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Merchants of Doubt

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Posted

After a small debate in chat with davidm and Nullifidian about the politics of global warming, davidm recommended a book to me called Merchants of Doubt. I have a Kindle now so I can pretty much download books like this right away and start reading. I've only started reading this, so I thought I would use this thread a forum to express some of my concerns.

Just as I debate some of you guys in chat, I am at the same time self-critical. My poor performance in chat is due to lack of knowledge on many of the details. But it is important to understand, to some extent, where you guys are coming from, and to understand where my beliefs are coming from. I'm not a climate scientist, but like most Americans, I understand cynicism. I suppose a lot my doubts come from my feeling of powerlessness in the face of cynicism. So as a good example of this, let me relate my thoughts even after reading just a few pages of this book.

First, what I mean by cynicism should be obvious from the context of the book. Merchants of Doubt is a book about lobbyists and think tanks that use various tactics to undermines what the author deems good science. So far, examples are the cancer causing properties of tobacco use, the risks and limitations of SDI (I don't know what this is), acid rain, the ozone hole, and the main subject, global warming.

What bothers me most at this point is this excerpt:

Call it the "Tobacco Strategy." Its target was science, and so it relied heavily on scientists--with guidance from industry lawyers and public relations experts--willing to hold the rifle and pull the trigger. Among the multitude of documents we found in writing this book were Bad Science: A Resource Book--a how-to handbook for fact-fighters, providing example after example of successful strategies for undermining science, and a list of experts with scientific credentials available to comment on any issue about which a think tank or corporation needed a negative sound bite.

So the author is making a cynical case here. The narrative is that these "fact-fighters" were trying to disrupt the scientific process using these underhanded techniques. I guess it isn't necessary the material statements, but the form of cynicial arguments that I have problems with.

First, it seems to me that cynical arguments seem to have to beg the question. You have to agree with the author about who the villains are. The book started out with an obvious narrative appeal describing the scientist Ben Santer as the protagonist. The book begins:

Ben Santer is the kind of guy you could never imagine anyone attacking. He's thoroughly moderate--of moderate height and build, of moderate temperament, of moderate political pursuations. He is also very modest--soft-spoken, almost self-effacing--and from the small size and nonexistent decor of his office at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, you might think he was an accountant. If you met him in a room with a lot of other people, you might not even notice him.

Problem is, I already know this is a cynical book. So I pretty much analyze everything in the book from this standpoint. So I identify this pretty quickly as an attempt to manipulate me. This man's personality has nothing to do with the claims in the book. Even if he was a horrible person, with bad breath, and participates in cock fights, it wouldn't change anything.

Here's what I mean by question-begging: Flip the roles, of hero and villain, can a similar story be made? Look at the first excerpt. Apparently these groups who are attacking global warming, for example, have a list of scientists with sound credentials who will weigh in on their side about the issue. As an outsider, if I saw in the press that these scientists conclude that people are causing global warming, but these other scientists, with equal credentials, say that people aren't causing global warming, how am I supposed to know the difference?

Lets say that the cynical accusations continue in this book. I wouldn't doubt that the author will eventually describe books in the press that are part of this group attacking global warming. But this book that I'm reading, that is describing these cynical attacks on global warming, is itself a book attacking the groups who are against global warming. And if I were to find a book on my Kindle on the other side, what is to prevent them from making the same sort of cynical accusations as the other side?

I think the problem is either the cynical methods have become too good, whereby it's impossible for someone on the outside to reason for himself who is the hero and who the villain, or there is no cynicism at all, other than conspiracy theories by certain book writers.

So my issue is with cynicism in general. "Think tank" for instance is really just a pejorative term for a group of scientists and professors. The author hails the IPCC as the world's leading authority on climate issues, what distinguishes the IPCC from a think tank? You can't really, not from the outside, unless you have already decided who the villains were.

Anyway, enough for now, I'll keep reading.

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Posted

Continuing the debate in chat, I do think that davidm has a valid case. But a large part of my issue is with cynical arguments in general, so let me just state this for the sake logic. Cynical arguments are difficult when you have two sides that seek to undermine each other. There are cases where the cynical arguments succeed. In this case, you have a paradox very much like the two-person liar paradox:

Person A says Person B is lying. Person B says Person A is lying.

So who is lying? In practice, the cynical paradox has many variations. For instance, when Fox News suggests that the mainstream media is biased, and that they themselves are fair and balanced. But the paradox lies in them calling themselves the exception, they aren't mainstream at all because they are fair and balanced. And all Cretans are liars.

Davidm makes lots of points, some of them are points that I used to be more fond of. But I have to analyze claims from my own point of view. For me, it really does boil down to Person A versus Person B. You could say I'm just uninformed, but the only recommendations to correct that is to read Person C, and he will tell me whether A or B are correct. I could download the data for myself, but with all these interests who are funded by the fossil fuel lobby or big government, how would I trust that the data was in tact? And I couldn't interpret it for myself, I would need to find someone who will help me interpret it, and why should I trust them? There are, after all, so many powerful interests out there.

But there are escapes out of this cynical paradox, at least I believe there are, but each of them need to be analyzed based on logic. For instance, you could use valid appeals to authority, but this is difficult when you have credentialed climate scientists who take both sides on the issue. You could appeal to scientific consensus, but there are two counterweights to this. First, science shouldn't work as a popularity contest, especially since the history of science is full of cases where the consensus wasn't based on what we now believe to be true. Second, there is the possibility of corruption of the scientific process itself, whether of the scientific journals who decide what does or doesn't get published, through the motivation of political alignment (aka group think), or through the common biases that scientists at this level generally share, such as social class or funding source.

Why am I being so extreme? It seems I'm overturning every rock trying to find a way to defeat the arguments that have been offered. I think the case is inductively valid, but not deductively so. I'd like to find logically valid ways of arguing against such cynical paradoxes.

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Posted

There's much more to cynicism than what you're presenting here so far, PoL.

It has more to do with the current ideology than the particular arguments themselves, more to do with the general climate of belief or trust in authority or any other intellectual figures than just a coincidental incidents.

Cynicism is the default ideology of our times as well as the subject of modern art, and the secret to all political discourse.

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Posted

But there are escapes out of this cynical paradox, at least I believe there are, but each of them need to be analyzed based on logic. For instance, you could use valid appeals to authority, but this is difficult when you have credentialed climate scientists who take both sides on the issue.

This is incorrect. The vast majority, very nearly 100 percent, of credentialed climate science agree that warming is occurring, it is occurring rapidly, and it is caused by humans. Yes, there are outliers who are credentialed who contest this. But the way your claim is constructed, one might think you believe that it's sort of, you know, 50/50. Er, it ain't.

You could appeal to scientific consensus, but there are two counterweights to this. First, science shouldn't work as a popularity contest, especially since the history of science is full of cases where the consensus wasn't based on what we now believe to be true.

A scientific consensus is not the same thing as a popularity contest.

Second, there is the possibility of corruption of the scientific process itself, whether of the scientific journals who decide what does or doesn't get published, through the motivation of political alignment (aka group think), or through the common biases that scientists at this level generally share, such as social class or funding source.

These concerns generally have validity, but if you want to take this tack in this specific instance, you have to show evidence that any of these factors are at work with respect to climate change science. As we discussed in chat, a few years ago, the e-mail of scientists were hacked, and the Merchants of Doubt with their fossil-fuel financed megaphone announced to the public that the e-mails demonstrated that the climate scientists had fudged the data, and that climate change had been proven to be a hoax of science. I still remember the day after this fraudulent story came out getting coffee at a cafe, and the woman next to me burbling at her companion, "Oh, did you hear? Global warming is a hoax cooked up by scientists!" And her companion replied with a knowing sneer, "I knew it!" In point of fact however, no data was fudged, and the claims of the deniers were lies.

Why am I being so extreme? It seems I'm overturning every rock trying to find a way to defeat the arguments that have been offered. I think the case is inductively valid, but not deductively so. I'd like to find logically valid ways of arguing against such cynical paradoxes.

Are you not aware that there are not, and can never be, deductive proofs in science? Nor in anything else outside of maths, and even there, induction is used. Why do you think the recent climate report gives probability estimates?

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Posted

Heretic, I generally associate democracy with cynicism, if you want to speak at that level. Democracy is conditioned on a fear of tyranny, but too much democracy tends to degrade into in-fighting between political factions.

davidm, you're misreading most of what I've said. For instance, I say:

For instance, you could use valid appeals to authority, but this is difficult when you have credentialed climate scientists who take both sides on the issue.

You reply that this is incorrect, but then you say "Yes, there are outliers who are credentialed who contest this." So by incorrect, you mean that I am correct. What gives? I guess you're reading into things by thinking that I'm really saying there's a 50/50 split, even though I don't agree with that at all.

A scientific consensus is not the same thing as a popularity contest.

Okay, you're replying to tone here. I just meant that science shouldn't be based on what the majority of scientists agree on. You don't determine what the facts are by polling PhDs but by doing experimental research.

These concerns generally have validity' date= but if you want to take this tack in this specific instance, you have to show evidence that any of these factors are at work with respect to climate change science.

This isn't about rules of debate, so this isn't about burden of proof. This is a test of validity. An argument is invalid if it is possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false. So the argument here is anthrogenic climate change by scientific concensus. Because it is possible that these factors are at work that I described, it makes it possible that the conclusion is false even with wide scientific consensus. So I'm bound to reject scientific consensus as a valid argument for anthrogenic climate change. Logically, we need to determine validity of kinds of arguments, and not about specific instances, otherwise every fallacy would be countered by specific circumstances. So we need to judge the validity of scientific consensus in general, and not only in this case.

Are you not aware that there are not, and can never be, deductive proofs in science? Nor in anything else outside of maths, and even there, induction is used. Why do you think the recent climate report gives probability estimates?

Well, first, I think you are completely missing the point about the cynical paradoxes. I'm probably not explaining myself well, but you're also reacting to my tone, or what you think is my tone, so maybe you're not reading me correctly either. But because it is interesting, I think the point you made is debatable. Even your example is flawed: You can calculate probability estimates based on deduction. You flip a coin, and have a 50% chance of it landing heads. But you didn't determine this through induction, but through deduction involving the principle of indifference. Deduction and probability are independent tools. I had the intriguing thought the other day that induction, as much as logicians and philosophers seem baffled by it, is really just about simplicity. The argument is inductively sound only if it simplifies and unifies the evidence. Because this implies simplifying and unifying, and thereby falsifying, reality, fallibilism falls away as induction's corrolary.

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Posted

There's much more to cynicism than what you're presenting here so far, PoL.

It has more to do with the current ideology than the particular arguments themselves, more to do with the general climate of belief or trust in authority or any other intellectual figures than just a coincidental incidents.

Cynicism is the default ideology of our times as well as the subject of modern art, and the secret to all political discourse.

I'm not sure it's cynicism that's the ideology rather than our belief that we understand each other. "Cynical" is how we moralistically put down others when their behaviour jumps right over the little hurdles of honesty and reason that we put in its way. We should really be acknowledging our own ineptitude in our attempts to negotiate with then. At the same time, we cynically put the same old worn out arguments dressed up in new words to our "opponenents" that we do not believe they will ever accept, but do it anyway in the 50/50 hope that they might just get bored and leave the last word to us.

In the climate change "debate", you can see this happening as the arguers dance around the table of science even as they know it's not really about science. "Climate change" matters only because it's a highbrow way of talking about rainfall and growing seasons. If these change, then food and water supply chains become stressed. The rich will eat expensively and the poor will starve to death. Just like now. The real argument is about which of the rich will get to stay rich and which will join the poor.

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Posted

Thanks for the response, Peter. I wanted to expand beyond that little warning shot I launched yesterday.

You're right that cynical and cynicism aren't identical, that we are quick to charge hypocrisy to anyone whose behavior doesn't line up with their stated ideals.

But my argument, that cynicism is our modern ideology, depends on the following reasons:

Cynicism is a state of consciousness that has survived naive ideologies and their enlightenment through three stages:

  • Naivete & incipient ideologies
  • Enlightenment (through various unmaskings from religion or politics or culture, etc.)
  • Cynicism as "cunning, multiple realism"

The reason why the Enlightenment itself is more naive than the earlier ideologies is because its rationality could not counter the cunning of multiple realism.

In the ancient world, the cynic was a lone wolf, a provocative and stubborn moralist (Diogenes). He was a chronic mocker, a malicious individualist who loved his independence and loved by none. The ancient cynic typically had plebian intelligence, and was cynical of the arrogance or morality of civilization. He hung out in the periphery, often around cities rife with public gossip.

In the Roman era, cynicism was appropriated by Lucian and other satirists, who turned their weapons against the intellectual, the sophists, the philosophers. In the middle ages, cynicism found a home in the court and changed to the sophisticated knowledge of the elegant weaving of brute facts and conventional facades. Universal laws existed only for the unintelligent, which inspired a fatally clever smile on the aristocratic cynic.

These are the two sources of modern cynicism: plebian intellect and statesmanly irony.

With the emergence of bourgeois society, knowledge bridged between the upper class and the working class and grounded its worldview on realism, which then dissolved the distinction between the classes. In the modern era, the cynic is now a mass figure, an average social character, rather than the result of an advanced industrial society producing a bitter loner. Cities became diffuse clumps without power to create public characters. In the modern urban and media climate, individualization declined. Therefore, cynics are integrated social characters, and no longer outsiders. No longer eccentrics, their cruel gaze disappear in the crowd and sink into anonymity. Cynics no longer see their cruel gaze as a personal defect or some amoral quirk without justification. They are now participants in a collective and realistic and attuned way of living. Therefore, the enlightened is always the non-sucker.

Psychologically, the cynic is a borderline melancholic. He can control the symptoms of depression and be able to work. All modern institutions are infected with diffuse cynicism, as a "chic bitterness." The cynic can see the utter pointlessness and meaninglessness of it all. Their psyche is elastic enough to incorporate a permanent doubt about their own activities. They understand what they do, and do it out of circumstances and self preservation.

Therefore, cynicism is an enlightened false consciousness.

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Posted

Peter, I have a hard time seeing how you think that climate change is a debate that's really about rainfall and growing seasons, as if people "really" care more about the latter than the former. Then you changed the topic to be about the rich and poor, so therefore the debate is really about the opposition of classes and stratification. This just sounds Marxist, as if everything is really about economics, and supposed tensions between the rich and the poor. But in my opinion, the tensions between rich and poor have never been lower, and the dividing line is by no means clear. It is rather arbitrary, we just pick arbitrary numbers in order to define the division, as with the "We are the 99%" movement.

My opinion is that climate change is so much talked about because of a different kind of ideology. Main thing about the climate change debate is that it's about human beings having an effect on nature. If this was the only case of this ideology, my case would be weak, but look at the opposition to genetically modified foods, and the opposition to vaccinations. The opposition to capitalism, in the right context, could be seen as nothing more than the opposition to industrialization. There's also the opposition to processed foods, to preservatives, and to mass produced goods. There's a movement back towards whole foods, which is essentially foods that are touched least by human hands, closer to "nature".

I basically see the climate change debate, in it's subtext and tone, as being intimately involved in a newly aligned Nature Movement. It's almost pagan in it's deification of nature, and it's suspicion towards mankind. It's reactionary against the ethos of technological process: For instance, at one time genetically modified foods was a hopeful technology to combat World Hunger, an old liberal cause that's been replaced by the Organic Food Movement, which actually makes world hunger worse. The Nature Movement is teleological in a similar way as the old Stoic's nature philosophy: Live according to Nature. It is alleged that Nature is itself in a very careful balance where the slightest disturbance will unhinge and have dramatic consequences. Just as religion tends to form the contrast of God versus Man, the Nature movement contrasts Nature versus Man. Man is considered anti-Natural, Man can in no case improve upon Nature, that's just hubris.

By saying this, I'm not speaking about the science of climate change. Science is science, indifferent, impartial. Science only tells you the facts, at substantial cost I might add. It doesn't care about the story.

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What about ideological perspectives in the other direction?

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Posted (edited)

Peter, I have a hard time seeing how you think that climate change is a debate that's really about rainfall and growing seasons, as if people "really" care more about the latter than the former. Then you changed the topic to be about the rich and poor, so therefore the debate is really about the opposition of classes and stratification. This just sounds Marxist, as if everything is really about economics, and supposed tensions between the rich and the poor. But in my opinion, the tensions between rich and poor have never been lower, and the dividing line is by no means clear. It is rather arbitrary, we just pick arbitrary numbers in order to define the division, as with the "We are the 99%" movement.

If climate change is really a serious threat, then, globally, the most significant way it will manifest itself is in changing patterns of rainfall and growing seasons. That means changing crop yields, or actually in the short to medium term falling crop yields while agricultural practices adapt (if they can). That means food shortages in the world as a whole. Societies that are largely self sufficient in food production today may find themselves no longer so. But importing won’t be such an easy option, because the shortage is global. Political tensions may be expected to rise as governments struggle with the question of how (or if…) to feed their populations.

Of course, such tensions already exist now. Global food production is probably still sufficient (or could be made so) to adequately feed every human being. But people still starve. Why is that? That question exists whether there’s climate change or not. Predictions of climate change suggest that it will intensify rather than resolve itself. The numbers of starving will increase and eventually in places where there isn’t (officially) anyone starving now. Who’s going to volunteer?

In a debate that concentrates on the science of climate change (temperatures, glaciers, ice caps, atmospheric CO2), the participants connive to ignore these questions. Why do they think climate change matters? Do they think it’s just a matter of having to buy bigger aircons and suffer static market values on waterfront property in Florida?

If you think this is ‘marxist’, just consider your own hopes and dreams. Do they take it for granted that getting enough to eat will not be a problem you have to face? Why? Did someone give you a guarantee on that? Are you sure they’ll honour it if the time comes?

My opinion is that climate change is so much talked about because of a different kind of ideology. Main thing about the climate change debate is that it's about human beings having an effect on nature. If this was the only case of this ideology, my case would be weak, but look at the opposition to genetically modified foods, and the opposition to vaccinations. The opposition to capitalism, in the right context, could be seen as nothing more than the opposition to industrialization. There's also the opposition to processed foods, to preservatives, and to mass produced goods. There's a movement back towards whole foods, which is essentially foods that are touched least by human hands, closer to "nature".

I basically see the climate change debate, in it's subtext and tone, as being intimately involved in a newly aligned Nature Movement. It's almost pagan in it's deification of nature, and it's suspicion towards mankind. It's reactionary against the ethos of technological process: For instance, at one time genetically modified foods was a hopeful technology to combat World Hunger, an old liberal cause that's been replaced by the Organic Food Movement, which actually makes world hunger worse. The Nature Movement is teleological in a similar way as the old Stoic's nature philosophy: Live according to Nature. It is alleged that Nature is itself in a very careful balance where the slightest disturbance will unhinge and have dramatic consequences. Just as religion tends to form the contrast of God versus Man, the Nature movement contrasts Nature versus Man. Man is considered anti-Natural, Man can in no case improve upon Nature, that's just hubris.

By saying this, I'm not speaking about the science of climate change. Science is science, indifferent, impartial. Science only tells you the facts, at substantial cost I might add. It doesn't care about the story.

I agree that there is an ideology of ‘Nature’ which depends an opposition of ‘human’ to ‘natural’. It pretends that ‘Nature’ dictates a morality that is independent of human interests. There is no such morality, of course. Nature is part of us and we are part of it. It’s just there and it’s non-negotiable. Our understanding of it, however, being a product of human effort, is negotiable. This applies to science (which is an empirically optimised expression of human understanding of nature) as much as to some moralistic ‘Nature’ ideology.

You mention genetically modified foods as “a hopeful technology to combat World Hunger”. Any thoughts on why that hope hasn’t been realised yet? Were the proponents of that idea bad at choosing technology or bad at understanding that there['s always a political dimension to realising the promise of technology?

Edited by Peter

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Eppur si riscalda ...

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By saying this, I'm not speaking about the science of climate change. Science is science, indifferent, impartial. Science only tells you the facts, at substantial cost I might add. It doesn't care about the story.

If that is the case, then why are you politicizing the debate with irrelevant ideological asides?

The melting of the Arctic ice cap will also release vast amounts of methane hydrates from the melted permafrost, and methane hydrates are about 20 times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide. It is possible that large swaths of the world will grow so hot that they will become literally uninhabitable, and in the worst case the whole world will be uninhabitable. Even short of this worst-case scenario, billions will be forced to flee as coastal cities go underwater.

Suspcious of man? Scornful or hostile toward man? Who could be more suspicious of man, more scornful and hostile of man, than the people that would do nothing in the face of these horrific possibilities?

Eppur si riscalda ...

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What about ideological perspectives in the other direction?

I would look to futurism and transhumanism. But it's hard for me to say much about them because you never really hear how they resonate through the culture, other than that they don't really resonate, which in itself says a lot. I'm watching a couple science fiction shows in Netflix, where you would expect futurist themes to proliferate, but utopian shows like Star Trek are replaced by shows with dystopian themes like Continuum (in the future the government is taken over by a large corporate police state that takes away people's rights) and Terra Nova (where in the future humanity is suffering from environmental devastation, and people are colonizing the prehistoric past of the Earth to escape from it). It's hard to understand why viewers just seemed more optimistic and hopeful about the future during the Cold War, where the United States (speaking for my own country) did face a realistic threat, than now when even the ghost of terrorism is yawning into a more distant past and we basically attack countries at will with drones now. But the trend seems to be that the better conditions actually are, the more people complain, and the worse they think things are.

But when I was reading more about futurism and transhumanism, it seemed to me that the geist of religion was still there. Substitutes for God, the soul, and immortality are all still there. Probably all that is different is that it would be a religion without a moral basis. If there was a morality, it would be projected towards the future, such that the future takes the role of heaven, or hell, depending on which side you take between machines and cyborgs. Technology is the means of salvation. But the singulatarians are like the extreme Christians who don't see much role for morality at all, but see salvation as purely an act of grace of an omnipotent and omniscience A.I.

But the futurists, I believe, are rather simplistic in their thinking. They look at trends on a graph and believe that those trends must continue for some reason, without looking for the causes of those trends. Technology, at it's best, must be clearly distinguished from magic: We can't change things at will, but can only appropriate the forces of nature that actually exist. We are already reaching some of the limits of technology in terms of computing power and the energy density of batteries. And the oil explosion in the 20th century is a better explanation of the rise of a post-industrial, information age than the mere aptitude of the human race.

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If climate change is really a serious threat, then, globally, the most significant way it will manifest itself is in changing patterns of rainfall and growing seasons. That means changing crop yields, or actually in the short to medium term falling crop yields while agricultural practices adapt (if they can). That means food shortages in the world as a whole. Societies that are largely self sufficient in food production today may find themselves no longer so. But importing won’t be such an easy option, because the shortage is global. Political tensions may be expected to rise as governments struggle with the question of how (or if…) to feed their populations.

I guess you think people are a lot more rational, and fact-based than I do. I don't think many people are actually thinking through the consequences of global warming like you are saying, but are just making judgments about the story or narrative. Global warming is a story, it has a plot, and a moral lesson to it.

Of course, such tensions already exist now. Global food production is probably still sufficient (or could be made so) to adequately feed every human being. But people still starve. Why is that? That question exists whether there’s climate change or not. Predictions of climate change suggest that it will intensify rather than resolve itself. The numbers of starving will increase and eventually in places where there isn’t (officially) anyone starving now. Who’s going to volunteer?

Pretty much. World hunger, as it happens, has very little to do with a lack of food. Where governments aren't wholly indifferent and neglectful of their populations, or just plain abusive in their use of resources, they are simply incompetent. At least this is my sense of the situation.

If you think this is ‘marxist’, just consider your own hopes and dreams. Do they take it for granted that getting enough to eat will not be a problem you have to face? Why? Did someone give you a guarantee on that? Are you sure they’ll honour it if the time comes?

I probably won't survive.

I agree that there is an ideology of ‘Nature’ which depends an opposition of ‘human’ to ‘natural’. It pretends that ‘Nature’ dictates a morality that is independent of human interests. There is no such morality, of course. Nature is part of us and we are part of it. It’s just there and it’s non-negotiable. Our understanding of it, however, being a product of human effort, is negotiable. This applies to science (which is an empirically optimised expression of human understanding of nature) as much as to some moralistic ‘Nature’ ideology.

This is why your understanding of the matter gives you more insight than most of humanity. It doesn't take much to learn three or four facts about it, make your own conclusions about it, and understand better than most people. But if you look how politics is conducted, in a democracy, it is only "feelings" that really count. Right now it feels like moral indignation and cynicism, but what else is new.

You mention genetically modified foods as “a hopeful technology to combat World Hunger”. Any thoughts on why that hope hasn’t been realised yet? Were the proponents of that idea bad at choosing technology or bad at understanding that there['s always a political dimension to realising the promise of technology?

Probably the latter. "Political dimension" I fear gives it too much credit. Looks more like naivete, incompetence, and ignorance of human nature.

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If that is the case, then why are you politicizing the debate with irrelevant ideological asides?

Because experience on this forum indicates that we, including myself, aren't above wrangling with ideological issues. But point taken, it doesn't really matter, let it sleep.

The melting of the Arctic ice cap will also release vast amounts of methane hydrates from the melted permafrost, and methane hydrates are about 20 times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide. It is possible that large swaths of the world will grow so hot that they will become literally uninhabitable, and in the worst case the whole world will be uninhabitable. Even short of this worst-case scenario, billions will be forced to flee as coastal cities go underwater.

In this case we should begin with learning more about the spectrum between the best case and worst case scenarios. I'll try to read more about the actual science of climate change. I think I bought the wrong book from Kindle from your recommendations that night, which focuses exclusively on the politics of climate change.

Suspcious of man? Scornful or hostile toward man? Who could be more suspicious of man, more scornful and hostile of man, than the people that would do nothing in the face of these horrific possibilities?

Then you immediately dive back into ideology... Is it truly the facts you're interested in, or the power to play on people's feelings?

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First, to clarify, I did NOT encourage you to read the book to learn about the science of climate change. I encouraged you to read the book to find out about how well-financed lobbyists attack, distort, misrepresent and outright lie about well-attested scientific findings. The only people distorting the actual SCIENCE of climate change are the denialists, NOT the scientists. If you haven't read up on climate change, as you now admit, what business do you have attacking the science of it and suggesting that it is not happening?

It IS happening -- it's a documented, accomplished fact of history. It has been happening for more than 150 years, directly as a result of humans pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It's an empircal fact that carbon dioxide has hit 400 ppm in the atomosphere, the highest level in some three million years. It's a fact that polar ice cap is melting. Just look at some images from 1979 vs. now. How many facts do yoiu need? The last ten years have been the warmest in recorded history. That's another fact.

The only one engaging in politics or ideology is you. You have no science on your side, so you confabulate about wholly irrelevant side issues, and while imputing ideological motives to me and others, you totally ignore the obvious agenda of the well-financed deniaists. Why is that?

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Instead of focusing on these irrellevancies, red herrings and functional ad hominems, maybe you ought to be looking at stuff like climate departure. Or is the science journal nature also "ideological" and therfore not to be trusted? Funny, aren't the well-financed denialists also ideological? Or is their ideology OK because it conforms with what you desire to be true?

Edited by davidm

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I've never once attacked the science of climate change. Not once. Seriously. In fact, reading my own posts, and reading your responses to my posts, I really think your tone towards me is unwarranted. I'm not going to defend myself to you, nor be made your antagonist. I'm going to go so far as to say that you're incapable of having a sober discussion about this topic. In chat I told you that I changed my mind about climate change, and that I think the scientific consensus is true. Now I feel like you're cornering me into the denialist position.

But you're right that the ideology is irrelevant to the science. I did find this book, The Climate Crisis, on the Kindle store and I'm considering purchasing it. It's $32 though, but it might be worth it. I'm hoping for a sober, authorative, and comprehensive book on the topic. If you know a better book like this let me know.

To show good will, if you want, I'll try to reproduce the argument for anthrogenic climate change in a new thread, as I understand it. The goal will be to try to show the necessary connection between the evidence and the thesis, while taking advantage of new things I've learned about intensional logic on the way.

For instance, consider the concept of a greenhouse gas. Classically, this term has an extension and an intension. It's extension would be every gas that is considered a greenhouse gas, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. But it's intension includes it's extension in every possible world, even in possible worlds where the laws of nature are very different from our own. A greenhouse gas is a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect which causes a planet to radiate less heat than it recieves from the sun. That a greenhouse gas contributes to global warming is a necessary and analytic truth. That carbon is a greenhouse gas is a contingently true proposition. Therefore, that carbon contributes to global warming is contingently true. But if you were to analyze the chemical properties of carbon, and you find that any chemical that have these chemical properties must necessarily contribute to global warming, and any chemical that has these chemical properties contains carbon, then it becomes a necessary truth that carbon contributes to global warming.

To go off on a tangent, I'm harboring the thesis that the problem of induction, and Hume's skeptical position, is a consequence of empiricism, and doesn't really exist for epistemological rationalism. The argument offered above can't be justified empirically, nor can induction. Empiricism can only defend contingent truths, but science is only satisfied with necessary truths. At the same time, the taste in logic during the 1900's was purely extensional, among the same philosophers of logic who inherited the same British empirical bent of David Hume: Russel, Quine, and the logical positivists. Intensional logic, on the other hand, returns us to a more rationalist frame of thought, even if it must be grounded on observation.

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