Argumentum ex bardus
Omnologos cannot logically exist
The lottery fallacy
Standing on their heads
Potentia ex verum
Getting to the point of this post requires walking through some rather tedious Denier thinking and I apologise for that. I ask you to bear with me because I believe the walk through is rather revelatory and I think of some value. Even so, I will try to keep it short and to the point.
Argumentum Ex Bardus
Through October and November Omnologos created a list of events and circumstances related to climate change and climate science that he considered improbably coincidental, and as such offered it as clear evidence as to Why AGW Is Logically Impossible.
Discarding all of the points that are obviously false, pure conjecture, value laden subjective opinion, completely irrelevant and/or just silly (ie most of them) one is left with a small collection of arguably objective facts about our current moment in history. (I should note that whether you chuck any out or not changes nothing … as will be shown it’s all a load of idiotic rubbish regardless.)
His argument is that since these coincidences are extremely improbable, their existence is proof that anthropogenic climate change is not real. Here are three of his examples:
- Relatively widespread availability of computer power is just enough strong to simulate the right climate projections on a multi-decadal scale
- Climate science is developed just beyond the minimal level needed to understand how to simulate the right climate projections on a decadal scale
- Novel statistical approaches devised just in time, and correct from the get-go, for Mann’s Hockey Stick to emerge from the jumble of dendro- and other proxy data
Omnologos cannot logically exist
The flawed nonthinking of this argument is easily shown by applying the same lack of logic to a perfectly mundane subject, eg the existence of Omnologos.
Consider that every ovum and every sperm is genetically unique. To get the precise genetic combination that is Omnologos required that one particular ovum of his mother’s 50,000 or so would combine with one particular sperm of the hundreds of millions that his father would produce in his life. How likely was that? OMG … it’s a conspiracy!
Depending on how silly you want to be you then keep asking “How likely was that?” of as many things as you want to be idiotic about.
- Out of 5 billion humans at the time, what were the chances his parents would even meet?
- Given the data above re: ova and sperm, what were the chances his parents would have the right genetic combination from their parents? (take this one right back to the big bang if you like)
Continue the formula for everything that ever happened to Omnologos in his life (schools attended, people met, books read, etc), and the lives of all his ancestors and everyone he ever met.
Do it even for meals eaten because if it hadn’t been exactly that hamburger on that day in that place, his life would have turned out differently! Repeat for every meal ever eaten, every component of every meal (if that potato hadn’t become that french fry …) until you have an improbability as absurd as the argument itself; then conclude “so clearly … Omnologos cannot logically exist!”
The lottery fallacy
It’s a pretty juvenile a posteri logic fail known as the lottery fallacy
The nutshell version goes like this. Suppose we have a lottery where 100 million people each have one ticket. The probability that a particular individual will win is 1 in 100 million, but the probability that someone will win is 100%. Fine, so we hold the lottery and someone wins (100% probability); suppose it was ‘Jane Doe.’
The Nutbar version goes like this: Now ask, “what was the chance that Jane Doe would win?” If they’re easily confused by shiny objects the answer is OMG … 1 in 100 million … it’s a conspiracy!
Of course before the lottery Jane Doe was just “somebody”, so in asking about the chances after the lottery has happened the question is still properly “what were the chance that ‘somebody’ would win?” or put more clearly “what were the chances that the person who wins will be the winner?” 100%, just like before.
To count as evidence for any sort you have to have named Jane Doe as the probable winner before the lottery happens, then you are allowed to be surprised or feel vindicated if she actually does win.
You still haven’t proved anything of course. Rare events that only happen 1 in 100 million times actually do happen roughly 1 in 100 million times purely by chance. That’s what those numbers actually mean.
Anti-evolutionists and Deists love this logical fallacy because they use it to supposedly demonstrate that ‘this precise Universe’ is almost infinitely impossible, hence there must be a God and a design. That ‘this precise God’ is also almost infinitely impossible does not seem to occur to them.
Rich in irony
A diet of Denier tracts may be devoid of just about anything to feed your intelligence, but they are always rich in irony. Omnilogus coins the term ‘Argument Ad Providentiam’ as a “New Logical Fallacy” to describe his insight.
Shockingly the academic world has not rushed to embrace this new name for a simple non sequitor of the deus ex machina variety. Insomuch as science has not committed any logical fallacy, and even if they had it would be of a well known garden variety type, there can be only one possible explanation for academics not adopting this neooigism of his … it’s a conspiracy!
As mentioned, it’s the sort of muddled thinking that fascinates teenagers and which really stoned Sophomores use to jerk around gullible Frosh. It’s transparent nonsense, so naturally the Denialosphere
thought it was some kind of joke re-posted it around the net, and that’s just the first of the logic errors in this “analysis” by ‘Omnilogos’ [caution: diets too rich in irony can lead to a build up of cynicism].
Standing on their heads
Our tale of Denier silliness starts to get moderately interesting when you consider another of his logical failures, the assumption that the various conditions he mentions are independent of one another. For example, that a societies’ technological and scientific capabilities in computing, satellites, climate science, mathematics, statistics etc are all completely unrelated.
He believes a society could be so advanced scientifically and technologically as to develop powerful computers, but be quite backward in it’s understanding of modeling and climate (or vice versa). Not only an unjustified assumption, but almost certainly completely backwards.
Obviously to develop powerful computers a society must have fairly sophisticated mathematics and modeling capabilities, and given those, modeling climate in particular is nothing special.
Equally a society with sophisticated capabilities in mathematics and complex systems (eg climate) could easily develop powerful computers. Actually I can’t imagine developing one without the other. Progressive advances in one will facilitate advances in the other.
Not only do many of these technological and scientific advances develop in parallel, some drive the other. Omnologos’ “Novel statistical approaches” argument is like being shocked that fire pits were devised just in time with the discovery of fire. In fact the entire argument is similar to being shocked to discover that most of the people you meet who have two legs also have two arms! and a head! Obviously … it’s a conspiracy!
Of course if you actually think about it at all, a society sufficiently large to affect climate would have to have a fairly advanced technology, science and social organizational capacity to allow for the huge population and mass activities that an impact on that scale requires.
As such a society so large as to be affecting climate in any significant way will almost certainly be sufficiently advanced to detect it, understand it, and attempt to cope with it. This is not surprising, it is virtually inevitable.
In fact Omnologos’ premise that this convergence is surprising is not just false, it is the most illogical expectation one could have. How could anyone imagine a culture so advanced as to have satellites, but not understand the basic thermal properties of common elements? One with the advanced agricultural technology necessary to feed huge populations, but primitive understanding of the climate upon which that agriculture depends?
His premises make absolutely no sense. Not only does he not draw the logical conclusion, he embraces the most illogical interpretation. This is the part that I find fascinating. The anti-evolutionists etc may use this same logic failure to justify their beliefs, but at least the absurdity of their argument is not so glaring.
In the case of Omnologos and the climate change Deniers, the premises are so obviously false and the whole construct so ridiculous that I can’t imagine even stoned teenagers believing it, yet the Deniers do. Where does that come from?
As is his habit Omnologos never states much of anything that he can be called to account for, and he certainly does not actually state that there is any conspiracy of any sort. [He does wish this clarification brought to everyone’s attention]
He merely supposedly “proves” that all of the circumstances around climate change are too coincidental to be believed, and then leaves it to the readers advanced state of paranoia and boundless credulity to take it as confirmation of a pre-determined conclusion.
Dark minds lost in shadows
” … The earliest stages of delusion are characterized by an overabundance of meaningful coincidences, … ”
” … found that people who endorse conspiracy theories are especially likely to feel angry, mistrustful, alienated from society, and helpless over larger forces controlling their lives.
Conspiracy theorists have a grandiose view of themselves as heroes “manning the barricades of civilization” at an urgent “turning point” in history … Grandiosity is often a defense against underlying feelings of powerlessness.
… people primed to feel out of control are particularly likely to see patterns in random stimuli. Field Guide to the Conspiracy Theorist
Pareidolia “vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant”
“…people who believe some conspiracy theories are more likely to accept new conspiracy theories.” Conspiracy Theorists: Is the Truth Out There?
What this is telling us is that for the more hardcore Denier their behaviour is not a response to climate change and climate science in particular, but is rather is just one manifestation of how they are relating to the world generally. These people aren’t simply more gullible than average, they really want to believe in conspiracies (eg see here and here for how little it takes. Here and here for 30 of the more popular theories).
Indeed it comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with them that the science, the facts, reality itself is completely irrelevant. To the conspiracy theorist the threat has certain attributes viz it is large, they don’t understand it, and it makes them feel insecure and frightened. Their response to things with these characteristics is the same, they reject it regardless of what it is or how obviously real it is.
Deus ex insania
For some of the climate change Deniers it is not that they use a conspiracy to “explain” the obvious flaws in their climate change denial, but rather that their belief that climate change is a hoax is another piece of evidence justifying their belief in conspiracies.
Obviously it is another example of motivated reasoning, but for some there is additional component of inferred justification where the “fact” of the supposed climate deception legitimizes their faith in grand conspiracies.
The irrational rejection of scientific reality with respect to climate is secondary to their faith in conspiracies and merely another prop for it. In that sense we are up against much more than simple irrational rejection of reality to sustain belief in a particular political or economic ideology (the difference between them being muddled at best).
This is more akin to the anti-evolutionists for whom what is at stake is their entire cosmology, embracing politics, economics, social relations, identity … everything.
The appeal of a conspiracy theory is that the complex is made simple, the ‘threat’ isn’t real, the sense of insignificance is lessened knowing that the theorists ‘superior intellect’ has seen through the facade, and a world view is legitimized.
For them it is not a a scientific question at all, it is an existential (ie philosophophical or religious) issue.
That climate change denial is irrational is indisputable. That in some cases it is clinically so is almost certain. Even so, it is both wrong and pointless to pathologize a behaviour shared by a group, all the more so if you are not a medical practitioner, and that is not what is being suggested here.
However it is fair to note that irrational conspiracy theories are quite common among the climate change Deniers, and that the belief in these conspiracy theories is related to their emotional response to the facts and not any intellectual processing of the information.
Potentia ex verum
To the extent that “the Deniers” includes many people who are more correctly understood to be “in denial”, ie they are not Deniers per se, but rather expressing denier based opinions that are not strongly held, this helps us understand how we may reach them. Perhaps 10% of the population are unreachable in that they are too invested in their beliefs to respond to reason, but that is not true of the rest.
The key point is that the rejection of reality is at least partially rooted in a sense of helplessness; no matter how compelling or undeniable the evidence is, frightened people will deny it.
On the one hand this insight may help us to frame our educational attempts in empowering terms to undercut the reflexive response by people to reject reality out of fear. I am most certainly not advocating dumbing down the facts, merely saying that we need to be aware of the emotional consequences of our messages and choose our presentation accordingly.
On the other hand the sad truth is that as climate change proceeds, despair and and a sense of helplessness become increasingly rational, reasonable responses.
In researching this post I stumbled across “Conspiracy lol” a site devoted to collecting funny quotes from the conspiracy crowd. While the site has a number of excellent (ie funny/scary) quotes it is seriously lacking in the climate change department.
Please do help them get up to speed by submitting your favourite bons mots from the Denialophere. Such a rich source of delusional paranoia as the climate change Deniers deserves to be recognized for it’s impressive share of cognitive failure in modernity.
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.