Physicist and sci-fi author David Brin on healthy versus pathological skepticism w.r.t. climate science:

What factors would distinguish a rational, pro-science "skeptic" - who has honest questions about the HGCC consensus - from members of a Denier Movement who think a winter snowstorm means there's ni net-warming of the planet?...

After extensive discussions with such folk, I found a set of distinct characteristics that separate thoughtful Skeptics from your run of the mill, knee-jerk Denier dogma puppet.

Among the distinguishing traits:

- Healthy skeptics acknowledge the existence of expertise (and their personal lack of it in many cases); nutcases apparently believe that "a vociferous opinion is equivalent to spending twenty years studying atmospheric data."

- Healthy skeptics recognize that when something seems wrong with a scientific claim supported by a very large majority of the experts in the field, the first rational move by the "curious outsider is to ask 'what mistake am I making?' -- before assuming 100% of the experts are wrong."

- The pathological skeptic "has no understanding of how the Young Guns in any scientific field... the post-docs and recently-tenured junior professors... are always on the lookout for chinks and holes in the current paradigm, where they can go to topple Nobel prize winners and make a rep for themselves, in very much the manner of Billy the Kid! (Try looking into the history of weather modeling, and see just how tough these guys really are.)"

Personally, I'm not so sure about that last one. Young scientists who successfully topple a current paradigm as young scientists tend to be lucky - they make a discovery for which the evidence quickly becomes clear and convincing. Unfortunately, most paradigm changes take much more time, and it's not always the best career move, in our current climate of play-it-safe funding, to stake out a lonely outlier position that will take many years of work to put on a firm foundation of evidence.

Read the feed: