Barbara Tomlinson pointed out to me that Phil Plait (of the Bad Astronomy blog) linked to me today in Two posts about denialism, climate change and otherwise. That was pretty cool, given how much I like the Bad Astronomy blog. The post reads a bit like Plait is crediting me with having come up with the O.J. Simpson/climate-change denialism metaphor, when of course it was Bill McKibbon who did that; I just quoted from and linked to him. But I’m not proud; I’ll take the traffic, and will secretly cherish the thought that Phil Plait linked to Lies.com! Yay!
Even better: By linking to me he made sure I’d pay extra-close attention to the post in which he did so, thereby bringing my attention to someone I’ve inexplicably never read before: Steven Novella, MD, of the NeuroLogica Blog.
Wow. Just wow. This is serious pay dirt.
Here’s the NeuroLogica post that Plait thought my McKibbon theft was worth sharing a post with: Scientific consensus, climate change, and vaccines. After quoting Robert Kennedy Jr. on the strength of the scientific consensus on global warming, Novella continues like this:
But Robert Kennedy is not always a fan of the scientific consensus – for example he rejects the scientific consensus on vaccines, choosing to believe that the consensus is a deliberate fraud (exactly what global warming dissidents say about the climate change consensus). This makes Robert Kennedy a hypocrite – he accepts the scientific consensus and cites its authority when it suits his politics, and then blithely rejects it (spinning absurd conspiracy theories that would make Jesse Ventura blush) when it is inconvenient to his politics.
But Kennedy is not alone – this seems to be what most people do most of the time. In fact I would argue that we need to be especially suspicious of our scientific opinions on controversial topics when they conform to our personal ideology (whether political, social, or religious). That is when we need to step back and ask hard questions that challenge the views we want to hold. We also need to make sure that our process is consistent across questions – are we citing the scientific consensus on one issue and rejecting it on another? Are we citing conflicts of interest for researchers whose conclusions we don’t like, and ignoring them for researchers whose conclusions confirm our beliefs?
Did I already say wow?
Here’s another item from Novella: Letters from a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. I’m going to let you go read that yourself. And I think you know who I mean by you. :-)
Finally, Novella is the host and producer of a weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, that is currently on its 240th episode. Looks like my commute just got booked solid.