Friday, March 16, 2007

Just Sub "Corrections Sentencing Reform" for "Environmental" or "Global Warming"

At Grist, this rant about the idiocy of the smart people in the global warming debate, thinking they can just throw the facts out there and the deniers and obstructionists won't be able to put on better shows and muck things up even more. Recounting a public debate with global warming deniers who were later judged to have won the debate by the audience, the post cites one of the "smart" scientists and then takes off:

Over at RealClimate, Gavin Schmidt offers a recap, in which he says: "The organisers asked us afterwards whether we'd have done much different in hindsight. Looking back, the answer is mostly no. We are scientists, and we talk about science and we're not going start getting into questions of personal morality and wider political agendas - and obviously that put us at a sharp disadvantage ... "

Yeah, that sounds like what went wrong. When Gavin says "questions of personal morality and wider political agendas," I think he just means, "all that stuff that's not science." He knows science, he's trained in science, he's confident in the accuracy of his scientific judgments, so that's what he's sticking with -- even if it means losing a debate, and with it a chance to change some minds.

I think that is a huge mistake, and Gavin is far, far from the only one making it. It's not just scientists who do it, either. Many people in the environmental field -- and I'd even generalize to progressives, broadly speaking -- seem to be operating on a set of assumptions: The facts,organized and clearly conveyed, should carry the day.

When facts do not change minds, more facts are required, perhaps delivered more slowly. When facts do not change hearts, more facts are required, perhaps delivered more loudly. Those not swayed by facts are intellectually, possibly morally, deficient. If sticking (merely) to the facts means losing a debate, well, that's the price of virtue.

It just gets better from there, and truer words were never spoken about corrections sentencing policy right now, either. By all means, let's stay civil and balanced at all times. While things go to Hell.

Not off to a great start on this weekend, am I?

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