Monday, 30 December 2013

What do you know?

Different people have different reasons for being skeptical about climate change and AGW. This is a given. For some people, in particular, those so-called 'thought leaders' in the broader movement of 'counter-alarmism', the reasons can be cast as motivations - in other words, there is a (perceived or real) personal benefit to be won from taking this type of position. 

For others, these reasons are political, polemical or personal - the choice of skepticism is a derived one, in that this kind of skeptic believes that accepting AGW is necessary because some other personal motivator, which takes precedence in the mind of that person, seems to demand some form of denial.

Then there are what we can call the 'authentic/genuine skeptics'; 'ordinary' people (from any background, like me and you) who are reluctant to 'believe' or unwilling to accept as 'knowledge' the substantial body of material which otherwise constitutes the evidence for AGW and the subsequent sense of responsibility  which such 'knowledge' implies.

I won't talk to the first kind of skeptic here, because their skepticism is not necessarily about the credibility of climate science, but instead has to do with their sense of themselves, their interests, and their personal integrity. Such discussions are perhaps better conducted in private, one to one. Such people are generally disinclined to examine these things in public, for obvious reasons, but I for one would be happy to reopen dialogue with any of the people with whom I formerly had some (limited) private dialogue (via email); MacIntyre, Spenser, Pielke Sr., Curry, Tol, etc. 

I want to understand why you feel that you are doing good by overtly allowing your reputation and (often authentic) skepticism of the 'orthodoxy' of climate science, to be hijacked by others whose motivations have nothing to do with the good of anyone, and whose pleasure is to despoil, damage, destroy and disinform. You cannot deny that this happens, so I want to understand what motivates you to permit this, and what personal responsibility you are willing to take upon yourself for the abuse of your science and name. Please feel free to email me. Note; there is no accusation or blame being placed here, and no judgment implied; I always presume that you are, like me, someone who wants to do good and make a positive difference to the well-being of mankind and/or the planet.

As for the second kind of skeptic, (for some reason, Matt Ridley comes to mind), there isn't a lot to be gained because the subject matter is not really AGW or climate science, but those other, precedent personal convictions. I think there is ground to be made discussing the nature of the requirement to be skeptical as a consequence of your pre-existing beliefs, but this is a complex and, again, probably a personal matter. Not expecting any kind of response or attention, you, too, are welcome to email me and put me in my place.

The 'ordinary' people; people like us. Not convinced that AGW is that certain a diagnosis. Not convinced that climate science, or computer models, have enough predictive capability to guide action or policy choices. Not convinced that climate scientists (or any scientists) are a reliable authority to act as a basis for belief in AGW. If this is you, and you have cut away the various coincidental political, religious or cosmological grounds for doubt, what you are probably genuinely uncertain of is the knowledge-status of climate science. 

Please continue to be skeptical. Challenge and question your own understanding and 'knowledge'. Seek your own conviction. But in all cases, please keep your conclusions 'open', your minds clear. Use your own reasoning and thought skills to look with care at what is presented to you as 'evidence'. Ask yourself, constantly, what it might mean for you to understand that your original opinion might have been 'wrong'. Weigh, as impartially as you can, the balance of information, authority, probability, credibility that you have uncovered. And use your judgment.

If I get round to it, I'll post another time about knowledge, doubt and evidence, in the hope that it might help you cut the wheat from the chaff and help you understand better what you are evaluating.

A short maxim for the Genuine Skeptic: If in doubt, find out.