Word Play – Politics, Science & Polls
Steve Milloy of DemandDebate.com sent out a poll framing their questions in such a manner (sufficiently ambiguous and limited in definition) as to produce a result favorable to a limited point of view; or irrelevant to the scope of the matter of which it inquires.
The problems with polls are sometimes the biased nature of their scope. Example:
“Have you stopped beating your wife yet (yes/no)”?
If you answer ‘yes’, you admit you used to beat your wife. If you answer ‘no’, you admit you are still beating your wife.
The limited scope eliminates the ability for you to answer "I do not beat my wife".
The DemandDebate.com poll contained the following questions:
First question. Which best describes the reason(s) for climate change?
- [ ] Human activity is the principal driver of climate change.
- [ ] Human activity drives climate change, but natural variability is also important.
- [ ] Natural variability drives climate change, but human activity is also important.
- [ ] Natural variability is the principal driver of climate change.
- [ ] No opinion.
"X% of expert climate scientists think...
"The problem with this question is that it doesn't specify what time frame I am to consider. Before the twentieth century, natural climate change was probably the most important factor. However, I fear that if I allow that, on whatever time scale, "natural variability is also important" my response will be used to argue that "X% of expert climate scientists think that natural variability is an important driver of climate". As, of course, it is, but natural variability is no argument against the danger of human-induced climate change."
Second question. Which best describes the role of manmade CO2 emissions in climate change?
- [ ] Manmade CO2 emissions are the principal driver of climate change.
- [ ] Manmade CO2 emissions drive climate change, but other natural and human-related factors are also important.
- [ ] Other natural and/or human-related factors drive climate change, but manmade CO2 emissions are important.
- [ ] Other natural and/or human-related factors are the principal drivers of climate change.
- [ ] No opinion.
"X% of climate experts surveyed said...
"Gee. We can't choose the first option, because climate is sometimes also driven by the intensity of the sun, or by wobbles in the Earth's orbit, or collapsing ice sheets… Again, though, if the question had been just about the last 30 years, the first option would be arguably right. But that's not the question asked. Again, "X% of climate experts surveyed said that natural variability is important." Again, it is, on some time scales. But it doesn't give any reason not to fear global warming."
Scientists picking the 2nd or 3rd options allow poll result to be spun something like:
First Question: Majority of climate scientists believe natural variability is important and natural variability drives climate change.
Second Question: Majority of scientists believe climate change is driven by other natural and/or human-related factors, not CO2. Which can be spun to: the majority of scientists do not believe that CO2 is the main driver of climate change.
Alright, how about a little word play!
To understand this, let’s use the same question frame but alter the subjects, thus illustrating the inherent dangers regarding how a poll is framed/scoped:
First question. Which best describes the reason(s) for understanding?
- [ ] Facts are a principal driver of human understanding.
- [ ] Facts drive human understanding, but bias is also important.
- [ ] Bias drives human understanding, but facts are also important.
- [ ] Bias is the principal driver of human understanding.
- [ ] No opinion.
The problem with this question is that it ignores common sense reasoning in consideration of facts and bias as they pertain to understanding. It does not address the external meta systems of influence on interpretation of facts, influences on bias and the dynamics of human understanding.
Second question. Which best describes the role of human understanding in interpreting facts or bias?
- [ ] Human understanding is the principal driver of facts/bias.
- [ ] Human understanding drives facts/bias, but other natural and human-related factors are also important.
- [ ] Other natural and/or human-related factors drive facts/bias, but human understanding is important.
- [ ] Other natural and/or human-related factors are the principal drivers of facts/bias.
- [ ] No opinion.
The problem with this question is that it is true and false on both sides of the argument. Facts don't change but are subject to, and victim of, bias as a system of thought or consciousness, which manipulates and/or alters interpretation including group dynamics of psychology and belief as well as associated proclivity; and the further complications of dynamic individual and group understanding based on premise (usually pre-conceived notions that such groups stand for 'should not be questioned'; or you're labeled/branded, not as intelligent as the group).
Such a poll as produced by DemandDebate.com is morally abhorrent to the more comprehensive reasoning mind. Extrapolating its premise reminds me of the same brand of arguments fomented during the McCarthyism era (though they are more subtle, ref. Joseph McCarthy), which though tamed for a period, has been resurrected by our current administration to an uncomfortable degree.
Science, politics or economy - Edward R. Murrow's words still ring true, that we should not "confuse dissent with disloyalty".
And, while one must remain open-minded to new arguments (if they are
new and relevant) one must also make decisions based on reasonable
understanding of the relevant science.
Confusing the issue with such biased debate as put forth by the AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) denialists, only delays needed 'political will' to make policy and economically sound decisions.
To frame an argument so as to trap a person into choosing between options that don’t comprehensively address the scope of the matter at hand is a disservice to intelligence and the development of wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
Furthermore, the marketing methods of such web sites are clearly designed to make you feel more intelligent if you agree with them (and disagree with relevant science and well reasoned common sense).
The demanddebate.com web banner has a formula showing:
If they really believed that, they would take down their web site. It's just marketing, and another way to get donations for an apparently unreasonable cause.
Ironically, the DemandDebate.com web site is selling T-shirts with the message: "I'm more worried about the intellectual climate".
The Centrist Party is also concerned with the 'intellectual climate'. We understand DemandDebate's desire to use a narrowly scoped argument to market to an impassioned base, so they can make money from those that choose not to think about the larger scope of the issues at hand, or examine the relevant contextual science, preferring instead to listen to their respective media sources, or special interest groups.
However, reason is our rule of law, so to speak; and when special interests use the word 'intellectual' to direct their message out of the context of reality, to spin an agenda farther away from truth, 'we take notice'.