Wormtongues and Gandalfs

But when I escaped and warned you, then the mask was torn, for those who would see. After that Wormtongue played dangerously, always seeking to delay you, to prevent your full strength being gathered. He was crafty: dulling men’s wariness, or working on their fears, as served the occasion.

— Tolkien’s Gandalf, The Two Towers

The fossil fuel industry, along with its witting and unwitting stooges, continues to play the part of Wormtongue in trying to keep the US public from understanding and responding to global warming. Besides the Wall Street Journal editorial from a week ago, there was another [WARNING: BULLSHIT!] raft of denialist hokum in the Daily Mail [END BULLSHIT].

And there was this: Coal-Powered PAC Runs Harassment Campaign Against Climate Scientist Michael Mann.

A coal-industry astroturf group is running a public campaign to harass Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann for his “radical agenda” of climate science. The Common Sense Movement/Secure Energy for America Political Action Committee (CSM/SEAPAC) has established a website asking people to criticize the Penn State Speakers Forum for allowing Michael Mann to speak about the climate change challenge. “Join us in calling on the administration to disinvite the disgraced academic,” the group says on its Facebook page.

That really bugs me. Frankly, it pisses me off.

Some good resources to fight back against the B.S.:

  • Global warming battles on the blogs – A good round-up by Greg Laden of the various outrageous lies and outraged rebuttals that have appeared over the last few weeks.
  • Still going down the up escalator – An excellent response to the dishonest attack on Phil Plait’s use of the “escalator graph” (the same one I posted atop the item last week that led to the interminable thread in which shcb was too chicken to provide sourcing for his contrarian views on climate change).

We’re totally dealing with Wormtongue here, and the scientific consensus that has emerged in the last few years has moved us firmly into the “mask is torn” phase. People like Michael Mann are our Gandalf, letting a shaft of sunlight through.

Update: According to the Guardian (yeah, I know), Penn State (yeah, I know) is doing the right thing by Mann: Penn State defies Facebook campaign calling for it to drop climate lecture. Yay. Go, Gandalf.

14 Responses to “Wormtongues and Gandalfs”

  1. shcb Says:

    I’m quoting my experts, I’m giving examples of what has happened to some of them for being on the “wrong” side of a scientific theory, I’m not sure how that is cherry picking. You seem to be of the opinion that I had a preconceived notion of AGW, I didn’t. I believed it as much as anyone else in the beginning, I mean who am I to question the expertise of people that have spent their whole lives studying the climate. But then other facts and anomalies started to pop up, why is the only solution global socialism? Well that was explained by socialists have hijacked the cause, that doesn’t mean the science is bad. Then the hockey stick doesn’t match the other data sets, etc, etc, we’ve been through that all before. Now I didn’t go out looking for these scientists because they matched my change of mind, these scientists changed it.

    You say I should ask myself “does what I believe to be true fall outside the set of beliefs agreed upon by an overwhelming majority of experts”. My answer is no! an emphatic no! By the way, did you notice you said what experts believe? You’re slipping. Somewhere around 98% of experts in religion, priests, rabbis, and ministers, believe in a single deity, I don’t. Now I’m excluding atheists since, well, they haven’t written as many sermons as the others. See where I’m going?

    In the first place (again) you and I disagree on the number of scientists that are on one side or the other, we evidentially aren’t going to change that you read what someone said about a study, I read what someone said, then I read what the study said and we came to different conclusions.

    I’m not clinging to infallibility, real or imagined, I don’t mind being wrong, I just need someone to show me what has changed since I changed my mind many years ago. That is why I asked what new evidence in the last 5 years is Hayhoe talking about? You gave me her credentials, that isn’t evidence. And I don’t need links, your own words will do fine, I trust you. Then you gave me a link to someone saying what someone said, I read it, they said man had caused 150% of global warming, and the reason for it being more that 100% (an impossibility) is because the model didn’t match reality, ok, so I think I can mark that off the list of credibility, but to do due diligence I read what that someone actually said, they said, among other things, that they were way off in one direction in the first half of the century and way off in the other direction in the last part of the century and the two didn’t balance out so we caused it to warm more than it actually warmed, off to Starbucks! They know without a doubt that man has caused x amount of warming to a hundredth of a degree Kelvin but they missed reality by at least 50%, yeah, that doesn’t cut muster with me.

    I just haven’t seen anything that would make me change my mind back the other direction. If anything the evidence I’ve seen is against AGW

  2. jbc Says:

    I’m quoting my experts, I’m giving examples of what has happened to some of them for being on the “wrong” side of a scientific theory, I’m not sure how that is cherry picking.

    See Cherry picking (fallacy) at Wikipedia.

    It’s right there in your first four words: “I’m quoting my experts…” You are guilty of cherry picking because you are willing to take a subset of experts and claim them as “yours”, while excluding other experts from consideration. It’s like you’re playing fantasy football, and there are only certain experts you’re willing to pick to be on your team.

    We can play fantasy expert football if you want, but as we’ve already discussed, your team is going to lose that competition. And not just lose; they’re going to be crushed. It’s going to be the Giants (or the Patriots; I’m agnostic today) vs. the local pee wee team.

    Look at the stats. There are objective, reliable ways to assess expertise. You can look at things like whether or not someone has academic credentials in the particular field on which they are offering opinions. You can look at whether or not they have been published in peer-reviewed journals in that field, how often they have been published, and how often other experts have cited their work. And lo, such comparisons have already been made. See Is there a scientific consensus on global warming? for a summary.

    You betray another fallacy later in your first paragraph. You claim that you were previously a believer in global warming, “…[b]ut then other facts and anomalies started to pop up, why is the only solution global socialism?” I’ve pointed this out before, but it’s worth mentioning again, since you seem unable to grasp it: The facts of global warming exist independently of whatever response society chooses to make. The scientific consensus on global warming is about what it is that is actually happening to the planet’s climate. Of course those facts have strong implications for our policy choices, but the two are not the same thing.

    We absolutely should be having a societal debate about what our response to global warming should be. But that debate needs to be based on reality. What you appear to be doing is to work backwards from your preferred policy choices, and try to use that to somehow change the actual facts. And that’s a childish fantasy. It’s completely, obviously irrational. You cannot magically make global warming go away just because you have an ideological predisposition against the policy response that some people believe it calls for.

    The facts, as agreed to by the New York Giants and the New England Patriots of climate science (regardless of the protests of your pee wee flag football hurricane expert, whose trampled body is lying about 80 yards downfield from the current action), are these:

    * The planet is warming.

    * The large majority of that warming is the result of human activity.

    * If steps are not taken soon to change course, the consequences for humanity will be dire.

    That’s the starting point for a grown-up discussion about what we should do next. You want to make ideological rants against socialism as part of that, feel free. But you don’t get to rewrite the underlying facts to make it easier for you to make that argument.

    I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in our recent discussion, and gave you a chance to offer, to the extent you were willing to, a defense of your contrarian views on the scientific consensus. I asked you to make specific claims, and to offer a specific explanation of where your views came from: were they something you came up with on your own? If so, what was your reasoning? Or were they views that you heard from a third party? If so, who? What did they say? Why did you find it convincing? Why did you reject the views of experts who disagree with that view?

    You declined to take me up on that offer. You talked (and continue to talk) a lot, but when push came to shove you skated away from making specific responses, taking refuge in excuses and aggrieved whining. You want to play a game in which you are free to spout conclusions without having to be specific or respond to criticisms or support your views with evidence. Fine. You do that. You are, after all, the honey badger.

    I’m done for now.

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