My Year as a Believer, Part 1

A Glib Non-pology for Dropping off the Face of the Skeptosphere

So, a few years ago a family member dies and I get roped into attending the funeral. She was a Keyes of the Presbyterian Keyeses, so we all know what we’re in for when the celebrant asks us to be seated.

Sure enough, the thesis of the next hour and 50 minutes is that we’re gathered “not so much to celebrate Agnes Day-Keyes’ life, as to mourn her painful, drawn-out death from asbestosis.”

Let us not give thanks for having had the privilege to know someone like Agnes but rather remind ourselves, as we look on her ravaged cadaver, that ours is a malevolent and scheming Lord who gets off on withholding information; that all we can ever know is that somebody in this chapel has no idea they’re about to embark on a ‘cancer journey’ that makes mesothelioma look like a quick heart attack on a beach.

(This must be what regular churchgoers mean when they say it’s an uplifting way to start your Sunday.)

So I’m standing there afterwards, trying to enjoy the finger food when I’m suddenly forced to ignore my older cousin, who’s broken down in disproportionate, rib-fracturing sobs.

Then this total random—a verger or sexton, I assume, or someone from a minor cadet branch of the family—comes up to her and hugs her and tells her chin up, dear, because “Agnes wouldn’t want us to be sad.”

Who do I see tapping this well-meaning shlemiel on the shoulder but the lady of the hour herself?

“Yes I bloody well would,” snaps the old bag of osteoporosis and embalming fluids. “The last thing I want is for these people to focus on the happy memories, blow their noses and move on with life.

“You obviously don’t know me, do you? Let me guess: that pointless son of mine is letting anyone wander in off the streets and help themselves to the finger food I paid for [from my earnings as a glove model in the 1960s and reputed concubine to a certain Australian James Bond], isn’t he?”

Of course, I’m using the verb “see” in the climate-scientific sense—as in, you only need to look out your window to see the impacts of climate change all around us. Is this an impact I see before me?

(To put it another way, “imagine.”)

The world isn’t a Woody Allen movie, and these Marshall McLuhan moments are sadly few and far between. Most of us will live our whole lives without getting the chance to smack a poseur down at our own funeral.

Still, my Lazarus-like return to the deniosphere feels like the next best thing.

I’ve now had an opportunity to haunt all the haunts you people frequent, seeing for myself how skepticism is faring today, on its own two feet, after coping with the unexplained loss of one of its best minds. Let’s just say it’s not what I expected.

Don’t worry, though: I’m not disappointed in you people, just angry.

Angry that you haven’t had the decency to collapse in a gibbering mess without me. It wouldn’t even have to be a hot (ECS 4.0-6.0ºC) mess—I’d have been content to return to the lukewarm mess of a 1.5-degree world.

The State of the Union of Unconcerned Science Deniers

It’s almost (not quite, but almost) as though my departure didn’t even devastate the entire movement. For example, since my revenance I’ve learned that:

  • Notwithstanding minor hand losses over the last three consecutive quarters, we still have the upper hand in the “battle to control the low ground” that is the PR knife-fight
  • According to the scientists-who-publicly-change-sides-on-closer-inspection-of-the-science scoreboard, we’ve actually widened our lead slightly (it was only 60-nil last year)
  • No reputable countries of international standing have gotten serious about saving the planet yet
  • Most Americans still struggle to pass the most fundamental test of atmospheric-science literacy: what percentage of published scientists failed to refute the IPCC between 1991 and 2002?
  • All trace of the existence of the world’s 24 million climate refugees—so far—has been interred with them, cleanly and quietly, and the public knows nothing. Interpol even seems to be losing interest in the whereabouts of those reporters who shall not be named (remember: the ones who wouldn’t play ball in Algiers)
  • In the population as a whole, denial is down 1.1%—but the 1.3% growth in denialism more than makes up for it

For humanity, the upshot seems to be: we’re still on track to reach the cliff before the Ambien wears off, provided we walk briskly and don’t stop to sleep-snack.

So, so far, so good.

But optimism is an optical illusion, say optometrists, whose message is clear: take off the half-full, rose-coloured glasses and stop cherry-picking. By selectively focusing on humanity in toto, we risk ignoring the bigger question: what about us? Whither the Movement?

I will try my best to answer this in language you people can understand when we return for Part 2. I’ll also be expecting a full accounting of what you did with the list of instructions I left, by the way.

And of course, all will be revealed: why I took a break from denialism; the insights I’ve gained over a year as a gullibilist; and what made me return just now, when mankind needs me the most. (No, it wasn’t Arthurian magic; it was science.)

The sequel ought to satisfy your curiosity, you vultures, but unfortunately I can’t say when I’ll post it. So as a courtesy to your family, friends and employers, let them know you’ll be taking the next couple of days off to focus on refreshing your browser every 30 seconds.



  1. Hi Hans

    the purpose of posting the above story was to upload it. Thereby, it is hoped, others (such as yourself) may read it, enjoy it and wonder why I wrote it.

    At the risk of immodesty, not only have I heard of Poe’s Law, I’ve been its leading exponent ever since it were a wee hypothesis. I’ve watched it grow to a theory, then a Law, under my tutelage. In fact my work “proving” it beyond reasonable doubt (mainly at WUWT) will be recognized next year when Nathan Poe and myself share a Nobel.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I believe my Spoonerism alert just went off.
    Shouldn’t “when Nathan Poe and myself share a Nobel” have been:
    “when nobel Poe and myself share a Nathan”?.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My mistake. Nathan means “Gift of God”; I meant to say “Gift of the Gab” (from Old English gabban (“to scoff, mock, delude, jest”) ).


  4. Brad
    You’re right that we haven’t got much further in your absence. But temporal coincidence isn’t correlation, and correlation is no more than a butterfly’s fart in a hurricane. And you need to define who “we” are.

    Here, “we” are just some people, numbered in the hundreds or low thousands, who enjoy each other’s company. WattsUpWithThat or Climate Etc. attract hundreds of thousands of the same kind of people jostling and shouting and falling over each other in the desperate struggle to keep up.

    Occasionally something important gets out of the skeptic bubble and reaches a few million, e.g. here:
    picked up here:
    Where Nic Lewis’s Climate Etc. article has been drawn to the attention of educated, informed conservatives. At this point, there’s likely to be a media pushback, and Nic’s spotting of a primary school level arithmetical error will be labelled a denialist meme being pushed by rightwing think tanks and fossil fuel lobbyists. The next and final act will be President Trump tweeting that ocean heat uptake is a Chinese conspiracy, and that’ll be it until the next time.

    I’m unable to decide whether the Nic Lewis policy of trying to get a correction into Nature is more effective than yours of calling out Oreskes as the Whore of Satan. Possibly a mixture of the two is the way forward?

    Anyway, don’t go away. You may be needed.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Geoff,

    “Here, “we” are just some people, numbered in the hundreds or low thousands,”

    Stop, stop, stop. Geoff. It’s OK.

    I know what you’re doing. I know you’ve been told not to talk about the corporate structure of Doubt, Inc. I know you’ve been told we must feign disorganization and informality at all times.

    But forget all that. Omertà was so…. Interregnum. Now that I’m back, we’re going to do things differently. Better. Smarter.

    I’ve decided the Restoration is going to be all about Glasnost, Geoff.

    So feel free to talk about the board, the executive, the management strata and the denialist infantry with abandon.

    The Other Side doesn’t believe a word we say anyway, so why have we wasted so much effort keeping up the ragtag-band-of-rebels act?

    Those days are over. Better to confess one’s deeds to an incredulous audience than deny them, yes?


  6. Okay Brad, I’ve girded my shibboleths and am ready for the fray. Lead on Oh leader who hath returned belatedly from across the water like an avenging galah. We await the second part of your missive with all the haste of a Geometrid.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. ALAN (08 Nov 18 at 9:58 am)

    It’s elderly folk like us girding their shibboleths up a notch too tight that has the NHS in its current dire state. I may be being too po-faced (and Poe-vulnerable) about this, but if Brad’s plan is to start something organised, I’d just say that when I suggested this at BishopHill a number of times it got the thumbs down.

    My thinking was quite simple and UK-specific. The BBC will only listen to you if you’re a recognised expert (i.e. an academic with tenure) or elected, or you represent something organised. This is why, when it comes to clmato-scepticism, they’ll get the eighty-year-old Lord Lawson out of bed at 7am in the hope he’ll say something silly, but will never ever interview Nic Lewis or Andrew Montford.

    On the other hand, some of the NGOs quoted in the media consist of nothing but a millionaire with tax-deductible charity status and an app that allows him to create full colour pie charts. The BBC are well ahead of Oreskes in their understanding of science. They know it’s about pie charts, so they’ll listen to that. To your felt pens, chaps.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Geoff, pie-graphs are okay, but let’s face it you can’t beat a writhing spaghetti chart (with its endless possibilities to hide things) to push out our message and cause psychic damage to our opponents. We must not be restricted to old technology and waving a high-confidence coloured illustration will enhance our cause and perhaps set off convulsive behaviours in our opponent’s hyppocampi if they stare at it for too long.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oreskes prefers to miscommunicate using bar graphs, as she did in the 2015 cinema adaptation of her conspiracy pamphlet The Protocols of the Merchants of Doubt. Is there any appetite out there for a post I’ve drafted (sent to Geoff for his thoughts/help) on the following unadorned fib?

    Wait, what am I thinking—the Krusher Krew will already have busted this wide open! I’m sure there’s a whole DeSmogBlog post about Oreskes’ misrepresentation of her research (they hate that kind of thing). Leading eco-ethicists in Musicology Departments everywhere have, no doubt, cited it as a headline example in papers fantasizing about custodial sentences for premeditated distortion of The Science.

    There’s no need to add to the chorus of criticism, is there?


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