It is okay to be skeptical (but apparently not about the AGW consensus)

During the holidays, while zapping from one channel to another on television, I came across a documentary about the life of James Randi. While I have never been much interested in magicians or escape artists, I found this nevertheless an interesting program to watch. I didn’t really know much about Randi until that point. I vaguely remembered that he had something to do with the debunking of Uri Geller back in the 1970s. The part where I landed into the program was when he made a list of points to take into consideration when Geller wanted to do his tricks, effectively stopping one of Geller’s performances in its tracks. He also revealed a number of charlatans and tried to educate the public about critical thinking. What I remember from the documentary is a man in search of the truth with a scientific approach. A researcher who didn’t just believe in everything he has been told, but relied on the facts.

After I saw the documentary, I became curious: he didn’t seem to be the person to mindlessly agree with a consensus, so how would he think about the global warming controversy? Would he “believe” in it or not? So I found myself googling and it didn’t take long before I landed at his article AGW revisited at the James Randi Educational Foundation site (if you haven’t read it yet, recommended). The article dates from December 2009. Quite some time ago, back then my skepticism was only a year old and this blog wasn’t even a thought in my mind. In that article he displayed a nuanced and humble view. He agrees that our Earth is warming, he agrees that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, that we increasingly emit it in our atmosphere, that the issue is however very complex, that there is not much historical data, that science is not done by consensus, that we should occupy us with current problems and so on. That is the critical thinking Randi I saw in the documentary.

To me it didn’t look controversial at all. On the contrary, it seems more or less in line with how I think about it. He just asked whether we currently have the means of knowing with any certainty that global warming is caused by humans. He didn’t even claim that global warming didn’t exist or that humans couldn’t have some effect in it, yet apparently he got labeled a “denier” by the very people that celebrate him. He got such strong negative reactions that he wrote a follow-up: I am not denying anything (if you haven’t read it yet, also recommended to do it now).

In his follow-up he just repeated that he didn’t deny anything (which should have been clear for everybody reading the article) and the only thing he rejected was his endorsement of the Oregon Petition Project (which, according to me, was not central in his discourse anyway). So as far as I could see, he stood by his views.

This is recognizable. Even now, six year later. There is the same consternation when people skeptical of the consensus get a voice in the media. Then the inevitable reaction comes that the person is a “denier”, yet at the same time the central issue (like for example uncertainty) isn’t even touched. In this case it went a bit further because Randi seems to be considered as one of “theirs” and it definitely wouldn’t look good when someone who dedicated his life to debunk pseudosciences, was skeptical towards the conclusions of the consensus scientists.

The skeptical view is misunderstood by alarmist minds. Anyone stating doubt in the consensus is immediately labeled as a “denier”, even if it is someone they respect. It seems more like a dogma to me. What is it in the global warming issue that makes people lose their mind?

In the end, it seemed weird to me. Here we had someone who was celebrated for his skepticism and critical thinking, but when he used it to explore an issue they strongly believed in, then they apparently rather would like him to embrace the consensus instead…


7 thoughts on “It is okay to be skeptical (but apparently not about the AGW consensus)

  1. poitsplace

    God do I know how that goes. As I said before, I’ve literally been banned from liberal forums for the absolute heresy of providing the local tide gage data to show that an exaggerated claim of “We’re feeling it now” was utter nonsense. Yes, I’d said other things from time to time but that was the one that got me banned…real data.

    Its “undeniable” at this point that the idea of catastrophic global warming is almost pure dogma. None of the data aligns with the narrative of dangerous global warming at this point. And ironically even the consensus doesn’t appear to be hard-lined enough for these people because they’re the same ones that often claim the IPCC is “too conservative” in their observably wrong predictions.

    I think its partly because of their self-reinforcing attitudes that they’ve allowed themselves to get this…well they’re just plain insane on this issue. By being so mean and vile…by censoring and banning everyone that shows even a tiny bit of skepticism on the matter, they’ve turned all their forums into little safe spaces where none of their utterly ridiculous assertions go challenged. It’s so bizarre…even the idea that the “observed” rates of the official datasets (like temperature or sea level) is the real rate is enough to fall out of their good graces.

    And they draw the strange correlation between “deniers” and religion (but I’m atheist) and how “bad” they are. Yet I have to say that as an atheist, I never saw the level of denial and hatred…or the sort of “we’ll only enforce our own posting rules if you’re against us” used against me by religious people. Religious people at least seem to accept when it comes down to it that they have “faith”. They do not try to defer to the pope or their pastor like the alarmists defer to their “high priest” scientists.

    Here, have some lovely examples from a time I merely explained (because the question was asked) among other things, I do not find any meaningful acceleration in the tide gage data (which if you understand the subject, is utterly devastating to the warmists “there’s clearly more heat going into the oceans AND more melt water” argument)

    “Now it is clear that you’re just trolling us”

    “It has been explained to you why the tide gage means nothing, fuck off troll”

    ‘Here’s a long term chart1 for the Miami area. The rate of sea level rise is clearly not ‘unchanged.'” …(after which, they included this graph …but it’s based entirely on that spike at the end. Here’s the full data for that gage, BTW

    “Why do you think you get to lie repeatedly in the very thread where we’ve already disproven your bullshit?” (Keep in mind that some of them are saying the rate of rise has accelerated to 2.5X what it once was due to anthropgenic warming…which is clearly not the case)

    Aaaaaand sorry for the long post


  2. tumbleweedstumbling

    I once made the mistake to ask for a clarification on the error bounds on a graph of a dataset. I got roasted and banned in short order after being accused of being in the pay of big oil. It was such an innocent normal question to ask if you know anything about such stuff and it stunned me to find myself trounced and ejected and called a denier. It made me dig keeping and now I am proud to say I am both a scientist and a skeptic of the whole global warming/climate change/climate disruption nonsense.


      1. tumbleweedstumbling

        I have three. One is just up for archival purposes when we lived full time in a travel trailer. Then I have a personal blog and my newest one is about the book my husband and I have in press, Embryogenesis Explained.


    1. poitsplace

      What has to be the most pathetic banning I’ve ever had was when I posted a link to the tide gage information for The Battery when someone had claimed that sea level rise was an important part of why ‘superstorm’ sandi was so devastating. It was a simple, straight forward post. Something along the lines of ‘No it wasn’t because sea level rise has been pretty constant for almost 100 years’, along with the link.

      BTW, you have to watch carefully on a lot of liberal forums. Many times they do little tricks like Reddit does…and shadow ban you. To you, your posts appear perfectly normal. But nobody else sees them. I gave the mods shit over their practices for a long time…they just brushed me off saying I was clearly paranoid and that they never did anything like that. Later the motherfucker at the head of Reddit’s science subreddit actually came out about it to a magazine and said they’d been doing it for years.

      The little bastard bans people for supposed big oïl conspiracies while himself conspiring (well he was back then) with Phil Newell from (truly, TRULY a shill by every meaning and measure of the word) to cast skeptics in a bad light, ban them, silence them, etc. Heck, I’ve even come across evidence (The entry FOR ME!) in what was at the time an unprotected database of ‘deniers’. I wish I’d kept up with the URL. Of cousre my wife hates how I get when I’m responding to the people so these days they have little reason to track me. I don’t wish people ill, but I can’t help but dream of a massive backlash in which these people are blacklisted from all media and technical jobs for the rest of their lives after the green religion dies.



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