“How does one argue with a man who proclaims that 2+2 = 5?”
To the Editor:
When scientists engage each other in the arena of ideas, we follow certain ground rules. We attack experimental set-ups, statistical analyses of the data, and the like. We try to do so in a manner that is logical. This means that we do not fall into the logical fallacies, such as attacking the character of a man instead of his work, or attacking a man because of his associations, or confusing cause with effect, or appealing to authority, or any of the other logical fallacies we first learned about in elementary or middle school.
Another one of our ground rules is that when something has been proven as fact, we accept it and thereafter treat it as fact. The people on both sides of the man-made global warming debate, for example, long ago accepted as a fact that the largest volume or largest mass of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. We do not argue that point. We argue whether it is more or less significant than carbon dioxide, the oxides of nitrogen, and other trace gases, in its ability to trigger global warming. This quickly becomes a debate over thermodynamics.
Clearly Bill Scholly is not a scientist, because he does neither. And since I have been trained to debate only with those who follow logic and accept facts that have been proven, I have no idea how to engage him on this issue. How does one argue with a man who proclaims that 2+2 = 5?
Thus I give him the last say on this business of climate change. He can respond to this letter until he is completely satisfied that every reader of this newspaper has made a fair evaluation of his intellectual abilities. I will not respond again on this topic.
But, given that this is my last word on the subject, I take my parting shots.
I have already mentioned that this business about water vapor as the major greenhouse gas is controversial only to those who haven’t bothered to study the issue. I thought I was helping Mr. Scholly by showing how simple it was to calculate this value. Scholly responds by stating that my simple calculation is a “weak” argument regarding carbon dioxide in the air. No, I didn’t calculate an argument: I calculated a percentage. And this percentage is a fact, accepted by both sides of the debate. How does one debate this point rationally with someone who is so irrational as to deny this simple fact?
His original statement, “The problem is, not one of the 31,000 signers [of the petition] works or has published in a peer-reviewed material pertaining to climate change,” was one of the silliest things he could have written, because there is no way he himself can know whether it is true or not. If Mr. Scholly spent all of last year, a leap year, performing a search of all the publications of all the signers of that petition, he would have to search more than 84 signers every day. Of course, that is not possible.
My guess is that he read somewhere that none of the signers had published in the field, and he was gullible enough to believe it, as it fit his prejudices. And he made matters worse for himself when he threw in the term “works or has published” because that opens up vistas that doom his argument. I can tell you that I work in the field, but have not published in the field, and that would render his statement false, and you cannot prove otherwise. Words matter. He should be more careful with his.
I wasn’t even looking for a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal when I stumbled across the one I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. So once again, Scholly is simply wrong. And his response? The classic response of one who has no logical argument: attack.
He has said some pretty nasty things about the journal in question, which may or may not be true. Check his letter versus this Wikipedia webpage
if you would like to see where he derived the information he used in his attacks. Neither his attacks, nor his other diversions (Pauling’s Nobel Peace Prize, his left-wing politics, etc.) change the fact that he was wrong about the signers of the petition. He said none of the signers had published work on climate change in a peer-reviewed journal. (He didn’t even specify that it had to be a science journal.) I found three. Scholly appears incapable of admitting he is wrong, so he simply trashes the journal in the hope that you will forget that what he said was proven wrong.
Enough. Believe Scholly if you wish. If, instead, you would like facts, try doing what scientists do, and that is a literature search. You could start with a recent paper by three Australians (McLean, de Frietas and Carter), published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Vol. 114, July, 2009). This paper reports that southern hemisphere tropospheric temperature changes are driven not by man, but by the natural climate process known as the southern oscillation. They trace this phenomenon back to 1976. After you read the paper, read the papers that are in the references. And when you have read those, read the references in those papers. In this way you work your way back through the literature. Yes, it requires work.
I know this journal, published by the American Geophysical Union and peer-reviewed, lacks the cachet of a Wikipedia webpage, but at least real scientists read it.
George L. Batten, Jr.