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Dr Paul Bain and Nature issue partial correction

It’s a start. Paul Bain regrets the offense caused by the term denier.

But there’s no mention of the term failing basic English or it’s unscientific nature. The term has been used by professors, M.P.’s, Prime Ministers and national broadcasters, and none of them have expressed even a hint of regret, but we can nonetheless call this a small win. Notch up one for skeptics, but ten for the fog.

Credit to Paul Bain for being one of the only people drawn into that unscientific milieu who has the strength of character to back out, ever so slightly.  He has promised to reply to my last email. I look forward to it. Few who claim to be concerned about the planet have the intellectual honesty to even try to defend their work.

The small win here is not so much the correction attached below (though that is useful), but it’s that the internet fray and the questions will have been noticed by other editors and researchers. In the future, a few of those people will be more careful with their terms.

Promoting pro-environmental action in climate change deniers

Paul G. Bain | Matthew J. Hornsey, | Renata Bongiorno  |  Carla Jeffries

Nature Climate Change 2, 600–603 (2012); published online 17 June 2012; corrected online 4 July 2012.

In the above Letter, we used the term ‘denier’ to describe people who are not convinced that anthropogenic climate change is occurring. The denier label refers to an image held by some in the mainstream climate science community that such people are contrarian, which other terms like ‘sceptic’ do not capture. We hoped our findings would suggest to mainstream climate scientists the benefit of looking beyond this contrarian image, by showing that deniers were more supportive of actions to address climate change where these actions produced beneficial social outcomes. However, since publication we were contacted by people offended by the label denier to describe their group due to its broader negative connotations. We acknowledge this point and regret any offence caused.


Sadly we note that even in the correction his present tense use of the term “deniers” shows that he has not yet found any other label to apply to people who are unconvinced that changing light bulbs can significantly affect the global weather. Apparently his mental state still places thousands of eminent scientists in the “denier” box, which surely is a mental disability for any open minded scientist seeking to find the truth.

Note to Paul: So long as you keep thinking of us as “deniers” and talking in the tea-room about “deniers”, you will surely struggle to understand what motivates the group you are paid to investigate who do not deny any observation you can name.

A tad arrogant?

“We hoped our findings  would suggest to mainstream climate scientists the benefit of looking beyond this contrarian image, by showing that deniers were more supportive of actions to address climate change where these actions produced beneficial social outcomes.”

Paul Bain is doing his best to be nice but this line translates into saying that mentally-incapable-people who can’t use their frontal cortex are not so bad because they will perform obediently if you convince them there will be “beneficial social outcomes”.

It’s conceited and as insightful as finding that black tea is a shade of brown — which is obvious to billions of tea-drinkers. Likewise it’s obvious to the millions of readers of skeptical blogs that post after post discusses the cost-benefits of green policies. Beneficial social outcomes is what motivates most skeptics and we’ve never tried to hide that.

Indeed, arguably, skeptics and greens have something in common. Presumably many green people think their policies have a “beneficial outcomes” too, it’s just that they aren’t so good with numbers, keep reasoning with fallacies, and don’t test the results. No offense intended of course, I was once a Green, and it wasn’t until someone pointed out there was no direct evidence that global warming is man-made that I looked at the numbers and changed my mind.

In that sense how is a “denier” any different from a “Green”? Answer: the skeptics are not so gullible. It’s harder to convince a logical brain of something which is wrong.

Contrarian? Not so.

It’s obvious that the terms “denier” and “contrarian” are not interchangeable, nor close in meaning, and the aim of calling someone a denier is not to help readers think of them as “contrarians”. More so, the term “contrarian” still implies a mental deficiency, an inflexibility to agree with the masses (on those occasions when the masses are right). While some skeptics are contrarian, many, like myself, wholeheartedly (foolishly) accepted the consensus opinion for years, while others saw through it from the beginning for brutally logical and well informed reasons. So contrarian does not apply to most skeptics either. The term “unconvinced” encompasses far more skeptics, and more of the influential ones. Convince us, we keep saying, show us the evidence! You still have not.

It’s not about “offense” — it’s about bad science and wasting taxpayer funds

My concern, as always, is not about hurt feelings, but about the billions of dollars that are wasted on studies that were designed so badly they would never have produced an outcome that was useful from the start. I want that money spent on scientific investigations, and on topics that matter, not on better ways to target propaganda to achieve an outcome that no one can name evidence for.

h/t Hockey Schtick


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