One of the more amusing things about running Climate Nuremberg is the sheer number of conspiracy theories to which it’s given rise among certain—shall we say—elements of the blogosphere.
Apparently the website’s name—the first thing that popped into my head in the Bavarian hotel room where I happened to start blogging—is anything from a cunning attempt to throw my critics off the scent of my IP address to a sinister allusion to World War II (yes, really—don’t ask).
Things got especially bizarre when, during another climate-related European travel commitment, I made the innocent mistake of experimenting with the tagline, “Musings from Germany on climate, science and climate science.”
Invention! Identity fraud! Spoofing! Call the WordPress Abuse Hotline!
(An oversight on the part of my research assistant—who failed to update the tagline once I got back to my Sydney office—probably reinforced the impression among impressionable folk that I was somehow being disingenuous about my whereabouts.)
I should probably thank everyone who’s shared their conjectures about my motives online. It’s all data, and data is good. A colleague of mine, well known in the climate psychology world, is putting the finishing touches on a fascinating paper about all this. I won’t reveal his name, because the poor guy has already had to uproot his family once to get away from vicious ad hominem assaults on his data and methods. It would be a shame if the same pursuers forced him and his young family to start the lengthy climate refugee process all over again just when they were beginning to settle in to their new identities in Bristol, UK. Let’s just call him “Steve.” Suffice it to say that when “Stephan’s” analysis comes out, a number of people may not like what the science has to say. And isn’t that the mark of all good science?
The difference between conspiracists and scientists can be summed up in one word, but I prefer to use a whole sentence.
The difference is this: scientists choose the explanation which, ceteris paribus, best embodies a virtue known as parsimony.
If scientists could afford to have a sense of humor they might say that in science, parsimony is the soul of wit. Instead they leave it to us, science communicators, to come up with these bumper-sticker profundities. And if you think we’re getting rich doing it, you don’t know all that many science communicators.
Much as we’ve all enjoyed the colorful and actionable interpretations swirling around “Climate Nuremberg,” here’s the parsimonious (‘banal, innocent, perfectly reasonable’) truth at last.
We’d happily call our blog Climate Australia, if not for a minor problem: it’s an embarrassing country.
Of all the cultural inventions of the human mind, two activities are famous for being zero-sum: sport and war. Everyone knows this—or so you’d think. The architects of Australia’s destiny apparently didn’t.
We could have picked anything else to excel in, any other field of human endeavour on which to stake our fame as a nation, and even if we’d only achieved mediocrity, we would have achieved something.
But no. At some point we decided our best bet was to specialise as futilitarians. And what a serviceable job we’ve done.
It all began in 1915, at a sacred place called Gallipoli. Hallowed ground.
Gallipoli was a firing range the Turks used to test the killing power of various machine-gun designs. It was the last place they expected the British to stage an attack, because it was the stupidest. While this might have deterred any other race, our troops were suffering something called ‘the Anzac spirit,’ which they likely picked up in the crowded brothels of Egypt. This condition enabled wave after wave of them to die in a way that was preferable, somehow, to the way soldiers had historically died in war. I’ve never fully understood the difference, but the legend was forged: when it came to his falling and dying skills, no other infantry piece was as prized by our racist English puppetmasters—or as feared by the Saracen—as the Aussie digger.
But what do Aussie teenagers get up to in quieter times, when England has no enemies to run at in slow motion? Besides Internet porn, I mean? (The less said about the gross national man-hours spent staring into the Eye of Sauron that is the modern female vagina, the better.)
That was a rhetorical question, obviously. If you’ve heard the phrase ‘sporting achievement’ you know it was invented as an oxymoronic joke—a comedic counterpart to such tragedies as military intelligence and military music. What you may not know—and may struggle to believe—is that in Aussie English it’s used without a trace of irony. Try explaining to a mob of Australians what’s so nonsensical about the phrase and you’ll quickly learn what the poets mean when they sing of blank, uncomprehending stares.
Imagine an axis of mammalian intelligence. At the dumb end I dare say we can put greyhounds and racehorses—creatures to which (thankfully) it’s never occurred that the track doesn’t actually go anywhere. Considering their modest intracranial endowments we can be pretty sure the secret is safe, and hey, we’ve got the shotguns just in case.
At the upper end we would, of course, put the Jews. In less numerate cultures, all males of sporting age are expected to “give 110%” in the gym, but the Jewish people has never wasted more than 3 or 4% of its energy on that scam.
The problem is, the archetypal Australian would fall decidedly closer to the equine extreme in this schema.
So you can see why, like the First Lady, I’ve always been a stranger to feelings of patriotism.
But for what could be the first time ever, a courageous group of Australians has done something that isn’t remotely embarrassing.
The years of ‘cultural cringe’ can come to an end. For too long we’ve felt the need to apologize for being Australian. We should have stopped weeks ago. With the launch of the Scared Scientists project it’s the rest of the world’s turn to cringe.
Analysis to follow when I’ve blinked away these tears of unashamedness.