Skeptic, Denier, Opponent?

Big Red Car here on a slightly cloudy, cool ATX morning. Still, it is the ATX and it is on Earth as it is in Texas, y’all.

Today we get a bit cerebral on you meaning we are going to talk about the difference amongst skeptics, deniers, and opponents.

Not a particularly inspiring topic but a useful one.

A skeptic is a person who doubts the validity or authenticity of something that is represented as being factual.

A denier is a person who believes something to be untrue and who disavows or disbelieves it.

An opponent is a person who has undertaken the opposite side in an argument or on an issue perhaps to a degree approaching hostility or obstruction.


Skeptics are the Big Red Car’s favorite people.

Being skeptical in business, politics, the military, and life can be a worthy characteristic of a thoughtful person. It is not necessarily a final resolution of a matter as a skeptic might become a proponent or an opponent as they learn more about a subject.

[The Boss is a well known skeptic about any tale told by his children that started with, “Dad, it was two o’clock in the morning . . . . . ” Luckily they are all grown up and lived through their two o’clock tales.]

The Boss is skeptical about the future of bitcoin and the blockchain. Moreso about bitcoin and less so about the blockchain.

The Boss is skeptical about the magnitude of global warming/climate change. Not so much that humans influence the environment in some manner but that the magnitude of that influence is the most important element of the long term prognosis for the planet.

Being a skeptic allows one to find common ground with part of an idea while being inquisitive and curious as to the balance of the idea as the musing continues.


We have allowed the word “denier” to become a pejorative.

This is particularly true in regard to the issue of global warming/climate change wherein the proponents (zealots, one might say if trying to be a bit provocative, no?) castigate anyone who is not a proponent as being a denier based on the canard that the subject is “settled science” — one of the truly most unfortunate phrases ever uttered.


Opponents are to be admired as they have made a final determination. This is just fine. Liberating in many ways, really. Why not take a stand on something particularly if you think you know the answer or are comfortable with your conclusion?

One can be skeptical of the secret, global trade TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement solely because it was negotiated and passed in secret. Nothing wrong with that. That skepticism may morph into opposition (or support) as the details come to light. Thank you, Wikileaks?

A proponent is simply the other side of that same mirror and the person is a supporter of a particular conclusion.

In the startup world, it is useful to be skeptical but at some point in time — unique to the startup business, perhaps — one has to make a decision to either support or oppose an idea or hypothesis. That is not necessarily true about politics, as an example.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. But, I am a skeptical Big Red Car. Have a great weekend, y’all. Be nice to yourself. You deserve it. You’ve earned it.




11 thoughts on “Skeptic, Denier, Opponent?

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  2. Global warming is “settled science”? Yup! Here’s just how:

    In science we test our theories, and the best test is to make a prediction. E.g., use Newton’s second law and law of gravity to predict the motions of the planets, moons, comets, etc. E.g., predict eclipses. As we know well, the predictions work great. For more, the details of GPS — work great. For the Lagangian points and putting an observatory at one, work great.

    Now for global warming, 10 or so years ago we had some predictions. Now we can check if the predictions were correct. Result? The predictions were wildly wrong, the predicted temperatures were nearly all way, Way too high compared with accurate measurements of temperatures now.

    So, following settled science, what do we do? Keep arguing about pictures of polar bears, glaciers falling into the seas, ice patterns in the arctic, hurricane frequency, snow fall levels, droughts, floods, the snows on Kilimanjaro, pictures of retreating glaciers, etc.? Question motives? Nope.

    Instead, it’s simple, dirt simple: Due to the false predictions, take the candidate science, drop it into the round, wet bowl, pull the chain, and just f’get about it. That’s the real version of settled science. So, done, over with, kaput, f’get about it. Scientifically, there’s nothing else to discuss. And if there’s no solid science, then little or nothing, better nothing, left to discuss.

  3. One can be a skeptic of scientists… but not of science. To be a skeptic of science is to deny science, which might as well be an opponent of it.

    Unfortunately I’m no scientist so I can’t validate any scientific findings, however scientists are very low on my list of people to be skeptical of.

    Politicians and lobbyists, sure. CEO’s and blockchain nutjobs, sure. Scientists? Nah. It’s been a few hundred years since our “scientists” have been mostly wrong about stuff.

    Most science doesn’t have proponents and opponents, it simply is what it is. The level of opposition to global warming science is only rivaled by the ant-evolution ground, and if I were a betting man, I’d had my chips to the folks in lab coats.

    • Indeed, one can be a Skeptic about the specifics of what got us here, but the facts remain true. For example, whether you are a skeptic, a denier, or a proponent/opponent of climate change, it is true that the seas are rising globally. That data shows it. People who live in seaside towns, like me, see it and it’s impact on the community and have noted it’s rise over the course of a lifetime. Some places have completely disappeared underwater and displaced whole communities (islands in the Pacific, places in Alaska, etc.)

      If, like me, you are a person focused on solving problems, the key is to understand where all the players stand on the issue, and then get those people talking about how to solve the problem at hand, based on where they stand on any particular issue. Deniers of facts are the most problematic (you can show these people clear facts and they will still deny them, very frustrating). Skeptics are the best people to have on hand because they will often look at the many facets of different proposed solutions and offer input on pros and cons of each one. Skeptics tend to be unaffiliated and I like that because they are the ones who will most often think up the most interesting solutions.

      • .
        I lived for years in a coastal community and I am a water person. My undergrad thesis had to do with littoral drift and beach dune nourishment.

        Much of what is conflated as rising water is, in reality, erosion.

        For every eroded locality there is some place where the coast line is being accreted.

        I do think that the level of the oceans is rising but the likelihood of it being the result of climate change? I am skeptical.

        Not opposed, mind you. Just skeptical.

        There are a lot of things that should be addressed — rising water, flooding, water retention, air pollution — that should be attacked regardless of whether they are part of some comprehensive system.

        This is why the “whiner takes all” nature of the debate is so frustrating and unproductive. Much of this stuff should be addressed regardless of its cause.


    • .
      Scientists are held hostage to evidence (much like lawyers).

      When the evidence is not compelling or is inconclusive, scientists derive theories as to what is happening or what has happened. They are bridging gaps. Gaps in evidence.

      When the future is predicted based upon such evidence, then the future may not conform to those theories.

      A classic example is the prediction that the arctic or antarctic ice or polar bears would behave in some predicted manner. [For the record, I have no dog in this fight either way and am not only skeptical, I am disinterested.]

      The conclusions of scientists are no better than the quality of their evidence. Garbage in, garbage out.

      In that regard, one is appropriately wary of the conclusions even of scientists.

      I would take great issue that medicine is one of those scientific endeavors in which the “settled science” has not been very good and every day seems to be brought into more question.

      I cannot remember whether coffee is good or bad for me today. Nonetheless, I have been drinking some this morning.

      I have to run. I have an appointment to be bled by some leeches.


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