BPSDBTo some that might seem to be self-loathing, but contrary to the climate change Denier claims, the fact is that real skeptics are not climate change deniers, and vice versa.
In this post I hope to convince you of that, then discuss the perspective real skeptics have on climate change science, and finally issue a question, with an edge of challenge, to the skeptic community.
Now generally climate realists make the ‘Deniers are not skeptics’ point by critically examining the Deniers and demonstrating that they are not actually skeptics based on what a real skeptic is. I propose to look at the skeptics and show that they are not climate Deniers (yeah, I’ve always been somewhat backwards 😉 ).
Without getting into it too deeply at this point, let’s be absolutely clear that we are talking about a difference of method, not conclusion. Those who who honestly and openly use logical, rational analysis to critically interpret the data are skeptics, no matter what they conclude. Those who indulge in a range of dishonest and disingenuous practices such as misrepresenting or distorting data, using logical fallacies, etc are not skeptics, regardless of their conclusions.
With respect to the issue of anthropogenic climate change there are people who claim that the science is flawed and/or corrupt. This group often self-identifies as skeptics, whereas many within the sciences refer to them as Deniers. This post proposes to look at which they are based on yet a different method than has been done in the past.
Of course skeptics have been around for a very, very long time. In the Western tradition skepticism as a formal way of thinking and intellectual enquiry goes back to ancient Greece. Not surprisingly skeptic societies and associations have also existed for a very long time, and they now have a strong internet presence.
Let’s begin with a skeptic blogroll that I copied from Respectful Insolence and put in the table at the bottom. These were chosen completely arbitrarily and it was only subsequently that I noticed that several of the linked sites such as Deltoid and Real Climate are what we would consider climate blogs. This was not planned and frankly I was a bit surprised, but there’s some foreshadowing for you.
To make my point convincing I have a few exercises that I would ask you to do; after all, how credible would I be without some empirical evidence? You can do them now, later, or just take my word for it that they do make the point; whatever works for you.
Randomly select blogs from the links below, or from the Wikipedia “List of skeptics and skeptical organizations” or start with one from either list and then select links from there. It really doesn’t matter how you approach it because strictly speaking this is not very scientific, I just want you to feel that you have reasonably sampled the skeptic webiverse (Skeptisphere?), whether that is 2 sites or 2,000 doesn’t matter (2,000 would be a lot, but frankly the ‘skeptisphere’ is kind of a cool and interesting place, so it wouldn’t be a waste of time).
At each site search for posts/articles expressing climate change Denial. Try and find any of the standard Denier claims, be it ‘global warming is a hoax’ or ‘climate change has ended’ or any of the dozens of memes listed by Coby Beck. As you go, also try to notice the types of things that skeptics actually do discuss and post articles on.
Prior to trying this myself I knew of only one example of a denial post on a skeptic site, and that was a guest post done as an exercise. When I did the exercise I did find one fairly uncritical article about Plimer, but the same site also had a post talking about how climate change is outpacing all predictions, so really the site was more uncritical than a denial site.
Regardless, my prediction is that you will find very few, if any articles denying climate change. Not what you would expect if the Denier claim that skeptics reject climate science and only the “useful idiots” like us “alarmists” “believe” in climate change were true, is it?
Of course one infamous exception would be the Penn and Teller episode of “Bullshit” that allegedly debunked global warming. Less commonly known is the fact that i) that episode was bullshit, part of which potholer54 exposes in “Climate Change anatomy of a myth“, and ii) Penn and Teller were confronted at the 2008 skeptics gathering The Amazing Meeting 6 and had to admit that their climate stance was politically motivated bullshit; hardly real skepticism.
Have a look at some skeptic resource pages, ie collections of links organized by topic, such as (or find your own, that’s what google is for):
Try and find global warming or climate change as a topic area that skeptics debunk. It’s not there. Zero, ziltch, nada. What’s wrong with these skeptics? Haven’t they read Plimer’s book? 😉
I suspect the point that skeptics are not Deniers is made, but if one needed confirmation that Deniers are not skeptics there is a similar exercise to try. Did you remember to notice the kinds of things that real skeptics discuss? If not, you can cheat and glance through the topics of The Skeptics’ Circle archive.
With those topics in mind google ‘global warming hoax’ and just arbitrarily wander through the Denialosphere. See if you can find any posts or articles about any of the topics that real skeptics actually discuss. You’ll want to get this over with quickly since the Denialosphere is, for the most part, a collossal waste of time. Expect to find few or none, because that is what you will find.
So it would seem that far from Deniers being skeptics, there is actually very little overlap between the two communities. This is not news to anyone active in the popular climate science discussions, but I thought this was an interesting little test of the claim.
Granted this is a slightly odd approach since the definition of skeptic vs Denier is determined by behaviour, not membership in a particular community or not. However, that analysis has been done repeatedly by myself and many others. I just felt that an interesting further test of the question would be to look at the group who are legitimately skeptics based on the critieria of skeptical behaviour generally and see how they regarded the issue of anthropogenic climate change, and just how much overlap there was with the group who reject climate science.
Clearly they are two different groups.
Now “detest” is not actually my word. I got it from The Pseudo Scientists Podcast-Episode 18 | Young Australian Skeptics in the piece “ON THE STREET: Climate Change Denialism” which begins at about 4:50 into the podcast. However, for several reasons it would not be accurate to claim that the attitude is universal among skeptics.
First, apparently there are those in the skeptic community who do self-identify as not accepting climate change science. On the one hand (emphasis added):
I quoted Tim Farley, who referred to those who don’t believe that humans are a significant factor in global climate change as “Global Warming Deniers.” These were Tim’s words, and I failed to make it clear that they did not express my opinion in the matter. They DO express a widely held view among the skeptical community that anyone denying the evidence for global warming is wrong.
There is an equally vocal minority opinion that this is just a manifestation of the often-hyperbolic environmentalist movement.
Of course the skeptic community is not the College of Physicians and Surgeons and you are a member by choosing to be one, not by passing some rigorous examination of your skepticism. As such there is no particular reason to expect uniformity of opinion or of depth of skepticism.
However, I will note that, if I read Jeff correctly, that the reason for these skeptics denying climate science is because of it’s presumed source ie the environmentalist movement, rather than actually examining the evidence (which, by the way, comes from the scientific community) and presenting a rational, empirical case. That would be a classic Ad Hominem Fallacy and should be absolute anathema to a real skeptic. QED.
The quote that Jeff is referring to is:
This site seems to be run by Shroud of Turin believers, but check out the name: http://www.skepticalspectacle.com
Those are just a few I was able to drum up out of my “list of woo websites” that I’ve been working on. –Tim Farley
Yes, the Deniers really do LOVE the word skeptic because it gives them a totally undeserved and false credibility. The point has been repeatedly made that skepticism is an rational, intellectual mode of enquiry (eg see here and here) whereas climate Deniers are endlessly gullible and seemingly willing to believe the most outrageous idiocies as long as they allegedly refute climate science (eg here and here).
Nonetheless, something else you may have noticed about the skeptisphere is the absence of climate change articles, either pro or con. If they are not “debunking” climate science (how could they?), they don’t seem to be debunking the Deniers either. Someone who is a part of that community could explain it better than I, but I did get some clues in my own wanderings.
For one thing it seems that many skeptics try to be apolitical (eg here), at least as a community. Of the Skeptics Circle
“…did not want political or ideological biases to come into it. I’m not sure how that will be possible, unless the topics are restricted to science and pseudoscience, and I’m not sure such a carnival should be so narrowly restricted.”
It also seems to be because the scientific issues are fairly complex and it is a lot of work before you can be assessing the peer reviewed literature with any degree of comfort.
That’s the conundrum of the modern skeptics movement: Intelligent Design theorists and deniers of global warming may very well be phonies and scoundrels, but no one is going to debunk them in the classic sense. You can’t reveal their hidden microphones or mimic their tricks with sleight of hand. Intelligent Design, after all, is an attempt to recast (even to “rebunk”) Creationism in scientific terms. The best weapon against it isn’t dramatic exposé, but scientific argument. So a change in tactics makes sense for the movement. (emphasis added)
Nonetheless skeptics have been co-opted, they’re certainly aware of it, and many don’t like it. Who would? particularly given what an empty headed, irrational, slogan chanting group the Deniers tend to be. Apparently at this years SkepchickCon they “… talked about the need to reclaim the word “skeptic” from the denialists.”
A question, or is it a challenge?
In fact much of the time one does not need to know any climate science at all in order to debunk the Deniers. One can critically examine the claim to be a skeptic in terms of method rather than the factual content of a claim. Not always easy if one does not know the material, but often it is fairly straightforward. I have yet to see a Denier argument that did not depend on at least one or more logical fallacies. Not having any actual facts or evidence makes that inevitable. If you know your logical fallacies 90% of the Denier claims are easily exposed for the stupidity that they are.
As such, one can debunk the Deniers claims to being skeptics by exposing their arguments as logical and scientific gibberish without necessarily knowing any climate science at all. Naturally this would not be evidence for anthropogenic climate change, but it would expose the Deniers for the phonies and scoundrels” that they are, and reclaim that honourable intellectual pursuit known as “skepticism.
So the question/challenge to the skeptic community would be: why not debunk the climate change Deniers claim to being skeptics rather than their claim to have falsified climate science? The latter may be onerous for those unfamiliar with the issue, but surely the former is perfectly suited to your knowledge and skill sets. Indeed, who better than you?
This warming trend has been particularly pronounced during the pre-monsoon month of May, which is now on average 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the late 1970’s. The Indian Ocean warmed to a much lesser extent during this period, enhancing the temperature gradient between the ocean and the land. Earth Gauge
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 302 … still no evidence.
Comments that are not relevant to the post that they appear under or the evolving discussion will simply be deleted, as will links to Denier spam known to be scientific gibberish