I Was Wrong

I Was Wrong

Some chunk of my brain is convinced that if I and other science communicators can just do a good enough job of presenting the facts about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), everyone will come to understand the problem, we’ll fix it and stand around singing Nickelback’s “If Today Were Your Last Day.”

I was wrong.

Research shows that the facts don’t matter. In fact, showing the facts to someone who doubts global warming makes them doubt it even more.

I even know that. I read those studies when they first came out. I accepted the findings–in my head. But on an emotional level, I thought “Maybe if I can just do a good enough job of explaining things to people, I can change people’s minds.”

As I sit here writing this, the irony is whacking me repeatedly over the head. I can’t accept the fact that people can’t accept the facts.

I’m glad I don’t call other people fools or idiots (1) because right now I feel like a fool and an idiot and I would have to call myself one.

I’m still going to discuss the science, because it’s fun. But, as Adam Corner points out,

The challenge when the IPCC report appears, then, (2) is not to simply crank up the volume on the facts. Instead, we must use the report as the beginning of a series of conversations about climate change – conversations that start from people’s values and work back from there to the science. (3)

So maybe I can start some discussions. I think I’ve got at least one good question to ask.

And I need to learn to accept facts myself. It’s funny, because even now, my brain is screaming “But…but…but…” I wonder if that’s how the tug pulling Pittsburgh’s 40 ft high rubber duck sounded? (4)

  1. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”–Jesus in Matthew 5:22 []
  2. (His article was published before the latest IPCC report, which is currently out []
  3. “Climate Science: Why the World Won’t Listen–Adam Corner in New Scientist 26 September 2013 []
  4. I also use the English system of units almost exclusively. I’m already having one existential crisis. I’ll deal with my lack of metricization some other day, along with figuring out whether “metricization” is a real word. []

Written by Rob Carr

Website: http://www.unspace.net

  • Doug Blair says:

    On the plus side — sort of — is that the emotional thinking tends to get trumped by reality. When we start to see noticeable sea level rise, and as more and more news reports draw the connections (as scientifically nebulous as they might be) between warming and stronger storms, I think the masses will change their opinion. Of course, by then we may be past any number of tipping points, making the rhetorical wins rather Pyrrhic in the grand scheme of things….

    • Rob Carr says:


      Thanks for commenting.

      I’d like to make a difference while we still can at a reasonable cost. My prime motivation has been to leave the world a better place for all the kids who call me “Uncle Rob.” But it occurs to me that, as a diabetic, if the environment becomes a real problem, I’m probably too expensive to keep around.

      As a paramedic, I hated triage: choosing who would probably survive without intervention, who would probably die even with intervention, and who we might be able to drag back from the brink of death. I hated it, but I did it.

      I just realized I don’t want to be on the wrong end of the triage tag.

  • Doug’s comment – especially the wry observation toward the end – is spot-on, I have to admit that I too am confounded by folks’ ability to get beat over the head with facts and completely ignore them, or worse twist them to fit whatever theory they currently espouse. It works across all disciplines, be it science or politics.

    • Rob Carr says:


      Thanks also for commenting!

      I’m puzzled at my own reluctance to accept the psychological science about science communication. It’s disturbing to see myself not accepting in the same manner as other’s don’t accept, but on a different topic.

      I am determined to remain flexible, but there are times I fear change gets more difficult as I age.

    • admin says:

      I like that article.

      I read articles I disagree with because a) people send them to me b) I don’t want to be wrong.

      Global warming deniers and creationists have gotten more sophisticated in their arguments. I have a fairly wide range of understanding of science, but arguments about a specific graph in an IPCC report or halos in rocks containing uranium can rapidly become more technical than I can answer off the top of my head.

      The evidence for global warming and evolution is diverse, and one piece of evidence can’t knock down either theory. But until I understand the argument (and almost always find out that the data has been misrepresented), there’s the thought “What if I’m wrong?” It bugs me.

      BTW: One of the arguments against evolution was a question about the thermodynamics of protein/RNA/DNA evolution (I don’t remember the exact question–it’s been a while). The answer at the time was clearly inadequate, and the creationists had a point. A lot of people handwaved the argument away, but, as I remember it, some researchers delved into the problem and found a solution that answered the creationists’ questions and improved our understanding of evolution.

      It’s one thing to find yet another argument claiming that evolution is impossible because the writer doesn’t understand thermodynamics at all (folks often forget that entropy can be reversed with energy input and that the sun provides the Earth with energy). It’s another to find a well-written argument that needs consideration.

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