Home > AGW, Climate Change, Global Warming, Omniclimate, Science, Skepticism > On Climate Change, Hands off Phil Plait!

On Climate Change, Hands off Phil Plait!

I find them silly in the extreme, those global warming skeptics taking it upon themselves to send insults to people like Phil Plait for the one reason that the author of “Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing ‘Hoax’” and “Death from the Skies!” is not exactly a passionate campaigner against that extremely poorly thought-out of scientific theories, anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

For one thing, Plait (whom I met personally in London a few months ago) has studied and debunked many, many kinds of hoaxes, so it is all very natural for him to consider AGW skepticism as “denial” if he sees in climate change skeptics the same pattern of behavior as in those believing in UFOs and a global conspiracy around the “Apollo Moon hoax” (first and foremost, a barrage of insults).

Secondly, from his very words it is clear that Plait is not interested in the study of weather and climate really, and his stance on AGW is what most persons will have: that is, follow the experts (emphasis in the original)

[experts have] been studying [greenhouse warming] a long, long time. It’s a very difficult field of research, fraught with hidden variables, difficult measurements, and political landmines. But chances are they know more about this than you and I do. There’s a reason they’re called experts, folks.

It must be noted that Phil Plait is a very active representative of a large community of Skeptics, alongside the likes of Michael Shermer and James “The Amazing” Randi. Their collective motto is well described by the following words by the Skeptics Society:

the key to skepticism is to continuously and vigorously apply the methods of science to navigate the treacherous straits between “know nothing” skepticism and “anything goes” credulity“

Interestingly, plenty of time is devoted by Skeptics to debunk silly astrological and creationist claims.

For some reason though, even if Plait may still think otherwise, “global warming skepticism” is considered as belonging to a whole different category than pseudoscience. For example, the Skeptics Society’s “Skeptic” magazine has recently provided plenty of space to Patrick Frank to state the following (“A Climate of Belief“, Vol.14, no.1, May 2008):

the claim that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the current warming of Earth climate is scientifically insupportable because climate models are unreliable

I recommend Phil Plait and all to read Frank’s article, if only as evidence that it is illogical to call “global warming skeptics” as “deniers”: because rational skepticism is the informed reader’s proper response to AGW claims.

In the words of Patrick Frank:

[…] The proper response to adamant certainty in the face of complete ignorance is rational skepticism […] It is critical to keep a firm grip on reason and rationality, most especially when social invitations to frenzy are so pervasive. General Circulation Models are so terribly unreliable that there is no objectively falsifiable reason to suppose any of the current warming trend is due to human-produced CO2, or that this CO2 will detectably warm the climate at all. Therefore, even if extreme events do develop because of a warming climate, there is no scientifically valid reason to attribute the cause to human-produced CO2. In the chaos of Earth’s climate, there may be no discernible cause for warming.

Who knows? Perhaps one day Phil Plait will make the final connection between the flimsiness of AGW theory and the Mark Twain quote below, from his old website’s homepage.

“In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. Therefore … in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period the Lower Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long… seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long… There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

In the meanwhile, it’d sure help if nobody’d insult him.

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  1. 2009/12/01 at 12:37

    Come on, Maurizio, your analogies are completely absurd. I have done at least as much work explaining why superstitions, UFO, creationism etc. are scientifically unjustifiable as Plait did, but my result is that the global warming alarmism – and not skepticism – is analogous to those other superstitions.

    Plait is a biased partisan, a friend of Gavin Schmidt, and he is simply unable to remain skeptical when it comes to his own religion.

    • 2009/12/02 at 00:14

      Luboš : I agree there are all signs now of a religious approach to AGW by well-known “atheists”.

      Still, I believe that every one of us, Plait included, has the right of being a nutcase regarding one (and not more than one) topic. 😎

  2. 2008/11/11 at 08:25

    The sceptical community has imagined itself in a world where science is besieged by religion and pseudo-science. Any criticism of science as such draws a circle the wagons response, with the defence that no criticism of scientific practice is necessary as science is inherently self critical. (And questioning the quality of the science being done, with only few exceptions generally in the area of health, causes the irrational fear among sceptics that the edifice of Western science would collapse.) Of course, to draw an exaggerated analogy, no critical look at the practices of Catholic priests was necessary either, as they were all inherently good.

    Being genuinely critical of science and especially the social practice of science, is exactly what makes science strong. Defending all science, including bad science, is exactly what opens the door to scientific pretenders such as Intelligent Design.

  1. 2008/11/10 at 16:48
  2. 2008/11/10 at 12:05
  3. 2008/11/10 at 07:03

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