamps and nodal connections, make each comment an object with relevant attributes… but not this time.