Climate Debate Daily is a website which claims to offer “a new way to understand disputes about global warming”:
Climate Debate Daily is intended to deepen our understanding of disputes over climate change and the human contribution to it. The site links to scientific articles, news stories, economic studies, polemics, historical articles, PR releases, editorials, feature commentaries, and blog entries. The main column on the left includes arguments and evidence generally in support of the IPCC position on the reality of signficant [sic] anthropogenic global warming. The right-hand column includes material skeptical of the IPCC position and the notion that anthropogenic global warming represents a genuine threat to humanity.
On the surface of it, it sounds promising. Present all the evidence to people and let them make up their own minds. Isn’t that what informed democracy is all about? Sadly, no. Science isn’t a democracy. Good science is separated from bad based on the weight of evidence. In order to evaluate the evidence, you need to understand the field as a whole. Context is everything – and if you don’t understand the context, it’s almost impossible to gauge the significance of any one paper.
The site is run by two philosophers – Douglas Campbell a doctoral student in philosophy at the University of Arizona (who is impressed by the breadth and depth of the scientific evidence supporting the theory of anthropogenic global warming) and Denis Dutton, an associate professo at the University of Canterbury (who is skeptical about the degree to which human activity has contributed to the general warming trend). Therein lies the first problem – philosophers have a bad habit of weighing arguments instead of weighing evidence. I’ve seen that approach among philosophers and historians of science in the evolution-creation debate – some of them seem almost naive in their willingness to suspend judgment.
Looking a little deeper at the site, more red flags pop up. It pits a graduate student against an associate professor. Hardly a battle of equals. It is funded by Peter Farrell, who is skeptical of the threat of anthropogenic global warming. That shifts the balance of power even more.
Farrell is quoted as saying “Let the best argument win”. Sadly, that is the problem that’s at the heart of the issue. Science isn’t a battle of rhetoric – it’s a battle of evidence. And whatever its public policy implications, climate change is a scientific issue.
A quick search on Google turns up quite a few links to this site. Most simply document its existence, or broadly fall for its spin. A few sites call it for what it is – a website playing the Fox News game of deception “we report, you decide”. And then there’s a wealth of libertarian/Objectivist sites which, unsurprisingly, are almost giddy over the site. Perhaps that the most telling bit – the people who are praising the site are all “skeptics”. No one pro-science seems to have anything positive to say about the site. Only the “skeptics”. Curious, isn’t it? Continue reading