Between Scientists & Citizens

Posts Tagged ‘authority

Should climate scientists fly? An analysis of the arguments

leave a comment »

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

Should the existence of an “anti-vax” movement change what scientists can say in publications?

with 3 comments

By a bare majority of its Board of Directors, the Cochrane Collaboration, a leading source of trustworthy, systematic reviews of health research, has expelled founding member and director Peter C. Gøtzsche. As always, a tangle of personal, professional and institutional factors are driving the dispute (see [1]-[3]); I’m in no position to comment on most of these. But one focus of controversy is Gøtzsche’s co-authorship of an article in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine critical of a Cochrane Review of the HPV vaccine, and this raises an important issue in science communication ethics.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jeangoodwin

October 5, 2018 at 11:23 am

Morano Analysis #9: Lessons learned

with 9 comments

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jeangoodwin

March 24, 2010 at 8:03 am

Morano Analysis #7: Scientific consensus

with 13 comments

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jeangoodwin

March 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

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

with one comment

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jeangoodwin

March 15, 2010 at 10:20 am