The Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics at Trent University

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Global climate change: Not just a Manufactroversy

I haven't taught a class on trust in a while, but think I should every time I read another article on the use of global climate change in political football.  My most recent inspiration comes from Discover Magazine's coverage of the exoneration of climatologist Michael Mann by the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation:
All of this stemmed from the "ClimateGate" nonsense of the past couple of years, where leaked emails were taken hugely out of context by the press and climate change deniers, and used to smear scientists.

It's true, scientists were accused of misconduct and falsification of data [pdf], claims which have been thoroughly investigated and rejected.  I do worry, though, that when columnists write with such loaded language about the truth, trust in their veracity is undermined by resistance to their (understandable) angry righteousness.  Exhibition of one's convictions in the language of passionate opposition is easily written off as 'bias,' so that one could dismiss both true and false claimants with the statement, "They're both biased." My students regularly report having trouble reading past a particularly vehement expression. Emotional appeals evoke emotional responses, and the opportunity to persuade, to point out the truth, is deferred.

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