A Beleaguered Hero

July 15th, 2010

Christopher Monkton is a charlatan. He is a hereditary Scottish lord, and claims to be a member of the House of Lords, despite the fact that the House of Lords denies that he is any such thing. He is also a loud denier of anthropogenic climate change. He speaks at any forum that will have him, where he presents a great deal of hokum dressed up in scientific clothing. It sounds quite impressive to anybody who doesn’t know anything about science. But when you look at it more closely, it all turns out to be lies, distortions, and misconceptions.

Mr. Monkton lectured on October 14th, 2009 at Bethel University in Minnesota, where he presented his usual collection of nonsense. John Abraham, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, prepared a detailed critique of Mr. Monkton’s lecture. Mr. Abraham went through the lecture, slide by slide, examining every statement on every slide. Mr. Abraham looked up the scientific papers cited as support by Mr. Monkton. He also wrote to the authors of those papers, asking if Mr. Monkton’s interpretation of the paper was correct. Over and over, he found that Mr. Monkton had misrepresented the meaning of the paper.

I urge you to listen to Mr. Abraham’s debunking of Mr. Monkton. It’s 83 minutes long and it is a model of professional restraint. Mr. Abraham never draws conclusions; he simply checks the facts behind Mr. Monkton’s claims and shows that Mr. Monkton has gotten it wrong. He presents all his sources and links so that readers can check for themselves. This truly is one of the best debunkings I have seen in a long time.

Because it’s so thorough, rigorous, and devastating, word spread around the Web and eventually Mr. Monkton got wind of it. His first reaction was to write a 86-page response, which actually isn’t a response so much as a list of 446 questions demanding to know, among other things, whether Mr. Abraham will publicly apologize for his presentation. Here are a few of his questions:

4: Do you accept that your talk was calculated to do very great harm to my reputation?
6: Did you fail to tell me of your proposed rebuttal of my speech in good time in the hope that your very lengthy talk would be circulated as widely as possible before I could circulate a detailed refutation?
113: Are you aware of the Aristotelian logical fallacy of presumption known as the argumentum ad ignorantiam, the fallacy of the appeal to ignorance?
421: Have you heard of Mr. Alexander Graham Bell’s wondrous invention, the electric telephone?

Mr. Monkton also wrote to the President of the University of St. Thomas, demanding that he remove Mr. Abraham’s presentation from the University’s servers, issue a public apology, initiate disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Abraham, and pay a large sum of money to a charity of Mr. Monkton’s choice. That letter also contained insinuations of legal action should the University fail to comply with Mr. Monkton’s demands.

Next, Mr. Monkton wrote a letter to a major denialist blog, asking readers to bombard the President of the University with emails demanding that the University comply with his demands.
Monkton’s strong-arm tactics are offensive to many fair-minded people; fortunately, there is some recourse. Somebody has organized a petition in support of Mr. Abraham. I urgently request that you to review this controversy and then sign the petition.