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Richard Milne separates skepticism from denial

Posted on 30 October 2011 by John Cook

Dr Richard Milne from the University of Edinburgh has published an entertaining and educational lecture 'Criticial Thinking on Climate Change'. He explores the nature of science and genuine scientific skepticism while managing to pack in more cartoons, animations and jokes (yes, I LOLed on multiple occasions) than I've ever seen in a climate lecture. He also debunks a number of climate myths, using some great metaphors which I'll be adding to my vocabulary for future reference. Definitely worth watching for any interested in climate science.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 65:

  1. Great lecture! And no, not just because of the SkS plug.

    The bull in the china shop analogy is a pearler! The role playing voice gives it that extra spark of humor.
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  2. Readers might be interested in a more academic evaluation of denialism. Massimo Piglucci has the best philosophical site on the web (and why not? He was formerly a Professor of Palaeontology, with a track record of opposing creationism). In a recent post he drew attention to a journal article by Lawrence Torcello on the subject of ethical standards in public discourse, with special reference to the various "denialisms" - HIV, vaccines, climate etc.

    Torcello points out that actual skepticism is about positive inquiry and critical thinking, as well as proportioning one’s beliefs to the available evidence (not to mention being willing to alter those beliefs if and when the evidence changes significantly). Pseudoskepticism, on the contrary, makes a virtue of doubt per se, regardless of other considerations, and is therefore irrational.

    Torcello proposes three recommendations for public discourse:

    (1) Ethical obligations of inquiry extend to every voting citizen insofar as citizens are bound together as a political body;

    (2) It is morally condemnable to put forward unwarranted public assertions contrary to scientific consensus when such consensus is decisive for public policy and legislation;

    (3) It is imperative upon educators, journalists, politicians and all those with greater access to the public forum to condemn, factually and ethically, pseudoskeptical assertions without equivocation


    In (2), some have typified this as censorship. I disagree - the word "unwarranted" most certainly applies to many climate denialist tropes e.g. that scientists are enriching themselves on great money.

    Thanks for the post, SkS, I think you are tops for (3) in Torcello's list except that you go beyond condemnation in favour of refutation. All great philosophers have held that, if the playing pitch is level, the truth will always win (eventually!).

    Rationally Speaking: The ethics of scientific inquiry and public discourse
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  3. A site called 'rationally speaking' makes declarations of moral condemnation?
    Being rational is the process of evaluation without recourse to moral judgment
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  4. Tristan @3, the claim that morality is arational is one of the most pernicious and evil ever made, and flies in the face of much of ethical theory. Because in fact morality, at least the genuine article, is truly rational, speaking rationally may require from us moral condemnation. Indeed, speaking rationally about morality requires of us the moral condemnation of those who would divorce morality from reason, and reason from morality.
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  5. I contend that much of ethical theory is unsupportable, arbitrary and has been rendered obsolete by the field of anthropology.
    There is no basis for the idea of a 'genuine article of morality' that doesn't have roots in a theological/humanistic worldview. That is to say, ethics and morals don't exist in a vacuum. They are a function of whichever axioms exist in a given model.
    The AGW discourse should steer clear of moral proclamations, although appealing to the public audience will of course involve drawing behavioural equivalences between action/inaction on climate change and action/inaction in other areas.
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  6. Tristan @5, I will not be drawn into an of topic discussion. I will merely note, first, that you are wrong, and, second, that you have just admitted that in your view any conceivable behavior is compatible with morality. From the second if follows that any conceivable behavior is compatible with what you consider to be acceptable behavior. I will note the second point, and not assume hereafter that any of your actions are restrained by an ethical imperative. I recommend that all your friends and acquaintances do like wise.
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  7. [OT] Correct. I possess (and advertise that) little in the way of ethical imperative. [/OT]

    It is important in all areas of conflict resolution to release the notions of right, wrong, good and evil and focus instead on the goals of the participants. It does not advance the discourse to characterise Big Oil/Big Timber/Big Industry/Skeptics as evil/callous/irresponsible. It's far more useful to calmly present the goals of those agents involved in the discourse and let the community figure out who is more likely to supply accurate information.
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  8. Nice question about the fact that many journal articles are behind a paywall which can be expensive for the average person. Richard agrees that this situation should change, but that the journals are "business". IMO, as well as (more) public availability, data & codes should be included to allow for possible replication. Unfortunately some have not been, which has given rise to doubt in some sceptical circles.
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    Response:

    [DB] It is indeed unfortunate that all published research is not publicly available, but many reasons exist for that practice.  As Albatross points out below, wrt papers, PDF's can often be found online using Google Scholar.

    As for data and code availablity, at least wrt the temperature data records, the data is publicly available.  For coding purposes what matters most is a description of the process used; researchers can independently "replicate" the results as the requisite code needed is self-evident to others knowlegeable in the field.  Indeed, the temperature records have been independently relicated and audited several times (most recently by the BEST skeptic audit team), by both professionals and amateurs alike, with the "hockey stick" signature of global warming evident with as little as a randomly-selectd 10% of the stations available.

    That there is then still doubt in some skeptical circles is then not due to data and code availability.

  9. Maybe one should learn from Milnes talk. Morality and ethics is politics, which isn't science or scientific.
    I basically agree with Tristan.
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  10. Shibui @8,

    It is unfortunate about many journal papers are often behind a paywall. However, you will be surprised how many PDFs of papers you can find online by Googling the title in quotation marks.

    Excellent lecture by Dr. Milne, thanks for posting this John.
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  11. Tristan @7, if you leave out morality and ethics, you cannot focus on the goals of the participants because any stated goal must be presumed to be an ambit claim rather than a genuine objective. Having dropped the notion of ethics, you cannot logically presuppose an honest discourse.

    Further, and of specific concern to this site (if not this topic), if we drop the notion of ethics, than all conflict resolution resolves to either coercion or haggling over price. As future generations can neither harm nor benefit us, they can neither coerce or buy our good will. Rationally, therefore, in the absence of ethics the correct response to climate change is to live large because tomorrow you die.

    Paul D @9, Ethics is politics only in the sense that Physics is Climate Science. And while neither is science, science is not the limit of rationality, so that is an irrelevant consideration.
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  12. Brilliantly done. Milne is not afraid or ashamed to call out the deniers and to categorically reject their techniques: Cherry picking, discarded evidence (love the trash dump image), false experts, logical fallacy. Bravo!

    Tristan#7: "let the community figure out who is more likely to supply accurate information."

    That's exactly the technique that allows the disinformation industry to enjoy so much success. Did you miss the point that 'no one's opinion matters' in resolving a scientific question?
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  13. 8 - Shibui

    The pay wall issue crops up often, along the spectrum from: it being frustrating for all of us too "They are trying to hide the truth".
    Still, admins and editors gave to be payed and websites maintained etc. as it is universities get money to fund libraries to subscribe to [some of] journals their scholors need. To make journals free, the grants -from around the world (so administered by the UN?) - would have to go to the journals directly, maybe based on some kind of ranking based an No of downloads. Worth campaigning for, maybe.
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  14. Tom,

    if we drop the notion of ethics, than all conflict resolution resolves to either coercion or haggling over price.

    That is approximately the scenario.

    Muon,

    I wasn't suggesting a passive approach. Far from it. A debate between a competent skeptic and a scientist over the science will go over the heads of most people. It's easy to play smoke and mirrors well enough to make the details hard to fathom for the layperson.
    It would be much better to show the community what a scientist really is. What their goals are. That they aren't on a gravy train. That they make 50k a year despite having the ability to earn two or three times that in the private sector. That sort of thing. You don't have to convince people of the science (that's pretty darn hard with all the obfuscation thrown your way), only that you are the more believable party in the debate. What matters is the public's perception of the players, which the mining/energy industry realises, hence all those awful ads on tv prior to the passing of the carbon tax legislation.

    We need to build sympathy for the scientists.
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    Moderator Response: [Sph] Italics fixed.
  15. @Tristan,

    Naming your website "Rationally Speaking" does not imply the writer eschews moral condemnation, which is open to any blogger.

    Besides, I think Immanuel Kant, who insisted that rational thought can arrive at ethical actions, would disagree with you. Kant argued that lying was irrational because a society in which lying was commonplace and condoned would be a bad society in which to live. Therefore, we should rationally be honest always in our dealings. Even utilitarians agree with that.

    Indeed, if you replace, "society" with "science" he has a point relevant to the thread. If scientific facts can be blurred and obscured by political propaganda, that is surely bad for all our futures. I think that is the essence of Torcello's 2nd point in #2, and probably underpins Milne's points also.

    "A climate of denialism", no matter in what field it exists, hinders effective public policy decisions, and is unethical when it make unwarranted accusations and propagandises for political advantage.

    BTW, I do not think this is OT - just a more general statement that Milnes'.
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  16. Shoyemore,

    Naming your website "Rationally Speaking" implies you might make rational, rather than arbitrary arguments.

    Things have come a long way since Kant. The strategy for convincing the public of the climate crisis has to assume that the political and financial adversaries will outright lie whenever they have to.
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  17. Shibui#8: "data & codes should be included to allow for possible replication."

    Isn't that an outgrowth of the disinformation strategy that Milne labeled 'false experts'? That lets an out of work weatherman set himself up in a position to question the work of people with better training, experience, resources and expertise? That lets more than one commenter here say, in all seriousness, 'I gathered some data and I can't see it happening'? That the average Joe/Jane believes that he/she should be able to 'replicate' the results of complicated science?

    Tristan#14: "You don't have to convince people of the science ..., only that you are the more believable party in the debate."

    How do you do that? Rick Perry (cited by Milne more than once) claims that scientists falsify data for their own gain; do we put tax returns up and say 'show me the gain'?

    Milne made brief mention of 'fear' in his Yoda voice; he touched on it equally briefly with 'it can't be cows because I like my beef.' Disinformers use the fear card without hesitation, with nonsense claims of -CAGW and economic breakdown due to the dread 'green tax.' This is deeply entrenched human behavior; we act as a society to make change when there is something we fear. Sadly, it's going to take much more bad news to make that happen.
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  18. Both sides of the morality/rationality debate are correct. True naturally (no religious) moral/ethical behavior has evolved through millenia of subconsious rational analysis of our world. Thus are equivalent. Therefore ethics, morality and rational thinking are compatible. All this of course are applicable to ideal societies. True rational thinking is not possible from the majority of our global society. On the other hand ethics/morality has been highjacked by religious/mystical movements for the leaders' own purposes. What is one to do? First, stop debading amongst ourselves!! We have a crucial role to study, analyse, explain, and educate using ALL positive tools in our disposal.
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  19. Tristan,

    I presume you have been to the website and read what it says, otherwise your comment seems irrational and aribitary to me. Here it is again, correctly this time:

    The Varieties of Scepticism

    As for your comments about Kant, I am sure Plato, Archimedes and Aristotle would disagree, were they around, not to mention Hume, Hegel and Nietzsche. Some philosophers are for all time, as are some scientists.

    Your strategy for convincing the public, if you are advocating that science relaxes its stardards of empirical truth, seems to me to be bound to fail, and indeed to make things worse.

    If that is not your strategy, then for clarification tell us why you are taking issue with people who insist on a high ethical standard, that scientists and science populatisers must meet? We already know that the opponents of science give themselves permission to use dirty tricks. Science, and those who write and speak in support of it, must continue to hold itself to a standard that its foes do not.
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  20. Muon,

    Show that the scientific method is self-auditing. Show the embarrassment scientists feel when they realise their published paper was actually in error. Show that the reward of science is not the paycheck, but the citation. That sort of stuff. If people have to choose between Rio Tinto and the CSIRO show them what the CSIRO is.

    Shoyemore,

    I almost mentioned Plato myself as an example of someone whose ideas were interesting for historical reasons, rather than his pertinence to modern ethics.
    I'm not arguing that science relax its standards at all. I'm arguing for a shift of strategy. One that focuses more on the identities of the players involved.
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  21. Tristan,

    It may be OT, but you should realise that a major 20th century mathematician and philosopher, A.N.Whitehead, described the entire canon of western philosophy as "A series of footnotes to Plato". Aristotle's ideas of virtue and leading a virtuous life are very important in contemporary moral philosophy. Kant is generally regarded as the greatest of modern philosophers, bar none.

    Oh, moderator, forgive these, my short digressions.

    Dead white guys aside, Tristan, I am not sure if you are advocating anything new. Professor Richard Alley, a registered US Republican with a modest lifelsyle, made an excellent documentary for PBS on climate change last year.. but there was no record of it changing minds drastically.

    Unfortunately, there is no short-cut or drastic approach that will crash through the log-jam. Just like with tobacco-smoking, it may be that only when the effects of climate change become blatantly obvious that the mass of public opinion will shift. At the moment, I think the core of public opinion is moderately convinced, but are unsure of the measures to be taken. In fact, the debate is moving much more to the field of policy, in spite of denialism.
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  22. 21, Shoyemore,
    ...it may be that only when the effects of climate change become blatantly obvious that the mass of public opinion will shift.
    Yes.

    More importantly, to highlight the key quote from Dr. Milne's presentation:
    At the moment, it's socially acceptable to put all that CO2 into the atmosphere.
    That's the crux of the problem. Until society as a whole considers it to be a wrong, bad, naughty thing to do, people will do it. Even if you put systems in place, many people will cheat and game the system.

    True change will only come about when it is morally reprehensible to irresponsibly generate and use energy.

    That, I'm sure, is going to require your point. Only when the effects of climate change are painfully obvious will people finally, really understand enough to make abuse of fossil fuel resources a moral rather than a scientific or policy issue, and only when it becomes a moral issue will people really be properly invested in the solutions.
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  23. Shoyemore : "Just like with tobacco-smoking, it may be that only when the effects of climate change become blatantly obvious that the mass of public opinion will shift."


    Doesn't stop a lot of people still continuing to smoke, though, especially in developing countries. As long as there is a lot of money (and power) willing to fight against any strong policies which would harm their business, there will always be those willing to do their bidding or unwilling to really fight battles that will be costly and time-consuming for little real result. Everyone knows smoking is bad for you and some of us have taken years to finally acknowledge that fact and give up, but I bet most of us still know smokers.
    How much more difficult is the battle against burning carbon ? (And that's a rhetorical question !)
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  24. I read a Discover article recently which seems to have something to say about the reasons people don't change their behaviour - it's about our faulty risk perception mechanisms and is here (sorry, I haven't dug into any of the underlying papers). muoncounter #17, I think this ties into what you're saying.

    The authors quote somebody called Ropeik as follows: "Ropeik says policy makers need to stop issuing reams of statistics and start making policies that manipulate our risk perception system instead of trying to reason with it."

    That's fascinating in view of the subthread on ethics; I think most scientifically educated people, myself included, would go "ick!". We would prefer to present the best available evidence and allow people to make rational decisions.

    But the deniers manipulate fear very skilfully, whether they're aware of doing it or not. And they may also be manipulating a group of people who are more susceptible to being manipulated by fear; Milne referred briefly to a really interesting study which says that right-wingers have larger amygdalas than people with left or liberal political tendencies, who tend to have a bigger anterior cingulate cortex, which is apparently involved in decision-making in the presence of conflicting information. The amygdala is involved in fear and reaction to perceived threats, but below the level of neocortical involvement. (I have a sort of sideline in dog behaviour so am interested in neuroscience and behaviourism, although I won't claim to be an expert).

    That suggests to me that until the danger from climate change becomes more immediately threatening than the fear cards the deniers play, we won't see widespread support for mitigation policies based on preventing climate catastrophe, no matter how strong the evidence.

    It also suggests that scientists and the more scientifically literate among us may be projecting our own preference for objectivity onto a general public who would rather have advertising and sensationalist news (and are in many cases more likely to be swayed by the latter).

    And therein lie a host of interesting ethical problems; given the gravity of the threat from AGW, is maintaining your scientific integrity at all costs more important than swaying as many people as possible using whatever means necessary? (That's rhetorical, of course!)

    Now I have this magic oil in a bottle which will fix all of this, and I can let you have some at a special price... ;)
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  25. Tristan#20: "Show that the scientific method is self-auditing."

    Those are all defensive strategies, as if the message 'We are not the crooks they say we are' is sufficient.

    Sphaerica#22: "Until society as a whole considers it to be a wrong, bad, naughty thing to do, people will do it."

    You're quite right. Look at the hackles that rose upon labeling CO2 as a pollutant. Imagine an industry that produces a wondrous product by a process that gives off noxious waste. Would they be allowed to just dump their garbage and never pay for the cleanup?

    Dr. Milne gave examples of SO2 and CFCs to demonstrate that behavior modifications are possible, but he didn't say why we made those changes. The message was the adverse health effects of urban smog and uV radiation; in short, a demonstration of the risk of inaction. If all we have to say now is 'We're not in this for the money, but for the citations,' then We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet.
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  26. In the 1950's, I watched the TV show "Lassie" - popular in the 1950s -- people listened and understood the alarmist barks and whines from a collie...enough to save Jimmy who fell down the well.

    Now the same TV has trained us to ignore and deny science - despite global risk to every human.

    Obviously, something happened since then, maybe it was flouridation.

    Bring back Lassie.
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  27. Tristan#14 : Agreed, once we switched to protagonist/antagonist debate (which was always inevitable for an issue like climate change, which threatens vested interests), it's not the content of the message, but the integrity of the messengers that matters.

    But those messengers don't just include climate experts (real or fake) - they include opinion leaders - political, community, blogosphere, media. They may just be persuaded by a rational presentation of the scientific facts, which could tip public opinion. The problem is that in our system there is a strong disconnect between these actors and the wider public.
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  28. Sadly, I am not a young man anymore (due to age, not a sex-change operation) and so I visit this site out of a concern for my son and any grandchildren that he might bless me with if he ever decides to buy a book instead of going to the library, so to speak.

    What struck me most about the video was the passion that Dr Milne put into his presentation. I guess he is of about the same age as many of the Sks team, who, judging by the various comments that I have seen from time to time, are not simply motivated by the chance to delve deeply into the science, but are looking to protect their future and the future of any children they might have or will have.

    That said, I suggest that the time is rapidly approaching when your generation is going to have to wrest control from my generation. We cannot carry on with all talk and no action. Currently the world is in turmoil. We have a growing movement against the inequity of the capitalist system, and rightly so. When you listen to the protesters, it is obvious that the unrest is about much more than simply the financial sector. I think that presents you with an opportunity.

    Why don't you take advantage of this turmoil and take action so that the politicians can see that business as usual just will not do? You have even got Dr. Pielke Sr to agree that we must reduce CO2. My generation has had the best of times and we really don't have the right to deny you the best also, or at least the best that is going to be possible, which I fear may not be nearly so good.

    Just a thought starter. Next year the flower of your generation will be competing in the Olympics. The very people, and their offspring, likely to suffer most from climate change. How about organising a day of action world-wide to show the politicians that actions not words are both needed and demanded. If this day were chosen to coincide with the Olympics, it wouldn't half upset a few people and in the process raise it right up the agenda. Probably the opening ceremony might be the best day as it would not interrupt the actual competitive events. The very threat should be enough for meaningful discussions to take place (and give the mayor of London and all the big businesses due to profit from the games a few sleepless nights).
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  29. Muoncounter #17

    "That the average Joe/Jane believes that he/she should be able to 'replicate' the results of complicated science?"

    That is not what I had in mind. BEST would seem to be a good example. If you expect people to seriously change their behavior, you have to be able to prove the issue down to the last detail, not just expect that the public will take it on trust... because they won't, and rightly so.
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  30. Tristan @ 5,

    What motivates the authors on this site to give up so much of their leisure time for no monetary return? While we don’t talk about it much so as not to distract from the science, many of us are driven by profound ethical convictions.
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  31. Shoyemore,

    What Mr Whitehead says doesn't mean anything to me. None of the names you mentioned would be my first port of call to answer any question. Nor would Newton, Einstein or even Hawking these days.

    I am not advocating anything new. I am advocating a stronger push to create public sympathy and faith towards scientists.

    Sphaerica,

    Change will come when the cost of given products outweighs the value of the products. The cost has social and financial components. Currently the social cost is negligible in most circles. An effectively implemented, appropriately priced emissions tax would let us bypass the waiting period for the social cost to rise. However, if the public is sufficiently negative towards such a tax it would get undone. Given that, purporting to the public that paying for emissions is socially responsible is a necessary part of the movement for a change of the energy paradigm (as you mention).

    Muon,

    I am not sure whether it matters if a strategy is characterised as 'defensive' or not. The point is, the effort must be made to win hearts as well as just minds.
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  32. Alan,

    Absolutely. For example, I like the way John Cook relates his efforts to educate people on climate change with his efforts to live in accordance with Biblical teachings. I like that Hansen and many others focus on the lives of their grandchildren.
    I think the following sort of analogy would be strong in the Australian circumstance: If you notice someone else littering, would you litter as well? Why then would you argue that Australia should keep littering GHG emissions just because other countries are?
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  33. Note that these aren't moral proclamations. They are expressions of personal motivation, of why we practice the science or spread the message. It's about creating a more personal connection with those we are trying to shift, and about drawing reasonable analogies between the behaviour of states and the behaviour of individuals.
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  34. Shibui@29: "you have to be able to prove the issue down to the last detail"

    Uncertainty is an intrinsic part of all science. Do you have an example of anything scientific proved 'to the last detail'?
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  35. muoncounter #34

    "Uncertainty is an intrinsic part of all science."

    You have to convince the general public if you want them to seriously change their life styles.
    On the basis of the above, I'm not sure I like your chances.
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  36. 35, Shibui,
    I'm not sure I like your chances.
    Our chances. We all live on the same planet, and we all share the same fate, no matter what anyone believes is coming.

    But I go back to what Milne said. It's not a question of proving it to the last detail, because there will (a) always be interests that try to plant confusion and doubt and (b) the vast majority of people won't look at it closely enough to recognize the truth.

    Only when society as a whole (as a hive mind) adopts a "this is wrong" attitude towards irresponsible fossil fuel usage will things change.

    I think the best example is litter bugs. Remember litter bugs? Give a hoot, don't pollute? You do if you grew up in the seventies. You also remember roads and highways and fields and school yards covered with cups, papers, ice cream wrappers, cigarette butts, and every other form of debris imaginable. We had just entered an age of dense population combined with an ability to quickly generate cheap wrappers for everything we made and sold.

    The landscape was covered with them. The easiest thing in the world in a newly disposable society was to just drop it where ever you stood, or to toss it out the window.

    So why didn't it continue? Because everyone hated the way it looked, so a concerted adv. campaign helped promote the idea. More importantly, people reinforced it with their own behaviors. "Are you going to pick that up?" It became a source of shame to litter. You didn't want to do it, and even if you were tempted sometimes, you didn't want to get caught doing it and you felt guilty afterwards. Probably as often as not you went back and picked it up and found a trash can, because it bugged you so much to have done it.

    Evidence and proof are not the issue. Understanding and moral investment are the issues, and you won't necessarily get those from proof, and you don't necessarily need proof to achieve them.

    You do need, however, to expose the ignorant and the greedy who either fear change or benefit from the status quo.

    If there had been a loud mouthed group of people who thought litter mostly resulted from an Urban High Wind effect, or who made money by collecting fees to pay the street cleaners, then the world today would be covered in used coffee cups, candy wrappers and cigarette butts.
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  37. @ Shibui, #8: Journals have expenses, and they have to at least break even on their expenses. They recover costs via subscriptions, including library subscriptions. This makes it inconvenient, but not impossible, for a non-subscriber to get content. Some suggestions: (1) Request the item from your library. They either subscribe, or can get a pdf of a paper through interlibrary loan. (2) Email the corresponding author, and ask for a copy. (3) Lastly, for authors, many journals have an option to pay for Open Access (sometimes called Author Choice); you pay the fee, and your paper will be freely accessible to the public via the web. Since your study was likely paid for by public funds, it's nice to use some of those funds to make your paper accessible by all. This is a good way for journals to recover some costs of delivering content in this digital age.
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  38. Shibui#35: "to convince the general public"

    Go back to the Milne video, where he cites the examples of CFC and SO2 pollution. Both controlled by worldwide efforts, despite there being no proof of 'the issue down to the last detail'. Look at the Dutch Delta Project, where a society invested enormous capital against the probability - not the certainty - of future catastrophe. No proof to the last detail there either. A sufficiently motivated population reacts on the basis of risk avoidance - unless they have been lulled to sleep by false information.

    Here's Milne again: Science determines facts - to the best ability of experiment and model, which are not absolute. Politicians create policy. To insist that science meet an artificially high standard of 'proof' is a guarantee that nothing will ever come of anything scientific. Is that what you're after?
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  39. Shibui doesn't appear to have watched the Richard Milne lecture, otherwise he may have realized his little meme was the one I referred to @ 1 - the bull in the china shop.
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  40. Shibui - just as a matter of interest, since you dont like the journal's subscription costs, who do you think should pay for the publishing?
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  41. @shibui, post 29
    "you have to be able to prove the issue down to the last detail, not just expect that the public will take it on trust... because they won't, and rightly so."

    By this logic, there would not be a single criminal in prison, anywhere in the world. Hardly anything is ever proved down to the last detail, the phrase normally used is "beyond reasonable doubt" ... and climate change has certainly been proved to that degree.

    Mouncounter (38) is spot on - Shibui's statement is a manifesto for absolute paralysis. If you had a fatal illness and weeks to live, and doctors had a cure that they were 99% sure would work, would you say, "no thanks, I'll wait till they're 100% sure"?
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  42. I've heard some of these analogies before ... anyway, we just have to await the judges' decisions.
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  43. Shibu, the Judge (yes there is only one supreme judge, Nature herself) has given her verdict since she has observed the following evidence:

    Arctic ice declining
    Greenland ice cap is shrinking
    Species are migrating poleward or to higher altitudes
    Stratosphere is cooling
    Carbon dioxide is increasing
    Science has shown carbon dioxide to be a green house gas
    The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a fossil fuel fingerprint

    So why do you cling to the notion that temperatures are not increasing and even if they are humans are not to blame?
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  44. Dr. Milne was very interesting. For balance, can I recommend Matt Ridley's recent Angus Millar lecture at the RSA in Edinburgh.
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  45. Shibui @44,

    The implication being that the "truth" is in the middle somewhere. So what you are asking for is "false balance". I see that you follow Bishop Hill or WUWT or both. I sense your bias already.

    Dr. Milne has done some research in the field of climate science and the impacts of climate change on plants, quite unlike Dr. Riley who is foremost a journalist.

    Milne RI (2006). Northern hemisphere plant disjunctions: a window on Tertiary land bridges and climate change? Annals of Botany 98: 465-472

    Also, I am not sure how Ridley's talk is relevant here. In addition to calling for false balance, you seem to be floating a red herring, as well as ignoring Ian's comments @ 43.

    You do not just ignore inconvenient facts and then move on Shibui. You can try, but I won't let you :)
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  46. This raises a problem commonly posed. Shibui is looking for balance - its a legal/political mode of truth determination. "Prosecution and defense" present their case and it is left to individual to determine what is true. Add into this is common relativist idea that both can be forms of truth.

    Not so with science. Nature is judge. Debate is settled by collection of data.

    However, for Shibui, it seems there is the problem of who to believe, who to trust? If you cant do the science yourself, (most of us, even scientists when outside field), then how to judge? For those of us working in science, it seems obvious to go with consensus in published, peer-reviewed research by the experts in the appropriate field.

    Do you prefer to go with the journalist just because you prefer that opinion?
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  47. Albatross#45: "I am not sure how Ridley's talk is relevant here."

    Don't be so hasty. This Ridley talk starts off with a vital question:

    How do you know whether you are taking the rational or the irrational side of an argument, the scientific or the pseudoscientific position?

    Intrigued yet? Read on:

    There is a consensus that the earth is round and natural selection explains evolution, but there is also a consensus that ghosts and gods exist.

    Now anyone who can put the shape of the earth, natural selection, ghosts and gods into one sentence is clearly a savant. But then again, I didn't have a lot of trouble answering the original question, so maybe I'm not ready for this level of discourse.

    I'll stick with Milne.
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  48. Muoncounter,

    I actually did peruse Ridley's talk. Hence my reasoning that Ridley's talk does not represent "balance". But I sense that you are being sarcastic ;)

    It has gotten those in denial at WUWT (including Anthony of course) excited though, as expected. Fodder for the "skeptics" is what Ridley's talk is.
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  49. Shibui @44

    I too found Milne's talk interesting.

    On your recommendation and being a believer in finding balance and without a link to the Ridley talk in your post I searched and found via WWUT (as I'm becoming familiar with some of the landscape the acronyms are convenient) a transcript on Bishop-Hill

    I read and re-read and feel robbed of an hour of my life. I failed to find the balance and felt the need to visit Milne's talk once more for reassurance that I hadn't missed something.

    Frankly I resent it when a preacher has the arrogance to assume that I swallow an opinion without evidence for the argument....if Ridley gave permission to have the transcript published on Bishop-Hill and the asterix against the several claims made in his talk are meant to refer to footnotes and sources that aren't available to the reader then both Ridley and Bishop-Hill are merely preaching to the converted or to the gullible.

    Balance? Weigh this: How many lemons make an apple?
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    Moderator Response: [Sph] Your link didn't work for me. Try this one for the Ridley transcript.
  50. Oneiota @49,

    Thank you for your thoughts on this. Wish I could give you your hour back. Seriously though, I try to consider such goings on a learning experience.

    I have learned an awful lot from considering the musings of self professed "skeptics" and chasing down what later turns out to be no more than spin, misinformation and opinion. These folks prey on those with preconceived notions (i.e., confirmation bias) and the gullible.
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