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Science

Submission + - Harrassment of Climate Scientists is Unique to America (insideclimatenews.org)

Geoffrey.landis writes: "In the United States, climate scientists are subject to significant amounts of harassment , including "torrents of freedom of information requests, hate mail and even death threats from skeptics"-- but this phenomenon seems to be happening only in America. In other countries, climate scientists are mostly free to work without fear.

"The harassment has an intimidating effect—especially on young scientists," according to Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said he sees the attacks on scientists in the United States as "very disconcerting." Last year, AAAS released a statement condemning the harassment. "The incidents reflect two unfortunate things," Leshner said in an interview, "we live in a society where ideologies trump our willingness to hear what science says, and in a country where free speech is so widely valued, people are being attacked."

The only other country in which climate scientists routinely face harassment and death threats is Australia, which is the largest exporter of coal in the world. Coal industry groups in Australia have sought to cast doubt on climate science and have lobbied against carbon emission limits."

Submission + - Conservative means accepting science (businessweek.com) 1

Geoffrey.landis writes: "Recently, it has seemed that it is a requirements of being a conservative to deny the accuracy of climate science and cast aspersions on the motives of scientists, regardless of any evidence offered. So it's a little refreshing to see a Republican weighing in on the side of science, saying that conservatives should deal in facts, and "base policies on science, not sentiment.""
Science

Submission + - Why do people believe weird things (newscientist.com)

Geoffrey.landis writes: New Scientist asks, why do people discredit science, and instead believe weird conspiracy theories? The belief that vaccines don't stop diseases; AIDS is not caused by a virus, and a dozen or more theories that ignore the clear evidence of science are believed by millions. Richard Littlemore, pointing out how corporations manufacture doubt, suggests that maybe it has something to do with the multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns to discredit science. It worked for the tobacco industry... for a while, anyway. In 1972, Tobacco Institute vice-president Fred Panzer outlined his industry's "brilliantly executed" defence strategy. A key tactic was "creating doubt about the health charge without actually denying it" while "encouraging objective scientific research." In this case "objective," meant "supporting the belief that tobacco is harmless." And the tactic has been picked up by a host of other corporations, each with their own billion-dollar profits to defend by "creating doubt."

Debora MacKenzie, on the other hand, asking "Why sensible people reject the truth?" points out that although many denialist movements originate as cynical efforts by corporations to cast doubt on findings that threaten their bottom line,, the people who subscribe to denialism utilize what she calls "everyday reasoning" (which can rather fail in dealing with scientific evidence). But it is, she suggest, a sense of loss of control that really matters. Many people prefer to reject expert evidence in favour of alternative explanations that promise to hand control back to them, even if those explanations are not supported by evidence

"This is not necessarily malicious, or even explicitly anti-science. Indeed, the alternative explanations are usually portrayed as scientific. Nor is it willfully dishonest. It only requires people to think the way most people do: in terms of anecdote, emotion and cognitive short cuts. Denialist explanations may be couched in sciency language, but they rest on anecdotal evidence and the emotional appeal of regaining control."

And then again, skeptic Michael Shermer suggests that it's simple: denial is typically driven by ideology or religious belief, where the commitment to the belief takes precedence over the evidence.

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