Michael Shermer's Five Questions on AGW Skepticism

Chill Out” blog on AGW skepticism by nonskeptical Skeptic Michael Shermer (Sep 29).

Shermer’s point is so incredibly obvious, I am sure very few people will be able to “get it”:

In my opinion we need to chill out on all extremist plans that entail expenses best described as Brobdingnagian, require our intervention into developing countries best portrayed as imperialistic, or involve state controls best portrayed as fascistic. Give green technologies and free markets a chance

Will the above earn him (again?) the label of Denialist? Who knows? For well-known reasons, his mention of Bjorn Lomborg seems to have caused a stir (even if they both are firmly in the AGW camp…I presume that’s what happens when one agrees with people all too ready to label as “denialist” anybody that doesn’t fully agree with them).

Shermer suggests also five questions to help establish if  one is “a global warming skeptic, or […] skeptical of the global warming skeptics“:

  1. Is the earth getting warmer?
  2. Is the cause of global warming human activity?
  3. How much warmer is it going to get?
  4. What are the consequences of a warmer climate?
  5. How much should we invest in altering the climate?

Shermer’s answers: (1) yes, (2) “primarily“, (3) “moderate warming with moderate changes” (following the IPCC, no less), (4) “consequences must be weighed in the balance” (that is, positive consequences should be considered too), (5) much less than the “Brobdingnagian proposals being talked about, and not even as much as recommended by the IPCC (with references to Lomborg and Nordhaus).

Interestingly, Shermer shows his skepticism increasing from nil (questions 1 and 2) to almost 100% (question 5)


How do you score on Shermer’s questions? I can answer also on the basis of my About page: (1) yes, (2) slightly, (3) between almost nothing and half of what Shermer expects, (4) overall, consequences will be positive and (5) zero.

Debating 2.0

(comment to Brian Dunning‘s “A Non-Debate with a Young Earth Creationist” entry in the new skepticblog blog)

[…] He gave me his 17-page tract […] It was the worst of the tired old arguments so poorly framed that even most Young Earthers don’t try to make them any more: […] Obviously, in Bill’s experience, he knows the scientific answers to all the claims in his document. He’s heard them a hundred times and he’s smart enough to understand them. He simply believes differently. There would be no point in having a conversation with me; he would hear the same answers from me that he’s heard a hundred times before. I’ve heard his claims a hundred times […]

How about asking questions like this one: “what kind of evidence would make you change your mind on transitional fossils?”

Methinks old-style debates are good up to a point, because they inevitably become the talking equivalent of medieval jousting.

Belief-changing challenges may provide the additional information that is otherwise likely to be missed, by the audience and perhaps even by some of the debaters.

For example, the fact that some people argue on pure faith. And if that’s the case, it is easy to show what an oxymoron their position is: out there trying to convince others, even if there is absolutely nothing that will ever make them change their own certainties.