Doubt the Science
Question Scientists’ Motives and Integrity
Magnify Disagreements among Scientists and Cite Gadflies as Authorities
Exaggerate Potential Harm
Appeal to Personal Freedom
Reject Whatever Would Repudiate A Key Philosophy
Do those look familiar? They should. They’re being used now during this pandemic. They’ve been used to deny climate change, and earlier, the harm caused by tobacco. They’ve been used for over 150 years to attack the reality of evolution. Since the 1950s, tragically, they’ve been used to attack the polio vaccines. While we’ve managed to bring the number of annual cases of polio down to near zero in spite of it, we could have done it sooner and more easily without the intense opposition. Many more people could have been spared. You can’t tell that to the deniers, though. They’re still clinging to their beliefs, and using the same playbook.
The purpose of the denialism playbook is to advance rhetorical arguments that give the appearance of legitimate debate when there is none. My purpose here is to penetrate that rhetorical fog, and to show that these are the predictable tactics of those clinging to an untenable position. If we hope to find any cure for (or vaccine against) science denialism, scientists, journalists and the public need to be able recognize, understand and anticipate these plays.
The denialist playbook is now erupting around the coronavirus. Although COVID-19 is new, the reactions to public health measures, scientific claims, and expert advice are not. Attitudes and behaviors concerning the threat posed by the coronavirus (doubting the science), the efficacy of lockdowns and mask wearing (freedoms being eroded) and alternative treatments (gadflies over experts) are being driven as much or more by rhetoric than by evidence.
Already we have surpassed the average rainfall for July, at only the three-quarter mark. This has allowed the drought level to be reduced from 3 to 2. That means our conditions have gone from “very dry” to “dry.”
What has Droughtman got to say about this? He says that 2019 has been very rainy, even though July has been the only month this spring/summer to reach normal levels of precipitation. He reiterates that the big lakes have a lot of water. To his credit, this time he didn’t say that means there’s no drought. Maybe he forgot to mention it.
Here’s hoping this unusually cool and wet July continues and carries over into August. It has been a nice change and we can use it. The wildfire hazard is down, a relief after the last two years of big fires. If we keep getting rain, maybe the aquifers will have a chance to recharge. With higher temperatures in the forecast, it would be good to build up a bit of a buffer.
We had a splendid thunderstorm pass through last night, with near-continuous lightning and some rain. Hopefully the lightning-caused fires can be knocked down before they do too much damage.
In the past week I’ve had a couple of visits from people who saw a link from another site to a post here. Being curious I backtracked them and found myself reading about the Great Cloud Conspiracy. Apparently when the International Cloud Atlas released a new edition with some added cloud types it meant that they were actually new clouds that didn’t use to exist. And of course that means that someone, probably the government, had done something that caused them to appear. Something about chemtrails? Note that my posts were linked to as a form of validation for their theories. In one case the author of the conspiracy post simply cut-and-pasted my post right off the screen. Any reasonable person who reads my posts will realize that I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theories they’re supposed to support.
To be misunderstood is bad enough. To then be used as back-up for some wingnut’s conspiracy theory is going too far.
Droughtman is strangely quiet these days. It has been cool and cloudy and is forecast for more of the same, with the possibility of precipitation, and he hasn’t said anything snide about it. It might have something to do with the latest information from our water management people. They have raised the drought level to 3, very dry. Although that would normally trigger Droughtman to sneer at them and point out that there’s still water in the big lakes, they also mentioned that Okanagan Lake, the biggest, is low. His go-to proof that he knows more than they do has let him down, and he has gone quiet. In addition, the upper-elevation reservoirs, which Droughtman had failed to consider in his earlier claims, have failed to fill this year.
All this is giving water utilities cause for concern. Their supplies look as if they might not meet demand, so they are replacing voluntary measures with restrictions on their customers’ use of water. So far it’s just for outdoor use, such as watering lawns and gardens on a strict schedule, but if it continues dry the restrictions will escalate. Already the lakes are low, as are the reservoirs and some wells, and even with the cooler and damper weather recently, we’re well below average for precipitation. It could be that all this information has been enough to quiet even Droughtman.
Look up in the sky! Is it a cloud? Is it rain? No, it’s Droughtman! Yes, I’m afraid our blogger is at it again. Our water watchers have raised the advisory level to 2, which stands for dry conditions and the first signs of potential water supply problems. It is the time when some water suppliers might consider asking their customers to begin voluntary water conservation. The snowpack is gone and rainfall is still well below normal, so these are wise precautions. Not for Droughtman, though. To him it’s fear-mongering. Apparently the people we pay to keep watch for us are drought-crazy and they get some kind of mysterious benefit from scaring us unnecessarily.
I think I have gleaned a clue into Droughtman’s thinking now. He points out that the big lakes haven’t dried up. It seems that, to him, as long as we can pump water out of the lakes, there’s no drought. So he defines drought, not by precipitation, but by the availability of water for our use. I guess this means that we could go ten years without rain or snow and, as long as the lakes haven’t dried up, there’s no drought.
He didn’t mention the upper elevation reservoirs, though, where we get much of our water during the dry season. These reservoirs won’t be replenished without rain and snow, but maybe Droughtman would have us fill them by pumping water out of the big lakes.