bodleianI’m writing a chapter on public acceptance issues surrounding shale gas as my contribution to a UK academic book surrounding shale gas and this is a taster. 

There are five characteristics used by shale gas opponents:

Fractivism is a process that employs some or all of five characteristic elements in a concerted way. 

The first is the identification of conspiracies. When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes that something is true, it is argued that this is not because those scientists have independently studied the evidence and reached the same conclusion. It is because they have engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy. The peer review process is seen as a tool by which the conspirators suppress dissent, rather than as a means of weeding out papers and grant applications unsupported by evidence or lacking logical thought. The view of General Jack D Ripper that fluoridation was a Soviet plot to poison American drinking water in Dr Strangelove, Kubrick’s black comedy about the Cold War is no less bizarre than those expressed in many of the websites that oppose this measure.

While conspiracy theories cannot simply be dismissed because conspiracies do occur, it beggars belief that they can encompass entire scientific communities.

The second is the use of fake experts. These are individuals who purport to be experts in a particular area but whose views are entirely inconsistent with established knowledge.

The use of fake experts is often complemented by denigration of established experts and researchers, with accusations and innuendo that seek to discredit their work and cast doubt on their motivations. 

The third characteristic is selectivity, drawing on isolated papers that challenge the dominant consensus or high- lighting the flaws in the weakest papers among those that support it as a means of discrediting the entire field.

Fractivists are usually not deterred by the extreme isolation of their theories, but rather see it as the indication of their intellectual courage against the dominant orthodoxy and the accompanying political correctness, often comparing themselves to Galileo.

The fourth is the creation of impossible expectations of what research can deliver. (Fractivists) use the intrinsic uncertainty of mathematical models to reject them entirely as a means of understanding a phenomenon.

The fifth is the use of misrepresentation and logical fallacies

Logical fallacies include the use of red herrings, or deliberate attempts to change the argument and straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented to make it easier to refute.

Other fallacies used by fractivists are false analogy, exemplified by the argument against evolution that, as the universe and a watch are both extremely complex, the universe must have been created by the equivalent of a watchmaker and the excluded middle fallacy (either passive smoking causes a wide range of specified diseases or causes none at all, so doubt about an association with one disease, such as breast cancer, is regarded as sufficient to reject an association with any disease).

This sounds pretty good doesn’t it?  It sounds very convincing, almost as if an academic career awaits. 

But, I confess.The above is pure plagiarism, taken from The European Journal of Public Health, published by Oxford University in 2009. Every single word, except to replace denialists with fractivists is from what is both an excellent exposure of the tactics used by climate change deniers, and a template which also appears to have been lifted verbatim by those who oppose natural gas today.

“..the employment of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none, an approach that has the ultimate goal of rejecting a proposition on which a scientific consensus exists”

For the avoidance of doubt, I fully accept the scientific basis for climate change. I’m no climatologist, but if 97% of them say it’s happening, then that’s good enough for me. I only wish my faith in science also extended to the Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the UK Green Party. 

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  • Mike Higton

    Nick,<br />A word to the wise....Calling folk "deniers" who disagree with the CAGW hysteria is highly offensive with its deliberate link to denial of the Holocaust.<br />It will cost you readers.<br />Also you have surely noticed how even the MSM is now picking up on the failure of all the model-driven projections. There is even talk of global cooling.<br />The vast majority of sceptics take the view that the climate is changing, as it always has done and always will do, driven by a multitude of natural variables, including a minor role for CO2. <br />BTW, that 97% figure is on a par with the "facts" used in "Gasland" for reliability.

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  • Nick

    Mike. As I said: If 97% of scientists say global warming is happening, that's good enough for me.<br />This has not, nor ever will be, a site that argues with science. <br />I obviously have major issues with the policy climate activists propose, and I certainly don't think we face any imminent catastrophe. But, if there is a chance of that happening, then it's worth spending time and money on.<br /><br />I've never worried about offending readers in the past, I'm too old to start now. Hope you stick around. Sure you'll agree, I don't bore people. There are plenty of places to whinge about greens, and Europe and godless socialism. This isn't one of them. I've got other fish to fry

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  • Andy

    This is a good list but one thing the REfrACTIONARIES (my preferred term for them--they are opposing progress in developing domestic energy production) do better than anyone else is they work the paperwork and they work it hard. They spam online comments boxes that naive bureaucrats put up for public comment. They parse every Environmental Impact Statement and file the writs that condemn the EIS as inadequate. Finally, they never take Yes for shale for an answer and are immune to any facts and reason and logic supportive of clean, domestic, job-creating shale.

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  • John Rich

    The 97% was based upon a survey of handpicked scientists. <br />Personally, I consider concensus to be overhyped and dependent upon the viewpoint of those surveyed. No doubt a concensus of burglars would consider burglary an economically useful activity.<br />As Feynman said: if it disagrees with experiment/facts, it's wrong

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  • martin brumby

    Mike is absolutely right and I for one am getting tired of your rather juvenile and deliberately offensive treatment of those who HAVE studied the science (and energy policy issues) and found the warmist position deeply flawed.<br />"Climate Change Deniers"?<br />Name one!<br />If you believe in the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming religion and completely bogus factoids like the "97%" consensus, then that's up to you.<br />But you might consider the fact that I've yet to see anyone on any Sceptic site (except Greenie trolls) who is not in favour of exploiting shale gas. And the obvious fact that your continuing brave attempts to win over the likes of FoE, Greenpeace, WWF etc. just isn't working.

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  • Nick

    You don't have to read this site. As Richard Blaine would put it, I tailor my views for no man. I aim them at the middle, and if I annoy the right wing as much as the left, I'm succeeding.

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  • Martin Brumby

    You're right. I don't have to come here. When I do it is for information on Shale Gas. A subject you know something about.<br />If I want some bullshit greenie nonsense about 'deniers', I can easily pick that up from the Grauniad without filtering it through you.<br />And what's the basis for suggesting I'm 'right wing'? You'll be suggesting next (like Prince Chuckles the other day) that 'deniers' represent 'vested interests'. Equally with zero evidence.<br />Conveniently forgetting the Million pounds or more Chuckles trousers from Big Wind every year.

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  • Dodgy Geezer

    While conspiracy theories cannot simply be dismissed because conspiracies do occur, it beggars belief that they can encompass entire scientific communities.

    Why does it beggar belief? 'Conspiracies' of the kind you are talking about occur quite often in science. Kuhn pointed this out repeatedly. It is surely well-known that a specific but incorrect interpretation of facts takes place more often than we like to think, and that anyone who points out that the interpretation is incorrect is ignored and denigrated by the scientific establishment. The Piltdown fiasco provides a classic example - all the scientific establishment upheld the belief that the remains were genuine, and several promising careers and lines of enquiry were suppressed as a result. The response to Warren and Marshall's discovery of the role of H. pylori in peptic ulcer formation is another example.

    You can easily tell when the establishment is wrong and is trying to suppress the truth. They use smear tactics to denigrate the opposing view, and refuse open debate - exactly what is happening at the moment in Climate Science. Why, for instance, did it take Nick Stokes 6 parliamentary questions to extract a simple number from the UK Met Office? Why are there continual calls for people raising awkward questions to be 'dis-invited' from conferences rather than answered?

    If you examine fractivist claims you will find out that they are wrong. If you examine AGW sceptics claims you will find out that they are right. If you were to examine that '97%' claim you would find out that it is wrong. Your problem is that you are simply accepting establishment direction religiously. Sometimes the establishment is right, and sometimes it is wrong. It is the mark of a scientist that dependence on authority plays no part in his decisions.

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