We are skeptics who have devoted much of our careers to practicing and promoting scientific skepticism. We ask that journalists use more care when reporting on those who reject climate science, and hold to the principles of truth in labeling. Please stop using the word “skeptic” to describe deniers.
It’s easy to “doubt” things; everyone is “skeptical” about something. Good Skepticism involves understanding why one might or might not doubt the claim. [Source: Media Guide to Skepticism]
Denialists, as put forth in Michael Specter's book Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, are those who "replace rigorous and open-minded skepticism of science with inflexible certainty of ideological commitment." The result is that portions of our society struggling with change will reject the facts hitting us in the face, turning away from reality in favor of a comfortable lie. To reject the facts about evolution, global warming, or vaccinations, for which there is NO scientific controversy, is harmful to society.
Jolene Creighton writing on the blog From Quarks to Quasars also discusses the stark difference: "Skeptics want evidence; they seek it; they find it; then they accept it. Deniers do not want real evidence and they won’t accept any if it is brought before them. A person who rejects an idea that is backed by scientific evidence is a denier, and they are anti-science."
Deniers are anti-science. They only like science when it can be bent to fit their aims. They do not subscribe to or accept the ethos of scientific inquiry.
This story is huge positive press for skeptical advocacy. When Bill Nye talks these days, journalists take notice. Let's ride the wave. Here's what you can do to press this issue:
- Call out reporters for using the term "skeptic" when referring to those who refuse to consider the scientific consensus.
- Offer to fund donations of skeptical books to your local library including ebooks
- Chat with your legislator about issues that are important to you and how science supports action.
- Join or support your local skeptics group.
- Send journalists the Media Guide to Skepticism, pass it to officials, educators and wherever you promote the rational viewpoint.
- Practice your answer to "What is skepticism?" to give your own elevator pitch when you need it.
- Link to quality news and science information web sites on social media.
- Add links to skeptical information sites in forums, in news story comments and on Facebook when a rebuttal is needed.
- Talk to kids about how to be properly skeptical and why evidence is important.
- Offer friendly suggestions to family, friends and colleagues about evidence-based views when controversial subjects (like global warming and vaccination) arise.
These are easy ways you can help every day to make the world a bit more rational. Maybe it will be you that can plant the seed.