Saturday, 13 February 2010

posted comment to BBC Richard Black's blog

I shouldn't bother reading the comments on BBC blogs anymore, they are mostly filled with stuff that winds me up rather than anything interesting. I can almost guarantee that if I read anything in such places I will lose at least the next hour as I cannot go without ranting out a reply. For some reason I can't let absolute garbage accusations go unchallenged. If someone else challenges them for me my blood pressure goes down. If not...

Is it even constructive to reply though? Will I just harden the people I reply to? Possibly. What about fence sitters who read what I say? In fact I don't really care, it's just something I have to do. I feel better if I reply than if I don't. If there is such a thing as karma though this behavior cannot be good for it. Part of me thinks just to sell my computer, pretend the Internet doesn't exist and live a relaxed life in blissful ignorance of denialist nonsense.

Anyway below is a comment I just posted expressing utter exasperation.

"So little of what "skeptics" are arguing makes sense. I don't know where to begin. There are layers upon layers of utter rubbish being said.

I have to somehow put into words the errors and tangle of contradictions I am reading from skeptics. A whole bundle of stuff that doesn't make sense. Internal contradictions. How can I do this concisely? I'll just make a davblo style list I think. We'll see how it goes.

1) My overriding point here is that there is something rotten in the "skeptic" community. There are growling contradictions in the background and glaring mistakes on top.

2) What Joe says about (20-1) co2 is a common fallacy. But nevermind, lets just write off an entire field of science over our own misunderstanding of the carbon cycle.

3) It is claimed above that AGW is merely an extrapolation of data. This is outlandishly false. AGW is based on explanation of how the climate works, not data extrapolation.

4) The claim about AGW being a hypothesis of Callendar and Keeling is just historically false.

5) The claim that the IPCC have ignored 150 years of data is bizarre, slightly comical and at the same time slightly unnerving to imagine the poster might actually believe it.

6) I see comments by skeptics claiming that the early 20th century warming is an argument against AGW. Yet think about it - "skeptics" are keen to accuse the climate scientists that produce the temperature records of willingness to commit fraud to further AGW. Why then would such scientists leave an early 20th century warming in the temperature records? That's right, "skeptics" want to both claim scientists willingly modify the surface record to support AGW and that also they've put in something that falsifies in it. The skeptics want to have their cake and eat it too. It just doesn't make sense. I submit that the "skeptics" often don't even realize their own contradictions, for their position is born of little more than downright contrarianism that requires little thought than to simply oppose ideas and generate conspiracy theories.

7) The climate models that are widely known to show AGW also show much of the early 20th century warming due to natural causes. How then can "skeptics" even begin to claim that warming in the early 20th century contradicts AGW when the very models that show AGW also show early 20th century warming?

3) "Skeptics" are trying to pour doubt on the early 20th century temperature record. That's right - they are trying to claim the early 20th century temperature record is inaccurate, but at the same time they want to use it for an argument! It's sheer ridiculous. Yet stranger-than-fiction - it's happening all over the internet.

The problem here is that "skeptics" only engage one single simple concept at a time and they seemingly lose track of the big picture, of how the different concepts tie together and how things make sense overall.

This is what science does - it makes sense of the world by trying to explain it. This is not what the skeptics are doing, they are playing a contrarian game wherein they try to knock down single concepts, one at a time. That's why they so often knock down concepts they later try to rely on to knock down others. Internal inconsistency.

If "skeptics" are making this many mistakes can we really trust they have their conclusions in order? How about instead of doubting the science because some skeptics make wild claims (20-1 co2! extrapolations!), we start doubting the "skeptics" have anything useful to bring to the subject?

I went back in hindsight and put the word skeptics in double quotes. I may have missed some."


  1. How recognizable, especially that cartoon (that happens at least once a week in my house). There will come a day when I leave all of this behind, but for the time being I'm dependent on computer work and am thus continuously subject to the Internet's siren call. It's like an alcoholic trying to kick the habit while working in a liquor store.

    With regards to the pseudoskeptics: I recently had a heated mail discussion with a friend who is very skeptical on every subject, or to quote you: he's of the kind that has opened his mind so much that nothing can be considered be settled. Although this has a certain charm over regular, conventional people, the fact that these people can think out of one box but then not realize they're in another box that needs thinking out of, makes them very conventional in a way as well.

    Anyway, after quite a while of trying to convince him that yes, AGW looked like it was really happening and could become problematic, and yes, there are parties on the AGW-side that will try to spin AGW for their own agenda, I simply told him that most prominent skeptics lie and distort out of narcissistic, ideological or financial motives. He went completely nuts and started abusing me that I was stupid, narrow-minded, dishonest and apparently didn't have any argument to show what the prominent skeptics said (he never gave an example) was wrong, and so I resorted to ad-hom.

    I called him up to ask him why this made him so angry, because IMO when people get angry it's better to stop mailing and start talking directly. According to him I smeared and insulted people I didn't know, who weren't any friends of mine, who didn't even know my opinion of them which I spouted in private e-mails, and this apparently was enough for him to smear and insult me some more. OTOH if I say that George W. Bush is a mass murderer, a stupid asshole and perhaps even a reptilian alien that would probably be OK.

    He completely went hysterical on me, even when I told him to calm down and that I would take everything back I said that upset him so. In the end he hung up on me saying, or rather screaming at a high-pitched voice, that I was a religious fundamentalist and that he didn't want anything to do with me. It has left me very sad and angry too. How to convince the unconvinceable?

  2. From RealClimate -

    "... why people with actual, constructive things to add to a discourse get discouraged from wading into wikipedia, blogs or the media. One has to hope that there is the possibility of progress before one engages.

    However there is still cause to engage – not out of the hope that the people who make idiotic statements can be educated – but because bystanders deserve to know where better information can be found."

    So just give a mini-comment that gives a link to, then go reward yourself for having saved time and aggravation.

    (2nd try, shorter comment; for some reason my comment got eaten when I submitted it using FF. Talk about aggravation...)