There are a lot of bad reasons for rejecting the science of climate change (indeed, there are no good reasons), but some arguments are more well thought out than others. This is not going to be an article about one of those arguments. Rather, I am going to write a brief, cathartic rant about a particularly stupid argument that arises so frequently that it deserves to be its own internet law (much like a climate change version of Godwin’s law).
Before I go any further, I do want to clarify that I am calling the argument stupid, rather than the people who make the argument. It is entirely possible for otherwise rational people to be so blinded by their biases that they make utterly idiotic arguments, and I think that is exactly what is happening here, at least I hope it is, because the argument is breathtakingly stupid. Indeed, it is so moronic that anyone making it has just demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they don’t understand anything about climate change and are refusing to believe it because of political biases rather than an examination of the facts. So, if you ever find yourself being tempted to use this argument, please reflect carefully on it, and re-evaluate your biases and views. Really ask yourself, “is this actually a good argument?” and if you conclude that it isn’t (as you should) then ask yourself why you were tempted to believe/use it.
The argument in question involves invoking Al Gore and it can take one of two forms, both of which are childish and inane. The first takes the form of, “Al Gore said X, and X wasn’t true, therefore global warming isn’t real.” The second version occurs when someone arbitrarily accuses someone of believing in climate change because Al Gore said its real. See, for example, the screen shot from a recent thread on my Facebook page where someone did exactly that. As usually happens with this argument, at no point did I bring up Gore or anything political, but out of the blue came an accusation that I just blindly follow whatever Gore said.
Both forms of this argument are wrong for the same blatantly obvious reason. Namely, Al Gore is 100% irrelevant to debates on global warming. He is not a scientist, and no scientists care what he thinks. No one accepts climate change because he said so. We accept it because of the overwhelming body of evidence showing that it is real. Similarly, climate change deniers act as if any mistakes that he made indicate that the science itself is flawed, but that is absurd. He doesn’t speak for scientists. He is not the arbiter of scientific consensus.
I care about actual climate studies, not Gore’s reporting of those studies, and the actual studies show that climate models have been very accurate, regardless of what Gore may or may not have said about them (I honestly have never even seen “An Inconvenient Truth”). If Al Gore said that the moon was made of green cheese, that wouldn’t mean that scientists are wrong about its real composition, but that is exactly the reasoning of this insane argument. Or, if we want to use the other variant of this argument, Gore believes that we are breathing oxygen, but it would be absurd to accuse someone of only accepting that we breathe oxygen because Gore says so.
Now, I should pause for a second and clarify that if someone says something like, “climate change is true because Gore said…” then and only then could the climate change denier attack Gore without committing a straw man fallacy (depending on how they structured the argument), but here’s the thing, in all the literally hundreds of climate debates I have been in over the years, I have never once seen someone invoke Gore as evidence for their position. Maybe it has happened at some point, but I have never seen it. Nevertheless, in a huge portion of those debates, at some point, the denier has brought up Gore as if that somehow helps their position. This is what I meant earlier when I said that it was like Godwin’s law. Just as Godwin’s law states that as any internet debate continues, the probability of someone bringing up Hitler/the NAZIs approaches 1 (i.e., 100%), even so, as any climate debate continues, the probability of the denier bringing up Gore approaches 1.
So why is this argument so common? Well, I am neither a psychologist nor a social scientist, so I am poorly equipped to answer that, but here is my best guess from the patterns I have seen in these debates. Although science is inherently apolitical, people often try to make it a political issue, and there is a pretty deep divide between republicans and democrats on climate change (though that divide has lessened in recent years). Thus, even though climate change is not a political topic, many people refuse to believe it for political reasons. As a result, Republicans often associate it with Al Gore, even though Gore is irrelevant to those of us who accept the science. Thus, this argument actually demonstrates their own biases and faulty way of thinking about science, rather than being a valid criticism of the evidence.
In short, there is no reason to bring up Al Gore in a climate debate. We accept that climate change is happening because of the evidence, not because of Gore, and if you actually think that we accept it because of Gore, then you need to carefully re-examine your views, because you are simply displaying your own biases and cognitive errors.
Note: After posting this, someone pointed out that others have had similar thoughts before me and already coined the term “Gore’s law.”
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