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Know your friend

In the climate debate it can be hard to tell the two apart. Over recent days, I've been having some very interesting conversations with Matt Flaherty -- someone who is largely convinced of mainstream climate science. I've been suitably impressed by his open-mindedness. I don't think, however, that  I've persuaded him of anything more than that there is a case to answer, but a space for debate has been opened.

When I first came across Matt's blog, the first thing I noticed was the widespread use of the word "denier", which of course is a red rag to a bull for most people here - understandably I would say, when the word was not introduced into the debate for honourable reasons. However, its use is widespread and we should know by now that the mere fact of having used it is not enough to identify the user as a bad person. Those who have been following the debate for a while, which is probably most of us, will remember the jeremiads hurled in Judith Curry's direction when she first started hanging round at Climate Audit. One of the principal objections to her presence was that she had  used the d-word. Fortunately she persevered long enough to overcome the distrust and so eventually was elevated to the position of patron saint of lukewarmers. She still uses the d-word though.

I think though that the d-word remains overused. Matt tries to distinguish between deniers, which he defines as people who object to the global warming hypothesis on political grounds, and sceptics - people arguing the science. Obviously, many of the climate bloggers on the other side of the debate would argue that the science has reached a point where anyone arguing against it is a denier. This is pretty obviously a gross overstatement of the case, and not really worth discussing as I think we are all fairly clear that it's an attempt to shut off debate.

Even Matt's more nuanced approach worries me though. Matt has pointed to James Delingpole as a "denier", which he defines as someone who rejects the global warming hypothesis on political grounds. I wonder how he knows this. People come to the opinions they have in all sorts of ways, as regular commenter Nullius in Verba pointed out in the comments on the Simon Singh thread (it's way down at the bottom of the thread at time of writing).

My position is that anybody can hold and express an opinion based in trust in their preferred experts - what is known as Argument from Authority - or any other heuristic they like (correlation implies causation, argument from ignorance, etc.), so long as it is acknowledged that it is not a belief supported by science, and that people who choose different authorities to believe are not thereby any more defective or irrational for doing so.

Essentially, I distinguish ordinary opinions from scientific opinions - only the latter require a detailed personal knowledge of the evidence.

I don't mind people believing in the seas rising 7 metres by 2050 because Al Gore said so, so long as they understand that their belief is based on an unreliable heuristic, and that Science itself utterly rejects all such Argument from Authority. Heuristics are all that non-scientists have, but we must allow them to hold opinions - and Delingpole is at least honest enough to acknowledge his limits. It might make for a more polite and constructive debate if more people showed the same humility.

My guess is that James Delinpole has heard from people he trusts that there are some severe problems with global warming science and that dissenting voices are being suppressed. He concludes that global warming is a scam and, it being his job, he tells everyone so, usually quite loudly. Like Nullius, I see no problems in this and I don't see this as being denialism, any more than all the people in the Skeptic movement [Update: meaning the Skeptic Society, who are , by and large, mainstream on AGW] who accept mainstream global warming views "because the scientists say so".

Human beings seem to like to divide people mentally into "goodies" and "baddies", particularly in matters political. The problem with a politicised science like climatology is that the same mindset can pervade what should be a strictly logical discussion. As one reads the outpourings of the scibloggers about Delingpole, it is clear that this largely left-wing (as far as I can tell) group is that they want to condemn Delingpole largely because he is a man of the right. They scent blood and that has blinded them to the fact that he has reached his opinions on global warming in exactly the same way that, for the most part,  they have. To reiterate Nullius's remarks above, it would make for a more constructive debate if they showed more humility.

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Reader Comments (66)

I like James Delinpole's articles, not because they are accurate, and not because they are well thought out, but because he stabs wildly around. Its commical, which makes entertaining reading, and it causes some great discussion under the articles. Overall, I like the outcome.

Feb 1, 2011 at 6:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

Let's hope Matt isn't in the documentary making business.

Feb 1, 2011 at 7:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

Beg to differ, Your Grace! The D-word is offensive and Matt Flaherty (and Judith Curry) should drop it if they want to be taken seriously. That 'lot's of people do it' is not argument - in fact it is the fallacy of argumentum ad populum. Lot's of people used to use words like 'nigger', 'kike' and 'faggot' and they have not become any less wrong as their use has become more rare.

And you might point out to Matt Flaherty the fallacious nature of his justifying calling Delingpole by this offensive term on the grounds of what he supposes are his political reasons. That one's called the
genetic fallacy -- 'A fallacy that occurs when someone attacks the cause or origin of a belief rather than its substance. Why a person believes something is not relevant to the belief's legitimacy/soundness/validity.'

Why is is that so many adherents to AGW seem to be ignorant of the basics of logical reasoning? Perhaps we might call them 'ignorami'? No -that would be descending to their level. Let's stick to reason and evidence and the fundaments of testing hypotheses with evidence - not the bringing of evidence to the theory ('like consistent with models').

Feb 1, 2011 at 7:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow


My point in this article is that just because somebody uses the word doesn't mean you can't have a reasoned debate with them. They use it, I think, because everybody around them does. I agree that it's offensive, but I think we must try to engage and reason and not respond in kind.

Feb 1, 2011 at 7:46 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"deniers, which he defines as people who object to the global warming hypothesis on political grounds"

What if someone objects to AGW on scientific grounds, and objects to political action based on that flawed science?

What do we call an alarmist who promotes AGW on political grounds - it seems to me that unless said alarmist is not calling for action of any kind, he is supporting AGW on political grounds too.

Unless everyone makes a qualifying statement about their nuanced position beforehand, how are we to categorize anyone correctly? Is this PC gone mad?

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

Aynsely: I'd rather they used denier because it supports my view that the scientific argument is weak and that they have to find other, less reputable means, of making their point, and that is to try to dehumanise the opposition by associating them with people who are the object of universal opprobrium. Incidentally the work denier is barely used in the climategate emails, something that the authors have tried their best to rectify since their nefarious activities saw the light of day.

I'm not sure about the split, I don't know Matt, but imagine he's a right-on, card carrying lefty, who sees quite clearly the down side of using deniers, and it is not, as Aynsley points out (at least in my view) that the name is despicable, it's because the use of such an epithet is the first step in dehumanising people. The next step from their is imprisonment for deniers, who after all are nothing more than right wing nut jobs, as we've seen in the carefully crafted BBC documentaries. So we have deniers, who are people with opinions, and sceptics who argue the science, that let's Matt off the hook for deliberately trying to dehumanise people with contrary opinions.

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Frosty. You know it is anti-science not to go along with the consensus. ☺ Ipso facto

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Actually, when I hear someone use the word "denier", I find it very hard to take that person seriously.
I almost visualise the writer with a red clown nose.
Maybe it's a survival instinct to keep my blood pressure down.

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

Can someone remind me what we are all arguing about?

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I think that the argument that you are trying to make is that the debate is forced into being one dimensional. If a non-scientist argues against the theory then they are deemed to be of a right leaning persuasion and the argument focusses on that fact and ignores the science. If a scientist argues against the theory then they don't understand the basic science and the political aspect is ignored. I am not trying to say that all scientists are left leaning but the fact that when they are and they disagree the political aspect is ignored.
Personally I don't know how I would be categorised as I have a problem with the science being bound around theoretical output rather than experimental results and I also have a problem with the politicisation and control of society that is being requested. So am I sceptic or a denier or both or neither. Perhaps I am just a concerned individual with enough intelligence to raise questions in both areas of concern within a debate that is portrayed as a single issue.

What I don't understand is that if, going back a few years, I were to question a statement made by one of my lecturers it was deemed as positive that I was getting involved in the subject and the fallout of political pigeon holing was made more than apparent with the 'Brown' gaffe that was widely televised.

So is this theory so insecure and polarised that there is no depth to it after thirty years and billions of pounds of funds to handle debate or discourse?

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Matt Ridley, quoting Climate Resistance, has it right as usual in this article, to my mind:

Simon Singh and James Delingpole, both of whom I know, like and respect as fine writers, have been disagreeing about climate change.

Beneath Simon's latest blog on the subject there is a debate in which several very sensible and non-inflammatory things are said by Bishop Hill and Paul Dennis. Do read it.

An especially good comment came from Climate Resistance, who spoke for me and I suspect many others when he asked:

I want to know what it means to 'reject manmade climate change'.

If I say that the consequences of climate change have been exaggerated, do I 'reject manmade climate change'?

If I say that climate change is the issue on which an authoritarian, illiberal and regressive form of politics is being established, do I 'reject manmade climate change'?

If I say that 'science' is being used to provide moral and political authority to otherwise hollow agendas, do I 'reject manmade climate change'?

It seems to me that 'accepting climate change' has much less to do with science that it has to do with accepting a moral and political argument. After all, nobody is making films about 'trust' in science being 'attacked' because large numbers of the public don't have a sufficient grasp of some obscure branch of physics or other. Nobody is tweeting about dishonourable/unintelligent 'numpties' who don't understand quantum mechanics.

Furthermore, it seems obvious to me that there are positions between 'accepting manmande climate change' and 'rejecting manmade climate change'. But Simon only seems to allow us to disagree or agree. Is this reduction of a complex debate into simple, true/false, science vs numpty categories really science?

The IPCC `consensus', remember, is that

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

And that the temperature will rise by 1.1C-6.4C by the end of the century.

Since these two statements include distinctly undangerous possibilities, there is absolutely no consensus that climate change will definitely be dangerous. Lukewarmers like me have become convinced that the lower end of `most' and the lower end of the temperature range are more likely, and furthermore that drastic action to curb carbon emissions soon would `very likely' do more harm than good to both the economy and the environment. That opinion is not what people such as Simon Singh think of when they mean the consensus, but it is well within the consensus.

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterDougieJ

Possibly what is winding a lot of people up is the obviously organised attack within the comments on blogs like J.D.'s
I take the view that if the J.D's articles reduce them to gang warfare tactics, he must be rattling them and good luck to him. He has stated on his blog, over and over, that he is not scientifically qualified but has good contacts with people who are. He did make a mistake trusting the BBC to be unbiased and really should have know better. Maybe he has let Judith convince him it was time to trust again!

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Use of denier as an equivalent for climate skeptic is appalling and not acceptable behavior. The original deniers, the people who deny the Holocaust, are horrible, wretched, barbarous, uncivilized, depraved, and subhuman. Calling people "denier" who are merely skeptical that anthropogenic global warming has been proven to be a cause for alarm is deeply insulting to those who suffered from the Holocaust and is morally reprehensible and disgusting. Those who call skeptics "deniers" should be called out and shamed.

Climate feedback and sensitivity is debatable, the immorality of calling skeptics "denier" seems obvious.

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Koch


I guess this is why Lindzen welcomes the use of the term.

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:43 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Labelling someone a "denier" can be done for many purposes. The first question I was asked by a QC at a wind farm public inquiry was "You are a climate chane denier, aren't you?" (he'd done some googling on me) Now to this day I don't know if he was trying to provoke me into saying something rash, or trying to unsettle me, or trying to imply that if I didn't accept the consensus, then I couldn't be trusted as a reliable witness, or trying to write me off as a nut-case, or just implying that I was someone who was against government policy.

Whatever, use of the term is deliberately done for an evil purpose, to try to imply the person is as bad as a holocaust denier.

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@Phillip Bratby,

What happened next with the QC at your testimony?

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

Jack Hughes. Good question. With last nights 2nd attempt to portray those who are scepical of CAGW as male, superannuated, homosexual,(or even homophobic) nazi gun-nuts, by the 'unbiased' BBC, the Bish is trying to open a debate about whether we should be described as 'deniers' (with its 'holocaust denier' implications) or 'sceptics', and whether these are in fact, two different categories.
With JD being mentioned no less than 5 times he is 'centre-stage' for the moment. It is interesting to read that 'Delingpole is at least honest enough to admit his limitations. it might make for more polite and constructive debate if more people showed the same humility'.
I trust 'humility' is not to be equated with 'humble pie'.

Feb 1, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

"...the use of such an epithet is the first step in dehumanising people. The next step from [there] is imprisonment for deniers, who after all are nothing more than right wing nut jobs, as we've seen in the carefully crafted BBC documentaries..." --geronimo

Oh, believe me, there are dozens of steps between calling people 'deniers' and actual imprisonment. First there are 10:10 style videos, and forcing people out of their jobs in academia and journals, and making up of lists of dissenters, advancing the careers of people who belong to the favored group, and hatchet jobs on opponents, then speeches and rants about how dangerous the outsiders are, honors showered upon the insiders, take-overs of prestigious societies by placement of converts within their ranks... Need I go on? Do I need to add the forced wearing of emblems on the clothing of dissenters, and the stamping of their passports with special symbols to ease identification?

And the ones who are next will ask themselves, "Why didn't I step in and oppose this evil while there was a chance?"

The silent media should bear their shame for decades. Media that actively participate in such a process shall be excoriated for a hundred years or longer.

Feb 1, 2011 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

I'm reminded of the great horse manure crisis of 1894. I'm sure there are many other examples of science that was "in" that one could make.

But the problem here is that by calling Delinpole a "denier", an attempt is made to shut down the political debate, not just the scientific one. One of the good things about politics is that we are all entitled to an opinion, or so I thought.

Feb 1, 2011 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Rob, He produced copies of various selective statements I'd posted on the internet. After we'd discussed these for a few minutes, including the difference between blog postings and real evidence, we then progressed onto the written evidence I'd actually produced. Thinking about it afterwards, his attack obviously had some effect on me. I don't know why I just didn't say "what relevance has this to my evidence?" I don't know why the Inspector didn't intervene to ask what relevance it had. They don't usually allow irrelevant issue to waste the inquiry's time.

Feb 1, 2011 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Matt tries to distinguish between deniers, which he defines as people who object to the global warming hypothesis on political grounds, and sceptics - people arguing the science.

The distinction is meaningless -- surely 'The Hockey Stick Illusion' destroys any notion that climate science can be viewed as separate from political agendas?

As further evidence, look at all the Warmists who now say that democracy is not robust and coercive enough to be able to force the 'right' AGW solutions on the people.

Feb 1, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Judith Curry has her own excuse for using the denier label and it revolves around a simplistic definition of simply being someone who denies something. One potentially interesting topic of hers, "The politics of climate expertise", descended into chaos once the word was used. I made the following comment to try and get it back on track.


I would like to discuss the politics of Climate Expertise. Instead we appear to be discussing the exact meaning of ‘Denier’. Irrespective of whatever each one of us thinks that is exactly, all the grownups in the room know it is a perjoritive term.

Let’s just agree not to use it and move on. Perhaps we might even get to discuss some politics.


The topic went nowhere ...


Feb 1, 2011 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterpointman

Deniers are supposed to be people who refuse to believe something certain despite being confronted with the evidence. The term is taken from therapy. For instance, if its pouring with rain, and I insist that it is not.

You do not find people who are sceptical about uncertain propositions being described as deniers. Kepler, for instance, was not a Copernican denier. People who are sceptical about Met Office infallibility are not usually called deniers.

So what we actually have is a simple logical fallacy, that of begging the question, assuming what you want to prove, that no rational informed good faith dissent is possible.

Feb 1, 2011 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

It's odd for him to define 'denier' as opposition to GW on political grounds. Most the commentators who support the thesis are doing so mainly as a result of their political viewpoint rather than 'science' which they get only at two or three removes. They have a pre-digested view of the science, as most people do in most areas of life, and base their view on that. If that's fair enough for them, why not for those who take a different view, based on (often) a closer familiarity with the underlying data?

I attended a public talk by a 'warmist' once that started with him describing anyone who disagreed with his veiwpoint as "contemptuous arrogance", and subject to "make believe and paranoia". Needless to say this did not sit well with his audience who were by and large open minded, with some affinity to his views. He alienated most of them within 10mins!

Feb 1, 2011 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

This use of the term is not from therapy, it is from the scurrilous review of Lomborg's book in Nature by Pimm and Harvey in 2001:

'The text employs the strategy of those who, for example, argue that gay men
aren’t dying of AIDS,that Jews weren’t singled out by the Nazis for extermina-
tion,and so on.‘Name those who have died!’demands a hypothetical critic,who
then scorns the discrepancy between those few we know by name and the
unnamed millions we infer.'

Pimm,Stuart and JeffHarvey (2001),‘No need to worry about the future’,

The activists liked that one and thereafter substituted it for 'sceptic' with gay abandon.

Incidentally, Judith Curry's claim that she only uses it to deny something is about as valid as calling someone a 'nigger' because they are black and the word derives form the Latin to describe that colour. One has a responsibility to be aware of the context before continuing to use such a word. Initial ignorance is one thing; repeated use after the contest has been pointed out is quite another.

Feb 1, 2011 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow


Feb 1, 2011 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Your Grace, I understand your desire to retain an open-minded debate with those who might come to see reason, but as reasonable as Matt Flaherty may be, his ex post facto defence of the term "denier" is specious, however accommodating it may be.

Flaherty's tendentious definition ignores the obvious. The term was introduced as ad hominem abuse by eco-fascists precisely to align Climate scepticism with Holocaust denial half a decade ago. Flaherty may personally consider this anathema, but the de facto abuse cannot be ignored. As soon as the "H" bomb is thrown into the debate, reason leaves by the door.

You can't plead for everyone to get along when your friend has shouted "Fire" in a crowded room. It's time for Flaherty to give up his friends.

Feb 1, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterPirran

Phillip - it is interesting that the QC tried to point score and the Inspector let him continue. I have given evidence against windfarms at local inquiries in Scotland, and actually included in my precognition a summary of why CO2 induced AGW was scientific bollocks. To my puzzlement (and slight disappointment), neither the developer's QC or the Reporter showed any interest in this. I got the impression that no-one wanted to confront the elephant in the cupboard.

As for deniers, the holocaust association alone makes it offensive, regardless of Matt's attempt to justify its use against individuals who argue more from a political than scientific perspective. And correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't it the decline-hiders and their supporters who first started to politicise the science? And it is a sign that they have lost the scientific argument when they have to resort to political semantics and name calling.

Feb 1, 2011 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Is it only me? Or has the debate ratcheted up a few notches in the last few weeks?...

Feb 1, 2011 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh


I think it's reasonable to ask him not to use language that people find offensive. If we engage in civilised discussion I think the name-calling will cease anyway, and maybe people like Matt will find us all reasonable and logical people who simply disagree with the mainstream view. Asking him to "give up his friends" is unlikely to be a successful approach. We need to win people over by force of argument, not by telling them they are wrong or calling them names back. With that in mind I would ask you not to use the strong language you have here in a name-calling fashion. I don't mind discussion of the term "ecofascist" but I object to its use to describe people or groups of people.

Feb 1, 2011 at 10:43 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Hi Jimmy - yes, I think it has. Despite the official noises from the BBC that they were going to re-think their global bollocks coverage and be more impartial towards sceptics, there has not been much evidence for this, and in the last two weeks Horizon and now another documentary have shown more bias in favour of the decline-hiders than even Lord Oxburgh and his merry men. We are all paying about £150 a year for the TV licence now and it really grates to see once quality programmes like Horizon unashamedly descend into quagmire of post normal science.

p.s. all low-level snow finally gone now but ground still frozen and new snow on Lawers this morning. I trust you are as usual on a beach somewhere warm.

Feb 1, 2011 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

"The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane." - Mark Twain

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Your Grace,

On a point of clarification, I believe that the use of the words "Skeptic movement" in your penultimate para. (final sentence) may be a mistype and that 'Warmist movement' was the intended reference.
Ref; Jimmy Haigh. I do agree.
Ref; Dougie. What an excellent and thought provoking comment from Climate Resistance.

More power to your Grace's elbow.

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterTG O'Donnell

Your Grace, It was never my intention to offend and I don't think I called Flaherty any names to boot, but Flaherty's definition of denier is simply too convenient in the context of it's use, as others have pointed out. His opinions on AGW are another matter and he's perfectly entitled to hold them, but that wasn't the point of my post.

I'm not particularly interested in name calling either. If I could find a suitable synonym for some of the positions and abuse that many of the more extreme commentators have used against Delingpole in recent weeks I would, but the "Fascist" word seemed appropriate in that context. I never said Flaherty was one of them, I suggested he should create some distance from them.

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterPirran


I realise "ecofascist" was directed at a group, but it dehumanises the people in the group no less than us being called "deniers" en masse, which others on the thread have objected to. I think we need to show we are better than our opponents. This is hard, I know, and I struggle for a suitable term occasionally. More on this later.

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:18 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

You cannot debate with zealots, be they political, religous or environmental.

You cannot debate when there is no lingua franca.

You cannot debate with those who think the debate is over.

You cannot debate on climate change - it is a war of words.

There is no chance of reconciliation in the climate wars - you can only outlive your critics.

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Hmmmm.... Consensus/alarmist/warmist vs sceptic/skeptic/denier

None of them work for me, because the so-called consensus side has developed a fairly rigid doctrine that incorporates a number of propositions, some of them scientifically derived, and some of them politically derived.

As far as the scientificially derived propositions are concerned, they range from things which are well supported (such as CO2 generally contributing something to warming the Earth), to things which are less well supported (such manmade CO2 being important), to things of which there is basically no evidence at all (CO2 causing particular disasters, etc.)

As far as the politically derived propositions are concerned, even if you accept their scientifically derived propositions, the political propositions don't automatically follow. You could believe the whole AGW scientific argument, but still argue we should adapt rather than reduce CO2 - or you could argue for different means to reduce CO2 - or you could argue for geo-engineering.

But as far as the so-called consensus group is concerned - you must except all their ENTIRE orthodox doctrine... or you're a heretic. (which is why they hate the lukewarmers with such vehemence).

And that's what is.

The consensus supporters are basically promoting a fundamentally a pseudo-religious doctrine urging a life of poverty and chastity to save the planet - and the so-called deniers are heretics.

And there are other paralles with the medieval Catholic church too. We have the selling of indulgences (carbon-offsetting, cap and trade), the hypocrisy (bishops/climate-change-activists sinning/jetting-around), the hatred for heretics (10:10 etc), the calls for prosecutions of heretics, and the crusade against them (albeit the warmists have mostly been talk to date rather than actual violence).

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterCopner

Fair enough, Your Grace, but it does seem we are forever bound by the Queensberry Rules whilst our opponents load up with horse-shoe and powdered glass.

I don't want to descend to ad hom's either, but it does seem fair to equate their frequently professed beliefs with their more inconvenient origins.

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterPirran


I think there are definitely people with whom it is difficult, if not impossible to debate. Many involved in the IPCC are in this category. People like Matt are not in that category though. This is the point of this article - there are people who use the d-word who can be engaged and who may be persuaded. We need to recognise that if we are to prevail.

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:43 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Oh, bugger it. Let's stop being chivalrous and just return serve in the same spirit. If I'm a "denier" to them then they're "warm_mongers" to me.
I've gently tried to introduce this term in earlier threads, but I didn't think it got noticed.

Feb 1, 2011 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

Sorry Bish but you are wrong you cannot have a debate with someone using the d-word because this a fundamental disagreement on the use of language. This specific use of language is an attempt to crush debate and establish control by using crude associations to dehumanise sceptics.

The response has to be to kick the opposition where it hurts most - in the proverbials.

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac



Damn, I'm sinking.......ignore the above.

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterPirran

"Warmista" implies a singular gender ergo I don't much like it. :)

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze


We would be identified as "Contras" furthermore, so, on reflection, it should be abandoned.

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterPirran

They scent blood and that has blinded them to the fact that he has reached his opinions on global warming in exactly the same way that, for the most part, they have. To reiterate Nullius's remarks above, it would make for a more constructive debate if they showed more humility.

Perhaps if Mr Delingpole would stop accusing people of being dishonest ideologues without a hint of proof his critics might be more inclined to do the same for him. For example, he's proclaimed that Mick Hulme - who you link to - is a "sophist...fluent in pseudo-academic gobbledegook", downright "evil" and, for some reason, a "watermelon". I'm not demanding all-out Delingpole denunciation but claiming his opponents should be nicer to him is like a parent looking at two kids embroiled in bitter, mutual conflict and insisting it's their own who's being abused.

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterBenSix

Brilliant thread, Bishop: I completely agree with you. Everything in language depends on context - and that includes your relationship with the person you're debating with and the wider cultural context.

I love Pointman. Those three simple words could of course be taken the wrong way. It depends on context. It's true though, ever since I read his 'About Me', especially this:

Future historians, especially black African ones, will categorise the effects of the environmental movement as genocidal and they will be correct.

I probably said 'Amen' when I first read that. But if I said that out loud Pointman might well not pick up the anabaptist and thus libertarian context for the exclamation, in my own mind, and think I was a gun-toting religious nutcase. Such context mistakes occur all the time - which is why I don't normally use that particular form of encouragement on public blogs.

But what Pointman says explains why extreme language breaks out on both sides of this debate. It's completely understandable that it does. But that doesn't excuse the 'blood libel' of denier and denialist.

Thus I well remember disagreeing with Pointman at Judy Curry's when that thread to discuss Kevin Trenberth's speech at the AMS became 'sidetracked' by the denier issue. Sidetracked is in quotes because I didn't see it that way at all - even though Judith did. Trenberth had chosen to use the word and for that reason I saw it as entirely appropriate - necessary even - that Climate Etc dealt with this most polarising of topics. (And yes, when push comes to shove, I don't really buy Judy's rationalisation for denier. But I can live with complexity. Overall, Ms Curry is a massive force for good and she's got this detail wrong. Such is life, everywhere one's looks - including oneself.)

I feel totally differently about the use of denier by Richard Lindzen and Larry Solomon. Not least because they are Jewish - and Lindzen lost a good deal of his family to the Holocaust. He can use the term to mock his enemies as much as he likes. Everything depends on context.

Meanwhile the climate debate is shifting noticeably. The fact that Barack Obama chose not to mention climate in his State of the Union address last week is as big a signal as you could wish for. Strange-looking Christopher Monckton, who made it his aim to prevent the USA legislating against carbon emissions, has it seems won his most crucial battle. It doesn't matter a jot to me that he came across a bit weird last night. He's done the job.

Which brings me to a residual problem with 'denier' in the debate today. Increasingly (and this is a major advance compared to the past) those pushing the so-called consensus that we must legislate to reduce carbon emissions distinguish between sceptics, who are misguided and misled, and deniers. But the implication is that deniers are in our midst and we are failing to distinguish them and call them to account. Monckton is one of the crucial group who is often defamed in this way - and, sure enough, as James Delingpole said on another thread, many sceptics buy enough of the slur to feel the need to 'have a go' at the guy whenever he is mentioned.

One of the key moments for me on the Climate Etc thread was when Steve Mosher declined to do this, responding to 'Louise', who had been trying to justify the term:

“I use the term denier to describe those who reject out-right and without thought all climate science and scientists.”

In 4 years on the web i do not think I have met a single person who rejects “out right” and “without thought” “ALL” climate

To be precise. Watts is not a denier. Willis is not. Monckton is not. Lindzen is not. Spencer is not.

Nobody here rejects outright without thought all of climate science. no one. The worst reject most of it after considerable amounts of confused thought.

There I’m being precise, you’re being rude

As James Delingpole said earlier, we need to stay united against this evil - and the roots of the denier slur are exactly that. When I read Mosher and others doing this two and a half weeks ago I knew that we were finally turning the corner. It's only a matter of time.

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

[*] Mike

(There is a Mick Hulme, isn't there? Damned people who have similar names. They're just out to confuse me.)

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBenSix

Am I alone in not giving a monkey's what someone calls me? I find "Denier" a simple statement of someone else's belief in what he thinks I believe (for the record, nothing - I merely accept or reject some explanations until better information comes in). As it happens, I find it difficult to deny that climate does change, since there is good evidence that it has done so for the last 4,500,000,000 (or possibly 6,010) years, but rather easier to query whether H. sap. has had any perceptible influence on same.
I assume that some people object to being called deniers because they make some kind of connection in their minds between that and the equally fatuous "Holocaust Denier" that, according to Political Correctness, is supposed to be the worst thing since sliced bread. I've no idea what was going through David Irving's mind when he opined that the Nazis didn't in fact slaughter millions of homosexuals, physically and mentally disabled people, Gypsies and Jews, but since my father (whom I trusted) helped clear out Bergen-Belsen I have little doubt that he was wrong. The term "denier" therefore seems semantically equivalent to "prat" and therefore counts as common abuse.
Relax, people, don't let pillocks wind you up. If someone expresses an opinion of you that he can't possibly substantiate, all he is doing is displaying his ignorance. "Sticks and Stones......"

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDisputin


Ah, Comrade, you may have an advantage here since I'm in Australia and it's just about my bedtime coz the grog has regrettably run out.
Linguistics aside, [snip - language] I think we should be nasty right back with compound interest.
Nighty night.

Feb 1, 2011 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

LevelGaze: you don't get it, do you? The context here is someone - Matt Flaherty - with whom the Bishop has been interacting very positively. How exactly are you helping with 'we should be nasty right back with compound interest' to the 'nasty bastards'?

OK, I get that in Oz the b-word is a minor insult. (I love the story of how Don Bradman dealt with the English cricket captain when someone called him a bastard as much as the next man.) But even allowing for this, you're mising the point. For the Bishop (or his so-called supporters) to namecall in this particular case is to miss a golden opportunity to win someone over to the truth. Our host has got this absolutely right. Although the issues with denier go deep, they're no license for us to abuse our perceived enemies - especially those like Matt who disagree with good will and integrity. That is the context here. I suggest you get with the program.

Feb 1, 2011 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

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