I love words. I read all the time, and will read anything that is available to me, even the side of a cornflake packet if I have nothing else to read. I know my Kelloggs Cornflake packet back to front!
But the problem is, words are like figures. They can be used to represent anything the user likes. The most common way that figures can be used to mislead are in graphs. Graphs, of course, have vertical and horizontal axes, (is that the plural of axis?). But by stretching or contracting either axis, (usually the vertical one), graphs can 'appear' to give very different visual information from the same set of numbers.
I have an example of that. I know you are waiting with baited breath. It is here;
This shows the value of some shares I held until April 08. I managed to get out before the financial meltdown bit hard. But the graph shows, at the bottom, the value of my shares over a period from 2004 to 2008. The large and sudden rise in the middle of the period was when I brought more shares. You can, perhaps, see how the value of the shares does not seem to fluctuate much over time, the line is fairly smooth.
However, look at the top graph. Same figures, but I have expanded the vertical axis and contracted the horizontal axis. Can you see how there are suddenly spikes and troughs?
If that bottom graph was shown to people, (minus the anomaly of the sudden total increase), they might think that my shares were just gently rolling along, happily earning me money, with the odd blip. But if that top graph were shown to the same people, they would see a more turbulent state of affairs and more dramatic changes. I watched the top graph, and that's why I pulled out of investments.
What is my point of all this? Simply to show that figures can be used by clever people to indicate different things. (I don't consider myself to be particularly clever).
But it is the same with words. Words are so powerful, and they drive our society and cultures today, as they have done for centuries. Individuals who know how to use words effectively can sway whole communities and populations, and can change the course of history.
I believe that our climate is changing. I tend to believe that the recent changes are driven, either in part or in the main, by human activity. However I will keep an open mind for as long as I can. But critic411's link to an article by Paul Macrae shows me exactly how clever that person is with the way he uses words. I don't know who this Paul Macrae is. I've read his "About Me", but that only tells me he is, (was), a journalist but other than that, I know nothing about him. Is he scientist? No it doesn't seem so. He has written books and he is good with words, an essential requirement, I suspect, for a journalist.
But look at his article again; http://www.paulmacrae.com/?p=74
He says, "Even though the planet is warming naturally (Fact #1)"
That alone puts me off. The word "naturally". "Even though the planet is warming naturally". He states that as a fact.
This author, who in this article and presumably in his own publications is carefully disputing facts and tearing them down, states his own fact as evidence. The source of his statement does not say that the planet is warming 'naturally'. It states that globally the average temperature has risen by more than 0.7 degrees C over the last 100 years. Concentrations of CO2, created largely by the burning of fossil fuels, are now much higher, and increasing at a much faster rate, than at any time in the last 600,000 years.
So, by inserting the word 'naturally' Macrae immediately proposes that that any such arguments to the contrary are false, and should be treated with suspicion.
While that may be true, by inserting his own choice of words, Macrae diminishes the force of his own argument in my view, and I no longer trust what he says. And so, using that article as proof, as evidence that global warming is a natural event and that humankind has no effect whatsoever, which is what he seems to want us to believe, is not proved for me.