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“The science is settled” is a slogan attributed by opponents of the Kyoto Protocol and global warming theory to supporters notably in the Clinton administration. There are no known examples of its use outside the skeptic press, though some of the statements that were made have similar implications. The slogan itself has therefore become a detail in the political debate [wp].

The use of this slogan by deniers is pretty much the very definition of a straw man argument: a  misrepresentation of an opponent’s position in order to refute the misrepresentation, rather than the actual position. Despite the ubiquity of this statement in denialist discourse, one would be hard pressed to find a verifiable example of its use by proponents of the science of anthropogenic global warming.

But there does exist an example of its use by a ‘skeptic’. Here is S. Fred Singer, denier for hire, speaking at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York:

S. Fred Singer:

“For me, the science is settled. The cause is clearly, mostly natural. The human component, while it must be there, is negligible. We don’t see it.”

So who thinks – and has said – that “the science is settled”? S. Fred Singer, for one.

Resources: Real Climate

97 Responses to ““The science is settled””

  1. Patrick says:

    Has Al Gore used this phrase? NPR reported that he used these words in a 21 March 2007 online article.

    Unfortunately it is difficult to communicate the subtleties of what is commonly accepted and what is not fully understood in science in general, or again in the topic of climate change, particularly when so many people in the media and political worlds are hell bent at misquoting and lying about what scientists are in fact saying.

    This question reminds me of the scornfull statements I have heard regarding the use of the words climate change and global warming. I am quite happy to use the terms interchangeably, but I have heard those who call themselves skeptics on this topic crow that failure to use the words “global warming” is an admission of so-called global cooling. All of this is particularly ironic given the Frank Luntz school of thought on this topic, which is that it is better for Republican (US) politicians to use the words “climate change” because they are less frightening.

    It seems to me that it would be more useful to point out the varied evidence of those amongst the opposition have demonstrably acted in bad faith, as you have done. Than to argue what seems a tangential point.


  2. Devin85Weiss says:

    Science is such a complicated subject, and at times, a field with plenty of ego at stake. That’s clear. There have even been bouts of “outsiderness” within the scientific community (molecular biology vs. ecology, or mathematics vs. physics), and degrees of dogma rising above scientific acumen are too numerous (even once is too much as in the “Clovis first” mandate). Skepticism has long served science well, nevertheless it may be time for the new paradigm — a subtle, yet powerful shift in mindset and thinking. Could “selfless restraint” fill that duty? It has all the right elements minus the excess baggage that all too frequently goes with skepticism. One glance at the “skeptics” forums and websites, and you are able to see the kind of illogics that occasionally discover their way into scientific thinking.

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