Ian Plimer suffers from crank magnetism

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Ian Plimer continues to get his science completely, categorically and provably wrong. Tim Lambert looks at some of his latest strange claims.

Mining executive and "scientist" Ian Plimer (left) thoroughly discredited himself while being interviewed by award winning ABC journalist Matt Peacock

Crank magnetism is the tendency of someone attracted to one crank idea to be attracted to more. Ian Plimer, already notable for his acceptance of the iron Sun theory and the volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans theory has now been revealed as believing (like Christopher Booker) that white asbestos is harmless. But Plimer has gone beyond that to denying that white asbestos (chrysotile) is even asbestos:
MATT PEACOCK: Well can I ask you a simple question about your expertise, rocks? A few years ago you told me chrysotile was not asbestos, is that right?

IAN PLIMER: Chrysotile's a serpentine mineral. That is absolutely correct. Mineralogically it's a serpentine mineral.

MATT PEACOCK: So it's not asbestos?

IAN PLIMER: It is called commercially asbestos. The mineral chrysotile is a serpentine mineral.

MATT PEACOCK: Even the asbestos industry calls it asbestos. I mean the town Asbestos mines chrysotile.

IAN PLIMER: As I said it's called commercially asbestos.

MATT PEACOCK: But scientifically...

IAN PLIMER: However ...

MATT PEACOCK: With respect, Professor, it's called asbestos scientifically too.

IAN PLIMER: I'm sorry. You are just a journalist. I have spent my life studying minerals. Look up any basic mineralogy textbook, the sort of thing that we give to 18-year-old students at university, and you'll see that chrysotile is a serpentine mineral.

MATT PEACOCK: Called asbestos.

IAN PLIMER: A family of serpentine minerals.

MATT PEACOCK: Called asbestos.

IAN PLIMER: Whereas asbestos minerals are amphibole minerals.

MATT PEACOCK: Amphibole like crocidolite and amosite, but chrysotile is part of the family called asbestos. Is it not?

IAN PLIMER: I am sorry. You are demonstrating mass ignorance. You are out of your depth. I invite you to come to some elementary first year mineralogy lectures and you will learn...

Needless to say, textbooks classify white asbestos as a form of asbestos. It's one thing for Plimer to make basic errors about climate science or the health effects of white asbestos, areas where he has no expertise, but it's another thing to get basic mineralogy wrong — something on which he is supposed to have expertise.

If you think that Plimer being this blatantly wrong would shake the confidence of his supporters, you are unfamiliar with Tim Blair, who describes it as merely an 'attempted "gotcha!"'

(Hat tip: Lionel A)

And while Plimer's crank magnetism has, so far, not made him embrace Creationism, he has, in his new book, fully adopted the Creationist tactic of loading up school children with loaded questions for their teachers. He even borrowed the title from a Creationist movie.

As for the content of Plimer's new book, it just repeats some of the numerous errors in Heaven and Earth as Ian Enting details here. Plimer's response to Enting was shamelessly dishonest, as Graham Readfearn explains:

Professor Plimer claimed there was no way that Melbourne University's Professor Ian Enting, who appeared on the show as a critic, could have read a copy of his book, which former Australian Prime Minister John Howard endorsed at an event earlier this week.

Professor Plimer said on air: "The book came out and was launched last night [Monday December 12] in Sydney. [Professor Enting] could not possibly have read a copy of this book. He is making things up and just skating on thin ice."

Yet it was Plimer himself who officially launched the book at an IPA-organised event on November 24 in Melbourne a full 18 days earlier. The Sydney event was a second launch.

Also, check out Plimer vs Plimer, where Plimer contradicts himself.

(This story was originally published on the Deltoid Science blog on 15 December 2011 and has been republished with the permission of the author.)

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