CSI Gets AP To Change Style Manual. But They Got It Wrong

By "they" I mean AP. But, really, CSI kinda messed this up too.

Put this one on your list of examples of effective activism that backfired.

AP is throwing out the correct term, 'denier' in favor of a bogus term, to describe climate science deniers. CSI wanted them to stop using 'skeptic'. But the baby got thrown out with the bathwater.

From the CSI:

A small but important victory for science was scored in the public debate over climate change Tuesday, as the Associated Press announced that it would no longer refer to those who deny the reality of climate change as "skeptics" — a change that the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has been urging the entire journalistic establishment to make. However, the AP will begin to refer to science-deniers as "doubters," which CSI believes remains problematic and confusing.

Last year, over 50 prominent scientists, scholars, and communicators associated with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) wrote a joint letter to the news media urging them to refrain from labeling those who deny the scientific consensus behind climate change as "skeptics." As they stated in the letter, "Proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims." Those criteria do not apply to those who reject reality in favor of misinformation or half-baked conspiracies about climate "hoaxes."

Signatories to the CSI statement included "science guy" Bill Nye, physicist Mark Boslough, Cosmos co-creator Ann Druyan, science advocate Eugenie Scott, Nobel laureate Sir Harold Kroto, David Morrison of the SETI Institue, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, among many others. ...

In new guidelines for its journalists announced today, the Associated Press instructed its writers to refrain from referring to those to refuse to accept the reality of climate change as "skeptics" or "deniers," but rather to use the term "doubter," or else refer to them as "those who reject mainstream climate science."

"We're very glad that the word 'skeptic' will no longer be used to describe deniers of climate science, such as Sen. James Inhofe, who claims to believe that global warming is a hoax," said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. "Skeptics use reason and evidence to reach conclusions, and that simply doesn't apply to those who reject the scientific consensus on our warming planet."

However, Lindsay cautioned that replacing "skeptic" with the term "doubter" remains problematic. "The AP's journalism is read throughout the world, and heavily influences the public's understanding of crucial issues such as climate change. Referring to deniers as 'doubters' still imbues those who reject scientific fact with an intellectual legitimacy they have not earned. The general public, we fear, will still not get a clear picture of which public figures are basing their positions on reality, and which are not."

Despite problems with the term "doubters," CSI expressed that the longer classification of "those who reject mainstream climate science" was acceptably clarifying.

I think somebody forgot to suggest to AP what they should do if they stop using the word "skeptic."

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Doesn't “those who reject mainstream climate science” imply that there are other (reputable) "non-mainstream" climate sciences that the science deniers subscribe to instead?

Last I checked, "science is science", and there doesn't exist an alternative; alternatives are "not science", and often "anti-science".

How about "thralls" or "ideologues" if they don't like the term "deniers"?

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 22 Sep 2015 #permalink

Maybe the term "alternative" is suitable?

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 22 Sep 2015 #permalink

Doesn't work well as a nominative. But also, "alternative" connotes a sense of legitimacy, as though there were multiple, valid options to pick & choose from. One wouldn't refer to astrology as an "alternative science" -- it's not science; it's mythology and superstition. We need a word that indicates a rejection of science and an embracing of groundless, "because I want it to be this way" childishness.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 23 Sep 2015 #permalink