Conspiracy

What I Saw At the Conspiracy Theory Conference

When tribes collide

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A sign greets the scholars on the opening evening.
Jesse Walker

"I get the feeling that a lot of philosophers can poke a hole in anything," Ted Goertzel complained, his voice radiating prickly impatience. The site was the University of Miami, where nearly 50 scholars from institutions across Europe and America had gathered to discuss conspiracy theories in a room named for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Goertzel, a retired Rutgers sociologist, was addressing a panel of philosophers who had indeed just spent an hour poking holes in popular notions about conspiratorial beliefs. One had presented a paper with the cheeky title "Why Do We Believe Conspiracy Theories Exist?"

Goertzel wasn't buying it. "I think the reason we think conspiracy theories exist is because they exist," he declared.

It was neither the first nor the last contentious moment of the conference, which took place on the university's Coral Gables campus from March 12 to 14. The event had been organized by Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent, a pair of political scientists who did a commendable job of looking past their own field to invite people from different disciplines. And when I say "different disciplines," I don't merely mean "people who study different things." I mean "people with entirely different tool kits for understanding the universe."

The result was a friendly but frequently combative gathering of tribes, each of which had to suss out the other gangs' languages and worldviews. Here's a rundown of the rival clans:

The social psychologists. For this group, the study of conspiracy theories is mostly a matter of conducting experiments. The psychologists have developed several questionnaires that are supposed to show how prone a subject is to different sorts of thinking, including conspiracism. In a typical study, volunteers might answer those questions, read an article (or be "exposed to" the article, as the experimenters like to put it), and then give their responses to the story. Then the researchers start looking for correlations.

In one paper presented at the Miami conference, a team from the University of Bamberg in Germany had participants construct narratives to explain an event, then asked them how plausible the resulting stories were. Interestingly, the investigators found no correlation between the people who preferred the conspiratorial stories and the people identified as conspiracy-minded by the questionnaires. This result produced some consternation in the question-and-answer period.

The philosophers. This tribe bubbled over with frustration at the psychologists' approach, and the feeling was frequently mutual. Any time the psychologists focused on the sources of "conspiracy ideation"—that is, the mental formation of conspiracy beliefs—while skipping past the question of whether those beliefs were true, one or two philosophers might pipe up to ask why they weren't treating the conspiracists' ideas as ideas. Between sessions, the philosophers were sometimes heard grumbling that the psychologists and social scientists were demonizing conspiracy believers; the psychologists and social scientists, meanwhile, were prone to complaining that the philosophers were better at raising questions than at devising a research program.

One philosopher, Lee Basham of South Texas College, presented a paper that took direct aim at the psychologists, questioning some of the assumptions underlying their studies and suggesting that the scientists suffered from a condition he called "conspiracy theory phobia." Another speaker, Jack Bratich of Rutgers—he's actually a cultural-studies guy who chairs his school's journalism program, but he was at home on the philosophy panel—asked whether "conspiracy theory" is a useful category at all. (This was the "Why Do We Believe Conspiracy Theories Exist?" paper.) It may not make sense, Bratich argued, to lump together everything from plausible claims about political crimes to weird tales of the supernatural.

The political scientists. Like the psychologists, the political scientists like to gather and quantify data. Also like the psychologists, some of them have a habit of discussing conspiracy theories as though they're basically irrational. When this earned some pushback from the philosophers guild, one of the poli-sci profs protested that they weren't singling out conspiracy believers for this treatment: They regard all kinds of political behaviors as irrational, from partisanship on down.

While political scientists aren't averse to psych-style lab experiments, they often cast a much larger net for their numbers, drawing on opinion surveys and similar sources. Uscinski and Parent excavated a particularly big pile of data in their 2014 book American Conspiracy Theories. They and their research assistants conducted an intensive study of more than 100,000 letters to the editor in The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune from 1890 to 2010, counting and classifying every conspiratorial claim they found. It is the most ambitious effort I've seen to determine when conspiracy thinking has gotten more or less common in the U.S., and the results cut against the conventional wisdom. The duo found two major spikes in conspiracy-themed letters: one in the 1890s, when public attention turned to corporate trusts, and one in the 1950s, when Cold War tensions were high. They spotted some smaller swells as well, responding to events such as Watergate. But in general, they think American paranoia has been fairly stable over time, showing if anything a gradual decline.

The historians. When pundits discuss conspiracy theories, the scholar they're most likely to invoke is the late Richard Hofstadter, a historian whose 1964 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" still casts a shadow over the field. But in history and American studies, the people who write about conspiracy fears tend to see Hofstadter's views as old hat. When the conference heard from Peter Knight, author of the seminal book Conspiracy Culture, he recalled that in the '90s his circle's "defining mission" had been to overturn the Hofstadterian tradition, with its tendency to pathologize conspiracy believers and to be alarmed at manifestations of public distrust. Listening to the interdisciplinary crowd, he felt on the one hand pleased that the field had grown so large, on the other hand alarmed at how little his group's efforts seemed to have influenced the work being done elsewhere.

At any rate, the historians are committed to empirical investigation but stand outside the sciences, giving their tribe a distinct perspective. In Miami, their representatives ranged from Kathryn Olmsted of the University of California–Davis, whose paper showed how political consultants deliberately stoked conspiracy fears in California's 1934 gubernatorial election, to Asbjørn Dyrendal of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who explored the role of conspiracy stories in the New Age movement and its precursors. Rolf Fredheim and Andrew McKenzie-McHarg, both based at Cambridge, talked about a study they'd undertaken of how the word "conspiracy" has been used in British parliamentary debates over the past two centuries, with a particular focus on when people have been called conspiracy theorists to ridicule their views. This practice turns out to be much older than you might think, though there was a period in the 1950s when it became common to speak earnestly of "Communist conspiracies," "Tory conspiracies," and so on without fear of mockery.

The outliers. Several sociologists came to Miami too, but they didn't seem to form a tribe; instead they sounded individually like psychologists, political scientists, or philosophers, depending on the nature of their research. Other attendees didn't fit easily into any of the categories. One was James Tracy, a communications professor at Florida Atlantic University, who attracted some notoriety last year when he expressed doubts about "whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place—at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation's news media have described." (When he presented his conference paper, which looked at the implications of modern systems of surveillance for Karl Popper's critique of conspiracy theories, Tracy began by saying he was "not sure if I was invited as a colleague or a specimen.") Another outlier was Jay Cullen, a marine chemist at the University of Victoria, who came because his efforts to tamp down public fears after the Fukushima nuclear disaster had prompted a group of green conspiracists to villify him. He shared his story and asked for advice on how scientists in his position ought to proceed.

The conference's sole anthropologist, Nayanika Mathur of Cambridge, spoke on the history panel, but her work was focused much more on the present than the past. Mathur's paper reflected her fieldwork in the Indian Himalayas, where the locals frequently found themselves at odds with the state when it came to explaining bear attacks, big cat attacks, and the decline in the population of the musk deer. The authorities blame climate change for all three problems, while the mountain people prefer to point at other culprits. Some of the latter stories defy credibility, as when Mathur was informed that bears are angry about environmental destruction and taking it out on human beings. But the locals also offer some plausible explanations, noting for example the role played by poaching in the decimation of the deer—a practice abetted by corrupt officials, who thus have an incentive to dismiss the issue. I don't have the space to summarize all of an especially rich and interesting study, but the upshot is that the government found it rhetorically useful to disparage the locals' accounts as "conspiracy theories," even when the same officials conceded privately that there might be some holes in their own story.

And then there was me, the one speaker who wasn't affiliated with a university. I had been invited because I recently wrote a book about the long history of American conspiracy theories. Not being an academic, I wasn't really a part of any tribe, though I felt closest to the historians. (Full tribal disclosure: I also wrote an article for Slate last year that criticized the social psychologists' approach.) My talk resembled Bratich's in several ways, inasmuch as we both complained about the sketchy boundaries of the phrase "conspiracy theory." But while he asked whether there was any value to so broad a term, I called for opening the category up further, saying the study of conspiracy beliefs should also include mainstream stories about cults, gangs, terrorists, and the like.

When dozens of people gather to discuss conspiracy theories but can't even agree on how to define them, you're bound to see some clashes. An especially tart exchange came on the last day of the meeting, after Ted Goertzel praised the "pejorative use" of the phrase "conspiracy theory," calling it "one of our accomplishments." James Tracy, the Sandy Hook skeptic, piped up to complain that the term was being used to dismiss people making legitimate inquiries.

"Like who?" said Goertzel.

"Like me," Tracy replied.

But there were also times when the tribes managed to engage with one another, tentatively figuring out ways to draw on other forms of knowledge. The meeting's final panel ended with a talk by Preston Bost, an amiable cognitive psychologist from Wabash College. Without giving up his appreciation for his discipline's tools, Bost's paper questioned a lot of assumptions that had been popular within his field. He suggested that conspiracy thinking might be a product more of a person's circumstances than his individual traits, that psychologists should pay closer attention to the differences between individual conspiracy theories, that there may be more than one sort of conspiracy ideation, and that conspiracy beliefs might have positive as well as negative consequences. Standing before the room, he spoke enthusiastically about the new ideas and approaches he had been hearing from the other scholars.

There must have been something infectious in Bost's enthusiasm. In the ensuing Q&A, philosopher Basham started singing the praises of another paper presented on the panel. The study was an experiment by a social psychologist. Indeed, it was an experiment by Michael Wood, one of the psychologists Basham had singled out for criticism in a presentation the day before.

In Wood's study, volunteers were asked to evaluate a list of conspiratorial claims, some of them dubious and some of them examples of actual historical conspiracies. In half the questionnaires, the items began with the phrase "How likely is the idea that…" In the other half, they began with "How likely is the conspiracy theory that…" The aim was to see whether the phrase "conspiracy theory," used so often as a pejorative, actually made people less likely to accept the claims. Turns out it didn't.

Basham loved it, declaring that the results matched his classroom experiences perfectly. Calling an idea a conspiracy theory may be an effective way to discredit it among elites and academics, Basham suggested, but his students in McAllen, Texas, weren't scared by it. They just had a fundamentally different worldview.

They were, in fact, an entirely different tribe.

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  1. I kind of wish the organizers had invited Lewandowsky of Recursive Fury infamy.

    It would have been entertaining to watch the academics interact with one of their own who happens to be the unhinged originator of whackjob conspiracy theories.

    1. WHY ARE YOU POSTING FIRST……What have you done with Fist of Etiquette…..?

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  2. It says “NO COMMENTS” right now, but I’d bet a paycheck some comments will get in here sooner than me and I just haven’t seen them yet.

  3. Is anyone else having flashbacks of reading Pshrinks Anonymous stories in IASFM?

  4. moar proof 9/11 was an inside job

    1. Not ALL conspiracy theories are whack job! Now hear me out!

      What I have heard is that the Islamofascists are cooking up yet MORE evil ways to bring down aircraft! They have deviously devised aluminum-eating genetically engineered microbes, which, as we speak (write and read), are being secreted into and onto the main weight-bearing aluminum structural elements of American and allied (non-islamofascist) aircraft, military and civilian alike. At the release of secret radio codes, these aluminum-digesting microbial GMOs will destroy aircraft in-flight.

      What are the microbes called, you say?

      Wait for it now?

      ?

      ?

      ?

      ?

      ?

      ?

      ? The Aluminum-Eatee!!!

      1. C+/B-

        Effort was made.

  5. Coral Gables? These guys are no idiots. Let’s all go to Miami for Spring Break!

    1. Next year it will be at the Hotel Coral Essex.

    2. Stone crabs were actually genetic experiments from WWII, and evidence of the program was destroyed, and now the jews control the market. They’re conspiratorially delicious.

  6. Jesse — is this conference going to be a regular affair?

    Expanding these writeups would make interesting addendums to followup editions of your book.

    1. Jesse — is this conference going to be a regular affair?

      There aren’t any plans for that. Not as of yet, anyway.

      1. That’s what they want you to think.

        1. Can we really be sure that it even actually happened this year?

          1. You can’t prove that it *didn’t*

  7. People have differing and often crazy worldviews, “scientists” confounded. News at 11.

  8. I’ve come to appreciate the value of diversity of beliefs. Irrationality at the micro level, is rational at the macro level, because it provides many fall-back strategies in case the ‘rational’ strategy turns out to be the wrong one. i.e. The conspiracy theory ‘nut’, only has to be right once to make a difference. The rest of the time he is just a minor nuisance.

    I remember watching a movie about a German Jew that moved his family out of Germany just before World War II (moving to someplace in Africa, I forget where). He saw troubling signs and believed things were going to get much worse. Everyone thought he was a nut job. His wife, his children, his parents. He moved very early and life in Africa was extremely hard compared to those who stayed in Germany, so at first it seemed indeed he had made a huge mistake. The Nazi ‘bogyman’ wasn’t so bad after all. But of course in the end it was everyone else’s calm ‘rationality’ turned out to be completely wrong.

    1. Irrationality at the micro level, is rational at the macro level, because it provides many fall-back strategies in case the ‘rational’ strategy turns out to be the wrong one. i.e. The conspiracy theory ‘nut’, only has to be right once to make a difference. The rest of the time he is just a minor nuisance.

      E pluribus unum? How… convenient.

      1. I don’t get how ‘convenience’ applies here. It’s like calling evolution ‘convenient’. It’s not convenient or inconvenient, it just ‘is’.

  9. Jesse, I read your book and liked it but I’m not sure I care for you watching me as I was reading it. I finished up the chapter on the Illumnati before bed one night. The next day as I was checking out some new Korn videos on YouTube I saw in the sidebar a bunch of videos of Jonathan Davis talking to Alex Jones about… the Illumnati. Coincidence? I think not!

    1. Jesse, I read your book and liked it but I’m not sure I care for you watching me as I was reading it.

      We should sell a special surveillance-enabled edition.

  10. Your all on the list now

    1. The misspelling lends authenticity b

  11. I have a conspiracy theory about where all these conspiracy theories are coming from and the intentions of those behind them.

  12. Sounds like climate change denial was one of the prime subjects:

    “One OVERARCHING assumption in the social scientific research was evident in three conspiracy bugaboos: “climate change denial,” “vaccination denial,” and questioning President Obama’s genealogy.”

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/a…..ts/5436898

    Good to see climate change denial at least made the definition of a conspiracy theory at the conspiracy theory conference.

    1. Depends on which scholar you asked!

      1. The smart ones!

    2. I think the word ‘conspiracy’ can be applied pretty strong to both sides of that debate …

      Denier – “Temperature data is faked!”

      Believer – “Sceptics are in the pocket of Big Oil!”

      It’s interesting (to me anyways) that ‘conspiracy’ theory has become a slur of the left against the right, but in reality the crazies seem to be spread pretty evenly on both sides.

      Left: GMO Frankenstein food, vaccines, organic food, homeopathic medicine, military industrial complex, Israel is pure evil

      Right: Global warming data is fake, governments are evil, Illuminati want to kill off world populations, Obama is a socialist Kenyan Muslim.

      1. “It’s interesting (to me anyways) that ‘conspiracy’ theory has become a slur of the left against the right, but in reality the crazies seem to be spread pretty evenly on both sides.”

        PRECISELY! 😀

      2. No doubt there are conspiracy theories on both sides.

      3. Some folks divide the world between good ‘uns and bad ‘uns (those with us, and those against us), and pepples that likes cats, v/s those that don’t, and on and on?

        I divide the world between Scienfoologists (good guys like me; to learn more about Scienfoology, see http://www.churchofsqrls.com ) and sadly ignernt non-Scienfoologists.

        Scienfoologist conspiracy theory:

        Government Almighty loves us MORE than we can ever know, and the media is trying to HIDE this fact from us!

        Non-Scienfoologist conspiracy theory:

        What is, and what is not, a religion, is strictly and factually determined by Government Almighty, in a smoke-filled room. The USA Constitution has a secret clause written in disappearing ink, which says, if you claim a religious freedom, it first has to be certified as a “sincerely held” religious belief, by an offial of the Government Almighty, before Government Almighty will respect your religious belief? And this is all well and good!

      4. Ah, but the prophets of Global Warming have, in fact, been caught faking a good deal. Furtgermore, the evidence of History is that governments ARE evil, often enough to justify extreme caution.

        1. Even if true, this is unlikely to be a ‘conspiracy’ but just the result of unintentional bias.

          For example if a scientist thinks temperatures are rising and their data says it is rising, they are satisfied and look no further. The data is assumed to be correct. If they think temperatures are rising but their data is flat or even declining they will examine every aspect looking for a reason to explain this difference. The result is a very subtle type of statistical bias. Only errors that go against your theory are found, even though errors in both directions are probably equally likely. Most people don’t look for errors when the data goes the direction they think it should.

          This is why skeptics in science (and everywhere) are absolutely necessary. They are the ones that look for reasons why ‘positive’ results might be wrong.

        2. Well I knew a conspiracy theorist would show up.

          Saying you think the great majority of climate scientists are wrong is one thing, saying they are intentionally faking it is a conspiracy theory of gargantuan proportions with absolutely no proof.

          Hopefully you understand that any analysis shows somewhere around 90% of all climate scientists believe in AGW. You probably believe those numbers are faked. But here is one you can check yourself…every single major science organization who has issued a statement on the climate says that climate change is real, is happening right now, is primarily caused by man, and is a problem that needs to be dealt with. 100% of them. American Geophysical Union, National Academy of Sciences, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, etc. All of them. Go check it yourself.

          They haven’t faked anything. They have come to one conclusion, and because so many of them have reached a conclusion that man is causing climate change, deniers have felt the need to explain why they themselves are in such a minority, and a conspiracy theory is all that is left.

          But you said it. Tell us why climate scientists are faking it…what is the end game here for them.

          1. Consensus does not equal science.

            1. Science=science

              Are you suggesting that over 90% of climate scientists and 100% of science organizations have done something unscientific?

              1. Yes but for the moment, these 90% of climate scientists are wrong in the sense they have overestimated the rate of temperature rise. I think the ‘consensus’ have been predicting something like 3.5C change per century and we’ve only been getting 1C per century. That a pretty big error. Of course this could just be temporary, but it stills shows that scientists can easily get the wrong answer (at least in magnitude) even if they mostly agree with each other.

                They also seem to have overestimated the effect on climate. There is still lots of ice at the North Pole in summer. The rate of ocean rise has increased, but by much smaller amount that predicted. Hurricanes have not increased in number and intensity. Food is still being produced at the same increasing rate as before. The predicted disaster is always ‘imminent’, but never seems to actually get here. Every year we get demands that we must IMMEDIATELY do something about about CO2, and no one ever does, and yet nothing ever happens. It feels like a boy crying wolf after a while.

                So while there is no conspiracy, scientists are subject to ‘group think’ just like everyone else.

                1. Sure something happens…temperature keeps rising. And more and more studies are showing the impact of that rise in temperatures…diminishing glaciers, rising sea levels, migration of species, permafrost has started to melt, Arctic sea ice is half of what it was in 1950, ocean acidification is increasing, temperatures of lakes has increased, and even the one area of ice that deniers pointed to for stability (Antarctica) is showing signs of melting on both East AND West Antarctica:

                  http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..story.html

                  http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..got-worse/

                  No one said anything is imminent, as in this year. It always has been framed in increasing vulnerability for the next 100 years. To me, that’s imminent, because it effects my kids and grandkids. And temperatures have never gone up in a straight line…there have been even longer periods of stabilization (40’s through 60s) then there was in the recent pause which ended in 2014.

                  None of that is group think…its just science providing more and more research, and becoming more and more convinced on the dangerous path we are on.

  13. Reasoner (reasonite? reasonid?) with the best gig: Walker or Doherty?

    Between sessions, the philosophers were sometimes heard grumbling that the psychologists and social scientists were demonizing conspiracy believers; the psychologists and social scientists, meanwhile, were prone to complaining that the philosophers were better at raising questions than at devising a research program.

    An academic cat fight is the very best kind of cat fight.

    1. Reasoner (reasonite? reasonid?)

      I think the official AP style is “Reasonoid.”

    2. “An academic cat fight is the very best kind of cat fight.”

      Really? http://rryoutube.com/?v=6dB0Iv8Q01s

      1. You motherfucker, now this Russian low-budget porn soundtrack autoplays every refresh.

        1. LOL What?

          1.) I have no idea what you are talking about. No such thing happens for me. It’s just a link.
          2.) If Reason autoplays random links for you, why don’t you blame the appropriate party?

    3. “Knarf Yenrab!|2015/03/18 16:38:18|#5163816

      Reasoner (reasonite? reasonid?) with the best gig: Walker or Doherty?”

      Sullum. He comps drugs as “business expenses”.

  14. Oh, come on. You know you saw the black helicopters at the conference. Don’t play the man’s game.

  15. This is a follow up on what I said above, and the responses calling for skepticism as opposed to conspiracy theories. And in regard to the largest conspiracy theory floating around today, namely that climate scientists are on the take and “faking” it.

    Back in 70’s, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry was founded to support true skepticism in science. And it was founded by Carl Sagan, among others. Here is what they said a few months back about denial of climate science coming from many quarters:

    “Proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims. It is foundational to the scientific method. Denial, on the other hand, is the a priori rejection of ideas without objective consideration… 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…Please stop using the word “skeptic” to describe deniers.”

    Let us know when there is any proof whatsoever of one or two climate scientists intentionally falsifying data for money. Until then, its a conspiracy theory, not skepticism.

    1. While there may be some religious deniers, i.e. predetermined conclusions, religious like fervor, this also applies just as strongly to the other side. There are ‘real’ skeptics that questions the science in a scientific manner (as there should be). You might disagree with them, they might even be totally wrong, but it’s irrational to classify anyone that questions any aspect of climate science to be a some sort of religious-type fanatic-like ‘denier’. Given the very difficult nature of predicting climate plus the huge errors in current and past predictions versus reality, I think some healthy skepticism is warranted, mostly in the prediction of outcome. If we believed the ‘majority’ of scientists in the 80s and 90s we would have mass starvation, flooded cities, and hundreds of millions of climate refugees by now. NONE of that has happened. In fact it’s hard to perceive any change at all, never mind point to what should be huge and obvious disasters due to climate change. Yes glaciers have receded, the sea has risen a tiny amount, but they predicted absolute catastrophe, not some minor change in scenery. Where is it? We need to at least acknowledge that those scientists were completely wrong and therefore acknowledge that they could be wrong again. We should remain skeptical, especially of a field with such a bad track record.

      1. There has NEVER been a majority of scientists in the 80s and 90s that predicted mass starvation, flooded cities, and millions of climate refugees by now. In fact, I don’t know of any, but if you have one, let me know. But it will be one.

        Back in the 80s science was still projecting conservatively on climate change impacts. There were warnings, but nothing like we are seeing today. All of these science organizations were hardly opining on climate change, unlike today, when we see the American Association for the Advancement of Science say:

        “The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change documents both current impacts with significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. The scientific community has convened conferences, published reports, spoken out at forums and proclaimed, through statements by virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major scientific organization ? including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) ? that climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk.”

        They didn’t say anything like that until the 2000s.

        1. Well to be sure I’m probably exaggerating, however there definitely are some prominent scientists (i.e. James Hansen) that predicted outright catastrophe. Al Gore (yes I know, not a scientist) predicted 25ft sea level rise. Other prominent scientists (sorry I don’t remember their names) predicted ice free arctic and the “end of snow” in the US. The IPCC did have a whole section about climate refugees and predicted 200 million climate migrants by 2050 [http://ipcc-wg2.gov/njlite_download.php?id=5866]. Who knows, maybe that will still happen, but I doubt it very much.

          But yes I’m not talking conspiracy. I’m not even talking about doubting warming. I’m talking about doubting catastrophe, which I don’t believe there is any consensus around anyways (is there?). I’m talking about doubting magnitude (3.5C a century … where is it?) So far it’s not happening. Almost nothing is happening. The danger in labeling everyone that disagrees with the consensus ‘crazy’ is that it ignores valid criticism and doubt (like that maybe the danger of global warming has been greatly exaggerated). There is real doubt about magnitude and probability of a catastrophic outcome and, given history, there definitely should be.

      2. Tell you what, cryptic…it seems we both agree on conspiracy theories in the climate change debate, so I’ll leave it at that, since I am sure Jesse wants the discussion to be about conspiracies rather than efficacy in the field of climate science. Maybe best suited for a Bailey column. At least we discussed it rationally.

        So you can have the last word, we’ll just disagree on what science is telling us, and how much faith we should put in those warnings.

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