Friday, December 18, 2009

Objectivism & Politics, Part 36

Politics of Human Nature 20: Grievance Politics. In any advanced society there will likely be a number of individuals whose political beliefs are strongly influenced by grievances, either real or imagined, against various groups or institutions. We see this on the left with identity politics and anti-capitalist hysteria and on the right among rabble-rousing conspiracy theorists and those who fear expanding government. Grievance politics is an important factor in the socio-political equation; and grievances against “capitalism,” “globalism,” “markets” serve as an important stumbling block to the political ideals of Objectivism. And even more to the point, grievances against the free market seem to be part and parcel of capitalism itself. As Schumpeter explained in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy:

There are the daily troubles and expectations of trouble everyone has to struggle with in any social system — the frictions and disappointments, the greater and smaller unpleasant events that hurt, annoy, and thwart. I suppose that every one of us is more or less in the habit of attributing them wholly to that part of reality which lies without his skin, and emotional attachment to the social order — i.e., the very thing capitalism is constitutionally unable to produce — is necessary in order to overcome the hostile impulse by which we react to them.… Secular improvement that is taken for granted and coupled with individual insecurity that is acutely resented is of course the best recipe for breeding social unrest.



We see these grievances in full regalia in the recent global-warming orgies at Copenhagen Summit. Although ostensibly held to save the world from imminent environmental catastrophe, the most prominent and real motive of the global-warming hysteria is hatred and grievance against capitalism. We saw that quite clearly during an anti-capitalist tirade by the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. When Chavez said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening. When he concluded by saying “socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell….let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us,” he received a standing ovation. Many global warming advocates are merely disappointed socialists nursing grievances against capitalism and making use of environmentalism as a pretext for sabotaging the free market. With the recent exposure of emails from leading climate “scientists” at East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, the fraudulent nature of the Global Warming movement is beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet the exposure of the fraud has exercised no effect on the vast majority of global warming hysterics—which proves the power of their real motivations, which stem, at least in part, from grievances against capitalism and the West.

So we have this powerful force fueled by grievances against capitalism. What about grievances operating in the opposite direction? Could they be used by Objectivists and other advocates of “laissez-faire” to counter-balance the grievances on the other side?

While such “pro-market” (actually anti-government) grievances obviously exist, whether they can be used to cancel out the anti-capitalist grievances is unlikely. There are two forces that operate against them. First, it should be noted that if these grievances actually managed to move the country away from big government and toward freer markets, this very effect would tend to undermine itself over time. As grievances against big government push society closer to the ideal of laissez-faire, this very movement toward freer markets and less government will at the same time lessen the grievance level against government interference in markets; for as the role of government is lessened in people’s life, government will become less of a target for grievances, since people tend to focus their grievances against those institutions that most directly affect their lives. As the government’s role shrinks in people's lives, the role of other institutions, such as corporations and unions, will increase, thus making them a riper target for grievance. So built into the institutional structure of society is a kind of mechanism which serves as a brake of any movement toward laissez-faire. As a country moves toward socialism, grievances against government increase until the movement is reversed. But the same thing happens as the market gains in strength.

In addition to this, there’s another type of grievance that has to be taken into account: the grievance that arises when a government service is abolished. Since Obama’s election and the dominance of the left-wing of the Democratic Party in Congress, there has been growing resentment against the expansion of government in America. This, in combination with the government's gross fiscal irresponsibility, could lead to a reduction in government when changes in the political climate work their way through the political system. Yet if any government services end up being curtailed, this itself would be a potential cause of widespread grievances. The American public may not like taxes or big government, but they are rather fond of government services like social security and medicare. Here, then, is another source of grievance which would act as a brake toward the Objectivist political ideals.

Socialistic and capitalistic movements in society tend to be cyclical, as the trend toward either tendency fuels opposition. Before Objectivism could achieve its social and political goals, it would have to attain ideological supremacy. But all the empirical evidence at our disposal strongly suggests that this would be impossible. Many human beings nurse grievances against dominant institutions. That is just the in the nature of things: nothing to be done for it.

44 comments:

Keith said...

"With the recent exposure of emails from leading climate “scientists” at East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, the fraudulent nature of the Global Warming movement is beyond a reasonable doubt."

I'm glad you're maintaining a sense of proportion about all this, Greg.

Abolaji said...

I'm glad you're maintaining a sense of proportion about all this, Greg.

Have you actually read some of the emails and some of the problems with what those scientists did (e.g. how the "hockey stick" was created)? It was very obviously fraudulent. Whether Global Warming is man-made or not is an open question given the invisible nature and the complexity of causation, but empirical data distortion masquerading as science is fraud.

Mark Plus said...

I don't understand why conservatives have gravitated towards global warming denialism. A technology to control Earth's climate, like something an advanced civilization from science fiction could wield, fits organically into the right's dominator world view, along with nuclear power and genetic engineering (two technologies leftists tend to oppose). Instead of doing the obvious thing with this potential, conservatives and libertarians have thrown it away and let their opponents use it as a tool to attack their core values.

Setting aside the issue of scientific fraud, the right logically should insist all the more on getting the climate control science correct so that we can use it increase man's power over nature.

gregnyquist said...

Mark Plus: "Setting aside the issue of scientific fraud, the right logically should insist all the more on getting the climate control science correct so that we can use it increase man's power over nature."

Who on the right is against getting climate control science correct? There may be people on the right who are skeptical that it's possible for so-called climate control to get it right. After all, it is potentially hazardous to experiment with the weather; and in the absence of empirical experiments, all claims about climate control have to be taken with a large dose of skepticism.

Mark Plus said...

There may be people on the right who are skeptical that it's possible for so-called climate control to get it right. After all, it is potentially hazardous to experiment with the weather; and in the absence of empirical experiments, all claims about climate control have to be taken with a large dose of skepticism.

The right shows an interesting bias in the kinds of gambles with the environment it wants to take. Conservative business men haven't hesitated to introduce pesticides, genetically modified crops and even man-made radioisotopes into the environment, many of which eventually wind up in our bodies. Reason magazine and the Cato Institute have published articles for years about the wonders of pesticides and the irrationality of fearing them in our food supply. You'd get the impression from that literature that conservatives and libertarians want to use pesticides as a salad dressing. Ironically I've met ones who insist on eating organic produce, even though the food purity fetish seems more of a left-wing psychological quirk.

But bring up the possibility of scientific intervention into the climate, and for some reason they reject the idea as a dangerous and irresponsible fantasy.

Abolaji said...

"Ironically I've met ones who insist on eating organic produce, even though the food purity fetish seems more of a left-wing psychological quirk."

Mark, I'm finding it hard to cross reference your statements with actual individuals I know on the left or right or how I feel about the movements in general. For example, given what you are writing, one would be forgiven for thinking that the owner of Whole Foods was a bleeding leftist, while he seems to be more of a socially conscious libertarian. Maybe you could present a few examples of prominent individuals that fit the stereotypes you are pushing?

When libertarian think-tanks support pesticides or genetic crop modification, it is usually on the basis of some scientific evidence that the opposition is being alarmist about scientific progress having side-effects. Whether the opposition is *actually* alarmist or not is, IMO, open to debate, but I think a couple of things come into play here that are important:

1. the general tendency of people to be guided by ideology in the absence of hard empirical evidence.
2. the ability of an individual to know the limits of substituting ideology for empirical evidence.

For me, the first test of any science is how open it is to having its data and methods reviewed by intelligent people at large. Currently, the climate change movement fails that test by a country mile. When you have an expert supporter of Global Warming at Georgia Tech telling you that opposition would dissipate if debate was more open and evidence was reviewable, that tells you that someone is at least acknowledging the key problem.

Abolaji said...

This book review makes for interesting reading.

http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/appleyard_12_09.html

JJ said...

"With the recent exposure of emails from leading climate “scientists” at East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, the fraudulent nature of the Global Warming movement is beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet the exposure of the fraud has exercised no effect on the vast majority of global warming hysterics—which proves the power of their real motivations, which stem, at least in part, from grievances against capitalism and the West."

Did Sarah Palin write that? Really, Greg? A denialist? Say it ain't so.

Abolaji said...

Here is the first of a 2-part series that might interest people who think that climate skeptics are just a bunch of Palin-loving hacks:

http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2009/12/18/terence-corcoran-a-2-000-page-epic-of-science-and-skepticism-part-1.aspx

It's not a perfect substitute for actually reading some of the e-mails, but it's the next best thing. There are various blogs that link to the worst emails.

Again, it's clear to any sophisticated mind that showing that the scientists were engaging in Cargo Cult science does not prove that Global warming is not man-made, but I would like to see someone who has actually read the emails explain why the emails in contention are not worthy of serious investigation by qualified auditors.

JJ said...

Fair enough, Abolaji. I'll take a look at what you posted. I have read many of the e-mails, but I will admit that I have not sat down and studied them word for word. However, it is my understanding that, and this is coming from commentary on both sides of the aisle, the most "controversial" statements in the e-mails aren't really that controversial at all. And that once taken into context (bearing in mind these were people who are communicating between one another, and share a certain understanding of what the other is getting across in a way an outside observer might misinterpret the true meaning). But I'll take a look at your link. Anyway, I've read mostly the science blogs, and have found that a good majority of them have tackled the e-mails and found no reason to worry about a "fraud" or "conspiracy". Granted, you might say that the "scientists" (I hate to use the quotation marks here, because, some people have used quotes in order convey that they aren't really true scientists) are all part of this grand conspiracy, whether they are consciously aware of it or not, but in the end it's not like I'm going to give more credence to what a political ideologue has to say versus someone who has dedicated their life to the field. I guess my biggest disappointment in Greg is that he seems to make the firm conclusion that the climate scientists are frauds, or engaging in some amount of fraud, based on evidence that 1) was stolen (lets not forget that these individuals e-mails were hacked without their knowledge, which is a crime in and of itself) and 2) is highly susceptible to misinterpretation, especially if you are coming at it from any one of the wings of political philosophy. The data, however, still stands on its own, and that, I believe, is what is most important. So fraud? Really? I would love Greg to expand on that if he would be so kind for this avid reader (but first time commenter) of his blog.

JJ said...

OK. I read the article. It seemed like a fair observation to me. The author did his homework. My take from the article is that the science is caught up, now, in the politics as much as the politics is in the science. Also, climate scientist need to focus on the climate, and economist need to focus on the economy. Mixing the two, as the article seems to suggest happened, is simply a recipe for disaster. Let the chips fall where they may. Finally, simply because the scientist struggled with complex problems and data that didn't always sync, as well as big egos and insider scuffles, doesn't really seem to be more than people being people in my opinion. Did we expect them to be robots, who all got along just fine, and the data always made complete sense without ever there being any contradictory findings? Skepticism is fine. But I see no fraud there. I see no conspiracy, other than working together to figure out the complexities of climate science. I'm not saying these men are noble, or without their own agendas, but they are experts at what they do. I highly doubt their real goals are to prove man is evil and causing global warming in order to secure their ranks in the coming socialist one world government, or whatever. So if that's not the case what then, if anything, would be their motive to engage in fraud? The desire for research grants to engage in more fraud? That makes not sense. Why not just engage in actual science to get those research grants? Unless they are padding their personal bank accounts, and the best way to get that money is by convincing man that he is responsible for the earths warming. Once again, I highly doubt that's the case, maybe it is on very isolated incidents, but no system is without some form of corruption. At least to my knowledge. So what else is their reason for fraud? Purely political? Because they hate the free market so much they want to expand the government, etc? That seems like a poor reason to dedicate yourself to the study of climate science, if all you want to do is change the political geography of this planet. Why not just run for office, or better yet, write a blog? I think these men are genuinely trying to find the answers, and in some cases, they have run up against their own stubbornness and egos, but when you read the science behind the madness, it's not unreasonable (at least to the lay person, which is all I am). So with that, healthy skepticism is fine by me, but polarizing words like "fraud", in the face of so much evidence in favor of Anthropogenic climate change, too me is completely unreasonable, and sounds like the "science haters" such as of the Palin variety more than a blog dedicated to logic and intellectual discourse (which I thought was above Wasilla).

Xtra Laj said...

JJ,

You wrote many questions that I wish I could address, but I would spend so much of my time doing so that it is really not worth it. What I will do is provide a few articles that I think might help you see what the problem is if you read them (by the way, I hope you read part 1 and part 2 of the articles that I provided).

The first is from that progressive who speaks truth to all power, Alexander Cockburn:

http://www.counterpunch.com/cockburn12182009.html

Note all the stuff he uses to argue that global warming scientists do not have models that align with the past or predict the future, and that some physicists have even disputed global warming from first principles. These arguments might be wrong, but they sound pretty good to a lay man, don't they? The problem with being a layman in a field as mathematically complex as climate science is that unless you know who predicted *what* and whose model best accounts for the future based on some *important* test (for example, evolution predicts the fossil record better than creationism), you are left to simply go with your ideology.

Next is an article in 2005 which shows how the two greatest antagonists of the CRU, McIntyre and McKitrick.


http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/Climate_L.pdf

Despite doing good analysis, they were dismissed by scientists because they were not published initially. It also suggests some of the work of Mann/Jones in preventing them from being published, work made clear by the emails now discovered. McIntyre had used the Freedom of Information act to request the source data of climate scientists and was stonewalled for long periods of time until the recent scandal came out and the data was provided two days ago!

Here is the longest article, by Lindzen, who some think is tainted because of his support of tobacco companies in the past. However, this *is* is his field of expertise.

http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0809/0809.3762.pdf

All of this shows there was a systematic use of power to prevent climate skeptics from publishing in established journals.

Don't let Michael Mann fool you with his Washington Post
editorial

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/17/AR2009121703682.html

that this has to do with Palin.

The point here is that in the
absence of

1) clear predictions which can be falsified or supported by evidence, and
2) the ability of other researchers to replicate and test the findings of scientists

why are you so sure that the science is untainted?

People accuse Lindzen of being a hack, but his argument has always been that Climate is way too complex to accept the simple view of the greenhouse effect. He might be wrong, but again, if he is being *suppressed*, as opposed to being repeatedly challenged on the basis of data available to all, how do we proceed?

Wells said...

Long one (1-3)

There are things that The emails of the East Anglia University's Climate Research Unit do, and there are things that they don't do.

The emails don't prove that the earth isn't getting hotter. The ice melting in the Arctic seem to tell a different story. As do other data sets that could be had by anybody on the internet. So flippantly dismissing climate research in the whole as fraudulent is pretty dumb.

Most of the emails don't seem to mean anything, it's just regular chatter going back and forth between people who work together. Since the leaked emails have to do with climate research only, this means that it's really a lab like many others, not an epicenter of cartoonish supervillany.

Here are the actual problems.

(A) Attempts to get people fired for disagreement with their theory.

Don't tell me this hasn't happened in any other area of research before. Science is a contact sport. Grow a thicker skin, or seek work with institutions that are not cowardly. If you can't do these things you need another line of work, maybe one where you have to ask customers if they would also like fries with that.

(B) attempts to use the Peer Review to deny publication for people regardless of the quality of their work for disagreement with their theory.

This is wrong. Anything should be published provided that it is the product of experiments that have a connection to reality. If a pro Anthropogenic global warming scientist reads a paper by an anti Anthropogenic global warming scientist and can find nothing wrong with it scientifically or logically, then they should wave it through; and vice-versa.

Wells said...

(2-3)

(C) Denying other researchers access to raw data, algorithms, programs, intermediate data, and other information needed to do peer review, as well as the destruction of parts of the same data.

Apparently climate skeptics had been putting in requests to the Climate Research Unit for statistical data in order to verify that the conclusions of the Climate Research Unit were actually correct. They put in a lot of requests, These people's requests were denied more often than not. The researchers were furious since they believed that the climate skeptics wished to have their work done for them, and they also believed that they were being filibustered (If we send source code, they will want an executable, if we send a windows version, they will want to run it on a mac, etc). There are also intellectual property concerns (Some of their code was owned by the US and UK governments. They also did not want to get 'scooped' by other scientists)

Any data set that has grown large enough to no longer fit on the hard drive will start to get pruned or archived in some way. I've seen it happen myself as a professional developer. erased raw data doesn't mean conspiracy if the data set was multiple petabytes. It means that they didn't want to buy the hard drives.
As to not sharing what data they decided to keep, the CRU should stop doing this. They should come up with a policy for what they should give out to other researchers while protecting intellectual property that is not theirs (and maybe suing people who use EAU CRU code without attribution), and giving data without respect to who wants it. Adjusted data, Algorithms for adjustments, Results of simulations, and algorithms used for the main experiment I would peg as the minimum. If they want to provide samples of the raw data and source code and a Linux executable that would be nice of them.
If someone asks for more, then they should question their motives, and their work ethic.

All of that being said, there are places on the internet that a person could go if they wanted to download some raw data. Lots of people demanding the CRU's raw data have no intention of actually using it for anything, they haven't used the data that's already public after all.

(D) Massaging numbers to look better for scientific purposes.

This is wrong but not the wrong which people attach the word fraudulent to except if they wish to score meaningless political points.

It reminds me of Mathematics courses back in high-school and college. As every student of math knows, the answers for the odd numbered problems are in the back of the book. Teachers of math know this too, so answers are actually pretty cheap, what is needed to pass is a series of steps to get from the problem to the answer that make sense logically. Stumped students will work backwards if doing so is easier.

The difference between math class and climate research is that there is no book, the answers are not in the back of it, and the answers are expensive, not cheap. The ultimate answer is rather well known (The Earth really is getting hotter), But apparently the models won't get them there. This calls for more pride in the workmanship, and the willingness to junk it all and try again if need be.

(E) Massaging numbers to look better for political purposes, and keeping an eye on political that are the result of their efforts and shading their efforts to have a more positive effect on the politics.

Everybody else has an opinion on the Earth's climate, and climate researches can and maybe should be the same way. I have no problem with climate researchers being members of Al Gore's entourage while not at work. However they should leave Al Gore's entourage when at work, and concentrate on finding out what is actually going on, regardless of their political beliefs on the matter.

Wells said...

(3-3)

(F) Hatred of anti anthropogenic global warming scientists

A person has a right to hate anyone they feel like. They are part of the community though. If an A-AGW scientist is dumb, say so. But if they do credible work, acknowledge it.

(G) Buggy code

They need to fix it, Now. Unlike emails, code can only be interpreted one way, the way the machine will interpret it. I understand that scientists don't write the best code, and usually this just has to be dealt with if it is not going to ever be sold commercially. But this is currently beyond the complaints of unreadable researcher written code, it's actually negatively impacting the CRU's ability to find the truth. Find someone who actually knows how to program to rewrite it.

(H) Death Threats

Apparently members of the East Anglia University's Climatic Research Unit have been sent death threats.

The people who have done this should be hunted down and either shot, or arrested and convicted, depending on how justice is practiced in their country of origin.

Daniel Barnes said...

Thanks for the smart and thoughtful post, Wells. Have a merry Christmas...;-)

Xtra Laj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Xtra Laj said...

Wells,

I agree with the substance of all of your points - what I would emphasize would be different. The sociobiology debates got pretty heated.

On "fraudulent" - what constitutes fraud in science and what constitutes fraud in business are not quite the same and I was using the common sense, business understanding of the term.

Science has a much higher standard for fraud than business, and choosing to represent things in a better light than they are is not fraud in science, but it can be and often is in business if it was done knowingly and materially affects decision making. As long as we agree it is wrong, then I can agree that the word "fraudulent" may be over the top by scientific standards, where that term is usually reserved for data creation with no real source.

In this case, I agree the the focus should be on improving the quality of the audit process and the predictive ability of the models. However, when aspersions are cast on "climate science", while some might take that to mean that the science is no better than alchemy (makes me wonder how such people view meteorology), I think most people take that to mean that politicization has created an environment where imprecision and limitations in AGW analysis get dismissed to pretend that things are far more certain than they seem. And maybe AGW has been thoroughly vetted vs. other explanations and I'm just ignorant of all the science. I have less confidence in this after viewing those emails.

Merry Christmas to all!

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Keith said...

"Have you actually read some of the emails and some of the problems with what those scientists did (e.g. how the "hockey stick" was created)? It was very obviously fraudulent. Whether Global Warming is man-made or not is an open question given the invisible nature and the complexity of causation, but empirical data distortion masquerading as science is fraud."

I have! I thought the emails were initially very troubling actually. I've also been directed to consider these however:

http://www.pewclimate.org/docUploads/east-anglia-cru-hacked-emails-12-09-09.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXesBhYwdRo

http://throughagreenlens.com/2009/12/06/climategate-what-you-need-to-know/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P70SlEqX7oY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJFZ88EH6i4

http://www.pewclimate.org/what_s_being_done/in_the_congress/7_27_06.cfm

This whole situation strikes me as a call for greater transparency in climate science more than anything else. I still think the FOIA denials are hard to defend though and that an investigation (which is being undertaken by the U.N. currently) should be done anyway. I'll be reading it when it comes out so I can rely on something other than what self-appointed experts on blogs or in the newsmedia are saying.

Keith said...


Who on the right is against getting climate control science correct?


Members in Congress like Joe Barton sure seem to. Barton has objected to the entire idea of "climate control" or what have you on the basis that you "cannot regulate god". There are quite a few like him. I think this is an unfortunate result of the politicization of Climate Science that has not been helped by an association with Al Gore.

gregnyquist said...

Keith: Members in Congress like Joe Barton sure seem to. Barton has objected to the entire idea of "climate control" or what have you on the basis that you "cannot regulate god". There are quite a few like him.

There's an important difference the science of "climate control" and actually attempting to control the climate. Being against the latter does not mean one is against the former. It is a serious error to conflate the two.

Although there is certainly a large scientific aspect to climate science, much that passes for climate science is not scientific in the same sense that chemistry and physics are science. Because of the inability to isolate variables and run experiments in a meaningful way, we have know exact knowledge of how climate works. If we did, we could predict, with a high degree of accuracy, climate change (or at least predict it in relation to how much "greenhouse gases" are emitted into the atmosphere). We can't even predict the weather with any high degree of accuracy. The best we can do is make educated guesses based on scientific data. That's a great help, but we need to understand the limitations of human understanding, which in many domains of experience are very great (particularly when it comes to making predictions).

To anyone who understands scientific methodology and the limits of the human mind wherever you have very complex mutual dependence among causal factors coupled with the inability to run empirical tests isolating these varied factors, the claims of anthropogenic global warming are simply not credible. We don't know enough to make any exact judgments about these issues. The most we can do is make educated guesses. This is why any talk of consensus (which doesn't exist in any case) is irrelevant. There can no more be a meaningful consensus about anthropogenic global warming than there can about the effectiveness of the economic stimulus.

Nullifidian said...

Although there is certainly a large scientific aspect to climate science, much that passes for climate science is not scientific in the same sense that chemistry and physics are science. Because of the inability to isolate variables and run experiments in a meaningful way, we have know exact knowledge of how climate works. If we did, we could predict, with a high degree of accuracy, climate change (or at least predict it in relation to how much "greenhouse gases" are emitted into the atmosphere). We can't even predict the weather with any high degree of accuracy.

Climatologists can predict the degree of climate change within a reasonable margin of error. People just aren't listening to them when they do so, but that doesn't mean the predictions don't exist.

This is completely unrelated to predicting the weather, because weather is not climate.

To anyone who understands scientific methodology and the limits of the human mind wherever you have very complex mutual dependence among causal factors coupled with the inability to run empirical tests isolating these varied factors, the claims of anthropogenic global warming are simply not credible.

As a practicing scientist, albeit not in climatology, I have to say that this strikes me as an almost positivist approach to the philosophy of science. It's not like "complex mutual dependence among causal factors" is unique to climatology. There are canonically conjugate variables in quantum mechanics which are not separable, and hence cannot be isolated for empirical study, one cannot isolate a "naked quark" but quantum chromodynamics is still science. It gets even worse in biology, where the number of interacting parts and pathways number in the tens of thousands in any given individual. We cannot isolate and test them all, nor can we separate genes from development from the environment, and yet we are still capable of making sound empirical conclusions.

If climatology is "simply not credible", then neither is evolution, quantum mechanics, relativity, and much of chemistry on the same basis.

It seems to me that you, here, are in the same boat as Ayn Rand. You're criticizing a discipline from the outside on a philosophical basis that would have been old-fashioned and idiosyncratic even 50 years ago.

The leaked e-mails that you tout as evidence of widespread fraud are simply what scientists are like when speaking to other scientists. They're dismissive of climate change denialists in the exact same way that I am dismissive of creationists or my colleagues in physics are dismissive of those who try to disprove relativity. Being involved on a day-to-day basis in the science gives you a shorthand with your colleagues that can be susceptible of misinterpretation, especially by ideologues on a mission. The climate change denialists don't like, for example, that someone suggested boycotting a journal they took over? Tough luck. I boycott some 'journals' of dubious repute in my own field, like Rivista di Biologia, because of their reputation too. That's what we all do. Where you publish is almost as important as what you publish. If the only place you can sell your idea is in a crackpot journal, then you're going to look like a crackpot by association. And yet when someone dares speak this obvious fact, they're treated as if it's a conspiracy to "gang up" on the poor little abused climate change denialist faction.

Michael Prescott said...

Personally, I think it's a mistake to use the term "denialists" to refer to AGW skeptics. That term should be restricted to those who deny conclusively proven facts, like the Holocaust or the shape of the earth.

Whatever one thinks of AGW, it is obviously not in that category. It remains a controversial and unproven theory dependent on questionable computer models and heavily manipulated data. (Note that I'm referring to AGW, not just GW; it seems clear enough that there has been some increase in global temperatures since the 19th century -- maybe 1.5 degrees F. or less -- but the cause remains controversial.)

The real import of the East Anglia emails isn't the snarky comments made by the scientists, but the accompanying code, which show that the data had been massaged to the point where the original figures could not even be recovered. Some of the code writers even complained about this in asides embedded in the data files.

At any rate, Greg's larger point -- that enthusiasm for AGW regulations goes hand in hand with hostility to capitalism -- is patently obvious. One might even say it's "undeniable."

Abolaji said...

Nullifidian,

How certain are you about the correctness of AGW theorizing?

gregnyquist said...

"As a practicing scientist, albeit not in climatology, I have to say that this strikes me as an almost positivist approach to the philosophy of science."

Why "positivist." It would seem to me very much non-positivist, even anti-positivist, since I am questioning the idea that we must believe any claim made by any clique calling themselves scientists. I'm sorry, but not all claims made on behalf of science are "equal."

"It's not like 'complex mutual dependence among causal factors' is unique to climatology."

But complex mutual dependence is not the deciding the factor: it's when such mutual dependence leads to the inability to isolate variables in experiments. I've studied the methodology of social sciences for over twenty years, and I know of what I speak. We still don't know, for example, what effect the economic stimulus had; nor can we ever know. The best we can do is make educated guesses. This is why there is no consensus in economics on the issue.

Without the ability to run experiments, claims can't be empirically tested. They are not falsifiable, which, if we followed Popper's criterion, would place them outside of science.

"Climatologists can predict the degree of climate change within a reasonable margin of error."

They can? Since when? And what is meant by "reasonable margin of error"?

But this doesn't quite get to the heart of the matter. What empirical tests do they have demonstrating the precise (or near precise) relation between carbon emissions and global warming? What do they have besides computer models?

"It gets even worse in biology, where the number of interacting parts and pathways number in the tens of thousands in any given individual. We cannot isolate and test them all, nor can we separate genes from development from the environment, and yet we are still capable of making sound empirical conclusions."

I'm not sure which sound empirical conclusions are being referred to here. Although I've tended to be sympathetic to certain strains in Darwinism (particularly as developed by Popper and Hayek), I've been reading Berlinski lately and find much of his skepticism warrented. Knowledge is fundamentally practical; it must prove its worth in experience. Where the speculative side of knowledge begins to outweigh the empirical, the experimental, the practical, the level of uncertainty tends to rise. Passing off this speculative element as "science" will hardly remedy the circumstances.

Abolaji said...

I'm not sure which sound empirical conclusions are being referred to here. Although I've tended to be sympathetic to certain strains in Darwinism (particularly as developed by Popper and Hayek), I've been reading Berlinski lately and find much of his skepticism warrented. Knowledge is fundamentally practical; it must prove its worth in experience. Where the speculative side of knowledge begins to outweigh the empirical, the experimental, the practical, the level of uncertainty tends to rise. Passing off this speculative element as "science" will hardly remedy the circumstances.

Greg, have you read Jerry Coyne's new book and if so, what do you think of it?

gregnyquist said...

Laj, I have no read Coyne's new book. Does he actually address Berlinski's specific arguments?

Abolaji said...

Laj, I have no read Coyne's new book. Does he actually address Berlinski's specific arguments?

If the arguments are similar to those that Berlinski made in Commentary Magazine in 1996, I would say yes, but not in any direct or point for point manner, and Berlinski is not even in Coyne's index or bibliography.

For example: Some of the points Coyne made about how dating/age of fossils supports the evolutionary timeline were not obvious to me before reading his book. When Berlinski writes something like "The theory of evolution is incapable of ruling anything out of court", I can't quite square that with scientists who claim that rabbit fossils in the Pre-Cambrian era would clearly debunk evolutionary theory.

There are many other claims that Coyne makes about the relative sparsity of the fossil record, but I'm sure that some skepticidm can be raised about them. I was just wondering whether you had read Coyne's book and had come to the conclusion that too much was missing. IF you've read the Commentary article, let me know what Berlinski's books add and I'll likely get one.

gregnyquist said...

"If you've read the Commentary article, let me know what Berlinski's books add and I'll likely get one."

The book I'm reading ("The Deniable Darwin") contains the Commentary article (the "title" essay of the book). It's not so much that particular article that impressed me (in fact, I was more impressed with the critical responses to it, which are included in the book), but with Berlinski's response to the criticisms, which is far and away the best I've ever read along those lines—a tour de force of skepticism.

Abolaji said...

Greg,

You mean this:

http://www.2think.org/letters.shtml

gregnyquist said...

Laj: "You mean this:

http://www.2think.org/letters.shtml"

Yes.

Abolaji said...

I think Berlinski does show that Dawkins et al. have gained an unfair advantage by continually framing the issue of evolution's correctness as a matter of Darwinism vs. Creationism. I wish Berlinski was a clear writer with a more structured agenda than general skepticism, so one could see more clearly where he parts ways with Darwinism. But it's clear that if Berlinski is faithful to the sources, that claims about the incontrovertible correctness of Darwinism are to some degree parasitic on molecular biology and genetics if those fields can be distinguished from evolutionary biology.

Joel M-H said...

"... the most prominent and real motive of the global-warming hysteria is hatred and grievance against capitalism"

I have to say I don't agree with that at all.

From my experience, the reason environmentalism and anti-capitalism come hand-in-hand so often is simply because the same values and reasoning lead people to feel strongly about both issues:

Capitalism exploits the poor and increases inequality etc., and the poor are the first and hardest to be hit by global warming (for which there is already empirical evidence of, for the record.)


http://atlasembraced.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-rational-russian_25.html

gregnyquist said...

From my experience, the reason environmentalism and anti-capitalism come hand-in-hand so often is simply because the same values and reasoning lead people to feel strongly about both issues

And those values amount to grievance and hatred of capitalism (although they are often dressed up as compassion for the poor).

Capitalism exploits the poor and increases inequality etc

Capitalism "exploits" the poor? Then how come the poor are better off under capitalist than under non-capitalist systems? And what is this mania for equality? I was born without the capacity to envy and have difficulty understanding it.

Lloyd Flack said...

Another reason is that many free market advocates are dishonest when it comes to external costs. The market cannot deal with them by itself. Government action is needed either through regulation or through imposing the cost. But many free market advocates in their hostility to government action try to avoid its necessity by looking for reasons to believe that the external costs aren't real. In other words to stop something that they see as a danger to their liberty they deny responsibility for any harm that they might do.

Lloyd Flack said...

Greg,

I was looking at your discussion with Nullifidian. He was right. You are trying to prescribe what science should be on the basis of a failed philosophical approach.

I say failed because no one actually uses Popper's falsifiability criterion. It would chuck out too much useful science, especially in the early stages of the development of a theory.

There is no hard and fast dividing line between science and other studies. And the methods that are useful if simple systems where you can do controled experiments are not useful in the observational study of complex systems. You are looking for somple logical proofs. Sometimes they cannot be there and you have to rely on the cumulative effect of lots of lines of evidence that are not, in isolation, conclusive.

In fact scientists never like single proofs. What they want is consilience, the convergence of evidence. Since there is aconsistent set of natural laws behing the phenomena the tru explanation will be consistent with the results from many different fields of study. The more different confirmations there are the happier scientists are.

Planned observations can substitute for planed experiments and do in observational sciences such as geology, paleontology, astronomy and climatology. To properly understand what is going on in climatology requires looking at a lot of things. It is the complete picture which matters.

Some useful links for climatology are:

www.skepticalscience.com
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm
www.realclimate.org

Por a description of the difference between science and other studies I reccommend

Nonsense on Stilts buMassimo Pigliucci.

Daniel Barnes said...

Staying well out of the global warming debate but a few quick notes around the Popperian approach:

Lloyd:
>I say failed because no one actually uses Popper's falsifiability criterion.

If people don't choose to use a logically sound method, that is a sales dept failure, not an intellectual one...;-). An interesting discussion of the falsifiability criterion is here.

>There is no hard and fast dividing line between science and other studies.

This is the Critical Rationalist 2.0 position. Popper learned this the hard way via some strong criticism from Bartley and eventually came around. However, this was one step back but two steps forward as it ended up reinforcing the basic logic behind Critical Rationalism.

>You are looking for simple logical proofs. Sometimes they cannot be there and you have to rely on the cumulative effect of lots of lines of evidence that are not, in isolation, conclusive.

The logical proofs are *never* there for theories based on empirical observations. This is Hume's problem (of induction).

>It is the complete picture which matters.

True. But it is the complete picture that, sadly, no-one has.

cheers
Daniel

Lloyd Flack said...

The characteristics of science are that it involves the study of natural phenomena, that it integrates observations though theoretical constructs and these constructs are subjected to empirical testing.

Popper's falsifiability criterion is intended to be a litmus test for whether a hypothesis is empirically testable or not. It is too stringent because theories are not in practice rejected because of a single discordant observation. This criterion is too simple and would throw out too much valid science with the invalid material.

But Greg went further. He claimed that that the inability to run controlled experiments disqualified climatology from being a true science. This criterion would disqualify all observational sciences. You cannot force them into the same mould as the experimental sciences. You do not use the same methodology for all sciences. for complex systems and subjects with a historical component you usually rely on systematic observation rather than experimentation. It is harder to obtain the same degree of confidence in your conclusions this way, but with enough different types of evidence it can be done.

You and Popper are making the same mistake as Rand. You are trying to use philosophy to prescribe what science should be. And working scientists are giving the finger to such attempts.

gregnyquist said...

You do not use the same methodology for all sciences. for complex systems and subjects with a historical component you usually rely on systematic observation rather than experimentation. It is harder to obtain the same degree of confidence in your conclusions this way, but with enough different types of evidence it can be done.

This is actually the point I'm trying to make: that where you cannot test one's conclusions, you cannot have the same degree of confidence in those conclusions. Where effective testing fails, reliability of the knowledge claims drops, sometimes dramatically. The "science" I'm most familiar with is economics. The prognostications of economics are notoriously unreliable. I've seen some stats suggesting that economists are wrong on their prognostications around 70% of the time. Why should we assume that climate science is any different? After all, unlike astronomy or experimental physics, climate scientists don't have a track record. Why should we trust speculative claims based on computer models that are used to rationalize political and economic policies that would probably be more catastrophic than the consequences of the prognosticated global warming?

You are trying to use philosophy to prescribe what science should be.

No, not in the least. You just don't get it. The issue is not about how you or I or anyone else defines science. You can define science any way you please. The question is what sort of knowledge claims can we accept solely on the basis of authority. Climate scientists are making an argumentum ad verecundiam. Is their authority justified? When it comes to their prognostications (as opposed to their observations), I would say no. At best, their prognostications are educated guesses; at worst, politically motivated hyperbole.

The political side of this should be of especial concern. Research in social psychology finds that confirmation bias and arrogance about knowledge claims are built-in features. Popper's "philosophy of science" is merely a strategy to try to deal with enormous problem of confirmation bias. The falsifiability criterion is not a naming convention — you can call anything you want science — but simply a way of demarcating more reliable sources of knowledge from less reliable sources of knowledge. I personally have no problem rejecting the scientific status of economics, for example. Given the role which mainstream economics played in rationalizing our dysfunctional financial system, it doesn't deserve the prestige associated with that label. But again, we're talking semantics: it's not the name used, but the thing itself that is important.

Now these issues of confirmation bias and the reliability of knowledge claims are not deduced from speculative philosophical principles: they are the product of observation about how human knowledge works (or rather how human knowledge doesn't work). Scientists are very smart but often very arrogant. If their theories are not constantly checked against experience, their arrogance can easily lead them to lamentable error and unjustified pretentions. This is fundamentally the theory at the bottom of my skepticism toward catastrophic global warming. It's not based on speculative metaphysics or philosophy; indeed, it's little more than Human Nature 101.

Lloyd Flack said...

Greg,

Falsification is a philosophically motivated attempt to create a criterion for empiricism. It is too stringent to be used in practice.

You are right to want testability. Where you are wrong is in insisting that this can only be done reliably by controlled experiments. Climatology, like similar, sciences relies on systematic use of observations. Yes, you need more lines of evidence before you can be confident of your conclusions than you would in an experimental science. but you can be confident of you conclusions id you have enough evidence. We do have enough evidence, more than enough.

In an observational science if multiple lines of evidence are consistent with your proposed explanation but not with other proposed explanations then you should have confidence in your con conclusions. How else do you think we know evolution is correct? It does not come from any single killer proof. You will not find them in complex things like climate. Modern climatology is capable of explaining most of what is happening now and what has happened in the past. There is ahuge volume of evidence supporting it. Those who are trying to doubt it do not have explanations for paleoclimate. I have never heard them try to explain the glacial cycle. Denialists (and the term is justified) are not seeking explanations. They are trying to sow doubt instead. Scientific theories should be tested fairly. Seeking reasons to believe that something that you want to believe is true. Does not lead to honest tests.

What you have is attempts to raise doubts tat are mostly politically motivated. And those that are strongly politically motivated seem to have difficulty understanding that other people might find other things more important than politics. People get into science because the want to figure out how the Universe works. If your primary motivation is political then you are unlikely to do very good work. And since it is continually tested against nature poor work will show up.

Your attempt to dismiss the appeal to authority is wand waving. You need reasons to do this, reasons that you can only get by spending the time to actually look at what is being done. You haven't. Most importantly you are under the false impression that everything relies on the climate models. It doesn't. There is much more evidence than that. Look at the links and references that I gave and spend some time. If you are to challenge those who have put a lot of effort in then you have to put quite a bit in yourself.

gregnyquist said...

In an observational science if multiple lines of evidence are consistent with your proposed explanation but not with other proposed explanations then you should have confidence in your con conclusions.

Not in the least. There are many things we don't know, or know only imperfectly. The fact that somebody can't explain X does not make your explanation of X true.

What you have is attempts to raise doubts that are mostly politically motivated.

And acceptance of the theory is not politically motivated as well? It is almost certainly politically motivated among those using this climate prognostications as a rationalization for certain public policy choices.

Your attempt to dismiss the appeal to authority is wand waving. You need reasons to do this, reasons that you can only get by spending the time to actually look at what is being done.

You don't seem to understand what's at stake here. I don't have time to become enough of an expert in climate science to be able to judge their claims. I have to take what they say on their authority. Now before I'm willing to accept any authority, that authority must have a credible track record. If they don't, I'm going to be skeptical.

My skepticism is not entirely without basis, even among climate scientists. After it came out last week that no global warming has occurred in the last 15 years, Professor Judith Curry, head of the climate science department at Georgia Tech, suggested that the computer models used to predict future warming are ‘deeply flawed’. Even Phil Jones, the professor at East Anglia whose emails were hacked in 2009, admitted: "‘We don’t fully understand how to input things like changes in the oceans, and because we don’t fully understand it you could say that natural variability is now working to suppress the warming. We don’t know what natural variability is doing." With such admissions, why shouldn't I be skeptical of those claiming to be certain about the climate 80 years down the road?











Lloyd Flack said...

Not in the least. There are many things we don't know, or know only imperfectly. The fact that somebody can't explain X does not make your explanation of X true.

You miss the point about multiple lines of evidence. If an explanation is erroneous every time a new line ove evidencce becomes available there is a good chance that it will be inconsistent with the erroneous explanation. The more time that an explanation passes when it has achance to fail the less likely it is to be in error. This sort of accumulation of evidence is haow things work in science. Science seldom gives yes - no answers with complete certainty. It confirms hypotheses with increasing confidence as more evidence becomes available. And in a mature theory with huge numbers of types of supporting the chance of being wrong on fundamental matters becomes negligible, not because of any sing overwhelming proof but becaus of the sheer breadth of support. Climatology is in that situation as far as the climate being highly sensitive to CO2 forcings goes. We can treat the chance of current emission rates being safe as negligible.

And the claim of there having been no warming for fifteen years is false. The data sets that I have seen show continued warming, especially when you take into account factors that will cause short term temperature changes.

Here are a couple of relevant links.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/nuccitelli-et-al-2012.html

http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/the-real-global-warming-signal/



Lloyd Flack said...

Also the claim that Met office results released last week showed that there had been no warming in the past 15 years is false. The article engaded in a misleading choice of the interval stating with a year with temperatures above the log term trend and ending with a year with temperatures below the long term trend. I both cases the reasons were known. It was the Southern Oscillation and it transfers heat back and forth between the ocean and the atmosphere and has nothing to do with the long term trend.

Here is the Met Office reply to the article.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/nuccitelli-et-al-2012.html

I have been able to take the time to understand climatology and evaluate much of the metodology. I find it explains what is happening and the opposition lacks credibility. We are in deep trouble and need to act urgently. Claims otherwise are wishful thinking. Unfortunately there are too many who are so paranoid about political opponents that they blind themselves to natural dangers if acting on those dangers would mean that they would have to come to an accomodation with political adverssaries.