I really don’t think Brin made his point well enough to sink in with most of us in these parts. The people who call themselves “skeptics” [in the climate debate world] and the people who actually behave according to the skeptical ethic propounded by Skeptic magazine are almost completely distinct populations.
As I’ve said many times, the more doubtful a person is of the science, the more vigorously they ought to support vigorous greenhouse policy. Uncertainty weights the high risk side of the risk analysis far more than it ameliorates the low-risk side. Wally Broecker is a doubter and a skeptic. Pat Michaels is a person with irrational, unexamined beliefs.
I’ve heard rumors some prominent naysayer scientists are young earth creationists. They are people with irrational, unexamined beliefs. They are not skeptics.
People who do not support vigorous policy can only be skeptics if they offer very high certainty that the science is biased to overstate the risks. Nobody does this very successfully. Some pretend to do this; at least their position is coherent, if not very well supported. Their arguments on the science are even more dissatisfying and vague than their arguments about a shocking scandal at CRU.
What is usually called the “skeptical” position simply makes no rational sense. If you could find someone making interesting and plausible skeptical arguments I for one would be genuinely happy to engage them, and I have no doubt other Ia folk would be happy to do so as well. It’s awfully tiring being presented so much half-bakery, especially when your day job oftentimes offers up the finest patisserie. I’d be thrilled to see an opponent arguing half as well as John McCarthy argued against us on sci.environment in the early 1990s. John made us think.
As for skeptics in the sense that Brin means, that is to say, outsiders willing to study the matter in depth using whatever types of scientific sophistication they can bring to bear in an intellectually honest way, you will find that again, I am delighted to talk to them, as are most Ia types. Indeed, this is the essence of the matter. It is exactly this group that the IIc group recruits from.
Since the half-baked so greatly outnumbered the baked, the fact that the science is basically sound is counterweighed by the opposition being of vastly greater number, and to all appearances, greater financial resources at least insofar as public outreach on matters of controversy is concerned.
And it is exactly to compete with the IIc group on this recruitment that we engage in these debates. Every new IIc is another person unjustifiedly angry at the messenger and unconcerned about the message. And many new IIc folk will engage in the blog wars themselves.
I think it’s not enough to compete with the IIc folk for the genuine skeptics who happen by. We also need to provide a way for genuine skeptics to enlist effectively in the battles against the false skeptics. This has been one of our great failures. Doing so is hard, because truth is harder than nonsense, and us genuine skeptics are loath to say things we aren’t pretty sure about.
(Providing an alternative stream with an uncertain amount of nonsense in it is easy enough; that’s the I-d group, which genuine skeptics find off-putting and detract from the credibility of the true story. I hope we can somehow do better.)
Of course, none of this crazy 1a business would be necessary if the press would do its job of competently evaluating the truth of competing claims.