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Two More Movies on One Screen

Sunday, March 19, 2017 11:25
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“Two More Movies on One Screen”
by Scott Adams

“Recently, one of my millions of critics left a message on social media about my writings on the topic of climate science. I pasted the critic’s comment below, as well as a response from a third party who explains to her that she is watching the wrong movie. I present the exchange here as an example of how two people can look at the same screen and see completely different movies.

Your first reaction might be along the lines of thinking my critic is nuts, or has low reading comprehension. But neither is likely to be the case. The critic is (I assume) totally normal. This sort of hallucination happens to all of us on a regular basis. But we can only see it clearly when it happens to others. Don’t be smug that you can clearly see how deluded the critic is. The point is not about this one person. The point is that sometimes this one person is you. And me. No one is exempt. It’s just easier to see the phenomenon in others.

Here is the exchange:

Critic:  “First of all, anyone who writes an article on climate science that starts it with “I don’t know much about science and even less about climate science” should not be taken seriously. But then it is very much in vogue these days to flaunt your ignorance while railing against anyone who takes facts, science, and education seriously. They are just a bunch of elitists. His flippant, thinly reasoned but cutesy questions is one way to flaunt it I guess. But that does not a scientist make. He is the trump of scientists to use your analogy.”

Response from Chris Fusco: “His article is about persuasion, not climate science. His blog is all about the science of persuasion and observations of persuasive technique. “He is the trump of scientists to use your analogy.” He’s not a scientist, and doesn’t say he is. He says at the start “I don’t know much about science, and even less about climate science.” He clearly states “As a public service, and to save the planet, obviously, I will tell you what it would take to convince skeptics that climate science is a problem that we must fix.”

He says “climate scientists are the Hillary Clinton of scientists. They think facts and reason will persuade the public. Even though science knows that doesn’t generally work.” The science of persuasion demonstrates that people are most persuaded not by facts, but by emotions. He has argued in the past based on the science of persuasion that Trump didn’t win because of his command of facts or reason, but rather because of his ability to appeal to emotion to persuade people to vote for him while Hillary mainly tried to appeal to people using facts and reason.

The substance of your comment supports the premise. You were persuaded to comment based on emotion, making only emotional arguments, validating the point. You didn’t address his “thinly reasoned” arguments and refute them on their merits by disproving them using the “facts, science and education” you believe he is missing. Instead you said things like “But then it is very much in vogue these days to flaunt your ignorance while railing against anyone who takes facts, science, and education seriously.” This is a emotionally persuasive straw man argument. The implication is that he is ignorant and rails against anyone who takes facts, science, and education seriously and you don’t. He never made that argument. His arguments were all about persuasion.

Saying “They are just a bunch of elitists. His flippant, thinly reasoned but cutesy questions is one way to flaunt it I guess,” instead of addressing his actual arguments, ironically, is a flippant, elitist emotional argument used for the purpose of persuasion. Berating someone, like shaming, is an emotionally coercive persuasion technique. It says “You are socially unacceptable to a class of people that are better than you.” The implication is “I’m better than you. You’re not good enough.” It tells the audience, “If you don’t agree with me you’re not good enough.” It’s not imbued with any grace, accountability or responsibility though. The accuser makes no actual effort to improve others. At best they’re just blowing off steam. At worst they are being emotionally coercive, which is a form of violence.

If you sincerely take facts, science and education seriously, you use them to inform and educate others, especially those who may have it wrong. You approach every argument as a dialogue – an opportunity to both teach and learn, testing the limits of your own knowledge and experience and measuring that of others. That’s what a scientist does. That’s what Scott did in his article. Hence, the “cutesy” questions. He doesn’t presume to understand or know it all.

Persuasion is not about informing and educating, it’s about influencing someone else to change THEIR behavior to accomplish YOUR goal. This is an important point. The evidence of one’s goal is in the substance of their technique. If you read the article, he uses logic and reasoning to support his arguments and statements. He was not trying to persuade his audience using emotional arguments, he was trying to educate them on persuasion. He wasn’t attacking scientists, science, climate science, or Hillary. He was critiquing, commenting and informing their ability to persuade.”

Do you think this explanation changed the critic’s mind? I doubt it. The usual response to this situation is to change the topic. Again, don’t be smug. You would change the topic too if someone shined a light on your cognitive dissonance. That’s just how it works.”


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