Monthly Archives: February 2014

Yes, But Can We Afford One?

An article by Wall Street Journal employee Pete du Pont, in which he argues that the public “could use an honest debate” on climate change, has just come out in the WSJ (where else?).

We cannot risk taking du Pont’s advice. What he forgets, or deliberately fails to tell his readers, is that debates take at least an hour. They can easily break the two-hour mark, depending on the format.

But we need to act on climate now.

Not in a couple of hours. Not next month. Not in an hour. Now.

Du Pont’s motivation, then, is clearly to stall for time. Seen in this light, the call for “debate” is almost understandable (if not forgivable). Hey: if you can’t deny it, delay it!

Look for such tactics to become increasingly central to the denialist MO this year as the science itself becomes less and less controversial. Remember, people who oppose science are, at bottom, neophobes with an irrational addiction to the status quo. And when change terrifies you you’ll do anything to slow it down—no matter how foolish you make yourself sound in the process. (This is why my New Year’s resolution was to say “science refusard” less and “climate retardard” more.) If the climate-change wars have proven anything it’s the visceral conservativeness, the blind fear of change, of the left half of the human bell curve.

Of course, my critique of du Pont’s desperate call for a debate doesn’t even take into account the considerable time it would take to find a venue and arrange security (hardly a trivial task when the topic is as “heated” as this one). But as if these flaws weren’t fatal enough, du Pont also ignores the problem of recruiting participants. Real climate scientists are notoriously reluctant to debate. Even if they agreed to do so—and as any scientist on earth will tell you, getting scientists to agree on anything is like herding cats—they would then need to select their opponents. It could easily take weeks of negotiations just to nominate three or four skeptics whose presence on the same stage wouldn’t offend the sensibilities, or tarnish the good name, of anyone on the Affirmative team.

And as climate scientists have been telling us since the late 80s, that’s time we simply don’t have.

When will we finally believe them?

Denialism equals delayalism equals debatalism, folks.

This comment abides by our community standards

Personal child-erection-themed abuse? Really? All in a day’s non-work for the vigilant editors at Al Graun, apparently.

They say you can tell as much about an online publication from the comments they don’t delete as the ones they do. I’d probably go further: I reckon you can tell even more from the comments they leave intact—because, you know, you can actually read them.

In Climate Science, the Past is a Foreign Country

Do you remember what life was like 25 years ago?

Probably not—at least not if you work in medicine or have spent any time in hospital (in virtually any rôle) since 1989. The world of health care is an unrecognizably different place than it was a mere quarter-century ago.

In a good way.

Since then, medical science has given us the completed Human Genome Project, the first cancer-preventative vaccine (for HPV), HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors [‘statins’], an awareness of the therapeutic and prognostic significance of omega-3 fatty acid levels, stem-cell therapies for adrenoleukodystrophy and other conditions, functional MRI, self-expanding stents made of nitinol and next-generation materials, minimally-invasive robotic surgery, the bio-informatics revolution, lifesaving genetically-engineered drugs like tissue plasminogen activator, gene-targeted therapies like Herceptin and Gleevec (for breast cancer, chronic myeloid leukemia and GIST), the multi-lumen tubing which is now a mainstay on high-dependency wards, highly active anti-retroviral therapy [HAART] and the once-a-day HIV pill that can slow down and even arrest progression to AIDS, entire families of antidepressants and noötropics…

The list goes on. And remember, that’s just medical advances.

But it got me thinking about an even bigger question:

Continue reading

An Anatomy of Denialism, Part 1

Look around you. According to climate anthropologists, 1 in every 2 people you see* is a denialist.

That’s almost half of all people.

But which half? And how can you be sure it’s not you?

You can’t.

There’s only one way to know, scientifically, whether you’re a denialist: by reading the following post, in which I reveal the telltale characteristics of denialism.

*How many are deniers are truly unique, and how many are just aliases of a small handful of individuals—created, funded and coached by vested-interest lobbies to give an exaggerated appearance of disagreement—is a fascinating question. But it’s been explored elsewhere by researchers like John Mashey and Steve Lewandowsky, who pioneered the fields of climate paranoia and conspiracy ideation. So we’ll leave it aside for now.


Given that denialists make up 50% of the world’s people, they can obviously be found in all shapes and sizes.

Notwithstanding this, deniers are almost always white males aged 60+.


Wait a minute, I hear you ask: wasn’t this supposed to be a scientific debate? Is it really any of our business how the other side votes?


Those of us who accept the science are now openly, if belatedly, explaining that for us the issue has always been more political than scientific.

So it stands to reason that the people who most adamantly oppose all our ideas feel the same way. (As in any other subject, projection is an incredibly powerful heuristic that almost never leads to bad assumptions.) Continue reading