So Maybe I’m Hypocritical

I know this may sound hypocritical after posting yesterday my distaste for childhood indoctrination, but I feel I need to do a better job preparing my children to defend their (our?) opinions. 

M is taking AP Environmental Science.  The class was asked to debate Global Warming.  M said most of the class believes that it is occurring, but one student, the “smartest in the class” did not.  She said he believes the planet is in a regular warming cycle and the resources on earth are here for the man’s consumption. Sadly, this young man won the debate.

I asked her if she tried to present the opinion of the consensus of science.   She said she didn’t feel like she knew enough to challenge him.  This disappoints me, for if she had told me earlier I could have directed her to Realclimate.org or the very wonderful chart on Information is Beautiful

And yes, there is a consensus, as this chart so beautifully illustrates:

Don’t you love how the denier is standing on her head?

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About Brick Window

A mother and an atheist--Just trying to do the best I can in a suburb full of believers.
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13 Responses to So Maybe I’m Hypocritical

  1. prosey says:

    Nothing hypocritical about expecting fact to rule over feeling. All kids are “indoctrinated” in some form or fashion – by churches, by schools, by PBS, by parents, by television commercials…that is a reality. The difference with PBS and parents is that “indoctrination” is to *FACTS* rooted in evidence – and is open to reconsideration when previously unknown facts are discovered. Schools, ideally, should operate the same way…but with organizations like the Texas Board of Education working toward revisionism in primary school textbooks (and not all parents actually knowing what is and isn’t verifiable history/science/math/etc), what kids are learning at school is not necessarily accurate either — think about it, though (in a positive sense here) ~ how did most of us learn our times tables? Through rote memorization, which is a form of indoctrination, if we’re looking at it through that lens.

    Being disappointed is *OKAY* ~ how were you to know what she would face and how much more in-depth information she would need? I would bet that this is an *excellent* learning opportunity for her…and opens the door for more knowledge about the topic – and about serious debate skills. I never actually joined the debate club (though I probably should have, thinking back), but one thing my dad taught me very young is, if you want to know how to debate any topic (especially in debate club, where you’re often asked to take a contra opinion to your own) is to study and research the ins and outs of as many sides of the subject as possible (there are usually more than just two sides).

    *hugs to you & yours*

  2. prosey says:

    (note — when I say parents and facts, I mean what we as parents truly believe to be the facts — I know no parent who deliberately teaches his/her children something that he/she does not believe to be truly factual)

    • Brick Window says:

      Yes, I always say if my opinion weren’t right, it wouldn’t be my opinion…

      Yea, I just need to be more aware maybe of what they are doing. I do wish they would take a greater interest in current events. I was a political junkie when I was M’s age. She has zero interest.

  3. fribnit says:

    I will only make this point about consensus vs fact:

    The following were at one time or another or still are consensus:

    There was consensus the earth was flat
    There was consensus the sun revolved around the earth
    There was consensus that the moon caused insanity (hence the term lunacy)
    There was consensus that women were more prone to sudden bouts of violent insanity (hence the term Hysteria)
    There was consensus that the earth was created in 6 days
    There is consensus that there is a god

    Consensus is not fact. It is an opinion of the majority.

    • Brick Window says:

      Your comment follows the ones on my Terrible Disparity about how we need to choose words carefully. Perhaps consensus is incorrect in this case. Probably there exists a better word within the scientific community. I just don’t know what it is.

      • fribnit says:

        me either. Consensus is PROBABLY the right word and as with any consensus it needs to be taken as a majority opinion as opposed to a fact 😉

  4. Jay Walker says:

    Scientific consensus, when backed up by evidence, is as close as we can get to fact. The consensuses that fribnit mention are not examples of scientific consensus, but of popular consensus that were in no way backed up by any evidence whatsoever. In fact, once the evidence was discovered, these “consensuses” fell by the wayside.

    The scientific consensus for anthropogenic global warming is based upon decades of study and mounds and mounds of evidence. Very few serious scientists in the field doubt the reality of anthropogenic global warming.

    There is a popular “consensus” that anthropogenic global warming isn’t real, and this “consensus” is driven by media hype, backed by big business interests and their political supporters. They use fear mongering and quote from the bible to support their position, a position that has very little evidence to support it.

    In the end, you must choose to follow your emotions or to follow the evidence. I chose the evidence.

  5. Jay Walker says:

    It is a very, very important concept that most people don’t understand. The same goes for the word, “theory”. In science, a theory is something that has been shown to be both predictive of events and has evidence supporting it. It is a hypothesis that people think of when they talk about something as not being proved, but just speculation. A series of proven hypothesis about the same phenomenon constitute a theory. A theory, in general, is considered to be a true, working model of how a specific aspect of the world works. Of course, some theories are later proven false, but these were usually based on flimsy evidence to begin with.

    A great example is Netwon’s theory of gravity. This theory has been proven over and over again to work, but there were some things that it could not explain. This didn’t mean it was wrong, just incomplete. Einstein came along with his General Theory of Relativity that expanded upon and augmented Netwon’s theory, but didn’t replace it. While relativity can explain everything Netwon’s theory does, plus some, it is often easier to use Newtons’s calculations for many practical tasks.

    This is why people who say that global warming or evolution is “just a theory” do understand what they are really talking about. These theories have mountains of evidence behind them to support them. They are a close to a fact as science can get.

    (If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a science geek!)

  6. fribnit says:

    Jay,

    Scientific consensus is susceptible to the same failings (though less often) as popular consensus.

    An Example:
    For much of the 18th, 19th and and in to the early 20th century the scientific consensus was that the earth was essentially solid. Yes, they under stood there was a molten core (volcano’s made that fairly obvious) but the evidence as it was understood at the time by the scientists of the time indicated that the earth was a stable place with a solid crust. Earth quakes, mountains and such were believed to be caused by the shrinkage of the cooling earth. This is part of what is called the geosynclinal theory (now considered obsolete but once scientific consensus).

    When the Theory of Tectonic Plates and continental drift was first proposed by Alfred Wegener in the early years of the 20th century the consensus in the scientific community that the earth was essentially solid and stable was challenged. Wegener was derided by some as a fraud and worse. The consensus remained that the earth was essentially stable until well in to the 1960’s when the growing evidence began to finally shift the scientific consensus to the theory of tectonic plates and continental drift.

    In the 1970’s the scientific consensus was that the earth was COOLING because of man, not heating up, due to pollutants blocking the sun’s rays. this was based on the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s having some damned cold winters.

    There is a great deal of evidence supporting the theory of anthropogenic global warming. It has certainly risen to the level of a scientific consensus. That does not mean it is fact. Scientific consensus is derived from the interpretation of evidence to the best of the abilities of the science AT THE TIME to gather and understand this evidence.

    I would venture to say that if in 1915 you had polled American geologists about continental drift vs geosynclinal theory that the percentages for geosynclinal theory would be something similar to the percentages for global warming in the chart above.

    What you consider flimsy evidence is really often just the best evidence that could be gathered at that time.

    By the way, I do believe that we are heating up the world.

    Any way that is just my opinion, mock it and deride it as you wish

    • Brick Window says:

      What do we have to go on then if not consensus? Most of the scientific theories we’ve discussed here are multidiscipline and very complex. Not A + B =C. Is there a point in time at all when a scientific theory is considered fact?

      Is it a matter of technology? I ask in all sincerity. I just don’t know. In the matter of the graph I put up, could the author/artist had used another word here?

  7. fribnit says:

    no, it was exactly the right word BUT……

    My problem with that graph is simple:

    The statement is made that thee are 13 million “scientists” in America using a rather broad definition of scientist.

    The graph indicates that some 31 thousand signed a petition that disputes the global warming theory. The graph would have lead you to believe that only .24% of ALL the 13 million scientists in this country disagree with the theory of human induced global warming.

    That is misleading and patently untrue.

    It seeks to ridicule and minimize opposing theory.

    We are DEAD if we squash dissenting opinion and conflicting theory because of “consensus”, be it popular or scientific.

    Yes, consensus is the right word but as it is currently treated it engenders a dangerous assumption. The assumption that because it is consensus there is no room for dissent or difference of opinion, that the data can not be viewed differently, that other conclusions can not be drawn. Scientific or Popular, treating “consensus” as unassailable is dangerous.

    Does this mean we should do nothing to curb our impact on the environment, what ever it may be? I believe the evidence is so strong as to border on fact and action must be taken to mitigate our impact on the environment.

    My objection is to the ridicule of those that would offer dissent and the bending of the facts to make that ridicule seem appropriate.

    • Brick Window says:

      Ok, I understand your point. I believe the author of the graph is probably ridiculing. I think some think those who argue against anthropogenic global warming are treated like creationists, and that may not be fair.

      I just finished reading Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce. The author makes a case for “cranks” in society. He proposes the problem is there is a war on expertise, so cranks no longer have their proper place–to offet the dissenting opinion you speak of.

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