Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Rhetorical Technique vs Reality

You’ve probably read about this silly little brouhaha about someone hacking an email account and getting emails from some climate scientists talking about their data. The Worldnutdaily and most of the rest of the right wing blogosphere has exploded with ridiculous claims about it, distorting those emails to prove that global warming is a fraud.

Rational people, like the folks at RealClimate, James Hrynyshyn and Nate Silver have pointed out the distortions and debunked the vastly overblown claims, but Andrew Sullivan really nails the mentality and the rhetorical games being played here:

The key to these bloggers’ mentality is simply to find some tiny thing and focus all attention on that in order to persuade people that the bigger reality is untrue or irrelevant. This is not an argument; it’s a technique. It’s a technique to persuade people not to examine all the evidence, since the source of the evidence – secular humanist scientists – are evil suspects and against God and in favor of making your gas bill higher.

You can’t actually persuade people that way, of course. But you can fortify their resistance to examining all the evidence.

Absolutely accurate. It’s the same technique used by creationists, of course. That’s why they’re still talking about Nebraska Man – one mistaken fossil identification – from nearly 100 years ago.


  1. #1 edrowland
    November 26, 2009

    More rhetoric and reality

    Just for starters: Other, more honest, commentators have already pointed out that that the FOIA requests at issue were frivolous and vexatious, dealing with information that was already freely available to the public


    Email 0942777075.txt
    Phil Jones wrote:
    I just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.

    Here’s the IPCC r3 graph with the “trick” included without discussion. Micheal Mann (Mike in the email) is the Lead Author of this section:


    Here’s the IPCC r4 graph with the “trick” included (Phil Jones is the Lead Author of this section; the email is written with respect to this graph).


    The temperature record, in passing, is more complex; but the change from raw to smoothed values between r3 and r4 is interesting. It hides a 10 year decline in temperatures between r3 and r4.

    Here’s what Briffa’s data looks like without the “trick”, from a Journal article that used the same dataset:


    Briffa seems to be relatively blameless, to all appearances.

    Here’s an article on these graphs, pre-FOIA:


    Here’s an article on these graphs, after Briffa (9 years later) finally provides the requested data, because a senior journal makes him archive it, in accordance with journal policy:


    Briffa’s data was NOT available to the public before that, and was the subject of FOIA requests.

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