Friday, March 15, 2013

Truth and lies

In my last post I wrote about how John Stuart Mill saw truth emerging from the conflict of ideas. What he had in mind was doctrine and belief. I think he would be astounded to discover the battles that are now waged against empirically verified reality, something that he no doubt assumed would be accepted by all. If we are not to live in a fantasy world, the duty to contest in these cases is not a way of exploring truth, but of defending it against distortion and deliberate campaigns of disinformation.

Mill was a true Victorian liberal. He envisaged civilised debate between rational people and a respectful, thoughtful exchange of ideas. And in this spirit we should welcome this new film (and web site) on climate change denial.

Greedy Lying Bastards gets it about right.

In one sense that is a little unfair as many deniers are horribly sincere. But who dreamt up the misinformation that they believe and endlessly repeat? Someone had to distort and manipulate data and it had to be deliberate. When every single claim made has been subjected to rigorous scientific analysis and all, yes all, have been found to be utterly wrong, the expensively maintained communications machines that produce and endlessly repeat this guff must know it to be false.

Phil Plait gets it right writing about the "blatantly untrue, ... ridiculous and obviously false statement" that there has been no warming for the past sixteen years:
The difficulties in debunking blatant antireality are legion. You can make up any old nonsense and state it in a few seconds, but it takes much longer to show why it’s wrong and how things really are.
When financial interests team up with wishful thinking, we are in trouble. It is about time to drop polite respectability and call a lie precisely what it is.

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