The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
11 Points

Society should not regulate carbon or CO2 output.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/29/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 867 times Debate No: 18530
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (4)




There is no sound basis for carbon regulation or taxation. Without such a basis our society should ignore all attempts at the various proposed regulation schemes. Some well known examples are cap and trade, 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050, Kyoto, et al.

Carbon, in the form of CO2, is directly harmless to humans and other forms of life in the general atmosphere. It is the same gas we exhale and plants intake. It is an essential part of the well understood respiration and photosynthesis cycle of animals and plants. [1]

Science, as presently practiced, is unsuitable as a sole basis for carbon and climate based policy.

Consider the level of quality control applied to important endeavors such as bridges, dams, power plants, aircraft, and cars. As a society we demand that these items carry minimal risk and so require some of the most stringent quality control measures available. We have external oversight organizations that test, inspect, and certify these products. In effect, I would call this quality level, the audit, as in anything requested or deemed of importance is required to be presented or vetted to the level and in the manner the oversight organization requires.

Science's only practiced quality assurance measure is called the peer review. Peer review is inferior to the audit for a multitude of reasons. A peer in the academic setting is fundamentally an internal quality assurance measure due to their interdependence and competition for both funding and publishing. Being interdependence, the process is not independent - which is generally considered to be a much superior way to eliminate bias.

The current scientific process has a method of outside oversight, FOIA. The existence of which is completely justified as they are using public money and thus the research ultimately, belongs to the public. However, it has been common practice to ignore [2] FOIA requests and such conduct is apparently condoned [3]. Thus, there can be no claims to any formal external oversight which is a core means of removing bias of the audit method.

As for the oversight that is accomplished. Journals do not require that all related data and computer code be submitted with a paper, making detailed inquiry impossible. Instead they follow the general model of scientific discovery used today, that all parties are effectively assumed to be honest and that they faithfully followed the stated methods in their summaries (peer review papers) accurately. These are bad assumptions when it comes to insuring quality, you cannot assume that the originator of the idea is altruistic and that all the work was done properly. The very purpose of quality is to vet the data, methods, and final product so that it adheres to a desirable standard.

Energy is a fundamental pillar for the modern western nation-state. Energy production today is directly linked to Carbon. Any direct tax or regulation of Carbon is thus a change to a fundamental pillar for a country. I will assume these points to be axiomatic unless challenged. Thus, such a change requires a very well vetted basis, similiar to that which we expect from aircraft, dams, and bridges.

Science not only does not have an adequate process to accommodate external scrutiny. It is also, at present, incapable of implementing one without major systemic improvements in method, data, and code retention and sharing practices. [4] This not to say that science does not have a place. Peer review can be desirable when funds are tight, when people are honest, and when the work is relatively unimportant and remains an academic pursuit rather than one driving policy.

Science should not be used for anything of vital importance. Any such tasks should be divorced from the world of peer review academic papers so that kept records can be vetted and put through a proper quality assurance process to suit the issue at hand.

[2] "Today the Guardian reveals how Jones withheld the information requested under freedom of information laws" ... "The Guardian has learned that of 105 freedom of information requests to the university concerning the climatic research unit (CRU), which Jones headed up to the end of December, only 10 had been released in full."
[3] "We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it."


Without an appropriate or sound methodology, some might say that it would be prudent to withhold making a decision until such a methodology presents itself. However, there are some issues whose very nature, or through social and political pressure, demand a decision. In such a case, it is not possible to simply remain neutral.

Since a decision must be made, we can either behave randomly, or choose among the available methodologies. If we agree that random behavior is unacceptable, then we should also agree that we must choose a methodology and, therefore, should choose the best.

We should note that "best" does not mean "perfect." Any methodology necessarily must have been created, and necessarily must be carried out, by humans, who we can agree are inherently flawed. To require perfection is unreasonable. Furthermore, to simply note any number of flaws in a given methodology is also insufficient. To choose a "best" methodology we must compare. It doesn't matter if a given methodology has *x* number of flaws if every other methodologies has more than *x* number of flaws.

I contend that: not only is science the best available methodology, it is the *only* available methodology. In my opponent's criticism of science, note that there has been no presentation of any alternate methodology. It is simply that "science ... is unsuitable..." I am not aware of any other formal methodology and my opponent has not presented one with which we can make a comparison. At this point, the only methodology on the table to choose from is: science. As the sole member of its class, it is automatically the best choice, so we must use it.

So what does science say about the situation? While I could reference dozens of articles or web pages citing the scientific consensus that: A) global warming exists; B) CO2 is a major component; and C) man is a significant contributed to CO2 and, hence, global warming; this is a point that is implicitly acknowledged by my opponent.

The argument presented is not that there is no basis at all for regulating CO2, but that there is no acceptable basis. The attacks upon science, then, implicitly acknowledge that science provides a basis for global warming; my opponent simply considers science to be unacceptable.

In conclusion, given that science provides a basis for regulation CO2, that being forced to make a decision we must choose some methodology with which to make a choose, that science is the only available methodology, then we should, therefore, regulate CO2 emissions.
Debate Round No. 1


Before I launch into round two, I would like to thank drafterman for engaging me in a formal debate.

Con's principle counter argument is that because he knows of no other methodology than science, it is our only choice and that we should therefore trust it and believe it. He glosses over the actual drawbacks of the process and instead relies on it's uniqueness and the existence of human error to justify poor process.

I would like to inform Con, since he is unaware, that there are many many different methodologies in the world. Suggesting that they are fiction, and that only science exists is wrong. Organizations like ISO and CMMI are built around the idea of process, methodology, and their improvement. Every company in the world has a methodology to do things, many differ widely and some are effective at what they do and others are not. That their goals may differ slightly from academic science inquiry is immaterial, they exist and through their application we understand what represents good process and what is bad process.

Now, to narrow the perspective a little. I believe Con is intending to say, though poorly worded, is that science is the only methodology for exploring the world. IE, the modernized practice of age old empiricism, rather than truly claim that science is the only methodology to do anything. But this is really besides the point, even if science was the only method of exploring the world does not automatically grant competence or trustworthiness. Those things need to be born out and verified, not granted by default. Thus, we are left to discuss the actual attributes of the methodology, which I have gone through in detail as to why it is inferior and unsuitable. These drawbacks should not be glossed over so casually. If the only method around was a soothsayer who read chicken bones, it wouldn't make him trustworthy.

Since I am familiar with the drawbacks in science, and having had some experience with reviewing process and methodologies, I will oblige Con and provide some of the needed improvements before science can then apply for the job of policy adviser.

In it's simple form, it boils down to show all of your work. It's so simple, yet so hard that most scientists I discuss this with utterly refuse, making up any number of excuses as to why this is impossible.

Science should formalize the process of data retention, being that most funding comes from the public, this should be done on public servers where it is all instantly available. All modifications, translations, meta-data, and related code used for any formal paper results should likewise be available in a similar manner. An employee of the agency that provided the grant (a non-peer) should periodically review all works done under the grant and vouch for the integrity and accuracy of the information provided and that all works are being made available to the public at large in a satisfactory manner.

I believe such a process would fix many of the issues, depending on the accuracy and competence of the oversight body. It would be a boon to the public knowledge base and be healthy for science in general.

I reject Con's claim that I implied that the science provides a basis. Quite the contrary, meta-researchers have looked into the success rates of papers and found them lacking. Often significantly:

We think of the scientific process as being objective, rigorous, and even ruthless in separating out what is true from what we merely wish to be true, but in fact it’s easy to manipulate results, even unintentionally or unconsciously. “At every step in the process, there is room to distort results, a way to make a stronger claim or to select what is going to be concluded,” says Ioannidis. “There is an intellectual conflict of interest that pressures researchers to find whatever it is that is most likely to get them funded.” [1]

In such an environment, how can we even begin to trust results for even an implied claim? What do individual paper citations in the scientific community even mean when they don't show their work? How do we know they aren't manipulating the results? Without transparency and a formalized quality process, we don't know.




I thank Pro for posting this argument and welcoming me here. However, there are some things that I would like to make clear.

It is an oversimplification to simply say that my argument is that science is all there is, and therefore we must use it. Certainly that is the conclusion, but not the entirety of the argument. This point is important because Con has addressed only the conclusion, but not the argument that results in it. Anyone can simply reject a conclusion and deny it, but the point here is to demonstrate why the conclusion should be rejected. To present a more streamlined version of my argument:

1. In making a decision you can behave randomly or rely on a methodology.
2. Behaving randomly is not acceptable.
3. Therefore we must rely on a methodology.
4. In choosing a methodology, we should choose the best methodology available.
5. Science is the only methodology available, therefore it is automatically the best.
6. Therefore we must rely on science.

The only actual point of my argument that Pro has addressed is #5. Pro references other general methodologies such as ISO, CMMI, and the uncountable number of informal methodologies people and organizations come up with to do a great deal of things. Yes, I did not acknowledge these methodologies because I was responding in the scope of this argument. CMMI, as I understand it, is a meta-methodology, and says nothing about CO2 regulation. ISO might, but I am not familiar with it to say one way or the other. The point is, in the scope of the argument (which I assumed naturally limits our discussion), science is the only methodology which provides information with which we can make a decision about CO2 regulation. As far as I can tell, Pro has yet to provide a better methodology.

Other than that, no other points of my argument have been addressed. #1, #2, #4 & #5 are the premises of the argument. The argument is valid, so to effectively refute it requires showing how at least one of those premises are false.

I will admit that I am purposefully ignoring any specific points regarding scientific flaws. The reason is two-fold. First, I wish to keep this debate on track. This is not a debate about the merits of science. I will not participate in a veiled attempt to bash science. This is a debate about whether or not we should regulate CO2 emissions. Science enters the picture as the methodology which leads us to the conclusion that, yes, we should. Refuting this requires the presentation of some other methodology which is better than science that results in a contrary conclusion. Two, it is not necessary for my argument to address these specific flaws. It doesn't matter how many flaws can be identified in science if it is the best thing we have. Certainly we can lament those flaws and wish for something better, but if something better doesn't exist, then we are simply wasting time.
Debate Round No. 2


In my last contribution, I will not introduce new evidence but simply reiterate what has been stated and refute the logic of my opponent.

I regret to see that Con refuses to address principle components to my argument. I stated, "Science, as presently practiced, is unsuitable as a sole basis for carbon and climate based policy." This debate is clearly centralized around scientific methodology, it's merits and lack thereof. This is not off track, this is the track.

This is not a veiled attempt to "bash science", but a frank, eyes wide open, discussion into the scope of what the current scientific process cannot do with reliability. We need more discussions about the limitations in the process rather than just ignoring them as Con seeks to do. This is an important part of the debate that is seldom discussed openly.

As to Con's specifics. His steps 1-6 can only come after we have established that there is a question in the first place. Which depends on an adequate response to my initial argument. Otherwise it is fundamentally circular logic, the need for a decision comes from science, yet he uses that to justify the selection of science.

My initial refutation to his logic has also gone unacknowledged. My statement "If the only method around was a soothsayer who read chicken bones, it wouldn't make him trustworthy" is a clear refutation of the logical basis he is using, unless you trust bone readers. "Best available" does not make a process suitable. We still need an understanding of the pros and cons of the process to evaluate the trustworthiness of the source.

This is not a sound logical basis in favor of science as the foundation for CO2 regulation.

I would like to thank the readers for taking the time to read this far. If you are confused, or would like to point out my errors in my debate style, logic, wording, clarity, declaration of scope, etc. I would love to hear from you in the comments so I may improve my methods. Please be specific if you can. Honest votes about your thoughts on this topic are also welcome. Again, thank you.


The argument "Science, as presently practiced, is unsuitable as a sole basis for carbon and climate based policy" is precisely what I have been addressing. To restate: science is all we have, therefore we have no choice but to use science. Con did not refute this.

At no point have I suggested that we "ignore" the limitations of science. I merely noted that, since science is all we have, the flaws of science are irrelevant with regards to choosing a methodology; the choice is made by default.

Regarding the "soothsayer" refutation. It isn't an issue of trustworthiness. It is an issue of what we have available. I didn't address it because it is a trap. From a logical standpoint, if a soothsayer was all we had, then we would have to use it. But many people would reject this because we can only consider this situation in light of the facts of the present where we do have things in addition to, and better than, a soothsayer (namely: science).

Indeed, this is how humanity has progressed. We use what methods are available, improve them over time, and use the new, better, methods that we come up with. The idea that we shouldn't use a method because it isn't perfect is nonsensical.

In conclusion, there is a question to be answered: the question Con presented as a topic for a debate. This provides the basis for my argument, an argument that Con has not adequately refuted. He simply dismisses science, but refuses to come up with an alternative. I have limited myself to the scope of this debate (CO2 regulation) but it doesn't take much thought to see how eliminating science from all decision-making (as Con suggests) would be disastrous.

Yes, Con recommends improvements upon science, and I agree that science can always improve. In fact, the self-improving nature of science is a fundamental component. But Con is not arguing that we should improve science, and use it while it is being improved. Con is arguing that science should be completely exorcised from being used in any decision-making capacity until it meets his demands. I note that he also argues this using a computer, on the Internet.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by SK 5 years ago
"I would like to inform Con, since he is unaware, that there are many many different methodologies in the world. "

Such as?
Posted by gerrandesquire 5 years ago
It was a good one, though the from what it seems, the instigator instigated a resolution that was too ambitious. Your argument was good, but it did go off track. And stayed off track. But from the looks of things, your next one is going to be sound.
Posted by Macroscope 5 years ago
'Society' shouldnt regulate anything.

Indeviduals should have self control.
Posted by BackBlast 5 years ago
Thanks for the debate drafterman, though I wish we could have been more in sync with the scope and topic. I think this is at least a partial deficiency on my part. I needed to make it clearer somehow, perhaps I will offer up the same topic again with a revised and clearer opening argument.
Posted by BackBlast 5 years ago
What do you think would have helped you? Should I have pulled out my principle points some more?
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
I was confused by the end of reading this, but I suspect it's because it is actually confused, not because of my own ignorance.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by imabench 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: counter bomb against willoweed
Vote Placed by Willoweed 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: LOL at science being unsuitable
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro never elaborates on what his methodologies are, how they are superior, and why they should be considered in addition to science. Con makes a good case for the self-improving nature of science and adequately refutes Pro's points.
Vote Placed by dappleshade 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Last two sentences expressed it perfectly. However, Pro did provide more sources.