The Guardian deserves better than Nafeez Ahmed

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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.

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7 thoughts on “The Guardian deserves better than Nafeez Ahmed

    crf said:
    March 22, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    A problem with some (most?) people who hold very strong opinions (whether or not they are objectively more right than wrong) is that they become emotionally invested in them. If someone rubbishes (or even sometimes mildly disagrees) with their opinions, they may snap and take it far too personally and go a little crazy.

    Ahmed may by unable to avoid thinking that “they” are now going after “him”. I imagine he’s pretty stressed out at the moment. Whatever he’s saying, most of it is now being controlled by the amygdala and not the cerebral cortex.

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      Robert Wilson said:
      March 22, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      He does have a long history of concocting conspiracy theories, so no doubt his mind is working over time right now thinking one up.

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    Dan Olner (@DanOlner) said:
    March 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    The piece itself and Nafeez Ahmed’s response is bad – but I’m more worried about why the hell so much of the MSM blindly echoed it. Nafeez himself had no hand in that. It’s a scary insight into the power of melodramatic stories (regardless of their actual journalistic content) and pretty bad news for anyone hoping that science reporting might have been improving.

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      Robert Wilson said:
      March 23, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      What is also very annoying is that more or less no science journalist pointed out that it was a BS story from Ahmed. This is possibly because science journalists don’t cover environmental stuff, or that they are afraid to criticise green coloured BS. Probably a mixture of the two.

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    Scott Locklin said:
    March 24, 2014 at 1:28 am

    You do realize Ahmed is more famous as a 911 conspiracy theorist, right? Right. I provided some links here:
    http://scottlocklin.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/bad-models-and-the-end-of-you/

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    Jani-Petri Martikainen said:
    March 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Janne Korhonen has a more interesting take on the societal collapse… iy is caused by lack of support for PhD students. You might agree with this. http://jmkorhonen.net/2014/03/24/modeling-societal-collapse-as-a-result-of-stingy-support-for-phd-students/

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