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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Al Gore and "Environmentalists" I have known

Al Gore has declared the debate on Global Warming "over" and that anyone perverse enough to deny it must be "in it for the money."

This is convenient because he has been AWOL in the debate for a long time. He has consistently refused to debate the issue with anyone with any legitimate scientific credentials.

Perhaps it's because a degree in Divinity has left him less than well-prepared to discuss hard science.

Fact is, not only is the debate not over, it really hasn't begun. For the reason that the questions have not been stated precisely in the public forum.

Is the world warming up?

Can we phrase that a little more precisely?

Do you mean the average temperature of the whole earth, both hemispheres? And is it a long-term trend upwards, or just a fluctuation that can be expected to reverse itself as if has over the history of the earth, as far back as we know it?

And most importantly, if the average temperature is on a long-term upward trend (and please define "long-term") - is this a bad thing, a good thing, or of mixed consequences?

Well, already we've gotten a bit more rigorous than most "environmentalists" I have known tend to be.

I once knew an Englishman who believed firmly in every environmental disaster scenario he'd ever heard of. When confronted with scientific opinions to the contrary, he would immediately make up an ad hominem attack on the credibility of the scientist. Rather like Mr. Gore did in fact. (What was weird and alarming was that this fellow had a degree in philosophy and should have known what the ad hominem fallacy is.)

For example, when I mentioned that during the time I worked at The College of Exact Science in Poland (I was the English Department) I never met a Polish scientist who thought Global Warming was a credible theory.

"That's just because their income depends on denying it" he said.

No, not only not true but the opposite of true. Poland has no disaster lobby in their government that funds scientists to find "problems" for it to solve, as we do. As one Pole bluntly told me, "We can't afford it, we have real problems."

And furthermore, is it really logical to believe that groups of scientists would in effect help destroy the world, the same one they live in, for money? Where would they spend it after the environmental cataclysm?

On another occasion in North Carolina, I met a young woman who assured me that the forests of New Hampshire were dying of pollution.

I assured her that I had just driven through that part of New England and that the forests looked just fine thank you very much.

She kept insisting that pesticides or whatever had killed all the trees. The spooky thing about this was that North Carolina is not all that far from New Hampshire. She could have checked her contention out on a pleasant day trip - but it hadn't even occurred to her to do so. And when I suggested that she do so, she dismissed the idea. She didn't need to see it with her own eyes, she knew.

Need I point out that the cause of environmentalism is not well-served by people such as these?

Now am I suggesting that everybody concerned about the environment is as pig-ignorant as this?

Absolutely not! I know and respect the opinions of a fair number of scientists (David Brin for example) who take the notion of an endangered environment very seriously. But too durn many are - and they appear to have the loudest voices in the... you can't call it an argument, because they obviously don't know what an argument is.*

This is obviously a deeply held emotional conviction we are dealing with here. The question arises, why do they feel a deep-seated need to believe that the world is on the brink of disaster? Wouldn't they be happy to be proven wrong?

That is a question for another post.

PS I anticipate a number of outraged, anonymous (and hysterical) attacks. Do us all a favor and post only if you can answer these questions and comment on their relevance to the debate. Honor system.

1) Chemistry: What is Boyle's Law?

2) Biology: What is a rhizome?

3) Physics: What is albedo?

*In formal logic, an argument is a set of statements, one of which (the conclusion) is claimed to necessarily follow from the others. Logic is the study of the proposition "follows from."

9 Comments:

  • At 1:32 PM, Blogger metapundit.net said…

    Is #3 a trick question? Albedo is reflectivity I believe - never heard of "aldebo"...

     
  • At 2:34 PM, Blogger Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said…

    Steve,
    I don't have any special expertise on this subject, but I suspect Bjorn Lomborg (www.lomborg.com) is correct when he argues that global warming is a real phenomena but that the dangers from it are exaggerated. (More precisely, he argues that the proposed solutions advanced so far aren't worth the cost.) He has a new book out called "Cool It -- The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming."

     
  • At 7:35 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Sorry, typo. I'm a tad slyzdexic.

    Funny the spellchecker didn't get it.

     
  • At 6:35 AM, Blogger Jim Sullivan said…

    Steve,

    You touch on the subject of logic in this post and the subject can't be overstated.

    I can't tell you how many people have no idea what a logical fallacy is and why it's important in a debate to know what one is.

    If I were a paranoid man, I'd swear they stopped teaching that stuff because the powers that be don't want such a powerful tool in the hands of the people. I'm sure that some people are still learning it in Philosphy classes but I don't know a high school student that has any idea what a logical fallacy is.

     
  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Amen to that!

    Logic is one leg of the trivium: logic, rhetoric and grammar; the first three of the Seven Liberal Arts. Once upon a time, kids were expected to have this under their belts before they went off to college. Freshman logic is probably too late to do any good.

    One of the best definitions of logical fallacy I ever heard was "the counterfeit of argument."

    In the future I'll repost the address of a great rhetoric site and some of the better logic sites.

     
  • At 9:48 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    PS I don't know if you're paranoid or not - but I suspect the same thing.

    I know I'm paranoid though. What worries me is, am I paranoid enough?

     
  • At 2:07 PM, Blogger Jim Sullivan said…

    Steve,

    This post really got my wheels turning. So much so that I posted my own thoughts on logic. Thanks for the catalyzing commentary.

    http://criticalbookworm.blogspot.com/2007/11/fallacies.html

     
  • At 2:48 PM, Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box said…

    Actually, I think - based on the evidence I've personally witnessed going the last four decades - "Global Warming" is real:
    It's an artificial phenomenon that takes place every 2-4 years when massive amounts of HOT AIR and bovine excretion fumes (greenhouse GAS?) are released into the atmosphere by politicians running for office.
    Al Gump should know this, and keep his yapper buttoned!

     
  • At 3:17 PM, Blogger gun-totin-wacko said…

    I have a friend who's ultra-liberal, and considers himself a hardcore rationalist. Funny thing is, he swears by global warming. I've suggested that there are problems with it, and he goes nuts. Many times he's told me that the debate is over and that global warming- er, climate change- is a theory in the same sense as Relativity or Gravity is a "theory".

    Oh, and any scientists who disagree (and of course the "overwhelming majority" agree)is guilty of taking money from oil companies, is incompetent, isn't a "real" scientist, etc.

    We don't much discuss it anymore, as he's positive it's happening, and I'm not convinced. Neither of us will give an inch. However, I hope that, the next time it comes up, I can get him to refuse to answer the question I got from someplace- junkscience.com, I believe- "What would constitute proof that climate change is NOT happening?"

    Ironically, he does know some Logic, and frequently accuses me of ad hominem attacks, and refers to other sorts of logical fallacies that he thinks I'm guilty of using.

    But pronouncing the debate here to be "over" is, in his mind, completely logical.

    It does often give me amusement.

    Oh, and please do post some sites on logic and rhetoric. Love to see them, but too lazy to search for them myself.

     

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