Psychology of Uncertainty

by Judith Curry

When we fail to distinguish between discovering order IN nature and imposing order ON nature, we have lost relationship with the very thing we yearn to know. Whereas once we were students of nature, looking to her for meaning, we now denigrate her in the belief that it is our inalienable right to have dominion. – Kerry Gordon

The Impermanence of Being:  The Psychology of Uncertainty

Kerry Gordon

Abstract.  This article adopts Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine’s assertion that uncertainty is an inherent cosmic expression, deeply embedded within the core of reality. The deep psychic expression of this experience is anxiety which, following Heidegger, is conceived not as pathology but rather as an essential state of being emerging simultaneously with uncertainty. This article examines uncertainty and its child, anxiety, as a necessary consequence of a creative universe and begins to formulate a psychology in accordance with such a reality. I will show that such a psychology must inevitably be transpersonal because an unpredictable universe transcends the merely unknown and raises the issue of the unknowable. This is an inherently spiritual formulation that directly addresses the experience of mystery and the nature of faith. This article explores the possibility for a psychology in which uncertainty is regarded not as a limit but as an expression of the boundless creativity inherent in the universe.

Journal of Humanistic Psychology 2003 43: 96. online abstract [here], link to full article [ Psych_Uncertain].

This is a very readable (albeit lengthy) paper (h/t Matthew Hincman).  I was particularly struck by this paper, since it provides metaphysical and psychological underpinnings for the uncertainty monster (which is not explicitly named, but discussed in spirit in the context of the uncertainty-anxiety nexus).  This is a thought-provoking paper, of which I excerpt a few aspects here:

UNCERTAINTY

Our typical response to chaos is an instinctual drive to impose order and regain control. Our fear of uncertainty often impels us toward irrational and sometimes bizarre behavior. [S]uch neurotic activity does little to assuage our anxiety and may even serve to increase it. And neither should we imagine that only individuals can be affected in this way. Stalinism, Nazism, McCarthyism, and fundamentalism of all stripes are examples of the kind of irrationality of which institutions and governments are capable in the name of order.

The human need for order, given the apparent unpredictability of the natural world, is probably as old as history. This explains why universal laws have been the holy grail sought by science. The evolution of the classical scientific paradigm, beginning with Newton, reflects a 350-year progression toward this goal. Establishing the existence of universal laws has allowed us to encounter the world with enormous confidence and creativity. And although there is no doubt that this is one of the great accomplishments of Western culture, something has gone terribly awry.When we fail to distinguish between discovering order in nature and imposing order on nature, we have lost relationship with the very thing we yearn to know. Whereas once we were students of nature, looking to her for meaning, we now denigrate her in the belief that it is our inalienable right to have dominion.

But the mechanistic, linear approach that has pervaded the course of science over the past 350 years has led to the glorification of order and the subsequent objectification of reality. At the same time, the idea of mystery—a sense of the unknowable—has typically been dismissed by science as mere metaphysics or, worse, superstitious ignorance—the last refuge of a primitive mind.

Because mystery is by definition unknowable, its nature is also unpredictable and therefore beyond the aegis of technology’s control. Because its understanding serves no practical purpose in the context of the classical paradigm, there would appear to be no reason to give it attention. Be that as it may, in the final analysis, the classical scientific paradigm, in rejecting uncertainty as an essential aspect of reality, has been the unwitting agent of great injury both to our planet and our psyche. I believe that this situation is in urgent need of redress and necessarily involves “revisioning” both our scientific and psychological relationship touncertainty.

Despite its limitations, the classical paradigm has been maintained because it supports a view of the world and ourselves in which, over time, we have become highly invested. Therefore, even though it has become increasingly cumbersome and unresponsive, our culture has been extremely reluctant to give it up. It is a familiar model. For the most part, it works, at least to the extent that it explains the world in a predictable, orderly fashion. It is also, in its basis in determinism, an essentially idealistic model that assumes that if we keep to the scientific project—ask the right questions, gather enough information, solve the problems—then finally we will run out of problems to solve.

My point is only that phenomena relating to unpredictability and uncertainty have not been ignored over the past 350 years simply because scientists are narrow-minded or lack the intellectual capacity to perceive of their existence, but because uncertainty is an anomaly inherently beyond the scope and interest of the prevailing paradigm. Furthermore, to consider uncertainty as an actual systemic state opens a Pandora’s box that seriously calls into question a model of reality that has taken hundreds of years to establish. Scientists, like manufacturers, are not eager to retool the plant just when it is starting to turn a profit. Not, that is, unless they want to generate a level of crisis and anxiety that may well threaten the entire system on which their enterprise is based.

THE QUESTION OF DETERMINISM

In the newly emerging scientific paradigm, the issues of determinism and uncertainty are considered in a radically new light. Although separated by 300 years, the theories of both Newton and Einstein are models of scientific determinism, a view of the universe that holds that “the structure of the world is such that any event can be rationally predicted . . . if we are given a sufficiently precise description of past events, together with all the laws of nature” (Popper, 1982, p. 2).

However, the new scientific paradigm, in embracing nonlinearity and indeterminism, takes a radically different view, assuming unpredictability to be an inherent cosmic expression deeply embedded within the core of reality. As Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine (1997) so succinctly put it, “Chance, or probability, is no longer a convenientway of accepting ignorance but rather part of a new, extended rationality” (p. 55). According to this view, the universe is an emergent, self-organizing system of exquisite complexity, continuously evolving within an interpenetrating web of cocreative relationships (Goerner, 1999; Laszlo, 1995).

The notion of inherent unpredictability challenges the very foundation of classical science, the linear, cause-and-effect approach to the world that most of us learned in high school. For, indeed, how can a science which asserts that “the future can be rationally deduced (based on) scientific procedures of prediction” (Popper, 1982), be rationalized with a model of the universe in which uncertainty and unpredictability are regarded not as troublesome anomalies but as the essential nature of reality? Prigogine (1997) stated that “the universe itself is highly heterogeneous and far from equilibrium. This prevents systems from reaching a state of equilibrium” (p. 158).  Prigogine suggested that as systems tend to move further from equilibrium, so they tend toward greater degrees of freedom, thus “distance from equilibrium becomes anessential parameter in describing nature” (Prigogine, 1996,p. 68).

We begin to see that unpredictability and uncertainty do indeed follow universal laws once we accept that probability is not an expression of ignorance but rather accurately reflects the weblike patterns of interconnection that we see all around us in the natural world. For uncertainty to make sense, we must relinquish the simplistic—a predictable, closed systems view of the universe—and take up the complex—a world comprised of interdependent, interpenetrating networks of relationship. This is the very essence of new paradigm thinking.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF UNCERTAINTY

Once entertained, the concept of scientific indeterminism leads down a slippery slope away from the known and knowable toward the psychological depths of mystery. Here, at the edge of chaos, the linear map ends and we enter on a new paradigm, one that embraces uncertainty, unpredictability, and the unknowable. [At]  “the edge of chaos,” you find complexity; a class of behaviors in which the components of the system never quite lock into place yet never quite dissolve into turbulence either.

In this realm of infinite potential, nothing can be grasped or quantified once and for all. Whether despite our science or because of it, we face this “awe-full” place in trembling and anxiety, for it is one thing to conceptualize an indeterministic world but quite another to actually live in it.

Heidegger (1962), however, refuted the notion that anxiety is a pathology or even, for that matter, an emotion but rather considers it as an irreducible, existential state of being. For Heidegger, anxiety is not in response to something, such as an external threat, but exists for its own sake. It arises from the self-reflexive awareness of our own “potentiality-for-Being.” Speaking from a more strictly psychological perspective, May (1977) made much the same point in saying, “Whenever possibility is visualized by an individual, anxiety is potentially present in the same experience”

Creativity, authenticity, uncertainty, anxiety—these cannot be separated. To live a creative existence means to live with uncertainty. To live an authentic existence means to live with anxiety. But Heidegger (1962) also said that when we turn away from our authentic self and, grasping for safety and certainty, abdicate our choices to the ubiquitous “they” (Das Man), it is anxiety that draws us back from our absorption in the world (p. 189).

Our problem with anxiety is identical to our problem with uncertainty and stems from an unwavering desire to put clear, definitive boundaries on that which is, in essence, boundless.

AWE

Being in awe is not only meaningful for the individual in society but for society as a whole. As a culture, we have adopted an arrogant relationship to the world, assuming that what is beyond our dominion is of little consequence and that what cannot be known with certainty is not worth knowing. We have placed our faith in the classical scientific model and counted on it to resolve the uncertainty of our existence. But the attitude of certainty assumed by normal science, the attitude in which our culture has been so thoroughly schooled, is by no means the be-all and end-all of science. It is indeed paradoxical that the scientists of greatest genius, the Newtons and Einsteins who championed the deterministic model, were those who approached science from a position of awe.

This, however, is not the typical attitude of normal science, which, as an institution, has rejected the unknowable as irrelevant to its projects and has applied itself instead to gaining dominion over the natural world. In an effort to grasp the universal laws and know them once and for all, science has denied a level of complexity that is beyond our capacity to measure or quantify. In advocating this position, science has taught, or at least encouraged, our culture to resist the anxiety of uncertainty. In denigrating all that cannot be explained in objective, “scientific” terms, we have lost reverence, not only for our planet, but for the complex, interpenetrating web of relationships that comprise the world. By thus demeaning nature, we demean ourselves.We have paid dearly for our single-minded absorption in our own accomplishments.

Through science we have acquired far more knowledge than wisdom.

JC comments:  I debated  whether to insert my own comments in the midst of Gordon’s text, or to make comments at the end.  I opted to bold things that I want to highlight in my comments on the relevance of these arguments to the climate change debate.

The reasoning about the climate system reflected by the IPCC is fundamentally deterministic.  Yes, initial conditions and model parameters are varied in climate model simulations to some extent, and multiple models are used, but the overarching philosophy is fundamentally deterministic.  Confidence in conclusions is judged in the context of arguments for and against, with disregard to acknowledging areas of ignorance (see my Italian Flag post).

An issue of substantial concern is how we actually use the scientific findings (whatever their merit) in policy making.  The UNFCCC policies seem to me to be a case in point of having lost reverence, not only for our planet, but for the complex, interpenetrating web of relationships that comprise the world.

And finally, the complex web that has been woven between climate science and policy makers makes the following statement an issue of substantial concern:

Scientists, like manufacturers, are not eager to retool the plant just when it is starting to turn a profit. Not, that is, unless they want to generate a level of crisis and anxiety that may well threaten the entire system on which their enterprise is based.

Taming the uncertainty monster at the climate science – policy interface requires reflection on these issues.

284 responses to “Psychology of Uncertainty

  1. Homo sapiens are at the top of the food chain on the third ball of dirt orbiting the Sun.

    They are intelligent, conniving, manipulative, and creative . . . but strangely blind to the fact that they too are controlled by cause and effect.

  2. That is why selfishness, self-centeredness (being blinded to reality) is the root of most of our problems.

    • Compare the post-modern messages of impending doom, with the great benevolent reality recorded by space-age observations and NASA photos of reality:

      http://dingo.care2.com/cards/flash/5409/galaxy.swf

      I updated my web page to show these images of reality in contrast to the distorted models of reality promoted by world leaders after 1945:

      http://omanuel.wordpress.com/about/#comment-105

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo
      http://www.omatumr.com

    • George will wrote a wonderful column on his Down’s syndrome son’s 40th birthday. Here’s a paragraph having to do with the human condition.

      “Judging by Jon, the world would be improved by more people with Down syndrome, who are quite nice, as humans go. It is said we are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and remain greedy. People with Down syndrome must remain brave in order to navigate society’s complexities. They have no choice but to be trusting because, with limited understanding, and limited abilities to communicate misunderstanding, they, like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” always depend on the kindness of strangers. Judging by Jon’s experience, they almost always receive it.”

  3. Yes, humans deal badly with Uncertainty.

    But there are two distinct phenomena at play (at least) in human psychology with regards to prediction and unknowability.

    Long before statisticians were coined, or card players founded the mathematics of Probability, human beings knew of Risk and Uncertainty at a profound intuitive level. Different people in different circumstances will be more or less Risk-loving or Risk-averse: a new mother will be ferociously Risk-averse, where a few scant months before she may well have been quite the thrill-seeking risk-taker. A middle-aged person with an empty nest and comfortable finances might suddenly take to all those adventures they’d put off for years that ‘coincidentally’ have a high risk profile.

    But Uncertainty? True Uncertainty-preference is rare and generally brief. Intuitively, Uncertainty is avoided, likely because for generally poor payoffs it is doubly costly; pronoiacs and those nihilists who value nothing at all embrace Uncertainty over Risk, even the most Risk-loving.

    Putting a box around Uncertainty, parameterizing it, developing coping mechanisms for it and policy to address it, that’s always been a human art.

  4. David Wojick

    No logic here so I will move on. Stuff like “‘…inherent cosmic expression, deeply embedded within the core of reality” leaves me cold. I would point out that he seems to be saying that the intrinsic unpredictability of chaotic systems is non-deterministic. That is false. What chaos theory does is show that determinism need not be predictable. Science is indeed having trouble coping with this new view. But this is a technical point, not a psychological one. Primordial angst is not my thing.

    • I think you error a bit with the definition of determinism. Laplace, the modern popularizer of the concept of determinism (i.e. the Laplace Superman) would disagree with you completely. I think you must redefine the bounds of determinism to your own purpose in order to make the assertion: “What chaos theory does is show that determinism need not be predictable.” That simply is not determinism by any definition or common use of which I’m aware. Further, I am not aware of any chaos construct that prescribes that a result must fall within bounds. There are a great many that result in a statistically practical result. For example, per quantum uncertainty it usually the case that I have to open a door before passing through it. Never the less, it not physically or mathematically necessary that I remove it from my path before passing through it. I may actually be able to pass through it every once or twice in the history of the universe.

      Further, it is artificial to separate “psychology” from “technical” as the concept of “technical” does not exist in the universe without a human projection and assertion as to it’s meaning and value. And by extension, the value does not exist without appeal to the value that human beings assign to it. This is particularly the case when “technical” points are to result in actions undertaken by the human community. Therefore, psychology is highly relevant to the context and meaning of the data and possibly in smaller proportion to the formulation of the data itself.

      • David Wojick

        I think once Laplace understood the butterfly effect he would happily agree. The unpredictability is practical, not mathematical. Different trajectories depend on infinitesimal differences. A mathematician’s dream.

      • In theory you can solve any problems with an infinitely fast computer and infinitely precise measurements.

        Round off error in our instruments alone prevents solving the equations, even before you consider the computational limitation inherent in exponential problem size.

      • ferd berple | June 10, 2012 at 11:36 pm |

        *cough*

        That theory has some cardinal holes in it.

        There are many sources of obstacles to determining future outcomes.

        Sensitivity to initial conditions such that precision of measurements precludes all but trivial predictions is only one such impediment.. albeit, one we can be certain of. :)

      • ferd berple

        Bart R | June 11, 2012 at 12:04 am |
        That theory has some cardinal holes in it.
        ======
        name them.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        ferd berple | June 11, 2012 at 1:53 am |

        Bart R | June 11, 2012 at 12:04 am |
        That theory has some cardinal holes in it.
        ======
        name them.

        Well, the claim is that “In theory you can solve any problems with an infinitely fast computer and infinitely precise measurements.” I see absolutely no way to either demonstrate or falsify that statement, so that’s a cardinal hole—a theory that is unfalsifiable is not a scientific theory, just an anecdote.

        Another hole in the theory is like the old saw about “what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”? The corresponding statement in the case of your theory is “what happens when a computer that can solve any problem meets an insoluble problem”?

        Finally, you run up against the Godel problem—Godel showed that within any internally consistent logical framework, there are some statements whose truth value cannot be determined … in other words Godel said that some problems are insoluble, but your theory says all problems can be solved by your theoretical computer. Both of those can’t be true, and Godel has shown mathematically that his statement is true … so you’re the odd man out.

        That’s three holes right there …

        w.

        PS—As an example of a problem that cannot be solved, computer or not, consider the following story. In this story, the King was fed up with all of the irrational belief systems in his city, systems sustained by rumours and lies. So he issued an edict, which was that anyone telling a lie in his city was to be hung immediately. That, he figured, would fix things up so that only rational belief systems remained.

        Nasruddin heard about this edict, and the next morning he went to the city. The guard at the city gate said, “Nasruddin, why have you come to the city?”

        “I’ve come to the city to be hung,” replied Nasruddin with a pleasant smile.

        “That’s a lie!” shouted the Guard, “and for lying, the punishment is that you will immediately be … uh-oh … wait a minute …”

        Godel roolz …

        w.

      • ferd berple | June 10, 2012 at 11:36 pm |

        Name them? I can start.

        a.) Cardinality.

        Computers, at least working production functioning proven digital computers today, are equivalent to Turing Machines (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_machine) in Cardinality, even approaching ‘infinite’ speed.

        The Universe has two orders higher Cardinality. It cannot be mapped onto any Turing Machine. So there will be infinitely many problems even an infinitely fast computer can never solve, regardless of precision.

        b.) Infomatics.

        The concept of an infinitely fast computer is meaningless. There may be quantum computers that perform operations in a single step, however that is not ‘infinite’, and quantum infomatics is hairy enough as it is to apply to single classes of problems. Applied to ‘any problem’ returns us to infinitely many one step quantum machines.

        c.) Incommensurability.

        “If the square of the hypoteneuse is equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides, why is a mouse when it spins?” (h/t Douglas Adams, Dr. Who)

        There are infinitely many well-formed but meaningless problems that fed into a computer will take infinite time to solve.

        d.) Russell’s Paradox.

        Look that one up.

        e.) The list is too long, as Cardinality is involved.

      • Alexej Buergin

        According to Quantum Mechanics, even perfect instruments with no rounding error cannot measure place and speed perfectly at the same time.

      • blueice2hotsea

        Follow up questions to Willis’ point wrt Godel:

        Does physics require the full theory of arithmetic (+ – X /)?

        Is the full theory of arithmetic logically consistent?

      • blueice2hotsea | June 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

        So long as you always limit your Physics problems to finite numbers (a bit difficult when you get to pi, ln(x), and various other limits of series, but doable if you’re clever and willing to accept fixed approximations), then Gödel can be sidestepped, and you can derive a complete Physics.

        No one bothers to, of course.

      • In theory you can solve any problems with an infinitely fast computer and infinitely precise measurements.

        A few comments have been made on this claim as it stands but that’s fruitless until the claim is reformulated as mathematicians reformulate this kind of claims:


        You can solve any problem with any predefined accuracy in a predefined time with a fast and precise computer that can be constructed using as input empirical data that can be obtained. All that can be done before a date that can be determined.

        This is a well-defined claim that’s as close to the original claim as I consider possible for a well-defined claim.

        It appears clear that this claim is false. The uncertainty principle is one reason for that, but there are also reasons related to the extreme sensitivity on the initial conditions of some systems (infinite sensitivity in the sense that the sensitivity may exceed any predefined limit).

      • We can always conjecture about who might have said what. (Descarte meets Freud: “I think therefore I Id.”) However regardless of what Laplace might have said, the point is that your construct does not result in a deterministic mechanism. It results in a non-deterministic result (deriving from a non-deterministic algorithm – as all chaos algorithms are by definition) who’s result falls within a probabilistic range. I do not believe there is language or logic that supports this as “determinism.”

    • David, I appreciate what you are saying but I doubt Gordon is using the words “chaos,” “linear” and “turbulence” in any allegedly technical way. I have been to many humanities seminars (and read many humanities papers) where such words are used to denote things that have nothing at all to do with “chaos theory,” “linear models” and “turbulent flows.”

      Once, in an interdisciplinary seminar, I asked the speaker (a law professor) what he meant by “nonlinear”… This brought smirks to the faces of several of the humanistic scholars in the room, and the speaker gave me what can only be described as a “meta-answer:” That whatever I and the other economist in the room thought it meant, it wasn’t what he meant, and it would take us too far afield for him to describe what he meant.

      Me, I just try to bleep over words in humanistic literature when they have technical meanings, and instead I just try to get the gist of the intent by context. :)

    • I too quickly lose interest when the subject is psychology. Our son graduated with a degree in it. He’s now back in school studying computer science.

    • Some of the verbiage is pretty new-agey. This one was a particularly odd bit of WTFage:

      This article explores the possibility for a psychology in which uncertainty is regarded not as a limit but as an expression of the boundless creativity inherent in the universe.

      Umm, ok…

    • The term that twanged me was “webs”. Are these acausal webs? What are their strands? Or are they illusions of a hyper-active pattern-recognition facility of the human brain?

      The author seems quite certain in his views of uncertainty. There’s a certain recursion issue here …

  5. True confession: I seldom read the referenced articles in toto due to constraints of schedule and commitment…and also due to a confidence developed over time that JCurry edits both well and honestly. This one however, I will read this evening, glass of wine in hand. Being wildly unscientific or logical, I note that the edits here indicate symmetry in the opposing concepts, as well as what seems to be a focused attempt to bring them to Hegelian Synthesis. This is a beautiful structure. Just as important, it seems well and clearly written. Underneath it all lurks a humble perspective that there are things that can’t be known or predicted with meaningful certainty and that certainly can’t be controlled.

    • Red wine or white? To properly deconstruct this, I assert that you need to be under the influence of whatever the author was smoking when he wrote it. My experience is that those who like Hegel also bought Marxism (not science). There is a schism in science, post-determinism and those who cling to the old order, but you would be better off reading about it from something a real scientist wrote. For those who are not scientists, uncertainty has always been huge, so what’s new?

      • Hegel was the first major philosopher to describe concept change. Marx the first to describe technological change. I like both in this regard and have learned a lot from them, such change being my field. It is unfortunate that their good ideas morphed into political ideologies. As a result no one reads them.

      • David, I think the greater sadness is that they read too much into them…at least as regards Hegel. I agree with some of Marx’s alienation doctrines, but nothing else of his. The rest of Marx + human nature results in catastrophe every time it’s applied.

      • David Wojick

        Marx was the first major to point out that technology changes society, and even more, that society will change in order to adopt technology. Do you disagree?

        Unfortunately he then posited a technology based utopia and decided we could simply jump there, by brute force. It was called communism. The rest is unhappy history. However, his technology analysis was correct. Back when I taught philosophy of technology at CMU I made people unhappy by praising Marx, but I learned a lot from him. Mind you, this has nothing to do with Marxism.

        I have no concept of alienation. Everyone is in society.

      • “David Wojick | June 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

        Marx was the first major to point out that technology changes society, and even more, that society will change in order to adopt technology. Do you disagree? ”

        Not sure.

        Technology has been a big benefit to humans. The list is endless, but one aspect is it has extended the lifetimes of the majority of population.
        And of course changed the “software” of humans, human evolution has been mostly about changing “software”, and technology has greatly accelerated this “evolution”. Instead “software” could say improved human civilization.
        But as far as changing caused technology, I say enabled change, change that people have desired. Though maybe not everyone has this desire [it's seems it generally a minority wants change].

      • David Wojick

        GB, I meant does he disagree that this is what Marx said. As for your comment, putting words in quotation marks tends to make them meaningless. Nor do humans have software. So I do not know what you are saying.

      • “GB, I meant does he disagree that this is what Marx said. As for your comment, putting words in quotation marks tends to make them meaningless. Nor do humans have software. So I do not know what you are saying.”

        hardware is biology- software: culture/knowledge

      • “My experience is that those who like Hegel also bought Marxism (not science).” I’m afraid you cover so much ground here so quickly that meaning is lost or at least escapes me. Hegel’s doctrine of the Dialectic (thesis, antithesis resulting in synthesis) is the foundation of the modern scientific method. Marx cherry picks a bit of Hegel but really isn’t at all the same thing. People often confuse this issue historically because somehow, Hegel has gotten wrongly attributed in the minds of many with the doctrine of Dialectic Materialism. This was actually one of two later Marxists (conflicting attributions exist).

      • And red by the way! We have some ridiculous California blends in the basement.

  6. Judith,
    I cringe at the over-used words “uncertain” or “uncertainty”. A better word is “indeterminate”. This is what the debate between Warmists and Skeptics boisl down to: Determinism vs. Indeterminism.

    We will never know if the next flip of a coin will land head or tails. Knowing the probability of an outcome is not the same as knowing the outcome. They are two entirely different answers to two entirely different questions. When scientists fail to understand this, we end up with junk science.

    • Indeed.
      If, a few billion years ago, some alien entity had calculated the probability of intelligent life developing on planet Earth, they probably would have concluded it to be so hopelessly improbable that it would almost certainly never happen.

    • Excellent point Jim.

    • What makes me cringe even more is when they attach a probability to how certain they are.

      • Assigning a probability to a one-time, linear event (the global temperature anomaly 60 years from now) which can never be replicated, is as unscientific as it gets.

      • Right.

        Luk 3:6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

        See you all soon, I Hope.

    • We do know that the next flip of a coin will most likely be heads or tails. It is very rare, but it could end up on its edge.

  7. Too academic; National Lampoon said it better in their oldie but goodie “Deteriorata”.
    http://www.leoslyrics.com/national-lampoon/deteriorata-lyrics/

    You are a fluke of the universe.
    You have no right to be here.
    And whether you can hear it or not,
    The universe is laughing behind your back.

  8. As I mentioned on the “Uncertainty is not your friend” thread, most skeptics here are not talking about uncertainty, they seem very certain that the IPCC range has no chance of being right. It may be that these people embrace their version of certainty because of their fear of uncertainty, so in this respect the article refers to them. Regarding the IPCC, many scientists have much more certain views than those expressed by the IPCC consensus with its hedging “very likely” statements. For sure, there are uncertainties about the future, such as volcanoes, solar effects, fossil fuel burning rates, aerosols, dust, vegetation changes, methane releases, polar melting rates, ocean circulation changes, etc., but with no change in these factors, AGW projects something in the 3-4 C temperature increase range for this century just from the effect of projected GHG increases. So, yes, there are unpredictable factors that go in both directions, and the skeptics know no more about these than the AGW scientists, but it is quite clear what they are and how large they can be because they have all happened before to some extent. These other uncertain factors are the reason it is called a projection, not a prediction.

    • Jim D, it is more like the skeptics are confident there is zero chance of the IPCC high end of the estimate being right. Mosher is about a lukewarm as it gets, he doesn’t deny the physics in any way, he is just comfortable the high end is too high. I happen to believe that the high end is half of what Mosher thinks it may be, mainly because I have a reasonably good idea there is significant recovery involved.

      With a little more time and quality measurements that will be obvious as more and more climate scientists are “shocked” by the way nature responds to perturbations. Then you will be able to pick out a nice little curve shaped like H(1-e^(-t/.RC)) or I have the sign wrong and we are all doomed :)

      • If everyone could agree that 3 degrees per doubling is not all that unlikely, we could start getting prepared for it, but I think we are a long way from that type of consensus, except among the scientists.
        By the way, your curve only applies if the forcing stops increasing, which it won’t the way things are going with new fossil fuel reserves being opened up. Game over when we start extracting the methyl clathrates as fuel.

      • There is the rub, 3C is less likely than 1.6C. The issue of the “In the pipeline” decreases once the approach to a new “normal” OHC is recognized in the noise. You can get an agreement only on what is “most” likely, not a high end tail.

      • That was the point I made. The skeptics have almost no probability for 3 C. First you implied you weren’t in that group, but now it seems you are.

      • No, this is the problem, The other day you said we should agree that the warming from 1955 “can” be explained by CO2. That requires a lot of assumptions about a lot of less than stellar data. It can be, but you have to be very careful with your assumptions and uncertainty. 3C can happen, but is less likely than 1.6C, the current trend in TCR estimates.

        My personal estimate is 0.8C +/-0.2 because I have been looking at the paleo averages and not ranges, The change in the slope of the short term trend down slopes and some of the apparently over looked dynamics. So if you are looking for an agreement for a large base, 1.6C is the best bet. My estimate will change when there is a reason for me to change it.

      • capt. dallas, the IPCC presented the forcings, the temperature change and the error bars to come up with their sensitivity range. Independently energy balance models, global climate models and paleoclimate evidence come up with a similar range. Skeptics have not yet succeeded in challenging those numbers. They have tried through Lindzen’s neglect of aerosols, and the people who dispute CO2 can have any forcing, or the people who say the temperature hasn’t risen nearly as much as the stations say they have, none of which hold any water as theories.

      • Oh please!
        So policymakers are going to be swayed by the ramblings of a handful of sceptic bloggers, against the consensus view of the world’s climate experts?
        You credit us with an inordinate amount of influence.

      • You should see some of the US policymakers. The answer is yes. Skepticism is part of the Republican platform now.

      • “If everyone could agree that 3 degrees per doubling is not all that unlikely, we could start getting prepared for it, but I think we are a long way from that type of consensus, except among the scientists.”

        You mean 2 x 400 ppm. Or 2 x 260 ppm.
        ?

        I don’t think we get 1 C rise in temperature by 2050. or it’s likely there will be less than .2 per decade. It seems a 2 C rise in temperature by 2050 can’t be reasonably expected.
        I think it’s possible to get .3 rise on temperature next year, but more unlikely to get total of .6 C within two to 3 years.
        It’s possible that just because the global temperatures hasn’t done anything unexpected over last decade, that I feel a false sense of confidence.
        But don’t think if something unexpected happens, such 2 C rise by 2050
        that it’s the end of the world or something.
        instead it would provide evidence that some of these IPCC projections may be right. Sure, many will wonder how this could happen [I somehow doubt the mental shock will worse then when Dems lost Wisconsin].
        In such situation action would taken before 2050. Such as threaten war and/or sanctions with China if doesn’t lower it’s CO2 emission.
        It could be somewhat unfortunate, if by such a time the US hasn’t really done anything towards ramping up nuclear energy.
        No doubt at such A point of growing realization that CO2 emission is serious issue that nuclear reactors could BE build with less concern for safety. And perhaps plans to fertilize ocean to pull out CO2, will also done in a more reckless fashion. Perhaps mobs of rednecks rush out into ocean barges and fishing boats various weird ideas of how to do it.

      • There is an upper bound on feedback at which point the earth would have self-immolated a long time ago. We don’t know exactly what this is, but we do know that it exists. This places an upper limit on climate sensitivity. We don’t know what these numbers are, but we know they exist. Therefore there’s an point, which we don’t know precisely, where the probability of climate sensitivity become zero. Not small, but zero.

        The earth exists, therefore there’s a hard upper limit to climate sensitivity.

      • That point is at infinite climate sensitivity.

      • True, but at what temperature is it infinite and at what temperature is it zero?

      • No. The no-feedback sensitivity is a finite number. You can’t add any arbitrary feedback to that. At some high positive feedback, the system becomes unstable at any temperature. Unless you’re suggesting that there’s infinite greenhouse effect (which is unphysical), there has to be a limit to the product of greenhouse warming and feedback. Both numbers are limited, so their product is limited.

        It should be obvious why any positive feedback gain over 1 is unstable.

        And just to be completely clear, since this is an area where people get confused over nomenclature, there is feedback gain, and then there’s feedback multiplier. The latter is the geometric series of the former; i.e. as the gain approaches 1, the multiplier approaches infinity (since feedback feeds back on itself). This is pretty basic EE stuff.

      • P.E.

        There is a stability limit of 1.0 for the feedback (f), but approaching that limit will lead to arbitrarily large values for the climate sensitivity, which is proportional to 1/(1-f) in the simple case. The whole basis for the stability limit is exactly in the fact that the climate sensitivity goes to infinity at that limit.

        There are no specific limits for climate sensitivity. There are no fully binding reasons to argue that additional CO2 could not lead to an instability when that happens in the way it’s presently going on and starting from the present state of the Earth system. I don’t think that that would be the case and the past climate history gives certainly support for the expectation of stability also for the future. Your proposal that there would be some strict upper limit is, however, not justified by any theory.

      • The upper limit for temperature is reached when the Arctic Sea Ice is melted because that causes huge snowfalls. The lower limit for temperature is reached when the Arctic Sea Ice is frozen and snowfall is greatly reduced. Look at the data and watch the weather around the northern hemisphere. Times of record low arctic sea ice extent are always followed by times of record high snow extent. This past winter the high snow was in Alaska, Canada, Europe and Asia. The winter before we had record high snow in the US.

      • According to Richard Alley, paleoclimate evidence favors sensitivities near 3 degrees per doubling. I think this is from the CO2 levels and temperatures and the chemical rates involved in removing CO2 in a reasonable time.

      • The problem with sensitivity is that they drive temperature with CO2 and it really is the other way. A cold soft drink has a high CO2 Vapor pressure and a cold soft drink has a low CO2 Vapor pressure. Warm and Cold Oceans work exactly the same way. The CO2 Vapor pressure is a function of ocean temperature and not a driver of ocean temperature.
        They looked at the data and just got it backwards. A class in simple physics would really help them. A class in common sense might be even more helpful.

      • There is a lot of interesting things going on in paleo. Determining a past temperature to +/- 1 C would be worth a prize if it could be proven. One thing that all paleo reconstructions have though is an average. When you compare the 1880 to 1990 SST, or GISS or regional to the paleo reconstructions you tend to a pretty reasonable fit. Now if you compare the 1880 to 1990 instrumental average to the 1950 to 1981 instrumental average you would find that is about 0.2 to 0.4 C higher that the little ice age. The if you compare the average of the paleo prior to 1400, you would find that that is a little higher than the 1950 to 1980 instrumental average.

        Now the more paleo you attempt to average together, the lower the average would be because of the internal oscillations cancel each other. But the average of each paleo individually, will give a reasonable estimate for that region. Kinda interesting. The more high frequency paleo data you average, the less information you get :) So century or longer averages of individual proxies are the way to go.

        Try it some time, join skeptics united.

      • There is the ocean outgassing school of skeptics that imagine a world with the ocean spontaneously changing temperature and outgassing or absorbing CO2 according to some whim. Currently they say it got into an outgassing mode for some unknown reason, but maybe in the future it will turn around and suck that CO2 right back in. Did I paraphrase that belief right?

      • capt. dallas, yes, prior to the LIA there is evidence the sun was quite active. These things can account for those types of variations in the last millennium, and some say volcanoes too. The forcings leading to changes of half a degree are kind of small compared to doubling CO2, and that’s the forcing, no assumptions about feedbacks.

      • I wouldn’t know. I am not in the spontaneous outgassing club. Now agricultural practices could change the rate of natural biological sequestration which would increase the rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere. Since agriculture and land use change have impacted around 12% of the surface of the globe, that could be a significant factor.

      • That was for Herman, who I think was alluding to that school.

      • Sorry, might be a good thing for Herman to read :)

      • Whether half of a degree change in the past is small compared to the CO2 forcing depends on where the half of a degree change was and for how long.

        http://i122.photobucket.com/albums/o252/captdallas2/climate%20stuff/tasmaniassataymyrgreenlandhadsst1880-1991from-2000.png

        The northern hemisphere has a lot of change because is has less thermal mass. The southern hemisphere less change because of the greater thermal mass, but temperature is not energy, it just is a indication of amount of heat energy. As I mentioned, a 0.2 C difference in the average SST would be about 0.8Wm-2 of energy flux. A 0.2 C change in land temperature would be about half that and have a much shorter time constant.

        Since it is easier to lose energy than it is to contain it, a century of 0.8Wm-2 of energy loss in the oceans would take at least as long likely up to twice as long to regain. By confusing natural regain from depressed heat content, the estimate of sensitivity would be well on the high side. As the heat capacity of the system approaches conditional equilibrium, it will be easier to determine what is sensitive to what by the changing rate of uptake. Just like charging a battery or a capacitor, the sensitivity to forcing will decrease to zero at the conditional equilibrium. That can be curve fitted with more data and a reasonable length of the data.

        Still, you have 3C stuck in your head. 1.5C for 3.7Wm-2 of additional forcing would be the CO2 impact at some point in the upper troposphere. The actual surface impact, which we are concerned, with would be lower and dependent on where the impact is relative to where the average radiant layer should be. Nearly every uncertainty there is serves to reduce the radiant impact of CO2.

        Vaughan Pratt has a new model that he says shows that 0.16C per year rise is too slow to realize the full impact of CO2. That I agree with. That means that the area of greatest warming, over land, will not have enough time to have a full impact on the oceans. That is just another indication that a large portion of the imbalance is due to recovery of the OHC from a prolonged cooling period. I just can’t see more than 1C at the surface by CO2 alone.

      • capt. dallas, also remember that Arctic and land areas will warm faster than the global average, maybe twice as fast, so when you talk about 1.6 C, that is 3C in some places. Significant, I think, even with your estimate. But the land will also become drier, so at least it will be a dry heat. Not so good for plants, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and irrigation, however.

      • JimD, a portion of that warming would be natural, a portion would be extra due to CO2 and some due to land use. Many of the areas would welcome an extra few degrees, others would need to consider agricultural changes and improvements in water shed management. There is nothing particularly novel about adapting to regional changes. The dust bowl forced considerable adaptation in the US.

        I have already seen a couple papers on crop albedo modification that can reduce regional temperatures by 1 to 2 C, No till agriculture increases soil moisture retention, reduces soil temperatures and increases soil CO2 sequestration. Many areas required storm water retention ponds which properly managed would improve ground water recharge, reduce local urban heat island effects and make for pretty fair fishing.

        Check this out, http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/06/10/nature-on-uncertainty-climate-change-is-less-important-than-we-thought/

      • When a soft drink is cold and you open it you can see that the vapor pressure of the CO2 was low. When a soft drink is hot and you open it you can see that the vapor pressure of CO2 was high. The vapor pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere does go up and down because of changes to ocean temperature.
        The outgassing of CO2 when oceans get warm is just simple physics and it is real.

      • “Then you will be able to pick out a nice little curve shaped like H(1-e^(-t/.RC)) or I have the sign wrong and we are all doomed :)”

        I can tell you it won’t be a damped exponential response. Diffusional responses rarely show this first order behavior. Instead they always have long tails that comes straight out of the master equation and compartmental models.

      • The OHC recovery portion should be asymptotic which technically can have a long tail depending on RC. You should still be able to figure out what it is approaching. Internal variability will generate a lot of noise of course. If you trust ARGO, you can get a best fit now that should be in the ballpark. The next solar minimum should tell the tale. The decrease in solar should nearly match the current ocean imbalance.

        Other impacts will have all sorts of responses, but you should be able to pick out this one though.

      • That’s the wrong solution, there is effectively no RC time constant. You are using math that does not apply. Read some of Hansen’s papers from the early 1980’s to understand what is happening.

      • Web, the ocean would charge and discharge much like a capacitor. It is a dynamic system. His is a similar discussion on the charging.

        http://rankexploits.com/musings/2012/ocean-heat-uptake-efficiency-chicken-laying-eggs-and-infinite-silliness/

      • But a capacitor does not work by diffusion, so the time dependence is completely different, and one can be off by tens, hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years in the time constant.

      • With the stratification of the ocean, different layers would have different time constants. For the whole ocean, the time constant is likely several hundred thousand years. Then for that time constant we have an approximate current, 0.08 Wm-2, the approximate geothermal in the deep ocean which would be balanced in equilibrium.

        I think it is easier to start inside the onion and work out.

      • Wrong. Diffusion has no time constant per se.
        Diffusive growth is actually a mixture of rates at different time scales. You need to study how random walk occurs to understand this.

        Saying the time constant is an exponentially damped several hundred thousand years will not generate the correct initial transients.

        If one used several hundred thousand years, we would have enormous amounts left in the pipeline.

        Start with the master equation.

      • Web, wouldn’t a variation in initial conditions have an impact on your calculated diffusion? The ocean layer capacity model just gives a feel for the charge and discharge rates at different C values.

        1800 to 1900 the SST was between 0.2C and 0.4C lower than the average from 1940 to present. There would be a recharge time constant that would be natural plus an enhancement due to anthropogenic impacts. If you take individual paleo proxies, the average prior to 1400AD was about equal to the 1940 to present average. If you average all the paleo of course the noise suppresses the average, but longer term averages of the individual proxies show that there was a MWP that had an impact on SST. Using the ocean capacity with the RC time constant gives you a rough idea of the natural part of the increase.

        Then if you use diffusion, you would get a better estimate of the anthro impact by comparing rates from different initial conditions.

        Try your diffusion model where the initial SST is 0.5 degrees lower, what do you get?

    • “they seem very certain that the IPCC range has no chance of being right.”

      Because the IPCC reports have already been proven wrong.
      For example the inclusion of Mann’s hockey stick.
      IPCC included it without proper peer review. If by chance Mann’s hockey had happened by blind chance to be correct, the IPCC would still be wrong.
      This not hard to see.
      What you asking is we should forgive these “minor” mistakes, which is stupid thing to ask.
      It’s as stupid and as lame as the IPCC.

      Now if IPCC is suppose to churn out political documents, like:
      “But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you”
      Then why should matter what IPCC talking points are?
      Let’s defund it, and move on.

    • Jim D, I love the way the skeptical arguments fall at the waves of your hand. And contrasting skeptics with scientists is a nice warm touch. But it is not uncertainty that skeptics fear, it is tyranny.

      • Put another way, people who want the world’s energy system restructured by force should not be surprised if others want to check their numbers.

      • Jim D, speaking of mysterious mechanisms, how do you explain the fact that the UAH shows no warming for the last 32 years except a single step warming coincident with a giant ENSO? Do you have a heat capacitor hidden in the ocean that collects GHG warming then releases it when triggered by an ENSO? There is plenty of mystery to go around.

  9. I can’t but help think the author has met only a tiny fraction of humanity, and yet makes such sweeping judgments.
    A few weeks in a secure mental hospital, then in a religious cult, then in a Socialist Workers Commune, and a month or two in Iran/North Korea would completely alter his viewpoint.
    He may have a point about the people, other vapid pseudo-intellectuals, who live in comfortable middle class, crime free enclaves.

  10. In the example of climate science, how much of this determinism has activism as a catalyst? As children we are bombarded with environmental messages that urge us to do something. For me it was the crying Indian at the hillside full of trash and Woodsy Owl telling me to give a hoot. For my daughter I witnessed her fifth grade earth science class, ocean chapter, where 5 of 9 leaning topics were environmental. Could this type of behavior conditioning be at the root of climate science determinism? Also, how much of determinism is rooted in arrogance where our ego will not allow us to be unsure of anything?

  11. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is 85 years old, and this psychologist has the chutzpah to lecture scientists about having to “retool” for uncertainty?

  12. “Whereas once we were students of nature, looking to her for meaning….”

    I almost quit reading at this point. Anyone who romanticizes man’s past realtionship with nature is an idiot.

  13. Steven Mosher

    Judith.

    Thanks for this. who would have expected heidegger in a climate debate.
    Ravetz and I had a nice chuckle in Lisbon about how the climate debate had brought philosophy back to life. Wrt the human desire for order, one should also recognize that we also have a rage for chaos.

    If Man’s rage for Chaos sounds like a good book title, it is. A good title and a great book, when you get the time.

  14. Last night was a cloudless, moonless night, my path was lit by the light of the Milky Way. How magnificent, how immense, the wonderment. I was filled with Awe.
    My ancestors, yours too looked into the Heavens and were awe struck as well. Gods and goddesses, spirits and demons were conjured to provide answers where there were none. Some of those conjured creatures some people let become a reality and statues, temples, symbols and rituals ensued. Yet the energy, the thrill, the motive behind the sense of awe remains for me; and, unlike the messy word “uncertainty”, awe is inspirational. For me, awe inspires me to look again, further, and explore to my own limits.

    Uncertainty on the other hand I describe as messy because it focuses on the emotions uncertainty evokes in my uncertain life. The anxiety, the neurosis that casts me about as a sailor in a small boat in a terrible storm. My emotions of uncertainty are all over the place and restrain me from reaching out.

    Instead of trying to tame an uncertainty monster, be it in climate science or otherwise, I choose to view the process, climates exploration for instances, as being awed by it magnificence, its scope, and I wonder where investigations will lead us.

    Activists for CO2 mitigation, instead of awe seem to be racked by uncertainty and are stuck in the phase of constructing temples, establishing a liturgy. Awe is translated as fear, and fear is the motivation “to do something; anything.”

    Come walk with me some cloudless moonless light.

    • Actually, our ancestors looked up at a few points of light in the sky, and saw lions, bears, and fish. I attribute it to mushrooms.

      • Whatever floats your boat…

        Gen 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also.

        button.

    • Considerate thinker

      RiHo08
      My version of awe is to stand in the middle of a raging storm with lightning bolts flashing across the sky, then coming to the earth with that peculiar acrid smell that is generated as nature demonstrates its power. Man and Mann is nothing compared with nature.

      I am also fortunate? in having qualified Psychologists as children who take opposite sides in the climate “debate” and my observation, for what it is worth is that while psychologists are involved in scientific “truthing”, nothing will be resolved!

  15. David L. Hagen

    Is this and AGW part of:
    Forty Year Cycle Of Scientific Psychosis ?
    <blockquote.There appears to be a forty year cycle of mental illness in the scientific community. This is what they were saying in 1970.
    “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
    • George Wald, Harvard Biologist

    (will read paper in detail later.)

  16. I confess that this reminds me of so much else that came out of the postmodern precincts of the Academy in the 1980s and 1990s. In that sense, it is not very original.

    There’s the denigration of “linear” thinking, and all the baggage that goes along with the use of that term (anti-west, anti-enlightenment, anti-science, anti-male).

    There’s the talk about “objectification of [insert oppressed class or thing here],” a particularly male, capitalist, western thing to do at least according to (what passed for) au courant thought at that time.

    There’s Sandra Harding’s idea that at some point we stopped looking at nature for meaning, and instead started torturing her for answers. You are probably all familiar with Harding’s notion that Bacon’s Novum Organum is a “rape manual” (yes, really, Harding said that).

    The whole thing has the distinct smell of deep ecology about it which is much older than 2003 and, consequently, becoming fairly pungant.

    Besides expressing my distaste for this brand of discourse, I have several comments:

    1. I see no necessary or even probable relationship between regular old science and lack of awe of nature. Almost everyone, including almost all scientists I’ll bet, have had a numinous experience (or two) in the presence of nature. The notion that scientists are, as a group, victims of some kind of spiritual autism, uniquely induced by their fondness for deterministic models, is something only humanist scholars who exclusively hang with one another could believe.

    2. As other denizens have pointed out, science is full of random/stochastic models. Stochastic and random models of choice behavior are my bag.

    I try to remain silent about the climates models and science here, I mostly listen to others on those subjects. I would be interested to know whether there is a view that the models are “too closed and deterministic” as opposed to “open, and open to stochastic factors.” It seems Dr. Curry feels so. Whether this Gordon character is sensible or not, that question seems a worthwhile one for those in the know to debate.

    • NW, I agree with your points in general, re the broader scope of science. However, to me it seems that Gordon’s comments are relevant for climate science.

    • One for you NW. Enjoy!

      • Enjoy? They’re evidently wallowing in enough on their own, thanks. Do any of them doubt the others’ sincerity? “I can out-grieve you!” showboating …

    • “The notion that scientists are, as a group, victims of some kind of spiritual autism, uniquely induced by their fondness for deterministic models, is something only humanist scholars who exclusively hang with one another could believe”

      My Cards. Scientist and Atheist. However, there is a LOT of pressure on scientists, especially in biological sciences to bury any religious affiliation they have. Any serious scientists would has a strong God the Creator of Life spirituality is a de facto creationist and will be torn to shreds by the press and critics, on that basis and that basis alone.
      I just did a quick check and searched for ‘denial’ and ‘Creation’ ‘scientist'; look at what pops up:-

      http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/07/03/749593/-Melding-Creationism-and-Climate-Denialism-Dr-Roy-Spencer
      Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:52 PM PDT
      Melding Creationism and Climate Denialism: Dr. Roy Spencer

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2008/05/22/202659/should-you-believe-anything-john-christy-or-roy-spencer-say/?mobile=nc

      Chester says:
      May 22, 2008 at 3:18 pm

      Roy Spencer is a creationist. That tells you everything you need to know about him as a scientist.

      http://bbickmore.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/roy-spencer-the-anti-scientist/
      made a fairly detailed argument for the proposition that Roy Spencer represents an almost perfect convergence of two anti-science strains–creationism and climate change contrarianism.

      (PS This blog has these links DeSmogBlog; Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet; Open Mind; Rabbett Run; RealClimate; Skeptical Science)

      http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Roy_Spencer
      Opposition to evolution and embrace of “intelligent design”

      Spencer has been an active in advocating Intelligent Design over evolution, and argued in 2005 that its teaching should be mandatory in schools[18]. Working with the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, Spencer has been part of an effort to advocate environmental policy that is based on a “Biblical view” rather than science. As a defender of “Intelligent Design” creationism, Spencer has asserted that the scientific theory of evolution is really just a kind of religion.[19]

      View: creation has a better scientific basis

      In the book The Evolution Crisis[20] Spencer is quoted as saying:

      “I finally became convinced that the theory of creation actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution, for the creation model was actually better able to explain the physical and biological complexity in the world…” [21]

      So, you wonder why practicing orthodox Muslims, Jews and Christians who believe the biblical account of creation keep their mouths closed and behave as if they have ‘some kind of spiritual autism’?

      • Doc, I won’t offend the real scientists here by calling myself one. However I do experiments and use statistics to test mathematical models, and am an atheist too, so maybe not so different from you.

        I have no reason to doubt your surmise about ‘God the Creator’ spirituality amongst folks in the life sciences. Try to find an admitted Republican in almost any humanities department. You’ll find them, but they pay a high price both professionally and socially. I think it is roughly similar.

        Numinous experience and spirituality don’t imply a ‘God the Creator’ kind of belief though. Gordon is clearly influenced by a post-deist kind of spirituality. He uses that sort of lingo a great deal, especially in the sections where he talks about Buddhism and Heschel and Buber and so forth.

        I purposely avoided saying anything about God.

      • Good idea NW, to read up on God first.

      • Martin Luther, and science today seem to have much in common; in a very strange way.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther

        Got your nail now?

      • Roy Spenser is discredited because he doesn’t think that the excess atmospheric CO2 is from combustion of fossil fuels. The one thing that we have huge certainty on, and he becomes a contrarian.

  17. And again, *sigh*

    Whether humankind ignites this planet with nuclear flames, or finds the key back to Eden, or anything in between, it is all natural. Whatever we do as humans’ is within nature and therefore completly acceptable.

    As for uncertainty, how the hell should I know?

    :)

    • The great philosopher Alfred E. Neuman has the ultimate answer.

    • “Edward Teller, whom history would later dub the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb made a bet that the Trinity Test (Gadget) might cause a chain reaction that would ignite the whole of the Earth’s atmosphere, killing every living thing on the planet.”

      Just blame Joe-six-pack again. Super.

  18. “Through science we have acquired far more knowledge than wisdom.”
    Unfortunately, we have acquired far less knowledge that we think we have and do not have the wisdom to realize that fact.

  19. ‘To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And eternity in an hour.’
    Blake – Augeries of Innocence

    Climate science is uncertain. In the words of Tim Palmer – head of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts – ‘our observations of weather and climate are uncertain, the models into which we assimilate this data and predict the future are uncertain, and external effects such as volcanoes and anthropogenic greenhouse emissions are also uncertain. Fundamentally, therefore, therefore we should think of weather and climate predictions in terms of equations whose basic prognostic variables are probability densities ρ(X,t) where X denotes some climatic variable and t denoted time. In this way, ρ(X,t)dV represents the probability that, at time t, the true value of X lies in some small volume dV of state space.’

    Models as well as climate are deterministically chaotic – so these provide little scope for other than probabilisitc forecasts. As distinguished scholar James McWilliams says – ‘models are members of the broader class of deterministic chaotic dynamical systems, which provides several expectations about their properties. In the context of weather prediction, the generic property of sensitive dependence is well understood. For a particular model, small differences in initial state (indistinguishable within the sampling uncertainty for atmospheric measurements) amplify with time at an exponential rate until saturating at a magnitude comparable to the range of intrinsic variability.’

    In the world of risk managment – the low probability events at one end of the spectrum are a key concern. Designing a dam for the probable maximum flood for instance – however poorly that is defined by stochastic methods or described deterministically. In climate this is the probability that X occupies a state space volume that is much different from current conditions – and that may occur in as little as a decade. Extreme events in deterministically chaotic systems have been defined by Didier Sornette as ‘dragon-kings’. It is important to understand ‘dragon-kings as being often associated with a neighborhood of what can be called equivalently a phase transition, a bifurcation, a catastrophe (in the sense of Rene Thom), or a tipping point.’
    So it seems that beyond the known there be dragons.

    Although as a natural philosopher I put everthing into a wider spiritual, moral, ethical and humanistic framework.

    ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty, –that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. ‘

    • Sockpuppet psychology = create lots of aliases to manipulate the naive readership into believing that a consensus of thought exists.

      • Diogenes is obvioulsy a deep thinker who quotes at length at least two of the leading figures in the field of climatology – plus a couple of major English poets. Now do you have any substantive comment at all – or are you just going to play the sockpuppet card?

        Simply because you are a humourless and one dimensional drone – doesn’t mean that there is a naive readership who can’t cope with subtle humour or distinguish between serious, on topic and erudite comment – and the type of tribal hand waving you rely on when not retailing idiotically simplistic ideas of diffusion of just about everything.

        à tout à l’heure

      • “when not retailing idiotically simplistic ideas of diffusion of just about everything. “

        ????
        The guy can not handle a master equation or apply a Green’s function?

      • Webby,

        I am sure that your ‘master equation’ – one that defines the time evolution of a system – works very well in the universe you live in for everything from heat diffusing from the atmosphere to the oceans to the imensely complex carbon cycle. Ground control to Spece Cadet Weeby – we salute you.

        Here’s a solution to the the one-dimensional Fokker-Planck. Have fun.

        Best regards

  20. tempterrain

    I read sentences like “The deep psychic expression of this experience is anxiety which, following Heidegger, is conceived not as pathology but rather as an essential state of being emerging simultaneously with uncertainty” and I wonder what they really mean!

    Is it just that Judith likes to push the concept that living with uncertainty is much more complex than it really is. We live with it every day. We don’t know what the future will bring but we just make the best decisions which can at the time. Uncertainty doesn’t paralyze us into a state of total inaction, which is her motivation in using the word so often in connection with the climate debate.

    • The motivation is that there is true uncertainty – as shown by reference to leaders in the field in the comment above.

      You asked for numbers on carbon sequestration on agricultural lands which were given – but without any response. I discern that your motivations are not to understand but to score cheap points in your imaginary pissant progressive schoolyard debate.

    • Dismayed that you have misinterpreted me. This is what I have been saying: uncertainty does not need to paralyze us into inaction. It is the consensus thinking scientists who seem to think that uncertainty and lack of consensus will lead to inaction.

      • “consensus-thinking scientists”

        Negative labelling for people you disagree with.
        The ditto-heads love it, but it’s just a stupid talking point.

        Consensus doesn’t mean 100% agremeent, and you know this.

      • How can we know Michael? We live in fly-over-country… you know the one?

      • Consensus is now a pjerorative term? Go figure.

      • That is how it’s framed in this usage – stupid, I agree.

      • It is pejorative when it is fake consensus, as in people donning sockpuppet identities to demonstrate greater agreement amongst the team than actually exists.

      • Micheal,

        Let’s deconstruct. Consensus minded scientists is pjorative and ditto heads isn’t? I didn’t say I agreed I just didn’t that you are as wacky as Webby and TT. It is an avoidance of serious discussion on the real point. Such as contained in the post above by that deep thinking and profound natural philospher Diogenes quoting at length 2 leaders in the climate field.

        Here’s another one. Anastasios Tsonis, of the Atmospheric Sciences Group at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and colleagues used a mathematical network approach to analyse abrupt climate change on decadal timescales. Ocean and atmospheric indices – in this case the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation and the North Pacific Oscillation – can be thought of as chaotic oscillators that capture the major modes of climate variability. Tsonis and colleagues calculated the ‘distance’ between the indices. It was found that they would synchronise at certain times and then shift into a new state.

        It is no coincidence that shifts in ocean and atmospheric indices occur at the same time as changes in the trajectory of global surface temperature. Our ‘interest is to understand – first the natural variability of climate – and then take it from there. So we were very excited when we realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,’ Tsonis said.

        I am sure that most sceptics and warmists fail to understand dynamical complexity – certainly not Webby – but I trust you recognise a scientific consensus when you see one. Or perhaps not. Perhaps you are more interested in making silly debating pionts than in understanding climate.

        Best regards
        Captain Kangaroo

      • What’s that skip?

        “ditto-heads” is Judith’s other perjorative term (“IPCC ditto-heads”) she bandies about when wanting to label other scientists who won’t agree with her.

        i’m sure you’ll be taking ti up with her……..ha!

      • That’s OK – I’m sure there is room on the blog for the chronically maliganant with the schoolboy debating points. You might ask Webby – he knows the drill. Ignore anything of any depth and inteject with one or to two line trivialities. I would suggest that you construct a relevant argument that is on the point and references substantive sources. I would suggest using the post by Diogenes as a model as this is well beyond webby.

        Although – as I ocassionaly point out – dissing someone who calls themselves Captain Kangaroo by calling them Skippy is not the pinnacle of acumen. So I suspect it is beyond you as well.

        Best Regards
        Skippy

      • That’s OK – I’m sure there is room on the blog for the chronically maliganant with the schoolboy debating points.

        Well, well, I haven’t been around for a while, but I see that irony hasn’t gone out of style – even with contributors that weren’t here when I was last around.

      • Not surprisingly, the larger point eludes you skip.

        Judith appears not to get the rather ironic situation of slagging off the ‘consensus’ (well, a parody of it) while wanting to convince others of the correctness of her perspective.

      • There’s a clear consensus among “skeptics” that “the consensus” is wrong, indeed, that “consensus-based” approaches to scientific analysis are inherently flawed.

        And all the while, I’m told by a consensus of “skeptics” that there is no consensus among “skeptics,” even as “skeptics” frequently talk of how “skeptics” do or don’t view climate science and how the views of “skeptics” differ from the views of “the consensus.”

        Similar to how “skeptics” are absolutely certain that “the consensus” doesn’t deal well with uncertainty.

      • Joshua,

        I would tell you Captain Kangaroo is – but then I would have to shoot you.

        Suffice to say he is a climate warrior on a blue horse – http://s1114.photobucket.com/albums/k538/Chief_Hydrologist/?action=view&current=blue_horse.jpg – and exists to swap pointless jibes with the pissantly progressive when it amuses him. As such – irony is a blunt instrument, lonesome is part of the iconic nature of being a cowboy and some people are not worth arguing with but should nonetheless be creatively insulted anyway. Those who instinctively choose the wrong side of the argument prominent. I had whether to responf to your comment below seriously on your inability to actually come to a meaningfull resolution – rather than simply whine – or to respond with the contempt you deserve. And here you come to me.

        Diogenes on the other hand addresses uncertainty both with reference to probabilistic forecasts within finite volumes of phase space and to the deterministically chaotic nature of climate models – quoting at length leaders in the field of climate sceince and computing but realising that this means nothing to the hoi polloi. That he also defines risk as the nexus between probablity and consequences and proposes cost benefit positive solutions including conservation farming and billion dollars energy technology prizes should earn brownie points from both sides.

        The contrast to you couldn’t be starker. Trivial irrelevancy versus a considered exploration of both science and policy. Climate warrior point scoring as opposed to defining constructive ways forward. Nonsense as opposed to legitimate discourse.

        Cheers

      • Well, well, how ironic that I unknowingly called out someone who turns out to be The Chief of unintentional irony for being so unintentionally ironic, just as I have often times in the past.

        What’s next – will you again appeal to Judith to get your back because of how unfairly you’ve been treated by those who insult you on a blog?

        Claim for the umpteenth time after claiming that you won’t read and/or respond to my posts, read and respond to my posts by saying that you won’t read or respond to my posts?

        Dude, you do take unintentional irony to a high art.

        Like I said. Same stuff, different day, eh? Is there some kind of time warp here at Climate Etc.?

      • And Chief – I must say it’s cute the way that you pretend that if you take a different nic it isn’t still you that’s writing the posts.

        I had an imaginary friend when I was about three. His name was Jerry. When my parents found something done that wasn’t supposed to have been done, I told them that Jerry did it.

        It worked for me.

        When I was three.

      • Joshua,

        When will you realise that nothing is unintended? As I suggested I am quite happy to leave you with your trivial delusions and insane climate warrior diversions. I am quite sure that when your line of drivel descends into abuse you will be dealt with again without my intervention. In the meantime – my time is yours to waste if I want to.

        I would be more impressed if you came up with practical ways forward and made attempts to understand what Diogenes said above. Astonished would probably be closer to the mark.

        Best Regards

      • “When will you realise that nothing is unintended?”

        Yeah. Right. How are you doing with your commissions on Brooklyn Bridge sales.

        Anyhoo. Have a nice evening, Chief (realizing, of course, that you Ozzies can’t even get it straight when it’s daytime and when it’s night). I’ll catch you in another couple of months, when no doubt I’ll find you spending gobs of time insulting people on blogs as you explain to them how juvenile it is to waste time insulting people on blogs (and claiming to be intentionally ironic in doing so).

      • ClimateSkeptik

        Joshua

        “realizing, of course, that you Ozzies can’t even get it straight when it’s daytime and when it’s night”

        So which one of the worlds bankrupt states are you currently sucking the teat of?

      • That’s your bigger point Michael? I am sure I could think of something more trivial if I tried really hard. No – I got nothing to compete. You win.

      • Not all all skip, you makde the deeply insightful point that I called you skip.

        Kudos to you.

        Go Team!

      • ‘Although – as I ocassionally point out – dissing someone who calls themselves Captain Kangaroo by calling them Skippy is not the pinnacle of acumen.’

        Is that too subtle for you – or are you determined to prove youself an idiot at every turn?

      • The correlation between Peter Gleick and his NGO getting in trouble and Joshua’s activity here is interesting.
        The ciruclar pointless distraction that Joshua relies on to hijack threads is a predictable tactic for someone who has nothing to actually offer in their favor, but is rather devoted to delaying the skeptics whom he clearly dislikes.

      • Joshua,

        I am disapointed that you resort so quickly to cliché. Jibes about downunder and the Brooklyn Bridge. Anyhoo. Not reading your posts (damn I forgot). Repitition of a claim of unintended irony.

        Let’s deconstruct.

        ‘That’s OK – I’m sure there is room on the blog for the chronically maliganant with the schoolboy debating points.’ me

        There is certainly no irony in the statement – it is quite simply understood. The ‘unintended’ irony is supposed to reside in my being unaware that the statement could equally apply to myself. From a self admitted climate warrior named Captain Kangaroo – it seems unlikely.

        You are resolutely an AGW space cadet.

        Best regards

      • It is a group of climate scientists who are waving the consensus flag. I love it when they are hoisted by their own petard then howl with protest.

    • temp,

      clear science communicaton is not a skill that every scientist has.

  21. Dr. Curry,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments at the end.

    I will note that while Gordon may not have intended the application, his statement about science and mystery apply to its dismissal of all religious experience as well –> ‘At the same time, the idea of mystery—a sense of the unknowable—has typically been dismissed by science as mere metaphysics or, worse, superstitious ignorance—the last refuge of a primitive mind.’

    In the same context — religion and spirituality — he is spot on with:

    ‘Through science we have acquired far more knowledge than wisdom.’

  22. This is post-modern interdisciplinarianism at it’s worst – the desperate search for some kind of link where there probably is none ,and being attracted to articles with lots of big words.

    Waffle.

  23. ‘But the mechanistic, linear approach that has pervaded the course of science over the past 350 years has led to the glorification of order and the subsequent objectification of reality.’

    The age of the computer has produced a sharp non-linearity in our scientific capabilities. While we like to think linearly and without random noise, we can now simulate any combinations of uncertainty. For climate science, this is still a work in progress. To avoid slow Darwinian style evolution of mathematical models, it is important to first get the structure of the model correct. Although the IPCC has about 20 different (?) models there is no assurance that their structure is close to reality. For a start their resolution has to be fine enough to cope with the micro climate within the small clouds that scoot across the skies in summer. With the resources available to a retired scientist I have adopted a more broad brush approach based on the analogue world with which I am familiar.

    • “To avoid slow Darwinian style evolution of mathematical models, it is important to first get the structure of the model correct”
      Actually the way organisms have evolved is rather interesting and does provide a template for computer software design.
      20-20 hindsight suggests that since all things evolved, and that the vast majority of species are extinct, then the ability to evolve quickly should have an evolutionary advantage; this is indeed the the case.
      The units of genetic information are arranged in functional blocks, and block within blocks, and are allowed to be diced and spliced. Allowing a relatively simple mechanism of mega duplication of whole swaths of DNA, we have function, then duplication and then branch specialization. We use high and lower information rich motifs again and again to do the same sort of thing in a different way.
      The master control genes that controls the timing and size of morphology are like the slide controllers on a mixing deck, Except of bits of brain, there isn’t that much difference between mammals, except for the position of the sliders on the mixing desk. The hard bit is getting to a mammal.

  24. Beth Cooper

    To hold infinity in the palm of your hand .

    O sweet spontaneous
    earth how often have
    the
    doting
    fingers of
    prurient philosophers pinched
    and
    poked

    thee
    , has the naughty thumb
    of science prodded
    thy
    beauty , how
    often have religions taken
    thee upon their scraggy knees
    squeezing and

    buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
    gods
    ( but
    true

    to the incomparable
    couch of death thy
    rhythmic
    lover

    thou answerest

    them only with

    … spring!

  25. I would suggest that false certainty is more dangerous than problematic uncertainty. The first rule of medicine is “First do no harm” for a reason.

    • Of course neither certainty nor uncertainy in themselves change the outcomes. I am inclined to take those precautions that add to social and economic resilience. Conservation farming on grazing land to sequester carbon and increase productivity for instance. This is far from a ‘good idea’ – it meets the first criteria of pragmatic action and is in fact happening for good reasons in the real world.

      • You never seem to admit to wanting centralization of power at the expense of individual liberty to enforce your ‘good ideas’ onto everyone who must then toil under your feckless confabulations — as if you’re their new god, like it or not.

      • ???… Really Wag? The guy who regularly talks about the “sainted Hayek?”

      • Can he really have understood Hayek?

      • Wagathon

        You are an idiot with an agenda as seriously misguided as any warmist. Solutions will succeeed in the marketplace without assistance or they will not. Yesterday I posted a video on Elinor Ostrom – Nobel Prize winning economist – whose concern is ‘polycentric’ solutions to the so called tradgey of the commons. These spring from informed cooperation of groups within society. The management of groundwater by farmers is a prime example. Or fisheries by fisherman. Conservation farming is a pragmatic example happening now and growing because it depends only on information flow between farmers. Not on anything that I may or may not do and certainly not on any coercive power that I at any rate disavow. About 15% of Australian farmers are conservation farmers – because it brings 70% greater productivity with lower inputs of fuel and chemicals. The number is growing rapidaly because it is a no brainer. It has the potential to sequester 100 years of Australian greenhouse gas emissions.

        That part of this is pragmatic becasue it is happening under existing market conditions didn’t you understand? It needs neither you nor I to intervene – although I would encourage it through both aid and conservation transfers. Translation if you need it – pay farmers to conserve biodiversity. Oh I forgot – not possible for decades in America because you are broke.

        Cheers

      • the so called tradgey of the commons.

        Aside from the tragic misspelling of “tragedy”, your post is, as far as it goes, reasonably balanced. I suggest you might find common ground with Wag if you emphasize the true “tragedy of the commons” lesson: that there should be no commons, that private ownership leads to wise stewardship.

        Or is that not what you mean?

      • …common ground, maybe except that these socialists (like Sartre too) were there to see for themselves — in real time — the failure of communism and went to their graves being appologists for it in their minds’ eye. And, of course, America’s Leftists also seem to prefer their visions of liberal Utopia to reality.

      • The commons is a metaphor and a poor one. Water is an example of something that by and large can’t be owned. It can be stored for a period (although not too long as it slips away), it can be used but it needs to be managed as a common resource under common law principles. We all have rights to water. The best way to do this is by informed agreement.

      • Um, no. The fact that certain resources have not had conventional property rights assigned in them does not come close to proving that “the commons is a metaphore.” In fact, “The Tragedy of the Commons” was written about, you know, “the commons”–something that really existed. Not a metaphore.

        Plus which, your example is simply mistaken. There ARE property rights in water–they’re just a different set of rules, which we made to account for it’s different nature. In fact, there are two sets of rules. Riparian rights are different in the U.S. East vs. the West, because the nature of the supply differed, producing two different societal responses. Which should nicely illustrate the principle that society can and does develop property rights as a means for efficient distribution of scarce resources.

        But again, although property rights in water are different from other kinds of property rights, they are, no less, propery rights.

      • Chief,
        Good point. However I believe that unfounded confidence in a diagnosis has led to more harm than has uncertainty. The increasingly humorous pattern of AGW promoters writing ‘science’ papers that all purport to show the science settled and that the current cliamte is experiencing some sort of grave anomaly caused by CO2 is an example of this.
        I wonder if our hostess is going to discuss the just-pulled Australian hockey stick paper?

  26. Willis Eschenbach

    I was astounded by this claim that you highlighted, Judith:

    … the classical scientific paradigm, in rejecting uncertainty as an essential aspect of reality, has been the unwitting agent of great injury both to our planet and our psyche.

    For me, that is the function of error bars and confidence intervals, which (on my planet at least) is an integral part of the classic scientific paradigm.

    So I fear that in my opinion, the authors of the article don’t share my opinion about the nature of the “classical scientific paradigm”. In my world, the classic scientific paradigm not only contains uncertainty—it is one of the few parts of human activity that actually attempts to measure and quantify uncertainty.

    It is also one of the ways I distinguish science from speculation—science has error bars.

    As a result of the authors colossal misunderstanding of the nature of science, for me the article is a massive fail.

    w.

    • Willis, the ghost of Ernest Rutherford and told me that good science is designing experiments that don’t need error bars.

      • DocMartyn | June 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm |

        Have you ever seen a cite for that attribution? Do you know the context?

        Rather than look for it, I look to the man’s work. For example:

        http://www.maths.bris.ac.uk/~majge/he85.pdf

        The actual experiments of Ernest Rutherford tell a very different tale.
        The man was utterly precise and fanatical in the use of error bars and the best statisitical methods of his day.

        And he also is known to have pronounced “You should never bet against anything in science at odds of more than about 1012 to 1.” 1000:3 is approximately the confidence generated by BEST (pending review) of global land warming from the middle of the last century to the end of the BEST data.

        Of course, he also famously said, “Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of the atom is talking moonshine.”

    • I for one wondered what precisely he had in mind as the “great injury … to our planet” that the “classic scientific paradigm” has caused. I did not, however, wonder enough to trudge through the entire article to find out.

      • The classical quote is:-
        “If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”

        Ernest Rutherford

        Rutherford was rather good at experimental design that gave binary outputs, even using detection techniques that had low signal/noise ratios.
        Rutherford is often held up as the type of experimentalist one should emulate, as he not only designed experiments, but he though a prior of the various outputs that could be generated.

      • Except for the entire field of physics known as statistical mechanics.
        In that case, the statistics is part of the observed natural phenomena — what is referred to as aleatory uncertainty.
        Statistical mechanics often draws from QM (another field with uncertainty), and leads to the entire field of thermodynamics.

      • I find this is a common opinion amongst the experimenters in my field.

        Personally I think it depends on what kind of knowledge you want, and about what kind of dependent variable.

        For instance if you have a binary dependent variable D and you want to make statistics irrelevant, you would be choosing the treatments A and B so that you expect (say) E(D|A) = 1 and E(D|B) = 0. That would send the expected effect size to infinity and, if you were right, the results will be significant according to Savage’s Interocular Shock Test (“It hits you between the eyes”). No stats needed.

        Suppose on the other hand that you want to gain knowledge that will allow you to predict D under conditions other than the treatments you use. In this case, you want to avoid values of conditioning variables X (and hence treatments A and B) that produce E(D|X) = 0 or 1 (or for that matter 0.5). For a fairly broad class of link functions, conditioning variable values that produce values of E(D|X) in the neighborhood of 0.8 and 0.2 will be roughly optimal for estimating the parameters that control the influence of X on D.

        Hypothesis testing and out-of-sample prediction are two different beasts. The latter beast needs variability to thrive.

      • NW you must also add that we need to calibrate out signal so we need to know the conditions whereby we can place mass, m, at one end of our detector and get either E(D|A) = 1 and E(D|B) = 0.
        When you have a binary, max and min, you are in a position to mess around.

      • Unfortunately, Doc, my measuring instruments are usually people making binary choices. They emit “I choose option 1″ or “I choose option 2″ and, despite all my reasonable arguments, my IRB won’t let me calibrate them. :)

    • matthew hincman

      While there may be “error bars” in the science, it seems that when the science gets disseminated through the media, the error bars disappear.

      Case in point: the new paper claiming equivocal anthropogenic fingerprint on the warming of the oceans: Human-Induced Global Ocean Warming on Multi-Decadal Time Scales.

      One of the authors, Dr. Church
      said
      the breadth of the study had “allowed the group to rule out that the changes are related to natural variability in the climate system”.

      He said there was simply no way the upper layers of every ocean in the world could have warmed by more than 0.1 degrees Celsius through natural causes alone.

      “Natural variability could only explain 10 per cent, or thereabouts, of the observed change,” he said.

      And further, an expert in the field, Dr, Bindoff says, “This paper’s important because, for the first time, we can actually say that we’re virtually certain that the oceans have warmed, and that warming is caused not by natural processes, but by rising greenhouse gases primarily.”

      And he described the evidence of global warming as unequivocal.

      Judy has clearly pointed out the “uncertainties” indicated in the paper, but it is important to note that none of those uncertainties are presented as prominently as their “findings” in the press.

  27. I think the philosophy of Heidegger may provide some insight as to what can happen after–e.g., English has been turned into a liars language, nihilism has been substituted for founding principles and before

    fear can be applied by the neo-fascists to turn the wheel we need an object of their hatred. Among other things, this leads to Hot World Syndrome–>
    (Here)

  28. “the article is a massive fail”

    Not uncommon for Climate Etc.

    Andrew

  29. The existentialist psychology of science.

    Talk about finding your niche.

    Existentialism and existentialists bore me to tears. (The only one who bored me more than Heideger was Kirkegaard.) Add in the fact that the inimitable Heidegger only dropped his membership in the Nazi Party after Germany lost the war, and you can color me skeptical of the relevance of his maunderings on the nature of being to any current policy debate.

    N.B. Godwin’s Law doesn’t apply to someone who was actually a Nazi.

  30. science has error bars?
    reality doesn’t.

    • Prove it. With appropriate confidence levels.

    • Perhaps reality is a crutch for those who can’t handle uncertainty.

      • heh. lovely replies. top quality humor. dirk gently.

        ‘the uncertainty of the probability is the likelihood of unlikelihood – or the unlikelihood of the likelihood, if you’re a cup half empty kind of guy’

        ‘information is composed of subinformative particles called morons.’

        ‘since perfectly compressed data is indistinguishable from purely random noise, the static on the radio contains all the information in the universe in lossless form’

        vogons applaud the development of infinite improbability theory.

        full of holes …

        (the modern numerologist casts the i-ching with excel…)

  31. First, the article makes the mistake of singling out a modern science-centric approach as not dealing well with uncertainty (even as it recognizes the basic human psychological underpinnings of that tendency). The same lack of ability to deal with uncertainty is also inherent in most religious doctrine. Buddhism, if you want to consider it a religion, is an interesting exception.

    And then Judith goes on to make a very much related error – by singling out the IPCC for it’s failure to address certainty appropriately – as if the very same phenomenon isn’t just as characteristic of the IPCC’s critics. Indeed, we have seen many cases where Judith herself has dramatically failed to acknowledge and quantify accurately uncertainties imbedded in her own perspective (one nice, oft’ repeated example is in her statements about the public “crisis” in confidence in climate science that grew out of Climategate).

    If you recognize an inherently human tendency towards dealing poorly with uncertainty, and then go on to selectively find that very human characteristic in some humans but not others, and don’t even see how there is a direct link between your own cultural, ideological, and political influences and the selectivity of where you find an inability to deal well with uncertainty, well…

    Oh. Geece. Will nothing ever change in the climate debate?

  32. Infinite Improbability Drive

    The Infinite Improbability Drive is a wonderful new method of crossing vast intersteller distances in a mere nothingth of a second without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace.

    It was discovered by a lucky chance, and then developed into a governable form of propulsion by the Galactic Government’s research team on Damogran.

    This, briefly, is the story of its discovery.

    The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bambleweeny 57 sub-meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian Motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were of course well understood – and such generators were often used to break the ice at parties by making all the molicules in the hostess’s undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left, in accordance with the Theory of Indeterminacy.

    Many respectable physicists said that they weren’t going to stand for this – partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn’t get invited to those sort of parties.

    Another thing they couldn’t stand was the perpetual failure they encountered in trying to construct a machine which could generate the infinite improbability field needed to flip a spaceship across the mind-paralysing distances between the furthest stars, and in the end they grumpily announced that such a machine was virtually imposssible.

    Then, one day, a student who had been left to sweep up the lab after a particulary unsuccessful party found himself reasoning this way:

    If, he thought to himself, such amachine is a virtual impossibility, then it must logically be a finite improbability. So all I have to do in order to make one, is to work out exactly how improbable it is, feed that figure into the finite improbability generator, give it a fresh cup of really hot tea … and turn it on!

    He did this, and was rather startled to discover that he had managed to create the long sought after golden Infinite Improbability generater out of thin air.

    It startled him even more when just after he was awarded the Galactic Institute’s Prize for Extreme Cleverness he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn’t stand was a smartass.

  33. My entire blog is devoted to encouraging the idea of uncertainty as a good thing. The calamitous idea of AGW “settled science” and its re-invension as a religion emphasises the need for us all to be more grown up about the world and to be able to accept “I don’t know” as a statement of possibility not defeat

    • We ought of course be able to admit “I don’t know”, when it’s true and earned. Unearned ignorance by laziness, self-inflicted stupidity or willful blindness isn’t much of a foundation for claiming a virtue.

      We will of course be faced with “I can’t know”, about some questions.

      However, for all the rest, Newton covered it pretty well 399 years ago. We ought treat as true, or very nearly true, the proposition that observation and inference best support, until new observation sustains a different proposition.

      And if it’s Isaac Newton’s well-reasoned Philosophy from Principia or your entire blog.. I’m afraid it’s no contest.

      • We should of course make some effort to bring our understanding up to date – much as I love Isaac Newton calculus is insufficient for the present purpose of comprehending the nature of climate and model uncertainty.

        Try these for a start from modern leaders in the field of climate science.

        http://judithcurry.com/2012/06/10/psychology-of-uncertainty/#comment-208225

        Bart’s is the fallacy of the irrelevant conclusion (ignoratio elenchi).
        Reasoning that misses the point. The informal fallacy of defending the truth of a proposition by appeal to an argument that is actually concerned with something else.

        Example: “Parents with large incomes can buy lots of things for their children. Therefore, the children of wealthy parents are happy.”

        Newton is approximately correct therefore climate science as Bart constructs it is also. Nonsense as Bart comes from an alternate universe where the fundamental laws of nature seem to be different.

      • What a steaming pile of BS skip.
        Bart just laid the basic premise of how we judge truth, as valid today as when Newton lived.

        Hilarious that skip says;
        “The informal fallacy of defending the truth of a proposition by appeal to an argument that is actually concerned with something else. ”

        and follows it with this,
        “Newton is approximately correct therefore climate science as Bart constructs it is also”

      • But that was exactly what Bart was attempting to say. Look at the quote in context. “We ought treat as true, or very nearly true, the proposition that observation and inference best support, until new observation sustains a different proposition.” – ergo we have to accept AGW because it fits that criteria.

      • So you are obviously pissed and express it so elegantly and with such biting witlessness.

        Let’s deconstruct.

        I say that calculus may not be totally irrelevant but yet insufficent to understanding uncertainty in climate science. I quote at length a couple of modern leaders in the field who are explicit in describing uncertainty in climate sceince and models. At least for those who have the wit to comprehend.

        I say that calculus is not sufficient to prove certainty in climate – and you merely quote me without defining an argument in opposition. Which reinforces my opinion that youj are incapable of putting one idea next to another.

        You then quote my example of the logical fallacy without any comment at all. It seems quite simple really. Newton cannot be used to prove climate science. This would seem to be an inarguable proposition.

        The truth of climate science is judged by calculus? We have already seen what you consider to be a non-trivial point – this simply confirms my poor impression of your learning and intelligence.

      • Skippy says:

        “Newton cannot be used to prove climate science.”

        Climate science is the study of climate. Newton suggested that science and math could be used to study many different natural phenomena.

        Or does Skippy want us to prove through Newton that “climate science” is a set of words? That sounds more like set theory.

      • Bart, I was puzzled about why you seemed to think I was asking you to chose between me and Isaac Newton. Then I saw your website and it became clear to me that logic and reason play little part in your particular paradigm. That infomercial thing you’re running makes Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth look like a doctorate thesis

      • quidsapio | June 11, 2012 at 2:09 am |

        I have a website?

        Oh. Prezi.com? That’s not a website. That’s a doodle pad.

        A useful tool for shared mind maps and presentations, it’s hardly mine, per se.

        However, to clarify your confusion:

        One must choose between Newton’s definition (4) in the Philosophy of Principia 299 years ago (proving once again the ability of some to check math and do estimation) and the implication of your proposition, as it omits Newton’s foundation for what we can say we do know to be true or approximately true and jumps straight to the goodness of uncertainty and ignorance.

        Climate science has produced validated hypotheses and holds some propositions sufficiently well-founded that we can hold them, by merit of the reasons supplied by Isaac Newton and never refuted in almost three centuries, to be true or nearly true until sufficient observation and inference overcome them.

        We can well assert that some questions in Climate Science are settled, within the traditions of Science for three hundred years.

        Is all of Climate Science settled? No, of course not. Is there an established causal relationship between lucrative human-caused CO2 level increases and climate changes? Science says that’s true, or very nearly true.

        Claims otherwise remain so much handwaved dismissalism, absent a stout rebuttal of Newton.

        Go ahead. Rebutt away. Be my guest.

      • “Oh. Prezi.com? That’s not a website. That’s a doodle pad.”

        No, it’s a website.

        The rest of what you say is just the usual one perpetrated by the terminally convinced:

        take one portion of a complex argument, assign it the quality of ‘truth'; assign all other portions of the argument the quality of ‘falsehood’ (or ‘denial’, or ‘heresy’, or whatever your particular creed requires), and then assert the science is settled beyond all reasonable doubt and Newton or some other conveniently dead Great Thinker would obviously agree with you.

      • ‘DEFINITION IV

        An impressed force is an action exerted upon a body, in order to change its state, either of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line.

        This force consists in the action only, and remains no longer in the body when the action is over. For a body maintains every new state it acquires by its inertia only. But impressed forces are of different origins, as from percussion, from pressure, from centripetal force.’

        Oh right – I guess someone should tell Tim Palmer.

        In the words of Tim Palmer – head of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts – ‘our observations of weather and climate are uncertain, the models into which we assimilate this data and predict the future are uncertain, and external effects such as volcanoes and anthropogenic greenhouse emissions are also uncertain. Fundamentally, therefore, therefore we should think of weather and climate predictions in terms of equations whose basic prognostic variables are probability densities ρ(X,t) where X denotes some climatic variable and t denoted time. In this way, ρ(X,t)dV represents the probability that, at time t, the true value of X lies in some small volume dV of state space.’

      • quidsapio | June 11, 2012 at 3:22 am |

        It appears to be time to play “One of these things is not like the other.”

        Here’s what we’re told I did and what I actually did:

        1. a) The one whereby you arbitrarily assign certainty

        vs.

        1. b) Climate science has produced validated hypotheses and holds some propositions sufficiently well-founded that we can hold them, by merit of the reasons supplied by Isaac Newton and never refuted in almost three centuries, to be true or nearly true until sufficient observation and inference overcome them.
        ————————–
        Can you spot the differences? Google definitions can:

        ar·bi·trar·y/ˈärbiˌtrerē/

        Adjective:

        1.Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

        So, I apply the three century old unrefuted reasoning system of the Philosophy of Newton’s Principia, and am called “arbitrary” for it. This difference is so glaring as to boggle at the audacity.

        And “assign”? That makes the painstaking processes undertaken by a huge number of researchers, analysts, reviewers, editors, and critics sound like picking teams in the playground. Puhleeze.

        But let’s continue the game.
        ———————
        2. a.) ..to one side of an uncertain and hopelessly complex question.

        vs.

        2. b) We ought of course be able to admit “I don’t know”, when it’s true and earned. Unearned ignorance by laziness, self-inflicted stupidity or willful blindness isn’t much of a foundation for claiming a virtue.
        ——————–
        And.. isn’t this from the guy who extols the virtues and goodness of uncertainty? How can it both be good and hopeless?

        While I’m not wed to the practice of Reductionism where inappropriate, there are infinite ways to see complexity associated with any question, and thus wilfully blind oneself to the solution, which in Mathematics is often called the ‘simplification’.
        ———————
        3. a) You have decided that “science” says there’s a link between global warming and manmade CO2,

        vs,

        3.b) We ought treat as true, or very nearly true, the proposition that observation and inference best support, until new observation sustains a different proposition.
        ——————-
        See the difference? Not I, a person, have individually decided some ill-defined abstraction has anthropomorphically dictated anything, but that the data from observations have through inference been proven to support a specific proposition better than any other proposition, in agreement with the precepts of Principia, which themselves in turn were established by a system of reasoning, and which I in turn called “science”, as if you can’t call Principia as written and practiced by Newton, “science”, then what qualifies?
        ——————-
        4. a) ..as if “science’ were some monolith with a single opinion. This is soundbite reasoning aimed at those with more bigotry than attention span. Real science is rarely monolithic, and never less so than on this question which has more unknown factors than knowns.

        vs.

        4. b) We can well assert that some questions in Climate Science are settled, within the traditions of Science for three hundred years.

        Is all of Climate Science settled? No, of course not. Is there an established causal relationship between lucrative human-caused CO2 level increases and climate changes?
        ——————–
        See? I’ve presented a balanced, non-monolithic, heterogenous view of the science of climatology. Quidsapio has plucked out one single soundbite, and accused strawmanishly me of soundbite reasoning to stage his prefab Rumsfieldish soundbite about what is never less so.

        And bigotry?! What?! Straight out of Left field.
        ——————–
        It’s advocacy you’re talking, not science. It’s belief you’re claiming, not science.

        And then it just degenerates into baseless rant, unlike anything I’ve ever written.

        My rants are always base. ;)

      • quidsapio | June 11, 2012 at 2:49 am |

        The ‘usual one’? And I hit on it by pure chance?

        Indeed, it appears this is pure making stuff up, rather than taking on the challenge, and one must conclude your argument concedes that your ideas have no answer for Newton’s Principia, but rather are a concocted string of handwaved pseudo-jargon extolling obfuscatory irrelevancies for the sake of attacking an argument invalidly that your precepts cannot meet head on.

        The portions of the ‘complex argument’ that can be held true or very nearly true remain intact.

        While one could construct around the simplified core a whole monkeybars of irrelevancies unto infinite regress, Newton’s precepts — not Newton, not his corpse, not his titles nor his authority, but the ideas themselves that you have refused utterly to engage, tell us we don’t need to waste our time with infinite obscuritanism. QED

      • Yes, Bart the usual one. The one whereby you arbitrarily assign certainty to one side of an uncertain and hopelessly complex question. You have decided that “science” says there’s a link between global warming and manmade CO2, as if “science’ were some monolith with a single opinion. This is soundbite reasoning aimed at those with more bigotry than attention span. Real science is rarely monolithic, and never less so than on this question which has more unknown factors than knowns.

        It’s advocacy you’re talking, not science. It’s belief you’re claiming, not science.

  34. Beth Cooper

    Bart @ 12.04 am:
    Hi Bart, say, seems there are quite a few expressions of certainty coming up on this ‘uncertainty’ thread. :-)

    We all seek certainty but there’s none,
    Except the certainty that things must change.
    We collect antiques, shore up the family home,
    But dynasties fall, plans soon come undone. ]

    • Beth Cooper | June 11, 2012 at 2:23 am |

      You are wise, and clearly learned.

      However, certainty is a useful illusion, even for those who recognize it for what it is.

      It’s the certain people who get places and make things happen.
      Uncertain people waffle away and are forgot.

      I know you’re not the sort to be forgot, so I see you as an expression of certainty, notwithstanding your words otherwise.

  35. The unknowable cannot be dealt by science. Using scientific knowledge, farmer feed us, builders provide us shelter, manufacturers provide us with the means of transport, pharmaceuticals provide us our medicine and utility companies provide us with energy and water. There is no uncertainty in this. Life expectancy has steadily increased to about 80 years. Science has worked. Is that not enough? The unknowable is not a concern of science as it cannot be changed, modified or resisted. We can be prepared for the unknowable. We cannot learn from the unknowable. We should not be concerned about the unknowable.

    • It’s not the unknowable – though the wrong kind of science can tend to pretend that doesn’t exist, which is another issue. it’s the theoretically knowable, but currently unknown that presents the major problem for too many people. We are trained to see uncertainty as a weakness and conviction as strength. And we have no real language for permitting the value of open possibilities

  36. Beth Cooper

    RiHo08 @ 10/06 5.12pm:

    ‘Last night was a cloudless, moonless night, my path was lit by the light of the Milky Way… I was filled with awe…
    Come walk with me some cloudless, moonless light.’

    Gladly, RiHoO8.

  37. Beth Cooper

    Bart, mostly a waffler I suppose. But I do have a certainty. Open society is the way to go, our guesses about the world can be bold but our conclusions are always provisional, well, except this one )

  38. I’m afraid this article lost me even earlier than some others – the bit where they claim that uncertainty causes anxiety as an overarching statement. What rubbish.

    All of us, when we get up in the morning, face a day full of uncertainty. None of us knows exactly what is going to happen. Do we all stumble around in a state of quivering anxiety because of this? Apart from those with anxiety disorders which are not actually linked to real perception of risk, no, of course not.

    OTOH, the condemned man rises one morning with the certainty that he will be dead by noon. Does this certainty give him a relaxed view of the future? Is he laughing and joking over breakfast? In most cases, not at all.

    Nobody would deny that particular uncertainties, in particular circumstances, can make people anxious. But as a sweeping generalisation, it is typical of the sloppy thinking that pervades ‘post modern science.’

    The reality is that humans can only focus on a few things at a time – it is impossible to function while working through every uncertainty we face each day. So, we don’t. We consciously and unconsciously manage risk all the time, whether we are driving a car or crossing the road in front of one. This point is so elementary that I am amazed that it has eluded the author.

    But, I soldiered on for a bit, and then got to the part about how scientists don’t want to ‘retool’ just when they are showing a profit. Honestly, how can any sensible person make this kind of statement? Firstly, science has been ‘showing a profit’ since at least the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (i.e. more than 250 years), arguably even longer. It has been retooling constantly along the way, and continues to do so – that is the beauty of it.

    And, I must agree with the poster way above (sorry, haven’t got time to scroll all the way back to find it, but kudos!) who deplored the arrogance of implying that scientists ipso facto do not feel awe at, or connection with, the natural world. Yet another groundless, sweeping, and in this case offensive, generalisation.

    I could go on, but trust that readers will get my drift. Its drivel, folks, and no amount of long words and appeals to complexity obscure that.

  39. Spartacusisfree

    Of one thing there is certainty, the heat generation and heat transfer physics in the IPCC climate models is plain wrong. This has been analysed here: http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/mdgnn-limits-on-the-co2-greenhouse-effect/#more-6600

    There can be no present CO2-AGW. The fact that above ~200 ppmV there is no increase in emissivity/absorptivity was shown experimentally in the 1950s at MIT by the great Chemical Engineer Hoyt C Hottell.

    This was confirmed in the 1970s. By claiming with no experimental proof that CO2-AGW can increase for >200 ppmV, also by using the incorrect boundary conditions in the heat transfer, the IPCC models have created an imaginary perpetual motion machine of the 2nd kind.

    The biggest scientific hoax in history?

    • Dave Springer

      I asked the question here (or at WUWT or Roy Spencer’s blog) some time ago: What is the limit temperature of the greenhouse effect?

      To my utter astonishment a physicist, I think it was Robert Brown of Duke, said it was 5000C, the temperature of the sun’s photosphere.

      How incredibly disconnected from the real world. The limit is obtained by the S-B formula for a perfect black body. As a consequence of conservation a body can’t emit more radiation than it receives across all frequencies (Kirchoff’s Law of Radiation). Thus a perfect receptor which can thermalize all incident radiation and must emit an equal amount across all frequencies determines the maximum temperature that may be obtained.

      It is this limitation on the greenhouse law which limits engineers like from being able to design non-concentrating solar collectors able to boil water at sea level. At best, at noon on the equator with clear sky, you can get collect about 1000W/m2. Using the S-B formula this limits our non-concentrating collector to about 200F which isn’t high enough to boil water at sea level. See http://www.spectralcalc.com/blackbody_calculator/blackbody.php

      The limit for *concentrating* solar collectors is the temperature of the photosphere. Unless the earth is somehow collecting more solar energy than what falls on a disk with a diameter of 25,000 miles at 92 million miles from the sun there is a decidedly low limit on its maximum mean temperture.

      As a sanity check one can look at the highest mean annual temperature ever recorded anywhere on the planet. That happens to be 35C and that figure also happens to be the highest sea surface temperature that ARGO ever recorded. Going back to our handy-dandy S-B calculator we plug in 35C and find the emittance is 511W/m2.

      Wow. The rule of thumb for designining solar collectors is you get a maximum of 1000W/m2 at high noon on the equator. The average over a 24 hour period is 500W/m2. Almost exactly the highest mean annual temperature ever recorded.

      I suggest we stop asking physcists for answers about the earth’s climate and begin consulting engineers who actually know what the theoretical and practical limits are for things that exist in the real world.

      • Dave,

        It’s certain that nothing even remotely close to the temperature of the sun’s photosphere can be reached through GHE on the Earth, but the answer is still correct in two ways:

        1) It is the answer that results directly from the second law.

        2) It’s arguable that there are no other similarly well defined limits.

        Everybody agrees that the limit is irrelevant in practice, but all more realistic estimates for the maximum that might be obtained are just estimates based on some rather randomly chosen set of assumptions.

      • Dave Springer

        Is that how physics is done nowadays Pekka? I ask you what’s the maximum possible temperature the greenhouse effect can acheive and you say “well, ahem, it’s not remotely close to temperature of the sun”.

        Wow. Just f*cking wow. “not remotely close”?

        You aren’t remotely close to being smart enough to argue with me.

      • Dave Springer

        There are laws which give us a precise answer to the question, Pekka. “Not remotely close” is not remotely close to the kind of answers we get even if technically correct. I feel like I’m talking to a child as I write this to you. If I were to ask you to tell me what the acceleration of gravity is on the earth’s surface you replied it was not remotely close to that on the surface of the sun would you consider that a reasonable answer?

        We havre a word in the US for people like you, Pekka. It’s called a weasel. You know the answer but you refuse to give it because it would destroy the argument you’re trying to make. You’re weaseling out of it.

        I shall from now on refer to you as Pekka “The Finnish Weasel” Pirila. You disgust me.

      • Dave Springer

        I suggest we stop asking physicists for answers about the earth’s climate and begin consulting engineers who actually know what the theoretical and practical limits are for things that exist in the real world.

        For the last 120 years, in the real world, the oscillation of global mean temperature was +/- 0.3 deg C as shown => http://bit.ly/LyJ9iw

    • Dave Springer

      With all due respect to Eggert here:

      http://tallbloke.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/agw-an-alternate-look-part-1-details-c.pdf

      who says in his opening paragraph about the limitation of CO2 greenhouse effect “you can’t get blacker than black” I kind of wonder if he stole that line from me. I’ve said exactly the same thing when talking about the theoretical upper limit of the greenhouse effect.

      I would point out to Eggert that shoulder broadening doesn’t stop at any particular PPM concentration of CO2 thus its ability to absorb radiation keeps on increasing even after the peak frequency of any given absorption band is completely extinguished (black). So while it can’t get blacker than black at the center the shoulders are still gray and they will, with decreasing effectiveness, continue to absorb more so long as the incident spectrum is wider than the extinguished zone.

      Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn and Tallbloke’s blog is populated by blind squirrels. It’s not worth reading because most of it is crank science and no one who frequents the joint is able to tell the difference. They glom onto some nugget of truth (a limit on the greenhouse effect for instance) then mangle into a crank hypothesis such as CO2 can’t produce any greenhouse effect beyond 200ppm. Tallbloke’s ignorance, like CO2’s capacity to absorb radiation, knows no bound.

      • Spartacusisfree

        I happen to be a process engineer who cut his teeth in steelworks, designing and using heat transfer from open heaths to in-line processing. I know Hottell back to front. I also see that Nahle’s Mylar balloon experiment apparently proves there is no direct thermalisation: It’s indirect at PET bottle wall or clouds etc.

        You easily explain it by the statistical thermodynamics I was taught as a metallurgist and Nahle gets similar results [200 ppmV] from partial molar specific heat data.

        Go deeper and there’s a phenomenon called self absorption in IR which limits absorptivity and emissivity for GHGs.

        Climate science made the assumption of direct absorption, neglecting the warning in 1993 from Happer when he refused to lie for Gore.

        GHG-GW appears to be set mostly by clouds and the effect of CO2 appears to be controlled by that thermalisation and redistribution. In reality there is absolutely no unambiguous experimental proof of any CO2-AGW and the physics in the models is shot full of errors that professional scientists and engineers see through easily.

        The big problem is Houghton’s treatise: Its claim that clear atmosphere is black body is wrong and those who assumed Kirchhoff’s law applies at TOA and the Earth emits as a black body in a vacuum were guilty of the most unpardonable failure of understanding.

      • See Eli, we are back to The Bronze Age science that still works.)

      • Spartacusisfree

        Explain Nahle’s experiment.

        [Reducing the optical path length of the vessel wall reduces indirect thermalisation. The observation of no warming means no direct thermalisation.]

      • Dave Springer

        Spartacusisfree | June 11, 2012 at 9:27 am |

        “Explain Nahle’s experiment.”

        Easy peasy. Nahle used 3mil Mylar balloons. That’s not thin enough. Mylar is not transparent to LWIR at over 2mils thicks. Oops.

      • Dave Springer

        There are practical limits beyond which engineers don’t concern themselves with. I trust there’s a practical limit in the specific application you mention. But in the atmosphere it’s trivially demonstrated that CO2 shoulder broadening does not stop at 200ppm. This is evident in spectrographs. I never looked closely at the question but I would guess there’s something resembling a Boltzman distribution of discrete energy levels in photons which are absorbed so there’s simply a diminishing probability of absorption the farther you get from the center frequency. In engineering we’d simply cut off that distribution when it becomes so small as to have no significant impact on our application. I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re doing in industrial furnace design whether you realize it or not.

      • Spartacusisfree

        Still doesn’t matter; there is no direct process for thermalisation of absorbed IR quanta in GHG molecules to symmetrical molecules like O2 and N2. The idea in climate science that ~1000 collisions transfer the energy in the average 1 microsecond needed to re-emit the photon is wrong – no mechanism.

        The only other process in that local volume is indirect via other GHG molecules and the chance increase of kinetic energy in one move. Instead, an already excited GHG molecule emits the same energy photon, restoring LTE. This continues until that energy is absorbed heterogeneously or the photon heads to space.

        PS my PHD at Imperial College was in applied physics.

      • there is no direct process for thermalisation of absorbed IR quanta in GHG molecules to symmetrical molecules like O2 and N2.

        What do you consider “a direct process”? There are no problems in transferring energy from vibrational modes of CO2 to translational thermal energy of O2 and N2 molecules.

        In troposphere practically all IR energy absorbed by CO2 is thermalised very rapidly. At the same time the thermal collisions lead to new vibrational excitations of CO2 molecules. Almost all of these excitations are released again in collisions but a small fraction leads to emission of IR radiation.

      • Spartacusisfree

        Pekka: I am suggesting that a lot of the thermalisation is kinetically-favoured onward transmission of energy by pseudo-scattering.

        It doesn’t take a lot of knowledge to understand why. First of all, discount data for single molecules. In the 1890s Gibbs derived from his ‘Paradox’ the Principle of Indistinguishability which means molecules have no memory: once a thermal photon is ejected in a random direction by another molecule, LTE is maintained and there is need for direct thermalisation.

        There may be other processes but they will always be a minor part of thermalisation because they are part of the LTE anyway.

        Extend the logic and the clouds and bare aerosols are where the pseudo-scattered energy is thermalised. The Asian studies of Ramanathan on the bare aerosols there is interesting.

      • Spartacus,

        You try to make simple things complex. They are not.

        The principal interaction of IR with CO2 is absorption which excites a vibrational mode and changes at the same time the rotational mode. The large number of rotational modes leads to the broad overall absorption peak that consists from very many narrow peaks. The width of these narrow peaks is determined by the frequency of collisions or average time between collisions and gets broader with increasing pressure.

        The life time is really short and almost totally due to the collisions with other molecules of any kind, most often with N2, but the type of the other molecule has very little influence on the outcome.

        Only the continuum absorption is influenced in a more complex way by the interactions of gas molecules, but the continuum absorption is very weak.

      • “You try to make simple things complex. They are not.

        The principal interaction of IR with CO2 is absorption which excites a vibrational mode and changes at the same time the rotational mode.”

        But the spinning and vibrating of CO2 gas molecule, is essentially unrelated to it’s temperature or temperature any other gas molecules around it.
        The spinningness of CO2 gas molecule has very little to do with temperature of the gas [air] which is being measured- it is not what is heating up solid/liquid matter of the mercury in a thermometer.

      • Spartacusisfree

        Then how do you explain Nahle’s experimental result that if you change the container for the CO2 to a very thin walled one, you apparently observe no direct thermalisation?

        Remember,experimental data are trumps. And all that the pseudo-scattering argument requires to be true is that there are sufficient thermally activated GHG molecules in a given volume for the average delay time for emission of a thermal photon to be less than the average time the newly activated molecule starts to decay……

      • But the spinning and vibrating of CO2 gas molecule, is essentially unrelated to it’s temperature or temperature any other gas molecules around it.
        The spinningness of CO2 gas molecule has very little to do with temperature of the gas [air] which is being measured- it is not what is heating up solid/liquid matter of the mercury in a thermometer.

        The single molecule has a specific state, it has no temperature and it’s, indeed, true that it’s state is not related to the temperature of the surrounding.

        What the temperature does is to determine is the fraction of CO2 molecules that are in each excited state at any moment.

      • .. is to determine the fraction ..

      • The experiment of Nahle has no connection to what has been discussed in this thread.

        It’s certainly true that the temperature of a real greenhouse is influenced much more by blocking convective cooling than by influencing radiative energy loss, but so what?

      • Spartacusisfree

        On the contrary, Nahle’s experiment proves that there is no GHG gaws warming when the all-greenhouse glass does not absorb IR energy!

        Experiment trumps theory every time. The thermalisation of GHG energy appears to be indirect by a pseudo-scattering process.

      • Spartacus,

        You write as if you would think that greenhouse gases are the same thing as a greenhouse. That’s the only explanation for your insistence that Nahle’s experiment tells something about the influence of greenhouse gases.

      • Dave Springer

        Nothing in nature is an ideal black body. Things get arbitrarily close to the ideal but it is never acheived. This is a very basic lesson in primary school where I was taught. It is usually some derivation of: If we have a string 100 feet long and we cut it in half and keep just one half, how many times can we cut it before we have none left to keep?

        The answer to that question applies to a great many things including the total amount of energy CO2 will absorb from any given input. There are theoretical bounds and practical bounds. Being an engineer means knowing the latter while being a physicist means knowing the former. The twain can meet but much to my dismay it seems they seldom do.

      • A macadamized parking lot would seem to work great. Except it does not represent our planets surface very well, in most areas. Outlaw tar and we would all be cooler too.

      • Spartacusisfree

        A Macadamized parking lot redistributes the SW-LW conversion to more IR because it has higher emissivity, That IR can never exceed the conducted plus convected heat flux until the temperature of the parking lot exceeds ~100 °C.

        And it convection is inhibited, conduction takes over as the dominant process, restricting IR by the rise in CO2 absorptivity from 270 to 270 K.. You see this in the mirage effect. In engineering terms, the convective boundary layer is very large.

      • Another sockpuppet. This guy was formerly known as “MyDogsGotNoNose”.

        If you want to somehow prove it, write a paper. Just going on a site with different sockpuppet names, saying the same thing to generate a consensus ain’t gonna cut it. We don’t believe in fake consensus in these parts.

      • Spartacusisfree

        Experiment trumps theory at all times: consensus is not scientific proof.

        I have come across you before: never argue the science because you can’t got to the basic physics like I do on a regular basis.

        I have argued the Kirchhoff’s Law mistake with climate modellers {Met. Office I believe]. They assumed the text book was right when you must look at the small print – Kirchhoff’s Law of Radiation only applies at equilibrium and if you see the MDGNN thread on Tallbloke you will understand why TOA is very far from it.

        Go back to your day job and leave the thinking to real scientists like me.

      • Dave Springer

        Thanks for the 411. MyDogsGotNoNose is crank science parrot.

      • Web,
        You are the one stuck on Malthusian stupid..
        It is interesting that you Malthusian types are not only wrong but generally arrogant and tenacious in your idiocratic wrongness.

      • Dave Springer

        A simple disproof that CO2 will not absorb additional energy beyond 200ppm.

        There are millions of electronic instruments employed in ventilation systems which measure the CO2 level in a building and turn on ventilation fans to exchange indoor with outdoor air at some arbitrary trip point. These instruments (at least one common class of them) work by filtering a white light source so that it contains only the center frequency of a CO2 absorption band, optically splitting the beam, passing one beam through a sample of ambient air, passing the other beam through a hermetically sealed sample with a known CO2 content, and comparing the energy which emerges from the other side of the two samples using phototransisters. A simple formula is then employed which calculates the CO2 of the ambient sample.

        These instruments can determine CO2 concentration far above 200ppm. Thus absorption by CO2 provably does not cease at 200ppm.

        Thanks for playing. I use the theory of operation of IR CO2 sensors quite often but usually just to dingbats that don’t believe CO2 traps any energy at all. This is the first time I used it to prove there’s no cutoff concentration where CO2 stops absorbing.

        QED

      • Spartacusisfree

        Sorry, but you have fallen into a simple trap. If you look at the paper in the Tallbloke reference, the 200 ppmV limit is from the optical path to practical extinction in Bar.cm. This is then translated to the concentration of CO2 in ppmV in an effectively infinite physical path.

        Reduce the physical path and you can measure much higher concentrations: it’s all about the projected number of molecules per unit area.

      • Dave,

        It seems that we are now on the same side in the argumentation. I’m happy to see that we agree on much while we disagree on something else.

      • Dave Springer

        Spartacusisfree | June 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |

        “Reduce the physical path and you can measure much higher concentrations: it’s all about the projected number of molecules per unit area.”

        You would have had it right if you’d stopped at the projected number of molecules. Tyndall established that through experiment 150 years ago. It’s all about the number of molecules not density or distance. But absorption never ends so long as there’s any energy at any frequency left to absorb. The amount of absorption simply falls off until it’s either insignificant or not measurable.

        I’m not going to argue the point further because I know you’re wrong and you’ll never concede it no matter how I try to demonstrate the error. At this point two people who wish to remain civil will agree to disagree.

      • Spartacusisfree

        I accept your argument but the phenomenon of IR self absorption limits absorptivity in a given volume. If direct thermalisation dominates, that means a limit on the local warming. If indirect thermalisation, as I believe, dominates, most of the IR energy ends up at clouds.

      • Rats! This argument was starting to get somewhere, I thought. I’ve long felt the “sensitivity” parameter, expressed as degC/2XCO2 was non-physical, because at some point the atmosphere would be completely opaque to radiation in CO2’s absorbtion spectrum (and that point would likely be long before the atmosphere was entirely CO2). I’ve wondered, without trying to do the math, how much the peak of the Earth’s spectrum would need to move to keep the areas under the curves equal with CO2’s spectrum cut out entirely. That result would give the upper limit of the change in temperature that could be caused by CO2 greenhouse effect (assuming thermal equalibrium). Again, I’ve not done the math, but my guess is that the fraction of Earth’s emmission spectrum that is in CO2’s absorbtion spectrum is a tiny, tiny percentage, making the maximum greenhouse effect of CO2 very small.

        Add to that the fact that much of CO2’s spectrum is already blocked, and the effect is even smaller. I’ve never found reliable numbers, but I’ve heard that CO2-band radiation is already 85% blocked by water vapor.

      • Ok, now I’ve piqued my own interest to the point where I’m trying to do the calculation. My problem is it’s been so long since I’ve done serious integral calculus that I have no idea how to integrate (e^(hv/lkT)-1)^-1. Any help out there?

      • qbeamus,

        It tooks like you are trying to integrate the Planck function. Try using a u-substitution of the form u = hc/lkT = hv/kT. Depending on whether you like wavelength (l) or frequency (v) better, you can integrate either way, although note that B(l) does not equal B(v), rather B(l) dl = B(v) dv.

        In your work you should encounter the definite integral u^3/[(exp(u)-1] from zero to infinity, which you can’t solve with just beginning calculus tools. Look up the Riemann Zeta function if you want to fully explore it yourself, or you can take my word for it that the above integral becomes (pi^4)/15.

        Hope that helps.

      • Yeah, I found the (pi^4/15) solution. The problem is that that this is for the entire range of integration, zero to infinity. FOr my purposes I need a function that still includes lamda, because I need to evaluate the integral with the Co2 spectrum cut out.

      • Dave Springer

        @sparticus

        How CO2 works is no more complicated than a Pachinko machine. LWIR photon travelling through nitrogen compared to CO2 is the same as a Pachinko ball falling through no obstacles vs. obstacles in the way. The more obstacles in the path causing detours the longer it takes to negotiate the path from top to bottom. The longer it takes to make the journey the more balls will be caught up in the obstacle field at any one time if the balls are fed into the machine at the same rate.

        You can visualize it a million different ways but the end result is always the same – greenhouse gases impede the radiative flow of energy from surface to space which puts more pressure behind the two other paths which are termed sensible and latent. The latent path is usually wide open because there’s a lot of water available for evaporation on the surface, a virtually infinite supply over 70% of the surface called the global ocean, and the atmosphere is seldom saturated at the surface (not much fog). So that’s where most of the energy caused by the added restriction in the radiative path goes. In cases where water for evaporation is limited (such as snow covered land) the outlet is sensible heat transfer i.e. the dry surface gets hotter which raises the rate of sensible energy transfer from surface to air. This is why the only place we can really find anything approaching clear evidence of anthropogenic global warming that rises above the natural noise level is in the northern hemisphere at higher latitudes where there is a greater fraction of surface area that drys out in the winter months and hence allows CO2 and other non-condensing greenhouse gases an opportunity to force more energy through the sensible pathway which we then detect with our thermometers.

        One need not resort to quantum physics or even any complex classical physics. This is all very easily explained by simple properties of materials that have been well understood for centuries and is included in primary school instruction all over the world. However, just because the needed knowledge is presented in primary school doesn’t mean a lot of people actually learn it.

      • qbeamus,

        That is a more complicated integral… you can look up methods of computing this in, for example:
        https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:ZOmFMxgfeJ4J:ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19680008986_1968008986.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiP0P_M6tmd6p4zmHLaalspA93O11CbIH7rSZixvTLqC5AdjK55sKogjurG9D87HwdbFHffOuijgp3cIOTJHXwInEtdLhPFvLMBp0R-r9jaF0SCYKW3mzFS7Hj6oXaBA3Fsbyn6&sig=AHIEtbTvoZDOQNxWracgUGMFEDR5rzAFxg&pli=1

        There are also online calculators that allow you to evaluate the intensity between wavelengths of interest. This one is useful
        https://www.sensiac.org/external/resources/calculators/infrared_radiance_calculator.jsf%3bjsessionid=D08873244D6904EE654DBCDF0391F95E

        You may be interested in the second to last line, “Radiance from _ um to _ um. ”
        (Note that the units are in W/(cm sr) however. You have to multiply by a factor of pi to remove the angular dependence, which gives you a flux in W/(cm^2) and then you may want to convert to W/m^2 for more familiar units).

        Note that for the problem of CO2 however, the problem becomes more complicated since the reduction in outgoing radiation is a strong function of wavelength, and there is considerable line structure. Thus radiative transfer must involve computer work as you need to deal with several hundred thousand absorption lines of greatly varying strengths, with line shapes and widths that depend on pressure and temperature. The line structure is modified by the influences of collisions by N2 and O2. Evaluating the radiative forcing from CO2 therefore requires line-by-line radiative transfer calculations (described in Myhre et al 1998 for example), which is where one obtains a reduction of ~4 W/m2 for a doubling of CO2 in the present climate. Methods such as the ‘correlated k-distribution’ (Lacis and Oinas, 1991, JGR, 96, 9027-9063) have been employed to facilitate faster radiative transfer; and ethods for tackling this problem are outlined in Chapter 4 of Ray Pierrehubert’s “Principles of Planetary Climate” textbook.

      • By the way, my recent post on the greenhouse effect may be a useful tool in thinking about the problem, although I don’t offer explicit solutions to evaluating the OLR for a real gas. Figure 2 was plotted with realistic radiative transfer calculations in the online supplement to the textbook mentioned above,
        http://climatephys.org/2012/06/12/building-a-planet-part-2-greenhouse-effects/

      • Not for long…

        “Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn…”

        in the world I live in.
        Not even a pairable either.
        Science, go figure.

  40. Dave Springer

    “When we fail to distinguish between discovering order in nature and imposing order on nature, we have lost relationship with the very thing we yearn to know. Whereas once we were students of nature, looking to her for meaning, we now denigrate her in the belief that it is our inalienable right to have dominion.”

    Teh hubris. It BURNS!

    We don’t impose order on nature. We are part of nature. Thus nature imposes order on itself.

    Duh. What a waste of paper.

    • Dave, you are a scientist & a fan of The Simpsons?

      • Dave Springer

        The Simpsons is pure genius in that it can be appreciated by everyone from children to the proverbial rocket scientist. From slapstick to subtle it has it all. The only people who might possibly not appreciate are those who think they are too sophisticated for the slapstick and unknowingly too stupid to see the subtle bits. Beavis & Butthead and South Park try for the same formula but fall short of the Simpsons IMO. I just started watching for the first time “The Big Bang Theory” which uses the same formula but I can’t see how it can be fully appreciated by anyone without at least a passing knowledge of hard sciences. I got my wife to try watching it last night and she fell on the floor laughing at the ribald humor of Penny catching Leonard in the walk of shame but I’m sure she and others who aren’t science geeks miss some of the best stuff that comes out of Sheldon’s mouth because he’s all about physics and the writers get a bit subtle with it. On the other hand Sheldon is always the stereotypical egghead totally lacking in social skills so he’s still entertaining most of the time through constant comic exaggeration of poorly developed social skills. It’s my favorite sitcom at the moment.

  41. Obviously there is uncertainty and anxiety. Else why the millenialist cults that have ever plagued humanity – of which the latest are the AGW Space Cadets complete with magical rituals to avoid disaster.

    The paper is a lot of fun and deserves more than a cursory reading. I have even discovered the origins of the term ‘da man’.

    ‘Creativity, authenticity, uncertainty, anxiety—these cannot be
    separated. To live a creative existence means to live with uncertainty.
    To live an authentic existence means to live with anxiety.
    But Heidegger (1962) also said that when we turn away from our
    authentic self and, grasping for safety and certainty, abdicate our
    choices to the ubiquitous “they” (Das Man), it is anxiety that draws
    us back from our absorption in the world (p. 189).’

    Certainty brings some false comfort – but fortune favours the brave.

    • Joe's World

      Chief,

      Current scientists rely on uncertainty and assumptions backed by “observed science”.
      A fantastic amount of errors are inherent in this mentality and yet they have enclosed themselves into this certainty of THEIR research as being correct. Even though recreation shows they are NOT!

      Anyone who tries to show a new path of researching or new areas of discovery are ignored for the greater good of protecting the current system of scientists.
      Technology has changed but the LAWS and theories have not as they amassed massive published works that would be actually a massive amount of fiction by way of referencing off of each other.

  42. Joe's World

    Judith,

    I do NOT know ALL the answers BUT I do have a good understanding of our planet mechanically.
    Many scorn come my way for what we are taught and referenced from as being science.
    This has been shaped science to fit in mans theories but they are NOT actual parameters on this planet but in a computer simulated planet with bad parameters that ignore many, many areas to strictly follow temperature data which is a cause and effect and not an actual physical property.

  43. Beth Cooper

    Fortune favours the brave is somehow reassuring, Chief.
    And then there’s this:
    ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.’ (Julius Caesar and Shakespeare.)

  44. The point of existential anxiety is that the future is limited by death.

    Not exactly an astonishing insight.

    Heidegger taught that we exist in a world and must reflect not only on our relation to our own self, but to others, and to the world in which we live.

    So far so good. :-)

    However, while this stance was intended to correct the defects of Enlightenment (Cartesian) metaphysics, the political import as interpreted by Heidegger was a conservative ‘what will be’, and Heidegger was an early supporter of Hitler and Nazism. :-(

    On the other hand, Heidegger was a major critic of a technocratic mentality that would dominate nature without insight into its own limitations and we arr ive at AGW. He might have considered this a form of nihilism.

    • Dave Springer

      Death is not so much an ending but rather acts like the sip of wine used to refresh the palate during a meal. Birth is the beginning of a new course. Religion is a guess about the nature of the chef who prepares the courses but doesn’t come out and eat at the table with us. ;-)

  45. Fresh hockey sticks from the Southern Hemisphere
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/05/fresh-hockey-sticks-from-the-southern-hemisphere/

    The conclusion reached is that summer temperatures in the post-1950 period were warmer than anything else in the last 1000 years at high confidence, and in the last ~400 years at very high confidence.
    xxxxxxxxxxxxx
    [Update: this paper has been put on hold - see comments]

    Response: Thanks, but we’ve just been sent this from one of the authors:

    Print publication of scientific study put on hold

    An issue has been identified in the processing of the data used in the study, “Evidence of unusual late 20th century warming from an Australasian temperature reconstruction spanning the last millennium” by Joelle Gergis, Raphael Neukom, Stephen Phipps, Ailie Gallant and David Karoly, accepted for publication in the Journal of Climate.

    We are currently reviewing the data and results.

    …which of course implies that the reconstruction, conclusions etc. will need to be revisited. What impact it will have is a little unclear at this point. – gavin]
    xxxxxxxxxxx

    “We would like to thank you and the participants at the ClimateAudit blog for your scrutiny of our study, which also identified this data processing issue.”

  46. Dave Springer

    Pekka Pirilä | June 11, 2012 at 9:13 am |

    “It seems that we are now on the same side in the argumentation. I’m happy to see that we agree on much while we disagree on something else.”

    If you weren’t a weasel with an agenda we’d be on a same page all the time.

    Let me know when you’re willing to admit the theoretical limit temperature to the greenhouse effect is the S-B temperature for an ideal black body in equilibrium with a 1366W/m2 external energy source. In the meantime I hold you in contempt.

    • Dave,

      I have no reason for any specific agenda, except that I enjoy trying to explain to others what I have learned myself.

      I’m not and I haven’t ever been a climate scientist. In these discussions my original education and early career as a physicist is an essential ingredient, in some other cases my later interests as an energy economist influence more what I believe to understand well enough.

      • Dave Springer

        Too bad you never learned through the school of hard knocks that you can’t build a non-concentrating solar collector able to boil water at standard temperature and pressure. The explanation behind the cold hard fact is that S-B temperature is the highest attainable and anything in the real world that causes an actual body to deviate from the ideal body only serves to lower the attainable temperature not elevate it.

        This is no different from another tough fact of life that you can’t concentrate solar energy with lenses or mirrors to obtain a temperature higher than the temperature of the photosphere. This also boils down to the fact that you can’t heat something hotter than the source. In the non-concentrating collector the source has been diluted by expansion onto a spherical surface with a radius of 93 million miles vs. its intensity at the source which is a spherical surface with a radius of 430,000 miles.

        If you don’t believe this I highly encourage to build a solar collector which violates either of the above temperature restrictions. Good luck.

      • Dave,

        Your comment about the maximum temperature obtainable by concentrators is correct, but the first one is not.

        How do you explain the empirical fact that practical non-ideal flat plate solar collectors may reach temperatures above 180 C? Designing carefully one might reach still significantly higher temperatures with a flat plate solar collector in Sahara.

  47. Dave Springer

    Tom | June 11, 2012 at 8:52 am |

    “A macadamized parking lot would seem to work great. Except it does not represent our planets surface very well, in most areas. Outlaw tar and we would all be cooler too.”

    Correct. But nothing about the earth’s surface can do anything but make it cooler than an idea black body. An object can’t be blacker than black. An object can’t radiate more energy than it receives. The greenhouse effect has a upper bound set by the solar constant. Nothing between TOA and the surface can do anything but lower the surface temperature below that of an ideal black body.

    • Correct. But nothing about the earth’s surface can do anything but make it cooler than an idea black body. An object can’t be blacker than black. An object can’t radiate more energy than it receives.”
      A non-glossy black surface is somewhat like a theoretical blackbody.
      As is a planet size sphere of water. Such a sphere of water “might be” invisible in terms of visible light and emitting a “clean” planck curve.
      This is assuming no clouds or atmosphere which allows clouds to form.

      But returning to something like a smooth surface painted black it similar to blackbody, but different in that one also needs a super conductor of heat, which would do swell job reducing the heat of sunlit areas [and absorbing and heat and conducting it to the entire spherical body. So with a blackbody the parts of surface in sun light is same temperature as night side.Which quite dissimilar to Earth.
      But indicate few things: A spherical blackbody is colder than a black blackbody disk [which is always facing the sun- not having it's thin edge face the sun]. Blackbody is useful in getting rough idea of various bodies in space [at varying distance from the sun] and very bad tool if one is concerned about knowing tenths of a degree temperature. A earth-like atmosphere on a blackbody, would only make the surface cooler. Said differently, a blackbody at earth distance would invisible to human sight, and earth atmosphere in sunlight is quite bright to human eyes. A blackbody adsorbs all of the energy of sunlight and converts it to heat energy which is radiated, and Earth’s land surface adsorbs very little of the sunlight whereas it’s ocean absorbs a significant amount. For a blackbody sphere, it does not matter if it’s rotating- the temperature will be uniform regardless where the sun is shining. Though obviously, it matters with the non-blackbody earth.

      “The greenhouse effect has a upper bound set by the solar constant. Nothing between TOA and the surface can do anything but lower the surface temperature below that of an ideal black body.?”

      Yes, but of course the earth surface can exceed the temperature of blackbody sphere. And can exceed the temperature of the even higher temperature blackbody disk- which basically has twice the area to radiate
      the energy as compared to one surface somewhat insulated [or has poor conduction of heat]. So earth will never have surface temperature as high as the Moon [Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere which reduces the sunlight by 30% [or much more] before reaching surface.

    • A black surface directed towards the sun at the distance of the Earth in space and very well insulated from the back reaches a temperature of a little more than 100 C. A similar surface in Sahara in June can certainly reach a significantly higher temperature at least if convective cooling of the surface is prevented in some way. That’s due to the greenhouse effect, i.e. due to the fact that the surface is absorbing both the solar radiation and even more downwelling IR radiation from atmosphere.

      The solar constant does not provide any absolute limit for the temperature reached by the GHE. The surface of Venus is much hotter. That’s almost totally due to the GHE.

      • “A black surface directed towards the sun at the distance of the Earth in space and very well insulated from the back reaches a temperature of a little more than 100 C”

        If 120 C is little more.
        Usually lunar surface is described as 100 K to 400 K. And 400 K is 126 C.

        “A similar surface in Sahara in June can certainly reach a significantly higher temperature at least if convective cooling of the surface is prevented in some way. ”

        No. No greenhouse or inside of car can get this hot.

        They say it’s myth one could fry eggs on sidewalks. It would easy to do this on the Moon.

        “An egg needs a temperature of 158°F to become firm.”
        http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/friedegg.html
        158 F equals 70 C.
        Sahara:
        “In July the Sahara desert reaches the boiling temperature of 113 to 122 degrees. Furthermore, the sand reaches the temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rocks are the temperature 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. ”
        http://biomea.wikispaces.com/Desert
        170 F equals 76.6 C
        So 80 C might be possible, and maybe 90 C if stop all convection.

      • I didn’t write that sand would get that hot or a car, I wrote that a similar surface, i.e. a black surface that’s well insulated from the back and protected from convective cooling. Such a surface can really get significantly hotter.

      • “I didn’t write that sand would get that hot or a car, I wrote that a similar surface, i.e. a black surface that’s well insulated from the back and protected from convective cooling. Such a surface can really get significantly hotter.”

        Make a good vacuum and have window. Put black felt in it.
        Preheat everything to 100 C, put in the sun, at sea level on Earth and it will cool.
        If continued heating it [with electric heater] to 99 C, it would not get above 99 C.
        If add sunlight [with reflectors/mirrors] you can get it above 100 C.

      • Dave Springer

        You won’t reach 100C on the surface at sea level. The atmosphere even on the clearest day attenuates the solar constant too much. Max temperature observed on moon (which has an albedo in the low single digits in places) is only 123C which, as it turns out, is almost exactly what we find if we plug 1366W/m2 into our handy dandy S-B calculator:

        http://www.spectralcalc.com/blackbody_calculator/blackbody.php

      • Dave Springer

        FYI – any modest discrepancy in max observed lunar temperature and max S-B predicted temperature for the moon is because craters have parabolic shapes and actually do a bit of concentrating of solar energy on surfaces inside of them. Amazing what all you can learn if you do enough reading, huh?

      • Curious if you understand that photons have various wavelengths which have different energies and thus can lead to different graybody spectra depending on the photonic properties of the media they travel through?

        The guys who actually understood such concepts went on to inventing such gizmos as the gas laser.

  48. In January 2011 Dr. Spencer discussed the title of “the title of a 2005 article,” from the field of medicine :Why Most Published Research Findings are False

    Spencer concludes that, whoever accuses me of that has obviously not worked in government or spent much time dealing with program managers in Washington. There is no conspiracy, because these things are not done in secret…

    The bottom line is that there could scarcely be a more ill-posed scientific question than whether global warming is human-caused: a one of a kind event, the Earth can’t be put into a laboratory to study, cause and effect are intermingled, and the political and financial sources of bias in the resulting research are everywhere.

    So, when some scientist says we “know” that warming is human-caused, I cringe at the embarrassing abundance of scientific ignorance on display. No wonder the public doesn’t trust scientific predictions — just as suggested by the 2005 study I mentioned at the outset, those predictions have almost always been wrong!

    The clarity of Dr. Spencer’s message was crystal. Without a belief in truth we have nothing.

    I can’t help but think that the real concern is that global warming alarmism is that it is a symptom of something far more concerning: the fall of Western civilization. Respect for truth has been lost and that is far more concerning than global warming.

    Meanwhile, nature will continue to have the last word. Meanwhile, the climate will continue respond to changes in solar activity and multi-decadal oscillations. Meanwhile, the predictions by Syun-Ichi Akasofu and others who foresee a continuation of the cooling trend that began a decade ago will last another decade — or, perhaps last 3 to 7 more decades.

    Meanwhile, AGW True Believers will continue to believe and belief in the AGW hypothesis — even with a wooden stake driven through its heart by reason and logic — will continue to animate the IPCC’s climate porn, fearmongering and politics of fear.

    And meanwhile, a small increase of about half a percent over the next 100 years (what Akasoku’s hypothesis describes as the recovery from the Little Ice Age) is the most global warming as can be expected or be hoped for. And then, there’s always the possibility of another ice age instead of continued global warming. It’s happened before.

  49. “The human need for order, given the apparent unpredictability of the natural world, is probably as old as history. This explains why universal laws have been the holy grail sought by science. The evolution of the classical scientific paradigm, beginning with Newton, reflects a 350-year progression toward this goal. Establishing the existence of universal laws has allowed us to encounter the world with enormous confidence and creativity. And although there is no doubt that this is one of the great accomplishments of Western culture, something has gone terribly awry.When we fail to distinguish between discovering order in nature and imposing order on nature, we have lost relationship with the very thing we yearn to know. Whereas once we were students of nature, looking to her for meaning, we now denigrate her in the belief that it is our inalienable right to have dominion.”

    It seems that humans impose order on the environment [nature].
    Whether building mud hut or a freeway.
    But “imposing order on the environment” is merely a chosen description
    of what is occurring.
    Generally humans are doing something because want something and
    know a way to do this. Building a road isn’t driven by a need of “imposing order on the environment”, but is one free to interpret it this way.

    Let’s contrast this with something more relate to a need to “imposing order on the environment”. Something like a desire of needing trimmed hedges and mowed lawns.
    The desire is to have a home that looks good but the sense of what looks good may involve “imposing order on the environment”.
    In terms a driving need, the “nesting instinct” is something more directly related to the need “imposing order on the environment” and this
    has a lot to do with combating uncertainty. Males are often admonished for
    lacking this enthusiasm.
    Loosely, males could described as “discovering order in nature” when they fail to pick up his socks. Whereas females could described as “imposing order on nature” when ask hubby to take out the garbage.

  50. “But in global warming research, there is a popular misconception that oil industry-funded climate research actually exists, and has skewed the science. I can’t think of a single scientific study that has been funded by an oil or coal company… [W]hat DOES exist is a large organization that has a virtual monopoly on global warming research in the U.S., and that has a vested interest in AGW theory being true: the U.S. Government. The idea that government-funded climate research is unbiased is laughable.” (Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D., Why Most Published Research Findings are False, January 3, 2011)

  51. Beth Cooper

    Sitting on the terrace at the local golf course today, enjoying some sunshine at last, after days of dismal, freezing Melbourne weather,( ice age ?) sipping a latte and reading ‘The Black Swan,’ Chapter 7,
    Living in the Anti chamber of Hope -) … I’m reading how ‘no confirmation research’ means ‘no validation, no fawning students, no Nobel Prize.’ Instead only ‘subtle humiliations’ at the water cooler. -( In life,venture capitalists do better than entrepreneurs, publishers do better than writers, ‘Science’ does better than scientists. Just pondering this regarding the grant rewarded Hockey Team, when a couple of friendly Americans ask if they can join me.

    Minor narrative: Turns out he’s read ‘The Black Swan’, has connections with the US Government Bit of repartee, she invites me to a dinner party, Friday week. At heir last inner party before they left coming to Australia, a certain Condoleezza was present. She’s quite small, about my size.( No more information.)

    … Say, is this what ‘The Black Swan’ defines as a ‘ Black Swan surprise?’

  52. Beth Cooper

    Editing disappearing consonants, ‘their’ and ‘dinner’. (

  53. The uncertainty of political action
    Carbon policies appear to have increasing uncertainty with China upping the ante on EU’s airline carbon tax:
    China ready to impound EU planes in CO2 dispute

    (Reuters) – China will take swift counter-measures that could include impounding European aircraft if the EU punishes Chinese airlines for not complying with its scheme to curb carbon emissions, the China Air Transport Association said on Tuesday. . . .
    EU member states can fine airlines for non-compliance or carry out other reprisals including impounding aircraft.

    “We would not like to see a situation of ‘you hold up my planes and I hold yours’,” Wei said.

    • Political incentives add further uncertainty to CO2 emissions. See:
      China could be hiding an entire Japan’s worth of carbon emissions

      A new paper in Nature Climate Change finds that there’s a real mystery as to how much carbon China is actually emitting. The national-level statistics say one thing. The provincial-level statistics say another. And the gap between the two numbers came to about 1.4 gigatons in 2010 — a staggering amount, equivalent to all the carbon-dioxide that Japan put into the air that year.

      The gigatonne gap in China’s carbon dioxide inventories Nature Climate Change (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1560

      In 2010, China’s national energy consumption was 3,249 Mt standard coal equivalents, but the aggregated data from the provinces was 20% higher, that is 3,895 Mt standard coal equivalents.

  54. > Heidegger (1962), however, refuted the notion that anxiety is a pathology or even, for that matter, an emotion but rather considers it as an irreducible, existential state of being.

    Take that, empiricists!

  55. Paul Vaughan

    Leading towards cautious repair of challenged & broken trust, I suggest we first help Dr. Curry mend the “uncertainty” framing as follows:

    Let’s differentiate between 2 types of uncertainty, 1 real & 1 imagined.

    I. Joe says grey = black.
    Jim objects, saying grey = white.
    Mel perceives the conflict as evidence of uncertainty.

    II. Joe says 1 + 1 = 2.
    Jim objects, insisting 1 + 1 = 3.
    Mel perceives the conflict as evidence of uncertainty.

    Regardless of whether scenario II’s challenges are founded on naive ignorance or malicious deception, foundations for sensible communication exist between Joe and neither Jim nor Mel initially.

    The following observation of the type 1+1=2 is founded on (a) the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum and (b) Central Limit Theorem:
    http://i49.tinypic.com/2jg5tvr.png

    This is the DNA of terrestrial climate. Paywalled articles dating back decades document the weave’s shadow.

  56. A few days late, haven’t read the comments, but this seems to be yet another social science paper which begins with false assumptions. The basis of Gordon’s paper seems to be nonsense which does not accord with reality. He says that he “adopts Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine’s assertion that uncertainty is an inherent cosmic expression, deeply embedded within the core of reality. The deep psychic expression of this experience is anxiety which, following Heidegger, is conceived not as pathology but rather as an essential state of being emerging simultaneously with uncertainty. This article examines uncertainty and its child, anxiety, as a necessary consequence of a creative universe …”

    Uncertainty is not inherent in the cosmos, which proceeds through cause and effect. If it appears uncertain to humans, a minute fragment of the cosmos, it is because we lack sufficient understanding of the workings of the universe. The “core of reality” is constant change: everything that exists consists of particles arising and passing with great rapidity, measured by Luis Alvarez in his “bubble chamber” at 10 pwr 22 times per second (1). Nothing is permanent, there is no continuing entity to which we can cling or depend on.

    So anxiety is not a response to inherent uncertainty, it arises from a failure to understand and live in harmony with the fundamental nature of reality. The Buddha, who discovered this truth of impermanence through deep introspection (2), also found that human suffering – whether it manifests as anxiety or in any other way – arises because of our ignorance of the impermanent, essence-less nature of existence. Thinking of ourselves as solid, ongoing entities, we react to stimuli with attachment or disliking, which turns into craving and aversion. This pattern creates mental conditionings; we react to the moment not just as it is, but in terms of our past conditionings, which intensify our reactions.

    1 Alvarez won the Nobel Prize in 1968 for this discovery
    2 The Buddha discovered the rapidly changing nature at the sub-atomic level about 2500 years before Alvarez.