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Old 08-16-2010, 09:10 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Science Saturday: Action and Contemplation (Joshua Knobe & Eric Schwitzgebel)

Originally Posted by look View Post
Here's the most recent quote in this sub-thread:

So, Gore and Monckton are polemicists, which is bad. Hansen and Lomborg are scientists, which may be good or bad, depending on whose side they're on?

Please briefly point out the deep flaws in the Spiked article I posted.
Let's start with the word "scientism." It's an unearned epithet often used to try to trump scientific arguments with irrationality. Complaints about media coverage of science certainly have a real concern at their core. Science journalism is often ignorant, over-specified, sensationalized bullshit. But that's not new, and pinning the IPCC report to that observation is also ignorant, over-specified, and sensational. The problem has existed forever, mostly because journalists and/or their editors are generally not educated in the sciences, and because journalistic writing practices tend to aim for a low target - the assumption of a sophisticated understanding on the part of their readers just isn't made, for the most part. That did not begin with the IPCC report, and the IPCC report has nothing directly to do with the phenomenon. The article goes on and on spinning an entire theory about that nonexistent relationship, making huge unsupported assertions. For example:
Politically spun and politically interpreted, science is first made incontrovertible and put on a pedestal; turned, in a word, into scientism. Then, science is used to close down political debate. Finally, it is said to confirm the folly, hubris, selfishness and general dirtiness of mankind. Whatever our pretensions, we are now supposed to be pretty loathsome compared with the grandeur of the polar ice caps that now face ruin at our hands. And, in the same spirit, what mankind could really be doing with technology becomes trivialised.
There's not a single honest phrase in that entire graf. The use of the passive voice, avoiding any specifics or justifications, plus the overloaded adjectives, and a conclusion that has nothing at all to do with anything else it says. Not only is it bad writing, it crappy polemics.

By the way, I haven't said there's anything wrong with engaging in polemics. I'm political - so are you. We engage in polemic all the time. Lomborg's points are rational for the most part, by the way. So are Al Gore's. Both of them have faced accusations of cooking their rhetoric, and both of them are probably guilty to a certain extent. But the each have a point, as well. Monckton, on the other hand is simply a crank. I'm sure he has a fine grasp of the classics - but he misrepresents scientific topics badly. Here's one scientist's rebuttal to a speech Monckton made:

-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!
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