Monday, May 24, 2010

Anti-science name-calling

New Scientist contributor Michael Fitzpatrick on the smearing of climate change "deniers":

The epithet "denier" is increasingly used to bash anyone who dares to question orthodoxy. Among other things, deniers are accused of subordinating science to ideology. In his book Denialism: How irrational thinking hinders scientific progress, harms the planet, and threatens our lives, for example, Michael Specter argues that denialists "replace the rigorous and open-minded scepticism of science with the inflexible certainty of ideological commitment".

How ironic. The concept of denialism is itself inflexible, ideological and intrinsically anti-scientific. It is used to close down legitimate debate by insinuating moral deficiency in those expressing dissident views, or by drawing a parallel between popular pseudoscience movements and the racist extremists who dispute the Nazi genocide of Jews.

As philosopher Edward Skidelsky of the University of Exeter, UK, has argued, crying denialism is a form of ad hominem argument: "the aim is not so much to refute your opponent as to discredit his motives". The expanding deployment of the concept, he argues, threatens to reverse one of the great achievements of the Enlightenment - "the liberation of historical and scientific inquiry from dogma".

Thus it is no surprise that the terms "denier" and "deniers" are so frequently used by Tim Lambert and his commenters in their anti-scientific war on climate change dissidents. Perversely, anti-science name-caller Lambert accuses those who disagree with him of waging a "war on science".


Anonymous Chistery said...

If you check out the Amazon's “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section, you get this:

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future

mmm. There seems to be a pattern here. ‘Denialism’ seems to fail in originality as well as picking up the 'least pithy title' award.

On the upside, it has given me a few ideas for other book titles in desperate need of an author

Leftism: How the politics of the working class was usurped by the work averse class and bed-wetting latte sippers.

Greenism: How socialists found a home after the collapse of the soviet union.

Warmism: How 20 years of ego, politics and cold hard cash trashed the reputation of 100 years of climate science.

Any other ideas?

3:02 PM  

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