Only The Sangfroid

Mark is of fair average intelligence, who is neither perverse, nor morbid or suspicious of mind, nor avid for scandal. He does live in an ivory tower.

These are his draft thoughts…

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line… Arguing for science

There are a few debates in Australia which have become rather bland and predictable.  Regardless of what happens, the same people make the same arguments with nearly the same words.

When Telstra announced, for example, that it was going to release the 4G network, the usual voices piped up to show why the National Broadband Network would be unnecessary.  In response, the usual voices pointed to physics to show why the NBN would still be necessary.  And so on and so forth.  At the time, I remember reading an article which complained about this predictability and noting that this didn’t make one of the sides incorrect.

The ancient version of this debate, I guess, is the question of division by zero.  Despite pretty much everybody agreeing that you can’t divide by zero, there’s a history of cranks who pop up to say: ‘Nope.  Everybody’s wrong and I’ve worked out how to divide by zero’.  Whenever that happens, the usual suspects go to their usual responses to show why orthodoxy is correct.  At no point do we think that we should be dismissive of them just because they’re rehashing their proven responses.

But, when it comes to public policy involving science, people seem to put on their silly boots.  ‘Bah! You just keep saying that there’s no way for light to travel that quickly!  You don’t know that the free market can’t find a way to make faster light!  If it were profitable, they could do it!  Stop rehashing your old arguments!  Broken record, &c., &c.’

We are seeing what happens when people don’t stick to the tested and proven script.  Over on ABC’s The Drum, Graham Readfern seems to think the reason why anthropogenic climate change deniers deny anthropogenic climate change is because they have links to industry.  That’s the charitable interpretation.  The other possibility is that he thinks they’re incorrect because they have links to industry.

It is common to hear the (anti-intellectual) denial of anthropogenic climate change: ‘Climate scientists are paid to agree that anthropogenic climate change is true.’  What is the actual difference between the complaint from the red necks and the complaint from Readfern?

I think we should be less worried about boring old debating scripts and more worried about promoting reasonable and sensible discussion.  Admittedly, it would help if the media stopped giving air to trolls like Readfern and Monckton.

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