Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Who is Daniel J. Levitin?

By Denis G. Rancourt, PhD

Who is Daniel J. Levitin, and why is he saying false things about me?

Mr. Levitin is a university professor, a psychologist, and the author of the 2016 book "Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-truth Era".

Wikipedia states the following about Mr. Levitin's book: "His interest in writing the guide [was] to help people develop techniques to distinguish factual information from that which may be distorted, out-of-date, unscientific or in error".

Therefore, Mr. Levitin presents a goal of wanting to be factual and accurate, and of not misleading.

In an article he penned on April 4, 2017, entitled "It’s time to stop letting so-called “experts” comment on subjects they know nothing about", Mr. Levitin had this to say about me:

Scientists like myself are partly to blame here. When one of our own goes on TV or in front of the press and starts making false claims, we don’t stand up and denounce them. We figure it’s not our personal problem. But it is. In this age of overwhelming untruth, pseudo-expertise is a problem that has to become every individual’s responsibility.

Nowhere is this more clear than among the climate-change deniers—almost entirely pseudo-experts—who contradict ample scientific evidence and lend support to devastating public policies. The list of leading climate-change deniers includes Denis Rancourt, who holds a PhD in physics and is an expert in magnetic field theory; Freeman Dyson, another physicist; Harrison Schmitt, a geologist; and Myron Ebell, who has a master’s in political theory and no advanced research degree. What about the people who hold PhD’s in—you know—climate science? Among this group, according to a number of studies published in peer-reviewed journals, 97% agree or more that climate change is real and man-made.

Thus, Mr. Levitin makes false statements and misleads by omission, as follows.

I will mostly leave aside Mr. Levitin's device of casting scientific questioning of CO2-alarmism as "climate-change denial" because that is simply wrong for an intellectual alleging to be concerned with truth. Everyone agrees that there are transitions beween different regional and global climate regimes in the history of our planet. Here is proof that I certainly do: "Anatomy of the false link between forest fires and anthropogenic CO2".

Mr. Levitin states that I am "an expert in magnetic field theory" (sic). I know what a "magnetic field" is. I know what a "theory" is. But I don't know what "magnetic field theory" is. There are "field theories" in several areas of physics, but "magnetic" is not one of them. If it is, then I don't know about it, so I could not possibly be an expert in it as asserted by Mr. Levitin.

If Mr. Levitin had taken the care to examine my public Google Scholar page, he would have immediately noticed that my most cited paper is in an area of theoretical spectroscopy, which is evidence of my ability to understand resonant scattering of infrared radiation from so-called greenhouse gases. He would have noticed that my second most cited paper is in environmental science "Nanogoethite is the dominant reactive oxyhydroxide phase in lake and marine sediments", in which I was the research director. And he would have noticed that many of my most cited papers are in environmental science, including carbon cycling in sediments and soils, related to aquatic sediments, soil evolution, environmental bacterial reactions, hydrothermal fluid input into sea water, and so on.

Alas, Mr. Levitin did not see or chose not to mention any of that, but instead characterizes me as a "physicist" (solely on the basis of my 1984 PhD) in the fictitious area of "magnetic field theory". In contrast, Mr. Levitin characterizes himself on his website as a "scientist, musician, author and record producer", quite a universal man despite having obtained his PhD in one specialized field.

I think that Mr. Levitin was trying to make the incorrect point that I am not qualified to comment about climate, and that I should not be a "leading climate-change denier". Well, the only way to establish whether I am qualified to comment about climate is to examine the substance and scientific value of my actual work about climate.

But wait. Is Mr. Levitin qualified to judge my calculations about the physics of radiation balance applied to the planet earth? Did Mr. Levitin dismiss my calculations on the basis that they were made public and discussed openly with leading climate scientists rather than published in a scientific journal: "Radiation physics constraints on global warming: CO2 increase has little effect"?

If Mr. Levitin dismisses scientific work by an appeal to authority (of scientific journals), or by an appeal to majority view (his quoting of the "97% consensus"), is that not in opposition to his book about the need for independent thought?

An equally interesting question, which Mr. Levitin might consider pondering moving forward, is "How many in the alleged '97%' understand and can practice the physics of planetary radiation balance?" Although, my evidence is anecdotal, I would confidently assert "not many".

More importantly, Mr. Levitin misleads his readers by omission. He concentrates on climate "deniers" that he incorrectly implies are not qualified to comment, but he leaves out any mention of the many "deniers" who are well-established formally-trained climate scientists. Here are examples of a few from many he could have mentioned:

I would suggest to Mr. Levitin that he reset his ability to seek and communicate truth. If he has some time, he could practice by analyzing the arguments recently (March 29, 2017) presented to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology:

Denis Rancourt is a former tenured full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, on physics and environmental science, and writes social theory articles. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism, and a regular contributor to Dissident Voice. His articles and interviews about the science and politics of climate linked here.


wikispooks said...

Wonderful stuff!

I've always appreciated your 'service intellectuals' dictum too. Mr Levitin fits well as an exemplar

Anonymous said...

I'd prefer the expression 'servile intellectuals' ...