I guess it’s not hard to find people sitting in the skeptics’ echo chamber once you look.
I am adding “Geoheresy” to the roll of “what they are thinking”, by a fellow named Louis Hissink, whom I gather is Australian. Look at the August 02 posting in his archives for a fine example; it seems like he has been banging the “no such thing as global temperature” drum for a while now.
Exercise for the non-expert reader: spot the specious claims about specious reasoning. You can start by checking the last sentence in particular. There is a lot to dislike about the August 2 geoheresy, and there’s a fools’ gold mine of similar rantings to see here and elsewhere.
I’m considering separating out a “what are they thinking” blogroll and a “hall of shame” blogroll, the latter for people who really, really, ought to know better. Unfortunately, it’s never clear who is confused and who is being deliverately misleading. My good cousin Lubos, (I gather from his name and bio that he and I may be among the few surviving members of the same tribe) for instance, really ought to know better but is almost certainly sincere.
The main issue we need to think about as citizens of the Earth isn’t this sort of half-baked argument. It’s how much traction such arguments get.
In science, it’s the responsibility of the person making the argument to ensure that it’s worth making before exposing it to criticism. In politics and jurisprudence (“prudence”?) with its inherent competition, the person making a claim has no responsibility to expose its weaknesses to the opposition.
It’s impossible to refute every bit of nonsense when there are so many more people generating nonsense than there are people generating sense. This is true in science in general, even when there are no major policy controversies involved. Once there is controversy, there is a huge motivation to dig up the pseudoscience and promote it.
Here, then, is the root of the problem. Science cannot function without a certain level of trust, albeit provisional and skeptical. (I don’t know of anyone claiming to be a sociologist of science that gets this right, by the way. Can anyone help?) The trust among the scientific community remains reasonably high. The problem is that the trust between science and society has broken down under the assault of people who don’t understand how knowledge gets generated.
It is not our job to refute every piece of nonsense that comes along. It is our job to find the nuggets of truth among the muck. (Hmm, a gold analogy… “We can tell the queen of diamonds by the way she shines…”) It’s our job to deserve trust.
In a democracy, it’s the society’s job to determine who is deserving of trust. (In any system, it’s the ruling caste’s job, and the problem is remarkably similar.) That’s the weak point of the whole system. People undeserving of intellectual trust can easily make the claim, and can approach the matter in a way remeniscent of litigation. “If it doesn’t fit you must acquit” etc.) For society to get this wrong has huge consequences…
Many people are not only motivated but paid to ensure that society gets it wrong. How many things are there that I firmly believe are wrong? Am I a victim of propaganda efforts discrediting other fields and substituting ill-founded rantings in which I have only a casual interest?
Scientists are paid only to deserve trust; it’s a full-time job and then some. Nobody is really paid to advocate for the real thing in the way that others are paid to advocate for confusion and misdirection. Maybe this needs to change.