Matt Ridley Spins Conspiracy Theories and More in a Classic Denial of Science


This article has been cross-posted from HotWhopper.

Was it Pope Francis who pushed deniers over the edge? Is it the climate negotiations taking place this year?

Matt Ridley, a science denier from the UK who claims to be a “lukewarmer”, has written a Gish gallop worthy of Tim Ball. It’s as if he collected up all the worst conspiracy theories posted on climate denial blog Watts Up With That (WUWT) and rolled them into Quadrant.

Quadrant is a right wing outlet for the extremists. It publishes dumb articles from deniers fairly often. Last week Matt Ridley, a denier turned defamer has written an article (archived here). Anthony Watts has published bits of it on his WUWT blog, too (archived here).

Conspiracy Theory

Matt lurched from one conspiracy theory to another. To illustrate how far he’s gone, he starts out with the Lysenko conspiracy theory that deniers call upon when they run out of ideas.

The conspiracy goes something like this: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was an agricultural official who rose to prominence under Joseph Stalin. He denied genetic inheritance in plants (as described by Gregor Mendel in his famous experiments with peas in the 1800s). He even managed to outlaw research in genetics. It set plant breeding back a lot in the Soviet Union.

Well, the climate conspiracy theorists claim that Lysenkoism is alive and well throughout the entire world, and has been for the past couple of hundred years. I’ve never seen anyone name a person who is supposedly filling the role of Lysenko and banning climate science research of any kind. Nor have I ever seen anyone say just what aspect of climate science is forbidden.

I wonder if Matt will be calling upon Hitler and Osama bin Laden next (like Tim Ball has done)?

Saturated Fats

Matt also claims (wrongly) that dietary saturated fats have no impact on heart disease. He’s wrong. They do.

Did he get his notion from science? Nope. Despite claiming to be a “science writer” Matt says he got his notion from some diet fad book (see here and here and here), not from any science.

It’s one of those conspiracy theories (aka guvmint suppressed research) that you’ll see on conspiracy theory websites like, along with anti-vaxxers still claiming that vaccinations cause autism. I’ve had a denier here pushing the same line.

Politicians Want Global Warming

The idea that any politician would want to deal with the bigger than big problem of global warming is completely nuts. Matt, like many of his fellow conspiracy theorists, is deluded when he makes that suggestion.

No politician that I’m aware of, of any flavour, wants to have to deal with climate change. They are very reluctantly being forced to do so by climate change itself.

If that isn’t enough to make you question what has pushed a politician like Matt Ridley over the edge, read on.

Disproving What He Claimed

As you know, conspiracy theorists have the ability to harbour contradictory notions at the same time, without blinking. Matt is a good example of that. He acknowledges that most published climate science points to global warming being caused by us (his default position, since he claims that there’s no money to research “alternative theories”.)

Yet in the same article, he rejects research showing that this is indeed the case. He claims that the disgraced Richard Tol “demolished” Cook13, one of several papers (and by far the most comprehensive) demonstrating 97 percent of published science on the subject shows this.

If you want to see how wrong Richard Tol’s weird outbursts on the subject are, go no further than HotWhopper – see here and here and here and here and here.

Fibs About Conspiracy Studies

Ironically, despite his own rampant conspiracy theorising, Matt wrongly claims that studies led by Professor Stephen Lewandowsky at the University of East Anglia, linking climate science denial and conspiracy ideation, are wrong. Matt got that wrong, too.

He may not know quite how wrong he got it (and will probably not admit it. He’d claim it was a conspiracy.) Matt isn’t a sceptic. He uses the old denier trick. Find a denier who makes a false claim. They are all over the internet and sometimes even make it into published literature. It’s enough for Matt to find some denier who’ll make some claim that he can wave about as “proof”.

I won’t be surprised when he joins the flat earth society, citing the flat earthers as evidence that the earth is really flat.

Fake ‘Experts’

One thing you’ll learn in denier 101 is to call on fake experts. The previous paragraph is a good example. Matt cited a denier duo who are not cognitive scientists as “experts”, proving the science wrong. They didn’t.

He does it again claiming, quite ludicrously, that Jim Steele is a “distinguished ecologist”. Yes, that Jim Steele who couldn’t lie straight in bed. The same Jim Steele who as far as I know has never published a peer-reviewed paper in his life. The same Jim Steele who didn’t even get the data for the study he supposedly trashed, a paper by Camille Parmesan.

Even Matt admits Jim didn’t get any data. So how he can claim Jim refuted a published paper, I don’t know.

It goes along with the odd facility that deniers have of holding two contradictory thoughts in their head at the same time. (For the background on this read this HotWhopper article, in which Camille Parmesan’s husband provides some insight into the unsavoury behaviour of Jim Steele. Or read this article where Jim Steele comes to HotWhopper and denies saying what he said – in black and white.)

Matt litters his article with other fake experts such as Ian “iron sun” Plimer, Donna “dustbin” Laframboise, Jennifer Marohasy with her Rutherglen blunder, and probably more. It’s as if he’s spent the last few weeks scouring denier blogs to come up with a list of the wrongest nonsense deniers have claimed and tossed them into his Gish gallop.

Leading Scientists

Another tactic often used by science deniers is to attack the credibility of scientists. The ridiculous thing about how Matt Ridley goes about this is that he claims that because scientists are successful and reach the pinnacle of their profession, that “something must be wrong”. (“Something must be wrong” is one of the hallmarks of conspiracy ideation, described in Recursive Fury.)

Matt lists what he reckons is the amount of research funding and scientific awards that Dr James Hansen and Dr Michael Oppenheimer attracted over the years, and instead of concluding, as any reasonable person would, that they must be very good scientists, he implies that their work must be suspect.

The Strawman

He goes even further than that. He claims that because scientific evidence shows that we must mitigate global warming, that an organisation that studies or advocates for mitigation “must be wrong”.

His argument is that they wouldn’t be likely to change their tune if evidence showed otherwise. That’s completely nuts! He provides no evidence that the science is wrong, his whole argument is a smokescreen. A strawman.

It’s Not Fair

At one point Matt complains about how Roger Pielke Jr was sacked from Nate Silver’s blog for writing a ludicrously wrong article. He didn’t like it that Rob Honeycutt pointed to evidence from Munich Re, which showed that Roger’s article was wrong.

Matt prefers wrong to right. I think he’s probably just miffed that the 30 plus protests from WUWT about Marcott13 and the umpteen plus protests at the new NOAA paper haven’t resulted in any withdrawal.

He was quite happy that empty threats of litigation from conspiracy theorists led to the withdrawal of a sound and solid piece of research on the evolution of conspiracy theories though. Just another example of the double standards of deniers.

Warped Double Standards

Matt Ridley is quite okay with a denier lobby group, the IPA, paying deniers (or promising payment) to write a denier manifesto. He wrote a chapter himself in the IPA’s change the facts book. However he draws the line at a scientist like the renowned Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg preparing an environmental report with a grant from the World Wildlife Fund.

Matt claims to be a “science writer”, yet he spends his time writing about his conspiracy theories and denial of science. He bases his article on diet fad books and other fiction, and dubious claims here and there in the deniosphere, not on science. What sort of science writer is that?

This article has been cross posted from HotWhopper. For a full list of references and further reading check out the original post here.

Photo: The Journal via Creative Commons


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