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Climate Hustle

Skeptical Science in other media

Posted on 6 April 2011 by John Cook

The April edition of Sojourners, a Christian magazine on social justice and peace, focuses on climate change. The cover story How to Talk to Climate Change Skeptics features Skeptical Science's 10 most used skeptic arguments and features a familiar looking cover design (slide your eyes over to the right margin of our website to see what I mean). There's a short interview with me on how my faith motivates my climate work, why people deny climate change and unexpected allies. There are also some other great articles including the basics of climate change by Bill McKibben and Addressing the Naysayers by climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe (one of my personal heroes). I particularly appreciated Katharine's closing words:

The gospel tells us we are forgiven and free. The gospel motivates us from the heart to love others. The bottom line is that real people in real places around planet Earth are already being affected by our changing climate. Doing something about climate change is making the love of Jesus tangible to hurting people. Our God has made us into people who are designed to look outside of ourselves and love our global neighbor -- and today, that means caring about what climate change is doing to our world.

I also learned this week via @ that the SkS iPhone app was named a Top 10 Transformative Apps of 2011 Q1. Their review of the SkS app makes for good reading (the main fault being they failed to mention the heroic efforts of Shine Technologies who developed the app pro bono). Positive features include "Comprehensive and updated scientific information that answers many of the climate skeptics claims" while on the negative side, the app "does not show how bad most media is dealing with the issue. The problem would not exist if it was not for mainstream medias dependence on PR material to write stories". Well, we are working on that. Maybe it'll appear in the iPad version! :-)

Center for Climate Change CommunicationLastly, I should remind everyone that voting for the George Mason University's 'Climate Change Communicator of the Year' award. ends soon (April 15 to be precise). Skeptical Science is nominated for the Organisational Category, which means all the SkS community who contribute here are included in the nomination. There are also a slew of heroes nominated in the individual category, making it a difficult choice. Be sure to vote before April 15!

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Comments 1 to 27:

  1. I vote for BP as the star sceptic and debunker.
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  2. I'm a bit of a luddite not having or wanting a cell phone so I'm not sure how the SkS app works. However comparing the review of the app to this website, I'd say their suggestions for improvement are a bit off the mark.

    I think Skeptical Science does a great job of showing how the pseudo-skeptics cherry pick arguments.

    Also, by not getting into the politics, criticizing media etc. to any great degree, Skeptical Science lives up to its name, without getting bogged down in that messiness. There are other sites that take care of those aspects.

    Keep up the great work, folks!
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  3. I appreciate the fact that it's a Christian magazine.

    Maybe because of American conservatives, AGW mitigation is often unduly opposed to Christian values. I remember debating with a skeptical Christian Canadian blogger that made many usual denialist claims and endorsed posts like "God would not let such thing happen to us".

    I'm not a religious person myself, but to foster our Earth has nothing incompatible with faith in God or His creation. It's quite the opposite.
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  4. "God would not let such thing happen to us".

    My usual response to comments like that is along the lines, 'If God gave us free will, then we are free to do it to ourselves. See also: Hiroshima... Dresden... the Holocaust... Darfour... et cetera.'
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  5. Thanks, John, for pointing out yet again that Science and Faith are not incompatible.

    As one who began his studies in the earth sciences an embarrassingly long time ago, I'd also like to point out that the true skeptics are those scientists (yes, that lets me out) who have devoted their lives to the advancement of science (in general and climate science in particular).

    That life-investment usually involves little recognition, remuneration and often comes at great personal cost, as sometimes that advancement of the science and the field came at the expense of overturning one's own work.

    For that is what scientists do: constantly reformulate and test hypothesis' to achieve a synthesis of view that best explains all the available evidence, and not simply considering that which endorsed their own idiosyncratic views & ignored the rest.

    And that, my friends, is the heart of true skepticism.

    And I have faith that science will triumph over the denialists and disinformationists, for that is what my Faith tells me.

    The Yooper
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  6. Ken Lambert wrote : "I vote for BP as the star sceptic and debunker."

    Aah, a touching display of faith, if ever one was needed on a thread about personal faith. Trouble is, I have seen very little real scepticism and no debunking from BP, so I believe that your faith will be a solitary one.
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  7. “... science will triumph over the denialists and disinformationists ...”

    Full consent. I hope that and “alarmist”, however - as well.

    P.S. Well, being an agnostic in a Catholic country I learned how “to be in the minority”.
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  8. I greatly appreciate the mostly on-target efforts of this website to alert the public to the misinformation put out by 'skeptics'. However, I urge sticking with the science.

    First, the reality and possible consequences of climate change have nothing to do with religious belief. They depend upon observational evidence and on simulations based on that evidence.

    Second, while science and faith are not necessarily incompatible (comment #5), much of what folk believe is in fact incompatible with what we have learned through science. The interactions and feedbacks inherent in complex natural systems and the role of contingency in the manner in which the Universe has evolved over 13.75 billion years lead to a rather firm conclusion. We (humans) and the planet on which we live are here by good fortune, and not by design. The god idea retains virtually no explanatory value, in spite of its remarkable persistence even among educated people. The most compelling rationale for becoming better stewards of the Earth is self-interest.
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  9. Arkadiusz Semczyszak, do you have any examples of those "alarmist" types you refer to ? Perhaps you could finally explain what an "alarmist" is - something that others (no names mentioned - we don't want any of that circular and repetitious spamming again, do we ?) have failed to do.
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  10. I also think that it is unwise to go down this road of trying to mix science and religion. I feel that they are very much incompatible by their very definitions. Science as a practice tries to remove 'faith' in ideas at every turn, instead emphasizing empirical evidence. Religion, on the other hand glorifies belief in things for which there is little evidence.

    I find it very odd that in Katharine Hayhoe's interview she seems to be arguing that you don't need to accept that the earth is older than 6,000 years old to believe in climate change. Why would someone accept any of the scientific arguments for AGW theory if they are unable to accept such a basic scientific principle? If you don't care about evidence you don't care about evidence.
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  11. Re Arkadiusz

    "Alarmist" being making alarming stuff public, even if those alarming projections match observations.
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  12. CBDunkerson at 22:02 PM on 6 April, 2011

    That's a good way to respond to it. I also point that as far as I can tell, God does not seem to be very inclined to let us get away with negligence, willful ignorance, imprudence or even downright stupidity.
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  13. Alexandre quoting someone else:
    "God would not let such thing happen to us"

    That isn't Christianity. Implicit in religion is the notion that one should take personal responsibility for ones actions. By suggesting that God is responsible for CO2 emissions is to deny personal responsibility.
    Another point is that an easy way to avoid responsibility for ones actions is to deny knowledge that might imply you are responsible!
    eg. by blaming something else, you are trying to deny you have responsibility. That is a flagrant abuse of religion.
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  14. April edition link

    rather than home page
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Hot-linked URL.
  15. I drew attention already to the disconnect between actual beliefs and science-based knowledge. Alexandre's quote is among the reasons it matters. People reject all manner of science - not just climate science - because it conflicts with their beliefs. It is inconceivable to some that we (humans) are capable of mucking up a planet over which (it is asserted) god gave us dominion. I adopt the opposite view - that it is intellectually bankrupt to maintain beliefs that are falsified by readily made observations.
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  16. ptbrown, nicholas, I'd be inclined to disagree with you.

    There are many, many people claiming to be christian who firstly claim some silly things about science and who, secondly, would reject scientifically correct statements from the Vatican, in particular, as representing an acceptable christian view of the science.

    Having clear scientific statements set out with the language and christian ethics such people are accustomed to is much more likely to get them thinking. "God would not let such a thing happen to us" is the kind of naive, shallow thinking that can only be effectively countered by other christians. Any scornful or dismissive comments from me or from you or others like us would just be ignored as being from unreliable non-believers.

    And let's be a bit charitable. For a christian to acknowledge that they've been wrong about this, they're going to have to face more than the facts. They'll have to accept some measure of guilt and shame that they've been engaged in a form of sin, mostly of omission but probably for some actions they've performed as well. This unhappy moment is best shared within a supportive environment only available with other christians.
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  17. "it is intellectually bankrupt to maintain beliefs that are falsified by readily made observations"

    Tell that to those who deny climate science and would not only overturn the US EPA CO2 endangerment finding, but de-fund ongoing and future research into climate studies.

    Not to mention the resident cadre of dissemblers here at Skeptical Science.

    The Yooper
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  18. Considering the response of others to the faith/science incompatibility debate, I'm wondering why my comment was censored. It appeared originally as post #8, but it has now disappeared. I think there should at least be an indication that a post has been censored and a reason given for why it was censored.

    In any case, I would like to add my voice to the case for science. This blog is called Skeptical SCIENCE. I think we can do without the vicarious proselytising.
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    Moderator Response: Profanity. Sorry, but standards are tight here.
  19. ptbrown31:

    "I also think that it is unwise to go down this road of trying to mix science and religion. I feel that they are very much incompatible by their very definitions. Science as a practice tries to remove 'faith' in ideas at every turn, instead emphasizing empirical evidence. Religion, on the other hand glorifies belief in things for which there is little evidence."

    There's no need to mix science and religion, but on the other hand there's every need for religious people (like myself, though like many Christians I don't feel religious per se; I just happen to know who I am!) to know science. There can be no harm in using the platform of SkS, started by John because his faith motivated him to do it, to teach scientific scepticism to the masses. If there are some people who are anti-climate change science because fellow believers had proved convincing (to them), maybe having a fellow believer with an alternative viewpoint would sway them.

    "I find it very odd that in Katharine Hayhoe's interview she seems to be arguing that you don't need to accept that the earth is older than 6,000 years old to believe in climate change. Why would someone accept any of the scientific arguments for AGW theory if they are unable to accept such a basic scientific principle? If you don't care about evidence you don't care about evidence."

    Who knows? Though evidently Katherine knows that her audience will contain YECs, so why not chuck in that it's no reason to reject more science.

    While we're at it, have a religion/science joke:

    The Higgs boson walks into a church. The priest says "Your kind isn't welcome here." To which the Higgs boson replies, "But without me, you can't have mass!"

    Badum and, indeed, tish.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] A quality joke deserves a quality Rimshot...but we'll have to settle for this. :)
  20. In response to 'adelady' (comment #16): Everyone has to figure it out for him/herself. Attempting to convert people from their religious beliefs is pretty much a waste of time. It remains the case that much of what folk believe is in fact not consistent with science. And that is among the reasons it has proven difficult in the United States in particular to convey some scientific results to the general public. Climate change and evolution are the most obvious examples.
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  21. nicholas. Convert? Never in a million years.

    What christians like John Cook and others here can do, and none of us unbelievers can do, is to show other christians that there is no conflict between science and religion.
    They might say they are two separate things. Or others might say that science is one way to see more of the wonder of the created world (I suspect John might be in this group).

    I think you're falling for the argument (of very shrill voices) that the YE creationists represent the majority christian viewpoint. They don't. Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians all accept the evidence of science as shown in geology, astronomy, biology, archaeology and all the rest.

    Lots of people who accept science hold irrational beliefs and superstitions. Astrology, feng shui, gaia belief, ancestor worship. Focus on the science. If people want to hang onto their other beliefs at the same time, let them. Getting diverted onto arguments about "you couldn't possibly believe ..... if you accept scientific method" is a waste of breath.
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  22. 21 adelady makes some good points.

    Historically, the rift between religion and science (broadly speaking, lets say skeptical questioning) occurs in two situations. There are often refits:
    1/ Between The Church and other sources of authority or 'truth' (be they state, science, other religions etc.)
    2/ Between Fundamentalist interpretations of religious dogma and just about every thing else.

    The first originates, most notably, with the emergence of the Holy Roman Empire. The second is what it is and crops up within many confessional domains - e.g. there are both Christian and Muslim etc. creationists.

    However beyond the above, there are/have been Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. dominant societies and individuals that have strong investigative, scientific, skeptical traditions throughout history to the current day. There just is - empirically speaking - absolutely no evidence that societies with one or several dominant religions, or individuals who are confessional in general terms, cannot or do not do good science... until some political structure or ideology breaks things; And that is not unique to religions either. The dominant politics in the US has elements of both power conflict (1 above) between big industries and the output of scientific investigation; and of fundamentalist thinking (in this case constitutional fundamentalism, typified by Ron Paul etc.) The more negative religious forces are just hangers-on.

    In short: Being religious is neither a necessarily nor sufficient condition for doing poor science.
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  23. I did not think that being forgiven by supernatural beings had anything to do with the science (or sub-science) of AGW.

    I must admit that if there were a logic to an object of worship - worshipping the Sun made primitive and scientific sense. After all, from the Sun is where all this troublesome warmth cometh.
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  24. One more for 'adelady': There is no conflict between science and religion in one of two senses: 1) if one sets out consciously not to accept propositions that are demonstrably untrue; or 2) if one fudges - perhaps along the lines of 'god intended it that way'. The difficulty in the first case is that even the existence of god makes no sense in light of what we know about natural phenomena, at least any god remotely like that conceived by contemporary religions. The second case can be illustrated by the Roman Catholic stance on evolution. Officially, the church accepts evolution as a historical description. However, the idea that it and we specifically were planned from the outset has nothing whatsoever to do with any scientific understanding of how evolution occurs. The church's position therefore is a fudge that diffuses debate but misrepresents the science. John Cook is best advised to stick with the science of climate change.
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  25. 48% of Americans think that "the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, up from 41% in 2009 and 31% in 1997, when Gallup first asked the question" (Gallup, March 11, 2010).

    40% of Americans say that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so]" (Gallup, December 10-12, 2010). An additional 38% think that "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process. That leaves fewer than 22% of Americans whose views on evolution as a phenomenon even remotely resemble our scientific understanding.

    I do not think that either demographic group can be dismissed as fringe. They represent mainstream American thinking. And that is a problem.
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  26. Thanks John for your efforts on this dialogue.

    As a professed Christian, I find the science/Christianity debate somewhat tiresome and unnecessary. I think that many Christians adopt the disconnection due to a lack of A. Knowledge, B. Faith, C. Confidence that science has provided us an amazing look into the creation around us.

    I don't feel that scientific discovery undermines my worldview the same way that Francis Collins, the Head of the Human Genome Project, doesn't believe that it undermines his.

    I'm glad to see people will to profess their faith have an open, honest and safe conversation about science.
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  27. I appreciate the discussion here. Nicholas's statistics are very much in line with my own experience. Moreover, those who believe that the seriousness of global warming has been exaggerated are generally one and the same as those who believe in a young earth.

    Here is the difference, though, in my mind:

    Climate change is an urgent problem. It is already seriously affecting our planet and our own health and welfare. If we continue to deny the reality of the problem and don't do something about it within a relatively short period of time, we will be facing some very dangerous consequences of our actions.

    On the other hand, we (by which I mean any one of us here on planet earth) can happily and safely believe in a young earth for a very long time without this belief having any direct global repercussions. (I understand there are indirect ones regarding our perspective on science--but not in the same ballpark as the very real effects of climate change already manifesting themselves today)

    So in reaching out to my faith community, I think it is very important to differentiate between these points. On the second one, we can afford to wait. On the first, we cannot.
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