The Good versus Evil theme

Reading the introduction to the Cook lecture, something seems really familiar. The way it is written is recognizable. Recognizable, not from scientific reports or papers, no, it is how Hollywood would write it! The old Good versus Evil theme.

Let’s first see how Cook and his team are introduced in the first part of the introduction:

In 2013, John Cook lead the Consensus Project, a crowd-sourced effort to complete the most comprehensive analysis of climate research ever made. They found that among relevant climate papers, 97% endorsed the consensus that humans were causing global warming. When this research was published, it was tweeted by President Obama and received media coverage all over the world, with the paper being awarded the best article published by the journal Environmental Research Letters in 2013.

This is how their opponents are introduced:

However, the paper has also been relentlessly attacked by climate deniers who reject the scientific consensus. Hundreds of blog posts have criticised the results while newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe have published negative op-eds. Climate denial organisations such as the Global Warming Policy Foundation and Heartland Institute have published critical reports and the Republican Party organised congressional testimony against the consensus research on Capitol Hill. This sustained campaign is merely the latest episode in over 20 years of attacks on the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.

See the difference?

It depicts Cook and his teams as the noble members of the Consensus project, calling the project the most comprehensive analysis ever made and the successes/awards/support he got with this research.

Obviously painted as the good guys.

His opponents are described as the not-so-noble deniers who relentlessly attack this paper, criticizing the result, publishing negative op-eds and attacking that scientific consensus.

Obviously painted as the bad guys, battering on the nice scientists who honestly report on the consensus.

If I hadn’t look deeper into the issue, I would believe it and would probably be influenced by it. It is something recognizable. In Hollywood it is used to make the viewers more sympathetic to the hero and in the meanwhile instinctively distrusting the bad guy. But I didn’t expect this theme implemented in the introduction of a “scientific” lecture. If this introduction is used to make the audience sympathize with them and reject beforehand the arguments of skeptics, it is no less than a logical fallacy.

How does these propaganda techniques fit in with a scientific debate? How does this fit in with a side that claims to have superior arguments? If it were a real scientific inspired lecture, why the need to paint themselves as the heroes and the skeptics as the villains? Why is the potential audience not given a more balanced view on the issue?

How much objectivity can we expect when this is the level on which the issue is brought?


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