All posts by Robert Wilson


Nafeez Ahmed continues to distort the facts

Nafeez Ahmed continues to twist the facts to suit his agenda in defence of his claims about a “NASA funded study” showing that civilization is about to collapse. He appears to have re-edited his latest blog post to include the following paragraph:

To be fair, much of the media reporting following my story blurred simple nuances even further. “Nasa-funded study” became “Nasa study”; a mathematical model exploring a range of hypothetical scenarios was depicted as stating unequivocally that “society is doomed”, “the end is nigh”, and “western civilisation is heading for collapse.”

What piffle. It is Mr. Ahmed who blurred simple nuances. Does he really think his readers are this credulous? Well, the facts are what they are. So, below are some tweets from Mr. Ahmed. I will let you decide who has blurred the nuances.

If Mr. Ahmed had a problem with the blurring of simple nuance he has a curious way of showing it. All it would have taken was a tweet saying it was not a NASA study. Instead we have him tweeting that it was a NASA study, and gladly tweeting a large number of people saying it was a NASA study. In case you want to know where these are they are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

This is charlatanry of the highest order.

Update: Mr. Ahmed has deleted one of the tweets I mention above. Obviously he is trying to use the plausible deniability argument. Fortunately the Google cache of Ahmed’s tweet still exists. I have taken a screen shot.


The Guardian deserves better than Nafeez Ahmed

Nafeez Ahmed appears to have jumped the shark, if such a thing is possible in his case. On Friday Keith Kloor provided a thorough critique of both Mr. Ahmed’s journalistic methods and of his story claiming that a “NASA funded study” found that civilization may be about to collapse. You would think that Mr. Ahmed would have taken a step back when NASA publicly distanced themselves from the claim they supported the study, but no.

Instead Mr. Ahmed comes out with guns blazing claiming NASA did fund the study. This is truly bizarre behaviour. He quotes NASA saying they “did not solicit” the research. This should end the debate. What does he imagine NASA means by “did not solicit”? Mr. Ahmed however persists in claiming NASA was behind the study. At this point someone at the Guardian should step in and stop this man from damaging its reputation, hand him a dictionary, and require that he takes basic journalism training.

Everything else in the piece is little but an appeal to authority. This is all rather curious. A man who spends half of his time concocting conspiracy theories about authorities spends the other half appealing to authority. (He also seems to be spend part of his time removing 9/11 conspiracy theories from his website, as I documented here.)

In his piece he also refers to me as an “obscure student”, who “does not understand what they are talking about.” This may or may not be true, but the evidence he presents is non-existent. I provided a number of specific criticisms of the applicability of the HANDY model to modern civilizations, and he has responded by quoting a general statement about the model by Rodrigo Castro. This makes it clear that it is Mr. Ahmed who does not understand what he is talking about. If he did he could very easily address my specific criticisms. Instead he dangles quotes in front of the reader in the hope that this will convey some impression of understanding. Anyone familiar with Mr. Ahmed’s writings will recognise the approach.

And I should also point out that the lead author of the paper he cites is also a fellow PhD student. Perhaps he too should be called an “obscure student.”

“New paper by PhD student” certainly lacks the pizazz of “NASA funded study”, does it not? And it would be a much more accurate reflection of reality than that presented in Mr. Ahmed’s “journalism.”

Similarly he is incapable of responding to any of the criticisms made by the scientists in Keith Kloor’s piece. For example he responds to remarks made by Joseph Tainter by pointing out that Tainter is not always correct. Is this an argument? Again, Mr. Ahmed’s complete unwillingness to address specific criticisms is telling.

Things get worse when he essentially libels Keith Kloor by claiming that he is a closet climate change denier. Mr. Ahmed then rapidly switches from being an upholder of scientific consensus to someone who denigrates it, quoting a group of scientists who challenge the scientific consensus that GM crops are safe. Mr. Kloor’s upholding of the scientific consensus on the safety of GM crops is absurdly held up as evidence that he is a “junk” journalist.

I guess this kind of thing can be expected of someone who believes the US government had a role in flying two planes into the World Trade Centre on September 11th 2001. Anything goes for the average conspiracy theorist, and we should neither demand or expect intellectual and moral coherence from them.

NASA confirms that NASA is not predicting civilization is about to collapse

So, it seems that NASA has been a little irked by media stories that it is predicting the imminent collapse of civilization. This story, started off by 9/11 conspiracy theorist Nafeez Ahmed at the Guardian, has somehow gone viral. Over 100,000 people have shared Mr. Ahmed’s original story on it Facebook.

Nafeez Ahmed says:

NASA says: Continue reading

Absurdity of the day: Greenpeace reporting on itself

In case anyone is unfamiliar with the strange business, Greenpeace have set up a journalism wing called “Energy Desk.” Open Data, Open Discussion, Open Reporting. So they say. Yes, you really need to consult your Orwell here.

Today though we have the bizarre case of Greenpeace providing “analysis” of a report Greenpeace commissioned into renewable energy. The attempt by the writer to provide a patina of critical thought is particularly delightful.

Just think. An environmental group commissions a report to back up its campaigning strategy and it provides the journalism on it. If you spend enough time on the Huffington Post website you will quickly realise this is a potential future of journalism, a profession in an increasingly sorry state.

Not that I would ever recommend you read a report by Greenpeace about energy. You probably have just lined a wall with some paint and have brewed a coffee for the duration of your viewing.

Journalists should check the facts anti-nuclear activists feed them

Tom Bawden in the Independent tells us that Dungeness nuclear power plant was closed for 5 months because of “fears of a Fukushima style flood disaster.

This story, which the Independent calls exclusive, appears to have its origins at the environmental news website Click Green. Reading between the lines the story has probably been fed to journalists by someone at Friends of the Earth. Naturally you would expect journalists to bother checking what anti-nuclear campaigners tell them, but perhaps I am too much of an optimist. Continue reading

The dumbest opening paragraph ever in a science report

Journalists now appear to want to outdo each other in stupidity when it comes to re-hashing Nafeez Ahmed’s silly report about a Nasa-funded study predicting an “imminent collapse” of civilization. The prize so far goes to Tristin Hopper of the National Post. Here is his opening paragraph:

‘After running the numbers on a set of four equations representing human society, a team of NASA-funded mathematicians has come to the grim conclusion that the utter collapse of human civilization will be “difficult to avoid.”’

Yes, they modelled all of humanity with only four equations, and you decided the study was worth reporting on. Evidence certainly that the profession of journalism is facing imminent collapse.

It should be pointed out of course that the study itself does not appear to have actually concluded that civilizational collapse will be “difficult to avoid.” (I say “does not appear” here because so far the final version of this paper has not appeared anywhere).

In fact it as a highly theoretical model, which actually makes no effort whatsoever to predict what will happen in the future. It’s applicability to current human civilization is made clear by it only modelling renewable resources. We live in a world fundamentally reliant on non-renewable resources. Just imagine if you yanked steel or concrete from it. The whole edifice would collapse.

So any model like this will be an incredibly unreliable predictor of the future course of human civilization. This however will not stop those with agendas, or those seeking a cheap headline, from reporting the paper as such.

Replacing Drax Coal Power Plant with a “dirty, great wind farm”

It pains me to say this, but David Rose has a reasonably decent piece in this week’s Mail on Sunday. So, instead of half-baked nonsense about climate science, we have something sensible about bio-energy. I find myself in the strange position of recommending that you read it.

But one thing in it really striked me. This is what a spokesperson for Drax Power Station in Yorkshire had to say in defence of subsidising using biomass (a politically correct term for wood) as a fuel in Drax:

We’re a power company. We’ve been told to take coal out of the equation. What would you have us do – build a dirty great windfarm?

Which gets me thinking. How big would a wind farm need to be to replace Drax? Continue reading

Missing links. Nafeez Ahmed tries to cover up his 9/11 trutherism

I wrote a piece about Nafeez Ahmed yesterday, drawing attention to the questionable nature of all of his journalism and why the Guardian newspaper is giving him a platform. Part of my piece referenced his long history of conspiracy theorist ranting about September 11th, with him frequently implying that the US government had a hand in on the whole shameful business.

To provide evidence that Mr. Ahmed is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist I linked to a piece he wrote, entitled “Interrogating 9/11.” This piece was published on his website on the 11th of September 2006. In the day since I linked to it he has removed the piece from his website. If you search Google for “Nafeez Ahmed Interrogating 9/11″ you can still see the piece prominently located at the top of your google search, but click and you find that the page no longer exists.

However the web is written in ink, as a character in The Social Network observed. Mr. Ahmed’s conspiracy theorist ranting is still available for all to read via here. Mr. Ahmed obviously wants people to take him seriously, and not recognise that he is a crank with a conspiracy theorist bent. This explains why he would remove this article from his website. Behaviour like this should be unacceptable for someone who claims to be a journalist.

That Mr. Ahmed is given a platform by the Guardian is bad enough, that he is allowed to continue behaving in this fashion is far, far worse.

Daily Fail, the Puff Ho and the Indy repeating apocalyptic bollocks

I blogged yesterday about the bullshit journalism of Nafeez Ahmed. Today the Daily FailPuffington Host and The Independent (a much more reputable outlet than the first two) are now rehasing his absurd piece on how a “Nasa funded study” backs up the view that we face imminent collapse of industrial civilization.

The Mail impressively make things even more fatuous than Ahmed’s piece. The “funded” part of “Nasa funded” study is simply dropped. As should be obvious to anyone who has read the actual study this is simply hyped up nonsense written by a crackpot with a rather low level of scientific literacy. And the author of the Independent’s piece clearly has not read the study this is based on, and simply makes up a bunch of stuff about what the study did. Three cheers for journalism.

However that other media outlets have republished this garbage tells you one thing. The imminent collapse of human civilization may not be near, but that of quality journalism almost certainly is. Or has it arrived already?