Posts Tagged ‘ global warming ’

7.5 Resisting denial

Some truths are not pleasant to contemplate. They may make us feel uncomfortable, threaten our view of ourselves or even our way of life.

When such truths surface, so do arguments that seek to deny them. We convince ourselves a departed loved one is coming back, or must be waiting for us in another realm; perhaps we believe human cruelty on the scale of the Holocaust could not be real, and allow ourselves to be persuaded by denials; some cannot tolerate the idea of a black US President, and turn to the belief that he must be a secret Islamist, a Communist, a non-American and so on. Even when the factual evidence is overwhelming, there are often some that will construct arguments to rebut inconvenient truths.

In the following short essay, the author constructs what looks like a powerful denial of global warming. Try to use all the tips and tricks that we’ve covered since post 1 to see holes in the argument. We don’t need to add any other ideas or look for competing data; the most effective way to resist denials is to tackle the denier on their own terms, and to show how and why their argument does not add up to the conclusion they think it does.

Exercise 7.5: Read the following passage and see if you can answer the questions.

Despite the fact that the Earth’s atmosphere has been cooling since 1979, environmentalists, anti-industrialists and other luddites who would happily see the economy cruise into recession continue to insist that global warming is a survival-threatening challenge to the human race. Whatismore, they insist, it’s a man-made problem and therefore only a man-made solution will save us. ‘Stop burning fossil fuels and break out the windmills’, they cry. Meanwhile, using a brush instead of a hoover and cramming your neighbours into your car every time you want to take a ride downtown seem to be the only ethically correct things to do. But before you trade in the electric mower for a grass-munching Dolly-the-sheep, let’s just look at the evidence.

In the first place, the computer climate models that predict global warming are poorly designed. There are many factors that the models are unable to simulate, including the role of sea ice, snowcaps, local storms (like Hurricane Katrina), and agricultural feedback loops. Secondly, 70% of this century’s warming occurred in the early part of the century, long before the large-scale carbon emissions of modern industry were produced. Therefore, it seems unlikely that modern industrial output is somehow to blame for global warming. In addition, it is a largely ignored fact that fossil-fuel burning not only generates greenhouse gases, but also produces cooling gases such as SO2.

Still, if the weight of scientific evidence is not enough to put an end to the nonsense of the ‘man is causing global warming’ hypothesis, perhaps we should take a longer look at history. Long before man came about, the Earth was experiencing periodic changes in its climate: warm periods and ice ages are all part of the natural cycle, and man’s tiny activities will make little difference one way or another. If the planet is getting hotter, and we’re still not sure that it is, the causes are likely to be far larger than our day-to-day activities. Dolly might provide a nice new pet for the children, but substituting her for your lawnmower is not going to change a thing.

1. What is the main claim of the text (be specific)?

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2. What are the premises that support this claim?

i. _____________________________________________


ii. ____________________________________________


iii. ___________________________________________



iv. ___________________________________________



Why is this a bad argument? (remember, you only need to examine the premises for what the argument itself says; do not bring in other information or facts to support a counter-argument).

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When you are ready, check out the answer and explanation here, or continue reading

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