Science Deniers Again Try To Discredit John Cook And Skeptical Science

conspiracy_theoryScience deniers never cease to amaze me with the tactics they use to discredit research and people. So they cannot win the debate on the science as it’s not on their side. This causes al kinds of interesting mental processes and conspiratorial thinking to deal with this disconnect from reality. Research by Smith and Leiserowitz shows that conspiratorial thinking is the number one response from climate science deniers towards global warming.

This is also why you see the assumption among science deniers that people have at best “questionable motives” or at worst “nefarious intent.” Which largely explains the defamation you see on science denier blogs and websites. It doesn’t take much for science deniers to jump from assuming nefarious intent to assigning nefarious intent and screeching “fraud” and “fakery” (see ‘climategate‘ for the perfect example).

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Science Denial Always Involves A Component Of Conspiratorial Thought

Stephan Lewandowsky

Stephan Lewandowsky

Attacks on scientists and their research are very common in the public debate surrounding global warming. The attacks don’t need to make any sense nor is there a need for merit to the raised criticisms. For climate science deniers it’s more about maintaining their ideological mental armour so they can keep their world view in tact.

In this arena two papers by Stephan Lewandowsky stand out by the sheer tenacity and vitriolic nature of the attacks. The paper NASA Faked the Moon Landing − Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science was, and still is, relentlessly attacked for the inconvenient results it contains.

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Watts Up With 97 Hours Of Consensus

The so-called sceptics like Anthony Watts often have some very interesting predictions and speculations about global warming and climate change. Especially the predictions they make when dealing with their opponents can get very strange. The latest example of this was when Anthony Watts noticed a new widget on the Skeptical Science website.

Not much information was present what this widget was about. It had some sort of outline in it and a countdown, but what it was counting down to wasn’t obvious at the time. When you clicked on the widget it directed you to a page full of silhouettes.

widget crowd

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Watts Up With Nitrogen Science Denial

Anthony WattsThose that are familiar with the website Watts Up With That know that some very strange content has shown up on it. A lot of it focusses on trying to discredit valid research on climate change and global warming, but in general it is also very dismissive about environmental concerns. Basically anything that can be used to cast doubt will get published, no matter how wrong or far-fetched it is.

This time Watts went after nitrogen pollution, something that is a real concern and can have serious consequences. Fertilizers contain nitrogen as it is a nutrient plants need to grow properly. But this isn’t the same nitrogen as we breathe, plants can’t absorb nitrogen gas. That’s why the nitrogen in fertilizers often is part of a compound, most commonly as NH3 or NO3. This what distinguishes nitrogen in fertilizers from the nitrogen in the air (which has the chemical formula of N2).

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Climate Science Is Based On Evidence, But Science Denial Is Based On Faith

Webcomic xkcd - Wikipedian protester

Wikipedian Protester” by XKCD

Anyone who wants to debate a science denier often needs a thick skin, especially concerning topics like global warming. They often hurl words like leftist, socialist, communist, fascist, sheeple, useful idiot, and worse at you. Though why a political ideology is used as an insult still is something that I don’t understand. At most you’ll get a slightly annoyed roll of the eyes from me when you label me as something that I’m not.

But the one that truly puzzles me is when I’m accused of having a religious like faith in science. Science isn’t a religion, certainly not when you accept the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW). To me it’s climate science denial that looks more like a faith position.

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Prince Charles And The Headless Chicken Brigade

Prince CharlesNormally I’m not the type to defend Prince Charles thanks to him having some questionable views on science. For example his staunch support of homoeopathy as a viable medical treatment. Telling anyone that homoeopathy works is extremely dangerous and he’s been justly criticised for lobbying for it.

However, I have no trouble commending someone when they do get it right. One example being his recent statements about climate science deniers:

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This Is Why You Shouldn’t Use Alexa

alexa logoThat Alexa isn’t good at giving reliable statistics is well known in IT. Any website like Alexa that tries to estimate traffic to a website in a similar way via indirect measurements will encounter the same issues it has. Those that work in IT often know what those issues are and know what the consequences are for the data that’s gathered via those methods.

The main issue that Alexa has is that it gathers the data it uses via users that installed the Alexa toolbar (or a toolbar that passes information to Alexa). This has as a result that demographic, used browsers, and even the country visitors are from influence the statistics that Alexa gathers about a website. This can introduce serious artefacts and biases into the collected data and basically makes Alexa data worthless. At best it can give you an idea about how well a website is doing, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re seeing matches reality. I’ve already written a far more detailed blog post about how Alexa works and why you never should rely on the data it provides; it’s just too unreliable.

The blog post that I wrote about Alexa were all sparked by Anthony Watts using Alexa data to claim he’s doing better than his competition. His website is certainly big and it could very well be the case that he is outperforming his competitors. But Alexa is not the tool that you can use for determining if you are doing better than your competitor.

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Anthony Watts: “When You Resort To Name Calling, You’ve Lost The Argument”

Anthony WattsIt’s not often that I fully agree with something that Anthony Watts says, but sometimes it does happen. This time it’s about how you approach those that you are critical about.

One of the things people notice about me is that I focus on the arguments that someone presents and not the person; also known as playing the ball not the man. Of course I’m not perfect but I do make an effort to stay civil in what I write and I expect the same from visitors on my website who leave a comment.

Experience has taught me that not being civil almost always derails any rational exchanges. It can easily result in polarizing both sides more, and can have real negative consequences for readers of your website accepting valid science. When communicating science language matters more than you think.

That’s why I fully agree with Watts saying “when you resort to name calling, you’ve lost the argument” (archived here):

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Watts Up With Global Warming And Atomic Bombs

sks-widgetAnyone familiar with Watts Up With That will have noticed that anything published on it that mentions Skeptical Science often displays a rather obvious dislike for Skeptical Science. Both for the Skeptical Science website and the people who are involved with it.

It shows with the language used and all the attacks on the materials created or used by Skeptical Science. Often it doesn’t really matter if it’s valid criticism as long as it in some way critiques or undermines what was released. Especially when it’s something that is easy to understand and helps with communicating the science behind global warming. Which showed with the attacks towards the Cook et al. paper that measured the scientific consensus on global warming in the scientific literature.

This time Watts isn’t happy because of a widget Skeptical Science released that puts into context how much heat our planet is absorbing:

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Responding To Criticism

I’ve always liked getting comments with feedback, criticism, or that give interesting commentary. It has helped me learn new things, hone my position, and helps me correct statements. It also acts as a great source for inspiration for new blog posts.

As long as you abide by some simple rules everyone is welcome to engage me on YouTube and my blog. It’s the reason why my comment sections are filled with critical comments and my responses and/or corrections to those comments. I especially appreciate feedback that points out a statement that isn’t correct, because they help me weed out incorrect positions and prevents me from inadvertently spreading incorrect information.

Which brings me to the criticism I received from Brandon Shollenberger (archived here) on my blog post ‘The 97% Climate Science Consensus Reality‘. Like I said I don’t mind criticism, but I can have an issue with how you give criticism. I already had an issue with how he engaged me because of how he started the blog post with his criticism (bolding mine):

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