Climate Change, George Pell and denial

I have to keep writing about the intense irritation I feel whenever I hear of, watch or listen to people spruiking on subjects about which they have no knowledge.

I am a lay person and know my limitations. I am not a climate scientist and I have no option but to listen to those who are climate scientists and who are qualified in other scientific disciplines. After all, climate science is a cross disciplinary subject requiring input from many different areas.

I am also aware that science is never settled; that scientists are always devising further research experimentation in an attempt to disprove a hypothesis and even theories. Take Feynman for example. He always started from first principles because he wanted to understand as much as possible about already evidenced theories.

Pell, ArchBish of Sydney

So it galls me greatly when the Archbishop of Sydney is given a dais from which to make his uneducated statements about climate change and how it isn’t happening. Or, put another way, how it has always happened and today is no different from other global periods of climate change. In other words, nothing to do with us and how we live on this planet while consuming about 1.4 planets in the process.

Pell is called a conservative intellectual by a generous Andrew Welder in today’s Crikey environmental blog Rooted. I first realised that Pell was in London on Friday when another Rooted correspondent wrote of Pell’s dreadful address at Westminster’s Cathedral Hall.

He (Pell) was invited by a dodgy group called The Global Warming Policy Foundation. It was founded in 2009 by Nigella Lawson’s father, an arch conservative. The Board of Trustees has dodgy names on it and the Academic Advisory Council to the Foundation has more dodgy names but does also have Matt Ridley, so there may be some hope. Otherwise it smells of big money and climate change denial.

So they invited George Pell to deliver a lecture he called One Christian Perspective on Climate Change. Here is the ruddy lecture! He plays the Christian apologist all the way through while cherry picking whatever suits his ‘Christian’ view. I agree with Welder that Pell hates the grass roots ‘Greens’ and even more so, the political Greens. You can hear Pell virtually spitting in the transcript whenever he mentions them. It is because as Welder says:

 The Greens are Australian politics’ most active supporters of policies that go against what Pell regards as core Catholic teachings on how people should conduct their lives: abortion, euthanasia, sex education, homosexuality. If the Greens are “wrong” about those issues, the reasoning goes, then they must also be “wrong” about the climate.

I suppose I could apologise for the vitriol with which I write this post but I am disinclined to having read the insulting language Pell employs in his lecture towards anyone who accepts climate change as happening as a result of our poor husbandry of our planet.

A commenter on the Rooted blog notes that:

“He (Pell) isn’t an idiot (he has a Phd (sic) from Oxford in Church History and a Masters in Education from Monash) and he is an influential man and a (sic) extremely good communicator. Don’t be blinded by his position in the catholic church (as most of the atheists do (more sic!))”.

I fail to see how a PhD in Church History or a Masters in Education qualifies someone to comment cogently on anything let alone climate change. Pell believes in fairy tales. To my mind anyone who dispenses with logic and rationality in favour of obvious superstitious nonsense is inviting ridicule. Otherwise he wouldn’t believe in ridiculous things.

The main points of tosh that Pell cherry picks and proudly vomits in his lecture include:

  • That it is only ‘fashionable opinion’ to attest to the fundamental theory of climate change as being scientifically settled. He fails to realise that opinion is worthless in scientific endeavour.
  • That the consensual view among qualified scientists is a ‘category error’.
  • That sceptics, like Ian Plimer, bring new data and substantial intellect to the subject.
  • He conflates global warming with climate change in order to disparage both global warming and climate change.
  • That CO2 is ‘not a pollutant, but part of the stuff of life’.
  • That concentrations of CO2 could rise almost 13 times today’s concentration before humans and animals would notice it and that plants would love it.
  • Pell quotes known and discredited climate change deniers with aplomb while picking on every little problem faced by the IPCC and its panel of working scientists.

The other problem for Pell (apart from his intellectual dishonesty) is that he is a Christian and therefore cannot move past a geocentric view that his god will manage affairs on his planet the way he (god, not Pell!) wants, thank you very much.

Pell suffers dreadfully from that terrible affliction, mental myopia caused by religious belief. Like the Bishop of Carlisle in 2007 who blamed the floods in Yorkshire on society’s moral degradation. This is from the Wiki article on Carlisle:

Dow stated that he believed the resulting flooding (in which several people were killed) was the result of God’s “strong and definite judgment” on the “moral degradation” of British society. In particular, he blamed the economic exploitation of poorer nations and the United Kingdom’s introduction of laws aimed at reducing discrimination against gay people.[7] He stated that “the Sexual Orientation Regulations are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God’s judgment.” 

In the introduction to his lecture Pell covers ‘god’s flood and Noah’ and ‘god’s destruction of the linguistic unity of Babel’. There is almost a not so veiled threat that if science tries to answer the big questions and attempts to exert control (Pell would call it interfere in) over the living environment then Pell’s god will wreak his (its) vengeance!

Pell concludes ‘the appeal must be to the evidence, not to any consensus, whatever the levels of confusion or self-interested coercion.’ What!!!

I barely managed to read beyond that statement. Pell is so far behind the times that he is unaware that by far the vast majority of real scientists now accept the anthropic contribution to our current climate change woes.

Together with the Mad Monk, Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition in Australia who has sworn to reverse any carbon tax legislation should the Libs come to power, Pell represents the worst of public figures. I have no idea who mentors whom between the Monk and the Bishop but as I commented on facebook, they detract from Australia’s image abroad and appear to escalate each other’s synaptic death throes.

Soon may it happen so they can enter the asylum, removed from the public sphere.

Frightening and dangerous.


7 comments on “Climate Change, George Pell and denial

  1. Michelle B says:

    The pronoun I use for an unproven divine creature is ‘it.’

    Pell’s ignorant and anti-science view is clear to see. I consider him to be a mad man, and the people who actually consider taking his idiocy seriously as extreme disappointments to our species.

    Really enjoyed this post. Well done!

    • Veronique says:

      I find it hard to express my utter revulsion for people like Pell. They are so damaging and have such a spell bound audience. It is truly horrifying that people like him exist and talk publicly.

      He should be locked away. He has a weekly newspaper column as well as a pulpit and a public arena whenever he wants it.


      I have taken your suggestion and inserted its!! Thank you.

  2. Adam Felton says:

    Agreed! The only caution I would advise is in assuming that because Matt Ridley can get it right with respect to evolution (for instance) that he lacks ideological blinders when it comes to other scientific issues like climate change..unfortunately he’s a denialist, and like Pell, is entirely out of his depth when discussing anthropogenic climate change.

    See articles and links at skeptical science for an indication of just how much of a denialist he is.

    • Veronique says:

      Oh dear!!! Thank you so much for that link. I didn’t think to check Ridley’s stance out on climate change and that is my fault. I have read a lot of his stuff that I like. Mea culpa.

      Reading through the quotes I am dumbfounded that Ridley can be such a twerp about climate science and not about so much other science.

      Mind you, I watched him in the Mexico debate with Dawkins, Wolpe and Lane Craig amongst others and wasn’t particularly impressed with Ridley’s contribution. It was a silly debate anyway and held in a boxing ring!! Sheesh.

      • Adam Felton says:

        Yeap…one would think that the cognitive dissonance would be that much more palpable when you’re a vocal advocate of science and reason in one realm and then somehow fail to notice yourself tossing that to the side when discussing another.

        Sadly…It seems to happen all too regularly..

        Amazing Randi on climate change

        Michael Shermer (Libertarian) accepted climate change very late in the game, and continues to
        praise the trash fauxscience anti-environmental writing of Björn Lomborg

        and his ideological blinkers seem to keep him in the Lomborg crowd of “oh yeah it’s real, but…(fill in some excuse about other issues, or problems of regulation..which in the end get the desired result…don’t act)

        Bill Maher on vaccinations (being chastized by Michael Shermer amusingly enough about the importance of following the scientific evidence…unless presumably it might challenge ones libertarian views on the non-regulation of the economy)

        Anyways, I expect stupidity from Pell..if you build your life around the concept that belief without evidence makes god happy, then its not a big step to thinking that belief in direct denial of the available evidence must make god truly ecstatic!

        But it’s when the otherwise rationally capable deny the evidence on really important issues like vaccination and climate change, and actively promote their ignorant misleading views…that’s upsetting.

        After all their rants they should be well aware of the risks of the Dunning-Krueger effect…but alas…

  3. Veronique says:

    Thanks Adam. I am surprised by Randi but not so much by Shermer. He has always been a bit of a worry from my perspective. I have watched him, listened to him and read what he has to say about so much and somehow much of what he does say doesn’t quite gel. I don’t have much confidence in him

    Bill Maher fills me with a similar feeling of disquiet. Showmen usually do. In any case I am quite scathing about the anti-vaxxer lot as you would see from my previous diatribes on this blog.

    I can say these things regarding my perceptions and feelings about what others say without that interfering in any way with an inner consistency that requires evidence. In the case of climate change evidence, PZ is quite right to point out its complexity. What I don’t understand is how on earth anyone can discount the effect that 7 billion of us has on the earth’s systems. Especially given that we adapt our environment rather than adapt to it. We are the only species to do this on any scale.

    These pretend-we-aren’t-deniers-but rational-thinkers people worry me not only because they talk of things they know little about but that they blind-side themselves to anything that requires a modicum of common sense. There is little point in being a sceptic for sceptic’s sake and dispensing with common (maybe not so common after all) sense. It is the fact that they have a stage from which to pontificate that disturbs me. They manifest the platform from which the extremists can launch great nonsense. To my mind there is no difference between apologists for anti science and those for religion. And Pell is both!

    Tim Flannery, Jared Diamond and James Lovelock were my introduction to climate change and the IPCC has provided data. It is unfair and improper to cherry pick data, predictions and public statements in an attempt to bolster one’s opinion. That is precisely what the nay sayers do, seemingly unaware of their own cognitive dissonance.

    That is precisely what George Pell has done and others like him. My father used to say ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ and, of course Darwin commented ‘Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.’ It is a great pity that Pell is not more reflective a thinker. But then, none of these deniers are reflective at all. I doubt whether any has heard of Dunning-Kruger, because none considers himself unskilled. Ha. I am made of sterner and less egocentric stuff.

    I looked you up Adam:-). I am pleased you spent so much time in Australia and am interested in your current research in Sweden. So I shall look forward to hearing more from you when I write again about gross stupidity in the climate pages. And any updates would be welcomed:-)

  4. Dod says:

    I personally find it sensible to regard any pronouncement or opinion put forward by a religious person with automatic skepticism – naturally!

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