No 507 Posted by fw, June 19, 2012
The “bee hive” sub-title of this post paraphrases a sentence from the lead-in paragraph of Phil Plait’s absorbing personal narrative, A case study of the tactics of climate change denial, in which I am the target, published on his blog on February 2, 2012 in Discover Magazine. (Phil Plait, Ph.D. is an American astronomer, formerly in the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University, who resigned in 2007 and now writes full time).
Turning to the title of this post, it derives from an experience related to my June 13, 2012 post, Climate change denier meets his nemesis. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find two comments submitted challenging my concluding sentence, “And on that closing note, I say touché! Game, set and match to the climate science team.” In hindsight, I made the mistake of approving the two comments even though they bore the unmistakable denialist cant.
A day or two later I found parts of my post prominently displayed on another blog with this highlighted derogatory personal comment, which is pretty typical of the denialist crowd:
“This is so typical of the AGW hysteria crowd. They can’t stand it that someone may possibly have a differing opinion. Because we know for certain throughout history that consensus science was always absolute and irrefutable. That’s why today we believe that the earth is the centre of the solar system, that the world is flat and that this planet is only about 6,000 years old.”
I knew then that I should have followed my initial intuitive reaction and permanently deleted the first two comments, not that that would have prevented my post from appearing on this other person’s blog. (BTW, I have since deleted the two comments and have created a firm new policy that as editor/moderator I reserve the right to reject comments that I judge to be from climate science/change deniers).
Although I was vaguely familiar with denialists’ tactics, I decided to gather evidence to support my decision to refuse, in future, to be suckered into a futile debate with denialists.
Here’s an overview of what I discovered, relying primarily on the writings of denialism expert Mark Hoofnagle
First, this piece of advice that comes right to the point: “Don’t make the mistake of actually debating denialists.” That from Mark Hoofnagle, who, along with his brother, Chris, is a leading observer of denialism.
Mark is a medical doctor, physiologist and blogger. He was one of the originators of the concept of “denialism”, especially in relation to global warming. His interest in denialism concerns the use of denialist tactics to confuse public understanding of scientific knowledge. Mark runs the denialism blog at ScienceBlogs. Chris, an attorney and consumer protection advocate, is the author of The Denialists’ Deck of Cards which defines the common attributes of denialism.
Denialism defined: Brothers Mark and Chris Hoofnagle, describe it as “the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one’s viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are effective in distracting from actual useful debate using emotionally appealing, but ultimately empty and illogical assertions.”Arguing with denialists is useless, because they will invariably dismiss all evidence or arguments which contradict their ideological beliefs..(Source: Denialism).
Elsewhere, Mark writes: Whatever they are denying, [denialists] have much in common with one another, not least the use of similar tactics. All set themselves up as courageous underdogs fighting a corrupt elite engaged in a conspiracy to suppress the truth or foist a malicious lie on ordinary people. This conspiracy is usually claimed to be promoting a sinister agenda.
Common tactics and methodology used by denialists are largely similar, including, for example —
Ideologies that conflict with commonly accepted scientific theories or facts can drive their holders to engage in personal forms of denial, either to favor their personal beliefs, or to avoid having to reconcile those beliefs with contradictory evidence.
International corporations such as ExxonMobil have been heavily criticized for contributing to scientists and scientific experimentation disputing the scientific consensus on global climate change. ExxonMobil has strenuously denied the accusations, stating that “The recycling of this type of discredited conspiracy theory diverts attention from the real challenge at hand: how to provide the energy needed to improve global living standards while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Newsweek and Mother Jones have published articles stating corporations are funding the climate change denial “denial industry”.
The GW Bush Administration’s replacement of previous science advisers with industry experts or scientists tied to industry, and its refusal to submit the Kyoto Protocol for ratification due to uncertainties they assert are present in the climate change issue, have been cited as examples of politically motivated denialism in the press.