Yesterday, I blogged about the game of telephone skeptics have been playing with a fabricated quote from Sir John Houghton. Apparently someone dug up an old interview from 1995 in which Sir Houghton talks about religion and his beliefs in God as proof that while he may not have actually said the words attributed to him, he said similar things or things that could be twisted into meaning almost something similar — if one plugs one’s ears and squints one’s eyes…
Not that I’m questioning the motives of these fine gentlemen, or their reading comprehension but seriously, they need to go back to play school and watch some Sesame Street.
Let’s play “One of these things is not like the other”
“Unless we announce disasters no one will listen”.
“If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster. It’s like safety on public transport. The only way humans will act is if there’s been an accident.” [edited to add the rest of the quote in so that denialists the hard of reading comprehension won't lie misunderstand]
The two are not the same.
The first one — a false one — has been used by deniers to charge that the IPCC knowingly exaggerates the risks of global warming in order to hype the issue and get attention. The second states that its human nature to ignore problems until they reach critical mass. One need only look to how technology has changed in the wake of serious disasters. The Indian Ocean tsunami is a case in point. The year prior to it, scientists were talking about the possibility of the megathrust fault failing, causing a tsunami. It wasn’t until a quarter million died that a warning system was finally put in place.
Here’s Lubos Motl:
Unfortunately for Mr Houghton, John Adams was able to prove that what Houghton says – and what all the blogs above say – are just lies. (See also Bishop Hill and Philip Stott.) While the exact wording used by Benny Peiser can’t be easily found, and it may be genuinely inaccurate, one can find equivalent quotes. They’re more than just “statements of the same sort”: they really say the same thing.
Me and my God (scanned)A quote that is exactly equivalent to Benny Peiser’s quote appears in this interview, too:
“If we want a good environmental policy in the future, we’ll have to have a disaster.”Well, it’s not quite identical: it says that they should “have” a disaster which means that they may be forced not only to “announce” it but maybe also to “create” it, as Michael Crichton’s State of Fear has discussed in some detail ;-), or to pray to God that God creates it for us to improve our future environmental policies.
He also says that God Himself may use the disasters – and many similar things – so his opinions about all these matters are very juicy.
Here’s John Adams, Is God trying to tell us something?:
“I demand from Dr Peiser an apology that he failed to check his sources and a public retraction of the use he made of the fabricated quotation.” The particular words complained of are “Unless we announce disasters no one will listen”.
I have no evidence that he has ever spoken, or written, this specific sentence. But on the subject of disasters he has in the past made similar, divinely inspired, comments about disasters and global warming:
· “God tries to coax and woo, but he also uses disasters. Human sin may be involved; the effect will be the same.”
· “If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster.”
These quotations are from an interview entitled “Me and my God”in the Sunday Telegraph on 10 September 1995.
Here’s Bishop Hill: “No he did say it”…or something very like it.
I’m referring to the recent kerfuffle over whether Sir John Houghton did actually say the controversial words that have been ascribed to him for many years. These words:
Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen.
A few days ago, after years of this quotation doing the rounds of sceptic blogs, Sir John suddenly denied that these words had ever passed his lips, pointing out that they didn’t actually appear in his book, to which early citations had pointed as the original source. Cue much gnashing of teeth and wailing about “deniers”.
There has now been another development in this story, reported by Benny Peiser, who took a certain amount of stick for repeating the quotation over the years, including a demand from Sir John that he issue an apology. In aposting on the GWPF website today, Benny relates how Professor John Adams has unearthed from his archives an clipping from the Daily Telegraph, dating right back to 1995. In it, Sir John is quoted as follows:
“If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster.”
It’s amazing how the deniers spin this in order to get some more traction out of it. And that I’m included in “left wing blogs”. Gee — do these people have any clue about politics or is anyone who is not a skeptic automatically left-wing? I suppose anyone left of Attila the Hun qualifies…