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On Bullshit - De Sterco Tauri - A Denialist Manifesto

At warmalarmist website Skeptical Science, they’ve published a ‘scientific guide’ that purports to correct mistakes (huh!) in ‘The Skeptics Handbook’, that tour de farce of denial circulated by second-rate journalist brilliant amateur climatologist Joanne Nova. Guidebooks and Handbooks are all very well, but really they’re just recipe books -- collections of facts or nonsense lacking the philosophical underpinnings to enlighten disciples on how they should argue rather than just what they should say. We would therefore like to direct our readers to a perhaps overlooked dissertation that fits the denialist credo perfectly: On Bullshit, by Princeton academic Harry Frankfurt.

What makes Frankfurt’s exposition so relevant is the unassailably-argued distinction it draws between bullshit and lies. Now, certain hotheaded warmalarmists have in the past accused us deniers of the occasional lie. Such accusations miss the fundamental point that to lie, one has to know, and even care about, the truth. As Frankfurt says:

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

The application to climate denial is obvious: we don’t care what it is that’s causing
global warming climate change (if indeed it’s even happening); we only care to persuade people that a single factor, CO2, isn’t, and we can achieve this by bullshitting rather than by the usual tedious scientific practice of falsification. Thus set free from having to provide a believable description of cause, our arguments can have far greater leeway. They don’t even have to be consistent: it’s the sun, it’s the planets, it’s cosmic rays, it’s El Nino -- it’s self-contradictory, but it doesn’t matter. The Friends of Science understand this very well. Lord Monckton, we’re sure, understands it even better than Frankfurt.

Students of denial should read and commit to memory the whole thing, and use its precepts with renewed fervor in their blog diatribes. Because they are so pertinent to our cause, though, we reproduce here the closing two paragraphs:

“The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “anti-realist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry. One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself. Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth
about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature. It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore try instead to be true to himself.


“But it is preposterous to imagine that we ourselves are determinate, and hence susceptible both to correct and to incorrect descriptions, while supposing that the ascription of determinacy to anything else has been exposed as a mistake. As conscious beings, we exist only in response to other things, and we cannot know ourselves at all without knowing them. Moreover, there is nothing in theory, and certainly nothing in experience, to support the extraordinary judgment that it is the truth about himself that is the easiest for a person to know. Facts about ourselves are not peculiarly solid and resistant to skeptical dissolution. Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial -- notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.”

Carry on bullshitting!