Appeals to Authority

A reader sends me a story of global warming activist who clearly doesn't know even the most basic facts about global warming.  Since this article is about avoiding appeals to authority, so I hate to ask you to take my word for it, but it is simply impossible to immerse oneself in the science of global warming for any amount of time without being able to immediately rattle off the four major global temperature data bases (or at least one of them!)

I don't typically find it very compelling to knock a particular point of view just because one of its defenders is a moron, unless that defender has been set up as a quasi-official representative of that point of view (e.g. Al Gore).  After all, there are plenty of folks on my side of issues, including those who are voicing opinions skeptical of catastrophic global warming, who are making screwed up arguments.

However, I have found over time this to be an absolutely typical situation in the global warming advocacy world.  Every single time I have publicly debated this issue, I have understood the opposing argument, ie the argument for catastrophic global warming, better than my opponent.   In fact, I finally had to write a first chapter to my usual presentation.  In this preamble, I outline the case and evidence for manmade global warming so the audience could understand it before I then set out to refute it.

The problem is that the global warming alarm movement has come to rely very heavily on appeals to authority and ad hominem attacks in making their case.  What headlines do you see? 97% of scientists agree, the IPCC is 95% sure, etc.  These "studies", which Lord Monkton (with whom I often disagree but who can be very clever) calls "no better than a show of hands", dominate the news.  When have you ever seen a story in the media about the core issue of global warming, which is diagnosing whether positive feedbacks truly multiply small bits of manmade warming to catastrophic levels.  The answer is never.

Global warming advocates thus have failed to learn how to really argue the science of their theory.  In their echo chambers, they have all agreed that saying "the science is settled" over and over and then responding to criticism by saying "skeptics are just like tobacco lawyers and holocaust deniers and are paid off by oil companies" represents a sufficient argument.**  Which means that in an actual debate, they can be surprisingly easy to rip to pieces.  Which may be why most, taking Al Gore's lead, refuse to debate.

All of this is particularly ironic since it is the global warming alarmists who try to wrap themselves in the mantle of the defenders of science.  Ironic because the scientific revolution began only when men and women were willing to reject appeals to authority and try to understand things for themselves.

 

** Another very typical tactic:  They will present whole presentations without a single citation.   But make one statement in your rebuttal as a skeptic that is not backed with a named, peer-reviewed study, and they will call you out on it.  I remember in one presentation, I was presenting some material that was based on my own analysis.  "But this is not peer-reviewed" said one participant, implying that it should therefore be ignored.  I retorted that it was basic math, that the data sources were all cited, and they were my peers -- review it.  Use you brains.  Does it make sense?  Is there a flaw?  But they don't want to do that.  Increasingly, oddly, science is about having officially licensed scientists delivery findings to them on a platter.

  • Tom Nally

    How can one forget David Suzuki? He was the guy who recommended that politicians be jailed for opposition to global warming. The first question that came to my mind was this: "Is this Westerner of Japanese ancestry recommending internment camps?"

    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=290513

  • Zachriel

    Coyote: A reader sends me a story of global warming activist who clearly doesn't know even the most basic facts about global warming.
    Since this article is about avoiding appeals to authority, so I hate to
    ask you to take my word for it, but it is simply impossible to immerse
    oneself in the science of global warming for any amount of time without
    being able to immediately rattle off the four major global temperature
    data bases (or at least one of them!)

    As with most people, he relies on the authority of experts in the field. Not sure why you consider that a problem. While you may like to talk about the science, that doesn't replace actual scientific research in the field. Furthermore, if you want to have an impact in science, the discussion has to be with scientific peers, not laypersons, and should include actual research.

  • Otter

    Well that as Hell leaves out Dave Suzuki, then.

  • Dan Pangburn

    CO2 increase from 1800 to
    2001 was 89.5 ppmv (parts per million by volume). The atmospheric carbon
    dioxide level has now increased since 2001 by 25.69 ppmv (an amount equal to
    28.7% of the increase that took place from 1800 to 2001) (1800, 281.6 ppmv;
    2001, 371.13 ppmv; August, 2013, 396.82 ppmv).

    The average (5 reporting agencies)
    global temperature trend since 2001 is flat. Figure 1 in http://endofgw.blogspot.com/ is through April but the average
    through August is not significantly different.

    That is the observation. No amount
    of spin can rationalize how the temperature increase to 2001 was caused by a
    CO2 increase of 89.5 ppmv but that 25.69 ppmv additional CO2
    increase had no effect on the average global temperature trend after 2001. This
    demonstrates that the climate models that many climate scientists and the IPCC
    depend on are conspicuously wrong.

    Valid science demonstrates that
    human activity has had no significant influence on average global temperature. http://climatechange90.blogspot.com/2013/05/natural-climate-change-has-been.html

  • Zachriel

    Suzuki is not arguing science, but policy.

  • Gil

    So the various graphs and measurements from climate scienctists don't count for jack? Deniers haven't noticed you can look at the past with science so they ignore a clear warming trend over the 20th century - a strong trend that disproves any one who thinks global temperatures have been stable over time. Lord Vad-, um, Monckton is the source of all truth, some sort of saviour from the evil world Green conspiracy? ...

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/category/global_warming/monckton/

  • Gil
  • obloodyhell

    Learn from the master:
    Feynman on The Scientific Method

    Note how exceptionally well the "science" of AGW fits the description ca. the 5:00 mark...

  • obloodyhell

    }}} As with most people, he relies on the authority of experts in the field. Not sure why you consider that a problem.

    If you do not understand basic elements of the principles of what you're debating, you are nothing more than a parrot.

    And parrots, like logic, are both subject to GIGO.

    This might be a problem when it comes to sources for information. Just maybe...?

    Besides which, why do you think you should listen to the squawking of a parrot for scientific information in the first place?

  • c_andrew

    Increasingly, oddly, science is about having officially licensed scientists delivery findings to them on a platter.
    Then we'll have officially licensed and gov't approved journalists to make sure that we get the right narrative and only the right narrative. Hello DOJ?

  • obloodyhell

    "Better" not:

    }}} Meanwhile, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are losing ice at a faster rate every year.

    The summary at the linked piece says not one thing about Antarctica, yet somehow it gets lumped in with this claim. Neither of the linked summaries say a single word about Antarctica. There is no question Antarctica is far more significant than Greenland, yet they seem to be missing something of proof of their claims... I guess they're expecting no one to actually look at the links to see that they're blowing smoke.

  • obloodyhell

    }}} Deniers haven't noticed you can look at the past with science so they ignore a clear warming trend over the 20th century

    First off, the "Denier" shit? Until you get off of it, GFY. It's demonstrating you have no interest in the question, and think you can just write off anyone who disagrees with you by calling them a name. I repeat: GFY.

    Second off, "those who follow the AGW religion" (two can play that game -- and there's a hell of a lot better connection to religious fanaticism in terms of belief in AGW than there is for "AGW Denier" to "Holocaust Denier") act like they are the only ones CAPABLE of seeing and understanding the numbers being used. You might notice my easy challenge above, to the piece you link to. I'm not impressed by "big" numbers being bandied about, because I have a pretty good feel for how big the whole system actually is. And note that I'm not claiming it debunks the proposition, it just says that those making claims like to conflate things that lack validity, and "add" claims to claims they DO supposedly have the numbers for -- which calls their devotion to the Truth (something ALWAYS suspect when it comes to lefty ideas, being as the notion of truth being highly variable is at the very heart of everything they believe).

    When you pay attention to how often these "numbers" actually match the data, how often the data is carefully cherry picked to make their point, you stop just trusting them to EVER tell you the truth, and find, not "denial", but "show me"... and that's generally hidden by "you can't understand it!!" -- which might be true, but ... go ahead, make a prediction, and see if it's true a year or two from now. Tell me the consequences of "x" and show me the experimental evidence that shows those consequences are confirmed. Because if you can't predict things a year in advance, WTF makes you so arrogantly imagine you can predict things ONE HUNDRED years in advance?

  • Gil

    Predict? That sounds like a definition of fortune-telling. Science is about determining the facts with logic, data, experiments, etc.

  • Gil

    Really? I saw a link right on that page:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/antarctica-gaining-ice.htm

    as well as the canard about 1998:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm

    But I guess it goes back to where you live. If you live in an already cool/cold climate then global warming would be beneficial. I read that England would be, in a few generations' time, overall better off if the world warmed as predicted.

  • Gil

    In fact pretty much all of the canards are rebutted here:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Monckton_Myths_arg.htm

  • Otter

    Extremely, Utterly Bad policy. So that still leaves him out.

  • jhertzli

    The refusal to do arithmetic or look up basic data has another side. In those fields where the Other Side disagrees with experts, they will assume that the experts are saying "Trust us". IOW, they will pretend that the data is flipping textbooks doesn't exist or is hidden and that Geiger counters don't exist.