The extraordinary words of Dr Roy Spencer

I can’t resist writing about this because it’s jaw-dropping stuff for me. Dr Roy Spencer, a research scientist at the University of Alabama and a climate science contrarian, has written on his blog that,

“When politicians and scientists started calling people like me “deniers”, they crossed the line. They are still doing it…..I’m now going to start calling these people “global warming Nazis”

A bit of background on Roy Spencer: he has a Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and he’s also a senior fellow of the Cornwall Alliance, a religious group which believes “God, the Creator of all things, rules over all and deserves our worship and adoration.” Roy’s views on religion can be read in full at The Evolution Crisis where he writes, “So, at last, I had to face the reality, based on all the evidence, that the basic tenets of Christianity were true, and that the gospel of Christ really changes people’s lives.” His views on climate change can be found on his blog that I’ve archived here.

“Finally, if the climate system is insensitive, this means that the extra carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere is not enough to cause the observed warming over the last 100 years — some natural mechanism must be involved.”

So back to the word “denier”. I don’t use it, not because I think it’s an offensive term, I really don’t, but because it seems to cause more trouble than it’s worth. Instead I use the word “contrarian” which so far no-one has complained about. But my personal view is that contrarian is somewhat offensive when defined as someone who takes an opposing view for no logical reason other than to be disagreeable. Whereas to me, denier is entirely appropriate especially given that the dictionary uses this as an example. If you type “define: denier” into Google and click on the second definition, you get this:

denier

Yes, it’s true that historians who deny the Holocaust are also sometimes called deniers, but that does not mean that they have exclusive use of the word. Nor does it mean that someone who denies the science of climate change also denies the Holocaust and vice versa. Denier is a word that must be understood in context and like many English words, can have multiple meanings. If we precede the word “denier” with climate change then this puts it into context.

I get that people are offended by denier and so I use contrarian. But I think it’s a bit rich for someone, a Christian no less – love thy neighbour and all that – to accuse all the scientists, politicians, general public (me) in the world of being global warming Nazis and it is also incredibly offensive. And worse still, I now see contrarian blogs and contrarian commenters, who in my experience are all to quick to whine about things like denier, applauding Roy’s name-calling which is hypocritical in the extreme. This just confirms for me the pettiness and childishness of this entire story.

14 Comments

  1. Small correction: If you did not call him a denier, he does not call you a Nazi. I do not know whether feeling that denier is a neutral word already counts as impure thoughts, though. :o)

    That guy has lost all credibility. Really, really, sad.

    1. Small correction: If you did not call him a denier, he does not call you a Nazi.

      You are probably right, Victor, but I’ll align myself in solidarity with those he does call Nazis.

  2. I usually call people such as Dr. Spencer a Skeptic, with a capital “S”, to distinguish them from skeptics who have a scientific basis for their skepticism. He has several violations of the ethics of science, so I’m not sure he should even be called a scientist. ‘Skeptic” confers more credibility than he deserves, but it is important to remain civil. I just wrote a critique of an article by Charles Krauthammer, who thinks that it is OK to call Holocaust deniers “deniers, but not OK to call climate change deniers “deniers’. He thinks rejection of historical evidence is malevolent but rejecting scientific evidence is not. The link to the critique is: http://jcmooreonline.com/2014/02/24/settled-science-dr-jekyll-or-mr-krauthammer/

    1. I don’t particularly like using the word skeptic for climate science contrarians since I don’t believe they apply true skepticism to the topic. To me, skepticism is about having doubts and an inquiring, reflective mind. What I see instead is a complete rejection of one side of the science and a complete, no-questions-asked, acceptance of the other.

      I have seen people use the word skeptic but with quotes – “skeptic” – and I’ve seen contrarians complain about this too. Maybe your version with a capital “S” is a good compromise.

  3. Your last sentence says it all in a very neat nutshell Rachel. Absolute pettiness which is as pathetic as it is tragic as once again, another Christian makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

  4. I wrote about this briefly a couple of years ago and there is a good paper in my blog. If you’re offended by colourful language or the word denier, don’t click.

    http://uknowispeaksense.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/they-dont-like-being-called-deniers-but/

    Also, and I don’t care what people think about this but it relates directly to the above link. Again, if you have objections to things that you think might offend, don’t click.

    http://uknowispeaksense.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/deniers-are-deniers/the-denier-gallery/

    1. I’m sure you think I’m overly strict with language that gets snipped on the AndPhysics blog but in my normal life I have quite a foul mouth. Although I tend not to swear at people, just inanimate objects when they don’t behave 🙂

      Your post is excellent and I would comment there but for some reason I can’t. Maybe because it’s an old post? The article from the European Journal of Public Health is fantastic. I think I should put that on my blog too. The more people who read it the better.

  5. I’ve been watching the planet science for 40 years and the psychology of people for 30. The psychology of the unethicaly contrary, provocative and kudos seeking has become as important as the issue. That is, such things being an obstacle.

    I prefer not to refer to them at all. The genuine climate scientists have the ball (the data and supercomputers to deal with the necessary holistic view) and I find it better to support them than to lend infamy to the contrary. That is, there is (for them) is no such thing as bad publicity.

    The ethical may not break the bounds of ethics and still remain credible amongst their peers or the public. This makes it very difficult to present argument that is immune to convoluted falsehoods or argument for it’s own sake. I regard such misuse, in an issue of such importance, to be an unconscienable and reckless endangerment. Consequently their bleatings make me furious, but school myself to remain unmoved by them.

    As far as nomencalture is concerned, I do sympathise. It is a damned if you do anything scenario. That is, anything may be used as a fabricated excuse for an exaggerated retort.

    As for the dillemma you present. Contrary is fair enough. But, if one wishes to be immune; the contrarywise could complain at that connotation or the similar “Contrary Mary”. The same applies to sceptic (doubts the truth) or any variation, which may be regarded as pretentious and therefore inflamatory.

    Unfortunately the Engish language is full of connotations which render many words prone to attack.

    Therefore may I offer the suggestion of `dissenter(s)`, which describes a person of “strong difference of opinion on a particular subject, especially about an official suggestion or plan or a popular belief” and carries no further reasonable connotation. Although, the dissenters will hate it for being that accurate, so watch out for flack.

    Good luck as ever and tink tink that bell as you ride . 🙂

    1. Dissenter is quite good actually and I am yet to see any complaints about it. If someone complains to me about contrarian then I will adopt it.

      Their bleatings make me furious too, Graham. And boy do they bleat. And quite of often about the most ridiculous of things and yet they never seem to look in the mirror to observe their own behaviour.

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