Emphatic supporters of the climate change establishment all seem to share the same grab-bag of rhetorical tactics, logical fallacies, memes and slogans that they depend upon to insulate themselves from any information that threatens their beliefs. The pattern when debating them tends to follow the same sequence: They begin by making definitive assertions with a zealous certainty for the unquestionable truth of their position. Then, after even the mildest probing, out come the straw men, appeals to authority, ad hominem attacks, logical inconsistencies and various other tactics of deflection and obfuscation.
I was reminded of this again while having a fairly heated online debate about climate change that had been inspired by comments from a lightweight Australian TV personality named Waleed Aly.
There was the usual default, unexamined presumption that all the credible experts unequivocally support man-made climate change theory.
As I always do upon encountering this widely believed misconception, I provided a long list of recognized experts at the top of their fields and quoted their criticism of the AGW theory and the establishment that is committed to it.
Predictably, my opponent was oblivious to the existence of so many esteemed critics of the orthodoxy. But rather than this new information provoking curiosity or stimulating a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the issue, he instead headed straight for Google to search for something to torque into a justification for dismissing the criticisms out of hand.
Out of the ten or more experts I quoted, he found (no doubt to his great relief) that one scientist, Robert Carter, had been paid the whopping fee of $1,667 a month a few years ago by that Great Satan of climate change heresy – The Heartland Institute.
And because the priority for climate change absolutists is not the truth but protecting their beliefs from threatening information, this was enough for my debating opponent to categorically conclude:
“Yes, he’s a seasoned scientist, but because of the source of his wage, unfortunately, we cannot trust his opinion in this case.”
What utter bollocks.
I pointed out that this argument was an example of ‘genetic fallacy’ – when an idea is either accepted or rejected because of its source, rather than its merit.
I pointed out that not only had Carter been a critic of AGW theory prior to being offered the piddling stipend from Heartland, his position is in accord with other scientists who are NOT receiving a stipend from Heartland (like everyone else on my list whom he simply chose to bypass) and highlights observable, real world discrepancies between what the AGW theory crowd said would happen and what has actually occurred.
I questioned the plausibility that this highly respected Ph.D., palaeontologist, stratigrapher, marine geologist and environmental scientist whose career spans more than three decades, who has served as Chair of the Earth Sciences Discipline Panel of the Australian Research Council, Chair of the national Marine Science and Technologies Committee and has a personal publication list of more than 100 papers in international science journals could be seduced into jeopardizing his credibility by providing false scientific claims for a $1,667 paycheque.
Didn’t matter. I was told:
“He was paid for being a critic, apparently, so yes, his word means absolutely nothing to me. He was paid after or before, no difference.”
Curious about the consistency of these ideals concerning the corrupting influence of money in climate science, I cited the example of a recent paper in the journal Nature Climate Change that lauded the EPA and the Obama Democrats for a policy of strong carbon emission restrictions that was co-authored by researchers receiving huge grants from the EPA itself – amounting to a princely sum just shy of $50 million in total.
I suggested to my opponent: “If you find the privately donated $1667 a month allegedly paid to Carter to be”extremely worrying”… you should be apoplectic about $50 million worth of tax revenues being handed over to these guys.”
The response tells you everything you need to know about the circular reasoning and unapologetic indifference to intellectual integrity that seems to be typical of the climate change faithful:
“Funding by governments for “climate research” is expected and I fail to see your point here. Are you suggesting that the governments shouldn’t fund climate research?”
Insert head explosion here.
But it gets positively surreal with his next comment. He tells us that in his estimation it is those of us who have continued to exercise intellectual autonomy and make the effort to think critically – in spite of the overwhelming cultural incentive to submit to torrents of climate change propaganda and groupthink – who are most likely the gullible pawns of powerful external interests.
“Just to be clear”, he writes, “I’m not being personal here, I’m just coming to the conclusion that you may have been mis-informed by a highly organised, lucrative group of organisations, with great interest in slowing the pace of policy against the use of fossil fuels.
Needless to say, I suggested there was something delusional and self-serving about assuming that highly organized, “lucrative groups” and organizations could have an incentive to misinform people such as naive ol’ me, while simultaneously taking for granted that the billions of dollars at stake for the climate change establishment, government tax revenues and ‘green’ energy interests have no motivating influence whatsoever for the people shaping his perspective.
Guess what? Didn’t matter.
I ended up pulling the plug on the conversation after he concluded a subsequent round of circular reason and self-aggrandizement with this charming sentiment:
“But you seem so stupid, that I feel I need to explain certain things to you, simple things. You know?”
Yer. Where would we be without these towering intellects to enlighten us?
I wish I could say that out of the hundreds of similar debates with devotees of the Church of Climate Change that the quality of reasoning displayed by this guy was uncommon. But it isn’t! It’s pretty much the standard.
Having adequate thinking skills is NOT optional for constructing a valid opinion. It’s time we reintroduced this axiom into our culture and made it unequivocally explicit.
And in my view, this is really where the debate has to begin. Not with the premise of man made global climate change itself. But with drawing attention to how consistently lousy the reasoning skills are of those who most ardently support it.