Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Knowledge vs Belief: Are AGW Proponents Gullible?

with 5 comments

This post is a mirror of Knowledge vs Belief: Are AGW Proponents gullible? on the outstanding blog Friends of Gin & Tonic. (If you enjoy intellectual sarcasm, FoGT is your blog!)  I have received permission from the author to repost here.

A Rant by Gunkl, modified by Dr. Schweinsgruber

Some skeptics consider proponents of what the broad body of science and the IPPC say, that global warming is manmade and real, as true believers: knowledge vs. belief. This is principally true, albeit it is the other way round.

That is because this ‘belief’ that AGW is true is not contained in a confessional framework, which only holds together by a multitude of non-testable additional statements. It is rather a reasonable assumption based on the knowledge of physical laws and empirical observations.

In other words, proponents of AGW do not believe this in a religious sense but in a pragmatic one, based on knowledge.

People who do not believe that AGW is real do this in a dramaturgy that has religious patterns. The opposite of knowing is not not-knowing but believing. Not knowing something can be remedied by knowledge. Just ask somebody who knows that and you know it, too.

Things that are believed in a religious way are being corrected by the normative power of fact because the statement to be believed was formulated without knowing the facts. Is the fallacy obvious and provable, then the believed statement is not revised, however blocked from the harsh reality by a false, protective statement, in which facts should run out of steam. An example is intelligent design.

What does this mean for climate change denial? Climate skeptics believe that global warming cannot be triggered by greenhouse gases because this is physically not possible. But this does not hold water. Science proves that wrong. Now the skeptics could say: ‘Wow, I didn’t know that, I have learnt something. Done deal!’ This would be the case if we were talking knowledge – but this is not the case.

Therefore, an additional statement is attached to the believed item: it is a conspiracy. The physicists are wrong. This statement is supported by the fact that ‘these physicists’ use the elitist language that has been disliked from school days on: the language of maths, which is considered a secret language, but only by those who do not want to learn it. Maths is actually quite a public language. Once a group of people has been caught using secret language, this opens the door for a conspiracy theory.

Somebody believes that something like a moon landing cannot have happened. Another person knows that this was very well possible. He could even prove it with maths. The ‘believer’ might say: cannot check it 100% because I am not a math whiz, but I am assuming that the experts arrived at the right decision and don’t all lie simultaneously.

Or he believes something new that supports the original claim and is in contrast to its rebuttal. This includes isolated studies that contradict the broad body of scientific research or simply fringe-science. Whatever is convenient.

The ‘skeptic’ says: all physicists are lying (Al Gore is lying; Michael Mann is lying; Phil Jones is lying)! This removes all facts from the equation.

But why is belief sometimes more attractive than knowledge?

Knowledge involves a rather inflexible, tedious learning process, based on testable statements. Belief is easy: one just has to be ready to believe something. This requires much less work and failure is excluded because belief is not subjected to the principles of falsifiability.

In contrast, scientific statements underlie the demand to be testable.

If a test turns out wrong, then the statement is proven wrong. Science is principally no surrogate religion. It distinguishes cause and effect. Failure is acknowledged and part of the equation. It sends the scientist back to the drafting table to revise the statement. The path to knowledge leads always through error. Per aspera ad astra. A painful, repetitive process.

In summary, the world is not as we believe it to be, the world is as it is.

Comment: This rant was addressing people who claim the moon landing was a hoax. Do you see how interchangeable the thinking patterns of deniers are? They do actually not rely on a certain topic at all.

Written by Scott Mandia

May 20, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Nicely done. It’s amazing how similar the patterns of thought are in different instances of denial. I loved the cartoon you posted on the facebook group – other commenters should check it out:


    May 20, 2010 at 9:45 pm

  2. I’m not a scientist, but I can usually distinguish scientific reasoning from other forms of reasoning. When multiple instrumental sources of global average temperature measurement all show a rising trend, I see that it would take an extraordinarily powerful scientific argument to deny that rising trend. Instead I see piecemeal attacks, some of them reasonable but none of them fatal, on the central premise, and I see repeated attempts by scientists to take on board the reasonable criticism and perform tests to determine whether the criticisms are valid. That’s how I know those people are scientists and not priests. Scientists know they could be wrong, that’s why they experiment and test.

    There are many alternative hypotheses as to the cause of the rising trend, and these are also tested. Currently and for some time now there has been one outstanding front runner: feedback effects from the doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Again that can be and is being tested, as are all of the alternatives.

    Mandia: Well said!

    Tony Sidaway

    May 26, 2010 at 8:02 am

    • *standing ovation* to Tony Sidaway (as well as to Professor Mandia)!!!

      Maui Pineapple

      May 26, 2010 at 10:03 am

    • Tony,

      Well said. Let me add another observation on the denialists. Is it not bizarre how unaware they appear to be that many of their claims are mutually exclusive? Do they criticise one another for this? Of course not, as long as they have the “common enemy” of mainstream climate science. How very unsceptical they are!


      May 31, 2010 at 10:54 am

  3. Great post.

    I’d like to plug another satirical blog if I may, in case anyone here is unaware of it. It is Denial Depot.


    May 31, 2010 at 10:24 am

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