2011-06-01 15:34:47Conflicted, very conflicted about daughter's debating class on global warming
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.31.47

My 11 year old daughter is doing debating at school tomorrow and she's been assigned to argue "humans aren't causing global warming". She asked me to help her come up with arguments for the debate. Am very, very conflicted about this!

2011-06-01 15:48:37
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.97.203
Ah geez that sucks. Just have to remember that debating is all about winning an argument and really has nothing to do with what's correct or who's right. But I wouldn't want to be in the position of having to try and help her with that one!
2011-06-01 17:26:55
Dikran Marsupial
Gavin Cawley
gcc@cmp.uea.ac...
139.222.14.107

How to give the wrong idea of what science is about in one easy lesson.  :(

If it were my son, I would be writing a letter of complaint, explaining why debate is not a good way of reaching scientific truth.

2011-06-01 18:13:58
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.126.52

I'm with Dikran, isn't science a search for the truth? Debating is for professional bullshitters like politicians and lawyers. 

2011-06-01 21:19:19
BaerbelW

baerbel-for-350@email...
109.84.161.186

Would it be possible to come up with really stupid/loony/whacko reasons which even 11 year olds can see for what they are? Is there a classmate who has been assigned the "Humans are causing global warming" side of the debate or is this basically a one-sided set-up? Do you know the teacher who has assigned the topics? Is it a coincidence that your daughter was the one to get this topic? Is the teacher aware of what you are doing?

2011-06-01 21:38:05Gaby getting global warming as a debate topic
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.9.229
No, she was assigned the topic "should kids have to play sport in school" and asked to switch to global warming (chip off the old block). But she was hoping to obviously be on the pro side but got the anti side. My thinking is to use it to teach her some critical thinking - to show her skeptic arguments, then show her how they mislead. So This afternoon, I'd tell her a skeptic argument. She'd ask "is that true?" and I'd explain that the way people mislead is by telling you just part of the truth but not the whole truth.

For example, I'd tell her the argument that 31,000 scientists signed a skeptic petition. Which is true. But it doesn't tell you the full truth, that almost none of the scientists are actual climate scientists. And she understood that - the argument and how it misleads.

I just hope she doesn't turn her class into skeptics :-)

2011-06-01 23:41:55
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.36.234

A good attorney should know his/her opponent's arguments better than the opponent.

Maybe she can arrange to give a 1-minute talk after the vote on the debate, to disavow her debating position.

2011-06-02 01:34:21
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

There's a really good comedy debating quiz on UK TV on the 'Dave' channel (The Home of Witty Banter).
They have two teams of two debaters, two are regulars and two are guests.

The show is called Argumental and both debaters that are up against each other usually come up with ridiculous reasons for supporting their position.

http://uktv.co.uk/dave/series/tvseries/3165

If you emphasise the positive about global warming, maybe it is best to make it sound selfish.
eg. only put a human perspective and highlight that.

On the other hand, I'm guessing if the teacher(s) know she isn't a skeptic they will recognise that she did a 'professional' job by presenting a convincing argument, she might get better points for doing that.

2011-06-02 02:22:13
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

It could be a very interesting teaching moment if she can use the material you help provide, John, to win the denier side of the argument.  Then, as Neal points out, follow up pointing out how EASY it is to win a debate with deceptive tactics and misinformation that others can't quickly or easily reject.  She could then point out the fallacies of each point she made.

Whew!  That's a lot for an 11 year old to handle.  But, I suspect she's pretty bright if she's a chip of the ol' block.

2011-06-02 03:41:45
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

Yeah I agree it would be great if after the debate she were allowed a couple minutes to explain that she was making misleading arguments.  A great potential teaching moment.  The most useful thing to come out of this exercise would be if the kids could learn that facts don't play a very big role in determining who wins a public debate.  I wish the 'skeptics' could learn that.

2011-06-02 03:56:19
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

Some inspiration :-)

 

Argumental, Polar bears aren't worth saving (randon image round):

http://youtu.be/zGfRqVrmm8U

 

Recycling is a waste of time:

http://youtu.be/9hHDajjFZHk

 

Couldn't find one on climate change, but I'm sure it was a subject in a previous series.

2011-06-02 06:59:53Paul D
John Hartz
John Hartz
john.hartz@hotmail...
99.95.221.238

Were you formerly "The Ville"?

2011-06-02 07:17:33
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

Yes Badger.

2011-06-02 07:19:44Just me being nosy :)
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Any reason for the change?

2011-06-02 07:53:33
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.6.245

Easy to see how children become confused and conflicted, and sad to see they're still "teaching" this debating nonsense at school. I refused to take part when I was a young student. 

2011-06-02 09:32:26
Andy S

skucea@telus...
66.183.183.187

duplicate

2011-06-02 09:33:03
Andy S

skucea@telus...
66.183.183.187

Rather than propose bogus science (and risk infecting young minds) , why not get her to admit the science and make specious arguments that it's not our responsiblitity.

For example:

  • it's not us, it's the CO2, it's not our fault if that gas absorbs IR
  • the CO2 is building up in the atmosphere because the oceans are too slow in absorbing it
  • our cars emit CO2 because there aren't any decent and cheap  electric cars available yet

Etc

Probably too late for her debating class, alas!

2011-06-02 09:54:20
oslo

borchinfolab@gmail...
90.149.33.182

I have an 11 year old daughter my self and I don't understand how a debate on scientific issue would benefit the critical thinking specifically.

Should schools arrange "critacal" debates on gravity, visits on the moon, gosts, crop circles, abortion, aids, cancer, pro pollution, holocaust, darwin for kids?

I vote no, choose debates on moral issues kids can relate to - stealing, cheating, beating, friendship, enemies, love, hate, make dinner, eat dinner, fat, thin, sport, heroes, loosers or a lot of other issues which is of more importance and more relevance to their daily life.

The debate on issues was easier when I was young (is Abba better than Beatles).

2011-06-02 15:13:31Oh dear
jyyh
Otto Lehikoinen
otanle@hotmail...
85.77.107.39

Hah, adult people wanting to hear excuses for their behavior, putting a young person in an awful spot, a classic reverse oidipal... wishing strenght to your daughter, remember it's just talk... no need to take these seriously, there's no shame in losing a staged fight, no reason to get mad at adults as there are many quite as foolish and more as you are the occasions when you are foolish... what else? for the sake of argument, if she wants to win a semantic battle, the fine words of science might do the trick...

Begin with "I know there's no known physical phenomenon present on the universe that would produce natural cycles of 70-450 years of lenght, that would be needed to produce the temperature record of the last 5000 years (since earth is just 6000 years old, this is quite much ;-) ), but for arguments sake let's assume there is..." Then a bit of talking the (speculated) slowest deep oceanic cycles (that cannot produce the patterns seen in the surface temperature record and recontstructions) and the Abdussamatovs' (St.Petersburg (Russia) solar observatory)  slow solar cycle theory (including the (unobserved or at least unreported, to my knowledge)) variations in spectrum (likely unphysical, since the fusion in the sun is so energetic the unobserved layers in the sun would be well mixed and produce only slight variation...)that would be needed to take care of the earthly biological response that would change the temperature) and I'll bet she'll win as I think the adults present very much want to hear of the current speculations of why it might be God smiting the kids of future and not them. 

Other way to win the argument would be to smite the opponent with religious issues and state "I live more ecologically friendly than you, thus you lose the argument, as the lamb of God will show you." ;-)

2011-06-02 15:20:31correction.
jyyh
Otto Lehikoinen
otanle@hotmail...
85.77.107.39

"produce natural cycles of 70-450 years of lenght" on earth, that is. :-) There are of course double and triple stars that would do, maybe some talk of the Nibiru... ;-)

2011-06-02 16:10:00another correction
jyyh
Otto Lehikoinen
otanle@hotmail...
85.77.107.39

well i see reverse Oidipal isn't the term used on this...

2011-06-02 16:28:17
jyyh
Otto Lehikoinen
otanle@hotmail...
85.77.107.39

Yeh sorry about that, some sort of cultural, extended http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpartum_depression would possibly be a better explanation but I doubt any psychologist would agree :-)

2011-06-02 17:04:13
perseus

owlsmoor@googlemail...
188.220.205.42

Perhaps she could argue that Deniers are a different species, and it is their antics which is leading to global warming, not decent concerned human beings!

Seriously though even the IPCC only state a 90% likelihood of a predominant anthropogenic cause, so it should still be subject to genuine fair criticism.  It is the 'fair' bit which we should be having a gripe with, not 'criticism'.  

If you really object to this, she could argue that humans were having a cooling influence through the emissions of sulfates and other more regional pollutants during the mid 20th century, and it is still canceling much of the potential rise.

2011-06-02 19:13:15Debate preparation
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.9.229
Gaby and I were discussing points and counterpoints and I was trying to anticipate what an 11 year old would say to argue humans are causing global warming. So I said they might argue that all the academies of science all over the world agree about AGW. She asked how she would respond to that. I said well, you could argue that there's still 31,000 scientists who are skeptical. She said "well, that's not a very good argument!"
2011-06-03 02:35:02
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
140.193.222.168

John,

She could BS them with some pretty compelling arguments, and then afetrwards say "Look, everything that I just told you is either wrong, a lie or misleading.  But it was convincing was it not? ell, that is how the 'skeptics' work, don't be fooled by them".  But of course, that is if they allow her a couple of minutes after the fact.

Temperature leading CO2 in the past is a good argument to make in order to claim that we are not causing AGW...children should get the problems with that....Tim Ball does not, but smart children should ;)

Anyhow, on the road here,so pushed for time.  Let us know how it worked out....

2011-06-07 11:13:48
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.52.137

How did the debate turn out?

2011-06-07 12:12:51Pending debate
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.9.229

Still hasn't happened - she keeps forgetting to ask her teacher when it'll be exactly.

She's the first speaker so I gave her some ideas for her talk - I suggested she end her 2 minute talk with this idea:

Take a can of soft drink, hold it up and say "this can is full of carbon dioxide...", open the can, "hear that sound? That's carbon dioxide coming out. Does this room feel any warmer? I didn't think so", take a drink from the can then say "in fact, I feel a bit cooler!"

I know, it's stupid, it's ridiculous, it's a little bit evil. But I saw Andrew Bolt do the "opening a can" gag on TV to prove global warming is nothing to worry about. I figure if it's okay for a grown man to use on prime time TV, it's okay for an 11 year old in a class debate. It's funny, it's eye-catching, it's got a prop - ticks all the debating boxes. But she's a bit embarrassed by the novelty of the idea, it's a little too out there.

2011-06-07 18:49:49
logicman

logicman_alf@yahoo.co...
86.147.182.78

If your daughter can speak really really fast, may I recommend the hyperspeed gish gallop?

The idea is to take a 5 to 10 minute gish gallop and say it in 2 minutes.  Ideally the gish gallop should maximise appeal to "authority" but cite only op-eds that the persons concerned have themselves published.  That technique allows appearance to triumph mightlily over substance.

As others have suggested: your daughter could disavow her 'devil's advocate' stance afterwards, perhaps by showing that self aggrandisement a la Monckton doesn't make someone an expert.

Example:

Viscount Monckton is an expert on climate who has been quoted by the media in almost every country so he should really know what he is saying and he is often published by Anthony Watts who is a trained meteorologist so when he says that humans don't cause global warming, or at least not enough to worry about, he is someone worth listening to.

 

Another alternative is a chain of false statements delivered as rhetorical questions:

Use of the steam engine proliferated in the 1800s and the oil engine in the 1900s so if humans are really responsible for global warming then why hasn't the Arctic ice vanished already?  How is it that 10,000 years of forest clearing for agriculture hasn't turned our farms to deserts?  Why do the world's glaciers still exist?  Isn't it a fact that when you burn coal it makes smoke?  CO2 makes things warmer and smoke blocks the sun and makes things cooler, doesn't it?  Is the atmosphere so small that we can add a tiny amount of CO2 and change everything overnight?  Can you make the ocean more salty by adding a ton of salt?

etc. etc. ad nauseum

 

imo winning followed by self-rebuttal would have a huge impact by showing that rhetoric isn't science.

Please wish your daughter success on my behalf.

2011-06-07 19:43:18
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.46.56

Another thought: If you get those SkS T-shirts ready in time, she could reveal herself to be wearing one right after the vote on the debate.

2011-06-07 21:24:29T-shirt
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.9.229

I gave her a "SAY YES TO CLIMATE ACTION" shirt from the Sunday climate rally and she took it to school on Monday, showed it proudly to the teacher and wore it when school ended. My little girl, chip of the old block :-)

2011-06-17 21:27:36Has the debate happened yet
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.148.85

Has the debate happened yet?

2011-06-17 21:58:50Nope
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.9.229
Don't know when it's going to happen. The crisis of this week was some boy in her class stealing her eraser, which stressed her out a lot more than her having to argue skeptic arguments stressed me out.
2011-06-17 22:02:40
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.60.157

Life is rough.