Scroll To Top

Friday, November 15, 2013

Doug Proctor ponders the language of science, with predictably certain results at WUWT

Sou | 3:10 PM One comment so far. Add a comment

When Anthony Watts at his blog WUWT runs out of material or otherwise finds a comment interesting, he elevates it to a blog article.  He's done that with a comment by Doug Proctor (archived here).

Doug starts his comment observing that fake sceptics deal in absolutes, while scientists are careful to qualify their statements.  Needless to say, he doesn't write it quite like that.  Doug writes:
I’ve been thinking about what makes the warmist-skeptic fight go on and on. What I have noted is the constant difference in how each side places its emphasis, and that this shows up in its speech. Specifically, the skeptics use declarative, as in “this will”, “this shall” or “this does”, and, of course, its negative equals. The warmists use conditionals, i.e. words like “could” or “should” or “may” or “might” that indicate undefined probabilities and, in truth, possibilities, things that are determinable only after the fact.

Doug goes on to write about the language used by scientists, the media and various bloggers and has described it under four headings of certainty:
  1. Computational, 
  2. Emotional
  3. Representational and 
  4. Ideological.
Computational certainty: Doug claims, in a mixed up manner, that climate scientists dismiss explanations that are not obvious explanations.  He reckons they should do a Sherlock Holmes and explore unusual explanations further.  Unfortunately he didn't say what explanations he'd like scientists to investigate.

Emotional certainty: Doug defines emotional uncertainty as being the equivalent of argument from authority.  Since many science deniers are conspiracy theorists of the type that believes that anything coming from authority is suspect, this representation is quite appealing to fans of WUWT.

Representational certainty: Although this is listed as number 3 in his list, Doug saves it until last. I don't follow Doug's description of his representational uncertainty.  I think what he's claiming is that the past predicts the future.  What he talks about is patterns and he seems to think that fake sceptics like those at WUWT look at patterns and decide what's going to happen next.  He might be right.  A lot of fake sceptics think an ice age cometh because ice ages have cometh in the past.  How can they be so sure that ice ages have cometh in the past?  I expect if they trace their knowledge back, it will have come from people who've studied geology and people who've studied paleoclimatology.  Fake sceptics are very selective and quite unconventional (though predictable) in what knowledge they accept and what they don't accept.  

Ideological certainty: Although Doug labels this as ideological, he describes it in terms of expected outcome, not ideology.  Doug writes:
With Ideological Certainty, the certainty is that continuing the path we are on, the status quo, will cause socio- and environmental damage that is unacceptable (and may be catastrophic).
So he's not really talking about ideology, he's talking about expectations of a given situation.  Doug provides a list of people and organisations that he believes are motivated by ideological uncertainty:  Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Maurice Strong, David Suzuki, Friends of the Earth, the Waterkeepers and opponents of the XL Keystone pipeline. I think what he may be trying to argue, but doesn't say, is that he views these people and organisations as being driven by ideology rather than by science.  He could have just said that, but he didn't.

Reading the lines and between the lines, Doug regards Pielke, Lindzen, Watts and ourselves (ie WUWT fake sceptics) very highly and what he refers to as the eco-green and climate scientists in a very poor light.

Doug closes with this:
What makes the CAGW fight persist, IMHO, is that we argue about “Certainty” as if we are dealing with the same thing and each side is either foolish, perverse, or a paid shill not to recognize what each side holds. What I am saying in the above essay, is that we are not dealing with the same thing. I have listed four different aspects that lead to the decisions we make on supporting or not supporting CO2-related initiatives. The technical, dictionary-defined words are the same, but we argue because we are not using the same mental vocabulary.
While the article has obvious flaws, is written from the viewpoint of a science rejector and is not very well argued (it was just a comment to a blog article after all), his closing comment is not too wide of the mark.

From the WUWT comments

The reaction is about what you'd expect from the crowd at WUWT.  In fact, the comments below would sit equally well under almost any WUWT article.  They are no different.  Same old same old...

elmer says briefly, but without specifying whose minds or how:
November 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm
This will change somes minds, it should anyway.

Jquip says:
November 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm
Money, Religion (Or Ideology if that gives the vapors), and Religiously Instituted ‘Obey, Sinner!’ governance.

Mark Urbo's comment surely comes under Doug's emotional certainty category.  He says:
November 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm
But the CAGW movement has used this terminology to cause so much destruction over the last two decades…
I’d like to point out one – which is the countless academics, scientists, professionals and other persons whose careers took major hits for not supporting AGW. Trashed, harassed, and even fired in many instances, how do they get whole again ?
Please, I ask for a moment of silence for those who became collateral damage to a movement based on a false concept and marketed via deception. Whatever AGW was when this all started, it became an agenda driven religious-like cult movement that has left a trail of damage worldwide.

brians356, I think, just longs for any kind of certainty and says:
November 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm
The latest conditional bombshell (heard on BCC radio last night):
Up to 30% of species in the world’s oceans could be at risk from extinction by the end of the century from potentially increased acidifiaction.”
Parse out the conditionals at your leisure.

The juxtaposition of the following two comments is interesting:

First up, Sweet Old Bob talks about feelings as opposed to reason and says:
November 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm
Some people seem to be “wired” to look at almost everything from the perspective of “feeling”and reason is not considered.
These people will NEVER be convinced by logic.Their language is emotion and the only way to “reason” with them is to speak in emotional terms.
“Logical” people have to learn this “new “language to win ANY arguement with them.

Bob's "reason not feeling" comment is immediately followed by R. de Haan's emotional outburst, with full-on conspiracy ideation and lots of shouting:
November 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm
What makes the warmist-skeptic fight go on and on?
1. It’s a political doctrine and an integrated past of UN Agenda 21 now executed by the the EU and the USA aimed to enforce measures and regulations that will strangle our economies, our prosperity, our jobs, of freedom and our futures, a policy that already kills people by the thousands if we are honest and look at the effects of the bio ethanol scam hiking food prices triggering the food riots in NA and the Middle East which is now burning. The Palm oil scam diving our last remaining primates into the zoo. etc. etc.
2. There is no Open Process, IPCC works in a vacuum and can’t be influenced
3. There is NO Open Debate
4. The MSM is biased in it’s reporting, in many cases no contrary opinion are tolerated
5. All debunked arguments continue to be recycled
6. The climate models stink and the various data sets, surface stations etc are tampered with, read Lies & FRAUD.
7. The introduction of climate change policy in the USA (and before that the EU) has been taken out of the democratic process and now is introduced and enforced by Presidential Decree
8. All that the warmists have left is to take perfectly normal weather events and blow them out of propostion like they recently did with the Typhoon that hit the Philippines.
8. The authorian trend will now continue in Warsaw.
Forget all about the story above because it is utter BS.

While Tuduri suffers extreme confirmation bias softened by a whiff of self-awareness and says (excerpt):
November 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm
I’m a criminal investigator, not a scientist. But my training and nature compel me to question any proffered theory, especially when it effects my pocket book. This is why I’ve never bought into the CAGW. I’ve always wondered,’ where is the evidence’? What is the mechanism? Haven’t we been warming ever since the last ice age, etc. Then when I did a little research and started to read WUWT, I began to see more clearly the absence of proof for CAGW and the ever increasing data showing the opposite: Things like the absence of warming in 17 years, the increasing ice in the Antarctic, the upswing in Arctic ice, and much other informative and even entertaining information from articles written by Anthony and other real scientists on this blog.I admire the rational thinking and argumentation. The marshaling of facts and drawing to solid conclusions. The absence of name calling and histrionics. The empiricism, if you will, the thoughtful contemplation of evidence. ‘ Following where the evidence leads’ is an expression in my line of work. I can’t necessarily assume that ‘ the butler did it’ when the evidence leads elswhere. Lol. lMy doubtin the CAGW theory increased after outed emails being exchanged between some the the leading scientists supporting AGW. These emails showed these AGW scientists’ mendacious and duplicitous nature in hiding information from the public and presenting false information to the world about Global warming or as they currently put it ‘climate change’. The revelation of their efforts to malign and discredit scientists who disagreed with them didn’t enhance their credibility in my eyes. . They commited crimes of omission and commission in my view.
I guess that the above falls within a demand for representeational certainty. But my questioning, and cynicism of the Warmists, I must admit, is also emotional and ideological. I happen to be a conservative minded person. I am reflexively suspicious of policy, theory, etc offered by the left. Now I am open to being dissuaded by being shown proof of CAGW. But all I’ve seen are broken hockey sticks, faulty computer models and ….no warming.
Terry Oldberg equivocates madly and says (excerpt):
November 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm
My research suggests the fight between the warmists and the skeptics rages on because the members of both camps are persistently guilty of the same logical error. The error is to draw a conclusion from an equivocation. By logical rule, one cannot draw a proper conclusion from an equivocation. However, one CAN draw an improper conclusion. By drawing improper conclusions from equivocations, warmists and skeptics draw opposing conclusions from equivocations that are thought by one side or the other to be true but that are logically unproved.

A.D. Everard is quite certain that something must be stopped:
November 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm
The fight must continue. This is not something we can meet in the middle ground about. Our early passiveness about green ideals has allowed the green monster that stalks the Earth now. One side gives an inch, the other takes a mile.
The Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warmers WILL NOT STOP until our nations are destroyed and millions killed to purge the Earth of the cancer they think is Man. That means we can not stop either until the work is done and this sham is shown for what it is.
I think your post is very good and very accurate, except that finding and talking in the same language will not solve the problem. The lying must stop. The emotional blackmail must stop. The destruction of the environment, of industry, of society and of civilization must stop.
Above all, hatred of the human animal must stop. Teaching the next generation – and the next and the next – to fear and despise the very technology that gave us extended life, health, riches, comfort and enjoyment, seriously Must Be Stopped.

Steve Reddish takes the opportunity to tout his certainty about his religious beliefs and says:
November 14, 2013 at 5:27 pm
Slightly off topic to this thread, though on topic to several posts to this thread and others:
The claim that there is no rational, scientific basis for a belief in God is in itself an emotional claim, and it reveals that the claimer has not made a rational inquiry into the possibility of God.
But if a belief in God actually was irrational, believers would not be deterred by that claim.
So, save such claims for some other blog, please. I prefer not to read posts by those who don’t know what they are talking about.

More rants from the WUWT deniers can be seen in this archive, if you've nothing better to do with your precious time.

1 comment :

  1. When planning a journey on a boat, one takes into account various limitations: crew size, tankage for potable water, fuel for the engine, reasonable expectations of added range under sail power, provisions, even sewage tankage in certain conditions. These calculations are not ideologically motivated but are plain necessity; pretending that one's boat has unlimited capacity in all respects is a fool's approach to a voyage. Life on this closed sphere as it endlessly travels is not so very different, except that with the help of sunlight we can replenish at a certain rate without touching shore, and perhaps more importantly the crew continues to expand and demand more as the voyage goes on.

    For some reason, the necessity for planning and bearing responsibility for what happens in the future enrages some people, or makes them sneer. It's very puzzling.


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL or OpenID. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.