Thursday, November 24, 2016

John Tierney: "The Real War On Science: The Left Has Done Far More Than The Right To Set Back Progress"

   This is ok, but it's a familiar story by now, and Tierney's version of the story leans heavily on climate-change skepticism. Though I've become more open to such skepticism, I just don't know enough to make anything like an informed judgment about it. (I do kinda like the Climate, Etc. blog, though, and Tierney links to this post there, concerning the tendency of climate models to overestimate warming.)
   Tierney could have made a much stronger case by, e.g., also citing Dreger and the current pseudo-scientific crackpottery about "transgenderism." But he doesn't.
   I'm also not in any way convinced that the left has historically been worse than the left--though I suspect that it's currently worse. In general, the more powerful you are, the greater your potential to do harm. The left is far, far more powerful than the right in academia. It doesn't take much error for the left to do a lot of harm.* Just look at the wackjobbery surrounding academic discussions of race.
   Though, come to think of it, it's really the social sciences and humanities that are devastated by rampant leftist nonsense... Maybe...ah, never mind.
   I can't sit here and bitch about this nonense for free...I've got a bunch of nonsense I get paid to bich about.

*Incidentally, IMO, that's basically the important, but completely distorted, core of truth in the PC nonsense about the impossibility of non-white racism and female sexism: if you've got more power, then you can do more harm as a result of smaller errors. Of course the PC left, being both nuts and fond of pseudophilosophy, has to exaggerate it all into some kind of conceptual impossibility...which is absurd...but the kernel of truth in there is roughly: racism by whites can more easily do harm to blacks, and sexism by men can more easily do harm to women. (Typically, that is.) They're probably also more common, I'd guess. (Actually, I'm astonished that there's not more anti-white racism among blacks and anti-male sexism among women. Seriously. I'd have predicted that there'd be a helluva lot more of it.) But these mundane points aren't enough for the left, which has been trying for years to cook up a plausible story about how bigotry among their "valorized" groups is literally impossible. As is their wont, they've recently settled on just insisting that the terms 'racism' and 'sexism' have always meant...the new thing that they've never meant but that the left wants them to mean. Jeez those people.
blah blah Get Off My Lawn


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've become so disillusioned with respect to the climate change debate. I don't know enough about climate science (about the particulars, how climate data is gathered, the methods that are employed, etc.), nor do I have the time to make a concerted effort to inform myself (although, I should probably make time if I am to have a opinion about it).

What epistemic strategies should be applied in such cases? Climate change has become such a partisan issue, and to my untrained eye, I cannot for the life of me figure out who's feeding me a line of shit, and who's making a good will effort to present the public with the cleanest version of the data. Even the "97% of climate scientists.." claim has been disputed, so I'm actually on the fence about whether there's a broad consensus about it.

The intersection of science and politics sure is a strange place.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Right there with ya, A.

My hope is that the more science-y the science, the less room for and tendency toward political shenanigans there is.

I've kinda poked around into the 97% claim a bit--because you're right, it's been challenged. That seemed fairly solid to me though after my minimal poking.

I'm inclined to defer to the experts without some at-least-decent reason for doubting them.

OTOH, in a couple of debates I *do* understand (race, transgenderism, creationism) I know enough to know that there is definite cheating by the experts.

The race and transgenderism debates are just hopeless--though some of the race stuff is currently too complicated for me to follow. But anyway, at the lower levels, the prevailing orthodoxy is total bullshit. The transgenerism stuff isn't even science at all. It's scientific basis is on the level of Narnia or something.

But the expert cheating in the evolution/creationism debate...well, there's just a lot less of it.
It mostly takes the form of some dogmatism and exaggeration of degrees of certainty, illicit argument for philosophical conclusions, rhetorical shenanigans...seems much less bad to me.

I'm hoping that the climate stuff is more like that.

OTOOH: That's basically the charge. That with a bit of nipping and tucking and exaggerating, the climate problem has been turned into THE END OF HUMANITY.

tl;dr: I don't know.

9:15 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

My two cents:

The idea that humans are causing global warming seems very intuitive based on what we know. That is, humans are pumping a huge amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at a seemingly unprecedented rate in our planet's history. We know that greenhouse gases cause heat retention. It is therefore probable that human beings are contributing to a warming climate.

The more technical questions about how much this contribution actually influences our planet or whether such contributions actually have the intuitive impact on the planet (there could be some counter-intuitive environmental processes which stymie or even reverse the effect, or something) are where we have to defer to experts without doing our own research.

So, I think the reasonable position is: without a definitive, obvious explanation as to why the intuitive results aren't going to occur, we should tentatively accept while remaining committed to the understanding that this acceptance is fallible.

Seems kinda clear cut to me. I think it's important and noble to try to delve into the technical portion of the debate as laymen, but without the time and energy in that department, I would wager my suggestion here is the proper epistemic strategy. It ain't very complicated, and it ain't very interesting, but my guess is that this is all the situation really merits.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Lewis Carroll said...

" Though, come to think of it, it's really the social sciences and humanities that are devastated by rampant leftist nonsense... "

*With the definite exception of econ, which is devastated by rampant rightist nonsense.

Otherwise, agreed.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Or, at least, it's far from unheard of, so far as I can tell.

Any idea roughly how common it really is?

12:00 PM  
Blogger Aa said...

If climate change denialism starts here, I'm gone! Numerous lines of evidence point to the fact that the climate is changing and impacting plants and animals on this planet. From the loss of sea ice, less krill in the oceans, the effect on those that feed on the krill, the near extinction of land species, the average temperature, and on and on. Even my most skeptical colleague is convinced climate change is happening and 95% convinced humans are the main contributor.

If you need a place to start please read "The Weather Makers" by Tim Flannery (it goes up to about 2004). He follows many lines of evidence and you don't need a science background to understand the arguments. It's alarming without being alarmist.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Sorry, Aa, but I've laid my cards on the table: I have some degree of skepticism, but think this is a case in which I should basically just accept (in some sense of 'accept') the consensus of the experts.

Thanks for the recommendation: will definitely check that out. Would you say that that's some approximation of the best / most objective / most up-to-date book for the layperson?

11:50 AM  
Blogger Aa said...

thanks for that, I must have missed it in the earlier discussions, It must be how evolutionary biologists feel about creationism and philosophers feel when the others try to use philosophical arguments and mangle them.

Yes, as far as it goes, the Flannery book is the best I've found. However, its dated to 2005/2006 and I can't find an updated version. Many more lines of evidence have appeared the last few years (incredibly alarming ones), and I have yet to find a good source that summarizes those like the Flannery book.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Cool man.

I'll definitely check it out.

I agree with your analogies.

Part of my concern comes from seeing how biologists responded to creationism. As they got more and more frustrated with the opposition, they began to exaggerate and become more certain than they had a right to be.

I think it's very hard to avoid it seems to me that it's a reasonable concern to have about climatology. But it's just a worry, not some kind of big conclusion or commitment.

1:33 PM  

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