by Judith Curry
@ Richard Tol: Its wrong, but with @JudithCurry lending her authority it becomes disinformation
with Keith Kloor forwarding the following Tweet:
@KeithKloor: @Richard Tol says to @JudithCurry: “I think you have done a disservice by lending your credibility to these two papers.”
My blog posts automatically generate a tweet, but I don’t personally follow Twitter.
Lets talk about ‘disinformation,’ and how we have come to the point where my providing a forum for the discussion of two papers just published in the peer reviewed literature generates the accusation that I am a purveyor of disinformation.
From the Wikipedia:
Disinformation is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth. Disinformation should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false.
Unlike traditional propaganda techniques designed to engage emotional support, disinformation is designed to manipulate the audience at the rational level by either discrediting conflicting information or supporting false conclusions.
Disinformation is most frequently used in the context of espionage or military intelligence. Googling for ‘disinformation science’ yields hits for health issues and, you guessed it, climate change. In all of science, it seems that controversial, policy relevant scientific issues can be associated with ‘disinformation,’ whereas the term doesn’t have any particular relevance to ‘normal’ science.
Check out Michael Sweeney’s essay Twenty Five Ways to Suppress the Truth: The Rules of Disinformation
Here is a quiz for you. How many of these disinformation tactics are used by:
- JC (moi)
- Public spokespersons for the IPCC
- Joe Romm
- Marc Morano
Note: The first rule and last five (or six, depending on situation) rules are generally not directly within the ability of the traditional disinfo artist to apply. These rules are generally used more directly by those at the leadership, key players, or planning level of the criminal conspiracy or conspiracy to cover up.
1. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Regardless of what you know, don’t discuss it — especially if you are a public figure, news anchor, etc. If it’s not reported, it didn’t happen, and you never have to deal with the issues.
2. Become incredulous and indignant.
3. Create rumor mongers. Avoid discussing issues by describing all charges, regardless of venue or evidence, as mere rumors and wild accusations.
4. Use a straw man.
5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule.
6. Hit and Run. In any public forum, make a brief attack of your opponent or the opponent position and then scamper off before an answer can be fielded, or simply ignore any answer.
7. Question motives.
8. Invoke authority.
9. Play Dumb. No matter what evidence or logical argument is offered, avoid discussing issues except with denials they have any credibility, make any sense, provide any proof, contain or make a point, have logic, or support a conclusion.
10. Associate opponent charges with old news.
11. Establish and rely upon fall-back positions. Using a minor matter or element of the facts, take the ‘high road’ and ‘confess’ with candor that some innocent mistake, in hindsight, was made — but that opponents have seized on the opportunity to blow it all out of proportion and imply greater criminalities which, ‘just isn’t so.’
12. Enigmas have no solution. paint the entire affair as too complex to solve. This causes those otherwise following the matter to begin to lose interest more quickly without having to address the actual issues.
13. Alice in Wonderland Logic. Avoid discussion of the issues by reasoning backwards or with an apparent deductive logic which forbears any actual material fact.
14. Demand complete solutions.
15. Fit the facts to alternate conclusions.
16. Vanish evidence and witnesses. If it does not exist, it is not fact, and you won’t have to address the issue.
17. Change the subject.
18. Emotionalize, Antagonize, and Goad Opponents.
19. Ignore proof presented, demand impossible proofs.
20. False evidence.
21. Call a Grand Jury, Special Prosecutor, or other empowered investigative body. Subvert the (process) to your benefit and effectively neutralize all sensitive issues without open discussion.
22. Manufacture a new truth. Create your own expert(s), group(s), author(s), leader(s) or influence existing ones willing to forge new ground via scientific, investigative, or social research or testimony which concludes favorably. In this way, if you must actually address issues, you can do so authoritatively.
23. Create bigger distractions.
24. Silence critics. If the above methods do not prevail, consider removing opponents from circulation by some definitive solution so that the need to address issues is removed entirely.
To those of you who think I am purveying disinformation, please clarify which of these I am guilty of. And then explain why declaring papers published in the peer reviewed literature to be ‘disinformation’ isn’t guilty of #1, 2, 5, 7, 8.
Pseudo critical thinking
I think what is going on here is pseudo critical thinking, which is described in this essay “Pseudo Critical Thinking in the Educational Establishment.” Its a rather long essay, that focuses on the State of California educational assessment process. But many of the broader issues discussed in the essay are of relevance to the public discussion surrounding the climate debate. Some excerpts:
Unfortunately, there is not simply good and bad thinking in the world, both easily recognized as such. There is also bad thinking that appears to be good and therefore wrongfully, sometimes disastrously, used as the basis of very important decisions. Very often this “bad thinking” is defended and “rationalized” in a highly sophisticated fashion. However flawed, it successfully counterfeits good thinking, and otherwise intelligent people are taken in. Such thinking is found in every dimension of human life and in every dimension it does harm; in every dimension it works against human well-being.
Sometimes when people think poorly, they do so out of simple ignorance. They are making mistakes, they don’t know they are making mistakes, but they would willingly correct their mistakes if they were pointed out to them. Often mistakes in thinking are quite humble.
Such thinking may be quite uncritical, but is not pseudo critical thinking. Pseudo critical thinking is a form of intellectual arrogance masked in self-delusion or deception, in which thinking which is deeply flawed is not only presented as a model of excellence of thought, but is also, at the same time, sophisticated enough to take many people in.
Many pseudo critical thinking approaches present all judgments as falling into two exclusive and exhaustive categories: fact and opinion. Actually, the kind of judgment most important to educated people and the kind we most want to foster falls into a third, very important, and now almost totally ignored category, that of reasoned judgment. A judge in a court of law is expected to engage in reasoned judgment; that is, the judge is expected not only to render a judgment, but also to base that judgment on sound, relevant evidence and valid legal reasoning. A judge is not expected to base his judgments on his subjective preferences, on his personal opinions, as such. You might put it this way, judgment based on sound reasoning goes beyond, and is never to be equated with, fact alone or mere opinion alone.
“Skilled” thinking can easily be used to obfuscate rather than to clarify, to maintain a prejudice rather than to break it down, to aid in the defense of a narrow interest rather than to take into account the public good.
It is extremely important to see that intelligence and intellect can be used for ends other than those of gaining “truth” or “insight” or “knowledge.” One can learn to be cunning rather than clever, smooth rather than clear, convincing rather than rationally persuasive, articulate rather than accurate. One can become judgmental rather than gain in judgment. One can confuse confidence with knowledge at the same time that one mistakes arrogance for self-confidence. In each of these cases a counterfeit of a highly desirable trait is developed in place of that trait.
There are many people who have learned to be skilled in merely appearing to be rational and knowledgeable when, in fact, they are not. Some of these have learned to be smooth, articulate, confident, cunning, and arrogant. They lack rational judgment, but this does not dissuade them from issuing dogmatic judgments and directives. They impress and learn to control others, quite selfishly.
Now that we know what pseudo critical thinking is, lets take a look at this essay by Linda Elder Becoming a Critic of Your Own Thinking (h/t Joshua). Some excerpts:
When you have worked [intellectual standards] into your thinking, and have practiced using them to the extent that they have become internalized in your thought, you routinely ask questions like these:
- Focusing on relevance: How is what you are saying relevant to this issue? How is this information relevent to the question at issue?
- Focusing on accuracy: How do we know this information is accurate? How can we check to see if it is accurate?
- Focusing on depth: Is this a complex issue? What makes it a complex issue? How can we make sure we thoroughly address these complexities?
- Focusing on significance: What are the big issues we face? Are we staying focused on these important issues or are we getting diverted onto less significant ones?
- Focusing on fairness: Are we considering all relevant viewpoints in dealing with this issue? Are we looking at this issue in the most fair and reasonable way, or are we priviledging one or more position?
It is important to recognize that people already do evaluate their thinking. But they often fail to use intellectual standards to do so.
There are two ways in which people tend to evaluate thought – one is by using standards which are either egocentric or sociocentric in nature. So instead of using intellectual standards to determine what to accept or reject, they often use standards like these: “It’s true if I believe it.” “It’s true if I want to believe it.” “It’s true if it is in my selfish or vested interest to believe it.” “It’s true if we believe it.” “It’s true if we want to believe it.” For example, when figuring out whether to accept an argument someone is putting forth, people will often ask themselves whether the argument agrees with what they already believe. If so, they tend to affirm it; if not, they tend to negate it. This of course usually happens at the unconscious level of thought.
There are two motives of the “egocentric mind.” One is selfishness, to get what it wants when it wants it. The other is to maintain its own viewpoint. These motives lead to such dysfunctional (but common) ways of thinking such as intellectual arrogance, narrowmindedness, and hypocrisy.
When people acquiese to their egocentric tendencies, they can’t see any problems in their thinking because they quite simply aren’t looking for any. For an example, consider the manager who, though perhaps highly intelligent, always has to be “right.” He may make good decisions most of the time. But when he is wrong, and someone tries to offer a better way of looking at an issue, he is completely closedminded. He doesn’t want to consider another possibility. It is “his way or the highway.” This phenomenon is quite common in business and personal life at all levels. And it is just one manifestation of egocentricity
Every person is a combination of egocentric thought, sociocentric thought, and their opposite, rational or reasonable thought. These three different ways of thinking play themselves out in many ways in human life. When we take command of our minds, we are on the lookout for egocentric and sociocentric thought in ourselves and others. We consistently work to develop as rational, reasonable persons, concerned as much with the views of others as with our own. We actively look for selfishness, hypocrisy, prejudice, and narrowmindedness in our thought and are committed to diminishing the power of these forces in our lives. We want to be more intellectually autonomous, intellectually empathetic and fair-minded
If you want to understand critical thinking, you might begin with this basic conception – critical thinking entails an abiding interest in the problematics in thinking. It means thinking about your thinking to improve your thinking.
With regards to my hosting the guest post by Ludecke. Apart from the papers’ merits or lack thereof, here are some reasons for discussing these papers on Climate Etc.:
- Nature has weighed in on the controversy surrounding pre-publication release of the BEST papers: Results confirming climate change are welcome, even when released before peer review. Is it to be inferred that results that do no confirm climate change are not welcome, even if published in peer review journals?
- The Ludecke post criticizes the BEST papers (on which I am a coauthor), referring to recently published papers. If these papers have valid criticisms, lets air them. If they don’t make valid criticisms or otherwise interesting points, then we can ignore them in future.
- The IPCC too often has dismissed papers out of hand that don’t agree with the view points of the IPCC authors (Ross McKitrick and others have provided examples of this). It has been argued that skeptical papers don’t receive any serious attention by the IPCC. Lets air the published skeptical papers and see if there is anything that we should be paying attention to.