Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The AGW Denialist Mindset Examined

More discussion at fivethirtyeight on the hacked global warming emails reveals the standard denialist mindset:

Your blog arguments basically boil down to the scam artists are following a standard scientific protocol which lay people are too stupid to understand. Bull feces.

Yeah, believe it or not, specialisits in scientific areas know a great deal more about them than does Joe the Plumber, or you, and in the hands of untrained or unscrupulous people (see below) they can be easily misrepresented or misunderstood. I know that offends your egalitarian ideologies, but tough noogies, reality doesn't care what you think. Every argument the AGW deniers put forth validates this hypothesis, and your ignorant rants are no exception. To wit:

The "idiots" to which Mann is referring are Steve McIntyre - the mathematician at Climate Audit, and Ross McKitrick, the economics professor

First, note the good counseler's assumption of facts not in evidence. Mann did not refer to McIntyre or McKitrick as idiots, not did I. I merely posed an obvious and plausible interpretation of Mann's words that was not the least bit conspiratorial. I never said it was an exhaustive list.

Another far more plausible interpretation of Mann's words is that people with an ax to grind, or cranks working outside their fields, might misuse and misrepresent the data and commentary to their own ends. McIntyre and McKitrick are perfect examples. We see this all the time in the evolution denial of the Intelligent Designers. The modus operandi of the AGW deniers is identical, and often involves the exact same people.

BTW, do you accept the Modern Theory of Evolution? How about that HIV causes AIDS. Just curious. Hey, no complaining that these are off-topic. The party that supports so much AGW denialism is also the party that thinks it is so important to be judged by the company you keep. So pardon us if we find it necessary to toss the flat earthers, creationists and germ theory deniers in your face once in while to remind people that's the company you keep.

Here he runs completely off the rails:

There appear to be three varieties of responses to my posts on the email evidence of fraud: (1) attorneys are evil,

Not even remotely true. What people said was that attorney's a) are not trained in science and scientific protocals, and b) attorney's are paid to defend the side that hires them, not to seek truth. That's not a criticism at all. In fact, it is a position I wholeheartedly support as critical to every defendant getting a full hearing. It's one of the things that makes our country great. It's just not the sort of mindset I'd want studying scientific ideas. Reality is not a negotiable entity. It is what it is.

2) lay people are too stupid to understand the manmade global warming religion (MGWR) and should rely upon their priests like Jones and Mann,

Again, not remotely accurate. The point was, and remains, that global warming science, like any science or complicated intellectual profession, is going to have protocals, behavior, and information that will be unintelligible, or badly misundestood, by laymen. That an attorney would attempt this argument, given that law is one of the best examples of such a field, reveals the political nature of this argument. This intellectual egalitarianism, the same promoted by Sarah Palin and embodied in Joe The Plumber, is politically necessary for their agenda to succeed. Acknowledge the superior understanding of science by scientists and you find yourself on the wrong end of every political position favored by those whose support you so desperately need - all those angry twits clinging to their guns and religion and wondering what happened to "their" America. So one must absolutely deny the connection between study and understanding. Thereby can being a Harvard Graduate be presented as a negative character trait.

3) allegations without evidence that the science behind the MGWR is overwhelming and proven.

It is a simple fact, easy to look up, that a near unanimity of the world's scientific organizations support the AGW hypothesis, and there is zero evidence of any sort of conspiracy. The conpiracy theory is also completely implausible, because if the motive is money, any scientist supposedly on the dole could make far more with book deals and speaking engagements, and with far less effort. This, btw, is what dooms most any conspiracy theory based on greed - there is simply too much money to be made being the one guy that goes against the grain. It is cartel economics, and cartels cannot exist in an arena with traits like those of the scientific community.

The first two slanders are the product of deficient upbringing and do not merit a reply.

In other words, these attack basic ideological assumptions I make about the world, and I am therefore unwilling to give due consideration to the possibility that they are correct. Now consider that he may also have, as an ideological assumption about the world, the view that it was put here for man to enjoy by God, and there is no way we could destroy it or make it uninhabitable for us, and suddenly, it all makes sense.


Miranda said...

"near unanimity of the world's scientific organizations support the AGW hypothesis"

And if you're a scientist who's not part of that 'near unanimity,' that makes you a global warming denier, right?

ScienceAvenger said...

No, you might just be wrong. Being a denier entails use of specific rhetorical nonscientific techniques you can read about here:

conspiracy, selectivity (cherry-picking), fake experts, impossible expectations (also known as moving goalposts), and general fallacies of logic.

Miranda said...

What if you're simply a layman who likes the arguments of this small minority of scientists, over those in the minority?

ScienceAvenger said...

If you prefer denialist arguments over the scientific ones, then you're either a denialist, a scientific ignoramus, or a fool. Some lucky people like Kirk Cameron hit the trifecta.

Troublesome Frog said...

I have a rule of thumb: If I find myself out of step with the vast majority of experts in a subject, my first assumption is that I need to learn more about that subject. I have to learn *a lot* before I convince myself that there's an entire field of researchers that are simply wrong--especially when being wrong means that they're ALL failing to grasp the (usually trivial) objections that people post on the web.

Usually, when your intuitive understanding of something differs from the expert consensus, there's something interesting to be learned. I think of it as an opportunity.

Alex said...

In that case, Troublesome Frog, I wouldn't hang out with too many religious Bible scholars.

Hector said...

"my first assumption is that I need to learn more about that subject. "

In other words, those who blindly follow the statement "the science is settled" are making a big mistake, right?

ScienceAvenger said...

Those who blindly follow anything are making a big mistake, but then that's hardly news. However, since the statement "the science is settled" with regard to the AGW hypothesis represents the consensus of every scientific organization in the world, the term "blindly" grossly misrepresents the position of those who support it. You make it sound as if someone just saw "The science is settled" scrawled on the bathroom wall and decided that's that. That's hardly honest.

Further, if one is going to blindly follow something, the scientific consensus (ie the evidence gathered and studied by those who know the most about it) is easily the most rational course to take. Partisan political hacks and people opining outside their area of knowledge and expertise rate considerably further down the scale

Finally, you miss the entire point of TFs comment, which is that the AGW deniers' first assumption is that anything emerging from academia which conflicts with their current views, intuition, or idle musings is probably wrong, and that it is they who have something to teach the experts.

Troublesome Frog said...

"In that case, Troublesome Frog, I wouldn't hang out with too many religious Bible scholars."

I usually don't, but I'll happily concede that they know far more about the Bible than I do. Whether that's of any applicability to the real world is a different question.

"In other words, those who blindly follow the statement "the science is settled" are making a big mistake, right?"

Depends. Are they hearing that statement from some crank on the Internet, or are they hearing that statement from an overwhelming majority of legitimate experts? If the former, yes, they may be making a big mistake. Otherwise, I wouldn't say so. We blindly follow experts all the time. Ever ride in an airplane that you didn't design?

Defaulting to the expert consensus when you don't know something isn't a bad idea. Deciding to do research and become an expert when you don't know something is also not a bad idea, especially when the expert consensus strikes you as wrong.

Not learning about that thing and then assuming that your uninformed opinion is more likely to be right than the expert consensus? Probably not a winning strategy in the long run. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes, but he starves to death in the long run.

Troublesome Frog said...

"In that case, Troublesome Frog, I wouldn't hang out with too many religious Bible scholars."

I'd also like to note that the likelihood of Bible scholars reaching anything resembling a broad consensus on... well... anything is pretty low.