2011-06-29 17:32:13Plimer vs Plimer
John Cook


You know when I have these crazy ideas? I just had another one this week and couldn't shake it. The thing is, this idea is very compelling and ticks many of the Sticky Idea boxes. The concept is:


The idea came from a geologist informing me that Plimer once invoked the faint sun and increased greenhouse effect, in direct contradiction to his later statements. So I wrote this draft blog post (which is now shelved cause I stole the metaphor for The Age opinion piece).

Then someone else informed me of many other internal consistencies in Plimer's work. So then I started to think of a webpage "Plimer vs Plimer". Catchy title (reminiscent of Kramer vs Kramer") and very simple concept - just display pairs of quotes against each other. Here's a rough concept picture (I'll get Wendy to design it properly soon):

Click on pic for larger version

The beauty of this concept is it doesn't need that much - just collecting a bunch of quotes contradicting each other. I estimate 10 to 15 should be sufficient to get the message across. So I set up a database to easily add quotes - anyone can add quotes via the Skeptics Admin:


(note - there's a drop down to select different skeptics - if this concept is popular, it would be easy as to apply the concept to other skeptics as the infrastructure will already exist - but Plimer is probably the best example of internal inconsistency)

As you add quotes, they will appear on this temporary preview page:


Yes, it's rough and ugly - it's just so we can get a look at all our quotes on the one page. The idea is to collect quotes but only display the most egregious contradictions. So if in doubt, add it to the database - note there's also a Display: Yes/No option so when it comes to publish, we can just pick the best contradictions and set the others to No.

So can I encourage/implore/beg SkSers to help build this resource asap so we can be ready to launch it ASAP when we need it over the next few weeks? A good starting source of inconsistencies is Ian Enting's long debunk of Plimer's book - he points out inconsistencies throughout his point by point debunk.

2011-06-29 17:55:11
John Mason


Excellent idea, and snappy title!

Would make a great poster-display to arrange to be quietly put up at venues in Monckton's tour, although whether the faithful attendees  would actually understand the contradictions is a different question.....

Cheers - John

2011-06-29 17:55:16
Glenn Tamblyn


JC You just picked up on what for me is the most glaring of Plimers 'confusions'. He even covers it in Heaven & Earth.


Plimer may not be a heavy hitter - Carter runs rings around him in the smoooth & smarmy stakes. However, the Plimers can be useful targets precisely because they can be used to paint a negative picture of their compatriots. Its low and underhanded and nasty - such is War. But always attack the weakest link. Plimer is such a one. He can be attacked to paint a 'guilt by association' connection to others. So too people like David Evans. Small players with big mouths.

2011-06-29 18:29:51Plimer heavy hitter
John Cook


Actually, I would characterise Plimer as possibly the heaviest hitter among Australian deniers, just due to his book. Tony Abbott quotes the book (a journalist told me he's seen it on Abbott's book shelf). Barnaby Joyce launched his book. Cardinal Pell quoted Plimer in a senate testimony. Coalition pollies love him, quote him, defend him.

So this resource could have a significant impact and if Plimer rears his head over the next few weeks during the Monckton circus, we should launch it then for maximum impact.

I've just added a few more quotes from Heaven & Earth to http://www.skepticalscience.com/plimervsplimer.php and already, it's powerful, very powerful to see him directly contradict himself in the same book. Ian Enting points out a number of internal inconsistencies in his long, long document but they lack the punch and conciseness of Plimer vs Plimer.

Note Monckton & Plimer together in Meet The Sceptics talking about high CO2 in the past so that footage might be useful during the Monckton circus to tie the two together somehow.

So can I encourage/implore/beg SkSers to help build this resource asap so we can be ready to launch it ASAP when we need it over the next few weeks? A good starting source of inconsistencies is Ian Enting's long debunk of Plimer's book - he points out inconsistencies throughout his point by point debunk.

2011-06-29 20:31:11I don't have Plimer's book
James Wight


But it's not entirely clear that Plimer is contradicting himself. In the second pair of quotes, maybe the full context is that the vast majority of CO2 will be taken up by plants or something?

In the last case, the quote from page 24 could be interpreted as a rhetorical question - he's asking a question which he will later resolve on page 219.

2011-06-29 21:19:39Timeframes?

I like the idea - there is just one thing to perhaps consider: the timespan between the two quotes should be as short as possible. Otherwise the first reaction will be that a person is allowed to change his/her mind.
2011-06-29 22:12:33BREAKING DEVELOPMENT: goal to launch tomorrow!! Launch postponed
John Cook


UPDATE: Just got an email from Mike - his piece in The Age has been postponed as the article was considered defamatory :-) They're working on a milder version so maybe in a day or two. Good to have the breathing space but I'll still work late tonight on the design...


Just got an email from Mike Sandiford. He's the geologist who first emailed me the Plimer contradiction. He also now sits on the Geology chair that Plimer used to sit on. He's written a piece for The Age being published tomorrow, titled "which Plimer do you believe?" and said it would be great if Plimer vs Plimer could be published ASAP. Thanks for the heads up, Mike!


So I'm going to pull a late nighter and finish off the coding tonight. I was hoping to take a luxurious week or so developing this, get Wendy to create a sexy design for me. But no time for that now. Will just go with me quick and nasty design.

I've posted to a google group of Aussie scientists asking if any of them can email me contradictory quotes overnight or in the morning. If any SkSers can contribute also, would be great. For those who don't have his book, I grabbed a few examples straight from Ian Enting's debunk document (link above).

Baerbel, most of the contradictions will likely come from within Heaven and Earth itself. But it is telling that Plimer gave accurate science when he was debunking evolution deniers but now he's a denier of the scientific consensus himself, his old scientific self debunks his new denier self. There's an interesting story there.

2011-06-29 22:16:00Good feedback, James
John Cook

Need to be careful that we don't quote Plimer out of context. Don't want to open ourselves to easy criticism. Will check the context of the atmospheric quotes. As for the last quote on early 20th century warming, I'll include the full sentence. The full context is him arguing against CO2 warming.
2011-06-30 01:02:54Updated the design, added some quotes
John Cook


Despite the reprieve on a rush launch, decided to stay up late anyway to get this done. Then we have breathing space to fix and refine in case it needs to launch Friday. So feedback (and more quotes) welcome:


2011-06-30 02:57:36
Dana Nuccitelli

I'll try to find some time to look for more contradiction quotes today.  The page looks good already, though why are the references for the green quotes lower than the references for the red quotes?  I like symmetry - it would be nice if they lined up vertically on the page.

2011-06-30 07:40:21
Rob Painting

Nice work JC!. Plimer sure comes across as stoopid. 

2011-06-30 12:48:18Dana, fixed that bug
John Cook


Looked fine in Mozilla, but dodgy in Explorer. Should work now:


Have made changes, tried to make the contradictions more bullet-proof. Please feel free to critique and be as harsh as possible. I've been informed by some scientists that Plimer is very litigious so it's important I haven't quoted anything out of context in order to mislead or he could have a case for defamation.

Change is it will launch tomorrow depending on Mike's article in The Age. I'm hoping piggy backing with Mike's article will cause blogs to post the two bits of news together.

2011-06-30 13:16:17
Dana Nuccitelli

Looks good John.  Though when there's a long green quote and a short red quote, it's a bit odd to see all the empty space in the bubble on the red side.  Not a big deal though.

Some great quotes there.  I like the El Niño contradiction in a span of 2 pages!

Just crazy that these quotes came from the same guy, let alone the same book, often within the span of a couple of pages.  Apparently his editor wasn't reading very carefully.

2011-06-30 19:18:45More criticism
James Wight


I assume green is supposed to be true and red is false? Because El Nino definitely lasts for more than one month.

Also, I don’t think there’s a contradiction in what he says about sea level rise. 5 degrees of warming from the LGM to today caused 120 metres of sea level rise. So if another 2 degrees indeed only raised sea level by 4-6 metres, then Plimer’s point on page 312 would indeed be consistent. In reality, sediment cores suggest the Eemian was only a few tenths of a degree warmer and sea level was up to 10 metres higher – so Plimer may be wrong, but he’s not contradicting himself.

On species extinctions, Plimer says it “appears to have” been CO2 warming that caused the extinction, and that it was a “geological clue” that warming caused extinctions. Does he then go on to discredit this piece of evidence and/or argue that other, stronger geological evidence contradicts it?