Climate and discussions

K harris suggests we try these rules out in our discussions about global warming: (lifted from comments cactus style)

Just a few rules of thumb for discussion like this one – discussion in which we mere mortals are left dealing with data that has been collected from places we can’t go, interpreted through methods we can’t replicate, and in which factions have hardened up considerably –

1. If you can correctly guess the basic stance that some member of the discussion will take toward a new bit of news, then that person isn’t really addressing the new information. That person is merely taking the opportunity of some new event or datum to repeat a position you already know, rather than taking the event or datum as it comes and opening themselves to new implictions.

2. Assertions that the public, or the majority of the public, holds certain views on an issue, in the absence of evidence, don’t mean beans. We may not be able to interpret millions of temperature data in any useful way, but most of us can read poll results. No results? No valid claim to know how the public feels about an issue.

3. In issues that are going to be settled through some political process, the views of the public matter. In matters of fact, public views tell you nothing except whether the public is well or ill informed. In matters of science, the public view may have somewhat more interesting socialogical implications, but has no relevance to whether science has the correct answer.

4. Keynes was right about the long run. Whenever you are assured all will be well in the long-run, ask yourself whether that assurance fits in with the bias of the speaker. If so, refer to item 1.

5. When one side of a debate has to fall back on attributing unsavory motives to the other side, it is fair to guess that the accuser doesn’t have anything else to fall back on. Unless there is a body of evidence that one side has unsavory motives, as in the following case:

6. Now that we know about the tobacco industry’s place in the “junk science” movement, there is more reason than ever to be sceptical of sceptics who profit from their position. Ther junk science movement has also demonstrated that professional sceptics can mislead very effectively, so that their story will be repeated by those with no material interest in the argument. That is a measure of the success of propoganda, and reason to resist it all the more.

The overwhelming consensus among specialists in climate-related research is that human activity has resulted in an increased retention of heat in earth’s atmosphere. It is a really good idea to debate these issues, but it is just plain dishonest to suggest that the people who are best able to understand this issue think man-made global warming is bunk.

Written by k harris.