Deniers in Denial about Why they Deny

April 25, 2012

Politely but firmly, in the short vid above, Naomi Oreskes asserts to climate denying Australian politician Nick Minchin, that climate denial is based less on science than it is on fears of what the implications of the science are. Nobody who reads the comment threads on my videos could possibly miss the political slant to a significant number of denialist screeds.

There is no better example of the need to construct an alternative reality than Conservapedia, a project of such mind-bending, breathtaking absurdity that it defies parody – and its straight faced disputation Einstein’s relativity theory on the basis of biblical passages, and the insistence that the modern understanding of physics was part of some kind of liberal plot to keep people from reading their Bibles.

More than a half-century ago, the Nazis dismissed Albert Einstein’s groundbreaking theories as “Jewish science”; in recent years Holocaust revisionists have taken up the anti-Einstein cause. Now the legendary physicist is facing a new wave of attacks, this time from conservative bloggers who say that his theory of relativity and its iconic formula, E=mc2, are part of a “liberal conspiracy.”

The latest debate erupted when a website, Conservapedia, posted a definition of relativity making the charge that it was part of an ideological plot, and then added a list of counter examples it says disprove Einstein’s theories. The postings were picked up by the liberal blog TPMMuckracker and then went viral.

Conservapedia is the creation of Andrew Schlafly, the 49-year-old lawyer son of Phyllis Schlafly, the anti-abortion activist. He has a degree in engineering physics from Princeton University and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Schlafly, who did not respond to repeated attempts to interview him for this article, founded Conservapedia three years ago — reportedly because he feels that Wikipedia, the dominant online encyclopedia and one of the most visited websites in the world, has a liberal, anti-Christian, anti-American bias.

…..does that remind anyone of denier’s hatred for Wikipedia’s info on climate?

TPM Muckraker:

To many conservatives, almost everything is a secret liberal plot: from fluoride in the water to medicare reimbursements for end-of-life planning with your doctor to efforts to teach evolution in schools. But Conservapedia founder and Eagle Forum University instructor Andy Schlafly — Phyllis Schlafly’s son — has found one more liberal plot: the theory of relativity.

If you’re behind on your physics, the Theory of Relativity was Albert Einstein’s formulation in the early 20th century that gave rise to the famous theorum that E=mc2, otherwise stated as energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light. Why does Andy Schlafly hate the theory of relativity? We’re pretty sure it’s because he’s decided it doesn’t square with the Bible.

In the entry, “Counterexamples to Relativity,” the authors (including Schlafly) write:

The theory of relativity is a mathematical system that allows no exceptions. It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.[1]

Virtually no one who is taught and believes relativity continues to read the Bible, a book that outsells New York Times bestsellers by a hundred-foldIn other words, reading a theory about physics is correlated to a decrease in people’s interest in reading the Bible, which means that it causes people to stop reading the Bible.

Schlafly also points to the Bible as a reason that Einstein’s theory must be wrong:

9. The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54.Conservapedia defines “action-at-a-distance” as “Action at a distance consists of affecting a distant body instantaneously. At the atom level, this is known as “non-locality.” In non-confusing terms, that indicates the ability to cause something to happen instantaneously in another location (i.e., faster than the speed of light). Since Jesus could, reportedly, do this, thus Einstein is wrong. Schlafly’s evidence is John 4:46-54, in which Jesus reportedly cured someone’s son just by saying it had happened.

Climate science, it seems, is yet another liberal plot to sap our precious bodily fluids.

12 Responses to “Deniers in Denial about Why they Deny”

  1. otter17 Says:

    Dr. Oreskes exemplifies a good point. When talking to a climate ostrich, grab their neck and pull their head out of the sand by getting straight to the underlying issue. For many, it boils down to political dislike of the solutions. For others, overly-simplistic religious views get in the way, as Bill O’Reilly demonstrates at the link below. Still others have the belief that a mitigation solution is impossible.

  2. daveburton Says:

    For most climate alarmism skeptics, the underlying issue is the data:

    • otter17 Says:

      From the research I have seen by Conway and Oreskes, I am not convinced by your statement. If the stance is truly falsifiable, then one can admit that there is some standard of evidence that could change one’s mind. Furthermore, there is an admission of a chance that the stance is wrong.

      So, what evidence is required in order to convince you that some form of greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan is needed? Knowing that there is the possibility that your stance is incorrect, is there any particular emissions reduction plan or policy that you could agree with politically in order to meet targets called for by the science? I believe IPCC has a scenario for 50% to 85% of year 2000 emissions by 2050, at the cost of maybe a few tenths of a percent of GDP growth. Have you considered a fall back plan that you agree with in case you are wrong?

      From what I have seen, there is no standard of evidence that many contrarians will agree to, and goal post shifting is common. Furthermore, few have any form of well thought out back up mitigation plan. Many think mitigation is impossible or dislike every proposed plan of action. The research from Conway, Oreskes, and others has uncovered some of the tactics used for fighting CFC regulation, tobacco, etc, and the pattern (and some of the people) are showing up in the political fight against the science in this case. Cognitive dissonance is a likely explanation for why the science is attacked only where it interferes with beliefs concerning climate solutions and politics.

      Click to access ar4_syr.pdf

      Tables 5.1 and 5.2 from IPCC synthesis report are what I referenced for reduction targets.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        deniers do not take positions in response to evidence. They seek evidence that supports their pre-determined position.
        that’s certainly what we’ve seen here.

  3. Mahn England Says:

    The Oreske’s clip is an out take from an ABC (Australian) program soon to be shown called: “Can I change your mind about…Climate”.

    As far as I know this clip didn’t make the final cut where as many others did.

    I won’t be watching having heard some exerpts from the ABC’s Science show where in Nick Minchin introduces Anna Rose to Marc Morano…my skin crawled.

    Extracted from the Science show is a transcript of a section where a science commentator advises Anna Rose that her participation in this style of program is futile:

    Robyn Williams: Nick Minchin. So is this model of two sides opposing, clashing, workable in science? For or against evolution, for or against smoking, or gambling?
    Here’s my nephew in Oxford, typically restrained on the issue.

    Narrator: Britain’s found a way forward by putting arguments about the science to one side. But would this work in Australia where the media seems to be obsessed with climate conflict? As television programs like this one, presenting both sides of the argument evenly, might actually be part of the problem. Science writer Ben Goldacre is sick to death of the whole debate.

    Ben Goldacre: It’s just boring, it’s a boring, boring argument. I would literally rather slam my cock in the door than get involved in this, because it’s special pleading by a very small number of people who are desperate to make a fuss, and actually I don’t think…

    Narrator: Goldacre delights in exposing the dodgy use of science in the media.

    Ben Goldacre: But one real problem that you get a lot in the media is this idea of balance. People who are climate change deniers get equal footing because I think journalists can’t be bothered to research it adequately and communicate it adequately themselves, so what they think they’ll do is they’ll just kind of triangulate the truth. We’ll just get one person on one side and one person on the other side and they can just have a fight. And actually dodgy positions in complex areas of science are pulled apart under the microscope at length, and you don’t get under the microscope at length in the media.
    To you, the media is an absolute gift. You will win every time. You can cherry-pick data and there will be no time to point out the flaws, you can pull out dodgy science and there will be no time to point it out, you can pull out arguments that have already been refuted and you can find one of those that the person that you’re arguing with hasn’t yet heard of, and then it will be next Tuesday by the time they’ve gone off, looked it up and gone, ‘Oh, bloody hell…’
    You’re doing well because the proportion of the public who believe your side of the argument is vastly greater than the proportion of scientists working in the field. And it’s a gift. You should thank your lucky stars.

    Nick Minchin: I will, I’ll go down on bended knee tonight.

    Anna Rose: So do you reckon I made a mistake during the show?

    Ben Goldacre: It’s interesting, isn’t it. Lots of people won’t participate in what they regard as flawed formats.

    Anna Rose: But you kind of have to engage, because it’s not like if we don’t engage, these people won’t be getting airplay anyway.

    Ben Goldacre: It’s very difficult, isn’t it.

    Anna Rose: It’s hard. It’s hard to know what the right…

    Ben Goldacre: You’re buggered.

    Anna Rose: Great.

    Robyn Williams: You can watch Anna Rose getting buggered, or not, on ABC1 at 8:30pm. I Can Change Your Mind About Climate will be followed by Q&A, chaired by the white wolf, Tony Jones. And apart from Anna Rose and Nick Minchin, there will be climate experts Rebecca Huntley and Clive Palmer, who is actually a fan of The Science Show, he told me so in March.

  4. Martin Lack Says:

    Why do you always have to link climate change denial to anti-scientific Christian fundamentalism? Sure they have similarities but, just as the latter is a gift to people who wish to avoid the implications of the central message of Christianity, so your strategy is a gift to those with Christian sympathies who wish to avoid the implications of climate science.

    Since reading Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt last year – along with Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science and David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories – I have been saying repeatedly to anyone who will listen that the Watermelon conspiracy that underlies all climate change denial is driven by the understandable human need to avoid accepting moral responsibility for the unpleasant truths that:
    — humans are not the only important thing living on this planet;
    — we are capable of damaging the environment;
    — that technology alone will not be able to solve the problem; and
    — further delay will be a pathologically false economy.

    See AGW denial – Possibly the greatest ‘false flag’ operation in human history? (10 September 2011).

  5. […] Thanks to: Deniers in Denial about Why they Deny. […]

  6. owlbrudder Says:

    Interestingly, the Conservapedia page linked to above includes this so-called rebuttal of the Theory of Relativity: “In Genesis 1:6-8, we are told that one of God’s first creations was a firmament in the heavens. This likely refers to the creation of the luminiferous aether.”

    Now, I am not an expert on religions, but it seems to me that three major religions are using Genesis as part of their teachings: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. That being the case, Conservapedia’s allegation that Einstien’s work is attacking Christianity must also mean it attacks Judaism and Islam equally as much, if the Immutable Truth of Genesis is being attacked. In this case, Einstein must have been be undermining the very religion he subscribed to! No doubt, the estimable Andy Schlafly will tell us next that Einsein was a secret commie plant, a dangerous, liberal, pinko anti-semite, out to destroy the foundations of Religion that the World must depend upon to guide it to Truth. The luminiferous aether explains everything we need to know, because God made it and God is, you know, real and everything. How so many could have been hoodwinked for so long by the Einstein mole must be a cause of much merriment in Conservapedia land.

    Meanwhile, in the real world …

    • earlosatrun Says:

      I did do a bit of study on religion, it was interesting to note that the story of creation in Genesis is made up of two different creation stories that were mashed together when those books were written down.

      Science doesn’t refute religious books, the books do that on their own.

  7. […] Thanks to: Deniers in Denial about Why they Deny. […]

  8. Deniers in Denial About What They Deny

    If there is a more straightforward example on the planet of controlling debate within a Strawman Argument taking both `sides` in a political dogfight I do not know where to find it. I call it a political dogfight for a simple reason : Scientific Method requires input of differing and various ideas from all comers regardlessof discipline. Denier positioning and generalization is therefore nothing more or less than use of Talking Points based on Logical Fallacy of Appeal to Authority…and the IPCC is a supra governmental body, not a scientific one.
    Nor does warming of the planet equal vindication. Given the variations and cycles of nature change is a constant. co2 rise is one thing. Tying it to anything meaningful is another, especially when trying to `model` from a limited and speculated data set.

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