Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 22, 2012

Naomi Oreskes: The Verdict is in on Climate Change

Naomi Oreskes has just published a fantastic op-ed in the LA Times.  She draws an analogy with our jurisprudence system to show why “keeping an open mind” about climate change is the wrong approach.  People tend to treat the community of climate scientists as the prosecuting attorney, but in fact, they are the jury.

In a similar vein, several months ago I tried to explain to Senator Orrin Hatch why his insistence on “keeping an open mind” was inappropriate in this case–i.e., he was just using it as an excuse for intellectual laziness.

Since the only reason anyone gets worked up about climate change is that we might need to do something about it, people who insist on “keeping an open mind”, no matter how much evidence they have to ignore, are in the same boat as those who outright deny the science.  In both cases, the conclusion is that we shouldn’t do anything.  How convenient.



  1. I think a lot of people aren’t aware of the evidence in the way an expert in the field appreciates it. If you don’t completely understand the options you have and why certain conclusions are arrived at, you don’t really buy so called evidence and hence you don’t really see evidence in the first place.

    It’s like you said, Barry. It takes time to investigate and consider if skepticism is warranted. Many people are starting with little experience and are working their way forward trying ideas and models much as the science itself considered long ago. They have to sniff around in order to convince themselves if the tree with the spotlight already laid on it is actually the right tree.

    I think I am keeping an open mind even though I have yet to find a “revolutionary” skeptic/denier argument convincing.

    Oh, and did I mention that there is a lot of confusion out there about what the scientists are actually doing and have considered? But having misconceptions is part of investigating and learning.

  2. That is what Politicians do I’m afraid. Especially Orrin Hatch- 36 years of Washington. They do whatever will keep them in office, and get them the most money. They’re not real freedom protectors- they puff themselves up and do things their constituents wouldn’t agree with- rationalizing that that’s how they stay in office- so that they can then do what their constituents would like. Orrin Hatch is the epitome of this

  3. Use a highly advantageous and inaccurate framing of the debate? Check
    Link to obvious strawman? Check.
    Claim ignorance is a virtue? Triple check.

    Wow, “fantastic” argument indeed.

    Are. You. Kidding. Me. Please just flush all reason down the toilet, the debate is officially a shout fest of ignorance. And we apparently like it that way.

    • Thank you for providing an argument that supports itself!

      • You’re welcme.

  4. Bickmore’s Second Law of Being Open-Minded

    Regardless of empirical evidence and inaccuracies of modelling, having an “open mind” is being “spineless”.

    • Colin,

      You seem to have done a mash-up of Bickmore’s First Law of Being Open-Minded AND Bickmore’s First Law of Pretending to be Scientific.

      Bickmore’s First Law of Being Open-Minded:

      “Failing to make critical decisions based on incomplete information is called ‘spinelessness,’ not ‘open-mindedness.'”

      Bickmore’s First Law of Pretending to be Scientific:

      “People who think they are being all ‘scientific’ because they insist that models be perfect to be useful don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.”

      • If that incomplete information makes it uncertain if the decision is critical to begin with, insisting that it be made is stupidity.

        • So why do you stop your kids running out into the road? You KNOW it’s not *certain* that they’ll be run over.

          • There is not only a correlation between dangerously running into traffic and perdestrian injuries, but there is also proven cause and effect. Note the distinction with CAGW.

            • What? There’s a proven causation between global temperature and CO2 concentration.

              And there’s also a causal relation between anthropogenic sources of CO2 and cars.

              So I note the distinction that they are extremely similar.

              So I guess, since you’re a denier, that you let your kids play on the motorway.

      • The point lost on you Barry is that skeptism is fundamental for science to be robust. Any critism or ambivalence towards the dogma of CAGW is now classified as “intellectual laziness”. How arrogant. You no doubt support reversing the null hypothesis.

        • Ah, the null hypothesis! THE null hypothesis! Tell us, Colin, what is THE null hypothesis, and why should it be THE null hypothesis.

          • I have a high level of confidence Marco, not to reject the hypothesis that you are significantly capable of answering that yourself.

            • And we have a high level of confidence that you didn’t answer because you can’t.

            • That’s a nice way of ignoring the question. I actually can make quite a few null hypotheses, and I have no idea what YOU would consider “the” null hypothesis. Considering your other remarks here, it could be just about anything, as long as it is not-the-IPCC.

            • Who is this “we” you speak on behalf of Wow?

            • Colin, why don’t you answer my simple question?

              It really is a simple question for anyone who portrays so much confidence that he knows what he’s talking about (i.e., you).

            • He’s unable to and knows it, hence his only choice is evasion.

          • Perhaps the null hypothesis could be whether AGW is a duck.

        • When I classify something as “intellectual laziness,” I give specific reasons. Perhaps you should read my conversation with Orrin Hatch.

          • I had a quick read of your conversation with Orrin Hatch and take your point, but politicians on both sides of the debate (past and present) could be defined by you as intellectually lazy.

            • Well, they are politicians, after all. 😉

              Anyway, I think there’s a difference between just believing whoever will tell you what you want to hear and believing the majority of experts in a field. I think liberals are often intellectually lazy about other things, and I KNOW that I’m often intellectually lazy about other things, but that’s no reason to excuse what’s being done here. This is an important issue, and politicians like Hatch are not taking it seriously.

            • The situation is no different here in Australia. The main issue I have with your article is that the climate scientists in this neck of the woods have been crying wolf for over a decade now over the predicted consequences of AGW. The public are thus starting to question the findings of the “jury” and believe that at best they are exaggerating, or at worse simply wrong.

          • Crying wolf about what?

            Death threats? Nope, they happened.

            Flooding? Nope again.

            More forest fires? Nope, still correct on that score too.

            How about droughts getting worse? Oh, they were and are right there too.

            I guess you were too busy watching Youtube to listen to the court proceedings.

            • None of what you say challenges my point. Australia has a brutal climate history dominated by extreme weather.

            • Since you didn’t actually HAVE a point, I doubt whether anything COULD challenge it.

              Australia sufferes from horrendous forest fires. Therefore the arsonists in jail for the deaths and destruction in 2009 should be freed?

            • Wow, you are an idiot.

            • Ah. I see you’ve mixed up your posts with mine.


              Or do you REALLY think that since forest fires raged in Australia before man ever turned up is proof that Man cannot cause forest fires?

            • Wow, what on earth has that got to do with the current discussion?

            • It has everything to do with your statement:

              “Australia has a brutal climate history dominated by extreme weather”

              And I note that you still can’t say that you want the arsonists let go.

            • Wow, are you making a comparison between arsonists and people/industries that emit CO2?

            • Yes.

            • Wow, all I can say to that is WOW. No one could ever accuse you of having an open mind.

            • Yes, content free as always, colon.

              So you don’t believe that forest fires can be caused by man because Australia has had a history of forest fires, but you DO believe in throwing in jail anyone who is accused of causing a forest fire.

              Joined up thinking isn’t really what you do, is it.

              Heck, thinking seems to be beyond your ken.

            • Ahhh, I saw what you did with my name. Very clever Wow (I’m going to take a leap of faith and assume that’s your real name).

              So when the next forrest fire starts here in Australia, which usual suspects would you round up first?

            • So you DO believe that those arsonists should be set free, because there were forest fires long before mankind moved there.

              But you know this idea is bonkers therefore you avoid saying it.

            • This discussion with you has become increasingly pointless.

            • Yup, still avoiding the issue, colon.

              Your assertion that droughts happened in the past is equivalent to the assertion that forest fires happened in the past.

              Your assertion that therefore forecasting more droughts and seeing more droughts turn up can be ignored is not supported by that claim.

              And that claim is also equivalent to saying that arsonists are not responsible for the forest fires, therefore they are innocent.

              Except that you know your entire train of logic is broken and that this cornering of your idiocy is proof of your vacuous argument kills your “zinger” dead.

              So you ignore it.

              PAthetic humanoid moron.

            • Keep the childish comments to yourself Wow. Play nice. The other grown ups are.

              “Your assertion that droughts happened in the past is equivalent to the assertion that forest fires happened in the past.”

              Your assertion, not mine.

              “Your assertion that therefore forecasting more droughts and seeing more droughts turn up can be ignored is not supported by that claim.”

              Don’t confuse forecasting with reality. Please support the claim of “seeing more droughts”.

              “And that claim is also equivalent to saying that arsonists are not responsible for the forest fires, therefore they are innocent.”

              Ignoring the incorrect premise earlier, to say it is an invalid inference is an understatement.

            • So anything you can’t and won’t answer is a “childish comment”?

              “Your assertion, not mine.”

              Your assertion is that droughts happened in the past, therefore AGW false.

              This is exactly equivalent to forest fires happened in the past, therefore arsonists are nonexistent.

              “Don’t confuse forecasting with reality.”

              I don’t.

              “Ignoring the incorrect premise earlier”

              I’m not ignoring your incorrect premise. In fact. this is the reason why you’re gish galloping over the horizon in a desperate attempt to avoid having to refute and claim the same thing in the same sentence.

            • So your statment that:

              “Australia has a brutal climate history dominated by extreme weather”

              Had no purpose whatsoever, since past activities are no proof that current activities don’t have a human cause, hence no rebuttal to:

              Crying wolf about what?
              Death threats? Nope, they happened.
              Flooding? Nope again.
              More forest fires? Nope, still correct on that score too.
              How about droughts getting worse? Oh, they were and are right there too.

    • Your mind is so open, the brain fell out.

  5. I think when certain Senators talk about keeping open their minds, they really mean keeping open their wallets. After all, if scientists are in it for the money (or so the Senators claim), then it should be OK for Senators to decide what to think based on their own funding, no? 🙂

    — frank

  6. Dr. B,

    I am so upset I could scream a high pitched progressive expletive. I need you to talk me down from the ledge again. Have you seen this screed from the Wall Street Journal?

    That rag has no business publishing in this country. I cannot stand them. “No need to Panic”??! Don’t these idiots know we’re roasting out here? Don’t they know that the freezing weather in the NW is caused by global climate disruption?! I’ve never even heard of these clowns anyhow. I don’t see the names of those whom I trust on the list. Where’s your name? Naomi Oreskes? Mike Mann? Gavin? Joe Romm? Al Gore? Nowhere to be seen. What a tragedy that these people would hide the truth about the imminent danger of global warming from the people!

    “There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to “decarbonize” the world’s economy”

    What on earth are they talking about? Don’t they listen to President Obama?!

    Is it wrong for me to wish they and the WSJ will be eaten by sharks as the sea level dramatically rises…. as we know it will? Please tell me how to cope with these maddening lies Dr. B!

    Peace and love,

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