Caveat Emptor

I am not a scientist. I approach most of the questions I raise about science, policy, or politics from the vantage of a philosopher; which is to say, from a position of self-imposed ignorance. I do this hopefully impartially, though I am not always successful at disregarding my partial leanings.  Usually I believe myself to have a defense for my leanings, so if I’m pressed on something, I’m happy to (try to) offer that defense.

Generally speaking, my aim is to look at the reasons that are offered for whatever claim I’m interrogating and to charitably assess those reasons on their face. In some of my posts, I may raise substantive concerns about a particular issue. If I do so, it is hopefully because I am not as ignorant as I sometimes claim to be.

As this blog unfolds, it will probably become clear that I have an unbalanced preference for discussions about the environment and climate science. When I take on the scientific dimensions of these discussions, I rarely want to inaugurate a back-and-forth about the science itself, since I’m not really qualified to speak to the science, except as a well-educated non-specialist. Further, as a well-educated non-specialist, my tendency is to defer to established scientific record — which in the case of climate science is the IPCC AR4, as well as most of the climate science following from that — and to make judgments about the reliability of challenges to this record based on my understanding both that shenanigans happen in the peer review process and the scientific record is open to amendment.

So there you have it. My commitments up front. I’m interested in being as charitable as possible to my critics, as I’ve said, and interested in being interpreted as charitably as possible. We all have our failings, to be sure. Let’s just acknowledge that these discussions are much more fun, and considerably more meaningful, if we’re dealing with the actual concerns of our interlocutors and not some pathetic strawman.

Which brings me to this last point: I reserve the right to be a snarky and nasty pain in your ass. Nothing about the principle of charity says that one has to be nice. More here. I hope you will treat me with equivalent snarkiness, but know that, at the end of the day, these are just arguments — sometimes with high stakes, yes — but ultimately arguments geared at helping all readers, including me, no matter our political bent, get our reasons straight.

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