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Why climate skeptics other positions matter

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Dana recently posed this question on Y!A: 

 

"Is it a coincidence that global warming "skeptics" make a lot of scientifically questionable claims?"

 

and provided some further discussion about skeptics like Spencer and Lindzen:

 

"Roy Spencer is a huge proponent of Intelligent Design (he also claimed the lower atmosphere was cooling until his analysis was proven wrong). Roy Lindzen doesn't think secondhand smoke causes lung cancer. Neither does Fred Singer, or that CFCs caused the hole in the ozone layer."

 

In one of the responses, d/dx (who also posts here as Whiteshell) responds to Dana with this:

 

"Skeptics such as Spencer that make unconnected false claims do lose credibility, but this really has no bearing on their AGW claims. I don't value ad hominem arguments. It is tedious, but each claim should be examined independently."

 

Rather than respond on Y!A, which isn't really a forum for discussion, and all of Dana's questions get deleted anyway, I am going to respond here. 

 

The scientific positions of climate skeptics unrelated to climate are important and relevant and *not* ad hominem attacks because they demonstrate that skeptics are, by and large, not objective scientists.  I submit it is impossible to be an objective scientist and believe in intelligent design (or deny the link between environmental tobacco smoke and health effects although the case becomes a little less defined (to be honest, Lindzen is far too cagey to come out and say such a thing (Crichton is on record saying there is no link, and Lindzen and Crichton often speak at the same venues so it is easy to conflate their opinions)).  But back to ID, the hard evidence for evolution by random genetic mutation followed by selective pressure is too great for any rational thinking scientist to deny, and belief in ID is religion, not science.  So a scientist going on record in support of ID shows a fundamental lack of rational objectivity about the physical world, and a predisposition to put emotional bias into data analysis.  Once a scientists has done that, one must regard all of their work with suspicion, since they have lost the right to claim they are dispassionate objective observers of the physical world.  Therefore, I agree with Dana that climate skeptics other scientific statements are highly relevant, especially those that demonstrate a  loss of objectivity, or faith in unseen motive forces in the universe.  In short, many skeptics are not scientists. 

post #2 of 10

The concept of scientific objectivity was along my lines of thinking too.  I certainly agree with Whitestar that nobody's research or assertions should be outright dismissed regardless of who they are, but a person's history and background is also a good indicator as to how credible their conclusions might be.

 

I think Spencer is a perfect example.  He's become the most frequently cited 'expert' by the deniers, and I find his credibility extremely questionable.  The fact that he and Christy screwed up the satellite atmospheric temperature analysis so badly is a huge blunder to begin with, and the fact that he thinks Intelligent Design is as valid a theory as Evolution - his scientific objectivity becomes highly questionable.

 

Again I'm not saying his conclusions on global warming should be dismissed, but nor should he be considered some brilliant expert who's proven all other climate scientists wrong.  Whitestar also provided an example as to why his conclusions on global warming are scientifically wrong, but for your average joe who doesn't understand concepts like dipole moments, that probably won't help them.

 

To me if you can't understand the scientific complexities it boils down to the question 'can I trust that this guy is right and the vast majority of other climate scientists are wrong?'.  And when these guys think secondhand smoke or asbestos aren't health risks or that Intelligent Design is scientifically valid or that CFCs don't damage the ozone layer, etc. etc., they don't pass that credibility standard.

 

If you have a good grasp of the science you can just evaluate the arguments on their own merit, but if you don't understand the science (and we all know the vast majority of deniers don't), credibility and scientific objectivity can play a role in determining if a person might be making a valid argument.


Edited by dana1981 - Mon, 29 Dec 2008 20:12:55 UTC
post #3 of 10

i was going to give a new scientist link on the early tobacco funded scientists and the straight line descent though into c.c. denial industry, but its all in here with much much more. we do have some good resources of our own, dont we? they havnt won yet.....

www.sourcewatch.org/index.php

and

www.desmogblog.com/monbiot-tassc-and-the-tobacco-climate-change-cover-up


Edited by gerda - Tue, 30 Dec 2008 21:23:27 GMT
post #4 of 10

This reasoning comes close to supporting the concept that we should totally trust all of a person's statements or reject all of them. It is a view out of religion, that says that if God is speaking through one, then each and every thing one says will be true, and any evidence that some position one has taken may not be sound demonstrates that God was not speaking through that person, and probably has never spoken through that person.

 

Well, I will go on record as saying that I doubt that God is ever speaking through anyone at any time. Also, no matter that God was not talking through anyone in the past, they may have a good idea later, and I will again not apply the test of absolute credibility to determine that this person is not the voice of God. I assume that to begin with.

 

The point to be observed is that all people suffer from a mistaken idea about the need to teach those who appear to disagree with us. When people do not agree with us we have failed to communicate at their level.  We have in all likelihood never really tried to look through their eyes, treating them as an enemy.

 

Try to realize that someone who asks you to prove what is not provable at a level of absolute certainty, is doing what ever so many people in science will do as a put down, as a means of clinging to their current view. Scientists too cling vehemently to their current point of view, they often resist fiercely any idea that disrupts their mindset. Scientists are not always totally open to all new ideas if the new idea calls for setting aside anything that they have decided they can know for a fact.

 

Some scientists will for example insist that natural selection has been the  primary driving force of evolution, whereas there is powerful, compelling evidence that most of the course of evolution is guided by random acts of recombinant DNA. Now this is not basically disputed today, but some of the old arguments about missing links that have plagued the discussion of evolution fit right into the notch in understanding that recombinant DNA fills.

 

post #5 of 10

dont forget horizontal tranfer don....

i do get what you are on about. it does no one any favours if scientists make statements not backed up by research as has happened in the animal testing debate, as it lays them wide open to accusations of dogma and falsehood. its a bummer, we have to be whiter than white while the skeptics can use any tactics they like...

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by donfletcher:

This reasoning comes close to supporting the concept that we should totally trust all of a person's statements or reject all of them. It is a view out of religion, that says that if God is speaking through one, then each and every thing one says will be true, and any evidence that some position one has taken may not be sound demonstrates that God was not speaking through that person, and probably has never spoken through that person.

 

Well, I will go on record as saying that I doubt that God is ever speaking through anyone at any time. Also, no matter that God was not talking through anyone in the past, they may have a good idea later, and I will again not apply the test of absolute credibility to determine that this person is not the voice of God. I assume that to begin with.

 

The point to be observed is that all people suffer from a mistaken idea about the need to teach those who appear to disagree with us. When people do not agree with us we have failed to communicate at their level.  We have in all likelihood never really tried to look through their eyes, treating them as an enemy.

 

Try to realize that someone who asks you to prove what is not provable at a level of absolute certainty, is doing what ever so many people in science will do as a put down, as a means of clinging to their current view. Scientists too cling vehemently to their current point of view, they often resist fiercely any idea that disrupts their mindset. Scientists are not always totally open to all new ideas if the new idea calls for setting aside anything that they have decided they can know for a fact.

 

Some scientists will for example insist that natural selection has been the  primary driving force of evolution, whereas there is powerful, compelling evidence that most of the course of evolution is guided by random acts of recombinant DNA. Now this is not basically disputed today, but some of the old arguments about missing links that have plagued the discussion of evolution fit right into the notch in understanding that recombinant DNA fills.

 

 

It appears you are missing the point.  The idea Dana and I are driving at is that it is very hard, almost impossible, for someone to be objective in one technical area but swayed by personal prejudice, religion, and faith in a second technical area.  Once you have definitively compromised your objectivity in one area, I argue it is virtually impossible to claim you are still object in a second.  Climate skeptics like Spencer soundly fall into this category, where he is a proponent of a non-scientific theory regarding the origin of life and the process of evolution.  By writing books on the correctness of intelligent design, he has abrogated any assumption of objectivity in all areas of science.  Therefore, I see little difference in his position there and his position on climate, in that he clearly dislikes the idea that there is a discernable effect of human activity on climate, so he goes to almost any length to disprove the idea, including intellectual dishonesty and injecting bias into his data analysis. 

 

I am baffled by your description of evolution.  Richard Dawkins explains ad nauseum that evolution proceeds via random mutation followed by adaptive pressure through natural selection.  The two are not distinct mechanisms, but work hand in hand to allow organisms to evolve.  Recombinant modification of genes in the absence of selective pressure does nothing to allow an organism to evolve, it just increases genetic diversity without weeding out harmful mutations. 

post #7 of 10

i thought he was talking about gentic drift, which comes into play in large homogenous populations.

post #8 of 10

The concept of recombinant DNA as a base for creation of new species does not depend on any assumption of natural selection, nor does it preclude that driver.

 

When an individual within a species encounters a block of DNA that gets attached at any locus of the original species double helix we have a significantly different outcome than we have with a simple substitution at some point along the chain.

 

Recombinant blocks of DNA can produce a new species in a single step. That is to say that we can go from one species to another without a lot of intermediate steps. And by doing so we do not need to explain how we get there without having a whole series of missing links. We do not need to assume that all those intermediate steps must have died off by natural selection if they never existed.

 

We can see that within a species we can have individual mutations that do not give rise to a new species, and we can see how that can lead to similar but different variants that are still capable of interbreeding. What makes a new species incapable of interbreeding is a change in the DNA such that there is no way for the DNA of one to mate with the other. Most times simple mutation where no new chromosomes are present, none are missing, will not go on to produce a new species, unable to interbreed.

 

Accidental inclusion of a sequence of chromosomes from another species has the clear potential to do so.

 

But this differs from Darwinian reasoning only in that it does not depend on natural selection as a driving cause. Natural selection might also happen, but not needed to explain the appearance of new species.

 

It is not always necessary to look to some person with whom one disasgrees to find evidence that people are too much attached to their own understanding. That characteristic is much more widespread than that.

 

post #9 of 10

I think that there is an important distinction to be made between the veracity of comments made from a lack of knowledge and comments made from a lack of objectivity.  A good scientist speaks with two voices and makes the distinction between what he/she knows about and what he/she has limited knowledge about.  I do biospectroscopy and rely on biologists to handle the samples.  I am painfully aware that I don't know enough biology to comment at more than a superficial level on the biology and make that distinction.  While my informal comments (I'm not bold enough to publish outside of my topic area) about biology take into account that fraction of the information I have looked at, my biologist collaborators have a much better overall understanding of that aspect.  If I make an error outside my area of competence, it does not necessarily diminish the value of statements made within my area of competence. In fairness, one should presume that comments from scientists, including GW skeptics are made honestly and objectively unless proven otherwise.  I do not fault a skeptic for ignorance outside his/her area of competence, but I agree with Dana and gncp that lack of objectively can be condemned.  

post #10 of 10

oops, triple post! oh well, i'll use the space to assemble a few resources on denier psychology;

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

 


Edited by gerda - Sun, 22 Feb 2009 21:34:56 GMT
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