Feed on

My eyes tend to gravitate toward climate and labor market issues, so I encounter the following two “arguments” all of the time.

(1) There are those who present global temperature data in the following way: “if you look at global temperature records, the rate of temperature increase around the planet has either slowed or paused entirely since 1998. In either case, the temperature changes over that time period lag far behind what almost any climate model predicted for this time period.”

Now, this upsets some people. Why is beyond me, because I certainly hope global temperatures do not continue to increase. A response to this is often, “you are cherry picking the data. There was a huge ENSO event (El Nino) in 1998 which drove global temperatures to be abnormally high, so comparing the temperature record starting only at that point is misleading”

Wintercow happens to agree with this.


And then we have:

(2) The real value of the minimum wage has declined by a lot since the late 1960s, and as a result we must therefore raise the current minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Now, this upsets some people. Why? Because the real value of the minimum wage was at an all time high in the late 1960s as compared to the overall wage level in the economy. Why this happens to be the “just” or “correct” level for a minimum wage is no different than saying that 1998 is the “correct” baseline from which to measure temperature anomalies.


What is interesting is that the folks who tend to be angry at the sentence uttered in (1) are those themselves uttering the sentence in (2). Similarly the folks that are uttering sentence (1) are likely to be those who are angry at those uttering sentence (2). Now, obviously, both are cases of data cherry picking (even if justified), and I would argue you can’t have it both ways. Either selectively choosing starting points for your data series is bad or it is not, but you can’t pick and choose which starting points to cherry pick from, correct?

Note, per usual, none of the above is intended to demonstrate the “rightness” or “wrongness” of either position, it is rather another exercise in consistency and Kahan’s insights about politically motivated reasoning.

Leave a Reply