follow up to Pathologizing Dissent

Well, following on from  mr Corner’s apparent  attempt to present skepticism as a psychological disease to be “understood”,  I tweeted him  to see if he’d be prepared to reassert his rather damaged objective credibility by doing the same for the other “side” (I really hate talking in such terms) in the debate.

Here’s the exchange:

QuidSapio ‏‪@QuidSapio @AJCorner I'm proposing a discussion to analyse the "psychology of Belief"
 - would you like to take part? 
Adam Corner ‏‪@AJCorner @QuidSapio possibly. But am not keen on how personal its getting 
(Barry Woods pics etc; comments on Bishop Hill), so wary of taking part  

QuidSapio ‏‪@QuidSapio AJCorner well if we both agree to keep it non-personal (I always prefer that) - 
how about that? We can do it any way you're ok with

QuidSapio ‏‪@QuidSapio Adam Corner ‏‪@AJCorner @QuidSapio but reading your post you've already 
called me (personally) 'smug' and patronising. So why would I want to talk to you? 
QuidSapio ‏‪@QuidSapio @AJCorner nothing personal - psychoanalysing one side in a debate can 
seem smug, which is why I'm inviting you to analyse AGW Belief too

I haven’t heard anything from him since this – and that was about 17hrs ago, so I am assuming he’s following through with his last tweet. I’m not worth talking to because I called him “smug” – though of course if you look at my post I didn’t actually do anything as direct as that.

But I’m not sure of the ethics on display here. Mr C seems now to be reacting as if he were some private citizen taken to task unfairly for simply stating his views. That’s nonsense. He runs a blog. He published his “Understanding the Psychology of Skepticism”  on that blog. By doing that and by presuming to present skepticism as a disorder to be “understood” he was publicly standing by a position. if that position is subsequentluy questioned he has to be prepared to either defend it or retract. 

What he can’t ethically do -in my view – is decline to engage on the grounds his feelings are hurt.

And if we add to this the events unfolding on his blog – where he has actually posted his intention to censor any comment that discusses the rational basis for skepticism – then we have legitimate basis for asking, is this a real academic process he’s engaged in, or a rather silly and unpleasant PR stunt?

Can Mr C rescue his “Understanding the Psychology of Skepticism” as a legitimate enquiry? Only,   I think,  by being prepared to answer questions like a responsible academic. If he continues to use censorship and cries of “you’re being personal” to control legitimate responses to his work then he has relinquished the right to be taken seriously.


I posted this on Mr Corner’s blog. It pretty much sums up why I care about this as much as I do and can probably stand as my final word on the matter pending some new development:

Adam — hi

We talked on Twitter remember. I sug­gested a recip­rocal dis­cus­sion in which you and a prom­inent pro­ponent of AGW dis­cuss the Psychology of Belief.

You said you might be inter­ested but were wor­ried about it becoming too “personal”.

I’m sorry if my use of the word “smug” con­trib­uted to your sense of alarm. I cer­tainly didn’t intend it in any deeply per­sonal way. At least no more per­son­ally than your assump­tion of the right to dia­gnose shades of opinion as more or less symp­to­matic of illness.But I think anyone you debated with would be happy to remain as imper­sonal as would be com­men­surate with “under­standing” your deeper reasons for feeling the need to bellieve.

With that in mind, have you had any more thoughts on the sug­ges­tion I made?

Let me explain more about why I’m here asking you that.

See, from my POV, I feel as if the most important thing we have as human beings is not faith or Belief and all the pre­tence we use to defend those things, but the pre­pared­ness — always — to accept we may be wrong and the will­ing­ness to embrace the massive import­ance of Uncertainty. I think we all agree if we could all do that then there’d be no more insane ideo­logues, drunk on cer­ti­tude, per­se­cuting the Different. No more hub­ristic claims of Absolute Truth. Ad indeed no more insi­dious attempts to reclas­sify unpop­ular opin­ions as a basis for psychoanalysis.

I don’t think you intended what you’re doing to be an open invit­a­tion to bigotry — but that really makes no dif­fer­ence. And even if you’re not aware of the uses that such casual den­ig­ra­tion can be put to, you can rest assured there are others who are.

So, that’s why I think it’s important you acknow­ledge the full rami­fic­a­tions of the pos­i­tion you’re taking and that you deal respons­ibly with the urgent need to reas­sert Uncertainty. To remind your­self and everyone else that being abso­lutely damn sure you’re right is not a guar­antee of any­thing but a degree of estrange­ment from reality.

The best way to do that reas­serting would — IMO — be that recip­rocal ana­lysis of the psy­cho­logy of belief we talked about.

So — how about it?

Perhaps you and Geoff could meet up again with roles reversed?

If you did that it would show that even though you have equated dis­sent with sick­ness and even though you’ve effect­ively cen­sored defence of skep­ti­cism from your web­site — you can still see the need for balance.

Hope you don’t censor this — because that *would* be ironic wouldn’t it

5 Responses to “follow up to Pathologizing Dissent”
  1. foxgoose says:

    Well, Adam put your post up.

    And now he’s posted a long & somewhat incoherent all purpose reply to all his critics.

    I’m not sure it advances the discussion much – but he has confirmed that, whatever the problem is, it’s mainly the fault of old. white men.

    • Quid Sapio says:

      Yes I saw it. Very rambling as you say. And quite revealing too.

      He talks about “climate science” as if it means one thing – “science that supports AGW”. And I don’t think he’s just playing word games. I think it sincerely has not occurred to him that there might be any other kind. I think for him skepticism simply does not exist as anything but a failure to accept The Truth, because for him AGW is something he believes in so absolutely alternatives are impossible.

      Ironically it’s a POV that really *would* make an interesting psychological study.

  2. foxgoose says:

    I find it very strange that the climate debate has subtly moved from technical arguments about the “hard” science to debating the psychological issues of scepticism. –

    I suppose it’s conceivable that this was just a result of an academic free-for-all to grab grant funding by tacking “climate change” on to every research proposal that went out of the door – whether sociology, psychology or philosophy.

    The alternative explanation is quite sinister. That the technical arguments were being lost due to the revelations of the climategate emails and the forensic work of Montford and McIntyre – so a positive decision was made in the activist movement to shut up about the science and channel research funding into “pathologising dissent”, as you put it.

    The really bizarre outcome of this is that is is impossible for people like Adam Corner to justify their “faith” because they don’t have the basic hard science education to understand the technical issues involved.

    The result is a “dialogue of the deaf” where the new defenders of the faith have to promote the consensus while closing their ears to perfectly valid criticisms.

    We sceptics used to, tongue in cheek, accuse climate science of being a religion – now that it’s being defended by acolytes who aren’t allowed to understand or question it – it has actually become one!

  3. Dodgy Geezer says:

    ” So why would I want to talk to you? (when you are only going to try to show me that I’m wrong…)

    (With acknowledgements to Phil Jones)

  4. Barry Woods says:

    actually they were not “Barry Woods’ pics”…

    they were Foxgoose’s, and I merely referred to them..

    and adding to that they were not Foxgoose’s pics either. they were a photo from a publically available Green Party magazine! from an article in the magazine actually written by Dr Adam Corner!

    As the photo’s showed Green Party Candidate Dr Adam Corner, carrying a placard stating ‘Act Now’ at Copenhagen itself, it did seem relevant, that perhaps that this psychologist was perhaps a little more partisan particpant than Bishop Hill regulars were led to believe, ie his description of a researcher..

    That’s all an inconvenient fact, publically available, from Foxgoose.

    so Adam to try the Barry’s pics line, is a bit irritating.

    The other photo of him painted blue, wearing a blue wig on a climate march a week or 2 earlier, (that I found) would have been amusing as well (but I did not publish it) as I wanted to talk, at the time. all though that was also publically available as well, again from an article he had written on the Friends of the Earth website!!

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