I told him that I was unqualified to answer his questions. Unlike him, I make no pretence of being a climate scientist. But that was not the end of the matter, as you can see below.
Anyway, I kept pressing him for some answers. On 14 August, I received this reply:
Dear Mr Monbiot,
There are seven versions of Heaven and Earth and only my Australian publisher and I know the differences in diagrams, references and text between the seven. It has taken some time to look at your questions and determine which version was used for compilation of the questions. Can you please confirm that you have actually read Heaven and Earth and that your questions derive from that reading.
I am aware that Damian Carrington has a copy, that John Vidal had two and that you will receive a copy on Monday.
This was odd because, judging by the notes made from Heaven and Earth by people in Australia and elsewhere, all editions of his book appear to have the same diagrams, the same references and the same text, with the same page and reference numbers. I was able immediately to compare what people said about his book with my own edition and find the relevant text in moments. Are we really to believe that he was unable to do this? That he couldn’t locate the text and page numbers I cited in his own book?
It looks to me like another feeble excuse for not answering my questions. Anyway, I told him that I had indeed suffered the misfortune of reading his book, and that the edition I owned is a hardback, which has a black cover with a picture of a ball of cracked mud on the front. I reminded him that I was still waiting. I heard nothing until 20 August, when he sent me this:
Dear Mr Monbiot,
I too have been away on field work.
Can you please give me an indication when I will get the answers to my questions of science and why you will not debate me on the Michael Medved radio show?
Here is my reply, sent yesterday (Tuesday 1 September):
Please accept my apologies for not replying before. I am recovering from surgery.
You ask: “Can you please give me an indication when I will get the answers to my questions of science”.
I told you in my last post that “I am unqualified to answer them” and “you’re asking the wrong person”.
Fortunately, however, someone far better qualified than either me or you – Gavin Schmidt of NASA – has stepped into the breach and answered them on my behalf.
As Gavin remarks, your questions are
“quite transparently a device to avoid dealing with Monbiot’s questions”
and they are
“designed to lead to an argument along the lines of ‘Monbiot can’t answer these questions and so knows nothing about the science (and by the way, please don’t notice that I can’t cite any sources for my nonsense or even acknowledge that I can’t answer these questions either)’.”
What Schmidt shows is that some of your questions are pure pseudoscientific gobbledegook. As he notes, “The throwing around of irrelevant geologic terms and undefined jargon is simply done in order to appear more knowledgeable than your interlocutor.”
The remainder can be answered immediately – as Schmidt has done – because the information you seek has already been provided by other means.
In all cases they raise grave doubts about your judgment and your scientific competence. Some of them give cause for concern even about your abilities as a geologist, let alone your extravagant claims to expertise in other branches of science. In desperately seeking to avoid my questions, you have dragged your own name still further through the mud.
Please regard Gavin’s response as my final answer to your 13 questions – I can’t do better than him.
You must be flattered by all the attention.
In the meantime, my questions remain unanswered. In fact, this appears to have been the sole purpose of your time-wasting exercise.
My questions concern only what you purport to know. You made precise and specific claims in your book. Many of them are either unsourced or blatantly misrepresent your sources. I have simply asked you to cite your sources and explain your statements. This should be quick and easy to do – if you have a leg to stand on. The longer you delay and seek to distract, evade and bluster, the more obvious it becomes that you cannot answer them.
You also ask: “Why you will not debate me on the Michael Medved radio show?”
I have no idea what you are talking about. I have never heard of the Michael Medved show and no one has contacted me on its behalf. We have agreed to conduct a public debate sponsored by the Guardian and the Spectator. This can go ahead when you have answered my questions and agreed that we may cross-examine each other. You have so far done neither.
So to concentrate your mind, I am now giving you a deadline. You have already had almost a month in which to answer my questions, which I put to you on Thursday 6 August. I am now giving you a further ten days. If you have not sent me precise and specific answers to each of my questions by Friday 11 September, I will conclude that you have thrown in the towel and chickened out of the debate.
With my best wishes,
So will he answer them, or has the dog now eaten his homework? Watch this space.