Interesting, but Surprising only Because it is Being Admitted

From La Marguerite, via Tom Nelson.  The comments are so honest and rational, I would fear they were fake if I did not see them in the original:

When I launched the TalkClimateChange forums last year, I was initially worried as to where I would find people who didn’t believe in global warming. I had planned to create a furious debate, but in my experience global warming was such a universally accepted issue that I expected to have to dredge the slums of the internet in order to find a couple of deniers who could keep the argument thriving.

The first few days were slow going, but following a brief write-up of my site by Junk Science I was swamped by climate skeptics who did a good job of frightening off the few brave Greens who slogged out the debate with. Whilst there was a lot of rubbish written, the truth was that they didn’t so much frighten the Greens away – they comprehensively demolished them with a more in depth understanding of the science, cleverly thought out arguments, and some very smart answers. If you want to learn about the physics of convection currents, gas chromatography, or any number of climate science topics then read some of the early debates on TalkClimateChange. I didn’t believe a word of it, but I had to admit that these guys were good.

In the following months the situation hardly changed. As the forum continued to grow, as the blog began to catch traffic, and as I continued to try and recruit green members I continued to be disappointed with the debate. In short, and I am sorry to say it, anti-greens (Reds, as we call them) appear to be more willing to comment, more structured, more able to quote peer reviewed research, more apparently rational and apparently wider read and better informed.

And it’s not just TalkClimateChange. Since we re-launched the forums on Green Options and promoted the Live Debate on Nuclear Power, the pro-nuclear crowd have outclassed the few brave souls that have attempted to take them on (with the exception of our own Matt from TalkClimateChange). So how can this be? Where are all these bright Green champions, and why have I failed to recruit them into the debate? Either it’s down to poor online marketing skills, or there is something else missing.

  • The pro AGW lobby can say what they like; quote their ‘peer reviewed papers’ and show their very cleverly constructed (But often woefully inaccurate) computer climate models. Doesn’t matter. All I know is that in my part of British Columbia we’ve just had over six inches of snow. The worst in thirty seven years for this time of year.

    As for the clever sophistry of the ‘Weather isn’t climate’ arguments, may I respectfully ask what comprises the ‘climate’ if not the sum total of the weather?

  • Where are all these bright Green champions… it’s down to poor online marketing skills, or there is something else missing

    Well, you know, a crucial element of a good argument is that it be true. I’m just sayin’

  • Stevo

    The reason is fairly obviously that sceptics get more practice. Their beliefs are challenged more, gaps in their arguments are highlighted to them early on, they know from the start that only the best sources and most rigorous arguments will withstand the scrutiny they will face. They feel outnumbered, and arm themselves accordingly. Believers, with the appeal to authority on their side, are more negligent of their arguments. They assume only the stupid could dissent, and that the arguments against will be trivially dismissed. They are misled by the one-sidedness of green propaganda into thinking there are no defensible contrary positions. And so they march cheerfully to the battle not having armed themselves or sought proper training.

    And when they flee their first skirmish in disarray, and realise how hard it will be to prepare for the battlefield and how much political and moral baggage they must cast away to do so, they comfort themselves instead with the story that they never wanted to fight anyway. That there’s no point, that the enemy doesn’t surrender when they’re ‘beaten’ like they should, that they have more important things to do, that they have no need to know the arguments or win the debate when they know they are on the side of truth and righteousness. And more to the point, when they know from their own propaganda that their side already stands victorious in debate. Why bleed to fight a war you have already won?
    Truly, it is said, leaders should never believe in their own propaganda.

    This effect is all for the good, as it delays the damage that Green ambitions could ultimately cause. Nevertheless, I am very much impressed by this honest Green, for openly writing this confession. If there were a few more like him, maybe we could get somewhere.

  • Scientist

    Oooh, aren’t sceptics wonderful! Shame that for the most part they basically just don’t understand science, and quote endlessly from a select few ‘papers’ from sham journals like Energy and Environment and sham scientists like Carter, McIntyre, Shaviv and others – if they even read any papers at all.

  • Scientist’s comments grow increasingly wearisome. Taking potshots at the literacy of skeptics reveals far more about Scientist than he/she is aware. I’m beginning to conclude that Scientist is a troll.

  • Scientist

    And this from the comments on the original piece gives an excellent summary of the situation:

    ———————
    “Whilst there was a lot of rubbish written, the truth was that they didn’t so much frighten the Greens away – they comprehensively demolished them with a more in depth understanding of the science, cleverly thought out arguments, and some very smart answers.”

    Not really, Mark, no. You’re confusing persistence with competence.

    “In short, and I am sorry to say it, anti-greens (Reds, as we call them) appear to be more willing to comment, “

    Cranks are generally more talkative. They’re quite happy to keep pushing ideas demolished years ago by others, and just because someone knocks their ideas down in April 2003 it won’t stop them bringing them up again in April 2008.

    It’s not my chosen career to debunk the same tired old nonsense again and again with the same people for years on end. At some point, you have to accept that the Earth is not flat, nor was it created 6,000 years ago out of whole cloth, evolution is real, the Holocaust did happen, HIV and AIDS are connected, we really did put men on the Moon, the US government does not regularly engage in conspiracies to blow up its own citizens, Dubya and the Queen are not secretly reptilians from a distant planet, and the Earth’s resources and ability to absorb pollution are finite.

    There’ll always be a few loons who don’t accept this stuff, and a much larger number of people who just don’t know stuff; there are the ignorant, and the willfully ignorant. We can do something about ignorance, but not about wilfull ignorance. You can never convince everyone. At some point you just have to take the sane majority and work with them.

    Perhaps rather than asking why greenish types aren’t very persuasive, a better question to ask is, why should they bother? Why do you imagine that we should spend some hours each week convincing the willfully ignorant? Just because you want “balance” on your site? What are we supposed to get out of that? If I as a greenish type am supposed to spend hours doing that, should I as a Jew go to websites talking about how the Holocaust was all made up, and try to convince them, too? Should doctors spend their time dealing with denial of the HIV-AIDS connection? Should NASA officials post on websites about The Moon Landing Hoax?

    Why? What the fuck for?

    The thing about a discussion forum is that its image is defined by its worst members. It’s the same as how your restaurant is only as good as its worst meal or sloppiest waiter. TalkClimateChange has cranks, and these cranks are encouraged by the owner of the site. So really it’s DenialClimateChange.

  • And in response to the info quoted above, the moderator wrote

    “I’m certainly not “confusing persistence with competence”. Very often when questions are raised on TCC a climate skeptic will respond with peer reviewed scientific evidence. A green will respond with belief based statements. I’ve been disappointed by this.

    Next, I think that classing everybody who has a different point of view as a crank is perhaps unfair. Every conversation has its cranks, but I have also read many worthy challenges which often force me to question my green position more closely, or moderate my position in some cases. In complex topics it is often inappropriate to take a black or white position.”

  • Scientist, I think you are demonstrating the truth of this post and the TalkClimateChange forum moderator’s perceptions.

    It’s really quite entertaining, but extremely unscientific. Are you in fact a scientist? You do not seem like one.

  • Stevo

    Is he a scientist? He’s of that variety of scientist that regards Appeal to Authority as the epitome of good scientific practice.

    But I did like the way that after I said that greens unable to win the debate make the excuse that they never wanted to fight it anyway, quotes a Greenie comment making the excuse that they never wanted to fight the debate anyway. Classic.

    He obviously disagrees with it though, because he keeps coming back for another pasting. To repeat the question in the quote, why should they bother?

  • Scientist

    Stevo – you are not competent to have an opinion on climate issues. There’s no appeal to authority in that statement.

  • Jeff

    Quoth “Scientist”: It’s not my chosen career to debunk the same tired old nonsense again and again with the same people for years on end. At some point, you have to accept that the Earth is not flat, nor was it created 6,000 years ago out of whole cloth, evolution is real, the Holocaust did happen, HIV and AIDS are connected, we really did put men on the Moon, the US government does not regularly engage in conspiracies to blow up its own citizens, Dubya and the Queen are not secretly reptilians from a distant planet, and the Earth’s resources and ability to absorb pollution are finite.

    Perfectly true. But, are there not several orders of magnitude difference between the “random cranks” who pursue these exotic ideas and the increasingly large numbers of perfectly reputable, indeed in certain cases eminent, scientists who are willing to put their reputations “on the line” in order to voice their scepticism?

    “Science” is not about “consensus”.

  • Stevo

    LOL! You are not competent to have an opinion on my competence! Argument by blatant assertion isn’t science either.

  • papertiger

    Adrien told me that “Science” is an astronomer.
    I’m sort of itching to get his opinion on a few of the goings on in our solar neighborhood.

    Provided, he ever gets the chip off his shoulder.

  • Tony Edwards

    papertiger, I think that he actually has a balanced personality.
    A chip on both shoulders!

  • Scientist

    What a lot of scientific understanding you’re displaying.

  • “Scientist”, why not try argument rather than Canadian duck emblemy assertion and random abuse?

  • Andrew

    Pseudoscientist complains about people qouting endlessly from “sham scientists” and goes on to name a handful of people he doesn’t like. But why do that here? Why not go to Shaviv or McIntyre on ~their~ websites and tell them what bad scientists they are? Or are you only going to be extremely rude to them in their absence? Maybe you are afraid that they can make you look bad becuase they have the power to moderate away your incredible wit and insight?

    Well, this discussion has no content anyway, but you know, that’s actually largely your fault for never offering any. I really don’t care what points you make or who you qoute or what papers you’ve read or whatever, or what “side” you argue for. But you seem more intent on being an angry pissy whiner than actually offering a cool, rational argument. So, yeah, I think you proved the host’s point.

    As an outside observer, I must say, you don’t impress me much.

  • Andew

    Wait, everyone, I think I’ve got it, how you can make “scientist” either cough up an argument or leave-I’m not sure which one is peferable. Let’s all sit around acting like cavemen unsure whether there even is any climate change, and pretend to see the glorious light when he shows us his magical powerpoint presentation with hypnotic special effects, and plenty of melodrama. Throw in a touching scene with a drwoning polar bear, and we can all pretend like he’s won us over, and get on with our lives!

    Well, what are you waiting for, scientist, put a Powerpoint together! You can always ask Gore for help if you don’t understand the software. 😉

  • Andrew

    BTW, not trying to ignite a fight with you over who is right or wrong. But if you really think you are right and everyone here is wrong-I think I did not make this point-if you want everyone to agree with you, rather than insulting them, politely tell the people you see as so ignorant why they are wrong. Who knows? They might listen, and perhaps even believe. But at the moment, you are not doing that.

  • Scientologist

    You got me, boys. I’m really Al Gore in drag. I likes to troll around the more rational blogs like yours and pretend to be an idiot. It’s fun to watch people get mad when I say stupid things. See ya!

  • From what Scientist has displayed here, I can fully understand why TalkClimateChange has been a dissapointment to its creator(s). It has been my observation that instead of a discussion of the possible factors, such people simply dismiss the need to have a discussion with skeptics as a waste of time since they (the skeptics) wouldn’t understand anyway, being of such low IQ and all.

    I have met very few people on the pro-AGW side who can and do debate based on the science and the issues. Most simply reiterate that Al Gore says this or that or that a study of 928 papers shows 100% agreement or some such. When pressed, they usually fold up their tents and walk away. I have encountered many people who got everything they know as gospel truth about Global Warming/Climate Change from Al Gore’s movie about Al Gore, staring Al Gore.

    On the other hand, most of the people I have encountered on the skeptical side have read the papers and have considered sources other than Al Gore or David Suzuki. Indeed most of the skeptics I know agree/accept that there has been an increase in global temperature and that, all else being equal, CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

    Too be sure, there are a good number of pro-AGW people who have a sound understanding of the science, they are the ones who don’t stoop to inferring that skeptics believe the earth was made flat 6,000 years ago.

  • Colin D

    Unfortunately, the doomsday extrapolations have fettered the non-skeptics’ attempts at reasonable debate. To be sure, most scientific non-skeptics are moderate believers in climate change, but this is and always will be a position least persuadable, given most circumstances. Consider religion, fundamentalists and atheists alike offer more rational and well-founded arguments than the moderates can conjure, simply because of their position and disciplines available to them (scriptural literalism and science/rational approach)). The truth is, is that science is extremely tricky, and the most frustating part is that NOTHING in science is verifiable. Presently, traditional physics that are widely believed are coming under question as we explore that nano-sciences. Science as a discipline is based upon the falsifiability, not verification, of premises. So when skeptics quote that research and the IPCC analysis saying that there is significant uncertainty about climate change, it is a constrain of science itself. To be of scientific significance there must be a p value lower than .05, so when research states that a premise is uncertain, it could have a p value of .06, which is 94% certaintity. As a free thinking individual, I would take my bets with certainty at a level significantly below 95%, but as a scientist I can not. So, I find it personally frustrating to participate in dialouge with skeptics because I know that the science of climate change will never be verifiable nor is it currently of accepted certaintity standards. Yet, these hindrances do not exclude the possiblity of anthropogenic climate change especially considering that immensely complex subject of climate change. I am not yet “convinced” of anthropogenic climate change, but I am certaintly not ready to rule it out. I think that the German philosopher Schopenheimer provides insight into the my weariness to count out climate change, “All truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident.” Systematically it is more feasible to defend the status quo (i.e. climate cycles) than to proport a variant. As a self-proclaimed moderate, I am not easily wooed by the climate alarmists, yet not restricted by skeptics. Certainly environmental efforts should focus on what are known to be problems with effective solutions but not risk becoming blind to the possibility or larger man-made problems.