2011-10-20 11:05:35Doug Cotton complaining about SkS on The Conversation
John Cook


He's commenting at http://theconversation.edu.au/do-cosmic-rays-influence-climate-some-new-results-from-cern-3246 about SkS:

Doug Cotton commented:

"Thanks John. The way Skeptical Science dealt with me was simply to delete my posts within five minutes and ban me several times, so I had to keep registering with new email addresses. Here's a screen capture of the latest post they deleted two days ago, probably because they had no standard answer: http://climate-change-theory.com/skeptical2.jpg"


2011-10-20 11:58:04Follow-up to this
John Cook


Someone emailed me this comment by John Nicol, responding to Doug Cotton (slagging off SjS), posted on The Conversation thread which has since been moderated:

"Doug, I don't always agree with your approach to the many ideas which you present as being possible explanations of global warming. However, I believe it is very reasonable for you to present them as you do and let others see what alternative explanations might be considered as being responsible for warming. Any one who disagrees with you should obviously provide a detailed explanation, if they are able, as to why they disagree, by doing calculations based on your hypothesis and showing whether or not the results are likely to make a contribution to global warming, to which of course you can yhen respond by agreeing or presenting an alternative calculation. I would also say that I have good reason to disagree more strongly with people on this blog who present other people's work as being "correct", but flatly refuse to discuss why they are so correct and others here are wrong - this is a very sure sign of course that they do not have the knowledge and can only respond with unkind and abusive words in the hope of impressing the gullible.. Unfortunately, this process of discussion has not been the case and I note a lot of very abusive letters saying things like "all the rest of your post is just bluster. You are a climate denial spammer. Go away please" as if they own the blog site. If a site is set up to be open to the public, everyone has the same rights as everyone else and it is the person saying these things who should think of going away. This is unacceptable behaviour but there is obviously little that can be done about it. Just be assured that the person who blusers on in this way knows far less about the atmosphere and certainly about its essential physics than you do. I also note that you have never ever fallen into the same habit and have always responded to yoru critics politely and honestly with no sign of rancour, although I would expect you feel very disappointed in what one might expect to be your "fellows in discussion". If they do not agree with what you say, then they are at liberty to leave the conversation, or not to respond to you. As you are probably aware, I have had the sam experience from people whose only claim to fame is to abuse other guests on the page. I once attended a seminar given at Univerrsity of Queensland by John Cook who runs Skeptical Science, which some people on this page keep referring us to. The Title of John Cook's talk was "How to deal with Skeptics" and was a littany of proposals for responses to sceptical critics of global warming who point out the errors in the climate science, but none of them were concerrned with giving a scientific response. It was all to do with how to try to belittle them and make anyone listening or on the same blog page to believe that they were incompetent. I note that many of the people now following "The Coversation" are very much in that mould and will never try to discuss the science as you are endeavouring to do, and which I strongly believe ought to be the role of a site entitled "The conversation". Skeptical Science, as you will be aware if you ever took up their suggestion, is the most hopeless place to obtain any real science - a word which should not be in their title at all. You have probably noticed that I left the discussion as it was impossible to debate the important issues in a civil exchange of ideas. I note that, to your credit, you have not been put off by it - at least not yet. "

I just sent an email to John, as I my read of him is he's the kind of elderly gent who values civility and sees himself as a civil person, so I think he needed to be pinged for his slur:

I must confess, after the civil and respectful discussion we shared at UQ, I'm disappointed at the way you've characterised both my talk (the title of which was "Communicating Climate Science and Countering Disinformation") and my website. The basis of the talk was responding to sceptical arguments with the full body of evidence and I'm sorry that you seem to have missed that point of the talk. Similarly, the rock foundation of Skeptical Science is peer-reviewed science and we always seek to reference and link to peer-reviewed papers as the basis of our understanding of the science. Mainly, I was disappointed after what I thought was an interesting, thought provoking and mutually respectful discussion that you resort to such characterisations in public forums.

2011-10-20 16:37:07Reply from John
John Cook


My reading of John Nicol was correct - he replied quite quickly, chagrined and apologetic over his comment on The Conversation. So we kissed and made up, everything cordial and are BFFs again. Am tossing up whether to invite him out to campus for a coffee and a chat although I'm not quite sure what could come of it. There's certainly no "converting" of John, the guy is chairman of the Australian Climate Science Coalition and is as hardcore denier as you can get (look at the list on that page and contemplate that John is at the head of the list). But we do get on together so I wonder if there is any benefit from meeting with such a person.

2011-10-20 20:42:35
Dikran Marsupial
Gavin Cawley

It can't hurt, electronic forms of communication are notorious for rapid escalation of differences because of the lack of "non-verbal" cues you get when you speak face to face, which is why face-to-face discussions tend to be more civil (or perhaps it is just that I am 6'2" tall ;o),  So the more frequently you meet someone face to face and get on, the less likely things are to get out of hand in discussions on-line.

It also means they then cannot say that you are hostile to them.

2011-10-20 21:23:43
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

The other important asset of face-to-face communication in a neutral setting is that you can often get to the heart of the disagreement.  A challenge question on the order of "what is the one thing about AGW, if you could wave a magic wand and change it, would make you a supporter?" or "Even if all of the bits about CO2-induced warming is found true, what is that one thing you will never accept?" 

Note that it's not what they say in answer that's important, it's their "reaction" to the question that is telling.

2011-10-21 04:29:40
Julian Brimelow

John and Dikran

"It also means they then cannot say that you are hostile to them."

I would suggest meeting up with him given that you get on well and that he seems like a decent chap.  Just be careful what you say, b/c he may try and use it against you.  So be friendly and civil etc., but don't let your guard down.

John having coffee with a "denier"-- now that wil be useful in the PR "war" against Anthony.

2011-10-21 19:46:19
Glenn Tamblyn



Absolutely it is worth meeting with him. Because it is face-to-face AND private, neither party has to feel the need to 'defeat' the other. So a conversation over coffee could be a worthwhile dialogue. Anything in the conversation that can get at his underlying psycholgical drivers AND his beliefs about YOUR drivers is very worthwhile. De-Demonise his Demons - John Cook Bwarrgghh! So you can explore the basis of why he is so strong in his views. Never forget. Most Deniers see themselves as the white-hats.

My sense of many deniers is that for them AGW came out of left field, seems to be an attack on their sense of meaning in life AND seems to be coming from the Black Hats as far as their world view is concerned. Knowing his background would be interesting. If he is Old-School civil (as opposed to the New-School, on-line vitriol purveyor variety) this gives you a basis for conversation. Is his nose out of joint because people haven't been 'civil'?. What are his core 'sticking points' on AGW and is it really about specific aspects of the science or code for defending belief systems? The most useful conversations come when individuals can get past My Beliefs vs Your Beliefs. I'll see you at Dawn. Drilling down into the WHY of beliefs is always illuminating. But some personality types don't cope well AT ALL with exploring personal psychology. You can see this in conventional macho-projecting types. But it can also be a big factor in old-school conservative personality types exploring their deeper motivations - stiff upper lip, a gentleman doesn't do... etc.

You might even strike up a 'Bro-mance' with him. A regular coffee date between adversaries where you can get past the minutia to tackle the basic principles. Many Right-wing personality types see Greenies/'Environmentalists/Fellow Travellers as threatening how things work. They are wedded to the importance of maintaining the status quo because it is the source of prosperity, security and meaning. So accepting that the status quo is dying, cannot be saved, is a hard thing to face. Psychologically unacceptable. So anyone challenging the SQ must be attacking it for darstardly reasons because there could be no other reason for doing it. That we need to create a new status quo. Not from some ideological perspective. But because the Status Quo may be a Dead Man Walking. That cannot be countenanced.

That you aren't wearing a black cape and fangs but still make good arguments is psychologically powerful if you can keep a dialogue going.

2011-10-22 00:19:47


If you do meet, I'd like to point to a useful strategy for discussing things with people that you know are intelligent and educated enough to know better.

They obviously don't agree with your (our) conclusions because of some degree of cognitive dissonance.  They don't want to believe.

So discuss only details, in the context of the details.  Do not discuss the implications and far reaching conclusions, ever.

Discuss how proxies work, not what they show.

Discuss the physics behind GHG molecules and the complex nature of the atmosphere, not the implied warming result.

Simply keep finding the weaknesses in the details in Nicol's mind, and keep correcting them and expanding his knowledge of the detailed building blocks of the science, but never the conclusions.

This is in fact the core of what SkS does, and I think we do ourselves a disservice sometimes when we end any post with a statement along the lines of "see, see, it means warming is real!"  We get a little caught up with arguing with the deniers (because that's what they do with us) when all we really need is to state the unequivocal facts and to let people draw the correct conclusions on their own.

The reality is that people like Nicol are intelligent and self-confident, so they will only accept conclusions that they arrive at themselves.  The key is simply to get him there.  When offered the undeniable details, unrelated to the undesirable conclusions, they will be uncategorically accepted.  When enough of those details accumulate in a person's mind, they will eventually override his personal bias, no matter how firmly entrenched it was to begin with.

2011-10-22 08:09:52Thanks, guys, will ask him out for coffee (bromance, LOL)
John Cook

But sphaerica, there's no such thing as an undeniable detail to a denier. Nevertheless, chance to learn the machinations of a mind in denial.