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Deniers are not making scientific arguments

Deniers are not making scientific arguments. Scientific arguments require consistency, something which deniers make no pretence of striving for.

Plimer’s argument was that climate has changed in the past. Eg – climate has a high sensitivity. Monckton’s argument was that climate has a low sensitivity. I think the irony that the two [deniers] were arguing contradictory positions was lost on most of the audience.

In a sense, their combined approach perfectly encapsulates the way skeptic arguments are used to mislead. Layering argument upon argument, regardless of a lack of internal consistency, isn’t about furthering scientific understanding but proving the preconceived notion that humans can’t be causing global warming. Two skeptic arguments can contradict each other, even on the same debating stage, so long as the common enemy of man-made global warming is refuted.

Consistency has never been denier’s strong suite. They grasp at anything that they think arrives at the conclusion they want, consistency is not a requirement for them.

To the deniers, consistency… or scientific evidence… or reality… isn’t important. What is important to them is to mislead… to twist the argument any way they can… to repeatedly bring up claims, regardless of whether the claims have long since been refuted… to use emotional or political arguments that have nothing to do with the science… to distort, cherry pick, and fabricate evidence in whatever way possible in their attempts to inject unwarranted doubt into the issue.

Why? Because they so want reality to conform to their pre-conceived political, ideological, or religious notions that they’re willing to use virtually any means at their disposal to keep their fortresses of self-delusion from tumbling down. I’ve seen that in action. I’ve heard deniers admit as much. What makes it worse is that they vigorously spread their misinformation, drag others down with them, and hobble any notion of having an intellectually honest discourse.

…because honesty… like consistency… like truth… is irrelevant to them.

And that makes them decidedly non-scientific.

30 Responses to Deniers are not making scientific arguments

  1. I think I’d like to see some numbers about the average political leanings of top notch north american scientists. I’d bet large sums of money that the more logical, intelligent and scientifically accomplished a person becomes, the more likely they are to be “liberal”… or at the very least “libertarian”, like a fiscal rather than social conservative, etc. Your typical republican, your climate change denier, your iraq-war supporter… overwhelmingly non-scientists, I guarantee it. I’m gonna go look it up.

  2. That would be interesting, but ultimately not meaningful to the science.

    But there is some support to your notion that scientists tend to lean towards being liberal (in the true sense of the word) or libertarian. James Hansen of NASA GISS describes himself as modestly conservative, and his articles on policy (manly tax and divided) do seem to fall under the umbrella of right wing solutions to the problem. And he is certainly not the only climatologist that supports this policy prescription. Most of of the ones I talk to also favor this approach.

  3. Errr, ScruffyDan, nanibold’s comment may not be meaningful to climate science, but it could be very meaningful to the study of aberrant human cognition – I think it’s called Psychology, or at least a branch thereof :).

  4. ScruffyDan, I did get that, but I wa strying to suggest that when the deniers aren’t making any climate science, then the cli,ate science is irrelevant, and the aberrant psychology is everything.

    It’s all very well to say that honesty, consistency, truth is irrelevant to ‘them’, but if this is so then why is it so ? I it some giagantic and ongoing failure of education, perhaps ?

    I think that nanibold’s input is a beginning in perhaps attempting to identify inter-related complexes of ‘misbelief’ that these people share.

  5. I read nanibold’s comment to mean he was interested in looking at the political leanings of scientists, not deniers.

    But looking closely at deniers would be interesting, though I remain skeptical as to how much that would help in increasing acceptance of mainstream science. Still I would love to be proven wrong.

  6. Indeed, the scientists were the main thrust of nanibold’s thesis, but somehow I don’t see that gathering evidence that reasonable people believe reasonable things is the main game.

    However, he did end with some speculations about “your typical Republican, your climate change denier …” etc, and speculated that they are “overwhelmingly non-scientists”.

    So I’m just speculating in turn about ‘aberrant cognition’ and whether or not that results in a ‘complex’ of related misbeliefs. And if so, how this could happen. Based purely on personal, anecdotal observation of various blogs, online newspapers etc. it strikes me that active ‘deniers’ are, in fact, quite few.

    But then, active ‘climate change believers’ don’t exactly run to millions either. And I’m not sure that all of them are totally ‘reasonable and rational’ in their belief set either, though its clearly the ‘active believers’ I’d rather see succeed.

    However, I’m not a professional psychologist, so I guess my speculations will simply remain speculations.

  7. While we can’t know exactly climate change deniers consistently refute even the most obvious evidence of global warming, such as glacier photos, we can observe their actions in general. The self-identified “conservative” in the US as an average is known to repeatedly deny factual reality when it conflicts with the stated opinions of his/her social group.

    It doesn’t really matter whether we are talking about human “races”, root causes of sexual orientation, medical costs, environmental effects of pollution, costs of the military, costs of social insurance programs they will repeatedly deny the facts and when corrected with proof deny that. At some point we are going to have to look at whether conservatism is a form of mental illness. Denial of reality should fall within that realm.

  8. The self-identified “conservative” in the US as an average is known to repeatedly deny factual reality when it conflicts with the stated opinions

    It is worth remembering that those on the left are not immune to this issue (see anti-vax and alt-med).

    At some point we are going to have to look at whether conservatism is a form of mental illness

    I cannot agree with this. While American conservatism has become divorced from reality on many issues, this does not discount the value of true conservatism… well maybe not the social conservatives, I am too libertarian to accept so-cons.

  9. The favored tactic appears to be to “poison the well” of climate change information. Simply to throw so much crap into the system that a virgin observer cannot separate the salt from the water.

  10. Gracious me, ScruffyDan, I wouldn’t have picked you for a libertarian – I’d have thought a liberal for sure :-) Do you really have true libertarians in Canada ? We don’t have them, at least not calling themseves that, in the Great South Land, nor much in the couple of islands off our east coast.

    However, I would interject that determining ‘reality’ is a complex matter, so complex indeed (especially after the epistemological failures of the Logical Positivists), that we now have the word ‘intersubjective’ to use in place of that operationally impossible dream ‘objectivity’.

    So, much as we might think of people being ‘deniers’, I suspect the majority of them simply experience a quite different ‘intersubjectivity’. And we have had ‘warring factions’ of differing, even opposite, ‘intersubjectivities’ ever since we’ve had non-dictatorial rule (ie ‘parliaments’ instead of autocratic kings). And even then, there were oppositions and ‘undergrounds’ of different flavours.

    Agreed that no ‘side’ (and there isn’t ever only two sides) has a monopoly on being committed to an ‘intersubjectivity’, the key point is whether the various sides can, more or less, tolerate each other and still allow a nation to function. To the personally uncommitted observer, it does appear that the American ‘conservatives’ are basically committed to a ‘death or glory’ view – either you are whooly and unquestioningly with me, or I will have to push you out of the way.

    And that, for me, returns us to the idea of a ‘complex of beliefs’ that defines a ‘committed intersubjectivity’, and what such a complex might contain – whether a whole bunch of beliefs (eg Christian fundamentalism, creationisn, rabid homophobia, climate change denial) are rolled into a ‘package of belief’ that defines ‘conservatives’, not only in the USA, but possibly everywhere.

  11. Don’t worry I wouldn’t call myself a true libertarian, I definitely lean in that direction on several issues. If I had to rate my political leanings, I’d have to say I agree with left-wing ideal, but think right wing policy is the best way to achieve them. With more than enough exceptions to throughly confuse anyone who thinks they’ve figured me out:)

    I suspect the majority of [deniers] simply experience a quite different ‘intersubjectivity’.

    You give them too much credit. I think most deniers suffer from cognitive dissonance, or ignorance. In other words, either they don’t have, or choose not to, apply critical thinking skills.

  12. I think that what’s perhaps getting lost here is that the central claim of climate sceptics/contrarians/deniers is not for any particular alternative scientific model. The one proposition all of them would agree upon is that AGW advocates are assholes. It’s that conviction that gets their blood pumping and that’s why their arguments appear to be consistent, at least to them. Whether or not climate is more or less sensitive to CO2 than the IPCC says doesn’t matter: the arguments are sufficiently consistent (for them) as long as they prove the point that climate scientists are elitist hoaxers.

    Some sceptics I have talked to are actually surprisingly open-minded and reasonable on the science but they’ll be incandescent and inflexible on the subjects of Gore/Suzuki/Jones/Hansen/Mann/IPCC. The science isn’t really the issue, it’s the authority and integrity of scientists and politicians that’s disputed.

    I also do not think that fighting back by alleging, for example, that M&M are “industry goons” is productive. Even if it’s true; it simply makes the debate not about science but about personalities and politics, the arena where sceptics currently seem to have the advantage. The uncommitted centre reading the exchange of allegations will likely conclude that both sides are assholes, which counts as a win for the sceptics.

  13. ScruffyDan,
    It reminds me of a quote: “When I call a man a genius, I am describing him, not praising him” (H J Eysenck I think, but I’m not absolutely sure). So, I wasn’t trying to give them [deniers] any credit, merely describing them.

    Just where the whole complex of ‘critical thinking’ and ‘cognitive dissonance’ – which I personally think is much less important than “theory persistence” and epistemological vacancy – falsifiability and general ‘evidence immunity’ comes into it is harder to say: especially since even me and thee are subject to these conditions. Would you be prepared to swear on whatever object(s) you hold holy that you apply sufficient critical thinking and avoid cognitive dissonance at all times ? I’m certainly not.

    Now, lest I appear as a ‘concern troll’, I should add that I think Andy S (above) has a strong point: the ‘deniers’ appear to live in a simple Manichean universe – the light of truth and holiness is over there, where they are, and the darkness of evil is all around them, and especially over here where we are. And most especially where Gore/Suzuki/Jones/Hansen/Mann/IPCC are.

    Andy S is also right, in my experience, that the audience don’t give a rat’s fart who started it and who’s right, they just see an undisciplined stoush and heep blame indiscriminately on both sides. And then, as he says, ‘they’ have won.

  14. @ Andy S

    I also do not think that fighting back by alleging, for example, that M&M are “industry goons” is productive.

    I disagree. I think identifying the money trail, is important when people are misrepresenting themselves. In fact this ‘investigation’ has uncovered some rather startling evidence about the Wegman report. Seems it wasn’t nearly as independent as it was spun to be.

    That being said, I’d say that all of this is necessary but not sufficient. The bedrock of our ‘side’ has to be sound science, and accurately presenting it to the public in a manner that they understand.

    @ Grim

    Would you be prepared to swear on whatever object(s) you hold holy that you apply sufficient critical thinking and avoid cognitive dissonance at all times ? I’m certainly not.

    No I am not, though I do actively try to limit my critical thinking lapses, and appreciate being told when my logic is flawed.

    Anyways You have given me things to think about, and I’ll admit to being out of my element here. Anyways I thin k you might find CRED’s guide called The Psychology of Climate Change Communication.

    I have not read it yet, but I plan on doing so as soon as I can find the time (which may be a while).

  15. SD,

    That raises one of those ‘insoluble’ dilemmas. While there are those who will find the money trail informative, there are plenty (not necessarily ‘deniers’) who don’t much care. But they are quite likely to respond to terminology such as “industry goons” negatively, because it’s just name calling of the basically kindergarten kind (“and so’s yer old man”).

    The trouble, as I see it, is that we have a very mixed audience, from those deeply imvolved with the science to those who don’t even know what science means – and although there may be relatively few of them in the more ‘advanced economy’ countries, it’s my experience that a very significant percentage of humanity all over the world simply do not understand what science is. And plenty who, whether or not they have any understanding of it, are quite ‘science-hostile’ (not to mention ‘evidence immune’).

    Not that I’m suggesting that Chris Mooney style ‘accomodationism’ is a viable strategy, because I believe it very obviously isn’t.

    I looked up (and downloaded) the CRED document (thanks for the link), and it looks very interesting – it’s got a long section on framing, and I just love long discussions about ‘framing’. But it was when I came to this bit that the wheels fell off:

    “CRED research shows that, in order for climate science information to be fully absorbed by audiences, it must be actively communicated with appropriate language, metaphor, and analogy; combined with narrative storytelling; made vivid through visual imagery and experiential scenarios; balanced with scientific information; and delivered by trusted messengers in group settings.” (p 7).

    Oh dear, can anybody suggest how we might bring “trusted messengers” in “group settings” (with or without the multi-media whizzbangery and appropriate metaphor, analogies and story-telling etc) to the approximately 6 billion human beings who have basically no ideas about climate change and may not even know that it’s happening ? Or even to the 100 million or so Americans (or 10 million or so Australians) who are in the same sinking ark ?

    We can’t even manage to get more than a handful of “trusted messengers” into the press and media, much less into enough “group sessions” to make any difference. The best we’ve got is some “trusted messengers” in the blogosphere (including this quite excellent one) who mainly spend their time and effort singing to the choir.

    And much as I enjoy reading them, and discussing some points now and then, I don’t think it really gets us anywhere we need to be. (Don’t stop doing it though :-)

  16. Further to the main point of my previous comment, there’s a good article in the Daily Kos that makes a similar point.

    “This is the context in which we should reconsider the Climate Change Denial Movement. While murky in its scientific assertions — (some claim the Earth isn’t warming, while others say the ice-free Arctic won’t be any of our doing) — the core contention remains remarkably consistent. It holds that the 99% of atmospheric scientists who believe in GCC are suborned, stupid, incompetent, conspiratorial or untrustworthy hacks.”

  17. Andy S,

    I’m not personally familiar with the Daily Kos (so many blogs, so little time), but having read the David Brin Diary piece from your link, I’m not sure I’d go to it for a dose of wisdom. A dose of self justifying fantasy perhaps, but not wisdom.

    Though, at least anecdotally, Mr Brin’s comments on the state of mind of ‘climate deniers’ does match up with a lot of what I see on the blogs I do read. The part of Brin’s thesis that I most accord with is this:
    “… all smartypants are unwise, all the time; and my uninformed opinion is equal to any expert testimony.”

    And of course it is precisely this (Dunning-Kruger) syndrome belief that makes the ‘genuine’ denialist completely epistemologically vacant and evidence immune. But then, basically, it has ever been thus – just think of the reaction to (1) the heliocentric theory of the solar system; (2) the ’round Earth’ theory; (3) evolution; (4) the germ theory of disease … and so on and so on, ad infinitum.

    The one question I would like to see some professional research on, is how many people there are in this category: 1% of the population ? 10% ? 50% ? My, again anecdotal, impression is that the genuinely active ones – those who take the trouble to persistently troll climate blogs etc are in fact quite few. And indeed that the ‘professional deniers’ (eg Michael Patrick, McIntyre etc) are vanishingly few – maybe a few thousand at the extreme maximum. Out of an American population of 300 million.

    On the other hand, most of the population simply isn’t involved at all – and in a deep silence, even a whisper is noisy.

    But the extreme case of self-justifying fantasy in Brin’s paean to his own wonderfulness, is this:
    “Now, as gentlemen, and more in a spirit of curiosity than polemics, can we please corner some atmospheric scientists and force them into an extended teach-in, to answer some inconvenient questions?”

    Yeah, right. Let’s just “force” some ‘atmospheric scientists’ to hear out our bullshit questions and give us answers we won’t even listen to, and then, when the ‘atmospheric scientists’ realise that they simply can’t handle our brilliant “inconvenient questions”, they will immediately and joyfully abandon their venal and stupid ways and all will be sweetness and light again.

    [sigh]

  18. Now, as gentlemen, and more in a spirit of curiosity than polemics, can we please corner some atmospheric scientists and force them into an extended teach-in, to answer some inconvenient questions?

    If this rooted in a genuine desire to understand the issue then I see this as a good thing and no cornering would be required, there are many scientists who would be glad to explain their work to Brin and even more knowledgeable laypeople like myself who would be more than happy to point people in the right direction

    And these inconvenient questions are understandable given that some aspects of climate science are counter-intuitive (how can global warming produce more snow?), and others have been so badly botched by the media.

    That being said, I have no knowledge if this desire to understand is genuine. Many who claim this are anything but genuine and if it is not genuine then this would just be a waste of time.

  19. Also I should add that I do think name calling ala “Industry goons” is not productive. But explaining why someone is not really an expert, or is not independent is very important.

  20. “If this rooted in a genuine desire to understand the issue then I see this as a good thing …”

    Happily agreed, but just as very many deniers aren’t making any science, they equally aren’t offering much goodwill either. If this were simply a battle of the science and the evidence, it would have been won comprehensively a long time ago. As indeed it has been won long ago amongst the scientific experts.

    “But explaining why someone is not really an expert, or is not independent is very important.”

    Well at least getting it on the record is, I guess. But again I’d stress that not everybody gives a darn.

    BTW, I’m working my way through the CRED document (how are you going – any time to give it yet ?). Very mixed reactions so far, not the least being the practical impossibility of doing some of the things it recommends.

  21. Well, FWIW, I did finish reading the CRED report and I’m still ambivalent. Some fairly well know stuff (which could have been found years ago in Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence’ –
    http://www.amazon.com/Influence-Psychology-Persuasion-Robert-Cialdini/dp/0688128165 ) and some stuff I wish I’d known when I still had to make presentations to colleagues and/or management to get decision commtiment.

    But I still can’t see how they expect anybody to be able to collect together the trained and informed people, and the money, and the time to do the ‘small community group’ work that they believe has to be done. Nor can I see that anybody is seriously gearing up to meet the challenge. Which is a shame, because it just might work, even in America (the main examples they give are from Africa).

    Anyway, there’s also another interesting and related take here:
    http://www.grinzo.com/energy/ (thank you for pointing me at that site).

    Oh, and I read a few things about libertarians – you’re not such bad guys after all :-)

  22. @ Grim

    just as very many deniers aren’t making any science, they equally aren’t offering much goodwill either.

    No they aren’t… but I am not sure Brin is a denier. This is the only article of his I have read.

    And while I haven;t read the CRED report yet (I will soon!)…

    Nor can I see that anybody is seriously gearing up to meet the challenge

    I know some incredibly smart people who are working to meet this challenge. It is still early going, and it may not amount to much but it has given me hope… though this is a plan to win the long term fight, not the teapot tempest du jour.

    Oh, and I read a few things about libertarians – you’re not such bad guys after all :-)

    Not bad, but devoid of emotion would be fair…. but I am not a true libertarian. At least not yet:)

  23. >Errr, ScruffyDan, nanibold’s comment may not
    >be meaningful to climate science, but it
    >could be very meaningful to the study of
    >aberrant human cognition

    Affirmative. I wasn’t talking about climate science – I just saw it as being relevant to the political situation in the US.

    Could it be, for example, that scientists are liberals because scientists are smart and that smart people generally end up thinking like liberals? Because it seems to me that one could convincingly argue that most of the base of the republican party are of below-average intelligence. Or maybe just underdeveloped in some way, or something… I myself held some classic republican views too, when I was 13.

    >I think that nanibold’s input is a
    >beginning in perhaps attempting to identify
    >inter-related complexes of ‘misbelief’
    >that these people share.

    Heh. Definitely accurate Mr. Grim, but… weird :)

    Dan, perhaps my original comment becomes clearer if I follow it up with a few questions:

    – What is it that makes them think the way they do? I mean, there are rational ways to argue against ‘human-induced climate change’, but most of the people who do argue against it apparently have no idea how to be rational. Why?

    – Could it be true that the average IQ of a republican is noticeably lower than that of the average liberal? I’m speculating here, but my gut tells me it would be a very safe bet.

    – What does it do to the ‘deniers’ ability to make a convincing argument? Could it be that 99% of the world’s sane, functional scientists think deniers are dead wrong? Find me even just one real, smart, scientific scientist who strongly believes that the whole climate change thing is bullshit. I’d be *fascinated* to meet him. What would he say?

    >I read nanibold’s comment to mean he
    >was interested in looking at the political
    >leanings of scientists, not deniers.

    Well, yes and no. I was interested in looking at the political leanings of scientists, but mostly in order to see what it might say about the political leanings of stupid people.

    >But looking closely at deniers would be
    >interesting, though I remain skeptical
    >as to how much that would help in
    >increasing acceptance of mainstream
    >science. Still I would love to be
    >proven wrong.

    Well, if for instance it could be demonstrated that climate change deniers are on average more stupid… then we may see a lot of them suddenly motivated to think a little more seriously about the whole thing, when they realize who they’re keeping company with. Or hell, at least to clarify their arguments on the matter.

    That, and it would help encourage the rest of us to feel okay about just sidelining these people where necessary. There are more of us, and we’re smarter. When using asbestos in homes was outlawed, I guarantee you that there were still a bunch of people who thought at the time that asbestos was just peachy. They were duly ignored, and with good cause.

    >It is worth remembering that those
    >on the left are not immune to this
    >issue (see anti-vax and alt-med).

    Sure, but we’re not trying to argue that the left is immune here… we’re talking about averages. On average, is ‘the left’ less likely to be stupid? On average, are they more likely to be scientific?

    >While American conservatism has become
    >divorced from reality on many issues,
    >this does not discount the value of true
    >conservatism… well maybe not the
    >social conservatives

    And we’re not trying to discount true conservative philosophy here, either. There’s a legitimate, logical debate to be had about the old school right vs left but that’s not really what we’re seeing in the US. There may be a few true conservative/libertarian types still in the republican party, but the rest are a bunch of people whose philosophies appear to be either insane, absent or blatantly self-interested.

    >I think most deniers suffer from
    >cognitive dissonance, or ignorance. In
    >other words, either they don’t have,
    >or choose not to, apply critical
    >thinking skills.

    This is I think what we’re dealing with. In which case our response to them has to be different. We may not be able to appeal to the more rational parts of their minds as directly as we might like.

    Like when you’re debating something with somebody and have that moment where you suddenly realize that they have no ability to think logically, you have to change your approach. At that point you have to start looking at what’s motivating them, and how they came to hold their given opinion. Like Grim said, it becomes a question of psychology…

  24. Could it be, for example, that scientists are liberals because scientists are smart and that smart people generally end up thinking like liberals?

    I think you are venturing into dangerous territory. There are plenty of very smart conservatives, despite the fact that conservatism in the US has taken an turn for anti-intellectualism.

    I say this as someone who finds himself shifting towards conservatism (but not social conservatism) as time passes. And it is worth noting that Hansen sees himself as a moderate conservative as well.

    I’ll take a stab at answering your questions:

    What is it that makes them think the way they do?

    I think for many it is a gut ration. They are intrinsically skeptical of government regulation (as am I) and see AGW as requiring more regulation. From that they make the jump that it must be all a sham. The fact that most people on the left have accepted it, also triggers a gut reaction to oppose it, especially with the current political climate in the US.

    I think it recall boils down the fact that the truth is inconvenient for them.

    What I would like to see is some conservatives argue how they would deal with AGW if for the sake of argument they assume it to be true and catastrophic.

    As for why are they not rational? I think the vast majority really have no idea what the science of AGW says. And for that matter neither do most liberals… but at least they accept its conclusions even if for the wrong reasons.

    Could it be true that the average IQ of a republican is noticeably lower than that of the average liberal?

    Careful here. Liberal or Democrat? or was that conservative instead of Republican. In regards to conservatism, I think it depends. I remember reading about how more educated people tend to be less socially conservative, but that is education levels and not IQ. Anyways I don’t recall the source so take it with a grain of salt.

    In regards to Fiscal conservatism I think you would be able to make that argument. The fiscal conservatives I know are very intelligent, even if not that knowledgeable in matters of science.

    What does it do to the ‘deniers’ ability to make a convincing argument?

    I don’t think it does much. Ask a liberal to make a convincing argument about why we attribute the recent warming trend to our GHG emissions and you are likely to get an unconvincing argument. The best your would probably get is correlation, and that is not causation. You likely wouldn’t even be able to get proper attribution of the increase in CO2. The bottom line is that most people don’t know the science very well.

    Could it be that 99% of the world’s sane, functional scientists think deniers are dead wrong?

    Yes, its just not very likely. XKCD said it best:

    Find me even just one real, smart, scientific scientist who strongly believes that the whole climate change thing is bullshit. I’d be *fascinated* to meet him. What would he say?

    How about Richard Lindzen? What would he say? Some ramblings about conspiracy. But some science also. His Iris theory is interesting, though it is contradicted by the paleoclimate record and observational data. Still it is interesting.

    the political leanings of stupid people.

    I have found stupid people all over the political spectrum. The difference now in the US, is that that the many republican politicians seem perfectly satisfied pandering to it.

    On average, is ‘the left’ less likely to be stupid? On average, are they more likely to be scientific?

    I don’t think they are.I think anti-science runs deep on both sides, and as said before in this comment, the only real difference is that Republican politicians are pandering to stupidity more than before. This given right wing stupidity more prominence, but I don’t think it makes it more common. At least not yet. I do think a case can be made that over the long term the prominence of stupidity can make it more common.

    And we’re not trying to discount true conservative philosophy here, either.

    No, I don’t think you are… but many are. And I do think that the tone of your comment alienates the rational right and right now that is a very bad thing to do. We should all be helping the rational right, because we are all better off when the rational right and the rational left are in control. When the wingnuts take over (from either side) we all suffer.

    At that point you have to start looking at what’s motivating them

    I really do think it is a skepticism of government. But they have taken that skeptisism too far and turned it into denial of reality.

    Sorry for the long comment. Hope it helps.

  25. Ok my last comment was to much of a rant. Sorry.

    Let me try to boil it down.

    First I do not think that there is more stupidity on the Republican side of things. But I do think that it is given more prominence, thus it is more visible.

    The illogical arguments come from a lack of understanding, and a perceived conflict with their political ideology. That, and an inability for most people to determine who the relevant experts are.

  26. >I think you are venturing into dangerous territory.

    Well, sure I am, but I guess I’m getting annoyed with the whole thing. I mean, I am honestly 100% prepared to accept that global warming is false, or that it’s not man-made, or whatever. But only if somebody can put together a coherent argument to support what they’re saying, only if they can actually give us some convincing things to think about. The overwhelming majority of arguments I hear from ‘deniers’ are so poor that it makes me sad even just seeing them on the table.

    >There are plenty of very smart conservatives, despite
    >the fact that conservatism in the US has taken an
    >turn for anti-intellectualism.

    I’m not suggesting that there aren’t plenty of smart conservatives. I’m suggesting that maybe they’re just harder to come by, as opposed to when you’re walking through a liberal crowd. And the turn towards ‘anti-intellectualism’ is a baffling thing, one that I guarantee you are likely to see a lot less often amongst smart people and scientists. Intelligent people generally don’t go for that kind of stuff. Because it’s stupid.

    >I say this as someone who finds himself shifting
    >towards conservatism (but not social conservatism) as
    >time passes. And it is worth noting that Hansen sees
    >himself as a moderate conservative as well.

    I should be perfectly clear about this: I’m not talking about all the people who might identify themselves as being “conservative”. There’s nothing wrong with fiscal conservatives at all, or even social conservatives as long as they’re not infringing on the rights of others. I myself probably fit the “libertarian” label overall, which in a sense makes me conservative as hell. But the conservative philosophies of me or you or Hansen are not relevant to what I’m getting at.

    I’m talking about that certain kind of special conservative… I don’t know what the label would be. They fell for the Iraq war hype without a second thought. They consider a single winter snowfall in the Texas desert to be proof that global warming isn’t real. They don’t believe that Obama was born in the USA. They think that scientists are all dead wrong about evolution, and interpret the book of Genesis as historical fact. They go to protests with glaring, ridiculous misspellings on signs, screaming about gays, or fascism and Hitler’s Germany. The list goes on and on. I feel gross even referring to them as “conservatives” because it seems to do a disservice to all the legitimate, rational conservative people out there. But I’m not sure what else to call them. There are all sorts of different types, as I just illustrated, but the common thing that unites them seems to be a miserable grasp of basic logic, and a track record of voting for the republican party.

    >I think for many it is a gut ration. They are
    >intrinsically skeptical of government regulation
    >(as am I) and see AGW as requiring more
    >regulation.

    I’m always skeptical when it comes to government intervention, and I think that’s healthy.

    >From that they make the jump that it must
    >be all a sham.

    Right, and that’s where they lose their credibility with me. That’s where they take what could be a very logical argument and push it off a cliff, to the detriment of us all. First casualty: honest, rational debate.

    >What I would like to see is some conservatives
    >argue how they would deal with AGW if for the
    >sake of argument they assume it to be true and
    >catastrophic.

    I think that would be a worthy exercise, it would totally make sense to explore that question if you were having an honest debate with one of these folks. But I think you will find that most republicans don’t appreciate such discourse, don’t see the value in really exploring such a distraction, and generally wouldn’t engage you like that. Instead their response would be something more along the lines of “well it’s not true and catastrophic, so it doesn’t matter”. They’re not exploring, or learning, or pursuing the truth… they’re just *arguing*, they’re trying to *win*. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to find one who is interested in really debating this stuff with you at all.

    >As for why are they not rational? I think the vast
    >majority really have no idea what the science of
    >AGW says. And for that matter neither do
    >most liberals…

    This is very true. When considered on an individual level though, most of us are not scientists, and most of us don’t have access to the data, but we’re still weighing evidence on our own nonetheless, and reasonably so. Personally, my thinking goes something like this: 1) We know scientists generally understand a lot about the way things work; 2) I understand the scientific process and see how they structure their ideas, based on facts and evidence; 3) The majority of climate scientists are alarmed because of patterns they’re seeing in the data; 4) Therefore we had better pay attention to what they’re talking about.

    This kind of reasoning should be inherently far more convincing to each of us internally than a jumble of theories about it being some kind of anti-capitalist conspiracy to hinder wealth and progress, or the result of thousands of researchers being corrupted and/or tricked into supporting false ideas, or that it’s all some kind of “scam to bolster the UN” (whatever that means). Even given a lack of first hand evidence on a personal level, we can still draw some pretty reasonable (though tentative) conclusions about the truth of the matter.

    >Careful here. Liberal or Democrat? or was that
    >conservative instead of Republican.

    Sorry, I should be specific. I think it’s safe to say I’m talking about Democrat voters vs Republican voters.

    >The fiscal conservatives I know are very intelligent,
    >even if not that knowledgeable in matters of science.

    I would hope that they could be comfortable accepting the science of climate change while at the same time finding ways to argue against the use of potentially unnecessary government legislation and taxes to fight it, etc etc. Like I said, there are rational ways to argue against almost anything, but deniers generally don’t use many of those.

    >>What does it do to the ‘deniers’ ability to make a convincing argument?
    >
    >I don’t think it does much. Ask a liberal to make a
    >convincing argument about why we attribute the
    >recent warming trend to our GHG emissions and
    >you are likely to get an unconvincing argument.

    Agreed. Yes, sorry, again I was sloppy. I wasn’t talking about individual deniers, but the whole movement. How does the ‘denial’ movement as a whole (I know, still sloppy) make a convincing argument when 99% of the world’s scientists are on the other side? How to make a logically, rationally convincing argument… when a worldwide industry of sticklers for logic/reason repeatedly goes through the evidence and comes to the opposite conclusion?

    >How about Richard Lindzen? What would he say?
    >Some ramblings about conspiracy. But some science
    >also. His Iris theory is interesting, though it is
    >contradicted by the paleoclimate record and
    >observational data. Still it is interesting.

    Excellent! I hadn’t heard of him, but that dude is clearly *very* legitimate. Also actually quite interesting overall. His criticisms are maybe a little mild though. I intend to read up on him some more and hopefully find others who share his perspective, at least I can respect him. I was, however, a little amused to see this:
    “Lindzen clearly relishes the role of naysayer. He’ll even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking. He speaks in full, impeccably logical paragraphs, and he punctuates his measured cadences with thoughtful drags on a cigarette.”

    Nonetheless, he’s clearly not using nonsensical arguments when he goes up against so many of his colleagues, the dude is capable of holding his own. He definitely counts as a ‘denier’ who is logical and scientific… the first I have come across. So that’s… one…

    >I have found stupid people all over the political
    >spectrum.

    That’s a given.

    >The difference now in the US, is that that the many
    >republican politicians seem perfectly satisfied
    >pandering to it.

    There it is, that’s a big part of what I’m getting at. What’s with all the stupid? And why is it that it’s republican politicians doing that so much more often than democrats?

    >I think anti-science runs deep on both sides, and as
    >said before in this comment, the only real difference
    >is that Republican politicians are pandering to
    >stupidity more than before.

    It appears to me to run deeper on the republican side. I would think that if democrat politicians were to start rejecting science and logic the way the republicans have, that the democrat voting base wouldn’t tolerate it.

    >This given right wing stupidity more prominence,
    >but I don’t think it makes it more common.

    Legit argument, definitely plausible. Still seems to me though that there is some reason why politicians can get away with it on the republican side, while democrat politicians would be roasted alive for similar tactics…

    >At least not yet. I do think a case can be made
    >that over the long term the prominence of
    >stupidity can make it more common.

    Agreed.

    >No, I don’t think you are… but many are. And I
    >do think that the tone of your comment alienates
    >the rational right and right now that is a very
    >bad thing to do.

    This is true; I should be more careful. I don’t harbour any ill will towards the rational right at all, I just… I wish they could somehow teach the rest of the right a thing or two about what it means to speak words that make sense…

    >We should all be helping the rational right, because
    >we are all better off when the rational right and the
    >rational left are in control. When the wingnuts
    >take over (from either side) we all suffer.

    Very important point. Well taken.

    >I really do think it is a skepticism of government.
    >But they have taken that skeptisism too far and
    >turned it into denial of reality.

    Agreed on that.

    >Sorry for the long comment. Hope it helps.

    Do not apologize. My comments are longer and uglier than yours, and your blog is probably not the best place for such extended conversations anyway, I don’t wish to divert the focus of your articles or clutter up what you’re doing :)

    I should go, I have said more than enough. Keep up the good work

  27. Thanks for that. Despite the slightly off topic nature of your comments they were appreciated. I actually think we may be closer on this issue than I first thought.

    Unfortunately such nuanced discussions are not well suited for a written from… especially when I start to nitpick:)

  28. @ nanibold, if you are still reading, but you may find this interesting and depressing:

    As some readers of this blog may know, I [Bruce Bartlett] was fired by a right wing think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush’s policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D. In the years since, I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC.

    Now the same thing has happened to David Frum, who has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute. I don’t know all the details, but I presume that his Waterloo post on Sunday condemning Republicans for failing to work with Democrats on healthcare reform was the final straw.

    Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

    It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already.

    Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go. The donor community is only interested in financing organizations that parrot the party line, such as the one recently established by McCain economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin.
    I will have more to say on this topic later. But I wanted to say that this is a black day for what passes for a conservative movement, scholarship, and the once-respected AEI.

    This is the prominence I was referring to, and seems that some conservatives, at least, are worried about what it will do to the ‘conservative brain’ in the long run.

    Without the rational right we are all worse off.

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