Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"These people are important so they must be right"

From Josh

Last week I was in London for a meeting and took the opportunity to attend a Spectator debate conducted by a selection of the great and the good in the current debate on climate change.  Herewith my brief notes of the evening, including the remarkable claim by Simon Singh (science writer, BBC) that policy on poorly understood issues should be decided according to the reputed authority of a selection of 'experts'.
The motion was "The global warming concern is over - time for a return to sanity".
Speaking for the motion were Lord Nigel Lawson, Dr Benny Peiser, Graeme Stringer, MP. Against were Professor Sir David King, Professor Tim Palmer and Simon Singh (Science writer, BBC).
In a poll taken of those entering the figures were
For: 423
Against: 149
Undecided: 101
In a poll taken during the summing up speeches the results were
For: 428
Against: 214
Undecided: 31 (Actually no one voted undecided - it was just the remainder after the for and against votes were counted)
Lawson: Telling points, good arguments, but not as fluent or persuasive as he might have been. 7/10
Peiser: Made the mistake of arguing the motion (!) and overstated the abandonment of global warming concern. Perhaps it will come but its not there yet. Arguments were economic and political. They don't necessarily persuade. 5/10
Stringer: Superb instant riposte to the argument from (alleged) authority. Well marshalled arguments. Focus on the failings of the science. Not flowing. 8/10
King: Persuasive. Played the fear factor ruthlessly and spoke from (pseudo) authority. Sounded inaccurate on issues of the link between CO2 and warming and some of the graphs seemed to my eyes misleading. 2/10 for argument and 7/10 for persuasiveness. Summary 5/10
Palmer: Played the fear factor and spoke from (pseudo) authority. Arguments logically challenged(!) and a mark deducted for trying to infer that Prof Lindzen agreed with him. 3/10
Singh: Used Powerpoint to superb effect and was very persuasive 8/10. Shame about the arguments (summary: I don't have a clue about the science but these people are famous and important so they must be right - really, that was it!) 2/10. Total 5/10
Further discussion:

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