Climate disruption denier Monckton responds to detailed scientific rebuttal with attempted intimidation (updated)

Christopher Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, is a climate disruption denier in multiple ways. He’s denied that climate change is happening. He’s denied that human beings are causing the (unchanging) climate to change by pinning the cause on the Sun. He’s denied that global polar ice extent is declining. He’s repeatedly misrepresented published papers and hasn’t retracted his statements even after some authors pointed out that he was misusing their work. He’s also hit one of my personal buttons by misunderstanding and cheapening the real history of the Nazis by labeling peaceful, if rowdy, protesters as “Hitler Youth.” And we cannot forget that Monckton wanted to quarantine AIDS victims in the late 1980s, believes that President Obama probably isn’t a U.S. citizen, alleges that NASA crashed their own carbon dioxide-monitoring satellite, and claims to be developing a drug that will cure not only his Grave’s Disease and multiple sclerosis, but HIV, influenza, and the common cold too. Monckton also maintains that he’s a member of the UK House of Lords even though Parliament stripped most of the hereditary peers of their membership in 1999 and the House of Lords says that Monckton has never been a member (he’s now been reduced to saying that Parliament’s legislation was itself illegal).

Over the last few years, I’ve been repeatedly tempted to check every single one of Monckton’s references and see just how bad his understanding of climate science really is. But Monckton makes liberal use of the “proof by intimidation” fallacy whereby he presents so much information in a form that’s so hard to understand that it’s impossible to refute without taking days, weeks, or months to fact-check his claims. Life is too short to fact-check every single claim Monckton has made, so I decided to leave this particular task to others.

And thankfully, a number of others have done so. Barry Bickmore, a geology professor at Brigham Young University, has dissected much of what Monckton said in testimony to the Utah state legislature and found it to be largely inaccurate. Arthur Smith went paragraph-by-paragraph through Monckton’s 2008 Physics and Society article and found 125 logical fallacies, irrelevant statements, and outright errors. Peter Sinclair, creator of the YouTube climate science video series Climate Crock of the Week, did a two-part video just on Monckton (videos included below). But several months ago, John Abraham, Associate Professor at the University of St. Thomas, set the curve when it comes to debunking Monckton. In response to a presentation Monckton made in Minnesota, Abraham checked nearly every one of Monckton’s claims and references in order to see where Monckton got the science right vs. where he got it wrong. The result of all this research was a nearly 90 minute-long rebuttal where Abraham dissects dozens of Mockton’s claims from a speech a year ago and finds that nearly everything Monckton said in his Minnesota presentation was wrong. Abraham’s original presentation, plus a slightly shorter and revised version, are presently available at Abraham’s UST website.

To say that Monckton’s initial response to Abraham’s rebuttal was over-the-top is being far too kind – ludicrous might be the better description. Monckton accused Abraham of engaging in ad hominem attacks while simultaneously insulting Abraham and another of Monckton’s critics, George Monbiot of the Guardian newspaper:

So unusual is this attempt actually to meet us in argument, and so venomously ad hominem are Abraham’s artful puerilities, delivered in a nasal and irritatingly matey tone (at least we are spared his face — he looks like an overcooked prawn), that climate-extremist bloggers everywhere have circulated them and praised them to the warming skies.

Well, like Abraham, Monbiot’s a “scientist.” Trouble is, he’s a fourteenth-rate zoologist, so his specialty has even less to do with climate science than that of Abraham, who nevertheless presents himself as having scientific knowledge relevant “in the area.”

So most scientists — the snake-like Abraham and, a fortiori, the accident-prone Monbiot among them…

[Abraham] is not only an ignoramus, but a cheat and a liar. (italics original, bold added)

Monckton also accuses Abraham of dishonesty and of creating an “ingenious fiction,” among many other allegations. Monckton also said that he had started the process of demanding disciplinary action for “gross professional misconduct” against Abraham by the University of St. Thomas.

And Monckton’s latest response? He wrote a list of 466 questions that attack Abraham’s credentials, claims that Abraham didn’t follow academic protocol for an official rebuttal, and that doesn’t actually address the numerous errors in science that Abraham identified in his presentation. Unless you consider Monckton’s repeating the initial errors and making new ones to be an effective form of rebuttal, that is.

But that’s not really the problem here, because all those questions can be addressed by Abraham if he chooses to do so. The real problem is that Monckton has asked readers at the climate disruption denial site Watts Up With That to inundate the Inbox of the University of St. Thomas’ president with demands that the University censor the presentations and open disciplinary proceedings against Abraham:

May I ask your kind readers once more for their help? Would as many of you as possible do what some of you have already been good enough to do? Please contact Father Dennis J. Dease, President of St. Thomas University, [email removed] and invite him – even at this eleventh hour – to take down Abraham’s talk altogether from the University’s servers, and to instigate a disciplinary inquiry into the Professor’s unprofessional conduct, particularly in the matter of his lies to third parties about what I had said in my talk at Bethel University eight months ago?

If you ever wanted proof that Monckton’s game is intimidation, this qualifies as Exhibit A.

From what I’ve heard, the University of St. Thomas is being hammered with emails demanding that Abraham be subject to an inquiry over this issue. Rather than add to the email load, however, climate blogger Gareth set up a “Support John Abraham” post and pointed the University to it so that the University would know that there is a great deal of support for Abraham. I personally recommend that you “vote” by putting your name into the comments to the post if you think that Monckton’s attempt at intimidation is unacceptable. There are also rumors of a Facebook support page, but I haven’t found it yet. I’ll update this post with the group address if one ever becomes reality. There is now a Facebook group as well to support John Abraham. I recommend that you consider joining it as well as commenting at the Hot Topic blog.

Update 7/16/10: Eli Rabett has the text of an email from the law firm that represents the University of St. Thomas to Monckton where the university entirely supports Abraham and threatens Monckton with legal action if he doesn’t back off. Here’s the good parts:

It is the University’s position that Professor Abraham has done nothing improper or illegal in expressing his ideas and opinions on this matter and that Professor Abraham has not engaged in any academic or professional misconduct. Accordingly, the University will not investigate Professor Abraham’s conduct in this matter as you requested, nor will the University issue a retraction or apology for Professor Abraham’s talk, comply with any of your other demands, or respong to any further communications from you on this matter.

If your inappropriate conduct does not cease immediately, the University of St. Thomas will have no choice but to take appropriate legal action.

It’s always good to see an employer standing up for their employee. Good for the University.

I’m all for debate between people of good conscience who disagree, even if that disagreement is vehement and fundamental. But I cannot condone with my silence Monckton’s attempt at intimidation, and I hope you can’t either.

Image Credit:
Pamela Juhl, via Cop15post.com

26 replies »

  1. It’s a shame that there isn’t some kind of standardized “whackjob threshold” beyond which the scientific community could agree to simply ignore someone. I admire Abraham’s tenacity, but my god, that’s a lot of his lifetime he’ll never get back.

  2. By the way, Brian, you might want to do some quick revision: I hear the Viscount is now demanding a quarter every time anyone fails to use his title, which would put you at least five bucks in the hole already.

  3. It took Abraham 8 months to disassemble everything Monckton did in a single presentation, all the while Monckton was repeating the same bologna all over the world. Appeal to verbosity at its worst.

    Thankfully, however, it’s the efforts of people like Abraham who are going to make Monckton and those who reference him media pariahs in the same way that flat-earthers, “The Moon landing was faked” conspiracy nuts, and the like are. You know, people like Senator Inhofe and the minority on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

  4. Clearly, Abraham touched a raw nerve.

    I think it was Abraham’s debunking was so stunningly absolute, complete and total. By contacting the scientists who had written the papers, it was clear that Monckton had not bothered to do so. Some of the authors had not even heard of him, strange as it may seem. This directly challenged Monckton’s claim to be a “scientist” (is there a wistful longing there to be accepted?).

    He has also clearly overreached in his absolutely over-the-top interview and destroyed any chance of the St. Thomas director or Board taking his side. In fact he has left himself open to a countersuit for defamation. He has badly blundered and in the end he is going to be worse off then before he started. Before this, Abraham’s presentation was known only to a few insiders. Now it is going viral.

  5. Yes, it was the thoroughness of Abraham’s work that was the decider. Barking Lord Monkton had to do something and since he only has two settings, smarmy ingratiation or OUTRAGE!!! he had no real choice.
    I hadn’t read the “prawn” comment before. What a creep Barking Lord Monkton is.

  6. I’m afraid I’ve come in late on this Monckton. Is there any reason to think he knows jack about science of any branch? Wikipedia describes his education as a degree in the classics, and a certificate of some sort in journalism–which, if British universities are anything like the ones here, means his entire formal education in these matters consisted of sleeping though a single semester of Chemistry for Dumbbells or some such.

    And yet, he seems completely confident in his qualifications to criticize people who’ve spent their professional lives working in these disciplines.

    That must be a wonderful sensation. Is he one of those Dunning–Kruger effect people?

    Also, is that his real photograph? His eyes look like they were Photoshopped from something in a Dr. Seuss book.

    • Molly, Monckton suffers from the autoimmune disorder Grave’s Disease, and bulging eyes is one of the symptoms.

      He’s not likely a D-K guy – he’s been corrected so many times that it’s unlikely that Monckton even qualifies as willfully ignorant. At this point, the most likely explanation for his work is that he’s fighting against science that is a thread to his ideology, he’s paid extraordinarily well, and he loves the attention it gets him. Or some subset of the three.

  7. If you really want to scare yourself, google the youtube of him calling the protesters hitler youth. His left eye actually comes out of the screen and smacks you in the face.

  8. At this point, the most likely explanation for his work is that he’s fighting against science that is a thread to his ideology, he’s paid extraordinarily well, and he loves the attention it gets him. Or some subset of the three.

    You know, not only does hyperthyroidism have its own neuropsychological effects, it tends to magnify any pre-existing conditions… like rocket fuel for crazy.

  9. What is so incredible is that anybody takes the screaming Lord Bunkum and his bogus claims seriously. There is so much wrong with his arguments.

    Surely, this demonstrates that:
    a) the deniers are absolutely desperate
    b) that a significant percentage of the human population cannot differentiate between bullshit and science.

  10. At some point the only appropriate response is mockery.

    To the Good and Wise Lard Monkey,

    Please stop being such a nutty scat flinger. Your attention to this matter is deeply appreciated.


    Sane people everywhere.

  11. I was at university with him during his year in Cardiff and he provided off-the-wall entertainment even then. I find it particularly funny that he accused protesters of being the Hitler Youth, since he tricked the student newspaper Gair Rhydd, into printing the Horst Wessel song (the marching song of Hitler’s SS) as part of an article he had written, pretending that it was a poem by Goethe.
    He also delivered a speech in Latin at a meeting of NUS Wales as a protest against speakers being allowed to address the conference in Welsh.

    He has no scientific background whatsoever, which makes it all the more bizarre that he accuses trained scientists of not being qualified to talk about climate change.

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