The Light of Day

Anthony Watts has posted a story about an Oregon State University instructor, Nickolas Drapela, who has been dismissed from his job. Watts hosts a lengthy piece (by Gordon Fulks) which accuses OSU of intolerance, raises the spectre of Lysenkoism, and suggests that Drapela was dismissed because “Drapela is an outspoken critic of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming, the official religion of the State of Oregon, the Oregon Democratic Party, and Governor John Kitzhaber“.

I’m not sure which is greater, the pity that the scientific issue of global warming has been so politicized by those who want to prevent us from doing anything about it, or the irony that one of their strategies is to accuse others of politicizing the issue. In a move I find almost incomprehensible, Watts also linked to a slide presentation by Drapela. It’s astounding.


What’s astounding is that it’s little more than a diatribe, accusing those who warn against the danger of global warming of perpetrating conspiracy and fraud for money and power. In my opinion, it might be the most paranoid such presentation I’ve ever seen. Drapela further accuses believers in man-made global warming of politicizing the issue, which really amounts to Drapela himself politicizing the issue.

What’s missing from Drapela’s slide show is anything like science, except for two of the last three slides. The 3rd-to-last simply states:

To support this idea we get the 2nd-to-last slide:

I was struck by this, because I’ve seen something very much like it before. The same idea was promoted in Martin Durkin’s “documentary” The Great Global Warming Swindle, which includes this graph:

Note that both Drapela’s, and Durkin’s, graphs fail to give solar-cycle data beyond about 1980.

When Durkin’s documentary was shown in Australia, he was interviewed by a reporter for ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) who asked why that was. The reporter wasn’t satisfied with Durkin’s answer, so he went and got the data for himself (a good idea). The Australian reporter added more recent data, and — lo and behold!

Evidently the “solar-cycle-length is causing global warming” theory can’t stand the light of day.

This is the kind of nonsense we have to put up with from those who oppose doing something to deal with the global warming problem. Thoroughly refuted “theories” are regurgitated again and again, like zombies, long after they’re dead. They’re used to excuse conspiracy/fraud accusations. If proponents of this nonsense are given the dismissal which, in my opinion, they deserve, Anthony Watts and others will treat as martyrs.

Just in case you’re wondering what was on the last slide, it’s the politicization of the solar-cycle-length “theory”:

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67 responses to “The Light of Day

  1. It reminds me of seeing this
    http://clearscience.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/part-two-response-to-prof/

    This is from a Profs lecture to his class in 2010… one of Ian Clark’s many students over the years

  2. The graph is from Friis-Christensen & Lassen 1991,without acknowledgement. F&L of course corrected themselves in 1999.

    Fulks raises the idiotic Lysenkoism ‘parallel’,while Drapela goes for Goebbels in his presentation…choices,choices.

  3. Alex the Seal

    Where is he getting that last 1985 ‘Sunspot cycle length’ point from? It’s suspect. Can we verify it?

    [Response: It's probably from Friis-Christensen & Lassen, but if I recall correctly is was discovered soon after their publication that they had made an arithmetic error in their calculations of the final data point.]

    • Alex the Seal

      …. not that it matters. The bottom line is that he was likely fired because he’s a bad scientist. That much is pretty obvious.

  4. You did not tell us why Drapela was dismissed.

  5. Is there a source for that ABC graph? It looks wrong, like they’ve substituted TSI for solar cycle length at the end or something.

    • Ignore me – a source for the ABC graph would be nice, but I’ve just been reading up on the Friis-Christensen & Lassen 1991 paper, so I can see the running average they used.

      So, Drapela used an unattributed graph that is *known to be wrong* due to arithmetic errors on the last couple of points, to make claims that the authors themselves now disagree with? Nice.

  6. Søren Rosdahl Jensen

    Recently Peter Stauning published an updated peer reviewed analysis similar to Friis-Christensen & Lassen 1991 but using the most recent data. This results in a figure very similar to the updated figure from the australian journalist.
    A resume of the article including the relevant graphic is found at Skeptical Science:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Stauning_Friis_Christensen_Solar_cycle_length_Global_temperatur.html

    Peter Staunings article is found here:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364682611001866

  7. Steve Goddard is parroting the same thing over at his Real Science blog. Drapela claims he was fired without being given any reason – this can’t be legal, but is it true?

    • Given that his title was “Senior Instructor” I suspect has was an adjunct and his contract was not renewed. Probably because OSU, like most other state universities, is going through a funding crisis.

  8. Let’s not forget the tragic plight of Professor Niklaus Dracula, the geography professor dismissed from Oregon State simply for opposing the highly politicized and oppressive round-Earth theory. Here’s an excerpt from the slide presentation to his class, showing the actual shape of the Earth:

    ———————————

    But because RoundEarthism is the religion of the Geology Department, OSU, the state of Oregon, the USA, the World, and anyone with half a brain, Dracula was heartlessly hounded from his position, forced to give up the coffin with a bit of earth from his grave which he used as an office at OSU, and banned from sucking his students’ blood!

    How very like Lysenko, Goebbels, the Spanish Inquisition, and Darth Vader. Don’t you think?

  9. Here’s his employment history:

    Visiting Assistant Professor, Whitman College 1998-99
    Visiting Assistant Professor, Colorado College 1999-2000
    Assistant Professor, St. Martin’s College, 2000-02
    Instructor, Oregon State University, 2002-2008
    Senior Instructor, Oregon State University, 2008-

  10. Point being that instructors are hired on fixed-term contracts, with renewal not guaranteed. Particularly during times like these:

    The Oregon University System will see an 11 percent cut in state support over the next two years after final passage of its budget bill in the Legislature today.

    The Oregon House voted 43-15 to approve a $709 million in state general fund and lottery money for the state’s seven public universities for 2011-13. That marks the third biennial decrease in a row for the university system, bringing its state funding to a level lower in actual dollars than it received a decade ago.

    11% cut over the university system in the current two years after two biennial decreases in a row … the cuts have to come from somewhere, and while the universities have tried to minimize the number of faculty cut, you can’t squeeze forever without shedding headcount.

    Of course, if one’s fighting for one’s job in tight economic times one might consider not being a total ass teaching anti-science spin on climate science in a *general chemistry class*.

  11. DId you know that “sea level change” is a librul code word?

  12. Auurgh…I wasn’t surprised by the lack of actual science, but where were the black helicopters?

  13. Fielding Mellish

    Now lemme git this straight. Wattless thinks it’s a grave injustice for a state university to fire Drapela ‘because of his views on climate change’ (even if it really is for budget reasons/lack of money). On the other hand, LowWatt rails that James and Gavin SHOULD be dismissed from NASA because of…’their views on climate change.’ That about right? His are the nonsensical ravings of a SciFi blog operator desperately doing anything to keep the money flowing from his Web biz. In the words of a much more coherent Monty Python, “Is your name not Bruce?” “No, it’s Michael.” “That’s going to cause a little confusion.” “Mind if we call you “Bruce” to keep it clear?” Howls of derisive laughter.

  14. “Bought and Sol’d”
    – by Horatio Algeranon

    Good ol’ Sol
    Is not for hire
    Can’t be purchased
    Bossed, or fired.

    He simply burns
    To tell the Truth
    And nothing but
    The Truth, forsooth

  15. The WUWT post mainly comprises two e-mails from Drapela giving his explaination for his sacking. It all sounds rather strange to me, him having to be “lured into the chair’s office” to be sacked.
    I don’t know about the US but in the UK, with no severance pay, no notice & no reason given, his sacking (as he describes it) would be a blatant case of ‘unfair dismissal’.
    As for his denialist views, they (& the “research” he did in the area) appear exceedngly childish stuff, as his website shows.
    http://chemistry.oregonstate.edu/~drapelan/Climate%20Change.htm

    What I felt most bizarre in his e-mails was this paragraph:-
    I should say that they regularly read all my email communications, which is why I am writing from this private email address. That has been going on for quite some time now.
    Perhaps this intimates that he has yet to grasp the real root of his problems.

    • His website on climate change is priceless. The “Is the earth warming?” section is especially appalling. I notice he links to WUWT images.

      Quite clearly this guy has been weaned on WUWT and similar blogs and has a grossly exaggerated opinion of his competence on the climate issue.

      In the “solar forcing” section he cites Lassen 91 again: “Eijil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen discovered that the sunspot cycle length is inversely related to the earth’s temperature in a remarkably well-correlated fashion. As solar cycles get closer together, the earth warms. As they lengthen and get farther apart, the earth cools.”

      Then the startling part: “In multiple papers (see Scientific Literature), this effect has been confirmed over and over again since 1991. Certainly no one can dispute the correlation…”

      Clueless.

  16. “The sun cannot be controlled. It cannot be used to manipulate for power or money.”

    Is this guy making a case for decentralized power generation? In any case, I agree.

  17. Don’t miss the Schneider piece I linked above; he pointed out arithmetic errors that made that 1991 chart attractive to fake skeptics early on.

    Aside to Tamino, have you looked at any of the software being sold to do trend detection on the cheap for people in business? Here’s one at random:
    http://www.skymark.com/resources/tools/run_charts.asp

    They make it sound so easy. I know it’s not. But is it useful?

  18. TrueSceptic

    I assume the ABC reporter was Tony Jones. He was very good at challenging Durkin while always remaining polite. Video Part 1 and Video Part 2.

    FWIW it was TGGWS that first made me realise just how dishonest and unsceptical most of the AGW “sceptics” were.

    • that’s nice. it does seem to be remarkably hard to talk to Durkin about his work, without him flinging abuse back: http://ocean.mit.edu/~cwunsch/papersonline/durkinemails.htm

    • Andrew Dodds

      I was weaned on Creationists. The similarity in style between Creationists and Global warming denialists is telling..

      * Devoted to disproving a hated theory? Check
      * No interest in science other than disproving aforesaid theory? Check.
      * Happy to advance mutually contradictory arguments? Check.
      * Rubber-duck like ability to ignore smackdowns? Check
      * Focus on a small number of hated individuals instead of the scientific picture? Check
      * Hypersensitive to any mild ad-hom, however justified, whilst dishing out heaps of abuse up to and including death threats? Check
      * Utterly unable to scientifically describe the theory that they are convinced is wrong? Check
      * Unable to separate out the theory under discussion from their imagined social/political consequences of that theory being true. Check.

      It can be very hard to grasp the mentality involved, especially if you have a basically scientific/empirical education and outlook.

      • Very well and succinctly put.

      • You left out:
        * Advocate “teaching the alternative” in public schools, so students “can make up their own minds”
        * Unable to provide a clear description, in scientific terms, of said “alternative theory” – beyond sniping at perceived “failures” of the real science
        * attempting to enact legislation to prevent teaching of the science, unless accompanied by “the alternative”
        * labeling the scientific viewpoint as “just another religion”
        * labeling the science as an attempt to deny the authority of “God”.

      • Andrew Dodds

        Bob -

        To be fair, I think that there is a difference in some ways.Creationists generally want an alternative reality presented (basically, ‘Goddidit’), and presented as proof of their holy book. Whereas global warming denialists want the whole subject closed down, basically; essentially it’s about roping off a section of human knowledge with police ‘Do Not Cross’ tape.

  19. Given the comments in threads like http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/10/hansen-and-schmidt-of-nasa-giss-under-fire-engineers-scientists-astronauts-ask-nasa-administration-to-look-at-emprical-evidence-rather-than-climate-models/, where there are repeated demands to dismiss Hansen and Schmidt – I would ask Watts if he is familiar with the following:

    And why behold you the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?

    – Matthew 7:3

  20. @Alex the Seal:
    “The bottom line is that he was likely fired because he’s a bad scientist. That much is pretty obvious.”

    Actually, he wasn’t a scientist at all.

    He claims that his research group is working on synthesis of sequoiatone. he ahs been at OSU 10 years. His publication history, from his page on the OSU web site, shows exactly one paper published in 2000, before he came to OSU, on a different topic.

    As my advisor used to say, if you don’t publish it, you didn’t do it. Drapela has a 12 year history of having done no science.

    So, an adjunct instructor, taking lab space with zero productivity, with a history of demonizing science with badly sourced and false arguments, gets let go in a dismal economic climate with known major funding cuts.

    Gee, how… sinister.

    • “So, an adjunct instructor, taking lab space with zero productivity…”

      An instructor in the Oregon university system isn’t [necessarily?] expected to do research, they’re expected to teach. They often don’t have PhDs (I know a stats instructor at Portland State University, who has a masters, who has no research component to her job, but apparently is thought highly *as an instructor* by both students and fellow faculty).

      If he published a paper in 2000, that would’ve been during one of his “Assistant Professor” gigs, where research would be important to going up the ladder, vs. stepping down, which I should think most people would consider “Instructor” to be.

      Maybe it’s that level of productivity – one paper in four years of being an Assistant Professor – that caused him to be hired as an Instructor at OSU.

      • And maybe after a decade of being an instructor, in times of very tight financing, they felt that letting him go was less injurious to the department than letting someone less whacky and with better prospects go …

      • Susan Anderson

        but … but … popular teaching politically disguised aka disgusting falsehoods? In what world was that OK?

  21. Horatio wrote this a while (4 years) ago, but some things never lose their relevance (while others never possess it to begin with)

    Sunspots Get in Your Eyes

    – by Horatio Algeranon
    with apologies to Otto Harbach (“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, 1933)

    They asked me how I knew
    Global warming was not true
    Oh, I of course replied
    Something there outside sure can be denied!

    They said someday you’ll find
    Solar scientists are not blind
    Oh, when your blog’s on fire
    You must realize
    Sunspots get in your eyes.

    So I chaffed them and I gaily laughed
    To think they could doubt my graph!
    And yet today my graph has gone away
    I am without my graph…

    Now laughing “friends” deride
    Graphs I can not hide
    Oh, so I smile and say
    When a lovely graphic dies
    Sunspots get in your eyes

    PS The original song really is quite lovely and you can listen to it here.(performed by The Platters)

  22. > where were the black helicopters?
    Well, his source for scientists to trust is Marc Morano’s list at the old Senate Republican website page. Will that do?

    • That explains a lot. I wondered where such a list of distinguished “scientists” came from.

  23. oh dear. they should get Ben Stein to make a documentary about this guy.

  24. Roy Mustard

    Judging by the opening of the slideshow about how victimised fake sceptics are, it seems to me Drapela was probaby angling to get fired (or at the very least, reprimanded) so he could be a matyr for their cause and claimed that Al Gore was silencing him with his three hundred million dollar campaign.

    However, I do concede that slide 69 is perhaps the greatest slide of all time.

  25. Do we know if “Global Warming Cracked Open” was actually delivered to students or was it just something he posted online (and linked to from his OSU profile page)?

  26. IIRC it was the same Fulks who attempted to provide drive-by support for Burt Rutan’s doomed attempt at defending his own set of PowerPoint slides over at Brian Angliss’ place, starting at #258.

    (Fulks tried the “models only fit past climate due to fitting via excessive number of parameters”, but conspicuously (thus far) has failed to take up my challenge to tweak any model of his choosing to fit past climate and generate significantly different predictions for future climate. No Nobel Prize for you!)

    I don’t have time right now to compare Rutan and Drapela’s slides – anyone want to bet on significant similarities?

    • Fulks is a very visible presence in the Oregon climate science denialist scene (easy to be visible since that community’s so small). A (retired?) physicist who semi-periodically trots out the same old denialist bullshit (“sun! climategate! models!”) we’re all used to in Op-Eds published by the Oregonian. He gets a contrarian piece in just about any time the Oregonian prints an editorial about climate change, or a news piece about new, supporting, science, etc. In other words he fills the role of providing “false balance” via Op-Eds that I suspect are often solicited by the paper.

      • The first time I read your comment Dhogaza I parsed it as “…very risible presence…”

        In the end my error didn’t really alter the substance of what you’d said.

      • Here’s a typical piece by Fulks.

        Note that in the comments he complains that The Oregonian watered down his piece, editing phrases such as “the guilty of Climategate” to “the scientists of Climategate” and other sins against the denialist’s alternative reality.

  27. Well, he certainly is an ignoramus, isn’t he?

    • Kevin KcKinney. I beg to differ.
      If someone is consistently wrong, like this Gordon Fulks character is in this OrigonLive.com item where he misrepresents () Recent global temperature change, () What is driving such temperature change, () Sea-level change, Arctic meltdown, () Atmospheric CO2 levels; in truth, everything he presents is wrong; if somebody is consistently so wrong, can they be an ignoramus, a person who knows nothing? Surely the true ignoramus who expresses an opinion will on occasion be correct simply through chance.. This Gordon Fulks is never correct so he cannot be an ignoramus. He is a blithering idiot of some other stripe.

  28. David Hilbert said:
    “We must not believe those, who today, with philosophical bearing and deliberative tone, prophesy the fall of culture and accept the ignorabimus. For us there is no ignorabimus, and in my opinion none whatever in natural science. In opposition to the foolish ignorabimus our slogan shall be:
    We must know — we will know!”
    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/David_Hilbert

  29. So you approve the victimization of a science teacher for proposing a hypothesis in regard to AGW different from the one you propose. Thank you. The policing of the “consensus” has been explained.

    [Response: Hilarious!

    I don't approve the "victimization" of anyone -- you just made that up so you and your buddies can pretend to be martyrs. That's a recurrent theme with fake skeptics -- when their "science" is shown to be ridiculous they complain about being ridiculed. Then they howl about persecution, all the while accusing legitimate scientists of fraud, corruption, and conspiracy. That stench is "hypocrisy."

    I do approve the dismissal of a science teacher who teaches falsehoods as though they were science, while pushing a political agenda by hurling venomous accusations at the climate science community.]

    • No, we don’t at all approve of the way said “science teacher” is being portrayed as a victim by himself and by the science ingorati. What ever gave you the idea that we do?

      Moreover, what ever gave you the idea that said “science teacher” had propose an actual hypothesis about AGW, as opposed to a mere compilation and recitation of false and fraudulent quackery?

    • When one abdicates one’s job responsibilities, the natural consequence will be reprimand or dismissal. If there is ‘victimization’ in that, it is self-victimization.

  30. So you approve the victimization of a science teacher for proposing a hypothesis in regard to AGW different from the one you propose.

    Eh?

    “Hypothesis”?

    You mean like the ‘hypothesis’ that the British royal family are in fact alien reptilians?

    If so, I’ll take a first-class ticket for “consensus”, thank you.

    I think that you are confabulating science with pseudoscience and wing-nuttery…

  31. The humour never stops at WUWT. Today someone called “Just the facts” has a long post claiming a story in The Economist on Arctic warming is wrong to place the blame on AGW. If JTF had read the “special report” the article links to he(?) would have seen his questions answered.

  32. Looks as though Mr. Drapela’s first name is actually spelled in the normal way. See http://chemistry.oregonstate.edu/~drapelan/drapela.htm

  33. Eli fears that he is responsible for stirring JTF up on a related thread. Oh well, little rest for the weary.

    • Thanks Eli.

      I’m now even more despondent about the prospects for our species.

      Seriously – “it’s the wind”?! Well, at least the Skeptical Science crew will have a new canard for their list.

      The degree to which the WWWT crowd engage in cognitive conflict deflection is truly astounding.

      • As I see it, they are strangely immune to cognitive conflict–able to simultaneously entertain the most incompatible notions with no evidence of discomfort.

    • Ironically, the advert at the bottom of the main text of that post is for “Improve your brain”.

      • Well, maybe they are putting the ad where the customers are–though as a marketing strategy, this suffers from the issue that ‘the light bulb has to want to change.’

  34. O’Brien: Have you forgotten Doublethink?

  35. Unbelievably, Tom Harris has shown up in the comment stream of the Daily Caller article covering Drapela to . . . wait for it . . . clear up misinformation swirling about the web regarding Drapela’s firing for opposing the theory of AGW. I can’t find a way to link directly to the thread, but I am seriously tempted to make a snide comment and link to Tamino’s Harris post.

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/06/20/professor-fired-after-expressing-climate-change-skepticism/#disqus_thread