Today, the Boston Globe published an article by Ellen Goodman: No change in political climate. In it, she repeats an ad hominem attack that I am seeing used increasingly. She writes:
I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.
My problem is with the phrase "global warming deniers" which has been gaining currency lately and was clearly coined to evoke images of Holocaust deniers such as the deranged person who attacked Elie Weisel today. Worse, she makes the comparison explicit and even states that they "are now on a par with Holocaust deniers".
That is the worst kind of ad hominem statement. Hurling personal insults at those who disagree with your position does not make your argument correct. In the eyes of some people, it actually weakens your argument by damaging your credibility.
In addition, it is hugely offensive to many people to misuse the memory of the Holocaust in this way.
Science is properly about debate, skepticism, questioning, and explanation. Science is not about consensus. Labeling those who are skeptical about the extraordinary claims about anthropogenic climate change as "deniers" serves only to silence debate through intimidation, not to advance the cause of science.