Archive for December, 2009

Consensus and voting for conclusion

Jessica Palmer does her take on “Scientific Consensus” and other dirty words. In so doing, she provides an excellent example of contradicting her own thesis. Indicators abound. First is the title. It is loaded. Then there is the take about ‘people.’ And, if that is not enough, there is a dig at Fox News (as if she has never heard of Rathergate or other well known media scandals). After that is the political labeling of who is ‘for’ science and who ‘against.’ Finally is the petard hoisted that can be seen as saying anyone who doesn’t agree with a ‘consensus of scientists’ is anti-science.

The hit on the idea of people in science is a good one but misses the proper reason why. Yes, science is a human activity but, no, it is not governed by such things as voting or affirmation of rightness. It is human in that it is an education and communications process. A scientist does research to help create new intellectual constructs that can be useful in understanding reality. One of the ways that usefulness is determined is by how others can understand it in a constructive way. Science does not work when ideas and concepts are conveyed by an ‘I tell you so’ authority but rather on a ‘here is why this is a good idea’ authority. The consensus concept is only a reinforcement by group think – the ‘I tell you’ becomes ‘we tell you’ and, hence, more potent.

The very fundamental issue in science is about how people deal with new ideas and concepts and incorporate them into their world view. It is about individual change. That change represents learning. Promulgation of a consensus is communication of dogma and not science. The approach of science is one that does depend upon evidence, observation, and data and a high degree of intellectual integrity in communicating ideas and concepts in such a way that others can see the quality of those ideas and concepts for their own learning.

Blog entries such as Palmer’s are also learning and change artifacts as they show a person trying to come to grips with dissonance. A belief in the dogma of a group is much more comforting than stepping out to examine exactly why “scientific consensus” is an issue in the public eye in the first place.

People do see things differently. The problem is whether their view is honest or not.

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True conspiracies and fact checking climatology

The Christian Science Monitor: Global warming skepticism is fueled by public relations, author says is an example of just how degraded an argument can become. In this case, it is a description of a book by James Hogan that asserts that climate change skepticism is the result of a public relations campaign funded by oil interests.

There are a number of claims and pronouncements that fit a pattern. Claims such as “astroturfing” and “swift boat” provide examples as does the implied conspiracy without being able to name the parties involved or illustrate evidence of their collusion (as can be done with the CRU leak).

There are a couple of other things to note. One is the absence of demonstrations skeptical of climate change that are the subject of astroturfing. Another is the absence of structured organizations with a mission to cast doubt on global warming to receive funding via the usual methods. In fact, the striking thing about climate change skepticism is that its primary sponsors are individuals with personal blogs whose primary income sources are entirely outside of climatology and publicity. That is at odds with Hogan’s thesis.

Hogan is rather typical in the pretense of objectivity, the invitation to ‘fact check,’ and recommendations to verify authority. Fact checking is, indeed, exactly what the climate skeptics are trying to do and being lambasted by people like Hogan for daring to to do it. That contradiction is worthy of note.

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Pernicious comparisons

There are some who are comparing the creationist debate with the global warming debate. Even the AGW advocates have yielded to the temptation to label those who are skeptical of their methods and measures as equivalent to creationists in the denial of reality. Stephen Meyer has an example from the creationist side in Climategate Recalls Attacks on Darwin Doubters.

The e-mails show scientists from various academic institutions hard at work suppressing dissent from other scientists who have doubts on global warming, massaging research data to fit preconceived ideas, and seeking to manipulate the gold standard “peer review” process to keep skeptical views from being heard.

Does this sound familiar at all? To me, as a prominent skeptic of modern Darwinian theory, it sure does. For years, Darwin-doubting scientists have complained of precisely such abuses, committed by Darwin zealots in academia.

The comparison illustrates, more than anything else, how debate can be corrupted.

There are several keys to examine in this pernicious comparison of evolution and climate change. One is that skeptics of human caused global warming question the quality of findings and the implications of conclusions whereas creationists propose an alternate reality to evolution. There is no denial of climate change to compare with a denial of evolution as Meyer is trying establish.

What Meyer appears to be doing is to gain credibility for his creationist views by borrowing from a straw vox populi – i.e. create an authoritative population and then paint yourself as a part of it to show that you are not an oddball. It’s a sales job whose success in this and other arguments will have consequences.

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Procedure: why vote in the wee hours?

Why did the Senate vote at 1 a.m. Monday? Byron York explains the implications of US Senate procedural rules in light of the majority leader’s goals.

But Reid is determined to pass the national health care bill by Christmas, and to do so he has to get the cloture vote on his amendment done at the earliest moment. … This is how it works. Reid introduced his amendment Saturday morning. (It’s the one that has the Sen. Ben Nelson Medicaid buy-off and other curious features.) Senate rules say there has to be an intervening day between the introduction of the amendment and a vote on limiting debate on the amendment. That intervening day was Sunday. That meant the cloture vote could be held Monday, or any time thereafter. The rules also say that the vote has to be held at least one hour after that next day has begun. So the Senate’s Monday business began at 12:01 a.m., and the Reid Amendment vote could be held at 1:01 a.m.

Then there are specified periods set aside for debate and protocol. If the time frame is calculated for this process and the minimum times enforced, then the 1 a.m. vote was necessary in order to allow a final vote on Christmas eve.

It’s politics and probably the sort of politics that leaves many with a distaste for how things get done.

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The demise of U.S. manufacturing?

One of those persistent myths that keeps coming up is the diminishment of US capabilities such as in manufacturing. For instance, the idea that everything is made in China. The reality is somewhat different as Mark Perry notes in his blog: U.S. Remains Largest Manufacturer in the World

As much as we hear about the “demise of U.S. manufacturing,” and how we are a country that “doesn’t produce anything anymore,” and how we have “outsourced our production to China,” the U.S. manufacturing sector is alive and well, and the U.S. is still the largest manufacturer in the world.

Manufacturing is only one sector of an economy. There is the service sector that is often noted as growing rapidly in recent years as another, for instance. What Perry notes is that, according to government numbers, US manufacturing output is larger than all but two other nation’s entire output or GDP. As for those two others, Japan and China, US manufacturing output rates better than half those countries entire production in all sectors.

It is this reality that makes it possible for the US to suffer trillion dollar deficits without immediate financial catastrophe. How long is another matter, especially when there is such strong political bias towards the destruction of the US manufacturing through taxes and regulations for reasons not well founded in fact such as climate change.

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It must be a syndrome

Climate studies have been the topic near the top of the list but that issue is only one of several plagued by a common set of symptoms. Gary Taubes describes another in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007 Knopf).

The institutionalized vigilance, “this unending exchange of critical judgment,” is nowhere to be found in the study of nutrition, chronic disease, and obesity, and it hasn’t been for decades. For this reason, it is difficult to use the term scientists to describe those individuals who work in these disciplines, and, indeed, I have actively avoided doing so in this book. It’s simply debatable, at best, whether what these individuals have practiced for the past fifty years, and whether the culture they have created, as a result, can be reasonably be described as science, as most working scientists or philosophers of science would typically characterize it. Individuals in these disciplines think of themselves as scientists; they use the terminology of science in their work, and they certainly borrow the authority of science to communicate their beliefs to the general public, but ”the results of their enterprise,” as Thomas Kuhn, author of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, might have put it, ”do not add up to science as we know it.”

Though the reasons for this situation are understandable, they offer scant grounds for optimism. Individuals who pursue research in this confluence of nutrition, obesity, and chronic disease are typically motivated by the desire to conserve our health and prevent disease. This is an admirable goal, and it undeniably requires reliable knowledge to achieve, but it cannot be accomplished by allowing the goal to compromise the means, and this is what has happened. (P 451)

There are many common symptoms for this syndrome. Here are a few.

  1. A complex technical topic with many facets that can influence the health and welfare of society
  2. A ‘cabal’ of highly motivated individuals with strong extrinsic values that appear altruistic and not so obvious intrinsic motivations who join like minded colleagues in efforts to control the agenda. This requires an esoteric topic where the top standing in the field is occupied by a rather small population.
  3. Simplistic theories that tend to ignore many variables and don’t explain gross observations
  4. A disdain for heretics and skeptics that goes well beyond civility
  5. An emotional basis that paints Western Culture as a source of guilt for greed, envy, excess, or evil
  6. A penchant for forecasting disaster that is oblivious to historical trends and events

The syndrome demonstrates how a small coterie of dedicated individuals with strong shared commitments that appear to have important altruistic implications can drive a social paradigm that is self reinforcing to the point of the end justifying the means and the abandonment of intellectual integrity.

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Key indicators

PZ Meyers tries to explain Why climatologists used the tree-ring data ‘trick’ and, in the process, demonstrates several key indicators that should raise a great deal of skepticism about the source.

One is the establishment of an authority. That is rather benign. But then this authority then provides other key indicators that are not so benign in their indication of bias. One of these is to refer to the “stolen 1999 e-mail” and another is a judgmental reference to FoxNews.com coupled with a sarcastic “I’ve never really understood the goals of the evil scientific conspirators.” There are similar dismissals of other ‘evil opponents’ that can be noted as well. These are judgmental, incomplete, and subject to significant interpretation. Sarcasm and dismissal are not ‘scientific’ methods for dealing with things that are not understood. Ad hominem is never good science and neither is unfounded presumption.

On the more scientific aspect of the presentation is that fact that the arguments presented only reinforce the idea that tree ring data is a complex proxy for temperatures and cannot be relied upon with certainty to actually indicate or determine temperature. This is the critical idea behind the ‘trick’ to ‘hide the decline’ that the argument is trying to dismiss. The trick was to hide a divergence that illustrated that tree ring data made a poor proxy for temperatures. This is a problem when the conclusion is not supported by the nature of the arguments made to support it.

Another key indicator is that these arguments are also defensive and not explanatory. They try to explain away issues and points made rather than support theses presented. If you want to see a more ‘scientific’ discussion, do not read scienceblogs. Instead, go take a look at the blogs of those they castigate and impugn.

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There is a theory about why people fall for it

Beyond Debate takes note of an analogy between the climate brouhaha and debates about diet.

Social scientists call it “cascade theory”: the idea is that information cascades down the side of an “informational pyramid”, like a waterfall. It is easier for people, if they do not have either the ability or the interest to find out for themselves, to adopt the views of others. This is, without doubt, a useful social instinct. As it has been put, cascade theory reconciles “herd behaviour” with rational choice, because it is often rational for individuals to rely on information passed on to them by others.

Both diet and climate issues involve what is good for you. Both are tainted by anti-western culture sentiments and desires for ‘natural order’ and perfect goodness. It is the search for the biblical Eden, a time before human nature corrupted existence.

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Who do you believe and why?

Perhaps one of the biggest questions anyone faces is that of trying to figure out who to believe. A key to making this discussion is understanding why some people seem more believable and using that understanding to qualify just how good the decision is. That is the subject Lumo discusses in James Randi vs mindless consensus pseudoscientists at The Reference Frame (google reader link fails at this time).

I don’t want to skeptical for the sake of being skeptical, either. But in the same way, I don’t want to be a “slick mainstream believer” for the sake of being a “slick mainstream believer”.

What Lumo is suggesting is that it should not be who is saying things but rather how they support what they say. That support is something that can be determined no matter how complex or esoteric the subject of an issue. You can look for how the realities of real world measurement is considered, the integrity of the arguments, logical fallacies, and how things fit with what you yourself can actually observe.

Somebody says so is not a good basis for trust but it is the one most often seen in much of the climate discussion trying to defend forecasts of catastrophic climate change.

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The way it oughta’ been

Gary Richmond contrasts climate studies with high energy physics at CERN in Open Scienceand climategate: The IPCC/CRU needs to take a leaf out of CERN’s Book. CERN decided to use free and open source software when they launched the Large Hadron Collider.

Part of the problem is that, unlike CERN, the research is global in its implications and therefore immense. If the science underpinning the policies is found wanting because of a lack of due diligence, a corrupted peer review process (amounting to a cosy clique of mutually supporting scientists) and a driven political agenda then the room for admitting basic error and flawed process is deeply compromised. Even scientists have their pride and don’t like to be humiliated but the stakes are simply too high to consider their finer feelings.

One of the hallmarks of the current climate brouhaha is that those involved in promoting climate catastrophism have very little interest in outside help. In fact, they impugn it. There are examples of a more appropriate approach that show how it could have, and should have, been done.

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Healthcare coverage success stories

Benjamin Sasse describes Why Medicare Part D Is the Answer to Health Reform and why it is a viable model for health care reform efforts.

the centrality of choice and competition in this program has led Part D to vastly outperform all budget projections, and conclusively demonstrates that it is possible simultaneously to satisfy beneficiaries and to produce substantial savings relative to any other government program.

The lesson of Part D is one that goes against the grain of those who opposed the program. It is that government does best when if can focus on something specific and motive private sector to provide solutions. Another successful health care program suffering from the same sort of assault and malign neglect is the health savings account. These two programs were small steps taken when larger steps suffered too much political opposition in social security reform efforts. They both provide examples of what the government can do right.

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Predicting behavior

Cathy Young notes that the position taken in a column or article about the climatology brouhaha is very predictable.

In the unfolding debate over “ClimateGate,” … one thing is clear. Virtually every commentator’s position on the issue—is this a scandal that exposes global warming as a scientific sham, or a faux scandal stoked by climate-change denial propaganda?—can be predicted by his or her politics. …

While the facts are ostensibly the same, the interpretations differ so dramatically that we might as well be talking about two different realities.

Predictability is a measure of the quality of a theory. In this case, the theory is that climatology is very heavily politically and ideologically based. The ability of that theory to predict perceptions is quite good. The implications of that theory are that scientists are putting politics first and science second. That, in turn, impugns the integrity of scientists as a whole. It reinforces the idea, as some have used to minimize the importance of the leaked messages, that scientists are human with human frailties that commonly over-ride their higher impulses like integrity and honesty.

Young says that the public must depend upon the voice of authority in certain areas. When the authority cannot be trusted, that disrupts social order. A reason for a proper education is to reduce and minimize the need for a dependence on authority in matters subject to reason and measure. It seems that reason for education is needed now more than ever but the effort to achieve it is suffering less importance to many than other pursuits.

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This is not science

James Annan picks up on a defense petition in Statement from the UK science community and is surprised that the petition did not get more coverage.

Polls and petitions are political, not science. It is an absurdity to be offering petitions asserting confidence or in supporting some scientific theory. Using such tactics may create warm and fuzzy feelings in the hearts of advocates but does little to credit their beliefs.

Instead, what such tactics illustrate goes hand in hand with the withholding of data and information and with the labeling of those who do not share the beliefs. Science is a matter of learning and education. Anything a ‘scientist’ does that is not focused on learning and education takes away from science rather than contributes to it. This is why a scientist publishes data and methods so others can learn from what he learned. A scientist discovers and then teaches. That cannot be done by impugning the student or keeping data and methods secret or by using obfuscation as a teaching method.

There has been a hue and cry wailing about inadequate scientific literacy in the public since Sputnik went up. Climatology provides pertinent, important, and appropriate material to support public education about science and its methods. You can see examples of this in the blogs and posts of those who examine weather data and its collection and explain methodologies and provide exercises in analysis that a moderately educated layman can follow and replicate. The problem is that such teaching is being done by those who are being called names and impugned while those who are employed in the field are using assertion of authority, straw men, and petitions to make their point. The student is faced with the dilemma: “who you gonna’ believe? me or your lying eyes?”

Let us hope learning science prevails over polling and petitions and assertions of authority.

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getting cooler but warmest ever

The recent reports about how the last decade is the warmest on record seem at odds with the assertions of some that temperatures are cooling. Randall Hoven explains how both assertions might be true.

If you are on a long walk and have just gone over the highest point in elevation on your trek, your most recent steps will be at the highest elevation of your walk. But once you’ve crested that peak, it is downhill from there. That’s the idea. You could be at or near the highest point, but be going downhill.

Hoven’s article provides a good rundown showing why climate issues are not settled and why there is, and probably should be, a lot of leeway in how measures and phenomena are interpreted.

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Wealth of the populace reflected in houses

Many moan about decay and loosing ground and doom and gloom. Housing tells a different story. Carpe Diem reports New Homes Built Today Compared to the 1970s: More Square Footage, Baths, Garages, Central A/C .

A generation ago it was fairly common for new homes to be built with a single garage, single bathroom and no air conditioning, and today those types of new homes have become extinct. What are most common today are new homes with two or more bathrooms, two-car garages or bigger, central airconditiong, and 50% more square footage than new homes in the early 1970s.

In Reno, a realty blog says housing prices are holding at $103 per square foot (November median sold price, units, DOM, and $/sq.ft.). At median numbers, that’s a 1700 sq foot house for $175k. That means a generation ago the median house was close to 1000 sq feet. That’s a just a bit bigger than a single wide mobile home.

The features listed in the report are only the major items. New houses will often have better insulation, more efficient appliances and many other features and capabilities compared to houses from a generation ago. They represent a form of wealth that is often overlooked and just accepted and taken for granted.

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classic whitewash

It seems the AP has set itself up as judge and jury in the climate brouhaha. Their result is a classic whitewash: Science not faked, but not pretty. The report at PhysOrg sounds oh-so-reasonable that the straw men are difficult to detect.

It is true that interpretations and perceptions have a lot of leeway in the messages and other data that started the ruckus. It is also true that there are some indicators that should give a careful reader some insight. One of these indicators is to assert that the release was due to theft. That is a presumption that has significant contrary evidence. Another is citing funding by ‘big oil’ or other such tainted sources while ignoring the funding by government sources that completely overwhelms the field. Another is to claim that the North NAS study validates Mann’s hockey stick chart. Then there’s the question about the AP and how it sees its role. AP was originally a news reporting organization yet, in this report, they have taken over the role of evaluating science issues in a way normally reserved for a panel of distinguished experts.

Another example of this sort of whitewash is mentioned at slashdot: The Limits To Skepticism. In that post, there is a claim that a blogger who questioned Darwin weather data was shown to be wrong and the blogger is labeled a “denialist.” As one of the comments notes, the claim was made without allowing or considering rebuttal. The black versus white often seen by blanket assertions supported by arguments revolving around ideas such as consensus do not belong in science. This is, in part, what Murray and Abbott describe in Climategate: Disdain for the Scientific Method

The straw men used in these judgments are those of assuming that the issue is one of proving conspiracy or actual malfeasance in representation of data. Both of those straw men serve their purpose well because neither is as well defined as they are presented. Is confirmation bias a conspiracy? Can statistical methods that homogenize data be malfeasance? Where do these things cross the line?

These proclamations of innocence such as the AP report are also worthy of note in that they anticipate defense. The reality is that anyone making allegations such as they imagine in the report have the burden of proving the quality of their claims. Such proclamations of innocence are as fishy as the destruction of data and the avoidance of legal requirements described in the e-mail messages. The suspicion is that the defense is not what it says it is.

It may be that the defense is to the reaction of people who are making up their own judgments. When someone points out a truncated series in an IPCC illustration with the odd coincidence that the data left off the graph is at odds with the point of the graph, people may indeed not reach the conclusion the AP desires. Like the North NAS report, those in the community who do have intellectual integrity may not say flat out that a wrong has been done but rather hem and haw and hedge a bit about something not being quite right. You can take that as not finding fault so it must prove rightness or you can accept that not being quite right means there are questions. The AP and others who think the released CRU files are no big deal appear to take the former approach. That’s called a whitewash. The question is whether it is intentional or just a matter of trying to deal with unpleasant reality.

UPDATE: it looks like one of the authors of the AP report was involved in the scandal. see AP’s Seth Borenstein is just too damn cozy with the people he covers – time for AP to do something about it.

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belief vs reality in another realm

For the last few weeks it has been climatology. There is another topic that also has strong advocates who are functioning without much evidence to support them. Harriet Hall describes that topic in The End of Chiropractic.

In “An epidemiological examination of the subluxation construct using Hill’s criteria of causation” Timothy A. Mirtz, Lon Morgan, Lawrence H. Wyatt, and Leon Greene analyze the peer-reviewed chiropractic literature in the light of Hill’s criteria, the most commonly used model for evaluating whether a suspected cause is a real cause. … The evidence fails to fulfill even a single one of Hill’s nine criteria of causation.

The absence of publicity is astounding. This study has not even been noticed by the media. Where are the sensationalist journalists who usually exaggerate the news and make up provocative headlines? … When the news finally gets out, I predict contorted efforts at damage control. … I predict the authors of this paper will be attacked as traitors by their colleagues. And I predict my own comments will be misinterpreted as some kind of personal vendetta and I will be called ugly names.

The chiropractic emperor has no clothes, and now even some chiropractors have realized that. This study should mark the beginning of the end for chiropractic, but it won’t. Superstition never dies, particularly when it is essential to livelihood.

Now replace “chiropractic” with “AGW advocate” and see how it fits.

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three monkeys

No see, no hear, no speak. Art Horn has a tale about how the ‘debate’ is (not) conducted and the means by which the minds of the young are brainwashed. See Climategate in the Classroom?.

A phone complaint was made to the teacher who had invited me. Also, a complaint was made to the superintendent. The teacher who invited me actually had to do a special project about global warming to set the parents minds at ease. I have no idea what the teacher told the parents. The teacher then asked the district science coordinator if I could tone down my comments about global warming if I were to return.

The principal of the school said my information was educational, but very one-sided. I found this rather odd, since the principal also said in the email that:

It is our obligation as a public school to present both sides of an argument. In the area of science this is extremely important.

Since the kids are constantly bombarded with the alarmist point of view, I figured the realist side was just getting equal time.

The school has agreed to have me back — but there is to be absolutely no mention of global warming at all.

Science education? Really? Is it driven by parents with an agenda or scientists with proven success?

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A perfect storm?

It’s an argument – Can’t call it a debate because it really doesn’t rise to that level. J.E. Dyer describes Climate in Wonderland by using a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland character The Mock Turtle.

“[T]he different branches of arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.”
— The Mock Turtle, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

The global climate debate bears an increasing resemblance to Alice’s interview with the White Queen. The world’s hardworking climate agencies can’t seem to issue a single proclamation without contrary evidence popping up, as if on cue, somewhere else. That doesn’t, of course, stop the agencies from issuing proclamations, however much they may deviate from the reality certified to a weary public by actual data.

The note is about the WMO ‘warmest decade’ pronouncement and its problems. From there, it is noted how many such doom and gloom climate pronouncements are being met by contrary data or evidence. Then there is Darwin Ground Zero: Data Faked to illustrate the point. That gets to the point at Q&O about How The Internet Has Changed More Than Science.

One of the more interesting straw men right now is the conspiracy problem. The assertion is that those who think the CRU leak information is important are claiming ridiculous conspiracies and everyone knows that conspiracy theorists are wackos. The reality is that the claims of actual conspiracy in the wacko sense are only out on the fringe. The rest are either trying to come to grips with a systemic failure or trying to defend against the idea that there might have been one in the first place. As Ace notes:

Now, back to something I said would be interesting, … The psychological journey from global warming cultist to global warming agnostic.

Tigerhawk takes a look in Does ClimateGate reveal a conspiracy? that refers back to an article by Megan McArdle,

Watching the talking heads bat ClimateGate back and forth, the warmists are saying (among other things) that a “conspiracy” is almost impossible to imagine because of the thousands of people involved. For what it is worth, I agree. There is no evidence of a global conspiracy to invent evidence of anthropogenic global warming. The more partisan skeptics who have argued the conspiracy theory, or at least alluded to it, are setting themselves up for the obvious response, which is that true conspiracies involving thousands of people are virtually impossible to organize, sustain, and cover up. Megan McArdle describes the much more probable case, which is that the community of climate scientists are practicing a subtle sort of collegiality bias, in which nobody wants to find large errors in the reasoning of their colleagues.

The idea of collegiality bias received some reinforcement in a new story Ace describes in Sure, Why Not: Scientists in Met Office (Overseeing CRU) “Pressured” to Sign Circular Defending AGW “Or Risk Losing Work”. That is a story about an effort to defend against the tarnish placed on climate science by the CRU leak.

The story is really about complacency in the light of extreme advocacy. This story is being repeated on may fronts. The tendency is to believe others are well intentioned, well meaning, honest, and reasonable. Most folks don’t want arguments, fights, or confrontations. When there are a few who get an ideological fire and put the end above the means, they can take advantage of the normal tendencies of the population — up until the point that it gets to be just too much to swallow. That point is getting close in matters such as those surrounding ACORN and voting fraud, TARP and economic interventions, health care, and environmental extremism in the climate wars. There are so many of these major issues hitting peak at once one could think it a perfect storm.

UPDATE:

In the past it was not the job of public policy to act on a bet or a maybe. To justify government intervention in economic activity, personal lifestyles, the right to travel; to have the effrontery to prescribe how many children a population is allowed; how many sheets of toilet paper it can use; what it may purchase and how much it could be taxed, a clear and compelling case formerly had to be put forward. Absent a compelling public interest you were obliged to leave people alone. Without a sound foundation in “reality” it really is dangerous to regulate the world. Honest. Maybe the media had a consensus; but perhaps Megan McArdle is beginning to have her doubts.

Richard Fernandez describes the conspiracy straw man the provides a good suggestion to explain what is being seen in Rocket man. The example is the Space Shuttle O-ring crash investigation. It describes a path to doom and what must be done to avoid it.

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Choosing enemies?

The idea of an “enemies list” is interesting both because having one defines a win/lose paradigm and those put on it defines patterns in perceptions and views. One of the items to note in the CRU leak is that the top researchers in the field of climate research had an enemies list. That is worthy of note because science is not a win/lose paradigm but rather a learning and growth one. In this vein, The Island of Doubt at scienceblogs illustrates dissonance with its associations. That blog has recently indicated that Fox News and Governor Palin are in its enemies list to be humiliated, impugned, and otherwise attacked with ad hominem and straw men. That sort of attack is also outside of science.

As a contrast, consider the Ace of Spades HQ on Palin In Washington Post: Obama Should Boycott Copenhagen.

Palin’s Op-ed is a good primer of the ClimateGate scandal. Most interesting to me is not her recap or call for Obama to stay home but a few paragraphs on her personal experience with the issue.

This is worthy of note in that there is no claim of ‘scientific’ veracity yet an opinion is offered based on direct observation. Direct observation is a means of measure with known and accepted limitations in science.

One of the most troublesome phenomena in current science is the coupling of the concerns about science education and the parade of people like those at scienceblogs or Al Gore claiming the science mantra yet illustrating gross neglect of its principles and practice.

The Island of Doubt should perhaps express some doubt as appropriate in science. Al Gore and others should limit their use of logical fallacies and engage in soundly based educational efforts that demonstrate a focus on elucidation and education rather than denial and defense. The brouhaha and the issues raised should be seen as an opportunity to get the truth out rather than as an irritant requiring explaining away unpleasantness and creating dishonest defenses of established positions.

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