Bill Nye, Lawrence Krauss and others smack down media: Don't call climate deniers "skeptics"

"Journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science"

Published December 10, 2014 7:55PM (EST)

  (AP/John Davisson)
(AP/John Davisson)

Last Friday, a group of scientists and advocates including Bill "The Science Guy" Nye, physicist Lawrence Krauss and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, distributed a letter to a number of news outlets, calling for reporters to stop using the term "skeptics" when referring to climate deniers.

The letter, sent by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, was written after a Nov. 10 New York Times article referred to Sen. James Inhofe as "a prominent skeptic of climate change." The group argues that "denier" and "skeptic" have been conflated by the media, and do not mean the same thing.

"Proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims," the letter reads. "It is foundational to the scientific method. Denial, on the other hand, is the a priori rejection of ideas without objective consideration."

The letter continues:

Real skepticism is summed up by a quote popularized by Carl Sagan, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Inhofe's belief that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" is an extraordinary claim indeed. He has never been able to provide evidence for this vast alleged conspiracy. That alone should disqualify him from using the title "skeptic."

As scientific skeptics, we are well aware of political efforts to undermine climate science by those who deny reality but do not engage in scientific research or consider evidence that their deeply held opinions are wrong. The most appropriate word to describe the behavior of those individuals is “denial.” Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry.


By Joanna Rothkopf

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Bill Nye Climate Deniers Lawrence Krauss Sen. James Inhofe Skeptics