Crowd sourcing research on the dogs that didn’t bark

Last week Cats contributed a heap of information and sources about scientists and others who have been punished for having unfashionable views on a certain topic. That will all contribute to a section of a work in progress under the working title The Dogs That Didn’t Bark.

The dogs are the academics working in the history and philosophy of science and science studies who might have warned us that something has gone wrong, except that they have mostly signed up to alarmism. The book will be lightly footnoted for a general readership and the heavy duty research will be in a companion website with copious links to primary materials.

In the background are some key points. For one, there have always been people going on about the end of the world and other disasters. People might like to give examples of their favourite cases.

More specifically there have been no end of failed predictions about impending climate disasters and statements from the likes to people like Prince Charles on the number of hours, days or months that we have left to start making drastic changes to avert disaster. I want to collect these cases as well, although comprehensive reporting might call for another book.

Another aspect is the history of popular delusions and the madness of crowds referencing an 1841 book on things like occultism, witch mania and financial episodes like the South Sea Company bubble of 1711-1720, the Mississippi Company bubble of 1719-1720, and the Dutch tulip mania.

This particular delusion may be unique in the way that it has obtained support from modern science, in the volume of the propaganda exercise supporting it and the amount of waste and destruction of resources that it is causing. More on those aspects another time.

In the meantime please comment on “end of the world” episodes and more specifically the predictions of climate disaster over the last 20 or 30 years. If you have too much for a comment, say that and I will get in touch by email.

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30 Responses to Crowd sourcing research on the dogs that didn’t bark

  1. Habib

    Hanrahan was the template for Flannels et al.

  2. Megan

    I relied on the lessons I learned from my Little Golden Book on Henny Penny. It’s a story with a long history in the oral folk tradition of the danger of believing in the disastermongers and first appeared in written form in the early 19th century. Some versions take the view we need to have courage to face the challenges life brings but the more traditional version is we should not believe all we hear.
    It has, like a lot of other sensible things, gone out of fashion because Henny Penny was female and hysterical so we cannot possibly allow our littlies to be contaminated by reading such nonsense. But the story, hundreds of years old, warns us against the very thing that has happened with the climate change bubble.
    Probably not helpful for what you want but it does illustrate our human tendency to panic.

  3. Spring is near

    Apologies mine is more anecdotal. 2003 MSM had been banging on about global warming. I arrived home from work and my wife and our neighbour were discussing neighbours child 6 or 7 yo. She had come home from school distraught and in tears over the polar bears drowning due to global warming ice melt. I immediately thought BS on this and now the schools were pushing it. …and no scientist was calling it out!
    I shared house with scientists at Uni. They cannot agree on How to cook toast let alone a planet.

  4. Pauly

    But who would you trust on how to cook toast – a chef or a scientist?
    Same on who do you trust to tell you about how the climate has changed – a farmer who has worked the land since they were born or a scientist?

  5. Global warming & climate change are western ideas, with neo-Christian elements of original sin and purchase of indulgences in it, all dressed up in modern garb of science jargon. The original sin in the role of CO2 in all living creatures. Carbon trade systems and extra cost of ‘renewables’ are indulgences to get us out of our ‘self made hell’.

  6. RobK

    John Reid at Blackjay has a number of examples #1

    Command Economy

    By mandating Renewable Energy Targets (RETs) the South Australian Government has made its state a Command Economy in the energy sector.  Such arbitrary economic targets characterized Stalin’s Five Year Plans. In fact, there are close parallels between Mao Tse Tung’s backyard blast furnaces and South Australia’s renewable energy program. Both are examples of a Command Economy in action. Both reveal its shortcomings in dealing with new technology.
    Example #2:

    JANUARY 4, 2017 12 COMMENTS

    The Xhosa Cattle Killing Movement In April or May 1856, the teenaged Nongqawuse and her friend Nombanda went to fetch water from a pool near the mouth of the Gxarha River. When she returned, Nongqawuse told her uncle and guardian Mhlakaza, a Xhosa spiritualist, that she had met the spirits of three of her ancestors. […]

  7. Chris

    Every. Single. Day.

    Imitative, culture-media-incentivised suicide and parasuicide crimes or events.

    The Copycat Effect – Loren Cunningham.

    Cramer, C. (1993). Ethical problems of mass murder coverage in the mass media. Journal of Mass Media Ethics 9 .

    Airline pilot suicides, single-car and head-on fatalities
    Phillips, D. P. (1980). Airplane accidents, murder and the mass media: Towards a theory of imitation and suggestion. Social Forces 58 , 1001-1024.

    Suicide clusters and mass shootings.
    Black deaths in Custody as copycat suicides incentivised by funeral practice and word of mouth, rather than TV.

    Wheelchair suicides at level crossings in Perth
    Kids climbing stobie poles to grab powerlines in Roebourne

  8. Boambee John

    Mention of the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf might be useful.

  9. Rafe Champion

    Bemused, I think you have nailed it! Thanks for all comments, all adding value.
    The Potlatch ceremonies of North American Indians could be a case, I think in some places the sacrifice is ruinous, if not on the scale of the Xhosa cattle killing.
    Somewhere in SE Asia or NG or the Pacific islands there is some kind of bird that is killed in numbers to impress visitors or make a statement about status.

  10. RobK

    From the above”cattle’link:
    This is just one example of a social disorder which sweeps through societies from time to time. It is called Millenarianism ( The symptoms are an end-of-days myth and an urgent need to take desparate action coupled with a belief in the absolute moral rightness of the cause. Usually there is a designated folk-demon group whose purpose is to undermine the myth. It is impossible to reason with the proponents because any attempt to do so is dismissed as the activity of the folk demon group. Often believers are members of an oppressed minority although it may well be that these circumstances provide fertile ground for a new myth to gain adherents and become well known.

    The Xhosa incident can perhaps be dismissed as the consequence of a primitive culture and/or the poor education of those involved. Note however that these incidents have occurred throughout history and have afflicted many different cultures. The most dramatic was perhaps the Taiping Rebellion which ranks as the bloodiest civil war in human history.  Estimates of war dead range from 20 to 70 million, to as much as 100 million, as well as millions more displaced. These casualties occurred because one man thought he was the brother of Jesus and people believed him.

  11. Rafe Champion

    Someone has drawn a parallel between the payment of indulgences in the medieval Catholic Church and carbon certificates.

    Thanks RobK millenarianism is the word. Global warming as the latest millenarian movement.

  12. 132andBush

    Mention of the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf might be useful.

    And “The Emporers New Clothes”

  13. 132andBush

    Eisenhower warned of this. Government money corrupting science.

  14. Rafe Champion

    Thanks to bemused I now have seen more than I ever wanted to know about turtles.
    And this is far more than anyone wants to know about the cassowary sacrifice among the Kalam in the New Guinea highlands.
    Not to mention the massive pig-killing festivals among the Maring.

  15. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    You’ll be sorry when the world DOES end! All those warnings and you went on living as though you weren’t all doomed! That’ll teach you!!!

  16. Bruce of Newcastle

    I’ll add that scientists dream about making a valued contribution to the body of science, and to society. Yes it’s a pride and conceit thing, but it’s real and is one of the things that gets you through the hard yards early on.

    What greater contribution is there than to save the world?

    The attraction of saving the world is very powerful, especially when everyone in the sciences know that a vast tsunami of money will wash down upon you. The funding for other fields like water treatment or astronomy is a tiny trickle by comparison.

    Thus scientists self select themselves into saving the world from global warming. Even though there is plenty of data to say there isn’t much happening, and that which is seems pretty harmless. The kid who pointed out the clothes of the emperor didn’t actually exist wasn’t getting a six figure salary from the EPA at the time the observation was made.

    Now added to all this is the new green-progressive religion. The CAGW thing is a perfect fit. We have food laws (veganism, sugar bans), religious education (black armband history and Gore’s movie in schools), religious rites (recycling) and now a green hell that only the priests of the new religion can save us all from. It is irresistible.

    Naomi Klein said it a while ago:

    Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

    Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong.

    And the politicians of the left and centre-left (which includes most of the LNP these days) have bought in for the same reasons: what politician doesn’t want to, as Bill Murray’s character said, “save the lives of millions of registered voters”.

  17. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Today is the coldest day for years. What caused it? (All together now-) GLOBAL WARMING!!!!

  18. Mark M

    I didn’t check all your links, but here is one:

    The Global Warming Hoax of 1874

  19. Procrustes

    Great post and a great topic for a book.

    I presume you’ve looked into Matt Ridley’s stuff – I remember he recounted a lot stories from the past in an interview about either “The Rational Optomist” or the “Evolution of Everything”. Might be some links to primary sources in there.

  20. duncanm

    The world will run out of food.

    It started with Malthus in 1798, and is still going on

    The most famous recent adherent is Paul Erlich, who suggested we start eating eat other.

  21. Boambee John

    I seem to recall that Andrew Bolt and/or Jo Nova have lists of failed “phrophesies”.

  22. Myrddin Seren

    People might like to give examples of their favourite cases.

    My favourite – Julian Simon humbling life long catastrophist Paul Ehrlich.

    Something the Ehrlichs have never forgiven Simon for.

  23. Rafe Champion

    Yes I am onto Matt Ridley, in fact reading one of his books on the plane from Sydney to Hobart was an important event in my climate science education.
    Yes I will check with Jo and Andrew Bolt. Surprisingly Jo’s tags and categories don’t include failed predictions. It is the sort of thing she would pick up.

  24. Rafe, have a look at the book “The Money Miners” by Trevor Sykes (Wildcat Press Sydney 1978). I recall a colleague buying Poseiden shares at $330 each and losing everything. Also, “Two Centuries of Panic (A history of corporate collapses in Australia)” by Trevor Sykes (Allen & Unwin 1988). Maybe you could mention Tesla which will go bankrupt soon.
    The book “The Great Seesaw” by Geoffrey Blainey (The Macmillan Company of Australia Pty Ltd 1988) puts some of the ups and down into an interesting worldwide perception of Optimism and pessimism which can to an extent be linked to climate (mentioned in chapter 7). In chapter 15 he mentions “The long Economic waves”

  25. Ooh Honey Honey

    I am pretty sure that Tim Blair has a neat round up of all the “dates after which it will be too late to save the world”.
    When not a single alarmist passes any one of those dates and starts maxing out their credit card on whores and Bolly you know something’s fishy..

  26. J.H.

    Lysenkoism, Mao’s communist China and the tens of millions who starved because of disastrous policies based on bad science and zealous ideology…. It’s almost a direct analog of the Climate Change scam and the regulations mandated by governments because of bad science.

  27. Aynsley Kellow

    Spot on with the millenarian observation. We can add apocalyptic environmentalism to religions that emphasise the Book of Revelation, to Marxism (an unchanging communist utopia), Nazism (‘a thousand year Reich)… Leading IPCC figure Sir John Houghton was raised in a Baptists family that attended a (apocalyptic) Plymouth Brethren church.
    I use the notion of an ‘availability cascade’ to explain madness of crowds/groupthink in my recent book Negotiating Climate Change: A Forensic Analysis:
    “An ‘availability cascade’ is a self-reinforcing cycle that explains the development of a collective belief in a phenomenon such as ‘catastrophic anthropogenic climate change’. A number of possibly unrelated phenom- ena (melting icecaps, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, floods, droughts, hurricanes, snowstorms, heatwaves) with complex causes are explained by one, simple, easily understood cause, and the explanation quickly acquires currency in popular discourse by virtue of its very simplicity and by its apparent insightfulness. The rising popularity of the meme triggers a social chain reaction. Individuals adopt the insight that we are experiencing catastrophic anthropogenic climate change because others within their social network have adopted it. The meme is plausible because we have certainly been adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution and carbon dioxide is most certainly a greenhouse gas and it will cause global warming. The availability of the explanation cascades because of social phenomena. As Kuran and Sunstein (1999: 683) put it, ‘Individuals endorse the perception partly by learning from the apparent beliefs of others and partly by distorting their public responses in the interest of maintaining social acceptance.’ “(pp133-4)
    The antidote is, of course, scepticism and insistence on the standard of Popperian falsification, but the activists – the ‘availability entrepreneurs’ – inhibit that process with smears of ‘denier’, etc.
    Popper would find climate science risible. I challenge anyone to find a piece of published climate science that does not contain the word ‘could’. Popper would say it is all conjecture and no refutation.

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