Denier Denier Denier …

It wasn’t that long ago that Nature Climate Science published a paper using the word “denier” to describe those in denial of global warming. Anthony Watts was all up in arms about it, with not one, not two, but three posts expressing outrage.

In the latest, Robert G. Brown claimed that “On WUWT most of the skeptics do not “deny” AGW” (“AGW” referring to Anthropogenic Global Warming). Yet just one day earlier, Watts himself posted an essay about “analysis” by Cheefio Smith claiming that GHCN (global historical climate network) data is “not fit for purpose.” Smith’s theme is

“What if “the story” of Global Warming were in fact, just that? A story?”

That sure sounds like denial of AGW. In fact, it is denial of AGW. Right there on Anthony Watts’ blog.

Watts quotes Smith’s claim that

“Simple changes of composition of the GHCN data set between Version 1 and Version 3 can account for the observed “Global Warming”; and the assertion that those biases in the adjustments are valid, or are adequately removed via the various codes are just that: Assertions …”

And of course Watts regurgitates Smith’s conclusion:

“Looking at the GHCN data set as it stands today, I’d hold it “not fit for purpose” even just for forecasting crop planting weather. I certainly would notplay “Bet The Economy” on it. I also would not bet my reputation and my career on the infallibility of a handful of Global Warming researchers whose income depends on finding global warming; and on a similar handful of computer programmers who’s code has not been benchmarked nor subjected to a validation suite.”

That too is denial of AGW. And it was posted on WUWT by Anthony Watts himself.

Remember Cheefio Smith? He’s the one who did the “analysis” on which Anthony Watts and Joe D’Aleo based their accusations that climate scientists committed fraud, manipulating temperature data. When I analyzed the data myself I showed that they were wrong — and about a half-dozen other bloggers did exactly the same thing. Watts’ only “defense” was that he hadn’t done the analysis! He only made the accusations. The result: Watts and D’Aleo changed their accusatory document, but as for the apology they owe, we’re still waiting.

That sordid little episode was also denial of AGW. In a document authored by Anthony Watts.

Watts might want to seriously reconsider relying on Cheefio Smith, since Smith’s latest has also been shown wrong.

You want more? The most outspoken politician on the subject of global warming is U.S. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. He’s the one who calls it a “hoax.” In a recent article Inhofe was asked whether he’s taken note of the warming in his own home state:

I ask Inhofe if he’s noticed any climate changes in his home state, such as last summer’s unprecedented heat and severe drought, withering crops, wild fires and dramatically expanded tornado season. “There’s not been any warming,” he snaps. “And there’s actually been a little bit of cooling. It’s all documented. Look at the Dust Bowl. Back then it was a lot hotter. Matter of fact, now they say the hottest time was actually during that time—1934, I guess.”

That’s denial. Plain and simple. Fortunately, the author of the article had the sense not to take Inhofe’s word for it:

Actually, last summer’s average temperature of 86.9° was the highest ever recorded in Oklahoma.

In what may be the most comic case, when asked about his call for investigations of climate scientists (a move I can only call “McCarthyism”) Inhofe had this to say

“I’m not the guy that called for investigations, I don’t think,” Inhofe says. He quickly glances at his communications director, Matt Dempsey. “Did I ever call for investigations?”

The interviewer was puzzled by that, because

I study Inhofe’s face for a clue as to whether he’s joking—he brags about the episode in his book. It’s clear that he is not.

As for this little bit of denial, that dog won’t hunt.

Dempsey nods at his boss. “Okay,” Inhofe says. “Maybe right after Climate Gate, I said they need to be investigated.”

A real skeptic withholds belief and disbelief until persuaded by evidence. When asked what might possibly change his mind, Inhofe gave no answer at all:

The room is nearly empty when I ask Inhofe, finally, if he could imagine the possibility, however remote, that science could provide any amount or type of evidence that could convince him that human-caused climate change could be real. The senator darts an impatient look at his watch, and his handlers rise. It’s clear that the interview is coming to an end. “When people like you ask that question,” Inhofe says, “I can tell you believe it.”

Fake skeptics have several stages of denial. Stage 1: “It’s not happening.” Despite Robert G. Brown’s claim, that stage is still actively pursued, on WUWT and in the U.S. Senate. Brown wants us to believe it’s the exception, that it’s rare — but the truth is, it happens all the time. Like the day before Robert G. Brown’s last protest against use of the word “denier.” On WUWT.

Stage 2: It’s not due to human activity, it’s just natural. All such attempts have been refuted by evidence, but it’s still an immensely popular stage since it would take the “A” out of “AGW.” When fake skeptics do admit the “A” it’s to exploit Stage 3: It’s not that bad. That’s where Robert G. Brown is. Eventually even that claim will no longer be tenable, at which point the focus will shift to Stage 4: There’s nothing we can do about it without ruining the economy. That’s part and parcel of the scare tactic that suggests “Doing anything will knock us back to the stone age.” The truth is, we want to prevent global warming as much as possible so that we can avoid being knocked back to the stone age.

I tend to prefer the term “fake skeptic.” It’s accurate, and it addresses the dishonesty of such people calling themselves skeptics. They’ll attach themselves to ridiculous (i.e., worthy of ridicule) ideas, and as long as those ideas include doubt about global warming they’ll forego anything even close to skepticism, choosing the utmost gullibility instead. But if you prefer the term “denier,” use it. It doesn’t refer to the holocaust — that’s just Anthony Watts’ excuse for outrage — it refers to being in denial. Of the obvious.

To the fake skeptics I say: there’s a simple way to get us to stop using the word “denier.” Stop being deniers.

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82 responses to “Denier Denier Denier …

  1. You should have add: Global warming violate the law of thermodynamics. Me and a couple of guys completely humiliate who claimed that idea.

  2. arch stanton

    The BEST Watts denial of AGW was his about face with Dr Richard Muller.

    • John Brookes

      And the funny thing about that is that many on WTFUWT warned Anthony not to trust Muller – and they were right.

  3. About 2009, when I had begun to get a good idea of the solidity of the climate science and the scale of the oil-funded and enabled counter-offensive, I wrote in the comments section of a WUWT post that I was confused by how the articles and comments were all over the place on the “stages of denial”. Often, as you all know, sometimes a single piece of Denialist comment or blog will be internally incoherent, drawing on mutually contradicting elements that share the common element that Al Gore is wrong.
    I was kindly informed the contributors to the site had many different perspectives and opinions and that such a vibrant and large community as the Denialsphere would of course be a diverse realm (like WOW).
    Over the years it has become apparent that the Denialsphere exists, not because of any validity of any of the stages of Denialism, but rather what is so hatefully expressed by the e-mails Michael Jones has received over the years (you can see them over on Skeptical Science)- John Bircher-level paranoia about the New World Order.
    Which isn’t on the four stages of Denial, but which is the actual subtext of all four stages.

  4. This is not a dispute about evolution or even whether cigarettes cause cancer. This is about human caused global warming – and how we might survive it.

    We could compare the denier dispute to arguing about whether a drunk driver is sober enough to drive, or whether the Titannic should proceed full speed ahead, or whether Ahab should be allowed to command a ship.

    Watts is guilty of fostering a thanotoxic psychopathology movement that is very dangerous to our civilization.

    • Susan Anderson

      hot phrase if you don’t mind the polysyllabic: “thanotoxic psychopathology”. It is getting harder and harder to bear these anti-life promoters. I sometimes admit that they might think they believe they know what they are talking about, but in fact they don’t. How can any human being today promote the death of our civilization?

  5. Oh yeah buddy, let’s kick that wasps’ nest. Fake skeptic is good. I have been using denialist, but I can change.

    Oh, and yeah, Watts is a denier, no question of it.

  6. Wow — take a look at the comments at

    I used to think that WUWT minions were about two cans short of a six-pack. Well, I was wrong. It’s more like four.

    • Elevator doesn’t go to the top floor.

      Lights are on but nobody’s home.

      One taco shy of a combination plate.

      Blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other.

  7. The same four stages of denial were traversed for acid rain and for stratospheric ozone depletion.
    Exxon’s Rex Tillerson is at the “not so bad” stage.

    • Keep in mind the Heisenbergian quantuum nature of the stages of denial- a fake skeptic may assume any of the four stages with complete disregard for any prior position taken. Being free of any of the constraints of classical logic, Denialists can hop from “it isn’t us, look at the MWP” to ” it isn’t warming” to “it’s too hard to fix” within the same sentence. The position a Denialist will take can be guessed at by a probability function which can be calculated as the one that moves as far from the solid evidence you are discussing with him or her at that time.

  8. There’s also Stage 5: We could have done something about it if those damn scientists had done a better job of making their case, but it’s too late now.

  9. Alex the Seal

    I find it telling that the same people who pooh-pooh “political correctness” are trying to convince us that the word denier is politically incorrect.

  10. The fourth stage is by far the most dishonest to me, as folks like Jim Manzi claim to be able to compare the cost of burning ghg-emitting fuels at a rate slow enough to mitigate warming until they eventually run out to the cost of exhausting them in a couple centuries. However, to the extent that their analyses are valid, they only extend 50-100 years, ignoring the incalculable cost of incredible CO2 levels that will persist for a millennium and the benefit of a future where we can have petroleum products without synthesizing them from scratch.

  11. Isn’t it more accurate to see these people as mentally ill as suggested by a break from reality. I know a person who has been clinically diagnosed mentally ill, evidence of Mental illness is a break from reality, for example this person believed that he could drive a car between the headlights of an oncoming car, he explicitly stated this. Thus people who think data is not real, which is merrily an abstraction of reality, an abstract version of the oncoming car if you will, are just displaying evidence of mental illness.

    • Bernard J.

      The alternative is that they are insufficiently intelligent to understand the reality.

      As an example, a deer might try to dodge between a pair of headlights in an effort to escape – it might seem a reasonable thing to do, if one doesn’t have the sufficiency of intellectual development that leads to higher-order understanding.

      Either way – mentally ill or unintelligent – the effect of sustained, collective low-power thinking is enough to nudge the asteroid of global warming smack-bang on to centre-stage Earth. The result is not going to be pretty.

    • Actually, I do not think that what we are witnessing is aberrant human psychology. However, it may appear aberrant in part because denialists (and I still prefer this term–they are in denial) have many motivations for being in denial.

      Certainly, there are professional denialists, funded by fossil fuel interests–they’ll deny the sky is blue if you pay them sufficiently.

      There are contrarians–mostly folks who secretly think they are smarter than everyone else…especially those pointy-headed scientists. Ironically, this is where you get a lot of the physicists and engineers who are denialists.

      There are libertarians who oppose the idea because they fear it would require a big-gummint solution (which, in addition to being a classic Argument from Consequences Fallacy, seems to me to indicate that they secretly suspect that their entire political philosophy is BS).

      Political conservatives pile on because they value social cohesion even above truth and it is what their peers believe.

      I’ve also noticed that for the most part, denialism is the province of “manly men”. They get to accuse all those wimpy scientists of being alarmist and get to pretend to be the voice of manly reason.

      Frankly, though, I think one of the biggest contingents of denialists are simply those who deny the evidence because they don’t see a solution and are terrified of the consequences.

      And so on. All of this is normal (if annoying) human psychology. The people aren’t necessarily unintelligent. They are merely using their intelligence to avoid understanding rather than pursuing it. The problem is that climate change is precisely the type of problem at which the human brain sucks. And that brain will jump at the opportunity provided by a fake skeptic to dismiss the problem as “a hoax”.

      • Ray, I agree with your point about other motivations. My own reference to low intelligence rather than mental illness was with respect to the general bulk of the rusted-on mainstay audience at WWWT, who are the cannon fodder for those with the more diverse motivations that you list.

        Of course, ideological blinkeredness (amongst those other options) can be an element in this general audience, but then one could always argue that intelligence (or perhaps even a pathology of thinking…) also operate.

        The sad bottom line is that denialism has so many ways with which to recruit the masses required to stymie rational discourse, that the whole process of actually doing something constructive – and that is based on scientific rationailty – is more difficult than wading through honey.

      • Ray,
        great summary, however you overlooked a significant grouping, the Evangelicals.

      • Flakmeister,
        I overlooked the Evangelicals precisely because I have not run across that many who deny climate science for reasons of religious belief. Most denialists who are conservative xtians seem to deny more because of the “conservative” modifier than because of the xtian label. At least this has been my experience.

      • While there are many facets of the Baroque facade that is Denialism is it not fair to say at the base root of the facade is the paranoid delusion that all relevant bodies of authority are in collusion, a classic symptom of Schizophrenia.

      • Criminogenic,
        Is that how you would explain opposition by prominent scientists such as Freeman Dyson? I don’t think it fits. I think at bottom the common factor is an unwillingness to do the math–be it because one is incapable or because one is afraid of what one will find on the other side of the equal sign.

      • Sadly, this is _not_ aberrant behavior. It’s worth re-reading Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, 1964 (, where he gives examples going back centuries.

        Feelings of dispossession (nobody listens to us), apocalyptic terms (“Catastrophic” AGW, imposition of one-world government), the self-image of a renegade fighting total evil, a perception of “total war” – “Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish”, the view of the “enemy” as “a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman – sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving”.

        And oh, the pedantry:

        “One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality it invariably shows. It produces heroic strivings for evidence to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed.”

        Seems to be an apt description of denialist views to me. Certainly there are those who (as in the past with the tobacco industry) push views they may or may not hold for $$$, but many who flock to the ‘skeptic’ side exhibit (IMO) just this spectra of political paranoia.

      • Snark, it is mathematically impossible for consistant figures to be produced by multiple Authorities without collusion if there is no reality to MMGW. Inherrant to dispute of MMGW is collusion and I think this is the ‘event horizon’ of a break from reality and thus it can be proven that denialists are paranoid delusional.

        My observations of the breaks from reality caused by Mental illness is that they range from the most blatant to quite subtle and nuanced. That Dyson should be exhibiting a symptom serves only as warning that even the most accomplished mind can be set adrift when beset by stressfull scenario.

      • Criminogenic, Except that Dyson does not allege collusion or conspiracy, merely groupthink and confirmation bias. He is in the camp that claims that climate is too complicated to be understood, and therefore the evidence is merely fortuitous agreement. I believe he also falls into the trap of argument from consequences–that it’s OK for him to be wrong as there is sure to be a technological fix (e.g. carbon-gobbling trees) that saves our tuckuses. Many physicists, like Dyson, are technological cornucopians.

      • Aren’t ‘group think’ and ‘confirmation bias’ a gentlemanly way of saying collusion?

      • Bernard J.

        I’m a little reluctant to go too far into the ætiology of denialism, but it might be useful to frame the causes of climate denialism in the context of another example which is more prevalent, and whose root basis is less well-appreciated by ‘the masses’. I’m speaking about the myth of perpetual economic growth, and especially where that growth correlates with the use of energy and other resource inputs.

        There are many, many people who are welded to the concept, including the overwhelming majority of the world’s politicians, and indeed most national economies are predicated on models based on the notion. Most of these folk are neither mentally ill nor unintelligent, although it must be said that many might not have an understanding of the basic laws of physics that limit growth. And of those people who do have some familiarity with such laws of physics, most would subscribe to the technological cornucopianism that Ray mentioned.

        So there are at least two separate phenomena operating here. Basic ignorance is one, and the human propensity to recoil from distasteful things is another. On top of that is the weight of influence of false memes, aided and abbetted by the human desires for social conformity (including of thinking) and for ‘more stuff’ – one must match those ever-present Jones…

        Some of my more reductionist ecological colleagues would mischievously argue that all of these different ætiologies, above and in previous posts, essentially boil down to illness and/or insufficient intelligence in an evolutionary fitness context, but I like to think that the somewhat random influence of our strong cultural overlays mitigate against such a harsh assessment.

        The question is whether we can, as a species, overcome the weight of the magical thinking that plagues us, in so many intellectual circles. Frustratingly, it might be only time that will tell.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        “The main point is religious rather than scientific,” he [Freeman Dyson] writes, yet never acknowledges that this proposition cuts both ways, never seems to recognize the extent to which his own arguments proceed from faith. Environmentalism worships the wisdom of Nature. Dysonism worships the indomitable ingenuity of Man.

        In taking the measure of the universe, Dyson fails only in his appraisal of the small, spherical piece of the cosmos under his feet. Or so it seems to me. For whatever reason, he is emotionally incapable of seeing the true colors of the rampant ingenuity of our species and calculating where our cleverness, as opposed to our wisdom, is taking us.

        Kenneth Brower (The Danger of Cosmic Genius)

      • criminogenic, No, groupthink and confirmation bias are actual hazards in any scientific enterprise. The “discovery” of N rays in France is an amazing example. (Google it.) We want what we are working on to be true and important. A null result isn’t much fun. The thing is that science has structures that guard against such phenomena. It is an intensely competitive field, and you do not get to the top of it by “going along”. For groupthink and confirmation bias to completely take over a field would require that the entire field be working together. All that is required is for Dyson or other scientists to keep blinders on wrt the culture of the field.

        Bernard, the amazing thing to me is that a scientist of Dyson’s caliber could be suckered into believing in unlimited growth. It requires that he remain utterly ignorant of so many key pieces of technology and science that I’m left simply scratching my head. I guess that is how “vision” becomes hallucination–you stop doing all the math.

      • “I think that the core is very, very simple: if you choose not to look, you don’t see.”

        –Should have gone here–I think. That’s the trouble with these extended subthreads.

      • Ray, the N-ray case is interesting but I don’t see much more than ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ and dodgy tools as cause rather than a discrete psychological phenommena at play, ironically I see the ‘field of Psychology’ seeking scientific repute via phantom nomenclature, but I digress.
        “For groupthink and confirmation bias to completely take over a field would require that the entire field be working together” which essentially is what Dyson claims thus in a backhanded way he accuses collusion.

  12. Most of WUWT readership is in whatever “stage” that is currently being argued in the topic that is up at the moment. It is simply a “rah rah” fest where people can get their self-esteem boosted by posting any crazy ideas they have in their head, and have equally crazy people serving as cheerleaders in the background.

    The entire basis for how WUWT operates is to generate high-quantity, low-quality “stories” in a rapid onslaught of disinformation.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s climategate, CO2 comes from the oceans, cosmic rays, low sensitivity, no greenhouse effect, Venus is hot because of pressure, warming is natural, there is no warming, we can’t measure warming, etc…WUWT will find a place for it, and most commenters will declare victory that the CAGW alarmism has been destroyed… at least until two days later when the idea is forgotten about and there is a new “paradigm shift” by someone else.

  13. Quite a few on the skeptic side embrace the term “denier”, including Judith Curry and Pat Michaels. (There are others too, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head). Odd that AW gets so exercised over the term.

    [Response: Odd that Curry Michaels would embrace a term which (correctly) indicates their denial of reality. Or perhaps not.]

  14. I think Watts has such an extreme reaction to the term “denier” simply because he’s in denial about his denial. He thinks that he’s a real skeptic – or at least desperately wants to believe that’s the case. And the natural reaction when being confronted with one’s denial is to vehemently deny that the denial exists. A denial double-down. Otherwise we have to confront the issue we’re in denial about and, well, that’s hard (or we wouldn’t be in denial about it begin with).

    I’d also note that many fake skeptics bounce between the various stages of denial listed above. One day they’ll argue it’s not happening, the next day they’ll admit it’s happening but claim that all solutions will cripple the economy, the next day they’ll say it’s happening but it’s just Mother Nature, and so forth. Watts is a perfect example of this behavior.

  15. Rob Honeycutt

    You might check out the doozy Watts has just posted on his site. It reads like a Twilight Zone episode…

    • I saw this, but it really didn’t make sense. Someone has done some analysis that showed the warming ended in 1997? So can you hold your breath until this one is shot down in flames? It might not be that hard.

      • And of course this bajillionth post that boils down, at best, to “1998 was pretty hot” comes right after a couple of posts accusing folks of cherry picking data.

  16. Denier, Denier, Denier, …
    Thrice denying.
    Seems familiar somehow….

  17. 1. It’s not happening.
    2. It’s not us.
    3. It’s not bad.
    4. It’s too hard.
    5. It’s too late.

    If the deniers succeed in hindering us for long enough, that last eventuality might actually come true, and it will be scant comfort that their names will be a hissing and a curse in the mouths of their own children.

    Nevertheless, as was said about another war a long time ago, ‘It is not necessary to hope, in order to persevere.’


    • But the real position is the one unsaid-
      It’s all an enviro-Marxist hoax foisted on us for world domination.
      They have to say all the other stuff because even they realize their true position sounds….er…nuts.

  18. Kevin MacDonald

    The modern warming regime ended in 1997. Yeah, Watts, regardless of how much he insists otherwise, is a denier.

    Those of us who don’t think grief counsellors are implying the bereaved are no better than nazi sympathisers might think Watts’ ire at the word a little odd, but it’s really not; he needs this to be an ideological battle, that’s how he explains so much of the science being against him.

  19. On October 22nd, 2011 Watts posted on his blog:


    That was his response to the BEST reconstruction. Watts must know something about the Pope we do not.

  20. cRR Kampen

    Given the crazy connotation Watts gives to ‘denial’, I prefer to keep the word ‘skeptic’ clean, even the word ‘contrarian’ I will give a rest – so I settled on ‘climate revisionist’.

  21. VeryTallGuy

    Deniers often take faux offence and retreat into victimhood by assuming they’re being compared to holocaust deniers (which IMHO would be offensive if it were true).

    I always, however, assumed that denial referred to the Kubler-Ross grief cycle, often also used to describe the human response to change in personal or business dealings.

    In this context climate change denial fits the description perfectly.

    To refer as above that this is a mental illness I think is entirely wrong. It is rather a quite normal response to a change which threatens the individual’s value system.

    To begin to understand the mindset it might be worth asking which values are threatened. For many it seems to me to be individual liberty and freedom of choice which they perceive to be threatened and this prompts the denial of the issue.

    For others, it seems more personal. Curry, for instance, appears to enjoy the praise and attention, notoriety even, that comes with her promotion of denial, gaining her a limelight that her scientific work appears not to bring on its merits. She’s very careful not to explicitly support the manifestly wrong views she gives a platform to, of course, just enough of a nod and a wink to bring her denialist supporters along.

    The bottom line of all of this is that rather than see deniers as an opposing tribe with malice intent, they should be seen as a perfectly normal people with a normal response to their environment. If it’s desirable to influence them, then the approach should take this into account.

    That’s enough of my pop psychology. I’m sure there are many serious psychological studies of climate change and other denial out there. Can anyone with real expertise in this area comment?

    • VTG: Deniers often take faux offence and retreat into victimhood by assuming they’re being compared to holocaust deniers (which IMHO would be offensive if it were true).

      BPL: Gee, I hate to point this out, but the effect of the AGW Deniers will be orders of magnitude more deaths than in the Holocaust. So as to comparing them to Holocaust Deniers–I have no problem with that.

      [Response: I have a problem with it. We'll agree to disagree.]

      • VeryTallGuy

        “comparing them to Holocaust Deniers–I have no problem with that”
        There are two fundamental problems with this.
        1) The situations are utterly different, there is a chasm between them. The moral differences are obvious; if you genuinely can’t see that then you’re more blind to facts than those you are critical of.
        2) It’s a terrible tactic, any onlooker will immediately pidgeonhole you as an extremist and sympathise with your target.

        Tamino – feel free to censor as I’m sure you don’t want the thread to descend into Nazi comparisons…

        [Response: That's right I don't. So I announce to all, that the subject is closed.]

      • Gavin's Pussycat

        Tamino it’s your blog, but if you’re not prepared to discuss all of an issue, it would be more honest to stay out of the issue altogether.

        [Response: On the "issue" of equating global warming deniers with holocaust deniers, I'm on record saying that I don't think it's appropriate. I don't believe discussing that issue here would be productive. Nor do I think this stance is dishonest.]

      • Gavin's Pussycat


        [Response: The subject is closed.]

  22. If they don’t like denialist/denier, how about ignorant food tube? I could go with that, but hey, I’m all about compromise.

  23. I don’t think deniers are stupid or mentally ill. (And to make a connection with mental illness does a disservice to people who suffer from a mental illness). That’s a mistake which was made with creationists, who are often intelligent and rational despite their beliefs. The same applies to deniers.
    The problem is that intelligence and rationality aren’t enough to ensure a reality-compliant worldview. We’re all subject to cognitive bias, and intelligence are reasoning skills can be a handicap because they make us more able to rationalise away inconvenient facts.
    The thing which makes science work is not that scientists are unbiased (although rigorous application of the scientific method helps a bit). Rather it works because science has evolved social structures which prevent the cognitive biases of an individual scientist from causing too much damage. This is realised through the scientific institutions, the funding bodies, the journals, peer-review and consensus – the sociology of science.
    Consensus is the most telling. Most of us think are accustomed to think of ourselves as smarter than the people around us, and so we are very ready to find fault in one-another’s work. The evidence has to be pretty compelling before a significant proportion of us agree on something.

    • Philippe Chantreau

      Creationists are intelligent and rational only to the point where the core conditioning becomes threatened. A lot of that has to do with the wording and technical approach of the scriptures, which was appropriate 18 centuries ago, when people’s understanding of the natural word was much more crude, but no longer is now. Unfortunately, that is what is fed to children and they build a very strong conditioning on that basis. I read, in 7th Day Adventist Church publications, how geologists had to live their lives every day in cognitive dissonance because of the incompatibility between their work, and all the knowledge on which it relies, and their core conditioning acquired as children. Unfortunately, the conditioning is so strong that they seem to be unable to separate the true spiritual component from the somewhat technical description attached to it that they were taught early on. Paradoxically, this may be a trait more specific to smart children, who will catch on to the internal logic and the details of the initial conditioning.

      Climate deniers are rational only to the extent where some core belief becomes thereatened. As the threat isrealised, their rationl thinking abilities are entirely devoted to the defense of the belief.

  24. Making a career and forging a reputation based on denying facts – that’s shows real something or the other. Then objecting to being labelled what you decided to become. We are odd animals, we humans. (Scientology has been in the news a bit too. It’s fading fast as well, or so I’ve read.)

  25. Global warming is like a tiger. The GHCN data set is like a few hairs on the tail of the tiger, One can use those hairs to track the tiger, but they do not tell you about the essence of the tiger. A few hairs on the tail of a tiger does not tell you that tigers eat people.

    If you want to know about the essence of global warming, look that the loss of Arctic Sea ice and the accumulation of heat in Earth’s oceans. When you look at the correct data set, there is no mistaking the fact that if global warming were a tiger, it would be a “man eater”,

    Anybody that thinks that they understand global warming by looking at only GHCN data is like the fellow tracking a tiger on foot through the elephant grass.

  26. For me, the solution is simple: I just call them ‘AGW deniers’. They deny that mankind is responsible for the recent rapid warming. There you go, problem solved. No possible confusion with Holocaust deniers.

    • But, but, but, … as EVERYBODY knows, the d-word is reservered for a Holocaust d-word and by calling someone an “AGW d-word” you associate him/her with the former. And if you don’t make that association yourself they will happily and eagerly make it for you themselves. There is nothing better to distract from a lack of scientific basis for your position than to don the aura of victimhood. So, Repent!, you bully you.

      Their common tactic: Make an outrageous, unbased claim (here: denying has lost its original meaning and only pertains to the Holocaust and we have other synonyms you could use (no, we don’t)) and demand of you a rocksolid proof that they are wrong. Claim victory.

    • Interesting survey, Hank. Not surprisingly, the biggest difference seems to be in the results split by party affiliation. Otherwise, the confidence in us being able to indefinitely sustain an unsustainable lifestyle seems to be trending downwards from about 70% in 1987 to 50% now, for most of the categorisations. Which is sort of encouraging.

      Though, it would be better if the percent who thought the limits to growth were unlimited were closer to 10 – 20%. Then we might actually have the collective balls to do something about our current situation rather than just wallow in it, waiting for catastrophe to come.

  27. My problem with fake skeptics is that they maintain that AGW cannot possibly have any serious consequences. If they wouldn’t, they’d have to move into the realm of risk management, and their role would effectively come to an end. And so they delay, and delay, and delay, praying that the great cooling begins soon.

    • well, they have a fallback position: we will adapt — and the earth system will adapt as well since it adapted to prior changes.

  28. Shameless but relevant plug: a six-part discussion with Robert G. Brown entitled “Skeptics are not Deniers: A Conversation” begins this coming Monday at

  29. For persons like Anthony Watts, Dr. Roy Spencer, Dr. Lindzen, and the Pielkes, I prefer the term manufacturers of doubt. If you ever confront them about how the data conclusively shows warming, the argument becomes “well, it’s not warming as fast as the models say” or “there’s no proof humans are causing all or some of it” or “who’s to say the current climate is the best one” or “it was just as warm or warming during the medieval warm period.” These types of response indicate even among the deniers, there is a growing cognizance that the earth is, in fact, warming, and human activity is very likely a cause of that warming. This is why I think manufacturers of doubt is a more appropriate term. The goal of the pseudoskeptical denialist movement is to cast doubt in any way, shape, or form. The comments and opinions offered by Watts and his ilk are often contradictory. You might hear something like “yes, it’s warming, but man isn’t the only cause” only to have this followed up by “we don’t even know it’s warming because of the concrete tarmacs and Hansen edits.”

    They also have this irrational belief that UHI only developed in the mid 1990s, and that all old records are flawless. This is patently absurd. Today’s temperature sensing capabilities are far better than they were 50+ years ago with ASOS and strict siting requirements. I had to roll my eyes last year when BWI set a record high and Watts was complaining that it wasn’t representative because records have only been taken at BWI since 1950. Well, the reality is before that they were taken in downtown Baltimore on the rooftop of the Commons building. Watts claims rooftops add ten degrees to temperature, and we know downtown readings are much warmer especially at night. In fact, the ASOS at the Science Center along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is routinely some 3 to 5 degrees warmer than BWI. This would actually be more representative of the old temperature records. But even though BWI is cooler than downtown Baltimore, in recent years, it’s been beating heat records left and right.

    • “Manufacturers of Doubt” is a nice label. But let’s be clear, this is a dangerous situation, and these guys are adding risk. (and they are likely paid or fostered by carbon fuel interests [Spencer and Lindzen have paper trails]) Their behavior is like handing keys to a drunk driver, like inviting children to play in traffic, like growing mosquitoes in the land of malaria, they are asking us to overload the boat. In any other situation or nation, this kind of dangerous speech would be correctly labeled crazy, dangerous lunacy. I call it treasonous to our civilization. I am bothered that we respect them enough to listen to them at all.

  30. IMO, this is the correct context from which the “d-tag” is taken:

    Perhaps it’s worth noting that you (arguably) can find examples of the other defence mechanisms chez Watts and such places.

  31. Horatio Algeranon

    Perhaps “paranoid wattsofrenic” would be more acceptable?

  32. I believe that in most instances debating with “fake skeptics” we are wasting our time when arguing evidence. As described by John Marshall Roberts “Igniting Inspiration”, and Johnathan Haidt, reasoned arguments are justifications for decisions or beliefs made on other bases (science is such a powerful tool in human history precisely because it is a practice that allows us to transcend this limitation). Perhaps Watts and his crew are a different type, but I doubt it- it’s just mob tactics aimed at denigrating science they dislike, cloaked in scientific-sounding but generally non-sensical jargon.
    Their real beliefs are somehow this- human progress is premised on cheap fossil fuel exploitation. Leaving this fuel source will end human happiness. Climate science therefore must be a hoax perpetuated to end human happiness by Marxists, or the need to end human happiness is worse than living in a hotter world.
    I appreciate that comparisons to the Holocaust or Aum Shinrikyo are needlessly inflammatory and to be avoided. That said, I don’t think they bother fake skeptics too much (or the uninformed). What really undoes any progress you may make with them are any posts by people who write of the need for a smaller human population. I know that Deus ex Machina naive optimism in human technology solving alot of the problem, allowing us a high standard of living while using only renewable energy is very debatable, but this is, I think, the approach which will address the actual concerns of the undecided and the fake skeptics.

    • I think Timothy Hanes is heading in the right direction. I would suggest that readers take a look at Chris Mooney’s book, The Republican Brain. In it, he explores the psychological differences between different political types. This is very much in the league of the teachings of Jonathan Haidt and the recent book by Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

      A summary of Mooney’s thesis, as it applies to climate change denial, can be found here.

  33. Tamino, the allegation that the term itself is tainted and those who use it do so with that deliberately in mind deserves some direct discussion IMO but at your request, not here.

    I think the gloves-off fight for the future of our planet can legitimately include some gratuitous name calling – for those who hold positions of public trust who oppose actions intended to prevent tens of millions of predictable and preventable excess deaths, who do so knowing that the science behind such predictions is valid and strong, and do so for monetary, political or other gain, I think there are some more deserving, appropriate and stinging labels.

  34. Horatio Algeranon

    “The Skeptical Denierer”

    –by Horatio Algeranon

    The Skeptical Denierer
    The obverse of Inquirer
    Is not a Truth desirer
    But Randiayn admirer.