2011-08-06 12:55:43Quote from student using SkS in term paper assignment
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.177.173.40

This is private for now, Scott Mandia will be posting it publicly down the track but said I could share it on the SkS forum for now:

My MET295: Global Climate Change students (non-science majors) are using Skeptical Science's "Arguments" as their term paper assignment.  The student that wrote the words below is a middle-aged woman who I am certain was quite skeptical before taking the course.  I believe her story is true.

In conclusion, I must tell a personal story from about just one week ago.  While talking to a well educated, intelligent neighbor and describing to her my report topic “consensus”, I asked her if she realized that scientists were, for the most part, no longer deliberating about whether or not there is human induced climate change.  She stated “Well, you know how exceptionally smart my brother is and he’s into science and all, and he says global warming is a myth and it’s just all propaganda to scare people“.   Six weeks ago, that statement would have given me a feeling of peace inside knowing that this very smart person believed that our world was not being destroyed.  Now, after taking this course, it didn’t make sense, so I went out on a limb.  I had a hunch and asked:  “Who does he work for?“ her response was: “Exxon Mobile…..”.  The silence was profound, we stared at each other, and we both could just read each other’s minds at that point.  Though I did not feel the inner peace of being reassured that the Earth was O.K, I felt empowered because it made sense.  It gave some clarity to a topic that, until now, to me, did not seem to have clear answers for the everyday people who are not scientists.  I told her that next time he came over, I would love to talk to him about it.  (just curious to know what Exxon is telling its employees so that they can continue to make their billions).  

 

2011-08-06 14:10:23
Andy S

skucea@telus...
66.183.179.249

I don't buy the premise behind this story. I'm sure that's exactly what was recounted to Scott Mandia and it could well be true that the woman's neighbour's brother is a skeptic who works for Exxon Mobil. What I don't accept is that this guy is a skeptic because he has been somehow brainwashed by his employer. Companies, even Exxon, are not usually as crass to tell their employees how to think about controversial issues and, even if they did, their employees woulld not be so gullible to swallow it whole. Exxon has abandoned crude denialism (perhaps only for PR purposes) and it would be folly for the company to attempt to indocrinate its staff contrary to the corporation's stated public positions.

The real reason oil company employees are predominantly skeptical (although I know many who are not) is because that's the culture (pro-business, conservative) that they are steeped in. It's peer pressure, not propaganda. 

Which is not to say that Exxon and the Kochs don't attempt to influence public policy through their support of right-wing think tanks and so on. It's just that their approach is more subtle than this lady thinks. The company has a duty to its shareholders (unethical and short-sighted though that is) to attempt to continue business as usual.

I don't think it helps our cause to promote such narratives, since it makes us appear naive and prone to believing in conspiracy theories. When skeptics hear such stories it has the same effect as it does when "skeptics" claim "alarmists" believe in a green religion and want to set up a world government. When you hear such talk you simply shrug it off and think less of your opponent.

2011-08-06 16:18:42
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.92.208

I don't buy that fossil fuel companies overtly brainwash their employees either. I think Andy has nailed it.

2011-08-06 17:36:42
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

I think you guys are reading to much into the story. She wants to talk to the Exxon Mobil person to find out more and the sentence in brackets is probably a speculative thought. She''l find out more when she talks to him.

2011-08-07 05:02:07
Andy S

skucea@telus...
66.183.179.249

Paul, you may well be correct that I'm reading too much into this. But, if so, what is the the main point of interest in this story that is prompting Scott Mandia to conisder publishing it?

2011-08-07 05:55:34
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

My take on it is that, by using SkS as a resource, a layperson was able to open a dialogue on climate change with another layperson.  Nothing more.

Or perhaps I'm being too simple.

2011-08-07 07:58:13
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.177.173.40
I read into it that SkS empowers people to challenge people who throw climate denial at them.

Of course fossil fuel companies don't indoctrinate their staff. But there is a culture of climate denial in the mining industry and it's worth exploring why.

2011-08-07 08:48:20
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
Upton Sinclair
US novelist & socialist politician (1878 - 1968)
2011-08-07 13:03:49
Andy S

skucea@telus...
66.183.179.249

I'm sorry if I misunderstood this but I guess I was thrown by the final phrase: just curious to know what Exxon is telling its employees so that they can continue to make their billions.