The best way to win an argument

Mike Jonas writes:

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation, UK) looks at analysis that could lead to more moderate attitudes.

This BBC article provides some food for thought that is relevant to the climate debate. It looks at a paper “Political Extremism Is Supported by an Illusion of Understanding” by Fernbach, Rogers, Fox and Sloman, which shows how people’s mistaken sense that they understand underlying causal processes can be used to improve the quality of their arguments and lead to more moderate attitudes.


That is something that the climate science debate could really do with – but be warned: it doesn’t just apply to others, it applies to you too!
The BBC article is here:
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140521-the-best-way-to-win-an-argument
and the Fernbach et al paper is here:
http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/6/939.short

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64 thoughts on “The best way to win an argument

  1. We can’t view the BBC article from the UK because we Brits only fund the BBC. Apparently despite us funding them, when they operate abroad in a “for profit” capacity we in the UK aren’t allowed to see what they are saying because we don’t fund that part. When out of the UK anyone can see the UK funded part of the BBC website. Those who can see the above site, what have you paid to fund it? I’d be very interested to know.

  2. The wrong way is to sling “facts” at your opponent. He is under no obligation to accept them as facts, nor are you obliged to accept his. It goes nowhere.

    The best way I have found is the Socratic method- asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking. Lead your opponent to a place where he realizes he’s wrong.

  3. Extremism. What a miss-used word. I would posit that political extremism is the political norm for both mainstream LEFT and RIGHT paradigms. And this position is supported by the above articles. What luck for (radical) leaders that men don’t think.

  4. I deal with this on a regular basis, working with building operations staff. Trying to teach someone an idea they think they already understand is more complex than I ever imagined.
    I also learn something new in every building I visit. Some discoveries are positive, and some are not.

  5. Sorry, I don’t see how this has anything to do with the best way to win an argument.

    People tend to not understand things as well as they think they do. When challenged to explain, they start to realize their lack of understanding. Fine. This is not new behavior.

    “shows how people’s mistaken sense that they understand underlying causal processes can be used to improve the quality of their arguments and lead to more moderate attitudes.”

    “People’s mistaken sense . . . can be used to improve the quality of their arguments.”

    Nonsense.

  6. No wonder the climataocrats won’t sit down for in depth interviews that ask them to explain how taxing CO2 or wind mills will actually help anything to do with climate. No wonder the President and so many other political leaders rely on name calling and ignoring those who would question him.

  7. Debating a belief system which is all that CAGW is, is a waste of time and effort. Facts don’t matter to them, nor does logic. They are burdened with emotion and irrationality, and thus immune to facts and logic.

  8. “That is something that the climate science debate could really do with – but be warned: it doesn’t just apply to others, it applies to you too!”

    ======================================

    Apropos of that, in a round-about way, I was taught something by a kind mentor that was something of an epiphany.

    This person had asked the advice of his lawyer on a business matter. The lawyer said (to the effect of): “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your position is unfavorable.”

    My mentor, instead of being upset with the news, said “On the contrary, that’s great news. Now at least I have an impartial assessment of my position; I know where I stand and can plan accordingly.”

    The truth sets you free, and it’s sad to see people willfully embrace error.

  9. son of mulder says:

    “Those who can see the above site, what have you paid to fund it? I’d be very interested to know.”

    My attention at/near advertisments.

  10. Annoyingly, the referenced BBC page isn’t accessible from within the UK:

    “We’re sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes.”

  11. ‘Extremism’ is associated not with being right but not tolerating the right of others to disagree with you.

    The Old Testament is very extremist by saying ‘Thou shalt have no other God but me’. Very dictatorial, isn’t it?? You’ll find similar statements in the Koran if I’m not mistaken……..

    The grey areas emerge when someone accepts the facts you have presented to them which refute their argument but refuse to climb down from their position. I’ve seen this a lot with climate zealots.

    Another grey area emerges when someone demands an equal vote using the line: ‘I haven’t got a clue, but these experts say so, so they must be right’, without spending enough time to determine whether you should believe what the experts tell you. It’s very frustrating that one, and you can see why people may descend toward extremism.

    A third grey area involve those folks whose mode of argument always involves sneering, deriding, and lying whenever you try and engage in debate. There’s a temptation to descend to violence with these people, because they are the apotheosis of debating extremists and often they have held senior positions where people aren’t supposed to challenge their authority. They are some of the most dangerous people in fomenting extremism, because they combine power, influence and authority with wrong-headed, pig-headed ignorance allied to an unacceptably aggressive debating style.

    So my position currently is that extremism in debate is fomented when an ignorant majority demand equal influence to those who have bothered to educate themselves as to the complexities of the matter, whilst not being financially dependent on the outcome of the argument.

    Of course, it is also fomented by threats to people’s livelihoods, family security or personal welfare.

  12. The BBC writer might want to add a follow-up piece on journalists who tip toe around the extremists positions and appease their bullet point rant lists like anti-nuclear slant, head in the sand bully tactics, and 10,000 years ago mush.

  13. This is for all of us British who are denied access to this article, in spite of being forced to pay the annual BBC license fee.

    Neurohacks | 21 May 2014

    The best way to win an argument

    How do you change someone’s mind if you think you are right and they are wrong? Psychology reveals the last thing to do is the tactic we usually resort to.

    You are, I’m afraid to say, mistaken. The position you are taking makes no logical sense. Just listen up and I’ll be more than happy to elaborate on the many, many reasons why I’m right and you are wrong. Are you feeling ready to be convinced?

    Whether the subject is climate change, the Middle East or forthcoming holiday plans, this is the approach many of us adopt when we try to convince others to change their minds. It’s also an approach that, more often than not, leads to the person on the receiving end hardening their existing position. Fortunately research suggests there is a better way – one that involves more listening, and less trying to bludgeon your opponent into submission.

    A little over a decade ago Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil from Yale University suggested that in many instances people believe they understand how something works when in fact their understanding is superficial at best. They called this phenomenon “the illusion of explanatory depth” [1]. They began by asking their study participants to rate how well they understood how things like flushing toilets, car speedometers and sewing machines worked, before asking them to explain what they understood and then answer questions on it. The effect they revealed was that, on average, people in the experiment rated their understanding as much worse after it had been put to the test.

    What happens, argued the researchers, is that we mistake our familiarity with these things for the belief that we have a detailed understanding of how they work. Usually, nobody tests us and if we have any questions about them we can just take a look. Psychologists call this idea that humans have a tendency to take mental short cuts when making decisions or assessments the “cognitive miser” theory [2].

    Why would we bother expending the effort to really understand things when we can get by without doing so? The interesting thing is that we manage to hide from ourselves exactly how shallow our understanding is.

    It’s a phenomenon that will be familiar to anyone who has ever had to teach something. Usually, it only takes the first moments when you start to rehearse what you’ll say to explain a topic, or worse, the first student question, for you to realise that you don’t truly understand it. All over the world, teachers say to each other “I didn’t really understand this until I had to teach it”. Or as researcher and inventor Mark Changizi quipped: “I find that no matter how badly I teach I still learn something” [3].

    Explain yourself

    Research published last year [4] on this illusion of understanding shows how the effect might be used to convince others they are wrong. The research team, led by Philip Fernbach, of the University of Colorado, reasoned that the phenomenon might hold as much for political understanding as for things like how toilets work. Perhaps, they figured, people who have strong political opinions would be more open to other viewpoints, if asked to explain exactly how they thought the policy they were advocating would bring about the effects they claimed it would.

    Recruiting a sample of Americans via the internet, they polled participants on a set of contentious US policy issues, such as imposing sanctions on Iran, healthcare and approaches to carbon emissions. One group was asked to give their opinion and then provide reasons for why they held that view. This group got the opportunity to put their side of the issue, in the same way anyone in an argument or debate has a chance to argue their case.

    Those in the second group did something subtly different. Rather that provide reasons, they were asked to explain how the policy they were advocating would work. They were asked to trace, step by step, from start to finish, the causal path from the policy to the effects it was supposed to have.

    The results were clear. People who provided reasons remained as convinced of their positions as they had been before the experiment. Those who were asked to provide explanations softened their views, and reported a correspondingly larger drop in how they rated their understanding of the issues. People who had previously been strongly for or against carbon emissions trading, for example, tended to became more moderate – ranking themselves as less certain in their support or opposition to the policy.

    So this is something worth bearing in mind next time you’re trying to convince a friend [5] that we should build more nuclear power stations, that the collapse of capitalism is inevitable, or that dinosaurs co-existed with humans 10,000 years ago. Just remember, however, there’s a chance you might need to be able to explain precisely why you think you are correct. Otherwise you might end up being the one who changes their mind.

    [1] http://www.yale.edu/cogdevlab/aarticles/IOED%20proofs.pdf%201.pdf
    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_miser
    [3] http://www.changizi.com/
    [4] http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/6/939.short
    [5] https://www.contributoria.com/issue/2014-05/5319c4add63a707e780000cd

  14. Another follow-up piece might be helpful if we could better understand irrational public policy stands based on perceptions of no cost of being wrong positions. The no cost driver appears to be powerful in the case of this President and his manipulation of practically all federal agencies in ludicrous statements and policy warps. Something similar may underlie the violent leaders and their sequence of actions right up to their demise in bunkers, etc.

  15. The piece of the analysis he left out is the intense hatred that scientist fanatics feel for anyone who really can demonstrate that they understand the underlying processes better than the fanatics do. They don’t “agree” when they find that out, they start shrieking “Burn the Witch! Burn the Witch!!!”

    Just ask Bengtsson how that works.

  16. From the article:

    >>>Those in the second group did something subtly different. Rather that provide reasons, they were asked to explain how the policy they were advocating would work. They were asked to trace, step by step, from start to finish, the causal path from the policy to the effects it was supposed to have.

    [snip]

    >>>Those who were asked to provide explanations softened their views, and reported a correspondingly larger drop in how they rated their understanding of the issues<<<

    I believe that someone posting on these pages described his own approach to climate discussions as being quite similar to this. A lot of people might discover that they can't explain their beliefs in detail.

  17. Interesting article. I used to hang out at Scientific American (before they ostensibly banned me for pointing out that Michael Mann did not actually win the Nobel Prize) and one of the questions I constantly asked the Alarmists was to explain to me the CO2 positive feedback/amplification mechanism and provide real world data that supports it’s existence. At first the Alarmists would proclaim “computer models prove it” and I would say computer models are not proof as they can be made to say anything the modeler wants. Next they would proclaim “CO2 affects water vapor” to which I would say, “Fine, then find me a paper that experimentally defines the mechanism and limits”, when no papers demonstrative of the mechanism could be found, the invective and bullying started. After this continued for some time, with still no satisfactory responses offered up by the Alarmists, calls for my banning began and ultimately I was kicked off the website, along with several others who asked similar questions.

    The point I’ll make is that sometimes asking someone to explain it to you does not moderate their position. It may make them become more radical and intolerant.

  18. “We can’t view the BBC article from the UK because we Brits only fund the BBC.”

    If you want to mask your country of origin, use a VPN and tunnel into the internet. ProXPN has a variety of VPN gateways around the world; their free service uses their gateway in Dallas, Texas, USA. I just verified that you can get access to the BBC website through this gateway. I’m actually not a paying customer; I only use their free service occasionally to deal with stupid policies of ISPs and websites.

  19. The problem is, the only time you get a real, two-way conversation is after the World and his Mother have fought themselves to a standstill and they see reasonableness as the first port of call, rather than ‘you are a ‘denier” unless you agree with all my statements from Day 1.

    Sorry, we’ll have to take down the Climate ‘Science’ and associated University Departments before we can have a dialogue about reality……:o)

  20. McMulder: this is really off topic, but you are touching on a very sore point with me. As you (as someone that has lived outside the US) are aware, the US news and media it stitched up tight here, you only get to see what they want to feed you, news or general entertainment. Much better sources are just not aired.

    I used to listen to short wave BBC WOrld Service broadcasts, then the BBC sold re-broadcast rights in the US to PRI and shut down all the SW relays to the US. The. BBC claims this was to allow better reception, and that programming was available on local radio channels. Of course, the satellite feeds are encrypted, and at least here in Oregon, if there is any BBC WS content available, it’s for half an hour at 4am.

    The rest of the world gets BBC WS TV, but all available feeds in the US are now encrypted, because the BBC sold the name to The Discovery Channel, who call it BBC America, which has really little in common with the BBC other than showing some of their content, a lot of independent tv (ITV) programs and a bit of locally produced content.

    The amount of locally produced stuff is likely to increase, because both BBC and ITV have sold a lot of their better programming to Acorn Media which is no longer re-selling to US distributors, having decided it can compete with. Netflix and Amazon in Internet distribution.

    Since even if you were to send the BBC a check for a TV license you still wouldn’t be able to see the content, I take the same money and donate it to vpnuk.info.

  21. Right, so the message is that people crumble under questioning (the basis of the Socratic method) – hence the phrase “WE ask the questions.”

  22. Who knows what the article says, but the premise is odd, given the lengths the BBC goes NOT to call terrorists terrorists.

    Instead we have
    rebels
    activists
    militants

    this even in the case of internationally acknowledged groups such as Hamas, who are regularly characterised by the BBC as “militants”.

    Chuck out your TV – you really won’t miss it – and stop funding this arsehole of an institution.

  23. @Shoshin says: May 23, 2014 at 7:09 am
    ==================================

    Yup. The Guardian is the same – simply questioning CAGW can get you banned. “Facts are sacred” they claim – except when we need to change them.

  24. Climate zealots are an extreme minority and a lost cause. The reason to debate them is not to change their minds but to give interested spectators facts and insights the media ignores. It is ok to point out (nicely) that they are wrong to engage their ego’s. Bystanders can see who has the facts and who is resorting to name calling.

    I’ve had great success over the years getting people to change their views 180 degrees by using some of the techniques they mention. Our educational system trains people to repeat what they are told rather than think for themselves. It takes some gentle hand holding, but walking people through how cause and effect works using empirical facts, gives them the understanding to see how their belief’s don’t match reality. The pervasive propaganda in the media has created a false reality in the minds of most people. The vast majority of the public has no idea that there are facts supporting a skeptical view of the mainstream media’s presentation of this subject. These are the people who will turn the tides and can be reached at social gatherings if you are brave enough to speak out.

  25. “explain how the policy they were advocating would work.”

    The trouble with this is that it leaves assumptions and variant meanings hidden, from oneself and others. The wildest utopian commonly thinks his half-baked pipe-dreams would work well.

    The only way I’ve seen work to solve such conflicts is to dig down to the sometimes microscopically difference in meaning between a very few terms which are at the base of the disagreement. Doing that invariably raises the heat geometrically until the telling point is reached. Unfortunately, too many people fail to persist to that point. Too many people shut down in the face of even collegial verbal argumentation. They find it too stressful, while others revel in it and seek it out, hoping to elicit gems of import.

    I see nothing inherently wrong with “extremism” or “radicalism”, and nothing inherently good about “moderation”.

  26. Gamecock says:
    May 23, 2014 at 6:30 am
    Sorry, I don’t see how this has anything to do with the best way to win an argument.
    People tend to not understand things as well as they think they do. When challenged to explain, they start to realize their lack of understanding. Fine. This is not new behavior.

    “shows how people’s mistaken sense that they understand underlying causal processes can be used to improve the quality of their arguments and lead to more moderate attitudes.”

    “People’s mistaken sense . . . can be used to improve the quality of their arguments.”

    Nonsense.

    ################################

    Gamecock illustrates the wrong behavior

    from the article.

    “You are, I’m afraid to say, mistaken. The position you are taking makes no logical sense. Just listen up and I’ll be more than happy to elaborate on the many, many reasons why I’m right and you are wrong. Are you feeling ready to be convinced?

    Whether the subject is climate change, the Middle East or forthcoming holiday plans, this is the approach many of us adopt when we try to convince others to change their minds. It’s also an approach that, more often than not, leads to the person on the receiving end hardening their existing position.”

    Here is what I would suggest to Gamecock.

    Tell us how argument works. Explain how you change someone’s mind.

    “Bruce Cobb says:
    May 23, 2014 at 6:36 am
    Debating a belief system which is all that CAGW is, is a waste of time and effort. Facts don’t matter to them, nor does logic. They are burdened with emotion and irrationality, and thus immune to facts and logic.”

    Bruce elaborates on why the alarmists are wrong, ironically showing us that the article is correct.

    ‘”You are, I’m afraid to say, mistaken. The position you are taking makes no logical sense. Just listen up and I’ll be more than happy to elaborate on the many, many reasons why I’m right and you are wrong. Are you feeling ready to be convinced?

    Whether the subject is climate change, the Middle East or forthcoming holiday plans, this is the approach many of us adopt when we try to convince others to change their minds. It’s also an approach that, more often than not, leads to the person on the receiving end hardening their existing position.””

    Lesson for Bruce. explain why the earth is warmer than the moon.

  27. The best way to win a scientific argument is this. I had it applied to me by a colleague, years ago. We could not resolve a difference of opinion, so he said, “as a scientist, you must accept the possibility that you are wrong”. I answered, Yes, I do. “Well I don’t, so I win.”

  28. In the case of energy and agriculture, we do indeed face a generation that believes itself to be capable of destroying these sectors of the economy and replacing them with something else. Some of them believe that in the act of destroying energy and agriculture, new and better systems will spontaneously emerge. There is no classical engineer who would ever, ever take such a position and expect to keep his license to practice.

    The people under these illusions would be totally distressed by products that don’t work, products that are extremely expensive which were once plentiful and cheap, shortages, and famines – all of which would result from destroying energy and agriculture. They also are not aware that top-down remaking of economies and agriculture have been implemented before in history with totally disastrous and deadly results. Therefore, you can expect that you are talking with people who 1. do not know their own limitations, and 2. have had collectivist history hidden from them.

    Our situation in the US can be summarized by the saying, “The only difference between theory and practice is that in theory there is no difference.”

  29. Freakomics have a relevant important new point
    1- We program children to never say IT,
    2- There is immense pressure in employment especially for powerful leaders never to say IT
    .. so we have massive inbuilt bias, leading to bad judgement
    The IT is “I don’t know”
    see The Three Hardest Words in the English Language
    – in The list of Freakonomics Podcasts

  30. Rhys Jaggar says:
    May 23, 2014 at 6:49 am
    ____________________
    Your comments match what I have observed and experienced. Not only that, but your descriptions are remarkably clear, succinct and easy to understand.
    Thank you.

  31. The ‘warmists’ are one step ahead of this one, which only works if both sides engage in ‘fact based reasoning’, or at least think they do. Global warming discussions don’t work that way, at least in my experience. They go something like this. Sceptic: “for 17 years, no warming”. Believer: its happening ‘because all the scientists say so’. Using the BBC method described, sceptic could ask “why do you think that?” The response is still ‘because all the scientists say so’. It doesn’t matter what the warmist is asked to explain, his answer is always ‘because all the scientists say so’. The ‘warmist’ have so thoroughly engendered this position, that it will take a massive glaciation to open a chink in the armor. This years record cold winter certainly made no dent.

  32. Article now available worldwide ?
    As posted above the article didn’t seem avaible abroad and just as I started to hack Google and Bing’s caches .. It suddenly appeared working on the original URL

  33. After reading more of the comments, I would agree that moderation can be quite costly and irresponsible if it leads to half a policy in place of stopping and backing away from a policy disaster. See VA system and “we don’t pick winners” DOE grant policy for renewable energy. As for carbon mitigation, it might be quantified as $3 trillion in place of $6 trillion in the budget and debt add on.

  34. The BBC is advising warmistas to avoid facts. Because nobody really understands facts to the nth degree, so you can play the skeptic with skeptics. They so smart.

  35. Charles Davis says:
    May 23, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Charles, the trick is not to stop too soon. Keep drilling down with questions:

    “Because all the scientists say so.”
    -All what scientists?
    “Climate scientists.”
    -All? Every single one?
    “97 percent of them.”
    -And how was that number determined?
    “A survey, or something.”
    -When and where was it done? Who participated? How many participated? What were the questions on the survey?

    “uh…. this one goes to 11.”

    Sorry, Spinal Tap joke at the end there.

  36. The argument sounds very similar to what used to be called “thinking it through”.

  37. Caroline Lucas (British Green Party) the other night on BBC. Thanks to the proxy provider for this!

    Explains that the UK should not allow fracking because of the CO2 emissions, and that’s the last thing we should do when catastrophic warming is on its way. Instead, and the implication was that it would somehow lower or avert global warming, the UK should move to powering itself from wind and solar.

    The interviewer did not think to ask how much difference it would make to warming if the UK did that.

  38. A number of BBC current affairs journalists have been recently found expressing uninhibited adverse views on social media about a particular political party in the 22 May ballot. This is in clear breach of rules on impartiality, which is explicit in the BBC’s Charter. I wonder what techniques BBC managers used to persuade those journalists of the rightness of impartiality. I wonder what techniques BBC managers have instituted to effect reinforcement of those rules.

  39. Sasha says:
    May 23, 2014 at 6:52 am

    There is a word for this: ‘explication’. Any good professor will challenge his/her students to explicate their claims. Most professors do not.

  40. All this really proves is that most people don’t understand what they believe nearly as well as they think they do.

    As for ‘winning an argument’ – even this ‘soft’ method won’t have any effect on an ideologue who won’t tolerate being asked questions and who refuses to explain their position in any detail.

  41. “They were asked to trace, step by step, from start to finish, the causal path from the policy to the effects it was supposed to have.”

    And if it fails? Do more of it, and make sure no one else can do anything else. Eliminate all the small competing theories, eliminate all of the control groups which might show that shutting down coal plants and forcing organic agriculture on the US are a failure, resulting in rising costs and shortages.

    This is how progressive scientists roll. So there is no need to soften your position if you think that results and feed back from these social experiments should not be ignored.

  42. @Steven, what got your panties in such a bunch, and why are you asking about earth vs moon’s warmth?
    CAGW Believers simply want to, nay need to believe. Facts and logic simply do not matter to them. I’m not convinced they matter much to you, either.

  43. Derek Sorensen says:

    May 23, 2014 at 6:44 am

    Annoyingly, the referenced BBC page isn’t accessible from within the UK:

    “We’re sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes.”
    =================================
    Try Startpage.com, tick the appropriate boxes and you should be able to get to the page. Start page will funnel you through a server somewhere in the world so you won’t be recognized at an English IP address. Helps me get past the Great Firewall when I’m in that part of the world.

  44. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation, UK) looks at analysis that could lead to more moderate attitudes.

    But is still convenes secret committees to promote a one sided pro climate change agenda and when caught out in this does nothing to correct the imbalance that is in violation of its charter and hence in violation of the very justification for a compulsory licence..

  45. Easy:

    Sceptic: You think CO2 causes global warming?
    Believer. Yes
    Sceptic: Good.

    Sceptic: Do you know the role of clouds in climate?
    Believer: No

    Sceptic: Neither does anyone else. So how do you know that it is CO2 and not clouds that is making things warmer.
    Believer: ??????????????

  46. Unless you can convince the other side to totally change their mind there won’t be a winner. Either both side become moderate which is a draw, or one side remains certain they are right while the other accepts they don’t know who is right which is a stalemate.

    If you were a canny sort you would paint your actual aim as a moderate position and then adopt an artificially extreme position. Once the argument begins you can then appear to moderate your position along with the other side but the result is what you actually wanted. Aiming high in negotiations with the intention to make it look like you are giving something up is nothing new.

    • Another Gareth says:
      Unless you can convince the other side to totally change their mind there won’t be a winner. Either both side become moderate which is a draw, or one side remains certain they are right while the other accepts they don’t know who is right which is a stalemate.

      It seems to me that in a debate about facts, a ‘moderate’ position is a loss for the ‘correct’ side.

      I’ve recently read some Ayn Rand essays where she talks about the intellectual move away from accepting facts to a position that facts are inherently unknowable. This seems to reflect that idea.

  47. As a guy who barely graduated HS and has very little college I admit a lot of what is discussed here goes way beyond what I’m able to understand. (seems like I might have brought that up here before but not sure) Anyway, I quite arguing with people I know or online about AGW, climate change or whatever a long time ago as a lot of people I try to discuss it with are not any smarter than I am. But they try to make is seem like they are by spouting off or copying and pasting some scientific minutia that makes no sense to either of us. I’ve been reading about this hoax off and on since the mid 90’s and my gut just tells me it’s all BS and that’s all I need.
    Even though I can’t always fully understand a lot of the science discussed here I absolutely love this site. If I comment on a AGW/climate change article at other sites I usually sum it up by also saying that I get all my climate news from here, post a link and say it’s the only site I trust. The reaction to that is priceless every time but I don’t engage.

  48. What a pile of FOD.

    “They began by asking their study participants to rate how well they understood how things like flushing toilets, car speedometers and sewing machines worked”

    Ask me! I’ve fixed all three and then some. As a person matures, it is natural and common to know things and also know the boundaries of his or her knowledge.

    “Recruiting a sample of Americans via the internet”— there’s problem number one; a non-representative sample — people willing to answer questions on the internet and a grand assumption that the survey hasn’t been “punked”.

    “they were asked to explain how the policy they were advocating would work.”

    Yeah, I do that too. How exactly are you planning on providing health care to all 7 billion people on earth? Make Tom do it? How exactly are you planning on stopping hurricanes? Make everyone else give up heating their homes and driving cars to work?

    “Those who were asked to provide explanations softened their views”

    Unless they own a blog, such as Scientific American, in which case it is easier to ban annoying commenters than actually describe the methods by which these miracles will be produced.

    “you might end up being the one who changes their mind.”

    Bad English: YOU are not a THEY. A more correct way to write this is “You might end up changing your mind.” (shorter, more active voice, more correct). BBC — are you reading this?

    “we mistake our familiarity with these things for the belief that we have a detailed understanding of how they work.”

    THERE IS NO “WE”. You speak for you, I will speak for me. What I claim to understand is what I understand; when I say I am familiar with something, it means we can converse and I might understand enough of your words to sort of comprehend what you are talking about.

  49. Steven Mosher says:
    May 23, 2014 at 8:25 am

    =========

    You made that up; it is not stated in the article. The article begins with a premise, then ends. You act as if more is developed from the premise.

  50. Steven Mosher says:
    May 23, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Lesson for Bruce. explain why the earth is warmer than the moon.
    ====================

    Why, global warming, you silly…

  51. The surface of the moon is much hotter than the earth – it can reach temps of up to 123 degrees on the sun side

  52. Would that Mosher question about the moon being colder than the Earth be when Luna is sunlit, or when in shadow?

    If it is about an “average temperature”, perhaps Mosher can explain how averaging an intrinsic property can result in a new intrinsic property (rather than a meaningless math result…)

    If it is about an “average temperature”, perhaps Mosher can explain why any given method of averaging is used in preference to any other. Would that be a power mean (and which one…) or an arithmetic mean, or some other mean. Which one is chosen, and based on what physics? Since they all yield different results, not knowing why you choose one over the other is admission of ignorance.

    Personally, I’d say the moon has some patches in sunlight that are hotter than some patches on Earth and that it has some in shadow that are colder than some patches on Earth. Luna, lacking an atmosphere, has less active heat transport between sunny and shadowed parts… How averaging them together makes any sense at all, is left as an exercise for Mosher. It’s his game.

    Per “the best way to win an argument”: IMHO, it doesn’t matter. What matters is keeping a tidy mind (a LOT of work), not indulging in personal preference when it comes to data and analysis, and being right much more often than wrong ( as that shows you are doing the other steps generally well). QA and self checking, along with a painful attention to detail (“Damn the sloth, full speed ahead down that rabbit hole!”) and an unwillingness to skip over ‘issues’ helps a lot.

    Or, more briefly: It is hard to win an argument with a stupid stone. Or anyone who mimics one… So “let it go”… and improve your own grasp of reality instead. “Intelligence is limited, but stupidity known no bounds.” – E.M.Smith So avoid being sucked into the stupidity black hole…

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