Reddit Bans Climate Change Deniers On Its Science Forum, Saying Articles Not Peer Reviewed

By Ben Wolford on December 18, 2013 9:27 PM EST

Reddit
Reddit moderators have banned climate change deniers from posting in the science section of the website.

Reddit, the king of online forums, is no longer allowing commenters to post links to blogs and other non-peer-reviewed content that denies the existence of man-made climate change. A moderator for the website's /r/science page explained the decision in an op-ed published on grist.org Monday, saying "no topic consistently evokes such rude, uninformed, and outspoken opinions as climate change."

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"Over and over, solid peer-reviewed science was insulted as corrupt, while blog posts from fossil-fuel-funded groups were cited as objective fact," wrote moderator Nathan Allen, who identifies himself as a PhD chemist working for a major chemical company. (It could be this Nathan Allen, a chemist at the Dow Chemical Company.) "Worst of all, they didn't even get the irony of quoting oil-funded blogs that called university scientists biased."

The page /r/science is essentially a place where anyone can post articles of scientific interest and then trade comments about them. It has 24 moderators. And, according to Allen, the page also has 4 million subscribers, a little more than the population of Oregon. So it's a pretty influential forum in the world of popular scientific thought these days.

Like all academic study, science is inherently controversial. That's just how peer review works. And Allen claims that most of the people using the site are scientists, trained in scientific debate, meaning their points and counterpoints generally are supported by the weight of research. But not the climate change deniers. Says Allen: "As a scientist myself, it became clear to me that the contrarians were not capable of providing the science to support their 'skepticism' on climate change." Consequently, he said, last year "we moderators became increasingly stringent with deniers."

Some users cried censorship. But, in fact, on the side of the page there are rules listed. The first three all directly relate to trolling. Articles must have "a direct link to or a summary of peer reviewed research," must be based on recent scientific research and must not be "editorialized, sensationalized or biased."

Thinkprogress.org cited one reddit commenter who wrote, "If man-made global warming is so real, why are so many of you NOT willing to discuss it?" But the fact is it has been discussed — in thousands of peer-reviewed research papers. So much buzz has emerged about whether the climate change skeptics have any standing that there has been significant research about whether there is scientific consensus on climate change. In May, an article in the journal Environmental Research Letters reported that "the number of papers rejecting the consensus on [human-caused climate change] is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research." Others have come to the same conclusion.

Meanwhile, global carbon emissions continue to rise, and climatologists are doubtful we'll be able to curb it in time to stop devastating environmental consequences.

Above photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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