National Geographic Daily News
Photo of a polar bear on melting ice.

Reddit's stance against allowing climate change deniers to post comments has stirred debate.

Photograph by Paul Souders, Corbis

Jane J. Lee

National Geographic

Published December 18, 2013

Reddit, the popular website where users post articles and comments on topics ranging from music to science, has created a stir this week thanks to an opinion piece one of its moderators wrote about posts denying climate change.

Reddit's science subsection boasts over four million subscribers—scientists and non-scientists alike—and is moderated by a group of 24 users.

One of those moderators, Nathan Allen, submitted an opinion piece to Grist on December 16, writing about how Reddit Science bans posts denying climate change, and calling for newspapers to follow suit.

The policy has actually been in effect at Reddit Science for about a year. Moderators noticed that many posts denying climate change were not related to peer-reviewed research, which is a requirement of all submissions to the Reddit Science site, Allen told the climate section of the blog ThinkProgress.

Once moderators began to crack down on this, Allen writes in Grist that they saw an immediate change in the tone and civility of discussions on climate change.

"Where once there were personal insults and bitter accusations, there is now discussion of the relevant aspects of the research," Allen writes. "Instead of (almost comically) paranoid and delusional conspiracy theories, we have knowledgeable users explaining complicated concepts to non-scientists who are simply interested in understanding the research."

Allen's piece has provoked over 600 comments on the Reddit Science website so far. Some express derision or outrage, while some wonder if discussion of the opinion piece itself should be removed since it's not related to peer-reviewed research.

"I would say if the posted article meets the criteria of the forum it should be allowed," wrote wbell on Reddit Science. "Given that most climate denial articles are just blog posts and not current peer-reviewed research, they would not meet the criteria and should be removed on [those] grounds, but if someone can find a valid article they should be able to post it."

"It's not that we have it out for climate science deniers as much as it is our subreddit reflects the current scientific consensus in the form of only allowing peer-reviewed material from reputable journals, which almost completely excludes climate science denial given the overwhelming agreement in the scientific community on this subject," writes Inri137, a Reddit Science moderator.

This move by Reddit Science is only the latest in its attempts to crack down on unsubstantiated comments in its community. Moderators use similar methods when reviewing posts against vaccination or evolution.

55 comments
Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford

I have encountered deniers on various discussion boards for years. I have debated the issue with them hundreds of times. Not once has any denier demonstrated intellectual integrity. They make patently false statements, they distort true statements, they promulgate ridiculous conspiracy theories, and they refuse to respond to points they cannot rebut. The most common behavior, though, is what I call "drive-by posts". They drop into a blog and make their random snide remarks, then disappear.


Honest, open discussion promotes truth. The ploys of the deniers fall outside the pale of honest discussion. I think that blocking them from nonpolitical discussion boards is entirely appropriate. And between Fox News and the various conservative discussion boards, talk of censorship by conservatives is ludicrous.

Soul Ice
Soul Ice

Science aside, it is a shame that those who see global warming, climate change, man-made change got the first media hit by calling the other side "deniers" and simply through a word implies they are wrong, nuts or whatever.   That seems wrong in itself and does not lead to good discourse.  It is a derogatory term and is meant to be.  Shame on those who claim to be truth hunters and truly neutral as scientist should be.

Vitaly Klitschko
Vitaly Klitschko

The definitive peer reviewed paper on the subject of AGW is Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf Tscheuschner's'Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics.'

Unfortunately, it is not peer reviewed (rubber stamped) by climate science journals. It is therefore subject to ridicule and its findings ignored and suppressed.

This behavior by Reddit Science is nothing more nor less than censorship.

Michael Hart
Michael Hart

I'm in the 'sceptic' camp.


To me, the existence of climate change is reasonable. Over millennia, as the Earth cools, there are bound to be changes in climate. From a planet's birth to the death of its star, how could climate <i>not</i> change?


As for the changes being anthropogenic, that also strikes me as reasonable. How can over 7 billion people live on this planet <i>without</i> affecting it to some degree?


So why am I a 'sceptic'? 


If you want to divide one number by another and need a precise answer, one reaches for a calculator. I do this, but I'm also in the habit of simplifying the numbers, doing a little mental arithmetic, and using the result to check that the answer given by the calculator is in the right 'ball park'. It's a simple way of avoiding rudimentary errors.


And that's the problem. I believe we are making rudimentary errors on how we address climate change.


Firstly, there is what I can only describe as a drive for 'stasis'; an attempt to halt all changes in climate. Surely the goal should be to work <i>with</i> the planet and to cope with climate change.


Secondly, the approach used by legislators seem to be more about 'flag waving' than actually doing something. They put a small windmill generator (now broken for several years) on the side of our local fire station, but there is no attempt at reversing world population growth.


One hundred million years ago, even the Arctic was tropical, but it isn't now. This has taught me that climate does change. The climate change 'model' suggests that we are going through a warm period, but ice cores and other evidence show that this has happened in the past - long before humans were on the planet to influence matters. This has taught me that current climate change doesn't have to be anthropogenic. The Government charges us all manner of green taxes and levies, whilst mulling whether to build a new runway at Heathrow or at Gatwick. This has taught me that the business of climate change has now moved from the scientific to the political.


I'm a sceptic.

Justin Smith
Justin Smith


I have one question to ask everybody. In all the years past that the field of science been around how many times has science been right when compared to how many times science has been wrong? 


Now think about that percentage of being right and apply that to odds that science is right about climate change? 


The answer should have no opinion just factual statistical analysis. Any mathematician brave enough to give an answer? 


Stuart M.
Stuart M.

Oh no, now the climate change deniers have moved over here to National Geographic. There is a fundamental misunderstanding about democracy in the USA. While we the people are all equal before the law, all opinions are NOT equal. Some opinions are correct and some are wrong. When 97% of climate scientists say our climate is warming due to man-made CO2 emissions, I think that is an opinion worth hearing, not cranks with an ax to grind who create numerous sock puppets everywhere on the Internet just to trumpet their conspiracy theories. 

Ax Blake
Ax Blake

You can't ban an opinion. That's the point of taking freedom of expression that next step further. You must state your position, and if opposed, prove it's true. It's the natural state(s) we accept between eachother that helps us understand what we're refering to.

Then it's a matter of seeing how much you care about it, and what you're prepared to do.

You can't ban opinions on the basis of appricating more than just yourself. You're just controlling the perception, no matter how right you may be. If someone comes in with the most bizarre opinion, .. it's bizarre to your life. Maybe not someone elses. The ability to meet a different opinion and show it what you're trying to highlight aswell as sharing that apprication you have for it.. it goes a long way. Unless you are outright tired of having to defend yourself, create a more compiled ..


Or you feel there's an outright organisation/mentality/lifeforce that's eroding the fragile understandings we have? There's a difference between a conflict of opinons, and someone outright seeking to subdue a opinon, or perception. Or are you worried that vital understandings are being openly shared to people that might abuse that understanding(s)/research? 


Idk.. why don't you make a meme to isolate and define people who don't agree and paste it there each time you post. Badges for all? Or maybe we're not all on the same page....


Jim Steele
Jim Steele

CO2 climate change is just a hypothesis that lacks verification. Science requires testing and natural tests require 60 years in order to compare natural cycles. The current 17 year hiatus, numerous "warm holes" , the consensus that all tree ring studies suggest the 40s were warmer than today, and Argo data showing that the oceans have cooled slightly since 2003, all argue that at the very least more respectful debate is needed. 


Advocating a  " Ban on Climate Change Denial " is a call for intellectual tyranny. Such a call defiles science . Science demands that we critically analyzes any and all hypotheses. The call for banning skeptics is reminiscent of the fascists attempt to shut up Einstein when the consensus wrote "100 Against Einstein." or when the established scientists attempted to quiet John Muir as an "ignorant shepherd." 


These calls to ban skeptical thinking should scare people far more than the insignificant changes wrought by rising CO2. More realistically, it suggests a rising tide of totalitarianism that is grasping for political power by banning anyone who disagrees. It suggests we are on the verge of the darkest period of true science. My era of social justice championed the motto "question authority". Now those who seek to entrench themselves as the authority, ask us to accept their their authority unquestioningly. This is nascent fascism.

Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones

Anthropogenic climate change is as nearly a fact as the Theory of Evolution. There are powerful political, economic, and religious forces at play, and they are threatened by both "theories." Laymen, the typical reader, typically confuse the scientific meaning of theories, thinking instead of hypotheses. If only science education in the USA would become a national priority, Reddit may not have had to crack down in the manner they had. C'est la vie!

Joel Smith
Joel Smith

Only "peer-reviewed articles" permitted within the realm of "scientific consensus" or "settled science." It is a shame that such filters need to be applied to protect prevailing ideas from independent thinking. It speaks more about the arrogance of would-be knowledge-keepers than actual science or dissident behavior,  Creative thinkers with novel thoughts may thus have no forum. Alas, it has been so throughout the growth of human knowledge. Most geniuses and rogue thinkers faced much the same. Every generation believes they are the wisest of all. What hubris.

Cameron Spitzer
Cameron Spitzer

The ban only seems strange because we have become accustomed to false balance in journalism, where "both sides" must be taken with equal seriousness.  Even when one side has a hundred years of science behind it, and the other is being conjured up by public relations firms working for the coal industry.  Google "journalistic balance as bias" and you'll find poor reporting of manmade climate change is the textbook example of the phenomenon.  The FAIR article is a good intro for general readers, and the academic papers are even better.

Eric Paul
Eric Paul

Paul M. (below) - thank you for clarifying exactly why this ban was necessary - to keep uneducated lunatics like yourself from wasting everyone's time with unsubstantiated garbage.

Paul M.
Paul M.

Prove me wrong! Science NEVER agreed it WILL be a crisis and nothing beyond "could be" a crisis and not one IPCC warning says it WILL be or is "inevitable" yet YOU say it WILL and condemn my family to your exaggerated greenhouse gas ovens.

Who's the neocon here?

30 years of needless CO2 panic and CO2 death threats to billions of innocent children is a war crime for history to judge.


Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Soul Ice I suppose they could have earned a better nickname if they had, like the rest of us, actually backed their comments with peer reviewed references instead of making unsubstantiated claims and hurling insults at those scientists who have spent entire carriers studying the problem.

Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Vitaly Klitschko  It is fair to discuss a paper that has been peer reviewed. Here is a link to a comment on that paper by experts in the same field of physics: http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S021797921005555X.


Here is their excerpted summary: In this journal, Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner claim to have falsified the existence of an atmospheric greenhouse effect.1 Here, we show that their methods, logic, and conclusions are in error. Their most significant errors include trying to apply the Clausius statement of the Second Law of Thermodynamics to only one side of a heat transfer process rather than the entire process, and systematically ignoring most non-radiative heat flows applicable to the Earth's surface and atmosphere. They claim that radiative heat transfer from a colder atmosphere to a warmer surface is forbidden, ignoring the larger transfer in the other direction which makes the complete process allowed. Further, by ignoring heat capacity and non-radiative heat flows, they claim that radiative balance requires that the surface cool by 100 K or more at night, an obvious absurdity induced by an unphysical assumption. This comment concentrates on these two major points, while also taking note of some of Gerlich and Tscheuschner's other errors and misunderstandings.



Read More: http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S021797921005555X

Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Michael Hart Please read "The Two Mile Time Machine". The warming we have experienced for the last 100 years has been entirely unprecedented relative to any astronomical / orbital / solar mechanics - as revealed by ice cores from Greenland going back almost 500,000 years.


The problem is not whether we can adapt - with our current technology, we can adapt, but not at the current population level. More explicitly, trying to feed and provide a high quality of life for the 9 BILLION people projected to be on this planet 50 years from now cannot happen if climate devastates our food production and greatly increases the spread of a wide variety of tropical diseases and swamps millions of people in major cities throughout the world from rising seas.


It is a problem no different than for an individual who has a choice to continue smoking and over eating or getting into shape. You can prevent the horrible end case and live a long and productive life, or, you can ignore all the danger signals and guarantee yourself a horrible suffering death.


Which do you want?

Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford

@Michael Hart Mr. Hart, I'd like to engage you in honest, open discussion of climatology. First, I'll answer some of your points, then I'll ask you some questions:


1. You suggest that we should not attempt to maintain stasis, and go with the flow. What happens when the change you acquiesce to leads to economic losses measured in the trillions of dollars per year? Is this acceptable to you?


2. You point out that climate has changed in the past, so this round of climate change is nothing special. May I remind you that the current rate of change is unprecedented in its speed? Past changes in climate have taken thousands of years to develop; the current change is taking place on a time scale at least ten times faster than anything in earth's history. Does this not convince you that human activities are at the root of this highly abnormal phenomenon?


Now two questions for you:


1. Do you consider your knowledge of climate change to be superior to that of people who have devoted their lives to studying the problem? If not, how can you justify your presumption in contradicting the conclusions of thousands of scientists?


2. Just how extensive is your education in climatology? Have you any formal degrees in the field? If not, what scientific literature have you studied? Have you read IPCC AR5? Have you read any of the papers it cites?

Yu Bal
Yu Bal

That's a really flawed way to understand the problem and do the math... we dont just do some easy mind arithmetic and check if its true... we check every number time and time again so we are completely sure we are not making mistakes...

The planet has warmed many times before... but at what rate? All the other times it has warmed has been throught thousands of years, at a rate slow enough that life can evolve around it or adapt to it... this warming phase we're going through is happening too fast, in just a 100 years the planet has warmed too much in too little time, coinciding with the industrial revolution ... this warming is made by man

Zinc Kidd
Zinc Kidd

@Justin Smith  I think your metric is misguided.  Every time science makes a mistake and we discover it, that's when science learns something.  Scientists are often actively looking for mistakes, as that's where the frontiers are.  As Issac Asimov said, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'".   Scientific careers are made when a scientist discovers an error in our current understanding.  So in fact, the more errors you can count, it's likely the better the science is, because the fact that you can count the errors means they have been identified.


Another question might be, are they still making the same errors?  Generally, in science they are not once confronted.  And this is largely due to the fact that they have a good mechanism for keeping track.  Count how many errors the denialists make, and see if once confronted they have corrected the errors or are still making them.

So just as important is the way scientists communicate to other scientists.  A good way the errors are kept careful track of, so they won't be made again.  How are denialists keeping track of their errors?
The scientific method consists of several important components.  Hypothesize, experiment, gather data, analyze, and then PUBLISH.  This last step is critical, else you're essentially operating in a vacuum.  You don't want other scientists to go without knowing about the errors you found, do you?  And you publish them in the appropriate places, peer-reviewed journals.
Are the denialists publishing their scientific results?  If they are doing any science they certainly should be.  Fortunately, that's something that can be checked, another value of the standard publication methods of science.  Let's see.  From 1991-2012, there were 13,950 peer-reviewed articles on climate published.  24 of those reject global warming.  So we can see that global warming contradictory papers CAN be published in the journals. But, with a very few exceptions the deniers simply aren't doing it.  For the most part they're just NOT doing any science.  If they were they'd be publishing because THAT'S WHAT SCIENTISTS DO.  When you publish your claims on blogs instead of peer-reviewed journals, you are not presenting your scientific evidence, you are propagandizing to the lay public.
It's as simple as that.  They ONLY people actually doing any climate science are convinced of global warming, and the denialists are mostly not bothering to present any scientific evidence at all, they're just mumbling to themselves on street corners like the homeless people.

Andrew H.
Andrew H.

@Stuart M. Consensus is an interesting thing.  Certainly it's worth listening to, but it doesn't mean that it's not wrong. 


As a very recent example, a long term study has just been published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute apparently claiming that there's no statistically significant link between passive smoke and the occurrence of lung cancer.  It's not claiming that passive smoke is healthy, just that it doesn't lead to lung cancer.  And apparently it followed 76,000 people over more than a decade, so it's not a small scale study.  I'm not a smoker, it sounds like a ridiculous proposition to me, and I bet it definitely goes against the consensus ... and yet there it is.  I don't think I should ignore it, or ridicule it on the basis of my fashionable disagreement.


Just because there's consensus that the climate is warmer than it was prior to 1800, and that there's probably a significant human component to that surely doesn't either mean that we necessarily have an adequate understanding of the complexity of the planet's climate, or that scientific understanding might not form different conclusions in the future.


For the record I'm a fan of reducing our use of hydrocarbon based fuels, especially because of issues of air quality and the sustainable expansion of energy usage ... but that doesn't mean that I can't or shouldn't entertain the possibility that our understanding of the climate is yet to mature.

Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Ax Blake I think the worry is that if no censoring of unsubstantiated facts is done by the moderators, the important discussions would be drowned out by the noise. Do we have to have yet another great scientific journal terminate their blog due to uninformed and obnoxious noise-makers? I would rather have some moderation occur.

This is no different than the need to have referees at football games. What would the game be like without them? Think about it.

anne boad
anne boad

@Ax Blake No, you can't ban an opinion. Is their a law against ridiculing it?

John Smith
John Smith

@Jim Steele

If you have such valuable insight against the popular theory of anthropogenic climate change, then why don't you publish it?

That way the whole world can laugh at you instead of a couple people on NatGeo comments, it'll be fantastic.

Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Jim Steele Please provide peer reviewed references for your statement that "climate" was warmer 40 years ago and that natural tests require 60 years or longer.

Read "The Two Mile Time Machine". We have over 500,000 years of direct evidence.

By all means, question authority. But, do it intelligently!


Zinc Kidd
Zinc Kidd

@Jim Steele If you really have important dara here about climate, why isn't someone working on getting it published where it counts?  Blog comments is not where scientific results are published, peer-reviewed journals are, and for good reasons-- you can keep much better track of the important information involved.  The last step in the scientific method, after hypothesis, experiment, collect data and analyze is to publish the results. Anyone not doing that is not doing science, they're talking to themselves.  Publishing is what scientists do, and is simply how you tell what's science and what's propagandistic hyperbole.  If someone claims to have important climate data contradictory to global warming, but can't be bothered to publish it where the scientists all communicate and keep track of such things, something's wrong with that picture, and it spells, lack-of-credibility.

Vitaly Klitschko
Vitaly Klitschko

@Stephen JonesThere is no experimental evidence for AGW. Quite the reverse. R Wood's experimental greenhouse repeated by Nahle refutes back radiation and therefore an Arrhenius greenhouse effect. The physics is simply and obvious but willfully ignored.

Zinc Kidd
Zinc Kidd

@Joel Smith Publishing results is what scientists do.  Anyone who is not doing that is talking to themselves.  It's not hubris to expect important data to be recorded in a consistent and systematic fashion.  And it's not like it's all that hard, what's the big problem here?  You have to hand in your homework to make the grade.  Geniuses and rogue thinkers who can't be bothered to systematically document their results are no better than crackpots.  Whiners. Can't type?  Fingers broken?  Or what?


Also note that peer-review generally does not block papers from publication based on information content,  but journal editors ARE sticklers for proper formatting and references, etc., and the like.  Articles rejected are usually rejected for formatting problems and often be accepted on resubmission.  So the only real reason to argue against publishing is laziness.


Now it is true that some journals reject papers due to redundancy or relevance, often simply because publishing is expensive and large numbers of papers may be submitted which as a collection, need editing.  Some journals are swamped with submissions.  Some journals have resorted to publishing additional volumes where the authors have to pay to be published-- this may also be due to the fact that university scientists may be expected to publish as part of their contracts and need to get it done.  And this practice may be somewhat controversial. But it means If you can't come up with a particularly notable paper you might have to pay to get it published.  But if that's the case you really ought to reexamine whether or not your conclusions are well justified and interesting.  Or look for other relevant journals, in busy fields there are often several journals to choose from.


If it were true that denialist papers were summarily rejected for being denialist, that would be important to document.  Where are the papers submitted to journals that were inappropriately rejected?  Some denialist should be collecting them.  The creationists tried to claim such bias years ago but in a famous court case were unable to produce even one rejected creationist paper.  In fact, several papers were found that had actually been accepted.  So it's clear that whining about peer-review is just that, whining.

anne boad
anne boad

@Joel Smith I've wasted a lot of time in bars talking to "creative thinkers with novel thoughts."

Eric Paul
Eric Paul

P.S.  Please change your name from Paul to something else...like Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity.  Ya know...something that gives people a heads up you're full of crap!

Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Paul M. Tell that to the island nations that have filed a formal lawsuit against the developed countries for loss of land and coastal flooding they are experiencing TODAY. In 50 years, some of these islands will be uninhabitable. We ARE talking about millions of people.

anne boad
anne boad

@Paul M. Hi Paul - your rhetoric is surprisingly powerful It would do well in a big stadium. Like Nuremburg.

Ax Blake
Ax Blake

@Paul M.I think the crises we are facing, and will continue to face are going to take a long time to grasp alltogether. We may be dead before that concensus of understanding begins. Especially at the rate of actually dealing with these crises. Considering the vast majority of "in the moment" health issues for ourselves are caused by us. This also bleeds into the environment around us. The C02 awareness jolt is something we'll face forever. We're just getting better at avoiding all the current and long term issues, so our familes family will be better off, and also, so we will be.


Again though, how we live as a species, and share ideas/perceptions about things beyond ourselves is defined heavily by other sections of our societies. We struggle not just with health environmentally, but from the threat of ourselves.

Are you frustrated about the abuse from people who "sold" this idea of knowing we can change a problem?  Nothing's going right, but don't you think it's important we care about the environment we live in today? Even with more important things in the world?


Idk if you've been affected somehow by this perception. I think the best possible way to look at how it should be done best.. is that we're trying to reduce our C02 emmission.. 

The reasons why are yours, if you care about emission control. Or if you can. No one should be forced or hinderd by the transition to a more refined lifestyle. Considering how it's supposed to be a benifit to the environment and those who reside in it.

Though it probably won't do any good, it's probably better to talk about the failings of trying to look after our environment. Atleast then we know what happens when it's not handled properly.


Daniel Farrell
Daniel Farrell

@Paul M. Wow, I'd love to see what happens when the pizza parlor forgets your pepperonis.


Prove me wrong!

Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford

@Justin Smith @Chris Crawford Perhaps you don't understand the concept of censorship. Censorship is a government action, not a private action. If I kick you out of my blog because I don't like what you say, that's not censorship, that's me exercising my property rights. The same thing goes when Fox News refuses to present material unconformable with its political views. 


An interesting aside: I posted a message on the discussion board for a newspaper on this subject. I was careful to be civil and gentlemanly; the message was more carefully phrased than my message above. 


They deleted my message. 


I am not angry and I do not accuse them of censorship. I do note that a great many conservative blogs do not permit posting that are not conservatively politically correct. This kind of behavior is widespread in the conservative world.


Censorship arises only when the government prevents somebody from making a public political statement.

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

@Zinc Kidd I disagree that my thought is misguided. By saying statistical analysis of a problem is misguided really seems misguided to me. We humans use statistical analysis for everything. 


How many peer-reviewed papers have been wrong?


Just because the vast majority of people say the sky is blue, does not mean that the one guy who goes out at night and says the sky is not blue but black, is incorrect. 


Shutting out that one guy and making him be quiet is wrong.

Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Andrew H. @Stuart M. I think there is a BIG difference between one study, no matter how large scale, measuring up to hundreds of other studies, most equally large, stating the opposite. In the case of climate change, something like 17,000 peer reviewed papers were analyzed, and over 97% all found a high likelihood that humans are the cause of current global warming. 97%. 

Robert Rabinoff
Robert Rabinoff

@Daniel Farrell @Paul M. I think that post is exactly what they were trying to avoid, and more power to them.  I wish some other sites would do the same, on a variety of issues.  Too many trolls, paid or otherwise, not to mention haters.


"It used to be said that if you gave a million monkeys typewriters, they'd eventually produce all the works of Shakespeare.  Now, with the Internet,  we know that's not true."

Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford

@Justin Smith Mr. Smith, let's analyze your example statistically. Let's say that there are a hundred dying people, each with a desperate. Each family goes to a hundred different doctors, 99 of whom say that there's no hope, and 1 of whom tells them that, with a sufficient expenditure of money, they can save their relative. 


Let's say that all 100 of the families accept the advice of the majority and allow their relatives to die in peace. Let's further say that one of those dying people could actually have been saved, but was allowed to die. That's a bad thing, to be sure.


But now consider the opposite case: all 100 families spend tons of money trying to save their relatives, and 99 of them fail, and one succeeds. Is this truly a better outcome? Is it really best to spend millions of dollars to save one life when that money could have been spent to save dozens of other lives? 


Your analogy is not apt because it brings in the intense emotional context of a family coping with impending death. 


Indeed, every year tens of thousands of people who get bad news from the doctor refuse to believe the doctor and go to some foreign country to get unconventional treatments that usually shorten their lives. Do you really think that they're doing the right thing?


But there's another factor at work here: let's say that the outlier doctor bases his conclusions on some extremely abstruse medical knowledge that requires years of study to understand. How can it help you to be given information you cannot understand?


When you buy a computer, do you demand to see the source code for the operating system? Suppose that your friends are split between recommending Macintosh and Windows, but just one of those friends recommends BeOS. Do you really think it necessary to get a degree in computer science to understand your choice? Or do you simply trust the experts?


That's the crucial issue here: are you willing to trust the judgement of people who a) understand something you don't and b) tell you something you don't want to hear?

steve sortino
steve sortino

@Ron Sonntag @Justin Smith @Chris Crawford One should keep in mind that there are AGW fanatics that are incapable of discussions, also.  Many times I've quoted the science, only to be labeled a "denier" because I didn't agree with their extreme views, which were incorrect, at least in the view of consensus science.

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

@Ron Sonntag @Justin Smith @Chris Crawford 


Let me change up your story about the train.


Lets say someone you really care about has some fatal disease. You go to your doctor and he says he consulted 100 other doctors and 99 of them say there is nothing they can do, and your loved one cannot be saved. 


Then you ask to know what did the one dissenting doctor have to say.


Your doctor turns to you and says. "I am not going to tell you because he doesn't agree with the other 99."


Can you honestly say that would not make you angry?


You were more than willing to censor the  1% guy in your story. In my story do you have the same willingness to have that one doctor censored?


Without even knowing if what he had to say was outlandish, foolish, stupid or a brilliant new idea.


You would not know and never will because someone else made that decision for you. 

Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Justin Smith @Chris Crawford Justin, this is not about denying dissent. It is about denying unsubstantiated and uninformed dissent. Anybody can disagree with a statement for any reason. But, they can and will be labeled fools if they disagree with demonstrated facts using no basis for their dissent.


This Reddit is meant to encourage informed discussion using substantiated facts. And, its intent is to help all of us understand how big the climate change problem is and focus on ways to lesson the inevitable impacts on the world.


Denying such an overwhelming fact is like having 99% of a crowd of 100 people all agree that a train is about to crash into a mountain, and they all want to figure out a way to avoid or lessen the result of the crash, and there's this one guy who insists the train is not going to crash and refuses to participate in any discussion on how to prevent the crash.


If you are a passenger on that train, who would you like to be working the problem?

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

@Chris Crawford @Justin Smith Hi Chris,  Well for one it's not my definition of censorship. I just found that on Wikia. 


And your right most forums and discussion boards practice censorship with obscene, vile,  flaming of others among other things as well


But that is not the subject of the article here. The subject is not about censoring profanity, flaming, vile or anything like that. This article is about banning dissent. 


Banning people simply because they do not agree with you. 


Now you tell me is THAT the kind of censorship we should have in our society?


I personally say dissent is healthy but I see after reading this forum, that there are others who only want to hear those who agree with them and want to shut out everyone else. 






Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford

@Justin Smith @Chris Crawford OK, so let's go with your definition, concluding that Reddit has engaged in censorship. By your definition, Fox News censors the news. Many conservative blogs censor commentary. In fact, almost all discussion boards practice censorship when they ban comments that are obscene, vile, or flame. 


So, do you find your kind of censorship objectionable?

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

@Chris Crawford @Justin Smith  Hiya, i just looked up Censorship on wikipedia it goes like this.


Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body.


So when you boot someone from your blog thats censorship. sorry. 

John Smith
John Smith

@Justin Smith

You have done exactly what most deniers do -- systematically ignore any arguments that you cannot refute. In your case, it was by trying to weasel your way out of it with "this is getting off-topic." (Which it's not, by the way; the article wasn't about Reddit as a whole. It was about a subreddit's policy on deniers)


Also, science has been wrong in the past. Science will be wrong in the future. You're right. That's how science improves, by finding errors to change and rethink our explanations for the world.

However, the science that has been done on the research of climate change actually has, well, research that's been done by many scientists from all over the world. Your view that "since science can be wrong, all science is to be ignored if I don't agree with it" is simply a restrictive and tentative guess with zero evidence to back.


People are always allowed to question and challenge things in science. That's how science grows. What doesn't make science grow is when people question and challenge things with false or often no evidence at all to back their statements.

Justin Smith
Justin Smith


@Chris Crawford @Justin Smith

Hi Chris wow this is getting way off topic of Reddit. 


The point of my discussion is that I do not believe the field of Science to be an infallible institution. Science has been wrong in the past and will be so in the future. 


I cannot find out what the weather will be like next week with 100% accuracy but some scientist is going to tell me, with most certainty what the weather will be like 50 years from now. 


When someone is not allowed to question and challenge the current belief in what ever field. There is less of an opportunity for growth. If all those who disagreed with the majority view were shut out and not allowed to talk. We would still be living on a flat earth with the sun rotating around us.  



After seeing your list of Supreme Court decisions some of them are strictly political in nature. I wont go there. 


Some of the older cases you site, you do the one thing a lot of people do when they go back and re-examine older cases. You are judging peoples actions according to modern morality and sense of justice, to people from a "different" moral, ethical and political climate. 

Your implication is that the judges were not moral, if they had grown up in our day and time I am certain they would have made a different decision.  

Ron Sonntag
Ron Sonntag

@Justin Smith Shutting out that one guy who makes statements with no backing is EXACTLY what must be done. Otherwise everything collapses into name calling and might makes right.


And, have you ever read the tome "How to Lie with Statistics"?


Ask me how right physics is about everyday interactions between objects, about relativity, about heat transfer, and I'll tell you it is right to about 1 part out of 10^19. It is SPECTACULARLY right!


If you ask me how good is physics at predicting the weather (not climate), I'll say that's not physics, that is chaos theory and entropy and wind equations plus a heck of a lot more. And in my neck of the country, its about 65% right.


See why simply asking for a statistic makes no sense if you don't bound the problem and provide a context?

Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford

@Justin SmithThat 1% figure is my own estimate based on my reading of the scientific literature. Every year tens of thousands of scientific papers are published. When any paper is retracted or shown to be improper, it's big news; I see maybe one such story per year. Ergo my claim that the retraction rate is less than 1%. It's MUCH less than 1%, although no formal statistics have been taken on the question.


You refer to Mr. Hawking and the Higgs boson. Please tell me which paper of his you believe to have been shown to be false. I do not know of any such paper.

Now I shall explain what I mean about the track record of the Supreme Court. That court has made a number of decisions through history that are now widely regarded to have been grossly incorrect. I'll just paste in a handy list I found elsewhere:


Dred Scott Any decision that helps contribute to a war and requires the 13th Amendment?

Elk vs Wilkins 
Where the Supremes ruled that Indians aren't citizens....

Allgeyar v Louisiana Created a "Freedom of Contract" where Economic "Liberty" 
outweighs public policy...Sorry contracts can only exist in the context 
of Public Policy. When the court repudiates this in West coast Hotel, 
it was obviously a lousy decision.

Plessy v Ferguson Separate but Equal?  

Slaughterhouse Cases which really limited individual rights by directly gutting the 14th Amendment.  Were these judges even reading?

Barron v Baltimore  where the Supremes said the Bill of Rights didnt apply to the 
states.  Great.  So much for the 14th Amendment.

giles v harris 
Upholding disenfranchisement, despite the 15th Amendment.

Pollock v Farmers Loan 
Where the supremes said "Tax Labor but not Capital".  They passed the 16th amendment to tell the Supremes to go Shove..

When the people have to pass a constitutional amendment to tell the Supremes to go shove, it's bad.

Breedlove v Suttles which upheld Poll Taxes.  Again we passed the 24th amendment 
because of this.

Korematsu v US  which upheld interning thousands of Citizens

buck v bell 
which allowed forcable sterilization for eugenics.

Clinton v Jones  which allows civil litigation against a sitting president.

Bowers v Hardwick  Sustained criminalizing homosexuality 
reversed in Lawrence v Texas

Bush v Gore  A case so lousy the Supremes refused to make it citable.

Kelo v New London  which lets Corporate America seize at will.  It's kind of marginal because state law can change this...

Citizens United  which reversed 200 years of holdings to make corporations people.


Of course, this list goes back 150 years, but I'm willing to extend the test period for science to cover the same period. Here's the list of science's boo-boos during the same period:
Luminiferous aether. Theoretically viable until Michaelson-Morely, after which it was dumped.Continental Drift: The concept was rejected at first because it suffered from a serious problem regarding the driving mechanism. Moreover, the evidence in support of the idea was thin. When the magnetic data on ocean-floor spreading became available in the early 60s, scientists quickly converted.
But there's a larger concept here. The Supreme Court decisions are held to be absolute truth; scientific theories are never held in such a light. They can accumulate so much support that they are generally accepted as true, but every scientist will admit that there is no such thing as proof in science, even though they'll use that term informally. In other words, scientific theories are always regarded with some degree of reserve. A scientific theory is given credence only in proportion to the amount of evidence that supports it, the amount of possible falsifying information that has been checked and eliminated, the degree to which its ideas have successfully stood up to criticism, and the ratio of scientists who accept the theory to those who do not. When a theory enjoys the support of a huge majority of scientists, it has earned the respect of humanity as a whole.Such is the case with climate change. A number of studies have demonstrated that a huge majority of scientists embrace the theory. The amount of evidence supporting it is now stupendous. No significant amount of evidence undermines the theory. It has been subjected to intense examination and withstood all such attacks. 

Zinc Kidd
Zinc Kidd

My point is that the identification of errors in science is not a "problem.". Finding errors in science is how science proceeds. Apply statistics all you want, but a larger percentage of errors is, as I said, not a problem in science. What you should be concerned about is where errors are NOT being found. When errors are NOT being found, that means either the claims made are too vague, or the errors are being ignored or covered up. The question worth asking is, how many claims of the denialists have been identified and recognized by the denialists as wrong? If the answer is "very few," THERE is where the problem lies. If the denialists aren't making errors and then identifying and correcting them, they're not progressing and it's not science.

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

Please show me the link to where you got that 1% figure. I dont doubt it a lot because I seriously doubt that are very many scientists who would actually even bother to retract a paper unless they were forced to by some largely public display. I am thinking of Stephen Hawking and the Higgs boson bet. hmmm did he and all of his followers retract their papers? hmmmm doubt it. 


I want you to go back and look at what you said. 


"The track record of science in the last 60 years has been much closer to perfection than the track record of the Supreme Court decisions."

After reading that I don't know what that even means. 



Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford

@Justin Smith Very few peer-reviewed papers have later been retracted -- certainly less than 1%. Indeed, scientists tend to be so careful that they seldom take an important paper seriously until it has been tackled by the entire community, subject to intense criticism, possibly replicated by somebody else.


The track record of science in the last 60 years has been much closer to perfection than the track record of Supreme Court decisions. 

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