[permaculture] How to decide?
T A Redding
trrredding at gmail.com
Sat May 5 17:31:29 EDT 2012
On Saturday, May 5, 2012, Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com> wrote:
> We all encounter cases like the one we've been debating here: where both
sides pull up all sorts of facts and anecdotes to support their position,
and ask "well, then, explain this one!" of their opponents. It leads to
going round and round on the facts, and rarely results in changing anyone's
mind. So how can you decide issues like climate, population, evolution, and
> One way is to look for intellectual honesty and a willingness to put the
work up for review, and to address data that don't support their viewpoint.
That last is the hallmark of an honest investigation.
> There's a big difference in the way scientists work, and the way the
deniers work. I spent 20 years in science, and still hang out with lots of
scientists, so I know how they work. They almost always start with an
observation: like, "hey, temperatures seem higher." Then they ask
questions: is what they are seeing real, and if it is, why is it
happening? Sometimes they start with a question: are temps rising, falling,
or unchanging? Most of them really try to make their experiments honestly
ask these questions. If they don't, usually other scientists will rip them
a new one; it's too public an endeavor to avoid that. Many new findings get
challenged by peers who find holes in the work, a very important part of
science, and the researcher then does more, rigorous experiments and either
drops the idea or presents more robust findings. Generally, if an idea
survives this process, there is some merit in it. It may not be the whole
story, but it's been well tested by that point.
> The deniers, however, start with a theory that they don't like, such as
evolution, climate change, or the germ theory, often for political,
economic or religious reasons, though not always. But they never start with
data. They don't start with a question. They start with a theory they don't
like. Then they look only for data and anecdotes that support their view,
and they ignore, distort, or hide any data that don't support their view.
You can generally find intellectual dishonesty right in the arguments
themselves, flawed reasoning, and smokescreens designed to make it look
like they have answered an issue when they have just deflected the
question. If you see someone hiding or distorting unsupportive facts (as
opposed to just worrying about them, a human trait demonstrated in the
so-called "climate-gate" emails, where they ended up reporting the
unfavorable data, something the deniers never do.), they probably have
> The climate site Oystein linked to was a good example of denier methods.
> Let's take their statement,
>> The "hockey stick", a poster boy of both the UN's IPCC and Canada's
Environment Department, ignores historical recorded climatic swings, and
has now also been proven to be flawed and statistically unreliable as well.
It is a computer construct and a faulty one at that.
> This refers to a graph first published in a 1998 study showing a huge
rise in temperatures when the industrial age started, looking like the
profile of a hockey stick. It was soon criticized by some climate
scientists as flawed in some of its methods and making too strong a
conclusion. This shows science in action (so much for hiding
disagreement!), but it was seized on by deniers and publicized. The
researchers collected vastly more data, including 1200 studies (not data
points: studies), most of actual temperature measurements (not models, as
the deniers claim) and with revised methods, concluded that the hockey
stick was real. The revised 2008 study was called solid by the vast
majority of climate scientists, and has survived rigorous testing. But to
read that website, you would never know that. They omit the part of the
story that kills their case, which is dishonest. If you want, you can
google the key words in every other statement there (I got bored after 3
> ents) and see that all of them misreport or ignore the actual findings,
or has been thoroughly debunked by science. This is a well-funded website
that is updated, so they know they are lying.
> Another example is the story on anti-germ theory sites, that von
Pettenkofer drank cholera-containing water and felt no effects, thus
disproving germ theory. The original story is in von Pettenkofer M. Zum
gegenwartigen Stand der Cholerafrage. (In German). Miinchen, Germany:von
> which I found with the help of a friend's university library card and had
a German relative peruse for me. In von P's own words and in those of sworn
witnesses, he became very ill the next day with diarrhea but did not
develop cholera. This is completely in agreement with germ theory, where
dose size is important. You can find this in anecdotal form at
> But when you read it on the denier web sites, they always omit that he
got sick, or just lie and say he didn't. Von P also said that infectious
agents were one of three factors necessary for disease. The deniers often
cite Bechamp, who also wrote that germs need to be present, but the deniers
claim both men were against germ theory. They were not; they just felt it
didn't explain everything. This again, is intellectual dishonesty, a sign
that the facts are too weak so they must distort and deflect.
> So what do you do? The worst thing you can do is to only look at one
side, especially the denier websites, much as I love to see the emperor
made to run around naked. You need to look at research, then at the denier
sites, then google for rebuttals to those, and then look for more rebuttals
to the rebuttals. It's work. It's not for the lazy. But at some point
(often immediately, like on that climate site) you will spot intellectual
dishonesty, smokescreens, and poor logic in one side or the other. Do what
you want with that, but I will side with the group with the most integrity
and the ones doing original research instead of just throwing stones.
> And this is why I won't argue the facts with anyone. Because facts can be
made up, ignored, zombified, and selected. We then just go round and round,
and this is why Oystein left: I wouldn't go round and round, but went to a
higher level of logical flaws and integrity, and he took his toys and went
home. You have to be willing to do your own investigations and weigh the
facts and the quality of arguments from both sides, not just one. It's why
I may show a bit of temper when I write about this: because liars piss me
off, and then I get mad that people lazily believe them instead of applying
themselves to the hard work of investigating.
> Logic, motivation, and integrity are the true signs of whether an
argument is worthwhile, not how many facts you can find in a Google search
that only looks for things that support you.
> I hope this is helpful.
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