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The Skeptics Handbook January 31, 2009

Posted by honestclimate in Discussions.
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The Skeptics Handbook

By the blogowner, honestclimate, January 31, 2009

Sceptics Handbook

In September 2008, Joanne Nova released “The Skeptics Handbook”.

It’s an excellent read and can be downloaded free here


Also, as an aside, I found the below post on Jo’s site very entertaining!

Attempting to Intimidate a Skeptic?

Leo Elshof from Acadia University in Nova Scotia* has written to me asking that I put a comedy disclaimer on the Skeptics Handbook, and otherwise threatens to ridicule me at international conferences and set the media onto me. The email is here and my reply is below. What have our universities sunk too?

Does having a PhD mean anything anymore?

Dear Ms Nova

I am writing to you for some clarification regarding your ‘Sceptics Handbook’ on climate change.

A student of mine stumbled upon your ‘Sceptics Handbook’ on climate change and passed it on to me. Upon my first reading I thought surely this is a spoof, you’re having a good a good joke on the scientific community! I won’t waste your time listing all the scientific and logical deficiencies that riddle this document because I believe that you created ‘The Sceptics Handbook’ as a spoof to test the readers level of scientific literacy.

I told my graduate student that anyone with a bachelor’s degree in science—specialising in microbiology and molecular biology nonetheless, would surely not pretend to challenge the world’s scientific community’s consensus understanding on climate change. I also explained to the student that the author wouldn’t really be so arrogant as to dismiss the work of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific articles by climatologists, glaciologists, paleobotanists, oceanographers, mathematicians etc. I was certain that was simply a misunderstanding, a little spoof gone too far. I told him that the notion that Joanne Nova, a self-proclaimed ‘performer’ and “specialist on anti-aging, genetics and the future of medicine” has identified a blind spot upon which years of hard-won scientific research can now be discounted, is too preposterous to imagine .
[snip discussion of himself speaking soon in Australia…]

But more to the point, I would please ask that you confirm asap that your ‘Handbook’ is indeed intended as a spoof and should be interpreted as such. At this point in time this is the only rational conclusion I can reach concerning your work. If this is the case I’ll have a good laugh and only ask that you put a comedy disclaimer somewhere on your website to attest to this fact .

If on the other hand, you tell me that your ‘Sceptics Handbook’ is genuinely intended as an educational ‘guide’ to understanding the so-called climate change ‘debate’, I will have the enormous pleasure of ridiculing the ‘Sceptics Handbook’ in front of an international audience (in your own country) as one of the most egregious pieces of junk science disinformation that I have ever had the misfortune to come across. If this is indeed the case, I will also endeavour to encourage the media to follow up by asking how an author who holds such a distorted misunderstanding of how basic science actually produces knowledge, can also pass themselves off as a science ‘educator’ and ‘communicator’ in any genuine sense of the word to children nonetheless?

I have no doubt that my Aussie education colleagues will appreciate having a good laugh at the banality of their own homespun sources of junk science disinformation and stupidity. This alone promises to be great fun.


Leo Elshof PhD.


Dear Dr Elshof,

Your attempt to intimidate me provided me with a good laugh. Thank you.

Upon first reading your email I thought surely this is a spoof! A man with a PhD in Education would not seriously ridicule a scientific commentary with such poor reasoning, outright threats, and so little evidence?

Referring to my work as variously being “preposterous, banal, stupid, distorted, arrogant, presumptuous, and an egregious piece of junk science information” is all ad hominem. Is that the best scientific argument you can come up with?

Likewise, vague references to ‘thousands of scientists and peer reviewed papers’ and allusions to a consensus are arguments from authority and equally poor.

Leo Elshof’s Logic and Reasoning Scorecard:

11 Ad hominem attacks
3……Argument from authority
2….. Threats
1….. Strawman
0….. Points of evidence

Total: -17

You appear to have spent more time reading my CV than looking at the science. I’m flattered, but respectfully point out that my qualifications have no influence on the radiosondes, satellites, CSSP graphs or IPCC documents I refer to.

Letters like yours expose the unscientific Pro-AGW tactic of silencing dissent. Good for me. Embarrassing for you. Have you a religious belief in AGW that helps you justify this unscientific behaviour? I sympathize.

I’m delighted you are coming to Australia and want to draw attention to the Skeptics Handbook. I invite you to publicly debate the AGW theory and the importance of teaching scientific reasoning at school.

I am gravely concerned about our children’s future. Without learning to reason I fear they will fall victim to hype, scam, exaggerated threats, and false assurances. Your letter has inspired me to find other ways to help children defend themselves from con-men, poor curriculum’s, and well meaning academics. Does Acadia university have a policy about the role of logical inference in education? I’d be most grateful if you could forward it to me.

Wishing you lots of fun laughing at my expense. But I warn you against trying to impress anyone who understands rhetoric.

You are your own best example of why argument from authority is always fallacious.



BTW: If you had read the Handbook, you’d note I made no claims to having personally found the holes in the popular theory of AGW. Greater minds than mine deserve that credit. -)

PS! Please write and confirm immediately that you meant to send this from your home email. Arcadia University would surely prefer not to be associated with an attempt to stifle scientific debate and free speech, nor with a document that does not reflect well on the education of it’s educational staff.

UPDATE: As of Jan 9, 2009. Still no reply to me from Leo. Perhaps Acadia Uni has no policy on teaching logic and reasoning?

*Correction: Leo is based at Acadia Uni, Nova Scotia, (not Arcadia Uni). Thanks, J.Knight.




1. tahoewarming - September 16, 2009

So was he score card supposed to successfully challenged volumes of scientific research?
She never argues science with science…

2. Robert Godwin - November 19, 2009

I didn’t see any science based conclusions to counter arguments she makes in The Skeptics Guide.

The burden of proof is on the AGW enthusiast, because it is they who are asking us to spend trillions of dollars our of the GDP to fund their theories.

3. david brown - December 7, 2009

miss nova, at the moment c02 is actually leading temperature. in naturally occurring climate change the temp may lead the co2 levels. the science of this is quite basic. during a natural warming phase caused by a change in the earths orbit or increased solar activity. the oceans warm. this effects the solubility of the c02 causing the ocean to release more c02. then the c02 level ‘catches up ‘ with the temp.the process takes up to 800 years and is called the lag factor. all climate scientists are aware of this process? the petition of 31000 so called scientists was arranged by ron paul and a former tobacco industry ”consultant. there are no specifics on the ‘scientists involved.they are most certainly not climate experts

4. david brown - December 7, 2009

there are possibly 3 million phds in america . 9000 is a drop in the ocean. and unless the phds are in climate studies their opinions are not qualified. your physics in relation to c02 is questionable. in the past c02 levels were up to 5000ppm but the sun was weaker than it is now and therefore there was less heat to absorb. this was during the cambrian period when there was no life on land. there have also been many mass extinctions due to climate change. . you will always get a hearing on 2gb. as they argue climate from a political perspective. they have no reputable scientists on any of their programmes for obvious reasons. any scientific debate would see them lose?

5. david brown - December 7, 2009

you politicise the issue. good science is apolitical. you may have been in the greens.? again that is a political position not a scientific one. i am not remotely interested in the politics, but of the science. and the science is pretty much conclusive . mankind is largely responsible for climate change . the people who stand in the way of measures to correct the problem will one day be held accountable. there science is poor, their conspiracy theories somewhat childish.

6. david brown - December 8, 2009

you mentioned in your 2gb interview that many denier scientists are ‘retired ‘. in other words their knowledge, data etc is dated. they are out of the loop. you also mention ”the climate industry ‘ of course you need money for any venture. and i suppose it qualifies as an industry on that level just as oil is an industry, charity work is an industry, the holocaust could be called an industry and so on. your interview contained no science it was purely political. you are down on turnbull. a month ago he was your champion. the inconsistencies mount and mount. perhaps misinformation and propaganda is also an industry ?certainly you are now doing quite well out of the issue yourself ?

7. david brown - December 8, 2009

agw advocates are not ‘enthusiasts’ . they are not happy about climate change but are simply saying it is happening and needs to be dealt with. science has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the planet is warming and that we are responsible. it is up to the deniers to explain scientifically why it is happening. and to explain how it can be naturally occurring when there is no physical evidence for it eg increased solar activity . only someone who knows absolutely nothing about the subject could be impressed by the handbook. i suggest a little research

8. david brown - December 8, 2009

could we have a list of those ”greater minds ‘. mentioned. fred singer used to be a consultant for the tobacco industry, claimed nicotine was not addictive ? as also claimed skin cancer is not caused by the sun?is also a ‘consultant” for exxon. plimer claimed volcanoes emit more c02 than man without providing the data. used the same discredited charts from the great global warming swindle. that strangely halt in the 1980s. also claimed malaria is prevailant in cold climates . these ‘great minds ‘ seem rather silly or charlatans

9. david brown - December 8, 2009

misrepresenting a quote by former nasa scientist joana simpson by using only half of it, is not honest debate.here is the other half of the quote you deleted. ” in this case we must act on he recommendations of the ipcc because if we do not reduce emissions the planet as we know it will be unsustainable ” she does not sound like a denier to me ms nova ? are you taking your book through the schools because you cannot cut it in the world of informed adults ? your work is being ignored by the scientific world because it is poor science and for no other reason.

10. david brown - December 8, 2009

i note that your handbook was printed by the heartland institute. paid for by an ‘anonymous doner?? seeing that the heartland institute has been bankrolled by exxon mobil for years. should we assume exxon also bankrolls you ?’

11. david brown - December 8, 2009

if arguments from authority are always fallacious, i assume you are an atheist? authority also claims that gravity exists and that we should not break the law . more fallacious arguments ?

12. david brown - December 8, 2009

i find the reason and logic chart flawed. leo does sound a little irked and may have used a personal attack due to his frustration. however what he has to say about the scientific process is spot on. ms nova also resorts to a personal attack on his credibilty eg ‘whats a phd worth these days?’insinuations that he is irrational [ religious comment ] and a con man .his argument comes from authority. this is not necessarily negative.virtually all things of worth do?there were no personal threats from leo, other than a challenge to ms novas scientific expertise [ or lack of ]. the points of evidence for climate change is provided by the scientific consensus . the logic chart has serious technical flaws

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