It is an argument after all. It’s not a debate, at least not a reasoned one nor a sensible one.
I’ve recently found that the best strategy is to turn the heads on the so-called “sceptics” and rather than defend the strong scientific body of evidence (as if it needs such defense after all), simply question the sceptics themselves.
Steven Lewandowsky makes the point, “Tellingly, so-called climate “sceptics” refuse to participate in scientific debates: by and large, they do not contribute to the peer-reviewed literature and they do not present their views at scientific conferences…”
It doesn’t mean that their views are beyond question, however, and by demanding evidence to their claims, you stop the gallop.
For example, rather than defend the scientists caught up in the thoroughly discredited “climategate” affair, demand that the self-proclaimed sceptics provide the damaging evidence that has been overlooked by the numerous investigations. If they state that the investigations were a whitewash, then they still must back this up with evidence – which simply does not include climategate books or blog posts but a thoroughly audited review of the investigations.
Likewise the varying claims from, “it’s not happening,” to, “it’s natural climate change,” – too often we rush to explain why the science doesn’t support this rather than take the appropriate scientific approach; ask for the evidence to these claim and the analysis which undermines the consensual standing within the scientific community.
After all, these self-proclaimed sceptics in fact do have various, indeed copious, hypotheses; the obligation is on them to not only test these hypotheses, but to then present their findings in a like fashion to that of genuine scientists within the peer-reviewed literature. Without this, theirs is nothing more than a bluff. As Chris Monckton demonstrates, it can be on first glance a convincing bluff, but it remains a bluff nonetheless.
Without this expectation to include their work within the confines of scientific methodology, we in fact unfairly promote their conclusions to the same status as those thoroughly tested and scrutinised by the scientific community; just as it inflated Chris Monckton’s status beyond all reason by respected scientists subjection themselves to his Gish gallop.
While the Jo Nova’s of the world might plead ignorant to evidence to support their bogus claims of genuine scepticism (it is after all, up to them what they choose to know and how much they’re willing to learn and understand, not ours to educate) it is entirely different when they start proposing their own hypotheses.
At the end of the day, we’ve waste a lot of energy on engaging with such people in what can only be described as a screamfest, when we should have; presented the evidence how it stands; engaged with those who really do want to learn more; ignored those demand you to convince them; and, asked for those with alternate hypotheses to address them in like fashion to that of any working scientist. Not only has it been a waste of effort, it has unfairly promoted their noise and saturated an otherwise lukewarm audience now saturated on a very serious matter. We’ve simply handed them the ‘win’ on a silver plate. Not a win based on evidence, of course, but one that is very much in the realms of public discussion and political at best and it remains valid in the the eyes of the general public.
On that, it is great to hear Malcolm Turnbull – probably one of only a few prominent figures in the Liberal party firing on all cylinders (I was disgusted when Abbott took his place) – has finally stood up for his previous views regarding climate change and for the scientific evidence itself. See the following;
“It is an intensely moral issue…”
“Do not fall into the trap of abandoning the science.”