In a recent post, Andrew Montford appeared to associate me with Paul Krugman and Michael Mann. August company indeed, although I don’t think it was intended as a compliment. I did, however, decide to comment on the post, and it went remarkably well. I could be snarky and suggest that as I wasn’t expecting much, that may not mean anything, but in fact it was pretty good even in an absolute sense.
I didn’t change my mind about anything, and I don’t think I changed anyone else’s mind, but I learned some things that I didn’t know, I now have better understanding of some of the views that others hold (even if I still disagree), and it was reasonably enjoyable. Not much use bothering if it isn’t, in some sense. It wasn’t without it’s niggles, but some people seemed willing to at least exchange ideas in a decent and well-meaning way, and appeared to engage in good faith. I certainly don’t think that the only reason for engaging in a discussion is to convince others of your position. In my view, it serves many purposes. You learn things, you might inform others, and maybe you might even hone your arguments. Of course, there may be only so many times that you can repeat the same type of discussion, but having as your only goal to convince others of your position seems somewhat close-minded.
The actual discussion was about Michael Mann and the famous Hockey Stick, a discussion that – given the strong feelings – I generally tend to avoid. Given the topic, maybe it’s doubly impressive that it didn’t degenerate solely into mud-slinging (there was a bit of that). I’ve also just noticed that Steve McIntrye has just posted a couple of comments, to which I haven’t responded. Not that I’m trying to be rude, but I just don’t really know what more to say. For what it’s worth, my general view is still summed up best by Eli’s comment. That a young researcher could face such vitriol and criticism, and survive, is remarkable. I certainly would not have been able to do so.
On another note, Roger Pielke Jr responded, on Twitter, to my recent post about why people may give him a hard time, suggesting that I have no idea about his views on climate science/policy. Of course, he may well be correct. I clearly cannot know someone’s views. However, I can hold an opinion about them based on what I’ve seen and read. In fairness to Roger, he appeared to acknowledge that point, seemed to be trying to reach out, suggested he was looking forward to an informed discussion, and offered to send me a copy of his book if I emailed him. Of course, the anonymity thing makes that rather tricky. Some may – rightly possibly – think I’m hiding behind that. On the other hand, the anonymity does mean (I think) that I’m being judged on what I write here, rather than on anything else. Also, despite how it might seem, I’m really not trying to become a player. In a sense, the beauty of technology today is that anyone can start a blog, write what they think (barring libel and slander) and let others decide on whether or not they want to take any notice of what’s written.
Anyway, maybe these exchanges make me think that it is possible to have pleasant, well-intentioned, and meaningful discussions between people who may hold very different views about a highly contentious topic. Of course, it’s quite likely that my optimism will be beaten out of me the next time I try, but at least it makes me think that all is not lost.