A science denier called Jonathan Abbott has written an article on WUWT about his discovery of and entrance to of the blessed community of the scientific illiterati. He's fair game, given that he posted this not as a comment but as a full blown article. So here is my take. Not a pretty picture but typical of the educated conservative science denier who feels the need to rationalise his denial. In this case in public. Kind of like public baptisms into a quasi-religious cult. It probably gives him a feeling of belonging to boast on WUWT about his conspiracy ideation and science denial.
Some items stand out and will interest people who are fascinated by the psychology of denialism:
- Jonathan says what stuck in his mind as a little boy was someone (he doesn't say who), long after all speculation had ceased, talking about an impending ice age. He says this took place in "the early 80s", which was long after all but the most unrealistic scientists entertained any notion that pollution would lead to global cooling. Particularly since clean air legislation had already been introduced in most developed nations in the late sixties and seventies. So even as a small child his mind was primed to latch onto quack science.
- He studied engineering (sorry engineers, but your profession seems to attract people of certain mental inagility). He says he read texts by Bertrand Russell and some science writers and he thinks that helped him in critical thinking. It didn't. As he demonstrates later, he didn't ever get past the notion of only accepting what suited him to "believe" and discarding any facts that he didn't like. That's not critical thinking, that's confirmation bias and lack of ability to think critically.
- He reacted against and was unable to distinguish between what is well-accepted science and what areas are at the frontiers of new knowledge (a similar disability to that referred to above). He demonstrates this with emotive language. He also exhibits a tendency towards conspiracy ideation as shown by his distrust of authority. For example, he writes: "I first noticed predictions of global warming and the associated dire warnings of calamities to come. Some of these emanated from the Met Office and so I knew should be treated with a pinch of salt but other sources included NASA, which I then personally still very much respected; despite the space shuttle evidently being the wrong concept poorly executed, their basic scientific expertise seemed unquestionable."
- He demonstrated zilch understanding of science, comparing the earth system, which is described by scientists in terms of known physics, chemistry and biology with the stock market, which is influenced as much by human emotions as economics.
- For no reason at all except he presumably didn't like it, he discounted the greenhouse effect and the impact of increasing greenhouse gases as being "implausible" "on the grounds of common sense". Oh, and his conspiracy ideation comes to the fore again in his references to "charities", "pressure groups" and "the UN".
- He expressed a concern for the environment, writing: "So I was quite passionate about the environment, but my focus was on keeping it clean and safe for all life to live in." However that concern didn't extend to him educating himself about it. It probably gave him a warm and fuzzy feeling but he refused to learn what keeping the world clean and safe for all entailed. He scorned science. Instead of reading it he mocked it and doubted it, especially as he seems to have got his science from the BBC. Jonathan is a conspiracy nutter of the right wing authoritarian type, and is suspicious of organisations like the BBC. He made no mention of ever reading any scientific journals. One can speculate that such an exercise would be too challenging. Not intellectually challenging (he said he was an engineering graduate) but emotionally challenging. Challenging of his world view.
- Jonathan got excited by the The Great Swindle and the release of decades of private emails of a handful of climate scientists. Being of a conspiracising bent and combined with his world view he was a sitting duck for the disinformation brigade. He was pining for someone to tell him that climate science is all wrong and the scientists are all crooks (fitting his conspiracy mentality), so he fell for the big con hook, line and sinker - expressing no scepticism whatsoever.
- One thing, he is aware that he's a conspiracy nutter, writing: "Now at this point, I am sure some (perhaps many?) readers are thinking, ‘Great, an inside view of how someone becomes a believer in a conspiracy theory, perhaps I’ll base a research paper on this idiot’. My response is that like most people I have at times stumbled upon the real conspiracy theory nuts lurking on the internet." So he doesn't believe in the lizard men, isn't a birther or a truther, nor that NASA faked the moon landing - or maybe he does. But he does believe in arguably the biggest paranoid conspiracy ever conceived. One of incredible longevity and scope, involving all the major national scientific institutions, virtually all the scientific journals and their staff, virtually every scientific researcher in the fields relating to the study of earth systems, ranging from atmospheric physicists through to marine biologists, glaciologists, geologists and ocean chemists and everyone in between, governments of every nation in the world and most people who represent them, the media and probably 70% of the general public. And all these people have kept up the hoax for decades! If only a fake sceptic could prove them wrong or find a way into the secret cult. (Kenji hasn't done much good spying for Anthony!)
- Jonathan then writes this: "But on WUWT and other CAGW-sceptic sites criticism of the position of the website founder isn’t just tolerated but often encouraged. " What a joke! Jonathan gives no hint that he's aware of Anthony's general rule of banning any and every one who accepts science from posting or deleting comments about actual science, even innocuous comments This is particularly odd given that Anthony deleted comments to Jonathan's previous article just a few days ago, including comments about science and a comment that could be interpreted as being critical of him. It just goes to show how people ignore facts. You only have to see the demographics of WUWT readers to know the extent to which Anthony bans or otherwise discourages normal people to comment. WUWT is 98% science deniers - almost the complete opposite of the real world.
Anyway, Jonathan indicates he is finally at peace, finding an chamber that echos what he wants to "believe". He is relaxed, waiting for the coming ice age or, as he puts it: "I tend to expect some cooling I am pretty agnostic about it. Nature will assuredly do its own thing." His cognitive dissonance quieted by lies and disinformation that suit his world view, allowing him peace by denying reality. Maybe something like this:
From the WUWT comments
Nope, nothing here this time. Maybe later if I feel inclined. So far there are 153 comments mostly of the 'rah 'rah type or "me too". As everyone knows, WUWT is 98% science deniers - so it's much what you'd expect from the scientific illiterati. Most seem to reject climate science because of their world view, distrust of authority, tendency to attribute any reputable source as having nefarious intent. In other words, they view themselves as suckers and therefore have become suckers. Classic expectations theory stuff.
PS I might later do a categorisation of responses. For example, there appear to be a disproportionate number from engineers, some physicists. A lot who reject science on ideological grounds (lots of words like "socialism"). I haven't yet read any that refer to any valid scientific basis for their rejection, which isn't a surprise. A few emotional responses from people who expressed much comfort in knowing there are other science deniers out there in cyberspace.
I've written more about this here and here.