Who’s the authority: your own eyes or someone else?

Ben Pile & Stuart Blackman take a look at The Royal Society’s ‘motto-morphosis’. It is an ominous sign that the prestigious scientific institution has changed its motto from ‘on the word of no one’ to ‘respect the facts’.

Unrepresentative evidence has morphed into scientific fact by a process that owes more to Chinese whispers than scientific rigour. …

The Royal Society also makes much of the motivations of so-called ‘deniers’. …

And let’s face it; it would be handy to be able to trust the Royal Society on matters of experimental evidence. Because the alternative is that we all have to go out and do all the experiments ourselves.

The case in point for this example is global climate change. The symptoms are consistent. The argument moves away from evidence to speculation and authoritative pronouncement. The opposition is labeled and their motives questioned.

Check out The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking by Thomas E. Kida

* We prefer stories to statistics
* We seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas
* We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in shaping events
* We sometimes misperceive the world around us
* We tend to oversimplify our thinking
* We have faulty memories

Everyone can learn from this book because, of course, smart people are just as able to make errors in thinking as are less smart people. Degrees do not make one immune from falling for bad reasoning or believing nonsense.

Or see why Newmark’s door declines to bet on global warming. This is because of the difficulty in getting our own evidence:

1. I’m mildly skeptical that global temperature can be defined to the complete satisfaction of betting parties.
2. I’m a bit more skeptical of how advocates of the global warming hypothesis address lay audiences.
3. I’m even more skeptical about the amount of the warming, if any, that is anthropogenic.
4. Finally, I’m most skeptical… that public policies centered on controlling carbon or some of its compounds are anything close to economically sensible.

But then you can review Michael Le Page’s Climate change: A guide for the perplexed in New Scientist and see how simple it all is.

Our planet’s climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, … and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors. …

Yes, there are still big uncertainties in some predictions, but these swing both ways. …

With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.

So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions.

There is also a guide to assessing the evidence. In the articles we’ve included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.

While the NewScientist tows the line and is a proper advocate, its myths are not quite as clearly squashed as they try to portray. The problem is that you have to read carefully and take note of what they say about uncertainties and nuances. There is an inherent contradiction between the clarity of the myths squashing and the science. In that fog is as much to be learned as there is in the ability of some to see clearly through it, or think they can.

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