Skeptics, Climate Debate Part II
Appeal to Emotion
As I said at the end of the last post. Ad hominem is a sign of a bad argument. It uses another logical fallacy, the appeal to emotion, to try and discourage dialogue. Climate Change is just another in a long line of political topics that gets bogged down by appeals to emotion.
Appeals to emotion try to play on your heart strings, to use your feelings against you. In the context of the AGW debate, instead of debating the merits of the science or the data involved, proponents of AGW try to ear skeptics down with emotional attacks. I’ve heard multiple times about how “we need to stop climate change for our kids.” The assumption is always that AGW is “proven.” That assumption is made so wildly that proponents don’t even think it deserves any debate at all. Remember the science has already been “settled”. It’s implicit in that statement, also, that if you are against what ever measure they are arguing for, like cap and trade, other emission cuts, light bulbs, hybrid cars, whatever it is, if your against it then you don’t care about children. Of course they don’t like to be called out on that, so they say your making itall up and your delusional.
Appeals to emotion are very powerful. I mean after all how can you be against children? But the problem is that the underlying logic is flawed. It’s not a choice between driving a Hummer and killing off the children. The choice is about, if AGW is real, what do we do about it. Yet, as I’ve said before, the IF hasn’t been settled yet to begin with.
Appeal to Authority
Appeal to authority is real easy to understand. It’s basically an appeal of ignorance against the person your using it against. For example, when the lines “All scientists agree” or “consensus” are used, what they are really trying to tell you is that your just too dumb to understand anything and you better listen to the experts. Nothing more, nothing less. And when you quote or talk about a scientists like John Christie, that is a AGW skeptic, the usual rebuttal, besides him being a hack or paid by big oil, is that there are more scientists that believe in AGW than not, so you better just shut up and go with the majority (“consensus”).
That is not a debate tactic. It’s merely away to try and silence critics and stifle debate.
Appeal to Motive
This is commonly used, you hear it every time someone mentions “Big Oil”. The idea is that skeptics have an agenda and that they have been bought and paid for by the “evil” oil industry. The underlying premise is obviously that oil is evil and anyone against them is good. It appeals to the segment of the population that already hates corporations and oil companies already, meaning environmental groups.
The problem with that line of reasoning is that everyone has a motive. Everyone has an agenda, even the environmental groups. Groups like WWF, Audubon, Greenpeace are known to be hostile to oil, or anything that they see as damaging to the environment. Do you think they would promote any research that would damage their position? Do you think they would pay for a study that would say that it’s all natural and man isn’t at fault?But this is only part of it.
The real story lies in Academia and the IPCC. Climate scientists in academia make a lot of money off AGW research. Funding is through, mainly, government agencies and government have a huge incentive to show AGW. Do you think that they would give money to a scientist that doesn’t give them the results they want to hear? The money goes to the scientists that give the politicians what they want. And they want AGW. Science is just like any other market. If there is a demand to research showing AGW, then by God that’s what the check writers are going to get.
So really appeal to motives are double edge swords. If one side has a motive, the other side does as well. It’s better to debate the data than go by this fallacious argument anyway.
The real issue with climate gate is groupthink. Groupthink is when a cadre of people, this case climate scientists, get together with a priori biases, and purposely ignore any evidence contrary to their a priori position and try to negate any outside influences. Now what did the CRU do?
They have their hypothesis, AGW, that they pushed even when evidence to the contrary (“Hide the Decline”) suggested that the hypothesis wasn’t correct. They also sued their position of power to strong arm other scientists into going with the flow. Before, Climate Gate broke, there were few scientists that were willing to buck the trend. Now, a few months, there’s a new scientist even IPCC scientists that come out against AGW, not GW by the way, every week it seems. Yes I’m exaggerating a bit. We even have had Dr. Phil Jones, head of the CRU come out saying that there has not been any statistically significant warming in 15 years!
That can’t be said enough times or loudly enough. Now think about CRU in context with the appeal to motive fallacy. If the skeptics are being paid by the oil companies to show that AGW doesn’t exist, then CRU, which gets tons of money from government agencies, can be the poster child for the other team. Remember, government have an inherent interest is increasing their power and AGW give government extraordinary power over their citizens.
The other scandal that came to light in the wake of Climate Gate was the breakdown of the peer review process. It’s been well documented that the CRU tried and succeeded in blocking any papers that conflicted with AGW from getting published. Very few people, even try to argue that didn’t happen, instead trying to argue that the e-mails were out of context, which is absurd on other grounds.
By blocking opposing and skeptical scientists from publication, the journals became echo chambers and not scientific at all. Remember science has to have fallibility, and blocking opposition doesn’t really make falsification all that easy. The tactic was again to silence the opposition and to block open and honest debate.
The break down of the peer review process has a few consequences. For one, it makes the settled science case all the more difficult to swallow. The appeal to authority doesn’t work when the authority are crooks and liars. The second involves the nature of scientific journals itself and that is sourcing or referencing.
Being able to reference and source other papers is the mortar that holds science together. All science is based upon an increasing foundation of knowledge framework. We take what learned since the dawn of man and add to that little by little, like building a wall. As knew knowledge is uncovered, it needs to be able to fit into the already established framework. The way we do that is by referencing others work, building and incorporating those ideas into a new synthesized body of knowledge.
So what happens when we find out that what we reference turned out to be lies? The whole wall start to crumble. Now I don’t want to be melodramatic, this doesn’t breakdown everything we know, but just the “consensus” of Climate Research. Think of it like this, we use proxy tree ring data to measure climate in previous eras. So what would happen if a new finding were to show that tree ring data do not correlate with temperature? (They do and I don’t want anyone to think I think something different, this is a rhetorical example.) We’d have to rethink everything we know about past temperatures. We’d have to find a new proxy and start over again.
Now think about what happened with the CRU clan. They used their influence to stop opposing papers to be published. Since there were no opposition papers, the only data other, newer scientists could use to reference were faulty CRU approved papers. So now we have another row of bricks built using rotten mortar.
I think that sums up my thoughts fairly accurately. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I could probably go on and on but I think this is good for now.
So what do you think? Am I reasonable or am I full of it?