Cook’s MOOC–or is it an RPG?

I’m afraid further reporting on Bart Verheggen’s survey will have to wait, as earth-shattering news has appeared on Real Climate.

John Cook, major contributor to Skeptical Science and author of one of the most frequently cited papers since Calvin and Hobbes, will be offering a Massive Open Online Course on the ‘Science of Climate Denial.’ He says ‘thousands of students’ from over 130 countries’ have already signed up, so you’d better move fast. The course is free and I’m certain it will be worth every penny.

I do have a few questions regarding this. First, since there is now a science of climate denial, what is the null hypothesis? Would it involve natural variation, unnatural deviation or cosmic transmigration?

Second, since Cook twice labels climate deniers a ‘small but vocal minority’, why are they worth studying? I thought the 65 papers out of the 12,000 he studied proved conclusively that 97% of all living creatures worshipped at the Konsensus Altar and spit on climate deniers in the street? Why do we need more of a focus on them?

Third, I’m afraid this passage at Real Climate needs clarification: “Several strands of research in cognitive psychology, educational research and a branch of psychology called “inoculation theory” all point the way to neutralising the influence of science denial. The approach is two-fold: communicate the science but also explain how that science can be distorted.”

If climate deniers are a small minority, why do they need to be neutralized? Wouldn’t neutering be almost as effective–and cheaper? And if we are to be blessed with the fruits of cognitive psychology, why isn’t Cook trumpeting the participation of Stefan Lewandowsky who managed to turn 10 respondents into convincing evidence that climate deniers believe that OJ Simpson is hiding on the moon? Surely the unfortunate fact that he had to withdraw his recent paper on climate denier as conspiracy ideationist would not affect Cook’s long-standing partnership?

It’s really helpful that you provide a graphic representation of the evils of climate deniers. I like the acronym FLICC–now if you could find a companion acronym BICC, the possibilities for word play are endless:

However I fear these icons may be misconstrued as road signs and lead to unfortunate incidents on our cities’ streets. And why is the gentleman suffering from conspiracy theories wearing a condom on his head that is radiating Ns? Moreover, why is the red herring represented in your graph not red? What exactly is being magnified in your picture of the magnified minority? And is the figure jumping to conclusions or falling? The world wonders…

I ask these questions here because I am sure the moderator at Real Climate is overwhelmed:

Thomas Fuller says:

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Excuse me, but why is the red herring not red? And why is the conspiracist wearing a condom on his head?

– See more at:

Back to more important questions, however. Such as, when you interviewed David Attenborough at the Great Barrier Reef, were you both above water?

Did your long and fascinating conversation with Michael Mann focus on his more recent works, such as Blackhat and Texas Killing Fields, or did you probe his motivation for earlier masterpieces such as Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice?

Were your students from 130 countries assessed by citizen scientists for eligibility and purity of thought? Did the opinions of the assessors match each other?

Finally, is it true that weapons will be issued and the final grade based in part on providing the remains of expired climate deniers?


7 responses to “Cook’s MOOC–or is it an RPG?

  1. You should comment on the ” usual suspects” involved with the ” course”.

    I signed up to see what they’re up to and to heckle. But will they allow sceptical heckling?

  2. I hope you will report back frequently on what you discover.

  3. Funny, Cook engages in each and every one of those traits.

  4. Glen – Skeptical Science contributor on moderating the MOOC:

    “Participation in the forums is part of the assessment. And yes we will be moderating firmly.”

  5. The correlation of fanatics with censorship and cowardly bullying is basically 1:1.

  6. Pingback: Denial 101–I made the list! | The Lukewarmer's Way

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