Sunday, February 26, 2017

Scott Adams: The Climate Science Debate Illusion

Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) posted on the climate science debate. Naturally he framed it in terms of his favorite subjects: persuasion and hallucination. He hit hard on an idea I have also discussed on this blog: that two sides of a heated debate can actually be having almost completely separate arguments. My usual example is the abortion debate. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers are not really having the same debate. Pro-lifers are arguing about the rights of the fetus, pro-choicers are arguing about the rights of the mother.

Adams arrives at the same conclusion for climate debate. In his estimation some people are arguing in terms of science, while others are arguing in terms of predictive models, which are not science. I made the distinction myself recently in my post Climate Change Science: So Convincing It's Not Real. Adams makes the same distinction I make; models are not science, they are a tool that scientists might use. He quips that calling a model science is like calling a microscope science.

Adams and I are clearly on the same page with all this. However I take some issue with the example he used. If you didn't read his post that I linked (and you should have...there's still time to go back and read it if you haven't) then here is the tweet he referenced.

He states:
Chelsea’s tweet exchange is representative of the debate illusion around the country.
But is it really? This doesn't sound so much like a comment of the type that Adams and I are both talking about, but more like an example of the Oliver Effect I described in John Oliver is a Moron: John Oliver is a Moron. It is not an example of an argument framed from the viewpoint of the scientific method versus predictive modeling; it's an argument from someone too stupid to know the difference. And could anything better summarize the ditzy liberal wading into a debate on science than, "ummmm, it's like science, duh!" (Remember, The Left Can No Longer Be Satirized).

This is also an example of something I call scientism. [I thought I had a post on scientism to refer back to. I actually have an unfinished draft, so I'll work on getting that finished.] Scientism is science as a belief system. It's adherents typically mock religion as something that has been superceded, however they don't fully comprehend the scientific method themselves, so science hasn't so much replaced religion as it has become the preferred religion. Ridiculing climate skeptics because science (in the lay sense) said they're wrong is really no different than ridiculing other religions because the Bible said they're wrong.

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