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The Academic Ape: Instinctive aggression and boundary enforcing behaviour in academia
Lirpa Loofouy MSc. PhD FRS, Mike Haseler BSc. MBA.
Produced for free by
the Institute for Research into Academia
motto: Let knowledge be free.
Published 1st April 2016
link to pdf: The Academic Ape
The Cassandra Effect describes the tendency of academia to reject any academic-like work from outside academia and that the more “academic” the contribution, the more strongly it is rejected and attacked.
This paper explores the implications of the Cassandra Effect and examines the likely reasons for the rejection of, and attacks on, academic outsiders. It proposes a hypothesis to explain the origins and causation of this Cassandra Effect based on the concept of the “Academic ape”: a primitive instinctual response by academia when its perceived intellectual territory is threatened which over-rides intellect and reasoning.
It is suggested that the main reason for the rejection by the “academic tribe” of outsiders such as climate sceptics & metal detector users, is not because their contribution is inferior. Instead it is suggested that ironically the work of outsiders is most likely to be rejected when it is, or appears to be, academic.
The suggested trigger for this, is an innate instinctual response mechanism common to all apes. It is suggested that contributions that appear academic in nature (or “pseudo science” as it is termed when it is threatens those in the scientific arena) are most likely to be met aggressively because they appear to be a larger threat to the perceived territory of academia, thus triggering an instinctual territorial response akin to that of Chimpanzees or other large apes. This response appears when outsiders step over an imaginary boundary academia draws around its perceived Knowledge territory . This boundary demarks the areas of knowledge over which academia claims ownership and control from those outside which by nature of being outside are deemed inferior and unfit for academia.
Unfortunately, these boundaries are often not recognised by outsiders either because they are unaware any boundary exists or because in areas such as the arena of climate, it is perceived that the subject is an area of general science appropriate for the scientifically literate population as a whole.
Thus issues such as climate, where outsiders have suffered vitriolic attacks from academics (e.g. Lewandowsky, Gleick, Mann, etc.) and where these attacks have been widely supported from academia, may have very little to do with the actual subject material or the relative state of knowledge or experience of the parties. Instead it is suggested that they can be likened to union “demarcation disputes” between the “academic union” on the one side and the outsider who is treated as “blacklegs” or “scabs”.
This threat response appears to be heightened when three conditions exists. First against altruistic outsiders who give their labour freely and so not only threaten the academics perceived territory, but also undermine the economic value of academia. Second, outsiders who have a high level of qualification and wider experience than academia are seen as more of a potential threat. And thirdly, when outsiders formulate their contributions in the style, language and format suggestive of academic work, this in itself signals an incursion into the academic territory.
Thus, whilst academics often reject external work as being of poor quality, perversely, far from eliciting the expected intellectual response expected, work of the highest calibre, by those most qualified, and freely given, is most likely to be treated as a direct threat and stimulate the most hostile response from the “academic ape”.
Academia is well organised, has strong “gate-keepers” and is well funded and being integrated into the political, and social control mechanisms of society is able to organise highly effective campaigns bringing in outside actors like politicians to target the perceived intruders into “their” domain. In contrast outsiders like those in the climate issue, or metal detector users in the area of archaeology, tend to be disorganised disparate groups of poorly funded hobbyists whose lack of organisation provides them little social and political clout.
The system of peer review appears to be a form of gate-keeping mechanism. Thus suggestions that outsiders should have their work “peer reviewed” are disingenuous, particularly as in areas like climate peer review has not been the supposed hallmark of quality it is claimed. Instead it is suggested peer review should be seen as similar to behaviour like “scent marking”: used to demark the boundary, claim ownership of territory and attempt to establish authority.
With the rise of the internet, outsiders and academics are more and more inhabiting the same domain on the internet. So, as academic outsiders increasingly become involved in areas of knowledge which academia formerly claimed as “theirs” and with the territorial response mechanism of the academic ape, it is inevitable that without some kind of compromise, the same animosity from academia toward the public that exists in the area of climate will become endemic.
But, as we see in areas like climate, the lack of organisational structure perceived public nature of issues like science, there is no realistic way to “negotiate” any form of “surrender” of the public arena of the internet to the supposed authority of academia. Thus even if it were morally acceptable for the public to give way to academia, the only practical way forward is that academia itself must change. And change must come from within academia, because any change imposed from outside will be most likely to be seen as a direct assault on the academic territory and elicit the strongest and most hostile reaction.
However, once we start dismantling the boundaries academia by which academia has sought to claim ownership and control of many subjects, we then face a much more fundamental and critical issue: the purpose and function and economic basis of academia in a modern internet society.
The concept of a boundary around academia & science demarking that which “is” academic and that which “is not”, is not new. Gieryn in 1983, defines not only the presence of this boundary, its use to exclude “non-science” & how it it is used to create a public image of “science”, but importantly he also hints at the way outsiders or as they are often termed derogatorily “pseudo-scientists” are attacked from those within the boundary:
The demarcation of science from other intellectual activities-long an analytic problem for philosophers and sociologists-is here examined as a practical problem for scientists. Construction of a boundary between science and varieties of non-science is useful for scientists’ pursuit of professional goals: acquisition of intellectual authority and career opportunities; denial of these resources to “pseudoscientists”; and protection of the autonomy of scientific research from political interference. “Boundary-work” describes an ideological style found in scientists’ attempts to create a public image for science by contrasting it favorably to non-scientific intellectual or technical activities.
Those familiar with the on-line “debate” on climate, will also recognise the language that is used by those inside the boundary referring to those who challenge this boundary:
… they devise a sly cartographic response that at once preserves the appearance of science and rational and objective while at the same time excluding. In this counterargument, the boundary-work of science defenders is severed from whatever good and hard science they do in their day jobs. … David Edge complains that Paul Gross treats his adversaries in the science wars with “contempt and derision“: “abandoning all pretense of trust and respect,” he does not engage in “fair, honest and well informed disputation,” and because of this “demean[s] (and will eventually destroy) the very science and reason that we are all so anxious to conserve and extend.” After accusing science defenders of conducting a witch-hunt against Norton Wise, etc. ...
Gieryn (1999) quoting Edge (1996)
In the so called “climate wars”, the Sceptics are the “outsider”. Academics, or as this group when involved in areas of a scientific-like nature like to call themselves “scientists”, are the insider. Just as Unions treat anyone “outside the union” who comes and does their work as “scab labour” so the natural reaction of the “academia union” is to boycott or attack the work of outsiders. Although like unions, the relationship with outsiders is complex. So the academic union is prepared to accept certain other “unions” of knowledge-workers like doctors & consultants who (unlike climate sceptics or other hobbyists) are paid for their work and which the academic union appears to accept “owns” some areas of knowledge.
Thus the area of “knowledge” is parcelled up into territories and even within academia there are territorial disputes between subjects. But by far the most hostile and aggressive reactions appear to occur when the outsider is some kind of hobbyist or when academics side with such hobbyists (curry 2015).
Thus “Ownership” of knowledge or laying claim to certain areas of knowledge is the key to these academia versus outsider disputes. And where academia lays claim, these areas are surrounded by often largely impenetrable boundaries rigorously policed so as to exclude outsiders.
To enforce these boundaries and maintain control over “their” territory, academia use a variety of methods to demarcate the areas of knowledge:
It has often been noted that academics can not call a spade a spade (Monckton 2010). Instead if there is a simple word like “pause” that is already available, but “owned” by outsiders, there will be strenuous attempts to find an alternative and usually more obtuse word such as “hiatus”. Instead of something simple and straightforward, like “man-made warming”, it will be called “anthropogenic global warming”, which as it literally means man-made in Greek, serves no purpose other than to misanthropically obfuscate the language.
Thus in many cases, the change of terminology serves no functional purpose and so only acts to convey ownership by academia. So in much the same way many animals like dogs will scent mark territory, academia will systematically change the language to “mark” their ownership of knowledge. And even the term “boundary-work” is itself a way to claim academic ownership of a concept that to most other people would be known as a boundary dispute or demarcation dispute. Likewise, the “pause” as a concept was invented by climate sceptics (Haseler, 2009a,b, 2014b, 2015) and so in order to claim ownership of the term, academia first had to reject the “pause” terminology used by (Mooney 2013) changing its original meaning (which focussed on the failure of the specified temperature indices to warm as predicted) to one easier to defend of “no net warming” (without reference to datasets or specific predictions).
Then having invented this new term and created new temperature measures which supposedly showed massive warming (Tisdale, 2015) and which was not present in the satellite measurements, they were able to (falsely) “prove” that the concept they had invented as a strawman did not exist.
Furthermore, language is often used to falsely imply sophistication as simple common words show the subject is simple to understand, whereas sophisticated phraseology and other linguistic devices suggest elitism and thereby discourage “uneducated” outsiders. So complex language is often adopted, not to make subjects easier to understand, but to demark the territory as “belonging to academia” and often to falsely portray the subject as too complex for non academics to understand.
Guarding the boundary through Peer Review
Academics will often assert (without proof) that peer review is proof that academia has higher standards. Whilst this may be in part true, there have been many cases where peer review has failed to ensure high standards (Cobange 2013, Sieber 2006, Retraction Watch 2014, Watts 2015). These show that peer review has a significant social function demarking “acceptable” knowledge (i.e. work done by academics) from the unacceptable (i.e. work done by “laymen” or knowledge done by outsiders). As such “peer review” may be viewed as a form of social ritual invoked to create the illusion of meaning and thereby distinction. But in reality it can be no better, and often much worse, than other forms of critique notably that provided by on-line review on sites such as WattsUpWithThat.
When peer review so often fails to ensure quality, the result is that the function of “peer review” is to force the outsider to literally “submit” themselves and their work to academia in a very similar act to a serf submitting themselves to a feudal lord. In this sense it is very much like a membership panel of a club and becomes a method of enforcing and policing the power relationship such that the “outsider” may only gain access to academic journals by literally acknowledging their power and authority over the subject area.
Conferring Social status using titles.
Whilst a degree, doctorate, or professorship, is usually a mark of achievement, many such as “Professor” have no legal standing, are used arbitrarily (Newman, 2008; Farrell 2009) and so have no meaning outwith the arbitrary definition assumed by academia. However, whilst there is no legal restriction to their use, even when someone has been awarded the title of “Professor”, if they are later excluded from the “academic tribe” it’s continued use “outside” academia is highly contentious (See comments on discussion: Anders 2013). Thus, academic titles are arbitrary, largely legally meaningless and so appear to act to demark & reward the academic insider as an acceptable or honorary member of the “academic tribe” and thereby exclude those of equal or superior worth who are academic outsiders.
However, titles are also used to extend and deepen the supposed power of academia through social coercion. Because like the ancient kneeling before a lord, a PhD is in the gift of an academic elite and it will only be conferred on those who acknowledge the ownership of academia over a particular area. Thus the very act of accepting such titles and using them perpetuates and enforces a power relationship: the power of academia is endowed by academics, and in return for submission to this power, those accepting the authority of academia are given titles to mark them out as “belonging” to the academic tribe which then (supposedly) endows them with some special expertise and authority to speak on some areas of public knowledge “owned” by academia.
Like all trade unions, it can be easily argued that the academic tribe’s main objective is not altruistic, but instead to use its power and control to enrich its own members.
Thus membership of the tribe is used (often falsely) to suggest “competence” over “research” in specific fields. This in turn is used to control various agencies making funding available only to those “who have previously published” meaning members of the academic tribe or union. Thus peer-review and academic titles are mechanism to secure economic wealth for the members of the academic union and by fabricating false barriers to entry into “their” area of work, academia manufactures a monopoly over funding for certain subjects.
Thus control over the funding bodies is a very effective tool: reward those who comply and police the boundaries of academia against outsiders and to punish insiders if for example, they fail to police those boundaries themselves or express unwanted political views. Some may argue that this academic monopoly over knowledge is good for society, but this is not true in issues where the left of centre bias and public sector outlook creates a bias in academia (Naju 2015). One such area is “global warming”, where there is a clear division between the overwhelming private sector outlook of sceptics and the public sector viewpoint of academics. (Haseler 2014a)
The rejection of climate sceptics
Ad Hominem Attacks
One of the main areas of study resulting in the findings presented in this paper was carried out in an attempt to understand the appalling behaviour that led to the frequent use by academics of term “denier” which from this quote was clearly intended to portray sceptics as Holocaust camp detainees
Surely it’s time for climate-change deniers to have their opinions forcibly tattooed on their bodies.
Note, how this simultaneously suggests applying the Nazi style behaviour of tattooing people, whilst simultaneously asserting that climate sceptics are akin to Nazi “holocaust deniers”. And whilst given the anonymity of the on-line debate, whilst it is often not possible to link comments with individuals, it is possible to say that overwhelmingly similar ad Hominem attacks originate from those supporting the academic viewpoint. Haseler (2013)
Moreover, given the high profile attacks by individuals like Lewandowsky, Mann, Gleick, Hansen, etc., who have launched many attacks against sceptics and applaud any who attack sceptics, and given the utter silence of all but a handful of academics against their appalling behaviour, these attacks are clearly condoned by many and likely an overwhelming majority of academics.
However, whilst qualifications are usually cited as justifying such attacks (BBC) when a survey was completed of sceptics it shows that most were very well qualified in science and engineering and around 50% had a second degree (Haseler 2015a).
Indeed, in terms of qualifications, it is often the academic “insiders” who feels able to attack outsiders who are unqualified. Notable examples are Lewandowsky a Psychologist. Sir Paul Nurse, a geneticist (Tallbloke 2014) & Sir Mark Walport a medical scientist (IPCC report 2014). However despite their lack of qualification to speak on atmospheric physics and the relevant qualifications of most sceptics, unqualified academics have been given an “open door” by news outlets like the BBC to launch hostile, false and vitriolic attacks on qualified, experienced sceptics who are then usually denied any form of redress even to correct the false assertions about sceptics own views. (See: Haseler, 2014c).
A good example of this behaviour was shown to Mr Haseler by the BBC. The BBC were fully aware that Mr Haseler has a physics degree and has worked as an engineer in the wind sector. Together with his MBA, he is qualified in all the key areas of Science, Engineering and policy. When he chairman of the Scottish Climate and Energy Group he made a formal complaint to the BBC about the repeated use of the word “paedophile” when referring to sceptics. The BBC neither apologised nor in any other way allowed the voice of sceptics to be heard even about their own views – a subject where sceptics do undoubtedly have some expertise!
However lack of qualification did not stop those like Paul Nurse or Mark Walport and government ministers repeatedly getting air time from organisations like the BBC which they then used to attack sceptics. Thus differences or relevance of qualification is unable to explain the hostility of academics, researchers and “very academically friendly” media outlets like the BBC to outsiders. Instead, there must be a sociological explanation. It appears that outsiders are seen as “treading on their toes”, putting their tanks on the “academic” lawn. Just as a householder would instinctively react hostily to an invasion of squatters, so academics & their friends such as the BBC instinctively knows to attack those like sceptics who cross the imaginary boundary.
The instinctive origin of the academic response
It has long been recognised that academics are tribal (Becher & Trowler 1989) and that this leads to networks of individuals creating boundaries or as Becher & Trowler (p.90) puts it:
“The concept of a peer group has affinities with that of a network, as may be seen from the following comment by Crane (1972): ‘Behind the seemingly impersonal structure of scientific knowledge, there is a vast interpersonal network that screens new ideas in terms of a central theme of paradigm, permitting some a wide audience and consigning many to oblivion”
As such, what is “science” and what is not, is as much to do with social boundaries as whether theories match physical evidence. And as Gieryn (1983) states, academics have long sought ways to create and demark the boundary of “science”:
Philosophers and sociologists of science have long struggled with the “problem of demarcation”: how to identify unique and essential characteristics of science that distinguish it from other kinds of intellectual activities.
The instinctive response against territorial invasion is common to many animals but notably social apes. Chimpanzees whose territory is invaded will respond aggressively and likewise Gorillas. The response is typically to group together, face off the enemy and make a great deal of noise and fuss:
Chimpanzees provide one of the best examples of group territoriality in primates. Male chimpanzees of the same community jointly defend heavily used areas and routinely patrol peripheral areas in large parties, occasionally making deep incursions into the territories of their neighbors.
This territorial behaviour is relatively uncommon amongst mammals only being reported according to Amsler in social carnivores (Cheetahs, Lions, spotted hyenas, wolves) and some species of primates. As such it is a response of the group as a whole and unlikely to be seen by individuals unless in some way acting as part of the group. It is characterised by distinctive behaviour:
During boundary patrols, chimpanzees appear to seek contact with or information about chimpanzees in adjacent communities. Behavior during patrols is characterized by the striking silence of males as they travel in a closely spaced, single-file line. Chimpanzees on patrol are particularly tense and attentive, move in a directed fashion, and engage in reassurance behavior when startled.
And it appears to be sexual in nature often being performed by males and against outside males (although clearly endorsed by females otherwise it would not make those participating sexually attractive).
Boundary patrolling may furnish several benefits to participants. Possible benefits include recruitment of females , defense of the community against threats by outside males, elimination of rival males, and a way for individuals to signal value as a cooperative partner to other males in the community.
The full range of behaviours noted by Amsler included:
Events included the following: sniffing the ground, vegetation, nests, feces, or other signs of chimpanzees from neighboring communities; unusually tense or alert behavior; fear grins; embraces between patrol members; calls, most notably screams and whimpers; reactions to hearing chimpanzees from other communities; displays and drumming; battles, consisting of visual contact, confrontation, charges, and chases between Ngogo patrollers and members of the opposing party; attacks on other chimpanzees; infanticides; consumption of killed infants;
Many of these behaviours can readily be equated to behaviour seen on the internet:
|sniffing the ground, vegetation, nests, faeces, or other signs of chimpanzees from neighbouring communities;||The equivalent behaviour on the internet is the regular checking of sites from the “opposition”|
|unusually tense or alert behaviour; fear grins;||Sceptics often comment on the “tense” atmosphere if they comment on academic blogs.|
|embraces between patrol members;||Group bonding and grooming of others is a common attribute of internet blogs|
|calls, most notably screams and whimpers||These various forms of ritual aggression and attacks are typical of the kinds of behaviour experienced by sceptics. These include name calling using false labels like “denier”, attacks on motivation using terms such as “fossil fuel funded”, attacks on integrity suggesting that sceptics (almost non of whom are paid) are acting for financial gain. When these initial forms of “non-contact” assaults failed to “get them off our turf” there followed a series of escalating attacks including the use of legal case (Mann v. Steyn and Mann v. Ball) and the call for the use of current and new legislation to “repel” sceptics.|
|reactions to hearing chimpanzees from other communities; displays and drumming|
|charges, and chases between Ngogo patrollers and members of the opposing party|
|attacks on other chimpanzees; infanticides; consumption of killed infants;|
Table 1: Table 1. Comparison of Ape behaviour with that found on the internet.
One particular feature of these attacks, is that they appear to be most vicious, not on those who are completely outside the bounds of academia, but on those academics who have sided, or are perceived to have sided, with sceptics ( Rose 2015). For example, Prof Salby who was hounded out of his job at Macquarie University in Sydney, came to Scotland to present his findings (that the rise in CO2 was at least in part natural) to the Scottish parliament. Mr Haseler who hosted Prof Salby invited not only sceptics but academics (one of whom happened to write the blog: “AndTheresPhysics”). But, rather than coming to the lecture to hear the scientific work of Prof Salby which after all was hardly controversial as some CO2 is undoubtedly natural, “Anders” instead attacked Prof Salby not on what he had said, but on some spurious details about a graph.
However, when Mr Haseler then went to the blog to explain Prof Salby’s work, the various posted “ganged together” in order to mount a day long attack – not on the substance of the science presented by Prof Salby, but apparently solely because he had dared to side with sceptics. The “crime” (as Mr Haseler put it) was that the he had not only hosted a presentation by Professor Salby from Australia at the Scottish parliament, but that his work had been written up in a style akin to a paper.
For, of all the various blog articles written by Mr Haseler, it was only this one written up in a pseudo academic style, recording a formal academic presentation by an academic, that more than anything else written by Mr Haseler, seemed to incense the contributors on the blog.
But (as related by Mr Haseler) despite spending a whole day trying to explain the paper by Prof Salby, the simply act of defending him seemed if anything to incense those commenting on the blog more to such an extent Mr Haseler was forced to report one commenter (who carried the argument to his blog) to the police for racist comments when Anders refused to remove them. But, when Anders learned that Mr Haseler had needed to report the commenter on his blog, he then banned Mr Haseler. This shows a clear demarcation of behaviour. Those within the boundary are allowed to mount attacks including racist comments and comments to the effect that sceptics should be executed, whereas if a sceptic responds or reports racist comments they are deemed to be at fault.
From this incident and others on the internet, a pattern of behaviour can be deduced: “outsiders” are seen as hostile. They are met by groups of individuals who attack the invader intending to drive them away. If (like the blog where the author felt it was necessary to defend the good work of Prof Salby) the “invaders” does not withdraw, then the intensity and viciousness of the attacks increase. The group then starts behaving as one, making repeated attacks in short succession. No doubt this behaviour also occurs on “sceptic” blogs, but the level of aggression is much higher, more intense and more vitriolic amongst alarmists defending academia (Haseler 2013).
We have seen academics launch direct attacks against “outsiders” or sceptics. Notable such attacks were carried out by Gleick, Lewandowsky & Oreskes. In each case the attack cannot be justified after the event.
Gleick used arguably criminal deception aimed apparently at uncovering what Gleick appears to have believed was a conspiracy of funding, presumably from fossil fuel interests. So, he used deception to obtain details of funding for the Heartland Institute which being sceptical tends to be the focus of academic aggression. However, rather than proving what he intended, Gleick only succeeded in demonstrating that the Heartland Institute obtained no fossil fuel funding and that in fact they had very little funding at all. (Watts 2012)
A similarly conspiracy theorist concept lay being the Lewandowsky attack where he falsely attributed sceptic views to a “moon landing conspiracy”. Like Gleick, far from his intended, aim, Lewandowsky’s data showed very little “conspiracy ideation” and he ended up having to withdraw his paper. (Watts 2013, McIntyre 2012)
A similarly conspiracy theorist attack was that of the Oreske’s film alleging sceptics are paid. But far from showing any current evidence of funding, Oreske was forced to air allegations so old that most of those being attacked were dead – a point not lost on sceptics who commented that “the dead cannot be libelled” (Nova 2012, Curry 2015)
In each case, there was a belief in some kind of conspiracy behind sceptics. In each case, far from showing that any conspiracy existed, the authors showed that there was no evidence of such a conspiracy. In each case, those involved cited a moral imperative to launch such attacks, but when their own research showed their beliefs to be false, they continued with the attacks non-the-less.
It therefore, appears such attacks on sceptics are ritualistic in form and driven by almost sub-human animal instinct. Just like chimpanzees forced by instinct to attack outsiders who invade their territory, so it appears many academics are driven, not by any rational response, but instead they are blinded by instinctual hatred to attack the outsider in their territory in the shape of the sceptics.
This phenomenon, of irrational “conspiracy” type attacks on outsiders by academia might best be described as response of the unthinking irrational “academic ape”: the instinctive, animalistic, territorial response common to many apes whereby individuals of a group are mindlessly driven to attack those who enter their territory.
Researching the motivation and psychology of groups such as academia is problematic even when they are able to give consent (Meade & Slesnick 2001), however gaining consent for research on academia, which was not likely to show them in the way they would like to portray themselves was felt extremely unlikely.
Therefore, it was proposed to conduct the research using two methods.
Review of work presented to academia from outsiders
The first area of research was a literature review which looked for areas of work where academia had rejected ideas either from outside or in some other way linked to outsiders and to determine the criteria by which these were judged.
Second it was proposed to directly test whether academics were willing to accept work from outside by using the internet to present work of a suitably high standard that would normally be published and in the normal course of events published. But this would be done in a way that clearly signalled it as being from academic outsiders.
Three areas were chosen for this research: climate, social science and archaeology. In order to ensure the work was available, two separate “blogs” were set up. The first dealing with climate (scottishsceptic.co.uk), and the second dealing with archaeology (mons-graupius.co.uk). These blogs were then fed work of various standards to ensure regular interest and then in amongst this work the test articles were posted to determine what effect (if any) they had.
The following are three examples of these tests:
Geology: The Caterpillar Theory
The caterpillar theory was conceived with the help of an expert in the field as a way of testing whether those in climate, geology, etc. would be prepared to look at work from an outsider. The “theory”, was created largely as a restatement of normal physical effects, none of which is particularly contentious and therefore it could not easily be dismissed: the temperature changes over an ice-age cycle that the crust will expand and contract; that this will then create a change in the outward forces which in turn will modulate the subduction of old crust and formation of new crust. Thus, the crust will tend to move, first expanding out into subduction zones, then contracting increasing mid-ocean ridge formation in the way of a caterpillar.
In order to ensure it had academic validity, it was intended to post a fictitious paper showing a corroboration between ice-age cycles and tectonic plate movement, however in the event this proved unnecessary as independent research Tolstoy (2015) became available. This research showed cycles fitting with ice-age temperature changes. This gave strong support to the hypothesis that temperature changes over the ice-age cycle led to tectonic plate movement and suggest that subduction and thermal decomposition of rock may be the origin of the increase in CO2 (a concept thought to be particularly attractive to climate academics).
In order to ensure this theory was well known, numerous emails were sent to leading academics in the field. As such it was scientifically valid and publicised. As such the only reason for rejection would be that it came from an outsider.
Social Science: The survey of the sceptic blogosphere
This work, was adapted from a chance survey intended to create some interest in the sceptic community through a survey which was intended to perhaps have have around 100 responses and be statistically invalid. In fact some 5000 sceptics responded providing unequivocally the most comprehensive sample of on line sceptics. This was undoubtedly an invaluable tool for any social scientist involved in the area. Again contact was made with various researchers (although for ethical reasons some were considered inappropriate).
This time individual academics were contacted directly by email and asked for help with the project.
The first two tests were climate related and therefore in order to draw a wider conclusion, it was decided to look at other subject works. Fortunately, Mr Haseler was able to offer a very suitable paper.
This particular paper is based on a potential connection between the birthplace of St.Patrick at a place called Nemthur and the Roman town of Nemeton which are obviously linguistically similar.
Whilst recent academic work has tended to place St.Patrick’s birthplace in England, with three out of the five lives of St.Patrick locating his birthplace (Nemthur) near Alt Clud or Dumbarton Rock on the Clyde Estuary, there is a very strong case to be made that it is in this area which is also the place where the Antonine wall terminated.
Mr Haseler, shows in his paper, that if we take the evidence that there are seven main forts along the Antonine Wall, that, the first being known and the names of the others listed, that Nemeton could be equated with Old Kilpatrick. In addition the next location of the list would be sub-Dobiadon which would equate with Dumbarton where there is evidence of Roman occupation.
Again, this paper was made available to various academics, this time using the “Britarch” archaeology newsgroup.
Test works presented to academia
Initial results show that as predicted none of the work presented as coming from an outsider from academia was largely ignored by the academics working in Climate, Social Science and Archaeology.
The “caterpillar theory”, which is arguably the most compelling given the fortuitous “confirmation” of the ice-age cycle on tectonic plate movement was the most remarkable. Because despite what appears to be if not a world class theory, at least a remarkable coincidence in timing, the article posted on a sceptic blog received relatively few comments and no academic entered into detailed email correspondence on the theory.
The survey of sceptics was almost as remarkable. There had been several academic papers on just the same issue of the demography and motivation of sceptics. So, it was all the more obvious that their was a motivated rejection of the survey which has to be put down to it’s source outside academia, as not one academic asked to see the data.
The last work was the birthplace of St.Patrick. Arguably this is the least secure because so much of archaeology is subjective. However, as the Birthplace of St.Patrick is regularly discussed every year during the celebrations of St.Patrick’s day, the issue was repeatedly raised on numerous occasions to ensure it was well known. However, despite these repeated reminders, academic interest has been minimal.
Review of Literature
The review of literature proved more problematic than first considered as very little work associated with outsiders could be found. Instead several case were found from which inferences might be drawn.
The issue of the “climate wars” has been widely debated, by academia itself, by traditional media, and by internet blogs. As highlighted in the introduction, most academics who give their views on climate in public are antagonistic toward sceptics. And those few academics who have either sided with, or in other ways been seen to legitimise either sceptics or sceptical views have been attacked. Noteworthy examples are Prof Salby, the “Rico” attacks, the attacks on Prof Judith Curry and various others repeatedly labelled as “deniers”. Whilst these attacks come from the traditional media, it is clear that the attacks are endorsed and at times instigated by academics. (such as the Rico episode)
The “Aquatic Ape”
The aquatic ape theory is the theory that the ancestors of humans were “more aquatic” in the past. The theory came to prominence as the result of Elaine Morgan, who wrote a series of books on the topic.
For obvious reasons given that evolution can be a contentious issue on its own it is understandable that the aquatic ape theory has been contentious. However, without understanding the Cassandra Effect, it is not easy to understand why a theory that appears merely to suggest a more aquatic past could become so aggressively attacked.
Particularly when since Morgan’s books on the subject in 1972, more evidence has come to light that Human’s closest relatives spend more time in water than then believed.
A typical example of an attack article is the one Erin Wayman. The article starts under a picture showing an aquatic ape – which in itself shows evidence that our nearest relatives are more aquatic than was hitherto thought. So how logically can the author then say:
The aquatic ape theory, now largely dismissed, tries to explain the origins of many of humankind’s unique traits. Popularized in the 1970s and 1980s by writer Elaine Morgan, the theory suggests that early hominids lived in water at least part of the time. This aquatic lifestyle supposedly accounts for our hairless bodies, which made us more streamlined for swimming and diving; our upright, two-legged walking, which made wading easier; and our layers of subcutaneous fat, which made us better insulated in water (think whale blubber). (Wayman 2012)
As in climate, where many articles start by referring to the pause, only then to claim no such thing exists, often the very articles attacking the aquatic ape theory, provide the very evidence to prove that it is very likely correct: human ancestors are now known to be more aquatic than believed at the time Morgan published her books.
A similar attack article is that by Kimberly Moynahan (2012), “Water Apes: Carrying the torch for a failed theory” who this time uses the tactic of trying to suggest the aquatic ape theory is similar to the “tongue-in-cheek” story about humans evolving from Dolphins.
Last week the popular website IO9 ran a tongue-in-cheek story headlined, “Could Humans Have Evolved From Dolphins?” … the story caught ire of some of the scientific blogging community.
This was not because the story was so outlandish. It was because it seemed to give credence to a pseudo-scientific theory that should have been put to bed decades ago—that is that our species separated from our primate cousins due to our affinity for and eventual habitation of an aquatic environment.
In other words, we were once water apes.
Note, the hallmark phrase “pseudo-scientific“. The intention of this phrase is made clear later in the same article:
” How can she know more than all the scientists who have been studying human origins for the past century? (Always a pseudo-science red flag)
Thus “pseudo-science” is a way to distinguish between the acceptable “us” as in “all the [academic] scientists” against the unacceptable “them”, the outsider, the “non-scientists” – not because their work is in anyway superior, but because they are not part of the “academic tribe”.
But such attacks on outsiders might be justified if the theory itself were not credible. So does the theory of the academic ape have any credibility?
It is one of the most unusual evolutionary ideas ever proposed: humans are amphibious apes who lost their fur, started to walk upright and developed big brains because they took to living the good life by the water’s edge. … This is the aquatic ape theory and although treated with derision by some academics over the past 50 years, it is still backed by a small, but committed group of scientists. Next week they will hold a major London conference when several speakers, including David Attenborough, will voice support for the theory. (Guardian)
Note, how in this article suggesting sympathy with the view, the BBC TV presenter David Attenborough, who has attacked climate sceptics, and who has a similar job to that of Elaine Morgan, is not referred as a TV presenter, but is instead included as part of a “group of scientists”. This shows how the group identity of “scientist” and “pseudo-scientists” is very flexible and tends to be extended when wanted, but only to demark the acceptable from the unacceptable.
Mr Haseler brought this issue to the notice of the IRA group. Mr Haseler noticed this territorial behaviour of academics in archaeology where as a “non-combatant” he was a bystander. Here, archaeology or more specifically “our past” is claimed by academia as its “territory”. This is very worrying, because often lessons from history are used to inform modern policy makers. Thus the political bias of academia can distort policy making tending to bias it toward a particular political viewpoint irrespective of the political make-up of the government.
At the time Mr Haseler was doing a part-time archaeology course at Glasgow University and with “one foot in both camps” (academia and public), he was sympathetic to both views.
To put the conflict into context, archaeology now has a high standard in regard to the preservation of sites, but this has not always be so. There are many instances where academic archaeologists have dug up or as academics would call it “excavated” ancient sites, and in the process destroyed all possibility of anyone in future independently looking at the site. Worse, many such digs were not been written up (often through reasons that were no fault of the archaeologist such as lack of funds of death). And in the process artefacts had been removed and then lost and no written record was then available.
The evidence regarding aggression to outsiders came from a series of incidents on an on line discussion by archaeologists about those using metal detectors. Being aware that neither archaeologists nor outsiders were blameless, he felt that “the alternative view” had to be put when he saw members of the public who used metal detectors were attacked quite viciously by archaeologists for “destroying sites”.
The author intervened in the discussion, merely to put the case for metal detector users (there being none present to argue their own case). The specific argument put forward was that academics had also been responsible for arguably worse damage such as that done “legitimately” to Stonehenge (above left) which in no way at all compares to the abnormal “criminal” but very minor damage done by metal detector users (shown above right). However, merely by trying to be fair to outsiders, the author then came under attack in a very hostile way.
A small group began to systematically attack the author even showing similar behaviour to the “Anders” incident whereby they went onto another site (set up for an “Xmas party”) which they then appeared to deliberately and apparently in a premeditated way ruined.
The stimulus that caused this was simply defending academic outsiders. The response was to follow Mr Haseler onto another website (now closed) in a group and then attack and destroy what they could. There was no condemnation from other academics and thus this behaviour appears to be condoned by at least some if not most academics.
This behaviour appeared to very closely match that of the instinctual group behaviour of Chimpanzees and the same behaviour is echoed throughout the many encounters sceptic outsiders have had with groups or individual from within academia.
The examples shown above, show that academia has a disparity of standards that it uses when dealing with its own “insiders” compared to the “outsiders”. This is seen in a whole range of behaviours from attacks on individuals, to the use of language to demark threatening work from outside as “pseudo-science” through to the use of legal means to try to force outsiders to “get off our turf”.
Qualifications, whilst often cited as the reason for rejecting outsiders, as shown by the survey of sceptics, are not in themselves an explanation of this rejection. And there are very many examples of “insiders” on the climate issue being permitted to speak on climate even when they only have qualifications in subjects irrelevant to climate. Notable examples are Paul Nurse, a geneticist, Mark Walpol both of whose qualifications are in the medical area and neither of whom have any relevant qualification or experience on climate or energy. This is to be compared to sceptics such as Mr Haseler, a physicist, Chairman of the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum who has been involved in energy and climate for more than a decade and Mr Montford who is a chemist and likewise has been involved in climate for a considerable period.
To illustrate the double standards present, for many years, the BBC repeatedly allowed those like the unqualified “scientist” Paul Nurse to comment not only on climate which is an area outside his competence but also on the views and motivations of sceptics. The BBC have a legal obligation under their charter to be impartial, but for many years, sceptics like Mr Haseler or Mr Montford were not allowed to be heard, not on the science for which they were undoubtedly far more qualified than those they allowed to comment, but even on the actual views of sceptics – a subject for which they were undoubtedly some of the world’s experts.
Thus the rational for denying access by qualified sceptics, was not based on qualification, nor on scientific knowledge, nor even knowledge of the subject (particularly when the views of sceptics were being produced), instead it was purely and simply the false demarcation of some individuals as “scientists” – a term used not to mean scientific qualification – but instead membership of the academic tribe.
And these incidents are not trivial. For example Phil Jones was ruled to have broken UK FOI legislation when he rejected sceptics FOI requests. Peter Gleick appears to have broken US laws in his attacks on the Heartland Institute. The BBC have conspired with academics to break UK law in the form of the legally binding BBC charter. This shows a repeated pattern of behaviour of what would otherwise be thought of as law-abiding groups going well beyond the law to mount attacks of the public.
In particular, the BBC case is very noteworthy because it is required by UK law to be impartial. Whilst it is not itself an academic body, it overwhelmingly supports the academic view on most issues. So it was not surprising that it asked an academic (Prof Jones) to investigate the BBC coverage of science. But he was an academic with an axe to grind, because in the very report looking at BBC bias against climate sceptics he then repeated false allegations against sceptics accusing them against the evidence (see Haseler 2012a) of practising “denialism” or as Mr Haseler put it in his parliamentary submission as Chairman of the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum:
The BBC, who dominate UK media, are rightly known for the quality of their output, particularly wildlife programs. But this strength creates an institution which is excessively pro wildlife and so pro environment. In 2011, after numerous complaints,
the BBC reacted by asking Prof Steve Jones to investigate. After a “thorough” investigation when he did not approach any leading sceptic to ascertain their real views, he produced a report saying:
They [climate sceptic], with many others, practise denialism: the use of rhetoric to give the appearance of debate.
In other words: “don’t give ‘denialists’ so much air-time”.
However, the BBC charter agreement is very clear and gives no room for denying air time to anyone in a controversial subject. BBC staff have no more right to deny air time to religions (even minority religions) they don’t like, than scientific interpretations (even when in a minority) that they don’t like as BBC agreement which accompanies the charter akes clear:
44. Accuracy and impartiality: The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output. (Haseler 2012b)
Here we have a very good example, of bias, ad Hominem attacks and misleading assertions by academia being institutionalised through media outlets by the BBC, and the legitimisation of the denial of legal remedy and due process for sceptics by using the false assertions of academia to denigrate opponents and dismiss not only their arguments, but in many cases to remove them from jobs and away from public hearing.
Thus though their self-proclaimed authority, the members of the academic tribe are able to control public debate and bypass due & fair process that would otherwise allow their opponents to be heard (such as the legal requirements such as the BBC charter requiring impartiality). Through this monopolistic control, the academic tribe are able to attack groups outside academia with impunity, boost academia’s own power & influence and deny power and any hearing to outsiders. This then legitimises further attacks, leading to an escalating spiral of attacks by academia and those like the BBC on members of the public
Thus we have a form of positive feedback, whereby even a very weak initial instinctive response by academia can be amplified by those like the BBC leading to a far more aggressive response and then a vicious cycle leading to the appalling behaviour seen in the so called “climate wars”.
One model for ending academic hostility
Archaeology might provide a clue as to how the “climate wars” between sceptics and academia could be ended. English archaeologists set up a procedure for metal detector users to record their finds. It is supposed to be a way to record finds so that the information is available to academics. But it is noticeable that no such scheme is present for academic finds. Thus the prime reason was not for recording finds. Instead, there is clear and obvious demarcation in the behaviour. If a find is made by an “insider” they are free to deal with it as they wish; if a find is made by an outsider, they must “submit it” to the academics for assessment. Thus there are two entirely different ways of dealing with artefacts which seem to be different only because one is an insider and the other an outsider.
However, this scheme seems to have largely resolved the antagonism between academia and metal detector users. We can understand this if we see this as a “boundary dispute”. Because the effect of the scheme was in literally submit their finds to the authority of academia and thereby acknowledge their (own belief in) their authority over this area of work. In effect, each time a member of the public registers a find with the academic database, they are essentially saying: “I agree academics are in charge”. And now the public use this scheme, most academics seem to be quite happy to accept metal detector users who use the scheme.
Trying too hard to improve standards and become “academic” may trigger an aggressive response from academia
The Cassandra Effect predicts that attacks will be most hostile when the outsider engages in work that is most like that of academia. This is because this style and area of work is most threatening to their territorial control.
Mike Haseler a long time participant in the online debate on climate, noted in one article that:
I can write an article that contains numerous blatant insults directed at alarmist academics and it will be ignored. But if I write something sensible such as the report of the Edinburgh Lecture by Salby, alarmist academics become incensed and will go out of their way to attack me and in that case Salby .
Similarly, I have have noticed that the blogs that most infuriate alarmists are not those that either themselves or through their comments are most insulting to them. It’s not my blog, Jo Nova, nor Bishop Hill which cause them most angst. Instead the one blog that most incenses academics so that there have been at least three academic blogs set up specifically to attack it, is the one that set a very high and dare I say “academic tone”. A blog that will often exclude comments I wouldn’t bat an eyelid over. Anthony Watts goes out of his way to set a very high standard with very thorough articles, many with references. Sceptics often complain that the comments can be heavily moderated and in general it looks and feels quite “academic”. But it is amongst most vehemently hated sceptic sites and I would suggest the reason is that it looks too like an academic journal.
Although many academics frequently insult outsiders by suggesting their work is inferior, paradoxically, when outsiders then try to produce work that academics should find acceptable, the response is the reverse to that expected. As such it appears to steps over this invisible line climate academics want draw between the academic “them” and lay “outsider” so that paradoxically the best work – that work which is most perceived to step over this invisible boundary – often receives the most hostile and vitriolic attacks.
So, for example, Anthony Watts sets a very high standard at WattsUpWithThat so that the articles are usually very polished and have a distinctly scientific or academic feel to them. However, no other blog is so hated by those on the “academic” side. Thus it seems that the harder Mr Watts tries to improve the standard and become “acceptable” in quality and appearance so that WattsUpWithThat might pass as an academic journal, the more he is crossing the boundary into “academic” territory and so becoming a direct threat to them.
The rise of the internet, whilst not changing any boundary itself, has created many more opportunities for outsiders to publish their own work on line so bypassing previous “gate keepers” in academia. Before the internet numerous gate keepers effectively excluded large numbers from public discussion. These include peer-review panels in academia, journalists who would only deal with “credible” academics, or book publishers who would shy away from works from outsider academia often denigrated as: “pseudo-science”. Hitherto these gatekeepers largely ensured that non-academics were unable to publish on academic topics and this severely limited the opportunity to invade academic “territory”. Or, if this did occur, various methods appeared to be employed to denigrate the outsider by categorising them for example in science, as “pseudo-science”, or “conspiracy ideationists” or similar concepts used by academia to dismiss all the work of outsiders – whether no matter the quality – as cranks.
The internet changed that. Suddenly bloggers could post on any topic they chose. Many were just idle chit-chat, but some like sceptics were interested in areas that academia considered to be “theirs”. This has undoubtedly led to many conflicts. Archaeology was one, climate another, but there are no doubt many others.
In the past, academia would respond by either completely ignoring such works, or if they could not ignore them, they would attack them by undermining their credibility using such concepts as “conspiracy theory”. This was a natural and dare I say entirely predictable response of the “academic-ape”: their territory was invaded and so this inevitably triggered the ape-like instinctive response to invasion of a territory.
However, the rise of the internet has massively increased this tension between academia and outsider. Firstly because outsiders are far more able to publish, and secondly without the “gatekeepers” that used to help academia in publishing, academics now have no control over this content in “their” areas. In areas of huge public interest, this has resulted in intense hostile and largely unproductive conflict.
Very few if any of those involved on the on-line debate on climate are part of any organised group. Likewise, while a few metal detector groups flourish, many of those who participate in the hobby are isolated individuals or small groups of friends with no formal structure. Thus outsiders tend to be disorganised small poorly funded groups or individuals engaged in a hobby whose lack of organisation provides them little social and political clout.
In contrast to the outsiders, academia is highly regulated, extremely well organised and well funded; it is integrated into the political and social control mechanisms of society allowing it to organise highly effective actions often bringing in outside actors like politicians to target the perceived intruders into “their” domain.
As outsiders lack the organisational structure by which they as groups could engage in meaningful dialogue with academia, calls by academics to climate sceptic or other outsiders to “engage” with them appear, in this context to be merely a form of gesture politics. Thus, it seems that such calls are not aimed at the outsider, but instead they appear to be postures intended to carry favour with friendly political & social and media elites spoken with the intention of gaining support from these elites for further attacks against the threatening outsider.
Where academia has accommodated outsiders it appears to require that outsiders submit in some way to academic control in a manner similar to a vassal in the feudal system. Such submission appears be a form of ritual humiliation of the the outsider, by which they acquiesce to the power and authority of academia over the subject and validate the unequal power relationship.
Thus calls for “tolerance” seem instead to be demands by academia for submission by outsiders. Threats to “get off our turf” and acts like demanding outsider work should be submitted to peer review, may be compared to that of feudal lord requiring a vassal to bow down and pay homage to their lord and master.
The Cassandra Effect tells us that academia creates an effective boundary around what it considers “its” area of work and that it polices this boundary so as to exclude the outsider and enforce compliance of insiders. Outsiders crossing this boundary are met with a response that is largely that of the “Academic ape”: an instinctive territorial response enforcing boundaries, demarcating territory and attacking outsiders and enforcing internal compliance.
This threat response appears to be heightened when three conditions exists.
First whereas doctors or external paid consultants are tolerated by academia, academia appears to respond most aggressively against altruistic outsiders who give their labour freely. It is suggested that the reason for this is that when outsiders “work for free”, they not only threaten the academics perceived territory, but also undermine the economic value of academia, thus threatening their livelihood & prestige.
Second, outsiders who have a high level of qualification and wider experience than academia are seen as more of a potential threat and therefore the reaction is all the more hostile.
And thirdly, when outsiders formulate their contributions in the style, language and format suggestive of academic work, this in itself signals an incursion into the academic territory.
Thus, whilst academics often reject external work as being of poor quality, perversely, far from eliciting the expected intellectual response expected, work of the highest calibre by those most qualified and freely given, is most likely to be treated as a direct threat and stimulate the most hostile response.
Such disputes appear to rise particularly after the rise of the internet, and archaeology and climate are notable examples.
However, unlike climate which as of present is still an area of much hostility, archaeology, through the Portable Antiquity Scheme seems to have largely resolved the boundary dispute by creating a form of ritualistic submission of the finds from outsiders to the authority of academics. This “submission” seems to have satisfied the “academic ape” allowing fairly harmonious relations.
This suggests that similarly, if those engaged in climate were to subject their work to “submissively” to academia so that academia felt it had control and authority, then those engaged in climate would similarly tolerate these outsiders “treading on their turf”. However, it seems unlikely that climate sceptics would willingly tolerate such an arrangement.
This appears to suggest that climate will continue to be an area of hostile interactions between insider and outsider and indeed, as outsiders are a mixed bag with no organisation or leadership, it appears that any move toward better relations in the area of climate would need to come from greater toleration by academia.
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