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Friday, August 14, 2015

Marginalised, alienated and put upon: climate science deniers are not innocent

Sou | 7:11 PM Go to the first of 66 comments. Add a comment
Yesterday's article got a few comments complaining that I went too far when I wrote:
The first hockey stick was, probably correctly, viewed in some quarters as a real threat to the anti-science, anti-mitigation movement. These are immoral people. People who want the world to continue with unfettered burning of fossil fuels, endangering society. People who are willing to sacrifice the well-being of their fellow human beings, their children and their grandchildren and all future generations. Their motives were various - some did it for ideological reasons. Anthony Watts did it because he didn't want to pay tax. Others dispute climate science arguably because that's what they are employed to do. There are dedicated denier organisations who pay people (and get freebies from more) to cast doubt on established science that they see as contrary to their aims. The backers of deniers probably also have mixed motives - pure profit for fossil fuel companies and ideology for others (rampant capitalism/libertarian anarchy gone wild). For some it seemed to be more personal - perhaps professional jealousy mixed with ideology.

There were protests by some people of the type "I am not a bad person" and that I shouldn't impugn motive to the ugly denier.

I've given some thought to those comments. My first reaction was to explain that I was referring to people who knowingly spread disinformation.  That the "quarters" I was talking about were, for example, lobby groups set up to advocate on behalf of particular interests, which used disinformation propaganda as part of their strategy.

I was initially inclined to agree that most deniers don't know what evil they are doing. That there is a difference between the wilfully ignorant and the plain ignorant. That it's only deliberate disinformers who should be vilified. On further reflection I'm less inclined to be so generous.  It's not that simple.


Someone who's never investigated climate change, who has vaguely heard that some people say it's a hoax or it's not that bad, and falls into the denier camp for no reason other than it suits their thinking is one thing. It's quite another thing when someone who's been posting for years on denier blogs tries to claim innocence through ignorance. Tries to claim that they are entitled to their opinion. Whines that they are not "bad" people.

Thing is, they aren't entitled to pretend their "opinion" is fact when it's not.

Neither career nor amateur deniers can claim innocence. I'm talking about the people who've been hanging about climate blogs for years. People who post several comments a week, sometimes several comments a day - protesting climate science.

These people have no excuse for denial. They are not unwilfully ignorant. These are the wilfully ignorant.

If reading passages like the above makes committed deniers uncomfortable - then good. It should. It might mean that they have some sense of morality after all. If they complain that it makes them feel alienated then that's good too. They should feel scorned by society. (It might prompt them to question their "beliefs" or it might not. That's not the point.) If they want to proclaim their innocence - it won't wash. They aren't.

Just as ignorance of the law is no excuse, ignorance of climate change is no excuse either. Most particularly for people who've been engaged in climate discussions for years.

That's all I wanted to say.


Further reading


No, it’s not your opinion. You’re just wrong [updated] - by Jef Rouner at the Houston Press

66 comments:

  1. I agree Sou. In this age of easily accessible education sources and evidence-based information, it's a deliberate choice to remain uneducated about the basic science involved or the overwhelming evidence. It's a deliberate choice to go around posting fraudulent claims and misrepresenting the science and maligning scientists.

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  2. I had to reread your post several time since I began to think you might be going off the deep end in your analysis. (It’s a blog after all). Over the 45 years as a scientist and educator I’ve seen too many people who are truly incapable of figuring out and dealing with long term issues or, more to the point, too busy trying to make ends meet in the short term to spend much time on long term issues no matter how dire the consequences – that’s at least 50% of the people in the US. You can’t blame them for being silently skeptical or ignorant in a confusing, complicated world.

    But, your key point, which should be herald at the beginning and repeated time and time again, concerns “…the people who've been hanging about climate blogs for years. People who post several comments a week, sometimes several comments a day - protesting climate science.”

    Many are morally corrupt. Others are not all there (insane). You’ll find this “residue” in any class, in any lecture, in any venue*. They just can’t get it right and no amount of logical discussion will change their mind. They are, as you rightfully point out, willfully ignorant. Unfortunately they are vocal about it.

    These folks obfuscate the issue for others (most everyone) who do not have time to spend on multiple blogs, reading science papers or attending public lectures or just time to sit and think. There is no “loyal opposition” to the climate change issue. Only traitors to the human race.

    *Case in point: At the IAU public forum opening public participation in the “name that exoplanet” process (and the public lecture that followed) in Honolulu the other night there were several comments and questions that were truly “off the wall”. Where do these people come from? (WUWT?)
    And off topic: For those interested, vote at http://nameexoworlds.iau.org/. Earth and Jupiter are taken. “Bob” is not, but not on the sanctioned list. Who knows? You might help name “Earth 2” and become famous.

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    1. Whew! For a minute there I thought I'd failed the JGradie test. (It wouldn't have been the first time). Thanks - JG. I'm with you all the way :)

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    2. Forgive my off-topicness, but I would love to know what type of off the wall comments you get in regard to exoplanets. (I'm doing a presentation on exoplanets tonight. It's a friendly audience, so I'm not worried responses to my talk, just very curious to know what you've encountered.) Thanks, jg

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    3. jg, it's not the usual subject here at HW and way outside my expertise.. Here's a lone article, with just seven other-worldly comments, if that helps :)

      http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2014/02/715-new-planets-orbiting-305-stars-just.html

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    4. With respect to off-the-wall questions about exoplanets. There was time for only a few questions at the IAU public talks, but the theme is the same no matter when or where the public talk. There are no special categories unless "aliens are out to eat us" can be considered a category. Most are steeped in fundamental misconceptions based on a lack of basic learned skills and book knowledge, which is the reality and a problem in all fields of science ... and politics. The "honest" questions, those based on ignorance but with a clear desire to understand, are just as difficult to deal with as the ones based on ideology or some unyielding prejudice. You can't really address either of these types of questions (notice I didn't say answer) because the knowledge gap is just too large and you only have 60 seconds to fill in for decades of misconceptions about life, the Universe and everything. It is best to say, "I just don't know" or carefully deflect. If you try to reason or refute you'll alienate (hahaha) the ideological-driven inquirer who provides statements not questions* and conclude "I told you so." Meanwhile the audience who does not have enough basic knowledge to decide whether your answer is useful or not (notice I did not say correct) will be left wondering who is right - unfortunately you have just provided legitimacy to idiocy. So, since you can't win in a public situation (or WUWT or US politics) don't try to fight it/correct it right there at the moment.

      *Case in point at the IAU (but not about exoplanets): A few local, and very vocal, Hawaiian activists have taken very legitimate grievances (overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by white landholders and the annexation by the US) out of the political arena into the issue of building new facilities (telescopes) atop Mauna Kea (Big Island of Hawaii). They have stopped building of the $1.5B Ten Meter Telescope (TMT) at MKO and now the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope atop Haleakala (Maui). Astronomers (once my profession) have a real conflict of interest when arguing why telescopes should be built on a sacred sites. Logic and religion do conflict at times and both sides become self-serving. Activists are using the issue to provide greater visibility for their grievances . One of the first questions was from a local activist taking 10 minutes of microphone time to provide a statement as to why building telescopes on MKO was sacrilegious, wrong, and we weren't really in the State of Hawaii but the Kingdom of Hawaii, so there. There was no question, just a provocative statement. The only answer, and correct answer by the speaker, was, "Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Next question?"

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    5. W.r.t. my previous comment about not winning (at WUWT) ... Sou (and others) provides a very real and very effective way to fight this type of ignorance (idiocy): continuous and unrelenting expose of the illogic nature of the arguments. (Note: this is WUWT modus operandi, too, just the negative.) A single sane comment at WUWT, although useful and part of the good fight, is not gonna' make much difference. The next big issue is how to make sure that Sou, et al are not talking to such a limited audience as to make little difference on the world stage. I also worry that this very large burden on one person can take its physical and emotional toll.

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    6. Thank you, both, for entertaining my off-topic question.

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  3. "There were protests by some people of the type "I am not a bad person""

    That protest itself is faulty. Good/bad isn't a binary thing, its scale.

    The paid shills with no conscience are futher down the scale, than the slobs who will delude even themselves to preserve their slob lifestyle.

    I live in a country where even just carrying a carrier bag to the shops to reuse is far too much effort for most people. Its mind boggling. Bad? or just contemptible?

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    1. Millicent,

      the shopping bag thing.

      I mean, what the fuck is wrong with people, both shoppers and store owners? Every time I go to my local chain convenience store, they *automatically* start bagging my stuff up. Now, I’ve cycled there with a small backpack, so the least convenient way possible to get my shopping is in a flimsy plastic bag which will get tangled in my front wheel. So I say “I don’t need a bag, thanks”. “Are you sure??” comes the astonished response. In my head I’m “YES! I AM FUCKING SURE!! IT ACTUALLY OCCURRED TO ME *BEFORE* GOING TO THE SHOP THAT I WOULD BE RETURNING WITH PURCHASES. THAT’S WHAT THE BAG YOU CAN SEE IN MY HAND IS FOR! DUH!” But of course, being British, it’s merely “Yes, quite sure thanks” and off I go to do battle with all the idiots parked on the pavement in their 4x4s

      Ah, that’s better.

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    2. There's an awful lot of 4x4s around here too. Absolutely necessary to tackle the roads in the precipitously steep (if non existent) West Midlands mountain range.

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    3. VTG

      I feel your pain.

      :-)

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    4. Oh come on, have you ever tried to back a boat down a launching ramp and got one drive wheel off into the soft stuff? You cannot move without 4x4.

      I bought an ecodiesel van yesterday, a front wheel drive with places to hook up a winch. You can get two of them for the price of one 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter (which I really wanted but couldn't justify $60k+) and they get 10+ better mpg. A friend says he'll convert it to a small RV inside for me. But just as I'm handing over the cashier's check, Shawnna sends me a message that she's 'still at work, just found out I'm going to be a grandma'... I sent her a message back, 'maybe I should outfit it like a bus by the time they're done?'

      In other news... today is the 80th birthday of social security, the flags at the GOP headquarters were flying at half staff. Donald Trump is still vague about policy, but the rest of the candidates are specific about how they'll ruin the country. :[]

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  4. ‘I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.’

    Yanis Varoufakis

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    1. Yanis is a fucking champion.

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    2. Tis interesting, PG, that you and I can agree on something.

      The Euro is a flawed concept, in that it cannot be all things to all men (well, countries). Some will win by it, and some will lose. But it can go on and on for a long time, propped up by laws and adjustments... as did the various versions of 'communism', affecting a couple of generations before fading away.

      As would an international carbon trading scheme, regulated and 'taxed' and charged by the UN and the World Bank and the mighty multinational finance companies, as it tried to straddle wildly different economies, countries and their varied stages of development.

      It is very likely our doubting and faltering steps forward and backwards as we explore technology and economics and all sorts of alternatives and methods of climate effect prevention, mitigation and adaptation will prove to be the best approach.

      Then eventually, all sides of the debate will claim they were vindicated.

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    3. You mean he is a fucking moron!!!! Take it from somebody that grew up there and has lived in 3 countries...

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    4. Agreed Marke. nations must have their own currency and central banks.

      The only economic lever that Greece, Spain and Portugal have to pull is owned by Germany.

      I also agree that carbon trading is ineffective. The Carbon price should be imposed at the source as a national or state tax and the revenue used to compensate those on low incomes.

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    5. Agree on all that PG. If we accept there are externalities to energy production and use which should be costed in, then the only workable scheme is a localized carbon tax.

      I do have some doubts about the bureaucratic efficacy of redistribution of such a tax, but there may be effective alternatives to involving the bureaucracy.

      Indonesia, for example has (what I consider) a rather clever (obvious?) electricity pricing scale for a developing country with a large proportion of low income earners and no social service structure. Simply put, a bare basic electrical supply costs peanuts, allowing kids to study, a small refrigerator, low wattage water cooking, low wattage ironing etc.

      If you are wealthier and want large enough capacity to run your air conditioners etc, you pay 20 to 30 times more for the larger capacity connection, and then continue to pay (on an upwardly sliding scale according to usage) perhaps up to 100 times more for usage. I am not sure, but I think there are few concessions to big big business.

      Similar schemes could be applied to other energy sources, albeit, not quite so simply.

      All self regulating, free choice (dictated by individual economic situations) and any tax would be equally proportionate.

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    6. That’s interesting about Indonesia (made more interesting in that my wife and I are presently on holiday in Indonesia).

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  5. There is another large underlying factor that would take books to discuss so I'll just throw out the main idea: So much of everything has turned into "team", constructed reality, and entertainment in the social/cultural/political sphere. It used to just be "all star wrestling" that had these attributes. Now it has spread to most everything.

    Anyway, many deniers--and many greens for that matter--aren't at all interested in the science. They are interested in supporting the team and tearing down the opponents regardless of anything real. Part of the this, I suppose, is that at our present stage of development the feedback we get that is reality-based is vastly overshadowed by the feedback we get from our social constructions--i.e., all the various media around us. That is why to be called living in the "reality-based community" is actually as an epithet not a compliment as used by some.

    Science does depend on feedback from reality. That is its great strength. Politics on the other hand is much more divorced from it.

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  6. These people have no excuse for denial. They are not unwilfully ignorant. These are the wilfully ignorant.

    More than that: the proudly, aggressively, willfully ignorant.

    The problem with this small but loud minority is that some of them are in the media regularly disseminating rancid tripe and others in government tossing snowballs and blocking change. It is as if governments and health authorities were to give a respectful hearing and equal time to anti-vaccination cranks and homeopaths on the grounds that "nobody knows for sure why people get sick".

    Like the tobacco disinformation program from the 1950s to the 1990s that it was patterned on, the global warming denial campaign has been a very successful one for its planners. But not so much for the rest of the world.

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  7. I agree with Sou 1000% on this one (not that there is anything of note that I have not).

    The thing is, overall the “hockey stick” is not that terribly important to confirming the science of climate change and the role of CO2 in regulating the heat of the planet. And, regardless, the “hockey stick” has been confirmed by what, thirty or so other studies using various different proxy methods in the meantime? So what is the point in continuing to attack Mann? Especially since the information relative to its confirmation is easy to find. It certainly is not in the spirit of true scientific discourse.

    Those that post such nonsense are guilty as hell.

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  8. And who needs enemies when:

    Royalty

    Greenpeace

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    1. Millicent.

      I do not understand your point.

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    2. Gee Harry, what luck I chanced along.

      I'll try to help you.

      Lemme see, I think Millicent is pointing out that people who preach one thing, but live and act the complete opposite, may be a detriment to the cause.

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    3. My point was that some of the people who think of themselves as the 'good guys' seem to be no better than the 'bad guys'.

      I have never subscribed to the "somebody else does it so its ok for me to do it too" attitude that marke refers to. That, for me, is not a moral system but indicative of a lack of morals.

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    4. Previous attempt swallowed whole, so the short version because bugger it.

      The problem is your two links are to someone you probably don't like because of your political opinion based on an accident of their birth. Bad guys aren't identified by playing polo. The other link is to some in greenpeace asking someone else in greenpeace to jet around less. However, practically none of the problem is due to private jets being used, therefore is of no problem. And it isn't only "bad guys" that take jet flights.

      So the problem is that your post you made does not in any way, shape, or form indicate WHY it demonstrates "hat some of the people who think of themselves as the 'good guys' seem to be no better than the 'bad guys'".

      At most it demonstrates you don't like greenpeace or royalty.

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    5. These people are on record as saying we must all adapt to a low carbon lifestyle. And yet they can both be shown to be not adapting themselves, and wilfully failing to adapt.

      So the problem with my post is that I failed to spell out something that I had assumed would be obvious. And the problem with your post is that it arises from an inability to see the obvious.

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    6. In the case of the Prince of Wales we have his own website to refer to although it forgets to mention the royal helicopter in his travel arrangements.

      "Travel in the UK and overseas on behalf of the government is an essential part of Their Royal Highnesses’ work and carbon emissions vary each year according to the diary of engagements. However, the environmental impact of travel is taken into account when planning the diary, alongside other considerations such as cost and security arrangements. In addition, the Royal Train runs on bio-diesel made from used cooking oil and The Prince’s Aston Martin runs on fuel made from wine wastage and a cheese by-product.

      Public transport is used for staff travel as far as possible and most staff walk, cycle or use public transport to get to and from work. Cycling is also supported through a cycle-to-work scheme and the provision of shower and changing facilities. "

      Oh, the travel arrangements for the staff are relatively green.

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    7. "At most it demonstrates you don't like greenpeace or royalty."

      That last bit made me smile. When I used to comment on climate change on the Guardian website I was occasionally accused of being a shill for Greenpeace. It is so amusing what stupid comments people will make when they risk having an especially valued bubble burst.

      There are parts of Greenpeace I like, parts I dislike. The work they did publicising the funding of climate change denial was good. But it has gotten too big, and there are clearly people working there who are there for the pay and have no commitment to what they preach. And the people at the top are OK with that: which tells us much about them.

      I am reminded of my first supervisor when I joined a large UK firm out of university. He told me to always remember that in a large organisation the scum floats to the top.

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    8. Millicent.

      Appeal to a hypocrisy is a logical fallacy.

      What Prince Charles or Greenpeace says stands on the merit of their message, not on what they do.

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    9. I have no argument with what they say. But to be the good guys they need to do as they say.

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    10. Well, yes, they say we should live a less profligate lifestyle. How many of the "bad guys" you have identified done that? None. So that doesn't make them "no different from the bad guys".

      Yes, the prince of wales has a helicopter. Is that somehow bad?

      Your "Travel in the UK and overseas ...." merely indicates that he is cutting back himself and putting effort into doing so. This is somehow bad? He shouldn't be doing bad things?


      ""At most it demonstrates you don't like greenpeace or royalty."

      That last bit made me smile...
      There are parts of Greenpeace I like, parts I dislike."

      So you are saying I was correct, but that made you smile because you were claimed to be otherwise? In what universe does that make me wrong???

      "I am reminded of my first supervisor when I joined a large UK firm out of university. He told me to always remember that in a large organisation the scum floats to the top."

      Re-read that. Do you know that your supervisor is nearer the top than you were?

      It is ridiculous to claim it as inerrant truth. All it does is make you feel better and give you a reason not to listen to someone you don't want to believe. Like royalty.

      Chuck didn't CHOOSE to pop out of Liz's cloaca. Don't let your political bent force you into bigotry on something someone has no choice over.

      Or you'd be scum that can't rise and is taking it out on those that do.

      "I have no argument with what they say."

      Yet you claim that they are wrong for doing it. Goodness, you REALLY hate them and REALLY don't care why. You just hide behind empty homilies and a chamaeleon excuse.

      NOTE: This is why I asked what the hell you were going on about. Because you wanted us to make up a rationale for your insinuated claims so that you wouldn't have to defend your own. Your "reasoning" was needed to see if was reasoned.

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    11. You said: ""At most it demonstrates you don't like greenpeace or royalty."

      I said: "There are parts of Greenpeace I like, parts I dislike."

      You said "So you are saying I was correct, but that made you smile because you were claimed to be otherwise?"

      I'm sorry but if you are so rude as to pull crap like that I really have no interest in anything you write.

      You wrote: "In what universe does that make me wrong???"

      In any universe where they understand plain English. Now go away.

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    12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    13. BP - that's enough with the flaming - see the comment policy.

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  9. Sou, you're doing a great job. Forcefulness and taking a stand against the village idiots is absolutely necessary now.

    http://survivalacres.com/blog/denying-the-deniers-village-idiots-take-note/

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Hmm, so do we categorise you as idiot or deliberately ignorant? That the earth is warming and it's our fault is not in doubt. Your lack of knowledge of how science works is also noted.

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    2. Try this:
      http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/false-claims-by-mcintyre-and-mckitrick-regarding-the-mann-et-al-1998reconstruction/

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    3. marke's comment wasn't deleted. It has been moved to the the HotWhoppery.

      Sou

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    4. “The warming trend he presented may well be shown, by better more recent work, to actually be happening.”

      Of course, the warming trend has never been in question. All the actual temperature records clearly show that it has been warming. What the “hockey stick showed was that this warming is unprecedented in the last 1000 years or so. Nothing more, nothing less.

      “But, that particular paper, and the ingredients of that particular 'hockey stick', could perhaps best be described as horse hockey.”

      Sorry...true peer review of the work of Mann, Raymond, and Bradley, given the inconsequential minor math errors, have all confirmed the results. I’ll trust that peer review over accusations from nonscientists with an agenda.

      The attacks are despicable.

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    5. Swallowing M&Ms seems to induce delusional ranting for science deniers. For rational people, M&Ms cause Snickers.

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    6. Mann et. al. 1998 is so bad that it has been cited in over 1000 additional peer reviewed publications. Not bad for a paper in a rather specialized field.

      What has been replicated is Mann et. al. 1998's research and findings not fake "auditors" non-peer reviewed criticisms. To the best of my knowledge, none of the "auditors" has ever published a peer reviewed paper on MBH 1998 in a scientific source that was accepted without additional papers finding flaws in the supposed criticisms.

      I think you'll find that the scientific consensus is that Mann et. al. 1998 was correct and that any methodological issues are those associated with any groundbreaking research.

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    7. Ceist, I hadn't seen that RC post on M&M before. A rebuttal straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. Wonder why there are only 2 comments. But as you know, the following from Deep Climate are also very good:

      http://deepclimate.org/2010/10/25/the-wegman-report-sees-red-noise/
      http://deepclimate.org/2010/11/16/replication-and-due-diligence-wegman-style/

      McIntyre way overcooked the red noise, and also as pointed out in the RC article, didn't have the right selection criteria for PC retention.

      It's kinda amazing that to this day, the deniers still give McIntyre any credibility. But then, they won't read anything - not for comprehension anyway - that shows McIntyre to be the malicious hack that he is. He doesn't understand the science, so a lot of the stuff he does is possible within the realm of statistics, but runs roughshod over the laws of atmospheric physics that determine what is actually possible in nature.

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    8. ETA: not to mention this bit of analysis by tamino that shows how non-centred PCA gives same results as centred, once you do it right:

      http://web.archive.org/web/20080415003018/tamino.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/pca-part-4-non-centered-hockey-sticks/


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  11. In my experience denial can be quite complex. I have a brother who's arguments against global warming are essentially ideological, based on his politics. In contrast my wife's cousin believes that vaccines cause autism, but her conviction is because "A mother knows". She also has other weird beliefs that are pseudo-religious. I have a feeling that my brother will come around to accepting that something must be done about global warming (even if it is right at the death knell) while the cousin will be much harder to convince that evidence really does matter.

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    1. When their child or grandchild is maimed or killed by measels or polio, they will change their mind.

      If there were a god, such a person would be given the consequence of such idiocy. Unfortunately, such people won't change until *someone else* they care about, who is blameless, is affected tragically.

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  12. Anti-vaxx? New study shows that researchers _can_ counter such beliefs by demonstrating the actual effects of communicable diseases. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/07/28/1504019112

    Whether relatives can do the same for their anti-vax relatives by sending them videos of infants gasping for breath when suffering from whooping cough is another question entirely.

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  13. Sou -

    ==> "Yesterday's article got a few comments complaining that I went too far when I wrote...and that I shouldn't impugn motive to the ugly denier."

    I assume that one of the comments that you were referring to there was mine, as I spoke of impugning motives.

    I wasn't complaining. I was stating my perspective on your rhetoric. I wasn't stating a grievance or dissatisfaction or anything like that.

    I'm perfectly fine with you rejecting my opinion as invalid or irrelevant or whatever. But I do think that perhaps in thinking that I was perhaps complaining, you are also not really understanding my perspective.

    To elaborate a bit on my opinion. I see people who filter information according to ideological orientation so as to confirm their biases and reaffirm their identities. I see this all the time, be it with climate change or gun control or vaccinations or social welfare or any other of a variety of politicized issues that can be informed by evidence. From what I see, it is a basic human tendency to filter information so as to confirm biases. I don't see that tendency as being particularly relevant to assessing whether someone is good or evil or "innocent" or guilty.

    For example, as much as I might disagree with rightwingers about the outcomes of providing a social safety net, and as often as I see rightwingers promote illogical and flat-out mistaken arguments w/r/t the impact of social welfare on society (and who it is that relies on those programs), I know at the same time that many of those rightwingers also dedicate significant amounts of their time and resources to aiding people who are in need. As such, I am reluctant to pass judgement on their morality. This is true even though I think that the can be largely ignorant of the actual impact of their ideological belief system as implemented in society.

    If someone is biased towards a particular position, and as a result filters information so as to confirm that bias, does that really tell me anything about their "morality?" I don't really think so - as a general rule of thumb.

    Part of my perspective on this is having, on a regular basis, "skeptics" make assumptions, with complete confidence, about my morality and values and ethics - based what they assume to be my perspective on climate change. They think, for example, that I want an authoritarian government to "destroy capitalism," and that I am indifferent to the starving of poor children in Africa who suffer because their governments don't burn enough coal. Of course, those people have absolutely no idea about my "morality" as it plays out in my life. Of course, they are willing to base judgements of me on a lack of actual knowledge about my morality and ethics. But I think that their fallacious line of reasoning isn't particular to rightwingers or "skeptics." I see their fallacious line of reasoning to be an outgrowth of basic features of human psychology and cognition.

    Don't know if that really clarifies anything...but I thought I'd give it a shot.


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    1. What you're talking about is called stereotyping, Joshua.

      I don't care what a wilful denier does in the rest of their life. They might be a sinner or a saint. A bleeding heart liberal or a greedy capitalist. A person who devotes their life to selfless good deeds, or a person who devotes their life to themselves.

      If they have spent years around climate blogs and still sit around day and night protesting climate science, then they are either a wilfully ignorant denier or a climate disinformer (or stupid, when it comes to climate science - a crank).

      BTW, next time someone tries to stereotype you, Joshua, next time someone puts you in one of their pigeonholes - think how much it tells you about them. (I've been called all sorts of things in my time - across extremes of all kinds of spectra.) Here's an example of someone who's telling people a lot about themselves and nothing at all about climate science. He could be a Tim Ball fan, though it was written before I'd ever heard of Tim Ball:

      http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2012/12/denier-memes-communist-socialist.html

      Now in other spheres of his life, that chap might be a model citizen. Or a prominent leader of his local community. I say that in all seriousness because the utter nutter who describes himself as in the article below was Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and is currently the Chair of a Business Advisory group appointed by Australia's Prime Minister:

      http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2014/01/maurice-newman-utter-nutter-science.html

      Delete
    2. BTW - you're right, Joshua. I didn't understand what you were trying to say - which is why I asked what you meant, in the other thread.

      I think I do now, with your latest comment. However I don't regard anything I wrote as stereotyping any individual.

      IMO it's important to understand what makes people reject climate science. You might never know what causes a particular individual to reject facts, but if you can understand what are the driving forces for denial in the population at large, then it helps shape communication of the science - for one thing.

      In regard to climate science denial, it has been linked to a number of things through scientific research and opinion polls. It's very clear that in the USA and Australia, there are more climate science deniers among people who vote conservative than among swing voters and those who vote for (small "l") liberal parties. Though deniers are still in the minority of conservative voters AFAIK.

      In more rigourous research studies, free market ideology has been demonstrated to be a predictor of climate science denial in the USA.

      Some prominent deniers freely admit why they decided to reject climate science - eg Anthony Watts said it was because he figured it would mean the introduction of government policies and he figured it would affect taxation.

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    3. ==> "BTW, next time someone tries to stereotype you, Joshua, next time someone puts you in one of their pigeonholes - think how much it tells you about them"

      That was my point, Sou.

      ==> "If they have spent years around climate blogs and still sit around day and night protesting climate science, then they are either a wilfully ignorant denier or a climate disinformer (or stupid, when it comes to climate science - a crank)."

      I don't see how that isn't stereotyping...but regardless...

      I think that there are at least some "skeptics" who just, basically, interpret the science differently than you. I read a lot of "skeptical" arguments, and some of them look clearly fallacious to me (most clearly those that are on non-technical topics), but despite having read those arguments and thought about them, and despite having read counteraguments from "realists," I don't have the brains or the technical chops to know that many of those more technical arguments are wrong, or at least clearly and obviously wrong.

      So, IMO, you might try to consider what it looks like to at least some people who don't have your skills or abilities (and of course, consider ow Dunning Kruger relates).

      Now I can look at those same "skeptics" who are making technical arguments that I can't know are wrong, and see that many of them make laughably bad (and wrong) arguments in non-technical discussions, and think about how the probabilities related to their tendency towards making fallacious arguments might inform my take on their technical arguments about climate change. I can also think of the probabilities associated with the prevalence of experts who agree/disagree with their arguments, respectively. But I can't say that I know for sure that their arguments are wrong. Now of course, I don't go from not being able to know for sure that their arguments are wrong to spending my time stating with certainty that their arguments are right...but I am opening the door for an alternative interpretation about what's going on than your interpretation related to their morality.

      Again, I'll refer to people who I know who are, say, anti-vaxers or anti-GMOers, who I think are very moral people, but who follow very well-established patterns that research shows in how people are influenced by ideology and identification in how they evaluate evidence. These problems get exacerbated by polarization - and the element of how difficult it is for people to engage in risk assessment over very long time horizons and the potential for w/r/t low probability high impact damages that necessarily rely on dealing with fairly abstract and complex concepts. I think that these are human characteristics, and not clearly, and certainly not exclusively, a product of morality.

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    4. Sou -

      In response to your 1:59....my 2:15 and my previous comments were written with a pretty good understanding of the association between ideology and views on climate change. If you think that my perspective is somehow a function of not knowing about that association, then you are wrong about that. (That isn't to say that there isn't some other area of ignorance that explains my perspective. :-) )

      In fact, that was part of my point. Views on climate change tell us more about who someone is than what s/he knows about climate change; but I don't believe that in telling us about someone, it tells us about their morality (or even values).

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    5. I'm not saying you didn't understand what you wrote, Joshua. Just that my old brain wasn't clear on what you were getting at in the other thread :)

      It's very clear that people who deliberately tell lies about climate, knowing they are lies, are committing an immoral act. That's not up for dispute. Organisations that are set up to put out disinformation are clearly in that category. The people they hire may or may not be hired because they know the information they are putting out is pure hogwash, or because they are "useful idiots". Knowing disinformers are hired for their immoral or amoral traits. "Useful idiots" are hired because they are useful (and probably can demonstrate some sincerity, which the former have to fake.) Anyway, the knowing deniers are the people and organisations that I label "disinformers".

      Now whether a particular denier is a disinformer or a willing dupe or a crank is not always evident. On an individual level that's important. For the population as a whole, not so much.

      I think what you're getting at is that you are concerned that the approach at HW might alienate some "good" people who deny science through ignorance or whatever. There are plenty of other places they can go to get information. And if they do get information and continue to deny it, then they are no better than any other denier. They end up becoming one of the "wilfully ignorant" at best.

      The purpose of this blog is to ridicule the silliness of denialism, to replace it with science, to say the sort of things that many climate scientists would like to say in public but are too professional to say out loud, and to stick up for climate science and climate scientists against all the defamation hurled at them from the climate blogosphere and elsewhere.

      If that means offending the sensibilities of a nice, moral, good denier then I don't particularly care. Perhaps a shock to their system will cause some of them to rethink their values as well as their science. For the rest - they can be offended. HW isn't about being nice to people, no matter how I'd treat them in private. (Yes, a few very good people I know are self-confessed deniers. And I'm nice to them in private. That's just one part of who they are.).

      The short version is - HW is not about to change.

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    6. PS If anyone mistakenly thinks I've ever suggested that all science deniers are evil people who lack morals, they are woefully wrong. My views on this topic should be clear in the above article, just as in my responses to comments from Vic and Joshua in the other thread.

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    7. The only reason why someone would repeat denier canards or disbelieve the IPCC reports for the last decade or more is because they deliberately do not wish to or they are under 10 years old.

      There is no difference denial that and molesting a child under the age of five in so far as there is "justification" by "not knowing it was wrong".

      There is no grey area. There is no possible method by which there could be justification for the actions and beliefs of either abhorrent personality.

      Only genuine mental disability or youth-based innocence can get over the knowledge that either stance is untenable and unsupportable.

      Whether they are a saint or a sinner elsewhere in their life or outlook IS IRRELEVANT. Orthogonal to the fact that they have no viable reason for their denial of reality for an adult other than malice.

      So stop whining if you're being treated mean because you're not going to accept the facts that you don't want to accept.

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  15. Sou -

    ==> "I think what you're getting at is that you are concerned that the approach at HW might alienate some "good" people who deny science through ignorance or whatever. "

    No. That's a misreading. Understandable - as I've seen that quite a few times before. I don't think that your rhetoric is going to have much of an effect on anyone - in the sense of changing their perspective in any meaningful way. "Realists" will agree. "Skeptics" will disagree. And folks who aren't strongly identified one way or the other will continue pretty much along the same path of apathy or confusion or ambiguity. I do think, however, that it might have an opportunity cost effect (for a very, very tiny segment of the public) in that the technical arguments that you make might hit home a bit more strongly if it were absent the "morality" aspect.

    ==> "If that means offending the sensibilities of a nice, moral, good denier then I don't particularly care."

    Also a misreading - if you think that's what I was suggesting.

    ==> "The short version is - HW is not about to change."

    I wasn't expecting that it would, nor even saying that I think that it should...and I don't think that in the end it makes much of any difference anyway. I was only telling you how I see things differently than you.

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    1. Okay, now I'm back to square one, and I don't know what you're arguing, Joshua.

      Is it just that you don't want me to allude to the fact that deliberately rejecting climate science in order to prevent any mitigating action raises issues of morality?

      Why on earth not?

      Values, morals and ethics are fundamental to policy decisions in society in general - in health, education, law and order, taxation, etc. Not just climate science.

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    2. Because he doesn't want to feel uncomfortable around people who deny reality. And maybe (likely, even) because he wants to feel justified in not accepting reality himself.

      Mass murderers, psychopaths, suicide bombers and the insane also deny reality.

      Yet somehow he doesn't mind people being uncomfortable around such people who also deny some aspects of reality, yet may be perfectly sane and even nice people apart from that small "moral blind spot".

      Why? Because he doesnt want to accept that when you blind yourself to reality in one area, there's no rational reason to reject reality elsewhere.

      See the US shock jock gunporning about killing or the torture and death of those "pushing the scam of AGW". Do not think for a minute that they wouldn't watch avidly pr even join in if they thought they could get away with it. All the while pretending that those "A-rabs" were some subhuman fanatic out to kill everyone who doesn't follow their false religion, and that they have nothing in common because they have brown skin and live outside the USA.

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  16. Pau Krugman AUGUST 14, 2015

    "...That’s something that happens to me all the time. I constantly get mail — and sometimes other peoples’ columns — condemning me, not for being wrong, but for being dismissive of the arguments of those I criticize. After all, these are important people, so they deserve to be treated with respect. Right?

    Wrong.

    If people consistently make logically incoherent, ignorant arguments, the duty of a commentator is to say just that — not to mislead readers by pretending that they’re actually serious and making sense. You shouldn’t make gratuitous insults — I have never, to my knowledge, declared that someone’s mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries. But stupid/ignorant is as stupid/ignorant does, and influence changes nothing."

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/r-e-s-p-e-c-t/?&assetType=opinion

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  17. Spreading disinformation for a living is done regularly by corporations and nations:

    "After I wrote about online astroturfing in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them.

    "Like the other members of the team, he posed as a disinterested member of the public. Or, to be more accurate, as a crowd of disinterested members of the public: he used 70 personas, both to avoid detection and to create the impression there was widespread support for his pro-corporate arguments."

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/feb/23/need-to-protect-internet-from-astroturfing

    The volunteers are psychologically profiled in Eric Hoffer's book "The true believer" ( http://www.amazon.com/True-Believer-Thoughts-Movements-Perennial-ebook/dp/B003TO5838/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1439916494&sr=1-1&keywords=true+believer ).

    However, on a deeper level, these deniers are tribalists who consider themselves to be fighting the enemy tribe, which they generally call "Liberals." Our tribalism is hardwired, but not who we regard as part of our tribe. The American Dream was to include everyone (except blacks) as part of our tribe, and it has been successful to a degree. But the GOP is based on the older form of tribalism--hence its being far more ethnically homogeneous (89% non-Hispanic white).

    Plus we're also hardwired to follow our leaders, because for hundreds of thousands of years our leaders' fortunes were coupled to ours. Now they aren't--the Koch brothers are untouchable, for example. Which frees them to mislead us, while we continue to dutifully follow them.

    ReplyDelete

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