Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

Satire is a beautiful thing

Amazingly enough, there are still people who claim to understand the science behind global warming, yet make the mistake of thinking localized cold temperatures, such as the recent snowstorms in the Eastern United States, are somehow a refutation of global warming. It’s almost as if they don’t understand the meaning of the key word “global.”

Jon Stewart captures it (and mocks it) perfectly in this Daily Show clip.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Unusually Large Snowstorm
www.thedailyshow.com

That bit makes fun of the “local versus global” aspect of global warming denialism and it is amusing, but at its heart is a serious issue… the denialist combination of ignorance and arrogance fueled by political and/or religious ideology. It’s a combination that inspires deniers to manufacture evidence, take evidence out of context, twist and distort evidence, and cherry pick evidence in their attempts to bolster their cause.

What makes it worse is that the denialist propaganda seems to be having its intended effect. Despite overwhelming evidence showing that our planet is warming faster than what natural cycles would indicate and that the warming is strongly affected by human activity, fewer and fewer people accept the science. What makes the denialist position so successful? Is it because their “evidence” is valid? …because their position is somehow warranted? Or is it, perhaps, that climate science is complicated… and therefore boring to a lot of people? Could it be that it takes too much effort to research the basics in order to gain a modicum of understanding of the science? …that real science is hard?

Here’s a hint. It’s not because denialist “evidence” is valid (and yes, the scare quotes are warranted).

Certainly, it’s far, far easier to look out the window at an above-average snowfall and conclude that no warming is occurring… and if that nicely-boxed conclusion is spruced up by your strongly-held ideology or by a level of (perhaps understandable) apathy that makes you susceptible to the loud voices of denialism, then it’s fairly easy to consider the matter closed and ignore any further evidence to the contrary.

That’s the scary result of politics trying to invalidate science… or religion trying to invalidate science. People get bad information and then they get the idea that there’s a controversy (where none should exist), or they start to think that scientists are full of crap, or that a biologist is the same as an astrophysicist (ie… a scientist is a scientist is a scientist), or that politicians have some sort of special “in” when it comes to the truth. People start to think that the scientific process is broken, or that a single mistake invalidates years (or even decades) of research, or that a scientist in a bitchy mood indicates that scientists are corrupt, or that scientists should be automatons who never get cranky when quote-mined by some junk-science-peddling politician.

The denialists’ position against global warming science is political, pure and simple. It can be summarized by the idea that, because the fix would be a hassle (or expensive), they want nothing to do with it. On that foundation is built their structure of misinformation… with twists, distortions, and lies… that only continues to stand because they yell loudly, they yell repeatedly, and they yell authoritatively. They do it with a self-righteous arrogance, implying that anyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but unpatriotic and stupid… perhaps socialist, too. They set up towering straw men to burn to the ground with their trite arguments, paying no mind to whether the argument is scientifically valid.

Despite all the denialists’ blustering, the thing they lack is truth. Perhaps truth isn’t important to them as long as they get their way, but truth is the intended destination of science.

The scientific process is self-correcting. Mistakes are sometimes made, but through the process, those mistakes are found and corrected. Science moves on, leaving behind an understanding of our world that is just a little bit better than before. That’s what science does. It moves. It progresses. It refuses to settle. It refuses to stop.

…and all the denialist blustering in the world won’t keep it from moving ahead.

2 Comments

  1. Tom says:

    Dan,
    Interesting. I’ve read a lot of your pieces now, or in the few times you’ve enjoined a debate with me or Nathan on FB before you disconnected. Every time you cite “overwhelming evidence”, but I’ve never actually read any details from you to back that up that assertion, whereas I have on at least one occasion cited numerous specific sources of scientific data that refute man-made global warming. Even this subject piece is riddled with vague generalities. Nothing specific. And irony of all ironies, you call folks me ideological… Shall I cite all that data over again? And I’m not talking about my numerous sardonic posts about early snow storms or the IPCC implosion. I’m talking about things like the Yamal Tree Ring Data, how Antarctic sea ice is at an historical maximum, or how global temperature stations have been taken off-line. Ahh… who needs that inconvenient fact-based stuff anyway?
    -Tom Shafer

    1. Dan says:

      Well, based on the definition of the word “overwhelming,” I’d think it would be understandable that I don’t include all the data in my blog posts. Since the data is available from a number of online sources along with accompanying analysis by relevant scientists, it’s a relatively simple task to find the desired information, anyway.

      However, the point of this particular post was to criticize deniers for their seeming lack of intellectual curiosity to do a little research from reputable sources in order to get at least a minimum of understanding about the issue. The point wasn’t to load the reader up with evidential talking points, raw data, and technical analysis of climate science. There are entire organizations devoted to that. I’m not going to do it on my little blog for an opinion piece.

      As for the data you’ve cited in the past, I’ve read almost every one of the links you’ve posted and almost without exception (I say “almost” because I can’t remember every single one), they misquoted, misrepresented, or misunderstood the data and/or situation they were criticizing. In each case, it wasn’t difficult to find the actual information. In many cases, the links you posted actually supported AGW… a bit of irony which I found somewhat amusing.

      You mention tree ring data, Antarctic sea ice, and global weather stations. I’ve read a bit about each of those items, but I’m not sure of your point. Surely you can’t be presenting any of them as evidence against global warming. You’ve said before that your anti-global-warming motivations are political, but I’m sure that doesn’t preclude doing some valid research instead of following along with some anti-science, right-wing talking points.

      Assuming you’ve done the research, you probably already know about how tree ring data is and was used ( http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/people/briffa/yamal2009/ ), how warming temperatures are expected to affect Antarctic sea ice ( http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2FJCLI4136.1 ), and how global weather stations are used ( http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/the-guardian-disappoints/ and http://www.skepticalscience.com/On-the-reliability-of-the-US-Surface-Temperature-Record.html ).

      Now, I suspect you will claim that my sources are suspect or lack credibility or are somehow involved in perpetrating a hoax, but these are just a few of the articles that turn up. The CRU, the IPCC, the IASC, the USGCRP, the RMetS, and a host of others all have information… actual scientific information… supporting the idea that AGW is happening.

      Settled science? No. Science doesn’t settle. The only people who use the phrase “settled science” on a regular basis seem to be the deniers. You know full well that hypotheses change to fit the data… but the data has to be real. There are plenty of genuine scientific debates going on, but they’re based on the actual facts, not on political spin. The political debates are just a bunch of ideological mud-slinging.

      So am I ideological about this issue? No… unless you want to define ideology as a strong acceptance of reality.

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