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Evidence-Free Evangelism – A Guide

Posted by softestpawn on December 20, 2008

Following Martin Robbins’ article about the fanatic fringes of skepticism, here is a guide for evangelists – perhaps the opposite of skeptics – with global warming deluders and homeopaths as examples.

Homeopaths believe that water ‘remembers’ what was in it, but only the things that the homeopath put in it (rather than all the other things that have been in it once upon a time) and that this pure water can be used to treat medical conditions.

Global Warming Deluders are those who insist we know the climate so well that we know we must reduce CO2 emissions immediately to avoid wrecking the planet, according to a strained chain of reasoning.

Both are believed because the world is a very complicated place, we see patterns in things, we mis-associate events, but mostly just because we want to. To help this along, we can:

Select: The world and the human body are complicated. There’s plenty of data sets to select from to prove your point.

At any one moment the human body is adjusting; recovering from lunch, getting hungry for dinner, climbing down from that coffee high, pain and stiffness comes and go, you feel more exuberant or less so. We are never static in every possible measurement until we are dead. So we can pick and choose; did you feel better after the treatment? How about your foot, is that feeling alright? Better? Good. Don’t worry about the headache that’s just come on, we’ll deal with that.

Similarly the environment consists of many many major measurables and an awesomly large number of smaller ones. These too are all always changing; nature is not static, there is no ‘balance’. So we can pick any change and associate that with our cause; cloudiness, lemming populations, rainfall, snowfall, temperature, particulates, saltiness, pirates, blueness, transparency, sunspots, etc. 

Change: If the evidence you were using suddenly stops cooperating, change your evidence set. Until it starts cooperating again, it really wasn’t appropriate to use it anyway.

So your foot has started hurting again? Shame, we’ll try something else. But your headache has gone? Excellent, see? It worked! And everyone knows that randomized controlled trials can’t be used on homeopathy. Unless it shows it works.

So global temperatures are no longer rising? But the ice caps are melting! Not quite as much as we would like? They must be, polar bear populations are falling terribly! They’re not really? Well that ice over there is melting. There, that showed you.

Say it loud and often and in public: And people will start to believe you. Eventually. You don’t even need to back it up with anything, although putting in numbers is more convincing. Any numbers.

Pick your Priests: It’s important to keep support in your evangelising community or you may get disheartened. You will need to pick representatives that have authority; some kind of appropriate qualification or title, and who present well, and have time and resources to commit.

Then in moments of doubt you can revisit their blogs and regain your faith.

Similarly, as you don’t care about the wiffly waffly ‘science’, you can defer to them when anyone asks you about it, because they are important, and they’re qualified, and they use the same words as your dastardly opponents.

Personalise it: If you can’t do the science, make it an argument on principles and people. Whatever, make it an argument rather than a discussion about a hypothesis.  As soon as you make it an issue with winners and losers then people invest pride in their position, and you’ll have some supporters for life.

Demand an alternative:  If you’re having difficulty supporting your faith, demand your opponents support theirs. This is great,  as for a start it demands they dream up a new faith to support, and lots of people will get caught by this. It diverts attention from your faith – which is after all what is under discussion – and you can now happily destroy their even more vacuous attempts.

After all, how else did your foot suddenly get better if not by the homeopathic treatment?  Why else would the world change if not by evil, selfish human industrialisation?

Establish a presence in the establishment: Nothing provides an air of respectability like getting The System to support you. Obviously you need to avoid any real experts, so if you can persuade some bureaucrats to include homeopathy in the NHS, or even just a page on a respectable health website, then you’re in. Similarly if you can get non-expert scientists to sign up to your cause, then everyone will hear the words ‘scientists say…’ and you’re in. Or any group of celebrity politicians.

Veneer: It’s important to look and sound as if you’re scientific. This means using scientific words and even, perhaps, sometimes, doing real science (as long as it’s only to look for supporting evidence). But importantly it means having your own journal, reviewed by your own people, and/or your own committees staffed by people with an interest in the faith.

Complain to mum: Don’t let your opponents speak! It is clear that you are right, so they are just confusing people. In fact, if people don’t believe you, it is because they are being misled by these deliberate liars. This might be done by:

Threats: with law, ideally. This tends to persuade the timid to go elsewhere and consider other things, no matter what useful things they may say or do. You can do this directly by threatening litigation, especially to ISPs who are hosting the little twerps, or indirectly by promising dire punishment for high crimes

Assigning Dodgy Motives: It doesn’t actually matter if someone benefits from their opposition. Doctors who pan homeopathy are obviously in the pay of the big drugs companies. Energy experts are obviously being funded by big oil companies. Occasionally you will find someone for whom this is even a little bit true, which obviously proves they all are, and therefore they are lying to line their own pockets, and therefore you are right.

Claim Persecution: Everyone likes the plucky underdog, especially mum. If you say your opposition are getting more publicity than you, or stopping you from getting what you deserve, then some people will believe you. And if mum does, she’ll get you on your pedestal where you deserve to be.

Have Secret Proof: Only let other people in your industry check your data. It’s not appropriate that anyone else have ready access to it; they would not understand it – they’ve not been trained – and they’d only pick what appear to be holes in it but aren’t really.

Stick to your faith: No matter what. With you standing there declaiming your faith with a completely straight face, some people will continue to believe you. Some of them will be important.

Use the Precautionary Principle: A great favourite for the lazy of head, this will persuade anyone who doesn’t like to think things through. Use homeopathy because it might just work, and save your life. Reduce CO2 as if you don’t, it might just kill us all.

Ensure Tradition: No one really trusts new stuff, as it means there hasn’t been time for it to have been proven. Homeopathy has been around for two hundred years or more, and global warming was predicted by Arrhenius in 1896, so they must be true.

He’s your idiot: This is an excellent argument and can be used by anybody. All you do is point to some obvious twonk(s)* who believes the same things as your opponent, and this demonstrates how stupid your opponents are to believe the same thing. Coincidentally it also proves that your faith is true. And, because we’re all still children at heart, it’s great to laugh at twonks and the things they say.

* The twonk need not be stupid; if you’re a capitalist then a hippy will do, and vice versa.

He’s your kind of idiot: That’s this article obviously, as well as Martin Robbins’ and this one. Showing similarities between a particularly stupid group and a careful selection of your opponents means all your opponents must be particularly stupid, and therefore of course you are exceptionally bright. This is well known.

Move on: As time goes on and more research is done it will become harder and harder for the clear voice of hysterial passion to ring out. It’s important to find a new cause before the current one gets bogged down in the complications of real life.

If you’re still touting Global Warming for example, you might want to consider “Climate Change”, as this handily means you can preach your cause no matter how the climate changes.

Similarly, if your homeopathy becomes unpopular then aromatherapy is very successful, cures cancer and baldness, and smells nice.

(While this kind of exercise can be fun, it has of course no value to any serious debate)


4 Responses to “Evidence-Free Evangelism – A Guide”

  1. […] The next step is not to just accuse your opponent* of using one of these at some point, but to accuse anyone on the opposing side* to generally use many of these most of the time. So there’s the denialistators who lump together anyone who won’t conform to nicely simplified views, or Martin Robbin’s article on extreme skepticism, or mine on Evidence-Free Evangelising. […]

  2. Ghonadz said

    Hey Pawn

    Maybe you should write an article about your beliefs called “evidence free, brain-deadism”. Let’s look at some of the idiotic things in your blog entry and then lets look at the facts.

    YOU SAID: “So global temperatures are no longer rising? But the ice caps are melting! Not quite as much as we would like? They must be, polar bear populations are falling terribly! They’re not really?”

    12.17.2008 9:52 AM
    2008 Among Hottest Years Ever

    Some of the headlines may have been deceiving, but don’t be fooled: 2008 was among the hottest years ever recorded on Earth, and it concludes the hottest decade ever recorded.

    The World Meteorological Organization and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. estimate the 2008 average temperature slightly differently, with the U.S. estimate a hair warmer than the WMO. But both agree that 2008 is the 10th warmest year ever recorded (since 1850 for the WMO or 1880 for the U.S. records), and that the span from 1998 to 2008 has seen global warming at a pace unprecedented in the age of humankind.

    The U.S. estimates that the world’s ocean surface temperature ranked fifth-highest ever recorded, despite the presence early in the year of La Nina conditions in the Southern Pacific Ocean, which cool a vast swath of the ocean and influence weather patterns worldwide.

    The most dramatic result of the abnormally warm 2008 year was seen in the Arctic, where more ice melted than in any year other than 2007. Further, the volume of ice in the Arctic hit a new record low . Since 2003, 2 trillion tons of land ice have disappeared, with more than half that total disappearing from Greenland, according to a NASA study.


    Ice melting across globe at accelerating rate, NASA says

    * Story Highlights
    * About 2 trillion tons of ice have melted in Greenland, Antarctica, Alaska since 2003
    * Lost amount of water could fill up Chesapeake Bay 21 times, NASA scientist says
    * Most came from Greenland, where losses raised global sea levels .5 mm annually
    * Scientist says sea levels rising 50 percent faster than 15 years ago

    By Emanuella Grinberg

    (CNN) — Between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion tons of ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted at an accelerating rate since 2003, according to NASA scientists, in the latest signs of what they say is global warming.

    Using new satellite technology that measures changes in mass in mountain glaciers and ice sheets, NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke concluded that the losses amounted to enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay 21 times.

    The data reflects findings from NASA colleague Jay Zwally, who uses different satellite technology to observe changing ice volume in Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica.

    In the past five years, Greenland has lost between 150 gigatons and 160 gigatons each year, (one gigaton equals one billion tons) or enough to raise global sea levels about .5 mm per year, said Zwally, who will also present his findings at the conference this week.

    GRACE measured that mountain glaciers in the Gulf of Alaska lost about 84 gigatons each year, about five times the average annual flow of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, according to NASA.

    “Every few extra inches of sea level have very significant economic impacts, because they change the sea level, increase flooding and storm damage,” said, Zwally, ICESat Project Scientist. “It’s a warning sign.”

    Melting ice, especially in Greenland and the Arctic, is also thought to contribute to global warming, Zwally said. When the vast ice sheets and glaciers melt, they lose their reflective power, and instead, oceans and land absorb the heat, causing the Arctic waters and the atmosphere to warm faster.


    ScienceDaily (Oct. 3, 2008) — Arctic sea ice extent during the 2008 melt season dropped to the second-lowest level since satellite measurements began in 1979. Preliminary data also indicate 2008 may represent the lowest volume of Arctic sea ice on record, according to the researchers. The declining Arctic sea ice is due to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases that have elevated temperatures across the Arctic and strong natural variability in Arctic sea ice, according to scientists. The 2008 low strongly reinforces the 30-year downward trend in Arctic sea ice extent, said CU-Boulder Research Professor Mark Serreze, an NSIDC senior scientist. The 2008 September low was 34 percent below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000 and only 9 percent greater than the 2007 record.


    The main threat to polar bears today is the loss of their icy habitat due to climate change. The summer ice loss in the Arctic is now equal to an area the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined.

    As a result, the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group reclassified the polar bear as a vulnerable species on the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species at their most recent meeting (Seattle, 2005). They reported that of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, five are declining, five are stable, two are increasing, and seven have insufficient data on which to base a decision. On May 14, 2008, the U.S. Department of the Interior reclassified the polar bear as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act, citing concerns about sea ice loss. Canada and Russia list the polar bear as a species of concern.

    In areas where long-term studies are available, populations are showing signs of stress due to shrinking sea ice. Canada’s Western Hudson Bay population has dropped 22% since the early 1980s. The declines have been directly linked to an earlier ice break-up on Hudson Bay.

  3. […] The repeated support for ‘current warming’ appears to be that recent years are the warmest in industrial history which, while it might tell us something about the history of temperature, tells us nothing about what ‘is’ happening.  And it leads to incautious comments such as “the span from 1998 to 2008 has seen global warming at a pace unprecedented in the age of humankind.” […]

  4. Ghonadz said

    ©2008 Union of Concerned Scientists

    3. What is the “hockey stick” graph?

    This graph, created by a group of climate researchers in the late 1990s, reflects average Northern Hemisphere temperature changes over the past several centuries. It was the first comprehensive study combining data from many different archives of temperature including tree rings, ice cores, and coral reefs. It demonstrated that Northern Hemisphere temperatures rose sharply during the late 20th century, in marked contrast to the relatively small temperature fluctuations during the previous six centuries. The graph got its name because its shape resembles a hockey stick, with the blade end representing the sharp temperature rise over recent years.

    4. Is there legitimate scientific debate about the accuracy of the hockey stick graph?

    Yes, but mainly about the details, not the essential point. Temperature fluctuations that predate written records are preserved in natural archives (e.g., tree rings, ice cores, boreholes) with various time periods (e.g., seasonal, annual, decadal). The scientific discussion has focused on the best statistical method for combining these various records to accurately capture temperature fluctuations for the Northern Hemisphere. As is typical of the scientific process, independent teams of researchers have worked to reproduce the results of the “hockey stick” by using their own approaches and even by using slightly different data. These studies sometimes produce slightly higher temperature fluctuations in the past compared with the initial study. But despite their differences, they still yield the same essential conclusion: the past 10- to 20-year period was likely the warmest of the past millennium.

    5. How much does our understanding of global warming depend on the hockey stick graph?

    The short answer is “very little.” The hockey stick graph constitutes only one among literally thousands of pieces of evidence that have contributed to the present scientific consensus on the human influence on global warming. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in its authoritative third assessment report that “there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” As one climate expert observed: The IPCC report Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis is 881 pages in length. It weighs 5.5 pounds and contains over 200 figures and 80 tables. It would be absurd to think that the weight of its conclusions rests on any one figure or table; rather it paints a convincing picture in the totality of its science, as noted succinctly in its title.”¹

    We are now observing real changes due to higher temperatures. Here are some examples:

    * The Mt. Kilimanjaro glacier, which has survived the past 11,000 years, is currently at risk of disappearing by 2020 if present rates of melting continue;

    * Enormous tracts of Siberian peatlands, with vast stores of carbon, are beginning to thaw and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere;

    The Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica has lost volume as large chunks (some as large as the state of Rhode Island) have recently broken free and melted;

    The annual surface area of Arctic sea ice has declined eight percent over the past several decades;
    Large-scale increases in ocean temperatures have been detected over the past 45 years; and
    Plants and animals are changing their habitation ranges, sometimes dramatically, such as robins and mosquitoes in the Arctic that were previously unknown there.

    Antarctic ice core records vividly illustrate that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels today are higher than levels recorded over the past 650,000 years (see figure below). Atmospheric CO2 levels have risen 30 percent in the last 150 years, with half of that rise occurring only in the last three decades. It is a well-established scientific fact that CO2 (and other gases emitted from industrial and agricultural sources) traps heat in the atmosphere, so it is no surprise that we are now witnessing a dramatic increase in temperature.

    Compared with other factors that influence climate (including solar variation, volcanic eruptions, and pollutant emissions such as sulfur dioxide), human activities-primarily burning fossil fuels and deforestation-have been a major contributor to climate change over the last 50 years.

    6. What evidence demonstrates that the recent increase in global temperature is unprecedented?

    The National Climate Data Center (NCDC) has maintained global average monthly and annual records of combined land and ocean surface temperatures since 1880, the earliest year for which reliable instrumental records were available worldwide. Based on NCDC data, nine of the top 10 warmest years globally have occurred since 1995. Adding to the evidence of direct temperature measurements, multiple studies by independent teams of researchers indicate that, across the Northern Hemisphere, the 1990s were likely the warmest decade of the past millennium-and possibly the past 2,000 years.

    ©2008 Union of Concerned Scientists

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