Academic Trolling


Universities used to be places of open enquiry and free debate.  To make sense of science, debate has to be free.  Anyone with the first idea of the philosophy of science knows that nothing is ever finally “proved”.  Hypotheses — theories — are always open to challenge.  If they survive challenges for long periods, we may have great confidence in them, and perhaps start to call them “Laws”.  Newton’s theories of gravitation were regarded as laws — until Einstein demonstrated that they were merely good approximations, and that nature, space/time and gravity were more accurately described by Einstein’s Relativity Theory.

But if open debate is essential for science, it is surely essential for other subjects as well.  So it is distressing that we are starting to see a stultifying political correctness on campuses in America, and in the UK, which aims to exclude any speaker with challenging views.  There is talk of creating “safe spaces” for students where they will not be offended by non-PC opinions.  But students who are not prepared to listen to conflicting opinions should not be at university to start with.

It is in countries like North Korea, and under régimes like that of ISIS, that dissenting opinions are banned.  We in the West should be banning opinions only if they directly call for or incite violence.

A recent and conspicuous example was that of Germaine Greer at CardiffUniversity.

Having spent decades as a PC icon for feminism, she has finally managed to infuriate the sisterhood by adopting a “trans-exclusionary” point of view (I’m not making this up — this neologism has appeared in the press).  She reportedly said (readers of a nervous disposition please look away now): “You can put on a dress and cut off your d**k, but that doesn’t make you a woman”.

You may or may not agree with this proposition.  You may or may not find it (the idea, not the rude word) offensive.  But surely it is an opinion that can be fairly debated by students in a university?

Of course it is not just Germaine Greer who has suffered from this kind of aggressive intolerance.  Others are being “no-platformed” (in the new jargon).  It has even happened to Nigel Farage.

Oddly enough it comes up in scientific debate.  There are opinions which are beyond the pale, because they defy the orthodoxy.  And it is not just students — the idea has infected academic staff as well.  I am accustomed to being trolled with puerile abuse on the climate issue, but I am sorry to see an East Midlands academic, Professor Michael Merrifield, taking a similar approach. Admittedly he is not quite so puerile nor so profane as some, but his attitude to dissenting opinions seems to be to dismiss those who disagree with him as “buffoons”.

Michael Merrifield ‏@ProfMike_M  Dec 3@ISayPorter @john3ners except @RogerHelmerMEP isn’t at #COP21; he’s spending public money to attend a fringe meeting of like-minded buffoons”

Does he not know that many highly qualified scientists, including quite a number who have been IPCC reviewers, have highly sceptical views on climate orthodoxy?  Does he regard them as “buffoons” too?

On December 3rd I attended a fringe event around the UN COP21 Conference in Paris.  My event, the Paris Climate Challenge 2015, was organised by Philip Foster and featured a number of prominent climate sceptics.  I Tweeted from the Conference, and the eagle-eyed Professor was on my case immediately:

Michael Merrifield ‏@ProfMike_M  Dec 3 @RogerHelmerMEP how much is your jolly costing the public purse?”  The answer is not a lot, as the cost of taking the train from Brussels to Birmingham via Paris is not that much different from a more direct route.”

But his comment illustrates some curious thinking.  The whole COP21 exercise involves an estimated 40,000 thousand people, world leaders flying into Paris in private jets, and vast expense.  I can’t find a figure but it must run to many millions.  The good Professor has no concerns about that — even though COP21 seems unlikely to produce substantive results.  But he is concerned about a few €uros extra for me to travel via Paris.  He may not like UKIP very much, but he cannot deny that we are a significant political party.  Does he therefore think that while legitimate expenses are publicly funded for other politicians, UKIP’s energy spokesman should be specifically excluded from attending a climate event on the fringe of COP21?

And another question.  I don’t know, but I imagine that the good Professor does some work from time to time (when he isn’t trolling on Twitter).  And I daresay he calls it “work”.  When a politician he disagrees with does some work, he calls it “a jolly”.  Were President Obama and Ban Kee Moon on “a jolly” in Paris?  I spent about seven hours in Paris (after a fearfully busy week in Brussels), and apart from a light lunch in a local brasserie and two taxi fares, I spent not a penny while I was there.  If that’s a jolly, I wonder how the Professor would characterise a good time?

A broader question is why folk like to good Professor (note that he’s an astronomer, not a climate scientist or an atmospheric physicist) get so aggressively committed to an alarmist point of view.  And here a new book from the Heartland Institute offers some insights.  Entitled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming”, it’s by Fred Singer, Robert Carter and Craig Idso.  It sets out do debunk the facile claim that “97% of scientists support he IPCC position”.  But in the discussion, it covers the issue of why significant numbers of scientists (and politicians and media figures) uncritically accept the orthodoxy.  It suggests that key sources of bias include careerism, grant-seeking, political views and confirmation bias.  If you think there’s a bit of a consensus building out there, you seek to establish your own credentials by jumping on the bandwagon.  It’s very easy to gain credit by supporting the apparent consensus.  It is more difficult and less obviously rewarding to challenge it (until, of course, you’re proved right).

One is put in mind of Saruman in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.  Saruman was a baddy, but he had extraordinary powers of persuasion, and Tolkien writes of those who listened to Saruman “Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell”.













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35 Responses to Academic Trolling

  1. Stuart Todd says:

    Sent from my ASUS

  2. Ex-expat Colin says:

    I’ll wait for the two familiar empty heads to come in here shortly. In the meantime I’ll watch Christopher Monkton mash a couple of the usual trolls today over at WUWT:

    Alan Johnson believes the “97% of scientists” junk, and to which he told Piers Corbyn to check it in the HoC library. Johnson starts off reasonably but seems to easily slip.

  3. martinbrumby says:

    Merrifield proves himself to be a complete d**ck.
    He should be cut off.
    From his over paid ‘job’ at the expense of taxpayers and energy users, at least.

  4. ian wragg says:

    As we have said before Roger. these people have expended so much capital on the pseudo science that to admit they’re wrong would make them look a right bunch of twats.
    They appear willing to destroy Western civilization rather than subject their views to rigorous examination.
    then of course we have the apex of educated twits in the form of Charley boy and Charlotte Church, who are we to argue.

  5. ian wragg says:

    As we have said before Roger. these people have expended so much capital on the pseudo science that to admit they’re wrong would make them look a right bunch of tw*ts.
    They appear willing to destroy Western civilization rather than subject their views to rigorous examination.
    then of course we have the apex of educated twits in the form of Charley boy and Charlotte Church, who are we to argue.

  6. George Morley says:

    Have a look at this from 2009 with Lord Christopher Monckton :
    Al Gore would not face him.

  7. catweazle666 says:

    “The whole COP21 exercise involves an estimated 40,000 thousand people, world leaders flying into Paris in private jets, and vast expense. I can’t find a figure but it must run to many millions. The good Professor has no concerns about that”

    Of course the good Professor has no concerns about that Roger, they’re to Save the World™ ® © (and have a damn good fortnight’s pi$$-up at the tax-payers’ expense – but we’re not supposed to mention that)!

    The one and only thing that will definitely be decided will be the date and place for next year’s five star super luxury beanfeast, which will also be the one and only thing that’s decided on that will be certain to take place too.

  8. Brin Jenkins says:

    These conferences are mainly a one way communication of ideas, this builds on the opinion consensus they hold so dearly. Cfact have dissenting stand there and are informing those who are not totally committed of the alternative views held.

  9. Let me show you how very shocking you must be to the good professor:
    When, Roger, we were up at Cambridge (me slightly earlier at Pembroke reading History) it was virtually all male. And it was much smaller. We could walk around anywhere in the university and see other undergraduates moving from the monastic communal bathrooms in their dressing gowns. Rowing was for Men. Rugby was for Men. A first was – a First. Those undergraduates went out to run the new Commonwealth and to teach at the Public Schools. I worked for one of them for ten years. Marvellous.
    Then women came in. Now there are heaps of colleges. Our local dance instructor goes to Cambridge (Anglia Ruskin) which she tells me she loves. Our criminal Lawyer tells me she is a Cambridge Graduate (Anglia Ruskin). The initiation ceremonies at Girton are new and they take place, I understand, on Parkers Piece. They are savage and sadistic. Colleges are now “safe spaces” with locked gates and locked staircases. There is a special day in the Library when men and women work together topless. The butch Women Porters patrol in uniform. Fashion is everything: believe in gay freedom, global warming, transsexuality, caring for the vulnerable, interraciality and using very long words which, frankly, are put there as fashion accessories.
    Meanwhile, men and women live together as man and wife and rarely come into College. When they do, it can be very silly. The man who came in dressed in a Mr Cameron face. The man who came dressed up as a pig…
    Women in a University do not work.

    • catalanbrian says:

      I have yet to read a greater example of buffoonery than this. Or are you joking? If so it is very funny indeed.

      • catweazle666 says:

        catalanbrian: “I have yet to read a greater example of buffoonery than this.”

        Clearly you never read your own drivel.

        When it comes to spouting buffoonery, you are a World class expert.

  10. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Anybody noticing the term “adaptation” slipping in here and there? Or have I missed any interest in that rather than a whiff of minor gas.

  11. Michael Merrifield says:

    Once again, you seem to be exploring the use of non sequitur in presenting your argument, Roger. For what it is worth, I think attempts to no-platform Germaine Greer are deeply mistaken — I think her views on quite a number of matters, including her transphobic ones, are ridiculous, but I fully support her right to express them and for others to argue with her, just as I fully support yours to make ridiculous assertions about climate change, as I would hope that you support mine to state that I find them buffoonish. I do not believe I have ever been driven by my annoyance at your behaviour to refer to you in threatening or obscene terms; if I have ever done so, please accept my apologies.

    I have, in the past, frequently put up counter-arguments to your silly remarks about climate on Twitter, not because I expect them to have any effect on you as you are demonstrably not interested in science, but because I have the misfortune to be represented by you in the European Parliament, and I would like the World not to associate your views with my region. However, please be reassured that I will not do so in future, First, you have moved so far into self-parody that I am fairly confident that anyone whose views I value is unlikely to mistake your pronouncements for representation, and second almost every silly thing you say has already been effectively countered by a large number of people who know what they are talking about. There’s a good compilation here:

    • catweazle666 says:

      Oh dear, skepticalscience…Cook the (failed) cartoonist, Loopy Lew Lewandowsky and Dana Nuttyjelly, whose idea of a good time is to dress up in Schuzz Staffel uniforns and can’t even manage to keep the photos off the Internet.

      And you think you’re oh-so-very-clever too, don’t you, despite getting your so-called science off crackpot alarmist web sites.?

      I can assure you aren’t – not even close.

      By the way, I bet you’re a ‘pause’ denier too, am I right?

    • Brin Jenkins says:

      Michael as you seem to have an understanding, so I ask if you will comment on the only explanation of CO2 that I have been given after a number of years.

      It appears that after incoming Solar Radiation warms the planet, it’s re-radiated back into space and we had no problems until the CO2 level was raised.

      Re-radiated infra red is absorbed by CO2 molecules in the upper atmosphere, this is immediately re-radiated and absorbed again repeating until escaping into Space.

      It’s this heat escaping delay that seems to be causing the warming trouble.

      Is this your understanding of the mechanism?

      Bearing in mind that CO2 400 parts per million and any increase is so very little can it make any observable difference?

      I don’t think it can or will make any recordable changes, but would like to hear another’s viewpoint.

      I also think if they don’t know, perhaps Warmists should not be attempting to persuade others.

      Is there any better explanation of this theory, because most warmists are unable to explain and they really don’t have a clue.

      • Michael Merrifield says:

        That’s pretty much right. However, the issue is not so much the delay as the fact that it shifts the equilibrium temperature, in much the same way that putting a blanket over yourself delays the escape of heat from your body (although it eventually “leaks out” through the blanket), but in the process changes the equilibrium temperature (and keeps you warm!). The size of the effect requires modelling of the spectral properties of CO2 and their interaction with other molecules in a chemically-active atmosphere, so it is far from trivial to do (which is why there is still a range of predictions), but the consensus amongst those who carry out such analyses is that it is already a significant contributor, and will grow more so if CO2 increases further..

        Although 400 parts per million is a small number, bear in mind that it is the total column of atmosphere that radiation passes through that dictates the probability that escaping infrared light will be absorbed, just as a fine mist may not involve a high concentration of water droplets so doesn’t affect your ability to see nearby, but will still obscure objects in the distance.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Modelling? This planets atmosphere cannot be adequately animated in terms of grid squares. And doing that with a view to influencing policy regarding energy use is plain foolish. Models will always have to be adjusted to fit real time records from instrumentation which says that the models are of no significant use.

        The signal of human generated CO2 is not present in records from instrumentation, so nothing can be apportioned to it with adequate confidence.

  12. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Stuff to watch. Few silent gaps in it that need to be jumped along, cos it is unedited.

    LIVE FROM PARIS: Monday, Dec. 7, 09:00 – Day of Examining the Data at COP-21

    Better than reading that tw*tter crap!

  13. Brin Jenkins says:

    I find I’m unable to reply to Mike Merrifield in context, so I post here separately. I had not connected Mike with being a professor when I posted my last comment.

    I thank you professor Mike for your response, I still feel the theory is not shown to be any more than esoteric and interesting, I’m also pleased that I had grasped the fundamentals of the only explanation offered after several years of inquiry and much troll abuse.

    As CO2 is released as an effect of heating cool water I find it strange that its next described as a cause of heating? This seems to reverse a cause with its effect which seems illogical. Is not increased fertility of plants in converting CO2 to O2 leading to a negative stabilising feedback? The observations of temperature changes hardly show we are facing any crisis and data tends to be adjusted for some reasons not understood, I feel solid observations that were inconclusive are required, a distrust has also built up since the leaked emails from East Anglia were released a few years ago, sush language and gross deception do nothing to gain the trust of Joe public.

    Again my thanks.

    • Michael Merrifield says:

      As the denialists like to point out, water vapour is also a greenhouse gas, and also, of course, produced when you heat water, so I don’t think there is any particular contradiction in CO2 doing the same.

      Indeed, stronger plant growth could well act as a stabilizing influence, but at the moment we are destroying vegetation faster than any increase, so it is unlikely to save the day without some intervention. I agree that UEA were foolish in their attempts to sell a particular story, but, as they say, science doesn’t care what anyone believes.

      • catweazle666 says:

        Michael Merrifield says: “but at the moment we are destroying vegetation faster than any increase”


        Increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have helped boost green foliage across the world’s arid regions over the past 30 years through a process called CO2 fertilisation, according to CSIRO research.

        In findings based on satellite observations, CSIRO, in collaboration with the Australian National University (ANU), found that this CO2 fertilisation correlated with an 11 per cent increase in foliage cover from 1982-2010 across parts of the arid areas studied in Australia, North America, the Middle East and Africa, according to CSIRO research scientist, Dr Randall Donohue.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Who is/are “we” exactly and what “vegetation”. And once that is specifically established, whats the intervention(s) ?

        I know about Nigeria and other counties that are being wrecked by corruption. And thats why so many of them are hanging about at COP 21. So, I suppose we could hand out piles of money and have it run away similar to FIFA?

      • Michael Merrifield says:

        Sorry if I cut my explanation short. Try here:

      • catweazle666 says:

        Michael Merrifield: “Try here:


        You’re joking, right?

  14. Brin Jenkins says:

    I’m not sure that clouds act quite the same as a green house, when obscuring the Sun the Radiation is reduced immediately, and I feel colder. Agreed a clear sky allows the Earth to radiate heat at night whereas cloud cover retains more, but as cloud cover is usually fairly equal both day and night I hardly feel this is raising temperatures, merely making it more temperate.

    As you say Science cares nothing for what is believed, but theories are only a possible explanation of a mechanism, often contradicting one another. The School explanation of electrical flow was positive to negative, but as we know when recoating mirrors the flow has to be negative to positive for the sputtering process that I used in the IAM Farnborough in the late 1950’s. The same flow holds good for thermionic radio valves, a positive attraction flow explains the function but not the transistor.

    Again thank you for the input, I’m afraid I see the warming scenario as an interesting situation, but its not borne out by model predictions or observation. At the end of the day the UK seems to be a rather a cold place, and only a masochist might choose to pay carbon taxes whilst feeling cold.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      I often wonder (not really) whether the electron and hole principal is still taught as regards semiconductors? Supply polarity was all most of us had to remember I think.

    • Michael Merrifield says:

      Water vapour still absorbs radiation very effectively even when just in the atmosphere rather than clouds, so the cloud cover is not directly the issue. It is, however, the explanation of why water vapour is not a serious concern as a runaway greenhouse gas: because the pressure and temperature of the atmosphere is reasonably close to the triple point of water, and excess water vapour cycles out of the atmosphere as rain or snow on a timescale of days; because the same is not true for CO2, the timescale to rid the atmosphere of excess CO2 is way longer.

    • Michael Merrifield says:

      Incidentally, it is quite likely that a warming Earth might well make things a lot colder in the UK if melting ice caps do bad things to the Gulf Stream, so perhaps addressing the issue is also important if you are cold.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        Thanks Michael, I appreciate your time to explain and It would carry more weight if observations confirmed computer model results, rather than the results favouring the theory. I rather distrust models having learned to program in Basic in the days of Commodore Pet’s, and have adjusted algorithms to obtain the results I required. We never did win the Football Pools!

        I wonder also at the results of carbon credits, these percolate to the Third World who buy manufacture goods, vehicles and fuel. We seem to be converting low carbon economies into carbon producers. Living as we do in a colder climate more activity is required to survive, perhaps as we are the cold balance the planet needs we should be subsidised by those who have an easier/warmer lifestyle? I know its not going to happen but our supporting them has damaged our culture!

        What I think we will agree on is we should waste less, and be more cost effective. Green Energy will fail unless an energy storage system is developed, and there is little looking hopeful at present. Without green electricity generation is just not viable and Tony Blair was reported to have concluded Nuclear was probably our only option.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Brin…IAM FRN – Institute of Aviation Medicine

        I am ex DRA/DERA/QQ Malvern with visits to FRN and once to the RAF IAM in a place I cannot remember exactly. Think they were moving the hypobaric chambers about?

      • catweazle666 says:

        ” if melting ice caps do bad things to the Gulf Stream”

        More alarmist claptrap.

        An event that has happened precisely once, at the end of the last ice age when a moraine dam let a huge bolus of fresh water loose into the North Atlantic.

  15. Brin Jenkins says:

    Hi Colin, I worked with Brian Tyndall and Willie Tonkins in the Bio Physics lab just before Brian’s untimely death. He taught me to question everything and restart from basics when a project stalled. I rode the centrifuge and have been looking for that acceleration ever since.

    A truly great experience.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      That stuff scared me to death having nearly lost it one day at a Skegness fairground spinning thing. Thought I could hack that at age 35.

      Our game was weapons/a/c engines/nav software and ultimately discovering what went wrong with Ariane 5. INS fell over due to somebody mixing floating point and integer numbers. Simple stuff? Same stuff is hanging around in models that are influencing our energy policy. I am always suspicious where related big money exists as a result. Or that high confidence thing we are so often subject to!

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