Sceptical about the Skeptic's Scepticism
Do climate change sceptics give scepticism a bad name? | guardian.co.uk
...embarrassingly for climate change sceptics, the people who have thought longest and hardest about what it means to be a truly sceptical thinker seem in a hurry to distance themselves from their fellow sceptics. Michael Marshall, from the Merseyside Skeptics group that organised the homeopathy overdose is clear about the legitimacy of climate change sceptics: "In our view, climate change sceptics are not sceptics. A sceptic looks at the available evidence and makes a decision, and for homeopathy the evidence is that it doesn't work. But the sceptical position on climate change is that it is happening."
John Jackson, from UK Skeptics, agreed, added: "Terms like "climate change sceptic" are very damaging to scepticism - basically because this is not what scepticism is. We often get people calling us, referring to themselves as climate sceptics, but we argue with them. We accept global warming because the evidence is overwhelming."
It is all jolly japes going on about homœopathy, it involves a few million quid, a few people getting the wrong treatment and quite a lot of people being comforted by placebos. In a rational world of course it shouldn't exist but it doesn't really matter that it does.
I'm sure these expert skeptics with their pub get-togethers are great people. Look at their websites, they seem to have the right idea:
Merseyside Skeptics Society - What is skepticism? Skepticism is a method for discerning truth from fiction. When presented with a claim, a skeptic reserves his or her right to reject that claim until such time as the claimant produces sufficient evidence to back up that claim. If the skeptic finds the evidence is compelling, then we will provisionally accept the claim as true; provisionally because we may see more evidence tomorrow that proves the claim to be false. The quality and quantity of evidence required will vary from claim-to-claim and skeptic-to-skeptic. If you tell me that you have a pet dog, well, I’ll probably accept that claim just on your word. You’re not likely to get anything out of making up stories about owning a dog...
What is Skepticism? by John Jackson The burden of proof is the concept that it is up to those making a claim to prove it, or provide good supporting evidence for it, rather than for others to disprove it. This is the same concept as how a court of law operates. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty; it's not up to the defence to prove innocence. This is the approach to claims that skeptics take. A claim presented will be doubted (presumed unproved) until the evidence in support of it can be examined. If the evidence supports the claim, either completely or beyond reasonable doubt, the claim will be accepted; otherwise it will be rejected unless or until further evidence is presented.
So the burden of proof lies with those making the claim and the importance of the claim influences the amount of evidence that is needed. I think we can agree that the proposition that human activity is threatening life as we know it and so we must spend trillions of dollars is about as important as it gets. So that proposition demands the most compelling of evidence before a sceptic should accept it.
And the evidence I see is not the most compelling, in fact it is embarrassingly weak.
Which is why I'm sceptical about the Guardian's tame sceptics as being the people who have "thought longest and hardest what it means to be a truly sceptical thinker" and their "hurry" to dismiss climate scepticism.