(see if you can spot where I started drinking as I wrote this. Clumsy as usual)
How can you argue with someone who thinks all evidence is a lie or a scam or a conspiracy. You can’t, as you will see…
Like a few of us, I sometimes hold opinions on subjects without holding a phd in them. I have attempted to follow Neil Postman’s advice and cut down my opinions by a third, though I think I should be bolder in my opinion diet and aim for 90% reduction. This is the reason I don’t do political panel shows. I am aware of some of my limitations.
I recently attempted a social media conversation with someone who is less shy and more sure than I when it comes to regular seats in the soft furnishings of a TV studio.
It did not go well. In the past, I have found that some journalists find the slightest questioning approach to be an affront to them tantamount to cyberbullying (I cannot say my skin has not been nano thin at times too). They may use their newspaper platform to deal it out with vigor, but see the amateur as lacking the licence allowing them to publicly oppose.
It was about climate change, so you may have an inkling as to how quickly the descent began.
He is a journalist I am not always in disagreement with. Sometimes I quite like him and many talk of his charm. I noticed a tweet about renewable energy and climate change. I did not, as he accused me, seek it out as I am some climate change doubter heresy hunter. It must have popped up on my timeline as I follow both him and whoever else was in this discussion. I was informed that the internet is awash with barbarous, unmannerly heresy hunters, the Matthew Hopkins of the science community, mercilessly hurling the deniers into ponds and burning twigs at their feet. How anyone has the time, I have no idea. From my experience, I have found quite the opposite, but I would say that, we all notice our bullies and are blind to our bullying. I asked a Met Office worker about the post they received. They said they were hassled from both sides. The “deniers” complain of hysteria, the “warmists” complain at the lack of alarm. The worker did say that the sceptic groups were a little more dipped in vitriol.
I am not an expert on climate change. My position comes from reading a few books (The Weather Makers, The Hot Topic, The Rational Optimist, The Rough Guide to Climate Change etc), meeting a few scientists and Arctic investigators, and sometimes risking an occasional column from one side or the other.
If I am honest, my position, that human output from industrialisation is creating dangerously fast changes to our planet’s climate with carbon dioxide as the prime mover in this, comes from conversations with scientists and my trust in their opinion. Rather than spending many years training to be a climate scientist, I have realised the best I can hope for is by educating myself at least to the point of being able to ask better questions.
The conversation with the journalist and some of his internet companions was an education.
I was naive. I had not known that he had probably written about the lie of climate science before. I tweeted a link that I had quite genuinely found useful when trying to get to grips with climate change.
I was abruptly met with a graphs prove nothing reply.
I was not trying to prove all of contemporary climate science with some graphs, it was merely that I found these graphs useful as it showed that science has not just said, “we believe CO2 is important in this and we have therefore not thought about any other possibilities”
His main issue at this point was that the climate science position on CO2 was not falsifiable. An interesting question. Here is a blog post that seeks to answer that.
(I sent this to the journalist but he says he has not interest in the ‘warmon’ doctrine. he sees climate science as a dogma yet refuses to read it as he has made his mind up based on, well, you’ll find out)
Remaining naive, I sent this link which is handy in understanding the current comprehension in what is presumed to be going on.
This was deemed patronising, and I was told that he obviously knew it all. I then asked where he had begun on investigating this and what he had found most useful. Answer came there none.
In between, I was told by people that CO2 is good for life on a planet. Indeed it is.
Oxygen is vital too, but 100% is damaging. There are many things that are good for you, but that doesn’t mean that neverending gorging on them won’t have negative effects. (there is talk of plants being healthier and growing seasons longer with increased CO2, though this may also have knock on effects with depletion of water levels and drying of streams)
Some then chipped in with “but there’s always been climate change”.
Again, yes, it seems so, but this is about the speed of change (also, some of the major moments of climate change did not occur when there was a large civilisation of sentient beings. Just because something has happened more than once does not mean I welcome being drowned or burnt or starved). Death is natural, that does not mean that all deaths must be brushed aside as “well, this has always been the way of things”. If your partner is suddenly murdered by a chainsaw wielder would your nonchalance in the naturalness of things dying remain, or would there be a touch of umbrage.
I asked again what the journalists favoured texts in climate change were, and still no answer came.
Another arrived and wrote of the nonsense of climate science. I asked why he believed this.
“some of the brightest minds alive. For every exception you have, I have an email from The University of East Anglia”
I asked who the brightest minds he referred to were and received that odd reply that seems to be used in social media arguments. “why should I tell you, why don’t you find out for yourself”.
A most peculiar way of winning an argument – “oh yeah, you’d like me to tell you how I can prove I’m right wouldn’t you eh? Well, I am not going to. You must prove I’m right”.
Later on, in turned out his great minds were the authors of Superfreakonomics and his argument was based on their one chapter on climate change. I do not deny they are pretty interesting, but why did he say, “great minds” when it would have been quicker to answer, “one chapter of Superfreakonomics”. I asked which emails from East Anglia Climate Change Unit he was referring to. He asked me if I had read them. I replied, “not all, but I did read the ones most referred to in the popular press”. He then wrote that it was up to me to work out which ones somehow destroyed climate science. I explained that I didn’t think any did and he again informed me that it really was my job to prove him right. Later, he used some Latin. This is the faux intellectuals victory cry of defeat. “Haha, bet you don’t know Latin, thus I am right”.
Meanwhile the respected panel show journalist eventually revealed that the reason he knew climate science was bunkum –
“Most persuasive factor has always been the furious heresy-hunting intolerance of the Warmons…..always a sure sign of an argument in difficulty.”
He refuses to read anything about climate change science, but sees that as no hindrance to being enough of an authority to write about it.
This is the strange argument of, “well, the experts are in agreement, so that is fishy.”
I asked for examples of heresy hunting and it turns out, the answer was “you”.
And now I was in an episode of The Prisoner. It was my fault all along.
I found the whole discussion utterly pathetic. I was never rude. I never made a declaration. I just offered some information for him to mull over. Apparently, offering other points of informed opinion is now bullying and cheating and awfully unfair.
I do not consider asking, “why do you believe what you believe?” to someone who is paid to write opinions based on what they believe a gross affront. Seems I am wrong.
This has gone on too long already, so I will cut the rest, and there was much more said that said nothing.
Brian Cox and a huge number of guest musicians, comedians and scientists will be putting on our Christmas Extravaganzas (filled with the usual scientific propaganda), Tickets HERE
I am in Folkestone doing my final solo show of 2015 HERE
And Book Shambles podcast is back. Number one is with Stewart Lee, and Sara Pascoe is up this week. Find it HERE