A contrarian is a person that takes up a contrary position, especially a position that is opposed to that of the majority, regardless of how unpopular it may be. A contrarian investing style is one that is based on identifying, and speculating against, movements in stock prices that reflect changes in the sentiments of the majority of investors.

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 Canadian economist and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith) on a given topic. A typical contrarian trope takes the form, ‘everything you know about topic X is wrong.’

Paul Krugman, an economist and columnist for ‘The New York Times,’ has criticized ‘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.’

In science, the term ‘contrarian’ is often applied to those who 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 evolution.

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 is frequently referred to, favorably, as skepticism and is criticised as a form of denialism. An example of the latter usage is climate change denialism.

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