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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Scott Adams asks: Could a Climate Science Expert Change Your Opinion?

...Here’s a thought experiment:

Let’s say you are new to the debate about climate change and I put you in a room with the most well-informed climate scientist in the world. The scientist spends as much time with you as you want, answering every question and making her case that climate change is a human-caused disaster in the making. Let’s say this scientists is also the best communicator in the world, unlike most scientists. So now you have the best information, from the most knowledgeable person in the world on this topic, communicated in the best possible way, and answering all of your questions. Would you be persuaded by all of that credibility and good communication?

We know that a die-hard climate change skeptic would not be persuaded by this excellent source of information because humans rarely change their minds about important things. Instead we hallucinate reasons for why we were right all along. But in my thought experiment I said you are new to the climate change debate. So let’s assume you came to it without bias. Would you be convinced by the scientist?

Probably yes. If your first introduction to a topic involved a clear and detailed explanation from the top expert in the world, you would probably be persuaded because there is nothing stopping that persuasion from happening. You have no bias to overcome and the scientist is both credible and clear in her message.

The unbiased mind is likely to be totally convinced in this thought experiment. And that mind would also think it had engaged in rational behavior. After all, what could be more rational than getting the best information on a topic, from the best expert in the world, communicated in the clearest possible way?

But your new certainty about climate change would be a fraud that you perpetrated on yourself. If you don’t yet see in my thought experiment why the best information from the best source is still unreliable, even when clearly communicated, you probably don’t understand enough about the world to participate in decision-making.

I’ll simplify this even further so you can test your hallucination. Here’s the summary of the situation. Tell me why you should not automatically trust the scientist in this thought experiment. Assume the following three things ARE true. What’s missing?

  • Best expert in the world on Climate Science.
  • Currently works in the field.
  • Great communicator, answers all of your questions.

  • See what’s missing yet?

    The thing that is missing is that you can’t know what the expert didn’t tell you...

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