The Intersection

Commenters here were beating up on Michael Shermer of Skeptic mag a while back, so let’s acknowledge that he too is now on the record accepting anthropogenic global warming. And it seems that Al Gore helped give him a push! Now, as in the case of Easterbrook, I don’t see why people like Shermer held out so long…but as we all know, there’s a lot of misinformation out there that can lead earnest people astray. So perhaps we should simply applaud these rather late AGW converts, rather than presuming to judge…


  1. #1 coturnix
    May 24, 2006

    Island of Doubt has, IMHO, a good perspective on Shermer’s late-to-the-party-ness.

  2. #2 TokyoTom
    May 24, 2006

    Is it that hard to figure out? Just look at the difficult time so many have had changing their minds about Bush and the GWOT. We all have difficulty adjusting our maps of reality to fit reality, because our maps actually interfere with our perceptions. Sometimes we have to be hit over the head with a 2×4 before there’s enough cognitive dissonance that we will reconsider; for some of us, even that’s not enough. Perhaps you’ve heard of the term “anosognosia”, which is applied to persons with a certain type of brain damage who CANNOT change their minds on certain matters? Ramachandran explores this in one of his books:

    Catton and others have addressed the problem of denial in the context of climate change:

    I think Ron Bailey is having a particularly difficult time, since as a libertarian he is in priciple opposed to government action, which he sees as inevitably fuelling rent-seeking, with the result being that the government gets in the way of actually solving the problem. That’s why the fear-mongering about environmentalists from some libertarians. Of course, there are cases where the government is needed to find the “right” solution, such as creating and enforcing private propoerty rights that enable markets to work – such as private, transferrable fishing rights. Bailey actually has a piece on those, and that’s exactly the type of solution that is needed for climate change.

    Of course there are others won’t change their minds, mainly because they’re simply paid hacks.

  3. #3 Walter
    May 24, 2006

    I think Shermer is being a little too simplistic in his assessment, making it sound like these concerns are only coming from environmental groups rather than the scientific community. He will get no argument from me that green groups often exaggerate the extent of a problem or what we know about it, but I like to think many of us are concerned about the environment not because we’re card-carrying members of Greenpeace, but because we follow the science.

  4. #4 laurence jewett
    May 25, 2006

    Interestingly, most of the American public (who know little or nothing about science) already think that global warming is a real problem that should be adressed — and are even willing to make sacrifices to do so.

    They have apparently been listening to what most scientists have been saying for some time now and did not need a movie starring a politician to convince them that the problem is real.

  5. #5 S Molnar
    May 26, 2006

    Well, I say we judge. Actually, I stopped reading Scientific American many years ago when it became clear that they had abandoned sober science in favor of increased circulation (which probably illustrates a publishing variant of Gresham’s Law, but that’s another topic). No good scientist accepts theories based on an appeal to authority, but neither does a good scientist reject a theory out of sheer perversity. Not even a long distance cyclist should do that, or commit the converse fallacy to argumentum ad verecundiam of rejecting an argument because (some of) its supporters, or people with some similarities to its supporters, previously made claims that proved to be wrong. Al Gore has his place in the battle for public opinion, but his presentation should be superfluous for someone writing for a supposedly scientific publication.

  6. #6 Matt Cooper
    May 27, 2006

    Shermer is hosting an entire conference on the global warming, etc:

    Looks like an interesting lineup.

  7. #7 brian bishop
    May 29, 2006


    I will be seeing you at the Shermer’s skeptics soiree and had sent the following interview request to the e-mail address Michael was using.

    Perhaps its just irony, or maybe informed self-interest, that a journalist who benefits from those he intends to skewer was one of only two conference participants not to respond to my interview request. Much as it would be fun to make merry of that, I would actually tend to suspect information overload and thought this might be another way to get your attention so I posted it here.

    My preconceptions of the conference, are treated at more length at


    I will be writing about the Skeptics Society Conference for Environment and Climate News, a tabloid touted as “The Heartland Institute’s national monthly outreach publication for common-sense environmentalism” that is circulated in print to 20,000 plus local, state and federal officials and several thousand individual subscribers and available on the web at: .

    A predominate interest of ECN is examining the extent to which environmental policy propositions operate on impossibly precautionary ideas, respect property rights, and work in opposition to rather than coordinate with market forces. It is not, however, a magazine of opeds. It covers events and opinionmakers in the world of policy, politics and science and reviews books and notes scientific publications through the prism of our interests, but with a matter of fact style.

    We try to treat material, whether in agreement or disagreement with the outlook of the publication or its individual authors, in a non-sensational and respectful way. The Worldwatch Institute, for instance, received qualified plaudits from Jay Lehr who reviewed their latest “State of the World” report ( ) Nonetheless, it won’t escape your notice that we are all the people that your recent book warned about.

    In the same sense that you were cordial, especially to connoisseurs like Tozzi, I just want to demonstrate that turnaround can be fair play. The best I can offer, however, is a sit down with the local microbrew, I’m not a wine drinker. I am in the middle of reading The Republican War on Science and I concede that it strikes me as the same line that Brad Knickerbocker at the Christian Science Monitor stuck to for years regarding ecoterrorism, i.e. that it was predominated by red-neck resource workers, even while the trend was obvious that the real terrorists were misguided misanthropic environmentalists.

    Taking out your governing hypothesis, that science is skewed by both sides but Republicans are far worse, I think many of your fundamental propositions sound, most notably that science is not policy in an of itself. I have some questions regarding science in some of the arenas you approach as well as the extent to which you separate yourself from a desired policy outcome contrary to that urged by Republicans, regardless of whether argued on scientific, economic or other grounds. Also I think the questions of who started it with regard to skewing science in certain areas is one I would raise.

    I will be around Friday evening at the conference and all day Saturday. Could meet you informally during one of the meals or breaks or before or after the Friday night festivities or likewise on Saturday.

    Thank you,

    Brian Bishop

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