From Point of Inquiry: Are First and Second Generation Atheists Any Different?

By Chris Mooney | May 10, 2010 7:45 am

As I expected, some intriguing (and potentially controversial) points emerged in the interview with Elaine Ecklund (show website here; listen here; download/subscribe here). In particular, at around minute 15:10 or so, I ask Ecklund about her finding that there are two types of atheists in her scientist sample–first generation, and second generation.

First generation atheists start out in a faith tradition and then, at some point, reject it. By contrast, second generation atheists start out with atheist or non-religious parents, and so never really have to reject anything. (I don’t know how many third, fourth, etcetera generation atheists there are out there.)

On the air, Ecklund observed that the first generation atheists tend to be more critical of religion, and more driven in making such criticisms. After all, religion is something that is much more personal to them, and that they have rejected. We second generation atheists, though–for I am one–we tend to be more mellow. Or so Ecklund finds, anyway.

But I pressed her on the point. After all, although I’m “second generation,” I was pretty angry at religion when I was a college atheist activist. I was pretty driven. Yes, I mellowed with time–but I was and still remain second generation.

What’s more, I’m sure that there are some first generation atheists who aren’t particularly driven to bash religion, no matter the difficulty of their deconversion experiences or the powerful impact these had on their lives–it’s just not in their temperament.

Still, Ecklund defended the generalization despite my devil’s advocacy. In general, it is of a piece with her finding that family upbringing is a central  predictive factor for later life religiosity or the lack thereof, as well as for who actually becomes a scientist (they tend to come from less religiously observant households).

So what do folks think–is there anything to this idea?

(Once again, for those who haven’t heard the program yet: The show website is here; you can listen here; and you can download/subscribe here.)

Comments (63)

  1. beanfeast

    My mother, who is a ex-Christadelphian, has told me that in her experience there’s no one more bigoted than a convert. Perhaps this observation ties in with the difference between 1st and 2nd generation atheists.

  2. GM

    I guess I count as a “second generation” atheist too, although I have been raised without religion, but not explicitly in atheism, which is not exactly the same thing. And I happen to be as militant as anyone I have ever seen and heard share his views on the subject, and perhaps even more.

    The obvious explanation for the data is that in general, the more you think about science and religion, the more “militant” you become, because you see the incompatibility between the two, you see the harm religion is doing to society, etc.. Not always, but this is the general trend. If you were raised without religion, you are probably less likely to be thinking about it that much, and as a result, “second generation” atheists are on average, less concerned about it, and less likely to attack it openly.

    I don’t think it is a case of rejection of religion vs not having to do it]as much as it is a case of spending the time to think about things vs not having done it.

  3. Jean

    GM’s “obvious” theory doesn’t fit my case whatever. I am second generation and (just as Ecklund suggests) not anti-religious. It’s definitely not for lack of thinking about religion. I think about it plenty, I’m a confident atheist, etc. However, just like a confident Jew doesn’t have to be anti-Christian, a confident atheist doesn’t have to be anti-religious. I think second generation atheists (or Jews, or Christians) just don’t have the sense of having been emancipated, so don’t feel the need to emancipate others. I have never been harmed by religion, so it’s easy for me to imagine that religion isn’t always harmful. That impression is backed up by positive psychology, which actually shows that religion has many benefits. All the more reason to continue my stance: atheist, but not anti-religious.

  4. Mike

    I actually thought your anecdote bolstered Dr. Ecklund’s findings. She was, after all, interviewing established scientists that are probably at an age where their personal philosophies have settled out. I’d suspect that if she were interviewing science majors in college or graduate students, she’d like find a different pattern. These are people who have been faced with the tension between religion and science daily for many years and have either rejected or found compromise in their beliefs.

    Personally, I think she nailed it on the head. I’m looking forward to picking up a copy of her book to give it a more thorough reading. I have seen some whispers on the blogs that her data don’t fully support her claims, but as a practicing scientist her claims on the interview seem to ring true.

  5. GM

    I have never been harmed by religion, so it’s easy for me to imagine that religion isn’t always harmful.

    This precisely illustrates my point that people like you haven’t examined the situation deep enough

  6. GM

    I actually thought your anecdote bolstered Dr. Ecklund’s findings. She was, after all, interviewing established scientists that are probably at an age where their personal philosophies have settled out.

    The first question that one has to ask when approaching this issue is how many of the people being studied actually have a personal philosophy and how many have just followed the dominant societal paradigm. I highly doubt that the conflict between science and religion is on the mind of the majority of working scientists. A lot of people in science, especially professors who are responsible for big research group but who don’t happen to be Nobel prize winners tend to be very similar to the kind of people who run major corporations, i.e. 14 to 18-hour work days, complete focus on work, and very little time for thinking about the big questions. The system is such that it selects for them, but they aren’t the people who would give you answers to questions about religion vs science that are the result of a lot of thinking about the subject; they don’t have time for that and have never had it. Of course, this does not invalidate the results of the study as if you are trying to study scientists’s attitude towards religion, and a sizable portion of scientists are like that, then what you observe is what it, but interpretation of the results has to be more careful

  7. CIGSKILL101

    Wow, I’ve never thought about it in that sense. As a first-generation atheist, I always felt a passionate urge to question religion openly. Not to destroy it, but in a search for a reason to believe. I was raised Christian and I got saved at an early age, because as a youth, I believed in anything my parents told me. But after getting educated on science and how science is the reason we’ve become the modern society we are today, not some “Cosmic Jewish Zombie,” I couldn’t see I could ever allow myself to believe in the God of the Bible ever again. I don’t hate religion, I just hate how smart people can actually believe in it so much they’ll protest at military funerals because God hates fags. Religion has had it’s benefits in human evolution and helped maintain a sense of moral and ethical cause to existence. But do we really need religion if we have education?

  8. Jean

    GM–Yes, well, read the rest of my comment. I promise, I’ve given the matter plenty of thought. So–your theory does not hold up in my case.

  9. Mike

    @GM I have no intention of suggesting that every practicing scientists is necessarily an armchair theologian, or even have strong opinions about religion’s impact on society, but settling a personal religious philosophy is a very different matter. I believe you’re two conflating very different things.

    It sounds like you’re suggesting that scientists are generally so busy managing their responsibilities that they have ignored their personal spirituality or view of religion. I just find that a very difficult pill to swallow. We may be very busy managing our grants and labs, working long hours, but we tend to be intelligent folk interested in other topics as well, including, but not limited to religion. We also have families and personal lives. I would consider my institution to be in an “elite” class: well funded, excellent publication record, well known in many fields, members of the NAS on the faculty. They all like to wax philosophical on their own interests be it political, philosophical, literary, or leisurely. I think the idea of a field of people so driven that they ignore anything but hard science is a bit of a caricature.

  10. GM

    Mike @9:

    That’s not what I am describing (the caricature version). What I mentioned was the “arriving at a personal philosophy after investing the necessary time to research and think about things” vs “following the dominant societal paradigm” distinction.

    The people you are talking about can and no doubt do talk a lot about things outside of research. but this does not mean that they have dug deep enough into things. My observations are that most of the time they haven’t, with a lot more exceptions than among the general public, but still, it’s a lot closer to what you would find among other well-educated professionals than what you would expect from “natural philosophers”

  11. Mike

    @GM #10

    I think I understand your distinction a little better, and I think you bring up a valid point, but I still think I would disagree. In my experience (may be specific to biological sciences), its difficult to live in a world of biological research without confronting the more spiritual questions re: life.

    Neuroscientists necessarily confront concepts of mind/spirit, while developmental biologists face questions about the origin of life. More generally living in a world where the fingerprints of evolution is pervasive, and truly awesome its sometimes difficult to ignore questions of spirituality/wonderment. I would absolutely agree with you that some may well default to the societal paradigm, but from personal anecdotes it seems less likely to occur than to the general population. I think this is such an interesting area of sociological research specifically because of the tensions faced by the very nature of the work.

    One of the interesting results Dr. Ecklund mentioned were that 65% of scientists that didn’t affiliate with traditional religions (50% of the total) considered themselves spiritual. It suggested to me that this idea of necessarily facing these questions may have legs. (again – I’m looking forward to scrutinizing that data more when I pick up a copy)

  12. vel

    It seems that all that Ecklund’s work has done is underline that the religious/spiritual all make up their gods in their own images.

    And religious means the same as spiritual but those who don’t like the baggage that the term “religious” has will go out of their way to avoid it. Soon “spiritual” will have the same negative connotation thanks the actions of those who now claim it.

  13. GM

    Mike @ 12:

    One of the interesting results Dr. Ecklund mentioned were that 65% of scientists that didn’t affiliate with traditional religions (50% of the total) considered themselves spiritual. It suggested to me that this idea of necessarily facing these questions may have legs.

    It is not just “interesting”, it is absolutely horrifying if true. If scientists were properly trained and educated, this should never have been the answer to the question. One of the observations behind my previous post is that at no point in the process of becoming a professional scientist do people receive formal training in proper reasoning and epistemology, history of science, or anything that puts the facts they learn in a more general context. These are things left to young scientists to sort out on their own, and most of the time they end up going for the path of least resistance, i.e. somehow reconciling them with the general societal views on the subject. This should not be happening if they were given proper training, but this is not the case unfortunately

    vel @ 12:
    And religious means the same as spiritual but those who don’t like the baggage that the term “religious” has will go out of their way to avoid it. Soon “spiritual” will have the same negative connotation thanks the actions of those who now claim it.

    And for the better. In fact, it is already well associated with a sufficient dose of New Age and other sorts of quackery to be considered a “dirty word” for a scientist to associate with, but apparently not enough people have woken up to this realization

  14. Mike

    @GM I think your suggestion of proper training goes well beyond the scope of a scientific profession. While I don’t disagree that epistemology, or history of science is beneficial to young scientists, I’m at a loss to see how a scientist maintaining private spiritual beliefs has anything to do with the carrying out good science. I have a colleague who is quite religious, and openly so (certainly a rarity). I’m not aware of how he reconciles his personal beliefs with his scientific knowledge, but I can assure you his knowledge of his field is impeccable, and he designs well controlled experiments, writes cogent papers, and carries on the tradition of a fine scientist in every sense of the word.

    Science is a method, and should be isolated from ideology. Just because your ideology is most philosophically amenable to science does not exempt it anymore than it does intelligent designers. I don’t welcome atheistic discussion in scientific dialogue anymore than I welcome religion.

  15. peter

    “What’s more, I’m sure that there are some first generation atheists who aren’t particularly driven to bash religion, no matter the difficulty of their deconversion experiences or the powerful impact these had on their lives–it’s just not in their temperament.”

    Why don’t you get it into your rather thick skulls that the bashing of religion by atheists (I am what you might call a 1st gen atheist) is due the the increasing politicization of the religious right in the US and demands by the adherents of almost all religions for privileges beyond those available to any citizen, be it in the realm of free speech, public funding etc.

    I give a [cut] about anybodies religion, but with the rise of the influence of the religious right under Bush it was time to put a stop to the successful clamoring by those special interest groups. Time to push back and push back hard.

  16. April Brown

    My own two cents (I wouldn’t care to generalize this to anybody else, this is purely subjective), being a first generation rejecter of religion, I think I’m far, far more hostile towards it than my son will be. At least I hope so.

    There is a very personal sense of violation at having had my formative years tainted with religion. I have raw emotions towards faith that I have towards people who have stolen from me or assaulted me. It makes me a very poor speaker in any science/religion debate, because of my personal ties to the questions, and this bugs me also.

    I’m going to try to raise my baby boy with an academic understanding of faith, and how it influences people, but without the bitterness. I’d like him to be free of the crazy – the parts of my psyche that are cluttered up with a visceral understanding of how faith damages people could have been used for something better.

  17. Guy

    I am a 1st generation agnostic. My family are primarily devout Christian conservatives. My upbringing made me a Christian. Through education, study and reflection I evolved into an agnostic. I don’t know if I’ll ever become a full-on atheist (doubtful), but it’s unlikely that I could go back to being a full-on fundamentalist Christian; someone who doesn’t question the Bible and takes offense at those who do.

  18. GM

    14. Mike Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 12:04 pm
    @GM I think your suggestion of proper training goes well beyond the scope of a scientific profession.

    Science is not a profession; it has become so in our society for many people, but it is not a profession, and should not be merely a profession, because of its historical roots, and because of its mission. Once you stop looking at it as just a profession as any other, you see things very differently

  19. sputnik

    I’m sort of a second generation atheist and I didn’t even know my parents were non-believers until a few years ago because no one in my family talked or cared about religion. Yet, I came to dislike religion, and a religious apologist would probably consider my critical views as “militant.” So, like others, I don’t fit with Ecklund’s assumptions.

  20. The findings of the study are consistent with what I have observed at atheist meetings and discussion groups; by a wide margin, most of the participants are 45 and up. I would attribute this to the older generations’ up-bringing at a time when religion had a much tighter grasp on society than the ’80s and ’90s of today’s young adults. The rejection of faith in their youth would thus have been a far graver affront to convention than in mine. Many of them were abandoning the treasured convictions of their parents and siblings and in many cases alienating themselves from their families and friends in the process.

    I suppose I would fall under the ‘2nd generation’ category, though my mother may be better described as agnostic than atheist. I, however and in contrast to most of my peers, am as fervent in my ridicule of faith as any of my seniors. Perhaps unquestioning belief in propositions lacking any coherent arguments in their favor can be forgiven of those who lived without access to media and scientific knowledge, people who lived in a simpler time…perhaps. Nowadays, by contrast, nearly everyone in the First World has numerous media at their disposal with which to peruse countless sources of information and draw conclusions from what they share in common. We’ve no further need of the useless relic of faith and ‘revelation’ to explain the workings of the universe. Further, with people of wildly differing cultural backgrounds increasingly exposed to each other by an exploding human population( sponsored, in part, by religion), we can’t afford arbitrary divisions and the prejudices they propagate.

  21. joe dude

    As a first generation atheist from a Baptist Fundamentalist household, I am very critical and educated in the bible but keep my opinions too myself, since I am surrounded by Fundies…my teen daughter claims atheism ( yea!), she came to that conclusion herself without a conversation about atheism from me…but I do surround myself and her with physical science media all the time, telescopes, fossils, scientific photography , geology, biology, evolution, documentaries and so forth.

  22. moptop

    As an atheist myself, I can’t help but believe that “militant” atheists are angry about something else besides the simple belief in God, but whatever. I have a lot of believers around me and the last thing I would do would be to attempt to destroy their faith. What would be the point? That’s a rhetorical question, no need to write a rant in reply.

  23. Frank Rommey

    It depends, my mother still sticks to the Roman Catholic Church, and my father was a freethinker. I was a believer until the belief proved to be unfounded. Since then I have no beliefs. I think in a positive way about something when evidence shows the likehood of it being correct, or I reject it if the evidence supports the rejection. When there is not a clear cut, I make it a subject of study without preconclusions. I wouldn’t call myself Atheist nor Agnostic or Skeptic. Non-believer is more on the money.
    Anyway, I enjoyed your handling of the interview. But as I said, EHE didn’t give you anything that she hasn’t given elsewhere. The Rice University event was an interesting one too. But it didn’t make me a convert.
    Still I think we need to find more about this slippery fish of “consciousness” and how it all plays together with our biological nature.

    Btw, I am married to a honest Christian woman, who doesn’t believe in dogma. We never had a problem with the subject of spirituality or religion.

  24. amos

    My family was Jewish, but not particularly observant or religious. They sent me to Hebrew school, but it bored me and I had discipline problems. No one in my family made a big deal out of that, and I lost all interest in religion. Until the arrival of the New Atheists, I was an atheist like I’m right-handed: I never gave it the slightest thought.
    In fact, even now, if I avoid New Atheist web-sites, being an atheism isn’t a subject that
    occupies my time nor is bashing religion. If I had to list the 20 greatest problems that humanity faces, religion would not be one of them, although fundamentalism would be on the list.

  25. GM

    I have a lot of believers around me and the last thing I would do would be to attempt to destroy their faith. What would be the point? That’s a rhetorical question, no need to write a rant in reply.

    The point is basic intellectual honesty, plain and simple

  26. blub blub

    moptop,

    I think you have a point. I am a ‘militant atheist’ as the label goes. I am cross about some aspects of religion and tend to think those aspects, such as community, group support etc can still exist without the theology, and so ‘can’ exist without the theology. I guess that’s the key, it is not religion that bugs me as such, but theology and in particular political theology. This is the fun bit – whether you are left leaning or right leaning politically it is easy to understand why people care and debate, or even become angry, about politics; in fact it is judged quite normal to have something passionate to say. Religion to me has so many obvious parallels with politics that it seems fair game, it is just a type of taboo to not question it openly.

    You are well catered for over in the US for podcasts like these. Over here on the other side of the Atlantic it can be tricky trying to not get emotionally involved. Many of these religious questions are primarily American cultural issues, although we can see the same things happening over here in the UK they are at much lower levels (creationism at many be a few percent etc). Sociological studies of American scientists do not necessarily speak that widely. In fact if religiosity is around 70% in the US and 36% of US scientists are religious then what would it mean for the UK where we might start more at 36% overall – perhaps just 15% of our scientists are, or maybe the cultural dilution has given our scientists less exposure right from the off. It would make a big difference in the UK who you asked since there are many different communities and religiosity varies across them. On my geology degree with number of religious people was perhaps (from memory) 0.5%. Whereas perhaps in the sociology department it was much higher?

    As for the likes of Dawkin’s etc. I think my anger at theology generally set in when i started to become a geologist. I don’t remember feeling cross before my degree. The sheer weight of geological evidence I learn’t every day undermines the Abrahamic religions to such a degree they they must sink into theology for defense. Then a passion for philosophy helped me see how its daughter subject (of theology) had spun its webs of assumptions and claims – in fact how deeply un-philosophical the subject is while it shrouds itself in the mysteries of nature and in timeless philosophical language (of muddles).

    Behind all this though I would not say that I am not a spiritual person. This is where research like this can fall apart. I am spiritual, but in a very different way. Feeling spiritual is a human quality, not something that can be claimed purely supernatural. I would come as no surprise to me if scientists and even atheists still thought of themselves as spiritual. In fact with enough education on the subject, and the related anger, it can be a type of rebellion. A refusal to have yet another aspect of your humanity stolen and copyrighted by the religions. Sort of like – you may have conned me in earlier life into thinking yours was the only type of spirituality, but actually i now see i am free to make my own. So i do, every day something different. Today i played with a fictional narrative and made my own God, just for me. As real as i am today and as powerful as anything else. I did it just to see if it would change how i felt, then i deleted that God. It made me feel nice inside to know it protected me and loved me, but i think tomorrow i can do better. Is that irrational? We can play with our beliefs and emotions to create our ‘self’. Belief is a funny thing – an emotion in itself. I just be cautious with it when i am testing how it works on my other feelings as i don’t intend to let belief rule me. It is interesting to experiment on your own mind, but you need to know what you are doing. I think belief can be like a feedback loop; it can get carried away with itself.

  27. blub blub

    blub blub also apologises for not writing that comment (#24) in word before he posted it very late at night. Or at the very least re-reading it properly. Some sites have edit buttons! Oops. Sorry.

  28. gwen

    I am an African American, and I am not sure of the source of my mother’s atheism. All I know is that both she and her youngest brother were atheists. I believe that some of her others siblings were also atheists too although one sibling became religious. Talking to her when she was older, it was obvious that she’d been an atheist all of her life. They have all since died so there is no one to ask. My dad was agnostic, and came from a VERY religious family. I am an atheist as are both of my children. My mother was not intolerant of religion, she just thought it was all very silly. I think exposure to other religions as we traveled around the world did a lot to cement that view. I am a rather mellow atheist, as is my eldest son. My younger son however, would be categorized as a militant atheist.

  29. Johann

    I’m a second-generation atheist by these definitions – vaguely theistic relatives, minor but largely irrelevant prodding to join them, never been a believer. I didn’t really have a problem with religion – I thought of it as bizarre and misguided, but a largely personal matter, and didn’t have even a concept of “atheist activism”…

    …until I moved to the States. Living here, and seeing what happens when religion permeates politics and social life, has gradually pushed me from “neutral” to “pissed-off activist”.

  30. Marion Delgado

    2nd gen here, mostly agree with her.

    Still, true story. I was really young, no more than 10, and chiding a friend and schoolmate over being a Christian mentally sending most of humanity to be burned in hell forever, even calling him a “Buddhist fryer” (pun intended). At one point a very thoughtful boy said, “well, I kind of believe in reincarnation, I think.” Whereupon both the traditional Christian and I rounded on him and mocked him as an idiot. To add to this pretty picture of tolerance, he actually had something going on – some disability or fetal alcohol, or something. But in fact, he was not retarded at all, and a thoughtful, very philosophical boy, and more mature than anyone else in our grade.

    My father taught us kids to look at all the religions and give them a fair chance, and my mother to try to get the good out of them that we could get, and also to “fit in” and not make waves because most people are religious. So I don’t know where I got that.

  31. moptop

    You guys seem to accept Global Warming in the same way that my aunts and uncles accepted Christianity. I don’t see the difference. The mythic basis of AGW is lifted right out of Judeo Christin mythology.

    The modern world eats from the apple of technology and is cast from the garden and the loving embrace of God. The story of Noah, etc. Belief in a savior and redeemer. “This was the time when the ocean ceased its rise.” To quote somebody popular with AGW believers.

    All these could be coincidences, and the case for that would be a lot stronger if the talk of “Gaia” were less, and reliance on the evidence and the actual maths were stronger. Not to mention that scientists were not treated as members of a priesthood and protectors of a higher truth impenetrable to the intellect of the laity, no matter how well trained in math or science.

  32. moptop

    I guess what I am saying is that AGW is a perfect spiritual substitute for Christianity, and people interested in getting to the bottom of the issue need to be acutely aware of this, and of their own motivations.

  33. LRU

    Although Eckland’s generalization regarding the atheist generations might be over broad, it might be interesting exercise for the more open “second-generation” atheists to discuss their personal philosophies and with more open-minded theists. Opening up a dialogue may dispel some stereotypes on both sides of the table and may also contribute to a growing tolerance for secular beliefs and values in the modern world.

    In my opinion, perhaps some of the most exciting contributions and developments to thought have risen from criticism and critical analysis from the ‘other’ and can, if properly done, shape the discourse further and in new directions not contemplated before. I’d be interested in seeing how the opposing discourses of theism and atheism will develop and change because of, or despite, one another particularly in the social sciences and humanities.

  34. TB

    @ 14 Mike

    Best comment I’ve read in a long time.

  35. Guy

    “I guess what I am saying is that AGW is a perfect spiritual substitute for Christianity, and people interested in getting to the bottom of the issue need to be acutely aware of this, and of their own motivations.” -moptop

    Anthropogenic global warming is a scientific theory supported by factual evidence. It’s not some sort of religion. There may be some spiritual aspects of environmentalism because of the sense awe people feel for nature. It is still grounded in reality rather than in religious dogma.

    Why do you try to turn every post in to a debate on global warming? Is that the only reason you comment here?

  36. moptop

    Because you seem to have a religious faith in AGW, and your only response is ever “No I don’t” yet you guys seem to be anti religious,

  37. moptop

    I guess I am militantly anti catastrophic AGW the same way you guys are militant atheists. Probably for the same reasons.

  38. Guy

    “I am militantly anti catastrophic AGW the same way you guys are militant atheists. ”

    I’m not even an atheist, much less a militant one.

    Also, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is not something that has to happen. It will only happen if we let it. There are many things we can do to prevent it. The technological problems are big but the hardest part letting go of the things that hold us back; greed and fear of the unknown. So long as there is billions in profits to be made off of burning fossil fuels, it makes it very difficult to stop doing it. We don’t know what kind of future we’ll have if there is a rapid shift towards renewable energy, except that there will be less chance of CAGW.

  39. moptop

    “When I look at (what appear to be) the motivations of climate deniers, I can find nothing there that coincides with what I believe about the world around me. When I view the tireless efforts of scientists (like Dr. Mann) working to reveal to us the true nature of climate change, it inspires me to listen to what they have to say and to take it seriously. That is how we filter what seems credible from what is not.” – Guy

    So you impute motives to your opponents. Decide that those imputed motives are unworthy, and then you know which side is right in a scientific debate?

    You impute motives to me which I know are incorrect. You impute motives to Steve McIntyre which indicate that you simply do not read his web site and have no knowledge of his motivations, yet you can judge him as having an “axe to grind”? That’s a pretty impenetrable defense mechanism you have going there. Doesn’t prove anything to anybody else, but it sure keeps you from having to face an uncomfortable idea. Kind of like religion does for other people.

  40. moptop

    I wouldn’t care except that you guys want to raise my taxes on gasoline, electricity, basically anything that requires energy to produce. If not for that, you guys could go off into the woods and live in a commune with a collective yurt with nary a bad word from me.

  41. Guy

    “So you impute motives to your opponents. Decide that those imputed motives are unworthy, and then you know which side is right in a scientific debate?” -moptop

    No, all the climate denier arguments are routinely debunked by climate scientist who themselves have little to gain from doing so other than to set the record straight. When you examine the likely motives of behind the AGW skeptics arguments, it just makes the truth easier to accept. CAGW is a real threat and we must take action to avoid it.

    “I wouldn’t care except that you guys want to raise my taxes on gasoline, electricity, basically anything that requires energy to produce. ” -moptop

    So your motivation is just about money. Thanks for admitting that. How does that make you worthy of being a credible source of information? If a person is trying avoid losing money by spreading disinformation, why should we trust them?

  42. moptop

    Guy
    Hows about this. How about you tell me how your latest response disproves my point, rather than re-enforcing it with another example?

  43. Guy

    “How about you tell me how your latest response disproves my point, rather than re-enforcing it with another example?” -moptop

    Can you tell me how wanting to avoid paying taxes(because of policies designed to reduce Co2) makes you a credible science debater?

  44. Guy

    You seem to be saying, “judge the merits of the AGW skeptics arguments just on what they saying, not why they are saying it.” Yet you skeptics question the motives of climate scientists and environmentalist all the time. What you really want is to have a double standard so we don’t question the motives of climate deniers. That way their arguments can more easily make it past integrity checks. Good debates generally just don’t work that way.

  45. moptop

    “Good debates generally just don’t work that way.”

    So, in your opinion, a “good debate” is one where you have figured out the motives of the debaters, and has nothing to do with “just what they are saying”?

    It is possible to question the motives on both sides. For example, what if a scientist is convinced before all of the evidence is truly in. Feels like it is so important to save the world, that it is fine to cut corners.

  46. Guy

    “For example, what if a scientist is convinced before all of the evidence is truly in. Feels like it is so important to save the world, that it is fine to cut corners.” -moptop

    Then anything wrong with their work should be revealed through the peer review process and corrected before it’s allowed to be published in a scientific journal. Should it happen to make through peer review then someone can challenge it, but they have to show why it is wrong. Climate deniers frequently try to challenge the peer reviewed research with their own shoddy work but it doesn’t make past peer review too often. On the few occasions that it does, it quickly gets challenged and proven wrong.

  47. moptop

    “On the few occasions that it does, it quickly gets challenged and proven wrong.” – Guy

    Example of where McIntyre’s criticism of Mann was “challenged and proven wrong,” please.

    Just because you believe something is true, doesn’t give you the right to your own facts.

  48. moptop

    That would be his peer reviewed paper. I want to make this as specific as possible, because I know you will change the subject if we don’t talk about specifics. And McIntyre’s peer reviewed paper needs to be proven wrong in another peer reviewed paper, which you must cite. Since those are the rules you laid down.

  49. moptop

    Oh yeah, don’t just give me the name of the paper. You need to explain to me how it refutes McIntyre’s criticism.

    Otherwise, It will certainly appear that you have no real idea what you are talking about.

  50. moptop

    How about this? Briefly summarize McIntyre’s argument, then tell me why it is wrong.

  51. Guy

    Haven’t we already been through that in another thread? I’m starting to feel like I’m debating a schizophrenic that talks in circles. Not that I’m biased against the mentally ill, just that I’m not sure of the value in having a debate with them.

  52. moptop

    Yeah, in that other thread you didn’t answer the question either. You made the same false claim in this thread that you made in the other thread. Hence the discussion continues. You are in the stronger position if you think about it. All it takes is one counterexample to disprove a negative. So all you need to do is cite one of the papers you claim exists that refutes McIntyre and then bookmark that comment. That way, every time I call you on it, you can just link to the comment. Instead, you just keep asserting your point as an article of faith. As long as you keep making that claim and refuse to substantiate it, these threads are going to go in this direction.

    Not that I have anything against faith. I don’t, really. I think that humans evolved a capacity, even a propensity for faith because it is evolutionarily adaptive. It exists in you too Guy. Not the faith in God, certainly, but the need to for faith. You have chosen to fill it with your faith in CAGW.

    If you want to prevent threads like this in the future, either don’t make claims like the following, or back them up:

    “Climate deniers frequently try to challenge the peer reviewed research with their own shoddy work but it doesn’t make past peer review too often. On the few occasions that it does, it quickly gets challenged and proven wrong.” – Guy, upthread.

  53. Guy

    Deep climate has great coverage on the McIntyre & McKitrick paper. They get 1 little paper published in five years (since McIntyred started climate audit) and you tout this is some grand revelation that the thousands of peer reviewed paper in support AGW theory are false.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/02/04/steve-mcintyre-and-ross-mckitrick-part-1-in-the-beginning/

    See also: Briffa Teaches But will McIntyre Learn

    http://deepclimate.org/2009/10/30/briffa-teaches-but-will-mcintyre-ever-learn/

    Looks like your idol Steve McIntyre has some “splanin” to do.

  54. moptop

    So you get to rebut a peer reviewed paper with a political web site?

    There are many more than one anyway. You said there were none, I can give you more, but I reduced it to one because you claimed *all* had been refuted in the literature. I wanted to make it easy for you and also keep you from moving the goalposts.

    I have been to deepclimate. I can see why you like him. It is all about demonizing your opponents and questioning their motives. I could be wrong; maybe somewhere in that troll’s nest there is a reference to a paper that refutes McIntyre. Please show it to me. …. Oh that’s right, you can’t. It’s not there.

    Briffa appears to privately agree with McIntyre and disagree with Mann, as you could see from his email I quoted for you earlier. I’ll happily quote it again if you want.

  55. moptop

    OK, I went to your linksl The first is a long list of guilt by association connections, some of them pretty far fetched. Yet nowhere is there a refutation of his actual criticism.

    The second is about McIntyre and Briffa. Not Mann and Briffa. I don’t even want to start to get into that one unless you insist on it. It won’t go well for you. So why don’t you either admit that M&M has not been refuted in the peer reviewed literature or show me where it has?

  56. moptop

    re #56 “Mann and McIntyre”, not “Mann and Briffa”

  57. Guy

    “I wanted to make it easy for you and also keep you from moving the goalposts. ” -moptop

    You want to talk about moving goal posts?

    “Example of where McIntyre’s criticism of Mann was “challenged and proven wrong,” please.” -moptop

    “And McIntyre’s peer reviewed paper needs to be proven wrong in another peer reviewed paper, which you must cite.” -moptop

    “How about this? Briefly summarize McIntyre’s argument, then tell me why it is wrong.” -moptop

    So basically went from wanting to know where McIntyre was challenged and proven wrong to requiring me writing a thesis in a blog comment?

    You’ve got to be joking.

  58. moptop

    “Then anything wrong with their work should be revealed through the peer review process and corrected before it’s allowed to be published in a scientific journal. Should it happen to make through peer review then someone can challenge it, but they have to show why it is wrong. Climate deniers frequently try to challenge the peer reviewed research with their own shoddy work but it doesn’t make past peer review too often. On the few occasions that it does, it quickly gets challenged and proven wrong.” – Guy

    So, when you said “it quickly gets challenged and shot down”, you didn’t mean in the peer reviewed literature? You meant on blogs? You meant that it was challenged by conspiracy theorists like Deep Climate and shot down through insinuation and guilt by association with other people who have previously been shot down by insinuation?

    Because, in my naiveté, I thought you meant that the paper had been shown to be invalid in the literature. I thought that was your claim. Instead it looks like what you said was that McIntyre has been smeared.

  59. Guy

    “Instead it looks like what you said was that McIntyre has been smeared.” -moptop

    No more so than what he’s tried to do to others with his false allegations of fraud and professional misconduct.

    It should be left to climate experts to refute M&M paper using the peer reviewed journals as a reference. It’s not like they have to complete a whole new study to just to disprove that one paper. I’m confident that Mann and Briffa have already provided this but you probably have some way to twist what they said to mean the opposite. That or you just dismissed it without even reviewing it.

  60. moptop

    “[skeptics] work but it doesn’t make past peer review too often. On the few occasions that it does, it quickly gets challenged and proven wrong.” – Guy”

    “I’m confident that Mann and Briffa have already provided this but you probably have some way to twist what they said to mean the opposite.” – Guy

    So you get to make claims based on what you are “confident” is true? I knew you were confident it was true from the beginning. People of faith have confidence. What they don’t have is proof, kind of like you.

  61. Guy

    “People of faith have confidence.”

    The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that climate deniers have a lot more “faith” than anyone in the environmentalists camp. You have this absurd belief that you can do whatever you want to the planet without consequence. What do you think is going to happen when you mess around with the global climate? Do you have faith that the Earth can just balance everything on it’s own no matter what we do?

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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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