A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Dr Paul Bain and Nature issue partial correction

It’s a start. Paul Bain regrets the offense caused by the term denier.

But there’s no mention of the term failing basic English or it’s unscientific nature. The term has been used by professors, M.P.’s, Prime Ministers and national broadcasters, and none of them have expressed even a hint of regret, but we can nonetheless call this a small win. Notch up one for skeptics, but ten for the fog.

Credit to Paul Bain for being one of the only people drawn into that unscientific milieu who has the strength of character to back out, ever so slightly. He has promised to reply to my last email. I look forward to it. Few who claim to be concerned about the planet have the intellectual honesty to even try to defend their work.

The small win here is not so much the correction attached below (though that is useful), but it’s that the internet fray and the questions will have been noticed by other editors and researchers. In the future, a few of those people will be more careful with their terms.

Promoting pro-environmental action in climate change deniers

Paul G. Bain | Matthew J. Hornsey, | Renata Bongiorno […]

My reply to Paul Bain: The name-caller is hurt by the names they throw

Dear Paul,

Thank you most sincerely for writing to reply to my email. Thank you for taking the time to contact Nature, and thank you for the recognition that the term “denier” causes offense.

Do we also agree that the term denier fails basic English, and cannot be defined as a scientific label because you still are unable to say what deniers deny?

“I think if you understood where skeptics were coming from it would help you design surveys that produced useful results. Basic research, like reading what leading skeptics were saying, would seem a bare minimum requirement before designing a study.”

As far as I can tell, I suspect what you feel deniers deny (though you appear reluctant to actually state it) is not any scientific observation, but the pronouncements of the highest authority of climate science (which you deem to be the IPCC).

“I do believe that the technical aspects of this debate should be between climate scientists, as with complex multi-disciplinary issues it is very easy for findings to be misconstrued by non-experts. Whether you like it or not, the majority of climate scientists agree that there is a high likelihood that anthropogenic climate change […]

Dr Paul Bain replies about the use of the term “denier” in a scientific paper

Dr Paul Bain has replied to my second email to him which I do most appreciate. (For reference, see the letter he is replying to here: “My reply to Dr Paul Bain — on rational deniers and gullible believers” ). He deserves kudos for replying (it’s easier to ignore inconvenient emails), and also for taking some action to improve the article he published. I will reply properly as soon as I can. For the moment, and for fairness’s sake, it’s here for all to see.

Please be constructive and polite in comments. No, I don’t think there is any scientific reason (or definition in the English language) that validates the term “denier”, but Nature is going to publish an addendum this time, and that will be noticed by other researchers in the field. That is progress. Though there is a long way to go. — Jo


Dear Jo (if I may)

I apologise for my long and delayed response – while I would like to be more succinct, I have to resort to Pascal’s excuse that I’m writing a long response because I didn’t have time to write a short one.

First, an update. As we all know, […]

I’ll post Dr Paul Bains reply later today…

Dr Paul Bain sent me his second reply to my second letter late on Friday, which I am grateful for. I’ll post it in a few hours (scheduled 9am Monday morning Eastern States time, which is 7pm NY Time). It seemed fairer to let the conversation unfold in business hours, rather than releasing it over the weekend or at midnight.

It’s your chance to help researchers studying skeptics learn more about what we think. — Jo

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My reply to Dr Paul Bain — on rational deniers and gullible believers

UPDATE: Dr Paul Bain has replied to say that pressing work commitments mean he cannot respond to this until next week. We look forward to that, and I will make sure it is available for readers here (should Dr Bain permit). – Jo


Dear Dr Paul Bain,

Thank you for replying (and so promptly). I do sincerely appreciate it. Apologies for my tardiness.

I do still think I can help you with your research. Indeed, in more ways than you realize.

You describe in your Bain et al letter in Nature, that the number of deniers is growing despite “enormous effort”. There is a policy problem. I absolutely agree. No one is having any success getting deniers to believe in anthropogenic climate change. Could it be that they don’t understand deniers at all?

Let’s go through the points in your email reply to me, then the bigger implications.

First and foremost – obviously you did not provide evidence to back up your assumption that the “existence” of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is real. That doesn’t mean it does not exist, but I’ll get back to this. It is the key and only real point.

Secondly, you may regret the […]

Chiefio (E.M.Smith) responds to Bain et al

In the comments here: E.M.Smith (Chiefio) responded to Paul Bain and then posted it on his own site. It’s very popular (thank you Michael!)

Response to Paul Bain

Dear Paul Bain:

First off, thank you for responding.

FWIW, I am a hard core skeptic. I’m the “target” of your analysis. As such, what folks like me think ought to be particularly important to you. So a bit of history on me and climate change.

I first came to the AGW issue thinking “Gee, this looks important, I ought to learn more about it.” At the Skeptic sites (like WUWT) I had generally kind acceptance and explanation of where I had parts missing from my understanding of the “issues” about AGW and where it was “gone wrong”. At “Believer” sites (an curiously appropriate term as it has all the hallmarks of a religious belief) I would ask simple and innocent questions and largely get derision in return. Simply asking “But doesn’t CO2 have a log limit on absorption effects that we have passed?” or worse, saying “But this article (on skeptic site) seems to have a valid issue.” would bring “Attack the messenger” responses. That, for me, was the first and […]

Stop making sense. Forget science and become emotional


Stop making sense….

Rebecca Huntley proffers reassurance to the faithful fans of man-made weather. Why make sense when you can just weep your way through national energy policy?

Stop making sense: why it’s time to get emotional about climate change

Rebecca Huntley, The Guardian

It’s a soothing piece of public self-therapy, offering forgiveness to those, like her, that struggle to make sense in the first place. Having lost the debate on climate science, and being reduced to petty namecalling, Huntley’s job, apparently, is to distort what people think science is.

The science behind climate change has been proven correct to the highest degree of certainty the scientific method allows.

Why stop there? Climate change has been proven beyond the highest degree of certainty allowed. It’s gone right off the scale and into the supernatural. It’s a place where 16 year old sages prophesy the future and tell the world to stop floods with windmills.

If you weren’t confused about the definition of climate change, Huntley is here to make sure you are:

But climate change is more than just the science. It’s a social phenomenon

The last thing a prophetic cult needs […]

Billion dollar bully ABC resorts to namecalling for the nightly news

The first words of the nightly 7pm news Jan 15th:

” The Government tells Climate Change Deniers to stop arguing and accept The Science.”

ABC Prime Time News in Australia this week stooped to abject petty namecalling — claiming those despised climate change deniers are robbing Australia again. In reality, the people robbing Australia work for the ABC. If they only had evidence they wouldn’t need to stomp all over debate.

And in the ABC website:

“Climate change deniers robbing Australia of time to respond to impacts, Science Minister Karen Andrews warns”

Yet the government said nothing that insulting.

In other non-news — the Australian Science Minister obediently repeated a twenty year old robot meme that Al Gore invented. Unlike what the ABC headline and wording suggests, it doesn’t appear Karen Andrews mentioned “deniers”. That profoundly unscientific and inflammatory activist term seems to be all the ABC’s. And they call themselves “reporters”?

The formerly esteemed journal Nature did it once, and after I pointed out how unscientific it is, they backed down.

What the Minister for Science said:

Those who are still debating whether climate change is real are wasting time.


Study: Skeptics are more environmental — believers do less but want government to solve it instead

Ain’t that the way? When it comes to taking individual action, skeptics are more environmental than the people who call themselves “environmental”.

A new psych study shows that skeptics are more likely to use cloth shopping bags, catch public transport and buy eco-friendly items. Hall et al somehow got 600 people to fill in a survey up to seven times in one year about their belief in “climate change” and their self-reported action. They found there are three types of people: the “highly concerned” about climate change, the “cautiously worried” and the “skeptical”. The “highly convinced” believers may tell the world we have to act, but they were more likely to use plastic bags themselves and drive their car. They were more likely to want government policies to magically solve the problem. Skeptics meanwhile, were more passionately against government meddling than any group was on any issue. It was the single most definitive score.

Skeptics (blue) were more likely to reuse shopping bags, buy eco-friendly things, and catch the bus and train. The highly concerned (red) were more likely to recycle goods and otherwise support government action.


Researchers were pretty much baffled by their results and admitted as […]

Vote for your favourite in the Bloggies

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Voting closes on Sunday, and there are lots of great sites to vote for.

I know voting is a bit of an effort, but if you get a lot from a site, it’s a way to say thanks. Awards are useful for bloggers — and it means blogs you like can reach a wider audience.

It’s already a success to be listed and linked as a finalist. Thanks to those who nominated and voted in that round.

For 2015 I’ll be voting for The Pickering Post in Australia-NZ, Steyn Online in Most Humorous, and Breitbart in Politics (though American Thinker is also a great site). I’ll have to choose (darn) between Not a Lot of People Know That, and No Tricks Zone in Europe; Tallbloke’s Talkshop and Climate Audit in Lifetime Achievement and Watts Up and Real Science in Weblog of the Year.

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How topical is climate science? In the last year 600,000 people visited this site. When Tony Abbott faced a leadership crisis last month his main competitor was an […]