deep thought Monday

Posted in #qanda by skepdadblog on March 15, 2010
Tags: ,

Monday in Australia: time for the majority of the serious “issue” programs on the ABC.  I was a bit slack today and only watched 2 episodes of #qanda; last week’s with Richard Dawkins (and some other people) and tonight’s with Miranda Devine, a couple of pollies, Waleed Aly and the first atheist I’ve ever thoroughly disliked, Catherine Deveny.

Waleed was his usual mix of insightful win and pointless academia; the token politicians the usual mouthpieces for party propaganda (though Bill Shorten was tolerably human), that ridiculous Deveny woman about as funny as syphilis, and Miranda… well.  Miranda.

I come across Miranda a lot, as my usual newspaper is the SMH.  I rarely agree with her.  Tonight, I felt a twinge of sympathy.  I paraphrase the question put to her on climate change:

Q: Miranda, you’re a climate change denier, how can you live with yourself?

A: Actually, I agree that the majority of credible scientific evidence supports climate change.  I don’t argue that the climate is changing.  However, I do wonder if the action that’s being proposed to counter it is poorly thought out.


I may not have got that exactly right, but that’s the gist of it. Again we see that climate change is a sacred cow that may not be questioned.  Is it not scientific, is it not skeptical, to ask for evidence that the proposed solutions will actually be effective, socially responsible on a global scale, and that the unintended consequences of those actions have been properly thought out?  Does this evidence exist?  I certainly haven’t seen any, and I would dearly love to be shown it.  It seems to me that we have collectively made the jump from “it’s happening” to “we must do something about it” to “we must do THIS” when we’ve only really just now established good evidence for the first part.

Waleed defined conservatism well; not nostalgia, not resistance to change; but as a preference for considered, measured and responsible change.  Conservatism: thy name is skepdad.

All you in the twitterverse that castigated me as a climate change denier: you call yourselves scientific?  Shame on you.  Point me to evidence that there has been serious thought given to the efficacy of the proposed solutions to climate change and their potential unintended consequences.  Stop using the perjorative “denier” to shut down debate about this issue.  The debate needs to be had, because we’re going down the path of knee-jerk policy to suit knee-jerk public opinion.


3 Responses to 'deep thought Monday'

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  1. skepdadblog said,

    And for those who branded me a denier for posting this: you’re doing it wrong.

    Here are my views for all to see. You can see, if you remove your blinkers, that I am actively educating myself in a skeptical way. Try it sometime.

  2. questioner said,

    I don’t think you are a ‘denier’ at all. I do however want to add one thought to your comments.

    You say that it is ‘scientific’ to be ‘skeptical and to ask for evidence that the proposed solutions will actually be effective’. Although that’s fair in one sense, this actually doesn’t fit within the entire philosophy of science.

    The scientific philosophies we have used for many years are actually based on the opposite of what you suggest. It is about the ‘educated guess’ as to what the best solution will be. Then it needs to be tested. Then it needs to be evaluated. There is no evidence that proposed solutions will work because we cannot possibly know that without actually testing them. That is what science is all about.

    I’m not saying that one shouldn’t attempt to find the BEST proposed solution, but I think its erroneous to state that the ‘we must do THIS’ way of thinking is not the way to go. We have been doing it that way forever.

    Perhaps a better way to state your argument (if you agree with me of course) would be ‘point me to evidence that people coming up with the solutions are in any way qualified to do so’.

    Now THAT is a fair question.

  3. skepdadblog said,

    Thanks for your comment questioner. I take your point, well made. Perhaps I should have used different language, as I am aware of the scientific method and was referring more to risk management and, as you say, the degree to which the guesses are educated, properly considered and based on valid premises.

    While we cannot know if a proposed solution will work until it is tested, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is a need for due diligence when designing the experiment. The degree of due diligence varies with a number of factors; for example cost, or the gravity of possible unintended consequences, or the urgency of the problem.

    I am sure, for example, that the LHC was not built on a whim. Conversely, a philosopher may conduct a thought experiment at will. In the middle lies a vast gulf of grey. “We must do THIS” is fine when the cost, impact and urgency of need permit the total circumvention of due diligence. When world order is at stake, the cost is astronomical and the science of the urgency of need still (as far as I can tell) in play, the best minds on the planet should be collaborating to design an “experiment” with a high confidence of producing a useful result.

    To put it another way: any scientist who blows the entire faculty’s budget on a poorly designed experiment would find themselves out of a job. We may not have the luxury of repeating or redesigning the climate experiment, and we’d better be damn confident that it won’t cause a problem worse than it purports to solve – be that geological, economic, social or anything else.

    So to expand on your rephrasing of my argument: point me to evidence that people coming up with the solutions are in any way qualified to do so, and that they are doing so with appropriate due diligence.

    That is not only a fair question, but a vitally important one, and one that I believe is not being permitted to be asked.

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