Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Denialist War on Logic

Global Warming Denialists are great fun. I never tire of their comments, as they brighten my day with their unique analysis of what 'science' means. Here's a few enjoyable logical fallacies from recent debates..

This is 'January''s comment:

Almost record low temperatures being recorded across the UK for a sustained period of time, nearly two weeks now. I think the conclusion has to be that at present the climate just isn't living up to predictions, if the models were correct this shouldn't be happening. Temperatures are nearly 10 degrees lower than the winter average in the Uk, they really should be a few degrees warmer than the average.

Errr - do you understand what an average is? There are various ways of calculating an average; mode, medium etc. The most we most commonly see is 'mean' - the total number of all the values divided by the sample number. In all cases a small sample of the data does not tell you anything much about the overall average - that's why we have averages - to make sense of larger groups of data. So to suggest that 'tempatures' should be above the 'average' without specifying any data sets is a logical fallacy - as if they all were above the average - it wouldn't be the average, would it?

Here's another one I love;

I said, "If you want to prove your case, you need to stop spinning and do some science."
Che replied "Err - it is not us that needs proof."

This is the mother of all logical fallacies - the idea that one side in a debate does not need proof. There are so many points why this it wrong that it is hard to know where to start - and such fun because you couldn't make it up if you tried! There is a mental-path that the Denialist world view follows to arrive at this point that is very interesting, it goes:

Does Scientific Study Give Evidence for Global Warming - Yes/No
- If 'yes' declare all scientists to be corrupt and on the gravy train.
- If 'no' claim victory.

That is why they don't need to prove anything or do any science - because whatever the science says, they get to win. This is why the same comment can quote an economist (Lomborg) who accepts the reality of global warming in an attempt to show that global warming is not really happening.

And a third one for you (I bet there will be more) from Quink;

"Labelling an ACC=Catastrophe sceptic a "denier" is akin to the furore born of the Paki and Sooty labels used in the gutter press story a few days ago."

Race is something you can't pick, so to judge a person on the basis of their skin colour is wrong. Denailsim is a propaganda position and nothing to do with race. Do how does Quink conflate the two? You tell me, I have no idea of the logic being applied to make this comparison, but it is fun to read.

Anyway they are labelled as denailists because they deny one side of the argument (see point above!) and are not sceptics because a true sceptic applies scepticism across the board. It is a odd reading of the word to be a sceptic of one one side of a argument.

To end this post consider;

"During discussions, often I see people with little or no scientific background debating the subject of climate change as they seem convinced just a little "common sense" definitely is more than sufficient to join a debate on a scientific issue.....Actually, a lot of lobby arguments consist of cherry-picked conclusion, where the flaws aren’t in what they wrote, but in what they didn’t write. While everything written in the article can be 100 % correct, the paper can be wrong. Not having the background makes it impossible to detect such faulty science."

So how an individual who fail to grasp the most basic scientific premiss of the debate - difference between 'climate' and 'weather' (see first point above) and accept verbatim of the push of a lobby group ever be considered 'sceptical'.

Logically they can't. Logically they are in denial.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are lots of idiots, but there are serious concerns about the quality of climate science - a lot of accusations that data was picked to create the 'right' results (which happens in all experimental science to some degree unfortunately - funding is dependent upon getting the 'right' results too often.
Even worse, much work is unreproducible - that is a cardinal sin in science. If a result cannot be reproduced it must be discounted (it may not be wrong, but you cannot claim it is correct). Most unreproducible results are due to non-disclosure of data by scientists.

Its also overly politicised - it should give any anarchist cause for concern when scientists start getting involved in politics, on either side of the debate.