Parsing the Scott Adams – Sam Harris Podcast for Persuasion, Part 8

Read my intro here and some background on belief structures here.

The podcast itself is called “Triggered!

Previous sections: Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7. You might notice some techniques I pointed out in those posts that I don’t point out below. That’s deliberate.

My notes in blue.

Note that there may be a difference between my own opinion and my parsing of what the persuasion is communicating.

And thank @RolyPolyIsTaken and @MattMcCombs17 for this transcription!


Adams: So, let me ask you this. So you know that he tells us he uses hyperbole to make his point. You know that he, uh, says things during the campaign that are slightly different from the things he would say as president because we, we observe that to be true. [ Cialdini because, pacing, visual ] He’s –

Harris: I’m not so sure about that at this point, frankly, ‘cause he didn’t get saner as president.

Adams: Well, he did

Harris: Or much saner

Adams: Well, look he backed off waterboarding, he backed off deporting ten million people all at once. He backed off going after the families of the terrorists [ Supporting examples ]

Harris: But then he accused Obama as wiretapping him. He’s just as much the loose cannon, he’s just on to different topics. [ Counter example. Note that as of this writing, Trump has been proven correct that his communications were monitored during the campaign. ]

Adams: Well, even the wiretapping thing, the government is listening to all of our conversations all the time right, [ Reframe from notable exception to the norm ]

 Harris: Well no, well first of all no, and second of all, for the sitting president of the united states to accuse the previous president of having wire tapped him, I mean it’s a very specific claim. That is, one, on its face, crazy, but two, and crazy to allege without evidence—

Adams: But before you go on, would you acknowledge that when he says “taping” or “wiretapping”, he’s speaking in a, you know, a general sense about monitoring communication, you would agree that that’s – [ Pre-emptively denying Harris a way out via changing definitions, or what Adams calls “word-thinking” ]

Harris: I don’t even think he knows what he was saying, because he put –it wasn’t “wiretapping” in quotes? – I mean he’s talking about Trump tower being bugged, essentially.

Adams: Right, so, but I’m just, we’re trying to make sure that we’re on the same page here. You would agree that he meant that word to be generally, “monitoring communications.”

Harris: I’m just saying imagine, just imagine Obama coming into office and having immediately accused George Bush of having wiretapped him. I mean it would just – [ Visual, then Harris doesn’t agree to the definition but changes topics ]

Adams: Are you giving me an analogy? Because…

Harris: It’s more than an analogy. It’s still the US presidency. [ Semantically confusing construction here. ] We’re talking about the US presidency at two different time points. It’s such crazy uncivil behavior, it’s the new normal because of the chaos that he has introduced to our political system. You can’t even focus on it because there’s a hundred things like that. [ Harris literally can’t create focused images in his mind about it here. Also absurdity: “a hundred things” ] Scott, I see we’re getting to the two hour mark here and I’m, I’m mindful of your time and I’m also mindful of when I’m going to lose this studio. I want to just pivot just for a second to the Russia thing because I think we kind of blew past it, and I don’t think we’re going to get into it very deeply. Obviously, the news is moving away from us as quickly as a rocketship at the moment. I mean we’re having this conversation I think the day after the recent Donald Trump Jr. epiphanies with his, having given his emails to the public and everyone’s having their reaction to that. Who knows what things will look like when we release this. But I just want to bring you to your views on the Russia thing, because you wrote a blog post titled, “Russia Hacked Our Election, So What?” And you seem to believe – again this is somewhat apace with your relationship to the climate science topic. You seem to believe that there’s either some uncertainty about whether Russia did much of anything or whether it would even be wrong if they did, and you seem to doubt whether Russia is really all that hostile to our interests, and whether Putin is really that bad a guy, and whether there’s really anything here to be concerned about. And so I just want you to represent what in fact you think there.

Adams: Well, I think you have to look at this Russia thing in its individual parts, because they’re not all equal. [ Reframe to smaller chunk size ] To the extent that if Russia hacked into, uh, any American servers with the intent of influencing the election, that would be a topic of revenge. In other words, the appropriate response would be for our spook services to pay back, as soon as we can and in kind, and, you know, with proportional force, and the American public may never know what’s happening there. But we assume, I assume that that sort of stuff goes on. At the same time, it makes sense for the president not to be burning bridges unnecessarily. Because we’re always doing this poking back and forth below the hood, so you know, being nice with somebody who has similar interests to us, at least in terms of ISIS, at least in terms of NK to some extent, makes sense at the moment. So I think that in all likelihood, we don’t know what’s happening under the hood, with the, what our cyber people are doing, [ Pointing out that none of us have visibility into the cyber espionage world. Lessens the certainty. ] but I would be astonished, astonished if the man who’s most famous for revenge and never letting anybody get away with anything, is letting this slide. [laugh] You know, he may wait for his chance, but I don’t think he’s going to let this slide. [ Taking a trait that Harris has assigned to Trump and applying it against Harris’ argument. ]

Harris: So you’re not concerned that he has a double allegiance to either the Russians who have invested heavily in his properties, or that he’s in any way compromised by Russia so that [stumbling] that explains how soft he has been on them and how incredulous he has been about, this being a scandal and all, the fact that he would relate to this as fake news. [ Tell for cognitive dissonance: “so” plus an absurd absolute “double allegiance to Russia.” ] You think there’s just no “there” there.

Adams: Umm, I think it’s not a one variable world. I think that everyone is influenced by all of those big factors. [ Pace, big picture. ] So he’s influenced by wanting to do a good job, he’s influenced by wanting to lose face, not wanting to lose to Putin, he’s influenced by, I’m sure, the fate of the Trump empire. But it’s one of many variables that are swirling around. [ Big picture reframe, or as Adams calls it, a “higher ground” reframe. ]

Harris: But what do you make of all the, like all the contacts with Russia, that were all lied about until they were revealed. So you’ve got, and now the most recent one is, Don Jr. We’ve got him on camera on CNN or wherever it was having to respond to the charge that they’ve had all kinds of contacts with Russia, and representatives of Russia, and he says, “This is an absolute lie, it just shows that you know, my father’s opponents will stoop to anything,” and we know that he did that interview like, hours, after he just met with this Russian lawyer, right? So it’s just like, we have him lying…

Adams: Wait a minute. But we also know that what they talked about was trivial. [ Irrelevance ]

Harris: Oh uh, okay, but everyone in this campaign has been misrepresenting their level of contact with Russia, and it’s only dribbling out… [ Harris chunks up to “everyone” in the campaign. Another absurd absolute ]

Adams: No, you just misrepresented his level of contact. [ Adams calls it out ]

Harris: Yeah, well his, I mean

[both talking at once]

Adams: Wait hold on, I can’t let that go. You suggested that that meeting had something to do with the Russian government, and it turns out it didn’t.

Harris: Well no, it did, it did because he believed that it did. I mean the email trail was him showing his absolute willingness to collaborate with the Russian government to get some dirt on Clinton. I mean that, that’s…

Adams: Well, collaborate and collusion, you know there’s…

Harris: Well I’m not even focused on the technicality of whether or not he’s guilty of a crime.

Scott: Let me ask this.

Harris: I’m just saying this

Scott: Let me ask this.

Harris: Everyone’s talking to Russia over there and they’re lying about it. [ Absurd absolute “everyone,” a tell for cognitive dissonance. ] Again, the starting position from Trump and everyone on down was, “There has been zero contact.” That’s their position. And yet they’ve had all this contact.

Adams: Wait, wait, did they say they had not talked with anyone who is a Russian citizen, or did they have no contact with Russia as a, you know, their intelligence or their government? [ Moving to a smaller chunk size to de-conflate Russian citizens and Russian government. ]

Harris: It has been every possible permutation [ Absurd absolute ] of, “I’ve got nothing to do with Russia. I’ve got no investments in Russia, I’ve got no connection with Russia, I don’t know anything about Russia, no one on my campaign has talked to Russia, or anyone representing Russia.” I mean anything like that.

Adams: And do you think that twenty minute conversation that was about adoption or something… [ Providing missing information – topic and length of meeting. Relevance. ]

Harris: [increasingly distressed for the past minute] Well no it wasn’t about adoption. The set-up in the email was, “We’ve got dirt on Clinton, do you want to meet with us?” and he said, “I love it, I’ll be there in five seconds!”

Adams: I gotta ask you this Sam: how would you have handled the situation? [ Thought train interrupt on Harris. Also Cialdini comparison principle – Harris is comparing Trump Jr.’s behavior to the ideal behavior with the benefit of hindsight; Adams changes it to comparing Trump Jr.’s behavior to Harris’ ideal. Then from the Cialdini reciprocity principle, after giving his version, Harris is obliged to give Adams a chance to offer one, and Adams’ version will be a reframed comparison. ]

Harris: Okay no but that’s a change of topic. [ Correct ] I would have, I would have called the FBI is the short answer.

Adams: Well hold on, hold on. So if you called the FBI and let’s say its June, and the election is coming up. Suppose it was something vital, like it was important. Suppose it (H: Oh please) was something that the voters (H: please) wanted to know. [ Stripping away the benefits of hindsight from the decision making process and showing how Trump Jr. did not have them at the time of decision. ]

Harris: Please. To take the actual, a relevant example, although probably a harder case was, I believe this happened in 2000 with Gore where, some, I don’t know hack, or just stolen material from the Bush campaign was brought to the Gore campaign. And they, without looking at it, called the FBI, right? So like, cause, “No, we’re not going to use this because this is illegal, and this is unethical, and we’re not going to be part of this.” [ Precedent as a comparison reference point ] I’m not imagining that everyone who does opposition research for presidential candidates has to be held to an ethical standard that I would hold myself to in my daily life. I don’t have too many illusions about how dirty all of that gets, [ Pacing objection ] but here you have a known hostile foreign power intruding into our process, and that puts it, that puts it completely out for normal opposition research.

Adams: Let me tell you how I would have handled it in that same situation. I would have first gone to the meeting and found out what they had. I would expect that it would be nothing because it’s the sort of offer that you expect to be exaggerated. So I would go there because my contact said I should, and you know I’m just, it’s a personal connection of some sort. I would go there, I would listen. If it turned out to be important and something that law enforcement needed to know about, I would let them know, [ Reasonable alternative ] but I would also know what the information is first. Cause here’s the thing. If you turned it over to the FBI and it was something big – and I’m not saying it’s likely that that would be the case – but if it was something big, ’cause that’s how it was alleged, you would have put the decision for who became president into the hands of James Comey. Because he would decide – well he would decide whether he’s leaking it or announcing it. That would be his decision. ‘Cause you have given (Sam interrupting) Let me just finish. If you also knew the information, because you obtained it first, and then you said, “Oh my god, there’s something fishy here, FBI get involved.” Then you have also maintained the option of letting the American public know this information if it was important. And I can’t imagine as a voter that I wouldn’t want to know important information – [ This is one of the best reframes of the entire podcast. Adams shows how Harris’ answer is actually worse for Harris’ own point than what actually happened. Namely, calling the FBI right away would potentially be worse for a free democratic election because it would potentially take the election out of the hands of the American people and into the hands of the FBI director, if the “dirt” would have changed the course of the election had it been disseminated. This is particularly effective because one of Harris’ repeated arguments has been that Trump is bad for democracy, is autocratic and authoritarian. Turning Harris’ own argument against him is effective. ]

Harris: The important information here is that there is concerted effort by Russia to influence our election in, in every conceivable way. [ Big picture; chunking up ] Through hacking, through propaganda, through… Those are quite distinct actions I would grant you, but there’s been a full court press to influence it to one end: to install president Trump. I mean clearly none of this has been in favor of Clinton. And what we have is a Trump campaign and now a Trump presidency that has stonewalled this at every opportunity, that has not tried to get all the facts out to put them in the hands of the American people, but to brand this as fake news, to brand this as a hoax, to brand this as scaremongering that will lead to a war with Russia, right? There’s all this talk about, “What do you want, World War Three?” You can’t be pressing on this door… [ More absurd absolutes: full court press, install, none, every. Ends with a kino. ]


ADAMS:      How much time should a president spend delegitimizing his own administration? [ Reframes what Harris calls “stonewalling” to a reasonable refusal to avoid weakening his own administration. ]

HARRIS:      It’s not a matter of delegitimizing his own administration. I can tell you what he should have said before being president, as a candidate. Rather than saying “I hope Russia hacks Hillary’s e-mails, because I’d like to read them…”

ADAMS:      You took that as a joke, didn’t you? [ Reframe ]

HARRIS:      Did you take “lock her up” as a joke too? [ Counter example ]

ADAMS:      Of course. [ Adams remains consistent ]

HARRIS:      So when he said “When I become president, I’m going to get together some lawyers to look into your situation”, you didn’t take that as an actual threat?

ADAMS:      I did not.

HARRIS:      You thought that was a joke?

ADAMS:      Not a joke – well yeah, it was a joke because it got a laugh – but it was clearly hyperbole because…

HARRIS:      It didn’t get a laugh. It got cheers from people who would want to see that happen. It got cheers from his partisans.

ADAMS:      It was a crowd-pleaser. [ Larger chunk size. Joke is a subset of crowd-pleaser here. ]

HARRIS:      Yeah, but again, I would score this as a significant harm to our political conversation, and you would score it as just something that pleased his base. [ Chunking up ]

ADAMS:      Your assumption is that she was not guilty of anything that was worthy of… [ Another reframe. Makes people consider the case if she were guilty of something substantial. Also Cialdini comparison. ]

HARRIS:      Well no – leave that aside – yes, I assume she’s not guilty of something worthy of prison time, certainly on that score. But violating the norm in our democracy, threatening that if you win the presidency, you are going to lock up your opponent – that is in disastrously bad taste at a minimum, for what it is to have to function as a stable democracy and a peaceful transition of power. That’s just way beyond the pale. [ Chunk up: Trump as threat to democracy itself. ]

ADAMS:      I believe that, for a different kind of candidate, I would definitely agree with you pretty strongly. [ Pace without an actual concession ] In the context of President Trump, who was well known by all observers to say stuff like this, it does come across differently to me. [ Using Trump’s reputation as hyperbolic in his favor. Social proof. ]

HARRIS:      Okay, so I just want to come back – and again, sorry I’m being motivated by time constraints now – I just want to come back to your point where you didn’t really answer my question about how you perceive all of this entanglement with Russia. He basically claims he’s got nothing to do with Russia, and none of his surrogates have anything to do with Russia. And then it just keeps coming out that his campaign had more contact with Russia in every conceivable way than anyone has ever seen from a campaign [ Absurd absolute: every conceivable way ]. There are clearly instances now where they have been lying about it. They made false declarations on their security forms, or most charitably, incomplete declarations on their security forms. They have to keep amending the story. I’m just wondering how you perceive this. [ Sets this frame: my frame is reality, but how do you subjectively perceive it? ] Is this just some kind of strange accident that doesn’t look good, or there’s just an entanglement with Russia that is potentially meaningful and undisclosed? [ Giving Adams 2 alternatives: agree with Harris, or present a weak argument. ]

ADAMS:      So I’ll give you the view from the right. [ Adams avoids the credibility hit from supporting a weak argument. He also sidesteps Harris’ bind and presents a third alternative. ] The view from the right is that the mainstream media has largely turned a lot of nothing into something. Because if you drill down into any one of these cases, they sound like they’re something, until you get to the bottom and you’re not so sure. [ Again, attacking certainty ] I’ll just give you a few examples. Let’s say we know that the IP addresses for the hackers of the DNC were Russia-based. So you say “oh my God, that’s pretty bad”. And then you hear an expert say “well, that’s how you hide where you’re really coming from, you just act like it’s over in Russia”. I have personally talked to somebody who has used that trick, to use an IP address in Russia, for a different project [ First hand knowledge enhances credibility ]. So technically that can be done. So I say to myself “okay, there might be something there, and we should definitely find out what that is, but on the surface it doesn’t mean anything.” [ Process language; how to interpret news about Russia ]

HARRIS:      Okay, but what should mean something – and again, this is analogous to what you’re tending to do with climate science. We have our full intelligence apparatus declaring – in a bipartisan way – this happened, it was Russia. You’re not privy to top secret information. You don’t know what they know. Why are you tempted to second guess how they have analyzed the IP addresses? [ Cialdini appeal to authority, credibility attack ]

ADAMS:      Well, just because we don’t know, and we know that there are…

HARRIS:      But they’re saying they know. I’ll give you an example of where you would just never do this. Just imagine if NASA announced today that there was an asteroid that was on an Earth-crossing orbit. They’re really worried about it. Their current calculations suggest that it could come within 5,000 miles of Earth, give or take 5,000 miles. JPL and the other labs come forward and say “Jesus Christ, this is the scariest thing we’ve ever seen. This is a serious problem. It’s all hands on deck. We’ve got to figure out what to do about this.” And you don’t even own a telescope. You would not be tempted to say “you know what, I haven’t seen those calculations, and I’m not so sure”. You have to outsource some of your reality testing to the people you’ve hired to do it for you. And in this case, we’ve got all these intelligence agencies looking at Russia.

ADAMS:      But would you also agree that we have notable examples where the intelligence agencies… [ Counter example ]

HARRIS:      Of course. Of course. But then the remedy for that is more and better intelligence. It’s not the next tweet from somebody who will say “I just talked to Putin and looked into his eyes, and he said he didn’t do it.” [ Comparison: intelligence community vs tweets ]

ADAMS:      Let me finish my point, because I think when you see the context, it will make more sense [ Future pace ]. So if the intelligence agencies know stuff we don’t know, and they’re right, and Russia and its government were behind hacking the servers, that’s important and I would expect that our administration would pay them back in kind, and we may never know what that is. But the trouble is that you start lumping the things that are real, or could be real, with the things that just sort of sound like they almost are kind of real. [ De-conflating ]  And then you start building this – “well, when there’s so much smoke, there must be fire.” So the things that are less real, like the Don Jr. meeting, that really I would have taken, frankly. I would have taken that meeting just to get the information in case it mattered, and then I would have turned it over if that was the right thing to do – turn it over to the FBI or whoever. So I would have handled it the same way, and I would think any seasoned businessperson would also handle it the same way.

HARRIS:      You’re wandering off the actual thing I’m asking about, which is not so much evaluating the quality of the intelligence about Russia. It’s the fact that we have an administration, we have Trump and everyone below him [ absolute ], consistently representing the fact that they’ve had no contact with Russia, or no contact that they remember with Russia. It continually [absolute] gets found out that they’ve had meetings that they have, at the very least, not been forthcoming about, and which there’s no credible reason to think that they would have forgotten about. What do you make of the fact that there’s that level of dishonesty about a connection to Russia?

ADAMS:      So let’s take some of those examples where we know for a fact that there were contacts – you’re thinking about General Flynn? [ Chunking down ]

HARRIS:      I’m thinking about all of it. Sessions, Flynn, Don Jr., the investments that we know happened that Trump is lying about. Look at the son saying that they’ve got massive investment from Russia. And then we’ve got Trump saying that he never has Russian investors, got no loans from Russia, no business in Russia, all the rest.

ADAMS:      So the business stuff, I haven’t seen good reporting on that yet, but I’ll take your word for that. [ Pace ] But if we’re talking about the Sessions, and Flynn, and Don Jr. encounters with Russians, apparently once we drill down, they were fairly trivial. In other words, nobody is suggesting that those things that they left off their forms actually were material.

HARRIS:      I have to remind our listeners that we’re having this conversation 24-48 hours after the story broke. When you’re listening to this, there’s probably another week of reporting, so who knows what is true now. Don Jr.’s e-mail exchange makes it very clear what the purpose of the meeting is, and it was not the first thing that he represented when this was starting to leak out over the weekend. And you’ve got Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort also in that meeting, and also sent the e-mail. So it’s the three of them. These are the top level people in the administration now, going to a meeting that’s billed as with an emissary of the Russian government to get dirt on Clinton. This is one of the meetings that they never disclosed and claimed they never had. We’ve got Don Jr. being interviewed about this topic that night, and he’s saying that there’s no contact with Russia, and what a scurrilous lie this is to suggest that there could be any contact with Russia.

ADAMS:      I would have been tempted to leave that off of my form too…

HARRIS:      Well it’s illegal!

ADAMS:      Hold on, hold on, because it was trivial and it turned out to be nothing, and I was duped into going. So I’m not sure I would have put that on my form, or even remembered it frankly.

HARRIS:      [laughs] Okay. To watch this interview with Don Jr., which we know came immediately after this e-mail exchange and meeting, is to be in the presence of someone who is *absolutely* lying about something they *must* remember. There’s just no way. This is unforgettable. It’s like me just getting on television saying I’ve never spoken to Scott Adams in my life. There’s just no way to do it. [ Absolutes. Also mind-reading. ]

ADAMS:      Sam, he didn’t say – I didn’t watch whatever you saw – but I’m pretty sure he didn’t say “I haven’t talked to anybody from Russia.” [ Untangling the nuances to eliminate any straw man aspects. ]

HARRIS:      Well no, but it’s just the allegation was that the campaign has been in dialogue with the Russian government and there’s Russian influence here…

ADAMS:      And that example was him not being in dialogue with anybody. He was just fooled about the nature of a meeting.

HARRIS:      Please. Please. Alright. Unfortunately we are out of time. I will let our listeners adjudicate what sort of progress we made or didn’t make. The thing I most appreciate about this conversation is the tone and mutual goodwill, and the fact that you went down this rabbit hole with me. The goal here obviously is better understanding of ourselves and the world, and how we can get to a good place. I just think more of what are in fact very fraught and very hard conversations need to be had, in this spirit of being willing to meet with goodwill and just hashing it out. [ Higher ground ]

ADAMS:      I would say the same. I think you’re a force for good, and I’ve been a big fan for a very long time. I love what you do, and I love that you would have this conversation. [ Higher ground ]

HARRIS:      And I should say there are many things – I said this at the top – though we sound like we disagree about everything here, the moment we would make a lateral move onto other topics, we agree about so many things. Just having read enough of your book, I know we agree about things like free will, and the point you raised about goals versus systems. All of that is very interesting, and could be the topic of a very fruitful conversation. [ Higher ground ]

ADAMS:      And I would go so far as to say that when you read my new book Win Bigly about persuasion and about the election, that the gap between us will close substantially. [ Higher ground ]

HARRIS:      I look forward to that Scott, and I wish you all the best with what you’re doing. Just give people your Twitter feed or whatever else you want them to know about where to find you online. 

ADAMS:      That’s @ScottAdamsSays on Twitter.

HARRIS:      Thank you Scott. To be continued.

ADAMS:      Alright, thank you Sam. (2:17:12)

Parsing the Scott Adams – Sam Harris Podcast for Persuasion, Part 7

Read my intro here and some background on belief structures here.

The podcast itself is called “Triggered!

Previous sections: Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6. You might notice some techniques I pointed out in those posts that I don’t point out below. That’s deliberate.

My notes in blue.

Note that there may be a difference between my own opinion and my parsing of what the persuasion is communicating.

And thank @MattMcCombs17, @Subutai1175, and @theTinkerBelles for this transcription!


Adams: My understanding is he’s an all-energy guy. [ Big picture reframe ] Push open every door, and some of them will be better than others. So first of all, I agree with you. [ Pace ] There should be more emphasis on the future for all of the domains. They should be talking more about technology for healthcare, for housing…

Harris: Everything!

Adams: I’m 100% on board that there’s too much attention on the past, and not enough on the future. [ Pace ] But I would say that his approach of giving attention to both, to the extent that he can, isn’t crazy.

Harris: But he can’t. Again, it’s a zero-sum contest between the past and the future here. Elon had to leave because it was such a scandalous association at that point. I perceive Elon as taking a significant personal and business risk by leaving, because a lot of his business is based on government contracts. Trump could screw him. Trump is this famously vindictive guy. If Trump decided to see his departure as a personal affront, he could say “I’m going to do whatever I can behind the scenes to make sure the Air Force doesn’t launch any satellites with SpaceX any more. We’re going to find some other way to do it, because Elon screwed me publicly”. That was a principled stand he took, because everything that was coming out of the administration was so beyond the pale. [ Somewhat plausible, but some mind reading here about both Trump and Musk ]

Adams: Maybe. I would say that is was more of a branding decision, coupled with the fact that he’s already running two or three companies, and the last fucking thing he wanted was to attend meetings in Washington where absolutely nothing happened. [ Reframe as branding and time constraints issue ]

Harris: No. No. There would be nothing better for him to have been riding shotgun [ kino ] on a presidency that was actually getting the points and connecting the factual dots with respect to climate change and the opportunity for clean tech. That would have been fantastic for him.

Adams: Let me ask you this. How would you feel, hypothetically, if this red team blue team comes up with a conclusion that matches your own? [ Future pace, also pacing Harris’ kino modality with “feel” ] Which is, “hey, it turns out that the consensus of scientists was right”, and now we’ve finally communicated it in a way that even the government can get on board and say “yeah, this is some kind of problem we have”. Suppose it came out that way, and then President Trump said, “Alright, we’re going to change a few things now that we’ve confirmed this, but we still don’t have an economic model. So as long as we’re hedging, I’m going to do everything I can to keep the economy working, because that gives us the most options in the future”. Would that be crazy? [ Another reasonable alternative explanation, countering the “Trump is crazy” narrative and providing a way for Harris’ values to be met under the current circumstances. ]

Harris: At this point, I’m going to have some climate scientist on the podcast to really spell out this case, closing every conceivable loophole, at some point. The concern among many climate scientists is, just when is it too late to grab the knob and twist it in the right direction? [ Strong kino, could also work as a visual ] We are playing this out over now the course of a full generation, when we had many of the facts in hand decades ago, and we don’t have a whole lot of time to spare necessarily, and we’re acting as though this is still a topic of uncertainty.

Adams: I think there are a couple problems here. One is that – and you can please fact check me on this – but my understanding is that climate scientists from, let’s say the ‘70s, have been wildly inaccurate about what was going to happen in the future. Before I make my next point, does that pass the fact-checking or no? [ Securing agreement. ]

Harris: I’m sure there are predictions that have not come true, as are the case in any science, but I don’t know if the preponderance of what was being said in the ‘70s is now considered to be inaccurate. [ Dismissing inaccurate predictions as routine. Very hedged answer, a tepid endorsement of the prediction record. ]

Adams: Yeah, my understanding is that the people who are studying this stuff thought we were entering a global cooling period. [ Credibility: Exposing the poor record of scientist predictions on the climate. They weren’t just wrong, they were so wrong that they predicted the exact opposite of what they predict now. Cialdini consistency principle. ] And then there was a period where – I think it was Al Gore may have predicted that some time about now, Manhattan would be flooded. [ More credibility attack: Manhattan is not underwater now, so they were wrong on that too. Also great visual. ] So I believe that there is a history [ Track record – a foundation for confirmation bias. ] that people on the right are looking at and saying “if you got it wrong all these times, we have to at least be a little skeptical this time”. It’s sort of “fool me three times, by the fourth time, I’m going to start asking some questions.” [ Explaining the alternative perspective in a very reasonable way ]

Harris: They don’t know what’s being claimed. I mean first of all cli- global warming is probably the wrong phrase, I mean we’re talking about climate change more than necessarily always warming. [ Chunk up reframe ] And we can even bite the bullet here that in some parts of the world, global warming would be a good thing. There are places that they’ll suddenly be able to grow crops they can’t grow. If you lived in Siberia I think you could want nothing more than global warming, [ Pacing objection ] but the question is we have a preponderance of the scientific community – I mean the vast preponderance – we here are now talking about something like debating big tobacco about whether cigarettes cause lung cancer [ Association with scary things ] who say, “We have to get a handle on this.” We are influencing this system in ways that we’re increasingly understanding is going to produce highly non-normal climate response that will do things like flood coastal cities and raise the temperature and create extreme weather events and all of this is going to cost a fantastic amount of money. [ List of emotionally undesirable things ] And what’s more, we have alternatives that have all of these other good things that come along with them. First of all we’ll no longer be paying these regimes in the middle east to wage a global war of jihadist terrorism against us. [ More association with scary things ] Right? We’ll get off the oil which couldn’t happen fast enough and you’re talking about removing the main source of air pollution for the entire planet right? It’s just it’s all good. Again I’ll grant you your point that there’s better and worse ways to do this and we don’t want to start burning up trillions of dollars in the process. We want to find out how to transition, in the most profitable way, but again, it’s fairly clear to everyone who’s thinking about this which direction you need to move to be embracing a sane, sustainable future and it is not in just guarding the oil reserves under the Saudi Royal family and extracting every last ounce from those lands. [ Absurd absolute ]

Adams: This gets us to the economic forecast, right. If you are telling me that the scientists all align on the fact that CO2 is going to raise the temperature, I would say, “That’s possible.” And in fact if you said gun to head, you gotta bet on this, I’ll say, “Yeah that’s probably true.” [ Changing the absolute certainty into varying degrees of likelihood. ] You know, closed system, it’s probably true. [ Framing “global warming is an imminent catastrophe” narrative as a special case of a closed system. ] But if you say to me, “Therefore we know the economics of when to invest, how to invest, when to wait for new technology…” [ Repeating the split between science and economic modeling ] I’m not sure if you see this [ pace ] but people always tweet to me all the new technologies for turning CO2 into products and fuel and everything else. So if you said, “What happens if we wait 10 years and the sea level has gone up an inch and it’s a degree warmer?” I would say, “Well, a bunch of places are going to be growing crops that they couldn’t have, a bunch of places will be growing fewer crops than they were.” That would cause some disruption, no doubt about it. But by then we might have technology that we can, just suck the sea out.

Harris: If we build it, if we build it. I mean China might have the technology. The question is do we want to have a worldview informed by the best science in so far as we can understand it in any moment, or one that repudiates the best science for patently political reasons? [ Reframe of the entire debate as science vs politics ] And that’s that’s

Adams: Well correct me if this is wrong but as President, President Trump’s administration has offered to expose the best thinking scientists to the world in a way that has never been done before, through this red team blue team process which they promise to televise and we get to follow along. And this is not a debate by the way. The red team blue team thing is not a debate where people say things and then you’re out of time. It’s a process where people get to go away check their claims, come back later. So it’s far, far more rigorous. [ Suggesting that the red team – blue team is the superior method because it allows the public to follow along. Also pointing out that it is different from a debate because most liberals think the “debate” is over, but the red team blue team exercise is a new thing whose conclusion is still open. This has the effect of opening up people’s minds again. ]

Harris: Again, if all of that does something to change the administration’s behavior, that would be a good thing. I can’t argue that. [ Agrees ] But the fact that we have someone like Pruitt gutting the EPA, betrays the actual bias of the administration which is that environmental concerns are basically anti-business and that we should just ignore the environment and extract every last lump of coal and ounce of oil we can out of the earth because [ New topic. Also, another absurd absolute: “ignore” the environment, “every last…” ]

Adams: So…

Harris: the dollar you can have in hand now is better than the dollar you can imagine getting but based on sunlight on some future date.

Adams: Right. One of the other tells for Cognitive Dissonance that I always talk about is turning a reasonable thing into an absolute. [ Scott calls it out ] So it seems to me that the people in the EPA are saying that it’s better to have a strong economy, even if some of these rules might introduce some risk to some people within the economy. Meaning that there might be different people who die because these rules are not in place, but there might be a greater number of them who have access to healthcare, you know, and things that keep people alive. So to say that changing these things does nothing but cost, is, I think missing the fact that in economics, there’s always a cost and there can be a benefit that’s greater than the cost. [ Bigger picture: all choices have both costs and benefits ]

Harris: Well, yeah, yeah, it’s just that there’s no argument that this is a principled search for those benefits. Again you could do the same thing with smoking. Why not red team, blue team whether cigarettes cause lung cancer. We can get in the way-back machine and go back to that moment…

Adams: Well, let’s not…

Harris: And the science is settled…

Adams: Well, let me tell you why. There’s a very good reason. That would have been an excellent thing to do in, I don’t know,

Harris: 1950

Adams: Yeah, in the 1950s. [ Reframe in time ] Because the problem was that the country was divided. And right now with climate scientists, although the scientists are not divided, it’s the perfect situation to educate the public. The administration is helpless until the public gets on board. [ Redirect the source of the response. It’s reasonable for an elected administration to be beholden to its constituents. ]

Harris: Well, that’s not true. The administration can do whatever it wants, as you, as we’ve seen. Trump can, at considerable reputational cost, can just change his mind, when he gets new information, and his fans, his supporters, will go along with him for the most part, and as you said, if he decides not to build the wall because it’s not practical, well then most people will come along. That was just his first negotiation. [ Technically correct, but not very plausible that an elected official goes against his base ]

Adams: But he doesn’t need to take a hit to his reputation, because he can do it in a way that improves his reputation while informing the public at the same time. [ Showing how Harris’ desired outcomes can be met with the red team blue team. ] And I think this red team, blue team process once televised, will do exactly that. We’re all going to be a lot smarter about this stuff. [ Future pace ]

Let me make one point about climate science that I think is too important to gloss over. My view is that you can divide it into three categories, the topic, and you can assign different levels of credibility to each. [ Chunk down reframe ] One would be the basic science, you know the chemistry and the physics. I would imagine that is very high credibility, that we probably have a good handle on that side. [ Pace ]

Secondly there’s the building of models, which is something that scientists do and they try to use all of their best thinking and people look at them, [ Pace ] but by their nature, the complexity, and the fact that some of the decisions depend on human judgment. That’s why there are different models and lots of them, [ Cialdini because ] and they come to slightly different, in some cases wildly different results, but they throw away the wildly different ones. In that situation, if you didn’t know even what the topic was – let’s say you didn’t know you were talking about climate science, you just said “A bunch of people who are super smart are building these complex models. There’s a bunch of them. Historically a lot of them didn’t work. Some of them actually match what we’ve observed.” I would say to you, Well, if you make enough models, and you have some flexibility to change them, that looks just like my experience when I was doing financial modeling for a bank, in which my boss would say “Hey, make this turn out this way,” and I would just tweak the assumptions until it did. That was my job. [ Equating climate models with business/financial models, which people trust far less. ]

Now, I would say that the models have a lower credibility, by their nature – I’m not saying how much lower – but I think you would agree a lower credibility than the basic science. [ Pace ]

And then there’s the third thing, which I keep mentioning because it’s so important, which is the economic models. That even if the, even if the scientific models where temperature are going are reasonably, or at least directionally right, there’s still a gigantic question about the smartest way to play it. And it is not my assumption that the smartest way to play it is, obviously and certainly, to go aggressively to do the… well take the example of the Paris Climate Accords. Even the people who were in favor of it, after they saw the details, at this point, kind of agree, “Well ok, it didn’t do that much.” [ If even the advocates acknowledging a flaw, that is very strong evidence. ]  So that the “what you do about it” is the part that matters, but you can’t get to that until the public is sort of lined up, uh, behind it. And I think that red team, blue team thing is the way to get there.

Harris: Again, everything you just said sounded reasonable, [ agrees ] but it doesn’t sound reasonable coming from someone who just said that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, right. Like that’s the thing that’s so highly and obviously non-optimal from the President. [ New topic from Harris again ]