There’s agitation and angst in some circles regarding the proper term to dub individuals who, however technical their training, reject the conclusions of climate science, physics, and even Exxon from the 1970s.
(Graphs are from Greg Laden’s blog.)
There’s denial, skepticism, and rejection as terms which might be applied to those who reject climate science. These can be preceded by climate or science as one wishes. The angst is over which is the most appropriate. For good reasons, people, apart from the “deniers” themselves, have rejected “skepticism”. Skepticism is a healthy part of all scientific and intellectual inquiry. For this reason, and for example, the Associated Press will no longer, as matter of policy, refer to “climate deniers” as “skeptics”.
For me science rejectionist sounds like the best all ’round description if that groove is worth remaining in. My reasons? As I wrote in a comment to Science Denial Crock of the Week,
To the scientific illiterate …, denying climate science sounds like a niche rejection, narrow and limited. But, in fact, denying climate science means denying a good chunk of Physics, in the sense of denying conclusions of a good chunk of Physics, it means denying the logical process and strands that connects Physics with other sciences, and, worst of all, in my book, it means denying logic … So it’s much much worse than a limited rejection. “Science denialist” or “science rejectionist” sounds about right to me.
But I thought about it some more. The problem is that these monikers are too negative. I think we need a positive description of what these people are. How about Carbon Worshiper? That’s appropriate because the justification people who continue to support burning of fossil fuels for energy production can no longer do so for rational reasons. Not only are these sources harmful, there is a way forward for 100% zero Carbon energy. Indeed, many of us assess that zero Carbon energy and the displacement of internal combustion engines is inevitable, if, unfortunately, a transition that will be harsher on investors in these companies and their employees than it needed to be, predominantly because of the management of the companies and their political supporters. (It did not have to be that way, if we began changing in the 1990s.) There is an analogy.
There was once a mystical and religious group called the Pythagoreans. The historical reconstruction of which sect most appropriately exemplified true Pythagoreanism is a tad muddled, but there’s a key aspect of their philosophy and religion that’s pertinent here. Pythagoreans believed, as far as we know,
… “All is number” or “God is number”, and the Pythagoreans effectively practised a kind of numerology or number-worship, and considered each number to have its own character and meaning. For example, the number one was the generator of all numbers; two represented opinion; three, harmony; four, justice; five, marriage; six, creation; seven, the seven planets or “wandering stars”; etc. Odd numbers were thought of as female and even numbers as male.
They had other beliefs and practices, but key to their perspective was Mathematics and the belief that all quantities could be expressed as ratios of God-created (positive) integers. The trouble is that, somewhere along the way, assigned by the historians Pappus and Plutarch to the Pythagorean Hippasus, a result known to the ancient Babylonians was rediscovered, namely, that the length of a side of a perfectly reasonable triangle could be proved to be not expressible as the ratio of two integers. This implied the existence of a whole new class of numbers, the irrationals, and, as The Story of Mathematics summarizes it:
This discovery rather shattered the elegant mathematical world built up by Pythagoras and his followers, and the existence of a number that could not be expressed as the ratio of two of God’s creations (which is how they thought of the integers) jeopardized the cult’s entire belief system.
Indeed, Plutarch reports this resulted in a great scandal, and Pappus and others report that Hippasus was “drowned in the sea”, whether by the gods or by the cult that felt he had revealed, unwittingly or not, the key to their great confusion.
Accordingly, I say that there are people who worship fossil fuels and the system of finance and distribution which is built upon them. A finding, even if it is by Exxon scientists, from the 1970s which indicates pursuit of that system is self-destructive “jeopardizes the cult’s entire belief system”, even if it extends to believing that the finding is part of a global conspiracy to destroy capitalism and take over the United States. Accordingly, like the Pythagoreans, I suggest that these people are worshipping Carbon. I leave the determination of whether that amounts to idol worship to someone who is spiritual or religious. I am neither, being an an atheist and, indeed, a physical materialist.
I think “Carbon worshiper” puts this viewpoint right where it belongs.