The Curry letter: a word about "deniers"…

This comment was sent to me in case it was not posted at all or in it’s entirety over at Climate Progress. It wasn’t, so I’m repeating it here because I think it is relevant to the discussion that Dr. Judith Curry started. From my perspective, the best way to begin to foster understanding is to stop using labels that degrade, and that goes for both sides of the debate.

– Anthony


Kate says:

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November 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Judith Curry wrote “I reserve the word “deniers” for people that are explicitly associated with advocacy groups that are politicizing this issue…”

I reserve the word “deniers” for people that explicitly reject the history of Jewish extermination in wartime Germany.

When I see anyone legitimize the term “denier” in the context of this debate, an alarm bell goes off – “this is not a serious person”.

To do so is to commit an unforgivable devaluation of the historical relevance of the word “denier. It’s a rhetorical tactic unworthy of anyone who wants their scientific credibility to remain above reproach.

When the word “denier” first crawled out of the political slime, I fully expected those in science and media alike to reject it, vocally and without qualification.

Instead, it has become mainstream.

Small wonder that a great percentage of ordinary observers such as I begin to question that we haven’t been fed one big, fat lie after all. For the people propagating it have seemingly lost all sense of historical proportion.

Not to mention, curious double standard.

Outrageous buffoons like Al Gore zoom about the planet in private jets in the name of your “science”. The WWF travel agency zooms multi-millionaires around the world in private chartered jets in the name of your “science”.

When those who support the AGW position fail to categorically reject the “Al Gores” as spokespersons, fail to categorically reject activist scams, fail to categorically reject the use of unacceptable smears ….then, and only then, will you be able to hope for a restoration of confidence in what you do. You have a long road ahead.

You may know a lot about science. You understand precious little about public perception.

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kuhnkat

“When those who support the AGW position fail to categorically reject the “Al Gores” as spokespersons, fail to categorically reject activist scams, fail to categorically reject the use of unacceptable smears ….then, and only then, will you be able to hope for a restoration of confidence in what you do. You have a long road ahead.”
Wouldn’t this be more understandable if it were:
When those who support the AGW position categorically reject the “Al Gores” as spokespersons, categorically reject activist scams, categorically reject the use of unacceptable smears ….then, and only then, will you be able to hope for a restoration of confidence in what you do. You have a long road ahead.

Glenn Haldane

Harsh but fair.

Steve S.

I think the author did not mean to use “fail to” in this.
“””””When those who support the AGW position fail to categorically reject the “Al Gores” as spokespersons, fail to categorically reject activist scams, fail to categorically reject the use of unacceptable smears ….then, and only then, will you be able to hope for a restoration of confidence in what you do. You have a long road ahead.”””””‘

kuhnkat

Anthony,
I believe the letter would be more understandable if it were edited as follows:
“When those who support the AGW position fail to categorically reject the “Al Gores” as spokespersons, fail to categorically reject activist scams, fail to categorically reject the use of unacceptable smears ….then, and only then, will you be able to hope for a restoration of confidence in what you do. You have a long road ahead.”
When those who support the AGW position categorically reject the “Al Gores” as spokespersons, categorically reject activist scams, categorically reject the use of unacceptable smears ….then, and only then, will you be able to hope for a restoration of confidence in what you do. You have a long road ahead.

alf

And, most of these deniers do not deny global warming or AGW. They only question catastrophic global warming [CAGW]. Where is the “denier” in that?

Zurgel

“I reserve the word “deniers” for people that explicitly reject the history of Jewish extermination in wartime Germany.”
A ridiculous taboo. I thought you had more sense.

the_Butcher

Judith Curry,
the word ‘deniers’ is older than you and your great grandfathers were, now if some word reminds you of your horrible nightmares when you were a child and putting people that use them into such categories makes you look stupid…

tucker

Zurgel,
The reference to reserving “denier” to the holocaust may be a rhetorical one. It’s obvious that one can use “denier” in many contexts. What the writer appears to be saying is that “denier” should be reserved for those situations where the facts are without doubt. To disagree is to be a “denier” of the truth.

IMHO ‘denier’ is simply a very pejorative term.
It’s been used by all manner of controlling regimes that didn’t like the truth – whether is was the first flat-Earthers, N4zi apologists, the Inquisition – and now a branch of science in the 21st century.
What a very sad state of affairs we have reached.
It’s like the inference of a reporter saying Mr X ‘claimed’ – denier is a deliberate twisting of language to suit those who want to shut down and smear nay-sayers.
I really hope this will soon be gone.
[snip if I’m rambling OT]

Pingo

The word “denier” is no longer used by the true believers, we’re now denialists.

Thanks, kuhnkat
You’re absolutely correct, and the edit is appropriate.

Mike

Deniers©

Butcher, you might want to go back and look at who is saying what. You have it wrong.

Mike

Deniers™

Mike

Deniers®

Norm814

l would agree deniers needs to be reserved for the Holocost deniers.
The word fascist now is reserved for the Nazis, no one thinks of Musiline or the Spanish when this word is used. It no longer means a political/economic system where the private section owns the business but the government sets the rules. You hear fascist you think Hitler. You hear deniers you think KKK, skin heads, Akmudenajad (sorry about the spelling).
The use of the word deniers by the AWG crowd is intentional, it is meant to link the people who question AWG to those who deny the holocost.

Ratboy

I like the word “denialist.” It sounds so much more professional 🙂

Chris

It has been theorized before that the new generation of climate scientists (spurred by all the grants) will have to break new ground if they want to be noticed. It was also assumed that some of them will take on the establishment. I think the recent exposure to the insider dealings of the cabal will just further spur the Team’s future rival researchers.

Andy

The widespread use of the term “denier” with respect to AGW, IIRC, originated with Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman: “Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.”
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/02/09/no_change_in_political_climate/

Dave The Engineer

To understand the true depth of hatred the left has for those who they class as “deniers” you only need to understand that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad (a true holocaust denier) gets more respect from the leftists, the media and select climate scientists then Steve McIntyre. From my point of view that alone precludes the possibility of redemption.

TA

Excellent comment. However, the second to last paragraph unfortunately says the opposite of what was intended, I believe.

David L. Hagen

The Jewish virtual library documents Holocaust Denial

Holocaust denial is a propaganda movement active in the United States, Canada and Western Europe which seeks to deny the reality of the Nazi regime’s systematic mass murder of 6 million Jews in Europe during World War II.

“Deniers” can expect serious legal consequences:

In January 1986, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded Mermelstein $4.75 million in punitive damages and $500,000 in compensatory damages in a suit he had filed in 1981 against Ditlieb Felderer, a Swedish Holocaust denier whose publication, Jewish Information Bulletin (it is in fact none of these), had mocked the killing of Jews at Auschwitz and had attacked Mermelstein personally.

Emory University in Atlanta documents Holocaust Denial on Trial Holocaust Denial on Trial: Using History to Confront Distortions.
In the Holocaust Encyclopedia, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum documents HOLOCAUST DENIERS AND PUBLIC MISINFORMATION
In discussions or debate over climate science, “denier” is a pejorative term ambiguously accusing a person of denying:
* 1) that “global warming” is occurring,
* 2) that “anthropogenic global warming” is occurring, or
* 3) that “global warming” is unquestionably caused by anthropogenic causes.
This is an illogical ad hominem attack rather than addressing the substance of the argument.
Long term global warming: I and all scientists and literate persons I know of, recognize, and do not “deny”, that long term “global warming” has been occurring for about 11,000 years since the last ice age.
Anthropogenic global warming: Similarly, I do not “deny” generic anthropogenic causes to “global warming” or “climate change”. Anyone having a basic understanding of solar energy and “albedo” recognizes that converting a forest to a field or ploughing the prairie is decreasing the albedo and increasing absorption of solar radiation. The consequent US “dust bowl” caused significant climate effects. Burning coal generates sulfate aerosols that cool the planet while “clean air” legislation reducing sulfate emissions will reduce this cooling.
Thus, to accuse a person of being a “global warming denier” per se is a knowingly false libelous accusation inferring moral and scientific perfidy.
The key scientific issue is whether “anthropogenic” causes dominate natural causes for the “global warming” of the latter half of the 20th century.
The Integovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 AR4 Summary for Policy Makers Sect. 2 p 5 concludes

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations.

(The IPCC
defines “very likely” as at least 90 percent certain.)
Conversely, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) 2009 report Climate Change Reconsidered in the Excutive Summary cites other evidence and concludes the opposite:

It is therefore highly likely that the Sun is also a major cause of twentieth-century warming, with anthropogenic GHG making only a minor contribution.

Whether the global warming from the mid-20th century to the end of the 20th century is caused primarily by anthropogenic causes is thus a scientific issue that is subject to scientific contention and evaluation.
The environmental movement has made “anthropogenic global warming” a major political issue. Heated political advocates try to use “denier” pejoratively as meaning ignorantly denying the scientific evidence. Emotions run high from beliefs that opponents are “destroying Mother Earth” and killing millions of people in Bangladesh etc.
Any scientist using “denier” is in effect making a pejorative political ad hominem attack rather than objectively addressing the substance of the scientific facts hypotheses, models, and theories. It also demeans the incredible suffering and atrocities committed during World War II.
I endorse Kate’s email and strongly recommend avoiding calling any person a “denier” in this and other forums, and explicitly challenging each person who does so.

Douglas DC

Ok how about Heretic, Apostate, Witch, all would be used by the AGW crowd if they
acknowledged their true religion…

PR Guy

One of the more surprising aspects of the Climategate Papers has been the extent to which the elite climate scientist (the Team) use intimidation to control the debate. To me, its gotten quite chilling. We’ve seen this sort of ‘consensus by intimidation’ several times before in human history, and in each case, its not ended well. I wrote this at CA:
——–
“At the heart of this issue is how climate researchers deal with skeptics.”
The three options proffered so far have been:
(a) Strangle them as they sleep at night (Joe Galliani)
(b) Beat the crap out of them (Ben Santer)
(c) Subject them to Nuremberg-style trials (David Roberts)
Dr Curry, I hope that you might offer some additional options that are more in keeping with civil discourse. I would also hope that you would completely cease using linguistic devices meant to liken your opponents to Holocaust deniers.

Jeremy

For all of Dr Curry’s courtesy her refusal to condemn the use of labels makes it obvious that she still sees the world of science through the eyes of political activism.

torium

I disagree with you on this. Make no mistake, this is an infowar and its importance should allow all tricks available. The moral high ground is of course an asset but we have that one already. Don’t try to fight other wars at the same time. Lindzen called himself a denier and the word has the power to make the headlines. The word skeptic is too weak. It’s time also to ease this Holocaust syndrome for that matter. No pardon for history professors of course but dont let us others have to deal with conscience every time some possible guilt by semantic assocication comes up.
Also don’t be too nice. McIntyre naively reached out a hand. Pretense to change human nature and aspire to sanctity is just letting the enemy off the hook. Deniers/skeptics are a mixed bag and you should just hold on to the enemy with all fair means.

Mike Bryant

A few months ago I did a googlebooks search on “denier”… Of course it was used to describe those that deny the reality of the Holocaust. Also in newer and older books it describes a measurement used in the textiles industry. However in older books the word denier was hard to find in the context of “one who denies”. In pre WWII books, the only instances I found that used that meaning of the word were in reference to some religious belief.
Draw your own conclusions.

Oh, bother

Does this mean that any time a commenter uses the term “denier” he or she has evoked Godwin’s Law and the moderator can delete the comment? I suspect it would improve the discourse.

Antonio San

She got it! No different than “do you still beat your wife?” question.

Jaye

Denier also carries a religious connotation. I think one could freely substitute heretic in their correspondences with no loss of meaning.

Richard Sharpe

So what about all the hoax-deniers?

Calvin Ball

Completely so. And though it’s not offensive in the same way that use for the word “denier” is, I also find her obsession with the oil industry, again while saying nothing about the eco-crusaders and their carbonaceous lifestyles, rather suspicious. She certainly doesn’t seem to be interested in “fair and balanced”.

gianmarko

i read Curry’s editorial and i am very disappointed. the whole leaked file business is seen as a PR fiasco, but not even for a split second the validity of the whole CRU work is questioned.
these are not scientists, these are priests of a religion. no amount of proof will ever generate doubts in them. they dont want to see, or hear.
AGW is right, “deniers” are wrong. Jones and company shoud resign not because they have falsified data, but because they are now in the way of making AGW a mandatory religion. they are guilty of having given “skeptics” an edge they dont deserve. the show must go on, AGW is too important and no distraction from the achievement of the final goal can be afforded by the “scientific” community. Jones at al must be understood anyway, they are under so much pressure from politicized or big-oil funded denialists
these people are beyond repair, and that includes Ms. Curry.
i see the MSM ignoring the whole FOIA file affaire, politicians stick to their global warming agendas. i am afraid at some stage some radical action will be required, these people are blinded by faith, they are fanatics.
all this reminds me of what happened in italy with communist terrorism. the italian communist party ejected the terrorists because they were a PR nuisance to them, but they were never publicly condemned, they were just “comrades doing mistakes”.
same happens now. Jones at al have made mistakes, but doesnt change the fact that AGW is real, northpole is melting, seas are raising and we will be drowned or fried in a decade or two. CRU had to forge results, too bad they got caught….

I understand the perspective of the poster. The word “denier” has taken on attributes of and associations with denial of the mid century Nazi Holocaust of European Jewry. You can object to this use of language whether you have personal connections to this historical crime, are offended by the cavalier use in the context of an intellectual dispute, or just ashamed of the obviously slanderous impact (and really snide winking slander at that) in using the term to belittle opponents and reduce their actual positions to that of being Nazi cartoons.
I personally believe that no one owns a word. Not “denier”. Not “Holocaust”. But I am not so foolish or insensitive to understand the effect that these words have given the historical context. The people using these words to defame their opponents rather than address their contentions know exactly what they are doing, and the line they are treading.
At the very best people using a term like “deniers” for skeptics of Hockey Sticks or Carbon Credit Ponzi schemes, or mathematical mismashes of completely different data sets analyzed to pull patterns rather than detect them are thinly veiling their ad hominem attacks and pushing buttons they know will inflame sensitivities.
This wouldn’t pass in high school debating let alone “science” that seeks to fundamentally change the way the entire world lives through the expenditure of trillions of dollars on “solutions” that may not even address the “problem” because the problem has been defined dishonestly and all dissent quashed.
And just for the record, I don’t deny that there is climate change driven by anthropomorphic factors. I just think that the details ares still ill defined, the models are invented out of whole cloth, and the actual trends and their causes are almost certainly more complex than described.
And even if we accept everything the Hockey Team thinks they have proven, how in the world is it a rational reaction to say that destroying the world economy through a singled minded focus on atmospheric carbon dioxide and setting up a scam derivatives market to trade carbon credits is the only way to go.
I am not some free market birther 9-11 truther nutbar. I would be perfectly happy to pay a hefty tax to subsidize both research and production of solar, biomass, wave or any other renewable energy source – because it would be useful regardless of who turns out to be factually correct. In about 50 years.

slow to follow

Well said Kate.
The other labels which are often used are wrt “sanity” of critics and their motives and morals. These are just other forms of “ad hom” which avoid dealing with valid questions and arguments.

gianmarko

i am a global warming denier and proud of it.

Back2Bat

Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:8-9 [bold added]

David Jones

To use denier as a pejorative term and mean anything other then the Holocaust should almost automatically put you in the same class as Ahmadinejad and his ilk as one who truly denies or just doesn’t give a damn about millions who died in unimaginable horror.

Most of the people who are called ‘holocaust deniers’ do not deny the Holocaust – they merely question the numbers (and some of them have not-very-nice political opinions too, but so what?). The term has always been used in a dishonest and political way. It’s not possible to ‘devalue’ the meaning of the word as Dr. Curry fears. It has already become a political weapon, and it is not surprising it is used against climate skeptics.

Ed

The tactic used – by calling them “deniers” or suggesting, as some have, that disagreeing should be made illegal! – is politics, not science. Marginalizing your opponent is precisely what activist politician’s do. The technique is described in books and is used nearly every day by political hacks.
The climate science community has indeed marginalized everyone who had any perspective other than their own by labeling them “deniers” (which from the beginning was clearly intended to invoke “holocaust deniers”) and a host of other action intimidation tactics described in the emails (suppressing peer review, suppressing publication, suppressing alternative views, controlling the public relations).
The proper term for someone who ignores the facts is to say they are wrong and not supported by the facts. Not to associate them with holocaust deniers.
Climate science is a serious subject and deserves to be treated seriously. But acting like school yard bullies and writing poor quality code (I have found bugs in it) indicates that the climate scientists don’t take their work seriously. When you take your work seriously, and act like professionals, many of us will again take your seriously.
You have a long road ahead.

Ray

It’s Al Gore that created the rift between scientists. Shame on the scientists that use(d) the same tactic to promote their agenda.

Caleb

I’m pretty sure the word “denier” was originally intended to be an insult, and any linking of the term with “holocaust denier” was intentional. However the meaning of words change. (The word “fantastic” was once an expression of horror, and applied to thing such as ghouls and ghosts.)
I don’t think banning words because they aren’t PC will ever work. There is something irreverent in human nature, and as soon as you ban a word, the irreverent side of human nature rejoices, and promptly uses the word.
The song “Yankee Doodle” was originally a smear, and an expression of contempt and scorn towards Americans by British troops. However the meaning changed, and the song was adopted by American Troops as a favorite.
The meaning of the word “denier” has changed in a similar fashion. Now it is a badge of honor. However, when you think of it, the word itself has no positive or negative meaning. It all depends on what you are denying.
Considering the MSM is gritting its teeth in its attempt to deny Climategate is even occurring, perhaps they deserve the label “denier” for a while. But perhaps the word has gathered too much honor now, and they don’t deserve such flattery.

dearieme

Personally, I reckon I’m a refuter.

dearieme

Or, come to think of it, a refutenik.

slow to follow

In the context of “man made global warming” I have also seen the term “denier” evolve based on those who do not accept the science as true as “being in denial”. IMO this is meant to say it is just a stage on a “psychological” journey on which the enlightened “believers” have already travelled.
Given they’ve organised conferences and written papers on how to account for and manage this “denial” I’m afraid I don’t have much respect for psychologists as scientists.
http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=navclient&hl=en-GB&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADBR_en-GBES263ES263&q=psychology+of+climate+denial

Bob_L

I have read both of Judith Curry’s post, at CA and CP and have come away with a bad taste in my mouth after both. Using the term denier is not a happenstance and should be rejected and the user called out.
Additionally, her tone in both was one not of a scientist but a preacher. In a way she was saying that we know what is right, we might need to talk slower and maybe draw a picture to get through to them.
I think Steve and others have been taken in by her politeness but make no mistake, she has not taken any questions about the data or methods into consideration. I don’t even believe she has taken a risk by speaking out. The only report of her being critized is her own.

rabidfox

“Short sighted” would be a better description of the MSM. Here we have a scandal that is big — much bigger than Watergate! It spreads from the UN itself all the way to small countries like New Zeland. This is the story of the century, Pulitzer material (if covered correctly) and the MSM – ALL the MSM are ignoring it!

Pamela Gray

One more time. Weather pattern shifts that coincided with and were secondary to Pacific oceanic conditions caused the dust bowl. Not the other way around. There have been millions of dust bowls throughout climate history and they can be fairly accurately measured when studying palouse layered soil formations. Dust bowls are also necessary. Without dust bowls, the fishing industry would completely disappear as mass extinctions become a sudden and permanent fixture of the oceanic landscape. The American dust bowl happened right on schedule and in accord with natural weather pattern variations.

Fred from Canuckistan . . .

Just like using the word Warmongers?
[REPLY – For Sale. One war, pre-owned. (“Batteries” not included.) ~ Evan]

David Jones

dearieme
I think I’ll be a refutenik to too. Thank you for the laugh.