2010-09-22 03:22:21Workshops using material from Skeptical Science
Lee Tryhorn

Dear all,

I have just started blogging for Skeptical Science and I wanted to share some very positive feedback that I have received about the site.

I am a climate scientist working at Cornell University in New York State. This year I have spoken at series of NOAA workshops aimed at improving climate literacy in the Northeastern US. These were initially aimed at NOAA/SeaGrant employees and have since branched out to other organizations. Many of these people come across climate skeptics in their day-to-day activities, and even though the skeptics may be able to influence their operations in a big way (even derailing some projects), there is often very little training on how to handle them.

To begin to address this problem the workshops involved sessions on “how to talk to climate skeptics” and “answering the top ten skeptics arguments” (very heavily based on material from Skeptical Science).

I have received a lot of very positive feedback about the workshops, and that is a real credit to everyone that has been involved in building this website! The website is a fantastic resource and I really wouldn’t have been able to do the workshops without it.

The workshops went so well, that the Land-Use Law Center at Pace University heard about them and have asked me to visit them in October and do the same types of sessions with municipal leaders.

My plan for this workshop is to expose the participants to the different levels of arguments (Basic/Medium/Advanced). Any suggestions for the workshop or just general comments are welcome. Great work everybody!

2010-09-24 00:14:03Lee, thanks for your feedback
John Cook


Great that the website content was of use to you in the last workshop and I'm very interested to hear how the different levels of arguments fare in the next one.

I will probably be doing a similar workshop/talk/panel with Naomi Oreskes in late November - so I'm thinking now about general comments when talking to climate sceptics. I’ve read a bit of psychological research about communicating science and the research indicates people tend to base their beliefs on their value systems and also are more trusting of people who share their values. So one possible approach, perhaps, is when you talk to a sceptic, it can build bridges by identifying the values you share in common. Eg – investigation, a reliance on empirical evidence, a desire to gain a better understanding of climate. This is how climate sceptics think of themselves (regardless of whether their self assessment is accurate) – and those values are synonymous with the scientific method.

So when I get into discussions, I argue that scientific scepticism is a good thing, sceptics need to be more sceptical, need to investigate deeper and get all the evidence. A proper understanding of climate comes from considering the full body of evidence. So when a skeptic cites some piece of evidence, it’s not a case of my citing an opposing piece of evidence. It’s a case of considering the full body of evidence which puts their “sceptic evidence” in its proper context. I find this inclusive approach has more traction with skeptics than alienating them with combative put-downs.