Archive for May, 2007

>Liar, liar

2007 May 25 3 comments

>Lying is usually viewed as wrong and appropriately so. To call someone a liar is not a small undertaking and to do so falsely causes major damage and is a sin. However it is not enough that someone disagrees with you to think they are lying; opponents can be wrong without being dishonest.

We must not confuse a person’s opinion of reality with distortion of what they know.

Ultimate truth is what conforms to reality. Falsehood is what does not. But to pass off what one thinks is reality when it is not reality is not the same as distorting what one knows to be the case.

There are 4 scenarios

  1. Agreeing with reality and saying so
  2. Agreeing with reality and saying other
  3. Disagreeing with reality and saying so
  4. Disagreeing with reality and saying other

Scenario 1 is truth telling, scenario 2 is lying, but what of scenarios 3 and 4?

The problem is we have disagreements over what reality is. Differing opinions may be related to arguing at cross purposes or real disagreement. If the opinions are incompatible it may be that both persons are wrong, but if one of them is correct, logically the other must be incorrect. The person arguing for the incorrect position corresponds to scenario 3. To call that person a liar is, in fact, not correct. The difficulty is the argument is over which position is correct. Calling the other person a liar at least implies that one is certain they are correct (they may be, but this misses the point there is disagreement); it may also imply the other person is misrepresenting what they know to be true, whereas they may actually believe their incorrect position.

So to prove someone a liar one needs to demonstrate the person is aware of some fact that contradicts their position and they were hiding this knowledge to suit their purposes.

This is important. Calling someone a liar seems to be yet another common way of refusing to debate the issues. It is really a form of equivocation: someone claims that not being in agreement with the facts (scenario 3) is as an adequate definition of liar, but in tarring someone as a liar suggests they are in the position of misrepresenting what they know to be true (scenario 2), and it is this (the implied scenario not the actual one) which is seen as a moral failure. Whether lying is ever acceptable is another topic.

And what of scenario 4, being in the position of telling what you think is a lie but in actuality corresponds to reality. Well that still makes you a liar, however if people act on your lies it is likely to result in less damage to society than scenario 2 (and perhaps scenario 3).

Categories: ethics, logic, truth

>Random quote

2007 May 12 8 comments

>God: You can’t mess with free will.
Bruce: Can I ask why?
God: Yes you can, that’s the beauty of it!

Bruce Almighty

Categories: quotes

>Summary of Scam of the Great Global Warming Swindle

>It is interesting what Merchant didn’t critique. The main contributor to the greenhouse effect is water vapour and we really don’t have a handle on that. This means I am less interested in the models than the global warming proponents are. T.J. Nelson has some comments on the validity of modelling assumptions, including on the thermal runaway effect.

A lot of what Merchant critiques the program for his own camp has done in ways far more dramatic and sinister. I don’t blame him for this personally, but it would be good to acknowledge that the pro-global warming camp has much shonky behaviour and poor science presentation to repent of. Sort of removing the log from your own eye.

I find it interesting that someone whose presentation includes revealing fallacies, at times doesn’t understand them fully and at other times engages in them.

I think that some of Merchant’s comments are not so much showing up the errors of the program, rather he is judging it from his viewpoint: that anthropomorphic global warming is true; and therefore he slams them for dishonesty when it is merely the difference of opinion over the competing theories. Your opponent is dishonest when he misrepresents data, he is not dishonest because he believes an alternative theory—even if he is incorrect!

It would be beneficial to the debate if the Great Global Warming Swindle had more exposure. If they had the motivation it would be useful for the producers to review Merchant’s critiques and modify the program so that any of his valid ones are addressed and areas of possible misinterpretation are discussed with more clarity.

Categories: climate change

>What is the context?

2007 May 7 2 comments

>Merchant claims the Swindle documentary appeals to authority and lack of context. Slide 27

How the GGWS persuades

  • Powerful, professional, polemical
  • Half-truths
  • False dichotomy
  • Selective (distorted?) data
  • Ad hominem attack
  • Appeals to authority
  • Quoting out of context

While true lack of context is a problem as is appeal to authority, mostly the program doesn’t do this. In terms of appeal to authority, the program does have scientists on it but it goes on to explain why the things it is claiming to be true are true. Appeal to authority is, “Professor X said this so it is true.” The program explained what and why and how. Interviewing scientists is not appeal to authority unless it leaves it at that, which it doesn’t.

As opposed to the global warming proponents who say things like, “All scientists now agree so we don’t need to discuss it” which is a form of this fallacy.

Context means everything. And a quote out of context can have a completely different meaning. There have been some concerns raised by Carl Wunsch that what he said was used out of context.

But Merchant has to give examples. Blaming lack of context is a easy way to disparage your opponent. I disregard his comment unless he gives examples so I can assess whether the context was adequately addressed.

People who are quoted in a medium that opposes their overall viewpoint don’t like this; but if what they think on a particular issue is used in context, that is, not out of context, they are being used as a hostile witness—this is acceptable.

I do think it is gentlemanly when quoting your opponent to make it clear what their belief is. Creationists quote evolutionists to show up evolution, but they don’t (or shouldn’t) imply the person is a creationist. But then why would you? an argument appears very persuasive when believed by your opponents!

Categories: climate change

>What motivates who?

>The Great Global Warming Swindle claims that some anthropomorphic global warming proponents have a fiscal interest in the results of their science. Merchant’s summary and counter-argument in slide 26

In in for the money

  • Propositions:
    • The research funding for “global warming” has increased greatly.
  • Implication:
    • Scientists want to perpetuate a myth to maintain their funding.
  • Fallacy: ad hominem (circumstantiae)

It is true that the evidence needs to be evaluated on its own merits (though I don’t see a lack of claims about oil companies funding anti-global warming research).

It is also true that money is a motivation. And it can have subtle (and not so subtle) effects on people.

But what he doesn’t mention is how the type of funding can affect research. There is a difference between funding directed at what affects the weather/ climate and funding that is directed to look at man’s contribution to climate and funding that is directed at human caused global warming. If your funding is to find an answer then people (being fallen) have at least some motivation to find what they have been asked to. The pressures can be significant, funding can be non-existent elsewhere, and scientific fraud (in many areas) has been well documented. Not to mention the desire to make a name for oneself.

So money can be a motivation, but both sides must evaluate the data. It is too easy to dismiss your opponents by calling into question their motivation, it is more difficult to debate the science. Do not let an opponents lack of integrity be a cause for yours.

Categories: climate change

>The sun as a cause of climate change

>Merchant mocked a sun specialist’s prediction about December and January being cold (implying this is simple to do given that the period was during winter). But, from memory, he was predicting a colder winder whereas the majority were predicting a warmer winter.

Slides 20 thru 24 show graphs of temperature versus time. This is compared with normalized “solar activity” from data Merchant has obtained. The time scale is from 1860 to 2000 but with data only to 1980 as per the Great Global Warming Swindle.

Slide 20 shows the raw annual data. Slide 21 shows data smoothed over 11 years. Slide 22 shifts the early part of the graph leftward (earlier). Slide 23 shows the data distorted by filling in the gap in slide 22. Slide 24 is the smoothed data of slide 21 but thru to 2000.

Smoothing is a valid procedure so long it doesn’t show something contradictory from the unsmoothed data. If one wishes to show trends then some types of data will need to be smoothed. All data has some smoothing (though in a slightly different way). If you present monthly temperatures they are averaged daily temperatures (a smoothing phenomenon). The smoothing done here is more than using a different time division (day versus month), it is taking in to account data either side so 11 year smoothing is taking the year plus the five years either side and averaged while presenting the data in yearly divisions.

Slide 25


  • Convincing apparent correlation of solar activity and global temperature
  • But
    • Has data been manipulated
    • Data shown stop at 1980 .. when any correlation dramatically breaks down
  • Method of persuasion:
    • Selective use of data

This is a serious charge. If they have manipulated their data, that is unacceptable and it would be helpful for the presenters to be clearer on the source data. However it seems that Merchant has misunderstood the source data as he now acknowledges.

Not showing data further than 1980 is not honest if there is a difference. The presenters should have shown it. But this doesn’t disprove their theory; Merchant came up with an auxiliary theory (particulate matter) for the unexpected cooling, the solar advocates may have an auxiliary theory.

It is interesting he condemns the solar data for misrepresentation, yet how long was the hockey stick graph used? and how many people did it influence? and how much is it still used? despite its validity now being questioned by proponents and opponents.

Further, the sun hypothesis is just another theory to explain warming. It untrue it does not affect the critiques of global warming.

Now scientists are suggesting global warming on Mars; this gives the sun hypothesis increased credibility if one subscribes to Ockham’s razor.

Categories: climate change

>What potential effect could man be having on global temperatures?

>The mean global temperature is ~14 °C which is 287 K. The increase in the earth’s temperature due to the greenhouse effect is thought to be about 33 °C (= 33 K).

The contribution to the greenhouse effect by water including water vapour and clouds is probably 80-90%; CO2 5-10%; and other gases 5-10%.

The annual production of CO2 from all sources is estimated at 200 Gtonnes. Man’s input is about 7 Gtonnes. I have graphed this to show visually man’s role.

Categories: climate change