How do I feel when “climate skeptics” dominate the search results for “skeptic”? Well, I hate that. Climate change “skeptics” aren’t skeptical in the scientific sense. They are scientific denialists because they deny the evidence and they deny the process of science, focusing on their ideology. It’s not the evidence that is keeping them from accepting the consensus about global warming, it is their strongly held belief.
I found this article in Science Daily today. The researchers use the everyday version of the word “sceptic” to mean doubt (for whatever reason). [Sticking with their English version of sceptic with a ‘c’]
Climate sceptics are being given a more prominent, and sometimes uncontested, voice in UK and US newspapers in contrast to other countries around the world, new research suggests.
In the US, 34 per cent of all climate change stories appearing in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal during this time had a sceptical voice. Of the 511 climate change articles appearing in the Guardian/Observer and the Daily/Sunday Telegraph during this time, 19 per cent contained a sceptical voice.
This was surprising considering the strong association of climate scepticism with the political right, especially in the US, and previous studies showing that right-wing newspapers were more inclined to question climate science.
The researchers also chose to look at the type of climate sceptics that were being quoted in these stories. The types of sceptics who question whether global temperatures are warming at all appear almost exclusively in the UK and US newspapers. These two countries also give a very strong presence to the type of sceptic who challenges the need for robust action against climate change.
In this case, it’s not scientific skepticism, it’s not doubt for the best reason. And, it’s not the kind of skepticism practiced by the critical thinking community.
This past weekend, I gave a talk at the PA Atheist/Humanist convention about skepticism.
While not all Skeptics [capital ‘S’ with a ‘k’] are atheists, most lean that way. Far more atheists lack understanding of the application of scientific skepticism. So, I thought it was important to talk about effective Skepticism. The talk was well-received. Some people commented that they didn’t ever think about the real difference between skeptic and atheist before (one applies a method, one has reached a conclusion). I’m going to share part of my talk here:
Being a Skeptic is ALL about a method of evaluating claims. Practicing Skepticism. It’s not really about a conclusion at all. In fact, you can probably legitimately call us wishy-washy about stuff and I’m prone to say “I don’t know”. It’s not a weakness to be indecisive when you don’t have sufficient information to fairly decide.
You really can boil scientific skepticism down to a core. It’s all about the way you evaluate claims. It’s a scientific approach, a respect for scientific consensus, a strict adherence to natural laws… Practicing scientific skepticism will get you to the most reliable answer to your questions.
The word ‘skeptic’ is WAY overused and misused. You know, it has that common connotation of being “on the fence or withholding judgement” which is fine but people say that too often. And paranormal people like to say they were “once a skeptic”. Or Skeptic (capital S) is used to mean closed-minded cynic. I get thrown back at me OFTEN when people don’t like what I questioned. Well, these are connotations that are misappropriated.
Organized skepticism is part of the professional scientific community, always has been (though science as a profession is not that old), and it requires critical review of ideas.
Skepticism is not a rejection of ideas. It’s a critical review. If the idea fails critical review, it’s not accepted. I’d posit that climate change “sceptics” are only assessing the science as far as it will support their position. But the science overwhelmingly shows us climate change, from several different angles.
I’d really love for the non-scientific “sceptic” (meaning denialist) idea to crap out. But it is what it is. We have to do what we can to counteract that.
See last question here: Helping the Truth Get its Shoes On.