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Discussion > I have no idea what the skeptic cause is

Brandon Shollenberger wrote that recently. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone but my cause is ‘if you want me to sign a blank cheque to do anything and everything to reduce CO2, no matter how ineffectual or painful, you’d better have a bloody good argument and right now, climate science is not fit for purpose’.

Now I’m sure that AGW proponents will mostly disagree with all of that but then that’s irrelevant. If everyone was happily trotting along the AGW reduction path then my opinion wouldn’t mean anything. None of us sceptics would matter. But I don’t hear the patter of tiny carbon footprints.

‘A blank cheque’. Unless someone quantifies how much they are going to spend on AGW, regardless of success then to agree to it is to hand over your bank account. Where are the promises of value for money? Where are the provisos made to ensure energy security? We might be asked to pay higher bills today but what will they slip in tomorrow? If the end of the world is the alternative, surely there is no price too high to save it?

Is it the end of the world? It depends who you listen to. I’m not really sure what the consensus amongst scientists is, or even if those opinions are worth anything. I do think that climate science is poor. It needs to grow up and start acting like a most hated company producing dangerous, expensive goods. It needs to persuade us we need what it’s selling, not whine that it’s great and we’re just ignorant, picky consumers.

Brandon Shollenberger wrote ‘Nobody is going to sort through a hundred questions because five of them might be good’. Well you know what, if you want to effect the biggest change in human direction that’s exactly what you have to do. In fact you’ve got the answer the bad and the stupid questions too. What the climate change proponents ask for is immense. Surely answering a load of questions is the least they can do?

What cause do the rest of you have?

Sep 28, 2015 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Other than to reveal the truth, and to question the unquestionable consensus on official "facts", is there really a “cause” for sceptics? You are right, in that we ought to be questioning the apparent desire of some, mainly politicians, to fling copious quantities of money at what might not be a problem – is that a “cause”?

We also have to try and rescue science from the engulfing maws of spin and politics – to rescue the very word, “sceptic”, as an honourable and expected condition found in ALL science. Could that be considered a “cause”?

It is important that we do not pillory or ridicule any who express scepticism about any aspect of climate, or any other, science – I have endured that myself, when merely asking how CO2, a tiny – nay, miniscule – component of the atmosphere, can have such a dramatic effect upon the climate, or asking whether there really is such a thing as “greenhouse effect” (I feel it is more of a mislabelling, rather than utterly wrong – but that has not and will not stop others pouring scorn upon me), or whether or not “greenhouse gases” really are as significant as is claimed (which has to be considered, as observations are not matching theories, but – hey! – what do I know? I am not a climate scientist!).

If I have a cause, as a sceptic, it is to question the convenient co-incidence claimed that the principle driver of climate just so happens to be the only element of the atmosphere over which humans might – just might – have some influence upon. Such a scenario raises my sceptical cynicism up to 11.

As a far, far greater mind than mine has said, “It is better to have questions that cannot be answered, than answers that cannot be questioned.” That, if a cause has to be sought, is probably the cause to be pursued – break the chains of consensus, and question those answers that you are expected to accept without question.

Sep 29, 2015 at 2:17 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Well said Penfold :)

The beauty of the sceptic side is that there is no single cause, we all have different reasons for objecting to the idea of AGW.
I have to admit that amongst many other reasons; I have a serious problem with people who wish to control me, dictate my life style and take money out of my pocket. The problem reaches dangerous proportions when the perpetrators appear to suffer from a shortage of intelligence, honesty and respect.

Sep 29, 2015 at 6:54 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Interesting question. For me it is simply to see science done properly, or to put it the other way round, to blow the whistle when I see science being abused to promote a political agenda.

Sep 29, 2015 at 10:23 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

If you think there has to be a cause you are already missing the point.

Sep 30, 2015 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

If the point of an issue was laying still on the ground and Brandon tried to jump on it, he would miss.
The cause of skeptics is, as defined by (pre-AP doubleplus good redefinition) dictionary usage:
http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/skeptic

"skeptic (US) noun
or British sceptic /ˈskɛptɪk/
plural skeptics
Learner's definition of SKEPTIC
[count]
: a person who questions or doubts something (such as a claim or statement)

Skeptics have pointed out flaws in the researchers' methods.
You can believe in ghosts if you like, but I'm still a skeptic."

Regarding the catastrophist consensus of the climate obsessed, skeptics doubt the scale, scope and the supporting data for the catastrophe claimed by the consensus, to a greater or lesser extent depending on the specific skeptic and issue.
Skeptics have been correct in pointing out that climate obsessed predictions regarding ice pack, polar bears, storm frequency and intensity, historical data, glacier melt, sea level rise, ocean acidification, rainfall, and much more have been bunk.

Sep 30, 2015 at 4:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Since this discussion was started because of me, and since one person has already attacked me over it, I suppose I ought to say a few words.

This remark of mine came about because people talk about skeptics as though it is a group which shares some commonalities. My question is, what are they? Is it, you're skeptical of everything? We could take that to a philosophical extreme beyond solipsism if so. I doubt that's what anyone intends.

Is it that you're skeptical global warming is going to kill us all? If that's all it takes, there are plenty of people routinely mocked by self-labeled skeptics who would qualify. Paul Matthews says:

Interesting question. For me it is simply to see science done properly, or to put it the other way round, to blow the whistle when I see science being abused to promote a political agenda.

But nothing about that requires you hold a particular position on global warming. You can campaign for good science and believe climate sensitivity is high. You can believe global warming is a serious problem and think many people saying so have used bad science.

Is it that you think the greenhouse effect isn't real? If so, you're not skeptical. Anyone who takes the time to study the issue will find the physics behind the greenhouse effect are beyond question. It's understandable a person might be skeptical of them prior to looking into the issue, but being skeptical merely means you don't currently believe something. It doesn't mean you rule it out as a possibility.

I used to see prominent self-labeled skeptics like Anthony Watts say all skeptics accept the greenhouse effect is real. Anyone who spends a little time at his site will find that's not true of many of his commenters. I used to think that was just because he allowed anyone to comment, but now, I find he runs posts on his website which claim to prove the greenhouse effect isn't real. At the point a leading figure in the skeptic community is willing to run posts claiming to prove the greenhouse effect isn't real, and not with any sort of disclaimer saying he disagrees with them, what does skepticism even mean?

Some time back I decided I am not a "skeptic" because I refuse to self-identify with the group. You can see some of my reasons here. The short version is just, self-identified skeptics don't act like skeptics should. They often don't even follow the standards they say people should follow. It seems to be nothing more than a bunch of people co-opting a term for their own purposes. Which I guess is kind of okay? People do that all the time. The problem is if you're going to do that, you need to have some clear meaning so people know what your group is.

For instance, should people consider Steven Goddard and all his conspiratorial rants to be a part of the skeptic movement? What about the skydragons who say the greenhouse effect isn't real? Where's the line drawn, if there even is a line?

Sep 30, 2015 at 2:49 PM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Brandon, you can’t lumber a blog with better standards than your average newspaper or TV channel. They run articles that are not necessarily to the taste of their audience too. They may have guest contributers who write or say things that will not be the view of the Editor. Ultimately they have to have something to present. Sometimes the editor is just feeling bloody minded and thinks ‘sod it, I’ll go with that’. Like any news source, if you don’t like a particular article, move on. At the moment there’s very little to say about AGW. We’re all just waiting for the climate to do something or for the ‘pause’ to be declared significant. So what are blog owners supposed to do? Post the trade test transmission and hope that everyone will still be tuning in when something does happen?

You want WUWT or Bishop Hill to post better articles? Write them!

I hesitated to put a post up about the ‘sceptic cause’ because few people read the discussions page and it would likely garner only a few responses. There certainly aren’t enough responses to gauge what most people feel. Fundamentally we are not a group the way the other side is a group. We aren’t prepared to stand together and chant the same pre-prepared dogma. But what we are all saying is ‘NO’. Just as all the people who voted Tory this year, few people agreed with every policy the Conservatives intended to follow. A great many just voted ‘no’ to an SNP, Labour union. Is that process illegitimate just because everyone didn’t have a single manifesto?

Do you or anyone else think sceptics can directly affect the climate edifice? We can’t. We can only gnaw away at the weak points until it either collapses or improves. The proponents of climate catastrophe have to decide if they’re doing everything they can to move their goal along. If nobody was shouting ‘no’, they’d never get the message would they?

Sep 30, 2015 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I'll also add - some of the articles with the least comments are the ones with the most sensible content. If there's no jokes to be made, no grumpy viewpoint or disagreement, there's little to be said. It doesn't mean that it isn't what many people think.

Sep 30, 2015 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

"people talk about skeptics as though it is a group which shares some commonalities."

That's not really the case, as shown by the comments here-
"Obviously I can’t speak for everyone"
" is there really a “cause” for sceptics?"
"there is no single cause, we all have different reasons"
"Fundamentally we are not a group the way the other side is a group."

You say "I refuse to self-identify with the group." Great, so do most of us. By refusing to identify with the group, you are effectively joining the group :) ! If you look through this discussion board you will see some discussions about getting organised as a group, all of which have got nowhere, e.g.
http://www.bishop-hill.net/discussion/post/2021321

Sep 30, 2015 at 3:48 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Politics works the same way as this. You can choose to get some of what you want with a big party that doesn't fully represent you or risk getting nothing with a small party that comes closer. Only if you form your own party do you vote for all the policies you like but with almost zero chance of being in power. In the UK, for AGW we have had one party politics. I want that to change.

Sep 30, 2015 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Even if CO2 is warming the Earth I fail to see the issue, no issue=no problem=standing for nothing but not wasting money on non problems.

Sep 30, 2015 at 6:05 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

I have two comments.

First, for myself, I am looking for ways to bring about greater integrity in science generally. I focus on global warming, not because I am especially interested in global warming, but because global warming is the branch of science that gets the most attention from policy makers.

As an example, I got the (common) law changed in the UK, so that scientists are now required to disclose the data that they use in published research. For details, see the article “Tree-ring data at Queen's University Belfast”, on my web site. As discussed there, the push-back from the scientific establishment was huge, including a major effort by the Royal Society; it was only after Prime Minister Cameron publicly supported my work that the scientists backed down. I got support from the Prime Minister only because I had invoked global warming: if I had tried some other field of science, I almost certainly would have failed.

Second, be cautious in accepting what other people claim their motivations are. As an illustration, I have previously presented conclusive evidence that a leading AGW skeptic, Ross McKitrick, committed fraud in some of his research: see the Bishop Hill post “Keenan on McKitrick”, and my follow-on comment #21067111. The comments to that post show many people being very hostile: those people do not want to accept that one of their own would commit fraud. Yet those same people will claim that they are motivated by a search from truth: clearly, the claims are inaccurate.

The same phenomenon occurs on the alarmist side. Most global-warming scientists profess to be motivated by a search from truth; moreover, they seem to do so sincerely. I presented conclusive evidence that a leading AGW scientist, Phil Jones, committed fraud in some of his research: see the “Letter to the Science and Technology Committee (UK Commons)”, on my web site. Despite the evidence, I have yet to find a single professional alarmist scientist who will acknowledge that Jones committed fraud: such scientists do not want to accept that one of their own would commit fraud.

Simply put, people will often adhere to their self-identified peer group even if it means clearly violating their own professed beliefs about what motivates them. This is a human trait—a strong social-psychological impeller—and it occurs on all sides of the AGW debate.

Sep 30, 2015 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

Mr Schollenberger (I am presuming “Brandon” is a male name):

Some time back I decided I am not a "skeptic" because I refuse to self-identify with the group.
What group?
…self-identified skeptics don't act like skeptics should. They often don't even follow the standards they say people should follow.
And how should sceptics act? What standards should people follow that these “skeptics” are not following?

I am making another presumption, which is that you consider yourself to be able to think scientifically, if not actually having scientific training (and, no, having one does NOT mean that you have to have the other); surely, all of science – perhaps its most important premise – is to be sceptical, to prod and poke at a problem from as many different angles as you can think of, until the solution you reach is the most likely to be correct (though this does not mean that it necessarily is the correct solution). To not be sceptical is to not be scientific.

You have even mentioned that to be sceptical about the greenhouse effect is… well… utter madness, is the implication (“…there have literally been posts this year which deny the greenhouse effect is real…). Apart from the questionable wording – why? (Yeah, yeah... I know: “The physics says…” Physics, I am afraid is NOT necessarily reality; physics is but an attempt to explain reality; as a human-created concept, physics is as prone to error as humans generally are – hence the need for scepticism.) Now, look at the hypothesis of Harry Dale Huffman, as proposed in 2010 – yeah, I know, it is a proposition that is reviled and ridiculed by many, but addressed and answered by none – he is not the first to propose it, other great minds have moved along the same path, and he has merely picked up the baton, so to speak. It is a proposition that has been shown to be valid on Earth, Venus and (perhaps) Mars. I am not sure about your world, but in mine, a theory that holds water on two planets, and perhaps a third, is considerably more believable than one that leaks like a sieve on one planet. The only point of yours that I can agree with is that being sceptical of something does NOT mean you cannot ultimately find it to actually be the case.

Sep 30, 2015 at 7:03 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Douglas J. Keenan, the science and the more complex issues are too deep for a lot of people to follow. That's why I don't want us to be the arbiters of good science. I want professional auditors to be paid to make sense of it and find flaws.

Sep 30, 2015 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2:

They run articles that are not necessarily to the taste of their audience too. They may have guest contributers who write or say things that will not be the view of the Editor. Ultimately they have to have something to present. Sometimes the editor is just feeling bloody minded and thinks ‘sod it, I’ll go with that’. Like any news source, if you don’t like a particular article, move on.

Um... no. You don't get to justify denying the greenhouse effect is real, calling people nazis and various other things by saying, "Eh, we didn't have anything else to run."

You want WUWT or Bishop Hill to post better articles? Write them!

Any article I'd want to write would never get published. It's been made abundantly clear to me some topics just won't get discussed.

Fundamentally we are not a group the way the other side is a group. We aren’t prepared to stand together and chant the same pre-prepared dogma.

You guys keep saying that, but every time I say anything remotely critical of anyone or anything "skeptics" like, it's shown to be a lie. The tribalism is every bit as real on either side. That's why there's no meaningful disagreement between "skeptics" in public venues.

Heck, I've received multiple e-mails asking me why I said something in public rather than bring it up in private with the person instead. I could even quote e-mails which told me about the importance of presenting a solid face to the public. Or e-mails which told me someone wouldn't even look at an story I wrote because of who I was criticizing.

You guys can keep talking about how "skeptics" aren't a group blah blah blah, but the reality is everything I see says otherwise.

Oct 1, 2015 at 6:44 AM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Radical Rodent:

You have even mentioned that to be sceptical about the greenhouse effect is… well… utter madness, is the implication (“…there have literally been posts this year which deny the greenhouse effect is real…). Apart from the questionable wording – why? (Yeah, yeah... I know: “The physics says…” Physics, I am afraid is NOT necessarily reality; physics is but an attempt to explain reality; as a human-created concept, physics is as prone to error as humans generally are – hence the need for scepticism.) Now, look at the hypothesis of Harry Dale Huffman, as proposed in 2010 – yeah, I know, it is a proposition that is reviled and ridiculed by many, but addressed and answered by none

See, this is where I stop. I would stop for the simple reason you write this lengthy paragraph to say nothing more than, "Look it up," which is all sorts of rude. If you want people to look at something, the least you can do is provide a link.

But leaving that aside, Harry Dale Duffman is a jerk who substitutes hostility and arrogance for substance. He constantly berates and insults anyone who disagrees with him, even when they're right. I actually happen to remember the name because I've long followed The Science of Doom, and he made a hilarious showing there. The guy has no idea what he's talking about, but he has a long list of insults lined up to convince you he does.

It's sort of like our good friend Douglas J. Keenan above. He's another one of those people who seems incapable of disagreeing with a person's work without calling it fraudulent. Why? I don't know. I also don't know why he feels the need to self-promote at every opportunity. It's kind of disturbing. These are the sort of behaviors one would normally find incredibly suspicious. Constant self-promotion, an inability to tolerate any form of disagreement, accusations of fraud at the slightest provocation...? Skeptics should be skeptical of people who engage in things like that.

Oct 1, 2015 at 7:06 AM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

The tribalism is every bit as real on either side.

Harry Dale Duffman is a jerk who substitutes hostility and arrogance for substance.

Pot calling kettle black

Oct 1, 2015 at 7:50 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Mr Shollenberger: as BoFA has pointed out, you have just attacked the man, not his arguments, in both cases, as well as me. While the quoted paragraph might be excessively verbose, could you please discuss its errors, not its wording.

I have noted that Mr Huffman can be somewhat irascible, but does that make him wrong? His article is actually a continuation of what others have been engaged in, since the 19th century, and it is a theory that had caught the attention of Mr Feynman, who did not dismiss it at all, let alone with as much vehemence as yourself. It is a theory that has been verified on Earth and on Venus, as well as, unless I am very wrong, Mars. While this does not necessarily mean the theory is correct, it is certainly more believable than the tosh that is being pumped out at us at the moment, with its bewildering array of equations and acronyms, suppositions and wild, wild guesses (“The heat is hiding in the deep, deep oceans”). One of the key points of the whole AGW/ACC/call it what you will argument is the remarkable coincidence that the principle driver of the gravy-train farrago just so happens to be the only element of the atmosphere over which humans might – just MIGHT – have some influence over. That the human-produced element of the growth in CO2 is but a tiny fraction of it does indicate to me that perhaps we are wasting a lot of time and money pursuing it, and an even greater waste of time and money (now moving into the $trillions) in trying to prevent any change. Just think what benefits could have been wrought to humanity, or the planet itself, had that time and money been spent more constructively, and I can only wonder quite why is so much time and money being wasted when it could be put to much better use. Aside from the appalling corruption of scientific principles, that is why I am a sceptic.

Oct 1, 2015 at 11:00 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

You said it all Penfold :)

Oct 1, 2015 at 2:08 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Radical Rodent:

Mr Shollenberger: as BoFA has pointed out, you have just attacked the man, not his arguments, in both cases, as well as me. While the quoted paragraph might be excessively verbose, could you please discuss its errors, not its wording.

Why would I attack a man's arguments when those arguments haven't been provided? The fact you threw a man's name out doesn't create an obligation for me to respond to everything he's ever written. The fact I chose to discuss him to the extent I did was a sign of me being more charitable than I needed to be. I could have been far more dismissive.

As for attacking you, I did nothing of the sort. I didn't say a thing about you as an individual. I attacked your behavior because your behavior is rude. Telling people to respond to an argument while doing nothing to explain the argument is about as obnoxious a way to participate in a discussion as there is. Heck, you've still not even bothered to provide a link to anything, acting as though just providing a guy's name is somehow a sufficient contribution to discussions. It's not.

If you want to participate in discussions, actually contribute something. The so-called theories you claim have been verified have not been verified as they're complete bunk, but you could at least have the decency to provide them rather than just make vague references to them and expect people to chase them down because you're too... whatever to provide actual references to what you're discussing.

But hey, good to know denying the greenhouse effect is still alive and well within the "skeptic" community. I'll make sure to remember that the next time I hear someone say all skeptics accept the greenhouse effect.

Oct 1, 2015 at 2:19 PM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Brandon "You don't get to justify denying the greenhouse effect is real, calling people nazis"

I think you'll find the newspapers print all sorts of stuff that is considerably worse than those things. By and large they just quote the people who say or do them but every now and then they have a guest who is allowed to spew any amount of lies and filth. The BBC takes particular pleasure in giving a platform for terrorists or their sympathisers and other vile people. It loves ‘pushing the boundaries’. So when they do it, it’s public interest but when an unpaid group of bloggers do far less it’s beyond the pale?

News sites also publish what they call click bait. Stories they know will bring out strong feelings and quite a few nutters. They use their moderation policies to keep the comments how they want them. Most blogs can either have heavy moderation and few visitors or something much lighter and risk offending people. It’s a tightrope.

Me? I pick and choose what I read from many, many sources. I comment on some. I would read from no newspaper or blog if I dismissed each one for posting stuff that offended me. There are guest authors I no longer read because I know I won’t see anything interesting. Eg I got tired very quickly of Monkton’s Latin. I know that criticising some bloggers is like objecting to drug liberalisation on the Mail, no matter how reasonable your objection, the regulars will get angry. Learn to live with the abuse, shut up or stop reading articles you know will annoy you.

If you don’t want to be a sceptic then don’t be. I’ll respond to ‘denier’, ‘sceptic’, ‘agnostic’ or even ‘warmist’ and by and large any insult people care to throw at me. I am not bothered by the Sky Dragons mainly because they’re a symptom of how messy the science is and how badly communicated. Mostly I’ve stopped listening to the science of all sides. If this was QI the NOBODY KNOWS hooter would have gone off.

While the issues are all shades of grey, when it comes to choosing a side there really are only two colours. The consensus or the sceptic side. The sceptic side is everyone who doesn't accept everything on the consensus side. It won't matter how reasonable you are, or if you only hang out at technical sites like Climate Audit, you are on the sceptic side whether you like it or not.

Oct 1, 2015 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Well, I could call red-haired people a group, and it would be hard to deny that they are identifiable as such. But would I expect each and every redhead to conform to some standard, to be obliged to address a group goal? No. The problem here is the flexibility of the word group.

I'm a Texas (now) housewife. I'm not signed up to anything, I pursue no goal on the climate front save that it would be nice if everybody behaved in a reasonable manner. I do not have rules for other people who profess to be sceptics (or I suppose I must write skeptic now). I don't care who promotes which theory, I not much care for those who cry 'the physics' without being able to make the case.

I do have a theory, or rather a null hypothesis, of my own. I've written it here before, and it goes:

Nothing much is happening, and if it does we can adapt.,

Oct 1, 2015 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Apologies for not giving you the required link. Mind you, as you have already totally dismissed the theory, it would be fair to presume that you knew what it was. It would be interesting to know why you have dismissed it, especially as you seem to insist you have no idea what it is. Please show some consistency. Also, please show a bit more scientific rigour to your observations, and stop inserting assumptions where there is no information – where have I denied the “greenhouse effect”? (That is the implication to be drawn from your final paragraph; I am sure you will correct me if that is wrong.) I question it, am sceptical about it, consider that it might possibly be a lazy misnomer, but I have not denied it.

Anyhoo… call me what you will, the main reason that I do not dismiss the Maxwell theory (a name supplied by Dung, and I see no cause not to continue with the label) as readily as you do is that, as presented, it contains all the data on which it is based, and the calculations involved – moreover, it agrees with reality, with makes it a far stronger contender to be correct, in my book.

You should probably note that others might also have noticed that you have evaded answering any of my questions, and might be wondering, “Why not?” Rhoda sums up the best attitude that we should all follow, with a rather fitting null hypothesis.

Oct 1, 2015 at 10:40 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

rhoda, sceptic will do as well as skeptic (I'm US-born English. One of the pleasures it affords me is freedom of guilt about many spellings. :)

Oct 2, 2015 at 5:00 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart