“Deniers”, “sceptics,” or perhaps “climate creationists”?

This week’s New Scientist has a special section on denial, asking the question: From climate change to vaccines, evolution to flu, denialists are on the march.

This week’s New Scientist magazine carries a special section on denial, asking the question:

From climate change to vaccines, evolution to flu, denialists are on the march. Why are so many people refusing to accept what the evidence is telling them?”

The magazine’s debate couldn’t have come at a more apt time as one of the world’s most prominent climate deniers, Richard Lindzen, this week told an audience at America’s Exxon-funded, Conservative think tank, the Heartland Institute:

“One suggestion I’d make is that we stop accepting the term ‘sceptic’. As far as I can tell, scepticism involves doubts about a plausible proposition. I think current global warming alarm does not represent a plausible proposition.”

Like Lindzen, George Monbiot has previously taken issue with the use of the phrase ‘climate sceptic’ but for completely different reasons:

“I use the term deniers not because I am seeking to make a link with the Holocaust, but because I can’t think what else to call them. They describe themselves as sceptics, but this is plainly wrong, as they will believe any old rubbish that suits their cause…

“The Oxford English Dictionary defines a sceptic as: ‘A seeker after truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions.’ This is the opposite of what people like Booker, Bellamy and Tomlinson are. They have their definite conclusion and will defend it against all comers, however many inconvenient truths might stand in the way.

Well, writing in New Scientist, Michael Shermer, a Professor at Claremont University in California, and author of ‘Why do people believe weird things?’ helpfully identifies what he sees the differences are between deniers and sceptics:

“A climate sceptic… examines specific claims one by one, carefully considers the evidence for each, and is willing to follow the facts wherever they lead. A climate denier has a position staked out in advance, and sorts through the data employing ‘confirmation bias’ – the tendency to look for and find confirmatory evidence for pre-existing beliefs and ignore or dismiss the rest.”

He continues:

“Denial is typically driven by ideology or religious belief, where the belief takes precedence over evidence.”

The Guardian’s respected science editor, James Randerson, thinks we should refer to the deniers instead as “climate creationists” because of the similarities with those who dispute evolution theory:

“They operate in very similar ways. They have a fixed position and ignore evidence that does not fit their case. And they cherry-pick shreds of data that do appear to back them up.

“They play up the ‘it’s just a theory’ debate just like the creationists and they paint themselves as valiant scientific mavericks who are supposedly ignored and vilified by the establishment. Worst of all they have been pushing their own version of ‘teach the controversy’.”

But even President Obama now talks about climate “denial”:

“Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences too serious.”

If it works for Mr Obama, it works for Left Foot Forward – and we’d like to point you to this helpful guide to rebutting the popular myths of the deniers.

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15 Responses to ““Deniers”, “sceptics,” or perhaps “climate creationists”?”

  1. Ipso Facto

    RT @leftfootfwd: “Deniers”, “sceptics,” or perhaps “climate creationists”? http://bit.ly/a4tKUj

  2. Mark Wallace

    LMAO @leftfootfwd rationalist post against climate sceptics – illustrated by THE GLOBE ON FIRE!!! http://bit.ly/91XvPf

  3. Katy Wright

    RT @leftfootfwd: “Deniers”, “sceptics,” or perhaps “climate creationists”? http://bit.ly/a4tKUj

  4. Mark

    People’s views on climate politics aside, it is slightly foolish to illustrate an article that purports to be the voice of sense and reasonable thought with an image of the whole planet in flames…

  5. Roland M-Horne

    RT @leftfootfwd “Deniers”,“sceptics,” or perhaps “climate creationists”? http://bit.ly/a4tKUj >the deniers agenda & stength is now weak Joss

  6. Ash

    There’s also an article on denialism, by Keith Kahn-Harris, in the latest New Humanist (May June 2010) if anyone’s interested. It’s available online here:

    http://newhumanist.org.uk/2305/unreasonable-doubt

  7. Oxford Kevin

    @Ash

    Clive Hamilton in his book “Requiem of a Species” talks about why we are resistant to accepting climate change. You can read a review of the book here: http://hot-topic.co.nz/requiem-for-a-species/

    There is also an edited excerpt in the Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/apr/16/requiem-for-a-species-clive-hamilton

  8. Tom Sheppard

    I'm Reading: “Deniers”, “sceptics,” or perhaps “climate creationists”?: This week’s New Scientist magazine carries… http://bit.ly/bqmXjp

  9. Diane Bast

    You realize, of course, that Exxon-Mobil has not funded The Heartland Institute since 2006; that it had nothing to do with any of the FOUR International Conferences on Climate Change sponsored by Heartland; and that no corporation of any type gives more than 5 percent of the organization’s $7 million budget?

    Of course you know that. But the facts don’t matter, do they? Just as in the climate change debate itself for you, facts get in the way of your ideology. Must be painful to watch the great global warming delusion come crashing down around you.

  10. tomtiddler

    remember when anyone who didn’t think we should be in the ERM was a Xenophobe? when not wanting to join the Euro labelled you a ‘little englander’? when being sceptical about the claims we are entering a mass worldwide extinction of all planetary life due to CO2 meant you were no better than a holocaust denier?

    just another fad, it reached its high point at Copenhagen. some rational debate about the effects of CO2 and temperatures could be useful now. your bizarre planet on fire picture and George Monbiot’s book ‘how to stop the planet burning’ are just extremes on the loony fringe of what should be a grown up conversation.

  11. Roger D

    @leftftfwrd “and we’d like to point you to this helpful guide to rebutting the popular myths of the deniers.”

    From the guide, a number of dubious assertions. E.g. [Sceptic Myth]#22 “Arctic icemelt is a natural cycle” [Guide answer:] Arctic sea ice has been retreating over the past 30 years. The rate of retreat is accelerating and in fact is exceeding most models’ forecasts.”

    The facts (May 2010):
    “Arctic sea ice extent averaged 14.69 million square kilometers (5.67 square miles) for the month of April, just 310,000 square kilometers (120,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average. The rate of ice extent decline for the month was also close to average, at 41,000 kilometers (16,000 square miles) per day. As a result, April 2010 fell well within one standard deviation of the mean for the month, and posted the highest April extent since 2001.” (http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/)

    Whatever the cause (e.g., recent wind patterns), I don’t think you quite get this impression from the statements about accelerating decrease. If you read the other “rebuttals” many of them overstate significantly what is known, or degrees of certainty (e.g., about sensitivity).

  12. Andrew Saffrey

    RT @leftfootfwd: “Deniers”, “sceptics,” or perhaps “climate creationists”? http://bit.ly/a4tKUj

  13. Lord Pont

    very warm today isn’t it?

  14. Frank Bee

    It is very unfortunate, but if you are brought up with religious teaching, and I am talking from experience, you are taught to believe things that are impossible or do not make any sense or contradict scientific and logical reasoning, experimentation and data. Scientists do not claim to be always right, but they present the best possible evidence based on fact.
    When I used to question religious teachings, I was told I just had to believe it because it was a miracle and had been given by God.
    I think that this is the main cause of people being prepared to disregard all fact and reason and stick with the ideas that they happen to prefer.

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