Monday, February 12, 2007

Dissecting articles from Realclimate.org

WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand
Filed under: Climate Science RC Forum— group @ 8:38 am
While the rest of the world has basically accepted the conclusion of the latest IPCC report, one small village still holds out against the tide - the Wall Street Journal editorial board. This contrasts sharply with the news section of the paper which is actually pretty good. They had a front-page piece on business responses to global warming issues which not only pointed out that business was taking an interest in carbon reduction, but the article more or less took as a given that the problem was real. However, as we have pointed out before, the editorial pages operate in a universe all their own.


I will start with their latest headline piece - It is very typical anyhow. As far as the title goes, using a metaphor is a form of "proof by ridicule". What exactly they are trying to prove is not obvious to start with, but the means they are using is attacking an opinion piece. To falsify a scientific statement you must use science, to falsify an opinion you must use ridicule. Fairly obvious, but they are not really showing their hand.

The first sentence uses the terms "village" and "Tide". I am not sure if this is subliminally pushing the "sea is rising" fear triggers, but is the tide public opinion? Public opinion of what? The tide is of pro-environmentalism and the village is of dissenting opinions published in news & magazines. Almost all magazines (including "the Economist") have stopped publishing dissenting views (whether they be scientists or whatever). I am not really sure why that is, but for instance, the Economist has not recently written anything at all from Bjorn Lomborg, while a couple of years ago, they backed him up in almost everything he said.

The third sentence mentions business responses and interest, and the taking as a given that the PROBLEM is REAL (by the front page article). The science demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that there is global warming and that humans are the predominant factor. That it is a "problem" is a much less scientifically tested assertion. Proving that there is global warming and that it is caused by humans does not prove that there is a problem in itself. Also, there is the assertion that it is the most significant environmental problem. This assumes a prioritised list, but prioritised lists have been rejected as presumptious.

The fourth sentence is again criticising the opinion piece, and again ridiculing it. I have found this type of tactic in operation with groups of evangelical christians. It was exceedingly effective when used in groups of majority christians and a minority of uncommitted youths. They would ridicule (say) evolution, and attack the inconsistencies of darwinism and any proven errors any Darwinist has ever made. It is difficult for an uncommitted person to resist this kind of peer pressure. I think this is what is happening in Realclimate. There are a majority of readers which are "converted" and a minority of uncommitted and recalcitrant, which is a perfect environment for winning over the uncommitted.

2 comments:

kat said...

Hi Marco, I found your blog via your thoughtful comment on RC. (and Suprisingly Blogger is letting me access comments pages today)

"I will start with their latest headline piece - It is very typical anyhow. As far as the title goes, using a metaphor is a form of "proof by ridicule". What exactly they are trying to prove is not obvious to start with, but the means they are using is attacking an opinion piece. To falsify a scientific statement you must use science, to falsify an opinion you must use ridicule."

This is my experience of RC...I was referred there recently by a fellow blogger when I posted some queries about Gore's movie. What I have observed is that many of the debating tactics used by RC and their readership seem to centre around ridicule and put downs. In my case, I found this counterproductive, distracting attention from the facts themselves and making it difficult to respect the authority of what is being said.

It's also a sad indictment against an intellectual community that claims to be concerned about the welfare of humanity and the environment.

Marco said...

It is quite frustrating, and I mainly still comment there just because I am likely to get a reply. I much prefer dialogue to monologue, and most of my questions are not "frequently asked".