Silencing Dissent: Climate Style


Skeptical Science has been running a series of articles pointing out that anyone who is skeptical about global warming is comparable to those arguing that smoking isn’t bad for you.  Truly it is a textbook example of strawman arguments where they make a poorly related claim and then use that to degrade the opposition.  It is a despicable practice, but one that is very common in many of the debates that have become politicized in today’s world.  The current debate about the roles of public unions and the benefits of the civil servants is another example of a topic that intelligent discussion is unlikely to happen today.

Some examples from their latest strawman to climate science are as follows:

2. Anyway smoke is a naturally occurring substance in the environment. It has been around for thousands of years. Actually fire and smoke is necessary for some plants and seeds to grow in parts of Australia. It is vital so what can be wrong with smoke?

This is similar to the argument that climate has been changing for thousands of years so what is new? CO2 is also natural so it cannot be harmful and in fact is essential to life. Increasing levels of CO2 is good for us. It actually improves crop yield so how can CO2 be a problem?

The logic of this comparison is lacking to say the least.  Comparing the product of forest fires (the natural cause of smoke) to the primary gas of respiration for plants is a perfect strawman.  That some seeds use fire as part of reproduction is real, but plants would survive without smoke.  However if CO2 were removed from the system all plants would die.  In fact, below 100ppm pretty much all plants on Earth would die of asphyxiation.  So it seems related, but in reality it is not in any way related.  A perfect strawman argument.

5. By current estimates, tobacco use causes 440,000 deaths per year and costs about $157 billion in health–related losses. On average, men who smoke cut their lives short by 13.2 years, and female smokers lose 14.5 years. Since the 1964 surgeon general’s report, more than 12 million people have died from smoking–related illness. Counter argument: How can this be proved? No one knows when they are going to die so how can anyone say their life is shortened by this or that amount? What about the chap who lived over 100? Was his life shortened by 13.2 years? Not likely.

This is like saying the models cannot predict weather accurately for regions so how can we take them seriously. We all know extreme events have killed many in the past before warming so the latest examples don’t mean anything special. Its all a beat up.

This is a fun one because it gives estimates for the impact of smoking in graphic detail.  The reason that is needed is because there is no evidence of the impact of global warming.  So they are avoiding the entire lack of evidence by pointing out that there is evidence for the impact of smoking.  Another clever use of a stawman argument, but a critical one because they simply have no evidence that anything significant is happening.

7. We can all relate stories about people we know who get cancer but have never smoked. So cancer is caused by things other than smoking. This “proves” that smoking is not the “bad” thing it is made out to be.

This is similar to the sceptic suggesting that we have had catastrophic weather events ie hurricanes and cyclones before so just because we get severe events again does not prove it is due to warming. We will get these events anyway.

This is similar to the previous example.  They have no evidence that weather is changing, but they can use a smoking example to make it appear that they have a point to make.  What exactly that point is I am not sure as it seems that they are arguing the tremendously de-bunked idea that there will be more hurricanes as a result of global warming.  Of course since the evidence of global warming is hard to find, they are using a strawman in place of evidence.

Needless to say when I read this article I was less than impressed by the usefulness of it.  So I left the following comment on their website.

The Inconvenient Skeptic

The above comment was removed within 5 minutes of being posted.

This was certainly on topic and related to the discussion, but they didn’t seem to like a contrary view and refused to let it stay on their website.  They did let the following comments stay up on their website though.

The Inconvenient Skeptic

Glowing praise is always approved.

Perhaps I was harsher than necessary, but their article was very insulting to everyone that is honestly skeptical of global warming.  Such insulting articles are not helpful and only cause greater contention in the debate.  They quickly silenced the dissent rather than discuss it.  I am proud to say that I do not remove such comments from this website and I have learned from the open discussion that is allowed here.

Posted in Fear and Misinformation and General and Politics and Global Warming by inconvenientskeptic on February 20th, 2011 at 11:36 pm.

8 comments

This post has 8 comments

  1. Karl Disher Feb 21st 2011

    Another variation is to find a person or group of people, the crazier the better, and claim they represent a political movement in order to make that group seem insane.

    I may agree with Sarah Palin that the greenhouse theory is unproven but then you become associated with everyone of her beliefs and are, by way of the straw man argument, portrayed as being anti science and ignorant.

  2. inconvenientskeptic Feb 21st 2011

    It is interesting how many skeptical people that read this site are engineers or other scientists. Then they are called anti-science because the theory is weak.

    That is the power of the strawman. That is why warmists use it so often.

  3. Warmists believe anything that comes of Skeptical Science as if it was the word of God. For the past few months I have been debating many warmists and all they did was give links to skeptical science; thinking that they were giving a scientific argument. I tried to explain to them that most of what was on that website was either cherrypicking or strawman arguments, but they wouldn’t listen. They couldn’t bear to think anything wrong of it.

    John Kehr, if you haven’t seen it before, a good guide to debunking the arguments on that website, is this blog post by a top physicist
    http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/03/john-cook-skeptical-science.html

    Of course, Cook has added more points and changed some of his arguments, but a lot is just the same.

  4. inconvenientskeptic Feb 21st 2011

    Adam,

    That most warmists worship in the church of SkS is why I keep track of that site. Once in a while they have a topic worth discussing, but such is rare.

    The recent articles comparing smoking to climate change has worked me up a little. :-)

  5. intrepid_wanders Feb 21st 2011

    I had the same epiphany over at the Rabbet blog. They were discussing a paper at first, then they found an association to the author and George Marshall University and it instantly went into tobacco “nic-fit” and whereas the author was discredited, ergo debate over (Even with the author discussing issues on their own merit on that blog).

    Considering that Samuel Clemens had to put up with the Anti-Smoking Advocates fiercely in his day, so it is easier to see this personality type can exist over a hundred years later.

    I think from here on out we must refer to SkS as “The Church of Skeptical Scientology”. AGW can be their Xenu ;)

  6. Perhaps I was harsher than necessary, but their article was very insulting to everyone that is honestly skeptical of global warming.

    You are not honest.
    You refuse to submit to the process of peer-review.
    There is a serious difference between honest skepticism and denialism. The way to tell the difference is to examine your own methodology.

    You dishonestly equate science with religion-even though they work differently.
    This happens a lot around here.

    Warmists believe anything that comes of Skeptical Science as if it was the word of God.

    Religion is science and science is religion. It’s all a matter of faith.

    That most warmists worship in the church of SkS…

    Religion is science and science is religion. It’s all a matter of faith.

    I think from here on out we must refer to SkS as �The Church of Skeptical Scientology�. AGW can be their Xenu

    Religion is science and science is religion. It’s all a matter of faith.

    Not good at all.

    Portraying Science as Faith and Consensus as Dogma

    Since the ideas proposed by deniers do not meet rigorous scientific standards, they cannot hope to compete against the mainstream theories. They cannot raise the level of their beliefs up to the standards of mainstream science; therefore they attempt to lower the status of the denied science down to the level of religious faith, characterizing scientific consensus as scientific dogma. As one HIV denier quoted in Maggiore’s book remarked,

    “There is classical science, the way it’s supposed to work, and then there’s religion. I regained my sanity when I realized that AIDS science was a religious discourse. The one thing I will go to my grave not understanding is why everyone was so quick to accept everything the government said as truth. Especially the central myth: the cause of AIDS is known.”

    Others suggest that the entire spectrum of modern medicine is a religion.

    Deniers also paint themselves as skeptics working to break down a misguided and deeply rooted belief. They argue that when mainstream scientists speak out against the scientific “orthodoxy,” they are persecuted and dismissed. For example, HIV deniers make much of the demise of Peter Duesberg’s career, claiming that when he began speaking out against HIV as the cause of AIDS, he was “ignored and discredited” because of his dissidence. South African President Mbeki went even further, stating: “In an earlier period in human history, these [dissidents] would be heretics that would be burnt at the stake!”

    HIV Denial in the Internet Era

  7. Cedrik, why don’t you just simply grow up.

    I think that your comment here, actually provides the strongest support for the point John is making in his article. That instead of actually refuting the arguments skeptics make, you just start childish name calling and make comparisons to things which are entirely different, like people who say HIV isn’t real.

    Cedrik, I think your comment tells me pretty much all I need to know about your character and what sort of mindset you have.

  8. He he…,

    I had a nice run around with a dude named Matrix.Who simply could not understand that he was in favor of Ad Homonyms,despite denying it.

    He starts his blast here and went downhill from there:

    http://ai-jane.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=119496#119496

    I contested his third link since it was full of fallacies and no actual counterpoint against what they were attacking in the first place.

    My most important posts here:

    http://ai-jane.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=119561#119561

    http://ai-jane.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=119884#119884

    http://ai-jane.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=120080#120080

    Posted 4 more times on the last page #6.

    The third link mercifully no longer work.

    I wonder why…

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