Elegant and measured reply by the prof to a climate denier! I feel for the prof (just imagine the froth in my inboxes from deniers). But, I do like the contours of this particular questioner’s question. Deniers usually attack climate scientists as liberal cranks who are dependent upon federal dollars. It’s usually a hit-and-run, so there’s no dialog or exchange of ideas. Just “F*ck you, you stupid lefty! Get off my lawn!” And, in the eyes of the denier, this attack somehow invalidates the climate science.
I was asked to make a previous answer to a question rebloggable. So sorry for the repeat …
Recently, I was asked the following question:
It really bothers me that scientists keep claiming that the cause of climate change is caused exclusively by humans. There is compelling evidence that exists that would prove - or at least point out - that that’s not entirely the case. Seeing as most scientists seem to lean left on this issue, do you think that scientists would leave out information in order to further an agenda?
My response was:
Well, aside from the fact that no scientist ever makes the claim that humans are the sole cause of global climate change, I do seem to recall hearing about a time when the Roman Catholic Church got really tired of hearing some guy named Galileo claim that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe. So they threw him in prison (well, a villa) and threatened to kill him unless he recanted. Alas, getting annoyed by something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
As for the question of scientists being corrupt lefties, a few thoughts:
1. Most scientists I know, who study natural phenomena using scientific methods, are fairly apolitical. They — unlike politically-minded people — are reluctant to talk or make claims about things they don’t know anything about.
2. I assume you believe that it is safer to travel in a car with airbags, antilock brakes and crumple zones than in a car without these things. I assume you believe the best way to avoid measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox (not to mention smallpox) is to be inoculated with a weakened version of measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox that stimulates the body’s immune system. I assume you believe that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second and that the US just landed a rover on Mars using math. I assume you believe tobacco is addictive. All of these things, of course, were proven or achieved by science. So your “worry” isn’t about “science,” it’s about climate science.
3. Science has an ultimate touchstone of right and wrong: falsifiability. If you can show that distilled water doesn’t freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or that gravity doesn’t operate at 32 feet per second squared, then claims made based on those observations (and the theories that underlie them) are discredited. So for your “worry” to be credible, it would have to be the case that thousands of scientists, any one of whom would get famous and would score lots of funding if only he or she could disprove the notion of climate change, have in fact engaged in a vast conspiracy to lie about it … why? Because they hate capitalism? Or something?
The conservative line that climate scientists are engaged in a vast deception defies logic, common sense, and the rules of science itself.
You all know that this is a traditional (and quite effective) ad-hominen attack. It’s supposed to discredit the science, while at the same time prop up the denier’s position. The key: Little to no evidence is needed by the denier. And it’s very clever because the responder is left defending both their name and the science. In other words, the denier’s attack is intended to leave the responder floundering in defense. And, believe me, it works like a charm. So effective is this tactic that the very question, “Is climate change real?” is based on this approach. I find it fascinating.
The question that the professor faced below is so classical. The denier doubts climate science, calls scientists names, and then puts the responder (the prof) in a defensive crouch. The prof didn’t fall for it, completely and responded intuitively.
Final thought. What’s really interesting to me about deniers is that they’re not arguing against the science. No, they’re arguing against regulations. It’s an incredible mind-fuck, but think about the denialists’ end game: if climate change is found to be false, then governments would not have to regulate various greenhouse gases, such as those from oil, gas, and coal.
Think about how amazing this is, millions of people (usually) of a certain political persuasion are unknowingly committing a sort of mass-cognitive dissonance on behalf of big oil. Evil has it’s brilliance…
I do want to disagree with that last point. Climate change deniers arearguing against the science, even if they have no grounds to do so. Frequently the people arguing know little to nothing about science at all. But if you argue with the science, perhaps you’ll never even get to the regulation phase in the first place. Also I believe hubris plays in to some degree… People don’t want to believe that they’re responsible, much less take any kind of action that might interfere with their precious lives. It’s trying to point the finger of blame elsewhere to avoid having to take responsibility.
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