Between Scientists & Citizens

Posts Tagged ‘arguments

Making arguments expensive

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Back in the golden age of the climate controversy–say, about 18 months ago–there was a time when everybody was challenging everybody else to debate. I suppose you couldn’t click more than a few links before tripping over a gauntlet.

What does a formal debate offer that the ordinary disorderly flow of arguing in the blogosphere doesn’t?  To pick up on a theme from my last post:  a formal debate allows the participants to control  what they are taking responsibility for–and to force others to take responsibility, too.  Roger Pielke, Jr. is a masterful debater, and his recent challenge to critics of “climate pragmatism” shows this strategy at its finest.

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Written by jeangoodwin

August 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Debate in the blogosphere: A small case study

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Steve Patterson over at RAIL recently wrote a typically fine piece on How Comments are Killing the Commons.   Coming at the subject as a student of public discourse, I find myself a little more tolerant of the blogosphere’s “partisan clowning” etc.  I’m more curious about specific communication strategies we can adopt to make comment threads work.  Steve McIntrye of Climate Audit recently referenced an essay by myself & Michael Dahlstrom, and my participation in the comment threads gave me an opportunity to observe close up several helpful and unhelpful strategies at work.  Here are three things I learned about blogospheric debate, especially in contrast to communication in more face-to-face settings.

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Written by jeangoodwin

July 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Morano Analysis #9: Lessons learned

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All right!  If there are any readers who have followed along this far, maybe it’s now time to draw some dividends from all the work of closely analysis?  Going back over all the posts on the Maslin v. Morano exchange, here are some tips & tricks, in case you end up facing off against an advocate like Marc Morano.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 24, 2010 at 8:03 am

Morano analysis #8: repeating oneself all over again

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Let’s return one last time to the Morano v. Maslin debate.  I’ve been saying some favorable things about Marc Morano’s skill as an advocate.  But what about the fact that he–and in fact this whole debate–is boring?  Haven’t we heard all these arguments before, over and over again?  Yes–and it’s a good thing, too.
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Written by jeangoodwin

March 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

Morano Analysis #7: Scientific consensus

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This mini-debate between  Maslin and Morano first caught my attention because of Morano’s “accusation” that Maslin was using an “appeal to authority,” and Maslin’s assertion of something like a scientific consensus in reply. Claims that the IPCC represents an authoritative “consensus” have been prominent in representations of the IPCC’s reports since the very beginning, and in one of my current projects I’m trying to figure out how consensus claims  work (or don’t).  The example here, though small, is worth examining closely.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Morano Analysis #6: The appeal to authority, by the numbers

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I have to feel sorry for Maslin. Once he’s accepted AGW as the central issue in this debate, he’s taken responsibility for presenting evidence of a centuries-long, world-wide, multi-system process. And he’s got about 60 seconds to get the job done. As we’ve seen, he can invite his audience to “look at” the evidence or he can remind them of some vivid event that they’ve already experienced. But the former isn’t going to help him meet his burden of proof now, and the latter is misleading and thus easy for Morano to knock down. The appeal to authority is a third option; can Maslin pull it off?

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

Morano Analysis #5: The adverse witness

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As a second way in to assessing the arguments in this debate, let’s examine how the two debaters deal with one bit of testimonial evidence they actually share.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

“framing” the debate, yet again

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So, here’s another example of the logos/pathos (or statistics/example, or abstract/concrete) problem for climate change communication I was talking about yesterday.  A communication consultant advises:

A better setting for talking about climate science is a real time impact of climate change, be it a record heat wave or record heavy rains followed by heavy flooding. There is no denying what your eyes can see. Last fall’s record setting flood in Atlanta was a textbook example of the kind of impact that should be highlighted. Only months earlier, NOAA had released a consensus science report documenting the trend of increased heavy precipitation during the fall months in the southeastern United States. NOAA identified climate change as driving the trend and predicted more of the same for the future.

Some have argued that focusing on current weather can be tricky. However, advocates were forced to do just that when opponents focused on the recent snowstorms as “proof” that global warming was oversold. Advocates were successful in pushing back on climate change deniers in that instance, and the same effort should be applied to upcoming heat waves, droughts and flooding, events that fit the pattern of increasing extreme events that scientists have clearly documented and predicted will only increase as the impacts of climate change intensify.

via Reframing the debate on climate science « Climate Progress.

Which is it?  Is an extreme weather event supposed to be presented as an “impact” caused by climate change? Or does it just “fit the pattern” (i.e., is consistent with) what scientists have predicted?

I’m not sure what the “success” advocates achieved explaining the recent cold weather.  Was it success in arguing that any particular weather event we experience gives us no basis for inferring the general state of the climate?  If so, that’s a success that AGW-skeptics will also achieve, if advocates keep insisting that a hot summer demonstrates global warming.

Written by jeangoodwin

March 12, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Posted in stray remarks

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Morano Analysis #4: Bringing the arguments home

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I’ve been looking at the verbal work that’s occurring in this small transaction–the work of construing the relationship between the speakers as a relationship of a certain type (for Maslin, attacker/victim), the work of framing the topic they will mutually address (anthropogenic global warming, AGW).  All this work is supposed to be aimed at allowing the two men to debate–that is, it’s supposed to make room for them to exchange arguments.  Now that’s they’ve gotten their debate well underway, can Maslin the scientist use his expertise to craft arguments that will stand up to Morano’s expected attacks?  No.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 11, 2010 at 11:12 pm

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