A Former Skeptic Speaks of Skepticism

A hat tip to MarkB for bringing this post up — very interesting, especially since it appeared in our Canadian National Post — a right-wing press well-known for its anti-government pro-business stance on many public policy issues.

Johnathan Abrams post on Why I am no longer a skeptic on climate change:

Here is a really apropos quote that speaks to my own views on this as a public policy matter:

AGW poses a direct threat to some forms libertarianism and right-wing capitalism. I think that this may have played a strong role in my personal AGW skepticism, and perhaps in other libertarians. As I discussed in a previous blog post, values can determine whether someone considers themselves a libertarian, liberal, conservative, etc. One important value of libertarianism is the desire for smaller government. This rubs up against the problem of AGW. If the problem of AGW is real, and if we have any hope of solving it, we would most likely require development of gross regulations from governments.

Another point I would like to highlight because it speaks to my own view on this issue:

The more complex a topic is, the harder it is to rationally judge the scientific evidence, therefore we use other methods to subconsciously decide what to believe. Before someone can confidently say they accept or don’t accept AGW for rational reasons, they must first honestly admit that they have seen, and understand, the relevant scientific evidence. But most people, myself included, can be intimidated by all the climate models, core samples, and temperature charts that are tossed around. Because of this intimidation, we turn to other non-rational belief influences.

Another salient point:

After reading debunking after debunking of poor AGW skeptic arguments, I had no more excuses. Just as some religious people find ways to accommodate the fact of evolution, I found ways to accommodate global warming despite my political views. As the president of a local skeptic organization I’m often asked if I’ve ever changed my mind due to scientific evidence, I’m proud to say that in this case I did. But I didn’t write this post to pat myself on the back. This has taught me that one should be skeptical of their beliefs, especially if they fit with one’s world view. Hopefully, this will encourage others to be take an honest second look at AGW science.

Thanks to MarkB for pointing me to this article.

What I find really interesting is the response in the comments section.  Typical.

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5 Responses to “A Former Skeptic Speaks of Skepticism”

  1. I found it to be a very introspective article. Abrams discusses how he began to shed his skepticism. It partly involved taking a skeptical look at so-called “skepticism”, critically examining their arguments, and finding them to be sorely lacking in substance.

    While it’s easy for someone not of his ideology to point out that such ideology can bias one’s thought process, it’s not easy for him to do it.

    I’ve not looked at the comments section of that article, but I’ve seen responses from some when I present it. Many of the comments are something along the lines of “he’s not a real conservative”. There are a large number of people who truly seem to believe Al Gore and his “liberal” buddies invented climate science. Thus, a “true conservative” wouldn’t believe it. It’s quite a cult mentality.

    A closing question to consider: how much does the blogosphere reinforce pre-conceived views? How much do folks who congregate on contrarian-minded blogs tend to receive positive reinforcement for their views, no matter how nutty?

    • A closing question to consider: how much does the blogosphere reinforce pre-conceived views? How much do folks who congregate on contrarian-minded blogs tend to receive positive reinforcement for their views, no matter how nutty?

      Of course, if you accept the notion that ideology predisposes people to one side or the other — or even the MOR position — then you also have to ask “how does my ideology or politics influence my point of view on global warming?”

      I can name mine outright — I have education and work experience in public policy and thus am not afraid of government intervention and regulation — indeed, I tend to see it as necessary on some issues. Not all, but some. I am also educated to some degree in ecology and have a sense of how vulnerable ecosystems can be to the introduction of new creatures or changed conditions. This might make me more inclined to accept AGW and to think that humans would be wise to try to moderate their conquests to take sustainability into account. Then again, I am also inclined to believe in human ingenuity and creativity and a big SF fan, so that I tend to believe that if we can imagine it, we can probably do it. I’d go so far as to say that even that more technological development is necessary and *can* be positive — depending on the purposes it is developed and the consequences. I’m also a liberal and of course have horns and a forked tail. 😀

      • Susann,
        You ask how your ideology or politics may influence your point of view on global warming. It is a fair question, but it does not go far enough.

        You also need to ask how social interactions and pressures may effect your willingness to look at the evidence with an open mind. What will your friends say if you admit Phil Jones was being deceptive in hiding the decline in the proxies? Will you be shunned at the next dinner party by people who would otherwise share your politics if you are openly critical of Michael Mann or Jim Hansen? Will you even get invited to the next dinner party? Will your husband still be willing to be seen with you in public if you become a skeptic? Will he start calling you a denier?

        These are the kinds of fears liberals have to face when they are confronted with the facts of global warming. Thankfully, people like Steve Mosher, Tom Fuller and Claude Allegre have made the jump from knee-jerk acceptance of global warming (because they are liberal politically) to enlightened skepticism. I invite you to look honestly at the evidence. You may want to make the jump as well. Yes, I know Mosher’s behavior here has turned you off. But that doesn’t mean he is wrong on the subject.

        • I’d expect folks at a dinner party to laugh if I asserted that the Moon landing was a hoax.

          If you make inaccurate assertions among a knowledgeable crowd, hopefully they would call you out, as has been the case here.

      • I personally don’t have experience working in government, but I know some good people who do, which must make me part of the commie/socialist conspiracy. I don’t entirely understand the fear of government intervention and policies designed to gradually reduce emissions (non-partisan economic analysis certainly doesn’t give cause for it), or government intervention in general. I think it starts with someone getting mildly irritated by examples of government bureaucracy, spending, or taxes, fan the flames with a solid dose of AM radio rhetoric, and irrationality takes off. Soon there’s no other explanation for climate science consensus than a government hoax designed to control you. Everything you hear will ultimately confirm that notion in some manner.

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