Uncritical “skeptics” taken in by hoax yet again


Many climate skeptics claim to be solely interested in critically assessing the science. But often, their critical glasses disappear very quickly when they look at “evidence” that confirms their predetermined notion (of climate being a non-problem).

This becomes extra clear when they uncritically push an anti-AGW story that later appears to be a hoax. This just happened (again) with a 4th grade student who allegedly won a NSF price for “disproving global warming”. Michael Tobis did some detective work into the implausible story, and quickly found that the whole thing was faked. It is not (yet) known who perpetrated this action at the cost of a young child’s expectations. How the story spread via various internet and news media can be seen here.

It reminds me of another hoax from a few years ago, where somebody put out the word of a fake paper which allegedly disproved global warming. It was uncritically accepted as true by many self-proclaimed “skeptics”.

The author of the fake paper explained his purpose as follows:

Its purpose was to expose the credulity and scientific illiteracy of many of the people who call themselves climate sceptics. While dismissive of the work of the great majority of climate scientists, they will believe almost anything if it lends support to their position. Their approach to climate science is the opposite of scepticism.

This is shown (most likely unwittingly) to be true yet again by the current episode.

As Albert Einstein wrote in 1920:

This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.

A very fertile environment for conspiracy theories indeed.


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21 Responses to “Uncritical “skeptics” taken in by hoax yet again”

  1. MapleLeaf Says:

    I would very much like to know who sent that faked letter and took advantage of poor Julisa.

    I hope that “warmers” and contrarians will join me in condemning this act.

  2. pointer Says:

    Not all sceptics were taken in by either hoax. Notably, Mark Morano told Tobis that he posted an update to his original post about the Beeville story.

    On the other hand, practically the entire denialsphere has backed Monckton to the hilt, so there’s that.

  3. dhogaza Says:

    Not all sceptics were taken in by either hoax. Notably, Mark Morano told Tobis that he posted an update to his original post about the Beeville story.

    If he wasn’t taken in, then why did he have to post an update, hmmm?

  4. pointer Says:

    Sorry, sloppy wording on my part. What I meant to do was give Morano credit for actually admitting he was wrong. That sort of thing doesn’t happen much with denialists, in my experience.

  5. dhogaza Says:

    What I meant to do was give Morano credit for actually admitting he was wrong.

    Ah, yes, I said the same over at Michael Tobis’ site.

  6. Al Tekhasski Says:

    Could you please restrain your enthusiasm about “many skeptics were fooled”, unless you consider “four” strangers as “many”:


    Regarding how many climate skeptics were fooled by the Beeville prank, I don’t see a single one, only warmist’s media was cheering.


    === === ===

  7. dhogaza Says:

    Regarding how many climate skeptics were fooled by the Beeville prank, I don’t see a single on

    Marc Morano fell for it.

  8. dhogaza Says:

    Minnesotans for global warming fell for it.

    Global Warming Hoax fell for the global warming disproved hoax.

    Go find the rest yourself, Al. Meanwhile, if you’ve ever wondered why your credibility is so low among those who can, oh, say, use “Google”, now you know.

  9. DeNihilist Says:

    Dr. Bart, I think what has to be made clear here, in my opinion, is that on all sides of all debates, you have real experts, semi experts and people like me who arrive at the debate with some kinda opinion, but willing to listen to all arguments, and then a group of people who have their beliefs and nothing is going to shake their faith. Of course, like temperature data, there are all kinds of subsets within all these groups.

    As lucia pointed out today an AGW site was fooled, but argued against the validity of the project, and a sceptic site was sceptical of the story right from the start.

    Unfortunately, all sides in this debate have large groups with very strong convictions that will latch onto anything to win the debate. It really is like watching a sporting event now. My team always.

    This story should not be about derision for the other side getting caught in a fakery, but about what kind of mind is it that would use a 9 year old person to try to achieve some kind of point.? This sort of thing is very scary. If this was an attempt by the sceptics to force their point, or even worse, if this was an AGW’r trying to show how easily sceptics will believe anything, then maybe it is time to shut down all blogs, discussions and press with relation to this topic and put the experts from both sides in a locked room, and no one comes out until a consensus is arrived at.

    I’m sorry Dr. Bart, but personnally, I have lost some respect for you from this post. I had thought that you were about the science and not up to using the misery of a 9 year old to advance your point.

    Of course you know a hell of a lot more then I’ll ever know about climate science, and that part of my respect still stands. I just thought that maybe you were one of the AGW’s that respected the right of others to be wrong, and could help move this disaster past the last few years of adhom, and back to the real need of quiet introspection and respect for our opponents so that we could actually get something done.

    A nine year old girls life has been disgustiling defiled, yet to too many she can be sacrificed on the alter of adhom. What a crappy world we live in.

  10. Bam Says:

    Being all skeptic and such, there are some that blame the father, and providing some, uhm, interesting information:

    If true, nice dad…

  11. dhogaza Says:

    This story should not be about derision for the other side getting caught in a fakery, but about what kind of mind is it that would use a 9 year old person to try to achieve some kind of point.?

    I’m in the “it’s the father’s mind” camp myself.

    1. He has a history of fakery
    2. Claims he saw an ad for the non-existent contest, but can’t remember where.
    3. Doesn’t have the packaging the award arrived in.

    etc etc.

    Now, it was the school, not the father, who contacted the local newspaper. One very real possibility, IMO, is that the dad was trying to help his daughter out as she didn’t place in the top 5 in the school’s science project. He may’ve been totally surprised to learn that the school contacted the local paper.

    This would make his action illicit (phony award to sex up his daughter’s rep at school), which fits in nicely with his previous low-level fakery, but not nearly as horrid as the thought that a father would purposefully use his daughter to promote a nationally-publicized hoax.

  12. Shub Niggurath Says:

    You must be aware of the Sokal paper.

  13. DeNihilist Says:

    Thanx dhogaza, a very well thought out reply.

  14. Orson Says:

    HEADLINE “Uncritical ‘skeptics’ taken in by hoax yet again”

    No bias there!

    Seriously, what evidence do you have that skeptics are taken in by anything?

    From my proud Denier POV (SEE Richard Lindzen for his explanation), Believers are taken in by Churchly Authority, not considered evidence.

    What is undeniable is that skeptics – who comfortably embrace multiple variables to explain climate change through time instead of a mono-maniacal one – are not iunthinking BORG-like slaves to a creed about the fate of the natural world.

    If the stereotypes of “Right wing=ignorant, dumb, duped, backward” and Liberal (US usage) Leftist=educated, smart, informed, enlightened” are mapped onto corresponding and respective skeptic and pro-AGW stances, then the sound social science literature documents that reality is very much the reverse.

    (Google the book “Makers and Takers” by Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer – it is available online FREE to read

    As a libertarian, I was myself surprised to find almost every conventional – ie, Leftist – negative stereotype I held about the Right proved decisively wrong.)

    Obviously, the claim “Uncritical ‘skeptics’ taken in by hoax again” is without foundation, instead indulging in the phony self-congratulation of the Left that the book “Makers and takers:” exposes as false.

    Having lived in Left-dominated “Progressive” burgs like Amsterdam, Minneapolis, and Boulder, Colorado throughout most of my life, I’m convinced that Leftists are arrogant, anti-humanistic, and shallow charlatans.

    Verheggen has done nothing to disabuse me of these prejudices.

  15. Bart Says:


    You’re setting up some huge strawmen and knock them down with so much force, it’s almost funny to watch.

  16. Fact Checker Says:

    The father has now admitted authoring the hoax: http://www.mysoutex.com/view/full_story/7901678/article-Father-says-he-is-sorry-for-science-fair-hoax?

  17. Bart Says:

    Fact Checker,

    The link doesn’t work for me.

  18. Bam Says:

    @Bart: looks like the network in Beeville has gone down. You cannot even get into mysoutext or the website of the newspaper.

    However, hoorrah for google cache. Even though it does not carry the whole story, it shows the first few lines of the newsstory:
    (hope this work, otherwise search for “Castillo”, “Beeville”, “national science fair” and “hoax”, and then find the mysoutex-links which look relevant. Select the cached version, and voilà)

  19. dhogaza Says:

    Looks like my guess was pretty close:

    “What was intended to be a way to honor our daughter for a job well done on her project has really gotten out of hand and we’re ready to put this behind us.”

    I imagine he had an “oh shit” moment when he learned the school had called the local newspaper …

    Here’s the story

  20. Steve Bloom Says:

    Thanks for the link, dhogaza.

    I’ll repeat something I’ve suggested in a couple of other places:

    “Monckton Syndrome by proxy”

  21. Carl C Says:

    It reminds me of that girl from Maine who had a highly touted project a la Watts “discrediting temperature/weather stations” — it was a little dubious as her stepfather was some typical right-wing nutjob who even put on her website “attempts to contact (girl’s name) will be reported to the FBI as eco-terrorism!”

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