Renowden misdirects in a septic meanderRichard Treadgold | July 18, 2011
de Freitas feeds his students sceptic propaganda …
So says the radical Renowden, he of the non-sceptical “believe everything they say” warmist persuasion. But read what he says about Chris de Freitas’ crimes and you’ll realise he says nothing, because no crimes exist.
Gareth Renowden is himself guilty of attempting to abridge the academic freedom to study and teach inconvenient facts.
It’s all arm-waving, and Renowden cites nothing in the Geography 101 course that’s untrue. He says many unkind things about the graphs and their provenance, but he never says they’re wrong, and that’s a strange thing to forget, which means he didn’t forget it — he omitted it, because they’re not wrong.
Still, his conclusion, unsupported by facts, depends on belief:
This is not a matter of “academic freedom” — de Freitas is perfectly entitled to believe what he wants — but he should not be teaching foundation courses in climate that depend on the output of US lobby groups and far-right British politicians or are so far out of touch with the mainstream of the science he is purporting to present. His students deserve to learn the subject as we best understand it, not just the painted pig that de Freitas dangles in front of them. In the meantime, the University of Auckland has a problem. What price academic excellence, when you have an associate professor determined to ignore that fine idea?
But Renowden badly mistakes the meaning of academic freedom, which means, according to Wikipedia, freedom of academic inquiry, and:
freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.
Renowden gives us more arm-waving about lobby groups and painted pigs, then he tries to embroil the university in this grubby yet feeble allegation, no doubt in hopes of generating a reaction from them:
In the meantime, the University of Auckland has a problem. What price academic excellence, when you have an associate professor determined to ignore that fine idea?
There’s no problem here. This is a professor demonstrating excellent thinking and the capacity to withstand constant pressure from the establishment for him to adopt their thinking. What price a reputation for not thinking?
Fortunately, Gareth Renowden is not making decisions in our leading university, for he cannot distinguish real freedom. Which is surprising in a former journalist.
Renowden says: “He uses old, out-dated resources.” But remember that they’re studying geography, which is about the oldest thing we have, and you get a sense of perspective — there’s no need for everything to be new. If the resources were wrong, or left out important new information, that would be a different matter. But there’s nothing wrong with them.
It’s about as far from the mainstream of paleoclimate reconstructions for the last 2,000 years as it is possible to be.
So you say, but what’s wrong with it?
De Freitas is presenting material prepared by US lobby groups and bloggers — stuff that’s been deliberately designed to confuse the issue.
So you say. But there’s nothing wrong with it.
The other important piece of context for de Freitas’ behaviour is the people he is lecturing. They are first year geography students, probably 18 – 19 years old, fresh out of school. They are in their first term at university, and they are being badly misinformed by a senior academic at the university they are paying to attend. There is no attempt by de Freitas to “teach the controversy”, no attempt to present both sides of the debate sceptics like to insist still continues. Instead, he presents a partial picture that fits with his preconceived position. His students finish his course likely to believe that CO2 is not important, ENSO rules global temperature, the surface temperature record is unreliable and that current gobal temperatures are not all that warm. They have been grievously ill-informed.
This is full of insight. Renowden has penetrated the core of a “university” education, which is to enter by degrees into the “unus + versus”, “single turn” (singularity?) or “community” of learning and teaching that is a university. Having been admitted, wherever they go, the student will never leave the university. They should learn what is known, what is unknown and what is disputed, freely and without bias.
In passing, he mentions “the debate sceptics like to insist still continues.” Many times I’ve heard a warmist say “there is no debate” and what’s remarkable about that is it’s ALWAYS after hearing somebody debate, or offer to debate, what the warmist is saying. The debate is right in front of them and they deliberately shut their eyes. There is no blindness quite so dark as actually refusing to see.
Professor de Freitas will not misinform anyone. He presents what he knows to be true. In his ill-considered diatribe, Renowden has not identified a single error in what de Freitas is doing. He throws much scorn and no substance.
He thinks that science might be neglected, that the students might gain false notions, and this is illuminating. For without prompting he mentions several crucial facts about climate science that he himself usually neglects.
- CO2 is not important? It increases the temperature somewhat, but there’s not much of it (it’s called a “trace” gas, measured in parts per million); mankind’s emissions are tiny against the natural cycle; and temperature goes up before CO2 does.
- ENSO rules global temperature? There’s evidence for that — a strong correlation between them, with a plausible mechanism (ocean warms, warming air).
- Surface temperature record unreliable? For Renowden to assert it IS reliable is risible. Surfacestations.org documents hundreds of weather stations across the USA which fail basic quality standards; serious problems are reported around the world on accuracy and adjustments.
- Current global temperatures not that warm? No, it was warmer during the Medieval Warm Period — only 1000 years ago.
The students will not be poorly informed on these counts (for these data are not out-dated).
The right to speak freely has been lost, fought for and won back many times during our long British history and it must not be lost in this New Zealand incarnation.
So far only a single commenter at Hot Topic expresses support for true academic freedom (thank you, Mike Palin). Even Doug Mackie has gone to the dark side. Such is the freedom I grant, so long as you agree with me.