Randi and arguments from authority

My internet’s down, so I’m back hopping between free wifi cafe’s like I was in September. Hopefully when I’m back in the UK on Sunday I’ll have more regular access, and in the meantime I’m going to make the most of not having facebook as a distraction by getting some work done. But there’s some very important stuff going on. Check out the Quackometer for a great summary of what James Randi has foolishly done and a discussion of the same. Basically he’s admitted that he’s not qualified to know whether climate change is happening or not, but at the same time he’s thrown his lot in with a fringe group of denialists rather than with the scientists who’ve been working on this for decades.

Now this is both good and bad. It’s bad because he’s just given a big tasty bone to the denialists and he’s sullied the name of good skepticism by aligning us with climate change skeptics, who generally operate by quite different standards to the rest of us. We’ve been getting enough of that in the media simply because we’re skeptics commenting on climate change, they seem to assume that we’re skeptical of climate change.

But it’s also a good thing. The majority of skeptics do actually use an argument from authority on climate change. We quite happily defer to the scientists who know what they’re talking about on this issue, unlike most other issues, simply because most of us aren’t scientifically literate enough to form an opinion of our own. This is a good opportunity for skeptics to go off and do the research. It’s a good motive to do something which ordinarily might take a lot of time and effort for something which might not bear any fruit anyway. When I’m back online properly I’ll definitely be reading up a bit more and I’ll be sure to get a post up here about it.

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