Creationism, climate change and scientific denialism

Strange how one keeps coming across familiar people. Last week I was shocked to read Andrew Bolt’s article on the Global Atheist Convention (see Speakers true love of hatred). He wasn’t there and those of us that were recognised his article as full of distortions, misinformation and lies. Then I realised he is one of Australia’s most active climate change deniers (no, in his case not a sceptic – a denier). And now I find him quoted by the creationist/intelligent design (ID) Discovery Institute in a nasty little article attacking science (see Climategate: a Word of Advice to the Scientists).

From Bolt’s perspective “the tide is turning, and fast,” against science. “There will soon be an accounting – and the mood and the money for it. The reputation of science – and of many scientists – will be damaged severely.” He is of course talking about “climategate” – or more specifically he is attempting to use the “climategate” hysteria to build an anti-science sentiment. And the Discovery Institute laps this up. They claim “there will be an accounting for this fraud” and  they “understand now that this is war.”

And, of course they have a conspiracy: “A cabal of leading scientists, politicians, and media concubines have conspired to lie about global warming.” And a call to action:

“What can we do? Criminal prosecution of scientists who manipulate data would be a good start. Scientists who fake data and manipulate peer review to advance their agenda are no different than corporate executives who manipulate stock prices or lawyers who tamper with juries. Ultimately, perhaps massive defunding of organized science, and a new system of support for research that demands utter transparency and maximal accommodation of debate, may be the only way to defend ourselves from an utterly corrupt scientific elite.

It may well be that the public will be forced to protect itself from organized science, as we now protect ourselves from organized crime.”

So there you have it. Remind you of anyone. Hitler? Stalin? Joe McCarthy? Mao Zedong? Pol Pot?

Given their track record we know they aren’t at all concerned about “manipulation of data,” and “peer review.” Or really desirous of “transparency and maximal accommodation of debate.” Just look at the lack of transparency and debate on their web sites and blogs. Look at their distortion of evolutionary science. As an independent reviewer just try to get review copies of books written by their authors.  Look at the nasty film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” they promoted which attacks science and scientists.

No, they are interested in attacking and discrediting science. In fact their manifesto, the Wedge Document actually calls for the replacement of modern science by a “theistic science.”

Several writers have recently commented that the creationist/ID lobby is attempting to join forces with the climate change denial (see  Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets and Creationism and Global Warming Denial: Anti-Science’s Kissing Cousins?“) . But anyone who has followed the creationist/ID attacks on evolutionary science will be aware they have from time to time come out on the side of other denial lobbies, like climate change, stem cell research and HIV/AIDS advice. Not surprising, really, because these denial lobbies have several common characteristics.

The nature of scientific denialism was discussed by Diethem and McKee in a recent paper (Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?). It focused on public health issues,the denial that smoking is a danger to health,  but does describe some useful features common to all forms of scientific denial.

It lists the following 5 characteristics common to most forms of scientific denialism:

1: Conspiracy theories: “When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes that something is true, it is argued that this is not because  those scientists have independently studied the evidence and reached the same conclusion. It is because they have engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy. The peer review process is seen as a tool by which the conspirators suppress dissent, rather than as a means of weeding out papers and grant applications unsupported by evidence or lacking logical thought.”

2: Fake experts: “These are individuals who purport to be experts in a particular area but whose views are entirely inconsistent with established knowledge.” And: “The use of fake experts is often complemented by denigration of established experts and researchers, with accusations and innuendo that seek to discredit their work and cast doubt on their motivations.”

3: Cherry picking: “selectivity, drawing on isolated papers that challenge the dominant consensus or highlighting the flaws in the weakest papers among those that support it as a means of discrediting the entire field.” And: “Denialists are usually not deterred by the extreme isolation of their theories, but rather see it as the indication of their intellectual courage against the dominant orthodoxy and the accompanying political correctness, often comparing themselves to Galileo.”

4: Impossible expectations of what research can deliver: “For example, those denying the reality of climate change point to the absence of accurate temperature records from before the invention of the thermometer. Others use the intrinsic uncertainty of mathematical models to reject them entirely as a means of understanding a phenomenon.”

5: Misrepresentation and logical fallacies: “Logical fallacies include the use of red herrings, or deliberate attempts to change the argument and straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented to make it easier to refute.” And: “Other fallacies used by denialists are false analogy, exemplified by the argument against evolution that, as the universe and a watch are both extremely complex, the universe must have been created by the equivalent of a watchmaker and the excluded middle fallacy (either passive smoking causes a wide range of specified diseases or causes none at all, so doubt about an association with one disease, such as breast cancer, is regarded as sufficient to reject an association with any disease).”

All sounds so familiar!

Thanks to  AQVIVA» Blogarkiv » The 5 characteristics of scientific denialism.

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6 responses to “Creationism, climate change and scientific denialism

  1. John A. Jauregui

    Post-Modern science. That’s the deal. Contrary to reactionary values (they’re so yesterday), the purpose of science is NOT the pursuit of some fundamentally provable truth for truth’s sake, but instead the foundational predicate for some “obvious” political truth such as, you guessed it, Global Warming, or when it (almost certainly) becomes suspect, then Climate Change. Clearly either has to be the result of humanity in general and Western peoples in particular. George Orwell knew of what he was speaking and writing. We should all revisit his cautions, because we are there again, but in aces. Read this:

    http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/#comment-808

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  2. John, I guess this “post-normal science” dogma you promote falls into this science denial pattern. Smacks of conspiracy theory.

    Sent from my iPod

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  3. Ken,

    The term “post-normal science” was actually used by Mike Hulme of the Tyndall Centre

    Quote: ”
    The other important characteristic of scientific knowledge – its openness to change as it rubs up against society – is rather harder to handle. Philosophers and practitioners of science have identified this particular mode of scientific activity as one that occurs where the stakes are high, uncertainties large and decisions urgent, and where values are embedded in the way science is done and spoken.

    It has been labelled “post-normal” science. Climate change seems to fall in this category. Disputes in post-normal science focus as often on the process of science – who gets funded, who evaluates quality, who has the ear of policy – as on the facts of science.

    The whole article is here, and worth the read

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/mar/14/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange

    Regards
    Jack

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  4. I am familiar with it Jack. My point is that it is being used to avoid the fact that scientific knowledge comes from testing against reality. reality keeps us honest. This idea sets up an “explanation” for science “being subjective.” Very similar to the conspiracy theory approach used to avoid the reality of scientific knowledge.

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  5. Chad C Mulligan

    Don’t take the Bolter seriously. No one in Australia does.

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  6. Somewhat late but you might find this interesting ( http://contusio-cordis.blogspot.com/2010/04/delusional-disorder-part-iii.html ). It discusses the anti-science movement and offers a possible explanation.

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