Cooked-Up Kooks

Monday, October 19, 2015

For fans of irony, I'll post some flotsam from the research I conducted for my last column...

Having run into a link to a press release titled, "Denying Problems When We Don't Like the Solutions" at Hacker News, I ran across an entire corpus of psychology journal articles whose arguments a commenter there aptly calls, "psychology journal ad hominems." One of the more famous practitioners is John Cook, a non-climate scientist for whom there are two types of scientists who don't push global warming hysteria: "fake experts" (i.e., those who aren't climate scientists), and mistaken experts (climate scientists whose work he cites in a review of only non-alarmist papers). One of Cook's papers is titled, "Recurrent Fury: Conspiratorial Discourse in the Blogosphere Triggered by Research on the Role of Conspiracist Ideation in Climate Denial." From its Methods section, I quote the following, regarding the "conspiracist ideations:"

To process the corpus and to test for the presence of conspiracist discursive elements, we derived six criteria from the existing literature (see Table 3). Our criteria were exclusively psychological and hence did not hinge on the validity of the various hypotheses. This approach follows philosophical precedents that have examined the epistemology of conspiratorial theorizing irrespective of its truth value (e.g., Keeley, 1999; Sunstein & Vermeule, 2009). The approach also avoids the need to discuss or rebut the substance of any of the hypotheses. [bold added, links dropped]
The whole premise of this article is rich, given how frequently I see global warming alarmist cry, "Conspiracy!" The latest example comes from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who, along with some academics, wants to press racketeering charges against "climate deniers:"
The scientists argue that the systemic efforts to prevent the public from understanding climate change resembles the investigation undertaken against tobacco. They draw inspiration from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse who said on the Senate floor that there might be a similar conspiracy here, and a civil trial could provide the tools of discovery needed to find out.
So "deniers" are idiots who swap conspiracy theories, but defenders of science haul out the big guns to stop denialist conspiracies. This would be hilarious were it not for the floating of a trial balloon of censorship by an important government official.

-- CAV

P.S. For a nice debunking of John Cook's most famous "result," the oft-quoted 97% consensus on global warming, see Alex Epstein's "'97% of Climate Scientists Agree' Is 100% Wrong," at Forbes.

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