Housekeeping Note

By Chris Mooney | February 12, 2010 3:44 pm

The comment thread on a previous post [entitled “The New War on Science–Now It’s Guerilla Style”] unfortunately got way out of hand. Due to the nature and volume of these comments, we have presently unpublished the post while we decide on any other action. Meanwhile, we refer you to our comments policy.

— Chris and Sheril

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Comments (39)

  1. Yeah, it kinda reminded me of everything I dislike about the whole debate. Neither side did their side any service.

  2. Glad you deleted the comments. It was basically one big conflagration of profanity, mud-slinging, bile and name-calling and was adding absolutely nothing substantial to the debate. I think comments which have profanity in them should not be published since they only provoke and engender more profanity in a never-ending cycle.

  3. Put the few bad actors into permanent moderation.

  4. Oded

    umm, not meaning to demean your decision, I ask honestly, what’s wrong with just closing comments on that post? (and possibly delete some of the vile comments if necessary.) Why did you retract the entire post and its comments?

  5. what’s wrong with just closing comments on that post?

    I don’t know if you read those comments, but people were targeting a specific individual, including listing phone numbers, addresses etc. and encouraging others to contact his supervisors with the intent of getting him reprimanded, if not fired.

  6. Philip Jr.

    There was no information that I saw posted that wasn’t already publically available elsewhere on the net. As far as I recall, the people’s names that got posted were originally offered up by the people in question themselves, so it’s not like they were obtained by dirty means or anything.

    That said, though, things got way too nasty and overpersonal on both ends. Best to let that thread die, and forget it.

  7. Milton C.

    There was no information that I saw posted that wasn’t already publically available elsewhere on the net. As far as I recall, the people’s names that got posted were originally offered up by the people in question themselves, so it’s not like they were obtained by dirty means or anything.

    That said, though, things got way too nasty and overpersonal on both ends. Best to let that thread die, and forget it

    I agree with Philip – let it die and forget about it.

    I was also a bit nasty myself, so I apologize for my role in the mud-flinging, to everyone in general and to those who I was engaged with, personally. If people need to be put into permanent moderation and/or banned, I’m all for it (myself included, if needed). Let’s bury this one and put it behind us….and all think clearly next time and act like adults on both sides of the opinion aisle.

  8. bilbo

    I need to offer up a massive apology, too. I let myself get caught in a whirlwind of personal attacks, acted inexcusably, and let my arguments get lost in immaturity. I’m horribly embarrassed and want to profusely apologize to kim and Ed Moran, specifically. No topic is serious enough to justify the insult-hurling that 3 or 4 of us were engaged in on both sides of the “debate”. My deepest apologies, guys.

    If Chris/Sheril feel that it’s necessary to ban me permanently, I won’t blame them. I’ll accept that.

  9. My last was to Milton C’s sentiments. Bilbo’s apology was gracious.

  10. anon

    It was disgusting all around. The most egregious perpetrators should be doing community service by cleaning up Encyclopeda Dramatica before allowed to post again.

  11. Lance

    Hmm, the thread seemed like the usual collection of thoughtful posts interspersed with ad hom laced pock shots when I left it.

    Must have spiraled out of control after I left.

    My answer to Bilbo’s challenge still stands.

  12. ThomasL

    I guess I stopped looking before it went overboard, but the tendency to progress almost instantaneously to personal attacks for having a different opinion is why I haven’t bothered posting here for awhile. On Slashdot (for example) I expect such foolishness, but when I started hanging out here I was expecting actual intelligence and a solid discussion of ideas and science – even though I knew “where I’m coming from” was likely a far different place than most of those whom are here.

    I don’t mind a good debate (actually enjoy such), opposing views and even some well targeted “brought to the absurd” irony – but getting called names because one disagrees is a bit juvenile and will never lead to anyone thinking about things betterdeepermore clearly. I don’t expect to ever “change” anyone’s mind in here, just hope that I can provide things to help those interested to think deeper and open up to other aspects of an idea they may not know about.

    Unfortunately, many seem to only wish to make fun of those whom have other viewpoints rather than exploring thought and seeing if maybe there has been an idea or understanding they haven’t yet considered… Lots of dogmatism, not nearly as much serious thought as I was hoping for in such a blog.

    Hopefully everyone will learn something from this and we may all use this blog to actually learn something in the future instead of it simply being another example of the pointlessness of getting involved in an internet conversation.

  13. Chris Mooney

    I appreciate the sincere apologies here and my inclination in light of them is not to ban anyone. I’ll take everyone’s word for it that you see what was wrong with what happened. Thanks much for these comments.

  14. Moptop

    I agree that neither side of the debate was served well by that thread. It might be possible to do better in the future if each time a person commented on an issue about which they are passionate, they assumed that their opponent in the debate was being honest and was persuadable, and as Dale Carnegie said once, one cannot be persuasive without at least appearing persuadable.

    This inquisition type tactical approach is obviously a PR dead end, a probably obscures the truth and postpones the day it becomes clear.

  15. Arrow

    Banning bilbo would be a good start if you want to rise the level of discourse here. I see him insulting others on a regular basis (just review his posts). Others may deserve a ban also but he is certainly the most obnoxious commenter here.

    In general don’t be afraid to ban anyone who is rude and disruptive, the blog will only improve as a result.

  16. Julie

    Banning bilbo would be a good start if you want to rise the level of discourse here. I see him insulting others on a regular basis (just review his posts). Others may deserve a ban also but he is certainly the most obnoxious commenter here.

    bilbo certainly has a quick trigger for rudeness that he could definitely learn to hold back on, but he also has some very relevant points, from what I’ve seen (and he’s also not alone in insulting others – that’s a common thread here). The trouble is that he lets the relevancy of his points get lost in the invective (nothing personal, bilbo. Just an observation.) Seeing his very selfless apology above, he seems to have learned his lesson, and I’ll personally look forward to hearing more levelheaded responses from him in the future.

    Regarding my general thoughts on the deleted thread, the personal attacks ramped up from the very first comment (a personal attack at Chris directly) and just continued from there. Outside of a few mature posts from both sides just before it got deleted, there were really no innocent parties involved in that entire discussion. The whole thing was a sickening string of hate and personal attacks from the same several people on both sides of the debate over a few days’ time, with the comments in-between just egging on the uselessness. Everyone involved (including myself, since I posted a few times) should be ashamed of contributing to a general hate spew.

    I agree with other posters: scrub the thread, move on, and play nice next time. A couple of people have apologized and seem to be very sincere. I believe in the utility of forgiveness, so let’s bury the hatchet and agree to have a useful discussion next time around, one that will serve both sides of the debate.

  17. Thomas H.

    Outside of a few mature posts from both sides just before it got deleted, there were really no innocent parties involved in that entire discussion. The whole thing was a sickening string of hate and personal attacks from the same several people on both sides of the debate over a few days’ time

    Agreed. Like others have said, I didn’t see either side get served here, and I didn’t see one side being more vile and reprehensible than the other. I’m a climate skeptic personally, and I saw those who I share opinions with being equally nasty and disrespectful as some of those I don’t. There are no ideological lines to mud-slinging and rudeness, as this thread showed.

    I agree with other posters: scrub the thread, move on, and play nice next time. A couple of people have apologized and seem to be very sincere. I believe in the utility of forgiveness, so let’s bury the hatchet and agree to have a useful discussion next time around, one that will serve both sides of the debate.

    Ditto. All apologies seem very sincere. Forgive and forget. Here’s to some intelligent discussions of this topic from here on out *raises figurative glass*.

  18. gillt

    I find it strange how bilbo and milton hadn’t the basic self-awareness to figure out at some point in the last couple of days of wallowing around in the mud that they were engaging in the exact same behavior they’ve made a career out of accusing New Atheists of over again and again and again. Kinda funny if you think about.

    My only question: is this comeuppance or is it a “do as I say not as I do” daddy complex with these two?

  19. Moptop

    Doesn’t matter anyway, the jig is up. Argument is over. A new consensus will arise and we would do well not to prejudge it, though I am *betting* it will not be that AGW does not exist.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8511670.stm

    Read it before you go postal. This is they guy, Dr Phil Jones, who was a bigwig in putting together the IPCC report, and this is the BBC, whose views on global warming in the past cannot be called denialist.

    A more defensible position scientifically will be a stronger position politically.

  20. vanderleun

    Solution is simple. Delete all comments to the article. Post the reasons in an update at the bottom of the article. Close comments. Then republish the article so that all the inbound links pointing at it do not go 404 as they do now.

    Otherwise it looks like it is not just the comments you are ashamed of but the article itself. Housekeeping is fine as long as it doesn’t look like you’ve swept something under the rug.

  21. What Jones said about the Medieval Warm Period points out the problems faced in climate science. We have palaeoclimatic records for Europe, Asia and parts of North America, but not so much for the tropics and Southern Hemisphere. We need more research in those areas. I hope we can all agree on that.

  22. Milton C.

    gillt:

    I don’t speak for the hobbit, but I think the simple fact that this kind of behavior is juvenile, driven by hate and not rationality, and doesn’t ever reach any kind of resolution is precisely the problem. That’s certainly why I feel ashamed to be engaged in it (and likely why you point out as much), and when it’s done by some prominent NA with a reputation versus Joe Q. Public on a blog comment thread, that doesn’t somehow change its acceptability or its basic nature. We can’t alter our values of what behavior is acceptable or not based on personal context. e.g., a New Atheist saying dirty things about religious people can’t be right and virtuous if Milton C. saying identically dirty things about a climate skeptic/denialist is utterly reprehensible and wrong (or vice versa). At least in a logical world that can’t be true.

    I believe that acknowledging this, apologizing for it if you’ve been engaged in this sort of hypocrisy, and then learning from it to engage in useful dialogue in the future is likely the best recourse. That’s how I certainly view it. I, for one, have learned this as a valuable lesson – hence my personal apology. My core values have not changed. I slipped from them, I recognized that I was engaging in behavior that I myself loathe, and was embarrassed/apologized.

    That’s not a “daddy complex.” The daddy complex would be if we refused to acknowledge the behavior and continued in it while still doing the preaching. I don’t really get your personal vendetta….but that’s kind of what this whole post/thread is trying to figure out. (and, at risk of sounding like a troll myself again, I believe that poking your head into a thread to lob a personal attack at someone – when said attack is, in itself, a lecture about not engaging in personal attacks – kind of exemplifies the point by itself, doesn’t it?)

  23. Julie

    find it strange how bilbo and milton hadn’t the basic self-awareness to figure out at some point in the last couple of days of wallowing around in the mud that they were engaging in the exact same behavior they’ve made a career out of accusing New Atheists of over again and again and again. Kinda funny if you think about.

    My only question: is this comeuppance or is it a “do as I say not as I do” daddy complex with these two?

    There will a very appropriate time/place to begin another mud-flinging spat about this topic, gillt, because it’s relevant to a degree (believe it or not, I agree with you here). But doing so in a thread that comes in the wake of a similar episode (i.e., while egos are still bruised and while emotions are cooling) is almost certainly not it.

    And, to be honest for a moment, I think throwing around terms like “daddy complex” in what are obviously personally-motivated jabs is kind of what got us into this mess in the first place. Let’s discuss this another time under a more appropriate context – and figure how to do so like adults, with the histories of personal disagreements behind us. I don’t think that’s too difficult to ask. In fact, it would show an ability to move past the silliness and worthless debate into something more useful. Agreed?

  24. bilbo

    I think the simple fact that this kind of behavior is juvenile, driven by hate and not rationality, and doesn’t ever reach any kind of resolution is precisely the problem.

    I agree, and that’s precisely why I’m embarrassed and apologetic for engaging in it. One can be confrontational without acting like a petty, immature nitwit (as myself and multiple others did on the previous thread), and that’s something we all (myself very much included) need to learn. FWIW, after thinking about my own litte bit of hypocrisy before gillt even highlighted it, I think this sentiment can extend to the NA tactics also: if we’re supposed to be “confrontational” against anti-science groups and use that as our primary strategy to enact real change, shouldn’t we be finding ways to be confrontational without stooping to the level of prepubescent grade-school children while doing so (in other words, the old internet status quo)? I think the sentiment all around from the previous thread is that acting in such a way is always unproductive and distracts from the heart of the debate. Maybe I’m waxing too poetic.

    Again – apologies all around from my corner. I promise to not post for a little while after this comment to allow dust to settle and emotions to subside.

  25. Philip Jr.

    I just thought I’d point out a few quotes from Jones from that Q and A session that I found incredibly useful and which highlight a number of things us “Warmers” get rebuked for saying here about how climate scientists work but are confirmed by Jones himself. I’m not trying to muckrake – I’m just pointing out some facts that I’ve personally been told are lies by some of our skeptici friends here which Jones points out with links that vindicate me and others here.

    There is more than one “official” surface temperature record, based on actual land station records. There is the one we have developed in CRU, but there are also the series developed at NCDC and GISS. Although we all use very similar station datasets, we each employ different ways of assessing the quality of the individual series and different ways of developing gridded products. The GISS data and their program are freely available for people to experiment with. The agreement between the three series is very good.

    It’s great to see Jones point this out. I specifically remember some commenters here getting called “liars” and “ignorant” and “part of the conspiracy” in the past by some skeptics for pointing this out for themselves.

    I accept that some have had their trust in science shaken and this needs the Met Office to release more of the data beyond the 80% released so far.

    Again, I want to point out that some skeptics here had accused commenters (including myself) in the past of lying when we said that a majority of this dataset was publicly available.

    It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.

    Yet again, something that many of us “believers” frequently say about people like Jones here but get strongly and rudely rebuked as “liars” for. Here is an actual, flesh-and-blood climate scientist echoing us.

    I undertook all the reviews I made in good faith and sent them back to the editors. In some e-mails I questioned the peer-review process with respect to what I believed were poor papers that had appeared. Isn’t this called freedom of speech?

    Why yes, yes it is.

    I wish people would spend as much time reading my scientific papers as they do reading my e-mails

    Absolutely true, 100%. Personal attacks aside, there is a glaring baseline ignorance in many of the skeptic commenters we get here when it comes to the literature. Many of them seem to not have read many (if any) actual articles, and most of them evade the question when pressed about it (just an observation, guys. If it makes you angry, change it.)
    _____________________________________________________________________

    With regards to the Medieval Warming Period, I agree with moptop and Bradley that we need more data coverage. But if we’re going to be AGw is debunked because we lack some data coverage but instead to use the data we have (which support AGW) and make tentative declarations. There is way too much jumping to conclusions on both sides of the AGW aisle…but I see nothing in this interview that suggests a “new consensus” is needed.

  26. gillt

    You know Milton, it would be one thing if you flirted with mud-slinging–tsk tsk–but you and your partner managed to become the exemplar of all that you say you’re against. Congratulations on adding to a thread that even a militant NA balked at.

    What conversation Julie? Mooney erased all evidence of milton’s and bilbo’s and the rests “disappointing/embarrassing/unsavory” behavior. Say it was juvenile and leave it at that–but why erase it? In internet time this whole thing will be forgotten in a week. But now it can be swept under the rug. The thread that is no longer will have to be referred to now as “The Thread Where Accommodationism Went to Die, or The Thread Where Those Who Say They Stand for One Thing Demonstrate How Full Of It They Are.”

    Don’t you think Mooney has done a great disservice by erasing examples of how accomodationists should not be communicating AGW science? He quotes NA blogs all the time that he says are “doing it wrong” but erases examples of two regular commenters here failing spectacularly at it. My guess is that that post from the title onward kinda makes him look bad, especially since those two regular comments are the some of the strongest supporters of accomodationism he has on this blog.

  27. I wouldn’t say AGW is “debunked” because of the MWP questions. The MWP’s unresolved status means that the claim of unprecedented warmth central to AGW theory is likewise unresolved. And so we are stuck until and unless more research resolves the MWP’s role.

    The New Atheist issue adds another layer of complexity. As an atheist myself (with creationists for close relatives), I can see the wisdom of personal accommodation, not being gratuitously nasty, etc. But NA folks like Dawkins and Coyne don’t fit that description of gratuitous nastiness. Attacks on religion as incompatible with science are not the same as personal attacks on believers.

    PZ Myers took that route, and his “It’s just a cracker” posts were a low point in civility. I like a lot of what Myers writes on evolution, but there was no scientific reason to go there.

  28. ThomasL

    Philip Jr.,

    I’ve been called a “denier” in here – though I would actually consider myself a classical Skeptic, because to me the details actually matter. Take it as a result of some rather intense and deep philosophical training. I don’t hold much of a view on AGW other than that there needs to be quite a bit more work done and a lot of what is getting tossed out there as “settled” is only such if one wishes to ignore quite a lot of the details. I know how theories are built – the foundations, assumptions and those “pesky details” matter. Never stopping the questioning process is a fundamental part of why science progresses.

    The problem with the data sets is that A) none that are released are “full” – hard to work off of partial data sets. B) They are all “enhanced” – as in various methods to smooth and adjust are performed on the raw sets, and the details over what the procedures for such adjustments are is not available. C) As Jones admits in another interview the “bookkeeping” was a bit sloppy and which stations were used is not always clear.

    I wouldn’t say anything there makes it all B.S., but it makes it awfully hard to verify anything. From what I have read the main argument is access to the raw, unadjusted data has not been very forthcoming. So yea, you could “make your own” as long as you trust their initial adjustments – and some mighty smart mathematician types seem to have some questions…

    Anytime I have tried t point out the LIA and MWP questions (both of personal interest to me) I’ve been attacked. Again, not saying it would or would not change the conclusion – but it’s rather hard to conclude anything when part of the foundation is in question. I’m glad to see Jones admit there are some open questions and the warming trend, by its self, is not “unprecedented”. As he put it we don’t have any other good reason for this recent period – but maybe part of that is because we haven’t really been looking with an open mind but rather jumped to some conclusions (thinking of things that have come to light recently such as black carbon, contrails from planes, land use, urban growth…). While in one sense that would still be “AGW”, it would be a rather different flavor than the one we have been getting sold.

    Getting this right if we are to do anything meaningful is paramount. Hopefully one result of this will be science looking at the world and letting the answers develop themselves instead of science designed to prove something one already thinks.

    Most of us just want solid science, not the dogmatism and misguided religious zeal usually found on the fundamentalist side of things. Personally, after working two decades in the computer world, the blind faith in sketchy models is somewhat astonishing to me – models spit out exactly the results they are programmed to spit out – there is a reason most code goes through rigorous testing and the more eyes the better – especially for things that matter. Computer modeling is notoriously iffy – especially in regards to the “real” world it is simplifying. Outside expertise should not be shunned but rather welcomed.

    Bradley J Fikes,

    Interesting point. The NA aspect is hard to get a grasp on (developed long after I left school, so new to me) – but few of them seem to know what they are actually “against”. So far it mostly seems to be the philosophically constructed ideas that have mainstreamed themselves, especially through religion, over the past couple centuries more than any actual “religious” idea. Though many of the supposedly religious are guilty of the same thing (God as a “thing” = Platonic construct, for example). Doesn’t look like many of them have any real idea what actual theology is (they’ve just got the “bible thumping” Baptist type thing in mind…).

    At any rate, I’m going to take the above comments as an indication we may actually have conversations in here instead of mud wrestling matches…

  29. Moptop

    “At any rate, I’m going to take the above comments as an indication we may actually have conversations in here instead of mud wrestling matches…”

    Hear hear!

    Another dead end tactic is bringing creationism into the argument. Yes, there are a number of skeptics who base their skepticism on religious faith, Rush Limbaugh comes to mind, and yes, if the skeptics prove out right, these people will be insufferable, but this is way too important of an issue to let emotional matters like that weigh into one’s thinking. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again. This isn’t about football jerseys, it is about the future of the planet.

  30. TB

    Three things:

    1) Dang, I got busy and completely missed the thread.

    2) Real people can lose their temper, realize their behavior was inappropriate, feel bad and then apologize. That’s normal.
    When real people don’t realize their behavior was inappropriate, do not feel bad and then do not apologize then that’s a problem.
    It’s also the difference, gillt, between what the commentors here did and what many prominent New Atheists engage in. No hypocrisy here, just some honest human emotions capped off with an apology.
    Not that I expect gilt to get it, because coming into a thread with people doing the right thing and trying to stir up the pot again is classic troll behavior. And if that behavior so motivates you to post tsk tsk messages, gilt, then by all means jump over to Coyne, PZ and Dawkins’ sites and take they to task. I won’t hold my breath.
    Personally, I hope Bilbo returns soon as he’s been able to make some very sharp observations.

    3) People are in here apologizing for their behavior, not their positions. I don’t think anyone should take this thread as vindication for their stance. For instance: “The problem with the data sets is that A) none that are released are “full” – hard to work off of partial data sets. B) They are all “enhanced” – as in various methods to smooth and adjust are performed on the raw sets, and the details over what the procedures for such adjustments are is not available. C) As Jones admits in another interview the “bookkeeping” was a bit sloppy and which stations were used is not always clear.”

    And yet, “The GISS data and their program are freely available for people to experiment with. The agreement between the three series is very good.” I also know, having looked at some of the data before, that adjusted and unadjusted data are available. There’s also freeware that you can download to analyze the data yourself. If you don’t trust the science, please feel free to go to it.

    I think part of the problem here is that so much of these kind of comments have been asked and answered and at some point a level of frustration sets in because people don’t listen to each other. And I’m looking at the warming skeptics here, who seem to throw out all the times claims have been debunked and go on blithely to the next claim that hasn’t.
    I have to wonder: when does the preponderance of the evidence start making them doubt their position? Or, are they not so much bothered by the science but what they perceive as the response to the science?

  31. Philip Jr.

    Mooney erased all evidence of milton’s and bilbo’s and the rests “disappointing/embarrassing/unsavory” behavior. Say it was juvenile and leave it at that–but why erase it? In internet time this whole thing will be forgotten in a week. But now it can be swept under the rug. The thread that is no longer will have to be referred to now as “The Thread Where Accommodationism Went to Die, or The Thread Where Those Who Say They Stand for One Thing Demonstrate How Full Of It They Are.”

    Don’t you think Mooney has done a great disservice by erasing examples of how accomodationists should not be communicating AGW science? He quotes NA blogs all the time that he says are “doing it wrong” but erases examples of two regular commenters here failing spectacularly at it. My guess is that that post from the title onward kinda makes him look bad, especially since those two regular comments are the some of the strongest supporters of accomodationism he has on this blog.

    Oh, come on, gillt – an accommodationist conspiracy?! That’s starting to sound a little like some of the folks on the last thread. If we’re going to criticize bloggers for censorship, let’s at least let it be a two-way street. Sure, Chris deleted that post. But I’m also a frequent reader of Pharyngula (shocker: I actually like some of it!), and it’s no secret that it doesn’t take much to get PZ to ban someone. There are people who have been commenting on this blog for months that wouldn’t make it a week on Pharyngula before PZ banned them. Why are we not throwing the hammer down on PZ too, then? Also, as several of us have noted on past threads, we can all get comments expressing praise for Jerry Coyne through on WEIT with no problem, but I, for one, have never seen a single one of my critical comments on WEIT make it through moderation – ever….no matter how professional and civil I make them.

    So, I’m seeing a bit of a double standard here from you. If you’re going to criticize Mooney for deleting a rather embarrassing thread – involving a handful of skeptics, one accommodationist, and another guy who has made it rather clear that he disagrees with Mooney on accommodationism (not all accommodationists, as you falsely implied) – then let’s see you not be so silent on some of the NAs who do similar things. Let’s be mature and objective….or at least realize that bloggers get to make the rules on their own blogs and stop letting this become an extension of what is increasingly becoming apparent is a rather harsh personal vendetta of not only Chris Mooney, but anyone who doesn’t go out of their way to criticize him on your part.

    To ThomasL:

    I’ve been called a “denier” in here – though I would actually consider myself a classical Skeptic, because to me the details actually matter.

    I’m with you on this point: throwing around the denier label is getting a bit old.

    But….I do see some relevancy in a very good point made by bilbo (of all people) about there being a difference between being a skeptic on a given topic and being a science denialist. To echo what he said, I see a climate skeptic as someone who has clearly read up on the issue – not on skeptic blogs and ideological internet hives but in the actual peer-reviewed literature itself. They can lucidly and cogently discuss what papers did, why it matters, and what it means for the field – and they can do so without using political and social invectives as the foundation for their argument. They can see the benefits from a study just as much as they can the negatives (versus the “everything in this article is wrong”-type foolishness some spew forth). For these people, their distrust of the science seems to stem from the fact that they deem the current evidence for AGW unsatisfactory. I would disagree with them, but at least they have a well-informed background knowledge that lets actual, productive discussion on the topic occur with those which accept AGW. Sorbet (unless I’m mistaken) is an example of one well-informed, true climate skeptic here.

    A climate denialist, on the other hand, is someone who has rather strong opinions about the science of AGW being a lie/hoax/false/conspiracy but hasn’t taken the time to actually read up on the science itself to form their own opinion. Instead, these people seem to make uninformed opinions about the subject by simply mimicking the opinion of a blogger/talking head/politician/celebrity that they trust, or use political/social invectives as the basis of their argument and use evasive debate tactics and shoddy scientific arguments to attempt to debunk the science. You can’t have a discussion with a denialist like you can a skeptic. “kim” from the deleted thread is a perfect example. I tried to engage her in a very civil manner to get away from the political and personal invectives that were dominating that thread, but as soon as I began to urge her to discuss the facts and stop mud-flinging, she acted as if I had slapped her mother and began to accuse me of all sorts of sundry evils/hurriedly tried to change the topic/hurled some very rude and personal attacks my way.

    I’ll also be the first to point out that this dichotomy holds up on the other side of the aisle, too. For every levelheaded person who is well-informed and supports the science of AGW, there’s a nutbag taking things out of proportion and claiming that New York will be 200 feet underwater in 5 years, that half the world’s population will die by 2012, that conservatives are evil babyeaters, and so on to the point of irrelevancy. But the important point is to recognize that, just because nutbags exist on both sides, that doesn’t mean that all skeptic arguments are irrelevant OR that all AGW supporter arguments are irrelevant, either. You have to wade through the BS on both sides to get to the actual point all too often in these debates.

    And I just wrote a book….so I’ll shut up.

  32. Philip Jr.

    Wow, TB. You apparently read my mind. My last comment (still in moderation) is close to a mirror image of parts of yuors.

  33. Julie

    I echo Philip’s point about differences in the skeptic community. These differences are very true, not only with regards to climate change but to things like the anti-vax movement, as well. And, of course, this plays back into the recent kerfuffle about outreach strategies focusing on these movements.

    If we can bring ourseleves to acknowledge that such a dichotomy exists, I see no reason why we (aa scientists) can’t use a confrontational, “hardball” approach to attacking those who align more with the denialist label and reach their position along more ideological/political lines and won’t be swayed by any kind of civil discourse. In this light, we also should acknowledge that civil discourse isn’t a waste, either, as we can certainly reach some people who hold science denial-type opinions but do so by valuing scientific evidence/discussion and may just be misinformed about the state of the science. There’s virtually no reason to think that these kinds of people can’t be swayed and/or informed with this kind of approach.

    To echo what TB said to a degree, I feel that the problem from the scientists’ side is that many are instead taking a “you’re playing dirty and taking things to personal level? Well then, I can play dirty and take things to a personal level, too!” kind of approach to this issue, claiming that, just because they’re scientists and have evidence on their side, that justifies being unapologetic about saying some truly horrible things not just about beliefs/ideology but about the people holding them and using tactics that, in any other arena, are always frowned upon as inexcusable. To see people who often frown upon this type of behavior engage in it themselves is bad and hypocritical, of course, but at least we’re seeing them apologize. Most of them time, when people like the NAs say equally nasty and immature things, they not only refuse to apologize for it but encourage the behavior and even suggest that people should ramp it up to new levels.

    But we’re supposed to have the truth on our side, here. Why not let it speak for itself?

  34. gillt

    Censoring a potentially embarrassing post and accompanying thread is not the same thing as conspiracy. Also, deleting a post and banning a commenter are completely different things. Don’t be so quick to assume Myers and Coyne wouldn’t get the same treatment from people if they had done that. Likely it’s your dislike of anything NA that causes this failure in reasoning.

  35. Philip Jr.

    Likely it’s your dislike of anything NA that causes this failure in reasoning.

    I don’t know if this was directed at me or not, but I don’t dislike “anything NA.” Not even close. In fact, I think the New Atheism has some benefits that it can bring to the table for science and for reason/rational thinking, in general.

    If anything, the tendency to think that I dislike “anything NA” because I criticize some of the actions of the New Atheism (or all of the actions of a single New Atheist) is precisely the problem. In internet spats (like climate change skirmishes or NA/accommodationism talk), we all broadbrush criticism and approval. Criticze an New Atheist? Well then – you hate any and everything that applies to the New Atheism (and, you’re occasionally even accused of supporting religion)! And if you’re a New Atheist, you’d better not applaud anything Chris Mooney does, or you’re a hypocrite (and vice versa). Also, are you a climate skeptic? Then you’d better disagree with every major point that a “believer” makes, or you’re not a true skeptic. And too many AGW supporters find it simply incomprehensible to admit a fault on the part of climate science – even when clear errors might be made. This kind of polarized thinking doesn’t help anyone, and it’s miles from being intelligent.

    My point about PZ and Jerry Coyne isn’t that I hate them (I don’t); it’s that they’re doing exactly what Mooney is doing: using their authority as bloggers to sanction and moderate the content of their blog. If you’re going to criticize Chris Mooney for pulling a terribly immature comment thread while remaining absolutely silent when other people pull terribly immature commenters from their blogs and/or keep terribly immature (or, in some cases, simply critical) comments from even making it through moderation, then you’re just falling into the old Tribal Trap again, magnifying criticism of those with whom you disagree and giving a free pass for the same activity to those you agree with. And to be burtally honest for a moment, gillt, I’d wager that about 60 to 70 ppercent of your posts here are just flaming arrows thrown as Chris Mooney/other commenters as a personal attack – not based on any objective assessment of the issue at hand (every single one you’ve posted on this thread, in fact, has had some form of personal attack embedded in it). That’s kind of what this whole post/comment thread is all about: moving past that kind of rubbish and discussing things like real, rational adults.

  36. Milton C.

    Real people can lose their temper, realize their behavior was inappropriate, feel bad and then apologize. That’s normal.
    When real people don’t realize their behavior was inappropriate, do not feel bad and then do not apologize then that’s a problem.
    It’s also the difference, gillt, between what the commentors here did and what many prominent New Atheists engage in.

    Yes. Another difference is that I, personally, saw that the offensive nature of my comments diminished their relevancy in the eyes of those who probably needed to hear them the most. In contrast, many NAs seem to judge the relevancy of their comments based solely on how offensive they are. But, we all know that saying “you’re wrong about climate change” and “you’re wrong about climate change, and *insert comment about male anatomy here*” (to highlight a comment made in my direction on the last thread) may voice the same general concern, but attaching the anatomical reference to the end doesn’t make the statement more true. It just gets your opponent riled up and gets you some back-patting from your buddies. The New Atheism would often paint the former quote as weak and the latter quote as excellent, however.

  37. bilbo

    Bah, I’ll get flamed for pointing this out, but I thought it was relevant given the following quotes:

    if that behavior so motivates you to post tsk tsk messages, gilt, then by all means jump over to Coyne, PZ and Dawkins’ sites and take they to task.

    Another difference is that I, personally, saw that the offensive nature of my comments diminished their relevancy in the eyes of those who probably needed to hear them the most. In contrast, many NAs seem to judge the relevancy of their comments based solely on how offensive they are.

    Most of them time, when people like the NAs say equally nasty and immature things, they not only refuse to apologize for it but encourage the behavior and even suggest that people should ramp it up to new levels.

    These are all very true. I’m posting this because I was over at Pharyngula, reading PZs post on the Kevin Smith airline incident, and I came across this little ditty from Wowbagger, OM, in response to someone voicing their disapproval of overweight people:

    “Go f*ck yourself with a mophandle, you clueless sh*tstain.”

    Now – what does “OM” stand for, you ask? It stands for “Order of the Molly,” an award that PZ gives to “the best and most interesting and most deserving of acknowledgment” commenters each month. Wowbagger’s quote is equal to any of the hate spew I wrote on the deleted thread last week. Here it’s frowned upon and deleted. On Pharyngula, it’s rewarded (that kind of quote is a staple of Wowbagger’s stuff). I see that quote above and find shades of myself from last week in it. And that reminds me how much I despise that kind of rhetoric.

    So, if you’re coming to The Intersection to gripe about nasty comments in the context of the New Atheism but aren’t placing any blame on the other blogs, it’s time to look around.

  38. Due to the nature of incoming unpublished comments, we have decided to close this thread. Regarding what’s objectionable, we refer you to our comments policy.

    SK & CM

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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