(March 12, 2014) In this piece published by American Thinker, Paul Austin Murphy investigates Wikipedia’s biased and one-sided handling of entries regarding ‘anthropogenic global warming theory,’ first exposed by Lawrence Solomon in his series on ‘Wikipropaganda’ — also quoted here by Murphy.
By Paul Austin Murphy for American Thinker
It may seem a little misplaced to concentrate on two Wikipedia articles when it comes to something as substantive as the anthropogenic global warming theory (henceforth: AGWT or AGW). For a start, some people don’t place much faith in any Wikipedia pieces. Nonetheless, it’s quite possible that more people have gained knowledge about the AGWT from these articles than from any other sources. (One of the articles was viewed 1,052,332 times in only 30 days.) After all, it’s often the case that Wiki is the first port of call for many of us. In addition, these two articles are seemingly very scientific in nature and chockablock with references and statistics. One of the articles is also of considerable length: 7,552 words to be exact; along with — believe it or not — 71,130 words (that’s over seventy-one thousand) of references, etc.
(There’s a Conservapedia article called ‘Anthropogenic global warming theory’ which is very short — a mere 455 words — and quite insubstantial. There’s also Uncyclopedia’s ‘Global warming’, which is superior to the Conservapedia entry.)
These two articles are the only Wikipedia entries (excluding the Simple English Wikipedia piece) on global warming. They’re entitled ‘Global warming’ (2002 to 2014) and ‘Global warming controversy’ (2003 to 2014). The thing is: they’re both written by the same person. The positions advanced in them are almost indistinguishable and even the wording is often quite literally identical. However, it is indeed the case that Wiki articles receive many “edits”. Nonetheless, that doesn’t change the fact that they are written by a single person (or a specific group of people). The editors can only edit what’s already there.
The main point is that these articles are two of the most biased and one-sided I’ve ever read on the subject of the AGWT. Of course there are no examples within them of blatant or obvious polemics/rhetoric. That’s simply because scientists are trained to stay well clear of rhetoric/ polemics and to master the academic (or pseudo-objective) prose style; just as politicians, on the other hand, are expected to master and use polemics/rhetoric.
The very fact that there isn’t even a single subsection on the critical scientific and philosophical reactions to the AGWT shows that there is something very wrong here. After all, in the Wiki article on, for example, Nazism there are at least efforts to explain and show what Nazi theorists and politicians believed and why they believed. And such elucidations are expressed in an objective or impersonal manner. But there’s none of this in the ‘Global warming’ article and even in the article entitled ‘Global warming controversy’, more incredibly, the positions and arguments of AGW sceptics/critics aren’t even displayed, let alone tackled.
This problem of extreme Wikipedia bias on the AGWT came to a head way back in 2008. According to Lawrence Solomon (writing for CBS News), a Wiki editor at the time (I don’t know if he still is), a Kim Dabelstein Petersen, was carrying out extensive editorial work in order to make sure that the pro-AGW line was the only line tolerated on Wikipedia. In addition, there was — or there still is — a Wiki “administrator” by the name of William Connolley (who has run for England’s Green Party) who was also criticized for his almost Stalin-like editorializing. Lawrence Solomon described him as “an administrator with unusual editorial clout” and a “scientist of minor relevance [who] gets to tear down scientists of great accomplishment”.
The Politics of the Anthropogenic Global Warming Theory
We often hear about the political nature of the skepticism voiced against the anthropogenic global warming theory. The problem is, it’s often simply assumed that there is no political bias in the opposite direction.
Yes, I’m well aware that if sceptics or critics accuse the believers of political bias in favour of the AGWT, then they can easily return the favor and accuse the sceptics/critics of political bias against it. Despite that, sceptical scientists should be happy with that counter-accusation. As long as both sides of the argument are scrutinized for political and ideological bias — then let the best man win. But there’s a problem with that easy option. That problem is that the sceptics/critics aren’t as well-funded, government-friendly and well-publicized as the believers.
The writer of the two Wiki articles tells us that the theories of AGW:
“remain the subject of politically or economically motivated attempts to downplay, dismiss or deny them — an ideological phenomenon categorised by academics and scientists as climate change denial.”
Clearly, and rather disgustingly, this is an attempt to try and make out that being sceptical about — or critical of — the AGWT is equivalent to denying the Holocaust.
In terms of the reference to the “politically or economically motivated attempts to downplay” the AGWT: it can be said that since governments and huge public bodies — such as the UN — are involved in selling us this theory, then surely political bias is more likely to be shown by believers, not by sceptics.
The two articles are also keen to mention the fact that certain sceptics/critics of the AGWT are “funded” by “big business” (who’s the chairman of that company?).
This conspiratorial talk about, for example, ExxonMobil’s funding of a handful of skeptical scientists fails to mention the fact that such funding is but a drop in the ocean compared to the global pro-AGW business.
And despite the surreptitious — or otherwise — funding of AGW skeptics or critics, the fact is that all scientists are funded! Or at least all scientists are paid. So just as believers state that being funded by a private companies or “conservative think tanks” can affect judgment; so too can being funded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Meteorological Organization (of the UN), or United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Indeed so can working for a particular left-wing university department or being paid by a Leftist publishing company which has a particular bias towards the AGWT. In other words, I’m not aware of any scientists who are working for free on the AGWT.
(It is said, by the IPCC, that scientists “work on a voluntary basis” for the IPCC. This must mean, quite simply, either that the scientists concerned literally live off fresh air or that other bodies or individuals pay them to do their stuff for the IPCC.)
So what about these “conservative think tanks” that have “challenged” the AGWT? Which conservative think tanks and why, exactly, are they conservative? What is the necessary connection between conservatism and opposing a particular scientific theory? In any case, there are plenty of AGWT skeptics who aren’t conservatives. Nonetheless, at least the believers are admitting that it’s partly — or mainly — a question of politics. And I’m not talking about the politics of these “conservative think tanks” either.
Another way in which the political bias of these two Wiki articles is shown is by the fact that much of the information and clout on global warming (within the texts) comes from one organization: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
So now it’s not such a bad question to ask what — or who — the IPCC is.
The IPCC is both a governmental body and of course it’s connected to the United Nations by a very strong umbilical cord.
To put all this very simply: the UN is almost literally in charge of the whole AGW show. To be fair, if global warming — whether man-created or not — is, well, a global phenomenon, then, I suppose, the global UN is be best placed to deal with it. Or is it? Is that like the European Union (EU) being best placed to deal with rising Muslim radicalism, the ever-growing problem of Muslim demographics and the de-democratization of Europe? If so, just as the EU automatically assumes that there are no problems when it comes to European Islam, rising Muslim demographics and European democracy; so the UN automatically assumes that there are no problems with anthropogenic global warming theory.
The two Wiki article also have a patronizing dig at the debates as they occur in the platonic media (i.e., the debates which occur outside the sacred walls of academia). The ‘Global warming controversy’ article tells us that “[d]isputes over the key scientific facts of global warming are now more prevalent in the popular media than in the scientific literature”. In other words, the implication is that consensus reigns supreme within academic/scientific world but that disputes are prevalent — and indeed rampant — in the “popular media”. What condescension!
Let’s challenge this condescension in plain words.
Not surprisingly, scientists are good at science. Or, more correctly, most scientists are good at the tiny parts of the tiny parts of the sub-disciplines they have spent their lives studying.
Another way of putting this is to say that many — or even most — scientists are not philosophically literate. And because they’re often politically illiterate too (or at least politically/ideologically biased — as we all are), that lack of an understanding of the philosophy of science can only compound their political or ideological bias in favor of the AGWT.
Consequently, no amount of academic references, stats, and graphs will dispel philosophical illiteracy about the nature of science or indeed dispel the political/ideological bias in favor of the AGWT.
Stats & Science
As for those stats just mentioned (there are copious stats in the two articles), even statisticians are quite happy to say that they can be used to advance any argument and say just about anything.
Take following statistical example from one of the Wiki articles:
“Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.”
Firstly, how large were these successive increases? Were they problematic or trivial increases? Is “since 1850” a long/short or even relevant period when it comes to these issues? And why did this scientist, or writer, choose 1850 in the first place? Was it because that up to that period there had been similarly “successively warmer” decades which happened to have peaked in 1850? (Politicians and economists indulge in this dishonest trick all the time when they plot their graphs.) In other words, after 1850 peak the global temperature might have fallen — perhaps suddenly. Thus when we come to the “last three decades” (from the 1990s), the increases may have been in relation to the low levels of the immediately proceeding decades.
I don’t know the answers to these questions because I’m not going to check. That’s not the main point being made here. The point being made is that a statistician, or a scientist in this case, can quite easily play games with the stats in order to make them say just about anything he wants them to say.