Call that a Conversation? That’s not a Conversation—this is a Conversation.

 

Just like climate scientists and Hillary Clinton, we at cliscep sometimes chat in private. We express different viewpoints, disagree, go off-topic, try to find points in common. In this one, I’ve cut out a lot of digressions by me, Paul, Ian and Richard, to leave the meaty debate between Ben and Brad. Poor Professor Hulme got quickly left behind, but his article should be consulted for context.

—G.C.

hogan-sticky


Geoff:

Mike Hulme has a not very interesting article at the Conversation

http://theconversation.com/anglophone-political-populism-and-the-cultural-rejection-of-climate-change-68694

Paul:

Geoff, In the interests of creating a Conversation, I’m going to disagree! I thought the Hulme article was quite interesting, (relative to the usual diet of worms at the Constipation), particularly the acknowledgement that the Climate Change movement is ideological and that there’s more to explain about climate scepticism than well funded industry lobbyists.

Ben:

Paul, any idea whose comment was deleted?

I agree with Paul about Hulme’s article.

Brad:

Hulme does the readability of his article no favors with this line:

“How climate change is believed in or denied, how it is acted upon or resisted, can only be understood at the level of much deeper beliefs people hold about themselves and about how the world is and should be.”

Note the denial that There Is No Such Thing As Climate Change Denial, followed by the deeper-beliefs-and-values fantasy (or rationalization for failed climate evangelism), capped off by a link to one of the most insultingly cretinous pieces of offal offered up by The Colliloquy in the climate wars to date.

Why even read further? You guys are Gandhi to forgive a paragraph like that.

Ben:

I think it makes sense, though what confounds the point is that Hulme doesn’t go deep enough into ‘deeper beliefs’… He talks about the reaction to ‘globalism’ – in the senses of both globalism as an ideology’ and the reaction to it as an ‘ideology’ – but not about the immediacy of that reaction. He says ‘globalism’, but people don’t actually have tangible relationships with ‘isms’. Even the angriest eco-Social Justice Warrior has internalised the -isms as demons. And nobody starts out their journey to climate scepticism by embracing the -ism, but by wind farms, high energy prices, or shock at officials’ and/or scientists’ intransigence.

I think the reference that offends you Brad is Hulme offering his disapproval — it’s far more pointed than the ref to Alt-Market. The point being that Maslin (who is a 1st order ****) resists what Hulme says would shed light on ‘why we disagree about climate change’. Hulme says Maslin wants to say how the world should be on his own terms, without a thought for negotiation. That’s a big deal since Maslin is a colleague.

Brad:

“That’s a big deal since Maslin is a colleague.”

I guess that’s why I assumed he wasn’t throwing hits Maslin’s way disapprovingly. Given the a priori unlikelihood of such a professional discourtesy, which as you say would be a “big deal” if true, I guess I’d need to see extraordinary evidence first—like, say, an explicit bus-throwing rank-breaking on Hulme’s part. Instead what we get is lip service to the Deeper Beliefs and Values that dovetail fairly comfortably into Maslin’s pathetic excuse for “not debating science with deniers.”

(The real reason being, of course, that Maslin is borderline scientifically-illiterate, even in his “own field” of biology, and would get his ass handed to him [again] if he made the mistake of debating science with us [again]. It must have been humiliating for a climate evolutionist to be reminded by a mere rocket scientist like Rand Simberg that, no, h. sapiens didn’t in fact evolve from the great apes.)

As for the Deeper Beliefs and Values theory, I believe it’s what scientists would call Not Even Right.

To be sure, it probably has explanatory power in terms of answering the question: what factors lower a person’s threshold for climate conviction, or raise their climate gullibility to put it another way.

But as for explaining or predicting denial, it… doesn’t.

I “know” this, to the extent that we can “know” any theory has been broken, because (among other disproofs), I have a childhood friend with whom I share every “deeper belief and value” you care to name. But he jets off to climate-mitigation conferences (non-ironically), while I blog about what a crock of shit they are. The only difference between us? I mean, literally the only important difference? While I was getting a Science degree, he was getting a Law degree. 

Other disproofs might include the two-word argument “Freeman Dyson.” Or “Stephen McIntyre.”

Ben:

“As for the Deeper Beliefs and Values theory, I believe it’s what scientists would call Not Even Right.”

Philistines.

It’s quite straightforward. If you take the conservative conception of the rugged individual, for instance — no matter the de/merits of the archetype — it follows that he is less vulnerable to the whims of nature than the individual conceived of by ecological holists, who believe him to be inter/dependent on X/YZ/Gaia, as part of a delicately balanced ‘system’, rather than on his own wits/agency, per the conservative individual type. And of course, the interdependency idea is portable, which is why perhaps so many disoriented leftoids joined the green movement, which had barely a generation earlier been the domain of contemporaneously disoriented, more traditional conservatives (the postwar boom and bust, etc, leaving them unable to make sense of the world without recourse to their own mythology). And all shades of grey and historical context between, natch.

Of course, the scientist says it’s all for nought until we can somehow turn this into a prediction, or into some tangible equation. Which is to miss the point that the value in offering the explanation is to provoke a better account of… erm… History. One thing is more sure than the observation that all history is not even right is that ruling out historical explanations is even more wrong.

Your lawyer pal simply has had no call to question that which, after all, pays the bills. Why would he?

Brad:

“It’s quite straightforward.”

Ben, your “quite straightforward” passage that follows is, I hasten to admit, a cogent account of how most people think about the climate narrative. I’m more interested in how people who can actually think think, that’s all 🙂 

To put it less flippantly: arguendo, let’s put to one side the vast bulk of humanity who make their mind up emotively, party-politically and relatively thoughtlessly, and focus only on the edge cases in which honest, well-informed, intelligent persons grapple with the question “You do believe in the science, don’t you, or are you one of those science deniers?” If we do so, we will still be left with an apparent paradox. Namely, we will find that the centrist Christopher Hitchens is/was a Believer (not to mention my lawyer pal, whom you haven’t met), while lefties like Freeman Dyson and Stephen McIntyre are the darlings of Denial.

Perhaps I’m being overly “scientific” about what ought to be treated as a sociological puzzle, but as far as I’m concerned (the way my momma taught me to evaluate a theory), a single exception disproves the rule.

In other words, if you can’t explain (or if you mis-predict) the climate alignments of a single pair of prominent thinkers, then you can’t explain or predict anything.

Well, you can—you can probably even account for the vast majority of people’s alignments! But those people are thought followers, not thought leaders. So they’re relatively uninteresting to me. If the first-hand thinkers didn’t disagree about climate change, then the second-hand thinkers wouldn’t either. So to understand the latter without understanding the former is to solve the symptom, not the etiology.

Ben:

To your first, Brad… The climate descends to science. It’s not the science as such which is at fault with ideas like ‘dangerous climate change’ thresholds, or impact assessments that presuppose society’s (/individuals’) dependence on natural process, which evaporate at precisely 1.49999999 degrees C (or 1.99999999 degrees C). The Science of 1.5 degrees *might* be sound while the notion of the threshold is batshit mad. Ditto with any impact projection. For e.g. my ‘favourite’ projection, which is deaths from diseases of poverty. In 2002, the WHO estimated 150,000 deaths p.a. were caused by climate change’s impact on these diseases, rising to N thousand by the year x, but 10,000 fewer infants died from these conditions per day by the end of the decade. The difference was wealth, which the green blob in its entirety has de-emphasised (and they’re all doing very well thank you very much and are entirely benevolent, so why should they?), yet which (we should argue) could yield the same result again, in shorter order.

In the green and broader predominant calculus, wealth is a risk factor, not the ultimate risk mitigator.

This takes us to the second… Alex Epstein has a great tweet this AM…

‘”No mind is better than the precision of its concepts.” This explains how using the term “climate change” can lower a 160 IQ to an 80 IQ.’

I understand that you want the scientific method to prevail here… But such confidence may well be hubris, and be written in history as the ideal which got us here, as was anticipated by Weber (since you like predictions), and written up as postmodernism (i.e. scepticism of politics – and history, and other things ‘metanarrative’).

The problem is the test of a prediction concerning the future of society (or its management) isn’t quite so simple as plotting the trajectory of a projectile. Moreover, attempting to make predictions about the human world in those terms can have the consequence of limiting the possibility of expression, and even more moreover, that can yield pressure in the opposite direction, as we see in traumas like Brexit and Trump. Humans are yet irreducible, and they seem to resist being reduced to predictable agents – automata – on principle. This makes the difference between prediction and explanation. You can ask someone ‘why did you do X’, but you can’t predict when they did X. Conversely, you can’t ask the projectile why it took its trajectory.

The story – the motivating beliefs, experiences and attachments/commitments – is important. It turns out that 150K (or however many) people amongst millions each decided they wanted a better life than the one they had, and the one that the WHO had imagined for them, and it seems true to say, had a better understanding of the risks they were exposed to and the best way of negotiating them. I couldn’t ‘prove’ it empirically, scientifically, but I can say that we have in front of us an object lesson in privileging empiricism over autonomy. As the STSers at Nottingham would say, “counting is political”, it turns out. I really don’t mind that ‘the vast bulk of humanity …make their mind up emotively.’ The fact that the humanities are so vulnerable to green mythology, where they should be the most cognisant of science’s (positivism’s) failures, and the dangers of over-deterministic frameworks, suggest that the problem is a far deeper, existential crisis, than can be understood scientifically.

Your solution is just the deficit model of science communication, retold. The idea is that if you can simply tell people the right thing – be it scientific fact or something equivalent to ‘critical thinking’ – they will walk away with the outlook you desired. It just ain’t so, as we discovered when we found that you can do good science from poor political presuppositions.

To which you could argue, ‘well, just demonstrate that the thresholds aren’t scientific’. Which is of course, a good idea in its own right. But it is also useful to understand why and how thresholds (and the suchlike) achieved such influence in official ‘thinking’. And that does require a historical (or sociological, if you prefer) perspective. No doubt historians (and sociologists) have been reluctant to engage with that project. But ditto, climate scientists, are reluctant.

Which brings us back to your pal. Of course I don’t know him. But, for example, at a meeting of a small dinner of (notable, except me) climate sceptics, not one of us could claim that we hadn’t changed our position on climate, having taken it at face value at the outset, and I’ve met few who claim otherwise. So, the point of such seemingly arbitrary things as the sociology, history, subjective accounts and explanations etc, is to locate the universal, even in the human world. It was, at one point, the radical empiricist who said such a search for the human and material worlds’ universal truths was futile.

Brad:

To elaborate on my closing claim:

If the first-hand thinkers didn’t disagree about climate change, then the second-hand thinkers wouldn’t either. So to understand the latter without understanding the former is to solve the symptom, not the etiology.

What you call the sociological or historical explanation (simplifying: lefties believe because of their leftism, while righties disbelieve because of their rightism) is easy, it’s been done before, it’s boring, and—for what it’s worth—it won’t change anything.

What do I mean by “it won’t change anything?”

I mean, let’s suppose you could get the message across to every single left-Dem-liberal ‘climate believer’ on the planet:

“Listen, the only reason you’re not a ‘climate denier’ is that you’re not a right-Repub-conservative.”

What direction is that likely to move them in? Not in the direction of Denial, I dare say. It’d probably just give them one more reason to thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that they’re not conservatives.

But suppose for a minute you could get the message across:

“Listen, the only reason you’re not a ‘climate denier’ is that nobody explained to you how proper scientists settle bets—or how to tell the difference between proper science and fake science. It’s not your fault, it’s just the way science is taught (or not taught) around the world, at all levels from middle school to the BSc.”

(Assuming, of course, that such a message is true—as I would argue it is.)

I’m cautiously optimistic that anyone who could be made to grasp that message, without feeling insulted by it, would be absorbing a “gateway belief” that might, just might, open up to them the golden road to the magical kingdom of Denial.

And in the end, isn’t that what we all want?

“Your lawyer pal simply has had no call to question that which, after all, pays the bills. Why would he?”

He might have no call to do so, but call or no call, my friend has thought deeply and even, dare I say, skeptically about it—albeit armed with a non-scientific mental framework for adjudicating controversies, a framework based on expert testimony, a prosecution and a defense (or plaintiff and defendant), “growing” (piles of) “evidence,” etc., which don’t translate well into scientific language.

Ben:

It isn’t the first hand thinkers I think need it explained to them. Indeed, they are likely the most resistant to explanation. We have seen in our own forum the MO of Consensus Enforcement. Which leads me to two possible explanations:

1. The first hand thinkers haven’t transmitted the thinking.

2. There is no thinking.

The second one convinces me. Mediocrity is the condition of deference to the consensus. There has been no Marx, John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, [/whoever] of Environmentalism. Environmentalism is a *disoriented* search for authority. It finds it (manufactures it) only formally. Hence Nick Stern can’t defend his theses, and sends out his Enforcer. The first hand thinkers and institutions close ranks – essentially against their own mediocrity – in a broader phenomenon than the climate debate. (Which is another reason to be cautious about believing the climate debate can be terminated by the right science).

Which brings us to your third… ”the sociological or historical explanation… is easy, it’s been done before, it’s boring.”

None of which is true. One reason for which is that even sociologists have given up on sociology. Anthony Giddens (with the late Ulrich Beck), being a pioneer of ‘Risk Society’ that Stern now champions, for example. Much as with philosophy, climate change rescues the stale old university department from its obscurity (and mediocrity) (and postmodernism). The fact that the humanities are so vulnerable to green mythology, where they should be the most cognisant of science’s (positivism’s) failures, and the dangers of over-deterministic frameworks, suggest that the problem is a far deeper, existential crisis, than can be understood scientifically.

Brad:

Thanks for the detailed response Ben.

This was particularly interesting:

“But, for example, at a meeting of a small dinner of (notable, except me) climate sceptics, not one of us could claim that we hadn’t changed our position on climate, having taken it at face value at the outset, and I’ve met few who claim otherwise.”

Then my problem might be that I’m unusual. I never for a second took climate dangerism seriously. I was born not only an atheist but a climate denier too—as, I’ll remind you, was every person in this group—and have remained one (a climate denier) without vacillation. Why? Because nothing resembling (to me) scientific evidence has ever been presented to convert me to climate concern.

Also, FWIW, I was never politically conservative. I still don’t vote to the right, though I’ve recently been very tempted to—out of disgust at the left’s embrace of climate pseudoscience. In other words, my climate position informs my politics, not the other way round!

“Your solution is just the deficit model of science communication, retold.”

You wound me! This is not entirely fair. I’m only “retelling” the deficit model in the sense that I’m telling it properly for the first time ever, and deserve a Nobel Peace Prize therefor.

“The idea is that if you can simply tell people the right thing – be it scientific fact or something equivalent to ‘critical thinking’ —“

But that’s not my idea. What I advocate is the teaching, not of scientific fact or something equivalent to ‘critical thinking,’ but of the scientific method, a.k.a. scientific thinking, which is a large superset of critical thinking. If you think this has been tried before, I disagree—in my experience, the only climate debaters who’ve called for improved scientific-thinking education are the frauds like Cook and his mum Oreskes (who claim to intend to teach scientific thinking, but actually teach pre-scientific unthinking).

“..they will walk away with the outlook you desired.”

But the interesting thing is: they do walk away with the outlook I desire. (Desire is perhaps the wrong word: my real interest is in getting people to think scientifically about the debate, and if they then happen to agree with us, so be it—but if they honestly and scientifically arrive at the alarmist view, I’ll respect that too.)

Take the population that has been educated in the way I’m advocating: scientists. Scientists overwhelmingly (as in: without exception, AFAIK) become more rejectionist of the alarmist narrative the more they study it. Not less; more. That’s why the only counterexample—Richard Muller—was inevitably exposed as a fraudulent counterexample. Muller was for climate alarmism before he was against it before he was for it, as I once joked. Has any scientist converted the other way on closer examination of the evidence? Ever?

Brad:

Oops—when I wrote…

“Has any scientist converted the other way on closer examination of the evidence? Ever?”

…I meant: 

“Has any scientist converted in the direction Muller pretended to convert in order to drum up book sales on closer examination of the evidence? Ever?”

There’s no shortage of scientists who’ve abandoned alarmism after looking at the alleged “evidence” for themselves, but are there any who’ve gone the other way? Scientists?

Ben:

This is interesting:

“I still don’t vote to the right, though I’ve recently been very tempted to—out of disgust at the left’s embrace of climate pseudoscience. In other words, my climate position informs my politics, not the other way round!”

I have worked and voted for the political right (of centre), in spite of being ‘from the left’, not because of science abuse but for disgust at the contempt shown by the contemporary left for the ordinary person/working class [delete according to preference]. That is to say, like so many things, concepts that seemed robust, if not transcendental, have been inverted. Perhaps it is a peculiarity of contemporary British politics, but the left — coincidentally – seemed more inclined towards ‘evidence based policymaking’. Which sounds nice. But it means depoliticising politics, which is dangerous if you take the view that politics should be the domain in which seemingly opposed interests — rather than claims to material truth — are contested. The conceit being that ‘what works’ is a better measure of a “policy” (previously known as “principle”) than who or what end it serves, and how much that idea resonates with those who will suffer it. It’s a question of legitimacy, rather than truth, and it seemed to me that the emphasis on ‘evidence’ is either consciously or not advanced to make the electorate passive agents in/of their own existences. I find that more disgusting than any science abuse, though it would be an intrusion on that same principle for me to say that the priorities in your decision-making are wrong. The point is, what looked like a good idea turned out to be policy-based evidence-making.

Critical thinking – in the broad sense, and including science – was advanced by a number of that camp, to produce obedient citizens. They wouldn’t drink. They wouldn’t smoke. They wouldn’t have unsafe (i.e. any) sex. They wouldn’t take drugs. All of which is true, on the condition that your *every* act follows a risk assessment. Which is to say ‘risk’ is (or has become) an entirely encompassing ideological concept, and science merely its bitch — it would even govern how individuals related to each other, intimately, as well as politically.

But how can science tell what it has become? And how could thinking empirically say that it was wrong – to reflect on itself? To what extent would teaching critical thinking protect fragile young minds from the risks of risk-aversion, to encourage them to negotiate chaos independently, outwith consensus? Now the generation of kids bought up on that stuff demand safe spaces. (Not all of them, of course).

It takes a trauma to change a mind. Not an injury, I mean, but a disjuncture, in which the coordinates of understanding are shown to be out of kilter with the world. People prefer the sanitised version of Science, like they prefer the safe space and the womb, allegedly. And it’s not until they are ripped away from the comfort that they are persuaded. Gentle words about what the rightful method of science is ain’t persuasive.

So, politely, and with jazz hands, or whatever signifies the PC gesture of venturing a point on identity cautiously and with due regard for and consciousness of our respective privileges, I would suggest that if you’ve not changed your mind on climate, you’ve probably not had cause to reflect on either the transformation, or the disjuncture that prompted it as much as you have taken for granted that what you believed in the first place is the best method of convincing others. 

You didn’t need to be persuaded that you weren’t persuaded. Which is fortunate. You are model citizens – natural contemporaries of the New New New World Order. But the rest of the population of the future needs to be brought with us, and to be persuaded. Most of them, rightly, would likely just think as much to us “oh who gives a ****” as they do to green whinges. It’s not until the blackouts occur, or the bills rise beyond the ability to pay, or the eco police come to inspect recycling discipline that people are caused to think “WTF is all this about?”, and are then forced to take a position.

A for example… I have met a lot of wind farm campaigners in my research. An interesting, varied bunch, very few of them had ever done anything contrary to the political establishment in their (usually long) lives. Many of them had been soft greens, members (but not campaigners) of FoE. It wasn’t until the possibility of massive machines looming over their homes arrived that they questioned energy policy, and then to varying degrees and outcomes, climate politics and science. It is generally very difficult for people to summon up a position in a debate that does not loom in their own lives.

However, even just a few years back, if you had told me that the UK would make the decision to leave the EU before the windfarms, energy and climate policies had crumbled into dust, I would have told you that you are mad. I thought people had no tangible relationship with the EU, whereas they are connected to the issue of energy policy at least once a month. I didn’t think people really had a view on the EU, precisely because it had been largely hidden in plain sight, Westminster performing something of a charade of ‘policymaking’. Even then, I thought that it would take a lot to connect people’s experiences of high energy bills, lost jobs, and higher prices to remote policymakers in Westminster and Brussels. Even amongst sceptical ‘campaigners’ (to the extent they could be called that), there were a number who believed that it was just a question of formulating the right policy, not reflecting on the political structures that produced the abominations in the first place, reproducing them as so many totems of insufferable EU technocracy.

Things move incredibly quickly. It turns out the British people were ahead of me. However, the climate thing can change as rapidly as the referendum has upset the political order.

For one writer who qualifies as a first-hand thinker on climate change (who influenced this erstwhile second-hand thinker as such), it was in significant part the possibility of a world-famous beauty spot being turned into a wind farm that caused him to reflect on the alarmism he had contributed so much to.

More power to you, if you want to convince people of the scientific method and its virtues — notwithstanding its limitations. But as one of our trolls would say, ‘I fail to see…’ how it is different to what, for example, Gavin Schmidt says about his Speaking For Science to the opposite effect. As I point out at

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2015/01/advocating-the-science-cake-and-politicising-it.html you’ve got your work cut out. The scientific method hasn’t stopped the Royal Society and NASA becoming monoliths, and home to very many Schmidt clones. That is some *serious* institutional muscle you are pitched against. What will be more decisive, will be the monolith’s own overbearance, the moment at which is realised being our opportunity to intervene with the explanation: either “they got the scientific method wrong” or “they got the politics wrong”. Both perhaps?

Brad:

“The scientific method hasn’t stopped the Royal Society and NASA becoming monoliths”

I can’t speak to the pathology that’s infected NASA (though I suspect it wouldn’t be half as grave if the US government tossed the agency as much money for space exploration as it does for climate assessment!).

But as to the greyscale that’s sclerosed the Stone Men of the Royal Society of late, that was only made possible by their dereliction and betrayal of the scientific method. If a hasbeen like Paul Nurse had instead stayed true to bedrock scientific ethics like Nullius in Verba, he could never have posed James Delingpole those fatuous oncological “gotchas” in that interview. Any still-working, still-competent scientist would be deeply embarrassed to ask the ninety-seven doctors question, because it’s absurd within the scientific mindset.

“I would suggest that if you’ve not changed your mind on climate, you’ve probably not had cause to reflect on either the transformation, or the disjuncture that prompted it as much as you have taken for granted that what you believed in the first place is the best method of convincing others. Which is a bit Ken. Not to say that you’re like Ken, except in just that respect.”

With equal politeness: all I’ve done is the scientific thing. Namely: I’ve stuck to the null hypothesis (climate insouciance) since the day I was born, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do in the absence of any evidence that it’s wrong. And no such evidence has ever come to my attention, and not for lack of asking for it either. At this point I despair of ever seeing any in my lifetime. The lack of a global-warming crisis was once described as the most expensively-confirmed null hypothesis in scientific history. I don’t remember who came up with that line, but I’d be hard pressed to improve upon it.

Brad:

PS you don’t need to convince me of the bankruptcy of today’s left either. If I recall my exact words, I was careful not to say that I voted left. Because I don’t.

Brad:

Thanks Ben, good to know how you understood my position. That’s close but no cigar. An e-cig maybe, but not a Cohiba Esplendido.

First, there may or may not be One Scientific Method to Rule Them All. I’ve long since given up on that debate with my fellow epistemology nerds, as it ultimately makes little difference to the present problem. Whether there’s one, two or an infinity of scientific methods, what matters is that there is—shall we say—a mental methodology which is known to, passed down among, and practiced daily by, scientists and (almost) nobody else. And it’s far from intuitive. (Scientists sometimes claim it’s just common sense, but that’s only because they can’t remember what it’s like to be a non-scientist!) 

It took us hundreds of thousands of years to come up with it—from the dawn of bipedalism to the Baroque period—and even the smartest non-scientist on the planet can’t be expected to guess it correctly. We know this because shortly before his death from complications of oesophageal cancer in 2011, the smartest non-scientist on the planet still misunderstood how science worked. (Happily, he was smart enough to admit it.)

Why do I mention all this? Because everyone who does know, and practice, the mental discipline in question reliably tends to convert away from climate alarmism once they look into it for themselves (having previously made the lazy assumption that The Scientists on TV weren’t lying to them). Not the other way round.

So (warning: magic wand time) if I had a magic wand, I would infiltrate an understanding of the scientific method[s] into every person on the planet, and that would end the climate debate. I can’t say to a literal 100% certainty that it would end in “our” [skeptics’] favor—that’s kinda the point of science, or one of the points of science—but I guarantee that at least it would end in a satisfactory, evidence-based reconciliation of the two “sides.”

My “magic wand” would not, needless to say, render obsolete or uninteresting the various analytical powers brought to the table by practitioners of what you dubbed ‘yes-well-but-history-etc.’

All it would do is cut off the rotting head of the pseudoscientific fish. The fascinating story of how the rot spread, and why it spread so fast, cannot be told without the help of historians, social psychologists and scholars of religion. (Possibly even “sociologists,” depending on what the hell that means. I’ve never heard a proper explanation.) I trust nobody’s forgotten that I’m a history enthusiast myself. Sure, I might not take the slow, scholarly road to historical erudition, preferring—as Ian gently pointed out—more of a wise-ass approach, but it’s still history, whether it’s Simon Schama or Mel Brooks telling it.

Brad:

By way of further reconciliation/synthesis with Ben’s perspective… 

I’d submit that an adequate knowledge of the history of the climate debate, or an understanding of propagandology, or any of a number of other “knowledges,” might well be equally-efficacious cures for climate polarization, or almost equally-efficacious. 

And predictably enough, none of the “deficit model”-based proposals ever seem to involve teaching the public these things, do they? (I wonder why. It’s a real head-scratcher!)

So then: even if a universal public understanding of scientific reasoning a.k.a. The Method would be my ideal, magic-wand-land solution, and even if that’s what enabled me personally to see through the bullscam, and even if that’s the cleanest and most elegant armor a person can wear during an assault of pseudoscience, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s the only defence, let alone the most practical, realistic or affordable one.

Engineers tell us we’re still 5 or 10 years away from a functioning, handheld magic wand, after all.

So I’m open to better suggestions.

56 thoughts on “Call that a Conversation? That’s not a Conversation—this is a Conversation.

  1. This was a very exciting conversation to witness in email form last week and it’s been skilfully edited here for wider consumption, thanks Geoff. Here’s my favourite piece for now, from Ben:

    It isn’t the first hand thinkers I think need it explained to them. Indeed, they are likely the most resistant to explanation. We have seen in our own forum the MO of Consensus Enforcement. Which leads me to two possible explanations:

    1. The first hand thinkers haven’t transmitted the thinking.

    2. There is no thinking.

    The second one convinces me. Mediocrity is the condition of deference to the consensus. There has been no Marx, John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, [/whoever] of Environmentalism. Environmentalism is a *disoriented* search for authority.

    I vote for two too. (The Desmond option, as those into truth and reconciliation call it.) We see it in the pathetic use of pseudonyms to mount vapid, time-wasting defences of the consensus all over the Internet. That’s been the particular bee in my bonnet for over five years. (I made the point well in that comment in defence of Judith Curry in August 2011. Steven Mosher’s agreement should I think clinch it!)

    Like

  2. Where you guys go wrong is by having an opinion of your own. According to Hulme, the Coversation and like minds, sceptics aren’t supposed to have a reason why you think the way you do. You’re supposed to be American, right wing, poorly educated, SUV driving knuckle dragging aging guys who are scared of foreigny things and salad. While there are such types amongst the ranks of sceptics, they are almost certainly not giving climate change a moment’s thought, let alone writing thousands of words about it. They have a warmist counterpart, which is equally disinterested. The likes of Hulme can’t get a conversation going because nobody, not even they themselves, really give a damn about the issue. The Conversation is a blog for the educated self satisfied. You’re not supposed to disagree, just faintly applaud and suck up to the author who is probably your lecturer and tell him/her how much you loved their last book.

    One has to wonder how many times the psyche brigade can get away with not understanding their subject matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Richard, I know you don’t like pseudonyms and I was almost tempted to come out of the closet just before the RICO thing took off. There are nutters out there and some of them hold power. Which is what I wrote to the Conversation before they froze my account for not using my real name. I pointed out I could make up a fake real name and they’d not know the difference. My real name is unusual and potentially identifies my home address. I think climate hsyteria is worth having a bit of a moan about but I refuse to let it put me and mine at risk, The funny thing is, I’m fairly sure ATTP wasn’t christened ‘There’s Physics’. I’ve been tempted to email the contact that told me my account was locked about their double standards but I’m not a stinker like the warmist who reported me.

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  4. On the point that Richard quotes from Ben:

    Environmentalism is a *disoriented* search for authority.

    Environmentalism is often described as a religion, or a replacement for religion. It differs from a religion in at least two ways: 1) It’s never been persecuted and 2) It’s never suffered schisms. Perhaps it could be described as a “pre-religious” state of mind, a spiritual feeling looking for a Messiah, a martyrdom, and a reason to believe – an analysis which fits in with Ben’s idea of a “disoriented search for authority.”

    One social scientist who tried to codify environmentalism nearly forty years ago was Riley Dunlap in a paper, Dunlap and Van Liere (1978) which outlined a “New Environmental Paradigm” – basically an opinion survey asking people to agree with statements such as: “We live on a fragile planet.” In forming a battery of a dozen or so such statements which people would assent to, Dunlap hoped to establish a paradigm shift in our fundamental beliefs about society.

    It seems evident that someone who agrees that we live on a fragile planet is talking, not about his physical relation to his environment, but about his feelings about himself. In the seventies, environmentalism was a feeling looking for a theory. Then along came climate science and the hypothesis of global warming. If we had two centuries of data about the psychology of polar bears, that would probably have done just as well.

    Mike Hulme has realised for a long time the basic cleavage between the science and the socio-political phenomenon which is environmentalism, which to me recalls the old joke about “You can’t get there from here.” When I said I found his article not very interesting, it was because I thought his attempt to hang his thoughts on the Trump election and Brexit was a failure, which is not to say that his basic insight is unimportant. He’s expressed it better elsewhere, and it’s a subject I’m sure we’ll come back to.

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  5. Tiny: note that on CliScep today, and on Judith Curry’s in August 2011, I was referring only to the baleful use of pseudonymity by ‘consensus enforcers’. Well, OK, in one sentence earlier I generalised to the whole of the Internet and its influence on western culture – and that is deeply felt. But it’s important for you and others like manic to know that I’m not reopening arguments here about sceptics who choose to use pseudonyms. CliScep is moderated by ten of us (in effect – I’ve left out omnologos and Tom Fuller) and I haven’t even mentioned this issue, let alone got consensus on it, as I would need to for there to be any force in what I said anyway. But I haven’t said it. I’m pointing out something utterly dysfunctional and weird about the way climate debate never happens on the Net. I have utter contempt for those ‘big names’ who have allowed this to happen, who quite likely have arranged for it to happen this way. The name John Podesta ring any bells? That’s the whole of my emphasis here. Thank you for your many thoughtful contributions.

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  6. Geoff:

    Environmentalism is often described as a religion, or a replacement for religion. It differs from a religion in at least two ways: 1) It’s never been persecuted and 2) It’s never suffered schisms.

    Ouch. We were told by the Person we follow to expect persecution but schism, no. Some went on to torture and kill those whom He would surely consider their brothers and sisters. Haven’t done a very good job of the modelling – and that was before Linux-based supercomputers.

    Climatism thinks it’s been persecuted of course. Big Oil and all that. But compared to today’s Christians and Yazidis under ISIS it’s pretty painless.

    Perhaps it could be described as a “pre-religious” state of mind, a spiritual feeling looking for a Messiah, a martyrdom, and a reason to believe – an analysis which fits in with Ben’s idea of a “disoriented search for authority.”

    It does fit. And how is anyone persuaded they’ve constructed a false god? That’s the practical question.

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  7. It’s ok Richard I was just having a grump because the Conversation threw me off. I’m not sure that somewhere that quiet can afford to be so choosy.

    ATTP, the big names and most of the small ones don’t want a climate debate, they want utter surrender. To which the short answer is ‘no’ and the long answer is ‘nooooooooooo’. Now they can blunder about, getting no further because their view of what other people think gets in the way or they can actually start a conversation, which means an equal exchange. In many ways you are amongst one of the best communicators on the warmist side. Faint praise indeed.

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  8. Richard Drake:

    How is anyone persuaded they’ve constructed a false god? That’s the practical question.

    Failed predictions of the end of the world is the usual way.

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  9. Geoff, watching everyone else laugh and get on with their lives is another.

    To an environmentalist, persecution is not getting everything they wanted.

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  10. This post is too complicated for me, because I didn’t know it was possible to “deny the climate” until 2011, so I’m still coming up to speed….last week I was still learning how to deny that 400 kmph hyper-canes will be striking Atlanta by the end of the century.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I meant “first-hand opiners” and “second-hand opiners.” Sorry for being imprecise.

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  12. What one “thinks” (opines) about climate change may or may not be a result of “thinking” (reasoning) about it.

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  13. Second-hand smoking is a form of non-smoking. Or at least: it’s not a form of smoking.

    Analogously, passive “thinkers” are non-thinkers (in the sense: non-reasoners).

    They “think” things about things, but they don’t “think” about the things they think about those things, which would require thinking about the things themselves, which they don’t do.

    First-hand thinkers, by contrast, actually think about the thing before thinking anything about it.

    Everyone opines about climate change, but only first-hand opiners think about it. What they think about it is a result of their having thought about it.

    Thoughts?

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  14. Ben, when you said…

    It isn’t the first hand thinkers I think need it explained to them. Indeed, they are likely the most resistant to explanation.


    …I was swiftly (*cough*) reminded of the more-or-less opposite saying:

    It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.

    Allright. So—forced-choice protocol—gun to your head—which is harder:

      1. reasoning someone out of a position they arrived at by reasoning, or
      2. reasoning someone out of a position they didn’t arrive at by reasoning

    ?

    (Solution next post.)

    Which leads me to two possible explanations:


    Explanations of… ? The popularity/efficacy of Consensus Enforcement as an MO?

    1. The first hand thinkers haven’t transmitted the thinking.


    Of course they haven’t. They weren’t supposed to transmit “thinking.”

    Their ecological rôle is to transmit a conclusion; a belief; a position; an opinion. In other words they tell everyone else, the second-hand thinkers, ‘what to think (opine).’ That’s all.

    Metaphysically, you can’t transmit thinking. Thinking is an activity, not a bolus of information. You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.

    2. There is no thinking.


    This is the express train to Futilitarianism. People can’t reason, so they can’t be reasoned with, so it’s all in vain.

    If you’re right, we may as well pack up and go home.

    But if you’re wrong, we just forfeited the game for no good reason.

    I’m pretty sure you’re wrong.

    Why? Because I know there’s thinking (reasoning) going on inside my skull. There strongly appears to be thinking (reasoning) going on inside my pro-IPCC lawyer friend’s skull.

    So that makes 2 people on the planet who are thinking (reasoning) about climate change. And I’m just getting started.

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  15. To my:

    How is anyone persuaded they’ve constructed a false god?

    Geoff gave the classic Popperian:

    Failed predictions of the end of the world is the usual way.

    But my money’s with Tiny:

    Watching everyone else laugh and get on with their lives is another.

    Love-joy-peace in Pauline terms. Must control that gambling habit.

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  16. Brad:

    This is the express train to Futilitarianism. People can’t reason, so they can’t be reasoned with, so it’s all in vain.

    Not quite. I think it’s realism. There are noble exceptions, such as your lawyer friend, but Ben is 97% right, which is all one can ask 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. BRAD KEYES (21 Nov 16 at 6:32 am)

    which is harder:
    1. reasoning someone out of a position they arrived at by reasoning, or
    2. reasoning someone out of a position they didn’t arrive at by reasoning?
    (Solution next post.)

    You’re not revealing the solution for free, I hope. There are academics paid high salaries by taxpayers to find the answers to these questions. See e.g.
    http://climateoutreach.org/

    Liked by 1 person

  18. By not having those conversations that we know should have happened, the warmists have polarised the issue. Which has left them a new president who thinks the science is cobblers.

    I don’t like the word hoax because it suggests that everyone set out to deceive and or realise they are deceiving for something other than a good cause. It’s amazing how people who set out to good, often do the very opposite.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. There is a splendid example of “That’s not a Conversation” over at the Nonversation right now.

    Someone called Andrew Calcutt, who moved into academia from journalism, has written an article The surprising origins of ‘post-truth’ – and how it was spawned by the liberal left. He dares to suggest that responsibility for the “post-truth” era lies with the middle-class professionals who prepared the runway for its recent take-off. Geoff linked to it a few days ago on the “Trump and the impact of social media” thread, saying that at that stage the usual right-on lefties had not appeared in the comments. Well they have now, but there is little in the way of constructive conversation.

    The responses from academia include the following:

    More facile clickbait from the Institute of Ideas mob. I would expect a bit more quality control from the Conversation.

    The only thing that’s shameful here is that it’s been published in The Conversation, rather than The Daily Telegraph.

    This is a disappointing article to see on The Conversation, which seems to be a kind of clickbait.

    Fortunately there is one emeritus prof, Robin Cohen, who gets it in the comments:

    post-modernism celebrated subjectivism, cultural relativism and identity politics. What was no doubt intended as a benign recognition of the ‘voices’ of suppressed or neglected groups, created a malign pathway for right-wing groups, who were able successfully to proclaim that their voices were suppressed by political correctness, feminism and the liberal elite.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Richard,

    “Love-joy-peace in Pauline terms. Must control that gambling habit.”

    In Australia, it’s impossible to resist thinking you mean “Hanson.” If only for a few milliseconds.

    “Not quite. I think it’s realism. There are noble exceptions, such as your lawyer friend, but Ben is 97% right, which is all one can ask”

    Don’t forget that Oreskes04 achieved, for one brief shining moment in the early 2000s, 100% correctness. Or 0% wrongness, at least.

    I agree Ben is almost completely correct, but I think he’s wrong. Because of the Three Percent. And they matter disproportionately, in that if they (would it be too presumptuous to say “we”?) weren’t polarized, the other Ninety Seven wouldn’t be either.

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  21. Geoff,

    “You’re not revealing the solution for free, I hope.”

    Certainly not. I await payment (in the form of your answers).

    Like

  22. Brad — which is harder…?

    Reason isn’t the issue. Which is *not* to say that lack of reason is the reason.

    Broadening the history out a bit, let’s call the attempt to mobilise the entire world on the issue a case of Politics of Fear. For an attempt to elicit the obedience of the masses, the project was a failure. For the postcoldwar political establishment [RIP] it seemed like a resounding success. Global leaders and organisations were convinced of their planet-saving importance, but most people merely shrugged. They took no position. Not the alarmist position, not the sceptic position.

    Forcing people into a position is what was attempted, but failed. Any Western politician who has not got the memo that the events of the last year demonstrate the failure of two decades of the Politics of Fear have been a complete failure is not paying their PR consultants enough (or possibly too much).

    Conspicuously, establishment attempts to engage the population have not been based on reason. They have been framed in terms of risk. Don’t smoke. Don’t shag. Don’t fight. Don’t drink. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t drive. Don’t be sad. Don’t be angry. Don’t be a terrorist. You’ll find it in papers by Stern, explicitly: policymaking in this recently departed political era is about risk mitigation. Risk of war. Risk of terror. Risk of climate change. Risk of other people. Risk of self. Risks that are invariably intangible to the individual that require the institutions of the state (and its resources, thank you very much) to perceive and to confront. (‘Biopolitics’). This is why the Referendum and Trump campaigns revealed the orthodox positions to be doubled up in a spasm of panic. They had absolutely no means of engaging a wider constituency than by summoning up terrifying stories or what a terrible future awaits us if we cut them off. Notably, they were cut off at the first and only opportunity when the political establishment as it was faced a decisive moment. Risk was the gun to the head protocol.

    So let’s examine the options again:

    1. reasoning someone out of a position they arrived at by reasoning, or
    2. reasoning someone out of a position they didn’t arrive at by reasoning

    There’s more though.

    3. Reasoning someone out of a position they don’t really give a shit about.
    4. Reasoning someone into a position they don’t really give a shit about.

    The point being that changing minds is up to the individual. not the interlocutor. He can be on hand to offer the explanation at the point of reasoning and decision making. What will be decisive will be what forces people into a decision.

    A. The sea lapping at their garden gate.
    B. Astronomical bills, prices, the restriction of material freedoms, the overbearing carbon police.

    I almost don’t care about people from 1 or 2. They are interesting only to the extent that they offer themselves as the epitomes of the decline of the academic/intellectual/political classes — who manage to be both the victims and perpetrators of ‘post truth’. It’s people from 3 & 4 that are amenable to reason — because they are looking for it. Whether they’re woken from their slumber by the plight of the polar bear or by the recycling Zellenleiter’s visit, they’re a world apart from the headbanging CiF troll, or Climate Camper.

    So to the despair,

    This is the express train to Futilitarianism. People can’t reason, so they can’t be reasoned with, so it’s all in vain.

    No, the point is that the zombies in this equation are the erstwhile thinking classes, not the broader public. In debate, then, speak to the audience, not the other panel members. Engage them as they arrive, don’t coerce them into ‘engagement’ with ‘communication’. Don’t make them either instruments (assenters/believers) or automata (dissenters/deniers), as the alarmists have in their schemes and schema. But don’t expect them to agree, either.

    There is little, as far as I can tell, which can force a change through reason, other than by someone working out for themselves what reason for taking a different position on climate change (or any other matter). That’s the thing about reason. We *like* to think that argument A is better than argument B, and that confronted with A, someone previously committed to B will instantaneously turn to A. But these debates are invariably complex, and the consequences of A aren’t worked through simultaneously.

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  23. Paul –

    Fortunately there is one emeritus prof, Robin Cohen, who gets it in the comments:

    post-modernism celebrated subjectivism, cultural relativism and identity politics. What was no doubt intended as a benign recognition of the ‘voices’ of suppressed or neglected groups, created a malign pathway for right-wing groups, who were able successfully to proclaim that their voices were suppressed by political correctness, feminism and the liberal elite.

    I would argue that postmodernism didn’t celebrate ‘subjectivism’, it denied (Cartesian) subjectivity. Hence it (broadly) places identity above individuality, in fact. (But I would say that because I’m a white, Western male, for e.g.). Easy to confuse subjectivism and relativism, but whereas relativism implies identities are irreconcilable, subjectivism allows people to negotiate differences of perspective (I.e. I can, in spite of my ‘privilege’, aim towards a universal understanding that transcends differences between me and others). This is one major way in which today’s scientific arguments reproduce, rather than counter, the excesses of ‘postmodern’ thinking, especially from biological determinists.

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  24. Brad:

    In Australia, it’s impossible to resist thinking you mean “Hanson.” If only for a few milliseconds.

    The ambiguity of Pauline was deliberate. Which one occurred to the reader I could not predict.

    Ben:

    Easy to confuse subjectivism and relativism, but whereas relativism implies identities are irreconcilable, subjectivism allows people to negotiate differences of perspective (I.e. I can, in spite of my ‘privilege’, aim towards a universal understanding that transcends differences between me and others)

    Unless we can we’re dead. And we know we can. This is a very helpful reminder of how much of a dead-end postmodernism is, thanks.

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  25. I love that two of them mutter about clickbait on a site that is so quiet. I assume they mean ‘I don’t want to see articles that disagree with my smug view of the world and if people didn’t stop encouraging the peasants they might shut up and go bak to doing as they’re told.’

    I have to say in all my years being a voter, I don’t rmember the ‘truth’ era such that were are now in ‘post truth’. I though we operated a ‘we’ve tried this side’s lies, it’s time to let the others lie to us for a while’.

    I can see how a prof of media and communications might be a bit pissed off right now, since the public are urinating on his well used lesson plans.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thank you Ben.

    Do I hear any advances on Ben’s answer?

    Or were the haterz right all along? What is that…. is that crickets I hear? Is our beloved blog nothing but a skepticism-free echo chamber, like ATTP keeps telling us in this very forum?

    “Joint ideas under construction?” Pfft. Work ceased long ago on this abandoned dream! It’s a construction site, all right: a gaping hole in the ground! An ulcer on the face of the noble tradition that was meant to be Skepticism. An embarrassment to the Climate Resistance. It looks pretty deep. *Whistles appreciatively.* How far down, do you reckon? Is it true what they say: that you die of shock before you hit the ground?

    Screw it. I’m jumping. Promise you’ll feed my cat. Tell my parents I… forgive them. For raising me. Tell them… to move on. Have other kids. Say I’d want them to be happy. And look out for little Timmy, will you? My kid brother’s not… I love him, but he’s not… smart like you and me. People take advantage. Promise you won’t let him join a cult, or open the door to a Wallet Inspector without asking for some ID first, or buy one of them games that offer In-App Purchases.

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  27. Brad:

    I agree Ben is almost completely correct, but I think he’s wrong. Because of the Three Percent. And they matter disproportionately, in that if they … weren’t polarized, the other Ninety Seven wouldn’t be either.

    But Ben upsets the maths to include:

    3. Reasoning someone out of a position they don’t really give a shit about.
    4. Reasoning someone into a position they don’t really give a shit about.

    This is more like 97% who are worth reasoning with. The thinkers don’t and aren’t. What a strange thing.

    The thoughtful lawyer probably remains an anomaly because he does give a shit. But although one cuts one’s teeth of genuine argument with such people that’s not where the real action is. And, as the Vote Leave campaign and Trump both show, in their rather different ways, it’s not about pure reason either. But reason most definitely comes into it.

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  28. Richard — This is more like 97% who are worth reasoning with. The thinkers don’t and aren’t. What a strange thing.

    Brad wants a magic bullet to defeat unreason. How to convince the people who won’t agree with us about climate science. If only there was a science of explaining it to them. We could call it… umm… Climate psychology, to which we refer all the people who don’t buy the version of climate science we authorise.

    Failing that, though, it may be more productive to post clever and sarcastic missives to endless series of literally interminable comment threads with Nx10 ^X and rising posts between about half a dozen individuals worldwide, none of whom have budged an inch, much less developed their argument, since they first started ‘debating’ climate change on Usenet in 1996.

    Speaking of such. Here’s Ken Rice, over a the Conversation.

    If a bunch of denialists are taking it in the direction desired by Professor Hulme, he might want to give some more thought to what he’s suggesting.

    And there’s ‘post-truth’ in a nutshell. It doesn’t matter what is said, it matters who likes it. The truth of an argument can thus be established by triangulation from the deplorable camps that appreciate it.

    Perhaps some form of science (of why the entire world doesn’t agree with us) could begin to make sense of it. But what’s the point, and who cares?

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  29. Don’t jump Brad, it’s not worth it!

    Seriously CAGW and its bandwagon isn’t worth a moments lost sleep. What became clear to me after Climategate was that destroying the stranglehold it has on people is the long game. Without a rapid plunge in temperatures or a gob smacking admission by the Met Office (because it won’t be GISS), the issue will only fade away.

    The scientific method is one way to nudge it in the right direction. I say nudge because how do you persuade people who keep reverting to the ‘but what if you’re wrong’ setting? What I think will work better will be applyig the engineering method. That accepts you might not know the right answer but you have to have done a lot more due dilligence before you can say it’s the best you can manage at the moment. The cost of mitigation and the lack of useful alternatives is the best argument of all because it’s one people best understand. It’s what will trigger people to say ‘I want more evidence’. People who come looking for evidence are ready to listen.

    But no one strand will beat this. It needs someone attacking the science, someone grumbling about the cost, other’s mocking the renewables, etc. People are absorbing the sceptic message without even realising it. If it snows, look out for people muttering ‘bloody global warming’. I like to think of climate sceptics as termites, quietly nibbling away at the structure. No one bite brings the edifice down but if we don’t stop munching it will fall.

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  30. Tiny,

    > But no one strand will beat this. It needs someone attacking the science, someone grumbling about the cost, other’s mocking the renewables, etc.

    Yep. Which is why the army of Bens should keep hammering away at the rotten political edifice while the army of Brads keeps hammering away at the Potemkin facade that is The Science.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. And if the army of engineers succeeds in getting people to demand more evidence for concern, brilliant.

    I just wish they understood that there’s never been ANY evidence, and that I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that.

    That’s where science comes in. Science without a “the.”

    Or a “climate.”

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Brad, I do agree with you on this. There really is nothing. The moment I realised the whole thing was based on software models that was my verdict. Why more software people don’t get this I don’t understand. But I think Tiny’s right about how persuasion is likely to happen in practice.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Ben,

    while I thank you for being game to answer the question *cough* *others* *cough*, I’m afraid I can’t let you get out of the forced-choice protocol quite so easily as this:

    3. Reasoning someone out of a position they don’t really give a shit about.
    4. Reasoning someone into a position they don’t really give a shit about.

    Child’s play, in both cases. As I’m sure you know. Cheeky boy.

    If people don’t care about X, they’ll agree with you just to get you to shut up about X.

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  34. “If people don’t care about X, they’ll agree with you just to get you to shut up about X.”

    Which is exactly what the public has done with the other side. But saying something is a long way from doing something. When the time comes to pay up the public aren’t interested. Sceptics win without ever having to say anything. I’m not proud, I don’t care how I win, even if it’s by default.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Brad — If people don’t care about X, they’ll agree with you just to get you to shut up about X.

    Of course. But the point is about politics, and how decisive moments are formed. It didn’t take much for the establishment to be captured by climate change. The whys of which need no re-re-re-retelling here. What is more interesting is how uninterested the wider population was. Which created a problem for sceptics as much as it did for warmists, though the institutional muscle they acquired allowed them to use it. But double-edged sword that — using it meant splitting their own movements (such as they were), and further alienating the political class from those who were less than impressed with windmills, rising energy prices, and recycling bins… and this is the point… in ever greater numbers. The point is to be there when it happens that people begin to give a shit about X.

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  36. Richard,

    The moment I realised the whole thing was based on software models….

    …I’m betting you were appalled and more than a little incredulous—at least for those first few moments—that anyone could have tried to get away with making such a transparently vacuous, circular argument, weren’t you?

    The problem with being a software person, or a person raised in any other discipline, is that once you understand something deeply, you forget what it’s like not to understand it at all. You forget that 99% of people are easy pickings to fall for all sorts of arguments that you’d see through instantaneously, without even trying.

    So you assume there must be more to it. (Until you look into it for yourself, which most of your colleagues never will.)

    Because otherwise… the audacity… the bigness…. it’s just… I mean…. what kind of….

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  37. And they call us deniers. Of *that*? *That bunch of nothing* is as solid and important as the Holocaust? The ultimate insult to the real victims of that very real – and still very difficult to face, in detail – atrocity. And more important than ISIS, a la John Kerry. How dare they.

    Having said which the gross overstatement is a major turn-off for those who rightly don’t give a shit. The system of hypocritical cronyism will fall about their ears. Perhaps Trump will precipitate such a thing more rapidly than Tiny envisages. Whatever. Lessons will need to be learned. Seats of learning. Indeed.

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  38. Tiny,

    I agree, I know, we’ve won the war already if “the war” refers to the one about Doing Something. Nobody’s ever going to Do Anything. We skeptics don’t need to lift a finger to stop Climate Action. It’s dead in its tracks as soon as ordinary people get to the part of the survey that says “To the nearest dollar, how much would you be willing to…” etc.

    Pseudoscience can only go so far. Nature isn’t playing along, so ordinary people simply have no reason to act beyond mouthing some cheap platitudes.

    What I’m more interested in is getting the alarmists to Shut Up About This Crap Already. “There is no evidence of a problem. Please shut up so we can move on to the next item on the planet’s agenda, people!”

    This will take effort on our part, because if left to their own devices, our opponents would NEVER shut up. There is literally no shut-off valve, no fuse, no stop condition, no apoptotic failsafe, no built-in senescence, and (above all) no opportunity for scientific falsification.

    No amount of evidence-free years will ever be enough to tire them out. They will keep churning out pseudo-evidence forever…. unless we stop them.

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  39. I was going to suggest we commence Part 2 of our Conversation, but then I realized this is it. We’re having it.

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  40. To summarize my [EDIT: rapidly oscillating, but slowly converging] position,

    – I’ll always support our troops in the Politics Wars, even though we’d already won before the first shot was fired. That’s no reason for Ben to stop macheteing away at the dead horse of Climate Action. Because he does it so well. It’s a thing of beauty, and beauty needs no practical justification.

    – But the Science Wars are where the real action is. Again, I mean no disrespect to Ben, whose swordsmanship is a work of art.

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  41. From the brilliant article by John Tierney being highlighted by Judith Curry, just pointed to by Brad:

    Yet many climate researchers are passing off their political opinions as science, just as Obama does, and they’re even using that absurdly unscientific term “denier” as if they were priests guarding some eternal truth.

    Recommended.

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  42. > “But the Science Wars are where the real action is. ”

    > “Yet many climate researchers are passing off their political opinions as science, ”

    The ‘science war’ is a misnomer. That’s the point. And the ideal types of science, contra politics (and never the twain, etc) are myths.

    Like

  43. > The ‘science war’ is a misnomer.

    It’s an approximation, admittedly not a very close one. Better ideas always welcome.

    Like

  44. > Yet many climate researchers are passing off their political opinions as science

    If only the non-scientific public could tell the difference…

    > just as Obama does, and they’re even using that absurdly unscientific term “denier”

    If only the non-scientific public could tell when a term was “absurdly unscientific”…

    ….then our opponents wouldn’t get away with this crap, would they?

    Like

  45. Richard, but it’s just been pointed out by guess who over there that the author of that article has links to the Manhattan Institute (no, I’ve never heard of it either). Therefore it can’t be a brilliant article. Or something.

    Like

  46. Ask a “scientist” like Ken to describe the scientific method on one sheet of paper, and the genetic fallacy on another. Then see how many people can pick the difference.

    (Pro tip: with a black or blue felt marker, add a small cross to the corner of one sheet, just so you won’t forget which was which.)

    Like

  47. Ben,

    what I’m fighting might better be called the War About How The Public Is Told Science Works.

    Or the War On Mass Scientific Miseducation.

    Or the Duel For The Honor Of Science’s Good Name.

    Like

  48. And Ben, even if I’m right to opine that you’re ‘missing the action’ (as I may have less-than-diplomatically put it), at the very least you’ll know you entertained the troops. They gave Bob Hope medals for that, and rightly so. I’ve learned a great deal from your blogging, which I will always appreciate whether or not I find immediate applications for that knowledge in the Wars.

    Like

  49. That’s the same war Chris Mooney thinks he’s fighting. And Gavin Schmidt. And countless Gruan hacks and CiFers. And Ken. And the rest.

    What makes your war, or your ‘science’, different?

    Like

  50. > That’s the same war Chris Mooney thinks he’s fighting.

    But he’s a scientifically-illiterate chin model. What he thinks is of severely limited interest.

    > And Gavin Schmidt.

    If he’s fighting the same war as me, which he may well be doing, it’s a shame he picked the other side.

    > And Ken.

    Ken only understands the words “The” and “Wars,” which makes him mentally incompetent to take part in The Science Wars. Remember, he honest-to-God thinks science is literally the opposite of what science, in fact, is.

    Think Chris Mooney without the radio voice.

    > What makes your war, or your ‘science’, different?

    The fact that, of all the people in this list, I’m the only one who’s both:
    1. right about what science is AND
    2. telling the truth about it.

    [EDIT: And thanks for asking these questions, Ben. If I couldn’t answer them, I wouldn’t have any place fighting a war on anything.]

    Like

  51. Ben, further:

    > What makes your war, or your ‘science’, different?

    My ‘science,’ a.k.a. science, differs in too many ways to list from the hideous misosophy our opponents are trying to palm off as science.

    A single example would be the role of consensus. In science, it plays none.

    I’d be happy to list a few other big differences if this topic is of interest to people.

    There is only one science. Anything “different” is non-science. (When it’s passed off as science, non-science is also known as pseudoscience.)

    Like

  52. Pingback: Hacking Our Own Emails—Part Deux | Climate Scepticism

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