Denialism

This from the always lucid Massimo Pigliucci is worth a read.   A key paragraph:

Denialists have even begun to appropriate the technical language of informal logic: when told that a majority of climate scientists agree that the planet is warming up, they are all too happy to yell “argument from authority!” When they are told that they should distrust statements coming from the oil industry and from “think tanks” in their pockets they retort “genetic fallacy!” And so on. Never mind that informal fallacies are such only against certain background information, and that it is eminently sensible and rational to trust certain authorities (at the least provisionally), as well as to be suspicious of large organizations with deep pockets and an obvious degree of self-interest.

Seen a lot of that around here.

via Leiter.

36 thoughts on “Denialism”

  1. “”when told that a majority of climate scientists agree that the planet is warming up, they are all too happy to yell ….”””

    ‘Science’ isn’t a matter of majority-rule

    Never mind that the vast majority of climate models which everyone used to “agree”…

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/02/10/95-of-climate-models-agree-the-observations-must-be-wrong/

    … have all been proven wildly overblown compared to actual observations.

    The fact is that most people don’t actually disagree about “Climate Change” as much as leftists like to claim. People disagree about *policy* which should (or should not) do anything about it.

    Leftists then claim that anyone who disagrees with their policy imperatives is Anti-Science. Its really *classy*

  2. And as Sean Leather demonstrates, as I stroll around the grounds of this site, they pretend snark is an argument.

    What this post demonstrates is better called “Groupthink Denialism”. When a piece of Sanctified Groupthink like Global Warming Alarmism fails, all rationality goes out the window, and the discussion, which used to consist of actual argument and persuasion, doused heavily with Groupthink and snark, descends completely into the latter. More and more people jump off the global warming bandwagon, more and more articulate voices start expressing skepticism, and the forbearing majority become the enlightened (though not quite as forbearing) minority (never mind that it is not the imperative of the minority to forbear.)

    Global Warming Alarmism was central to the entire Liberal identity and self-image. It was a key pillar of the Liberal cartoon universe where ‘rationality’ and scientific discovery lined squarely and completely with mass-media liberalism, with all opposition deriving from ‘irrationality’ and obscuritanism.

    Whoops. Let’s try that one again.

  3. I don’t know Casey. I think you and Pigliucci have demonstrated my point(s) rather lucidly in both of your scrupulous evasions of substance from any discussion of AGW. So lucidly that I would, if I could, put it all in a glass case.

    No one can deny that disconfirming evidence for AGW exists, and this evidence has expanded to the point to where the Alarmist has no choice but to denigrate it and scoff at it. The merits of the case (if, perhaps, not its rectitude) are simply too strong for this denigration even to be accompanied by a smidgen of substantive discussion. Allowing substance in now allows skepticism a hearing. The only way to preclude this hearing is thus to disallow substance completely.

    Circular Scoffing, Mr. Casey, is a rearguard action. Pigiucci had to engage in special pleading, question-begging, *and* ad-hominem all in one fell swoop in the statement you quoted. He assumes simply that he is right in every case, that “the science” objectively and completely corresponds with *his* understanding of “the science”, that there are mental problems or moral problems with anyone so foolish as to disagree with him.

    What you linked to, and called an illuminating piece of analysis, was something that was in fact utterly unilluminating, but, for altogether different reasons, highly interesting. It is a prime example of what I could call Meta-Mutual Admiration Society.

    It is the price of retreat from substance. There is nothing for the Mutual Admiration Society to Admire but their mutual admiration for each other. They hence can only write about their admiration, and so on. Eventually, the rest of the world leaves the Society to admire each other.

  4. Here’s Pigliucci: “Denialists have even begun to appropriate the technical language of informal logic”

    Here’s you, hilariously: “Circular Scoffing, Mr. Casey, is a rearguard action. Pigiucci had to engage in special pleading, question-begging, *and* ad-hominem all in one fell swoop in the statement you quoted. He assumes simply that he is right in every case, that “the science” objectively and completely corresponds with *his* understanding of “the science”, that there are mental problems or moral problems with anyone so foolish as to disagree with him.”

    You obviously haven’t read or understood Pigliucci’s post. You also don’t really get how informal logic works. That, after all, is Pigliucci’s point. So, again, thanks.

  5. Again, no content. Immediate scoff and nothing but scoff, in a website that pretends to be about rationality. Pigliucci’s post was similar, except that his scoffing wasn’t as egregious, rather more a pretentious pseudo-curiosity as to how people could possibly disagree with him and his (your) cult. Utterly tedious. Utterly pretentious.

    I use the word “cult” advisedly. One workable definition of a cult is a system of thought that is, to borrow a term from mathematics, “closed under reference.” A trivial example is that of an unsophisticated Christian, saying “If I am happy with this event, it means I prayed hard enough. If not, it means I didn’t pray hard enough.”

    Every situation is covered under the rubric, hence it is closed; but the very closure of the rubric ensures that it cannot expand. The conceptual scheme cannot become adequate to the reality it attempts to grasp.

    All such cult philosophies seem to require what I call a “disconfirmation dump,” something to which one can attribute realities which run contrary to expectations. There are several of these in the case of Mr. Casey’s cult of Liberal Complacency (a simple case of a Class Snobbery Cult, notable only for how it misappropriates the language of rationality for the purpose of self-adoration). Just to name the examples related to Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    The presence of significant numbers of dissenters with impressive qualifications is dumped by the cult mantra: “They are a tiny minority, and they are all working for the oil companies”. (This itself is always unargued. It is simply assumed that dissenters must be more compromised than Alarmists. Why? Because Smug Liberal and therefore Right.)

    When thirty-thousand qualified individuals attempt to puncture the illusion of unanimity, the dump is “they’re marginally qualified, our guys are the *real scientists*. (Again, there is no serious attempt to investigate this claim. At most, one or two confirming examples are required, and we return to Smug Liberal and therefore Right.)

    There are a billion examples, but most pertinent to this exchange is Pigliucci’s, who, when he deigns to notice that there are people who disagree with them who have positions that are logically sound, a True Believer like Mr. Casey (or Pigliucci) even scoffs at the validity of their reasoning. (It can’t *really* be valid. If it were, they’d be in the Cult of Smug Liberalism. So time to scoff!)

    This sort of habitual mind-numbing smugness, has a way of habitually numbing the mind. The first thing any reader perusing this site will notice (unless he is neck-deep in the Cult himself) is the outrageousness of the contradiction in its very premise. While most people (even most smug liberals) at least pepper their pretensions with content, nearly 100% of the material of this site consists of argument from self-adoration, again, on a site pretends to be about logic!

    Rationality has a significant moral component Mr. Casey. There are such things as rational virtues, without which no amount of academic credentials, nor any amount of intelligence, both of which I will attribute to you in the spirit of charity, can overcome. Genuine curiosity of the type that can break through smug self-satisfaction is a requirement. (You give the impression of having been very satisfied with your pseudo-understanding of the world since you had a pseudo-understanding, which itself limits its value.) Humility. Charity.

    Please do not misunderstand me. I do not wish to convey the impression by replying at length that I could care less about changing the minds of a politically marginal cult of Liberal Self-Adoration, anymore than I would care to change the minds of the Moonies or the Process Church of the Final Judgment. Do not misconstrue my taste for mixing things up, the kick I get out of starting an argument, with any concern that the self-satisfaction of this peculiar Class of weighs heavily on my mind any more than would a local conglomeration of New Age junkies.

    Ultimately, the first comment of this thread is the most appropriate. “Right; I get it; you believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change.” Rolls eyes and moves on.

    There are truly rational people out there, people of all views, including yours, with whom substantive discussion can be had, and from whom I could even learn. I think that will be all from me.

  6. Vainglory,

    “nearly 100% of the material of this site consists of argument from self-adoration”

    Thanks. I think this will be the new tagline.

  7. John: I’d like to see the narcissistic evidence of that statement before you change the tagline. After all, the current tagline – “your argument is invalid” – already illustrates VainGlory’s point extremely well.

    VainGlory: I understand that there is some snarkiness peppering the pretensions of the content (great phrase!) throughout this site, and that may be off-putting to you and other potential readers. However, you must first understand the intended audience before you can make claims about the authors.

    I can’t speak directly for John Casey and the other (long lost?) bloggers here, but I don’t believe they intend to convince you or any others of the validity of their claims. That’s going to be impossible in general (and very, very difficult and time-consuming in specific cases) because people who don’t already understand and adhere to the philosophy exemplified on these pages are not likely to change their minds. Many of them, like you, jump to emotional defenses to protect their existing prejudices and biases. Observing informal logical fallacies and practicing scientific skepticism (an important part of recognizing the legitimacy of anthropomorphic climate change among other politically controversial items) requires an intense level of self-critique and understanding of the fallibilities of people, including ourselves. Many people do not have that.

    That said, knowing that the authors on The Non Sequitur are not trying to convince anybody, we can now see that these pages provide numerous examples demonstrating the mistakes of argumentation highly prevalent in media and politics. It is like an endless case study of fallacy, and it is very useful to those of us who are already convinced of its usefulness to be reminded of how it can appear in everyday life. Argumentation is hard to do right, esp. if you’re trying to convince yourself against your own worse judgment, so I value the posts on The Non Sequitur.

    Now, back to the snarkiness part. If you’ve ever tried to actually explain to someone how they are using a logical fallacy, you will probably fail and find it frustrating. If you’ve done this multiple times, you will probably fail many times and become somewhat cynical about it. This can naturally lead to sarcasm and mocking. To add to that, it can be cathartic to laugh at the absurdities described in the pages of this blog. Plus, humor, of course, adds to the enjoyment of reading. Consequently, you’ll find snarkiness everywhere.

    Summary: The goal of the blog is not to convince you but to illustrate bad argumentation in everyday media and politics. The recurrent instances involve a certain perspective that leads to sarcasm and humor in illustration. Don’t expect to be converted to anything or to “get the joke” if you don’t already adhere to the philosophy.

    (John: Feel free to correct me if I’ve misstated the ideas behind the blog.)

  8. I’ve got a better tagline.

    Non Sequitur: with the discourse of a catty teenage girl protecting her clique, how could we not illuminate?

    Really quickly Sean Leather.

    You are right in that this is not the forum to try to engage in any sort of rational conversation. This is a communal admiration society for people who like to delude themselves into thinking that their pet dogmas are vindicated beyond all reasonable doubt.

    Of course, in reality, no one really sets up websites to throw snark at people who object to anything that is truly established beyond reasonable doubt. Only the pathologically insecure would spend their energy scoffing at geocentricists or Young Earth Creationists.

    Only upon sensing a threat to those dogmas upon which hinge central facets of one’s self-understanding do normal, healthy people sense a need to retreat to the false comfort of their coreligionsists so as to reinforce the verities (without arguing them) and disdain the nonbelievers.

    It is unfortunate that a key component of the self-understanding that this particular faction wishes to protect is the fiction that they are somehow more rational than the rest of us, because their dogmas are not dogmas at all, but facts well-grounded in scientific objectivity while the rest of us are knee-deep either in anti-scientific obscurantism or just stupid, which is why they (you) continue arrogantly and errantly to pretend that those who disagree with them are of necessity falling victim to fallacies. Substitute “sincere faith” for “scientific objectivity” and “heresy” for “fallacy” and you will have a fundamentalist rhetoric that is more appropriate to the substance of this style of thinking.

  9. SL is correct: the point of this site is to discuss bad arguments–not endorse particular conclusions. This is pretty much the most basic distinction in all of logic: the one between facts and inference. Allow me to quote myself:

    “4. The failure of some particular argument of some particular conservative writer does not in any respect entail the liberal counterpart. It entails–if we’re right–only the failure of that particular argument.

    5. We don’t ask you do draw any conclusions other than the ones we explicitly make in the individual posts. If you think–as many often do–that those conclusions are unwarranted, then tell us. We take all thoughtful criticism seriously.”

    VG seems to think that the attitude of denialism discussed by Pigliucci entails the complete falsity and irrationality of every objection or intervention in the Global Warming debate and that current scientific orthodoxy (whatever that is) is 100 percent correct and admits of no possible rational variation. Nope. That is probably nobody’s view. It’s certainly not mine, Pigliucci’s, or any of the participants of the conference Pigliucci was discussing.

  10. I understand that there is a difference in general practice between advancing certain positions and attacking bad arguments, except that in the hands of John Casey, this seems a distinction without a difference. I doubt that if I were suddenly to go insane and dig deep into these archives I would find more than a handful of posts criticizing those bad arguments that happen to be consistent with his biases. When it does happen, I doubt that such commentary would be as drenched in snark as it is when Casey is dealing with those he finds culturally icky.

    Pugliucci is a case in point. The targets here are the old stand-bys: anti-vaxxers, creationists, and global warming skeptics. Already, someone who was serious about rationality, who actually cared a whiff about good vs. bad arguments (i.e. not John Casey) might have balked at the false equivalence being built, or about the fact that the name-calling and false association was already underway. If not this, a man who truly cared about rationality might have thought twice about the throwaway lines about Jenny McCarthey.

    But no. Far from it! This condescending, vacuous twaddle is attributed to the “always lucid” Massimo Pugliucci. Rather, it is anyone who would criticize Pugliucci’s blather who is accused of “making his point” by pointing out that Pugliucci’s arguments are, in fact, invalid. (This is, of course, too generous. In reality, they aren’t even arguments.)

    I believe I mentioned earlier how mind-numbing rhetoric has a tendency to numb the mind. Easy snark against the cultural other (and what better indication that this is directed against a specific cultural “other” and not a series of bad arguments than Pugliucci’s specific targeting of the unrighteous trinity of Liberals-No-Like: anti-vaxxers, global warming skeptics, and creationists?) delivered in a safe environment amongst one’s coreligionists will have a tendency to blur the distinction in the mind between bad arguments and, well, people you don’t like.

    Because, after all, everyone “knows” that they’re a bunch of stupid hicks and low-class dupes, right Casey? Not smart, progressive people like you with advanced degrees.

    I mean, *really*….like…*fureal* ….like….*whatever*…,(talk to the hand)

    Cheers!

  11. VG,

    I’m baffled by this interaction with you.

    You keep making Pigliucci’s point by clumsily accusing me of all sorts of fallacies and biases (when among other things, I haven’t actually advanced a thesis here–so how I am guilty of them is anyone’s guess.).

    Maybe you’re mad that the view you seem to hold (that Global Warming is not caused by humans, or isn’t real, or something) has come under pretty harsh criticism. Pigliucci’s point is that a significant subset of individuals on the receiving end of this criticism have failed to take it rationally–rather, they’ve illegitimately employed the tools and language of informal logic to make it look like they are the rational ones–because to call a person a “denialist” among other things is to argue ad hominem, etc. The strident way you call yourself rational and everyone else not is a fantastic example of this.

    Finally, I’m truly sorry that you don’t appreciate the humor here. I like to think myself funnier than that.

  12. Nothing really new to add here, I guess. But what I think drives the dismissal of anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers etc. is the almost total overwhelming judgments of experts in these areas that the arguments that they advance have little or no merit.

    I don’t see any reason for this site to take the supposed arguments and evidence seriously until serious argument has been published in significant and authoritative journals.

    What is more interesting is the evasions and strategies that are deployed to mask the seemingly total absence of credible evidence for these views.

    In addition to the tendency to deploy concepts of informal logic to obfuscate the lack of credible evidence for these view as Piglucci lambastes, we might add the attempt to position a discredited position as a oppressed “other” who is being marginalized by “snark.” Yes, climate deniers are the oppressed poor being victimized by the scientists and their peer reviewed evidence expectations!

  13. Colin, in the case of Global Warming at least, the idea that there is no credible evidence for skepticism is a fiction maintained by people who systematically ignore or dismiss the evidence for skepticism without examination, and then claim that what they have dismissed without examination does not exist. Snark is a crucial element of that process because it provides a false justification for not examining the claims of those at whom the snark is directed.

    Hence this website, which is built on the pretense of examining arguments (as Casey, hilariously, continues to maintain is the case) but which in practice is, from top to bottom, a snarkfest devoid of any content, argument, or analysis, the only common denominator of which is a consistent pounding away at obvious targets.

    Rational discussion is hence impossible on this site because as soon as a certain subject is broached that approaches Casey’s snark threshold, he dismisses it with an unfunny (and yes, Casey’s rhetoric, like most snark, is painfully humorless) dismissive aside.

    It is precisely this snark threshold that creates the problem. I personally, if I were involved in a project that emphasized rational argument (what Casey misconstrues this website to be) would avoid snark no matter what the topic, even if it were geocentricism. There is always a problem when one assumes, as Casey tends to do, that one’s own personal snark threshold matches perfectly with the real limits of what constitutes a defensible claim, particularly in a subject that incites so much disagreement. One would think that the possibility would cross Casey’s mind that the world as it is and the world as he sees it, even perhaps at those fundamental levels inside his snark threshold, are not one and the same world.

    Scoffing is a serious liability with respect to the project of understanding the world as it is. It can only do harm in that regard, and it’s also unfunny. Casey does not devote this website to scoffing; it is–what is far worse–only by accident that it represents 99% of what actually goes on.

  14. And this is in fact what Casey does. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to accuse me of “misappropriating the language of rationality”.

    Such an accusation is, *yet again*, like *virtually everything* else Casey says an end-run around content. It is an excuse not to engage. Every response Casey has put up on this thread contains such language of evasion. Phrases like “Hilarious”. “Wow! You prove Pugliucci right” and so on. *Ad nauseam.*

    To speak this way is to implicitly assume to speak from a position of having the right to arbitrate what constitutes rationality. To presume to speak from such a position renders rational argument impossible, because at any point, with a simple utterance of “Hilarious”, he will presume unilaterally to place his interlocutor outside the bounds of rationality and inside a domain of pseudo-rationality, which is all Pugliucci does in his “essay”.

    For Pugliucci to do this when not directly addressing opposition is one thing. It is one thing to prejudge entire cultures of thought as errant and analyze them on the assumption that they are errant when you are not addressing them directly and your audience also judges them errant. To do so while speaking directly to another person who happens to reside in one of those cultures, however, and to presume the right to do so, and to presume that said other will just sit back and *concede Casey’s claim to decide unilaterally what constitutes rationality and what doesn’t* is the height of arrogance and obnoxiousness.

  15. So, you want to debate climate scientists on the internet. Plenty of blogs to choose from. Go persuade http://www.realclimate.org
    that the science is wrong. Or better, publish in a peer-reviewed journal your scientific grounds for skepticism.

    Analysing form is by definition abstracting from the content, and informal logic is difficult to separate from rhetorical analysis.

    There seem to be certain fairly defined and identifialble logical-rhetorical strategies or tendencies in certain fringe-science positions. Piglucci points out one that interestingly, I think, might show the limits of a context-less conception of rationality in informal logic-rhetoric. The accusations of mis-step, i.e. fallacies, can be deployed for dialectical advantage by all sides in a debate, whether it is a fringe position in science (Clim. Chan. Skep) or a full-on anti-science position (anti-vaxxers).

    To which the response seems to be “ha, ha, yeah sure climate change, prove it to me.” Or, for the more sophisticated: “your analysis begs the question/you’re a catty teenage girl/misses the point/is a straw man/”

    To which, John replies “exactly.”

  16. VG,

    Maybe you didn’t read my comment carefully. I haven’t actually advanced any position here other than to *cite*, approvingly, a discussion of the phenomenon of denialism. Some subset of this phenomenon includes people who deny the reality of climate change (it can also include a whole lot of others).

    I happen to think, based on the authority of the scientific community on this question, that (1) global warming is real and that (2) there is a significant subset of people who call the whole Global Warming thing a “hoax.” Mind you, this group of denialists does not necessarily include everyone. Some of the skeptics might have more well-informed or nuanced positions. Maybe you’re in that group. (From what you’ve said here, and your behavior in regard to people who you think hold a position other than yours, I’m inclined not to think so–but that’s another matter not actually relevant to the subject of the discussion). The subject of the current discussion is the behavior of these people (very few of them scientists) when confronted with evidence to the contrary. That’s an interesting discussion applicable to any number of views, including views I might happen to hold.

    As for your general diagnosis of the work (now almost ten years) of this website: you really fail to make any arguments. All readers are invited to comment on how some particular argument of mine (or the other contributors) fails–you have not done that. You have instead made very general accusations (“99 percent of what goes on”!!!!) without citing any evidence (other than your misunderstanding of what’s going on in this discussion).

  17. When someone posts a comment on a site, and the host replies “Hilarious; you are proving this or that point about people who “misappropriate rationality”, you will offend people. I can’t believe how you continue to fail to grasp this.

    To cite someone as exhibit A of poor thinking without engaging, without saying why, and to top it off with snark, again, without addressing the content of what’s been said at all, is rude, presumptuous, offensive, arrogant, and, might I add, not conducive to rational discourse. And you need only look back at this thread to find that this is exactly what you did. Over and over again.

    Your unwillingness to engage, and your quick trigger for snark prompted me to respond extensively the presumption of the blog host. The initial issue in question was not, and has not been for a long time, my focus, and has long been moot. My focus, my target, since your first “Hilarious,” has been the contradiction between your pretension to rationality and the way you actually conduct your discourse, and various things this entailed.

    So yes. The original issue was out the window a long time ago. You should not be surprised to find that substance goes out the window when you exhibit such offensive and dismissive habits of discourse as ‘omg hilarious!” And this is indeed reminiscent of the discourse of 14-year-old girls.

    And from what else I have seen of your work, this seems par for the course for your manner of decorum. 99% seems a bit much. Perhaps, in the spirit of the ostensible subject matter of this acrimonious discussion, I should claim 97% and trot it out as fact.

  18. VG,

    I’ve said why your interventions here are unconvincing a bunch of times. I’m sorry that you don’t understand this enough to reply to those points.

  19. CEONICOM had the right idea. He was snarked out of the picture and he had the sense to take the hint and leave.

    Engage the John Casey’s of the world, and it’s only a matter of time before the retrospective falsification begins. And there is nothing else one can do when what is plain on pixel and screen is denied.

    Hey look Casey, I “misappropriated” another term of rationality. Go chat up your friends about it.

  20. VG,

    First of all, I never used the phrase “misappropriated rationality.” Nor have I said the other stuff you’ve put in scare quotes above. I’ve repeated the point of the post a number of times in comments. Go see them. I’m sorry that you’re offended that I found it funny that you exemplified the very failure under discussion. But that really shouldn’t be the focus of the discussion (again, see everything above). What’s at issue is how some people who deny AGW (and other well-established facts, etc. ) respond to the scientific arguments. They respond like you have–attacking the people who make them, distorting their arguments, and distracting from the issue.

    CEOUNICOM, unlike you (I think), asserted the (likely false) claim that the debate isn’t about the reality or the cause of Global Warming, but rather about what to do about it. That is a completely different point. It’s also not relevant to the post.

    At bottom, you’re offended that your view (that Global Warming is not real or something) is being offered as an example of a view unsupported by actual science. You disagree with that claim. I can’t help you with that. And as I’ve said a bunch, maybe your version of the discussion does not fit Pigliucci’s description–maybe you’re actually a real climate scientist who has studied the question and you have some powerful scientific insight. In the end, as Colin said, if you want to fight that battle, go over to http://www.realclimate.org/ and tell them. They actually have a lot of discussion of the fellow you’ve cited approvingly. Show them how they’re wrong about his conclusions.

    Maybe in the meantime you could at least tell me this: is what Pigliucci discusses relevant to Holocaust deniers? Anti-vaxxers? Flat-earthers?

  21. The roundness of the earth, heliocentric solar system, quantum mechanics, evolution, etc. are backed up by far more than shouts of “consensus” from bureaucratic institutions that claim to speak for all of “Science”.

    In all of these cases, there are existing, omnipresent, functional systems whose function hinges upon the accuracy of these scientific findings. Modern telecommunications provides massive confirmation of quantum mechanics, as does navigation for geography, and on and on.

    There are degrees, of course. While I have no reason to doubt Einstonian relativity, and while it has been experimentally confirmed often enough, it is nonetheless the case that it has not been confirmed to the degree that the prior facts I mentioned have. Similarly, the vaccination issue is not nearly as cut-and-dried as the Lab Coat Fetishists on that front make it out to be. It has many facets, including concerns about civil liberties, the political influence of pharmacological interests, and several other angles that discredit the simpleminded characterization of this issue as just more grist for the mill on the front of “Progressive Science People vs. Ignorant Obscurantists”.

    While some might object to my depiction of this characterization, I would say that without positing this or some similar frame of reference, it is difficult to understand how these disparate topics of climate change, vaccination, evolution, and marginal flat-earthism could be belted out in one breath. Flat-Earthers aside, there are multitudes of nuance and variation within the domains of each of these “consensus objectors”, and most of them would probably disagree with most positions of most of the others. (I am not on board, for instance, with any of the evolution skeptics, though I am equally unimpressed with the claims of Darwinian Absolutists, but that’s another issue.) The only thing they have in common is that they (we, I) are (am) unimpressed by “consensusism”; they take less stock in the current trends of peer-reviewed journals–at least in themselves–than Lab Coat Fetishists seem to.

    And make no mistake, Anthropopgenic Climate Change Hypothesis (ACCH), rests *only* upon consensusism (which is perhaps why the keepers of this “consensus” have to scream so loud and long about it. Unlike the real established facts of science, we find*no* widely-used and functioning systems that verify the findings of the IPCC. Climate Change Science is an orphan in this regard.

    Note that Global Warming Pushers like to convey the impression that basic, confirmed facts of meteorology etc. provide all the confirmation necessary about the ACCH; this is wildly off base. No one disputes the basic facts about the greenhouse effect, or the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or any other meteorological claim that can truly be called a fact.

    What is at issue are the accuracy of the computer models that purport to have discovered enormous feedback loops that magnify the impact of CO2 emissions on climate. Without these models and these *hypothetical* feedback loops, CO2’s climate impact (at the orders of magnitude in which they occur in the atmosphere) would be universally held to be negligible.

    Note that if the facts of roundness of the earth or evolution were themselves derived solely from opaque computer models, I would look upon bureaucratic institutions and their dens of experts that shout about *their* “settled science” with equal suspicion as I do upon the Global Warming fraternity *especially* if it was obviously being touted by the likes of Al Gore as justification for huge economic restructuring projects, and *especially* when I see huge groupthink campaigns, obvious propaganda, lynch-mob tactics against dissenters, etc. being employed in its service.

  22. I find the disjunction between “consensusism” and functional confirmation in some large-scale practice, especially when you rule out all actual applications that don’t meet your seemingly arbitrary expectations about what counts as confirmation (meteorology ruled out ad hoc) unpersuasive.

    What is a “consensus” in science? It is the shared judgement of essentially all of the experts–people with training and relevant experience–that the massive quantity of evidence collected across multiple “vectors” point to the same conclusion being very very very likely.

    The idea that the only reasons that virtually all experts agree that Anthro. Climate Change is very very likely to be occurring, and will continue to occur, with likely dramatic effects in the future is not merely that they’ve created a computer model that you (with your expertise?) have examined and have rejected on principled and evidence based grounds.

    I don’t think anyone disputes the idea that there might be much about the current predictions about and models of the climate may turn out to need revision or even significant alteration. And certainly it may be that Jenny McCarthy et al will turn out to be right in the future and some undetected link between vaccines and autism will discovered.

    But, one of the virtues of rationality is the ability to use arguments from authority appropriately, to understand that although one’s doctor may not turn out to be right about the connection between, say, cancer and cigarette smoking, their knowledge and experience, gives them a greater authority in judging the question whether cigarette smoking causes cancer. One can of course find all sorts of arguments out there on the internet some motivated by simple economic interest and others motivated by some personal stake of some individuals (ideological or psychological). The existence of a handful of “critics” and their ability to make plausible sounding arguments against “big lab-coats” (and the rest of the tendentious language you use), should not carry much weight, for a rational being, when put into the balance against the significant evidence that smoking is likely to be part of a cause of cancers in human beings.

    When I read your ‘critique’ of “consensusism” I am struck that the whole argument proceeds alongside a massive ad hominem attempt to weaken the fact that almost everyone who has studied these questions and has experience and familiarity with the evidence (and actually does this for a living) disagrees with you. So you represent the IPCC as a bunch of bureaucrats and lab coat fetishists and the rest of your silliness in order to try to make the really awful argument you are making seem more compelling. If it were true that all scientists who study this are just bureacrats etc. then maybe your argument might be minimally plausible.

    But perhaps you should publish your critique of the computer models, or even persuade realclimate.org that your views have merit. They know the science and the modeling, I think, and when you’ve shown the climate scientists the error of their ways I’m sure that they will retract their “hypothesis.”

    Until then, I will operate under the principles of rationality and hold the view that when a vast consensus exists across the scientific community based on a wide variety of different sorts of evidence and theorizing, a rational person, until she can prove them otherwise wrong, will judge that it is most likely that the consensus view is likely to be correct at least in general and probably in many of its details and predictions as well. To do otherwise is I think irrational and foolish (especially when the arguments on the other side or so wildly under-determined by logic, expertise, and credibility).

  23. Hi Colin!

    There is a huge problem in your argument.

    I’ll try to keep it short. Your argument depends on dismissing those experts who dissent from your purported “consensus”.

    How many such experts do you think there are? Do you know? Of course you don’t. What are their relative merits and demerits? You don’t know that either.

    Consensus is a one way street, by its very nature, from speakers with expertise to an inexpert audience. The problem is that it is circular for the expert speakers to make a claim upon an inexpert audience based *solely* on a claim to consensus ***because the audience–you, Colin—is, by the nature of the situation, unqualified to determine the validity of said consensus***.

    What you are claiming is another form of expertise *for yourself*, i.e. expertise in determining what constitutes a sufficient claim of consensus and a sufficient claim of authority. IN ADDITION, you postulate yourself as being qualified to ignore the claims of all experts who dissent, despite not knowing who they are, how many there are, what they’re saying.

    This is why arguments from authority are generally considered sketchy. They have a tendency, as in your case, to devolve into arguments from *your own* authority.

    I’ll steal a page out of your playbook, Colin.

    Here is Judith Curry’s web page.

    http://judithcurry.com/

    She is one of thousands of climate scientists who dispute the alleged consensus. She might not be on board with the IPCC, but she sure as hell is more of an authority than Colin. Thus it is “irrational” by your standards (you really shouldn’t use the word, you don’t handle it very well) for me to side with your opinion over hers.

    Oh! But she doesn’t count as an authority? Why? Because she might be (according to *your understanding* of the situation) outnumbered or outmuscled by a larger consensus? And that makes her arguments, and the arguments of thousands like her, invalid. Why?

    Really, in your argument, it boils down to “Because Colin is not impressed by voices that don’t have large, bureaucratic institutions backing them up. That is what all of your purported “rationality” boils down to.

    If your argument hinges on knowing how “rationally” to argue from authority, then how is it then that you can “rationally” determine how much weight to give to which authorities?

    Really, all you say amounts to, if a big organization can convince Colin that all opposition to it is negligible through projecting a facade of unanimity in media outlets that Colin likes, then not only is Colin right, but it is irrational for anyone anywhere to disagree with Colin.

    Rubbish. Total, complete rubbish.

  24. Except that’s not my argument. Once again you reduce tendentiously the process of science to the endorsement of a “bureaucratic institution” and try to suggest that scientific consensus is some sort of counting game.

    Although there are plenty of problems with peer review, publishing weak data, and the influence of money in science, the view of science that you have constructed in order to be able to hold the views you want to hold is unconvincing. It is a reductive construction driven, it seems to me, by the dialectical goal of discrediting an authority that you disagree with. It is an ad hominem argument of some sort.

    Now Curry certainly looks to be an interesting case. She seems to accept the overall theory but is critical of how some in the climate science community have interacted with the public. Do I have that right? If so, sure, I have no quarrel with what I understand her to be saying. I don’t have time to plumb her published testimony and publications (just read a few editorials and the letter to young climate scientists). But she seems to critique Lomborg’s misrepresentations in one piece. I’ll quote the end:

    ” As scientists continue to challenge and improve the quality and understanding of climate records and models, skepticism by scientists conducting such research is alive and well. But oversimplifying the situation, using misleading information and presenting false choices is not useful in the public debate over global warming.

    Lomborg seems to have missed it, but a sensible debate has begun on how to best respond to global warming — in national and local governments, universities and the private sector — in the U.S. and around the world. There is no easy solution to this problem; the challenge is how best to develop options that are feasible, efficient, viable and scalable. Lomborg is correct to be concerned about the possibility of bad policy choices. But I have yet to see any option that is worse than ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing. :

  25. I think it’s pretty obvious that Curry is not an example of VG’s view.

    But if I could recenter the discussion on the original topic: let’s put this abstractly:

    Pigliucci reported a conference discussion of a pattern of argumentation offered by some people who hold views at odds with the best available evidence about those views.

    Take some view p widely understood to be true (given what it means to be true in various disciplines). A disbelieves p. A does not, however, engage in a critique of the evidence for p in the manner appropriate to establishing p. Rather, A attempts to undercut the case for p refocusing critique on alleged failures of some supporters of p. Crucially, the failures of these supporters of p are (1) not failures and (2) not germane to the case for the truth of p.

    Examples of p: Holocaust denial, AGW denial, Vaccine-autism, etc.

  26. Unfortunately, the failures of the supporters of P are, first of all, highly relevant when the case for P (at least in popular discussion) hangs upon alleged consensus among supporters of P. and no attempt is made to look at P on substantial grounds. And Casey is disingenuous when he accuses me of ignoring the substance of the issue when I have been the only one so far to present any of the substance of the ACCH, and all he’s done is cite consensus considerations.

    The failures of p’s supporters, (PS?) become more relevant when the issue becomes the validity of arguing from the authority of PS. and attempting to establish deviations from this authority as “irrational”. (Note, my readings of Curry make her seem less sympathetic to the ‘consensus’ whatever it might be now than Colin’s appraisal of it.)

    This is especially the case in situations where there exists dissent from the alleged consensus view. In that case, for Colin and Casey (C&C?) to argue that deviation from consensus is irrational, they have to make broad assumptions about **their own qualifications** in discerning the credibility of competing authorities. These assumptions include:

    -that they are qualified to discern the relative validities of claims of competing authorities based on their inexpert vantage.

    -that if deviations from this consensus *seem marginal and discountable to them, based on their inexpert vantage* then they are marginal and discountable in realty.

    The only argument C&C can muster for these proposals is that there are *so many* proponents and *so few* dissenters. But that is an impression as well. And the whole idea of building a massive propaganda apparatus is to convey the impression to the inexpert of how large you are and how small they are.

    C&C’s position basically leaves us all resourceless against any Big Lie that should come about (if it were valid, which thankfully it isn’t). Note that I am *not* taking the extreme position that ACC is all a Big Lie (though it very well could be, and it would not be the first time, see eugenics, Lysenko). I am saying that the *still more extreme position* that *rationality itself should dictate* (that is the funny part) that all should agree with C&C when they are sufficiently impressed (from their inexpert perspective) by grandiose pronouncements of consensus leaves us all without resources every time C&C are highly impressed by some institution.

    I imagine Darth Vader proclaiming “Resistance is Futile” and C&C peeking out from behind his cloak saying “ergo, resistance is also irrational.”

  27. VG,

    Here’s the critical part again (since you misunderstood it or ignored it):

    Take some view p widely understood to be true (given what it means to be true in various disciplines). A disbelieves p. A does not, however, engage in a critique of the evidence for p in the manner appropriate to establishing p. Rather, A attempts to undercut the case for p refocusing critique on alleged failures of some supporters of p. Crucially, the failures of these supporters of p are (1) not failures and (2) not germane to the case for the truth of p.

    You disagree that you’re A here, but you pretty much keep doing what A does–i.e., attacking the supporters of p, not the people who have made the original case for p. If I were in your position, and I wanted to make the case that you seem you may want to make, I’d say something like this:

    It is not the case that all AGW skeptics fit this mold. Some AGW skeptics are real experts, have done quality research, and have good reasons, etc. You can find them here, etc..

    Which is of course true.

  28. And, of course, you keep missing the point that the subject of my criticism is not ACCH as such, but the problems with consensusism as a valid argument for ACCH, and the problems with B arguing from a consensus of which B is not part.

    Again, it is disingenuous to say that I have not further dealt with the substantive issues regarding climate change when I have dealt with them to a far greater extent than you have.

    And secondly, it is flat out dishonest to say that I have not proceeded to some degree by the model of your italicized paragraph when I provided the example of Judith Curry and am more than capable of providing others, such as Paul Reiter, Richard Lindzen, John Christy, and 30,000 signatories to a petition disputing the claims of the IPCC from people qualified to have an opinion. (http://www.petitionproject.org/) You don’t think these signatories are qualified? Fine, but better prove your case.

    And, in a bizarre turn of events, if the italicized portion of your last remarks are true, as you say they are, then **Pugliucci has no business labeling skepticism of climate change as a form of denialism** and this discussion is moot.

    And obviously, there was a more specific target of Pugliucci’s critique than asserting that disagreement with the claims of the IPCC constitutes denialism, but that’s not the point. The unimpeachable, undoubtable truth about ACCH was a *premise* of Pugliucci’s discussion. And if was simply criticizing the misuse of logical terms per se, then, in addition to his seeming to have no point (logic and even the vocabulary of formal logic has always been misused) there would be no sense in bringing up three sacred cows of Liberal Scientism to illustrate his point.

  29. This is getting tedious. Again, Vg you miss the point. “Hilarious.” you attack “consensuism” with these ridiculous construels of what you think science is in order to try to create dialectical space for a marginal, at best, view. CON-whatever he called herself at least had a point–there are good disputes about policy to be had (Curry, if you bothered to read her before citing her on your side, agrees with that claim). But instead you create this risible pseudo-argument about “consensus” that involves your tedious ad hominems and tendious misrepresentations. Hilarious.

  30. Again, I don’t think I have time to see whether the names etc are being mis-cited like you did with Curry or not. But, on 30,000 signatories of the petition as evidence of controversy over climate science:

    “In the realm of climate science it breaks it breaks down as such:
    Atmospheric Science (113)
    Climatology (39)
    Meteorology (341)
    Astronomy (59)
    Astrophysics (26)

    So only .1% of the individuals on the list of 30,000 signatures have a scientific background in Climatology. ”

    So again a bunch of people with no expertise try to act like the tiny number of climatologists (39!) who signed the petition are a serious source of scientific controversy.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-grandia/the-30000-global-warming_b_243092.html

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