Pharyngula

Don’t worry, Skeptico

It seems that Skeptico has a copy cat—a guy who goes around posting under the name Skeptico, and who has started a blog of his own at skeptico.blogspot.com—but I don’t think anyone will confuse the two. This new Skeptico is an evolution denier and global warming denier, and is your typical run-of-the-mill dumbass reactionary. He’s more of an anti-Skeptico…no, a mini-anti-Skeptico.

I took a look at the work of the pseudo-Skeptico, and was surprised at his ignorance.

Well, it so happens that I am quite new to the ID-EVO debate, indeed to ID literature itself (although the controversy has intrigued me for many years). I’ve just only recently finished Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box.” This whole intriguing field of microbiological complexity, replete with innumerable individual irreducible complexities, is very fascinating. And I am sure that not a few level-headed people, upon reading that book, must have thought it nothing short of a succinct and irrefutable refutation of neo-Darwinism. For, indeed, that is precisely what it is.

Nevertheless, how many hardcore Darwinists will change their positions as a result? Few, I daresay. Very few. Because, at the end of the day, to relinquish this cherished theory requires an act of will that unavoidably involves a whole phalanx of personal vested interests with philosophical, moral, religious, teleological, and most emphatically social ramifications (friends could be lost, you see, or maybe even a mentor). “Science”–howsoever many times that encumbered shiboleth be invoked, howsoever sanctimoniously, howsoever shrilly and desperately–is not the issue here. Not for them. Not for the believer. Not now. Not ever.

There’s an admission that he’s new to the debate, and has only just now read Behe’s crappy little book, and now he thinks the debate is all over. He expects, though, that scientists will refuse to give up their tired old ideas because, unlike him, they aren’t open-minded and are tied up in the establishment. Everything he says is wrong. The book is not irrefutable; quite the contrary, I know a few biologists who have read it (not many, though, since the book’s cheesy reputation precedes it), and they remain unconverted because the science in the book is badly done. Irreducible complexity is a crock. Behe’s testimony in Dover was a farce. His attempts to ‘disprove’ evolution since have been laughable.

The science is against him, which makes that last paragraph I quoted above a fascinating example of creationist projection.

Comments

  1. #1 Bronze Dog
    May 23, 2006

    About the only thing that distinguishes donkey from the rest of the IDiots is the identity theft he’s trying to pull. I haven’t seen him pull anything that hasn’t been debunked over a century ago.

  2. #2 Bronze Dog
    May 23, 2006

    Er, donkey.

  3. #3 Steve Sutton
    May 23, 2006

    This reads like a parody blog, to me. I could be wrong, though.

  4. #4 sockatume
    May 23, 2006

    Interesting illustration of the difference between real science and pseudoscience. Science gets published piece by piece and builds up thin layers of credibility over the decades (or centuries, in the case of evolution). Pseudoscience gets published in hefty tomes and is swallowed whole at the first opportunity.

  5. #5 sockatume
    May 23, 2006

    Addenum:

    “to relinquish this cherished theory requires an act of will that unavoidably involves a whole phalanx of personal vested interests with philosophical, moral, religious, teleological, and most emphatically social ramifications”

    I think more importantly, it would require rewriting the bulk of biology, a big chunk of medicine, fundimental aspects of information theory and thermodynamics, and so on and so forth. It would be like accepting that the moon is made of styrofoam.

    Of course, ID folk aren’t big on considering the scientific aspects of their conjecture.

  6. #6 Paul
    May 23, 2006

    Also, those who complain about shibboleths should learn to spell them.

  7. #7 PaulC
    May 23, 2006

    pseudo-Skeptico:

    “Science”–howsoever many times that encumbered shiboleth be invoked, howsoever sanctimoniously, howsoever shrilly and desperately–is not the issue here. Not for them. Not for the believer. Not now. Not ever.

    Take away the puffed-up verbiage and he’s repeating the old canard that “evolution is just another religion.” Again, it’s worth noting that for all the disagreement, ID/creationists and evolutionists agree on two basic groundrules:

    The phrase “just a religion” is a withering dismissal.
    The phrase “a real science” is a way of saying an idea is legitimate, worthy of consideration.

    E.g., you never see an evolutionary biologist dismissing creationism as “just another science.”

    Christians are by definition “believers” in the sense Skeptico writes, though I cannot say for sure if he is one. In other contexts, the willingness to believe without evidence is celebrated as “faith.” Why is it that in this context, the ordinarily faithful are so willing to adopt the same groundrules as scientists, that belief is worthless without empirical backing?

  8. #8 Jason
    May 23, 2006

    So, um, about that global warming stuff, were scientists wrong 20-30 years ago when they were saying (in “peer-reviewed” journals, no less!) that we were headed towards global cooling because of pollution? What will they be saying in another 20-30 years? That the two cancelled each other out?

  9. #9 Bronze Dog
    May 23, 2006

    Ah, Ye Olde Appeal to “Science Was Wrong Before”

    As if old measurements probably using less reliable techniques invalidate modern measurements. I may not know much about the climate issue, but I can still spot retooled canards.

  10. #10 sir_russ
    May 23, 2006

    pseudo-Skeptico said “Nevertheless, how many hardcore Darwinists will change their positions as a result? Few, I daresay. Very few.” Clearly an attempt to goad ‘Darwinists’ to consider the ID view. Strangely, pseudo then berated those he was trying to win over. In science, name-calling will never be effective since it does not change where the evidence leads.

    Obviously, this person doesn’t understand that we scientists, and in particular we evolutionists, are all, at heart, brazen opportunists – we go with the idea that works and evolution flat-out works. New evidence further reinforces the power of the idea essentially every day.

    This person also does not understand that we evolutionists are not at all dogmatists. If you have a revolutionary idea which you claim does a better job of explaining the living world than evolution does, we ask for but one simple thing – evidence. If the evidence bears out the claim that this new idea has greater explanatory power than evolution, it will most certainly be accepted. Simply provide us with the evidence, and we will, after a suitable period of thought-filled resistance(and maybe just a little lovelost bawling), once again follow the opportunists path and embrace your idea.

    ID is not accepted because the ideas from ID which are claimed to be revolutionary – irreducible complexity, for example – have been shown to have evolution-based explanations, so no evidence for ID is provided. The titans of ID were afforded a marvelous forum to publicize their evidence in the Dover trial last year. They spouted excuses and they spewed misinformation, but they produced no evidence supporting ID. Darwinian evolution is where the evidence leads.

  11. #11 Phil@phildennison.net
    May 23, 2006

    So, um, about that global warming stuff, were scientists wrong 20-30 years ago when they were saying (in “peer-reviewed” journals, no less!) that we were headed towards global cooling because of pollution?

    Can you point to two or three of these peer-reviewed papers that claimed cooling was coming? Because I don’t think they exist.

  12. #12 George Cauldron
    May 23, 2006

    So, um, about that global warming stuff, were scientists wrong 20-30 years ago when they were saying (in “peer-reviewed” journals, no less!) that we were headed towards global cooling because of pollution? What will they be saying in another 20-30 years? That the two cancelled each other out?

    Hey Jason, you left a bunch of questions unanswered on the ‘Amorality of Religion’ thread, can you go back there and answer them first, please? Something tells me you know WAY more about religion than climatology.

  13. #13 Dior
    May 23, 2006

    I am a cytologist, and I read Darwin’s Black Box as an undergrad. Even with only a little science training I debunked Behe. He gave beutiful biochemical pathways to estabish his expertise, and then just gave up saying “See, it’s too complicated so it must have been done by a miracle”. Even I could see that just because Behe could not understand it, many others could.

  14. #14 sockatume
    May 23, 2006

    “So, um, about that global warming stuff, were scientists wrong 20-30 years ago when they were saying (in “peer-reviewed” journals, no less!) that we were headed towards global cooling because of pollution? What will they be saying in another 20-30 years? That the two cancelled each other out?”

    Yes, they were wrong 20-30 years ago. Looked at in further detail and with better models the evidence says the opposite to the conclusions some reached 20-30 years ago. In the same sense that our ability to predict the path of a thrown rock today is vastly improved compared to, say, 500 years ago.

    That’s the thing about science, it improves itself. It expands. ID’s the scientific equivalent of writing “HERE BE DRAGONS” on a map.

  15. #15 Robert P.
    May 23, 2006

    Phil, Jason may be able to find two or three peer-reviewed papers making that claim. I’ll save him the trouble of typing in “Rasool and Schneider 1971″ since that’s the one that the AGW skeptics routinely trot out. He may even be able to find as many as 10 or so – it was a minority opinion put forward by some prominent climatologists in the early 1970′s. They believed that the cooling effects of dust and aerosols *might* turn out to be larger than the warming effects of greenhouse gases. By the end of the decade the hypothesis had been largely abandoned.

    The Wikipedia article on “Global Cooling” gives a good account of this minor dustup.

  16. #16 PaulC
    May 23, 2006

    Well, it so happens that I am quite new to the debate over whether you can get rich on the Internet, indeed to the Internet itself (although the idea of getting “on-line” has intrigued me for years). I’ve just only recently finished replying to several promising financial offers from Nigeria. This whole intriguing field of easy money, hidden here and abroad, replete with innumerable lucrative opportunities to those who go “on-line”, is very fascinating. And I am sure that not a few level-headed people, upon opening their “mailbox” for the first time, must have thought it nothing short of a clear and succint demonstration that one can get very rich very quick by “logging on” to the Internet. For, indeed, that is precisely what it is.

  17. #17 PaulC
    May 23, 2006

    If I had any point besides an attempt at humor in my previous comment, it’s this: Despite the length and complexity of pseudo’s first paragraph, he manages to convey nothing but a simple assertion that he considers Darwin’s Black Box convincing. You can fill out the same schema with anything other idea, valid or not (e.g. “Toad-licking is the best hobby.” or “Trepanation is a great way to relieve headaches.”) You merely refer to a controversy, cite a single source as the definitive statement on it, and insist that it is so.

    Contrary to a comment above, I wouldn’t say pseudo’s blog reads like parody. I would say it reads like somebody who is better at generating words than ideas or coherent arguments.

  18. #18 Bronze Dog
    May 23, 2006

    I would say it reads like somebody who is better at generating words than ideas or coherent arguments.

    I can just imagine him: “Evolution is stupid and evil!”

  19. #19 Sastra
    May 23, 2006

    Paul C;
    Terrific use of analogy, and excellent explanation afterwards. Beautiful. And very funny.

  20. #20 Bronze Dog
    May 23, 2006

    It’s also one of the real Skeptico‘s favorite rhetorical tricks: If something is that easily reversed, it’s vacuous.

  21. #21 G. Tingey
    May 23, 2006

    The real giveaway, as always, is the reference to:
    “Darwinists” or better still: “Darwinism”.
    Not evolutionary biology.

    Physicists don’t call their sunject “Newtonianism” …

    Of course the reason that the cretinists and IDiots use these titles, is to try to bolster their claim that what is true, is a beliewf (like theirs) and so subject to their rules, not those of science.

    RECOMMENDATION.
    As soon as you hear/see this “Darwinism” nonsense, challenge it, if only by asking What is it” – we are doing evo/bio/devo – what’s theis d’ism
    As opposed to Deism, of course.

    Pun intended – sorry!

  22. #22 sockatume
    May 23, 2006

    The funny thing is that evolution wasn’t even Darwin’s theory – he just proposed the mechanism that lead to its acceptance.

    I suggest we start referring to ID as Beheism. In the spirit of fairness.

  23. #23 Ed Braun
    May 23, 2006

    Jason posted:

    So, um, about that global warming stuff, were scientists wrong 20-30 years ago when they were saying (in “peer-reviewed” journals, no less!) that we were headed towards global cooling because of pollution? What will they be saying in another 20-30 years? That the two cancelled each other out?

    To which sockatume replied:

    Yes, they were wrong 20-30 years ago. Looked at in further detail and with better models the evidence says the opposite to the conclusions some reached 20-30 years ago. In the same sense that our ability to predict the path of a thrown rock today is vastly improved compared to, say, 500 years ago.

    I would go further than this. As Robert P. stated, there were peer-reviewed papers claiming evidence for global cooling. In fact, an excellent archive of relevant information is online at http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/

    The reality is that even in 1971 (and earlier…) it was understood that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Rasool and Schneider (Science, July 1971, vol.173, pp. 138-141 ) do state that putting CO2 into the atmosphere would lead to global warming. However, their model considered particulates, and considering both they predicted (if the amounts of atmospheric particulates being produced by polution increased ultimately to a rate 6x to 8x greater than the ’71 rate) that there would be about 3.5°C cooling.

    The issues were that:
    1. Improved understanding suggests the CO2 effect would be greater than Rasool and Schneider (1971) suggest.
    2. Newer models included other greenhouse gasses (methane, nitrous oxide, CFCs).
    3. Rasool and Schneider (1971) DID NOT predict global cooling. It suggested that global cooling would occur if we INCREASED the production of particulates like smog.

    I suspect point number 3 is STILL TRUE (and will always be true). If we put particulates into the air without increasing the amounts of greenhouse gasses there will be cooling. But the reality is that putting particulates into the air without increasing amounts of greenhouse gasses IS NOT what humans are doing right now.

    Finally, it is worth noting that the conclusions of the NAS report simply called for more study. Hardly a strong endorsement of the “an ice age is comin’ soon” position!

    So, to summarize – we have:
    1. A model that predicts global cooling under some conditions.
    2. A call by experts for more study.
    3. Better models that predict global warming.
    4. A consensus among experts that global warming is occurring.

    Hardly what Jason is asserting.

  24. #24 PaulC
    May 23, 2006

    I suggest we start referring to ID as Beheism. In the spirit of fairness.

    Paleyism would be a closer match, and I occasionally use it. It’s not as if Behe has improved on Paley’s watchmaker analogy. It has the benefit of emphasizing that ID is not new and is at its core a religious argument. On the downside, the reference is a little obscure and pins the movement to a reasonably respectable historical figure instead of a modern-day charlatan like Behe or Dembski.

  25. #25 Jason
    May 23, 2006

    Yes, they were wrong 20-30 years ago. Looked at in further detail and with better models the evidence says the opposite to the conclusions some reached 20-30 years ago. In the same sense that our ability to predict the path of a thrown rock today is vastly improved compared to, say, 500 years ago.

    So how do you know they’re right about things now? Like I asked, what will they be saying 20-30 years from now? How about 500 years from now?

  26. #26 Bronze Dog
    May 23, 2006

    So how do you know they’re right about things now? Like I asked, what will they be saying 20-30 years from now? How about 500 years from now?

    Translation: Science made a mistake once, therefore all the new conclusions they’ve made with the improved instruments are automatically untrustworthy.

    Oh, and sorry, but Ed Braun caught you on a few more mistakes.

  27. #27 PaulC
    May 23, 2006

    I think it plays into the hands of anti-environmentalists to argue over the detailed predictions of global warming.

    Numerous independent measures show atmospheric carbon rising dramatically since the industrial revolution. E.g., see http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/contents.htm

    If somebody wants to claim that we can increase levels of CO2 by 20%, 30%, and so on and not experience any global climate shift, then that is the extraordinary claim requiring some kind of justification. Any shift is going to result in major upheaval because human settlement is predicated on particular regions having particular climates. The inability to predict exactly how we’ll be hurt is not sufficient grounds for ignoring a looming crisis.

  28. #28 Rey Fox
    May 23, 2006

    So how do you know they’re right about things now? Like I asked, what will they be saying 20-30 years from now? How about 500 years from now?

    Are you stabbing at some point here?

  29. #29 HP
    May 23, 2006

    Let’s not get bogged down in the details about what some white-coated scientists may or may not have said about global temperatures thirty years ago. Let’s focus on the fact that Soylent Green predicted global warming before any of them. We’re talking Charlton Heston, people. Charlton “cold dead hands” Heston!

    If global warming were not real, then Soylent Green would never have been people. And that would make a liar out of Chuck. So, “get your paws off me, you damn dirty global-warming deniers!,” as C.H. might have said.

    I think that should settle this ginned-up, so-called controversy over global warming once and for all. Please, let’s not tarnish the sainted memory of Edward G. Robinson any further with pointless squabbling.

  30. #30 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 23, 2006

    If pseudoSkeptico isn’t a parody, he does a good job of sounding like one. One can read and answer his posts as oneliners.

    In the post “What Evolution Does(n’t)” he makes the peculiar claim that evolution doesn’t do something because it’s both “a theory and a philosophy”.

    Which is funny since all science do is observing phenomena doing stuff.

    In the post ” Of Irrefutable Refutations, Human Will, Dogma” pS claims strangly that the conditions for “the evidenciary threshold” is such “no such threshold can possibly exist”.

    Which is funny since all it takes is to find remains of a modern rabbit in the Cambrian Era, as John Wilkins says on Talk Origin. (Well, it is a bad example since it is very hard to envision just one rabbit – but you get the general idea. ;-)

    In the post “Easily sidetracked” (which I feel at the moment) pS claims curiously that we should not make a “refutation or the possibility thereof be proscribed from the science classroom”.

    Which is funny since refutation of a scientific theory doesn’t take room in a classroom.

    He doesn’t even get the simplest of Paleyists (thank you, PaulC!) arguments straight. He’s a funny guy.

  31. #31 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 23, 2006

    Ummm. That should have been “Which is funny since all it takes to falsify evolution is to find remains of a modern rabbit in the Cambrian Era”.

  32. #32 Azkyroth
    May 23, 2006

    So, um, about that global warming stuff, were scientists wrong 20-30 years ago when they were saying (in “peer-reviewed” journals, no less!) that we were headed towards global cooling because of pollution? What will they be saying in another 20-30 years? That the two cancelled each other out?

    -Jason (surprise, surprise)

    Yes, actually. Sort of. I work for a company that specializes in air pollution, and I’ve confirmed with my boss that this was in fact a concern in the 70s. Specifically, the concern with global cooling is that particulate emissions (soot, sulfur particles, etc.) would block or reflect some of the sunlight that would otherwise reach the earth, thereby reducing the heating of the earth. This is not unfounded speculation; the volcanic ash and dust propelled into the atmosphere eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 led to a global cooling by about 0.5 degrees C, which may seem trivial but was sufficient to cause substantial crop failures; this led to 1816 being dubbed “the year without a summer.” There have also been similar concerns that the soot and ash from widespread forest fires and burning cities in the event of a nuclear war would have a similar cooling effect.

    Global warming, on the other hand, is caused by different chemicals, primarily carbon dioxide, which reflect infrared radiation, and consequently inhibit infrared radiation from leaving the atmosphere. Since most of the warming effect of light striking the earth is from other spectra of light, this effect doesn’t significantly reduce the heat produced from light hitting the earth; however, it does reduce the amount of this heat that the earth can radiate, or lose, thus causing an increase in overal temperature…mainly at the surface. Where, you know, we happen to live.

    If both particulates and greenhouse gases are being emitted, the effects of one will offset the effects of the other, to an extent: if there is less light hitting the earth due to particulates and less heat leaving the earth due to greenhouse gases, the temperature impact will be lessened. This is believed to be part of the reason that we haven’t experienced severe global warming *yet*. However, in the last few years our emission controls on particulate emissions–sulfur in particular–have become much stricter (due to the severe impact of particulates on human health; my boss jokes that in most areas the only airborne particles more dangerous to humans than fine particles in the PM10 and PM25 ranges are “high-energy coarse particles, PM7.62″), and as a result the amount being emitted is reduced considerably relative to the amount of greenhouse gases (like CO2) being emitted.

    Why people act as though this is all conjecture is beyond me; it seems pretty basic physics-wise, at least as a general concept. I can only imagine it’s because they’ve been lied to, whether by themselves or by industrialists and their pet politicians who care more about not having to spend the money to reduce their emissions than about the effects on the biosphere and atmosphere.

  33. #33 Carlie
    May 23, 2006

    That should have been “Which is funny since all it takes to falsify evolution is to find remains of a modern rabbit in the Cambrian Era”.

    But of course you would never find a rabbit in the Cambrian, silly – they hopped up to the tops of the mountains! Goodness, some people have no common sense….

  34. #34 Ed Braun
    May 24, 2006

    Here, here, regarding following points…

    If somebody wants to claim that we can increase levels of CO2 by 20%, 30%, and so on and not experience any global climate shift, then that is the extraordinary claim requiring some kind of justification.

    by PaulC

    Why people act as though this is all conjecture is beyond me; it seems pretty basic physics-wise, at least as a general concept. I can only imagine it’s because they’ve been lied to, whether by themselves or by industrialists and their pet politicians who care more about not having to spend the money to reduce their emissions than about the effects on the biosphere and atmosphere.

    by Azkyroth

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (to indulge in the use of an overused phrase) to understand the basic issue. We know (and have known for some time) that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. We know (and have known for some time – as Azkyroth pointed out when discussing volcanic ash) that particulates can lower temperatures by increasing the reflection of sunlight. The dust issue is even one of those many cases where common sense tells you what is likely to happen and – wonder of wonders – that is basically what happens.

    So, if humans produce substantial amounts of greenhouse gasses and particulates there are – logically – three possibilities:
    1. Global cooling will occur because the particulate effects dominate.
    2. The cooling and warming effects will EXACTLY cancel out.
    3. Global warming will occur because the greenhouse gasses effects dominate.

    Do you really want to bet on #2? If so, that seems to be a very extradinary claim, and one that would require justification.

    Consensus has emerged in the scientific community that #3 reflects what is happening. Policy recommendations are being made on the basis of models that indicate we are somewhere in the part of parameter space that will result in warming. The position of non-partisan scientific bodies regarding global warming goes beyond *concerns* – action is being recommended.

    There were concerns about global cooling in the ’70s – but nowhere near the consensus that has emerged regarding global warming. There was no consensus calling for immediate action – beyond calling for more study. It is too bad we didn’t have the data necessary to reach such a consensus – during the ’70s we actually had a Republican in the White House who might have taken action (even if he was a power mad paranoid).

    Sort of shows you how bad American politics has gotten – Nixon is actually looking not that bad when compared to W.

  35. #35 Chris
    May 24, 2006

    You make it sound like the anthropogenic changes are occurring in a vacuum, rather than being mixed up in global geochemistry and ecology.

    I do think it’s reasonable to say that climatology is an unsettled science and its conclusions shouldn’t be accorded the same degree of certainty as relativity or Maxwell’s equations. It really isn’t backed by the same weight of evidence as evolution or plate tectonics. It’s an emerging science, and while much of it may be right, much of it may be mistaken, too. It really wouldn’t be that shocking for much of the current consensus to be overturned or significantly modified in the next half century.

    That being said, it’s certainly reasonable to base public policy on the best information available at the time, and the best information available now is that the Earth is on a warming trend and anthropogenic effects may be an important contributor to that trend.

    If the weather service predicted an 80% chance of rain, I would take my umbrella. But I wouldn’t be shocked if it didn’t rain: 80% is not 100% and I know that weather prediction isn’t perfect because the weather is very complex and not well understood. I think it’s reasonable for the world to take some precautions against global climate change, but we shouldn’t try to treat it as more certain than it is.

    And it’s been a long time since Nixon looked as bad as W.

  36. #36 Ed Braun
    May 24, 2006

    Chris said,

    You make it sound like the anthropogenic changes are occurring in a vacuum, rather than being mixed up in global geochemistry and ecology.

    I absolutely agree. There will definitely be biogeochemical responses to the anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere. It might have been better to state my three possibilities as a parameter space in which the effects of biogeochemical responses to athropogenic may even be orthogonal to the particulate and greenhouse gas effects. Of course, I would stress that all of those effects are highly multidimensional (e.g., the exact sets of greenhouse gasses could be separated).

    But the point remains, we are still left with three fundamental possibilities.
    1. The set of anthropogenic effects – considering the appropriate context – will produce net cooling.
    2. The set of anthropogenic effects will balance to produce no substantial net change in climate (considering all relevent indirect effects)
    3. The set of anthropogenic effects – again, considering the appropriate context – will produce net warming.

    Non-experts in climate science have to trust – at least to some degree – the experts regarding the most likely outcome. But this gets to the big point,

    That being said, it’s certainly reasonable to base public policy on the best information available at the time…

    I actually disagree with this, although I would only make a minor edit to yield a statement I agree with:

    The most reasonable way to base public policy on scientific findings on the best information available at the time, in the context of an reliability of that information.

    The reliability issue is the important part that Jason (and many who simply deny an anthropogenic component to global warming) neglect when they make the “scientists thought the Earth was cooling in the ’70s” argument. The best information in the ’70s suggested cooling, but my reading of the development of the field is that there was never a consensus that the inferrence of cooling was highly reliable.

    Basing public policy on the “best information” – if that info is deemed to be of low reliability – is illogical.

    The broad consensus in climatology is that global warming with a significant anthropogenic component is happening. I agree that we should treat that consensus view as more certain than it is – the question was never whether the consensus was certain, it is simply whether it is sufficiently certain to base public policy on. Even that criterion is slippery – information of low reliability should be sufficient for inexpensive and easy changes in policy; information of high reliability should be required for more expensive and difficult policy changes.

    The really troubling aspect of the “debate” is that the bulls**t that the deniers put out is that it does nothing to promote an attitude where we don’t “treat it as more certain than it is.” Instead, fighting the bs has the ironic effect of chilling any real debate. e.g., is the “hockey stick” of Michael Mann an accurate prediction, or will continued increases in greenhouse gasses produce a more modest increase in global temperatures? Exactly how probable do a range of experts consider broad sets of models (and it is perfectly reasonable to include models predicting no change or even cooling)?

    It would be hard for anyone outside the field of climatology to get a realistic assessments. Given the public policy implications of different patterns of global change, it would be good for the public to hear the best estimates of the range of possible outcomes. Do you think we are going to get that when there are deniers shouting about red herrings?