An Anatomy of Denialism, Part 2

As you may recall from Part 1,

  • Denialists make up virtually all of the old, white male half of the world’s population.
  • To a good approximation, everyone on the left is a believer while everyone on the right is a denier. What better proof could there be that it’s really about politics—not science—for deniers?
  • So they’re understandably, if not forgivably, resistant to acknowledging any problem that can only be solved by abolishing national sovereignty, erecting an omnipotent United Nations and legislating the very act of organic metabolism.
  • Deniers are continually pressing for a scientific debate. Why? Because they can’t refute the political reality: that climate change necessitates a new world order. They have no choice but to attack the weakest link—the science—instead.
  • On “our side” we have credible sources like RealClimate, SkepticalScience and Deltoid. What do deniers have? Blog science.
  • Unlike the normal half of the populace, denialists only trust experts they believe.
  • That’s why they don’t think (or know) the Earth has more and more heat each year; it’s us; and it’s bad. They think it’s paused, it’s the sun, it’s not the first time, it’s land use, or it’s not bad.
  • As you can see, they use short words. A lot, *laugh out loud!* [Source: John Cook.] Which makes them sound like kids—just dumb kids.

Let’s continue our survey of denialist thought.

McCright, A.M. & Dunlap, R.E. (2011). Cool dudes: The denial of cli­mate change among con­ser­vative white males in the United States. Global Environmental Change 21 (4) 1163–1172.

Gratuitous questioning

There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. Science welcomes questions!

But you have to ask them in good faith. This means, for example, you can’t repeat a question once it’s been debunked.

Unfortunately, when a denier asks something, their faith tends to be questionable. Search long enough and you’ll often find their “question” is already refuted on the Internet!


One of the “arguments” denialists like to yell is that, ‘They shifted from “global warming” to “climate change” in an attempt to circumvent Popperian falsifiability! They shifted from “global warming” to “climate change” in an attempt to circumvent Popperian falsifiability!’

Like all denialist shouting-points, however, this is misguided and wrong. It ignores historical facts—facts such as:

  • The phrase “climate change” was actually invented in 2000 by Republican strategist Frank Luntz, an advisor to the Bush administration, as a less “threatening” alternative to “global warming.”
  • Far from being a recent addition to the language, the phrase actually has a long history! The IPCC was created in 1988… and guess what “CC” stands for?

So we can see that supporters of the science are not, in fact, guilty of Nuspeak.

It’s the climate deniers—who also deny carbon pollution and ocean acidification—who are constantly engaged in the Orwellian misuse of words.


This Arabic noun, roughly meaning “meta-denial,” aptly describes the kind of doctrinal dissimulation by which deniers keep the full extent of their rejectionism secret.*

As Oreskes and Conway have shown, climate denial is really an intellectual extension of tobacco denial. But what makes this discovery such a feat of investigative scholarship is that deniers themselves have never admitted it. Opponents of the book Merchants of Doubt attack the authors for failing to interview, or make any contact with, anyone in the denialist community—but this criticism is misguided and wrong. The reality is that few, if any, deniers have been careless enough to dispute the carcinogenicity of cigarettes out loud. Actually speaking to them would therefore be of limited usefulness.

Take the prominent “skeptic” Richard Lindzen. While the decorated MIT professor makes no secret of denying the existence of the climate, he is much less open when it comes to denying the link between smoking and lung cancer. In fact Lindzen has never even been quoted in the act. This tactical precaution allows him to play the “defamation” card whenever a mainstream scientist like Dana Nuccitelli tries to raise public awareness of Lindzen’s onco-contrarianism. By carefully avoiding any denial of the medical science—even going so far as to overtly endorse said science—Lindzen manages to make Nuccitelli look like the dishonest party!

Climate psychologists are no strangers to the kind of abuse Oreskes and Conway have had to endure—they, too, are regularly attacked for not “talking to” the very group they claim to be studying. Here again, the criticism is dishonest, because deniers would never be naïve enough to say what they believe.

Climate denialism is thought to be the first major ideological movement to promote its views without expressing them.

For example, everyone knows that skeptics consider climate science a hoax. Most people, therefore, would be quite surprised by the results of googling a sentence like “climate science is a hoax.” Far from being a routine denialist claim, it appears that a single rejector of science—one S. Lewandowsky—is responsible for just about every instance of the assertion online.

Little wonder, then, that climate psychologists never rely on such facile methodologies as “talking to” deniers. In fact most of what we know about their belief system comes from esoteric techniques like Remote Empathy [RE] and Latent Component Analysis [LCA].

*Although taqiyya as a concept originates in the Koran, it would be offensive and wrong to suggest any parallel between Islam and climate denial. For one thing, nobody is ever likely to die as a result of Islam.

Global unpleasantness

We needn’t dwell on this final point, because it’s not exactly news to anyone who’s made the mistake of trying to help someone overcome climate denialism: deniers aren’t about to win any congeniality awards!

One thing they can’t be accused of is a lack of chutzpah. Deniers are quick to feign offence at the word ‘deniers,’ drawing a rather long and tendentious bow by alleging a World War II connotation. Yet they think nothing of denigrating the serious URL SkepticalScience by abbreviating it to “SkS”—a thinly-veiled reference to the “SS.” (Geddit?)

Charming, charming stuff.

Stay tuned for Part 3, in which the science of the denial of science will become a completed science.

3 thoughts on “An Anatomy of Denialism, Part 2

  1. TDK

    “Unlike the normal half of the populace, denialists only trust experts they believe.”

    I resent that.

    As a confirmed Environmentalist, I only trust experts selected for me by wise intermediaries like George Monbiot Desmogblog or Bob Ward. Too many scientists are like Judith Curry. They sound like they believe in Global Warming but then they say they don’t believe the apocalypse is imminent.


  2. Pingback: An Anatomy of Denialism, Part 1 | CLIMATE NUREMBERG

  3. Pingback: Climate Thought for the Day | CLIMATE NUREMBERG

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