Dialing It Up

D

I would be remiss if I did not begin this post with an important caveat. Fisking is a fun business, to be sure, and all the more so the lower the fruit hangs. Granted, sometimes the challenge is lessened, but certainly not the enjoyment. This mea culpa on my part complete, I offer the caveat emptor that Gawker is not usually the place one would frequent to find well developed arguments or intellectual rigor. And a post which is tagged as a ‘rant’ on such a forum is probably as low-hanging as the metaphorical fruit gets.

Yet sometimes one comes across a piece of writing so intellectually fatuous that, slightly modifying Master Yoda’s Kenobi’s catchphrase, one can only sit back, scratch one’s head and mutter “The stupid is strong with this one.”

‘Climate change’ is one of this subjects which seems to bring out the worst in people, especially the more so they are convinced that we are all of us the scourge of the planet. It is perhaps not unsurprising, since if one feels that one’s race and its activities are a blight upon an otherwise fair world (notwithstanding that we are the only species capable of conceiving of such abstractions as aesthetics), it is only a small step to leap out in the land of crazy and start arguing for truly despicable acts.

It is equally ironic that many of those who take such remarkable leave of their rationality have no difficulty enjoying the fruits of the planet’s woundedness, and continue to utilize the sources of this blackening sickness to describe and decry how bad we all are for being the cause of the self-same sickness. After all, websites are not conjured out of the ether but only churn along and serve up their bits as long as something keeps them going, which in our current situation is the source of so much hand-wringing, if not abstinence. However, charges of hypocrisy are usually puerile, so I won’t take that tack, but will merely point out irony because it is such deliciously low-hanging fruit.

After all, one rarely sees the hand-wringers heading off to Ghana to spend the rest of their days cooking over a dung heap. And while Earth Hour no doubt provides some with a sense of (perhaps only temporary) righteousness, there’s probably a reason we keep our fridges running every single other hour.

But I digress. The latest endeavor in stupid which has graced the internets comes courtesy of Gawker, entitled Arrest Climate Change Deniers.

Now, the article is rather long, so I won’t fisk the entirety of it (Update: alas, a lie…), but it should be noted that the headline (which the author may or may not have had control over) involves a bit of a bait-and-switch, a handy rhetorical trick for rigging the game from the beginning. The author’s actual argument- if one could so deign to apply such an appellation to it- is that those who deny ‘man-made climate change’; namely, those who peddle disinformation about humankind’s effects on the climate- should be punished in some way.

This little rhetorical sleight-of-hand is of course dubious, since even though the article will make a more ‘nuanced’ focus of who should be punished/arrested/whatever, the headline broadens the camp to imply that anyone who does not toe the current orthodoxy of humankind’s affect on ‘climate’ is in essence a ‘climate-change’ denier en toto, rather than someone who has questions or skepticism about the extent of humankind’s affect on ‘climate change.’

Unfortunately, this is the type of rhetorical shift that most people are prone to miss, which makes these sorts of conversations and debates far more emotionally charged than need be. Alas, would that the headline were the only bit of stupid to be found within!

Man-made climate change happens.

In the headline we began with a subtle (and scurrilous) semantic shift. Here in the very first statement we have question begging. And I actually don’t mean question-begging as to whether or not ‘climate change’ has some human contribution; rather, the question begging comes from this very loaded phrase “man-made.”

Now, from a purely denotative perspective this is clearly incorrect, since ‘man-made’ entails something artificially constructed or created. Importantly, this holds even for things which have a ‘natural’ counterpart. For example, dams can occur in nature as a result of some blockage (say, lots of leaves, falling trees, etc.) that occurs randomly, because a beaver builds one, or some other reason. Humans can craft dams as well, and while I would argue that these dams are no less ‘natural’ for having been made by humans, they are nevertheless distinct because of the intentionality behind the construction. Now, a beaver has some sort of intentionality (in a loose sense of the word) in constructing a dam, but certainly not in the same way that humans do, given that beavers do this instinctively while humans do so based (at least partially) on their rationality.

Of course, it is true that we don’t simply use ‘man-made’ denotatively. Often we might refer to man-made disasters which are unintentional results of the things we do or create, but the notion here is that there is still intentionality involved; it’s simply that the disastrous aspect was unintentional. For example, take Time’s 2007 Top Man-Made Disasters. Entries 2-9 all involve either accidents involving human engineering or intentional acts (#3 Arson, #4 hunting dolphins), although even the intentional ones involves a healthy dose of un-intentionality. But each entry nevertheless is able to draw a very close correlation between a human act (which was intentional) and an ensuing (unintentional) disaster.

The first entry, however, manages to engage in a similar sort of question-begging, in that the ‘climate change’ (which is semantically shifted and reduced to ‘global warming’ in the very next sentence) in question is assumed to be a disaster not only on the same level as plane crashes, forest fires and mine explosions, but is deemed even worse, even though the entry itself is careful to qualify the correlation (“at least in part man-made,” ”Not all of these events can be tied absolutely to global warming”).

As such, there is no clear cut meaning to the term ‘man-made’ and thus this article begins with a dubious notion that ‘climate change’ is either something artificially brought about by human activity (suggesting intentionality towards the ‘climate change’) or is unmistakably correlated with the unintentional effects of human activity. It is important to note that, as we have seen, there are different levels of certainty as to what constitutes a ‘man-made’ disaster or effect. A mine collapsing, for example, has a level of certainty which makes it ‘man-made’ since, unless humans had constructed the mine, it obviously would not have collapsed. But the collapse is not necessarily ‘man-made’ in the same sense since it could be factors over which humans have no control which precipitated the collapse. There could also be unintentional but potentially understood causes (faulty construction, architectural flaws) which contributed in one way or another. A completely non-human cause (in this case, an earthquake) can also contribute or even have the lion’s share of ‘cause.’

As can be easily seen, even in rather straightforward cases of ‘man-made’ disasters there is a level of uncertainty as to how much human activity was to ‘blame.’ (I use the term loosely since ‘blame’ implies moral responsibility, which requires intentionality on some level.) Ergo, applying blanket terms like ‘man-made-’ especially in relation to systems that we still don’t understand very well- is highly problematic and ultimately question-begging.

One might suspect that a rather dubious start (in the first two words, mind you!) would be mitigated in what follows, but our author manages to fall into yet another fallacy in the very next two words, which should probably garner him a prize. Those words, of course, are ‘climate change.’

I have intentionally placed that phrase in quotes since in our author’s use he seems to be falling into a reification fallacy; that is, making something into an entity or reality that in and of itself isn’t. ‘Climate’ isn’t actually a thing, but is rather the statistical aggregate of weather, either as considered at one point or considered over time. And sure, while the statistical aggregate of weather changes over time (which, since weather changes over time, is hardly notable), it is fallacious to consider this statistical abstraction to be a thing which changes in the same way weather changes.

Now, given that weather is something that changes and which has always changed, it becomes very difficult to draw any particular correlation between a given activity and a given change in weather. After all, in comparison to the amount of weather which has occurred on the earth throughout its entire history, we have only experienced an infinitesimally small portion of that weather, and it is not entirely clear that we even have any meaningful way to measure it. Sure, we can take certain measurements over time of certain phenomena, but that only indicates that we can detect the things our tools allow us to measure, not that those measurements give us any meaningful insight into the weather, what causes it, etc. Our level of certainty can be increased when the models we develop are able to accurately predict phenomena, but even then we have only come to a level of certainty about the model’s predictive ability, not about its actual veracity in regards to the systems it studies.

As an example, Tycho Brahe’s geocentric model of the cosmos had predictive ability that was equal to (and in some cases greater than, since he had better data) Copernican models, even though we understand in retrospect that his model was not an accurate picture of the cosmos (actually, better put- not as accurate a picture). The bottom line is that even if a model has predictive ability it does not entail that it is necessarily a truthful reflection of the system it describes or predicts.

The upshot of this small digression is that from a standpoint of logic it is simply fallacious to say that if X model predicts that Z is the cause of Y, and Y is the case, therefore Z is necessarily the cause of Y. A consensus (no matter how great) on the legitimacy of model X would have no bearing on the logical implication. That is not to say that there might not be good reason to suspect that X is an accurate reflection of the reality it predicts, but in and of itself it can give no insight into its correlation with reality. (After all, it could be the case, and actually is, that competing models can achieve similar results, even though their causal mechanisms and assumptions are different, much like Brahe’s and Copernicus’ models had similarly accurate predictive outcomes, even though neither was an accurate reflection of the reality they predicted.)

That of course does not even touch on the accuracy of any given model, since ‘climate’ models have a notoriously bad track record at predicting ‘climate change’ even five years out, in which case we are not even dealing with a model with predictive value potentially reflecting the reality it predicts.

Now, it is obviously the case that humans have some impact on the world in which they live, as does anything else within that same system. In this sense, yes, any change within that system is going to be ‘man-made’ since humans are a part of that system. The crucial question, of course, is how much? And that question is essentially impossible to answer without a TARDIS, since the answer would entail, for example, that we knew the temperature (as one measurement of weather) in the past with a high degree of certainty. It is an assumption that we even know the temperature in any meaningful way now, and a further assumption that our understanding of this particular measurement provides an accurate assessment of how weather changes, what causes that weather to change, etc.

In other words, there are a multitude of factors (many of which we may not even be aware of or able to accurately measure) involved in weather change in any particular location at any particular time which would have to be known to understand how much human activity has contributed to ‘climate change.’ After all, the current weather patterns and changes could be something that happens regularly in earth’s history, it could be anomalous, it could be something in between. Without knowing with far greater certainty the past weather conditions of the planet, both locally and globally (if such a category is even meaningful), we have no way to know where our particular situation may fall.

Wheeew. So many fallacies. And we’re only 5 words in…

Man-made climate change kills a lot of people. It’s going to kill a lot more.

The careful reader will note that all of the unsubstantiated assumptions (and outright fallacies) from the former sentence are ratcheted up another level, because I guess when you’re writing stupid things it only makes sense to go all out.

Let’s leave aside, for a moment, the dubious notion of ‘man-made’ in this statement and take it as a given that humans have an impact on the world and thus some effect on any form of changing weather. Once we deconstruct the fallacious reification of ‘climate,’ we can finally get down to the actuality of it: weather kills a lot of people.

Now, this is trivially true (in the sense that it is uncontroversial, not that people dying is trivial) since weather of all kinds kills people all the time. Tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, blizzards; there are any number of weather related events which can send anyone packing to the great beyond. However, once the dubious notion of ‘climate’ as a thing is seen to actually be weather in any particular place and time (which is the only way in which anyone actually experiences weather), the entire point is nullified in regards to ‘man-made’ ‘climate change.’ After all, weather has been killing humans since humans have been around, whether they only construct fires in a cave or cruise down the strip in their new Hummer. And while humans have always tried to control the weather (dancing, bleeding, sacrificing, cutting carbon emissions), there is little to no evidence that any of these activities have actually succeeded, or would succeed, in changing the weather. We have become better (in some respects) at mitigating the effects of weather, but plenty of us are still caught in its wake.

Given that humans have always suffered the effects of weather, no matter how much they think they can control it, and since ‘climate’ is only a statistical abstraction (weather- especially local weather, being the only weather we experience), it is a dubious proposition to link any particular weather event with any particular human activity. Much like with temperature, we would have to understand the weather in the past much better than we do to even get an indirect understanding of how any one cause might affect a particular phenomenon; the only direct evidence for the legitimacy of any model would be its predictive value, noting of course the logical caveats listed above.

So yes, weather kills a lot of people, and since weather has always killed people, it is obvious that, yes, it is probably going to kill more. No one seriously questions that. The real question is to how one can unpack this from the fallacious assumptions already employed, which, as has been shown, has not been done.

But logical fallacies are fairly common, and not unexpected. What’s interesting to see, however, is how they can lead someone into buying a one-way ticket to crazy-town.

We have laws on the books to punish anyone whose lies contribute to people’s deaths. It’s time to punish the climate-change liars.

These few words should have a rather chilling affectation for anyone who has some semblance of reason left in their minds. For, as we have seen, this line of argument is predicated almost completely on beginning with question-begging, buttressing that with a reification fallacy, and culminating here with another slight semantic shift. A ‘lie,’ after all, assumes that the liar in question actually understands the truth of the proposition they are trying to deceive someone about. Thus, the author’s calumny here must make another assumption that presumes to know the thoughts and intents of those he disagrees with, so as to be able to characterize the opposition in question as ‘lies.’

After all, one can mislead someone about something without actually lying about it. If one is ignorant on some point- even partially- and that ignorance causes someone else to go astray on a particular point or action, such ignorance is misleading in that it actually misleads, but it is not necessarily lying in that it doesn’t necessarily arise from intent to deceive. Of course, the author seems to operate on the assumption that the truth of ‘man-made climate change’ (as he understands and articulates it, of course) is so obvious and incontrovertible that an objection of skepticism on this point is not a different interpretation of evidence but rather deceit, and further, is deceit that should be punished.

The difficulty, of course, is that our author has not actually established any rational basis for deeming a differing opinion on ‘man-made climate-change’ as ‘lies.’ Instead we simply have another assumption stacked on top of the others.

And while one might be forgiven for thinking that our author is just some raving crank who has too high an opinion of himself, he appeals to the authority of another:

This is an argument that’s just being discussed seriously in some circles. It was laid out earlier this month, with all the appropriate caveats, by Lawrence Torcello, a philosophy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

I’m not sure if this is supposed to lend credibility to our author’s fallacious reasoning thus far, but the good professor seems as oblivious to critical reasoning as our author, which makes him, I suppose, a fitting source.

There is a clear precedent, Torcello says, in L’Aquila, Italy, where six seismologists were convicted of manslaughter in connection with a 2009 earthquake that killed 309 people. The scientists weren’t convicted because they failed to predict an earthquake; no one can make such a prediction with reliable precision. But they were convened to study a series of tremors the week before the quake, and tacitly signed off on a government official’s public message that “the situation looks favorable” and residents should chill out with some wine.

It is hard to imagine that a philosophy professor (assuming our author is quoting him correctly) could engage in such poor reasoning, but it bears pointing out that the mere existence of a clear precedent says absolutely nothing about the legitimacy, value, correctness or justice of that precedent. After all, there have been lots of legal decisions that are absolutely unjust; simply because they have been made within a particular legal system’s strictures of jurisprudence offers no commentary on the goodness, badness or insanity of such decisions.

It is perhaps supposed to be a little heartening that the scientists weren’t convicted for failing to predict the unpredictable (just wait, we’ll get there someday!), but it is far more disturbing that they were convicted at all, since, as far as knowing when an earthquake will actually occur, we have no ability to know exactly if it will strike, how bad it will be, whether people should prepare, etc. The same set of assumptions that have formed the basis of our author’s erroneous excursion so far line the margins of this decision, no doubt why our author (and the good professor) try to locate a ‘clear precedent’ here.

Their “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information,” the court found, contributed to the residents’ fatal lack of preparations for bigger tremors.

It is, of course, regrettable that the tremors resulted in fatalities. However, given our limited understanding of earthquakes, what precipitates them, what conditions make them ‘ripe’ for actualization, how large they will be, etc., it is difficult to imagine how the information here could be anything but ‘inexact, incomplete and contradictory.’ The nature of any piece of information is that it is open to interpretation, sometimes even contradictory interpretations depending on the level of detail, the amount of data, etc. It is not my intent to critique what I understand to be truly unjust ruling, but rather to point out that appeals to it as a precedent merely operate on similar assumptions.

On a secondary level, that this is supposedly a precedent is undermined by the distinction in cases, which mires our author in a category error. Presumably, the ruling here is not that the seismologists lied or tried to deceive anyone, but rather, as the ruling states, they offered incomplete, inexact and contradictory information. All of these adjectives are applicable to ignorance, to differing opinions, to differing interpretation, to differing ideologies, and a host of other reasons. Nowhere in the ruling are we lead to believe (as far as I am aware) that the seismologists knowingly misled anyone. True, their recommendation had the effect of misleading people (again, ignorance, et al. can achieve this end), but as demonstrated earlier, simply because someone was misled does not entail that a lie was involved.

In some ways it would be less chilling of a ruling if they had brazenly lied. Rather, we have a situation where they were wrong, their information was incomplete and inexact, and based on this incomplete information they offered a (in hindsight) incorrect assessment. The chilling thing is that this characterizes nearly all (if not all) of our knowledge about anything, for there is no body of information that is complete, no physical evidence that offers a self-evident interpretation, no prediction or assessment that cannot be contradicted by another equally viable alternative.

But I get a bit beyond myself. Our author shifts categories here, for while the seismologists in question weren’t guilty of lying (even though people died), he understands that this sets a precedent to punish people for ‘lying’ about ‘climate change,’ even though the field is entrenched in as much incomplete and inexact information and contradictory interpretations as seismology. Whereas the precedent is about outcomes, our author wants to use that precedent to be about intents.

In fact, he essentially admits this in his next paragraph:

This is one reason why in the coastal South, where I’m from, you rarely hear TV weathermen and laboratory meteorologists dismiss a tropical storm as no big deal, especially after Katrina. Hurricane season is a big deal, and residents are encouraged to take safety precautions, to prevent a weather pattern from becoming a life-altering nightmare. Constant vigilance is a very American response to external threats.

In this situation, the weatherman’s over-vigilance is not about lying or telling the truth since 1. weather prediction is notoriously difficult to achieve a high level of success with 2. living in areas prone to large-scale disasters requires that one to be mindful of the potential risk. Even here, however, there would seem to be a distinction between storms and earthquakes. True, there are areas more susceptible to earthquakes, and while there may be signs that an earthquake may be imminent, it is difficult to predict with any level of certainty. Storms, such as tropical storms which turn into hurricanes, are an already existing phenomenon that can be more easily tracked, and the trajectory, intensity and such can be measured to some degree and adjusted. There is still a large margin of error and uncertainty, but it seems to be categorically different from trying to predict when an earthquake will strike, where and how severe.

Notwithstanding all that, there is still no indication that there is any element of deception here, which is what our author is trying to get at. It is also still unclear how this actually relates to ‘man-made climate change.’

Except, that is, where climate change is concerned. It is one of the rare threats to safety and stability where a large swath of U.S. commercial culture has marshaled tons of resources to tell Americans: It’s not happening. Don’t sweat it. It’s no big deal.

It is not quite clear if the author is trying to provide a running list of logical fallacies or not, but the hits just keep on coming. The astute reader will note that the bogey-man of ‘man-made climate change’ as described by our author is, to this point in the article, merely built upon assumptions, errors in logic and semantic sleight of hand. As we come into this section, we have ‘man-made climate change’ as a ‘rare threat to safety and stability.’ A threat, of course, is something that has potential to inflict injury, whether intentionally or because of its nature. But a threat also implies that one has good reason to suppose injury will result from some action or interaction. For example, a hurricane is a threat because we have experience of hurricanes doing immense damage. Any particular hurricane may or may not do damage, and the threat is predicated upon understanding that potentiality.

‘Climate-change,’ on the other hand, is not a reified entity but rather the description of weather over time. True, weather can certainly be a threat, but that threat is predicated upon us knowing and understanding not only the effects of any particular weather, but also being able to reasonably extrapolate its effects in the future. And for this to occur, one would have to have a model which has a track record of accurately predicting future weather changes. Again, this would not entail that the model is necessarily an accurate reflection of reality; merely that it has high predictive value.

The fallacy our author falls into is tacitly assuming that evidence from what certain models predict for future ‘climate change’ counts as evidence for ‘man-made climate change’ itself, and further would allow one to categorize one who argues towards different outcomes as being engaged in an act of deception. Unfortunately for our author, that models which have had little predictive success predict X in the future is simply not evidence for X. Yet out author decides to continue with this madness:

Attempts to deceive the public on climate change, and to consequently block any public policy to tackle it, contribute to roughly 150,000 deaths a year already—Torcello again:

More deaths can already be attributed to climate change than the L’Aquila earthquake and we can be certain that deaths from climate change will continue to rise with global warming. Nonetheless, climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis.

Firstly, there is the curious notion that attempts to deceive the public on climate change contribute to 150,000 deaths a year. One would be inclined to ask how this number was arrived at, notwithstanding of course the presumption of clairvoyance which allows anyone to see into the thoughts and intents of someone so as to characterize their opinion on ‘climate change’ as an ‘attempt to deceive.’ After all, if it is merely a ‘contributing’ cause, it bears asking how much of a contribution it made? 5%? 10%? 75%? This is notoriously muddled thinking, which one might expect form our author, but which is surprising from a philosophy professor. After all, how does one meaningfully measure the effect of an abstraction? But since ‘climate-change’ is really ‘weather,’ it becomes even more difficult to draw a direct correlation between any particular weather event (from which people surely die and which is measurable) and a statistical abstraction which may or may not have any meaningful relationship to weather changes that occur in any particular place or time. The error here seems to be conflating the particular (X weather event) with the general (Y statistical aggregate of observed phenomena).

The professor continues with his muddled reasoning by falling into the same error as our author, attributing certainty to something about which we have no certainty. Granted, since people have always died from weather, and since there are more people today than in history, it certainly stands to reason that more people will die from weather simply because there are more people available to die from weather.

But let’s return to those 150,000 deaths. Our author (and possibly the professor) seems to draw this from a WHO report (to which our author links). The actual wording of the report is quite telling:

That estimate includes deaths as a result of extreme weather conditions, which may be occurring with increased frequency. Changes in temperature and rainfall conditions also may influence transmission patterns for many diseases, including water-related diseases, such as diarrhoea, and vector-borne infections, including malaria. Finally, climate change may affect patterns of food production, which in turn can have health impacts in terms of rates of malnutrition.

Notice, of course, that one major cause of death is “extreme weather events,” which, tellingly, “may” be increasing. Also, changes in temperature and rainfall “may” influence disease transmission patterns. Also, ‘climate change’ “may” affect patterns of food production.

It is interesting to note that if one excises the reified abstraction of ‘climate-change,’ the rest of it is fairly straightforward, since it describes actual phenomena in particular places and times. But WHO goes on to deal in the same methodological fallacy noted above:

There is further evidence that unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions would increase disease burdens in the coming decades. The risks are concentrated in the poorest populations, who have contributed the least to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

Once again, that X might occur is not evidence for X. That of course does not even touch upon how there could be any such thing as “unmitigated” greenhouse emissions, since the finite nature of any such emissions is mitigation in and of itself.

And now, back to the crazy:

Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics.

Now, our author’s statement here is against the backdrop of the professor’s note that “climate denial” (whatever that is!) is a serious deterrent against meaningful political action. There is a tacit assumption amongst both our author and the professor (which is probably not surprising) that governmental intervention is seen as a necessary response to ‘man-made climate change.’ Yet this looming bogeyman of “climate denialists” has not actually been substantiated, beyond a sort of incipient conspiracy theory. There could be any number of reasons certain governments haven’t responded to ‘climate change’ in the way our betters here desire:

1. They don’t find the evidence for ‘man-made climate change’ compelling
2. There are economic impacts that some of the proposed solutions require which they are unwilling to make
3. They want to be contrarian

There are, of course, far more reasons that could be adduced. Importantly, each of these could both be compatible with ‘climate denialists’ having undue impact and with them having absolutely no impact at all. Without substantiation, such an argument is merely an assumption at best, a conspiracy theory at worst.

The most troubling thing at this point is that our author has constructed an edifice on logical fallacies, and wants to top it off by putting people in jail. If that isn’t chilling to intellectual freedom and inquiry, I’m not exactly sure what could be. Oh, but our author wants to dial back the crazy a little bit- it’s not as absurd as you are thinking, don’t you know:

Let’s make a clear distinction here: I’m not talking about the man on the street who thinks Rush Limbaugh is right, and climate change is a socialist United Nations conspiracy foisted by a Muslim U.S. president on an unwitting public to erode its civil liberties.

You all know that man. That man is an idiot. He is too stupid to do anything other than choke the earth’s atmosphere a little more with his Mr. Pibb burps and his F-150’s gassy exhaust. Few of us believers in climate change can do much more—or less—than he can.

Thanks goodness, for a moment there I thought our author really wanted to imprison anyone who hasn’t rushed out to trade in their aging Prius for a brand new Nissan Leaf. Don’t you worry; if you own a truck we don’t actually mean we’ll put you in jail. It’s much easier to simply erect a caricature and insult everyone who doesn’t agree with you as ignorant.

You know, as long as we’re making distinctions.

Nor am I talking about simple skeptics, particularly the scientists who must constantly hypo-test our existing assumptions about the world in order to check their accuracy. That is part and parcel of the important public policy discussion about what we do next.

I’m guessing that by “hypo-test our existing assumptions,” our author doesn’t actually mean his, since that is about all this post has consisted of.

But there is scientific skepticism… and there is a malicious, profiteering quietist agenda posturing as skepticism. There is uncertainty about whether man-made climate change can be stopped or reversed… and there is the body of purulent pundits, paid sponsors, and corporate grifters who exploit the smallest uncertainty at the edges of a settled science.

I’m talking about Rush and his multi-million-dollar ilk in the disinformation business. I’m talking about Americans for Prosperity and the businesses and billionaires who back its obfuscatory propaganda. I’m talking about public persons and organizations and corporations for whom denying a fundamental scientific fact is profitable, who encourage the acceleration of an anti-environment course of unregulated consumption and production that, frankly, will screw my son and your children and whatever progeny they manage to have.

Our author still hasn’t answered the question as to why these people (well, we have one person- Rush- and host of faceless ‘thems’) should be put into prison for the things they say or promote. The author may feel that the ‘science is settled’ (which is a statement utterly repugnant to scientific inquiry and belies his presumptions), but he has yet to demonstrate that the positions taken and promulgated rise to the level of disinformation, lying, deception, etc. They could be wrong, they could be right, everyone could be wrong, but unless one has some sort of magical insight into another’s motives and intentions, it becomes very difficult to determine that someone who holds a contrary position on a contentious issue is necessarily guilty of lying. Again, they could very well be boneheadedly wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily entail deception.

Yet our author, despite having no insight into the minds and hearts of the faceless bogeymen whom he believes are responsible for the lack of movement on addressing his assumptions regarding ‘man-made climate change,’ insists that the right course of action to take is to put them in prison. That he cannot see that such a notion is nonsensical is frightening. Hence, we get this little gem:

Those malcontents must be punished and stopped.

Sometimes stupidity is its own megaphone.

Deniers will, of course, fuss and stomp and beat their breasts and claim this is persecution, this is a violation of free speech. Of course, they already say that now, when judges force them into doing penance for comparing climate scientists to child-rapist and denial poster-boy Jerry Sandusky.

Ah, nothing quite like the smell of a good ad hominem in the morning. Beyond that, however, our author doesn’t seem to realize that simply because one event in a long-running legal fiasco goes the way he wishes it to go does not entail that such appeals to the first amendment are therefore illegitimate. Nor do one commentator’s comments have any actual bearing on the justice of jailing those whom one disagrees with. This sort of hand-waving may have some measure of rhetorical effect (although the commentator in question has far greater rhetorical skills than our author here…), but it is of simply no relevance to this particular issue.

But First Amendment rights have never been absolute. You still can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater.

Ah, categorical errors, where would we be without you?

You shouldn’t be able to yell “balderdash” at 10,883 scientific journal articles a year, all saying the same thing: This is a problem, and we should take some preparations for when it becomes a bigger problem.

Really, all 10,883 articles say ‘the same thing?’ I guess redundancy isn’t a particularly trying issue in the field of, well, actually, we are never told what field all these papers are from, merely that they all generically researched ‘man-made climate change’, which actually gives the game away since if one is going to characterize a multitude of articles as studying the very thing one is intending to prove by referencing them, you have managed to illustrate what begging the question entails.

The reality is that of these thousands of articles, the research involved is (on some level; some greater, some lesser) that humans affect the weather in some way, which, as mentioned earlier, is obviously true. The trick to be teased out in any article, peer reviewed or not, is what sort of effect that might be, how much it is likely to contribute to anything involving the weather, what sort of predictive value the models employed have, whether the assumptions underlying the methodology lead to the very conclusion one is researching, etc. It is actually somewhat surprising that 2 articles (we are told) flat out rejected humans having any impact on the weather, since it is obvious that humans do. Hence, at the link we find that this is the distinction being made between the 10000+ articles and the 2, which doesn’t really say much of anything, except what it doesn’t say which is that they are all saying the same thing that the author supposes they say.

Willful, profiteering public deniers of climate change can compare themselves to Galileo all they want, pretending that they’re voices of sanity in a cruel wilderness.

So if the denial is willful, our author now presumes that he knows that these odious deniers know that humans are responsible for all the icky ‘climate-change’ but want to profit off of, well, I’m not sure what. There is money to be made on many sides of the issue (a perhaps inconvenient truth…), so it simply doesn’t follow that garnering profit or even having a motive for profit has any bearing on this discussion. Rather, it is far more transparently another attempt at hand-waving, and not an overly convincing one.

But Galileo had science on his side.

Actually, Galileo didn’t have science on his side in regards to to issue for which he is most well known. In fact. at the time the ‘science’ was more convincingly on the side of geocentric models and explanations of the cosmos since there were some stubborn issues (stellar parallax, for example) that the scientific tools of the day simply could not overcome. The means of measuring and assessing the cosmos at the time fell more convincingly against Galileo, and he even resorted to a rather absurd argument (the misguided argument from the tides) that everyone knew was bogus, and which he should have known was as well. Rather, he doubled down on it even when presented with evidence (which he intentionally sought out, no less!) that ’settled the science’ in that it wasn’t just the earth’s spinning around the sun that made the tides rise and fall. In a fun twist, he openly mocked Kepler’s hypothesis that the moon was an instrumental cause of the motion of the tides. As such, I’m not sure Galileo is the best one to invoke here… Ah, screw it. SCIENCE!

He had a telescope aimed at the cosmos.

The interesting thing about Galileo’s telescope is that, because of the limitation of the optics, he was led to suppose distances for stars which were inaccurate because of the airy disc phenomenon. The observation and interpretation of the data is only as good as the ability to measure or observe any particular phenomena, which might lead one to have a bit more humility about how ‘settled’ anything in science is since most things that have been settled science at one time are consigned to the dustbin of history eventually.

Climate deniers have their heads jammed in the sand… or in a barrel of money.

Yep, a double dose of ad hominems is just what the doctor ordered.

There is a lot we can do societally, now, not just in terms of reducing our contributions to the global climate’s maladies but in terms of preparing for its effects: rising seas and temperatures. Changes in crops and food supplies. Increased population density and disease. There is a chance to make society safer and smarter.

Global climate? I was thinking that it was just about time we had a bit more reification. It should be noted, of course, that our author makes another giant assumption in that it is simply presumed that this change in ‘global climate’ is a malady and will as such lead to changes that, presumably, are also deleterious in nature. However, what precisely is the evidence for this since we don’t have any way of knowing what the effects of such weather fluctuations are (remember, all of this is usually presumed to be ‘unprecedented!)? It hardly bears repeating (but nevertheless I will!) that a prediction of given X, Y is simply not evidence for X. And here’s the kicker- from the standpoint of logic even a correct prediction of Y is not necessarily an airtight case for X being true; it could be the case that Y is actually brought about by A, or Z, or A and Z or something else altogether. In fact, there is a probably a model of given B, Y that fits the observations just as well.

If you have all of this information at your command and that reform project still scares you, if you think it necessarily entails a sacrifice of your personal freedom that you cannot brook, fine. That’s a debate we can have.

But we cannot have the debate that the argument being advanced is predicated on fallacious reasoning?

But if you are actively trying to deny people the tools they need to inform themselves, to protect themselves against a scientifically proven threat to life and limb, you shouldn’t be part of the debate.

As we have been helpfully informed, there were over 10,000 peer reviewed papers last year alone that said exactly the same thing that the author is saying about the icky bad no good things that ‘man-made climate change’ is going to bring. And as we were also helpfully informed, there were only 2 that objected to this consensus. Further, the unwashed ignorants in their trucks and with their Mr. Pibb bottles don’t really matter to this discussion, because Mr. Pibb makes you ignorant, or something.

So what we have is Rush Limbaugh and some other faceless rich people (because evidently only faceless rich people deny science!) who have had apparently little to no effect on the academic consensus so helpfully highlighted herein and who seem to be only able to reach the ignorants who don’t matter that much anyway. All of this raises the question- who exactly is being denied the tools they need to inform and protect themselves? The Mr. Pibb drinkers who don’t matter? The 99.98 percent of academics who publish (usually with funding of some kind, oops! Rich people, ack!) about the ‘settled science of man-made climate change?’ The government leaders who have access to the IPCC’s policy brief for policy makers that makes much of the same case as the 99.98 percent of academics who research ‘man-made climate change?’

Wait, a little while ago I thought that it was suddenly a bad and illegitimate thing to complain about persecution? What!?!? A convenient double-standard? How could this have happened!

You should be punished for your self-serving malice.

They need only be coerced into reading this article, because the stupid is so painful it would probably be punishment enough.

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Jason Watson

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