Separating the wheat from the chaff.

Denialism Blog‘s Mark Hoofnagle asks a great question about global climate change: “How do you tell who the legitimate skeptics…are versus who are the denialists?” Skeptics are good and necessary in all sciences, and should not be criticized for taking on that role. Denialists, on the other hand, are actively harmful.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

15 replies on “Separating the wheat from the chaff.”

  1. I see two signals for denial:

    1) Critiques which tend to downplay the significance of human impact on the environment are an appeal to the status quo. There are many practical and cost effective ways to reduce pollution. The logical conclusion is that it doesn’t matter in one sense who or what is *creating* the problem — we have feasible ways of changing habits to *solve* it and that is where our focus should lie. Spreading FUD about the cause distracts us from this important point.

    2) If the proponent of the critique is more interested in publishing it through a think tank than a peer reviewed journal, I take it as a sign that they are more invested in public relations than science.

  2. Duane, regarding #2, you mean things like feature films you go see in movie theatres? That kind of journal avoidance?

  3. I. Publius,

    I would assume Duane means the scientific work, the scientific work. Get it? The “skeptics” are embarrassingly naked when it comes to scholarly, peer reviewed science.

    See, there is a difference between political advocacy, promoting awareness about an issue and the actual process that makes the discovery and then puts the discovery through its confirmation.

    Like for instance the discovery that smoking causes lung cancer . . . or any other thing.

    That is the big divide here, people like you don’t understand this, you see it as purely political and personality driven. Like, “oh Laurie David flies around in a private jet, that just proves that global warming is a hoax!”

  4. Like, “oh Laurie David flies around in a private jet, that just proves that global warming is a hoax!”

    That’s not why I’m a skeptic (or denialist – whatever). But it does serve to demonstrate a profound sense of hypocrisy by those who would have us believe the planet’s in peril and we’re the cause. They can plant all the trees they want, but at the end of the day when Laurie David and Al Gore fly their jets and use more electricity in a month than most folks use in a year, it massively undermines their credibility on the issue.

    I agree that it doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, but it looks terrible and their opponents (like me) will continue to use it as a club with which to beat them over the head with.

  5. That’s not why I’m a skeptic (or denialist – whatever)

    I think it’s fair to say that, on the matter of global climate change, you’d qualify as a skeptic. (Though some here will surely disagree. :) You are open to new information and, in fact, your very reluctance to change your mind likely further points to skeptic, rather than denialist.

  6. Waldo, has JS proven that he is open to new information?

    You showed us all a link that thoroughly debunks all the deniers crazy assertions and he turned around and linked to a page that repeated all those very same crazy assertions. We even pointed him to Ron Bailey, the reformed skeptic’s skeptic, and still . . .

    Anyway, JS you miss my point and prove it at the same time: to you its all about being an opponent of Al Gore and Laurie David, its a political argument (you proved this by your previous link: a thoroughly political web site). But in the end it doesn’t matter what they do, or who wins the “argument”. the science is still the science. And the facts will win. . . like the hard indisputable fact that the oceans all across the globe have warmed about a degree and a half in the last 14 years.

    Secondly, the electricity Al Gore uses in his house is comparable to any small business or organization . . . well you know, because he runs a small business and organization out of his house. But whatever, everyone bought into that smear that said he said he invented the internet . . .

    And please don’t try to lecture us about hypocrisy in political figures, there is enough to go around, especially from your crowd!
    You know, your buddies like Cheney, Rumsfield, Snow, the Bushies; these guys who make political hay demonizing “big government”, while they have made literally millions sucking at the teat of the federal government complex. And thats a “fact”.

  7. When I consider Al Gore’s airplane, I think of it in terms of cost benefit analysis. If he motivates hundreds of people to modify their habits the net gain may well be positive. There are a few (in my opinion) legitimate objections to the science in Gore’s presentation and not one of them has anything to do with his mode of conveyance.

    It distracts people from their stewardship of the environment they inherit and will pass on to future generations.

  8. JS,

    I understand why you complain about Al Gore’s airplane, though I agree with Duane about why it’s a perfectly valid thing to do.

    Speaking of which, have you stopped supporting the petroleum market, which is a great source of income for both communism in Venezuela and terrorism from various states in the Middle East? If not, don’t you think you should, if you’re going to publicly denounce either of these things?

  9. Sorry, “JS” in this case means “Judge Smails”, not “Jon Sheridan.” Sorry for my lazy typing.

  10. Al Gore’s air plane . . . is that like some philosophic riddle, or maybe a rock band . . . I love it.

    Good point on the Venezuela thing . . . but oh course thats why JS’s crew want to invade (or in the case of Venezuela, help a coup) all those countries’ and replace them with friendly “Democracies” . . .

    Here is the skinny on one aspect of the argument: You will often find in a discussion with someone in the opposition on this issue (will not say conservative, because there are actually a good number of fair minded conservatives coming around)

    Anyway, you will often find this or some various thrown in your face:

    “people who talk about gw hate humans love owls more, are hypocritical because they use all the benefits of modern industrialized society, but hate industry.”

    ummm, actually no, as far as I tell its liberals who have been pushing to spread So It is important not to lose sight of the fact that the benefits of what has happened in the last century are truly staggering. Humanity as a whole used to live a brutal, just brutal existence that we in the US of A can not imagine . . .

    But its time to realize that there are unintended consequences that could completely undermine all thats been accomplish; and it is these unintended consequences that we must move to address, and it is time to realize that modern industrial society is not synonymous with the antiquated technologies that now provide it with power.

  11. bad grammar, bad spelling, truncated sentences, but you get my point? right?

  12. Waldo.

    One thing we emphasize at our site, and I hope that your readers will understand, is that the way you tell the difference between legitimate and illegitimate debate is methods.

    Dishonest brokers in a debate use specific tactics to undermine factual discussion. Denialism isn’t about just disliking what others have to say, it’s about undermining scientific findings, not with new findings or data, but with rhetorical nonsense.

    The real way you separate the wheat from the chaff is looking for these methods – conspiracy mongering, cherry-picking, hiring fake experts, moving the goalposts and using illogical arguments – in the course of a debate. You really don’t have to be an expert in global warming, just minimally informed to see when the tactics are being used.

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