On academics, abstraction, and model addiction

by Judith Curry

What we can see in academic support for climate change is an emotional zeal combined with a highly developed form of abstract thought that is not very healthy, especially when it is combined with a strong sense of self-interest. – Greg Melleuish

The Australian has a interesting essay entitled  Too many academics are driven to abstraction by their addiction modelswritten by Gregory Melleuish.  Excerpts:

The moderate enlightenment always sought to reconcile the great body of ideas, beliefs and ways of doing things that we have inherited from the past with the new discoveries of the sciences.

The radical enlightenment, from the 17th century until today, has little or no time for tradition and wants to make the world anew on the basis of abstract, and usually untried, theories. Moreover, they believe that it is possible to inflict those theories on the world through an act of will.

We should fear this growing dominance of the abstract over the concrete and of an adversarial culture over one that seeks to reconcile ideas and the practical realities of the world.

Climate change has largely been pushed by academics and their allies in the media. Why has climate change proved to be so popular among academia as a group? I think that there are a number of answers.

The first is naked self-interest.  They have discovered that with climate change they are on a real winner. They can claim that the government needs to fund them so that they can find ways of overcoming the effects of climate change, even reverse it. The more that is done on climate change, the more that needs to be done. As a research topic it appears to be one that can be milked forever.

The second is that as a topic it is an expression of the academic desire to reduce the world to a series of models that can be manipulated to predict the future. We live in a world that is both complex and contingent. It is a delusion to believe that we can create a model that depicts reality in such a way that we can control the future. When we attempt to do so we simply remain in the abstract world of the model and become its slave.

The third is a form of moral panic that seems to have overcome many academics. A major discovery of the past 100 years is that education and devotion to intellectual matters does not make modern human beings more rational. Academics, like other people, are prone to scares and panics, and hence to using their intellects in defence of irrational projects.

Academics, like many other intellectuals, have a very high opinion of themselves and their rightness. Humility is not a virtue in their world. If you are right and you have good intentions, then surely you should not only be heard but should also prevail. In fact, you probably believe that you have a duty to prevail and to drown out the views of those who lack your qualifications and capacity to employ models. They are just inferiors who need to be brought into line.

The government and their academic allies use a number of tactics to achieve this goal. One is to delegitimise anyone who is not considered to be an expert in the field.  Another tactic is to complain about the “extremism” of those with whom one does not agree and to condemn their supposed verbal violence. The final tactic is to complain about lack of balance.

Free discussion is a major check on excesses of government power. It must be permitted to follow what arguments it wishes even if, from time to time, it does become a little excessive. The best way to correct excess is to allow for other critics to admonish those who have stepped over the line or for critics to poke fun and ridicule such foolishness.

Unfortunately, academics often fail to have respect for the common sense of everyman and everywoman. They are addicted to their abstract models and this prevents them from having a sensible and practical approach to dealing with people.

Why be critical of the government when it is the government that hands out research funding, jobs and other goodies? Academics know on which side their bread is buttered. After all, bureaucrats are also addicted to abstract models of the society they are employed to administer. It is a marriage made in heaven.

What we need now more than ever is a space where the heirs of the moderate enlightenment and the believers in a natural order can flourish. By that I mean those who know that the relationship between ideas and the real world is a complex one and that when reality refuses to bend to a theory, the solution is probably to junk the theory.

The real problem is the way in which the growth of the universities in Australia has been matched by the development of a dominant subculture that is both addicted to abstract ideas and appears to have a stranglehold on the intellectual life of the country.

The solution is to break the monopoly of this group so that a genuine pluralism can flourish in Australia. This means recognition that there are other ways of knowing things than the academic view of reality. This means fostering other institutions alongside our public universities so that there is real intellectual diversity in Australia. It means providing the means whereby people outside of officially sanctioned institutions, such as the universities and the ABC, are able to contribute to the public sphere.

It means fostering private institutions that can provide genuine intellectual diversity.

JC comments:  Several things struck me  about this essay.  First is the importance of reconciling ideas with the practical realities of the world, when it comes to policy.

The second is the call for intellectual diversity.  I recently finished reading the book The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet, by Ramez Naam, a book that arguably deserves its own thread (I’ll eventually get around to it).  It is about supercharging innovation, and in the early part of the book Naam argues that imposing homogeneity of thought is the enemy of  innovation.  Imposing homogeneity of thought is also the enemy of science, and the IPCC driven consensus seeking process is arguably slowing down progress on climate science.  The climate blogosphere has made significant headway in breaking  the monopoly on climate science and its messy implications.

176 responses to “On academics, abstraction, and model addiction

  1. “…especially when it is combined with a strong sense of self-interest.”

    This is something most alarmists never bother to ask themselves.

    “The climate blogosphere has made significant headway in breaking the monopoly on climate science and its messy implications.”

    Funny how alarmists tend to disparage the Internet as a legitimate intellectual and scientific arena. I wonder why…

    • David Springer

      Greg Melleuish’s essay.

      Brutal.

      Davey likes it!

      +1*10^22 Joules +-20% with 95% confidence.

  2. bladeshearer

    An excellent essay, and I heartily agree with the call for intellectual diversity. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone in the climate blogosphere – including our hostess – has nailed their colours to the mast of CO2 causation. I have yet to see a serious discussion of the Pulkovo Observatory’s prediction of 200-250 years of cooling. Coming from the premier climate science institution of a major world power, you’d think Dr. Abdussamatov’s theories and prediction would deserve some attention.

    • “I have yet to see a serious discussion of the Pulkovo Observatory’s prediction of 200-250 years of cooling.”

      because it isn’t a serious prediction.

      “Coming from the premier climate science institution of a major world power, you’d think Dr. Abdussamatov’s theories and prediction would deserve some attention.”

      Not when he says rubbish like this:
      http://news.nationalgeographic.co.uk/news/2007/02/070228-mars-warming.html

      • lolwot, me boy

        You are falling into bad habits when you write off a serious study by a renowned scientist as “rubbish”, just because you, personally do not agree with it.

        For shame!

        Max

      • In what way is copy-pasting a rubbish argument about Mars a “study”?

      • From the article. It looks like Abdussamatov is a luke-warmer.

        “Man-made greenhouse warming has made a small contribution to the warming seen on Earth in recent years, but it cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance,” Abdussamatov said.

      • bladeshearer

        lolwot:

        The compelling arguments from the article you cite:

        “His views are completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion.” A popular line among consensus scientists, leveled against Galileo, Alfred Wegener, Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, and many other ground-breaking theorists.

        “the idea just isn’t supported by the theory or by the observations.”
        In recent years, the theory just isn’t supported by the observations, as temperatures diverge from GCM predictions.

        “And they contradict the extensive evidence presented in the most recent IPCC report.” Stated in 2007, when the IPCC was claiming the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035.

        I would hope there are better arguments against Dr. Abdussamatov’s theory. And I’d like to see them here.

      • Mike Jonas

        lolwot -Thanks for providing the link to Abdussamatov’s paper. I note that in your fact-free and argument-free comment, saying the paper is rubbish, you fail to give your own explanation for the fact that Earth and Mars both warmed at the same time, alternatively you fail to give your own explanation of how the data is incorrect.

      • “you fail to give your own explanation for the fact that Earth and Mars both warmed at the same time”

        In 2005 data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide “ice caps” near Mars’s south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

        Okay here is NASA’s GRACE mission revealing that the water “ice caps” near Earth’s north pole have been diminishing for ten summers in a row:
        http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/images-terrcryo/g-fig5.19.jpg

        So do you and Abdussamatov think it is a fact that Earth has warmed in the past 10 years?

        No, I am betting both of you will claim Earth stopped warming, that there is a pause. Even though by the same measure that you claim Mars is warming, Earth is still warming.

        And this is why Abdussamatov’s claims are rubbish.

  3. I ran across a parallel critique of models when reading about the quants whose hedge funds collapsed and helped cause the 2007/08 recession. Many of the same flaws and dangers that are inherent in economic models are also present in climate models. Things like Brownian motion, red noise, bell curve fat tail events are present in both.

    I think you’ll find this applies.

    The Modelers’ Hippocratic Oath
    written by Emanuel Derman and Paul Wilmott.

    ~ I will remember that I didn’t make the world, and it doesn’t satisfy my equations.
    ~ Though I will use models boldly to estimate value, I will not be overly impressed by mathematics.
    ~ I will never sacrifice reality for elegance without explaining why I have done so.
    ~ Nor will I give the people who use my model false comfort about its accuracy. Instead, I will make explicit its assumptions and oversights.
    ~ I understand that my work may have enormous effects on society and the economy, many of them beyond my comprehension.

  4. The whole thing just smacks of some kind of anti-intellectual toss from a bygone era.

    “The radical enlightenment, from the 17th century until today, has little or no time for tradition and wants to make the world anew on the basis of abstract, and usually untried, theories”

    OH NO!! NOT THE RADICAL ENLIGHTENMENT! How will AUSTRALIA cope!

    “This means recognition that there are other ways of knowing things than the academic view of reality.”

    Such as the Bible!

    • He is comparing the moderate enlightenment to a more radical form. Do you gave reading comprehension issues?

    • “Such as the Bible”???

      How funny you should say that. Seems to me that alarmist rhetoric has strong parallels with biblical prophecy: a) bad things will happen if we don’t do X or Y; b) not doing X or Y shows that we’re morally bereft – in effect, sinning against nature; c) our past sins against nature have brough us to this – yes – tipping point; d) condemnation of non-believers as sinners.

      More interesting still, many of the biblical prophets spoke for a particular interest group in society. In part they arose to represent the financial interests of the groups they spoke for.

      WRT the above essay, I find the most compelling point the issue regarding the abstract vs the concrete: the abstract is the prophecy, the morality; the concrete is the reality, the functional. A major issue with the Climate Concerned Community is that they’re not the least bit willing to settle for anything but the total and complete solution. This reflects their strong preferences for satisfying their sense of morality over all other concerns. I agree with the essay that this strong preference for morals over pragmatism is very dangerous to both society and the functioning of science.

      Thanks, Judith, as always, for highlighting such an interesting and compelling essay.

  5. That article seems to lack real substance and is essentially empty rhetoric. It’s argumentation is based on very questionable relativism.

    • What a sneering dismissal. Almost worthy of WHT, only you’re not nearly so nasty. You see no substance…no valid concerns whatsoever…when it comes to questioning the objectivity of those who stand to gain material benefits through the embrace of CAGW? The notion of the importance of scientific objectivity is just meaningless rhetoric based on “very questionable relativism?” I see plenty of rhetoric there Pekka, but it’s almost all yours..

      This is not to say of course that they can’t be right. But to simply dismiss this concern as empty rubbish says more about you than this supposedly empty essay imho.

      • Steven Mosher

        poker

        Lets look at his core arguments.

        Why academics like climate change:

        The first is naked self-interest.

        The second is that as a topic it is an expression of the academic desire to reduce the world to a series of models that can be manipulated to predict the future.

        The third is a form of moral panic that seems to have overcome many academics.”

        Seriously, I’ve read blog comments from stephanthedenier that made more sense.

      • Mosh, you’re an intelligent and thoughtful guy as near as I can tell. So I’m not sure how you can take issue with either b) or c) in the essay.

        The Team has the moral panic button is pretty much pinned to the consol. I mean, Crimes Against Humanity? Is this not moral panic? :)

        And of course the models, which have been touted as THE solution since the very begining – even though they’ve never been sufficiently tested on the time scales of the predictions they make, and even though you can put a Post-Panamax through the myriad assumptions, presumptions and suppositions.

        I’ll agree with you in a way on a). I don’t think that people are conciously trying to ride the gravy train. But they’re not upset by the gravy it delivers. You know, I had a buddy once that called up the compliance officer at a stock exchange to report a serious non-compliance issue. The compliance officer said, in effect: “the party’s still on. The punch stays on the table”. I think that’s about where people are with the AGW punchbowl.

      • Steven Mosher

        jimmyboy

        “The second is that as a topic it is an expression of the academic desire to reduce the world to a series of models that can be manipulated to predict the future.”

        In the first place this is not an ACADEMIC desire. that is, the desire to make the world more predictable, the desire to control the future is not unique to academics: its how we are built. Your brain functions by building models of the world. Business functions by building models of consumers or models of supply. explaning and predicting is what we do. Its not unique to academics and you frankly can’t escape this modality without resorting to meditation or mind altering substances. I suggest the former.

        As for the “moral panic”

        read his argument

        “The third is a form of moral panic that seems to have overcome many academics.A major discovery of the past 100 years is that education and devotion to intellectual matters does not make modern human beings more rational. Academics, like other people, are prone to scares and panics, and hence to using their intellects in defence of irrational projects.”

        Academics are interested in climate change because they suffer from a form of moral panic? And what is that moral panic? lets see, he argues that like other people they are prone to panic and that they use their intellect in defence of irrational projects. Well, to quote Brandon, that makes no sense. In the first place he argues that academics are like other people so they are attracted to the global warming panic not because they are academics, but because they are like other people.
        His argument is confused.

        of his three arguments a,b and c only argument “a” had any lashing to concrete fact. The rest of his argument was an abstract model of academics not actual academics in and of themselves.

        hehe. I rather like how he uses the stupid abstract/concrete distinction

      • “the desire to make the world more predictable, the desire to control the future is not unique to academics: its how we are built. Your brain functions by building models of the world.”

        Even if the desire to do so is not unique to academics, they have a greater ability and opportunity to try to do so; to make models that are highly abstract and therefore seemingly can be used to control more of life and society. But it’s an illusion. And that’s the problem. The only path to real predictability is to get feedback as quickly as possible about what works and what doesn’t. To use empircal data to adjust the course along the way. Business people know that. Academics often have the luxury of not having to face the real-world consequences of trying to put their theories into practice; businesses go bankrupt if they try.

        This applies to climate policy even more than to climate science. Climate policy is consistently failing to achieve emission reductions. And yet, instead of facing that and finding a different way to make it happen, environmentalists keep pushing politicians to use the same strategy that hasn’t worked before. And you could say that proves your point that it’s not just the academics.

      • “In the first place this is not an ACADEMIC desire. that is, the desire to make the world more predictable, the desire to control the future is not unique to academics: its how we are built.”

        Mosher, it seems it’s you who doesn’t make sense. There’s the scientific method preciselly because of how we are built. We have scientific method to overcome and control our confirmation (and other) biases. Basically, your argument is “Mommy, everybody does it”.

      • Steven Mosher

        Edim.

        you seem to be arguing that the scientific method is not model building.
        there is bad model building: confirmation bias
        there is better model building: the scientific method.

        model building is not unique to academics, or to humans for that matter

      • PG,
        Why don’t you help me out with my quest to upset the apple cart of climate science? I have commented a few times that I don’t think anyone has been able to calculate the average lapse rate correctly of Earth and of GHG planets such as Venus and Mars. I find it bizarre that no one can do this calculation — it is off by 50% and then the difference is hand-waved as “close enough”.

        You may have mistaken my needling for nastiness and really should note that I really don’t play favorites when it comes to doing the math, statistics, and physics. I am just methodically going through the climate science models, and peeling the paint as I go.

        Besides that, you really don’t understand that this is what every PhD student is charged to do as they pursue their doctorate. They are often advised to dig at something that might upset the scientific apple-cart. Good advisors know that there is always something new one can find if one is persistent. In my case, I am just doing it because it is challenging and interesting to do it in the context of social media.

        …. and finally WRT what Pekka said

        “Empty” and “lack” are now considered sneer words, to distinguish them from swear words. PG has a delicate constitution and probably should be set up with a fainting couch.

  6. Rud Istvan

    It is not only public policy where ideas must be reconciled with realities. That is the dilemma every senior executive of a large organization (my own experience is mostly with large corporations) wrestles with. Great new new strategic idea, no organizational ability to implement. Tactical new information about a market or competitor, organization ignores without making course corrections…(rather like the IPCC AR5 SOD?).

    What is different here is the scale on which climate science was subverted by government funding, and politicians ran with the subverted science to advance agendas that may not actually have much to do even with the subverted science.
    CAGW may well go down as a historic sequel to tulip bulb mania, but on a larger and more damaging scale. Damaging not because of dollars wasted on useless (low knowledge and low utility unnamed not Pasteur quadrant) research, nor even on hopelessly uneconomic solutions like solar or large scale grid wind, but rather because society has failed to prepare adequately for real, certain looming events (looming in the sense of decades, not years) with bigger social and economic consequences like peak production of transportation fuels or decline in rate of crop intensification improvement, both set against continued global population expansion in an era of cheap mass communication where the have nots can see what the haves have.
    False faith in flawed models ain’t the half of it.

    • Peter Lang

      Rud,

      That is an excellent comment. It is so excellent, it exceeds my budget for awarding “+100″. I’ll have to apply to Beth for an increase in my borrowing limit.

  7. “other ways of knowing things” than by studying them. What does this even mean? This is a typical anti-academic, anti-government rightist view, claiming to be the sidelined little man who knows the real answer is more convenient to them, if only someone could find it.

    • JimD, Let’s try the full sentence, “This means recognition that there are other ways of knowing things than the academic view of reality.” i.e. there is more than one way to skin a catfish. You could say attempt to model all the chaotic variations in a system or simplify the problem by just changing your frame of reference to find a reasonable solution to the more critical aspects of a complex problem, instead of trying to solve tons of useless minutia along the way.

      • What does he mean by “other ways of knowing things” using a non-academic method? The academic view is evidence-based, physics-based, and testing. Is there an alternative? Is it, as lolwot says, the Bible? I really don’t know what he meant.

      • k scott denison

        JimD, if you will reread the all of the excerpts you will realize the author is using academic in this case to represent those that are pushing the model-based approach. Because that is where the gravey train is. Developing scary scenarios and models is ow they butter their bread.

        An example of approach would be experimentation.

      • captd, you have described just another academic method, like energy balance studies, so it doesn’t fall into the “other ways” category. Try again.

      • > What does he mean by “other ways of knowing things” using a non-academic method?

        IOKIYAC.

      • JimD, an academic approach while sound, is often encumbered by people that have no clue what the heck they are doing. Academics use their abstract interpretation of a “standard” approach that is by no means standard. Having to remind the “profs” that there should be a paper trail and means to verify results is a little odd for people used to actually completing projects. The other approaches are still evidence based, but less of a PITA since you don’t have to deal with the Prima Donnas.

        You might notice that most “peer reviewed” papers end with a note indicating more research is warranted. The others paper end with a final invoice.

      • ksd, why equate academics with modeling when most of the evidence comes from measurements and paleoclimate and the model is just a way of making a future projection using this previous evidence. Only a small percentage of climate scientists are modelers.

      • This author is also an academic in the social sciences, and a lot of what he says may sound good for his field of work, but it is in the end his own worldview that seems to drip disdain for scientists in general. It is an opinion from someone who doesn’t seem qualified to comment on the science, and one of his complaints is that unqualified people are made to feel inferior when they try to criticize the science. I think they only feel inferior when they are shown why they are wrong.

      • Jim D,

        Here you go:

        Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell define populism as an ideology that “pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who were together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice”

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

        ***

        If you wish to know how this works, you can read back this op-ed on the light of this:

        1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others.

        2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism.

        3) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty.

        4) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions.

        5) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions.

        6) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination.

        http://www.moralfoundations.org/

        ***

        Here’s why we should talk about morality:

        In the conservative mind, the metaphor of moral strength has the highest priority. Though it clusters with other metaphors that we consider shortly, it is the one that matters most. It determines much of conservative thought and language — as well as social policy. It is behind the view that social programs are immoral and promote evil because they are seen as working against self-discipline and self-reliance. Given the priority of Moral Strength, welfare and affirmative action are immoral because they work against self-reliance.

        http://www.wwcd.org/issues/Lakoff.html

        INTEGRITY ™ — Moral Strength Is Our Priority

      • JimD, “It is an opinion from someone who doesn’t seem qualified to comment on the science, and one of his complaints is that unqualified people are made to feel inferior when they try to criticize the science. I think they only feel inferior when they are shown why they are wrong.”

        It is tough letting unqualified people know they are wrong gentle like. Take Micheal Mann for example :)

      • captd, so are you “radically enlightened” or “moderately enlightened”, or don’t you go much for this type of categorization? I don’t, but we can see that social scientists aren’t free of political persuasion, can’t we? That is all I learned from this.

      • JimD, “captd, so are you “radically enlightened” or “moderately enlightened”, or don’t you go much for this type of categorization? I don’t, but we can see that social scientists aren’t free of political persuasion, can’t we? That is all I learned from this.”

        You can call me about anything you like, doesn’t much matter. No one is “free” of political persuasion and the ones crying most about the political persuasion are the ones most persuaded.

        There are some good points in the paper depending on your “persuasion”. If nothing else, you may gain a little insight into the other “tribe”.

    • Jim D,

      I’m pleased to agree with both you and El Capitan.

      First, El Capitan is right: the academic approach frequently forms a group-think that leads nowhwere but into the groud.

      Second, you’re right. The writer’s complaint is a thinly disguised effort to get into the party and have some punch.

  8. Judith Curry

    Thanks for this post.

    A key “take home” from the “Australian” essay by Gregory Melleuish:

    when reality refuses to bend to a theory, the solution is probably to junk the theory.

    And from your comment:

    Imposing homogeneity of thought is also the enemy of science, and the IPCC driven consensus seeking process is arguably slowing down progress on climate science. The climate blogosphere has made significant headway in breaking the monopoly on climate science and its messy implications.

    The IPCC “consensus process” has made it impossible, so far, to even consider “junking the theory” of CAGW (as IPCC outlined it in its AR4 report).

    Yes, the “blogosphere has made significant headway in breaking the [IPCC] monopoly on climate science”, but until IPCC considers either “junking” CAGW or “modifying it drastically” to suit the “reality”, IPCC is, indeed, “slowing down progress on climate science”, as you wrote.

    We’ll have to wait and see how IPCC reacts in its new AR5 report to “reality”.

    If it “sweeps it under the rug” (as you wrote on an earlier thread), I believe it will lose all remaining credibility and become irrelevant.

    Just my thoughts

    Max

    • Rud Istvan

      Agree. On anther blog, Nic Lewis just posted a new 14 author paper (himself being one) concerning ECS and TCR that might become a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for the scientific honesty of AR5. The SOD did not substantially change the AR4 ECS and TCR estimates, yet all the newer papers lower them. And this most recent paper includes two ‘lead authors’ of AR5.
      The lawyer in me says this is a potential smoking gun. Of course, we will have to await and see what IPCC AR5 finally concludes. But this issue is about as summary black and white of all the underlying questions about positive and negative climate feedbacks from all sources relative to CIMP5 GCMs as one could hope for. And it provides a clear distinction, ECS much lower than AR4, and in ‘line’ with almost all other subsequent papers.

      • Steven Mosher

        It will be interesting to see how many skeptics suggest breaking the rulez to get that Letter considered for the final draft.

      • Steven Mosher

        “Rulez” were made to be broken.

        Using the “rulez” as an excuse for withholding key new scientific findings on our planet’s climate from a summary climate report would be as silly (and self-destructive) as shooting yourself in the foot.

        But let’s see what the whiz-kids at IPCC end up doing.

        Max

      • Steven Mosher | May 19, 2013 at 10:06 pm |

        It will be interesting to see how many skeptics suggest breaking the rulez to get that Letter considered for the final draft.
        ——–
        Given that the IPCC has historically broken many rulz wrt publishing deadlines and other policies to support their agenda driven nonsense, I’d say that the concept of rulz no longer applies, period. Given your history for honesty, it’s a little disappointing that you so ardently suggest that the IPCC should stick to deadline rulz to keep data that counters their view while there is plenty of evidence that they are more than willing to continue to break the rulz to allow late publications that support CAGW.

      • Rob Starkey

        Barnes- I believe Mr Mosher might point out that you are arguing something like two wrongs are better than one.

  9. They can claim that the government needs to fund them so that they can find ways of overcoming the effects of climate change, even reverse it. The more that is done on climate change, the more that needs to be done. As a research topic it appears to be one that can be milked forever.

    This appears to be modeled on the pursuit of witches where torture is used instead of “research”. Then and now the problem is the lack of stopping rules.

  10. Peter Lang

    JC comments says:

    It is about supercharging innovation, and in the early part of the book Naam argues that imposing homogeneity of thought is the enemy of innovation. Imposing homogeneity of thought is also the enemy of science, and the IPCC driven consensus seeking process is arguably slowing down progress on climate science. The climate blogosphere has made significant headway in breaking the monopoly on climate science and its messy implications.

    Excellent point. Judith says: imposing homogeneity of thought is the enemy of innovation and of science and is slowing down progress on climate science. But it’s much worse than this. It is slowing down progress on developing and implementing appropriate policy. The 20 years of UN climate negotiations, Kyoto Protocol, negotiations to get countries to commit to targets and timetables (and penalties for breaches of commitments), carbon pricing, mandating renewable energy as ‘must take’, and more are all top-down government interventions. They are slowing progress.

    Bridging to what I’ve been banging on about, if we want to make progress we need to free-up, not shut-down, peoples’ ability to innovate and find solutions to the practical problems. One obvious way to reduce global GHG emissions, cut black carbon, save millions of avoidable fatalities per year, reduced the cost of energy and thereby improve global economic growth rate and peoples’ wellbeing would be to remove (to the extent net beneficial) the distortions governments have imposed on energy markets. These distortions have been \retarding the development of energy technologies over the past many decades (perhaps over the past century). One obvious example is the effective blocking of the development and licencing of cheap nuclear power.

  11. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Prof. Melleuish’ notion of “radical enlightenment” as contrasted with “moderate enlightenment” was introduced by historian Jonathan Israel in his seminal work:Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752 (p. 866):

    Radical Enlightenment conceived as a package of basic concepts and values may be summarized in eight cardinal points:

    (1) adoption of philosophical (mathematical-historical) reason as the only and exclusive criterion of what is true;

    (2) rejection of all supernatural agency, magic, disembodied spirits, and divine providence;

    (3) equality of all mankind (racial and sexual);

    (4) secular ‘universalism’ in ethics anchored in equality and chiefly stressing equity, justice, and charity;

    (5) comprehensive toleration and freedom of thought based on independent critical thinking;

    (6) personal liberty of lifestyle and sexual conduct between consenting adults;

    (7) freedom of expression, political criticism, and the press, in the public sphere.

    (8) democratic republicanism as the most legitimate form of politics.

    Gosh, the above sounds familiar! It reads as though it came straight from the pen of Thomas Jefferson.

    And this congruity is no accident … Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers read deeply from the literature of the Radical Enlightenment (as Israel’s work thoroughly documents).

    Conclusion  Greg Melleuish is correct: Roughly 97% of all practicing scientists and engineers embrace *BOTH* the radical reality of climate change *AND* the radical principles of the Enlightenment.

    And shame upon Prof. Melleuish, for so illiberally borrowing from Prof. Israel’s ideas and writings, without any proper attribution of them!

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • Chief Hydrologist

      (1) adoption of philosophical (mathematical-historical) reason as the only and exclusive criterion of what is true;

      A far too narrow interpretation of human truth.

      (2) rejection of all supernatural agency, magic, disembodied spirits, and divine providence;

      A short proof of God. John Paul Sartre demonstrated that being and nothingness cannot coexist. The universe is therefore infinite. Douglas Adams demonstrated that in an infinite universe the probability – no matter how unlikely – approaches unity. Therefore God exists.

      (3) equality of all mankind (racial and sexual);

      In practice – equality of penury and oppression. ‘Forty years of communism – and still no toilet paper.’ It is notable that Venezuela is repeating the tradition.

      (4) secular ‘universalism’ in ethics anchored in equality and chiefly stressing equity, justice, and charity;

      Show trials and the Gulag amongst many other things.

      (5) comprehensive toleration and freedom of thought based on independent critical thinking;

      Pussy riot.

      (6) personal liberty of lifestyle and sexual conduct between consenting adults;

      If you can ever get off the collective farm.

      (7) freedom of expression, political criticism, and the press, in the public sphere.

      Press freedom in Cuba?

      (8) democratic republicanism as the most legitimate form of politics.

      One of these days the revolution will be complete and everyone will be equal and free.

      Seriously – you are a joke FOMBS.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      LOL … Chief Hydrologist, perhaps you will learn to love our new Euro-socialist overlords!

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  12. Tracing current ideolgies/stances all the way back to various strands of the Enlightenment is an interesting “academic” exercise but not clearly relevant to understanding where we are and where we’re going. The working ideology of most (not all) Urgent Mitigationists is Technocracy. Its basic desire, as John Jordan wrote in his classic Machine Age Ideology, is to have “kinetic change made stable” through a process of planning and control operated by disinterested experts. Ideally all parts of society would be harnessed or incorporated into the technocratic blueprint.

    Technocratic ideology can be contrasted with populist/reactionary, green/reactionary, and evolutionary/dynamist ideas about progress (as well as underlying presumptions these ideologies have about knowledge, rules, nature, and work and play). These contrasts are explored in Virginia Postrel’s The Future and its Enemies.

    • Steve, Amazon only shows the first three pages, which give no indication of where Virginia is heading. I’d be interested in 2-3 paras on that. Thanks.

      • OK, I’ll give it a shot. The book was published in 1998, but I think the deep structure is still right although the issues of the day have shifted. It’s full of examples both historical and contemporary and quotes its targets and sources liberally and explicitly. Not a lot of “some say” or “it is often argued” in it.

        The main organizing principle of the book is that dynamism versus stasis is a fundamental division in how people think about the social, economic, and political world. This division concerns both normative and descriptive issues, and it cuts orthogonally across the traditional right/left polarity. The motivating observation at the time was a large number of critical issues in which right/left coalitions had formed on each side–free trade, immigration, genetic engineering, the Internet, big-box discount retailing, protection of cultural “diversity,” environmental policies, financial innovation, and in general the process of evolution and creative destruction in the economy.

        Dynamism is a worldview that favors decentralized, evolutionary social systems in which structures emerge without anyone necessarily scripting specific outcomes. Stasists prefer some form of global control or restriction on the specific outcomes that arise. The issue is not favoring or opposing change per se. Stasists often favor massive changes while dynamists often feel that existing patterns that have survived competition are the best that can be done. Rather, the dispute is about how we know what is actually a desirable change, how such changes occur, and who should have a say about what aspects of change.

        Stasists come in two broad flavors, reactionary and technocratic. (The two often cooperate politically but have different ultimate visions.) Reactionary stasists wish to move society in a radical fashion to a “steady-state” often drawn from some imagined past. Many agrarians and greens fall into this camp, ranging from E.F. Schumacher to Kirkpatrick Sale to Wendell Berry. The U.S. has also had some industrial reactionaries who wanted to reproduce and freeze the social and economic conditions of the 1950s/1960s. Technocratic stasists, by contrast, are looking for “kinetic change made stable,” a plan for moving society forward on a collective, planned basis under the control of bureaucratic and technical experts. “Got a problem, get a program” was an often-useful operational description of technocratic thinking.

        Both flavors of stasists have a repugnance for the emergent innovations thrown up by markets and culture, resulting in a constant stream of moral panics generated by our chattering classes, who mostly hew to the stasist persuasion. Dynamists, on the other hand, treat what I will here call the “expected unexpected” with delight or equanimity. It is precisely these kinds of unblessed innovations, ranging from contact lenses to hydraulic fracturing to cohabitation before marriage to punk rock, that provide the mainspring of social progress (Chapter 3), in the dynamist view.

        Dynamists prefer a system in which, to the extent possible, rules of interaction are generic and neutral with respect to the specific aims and statuses of the agents involved. Chapter 5 of the book describes the main general properties such rules must possess, including the kind of feedback to individuals they should provide. Dynamists believe that knowledge (Chapter 4) is widely distributed, specialized, and often impacted and hard to communicate, so that requiring people to articulate or give a good reason in advance for what they want to do is often oppressive and contrary to progress. They recognize that nature (Chapter 6) is neither necessary nor sufficient as a guide to what is desirable, and that the dichotomy of humanity and nature is largely illusory. They are sympathetic to the role of play (Chapter 7) in generating progress and enabling us to enjoy our lives. All of these commitments are contested or opposed by stasists.

        That’s four paragraphs so I’ll stop now.

      • Steve, that’s excellent, the Dynamist description fits me a lot better than any right-left dichotomy. I might buy the book.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        LOL … And I for one welcome our new dynamist overlords!

        Hint: As the aboveWired article vividly shows, nowadays there are plenty of good (and scary!) reasons why engineers who review Postrel’s analysis call it “dated” and “irrelevant.”

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      • Even Fan’s links are deceptive. I clicked through and found no reference to Postrel or her book (at least using Chrome’s command-F search function). His link is to a moderately amusing s-f parody of a future “Google Island.” He falsely attempts to convey the impression that “engineers” of some sort have assessed the book unfavorably, even using deceptive quotation marks. If this kind of dishonest behavior continues, someone may out Fan for his anti-quantum-theory ravings over on another blog.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        LOL  look around, Steve!

        • Noah Easterly: “An unabashedly dynamist work, but to me, that’s a drawback.”

        • James: “Good, but I didn’t take much away from it.”

        • Lynn: “Dated..but groundbreaking it its day.”

        • W. Bradford Littlejohn: “Pretty darn atrocious.”

        • Wendy: “Packed with trivia.”

        As for the disconnect between Wired concerns and Postrel’s (dated) analysis of future trends  well that disconnect is the point, Steve? Because the Wired article is an extended meditation the reality that too-simple market-first ideologies fail in the face of modern technologies!

        Conclusion  Reading is not the same as thinking, StevePostrel!

        \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • “The working ideology of most (not all) Urgent Mitigationists is Technocracy”

      Utopian Technocracy.
      Technocracy based on an utopic ideas, trying to impose technical solutions that can’t and don’t work.
      Maybe Pseudo Technocracy.

  13. Interesting essay. But this sentence puzzled me:
    “This means recognition that there are other ways of knowing things than the academic view of reality.”

    I would like this to be spelled out in detail.

    And this:
    “It means fostering private institutions that can provide genuine intellectual diversity.”
    made my blood run cold.

  14. Chief Hydrologist

    The solution is to break the monopoly of this group so that a genuine pluralism can flourish in Australia. This means recognition that there are other ways of knowing things than the academic view of reality. This means fostering other institutions alongside our public universities so that there is real intellectual diversity in Australia.

    Not to confuse academic with scientific. I quoted this yesterday and I find it hugely amusing. It comes as well from my old alma mater. Wollongong is a bit of a reverse to the usual. The community is a hot bed of radicalism and the university is conservative by comparison. Long ago – I led the May Day rally. 10,000 strong surging through the streets of Wollongong.

    ‘What do we want.’
    ‘Griener’s balls.’
    ‘When do we want ‘em?’
    ‘Now!’

    Let’s face it – most people have little idea of science and especially the limits of science. Science itself is so broad a field that any of us can barely scratch the surface. The usual method seems to be to search for confirmation and disparage anything that doesn’t fit the conceptual – or numerical – model of the world. There is a term for that and Greg Melleuish addresses the zeal with which it is pursued.

    ‘Academics, like many other intellectuals, have a very high opinion of themselves and their rightness. Humility is not a virtue in their world. If you are right and you have good intentions, then surely you should not only be heard but should also prevail. In fact, you probably believe that you have a duty to prevail and to drown out the views of those who lack your qualifications and capacity to employ models. They are just inferiors who need to be brought into line.’

    Again this captures a psychopathology. Not merely from academics – but from the camp followers who inevitably have a little knowledge, unwavering certainty and an overweening sense of moral superiority. These are sick puppies indeed and they are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

  15. Steven Mosher

    Judith

    I would agree that there are a couple good points here

    “Several things struck me about this essay. First is the importance of reconciling ideas with the practical realities of the world, when it comes to policy.

    The second is the call for intellectual diversity.”

    However, those good points can be made without trashing academics in the manner he does; without making divisive arguments about self interest and without making sweeping generalizations about models.

    • I am not a subscriber to The Australian website so I was not able to read the whole essay but the opening remarks seems to indicate a shift in influence from Anglo universities to European based universities.

      Mosher has described the essay as rubbishing (all) academics when the bit that I was able to read seems to indicate that academics from Anglo universities may have been more specifically targeted.

      I am wondering if one of the reasons for this is the way that research is funded in those universities as distinct from the way European universities are funded and that academic bias toward projects of interest to governments may be one of the underlying problems with climate science.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Do a google search for the author and the title – and I think it will let you look at it once.

      • Thanks Chief. It seems, however, that the essay needs to be read in the context of Melluish’s book, from which it was extracted.

      • Peter Davies,

        Mosher has described the essay as rubbishing (all) academics when the bit …

        From my perspectiuve the CAGW scam (perhaps group think, herd mentality and self interest is a more correct description) has damaged all academia, because the rest of them supported the hype and did not attempt to constrain the alarmism, exaggeration and activism of the climate science doomsayers and activists.

      • Peter Lang said:

        “From my perspectiuve the CAGW scam (perhaps group think, herd mentality and self interest is a more correct description) has damaged all academia”

        Another Aussie mocking authority because that it is what larrikins do.

        This warmed-over croc dundee schtick does grow tiresome.

    • Steve Mosher
      Taking the second point first:
      “call for intellectual diversity”.
      Diversity seems to be an anathema in academia, requiring the tenure system to protect otherwise unprotected ideas. Another way to protect diverse ideas is for the person with those ideas that otherwise would need protecting to retire financially comfortable. Intellectual diversity means the scattered cats are hard to herd. No Department chair, nor dean, nor provost is interested in any idea that does not follow the mainstream. Diversity? won’t get funded.

      It seems that a new idea that comes out of academia comes via subterfuge, comes out in spite of what may have met a chorus of nays. What came out when I was studying “x” was “y”; when all along I was really studying “y”, I just couldn’t say it.

      First point: reconciling ideas with the practical realities of the world. To identify the practical realities of the world, one has to have an awareness of the natural world, agree that it is important, and have had the experience in the real world to know that it is the real world. Cloister is the word that comes to mind when I think of academia. Can’t see if you are blind. Won’t listen if one has a tin ear. Ideas won’t enter if the mind is closed. One would certainly not step outside of one’s cloister if there really wasn’t anything worthwhile to see, hear. or consider. No point in that.

  16. What a load of drivel we must endure in this Burkean Vindication.

    The ‘moderate enlightenment’?

    The ‘radical enlightenment’?

    ‘Anglosphere societies’?!

    Media allies of academics?!

    Popularity of climatology among academics?!

    Terms with no objective meaning whatsoever litter this monstrosity. We must conclude Melleuish intends prank or spoof, or is a historian, which amounts to the same thing.

    Academics flee the other way from climatologists and climate change so far as they are able, by and large, with few exceptions. How else to explain the stunningly low rate of response to surveys?

    Either Melleuish has seen one too many episodes of Big Bang Theory, and confused it with reality, or has been to Comicon and confused it with a meeting of CERN.

    Sure, I too cringe with Melleuish when radically enlightened NASA scientists talk about how they’re looking for life on Mars, and like Drake Equation Star Trek inspired silliness about exoplanets. But praising the moderate enlightenment of witch burners and 6,000-year-old Earthers over the radical enlightenment of Eugenists and Perpetual Motion Machine builders is built on erroneous models, a practice of seeking to categorize ideas by artificial constructs that do not well match the way things actually work.

    In the greater context of Melleuish’s ideas, this opinion piece is not so bad. It is no worse, for example, than the fourth Star Wars movie. Oh wait, that was the one that introduced Jar Jar Binks.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      ‘On the Coast of Coromandel,
      Where the early pumpkins grow,
      In the middle of the woods
      Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
      Two old chairs, and half a candle,
      One old jug without a handle,
      These were all his worldly goods:
      In the middle of the woods,
      These were all the worldly goods
      Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
      Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

      Once, among the Bong-trees walking
      Where the early pumpkins grow,
      To a little heap of stones
      Came the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
      There he heard a Lady talking,
      To some milk-white Hens of Dorking,
      “‘Tis the Lady Jingly Jones!
      On that little heap of stones
      Sits the Lady Jingly Jones!”
      Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
      Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

      “Lady Jingly! Lady Jingly!
      Sitting where the pumpkins grow,
      Will you come and be my wife?”
      Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
      “I am tired of living singly,
      On this coast so wild and shingly,
      I’m a-weary of my life;
      If you’ll come and be my wife,
      Quite serene would be my life!”
      Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
      Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.’

      Edward Lear

      • Chief Hydrologist | May 19, 2013 at 11:00 pm |

        Edward Lear would’ve been more worth reading on literary merit, and more historically accurate. His grasp of science was better, too, I believe.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Yes I thought it more to your taste in nonsense.

      • Chief Hydrologist | May 20, 2013 at 1:22 am |

        One would really have to despise Lear to prefer Melleuish.

        Tell me you don’t prefer Lear too.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Horses for courses.

        ‘In his recent book on millennialism, Richard Landes argues that millennial movements become more extreme the more they fail, and it will certainly be the case that this is what happens with the climate change lobby. Empirical evidence will have little effect on their views and they will cling to the faith for as long as possible. As this faith is founded on their models, they will come more and more to rely on the models and ignore the real world. And they will become more determined to impose their views on any recalcitrant unbeliever.

        The zeal with which academics pursue their defence of climate change is a reminder that many of them are more interested in imposing their views on the wider population than they are in allowing for freedom of speech and expression.’

        They both make a hell of a lot more sense than you.

    • Indeed he says the ‘radical’ version comes from French and German ideas, and obviously, it goes without saying, we can’t have those in the Anglosphere, can we? Mildly racist?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Spinoza, Marx and the French republic. Hardly racist.

      • Jim D | May 20, 2013 at 1:33 am |

        The Founding Fathers owe more to France and Germany for their radical, nay, Revolutionary, ideas than to King George’s England.

        Rather, France and Germany owe more to original American thinkers than to their own, at least for their best ideas, or perhaps more accurately their Great ideas.

        The Constitution, the Preamble, the Declaration, would all be radical enlightenment, not moderate claptrap.

        What we see in Melleuish is plain and simple anti-Americanism, thinly disguised as pro-Britianism.

      • > Spinoza, Marx and the French republic. Hardly racist.

        Indeed, silly would be more like it.
        Which is, anti-lukewarm.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        You have got to be kidding.

        ‘It may easily come to pass that a vain man may become proud and imagine himself pleasing to all when he is in reality a universal nuisance.’ Baruch Spinoza

        ‘When the first rumors of political change in France reached American shores in 1789, the U.S. public was largely enthusiastic. Americans hoped that the existing Franco-American alliance would be solidified by democratic reforms that would transform France into a republican ally against aristocratic and monarchical Britain. However, with revolutionary change also came political instability, violence, and calls for radical social change in France that frightened many Americans. American political debate over the nature of the French Revolution exacerbated pre-existing political divisions and resulted in the alignment of the political elite along pro-French and pro-British lines. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson became the leader of the pro-French Democratic-Republican party that celebrated the republican ideals of the French Revolution. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton led the Federalist Party, which viewed the Revolution with skepticism and sought to preserve existing commercial ties with Great Britain. With the two most powerful members of his cabinet locked in mutual opposition, President George Washington tried to strike a balance between the two.

        From 1790 to 1794 the French Revolution became increasingly radical. After French King Louis XVI was tried and executed on January 21, 1793, war with Great Britain and Spain was inevitable, and the two powers joined Austria and other European powers in the war against Revolutionary France that had already started in 1791. The United States remained neutral, as both Federalists and Democratic-Republicans saw that war would lead to economic disaster and the possibility of invasion. This policy was made difficult by heavy-handed British and French actions. The British harassed neutral American merchant ships, while the French government had dispatched a controversial minister to the United States, Edmond-Charles Genêt, whose violations of the American neutrality policy embroiled the two countries in the Citizen Genêt Affair until his recall in 1794.’

        http://history.state.gov/milestones/1784-1800/FrenchRev

        The French Republic led to damn near 200 years of war against the moderate economics of the Scottish enlightenment which is the true basis of the Republic. Idiots are idiots regardless of nationality.

      • > The French Republic led to damn near 200 years of war against the moderate economics of the Scottish enlightenment which is the true basis of the Republic. Idiots are idiots regardless of nationality.

        So there are True Scotsmen, after all.

        They seem to have been quite lukewarm too.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        There is such a thing as a universdal nuisance however.

  17. Re: “The radical enlightenment, from the 17th century until today, has little or no time for tradition and wants to make the world anew on the basis of abstract, and usually untried, theories. . . . Academics, like many other intellectuals, have a very high opinion of themselves and their rightness. . . probably believe that you have a duty to prevail and to drown out the views of those who lack your qualifications and capacity to employ models.”

    Solution: A good dose of hard headed engineering expertise objectively confronting the wide range of evidence. See: Burt Rutan Climate

  18. The article is a waste of time, playing on innate human irrationality rather than providing new substantive content.

  19. Judith, the Naam link took me to the Melluish article.

  20. “The solution is to break the monopoly of [academics] so that a genuine pluralism can flourish in [wherever]. This means recognition that there are other ways of knowing things than the academic view of reality. This means fostering other institutions alongside our public universities so that there is real intellectual diversity in [wherever]. It means providing the means whereby people outside of officially sanctioned institutions, such as the universities and the ABC, are able to contribute to the public sphere.”

    Melleuish’s piece reminds me of the arguments I used to get from my ex-wife and her new age friends that I thought I had a monopoly on truth and was closed minded. They couldn’t get the idea that I needed observations of the real world to form my beliefs, not a priori, revelational, or mystical thinking. Their wishful thinking was just a valid as any evidence-based theories I might entertain.

    Aside from the intellectual cover of what kind of “enlightenment” I might subscribe to, the concept that intellectual diversity must entertain any concept of assessment of reality on an equal footing is so intellectually regressive as to be frightening.

    Regarding the complaint that climatology has an inside track on federal funding: The U. S. 2012 ratio of federal appropriations for NIH/NSF was 4.6. Why? Alexander Pope said, “The proper study of mankind is man.” Apparently the U. S. Congress agrees with this (although I don’t do the extent they appear to) since they insist on putting lots of resources into health, sources of energy (DOE), and climatology. Would you really argue against the wisdom of funding climatology?

    • “recognition that there are other ways of knowing things than the academic view of reality”

      “intellectual diversity must entertain any concept of assessment of reality on an equal footing”

      These two are not the same.

      • Dagfinn,
        The “academic view of reality” and “intellectual diversity” as presented in this piece is so vague as to easily encompass “Intellectual diversity must entertain any concept of assessment of reality on an equal footing” for many readers. That’s one of the major difficulties with the piece.

  21. My question here about their linear ECR extrapolation is whether the recent trends in temperatures which are mostly over drier areas (land, polar regions) can be projected into the future, or whether the tropical ocean surface will eventually warm faster and release more of the water vapor to increase the H2O feedback and hence ECR. Their assumption that the land will continue to warm as it has been is worrying when you work it out that its recent transient sensitivity (1980-2010) is 4 C per doubling. I suspect their low ECR is because the warming has not yet affected the tropical ocean surface much, but if that continues it is not a good scenario for land and Arctic that have to warm more to compensate. Hopefully someone will address the assumptions behind linear extrapolation. I seem the recall that the Armour et al. paper was relevant to this issue, taking into account different regions warming at different rates due to their thermal inertias which indicates short-term sensitivities may be underestimated.

  22. Beth Cooper

    ‘Imposing homogeneity of thought is the enemy of innovation.’
    .
    I’m cool with that … viva innovation.

    ‘Imposing homogeneity of thought is the enemy of science,
    and the IPCC consensus process is arguably slowing down
    progress on climate science.’

    We serfs worry about that …

    Rustlings of silk – shirted coteries whispering in the corridors
    of power of the U – night -ed nay – shuns and the I – P – C – C.

    H/t Ramez Naan.

    • The IPCC told me they respected me for my mind. But they only wanted me for my signature. A warning to wantons.

    • Mike Jonas

      Beth Cooper – Nice quote. A bit like General Patton’s “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking”.

  23. Beth Cooper

    Apologies ter Ramez Naam

  24. It’s my general observation that libertarians have a fascination for History, moreso than for history.

    That Historians often find Libertarianism attractive, finding the historical perspective diminishes the attraction of shorter-lived parties and ‘movements’. Even among those Historians who admirably dispense with Movementism, this is so.

    Some scientists, and many engineers, believing themselves to be rational, logical, ‘scientific’, objective, or fact-based thinkers, and believing of libertarian philosophy that these patterns are shared, and thence that libertarian politics is likewise, fall into the same trap as Historians.

    So we have a world where Historians complain that Scientists don’t listen to Historians enough, and that if only scientists would do as historians suggest, all would be lollipops and rainbows; we have a world populated by Libertarians complaining that the sciences aren’t producing outcomes supportive enough of their political agenda, and thus scientists must have a Liberal bias even when the scientists producing the work are by far more socially conservative than the ones complaining.

    Politics and History have zero place in Science. Zero place at the table where funding decisions need to be made. Zero place at the table where facts are examined and conclusions reached in Science. Zero place interpreting observation. Zero place doing the geometry and calculus, algebra and statistics, and especially zero place in trendology.

    History can be rather excellent for putting into context for the layman what exactly a scientific conclusion that, for example, weather like today might be like weather in 1700 or 1100 or 4,000 bce, in such and such ways. Or not. Historians are such a bunch of fabulists, we may as well rely on novellists for the same information, or even Hollywood script writers. (Working back from how bad Hollywood scriptwriters are, which I expect any reader to understand, we see how low one’s opinion of Historians and historical recreation. Sorry, Tonyb.)

    Politics rates rather lower than this. We may as well have politicians who utterly ignore, or better are never allowed to know, science at all, for all the good their knowledge of science has yet to bear on their rampantly contrarian policy decisions, nineteen times in twenty. While government by science-ignorant politicians is this awful, the imagined outcome of government by scientist is worse.

    As it happens decent policy, based on fairness and sound Economics, coincides with what science tells us in the case of climate: the “cheap energy” philosophy of subsidizing and favoring carbon-based fuels will and has led to imbalances and unsustainable practices, and ought be abandoned. All Science adds to this is the knowledge that 1950-level net CO2 emission is the upper limit constraint of the global system we ought consider optimal before human Forcing becomes an additional (therefore negative) factor. That, and that Science is the foundation of technical innovation to find new solutions.

  25. The great danger of technocracy is that tech-minded people are good at tech, but, as a group, they are not good at thinking. Really. They’re not good at that. Literal-minded, mechanistic, simplistic…and not sufficiently self-critical to see it. Lately, there’s been a disturbing dose of conceit added to an already disturbing mix.

    We need to go on being ruled by shabby, ill-equipped democratic politicians because the alternatives are so awful.

    • ‘shabby, ill-equipped, democratic politicians’. Hey, have you taken a close look at the ruling elite lately?
      ===========

  26. It’s a good thing there’s an Australia.

    Otherwise, the USA would be the Anglosphere’s laughingstock on matters scientific and political.

    Thank you, Australia, for taking the pressure off American politicians to be wiser, more statesmanly, and better informed.

    • Not knocking my adopted country, but I’ve met many Europeans who are shocked at the lack of intellectual discussion here. One of the reasons I go to international sites online. And perhaps why we have a high proportion of Australian posters at CE.

      We have no great metropolises here, and the major cities are far apart. Hard to get critical mass for many activities.

      But we provide a lot of the fun here. And punch above our weight, not that obesity in Oz matches that in the US of A.

      • True. I can’t seem to find any Australian blogs that provide the spread of views and good quality discussion (notwithstanding a few of the denizens here that seems to resent Australians generally) and that’s what I come here for.

      • Beth Cooper

        Yes Faustino and Peter
        Thx be ter Judith Curry and Climate Etc.

        We seem ter have a chasm here in Oz between the
        academic progressives and the rest of the serfs
        many of whom like ter talk about sport and yer do
        not discuss contra -versh – ul subjects.
        When I was at univer -city I had ter be very
        diplomatic and tutorials and in essays, where
        I went beyond the starred texts of reading lists,
        needed ter very carefully dock – u -ment. But I did
        have Prof Geoffrey Blainey, ‘The Tyranny of Distance’
        as one lecturer and he was an original thinker.

        Beth – one – of – the – serfs – from – Oz

      • ” Faustino | May 20, 2013 at 10:20 pm

        Not knocking my adopted country, but I’ve met many Europeans who are shocked at the lack of intellectual discussion here. One of the reasons I go to international sites online. And perhaps why we have a high proportion of Australian posters at CE.”

        You come to this comment area because you can hear the faint dog whistle of the larrikin.

      • Let’s not forget, Australians have in general better senses of humor.

        Or better love lives.

        Often at the same time, to judge from all the laughing when the topic is brought up.

      • Bart, if you checked out my given name (which has appeared on CE), you might conclude that I’m a prize-winning New York-based author. But you’ld be wrong about that, too. The closest I’ve been to Madrid is Barcelona (briefly) or Algeciras. The closest I’ve been to Mexico is Abilene and El Paso. My ancestry is 75% Celtic, 25% Northumbrian/Viking. I was born in the heart of England (an accident of war), but grew up on Tyneside. My transition to Australia was also accidental and unplanned.

    • Steven Mosher

      do they play hockey down under?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Ice hockey? Not terribly well. It is winter here and 25 degrees C.

      • And there is the Chief, another Aussie with bizarre theories on climate. Like his belief that the heat of combustion of fossil fuels are enough to raise the average global temperature.

        This is what Melleuish is trying to promote — the Aussie tradition of pranking .

      • Looks like our American friend is up to his usual tricks. Now if the Chief doesn’t bite then what will we have?

        Answer: Nothing! Nothing to start with nothing in the content and nothing at the finish. The sound of one hand clapping.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        It is one of webby’s many blind spots. Near as I can figure – he thinks that Co2 molecules absorb and emit at different frequencies such that there is a multiple notches in the emission spectrum that just keep getting bigger. It is not true – it can’t. It is a quantum thingy.

        This is however a fairly common space cadet meme.

        What happens of course is that the planet warms with more CO2 and emissions step up a notch to make a pun. You might get a change in the location of the peak emission in accordance with Wein’s Displacement for a black body – but I am not sure about that and it is moreover so miniscule at Earth temperatures. Feel free to neglect – unless you need a fantasy notch in the sky.

      • Watch the Chef Hydro flail with his pranking. So helpless, he doesn’t even know the recipe for boiling water.

        You guys don’t even realize that the top-level post was bait to lure you out of your larrikin cave. Why else post a meaningless opinion piece from some obscure Australian historian?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Does anyone listen to your nonsensical prattling and preening webby?

        The article is about AGW space cadets. I quoted it yesterday having read it in the mornings paper over coffee and Faustino forwarded it to Judith. In Australia – it is part of a concerted campaign to redress some of the disproportionate influence of pissant progressives. These are not a particularly numerous population – 5% or so – but overrepresented in the media and academia.

        In terms of climate – we pretty much think that there is a millennialist groupthink at work if you read the entire article. This pretty much eliminates the possibility of rational pissant progressive thought – and you are a case in point. Take it for granted that there is a global conspiracy to take control of the future because you really can’t be trusted with it.

      • Oh, so blame it on Faust. Some pseudo-Shakespearean tragedy that.

        I should have probably guessed that you Aussies had each others emails. Better to strategerize your next pranking move.

        Over here, we know all the Rovian tactics, swift-boating, etc.

        I guess I’m a regular McIntyre of Audit for uncovering the Conspiracy of the Ocker Mockers. ha ha

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Actually – we get back to Goethe and an old German fable. As far as I know – Faustino named himself after a Spanish sherry. Could do worse. Could name yourself webnutcolonoscope.

        But as I say elsewhere – this is not an Australian conspiracy. This is a global conspiracy to marginalize space cadets. Thought I explained that.

      • Chief, the origin of my nom de net lies elsewhere. However, I have to hand (literally) a small bottle of “Faustino VII Rioja,” but that was just a joke (empty) gift from my son; I never drink alcohol.

        Bart, I brought my humour from England. As regards love life, my wife is one of many Australian women who married non-Australians; make of that what you will.

      • Peter Lang

        Faustino – a very wise choice.

        Faustino’s wife – a very wise choice.

        Both did excellent excellent risk analysis and then practiced excellent risk management.

        :)

      • OT but good for you re your teetotal choice coz that’s then more for the rest of us ;) and as for your Aussie wife, two good choices as Peter L has already said.

        However, at the risk of TMI I suggest that as the average Aussie men drink rather too much beer and are consequently not to good in the sack whereas Faustino obviously has set high standards in everything he does, so the Aussie wife comes up trumps!

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Faustino,

        I was being a bit tongue in cheek about your nom de guerre climatique.

        I married a gorgeous girl from a South Pacific Island I met at the Pondo Bar in the Port Moresby Travelodge. Uncle Ronny was playing Beatles covers with the band. She was standing at the piano bopping away – drink in hand – and being swarmed by lust crazed guys. So I just smiled. Next thing I know we were swimming hand in hand over coral reefs.

        Unless they are Texans – and I don’t count springer – I don’t think they understand.

      • Faustino | May 21, 2013 at 2:59 am |

        At least a little of your humor — if we’re playing guessing games — appears born in Barcelona, educated in Madrid, and to have spent time gleaning honors in law and economics in Mexico.

    • Mmm, I seem to have misplaced that. It was a response to Bart’s sleuthing out that I had alleged Spanish and Mexican antecedents.

  27. Like I was saying. The alternative: just awful in its conceit. And with no self-awareness.

  28. beside climatology this article is raising a huge fact.
    It is long time that I denounce the same things.

    that today’s science is too much focussed on theory. It is not new.
    Hygiena by Semmelweis was rejected because of no theory despite facts that even the illiterate mother knows, and which were clear enough to push them to give birth in the street rather than in the hospital.

    It make Shechtman be fired for shaming his lab, despite the experimental results. Of course people afterward give him a Nobel and just claim that they accepted the fact when evidence where clear… in fact the evidence where clear since the beginning…

    It is the same for Wegener continental drift, which was rejected despite all evidences only because there were no mechanism to explain the facts observed.

    behind LENR I find the same history, even if the evidences are thousand time more clear than in all the previous domains, since it is experimental and replicated.
    There have been things said to deny the fact that should deserve to fire a scientists (like claiming that a phenomenon that is found many time but badly controlled is false, the fact that any unchecked possibility of error is necessarily true, the fact that something is impossible because we don’t find a way to allow it despite the observation), and pull their PhD…

    all of that is well described by thomas Kuhn in his work about the structure of scientific revolution.
    Anomalies in mainstream theory are ignored until there is a perfect all-encompassing theory that can replace the former with no weak point.

    with theory, there have been many horror absolutely accepted, and without there are many good rejected.

    the importance of diversity in the school of thought is also very important.

    the importance of a scientific variation of free-speech is important.
    Scientist have free speech in US because of the constitution (it nearly get refused in France, in the name of fight against genocide negationism), but they don’t have free-speech in reality..
    when dissenting they lose their funding, they lose their ability to be published.
    this make the ability to find the truth and make ideas adapt to reality , get weaker and weaker.

    • Another Australian wrote:

      “It make Shechtman be fired for shaming his lab, despite the experimental results.”

      Shechtman was not fired from his job. He was working at the National Bureau of Standards at the time and his boss there, the great John Cahn supported his research and actually co-authored the famous paper on quuasi-crystals.

      Cahn helped him get through the nay-saying of the krank-version of Linus Pauling. Yes, indeed, many a great scientist has turned into a crackpot, and it just takes a while to figure that out. Pauling was once a great scientist but turned into a krank with his Vitamin C theories and his outbursts against scientists such as Shechtman.

      More pranks from the Aussies. WHUT’s up wid dat?

    • Chief Hydrologist

      In 1982, Shechtman discovered what are now called “quasicrystals” — atoms arranged in patterns that seemed forbidden by nature.

      “I was thrown out of my research group. They said I brought shame on them with what I was saying,” he recalled. “I never took it personally. I knew I was right and they were wrong.”

      The discovery “fundamentally altered how chemists conceive of solid matter,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in awarding the $1.5 million prize.

      Since his discovery, quasicrystals have been produced in laboratories, and a Swedish company found them in one of the most durable kinds of steel, which is now used in products such as razor blades and thin needles made specifically for eye surgery, the academy said. Quasicrystals are also being studied for use in new materials that convert heat to electricity.’

      Alain was talking about scientific revolutions – approvingly. He doesn’t sound Australian – but you never know. I am not sure what webby is on about but prattling and preening and being an idiot again.

      • Chef, Would it surprise you to know that I have spectral techniques in disordered crystallography named after me? I was there at the time.

        Is that too much “preening” for you?

        You are way over your head on this on, but that is nothing new. Cheers.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        webby – it would surprise me if you had a sandwich named after you.

        From the horses mouth – he was thrown out of his research group. I merely suggested that your silly rant was misguided – on several counts it seems.

      • Yes, “thrown out” and immediately landed in the prestigious lab run by the National Bureau of Standards, now called the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where he could use all their precision X-ray crystallography instruments and have John Cahn as a boss.

        Some of the urban myth probably came from this statement that Cahn made.

        ““My initial reaction was, ‘Go away, Danny. These are twins and that’s not terribly interesting,” recalled Cahn, a co-author on the 1984 journal article that reported the discovery.

        http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/shechtman-100511.cfm

        “Shechtman was on a two-year sabbatical and worked as a guest researcher at NIST from 1981 to 1983. He then returned to Technion, where he continued to pore over the diffraction pattern data that he had collected at NIST. In 1984, he returned to NIST at the invitation of Cahn, to consult further. Initial efforts to publish an article reporting five-fold symmetry were unsuccessful until November 12, 1984, when the landmark article was published in Physical Review Letters.”

        Chef, let it go. You always lose.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        What urban myth? I quoted the source directly.

        You lose again and always because you are fundamentally dishonest.

  29. Mike Jonas

    It’s an interesting essay. But, Gregory Melleuish, when you say:
    “What we need now more than ever is a space where the heirs of the moderate enlightenment and the believers in a natural order can flourish. By that I mean those who know that the relationship between ideas and the real world is a complex one and that when reality refuses to bend to a theory, the solution is probably to junk the theory.”
    Don’t you understand that you are in that space right now?

    • “When reality refuses to bend to a theory for a statistically significant period of time, the solution is probably to junk the theory.”

      So how long does that “period of time” have to be in order to be “statistically significant” (i.e. until it is time to “junk the theory”?)

      Another 10 years?

      Another 20 years?

      Never?

  30. michael hart

    Excellent article by Melleuish. Contrast this with the attitudes revealed in climate-gate emails:

    “I recall giving lectures in the past when there would be one person who would disagree with something or all I said in an invited talk. The internet has allowed all these people to find one another unfortunately.” -Phil Jones (#2621)

  31. Melleuish states:

    “The real problem is the way in which the growth of the universities in Australia has been matched by the development of a dominant subculture that is both addicted to abstract ideas and appears to have a stranglehold on the intellectual life of the country.”

    I had an inkling but didn’t realize it was that bad in Australia. I know more about the USA and that does not describe what is happening here.

    So as long as someone like Melleuish is allowed to hypothesize, he could explain why the large number of pure krackpots emanate from Australia. A statistically significant number of Aussie kranks appear on this, ostensibly American, blog comment section. That appears to be the “dominant subculture” based on the observational evidence.

    One can also observe that at a thriving native industry has budded based on these kranks. Australian psychologists such as Lewandowsky have found a rich environment for analysis and an Australian site called http://SkepticalScience.com is basically organized to fight the onslaught of these crazy ideas.

    Why does this happen? Is it a statistical anomaly? Or is it it how the Australians rationalize it when I have brought this up before: they are isolated from the rest of the world in terms of climate, and that they need to take the climate issue on their own terms?

    Excuse me, but global climate is global.

    As always, a most appropriate top-level post for discussion. Kudos.

    • There’s no such thing as global climate mate! Sorry but no cigar.

      • One of the great and clever experiments that can be done is to carefully record what happens during a total solar eclipse. The global climate in terms of an average temperature will dip slightly yet measurably and climate scientists can use that information to determine a global transient climate responses.

        Same thing happens during a significant volcanic eruption such as Pinatubo. This will blanket the world and change the global climate as a an average temperature change.

        Same thing happens with CO2.

        Get it now?

        Australia ain’t as special as you make it out to be.

      • Global climate change is certainly ascertained from movements in an average of temperatures (and other data) ranging from the polar regions through to equatorial rain forests, mountains and on the open plains, all of which have quite different climates.

        I thought that is was generally understood that the global average temperature, for example is an artifact, not representing anything that could be described as ambience at a global scale. If this interpretation is incorrect then by all means have a shot at me for being dense of brain.

        As for Australia and Australians generally, we don’t compare ourselves with any other counties or with other countrymen and women because that is just what we don’t like to do. Notwithstanding this here is a comparison between our two countries that seems to belie your assertion about Australia.

        http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/compare/US/AU

      • Whatever. Sounds like Canada.

        BTW, “whatever” is a sneer word according to pokerboy’s classification system.

  32. Excellent.

  33. “…global climate is global.”
    And the web, as we know, is the aww.

    But please, take our Lewandowsky, a facile, snobbish trough-swiller who is like an unlanceable boil on our robust Australian society. I would never inflict such a superficial, posturing oaf on the USA, a country I love. But there’s a UN building with an enormous trough, bulging with OPM. It’s not far from the Hudson. Put him there. He’ll be fine. If he says he’s afraid of a Category 3 Hurricane coming to land, remind him that was way back in ’38.

    • mosomoso

      As Marcel Leroux remarked ‘;the world is made of many climates.’ and as you know the globe is categorized into various climate zones.

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

      This is probably why some parts of the globe are cooling, whilst others are warming or are static.

      The Romans knew about and categorised several of the climate zones two thousand years ago.

      The notion of a single ‘global’ temperature is very unhelpful as it disguises the vast amount of noise in the climate data and the reality of diversity of real world temperature.

      There is no better example of this than the UK at present where our temperatures are falling .

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/05/08/the-curious-case-of-rising-co2-and-falling-temperatures/

      This enables us to re-examine our very long temperature records and put the modern age into a better perspective than those who disparage history realise.
      tonyb

    • MofoMofo, You are also an Aussie.
      Ploink!

      • So that’s a no on taking Lewandowsky? We’ll throw in Flannery, Cook and various others of the type we call “bludgers”, “dills” and “drongos”. Plus a set of steak knives. (Trust me, once you have to support Footprint Flannery in the manner to which he has become accustomed in Oz, you will need plenty of food utensils.)

  34. Paul Vaughan

    Perhaps only a natural force as powerful as organized religion can arrest and correct the spreading corruption of university & government sponsored modeling “science”.

  35. Abstracting the idea that a model is a simplification of the ‘modeled’ entity that allows us to make predictions or provide explanations. We use models to communicate, and at times use existing concepts, definitions, etc., as an economy or efficiency in the communication. Prejudices are particularly strong and hence, convenient bundled concepts. Consider the following modified template from the excepts above as a demonstration of model application in communication:

    Begin template
    Climate change The pounding and undercutting of academics in climate science has largely been pushed by academicsright-wing ideologues and their allies talking-heads in the media. Why has climate change professor bashing proved to be so popular among academia as a group? I think that there are a number of answers.

    The first is naked self-interest. They have discovered that with climate change pounding academia they are on a real winner. They can claim that the government public needs to fund<support them so that they can find ways of overcoming the effects of climate change influence of the academics on our wonderful society, even reverse it. The more that is done on climate change longer we fail to act, the more that needs to be done undone. As a research topic it This approach to garnering support for the cause appears to be one that can be milked forever.

    The second is that as a topicprofessor pounding it is an expression of the academic desire to reduce the world to a series of models that can be manipulated to predict the future is an excellent cliche or model for re-enforcing the idea of ‘real’ evils in our midst. We live in a world that is both complex and contingent, with many unknowns. It is a delusion to believe that we can create a model world-view that depicts reality in such a way that we can control the future simply in terms of those wearing white hats and those wearing black hats. When we attempt to do so we simply remain in the abstract world of the model a narrow world of fear and ignorance and become its slave.

    The third is a form of moral panic a pernicious convoluted reasoning that seems to have overcome many academics on the right. A major discovery of the past 100 years the age of modern democracies is that education and devotion to intellectual matters does not make modern human beings more rational. Academics Those on the right, like other people, are prone to scares and panics, and hence to using their intellects in defence of irrational projects.

    End template

    However, as presented the material is an opinion piece–red meat so to say. One can hardly help but think of zookeepers clanking about just before feeding time at the zoo. Fun for some, strikes a nerve, but what does it really accomplish?

    More of the same.

  36. David Bailey

    I think there are a couple of other problems with academia.

    1) Researchers get pushed by politicians into being more definite than they should be, and then find it awfully hard to change tack as the results come in.

    2) There is an absurd concept that ‘scientists know’ all sorts of things from quantum physics to the effects of greenhouse gasses, whereas in reality we all know a minute subset of what there is to know. Unfortunately, I think a lot of scientists were prepared to sign up to the idea of CAGW without ever confronting the noisy data, or the lack of real correlation between CO2 levels and warming. They just enjoyed the conceit of being scientists that automatically know about such things!

    If the whole idea that ‘scientists agree that CO2 concentrations are too high’ had been challenged by more people – simply pointing out that their specialty, like most others, gave them no insight into the problem, we would have been much better off.

  37. Matthew R Marler

    The solution is to break the monopoly of this group so that a genuine pluralism can flourish in Australia. This means recognition that there are other ways of knowing things than the academic view of reality. This means fostering other institutions alongside our public universities so that there is real intellectual diversity in Australia. It means providing the means whereby people outside of officially sanctioned institutions, such as the universities and the ABC, are able to contribute to the public sphere.

    He wants more people who agree with him to get government support. I sympathize, but that’s not new.

    I agree with Steven Mosher’s disparaging comments above. I don’t think there is anything new or meritorious in this essay.

    • In terms of “providing the means,” of course, Melluish has found a means in The Australian, and we Oz posters find it in blogland, no government involvement or support sought or needed.

  38. “When we attempt to do so we simply remain in the abstract world of the model and become its slave.”

    Hence the need for strict mode[ validation. As a pioneer of mathematical modelling I cav say that a model is just a hypothesis until all parts of processes have been properly validated. The wraps shold not come off a model until this requirement is mei. Validation should best be done in punlic so the world cab judge its signifidance. Validation is a state of mind and the hardest person to convince is the modeller.

  39. Michael Larkin

    The thing about abstraction and model addiction has long bugged me. I blame computers for a lot of it. Why go trudging out in the field and do empirical work when you can just do super-fast calculations with mickey mouse models?

    For me, the cosmologists are the ones who take the biscuit, even more than the climatologists. It never seems to occur to them that there might be something amiss with a theory which prompts you to magic up an extra 24 times as much dark matter/energy, that by definition can’t be detected, as ordinary stuff. And they have the gall to rubbish people like Hannes Alfven and Halton Arp.

    This is why science is becoming more and more epicyclic a la Ptolemy. There’s none more foolish than a lazybones set loose with a science PhD.

    • David Bailey

      Yes – I mean climatology can’t be the only science that has gone astray. Most people posting here know the problems with climatology, which indicate that modern science can drift far away from reality. The amazing thing (to me) was that senior scientists backed the climatologists up – even joining in the exaggeration – even when they must have known about the doubts over statistical methods, data quality, proxies, etc.

      The internet is full of potential analogs of CAGW, for example, this blog by a GP raises serious doubts about statins and the logic of trying to reduce blood cholesterol (based on published evidence that has been ignored by the mainstream):

      http://drmalcolmkendrick.org/about/

      In the past, I used to dismiss such blogs as the work of cranks, but now I know that each of them may be another climategate.

      I feel that without real soul searching and change, science will continue to decline and fall into disrepute. CAGW opens a real can of worms, such as:

      The effectiveness of peer review when reviewers clearly do not have the resources to repeat the experimental content of a paper.

      The role of PR in hyping all sorts of scientific issues – the exaggeration around the LHC was breathtaking – God particles, recreating the big bang, etc. etc. All that was before it suffered an explosion and went offline for many months!

      The value of computer models.

      The frightening tendency, as Michael says, to create epicycles. When the warming stops, it must be going somewhere else (such as the sea), it can’t just indicate a flaw in the original theory. So the theory stays, and just accretes an extra arbitrary kludge to fit the data.

      I think it would be best if the climate scandal really burst, and science loses a lot of money and prestige. That may be the only way to kick off the reforms that are so obviously needed.

  40. David Small

    I am a synoptic meteorologist. I recently suffered through an interview at an insurance company where an atmospheric modeller (with a PhD from M.I.T.) pointed out to me a dozen times that, “You only look at maps.” I finally told him that the only way to understand why models are so bad is to look at the maps they produce and diagnose the relevant dynamics. I didn’t get the job. My experience is that atmospheric modellers have no respect for those of us who try to learn from data before we go to a model. They believe their models when the results don’t match observations. The comments from the idiot interviewing me show that the modelling community has no interest in real data, only model based predictions. We happy few who can read a weather map and diagnose the physics responsible for extreme events are a dying breed in the atmospheric sciences. When the modellers finally manage to exterminate our kind (like the empire did to the jedi knights), atmospheric science will cease to be a dynamic and relevant field. We keep the modellers honest.

  41. David Small

    By my comment, I mean no disrespect to the modelling community. Models are fantastic tools when used carefully. I apologize for using the world idiot. The constant belittling of observational work by people who run models has become extremely frustrating to many of us in the meteorology community. After being told directly by several atmospheric modellers that you can’t learn anything important by looking at weather maps, I must question the direction that the field is heading.

  42. Feynman thought he’d said all he needed to by the time he died. Would that he were around to repeat himself.

    He warned, amongst many other things, that the world of computer modeling was seductive, and one ended up preferring the models to reality.

  43. Feynman is departed from us. What does Brian H have to say? ;O)

  44. The author gives three reasons that academics are so taken with AGW, one of them being the obvious vested interest they have in getting more money to pursue their own interests (or “jobs” as they often present them).

    A fourth, related, one, is that being as they are state-funded academics, they tend to have on balance a more totalitarian / statist political outlook than the taxpayers who are forced to fund them; ie they think coercion by government is better than citizens controlling their own lives themselves. (Evidence of this in the US is the clear preponderance of Democrats over Republicans among climate scientists).

  45. Evan Thomas

    It is true that in OZ academics rule the quality media such as the ABC and the Fairfax media insofar as climate change is concerned. The academics persuaded the Government that ‘the science is settled’. So we only hear from ‘experts’ at the Universities, CSIRO and BOM. Myself and other sceptics rely on blogs to keep up to date with contrary papers and commentary. Cheers from now nicely sunny Sydney.

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