Monday, May 12, 2014

US Senator Marco Rubio Shifts Position And Thinks He's A Climate Expert

A while back, I started a series of blog entry titled "You Can Teach Yourself To Think Like A Scientist". In Part 3 of this series, I mentioned about the general principal that one might be able to draw when reading the statements made by a US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. To refresh your memory, in a GQ Magazine interview, the senator was asked on how old he thinks the Earth is. He evaded answering the question by claiming that he's not a scientist, and that the issue has nothing to do with the economy of the US, which one would gather is the more important issue on his plate at that time.

Based on that interview, I tried to illustrate trying to extract the principals that Senator Rubio was using, which presumably are the principals that guide him in his decisions. His refusal to answer this question and based on his responses, one can conclude that he would rather defer such questions to experts. There's nothing wrong with that, and certainly, being put in a position like that, deferring to the experts is a rather smart way to respond to such a question.

However, such a principal no longer applies anymore, it seems. In the latest news report, it seems that Senator Rubio thinks that he's a climate expert.

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," Rubio said.

"I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy," he added.

In the week since the Obama administration released a national climate change report that named Miami as the city most vulnerable to rising sea levels, Rubio has been critical of the White House push on global warming.

"I think it's an enormous stretch to say that every weather incident that we read about or the majority of them are attributable to human activity," he told CNN.
Not only did he not defer to the experts on this subject, it seems that he has the expertise, he thinks, to even dispute them! Based on what, you may ask? Why, based on his "belief", of course. He believes in these things, thus, it must be true, regardless of what the evidence and the experts say.

So what happened here? There are certainly two contradictory events. If one lives by the principal that one defers to experts and won't offer an answer on something one isn't well-informed in (as in the age of the Earth), isn't it rather contradictory to then turn around and behave the opposite way by contradicting those experts in another subject area?

And let's not ignore the very annoying, and often dangerous, traits of some people of relying on their "beliefs" that seem to trump expert opinions and evidence. It is one thing to question the validity of something when one has evidence to back it up. It is another when all one can offer is simply one's beliefs. This is a sign of someone who can't think properly when faced with a problem, and simply decides not on what the evidence say, but rather on some preconceived ideas on how things should be. I think this is another example where the public, and a politician in this case, put more emphasis on their "values" rather than facts.

Think of these things when you vote for your candidate next time.



Steve W said...

Or Senator Rubio is acting completely rationally, but this time around is motivated to appease some major financial backers of his party given that Rubio will potentially be tapped for the Republican nomination. Politics, like science, requires a pragmatic approach, but the goals are likely different.

I think we place too much faith in experts. As a scientist, I hope that a collection of experts in the field should be able to give a relatively sober opinion on climate change. However,
I worry about the role statistical models in the climate change debate, which is a point that is currently discussed in the literature. At some level, one has to have faith that such models extrapolate accurately enough to predict future trends. While the majority of exports may agree that such models are okay, there is room for opinion even amongst the informed.

What is far worse about Rubio's comments is that he has completely misrepresented the proponents of human caused climate change. There are no scientists claiming that every weather incident is caused by humans. If we had such superhuman powers, presumably it would be a huge boost to the economy.

Finally, so long as the debate in the public eye is whether humans are the direct cause of climate change, I think no major policy changes will ever be accomplished. I personally don't care whether climate change is real. I do, however, feel that being a leader sustainable energy will pay financial dividends in the long term.

Anonymous said...

I do wish physicists (etc) would stop banging the drum about global warming. Especially when Chicago has just had its coldest winter on record, and here in the UK I didn't cut my grass for 6 months. Especially when a pandemic or an asteroid could fix our climate change problems at a stroke. There's plenty of money for windmills, but not for physics. But every time there's a funding cut, they never make the connection. It's like turkeys voting for Christmas, then bleating because they're getting the chop.

ZapperZ said...


Don't derail the main point that I was trying to make. This isn't a post about global warming. It is a post that started with the theme of trying to understand why some people proclaim to live by certain principal, and then turn around and contradict that principal! I mean, read the original post that I linked to. You didn't complain then about "physicists banging the drum about the age of the earth"!

This is along the same theme!


Anonymous said...

I did read the original post Zapper. You're talking about a politician. Principles don't come into it. Politicians buy votes, and not just Republican politicians. My points stand re global warming. LOL: every time you hear the word "denier", think Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

ZapperZ said...

Sorry John. You have again missed the point, and missed the entire point of that series.

I'm not trying to change anything about these politicians. Throughout our history, people have been taken in by fraud, by snake-oil, by demigods, etc. There will ALWAYS be people like this who will try to sucker you in, either to buy their stuff, or to believe in them. I'm not trying to counter or change them.

The point of that series is to teach OTHER PEOPLE how to analyze such people, or such situations, and not be fooled into their ideas. And one of the ways to do that is to filter down things that they say and figure out what "principal" they are using. Once we know that, we can see if they are consistent or not in uniformly applying such a principal. Someone who goes by their religious conviction should apply that conviction uniformly, and when they don't, that's when you can figure out if there is a hidden agenda or other additional criteria behind it.

It isn't about these people, it is about others who either follow them, or believe in them, or trying to figure them out. I'm trying to show people how to apply the same analytical technique that we use in science into social areas that one may not have thought of. It isn't about the people, or the subject matter. It is about the METHODOLOGY!

That is the point that you had missed.


Anonymous said...

All points noted Zapper. I re-read the series. I like to think I'm very analytical, and will take a special interest in your next piece on this theme.