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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Science vs Scientists: How many climate science deniers are evolution deniers?

Sou | 12:07 PM Go to the first of 39 comments. Add a comment

Spotted on WUWT today:

Tom G(ologist) says:
January 31, 2014 at 7:47 am
As an Earth Scientist in Pennsylvania, I was peripherally involved in the 2005 Katzmaier v Dover School District action and, as a result, followed P.Z. Myers’ web site for a while. I had to give it up though once that furor was over and he began ranting about climate science. I have not followed his site since because his arguments on both evolution and climate were founded on the authority of the scientists – not on the sciences.

Climate science and evolution are "founded on the authority of the scientists - not on the sciences"!  What science are the scientists hiding, pray tell :)

That dumb comment wasn't the only thing that spoilt what might have been a rare reasonable article at WUWT today. (Archived here.)  Anthony used his article to take a swipe at Michael Mann, basically saying he should lie down and take public accusations of fraud by journalists, without challenging them.


PS Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District happened in the 21st Century, would you believe.  I wouldn't have believed it myself had I not read it in Wikipedia :(

39 comments:

Dumb Scientist said...

I still need to get around to adding almost a dozen entries to my list of climate contrarians who are also creationists.

Greig said...

Climate science and evolution are "founded on the authority of the scientists - not on the sciences"! What science are the scientists hiding, pray tell :)

Sou, It's possible you may have misunderstood Tom. I think what he was trying to say is that many who discuss climate science rest on the conclusions and opinions of climate scientists, because they are the authority. That is actually a logical fallacy, Argumentum ab auctoritate or argument from authority.

The appeal to authority is a logical fallacy because authorities are not necessarily correct about judgments related to their field of expertise. Though reliable authorities are correct in judgments related to their area of expertise more often than laypersons,[citation needed] they can still come to the wrong judgments through error, bias, dishonesty, or falling prey to groupthink. Thus, the appeal to authority is not an argument for establishing facts.


Sou said...

It's sweet of you to try to explain Tom's comment, Greig. Thing is, that doesn't change a thing. Your logic is fallacious.

When it comes to science, the best people to explain it in the first instance are scientists themselves followed by science communicators. Not only that, but scientists are (most often) the first people to explain science. In fact, scientists arguably create the science in the first place. Arguably, there would be no science without scientists.

Perhaps you are suggesting that WUWT is a better authority than scientists when it comes to explaining science? Even if that were so, WUWT-ers would have to read and interpret words written by scientists. Which means they accept the authority of scientists in documenting science that WUWT then reinterprets into (as often as not) utter nuttery.

Greig said...

I think you are still misunderstanding what Tom is saying. Tom is saying the he stopped going to a website because it was arguing "founded on the authority of the scientists – not on the sciences.". So putting this another way:

Stating

Science concludes that X=Y, as explained by expert scientist as follows ...

is different from

A scientist concludes X=Y, and is correct because he/she is an expert.

The latter is arguing from authority, a logical fallacy. It seems clear to me that this is what Tom was referring to.

Note: I did not make a comment on WUWT, please do not place words in my mouth.

Sou said...

No, you didn't refer to WUWT. That was me. And that was where Tom's comment appeared which is why I said that.

You make a very fine distinction and seem to be at great pains to argue that "science concluding" is somehow different to "scientists concluding".

"Science" cannot conclude all by its lonesome. It is only through "scientists concluding" that one could say "science concludes".

Sou said...

Yet all this discussion about the extent to which "science" can be separated from "scientists" misses the point.

The point is (do I really need to spell this out?) that Tom lumps climate science and evolution into the same bag and implies that the science is wrong in both of them. Which raises the question I posed:

How many climate science deniers are evolution deniers?

Joe said...

Hey Greig, quick question - do you think the Higgs Boson was found?

tonylearns said...

Theoretically I agree with Greig,
but without knowing the specifics and knowing very well the ideologically constrained thought processes of the vast majority of evolution and climate change deniers, I am inclined to think that Tom was arguing against scientists who presented accurate science that he HAS to beleive is wrong and is therefore asserting that the actual evidence is just appeal to authority

Captain Flashheart said...

Science proceeds from argument by authority. Every scientific experiment assumes a vast swathe of material without proof, simply because it was obtained by someone else. Almost every practicing scientist uses statistics and conducts statistical tests on the assumption that the difference in means is T-distributed, but almost none of them have ever read Gossett's paper, nor do they have the skills to prove from first principles that this is so.

This appeal to fallacies that contrarians love to use is so stupid. Just because someone used a logical fallacy doesn't make them wrong, and dismissing someone's argument (or entire blog!) because they employ logical fallacies is just stupid. As Joe is about to show with this question about the Higgs Boson.

Captain Flashheart said...

But to his credit I think Tom G(ologist) is not an evolution denier - he is a petroleum geologist with a blog (in suspect terrane) about geology and evolution.

RACookPE1978 on the other hand ...

FrankD said...

Aside from the logic flaws Sou has pointed out, Grieg also doesn't even understand the logical fallacy he is claiming to see.

Argument from authority takes the form "Cardinal Pell says there's no such thing as Global Warming and he's a Cardinal", or "You should believe in God - Einstein did and he was the greatest scientist that ever lived". - using eminence in one field to give weight to opinions in an unrelated field where the "authority" may be no more expert than the layest of laymen. That's fallacious

The opinion of an authority in their domain of expertise is a perfectly legitimate argument.

It doesn't mean that opinion is automatically correct, its just that it is not fallacious to use it in argument.

Mistaken claims of "A ad A" are like the dreaded "ad hominem" when the poster simply means "insult", IMO - superficially reasonable, but actually a red flag of crank.

Greig said...

Mistaken claims of "A ad A" are ...actually a red flag of crank

Tom G has his own good reasons for not attending P.Z. Myers’ website. He has a right to view whichever website he wishes and for his own reasons without someone calling him a crank.

John Russell said...

FrankD nails it.

Fake sceptics use the "argument from authority" accusation as support for their belief that "authorities are wrong". But in actual fact all it means is "authorities can be wrong"; or in other words, "being an authority doesn't make you right: you also need to back it up with evidence".

When they cry "argument from authority!", fake sceptics are actually extrapolating to the assumption that "anyone challenging authority is right" and are actually using it to justify "argument from ignorance".

Of course the problem is that—unlike the huge body of work from numerous authorities working in teams that adds up to climate science—the arguments of the "challengers to authority" never add up to a coherent whole. Indeed if you look back through the articles by contributors published by WUWT, they can be characterised as either attacks on specific aspects of climate science; or crackpot theories by lone, self-appointed 'experts'. When one of their contributors happens to have a degree in something like maths, engineering or geology and that 'credibility' is used to state "believe me"; that's when it's appropriate to cry "argument from authority!".

Debunker said...

If Tom G shares his reasons for not visiting a website with the entire blogosphere, rather than keeping them private, then people ere entitled to give their opinion as to the validity of those reasons, especially if his reasoning is self evident rubbish.

Captain Flashheart said...

wtf are you talking about Greig? No one said Tom G doesn't have the righ to not view a given website. That's just completely stupid to claim. "Don't tread on me" is the last refuge of the desperate!

Sou said...

Seeing no-one called Tom a "crank" I think Greig was deflecting.

Apart from Greig, the only person who used the word "crank" was FrankD who wrote:

Mistaken claims of "A ad A" are like the dreaded "ad hominem" when the poster simply means "insult", IMO - superficially reasonable, but actually a red flag of crank.

And the first person to raise the issue of Appeal to Authority (A ad A) was Greig.

:D

citizenschallenge said...

Another aspect of this rhetorical device calculated to demean established knowledge - Thee Argument From Authority.

Is that deniers use it without ever becoming acquainted with the substance of the science that's gone into some particular argument, be it evolution or global warming. In fact, they encourage one to ignore and remain oblivious to the evidence behind the science.

Thus remaining ignorant of the basis for said "argument from authority"
~ ~ ~

But, I guess that's what faith and dogma are all about, ignore the evidence -- trust only what's in your own head.
Whereas scientists are a skeptical bunch always looking over each others shoulders - examining and arguing about each others work. A beautiful example of a system that appreciates that we need each other to keep ourselves honest.

PS. One directional skepticism equals denial !

BBD said...

FrankD observes, correctly:

The opinion of an authority in their domain of expertise is a perfectly legitimate *argument*.

Claiming that this is a logical fallacy is one of the finest examples of motivated "reasoning" I've seen for a while.

Dumb Scientist said...

After RACookPE1978's rants about the "preferred murder weapons of the CAGW crowd" I wouldn't be surprised, but do you have an (archived) link of his statements on evolution?

Greig said...

And the first person to raise the issue of Appeal to Authority (A ad A) was Greig.

No, the first person to raise it was Tom when he explained that he doesn't go to a website because "arguments ... were founded on the authority of the scientists – not on the sciences".

This was misunderstood by Sou, I merely provided some explanation for Tom's reasoning.

And to the others in this thread so determined to throw the baby out with the bathwater: There is nothing in the "argument from authority" fallacy which disallows experts from arguing their case, and it doesn't make them wrong, and I am not suggesting any such thing.

BBD said...

Greig, earlier:

I think what he [Tom] was trying to say is that many who discuss climate science rest on the conclusions and opinions of climate scientists, because they are the authority. That is actually a logical fallacy

I'm actually confused now. What *are* you saying, Greig?

Greig said...

FrankD wote: Mistaken claims of "A ad A" are ... actually a red flag of crank.

Sou wrote: And the first person to raise the issue of Appeal to Authority (A ad A) was Greig.

Just to be clear, Sou, are you calling me a crank?

Greig said...

I'm actually confused now. What *are* you saying, Greig?

Tom is saying he doesn't like Myer's website (which discusses climate science), because Myer evokes appeal to authority.

Clear now?

Sou said...

Greig claimed that Tom was invoking the fallacious appeal to authority. But that's not what Tom wrote. Tom said:

his arguments on both evolution and climate were founded on the authority of the scientists

If PZ Myers reports what the scientists find about evolution and climate science, then it's not fallacious.

As is becoming usual with Greig, the discussion goes around and around in a spiral.

Greig said...

Sou wrote: If PZ Myers reports what the scientists find about evolution and climate science, then it's not fallacious.

Yet if (as Tom suggests) the argument rests on the "authority of scientists", then it is based on an appeal to authority which is a logical fallacy.

And that's why Tom doesn't visit Myer's website any more.

Clear now, or do we have to go around the block again?

Sou said...

All of which goes to show that Greig hasn't realised why (as my 4 year old niece once said to her Gran'ma) we evolved with two eyes and ears but only one mouth - and usually use just one keyboard :(

BBD said...

Greig
I think what he [Tom] was trying to say is that many who discuss climate science rest on the conclusions and opinions of climate scientists, because they are the authority. That is actually a logical fallacy

So where do you stand in all this? Do you regard reliance on the expertise of experts as a logical fallacy?

Say we have a room full of military test pilots. Do we defer to them as the experts on flying or not?

Say we have a room full of climate scientists - ?

Greig said...

BBD, I will quickly respond noting that Sou is not happy about this thread continuing.

Obviously "reliance on the expertise of experts" is not a logical fallacy.

However using a persons expertise as an argument that they are necessarily right is a logical fallacy.

Say you had a room full of doctors, and they all agreed that stomach ulcers are caused by stress?

Choom Gang said...

Wow. The stupid in this thread mirrors the original post.

BBD said...

Say you had a room full of doctors, and they all agreed that stomach ulcers are caused by stress?

Ah, argument from false equivalence.

A specific error in medicine does not equate with a general error in radiative physics, paleoclimatology and physical climatology. Besides, we'd need something to overturn the standard position(s) and there is nothing. No deus ex helicobacter pylori.

What I see is a rather flimsy attempt to deny the validity of scientific evidence while pretending not to do so.

Sou said...

It's not a fallacy to "rely on the expertise of experts" but it's a fallacy to cite the expert findings of experts. Got it!

BBD Greig's got all the logical fallacies down pat. He uses them all the time :D

Greig said...

What I see is someone trying to argue that under accepted norms of debate, climate change is a special case and not subject to Argumentum ab auctoritate .

Greig said...

Sou engages in argumentum ad absurdum.

To clarify again: It is not "fallacy to cite the expert findings of experts". It is a fallacy to argue that the findings are necessarily correct because they are produced by experts.

Sou said...

Like I said, although Greig uses logic fallacies all the time, logic itself is not his strong suit. I'd say he's got circular thinking down pat though. No, make that spiral thinking.

Greig said...

Like I said, although Greig uses logic fallacies all the time, logic itself is not his strong suit. I'd say he's got circular thinking down pat though. No, make that spiral thinking.

I'd say that's Argument by assertion :-)

Sou said...

:)

checkitout said...

Well, I couldn't resist looking at Myer's blog.... and I don't think he's arguing from authority...he gives evidence and reasoning. But I'm not likely to pick a fight with him about cephalopod behavior either.

BBD said...

To clarify again: It is not "fallacy to cite the expert findings of experts". It is a fallacy to argue that the findings are necessarily correct because they are produced by experts.

All you need is a coherent and robust scientific counter-argument to the mainstream scientific position. And it is lacking.

Good faith discussion proceeds from this point. It cannot ignore this point.

KR said...

Argument from Authority is a logical fallacy if that is the only evidence offered for a particular view. If, instead, the argument is "A, because B, as supplied by C who as studied the topic", it is not a fallacy in any way whatsoever. It is simply support for the evidence presented as posed by the fact that 'C' has studied the topic in some depth.

What I so often see, however, is 'skeptics' claiming "argument from authority" without in any fashion addressing the _evidence_ presented. That is a logical fallacy in that it does not address the actual argument.

Note that in many cases (such as in the mention of PZ Meyers) one of the commentators may be referring to the whole of the literature, the '97%'. If referring to the corpus of literature, it's not necessary to re-prove everything, as noted in the EPA decision where the judge stated “This is how science works,” they wrote. “The E.P.A. is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”.