A writer with the on-line magazine "climate change opinion" made a very interesting argument on September 0/08, which contends that scientists who promote AGW theory, as well as others, fail to win debates for severl reasons. http://climateprogress.org/2008/09/30/why-scientists-arent-more-persuasive-part-1/ and http://climateprogress.org/2008/10/13/why-scientists-aren%E2%80%99t-more-persuasive-part-2-why-deniers-out-debate-smart-talkers/
Among the points made, the author offers the following advice and observations to those who would want avoid losing debates to less informed or incompetent opponents:
1. Deny eloquence and accuse your opponent of being a rhetorician.
2. Fake straight talk. Straight talkers beat smart talkers.
3. Be blunt and ineloquent because this comes across as being honest and steadfast.
4. Don’t appear as a smarty pants, but rather a plainspoken man of the people.
5. Don’t talk smart or use big words.
6. Repeat simple words and phrases.
7. Claim that once you too were once shared your opponent’s viewpoints. This makes the listeners seem that you are just like them, and they become very interested as to why you changed your mind.
In short, debates are not won by the merits of the arguments presented or the volume of evidence presented, but by employing the tactics as outlined above. This is a valid and potent line of reasoning. Unfortunately, the un-named author uses the proponents of man-made climate change (AGW) as his self-evident example of scientists who are less than persuasive. The implication is that those who dare question climate change science are not scientists, but typically folks who have no such expertise. The issue is more complicated than that.
It may or may not be that only 2% of scientists oppose the AGW theory and that it enjoys the support of a “consensus” of scientists. But truth is not subject to a democratic vote. If 50 million scientists believe something to be true, it would not make it true. And if only one scientist in the world believed something to be true it would not necessarily make it false. A “consensus” of scientists once believed in the authenticity of Piltdown Man for four decades, until the truth emerged to discredit their beliefs as a hoax Only evidence can adjudicate the truth, and those who make scientific claims must first present those claims as an hypothesis. That is, their claim must offer a test that will prove its falsehood. Those who do not provide a testable proposition or persist in defending an hypothesis that evidence does not validate are not practicing science but religion. This is exactly what the “Friends of Science” would accuse AGW scientists of: http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/FOS%20Essay/Climate_Change_Science.html Given their contention, might another spin be put on why Michael Crichton’s debating team of AGW-deniers defeated a team that advanced the guardians of truth and light in 2007? In other words, was it that the scientists with IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) were not persuasive, or is it their theory that is not persuasive? Could it be that it is not so much that the American public is so ill-informed , but that IPCC scientists are unobservant and in denial?
Nullius in verba Take no one’s word.