I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
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Saturday, July 13, 2013

The name game - 2

This is a repeat with one additional example below the starred line.  This is not to take a position on any of these issues,  just to point out the cleverness in the use of the language.

Choosing the appropriate title for your organization or group is very important if you are involved in something controversial. [Perhaps even if it is not controversial.  For example, people who play golf are called golfers which flows much better than say chess players.  But we chess players would probably not respond to chessers.]

 This post contains a few items like this and solicits additions to the list.

I think groups should be able to choose their own name. Up to a point.  The point is when they start to usurp other people's legitimate titles and roles.  Undocumented workers does that on two counts.  They are not all workers and "undocumented" is an attempt to make it sound like they are the same as a legal resident except for a little detail about papers.
Perhaps you have seen on TV a discussion in which one of the advocates says "undocumented workers" and the other says "illegal aliens" when they are both talking about the same group of people.  People also appear to refuse to use the word illegal and attempt to conflate the two categories (legal and illegal immigrants) which allows them to claim that if you are opposed to illegal immigration then you are opposed to legal immigration as well. 

You once had pro abortion rights and anti abortion groups.  Both sides got smart and went for pro choice and pro life.  Both of those seem legitimate and positive.

Any one born in this country is a native american so I don't like using that title Native Americans for the indigenous population of the Americas.  In Canada they use the title First Nations which seems quite appropriate.

Sometime in the last forty years the term sexual preference (which indicates choice) gave way to sexual orientation (which does not).

The gay rights movement's marriage equality was a stroke of genius.  Technically a gay man, G, and a straight man, S, both had exactly the same marriage rights before the current changes in some laws.  That is, each of them could marry a person of the opposite sex.  Of course, since G was gay, those were not the marriage rights that he wanted.  Marriage equality now means that each has a right to marriage with their preferred partner type.  [I wonder if the advocates of legalized marijuana could make a similar case for intoxicant equality.  That is, I should have the same right to my preferred intoxicant as you have to yours.]

Another beautiful example is that global warming has become climate change.  Global warming is a checkable thesis.  If the temperature levels off then you have some explaining to do.  See Climate change scientists puzzled over lack of global warming during past decade.  However, climate change is happening all the time.   It always has been and it always will be.  Your thesis cannot be disproved.  Finally any one who disagrees with your conclusions is no longer called a doubter - which is a respectable position.  They are now labeled as deniers - which calls up images of the holocaust.

I would not argue that people shouldn't engage in these kinds of maneuvers. On the other hand, folks should be aware of the games that are being played.


  1. So is it your perception that the "climate change" title has been adopted/promoted by those warning of global warning as a cover? This is the opposite of my impression, which is that "climate change" is the term reluctantly adopted by people who wanted to dismiss the idea of there being a problem of any kind in the first place and then, in the face of an avalanche of data and scientific credibility, had to have some way of acknowledging the issue without taking any human (personal) responsibility for it. Some interesting points on the usage of the terms are made here as NPR responds to a complaint by one listener who perceived a shift in NPR usage from "GW" toward "CC".

    Another name-game example: "Scholar-Athlete, the term the NCAA uses as a justification for not compensating high level (professional) athletes schools exploit under the guise of academic integrity and the laughable notion that the sport is a secondary (amateur) pursuit relative to their studies. A very thorough and insightful article from the Atlantic on this can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/10/the-shame-of-college-sports/308643/

    generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves.

    1. Here are a few things I think are settled science on this topic.

      1. The earth’s average temperature has increased over the last 160 years
      2. The earth’s average temperature has not increased for the last 15 years
      3. Certain gases are known to be greenhouse gasses
      4. Humans produce known green house gasses
      5. The volcano Kilauea produces more CO2 per year that does all anthropogenic activity in the US.
      6. Rotting vegetation produces methane, a gas that is far more effective as a green house gas that CO2.
      8. Decomposition that occurs in and from all of the world’s forest, swamps, wet lands, and lawn clippings produces a lot of methane.
      9. The Earth has gone through past warming and cooling spells long before the introduction of SUVs or any significant environmental influence by human activity.

      Here is an article (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/us/pollution-concerns-could-douse-california-beach-fires.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 ) that advocates prohibiting beach fires to cook s’mores because “regional regulators have determined that wood-burning fires contribute to air pollution and pose health risks for those who live nearby”.

      Silliness like this occurs on both sides of the climate change (or global warming) argument and it is, I believe, detrimental to the argument of both sides.

      My position in all of this is: The term “global warning” has been hopelessly corrupted to imply or infer that the increase in temperature over the last 160 years is directly and totally attributable to anthropogenic causes. That may be the case, but I think that it is far from settled science. I would also point out that analyzing temperature change from the end of the mini ice age, when it was colder, is valid as long as we remember that the statistical starting point was selected because of an observed temperature change.

      The use of the term “climate change” gives me, and I think science, a chance to include human activities in a very complicated mosaic of “things” that cause climate change and its subset of “global warming”.

      p.s. I recycle, limit my driving, turn off lights when not in use, compost unused food, try to buy local products, consciously choose to live in a home that does not have an excess of unused space to heat/cool, and I think, overall, conserve resources more that most people. However, I am not willing to rip out my water heater (the most energy consuming device in most homes) based on a “warmer’s” definition of settled science and the associated cries of alarm.

    2. Tom, I'm not sure what your definition of 'settled science' is but the following items seem to be pretty clear about it so I'd be interested to know what you think of them.
      1) is an article from the Washington Post which includes a breakdown of how others have tried to quantify scientific point of view on the question of whether humans are warming the planet, and asks why public awareness of where science actually stands on this issue is so divided when scientists themselves are not.

      2) The most recent report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), whose job it is to assess where science stands on these issues globally. This report makes a pretty consistent and thorough case for the conclusion that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and very likely due to anthropogenic influence.

      I find these and other sources like them on the subject rather convincing. It sounds like you do not and so I wonder where you are finding science to be divided on this?

    3. I have been told that in the scientific community there is a saying similar to the following - Don’t get to fond of your theory because it is probably wrong. One of the beautiful things about science is that it is never really settled and consensus has weight but it is not proof.

      WRT the WaPo article – The title of the article is ”Scientist Agree on Climate change”. I believe that was Wayne’s point in the original post. It would seem to me that climate change is an observable phenomenon on which we all agree.

      As for consensus that humans are a factor in climate change and potentially warming the planet, it is hard to deny and I don’t. I fully acknowledge that humans produce greenhouse gasses and engage in other activities that are deleterious to the environment.

      Here is a quote from the article “there’s broad scientific agreement on very basic climate change questions”. I think that is a true statement. I also think that if you remove the word “basic” from the quote the statement would be false. Under the surface and in with the details I think there is broad disagreement.

      WRT the IPCC – The IPCC is a UN sponsored panel consisting of representatives from member countries of the UN. As the name suggests the IPCC is a panel. It does not conduct its own research, and membership on the panel is not dependant on being a scientist or having scientific credentials. The IPCC reviews scientific papers (submissions) and articles, many of which have been peer reviewed, and distills its opinions based on their review. Based on the composition of the panel and the potential for diverse motives regarding “warming” that might influence their finding I will admit to being dismissive of IPCC opinions.

      I won’t use the word consensus, but here are some things with which I agree:

      1. Climate change is real
      2. Global warming over the past 160, years minus the last 15, is real.
      3. Human activity contributes to global climate change, including warming.
      4. We, all humans, need to be environmentally aware and reduce our impact on the environment whenever it is reasonable to do so.
      5. Global climate change is a global issue and a serious one.

      Here are some things I suspect:
      1. The media does not do justice in accurately portraying the scientific consensus on “warming” to the general public. For example around 1997 the press widely reported that the scientific consensus was that if the current warming trend continued sea levels would rise 3 to 7 INCHES in the next century. In many instances the report was accompanied by a video of what would happen to Florida if seal levels rose 30 FEET. I will also add that the media has been in no hurry to report to the general public that the warming trend did not continue, but has instead taken a 15 year hiatus.
      2. Research money is more readily available to study “warming” than other climate issues. I am not implying the research is biased because of the money, I am saying that more “warming” studies and their associated finding can lead to a false conclusion of consensus.
      3. Burning fossil fuels is bad for the environment, but not as bad (big picture) as often portrayed.
      4. Green energy (wind, solar, etc) is a good thing, but considering the current state of the art they are far less “good” for the environment than they are portrayed. For example: 1) if you track the pollution (mainly on battery issues) in a Prius automobile cradle to grave a conventional car looks very good indeed. 2) If a community has 50% of its power supplied by a wind farm it still has to be capable of supplying 100% of its power with a fossil fuel plant on days the wind does not blow.
      5. It is most difficult to have a meaningful discussion on “change-warming” because most individuals and groups enter the discussion with a bias. I admit to my own.
      6. A full court press on pollution in the US would have a small impact globally, unless other countries do the same and I see no indication that countries like China or India are inclined to do so.
      7. It is time to very concerned, but not time to panic.

    4. In answer to Caleb's first question, yes I thought there was some of that changing to climate change as a cover when recent data indicated a 15 year flat-lining of the warming data.

      For two more points see Climate change on July, 14, 2013.

  2. Forgot the link for the NPR story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2011/11/17/142418671/global-warming-vs-climate-change-does-it-make-a-difference

  3. A few more words/phrases with an agenda

    White privilege
    Affirmative action
    Special interest group
    Historically underutilized
    Fair tax
    Fair share
    Hispanic (as a replacement for Mexican)
    Any hyphenated claim on nationality or origin
    Old white men
    Chauvinist (pig)
    Income equality
    Wealth redistribution
    Wealthy or Rich or wealthy rich (and sometime evil rich)
    Overwhelming consensus
    Settled science