Rhetoric vs facts and who cares

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When both sides of an argument appeal to your emotions, how do you determine who is telling more of the truth?

Reader Julian Gall from the UK made some pertinent observations about the discussions on global warming and they are worth sharing.

David,

Maybe the Wikipedia article is biased too but anyone is free to edit it and make corrections if they wish. Articles that people can’t reach agreement on often get a "this article is contested" sticker. This one hasn’t. Doesn’t mean it’s correct of course.

Living in the UK, I saw this film when it was first broadcast which was a while before it became popular on the internet. The press here published a lot of analysis at the time, some biased no doubt, but not all. In particular, a couple of people shown in the film were very upset that their views had been selectively quoted and didn’t reflect their true position. That raised alarm bells for me about the film. Likewise, obvious errors in Gore’s film have done the same.

I have no doubt that there is some truth in "The Great Global Warming Swindle", but I don’t think the film helps its case by calling all the Global Warming arguments "lies", as if there is a huge conspiracy to fool the public. I’m generally averse to conspiracy theories because they imply that the only people who are well organised and successful are the people we’re against. I don’t think anyone can be that well organised, full stop.

I read a lot around the subject of global warming because I want to understand what the position really is. I can’t say I’ve read anything I could recommend that is independent and unbiased. That is a sad reflection on the level of debate. What I do detect lately is more measured comment on the side against manmade global warming; a gradual shift in that direction. The only conclusion I can reach at the moment is that no one actually knows. When someone (on either side) tells me the answer is plain but that the other side is trying to fool me, I get very suspicious of their motives.

The deeper issue for me in things like this is, how do we know who is telling the truth? Gore’s film appeals to some people who believed in manmade global warming anyway and they present his confirmation of their views as proof, which it isn’t. Durkin’s film appeals to some people who have never believed in it, or who are opposed politically to the people who do. It confirms their beliefs but offers little in the way of proof either. Napoleon Hill said that everything has within itself the means of determining whether or not it is true. I try to apply this and often find there is one little giveaway that makes me suspicious about the rest. I certainly found this with Gore’s film but I found it with Durkin’s too.

                                                                                                                — Julian Gall

It appears to me that there is room for improvement in presenting facts on both sides of the global warming argument.

Julian and I seem to share many common views on the climate issue. Appeals to emotion are very seductive, but are invariably a sign that persuasion, not reason is at work.

I agree that neither side has completely clean hands and hope that we, as a planetary community, do nothing irrevocable before the next cooling trend which is estimated to begin in 2010.

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