2010-12-20 19:04:09Blog from a Sceptic
Glenn Tamblyn


I have just had an interesting request

I have been in 'dialog' with John Kehr at TheInconvenientSceptic about his 'views' on climate change. He emailed me with a request that SkS consider a post he has done on BioEthanol. I generally agree with his opinions on Bio-Ethanol from Corn or Bio-Diesel from Palm Oil - Super Daft.

However do we want to engage with a sceptic like this. Is this an avenue for dialogue. John Kehr may not be significant but is dialogue with him useful, over-and-above his article on Ethanol.

"Glenn and Rob,

I have an article I am trying to get around about ethanol.  I don't think many people support ethanol, but the more I find out the worse it is.  I am hoping to get a critical mass going against ethanol.  I know Glenn has expressed interest in a skeptic article on SkS.  If you two like this one and think it belongs there, let me know.  Or just put it up.  I am fine with that.



2010-12-20 21:59:15


There are pluses and minuses to this:

- On the one hand, we give some credibility to this site by referencing them

- On the other, maybe it's a way to build some bridges

Could we make clear that there are certain articles on this site we find incorrect, while agreeing with this particular point? 



2010-12-20 23:41:18
Bob Guercio
Robert Guercio

Bad, Bad idea.

We would be giving him credibility and he may quote this site in a manner that we do not like.

I don't understand the argument of building bridges.  Building bridges for what purpose?


2010-12-21 04:37:32
Mark Richardson

I don't think it's a bad idea.

 SkepticalScience should consider any well written and well supported posts regardless of affiliation. If Dr Spencer wanted to write an article showing that the greenhouse effect doesn't break the second law I wouldn't see a problem with that either.



That said, I quickly skimmed the article and I'm not sure it's SkS quality or relevance. 

2010-12-21 06:34:37not great
Dana Nuccitelli

I don't have anything against letting Kehr do a guest post on SkS necessarily.  I agree with Mark that this wasn't a particularly great article though.  It was reasonably interesting and made a valid point, but it's nothing particularly new.  I just did a Google search for 'ethanol ozone' and found a number of articles on the subject, including from Gas 2.0 and Science Daily a year ago.

Kehr's is a little too politically-tinged.  The whole article is centered around criticizing the EPA for stating in one document that ethanol decreases ozone emissions, and that this proves 'green solutions' are being pursued with too little critical thought, or something along those lines.  I've seen no evidence that anybody (other than politicians trying to keep corn farmers happy) is pushing ethanol particularly hard though.  And besides, that's a political argument, not a scientific one, and thus doesn't belong on SkS.  Plus the potential for ethanol use to increase ozone emissions is a public health issue, but not a climate issue.

2010-12-21 09:17:06



At the end of the day, we're going to need a consensus to act before things get done about AGW. So if we find someone doing something right (like understanding why ethanol is not a great idea), we should encourage it. 

The above is a general principle; I'm not promoting this particular article.

2010-12-21 22:06:09


I'm not against guest posts by skeptics but they need to be "reputable" skeptics and the tone of the post should conform to the SkS style. This does not seem to be the case.

The problems with ethanol are of interest, though. Someone could take the burden to write something about it ;)

2010-12-22 00:21:52
Bob Guercio
Robert Guercio

A reputable skeptic!

This is an issue that is not argued by the scientific community; it is the political community which is arguing a scientific issue.

That's why all of this is so bizarre.  Most issues are not "black or white" but shades of gray.  This one is "black or white".  It is certain that there is an AGW issue as determined by the scientists.

So what is a reputable skeptic.  In my opinion, he doesn't exist.

It's so hard to understand.


2010-12-22 04:34:20Reputable Skeptics!
Glenn Tamblyn



This is one of those deeply thorny issues. What makes a Sceptic Reputable? Are they someone who deals openly, honestly, critically and dispassionately with the evidence? Yep, that is an honest sceptic. And a rare human being - offer me serious evidence for the existance of supernatural beings such as Jehovah, Allah, Shiva etc and see how reputable my thinking processes are.

Are they someone who knows the science, and knowingly presents disinformation, manipulation and deception for personal motives - money, status etc. Nope, Not Reputable because they know it.

What about those who who subconsciously put their political/psychological/world view ahead of the facts - that doesn't fit how I think so it is wrong. Disreputable? Or just conflicted?

We really are dealing with a massive disjunction between human psychology and the Laws of Physics. Human Psychology will always win out in the short term. But betting against the Laws of Physics in the long term is a suckers bet.

The main game is how to tease/cajole/seduce/bully that petulant child called human nature to listen to the old codger called the Laws of Physics. But getting pissed at the 'child' for being a child is counter productive - at least in public - in private, let it rip.

John is right. The main game is psychology. The physical science is trivial in comparison.

2010-12-22 05:25:44
Rob Painting

offer me serious evidence for the existance of supernatural beings such as jehovah, allah, .....

Whew, for a moment there I thought you were going to say Santa wasn't real.

2010-12-22 07:04:37


I think an area where skepticism COULD be respectable is in the arena of harms: How bad is it going to be? I think it's going to be pretty bad, but I don't think the case has been made over and over and over and over again, as has the case for AGW itself.

My strategy or philosophy about this: We share this planet and control over it with these skeptics, so to be successful we're going to have to change their minds, quickly or gradually. One approach is to use a stick: "punish" them (with arguments) when they're being nonsensical; another approach is to use a carrot: "reward" them (with agreement) when you catch them doing something right. (You can use both carrot and stick, of course.) 


2010-12-23 05:41:05
Bob Guercio
Robert Guercio

Neal said "I think an area where skepticism COULD be respectable is in the arena of harms: How bad is it going to be? I think it's going to be pretty bad, but I don't think the case has been made over and over and over and over again, as has the case for AGW itself."

But the answers to these questions are based upon science and the scientists are certainly these questions arguing among themselves on this.  The scientists themselves are the skeptics.  That is the nature of science.

Again, should the politicians and the Glenn Becks be arguing how bad it is going to get?  Of course not! They are not the experts.

Sorry guys.  But in my book, there is no such being as a reputable skeptic.


2010-12-23 06:04:13


The point is that we're going to have to divide and conquer. The only way to divide them is to split them on different issues: If we can agree with one thing that one skeptic says, we can affirm that one thing: that already separates him from the rest.

If we take the attitude the we can never agree on anything with anyone who disagrees with us on everything, we'll just be solidifying and unifying the skeptic block. 

Divide and conquer.