As difficult it is in this era of “Tea Baggers vs Marxists”, “Denialists vs. Warmistas”, “Conservatards vs. Mann-Made Glo-bull Warmists” or whatever other dumbass portmanteaus each side uses, I -perhaps naively- believe in good faith that at their core each side has the same motive: to promulgate policy and philosophy that best promotes human flourishing in the coming decades. Yes there is a chasm between the two, a fundamental cultural dissonance, but I believe the core intent is the same.
No matter how stupid you think -or know- the other side is, the fact of the matter is we live in a democracy and by definition that means accepting a plurality of viewpoints and working within that cacophony to persuade and build consensus.
Then again, others seem to think that opponents can be worn down:
Blood and vitriol is the only way to burn out the fools.
Might this one be the most realistic, at least from the pro-AGW perspective?
An achievable objective is to stop the contagion from spreading, not to convert the deluded and/or dishonest.
If so, how would that be done? And who is your target audience if they do not include the “deluded” and/or “dishonest”?
That we are yet again debating evolutionary theory and Earth’s origins “” and that candidates now have to declare where they stand on established science “” should be a signal that we are slip-sliding toward governance by emotion rather than reason. But it’s important to understand what’s undergirding the debate. It has little to do with a given candidate’s policy and everything to do with whether he or she believes in God.
That’s from Kathleen Parker, a conservative-leaning columnist for the Washington Post.
Parker, unlike Perry’s Republican fans, also gets
why he probably can’t win a national election, in which large swaths of the electorate would prefer that their president keep his religion close and be respectful of knowledge that has evolved from thousands of years of human struggle against superstition and the kind of literal-mindedness that leads straight to the dark ages.
Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive, but Perry makes you think they are.
The scale of Hurricane Irene, which could cause more extensive damage along the Eastern Seaboard than any storm in decades, is reviving an old question: are hurricanes getting worse because of human-induced climate change?
The short answer from scientists is that they are still trying to figure it out. But many of them do believe that hurricanes will get more intense as the planet warms, and they see large hurricanes like Irene as a harbinger.
There is a saying among some of my colleagues in the wildfire community: that during the 20th century, despite our phenomenal success in suppressing fires on public land, we were not so much putting out fires as putting them off. Not any longer. Especially amid the effects of climate change, the days of putting off fires are over. But if I’ve learned anything in my decade of quiet mountain-watching, it is that fire is as much a creative as a destructive force, and from amid the blackened stumps the forest will renew itself once more. What kind of forest we will have is uncertain. Will we follow the prescription of the ranchers and loggers and their minions in Congress, and turn loose the cows and the chainsaws, repeating the mistakes that brought us here in the first place? Or will we learn some humility, recognise that we live in a fire-adapted ecosystem, and allow the land to follow its own, sometimes fiery course to recovery?
The climate science community must have let out a collective groan after reading this opening line from Bill McKibben’s Daily Beast column:
Irene’s got a middle name, and it’s Global Warming.
If that sounds familiar, then you’ll remember this from Ross Gelbspan six years ago:
The hurricane that struck Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.
Boys, there is such a thing as rhetorical overkill. It has a way of undermining the legitimacy of your cause. Just saying…
UPDATE: Over at Scientific American, John Horgan has a nice piece that references this post and some of the exchanges in the thread.
Fans of smashmouth science communication have not been disappointed by the response to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent statements on evolution. Richard Dawkins, the brilliant evolutionary biologist who is also famously combative, has slugged away in the Washington Post:
There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous “˜GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered “˜grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party “˜in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.
That’s the opening paragraph. All the good stuff about why and how evolution is a fact doesn’t come until much farther down, leading Jamie Vernon at Discover magazine to lament:
In one short paragraph, Dr. Dawkins has violated nearly everything we have come to know about effective science communication. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how Dr. Dawkins believes hurling insults, like “uneducated fools” and “ignoramus,” can advance his position. How far do you think readers of the opposite mind continued into this article?
I thought that was a reasonable criticism. But the immensely popular P.Z. Myers, also known for his own blunt, take-no-prisoners style, was having none of it:
We have a functional moron running for the presidency, and a small crop of presumably pro-science people are busily trying to shush the opposition up so they can work their clever psycho-mojo and gently enlighten Perry by”¦I don’t know, wiggling their fingers, thinking happy thoughts, or maybe they’re going to use The Force.
By now, close observers of the climate debate should recognize the parallels. There are competing pro-AGW camps, who have the same aim but use different modes of communication.
One camp likes to bloody its opponents, using the tip of the spear approach. The other camp wants to turn the climate doubters into friendlies, using the hearts and minds approach.
So they battle among themselves as they wage a war of larger consequence.
[UPDATE: In the comments, Kate Sheppard has responded to this post, saying that I (and William Connolley) have "grossly misconstrued" what she wrote in her Guardian article. Here is my explanation and apology to Kate.]
In an article about the nuclear implications of this week’s East Coast earthquake, Kate Sheppard writes:
Anybody spot the problem? William Connolley did and he’s all over it:
The tsunami killed 20k people, or whatever. Fukushima killed no-one, directly, though it wouldn’t be surprising if it kills a few eventually. So why was Fukushima an “even bigger tragedy”?
Romney’s waffling on climate change is sure to reinforce his already well-earned reputation for flip floppery.
UPDATE: New York magazine says the waffle is more subtle:
It’s not a total flip-flop, just a slight shift towards a philosophy that distrusts scientific evidence that doesn’t conform to the ideology of the Republican base.
UPDATE: Andy Revkin (who generously links to this post), likens Romney to a yoga contortionist.
If you hear people talking in environmental debates about “climate-gate” and “Mann’s misconduct,” recognize that what you’re hearing is just like “Obama was born in Kenya.” These people are either passively uninformed or knowingly beyond the reach of fact. And if they can’t be convinced by the National Science Foundation, NOAA, Penn State, and various European counterparts, then they are in the realm of being anti-science.
From James Fallows over at The Atlantic, who in the same post also says a few notable things about coal and a blind spot on the left.
UPDATE: Conspiracy alert over at WUWT. For real world translation, reread above.
UPDATE 2: Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth wonders why Fox news is silent on the outcome of the latest Mann investigation.
UPDATE 3: Presto!