Gerard Rennick and the Dunning-Kruger Effect 2

While compiling the previous item on the stupidities of Gerard Rennick1, I soon realised that to include them all would have resulted in a very long essay, so I split it up.

While the stuff in the media demonstrated his idiocy, it was when I read some of the hilarious stuff on his website and in his speeches to parliament, that I really became aware of the vast extent of his delusions of adequacy, and his monumentally profound stupidity. The speech I looked at was his speech in parliament against Labor’s Climate Change Bill 2022, as climate change seems to bring out his profound stupidity more than most other topics.

He started off this speech with the following: “…as I’ve listened to the speeches today I’ve heard very little talk indeed about science. As a matter of fact, I haven’t heard even one mathematical equation that underpins any of the science since this whole debate started”2. There is no doubt that should someone lob a mathematical equation on Rennick, he would not be able to understand it. Why do I know this? Because, when Michael Mann responded to Rennick’s gibberish about gravity stopping convection, Mann gave him an equation from his lecture notes on Vertical Momentum Balance and asked for Rennick’s critique. Rennick did not reply3.

After whining about the lack of mathematical equations, Rennick then attempted to explain how he was passionate about the environment as was the Liberal Party, as against the “shoddy mathematical modelling, indoctrination and intimidation of the climate change propaganda”2.

Next, he launches into windfarms, which he says, “kill both bats and birds. They are killing our apex birds, which feeds down into the food chain, and they’re killing our bats. Unbeknown to most people, bats pollinate lots and lots of flowers. So, if we’re going to go around killing bats—it’s estimated that in the US the windfarms over there kill millions of birds each year along with millions of bats. And it’s been known in other countries—in Scotland and places like that.” What Rennick doesn’t tell you is that a 2009 study showed that while windfarms and nuclear power stations are responsible each for between 0.3 and 0.4 bird fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity, fossil fuel power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh. That is 15 times more than windfarms4.

More recently, a 2021 study estimated that 1.17 million birds are killed by wind turbines in the US annually. That is an enormous number of birds, but it is only 0.016% of the estimated 7.2 billion birds that live in the US. It is also significantly less than the 5–6.8 million killed each year by communication towers, the 60–80 million killed by vehicles, the 67–90 million killed by pesticides, or between 365 million an 1 billion killed by cats each year in the US5. This is Rennick lying by omission, a common technique used by politicians. 

After whining again about Lithium mining, rewiring the grid and the difficulties in recycling batteries he launches into mathematics again, in saying that: “At the end of the day, all science is underpinned by mathematics. And if there isn’t a mathematical algorithm that demonstrates cause and effect and quantifies that cause and effect, then that’s not science because behind every good scientist is a mathematician”. This again is gibberish, as not all science is underpinned by mathematics. As a way of justifying his assertion he resorts to the characterisation of scientists in movies: “If you go and watch these movies of these so-called science boffins, they’re on the wall proofing their algorithm”2. It is profoundly disturbing that his sense of what scientists do is coloured by what he sees in movies.

As if to demonstrate his profound stupidity even further, he quotes from the conclusions of a paper by Albert Einstein on the Quantum Theory of Radiation, in which Einstein says: “One feels justified in this because the momentum transferred by radiation is so small that it always drops out as compared to that from other dynamical processes.”2  Clearly, Rennick has not read the full paragraph as written by Einstein (see appendix). It refers to the difference between the energy exchange and the momentum exchange; the latter being so small that it is often ignored because: “…the smallness of the impulses transmitted by the radiation field implies that these can almost always be neglected in practice, when compared with other effects causing the motion.” This means that in trying for a quantum theory of radiation, the consideration of the exchange of momentum is often ignored as it is so small compared to the exchange of energy; precisely the opposite of what Rennick implied when he said: “There are three forms of heat transfer: convection, conduction and radiation. At the end of the day, Albert Einstein, the great man himself, the greatest scientist that ever lived, said that radiation is so small that it is insignificant.”2  Clearly Rennick either does not understand the difference between momentum and radiation in this context or is attempting to make himself appear knowledgeable and lying by omission again. I suspect it is a bit of both. I suspect that he obtained the quote from a denialist website or from a gofer who is just as profoundly ignorant as Rennick. Whichever it is, he simply appears to be stupid6,7.

Then Rennick talks about the science of climate change and says “there’s no such thing”. In his simplistic drivel he states it is the “science of heat”. He mentions that this science was all sorted out by people such as Joule, Kelvin, Carnot and Boyle. It is strange that Rennick doesn’t mention Eunice Foote in that group. She discovered the mechanism of the greenhouse effect in 1856 and speculated how the concentration of carbon dioxide could influence global temperatures8. But then he wouldn’t mention her, would he?

While Rennick mentions Thomson (later Lord Kelvin), he doesn’t mention Clausius, nor Nernst, nor Fowler. It seems that he simply wanted to include a few names to give the impression of knowing the history of thermodynamics.

This presages a ‘discussion’ of thermodynamics in which Rennick makes some howlers, again. For starters, he seems to conflate thermodynamics with relativity. Thermodynamics refers to the behaviour of energy in a closed system. The three laws are stated thus:

  1. In a closed system the total energy of the system is constant (Clausius, Thomson)
  2. In a closed system the entropy (a measure of the disorder of the system) increases over time to some maximum value (Clausius, Thomson)
  3. The entropy of a closed system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero; i.e. -273.15ºC (Nernst)

There is another law, which is often referred to as the ‘zeroth law’, as the other three depend on it. It was always considered to be true (i.e. a statement of the bleeding obvious) and goes like this: ‘If two bodies are each in thermal equilibrium with a third body, they must also be in equilibrium with each other’ (Fowler)9.

Hilariously, Rennick continues with: “As anyone who understands science knows, E = mc2. Energy comes from the combustion of energy in the sun. Six hundred billion tonnes of hydrogen are burnt every second. That’s converted into 596 billion tonnes of helium and four billion tonnes of energy.”. This, as well as being funny, would not pass muster in a high-school essay. What the hell does “energy comes from combustion of energy in the sun” actually mean? It is simply drivel. Rennick seems to be unaware of the concept of fusion which generates the energy which we receive as radiation (not momentum) from the sun. And to say that that the 600 billion tonnes of hydrogen is converted to 596 billion tonnes of helium and 4 billion tonnes of energy is something you’d expect from a junior high school child. While he correctly states that the energy from the sun is carried by photons (electromagnetic radiation), the fact that he states it has a mass of 4 billion tonnes is ludicrous. It takes a bit of reading to realise that photons are massless in that they have no resting mass and only have a relativistic mass10. It took me about 10 minutes of searching to find this out as I didn’t know whether the photon had mass or not. It is disturbing to think that Rennick’s drivel is written by someone on over $200,000 a year, who was part of a political party making decisions (or not) for the future of the nation, and who spouts equine ordure without even bothering to confirm what he writes, or is fed. I think that without doubt Gerard Rennick is at least one of the stupidest parliamentarians. If anyone votes for him that makes them equally stupid.


  6. Einstein, A., 1917. Zur Quantentheorie der Strahlung [On the quantum theory of radiation]. Physikalische Zeitschrift 18, 121-128


“There is room for one further general remark. Almost all theories of thermal radiation are based on the study of the interaction between radiation and molecules. But in general one restricts oneself to a discussion of the energy exchange, without taking the momentum exchange into account. One feels easily justified in this, because the smallness of the impulses transmitted by the radiation field implies that these can almost always be neglected in practice, when compared with other effects causing the motion. For a theoretical discussion, however, such small effects should be considered on a completely equal footing with more conspicuous effects of a radiative energy transfer, since energy and momentum are linked in the closest possible way. For this reason a theory can only be regarded as justified when it is able to show that the impulses transmitted by the radiation field to matter lead to motions that are in accordance with the theory of heat.” 

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