Kind Of Like A Lot Of Climate Change Skeptics, Evolution Denialists, And The AntiVax Movement

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 16, 2009 11:02 am

revolutionary

xkcd

Comments (50)

  1. Angela

    Ha! Totally. Despite how much I love google, it’s led to a lot of self-proclaimed experts who argue without a firm understanding of an issue based on following some equally uninformed discussion forum. It’s so frustrating.

  2. bilbo

    Hmm…that comic reminds me very much of a certain evolutionary biologist (and a bitter critic of UA) who attempts to use armchair philosophy to debunk religious belief – even using little “racecar on a train”-type arguments. Thanks, Sheril. That gave me a few good chuckles!

  3. I’ve received many emails from that chap. I may set up a filter that automatically bins any email with the text “After doing a lot of my own research, I have come up with a new theory…”

  4. IGORE

    The attempt to group MAN MADE CLIMATE CHANGE Skeptics in with EVOLUTION Denialist is complete propaganda BS. Weak attempt to cover up the CLIMATE GATE EMAILS .
    TRUTH IS COMING OUT !

  5. Anonymous Coward

    There is a huge gap between what you, Sheril, and Chris, and so many self-appointed science cops say and what the cartoon is saying.

    In truth what you and Chris and so many others say is the complete opposite.

    The climate skeptics for instance are not denying global warming, you just like to dismiss them as deniers, just as you dismiss them because they are statisticians/physicists/chemists and not climate scientists, even though one of the complaints is that the climate scientists don’t know enough statistics.

    Regarding the anti-vax movement, once again you and yours generalize to assume there is one movement, so anyone who opposes any vaccines gets labeled anti-vax. In truth, many people for many different reasons oppose various vaccines. Not because of some autism link, but because of other well founded medical concerns.

    But since you’re a denialist yourself, you’ll never look into what the women doctor in charge of testing gardasil has to say, or what Charlotte Haug, MD, editor-in-chief of the NEJM has to say about gardasil, or what many liberal physicians and scientists have to say about gardasil. Instead, you and yours will just dismiss anyone who is concerned about gardasil as being a right wing religious freak.

    You want to be the person who hands out mugs of stfu? Make sure you place one on your own desk.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Ah, Dr. Morbious said it better:

    Climate change skeptics are fools, meddling idiots. As though their ape’s brain could contain the secrets of the Krell!

  7. The attempt to group MAN MADE CLIMATE CHANGE Skeptics in with EVOLUTION Denialist is complete propaganda BS. Weak attempt to cover up the CLIMATE GATE EMAILS .
    TRUTH IS COMING OUT !

    There’s nothing better than an excessive use of all-caps to reinforce your point that climate skeptics are nothing like evolution denialists.

  8. bilbo

    Add James Randi to the list of denialists

    Yessir, gillt: the opinion of a stage magician is going to uproot a well-established scientific fact.

    Really, gillt? Really?

  9. Anonymous Coward

    There’s little better than ignoring his point to demonstrate how climate alarmists are nothing like the Catholic Church.

  10. bilbo

    The attempt to group MAN MADE CLIMATE CHANGE Skeptics in with EVOLUTION Denialist is complete propaganda BS. Weak attempt to cover up the CLIMATE GATE EMAILS .
    TRUTH IS COMING OUT !

    Tell us, All-caps IGORE: do you accept the major tenets of evolutionary theory as the explanation for the diversity and origin of life on Earth?

    I’ll take silence as a “no.”

  11. Michael

    Hmmm…Mr. Randi a ‘denialist’…gee, the rational people like to use a lot of demeaning labels for those whose opinions differ from their own. Randi is correct in his views on this topic. Smearing people whose disagreement is based on measurable science, rather than a set of invalid criteria and altered data [IPCC], is quite the vogue among the supremely educated and self-proclaimed intellectuals whose very own hubris is the basis of the entire man-made global warming fiasco.

    The latter half of the month of December is going to be a very, very harsh experience for those living in the northern hemisphere. As the Earth continues to cool down, the intellectual lemmings scamper toward the abyss anyway.

    I am an athiest, and I am disturbed by the ID people and all of pseudo-science that is continually perpetrated by the ‘religious right’ and fellow travellers, etc. However, I am not so blinded by an irrational contempt and hatred for those in that camp that I must adhere to a blatantly false theory just because the conservative/religious confederation is opposed to it. That is a knee-jerk position, and has no place in science. ‘Concensus’ also has no place in real science either, because it’s a political term.

    Feeling superior, intellectually and morally, is very attractive to those elitists on the political left, as having a never-ending righteous indignation is attractive to those on the right. Real science is the unfortunate loser here.

  12. bilbo

    Here’s a statement from an earlier thread on climate change from this very blog that exemplifies the hilarious comic that is the subject of this post:

    Silly Little Denialist: “I took some code and ran it through Excel on my computer this evening. It doesn’t even remotely match what AGw alarmists say is happening from their “scientific” opinion.”

    Levelheaded person: “Wait. Did you just say you tried to debunk all of climate science using a graph made in Microsoft Excel on your home computer? I assume you have the results of statistical analyses to back this claim up, too?”

    Silly Little Denialist: “I ran the code on Excel on my home computer, which is in my basement and has blah blah blah processor blah blah blah RAM, thank you very much! And don’t talk to me about statistics. Scientists use fancy math and statistics to try and confuse the general public.”

    My, how I love it when comics become reality.

  13. bilbo

    As the Earth continues to cool down, the intellectual lemmings scamper toward the abyss anyway…Real science is the unfortunate loser here.

    Care to share this “real science” with us that shows the world is in a long-term global cooling phase, without resorting to small-scale cherry-picks, Michael?

    If you can, then I won’t call you names, you Silly Little Denialist, you…

  14. gillt

    Congratulations Bilbo! In your hurry to tar those you’ve disagreed with in the past, you assign me a view I don’t have.

    I simply said James Randi is an AGW denier, which in my opinion is foolish and based on his, albeit admitted, ignorance of the subject.

    May the coming new year fill you with ever more inanity.

  15. gillt

    Michael: “Randi is correct in his views on this topic.”

    What views specifically is Randi correct about?

  16. gillt

    Congratulations Bilbo! In your hurry to tar those you’ve disagreed with in the past, you assign me a view I don’t have.

  17. Naive College kid

    I am a senior bio-environmental science major at a tier 1 research university who is currently going through alot of headache trying to become an environmental scientist. Despite whatever majority opinion I have had in the past, this year I had one of the sharpest and brightest professors in my college career who did absolutely everything he could to blast all preconceptions about climate change out of the water. I had always assumed that it was only a handful of “rogue scientists” who strongly voiced out against climate change, now I know that it really isn’t hands down. I’m not saying I have changed my mind yet, but actually knowing someone I look up to is willing to question popular theories and look for the hard science behind them makes me eager to do the same.

  18. Sorbet

    It’s pretty shameful that reasonable climate change skeptics are grouped with evolution deniers and anti-vaxers. It does not help a reasoned debate. Maybe you meant to say climate change deniers.

  19. bilbo

    Let’s take a poll, Sorbet. How many of the climate skeptics commenting on this blog accept evolutionary theory as the explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, including humans?

    Maybe this could be something Chris and Sheril could host. Indvidually poll the climate skeptic community (blogs, writers, etc.) and see how many are NOT evolution deniers.

  20. Sorbet

    Bilbo there is a vast difference between skeptics and deniers. It antagonizes the debate unnecessarily right from the start when one clubs reasonable skeptics of climate change who fully accept evolution and vaccination with the deniers of the latter.

    And as for your poll, yes it would be a good idea. However I have not seen many climate change deniers on this site denying evolution and vaccination and would be glad to be pointed to evidence of this fact. I know that some of the members of the infamous Discovery Institute do this.

    And by the way there are also skeptics of the natural selection based adaptionist program who maintain that random drift and the neutral theory of selection are the main cause of evolution. Calling these “evolution deniers” would be as misguided and nonsensical as calling reasonable skeptics of *predictive* climate change as “climate change deniers”.

  21. Sorbet

    And bilbo, I don’t know if you know this, but Randi is far more than a “stage magician”. He is one of the leading skeptics of our time and is a close colleague of Carl Sagan and Michael Shermer among others. He has been spectacularly successful in debunking pseudoscience like telepathy, psychokinesis and homeopathy. This does not make him right about AGW, but it’s sad that you would dismiss him as a stage magician.

  22. bilbo

    Did I label you as a climate change denier, Sorbet? Hardly. In fact, I’ve had this discussion with you in past comment threads on The Intersection. There is indeed a difference in the skeptic world. On the one hand, there are people like yourself who have informed opinions and can seemingly talk at length about what we know and what we don’t know from a scientific standpoint on climate change. You and I disagree on that topic, and I can respect you still. But then there are the Silly Little Denialists: those who don’t know jack about what science exists on climate change, pretend the climate isn’t changing, chalk everything up to political conspiracy, or any combination of the above. Those people are just plain ignorant, silly fools who are often unwitting pawns in a political chess game. They deserve no respect, and people like myself should rightfully give them none.

    Surely you’re familiar with the parallels this situation draws, aren’t you? Why, just take a look at creationism and religion – a topic with which you frequently chip in on here on the blog. There are religious people who accept evolution but aren’t creationists. Then there are mush-minded, stupid creationists who openly deny scientific fact. For someone such as yourself to criticize Mooney when he points this distinction out to vocal New Atheists in other threads (in other words, pretend there is no distinction) but then to come here railing about broadbrushing is the very definition of hypocrisy – silly, unabashed, laughable hypocrisy. In fact, I’m chuckling audibly about it right now! (If I’ve gotten your position wrong, feel free to reclarify).

    But hell, while we’re at it, I’ll take a page from the New Atheism book myself: it’s your fault that the uninformed deniers exist. Shouldn’t we, then, be attacking YOU and labeling YOU a denialist?

    Just something to think about.

  23. badnicolez

    Hey Bilbo, chalk up one atheist, evolution-believing, vaccination proponent who is skeptical of AGW for your little poll. Assume away, but you’re just making an a** out of you, not me.

    How about we have a real debate without resorting to name-calling and distractions?

  24. bilbo Says:

    Yessir, gillt: the opinion of a stage magician is going to uproot a well-established scientific fact.

    Actually, Randi is a very smart guy. He’s been fighting paranormal crap for years. So, this is pretty disappointing. I read his post, and he doesn’t even really try to actually refute the science. The whole thing is pretty vague. It’s more “I have a feelin’ they might be wrong” than any real scientific criticism.

    Not to mention that he swallows the Petition Project’s bogus claim of 32,000 scientists hook, line, and sinker.

    Yes, quite disappointing.

  25. bilbo

    Oh, and Sorbet, forgive me for calling a man a stage magician whose very website lists him as a stage magician and an escape artist, and has a rather large photo of a fork he’s bent as part of a magic trick. My bad. I feel sooooo ashamed for quoting his autobiography (note sarcasm).

    Surely someone like you knows that simply being intelligent does not an authority one make. It almost seems like you’re tiptoeing close to arguments from authority here.

  26. bilbo

    Exactly what I was saying, Chris. I don’t care if Randi has been deemed the Smartest Man on Earth. If he’s trying to debunk climate science without using science and is using piss-poor, uninformed, and unsubstantiated argument instead, he’s right in line with a Silly Little Denialist.

  27. Sorbet

    It does not, but just one question; did you know that Randi was one of the leading skeptics of our time? If not your criticism sounds like ignorant babble irrespective of the fact that he is probably wrong on AGW

  28. bilbo

    How about we have a real debate without resorting to name-calling and distractions?

    A fine proposition, coming from the poster who called me an ass in the same post.

    The irony! Oh, the irony!

    *snicker*

  29. bilbo

    It does not, but just one question; did you know that Randi was one of the leading skeptics of our time? If not your criticism sounds like ignorant babble irrespective of the fact that he is probably wrong on AGW

    Of course I did! But as I just told Chris, I don’t give a flying fruck who it is – if they’re not backing up their positions on scientific topics with scientifically-solid argument (see Randi’s “I just got a feelin’” type opinion), they deserve no attention.

    Arguments from authority are dangerous, Sorbet, and especially so when it comes to science. If you throw someone up on a pedestal and lap up their opinions with a “yessir! you’re absolutely right!” and don’t criticially examine their position, that only leads to one place.

    Ignorance.

  30. Sorbet

    -Did I label you as a climate change denier, Sorbet?
    Did I accuse you of doing this? The point was that Kirsehnabum should have said “denier” and not “skeptic” since there is a vast difference between the two
    -They deserve no respect, and people like myself should rightfully give them none.
    I agree. That’s why it is even more important to make a clear distinction between skeptic and denier, so that the latter category can get all the scorn it deserves.
    -For someone such as yourself to criticize Mooney when he points this distinction out to vocal New Atheists in other threads (in other words, pretend there is no distinction) but then to come here railing about broadbrushing is the very definition of hypocrisy – silly, unabashed, laughable hypocrisy
    I can say that for someone like yourself, who agrees with Mooney and others that respectful and civil debate is the hallmark of a reasoned response and that the New Atheists don’t do this, to engage in such antagonism is pure, unadulterated hypocrisy (sorry if this sounds like unduly harsh sarcasm, but you started it). In fact you would notice that in past threads I have repeatedly pointed out that one must distinguish between New Atheists and simply someone who does not agree with Mooney and the critics of the New Atheists. Similarly I am saying that it is critical to distinguish between outright deniers and reasonable skeptics, something that the title of the post does not remotely do.
    -But hell, while we’re at it, I’ll take a page from the New Atheism book myself: it’s your fault that the uninformed deniers exist. Shouldn’t we, then, be attacking YOU and labeling YOU a denialist?
    Yes, you can attack me as a denialist if you provide evidence that I have actually denied climate change. Come on, let’s see you pull up a few statements to this effect. And by the way, the picture of a bent form refers to Randi’s debunking of paranormal fraud Uri Geller? It was not “magic” but an important service he provided to rational skepticism.

  31. Sorbet

    Well, then you should not have called Randi a magician. I agree that who Randi is does not impinge upon the nature of his arguments. So just like the fact that Randi being a skeptic does not have bearing on his pronouncements on climate change, so should not the fact that he is a magician. Your statement clearly made it sound like his standing as a stage magician somehow tarnished the weight of his arguments about AGW. It would have been best, by your own logic, not to refer at all to Radi’s profession while criticising him. As a different matter, the statement that he is a stage magician does not reflect his professional status very accurately, since he is far better known as a skeptic and as a debunker of pseudoscience. It’s also a factual omission.

  32. Mark F.

    FYI. James Hrynyshyn reports on his conversation with Randi over his “skeptical about climate change” blog post.

    http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2009/12/it_wouldnt_be_fair_to_call_jam.php

  33. bilbo

    Yes, you can attack me as a denialist if you provide evidence that I have actually denied climate change.

    It appears you missed the figurative nature of my statement – the problem with the written word, I suppose. I posted that phrase because it is the logical parallel of what Mooney so often denounces here: guilt by association. You have a tendency to defend the guilt-by-association stance when the topic is religion, yet here you are, sitting in the middle of the room with your arms crossed and whining about guilt by association! I agree with you, sorbet: guilt by association is stupid and full of faulty logic. But it seems you’re letting your personal perjudices frame when guilt by association is bad and when it is justified. That’s a very dangerous road to take, especially for a person who touts reason as their gold standard, and that’s all I’m pointing out here.

    But let me point something else out, also. Sorbet, you said: “Similarly I am saying that it is critical to distinguish between outright deniers and reasonable skeptics, something that the title of the post does not remotely do.”

    Half correct. The title of this post is (bold mine): “Kind of like a lot of climate change skeptics, evolution denialists, and the AntiVax movement.” The post qualifies from the outset that it isn’t about everyone, and it’s even followed by a comic (you know, context…it’s important) that highlights the specific situation Sheril was mentioning. If you or anyone else is offended, then, it must be because the comic accurately characterizes you. I hope it doesn’t, Sorbet.

    Either way, you do not have the right not to be offended.

    Right?

  34. Sorbet

    I have myself argued against arguments from authority on this website before.

  35. bilbo

    Well, then you should not have called Randi a magician. I agree that who Randi is does not impinge upon the nature of his arguments. So just like the fact that Randi being a skeptic does not have bearing on his pronouncements on climate change, so should not the fact that he is a magician. Your statement clearly made it sound like his standing as a stage magician somehow tarnished the weight of his arguments about AGW. It would have been best, by your own logic, not to refer at all to Radi’s profession while criticising him. As a different matter, the statement that he is a stage magician does not reflect his professional status very accurately, since he is far better known as a skeptic and as a debunker of pseudoscience. It’s also a factual omission.

    My my Sorbet, the language of your post above makes me wonder if you actually are Randi! (I know how silly that is, Sorbet. But since you used a silly, stupid accusation based solely on interpretation about my intents above, I’m due one of my own, right?)

    So let’s cut the crap and call this what it is. Until James Randi can show us a well-informed argument that attempts to debunk scientific opinion with actual science, James Randi – an ambiguous person of unmentioned profession – is a Silly Little Denialist.

    I see no problem with that.

  36. bilbo

    I have myself argued against arguments from authority on this website before.

    And I have myself argued against murder many times in the past. It doesn’t mean I can’t possibly ever be a murderer.

    You’re teaching us a wonderful class on how to use logical fallacies to reinforce a strangely petty argument on semantics. Shall we continue, Professor?

  37. Sorbet

    Could you point out a few, student? :)

  38. Sorbet

    Bilbo, I am going to ignore your ad hominem and sarcasm because it unnecessarily distracts and antagonizes; your flippant labeling of me as a professor does nothing to further the practical ends of this debate. Your are muddying the water by talking about murder and Randi; I am trying to say that this is not an argument from authority. Let’s look the facts here. The problem with the title is that it muddles the distinction between reasonable climate change skeptics and outright deniers by clubbing the former with evolution and vaccination deniers. That unnecessarily antagonized the debate and does not lead to productive, reasoned argument.

    As for Randi, I am pointing out that you have committed a logical fallacy of your your own. Do you understand this? On one hand you claim that who Randi is should not have any bearing on the structure of his argument, and I completely agree with this. On the other hand your statement seems to link the substance of his being a stage magician to the substance of his arguments, and therefore it contradicts your initial premise which is correct.

    And what I am repeatedly saying is that I have tried several times to argue against guilt by association. For instance, have you followed by debates with Mr. McCarthy where I repeatedly tell him to separate Dawkins’s atheism with Dawkins’s books on evolution? Even Mr. Kwok who agrees completely with Mr. Mooney about his stance on the NAs agreed with me on this.

  39. Sorbet

    By the way what I am doing is not called a logical fallacy. It is called argument by analogy, which does not prove something, but which can be a helpful aid. In science for instance, one might invoke results from a system similar to the one that is being studied to make sense of the current system. This does not prove the features of the current system, but it helps to characterize it better.

    And if you thought the argument was so petty, why respond when I only pointed out at the very beginning that the word “denier” should be used instead of “skeptic”. Clearly you don’t think the argument is very petty, which is fine by me.

  40. Yllaria

    Just FYI, XKCD has mouseover messages. The message for this cartoon is: “I mean, what’s more likely — that I have uncovered fundamental flaws in this field that no one in it has ever thought about, or that I need to read a little more? Hint: it’s the one that involves less work.”

  41. Sorbet

    In fact, the distinction between skeptics and deniers should be made very clear for a very important reason; otherwise the true deniers will call themselves skeptics and try to get away with it, and we can never allow the charlatans to do that.

  42. Sorbet

    There’s a longer comment in moderation.

  43. SLC

    Re Michael @ #12

    Yessir, global cooling underway. As proof, the Northwest Passage was open to shipping for the first time since European settlers arrived in North America. Glaciers in Bolivia are disappearing,. A new law of physics: lowering temperatures causes ice to melt. End snark.

  44. bilbo

    Your are muddying the water by talking about murder and Randi

    No. I’m applying your logic to other situations to which you aren’t personally connected. (Although, you seem to take things about Randi reallllllllllly personal).

    In fact, the distinction between skeptics and deniers should be made very clear for a very important reason; otherwise the true deniers will call themselves skeptics and try to get away with it, and we can never allow the charlatans to do that.

    Now there’s something we can both agree on!

  45. MichaelWH

    Why do people on both sides of this issue always come across as children squabbling in a sandbox?

  46. Sorbet

    Uhh…I don’t really care much about Randi. I think he is a cool skeptic and his analysis of homeopathy is spot on but that’s about that. What I am saying is that the statement was not meant to be a logical connection to begin with. Anyway, enjoy:

  47. Marion Delgado

    They laughed at Tesla, too! And Charles Einstein Galileo!

  48. Marion Delgado

    Randi is scientISM, not science. The same as Penn Jillette.

  49. Sorbet

    Shall we continue, Professor?

    Bilbo, obviously you are not a very good student because I was not trying to make a logical argument in the first place and this point seems to have sailed past you. One can indulge in a logical fallacy only if one is trying to make a logical argument, correct? Read a book on logic please. I was simply saying that anyone who knows my words on this blog will know that I am not known for making arguments from authority.

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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