It’s a sign skeptics are winning. A few years ago the term “skeptic” had been turned into an insult. People would write to me and implore me to call myself a realist. (I wasn’t having a bar of that). Now, all kinds of wannabees are pretending they are skeptics even as they swallow and repeat the establishment lines ad infinitum.
Take, for example, Professor Stephen Emmott. It’s a PR game — Emmott hopes the half-asleep audience will see the right keywords and not notice that what he actually says is the complete opposite of the badges and labels he claims as his own.
Emmott (Emmott who?) has written yet another scary book and is doing his best to pretend he is the voice of reason. According to Donna LaFramboise his new book is just a rehash of a 40 year old one. (Geoff Chambers has all the other links).
Let’s unpack the empty PR
Quotes below are from The Australian.
First up, Emmott tries to look reasonable by saying he won’t demonize climate skeptics:
He [Emmott] affects bafflement at climate scepticism: “I have no idea why people don’t believe what is overwhelming evidence for climate change,” he says. But in fact he does have an idea, and it has less to do with villainous deniers, whom he refuses to demonise, than with us lot in the media.
Emmott “knows” that man can control the weather, and calls the unconvinced –“Deniers”. Who’s a demon then? A denier is either a lizard-brain-operator who is beyond the reach of reason, or maybe “just” a Nazi sympathizer. Either way deniers are beyond the pale and should not be listened to. Note how “polite” he pretends to be while acting like an namecalling troll.
Secondly, Emmott drags out the old gate-keeper excuse to silence views he doesn’t like. He thinks newspapers should give no time to doubters of man-made climate change because they aren’t qualified:
It’s what you might call the spurious balance problem: “I think well-intentioned broadcasters and newspapers tend to give equal weight to a climate scientist and a climate denier in the interests of balance, so what you get is presented as a two-sided, balanced discussion and yet the evidence is overwhelmingly on the side that climate change is happening. You get equal time being shared by someone like Nigel Lawson, who last time I looked was not a bio-geochemist or an atmospheric physicist.”
“… a neuroscientist by training who branched out into complex, interdisciplinary computer modelling at UCL…”
Nigel Lawson, former M.P., and Chancellor of the Exchequer, has a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics, but he’s not allowed to express a view on man-made climate change. For that, he should have studied neuroscience.
Here is more of Emmott’s fake politeness:
“It’s fine to have a view,” he says, politely. “But it has to be based on something sensible.”
How big of him, allowing people to express their sensible views? But since sensible, according to Emmott, means parroting the dominant meme, presumably all critics “can have views” as long as they agree with him.
Oh boy, Emmott wants the title “skeptical”
Here’s Emmott trying to own the term skepticism, while not being one:
Apart from the fact that he would prefer not to be vilified for his views as a scientist, he’d like some credit for his own scepticism.
“Science is organised scepticism,” he points out. “Being sceptical is what scientists do all the time. What else might explain this? And the reason almost everyone in the science community is of the view that climate change is happening is there are basically no other explanations for what we see.”
Note the segue from the bland truth (science is skepticism) to the rank logical fallacy: ” There are no other explanations (that our blind eyes) can see”. It’s argument from ignorance. He might as well have told us he won’t listen to critics (because they’re as dumb as rocks) but he knows he’s right because the government approved scientists say so, and really he’s a skeptic even though he follows the herd slavishly, and can’t provide any evidence to back up his “faith”.
Further on, he shows how little he knows about climate models and climate skeptics:
“Ultimately,” he says, “you just can’t ignore the simple facts of physics and chemistry that Tyndall demonstrated in the 1860s, that if you increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, sooner or later it’s going to heat up the system. And that’s precisely what we’re doing.”
It’s almost five years since I wrote the Skeptics Handbook, and explained that skeptics don’t have any problem with the greenhouse effect, the basic physics or chemistry, (we take issue with the imaginary climate feedbacks fed into the models-of-doom). Here the average climate-skeptic-blog-commenter with no qualifications can outdo Emmott’s understanding of climate models. Either Emmott hasn’t got the Internet yet, his only source of news is the Guardian, or he is deliberately tossing a strawman and hoping the crowd is dumber than him. I think B is most likely. Either way, anyone who cares about the University of Cambridge ought to be doing something about it. What does “Professor” mean anymore?
Stephen Emmott, if you want to be called “skeptical” get with the game, turn on the Internet, and find some evidence to support your devout conviction that the climate models are not a joke. I’ve been asking since January 2010. If you can find That Mystery Paper or evidence that supports the assumption in the climate model about humidity amplifying the heating (by a factor of about three Stephen, kind of crucial), then you’ll convert thousands of skeptics and be the hero of the IPCC. They can’t find it either…
The fawning fan of flawed models will never deserve the title “skeptic”.
PS: It wouldn’t hurt if readers prodded newspaper editors who have reprinted these puff-pieces. Did they read this brazen hypocrisy before they published it? His audience doesn’t have to do any research to show he is wrong, he proves it himself. It was all there in the one article.
Other thoughts on “Skepticism”
- The skeptic who wasn’t
- Emails with an unskeptical skeptic
- The rise of the unskeptical scientist
- Unskeptical Scientist Stickers and T-shirts
- The word Skeptic is back!
- Skeptoid – like a skeptic but not quite