Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Consensus Messaging

Eli is a bunny of few words (exactly how many Rabetts do you know that have any), but he is quite mystified by the consensus messaging wars.

It's simple.  Most people when confronted by a controversy don't know enough about the situation to pick a side.  The safe choice is to wait and do nothing.

If a group wants to do nothing it is to their advantage to pretend there is a controversy even if there is not a controversy.

Somehow this escapes the Dan Kahans of the world.


Bernard J. said...

Heh, I was reading about this on ATTP's blog, and was going to comment there but after reading the responses I threw my arms in the air in despair. Eli's OP recalls the start that I made on a post though, so I'll just paste it here with no further embellishment:

One of the issues with this is that there’s a difference between disagreeing with the consensus science on testable scientific grounds, because one discerns a potential material issue with the data and/or theories, compared with disagreeing with the consensus science because one does not like the implications of the science and/or one does not actually understand the science.

Consider those who dispute the “consensus”. Consider the many and varied reasons that they do so, and how they’re demonstrably wrong, and have been proven so time and time again (it’s why fora such as Skeptical Science arose and persist…): let’s call these Group 1 consensus disputers. Now consider those who have disputed the consensus and have had their ideas substantiated by the scientific method: these can be Group 2 consensus disputers. Compare the number of the former to the number of the latter…

Those who try to make an issue of the lack of agreement amongst professional scientists count the numbers of Group 1 consensus disputers as evidence that the “consensus” science is unreliable, compromised, or otherwise problematic. The trouble is that it’s only the Group 2 consensus disputers that should have any sway in a refutation of the validity of the “consensus”, and in any objective consideration of a Group 2 case the evidence for an actual case is so tenuous that it approaches non-existence the more that one tries to pin it down.

Group 1 disputers use their fallacious arguments to attempt to dismiss the fundamental fact that the professional physical and ecological sciences have it right on the bases and the consequences of climate change. In arguing in this manner they are misrepresenting both the substance of the best science, and the way that relevant, competent (in the field) professionals agree about it.

Susan Anderson said...

Personally I prefer less technical ways of describing it. Seems pretty easy to say that "almost all" people with relevant expertise are in agreement. The targeting is so instantaneous and so pointed, it really doesn't matter what one says. Responding only amplifies it. One just has to move on and make the point in ways that might reach over the footlights to those who don't make it their single-minded business to cast doubt, distract, and delay.

I know the weather/climate connection is technically fraught, but in daily conversation it means a lot to everybody, so pointing out the latest suite of problems helps. Very few people pay attention but it is interesting to most. Texas, for example, has been being battered for months by extreme floods.

Anonymous said...

There have been so many bits spilled over this (non)controversy I also decided to cut back on my own additions to the pile.

All I'll say is when the number of strong contrarians who are (or were) actual climate researchers can literally be counted on the fingers of two hands, with the majority retired or nearly retired after generally nondescript careers, then the scientific debate in question is almost certainly settled.

Anonymous said...

he is quite mystified by the consensus messaging wars.

Yes, I am too. Constantly amazed.

Susan Anderson said...

Boxing cute (naming no names) comes to mind. And not related, but these are some charming boxing Arctic rabbits:

David B. Benson said...

Hear no evil, speak no evil.