It was quite busy in the last month. Still is, but I am in the final stretch of the project that kept me busy and will pick up blogging again. I will start where I left previous month. At that time I was working on another post about the Lewandowsky/Cook/Lloyd “Alice-in-Winderland” paper. Remember, they wrote a paper in which they portrayed the arguments of skeptics as being incoherent. By giving generalized statements (especially in table 1) and putting them side by side, they demonstrated that these statements were incoherent.
My view is that the statements in the paper were not incoherent. They were framed as incoherent because those statements were generalized in such a way that they became incoherent. For example the statements “Future climate cannot be predicted” and “We are heading into an ice age” are incoherent at first sight. It cannot simultaneously be true that people believe that future climate can not be predicted and that we are heading to an ice age.
But taking a look at the examples that the authors themselves provided to prove their case, another story emerges. The actual statement made by skeptics were that mathematical models could not predict the climate in 100 years time and there are indications from previous cycles that a cooling period could be ahead. Which are two statements that are not incoherent. They could both be true. It is perfectly possible that one believes that mathematical models cannot predict the climate in 100 years time and that a cooling period could happen in the next decades on basis of other parameters.
Basically, it was the generalization of these skeptic statements that created the incoherence, not the actual statements (which were not incoherent at all).
The generalization is not exactly wrong per se (both are ways of predicting what could happen in the future), but nevertheless it is inappropriate in this comparison because both statements are used in a very specific way and that nuance got lost in the generalization.
Then I found an example of what it will like when we apply this very technique to the messages that we hear in the media and see how easy it is to create incoherent statements from perfectly coherent statements.