Monday, July 21, 2008

I've created a monster (but he's a nice monster)

David Evans didn't have much of a public profile until he and I arranged a bet over future warming.

What I didn't anticipate is the denialist response to the bet, which I'd summarize as "OMG OMG OMG! A vanishingly small BUT NON-ZERO percentage of skeptics are actually willing to put their money where their mouths are, therefore the skeptic position is right!" This ignores the issue that it's the result of the bet that will provide the most evidence as to who's right, not to mention the extremely large number of denialists who wouldn't and still won't bet.

Still, the denialist fan reaction has given David some prominence, most recently in The Australian, which is some ridiculous Australian paper that's been on a denialist tear. I don't know what to do about it, frankly. I guess there isn't much I can do about it now- the bet's been made. The one thing I can do is link to Tim Lambert's definitive rebuttal to David's piece. And to James Annan's rebuttal of David's original argument.

I latched on the betting idea as a good way to communicate how wrong and often insincere the denialists are. I still think it is, but the occasional sincere skeptic is seized on by the denialists to set back the cause of reason.

And none of this is to deny the fact that David Evans is a nice guy. I can attest from numerous emails and one phone conversation that he's polite and reasonable in all respects other than his analysis of climate science. David's reference to himself as a "rocket scientist" is tongue-in-cheek although that might be missed by the denialist field. I just hope he doesn't go too far down this path.

The one good thing is that while it take many years to settle our bet, it won't take long to see who's on the path to winning, and that's likely to be helpful. Also: David said in his own post about this issue that "Given that betting is thus possible on this issue, it seems strange that some people who take strong positions and profit by those positions are not prepared to bet even a small amount of their own money. Betting something of one's own money adds, shall we say, credibility." People who support David's position should contact me about getting into the game.

UPDATE: David responds in the comments.

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