Friday, February 27, 2009

Some Updates

As promised in my original post, I've added some blogs and websites from both sides of the Climate Change debate and governmental sites. More will be added later along with links to documents and research papers.

Most of the AGW blogs censor input to either "true believers" or buffoons among Skeptics who can't carry a debate. "Real Climate" and "Open Mind" are among the worst offenders. Very few allow posts by educated opponents, but see for yourself. That's why I'm giving you the links if you are new to this.

The Skeptic blogs rarely snip comments unless they become abusive. "Climate Audit" will snip comments that are heavy in ad hominem or name-calling from either side. "Climate Audit" is probably the most professional of the open blogs, but you will need a strong understanding of statistics and modelling to follow most of the threads.

My recommendation is to study both sides' arguments. Look for evidence presented in a clear concise manner without argument from authority, ad hominem or name-calling.

Here is a brief refresher on what we mean by ad hominem and argument from authority. I assume we are all clear on name-calling.

Description of Ad Hominem

Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting).

This type of "argument" has the following form:
1. Person A makes claim X.
2. Person B makes an attack on person A.
3. Therefore A's claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).

Example of Ad Hominem
Bill: "I believe that global warming is the result of natural causes."
Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a shill for oil companies."
Bill: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?"
Dave: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a shill for oil companies, so you have to say that global warming is natural. Further, you don't have a PhD in climatology, so I can't believe what you say."

Description of Argument from Authority

'Argument from Authority is an informal logical fallacy, formally known as argumentum ad verecundium, where a participant argues that a belief is correct because the person making the argument is an authority. The most general structure of this argument runs something like the following:

Person A claims that P
Person A is a respected scientist or other authority
Therefore, P is true.

This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of the claim is not necessarily related to the personal qualities of the claimant.


Example 1:
Protagonist: There's nothing necessarily immoral about atheism.
Antagonist: Well, my parents said that there is, and they wouldn't lie to me, so you must be wrong.

Example 2:
Antagonist: That actor who plays a doctor on TV just recommended this particular medicine. It must be effective!

Example 3:

Antagonist: Aristotle said that heavier objects fall faster than light objects. Therefore it must be true!

Example 4:
Antagonist: The Prime Minister said that it's easily possible to live on a minimum wage job, so we don't need to raise the minimum wage.

These are not the only logical fallacies you will encounter, but they are the most common. What about evidence? What is evidence and what is not?

What Is Evidence?

Science depends on observations, made by people at some time and place. Things you can see, hold, hear, and record.

These things would be evidence that carbon is a major cause of global warming:
If temperatures followed CO2 levels in the past.
If the atmosphere showed the characteristic heating pattern of increased greenhouse warming. (A "hotspot" in the troposphere.)

These things are NOT evidence of Anthropogenic Global Warming:

Arctic ice disappearing
Glaciers retreating
Coral reef bleaching
Mt. Kilimanjaro losing snow
Madagascan lemurs doing anything
Four polar bears caught in a storm
Pick-a-bird/tree/moth facing extinction
A change in cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons
Dry rivers
Computer models*
There is no “better” explanation
Some guy with a PhD is “sure”
2,500 scientists mostly agree
A government committee wrote a long report
Government spending on “Emissions Trading Plans” tops $100 million
Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell signed a skeptics petition
A failed theologian, ex-politician made a documentary

Why are these things not evidence of AGW? Because none of these things tell us why the planet may have warmed. In fact, some of these things may be caused by other factors. For example, the snowline on Mt. Kilimanjaro is never above freezing, therefore it isn't warming that is causing the reduction in snow.

*Why are computer models NOT evidence?

They’re sophisticated, put together by experts, and getting better all the
time. But even if they could predict the climate correctly (they can’t),
even if they were based on solid proven theories (they aren’t), they still
wouldn’t count as evidence. Models of complex systems are based on
scores of assumptions and estimates piled on dozens of theories. None
of the current models forecast that temperatures would stop rising from
2001 – 2008.
So there is at least one other factor that is more important
than CO2 and the models don’t know what it is.

So, armed with the above information, look at what is presented on the blogs and web sites I've listed. Keep these things in mind when following the Climate Change debate.


Discussion of what constitutes evidence comes from Joanne Nova's, "The Skeptics Handbook" Version 2.0, page 11, February 2009. (with some additional editing).

Description of Argument from Authority from SkepticWiki

1 comment:

Comedy Goddess said...

Wow I learned some great new terms!
I gave you an award on my blog, if you are into it, please pick it up when you can.