Trusting our sources

I think science supports my disbelief in man-made global warming (aka, AGW).  I won’t go into the details now, but that’s the conclusion I’ve reached after reading a lot of the literature (including Brian Sussman’s Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam).

I didn’t reach that conclusion based on science in the first instance, especially because the real science wasn’t emerging.  I reached it on the conclusion that I didn’t trust the people who were selling AGW:  Al Gore, John Edwards, the UN, Hollywood types, etc.  They predisposed me to disbelief simply because I thought it too great a coincidence that AGW just happened to demand the full enforcement of their specific political agenda.

I discover myself doing this often:  taking my distrust of the messenger and engaging in a wholesale rejection of the message.  That cropped up in my post yesterday, with reference Eugene Joe [a correction that perfectly proves the ultimate point I’m making here] McCarthy.  Since the Left has sold McCarthy as the devil incarnate, from which they draw the conclusion that there were no Communist infiltrators in the government and the military, and since I no longer accept the left as a reliable source, I fell too readily in the trap of accepting assurances from conservative writers that McCarthy was an unsung saint, and the only one who took Communists seriously.  Now, someone I trust personally assures me that that McCarthy was in fact a devil, willfully destroying innocent people, but that there were indeed Communist infiltrators.  The truth lay between the two political extremes, with each side selling a lie.

Tainted information from biased sources is nothing new.  It’s an age old problem.  Every law student, in advocacy class, is taught to make a polite little speech to jurors about bias, acknowledging its existence and asking people to rise above it as they consider the facts.

Taking tainted information from trusted sources is also nothing new.  It’s a convenient short hand.  The more you trust the source, the less burden there is on you to investigate the facts yourself.  This works for the lazy, but it also works for the overwhelmed, or for the person who wants a handy piece of information but can’t reasonably be expected to investigate the entire body of known work.  Under any of those circumstances, the best that one can do is ask “Who is trustworthy?” and then, having answered that questions to ones own satisfaction, accept that trustworthy person’s version of the facts.

All of which is to say that I always, always appreciate it when you, my readers, correct factual errors in my posts.  Some are there because I was just plain wrong, some because I was careless, and some because I trusted the wrong authority.  None are ever there because I intend to mislead you.  So keep those corrections coming.  They matter, both for my own personal integrity and for my blog’s.

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  • David Foster

    Actually, I think you mean Joe McCarthy, not Eugene.
    There is a new book out on the Soviet intelligence files that have been released or otherwise come available which cross-references the *actual* Soviet agents to those claimed by McCarthy and HUAC. Can’t remember the name or author, but will see if I can find it.

  • Dennis Elliott

    The intelligence files are called the “Venona Files”

  • Ymarsakar

    “accept that trustworthy person’s version of the facts.”
    Then you have one trusted source that is contradicted by another trusted source. What then?

  • Ymarsakar

    How was McCarthy destroying innocent people? Is that like Bush and the Patriot Act destroying “innocent” people?
    You’ll notice that these people either cheer on Obama’s nationalization of people’s private property or they make excuses for the same. Some even wish Obama to be able to emulate China. A mini dictatorship. Friedman. It comes from a typical flaw in the argument. They make the claim that X is doing something bad, but they can’t offer any concrete evidence or even details to support that argument. Bush’s Patriot Act arrested who that checked out a banned library book? The PA was watching “who” check out banned books at a library? They searched and seized whose property because of it?
    On the topic of McCarthy, it’s a smoke screen. Whether McCarthy was like Bush or whether McCarthy was like Obama, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what politicians tried to do and what they failed to do. Actions, not words.
    Republicans tend to have this issue where they are shell shocked. They have been around Leftist arguments so much that they think if they can make a person the Left attacks into a good person, that this will invalidate everything the Left says. This is factually incorrect. And it is factually incorrect for numerous reasons, not least of which is that the Left’s form of demonization argument is a way to distract people from the real threat the Left wishes to nullify. You can’t prove the truth by disproving the Left, because the Left was never about the truth in the first place. What they say about McCarthy has Zero to do about what happened.

  • Ymarsakar

    Republicans also think apologizing for a person’s “faults” will make some redemption feasible. Not going to happen. On this level, saying the demonized person is good is better than apologizing for the person’s “faults” or “accents” or “lack of experience. Still, it is playing the Left’s game in the end. And no victory is feasible when you play to your opponent’s strengths, to your own detriment.

  • David Foster

    Dennis…”Venona” refers to intelligence gathered via a secret tap of a Soviet communications cable under Berlin, which we were able to de-crypt because they stupidly failed to use a one-time pad for the encypherment. The new book may reference that intelligence, but also uses Soviet KGB records obtained more recently.

  • suek

    “…acknowledging its existence and asking people to rise above it as they consider the facts.”
    Not possible.  Because they see their own “bias ” _as_ fact.  It’s only another person with another bias who can consider your position to be biased.
    It’s like the accusation that “you always think you’re right”….  Well duh.  Why would anybody hold a position that they _didn’t_ think was right?  How dumb would _that_ be???
    You might also consider Ann Coulter’s book “Treason”.  I found it very interesting to read her well referenced support of McCarthy – although her style is abrasive at times, and distracting.  She also has some very funny lines that are also a bit distracting – especially since you read along and get to the next paragraph before your brain kicks in with a …_what_??? response.

  • Ymarsakar

    Suek, are you able to give a summary of what Ann Coulter’s arguments were?

  • Bookworm

    Suek:  I did read Ann Coulter’s Treason, and it has now been suggested to me that she’s one of the conservatives who errs too far on the side of forgiving McCarthy his major vindictive trespasses against peoples’ reputations and livelihoods.

  • David Foster

    The book I had in mind is “Spies” by John Earl Haynes.