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« The low-down on aerosols | Main | Ofgem and the family bill »
Wednesday
Jan232013

Silly Sally psychoanalyst

Lots of people are emailing me about the BBC's Thinking Allowed programme (see here from 16 mins) in which a pschoanalyst called Sally Weintrobe waffles uncontrollably about "climate denial". There's some amusing background about Weintrobe here - she seems to be a rather touchy character and litigious to boot. It appears, however, that she doesn't actually think we're mad, although what she does think is a little obscure. As one reader who emailed me said of Weintrobe and her fellow interviewees on Thinking Allowed:

To be honest they're so painfully clever that I, as a mere Cambridge Uni Natural Sciences graduate, couldn't understand most of what they were saying.

No doubt this show was part of the BBC's ongoing commitment to "due impartiality" in the climate debate.

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Reader Comments (180)

Dreadnought, 1:54PM. Superbly put!

Jan 25, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Who is Adam Corner?

Jan 25, 2013 at 10:18 AM @ReinerGrundmann

Errr .... he's one of only about a dozen individuals listed on the "Related Projects" page of your own department's website as " other researchers working in the area".

http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/sociology/research/projects/climate-change/related-projects.aspx

If you really haven't heard of him, you don't seem very well informed about your chosen field of study.

He's also a Green Party activist who masquerades as a serious academic psychologist at Cardiff University.

Jan 25, 2013 at 3:23 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Reiner:
Thanks for acknowledging your lack of clarity with respect to your statement about Weintrobe's statement but I am not sure I understand your restatement of what you intended to say. You said: "'What I perceive are two reactions, one which says it is impossible to understand what Weintrobe says (psychobabble etc), the other that she is wrong in her statements. Both are united in their outrage. So I wonder where the outrage comes from in the first group (if you can't understand what someone says you should not feel offended). Is it the use of the d-word?"
You seem to suggest that the opposition to Sally Weintrobe's statements is somehow so remarkable that it needs some deeper explanation or exploration? You suggest "outrage", a strong word that suggests a certain lack of control on the part of those experiencing it. On what basis do you infer "outrage" as opposed to bemusement or amusement or frustration or disgust or simply disagreement?
As to your suggestion that Latimer used "ad hominems' in his remarks at 11:41, can you be more specific as to what in that statement you consider an ad hominem?
I really would like to see your summary of Sally Weintrobe's argument.

Jan 25, 2013 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

@ReinerGrundmann: "I would like to see where exactly she is seen as wrong."

Ms Weintrobe's book fails because the premise upon which its argument is built is misidentified. She begins by asserting a external 'reality' about an object - the 'climate'... but she can only assert this object is 'bad' by substituting her own (and everyone's) subjective experience of it (as 'good') for a description from 'authority'.

But her (dehumanising) substitution of stimuli is highly selective in its choice of authority. If the 'climate community' is itself an object, we can see that Ms Weintrobe has split it apart and taken only the bits which support her own assertion. She defends this choice on the grounds of quantity (the consensus) over quality (testable objectivity).

Therefore, what Ms Weintrobe asserts as an external 'reality' is, in fact, her own internal 'will'. She starts from willing the climate to be 'bad' - and her only external reality available to reinforce this position are the accomplices she finds to prevent it being disillusioned.

Why go to all this trouble? Later in her book, Ms Weintrobe tells the (unlikely) story of a three-year old girl's strategies when faced with unwanted parental changes to her external world - claiming this provides an insight to people's denial of climate change. Of course, what the story really provides is an insight to is Ms Weintrobe's wish to change the dynamic of how adults relate with each other - as equals - to one in which other adults relate to her (and her accomplices) as do children to authority.

In conclusion, we can see that Ms Weintrobe has willed the climate to be 'bad' in order to identify real adults as the cause. Her 'cure' (revealing both the content of her wish and her underlying motive) is to eject adults from her external reality... by forcing them into the role of children.

As the borrowed psychoanalytic saying goes, once the genie is out of the bottle it's the devil's own task to put it in again. Its influence can be career-destroying.

Jan 25, 2013 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

Ben Pile has some trenchant remarks on this broadcast, including

There is a dark history of psychoanalysts and psychiatrists being recruited by the state to elicit the obedience of the public. Your guests seem to want to continue that tradition. That desire for control is what this climate sceptic objects to.

[http://www.climate-resistance.org/2013/01/letter-to-the-climate-shrinks.html]

I'd say his post should be required reading for all who pass this way.

There are grounds to be worried by the words of Weintrobe and her like.

Jan 25, 2013 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

@reindeer

George Marshal is on your dept web page as well
As a 'researcher'
Not a psychologist, he says.
But he us a veteran greenpeace campaigners and rainforest campaigner

And he launched the climate activist groping Rising Tide, and started putting people sceptical, into deniers halls of shame.

Jan 25, 2013 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Don't you think it rather ironic Capital Radio Heart 106.2 with Jamie Theakston and Emma Buntton Absolute Radio Talk Sport LBC Classic FM Smooth Radio and XFM and all those Trance Drum and Bass Ragga Pirate Staion all get more Listeners than Radio Four.

So if the BBC is so concerned with fighting Climate Change then it should take the lead by example in cutting its own Carbon Footprint in Sustainable Broad Casting .So the BBC should voluntarily shut Radio 4 and radio 3 .Move the Today program to Radio 5 ( along with football ) because its the only radio program the political elite listen to need to keep it.Keep Radio 1 and Radio 2 Actually quite like Chris Evens and Moira. Scrap all the BBC local station low listening figures.Scrape radio 6 despite the petition .Slash and burn when fighting Climate Change dont forget. Just keep BBC 1 and 2 for East Enders Strictly and Topgear. Or sell the franchises for Doctor Who Topgear and Have i got News for You to Dave. What they done with Yes Prime Minister. And slash the Band Width on the BBC Iplayer.And keep BBC News 24 it better than Sky News then reduce the License fee to 25 pound and what is saved spend on national infrastructure spending.Better spent on Flood deference .Windfarms loft Insulation than on something as wasteful and energy intensive as Broadcast media.

Find out just how Green and Sustainable the BBC really is.

PS or the BBC can always reorganize the Climate Change awareness concert they planned for Wembly a few years ago.Ewxactly hy did the BBC cancel it .Should ask the psycho (analyst) Sally.
All those megga pop stars payed thousand flying in by private jet just to sing their latest single.Wonder if pscho (analyst) Sally understands Hypocrisy. Quite good watching Beyonce fresh from Obamas Inauguration miming to another backing track again.

Jan 25, 2013 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

rhoda

"All you are doing is putting out some vague smear."

Sometime, we must discuss why it is all right for bloggers on sites such as this to put out vague smears denigrating Trenberth, Hansen, Jones, Hulne, Gore etc. Yet you all bristle with offended pride when an outsider uses similar tactics on one of your own.

If the ad hominem argument is offensive, it should not be used by either side.

Returning to the psychology of scepticism, did anyone read this?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21428590.200-political-divides-begin-in-the-brain.html

Jan 25, 2013 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

The names you mention have all been caught out in actual cheating of one form or another or various forms of bad behaviour. The salient point is not that sceptics call them out for it (and indeed slag them off for things they haven't done in an unjustfiable extension of mistrust) but that warmists do not cast out the cheats. That's all. Perfectly willing to acknowledge bad behavour on the parts of any sceptic if they merit it. Watts taking money and declaring it for a well-defined and honest task is not bad behaviour. To say it is, that's a smear. Not to be justified by whataboutery. Now, withdraw it, or back it up with some example of any bad behaviour on Watts' part.

Jan 25, 2013 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

rhoda

I'll withdraw it. The point has been made.

Now, do you regard yourself as a liberal or a conservative according to Hibbing's classification?
Given my tendency to be a bit OCD about abiding by rules and my readership of the Daily Telegraph, perhaps I am a conservative. I like this planet the way it is, too, and dont want to see climate change muck it up.

Jan 25, 2013 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

It seems Prof. Grundmann has finished his visit to our sceptical shores.

After three (or was it four?) posts here he is no doubt fully briefed to be the psychosciences resident 'Expert on Sceptics' for years to come

I imagine him dining at High Table and regaling all present with bloodcurdling tales of how he tangled with Latimer the Denier, wrestled with the Weintrobobbabblistes and finally saw off the TwitteraBish. All single handed, and all with nothing but the Alarmists Guide to the Universe(*) to help him.

His academic credentials firmly established, his expertise in the sceptical world so far in advance of anybody in academia (bar the quantumly enigmatic man they call 'Jonathan'), his rise to High Office seemed assured.

Until one day a man from the Plain English Campaign appeared with a clipboard and a tick sheet. And that was the last time anyone ever saw Prof. Grundman on this planet....

*The Alarmists Guide to the Universe is the updated version of that hackneyed 1970s tome 'The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy'. Updated for the 2010s its cover now says in deliberately alarming letters 'Do Panic'. An error in the old version had the Vogon Constructor Fleet as demolition men. No more. They have stuck true to their roots as planet wreckers - but now play their part as windfarm erectors.

Jan 25, 2013 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Rhoda

"The names you mention have all been caught out in actual cheating of one form or another or various forms of bad behaviour."

Your propoganda sources tell you this has happened; its not quite the same thing.

Jan 25, 2013 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

EM, that is an assertion on my part. It is there to be disputed and your interpretation of it is a respectable position, but I propose that we don't debate it here.

Jan 25, 2013 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

@EM:

I like this planet the way it is, too, and dont want to see climate change muck it up.
-------------------------------------------
You are on the wrong planet, then. Or perhaps another one.

Jan 26, 2013 at 12:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

Rhoda

when Watts and McIntyre and co talk about people in business going to jail for things of which they accuse the "team"...then I wince. Gordon Brown is not in jail. None of the CEO's or chairmen of the bailed-out banks are in jail. Balir and Bush are not in jail. None of the heads of the various financial regulatory bodies are in jail - in fact one of them just received an Honour from the Queen.

How do climate scientists rate on this scale of turpitude?

Jan 26, 2013 at 12:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

@diogenes

Your wince is surely more about the nature of the justice system than about Watts and McIntyre.

It may be that the system means that what might be considered Big Crimes go unpunished while Smaller Crimes are vigorously pursued. Perhaps so.

But this lack of equivalence surely doesn't mean that Smaller Crimes should go scot-free.

Scene - The Diogenes Courtroom. The serial killer Peter Sutcliffe has been found guilty of murder.

Judge: 'Mr Sutcliffe, I find you guilty of being the Yorkshire Ripper and murdering 13 women. I will now pass sentence

Sutcliffe: 'But your worship it is arguable that Blair is responsible for thousands of deaths in Iraq! And he is not in chokey.

Judge: 'What an excellent point Mr Sutcliffe (or may I call you Peter?). It had not occurred to me before. While Mr Blair is unpunished it would be a breach of your natural justice to harm a hair on your head. You go free with our blessing and without a stain on your character. Here - have 50 quid from me to buy a new hunting knife so that you can make a new start.

Sutcliffe: 'Thank you so much your wazzip. I promise I will put the knife to good use

Body of court: 'But what about our daughters and mothers and loved ones - is there to be no justice for them? Were they so worthless that they can be killed with impunity?

Judge: While Blair remains unpunished you can whistle for it. Clear the Court.

Somehow that's not quite the justice system I'm in favour of.........

Jan 26, 2013 at 6:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

This is way offtop, but here goes. The reason why the two Mcs can't understand how the cheats get away with it, where in commerce they would be jailed. It also provides an explanation of why all the others mentioned got away with it, and why you won't if you try the same thing. It is Jane Jacobs' Systems of Survival, and it maintains that there are two different moral codes practiced by the Guardian class and the Commerce class. Here are the distinctions:

Guardian Syndrome

Shun trading
Exert prowess
Be obedient and disciplined
Adhere to tradition
Respect hierarchy
Be loyal
Take vengeance
Deceive for the sake of the task
Make rich use of leisure
Be ostentatious
Dispense largesse
Be exclusive
Show fortitude
Be fatalistic
Treasure honor


Commerce Syndrome

Shun force
Compete
Be efficient
Be open to inventiveness and novelty
Use initiative and enterprise
Come to voluntary agreements
Respect contracts
Dissent for the sake of the task
Be industrious
Be thrifty
Invest for productive purposes
Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens
Promote comfort and convenience
Be optimistic
Be honest

..and that's why we don't understand each other. That's why gleick et al can cheat. They have a different moral code. They have a system of operating where the things they do n guardian mde are commendable where the same thing in commerce mode would be criminal. The government, for instance. They can operate a monopoly, they can impose rules to keep people down, that's what they do. There's no penalty.


I found all this on Pournelle's site. Here's a comment from there which approaches what I am trying to explain.

However, more interesting to me is her discovery that to use the “Taker” rules in a market place, or to use “Trader” (maker?) rules in Guardianship results in total CRIMINAL ACTIVITY. If Taker rules are used in a Market, then you have nothing less than a Mafia style “protection racket” where fees (taxes, political donations) must be paid so you won’t be destroyed by those in charge. If Market rules are used in the “Taker” (Guardian?) arena, then you will have a “Guardian” who is “for sale to the highest bidder”, or total corruption. When you view the current American societal systems operant today, you must conclude that our current system is a mix of a government for sale that is also operating as a Mafia style protection racket where if you make a political donation to the “wrong party”, then the Guardians will put you out of business. Think of all the republican owned GM auto dealerships that were closed and what happened to the non union businesses in the auto bailout as an obvious example.


Bish, I wouldn't blame you if you snipped this comment for offtopicness..

Jan 26, 2013 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Psychoanalysts are viewed by many if not most evidence based psychologists as a crank branch of the field. It may be viewed as more sophisticated than phrenology but not by much.

Jan 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterWill Nitschke

Latimer, Reiner Grundmann has written papers about climate scepticism and the like and his position is not entirely unfavourably disposed toward them. But, as a psychologist, he reserves his right to study them as subjects. :)

Reiner, Here is a latest Pew poll result.

http://www.people-press.org/files/2013/01/1-24-13-1.png.

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:03 PM | Registered Commentershub

@shub

'Latimer, Reiner Grundmann has written papers about climate scepticism and the like and his position is not entirely unfavourably disposed toward them'

But like his colleague Weintrobe, he doesn't seem to be very much inclined to do any field work to base his papers on.

If he's going to write some ladida academic crap about me, I'd prefer that he didn't just drive-by, insult me from the supposed heights of his supposed great intellect and then just bugger off.

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Will Nitschke

Psychoanalysts are viewed by many if not most evidence based psychologists as a crank branch of the field.
True. Adam Corner and Stephan Lewandowsky won’t have anything to do with them.

Jan 26, 2013 at 3:45 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Great post on Guardian Syndrome and Commerce Syndrome, Rhoda

"Guardian" is a great way to run an army, a war or a feudal system.It's how most nations operated before Adam Smith came along. High risk professions also tend to develop this mindset.

"Commerce" is, at least in theory, how you run a modern democracy.

The problem is, as Pournelle says, in societies in which the two contrasting paradigms of proper behaviour, respectability and honour are expected to operate together. We need honest merchants, workers and politicians. We need talented people who might do well in commerce to take on vocational careers such as nursing and teaching. We also need police, an army, intelligence services, divers, astronauts and oil drillers.

The difficulty is keeping the different types of thinking constrained to their proper arenas. Since we need people with both mindsets, and occasionally a person who can think both ways, at different times and in different areas of expertese, I doubt that the problem will ever be solved.

Jan 26, 2013 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Latimer and Rhoda - you both seem to have misunderstood me. Ten or so years ago, the chairman of Shell was caught in a trap - the figure for reserves he had quoted to the markets was wrong. he was dismissed. he was not imprisoned. Nor should he have been - reserves being a bunch of guesses.

Eric Daniels, the CEO of Lloyds bank was running a successful conservative bank. He was heavily criticised by the journos for not producing results in line with other financial institutions. Some shady deal was concocted, when things got rough, between Gordon Brown and Lloyds Bank to take over a very dodgy bank - HSBC. The value of Lloyds shares was decimated or worse. Eric Daniels got all the blame. But is not in prison and nor is Brown.

Hector Sants - whose regulatory body missed all the PPI mis-selling and LIBOR rigging nonsense and did not realise that banks were under-capitalised - has just got a knighthood or something.

Who has been imprisoned for the destruction of GDP - we have flat-lined as a nation for 5 years.

McIntyre frequently claims that people who speak falsely in business go to jail.

where are the examples?

Does this help you focus your minds?

Jan 26, 2013 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Diogenes, you are correct that some of them ought to have been charged, although in some cases it is hard to see what charge might stick. But in Jacobs' eyes would not those you mention be effectively in the guardian category? Or so linked to the political/government side that they are protected by guardian rules? That probably applies to big corporations too, the commerce rules apply in their commercial activites, but when they are rubbing shoulders with lawmakers, lobbying with trans-national organisations, it isn't commercial any more. They are angling to get special rules for themselves, to shut out competitors or small company opposition by regulatory barriers. The two Mcs were talking about the well-defined rules for a mining prospectus. You must cheat, your work must be checkable, your data reproducible. That doesn't seem to apply to IPPC climate work. That's all. I'm pretty sure Steve McI would approve of sending all the folks you mention to jail, if they broke the law.

Jan 27, 2013 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

@diogenes

'McIntyre frequently claims that people who speak falsely in business go to jail.

where are the examples?'

Enron.

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

@diogenes

Add Bernie Madoff, Ernest Saunders, Jonathan Aitken, Jeffrey Archer, Nick Leeson, Emil Savundra, Al Capone, Ponzi and a guy from one of my ex-clients to that list. And they are just the high-profile ones I can think of in a few seconds. There are quite a few 'struck off' solicitor and accountants who have been found guilty of malpractice too.

@rhoda

Typo in your piece. You mean

'You mustn't cheat'. You've forgotten the 'n't'.

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Latimer, you are right. Oops.

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

We seem to have drifted away from Sally Weintrobe's effort to define those skeptical of CAGW or CACC as deviants. I do like Will Nitschke's incisive summary: "Psychoanalysts are viewed by many if not most evidence based psychologists as a crank branch of the field. It may be viewed as more sophisticated than phrenology but not by much."
Sally's illustrative examples apparently involve the reactions of 3 year olds - if so, she has little more than convoluted semantics to add to the discussion.

Jan 27, 2013 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

There’s a video of the launch of Weintrobe’s book at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lin7r6wYrh4&feature=player_embedded#!
Bob Ward was one of the authors. He’s in the audience. Don’t know if he’s going to speak.
According to Paul Hoggett, who was on the Thinking Allowed talk, we denialists have the same perverse mindset as Enron executives.

Jan 28, 2013 at 2:55 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Good news. You don’t have to buy the book. The papers contained in the book were read at a 2010 conference, which you can see at
http://www.beyondthecouch.org.uk/Podcasts
It starts on an upbeat note, with Rosemary Randall anouncing that
“For each tonne of carbion dioxide I’m responsible for, someone else, somewhere loses a year of their lives.”
Bob Ward, replying, stating:
“My colleagues and I consider ourselves to be researchers, and definitely not campaigners or environmentalists. Our aim is to investigate and explore technical aspects of the science and economics of climate change, and to communicate our findings in a neutral way. Our primary aimis to inform rather than to motivate.”

Jan 28, 2013 at 4:02 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

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