Between Scientists & Citizens

Posts Tagged ‘ad hominem

Should climate scientists fly? 2. Argumentative bad faith

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The pro-climate-action community argues that they don’t need to answer the skeptics’ hypocrisy argument because the skeptics are arguing in bad faith. While I agree with the conclusion–don’t feed the trolls!–I think the reasoning is unwise. We should presume good faith–which still leaves plenty of elegant ways to take down hypocrisy accusations.

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Written by jeangoodwin

June 28, 2020 at 5:30 pm

Should climate scientists fly? 1. The skeptics’ hypocrisy argument

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TL;DR: Climate scientists aren’t skeptics’ main targets; the skeptics’ hypocrisy argument is sophisticated; it’s aimed primarily at undermining the existence of a climate emergency.

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Written by jeangoodwin

June 25, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Should climate scientists fly? An analysis of the arguments

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Climate skeptics have been accusing pro-climate-action advocates of hypocrisy since at least the day after the release of An Inconvenient Truth back in 2007. Flying has emerged as a particular focus in these arguments, likely because it is easy to document, ineliminably carbon intensive, and an “elite” activity. Celebrities (Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Thompson) have also been particularly targeted, along with politicians (Bernie Sanders, Catherine McKenna, AOC). And, in minor ways, the climate scientists who are our key witnesses for the facts of climate change.

At the same time, some climate scientists and climate-concerned academics generally have been thinking about the carbon budgets of their research, and in particular about the flying that often takes up such a large portion of it. Individual scientists began to commit themselves to fly less at least as early as the mid-2000s, and networks/organizations with substantial presence on social media began to emerge a decade later.  These folks, too, have been building a case.

From the point of view of argumentation theory, this is rich material–a diverse array of arguers, a topic of the highest concern, an open consideration of scientists’ obligations in public controversies. So I recently completed a talk and paper (forthcoming in Informal Logic) analyzing the controversy. Some of what I said was pretty much “inside baseball,” plus I had to leave out many interesting digressions. So in a series of blog posts, I’m going to present parts of the analysis that I think may be of most interest to climate- and science-comm interested folks. If I don’t get derailed, I expect posts on:

  • The skeptics’ hypocrisy argument
  • Is the hypocrisy argument a fallacy, and so what?
  • Climate scientists’ (and academics’) reasons to fly less
  • I need to fly!  Self-justification, double standards, and argumentative justice
  • Should climate concerned people stop making arguments about flying less, and just talk about system change?
  • Several other topics.

Methodological note

This analysis is based on three corpora of data:

Corpus 1 consists of Twitter posts from January 2010-April 2020 containing keywords “climate” and “fly.” The 341K entries were probed by filtering for additional keywords, including scient*, hypocr*, argu* and related argument vocabulary.

Corpus 2 consists of online longform discourse–journalism, blog posts, podcasts etc. It was collected from URLs referenced in Corpus 1, by a convenience sample of material I had been collecting from interest in the topic, by an intentional search for otherwise underrepresented material from skeptics, and by a snowball sample of URLs referenced in any of the above. Total: 112 documents.

Corpus 3 consists of Twitter conversations–an original post and between 2 and several hundred replies, replies to those replies etc. These were collected by checking relevant tweets from Corpus 1, from a convenience sample of material I had been collecting, and by a snowball sample of conversations mentioned in other conversations. Total: 85 conversations.

See this methods note for more.

Written by jeangoodwin

June 25, 2020 at 11:21 am

Morano v. Bauman

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Is it possible to debate Marc Morano? Yes–especially if you’re not a climate scientist. Here’s a quick analysis of this recent debate between Morano and Yoram Bauman, Stand-Up Economist, sponsored by conservative student organizations at University of Minnesota. Bauman reviews the debate here.

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Written by jeangoodwin

September 24, 2018 at 8:20 pm

Posted in cases

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New York Times: Your reporting fed McCarthyite attacks on Kevin Folta

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So, follow below the fold to find my defense of these three claims:

  1. Folta is an outstanding science communicator.
  2. He is being targeted by McCarthy-style attacks.
  3. The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education failed to resist the McCarthyism.

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Written by jeangoodwin

September 10, 2015 at 7:23 pm

Posted in discourse analysis

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How to insult

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Judith Curry has recently brought up both the Bard and insults–a thought-provoking intersection.

Once upon Shakespeare’s time, the art of disagreement was pursued with elegance.  Degrees of challenge were measured out by the book, as one of his characters explains:

as thus, sir. I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier’s beard: he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was: this is called the Retort Courteous.  If I sent him word again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would send me word, he cut it to please himself: this is called the Quip Modest.  If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he disabled my judgment: this is called the Reply Churlish.  If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would answer, I spake not true: this is called the Reproof Valiant.  If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would say I lied: this is called the Counter-cheque Quarrelsome: and so to the Lie Circumstantial and the Lie Direct.

As You Like It V.4

Alas, we’ve mostly lost that art, especially in the blogosphere.  Disagreements proceed pretty quickly to the Lie Direct.  That’s dull!  Let’s review the wisdom of Touchstone the Fool to recover more sophisticated practices.

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Written by jeangoodwin

August 14, 2011 at 8:32 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

A surprising gesture

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Working through the discourse that accumulated while I was reading and listening to what my students had to say, I found a fine post from none other than Steve McIntyre on the Virginia’s ‘fraud investigation’ against Michael Mann, one of his leading adversaries in the Hockey Stick Wars.  McIntyre calls out the publicity stunt for what it is–a “repugnant piece of over-zealousness”:

To the extent that Virginia citizens are concerned about public money being misappropriated, Cuccinelli’s own expenditures on this adventure should be under equal scrutiny. There will be no value for dollar in this enterprise….

To the extent that there are issues with Mann or Jones or any of these guys, they are at most academic misconduct and should be dealt with under those regimes. It is unfortunate that the inquiries at Penn State and UEA have not been even minimally diligent, but complaints on that account rest with the universities or their supervising institutions and the substitution of inappropriate investigations by zealots like Cuccinelli are not an alternative….

I intend to write Cuccinelli expressing my disdain for his actions.

Read on to learn how this relates to the previous post.

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Written by jeangoodwin

June 10, 2010 at 7:00 am

The David/Goliath fallacy

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Here’s a test:  for each of the following statements, identify whether it was written by a defender or a detractor of the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

[1]  “The 21st century Goliath is [the forces on the other side from the author]. It is a powerful six-legged monster. In no order of strength, those legs are:…The total financial resources and power structure behind Goliath are staggering.”

[2]  “The [other side’s] forces have owned the media in all but name on this issue, for decades. [The coverage is becoming more fair, and] when you’re Goliath, that kind of trend seems disturbing.”

[3] “I think that unfortunately this is sort of a classic David vs. Goliath type battle. [My] community isn’t organized — it doesn’t have a single politically driven motive, as the [other side does]. It’s not organized, it’s not well funded in terms of public outreach in the way that [people on the other side] are funded.”

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 25, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Posted in in theory

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