Critical Thinking on Climate Change: Separating Skepticism From Denial

Dr. Richard Milne speaking at Edinburgh University:

66 Comments on "Critical Thinking on Climate Change: Separating Skepticism From Denial"

  1. Critical thinking means not accepting theories as facts.

    • Critical thinking means operating under the prevailing theories until they are replaced by better theories.

      • No. it means operating under known facts.

        • Think maybe you’re confusing grade school mathematics with science.

          • You’re confusing the tooth fairy with reality.

          • You’ve got the lock on fairy tales friend. This fairly tale world of black and white facts you live in while the rest of us are trying to get real work done a grayscale world of probabilities.

          • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | Nov 7, 2012 at 5:56 am |

            You sir, are in fact, the doo-doo head. I SAID GOOD DAY!

        • Calypso_1 | Nov 7, 2012 at 10:06 am |

          That will get you killed. Facts without the proper theory to interpret them are more vulnerable to manipulation, sample rate errors and contaminate the ability to make further observations.

      • jimbo jones | Nov 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm |

        Well, in the USSR they used to have a theory called “Communism.” In Deutschland they had a number of interesting theories. Like the Lebensraum theory and the Fuhrerprinzip theory. And in South Africa they also had theories! In the 1950s in American psychiatry it was theorized that lobotomies, electrocutions, and insulin-induced seizures help mentally ill people. Between about 1900 and 1940, many of the educated people in the West thought that “inferior” people should be sterilized or just killed… Even 50 years ago it was accepted that sodomy is a bad thing. Now it’s thought to be good.
        Every theory I mentioned above – and my sample was conservative – “prevailed” at some time in some place.

        So I don’t see how what you describe as “critical thinking” does not amount to blind acceptance of potentially dangerous social norms set by whoever has control of what is called “public opinion.” This is not to say that one should deny ALL accepted “theories” reflexively… But surely in the light of human history we ought to be cautious in the extreme.

    • bobbiethejean | Nov 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm |

      A theory is an explanation of certain phenomena that is well-supported by a large
      body of FACTS and often unifies similarly well-supported hypotheses
      i.e. atomic theory, gravitational theory, germ theory, cell theory,

      • large body of Evidence; Not facts. Huge distinction.

        • bobbiethejean | Nov 6, 2012 at 8:32 pm |

          Evidence and facts are not mutually exclusive. Evidence can be composed of facts and facts can be evidence. For example, the theory of evolution is supported by evidence and facts. A supporting fact of evolution is that fossils are found in strata corresponding to their epoch. You could call that evidence and a fact. No?

      • Kevin Leonard | Nov 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm |

        Not to get in a debate on the validity of the whole of Global Warming hypothoses, but I was curious about the validity of the claim that AGW is a true scientific theory, or not, and found this:

        “Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific theory?”

        • bobbiethejean | Nov 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm |

          I read through it and immediately, within the first few sentences, I spotted a few problems. The problems were piled up by the time I got to the end. I could spend all day explaining why but let me make this simple:

          Testable: Yes.

          Falsifiable: Yes

          Predictive: Yes

          Then it is scientific and I believe it would actually be considered a hypothesis. That doesn’t mean it is perfect or even necessarily correct about its major postulations. But it is definitely scientific. Also, and this is a very important distinction: That is a physics forum. A physicist is not a climate scientist. Physicists know physics. There is a common assumption (which I’m not assuming you’re making, just pointing it out) that all scientists know everything about all sciences. They don’t. This is why you can have a physicist who does not accept evolution or a chemist who does not accept big bang cosmology.

          Also, appeal to authority is not always a fallacy. In this case, pointing to a climate expert as an authority on climate is perfectly acceptable. If it were not, what the hell would be the point of having experts? 😛

          • Kevin Leonard | Nov 7, 2012 at 3:45 pm |

            “Then it is scientific and I believe it would actually be considered a hypothesis. That doesn’t mean it is perfect or even necessarily correct about its major postulations.”

            That is my only point. It is a hypothesis, not a theory. Thank you for agreeing with me. 😛

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

            another thing that jumped out is that the poster apparently has never heard of non-equilibrium thermodynamics or fluid dynamics.

          • bobbiethejean | Nov 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm |

            Excellent point. I’m curious, what do you do for a living?

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 8, 2012 at 6:58 am |

            Most of my remuneration for services rendered comes from being a neuro-psych DNP in a hospitalist group & a few other case management arrangements.
            I ply my trade in other capacities at a research level as well, though these I guide primarily for my own interest & development.

            Though of course Mr. Wiltshire thinks I works for teh government.

          • “More importantly, thermodynamics is of limited utility in modeling the climate, for thermodynamics describes nature only at thermodynamic equilibrium ”


          • Calypso_1 | Nov 7, 2012 at 9:13 pm |

            Oh you caught that too? ; )

    • You mean like the theory that all terrorists are Muslims?

    • David Howe | Nov 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm |

      you need a remedial education. i assume your problem has something to do with ayn rand.

  2. These discussions won’t get anywhere unless the discussion includes geo engineering, especially the covert stuff thats been going on with HAARP and also chemtrails.

    • Well I think you can make a lot of headway just dealing with the main assumptions of the IPCC and how they all are based on shaky premises and manufactured/manipulated data points. I do agree that Geoengineering is definitely effecting climate and is conveniently ignored by all of the environment “loving” alarmist out there. The irony is they are being sprayed like roaches and will lovingly inhale their own demise if it conforms with their religious beliefs about preventing gasp! a 1 ˚ temperature increase in a century which conforms to paleoclimate norms easily.

      • Well if HAARP is being used to melt actic sea ice then anthropocentric climate change is areality. Nothing there to deny. Ironic, eh? Of course, chemtrials are probably designed to cool, so then there is anthropocentric global cooling going on too.

        Then there is nature, then there is pollution.

        So its really complicated.

      • Most scientists predict a greater than 1˚ change in the next century. But I’m wondering if there’s any degree of change you’d neither mock as unrealistically high or mock as acceptably low.

        • Ok, fact check time. How many is “Most” where do you derive this figure from and what temperature increase do they predict? Please provide a source and more food for thought. Is it based on a computer simulation? How have computer models held up against actual climate trends in the last decade?

          • You know, that’s just my impression from the various articles I’ve read. For the past few years I’ve heard figures ranging from 3˚ to 6˚ and nothing lower than that for a while. Thanks for challenging me on that in a respectful way–I have more researching to do and I’ll reply back here with what I find out.

            Also, from what I’ve read most computer models have been wrong regarding the past couple of years in that the climate has been changing faster than scientists predicted. I’m going to do more research on that one too.

          • I think often times when I’m attacked for questioning modern dogma, in my responding in kind to those original offenders, that this is painting an unfair portrait of my intentions. Given it is usually the same folks who refuse to enter into a real authentic discussion, to be fair or pragmatic and refrain from insults or other discursive methods of sophistry ,so in responding to them in kind, pointing out their tactics and then feeding their own vomit back to them that others presume in the quick glance that this is part of my essential nature.

            Not at all. I commend your willingness to enter into discussion fairly and to support your ideas and opinions with documentation. That is all that I want. The reason being I have complete confidence that people willing to seek without a predetermined objective will see the fallacies underlying the entire quixotic AGW/Climate Change charade.

            I have nothing against you, I just don’t take kindly to people attacking me and then resorting to deplorable and weak tactics to avoid the topic at hand and this may have been misinterpreted in the past as something other than my own self-defense.

          • By the way, did you watch the video?

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 8, 2012 at 11:18 am |

            It’s nice to see you modulating your tone.

            How do you think that those who attempt to interact with you in a reasonable manner should react to your initial escalations into scatological and sexually debased insults?

            Also how is possible to demonstrate fallacies in methodologies that one has not demonstrated are within scope of understanding? Previous attempts, conducted in a mutually civil manner, have as yet yielded no results.

            If anything the ‘debate’ as you have framed it is not about the science but about how the science can be presented to the public in terms that result in understanding.

            Discussing propaganda wars is a different topic entirely and very interesting in its own right.

            Would it not be more useful, instead of presuming that a debate can be had on topics that require at the least broad knowledge in the sciences and more extensive understanding requiring highly specialized skills, to discuss and acquire the fundamentals of the requisite knowledge base?

    • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | Nov 7, 2012 at 5:48 am |

      I love a good conspiracy theory, but the evil Doctor with a ray gun pointed at Earth? That’s one of the least believable aspects of the Austin Powers movie. Evil is, I think, much more pedestrian than that. Usually people that do evil shit are just protecting their privilege in some banal way. Oftentimes it’s also gruesome, but rarely is it as weird as what you suggest. That said, I could be wrong. I’ll probably believe whatever position has the most supporting evidence and seems plausible.

      • Right, the most plausible theory being that HAARP doesn’t do anything and that people at DARPA don’t make weapons, because….the alternative makes you too uncomfortable?

      • Kevin Leonard | Nov 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

        Weather modification and militarization is a stated goal of the Air Force. I’m not sure where the conspiracy is.

        Given that the military has repeatedly relayed information to the public only after classified projects have been in development and use for years, it is no stretch of the imagination that they could be much farther advanced than they let on.

  3. Hadrian999 | Nov 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm |

    gotta love how vast numbers of americans have no fucking clue what a scientific theory really is

    • Calypso_1 | Nov 7, 2012 at 9:06 am |

      Good thing we start teaching it in the 3rd & 4th grade.

      • Amazingly, that is when they start teaching Scientific Method. For all the good it seems to do…

        • Calypso_1 | Nov 7, 2012 at 11:21 am |

          Questions aside, pertaining to thoughtful changes for America’s education system, it does beg the question regarding the possibilities of mental growth in the general cultural environment.

    • Kevin Leonard | Nov 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm |

      “Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific theory?

    • jimbo jones | Nov 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

      What’s even more amazing is how many people can’t distinguish theory from fact.

      If you drop an apple, it will fall <- fact, nobody's complaining.

      Humanity is melting the icebergs, flooding New York, and killing polar bears <- theory, somewhat far-fetched, people (including "scientists" and academics, for that matter) are complaining.

      For a really fun trichotomy, it may be worthwhile to consider scientific fact, scientific theory, and science fiction…

      • Hadrian999 | Nov 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm |

        theory is a somewhat imprecise word. people jumble scientific theories such as the theory of gravity or theory of relativity with mundane theories which are little more than suspicion. perhaps a new word is in order.

        • Liam_McGonagle | Nov 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

          Yes. We would be better served by respecting the technical definitions of the terms:

          1. Hypothesis–explanation of the relationship between phenomena which has NOT satisfied reasonably rigorous testing

          2. Theory–explanation of the relationship between phenomena that HAS satisfied reasonably rigorous testing

          Of course the deniers can say, “Let’s hold off until we have 10,000 years of of weather bureau reports before we make any decisions”. But then again, I can laugh at them.

  4. this shouldn’t be a problem.

  5. Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | Nov 7, 2012 at 7:18 am |

    It’s so funny. He made a lot sense for more than an hour. Speaking eloquently with purpose on an important issue, he truly confronted and refuted so many climate change denialists.

    And then, in the last minute, he describes the solution. We put the CO2 underground. Talk about denial.

    • emperorreagan | Nov 7, 2012 at 9:41 am |

      That’s generally my problem with climate change. Not the science – I don’t have an issue with that.

      It’s that the solutions all seem to be fantasy. Cap and trade, carbon sequestration, whatever. Technology & the free market will save us, we don’t have to consider population or consumption issues that don’t have easy solutions.

      • Liam_McGonagle | Nov 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm |

        Well, the culture won’t be ready to accept the severity of the measures required until a couple of thousand years after Homo Sapiens are extinct. So I guess the question is whether AGW advocates want an inadequate pragmatic solution that the public will ignore or a radically effective solution that the public will ignore.

        • Begs the question, can you prove that CO2 is driving climate change? If so how do you reach such assurance? If you just repeat something like “the majority of climate scientists tell me so” this does not satisfactorily answer the question being begged. Please don’t present its supposed reality as an a priori fact when it is in actually heavily debated. If you can in your own words document why you think this is, please by all means do so.

        • emperorreagan | Nov 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm |

          I think pragmatic solutions are frequently not worth the trouble and half measures may be worse than doing nothing by either compounding the problem or creating new problems.

          For instance, you can throw cops at urban crime without ever addressing poverty or the drug trade as a pragmatic solution to placate wealthy white residents, but you end up with overcrowding jails, police departments welding undue influence in mayor’s offices, incentive to falsify crime data, frequent problems with police misconduct, etc.

  6. Soo i try to sit out of the whole climate debate. But I have 2 serious questions about it:

    1) So the issue of course, is that CO2 is increasing dramatically due to human industry etc. But it is not also important to consider the decrease in the rate of consumption of CO2, say, from large amounts of deforestation worldwide?

    2) So, a funny thing about Ice, is that unlike other materials, it has this interesting property where it expands when frozen rather than contracting like other materials. In this sense, any underwater components of glaciers melting will lower, not raise sea levels(unless of course the dissolved components of the ice somehow reverse one of water’s most interesting properties). Do they consider this when they attempt to calculate sea level rise? whats the ratio of ice that will melt above water, and below water?

  7. People are terribly addicted to getting away from the natural and embracing the artificial. Science has its place, and science can back up old-time wisdom. Farmers for centuries have known that if you deplete the soil, you will fail to have continued yields. This doesn’t just apply to domesticated plants, but to all plants. If you destroy vegetation, there will be more carbon, which traps heat and raises our planetary temperature. We can solve climate issues, by continuing our efforts to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and more importantly, by restoring the ratio of vegetation to animal on our planet. We need to plant more plants that effectively scrub the air, such as hemp, which produces 10 times the oxygen per acre as old-growth forests. The political issues are a horrible stumbling block, especially when one considers the resistance to change inherent in the human condition, but more importantly, it boils down to money. If we are ever to effect real climate change, we need the political climate to change, so that industries that can prosper through green technology can blossom and grow, rather than be stomped out by incumbent technologies that only continue to pollute our environment. Regardless of whether the science of climate change is correct, we must ask ourselves, “Do I really want to be surrounded by pollution everywhere?”

    • In my view one of the problems is that many of this generation of conservatives view destructive modern technologies as traditional and part of their birthright because they grew up with them, rather than the truly traditional technologies you mention farmers knowing for centuries. In a sense, contemporary conservatives are addicted to the mistakes of the progressives of the past.

      • I agree. Unfortunately, the problem less in the marketing. A philosophical movement to embrace progress with little regard to long term impact dawned in tandem with the birth of the industrial revolution. This is the problem that truly needs to be addressed. The birth of the nuclear age helped put the environment in the public limelight more so than most historical events, but in the slumber of the comfort of a wealth that was doomed to be temporary from its inception, America failed to wake up and set the right example when the world still respected it. Now, we suffer the results of nearly two centuries of poor decision-making driven by rampant free capitalism. How quick we forget what e should have learned when Greece and Rome fell. If profit can come from politics, then that political system and all it governs and befriends are surely doomed to fail.

  8. Allen Trelgroths | Nov 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm |

    I was always under the impression (since I was just a child) that the US government has the REAL solutions to solve both the climate issue and the global energy issue. However, these solutions are all locked up in clandestine black projects and would never be used to benefit humanity. Is this just too hard for people to believe, or am I missing something? Its not a “conspiracy theory” either, as some of you might say. My father was shown a device in the military, while on an aircraft carrier, that converted small amounts of radioactivity directly into electricity which was used to power incandescent light bulbs right in front of him. He told me, before he died, not to ever believe in the great energy scam being perpetrated against the people of this planet. We are all suckers, but I choose to be one of those suckers who knows he’s being played. I hope more will wake up as time goes on.

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