I have long believed people, no matter how great their disagreements, should be able to understand one another. One of my favorite fictional relationships is the one between Professor Xavier and Magneto of the X-Men franchise, where the two men (quite literally) violently disagreed with one another yet held each other in great esteem.
In high school, one day a teacher stopped me in the halls and was going to lecture me because he thought he had heard me curse. A classmate of mine was nearby and he immediately stopped and said, "I don't like Brandon at all, but he never curses." That moment has always stuck with me because this classmate didn't like me, yet he was willing to speak up in my defense because he understood me.
The reason I bring this up is I published a new (short) eBook just a day or so ago. The point of it is to show how "Skeptics" in the global warming movement don't exhibit actual skepticism. Amongst other things, I thought this eBook might help some people find common ground with one another. Today, I'd like to discuss a reason that might now work.
To show what I am talking about, here is an e-mail I sent to a couple people:
I know we've had many disagreements, and I don't expect us to ever be friends. However, I believe no matter how great people's disagreements, they can find some common ground. In that spirit, I thought I would send you a free copy of a short eBook I just published. I believe you will find things you can agree with in it, particularly as it relates to Richard Tol.
You can receive the free copy by going to this link:
And inputting the code GXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. If you prefer, you can exchange the gift for credit on your Amazon account, though since the pricetag on the eBook is only $0.99, it won't be worth much.
I sent that e-mail to a couple people hoping that we could look past past disputes for a moment and focus on something upon which we could agree. The idea was I felt my new eBook said things certain people might agree with, and we could use that agreement to create some small amount of common ground.
Now, I won't say who all I sent this e-mail to. I do, however, want to highlight one exchange it led to. I don't like sharing people's e-mails with me openly as a rule, but there is no particular sense of privacy in what you send to another person, and in this case, I think it is quite useful to consider the response I got. Here is the first response:
Thanks, and I've had a look. Not quite sure what you hope to achieve by this (if anything). Given your extreme stance on most issues (or, maybe more correctly, your apparent inability to be measured and reasonable) I doubt that people are going to suddenly pay attention just because you're criticising people they mostly disagree with. Also, if you really were trying to build bridges, you could start by trying to not accuse people of nefarious intent whenever you criticise their work. YMMV, of course.
In the spirit of building bridges/finding common ground, I wanted to look past any past disputes and focus on something which might be productive. As such, I responded:
I don't see any value in re-hashing old topics (e.g. despite your perception, I rarely accuse the people I criticize of nefarious intent). I'll answer your uncertainty though. I have long thought it inexcusable for people to ignore/excuse things like what I describe in this book. I could easily provide dozens of examples that have also been handled the same way, and that's without even trying to keep track of them.
The point of this book is simple. I want to draw some amount of attention to the fact people are behaving in this way. Ideally, doing so will cause some people to reconsider their tacit approval of this sort of thing and/or let people who haven't previously seen it realize this sort of thing is going on.
I don't know hold much hope for that, but at least I can say I tried. And who knows? Maybe people on the other "side" (as if I had a side) will learn a bit from my book and conversations can advance that way. Goodness knows the response to Mark Steyn's book has been anemic, which amazes me given how bad it is.
That is the point of my latest eBook. I want people to realize the Skeptic movement has a problem with it not being skeptical of things it likes to hear so they can change that. My hope is by raising this issue in an eBook, I can get some people to discuss it. And for people on the "Warmist" side who have observed the same things I've observed, perhaps this could be the basis for some common ground.
This is the response I got:
By "nefarious intent" I simply mean any accusation that those you're criticising are intentionally presenting something that they know to be untrue, or intentionally misleading. You do this regularly. That you do not even seem to recognise that you do this is why trying to build any kind of bridge is clearly pointless. At best, your perception of acceptable behaviour is completely different to mine.
This showed a misguided perception of my behavior, which I sought to correct:
I'm afraid you've misunderstood. I knew what you meant by nefarious intent, and as I said, I generally do not accuse the people I criticize of it. I understand you may dislike that I have accused you and some people you know of dishonest behavior, but that is something I have always done reluctantly and with full knowledge of what I was saying.
The reality is I know fully well when I accuse people of dishonesty. I do so rarely and with regret. I suspect you don't realize this because you haven't been exposed to the fuller breadth of what i write. If you were exposed to more of my discussions, I suspect you would find in fewer than 2% of them do I suggest any sort of dishonesty. And in almost all of those cases, I am confident you would find I made those accusations only after trying to find an alternative explanation.
In any event, I had no desire to rehash old issues such as this. I merely wanted to offer you a copy of my eBook because I thought we might find some common ground within it. I've written the rest of this e-mail only because you seem to think I am unaware of accusing people of dishonesty when the reality is I will readily admit to each and every accusation of dishonesty I have ever made.
If you wish to verify this, I will happily acknowledge any examples as such. If desired, I will also explain why I see no other interpretation, forcing me to reluctantly conclude nefarious intent is present.
I do accuse some people of dishonesty. I have never shied from that. Michael Mann committed fraud. John Cook intentionally lied about the ethics approval he received from his university. He and Stephan Lewandowsky intentionally lied about where links to a survey created by Lewandowsky was posted on the Skeptical Science website (it was never posted there). Members of Cook's Skeptical Science team have since lied about what their "consensus" study showed.
I don't make these accusations lightly. I have repeatedly tried to find alternative explanations, being as generous as I can in why these people may have behaved the way they behaved. Unfortunately, sometimes people lie. Sometimes people commit fraud. Accurately identifying such cases maybe unpleasant, but it is not inappropriate. The response I got to explaining this:
Maybe you can stop trying to build bridges with me. There is no further point. If you could refrain from contacting me that would be great. There is nothing further for us to discuss, ever. If you could also refrain from saying things about me in public that are not true, that would also be good, but I suspect that that is somewhat beyond you.
Basically ignored the issue. The person apparently thought I am unaware of the fact I accuse people of dishonesty, but when I corrected him on this, his response was not to update his perceptions. Instead, he chose to simply ignore me. I responded:
That seems an unusual response to being told you've misunderstood/misrepresented a person, but if you wish to refuse to speak with me, that is your choice. I hadn't expected any response to the e-mail I sent you, and based upon your reaction here, perhaps it would have been better had there been none. I certainly did not wish for an exchange like this to happen (and specifically sought to avoid this).
I think it is appropriate to seek common ground with people who disagree with me so that progress in understanding one another can be made. In that regard, if there is anything I have said about you which is untrue, I would be happy to correct it if you would identify it. If you choose not to identify the supposed untruths in what I write, I will continue to have to write what I understand to be true without your feedback.
In any event, I have no desire to participate in pointless exchanges like what you have tried to force us to have, so if you wish to say nothing more, I would be more than willing to let the discussion end. I will not, however, promise that in the future I will refrain from trying to find common ground with everyone around me.
If people wish to reject any possibility of reasonable dialogue, that is their decision. My decision is to continue to offer the opportunity for one.
I don't expect people to like me. The truth is, I don't have many friends. What I do have is a steadfast desire to understand other people. No matter how much I may dislike you or what you have done, I am willing to talk to you. I am willing to try to understand you and the reasons that make you think what you think. I am willing to try to understand why you feel the way you feel.
I know I am not perfect. I will make mistakes. I will do things that are wrong. But if you're willing to try to work with me, I am willing to try to work with you. What I don't get is this, if you think global warming is a serious threat to humanity, why aren't you trying to work with me?
I'm not part of "us." I'm not part of "them." What I am is a person who is trying to understand the things around him. If you're not willing to try to speak with me, why should anyone be willing to listen to you?