The Island of Doubt

When I created the Island of Doubt five years ago, I was fascinated by the battle between science and irrationality. I had just moved to the U.S., it would be several months before my work permit would be granted, and I needed an outlet to keep my writing skills sharp. Inspired in no small part by Chris Mooney’s Intersection blog, I began posting weekly ruminations on the what I consider to be the “betrayal of the Enlightenment” so evident in my new home and elsewhere. Within a year or so, however, I began to focus almost exclusively on just one species of reality-denial: climate change pseudoskepticism.

I remain convinced that the pace of climate change brought on by the combustion of fossil fuels is the most serious public policy challenge of our time. And I’m not the only one. Here’s the result of a new survey of the world’s science academies by New Scientist magazine. Respondents were asked to identify humanity’s most pressing concerns.

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While the Island of Doubt was been a modest success — it was picked up by Scienceblogs after only a year, and recently made it into the top 20 science blogs as rated by Wikio — I have of late felt the need for a change. For one thing, the name is a bit misleading. Science is characterized by an embrace of uncertainty and doubt, the name has tricked more than one denial-oriented blogger into adding the Island of Doubt into their blogrolls (hah), and the forces of irrationalism still keep me up at night. But I’d like to shift gears a bit in terms of the blog’s focus.

The new blog, like this one, will concern itself with what science has to say about the suitability of planet Earth for human habitation. My intention is to restrict content to commentary and analysis of peer-reviewed science and to how the science is represented by mainstream and new media.

The way I see it, there is already an excellent blog dealing with the policy questions involved in dealing with climate change: Climate Progress. Several other members of the Scienceblogs collective — Deltoid, A Few Things Ill Considered to name two — do keep us up to date on some important climate science developments. But what is less common are blogs that regularly translate peer-reviewed science into more accessible language and provides a bit of context. Real Climate goes a long way down this road, but sometimes they need a little help getting out of the impenetrable jargon jungle. Stoat is always fun, but it’s cryptic still often reads like an insider’s blog that discourages wider circulation.

As a professional communicator with a science degree. I have some ideas on the nature of niche I’d like to fill, but I am open to suggestions. What are the elements you would like to see in a climatology-oriented blog? As the comment function on the Island is currently unavailable, you’ll have to email me: jamesh (at) cyamid (dot) net.

Many a blogger has advised that abandoning a successful brand name is a poor business strategy, but this isn’t a business, let alone an overwhelmingly successful one. So along with the new focus will come a new name, which will be unveiled upon its debut on April 30. I thank and apologize in advance to all of my colleagues who will feel compelled to update their blog rolls. The good news is anyone heading to The Island of Doubt for the foreseeable future will automatically be redirected to the new site, and there is no urgency in this regard.