Friday, June 26, 2009

Arguing with the "Dark Side"

When I’m able to get around to various Skeptic blogs to argue with the visiting AGW proponents, I notice some interesting things.

First, there is a tendency among the AGW crowd to argue from authority. This is step one. They almost always fall back on the “peer-review” argument to discredit studies contrary to their world view. Incapable of understanding the studies, or too intellectually lazy to actually read the studies, they use this tactic to divert the arguments. Not that a particular CAGW study is factually wrong, but that it may not have been “peer-reviewed” or “peer-reviewed” by the right referees is the crux of their argument. A study is valid or invalid on its merits, not whether or not it appeared in specific journal.

I've even come across those who say they only read “reports in peer-reviewed journals.” How intellectually lazy can you get? Just flat refuse to check out a study and judge it on its merits. Couldn't be simpler. And they call us "deniers?" It seems to me that in reality these people don't understand the studies unless they are explained for them in the slick magazines.

They completely ignore the fact that two of the “premier” science magazines “Nature” and “Science” simply refuse to publish anything that is counter to the AGW position, no matter what the credentials of the researcher. I suspect that this is deliberate editorial policy at these two journals, which effectively stacks the deck for the AGW proponents in their argument.

Second, there is the tendency toward condescension. “If you bothered to read XYZ, you’d know blah…blah…” What I often find is that these people haven’t read more than the abstract of the study they are referencing, or possibly the “Nature” or “Science” article, but not the actual complete study. Normally when I start citing specific paragraphs from the studies, they move on to new red herrings.

Third, about the red herrings – they are a favorite AGW proponent argumentative technique for getting Skeptics “off-topic” and into irrelevant discussion. Typically these are delivered “barrage style” so that if you miss answering one, they beat you over the head with it in their smug condescending way. Attempting to answer them becomes more and more complicated and difficult requiring longer and longer posts. I’ve fallen into the trap myself on occasion. It’s best to take your time in the first place, identify the red herrings as such and refuse to discuss them.

Fourth, they display a heavy reliance on ad hominem attacks. Typical attacks include: shill for big oil, shill for coal companies, Denier, Flat Earther…and those are the polite ones. This is especially true if you visit their haunts, “Real Climate,” “Open Mind,” and “Climate Progress” just to name a few. A Skeptic visiting these sites will almost always be subjected to a vicious round of name-calling and hostility that the alleged “moderators” gleefully allow and participate in. The moderators of these sites will happily edit your comments in order to twist your words, delete your comments if they can’t handle them, or flat block you from the site.

Finally, there is the simple fact that they never actually produce any empirical evidence to support their AGW hypothesis. They will throw study after study at you, based upon waves of assumptions supported by model after model and never understand that they are not producing empirical evidence. Closely tied to this is that they rarely understand the difference between causation and correlation.

Their reasoning goes: CO2 has gone up and temperature has gone up, ergo man-made CO2 has caused global warming. They may be able to show correlation, but causality is a different matter.

Basically their argument takes a complex, somewhat chaotic climate system that is full of uncertainty and reduces it to correlation between a trace atmospheric gas and temperature. They state it in terms of absolute certainty, where none exists. Their “consensus” argument is the indispensible bedrock of their belief system and that is why they work so hard to discredit Skeptics rather than actually providing evidence to support their hypothesis.

1 comment:

BobC said...

I recently came across a statement by Ludwig von Mises that has helped me understand the phenomena you are describing. In "The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality" he noted: "The class of those who have the ability to think their own thoughts is separated by an unbridgeable gulf from the class of those who cannot."

I think that many normal folks who believe in AGW (I'm excluding the politically motivated who want control) are not capable of forming their own opinion on the subject (hence, they can't argue logically about it either). Their self-identification is as a "Liberal" or a "Progressive": someone who (they are told) is morally superior, caring about the Earth and the poor, not selfish, etc. They've been sold the idea that "Progressives" must believe certain things, so they do. This is why the argument from authority comes naturally to them -- it is how they have made up their own minds.

Sometimes, when I'm having a polite conversation with an AGW believer and bring up factual information against AGW, he/she responds (slightly shocked -- I live in a very "progressive" town) by asking: "Are you a right-wing Republican?" This would be a hilarious non-sequitur for anyone capable of thinking logically.