By popular demand, I pulled together the Dilbert comics that mention blockchain, Bitcoin, or cryptocurrency. You can find these or any other Dilbert comic by keyword searches on the main Dilbert.com page.
And if any of the situations in this collection look familiar, you might want to check out my startup’s ICO that is live now.
When I see an obvious case of cognitive dissonance in the news, I like to point it out so you can see reality through what I call the Persuasion Filter. Today’s example comes from an article in SLATE about climate change.
The author, Tim Requarth, correctly points out that facts and logic have limited value in changing anyone’s mind about climate science, or anything else. He speaks from experience because he teaches workshops on how to better communicate science. I like this guy. He’s on the right path.
But the thing that got my attention was this bit from the article:
“Kahan found that increased scientific literacy actually had a small negative effect: The conservative-leaning respondents who knew the most about science thought climate change posed the least risk. Scientific literacy, it seemed, increased polarization. In a later study, Kahan added a twist: He asked respondents what climate scientists believed. Respondents who knew more about science generally, regardless of political leaning, were better able to identify the scientific consensus—in other words, the polarization disappeared. Yet, when the same people were asked for their own opinions about climate change, the polarization returned. It showed that even when people understand the scientific consensus, they may not accept it.”
Notice how the author slips in his unsupported interpretation of the data: Greater knowledge about science causes more polarization.
Well, maybe. That’s a reasonable hypothesis, but it seems incomplete. Here’s another hypothesis that fits the same observed data: The people who know the most about science don’t think complex climate prediction models are credible science, and they are right.
For my purposes today, we don’t need to know which hypothesis is correct. Maybe knowledge does nothing but make you more confident that your “side” is right. But maybe the people with the most knowledge on the topic of science are – wait for it – good at judging the validity of science in any particular area.
Keep in mind that the entire public argument in favor of climate change alarmism is that the people who know the most (climate scientists) are largely on the same page. But that conflicts with the idea that the conservative-leaning citizens who know the most about science don’t find their ideas entirely credible – at least in terms of the prediction models.
And what would historians say about this situation? I think they would say that the people who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. (Because that’s what they always say.) In my opinion, the conservatives who know the most about science are looking at it from an historical perspective, and they see a pattern here: Complicated prediction models rarely work.
That’s how I see it.
In order to change my mind on climate science, you would need to show me that in this one special case, history is not repeating. You’d have to show me that this one time in history is when complicated prediction models got it right. And I’m not sure that argument can be made, even if true.
I would like to add one more hypothesis to the SLATE article. Let’s consider the possibility that the only reason any non-scientist believes climate change is a danger to civilization is because of fear persuasion, not because of facts or logic, and not because of a citizen-level understanding of science. If you fear the world will become uninhabitable in your lifetime, you’re more likely to embrace the experts who say they know what is wrong and they know how to stop it.
Climate scientists probably believe they have convinced about half of the public to their side using their graphs and logic and facts. That’s not the case. They convinced half the public by using fear persuasion disguised as facts and logic. And it probably worked best with the people who have the least knowledge of how often complicated prediction models have failed in the past.
For the purpose of this blog post, you don’t need to know who is right and who is wrong about climate science. My point today is that cognitive dissonance is preventing scientists from seeing what is actually happening here with their messaging. Scientists believe their facts and logic convinced all the smart people to their side already, so now they need a new strategy for the dumb ones. A different version of reality, as seen through the Persuasion Filter, is that citizens who don’t understand history are doomed to believe whatever the experts tell them. Half the country has been persuaded to climate alarmism by fear, not an understanding of the issue. At the same time, those who know the most about both history and science realize that complex climate models are generally not credible, so they are not persuaded by fear.
I remind new readers of this blog that I’m not a climate science denier. The consensus of climate scientists might be totally right, but I have no practical way to know. My point here, and in past posts, is that you can’t sell a truth by packaging it to look exactly like a huge lie. And those complicated climate prediction models look exactly like lies we have seen before, albeit in unrelated fields.
Note: If you came here from Twitter, I use “kittens” as my code for climate science to thwart Twitter’s shadowban on my tweets.
You probably know that actor Leonardo DiCaprio is a climate activist, and he is trying to persuade the world that climate change is both real and serious. Someone asked me on Twitter what it would take for DiCaprio (for example) to persuade a person like me.
I’ll take a swing at that.
For starters, you must separate the questions of real and serious. The real part refers to the climate models. The serious part refers to economic models. Those are different topics.
If you want to convince me that climate change is real, the best approach is to abandon the current method that packages climate models in a fashion that is identical to well-known scams. (Or hoaxes, if you prefer.)
Let me say this doubly-clear. When I say climate models are packaged in a fashion that is identical to known scams, I am not saying they are scams. I’m saying they are packaged to look exactly like scams. There is no hope for credibility with that communication plan.
To make my point visual, imagine walking into your kitchen and finding an intruder wearing a ski mask and holding a gun. You assume this person is not your friendly neighbor because he is packaged exactly like an armed burglar. If you shoot that intruder, and it turns out to be your neighbor playing a prank, you probably won’t go to jail because it isn’t your fault. The problem was that your neighbor packaged himself to look exactly like an armed burglar.
Climate scientists tell us that there are hundreds of climate models, all somewhat different. I assume that most of them do a good job predicting the past (hindcasting) because otherwise they would not be models at all. Hindcasting is one minimum requirement for being a model in this field, I would assume.
Then science ignores the models that are too far off from observed temperatures as we proceed into the future and check the predictions against reality. Sometimes scientists also “tune” the models to hindcast better, meaning tweaking assumptions. As a non-scientists, I can’t judge whether or not the tuning and tweaking are valid from a scientific perspective. But I can judge that this pattern is identical to known scams. I described the known scams in this post.
And to my skeptical mind, it sounds fishy that there are dozens or more different climate models that are getting tuned to match observations. That doesn’t sound credible, even if it is logically and scientifically sound. I am not qualified to judge the logic or science. But I am left wondering why it has to sound exactly like a hoax if it isn’t one. Was there not a credible-sounding way to make the case?
Personally, I would find it compelling if science settled on one climate model (not dozens) and reported that it was accurate (enough), based on temperature observations, for the next five years. If they pull that off, they have my attention. But they will never convince me with multiple models. That just isn’t possible.
If climate scientists want their climate predictions to be believed, they need to vote on the best model, and stick with it for a few years. If they can’t do that, all I will see is lots of blind squirrels in a field of nuts. Some squirrels will accidentally find some nuts. But it won’t look like science to me because of the way it is packaged.
I do realize that picking one model as the “best” is not something science can do with comfort. It would feel dishonest, I assume, since they don’t know which one will perform best. But if science wants to be persuasive, they need to pick one model. And it needs to be accurate(ish) for the next five years. Nothing else would be persuasive to me.
On the second point, about how serious the alleged problem of climate change is, we have to rely not on scientists but on economists. And economists have zero credibility for long-term forecasts of that type. So the serious part is beyond the reach of persuasion. You can’t get there from here because economic models are no more credible than astrology.
By the way, my educational background is in economics and business. And for years, my corporate jobs involved making complex financial projections about budgets. In other words, I was perpetuating financial fraud within the company, by order of my boss. He told me to pretend my financial projections were real, and I did. But they were not real. My predictions were in line with whatever my boss told me they would be. I “tuned” my assumptions until I got my boss’s answer.
When I tell you it would be hard to convince me that a stranger’s economic model is credible, keep my experience in mind. I’ve seen lots of economic models. I’ve built economic models. In my experience, they are nothing but guesses, bias, and outright fraud.
The only way to convince me that climate change is bad for the economy is to wait until it starts breaking things. If I see it, and scientists agree I am seeing it, I might believe it. But long-term economic predictions can’t get me there.
I remind you that my topic is about persuasion, not the underlying truth of climate change. I don’t have access to the underlying truth because I am not a scientist working in the field. My information comes from strangers that tell me their interpretation of what the scientists are saying. I am as far from science as you can get.
The people who are hallucinating the hardest on this topic are the non-scientists who believe they have done a deep dive into the scientific papers and the climate models and arrived at a rational conclusion. The illusion here is that getting information from other humans is the same as “science.”
Another group of hallucinators believe that they can determine the scientific truth of climate change by counting the number of scientists on each side. But that ignores the fact that science often has the majority on the wrong side. That happens every time a new idea is starting to replace an old one. Darwin did not agree with the consensus when he introduced evolution. Einstein’s ideas were slow to catch on, etc.
When the majority of scientists are on one side, what matters most is the flow rate from one side to the other, not the raw numbers. I need to know which direction the scientists are moving. Are more climate scientists moving toward climate skepticism or away from it? Give me that data and I’ll have something useful. But counting the number on each side during one slice of time is meaningless for persuasion.
My point is that Leonardo DiCaprio would have a tough time persuading me that climate science is both real and serious. But it isn’t his fault, because science has packaged climate science to look like a hoax, and sent him out to sell it. I respect and admire DiCaprio for his heart on this matter, and his effort on behalf of the planet. But science has failed him by giving him hoax-looking sales collateral.
You might love my book because of reasons and other good things.
I mentioned on social media a few times that I am using public persuasion to split the climate science debate into two parts. One part is the basic science, which appears credible. The other part is the climate models that are less credible. Watch for the climate science debate to start making that distinction more often. Historically, both sides have tended to conflate the credibility of all of the parts. That never made sense.
This will get more fun when I introduce my new persuasion anchor. It seems to me that the actual damage from climate change is predicted not by climate models but by … economic models.
How accurate have economic models been in the past? For anything?
Now ask yourself how often you have seen that distinction – climate models versus economic models – called out.
Recently, one of my millions of critics left a message on social media about my writings on the topic of climate science. I pasted the critic’s comment below, as well as a response from a third party who explains to her that she is watching the wrong movie.
I present the exchange here as an example of how two people can look at the same screen and see completely different movies.
Your first reaction might be along the lines of thinking my critic is nuts, or has low reading comprehension. But neither is likely to be the case. The critic is (I assume) totally normal. This sort of hallucination happens to all of us on a regular basis. But we can only see it clearly when it happens to others.
Don’t be smug that you can clearly see how deluded the critic is. The point is not about this one person. The point is that sometimes this one person is you. And me. No one is exempt. It’s just easier to see the phenomenon in others.
Here is the exchange.
“First of all, anyone who writes an article on climate science that starts it with “I don’t know much about science and even less about climate science” should not be taken seriously.
But then it is very much in vogue these days to flaunt your ignorance while railing against anyone who takes facts, science, and education seriously. They are just a bunch of elitists. His flippant, thinly reasoned but cutesy questions is one way to flaunt it I guess. But that does not a scientist make. He is the trump of scientists to use your analogy.”
Response from Chris Fusco:
“His article is about persuasion, not climate science. His blog is all about the science of persuasion and observations of persuasive technique.
“He is the trump of scientists to use your analogy.” He’s not a scientist, and doesn’t say he is. He says at the start “I don’t know much about science, and even less about climate science.” He clearly states “As a public service, and to save the planet, obviously, I will tell you what it would take to convince skeptics that climate science is a problem that we must fix.”
He says “climate scientists are the Hillary Clinton of scientists. They think facts and reason will persuade the public. Even though science knows that doesn’t generally work.” The science of persuasion demonstrates that people are most persuaded not by facts, but by emotions. He has argued in the past based on the science of persuasion that Trump didn’t win because of his command of facts or reason, but rather because of his ability to appeal to emotion to persuade people to vote for him while Hillary mainly tried to appeal to people using facts and reason.
The substance of your comment supports the premise. You were persuaded to comment based on emotion, making only emotional arguments, validating the point. You didn’t address his “thinly reasoned” arguments and refute them on their merits by disproving them using the “facts, science and education” you believe he is missing. Instead you said things like “But then it is very much in vogue these days to flaunt your ignorance while railing against anyone who takes facts, science, and education seriously. ” This is a emotionally persuasive straw man argument. The implication is that he is ignorant and rails against anyone who takes facts, science, and education seriously and you don’t. He never made that argument. His arguments were all about persuasion.
Saying “They are just a bunch of elitists. His flippant, thinly reasoned but cutesy questions is one way to flaunt it I guess,” instead of addressing his actual arguments, ironically, is a flippant, elitist emotional argument used for the purpose of persuasion. Berating someone, like shaming, is an emotionally coercive persuasion technique. It says “You are socially unacceptable to a class of people that are better than you.” The implication is “I’m better than you. You’re not good enough.” It tells the audience, “If you don’t agree with me you’re not good enough.” It’s not imbued with any grace, accountability or responsibility though. The accuser makes no actual effort to improve others. At best they’re just blowing off steam. At worst they are being emotionally coercive, which is a form of violence.
If you sincerely take facts, science and education seriously, you use them to inform and educate others, especially those who may have it wrong. You approach every argument as a dialogue – an opportunity to both teach and learn, testing the limits of your own knowledge and experience and measuring that of others. That’s what a scientist does. That’s what Scott did in his article. Hence, the “cutesy” questions. He doesn’t presume to understand or know it all.
Persuasion is not about informing and educating, it’s about influencing someone else to change THEIR behavior to accomplish YOUR goal. This is an important point. The evidence of one’s goal is in the substance of their technique. If you read the article, he uses logic and reasoning to support his arguments and statements. He was not trying to persuade his audience using emotional arguments, he was trying to educate them on persuasion. He wasn’t attacking scientists, science, climate science, or Hillary. He was critiquing, commenting and informing their ability to persuade.”
Do you think this explanation changed the critic’s mind?
I doubt it. The usual response to this situation is to change the topic.
Again, don’t be smug. You would change the topic too if someone shined a light on your cognitive dissonance. That’s just how it works.
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I don’t know much about science, and even less about climate science. So as a practical matter, I like to side with the majority of scientists until they change their collective minds. They might be wrong, but their guess is probably better than mine.
That said, it is mind-boggling to me that the scientific community can’t make a case for climate science that sounds convincing, even to some of the people on their side, such as me. In other words, I think scientists are right (because I play the odds), but I am puzzled by why they can’t put together a convincing argument, whereas the skeptics can, and easily do. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
As a public service, and to save the planet, obviously, I will tell you what it would take to convince skeptics that climate science is a problem that we must fix. Please avoid the following persuasion mistakes.
1. Stop telling me the “models” (plural) are good. If you told me one specific model was good, that might sound convincing. But if climate scientists have multiple models, and they all point in the same general direction, something sounds fishy. If climate science is relatively “settled,” wouldn’t we all use the same models and assumptions?
And why can’t science tell me which one of the different models is the good one, so we can ignore the less-good ones? What’s up with that? If you can’t tell me which model is better than the others, why would I believe anything about them?
2. Stop telling me the climate models are excellent at hindcasting, meaning they work when you look at history. That is also true of financial models, and we know financial models can NOT predict the future. We also know that investment advisors like to show you their pure-luck past performance to scam you into thinking they can do it in the future. To put it bluntly, climate science is using the most well-known scam method (predicting the past) to gain credibility. That doesn’t mean climate models are scams. It only means scientists picked the least credible way to claim credibility. Were there no options for presenting their case in a credible way?
Just to be clear, hindcasting is a necessary check-off for knowing your models are rational and worthy of testing in the future. But it tells you nothing of their ability to predict the future. If scientists were honest about that point, they would be more credible.
3. Tell me what percentage of warming is caused by humans versus natural causes. If humans are 10% of the cause, I am not so worried. If we are 90%, you have my attention. And if you leave out the percentage caused by humans, I have to assume the omission is intentional. And why would you leave out the most important number if you were being straight with people? Sounds fishy.
There might be a good reason why science doesn’t know the percentage of human-made warming and still has a good reason for being alarmed. I just haven’t seen it, and I’ve been looking for it. Why would climate science ignore the only important fact for persuasion?
Today I saw an article saying humans are responsible for MORE than 100% of warming because the earth would otherwise be in a cooling state. No links provided. Credibility = zero.
4. Stop attacking some of the messengers for believing that our reality holds evidence of Intelligent Design. Climate science alarmists need to update their thinking to the “simulated universe” idea that makes a convincing case that we are a trillion times more likely to be a simulation than we are likely to be the first creatures who can create one. No God is required in that theory, and it is entirely compatible with accepted science. (Even if it is wrong.)
5. Skeptics produce charts of the earth’s temperature going up and down for ages before humans were industrialized. If you can’t explain-away that chart, I can’t hear anything else you say. I believe the climate alarmists are talking about the rate of increase, not the actual temperatures. But why do I never see their chart overlayed on the skeptics’ chart so we can see the difference? That seems like the obvious thing to do. In fact, climate alarmists should throw out everything but that one chart.
6. Stop telling me the arctic ice on one pole is decreasing if you are ignoring the increase on the other pole. Or tell me why the experts observing the ice increase are wrong. When you ignore the claim, it feels fishy.
7. When skeptics point out that the Earth has not warmed as predicted, don’t change the subject to sea levels. That sounds fishy.
8. Don’t let the skeptics talk last. The typical arc I see online is that Climate Scientists point out that temperatures are rising, then skeptics produce a chart saying the temperatures are always fluctuating, and have for as far as we can measure. If the real argument is about rate of change, stop telling me about record high temperatures as if they are proof of something.
9. Stop pointing to record warmth in one place when we’re also having record cold in others. How is one relevant and the other is not?
10. Don’t tell me how well your models predict the past. Tell me how many climate models have ever been created, since we started doing this sort of thing, and tell me how many have now been discarded because they didn’t predict correctly. If the answer is “All of the old ones failed and we were totally surprised because they were good at hindcasting,” then why would I trust the new ones?
11. When you claim the oceans have risen dramatically, you need to explain why insurance companies are ignoring this risk and why my local beaches look exactly the same to me. Also, when I Google this question, why are half of the top search results debunking the rise? How can I tell who is right? They all sound credible to me.
12. If you want me to believe warmer temperatures are bad, you need to produce a chart telling me how humankind thrived during various warmer and colder eras. Was warming usually good or usually bad?
You also need to convince me that economic models are accurate. Sure, we might have warming, but you have to run economic models to figure out how that affects things. And economic models are, as you know, usually worthless.
13. Stop conflating the basic science and the measurements with the models. Each has its own credibility. The basic science and even the measurements are credible. The models are less so. If you don’t make that distinction, I see the message as manipulation, not an honest transfer of knowledge.
14. If skeptics make you retreat to Pascal’s Wager as your main argument for aggressively responding the climate change, please understand that you lost the debate. The world is full of risks that might happen. We don’t treat all of them as real. And we can’t rank any of these risks to know how to allocate our capital to the best path. Should we put a trillion dollars into climate remediation or use that money for a missile defense system to better protect us from North Korea?
Anyway, to me it seems brutally wrong to call skeptics on climate science “anti-science” when all they want is for science to make its case in a way that doesn’t look exactly like a financial scam.* Is that asking a lot?
People ask me why I keep writing on this topic. My interest is the psychology around it, and the persuasion game on both sides. And it seems to me that climate scientists are the Hillary Clinton of scientists. They think facts and reason will persuade the public. Even though science knows that doesn’t generally work.
* Or a Chinese hoax. They look similar.
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I will bet anyone $1 million dollars that I can come up with a climate forecast model that ignores C02 and still predicts the temperature 30 years from now to within half a degree. Does anyone want to take that bet?
Obviously there is a trick involved, so I won’t accept your bet for ethical reasons. But let’s see if you can figure out how I could win that bet every time.
I am 100% confident I can build a climate prediction model, using my current skill set, that will predict the measured temperature in 30 years to within half a degree.
Furthermore, you can pick whatever measurement type and place you want for the bet. My trick does not depend on doing anything clever with the measurement itself.
I can also build an accurate climate prediction model for any local geography. I can do it for the ocean or the air. And in each case, I have a 100% chance of getting the right answer to within half a degree.
Would you take the bet?
I’ll tell you the trick at the end. If you don’t understand how I plan to do it, you also won’t understand why this headline is hilarious nonsense.
I’ll give you another hint in the form of a thought experiment. What if you got an unsolicited email from a new investment company giving you a hot stock tip. You don’t invest because you have never heard of this company, but a month later, the stock they recommended is way up. Next month, you get another email from the same company, with another stock pick. That too goes up in the coming month. By the third time in a row that this company picks a winning stock, you start to think they must have a secret method. Let’s say the overall market was mixed, so getting three in a row is an achievement. Would you invest with this company?
How did the company get those three stocks right? They used a scam. It’s the same scam I’m playing on you right now with my $1 million bet.
The investment company sent out thousands of emails, and they had different stock recommendations in each. Some of the stocks ended up being winners, some losers. After a month, they see which of the thousands of emails had winning stock recommendations, then they only send their second email to that group. Then they repeat. By the third mailing, they might have reduced their population of “winners” from the original 10,000 recipients to just a dozen who, by chance, got three good stock recommendations in a row.
Now do you see how I could make a climate model that is right every time?
All I need to do is make a hundred different models, each producing output that is half a degree apart, until I have at least one model that fits every possible outcome. My models would look like this:
Model 1: Current Temp + .5 degrees
Model 2: Current Temp + 1 degree
Model 3: Current Temp + 1.5 degrees
And I’d include all the temperatures below the current temperature too, just in case we start to cool off. In 30 years, one of my prediction models will be correct by chance. I’ll throw away all the loser models and collect my $1 million bet.
Now keep all of that in your head and take a second look at this headline. Does this model still look impressive? I’m guessing there were quite a few prediction models in the past, and lots of them now too. One of them will be more accurate than the others in 30 years.
Does that really tell you anything?
My point here is that I don’t care how many climate models are accurate if you don’t tell me how many were wrong. If 99 out of 100 climate scientists create models that are wrong, and one gets it right, would you bet on that winning model to stay right in the future?
If you answered yes, I recommend letting someone else make investment decisions for you.
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Here is the best (and weirdest) example of cognitive dissonance you will ever see. The set-up is that Bill Nye, an engineer by training, and a proponent of science, is defending climate science on Tucker’s show.
The first weird thing is that Bill Nye starts by talking about cognitive dissonance being the only reason that anyone would be skeptical of global warming. But he seems to not understand the concept of cognitive dissonance because he believes only the other side could be experiencing it. The nature of cognitive dissonance is that you don’t know you’re in it when you’re in it. It is only obvious to observers. If Nye had been objective, he would have noted two equal possibilities: Either the skeptics are experiencing cognitive dissonance or the proponents of climate science are experiencing it. But whoever is in it can’t know. It is only obvious to the other side. That’s how it works.
Yes, I do the same thing all the time. I call out my critics for being in cognitive dissonance and act as if the problem couldn’t be on my end. But in my case, the context is usually that I’m teaching you how to spot it. And I also talk about the specific triggers and “tells” so you can check my work. This video has a clear trigger and an enormous tell. Best example you will ever see.
The set-up for the trigger is that Nye’s self-image is that of a rational supporter of science with a command of the facts about climate science. He has made a career recently of defending science, and climate science in particular. Nye’s ego depends on being consistent with his pro-science, rational stance. That’s who he is.
Tucker then asked Nye a simple question about climate science. He asked how much of the warming is caused by human activity. Nye’s entire ego depended on knowing whether human activity is contributing to climate change in a big way, a medium way, or a small way. Tucker wanted some details. How much difference do humans make? After all, Nye had said this was settled science. Tucker just wanted to know what that settled science said.
Nye didn’t know. And by not knowing that simple answer about the percentage of human contribution to warming – the only issue that really mattered to the topic – he proved in public that his opinions on science are not based on facts or knowledge. Nye tried and tried to dodge the question, but Tucker was relentless. That was the trigger. Nye could plainly see, thanks to Tucker’s simple question, that his belief in science was just a belief, because he didn’t actually know the science. When your self-image and ego get annihilated on live television, you can’t simply admit you have been ridiculous all along. Your brain can’t let you do that to yourself. So instead, it concocts weird hallucinations to force-glue your observations into some sort of semi-coherent movie in which you are not totally and thoroughly wrong. That semi-coherent movie will look like a form of insanity to observers.
Look for Nye to go totally mental in the last minute of the clip, changing the topic to political leaks for no apparent reason. That’s your tell. His brain just sort of broke right in front of you.
People do and say dumb things all the time, and it isn’t always cognitive dissonance. That’s why you look for the trigger to make sure the “tell” was what you thought it was.
To be fair, spotting cognitive dissonance is more like bird-watching than science. Sometimes you misidentify a bird. But this example is like an ostrich sitting on your lap. Hard to miss. Enjoy.
Today I declare the climate science “debate” to be mostly an illusion.
You think you live in a world in which there are climate science skeptics on one side of the debate, and climate scientists, plus their believers, on the other side. And you think they are talking about the same thing.
That isn’t what’s happening. It’s mostly an illusion.
I mean this literally. You perceive a debate, but that is mostly a shared hallucination.
Most of you think there are two competing opinions on climate science and the two camps are arguing about the scientific details. There is a some of that happening. But for the most part, the two sides are literally imagining they are debating each other. They are actually talking about related but different things.
As a perfect example, I give you this fresh tweet history from Rex Tillerson and Chelsea Clinton.
If it is not immediately obvious to you that Chelsea and Rex are on different topics – and not in disagreement over one topic – you are experiencing an illusion. I’ll give you a minute to see if you can work your way out of it on your own. Look at the two tweets and see why they are not the same topic.
Okay, that’s enough time. Back to me.
Rex is talking about climate models that predict the future. Chelsea is talking about the scientific method. Those two things are not the same topic. Scientists would not claim that their models are “science.” They are simply tools that scientists built. Rex is talking about tools. Chelsea is talking about the scientific method. You can’t reach agreement if you aren’t even on the same topic.
Chelsea’s tweet exchange is representative of the debate illusion around the country. It goes like this:
Believer: Climate scientists are correct because the scientific method is reliable over time, thanks to peer review. The experts are overwhelmingly on the same side.
Skeptic: The prediction models are not credible because prediction models with that much complexity are rarely correct.
Believer: You troglodyte! You know nothing of science! The scientific method is credible!
See what happened? The believer was discussing science and the skeptic was NOT discussing science. These are different conversations. The prediction models are designed by scientists, but they are not “science” per se, any more than a microscope is “science.” Both are just tools that scientists use.
If you are a climate skeptic, and you want to make your case in the strongest possible way, start by agreeing with all of the “science” of climate science. Make sure you specify that your skepticism is outside the scientific realm, and limited to the prediction models that are not science.
That will explode some heads. (I’ve tested this.)
I should pause here to tell any new readers of this blog that I don’t know the truth about climate science, and I don’t have any way of knowing whether the models are accurate or not. My interest in this debate is to get both sides out of their illusions. The science is not the models, and the models are not science. You can trust the science and still question the prediction models without being a troglodyte.
For the sake of completeness, some skeptics also point to alternative hypotheses for warming, including orbital variations and solar flares. That is a genuine case of science versus science. And at the moment, the scientific community has a strong preference for the Co2 explanation.
Now that I’ve outlined the illusion, watch how often you see it play out. It’s the sort of thing you don’t notice until you are first alerted to it. Now you’ll start to notice how often the Chelseas of the world conflate the science of climate change with the prediction models as if they have similar credibility.
On a related topic, do you know why climate scientists have not succeeded in selling their views to the climate skeptics? Part of the problem is that their communication on this topic ignores everything science has learned about how to change people’s minds. The climate scientists should talk to some cognitive scientists.
To put this in simpler terms, if a climate scientist believes minds can be changed with facts and logic, the scientist is ignoring decades of cognitive science.
Update: Here’s an example of how scientists can use science to communicate about climate science.
You might like WhenHub because the temperature of Earth is influenced by many variables.