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Monbiot & Schmidt 0 – Plimer 1 (After Spectacular Own Goal)

Alternative titles: “Dear George, In Any Sport, No-Show Means Automatic Loss“, and “Don’t Mention Gish If You Can’t Debate


I am not at all surprised that George Monbiot (and by inference, Gavin Schmidt) have lost their public (virtual) debate against Ian Plimer even before having a public (real) debate. That’s because:

  • I have been following Monbiot’s antics for quite some time, and have never been struck by the power of his at-times-downright-silly arguments
  • Likewise concerning Schmidt, a known debate (sore) loser
  • Skeptic vs. Climatechanger debates are few and far between, and not for the lack of willing skeptical debaters (one suspects, it’s because skeptics invariably win, just like against homeopathy practitioners, UFO believers, creationist/ID proponents, chemtrails counter-conspirators, etc etc)
  • Plimer is no debate spring chicken, once described as having a “street-fighting style

Why has Plimer won the debate? Because the end result is that Monbiot has refused to publicly debate with him. And in any sport, failure to show up automatically makes you a loser.

This is too bad as Schmidt’s responses look even more impressive than Plimer’s bunch of heavily-sounding questions (the actual bait). And Plimer’s non-answers to Monbiot could have made the basis for a smooth, trouble-free attack/counterattack to Plimer’s argument.

If Monbiot could sustain a debate, that is. I have my doubts.

The Monbiot/Schmidt couple took the Plimer bait actually a tad too easily. Evidently knowing how to make opponents fall flat on their faces even when apparently much more powerful than him, all Plimer had to do is artificially concoct an “escape route” that would allow Monbiot to declare himself the winner without actually having won anything.

The “escape route” is Plimer’s refusal to answer in print. And Monbiot, shall I say OF COURSE, eagerly took it, unable to understand the consequences.

Isn’t it more heartwarming to be able to tell one’s own troops about how bad the enemy is, rather than getting into a dangerous, live debate with that same enemy?

Especially when one has extremely poor argumentative skills, like Monbiot when he includes the mention of the “Gish Gallop“, “named after [creationist] Duane Gish […] a special case of fast talking (the technique famously employed by Snake Oil Salesman that confuses people with fast long strings of words long enough to convince them to buy snake oil“.

Yes, but: people like Michael Shermer (and Ian Plimer, by the way) have actually debated with Gish. They haven’t just sat at their desk whining about the Gish Gallop.


Now we will only get Plimer on Thursday 12 November at 2 Savoy Place, London WC1, where he “will give a 30 minute lecture on global warming and then take questions/points from the audience for 60 minute“.

I will believe in that only when I see it happening, by the way…whose kneecaps is Plimer going to try to (figuratively) break? 😎

  1. Tory Cameron
    2010/06/06 at 15:28

    You guys are obsessed with debates. You should be obsessed with scientific evidence. Monbiot is nobody important. Get over him.

  2. John Kemp
    2010/05/28 at 20:04

    If Peter Taylor can stop lecturing the conspiracy buffs at David Icke’s bash and concentrate on trying to find a real scientist to debate, rather than a newspaper columnist like Monbiot, then his ideas may get a better reception.

  3. Tom Scott
    2009/11/14 at 00:51

    Are you kidding? I find it difficult to believe that anyone who has followed the extensive correspondence between Monbiot (assisted by Schmidt) and Plimer could possibly believe that Plimer has ‘won’ this debate.

    Geoff Chambers is quite right – Plimer emerges as a ranter and a fraud, whose assertions on climate change are riddled with elementary confusions and deliberate distortions.

  4. 2009/09/29 at 22:43

    I have received the following comment about Plimer’s book, via e-mail


    Being a retired physicist with some geological training, I was quite at home with Prof. Ian Plimer’s line of argument in his book Heaven+Earth, despite there being a few places where he could of expressed himself better, chosen data more carefully and became difficult to follow in places where he jumped about in time and space in his discussions.

    A major point which a critic should note, is that Plimer challenges the reader to examine the original publications and references (around 2300 of them) to find and evaluate for themselves the work upon which Plimer bases his claims. It should not be rubbished without doing so, especially by those whom Plimer describes as “scientific dictators.” It being a book, not a scientific paper, he is entitled to express his own personal views developed from his scientific work and studies of many decades. – Paul G

  5. geoff chambers
    2009/09/15 at 21:35

    Victory in these affairs is in the eye of the beholder. Much as I disagree with Monbiot on AGW, and dislike his prosecuting attorney style of argument, I think he wins easily over Plimer, whose questions are obviously designed to be ignored. Far from being a cunning trap, they look like the ravings of a pompous lunatic, and so he will appear in the eyes of thousands of Guardian readers.
    I actually posted a comment to Monbiot’s latest article on Guardian Environment saying nice things about Monbiot. The sting in the tail was that I provided a link to your article.

    • 2009/09/15 at 22:39

      Thousands of Guardian readers can’t be wrong, can they Geoff? 😎

      Plimer can rest assured that his visit will be known by thousands of people. Expect a full house on the night. Plenty of copies of his book sold. Now you tell me he has “lost” anything…

      • geoff chambers
        2009/09/16 at 07:15

        I’d say he’d lost face by appearing to sensible people (and there are some, even among Guardian readers) as a ranting old fraud. I suppose making Monbiot appear sane and reasonable in comparison counts as an exploit to be remembered for …

  6. Klem
    2009/09/15 at 19:14

    AGW Believers never debate anyone anymore about climate change because they know that they have a history of losing. They use the ” the science is settled, the debate is over” excuse. Monbiot has lost by default.

  7. George Carty
    2009/09/15 at 17:44

    What if Monbiot is right on AGW, but is just too much of an arrogant twat to debate Plimer?

    Richard Dawkins refused to debate Adnan Oktar (aka “Harun Yahya”) — does that give any credence to creationism?

    • 2009/09/15 at 17:55

      ‘course not. But I am not familiar at all with that story.

      Presumably it would have a much bigger significance if we haven’t had scores of creationist/evolutionist debates already. That’s something sorely missing in the AGW discourse.

      • 2009/09/15 at 20:55

        addendum: according to Wikipedia, Adnan Oktar has been busy obtaining censorship of Dawkins’ opinions for Turkish internet users. Little wonder that Dawkins has no intention to debate with him.


  1. 2009/09/21 at 13:09
  2. 2009/09/19 at 19:18
  3. 2009/09/15 at 18:34

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