Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 | ISSN 1556-5696

eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

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SKEPTICALITY: Interviews with Daniel Loxton and Ann Druyan

This week on Skepticality, Derek talks with Daniel Loxton about his new book Ankylosaur Attack!, as well as the award for his previous book, Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be. As an additional bonus, Derek spends some time with writer, producer, and science advocate, Ann Druyan about her past work promoting science, and her recently announced work on the sequel to the highly popular television miniseries, Cosmos starring Neil deGrasse Tyson (coming in 2013).

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Two-page spread from Ankylosaur Attack!, by Daniel Loxton. Text and illustrations © 2011 Daniel Loxton

Two-page spread from Ankylosaur Attack!, by Daniel Loxton. Check out Universe Today before September 30th for a chance to win 1 of 5 copies of the book. Click image for gallery.


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The Better Angels of Our Nature (book cover)

NEW ON SKEPTICBLOG.ORG
A review of Steven Pinker’s
new book (on shelves Oct. 2011)

IN THIS WEEK’S SKEPTICBLOG POST, Michael Shermer reviews The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker (October 2011, Viking. 771 pages. ISBN 978-0-670-02295-3). This review was originally published in the Autumn issue of The American Scholar as “Getting Better All the Time.”

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Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition, painting by Cristiano Banti (1857). This is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright.

About this week’s feature article

In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald R. Prothero reviews James L. Powell’s book, The Inquisition of Climate Science, a masterful compilation of nearly all the evidence for the reality of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). The book skillfully articulates the consensus of climate scientists around the world and answers, point-by-point, the ridiculous attempts by AGW deniers to cloud and distort the evidence.

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Denialist Demagogues and
the Threat to Science

by Donald R. Prothero

Shortly after Texas Governor Rick Perry announced his candidacy for President of the United States, he made additional news by not only topping the field of GOP Presidential candidates in denying climate change, but upping the ante by claiming it was all made up by a conspiracy of greedy scientists. The same position has been articulated by all the GOP candidates except Jon Huntsman. That one of these people could very well win the presidency in 2012 should worry us with not only their ignorance of science, but the even more alarming tactic of using ad hominem and “shoot the messenger” tactics to try to discredit the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists around the world.

That consensus is well represented in James Powell’s new book, The Inquisition of Climate Science, a masterful compilation of nearly all the evidence, not only for the reality of anthropogenic global warming, but especially answering point-by-point the ridiculous attempts by climate deniers to cloud and distort the issues by raising one bogus charge after another. As many people have noted, the global warming deniers use many of the same tactics that creationists use to attack evolutionary science. These tactics include quote-mining statements out of context (the entire “climategate” email kerfuffle, which Powell shows was nothing more than careless use of language); and cherry-picking data and repeating discredited statements even though they’ve been debunked (such as the false meme about “it’s been cooling since 1998,” perpetuated by right-wing media again and again). There are many other similarities between the tactics of evolution-deniers and climate change-deniers, many of which are documented in Powell’s book in great detail.

As Powell points out, the idea that climate scientists are a global left-wing conspiracy to get rich and enforce a liberal agenda is laughable on the face of it. In my own career, I have come to know hundreds of natural scientists (geologists, biologists, chemists, and physicists in many subspecialties), and if there’s one thing they almost all share, it’s a lack of interest in politics and economics, let alone a unified socialist-communist agenda. Many got into science specifically because they weren’t interested in economics and politics, and had a gift or love for doing science instead. What they are committed to is a sincere love of the truth, and a willingness to make sacrifices of their time, money, and even comfort and personal safety to find out what is really true about nature, no matter whose agenda it might support. Only rarely do most of us think about possible political or economic implications of our research. Typically scientists try to downplay those aspects because they don’t want to attract attention or controversy! If you doubt this, just look at all the negative comments that scientists heaped on Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould because they were willing to be public figures and occasionally step into the political spotlight!

As Powell argues persuasively, the very idea that a scientific community, which is built upon the foundation of peer review and challenging accepted ideas and always double-checking each other’s work (especially if you disagree), would be able to put together a giant conspiracy about the data and cover it up—and that normally conservative organizations, from the insurance companies and big corporations such as General Electric and the U.S. military (all of whom have acknowledged the reality of global warming and are planning their futures around the projections of climate scientists) would all be in on the conspiracy—is ridiculous in the extreme. This shows a complete lack of understanding of science and how the scientific community really works.

Order Merchants of Doubt from Amazon

This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, because global warming denialism is entirely a PR campaign and a right-wing/energy company conspiracy, not a legitimate movement that arose from dissenting climate scientists. As Oreskes and Conway documented from memos leaked to the press and published in their book Merchants of Doubt, in April 1998 the right-wing Marshall Institute, SEPP (Fred Seitz’s lobby that aids tobacco companies and polluters), and ExxonMobil, met in secret at the American Petroleum Institute’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. There they planned a $20 million campaign to get “respected scientists” to cast doubt on climate change, get major PR effort going, and lobby Congress that global warming wasn’t real and was not a threat. Then there was the famously cynical 2002 memo from GOP pollster and spinmeister Frank Luntz to the Bush White House:

The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science… Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.

Powell also documents that the climate science community is not “leftist” or “pursuing a socialist agenda.” In my own career, I have known both conservative and liberal scientists (but no outright communists or socialists), despite the claim that we’re all left-wingers. Some of the leading figures in climate research, such as Kerry Emanuel at MIT, are staunch Republicans. Again, global warming cannot be a left-wing ideology if it is accepted and acted upon by such major conservative organizations as insurance companies, major corporations, and the U.S. military. There are scientists who do have strong political opinions, but as scientists we try our best to prevent our political biases from influencing our scientific results. We’re human, of course, so occasionally research with a political agenda does get published—but then the rest of the scientific community will jump in and criticize it, so we don’t get away with our biases for very long. Finally, the idea that scientists do this to get rich is the most absurd charge of all. Most scientists must endure a grueling 5–7 years in graduate school on miserably small stipends to earn their Ph.D. Then we must live on paltry teachers’ salaries or even more tenuous “soft-money” grant funds to eke out a living. Most of the scientists in faculty posts don’t make six-figure incomes until they are near retirement, if ever. Meanwhile, people who spend much less time in grad school, such as lawyers and MBAs and politicians, make the really big bucks.

As Powell puts it (p. 189):

Scientists…show no evidence of being more interested in politics or ideology than the average American. Does it make sense to believe that tens of thousands of scientists would be so deeply and secretly committed to bringing down capitalism and the American way of life that they would spend years beyond their undergraduate degrees working to receive master’s and PhD degrees, then go to work in a government laboratory or university, plying the deep oceans, forbidding deserts, icy poles, and torrid jungles, all for far less money than they could have made in industry, all the while biding their time like a Russian sleeper agent in an old spy novel? Scientists tend to be independent and resist authority. That is why you are apt to find them in the laboratory or in the field, as far as possible from the prying eyes of a supervisor. Anyone who believes he could organize thousands of scientists into a conspiracy has never attended a single faculty meeting.

Powell’s main point is that the current right-wing attack on climate science is very similar to how the Inquisition threatened Galileo because he spoke truth to power. Ironically, Rick Perry even managed to further emphasize his ignorance of science when in a recent debate that he said1 he admired Galileo and how he “was outvoted for a while.” Bad analogy, Rick! If Perry actually knew any science, he would realize that Galileo was championing an unpopular scientific idea (heliocentric solar system) that was “outvoted” by the conservative power of that time, the Catholic Church and the Inquisition. Eventually, scientific truth won out, not the political delusions of the conservatives.

As Powell documents, the right-wing fringe has gone to extreme lengths in their hostile attitude toward legitimate science. The FBI has reported2 a sharp increase in death threats and hate mail and intimidation against prominent climate scientists such as Michael Mann, James Hansen, and others. Australian climate scientists have also received death threats.3 The transition from conservative climate denialist to a dangerous anti-Semitic hate group is not difficult. One white supremacist website posted Michael Mann’s picture and those of other climate scientists and labeled it “Jew”. (In fact, most climate scientists are not Jewish, but the facts don’t matter to racists and anti-Semites). Another climate scientist told ABC News that he found a dead animal placed on his doorstep, and now he must travel with a bodyguard.4 As Mann said, “Human-caused climate change is a reality. There are clearly some who find that message inconvenient, and unfortunately they appear willing to turn to just about any tactics to try to suppress that message.”

Human-caused climate change is a reality. There are clearly some who find that message inconvenient, and unfortunately they appear willing to turn to just about any tactics to try to suppress that message.

—Michael Mann

Even more frightening are the right-wing politicians and pundits who actually target prominent scientists for intimidation. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is one of the most brazen. He listed the name of 17 prominent climate scientists5 and claimed that they engaged in “potentially criminal behavior” for violating the Federal False Statements Act. This is the classic tactic of McCarthy-style witch hunting, or analogous to how conservative authorities (such as the Inquisition) threatened Galileo with torture when he dared speak scientific truth to power. It has a tremendously chilling effect on science, not to mention what it does to the personal lives of hardworking scientists and their families. Of course, it is an entirely baseless charge, since the truth lies with the scientists, and it is Inhofe who is distorting reality. Nevertheless, an anti-scientific troglodyte like Inhofe is capable of wasting a lot of scientists’ time and money fighting and defending charges in court or in Congress, not to mention the fact that all these scientists could now be targets of gun-toting crazy right-wingers.

Scariest of all is Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. As Powell explains in detail, even before his election in 2008, he was known to be an extreme right-winger, and now he is abusing the powers of his office to push his agenda. He is suing6 to release all the raw data and emails collected by Michael Mann when he worked at the University of Virginia. (Mann is now at Penn State, so Cuccinelli cannot touch him there). Cuccinelli hopes to find some sort of “smoking gun” of conspiracy along the lines of the East Anglia “Climategate” scandal. This is despite the fact (as six independent commissions showed), there was nothing amiss in the emails, and no conspiracy was discovered, just careless and colloquial language quoted out of context. Given the right wing’s scientific incompetence and misinterpretation of the East Anglia data, there’s no reason to think that they will have any better ability to interpret Mann’s data, should they release it. Instead, we can expect that they will find things that fit their preconceptions without any scientific expertise to judge the data in the first place. Cuccinelli is trying to claim that Mann committed fraud and should return all the research money he received, along with legal fees and triple damages. Cuccinelli’s actions are part of a right-wing witch-hunt by an extremist politician who is using his relatively obscure position as state attorney general to further his political career. It is consistent with all the other ways he is using his office for political gain and street cred in the right-wing fringe. His crusades have ranged from the silly (trying to cover the naked breast of the crude sketch of the goddess on the Virginia state seal) to the serious. The latter include directing public universities to remove sexual orientation from their anti-discrimination policies, attacking the Environmental Protection Agency, filing a lawsuit challenging federal health care reform, and trying to reverse George Mason University’s policy about concealed weapons on campus. Polls7 show that the voters of Virginia are tired of his antics and want him to work on the job that most state attorney generals are paid to do: prosecuting criminals and corporations on the behalf of the state and enforcing state laws, not tilting at right-wing windmills.

One of the more measured and non-partisan analyses came from Nobel Prize-wining economist Paul Krugman:8

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P.—namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us. I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt. So how has Mr. Romney, the other leading contender for the G.O.P. nomination, responded to Mr. Perry’s challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but “I don’t know that” and “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.” Moral courage! Of course, we know what’s motivating Mr. Romney’s sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs. So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe. And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the G.O.P., extends far beyond the issue of climate change. Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.

Order The Inquisition of Climate Science from Amazon

As a counter to the GOP’s inquisition of climate scientists, let us remember that in the last year or so, UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller re-examined all the temperature data from the NOAA, East Anglia Hadley Climate Research Unit, and the Goddard Institute of Space Science sources. Even though Muller started out as a skeptic of the temperature data, and he was funded by the Koch brothers and other oil company sources, he carefully checked and re-checked the research himself. When the GOP leaders called him to testify before the House Science and Technology Committee last spring, they were expecting him to discredit the temperature data showed real change. Instead, Muller shocked his GOP sponsors by demonstrating his scientific integrity and telling truth to power: the temperature increase was real, and the scientists who had demonstrated climate was changing were right.9

This is the essence of the scientific method at its best. There may be biases in our perceptions, and we may want to find data that fits our preconceptions about the world, but if science is done properly, we get a real answer, often one we did not expect. That’s the true test of when science is giving us a reality check: when it tells us something we do not want to hear, but is inescapable if one follows the scientific method and analyzes the data honestly.

Thomas Henry Huxley said it best over 150 years ago: “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”

About the Author
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DR. DONALD R. PROTHERO is Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He earned M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences from Columbia University in 1982, and a B.A. in geology and biology (highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of California, Riverside. He is currently the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 25 books and over 250 scientific papers, including five leading geology textbooks and three trade books as well as edited symposium volumes and other technical works. He is on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine, and in the past has served as an associate or technical editor for Geology, Paleobiology and Journal of Paleontology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, and has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. He has served as the Vice President of the Pacific Section of SEPM (Society of Sedimentary Geology), and five years as the Program Chair for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. In 1991, he received the Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society for the outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40. He has also been featured on several television documentaries, including episodes of Paleoworld (BBC), Prehistoric Monsters Revealed (History Channel), Entelodon and Hyaenodon (National Geographic Channel) and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (BBC). Check out Donald Prothero’s page at Shop Skeptic.


Skeptical perspectives on global warming and climate change…
cover Skeptic magazine 15.4: Climate Skeptics v. Deniers

In this issue: Climate Skeptics: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Dowsing Rod Bomb Detectors; Sex & Astrology; What is Truth?; Stigma of Being an Atheist; Health Hype: Are We Really Living Longer? Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer? Do Environmental Chemicals Destroy Male Fertility? Boosting Your Immune System; Teaching Strategies: Magic in the Classroom; The Grinnell Experiment, and more… Order this single issue or subscribe to Skeptic magazine.

cover Environmental Wars. Skeptic Conference 2006. Part 3
with Dr. Donald Prothero, Dr. Brian Fagan, and Dr. Gregory Benford

In this, part 3 of our 5 part 2006 conference DVD set, Dr. Donald Prothero discusses Catastrophes that Shape the Planet, Dr. Brian Fagan discusses Climate Change & Ancient Societies, and Dr. Gregory Benford discusses Stabilizing the Future Greenhouse Earth. This recording includes a panel discussion and Q & A with these three speakers.
Order part 3 or order the complete conference set.

cover The Weather Makers
by Dr. Tim Flannery

Sometime this century the day will arrive when the human influence on the climate will overwhelm all other natural factors. Over the past decade, the world has seen the most powerful El Niño ever recorded, the most devastating hurricane in 200 years, the hottest European summer on record, and one of the worst storm seasons ever experienced in Florida. With one out of every five living things on this planet committed to extinction by the levels of greenhouse gases that will accumulate in the next few decades, we are reaching a global climatic tipping point… Read more and order the lecture.

cover Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto
by Stewart Brand

According to Stewart Brand, a lifelong environmentalist (and creator of the Whole Earth Catalog) who sees everything in terms of solvable design problems, three profound transformations are under way on Earth right now. Climate change is real and is pushing us toward managing the planet as a whole. Urbanization — half the world’s population now lives in cities, and 80% will by midcentury — is altering humanity’s land impact and wealth. And biotechnology is becoming the world’s dominant engineering tool. In light of these changes, Brand suggests that environmentalists are going to have to reverse some long held opinions and embrace tools that they have traditionally distrusted… READ MORE and order the lecture.

cover Global Warming, Climate Change & the Future
of the Environment

by Dr. William Ruddiman

The impact on climate from 200 years of industrial development is an everyday fact of life. Dr. William Ruddiman, a climate scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the author of the controversial new book, Ploughs, Plagues, and Petroleum, argues that humans have actually been changing the climate for some 8,000 years. Ruddiman takes us through three broad stages of human history: when nature was in control; when humans began to take control, discovering agriculture and affecting climate through carbon dioxide and methane emissions; and, finally, the more recent human impact on climate change… READ MORE and order the lecture.


Annie Jocobsen (photo by Michael Hiller)

Next at Caltech: Annie Jacobsen

Area 51: An Uncensored History of
America’s Top Secret Military Base

Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 2 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech

IT IS THE MOST FAMOUS MILITARY INSTALLATION IN THE WORLD. And it doesn’t officially exist. Located a mere seventy-five miles outside of Las Vegas, the base has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government. Myths and hypotheses about Area 51 have long abounded, thanks to the intense secrecy enveloping it. Some claim it is home to aliens, underground tunnel systems, and nuclear facilities. Others believe that the lunar landing itself was filmed there. The prevalence of these rumors stems from the fact that no credible insider has ever divulged the truth about his time inside the base. Until now…

READ MORE ABOUT THIS LECTURE

Tickets are first come first served at the door. Seating is limited. $8 for Skeptics Society members and the JPL/Caltech community, $10 for nonmembers. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses.

25 Comments »

25 Comments

  1. Craig Hof says:

    Dr. Prothero’s collection of ad homina is hardly a response to the science involved in discussions about climate change.
    We should be allowed to see the data and the code used to forecast climate into the future. Climate forecasts are not defensible as science because they are the product of man’s imagination in the form of a human made climate algorithm. Why won’t Mann et al, just publish the raw data? Making the only true facts available for use by everyone would help a lot.
    In the 1800’s, Joseph Smith translated the gold tablets that he found buried in a mid-western field. No one else was allowed to gaze upon them. Accepting his word is faith not science; ditto Mann, et al.

    • Lisa says:

      Where, exactly, are the ad homina arguments? In case there is need for a refresher in the tactics of pseudoreasoning, an ad hominem is a direct criticism of a person rather than their arguments. All that Dr. Prothero has done is point out some of the rather shocking behavior that has been directed toward climate researchers, and the documented attempts in Powell’s book about the spin that is being applied to climate change science by certain parties. If this is not how those parties want to be portrayed, perhaps they should adjust their actions accordingly, or treat others they way they themselves would like to be treated. The actions of these people do demonstrate a lack of knowledge of the scientific method.

      The appeal to see the data and code for the climate forecasts is weakened by your opinion that the models are products of imagination rather than science. How would the models and data help you understand anything if you are already convinced the models are imaginary? Unless you have a citation of a peer-reviewed study that shows the climate models are products of the imaginations of scientists, your claim has no weight.

    • Dr Sidethink says:

      the plural of hominem is homines.

  2. Ari Armstrong says:

    Calling the skeptics of climate alarmism “climate change deniers” is factually wrong and indeed intellectually dishonest.

    The real debate is between the views of “human-dominated climate change” and “nature-dominated climate change.”

    For my lengthier reply to Prothero, see
    http://blog.ariarmstrong.com/2011/09/warming-prophets-create-climate-of.html

    For my own eSkeptic article, “Religion In Harry Potter,” see
    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/11-07-13/

  3. c. glenn says:

    Sorry, but as a computer professional, I can tell you without the slightest doubt that a computer model proves nothing. Perhaps after my local weather forecaster exceeds 50% accuracy I’ll become less skeptical.

    I’m sure human activity increases CO2 in the atmosphere. There are numerous and not-completely-understood variables that cool or warm our planet. I choose to not assume that man-made CO2 is a significant factor. You can assume whatever you want, and so can the scientific consensus. It’s dishonest to claim there’s irrefutable proof linking manmade CO2 to increased global temperatures.

    • Don says:

      The local weather forecasters considerably exceed 50% accuracy. Probably exceed 90% accuracy up to 5 days out whenyou consider the general weather pattern in an area. So in the same sense, models based on accurate observational data are likely to be generally correct in predictions. Expecting “irrefutable proof” and perfect, specific accuracy of a model is a convenient but intellectually sloppy way to avoid the issue.

  4. John says:

    I generally enjoy reading The Skeptic.

    The review of The Inquisition of Climate Science in this week’s issue, however, shows *absolutely zero skepticism” whatsoever about anthropogenic global warming.

    It accepts all evidence for AGG as fact and anything opposing it as “a PR campaign and a right-wing/energy company conspiracy.” It even quotes noted nutball Paul Krugman as a “measured and non-partisan” analysis.

    Way to be skeptical there, Skeptic!

    • Doug Peterson says:

      Amen. I want more skepticism when it comes to this topic and am disappointed in the magazine in the last couple years.

  5. John Carter says:

    This entire article repeats ad nauseum the nonsense arguments and extreme phobias put forward by committed alarmists to attempt to distort the simple fact that alarmism is failing badly in a world where more and more intelligent people are coming to realise that the sky really is not falling and that Chicken Little has more than a few issues to explain.
    When are you people going to realise that the reason the scare is dying has nothing to do with big oil or any other organised campaign. The simple fact is that more and more people are coming to understand just how weak the CAGW argument really is, how much of the science is really flawed, how many real scientists disagree with the supposed consensus and just how much corruption exists is the underlying financing of the CAGW machine.
    The scare is dying.
    Just accept it.
    You have failed.

  6. John says:

    I keep hearing that the world is running out of oil and that fossil fuels are generally diminishing. So, even if the temperature of the atmosphere rises — soon enough (in geologic time) the problem will solve itself by running out of the cause. Nature deposited the fossil fuels and will once again absorb the by-products.
    In addition, as long as the free market is allowed to operate, someone will create a new and better way to create energy and solve warming. Innovation in free societies has always stepped up to solve problems. Trust freedom.

  7. Jack says:

    It’s interesting how many people dismiss scientific consensus with appeals to common sense arguments. Perhaps a result of widespread science illiteracy, as well as information illiteracy.
    @c glenn: scientific consensus is not based on assumption, and weather forecasting is not the same thing as climate science.
    @Craig Hof. If you saw the raw data how would you interpret it? You think the general public are as qualified to analyze data as someone who has dedicated their career to scientific study? It strikes me as both ignorant and arrogant. And perhaps has some reverse-snob/anti-elitism as it’s motivation.

    • Another point of view says:

      What I was taught is that if someone really knows a subject, they can explain it in a way that anyone can understand. This whole article was a diatribe with political motivation as far as I can see. No reasonable person denies climate change. A true scientist, it seems to me, does not have to even argue about climate change. The reasons for it are arguable. The goodness or badness of it are mostly speculation. The real question is how much different is the change from what would occur under different circumstances and since there is no experiment to really test the results it is not really science.

    • awc says:

      “If you saw the raw data how would you interpret it? You think the general public are as qualified to analyze data as someone who has dedicated their career to scientific study? It strikes me as both ignorant and arrogant. And perhaps has some reverse-snob/anti-elitism as it’s motivation. ”

      The thing about it is yes people think they know enough to examine “relevant” data as they interpret it (disregard the rest) and draw conclussions.

      Its called the Kruger-Dunning effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

  8. Terry M says:

    While many conservatives object to AGW for political reasons, AGW has been promoted by the Al Gores et al for identical political reasons. Both sides are guilty.

    But on the science, I am appalled that Skeptic has accepted and promoted AGW like a religiious dogma rather than closely evaluating the science. With a PhD in Chemistry and 30 years of experience in kinetic and dynamic modeling and experimentation I am certain the climate models are largely bunk. Modelers routinely include those things they understand well, but exclude or diminish those things they do not understand. The direct effect of CO2 is fairly well understood, but all the other contributors to climate are very poorly understood or simply ignored. The recent CERN experiments showing that cosmic rays can initiate droplet formation are a nice example of an effect that is simply ignored by AGW climate models, yet could be decisive. Correlations of ice ages with the sun’s traverse of the galaxy, and the widespread evidence of warming throughout the solar system point to extraterrestial influences as very significant – yet they are simply ignored.

    AGW has truly become a religion and SKEPTIC is part of the flock.

  9. Mr Potarto says:

    I have to agree with Dr Prothero.

    Phil Jones emailing Michael Mann and asking him to delete emails (and Mann agreeing) two days after his institution received a Freedom of Information request asking for his emails was very much, “careless use of language.”

    Phil Jones told climate scientist Warwick Hughes, “Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.” As Dr Prothero says, this is entirely consistent with the, “foundation of peer review and challenging accepted ideas and always double-checking each other’s work.”

    The University of East Anglia’s decision to deny a FOI request for a five-year-old data-set on the grounds that disclosing it would adversely affect their ability to get grants and publish articles is another example of the way climate scientists have a, “willingness to make sacrifices of their time, money, and even comfort and personal safety to find out what is really true about nature, no matter whose agenda it might support.”

    • Keith Battye says:

      To which I would add that being apolitical obviously doesn’t preclude a vicious and opinionated attack on conservative Republicans the right wing.

  10. Jenn says:

    My opinion is that Global Warming is caused by humans IS a hoax, but then I remember when, in the 1970s, the world was going to end by Global Freezing. When the checks stopped . . .

  11. Citizen Deux says:

    Rather than present a balanced approach to understanding the motivations behind the arguments or a detailed analysis of the topic, we have a screed of hyperbolic rhetoric implying lack of concurrence is an intellectual crime. If AGW is correct, then the scientific system will validate it as such. If it is not correct, then a robust system will uncover the true cause. Much of the talk about AGW is centered on ways to change it without clarity on the likelihood of a policy’s success or the long term effects of AGW.

    Skeptical? Of course. This particular article is, indeed, closer to a religious tract than serious reveiw.

  12. awc says:

    Global warming is not unlike evolution we have lots of evidence that it is happening. The exact details of how it is happening are still a theory.

  13. Marcel says:

    Just like to say to all the AGW fans, that you’re all Natural Climate Change Deniers.

    You deny that global climate changes are taking place NATURALLY (this would include influences previously “not” discussed such as uncovered by CERN).

    Your so-called “scientific consensus” will look really embarrassing sometime in the early future. Just like those guys who said Galileo was an idiot….remember they also had “consensus” in their day.

    There. Now we’re all “deniers”.

    The beauty of Science is it’s open mindedness and it’s ability to adapt given new data. True science does not “stick to a belief” just because others do.

  14. Dennis Keller says:

    This is a great article. Science IS under attack in America. Dr. Prohero rightly points this out. Climate Change is especially under attack – NOT on scientific grounds, but on purely political and avarice reasons.

  15. DocCLaw says:

    As I see it, there has been egregious behavior on both sides. It is certainly true that scientists have been threatened in all manner of ways for conducting science on AGW. It is true the skeptics have often politicized the science, and contributed to these witch hunts. It is also true that climate change scientists have prevented open communication, and at least in the eyes of fairly non-biased observers, engaged in a false consensus building that misrepresents the situation. In fact, I would say the scientists are paying the price for this error in the erosion of trust by the public since the EACC e-mails.

    We need to get beyond this, and right now. Climate change is occurring. It is linked to CO2. Some of this change (perhaps as much as 50%, perhaps far less) is the result of human activity. The overall change is modally around 4 degrees based on current scenarios (with a range of 2-6). Adults on both sides of the debate (e.g. Anthony Michaels, Richard Lindzen vs. Mann) accept these premises. The rest is currently up for grabs, and unless we are prepared to embrace the complexity of these issues, then we will have no productive debate about the costs and benefits of specific actions, nor will we understand how to become more certain of what really is going on.

  16. David Howard says:

    Perhaps the author ought to read an earlier article here before getting fundamental data wrong like the Antarctic ice. http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/a-climate-of-belief/

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