Saturday, February 11, 2012

How to convince creationists, climate sceptics, ...


Despite the best science, and good arguments, sometimes people don't listen. In the climate change debate this has annoyed many people so they seek examples for inspiration. One is the fight against tobacco, where sound health advice seems to have won against the industry (and addicted smokers). Behaviour change is possible,  and powerful vested interests can be fought back through campaigns, or so the message goes.

No matter what we make of this, there are other examples where the opposition is more obstinate, creationism for example. Despite the best scientific efforts, fans of creationism show no signs of relenting. Here on Klimazwiebel commentators have alluded to this example, and have advised to apply the lessons to climate scepticism. "Do not give them a platform, exclude them from public discourse, do not give them space in school curricula", is the lesson we should have learned. This will not work. It will not work because it assumes that there are clear rules of engagement and that the better argument will win.
The philosopher Kelly Smith has written an interesting piece (DOI 10.1007/s11229-009-9545-5), urging the academic communities to engage. I think it would be worth thinking of lessons for climate scepticism.
"I have heard many a biologist say something like this: “I deal with facts in this class. Evolution is a fact and creationism is just wrong—end of story.” Except it’s not the end of the story, since the problem is not going to go away just because we ignore it."
He uses an episode from the film Monthy Python: The Black Knight, in order to explain what he thinks is going on in the quarrel between creationists and scientists. He thinks his colleagues, in their fight against creationists, would happily indulge in the funny side of this film, pointing to obtuseness of their adversary (the Black Knight, alias creationist). He warns against such compacency:

If things were this easy, then we would have no problem with creationism. Yet not only do we have just such a problem, it seems to be growing. Therefore, things can’t be this simple. So, we should think of the creationist contest as one where the interlocutors are using blunted or padded weapons. Since it rules out such convenient indications of martial superiority as the actual removal of limbs, this restriction forces us to devise some indirect means of judging a winner. ... If we want to make the analogy accurate, therefore, we will have to allow the contest to be judged not by knights expert in real combat, but by the crowd watching the contest.

But in altering the episode from the Black Knight, we have to realize that

like it or not, the public ultimately makes the calls about what should be taught and what should be funded. If enough of them become creationists, the good guys lose. It’s small consolation to know that, despite our loss, we were “in the right”, just as it’s small consolation to those who purchased Betamax video recorders in the 70s to know that theirs was truly the superior technology.

You might think he is dangerously close to creationism. He is not. He thinks "we" are in a "war" against "them" which "we" need to win. But there are no signs of success given the current approach of looking down on them and ignoring them.

Smith identifies a fallacy on behalf of his colleagues in philosophy and biology departments which he calls rational pathology. They think that such debates are decided by facts and arguments. Once one side gains the upper hand, the other side will admit defeat. Wrong, says Smith. They behave like the Black Knight in the film. And, contrary to the film, they have an audience which wants to see a fight where the rules of engagement have little to do with scientific conventions. Smith concludes that the fight against creationism is a fight for the hearts and minds of the bystanders, not for the better argument. If the audience can be swayed, the outcome might be in your favour and the fight will stop.

So for the arguments sake, lets assume the climate sceptics do not have single valid argument, and that the IPCC consensus is always right. Lets make most of the suggestion that climate scepticism is the twin sister of creationism. What if the sceptics will never accept defeat? Smith outlines three possible responses, run away, give up, or bash harder. It is the last option which seems to be most attractive to many of his colleagues, he tells us:

To the extent that they try to correct public misperceptions, they do so using the tools with which they are most comfortable and familiar. Biologists tend to gather together imposing mountains of facts, complete with technical jargon. Philosophers construct ever more complex arguments designed to show some subtle inconsistency in the creationist’s approach using their own technical jargon. Then when they present the fruits of their efforts to the lay public, they tend to delight in the complex details and linger lovingly over each and every one, making for a presentation which impresses their colleagues but confuses everyone else.

And he continues,

It’s not that there is anything wrong with constructing complex arguments per se— indeed, I find them perfectly decisive myself. But then I am a scientist and philosopher and don’t represent the kinds of people who find creationism compelling in the first place. Your average creationist, however, neither understands nor cares to understand such minutia. From his perspective, you are just trying to beat him down with technical jargon. So if we want to turn things around, we have to find away to talk to such people in terms they find persuasive, rather than according to the professional rules we love so much.

So what should be done to engage the other side in a more productive way?
The key element in the equation is the audience, in this case the general public, since they are ultimately the ones who judge who is winning and who is losing. ... The problem we face with the creationism case is that we already have excellent arguments for evolution—indeed, knock-down, drag-out good arguments. The problem is not that there is real debate among objective experts about whether our arguments are good. In short, the problem is not with the quality of the arguments, but with the public perception of the quality of the arguments, which is a very different thing.

in 2005, 54% of Americans did not believe humans evolved from earlier species, up from 46% in 1994.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reiner,

interessanter und lesenswerter Beitrag. Eine Ergänzung zur Sichtweise von Smith (der ich mich voll anschließen kann). Entscheidend ist auch, wie Kreationismus an Schulen behandelt wird.

Wenn aufgezeigt wird, welche Schwächen der kreationistische Ansatz hat und warum er der wissenschaftlichen Methodik nicht genügt - prima!
Wenn allerdings Kreationismus als gleichberechtigte, alternative wissenschaftliche Theorie behandelt werden soll - uaarg!

Zum Bezug zum Vahrenholt-Thread:
Mein Problem begann eine Stufe vorher. Ich hatte Zweifel, ob alle Klimazwiebelisten sich zum Smithschen "We" bekannt haben im Sinne von WIR haben ein Problem mit dem Hype um Vahrenholt

Andreas

Hans von Storch said...

Indeed, I would agree that the issue is only to a minor extent the quality of the arguments, but mostly the public perception of the quality of the arguments.

-- Andreas, what type of "we" are you referring to? WE read what others write here on the Zwiebel, but I do not think that WE have the same opinions. WE do not operate with the same set of tacit assumptions nor the same set of perceptions or values. But that is a virtue for me. This configuration adds value to the debate.

I find the hype surrounding the publications of the VL book interesting and a good, particularly enlightening case for US studying the dynamics of claimsmaking and being right.

Unknown said...

you are mixing apples and oranges here, There are no (or very few) climate skeptics that believe that the climate is static and unchanging, or that God created the climate. If evolutionary scientists said that all evolution is controlled by only 1 factor and that factor was Carbon Dioxide, even you may have some serious questions.

Anonymous said...

@ Hans von Storch

Andreas, what type of "we" are you referring to?

Ich wage es einfach mal anzunehmen, dass WIR alle hier uns einig sind, dass z.B. ein Gesetz über Stammzellen nicht mit Kreationismus begründet werden sollte. Ich nehme an, dass WIR alle hier darin übereinstimmen, dass kreationistische Ansätze der wissenschaftlichen Methodik nicht genügen und daher keine gleichwertige wissenschaftliche Alternative bieten können. Und ich schätze, dass WIR hier uns alle einig sind, dass der Klimazwiebel-Blog in einer Liste von Blogs, die die globale Erwärmung auf natürliche Ursachen zurückführen, nichts verloren hat.

Natürlich, das mit dem WIR ist schnell vorbei, wenn wir uns über Gesetzgebungen zu Stammzellen, genetisch modifizierte Nahrungsmittel, Stammzelltherapien etc. unterhalten. Aber trotz aller Gegensätze haben wir immer noch in der Genetik und Evolutionslehre eine gemeinsame Basis, da sind wir wieder WIR.

Und zurück zu Vahrenholt, lassen wir mal alle politischen Gegensätze etc. beiseite und versuchen stattdessen, Gemeinsamkeiten zu finden:

Sie haben sicherlich auch ihre Vorstellung davon, auf welcher Basis eine öffentliche Klimadiskussion stattfinden sollte. Ist der mediale Hype um Vahrenholts Buch hilfreich oder eher als mediales Störfeuer zu betrachten, was von den wirklich wichtigen Themen ablenkt? Ist sein Beitrag geeignet, die öffentliche Debatte auf eine gesunde wissenschaftliche Basis zu stellen?

Bei allen Unterschieden hoffe ich, dass WIR uns hier nicht allzusehr unterscheiden.

PS: Großes Kompliment für ihren letzten Beitrag, sprach mir aus der Seele.

MfG
Andreas

Anonymous said...

"Unknown", could you please indicate where in the IPCC reports CO2 is claimed to be the one and only factor involved in climate change?

Bam

Anonymous said...

Reiner, the ideas of Americans about evolution are not properly captured by your last statement.

See for example this link
http://www.gallup.com/poll/21814/evolution-creationism-intelligent-design.aspx
Note that if you dig a bit in the numbers, you will find contradictions that are hard to explain other than by confusion amongst a subsection of Americans on what they really think.

Bam

Reiner Grundmann said...

Bam
I got the numbers from Smith's article. Will need to check

Günter Heß said...

Hallo Andreas,

Du schreibst:
„Ich wage es einfach mal anzunehmen, dass WIR alle hier uns einig sind, dass z.B. ein Gesetz über Stammzellen nicht mit Kreationismus begründet werden sollte. Ich nehme an, dass WIR alle hier darin übereinstimmen, dass kreationistische Ansätze der wissenschaftlichen Methodik nicht genügen und daher keine gleichwertige wissenschaftliche Alternative bieten können.“

Ich würde ein Gesetz über Stammzellen nicht mit Kreationismus begründen,
da ich kein Kreationist bin.

Ein Gesetz muss aber vor allem im Parlament verabschiedet werden.

Also wenn jemand ein Kreationist ist und er aus diesem Grund zu einer Meinung über ein Stammzellengesetz kommt, respektiere ich seine Meinung. Ich halte sie möglicherweise zwar für falsch, aber ich respektiere seine Meinung.

Es gibt keinen Zwang in unserem Land die eigene Meinung wissenschaftlich und mit wissenschaftlicher Methodik zu begründen. Im Übrigen gibt es viele Wissenschaften die auch nicht meiner Vorstellung von naturwissenschaftlicher Methodik genügen z.B. die Religionswissenschaften oder die Sozialwissenschaften und trotzdem werden sie gottseidank von Vielen in diesem Land herangezogen um Meinungen zu begründen. Ich bin ein Fan eines pluralen Meinungsbildungsprozesses.
Ich selbst würde die kreationistische Annahme nicht verwenden, wenn ich ein Biologe wäre. Da ich mich aber auch seit längerem mit Beschichtungsverfahren beschäftige weiß ich, dass die Oberfläche vom Teufel erfunden wurde und befinde mich da mit Wolfgang Pauli in guter Gesellschaft.

Naturwissenschaft oder Wissenschaft darf eben nicht zu einem Ersatzgerichtshof über Meinungen verkommen.

Im Übrigen. Welche „naturwissenschaftlichen“ Beweise und methodischen Begründungen gibt es für den jeweiligen
Modetrend, was gesunde Ernährung bedeutet, oder ob Vitamin C im Apfel gesünder ist als chemisch hergestelltes Vitamin C? Und wie viel von diesem „Glauben“ oder dieser "wissenschaftlichen" Erkenntnis fließt als Meinung in Gesetze ein?

Man muss einfach respektieren, dass jeder Mensch aufgrund von Vermutungen, unvollständigen Beobachtungen und Glauben zu seiner Meinung kommt. Meine eigenen Experimente haben mir gezeigt, dass ich meist weniger über die Natur weiß als ich vor dem Experiment gedacht und simuliert habe. Die Uni lehrt eben nur das Bekannte und man sollte nicht denken, dass das Alles ist.

Ich bin deshalb bei deinem „WIR“ wohl nicht dabei.

Grüße
Günter

Günter Heß said...

Hallo Andreas,

Du schreibst:
„Ich wage es einfach mal anzunehmen, dass WIR alle hier uns einig sind, dass z.B. ein Gesetz über Stammzellen nicht mit Kreationismus begründet werden sollte. Ich nehme an, dass WIR alle hier darin übereinstimmen, dass kreationistische Ansätze der wissenschaftlichen Methodik nicht genügen und daher keine gleichwertige wissenschaftliche Alternative bieten können.“

Ich würde ein Gesetz über Stammzellen nicht mit Kreationismus begründen,
da ich kein Kreationist bin.

Ein Gesetz muss aber vor allem im Parlament verabschiedet werden.

Also wenn jemand ein Kreationist ist und er aus diesem Grund zu einer Meinung über ein Stammzellengesetz kommt, respektiere ich seine Meinung. Ich halte sie möglicherweise zwar für falsch, aber ich respektiere seine Meinung.

Es gibt keinen Zwang in unserem Land die eigene Meinung wissenschaftlich zu begründen. Im Übrigen gibt es viele Wissenschaften die auch nicht meiner Vorstellung von naturwissenschaftlicher Methodik genügen z.B. die Religionswissenschaften oder die Sozialwissenschaften und trotzdem werden sie gottseidank von Vielen in diesem Land herangezogen um Meinungen zu begründen. Ich bin ein Fan eines pluralen Meinungsbildungsprozesses.
Ich selbst würde die kreationistische Annahme nicht verwenden, wenn ich ein Biologe wäre. Da ich mich aber auch seit längerem mit Beschichtungsverfahren beschäftige weiß ich, dass die Oberfläche vom Teufel erfunden wurde und befinde mich da mit Wolfgang Pauli in guter Gesellschaft.

Ich plädiere für eine gewisse Entspanntheit anderen Meinungen gegenüber.

Naturwissenschaft oder Wissenschaft darf eben nicht zu einem Ersatzgerichtshof über Meinungen verkommen.

Im Übrigen. Welche „naturwissenschaftlichen“ Beweise und methodischen Begründungen gibt es für den jeweiligen
Modetrend, was gesunde Ernährung bedeutet, oder ob Vitamin C im Apfel gesünder ist als chemisch hergestelltes Vitamin C? Und wie viel von diesem „Glauben“ fließt als Meinung in Gesetze ein

Man muss einfach respektieren, dass jeder Mensch aufgrund von Vermutungen, unvollständigen Beobachtungen und Glauben zu seiner Meinung kommt. Meine eigenen Experimente haben mir gezeigt, dass ich meist weniger über die Natur weiß als ich vor dem Experiment gedacht und simuliert habe. Die Uni lehrt eben nur das Bekannte und man sollte nicht denken, dass das Alles ist.

Ich bin deshalb bei deinem „WIR“ wohl nicht dabei.

Grüße
Günter

Günter Heß said...

Dear Hans von Storch,

„I find the hype surrounding the publications of the VL book interesting and a good, particularly enlightening case for US studying the dynamics of claimsmaking and being right.“

Especially because Vahrenholt used the same mechanism with „Seveso ist überall“ publishing a book with cherry-picked scientific arguments that cast doubt against the "mainstream" political opinion.

Best regards
Günter Heß

Reiner Grundmann said...

Bam 6
the Gallup data shows that around 80% think that God plays some role in this evolution/creation, either because "God created man in present form" (45% on average, 1982-2010) or because "Man developed with God guiding" (37.5%)
In 2007, 39% said that creationism is "definitely true" and 27% think it is "probably true".
This is an even higher proportion than quoted in Smith's article. Smith referred to data from the Harris poll. On their website you will find very similar figures when looking for the Gallup questions, for example that 82% of Americans believe in God and more than 40% believe in creationism

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris_Poll_2009_12_15.pdf

Anonymous said...

@ Günther,

schade, dass du bei meinem "WIR" nicht dabei bist, ich hatte dich eigentlich fest eingeplant.

Für mich geht es beim Thema "Kreationismus" allerdings hauptsächlich um einen Aspekt, den du nicht betrachtest. Natürlich respektiere ich andere Überzeugungen, z.B. Abstimmungsverhalten bei Stammzellengesetzen mit religiösen Überzeugungen als Begründung (oder auch ohne Begründung).

Nein, meine Gegnerschaft liegt darin begründet, dass man versucht, den Kreationismus als Wissenschaft zu verkaufen. Da bin ich dann ziemlich humorlos und intolerant.

Nö, natürlich kann jeder im Parlament auch ohne wissenschaftliche Basis abstimmen. Niemand braucht Ratgeber aus der Ökonomie bei der Abstimmung über Euro-Rettungsfonds, er darf auch sein Bauchgefühl sprechen lassen. Niemand muss sich bei Klimagesetzgebungen von irgendeinem wiss. Bericht beeinflussen lassen, er kann auch stattdessen Vahrenholts Buch zur Grundlage wählen.
Nein, Wissenschaft determiniert in keiner Weise Politik, meine Überzeugung ist aber, dass eine korrekte wiss. Grundlage im Beratungsprozess hilft, Gesetze auf eine möglichst rationale Grundlage zu stellen.

Viele Grüße,
Andreas

Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing the source, Reiner.

One problem is the terminology used: what is creationism? For some, creationism refers to Genesis in the literal sense. For others, God "guided" evolution, but that "guidance" is especially important for human evolution for a subgroup. The polls give some indication of the muddling of terminology, not unlike some of the problems in defining what climate "skepticism" really is.

Bam

Werner Krauss said...

how to NOT convince Werner Krauss:

"So haben die grönländischen und westantarktischen Eispanzer im letzten Jahrzehnt ordentlich Federn gelassen" (p 41)

"Die elektromagnetische Sonnenstrahlung muss also auf dem Weg zum Erdboden kräftig Federn lassen" ( p67)

"Der grönländische Eispanzer hat in den vergangenen zehn Jahren ordentlich Federn gelassen" (p 293)

So geht das in einem fort. Wie fast alle Klimabücher (egal aus welchem Lager) ist auch dieses eine nervtötende Mischung aus schiefen Metaphern, Faktenhuberei und schlechtgelaunter Rechthaberei.

Dagegen sollte man mal was machen!!!

Günter Heß said...

Hallo Andreas,

Du schreibst:
„Nein, Wissenschaft determiniert in keiner Weise Politik, meine Überzeugung ist aber, dass eine korrekte wiss. Grundlage im Beratungsprozess hilft Gesetze auf eine möglichst rationale Grundlage zu stellen.“

Das kommt darauf an, was Du mit wissenschaftlicher Grundlage meinst. Die wissenschaftliche Grundlage ist ja in vielen Disziplinen auch nur Interpretation und Ausdruck des Mainstream.
Die wissenschaftliche Methode hilft dem der sie richtig anwendet, ist aber nicht unbedingt nötig. Ich denke man kann auch mit der Bergpredigt oder dem Kant’schen kategorischen Imperativ als Grundlage gute Entscheidungen treffen und Gesetze machen. Aber das siehst Du ja genauso.
Trotzdem möchte ich noch das folgende anmerken:

Ich habe folgende Erfahrung gemacht.

Wen man Regeln oder Gesetze für Menschen aufstellt hilft es vor Allem, wenn man vor Ort geht, mit den Menschen spricht und durch experimentelle Beobachtung vor Ort die eigenen Vermutungen überprüft. Da hilft mir meine Ausbildung als experimenteller Naturwissenschaftler. Man muss ins Feld und selbst überprüfen.

Meine Erfahrung zeigt nun, dass Menschen die zwar wissenschaftlich korrekt hergeleitet, nach den Daten aus dem Computer im Büro entscheiden häufiger falsch entscheiden als Menschen die vor Ort gehen und an der Werkbank aus dem Bauch entscheiden. Da bin ich dann bei Freeman Dyson.
Das mit der korrekten wissenschaftlichen Grundlage ist in einem komplexen System
aus Entscheidungen und Querverknüpfungen meistens trügerisch.
Ich finde bei Menschen ohne wissenschaftliche Ausbildung an der Werkbank, mindestens so häufig guten Rat für meine Entscheidungen, wie von Akademikern und Managern im Büro.
Also scheint mir auch der wissenschaftliche Berater als vermeintlich „besserer“ Berater trügerisch.

Die wissenschaftliche Beratung bzw. die Beratung durch Wissenschaftler oder Ingenieure sollte und kann natürlich eine Komponente der Beratung darstellen. Ich würde aber jedem raten nicht zu glauben, dass diese Beratung dann rationaler ist.
Akademiker haben genauso viele Vorurteile und unbelegte Hypothesen wie Nichtakademiker.

Nun zurück zur Politik.
Vor der Aufklärung wurden von der „Politik“ vor allem religiöse und juristische Argumente benutzt. Seit der Aufklärung werden von der „Politik“ religiöse, juristische und wissenschaftliche Argumente benutzt. Die Betonung liegt auf benutzt denke ich.
Eine dieser Kategorien mit dem Label „rational“ zu versehen halte ich in der politischen Debatte für trügerisch, obwohl man als Wissenschaftler versucht ist, und wäre meines Erachtens der Beginn einer wissenschaftlichen Ersatzreligion der „Rationalisten“.

Mal ne Frage:

Nehmen wir mal an ein Naturwissenschaftler wäre ein Kreationist und glaubt an einen intelligenten Designer der alles so geschaffen hat wie wir es vorfinden.

Jetzt ersetze in einem beliebigen journalistischen Text in der Zeitung über Evolutionsbiologie das Wort Evolution durch Schöpfung.


Beispiel 1:
„Über statistische Modelle zeichnen die Wissenschaftler um Susanne Shultz von der Oxford University die Evolution des Soziallebens nach. "Wir haben hier keine Fossilien vorliegen, an denen Veränderungen klar sichtbar sind", erklärt Shultz die Schwierigkeit der Studie.“

Beispiel 2 ebenda:
„Diese Erkenntnisse stehen einigen bisherigen Evolutionstheorien entgegen. So begaben sich die Ur-Primaten der neuen Studie zufolge direkt vom Einzelgängertum in große Gruppen. Bislang hatten Forscher angenommen, die Tiere hätten zunächst kleinere Gruppen gebildet, die sich dann nach und nach zusammenschlossen.“

Ist das die Wissenschaftliche Grundlage von der Du sprichst?

Oder wären die Ergebnisse eines kreationistischen Wissenschaftler, der Fossilien gefunden hätte die seine Erkenntnisse belegen anders zu bewerten, als diejenigen der Wissenschaftler, die statistische Modelle als Ersatz für Fossilien benutzen?


Grüße
Günter

Reiner Grundmann said...

Andreas
„Nein, Wissenschaft determiniert in keiner Weise Politik, meine Überzeugung ist aber, dass eine korrekte wiss. Grundlage im Beratungsprozess hilft Gesetze auf eine möglichst rationale Grundlage zu stellen.“

Was ist der Vorteil? In den 30er Jahren stellten die Nazis ihre Bevoelkerungspolitik auf die Basis der Rassenwissenschaft. Der Holocaust hatte eine wissenschaftliche Grundlage. Das fuehren wir in Kapitel 3 des Buches Die Macht der Erkenntnis aus. Falls du keinen Zugang zum Buch hast ;-) hier kannst du reinsehen

Anonymous said...

Reiner

wir schweifen etwas ab. Ohne jetzt eine Diskussion anzetteln zu wollen, drängen sich mir Fragen auf, ob die "Rassenwissenschaft" wirklich ein so geeignetes Beispiel ist. Möglicherweise haben ja auch die Nazis die "Rassenwissenschaft" in ihre Dienste gezählt, möglicherweise genügte diese Wissenschaft nicht einmal wissenschaftlichen Standard (war es damals mainstream-science oder Exotik?). Keine Ahnung davon.

Aber möglicherweise war es ja tatsächlich ein wissenschaftlicher Irrweg mit fatalen Folgen. Was nun? Das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten? Skepsis ist mit Sicherheit niemals verkehrt, der Grat ist nur etwas schmal, wo Skepsis in unreflektierte Ablehnung umschlägt.

Ich habe aber etwas das Gefühl, als würden wir hier künstlich unsere Unterschiede hervorheben. Skepsis ist in Ordnung, aber wie H. von Storch in seiner Überschrift zum Thema Vahrenholt schon zum Ausdruck brachte, ist keinem geholfen, Skepsis nur in eine Richtung wirken zu lassen.

Was halten Sie von folgendem Gedanken:
Geht Vahrenholt nicht selbst davon aus, dass Wissenschaft Politik determiniert? Warum versucht er sonst, seine politischen Ziele durch Unterminierung der gängigen Klimaforschung und durch Aufbau einer "Ersatzwissenschaft zu erreichen?

PS:
Ich werde mir ihr Buch mal kaufen, auf diesem Gebiet habe ich echte Defizite, wenngleich ich etwas Bauchschmerzen habe zu sehen, dass Rassen- und Klimawissenschaft in aufeinanderfolgenden Kapiteln vorkommen. Ein Versprechen: In dem Moment, wo ich etwas von Manns Hockeystick als Fälschung zum Zwecke, die Öffentlichkeit hinters Ohr zu hauen, lesen werde, landet ihr Buch im Kamin ;-)

Grüße
Andreas

Rob Dekker said...

Reiner, thank you for this post.

Lets make most of the suggestion that climate scepticism is the twin sister of creationism. What if the sceptics will never accept defeat?

I took this paragraph to be at the heart of your post.

There are still people around who believe that the Earth is the center of the Universe, and some that believe it is flat. There are (as you point out) many who believe that life (and humans specifically) were created by devine intervention.

And that is great, as long as nobody with another belief is affected by or, even worse, controlled by, somebody's belief.

After all, who cares about flat Earthers and creationists. Science can operate very fine without them, and our society can still make decisions based on science and reason.

But what if these guys start to tell you what to do, and start to tell your teachers what to tell your children ? What if the guys with these odd beliefs have a $ 4 trillion industry that can make their voices very loud, to the point where the start to dominate the media and the internet, and even worse, if your government representatives starts to echo these beliefs, and start to make policy decisions based on these myths that are propagated by an extremely powerfull industry, rather than on independent science and reason ? And even worse, then starts to accuse the scientists of fraud and challenge them with criminal investigations through our legal systems ?

I think that is where we are currently heading (and possibly have already arrived) with the climate change debate. At least here in the US.

It's the Copernican controversy all over again :
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/12/copernicus-and-arrhenius-physics-then-and-physics-today/

That time, it took more than a Century for the "people" to accept the the Earth was not the center of the Universe. And that was just a finding that did not have any economic impact, nor required any change in attitude towards energy or any other immediate part of our dayly lives.

This time, it does.

So, I personally feel that AGW (specifically the Antropogenic part of that) will probably never be admitted by a large portion of the population, no matter how many facts science reveals.

Since Enlightenment, we have embraced rational thought and reason and science over belief, because it brought many 'conveniences'.

This time, with AGW, my friends, is going to be the test to see if homo sapiens is capable of overcoming beliefs, even if they are 'inconvenient'.

Rob Dekker said...

Sorry, that last sentence should read as follows :

This time, with AGW, my friends, is going to be the test to see if homo sapiens is capable of overcoming our beliefs, in the face of 'inconvenient' reality.

I personally have very little hope that reason in us will be strong enough.

wflamme said...

IMO the issue is very much related to 'scientific literacy'. See eg Miller 1998 for examples:

"In 1988, approximately 47 percent of American respondents and 33 percent of British respondents were able to report that the Earth moves around the Sun once each year. The percentage of Americans able to answer this question correctly has remained stable since 1988.
(...)
An examination of the percent correct on the nine common items suggests that there is little difference between the European Union and the United States on this dimension. Looking at just the nine common items, Americans answered an average of 5.1 questions correctly, and citizens of the European Union answered 4.9 items correctly.
(...)
All respondents who demonstrated a minimally acceptable level of understanding of experimentation, who recognized that astrology is not at all scientific, and who provided a correct response to the probability question were coded as understanding the nature of scientific inquiry. Approximately 12 percent of European adults in the 1992 Eurobarometer study met this standard."


So if anyone wonders why arguments are dumbed down to the extreme, destorted, tricked, straw-manned, politicised, moralized or otherwise submitted under a cause ...

Reiner Grundmann said...

Rob
"I personally have very little hope that reason in us will be strong enough."

I would be equally pessimistic if I thought that we need a scientifically literate population in order to make good decisions.

Fortunately the two are separate and what matters is an ability to cooperate.

Climate science is the wrong tool for the task of decarbonizing the world economy.

BTW, the school curriculum is full with things that outrage parents, one way or the other. My bugbear is the biological determinism taught in British schools. And they tend to sing Christian songs in assembly.

Anonymous said...

@ Dekker

"So, I personally feel that AGW (specifically the Antropogenic part of that) ..."

Is there another part in "Anthropogenic Global Warming"?

"Since Enlightenment, we have embraced rational thought and reason and science over belief, because it brought many 'conveniences."

Follow your own advice and keep science apart from personal belief and feelings if you don't wish to find yourself - by surprise and contrary to what you expected - in the neighbourhood of flat earthers and creationists one day ...

Atte Korhola, Professor of Environmental Change at the University of Helsink: "When later generations learn about climate science, they will classify the beginning of the twenty-first century as an embarrassing chapter in the history of science. They will wonder about our time and use it as a warning of how core values and criteria of science were allowed little by little to be forgotten, as the actual research topic of climate change turned into a political and social playground."

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/2/12/a-letter-to-paul-nurse.html

V. Lenzer

Werner Krauss said...

@Reiner #20

I agree. No normal person (whoever that is...) would expect economists to solve the current Euro crisis. How come that concerning climate everybody waits for climatologists to solve the problem?
When you're broke and can't pay back your debts, you maybe have a reason good enough to join "occupy Wall Street" activities. When you don't want to support a carbon-fueled economy, why not join, too? Both fit well together, I guess. You don't need a scientist to legitimize or to empower you to do so. Quite the contrary, the problem is with the scientists who have to decide whether they join or not.

Anonymous said...

The Englishman Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin (because of Darwin's significant contributions to the theory of evolution he is regarded as one of the most eminent natural scientists but also as famous opponent to creationists), coined the term "Eugenics" 1885. Galton examined how "inferior elements", criminals and mentally handicapped could be "weed out" through sterilization. In 1904 he founded the "Eugenics Society" in England. In the United States the corresponding "American Eugenics Society" was created in 1926.

After the statistical evidence had succeeded, that such defects are heritable, they took up the matter vigorously and in 1931 there were sterilization laws in 27 U.S. states into force; in 1935 such laws were passed in Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Sweden.

I wonder what will be done next with statistics.

namenlos

Rob Dekker said...

Reiner wrote :

Climate science is the wrong tool for the task of decarbonizing the world economy.

I'm not sure what you mean with that. Can you elaborate ?

Rob Dekker said...

V. Lenzer wrote

Follow your own advice and keep science apart from personal belief and feelings if you don't wish to find yourself - by surprise and contrary to what you expected - in the neighbourhood of flat earthers and creationists one day ...

Since you reference a web site and a quote which vents opinions, I find your patronizing statement rather misplaced.

Which scientific argument do you have in support of your statements, and if you have none, then how much of your statement above would apply to yourself ?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Rob 24
Here is the short answer:

Climate science does not tell us what to do in practical terms. It can tell us to focus on mitigation, or adaptation, or geo-engineering (or all of them), but it cannot tell us how to achieve these aims. For this we need policies. If they are based on knowledge, the knowledge has to be practical which means it must identify the levers for action. Climate science does not identify levers for action.

For a longer elaboration, see here (chapter 4).

Rob Dekker said...

Reiner, thanks for your explanation. I largely agree with you regarding what climate science can tell us, and that actual action needs to be based on policies.

However, your proceeding statement is still somewhat unclear to me :

If they are based on knowledge, the knowledge has to be practical which means it must identify the levers for action.

What do you mean with this statement ? Sorry, but can you (again) please explain your opinion a bit more ?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Rob 27
Levers for action address the issue of implementation of policy goals. Currently we have national C02 reduction targets which are aspirational. There are various policies in place to achieve these targets (renewable obligation, carbon trading, etc) but these will not be enough to achieve the ambitious targets. One we start discussing the options we realize that we need knowledge of different kind than climate science.

On the global level we do not have cooperation to start with (no levers for action) and it is not clear what would follow on the national level if we could reach agreement(see above).

Anonymous said...

@ Dekker

"Since you reference a web site and a quote which vents opinions ..."

These opinions are supported by scientific papers quoted with the cited letter and easy to find at the end of the post.

"Which scientific argument do you have in support of your statements"

To put it the other way round - it's your claim at least ...": which scientific argument verifies the AGW hypothesis?

(To put it clearly: we are talking about a major human impact on the earth's climate system)

Assuming that you would know one - is there any particular reason to call scientists questioning this hypothesis "flat earthers" and "creationists"?

V. Lenzer

Rob Dekker said...

Thanks Reiner,
Your description still sounds a bit abstract. I kind of feel where you are going with the "lever for action" to implement policy goals, but I wish you could clarify your opinion with an example.

Or else, I would not mind if you would summarize your perspective in a whole new post. Would you be inclined to do so ?

Rob Dekker said...

V. Lenzer,

Let's look at some of the claims in the letter by Bosnich (a retired chemist, who never published on climate change).

He starts with rather strong opinions that "Society has put forward a scientific case for (catastrophic) AGW" and "has behaved as if it were a propaganda arm for the alarmist cause" and "If one goes to the Royal Society Web site one finds an especially poor, in places inaccurate, case made for catastrophic AGW".

Howvever, the Royal Society Web site did NOT use the word "catastrophic", and neither do mainstream climate scientists. The word "catastrophic" was added by Bosnich all by himself.

After all, what is "catastrophic" for one person, can be considered "beneficial" (another non-scientific term) for somebody else.

So Bosnich stated a "strawman" argument, which is by definition a logic fallacy.

In fact one could argue that because the word "catastrophic" sounds rather... well, alarming, that he (in his own words) "behaved as if it were a propaganda arm for the alarmist cause".

But still, if Bosnich believes that the the Royal Society incorrectly represents climate science then all he needs to is show scientific evidence that (his self-defined) "catastrophic" climate change is not sustained by climate scientist' findings. And he does :

These opinions are supported by scientific papers quoted with the cited letter and easy to find at the end of the post.

Now here it gets interesting.
I would have expected Bosnich to refer to scientific papers that are scientifically sound, and well sustained by others scientist's findings, all showing that the Royal Society is exaggerating their position.

But I find nothing of that sort.
In fact, the scientific papers quoted are highly controversial.

Before getting into details (which would make my post really too long) can tell me which supporting scientific paper did you find most convincing ?

Maybe we can discuss that one then, so we can figure out if Bosnich' opinions have any scientific merit at all, or are just strawman arguments and denialistic opinions.

Anonymous said...

@ Reiner

"Once we start discussing the options we realize that we need knowledge of different kind than climate science"

Here's an interesting paper with some thoughtful insights - "policy for science - science for policy" - well worth discussing ...

http://www.closingthegap.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Gluckman-evidence-based-policy-disc.-paper20112.pdf

h/t R. Pielke jr.

V. Lenzer

Reiner Grundmann said...

To give you an example outside climate policy: imagine we wanted to reduce unemployment and poverty by specific rates over the coming decades, with the ultimate aim of completely eradicating the source of many social ills. Zero unemployment is our aspirational target. How could it be achieved?
I can think of three proposals (the first and second are communicated openly, the third is hidden):
1. Neoliberal market proponents would suggest wage dumping to a level where a new employment equilibrium can be reached.
2. Keynesians will promote public spending in order to get economic growth. In the extreme version this could mean giving out a national secure income to everyone or to nationalize industries, giving employees job security.
3. Creative accounting: change the definition of unemployment to make the problem appear less urgent.
In the case of climate change these three approaches are also visible. The proponents of a market solution want high carbon prices in order to internalize social and environmental cost. The public spending proponents want a green stimulus plus high carbon taxes, plus some incentives to renewables. And government officials are keen showing their progress by excluding some economic activities from the balance sheet.

As you can see, all of these have little to do with actual CO2 reductions. Their success depends on many different factors, mostly to do with political, social, economic, and technological feasibility.

Most people seem to accept that it is not easy to get unemployment down (and that creative accounting is a sham). Few people seem to accept that we face a similar challenge with regard to climate change (but many seem to be happy with creative accounting, e.g. setting the baseline for reduction targets, excluding aviation and off-shoring etc).

Werner Krauss said...

@Rob Dekker and @V.Lenzer

I think this kind of debate is not about science, it is about what Bruno Latour calls "a war of worlds". It's about values, and here we enter difficult terrain.

Mike Hulme once said that "climate is too important to leave it to the scientists - at least the normal ones"; in this case this is definitively true.

Mainstream science (and Rob Dekker) can argue til the end of the days; as long as the question of values is not openly addressed, there will be no limit to skeptical interference.

Normal scientific "truth" definitively cannot decide this war. V.Lenzer will start all over again, whatever papers you present, Rob Dekker. There is always a professor to be found who wrote a paper somewhere - and in case it is not published in Nature, this is just proof of gatekeeping. It never stops. It's about something else.

By the way, this is one of the reasons why klimazwiebel was founded - to get out of this endless exchange of arguments and to put climate discussion on another level. Truth won't solve the problem. It's about negotiations, brokering, dealing with unclear situations - something normal scientists try to avoid. This is why we extend into the blogosphere, new playground for new ideas.

V.Lenzer and Rob Dekker, I am afraid it's up to the both of you not to permanently open this old bag again and again. It's useless. Why not try and also enter new terrain, give it another twist?

It's not about being right or wrong - it's about lessons to be learned. One of last year's lesson was Jerry Ravetz's reconciliation workshop, remember? Don't let us go behind that. You don't have to agree with his concept, but you should agree that klimazwiebel follows this kind of agenda, inviting partisans from all sides to join on this journey into unknown terrain. Sounds like more fun than to fight the battles of yesterday and to try winning long lost wars.

Werner Krauss said...

add: just to clarify:
the above comment is only concerned with the kind of debate like in #30 and #32 - I surely don't want to interrupt all the other interesting discussions going on in which the both of you are here involved!

Anonymous said...

@ Werner Krauss

"Why not try and also enter new terrain, give it another twist?"

I have no problem with your suggestion - if a skeptical view on the subject is no longer confronted with uncontradicted and tolerated name-calling.

This being stopped once, the horizon would be wide open for a much more interesting "journey into unknown terrain".

V. Lenzer

Anonymous said...

Rob (comment #32: "Howvever, the Royal Society Web site did NOT use the word 'catastrophic'"): Maybe Bosnich could have been clearer in that sentence with his footnote #2. But in the following sentence of his letter he gave in footnote #3 an example. You'd be right, if Bosnich had said "webpage" but he said "Web site". So we can find some more examples easily (My apologies that I did not filter them with respect to relevance):

http://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Froyalsociety.org+catastroph*+climate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

http://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Froyalsociety.org+extreme+climate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

http://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Froyalsociety.org+disaster+climate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

and so forth...

namenlos

Günter Heß said...

@Reiner Grundmann #34

Excellent comment. I'd like to add.

4. Claim moral and scientific authority for your
favorite solution

Best regards
Günter Heß

Werner Krauss said...

@Reiner #34 and Günter Heß #39

This is a cynical perspective, right? How does a non-cynical perspective look like?

Werner Krauss said...

@ V. Lenzer

You shouldn't be that sensitive. "Denier" is also a honorary title. Look at all those alarmists, who are more often than not "stealth deniers"; they complain a lot about skeptics, but in the end they refuse to accept that they live in the anthropocene and have to take action themselves. Instead, they cry for science and the government to solve the problem. Stealth deniers, right?

And flat earther is cool, too. Especially here in the North. It's full of flat earthers, orographically.

Anonymous said...

@ W. Krauss

Sensitivity is one of the big problems indeed - and staying cool quite difficult sometimes ; -)

The Saimaa lake region is flat orographically - and very cool under present climate conditions:

http://www.saimaaholiday.net/oravi/index.php?page=retkiluistelu

Love to be a "flat earther" there. But just don't call me one when we are discussing climate sensitivity, Grrrrrrrr ; -)

V. Lenzer

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner -40
my comment was not intended as being cynical. I see this accurate description, if a bit ideal-typical.

Werner Krauss said...

Just stumbled across the differentiation you make between "imagine WE wanted to reduce unemployment and poverty" (or carbon emission) and "MOST PEOPLE seem to accept...", "FEW People seem to accept..."

Who is "WE"? Are you the government? Why not the other way round:
"THEY cause unemployment and poverty and support creative accounting" (or favor carbon based industries), and "WE THE PEOPLE don't accept that any longer".

Isn't that a less accurate description, too? Or does it only depend on the standpoint of the observer?

Reiner Grundmann said...

I guess the next question then is: how do THE PEOPLE create jobs?

Günter Heß said...

@Werner Krauss #40

“Claiming authority”

It is just a description that describes a lot of discussions.
It happens all the time out of good intentions of individuals.

For us as citizens of a democratic society it is necessary to be aware of it.

Most people I know and encounter act with the intent to do the right thing.

People that are labeled “sceptics” and “deniers” have very likely good intentions as well as people that are labeled “alarmists”
It requires honesty and a democratic integrity to accept that.
Especially if people do not share the same opinion.

No it is not a cynical position to acknowledge that people claim moral and scientific authority to further their good intent.

It is cynical and dishonest to label people and not to respect their opinion. No matter what opinion they have.
It is cynical to reduce the opinion of an individual person to bad intentions.

But this is not my intent. I think all people have very likely good intentions. More than 2 sigma level likelihood, according to my personal experience.
Best regards
Günter Heß

Werner Krauss said...

@Reiner #45

Great question! Maybe "Occupy Wall Street" is a good start for job creation? Any suggestions from sociology how the "99%" could stop capitalism?

Werner Krauss said...

@Günter Heß #46

Thanks for clarification! I guess I read too much between the lines, and I obviously "misread".

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner -47
What specific proposal of Occupy Wall Street would enable job creation?
You could "stop" capitalism by stopping the flow of money. Or by nationalising big companies everywhere. But what would the side-effects be?

Besides, the term "capitalism" is far to crude to capture the differences between political economies. This is why there is a literature on "varieties of capitalism."

How did we get into this off topic discussion? Because I tried to answer ROb Dekker's questions but he seems to have lost interest.

Werner Krauss said...

@reiner #49
yes, we drifted far from shore...
"Occupy" poses questions (not answers) which are similar to the climate problem: we shouldn't leave the questions of economy and climate to the governments and science only.
But where did we start? i forgot, too...we should take up these ideas in another thread, someday...

Rob Dekker said...

Reiner How did we get into this off topic discussion? Because I tried to answer ROb Dekker's questions but he seems to have lost interest.

I'm still here Reiner, but I must say that indeed my interest for this thread has waned.

I proposed to Lenzer to discuss the science (paper) that he found most convicing to sustain his opinions.

Werner diffused that proposal immediately by suggesting that "this kind of debate is not about science", and Lenzer willingly complied. No paper was ever mentioned.

Werner also mentioned that "There is always a professor to be found who wrote a paper somewhere - and in case it is not published in Nature, this is just proof of gatekeeping".

So even before Lenzer can even mention a single scientific paper to sustain his beliefs, Werner already tosses up his own preconceived belief that if it is not published in Nature that there is "gatekeeping" going on.

I guess you guys don't like to discuss science and scientific papers, but instead "it's about lessons to be learned", and "Jerry Ravetz's reconciliation workshop" and bla bla bla.

That's when I fell asleep, Reiner.

Sorry.

Rob Dekker said...

In summary, I think you guys (Werner, Reiner, Lenzen) are talking way up in the air, guided by your own perceptions and beliefs, and you did not just lose every bit of foundation with scientific evidence or reality, but in fact actively suppress it.

If you want to talk science, and check facts behind perceptions, and weigh evidence for certain opinions, then I am your man. And I do not even care where these facts are published, let alone about the lame excuse of gatekeeping.

If you want to avoid talking facts, ignore my fact checks, and instead change the subject, then I will loose interest quickly.

If you want to talk politics and policy, and cultural aspects of science and belief systems in humans with different economical and political backgrounds, then I gladly refer to Naomi Klein's perspective, who explains my own opinions a lot better than me myself :

http://awayfromitall.me/2011/12/21/naomi-klein-on-occupy-and-climate-change/

Incidentally, I think this link showed up on a feed for Klimazwiebel, but never made it as a post. Is that correct, Werner ?

Rob Dekker said...

In short,
I am a scientist, not a philosopher.
I start to think that Klimaziebel is not the site for me.
You guys have a nice time here, OK ?

Anonymous said...

@ Dekker

"No paper was ever mentioned ..."

You are obviously unwilling to read them (22).

There are plenty more but I agreed with Werner to "to get out of this endless exchange of arguments" and trying to "enter new terrain, give it another twist".

Which doesn't mean that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting the claim that the consensus view on climate change is weak.
As a scientist you should know them.
If you don't - what kind of science are you into?

You are sharing Naomi Klein's political opinions?
Good to know but this confession will hardly allow a scientific approach to the subject.

"The climate debate seems to be increasingly becoming the framing for a massive political and cultural battleground, which does not bode well for climate science to return to some sort of ‘normalcy’ anytime soon"

http://judithcurry.com/2011/11/16/capitalism-vs-the-climate

V. Lenzer

Reiner Grundmann said...

Rob Dekker
in your post 31 you asked me to elaborate more which I have done in post 34. You have not replied to this but now accuse me of actively "suppressing scientific evidence or reality".

Don't you think you should reconsider this statement?

Can you explain what I have to do with Lenzer and Werner's comments?

What kind of scientist are you?

Werner Krauss said...

@Rob #51 and #52

two clarifications:
1) my remark ""There is always a professor to be found who wrote a paper somewhere - and in case it is not published in Nature, this is just proof of gatekeeping": second part of it was meant to be a parody - something never works when written on blog - my fault, I should have known.

2) And yes, I had posted Naomi Klein but then had decided to delete it - I had some other links about environmentalist groups included and was not sure if their content was legally correct, and I had no time to go through their websites carefully. A case of self-censorship, because I didn't want to cause trouble for klimazwiebel. But thanks for reminding me, I would love to have a discussion about Namoi Klein, climate camps, activist climate groups and so on. As soon as I have the patience, I'll prepare a post. Promised.

And yes, this thread lost the scientific track by purpose, but I did not invest enough energy to keep things straight (sometimes it's too time consuming when other things come up). For sure, once in a while it is necessary to switch from science discussion to philosophy or social theory. Something which is incredibly difficult to introduce into the climate discussion; I know what I am talking about. You are not the only scientist who immediately gets annoyed when talking heads like Reiner or me start to improvise on scientific pieces which we picked up. To take things out of context can be very helpful, from time to time.