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On arguing by analogy

Filed under: — gavin @ 2 September 2014

Climate blogs and comment threads are full of ‘arguments by analogy’. Depending on what ‘side’ one is on, climate science is either like evolution/heliocentrism/quantum physics/relativity or eugenics/phrenology/Ptolemaic cosmology/phlogiston. Climate contrarians are either like flat-earthers/birthers/moon-landing hoaxers/vaccine-autism linkers or Galileo/stomach ulcer-Helicobacter proponents/Wegener/Copernicus. Episodes of clear misconduct or dysfunction in other spheres of life are closely parsed only to find clubs with which to beat an opponent. Etc. Etc.

While the users of these ‘arguments’ often assume that they are persuasive or illuminating, the only thing that is revealed is how the proposer feels about climate science. If they think it is generally on the right track, the appropriate analogy is some consensus that has been validated many times and the critics are foolish stuck-in-the-muds or corporate disinformers, and if they don’t, the analogy is to a consensus that was overturned and where the critics are the noble paradigm-shifting ‘heretics’. This is far closer to wishful thinking than actual thinking, but it does occasionally signal clearly who is not worth talking to. For instance, an article pretending to serious discussion on climate that starts with a treatise about Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union is not to be taken seriously.

Since the truth of falsity of any scientific claim can only be evaluated on it’s own terms – and not via its association with other ideas or the character of its proponents – this kind of argument is only rhetorical. It gets no-one closer to the truth of any particular matter. The fact is that many, many times, mainstream science has survived multiple challenges by ‘sceptics’, and that sometimes (though not at all often), a broad consensus has been overturned. But knowing which case is which in any particular issue simply by looking for points of analogy with previous issues, but without actually examining the data and theory directly, is impossible. The point being that arguments by analogy are not persuasive to anyone who doesn’t already agree with you on the substance.

Given the rarity of a consensus-overturning event, the only sensible prior is to assume that a consensus is probably valid absent very strong evidence to the contrary, which is incidentally the position adopted by the arch-sceptic Bertrand Russell. The contrary assumption implies there are no a priori reasons to think any scientific body of work is credible which, while consistent, is not one that I have ever found anyone professing in practice. Far more common is a selective rejection of science dependent on other reasons and that is not a coherent philosophical position at all.

Analogies do have their place of course – usually to demonstrate that a supposedly logical point falls down completely when applied to a different (but analogous) case. For instance, an implicit claim that all correct scientific theories are supported by a unanimity of Nobel Prize winners/members of the National Academies, is easily dismissed by reference to Kary Mullis or Peter Duesberg. A claim that CO2 can’t possibly have a significant effect solely because of its small atmospheric mixing ratio, can be refuted as a general claim by reference to other substances (such as arsenic, plutonium or Vitamin C) whose large effects due to small concentrations are well known. Or if a claim is made that all sciences except climate science are devoid of uncertainty, this is refuted by reference to, well, any other scientific field.

To be sure, I am not criticising the use of metaphor in a more general sense. Metaphors that use blankets to explaining how the greenhouse effect works, income and spending in your bank account to stand in for the carbon cycle, what the wobbles in the Earth’s orbit look like if the planet was your head, or conceptualizing the geologic timescale by compressing it to a day, for instance, all serve useful pedagogic roles. The crucial difference is that these mappings don’t come dripping with over-extended value judgements.

Another justification for the kind of analogy I’m objecting to is that it is simply for amusement: “Of course, I’m not really comparing my opponents to child molesters/food adulterers/mass-murderers – why can’t you take a joke?”. However, if you need to point out to someone that a joke (for adults at least) needs to have more substance than just calling someone a poopyhead, it is probably not worth the bother.

It would be nice to have a moratorium on all such analogical arguments, though obviously that is unlikely to happen. The comment thread here can assess this issue directly, but most such arguments on other threads are ruthlessly condemned to the bore-hole (where indeed many of them already co-exist). But perhaps we can put some pressure on users of these fallacies by pointing to this post and then refusing to engage further until someone actually has something substantive to offer. It may be pointless, but we can at least try.

210 Responses to “On arguing by analogy”

  1. 51
    Chris Dudley says:

    Danny (#48),

    Analysis itself in an analogy. Consider the hydraulic and mechanical analogies of the R-L-C electric circuit. A glance at the similar mathematics indicates that the differential equations are mathematical analogies for all three situations. The relationship between the analysis and the subject is analogy. When we do math we may be reading the mind of God, but we are not performing acts of God. The symbol is not the thing.

  2. 52
    Susan Anderson says:


    Meanwhile, I note the shifting arguments are moving more and more towards discrediting any move whatsoever towards clean energy. It seems not the slightest nuance is allowable in the firm resistance to the worldview of UN/commie takeover that requires fossil fuel to take us all the way to heaven. Sorry, feeling frustrated and angry about failure to acknowledge progress and capitalize on it is making me quite sour.

    It is frustrating when colleagues and friends make unfounded accusations of financial interest, driving SUVs, and the like. They should note that once someone is accused of something they know they didn’t do (they may not know the information they are touting has a financial connection to big fossil), they will not pay any further note to anything further coming from that source. It may be satisfying to “tell it like it is” but in addition to often being inaccurate, it is counterproductive. I note that often fake skeptics will mention that they drive a Prius and otherwise maintain a moderate carbon footprint, while sometimes life’s demands will make a person like me more profligate than they would like to be with emissions.

    Points are more effective without the snarky interpolations, namecalling, and personal insults. Please forswear the personal satisfaction which won’t last, and avoid doing harm.

    About Captcha and rejections, “back” is often helpful, a text box very useful, and numbering is not the busy RealClimate moderators issue. I find inserting “~” (“approximately”) in front of the number along with the name of the commenter (numbering alone is silly, given we know they change, often for good reason) will locate the likely segment, if you don’t want to register the timestamp.

  3. 53
  4. 54

    And then there is the ‘Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis’.

    lol. Discuss that if you’re brave or foolish enough.

  5. 55
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside — re numbering, Meow knows this, but for new readers:
    the renumbering I think is unavoidable here/now as some posts are delayed in moderation; the date stamp is the unique identifier that never changes. That’s true of most blog comment systems now.

    So, to unambiguously identify what’s being referred to: use hypertext.

    — hilight the timestamp
    — /View Selection Source (in Firefox; equvalent in any browser)
    — Select All
    — Copy
    — click into your local text editor, and
    — Paste

    So to see the result, /View Selection Source
    your posting of 2 Sep 2014 at 5:38 PM

  6. 56
    Susan Anderson says:

    Wow! Chris Dudley, that’s a keeper:

    differential equations are mathematical analogies … The relationship between the analysis and the subject is analogy. When we do math we may be reading the mind of God, but we are not performing acts of God. The symbol is not the thing.

  7. 57
    Dan Miller says:

    prokaryotes (#44): I think you will enjoy George Marshall’s book then. The book is about the denial mechanisms we all (not just “deniers”) as individuals and as a society use to keep climate change a distant issue. See:

  8. 58

    “Points are more effective without the snarky interpolations, namecalling, and personal insults. Please forswear the personal satisfaction which won’t last, and avoid doing harm.”


    And on the numbering issue, just copying something from the original comment (as at the top of this comment) will invoke the comment number (as at the bottom of this comment.)

    – See more at:

  9. 59
    Chris Dudley says:


    Thanks. In college we could not take an engineering course without taking the introductory systems course. We had solve the same system of equations over and over and over again to drum this point in. I’d been the math department differential equations tutor for a while but I only got a B in Systems because it became so dull.

  10. 60
    Chris Dudley says:

    Ken Cuccinelli is a Virginia politician who took lots of gifts from Jonnie Williams. Bob McDonald is a Virginia politician who has been convicted of corruption for taking lots of gifts from Jonnie Williams. So, by analogy…. Oh, wait….

  11. 61
    Mollie Norris says:

    “Given the rarity of a consensus-overturning event, the only sensible prior is to assume that a consensus is probably valid absent very strong evidence to the contrary.”

    Excellent support for retention of the null hypothesis that climate change is natural (in spite of the obfuscating wordbath).

    [Response: No problem with that as a null hypothesis, but we are already in 5 sigma territory in rejecting it. – gavin]

  12. 62
    Rob Ellison says:

    “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” Paul Ehrlich

    Not withstanding webby’s dissimulation – the extremism of the ‘analogies’ is quite evident.

  13. 63
    Glen says:

    “Since the truth of falsity of any scientific claim can only be evaluated on it’s own terms – and not via its association with other ideas or the character of its proponents – this kind of argument is only rhetorical.”

    The logical extension of this idea is that there is that there is no benefit to studying history because one would never be able to make analogies between the past and the present. Dr. Schmidt, I have to respectfully disagree with you on this point.

    “But perhaps we can put some pressure on users of these fallacies by pointing to this post and then refusing to engage further until someone actually has something substantive to offer. It may be pointless, but we can at least try.”

    Would this not succeed in merely shutting down further discussion? This would not help support your cause. The skeptics would only need to scream louder, and politically it would be the smart thing for them to do.

    Poli -> Poly -> “Many ”
    tics -> ticks -> “bloodsucking vermin.”

    If a particular analogy is invalid, it should fall apart shortly after you pick it to pieces.

    [Response: just like how no one ever uses some dumb point about CO2 lags in the ice cores to argue for zero sensitivity? That’s not the way it happens – people repeat fallacies whenever it suits them. The only way to win that game is not to play. – gavin]

  14. 64
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Your phrasing is a dead giveaway that you have no idea what you are talking about. You never accept the null hypothesis. It is there merely to demonstrate whether a model or hypothesis explains the data better than a plausible, but unrealistic alternative. Go learn some stats.

  15. 65
    Meow says:

    @4 Sep 2014 @ 3:25 PM: The only problem with that is that there is no consensus that “climate change is natural”, so extraordinary evidence is not necessary to overturn that non-consensus. Also, what Gavin said.

  16. 66
    Chris Dudley says:

    Oops. McDonnell (sp).

  17. 67
    Glen says:

    “just like how no one ever uses some dumb point about CO2 lags in the ice cores to argue for zero sensitivity?”

    Hmm… maybe it would be a good idea to keep a moratorium on such things.

  18. 68
    Dave123 says:

    Kevin Kings’s post at 24 is an interesting example of an incomplete analogy. “Climate Scientists will follow the money LIKE everyone else. The “like everyone else” is assumed. This of course accomplishes nothing and as in all scientific discussions leaves us to evaluate the truth or falseness of any statement on our own. Since we (as scientists) should be doing that anyhow, no progress is made.

    There is no support given to the cynical point of view that everyone is corrupt. In fact I frequently run into this kind of behavior on forums for the “vox populi”. They willfully see no difference between Gavin giving his own opinion with citations and their saying “I don’t believe it”. I think the intent is to avoid justification leaving no opening to debunk anything in specific. I suspect this is a cultivated behavior to hide the amount of astoturfing going on.

  19. 69
    Matthew R Marler says:

    47, gavin in line: You might be confusing us with some other blogs.

    I agree in part. I do not remember who first said that CO2 skeptics should be arrested and tried as war criminals, or who first made the comparison of skepticism about CO2 and climate to Holocaust Denial.

  20. 70
    MARodger says:

    Rob Ellison @62.
    I think you are making a dreadful mix-up of websites and comment threads with your comment @62. “Webby”” may be your pet name for an adverary elsewhere whose fleeting “dissimulation” may live on in your memory, but that is on a different planet as far as this thread is concerned. (I do mean literally on a different planet, the planet in question being Climateetcia where both logic and physics often act in manners unfamiliar to us on planet Earth.)
    And note that your little selection of quotes that you link to on that far and distant planet are mainly not utilisng ‘analogy’ and are mainly addressing the question of a preferable size for this planets human population, not climate science.

    The analogy you present directly here is perhaps more useful that you would countenance, although its conditional verb rather blunts its message. One of the characteristics of AGW is the invisible cost. It’s gong to be a bit like a foreign war (mention of which makes this also the use of an analogy). In, say, Gulf War One there were 376 dead and 779 wounded. Yet these are numbers which are rather silly to even think about mentioning because they ignore the thousands of civilian dead, the tens of thousands of Iraqi military dead and the hundreds of thousands killed in conflict and other events directly resulting from the promulgation of that war. Likewise the real deadtoll from AGW. It will be not immediately evident, certainly not to a resident of Queensland or of Dorset, however well informed. And just like foreign wars, most of the deadtoll involves those not signed up for the conflict, just hapless bystanders. Out of sight is out of mind. If, for instance, the island of Madagascar with it’s tiny carbon footprint were to melt in the heat of AGW and disappear beneath the waves taking its 21 million inhabitants to a watery grave, hey, it’s only 0.013% of global GDP.

  21. 71
    patrick says:

    Thank you for this brilliant post.

  22. 72
    Susan Anderson says:

    Brian Cox at the Guardian has some useful advice:

    “I think we do a disservice to the public. If you look down the [camera] lens and see your head of department or your PhD supervisor, whoever it might be, then you’ll start being scientifically precise and you’ll mislead the public. Because you’ll give them a false sense of debate,” …

    He said scientists could say with total confidence that climate science was uncontroversial and the current predictions for warming were the best advice available.

    “The scientific view at the time is the best, there’s nothing you can do that’s better than that. So there’s an absolutism. It’s absolutely the best advice”

  23. 73
    Dan H. says:

    The rejection of the null hypothesis @61 does not mean that nature plays no role. It simply means that it cannot explain all (or most) of the observed changes. I have seen too many people who reject the null hypothesis immediately go to the complete opposite, i.e. that it is 100% manmade.

  24. 74
    Rob Ellison says:

    ‘Although it has failed to produce its intended impact nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol has performed an important role. That role has been allegorical. Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values.49 Nor is that to be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.’

    What I originally said was that instead of rational policy what we have are projections that are clearly misguided linked to scenarios of catastrophe supporting overweening ambitions to transform economies and societies.

    The point is clearly brought out in the collection of quotes – and indeed in Madagascar sinking.

    If you look at the link – there are practical and pragmatic responses. But it is oddly ‘sceptical’ to posit multi-gas solutions, trade and development, health, education and safe water and sanitation to manage population, energy innovation and sequestering carbon in agricultural soils and in restored ecosystems. It comes from not singing from the silly progressive songbook.

    Ultimately it comes from resisting these mooted transformations of societies and economies in the ways suggested in my collection of quotes. These alienate the vast majority who aren’t fringe extremists and are self defeating for that reason.

    I list 12 ‘phenomenal’ ways to save the world on the first page here – – take it or leave it. Frankly we are a little bored with alarmist claptrap.

  25. 75
    wili says:

    If we give up on any analogies that might effectively cast our opponents in a negative light but our opponents don’t (and they surely won’t), aren’t we essentially (to use a well worn analogy) bringing knives (or wet noodles!) to a gun fight?

  26. 76
    Radge Havers says:

    willi. Maybe, but I thought the point of the post, as mentioned in the last paragraph, was at least partly about disarming hyperbolic analogizers on this site (which may include me but whatever).

  27. 77
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Dan H
    > the complete opposite, i.e. that it is 100% manmade.
    Sure, but why pay attention to the nuts no matter which spoke of the political wheel they’re far out on? The “100 %” attribution error needs education regardless of who says it for what agenda; it’s wrong either way you spin it.

    Teach them that “an attribution greater-than 100%” is possible, and observations support that.
    See inline at 27 Aug 2014 at 9:56 AM

  28. 78
    Walter Pearce says:

    Dan H…Actually, I believe the correct figure is, 110% manmade.

  29. 79
    David in Cal says:

    Of course one should go with the consensus. As I understand Cook’s paper, there is a 97% consensus that human activity contributes some positive amount to global warming. Judith Curry has stated in her blog that she agrees with this consensus.

  30. 80
    wili says:

    Walter Pearce (5 Sep 2014 @ 7:35 PM) wrote: “Actually, I believe the correct figure is, 110% manmade.”

    I’ve seen that figure, too. Does that mean that we should have expected some cooling over the last two hundred years or so, in the absence of the influence of GHGs??

  31. 81
    John Smith says:

    arguing by analogy?

    You mean like like the obvious attempt to make climate change skeptics analogous to holocaust “deniers?”

    Is “denialist” even a real word?

  32. 82
    John Smith says:


  33. 83
    Ed Beroset says:

    Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy. — Isaac Newton
    If the Forbes article had started the same way, but then instead gone on to articulate that the fatal flaw of Lysenkoism was that it used an ideological and political basis to arrive at conclusions of a scientific matter.

    When someone states a strongly held view on anthropomorphic global warming, those who have arrived there via ideological or political affinity are indeed repeating the mistake of Lysenkoism.

    So when an author cites the Heartland Institute, whose stated mission is “to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” it’s fairly clearly an endorsement of Lysenkoism.

  34. 84
    Susan Anderson says:

    re knives to gunfights (another inadequate analogy), making it a fight gives credibility to those who would treat it as that kind of fight, not a fight for survival for the whole planet. I’m not good at holding my tongue, but I do know that insults degrade and it’s better to leave that in plain sight, particularly where there’s a matter of accuracy. I make exceptions for the likes of Hotwhopper and others who bring exactitude and detail to the pursuit of truth.

    Consider Gandhi and Jesus (neither of whom was a wimp). Sometimes it’s better to be quietly truthful. (And I’m as guilty as any, learning the hard way to use time out rather than getting down into the mud.)

  35. 85
    MARodger says:

    Rob Ellison @74.
    I assume you are responding to me @70 but that is evident only because you mention Madagascar.

    Then, it doesn’t matter who you are addressing as your comment is entirely dysfunctional as a message. Your quoted paragraph from Prins & Rayner’s “The Wrong Trousers – Rarically Rethinking Climate Policy” could at first glance appear in tune with your following message telling us that AGW mitigation policy is misguided conspiratorial alarmism and support for it is boring “claptrap.” However the 40-odd pages of Prins & Rayner does stand as a good exemplar of how not to present an argument and I can but assume that, because of their poor writing style so redolant with analogy and allegory, you have not understood what Prins & Rayner are trying to say and failed to grasp their meaning when they talk of such things as“a golden bridge across which to withdraw from Kyoto with dignity”.

    This is Steve Rayner speaking to New Scientist about what the Prins & Rayner message is all about.

    “We see no evidence of Kyoto actually leading to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, much less of stimulating the fundamental technological change that will be required to achieve the 60-80% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists tell us the world will need to achieve in order to prevent what the Framework Convention calls ‘dangerous interference with the atmosphere’.”

    So Rob Ellison, if you seek support for what appear to be your strongly denialist opinions, Prins & Rayner is not for you.

  36. 86
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David in Cal,
    97% agreement is near unanimity, not consensus. There is consensus on a whole helluva lot more than that. Maybe you should read up.

  37. 87
    John Smith says:

    gavin –
    with regards to your response to MR Marler @47

    everybody gets the historical reference (or analogy)

  38. 88
    Mal Adapted says:

    John Smith:

    You mean like like the obvious attempt to make climate change skeptics analogous to holocaust “deniers?”

    Mr. Smith, “denier” has been used since the 15th century to denote “one who denies”. It’s concisely descriptive of someone who denies that the Earth is warming, that it’s caused by human activities, or that it will have significant impacts on ecosystems and human societies if it’s allowed to continue. Some opinionated individuals may liken AGW deniers to Holocaust deniers, but they speak only for themselves, and no one else is obliged to adopt their interpretations. Those who insist that calling someone “AGW denier” must alway imply analogy to “Holocaust denier” are themselves analogous to Humpty Dumpty: they merely wish to be master, that’s all.

  39. 89
    Radge Havers says:


    Well, I think the moderators of this site actually prefer the term “contrarian”.

    Commenters, however, who use the term “denialist” are usually referring to something like this:

    Denialism is the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one’s viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are effective in distracting from actual useful debate using emotionally appealing, but ultimately empty and illogical assertions.

    The term seems to be borrowed from pop psychology. In any case, such techniques can be applied to any topic, and someone pointing out the tactic (or habit) is not necessarily making comparisons between topics. So no, it’s not an analogy, any more than two people are twins because they both wear shirts. And yes it’s a word because people commonly use it as a word. That’s how language works and evolves. Read some linguistics.

    It’s true that denialists do certainly object to having their subterfuges exposed; hence all their feigned victimhood, smoke-blowing, and false analogies when called out.

  40. 90
    Meow says:

    Mal Adapted — 6 Sep 2014 4:21 PM:

    Those who insist that calling someone “AGW denier” must alway imply analogy to “Holocaust denier” are themselves analogous to Humpty Dumpty: they merely wish to be master, that’s all.

    Quite so. It’s an attempt to paint themselves as victims, and thereby gain public sympathy, credibility, and ultimately power to prevent significant action against AGW.

  41. 91
    jgnfld says:

    The problem with many of the simplistic analogies we see is not that analogies themselves are bad, but rather that some people throw out such totally wrong analogies. Analogies can be used to promote deeper analysis or as simplistic propaganda statements (see Forbes article cited).

    Analogies, however, have often furthered science as when someone realizes that a result in one field can be used in whole or in part to solve another problem in a seemingly unrelated field.

    Deniers, on the other hand, typically use analogies for propaganda or to provide false “explanations”. The ulcer analogy seems popular now. Yet that analogy fails completely as an analogy to support denial. NO one ever denied that ulcers existed. Same with heliocentrism. NO one denied that the planets did not move differently from the fixed stars. The point in these cases is that better explanations were found, not that ulcers did not exist or the planets wander. To make these analogies work one would have to find a way to undo carbon’s known influences as well as find another mechanism to explain the observed warming. Not very good for parsimony!

    A better case might be made for tectonics as an analogy as many scientists did, in fact deny that movement was happening _in the absence of clear measurements of horizontal movements_ (and any proposed power source). But then the analogy fails precisely on the point no one actually had observed the Earth moving horizontally on a continental scale until sufficiently detailed measurements became available. So again the denier analogy fails though for the opposite reason this time: Warming has been observed on a global scale.

  42. 92
    Hank Roberts says:

    Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?

    denialism … defined … as the employment of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none,5 an approach that has the ultimate goal of rejecting a proposition on which a scientific consensus exists.6 In this viewpoint, we argue that public health scientists should be aware of the features of denialism and be able to recognize and confront it.

    Denialism is a process that employs some or all of five characteristic elements in a concerted way. The first is the identification of conspiracies…. There is also a variant of conspiracy theory, inversionism, in which some of one’s own characteristics and motivations are attributed to others….

    The second is the use of fake experts…. often complemented by denigration of established experts and researchers, with accusations and innuendo that seek to discredit their work and cast doubt on their motivations….

    The third characteristic is selectivity, drawing on isolated papers that challenge the dominant consensus or highlighting the flaws in the weakest papers among those that support it as a means of discrediting the entire field…. usually not deterred by the extreme isolation of their theories, but rather see it as the indication of their intellectual courage ….

    The fourth is the creation of impossible expectations of what research can deliver. For example, those denying the reality of climate change ….

    The fifth is the use of misrepresentation and logical fallacies. For example, pro-smoking groups have often used the fact that Hitler supported some anti-smoking campaigns … (even coining the term nico-nazis) ….

    Oxford Journals
    Medicine & Health
    European Journal of Public Health
    Volume 19 Issue 1, Pp. 2-4.

  43. 93
    T.T.T. says:

    Please disregard my comment before. I didn’t meant to post. I even didn’t know it went through. I typed, I erased and I typed, I erased. I swear it wasn’t that incoherent when I was writing but I had had more than a couple of drinks already then. Then I got a couple of error messages and I was so confused. I was editing and the mouse pad was stuck on my laptop and moving my mouse all over the place ……
    Pardon me. Please disregard my comment. Will never happen again. My apology.

  44. 94
    Erich Zann says:

    The real issue is the second question: What to do about it? Focus on that question and you can understand the impasse on the first question: Is the planet warming, and are we the cause?
    Of course the answer to the first question is yes, however there is no consensus about the second. If you believe that many of the proposed reactions to climate change are wasteful, misguided, useless, and often counter productive, maybe you might as well start the fight back at the first question. The reactionary Republican leaders do not care if you think they are stupid. They know you all go crazy when they appear anti-science or anti-intellectual, and they know it ties you up in knots … which is fine with them. They are actually much smarter than your side gives them credit for.

  45. 95
    Erich Zann says:

    Focus on the second question: What to do about it? Then, the impasse over the first question (Is the planet warming and are we the cause?) becomes clearer. Of course the answer to the first question is yes. However, there is no consensus on the second, and it is not a scientific question, but rather and economic and political one.

    If you think that the proposed responses to climate change are wasteful, misguided, useless, counter-productive, undemocratic and potential for massive corruption, then maybe you would choose to start the fight back at the first question. The Republican leaders who disgust you do not care if you think they are stupid. They know that when they appear anti-science or anit-intellectual it drives your side crazy and ties you up in knots ( Teacher, did you hear what Bobby-Joe said? Aren’t you going to give him an F?). This is fine with them if it delays implementation of knee-jerk taxes and new government spending. (because we have to do something!). Maybe your opponents are smarter than you think, and maybe you should think hard about what really needs or can be done, once the last holdout agrees to the answer to the first question.

  46. 96
    NickC says:

    Is the whole 7% trained scientist thing a bit arrogant? Assuming a large proportion of non-scientists to be bereft of any skill (not in the “models have skill” sense) in weighing argument is clearly nonsensical. Gavin, for example, has a line of argument about the merit of paleo climate inferences, those who disagree with him do not dispute the science but more the judgement calls made about how limited evidence is interpreted. One can agree on the science but not the interpretation.

    There is also an assumption that the 7% have had some sort of special training to join the rarefied ranks of data interpretation, and enter a professional realm where the mere practice of the discipline imbues one with an unbiased altruistic imperative free of any need to employ analogy.

  47. 97
    DF says:

    Keeping in mind that a fallacy is incorrect argument in logic and rhetoric resulting in a lack of validity, or more generally, a lack of soundness.

    When is it ok to use an incorrect argument?

    Are any of the fallacies more appropriate than the others?

  48. 98
    Carbomontanus says:

    Dr. G. Schmidt

    I come to think, Arguing by analogy, is n`t that most often what we do, and is n`t that really human, SPECI-FIC so to speak?

    We are able to count it on our fingers, but we are not counting our fingers, they are but an analogy, what we really count is something else. I even count up the solar system Bodes law, on my fingers on the Astro- festivals, and lacking Data- screen and chalk & blackboard I make Luftkastellers, models of it in empty air and explain. (That is quite an art, Luftkastellers)

    Further, we draw it and make representing symbols analoges to represent it, for arguing about it. That is very typical and SPECI- FIC of Homo Sapiens and Cro Magnon. We even put it on formulas and sing it.

    We cannot take the very ocean or the very sea, but we can take a test- tube and make an experimental model of what we want to examine or argue for, in the very oceans. And we are rather convinced that it is valid and appliciable in several respects.

    We can also make an experimental aqvarium.

    If you look up “Calorie” on the net, you will find a very fine Samovar in french rokoko copper smithwork, doubble walled and with a cower. That very french rokoko device is supposed to be a valid analogy of several things, and to be used as an argument.

    On 9th of September I shall visit a lecture by the fameous Nils Axel Mörner in DOMVS ACADEMICA in Oslo, who is going to tell us why we do not have to worry about the sea- level. But I do not trust him, because I have my own land- marks and sea- marks in the fjord and rather decide for myself whether to worry and about what, on the basis of that.

    Because that rater is traditional and it does not bring me into conflict with the institute of oceanography.

    But there again I have an experimental method that is a model or miniature of the whole reality by analogy, and believed to be valid.

    In the same house Domus academica, there is an old clock showing official university time out of the window. With a rod of Konstantan maybe and with a glass cylinder of mercury mooving upwards again from the bottom. Saying Tick- Tack- Tick- Tack-… evey second.

    That device was adjusted through an electrical wire coming down from The Royal Observatory, where they had Gallileis telescope and Gallileis pendulum on fixed mount and could adjust siderical time on the second all through the year and all over the years. So if there is any slumbering or speeding up or cyclings in the earth rotation and / or in the gravitational field, that will be noticed in the engine protocoll of that device for the last 180 years at least.

    Henrik Ibsen did adjust his pocket watch after that clock every day.

    In England they have the same arrangement in the Greenwhich observatory with an electrical telegraph lead up to Westminster and the Big Ben, so that Winston Churchill could also be ajour and in time. All the time.

    Those astronomical and astrological machines with a lot of toothed wheels were believed to be proper analogies and models of the Universe and of Reality, and one did argue by them.

    So I will try and put it in other terms and rather suggest poor astronomy and poor astrology, sheere dilettantisms and even Trolls arguing differently, in the field and on the streets, …. and even inside DOMVS ACADEMICA in our days.

    Because mr.Mörner is arguing that the earth rotation is speeding up and slowing down so that fameous south sea island rise up and sink down again or stay quite steady in the waters, contrary to what the IPCC is telling us.

    Professor N.A.Mörner has made himself fameous for also using dowsing- rods for serious in his geophysical research.

    That method also is an analogy and an experimental method.

    But analoge to what and showing what and relevant and appliciable to what?……

    I think rather that is the big question, that is not agreed on.

    Because I have also learnt to use the dowsing rod and really had a lot of fun with it and really believed in it for a while, but i had to re- conscider it when growing up and rather had to become responsible to the more reliable physical and possibly scientific effects of nature and of reality.

    That twig does react and it does work indeed, but because of what and according to what? And analogue with what? Thus, what kind of arguments can we make and what should we not argue for, based in that fameous twig?

  49. 99
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John S-“Myth”@81,

    Indeed, why stop there? Why not claim the mantle of St. Peter, who was known as the denier? Of course, that wasn’t his finest moment.

    What would you have us call those who deny the evidence? Certainly, we cannot call them skeptics–skeptics consider the evidence. How about selectively gullible? Cowards? The deluded?

  50. 100
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nick C., Yes, by all means, let’s negate the benefits of decades of training and experience. I’ll have my electrician interpret my MRI and my plumber install my electrical system.

    Nick, it’s obvious that you’ve never developed any expertise in anything.