“Can you PROVE to me that global warming is being caused by mankind?”*
Someone sent me a terrific set of the “deniers rules for debate” from Mercurius. Let me introduce them by way of a February 2008 email exchange I had with a denier over the headline question (see here). The denier wrote:
I have been doing enormous amounts of research in this global warming (caused by man) theories and have concluded that there is not ONE shred of evidence to back it up. Can you PROVE to me that global warming is being caused by mankind?
Hmm. Not one shred of evidence? “PROVE” in all caps, too! I know this is mostly pointless, but still, it was the day after my daughter’s first birthday, and I was feeling in good spirits about humanity, so I replied:
This one is easy. Either you believe in science – i.e. we went to the moon, you go to the doctor, you have IT equipment you rely on – or you don’t. If you don’t, I can’t “prove” anything to anybody. If you do, then the IPCC reports – which are nothing more than a literature review by the top scientists in the world, commissioned by and summarized for policymakers, signed off by every friggin’ govt in the world – are as much proof as a human being could possibly want.
Yes, I was younger and naive back then. Now I wouldn’t strike thru friggin’. So he replied:
Sorry Joe but your email back to me is not proof of evidence. As for the IPCC report, I don’t buy into what they say. That is not proof. And yes, I very much believe in science which is why I don’t believe in humans have caused global warming. But my question is simple, what scientific proof can you show me, and I am not talking about some report from the UN, that humans are causing the Earth’s temperature to rise. Also, what is the right temperature for the Earth to be at?
Yes, well, the deniers, they believe in “science,” they just don’t believe in scientists, or hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific articles, or scientific “evidence,” which brings me to Mercurius’s list of things the deniers will accept as evidence:
1) Nothing that was recorded by instruments such as weather-stations, ocean buoys or satellite data. Since all instruments are subject to error, we cannot use them to measure climate.
2) Nothing that has been corrected to account for the error of recording instruments. Any corrected data is a fudge. You must use only the raw data, which is previously disqualified under rule #1. Got that? OK, moving along…
3) Nothing that was produced by a computer model. We all know that you can’t trust computer models, and they have a terrible track record in any industrial, architectural, engineering, astronomical or medical context.
4) Nothing that was researched or published by a scientist. Such appeals to authority are invalid. We all know that scientists are just writing these papers to keep their grant money.
Well, it would be funny, if it weren’t true. Or is its very truth what makes it funny? [Note: I am buying a book for my forthcoming Maine vacation that I hope will answer that last question — And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft.]
The only scientific evidence that deniers will accept is data that has been massaged by fellow deniers — especially ones who have a long track record of flawed or biased analysis (see “Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?“
As Mercurius notes:
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I’m sure you’d agree that any evidence which meets my criteria would be extraordinary indeed.