The balancing heretic

by Judith Curry

I like cartoons (which is why I have cartoonsbyjosh on the blogroll).   I received this new cartoon via email from France:

Text translation: “Sorry boss, it won’t burn.”

Josh provides some clarification as to why I won’t burn:

While my balance is being questioned because of suspected right-wing arm twisting, I am using the pitchfork to maintain my balance.  Pitchfork? As per the Wikipedia: “The pitchfork has frequently been used as a weapon by those who couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to more expensive weapons such as swords, or, later, guns. As a result, pitchforks are stereotypically carried by angry mobs or gangs of enraged peasants.”  Hey Josh, what happened to the laser-toting babe, my preferred image?

45 responses to “The balancing heretic

  1. The suggestion that what lies behind the rejection of the concensus is some form of political bias ( although I seem to be encountering more and more the suggestion its a form of mental illness) is only a way of avoiding the question. SourceWatch antics is a simple way of gaining the moral high ground in the discussion and we all know there’s no place for morals in cold, hard science. So keep asking the questions, in an obsessive-compulsive way if you like.

    • AnyColourYouLike


      Chill and get a sense of humour huh?!

      In this day and age I guess it’s..

      Nike High Performance Pitchfork $19.99

      Gaultier Bespoke Mid-European Peasants Outfit (includes buckled shoes) $500.

      Duracell Real-glo Birchwood Flaming Torch (The Castle Stormer) $10.99

      Cue clouds, cue lightening, cue ruddy-faced, panic stricken eco-villagers…the Heresy Monster must be slain!!

      • AnyColourYouLike

        Actually HR

        I think I miss-read your satire…blushing apologies….it must be the Halloween factor…sorry!!

  2. Judy “chauffer” can also be translated as “warm up”
    So there are two ways to read it :) In fact in Quebec that would be the more natural translation.

    I think they have a little double entendre going on :)

  3. Re: Laser-toting babe.

    I like that one too ;-)

    Possibly apropos (or not):

    “She could and had faced an armed laser in the hands of a mad mutant
    mercenary with less fear than she faced such unswerving emotion …”
    — JD Robb, Immortal in Death, 1996

    Um. Or we could try:

    “We are between the wild thoat of certainty and the mad zitidar of fact”
    –Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Gods of Mars, 1918

    Deep enough!
    Pete Tillman

  4. Glad to see that you have retained a sense of humor, Judith.

    Good luck to you!

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  5. Scythes are more effective, as for lasers, Eli suggests you first need to find someone to carry the power supply

    • Alex Heyworth

      I have a perfectly good laser with built in power supply. Admittedly, being a laser pointer it is very low powered. Very effective in the dark, though. The miscreants don’t know that it isn’t really attached to a SWAT rifle.

    • I believe I heard Randall Mills has one that runs on water.

  6. Yes, you really do need to keep a sense of humour in this business to keep your sanity. I loved the cartoons – keep them coming :-).

    I’ve just posted my last ever contribution to Skeptical Science – once a nice little blog that aimed to be ‘skeptical about skepticism’ allowing for some spirited and intelligent debate between warmists and sceptics. Alas, of late its commentariat has taken on the feral tone so typical of the blogosphere.

    HR, I suspect the denialism as a form of mental illness meme is captured all too well by the witch burning cartoon. People seem to have a need to see ‘the enemy within’ whom they must drive out from amongst their ranks. All too often, the witch was a sad and eccentric misfit burdened by mental illness who could be blamed for curdling the milk or blighting the corn.

    To me, it matters little whether a person evaluates the science as balancing one way or another so long as they argue with rigour and in so doing are willing to acknowledge how much we really don’t know about this wonderfully complex beast called climate.

    The ‘Uncertainty Monster’ is aptly named. So too is ‘the Balancing Heretic.’ A key element to understanding the consensus response to ‘heresy’ lies in appreciating that heresy retains just enough of ‘received truth’ to lead the vulnerable and gullible into the paths of error. Heresy thus represents a far greater threat to the true believers in the consensus than frank disavowal.

    I find a curiously religious fervour attached to debates in climatology, which seems much dominated by a strongly millennial cum apocalyptic mindset.

    Sadly, this way of being doesn’t lend itself to humour or whimsy.

  7. There but for the Grace of God go Joan of Arc, the Maid of Georgia Tec together with the Yamal tree ring evidence.

    • Michael Larkin


      In one of those oft-occurring cases of teleconnection, I used the same metaphor of Jeanne D’arc, quite independently, only a short time ago on the other recent thread. It must be in the air…

  8. Levels of sinister allegory in that clever cartoon. Another ‘dark side’.

  9. Judith,
    Did the Devil make you do it?


  10. Judith,

    I’m honored that you put a piece about Joe Lalonde, the full blown heretic.
    I do get ignored by the best of them!

    Seriously now,
    I have one major advantage over almost all researchers and scientists is that I am not locked into one area of study or research. I’ m allowed to follow the science right to it’s conclusion no matter what other area’s of science, mechanics, physics, mathematical measurements, etc.
    I can blow apart quantum physics and quantum mechanics as it not science, but fiction and is classed as science. Our planet and Solar system was not created for this garbage science. You NEED an EXACT point to EXACT point for those theories to have some credibilty. We have yet to find any point in space or on this planet that is not moving. In a lab, it is a proxy of point to point, but nowhere else.

    Yes, and d… proud of it.

  11. Hi
    I like Judith’s take on the cartoon, whatever works if fine by me!

    The inspiration came from Lucia’s post over at the Blackboard about a ‘crack journalist ‘ who as it happens may, or may not, look a little bit like Judith. Allegedly.

    So I drew the journalist having a cracked right arm/wing, thus losing her own balance. She carries a pitch fork as an emblem of the ‘angry mob’ mentality that seems to be behind her questions to Judith.

    • Cartoons are in the eye of the beholder aren’t they?

    • Josh,
      Careful with the pitchfork. Many years ago Rodney (the knight? in Wizard of Id (long running much beloved cartoon strip in US) was advertising for a new stable-hand. In the second cell an applicant appears. Rodney asks for his experience. Third cell applicant says “Advertising.” Fourth Cell Rodney hands him pitchfork saying “Close enough.”

      In no way could this interpretation ever apply to Dr. Curry’s activities, maybe some others. I would be loath to substitute “Climate Science” for “Advertising” thinking the connection with mucking out stables with Climate Science isn’t as universal as it might be for advertising.

  12. I still looking for a way to get some of this fossil fuel money action. I guess even if they don’t pay me, I like the cheap energy they provide. It would be even cheaper if the US would let the companies get more of it. I like cheap.

  13. Maybe you need a solar and wind powered light sabre – with battery back-up of course. Actually you’re doing just fine with a pseudo pen – mightier than the psuedo sword!

  14. Judith,

    Balance is helpful when:

    1. walking the plank

    2. tightroping across Niagra Falls pushing a wheelbarrow.

    3. carrying a completely full martini in a stemmed martini glass across a crowded room at a cocktail party in high heels (especially after already having consumed one or two)

    4. free standing on one foot while putting on tight bluejeans

    However, in intellectual warfare, balance is not as good a strategy as consistency (an integrated concept set). A is A is not a balanced proposition, quite the contrary. : )

    I enjoy your blog.


  15. My faith in the group human intelligence of individuals in the United States continues to decline. Right wing vs. left wing democrat vs republican …….when it comes to the issue of climate change; none of those labels matter. Understanding the details of climate science, while interesting, also does not really matter when you consider the real basic questions:

    1. If you believe that human released airborne CO2 is warming the planet; what actions do you want taken in the United States over the next 30 years to improve the situation?

    a. Cap and trade policies would hire additional government bureaucrats to monitor industry and would make some traders wealthy, but would actually do nothing to reduce CO2 emissions.
    b. Building significant numbers of nuclear plants to replace current carbon based electrical generation facilities would both reduce CO2 emissions and help the US economy in the long term by reducing the outflow of cash to foreign countries. Building 3rd or 4th generation conventional, or Thorium facilities are safe and do not produce unacceptable waste, and if designs were standardized and the government regulatory processes were streamlined, this would help the US unemployment problem. Unfortunately, this will not happen due to prejudice and ignorance over modern nuclear energy.

    2. What will the actions you propose cost the US taxpayer??
    1b would have an initial capital cost, but once built, the facilities could be sold to private industry to operate and would actually produce revenue over the long term. It would be good for the US economy in both the short term and the long term

    What will be the effect to the climate as a result of those actions?
    1b would actually reduce CO2 emissions

    I greatly appreciate any feedback

  16. Judith,

    That first cartoon is offensive by any measure. I don’t understand how presenting your critics as a green Klu Klux Klan is in any way appropriate, and it is certainly not ‘building bridges’.

    Much as I disagree with much of what you have said, I do respect your efforts at engagement, but this is a bit beyond the pale.

    Eric Steig

    • Eric, the meaning and implications of cartoons is in the eye of the beholder. Which critics are you referring to? The ones on my blog? People at WUWT who criticize me? People like Anna Haynes? Climate scientists? If you think I’m criticizing you, well if the shoe fits and all that. Too bad you can’t muster any sense of humor even on Halloween.

    • Alexander Harvey


      I thought it was the Inquisition. Robes like that are not that uncommon, try Spain during Holy Week. They process like that and come in a variety of colours. In this case it would be France, so I guess we are talking a relapsed heretic.


      • JC:

        My first foray into engaging with you (done so very politely, I might add) and you are already insulting me? I have no sense of humor, and I might, actually, be comparable to a KKK member? I umm.. don’t know what to say.

        It really doesn’t matter which critics you are referring to, the KKK is not funny, not even on Hallowe’en. I’m appalled that you apparently think otherwise.

        However, to be fair, I missed the obvious ref. to the Inquisition — I’m sure Alex above is right — in which case my point about the cartoon being offensive is a bit off the mark. It’s pretty self-important of you if you really think of yourself as being under attack by an Inquisition, but yes, the cartoon is funny enough in that context.

      • To the extent that she is important, she will be attacked. To the extent that she is “just one person” she will be handled by being ignored.

      • Eric, as politely as I can…

        “Then maybe you should take my Matlab class.”


  17. My apologies for the invasion of Dr. Curry’s privacy, which is something I intend to continue to respect.

    I’d like to invite all to provide substantive feedback on Dr Curry’s SourceWatch page.

    • (*about* the SourceWatch page, not literally on it; sorry I wasn’t clear)

    • What is SourceWatch? Is it run by Jon Stewart?

    • Eric Steig posts that presenting critics as a green Klu Klux Klan is inappropriate. Then you show up to demonstrate how out of touch he really is. Ironic, no?

    • Anna
      Fearless investigative stuff there. As I am new to SourceWatch, can you point me to your even handed analysis of oil industry funding for various participants in the climate debate?

  18. “My apologies for the invasion of Dr. Curry’s privacy, which is something I intend to continue to respect.

    I’d like to invite all to provide substantive feedback on Dr Curry’s SourceWatch page.”

    By Anna Haynes on November 3, 2010 at 1:28 pm


    Anna Haynes,

    Not ever necessary to use Sourcewatch for Dr. J. We can go to the original source right here at her nice blog.

    : )


  19. so why invade her privacy then..?

    Actually may I ask a question or 2, what exactly is source watch for?
    Does it check out greenpeace, wwf, that sort of group as well?

    How do you qualify to thought to require an entry on sourcwatch?
    Does associattyion with somebody on source watch count.
    Commenting on a blog.
    Or writing an article for a blog. ie like Watts Up or Realclimate?

    Or is one of those websites included and the other not?

  20. Judith, The french cartoon should actually be translated as Sorry Boss it won’t warm. Burn in french is bruler. A warmist in french is called a réchauffiste. In other words, the cartoon is also saying that you won’t be a warmist.

  21. Personally, I’d sue the person that took those photos of you for the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine :0


  22. I’m reluctant to post to this thread, lest I tread too much on cultural sensitivities I wish not to appropriate to my own uses and thus profit on the suffering of others.

    And there’s so many to choose from.

    Is this the French turning on Joan of Arc to appease the British? Or merely burning a ginger? (They do that in France as well, don’t they?) Or a witch? Is there something of Guy Fawkes (likely just a coincidence of date)? Is this men abusing a strong independent woman? (Do the French even think that way?) The KKK? (Unlikely, but such an unwise hornet’s nest to stir.) The most obvious literal translation is the burning of a heretic by the Catholic Church, probably based on happenings during the Cathar Crusade. And it’s so odd, no one comments on the Frenchmen in burkas while the lady is unveiled. (Well, that’s another hornet’s nest, too.)

    Is it because of Dr. Curry’s initials she is cast as a martyr?

    I believe the movie adaptation of Kipling’s Kim had it right, if I recall the shibboleth, “No religion forbids Curry. So long as it is [pause] good Curry.”

  23. BartR
    I had taken this to a reprise of the Monty Python sketch on the Spanish inquisition which resembles what Judith Curry has been facing. However as the cartoon emanated from France that may not be as good a theory as the one about it being a parody of Joan of Arc.

    I think we need to know the nationality of the cartoonist and their age in order to determine this. :)

    Now, back to the serious stuff on the other threads.


    • Well, we all know how the French feel about Greenpeace, whether cast as Catholics or Spaniards or Britons.

      They’re still smarting over the gall (gaul?) of New Zealand to arrest and imprison French heroes over that little Rainbow Warrior misunderstanding.

      Is it really France’s fault if Greenpeace couldn’t keep its members off of Greenpeace’s vessel in port while France was blowing it up?

  24. The lowly pitchfork seems a singularly inappropriate representation of the Left’s weaponry – they’re the ones with 99% of the funding.

  25. Man! Eric Steig, you need to lighten up. In addition, you act like Judith drew the cartoon.