Ethical Questions with No Room For Climategate

Tonight I attended the “conversation” about Ethics in Climate Change Research.

It was an interesting experience.

Located in the basement of one of the main buildings, in classroom “C”. A very small auditorium. Perhaps seating for 75? I was 3 rows back from the presenters. The presentation was billed as 3 folks. The reality was more that one acted as M.C. and crowd warm up while the other two had a sort of “mutual admiration discussion”.

Naomi Oreskes, Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego and co-author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

Noah Diffenbaugh, Assistant Professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford, and a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Joseph Mazor, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford whose research focuses on environmental ethics

Joseph Mazor acted as M.C. He “framed the discussion” and limited the area to essentially the least interesting parts. We were not to discuss if Glboal Warming was or was not happening. Nor was the data clean and sound, or not. Not even if the science were done well, or not. No, the discussion was only to be about the ethical questions raised by Climate Change research. All the while putting off limits the ethical question of “What if it is wrong?” and the moral dilemma of perhaps hobbling a generation for a fantasy.

A relatively young man, and a bit nervous at being in charge, he did a decent job of “framing”, and announced that the “discussion” would be about 45 minutes, then there would be about 15 minutes of questions and answers.

The room was filled, with a half dozen left standing along the walls.

Even with both back doors open, the atmosphere was a bit stuffy and warm. During the talk several folks were visibly nodding off. Eyes closed trying valiently to keep their heads from nodding. Not all succeeded. I was glad I’d not had dinner prior to the event…

The first half hour was spent largely talking in grand circumlocutions that said little. Lots of talk about the importance of ethics and the dilemma posed by ethical considerations. It wasn’t until the last half that things “picked up” a little. At that time some of the biases began to be more openly voiced. During it all, the list of the three speakers (as quoted above) was projected on a large screen behind the speakers (seated) with the obligatory polar bear picture above their bios.

Noah Diffenbaugh was a bit older, but I’d guess about “40 something”. He staked out the position that “we all just want the science to be right” and spent some time talking about how he edited a journal and would often reject papers that did not fit their editorial type, but had valid science done. They specialize in ‘relevance’ so got a chuckle when he said he would tell folks they had that a nice paper with valid science in it but that it didn’t fit their relevance desires…

While professing lack of bias, he went out of his way to dis the Heartland conference. Saying he had been invited to speak but could not make it due to this event, and various other things such as classes or office hours in following days; but he had offered to do a Video Conference. Then to be told that the facilities did not exist for it (but that he had found the video feed of the conference on line…)

Clearly trying to imply that of course they could have done a video conference … The implication hanging heavy in the air and getting a murmur of assent from the audience and a couple of chuckles. I don’t know if the act was deliberate, or if they just didn’t understand that there is a large difference between some guy running a camera in the sessions vs having interactive 2 way TV and a large monitor on the podium. Different equipment. Different network feeds. Different folks running cameras at different ends.

But many folks are technically clueless about infrastructure differences, so maybe he’s just one of those who thinks a camera at one end and delayed multicast is the same as a camera at both and interactive live unicast… In a way I found it a telling metaphor for the nature of the Warmers vs the Realists. One recognizes a finer level of detail and understands better how things really works. The warmists are more interested in sound bites that play well to the audience.

In general, he had a decent attitude about the need for accurate and objective science, but clearly came from the agenda of “the Science is known and correct as it stands” so we ought to be moving on to the ethics of doing something on a policy basis.

The real ringer in the group though was Naomi Oreskes. She was pushing her book and frequently made references to the Tobacco Industry and how they were indulging in deliberate deception to thwart true consensus science. The clear implication being that Big Oil was doing the same. Much time was spent on the idea that media would push for a contentious ‘balanced’ view, when in reality the science was settled; and ‘balance’ was really a false presentation of controversy where there was none. Was it ‘ethical’ to have that kind of deception of an apparent “debate” where nothing was really debatable?

There was talk about funding of science and how it could color results. Naomi spent time explaining how the Tobacco industry had been found guilty of RICO Racketeering charges and perhaps a school like Stanford would avoid associating with convicted racketeers even if they would not be biased by the money source. Some how this was supposed to be connected to biased funding for global warming research…

Noah Diffenbaugh then spent a fair amount of time admiring how researchers ought to display their funding sources like NASCAR drivers via logos… but he’d not had time to make a coat for himself… and besides, most of his funding was from government (so the implication was that it was unbiased funding…) The “ethical question” of self confirmation bias and group think leading to selective funding from NGOs and government agencies was studiously avoided…

Equally avoided was any discussion of the ethical challenges of Climategate. Their was one mention of Climategate in passing and that was largely in a dismissive tone.

Toward the end, an Australian news promotional for a piece about “I can change your mind on Climate Change” was played. This was greeted by a question from the audience “Is that a Murdoch Paper?” Which got a ‘yes’ and snickers from the audience. Their bias was very strongly against Fox News and Murdoch. Content? Who needs to think about content if you have already dismissed the source?

Similarly dismissive attitudes were displayed from the audience (with affirmations from the panel) about the Heartland Institute when it’s name came up (in connection with the conference and video remote discussed above). Who needs to ask why hundreds of folks felt compelled to abandon the conferences stage managed by The Team and form their own; if you can dismiss it with snickers…

Toward the end, the facade for un-bias was pretty much tossed out. Still working just from innuendo and snickers, but with increasingly open derision of skeptics. During the Q&A session one man got the microphone for a question and asked “Am I the only skeptic here?” An older man, about 60 I’d guess. I waited a bit on the long side of comfortable and then said to him “No, you are not”… “outing” myself as a skeptic. He asked about the discrepancy between the satellite record and the instrumental record.

In a classical example of The Dodge we’ve all seen too many times, Noah Diffenbaugh said, roughly, “That was dealt with in a paper in 2005” (I may have the date off a bit) “it was a human error and was corrected”. Hardly satisfactory. The same old “It’s in the published peer reviewed literature, go read it” dodge. No discussion of the tight grip on the spigot of who got published by “the team”. No discussion of the ethical questions raised by the ClimateGate emails about the attempts to block publication of papers that did not agree with the team. Just ‘whitewash and move on’.

The major issue being pushed was about how the science was settled so what were the ethics of advocacy and could a scientist, like Hansen, reasonably be both an advocate and do unbiased research? With the conclusion being “yes, as long as it passes peer review” and how it was the “community” of scientists that made sure the science was correct so not a problem. That a scientist might show up in a lab and put on the white coat, but it was just too much to expect them to check their bias and advocacy at the door; but as long as it was peer reviewed, well then it was checked an that made it OK.

More time was spent on the issue of “settled science” too. Lip service paid to the notion that there was always room for a new point of view, and how some folks even disputed plate tectonics or quantum mechanics even today and that was OK too (with the implication being that toleration of the odd crank was OK as long as they didn’t manage to upset The Consensus and action on that consensus; but certainly NOT OK if they were being funding by corporations with an agenda just to confound things, like The Tobacco Companies did… Again studiously avoiding the interesting ethical questions of the UN Agenda 21 funded push for biased science and the issues of “group think” and “self confirmation bias” in grants awarded by NGOs and government agencies.

Naomi had a rather oddly (somewhat high) pitched voice. She was also ‘past her prime’ yet dressed in a too tight top a bit too loosely buttoned and with a skirt a bit too short. (I’m not the only one to notice this. My neighbor brought it up too. He’s more of a progressive than I am. This is not a personal bias issue.) At any rate, some folks in their 50s would be better off not dressing like someone in their 20s. A business suit would have worked better with the “2 guys in suits” on the stage. But I suppose it would be considered chauvinistic and very non-PC for someone to have politely let her know.

What left me most dismayed was the simple fact that there were Great Ethical Questions that could have been raised, but were basically ignored. The Ethics of subornation of peer review? The ethics of cherry picking one tree in Yamal? The ethics of advocacy of policies that would generate $Millions of funding from NGOs? The ethics of condemning to a miserable life and death millions via abandonment of modernity via fossil and nuclear energy in favor of a Green Agenda Austerity and the death that comes with abandoning modernity? The ethics of thwarting FOIA requests? The ethics of attack ads and the politics of Personal Destruction waged by warmers? The ethics of pushing the “Settle Science” agenda when science is NEVER settled? (Preponderance of evidence ought to be enough to push policy goals anyway…)

So, it was the great un-asked that got me down. How could so much time be spent on ‘framing’ to avoid them all; and to channel discussion into ‘buy Naomi’s book’ and ‘the IPCC has it right as I’m one of the IPCC editors’ and so little be spent on the ethics of Climategate? Of course, too, their was no mention of the fraud of Gleick and “Fakegate”. How can you have a discussion of the ethics of Global Warming and leave out someone who lied, posed as board member to steal confidential documents, then finding them not juicy enough, fabricate company documents and claims them real? No, those things and more were simply ignored into oblivion.

Those questions were lost in the pitch about industry funding and Fox News presenting a faked “alternative” and a biased push for “balance” where there wasn’t really any honest science on the other side, so any ‘balance’ was fake and to be avoided as playing into the hands of a propaganda operation.

I’d have been more bothered about it where it not for the way that ‘audience participation’ and snickers and tisk tisks indicated that presenters were mostly preaching to the converted. Talk of the 3% of skeptical scientists framing them as a residual of cranks and that it was mostly the self serving media making it look like those folk ought to have presence in a ‘balanced’ setting that was the wrong thing to do; as they didn’t represent a balanced other side, but just a fringe that ought to be ignored.

I didn’t bother asking any questions (having been ‘outed’ it isn’t clear I’d have gotten the microphone anyway). It was pretty clear that pointing out the lack of coverage of very important ethical questions raised by Climategate was only going to get snickers and dismissive answers.

After about an hour and a half the event broke up.

In Conclusion

I’m quite disappointed in Stanford. They had an excellent opportunity to have explored some real ethical issues and the dilemma of what to do about Climate Change, how to balance the risks each way, how to balance the needs of some vs the advocacy science of others. Instead we got some pre-planned pablum with a good dose of Sominex Bucket of Slop-py science and whitewash to cover. Folks pushing books to an audience of True Believers. One other odd bit being how often folks talked about the BELIEF in Climate Change. How to get folks to believe. As though belief was what mattered, rather than truth.

So much interesting discussion of ethics that could have happened, white washed away by the need to promote the Agenda and be PC.


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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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44 Responses to Ethical Questions with No Room For Climategate

  1. Mark Miller says:

    Unlikely I would’ve gone to the event. I would’ve known already how the discussion would be framed. As you can tell, not a single scientist was on the panel.

    I saw something similar at an event a few years ago at CU Boulder. It was called, “Is there such a thing as agenda-free science?” It was more interesting, because it wasn’t about the whole climate change issue, though it came up. It was more generally about what motivates scientists and organizations that promote scientific study.

    One of the panelists talked about teaching kids science. Something he said caught my attention, though. He said that the students got information about the funding source for studies which produced the data they were reviewing. He indicated they considered that in the mix of doing data analysis. I interrupted him saying that funding should be irrelevant to analysis. That the real test was seeing whether the data checked out against observations, and/or comparing it with other data sets to look for differences and similarities. The panelist waved me off reassuringly, saying, “We look at the data.” Another thing he said dismissively was that the press feels obligated to show both sides of a scientific issue, like climate change, when “there really isn’t two sides.”

    One of the panelists gave me the creeps. She only spoke to introduce herself to the audience, and the cause she supports. She said nothing else during the rest of the discussion. She first pointed to an anthropological study (where it was done, I forget) that was later found to be politically biased. She drew from this example that all science is political, and she’d just assume that we as a society give up this pretense that science pursues truth (how very post-modern), and just listen to our moral compass to find what is “the right thing to do” for the environment (I reference Thomas Sowell’s “Conflict of Visions” as a guide to this mentality). She was part of an organization pursuing this line of reasoning, and she invited members of the audience to join it. I was aghast that no one on the panel rose to challenge her. I thought the panel was made up of scientists who valued their discipline. There were at least a couple bona fide scientists on the panel, but this lady clearly did not fit that mold at all.

    I thought I’d indirectly confront an issue, without provoking confrontation. During Q&A I approached the mic and talked about the problem of “scientific discernment” in our society, that it seems like on both sides of an issue, organizations with political or commercial interests can pay for studies and say, “See, we have something” (for example, “one study says that eating oats helps prevent cancer” causing a run on oat bran muffins…), when they don’t. Secondly, there’s a problem identified by a few education reformers that adults try to teach math and science the way *they* understand it to children, when children of certain age ranges don’t understand these concepts the way adults do, due to their mental development. So there’s a need to translate concepts into representations and ways of doing things that they can understand, to give them a “taste for mathematics” and a “taste for science.” I asked if anyone was working on this. One of the panelists told me of a lady doing something for the National Science Foundation along these lines. I wrote down the name, but I have yet to check out her work.

    About a year ago I read an article online about a panel discussion taking place, outside the local university, whose premise sounded similar to what you’re talking about. The topic was, “How to communicate the message of climate change?” The description was that the public was rejecting the notion, and so panelists were coming together to discuss how to fashion the “messaging” on the subject. I thought, “Yeah, right. The science be damned! It’s all about the *messaging*, isn’t it?” In the comments following the article I referenced the somewhat famous “Warm Words” paper produced by a PR firm in the UK, which focused on this very issue. “Someone’s already figured this out,” I said.

    The main theme in the paper is, “Don’t discuss it with the citizenry. The tone must be authoritative and firm, like a police officer warning the public about an emergency, directing them to what they must do to avert disaster.” The most telling thing in it was the section on scientists. It made no pretense about a consensus. Instead it said (paraphrasing), “Scientists argue amongst themselves about the details of the science of climate change. That’s just their nature. We can’t wait for them to make up their minds. We know that the earth is warming, and humans are the cause.” Really?? Scientists are arguing about it, but you *know*?? How the @#$% does that work?? I tell you, it’s like we’re re-entering the Dark Ages, a new religion trying to integrate itself with governments around the world, creating a theocracy with a new priesthood trying to assert its authority over the masses. The only thing missing are the man-made cathedrals to Gaia, and a canonized religious text.

  2. philjourdan says:

    I guess I lost my naivete’ about Colleges back in the 90s. I saw a friend, who had spent 20 years in the real world, go back for her degree. And the stories she told of the arrogant and ignorant professors swore me off of seeking guidance from academia ever again.

    Standford has the brass plate, but no balls. So their performance only fulfills my expectations.

  3. Pascvaks says:

    The Stanford “conversation” about Ethics in Climate Change Research with Naomi, Noah, and Joseph seem doomed from the get-go. As they say in real estate, “Location, Location, Location!” (Yes, there’s also “Topic, Topic, Topic!” and “Expert, Expert, Expert!”)

    True! Stanford is no different from any other campus in this country, so the problem with “Location” is not unique to Sanford. It applies to every academic enviroment, every campus. The Topic was also way beyond the scope of the ‘speakers’ Expertise.

    Academics are sometimes ‘good’ at opening windows of a sort, the one’s in young, fresh, inquisitive minds. They can’t do much beyond that, 90% of them that is. And there’s the 10% who can cripple and destroy a young mind in the blink of an eye, or over the course of a semister of pure, boring, nauseating crap (not the ‘subject’, the ‘prof’s crap;-)

    A wise person once said, or wrote, or something, that “College will teach you how to teach yourself.” They were right.

    Sounds like Naomi, Noah, and Joseph were definitely in the 10% who are full of crap, and speaking about things they do not understand. The most dangerous place in the world? A campus. The most dangerous people on campus? (you guessed it;-)

  4. chris y says:

    I’m surprised none of the panelists brought up the ethical challenges involved in big oil funding of climate science at Stanford- the “10-year, $225-million deal Stanford University signed with Exxon Mobil and other energy firms in 2002 to fund a Global Climate and Energy Project.”

    I guess that situation is, ah, *complicated*.
    I wonder if any of the panelists received funding from the global Climate and Energy Project?

  5. adolfogiurfa says:

    Just to start with: We have lost what “Ethics” means, its real meaning, just because we do not like any responsibility whatsoever and Ethics implies a very simple thing: To behave ourselves according to real natural laws, which we have also chosen to ignore. Let us put a very simple example, understandable for anyone: If you spend all your money irresponsibly, you end being without money…simple, isn´t it?, well that is the simple natural law of ENTROPY. And this applies to everything, for example, you cannot get anything without effort, without going against entropy, climbing up, increasing energy.
    There are people who “know” but who apply their knowledge to achieve goals that go against nature, as to have much more power than needed for current survival (as CANCER CELLS DO in our body), and so “they” have realized that is a bad thing for people to “know too much” about natural laws, so they have invented a series of lies, construed a series of fallacies which will be perceived as truths or at least as good ideas for naive people. Which are these fallacies?…well, we have a collection of them in UN´s Agenda 21.
    Everything is nice, good and “cool”. Who, in his/her sane reason won´t accept “having a shot of success” for free, without effort?. Who, in his/her sane reason won´t accept being “liberated” out of something, like “exploitation” by men, by “rich people”, by those evil beings out there. No one of course, but that´s a LIE, that it is and it has been what TRADITION TELL US it has been and it is the DEVIL´s TRICK, though nobody taught us devils did not necessarily have TAILS hanging from their backs. :-)

  6. p.g.sharrow says:

    Take the hard road and earn your place in the world or take the easy way and collect your place. Ethics is easy to understand, just hard to do. Once you turn to the darkside the slide is easy. Ethical behavior is not a part time thing, part time is a lie that is its’ self, unethical. pg

  7. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “Talk of the 3% of skeptical scientists framing them as a residual of cranks and that it was mostly the self serving media making it look like those folk ought to have presence in a ‘balanced’ setting that was the wrong thing to do; as they didn’t represent a balanced other side, but just a fringe that ought to be ignored.”

    Of course we both realize that the 97% vs 3% talking point is false; even more foolish is the idea that majority rules in science, but it gives me an idea. Maybe I can work this in, the next time someone gives me the CAGW “must be correct because 97% of scientists agree!” (And by the way, I really did hear just exactly that argument last week during a discussion with a friend.) What I should have responded is:

    Me: Really? 97%?! That sounds pretty impressive…
    CAGW Proponent: Well, it should. That is the huge majority. Only the fringe think that AGW is wrong.
    Me: So, I guess you are an anti-Semite, right?
    CAGW P: What? Where did you get that idea?!
    Me: Well, if we can discount the beliefs of scientists because they only comprise 3% of their group, where does that leave Jews? After all, they only make up 2% of the population. That’s even smaller that the skeptic scientists percentage. 2%! They must be even crazier that the AGW skeptics! Surely if consensus is the test of whether a belief is worth consideration — as you insist it is — then you must think Jews are even lower than skeptics. So tell me, were you raised to be anti-Semitic, or is this an idea you came to on your own?

    I fear that sarcasm and irony are often wasted these days…

    Another thing that bothers me about the whole 97% thing is the blasted belief that if someone with a certain piece of paper, or someone who works for NASA — or Stanford, or wherever — that THAT somehow makes them a “scientist.” It is laughable; these same people would be offended if you tried to convince them that having a Doctor of Divinity degree somehow made that person ethical, religious or holy. (Yourself, E.M., excluded!) Or perhaps you could tell them that getting a business license made someone an honest businessman. These are obviously untrue… but I have had people tell me, “Hansen wouldn’t just make stuff up! For God’s sake, he works for NASA! Hand over heart, he works for NASA!”

    A person is a scientist if they do science. Period. It is difficult — perhaps the most difficult of all arts, and there are far more people with degrees in science than there are real scientists. There is a reason why science was only codified in the last half a millennium. It is hard.

  8. Verity Jones says:

    This deserves a repost at WUWT to give an even wider audience to this delusion (and they are deluding themselves)

  9. tckev says:

    There is a youtube video of Richard Feynman called “Feynman Chaser – The Key to Science”. Nowhere in it do I hear or see the word ‘consensus’. I very much doubt that the great man thought ‘consensus’ a requirement for science.
    This video does spell out, in no uncertain terms, how science should be done.

  10. Lookie says:

    Look up – The Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP)

    That’s the money. Why would Stanford risk that?

    [ Reply: Generally I don’t let folks post with bogus names and email addresses. It’s advised to use real ones, even if pseudonyms and disposable email addresses… -E.M.Smith ]

  11. Mike Jonas says:

    FYI, “I can change your mind on Climate Change” was an ABC (the government’s Australian Broadcasting Commission) programme. Not by or anything to do with the Murdich press. A more pro-CAGW biased organisation than the ABC would be hard to find in Australia, but it was highly commendable – and very surprising – that the ABC even tried to present a balanced programme on this subject. There was a lot wrong with it, but at least they tried, and maybe it’s the start of a sea change.

    Jonathan Holmes’ recent appallingly biased distortion of the “death threats” issue …
    … on the ABC’s Media Watch programme shows that there is still a long way to go.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Mark Miller:

    IMHO “This behaviour is by design” (to quote the Microsoft web site about one of the bugs in their software ;-)

    When scientific naturalism could not be bent to serve, efforts were made to shift the educational paradigm to the “post modernism” and “moral relativism” modes. Now we harvest the fruit of that change…

    It is no longer about data, proofs, reason, evidence and argument. It is now about ‘self actualizing’ and ‘moral certainty’ and ‘positive thinking’…

    Yes, I think ‘A New Dark Ages’ pretty much covers it.

    In the school where my spouse teaches, they have changed Math to be “about math”. You don’t really learn how to use the very precise language of math “for effect”. You learn about what it can do, sort of… how to use words in a “mathy kind of way” rather than the formal quantified symbolic logic that is real math. Quite sad to see very bright “ESL” kids (English as a second language) who USED to have an advantage in math, struggling with the English that is swamping the math these days…


    My “swearing off” came in the ’70s during my first exposure to Sociology and some of the other dreck being pushed as education that was clearly political indoctrination. I ran off to the Engineering department to escape from it for a year or two (learning a lot of computer programming) before discovering a love of and knack for Economics.


    My impression was that Naomi was the most inherently blinkered and biased. Joseph made a show of impartiality and mostly professed being a true supplicant of the “If it is published it is Authoritative” school of non-thinking. He presence on the IPCC argues for some degree of bias, though. Noah seemed like a reasonably nice guy who was mostly just scripted to “narrow the discussion” to the “safe” area of “ethics and not ‘is it real'”. I doubt if Joseph or Noah would be harmful as a professor. They seemed “suited to task”; just stuffed with The Standard Answers.

    @Chris Y:

    Ooooh! Good one! Stanford takes Oil Money! ;-)


    Ah, but is the deception a deliberate act, or for many (if not most) is it just an artifact of intellectual sloth?

    A fairly good friend has become very lazy in retirement. When I discuss things with him now, he often has just accepted the “common proffered position” where in prior years he questioned things more. It seems mostly an artifact of his just not wanting to be bothered any more…


    Well, I never had to work at ethics. Growing up in a Mormon town, with a Mom who took me to Baptist Bible School every Sunday and raised me with the old line British moral code; it was just kind of part of me from the start.

    Hardest thing for me to do is NOT follow that instinct. It’s cost me a few jobs, cost me a few “friends”. I had to learn how to lie to my employees and workmates with a straight face during the time when I had the layoff list in hand and KNEW who was to get the axe in the next couple of days; but was forbidden to leak information. About all I could manage was a consistent pained look and a bleat that “I just can’t tell anyone anything!”. Got to where I could ‘perform’ that with both the person I knew was staying and the old friends I knew were toast…

    Hope I never have to do that kind of thing again. But my ethical bond was the vow of secrecy, so that had to be kept, even if it meant a “polite lie” of not telling. To me, THAT kind of bind is a decent example of an ‘ethical question’…

    @Jason Calley:

    Yeah, I love the way statistics of belief are just made up out of whole cloth. Just who surveyed whom and when, eh? They didn’t ask me…

    And the point of ‘who is a scientist’ was given the lie in the IPCC “scientists’ of record… a motley crew at best.

    Might try your pitch but asking if we can force all the polytheists to follow Judeo-Christian-Muslim teachings as those three collectively make a large majority and worship the same single God. Might take some of the inevitable “blowback” out of it (that comes when using the Jewish example for anything…) Hmmm…. Wonder if there’s a number on percentage of population who smoke dope? ;-) As Islam bans alcohol but accepts M.J. (as I understand it) might make an interesting similar arguement…. 80% of the global population accept M.J. so when do you light up? ;-)


    IMHO “consensus” is antithetical to “science” and “settled science” is a complete oxymoron.

    Wasn’t Newtonian Mechanics pretty much “settled science” and didn’t the “consensus” say it was exactly so? Right up until Einstein… that held right up until Quantum Mechanics that…

    I think that’s the one you were talking about…

  13. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “Might try your pitch but…”

    Good luck, but let me be clear that I would never support the “2% Jewish” argument as either reasonable or rational! It is purely rhetorical and meant to hit the emotional buttons of someone who does not respond to rational argument. As most of your readers (a rare and exalted self-selected group!) have no doubt noted, the majority of homo sap sap are not very sapien. They can be convinced of the need to kill each other, and yet they refuse to understand that you cannot make good facts out of bad data. Funny monkeys…

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    Oh, never meant to imply it was something you supported and clearly understood it was a “reduction to the absurd” argument ;-)

    Perhaps we need a new term (see the posting that just went up…) Homo Academicus Lethargicus?

    I sometimes think of people as “Monkeys with drivers licenses”… Occasionally “Monkeys with guns”… Sometimes “Monkey with a credential”… Don’t know which is worse.

  15. p.g.sharrow says:

    I believe “Monkey with a credential” is by far the most dangerous to the most people at any one time. pg

  16. Mark Miller says:


    Well, I don’t see the “jews and Holocaust” argument being a strong one, because it’s not just the jews who believe it happened. A more snarky example I came up with was the “4 out of 5 dentists choose Crest” ad slogan…given by a corporation no less. “Guess I’m using the wrong toothpaste, then,” that sort of thing.

    When people are not thinking about what they’re saying, you can pound their non-thinking into the dirt with counter-examples, using their own arguments. That still doesn’t mean they’re going to suddenly realize that they’re full of it. It does tend to shut them up, though. :)

    I remember this newspaper columnist I’ve mentioned before arguing with someone else who brought up this petition that something like 31,000 scientists signed, saying they did not buy the CAGW argument. The first point the columnist brought up was that maybe 3 out of the petition signers were credentialed climate scientists (though he was an admirer of James Hansen, who is himself not a credentialed climate scientist. All I had to do was look up his bio.). The other point he made was, “Science is not poll-driven.” This was too good to pass up. I said, “Yes, it is not poll-driven. So saying that a majority of the world’s scientists say CAGW is real is as invalid.” He was talking out of both sides of his mouth, and I’m fairly sure he didn’t even realize it.


    You don’t really learn how to use the very precise language of math “for effect”. You learn about what it can do, sort of… how to use words in a “mathy kind of way” rather than the formal quantified symbolic logic that is real math.

    Hmm. I’m not clear on this. Could you give me an example? I’m always interested to hear how math and science are being taught in schools. Since you’re saying they’re teaching “about math” and not math itself, I can tell that’s bad, but it’s still interesting to me to hear specifics.

    The latest I heard was about 5 years ago, that high school students are not taught how to reason through calculations at all now. It used to be fairly bad when I was a kid, what with the rote techniques I was taught, but now it’s REALLY bad. The stories I’ve heard have involved teachers teaching students how to use calculators, but not teaching them how what they’re doing makes sense in any context. It’s just “When you see this type of problem, Step 1, do this. Step 2, do this, etc.,” all with the calculator. The old goal included learning to problem solve, which really narrows the focus of math I think in a rather destructive direction, but it had some applicability to it nevertheless. The sole goal now is to get the correct answer, and has no vestige of math at all. The idea that understanding how you got that answer is valuable, and that the concepts you used to get there are these formalisms that have wide applicability to other problems the student may encounter down the road, is totally gone.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @Mark Miller:

    Old Way:

    What is the area of a rectangle 3 feet by 7 feet? How much different is it from a square 8 feet on a side?

    New Way:

    Johny lives on a block twice as far from school as Janet. Jimmy lives between them. Which one lives further from school?


    The train leaves town a 2 pm. A car leaving at 4 pm gets to Boston an hour before the train. Which one is faster?

    They have also gone to an “integrated teaching” or some such. So you get social sciences with mathy questions in it and you get math with social messaging…

    If Ivan works at the community center and gets 2 units of community service per day while Jane works at the retirement home and gets 1 unit per hour, who does more community service work to make their community better? Should the two kinds of service get the same units?

    Notice the significant lack of things like formulas? Notice the “relative” type answers without a numeric quantity?

    More formal description:

    Integrated Mathematics 1 provides students the opportunity to study traditional topics from algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics in a problem-centered, connected approach. Students will be expected to describe and translate among graphic, algebraic, numeric, tabular, and verbal representations of relationships and use those representations to solve problems. Appropriate technology, from manipulatives to calculators and application software, should be used regularly for instruction and assessment.

    How about just teaching what 2 x 4 means and how 4/6 can be reduced and solved?

    Or maybe what: square root (25) / 6 =

    Or even how setting up an equation like:

    42/7 * 6 / 2 *14 can be reduced and solved…

    No, they are not happy with teaching “arithmetic”, they want “describe and translate” between “verbal presentation of relationships”…

    Some folks who are walking away from it:

    What is integrated (“reform”) math? It is a way of teaching math in which traditionally separate subject areas, such as algebra and geometry, are integrated into one course of study; and it integrates math with non-math subjects and real-world experiences.

    Current Wayzata parents may recognize that integrated math also expects students to discover mathematical formulas and principles on their own, has students work in groups and direct their own work, and requires an August trip to the local office supply store for a standard-issue calculator. Textbooks are de-emphasized or not used at all.

    In contrast, traditional math is offered in public school districts, private schools, home schools, and college-preparatory charter schools such as Veritas Academy, which opens this fall. Integrated and traditional math options are offered in the Robbinsdale school district, and the Minnetonka district is replacing its integrated math with a traditional math curriculum. It offers the familiar discrete algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and calculus courses, which build knowledge sequentially. It is the math instruction that most parents remember from their high school days.

    In other words, if you are poor in English, you get screwed as it requires a lot more English than learning how to do traditional formula manipulation.

    Also students are expected to collaboratively “discover” mathematics… why actually teach them how to do division of you can let them “discover it”…

    Wayzata 2003 grad Kevin Nelson dropped out of integrated math in middle school to take traditional math classes at the University of Minnesota. “I remember talking to some of my friends who were stuck in integrated math … In their entire unit on quadratics, they did not learn the quadratic equation. I don’t know what they could have possibly learned since quadratics was built on that one single equation.”

    Dr. Lawrence Gray, head of the University of Minnesota School of Mathematics, said in 2003 that university students who had taken integrated math were not learning enough algebra to prepare them for college math and were one to two years below grade-level in their math skills.

    It’s a sucky system designed to remove math from math classes but lets you work on your self esteem and social skills while being mathy… You get to be more exploratory and work in social groupings and spend time talking and developing group problem solving skills… In other words, not math.

    It is, IMHO, part of the general trend away from specific skill based practical knowledge and toward “feel good” PC behaviours.

    I don’t know how much truth to put in it, but one random person told me part of the goal was to make math more verbal so it was more friendly to girls. It let them use their verbal skills better and that was the fair way to do it… Since somehow it was unfair that guys did the symbolic thing better. I bit my tongue remembering a Chinese girl in my school who was THRILLED that she could do just as well at math as it took no English. She was born here, but the family only spoke Chinese at home…

    IMHO “integrated math” is a very bad mistake.

  18. philjourdan says:

    @E.M. Re: 70s Epiphany – All I can say is I guess I am a slow learner. ;)

    Re: the Formulas. An interesting contrast. From the early 70s no less. I spent the first part of the year in a California School learning Geometry, where the teacher told us we did not have to learn the theorems, and so on tests, we could have a cheat sheet.

    I spent the second half of the year in a School in Virginia (inner city no less), where the teacher (and I still remember his name – Ronald Chandler) made us learn them. I found out 2 things. One, learning the theorems was not hard as once you understood them, remembering them was easy. And two was – California education sucked even in the 70s. I also was taking chemistry at the time, and went from solid As, to failing (from California to Virginia). However, the teacher in Virginia (A Mr. Abbot – remarkable how you remember the good teachers), encouraged me, and by the end of the semester, I was 3rd in his 2 classes. It was only a B (only 2 kids got As), but it is my proudest B in all my education.

  19. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “I sometimes think of people as “Monkeys with drivers licenses”… Occasionally “Monkeys with guns”… Sometimes “Monkey with a credential”… Don’t know which is worse.”

    Ah, yes — I do understand. And still, all in all, taking the good with the bad, I find that I am actually quite an admirer of the monkey troop, and carry them in a soft spot of my heart. Poor, lost monkeys; maybe they are not as good as they could be, but they still have their noble and selfless moments!

    There is an old aphorism that “You cannot make a straight house out of crooked lumber.” Thinking of that, one wonders whether it was wise to make humans out of monkey lumber. When my wife and I see some wonderful new example of the extremes of human stupidity, we often look at each other and say, “monkey lumber.” We both know what that means…

  20. p.g.sharrow says:

    Jason, to create a straight house from crooked lumber you must set the crooks against each other. ;-) pg

  21. Jason Calley says:

    @ p.g
    Ooooohhhh! I LIKE that one! Consider it stolen. Now if I can just file off the serial numbers… :)

  22. p.g.sharrow says:

    He who steals from me, steals junk! 8-) be my guest. Never could discern the difference between priceless and worthless? pg

  23. Mark Miller says:


    Gosh, those problems would be confusing to me, in all seriousness, because they’re not specific enough. They’re not “math problems”. They’re modeled on arithmetic and algebra problems, but they don’t deserve that description.

    Johny lives on a block twice as far from school as Janet. Jimmy lives between them. Which one lives further from school?

    The first question that came to my mind was, “Are Johny, Janet, and Jimmy located colinearly?” I thought what if Jimmy is “between” Johny and Janet in terms of North/South, but is way east or west of them? Is that still “between” for the purposes of this question? If so, Jimmy may be further from school than Johny.

    Same thing with this problem:

    The train leaves town at 2 pm. A car leaving at 4 pm gets to Boston an hour before the train. Which one is faster?

    My first impression from reading the question was that the car was leaving from a different town than the train, but since it didn’t say that, I can throw that away.

    I used to have a huge deficit with word problems. I do reasonably well with symbolic logic. My early work with learning about computer programming helped with that quite a bit. With these problems in particular, I can see that you’re supposed to just “assume the obvious.” You’re not supposed to have any questions about the problem. You’re just supposed to take what you’re given and think within the parameters of “common sense” about them. I have also long had a problem with problems like this, because they’re too drop-dead obvious for me. My brain says, “Well wait a minute. This could mean X, Y, or Z.” I consider the possibilities, but that makes the problem make less and less sense, because the problem posed doesn’t constrain the issues. So for me, these problems became more of a psychological test than a math test.

    The problems you gave remind me of the “everyday math” curriculum I heard about several years ago, where arithmetic logic is applied to problems connected with “real world” scenarios, but they lose the idea of arithmetic being an abstraction with principles that are important to learn about.

    I came upon this bit of satire a few years ago, called “Arithmetic instruction over the decades”:

    1. Teaching Math In 1970
    A logger sells a truck load of timber for $1000. His cost of production is 4/5 of the selling price. What is his profit?

    2. Teaching Math In 1980
    A logger sells a truck load of timber for $1000. His cost of production is 4/5 of the selling price, or $800. What is his profit?

    3. Teaching Math In 1990
    A logger sells a truck load of timber for $1000. His cost of production is $800. Did he make a profit?

    4. Teaching Math In 2000
    A logger sells a truck load of timber for $1000. His cost of production is $800 and his profit is $200. Your assignment: Underline the number 200.

    5. Teaching Math In 2008
    A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is totally selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $200. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic now for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers. If you are upset about the plight of the animals in question, counselling will be available.)

    Re. Integrated Math, discovering formulas on their own

    I like the constructivist philosophy of teaching math and science, but the teaching profession has confused the issue by pouring its own desires into it. It’s like with everything else that’s been tried. The original idea is good. The implementation of it gets royally screwed up when any system attempts to use it on a large scale, and it just does more damage. I think the fundamental mistake of reform efforts is the belief that you can just train people to use the method, and then they’ll make the best of it. The truth of the matter is that you can transmit the idea, but the people hearing it, who make the decisions about what to do with it, will have their own interpretations of it, and will see it as a massive “vehicle of change” where they can put in their own ideas for what should happen. So constructivist philosophy becomes this excuse to religiously shun adult influence and rote learning in children’s education, which is not the point at all. The idea behind constructivism, as I understand it, is that students are given an environment or “world” to explore, with some tools or implements, and there are some parameters set for that exploration. The whole point being to teach children how to learn, and to learn important concepts (as determined by adults), which were discovered by great minds of the past, through the experience of doing it, and being spoon fed material as little as possible. So it’s really a combination of “great concepts” with “learning how to learn”. But that’s not what’s being implemented on the wide scale. Inherent in the philosophy is that the great minds who came up with these ideas were indeed unique people. The idea is to *not* assume that every student who shows up is going to be another Galileo (though there will be maybe one child in every group of sufficient size who shares some of his characteristics in thinking). Rather, it’s to help the student in learning what Galileo understood (as an example), without having to be as creative, insightful, or driven to get there. It is a process of discovery, but I’d liken the teacher’s role in this scenario to “setting up the game rules, the play pieces, the playfield, explaining it to the students, and coaching the students on it to play the best game they can,” though it’s not a competitive sport, and not necessarily “played” as a “team”. The discovery requires the students to develop a capacity to explore, apply what they’ve learned previously, and their own creativity to the scenario, to try repeatedly through experimentation and thinking about their results to finally find out what was intended for them to find, and quite a bit they were not intended to find as well. Even though it can have the feel of “teaching students to learn X,” it really sets up a situation where the student works through their own misunderstanding of concepts, and learns skills by themselves in how to clear up those misunderstandings. That’s my experience with it, anyway. Another way of saying it might be “teaching scientific thinking through the back door”.

    A common complaint I’ve heard about how constructivism is implemented is there’s a disdain among its practitioners for repetition, since that’s considered part of rote learning. Repetition is good for learning, but my understanding of what constructivism really promotes is allowing a concept to be integrated into one’s thinking by encountering it from different angles. The student gets repeated exposure to it in different circumstances, so they’re not led to think, “It only applies in this one situation.”

    My own view of “Integrated Math” is it’s an attempt by educators to remove the abstraction to make “math” more “relevant”, because in their minds the more abstract “math” they were taught in school was irrelevant. By doing this, I think they “secularize” it, which I take to mean, “bring it out into the world” of practical reality. The problem is it devalues abstract thinking. I think the people who came up with it learned the wrong lessons from their own experience with arithmetic, and what is commonly called “math”.

    Schools have had trouble teaching real math for a very long time. Even when I was in school, the only class I can look back on and say to myself, “That felt like real math,” was Geometry, and even that was just teaching an aspect of real math, not the whole thing. Most of the “math” courses I had in school were all about learning about mathematical artifacts, and applying them to problems. We were taught the nature of these artifacts through manipulating them, and through that we learned about some specific kinds of abstract reasoning, but hardly any of them had the goal of teaching mathematical thinking. The schools I attended saw math as a tool for solving problems, not as a discipline that had worth all its own.

    To get a sense of why I am kind of down on the “old way”, and what I mean by “real math”, I recommend Jerry King’s book, “The Art of Mathematics.”

  24. Jason Calley says:

    Problem,: Teaching math is hard!
    Solution: Don’t teach math, teach metamath.

  25. Pascvaks says:

    FWIW – I doubt that there is anything ‘accidental’ in the way education in this country has devolved.

  26. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Mark Miller: This is to obtain a BS (literally):

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    Way up at the top is a comment from Verity… I found it in the SPAM queue with one of my own. No idea why… I’m repeating the text here so it’s not lost above:

    This deserves a repost at WUWT to give an even wider audience to this delusion (and they are deluding themselves)

    I’ve given Anthony “carte blanche” to re-post anything from here that he finds of interest.

    FWIW they were filming the presentation, so it might be on line somewhere. If anyone has the time to go looking for it, feel free to post a link. Would be more useful than my (biased?) and fractional memory of the event.

    Per “deluding themselves”: We all delude ourselves. Just some of us are more aware of it.

    Something about being a computer programmer for a living teaches you how often you can make errors. Computers are very unforgiving that way ;-)

    Running a farm or a business does the same. It’s hard to pretend you were right about planting wheat instead of barely when a cold wet turn cuts yield and kills the profit.

    Being an academic makes it easier to sweep the errors under the carpet or just ignore them altogether…

    What surprises me, though, is the degree to which patent failings end up being lauded rather than swept…

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    In checking the bios of folks I found that I’d attributed the dialog of Joseph to Noah and vice versa…

    So I’ve changed the names in the dialog in the posting.

    (In my defense, the names were backward on the overhead projection so the name on the right went with the person on the left… but a check at the Stanford web site clearly showed a familiar face under the other name… so I’ve fixed it. The ‘short biography’ attached to the names was quoted from their posting so was correct and still is. Only the dialog attribution was mislabeled.)

    (though the picture is of a younger age or with softer effects. A more accurate picture is here:,_HSS_2008.jpg though even it is from a while ago 2008 )

  29. Mark Miller says:


    I think there is some reason to believe that. There is some evidence to suggest that the degrading of education was not only for political purposes, but also commercial purposes. This is still something I need to research, but what little information I’ve gotten so far suggests that the influences which have done this are motived by a belief that boils down to academics being of little value. People in power find free thought threatening, because they see it as leading to social disorder. Leaders in big industries have long seen academics as useless. In the early 20th century they complained that nothing was more useless than a college graduate. What people in both politics and industry wanted were people who would support group behavior, under their leadership of course.

    The following 3 videos shed some light on the history of this, though I suspect it casts aspersions that are not entirely warranted against some leaders in education. Think of it as a summary that sheds some light, but should be taken with some grains of salt.

    The following video, a presentation by Peg Liksik, I think brings into high relief what I talked about in the first paragraph. It gives a very detailed account (from 1992) on the goals and machinations of what was then the au currant education reform, Outcome-Based Education (OBE). The “punch line” comes 35 minutes into it, giving what I think is a good analysis of what the purpose of all of it was. There were political goals, but there were also goals created by large industries, incorporated into this system. The primary goals were behavioral, not academic.


    Yep. I came upon the “sustainable education” stuff when I was researching Agenda 21, particularly around ICLEI and LEED certification. IMO “sustainable education” amounts to enrolling in a religious school, though even that could be viewed as an insult to religious schools, because some varieties of them take academics seriously. Here, I’m not seeing that.

    Just offering a counter-example, I saw on 60 Minutes recently a segment on “the Gulen movement,” schools founded in the U.S. on the principles given by a Turkish Muslim cleric. Reportedly, there are no religious teachings in the schools, and they stress math, science, and engineering.

  30. Mike Jonas says:

    Mark Miller – you say of the Gulen movement “Reportedly, there are no religious teachings in the schools“.

    Depends on whose reports you read.
    Even with the large number of foreign-born Islamic teachers and administrators in the Gülen school network, why should people be concerned about these charter schools? One reason is given by Bayram Balci, a Turkish scholar with the Institut Français d’Etudes sur l’Asie Centrale in Grenoble, France. Dr. Balci states that Gülen schools have been established through-out the world to bring about a universal caliphate ruled by Islamic law. Graham Fuller, a former CIA agent and the author of several books on political Islam, says that Gülen is leading “one of the most important movements in the Muslim world today”.

  31. Pascvaks says:

    Re: Gulen Movement

    When it comes to your kids you have to look every gift horse in the mouth; and keep listening every time that damn horse says something.

    Don’t know anything about the Gulen Movement Charter Schools but if they’re anything like Parochial Schools I think I have a clue. I’ll put little Sister Mary George S. Patton, Jr., up against any Mulla Hoola-Hoop Ben Skidoo Hassan any day of the week. Was a time that Public Education wasn’t half bad, went to three of those schools too; but when the Federal Education Propaganda Ministry and the Stormtroopers and Agents from Department of Crudy Justice for Idiots and Anarchists got involved, thanks to the ever incompetent People’s Communist Congress, well things kind’a went South, and West, and North, and East, and no one had any control over the NEA and/or anything else. (You all know the rest of the story.)

    PS: Don’t worry about Sister Mary George, or that Mulla guy, the enemy is us. (Some use caps- “US”;-)

  32. JP Miller says:

    E.M., to be honest, I’m a bit disappointed in you. You are more qualified than 95% of the skeptics out there to ask good questions of people such as these and you ducked the opportunity. Why, exactly? Climate skepticism, especially in our part of the country (I live 5 miles from Stanford), desperately needs people like you to provide facts and thoughtful arguments to counter their ill-founded beliefs. I deal with “these” people every day, many Stanford faculty. Some are willing to listen to thoughtful, informed opinion (many are not, I will admit). Even if one person walked out of that conference ready to investigate the skeptical view of climate science a bit more, it would have been worth your time there. As it is, you’re just preaching to the choir.

  33. Mark Miller says:

    @JP Miller:

    E.M. can speak for himself, but I’d like to offer a response to what you addressed to him. Dealing with alarmists as we all seem to have here, we’ve also learned to look for signs of openness, receptivity to new and interesting information. A critical part of that is an understanding of science, not just “what’s in the journals”, but also having a background in different sciences that would inform the argument, and a capacity to reason about the information that’s been released. What I’ve found is that among alarmists there’s a shortage of knowledge in thermodynamics, and the ability to reason about scientific information, particularly being critical of one’s own notions. The dominant characteristic is their respect for what is in their minds “moral authority”.

    Looking through his post again, it seems to me E.M. was looking for receptivity and scientific understanding among the panelists and the audience, and found it lacking. Everyone there appeared to be convinced of their own position. There was one skeptic who was brave enough to stand up and buck the trend, and ask a reasonable question. You’ll notice in Diffenbaugh’s response (the one person there with scientific credentials), and the lack of audience reaction, that his attempt was like talking to a brick wall, “That’s been dealt with,” offering a nonsensical response (in terms of the so-called refuting literature to which he referred), with no rebuke from the audience. We’ve all seen these tactics employed, and we know what they mean: “Talk to the hand…” We know that attempting to reason with that is pointless. They win the argument by default in such a room, because they, and most of the audience participants, have no capacity to question it. I know it’s really frustrating, because you’d think there must be some way to break through that. Believe me, I think we’ve all tried. I have. There comes a point where you have to just recognize what exists, and that some people have stopped learning. That point of entry has been shut off. It doesn’t matter what you say. You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

    I’m not saying that the one time any of us should speak up and ask the kind of question you’re talking about is in a room where we all agree on the conclusion (that is preaching to the choir). I’m saying that the only time it’s fruitful is in a room where many of the people there are familiar with science, have the capacity to question or challenge their own beliefs, and apply scientific reasoning to the arguments on offer. As I’ve discovered in this debate, there are people who call themselves scientists (it says so right on their credentials), and then there are real scientists! They’re not always the same thing.

  34. E.M.Smith says:

    @J.P. Miller:

    In my own defense, I’d decided to “lay back for the first few then ask”, but all that were asked were “a few”. About 1/2 dozen IIRC. They did about 2, then the ‘skeptic’ who was all of 2 people down from me (so I thought 2 skeptics in a row next to each other would be a bit much and decided to ‘wait 2 then raise the hand’). At that point they did one from the other side of the room and then did the wrap up. ( I might be off on one or two… I didn’t expect to need to remember the number and order of questions.)

    So having 2 specific questions / issues all ready to go and queued up, when I saw the “One More” signal to the microphone person and the index finger pointing at the one in particular on the other side of the auditorium; I was kind of blocked out of asking due to my tendency to “quietly wait my turn”…

    Instead I approached the presenters in the ‘happy talk’ after and raised my points directly with them.

    Yes, I’d have liked to ask for all to hear: “How can you discuss ethics in Climate Science and not discuss Climategate or Gleick?” and “How ethical is the Yamal Tree?”. I screwed up in expecting there to be more than 1/2 dozen questions and being unwilling to act as a ‘microphone hog’ on our side of the auditorium. Sorry. I’m human too.

    @Mark Miller:

    Yes, I was “gauging the audience” and working on subtle rephrasing of my intended questions. Figuring when would be optimal to raise the hand. I’d figured “after just one or two more” when the “last question” flag was given and I realized I’d not jumped on the microphone fast and early when that was the only way to get a question asked, there and then.

    What you described is exactly what I was going through. Thinking “it’s a talk to the hand group” and shifting my intended phrasing to be one that could not be so easily dodged. Asking how they could avoid addressing an ethical question and then expecting them to twist it to a rant about “stolen” emails and / or how it was unfortunate that Gleick had distracted from the real issue of Heartland… but having gotten the question on the floor. That added about a ‘one question delay’ in when I was planning to raise the hand; and that was enough to have the question period truncated.

    I’d originally phrased the question as more of a challenge and needed to shift it to be more indirect, so that at least some folks might actually think about it.

    Oh well. Best laid plans and all that…

    I’d probably have been more “in their face” had I not been sitting between my spouse and my neighbor. Being accused of being a hard core conservative Republican when sitting with a liberal Democrat friend is not so comfortable. Being immediately insulted while in front of the spouse even less. (The neighbor and I sometimes have evenings on the lawn with wine and snacks discussing life, the world, and politics. We agree on many things, BTW, such as the stupidity of the War On Drugs, and the insanity of the debt – though he’s for some more taxes as part of the fix. Oh, and that women ought to be deciding about their bodies and not men, IIRC.) Trying to explain that being Libertarian is not Republican to a room full of “Rabids” doesn’t go well… So while polishing the pitch to avoid that, the timer ran out.

    Had I just jumped in right after Skeptic One, I’d have been typecast from the open (as I had been ‘outed’ by his asking for support) and the question would have been attacked instead of heard. I played for a small buffer and got bupkis. Oh Well.

  35. JP Miller says:

    E.M., I am not unsympathetic at all. It’s understandable that the circumstances made just the right question at the right time difficult/ impossible. Of course, sitting between friend and spouse didn’t make a difficult situation any easier.

    At dinner party after dinner party, I’ve tried making all the thoughtful arguments I can to my “green” friends, but it’s obvious they’re not willing to consider facts. They want to believe we’re doing bad things to the planet. Being secular, they have no other way to deal with guilt (which, for some, I believe to be akin to anxiety or anger… it can be free-floating — i.e., a person can be completely out of touch with its source — but they desperately need an anchor for it so it can be expiated). Environmental pollution is a perfect focus to anchor that guilt and expiate it by voting for those who (in their minds) will fix it with their taxes. Like buying indulgences.

    I would feel vindicated if even one of my friends who professes a belief in CAGW would, as a result of my input, start to wonder, start to read a little, and at least be willing to say, “OK, the science may not really be settled…”

    On another note, and I am going rather far field here, I was good friends with Stephen Scneider’s x-wife back in the 1990’s. Her view was that Steve desperately wanted to be famous (first with “an ice age is coming,” then with “we’re going to overheat the planet”) and that’s what drove him more than the search for truth. She didn’t have bad things to say about Steve more generally. My point is: many scientists are “in it” for fame, not for discovering “what is.”

  36. p.g.sharrow says:

    It would appear that it was a question of the ethics of skeptics that concerned them and not the behavior of “their” kind of people. I am glad to hear you took the effort to observe them in their own setting. To raise questions of their beliefs would not be worth the effort. Religious people are not logical. pg

  37. Pascvaks says:

    I’ve been characterized on many an occassion as a “Spring Butt” and have subscribed to the proposition that “there ain’t no such thing as a stupid question” for many years, but I’ve also had the presence of mind –maybe it’s a gift– to know that there are some venues and situations that offer nothing in return for my effort, nothing but trouble that is. This little ‘discussion’ EM attended appears to fall smack dab in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” category. If you’re going to douse yourself with gasoline and light a match, there ought to be at least a TV News camera present, right? (And just imagine what your better half would have said whenever she wanted to make a “point” and “drill” a hole, for the next 30 years ;-)

  38. Mark Miller says:

    @JP Miller:

    I think your description of alarmists is insightful, and what it reveals is something I’ve picked up now and then as well, that the problem is not so much mental/cognitive as emotional. Your description of their condition reminded me once again (I’ve brought this up before) of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” These videos dramatizing a dictation of John Galt’s speech at the end of the book came to mind, though I do not share Rand’s atheism.

  39. Mark Miller says:

    I meant to highlight the third video I posted, quoting from it:

    …He has no choice about his need of self-esteem. His only choice is the standard by which to gauge it, and he makes his fatal error when he switches this gauge protecting his life into the service of his own destruction; when he chooses a standard contradicting existence, and sets his self-esteem against reality. Every form of causeless self-doubt, every feeling of inferiority, and secret unworthiness, is in fact man’s hidden dread of his inability to deal with existence. But the greater his terror, the more fiercely he clings to the murderous doctrines that choke him. It is not any crime you have ever committed that affects your soul with permanent guilt. It is none of your failures, errors, or flaws, but the blank-out by which you attempt to evade them. It is not any sort of original sin, nor unknown prenatal deficiency, but the knowledge and fact of your basic default of suspending your mind, refusing to think. Fear and guilt are your chronic emotions. They are real, and you do deserve them, but they don’t come from the superficial reasons you invent to disguise their cause. Not from your selfishness, weakness, or ignorance, but from a real and basic threat to your existence: Fear, because you have abandoned your weapon of survival. Guilt, because you know you have done it volitionally. Those irrational wishes that draw you to your creed, those emotions you worship as an idol, on whose alter you sacrifice the earth; that dark, incoherent passion within you, which you take as the voice of God, or of your glands, is nothing more than the corpse of your mind. An emotion that clashes with your reason, an emotion that you cannot explain or control is only the carcass of that stale thinking which you forbad your mind to revise.

    As there can be no causeless wealth, so there can be no causeless love, or any sort of causeless emotion. An emotion is a response to a fact of reality, an estimate dictated by your standards. To love is to value. The man who tells you that it is possible to value without values, to love those whom you appraise as worthless is the man who tells you it is possible to grow rich by consuming, without producing, and that paper money is as valuable as gold. Observe that he does not expect you to feel a causeless fear. When his kind get into power they are expert at giving you ample cause to feel the fear by which they desire to rule you, but when it comes to love, the highest of emotions, you permit them to shriek at you accusingly that you are a moral delinquent if you are incapable of feeling causeless love. When a man feels fear without reason, you call him to the attention of a psychiatrist. You are not so careful to protect the meaning, the nature, and the dignity of love.

    Love is the expression of one’s values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person; the emotional price paid by one man for the joy of the virtues he receives from another. Your [liberal] morality demands that you divorce your love from values, and hand it down to any vagrant, not as response to his worth, but as response to his need; not as reward, but as alms; not as a payment for virtues, but as a blank check on vices.

    I revised the last paragraph just a tad to make it clearer what she meant.

  40. p.g.sharrow says:

    An interesting article on FOX about those that believe in human caused climate change vrs. those that are skeptical.
    A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. pg

  41. Pascvaks says:

    @ Mark Miller-
    There are huggers and shruggers, and I notice I’ve been shrugging more than hugging the last 20 years. The natural tendancey for sure is to hug, it’s something we’re actually made to do and everything in our system screams to hug, but there comes a day when you find yourself in the middle of somewhere, or up a creek without a paddle, and once you calm down a little, you start to look around, and think. Something about thinking causes people to shrug.

    The older I get the less impressed I am with anything that I see, hear, taste, smell, and feel around me now, and the more I seem to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel the past (even back through the stale pages and old legends of history), and the more I hope and pray for those who will take my place. We really haven’t changed much in the last several thousand years but maybe one day we will.

  42. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Pascvaks: Interesting observation on “huggers and shruggers” . I have never been a hugger just too standoffish and too much thinking I guess. However as to “the good old days” I have too good a memory about the “good old days”, they weren’t! These ARE the good days! pg

  43. Pascvaks says:

    @ pg-

  44. Mark Miller says:


    Re. the Fox article

    I found the warmists’ response to the study interesting. They glommed onto the cultural argument: “It’s so interesting how cultural biases influenced the outcome.” Yes it is, isn’t it? (holding up a mirror to them) But no, the people who believe in individual liberty are being “political”. HA! Political relative to what, pray tell? The rep. from the Union of Concerned Scientists went on to say that the “objective science says we’re warming the planet.” There you have it. The science is on “their side”, so we’re being “political”. Oy!

    This article brought to mind something else. I’ve been hearing this meme for a long time from warmists that their theory is being “challenged”, and I used to wonder about that. They used to say it was being “improved” by these challenges, and was still standing up. What mystified me was I was still *looking* for the tested model. Where was it? More recently I’ve heard this idea that the theory of CAGW has been tested and challenged, and it has withstood the fire. Then it hit me what’s really been going on. Every once in a while there’s something about the way this whole CAGW business is playing out that pisses me off. This is one of them.

    I’ve thought for a while that a trick has been being played on everybody, but I thought it had to do with stuff like the “hockey stick”, playing with data to “make it look right”. Now I see a different aspect of the trick. What they’re really saying is, “We have made an assertion, and we have knocked down all of the tests that say it’s wrong. So the assertion stands.” Now, they really haven’t knocked down all of the challenges to it, because they’ve used silly notions like “that scientist made some errors, so therefor his/her work is entirely invalidated,” but for the sake of argument, let’s stay with that claim.

    Richard Lindzen made it plain a few years ago, saying that the warmists “don’t have anything.” They have never rigorously tested their theory. Interestingly, one reason we can see indications of this is in the errors that critics of CAGW have made. Trying to get a fix on what the climate is doing is pretty hard, even using our best instruments. So how can the warmists’ say they know what they’re talking about? They build themselves up by bashing their critics.

    The reason they’ve gotten the traction they have is precisely due to our cultural ignorance of how science works. In this environment, an imaginary, though clearly described problem, given by authority figures as “real”, looks more like truth than a new science that still seems wobbly, getting its sea legs. The reason they’ve been “able” to say that “it’s withstood the challenges” is entirely due to the fact that the warmists have criticized the work of their critics. Period. The mere fact that criticism of criticism exists means that the original criticism is invalid, and the assertion becomes “tested”.

    They have short-circuited the scientific process to say that scientific “truth” is obtained by asserting something–you don’t have to test it rigorously, just assert it, and legitimize it with some anecdotal evidence, and/or a computer model, anything that can’t be refuted off hand using common sense–and the only way to refute it is by another assertion that is not criticized by any means, even a computer model. As long as refutations can be criticized in a way that people will buy, the original assertion stands. So the trick is they’ve set up a “heads I win, tails you lose” legitimizer for figments of our imagination. They’ve chosen means of legitimizing that make sense to many people–as far as they can believe. They’re just beyond most people’s comprehension so that their common sense doesn’t kick in and say, “Hey, wait a minute!” The means of delegitimizing it are incomprehensible to most. Warmists re-legitimize using a form of argument that people can understand, even if they may not understand the details.

    Coming to understand this, I think whoever leaked the Climategate e-mails was fairly cognizant of this dynamic, presenting evidence that most people could understand–a narrative (along with some juicy data for scientists to mull over)–showing what the warmists were up to, thereby delegitimizing their work in the eyes of the public. The warmists came back with their attempt to re-legitimize, saying that it was all about personalities. just people shooting their mouths off. What we saw was “out of context”, and people couldn’t interpret what they were seeing accurately, because after all, these are scientists doing things most people can’t understand. “They acted unprofessionally, but they did nothing wrong,” was the line. “Nope. Nothing to see here. Don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain…”

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