The Creationism-Global Warming Denial Axis

We have previously discussed the curious coupling of creationists and global warming deniers. See Discovery Institute: Thrilled About ClimateGate, and also Discovery Institute: The Mask Falls Away (in which we introduced the “vindication of all kooks” doctrine), and also Global Warming, Creationism & Brain Death.

Then we wrote about an announcement from our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), telling us that NCSE Expands into Climate Change. Their decision caused us some uneasiness, as we feared they might become entangled in the political and economic aspects of climate science — where your Curmudgeon seems almost alone in preferring free market solutions — but our worries so far have been unjustified.

A new dimension to all of this has recently surfaced about which we haven’t yet posted. NCSE wrote Source of Heartland leak steps forward. Dr. Peter Gleick, a well-known climate scientist who had been about to join the NCSE board revealed that he was the source of some document leaks from Heartland Institute — a well-funded climate change opponent. NCSE reports that Gleick wrote:

My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.

Among those leaked documents was one which is analogous to the Discovery Institute’s wedge strategy, but which Heartland insists is a forgery.

As a result of that mess, Gleick declined to join the NCSE board, a move that NCSE undoubtedly welcomed. He’s also been accused of being the author of the allegedly forged document. We have no opinion about that issue, but if he did it he might have gotten the idea from reading the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and noting how the Wedge Document was so devastating to the Discovery Institute’s credibility. We don’t know, and maybe we shall never know. In any event, Gleick seems to have made a mess of things and he certainly hasn’t helped his cause.

Regardless of how the Gleick-Heartland imbroglio plays out, the result has been to shine even more light on the nexus between evolution denial and climate change denial, and also to position Heartland Institute (at least journalistically) in a role strikingly similar to that of the Discovery Institute. This is probably a good thing.

All of which brings us to a new article at the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

Their new post is A Friendly Letter to the Heartland Institute and Other Advocates of Free Speech on Global Warming and it’s written by Casey Luskin — our favorite Discoveroid. As you can see from Casey’s title, he positions their joint science-denial activities as being manifestations of free speech. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and his links omitted:

For years, the primary mission of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) had been to censor any scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution in schools — and sometimes in the academy too. We at Discovery Institute were curious and concerned recently to learn that the NCSE is expanding its struggle against free speech to the debate over global warming and climate change.

Observe the use of Discoveroid Newspeak — advocating sound science education and opposing pseudo-science is “censorship.” A typical beginning to a Discoveroid article. Casey continues:

I’m concerned that in the debate [on controversial scientific issues like global warming], we’ve seen the same kind of censorship and suppression of minority, dissenting scientific views that have become routine in the debate over Darwinian evolution.

Casey’s concerned. How sweet. Let’s read on:

In any case, since the Heartland Institute, Discovery Institute, and other scientific dissenters from the “consensus” are now being jointly misrepresented and attacked by the NCSE, I thought it might be helpful to encourage Heartland and others involved in the fight to protect academic freedom and scientific free speech with a friendly open letter. Now that the NCSE has taken its campaign of censorship to the global warming debate, let me give you some ideas of what you can look forward to.

Casey then gives a list of expected responses– described in Discoveroid terms — that Heartland can expect from the science community. You can read them all at the Discoveroid blog, but here are a few of them:

1. Expect to face a condescending tone with lots of sneers and name-calling. Also, be prepared to use NCSE rhetoric to your own advantage.

Among those who defend Big Science, smears and stereotypes are the rhetorical bread-and-butter. You already know what I’m talking about, the litany of stock libels: “anti-science,” “denier,” “ignorant,” “dishonest,” “science-abusers,” “fundamentalist,” “anti-intellectual,” “war on science.” We have become accustomed to attacks like these, and much worse, from evolution activists.

Yes, Casey has become accustomed to such attacks from “Big Science.” Why is that, we wonder? But from his experience, Casey gives his comrades at the Heartland Institute some advice, such as “try not to take it personally,” and “remember who your audience is.” Casey says they’re not trying to convince the scientists. Instead, the “audience is the vast majority of people in the open-minded, undecided middle — normal folks who are willing to listen to reason, and don’t like nasty rhetoric.”

In other words, it’s not about science, it’s public relations and propaganda. He also advises:

[W]hen your opponents start in with the name-calling, shine a spotlight on it. When you respond in a pleasant, calm, civil, and rational manner, your morally and intellectually credible position will resonate with listeners and readers.

Good advice! That’s why the Discoveroids are always “pleasant, calm, civil, and rational” while telling their audience that Darwin was Hitler’s intellectual godfather. Then Casey tells his Heartland comrades something else to watch out for:

2. Expect the NCSE to try to paint you as fringe extremist — but be prepared to show that they are the ones in the minority.

Right. Never mind all that science stuff — it’ll confuse the target audience. Just talk about public opinion polls. He says:

The reality is that for a supermajority of Americans, supporting free speech on these issues is just common sense. So take polls on what the public really thinks and be ready to throw those statistics back at the NCSE.

That’s how cutting-edge science is done! Casey’s advice goes on and on. We’ll leave it to you to read it all. Here’s how he ends his open letter to his comrades:

At the end of the day, our true adversary is censorship — and this is exactly what the NCSE stands for. Climate skeptics and Darwin doubters now have a common opponent, and we’re going to be linked and attacked in many of the same ways. Whatever you believe about evolution or global warming, may intellectual freedom prevail.

So there you are. It seems that the NCSE has their hands full. Well, they knew what they were getting into. Now we all know. The creationism + climate-science denial axis exists, and we can expect them to use similar tactics. Thanks, Casey, for showing us the blueprint.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “The Creationism-Global Warming Denial Axis

  1. Yup, sounds like you’er right.


  2. Whatever you believe about evolution or global warming, may intellectual freedom prevail.

    Speaking to intellectual freedom are there any atheist ant-evolution critics out there or is such beast even conceivable? I mean the majority of intelligent religious types manage to incorporate evolution into their world view but how come it doesn’t work the other way around? Oh right, I keep forgetting creationism has nothing to do with intellectual pursuits or moving science forward.

  3. Love the irony of Casey publishing an open letter in which he claims to be censored. Hopefully the Heartland Institute will complete the irony circle by publishing an open letter response that says “we aren’t allowed to publish our beliefs either!”

  4. The two institutes have something more fundamental in common than being advocates for free speech, as Casey claims. They are both organizations established and funded by persons seeking to advance specific agendas. (Persons would include corporations in the Heartland case) Those agendas do NOT include investigating nature and making new contributions to science in their respective fields. Instead, in both cases, the agendas are directed toward undermining findings of science that cause difficulties for their patrons. In the case of the DI, those findings run contrary to certain religious beliefs, whereas in the case of the HI, the scientific findings may lead to unwanted economic consequences. The common enemy is science.

    Well, Santorum considers global warming not in economic terms but as an anti-christian conspiracy, but then again he sees everything as an anti-christian conspiracy. I suspect Heartland’s patrons are specifically concerned about the economic issues.

  5. Ed says: “I suspect Heartland’s patrons are specifically concerned about the economic issues.”

    That’s how I see it. Heartland has no more in common with the Discoveroids than did the old tobacco lobby. But they might be able to use some of the same tactics.

  6. I’ve run into an atheist evolution-denier or two, so the beast is conceivable, I’m not sure I understand the whole reasoning, but it’s along the lines of congenital skepticism about everything and maybe sheer cussed contrarianism. They aren’t creationists as such since they’re not religious but have picked up some of the creationist arguments of the how do we know we know when we weren’t there to see it variety. Bottom line for them is that Darwinian evolution is just stuff somebody made up and we can’t know anything at all about how we got here. I used to have a link to someone of that ilk, but his site seems to have gone inoperative…

  7. are there any atheist ant-evolution critics out there

    Yes, I’ve met them, and they are typically found in academia. Lynn Margulis might count as one–though she did not deny evolution of any kind, but only Darwinian evolution, and proposed a few ridiculous evolutionary scenarios as a result.

    Marxists in the time of Stalin denied Darwinian evolution and perhaps some still do. I have not found an atheist creationist, which is not surprising. Creationism is only one form of denial of Darwinian evolution.

  8. in the case of the HI, the scientific findings may lead to unwanted economic consequences. The common enemy is science.

    It’s always tempting to argue ad hominem, but environmentalism is also lucrative. Government as well as large corporations are happy, at the moment, to spend billions on green projects, and in the case of government there are also subsidies, mandates, tax credits, and loan guarantees from which to benefit.

    To be fair then, you’d have to argue that people and scientists who have financial interests in environmental science are only advocating it because it aligns with their financial interests.

    And this is not true, for Heartland or for climate scientists. Heartland opposes the policies espoused by people in the environmental movement for ideological reasons, not because they have been bought. Just as people in the environmental movement believe in their policies for ideological reasons, and their financial interests are secondary to that.

  9. Gabriel Hanna says: “Marxists in the time of Stalin denied Darwinian evolution”

    I should have remembered that.

  10. I hate you, HATE YOU, Gabriel because you’re a long-haired, hippy freak, Nazi, socialist, pinko commie, draft dodging, atheist, pants sagging, Mormon, tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, bra burning, food stamping, socialist, did I say socialist, well, I really mean it, socialist, anti-American, flag burning, Nazi Hitler evolutionist, elite liberal!!

    Whew, that was difficult! What did I leave out? Oh, yeah, poopy head.

  11. Tomato Addict

    You forgot scruffy Looking.

  12. Doc Bill says: “… pants sagging,… bra burning, food stamping …”

    Now that’s the way to do it!

  13. Soda has just gone from mouth, to nose, to keyboard. In that order.
    Thanks, Doc Bill.

  14. Ceteris Paribus

    DI/Heartland bumper sticker:
    “Global warming: Were you there to see it?”

  15. Ed: in the case of the HI, the scientific findings may lead to unwanted economic consequences. The common enemy is science.

    Gabriel: It’s always tempting to argue ad hominem, but environmentalism is also lucrative…

    One of the leaked Heartland documents (and not the forged one) calls for the development of an elementary school science curriculum that focuses on teaching the ‘major controversy’ of anthropogenic global warming. That’s the words Heartland uses, not once but twice: major controversy. See here.
    So, in terms of wanting to misrepresent the mainstream scientific view in schools, and claim a scientific controversy exists when it doesn’t, they are exactly like the DI and other creationist think tanks.

    Vice creationism, in the AGW debate there are legitimate scientists who hold opposing views. That being said, however, there is no real question about what the mainstream scientific view is and how much of a consensus it is. A few outlier scientists do not signify a “major controversy,” and it is deceptive and disingenuous for organizations like the HI to try and confuse schoolkids about this with a ‘teach the controversy’ strategy.

  16. @Tomato Addict: YOU do not get to use THAT WORD. THAT WORD is only for me and my brother nerfherdaz.