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Sophistical refutations in the climate change debates

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Abstract

A case study of a short televised debate between a climate scientist and an advocate for climate skepticism provides the basis for developing a contemporary conception of sophistry. The sophist has a high degree of argumentative content knowledge – knowledge of a domain selected and structured in ways that are most germane for its use in making arguments. The sophist also makes the deliberate choice to argue for a disreputable view, one that goes against the views of the majority, or of the experts. Sophistry, drawing as it does on argumentative skill, is difficult to manage. The best approach is likely to refuse debate; but if debate is unavoidable, then the sophist must be met with equal skill. It will be hard to develop such skill, however, as long as the sophist’s view is thought to be disreputable.

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Keywords: argument; argumentation; argumentative content knowledge; climate communication; climate skepticism; fallacies; science communication; scientific consensus; sophistry

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 14, 2019

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