“But Damascus”

Conversion stories can be powerful.

Examples

[PAUL] Tom I was with Greenpeace from 88 and a climate spokesman for Eden from 2005 to 2010 and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, it’s all bullshit. There is no climate emergency. It’s total rubbish.

[JOHNOS] This link to a page on Forbes no longer exists. It was a column by [Nuke Mike] a climate expert who was alarmist but now believes climate change a problem but manageable. A heresy too far for Forbes.

[BLAIR] The best analogy I can see for before and after [#ButCG] is the perception, through the course of the movie, of the character of the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz. […] Having seen behind the curtain, my innocence has been lost and I no longer accept appeals to authority in this field.

Counterexamples

§1. Frank Luntz, the author of the infamous Luntz Memo, July 2019:

I’m here before you to say that I was wrong in 2001. Just stop using something that I wrote 18 years ago, because it’s not accurate today. That was a lifetime ago. I’ve changed.

§2. Richard Muller, the creator of Berkeley Project, financed by the Koch Bros:

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

§3. Jerry Taylor, the president of Niskanen Institute:

Taylor’s own conversion began with a cable-TV debate a decade ago with Joe Romm, a fiercely partisan author and climate blogger for the Center for American Progress. In the green room afterward, Romm, who has a PhD in physics, told Taylor that he had misrepresented congressional testimony by noted climate scientist James Hansen. Go look at what Hansen actually said, Romm urged him.

§4. David Titley, rear admiral and oceanographer for the US Navy, recalls in a TEDx talk how he went from being a staunch contrarian to someone who accepts mainstream science.

Notes

{The Damascus Road} The word Damascus refers to Paul’s conversion.

{Conversion Rate} No need for objections & replies. It’s an arms race. Counterexamples will do. A first, a second, a third, and so on and so forth. The overall strategy is to show that the “conversion rate” (to borrow from another field) of contrarians is higher than the one for those going rogue, like Nuke Mike or Zion.

{Revelle Story} Roger Revelle, the grandfather of AGW, wrote an article with Fred Singer that would indicate a Damascus moment. The details are muddied by a lawsuit and scant direct evidence. Details at Eli’s and at the OSS Foundation.

Further Readings

2021-01. We are all Armchair Philosophers: Growing Up in Anti-Vaccination Culture.

2019-10. Extinction, empathy, endings, beginnings.

2018-11. 12 years after mocking Al Gore’s fight against climate change, South Park reconsiders

2015-06. Someone should collect these climate conversion stories.

2015-06. How I Came To Jesus On Global Warming.

2015-06. Leaving the World of Hate: Life-Course Transitions and Self-Change. DOI: 10.1177/0002764215588814