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don't feed the trolls!

I've been sparring (a little bit, as the mood strikes) with some of the responses to my two recent comments on Gore (here and here). Here is the back-and-forth of the two threads (identifying information removed to protect the inane), in all its ungrammatical and nonsensical glory.


:: thread #1 ::

TROLLS:

Here's another blow to Gore and his ilk, a just released Senate report:

"Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007: Senate Report Debunks 'Consensus'"

The names of these scientists from around the globe are listed, with quotes, at: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.SenateReport
[...]

Maybe the problem is that Gore lives in a massive house to begin with. Perhaps it is relatively efficient compared to other massive homes, but if he wants to preach to us, perhaps he should consider a more modest personal lifestyle.

[...]

The IPCC has been known to falsify the "science" in the past and the UN has its own agenda. They have no true "factual argument." I wouldn't trust their findings and results at all.

[...]

Come back in twenty years and let us know how warm it is then.

Until then the only fact about Gore is that he travels on private jets and lives in a 10,000 square foot home. That home no matter how efficient it is still uses more energy than a traditional 2,000 square foot home built with raw materials.

Sorry Gore is no savior and America is not the enemy. If Gore really cared he would be in China right now trying to stop the hundreds of coal plants opening every year.

Now get on that jet and go to China and make a difference !

Remember that not only is the report you mention the product of the minority of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, it also represents a minority within the scientific community. While truth isn't determined by the number of adherents, the scientific consensus on this issue appears to be rather lopsided.

Do you have an example of falsified science from the IPCC? I'm not being sarcastic when I say that I would like to see it.

Gore's "massive" home seems much less so when one considers that it not only houses his family, but also contains offices for business and nonprofit use and space for his Secret Service detail. If the rest of us worked from home and had to provide additional space for other people, our homes would also be significantly larger than they are.

TROLL:

Stop making excuses for Gore. If I had his money I would practice what I preach. Gore does not have to have a SS detail. He can deny protection.

And the truth about Gore is he travels around the world constantly making Global Warming a POLITICAL statement. If he truly cared he would stay at home and broadcast a radio program or send the "truth" through a website.

By the way buying a tree after flying a jet can never remove the permanent "carbon footprint" of a flight. So is it a safe bet to conclude that Gore is promoting a whole new industry for personal gain? At the expense of the enviroment?

I cant stand Hollywood but here is ONE actor you have to admire.
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1689569,00.htm

At least we've moved on from blatant lies about Gore to a discussion of some substance; given our starting point, I consider that to be progress.

As for your example: Ed Begley has made what he feels are necessary changes in his own lifestyle, as has Gore...as have many of the rest of us who are not celebrities. Suggesting that someone else should or should not do make a particular lifestyle change is not an argument for doing nothing, which is what many denialists would seem to prefer. Is everyone who is concerned about the environmental results of our actions to be branded a hypocrite because we don't live off the grid in a mud hut?

You suggested previously that Gore should "be in China right now trying to stop the hundreds of coal plants opening every year," surely a political effort, but today you're deriding him for making political statements. These stances strike me as contradictory.

TROLL:

"You suggested previously that Gore should "be in China right now trying to stop the hundreds of coal plants opening every year," surely a political effort, but today you're deriding him for making political statements. These stances strike me as contradictory".

Not at all. Being in China would simply be an "enviromental" statement.

The sarcasm passes you easily. Gore has no right to speak on BEHALF of America or at the BEHEST of America when he travels abroad. Yet each of his appearances is a pure tyrannical political mud slinging.

When he was in the White House America had very little to say about Global Warming. This political issue has been front page ever since Gore lost his Presidential bid.

Take a guess why.

As you said nobody should tell you or I how we should make changes in our lifestyle. But it is Gore who does exactly that. Carbon "offests" are scientific rubbish. If one believes in purchasing carbon offets one must truly believe in living in a mud hut !! Simply put a carbon footprint is permanent therfore a carbon offset does nothing.

Do you have any examples of Gore claiming to speak on behalf of or at the behest of the United States...or any examples of "tyrannical political mud-slinging?" If he does so at "each of his appearances," such evidence should be both plentiful and easy for you to find. (That's OK, I'll wait...)

Gore's inaction on climate change during his years as VP remains a primary criticism of him among environmentalists, myself included. The publicity he has received since then is due to his Oscar and his Nobel Peace Prize, certainly not because the corporate media are giving him a free pass to make up for their abysmal treatment of him in 2000.

Recognizing our common interest in not damaging the planet (on which our lives all depend) and proposing courses of action is far from making tyrannical demands. I haven't seen Gore suggest any lifestyle changes for others that he hasn't been willing to make in his own life. (Besides, finding hypocrisy in the messenger would not disprove the message.)

Calling the concept of carbon offsets "rubbish" is not a convincing statement, for the very reason that a carbon footprint is not permanent. By way of analogy, imagine someone who discards a piece of trash while walking in the woods but later picks up and disposes of a piece of someone else's trash. On balance, the forest is in the same state because the second action has offset the first. In the same way, trees planted to remove carbon from the atmosphere do indeed offset waste from (for example) jet fuel combustion.

TROLL:

"Do you have any examples of Gore claiming to speak on behalf of or at the behest of the United States...or any examples of "tyrannical political mud-slinging?" If he does so at "each of his appearances," such evidence should be both plentiful and easy for you to find. (That's OK, I'll wait...)
WAIT NO MORE !!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HeTA1S7TXM&feature=related

He cleverly suggests he is not speaking on behalf of the US as a disclaimer. But are we really that stupid? Is this not the ex-VP?

I love how he hates his country.

When Gore began his address in Bali (there's a decent transcript here) with the words "I am not an official of the United States," he disproved your claim that he claims to "speak on BEHALF of America or at the BEHEST of America when he travels abroad."

You first insulted Gore for (allegedly) making improper claims. You then linked to a speech where he said the exact opposite, and you used that to backpedal into an assertion that it's impossible for him to avoid it. Even without Gore's actual statement, you have destroyed your initial accusation with your new assertion that--by virtue of Gore being a former VP--he must necessarily be speaking on behalf of the US. The only way for him to avoid being guilty (in your eyes) is to avoid speaking, which is apparently your real wish. (If not, at least you've absolved yourself of the need to find an actual example of the rhetoric you claimed; you can now point to anything Gore says and claim that it's proof that he's really saying the exact opposite.) If your latest ploy fails to convince anyone, you can always claim that talking yourself in circles is some form of sarcasm.

I'm still waiting for the (alleged) "tyrannical political mud-slinging," but I suspect that it will never appear.


:: thread #2 ::

The same troll claimed that "The science is flawed in so many ways it is ridiculous," so I asked him to put up or shut up:

If the research that was linked to above can be rebutted, let's see some rebuttals. If there are flaws, please list some. Which arguments against man-made climate change do you consider the most compelling?

TROLL:

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/13830

That's an interesting piece on the ubiquitous "hockey stick" graph, and I'm always glad to see statistical and analytical errors corrected...although the author doesn't address the (inevitable) flaws inherent in the set of allegedly "random" numbers used in testing.

While indeed a flaw, this is a disagreement about the amount of change, not in any way a debunking of it. The article's author is "concerned about global warming," "think[s] that human-created carbon dioxide may contribute," and calls climate change denialism a "mistaken conclusion."

That's a recognition of anthropogenic climate change, not a compelling argument against it.

TROLL:

"That's a recognition of anthropogenic climate change, not a compelling argument against it".

Also translated- a recognition of anthropogenic climate change that may have nothing to do with man. Millions of years ago climate changed. Vikings once farmed land on what is now frozen land.

http://www.populartechnology.net/2007/10/no-consensus-on-global-warming.html

You want to debunk each and every of the Phd's on this list.

Be my guest.

The phrase "anthropogenic climate change that may have nothing to do with man" is contradictory, because anthropogenic means "caused or produced by humans" (check the definition here).

Climate does indeed change, usually slowly and over long periods of time. Thus, the relatively large effects we are beginning to see (from burning millions of years of fossil fuels in a few centuries) should be cause for investigation and action, not complacency.

I didn't debunk the scientist you mentioned, and I didn't have to. I just pointed out that he recognized the existence of global warming and called denialism "mistaken." Besides, I hardly need to debunk every skeptic that you can point to, as the majority of the scientific community has already done so. By the way, has anyone else noticed that the lists of skeptics are often padded with non-climatologists (e.g., economists and MDs)?

TROLL:

Yes I know what anthropogenic means. It was sarcasm again. Whew !

On this list find me the Mds and economists. These people are skeptics of man made global warming.

http://www.populartechnology.net/2007/10/no-consensus-on-global-warming.html

You want me to "find the MDs and economists" on your list? That's easy: there are three MDs, including science fiction author Michael Crichton, under the first section of the list. Is he to be considered a scientific expert? (By the way, you missed the heading "Skeptical Scientists" when you copied-and-pasted this list.) The economists are all listed (along with some political scientists and an anthropologist) in the "Social Scientists" section.

This list (175 "skeptical scientists," 52 meteorologists, 22 social scientists, and 17 deceased, by my count) is less padded than some others I've seen, but it's still just a list of names. Are you going to show that these people are actually denying man-made climate change, and not--as with the previous example you gave--merely quibbling over the details?

By way of an example from your list, check out the work of William Nordhaus, who has written extensively on the economic aspects of global warming. Read "The Challenge of Global Warming: Economic Models and Environmental Policy" to see how much of a skeptic he is:

"The underlying scientific basis of global warming is well established ...there can be little scientific doubt that the world has embarked on a major series of geophysical changes that are unprecedented for the last few thousand years." (pp. 10-11)

When the definition of "skepticism" is stretched so far as to include its opposite, it becomes both meaningless and useless...much like your replies. Unless you can do better, I have more productive uses to which I can put my time.


:: epilogue ::

The only way to make trolls disappear is by no longer feeding them, so I have stopped replying to these threads. I simply don't have time for those who have such poor rhetorical skills (e.g., can't argue well, contradict themselves, provide "evidence" that doesn't support their claims, and refuse to listen to counter-arguments). There was one final rejoinder in each thread from the same troll, determined to get the last word, but I deemed any further participation to be worthless. The signal-to-noise ratios in these threads had dropped so close to zero that I finally gave up, although I confess to having second thoughts.


update (2/11 @ 9:18am)
Hank Fox posted this definition of "fractal wrongness" at UTI (which appears to be from this lexicon of computing):

Fractal Wrongness:

The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

Debating with a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one. It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.

If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet -- in mailing lists, newsgroups, or website forums -- your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.

That is why I avoid arguing with trolls: they are fractally wrong, and can potentially consume an infinite amount of time. The next time I'm tempted to feed the trolls online, I'll append that link to my final statement and call it a day.


update 2 (2/19 @ 9:16am):
Yet another example of the troll's errors was the claim that China is opening "hundreds of coal plants...every year." According to MIT's "The Future of Coal," "China is currently constructing the equivalent of two, 500 megawatt, coal-fired power plants per week," (p. ix, Executive Summary) or approximately one hundred per year.

(In wingnut world, being inaccurate by a factor of two is an improvement over their usual margins of error.)


update 3 (2/28 @ 12:17pm):
Joseph Romm's "The Cold Truth about Climate Change" makes a similar point about the skeptics listed on Inhofe's report:

As it turned out, the list is both padded and laughable, containing the opinions of TV weathermen, economists, a bunch of non-prominent scientists who aren't climate experts, and, perhaps surprisingly, even a number of people who actually believe in the consensus.

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