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« Sans ifs, sans buts, sans everything | Main | On John Timmer »

Quote of the day, Mark Maslin edition


What I hope to do during the rest of the book is try to shift your belief from the [individualist] side of the global warming belief chart to the [collectivist]. Or, if you are already on the [collectivist] side of the chart, show you why your instinctive view of nature may well be correct.

Mark Maslin in Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction
(see p.42)

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Reader Comments (32)

Er .. Meaning what, precisely?
Nice to have it confirmed that 'global warming' is a belief system though.

Dec 18, 2014 at 8:49 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

What is worrying is not that the guy has political beliefs. I don't even care what those beliefs are, clichés as they are. I don't mind a scientist has strong opinions on a topic, or is making economic gain out of it.

What really bothers me is that the guy is either unaware or acting as if unaware that it is possible to honestly disagree with him. And since I naturally abhor thinking people as frauds, the first conclusion to be taken is that Maslin is not always making full use of a human brain, and especially about climate change.

This is reinforced by past experience with greenies who have apparently decided to save energy by switching off most lights upstairs.

Everybody knows about "idiots savants", people with zero ability in most aspects of life but who are extremely gifted in one field. The climate change discourse is now showing examples of "savants idiots", well educated one-field experts yet behaving as if totally stupid.

I do not know of Maslin's scientific output at all, so can't say if he is an example of those.

Dec 18, 2014 at 8:59 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Ah, the leftist love of labels. Which ones get sent to Siberia?

Dec 18, 2014 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterShotover

Let me get this straight.

This Maslin chap is accusing "climate deniers" (I just love that phrase) basing their views of the science on their political views.

To remedy that, he is making it his objective to get people to change their polticial views.


Dec 18, 2014 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Maslin seems not to understand that it is the different political ideologies that give rise to the different perceptions of nature — not vice versa.

In other words he wants to convert people to a collectivist ideology by getting them to accept an alarmist view of nature (which in his blog on The Monologue he identifies correctly as the view of Greenpeace). Good luck with that.

In so doing, he commits to the same misplaced faith in what Roger Pielke Jr characterises as a linear relationship between science and politics. If only we can scare the children and horses, they will do the right thing. Wrong! They might decide to adapt rather than mitigate, for example.

His problem is that he wrongly attributes the cultural filters to John Adams, who is a retired colleague of his. (His research has not taken himself outside his own department at UCL). John is a very good scholar of risk, and ironically it was reading his book just after it was published in 1995 that first started me thinking sceptically about climate change. (The behaviour of the 'climate scientists' — who seemed to have no grasp of epistemology, and mistook model results for data, etc — simply increased that scepticism). Anyway, John Adams showed the satellite data available since 1978, which to that point showed no warming at all, and set me thinking.

But John employed, rather than developed what another UCL scholar, the late Mary Douglas called 'grid-group' theory. This was elaborated by other scholars before John, for example:
Holling, C.S. (1979), ‘Myths of ecological stability’, in G. Smart and W. Stanbury (eds), Studies in Crisis Management, Montreal: Butterworth.
Schwarz, Michiel and Michael Thompson (1990), Divided We Stand: Re-Defining Politics, Technology and Social Choice, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

It is precisely because our cultural filters obscure the way we see the world that adherence to the sound scientific method so often lacking in climate science becomes especially important. As Carl Sagan put it, when we care about things, we are prone to delude ourselves. So fallacies like bringing evidence to the theory ('consistent with' anybody?) must be guarded against. Falsification, not groupthink, is what we should base our assessments upon. The predictions of most of climate science don't look too good (no warming for a decade and a half, no rising water vapour, no tropical hotspot), so any good scientist should be questioning the core hypotheses.

Instead, Maslin uses the word 'Denier'. Says it all really — why bother with him!

Dec 18, 2014 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

This is reinforced by past experience with greenies who have apparently decided to save energy by switching off most lights upstairs.
Another one for the Hall of Fame, Maurizio!

Dec 18, 2014 at 9:36 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Aynsley Kellow:

Thankyou. That is one of the best contributions ever made on this blog and there have been some good ones. The Bish should frame it.

Dec 18, 2014 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim


Hear hear. Sadly the learned prof won't read it.

Dec 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Maslin was born rich(*) and speaks as such, that is, without any comprehension of the cost of anything he wastes daily. If his agenda succeeds, he will cease to be rich. Once poor, he will burn for warmth any form of fuel the he can fetch and will slaughter every pretty creature that crosses his path in order to obtain nourishment.

Although there are fewer and fewer human beings still living the world he desires for all of us, they still exist. Could he go live with them (while they still remain poor thanks to the likes of him) instead of trying to force all of us to join him there?

*Food for thought. If you have been born into even middle class in the 1st world, you are rich compared to 90% of humanity and godlike compared to _literally_ every single human being that lived and died from the dawn of time to before the mid 20th century.

Dec 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Assuming the head quote is verbatim, I'm trying to understand why 'individualist' and 'collectivist' are in editor's brackets. Were these nouns defined elsewhere in Maslin's piece or does the editing indicate some tortuous definition of his own has been omitted?

Dec 18, 2014 at 11:03 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield


The page number in the original is cited. He's referring to a graph which I haven't reproduced.

Dec 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Maslin is just another dupe of emotion driven corporate political correctness. In politics, you must use your brain, not your emotions because they are so easily manipulated.

'We are abandoning the poor little natives of Polly Wollynesia to a tragic fate. I was there only last week and if the water rises a further 10 feet, the international airport will close and the little wollys will have giant swollen stomachs from the lack of imported steak. The glaciers have completely melted and the Chayote harvest failed last year.

I was close to tears. So was my personal assistant and her au pair. Roger Harrabin has cancelled his holiday in Bali to come here and report on the unfolding catastrophe. He has prepared a number of especially dismal graphs and charts for us.

Dec 18, 2014 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Don't you love those moments when an over-ripe watermelon reveals a split in that oh-so-shiny green skin and gives us a glimpse of the luscious, bright red fruit inside?

Especially when self-inflicted by someone as desperately un-self-aware as Prof Maslin.

These episodes always give me a flashback to that delicious moment when Shell environmental adviser Peter Hone wandered unknowingly into one of "Red Kev" Anderson's Tyndall shindigs - only to find himself in Glasto Leftfield without the mud.

Much to my surprise I was not really at an emission reduction conference (despite the label saying I was), but a political ideology conference.

Dec 18, 2014 at 12:07 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Following on from what Aynsley Kellow says, I am reminded of this comment by a sociologist:

It’s ironic that Professor _____ and his colleagues are perfectly correct in their estimation of the importance of cultural cognitive systems in determining views on a variety of issues with scientific inputs, but then fail to turn that mirror on themselves. They start from the position that the consensus must be correct, without examining the cultural presuppositions and intellectual history behind that consensus.

In fact Maslin's short introduction book does mention Mary Douglas on page 36. But despite what looks like a reference, "Douglas and Wildavsky (1983)", their book RIsk and Culture isn't in the list of references at the end. Maybe the book is downplayed because it includes a "harsh denunciation of environmentalists" (WIki). Has anyone read it?

Dec 18, 2014 at 12:14 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Good point Paul.

I fear we may have to wait until Jose Duarte gets a professorship in social psychology before we start analysing the motive of the consensusori.

Dec 18, 2014 at 12:24 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Last year I listed some "Fundamentals that Climate Science Ignores" The following appear to apply to Prof Maslin.

Positive and Normative - No distinction between what is and what ought to be.

Boundary conditions - no clear definition of science in general or the study of climate in particular. Maslin does not clearly distinguish when he is speaking as an expert and when proselytizing.

Open and closed questions – Maslin views “Climate Science” as true, so anybody who disagrees is in denial.

Relevancy and significance – If Maslin could prove that those with a non-socialist world view had inferior beliefs, it may not necessarily mean that these beliefs had prejudiced their beliefs in climate.

Underdetermination Thesis

“The underdetermination thesis – the idea that any body of evidence can be explained by any number of mutually incompatible theories”
Quote from Kuhn vs Popper – Steve Fuller 2003
Maslin has very particular theses about why I and others disagree on climate science and policy. There are a huge number of reasons why people disagree that Maslin totally ignores.

Dec 18, 2014 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Ah - 'collective belief...'

I am constantly reminded of the overwhelming 'belief' by 19th century British politicians that the typhoid epidemic in London was caused by 'miasma' - bad air, when in fact it was contaminated drinking water...

Thanks Mr Maslin - but I'll go with 'facts', if its all the same to you...

Dec 18, 2014 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Maslin may be a collectivist, but of the corporate “socialism for big business” kind. I left this comment under his article. I'm not sure how long it will stay up, so I'll leave it here.

Mark Maslin seems unwilling to talk either politics or science with us deniers. To understand why, note that he is an executive director of Rezatec Ltd. According to a recent article in the Environmentalist :
“... earth observation data specialist Rezatec [uses] satellite and other remote-sensing technologies to help businesses manage their land-based assets and respond to environmental changes. Since its formation two years ago, the company, which originated at University College London, has used earth observation techniques on projects ranging from measuring carbon stock to mapping Mallorca’s bio-economy. Partners include [...] power generator Drax. '[…] pressure to find new sources of renewable energy are placing ever-increasing demands on our land and its use,' says Philip Briscoe, Rezatec’s marketing director.”
If the non-warming of the past eighteen years continues, there'll be no environmental changes for businesses to respond to, no point in measuring carbon stock, no reason for Drax to import wood chips from America and no need to make increasing demands on land use for renewable energy.
One of Professor Maslin's jobs is on the line, and it's not the one paid for by the taxpayer.

Dec 18, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


Rezatech is part funded by the Royal Society IIRC.

Dec 18, 2014 at 2:33 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Maybe the book is downplayed because it includes a "harsh denunciation of environmentalists" (WIki). Has anyone read it?

I've read it. It is actually quite good - in the sense that it is explicit about a lot of things Maslin, ten years later, must regret writing - the bit on the MWP, for example. And how he must wince reading his efforts to wish away the satellite record. Strongly recommended for would-be sceptics. I'm not surprised he's moved into sociology.

Dec 18, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kennedy


David Hone is the Shell man:

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

It is a well known fact that the majority of people who's "instinctive view of nature" is on the "individualist" side are those of us working in the hard sciences and in engineering disciplines. To me, that says it all.

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Next week how tractor production has gone up another 1000%

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

It is nice to see references to Mary Douglas and the late and wonderfully skeptical Aaron Wildavsky. The latter's "But Is It True" should be required reading for all those involved in policy decisions.

Dec 18, 2014 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Hey, Aynsley - excellent comment! Wish you would comment here more often.

The thing that stood out for me from Maslin's comment was the bit about an "instinctive view of nature."

What that means is the kind of thing that keeps philosophers happily debating for years.

But to this uncouth interpreter, it seems to mean that the awed visceral and intellectual reaction to the wonders of the natural world which many of us have can only lead in one direction - his.

This kind of appropriation of awe and wonder is not new. As has been discussed many times here, there are plenty of sceptics who are active conservationists, as well as (like most of the population) simply admirers of the natural world.

This latest attempt to stake out the territory for "believers" needs to be called out, and resisted, at every opportunity.

Dec 18, 2014 at 6:58 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Rezatec indeed.

So Maslin is a collectivist with a second job drawing money from a for-profit company.

Sounds like a meat eating vegan campaigner indeed

Dec 18, 2014 at 7:23 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I think one reason why (genuine, not US) liberals are more sceptical of any science is that it is hard not to be a Popperian liberal about politics — seeing value in diversity of opinion, and in entrepreneurial effort in the economy — and not to follow Popper in scientific method.

The Greenpeace position on environmental science is attractive because those holding to this belief think 'we are all in this together' and the common disaster will make us all come together in the face of adversity. The common millenarian aspect of Marxism (unending communist utopia), Fascism (thousand year Reich), some aspects of fundamentalist Christianity (read the book of Revelation!), and Environmentalism (the utopia of the sustainable society) thus favour monism — there is only one true god/science/leader, etc, etc.

Ironically, in his blog, Professor Maslin states that scientists usually hold to the 'hierarchist' view — nature is robust, but within limits. (I pretty much hold to this). But then he behaves like a non-scientist — more of a Greenpeace activist.

If there is one characteristic that \distinguishes the environmental alarmist, it is the (mistaken) belief that the earth is stable and unchanging and its 'delicate balance' has been or will be disturbed by 'sinful' human actions. This view of the 'climax community' has actually been rejected by scientific ecologists for the past 30 years, but it lives on, venturing out — vampire-ilke — in the dark recesses of 'political ecology', and the activist scientists in other disciplines lack the self-awareness to know that their ideology is getting in the way of their science.

Thanks for the bouquets. No need to respond much to the Douglas and Wildavsky issue — others have done so more than adequately while I have been sleeping down here in the Antipodes.

I should point out by way of disclosure that John Adams wrote some very nice comments on the dust jacket of my book Science and Public Policy: The Virtuous Corruption of Virtual Environmental Science.

Dec 18, 2014 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

As a Lefty I have no fear of a common sharing of Global Resources to allow everybody to take an equal opportunity for self-development.
Being from a successful line shouldn't give you a free ride.
Being from an impoverished line shouldn't mean it must continue.

But why lie about the reason for believing that?

If you are right then say so - I do.
If you are wrong then it will be seen to be wrong when it's acted upon. The new regime won't last a year if the reason is wrong. And you've then poisoned the well.

As Lefties we should argue for left wing policies. Leave Green policies to the landowners and industrialists who suck at the teat of subsidies for wind farms. We believe in helping the poorest to take their opportunities.

Dec 18, 2014 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

The reviews on Amazon make for interesting reading. One review was out of step with the others and was as follows:
"Sadly but rather as expected this book excludes alternative hypotheses of climate mechanisms causing warming periods. There are plenty of other books available via Amazon that treat the subject with a wider perspective. Examples include:

“The Neglected Sun – Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe”, Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning, Stacey International 2013 ISBN 978-1-909022-24-9
“The Age of Global Warming – A History”, Rupert Darwell, Quartet Books Ltd 2013 ISBN 978-0-7043-7299-3
“Hiding the Decline”, A. W. Montford, Anglosphere Books, 2012 ISBN 978-1-906768-35-5
“How to Get Expelled from School”, Ian Plimer, Gracewing 2012 ISBN978-0-85244-802-1
“The Greatest Hoax- How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future”, James Inhofe, WND Books 2012 ISBN 978-1-936488-49-0
“Watermellons”, James Delingpole, Biteback Publishing, 2012 ISBN 978-1-84954-405-4
”The Inconvenient Skeptic – The Comprehensive Guide to the Earth’s Climate”, John Kerr 2011 ISBN 978-0-9847829-1-8
*“The Delinquent Teenager who was mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert”, Donna Laframboise, Ivy Avenue Press 2011 ISBN: 978-1466453487
“Let Them Eat Carbon”, Matthew Sinclair, Biteback Publishing 2011 ISBN 978-1-84954-116-9
“The Great Global Warming Blunder” Roy W. Spencer, Encounter Books 2010 ISBN -13:978-1-59403-373-5
“Energy and Climate Wars”, Peter C. Glover and Michael J. Economides, Continuum Books 2010 ISBN: 978-1-4411-5307-4
“Climategate”. Brian Sussman, WND Books 2010 ISBN: 978-1-935071-83-9
“The Climate Fix”, Roger Pielke, Jr., Basic Books ISBN 978-0-465-02052-2
“The Hockey Stick Illusion” A.W. Montford, Stacey International, 2010 ISBN 978 1 906768 35 5
“Climate: The Counter Consensus” Professor Robert M Carter, Stacey International, 2010 ISBN 978-1-906768-29-4
“The Climate Caper” Garth W. Paltridge, Taylor Trade Publishing 2010 ISBN 978-1-58979-548-8
“The Real Global Warming Disaster”, Christopher Booker, Continuum International Publishing Group 2009 ISBN 9781441110527
“Chill – A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory” Peter Taylor, Clairview Books 2009. ISBN 978-1 905570-19-5
“Air Con” - The Seriously Inconvenient Truth about Global Warming Ian Wishart, Howling at the Moon Publishing Ltd 2009 ISBN 978-0-9582401-4-7
“Heaven and Earth – global warming: the missing science” Ian Plimer, Quartet Books Ltd., 2009 ISBN 978 0n 7043 7166 8
“The Wind Farm Scam”, John Etherington, Stacey International 2009 ISBN: 978 1905299 83 6
“Climate of Extremes” Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling Jr., Cato Institute 2009 ISBN978-1-933995-23-6
“While the Earth Endures” Philip Foster, St. Matthew Publishing Ltd 2009 ISBN 978 1 901546 31 6
“Climate Confusion” Roy W Spencer, Encounter Books 2008
ISBN 978-1-59403-210-3
“Blue Planet in Green Shackles”, Vaclav Klaus, Competitive Enterprise Institute 2008 ISBN 1-889865-09-5
“Red Hot Lies” Christopher C Horner, Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2008 ISBN 978-1-59698-538-4
“An Appeal to Reason – A Cool Look at Global Warming” Nigel Lawson, Duckworth Overlook 2008 ISBN 978-0-7156-3786-9
“The Deniers” Lawrence Solomon, Richard Vigilante Books 2008 ISBN 978-0-9800763-1-8
“Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1,500 Years” S Fred Singer & Dennis T Avery, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc 2007 ISBN 978-0-7425-5116-9
“Cool It – The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming” Bjorn Lomborg Marshal Cavendish Ltd 2007
ISBN 978-0-462-09912-5
“The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism” Christopher C. Horner, Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2007 ISBN 978-1-59698-501-8
“Scared to Death” Christopher Booker & Richard North, Continuum Books 2007 ISBN 0-8264-8614-2; 978-0-8264-8614-1
"Taken by Storm" Christopher Essex & Ross McKitric, Key Porter Books Ltd. Toronto Canada 2007 ISBN9781-5526-3946-7"

Dec 19, 2014 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter F Gill

Mark Maslin has replied to me under his article most politely, and I've replied to him. We have Conversation.

Dec 19, 2014 at 12:05 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Historically, there was a debate about whether socialism was scientific or not. Marx certainly thought so, as did Lenin and Mao. This debate raged in academia into the 1950s. You can still see traces in policy. Until today, the Netherlands has a Central Planning Bureau. India abandoned central planning only this year. And even Rand Corp was founded on the idea that mathematical planning tools would be the basis of enlightened policy.

All this was put to bed by Arrow (who showed that you cannot objectively define better and best), Buchanan (who showed that civil servants and politicians are interested parties) and Lucas (who showed that you cannot build an accurate model of society).

Unfortunately, although the work cited was completed before 1970, many environmental scientists have yet to cop on.

Dec 19, 2014 at 4:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Well he gets one thing right - collectivists ('coercionists') want CAGW to be true, since this justifies further expansion of the state; that this means the whole world will get poorer is of little or no interest to them.
And exactly the opposite for individualists ('consensualists').

Dec 20, 2014 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTuppence

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