Why Reason Loses, Part II

By Chris Mooney | April 2, 2009 12:27 pm

Just read this, and weep.

I can’t vouch for the data provided in the post–which comes from the leading anti-global warming blog, Watts Up With That–but it purports to show that anti-global warming literature is faring exceedingly well in Google News searches, and indeed, has now reached parity with “alarmist” (read “accurate”) information. Moreover, this trend is (allegedly) a reflection of the mainstream media’s declining influence and the growing clout of blogs, where climate skepticism is thriving.

“Democracy in it’s purest form,” writes the anti-AGW blogger Steven Goddard, extolling Google New’s broad dissemination of his point of view. “Hope and change we can all believe in.”

Allow me to correct Mr. Goddard: If what he says is right, it’s an unmitigated disaster for science and our society. But I would not be at all surprised to learn that his facts are, indeed, correct. And this, my friends, is another installment of why reason loses…..

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Comments (11)

  1. It’s too bad reality won’t listen to “democracy in it’s purest form”. Given the choice, I’d vote to keep the climate stable.

  2. QUASAR

    Reason, logic and doubt are priorities in life!

  3. Google News’s formula is evidently more democratic than the United States electoral system, which turned out a remarkably pro-science President and Congress.

  4. james wheaton

    Did Churchill say something to the effect that a democracy was the worst form of government save all the rest? Well, here we can see a short-coming of a democracy. A fledgling country like the USA of 1800 can be ruled by a less-than-sufficiently literate electorate and not make much of a global impact. Today, well you can see the potential, and you can be assured most of the electorate is less than sufficiently literate. Obama can put out the right ideas and Pelosi and company can offer up the right legislation, but 100% of the Republicans and enough of the Democrats will stick with their constituents and block anything meaningful.

    I sure hope I am not right on this one.

  5. oku

    Well, these guys manage to give the impression that the globe is cooling, so I wouldn’t trust these statistics either.

    I am subscribed to the same google news alert “global warming” for some time, when I have some time (this may mean never, though) I may try to verify these data.

  6. Steve Bloom

    Chris, the key thing to bear in mind with Google News is that they aggregate similar stories, and that if one ignores the aggregation outlier articles will appear to be more frequent than is really the case.

    That said, we can’t really double-check Goddard’s subjective assessment, but we can use Google Trends to compare searches for global warming vs. global cooling. Not too much to worry about, I’d say. There was an odd increase in searches for global warming a couple of years ago followed by a reduction to prior levels, but global cooling remain very low throughout.

    A comparison of searches for global warming skeptic and global warming hoax doesn’t yield much cause for alarm either.

    So cheer up.

  7. Did Churchill say something to the effect that a democracy was the worst form of government save all the rest

    I think it’s also ascribed to Bertrand Russell

  8. Erasmussimo

    This is not in the least worrisome. The Internet is a gathering place for all sorts of people, including conspiracy theories other than the global warming deniers. For example, you can find a great many more stories about 9/11 being an inside job on the Internet than in the mainstream media. The Internet teems with stories about Mr. Obama not being a US citizen, but the mainstream media don’t cover that nonsense anymore.

    If you “Let a thousand flowers bloom” is that you’ll also get lots of weeds blooming. Big deal. The people who have already made up their minds will congregate at the denialist blogs. The people who are making up their minds will visit a variety of sites, and they’ll quickly figure out the truth.

    But if you want to see what REALLY matters, check out the Wikipedia article on global warming. You lose, deniers!

  9. This is a very hard thing to measure, yes. Googling: global warming

    yields no immediate cause for great alarm.

    However, Googling: global warming consensus

    is definitely a disturbing experience. The first two hits are reasonable but then you enter an amazingly vast wasteland. The “consensus” idea has been pretty effectively Googlebombed out of existence.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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