Here’s a great quote from a great article posted on the Nation. Thanks to Tim Lambert for the link.
Yet when it comes to coverage of global warming, we are trapped in the logic of a guerrilla insurgency. The climate scientists have to be right 100 percent of the time, or their 0.01 percent error becomes Glaciergate, and they are frauds. By contrast, the deniers only have to be right 0.01 percent of the time for their narrative–See! The global warming story is falling apart!–to be reinforced by the media.
It’s logical if the argument for action has built within it the assumption that the scientists have declared something, so the public should believe it.
[The argument for action is not based upon the exact date at which the Himalayan glaciers will melt. -Kate]
So you poke at the details, and say the overall case is not diminished significantly/substantially/slightly/marginally/etc, and you are correct.
However, for many people it is not the details or the overall arguments that sway them, but the scientific consensus, they must have it right, this is serious, etc. Indeed, his site seems devoted to that argument. When a minor detail is in error, it will then break that link in the chain. If the scientists got this wrong, then perhaps they got other things wrong as well. The solution is, as Jon Stewart said, ‘Don’t cut corners’
[Or maybe the solution is to increase public awareness of the inevitable uncertainty of science, and the fact that minor details are proven wrong all the time without detracting from the big picture. I’m reading a great book by Henry Pollack right now that illustrates that very point – review to come. -Kate]
However, for many people it is not the details or the overall arguments that sway them, but the scientific consensus, they must have it right, this is serious, etc. Indeed, his site seems devoted to that argument. When a minor detail is in error, it will then break that link in the chain. If the scientists got this wrong, then perhaps they got other things wrong as well.
If you view scientific understanding as a single-threaded chain, then you are entirely correct.
If you see scientific understanding in a field as a network or web, you can begin to see how a few errors – in non-critical locations – can be trivial to the overall understanding.
By the logic highlighted here, an area with uneven paint or a scratched window in science is just as bad as a faulty foundation. That’s a standard of perfection that other areas, particularly journalism, simply aren’t held up to.
Increasing public understanding of science would highlight this. Indeed, your own use of “they [the scientists]” as a monolithic entity illustrates the problem here.
I guess that is the way mathematical proof works isn’t it?
If statement A depends on N clause, then all N clauses must be true. To disprove statement A, one just have to disprove one clause.
Having said that, I doubt the journalist are basing their arguments on the above mathematical prove methodology.
If the nay sayers are actually making claims to prove that there is no global warming, the onus would be on them to get all of their facts right. As it is, they are just slinging mud.