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Memories of the 28th Century

Cherry Picking

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Yesterday, I noticed a post on my Facebook newsfeed about carbon dioxide in the past and climate change. It quickly became apparent that the data was incomplete, and someone had already posted a note about that. I posted links to two similar articles that had more complete information, and, of course, my comments were heartily criticized, because the original was from NASA, while I posted links by people who do make their livings backing an issue.

Since then I have been thinking about the problems that can be created by cherry-picking data. "Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. It is a kind of fallacy of selective attention, the most common example of which is the confirmation bias. [1][2] Cherry picking may be committed intentionally or unintentionally. This fallacy is a major problem in public debate.[3]" "Rigorous science looks at all the evidence (rather than cherry picking only favorable evidence), controls for variables as to identify what is actually working, uses blinded observations so as to minimize the effects of bias, and uses internally consistent logic."[7] ibid Cherry Picking is very much like using a false premise, because with cherry picking one can tailor the data to provide that results that one wants.

It is clear that this sort of cherry picking has been used to create "big lies", and it appears that the people who call themselves climate scientists are tailoring their output so that they will keep their jobs, but most people do not have the background and critical judgement to know that. But the scientists who engage in intellectual fraud should remember that it is fraud. They are presenting something that is false in its basis, and other people may act differently as results of their fraud. There may be additional reasons for the cherry picking in this field, but financial gain is adequate.

While I started this as a result of cherry picking in the climate business, but they are not the only ones who use cherry picking to tailor their results to push a particular opinion. Cherry picking is also popular in most political debates: taxes, trade, gun control, labor issues, vaccination, education, and almost everything else. And the use of cherry picking isn't restricted to a particular political persuasion; the people who use it are people who want to twist arms into accepting their beliefs, regardless of actual facts.

In public discourse, everyone is pushing his preferred opinions (myself included), so it is valid to suspect everyone of cherry picking facts or using other logical fallacies to make their opinions look better.

We should question our sources of information and wonder whether they presented all of the facts. Even when a person or entity should be objective, there may be reasons why they do not bother with the whole truth. While we expect that from news media, it is also true of government agencies and educational institutions.

While multiple sources are necessary, one must also look at the information provided and consider whether it even makes sense, and whether it is consistent with the rest of the world. Critical judgement is essential in determining whether data could be faked or accurate.

A few relevant articles
long term CO2 and temperature, this mentions the lack of any consistent relationship between CO2 and temperature
Climate Change Is the easiest News to Fake
Fake journal articles epidemic