Deciding science by voting – updated

One of the troubling aspects of climate alarmism is its repeated appeals to authority. Rather odd for a bunch left-wingers trying to overthrow the status quo and the established order.

The most obvious manifestation of this tactics to go on about how there is a consensus of scientists, the science is settled or the debate is over.

These repeated and unimaginative appeals to authority are either to champion the existing scientific views about global warming or to suggest that previous scientific predictions of global cooling in the 1960s and 1970s were only a minority view.

Again, an appeal to authority is an odd communication strategy for the climate alarmists. Their movement is made up more of young people because of the overweening conceit  of youth. Many of their recruits are young people.The debate over the causes of global warming and its likelihood must be repeated over and over again, if only to introduce and socialise their new recruits to the arguments and counterarguments.

One of the reasons I changed my mind on the economics and politics of climate science  is these repeated appeals to authority  and general bully boy tactics made me suspicious of the underlying merits  of the arguments canvassed.

The only profession I know of which actually does take a vote on what is the truth in a scientific sense is psychiatrists. Their American annual conference has a vote on what to put out their professional diagnostic manual. This science by voting never went well with various psychiatric disorders voted in and out of their professional diagnostic manual on the basis of politics, cultural bias and the medicalisation of human distress.

John Stuart Mill emphasise the value of even completely false arguments in keeping us on our toes. His scenarios involves both parties of opinion, majority and minority, having a portion of the truth but not the whole of it. He regards this as the most common of the three scenarios, and his argument here is very simple. To enlarge its grasp of the truth the majority must encourage the minority to express its partially truthful view.

J.S. Mill pointed out that critics who are totally wrong still add value because they keep you on your toes and sharpened both your argument and the communication of your message.

If the righteous majority silences or ignores its opponents, it will never have to defend its belief and over time will forget the arguments for it. As well as losing its grasp of the arguments for its belief, J.S. Mill adds that the majority will in due course even lose a sense of the real meaning and substance of its belief. What earlier may have been a vital belief will be reduced in time to a series of phrases retained by rote. The belief will be held as a dead dogma rather than as a living truth.

Three scenarios – the majority is wrong, partly wrong, or totally right – exhaust for Mill the possible permutations on the distribution of truth, and he holds that in each case the search for truth is best served by allowing free discussion.

Mill thinks history repeatedly demonstrates this process at work where silencing  falsehood led to dogmas rather than living truth. He offered Christianity as an illustrative example. By suppressing opposition to it over the centuries Christians ironically weakened rather than strengthened Christian belief. Mill thinks this explains the decline of Christianity in the modern world.  Christians forgot why they were Christians and  in the Reformation could not successfully rebut who came up with valid criticisms of their existing profession of faith.

Going on about how climate science is settled and the debate is over is bad tactics for the climate alarmists. Attempts to close the debate this way provokes suspicion among those who expect some attempt to persuade them rather than to instruct them from on high. Presumptuousness is never a good persuasion tactic nor is dismissiveness.

A salesman trying to sell a product would never use any of the persuasion tactics or selling tactics of the climate alarmists. They would quickly go out of business if they did.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. nottrampis
    Feb 13, 2015 @ 11:43:06

    you reblog rubbish from Watts up with that which does exactly everything you claim to be against!

    Only today I showed up the claim most scientists believed the climate was cooling in the 1970s was false.
    About time you attempted to find out the data and fascts!

    Like

    Reply

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