Denier or Sceptic: what’s in a name?

Does the shoe fit?

Robert Manne in a recent article in the Monthly makes some salient points about the use of the term “denier” and “sceptic” in trying to define the those who disregard – or disbelieve – the science supporting climate change:

“Around the time of Copenhagen the anti-climate science disinformation campaign achieved a kind of qualitative breakthrough. The deniers who benefited from this growing mood now called themselves, and were called by others, sceptics. In the cultural struggle over climate change this was a significant linguistic move, founded upon a frightful but surprisingly common confusion. For someone working at the cutting edge of a tough discipline like climate science, scepticism, open-mindedness, is vital. For someone ignorant of that discipline, scepticism amounts to little more than folly and hubris…”

I confess I’ve used the terms interchangeably. Manne makes the distinction clear. Personally, I’ve always referred to myself as a “sceptic”: someone that attempts to use reason and evidence.

Scepticism is healthy. Scepticism is good. Scepticism is a good tool not only scientists, but for lay persons such as myself.

But, as Mann suggests the climate change deniers have co-opted a term with a proud and venerable history. I don’t equate climate change denial with Holocaust denial. However, there can be very little doubt that these wannabe sceptics are in fact denying the science which is compelling and denying the risk our civilisation faces.

Let’s not forget that one of the bibles of the denial movement is a text called “The Deniers“.

Can we say “Deniers” is the correct label? I think the shoe fits.

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