Re-Direct: Phil Plait’s “The Very, Very Thin Wedge of Denial”

Phil Plait, creator of the “Bad Astronomy” website and outstanding science defender, has published an interesting article on the website. “The Very, Very Thin Wedge of Denial” may be found here. The final paragraph is important: “The basic science of global warming is independent of party line. It doesn’t care if you’re left, right, black, white, straight, gay, pro-gun, pro-abortion rights, pro-GMO, or pro-vaccine. It’s real, and it affects all of us. Mission No. 1 is to get people to understand this, and then to get them to elect politicians who do as well.”

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6 Responses to Re-Direct: Phil Plait’s “The Very, Very Thin Wedge of Denial”

  1. Erik Conway says:

    Didn’t I write a book about this? And didn’t you write a review accusing me of advocacy because of that? Plait (and Powell) are just echoing what Oreskes and I did a bunch of years ago.

    It may only be a “thin wedge” to Plait, but it’s a wedge that controls a majority of the House of Representatives, and is about 6 votes short of a majority in the Senate. I don’t call that thin. And because money is the principal form of political speech in America, I don’t think that’s likely to change. Recall that the structure of our Congress enables a minority to prevent governance, so the denialists don’t need more than about a third of either house of Congress to prevail.

    Our first task has to be to remove the political power of that legal form of corruption from American politics. And I don’t see that happening in the next few decades. The neoliberal theology is far too strong amongst the voters themselves, let alone the courts, to bring that about.


    • launiusr says:

      Not sure who you are referring to here in terms of a book review of your “Merchants of Doubt” that said it was “advocacy.” Perhaps you meant another book review other than mine. Here is what I wrote about your book:

      The historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway–who is also a longstanding friend and colleague–have set the bar very high in scholarly analysis with this book, located in the vital center of the debate about global climate change. “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” is a serious analysis of the opposition to global warming from such contrary scientists as Robert Jastrow, S. Fred Singer, and others. Well documented with 64 pages of endnotes and rigorously analyzed, the authors demonstrate the ties between some senior scientists and political and business interests who stand to lose if decisions are taken that direct changes in American policy.

      The effort they describe has been built about sowing the seeds of doubt, hence the title, and what Oreskes and Conway would contend is the obfuscation of some entities in the fray. The individuals that have undertaken this effort cut their teeth in the service of corporations that had everything to lose if findings about the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, and acid rain settled in the minds of the public. The continuation of this effort, and its particular permutations in relation to the issue of global climate change, are documented in detail here.

      As the authors make clear, it has been obvious since the 1970s that some elements of the business community have been irate about the use of scientific studies by government officials as justification for regulations that circumscribe their actions. Those opposed have been successful largely through a questioning of the science on which the government has based its actions. The authors note that the attack on this science has been so broad and sustained that it represents a coordinated and frightening destabilization of scientific consensus. Oreskes and Conway draw connections between key contrarians of global climate change with their actions earlier in other scientific endeavors, and shows their linkage to key corporations, think tanks, and political groups.


  2. Joe Wooten says:

    That is a typical top down argument from the global warming fanatics who insist that the “consesus” trumps all. Man-made global warming is still not a proven fact, as witness the total failure of all the computer models to predict future temperatures over the last 20 years. In fact, none of them can even reproduce past data using only the boundary inputs of solar heat input and heat from the Earth’s core. It is way too complex. I do computer modeling for a living, albeit of a much simpler system – a power plant, but the principals are still the same. You model EVERY component in the system based upon the physics and their basic designs, run the model and see how it comes out predicting past performance based ONLY on heat input from the boiler/reactor, and the cooling water temperature as inputs. You compare the two sets of data and re-tune the model to reliably predict past performance data, usually within about a 3% to 5% margin, or if you use the very best instrumentation, 1% to 2%. Then you can make predictions of future performance with some degree of certainty. None of the climate models can do this, and what’s worse, they make claims of warming based upon data sets that at best on the whole has uncertainties of 10% or worse.


  3. Joe Wooten says:

    The average global temperature rise claimed is well within the error of the very best instrumentation modern science can build, and they claim that is significant. I was prepared to accept their conclusions in the 1990’s until I got to looking at the data and their conclusions. Even if you throw out all the data from old high uncertainty instrumentation, it still falls within the error of measurement and therefore is suspect. Then you throw in the fact that using their very own data since 1998, there has been no warming what-so-ever, unless you do waht Mann and co have done and throw out all data contradicting your pre-established beliefs.

    Good scientific rebuttals can be found at Anthony Watts’s website.


  4. Erik Conway says:

    Dear Roger,

    It’s in your “Climate change and spaceflight: an historiographical review,” Wiley Interdisciplinary Climate Change, DOI: 10.1002/wcc.114. 🙂



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