Sunday, March 25, 2007

R.P. Jr. and who controls the agenda

Another post I meant to write ages back:

Nov. 15, 2006, Roger Pielke Jr.:

Looking Away from Misrepresentations of Science in Policy Debate Related to Disasters and Climate Change

....What is most amazing is that in the face of incontrovertible and repeated misrepresentation that the overwhelming majority of scientists, the media, and responsible advocacy groups have remained mute (with a few notable exceptions such as Hans von Storch).

More than anything else, even the misrepresentations themselves, the collective willingness to overlook bad policy arguments unsupported (or even contradicted) by the current state of science while at the same time trumpeting the importance of scientific consensus is evidence of the comprehensive and pathological politicization of science in the policy debate over global warming. If climate scientists ever wonder why they are looked upon with suspicion among some people in society, they need look no further in their willingness to compromise their own intellectual standards in policy debate on the issue of disasters and climate change.

[a list of alleged exaggerations of damage from climate change follows]

RP Jr., Feb. 6, 2007:

Post-IPCC Political Handicapping: Count the Votes

....Bottom line – the votes for action [to address climate change] appear to be there. So too is broad public acceptance of the reality of climate change and a need for action. Why then is not action happening more quickly?

There are probably a few answers:

....3. Those skeptics. Just when you thought that we’d seen the end of the debate over climate skeptics, it turns out that some scientists are busy trying to keep them in the limelight. Yes, you read that right. Consider that immediately upon release of the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers the RealClimate blog immediately followed up its 1,280 word review of the IPCC SPM with a 1,585 word essay on some anti-IPCC statement from a group of self-appointed climate skeptics. Without RealClimate’s generous lavishing of attention and imputed significance, the anti-IPCC document would probably have gone unnoticed by most folks. Like old Cold Warriors longing for the Soviet Union the complete and utter domination of the IPCC consensus view seems difficult for some to accept. This issue runs far deeper than bloggers worried about being out of a job, as it will no doubt manifest itself in debates over climate change research budgets. A strong case can be made that now that the science is settled, at least from the standpoint of justifying mitigation, that there is ample room to downsize significant aspects of the climate research enterprise. After all, plate tectonics is not a big area of research.

The first argument RPJr. makes is a common rhetorical device on the right side of the blogosphere, and occasionally, the left: "How dare you guys fail to write about the things that I demand that you write about?" A typical recent example from Michelle Malkin: "The anti-war demonstrators who behaved responsibly this past weekend have an obligation to denounce — and distance themselves from — those protesters who purposefully offend others and consequently destroy the intended message of peace."

RP Jr.'s second argument is a new one though: not only must the "other guys" write about what I demand they write about, they must NOT write about the things I demand they not write about.

The problem with these bad arguments is similar to other lazy arguments like the ol' slippery slope claim: the argument is an easy one to come up with in some form or another, but because every once in a great while it actually is valid, it's impossible to dismiss categorically.

The second argument - you shouldn't draw attention to things that I don't think you should be writing about - is so unlikely to be right as to hardly be worth the time trying to figure out if it's actually appropriate. The first argument isn't quite that bad. At best, it's a hypocrisy detector, and since we're all pretty good at detecting hypocrisy in people other than ourselves, it may sometimes be right. Still, it's also demanding control of other people's agenda when there's no right to seize control. I'd suggest handling this argument the same way as handling the slippery slope argument - start with the presumption that it's wrong, and see if it can overcome that presumption.

Generally, if Blogger A tells Blogger B what to write or not to write, I think Blogger B should suggest what use Blogger A can make of the advice.

A final note: I'd put politicians in a different category as needing to respond to issues that opinion-writers can take up or leave according to their interests.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.