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A contrarian is a person who holds a contrary position, especially a position against the majority.
Contrarian journalism is characterised by articles and books making counterintuitive claims, or attacking what is said to be the conventional wisdom (a phrase attributed to John Kenneth Galbraith) on a given topic. A typical contrarian trope takes the form, "everything you know about topic X is wrong". Film critic Pauline Kael was a noted contrarian, often lambasting critically acclaimed films.
In science, the term "contrarian" is often applied to those who challenge or reject the scientific consensus on some particular issue, as well as to scientists who pursue research strategies which are rejected by most researchers in the field. Contrarians are particularly prominent in cases where scientific evidence bears on political, social or cultural controversies, such as disputes over policy responses to climate change, or creationism versus relatively gradual evolution over a span of millions of years.
Writers on scientific topics commonly described as "contrarian" include David Berlinski, a critic of mainstream views on evolution, and Richard Lindzen, a critic of the scientific consensus on climate change. Bjørn Lomborg, who accepts the scientific consensus on climate change but argues against action to mitigate it, has been called "the poster boy of the contrarian trend".
Scientific contrarianism, often favorably called skepticism, is criticised as a form of denialism. An example of the latter usage is "climate change denialism." Paul Krugman, an economist and columnist for The New York Times, has criticised "contrarianism without consequences" in relation to the debate over global warming and the controversy over the book Superfreakonomics, saying, "The refusal of the Superfreakonomists to take responsibility for their failed attempt to be cleverly contrarian on climate change is a sad spectacle to watch ... having paraded their daring contrarianism, the freakonomists are trying to wiggle out of the consequences when it turns out that they were wrong."
- Safire, William (April 9, 1989). "Gun That Rumor Down". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
- Patterson, James T. (November 24, 2012). "Everything you know about the 1960s is wrong". Salon. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
- Pauline Kael's last broadcasts.-Internet Archive
- "Copenhagen climate change conference 2009: climate contrarians". The Daily Telegraph. November 25, 2009. Archived from the original on September 21, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
- Krugman, Paul (October 23, 2009). "Contrarianism without consequences". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2015.