Michael Stuart Kelly

Inconvenient Truth versus Inconvenient Swindle

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On a quick look-through the links which have been posted, I didn't see Marlo Lewis' website.

Here's the link:

http://www.cei.org/pages/ait_response.cfm

You can click there for his book,A Skeptic's Guide to An Inconvenient Truth, downloadable by chapters in PDF.

Also, here's a link to Richard (Dick) Lindzen's website:

http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen.htm

And, Michael, if you'd like what I'm told is an enjoyable read which provides much sound factual material in dialogue, speeches, and footnotes, you might try Michael Crichton's novel State of Fear.

A minor though indicative tidbit about the Gore film which you probably won't find mentioned elsewhere: Near the beginning, Gore tells a couple stories about incidents from his educational past which he says made a big impression. One of those pertained to a fellow student who was pooh-poohed by the teacher upon asking if the continents had ever fit together. During the U. Conn event last Friday featuring Dick Lindzen, Lindzen said he's sceptical that this incident really did happen in Gore's highschool science class, if it happened in anyone's. Lindzen said (a) that he'd heard variants of the same story years back, reported as supposedly having happened in person X's highschool science class; and (b ) that by the time Gore was in highschool, his teacher would have had to be behind the times to have reacted by pooh-poohing the student's suggestion as ridiculous. Gore then goes on to use that story as if it provides significance to his saying, "Look, these two graphs fit together." Even if the plate tectonics story did really happen in Gore's highschool science class, it's irrelevant to the issues of those graphs. And as Lindzen said, since when is science done by fitting a couple graphs together? Look, gee. The stage is set for Gore's further trick-playing with the actual scientific details.

Ellen

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Ellen,

Thank you for the links. (Actually, let me thank Christian for making a list of his links the way he did. They are much easier to consult that way.)

State of Fear is a very good suggestion. I haven't read it yet, but I have read excellent things about it. It looks like a great place to get a layman's overview. Michael Chricton's grasp of science has always been reliable and he is an entertaining writer.

On your comments about Gore's high-school story, I am not too sure about the value of trying to cast doubt on it. Anybody who has been to high-school knows that teachers come in all varieties, especially bad ones, so it is certainly possible Gore had a teacher like that. Just recently there was a movement by some religious high-school teachers to teach intelligent design and ban the teaching of evolution.

Also, I don't think Gore was really trying to relate plate tectonics to global warming. He was merely trying to state that often our authorities will ignore the obvious for whatever reason. I think he made his point extremely competently and I don't think it is slick to be competent. (I do think Gore was slick with some things in the film, but I will get to those later.)

Maybe there is a technical reason to make light of the fact that the graphs for temperature and CO2 levels over thousands of years fit together. I don't know yet. I do know that the alternative is to say that this fit is purely coincidental and that just doesn't sound right. As another approach, saying that this fit means absolutely nothing sounds all wrong, too. The fit clearly points to the fact that there is some kind of relationship between temperature and CO2 levels.

Unless a very clear and simple explanation can be presented to show that no relationship exists, I think our side actually undermines its case to lay-people by outright denial and/or derision. The "Swindle" documentary did a pretty good job of what I mean by good communication on this point. It did not deny that the relationship exists or make light of it. Instead, it presented another interpretation arrived at from considering the 800 year gap and the chronological order. I will look at the the pros and cons of this interpretation later. The point for now is that this is more like the approach needed communication-wise to convince people. If nothing like that is possible, much, much more is gained by simply conceding the point—that a relationship between temperature and CO2 levels is shown by the graphs—and that it is proper to wonder what that relationship is. There is nothing wrong with asking why.

Michael

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Michael,

Sure, it's possible that Gore had a behind-the-times science teacher. Nonetheless, the tectonics story was scientifically irrelevant and was a ploy. You even proceeded to fall prey to the ploy.

[...] Gore [...] was merely trying to state that often our authorities will ignore the obvious for whatever reason. I think he made his point extremely competently and I don't think it is slick to be competent. [....]

He's being slick because he's trying to make exactly the point you drew from the story, i.e., that authorities might ignore the obvious. He's insinuating, look, here was this kid who pointed out the obvious and was ignored; now I'm pointing out the obvious and being ignored. He's trying to gain credence for what he's saying by borrowing on that story. But there's no need to do this. Fine, there's a relationship between the graphs. Who said there isn't? The questions are: What relationship? And so what? What does the relationship mean? Re the first, he is sneaking past you something from which attention is drawn away, which is the exact relationship between those graphs -- that the temperature rise often precedes the CO2 rise. He's also eliding details of how the graphs were produced -- so as to get rid of the Medieval warm period. I don't have available to post slides which show the details, but what you'd get there doesn't give the same picture he presented. (Probably Lindzen will be posting slides on his website.) The point is that he's used the tectonics story to lull you into accepting what he is showing you while not asking critically about what he's showing you and about what he's saying it means. If he'd played fair in regard to those graphs, the audience wouldn't be set up to be drawn along nodding with his subsequent presentation.

Ellen

PS: A further point here, re the kid and the shape of the continents and authorities ignoring the obvious and Lindzen's comment, which I reported earlier, about science not being done by showing shapes fitting together. Another aspect of the slickness of what Gore is doing there is that simply saying, "Hey, look, don't these shapes of these continents seem sort of like they fit together?" is WAY far from enough to be proposing a scientific theory. Plenty of people had noticed this; the shape similarity of itself says nothing. One needs a theory, and prior to plate tectonics it was thought that the structure of the earth's crust was too rigid for the continents to have once fit together. Thus someone pointing out the shape and being ignored wouldn't have been being ignored just because authorities are pig-headed but instead for good reason. You gotta have some theory on which you can explain something in science. All this Gore was sliding past in his insinuation.

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Edited by Ellen Stuttle

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Ellen,

I am going to be frank with you. If I were a person completely out of the loop on all this (like I am, in fact, except this gets lesser and lesser as each day passes), and I just read your take on Gore's presentation in this last post after seeing the film, I would think, "(yawn), This person hates Gore and that's about it. Another one."

I would probably stop right there and give it no further consideration. That's what lay-people do. (Please don't forget that lay-people are the majority who are going to vote. They are the ones who are going to approve laws.)

But if I did think about it further, I would think, "Gore was effective. This person thinks being effective is being effective when he does it, but it is slick when the other side does it. Heh. Where have I seen that before?" Then to be fair, I might skim the post over again. As is normal, I would focus on the end where summaries usually are. Let's look at your last three statements:

1. "Thus someone pointing out the shape and being ignored wouldn't have been being ignored just because authorities are pig-headed but instead for good reason."

I would think, "I don't remember Gore calling anyone pig-headed, or even insinuating it (unless it was Bush & Co.)." I would think the person who made this statement didn't understand Gore's point at all, which is that people are resistant to change based on the knowledge and experience they have, especially if it is an inconvenient truth. He gave this theme right in his title: "An Inconvenient Truth." He did not call it: "Confronting the Pig-Headed Authorities," for example. So seeing that the person missed one of the main points of the film, I would discount this part as rhetoric and nothing more—pure bickering.

2. "You gotta have some theory on which you can explain something in science."

The plain fact is that Gore presented a highly structured theory. You or others may not agree with it, but you only shoot yourself in the foot when you insinuate that he didn't have a theory at all. Once again, I would think, "Of course Gore has a theory. She's wrong." That's not rocket science. Lay-people easily come to that conclusion.

3. "All this Gore was sliding past in his insinuation."

At this point, I would be unable to take this comment seriously for even considering questioning Gore's data. (Remember, I am putting myself in the position of reading this as a person who has not been convinced of one side or the other and I am not a scientist.) All this post would convince me of is that this person did not like Gore and was irrational about it. Gore did have a theory and he did not call people pig-headed. How do I (the lay-person) know? Hell, I just saw the film.

If I were still to consider this post (which is highly unlikely by now), I would start looking at the rest of it for other evidence of extreme bias and an attempt to make a case at all costs, even to the point of distorting things. To tell the truth, I would be looking for the distortions because of the end comments, whereas before, that was not my filter in reading the post. Any important facts that are in your post are completely lost to the lay-person by now.

I see this kind of mistake made all the time by people on both sides, and this is what I am trying to get around. I don't know how to say this nicely, so I will just have to say it as I see it.

You are not selling your case properly. You are playing right into the hands of the other side.

Lay-people are going to look at what you just did (and others who do the same), then they are going to look at what Gore did and they are going to think, "What are these people hiding? Gore must be right."

If that result is acceptable to you, carry on. If you wish to deny it, carry on. There is space for those who preach to the choir. But I see it clearly and that result is not acceptable to me. This is why I am going on a different path.

I too see the catastrophe in the over-regulatory measures that threaten to come and my intention is to do my part in stopping it. But I think the approach in your post is actually selling the environmentalist program to lay-people much more effectively than it sells your intention to them.

Michael

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Ellen,

I am going to be frank with you. If I were a person completely out of the loop on all this (like I am, in fact, except this gets lesser and lesser as each day passes), and I just read your take on Gore's presentation in this last post after seeing the film, I would think, "(yawn), This person hates Gore and that's about it. Another one."

I would probably stop right there and give it no further consideration. That's what lay-people do. (Please don't forget that lay-people are the majority who are going to vote. They are the ones who are going to approve laws.)

But if I did think about it further, I would think, "Gore was effective. This person thinks being effective is being effective when he does it, but it is slick when the other side does it. Heh. Where have I seen that before?" Then to be fair, I might skim the post over again. As is normal, I would focus on the end where summaries usually are. Let's look at your last three statements:

I will be frank in turn with you, Michael. One, maybe unlike you, I know quite a few lay people who aren't as dumb as you're indicating lay people as such are. Second, whom was I addressing? Was I writing an essay for the general public, or was I answering something you asked me -- and furthermore answering your request for some clues on this, remember -- explaining why that opening gambit is lulling the viewer into false implications, just as it lulled you? As to Gore's being "effective"? Sure, he was effective; that's the point. Effective at what? At presenting science? No.

1. "Thus someone pointing out the shape and being ignored wouldn't have been being ignored just because authorities are pig-headed but instead for good reason."

I would think, "I don't remember Gore calling anyone pig-headed, or even insinuating it (unless it was Bush & Co.)." I would think the person who made this statement didn't understand Gore's point at all, which is that people are resistant to change based on the knowledge and experience they have, especially if it is an inconvenient truth. He gave this theme right in his title: "An Inconvenient Truth." He did not call it: "Confronting the Pig-Headed Authorities," for example. So seeing that the person missed one of the main points of the film, I would discount this part as rhetoric and nothing more—pure bickering.

Where did I say that Gore called anyone "pig-headed"? No, he didn't. I repeat, I am addressing you, and you had picked up the message that that was what he was implying. For him to point out that people are "resistant to change based on the knowledge and experience they have" by using the example he used, wherein there were sound scientific reasons for not taking an hypothesis seriously (although not by the time Gore was in highschool) is a cheating way of making that point. It's furthermore working up an emotional support indicating that he is not being taken seriously for these very reasons. And he provides other stuff all of it reinforcing this impression of him as the prophet crying in the wilderness. Does he tell you that he dismissed from his scientific panels anyone who raised any scientific questions? Does he tell you that Revele [sp?], whom he cites as his second big youthful science experience, thinks that Gore has come to conclusions on the basis of Revele's own work which go beyond what's supportable. No, he leaves the implication -- which, I repeat, is exactly the implication you fell for, and are reinforcing that you fell for -- of a resistance to truth.

2. "You gotta have some theory on which you can explain something in science."

The plain fact is that Gore presented a highly structured theory. You or others may not agree with it, but you only shoot yourself in the foot when you insinuate that he didn't have a theory at all. Once again, I would think, "Of course Gore has a theory. She's wrong." That's not rocket science. Lay-people easily come to that conclusion.

Oh, no, he didn't present a highly structured theory. All he'd presented by that point in the film was the idea that temperature increase is caused by CO2 levels, without supporting this, without telling you that even in the material he shows there are times when the temperature increased before the CO2, without explaining how he gets the graphs (and what he's left out in order to get them); nor does he go on to discuss how criticized the hockey stick model he relies on has been. He isn't presenting a basis for a decent scientific theory at all. And, I repeat, I am not here writing an essay for the general public explaining all this. I am trying to give you some pointers, which you asked for.

Same to the rest of your speech about how I should go about talking to people to whom I wasn't talking, while you quite ignore the context in which I was talking. I don't have time for this, Michael. If you ask me for some help, and I give you some help, then don't come back with the reply that instead I should have written a document for a general public I wasn't addressing.

Ellen

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Ellen,

Woah theah!

You didn't get the spirit of what I was saying. You cannot address me and me only on a public forum. To do that, we have to be in private, not in public.

Don't look now, but there are spectators out there reading this! :)

Also, Gore made a simple analogy that was highly effective. We disagree in this particular case. I don't think he snuck it in to be dishonest. I think he used it to be persuasive just like anyone who makes a case in public tries to do. I think it was a highly competent use of rhetoric, and I really think he believes in what he is doing (despite wanting to make a bundle at it, too, as you mentioned off-line). And I don't think recognizing this is being "taken in" by him. He can be sincere, want to make a bundle and still be wrong. I see that well within the realm of possibility.

Whether he is right or wrong is another issue. And whether he did manipulate data (and I am sure he did) is also another issue. I want to get to the bottom of this.

I can't go where you are and say Gore didn't present a structured theory. If you don't think AGW (anthropogenic global warming) is a theory, then you have nothing to worry about. If there is no theory to begin with, people can't even consider it in terms of science. Right? So where is the problem? No science. No problem.

If you want to claim that his theory is false and show where and how, that's another issue. But denying that the theory of AGW exists at all is shooting yourself in the foot, even with me.

Or have I been duped ("taken in") into thinking that Gore made a movie about his theory of global warming and presented it with graphs and stuff? Was it maybe because I just saw it with my own eyes? Or was that just an illusion? Maybe Gore was only talking about the weather and I am just too dumb to see it...

Now why doesn't that argument convince me of anything? (I don't think it will convince others, either, but like I said, if you think it does, carry on.)

Michael

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There is obviously an "it's happening now for man-made global warming and we gotta do something about it now" orchestrated by various media and politicians and environmentalists which is fulminating in a pre-legislative frenzy that might not survive even until the 2008 elections. California will soon give a practical demonstration of the stupidity of all this. Words really won't do enough one way or the other. Expansion of the war in the Middle East might provide a bad distraction. Al Gore will end up with Governor "Moonbeam" Brown, known as a silly flake for being so wrong about so much. The politicians and media will move on and the environmentalists will look for another issue to exploit.

--Brant

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Michael:

I've got to support Ellen here. Your responses to all of us on this list seem to be using the tactics of hyperbole and misrepresentation; the very things you are criticizing in others!

Earlier you asked why I interpreted your reference to 'our side' as somewhat derogatory. I did so because you enclosed this phrase in scare quotes and Merriam-Websters Online defines these as:

quotation marks used to express especially skepticism or derision concerning the use of the enclosed word or phrase

which certainly seemed like an appropriate interpretation of your usage. Out of curiosity, could you be a bit more specific about whom exactly you were initially upset with on our side of the debate. Is it people on this list such as Robert Bidinotto who has written on this topic extensively including many recent posts on his blog? Is it the scientists that get quoted in the news who have expressed positions counter to Gore's? It really is not clear to me. You are obviously upset at the tactics of some, but it is necessary for you to identify them explicitly before any of us could agree with you or mount an effective counter argument.

I think you make a good point that well reasoned presentation on this topic, supported by hard facts, is the most effective strategy for convincing the majority of people of the truth. You would probably get a lot more support if you made this point in a more dispassionate manner without making the rest of us feel as though we were the enemy. In any event, I encourage you to do the in-depth research on this topic that you have indicated is you intent, and I would be interested in hearing about any useful hard data that you uncover which contributes to a clearer picture of the real state, causes and future of our climate.

Regards,

--

Jeff

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Earlier you asked why I interpreted your reference to 'our side' as somewhat derogatory. I did so because you enclosed this phrase in scare quotes and Merriam-Websters Online defines these as:
quotation marks used to express especially skepticism or derision concerning the use of the enclosed word or phrase

which certainly seemed like an appropriate interpretation of your usage.

Jeff,

I have been in Brazil too long. I was unaware of this definition. I always considered quotation marks as a form of rhetorical emphasis of the tone of the context, a sort of clarification, or an indication that someone else's categorization or meaning was being used. Thank you for that information. I will definitely include it in my future use of the device.

Out of curiosity, could you be a bit more specific about whom exactly you were initially upset with on our side of the debate. Is it people on this list such as Robert Bidinotto who has written on this topic extensively including many recent posts on his blog? Is it the scientists that get quoted in the news who have expressed positions counter to Gore's? It really is not clear to me. You are obviously upset at the tactics of some, but it is necessary for you to identify them explicitly before any of us could agree with you or mount an effective counter argument.

Robert certainly is one. I don't object to his facts nor even his passion. I object to the image of not allowing for ANY value whatsoever in the environmentalists. Hell, I don't even object to that. I object to allowing myself to swallow that image uncritically.

Please understand my context and understand that this is the same for many readers (not only of OL, but in general). I don't spend my time analyzing charts and scientific literature for pleasure. I don't even have that much interest in the weather. When it's cold, I turn up the heat and put more clothes on and that's about as far as my interest goes (until this discussion, of course). So when I have read Robert on this, or any of the other anti-AGW people, I got the impression that the AGW people are simply out to lunch. There was no logic, no facts, no nothing but hatred of human beings driving them.

Then I saw the film. "No logic, no facts, no nothing but hatred of human beings driving them" is not what I saw and I stated that loud and clear. If I allowed myself to absorb this demonized impression and received a shock when I took a look-see for myself, I know that others have experienced the same.

What has been the result? Even with Ellen, whom I highly respect and admire, I have been told, (1) I am not learned enough to understand the real issues, (2) Gore did not do what he did, (3) it is not important anyway, (4) Gore & Co. really are the dirty rotten dishonest villains, and there actually is "no logic, no facts, no nothing but hatred of human beings," and (5) I just can't see it because he duped me.

This was from a friend and Ellen was more friendly than most are about it. On other forums this argument is presented with a lot of mocking and name-calling.

I was appalled when I saw the film, because, even if there are only dirty rotten dishonest villains with "no logic, no facts, no nothing but hatred of human beings," Gore made one hell of a case that it was otherwise. I saw as clear as daylight that in the realm of rhetoric, our side was taking a serious drubbing. Hell, I saw that I was going to have to go back over that film to make sure I keep the facts straight. Let's say that the gap is way too large between what I have been reading from our side and what I saw. I didn't even get an "us against them" impression from the film.

I repeat, if this was how this has impacted me, I know that there are others out there who have suffered it too.

I think you make a good point that well reasoned presentation on this topic, supported by hard facts, is the most effective strategy for convincing the majority of people of the truth. You would probably get a lot more support if you made this point in a more dispassionate manner without making the rest of us feel as though we were the enemy.

Point well taken. I certainly don't want to give the impression that I think anyone on our side is the enemy. Apologies all round if that is the case.

I do think that the completely one-sided approach with lots of derogatory remarks is not a good one for convincing people and I am trying to call attention to that. We are shooting ourselves in the foot that way if we want to actually persuade people.

There is good example of this kind of rhetoric in a lecture at the Heritage Foundation by Evan Sayet that Barbara posted. It includes global warming, but also covers everything else the liberals do and think: "How Liberals Think." This guy, Sayet, was not content to identify and trace the principle of indiscrimination in liberal thought (which I think was quite perceptive). He went whole hog to explain how everything (and he emphasized everything) liberals do leads to evil, whether they want it to or not. Everything? All you have to do is look around to see that is not true. And if I were a Democrat with doubts, after hearing a lecture like that, I would be inclined to dismiss any and all valid arguments in there along with the demonizing exaggeration. I would think, "Hell, the guy was talking about me and, when I look at my life and family, etc., what he said is simply not true at all. My life is not generating evil and only evil." Of course, the audience of hardcore conservatives who were present loved it.

I am pleased you think that "well reasoned presentation on this topic, supported by hard facts, is the most effective strategy for convincing the majority of people of the truth." I feel that my appeal to use reason and go easy on the rhetoric has reached at least one person so far.

Here is the problem I face on this and I am trying to figure out how to get around it. The posters who feel strongly enough to post are usually so against environmentalism that it is almost second nature. For the record, I am fully with them in opposing encroaching legislation.

About the other issues, I sometimes part ways. I find it hard to swallow that big oil, for one simple example, is a victim when I have seen it up close get in bed with the government and do some horrible things using such influence. I don't feel comfortable with "us against them" if part of "us" is going to be those people who deal in trafficking government influence. Yet I constantly read defenses of big oil as if this issue doesn't exist at all, even when it is a blatant matter of public record.

But getting back to the problem, let's say I start by saying that I saw Gore's film and I saw the "Swindle" film too (the quote marks are not intended to mean derogatory here).

Then I mention that Gore's film is extremely well presented (which it was) and the other film's presentation was not as good (which it wasn't). My intention is to delve into it so I can help diffuse any use it may have in supporting the encroaching laws. (My target public is the group of silent readers here on OL who have doubts themselves. I realize this is a relatively small group, but I am not out to save the world—just do my share in helping to avoid a legalized disaster.) As a secondary intent, I would like to see if there are any actual issues that should be considered. This comes from my own natural curiosity.

Then I get a response from one saying that the film is not well presented at all. I am mistaken. I get another saying that ALL of the facts in the films are wrong or grossly manipulated. Another provides 7 kilos of scientific details debunking the information in the film. All of this is done in an emotional tone of "us against them," and a strong insinuation that if I think the film was well presented, then I must either be dumb, easily duped or turning liberal.

Is that an objective manner of presentation? I don't mind people having these strong opinions. In Brazil, they say each mind is its own sentence. But how do I go about making an objective inquiry for readers to analyze when even the most minute positive detail that I mention will provoke these kinds of reactions?

Like the standard criticism against the ortho-Objectivist manner of judging goes, if EVERYTHING irrational is evil, how do you distinguish between Hitler and a person eating a second helping of ice-cream when he knows it is bad for him? With the global warming issue, if EVERYTHING in Gore's film (or on the side of the AGW argument) is wrong, despicable, manipulative and evil, how do we distinguish between the real threat and someone who simply wants a better world for his grandchildren?

The only manner I know is to put everything out in the open and call it as I see it, using only reason as my guide, and take the heat when the conclusion I arrive at is not popular with those on my side. I think it is worth the effort and I strongly believe the results will show later down the line. And I do hope that the group of people interested in presenting the look-at-both-sides-objectively approach grows.

Michael

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Ellen,

Woah theah!

You didn't get the spirit of what I was saying. You cannot address me and me only on a public forum. To do that, we have to be in private, not in public.

Don't look now, but there are spectators out there reading this! :)

Whom were you addressing, Michael, in the post to which I replied? That post began:

Ellen,

I am going to be frank with you.

Yes, there are spectators out there reading this. I believe that at least some of those spectators can accurately read and intelligently compare what I wrote against your reply.

I don't know what's with you on this subject. Whatever it is, I'm outta here.

Ellen

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Then I mention that Gore's film is extremely well presented (which it was) and the other film's presentation was not as good (which it wasn't).

Goebbels' speeches were also extremely well presented.

My intention is to delve into it so I can help diffuse any use it may have in supporting the encroaching laws.

I suppose you mean "defuse" and not "diffuse"?

Then I get a response from one saying that the film is not well presented at all. I am mistaken. I get another saying that ALL of the facts in the films are wrong or grossly manipulated. Another provides 7 kilos of scientific details debunking the information in the film.

A lot of people were also convinced by Goebbels, and they were not all idiots or criminals (hindsight is always 20/20).

All of this is done in an emotional tone of "us against them," and a strong insinuation that if I think the film was well presented, then I must either be dumb, easily duped or turning liberal.

I haven't seen those insinuations. The film may have been well presented, but that doesn't imply that its information is correct.

I am pleased you think that "well reasoned presentation on this topic, supported by hard facts, is the most effective strategy for convincing the majority of people of the truth." I feel that my appeal to use reason and go easy on the rhetoric has reached at least one person so far.

But there is enough well reasoned presentation on this topic, supported by hard facts. Read for example Lomborg's book. I think however that such reasoned presentation is not very effective with the general public, who don't want to be bothered with all those pesky scientific details (you seem to have an aversion against those too, so I wonder what really would convince you), but who are impressed with alarming doomsday pictures.

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I suppose you mean "defuse" and not "diffuse"?

Absolutely. My mistake. Thank you.

A lot of people were also convinced by Goebbels, and they were not all idiots or criminals (hindsight is always 20/20).

Goebbels is the same as Al Gore? I'm sorry. I can't take that seriously.

I haven't seen those insinuations. The film may have been well presented, but that doesn't imply that its information is correct.

If you look at my post, you will see that I stated that very clearly. So you agree with me?

But there is enough well reasoned presentation on this topic, supported by hard facts. Read for example Lomborg's book. I think however that such reasoned presentation is not very effective with the general public, who don't want to be bothered with all those pesky scientific details (you seem to have an aversion against those too, so I wonder what really would convince you), but who are impressed with alarming doomsday pictures.

You misunderstood. I am probably not as smart as you, so it takes me more than 2 day to plow through 7 kilos of scientific information. I don't have an aversion. The truth is I don't have time, but I am starting to make some. (Also, I still have a problem simply ignoring all those PhD's in university positions who claim the contrary.)

Now extend this to the lay-person you apparently feel such contempt for. Now think something real hard. That person is the one who is going to decide whether these hyper-regulatory laws get passed or not.

Do you still think making fun of him is a good way to convince him? Or ignoring him is a good idea?

You may not like the task I have set out for myself, but it needs doing.

Michael

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Goebbels is the same as Al Gore? I'm sorry. I can't take that seriously.

Where do I say that they're the same? I only point out that a good presentation is no guarantee for a good content. I can give another example that may be closer to home: I've seen in the past some American films with creationist propaganda which were also very well done, but which were in fact total crap.

Now extend this to the lay-person you apparently feel such contempt for.

This is ridiculous, where do you get the idea that I feel contempt for the lay-person?! Do you think that such wild accusations will convince anyone on OL? I see no use in continuing this discussion.

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This is ridiculous, where do you get the idea that I feel contempt for the lay-person?!

Dragonfly,

I interpreted your remark about aversion to "all those pesky scientific details" as an expression of contempt. I was mistaken? What did it mean, then?

Michael

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I interpreted your remark about aversion to "all those pesky scientific details" as an expression of contempt. I was mistaken? What did it mean, then?

Just the statement of a fact. When I'm going to talk to my neighbor about Lie derivatives, metric tensors and symplectic manifolds, he'll probably start to yawn and tell me that he doesn't give a damn about those things (just as I start to yawn when people are talking about rock music). What has that to do with contempt? It's just a fact, most people are not at all interested in scientific details. I don't blame them for that, but it is unfortunate that you can reach them with an emotional message of doom and gloom, but that a cool refutation of the arguments has little effect, as it doesn't have the same emotional appeal and most people are not interested in subtle scientific arguments.

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Just the statement of a fact. When I'm going to talk to my neighbor about Lie derivatives, metric tensors and symplectic manifolds, he'll probably start to yawn and tell me that he doesn't give a damn about those things (just as I start to yawn when people are talking about rock music). What has that to do with contempt? It's just a fact, most people are not at all interested in scientific details. I don't blame them for that, but it is unfortunate that you can reach them with an emotional message of doom and gloom, but that a cool refutation of the arguments has little effect, as it doesn't have the same emotional appeal and most people are not interested in subtle scientific arguments.

Dragonfly,

OK. It was a misunderstanding. However you highly underestimate lay-people. You certainly can reach them with a cool presentation of facts. (I don't say "cool refutation" because I think even that is not the right way to go. Watch how this thing unfolds to see what I mean.)

If you saw Gore's film, you would understand that this is precisely what he did. He didn't refute anything. He merely presented. And the presentation was far from emotional (bordering on boring) and far from doom and gloom. It was how he structured his presentation logically in simple language that captivated people so much, along with the pictures, videos and graphs. One thing smoothly led to another and one idea logically developed from the preceding ones. The thing grew almost organically. It was like watching a concept be constructed from scratch. The whole structure and method of building his case were beautifully executed. That's why the film is so powerfully persuasive with so many people.

This was the strategic error in the "Swindle" film. Even the title shows it to be radical refutation, not presentation. Pure attack mode. This is always the recourse of second best and politicians (and it places the attacked film in a superior position by default). The proper posture of a truth bearer is to present, not attack.

On the doom side, in Gore's film there was a strong suggestion that certain land masses would have to be abandoned due to flooding and the weather would be vastly different if the temperature kept rising at the present rate, but nothing like outright destruction of the world.

I agree that all the premises and facts have to be checked. Lots of people are complaining that there is wrong data and manipulated data. But that is true for both sides, too. I suggest (and will to a small extent attempt) checking all this in the same spirit as Gore's film: calm, cool, reasonable, logical and looking at both sides without harsh rhetoric.

I also admit my bias. I am strongly against hyper-regulatory laws. I hope to be able to make this case along the way using the same method.

Michael

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but t is unfortunate that you can reach them with an emotional message of doom and gloom, but that a cool refutation of the arguments has little effect, as it doesn't have the same emotional appeal and most people are not interested in subtle scientific arguments.
You certainly can reach them with a cool presentation of facts.

Michael:

I think you disprove you own case with this discussion itself. Here we are approaching 70 posts and there has been very little in the way of cool presentation of facts (discounting links to other sites), but quite a bit of very heated emotion. Those of us that are NT types are comfortable in our own positions and observations and prefer well reasoned presentations over emotion-laden argumentation. But NTs represent less than 1% of the population. As Dragonfly (I wish you would use your real name) accurately points out, the majority of people seem to be more drawn to or effected by a powerful emotional message, and that seems to apply to this thread as well. If you want to change the course and tone of this discussion away from emotion and towards analysis of facts, then I suggest you make the first move and present any well reasoned arguments you find in the literature that do show in an unambiguous way that global warming is a phenomenon that is significantly a result of human activity and that global-warming is at the tipping point of being a world-wide catastrophe. Then we can decide whether the radical environmentalists do have a rational case to make that is separate from emotional propaganda.

Regards,

--

Jeff

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On the doom side, in Gore's film there was a strong suggestion that certain land masses would have to be abandoned due to flooding and the weather would be vastly different if the temperature kept rising at the present rate, but nothing like outright destruction of the world.

Emotional Gore

Al Gore told the panels today to cut carbon dioxide emissions and other warming gases 90 percent by 2050. This is the absolute minimum required to avert a worldwide crisis, he added.

[snip]

The film [Gore's, IT] has an ominous tone to it. In a posting on its website it says "Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction."

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross

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During the past decade many people have gotten environmentalists to sign petitions seeking to ban dihydrogen monoxide, but it's fun to see Penn and Teller doing it:

J

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If you want to change the course and tone of this discussion away from emotion and towards analysis of facts, then I suggest you make the first move and present any well reasoned arguments you find in the literature that do show in an unambiguous way that global warming is a phenomenon that is significantly a result of human activity and that global-warming is at the tipping point of being a world-wide catastrophe.

Jeff,

Actually, inadvertently, I think you have hit the problem, the false dichotomy that the radical elements on both sides are trying to ram down the throats of everyone. The more I read about this (and watch films, interviews, etc.), the more I am of an opinion expressed by Robert Tracinski in What Al Gore Really Wants.

I strongly recommend viewing the British documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle," which interviews some of these scientists and explodes the myth that global warming is "settled science."

For the record, this was said in a context where Tracinski was calling Gore a liar Objectivist-style (dishonest and evader) because he identified Gore's mention of "scientific novel" to mean Michael Crichton's State of Fear, and blew up the significance of this to mean "only opposition" (even Tracinski can exaggerate when the itch to call someone an evader hits him).

But what he said in the middle of that is a crucial point and will probably be the starting conclusion of my analyses as I present them: science is not settled on the issue.

I cannot say for sure, but I think this will be my conclusion for the vast majority of the contentious points (which, from what I see, is just about everything, including the use of "and," "but," "a" and "the.") In recommending "The Great Global Warming Swindle," I don't know if Tracinski was aware of the irony that even as he said that science is not settled, he was recommending a work that was loudly proclaiming that science was settled.

On the false dichotomy, note the points you just requested me to present:

1. "global warming is a phenomenon that is significantly a result of human activity,"

2. "global-warming is at the tipping point of being a world-wide catastrophe."

The unstated (but implicit) dichotomy is:

1. Global warming is a not a phenomenon that is significantly a result of human activity,

2. Global-warming is not at the tipping point of being a world-wide catastrophe.

I think there is another possibility:

1. Global warming is a phenomenon that is the result of natural forces and human activity, but science is not settled on how much is what.

2. Global-warming is at the tipping point of some upcoming changes, but science is not settled on the severity of them.

So instead of presenting a case for one side or the other, what if I put the best I can find of both sides up, side by side, so people can look and decide for themselves and discussion can start from there? Isn't that more rational?

There is even another view that needs to be on the table. Some scientists I have read so far conclude that global warming is a myth altogether—that it does not even exist. If that isn't proof that science is not settled on the issue, I don't know what is.

To me, the real issue boils down to a regulatory one. Some people want to pass regulatory laws and others don't want those regulatory laws.

From this angle, the fear of impending legislation is making our side commit a gross error for convincing the undecided and those who simply don't know enough to decide.

You don't fight one lie with another lie. You don't fight one distortion of facts with another distortion of facts. You don't fight one crucial omission with another crucial omission. You don't fight pretending that accredited scientists do not exist with pretending that other accredited scientists do not exist. You don't fight name-calling with more name-calling.

You can fool some people that way, but that's all. I think it is a shoddy foundation on which to build a case when there is the iron and concrete of the statement: "the science is not settled yet."

btw - I just got Michael Crichton's State of Fear. I think before I dive in and make my notes on the films and present them, I want to read that.

Michael

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Jonathan,

That Penn and Teller thing was hilarious! Here is the link again.

That is just the kind of mentality (but on our side) that has caused my present "let's go through this thing again" stance. If anyone is perplexed by me right now, this is the main issue.

Notice that once the guy at the end was told what dihydrogen monoxide really was in plain language, he had no problem seeing how ridiculous it was. Instead of our side pointing out the obvious like that, I keep reading the equivalent of something like the following: "Dihydrogen monoxide" is nothing more than a "diatomic hydrogenium oxygen compound" and it is ridiculous for anyone to think that that could be a danger—case closed and point proved!

EDIT:

So long as we are on the light side, I just came across this pearl of wisdom:

With five private jets, Travolta still lectures on global warming

Evening Standard - This is London

March 30, 2007

Scientologist and actor John Travolta has the answer to all our fears, regardless of whether global warming is man-made or natural (presuming it exists). From the article:

"It [global warming] is a very valid issue," Travolta declared. "I'm wondering if we need to think about other planets and dome cities."

travoltapilotDM2903_228x574.jpg

Whew! I'm glad he resolved that!

I was starting to get worried that there was no way out...

:)

Michael

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Notice that once the guy at the end was told what dihydrogen monoxide really was in plain language, he had no problem seeing how ridiculous it was. Instead of our side pointing out the obvious like that, I keep reading the equivalent of something like the following: "Dihydrogen monoxide" is nothing more than a "diatomic hydrogenium oxygen compound" and it is ridiculous for anyone to think that that could be a danger—case closed and point proved!

Okay, so here's my attempt at making "our side's" views more accessible to laypeople without getting all geeking and needlessly technical:

This is the gloomy "hockey stick" graph which represents Al Gore and his leftist buddies' interpretations of the data:

441143509_c7cb555cd6_o.jpg

The black area in the image below is the chart's margin of error, as stated by those who collected the data and made the chart, and as reported by some in the media when the chart was first released to the press (I first saw it in US News and World Report):

441143507_ee5886a420_o.jpg

And this line, which falls within the margin of error, is my interpretation of the data:

441143503_87726784e1_o.jpg

It looks like everything is going to be OK!

J

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Jonathan,

Margin of error? Good God! What a great idea!

LOLOLOLOL...

If you put some figures to that from scientists on both sides, this is exactly what is needed.

I'm serious.

In the right place, that little thing will have vastly more impact than this entire discussion in the same place.

Settled science or margin of error? Let the bunny tell.

I like it...

:)

Michael

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I just got the book, An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, so I won't have to keep looking things up in the film when I get going. But more about that later.

For now, I have started State of Fear by Michael Crichton. On an initial flipping through it, I was delighted to see a kindred spirit. At the end is an impressive bibliography, a cautionary tale about the sorry debacle of eugenics as politicized science, but most important for me before reading the book, there is a statement of beliefs called "Author's Message." Here are a few quotes. I want to go on record saying that these thoughts are precisely the ones I hold and/or have suspected. I put in bold those thoughts I particularly identify with.

  • We know astonishingly little about every aspect of the environment, from its past history, to its present state, to how to conserve and protect it. In every debate, all sides overstate the extent of existing knowledge and it's degree of certainty.
  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, and human activity is the probable cause.
  • We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a four-hundred-year cold spell known as the "Little Ice Age."
  • Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon.
  • Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be man-made.
    . . .
  • Before making expensive policy decisions on the basis of climate models, I think it is reasonable to require that those models predict future temperatures accurately for a period of ten years. Twenty would be better.
    . . .
  • There are many reasons to shift away from fossil fuels, and we will do so in the next century without legislation, financial incentives, carbon-conservation programs, or the interminable yammering of fearmongers. So far as I know, nobody had to ban horse transport in the early twentieth century.
    . . .
  • I conclude that most environmental "principles" (such as sustainable development or the precautionary principle) have the effect of preserving the economic advantages of the West and thus constitute modern imperialism toward the developing world. It is a nice way of saying, "We got ours and we don't want you to get yours, because you'll cause too much pollution."
    . . .
  • We haven't the foggiest notion how to preserve what we term "wilderness," and we had better study it in the field and learn how to do so. I see no evidence that we're conducting such research in a humble, rational, and systematic way. I therefore hold little hope for wilderness management and the twenty-first century. I blame environmental organizations every bit as much as developers and strip miners. There is no difference in outcomes between greed and incompetence.
    . . .
  • I personally experience a profound pleasure being in nature. My happiest days each year are those I spend in wilderness. I wish natural environments to be preserved for future generations. I am not satisfied they will be preserved in sufficient quantities, or with sufficient skill. I conclude that the "exploiters of the environment" include environmental organizations, government organizations, and big business. All have equally dismal track records.

Amen.

That is rational thought as I understand it. I think this is going to be one hell of a good book. And it even starts with a bang: a seduction with some bad guys invading the bedroom.

Michael

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A minor though indicative tidbit about the Gore film which you probably won't find mentioned elsewhere: Near the beginning, Gore tells a couple stories about incidents from his educational past which he says made a big impression. One of those pertained to a fellow student who was pooh-poohed by the teacher upon asking if the continents had ever fit together. During the U. Conn event last Friday featuring Dick Lindzen, Lindzen said he's skeptical that this incident really did happen in Gore's highschool science class, if it happened in anyone's. Lindzen said (a) that he'd heard variants of the same story years back, reported as supposedly having happened in person X's highschool science class; and (b ) that by the time Gore was in highschool, his teacher would have had to be behind the times to have reacted by pooh-poohing the student's suggestion as ridiculous.

Interestingly, Michael Crichton used the same story in a speech he made back in 2005...

http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/index.html

"Our Environmental Future"

National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Janaury 25, 2005

In my view, our approach to global warming exemplifies everything that is wrong with our approach to the environment. We are basing our decisions on speculation, not evidence. Proponents are pressing their views with more PR than scientific data. Indeed, we have allowed the whole issue to be politicized—red vs blue, Republican vs Democrat. This is in my view absurd. Data aren't political. Data are data. Politics leads you in the direction of a belief. Data, if you follow them, lead you to truth.

When I was a student in the 1950s, like many kids I noticed that Africa seemed to fit nicely into South America. Were they once connected? I asked my teacher, who said that that this apparent fit was just an accident, and the continents did not move. I had trouble with that, unaware that people had been having trouble with it ever since Francis Bacon noticed the same thing back in 1620. A German named Wegener had made a more modern case for it in 1912. But still, my teacher said no.

By the time I was in college ten years later, it was recognized that continents did indeed move, and had done so for most of Earth's history. Continental drift and plate tectonics were born. The teacher was wrong.

Another telling quote from a different speech:

"Environmentalism as Religion"

Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA

September 15, 2003

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

Am I exaggerating to make a point? I am afraid not. Because we know a lot more about the world than we did forty or fifty years ago. And what we know now is not so supportive of certain core environmental myths, yet the myths do not die. Let's examine some of those beliefs.

[snip]

You may have noticed that something has been left off the doomsday list, lately. Although the preachers of environmentalism have been yelling about population for fifty years, over the last decade world population seems to be taking an unexpected turn. Fertility rates are falling almost everywhere. As a result, over the course of my lifetime the thoughtful predictions for total world population have gone from a high of 20 billion, to 15 billion, to 11 billion (which was the UN estimate around 1990) to now 9 billion, and soon, perhaps less. There are some who think that world population will peak in 2050 and then start to decline. There are some who predict we will have fewer people in 2100 than we do today. Is this a reason to rejoice, to say halleluiah? Certainly not. Without a pause, we now hear about the coming crisis of world economy from a shrinking population. We hear about the impending crisis of an aging population. Nobody anywhere will say that the core fears expressed for most of my life have turned out not to be true. As we have moved into the future, these doomsday visions vanished, like a mirage in the desert. They were never there---though they still appear, in the future. As mirages do.

Okay, so, the preachers made a mistake. They got one prediction wrong; they're human. So what. Unfortunately, it's not just one prediction. It's a whole slew of them. We are running out of oil. We are running out of all natural resources. Paul Ehrlich: 60 million Americans will die of starvation in the 1980s. Forty thousand species become extinct every year. Half of all species on the planet will be extinct by 2000. And on and on and on.

With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions would become more cautious. But not if it's a religion. Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn't quit when the world doesn't end on the day he expects. He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets. One of the defining features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled by facts, because they have nothing to do with facts.

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross

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