The sincerest form of flat earthery

discworld.jpg I can’t resist a small (flat, disc-shaped) chortle. While the great communicator (Prof Bob) was readying himself to address an august audience at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland last Saturday, a bunch of members of the NZ branch of the Flat Earth Society (dressed in clothing from their favourite historical period – the Medieval Warm Period) were handing out leaflets suggesting that the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition might like to join with them to resist the dark forces of rationalism. From the leaflet:

The Flat Earth Society and the Climate Science Coalition (with Bob Carter) have so much in common. While the NZ CSC is relatively new, we at the FES have had centuries of experience in battling against against a mass of overwhelming scientific evidence, and believe may be able to learn from and indeed support each other.

The NZCSC seems to have come to a critical point that appears to be tipping against you – a point where fewer people believe in your position. Believe us, we’ve been there, we know what it’s like.

Don Brash was there.

32 thoughts on “The sincerest form of flat earthery”

  1. Dear Flat Earth Society,

    We the Art Researchers Coalition against Climate Change would also like to draw attention to a letter written by our honary member Svend Hendriksen, who bravley stands in the face of IPCC oppression.

    Please note that our brothers at the Climate Science Coalition, also support our cause by way of hyperlink.

    Must any brother of a brother be too a brother of ours?

    Please rejoice in our solidarity.

    Signed insincerely,

    Greg Hagglestein,
    Inaugural founder of the Art Researchers Coalition against Climate Change.

  2. Idiot Savant: We didn’t know what Pamela looked like – but she could have been that woman sitting next to Don.

    Greg: Must meet this Sven man – he sounds like just the kind of person that the FESNZ needs to meet. This is the type of network we have been looking for for centuries. I’ll contact desmogblog (but I fear they won’t have much truck with our cause).

    The CSC themselves didn’t seem to like us much – we showed them our diagrams which prove that the earth is flat, but they didn’t appear to believe us. We will reach out, again, to the NZCSC (Maybe a personal letter to Bryan would be better)…

    hmmm.. maybe we could approach Pam? She doesn’t appear to require factchecking on scientific articles, so she could be open to running a story.

  3. It’s a shame that the FES show their tru colours in
    ” … against against a mass of overwhelming scientific evidence, …”

    They, unlike the fetic Climate Change deniers, have not had to contend with the likes of the IPPC. The IPPC, after years of valiantly struggling to make their data “statistically significant” have, in their latest round of results, redefined statistics and statistical significance so that NOW the data says what all along they knew it would. The only thing that surprises me is how long is has taken for the little boys in the crowd to point out that the IPPC not only have no statistical clothes on but have had their stats clothes given to the local Salvation Army op shop.

    The GW sheeples may in the end be proven right – but it will not be due to any due process of science. However, right or wrong it matters not as the carbon traders will have made their, literally by then, trillions, making the oil men look silly in their choice of which sucker to back.

  4. Thanks for that fine riposte 🙂

    See “The length that people will go to ..” about 1 pagedown here

    You could hardly have said better :-).

    “Fetic” was meant to be “fetid”. It was a joke – as may be obvious, or not.

    Brief explanation of the rest: The IPCC, after years of trying to get data that showed their core thesis to have statistically significant support, have now admitted defeat and instead redefined statistical significance.
    They use P >= 0.90 and P >= 0.95 in the same breath. It’s “rather easy” [tm] to get your data to say whatever you want when you do that. P > 0.95 is the first hurdle to scientifically recognised statistical significance. P >0.90 is just “it’s just possible that something may be happening – keep an eye out.” By running the two together they have bowlderised science and made a mockery of the science process.

    Am I correct. Look at their reports. You may need to dig down a bit on their site. Now ask ANY scientists EXCEPT climate scientists whether this is an abuse of the scientific process. Just ask :-).


  5. If you aren’t used to statistics you may find it useful to show the above to a friend who is. They would be able to asess whether I was making sense, and whether the IPCC appeared to be doing something “naughty”. From there it is a reasonably quick look through the IPCC statistical limits to see if I am correct. This is something that anyone with a basic introduction to stats will be able to handle with ease. if this doesn’t make sense to you then nothing that the IPCC says that is science based will either – you will just have to take their word for it.

  6. No, I’m quite used to statistics, and I can even explain to you what’s wrong with Douglass et al. (2007)’s use of the unbiased variance estimator formula (Section 2.3).

    The problem, really, is that you’re blathering vague fluffy fluffies and generally being an idiot.

  7. Fluffy fluffies?
    Ya reckon?


    1. Do IPCC treat results with P=.1 and P=0.05 as if they are the same, and produce conclusions based on this which indicated that they consider that both indicate “statistical significance”.

    2. Did they do this prior to their last “cycle”?

    3. Does anyone else doing “hard science” that is reported in peer reviewed journals in ANY other area do this?

    4. If you did this in submitting results for a PhD thesis would it be accepted?

    5. How can your answers to the above questions possibly not be no no no no ? 🙂

    6. Do you think that name calling will improve your credibility?


  8. > ” … at the VERY least you could provide some links to all this instead of ‘look at the reports!’”

    I’d have hoped that “the very least” would have involved interested parties actually simply looking at the IPCC site to see if what I say is true.

    However –

    No problem:

    ie my job is to get people to think, not to deliver them all the available material – providing a bit to start is fine, but if people won’t do a bit of followup for themselves then they will be stuck with what they are fed.

    I suggested looking at the IPCC site. That’s –


    Just this time 🙂 –

    “The Treatment of Uncertainties in the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report”
    Google knows.

    READ related material on IPCC site if you really care, but:

    “IPCC Page 14, Adv. Clim. Change Res, 2006, 2 (Suppl. 1): 13-21

    “In this summary for Policymakers … Very high (95% or greater), high (67%-95%), medium (33%-67%) … ”


    The range 67% – 95% here is reflected elsewhere in their thinking. If this was just for populist vagueries it MAY be acceptable but a look will show you that it permeates their whole presentations.

    Question: Why do people rush to defend this practice which is unknown to science, when they surely should be saying something like “That’s interesting, I wonder what that approach will lead to”. If 68% is “high” and 91% is high, how dependable is the assessment “high?

    Look at the tail of a normal curve at the point where there is 67% of the area in the half to the left of the point chosen (33% in the tail). Look what the stats books say about this point? (clue: nothing useful)

    The 90% point (10 % in the tail aka P=0.10) is “indications of significance” and >95% (5 % in the tail aka P> 0.05) is the MINIMUM level for statistical significance in all hard science. IPCC “high” includes everything from close to almost certainly random chance right up to the boundary of “statistically significant.”

    Tell me it’s not so – and “at the very least” provide a reference explaining or justifying it – preferably a peer reviewed one.

    Why do people feel compelled to falsify claims such as this of material published plainly on the IPCC website. Why do people rush to defend actions which would be unconscionable in eg a school science experiment?

    Russell McMahon


  9. > … do you understand what’s wrong with Section 2.3 of Douglass et al. (2007)? …

    Apart from the fact that I had never heard of it and had to search for it, the answer would not in any way affect the point I am making, which is that the IPCC have very visibly changed science.

    If I asked in answer to some question that you put – ” biintljinact – Do you understand what’s wrong with a large number of the claims in ‘An inconvenient truth'” I’d suspect that you’d see it as a red herring intended to inflame and mislead from the question.

    Is there something mystical or bad about my question that you have to ask a different one as an ‘answer’?
    Is my claim not supported by the IPCC website.
    Do scientists that are asked about this not agree that the rues of basic science are being changed by the IPCC?

    Russell McMahon

  10. The fact that Russell McMahon talks about normal curves shows that he is totally clueless.

    Let’s see how the IPCC report uses likelihood levels. The SPM says, for example, “It is very likely that over the past 50 years: cold days, cold nights and frosts have become less frequent over most land areas, and hot days and hot nights have become more frequent.” That is to say, Pr(H) is greater than 0.95, where H denotes the hypothesis “cold days, cold nights have become less frequent etc.”

    Note that H here is a discrete random variable: it can only be “true” or “false”. A discrete random variable can’t follow a normal distribution.

    In other words, McMahon was totally wrong in thinking that whatever random variable he’s discussing is actually a continuous variable, much less a normally-distributed variable. (If he’d followed by advice to make his rants more coherent, he might’ve discovered his error in time to avoid making a fool of himself…)

    I may write a blog entry on this statistics stuff some time… but for now, everyone feel free to enjoy my analysis of Milloy’s super-duper plan to stop climate change regulation.

  11. > The fact that Russell McMahon talks about
    > normal curves shows that he is totally
    > clueless.

    It was worth a hope that something approaching civil conversation might be possible.

    Whatever I say you’ll easily be able to find some other area to apply it to.
    Questions –

    1. Are you, for example, suggesting that the IPCC does NOT deal with normally distributed phenomena in some of their reports, or that

    2. if they do deal with such phenomena that they do not apply their “high” rating for 0.33 >= P > 0.05,

    3. Are you suggesting that the use of a single probability range 67% to 95% is in any way justified and

    4. Do you consider that assigning the term “high” to this range is justified in any was whatsoever.

    5. Did you not read the IPCC document that I referenced before making your erroneous statements?


    6. Do you realise that the terminology that you are using does NOT match the IPCC’s very high / high / medium / low / very low guidelines that I am specifically citing from their report that I named in excruciating detail and that the example that they give immediately following the terminology guidelines bears no relationship to the example that you give, but is directly applicable to normally distributed populations? (and to a lesser extent to populations with other distributions).

    7. Do you ever answer specific questions rather than instead introducing new material?

    > (If he’d followed by advice to
    > make his rants more coherent, he
    > might’ve discovered his error in
    > time to avoid making a fool of
    > himself…)

    Something about pots and kettles comes to mind 🙂

    FYI – your link reported itself broken when I attempted to use it.



  12. Interesting.
    I started off addressing a specific issue (see IPCC document which I referenced) which for some reason biintljinact does not want to address. Stats formulae on another issue don’t help


    Anyone listening (all one of you ? ):-).
    If you CARE about what may be happening to the science you are being ‘shown’, if you can follow what I’ve said look at the IPCC pages and see if what I say is true. Or show a competent person who you trust and ask if it makes sense.

    And ask if I or biintljinact seem most credible 🙂



  13. bi — Intl. J. Inact. Isn’t the distribution of occurrences of a discrete random variable Poisson? but the same principles apply. You can still apply a 90 or 95% confidence level test to the result.

    Russell – Spot on with your truth about global warming in 5 sentences. The issue I have with Kyoto (No different from indulgences that the catholic church used to sell) is that worse than being “a start and better than nothing” is that it is actually a distraction from doing something meaningful. Well done with the LED lights. I agree if the result has a 65% confidence level then it’s not proven. I see a defence is that there is too much at stake for a 90 or 95% confidence level to be applied to the result, which is the same as what you say but at least they could be open about it.

  14. Fred (25/04 6:49p)
    “I see a defence is that there is too much at stake for a 90 or 95% confidence level to be applied to the result”
    If you are referring to my comment on the “Take that Nigel” thread, then you are missing the point. The point is that Russell is trying to apply an inappropriate test ie asking for statistical proof in a risk analysis assessment – in risk assessment there are always significant uncertainties.
    Russell suggests that this travesty of science is well buried in the fine print of the IPCC report, I found a clear statement of what they are doing in a highlight box on page 2 of the introduction (cunning blighters).
    You will be pleased to hear that you, Russell and the IPCC are in full agreement that a ‘65% confidence level’ is not regarded as proof – it is simply ‘likely’.

  15. Fred:

    “it is actually a distraction from doing something meaningful.”

    You mean Doing Nothing.

    Besides, you totally missed my point about the difference between Pr(H) and Pr(X > x | H). X can be normally distributed, Poisson distributed, whatever. But H is only true or false.

  16. Russell, I just wanted references/links because a) I have no idea what you’re talking about (i’m not a scientist, just an observer) and b) the IPCC report is FAR too big to look for something when I don’t even know what that something is anyway. cheers

  17. Sonny:
    I never thought I’d live to see the day, but it seems the Flat Earth Society also has something in common with a NASA astronaut:,25197,23583376-7583,00.html

    I suggest you may find it useful to think about the whole implications of your stance on that. Consider that you dismiss with flippant rudeness an opinion from a person whose opinions you would hold in high regard if they happened to agree with your own.
    Is the subject really so open and shut that you can really afford to so treat the opinions of a person whose capabilities and thinking processes are probably, in your estimation, superior to your own. [[If that isn’t the case then NASA has urgent need of you 🙂 ]].


  18. Bintljinact – I had a flick through the “scholarly journal” site that you always reference. Is there more than one ‘scholar’ represented there? Maybe I didn’t look hard enough?
    Re the statement there about deciding that commenting on comment on Freeman Dyson’s paper as being like “shooting fish in a barrel” so you didn’t bother. My sincere thanks for bringing Dyson’s as always erudite, informative and balanced comments to my attention. That is an utterly superb piece on a sensible approach to investigation of climate change. Populist level of course due to its audience but far more measured and balanced than what you’ll usually get elsewhere – from either perspective.

    Copy here for anyone interested.

    Must be some REALLY tough fish in that barrel!

    Others: Thanks for the comments on IPCC stats. I’ll have a think about how they relate to my understandings. More anon perhaps :-).


  19. I admit to having short patience with statistics, in fact, none.

    But what are the “skeptics” arguing for: the right to pollute as much as we want no matter what?

    There is more to environmental pollution than just CO2. There are a host of chemicals that are very toxic that are also spewed out by autos, coal fired generating plants and the other sources of the CO2 that is building in the atmosphere.

    Note that this is not an argument against the whole idea of global warming.

    But if we can be encouraged by the threat of global warming to produce a much more efficient, lean, and way less wasteful economy and society, how is that bad?

    Please be skeptical, yes, get out back and wrestle with some fencing wire, fix some things, and don’t let big science pull one over on us. Especially big science that is in the pockets of the coal and oil industries, or any other major interest group – herbicide companies, for instance.

    But what is all the bickering really doing, except for distracting us from the real work of making our economies and societies non-polluting, making our social systems more just, living in some sort of equilibrium with the planet, instead of wasting time confusing the issue?

  20. There are a host of chemicals that are very toxic that are also spewed out…

    I would think that anybody manufacturing solar panels and all manner of turbines, or even – god forbid – nuclear power stations will also produce these toxic chemicals you mention as part of the process of alleviating global warming. One must consider the full cost of such actions, not just the lovely end result.

  21. I am always suspicious of those who defend themselves by calling other people names and by appealing to popular agenda laden “facts” – your reference to the flat earth society being a case in point. You can bust the flat-earth myth here and see the lie foisted on us by those experts with agenda in the social sciences.

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