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Consistency is irrelevant to denialism

I follow the Skeptical Science blog and I took special interest to today’s post by John Cook about a debate featuring Ian Plimer and Christopher Monckton versus Barry Brooks and Graham Readfern. I’ve only heard Monckton speak before and he has shown himself to be mostly full of schlock conspiracy theories, smoothly twisting (or fabricating) facts to make his climate change denialist points.

However, aside from the debate summary, what I found interesting was one of the statements in Cook’s conclusion, which fits the denial-o-sphere so exceptionally well. Cook was explaining that, though Plimer and Monckton were both deniers, they reached their conclusions through contradictory points, one basing his conclusion (basically) on the idea that our climate is sensitive and the other basing his conclusion on the idea that it’s not sensitive. Both speakers got applause from the deniers in the audience when presenting their contradictory arguments.

Cook says:

In a sense, their combined approach perfectly encapsulates the way skeptic arguments are used to mislead. Layering argument upon argument, regardless of whether they display any internal consistency, isn’t about furthering scientific understanding but proving the preconceived notion that humans can’t be causing global warming. Two skeptic arguments can contradict each other, even on the same debating stage, so long as the common enemy of man-made global warming is refuted

Replace the topic of “global warming” with the topic of “evolution” and his conclusion is just as valid. To the deniers, consistency… or scientific evidence… or reality… isn’t important. What is important to them is to mislead… to twist the argument any way they can… to repeatedly bring up claims, regardless of whether the claims have long since been refuted… to use emotional or political arguments that have nothing to do with the science… to distort, cherry pick, and fabricate evidence in whatever way possible in their attempts to inject unwarranted doubt into the issue.

Why? Because they so want reality to conform to their pre-conceived political, ideological, or religious notions that they’re willing to use virtually any means at their disposal to keep their fortresses of self-delusion from tumbling down. I’ve seen that in action. I’ve heard deniers admit as much. What makes it worse is that they vigorously spread their misinformation, drag others down with them, and hobble any notion of having an intellectually honest discourse.

…because honesty… like consistency… like truth… is irrelevant to them.


  1. Klem says:

    NASA and the NOAA are not Beleivers anymore. They are denialists. AGW is dead.

    Read here: http://nasa-satellites.blogspot.com/

    1. Dan says:

      From that article:

      “Susan Soloman, the valued climate scientist who led the research, says that this finding doesn’t destabilize man-made global warming theories.”


      She’s also quoted as saying, “What I’ll say is that this shows there are climate scientists around the world who are trying very hard to understand and to explain to people openly and honestly what has happened in the last decade.”

      That’s a good thing.

      See also: http://bit.ly/axf0pV

      “The new findings ‘are a nice demonstration of the sensitivity of the climate to water vapor concentrations in the lower stratosphere,’ says Andrew Gettelman, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also in Boulder.”

      Scientists understand that one report does not invalidate thousands of others, especially in this case. It provides them with more information to investigate and research and, potentially, a puzzle to solve, but that’s what science is all about.

      Water vapor has been a known factor in climate research, so this is nothing new. This report gives them more information to help figure out the bigger picture with more accuracy.

      Neither organization disputes AGW.

  2. […] not a requirement for them. To the deniers, consistency… or scientific evidence… or reality… isn’t important. What is important to them is to mislead… to twist the argument any way they can… to repeatedly […]

  3. Kate says:

    My favourite is when inconsistent arguments come from the same individual. S Fred Singer is the best at this. Within the space of three years, he said that global warming is an artifact of the urban heat island effect, the world is cooling, and global warming is natural and unstoppable. Hmmm….

    I’m a big fan of your work, Dan….I’ve referenced your article “If Only Gay Sex Caused Global Warming” multiple times on my blog as well as in writing assignments for school. I’m glad to see that you’re blogging.

    1. Dan says:

      Thanks for your comments, Kate. I’m also constantly amazed at the inconsistencies used by those who deny science in order to push their own ideology, whether it be religious or political. It’s most disturbing when it has a direct effect on our government and our rights as individuals.

      Though I’d love to take credit for the work of Daniel Gilbert, the Harvard professor of psychology, I have to admit that he’s a different “Daniel Gilbert.” I’m not “Dan Gilbert” artist who invented triazzle, either. I’m a much more lowly and much less well-known Dan Gilbert who is simply a software engineer. 🙂

      …though I’m really flattered that you mistook me for the Harvard one!

      1. Brian D says:

        Part of that confusion would be mine – I linked here on Kate’s blog (well worth checking out, btw) and also had confused you with the other Dan Gilbert, possibly due to similar viewpoints on pseudoscientific thinking and cognitive bias expressed in earlier work. I’d only recently stumbled across Rationality Now and, perhaps irrationally, lept to an incorrect conclusion. Mea culpa.

        (In my defense, though, the Authors page is focused exclusively on belief/nonbelief stances and thus doesn’t discuss any other biographical details, leaving room for such leaps.)

        Relating to the article, though, I occasionally see multiple viewpoints expressed in the same response. There was a discussion, which I sadly can’t find right now, on Greenfyre’s (another excellent climate/denialism blog; you might be interested in this example) where one inactivist commenter included “we’re not warming”, “we are warming but it isn’t us” and “it is us so stopping it would hurt the economy” in the same reply.

        This type of dissonance happens very frequently with people who trumpet every “new study that disproves [consensus X]” story. If you know of or follow a denialist blog or news clearinghouse, regardless of your denial focus, keep a log of positions promoted by different people. I give you no fewer than four such stories before at least one contradicts at least one of the others.

        1. Dan says:

          No problem, Brian. Nice to have you visiting. 🙂

          I did check out Kate’s blog and added it to my Google Reader. I like what I saw!

          The discussions I see from the denialists never cease to amaze me. The contradictions are laughable, of course, but the ones that get me the most are the ones who claim to be very scientific, yet spout the same discredited bunk that’s been going around since the “debate” began. Then they try to make an issue out of things (like the recent US cold snap) that really don’t dispute global warming at all… unless you have a very thin grasp (at best) of the entire issue.

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