Tuesday, March 22, 2011 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Skeptics, TRF stigmatized in a PSU course

The left-wing indoctrination that has overtaken a significant portion of the Western college education is often being discussed but every new example of this phenomenon disappoints us again. It's really bad.

Penn State University is the place that openly harbors the father of the infamous hockey stick graph. And you bet that it's not just one defective researcher who happens to be employed by a random school: the whole atmosphere at that college has been rebuilt to match Michael Mann.

Let me tell you an example. There is a 2-credit course over there, ENGR 408, The Leadership Principles (for engineers). Instructor Richard Schuhmann (Google Scholar: extremely weak!) is teaching it. A group of five students was assigned a task to answer a couple of "fundamental questions" about the global warming controversy.




It seems that they were already told what those "fundamental questions" are. I suppose that Mr Schuhmann himself is the source that believes that these are the "fundamental questions" about the climate change:

  1. Is all peer reviewed literature reliable?
  2. Is there a scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change?
  3. Did climate scientists, including Dr. Mann at Penn State, engage in an unethical “trick” in order to hide an actual global trend in declining temperature as implied by Fox News?
  4. Are Senator James Inhofe's “top climate scientists” reliable?
  5. How do you feel after completing this assignment?
This opinion that the instructor has invented the questions in this very wording is supported by the arrangement of the
final memorandum (click for the main material linked to by this blog entry)
that those five students submitted as their class paper.

This list of "fundamental questions" on the AGW controversy is quite amazing. The instructor obviously wants the students to answer whether the peer-reviewed literature is reliable and whether there is a consensus, and to make it clear what the "right" answers should be, the following two "fundamental questions" are designed as a request to defend Michael Mann, and to attack Fox News, Senator James Inhofe and the researchers whom he has ever positively noticed (which is pretty much all the skeptics in the world because James Inhofe's office has followed what was happening in all of climate science). The punch line, namely the final or fifth "fundamental question", wants the students to say that they feel good about defending the AGW propaganda and they feel upset about the deniers.

Don't tell me that it's not obvious from the wording of the questions that this is where the students are being pushed. Don't tell me it is not obvious from the questions what the instructor thinks and what he wants the students to think.

This is really bad. Needless to say, the students do exactly what the instructor instructs them to do. In fact, in their struggle to achieve better grades, they add some positive feedbacks, too. There is not a single glimpse of rational reasoning or scholarly work in the class paper; the whole paper is all about the very same ad hominem attacks that you may find in every other cesspool. They essentially answer the first question, whether the peer-reviewed papers are always reliable, by saying "No, they're not reliable because skeptics can sometimes get into them, too." I kid you not. They don't even want to admit the possibility that "reliable" could mean something else than "alarmist'.

I would never ask any students to produce ad hominem attacks as a class paper and I would never reward them for having parroted superficial slogans that are moreover unrelated to the technical content of the scientific discipline. It just seems unthinkable to me - but it seems to be the standard policy at PSU.

Concerning the "consensus", they refer to Naomi Oreskes' crackpot paper - that had claimed that there was not a single paper opposing the AGW propaganda - as a Holy Scripture even though the students provide us with a clear proof that they know very well that the claim in Oreskes' paper is just pure rubbish. They did the search themselves and found papers that unambiguously contradict the AGW orthodoxy. Moreover, they are demonstrably aware of the list of 850 peer-reviewed papers summarized at the Popular Technology website, edited by Andrew and three more editors.

So in this case, the students are just being demonstrably dishonest, and the instructor himself is the very driving force of this unethical behavior.

What do they do with those 850 papers that demonstrably falsify the claim by Oreskes? They just don't like them, so they don't count them. There must surely be something wrong with it, even though they have no idea what it could be and what the evidence for such a claim could be. They behave just like ostriches with their heads in the sand. They pretend that they don't see what they don't want to see. Obviously, they still see it but they don't allow the information from their eyes to propagate to their brains. They behave as complete deniers of reality.

In the section about Michael Mann, the students say that his "trick" was similar to L'Hospital's rule. Quite an unexpected analogy. They don't make the slightest attempt to actually study the science, and they just parrot a couple of totally idiotic, DeSmogBlog-level attacks against Fox News and others. This junk simply shouldn't be allowed in the Academia. Again, being demonstrably aware that Mann has fraudulently hid an inconvenient part of the data, they essentially say that that it was a good thing to do and refer to Real Climate as the apparent source of the authority. Well, Real Climate is not a source of any authority; it is a mouthpiece of a couple of hardcore crooks who are directly linked to this hockey stick scam and the key editors include Michael Mann himself. Regardless of the identity of Real Climate, they should be independently able to figure out that what Michael Mann has done is indefensible.

In the answer to the question in which the students were asked to attack James Inhofe and the scientists whom he has positively cited, your humble correspondent is treated very nicely.
Senator Inhofe has made me comfortable in assuming his choices shall fall in accord with the sentiment of economic superpowers such as ExxonMobil, and not with the science that is repeatable and imminent. Senator Inhofe's reliance on the anecdotes of Dr. Lubos Motl on his own committee's national website (Morano, 2007) are even in fallacy as Dr. Motl's background is only extensive in the study of string theory and hosts his publications on an unedited, free Blogspot account (Motl, 2007)
They specifically link to my short 2007 review of Stephen Schwartz's paper on climate sensitivity. (By the way, Dr Schwartz who had been no "noted skeptic" before 2007 was so surprised by the attacks he faced after his 2007 paper that in his e-mails to me, he looked shaken.) Of course, the class paper also contains some numbers trying to indicate that the Big Oil and other "evil forces" are funding Senator Inhofe. They don't mind that I haven't received a penny from any of those sources - even though they clearly arrange the sentences to create this impression.

The quote above makes it sound as though the global warming skepticism in the U.S. boils down to your humble correspondent and I can't hide that I am personally flattered. On the other hand, I am totally offended that the actual crucial work and papers by many leading climate skeptics whose research is actually important to accurately answer the relevant scientific questions. Instead of trying to learn anything about the science or trying to be at least slightly impartial, the students decided to parrot the cheapest ad hominem epithets that were originally designed as propaganda goods for high school dropouts rather than college students.

Well, they also claim about a "fallacy". There is no fallacy because string theory contains the answers to all important questions about the Universe (thanks to Penny of TBBT for the adjective). This is not just a superficial comment meant to amuse the people. My expertise is clearly not just in string theory but in all of physics in which I was a top 1% student in all schools I have gone through, something that none of the climate alarmists may dream about. My research of other physics questions has been extensive, too, and most of the courses I have ever taught were advanced courses not in string theory. There's no "fallacy" here.

In the final question, when they were asked to say that they feel good about their having attacked the "deniers", the students essentially say that they feel bad that the deniers exist.

This department of PSU, a place that has decided to mass-produce moral screenings, mindless and blinded activists resembling members of Al Qaeda, and would-be scientific hacks, should be closed. The parents of those students should at least try to physically educate their sons and daughters, in an attempt to prevent them from evolving into a full-fledged scum.

I can't imagine how I could deal with those things if I stayed in the U.S. Academia. If I learned about a similar scandal at my school, I would insist that the instructor has to be severely punished for "teaching" in this way, and I have already learned that there are many aggressive apologists for indefensible acts such as this one in the Western Academia. They have to be removed but they can only be removed by the broader society because pretty much a big portion of the university environment is plagued by this problem.

For a much more detailed rebuttal of the class paper, see Andrew of Popular Technology.

Add to del.icio.us Digg this Add to reddit

snail feedback (3) :


reader netudiant said...

This episode is just an illustration of the pernicious effect of the undue respect and independence given the ivory tower academia since the 1960s.
Largely free from serious external constraints, whether economic or political, thanks to huge endowments and a lemming like belief in the benefits of higher education, US academia has become a world onto itself, driven primarily by academic politics.
The larger mission, to pass on and expand the store of human wisdom and knowledge, is increasingly peripheral.


reader Luboš Motl said...

I am afraid you are right. The independence of the Academia as a culture only works if the forces that actually want it to realize its mission prevail.

However, as early as 50 years ago, there was no real good reason to think that those "positive forces" would continue to prevail in a large subset of a nation if this large subset of a nation gets lots of resources purely for the way how it calls itself.

From this viewpoint, the independence of the Academia is a recipe for deterioration. Societies shouldn't pay bianco cheques to large groups of people based on the expectations what they will do in the next 40 years because this doesn't create any mechanisms that will actually enforce the commitment for them to do something valuable.

At the same moment, I am sure that some microscopic independence over the "microscopic issues" is essential for science and scholarship to thrive and remain pure and I don't have a clear universal recipe how to reconcile these two opposing conditions.


reader Alan Aversa said...

Question 1 is the only one worth asking.