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Author Topic:   Global Warming and other "controversies": how to make up your mind as a layman?
Annafan
Member (Idle past 993 days)
Posts: 418
From: Belgium
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 1 of 15 (494840)
01-19-2009 6:22 AM


new title? "Global Warming and other "controversies": how to make up your mind as a layman?"

Ok, so my initial intention for this thread was to "pose" as a Man Made Global Warming (MMGW) denier and learn from some of the reactions before "coming out". Since that isn't in the spirit of this forum, we'll do it the proper way, even though it means I can now no longer escape looking somewhat like a fool, and things are a lot longer. :)

Since more than a week I have been involved in a debate on the comments section of a technology site. The topic was Man Made Global Warming, and I got involved because of the poor argumentation used by so many commenters (the comments are, IMO, totally infested with Al Gore-hating outright deniers). It is really really really hard to stand some of the stupidity (oversimplification and ad hominems) on display there.

Now I bumped into this one guy who is this strange mixture between outright denier, displaying some of the same troll-like language, and (presumably) practicing scientist. Since I myself am neither a scientist or even closely following up the status of MMGW(I was actually concentrating on HOW most of the deniers come to their opinions), I thought it might be interesting to also look into some of the aspects here. One of the side reasons for this is, that "layman" criticism of MMGW has a lot of the signatures of creationist layman criticism of evolution. Mainly the constant regurgitation of counter-arguments that have been addressed long ago, and can be found all over the Net via a simple Google search.

The subject that interconnects everything is: what is the most sensible approach for laymen, or even scientists in unrelated fields, to make up their mind about certain supposedly controversial (scientific) subjects?.

Here are some of the arguments (some related to each other) used in our conversation for and against accepting MMGW. (In the first reply I'll post the responses that I myself used.)

- "I have a BS in biochemistry (what are YOUR credentials? Please take a couple of science classes (not engineering, but science).). I look at everything critically and scientifically, and I have yet to see the first study which convincingly links warming to CO2 levels and/or human activity. The CO2 levels lag by 200 years instead of lead. Furthermore not one model used by the MMGW fanboys matches reality.

- "there is not a consensus in the scientific community for or against MMGW. Show me the consensus. There are plenty of climatologists, geologist, ecologists, atmospheric chemists, etc. who have openly come out against the political consensus.

- "Consensus is merely the fallacy of argumentum ad populum, anyway. Consensus is political. Scientific Method is, well, scientific. Your examples of our trust in food additive safety, cell phone radiation safety and vaccine safety are not examples of relying on authority and consensus."

- "Those who preach the MMGW doctrine are very effective. Their arguments are convincing. They have people in high places (and well respected) on their side. They even have scientific minds echoing their words. But when it comes right down to it, the actual scientific evidence is just not there. They do not publish their truths for all to read, but keep them close so that only a few may interpret their meanings.

All this was juiced up with strawmen emo-arguments like "Give me $100 Billion dollars right now or the Earth will turn into a giant fireball in 50 years. I need it quick so send it right away.", "If you would like Mainstream Media to make your policy for you, go right ahead.", "Just because AL Gore wrote a book about it, does not make it a consensus." and finally a nice one where ONE, heavily critized, experiment to study the effects of dumping iron in the ocean in an attempt to increase plankton CO2-absorption was equalled with the default position of "the MMGW crowd".

But maybe the best line was "And, I'm surprised that an engineer doesn't know enough math to read the language of cosmologists." in response to my argument that we routinely trust science in other issues where we lack a lot of knowledge. I'm curious what Cavediver thinks about the chances that a biochemist and amateur astronomer can check the validity of the latest cosmological theories in his spare time! :D

Bonus: an often recommended "skeptical" treatment of the MMGW scam: http://joannenova.com.au/globalwarming/skepticshandbook1-5.pdf

Edited by Annafan, : rework attempt 1 as requested by admin


Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by Admin, posted 01-19-2009 7:04 AM Annafan has responded
 Message 13 by Blue Jay, posted 01-21-2009 2:30 PM Annafan has not yet responded

    
Admin
Director
Posts: 11421
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002
Member Rating: 1.4


Message 2 of 15 (494841)
01-19-2009 7:04 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Annafan
01-19-2009 6:22 AM


I'd prefer not to promote a proposal that characterizes the other side using extreme terms like "scam" and "nut job", and I also suggest requesting persuasive evidence rather than proof. Please edit your Message 1 to more dispassionately set forth your position. Post a note to this thread when you're done and I'll take another look.


--Percy
EvC Forum Director

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Annafan, posted 01-19-2009 6:22 AM Annafan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Annafan, posted 01-19-2009 7:56 AM Admin has not yet responded
 Message 4 by Annafan, posted 01-20-2009 8:50 AM Admin has not yet responded

    
Annafan
Member (Idle past 993 days)
Posts: 418
From: Belgium
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 3 of 15 (494844)
01-19-2009 7:56 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by Admin
01-19-2009 7:04 AM


mail
Hi Percy,

could you check your mail (admin@) ?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by Admin, posted 01-19-2009 7:04 AM Admin has not yet responded

    
Annafan
Member (Idle past 993 days)
Posts: 418
From: Belgium
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 4 of 15 (494959)
01-20-2009 8:50 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by Admin
01-19-2009 7:04 AM


Bump... edited
This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by Admin, posted 01-19-2009 7:04 AM Admin has not yet responded

    
Admin
Director
Posts: 11421
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002
Member Rating: 1.4


Message 5 of 15 (495142)
01-21-2009 8:37 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Annafan
Member (Idle past 993 days)
Posts: 418
From: Belgium
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 6 of 15 (495148)
01-21-2009 9:20 AM


My personal reactions to the arguments presented
Ok, so here is how I countered the arguments. I'd love to hear what others have to say about this.

- "I have a BS in biochemistry (what are YOUR credentials? Please take a couple of science classes (not engineering, but science).). I look at everything critically and scientifically, and I have yet to see the first study which convincingly links warming to CO2 levels and/or human activity. The CO2 levels lag by 200 years instead of lead. Furthermore not one model used by the MMGW fanboys matches reality.

Response: without going into the evidence itself (I'm not knowledgable enough, or up to speed), this kind of argument implies not only that a majority of climate scientists are completely incompetent, but also that a biochemist can figure it out better in his free time. It would mean that quite obviously sloppy research routinely passes peer review in the field of climatology.

- "there is not a consensus in the scientific community for or against MMGW. Show me the consensus. There are plenty of climatologists, geologist, ecologists, atmospheric chemists, etc. who have openly come out against the political consensus.

Response: the wikipedia article on scientific consensus around MMGW shows a very long list of position statements by scientific organizations (including many very reputable) who support the MMGW idea. Unless you can show evidence that they have recently watered down or retracted their position statement, this for all purposes seems to be the most sensible and reliable way to establish whether there is or isn't something resembling a "consensus" in the scientific community. We can dig up dissident opinions about just about every scientific theory.

- "Consensus is merely the fallacy of argumentum ad populum, anyway. Consensus is political. Scientific Method is, well, scientific. Your examples of our trust in food additive safety, cell phone radiation safety and vaccine safety are not examples of relying on authority and consensus."

Response: a meaningful "scientific consensus" (SC) is a different animal than other types of consensus. Your dismissal of the importance/reliability of the SC in one particular field is highly selective, and disregards the fact that on the most basic level, the science is always a product of consensus. We do not have somekind of magical "Sound Scientific Method Assessment Supercomputer" which we can feed research into and which gives us a "good science" or "bad science" response. Peer reviewed journals (or more precisely the reviewers of the papers), fullfil this task. When most of the reviewers think it is bunk, then it will be considered just that: bunk. Enough scientists (you know, human beings) have to agree that the research is reliable, for it to be considered reliable. We call this: *consensus*. And when we distrust this consensus in one particular issue, we should have good reasons for it, first.

- "Those who preach the MMGW doctrine are very effective. Their arguments are convincing. They have people in high places (and well respected) on their side. They even have scientific minds echoing their words. But when it comes right down to it, the actual scientific evidence is just not there. They do not publish their truths for all to read, but keep them close so that only a few may interpret their meanings.

Response: this reeks like conspiracy mongering. The arguments equally fit the opposition (maybe even more so, with more at stake for some of them). Nice example is the Bush administration, which denied and denied and denied until no other option was left.


Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by Blue Jay, posted 01-21-2009 10:11 AM Annafan has responded

    
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 16 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 7 of 15 (495153)
01-21-2009 10:11 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Annafan
01-21-2009 9:20 AM


Re: My personal reactions to the arguments presented
Hi, Annafan.

Annafan writes:

quote:
have a BS in biochemistry (what are YOUR credentials? Please take a couple of science classes (not engineering, but science).).

...this kind of argument implies not only that a majority of climate scientists are completely incompetent, but also that a biochemist can figure it out better in his free time.

A BS in biochemistry doesn't make somebody a biochemist, anyway: it makes them a person who has taken a number of biochemistry classes. And, from my experience as having finished a portion of a biochem degree before switching to integrative biology, I'm not impressed with these "credentials": he's still a layperson, in my opinion.

But, of course, most laypeople don't realize that they are laypeople, or that it's a lot more difficult to make the transition to "expert" than they think.

I think the first step to dealing with controversies as a layperson is to recognize when you are a layperson. Too many laypeople leave this step out.


I'm Bluejay.

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Annafan, posted 01-21-2009 9:20 AM Annafan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by cavediver, posted 01-21-2009 12:01 PM Blue Jay has responded
 Message 15 by Annafan, posted 01-22-2009 8:15 AM Blue Jay has not yet responded

  
cavediver
Member (Idle past 58 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 8 of 15 (495165)
01-21-2009 12:01 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Blue Jay
01-21-2009 10:11 AM


Re: My personal reactions to the arguments presented
quote:
I have a BS in biochemistry (what are YOUR credentials? Please take a couple of science classes (not engineering, but science)

A BS in biochemistry doesn't make somebody a biochemist, anyway: it makes them a person who has taken a number of biochemistry classes... he's still a layperson, in my opinion.

Exactly - anyone who just has a (science) degree has never had the honour of that post-graduation kick-in-the-balls when you realise that despite your three or more years of hard study, you know virtually NOTHING about the subject :eek: Those who do not progress to graduate study live in ignorant bliss of this bombshell, and tend to make hilarious comments like that above.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Blue Jay, posted 01-21-2009 10:11 AM Blue Jay has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by kuresu, posted 01-21-2009 12:45 PM cavediver has responded
 Message 10 by Blue Jay, posted 01-21-2009 1:05 PM cavediver has responded

  
kuresu
Member (Idle past 1689 days)
Posts: 2544
From: boulder, colorado
Joined: 03-24-2006


Message 9 of 15 (495176)
01-21-2009 12:45 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by cavediver
01-21-2009 12:01 PM


Re: My personal reactions to the arguments presented
You know, I think this holds true for BAs as well.

I'm getting a BA in international affairs and another in history. And quite frankly, I know shit about either subject. I can bs my way through, but I don't really know it. Not that they don't teach you anything, but come on. One class on the american revolution? One class on political geography?

It's not until grad school that you really start to know something about the subject you are trying to master. And then, even after grad school and that shiny new diploma, I suspect it takes years of actually working in the field to become truly knowledgeable.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by cavediver, posted 01-21-2009 12:01 PM cavediver has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by cavediver, posted 01-21-2009 1:33 PM kuresu has not yet responded

    
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 16 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 10 of 15 (495181)
01-21-2009 1:05 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by cavediver
01-21-2009 12:01 PM


Re: My personal reactions to the arguments presented
Hi, Cavediver.

Maybe I should stay silent then, because, as of right now, I only have a BS myself (my kick-in-the-balls is still in the works).

But, unlike most pre-kick-in-the-balls laypeople, I try to get a little education before (or, at least while) I argue (by at least Google searching or reading links upthread and stuff). I have put my foot in my mouth several times on this website alone when I neglected to do that.

Consequently, I learned not to do that. Unfortunately, most people don't learn that, so they keep doing and saying stupid things. And thus, the "controversy" is passed on to the next generation.

Edited by Mantis, : "Webiste": the second person past tense of the Spanish verb "webir"; it roughly translates to "you have webbed." Ask Onifre if you don't believe me.


I'm Bluejay.

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by cavediver, posted 01-21-2009 12:01 PM cavediver has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by cavediver, posted 01-21-2009 1:40 PM Blue Jay has responded

  
cavediver
Member (Idle past 58 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 11 of 15 (495187)
01-21-2009 1:33 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by kuresu
01-21-2009 12:45 PM


Re: My personal reactions to the arguments presented
And then, even after grad school and that shiny new diploma, I suspect it takes years of actually working in the field to become truly knowledgeable.

Yep, and then only "truly knowledgeable" in one or a few small specialist areas! Depressing, isn't it :)


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by kuresu, posted 01-21-2009 12:45 PM kuresu has not yet responded

  
cavediver
Member (Idle past 58 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 12 of 15 (495188)
01-21-2009 1:40 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Blue Jay
01-21-2009 1:05 PM


Re: My personal reactions to the arguments presented
I've only just seen that you're Bluejay!! I was wondering who this Mantis is :laugh:

Maybe I should stay silent then, because, as of right now, I only have a BS myself

Not at all - as you said, the most important thing is to be aware of being only a layman, yet striving for much more. As much as I like having a few areas of expertise, there is no greater thrill than riding a near-vertical learning curve as a complete novice - that's why I always seek out the best in any field I enter, and learn as much as I can from them. They show you just how high the bar is - the higher it is, the more you have to stretch yourself to reach it. Most "experts" have rather low bars, and once they reach them, they have no reason to push further...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Blue Jay, posted 01-21-2009 1:05 PM Blue Jay has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by Blue Jay, posted 01-21-2009 2:39 PM cavediver has not yet responded

  
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 16 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 13 of 15 (495203)
01-21-2009 2:30 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Annafan
01-19-2009 6:22 AM


Aside for Global Warming
Hi, Annafan.

I know this topic isn't really about global warming, but I just found an article online today, and thought it would be useful in answering some of your skeptics on the other site, such as this one:

quote:
"there is not a consensus in the scientific community for or against MMGW. Show me the consensus. There are plenty of climatologists, geologist, ecologists, atmospheric chemists, etc. who have openly come out against the political consensus.

Here is the article ("Scientists Agree Human-induced Global Warming Is Real, Survey Says"). It contains this:

quote:
A group of 3,146 earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

quote:
Two questions were key: have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.

About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second.


Granted, the survey only had about a 1/3 response rate, but I think it's still a fairly strong consensus.

To tie this marginally back into the topic, I think laypeople often like to hold on to the minority view, citing 18% as a "big" number of dissenters while somehow managing to simultaneously downplay the magnitude of the 82% figure. Strange.


I'm Bluejay.

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Annafan, posted 01-19-2009 6:22 AM Annafan has not yet responded

  
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 16 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 14 of 15 (495205)
01-21-2009 2:39 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by cavediver
01-21-2009 1:40 PM


Re: My personal reactions to the arguments presented
Hi, Cavediver.

cavediver writes:

I've only just seen that you're Bluejay!! I was wondering who this Mantis is.

I like to keep people on their toes like that, and I wanted an entomology theme for awhile, like Tanypteryx. I'll probably change back sometime in the near future. I might even go back to "Thylacosmilus" for a awhile. Or, maybe I'll be Thylacomantisjay, or something like that. :D

But, I always keep the name "Bluejay" in my signature line to keep it reasonable.

-----

cavediver writes:

As much as I like having a few areas of expertise, there is no greater thrill than riding a near-vertical learning curve as a complete novice - that's why I always seek out the best in any field I enter, and learn as much as I can from them.

For sure, dude. I often "wake up" at the end of the day realizing that I spent the last five hours reading about paleontology, mammalogy or molecular genetics (stuff I know very little about), and that I didn't get my homework done or change my baby's diapers. I'm addicted to learning.


I'm Bluejay.

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by cavediver, posted 01-21-2009 1:40 PM cavediver has not yet responded

  
Annafan
Member (Idle past 993 days)
Posts: 418
From: Belgium
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 15 of 15 (495384)
01-22-2009 8:15 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Blue Jay
01-21-2009 10:11 AM


Re: My personal reactions to the arguments presented
Mantis writes:

A BS in biochemistry doesn't make somebody a biochemist, anyway

That went completely under my (not-native-English) radar. :) Not that it is relevant anyway.

Mantis writes:

But, of course, most laypeople don't realize that they are laypeople, or that it's a lot more difficult to make the transition to "expert" than they think.

I think the first step to dealing with controversies as a layperson is to recognize when you are a layperson. Too many laypeople leave this step out.

Cavediver writes:

Exactly - anyone who just has a (science) degree has never had the honour of that post-graduation kick-in-the-balls when you realise that despite your three or more years of hard study, you know virtually NOTHING about the subject Those who do not progress to graduate study live in ignorant bliss of this bombshell, and tend to make hilarious comments like that above.

The comments section of this technology site (RickHodgin actually writes tech articles there, interspersed with newsitems that aren't hard to interprete as disguised attacks on MMGW :D) is a copybook example of people being too incompetent to realise their incompetence. Taken to breathtaking levels at times (and more often than not I'm tricked into responding because it's just too much to take, lol).

That's what I found so mindboggling about this particular poster. Assuming that he doesn't lie about his education, interests and job, one would think he would be aware of above principle(and would also subscribe to the arguments that I brought forward as posted above). The only possibility I see, is that he's just a very arrogant guy who thinks very much of himself.

Mantis writes:

To tie this marginally back into the topic, I think laypeople often like to hold on to the minority view, citing 18% as a "big" number of dissenters while somehow managing to simultaneously downplay the magnitude of the 82% figure. Strange.

That's the other thing that puzzles me... It seems they don't stop to think about why they subscribe to some (minority) position, and not the other one. Do they just not care enough to think about it? Or are they aware it doesn't make sense, but is it pride and a matter of taking the upper hand in the discussion against all cost? Or is it just an illustration of the general principle that most of our argumentation is (subconsciously) concentrated on justification of already held notions, instead of open and unrestricted inquiry?

Mantis writes:

I know this topic isn't really about global warming, but I just found an article online today, and thought it would be useful in answering some of your skeptics on the other site, such as this one:

Oh, that's not going to make a difference. The Wikipedia page is even more comprehensive, but it is all easily dismissed with some vague conspiracy arguments and "environmental Al-Gore nutcase cheerleaders" ad hominems. :D

Anyway: did anyone read the PDF I linked to with a supposed "skeptical" treatment of MMGW? I'm really curious what others think.

And is anyone at least somewhat up-to-date with MMGW discussion? Is there actually anything resembling a shift in the consensus visible? What is the general feeling about the denialist camp? Does it resemble anti-evolution critique to such degree (like overstating the number and importance of dissidents, overstating peer-pressure and "silencing" of opposing ideas, etc.) that it becomes suspect even because of THAT alone? Or is there indeed a significant scientific component which, while being a minority view, should be taken quite seriously adn could still come out on top?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Blue Jay, posted 01-21-2009 10:11 AM Blue Jay has not yet responded

    
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