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February 13, 2014

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Here's an irony. Despite what Ham says you can't get certainty (or Certainty) from the Bible either. The one thing about God we can be pretty sure of, judging from the proliferation of faiths around, is that we're not meant to all have the same inarguable understanding. (I've forgotten to which author I owe the credit for this observation).

Yeah, gravity has some problems. No reason to get all crazy and go with "Intelligent Falling", however.

Certainly not, Snarki. Geez. It's "Being Intelligently Pulled Down".

Would scientists congregate at a tavern called the Error Bar?

Speaking of which, a nitpick:

I don't think Hamm would be content with 100.00% certainty. What he needs is 100%, integer, with no implicit finite-length error bar.

Not that he's aware of this, of course. If he somehow got such an understanding into his head (always assuming he's a mostly sincere ass, not simply a charlatan), it would destroy his entire model of the world, and *that* sort of inconvenience
makes a truth even harder to accept than a mere attack on one's mere livelihood.

Isn't the line "gravity doesn't exist, the earth just sucks"?


Would scientists congregate at a tavern called the Error Bar?

You can find a bunch of evolutionary scientists and hangers-on at The Panda's Thumb, which started out as the online tavern for the University of Ediacara.

I haven't watched the debate, but does Ham ever say how he knows the Bible is the Word Of God? It's all well and good to say you know X is true because it's the Word Of God, but you still have that threshold problem of sorting out the Word Of God from the word of Bob.

I watched some of the debate. Bah, on both sides. Bill Nye wad probably the best science guy to do it, Hamm not so much. They did manage to point out that neither side knows much.

...but you still have that threshold problem of sorting out the Word Of God from the word of Bob.

it's turtles all the way down.

@Prolock - I'm surprised there isn't already one called Error Bar here in Kendall Sq, Cambridge, MA. We have Catalyst, a physical therapy place called Joint Ventures, a store called Xylem, etc.

I've gotten into arguments with people about science, and they always think it's a gotcha moment when I say that science doesn't know anything with complete certainty. Except for those who throw up their hands wondering how in the world I can live when the only think I know for sure is that we don't know anything for sure.

People get even more twitchy when an engineer calmly tells them that, while some of the stuff he uses is based on science, other stuff is not. We use stuff that science has no idea how it works or why.

Case in point: if you look carefully, you will find engineers in the field using dowsing rods to find stuff underground. At this point, nobody (to my knowledge) has any clue how or why they work. So no scientific basis. But if you are looking for utility pipes in a place where there are no maps of them available, it's a way to find them that actually works.

I recall one time in college, when a couple of us were fooling around with dowsing rods. And another kid came by and freaked out. In his words: "That's can't be true! It's not science! And if it is, my whole world will collapse!"

We gently (well, sort of gently) pointed out that we were two engineers, a chem major, and a physics major, whereas he was an English major. (No offense to English majors in general.) And if we didn't think it would destroy the world of science if downsing rods worked, where did he get off telling us it was not science? But it was my first encounter w,th the mindset that cannot deal with uncertainty. or with changes in the certainties it already thinks it has.

There's Randi's $1M challenge, attempted but still unclaimed, to demonstrate that "dousing works".

"I know it often looks, from the outside, as though scientists are hyper-certain judgmental assholes who can't deal with disagreement."

I think that's mostly a product of climate alarmism, frankly. All this "Denier" bs, "basic physics" bs, as though we weren't talking about models using loads of empirical coeficients which are perfectly capable of having been wrongly derived, and models most of which manifestly are NOT clustered around the actual behavior of the climate for the last couple of decades.

Science is a pretty nifty way of approaching truth, but not so much when big bucks are involved, and the results take on political salience.

I had an on-line debate a few years back with someone whose position was that Einstein's theories proved Newton's theories "wrong." Well, they sort of do, but they sort of don't.

They do still teach classical mechanics in engineering and physics classes because classical mechanics gets close enough to the truth to be useful, even if relativistic theories managed to get closer to the truth. (And using relativistic calculations to analyze, say, the trajectory of a fastball would be needlessly cumbersome and of no practical benefit beyond using classical Newtonian physics).

I should have used the word "verisimilitude" in that discussion and saved myself a lot of time, but I don't even know if was familiar with it then.

But, the point is that Einstein's theories are also "wrong" in that they have failed to nail down the truth completely and perfectly, they are just a bit less wrong than Newton's. And there are times when you just don't need Einstein's theories, which are useful for high-energy situations of the sort we don't generally encounter in our day-to-day lives.

The tallest buildings in the world, for instance, were designed and built without any need for the use of general or special relativity.

As religion goes, why are they debating scientists? Why do people want to dress up religion in the clothing of science at all? Scientists, for the most part at least, don't really try to make religious claims, per se, via science (and if they do, they're being stupidly unscientific). They may attempt to answer some of the same questions, but they don't say, for instance, that the Big Bang was or wasn't the work of God, because they know they can't, at least not as scientists.

Priority #1 for engineers: It has to work
Priority #2: how do we get it to work half way reliably even if we do not know why it works?

It took about 80 years to understand in detail how the Haber-Bosch process works (iirc that yielded a Nobel). Nice to produce something in the million tons per year range without exactly knowing what the heck happens. I believe the catalytic process for sulfuric acid still holds some open questions.
Still I know no one who claims that it is magic. And there is little spiritual in ammonia or sulfucric acid ;-)

Along the lines of what Shane wrote in the first comment and what Julian wrote later on - how lacking in spirituality is biblical literalism?

I'm not particularly religious (to put it mildly), but I would see the practice of religion as a constant and neverending search for the truth, much the same as science is. It would be a different approach for a different kind of truth, but I think the spiral analogy would be just as apt.

Sometimes I think the people who claim to be the most religious are the ones who understand God (if there is one!) the least.

As religion goes, why are they debating scientists? Why do people want to dress up religion in the clothing of science at all?

This is pretty much my point of view.

Science and religion are different projects. Different motivations, different goals, different assumptions, different method of investigation.

They are about fundamentally different things.

Arguing about which one is "right" is like a painter and a geologist arguing about what a mountain "really looks like".

The religious perspective has its own contribution to make, and that contribution is not going to be found in arguments with scientists about science.

Science is a pretty nifty way of approaching truth, but not so much when big bucks are involved

shouldn't people who say this have to provide actual hard evidence that thousands of scientists are actually milking "the system" for those heaps and heaps of sweet grant money ? shouldn't you have to prove the conspiracy actually exists ?

cleek, who would pay those scientists to say climate change isn't a problem? Do you think there are big corporations out there who would rather be able to spew carbon and greenhouse gasses into the air as much as they want because it would be cheaper for them or something? There's no money behind trying to falsify the claims of all those conspiring climate scientists.

And I want to know who's paying off all those glaciers!

if you look carefully, you will find engineers in the field using dowsing rods to find stuff underground.

Wow. Not this engineer.

Practically everything I do, I have to justify. If we don't know how something works, we had damned better set about explaining it, or it doesn't get implemented.

This is not, to be sure, intended to convey that I understand every bit of what I work on; that's not the case. I let other engineers of other specialties, who also have to provide basis for their work, worry about those bits. I only have to know what they do, and the quality of the data they produce.

About this post, though, I have to say that I generally disfavor debates between scientists and theologians. It doesn't work. Theologians wind up learning just enough science to come up with some sciencey explanation for what they believe, and no more. And which makes no sense to people who engage in scientific pursuits for a living.

Not that Bill Nye is really that kind of guy, but he's interested enough in science to have learned something about it.

Disagreement between scientific evidence and what e.g. the Bible tells me means I just didn't understand one of those well enough. And my money is on not understanding what the Bible tells me. I don't really have much appreciation for people who are dead certain what the Bible is telling us, because even the words of Jesus are widely and variously interpreted.

So, for me, the key is to try and hang on to the bits of it that obviously hang together, and not spout off as if I am an expert or something. I don't think there are much in the way of experts, even though there are people who can tell us some things about the linguistics that add flavor.

@Brett:
"I know it often looks, from the outside, as though scientists are hyper-certain judgmental assholes who can't deal with disagreement."

I think that's mostly a product of climate alarmism, frankly.

You might observe it mostly in that context, but the "hyper-certain judgmental asshole" phenomenon is far more widespread.

It comes from having domains of very, VERY well confirmed knowledge and observation and realms that are much less certain, and knowing the boundary between them.

To use a (non political) example:
mathematician's STILL don't know if Goldbach's Conjecture is true! Yet they will go all hyper-judgmental assholish on anyone that claims that pi is 22/7!

There is plenty of hard fact, or certainty, out there. And while evolution may be normal science today, wasn't gravity once normal science?

@slarti:
I don't really have much appreciation for people who are dead certain what the Bible is telling us, because even the words of Jesus are widely and variously interpreted.

And that's before we note that their "interpretations" (in the sense I think you are using it) of what it means ignore the detail that their are dealing with interpretations (in the sense of converting from one language to another). The number of linguists who can and do read the Bible in the original languages, among those who insist that it is without error, is microscopic.

Actually, my pastor is one of said number who both read and declare.

I think some room could be made for confusion, personally, although that is not my church's publicly held-forth opinion.

That Jesus died for our sins I take as an article of faith. The other bits are rather small compared with that.

DrSci:

And I definitely fall (or fell) in the camp of scientists who thought Bill was just feeding the trolls by agreeing to the debate.

Now, I'm not so sure, because I've seen many comments to the effect that Nye's enthusiasm and joy in science came across really well.

I think that is the key thing that a lot of people miss. I worry about the apparent growth of creationism, but I don't view non-engagement as an effective buffer.

If you want to convince people of the power of science, you need to talk science with them.

I have a friend, strongly fundamentalist, who falls into the category of "will never change his mind".

I still enjoy debating with him about evolution for 3 reasons:
(1) I may not convince him evolution is "true", but I have shown him that there is a lot of evidence to support it and it's not ignoring inconvenient facts.

(2) I may never convince him, but I learn from the holes (which typically are not holes) he points out. It allows me to improve my understanding and have better answers in the future.

(3) If you can't engage in respectful discussion with those you vehemently disagree with, the populations will never mix. You get echo chambers. Nobody learns.

If nothing else, Bill Nye, as you noted, put a really good face on science: Questioning, open, enthusiastic.

That contrasts strongly with the 'militant atheism' of Dawkins. Which I personally find counterproductive.

There is plenty of hard fact, or certainty, out there. And while evolution may be normal science today, wasn't gravity once normal science?

McKinney, I think the difference is that evolution is a theory about something that happened on this planet in the very recent history of the universe.

When Newton put forth his theories on gravity, he was looking at a certain set of observable phenomena. Einstein was looking at a larger set. Astronomers and astrophysicists today are considering a still larger set of phenomena.

Gravity works in a very predictable way on objects on or near the earth (or rather between those objects and the earth - I have some gravity, too). The way the planets and other massive objects in our solar system behave likewise.

These were the sorts of things Newton could observe in his time. What he was seeing was a small slice of the spectrum of gravitational behavior. That slice hasn't changed.

What has changed is that scientists can now observe, even if indirectly, a far greater range of phenomena over a much wider swath of our universe. So it's not just a matter of getting closer to the truth; it's also a matter of seeing more of it.

It's like being from another planet and observing the behavior of humans, but the ones you observed were all, say, deaf 5-year-olds. You might be able to get a really good idea of the range of behavior exhibited among those humans. But it wouldn't tell you much about prize fighters, harpists, welders, heroin addicts, car salesmen, foot fetishists, rodeo clowns, stamp collectors, abusive husbands, compulsive hand-washers, jazz composers or whomever.

You would find, if you suddenly saw all of humanity, that you were wrong about humans, but not necessarily about deaf 5-year-olds.

HSH:

I like your 'example humans'. You must run with a very interesting crowd.

I think the difference is that evolution is a theory about something that happened on this planet in the very recent history of the universe.

That's a misconception, though a very very common one.

Evolution is a theory about something that's happening _now_, _everywhere_, to all living things. It's observable _now_, in the laboratory and in the field. Further, evolution is a direct logical consequence of what we now know (with considerable certainty) about the mechanisms of genetics and reproduction -- it's difficult to accomodate modern genetics in a description of a world in which evolution does not happen.

You're correct, joel, though it was poor wording on my part rather than a misconception that I hold. (I don't think evolution suddenly stopped when Charles Darwin was born. Or when I was, for that matter.)

Gravity continues as well.

Sorry for the knee-jerk; I spent years on talk.origins, where one of the most common problems is the guy who is certain that evolution is all about cows turning into whales sometime in the distant past.

"Gravity persists as well"

Is this the depression thread still?

"Science is a pretty nifty way of approaching truth, but not so much when big bucks are involved, and not so much when the results take on political salience."

Religion is a pretty nifty way of approaching truth, but not so much when big bucks are involved, and not so much, when the results take on political salience.

When you adjust the calibration on a drill- press, do you say a little prayer too? And do you adjust the amount of time you spend on either invocation according to the most recent payoff?

I didn't see the Ham/Nye debate. Give me a discussion among a devout Catholic, medically trained physician, and endorser of the theory of evolution like Walker Percy, an agnostic, ironic astronomer who reserves a corner of the cosmos for a cranky mysterious god or gods mulling over his/her creation, a Native American chief cautioning Christian Europeans about the proper sustainable approach to bison and passenger pigeon resource management as a part of the great father's plan, and, say, Woody Allen, or another comedian, who believes the universe is an awful torture chamber intent upon afflicting suffering, Milton's Satan, the somewhat sympathetic fallen Angel, and, what the Hell, John Lennon, and I' m all ears.

Their respective doubts, frail as they are, human, should be front and center.

Camus should be the moderator. Or Bishop Sheen.

This spectacle we're speaking of is a gladiator reality show, a simplified black and white cage fight between true believers, an Olympic event called the Shallow Pool Diving, a quintessentially American consumer standoff on a par with the Whopper versus the Big Mac, a carnival setup for rubes, a media bullsh&t profit center.

I think that's mostly a product of climate alarmism

Really? Scientists just started getting prickly starting in the late 20th century? You've never read about Newton's idiocentricities? Your hypothesis smacks of political self interest.

a scientist and a religious person arguing about who's right is like a painter and a geologist arguing about what a mountain really looks like.

I think that's mostly a product of climate alarmism, frankly.

this is known as a drive-by.

a scientist and a religious person arguing about who's right is like a painter and a geologist arguing about what a mountain really looks like.

Sure. But if the geologist isn't a total jerk about it, they might get a few painters to appreciate the beauty of geology.

When you adjust the calibration on a drill- press, do you say a little prayer too? And do you adjust the amount of time you spend on either invocation according to the most recent payoff?

That was once an approved practice for artillerists. Early manuals held spells with even specified duration (i.e. how long the spell would prevent the cannons from exploding before it had to be repeated). I don't know how much empiricism went into this. ;-)
I kid you not, I had to write a paper on those early artillery textbooks/manuals once, so I have a bit of first-hand knowledge.

"Really? Scientists just started getting prickly starting in the late 20th century?"

You know, there IS a difference between the occasional scientist being "prickly", and a widespread effort to declare anybody who raises questions about a theory some kind of heretic.

"Climate denier"; That's not the sort of terminology you expect to hear from scientists. Though I'll grant that's not who you mostly hear it from.

To give an example, I would be allowed to note that the Pacific Decadal Oscilation might have something to do with the climate not warming as fast as predicted over the last 15-20 years. However, if I venture to point out that, if this is really the case, it logically follows that the PDO was not factored into climate calculations, and so the warming effect it would have previously exerted would have been attributed to CO2 instead, (Omitted variable bias) causing the power of CO2 to warm thing to be exaggerated in the models, THEN I become a "denier".

Even though this is precisely the sort of observation which advances science. Learning from mistakes.

But there's a large faction out there who can't tolerate the possibility that global warming being a serious threat is a mistake. Because it isn't just the advance of science that matters to them, there's a lot of power and money at stake, too.

See, science depends on scientists achieving a considerable degree of objectivity. Objectivity is not something that comes easy to human beings, and bringing power and money into the equation makes it much harder to sustain.

I ask: Is that really an observation you want to dispute?

bringing power and money into the equation makes it much harder to sustain.

It's beyond risible that you raise this point in defense of people who argue against anthropogenic climate change.

I guess he wanted to circle the block.

You know, there IS a difference between the occasional scientist being "prickly", and a widespread effort to declare anybody who raises questions about a theory some kind of heretic.

Real life scientists are pretty resistant to change like most other people. As someone famous (the name of whom elides me at the moment*) said: New theories don't win by power of persuasion but by the adherents to the old theories dying off.

*I looked it up. It was Max Planck in 1933

“Eine neue große wissenschaftliche Idee pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner allmählich überzeugt und bekehrt werden – daß aus einem Saulus ein Paulus wird, ist eine große Seltenheit – sondern vielmehr in der Weise, daß die Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Idee vertraut gemacht wird.”

Gosh. Power and money. Who'da' thunk that! Pray tell, who has these attributes in greater abundance, a bunch of nerdy asshole scientists or the petroleum & coal industries?

Ask questions...get answers.

Oh, and that crap about the PDO? Look it up:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Pacific-Decadal-Oscillation.htm

Thanks.

The nerdy scientists aren't the ones with the power and money. They're the ones who either give the government the excuse to take over more control, or deny it.

And in a contest between the government and business as to who's got more power and money, it's the government, hands down.

once again, how about you prove the conspiracy?

because, screeching about a conspiracy to withhold the truth while refusing to back up your claims is a little bit ironic. doncha think?

The nerdy scientists aren't the ones with the power and money. They're the ones who either give the government the excuse to take over more control, or deny it.

So what you are saying is that you oppose the scientific hypothesis regarding global warming based upon some normative principle asserting that since said science dovetails nicely with government's (an apparently exogenous entity) unquenchable thirst for "more control" that said science should ipso facto be opposed upon that basis alone?

I guess that explains the rather shaky nature of your "evidence".

So, what I'm saying is that the scientific hypothesis regarding global warming has it's certainty exaggerated for political reasons, because it provides a useful excuse to increase governmental power. And for that reason, anybody who raises questions about it gets attacked in a rather unscientific manner.

The hypothesis may yet be proven true, in some version or other, but it's a long ways from that yet. Attacking anyone who raises questions will not accelerate that process.

what I'm saying is that the scientific hypothesis regarding global warming has it's certainty exaggerated for political reasons, because it provides a useful excuse to increase governmental power.

Have you perhaps noticed that arguments against have been exaggerated for political, economic, and other reasons?

The hypothesis may yet be proven true

I'd say the hypothesis will never be "proven true". The phenomena involved are too complex and interwoven.

If you're waiting for "proof", it's not going to arrive.

What would be useful is prudence, which likewise seems to be pretty scarce.

In any case, what is glaringly not in evidence is any kind of government program to "take control" of anything, at all, whatsoever, as regards climate change or any human behavior that might be related to it.

So, rest easy.

Yeah, I'd say the arguments on both sides are rather exaggerated, and for the same reason: It's difficult to maintain a disinterested devotion to the truth, and to understanding when you don't know something, when the stakes get high.

I'd say the arguments on both sides are rather exaggerated, and for the same reason

I can't really evaluate the arguments. I'm not a climatologist.

What I notice is that a few years ago, some folks were saying we should expect to see a particular set of things begin to happen, and now we are seeing them happen.

What I also notice is that crazy hippie outfits like the insurance industry, the DoD, and the CIA are all strategizing about how to deal with the various outcomes of climate change.

So, as a non-climatologist, I say to myself, there is probably something to it.

There are two reasons that little to nothing is being done about it at a public policy level:

1. The $$$$ value of the oil and gas currently in the ground
2. Nobody living in the heavy-hitter industrialized countries has any interest in changing their lifestyles

If changes in climate continue and begin to cause really expensive problems, we'll see the needle move on remedial action. That's pretty much the extent of what I expect to see happen.

The reason I say this is because it's been, literally, decades since folks started talking about this stuff, and as far as I can tell bugger-all has been done about it.

Basically, if guys like Hansen and McKibben are right, we're fucked. If they're even in the general direction of right, we're fucked. And I mean well and truly.

And I'm not really interested in arguing with you about whether they are or not, because as far as I can tell you have no better idea about it than I do.

We'll see what happens, won't we?

But I'm really not interested in hearing about conspiracies between Big Government and climatological academia to expand government power. As far as I can tell, government isn't doing a damned thing about climate change. Not here, anyway.

The conspiracy is not in evidence.

I expect we'll know within a few years. Either the "pause" will cease, and warming resume, or the divergence between global temperatures and the models will become great enough that the models fail normal statistical tests for validity.

If the competing theory that climate is driven by solar variations is valid, we should soon be looking for a drop in temperatures, not an increase.

drat......my poor html skills have betrayed me again...obviously a government conspiracy.

On "solar variations"

http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming-basic.htm

The deniers have no model that explains observed facts. So they throw sticks.

Says the guy engaged in caber tossing.

Care to read this? It points out why the reasoning at your link isn't much good.

Essentially what your link is saying is, if you put a pot of water on a stove, and turn the burner to high, the fact that the temperature in the pot keeps rising even though the burner setting is constant, proves that the burner has nothing to do with the temperature.

Somehow he's capable of noting that the climate doesn't have to instantly respond to CO2, but insisting that it must instantly respond to solar effects.

But, surely, we ought to be able to agree that the real test is what the climate does over the next ten years. Right? Not dueling theories, but dueling predictions, will rule in the end.

Can we agree to that much? That the test of a theory is whether its predictions prove out?

But, surely, we ought to be able to agree that the real test is what the climate does over the next ten years. Right?

I'd like to say that yes, the real test will be to see what the climate actually does over the next 10 or 20 or 50 years.

But I can't actually say that, because based on present evidence, the planet could be turned into a howling non-stop sh*tstorm and there will still be folks standing around claiming that human activity had nothing to do with it.

It wasn't us, it was all of those cow farts.

In any case, assume we get 10 years further down the road and discover that yes, in fact, Hansen et al were right on the money. The evidence we'd be looking for would be things that are actually not so great.

And then, where the hell are we? Do we then go back in time and make the changes that would have mitigated it?

This isn't a science experiment. It's the climate of the planet we live on, and which we depend on, utterly, for our very existence.

IMO the correct response to our current position is risk mitigation, not an endless stream of arguments about paleodendrology.

We are in the position of the guy who smokes two packs a day, who goes to the doctor and is told for the tenth time "I don't like that cough", but who replies "I'm not cutting down on the smokes until I know it's cancer".

That's a stupid guy to be.

I propose we give it ten years and if the deniers turn out to be wrong, we kill and eat them, or at the very least, deny the deniers marriage licenses.

I now expect calls to lengthen this waiting period to 20 years.

I accept the fact that the planet is getting warmer, and has been for the last 10,000 or so years, and it makes sense that the process is accelerated by 4 billion or so humans adding their bit.

I don't accept that there is anything useful or productive that we, the US, can do, without the rest of the world going along, which it won't do.

Further, much of the cure seems as bad as the disease.

And, I agree with Brett, dissent is not tolerated. It is marginalized by name-calling, by egregious labeling and by touting even the most unsettled, dire predictions as valid. Also, the lobby within the Democratic party, the media and academia is pretty much lock step and the motivation isn't entirely reverence for Mother Gaia--there is quite a bit of political gaming going on.

I propose we give it ten years and if the deniers turn out to be wrong, we kill and eat them, or at the very least, deny the deniers marriage licenses.

Sure, and we do the same thing if ACA turns out to be a flop as well.

Do you mean to say that if the ACA covers only half the previously uninsured It's supporters claimed it would, that we make a meal of them because they were only half-right, or do you mean that if climate change deniers are only half wrong and we lose only half the coastline the climate alarmists estimated that we should buy the deniers lunch on higher ground and let bygones be bygones.

Marginalized? Outright climate change deniers, far to the right of either McTX or Brett have their own TV and radio shows on their own networks and seek and win high political offices on a regular basis.

Yes, there is name-calling, but my name-calling is insincere so it doesn't warrant the force of law.

I guess what I'm missing in the great climate debate is the part where the government is actually doing anything about it all, let alone going for huge power grabs.

We have lobbyists from the energy industry literally writing legislation. But the dirty hippie environmentalists are taking over?

Basically, what I think about the whole climate change thing is that we're well and truly screwed, because we're too stupid and lazy to do a damned thing about it. Even bone-simple, dead-obvious things like using a different kind of light bulb gets turned into some stupid pissing match about Our Precious Freedoms.

Because, as we all know, our forefathers pledged their sacred honor and put their lives and treasure at hazard so that no tyrant would ever tell us we couldn't use a god damned incandescent light bulb.

If the Hansens of the world are remotely on target, we're royally rogering the world, and our kids and grandkids, and their kids and grandkids, are going to pay and pay and pay, and then pay some more.

Mother Gaia quite frankly will not give a crap either way. Whatever the world looks like in 10 or 50 or 200 years, there will be some collection of life forms that will find it more than congenial. It just might not be us, at least 6 or 8 or 10 billion of us.

It ain't about whether Mother Gaia survives, and it ain't about political correctness, and it ain't about our precious liberty. It's about whether we can continue to live on the freaking planet without massive amounts of disruption and catastrophe.

Our lifestyles are a luxury, not a given.

- climate change is too big and widewpread an issue for Aemrica to solve it alone. Therefore we should do nothing.
- Other countries won't act unless the US leads the way, and maybe not even then for some of them. Therefore we should do nothing.

Besides, it would be inconvenient, not to mention costing some money, to do something. And our country won't be the one flooded out (except for Florida, of course). And besides, it won't happen in the (remaining) lifetime of the largest segment of active voters.

OK, I think I am understanding. We shouldn't bother to do anything. And to help justifying doing nothing, we should trash any evidence that there might be a problem.

McTx: And, I agree with Brett, dissent is not tolerated.

Not tolerated?! It's tolerated on ObWi and it's tolerated on FOX, at the very least. The difference of course, is that here at ObWi we don't celebrate the denialism. Most of us don't even fall for it. A few of us even find it puerile and (when conspiracy theories get floated) paranoid. Plenty of people here will tell you you're wrong, but nobody ever told you to STFU as far as I recall.

One reason, BTW, that I at least find the denialist position fairly ridiculous is the "cure worse than the disease" attitude -- the proposition that saving The Environment will destroy The Economy by costing a lot of money. Curing cancers costs a lot of money, too, but where do you think that money goes? Does it vanish from The Economy, or does it show up as incomes in The Economy?

The main thing we can do to reduce CO2 emissions is to increase the efficiency of our cars and houses and appliances. What's your beef with increased efficiency? I mean, do you get positive pleasure from merely burning gasoline in your car's engine, or is driving from here to there your actual goal? If your next car gets twice the MPG of your present one will your joy in life be diminished somehow?

--TP

Tony, is seems really similar to the way that conspiracy theory folks are convinced that everything is the result of an ultra-secret conspiracy which they nonetheless have been able to gather vast amounts of information on. In service of the conslusion that they start from, people are willing to accept the most amazing variety of nonsense that they outherwise would reject out of hand.

"Big government" could probably do a great deal to reduce carbon emissions, and to promote alternative environmentally-friendly energy sources. Since there are too many voters who apparently take McKinney's and Brett's view for that to ever happen, I'm hoping against hope that "the market" will actually come up with something. Unfortunately, "the invisible hand" is currently being guided by subsidies to big oil.

Please explain, McKinney, why my tax dollars are being used for that purpose instead of finding ways towards greener energy (which, incidentally, would be welcome in developing countries whose pollution levels are heartbreakingly unacceptable).

would be welcome in developing countries whose pollution levels are heartbreakingly unacceptable

Ever been to Riverside? It's the collecting basin for LA smog.

Speaking of LA, one of my brother's friends in the academy who grew up in LA was reportedly largely unaffected by tear gas during training.

I don't know how true the story is, but I always found it amusing.

why my tax dollars are being used for that purpose
http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/totals.php?cycle=2014&ind=E01

I am shocked, shocked, shocked to learn there is corruption in politics.

Since we're providing links, thompson, please note the relative pollution level of Riverside.

FWIW, I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950s & 1960s, and the smog situation there now, though still unpleasant, is a great deal better than it used to be. Why? Gubmint regulation, in large part. People actually passed and enforced laws that resulted in making their lives better. Who'da thunk it?

Seeing Brett B (and, to a lesser extent, McK T) on the side of the denialists would be a sight more convincing if one didn't feel that the underlying premise is "Gubmint bad," to which the objection to climate change is a mere corollary.

I am shocked, shocked, shocked to learn there is corruption in politics.

This isn't corruption. Oil and gas subsidies are openly done without pushback. It's the democratic process, supported by people like McKinney, Brett, as well as the ignorant, the apathetic, and the unscrupulous. It's not "corrupt" for climate change deniers to deny.

"Since we're providing links, thompson, please note the relative pollution level of Riverside."

Thanks, sapient. I was kidding regarding LA/Riverside. But its a nice link.

"This isn't corruption."

Eh, its not illegal, but I definitely think that campaign contributions effect a) who gets face time and b) what laws get written. In other words, I doubt our congresscritters are refusing to be biased by these contributions. I view that as a corruption of their oath of office, you may differ and wish to limit your use of the word corruption purely to the legal sense of the word. In which case, yeah, its not corruption.

I definitely think that campaign contributions effect a) who gets face time and b) what laws get written.

Sure, and we can all work to eradicate money from politics (which will require a change in the Supreme Court, in the direction of Democrats).

In the meantime, we can all vote (unless Republican voter suppression tactics win the day). If we're all voting for people who oppose subsidies for gas and oil, we will win. However, if a large portion of the gullible (or worse) public thinks like McKinney and Brett, subsidies will continue.

People actually passed and enforced laws that resulted in making their lives better. Who'da thunk it?

The golden olden years. I lived through them too (though I breathe easier for not having lived in LA).

Care to read this?

Sure. Do you care to read this?
https://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/tag/alec-rawls/
and associated links?

Or http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/bid-to-heap-blame-on-sunspots-for-climate-change-has-backfired-8418195.html.

Mr. Rawls is a self described "Republican blogger". Does this tell you anything?

Utter mendacity. Lying. Cherry picking. Misinterpretation.

Again, denialists are not engaging in science. They have no theory. They have suppositions, guesses, and rationalizations....all serving a deeply political agenda.

See also Alec Rawls, conspiracy theorist about the flight 93 memorial.

Nut.Case.

QED

Essentially what your link is saying is, if you put a pot of water on a stove, and turn the burner to high, the fact that the temperature in the pot keeps rising even though the burner setting is constant, proves that the burner has nothing to do with the temperature.

That is simply not true. That is NOT what they are saying. I leave to our fellow readers to verify the outrageous nature of your assertion.

Fixed the links. If you just put the url in the comment, typepad will make a link.

btw, Alec Rawls is the son of moral philosopher, John Rawls
http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-son-of-a-legendary-moral-philosopher-leaked-the-uns-next-climate-report-in-the-name-of-bad-science

I heard of him when he weighed in on Japanese American internment here

[insert your joke about veil of ignorance here]

I believe you're actually making my point: Yelling "Denialist!" is not part of the normal procedure of science.

Per the normal procedure of science, if it's allowed to function, this will be settled in due time by it getting hotter or colder.

Yelling "Denialist!" is not part of the normal procedure of science.

neither is yelling "conspiracy!"

I believe you're actually making my point...

Well, no. If you would bring actual science to the discussion, you'd have one. Shrill propaganda and off-the-wall conspiracy theories don't cut it.

I don't believe any objective observer would think *I'm* the shrill one here. And both sides are yelling "Conspiracy!", if you hadn't noticed.

Per the normal procedure of science, if it's allowed to function, this will be settled in due time by it getting hotter or colder.

And then what?

Two questions for Brett --

1. Any response on the debunking of your Pacific Decadal Oscillation claim, at all? I didn't see one.

2. What were reputable scientists predicting ten or fifteen years ago? Does it tally with the warming we've seen in the intervening years? It seems to me that it has, but if you can refute that, that would be interesting. If you can't, perhaps you should consider that test already passed.

The US seems happy to take unilateral action in all sorts of other sphere if it so wishes. What makes climate change special? Furthermore, it seems like there have been a number of climate change talks around the world in the last ten years, and if the US really cared about encouraging action on climate change, then perhaps it would have been heard loud and proud yelling about what needed to be done to save the planet. No? No, I don't remember that either.

I don't believe any objective observer would think *I'm* the shrill one here.

"Objective observer" is carrying a lot of weight there, but I would tend to disagree. I'm not the one trotting out cranks and political hacks to support my position. I'm not the one claiming "the government" is some exogenous force whose 'prime directive' is 'more control'. I'm not the one claiming any conspiracy exists. It's a fairly obvious line-up of major economic players intent on maintaining their markets and their profits.

This is not rocket science.

"Intelligent Falling"

ITYM "Intelligent Decline".

Per the normal procedure of science.... competing theories and/or hypotheses would be advanced and those in the field would be actively seeking reproducible observations confirming the predictive power of their theory.

Denialists have come up with a hodgepodge of "explanations" that have been debunked fairly soundly and repeatedly. They have no competing theory*. Fieldwork appears to be beneath them. And lastly, they routinely impune the motives of the vast majority of climatologists.

In sum, you can't be serious.

*curiously-you allude to "cooling" above. What crank theory have you come across that predicts global cooling in the next few years?

One of the books in my library is The Next Eighty Years, the proceedings of a 1977 futurology conference at Caltech. One of the articles discusses the possibility of climate change, and the uncertainties thereof. I will quote one snippet:

[T]he CO2 effect on climate should jump up out of the climatic noise level in the next decade or two, according to our climate models, and time will tell us whether the models are right if it happens.

1977, folks - the time when, some claim, climatologists were worried about a cooling trend. Does that count as "prediction"?

Hm, there's this, a couple years back. I suppose you'll say they're not really climate scientists.

There's this general description of the problems with the case for warming.

There essentially isn't a well developed alternate theory, for the reason that the people who haven't signed onto the dominant theory don't think the climate system is actually well enough understood to make such predictions yet.

Brett, just so I'm clear. Are you saying
1) climate change isn't happening, or
2) there isn't sufficient evidence at this point to show that it is happening?
Or just that, 3) while it is happening, we don't know enough to be sure why it is happening (and therefore shouldn't make any particular effort at dealing with it)?

Or something else?

I ask because I have seen all three variations at one time or another. And they say rather different things about the people holding them.

Here is the reason we can't find a way to do anything about climate change. Or, at least, one of the top two or three reasons.

The money quote:

Between 60-80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of publicly listed companies are ‘unburnable’ if the world is to have a chance of not exceeding global warming of 2°C

Basically, to achieve the most commonly cited goal for averting climate change, a *huge* chunk of the book value of publicly listed oil and gas companies would have to be rendered worthless.

I'm not citing this to point the finger at the oil and gas (and, for that matter, coal) industries and say "big business BAD BAD BAD".

I'm citing it to point out that there are real, practical consequences to making the kinds of changes we would need to make to slow the increase in CO2 or other greenhouse gases.

How would we go about leaving all of that stuff in the ground? Would we buy the leases back from the oil and gas industry? If so, who is "we" in that sentence?

How much would it cost? Where would the money come from? What would the downstream effects be on the economy? How do those effects compare to the costs (of all kinds) of simply letting greenhouse emissions continue at current or even greater rates?

I don't really see anybody trying to address this. There are some investment analysts trying to figure out how to price the risk of having to leave the stuff in the ground, which is kind of prudent and I applaud them, but there's certainly nothing going on in that area in the public dialog. As least as far as I can tell.

We appear to be incapable of taking this issue on at anything like an intelligent or productive way. I.e., a way that might, perhaps, lead to some kind of constructive action.

In a former life, I attended and reported on scientific conferences featuring meteorologists from government, academia, and the private sector, and the debate over much more trivial matters than global warming could become extremely lively.

Lots of yelling regarding theoretical approaches, and imprecations worse that "denialist" and "conspiracy" worse bandied about, all in the spirit of the "normal procedure of science".

Next, someone will claim that calm and good feelings prevailed at the debut of Stravinsky's "The Rite Of Spring" or the Armoury Show featuring the Impressionist painters all those years ago.

Who says scientists aren't permitted to or don't act out with the religious-like fervor of conservative talk radio or the McClaughlin Group, or a gaggle of stock market forecasters going at it on CNBC?

A rabbi, a priest, and a mullah walked into a bar.

The bartender, a theoretical physicist, greeted the ......

Tell me who starts the yelling.

The pelican?

Hm, there's this, a couple years back. I suppose you'll say they're not really climate scientists.

whatever their job, they're jumping on one report of a slight warming "pause" as proof of a lack of warming. they don't seem all that interested in papers which shows that the 'pause' paper was mistaken.

... well, not 'mistaken', so much as not quite accurate and then wildly misinterpreted by the deniers.

Hm, there's this, a couple years back. I suppose you'll say they're not really climate scientists.

Based upon my review of the cited credentials of the first 25 names, I'm fairly certain I could say that with a good deal of certainty. I mean really, a marketing professor? Are you kidding me?

Just stop.

I don't really see anybody trying to address this.

Exactly. As you and others have alluded to, there are societies (the affluent west) and powerful interests (coal, oil, etc.) that stand to lose a great deal if we get serious about this issue. Getting serious will require a huge political change.

Denying the science is part of that political struggle.

To be clear:

1. Climate change is happening. It is ALWAYS happening.

So,

2. Don't need proof the climate is changing, it always is.

So, put me down for 3. The climate is changing, but we don't yet know, with enough certainty to do expensive, intrusive things, the mechanics behind this.

I honestly think what lies behind much of the mounting hysteria to DO SOMETHING about climate change, before the science is actually in, is a mounting fear that it won't come in, and a perfectly good excuse to rearange other people's lives will be lost.

Indeed, "getting serious" WILL require huge political change, and it's quite natural that people who want that change will be angry with anybody who threatens their basis for imposing it.

...and it's quite natural that people who want that change will be angry with anybody who threatens their basis for imposing it.

And those who resist this 'imposition' aren't imposing anything on anybody. Glad we got that out of the way.

Well, I wasn't forcing anybody to buy incandescent bulbs, that's for sure.

To be even clearer, "getting serious" will require pretty substantial political change on the global warming side, too. "Getting serious" would require ceasing to use global warming as an excuse for crony capitalism, and ceasing to humor anti-nuclear activists.

Brett, just for curiosity: what would it take for you to agree that "the science is in" finally?

Would half of Florida being under water persuade you to stop bellyaching about incandescent bulbs? Would another couple of winters featuring snowstorms that paralyze Atlanta (while tennis shoes melt on the court in Australia) make you wonder whether maybe the denialists are (gasp) wrong?

--TP

Brett, just for curiosity: what would it take for you to agree that "the science is in" finally?

When Glenn Beck takes up the cause.

"Getting serious" would require ceasing to use global warming as an excuse for crony capitalism...

SOLYNDRA!!!!!!!

The Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! of winger anthropocene denialism.

How about, the actual climate being somewhere near the MIDDLE of the output of the models we're supposed to be relying on, rather than right at the lower confidence level?

As shown in this graph.

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