Saturday, January 2, 2010

Top Ten Ways Climate Deniers are like Creationists

"The point is not, he said, whether or not you would "win" the debate. Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to. For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don't. To the gullible public that is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist." - Richard Dawkins quoting Stephen J. Gould

"The primary purpose of Phase II is to prepare the popular reception of our ideas. The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized. For this reason we seek to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies. [...] This combination of scientific and scholarly expertise and media and political connections makes the Wedge unique, and also prevents it from being "merely academic. [...] We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence's that support the faith, as well as to "popularize" our ideas in the broader culture. " - Excerpt from the Discovery Institute's "Wedge Strategy" document.

"Identify, recruit, and train a team of five independent scientists to participate in media outreach. These will be individuals who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate [...] Develop a global climate science information kit for media including peer-reviewed papers that undercut the "conventional wisdom" on climate science [. . .] Develop, disseminate radio news releases featuring scientists nationwide, and offer scientists to appear on radio talk shows across the country . . .Develop and implement a program to inject credible science and scientific accountability into the global climate debate, thereby raising questions about and undercutting the "prevailing scientific wisdom". The strategy will have the added benefit of providing a platform for credible, constructive criticism of the opposition's position on the science [...] Organize under the GCSDC a "Science Education Task Group that will serve as the point of outreach to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to develop school materials that present a credible, balance, picture of climate science for use in classrooms nationwide." - Excerpt from Exxon's 1998 "action plan" on global warming.

While the overlap between anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skeptics/deniers and creationists isn't complete, there's a startling similarity in tactics being employed by both groups, especially as you approach the AGW denier-fringe. Let's look at some of the tactics and arguments being used. I'm not going to delve into whether these arguments have any merit or not (that would involve a hell of a long post), but, as Glenn Beck says: I just find it interesting.

1. Claim that there's a scientific conspiracy responsible for suppressing dissenting points of view.

Exhibit A for the creationists: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
"If Darwin wanted to challenge the consensus today, how would he do it? Science is not a hobby for rich aristocrats anymore, it’s a multi-million-dollar industry. And if you want a piece of the pie, you’ve got to be a good comrade." - Ben Stein
Exhibit A for the AGW deniers: The Great Global Warming Swindle.
"climate scientists need there to be a problem in order to get funding." - Roy Spencer

Coincidentally, Roy Spencer had this to say about Intelligent Design:
“Twenty years ago, as a PhD scientist, I intensely studied the evolution versus intelligent design controversy for about two years. And finally, despite my previous acceptance of evolutionary theory as 'fact,' I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism. . . . In the scientific community, I am not alone.”

2. As a result of this conspiracy to keep dissenting opinions out of the peer reviewed literature, start your own "peer reviewed" journal instead.
Exhibit A for the creationists: Creationist Research Society Journal.

Exhibit A for the AGW deniers: Energy and Environment, which has been edited by Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen since 1996. She is quoted as saying "I'm following my political agenda -- a bit, anyway. But isn't that the right of the editor?" and "It’s only we climate skeptics who have to look for little journals and little publishers like mine to even get published"

Exhibit B for the AGW deniers: The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. What, you say? That was where the paper "supporting" the infamous Oregon Institute of Science & Medicine petition was published. The journal is published by the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, which has this to say:
"Humanists employ the slight of hand linguist trick of substituting the religion of evolutionary humanism for the creation religion of Jehovah by tagging the latter “religion, forbidden by the First Amendment” and the former “scientific fact.” Both labels, like humanism itself, are conspiratorial fabrications."

3. When the science doesn't swing your way, start a petition that claims to represent scientists.
Exhibit A for creationists: The Discovery Institute Petition.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Petition
Exhibit B for climate deniers: Back in March 2009, CATO was fishing around for signatories for its own petition.

4. Start your own counter-culture "conferences" to get the skeptics together.
Exhibit A for creationists: Answers in Genesis Conference.
Exhibit B for creationists: The Discovery Institute's Legacy of Darwin Intelligent Design Conference.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: The Heartland Institute's International Conference on Climate Change. They're up to #3 now. Now if only they could get people to show up.

5. Cherry-pick quotes from your opponents out of context, especially if you can make it look they said the opposite of what they actually said.
Exhibit A for creationists: quoting Darwin on the evolution of the eye.
Exhibits B-L for creationists here.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: Steve McIntyre quote-mining the stolen Hadley e-mails to make it look like the IPCC was nefariously "hiding the decline" in instrument data.
Exhibit B for climate deniers: All manner of denier blogs and major media outlets such as the WSJ quote-mining the IDL computer code behind some of the climate models without having the first clue what it actually means.

6. Offer a reward to anyone willing to dispute the science.
Exhibit A for creationists: Er, I can't find one.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: The American Enterprise Institute offered $10,000 to scientists and economists to critique the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report.

7. Compare your opponents to fascists (or communists, whatever you prefer).
Exhibit A for creationists: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. (see my previous post for more on this).
Exhibit A for climate deniers: Lord Monckton calling young climate activists "Hitler Youth" at Copenhagen.
Exhibit B for climate deniers: a Wall Street Journal editorial calling climate scientists "closet Stalinists". (again, see my previous post for more on this)

8. Split hairs in the face of overwhelming evidence that your central thesis is untenable.
Exhibit A for creationists: creating a false dichotomy between microevolution and macroevolution in the face of overwhelming evidence that changes in gene frequency happen with startling rapidity.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: finally admitting that the earth is warming (although a significant contingent is still in denial over this), but denying that humans have anything to do with it.

9. If all else fails, sue (or threaten to sue) them.
Exhibit A for creationists: Roseville woman sues UC Berkeley over its website claiming that evolutionary theory is compatible with religious belief. She loses.
Exhibit B for creationists: A group of California Christian schools sued the University of California for failing to recognize their pseudoscientific curricula.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: Noted climate crank John Coleman has been threatening to sue Al Gore (?) for years now.
Exhibit B for climate deniers: Lord Monckton wanted in on the Gore action as well.
Exhibit C for climate deniers: The Competitive Enterprise Institute sues NASA.
Exhibit C for climate deniers: In 2000, the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed not one, but two lawsuits to suppress and delete the National Assessment on Climate Change. These lawsuits were later dropped.

10. Blame the gravy train for the lack of research supporting your position.
Exhibit A for creationists:
"Evolution is the dogma of the scientific and educational establishments. Many millions of dollars from government sources are spent each year on research that is oriented and correlated within the framework of evolution theory. On the other hand, as far as I know, not a single tax dollar has been available, or is available, for research by scientists who openly attempt to correlate their results within the concept of special creation. Perhaps this virtual "shut-out" is due in part to lack of ingenuity and aggressiveness on the part of creationists, but there is little doubt that the most ingenious and sustained action of creationists would do little to weaken the stranglehold evolutionists have on public funds."
- Duane Gish
Exhibit A for climate deniers:
"The US government has spent over $79 billion since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, administration, education campaigns, foreign aid, and tax breaks. Despite the billions: “audits” of the science are left to unpaid volunteers. A dedicated but largely uncoordinated grassroots movement of scientists has sprung up around the globe to test the integrity of the theory and compete with a well funded highly organized climate monopoly." - Joanne Nova, Science and Public Policy Institute
Exhibit B for climate deniers:
"Describing those funding levels as "alarming," Kueter argues that the agencies might be pushing the universities to take a pro-regulatory approach to climate-change research. "I'm very concerned that our university system may be losing some of its creative edge because it has these critical dependencies on a single source of funding.""
- Jeff Kueter, George C. Marshall Institute
Exhibit C for climate deniers:
"More than anything, it's about money, it's about research grants, it's about power, it's about socialism . . .The incentives to do this are huge. It's absolutely the neatest thing if you want to have bigger government and greater control." - Jay Lehr, Heartland Institute

I'm open to suggestions of other parallels in tactics and strategies.

Addendum: I missed this gem of an op-ed piece by Rick Santorum - complete with an argumentum ad populum. Apparently, AGW is exactly like evolution. Santorum manages to cram ten pounds of stupid into a five pound bag.

"Why? Well, maybe because Americans don't like being told what to believe. Maybe because we have learned to be skeptical of "scientific" claims, particularly those at war with our common sense - like the Darwinists' telling us for decades that we are just a slightly higher form of life than a bacterium that is here purely by chance"

Americans don't like being told what to believe? Are you serious?

Addendum #2: Now even the creationists themselves are drawing an explicit parallel:
"The public has been intimidated into thinking that “non-experts” have no right to question “consensus” views in science. But the scandal in at the University of East Anglia suggests that this consensus on climate may not be based on solid evidence.

But what about the Darwin debate? We are told that the consensus of scientists in favor of Darwinian evolution means the theory is no longer subject to debate. In fact, there are strong scientific reasons to doubt Darwin’s theory and what it allegedly proved."


  1. Regarding No. 6 Exhibit A, what about the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth given by Biola University? Yes, *that* Biola University!

    Something something something, just like Hitler. I'm bored already.

  2. Hmm. Is there money attached to it? There seems to be precious little information about it.

  3. Regarding #1, thanks to the Climategate emails, we have actual evidence of "the scientific conspiracy responsible for suppressing dissenting points of view, which makes the analogy a bit less apt.

  4. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of a conspiracy have been greatly exaggerated.

    "A fair reading of the e-mails reveals nothing to support the denialists' conspiracy theories. In one of the more controversial exchanges, UEA scientists sharply criticized the quality of two papers that question the uniqueness of recent global warming (S. McIntyre and R. McKitrick Energy Environ. 14, 751–771; 2003 and W. Soon and S. Baliunas Clim. Res. 23, 89–110; 2003) and vowed to keep at least the first paper out of the upcoming Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Whatever the e-mail authors may have said to one another in (supposed) privacy, however, what matters is how they acted. And the fact is that, in the end, neither they nor the IPCC suppressed anything: when the assessment report was published in 2007 it referenced and discussed both papers."

  5. No, you're right, it's more of an award than a reward. Now that I'm thinking about it, though, is No. 6 really a problem? It's not as though mainstream science is in some rarified bubble untouched by financial considerations. As the article you've just linked to points out, unrelenting opposition can push scientists to their limits, and even "tempt them to act in ways that undermine scientific values." So in that way, the hired guns of ID proponents act as a refiner's fire (to borrow a biblical analogy) for the scientific community. The dross will get skimmed off and the gold will remain. It sucks, but what are the alternatives? Hitler had some alternatives, but I've heard that all ended in tears.

  6. That incident is far from the only one discussed in the emails regarding the suppression of papers that did not support CRU's views (there is one email where Briffa discusses spiking a paper before even reading it due to its unhelpful conclusions), nor do I think the M&M paper received a fair treatment. Add in the discussions of influencing editors to adjust submission dates to get "friendly" papers included, and I think there is plenty of evidence of a conspiracy. At the very least, there was some tribal warfare going on, and those in the "in group" got decidedly preferential access to the peer review process.

  7. What makes you say that the M&M paper didn't get fair treatment? That they got rejected by Nature? They ended up getting published elsewhere, didn't they? Considering the flaws in their analysis, seems to me that they were lucky to get published *at all*.

    If that's the extent of the conspiracy, then every scientist in every field is guilty of being a co-conspirator.

  8. By the by, was this the McKitrick paper where he mixed up degrees and radians, the one where he invented his own temperature scale, the one where he replaced missing data with zeros, or the one where he assumed that weather station data were independent rather than autocorrelated?

  9. It might have been the paper where he used rainfall proxy records for Paris for the gridcell containing Maine, and the one for Tolouse for the South Carolina gridcell, and despite this being pointed out, continued to do so in subsequent papers for years.

    Or it might have been the paper where he inverted a proxy such that it represented increasing temperatures in his usage, instead of decreasing temperatures as in the original paper. Subsequent authors who used the proxy as such (and the author who generated the proxy) admitted that he used it incorrectly, but this guy said that the accusations were "bizarre."

    Oh, wait, that wasn't McKitrick. It was Mann.

    There have been shady acts on both sides. There have been mistakes made on both sides.

  10. All I'm saying is that it's high comedy to assert that a conspiracy was at work to reject a paper on climatology written by an economist and a (for all intents and purposes) layman riddled with fundamental errors from one of the most prestigious scientific journals that has a rejection rate of better than 90%. Most credible scientists don't whine and complain about getting rejected from Nature; they just shrug and submit elsewhere.

    Jones, Briffa and Mann aren't puppetmasters pulling the strings behind a worldwide scientific conspiracy, and the "tribalism" is one of experts vs wannabe amateurs, not insiders and outsiders.

    Pielke, Lindzen, and even Spencer still get published; fringe skeptics who associate themselves with loony institutions such as the OISM (Bailunas and Soon, for example) are rightfully given short shrift.

  11. Just curious: is there any counterargument you raise that *hasn't* first been posted at ClimateAudit? There's not much point in rehashing them here if I can just go there.

  12. Further, even accepting that Mann made mistakes/omissions/whatever in the MBH98 and Mann et al '08 . . . the bottom line is that neither of those mistakes changed the results or conclusions of either paper (in fact, Mann explicitly ran the analysis without the Tiljander data and found that it didn't change the results); the NAS report upheld the conclusions of MBH98. This is profoundly different from M&M's litany of errors that completely undermine the conclusions of their paper.

    Mann's unwillingness or reticence to admit mea culpa may be a personal failing if not a professional one, but at least he's still right in the end.

    So it would seem that the peer review filter seems properly tuned in favor of rejecting fundamentally flawed papers at the expense of allowing fundamentally good (yet imperfect) papers through. Despite that, even fundamentally flawed papers like Baliunas and Soon still make it through the peer review process. Meanwhile, McIntyre is still milking his 15 minutes of fame from a decade ago.

  13. Is there any counterargument you raise that *hasn't* been raised at RealClimate? There's not much point in rehashing them here if I can just go there. ;)

    And I would say that a big part of M&M's "litany" of errors flowed directly from Mann's stubborn refusal to provide access to the data and code that went into his paper. Trying to replicate a complex statistical algorithm from a few paragraphs of description in a paper is not exactly a simple task.

    Would that Mann had actually engaged with M&M, instead of getting his back up and fighting tooth and nail against the slightest criticism. I'm sorry, but his actions to date make me think he either has something to hide, or he is not confident in the robustness of his work.

  14. You can't blame mixing up degrees and radians or inserting zeros where there should be no data at all or inventing your own temperature scale on not having access to the data or code.

    When I see talking points like "tribal warfare" or "inverting proxies", it just makes me suspicious that you're just an avatar for McIntyre. I'm not merely paraphrasing RealClimate, although I have provided explicit *links* to them when they exactly address your - I mean McIntyre's - points. I do have other sources besides RealClimate, but I've yet to see you raise a point here (or elsewhere) that hasn't been a complete rehash of something already posted on ClimateAudit. Maybe you could throw in a curveball from WattsUpWithThat or once in a while.

  15. But you are right, we've picked experts on different sides of this particular issue, so a back and forth of links isn't going to solve much. However, I will say, that the adversarial process is healthy for science, and I wish it was done with a little more honesty and transparency and a little less venom. Questioning the science is not heresy, and the reactions in the Climategate emails (circling the wagons, coordinating responses, promising reviews to spike papers before having read them) do not help to advance our understanding, IMO.