A few months ago the pseudo-religious science-denying cult the Cornwall Alliance posted a bunch of denialist videos on YouTube. I didn’t watch most of them, though a few hundred people have. One of them did catch my eye. It had the title: Greener on the Other Side - Attacking the Person, Not the Argument, Is Wrong.
I liked the message, however it struck me as a possible example of a straw man logical fallacy. Still, I wondered if there were going to be examples given where the research was sound, but was criticised solely because of the funding source. (I realised it was probably too much to hope that the Cornwall Alliance would be telling fake sceptics to stop attacking climate scientists and instead read their research.) Anyway, I watched the entire one minute and thirty second video almost through to the end (missing only the final long promo). I thought I'd check to see if the argument was supported by examples or if it was just another logical fallacy typical of science deniers.
There weren’t any examples given. It was pure straw man through and through. However it turned out to be more than just a straw man fallacy. The very short video contradicted itself. Below is the transcript so you can see for yourself.
David Kreutzer, Economist, Heritage Foundation: Saying that people who are skeptics of climate change are doing the bidding of the big oil or coal or whatever is an easy way out to avoid the actual debate.
Thomas P. Sheahen, SEPP; Those who are accusing anyone who skeptical are making the mistake called ad hominem. They attack the man for what he is saying rather than attack the content of what he says, and that's a terrible mistake to make.
Timothy Ball, Professor of Geography, wrongly described as Professor of Climatology, retired: It doesn't matter who funds you. If your science is peer-reviewed it is tested by your peers, it's the quality of your science that’t important not who funded it.
Harold Doiron, Right Climate Stuff: I don't see why the funding source should influence the quality of the research.
Timothy Ball (again): They've distorted that by saying okay if it’s money from an oil company that’s tainted, but money from government or money from Greenpeace for example doesn't come with a political agenda to attach. And in fact government money comes with an even more tightly dictated agenda to it than oil money.
I couldn’t resist commenting under the video:
The message here is that it doesn't matter who funds research, be it polluters (or the tobacco industry) or anyone with a vested or non-vested interest. It's the quality of the research that counts. So far so good.
That is, as Tim Ball says, unless the research is funded by the government, then it does matter. The research quality no longer matters, the research is (automatically) tainted by something or the other.
Great conspiracy theory from a bunch of committed science deniers. (That's an ad hom by the way).
From the HotWhopper archives
- The Wrong Climate Stuff - April 2013, about the bunch of climate deniers who call themselves the Right Climate Stuff
- NASA has-beens seek "an orderly market-driven transition from fossil fuels to alternatives" - March 2014, more on the Right Climate Stuff
- The Evangelical Science Denier and the Alarmist Fundamentalist Religious Cult: The Cornwall Alliance - October 2013
- Anthony Watts, CFACT and the Cornwall Alliance - March 2015
- What you are witnessing @wattsupwiththat is denialism in action, with Tom Sheahen - May 2014
- List of scientists "respected in their field" - only @wattsupwiththat - take on the EPA - May 2014