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Burden of Proof

Michael Tobis's picture
  • Member since 2018
  • 135 items added with 19,600 views
  • Sep 7, 2011

One delayer tactic is to demand “proof” of “global warming” before advocating “hugely expensive actions”. (*)

This comes down to “burden of proof” arguments. Much though we might wish people understood Bayesian reasoning better, it appears that people are primed to a sort of naive absolutism by the legal system:

I was mugged once some years ago and was called in for a line up. It was night, the mugger was wearing a hoodie and for most of the time during the mugging there was a street light behind him. When I went in to the line up, I said I was 90% sure it was number 5. The officer questioned my 90% saying “Are you sure you’re just 90% sure? We know it’s the guy”. I stuck to my 90%. I simply wasn’t 100% sure and explained why (night, hoodie, street light).

After doing the line up, I was taken into an office with a detective to make a statement. When I got to the 90% sure thing, the detective started to get pretty agitated.

So, he stops the tape recorder and starts grilling me about my insistence on not saying I was sure it was the mugger. He got really angry and then said, “Don’t give me that bullshit! We know it’s the guy. Just say it’s him, damnit!”. He turns the tape recorder on and again I say I was 90% sure. So, he gets visibly angry, turns off the tape recorder and storms out of the office telling me I can get the hell out of there.

Where did this idea of “scientific proof” even come from? Anyway, this expectation of waiting for “proof”, convenient for the fossil fuel interests, seems tied into some logical absurdities in the legal system as well.

( * ) – though they never demand “proof” that the actions would be hugely expensive. They certainly would be hugely expensive to the fossil fuel interests, after all!

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Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Sep 7, 2011

I go even further than this Michael, and point out hugely expensive “in”-action.

Whatever the cause, Texas is on fire and nobody (including a would-be President) can stop the loss. Yesterday I had some luck with some politicos that Texas scrub was nothing compared to the biomass fuel that exists from the Pacific to the Atlantic along our Canadian border.

Some politicos understand natural history enough to consider some options. Others smugly want charts and data and detailed plans for options.

So I think your term “delayer” is a good one, but more broadly applicable than just climate. Perhaps public opinion is the data that now matters. The US voter is fed up with useless politicos of all stripes in record proportions. Inaction and delayer tactics and hollow promises have become dangerous for too many.

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