Debating climate change in a post-logical era

By Christian Rose
Reader Contributor

It would be nice to have a civil debate with a climate change proponent — old school. But this is proving impossible. So I won’t waste your time outlining evidence that all this climate change alarm is over-blown.

Instead, let’s explore some of the tactics used to shut down anyone who even mildly objects to the notion of man-caused climate change. If you’re a student, or former student, of logic and rhetoric in the classical style, you probably already know where I’m heading.

Yup. The climate alarmists spend so much time arguing in logical fallacies, it’s hard to even keep up. Even worse, it shuts down debate. Shuts out honest scientific review. It shuts it down so hard, most are afraid to even raise topic. It’s like talking religion or politics over dinner at Trinity. Can the neighboring table hear me? Do they know my liberal friends on Facebook? My boss? Will I lose my job?

Even if you’re sold out for the climate, you can’t honestly believe you know everything on the subject? Because lately, it seems like if you’re not buying the hype, you better just shut your pie-hole. This isn’t good folks.

So, what are some of these logical fallacies commonly used by climate change proponents?

There are several, but one of the most common is known as, the ad hominem. This translates as “to the man” and refers to any attacks on the person advancing the argument, rather than on the validity of the evidence or logic.

Sound familiar? “Climate change must be true, because those evil Republicans say it’s a hoax, and everyone knows they lie.”

It’s perfectly OK to disagree, but it’s another thing to say that “I don’t like you, you’re a ‘denier,’ you’re wrong.” Even evil people often make valid claims, and good people often make invalid claims. So, let’s separate the claim from the person.

Like the emotional appeal, the validity of an argument has utterly nothing to do with the character of the presenter. Ad hominem attacks reek of dirty politics, and they’re anti-science. It only serves the attacker’s real goal: shut down debate.

Then there’s the old post hoc ergo propter hoc, or the correlation/causation fallacy. The Latin translates to “after this, therefore because of this.” In today’s corrosive, post-logical style it means, “The earth’s temperature is rising, therefore man is responsible.”

I realize it’s more nuanced than that, but the effect is simple. Make an observation, regardless if it’s based on accurately obtained data, then blame the cause on something, like say, man. What they really mean to say, is that it’s caused by capitalism. Trust me on that one folks.

But probably the most commonly used fallacy by the man-caused climate change group is the argument from authority or band wagon fallacy. It’s the near reverse of the ad hominem. This false argument is advanced “because of” the person or people leading the argument or because everyone is simply saying something is true. These arguments carry little weight.

If history shows us one thing, it’s that we’re often wrong. Even movie stars and politicians can be wrong. And yes, even scientists.

Skeptical? Think flat earth, blood-letting as a medical procedure, the Dred Scott decision. All were carried by the weight of experts and the false democracy of consensus. All were wrong.

Of course there’s many more. Sadly, too much more. Climate alarmists are guilty of using most of them, and sometimes skeptics are as well.

But I am here to tell you, shutting down those with whom you disagree and pretending you’re on some superior moral high ground, isn’t winning any converts. Neither is demonizing those who are simply asking questions as disgraceful “deniers.” It isn’t promoting real sustainability and practical environmental practices. It isn’t particularly thoughtful or persuasive.

You’re just making yourself look more, well, unscientific.

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