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Let the best argument win
January 17, 2008 1:52 AM   Subscribe

"Intended to deepen our understanding of disputes over climate change and the human contribution to it," the new 'Climate Debate Daily' is brought to you by the folks who created the well-known 'Arts and Letters Daily'. Links to everything from scientific articles through PR releases down to blog entries, are arranged on the page in 'face-off' format, with pros and cons in side-by-side columns. If you want to keep on top of the debate on climate change, it seems that you'll find no better source of information anywhere ..
posted by woodblock100 (57 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd view the site through a very skeptical eye. The "cons" column contains links to personal blogs and Lyndon LaRouche's propaganda outlet, as a representation of "factual information".

It looks like Dutton and Campbell need editors with more scientific backgrounds, who would capable of reviewing and evaluating the sources and material they link to.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:20 AM on January 17, 2008


Specifically, I would put more trust in the "cons" column if it contained more peer-reviewed material and less blog and conspiracy-minded filler. I get the feeling the anti-warming side is being padded to promote the idea of "fairness".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:23 AM on January 17, 2008


Speaking for myself, I'm content if they pursue a 'dump everything in there' approach to this. There will possibly be a lot of crap here, but I'm also sure that whenever good science does get published - on whichever side of their aisle - it'll end up being included too. So this seems like not a bad place to check regularly to make sure you are on top of the latest published research ...
posted by woodblock100 at 2:33 AM on January 17, 2008


Presenting facts and bullshit as equally worthy of consideration is intellectual fraud.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:56 AM on January 17, 2008 [21 favorites]


I'm content if they pursue a 'dump everything in there' approach to this

As the body of evidence for warming and its side effects continues to pile up, you may likely find that conspiracy-flavored noise will more than ably drown out any legitimate signal.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:05 AM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you want to keep on top of the debate on climate change ...

I think I managed to do that some time ago, thanks.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:22 AM on January 17, 2008


Their next project is 9/11 Conspiracy Daily, which will give you up-to-the-minute coverage of the latest views and information on whether 9/11 was faked.
posted by grouse at 3:26 AM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


I agree with everyone who says that the web site should be more slanted in favor of a particular point of view. Anything less is irresponsible and may corrupt the minds of people who are not smart enough to understand that some sources are not worth of consideration.
posted by Slap Factory at 3:27 AM on January 17, 2008


You're right, instead of, when showing crap to someone who isn't clear on what crap is, we should say "This may or may not be feces- and it would be an insult to your intelligence to tell you that it either is or isn't. You'll simply have to have a big heaping spoonful. Also, it's been soaked in strawberry flavoring to ensure that the smell and flavor of feces doesn't put you off."
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:58 AM on January 17, 2008


Replace "instead of" with "Slap Factory" and wonder how long I've been up that I would make such an error.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:58 AM on January 17, 2008


Maybe what it needs is an "Affiliations and Stakes" link under each article that would open an online comments entry for that article. Let readers do the disclosure detective work and post their comments there. Moderate the comments (and register the commenters?) if you don't want it to turn into a daily "Fuck you! No, fuck you!"
posted by pracowity at 3:59 AM on January 17, 2008


That already exists.

MetaFilter: Fuck You—No, Fuck You!—Daily
posted by grouse at 4:28 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Presenting facts and bullshit as equally worthy of consideration is intellectual fraud.

Agreed. Representing this as a debate on opinions, rather than a scientific consensus with credible data supporting a specific conclusion, is the "skeptic" strategy. This site is anything but objective.

Denis Dutton is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand... Dr. Dutton is skeptical about the degree to which human activity has contributed to the general warming trend that began in the 1880s.

Douglas Campbell is currently completing a Ph.D in philosophy at the University of Arizona while teaching philosophy at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand... He is impressed by the breadth and depth of the scientific evidence supporting the theory of anthropogenic global warming, and thinks that to the extent that the science remains uncertain the Precautionary Principle still justifies even relatively costly mitigation measures.

Climate Debate Daily is generously supported by a grant from Dr. Peter Farrell of ResMed Corp. (www.resmed.com). Like Denis Dutton, Dr. Farrell is skeptical of the threat of anthropogenic global warming. But he also says, "Let the best argument win."


"Let the best argument win"? Interesting take on things. Climate change isn't a philosophical argument. Unlike philosophy, scientific conclusions ultimately rest on data. A good argument alone isn't enough. You need to test it with real data and see if it's supported.

Linking to an article on cold weather-related deaths on the "con" side is just disingenuous. Long-term warming doesn't mean cold snaps don't happen. A cold day in Fargo isn't evidence counter to warmer average temperatures. Even the Nature article they link to on the "con" side says something different than they seem to infer-- arctic temperatures are increasing faster than predicted due to natural and anthropogenic factors.

It is kind of telling to compare the language in the left and right hand sides, though. So I suppose this serves some purpose after all. The "con" stories tend to have much more sensationalist wording-- deadly, dangerous, so-called, megalomaniacal delusions, alarmists, dramatic, scare, death, catastrophe.
posted by Tehanu at 4:37 AM on January 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


If you want to keep up with the science of climate change, you can't do better than Real Climate. If you want to keep up with the opinions of PR firms and philosophy professors, I guess the site linked here will do fine.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:45 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hear there is a debate on evolution, too.
posted by TedW at 5:45 AM on January 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


I hear there is a debate on evolution, too.


And on the shape of the Earth, too. Shouldn't there be a "balanced website" for that? Philosophy professors welcome...
posted by Skeptic at 5:51 AM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


As someone with a philosophy degree, I could understand having a philosopher moderate the debate and talk about the philosophy of science, but having philosophers be the ones actually arguing is complete asininity. It's not our fucking field. I mean, I'm sure there's some climate scientist who has some fascinating thoughts on Cartesian dualism, but...
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:59 AM on January 17, 2008


This will probably sound really anti-intellectual or anti-liberal or whatever to a lot of people, but the entire concept of this site is fallacious and presents a set of terms for the "debate" that legitimate scientists and experts should simply ignore.

The goal of global warming deniers is, first and foremost, to present the ludicrous idea that there actually is a legitimate argument that global warming isn't real. This site presents the false notion that there's a 50/50 mix in this debate. It poses the debate like a "Crossfire" show, as if half the audience is "on the left" and half the audience is "on the right."

That, in itself, is a fraud on the favor of the deniers.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:13 AM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Here are some suggestions for future projects, presented in cartoon form.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:28 AM on January 17, 2008


The very language is suspect. You're either a "skeptic", or you're "pro-IPCC".

Also, I have to wonder why the columns are of equal length. If it's actually an honest roundup, the "skeptic" side would have to be a lot shorter.
posted by lodurr at 6:30 AM on January 17, 2008


People may think this is hyperbole, but I think this is a core problem with our media and society in general. There is no such thing as 'fact' anymore, just two sides to every opinion.

We've pretty much paralyzed ourselves into inaction on nearly every issue.
posted by uaudio at 7:21 AM on January 17, 2008


This will probably sound really anti-intellectual or anti-liberal or whatever to a lot of people, but the entire concept of this site is fallacious and presents a set of terms for the "debate" that legitimate scientists and experts should simply ignore.

Yes. it is anti-intellectual and anti-liberal. Seriously, on ever other public policy issue I can think of, the point is to convince others through presentation of facts and reasoning that one side is right and the other side is wrong. But on global warming issues, it seems like you're saying that's not enough: one side is right and the other side can only be portrayed as intellectually honest or thoroughly discredited so that it should not even be hinted that there is any merit to the other side.

Putting aside how illiberal that is as a matter of dialogue, do you realize how counter-productive that is as a matter of advocacy? Do you think it helps your position to claim that there cannot even be an honest debate on the issue? I don't think that line of argument has ever worked any time it has been tried.

I mean, I think Marxists are idiots. I think their economic and political theories made little sense to begin with and have since been thoroughly refuted by history. I have almost no respect for their views. But I would still argue with them if I have to, and I don't call them fraudsters for voicing their opinions. I just think they are wrong, and I am prepared to explain why I think they are wrong when somebody asks me. Why would climate change be any different?
posted by Slap Factory at 7:22 AM on January 17, 2008


You're surprised? Arts and Letters Daily should be called Hack/Conservative Pundit Blah Blah and Dubious Think Tank Reports Daily.
posted by raysmj at 7:24 AM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Representing this as a debate on opinions, rather than a scientific consensus with credible data supporting a specific conclusion, is the "skeptic" strategy. This site is anything but objective.

I totally see this point, and it's obviously true in the case of Intelligent Design that the holders of nonsense opinions have figured out that they get more mileage out of presenting their views as one side of a debate than just asserting their views to the exclusion of the alternative, ie scientifically correct, side. But there just is a debate over climate change, just like there just is a debate over evolution: you can't deny that people are debating it, even if you're positive that one side is made up of crackpots. You might well want to limit school curricula to teaching the scientific consensus, not the "controversy" — I'd agree with that. But there ought to be room on the big old internet for a site that airs the anti-consensus views which will then, as a result of being aired in this way, get totally discredited by all sensible people if they really are as full of nonsense as most people, including me, believe them to be. This site may "present both side as equal" but it's your job as a reader to not assume that they are equal.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:30 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This sort of thing wouldn't happen if we all weren't educated stupid.

Honestly, the single best thing we can teach kids in grade school is the object and method of scientific inquiry (is that two things?) to wit: (1) Science attempts to explain the world using logic, and (2) these explanations are based on careful tests that allow us to reliably and repeatedly determine which explanations are real and which have no basis in reality.

Or, to put it another way, we need to start installing mandatory bullshit detectors in all of our spawn, before it is too late.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:31 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


But there ought to be room on the big old internet for a site that airs the anti-consensus views which will then, as a result of being aired in this way, get totally discredited by all sensible people if they really are as full of nonsense as most people, including me, believe them to be.

Sure, there's room for such a site, no one is suggesting that it be removed from the internets. But it's 50 percent nonsense, and that's enough for me to consider it discredited.
posted by grouse at 7:34 AM on January 17, 2008


Arts and letters Daily is one of the smartest pages on the web. Maybe the smartest. So I'm willing to check out their new site. Thanks for the link.
posted by post punk at 7:35 AM on January 17, 2008


no one is suggesting that it be removed from the internets

No, and I phrased that badly, but what I mean is I am glad this site exists in the way it does. Not least as a way of letting me see, gathered together in one place, the utter bollocks that the climate change denialists are spouting at any given moment.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:38 AM on January 17, 2008


Caution: What you just wrote is wrong. The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating knowledge, and that is what we should teach students. Instead of teaching students that they need to respect that explanations are based on careful tests that allow us to determine what is correct, we should be encouraging them to question/investigate the conclusions that are presented to them. That's what science is, right?
posted by Slap Factory at 7:42 AM on January 17, 2008


I hope this isn't too much of a tangent, but I am reading the book I posted about here and the author makes a pretty convincing case that the whole idea of manufacturing a "scientific controversy" where none actually exists was pretty much invented by the tobacco companies in the middle of the 20th century (and if you read the thread you will see that at least one person still believes that the link between smoking and disease is controversial).
posted by TedW at 7:43 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, I can't wait for the "Did the Holocaust exist" version of this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:01 AM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Every day, Dutton's posts on aldaily, long one of my favourites, get more annoyingly chock full of right wing apologia. Why do Ayaan Hirsi Ali's sophomoric, self indulgent articles get so much coverage, for instance?
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:10 AM on January 17, 2008


On behalf of philosophers: most of us would be able to see through the basic rhetorical slanting happening here (eg the site elevates "skeptics" (who are ever-so-neutral and objective) above the "pro-IPCC" side (who have an agenda)), and it's deeply irresponsible for them to present it this way. Philosophy profs are supposed to cut through BS, to keep arguments honest by not allowing rhetorical tricks. This isn't a problem caused by these guys being philosophy profs.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2008


Philosophy profs are supposed to cut through BS, to keep arguments honest by not allowing rhetorical tricks. This isn't a problem caused by these guys being philosophy profs.

Not necessarily. This is exactly the sort of bullshit that drives me up the wall about post-modernism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:57 AM on January 17, 2008


Philosophy profs are supposed to cut through BS, to keep arguments honest by not allowing rhetorical tricks.

The colleges and universities of America are filled with philosophy profs who happily further their careers by using their skills for evil. And then exercise those skills a little more to prove that evil is actually good.
posted by lodurr at 9:04 AM on January 17, 2008


Around 2000 or so, I didn't think that global warming was real. Arts and Letters Daily was the reason I didn't. It was my one of my favorite sites back then, and it kept linking to all sorts of skeptical articles, treating them with respect. I'm not sure if it was more reasonable to be a climate change skeptic back then, or if I was just especially naive. Time went on, at some point my mind changed, and when I look at ALDaily now it's obvious that Dutton is a terrible editor, full or rhetoric and ultracrepidarian blather. Metafilter has supplanted ALDaily for my linky-linky addiction. At least it wears its blather on its sleeve.
posted by painquale at 9:10 AM on January 17, 2008


"Debate"? On global warming? I thought the scientific consensus was clear. The "debate" is making politics in the face of fact.
posted by jokeefe at 9:19 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you want to read pieces from Commentary, the New Republic, the Weekly Standard, An Unprofitable Foundation-Supported Mag that Promotes Freedom and Markets But Which Hardly Anyone Has Heard Of and the editorial pages of the WSJ, as well as a piece on martinis that Christopher Hitchens wrote in his sleep for the cash, and pretend you're on the West Bank of the 1920s discussing "arts and letters," A&L Daily is your kinda website.
posted by raysmj at 9:26 AM on January 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


post punk: Arts and letters Daily is one of the smartest pages on the web. Maybe the smartest.

Arts and Letters Daily is not one of the smartest pages on the web. It often links to other smart pages but it itself isn't smart. It's an aggregator of information, it doesn't actively create it.
posted by Kattullus at 9:28 AM on January 17, 2008


Thoughts on better alternatives to the right-ish slant of Arts and Letters Daily? Perhaps bookforum.com?
posted by rumbles at 9:41 AM on January 17, 2008


EXTRA, EXTRA! Conservative blogger Dennis Dutton starts another conservative blog!
posted by washburn at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2008


The best analogy to climate change skeptics isn't flat earthers; it's AIDS dissidents -- people who don't think there's a link between HIV and Aids and refuse treatment.

...the magazine Continuum, run by HIV-positive dissidents, shut down when its editors all died of AIDS-related causes. It was noted that in every case, the AIDS dissident community has attributed the deaths to unknown causes, secret drug use, or stress.

These guys are actually still around -- I spent a reddit thread trying to talk some reason into them. Over the past couple decades their movement has caused a whooole lot of death in places like africa when governments (already suspicious of western academia, which has historically fucked them over, and not particularly willing to admit that their population's being ravaged by an std) get convinced that all that's needed is vitamin C or something.

Climate change skeptics have probably already caused just as much damage by preventing forward momentum on carbon cuts, but the deaths won't happen for another couple decades.
posted by Tlogmer at 9:54 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, I forgot the other part of the analogy: climate change skeptics are pretty much unknown outside the U.S., which has by far the greatest per capita emissions, and aids dissidents were pretty much unknown out of gay ghettos, which were the hardest areas of the U.S. hit by hiv.
posted by Tlogmer at 9:57 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks kattullus, for clearing that up for me.
posted by post punk at 10:04 AM on January 17, 2008


Noticed this link at A&L Daily a couple weeks ago and thought to myself, Well, there's their sharkjumping moment. The links to anti-scientific climate "debate" hackery had gotten more and more pervasive on the site, and now they'd deemed it worthy of a spin-off? It's like a liberal-arts faculty deciding the weird prof who teaches that cultishly popular course on the history of magic should get an entire Faculty of Magic in which magic isn't taught as a curious social phenomenon but as an engineering discipline.

On second thought, though, maybe this is actually progress. A&L Daily has for years refused to link at all to credible sources on the subject of climate change; this is kind of a half-assed admission that straight-up denial is utterly indefensible.

Anyway, I was glad to click through and find this great pile of bullshit already sufficiently well-annotated, so I'll say only this, as a journalist working the climate/sustainability beat: No honest individual who's spent any time at all talking to climate scientists would portray climate change as a debate between two equally weighted sides. The debate, such as it is, is limited almost exclusively to just how dramatic and rapid the change is occurring and the probability among outcomes ranging from "pretty goddamn bad" to "I'm building a self-sufficient fortified compound in the hills." And in my experience, the climate scientists I've talked to have without exception been much more certain in their convictions and much more worried for the planet's health than they are willing to declare in public.
posted by gompa at 10:34 AM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


It occurs to me that there already exists an appropriate forum for debate about Climate Change. They're called peer reviewed journals. Curiously, it seems debate in that forum has more or less come to a conclusion on certain questions regarding the consequences of more than doubling the CO2 into the atmosphere. I wonder if this site has some information that would be of use to these journals.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:45 AM on January 17, 2008


Yes. it is anti-intellectual and anti-liberal. Seriously, on ever other public policy issue I can think of, the point is to convince others through presentation of facts and reasoning that one side is right and the other side is wrong. But on global warming issues, it seems like you're saying that's not enough: one side is right and the other side can only be portrayed as intellectually honest or thoroughly discredited so that it should not even be hinted that there is any merit to the other side.

So, next time an aerospace engineer wants to design a multi-million dollar rocket thruster (the appropriations for which are, after all, a matter of public policy), let's open up the design sessions to public debate, because anything less would be anti-intellectual and anti-liberal. If someone in the philosophy department at Berkeley--or for that matter, if a gas station attendant in Schenectady can persuasively argue that we'd be better off building the thrusters for our next generation rockets for a unit cost of only $20.00 using paper clips, rubber bands, and ball-peen hammers, then by god, that's what we should do!
posted by saulgoodman at 11:29 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


raysmj has it. Let me point smugly to this off-topic question and prophetic comment from 2006.
posted by Mocata at 12:33 PM on January 17, 2008


Yes. it is anti-intellectual and anti-liberal. Seriously, on ever other public policy issue I can think of, the point is to convince others through presentation of facts and reasoning that one side is right and the other side is wrong.

EARTH'S CLIMATE IS NOT PUBLIC POLICY. When you understand that, you will understand why demanding it be debated like the fucking flat tax is facetious.

Debating how much public financing should go to a fire department is a public policy issue. Pointing out that you are on fire should not mandate equal opposing air time.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:37 PM on January 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


Dutton: "Am not!"
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:25 PM on January 17, 2008


Seriously, on ever other public policy issue I can think of, the point is to convince others through presentation of facts and reasoning that one side is right and the other side is wrong.

That's fine. But that's where it ends. once the facts and reasoning are locked in, it's time to shut up and stop funding bullshit denialism that hasn't managed to score a single point in the debate since the satellite records were reconciled.
posted by wilful at 5:27 PM on January 17, 2008


What's sad is that there is a debate that could happen on that site but probably won't. (Namely, what is the best way to deal with climate change?)
posted by salvia at 7:52 PM on January 17, 2008


Ooh, this site is bad. Even on the "Calls to Action" (aka, climate change is real) side they're bolding the skeptic arguments. Eg:
As Arctic sea ice has diminished year by year, so Antarctic sea ice has expanded. But this is broadly consistent with what the climate models predict...continue » [emph. theirs]
If they really view this as a debate about whether or not climate change is occurring, shouldn't they bold "consistent with what the climate models predict" rather than "Antarctic sea ice has expanded?"
posted by salvia at 7:56 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The purpose of this, as far as I can see, is that there are nuances to the issue that a lot of people aren't picking up. The issue isn't just, "it's warming!," "it's man-made!" or "the ice caps are melting!" and their contrapositives. Even diehard skeptics like Bush won't claim those contrapositives anymore. It's things like "how important is CO2 compared to other greenhouse gases?" and "how accurate are the computer models?", "what can we do that would actually be worth the cost" I like the way Micheal Crighton debates it (and wins), "Will global warning be a catastrophe?" That's a really damn good question that's worthy of debate.

I think we need to be bracing ourselves for the possibility that even our best scientist can succumb to group think, academic pressure to fall into line, and simply don't understand the totality of what's going on. Something is going on, it's almost certainly related to CO2 and development, it's almost certainly going to sting, there's probably something we can do about it .... but "how much" is open to question.

Does anyone have the link to that IHT/NYT op-ed from the guy whose early 1990's computer models on climate change affecting a local bird species were being use to build the latest computer models of climate change (and how flawed he thought his old study was)?
posted by trinarian at 10:30 PM on January 17, 2008


I think we need to be bracing ourselves for the possibility that even our best scientist can succumb to group think, academic pressure to fall into line, and simply don't understand the totality of what's going on.

Our best scientists may not understand the science! It's a good thing we have right-wing ideologues to save us from groupthink!
posted by grouse at 2:20 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's a good thing we have right-wing ideologues to save us from groupthink!

And science fiction writers!
posted by saulgoodman at 6:53 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


So... you're suggesting, trinarian, that the issue is so very complex that to guard against scientists falling under the sway of ideology, we should instead listen to Michael Crichton? The guy who who compares climate change to UFOs?

About his book.
posted by Tehanu at 7:34 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


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