More recently, Matt Nisbet, Scienceblog's notoriously uncharismatic proponent of "framing", attacked the word "denialism" on account of it being inflammatory. I don't know about that. It seems to me that if "denialism" is negative, it's not because of the word itself, but because of the content of its meaning (if that makes any sense). The content of its meaning isn't going to go away, no matter what we call it. But forget Nisbet. (Forget, I say!) My main point relates not to Nisbet but to this Respectfully Insolent response. As an afterthought, Orac says this in his response:
Of course, if you're less pugnacious than Mike, Mark, or me, in my benevolence, I'll suggest an alternative term other than "denier" or "denialist." Lately, I've started to like the term "pseudoskeptic." It captures the essence of what denialists do almost as much as the term "denialist." Remember, a true skeptic is always open to changing his or her mind if the evidence and science demand it.No! Don't use "pseudoskeptic". It's bad!
The first thing that strikes me about the word "pseudoskeptic" is that it gets us into the "fake vs true" mode. It's the perfect setup for the No True Scottsman Fallacy. Every time I hear the word "pseudoskeptic", it practically begs to be replaced with the phrase, "not a True Skeptic (TM)". After all, if you've never heard the word, that's exactly what the conjunction of "pseudo" and "skeptic" will mean to you. If it came into popular use, I can just imagine the devolution of discussions. "You're a pseudoskeptic!" "No you're a pseudoskeptic!" I hate the word, I hate it!
If my worries seem farfetched, we only need look at the history of the word. (Skeptical history!) It's common knowledge (read: on Wikipedia) that the word was coined/popularized by one of the founders of CSICOP, Marcello Truzzi. CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now simply called CSI), was founded in 1976 as one of the first skeptical organizations to ever exist. Marcello Truzzi was the editor to CSICOP's official journal, The Zetetic. Unfortunately, Truzzi had some sort of falling out with CSICOP because he wanted to include pro-paranormal stuff in the journal. Truzzi left CSICOP, and founded his own journal, The Zetetic Scholar, which included arguments both for and against the paranormal. It was around this time that Truzzi said that the so-called skeptics were becoming pseudoskeptics.
The temptation to simply say, "No, you're a pseudoskeptic" is strong. In my mind, Truzzi was completely wrong, and CSICOP completely right. Truzzi's position was that of pyrrhonic skepticism, the position that we cannot know anything for sure. Pyrrhonic skepticism is wrong because we can know things, not with complete certainty, but with sufficient certainty. I can't know absolutely for sure that psychics don't exist, but I can be sufficiently sure, given the vast amounts of evidence, that they are vastly unlikely. There is a lot of merit to drawing tentative conclusions even when you're not completely sure. Truzzi's position is that of "fair and balanced" journalism, which simply portrays both sides of every issue equally, regardless of the relative merits of either side.
Truzzi, perhaps sensing that the word "pseudoskeptic" would simply bounce back at himself, decided to take another label for himself: "zetetic". A wise move, I say.
But doesn't "pseudoskeptic" have its uses? It seems like it would be useful against factions that call themselves skeptical, the epitome being the "Global Warming skeptics". Now, personally, I don't really think of them as fake skeptics. No, they are true skeptics, albeit under a different definition of skeptical. Skepticism means many different things, after all. When I use it, I refer to the method of determining the veracity of claims through rational and scientific thought. Other times, skepticism means something like Truzzi's zeteticism. In the case of Global Warming skeptics, it simply refers to a position of doubt. It's a moot point whether that doubt has been achieved through proper use of rational and scientific thought.
We don't have a monopoly on the meaning of "skepticism". But of course, we'd like to. Therefore, it's to our advantage if we disassociate the skeptical method from the position of Global Warming skepticism. To do that, we need to give them a different name. But "pseudoskepticism"? Please don't. In my benevolence, I'll suggest an alternative term other than "pseudoskeptic". Use "denier" or "denialist". The meaning of the term is obvious, even to someone who has never heard it before: "One who denies". It may have a slightly inflammatory connotation due to its connection to Holocaust denial, but that's pretty weak. Global Warming denial is distinct from Holocaust denial--I should have thought that obvious.