Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why do Global Warming "Skeptics" Reject Rational Debate?

I’ve been reflecting on my past few years worth of futile attempts to engage various “climate science skeptics” in a substantive debate.  An exercise that began with Letters to the Editor and that has evolved into my modest blog that has visitors from around the world.
Besides learning a great deal more about the substance of the various lines of increasingly solid evidence, I’ve learned about the human ability to hide from the uncomfortable and scary.
I’ve also learned that the loudest deniers of anthropogenic global warming consistently turn out to be cowards who will bluster and insult and threaten, but in the end, they always run away from defending their various claims in an objective manner. 
In a way that’s not surprising since there is no substance to their various claims.  But, what’s shocked me is that rather than learning from their failures and mistakes, they erect ever weirder intellectual contortions and blind-spots while becoming increasingly hostile, some bordering on the vicious.
~ ~ ~
I don’t pretend to be a learned intellectual, but it seems to me there are basically two kinds of debates:
The one would be your political debate, where winning your argument is the only thing that matters.  This style of debate is a ‘no holds barred’ exercise where rhetorical fancy dancing, misrepresenting facts, and personal attacks to distract, are all considered fair-play towards the goal of winning for one’s personal agenda.
The other, I would call a constructive rational debate where each side remains focused on the facts, explaining those facts, the evidence, or lack thereof, along with their implications. 

In this style of debate learning and arriving at a constructive consensus is more important than “winning,” since arriving at a solid realistic understanding is of paramount importance. 
A constructive rational debate requires a certain level of respect for the known facts along with your opponent’s integrity - which is not to be confused with liking your opponent, or accepting what they are proposing. 
Thing is, both sides agree that the weight of objective evidence must carry the day, even when that means admitting ones own assumptions were mistaken.
Unfortunately the neo-Republican/Libertarian’s desperation to protect their political and business status quo has obliterated their notions of personal intellectual integrity, respect and honestly -
which in turn has reduced our ‘global warming education dialogue’ to a dog fight where one side sticks to the rules of rational constructive engagement and the other side acts as though they were in an alley brawl.

Tragically it’s not the chorus of strident climate science deniers but our children who will be paying the price for our unforgivable failure.



11 comments:

Dan L. said...

a constructive rational debate where each side remains focused on the facts, explaining those facts, the evidence, or lack thereof, along with their implications.

Pretty sure that's illegal on the internets. Either that, or the place where it happens has been hiding from me since the '90s

Victor Venema said...

Funny, I wrote the same blog post today: Are debatable scientific questions debatable?. Just formulated stuff a bit more academically, hard to kick the habit.

citizenschallenge said...

Victor,

Considering you're an educated scientist I would expect no less from you.

Your's is a well written thoughtful article,
perhaps I could repost it at my Citizenschallenge blog - it does make a nice complement to what I wrote above.

Victor Venema said...

thanks. Feel free to. My blog has a Creative Commons Attribution license.

citizenschallenge said...

OK Victor, it's up
http://citizenschallenge.blogspot.com/2014/04/venema-debatable-debates.html
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

While I'm here I want to share another thought:
http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/17084/

CJ wrote: "I guess I’m not sure what you expect. You’re dealing with people who are ignorant and proud of it."
~ ~ ~

CC: Yea, it’s like if a person is color-blind, you’ll never be able to explain what walking through a tulip market is like
(happened to do that yesterday and am still dazzled by the memory)

For me it’s been a process of various descents into resignation and hopelessness.
I don’t expect anything good any more, there will be no epiphany among the denialist.
They’ll never figure out our love affair with guns and wars won’t help against our real collective enemy.

I often tell myself just shut it down, no one cares, focus on my own self as my own final years flow by. But, that don’t work too long every I try, doing nothing is worse than fighting a futile battle.

Besides this calamity isn’t going to happen all at once like some movie.

It will be incremental, whatever ugliness is ahead of us, none of the details are certain, small groups are paying attention, and attempts to confront willful ignorance and to education need to continue,
no matter how puny or utterly hopeless they seem.


Let history sort it out in the end.

John said...

Rational debate is not calling anyone who disagrees with you a denier. Rational debate is not hammering on 97% like it is a weather prediction. (How many people agree with you is not a compelling scientific argument.) Rational debate is not arguing against the pause for 12 years because "Climate Prediction is known". Then admitting the pause while still claiming "Climate Prediction is a known science". If "Climate Prediction was a known science" the Met Office would have admitted the pause existed in 2009 like all of the skeptics claimed.

Put another way you can't claim moral and scientific authority if your predictions turn out less accurate than your detractors.

citizenschallenge said...


John said...April 29, 2014 at 11:03 AM

John says: Rational debate is not calling anyone who disagrees with you a denier.
~ ~ ~

CC responds: I'm doing my best not calling any "one" a denier, if I slip excuse me.
Then again if they constantly repeat known falsehoods - what else do you expect to be labeled!?

If you repeat known falsehoods you deserve to be called a liar and a denier.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
John says: Rational debate is not hammering on 97% like it is a weather prediction. (How many people agree with you is not a compelling scientific argument.)
~ ~ ~
CC responds: "How many people" ???
Dude, there you go misrepresenting the situation!
It is not about 97% of "people"
It's about 97% of the evidence.

The consensus is NOT formed by scientists
The consensus IS driven by the evidence !

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

John says: "Rational debate is not arguing against the pause for 12 years because "Climate Prediction is known"."
~ ~ ~
CC responds: What is rational about ignoring the mechanism that account for this apparent lull in surface temperatures, that incidentally exclude the fast warming polar regions.

Irrational is refusing to learn about our climate system, which includes the oceans and the arctic regions of our globe


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
John says: "Then admitting the pause while still claiming "Climate Prediction is a known science". "
~ ~ ~

CC responds: John goes off the deep end here.
Unless John can produce some examples of climate scientists claiming they can make precise predictions, please recognize this entire line of argument is crazy and disconnected from the actual issues.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
John says: "If "Climate Prediction was a known science" the Met Office would have admitted the pause existed in 2009 like all of the skeptics claimed. Put another way you can't claim moral and scientific authority if your predictions turn out less accurate than your detractors."
~ ~ ~
CC responds: What in the world are you saying John... besides that, if you don't understand any of it, you can't pretend it's all wrong.
Why not try to learn about what your talking about!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

citizenschallenge said...

Opps - Actually John said on May 1, 2014 at 6:57 PM

Brad Keyes said...

Glad to find your post and Victor's (practically on the same day)! For the last couple of years I thought I was the only person complaining about the problems inherent in trying to "debate" a scientific question.

I have to disagree on one thing you've said—not in the post itself but in your comment to a reader:

"CC responds: "How many people" ???
... It is not about 97% of "people"
It's about 97% of the evidence.
The consensus is NOT formed by scientists
The consensus IS driven by the evidence !"


It's impossible to know what you mean by "formed by" and "driven by."

Nevertheless, by definition, a consensus is a majority view/opinion. That is the meaning of the word 'consensus.' That is the only meaning of the word.

You therefore cannot have a consensus of papers, because papers don't have opinions/views/thoughts. They don't even have central nervous systems.

Only people can form a consensus.

That's why Barack Obama tweeted: "97% of scientists believe....", not "97% of published papers believe..."

You may think you know better than the President when it comes to scientific terminology, but in this particular case he was using English correctly.

As was John.

Brad Keyes said...

Note that Victor also operates on the understanding that consensus is a matter of how many people [or in this case scientists] share a view, not a matter how much evidence there is:

'There is a consensus among climate scientists that the Earth is warming, that this is mainly because of us and that it will thus continue if we do nothing...
Many people, and maybe also some scientists, may confuse consensus with evidence. For a scientist referring to a consensus is not an option in his own area of expertise. Saying "everyone believes this" is not a scientific argument.'

Surely you wouldn't accuse Victor of 'misrepresenting the situation,' as you said to John, would you?

citizenschallenge said...

Brad, I think you're allowing semantics to confuse the issue. How about replacing "consensus" with "the considered expert opinion"? Does it help any?

Scientists are very smart and they process evidence and allow the best information to drive their opinion. They are also a very large group of people who are not just competent, but also competitive - thus I believe history has shown repeatedly that scientists keep each other honest and that they can certainly be trusted more than the work of right wing think-tanks, who possess zero interest in understanding the global climate system, with all their energies focused on winning the economic/political wars.

Brad you wrote: "Only people can form a consensus."
Please notice I wrote: "the consensus is DRIVEN by the evidence"

And about that evidence... if you visit this post, you'll find quite the list of links to authoritative evidence and reasons that help prove manmade global warming:
"Denying denial at Science of Doom #1c Flori's comments" only links"
http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2015/02/florifulgurator-denial-scienceofdoom-1c.html