Monday, April 13, 2015

Moving the Goalposts Part I: "vaxxers" and climate denialism

Back to the core dilemma of our era: rousing future-oriented folk (like you) to fight back against a wave of troglodytism that threatens our children's very lives. And no, I am not talking about mere voting or activism, but getting right into the faces of the folks who are fighting with all their might, against tomorrow.

Here's our first example --

On April 12, 2015, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of a vaccine developed by Jonas Salk that prevented polio and drove it close to extinction. Just one result? Soon, a scientist, Jonas Salk, was the most popular man in America. A scientist. Inventor of vaccines.

From the article: “Rumors spread that soft drinks were responsible — or too much rain or heat. In some places people stopped handling paper money and refused to shake hands. But mostly people mobilized to fight the disease by raising money for the March of Dimes, which promised us a life-saving protective vaccine. And, in the end, it gave us two vaccines — the injected killed-virus version of Jonas Salk and the oral live-virus version of Albert Sabin."

Too bad Salk couldn’t come up with a vaccine against stupid. Can you imagine a nationally-beloved scientist today, despite the endless wave of bona fide miracles we benefit from, weekly? The wave of outright scientific miracles has burgeoned... yet merchants of fear and nostalgia in mass media have overwhelmed any sense of gratitude, stoking instead resentment toward every profession of knowledge and skill.  

Moreover, while many  brands of dogmatic idiocy are solely products of a fervid and jibbering-insane American right, our “anti-vaxxer” movement spans the spectrum, sweeping up gullible romantics also on a vapid far-left. One proof among many that the crazy is only 90% on one side. Be wary, also, of the other extreme.

Above all - Call up this article, if only to copy the lead photo, showing several dozen children of my generation, surviving their polio paralysis only inside coffin-like iron lungs.  Show the picture to your troglodyte-romantic friends, and tell them that the War on Science is an addiction of fools who have misplaced their Suspicion of Authority (SoA) reflex.  

Generally, SoA is a healthy reflex! But one requiring careful thought... and not the lowest of all human vices.  


== Are you kidding me? This comes as a surprise? ==

And now, on to the main example...

“The Bank of England has joined growing ranks of those warning of the financial risk posed by a "carbon bubble," which will occur if urgently needed climate change regulations (and efficiency improvements) "render coal, oil, and gas assets worthless.” 

This is, of course 100% the reason why coal barons and petro-sheiks have joined forces to fund the Denialist Cult, which strenuously blocks moderate-compromise efforts at energy efficiency -- and even investments in science to find out what's going on.  They have to unload these soon-to-be stranded assets onto "greater fools." And that will take time.  Hence their frantic delaying tactics.

Why else would the Fox-line be “absolutely no science and no compromise, ever!” Again, from the Bank of England report:

"As the world increasingly limits carbon emissions, and moves to alternative energy sources, investments in fossil fuels and related technologies—a growing financial market in recent decades—may take a huge hit."

Notice how the Fox line keeps changing. Have you heard any "solar and other sustainables will never be competitive" stuff, lately? As recently as a year ago, you still saw that talking point, all over the place. Till the break-even and efficiency curves became so consistently good that it could not be maintained, and articles like this one are taken very seriously in investment circles. Even smart-conservative ones.

Moreover: “Leaving aside the ethics of divestment and pursuing a purely rational economic analysis, the cold hard numbers of putting money into fossil fuels don't look good."

More on this at the end.

== Seven In-Yer-Face Challenges for Climate Trogs ==

Okay now, if we were dealing with reasoning people, I'd recommend using scientific facts, like this one -- Arctic sea ice hit a record low for the winter season - thinning by as much as 65 % between 1975 and 2012. Or the new estimated rates of demolition of the Antarctic and Greenland main ice sheets.

Meanwhile...2014 was the hottest year in recorded history… and the last decade featured several other top-scoring scorchers. The last 300 months -- all of them -- were hotter than the average for that month in the 20th Century.

Alas, we've tried that "proof" approach for decades. See where I crafted my own sweet-reason variant, in the past. And you're welcome to apply those methods, if you encounter one of these fellows who still claims to nurse some logic and neural capacity.

In most cases, though? They just swivel to Fox n' Pals and concoct truthy-sounding factoids that have the incantatory mouth-feel of sciency-cant. 

So, let me offer up an alternative approach

Rehearse these seven confrontational challenges in front of a mirror. Then use them... aggressively... for the sake of our kids.

"Okay, it's time to lay it all down to you denialist cultists… 

1 - You have relentlessly moved the goalposts… backpedaling from jabbering about “ice ages” and “glaciers are advancing!” to “what warming?” … then shifting to “It’s minor natural warming”… then backing up and proclaiming “it’s amazingly coincidental MAJOR but natural warming!”…  

...and so on…  

… and you actually think that no one will remember your earlier ravings?  Such credibility-destroying past behavior? 

Dig this. Your goalpost-moving cheats are known, remembered and noted. Including your even-earlier shouts of “tobacco is harmless” and “marijuana is as bad as Heroin!” and “Cars don’t cause smog!” 

Come on. A sane “climate skeptic” would own up to all that. Admit it. 

A denialist cultist won’t.

See: Distinguishing Climate Skeptics and Climate Deniers.

2 - Fox trots out “scientists” who claim that “the jury is till out” on human causation of climate change. Never mind that these are mostly low-level dolts. None of the top experts in climatology or meteorology have accepted Heritage Foundation and AEI offers of lavish grants, to defect over to the Koch-Saudi side….

… But forget all that. You proclaim “we need more research to verify what’s going on!” 

But then, how do you explain the right’s relentless sabotage of climate research? The Bushite cancellation of satellites and atmospherics programs? Their demands that NASA and NOAA stop even looking at the Earth? The recent Florida bill forbidding any state agency to even think about the consequences of rising seas? You are on a “side” that tries desperately to prevent science.  Proud?

3 - Dig it, we know the truth now.  That the War on Science (e.g the GOP House destroying OTA, packing the science committees with loonies and a million other outrages) is not part of a campaign to deny climate change. 

It’s the other way around. 

The chief purpose of climate denialism is to undermine science -- and every other profession of knowledge and skill that might question the New Oligarchy. Moreover, we are figuring out, at last, why your masters have it in for scientists — the most rambunctious, individualistic, creative, smartest, and most competitive humans our species ever produced. 

The image of scientists that you suckle and cling to is diametrically opposite to true, and only proves that you know no scientists.  Just sayin’.

4 - Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification,  oh… yeah… and Ocean acidification.  

Or else use de-basing the seas. It gets around one of their trick responses.  You'll see.

Please dig this well. The reason why Fox and pals never mention Ocean Acidification is that there are zero conceivable non-human causes for this extremely blatant trend — caused by rapidly rising, human-generated atmospheric CO2 -- that is already killing the seas.  

Oh and now we know that CO2-induced ocean acidification was responsible for the greatest mass die-off extinction on Planet Earth, far worse than the asteroid-caused doom of the dinosaurs. 

For you denialist-cultists to ignore ocean acidification… shouting “squirrel!” and pointing elsewhere… is the act of psychopaths. Again, just sayin’.

- Can you parse the Navier Stokes equations and create a billion-cell, dynamic, real-time, world-wide gas-vapor model of the Earth’s ocean and atmosphere? 

What, no? Hm.

I know some of the men and women who do that - who transformed the old 4 hour joke of a “weather report” into the ten day miracle that you hypocritically use, to plan your vacations. Those people are smarter than you! Much smarter and more honest than the Fox-hired jabber-mouth shills who provide your incantations and noxious jpeg snarks against science. 

Heck, they're smarter than me, too. And all of them… all of those geniuses… are really worried.  

(Please… oh, please… next time you have a medical problem, treat physician experts the way you treat scientists! Ignore their advice and third, fourth… hundredth opinions. At least maintain the saving grace of consistency.)

6 - BTW the “grant-hugging” nostrum for why all scientists are lemmings, following a mewling herd — yes, that Fox-Ailesheimers dogma — ignores the fact that the weather modelers get billions from insurance companies, airlines, TV networks, shippers, military and a myriad others. Compare those billions to the few millions generated by climate-change studies. (More, even, than those "join the dark side" grants the the Koch-Saudis offer as bounties for any top scientists to come over and tout denialism. None have - so much for scientists as money-grubbers.) 

In other words, anyone who credits the “grant-hugging” incantation is a proved idiot.

But here's the dare.  Find for us one place where the Koch-Murdoch-Adelson-Saudi machine has tried to tabulate the "grants" that have supposedly bribed a million scientists into skipping along to a party line. 

Far more telling... have you - even once - asked for such a list? Basic Journalism, Hannity could do it with his pocket change. Yet, you never asked. I repeat: you never asked.

It's like when you nodded, accepting Glen Beck's rant that Fox's enemy, George Soros, was so scary because he "toppled eight foreign governments!"  In fact, believe me, the accusation is true! Soros did help topple eight governments! But again, you never asked "Hey Glen, which governments did that commie Soros topple?" 

If you ever saw the list... the eight foreign governments that commie George Soros instrumentally helped to topple (in fact, there were ten)... well, you would never watch Glen Beck or Fox again, without emitting gales of laughter.

 Indeed, the greatest crime of confederates like you? It is simple incuriosity.

7- Here’s the big one. 

This is the one no one else mentions (proving that a lot of those on the pro-science side are terrible debaters.) But it goes to the heart and gut of this “controversy.” It proves which side is totally dishonest, short-sighted and effectively insane.  Here goes...

… Even if the 98% of smart folks and scientists who are worried about human generated climate change prove to be 100% wrong -  (hey, it’s happened, just a few times, that such a well-based consensus model has proved wrong; rarely, but it has happened) — even if that proves out, the big question remains this: 

       Why Won't You Negotiate?   

Seriously... why spend two decades blocking any and all research, any and all investments in energy efficiency, any and all incentives to wean ourselves off coal and oil? Actually believing that it's black vs white.  That your opponents want to "ruin the economy" and make us all "shiver in the dark."

Who on this planet would have benefited from the campaign to make you take such a rigid stance?

Good question. I'll deal with it in Moving the Goalposts: Part II.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

Although 'Fox trots out “scientists” who claim that “the jury is till out”'
I'm not sure the rest of your argument fallows


Anonymous said...

In maybe 5 years all of this will be painfully obvious to everyone capable of turning off Foxy Newz and stepping outside. What will these troglodytes say then? Will they slink into the shadows and hope we forget their names? Or will they just deny that they were denialists?


LarryHart said...


Will they slink into the shadows and hope we forget their names? Or will they just deny that they were denialists?

They can do two things. :)

i_/0 said...

Mr Brin,


i_/0 said...

I like your final point. There's a positive argument to made here. Even if the consensus of the smartest minds on the planet were wrong, and that's a very big if, it would still be fundamentally sensible to provide secure, sustainable and distributed energy sources for the future. Not to mention fundamentally more democratic.

Tony Fisk said...

While I understand that discussing the science of climate change won't work with denialists in conversation, it is still worthwhile knowing it for your own sake. Appeals to logic make for poor arrows, but form a damn good shield.

Our local clade of denialists (aka the Abbott government) are looking to strip the charity tax status from certain environmental groups who 'indulge in political activities' (like, say, divestment?). It will be interesting to see if they even bother turning up to the Paris climate talks.

They have caused damage, and may cause more. Even so, the putsch Murdoch & co. attempted with them has failed, and they will be gone soon.

Quintopia said...

I would have pointed it out, but I couldn't cultivate such a clever and grain-worthy response.

sociotard said...

Grah, this again. Please explain how a 10 day forecast can be used to plan a vacation. Most people have to reserve their time off at least a couple weeks in advance, more if its summer or a holiday, so you can't use it to plan when you go.

sociotard said...

Oh, and there are popular, beloved scientists. Jane Goodall is loved. Some of the techie CEOs are at least respected (Elon Musk, Steve Jobs)

Tony Fisk said...

Sociotard is clearly not a farmer trying to determine when best to sow, and harvest.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dr. Brin, I want to point out a little contradiction in what you wrote here, just to stave off some more hostile party reaching an unwarranted conclusion. You wrote that there is no mechanism besides human action that could cause ocean acidification, then linked to an article that concludes that ocean acidification was responsible for the End-Permian Extinction, roughly 250 million years before humans existed. Ocean acidification at that time was caused by massive volcanic activity on an order rarely seen on Earth (in fact, never seen since then). Obviously this level of vulcanism can cause the level of ocean acidification that we are experiencing now.

Clearly, however, vulcanism is not responsible for today's acidification. The eruptive flow from this period created the Siberian Traps, covering something on the order of 7 million km2 in lava flow. If that was happening today, it would be really obvious. Whole continents would have to be abandoned. But I can see some demagogue quoting this passage to ridicule those smarty-pants scientist types.

David Brin said...

PSB I dig your point and see the logic. But honestly? ;-)

Alfred Differ said...

@sociotard: If your vacation lasts a week or two, the planning occurs as you get near to your scheduled time. Weather predictions might not help as much as we want at the start, but they can help manage things after that.

As long as I'm smart enough to avoid hurricane season on Mexico's west coast, I can use short range forecasts to help me decide when to go out to the beach or further out into the water. During my vacation time, I'm sure to find a slot that will work well enough to avoid getting rained on, right?

Last time I was down there, though, I didn't avoid hurricane season and I got to see one scoot by off-shore. Fun.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul: I doubt it is worth the careful wordsmithing needed to avoid the misunderstanding you describe in the main article. Someone doing that isn't really misunderstanding anything, are they? They know what they are doing and can twist words any way they like.

My favorite twisting torture is in-line commenting. With a bit of reductionism and mockery, you can alter another's meaning without altering their words.

locumranch said...

A truly FIERY post today. Very impassioned.

Interesting, though, that David choose to celebrate Salk's inactive vaccine rather than Sabin's live-attenuated version as it was Sabin's vaccine that was responsible for the rapid world-wide control of polio, being superior to Salk's in almost every way, including ease of production, expense, potency, effectiveness, herd immunity & mucosal protection, excepting in it's inability to eliminate the causative virus. Still, Salk's vaccine was released FIRST, it wasn't too ineffective, prohibitive or cumbersome, and it did promise the possibility of eradicating polio (whereas Sabin's did not), but it does go to show how the pursuit of perfection can interfere with a rapid attainment of the good.

A masterful dissertation on climate change, also, with a nice quip on ocean acidification as 'deBASEment' (of which I wholeheartedly approve) and a nice quote about how 2014 was the hottest year on historical record since 1880, excluding anomalous Dust Bowl data from 1934 to 1936 (of course), despite NOAA's reservations about the accuracy of the temperature measurement methodology used prior to 1945, and the fact that no one (as of yet) has adequately explained that pesky period of unexplained Arctic deglaciation (in excess of our own) that supposedly occurred about 400 years ago. A good show overall.

Finally, I must apoligise to David for my comments in the prior thread when I suggested certain parallels between our shiny new era of consensual conformity and the bad old non-consensual era which, god willing, can never ever happen again if we assume a non-cyclical historical paradigm, nor did I wish to imply that David would ever actively encourage, condone or participate in any type of bad old non-consensual thuggery.

I did mean to imply, however, a certain arbitrariness about the 'ingrate' appellation, especially when it comes to disrespecting our conservative, sullen, risk-averse and disproportionately red stated elders, because it is sharper than a serpent's tooth to have a thankless child. Verily, our elders have earned the right to drag their non-progressive feet if they so wish: The future has little to offer them beside the grave; they will all be gone, passed on or 'democalypsed' in short order; and, as their time is more limited than ours, it is we (the future) who are 'ingrates' when we ignore their many contributions to our current happy existence.

The average age of farmers in the US is now 58 years, 67 years in Japan, and more than one third of European farmers are older than 65.

In the USA, almost 50% of all practicing doctors & nurses, and almost 80% of dentists are expected to retire by 2020 (me too).

The average age of aerospace engineers in the US is now 48.

US politicians are older, more risk-averse & much more conservative than ever, the average Senatorial age being 60, and the average House member age being 55.

Could it be, then, that the majority of Climate Change Deniers are just OLD ??


Tony Fisk said...

Could it be, then, that the majority of Climate Change Deniers are just OLD ??

Yep. I have heard the GOP referred to as, self-evidently, a party of old, white people.

Treebeard said...

Personally, I plan to enjoy the warmer winters and springs, and maybe plant a bigger garden. And of course enjoy the continued comic relief of listening to hubriati bemoan the fact that they don't yet have complete control the planet's climate or its minds.

Jumper said...

I wonder if the people who claim the consensus argument is erroneous understand there are two separate issues, or whether, like all the other dishonest arguments, they understand but prefer to obfuscate deliberately.

Consensus is how people who do not specialize in a field estimate the conclusions that would benefit them, knowledge- and forecast-wise. If I were investing in Outer Banks real estate for my grandchildren, for example.

This is different from science. Forms of consensus exist in it too, but specialties engage in checking the work. Random sampling and re-examination. Testing and record keeping.

So are we to assume that, since climate outliers denigrate consensus, they have some better formula? If so I'd be very interested in what, exactly, it is. Or if it's merely a reminder that 95% certainty is not 100% certainty, well, go remind some idiots you must associate with, because anyone who doesn't know the difference between 95% and 100% is an idiot, and most people who do know don't like the insinuation that they are.

Scott said...

… and you actually think that no one will remember your earlier ravings? Such credibility-destroying past behavior?

I am absolutely convinced that enough people will not remember or care about the denialists' past behavior to make any difference. And in fact, I am certain that it that same attitude that in the time of the coming climate crises will get them elected in landslides.

Jumper said...

Scott, most people forget why Governor Jerry Brown was scathingly called "Governor Moonbeam."

Alfred Differ said...

I wasn't here when our governor picked up that name... and a lot of time has passed suggesting I should allow for personality changes.

A.F. Rey said...

Personally, I plan to enjoy the warmer winters and springs, and maybe plant a bigger garden.

Also plan on enjoying the hot summers we've been experiencing the last decade (they'll be considered the "cooler" summers in the future--remember that during the next heat wave :)), either the drier climate or more flooding (depending on where you live), the increased snowfalls as the warmer atmosphere holds more moisture (until it is warm enough to turn it directly into rain), the easier access to the coast (which will be closer to where you live), and your new neighbors, who used to live near the coast but now have to move inland. Yep, fun times are ahead! :)

Also remember that climate is a chaotic system, and it won't inch up degree by degree, but in fits and starts. It ain't gonna be no picnic in your garden (assuming it isn't dried or flooded out).

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: I know a number of denialists who are not old. They are sold on the same deal many confederates were right before the civil war. "Those damn Yankees are intent on destroying our way of life!" It isn't age for them. It is fear coupled to an active imagination coupled to just enough evidence from the loony Left to complete the emotional cycle.

David Brin said...

I accept locum’s apology and withdraw the probation. With a reminder that strawmanning - a noxiously self-indulgent habit - can easily escalate to scurrilously opposite-to-true slander. To be clear… calling someone an “ingrate” is not the same thing as oppression or repression. Only a whiner-dope would make that conflation. And watch me shrug off insults of THAT type. Fire away.

Locum benefits from contrast with the far less imaginative or intelligent snarker treebeard, who thinks that Canadian tundra will overnight turn into topsoil (needing 10,000 years, in fact) and that one short northern growing season can replace the sub-tropical regions with TWO or more growing seasons that are turning into dust. Morons. Their final goal-post move is to simply grin and shrug. “So my side were idiots and wrong? Who cares? We WIN because we delayed science and changed the world!”

Let’s see that grin when we give their homes to climate refugees.

Anonymous said...

The obvious answer to this debate is:
What harm would it do to assume climate change is real? Does hardening and upgrading infrastructure, increasing efficiency, increasing alternative energy and reducing carbon footprints have any drawbacks?
Even if there are some short term economic deficits, it seems to me that any improvements in our environmental footprint will have nothing but positive effects in the long term....

David Brin said...

anonymous... you just restate (eloquently) my TWODA argument (see next posting or look up old ones.) Alas, there is one group who are harmed by energy efficiency and research, those with legacy carbon they want to dig up and burn before it is valueless. The same guys own the Republican Party. Hmmmmm.

Lawson English said...

@David Brin

The same group that stands to profit from legacy fossil fuel in the USA is the same group that believes that the Second Coming is STILL just around the corner, and networks with ultra-wealthy types who believe the same way.

For them, long-term climate considerations are worthless, and even evil, as to pay attention to them would be to suggest that the Second Coming will NOT happen within the next few days/weeks/months/years/decades.

It's also the same crew that believes that abortions are evil, just because and that hard-core zionism is the only rational stance any thinking human could agree with.

Of course, there are a lot of sociopaths that do NOT believe any of the above, but who pretend to, because hardcore religious people are easier to manipulate than non-believers and there's a lot of money and/or political power to be had by catering to those beliefs.

But between those two groups, that covers most wealthy climate-deniers, I think.

David Brin said...

Lawson English. While I agree that those two groups are significant, you oversimplify and I fear betray uni-directional political wrath. While I am aggressive in attacking the mad right, I refuse to abandon all subtlety or to ignore complexity.

For example, a partial motive for the war on science is the deeply American instinct of suspicion of authority. You perceive Big Brother coming from conniving oligarchs and faceless corporations... and I don't disagree! But others on the right - while members of a side that has gone crazy - are NOT insane to fear authority figures of the left or academia and so on. ALL authority figures should be questioned, even your favorite ones on the left.

But yes, today's centrally dangerous insanity is on that side.

Treebeard said...

“Let’s see that grin when we give their homes to climate refugees.”

LOL, nice troll Dr. Brin. Either that or your inner Stalinist is coming out. Who’s this “we” that’s going to appropriate people’s homes and give them to climate refugees? I think you’ve just revealed why many of us are suspicious of the climate alarmists – because of the totalitarian impulses lurking behind the mask.

A lot of the suspicion of science comes from the fact that it has become so arrogant and totalizing; a century or two ago, scientists weren’t evangelizing against religion or trying to act as supreme authorities on...just about everything, as they do today. Nor were they part of a massive bureaucracy which operates primarily as a tool of military and corporate power. So let’s not turn scientists into saints; science is a social and political enterprise, full of corruption and power agendas, just like any other human institution.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm not sure Treebeard is expecting the northern tundra to by useful enough or for the short growing season to feed us all. It sounds to me like he expects a die off. It also sounds like he wants one. There wouldn't be many people left to hand his home over to climate refugees that way, I suppose.

Utter nonsense, of course. With the collapse of our markets, the die off would be accompanied by an awful lot of shooting, stabbing, and beheading. He won't be gardening safely for a few years. He will be living in a hole.

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard: A smart scientist from a century ago might have avoided evangelizing against religion because he knew he'd get killed doing that. Some spoke their mind, though. They aren't hard to find if you know our history.

The arrogance we have stems from a belief that all non-metaphysical claims might benefit from our attention. We weed the garden of knowledge pulling out the claims that can be falsified. In a sense, we've learned to ask complex questions of Creation and act upon what it tells us.

The people who extend our domain into metaphysics are confused or trying to hitch their star on our successes. I don't mind if you want to call them out for that. Only falsifiable plants in the garden can be correctly identified as weeds.

David Brin said...

Treebeard your strawmen are less amusing than Locum's His infuriate me because at least they are intelligent, if almost always hallucinatory fantasms that he concocts, having nothing to do with me.

Yours are simply flat-out dumb. Indeed, I am not so much talking at or to you, now (why bother?) as I am to the other guys, discussing how to parse one more distinction among and between "trolls." A spectrum I'd never expect you to grasp.

You snark-bragged that no matter how far we push your retreating goal posts, you will have one last recourse, grinning at us and taunting us, even when were were proved right by melting ice sheets and acidifying oceans, and the delaying obfuscation YOU helped has caused a billion refugees to flood across the planet.

"Expand your garden?" Seriously? You think your blue neighbors will DEFEND your garden rights, with billions of your victims flooding the world? We would hand over your garden to them out of simple tort-justice. But then there is self interest. Better your garden than mine. And with millions of shame-faced Reds joining us, your type will be waaaaay outnumbered.

I can prove to those refugees... and our radicalized kids, that I tried hard to prevent this catastrophe, while you giggled the whole time.

No... "we" will vastly outnumber you, lad. You with every giggling-ingrate act of hatred toward an enlightenment that pampered you, not only preen and display shortsighted stupidity, you actually believe you are pragmatists! Snork.

Tony Fisk said...

@Alfred, Treebeard's outlook has a name: apocaphilia.
Not very entish.

Barb said...

About Jonas Salk... he decided to not patent his work, which would have been worth millions of dollars (perhaps billions in today's money) so that it could be widely, quickly, cheaply manufactured. You say you can't imagine a scientist who would be that beloved today. Can you imagine a scientist who would pass up that money today?

Thank you for the great insights on climate denial and George Soros.

I confess I am at the eyes-glaze-over point on climate denial, because the cult is just that. Still your fresh approach is welcome, and I will probably try it.

I have been familiar with George Soros' "Open Society," which he funds, and I knew it focused on Eastern Europe. After reading this article I found out that he was involved in, e.g., the velvet revolution. I was not previously aware that he was involved in overthrowing communism in Eastern Europe. Thank you.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dr. Brin,
If you want to think of me as being a little paranoid, you wouldn't be the first. I grew up in a very conservative, religious community, surrounded by people who will twist every word a person says to win an argument. Competition for converts was pretty intense. And as Alfred suggested, they knew that they were twisting logic and being dishonest. The point was not what they believed (nor in this case the climate denial kookoobirds) but the undecided members of the audience. Persuasion is a game of memes, and every time you have to explain yourself again, you look weak and defensive. And anyway, it wouldn't take a whole lot of worsmithing - just a longish parenthetical aside would do. ... (caused by a natural but unique event - the greatest volcanic outpouring in Earth's history, drowning most of a continent in lava) ... But the posting has already been written.

paul Shen-Brown said...

i_/o, in the last thread you asked people to examine some data, prefaced by that statement that you are not one of the smart guys. Now a cynic might interpret that as sarcasm, but your posts don't come across as trollish. Not being trained in statistics doesn't mean you are not smart, it just means you don't have the skills to evaluate statistical data. No biggie. Anyway, smart isn't a single quantity. I'll paste in a link to a very brief explanation of Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory, which breaks intelligence into several categories. People are typically smart in some categories but not in others, an observation that squares much better with observation than the old assumption that smart is a single thing that can be accurately measured by a test.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

I do know scientists who would pass up that kind of money to do something good for the world. Most scientists are just ordinary people (there are 28 million in the US alone - which makes stereotypes pretty tenuous), but there are quite a few whose scientific pursuits are driven by a strong ethical sense.

But beside that, I thought that since you appreciated Dr. Brin's take on the cult of climate change denial, you might also get something useful out of a link he put up a few threads back. It was a video of him discussing how you could use knowledge of the Bible to promote, rather than denigrate, science to religious people who are used to hearing the fiction that science and religion are against each other. His approach is similar to how I handle teaching evolution to high school students in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood. Perhaps you could gain some traction with climate denial culties with Biblical concepts of stewardship. I can't think of any specific passages, but I have heard of people doing this. In fact, I heard an interview on the radio last summer with a climate scientist from somewhere in the Midwest who goes to churches and gives speeches about her work and what she sees as a connection between ecology and God. I just searched the station's web site and found a link for you. A softer approach sometimes works better than just arguing.

Treebeard said...

I’m willing to admit that we’re both projecting our shadows onto each other. Climate change isn’t really the point for me, more the arrogance and totalism you display in so many of your posts. When someone gets into a reality tunnel where they’re calling people names that are functionally equivalent to theocrats of old calling people sinners, threatening to confiscate their homes, and acting as if there’s some group of bad guys over there who are responsible for wrecking your world, they’ve become hysterical, dangerous fanatics.

Try to step back and read your own words, and see all the veiled threats you’re making. I’m not making any threats; I’m just one of those who thinks John von Neumann was wise when he told Richard Feynman: “You don’t have to be responsible for the world that you’re in”. By feeling as if the world *belongs to you* (the hallmark of what I’ve called “the hubriati”) and that the current civilization is some kind of divine order, you’re arrogating the right to pass judgment on the rest of us, including apparently confiscating their homes and dispensing some kind of post-apocalyptic mob justice. Sorry Doctor, but it’s another form of Puritanical insanity.

Laurent Weppe said...

Comment disappears, again:

** "Let’s see that grin when we give their homes to climate refugees."

The climate denialists went from "There's no climate change" to "Climate change is minimal and irrelevant" to "Climate change is real but human activities have nothing to do with it"
You know what I dread the most? That the final step of their memetic evolution turns out to be "All right: climate change is happening, humans do cause it, environmentalists were right from the start, but now there’s not enough resources left to feed all of Humanity, and therefore genociding the proles’ in order to cull the herd is the only way for civilization to forestall its malthusian collapse."
Before forcing thermometers negationists to share their neighborhoods with climate refugees, we may have to stop them from slaughtering said refugees.

Tim H. said...

Having reason to believe that climate change is inevitable and any recovery will happen beyond our lifetimes
the strategy I'd suggest would be to list the ancillary benefits in bold print on the outside of the box, (TWODA) otherwise you're preaching to a choir too small to make a difference. Bear in mind the limited nature of human lifespans and attention spans and the unfortunate fact that any negative aspect of a corrective program will be noticeable long before discernible positive changes in climate. Avoid hyperbole, it will be seized by your opponents and used to effect, such as an annual temperature record increase, smaller than the statistical error bar. Also, I find the notion of punishing unbelievers at the apex of a 400 year trend reprehensible.

A.F. Rey said...

@Treebeard, Richard Somerville once said about climate change that it was the scientists' job to describe what is expected to happen if CO2 levels reach certain levels, and it was the politicians' job to decide how to react to that information.

And, for the most part, that is just what climatologists have done. They have let politicians know that, if we want to limit global warming to a 2-2.4C increase, we need to limit atmospheric CO2 concentrations to about 350-400 ppm. If we are all right with a 4.9-6.1C increase, we can let CO2 concentrations go to 660-790 ppm. But there are effects of this much warming. Melting ice caps, increased desertification, increased flooding in areas where there is rain, ocean acidification, etc. Problems that will have immense social and political implications, and will cause huge problems, like driving people away from rising coasts. Not to mention unknown problems inherent in a chaotic system, like tipping points.

But, ultimately, we have to decide how to handle these problems and which problems we'd rather face.

But when you blithely talk about enjoying a milder winter and a warmer spring, you are ignoring all the work of climatologists to understand and predict the consequences of the (recently) unprecidented CO2 levels.

This, too, is a type of arrogance.

Yes, we don't know for "certain" just what the effects will be, not to the certainty of, say, jumping off the Brooklin Bridge will kill you (although that isn't even as certain as most people thing :)). But within a range, most climatologists are certain of their predictions. Certain enough that we should seriously heed them.

When you blithely ignore such warnings--warnings of problems that affect all of us--it is natural to be upset. Just as upset as with someone who shoots a gun in the air in a city, blithely expecting that it can cause no harm.

Don't get the solutions mixed up with the problems. Totalitarianism is always the simplest solution to any problem, and often the first one people think of. But there are other workable solutions, as democracy has shown. But only if we look for them and work for them. Never by just ignoring the problem.

Because the problem will still be there.

raito said...

It's not just Florida, Wisconsin, too (though slightly less so).

As for Salk, can you imagine any scientist today working at a public institution being >allowed< to put that sort of lucrative knowledge in the public domain? Not to mention that today if he hadn't patented it, someone else would have certainly attempted to, prior art or no, and tied the whole thing up in the courts for years. While people died.

David Brin said...

Guys did you notice what just happened here? They yammered about how "threats don't work with me..." yet both of them swiftly moderated their tone. Treebeard speaking to us cogently and politely for the very first time. In response to threats.

Cogent and polite... yet still dumb. To refuse responsibility for the world may be supportable at certain levels. But hypocrisy remains one of the worst philosophical crimes. It is one thing to lazily arm-wave away activists who are striving to improve things, with: "I didn't ask to be born here."

It is quite another to: 1) vapidly ignore how vastly you have benefited from past activist reformers/inventors/improvers, who saved you from serfdom and torment, giving you a cushy life to snark-from.

And 2) to actively and intentionally mock and obstruct those who are trying to keep life decent for FUTURE asshole-ingrates, preventing a plummet back into pits of despair.

An honest man who denies "responsibility for the world" would minimize his footprint to eliminate responsibility for WORSENING the situation, since that, too, is activism. He would at-minimum err slightly in the direction of helping the world-savers, in order to avoid that drooling hypocrisy.

locumranch said...

IMO, there are four problems with the current manifestation of the climate change argument, the first being philosophical, the second being generational, the third being persuasive and the third (and least important) being factual.

First & foremost, humanity does NOT necessarily share the same philosophical emphasis (and/or narrative framework), nor does humanity agree as to what issues constitute matters of importance (as in the tired old optimist 'glass half-full' vs pessimist 'glass half-empty' debate).

The second problem is largely generational. Remembering that age can represent a state of mind as well as a physical condition, the typical human viewpoint shifts over time like the parable of the Sphinx, from infantile observance to youthful exuberance to mature conservatism and (finally) to apocalyptic senescence.

The third sticking point is a matter of persuasiveness or, most specifically, our cultural tendency to 'proselytization' as this represents a religiously coercive emotional approach that is fully divorced from logic and reason. Additionally, there are a number of studies that correlate 'proselytization' with a lack of evidentiary support, unreasonable partiality, increasing desperation and a vulnerability of perspective.

The fourth issue is one of factual support and, although of tantamount importance in science, it is also the least important in matters of rhetorical persuasion insomuch as the scientific data (which shows a warming world) is NOT disputed by most climate change denialists. What is disputed, however, is what this scientific data 'means', and 'meaning' (aka 'a theory') is a narrative framework based on a specific philosophical construct.

We must therefore conclude that current climate change theory (in its present manifestation) represents a fact-based narrative framed by a philosophical construct, which (in turn) lends credence to the conclusion that those who advocate climate change theory constitute a 'cult' [wherein the term 'cult' is defined as "a quasi-religious organization using devious techniques (of persuasion) to gain and control adherents"].

And, with Cultists (and other 'world-savers'), as you all well know, there is just no reasoning with them. ;)


Jumper said...

Anyone can ascribe any belief whatever as being a "religious" belief. In other words, a cynic can describe every belief of locumranch's as a "religious" belief, since there are no verities in this world.
Much like how I interrupted a fellow trying to describe a certain knot as some variant of "a snake crawls here, and then here, and then here" by pointing out that any rope in whatever configuration might be said to resemble a snake, so it was in fact pointlessly stupid to load up his speaking with the snake metaphor, as it has no impact whatever on actually learning to tie any particular knot.

David Brin said...

Blather, drivel, drooling nonsense. All four points boil down to “I insist everything is subjective! And my subjectivity is equal to any other that’s based on so-called “facts” And because it's MINE that makes it even better!

It is the last refuge of intellectual scoundrels who know they would lose, based on any evidence useful in court or science or the hard knocks of cause and effect. But it is consistent with strawmanning habits. "I don't care what Brin actually says or believes; proclaiming the opposite crams words in his mouth!"

A ten year old could do better.

LarryHart said...


And, with Cultists (and other 'world-savers'), as you all well know, there is just no reasoning with them. ;)

Intentional irony?

David Brin said...


siska said...
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