Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


How to argue with a Scientific Consensus

Via Scientific American

We brushed up against this topic with Vanessa’s logical example examining Donald Trump’s statements about climate change. For those wondering how Trump (and others) attempt to refute the overwhelming scientific evidence that humans are indeed responsible for the perils caused by climate change, the New Republic article  quoted below looks into the ‘finer’ points of their argument.

How do those who deny the scientific consensus look to make their claim? Are they attacking the validity, factual correctness, or soundness of the IPCC’s reporting on climate science? And do they have sufficient ground to be making these denials?

The main criticism of Cook’s study is that it omits the vast number of papers that take no position on global warming’s causes. That’s true: Cook’s study of the 12,000 abstracts found that 66 percent of them took no position, so he excluded them in calculating the percentage. As Cook explained in an online video, he omitted these papers because abstracts are short summaries that “don’t waste time stating something they assume their readers will already know”; just as most “astronomy papers don’t think it necessary to explain that the Earth revolves around the sun,” he said, “nowadays most climatology papers don’t see the need to reaffirm the consensus position.”

The deniers’ criticism hardly discredits his study. After all, roughly 4,000 of those abstracts did take a position, and 97 percent of them endorsed anthropogenic warming. And it’s hardly the first study of its kind.

Cook’s finding is backed by a field of literature. A paper in the journal Science published a decade earlier by Naomi Oreskes found 75 percent of peer-review literature from 1993 to 2003 agreed on man’s role in global warming. That percentage has only risen as the scientific study on climate has progressed. In June, a longtime research of the subject, National Physical Sciences Consortium director James Powell, found that 97 percent might be too low. His paper, which has not yet been published, found 99.9 percent of the field agreed in 24,000 peer-reviewed papers published in 2013 and 2014.

“The fact that each of these studies have used completely different methods to arrive at the same result demonstrates just how robust the overwhelming consensus on climate change is,” Cook said, pointing out that these studies have relied on techniques like directly surveying climate scientists, analyzing public statements, and examining peer-reviewed papers. All these approaches confirm the same point on the vast agreement.

Even if you want to ignore the consensus literature, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—which includes the most robust panel of respected climate scientists in the world—said in its most recent and fifth assessment that it has 95 percent confidence that humans are driving warming (equivalent to the scientific certainty that cigarettes cause health problems).

That’s not the only case deniers make against the 97 percent figure. They argue that if you include non-experts (academics in fields unrelated to climate change) or only look at the studies that say global warming dangerous, you’d get a much lower number. There are some obvious problems with these arguments: Shouldn’t expertise in a field matter? And how to define “dangerous” warming was outside the scope of Cook’s study. After all, the whole point of the study was to answer a simple question that cuts through the rhetoric of climate politics.

All this debate over one statistic might seem silly, but it’s important that Americans understand there is overwhelming agreement about human-caused global warming. Deniers have managed to undermine how the public views climate science, which in turn makes voters less likely to support climate action. According Gallup polling, only 60 percent of Americans think that most scientists believe climate change is occurring.



Vegans Are Changing The World One Veggie At A Time

Our planet continues to follow a trend of climate change around the globe with not enough being done to slow it down. Some
people are trying their best to drive more fuel efficent cars, use low wattage bulbs and save water, but there is a better more efficent way to help our planet. Going vegan has been proven to reduce your carbon footprint by %41.7 compared to meat eaters. 51% of our greenhouse-gas emmisions are contributed by animal agriculture in the forms of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

In this article by PETA, a logical argument is presented on the benefits of being a vegan in todays world and how this is lowering our energy use. This can all be broken down into the following premises and conclusion:

Premise 1: Greenhouse gases are a leading cause of climate change

Premise 2: A major source of greenhouse gasses are animals raised as livestock

Conclusion: Therfore people converting to veganism would make a large impact on stopping climate change

Now that we have the premises for PETAs vegan argument we can analyze its factual correctness:

  • Premise 1: This is agreed upon by scientists around the word. There are some facts that people do not agree upon though such as wether or not the world is actually heating up because they claim that there are also places in the world that are becoming much cooler. Over all this fact is true unless you refuse to believe the hundreds mof studys and organizations and instead look at the couple sources that believe it is a hoax.
  • Premise 2: This premise is true due the overwhelming facts showing about the causes of greenhouse gas emiisons such as CO2 and methane which are largely to be help responsible. The fact that most of these gas emmisions are released by animal agriculture is because of the way that livestock is produced in our times. There is the carbon released into the atmosphere from clear cutting and burning down of forests for feed for livestock, as well as the water used for this feed. Then there is the energy used to process and transport the feed to the animals. Afterwards the food is fed to the animals and methane is released during and after difestion in form of released gas and feces. It takes a considerable amount of water to keep an animal alive as well. After the animal is slaughtered there is energy used in the transportation and packaging of the meat as well untill it lands on your plate.
  • Conclusion: Is valid due to the fact that we have considered premise one and two to be correct in the most rational sensesm and that they follow in a sequential form that leads to the conclusion.

I would say that this argument is also sound because the premises are factually correct leading to a valid argument.

The whole point of this argument is not to shun anybody who eats meat, instead I am hoping that more people will understand the reasons for veganism and vegetarianism. I personally have not gone as far as to be completely vegan but i have come to understand that there are many ways that we can try to make an impact in our daily lives and leaving meat out of your day makes a difference. There are many reasons for people to become vegans (fitness, animal right) as well as environmental reasons but I personally have tried to make this change in my life because of the environment. The reasons being that how animal agriculture is damaging our planet is fact and not opinion. You can have an opinion on wether or not an animals life is worse being raised for slaughter or living free on a farm or if a vegan diet is really going to make you lose more weight compared to a paleo diet or a low carb diet, but you would have to try really hard to say that raising livestock does not hurt the environment.

Here is more information about this topic and converting to veganism :))


Oh yeah also I get enough protein!! With out all the added fat and cholestoral!



Art can show us what’s wrong with our Planet

Image courtesy of Nautilus Mag

With our unit on Aesthetics leading us into the winter break, our philosophers may enjoy this tour of curated art installations that call the human species to take note of the degradation taking place in the natural world:

Earth is on the brink of a mass extinction—the first in 66 million years, and it’s caused primarily by human activity. Scientists first detected this epochal event by calculating diversity in our forests and taking the temperature of our atmosphere, and they now outline steps we must take to deter the grim global prognosis. Engineers, following suit, havesuggested ways to change human industry to reduce our footprint and try to soften the damage done. Ideally, politicians react, too, transforming scientific insight into Earth-friendly leadership.

But what’s the part of the professional painter or sculptor? In the presence of environmental anxiety, what can the artist do?

In the 1960s, just as Rachel Carson was publishing her landmark book Silent Spring—often referred to as the catalyst of the environmental movement—a new kind of visual art sprung to life. Through art created in outdoor environments rather than the white walls of a studio, “ecological artists” sought to illuminate the most serious environmental issues of their time. They revealed often-ignored details of the world with unorthodox mediums like graffiti, planted fields, and even mountains. Here are some lessons that their ecological artworks have bared about our planet in flux.



Erasing the Boundaries

Vincent`s upbringing on the viewing of rationalism and empiricism and talks of genetic code, which intrigue me, have led me to look into erasing the boundaries. So I begin by putting forth the question of empiricism again: What evidence is there that cognitive processing is not wholly dependent on information from senses? If it is not from the sense, where is it from?
Through the proposal of evolutionary psychology, there is no sharp line that can be drawn between information that originates in the environment—including that acquired from the senses—and information that is conveyed through genes.

In the genetic model, the environment is paradoxically all-important. The information in the genes cannot express itself in bodily structures unless they are in a complexly specified suitable environment–so much so that 99% of the information for building an organism may be thought of as located in the environment and only 1% in the genes themselves (the proportion is not strictly quantifiable). The environment acts as a trigger for selective gene transcription, which in turn has an effect upon the immediate environment. As the information in the gene expresses itself in response to the structure of the environment, and the environment in turn responds to the action of the genes, the organism slowly begins to materialize. It is as if matter itself contains most of the information for life.

In terms of cognitive development, this means that genetic and environmental information act concurrently to construct cognitive structures. Some of the environmental information that activates certain genes may come through the senses; for instance, cats are unable to perceive vertical lines if they are not exposed to them before a certain age, and children who have not heard a language before the age of ten will no longer retain the capacity to acquire one. More complex scenarios with intermediate control structures are also possible, as an alternative to a continued role for the genes.

While the rationalist argument agrees with the genetic model in that both affirm that cognition is dependent on structures that do not derive from experience, the genetic model has historicized rationalism, playing the part of empiricism in undermining its claims to transcendental universals. Thus, the distinction between empiricism and rationalism has become largely meaningless, like two aspects of the same coin that have fused into a sphere.

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Greenpeace Oil Rig Protest Logic – Emily


30 Greenpeace activists were attempting to seize a drilling platform to the north of Russia

Vladimir Putin accused them of piracy

Therefore, they are pirates

In this argument neither the form nor the argument is valid. To begin with the form is not valid because the conclusion is not true. On top of that it does not fit in with any of the forms and does not have clear X, Y, and Z. The premises of this argument are also not factually correct because although the Greenpeace activists were accused of piracy, they are not pirates. Pirate being defined as “A person who attacks and robs ships at sea.” (the freedictionnary.com). Since this argument is neither valid nor factually correct, it is not sound.

The logic from this argument stems from the fact that Greenpeace activists boarded a high hazard Arctic oil rig with plans to stop its operations. Russian coastguards stormed the operation and began to round up the activists with knives and guns. They were then held on the boat until Russia decided to charge them with piracy with the support of Gazprom, the oil company that owns the rig that Greenpeace was trying to shut down. It was later revealed that Russia stopped Greenpeace’s argument because the any unauthorized action on the drilling platform could lead to an accident.

Now, this causes quite a stir for Greenpeace, who claims that they were just staging a peaceful protest. They still do not have much news from the activists, but a piracy conviction can carry a fine up to $15,000 and jail time.