Dilbert’s Dimwitted Denial. Sad.

May 18, 2017


What happens when cartoonists lose sight of their original inspiration?
Things get ugly.


I don’t normally read Dilbert — I’ve seen far too much of the benighted ignorant psyche of its creator — but this one was just laid out on a table at the coffee shop yesterday, and I knew I’d have to deal with it. In this one, Dilbert goes full climate science denialist. This might be fun, to dissect Dilbert, because even though it will kill what little humor is present in it, at least we’ll have a good time laughing at Scott Adams. Let’s dissect the shit out of this thing.

(setup above)


OK, this is sort of fine. I think it’s a good idea for companies to think about what impact climate change will have on them, and how they affect the environment. I’m at a green university, and we’ve had these sorts of discussions. Still do, all the time.

It is definitely true that human activity is warming the Earth. It will lead to a global catastrophe, depending on how you define catastrophe: it will cause acute economic disruption, resource wars, and the death of millions. Is that catastrophic enough for you?


By the way, I notice that the scientist is a goateed and balding white man in a lab coat. It’s either unconscious bias (that’s how scientists are supposed to look!), or, I can’t help but notice a weak resemblance to Michael Mann.

Next panel, Dilbert asks Scott Adams’ idea of a smart question.

On the face of it, yes, that is a good question. I’d encourage students to ask that every time an instructor told them something. But consider the context. The answer to that question is readily available — google it. You can read the papers. You should have the answer to that from your high school earth science class. So why is Dilbert being made to ask this trivial question right at the start of this meeting? I can tell right away that this is not a sincere question, this is a derailing tactic to justify a software engineer speaking out of his ass to the scientific expert. Sound familiar?

Then we get the eternal dilemma of the science popularizer. Do you just scorch this ass with contempt because you can see right through him, or do you try to take the question seriously and give the primer in kindergarten climatology he’s asking for?

You can’t win, you know. The game is rigged. If you do the former, you’ll be accused of being hostile and mean. If you do the latter, you’re patronizing and people will write scornful blog posts about how you think raw data dumps will cure all the scientific misunderstandings in the world.

So what do you do? Most of us will take the generous view and try to explain exactly what the questioner is asking for, like our Michael Mann surrogate here:


And that’s also fine. So far, the strip has been true to the characters, and the nature of their interactions. It’s denialist vs. scientist, familiar territory, and now it’s time for the funny, clever twist…but Adams can’t deliver. He has to resort to sticking words in the mouth of the scientist that are not at all true to the character.


That’s just wrong. It’s not what climate scientists say or even think. It’s what Scott Adams, who is no scientist of any kind, says and thinks. And with that betrayal of the premise of the joke, it abruptly falls flat and dies. If all you can do to discredit a point of view is to lie and make puppets say falsehoods, it’s your position that fails. Adams does this because he lacks any insightful response to the honest arguments of scientists.

I guess there’s supposed to be a punchline of some sort next. Once again, Adams fails to meet the minimal standards of his medium.

I think the punchline is supposed to be implying that science supporters can only defend their position by calling True Skeptics mean names. Of course, the entire point of the two panels just above that is to call climate scientists conscious liars.

The only people who will find this at all funny are the denialists who see the panels in which the climate scientist openly maligns his methodology as affirmations of their beliefs. That’s OK, it’ll finally be the death of Dilbert — I skimmed the comments and noticed several people were shocked that Scott Adams endorse an anti-scientific claim. Apparently they’ve never read his blog before.

I shouldn’t claim it’ll kill Dilbert, though. Nothing kills syndicated comics. Johnny Hart went full-blown creationist/evangelical Christian/anti-Muslim bigot, and newspapers just kept right on buying up the strips. Hart died in 2007, and B.C. is still going.

And people think tenured professors have it easy.

Turns out, Johnny Hart not only went off on evolution, he got kind of hostile to climate science as well. Like I said, ugly.



It happens that I’m working on a new piece that addresses Scott Adams bugaboo – the “all climate science is based on models” crock – which I hope we can post next week. For now, here’s an older piece on the same subject.



42 Responses to “Dilbert’s Dimwitted Denial. Sad.”

  1. fjohnx Says:

    Dilbert deals in irony and a facile and protective form of nihilism. A joke perhaps?


  2. I’ve always taken Dilbert, altho’ likely I see the strip only when I take the car in etc, as an ironic illustration of the idiocy and numbness of what can go on in offices-and this one not necessarily a support for denialists but a comment on the facile arguments of people who don’t know much and the inability of a lot of scientists(I am one) to get beyond the temptation to just spout science . And the non communication that results.

    • Scott posted a video about this.

      First, I don’t think there is anything that isn’t factual about what he wrote, with the possible exception of the climate scientist saying “Who hired the Climate Denier” or however he worded it, since that’s not in evidence, though it happens a lot. Everything else is, from economic models being poor predictors, to the expert judgment that goes into deciding which models to use, etc.

      He states he wanted to cause “cognitive dissonance,” by using the words “Economic Models” as opposed to “Climate Models.” He thought each person on each side would read that as “Climate Models” to confirm their own view of the world.

      it didn’t work for me, because I read Scott Adams’ posts. Even though I knew he has suspicions about climate models, I understood he was talking about economic models, which he has had actual work experience with. He’s also stated he doesn’t trust the models much (I think), and he would be in good company there.

    • Actually, this cartoon demonstrates that the contribution of one real scientist outweighs the pathetic religion of a thousand progressive fools who think they are scientists.

      • stephengn1 Says:

        I see. So is your argument is that virtually every scientist in the world is a “progressive fool” practicing religion? Or is it that the little guy in the hat here is a brilliant scientist that’s going to prove all of them wrong?

  3. You should learn to think, then learn to read, and then write garbage like this.

  4. Fraudulent science:


    Real science: The “uncorrupted” Greenland ice core temperature proxy. The fourth graph in the article gives the 10,000-year perspective.


  5. I think spending all those column inches then missing the point, is really the funny part. Adams didn’t do the strip for any purpose other than finding out who would write this column and exactly what inane things they would write. And Peter, the person who did, doesn’t understand Scott Adams.

  6. “That’s just wrong. It’s not what climate scientists say or even think.”

    Maybe it’s not what they think, but it’s what they do. It’s called model tuning.

    The large variance in the models is no surprise, and some (most?) models were tuned to match 20th century temperatures. Judith Curry (a real scientist) discusses a paper on issues with model tuning here:


    • I’m not sure why anyone would downgrade this comment. It’s absolutely factual, and plays no games. To the downgraders, come out and say why you think it is wrong. Don’t like Judith Curry? She didn’t write the report. Don’t like that models are tuned to 20th c warming? It’s a fact.

      I suppose the downvoters don’t like facts.

  7. Sean Stott Says:

    You had to reframe Scott’s argument to be an absurd absolute (that he denies climate change) in order to attack him. That’s a great tell for your cognitive dissonance.

    In reality, it’s true that there have been several different iterations of climate models, and many of them are laughably wrong. Cherry picking which ones fit the best and claiming they are correct representations makes you deceptive, at best.

    Finally, the comic strip only actually maligns economic models. It raises the point of anyone expressing any cynicism in the entire realm of climate science as a ‘denier’. You’re being silly, and dismissing rational arguments because you’ve bought into the dogma of climate science and at this point it’s too late to change.

    Fact 1 – climate models are garbage
    Fact 2 – you can’t proclaim the sky is falling based on these garbage models, or at least you shouldn’t.

    • stephengn1 Says:

      Just wondering in regards to you supposed statement of fact – Of the current climate models being used, can you point out specifically where you believe “garbage” is involved? Or is it your assertion that all predictive models are “garbage”?

      Since you will now be entirely unable to answer this, on what basis are you claiming your statement is factual?

  8. Freeman Dyson (reputed to be the greatest scientist not to win a Nobel Prize)

    “My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.” –

    • greenman3610 Says:

      you’re not paying attention. But fear not, new video soon will set you right as rain.

      • From the Guardian, following climategate. James Lovelock’s excoriating view of modern climate science.

        on CRU scientists

        I was utterly disgusted. My second thought was that it was inevitable. It was bound to happen. Science, not so very long ago, pre-1960s, was largely vocational. Back when I was young, I didn’t want to do anything else other than be a scientist.

        They’re not like that nowadays. They don’t give a damn. They go to these massive, mass-produced universities and churn them out. They say: “Science is a good career. You can get a job for life doing government work.” That’s no way to do science.

        I have seen this happen before, of course. We should have been warned by the CFC/ozone affair because the corruption of science in that was so bad that something like 80% of the measurements being made during that time were either faked, or incompetently done

        on computer models

        I remember when the Americans sent up a satellite to measure ozone and it started saying that a hole was developing over the South Pole. But the damn fool scientists were so mad on the models that they said the satellite must have a fault. We tend to now get carried away by our giant computer models. But they’re not complete models.

        They’re based more or less entirely on geophysics. They don’t take into account the climate of the oceans to any great extent, or the responses of the living stuff on the planet. So I don’t see how they can accurately predict the climate.

        on predicting temperatures

        If you look back on climate history it sometimes took anything up to 1,000 years before a change in one of the variables kicked in and had an effect. And during those 1,000 years the temperature could have gone in the other direction to what you thought it should have done. What right have the scientists with their models to say that in 2100 the temperature will have risen by 5C?

        The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they’re scared stiff of the fact that they don’t really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show.

        We haven’t got the physics worked out yet. One of the chiefs once said to me that he agreed that they should include the biology in their models, but he said they hadn’t got the physics right yet and it would be five years before they do. So why on earth are the politicians spending a fortune of our money when we can least afford it on doing things to prevent events 50 years from now? They’ve employed scientists to tell them what they want to hear.

        on scientists

        Sometimes their view might be quite right, but it might also be pure propaga

    • stephengn1 Says:

      For the sake of perspective, please allow me to request just a few clarifications…
      1. what specific portions of the current models running through Cray supercomputers capable of a total of 5.78 petaflops of operational computing capacity does Dr Dyson insist bear no resemblance to the real world, does he say?
      2. Dr. Dyson is now 93 years old. Is he retired or does he currently work and publish in the field of climate science?
      3. What was the title and date of the last significant paper Dr. Dyson published? Have there been any at all in the last 30 years?

  9. neilrieck Says:

    I always been a huge fan of Dilbert but it seems that Scott Adams has gone over to the Republican side of the isle

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