Masters(?) of many trades

by Judith Curry

Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things. – Robert Twigger

Aeon Magazine has published an interesting article entitled Master of Many Trades.  Some excerpts:

We hear the descriptive words psychopath and sociopath all the time, but here’s a new one: monopath. It means a person with a narrow mind, a one-track brain, a bore, a super-specialist, an expert with no other interests — in other words, the role-model of choice in the Western world.

Industrialism tends toward monopathy because of the growth of divided labour, but it is only when the physical element is removed that the real problems begin. When the body remains still and the mind is forced to do something repetitive, the human inside us rebels.

The average job now is done by someone who is stationary in front of some kind of screen. Someone who has just one overriding interest is tunnel-visioned, a bore, but also a specialist, an expert. Welcome to the monopathic world, a place where only the single-minded can thrive.

Classically, a polymath was someone who ‘had learnt much’, conquering many different subject areas. Polymaths such as Da Vinci, Goethe and Benjamin Franklin were such high achievers that we might feel a bit reluctant to use the word ‘polymath’ to describe our own humble attempts to become multi-talented. We can’t all be geniuses. But we do all still indulge in polymathic activity; it’s part of what makes us human.

So, say that we all have at least the potential to become polymaths. Once we have a word, we can see the world more clearly. And that’s when we notice a huge cognitive dissonance at the centre of Western culture: a huge confusion about how new ideas, new discoveries, and new art actually come about.

Science, for example, likes to project itself as clean, logical, rational and unemotional. In fact, it’s pretty haphazard, driven by funding and ego, reliant on inspired intuition by its top-flight practitioners. Above all it is polymathic. New ideas frequently come from the cross-fertilisation of two separate fields. Francis Crick, who intuited the structure of DNA, was originally a physicist; he claimed this background gave him the confidence to solve problems that biologists thought were insoluble.

Despite all this, there remains the melancholy joke about the scientist who outlines a whole new area of study only to dismiss it out of hand because it trespasses across too many field boundaries and would never get funding. Somehow, this is just as believable as any number of amazing breakthroughs inspired by the cross-fertilisation of disciplines.

The benefits of polymathic endeavour in innovation are not so hard to see. What is less obvious is how we ever allowed ourselves to lose sight of them. The problem, I believe, is some mistaken assumptions about learning. We come to believe that we can only learn when we are young, and that only ‘naturals’ can acquire certain skills. We imagine that we have a limited budget for learning, and that different skills absorb all the effort we plough into them, without giving us anything to spend on other pursuits.

One reason many people shy away from polymathic activity is that they think they can’t learn new skills. I believe we all can — and at any age too — but only if we keep learning. ‘Use it or lose it’ is the watchword of brain plasticity.

Monopathy, or over-specialisation, eventually retreats into defending what one has learnt rather than making new connections. The initial spurt of learning gives out, and the expert is left, like an animal, merely defending his territory. One sees this in the academic arena, where ancient professors vie with each other to expel intruders from their hard-won patches. But the polymath, whatever his or her ‘level’ or societal status, is not constrained to defend their own turf. The polymath’s identity and value comes from multiple mastery.

The old Renaissance idea of mastering physical as well as intellectual skills appears to have real grounding in improving our general ability to learn new things. It is having the confidence that one can learn something new that opens the gates to polymathic activity.

JC comments:  In thinking about how monopathy and polymathy apply to climate science, as recently as two decades ago, few scientists would have referred to themselves as a ‘climate scientist'; rather they would refer to themselves as say an atmospheric scientist, geochemist, oceanographer. Now, many scientists refer to themselves as a ‘climate scientist’.    Are climate scientists polymathic?  Most don’t seem to be; rather the subject seems to be constrained by the monomathy of the IPCC consensus, and most still focus on a single sub discipline (e.g. atmospheric chemistry, ocean dynamics, etc.).  The climate field also shows social tendencies of monopathy, whereby ‘outsiders’ are dismissed as not being real climate experts.  ‘Outsiders’ here include academics from other fields (e.g. solar physicists) or individuals such as Nic Lewis.

More polymathic activity is needed in the context of climate science.  I think senior academics, or technically educated individuals who are retired from other fields, are the ones with the luxury of time and status to indulge in polymathy.  I think technical blogs can encourage polymathy.

Climate science, and its linkages with socioeconomics, is an exceeding complex topic, arguably a ‘wicked mess’, that seems to require a polymathic approach.  I look forward to your ideas on how to encourage polymathy particularly in the academic environment and graduate education.

 

179 responses to “Masters(?) of many trades

  1. “Many of us, even in France now, where the national Front is close to sweep a creepy and dishonoured political class, want to de-Americanize and find a way of our own. But is it still possible? And what does this beautiful Chinese expression mean – de-Americanize the world? As Confucius wrote once, if you want to change the empire, write a new dictionary – and just imagine what we could write on western democracy nowadays… ”

    (Pravda)

  2. I am constantly amazed and disappointed by how little of general human history many climatologists seem to know. And so anything that happened before the advent of 24 hr news channels seems completely alien to them.

  3. Chief Hydrologist

    ‘Environmental science is a multidisciplinary academic field that integrates physical and biological sciences, (including but not limited to ecology, physics, chemistry, zoology, mineralogy, oceanology, limnology, soil science, geology, atmospheric science, and geography) to the study of the environment, and the solution of environmental problems. Environmental science provides an integrated, quantitative, and interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental systems.[1]‘ Wikipedia

    I’d include economics. agronomy, social sciences, anthropology, archaeology and much else. It is a team process in which synergies are sought in the team dynamic to solve problems that nominally insoluble by any single member. It is not necessary or even possible to have mastery of every field – but to have sufficient breadth to understand the essentials and to able to communicate across specialties.

    • Australia’s Dr. Cook (?) gave a video’d talk about this, saying Climate Science was a neophyte self-defined field, which, according to its own lights, would imply and require mastery of about 100 different disciplines. He felt qualified in one, maybe two, and felt this was likely about the usual.

      It is absurd and arrogant for CS claimants to expert status to reject specialist contributions and commentary. They are fish out of water when they rely, like Mann, on DIY statistics or physics, etc. My term for them is Jackasses of All Sciences, Masters of None, because they generally let even their original qualifications lapse.

    • The only problem with environmental science is trying to push a B.S. or B.A. in it and expect the students to come out with any understanding of the science at anything other than a surface level.
      The program at my university for years has been only an environmental “studies” program where they have to take high school algebra and a few non-majors science courses which are at the junior high school level in my opinion. Then they are taught by legions of eco-philosophers, eco-sociologists, eco-english professors, etc – all of whom have no science or math understanding and are already convinced that the capitalist world order has led us to catastrophe and a ruined environment. CAGW is already their gospel but if they did not have CAGW they still have Ehrlich’s failed population bomb nonsense that they still believe and they would have global cooling and the ozone hole and many other “manmade” catastrophes to choose from. I bring capitalism into it because they do and constantly.
      We recently instituted a parallel track in environmental science. I had to look at other programs around the country to see how much math/science they took. We had to fight the non-scientists in this program to include even 2/3 of the math/science that the best programs required. Then we had to fight to get a few “real” science courses included instead of non-majors. Even the ones that got in are the weaker, touchy-feely ones. We did get a concession (after much debate) that if a student wanted to take freshman chemistry, that they would be allowed to substitute it for a weaker course. These students are often fairly weak coming in and may be biology transfers who found the biology req’s (such as chemistry, physics, calculus) too hard. Then they learn precious little science in college all the while being indoctrinated. So I am wary of those who call themselves “environmental scientists”. I wonder if this explains Phil Jones not being able to make a graph or fit a line in Excel or any other program available to him on his computer?
      If someone gets a BS in an actual science, then goes on to get an advanced degree and study the atmosphere, or ocean, etc., of course, these people are qualified and may have a fairly broad educational background. Most people publishing in climate science do have good training but some may have tunnel vision (IMO).

  4. The Tao of Climate Change: Who knows what the future holds?

  5. ” I look forward to your ideas on how to encourage polymathy particularly in the academic environment and graduate education.”

    http://appel.nasa.gov/

    Project leadership. Not project management, leadership.

    • From the “creativity and Innovation” teaser,

      “The excessive focus on analysis, targets, and number crunching, and the absence of introspection and imagination has resulted in a crisis in management (Henry Mintzberg, The Globe and Mail, March 16, 2009). This course seeks to address this crisis. The goal of this course is to enable NASA personnel to be more creative and innovative in all their works, including technical and managerial. Participants will learn what enables creativity and innovation as well as what hinders it. Participants will learn techniques and tools that they can employ in their everyday work that will enable themselves and their coworkers to be more creative and innovative.”

    • That course prospectus makes me think of those “study skills” courses that universities used to offer (all of them utterly worthless).

    • (all of them utterly worthless).

      Interesting. So obviously you have some evidence that no one has ever learned anything valuable in any of those courses.

      Please share your data.

    • The only study I know of that actually randomly assigns interested students to the treatment (being in the study skills class) or a control (placed on a waiting list that never pans out) is this:

      Conway, Michael and Michael Ross. 1984. Getting what you want by revising what you had. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, p. 738-748.

      The paper isn’t really about study skills at all; it deliberately used that type of class because Conway and Ross had strong priors that it would have no measurable effect on performance, but students who took it would think it did in retrospect. It’s really about theory-driven recall, not study skills, but in the process they got the same result that others had. There are references to the past literature in this paper (obviously prior to 1984, and maybe some less depressing evaluations have come up since then, but as a rule I don’t research every offhand gag line I think of before I type).

    • I would imagine that the results of such courses would vary by curriculum, teacher, student, and school.

      Along similar lines, I have some friends who get paid a lot of money to teach courses in creativity to executives. I’m sure that the return on investment of those courses varies, but there are a lot of folks in the private sector who would probably expect evidence to convince them they’re wasting their time and money.

    • David Springer

      “but there are a lot of folks in the private sector who would probably expect evidence to convince them they’re wasting their time and money.”

      There are probably far more folks in the private sector who would expect evidence to convince them they’re NOT wasting their time and money. This is where the sales skills of your friends peddling the classes comes into play. Perhaps you could share that evidence with us because I’m one of those who would need to see it first.

    • NW, “That course prospectus makes me think of those “study skills” courses that universities used to offer (all of them utterly worthless).”

      More like most of them. This creativity and innovation course likely won’t make anyone attending more creative and innovative but should allow them to recognize those who are creative and innovative. That is part of leadership, making the most of what you have, which requires creativity and innovation. No course is going to churn out polymaths or good leaders but it can help teach how to recognize the potential.

    • “Joshua

      (all of them utterly worthless).

      Interesting. So obviously you have some evidence that no one has ever learned anything valuable in any of those courses.

      Please share your data.”

      The average starting salary for 2011 graduates was $41,701.

      The top earners of the Class of 2011 were engineering students, who were raking in average starting salaries of $61,872 upon graduation

      Computer engineering majors were the highest-paid of that bunch, bringing in a whopping $70,400 a year.

      – – – – – — – – –

      The lowest-paid graduates majored in Humanities and Social Science disciplines like criminal justice, English and psychology, earning an average salary of $35,503

      http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/12/pf/college/salaries/

      – – – – – — – – –

      So the market value of a Humanities and Social Science degree is, on average, half that of a Computer Engineering degree.

    • David Springer

      That much? Half seems wildly generous.

    • I would have said “An appel for the teacher,” but Nat seems to have debunked that.

  6. polymathy = Renaissance man

    In modern day lexicon what is meant is an individual who is constantly re-adjusting, adapting, more or less making choices for now, knowledgeably. This polymathy is blending experiences and knowledge learnt in the past, learning and engaging in the present, with vague ideas about the future.

    One has to have some understanding and grounding in the past, carry this forward to issues and problems to be solved in the present. Not all is past and present, there has to be some awareness that there is a future and how one “fits” or one’s ideas impact the future.

    The down side: you’re a jack of all trades and master of none. Media people don’t have you on their Roledex so you are relatively anonymous, which, in a way, you don’t feel, when asked, you have to say more than you know. The “I don’t know” phrase seem to come more naturally and easily.

    • RiHo, well put.

      Twigger (? Woy Wogers horse) says that “We come to believe that we can only learn when we are young, and that only ‘naturals’ can acquire certain skills. We imagine that we have a limited budget for learning, and that different skills absorb all the effort we plough into them, without giving us anything to spend on other pursuits.” I don’t know who this “we” is, I’ve never thought like that. As an economic policy adviser, I’ve never been a narrow specialist, I’ve had a broad remit on what drives economic growth, and a capacity to see connections which others couldn’t. In terms of physical skills, I’ve been a building labourer, a tree-feller and a house removalist, as well as having some carpentry and gardening skills. However, I’ve worked in systems which favoured the narrow specialist, the “silo” approach, and did not understand the value of diversity and broad knowledge and experience. This is a general failing in bureaucracy.

      “More polymathic activity is needed,” and not just in climate science.

  7. University presidents, biz leaders and philanthropists talked a blue streak about encouraging interdisciplinary work over the last 25 years or so. In my experience, though, the university’s senior management doesn’t usually have the stomach for what is needed: A complete overhaul of the ways that departments get rewarded and punished (I mean with the taking or giving of lines and operating money) by the central administration, and new frameworks for the tenure, promotion and reward of explicitly interdisciplinary work.

    Right now, at most universities, the former problem makes it difficult for many departments to figure out how to split credit (and so rewards) for team-taught classes and those things. The first thing your department chair (or dean) will ask is “how does my department (college) benefit from this activity.” It’s the chair’s job to ask that question and make the tough bean-counting decisions… the beans will matter for new hires, new assistantships for grad students, and the other things that all faculty agree on.

    On the latter matter, this is also a question that your average department chair needs answered. If Econ and Psych hire an explicitly interdisciplinary assistant professor, how will T&P be handled for this person? You can brush such questions aside in the case of senior interdisciplinary people, but if you want organically grown polymaths (I mean big trees from assistant prof acorns or something like that…sorry about the mixed metaphors), it won’t happen without some fundamental rethinks of the very departmental structure of contemporary universities. In that kind of effort, a president or provost will find, like Paul, that they are up against powers and principalities.

    • Hence the prominence of industry experts and the “emetitus” specialists and professors, many of who say explicity that they are free to speak their minds because they are no longer beholden or constrained?

    • And who will do the peer-reviewing of papers by non-monomaths?

    • Of all the terrors I have personally witnessed, nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to a new Dean with vision.
      It is like a pyromaniac getting a bottle of whiskey and a gasoline tanker for Christmas.

    • Tell me about it, Doc. Paraphrase PJ O’Rourke, giving power and money to new administrators is like giving whiskey and carkeys to teenagers.

    • I should say, we are currently living in interesting times with a new dean, if you get my drift.

    • David Springer

      +1 for mentioning PJ O’Rourke

    • I didn’t get a preferment position in my last English position, although my publication record was 5*, because I asked the new dead a simple questions.

      “Are you insane?”

      That is what I asked him when he shared with all of us his plans.
      He didn’t take it well.

  8. I am less concerned about in-depth expertise as a way of life, we need all sorts.

    It is in-depth experts that don’t have a good understanding of how their bit fits within the broader canon that do the mischief.

  9. Hmm, the monopath(et) ic world, a place where only the single
    minded can thrive. A myopic world in which bounderies are not
    ter be crossed, memories are tossed down the memory hole of
    the Ministery of Truth.

    As I concluded in me ‘History’s Chequered History.’ Let’s clean
    slate into a fuchur without regret, without memory’ nuthin’ ter
    compare to … as though new born, and just as unaware …

    (Or we could campaign ter get rid of the IPCC and school
    curriculum based on narrow focus ‘progressive’ mind set
    hostile ter the open society.) Beth-the-serf.

    • Beth, CE readers might be surprised to know that Australia’s ALP-driven national curriculum is built around indigenous Australia, Asia and “sustainability” as the mandatory base for all subjects, even Maths and Physics, never mind History and literature. The IPA’s Chris Berg says in his critique of the NC “The legacy of Western Civilisation is rich, complex and essential – the foundations on which Australia’s society and political system, our culture, and our history, have been built. So why are the basics of Western Civilisation absent from the national curriculum?”

      Well, obviously, because they don’t sing from the Progressive hymn book. No well-informed polymaths needed here, thank you, we’ll tell you what to think and conceal from you knowledge from which you might derive a different view to the mandated orthodoxy.

      I think required reading under any Australian NC should include Dan Hannan’s “inventing Freedom: how the English-speaking peoples made the modern world,” a great antidote to the black armband, self-hating propaganda of the Australian left. But I’d be reluctant to mandate it!

    • Yes indeed faustino. The romanticized view of tribal life on the
      litoral and shamen with secret knowledge ter guide it. I’ll get
      Dan Hannan’s book.
      bts

  10. “Francis Crick, who intuited the structure of DNA…”

    Should read: who compiled contemporary information about the structure of DNA

    Rosalind Franklin being the primary (and Unwitting) source of the information:
    Franklin is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. According to Francis Crick, her data was key to determining the structure[3] to formulate Crick and Watson’s 1953 model regarding the structure of DNA.[4] Franklin’s images of X-ray diffraction confirming the helical structure of DNA were shown to Watson without her approval or knowledge. This image and her accurate interpretation of the data provided valuable insight into the DNA structure, but Franklin’s scientific contributions to the discovery of the double helix are often overlooked.[5]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Franklin

    • I agree that Franklin should have been a joint recipient of the Nobel prize that Crick, Watson and Wilkins received for their work on decoding DNA.

      • Unfortunately she died in the late fifties and the prize was given in 1962 so she couldn’t receive one as it only goes to the living.

    • She died of ovarian cancer, probably from working with an X-Ray source at table level (i.e. hip level).
      She had explored, and dismissed, the possibility of DNA being a double helix using her initial, poor quality, DNA crystals. She discounted a double helix because there is a profound lack of symmetry; with the helix having a major and minor groove, due to the slight size difference of purines and pyrimidine pairs.
      As she got better crystals she appeared to be close to identifying the actual structure. If her boss and not given Crick Rosalind’s, UNPUBLISHED, information, then she would have been the recognized discoverer.
      Note that her death was one of the major reasons we wear radiation badges at gonad level (clipped to clothing at waist level), rather than on the lapel, as was the stile in the 40-50’s.

    • According to Watson’s Double Helix, everyone (including Franklin) misread the X-Ray data because the textbooks were wrong about how to interpret the images. It was only a chance meeting at a party with a physicist who was expert in such images that reassured Watson that he and Crick were on the right track in looking for a helical structure.

  11. Polymathy is a must in the earth multidisciplinary sciences. The earth is one system and must be treated as such. The system includes but not limited to astronomy, engineering, physics, chemistry, ocean, atmosphere, tectonics, glaciers, meteorology, geology, and more. They all shake hands and cannot be split apart.

    The biggest problem that we have with the earth science is that its disciplines are treated separately in the present academic setting, when in fact they have to be addressed under one roof or umbrella, just like an engineering project.

    • It may be a fantasy to imagine that enough of each discipline could be put into a single program to make a CS degree make any sense. A sequence of survey courses of ~100 specializations?

    • Medical science is successful example. They study the whole body first then specialize, It works.

    • Interesting thought, there, Nabil. So who does the general practice? Well, generalists, generally. Some of ‘em don’t have a whole lot of math about ‘em; they see mono, but not much more polyo.
      ===========

    • I was trying for the symmetry of three, but can only come up with two examples that are relevant (even slightly) to climate discussions. But they are hugely relevant.

      Thor Heyerdahl and Jared Diamond.

  12. Gee.

    A topic that describes positive and negative characteristics of some sort. And in examining the issue, and considering how it might apply in the climate change context, Judith just happens to find a way to create a simplistic scenario that attributes negative characteristics to those she disagrees with on the science.

    And such a surprise!

  13. “So, say that we all have at least the potential to become polymaths. Once we have a word, we can see the world more clearly.”

    Oh please.

    First, no we don’t all have the potential to become polymaths. So let’s not pretend that “everyone” does.

    Second, this decrying the specialization that industrialization has made possible is just retreaded Marxism, not a new take on Adam Smith or de Tocqueville. Rather than calling it alienation, we are now supposed to change the world by calling it monopathy, and replacing it with polymathy.

    The specialization that industrialization and technology have made possible have changed the world. Medicine, aviation, construction, communication, transportation, computer technology, farming, and many other industries have advanced more in the last hundred years than in the previous thousand. Productivity has increased exponentially with technology, industrialization and specialization.

    The middle class exploded in size, and could for the first time afford to do more in life than work, sleep and work again. It never ceases to amaze me how modern academics wax so eloquent from their cushy tenured positions about the bucolic beauty of the world before technology.

    Oh for the halcyon days of “polymathy”, on the assembly line, transportation, on the farms, in construction etc. Which never existed. This pining for a past that never was is not new either.

    What we had was 12 hour work days, low productivity, and world wide poverty. Those were the days my friend…we thought they’d never end… Nonsense.

    The problem with climate science is not that there aren’t enough polymaths. The problem is that there are way too many in the field who wrongly think they are. The CAGW intellectual house of cards is a product of vanity, not “monopathy”.

    Specialization has its benefits, and draw backs. But so does generalization. I would advise against going to a general practitioner for neuro-surgery.

    There is some limited benefit to the article – the call for return to a more liberal arts type education (though the author would never call it anything so pedestrian), would be a good thing.

    There is nothing new in the climate debate…including “polymathy”.

    • +43 Brilliant analysis. Having moved from the end of the dark ages to where we are now I have to say that outside of a small coterie of privileged people even in the 1950s most people earned enough to pay their rent and eat at one job, be it a docker (longshoreman in the US) like my dad who had to go down everyday to see if there was work for him and wasn’t paid if there wasn’t, or a teacher who focussed on physics. We have moved a long long way in the last 60 years and as GaryM points out there appears to be complete amnesia about the past. 1a memory loss that extends as far as some scienitists activists yearning for a return to being hunter gatherers at the Tyndall Institute’s recent gathering.

      Life has never been better, clearly evidenced by people having the time and energy to ponder the values of polomathy over monomathy.

    • David Springer

      +0.97

      Lost a bit at the end where you thought more liberal arts would be a good idea. Seriously? More navel gazing is a good thing?

    • “The specialization that industrialization and technology have made possible have changed the world. Medicine, aviation, construction, communication, transportation, computer technology, farming, and many other industries have advanced more in the last hundred years than in the previous thousand. Productivity has increased exponentially with technology, industrialization and specialization”

      Maybe a digression from the topic, but let’s not forget that the single most important advancement that enabled the rapid advancement of everything else mentioned was man’s learning how to harness the energy of fossil fuels. Without that, advancements would have been made, but not at the pace seen in the last 100 or so years, and our culture and society would be far poorer and less healthy.

    • Springer, you seriously don’t know what can be in a liberal arts education.

      “actuarial science, astronomy, atmospheric sciences, chemistry, Earth systems, environment, and society concentrations, geology, integrative biology, mathematics, math and computer science, molecular and cellular biology, physics, psychology, statistics, and statistics and computer science.’

      Do any of these liberal arts float your climate science boat?

      The cryosphere today is part of the department of atmospheric sciences department of the college of liberal arts and sciences of the University of Illinois.

      Me, I am a graduate of a small mid-western liberal arts college.

    • David Springer

      Say Bob, the list of what you consider to NOT be liberal arts might be shorter. We appear to have different working definitions. First of all the phrase “Arts and Sciences” refers to two different things. There are two basic 4-year undergraduate degrees Bachelor of Art and Bachelor of Science which I also consider to be two different things. I therefore do not tend to associate Liberal Arts with math, science, and engineering oriented areas of study.

    • blueice2hotsea

      Freeman Dyson (B.A. math) was a physics professor at Cornell and Princeton without ever taking a course in physics or even earning a graduate degree.

    • bi2hs, “Freeman Dyson (B.A. math) was a physics professor at Cornell and Princeton without ever taking a course in physics or even earning a graduate degree.”

      Now see that is a low blow. In the US prior to the 90s a person could self school and use OJT etc. to provide “credentials” in order to challenge professional certification exams. I filed a waiver so I could challenge the Professional engineers exam and passed two other examinations in order to be an engineer without a degree. In fact, I took the GED so I could work instead of staying in high school. I even had enough CLEP and actual credits for a degree or two in some art or the other.

      I never took the PE exam since it was easy to hire a PE for the rare occasion I needed to seal a report, so I never got those sexy letters after my name. My father-in-law was a CPA without getting a degree. There were quite a few people that couldn’t afford the luxury of a “formal” education that seem to have done pretty well. Micheal Faraday comes to mind and I am sure there are plenty of lists on Google.

      I think these kind of folks are called, dabblers.

    • blueice2hotsea

      cap’n dallas – That’s a low blow.

      Yes, if by “low blow” you mean a criticism of the current Phd. system – of which Freeman Dyson has severe misgivings.

      I agree with GaryM that an increase in classical liberal arts education would be a good thing – however, what passes for liberal arts nowadays is more aptly named “progressive” arts.

    • There’s a difference between being a jack of all trades and taking advantage of a prior specialization to speed your way to acquiring expertise in one (not a dozen) other fields.

  14. The problem is the way in which disciplines are isolated fom one another. According to a recent discourse I had on LikedIn, I am only allowed to criticize climate models if I have spent the last several years studying the entire modeling literature. As an outsider any statistical evaluation of a model cannot possibly be valid unless I take that step. I had compared HadCM3 SST output with HadSST observations using a variance ratio test and concluded that the model did not emulate the variability of real world data and that another forcing might be present. You can see my unpublishable paper on this topic at
    http://www.blackjay.net/papers/climate-modeling-hypothesis-testing/index.html
    Climate modelers themselves seem unaware of statistical testing which involves anything more than a simple t-test on sample means. Other methods of statistical inference are evidently anathema to the science of climate modeling. Climate modeling is a law unto itself in this regard.

    Other disciplines are also laws unto themselves. I recently submitted a paper to a climate journal which demonstrates that the 100,000 year glacial “cycle” may not be a cycle at all and could be considered the outcome of a bounded random walk, see
    http://www.blackjay.net/papers/bounded-random-walk/index.html
    This paper was rejected by the journal editor and did not even make it to peer review. Paleoclimatologists, who spend their lives analysing time series, are evidently not interested in any developments in time series analysis which took place after about 1970.

    My advice to young post-docs: keep yourself narrow and ignore any ideas outside your own discipline; being a polymath will impede your career.

    • Unfortunately I agree with your advice to the young postdoc. But tenure will open the door to being more of a free spirit. That’s what tenure is supposed to do, actually. (Expecting a hail of abuse for saying tenure is good for anything at all.)

      I agree with your point about isolation, but as with many good points, this one has some very mundane and concrete levers. At my graduate university, all of the social and behavioral sciences, the business school and the divinity school were all crammed into a space about the size of a city block, with interior courtyards and walks linking all those buildings. There was a place you could stand in those courtyards and be within 50 yards of six different coffee shops. That physical layout did more to mix students across those departmental walls than almost any large amount of targeted funding could have done for interdisciplinary sparks. Most universities have physical layouts that seem to exhibit an animated hatred of interdepartmental mixing.

    • Hi John,

      I had a look at your paper. It looks to me as if you are comparing two different things: SST variability from the model and measurement uncertainty from the observations. That would explain why they are so different.

      If you think of the observed grid-box average SST, SSTgrid, as a sum of the true grid-box average, SSTtrue, and an error term caused by measurement error, under-sampling etc. then

      SSTgrid = SSTtrue + error

      You want to know the variability of SSTtrue, but what you have in fact calculated is related to the variability of ‘error’.

      If you are trying to assess SST variability in the real world from the observations then you will need to take the measurement uncertainty into account because it will tend to increase the variability of the grid box averages.

      Cheers,

      John

    • My advice to young post-docs: keep yourself narrow and ignore any ideas outside your own discipline; being a polymath will impede your career.

      If you only know one thing and that one thing is Climate Science and if Mother Earth keeps doing something different from what you know, then what do you really know?

  15. “So, say that we all have at least the potential to become polymaths. Once we have a word, we can see the world more clearly. And that’s when we notice a huge cognitive dissonance at the centre of Western culture: a huge confusion about how new ideas, new discoveries, and new art actually come about.”

    +1.

    • Change that to “Western progressive culture”, and the author would have a point.

      It is progressive academics who have eviscerated liberal arts programs across the country.

      It is progressives in general who have delusions that “new ideas, new discoveries, and new art” “come about” by government action.

      And it is, of course, progressive obscurantists who think that “once we have a word, we can see the world more clearly.” As long as they get to redefine the word beyond all recognition.

      If all the self annointed polymaths would just shut up, get out of the way and let the peoples of the Western countries run their own economies again, maybe, just maybe, the richest, most powerful, most just, most generous culture in the history of the world could start moving forwad again.

    • GaryM has a valid point IMHO.
      “progressive” is top-down repressive.

  16. Thank you for an interesting post. My experience suggests that program officers of federal research agencies wanted me to practice monopathy, and research proposals had to hide the fact that I wanted to investigate areas that the government did not want investigated.

    But I managed to do most of the studies I wanted to do, with or without government assistance.

  17. Chief Hydrologist

    I think I have wasted enough time on climate etc.

    The critical climate issues remains

    1. The planet is in a cool decadal mode – virtually certain (99-100%).
    2. These modes last 20 to 40 years in the long proxy records – virtually certain (99-100%).
    3. Climate is wild explaining the shifts between climate modes – well according to Wally Broecker it is a wild beast at which we are poking sticks. .

    These points are undersold as speculation – which is dismissed as speculation. The uncertainty monster is released to counter false grupthink certainties – for which it is no match at all. No Cassandra is needed to predict that there will be no progress on carbon mitigation for a generation at least.

    There remain practical and pragmatic ways forward – but these are likely to be derailed as the left continues to use the issue as a stalking horse for more radical transformations of societies and economics. The merely creates a backlash from the right and a generational fight to a stand still in the climate war. The middle ground wants it to go away – and it virtually certainly will for a decade to three yet.

    In the meantime the pointless, trivial and misguided quibbling over the number of angels on an IR photon is played out in an infinite regression – until we all disappear up our own arses. There is no way out of the maze of disinformation. Like many wars – this seems one that no one can win and everyone loses. The rational player in business, war and life is not sentimental and cuts their losses before they get out of hand. Perhaps it is too late.

    I have had fun – thanks for that – and for everyone who has expressed their kindness. I have learnt a lot – which for me has always been the critical motivation. I don’t read blogs – cannot possibly be interested in continued the experiment elsewhere that started for me with this – http://judithcurry.com/2011/02/09/decadal-variability-of-clouds/ – almost three years ago. I intend to study early childhood development instead. All my little friends love me. Not sure if that is being a polymath – I just follow my curiosity.

    Robert I Ellison
    Chief Hydrologist

    • Chief Hydrologist said:
      “I think I have wasted enough time on climate etc.”
      _______

      Thanks, Chief, for the best laugh I’ve had in long time.

      Well, you have set the bar very high. I doubt anyone ever will be able to dethrone you as “King Time Waster.”

    • You’ve worked too hard to take this abuse
      Be on your guard, jerks on the loose.

      –Terre and Suzzy Roche

    • Thanks Chief. I find that I am losing interest in this blog as well. Future generations will look at the current literature on climate change and wonder what the fuss was all about. People who matter to me already know how to reach me.

    • Too bad, I learned a lot from you. Adios Amigo.

    • Go well, dear Chief, denizen of the enlightenment,
      climate warrier, dancer, ) and poet. I do remember:

      ‘Look for me father on the roof,
      of the red brick building
      at the foot of Green Street –
      that’s where we live, you know, on the top floor.
      I’m the boy in the white flannel gown
      sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
      searching the starry sky,
      waiting for the world to end.

      Beth.

    • Chief’s waffling about uncertainty will be sorely missed.

      His unintentional irony being gone will leave a huge hole – and certainly that gap will not be filled, but there are many other denizens who will do their best to at least soften the blow.

      The fact that he won’t be here to post any more “poetry,” however, more than makes up for my disappointment about what will be lost.

    • David Springer

      Chief Hydrologist | December 16, 2013 at 1:50 am | Reply

      “I think I have wasted enough time on climate etc.”

      I couldn’t possibly agree more. You’ve wasted so much of so many people’s time there might be an opportunity for you to get your name in the Guiness Book of World Records as the greatest waste of time evah.

    • Watch the clouds
      Every day.
      You never know
      What’ll they’ll say.
      ========

    • Alright;

      Watch the clouds
      Every day’ll.
      You’ll ever know
      What’ll they’ll say’ll.

      See which way the kids like better.
      =============

    • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

      Chief,

      You are certainly one of the most polymathic denizens here on CE, and I have little doubt that Judith could have included you in the group when she said:

      “More polymathic activity is needed in the context of climate science. I think senior academics, or technically educated individuals who are retired from other fields, are the ones with the luxury of time and status to indulge in polymathy. I think technical blogs can encourage polymathy.”

      Yes, we have disagreed, and been rude with each other. Neither of us have pulled our punches in the area of personal attacks at times– but like all good debates, passion often overcomes reason.

      CE is certainly better for your presence here and if I thought it would make any difference to your decision I would absolutely promise to refrain from all nastiness. Knowing you and your integrity, I suspect your mind is well made up and you certainly will be good at early childhood development, even if this is just being a better grandfather.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Thanks everyone – no hard feelings gatesy.

      I note in passing that the usual suspects pretty much insist on trivial ad hom at any opportunity.

    • CHIEF

      In bold or not, I want to thank you for your patients with my queries.

      Good luck with childhood development, also a journey of fits and starts, most taken with a grain of salt, then direct observation provides meaning and insight.

    • You have coined what is very likely a prophetic phrase, Chief. No mitigation for a generation. The current generation clearly ain’t for mitigation. CO2 doesn’t even show up on the list of things to worry about:

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/166244/americans-cite-gov-economy-healthcare-top-problems.aspx

      No wonder the Judith haters are always so agitated.

    • “I think I have wasted enough time on climate etc.” I’m not sure that my time’s been wasted Chief, but there are diminishing returns; other fields of interest.

      Drop by for a cuppa if you are ever near West End.

    • Chief:
      I was just wondered what had happened to you when I saw this post.. I’ve appreciated your comments, and hope to run into you again somewhere if you’re really determined to move on. As someone with similarly eclectic tastes, I recommend Leonard Susskind’s series on modern physics and serious research in random (literally random, in my case — I use a RNG) slices of world history.

      And at least tell us what you make of Piaget if you get to that part of childhood development.

  18. More polymathic activity is needed in the context of climate science. I think senior academics, or technically educated individuals who are retired from other fields, are the ones with the luxury of time and status to indulge in polymathy. I think technical blogs can encourage polymathy.
    ______

    Retirees with a lot of time on their hands can learn new things? I’m not so sure. There’s some truth to the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Older people get stuck in their ways and dislike bothering with change.

    I would like to see more retirees back at work instead of wasting time on technical blogs. It would help the economy. Blogs don’t.

    • “Retirees with a lot of time on their hands can learn new things? I’m not so “There’s some truth to the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Older people get stuck in their ways and dislike bothering with change.”

      Max_Callow: I became a publishing writer in my 50’s, learned to play piano at reasonably difficult level in my 60’s, and am about to start learning Russian. My wife went back to college and got her degree in her 50’s, then picked up a cello in her late 50’s for the first time…a very difficult instrument for an adult beginner..and now plays well.

      As to dogs and new tricks, my 14 year old Italian Greyhound Jack recently learned how to get his own leash. We’re all very proud.

    • pokerguy,good for you and your wife, and the dog too. I don’t know what use you will have for Russian,but I guess anything that keeps the mind working is better than nothing.
      Dancing is supposed to be good because it works both the mind and the body at the same time. Besides, old people dancing amuses young people, a double benefit.

    • “Old people dancing amuses young people…”

      I’ll give you points for cute, Max. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s “old people” (I’m all of 62, and still run 4 times a week, walk and kick bike on the odd days. I’d also bet you a 100 bucks I can do more pushups than you can.) were a race apart, inside’s matching out. Turns out you get to be my age and realize that was completely wrong, that inside every older person is a younger one wondering “what the hell happened?”

      Here’s a great line from Saul Bellow which pretty much sums it all up. If you have any soul at all, you’ll always remember it.

      “All my decay has taken place upon a child.”

      You know it’s coming, but it’s impossible to prepare for. Think it was Tolstoy who said “the greatest surprise in a man’s life is old age.”

  19. I don’t think that generalisations about people are very useful in this discussion.People have different sorts of minds. Some run in a relatively narrow, but deep course (such as top theoretical physicists), while others are necessarily – because we all have only so much time to spend learning – spread over a wider area, but in less depth.

    It is indeed a pity, as someone remarked above and Tony Brown has said many times, that people who make sweeping statements and/or predictions seem to know less history than a well educated schoolchild in the 1950s. But that is more a reflection of their arrogance than their intellect.

    Polymaths on the Leonardo scale come along so rarely that they can truly be regarded as extreme outliers. But, I have met a few who are pretty impressive, in particular one guy who was a competent scientist with a lifelong interest in the subject, an internationally acclaimed artist in a narrow field, and who could write both perfectly (syntactically) and engagingly. He was in the top few percent in each of those areas, which do not usually come in one package.

    The problem with specialisation occurs when specialists do not (or are not made to) realise their limits, and stray into subjects about which they know little or nothing. That is what bedevils much of climate science. It is also what happens when one group of professionals (such as engineers, or IT people) are given total control of a complex project. The lack of external expertise and perspective generally means that things are not weighted appropriately, with detrimental results.

  20. Few people have the capacity of being real polymaths, and to go as deep into the specific questions of science as they might have been able to do staying over extended periods as monomaths. My own personal preference has always been towards polymathy, and that has probably had both positive and negative consequences for what I have achieved. When I worked in a managerial position I tried to encourage others in the same direction, but with little success as far as I know.

    Most applied sciences require quite a lot of polymathy. That may come to large extent from the combined expertize of many monomaths, but having a few polymaths participating in the work may help greatly in the internal communication of the group. Polymaths may have also a better change for estimating correctly the relative merits of various approaches and sets of evidence than monomaths who cannot compare objectively their own field to other fields (monomaths often overestimate the value of their own field, but they may also overemphasize it’s weaknesses).

    Climate science has in this respect the nature of such an applied sciences, and I cannot understand, how the “IPCC consensus” can be considered monomathic. The problem is rather that the three working groups cover a too wide range of knowledge than a two narrow one. Many individual scientists are surely monomaths, and some of them may come to public in an unfortunate manner because of that.

    People who try systematically put together all the pieces show best the level of the polymathy, the recent book of Nordhaus is a rather positive example of that (although it surely contains some questionable details).

    The big issue of value of climate models must be difficult for all including best polymaths. The total set of arguments for and against is so large and incommensurable that neither monomaths nor polymaths are likely to have fully justified answers.

    • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

      Pekka said:

      “Few people have the capacity of being real polymaths…”
      ____
      I disagree. I think that almost everyone is naturally polymathic to some extent and that our educational system has become so “industrialized” and therefore specialized, that polymathic skills are not developed or encouraged from a very early age. Yes, everyone will not be a Leonardo or Swedenborg, but everyone has the capacity to be far more polymathic and this would not just benefit science and policy, but all of society.

    • R. Gates,

      “to some extent” makes it easy, I had something else in mind, something sufficient for contributing to new relevant science.

    • Yes, I agree with your 2nd comment as well Pekka. We’ve seen on these climate blogs the polymaths and monomaths (both, on both sides) fight each other to a draw many time (and this is not a random sample, but a highly intelligent self-selected sample). I give the edge to the monomath in each specific argument but sometimes the polymath can do fierce battle with several monomaths on several issues.

  21. I like to think that Geography is the needed polymath, and that it therefore should stand up straighter. I guess it has tried to some extent, only not yet effectively enough, partly because by no means all geographers are polymaths of course. Only the field as such should or might be.

  22. You might be tempted to throw some offbeat topics – philosophy, anthropology, maybe art – into the curriculum but that will make most graduate students moan and grown and look for the easiest course they can take to get through the requirement.

    What you really need is something that tries to alter how we approach the problems and the world. You might start with How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_J._Gelb#.27How_to_Think_Like_Leonardo_da_Vinci.27

  23. Adding to previous comment. Sfumato is especially appropriate.

    “The seven da Vincian principles, as abstracted from the master’s teachings – and listed in Italian – by Gelb are: Curiosita, an insatiably curious approach to life; Dimostrazione, a commitment to testing knowledge through experience; Sensazione, the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to clarify experience; Sfumato, a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty; Arte/Scienze, the development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination (“whole-brain thinking”); Corporalita, the cultivation of ambidexterity, fitness and poise; and Connessione, a recognition and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena (systems thinking). ”

    http://www.webcitation.org/63LlK1TQJ

  24. Antonio (AKA "Un físico")

    Internet’s connectivity power has driven humans to some kind of global unknowledge about climatic science.
    As I have seen too many “peer reviewed” papers with deep errors; it seems to me that none of the academics, bloggers or scientist are, in fact, experts in climatic science. These errors, as long as are being propagated through internet, tend to be amplified: becoming a complexity mess.
    The only way I got to clarify this was: to point out the main errors that I discovered in last IPCC WGI reports (errors in statistics, in montecarlo simulations, in the modelization by means of stefan-bolzman or by radiative-convective 1D, in paleoclimate modelizations and those “observational evidences”, …), and summarize them in:
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4r_7eooq1u2VHpYemRBV3FQRjA
    The most important error I pointed out is in RC5 and if JC wants to disscuss this RC5 point in her blog, I will be commenting.

  25. Tomas Milanovic

    My personal opinion is that good understanding of fundamental physical mathematics should be privileged. When I compare the Planck’s paper from 1905 (for me a true jewel) or Emmy Noether’s papers with the today’s output of the “climate science”, I can’t help noticing how primitive most climate papers are.

    In their crushing majority they are just some statistical musings on different kinds of averaging things and looking for correlations – PCA, EOF and what not.
    I am not sure to know why this field is so poor on theoretical work which has always lead in the past to improved understanding or even to breakthroughs and conceptual revolutions. But I suspect that the numerical model monopoly has something to do with it.
    Indeed due to their complexity nobody really understands what they are doing, they are unverified and nobody is able to reproduce what they do either. On the other hand it’s easy – anybody can type “run” and “print” and churn out billions of numbers which can then be statistically tortured ad nauseum.
    .
    To avoid misunderstandings – I have nothing against computers.
    But they are just tools that should only be used to make numerical applications to spare time. Using them as brain substitute by delegating thinking and hoping that it will somehow work out and that there is always this proverbial chance that billions of monkeys typing will produce the special relativity leads to laziness at best and to errors at worst.

    • To quote one of our NASA managers, “You give them a computer and they start believing the numbers that come out and they quit thinking.”

    • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

      Tomas said:

      “I am not sure to know why this field is so poor on theoretical work.”
      ____
      Tomas, to be fair, we all know one of the biggest reasons is that we can’t just grow another Earth in a petrie dish and then constantly adjust our theories based on what grows out of the agar. The climate models represent the best expression of the dynamical theory that we have, and despite their limitations, they have had successes that seem to seldom get mentioned here, such as the prediction of the enhanced Brewer-Dobson circulations and related affects on the QBO as part of GH gas increases. This all came from theoretical model simulations and then later confirmed by actual observations.On the other end of the spectrum is the paleoclimate work, which involves much theoretical work and looking for solid paleoclimate data that lends support to theories or disproves them. So yes, the field could use more theoretical work, but the subject matter makes models and paleoclimate research the best approaches we have.

    • Gates, Models and the BDC.

      ” Analyses of the tropical upward mass flux indicate that in the model with a lid at 10 hPa the BDC strengthening at 70 hPa is primarily produced by resolved wave drag, while in the model with a higher lid (0.01 hPa) the parameterized wave drag yields the main contribution to the BDC increase. This implies that consistent changes in the BDC originate from different causes when the stratosphere is not sufficiently resolved in a model. Furthermore, the effect of enhancing the horizontal diffusion in the upper model layers to avoid resolved wave reflection at the model lid is quantified, and a possible link to the different behavior of the low-top model with regard to the origin of the BDC change is identified.”

      So models that recognize that the original models did not include enough of the atmosphere to be useful, can somewhat “predict” BDC. That kind of implies that most of the original “Catastrophic results were BS, pretty much like the more current energy balanced based “sensitivity” estimates indicate.

      You gotta watch for those rattling lids :)

  26. Judith,

    I will explain why the poly math approach WILL NOT work…

    The majority of scientists are ONLY interested in protecting their thesis rather than enjoy the flavors of scientific discoveries through exploring beyond their CAGES that they have imposed on their individual areas.

    If no one wants to engage conversation or listen to a different perspective, then move on to other areas of interest that is what learning and understanding our biosphere is about.
    Conversation and different perspectives do put you outside the “norms” of current society due to the way we have been programmed. “Having to follow the rules.”

  27. The climate field also shows social tendencies of monopathy, whereby ‘outsiders’ are dismissed as not being real climate experts.

    YES, That Is How They Maintain Their 97% CONSENSUS.

  28. I’ve been stuck in moderation for hours – maybe I’m being monomathic about this. :(

    Nobody will read my barely-mathic post if it ever appears.

  29. Steve Fitzpatrick

    My experience has been that solving difficult problems usually involves the combination of knowledge from a broad range of fields. Those best at developing innovative technical solutions usually have a fairly complete ‘jigsaw puzzle map’ about how things work and why; not too many pieces of their puzzle of knowledge are missing, and few, if any, are misplaced. Broad knowledge allows a more rapid focus on plausible theories and rapid exclusion of implausible. The requirement that a proposed explanation be “externally consistent” with a broad understanding of physical reality seems to me too often missing in people who are acknowledged ‘experts’ in a single field. When I read Albert Einstein’s PhD dissertation, what I found most surprising (shocking really!) was his enormous range of knowledge about physical reality in many apparently ‘unrelated’ fields. This was someone who had obviously looked for (and found) crucial connections that others had missed.

    One of the things I think modern education in science could do to improve the creativity of people who work in science and technology is to insist that students focus always on the ‘interconnectness’ of all fields, so that something learned in one field becomes integral and consistent part of a broader understanding, and so immediately applicable to whatever is subject is studied in the future.

  30. R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

    The older term for polymath was of course “renaissance man”, but owing to its sexist overtones, polymath preferred, though perhaps loses some of the historical flavorings and connections with the blossoming of knowledge that was the Renaissance.

    At any rate, yes absolutely, the world needs more polymaths– and indeed, education at the earliest age should be focused on developing polymathic skill and thinking. Understanding not just the details of things, but how all things relate to each other is the most important of all skills. Specifically in regards to climate science, climate policy, economics, and the whole “wicked mess” that surrounds these topics, polymathic thinking and approaches are especially important. As discussed just recently here on CE, we certainly don’t want “solutions” that in fact cause more damage than good. This relates to both policies, carbon taxes, as well as the potential geoengineering approaches that may become more in focus in the future. We have a real danger of cutting off our noses to spite our faces in all these areas, and polymathic approaches and thinkers are our best hope of making sure we don’t.

    • Gates, “and indeed, education at the earliest age should be focused on developing polymathic skill and thinking. ”

      Right, so we used standardized tests to beat the polymath out of them :)

    • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

      Captn.

      I hate standardized test for many reasons, but I understand their intention– making schools accountable to providing some basic knowledge to students. But those who develop these tests would benefit from have polymathic skills themselves, so that the testing would cover the connections between topics and making sure that kids are broadminded wholistic thinkers who can see the bigger picture of the world around them.

      The unfortunate truth is that the bulk of our educational system is focused on creating thinkers that can fit into some functional job within society- rather than creating thinkers who can see the large connections between all the various aspects of our complex world.

    • Gates, “The unfortunate truth is that the bulk of our educational system is focused on creating thinkers that can fit into some functional job within society- rather than creating thinkers who can see the large connections between all the various aspects of our complex world.”

      That was part of the discussion about comparisons between Finland and US education. Finland stresses student responsibility and student choice. They probably do better on standardized tests because they don’t focus on doing well on standardized testing, they focus on making education available to those that wish to partake.

  31. No mention of McIntrye & McKitrick?

    Probably the biggest problem in the CC discussion is the poly-policy folks, from NGO’s, green energy exec’s, TEDsters etc..

  32. A polymath easily understands why the abandonment of the scientific method by climatists creates an insurmountable hurdle to scientific credibility and why scientists outside Western academia consider climatology with the same seriousness they’d reserve for the ancient science of astrology.

    • Waggy, I doubt a polymath can easily understand your sentence. If you are saying climate scientists have set their credibility bar too high for you to jump over, you might try going around it.

    • Sorry, Waggy, I’m not sure what that means either. But if by saying “it is wise to rule our emotions with great severity,” you are suggesting I flog myself when aroused by erotic stimuli, I say foo on you.

  33. Steve McIntyre (Canadian) is a good example of the fake arguments around this.

    He was a maths star who won a national prize as the smartest maths person when he was at school, did an outstanding maths degree and then went into the mining business. No doubt he could have become an academic if he wanted to.

    Had he become an academic, his incisive and precise skills, and reality tests, would most likely have never come about in the form of CA. As an outstanding mathematician, he would have had a solid career in academia. Fortunately, he chose another path.

    He also writes excellent, correct and often witty English.

    Let’s look at Anthony Watts (USA). Here’s a guy with not much in the way of fancy education or privilege, not to mention steadily decreasing hearing, who has built a huge website based on scientific topics, out of nothing. Anthony Watts is in the top level of spelling and grammar.

    And we won’t even start on Jo Nova (Australia), or Rog Tallbloke and Andrew Montford (UK).

    As I said in my post above, these sorts of generalisations are not very useful.

    • Anthony Watts is weird. He impersonated a changeling in applying for membership in The Union of Concerned Scientists. He claimed to be a dog. I wouldn’t trust a guy like that.

    • Snipe away, Max, whoever you are.

      As the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like success.

      I don’t think that anyone (least of all AW) claims that he is perfect. But the fact is, he is successful, a polymath as well as a decent human being – something that most of the population can only aspire to.

      BTW, Andrew Montford is an accountant by training, Rog Tallbloke is a techo at a university (and has a degree in Philosophy of Science) and Jo Nova was previously employed as a high powered science PR person at one of Australia’s best universities.

      Quality, and the ability to make connections and communicate them, will out – no matter where it comes from

  34. When climate models do not include heat emissions from energy consumption as a significant factor, one may question whether the models have any relevance.

  35. Eksperimentalfysiker

    Judith,

    More people in academia should follow Erwin Schrödinger’s example and venture outside their comfort zone and area of expertise; both for the sheer joy of learning something new, as well as for the prospect of adding a fresh perspective on what may be unresolved fundamental problems.

    Here is the preface of “What is Life?”, Schrödinger’s 1944 book on biology:

    A scientist is supposed to have a complete and
    thorough I of knowledge, at first hand, of some
    subjects and, therefore, is usually expected not to
    write on any topic of which he is not a life,
    master. This is regarded as a matter of noblesse
    oblige. For the present purpose I beg to renounce
    the noblesse, if any, and to be the freed of the
    ensuing obligation. My excuse is as follows: We
    have inherited from our forefathers the keen
    longing for unified, all-embracing knowledge.
    The very name given to the highest institutions
    of learning reminds us, that from antiquity to and
    throughout many centuries the universal aspect
    has been the only one to be given full credit. But
    the spread, both in and width and depth, of the
    multifarious branches of knowledge by during
    the last hundred odd years has confronted us
    with a queer dilemma. We feel clearly that we
    are only now beginning to acquire reliable
    material for welding together the sum total of all
    that is known into a whole; but, on the other
    hand, it has become next to impossible for a
    single mind fully to command more than a small
    specialized portion of it. I can see no other
    escape from this dilemma (lest our true who aim
    be lost for ever) than that some of us should
    venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and
    theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete
    knowledge of some of them -and at the risk of
    making fools of ourselves. So much for my
    apology.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_Life%3F

    • Eksperimentalfysiker

      Judith,

      Let me just add that I really appreciate the way you have stepped outside the “comfort zone” with this blog. – Thanks!

  36. As I keep saying, climate is a geological problem. Geologists are polymaths, having to have working knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, geography, climatology, oceanography, meteorology, surveying, drafting, numerical modeling, analytical chemistry, crystallography, microscopy, structural mechanics, hydraulics, technical writing, ditch-digging, hole drilling, wilderness hiking, off-road driving, camping, beer drinking, beard growing

    • David Springer

      Howard | December 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Reply

      “having to have working knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, geography, climatology, oceanography, meteorology, surveying, drafting, numerical modeling, analytical chemistry, crystallography, microscopy, structural mechanics, hydraulics, technical writing, ditch-digging, hole drilling, wilderness hiking, off-road driving, camping”

      Sounds more like a rancher than a geologist except you’d have to add in veterinary skills, animal husbandry, horseback riding, rifle and handgun expertise, and not being afraid of shadows and non-toxic invisible trace gases.

    • David Springer

      In other words the prototypical Aggie. You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting a Texas A&M graduate.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_A&M_Aggies

    • Couldn’t make it as a rancher because I can only relate to inanimate objects… which is why I like you and Mosher so much.

    • @Howard

      As I keep saying, climate is a geological problem. Geologists are polymaths, having to have working knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, … beer drinking, beard growing

      You left out phrenology!

    • David Springer

      He also left out miming which is essential for communication with climate scientists and other soft science practitioners driven by liberal agendas. Only one hand gesture is really needed though so mastery is not difficult.

  37. “Are climate scientists polymathic? Most don’t seem to be; rather the subject seems to be constrained by the monomathy of the IPCC consensus, …”

    Yes!! Very true and of great consequence to the debate.

  38. This guy seemed to master several trades (until he got caught):

    EPA climate expert who pretended to work for the CIA was ‘enabled’ by top officials
    The Environmental Protection Agency’s highest-paid employee and top expert on climate change was enabled by top agency officials in committing fraud to avoid doing his real job for years, according to the agency’s inspector general.

    John Beale pretended to work as an undercover agent for the CIA, and federal prosecutors are saying he committed a “crime of massive proportions.”
    http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2013/12/16/epa-climate-expert-who-pretended-to-work-for-the-cia-was-enabled-by-top-officials/?mod=MW_latest_news

  39. This is somewhat off topic, or maybe not, but the US Feds request comments on how to calculate the social cost of carbon, for regulatory impact estimating:

    https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/11/26/2013-28242/technical-support-document-technical-update-of-the-social-cost-of-carbon-for-regulatory-impact

    Comments can simply be sent to SCC@omb.gov. This is the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in OMB, which I helped set up in 1981. These folks used to be pretty open minded.

    • Real world:
      Set it at zero and take the rest of the afternoon off.

      Regulatory world: Establish a new Carbon Signature Regulation Department (CSRD), promote a few GS-15’s to SES level, put them in charge, staff it with a bunch of GS-15’s-GS-13’s, hire a whole bunch of staff, build a new new CSRD Headquarters with all the bells, whistles, and perks appropriate to their station to house the headquarters staff, calculate the cost to be high (pick some arbitrary cost that justifies the existence and criticality of the CSRD), write lots of regulations, impose lots of fees, open CSRD Field Offices in every city with a population over 5000, buy a couple of billion dollars worth of IT equipment–with IT staff–to collect and store all the Carbon Signature Reports that will be mandated, hire lots of new government employees to man the field offices, enforce the regulations, and collect the fees, hire and train the CSRD SWAT Teams that will be needed to convince the recalcritant to obey the regulations, pay the fees, and submit the paperwork–or else, hire admin staff to support all the above, ad infinitum.

  40. Matthew R Marler

    It’s another problem with a “Goldilocks” solution: enough specialization to achieve proficiency at important tasks, enough general awareness and knowledge to know what tasks to choose and when to persevere, and to communicate effectively with teammates of other specialties. Either too much specialization or too much generalization is detrimental.

    Art history and Chinese history are deep and meaningful subjects, but I doubt that climate science would benefit from climate scientists studying more of them. Superficial forays into psychology (“projection”, “Dunning-Krueger syndrom”) and literature (“The Lord of the Flies”) are detrimental to learning and communication on this blog, imho, whereas references to nonlinear dynamical systems and non-equilibrium thermodynamics are pertinent. I expect other readers and writers could provide their own lists of bad and good examples.

    • When China calls for a “de-Americanized world” what they’re talking about is not the world-view of the founders they done with. It is the hypocrisy of the Left and the creation of chaos for its own ends with its free money global warming agenda

    • To be fair I don’t think the purpose of this blog is to educate readers about climate science. It’s more a self-facilitating social commentary on the interface between politics and the imagination.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      “Which is better — to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?

      Which is better — to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?

      Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up11?”

      ― William Golding, Lord of the Flies

      The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable. William Golding

      It was of course shorthand for snarks from multiple sources. Nothing to do with climate science at all – but a social context for which there are convenient literary references.

      Bye Matthew.

    • Either too much specialization or too much generalization is detrimental.

      Of course. Just as too little specialization or too little generalization is sub-optimal.

      It is interesting that Judith repeatedly twists these basically trivial concepts for the purpose of lobbing grenades in the climate wars.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Chief Hydrologist: Nothing to do with climate science at all

  41. Bottom line,

    Climate Science requires an expertise in climate. That is all really.

    Lets take possibly the most famous Climate Scientist in history, Dr James Hansen. Dr James Hansen trained in Physics and Astronomy and gained several degrees in those subjects. From planetary research he eventually amassed a wealth of knowledge relevant to the climate of the Earth itself, and the rest as they say is history.

    Whichever way you come at it, I think we can all agree that expertise in climate is the one essential ingredient to being a Climate Scientist!

    • “Climate Science requires an expertise in climate.”

      I guess that’s why there’s no climate science happening currently.

      Andrew

    • The intrepid sailors of antiquity knew plenty about the vicissitudes of weather and climate — as it was revealed to them in a life and death struggles for survival with reality. They too had some strange beliefs about what was the cause of it all — much like modern-day climatists but without the struggle for survival, just pecking for government grants like pigeons.

    • thisisnotgoodtogo

      “Lets take possibly the most famous Climate Scientist in history, Dr James Hansen. Dr James Hansen trained in Physics and Astronomy and gained several degrees in those subjects. From planetary research he eventually amassed a wealth he never could have in his job, and the rest as they say is history.”

  42. David L. Hagen

    Could Polymathic ability provide greater ability in applying the “smell” test to climate science?
    Or can a high school student correctly apply the scientific method to understand something is wrong with 95% of model projections over 34 years are hotter than the global temperature evidence?

    PS Inventors tend to be polymaths, working across boundaries in knowledge and exploring the ‘”white space” where others have not trodden.
    This was formalized in the TRIZ method.

  43. Schrodinger's Cat

    The linkage between climate science and the real world would seem to be through climate models. However, the test of model validity is the ability to predict reality.

    Do any of the climate models in use today pass the validity test? Given the well publicised divergence between most models and observation, I do hope that there are some realistic responses.

    • Oh! sure, 50 years from now — looking back from then… that’s when we learn evolution and the march of civilization culminated in this race of geniuses known as Western school teachers who tried and failed to save humanity from the global catastrophe of runaway global warming.

  44. I think the single biggest problem in many disciplines is the relative absence of the study of history. Within many disciplines, one can be taught a lot within the span of a few years. But what one gets immersed in gives little perspective of historical context, especially how much of today’s “gospel” truth will become tomorrows nonsense and fall by the wayside.

    A truly robust climate model should aim be able to model climate on paleoclimate scales as well as model weather on a day to day basis. Of course its a big ask, but what more would one expect for a multi-billion dollar budget?

  45. I’m not sure that we are all naturally polymathic — though it must to be true to a certain extent (which doesn’t mean much), but I do lament the lack of synthesisers, and the difficulty in encouraging and rewarding them. Too many specialists without able synthesisers really creates a problem in the field of human knowledge, which has grown extraordinarily since the Second World War.

  46. “Climate science, and its linkages with socioeconomics, is an exceeding complex topic, arguably a ‘wicked mess’, that seems to require a polymathic approach”

    But we started this exercise with ‘the science is settled’. Surely this must be one of science’s greatest mistakes. Yet the IPCC ploughs om as if it’s starting assumption was still valid,. It should at very least acknowledge it’s error and vow to leave no stone unturned to find the truth.

    One thing the IPCC could do would be to engage in some sort of debate with its critics. But more importantly, engage in some real and open attempts to validate it’s many climate models. And do try to model what happened in 1940 and 1970.

  47. check out this post: 38 test answers that are 100% wrong but totally genius at the same time
    http://distractify.com/fun/fails/test-answers-that-are-totally-wrong-but-still-genius/

    • ya they are pretty funny.

    • Judith,
      I personally thought they were very good answers and agree
      you should not hit a dog. Respond: + (or) -.

    • Moderator? … Moderator??

    • I laughed so much at the giraffe’s I cried.

    • So why is no. 7 wrong?

    • Brilliant. Worth wading through all the climate stuff to get to it!

    • David Springer

      A couple weeks ago I was shepherding a landscape architect who used to be one of the best in the business. Let’s call him John. He’d had what’s called a stroke flurry a dozen years ago in connection with open heart surgery. I was told he’s still recovering mental faculties (he must have been brilliant before because he’s still pretty sharp IMO) and asked to try to get him thinking outside the box. So I gave him unexpected, unhelpful, but perfectly correct answers to questions. A stack of pizzas was sitting on top of a palm tree root ball at a job site. A mutual friend brought them for our crew. John didn’t know who brought them or if he could take a piece. I was eating a piece and John asked me “Where did these come from?” I replied “An oven.” We were wandering around a huge nursery and I asking about various plants in outdoor plots. We were approaching a greenhouse and John says “I wonder what they’ve got in here?” I says “Plants. Lots of them.” It was a fun few days for both of us.

    • And the answer is … numb-ah forty two!!

    • coming up in the next post

    • You’d think it would be pretty easy to predict what would happen in the housing market — even with a models — if homes were sold at the top of a bubble to people with now down payment and no income verification done on loan documents.

    • NW if you happen to see this.

      “One way to appreciate the virtues of climate models is to compare them with a field where mirages are pretty much the standard product: economics. The computer models that economists operate have to use equations that represent human behaviour, among other things, and by common consent, they do it amazingly badly. Climate modellers, all using the same agreed equations from physics, are reluctant to consider economic models as models at all. Economists, it seems, can just decide to use whatever equations they prefer.”

  48. A new article in Wired: Let’s bring the polymaths – and the dabblers – back
    http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/12/165191/

    • “More generally, the world of business and entrepreneurship actively encourages those who see connections between disciplines. One who can recognize a relationship between two disparate fields of ideas will more likely come up with the next, big, new thing. That’s investment gold.”

      Careful, you’re in danger of stumbling onto the reason the free market works so much better than central planning,

    • David Springer

      Before I entered kindergarten my parents bought me my own personal set of “The World Book Encyclopedia”. Several years later there wasn’t much of I hadn’t assimilated. I also got the Science Supplement each year which was one volume summarizing the most important discoveries of that year. My entire life has been a struggle to become a polymath in world where new knowledge is added far faster than one man can keep up with it. Then the global network was born and hypertext exploded. My paying job was mostly computer and networking hardware & software for small business and personal use so I was in on the ground floor and connected to the net since the net started taking shape decades ago. Google and having a connected smart phone in your pocket at all times has made being a polymath possible once again. I think it was JCH who was dissing me about being one google click away from expertise in any subject. It’s true but I don’t understand the negative association he was trying for. Google is a tool. You think Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin didn’t use the tools of the day to full advantage? I suspect they would be as happy as I am to have a tool that catalogs, indexes, and makes all (or most) of the world’s information searchable in split seconds at their fingertips 24/7. Being a polymath today is as easy having a broad but shallow encyclopedic knowledge base in your head and using that as a basis to quickly formulate questions that can be answered in split seconds with a google to a deeper knowledge base. Information at your fingertips was a concept coined and promoted and spoken to me in a private meeting with Bill Gates decades ago. We succeeded in making it a reality beyond our wildest expectations. It’s my baby and I’m in love with it.

      “Le roi est mort, vive le roi !”

      I don’t speak French but my baby makes it possible for me to almost instantly write “The king is dead, long live the king” in the original French. The polymath is dead, long live the polymath!

  49. I think you quote from an article with a ‘blinkered outlook’ Judith.

    As an engineer (universal millwright) with many years of service within the ‘Innovation, Installation and Maintenance’ sectors of ‘Technical Production Units’ I’ve come to know ‘many’ individuals that could be categorised as ‘monopathic’ by this definition.

    In truth, they’re far from that. Whether the individual has taken a ‘dead end job’ as a ‘stop gap’ between other employment prospects, or taken the occupation because it ‘pays the bills’ and permits the style of life that they want/expect, they ‘don’t give the job their full attention’.

    By definition, the ‘monopathic world’ is progressing by ‘reflex’ whilst thinking of ‘other things’. I can’t count the number of individuals that ‘planned personal projects’ during their working hours in a ‘monotonous job’.

    However, you’re probably correct in your assumption that ‘retirement’ offers a greater opportunity for participation in ‘the great debate’ because during ‘pre-retirement’, individuals are too ‘time challenged’ to participate in debate due to the time constraints of ‘juggling’ life’s pre-requisites.

    So. Are we looking for an ‘ageing population’ that’s net-wise for a dialogue? Probably, but don’t discount the ‘mono-path’! They have more input than is implied by your referenced article, but they just don’t get the time to ‘engage’.

    Best regards, Ray.

  50. A seredipitous interaction, Bell Lab technicians investigating
    satellite noise contamination, pigeons mebbe, consulted
    astronomy colleagues down the road at Princeton, result,
    background radiation from the Big Bang, the so called
    ‘wrinkles in time.’

  51. A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. – RobertHeinlein

    • David Springer

      Excellent quote.

      +many

    • David Springer

      In the past several weeks I added to my manual skill set. For over a decade I’ve owned a 4WD Dodge Ram 2500 diesel, 8′ bed, and crew cab and a 19′ flatbed trailer with 10,000# cargo capacity. I’ve never used it except for personal projects where stuff was too long or a little too much to throw in the bed of the truck. I also own a 2155 4WD John Deere Ag tractor with a front loader and a few 3-point PTO attachments. The tractor weighs in over 6000# without attachments so when I bought the flatbed I made sure it could haul the tractor around. But I’ve always been timid about hauling loads so heavy. Not any more. A buddy got in in a bind on a six figure landscape job that had to be completed fast. Regular deliveries of plants and rocks and dirt was too inflexible to git ‘er done so I volunteered my cargo hauling setup with me driving. So now I can load, unload, and move around 5 tons of anything from just about any point A to any point B with comfort and ease. I have a front hitch on the truck that’s primarily for a winch carriage so I can get myself and others out of sticky situations but I was able to amaze old hands in the landscaping business by how easy it is move a big flatbed around a tight job site simply by pushing it with the front hitch instead of pulling it from the back. I suck at backing up so I learned the front hitch trick early on. I need to get me a digital TV camera pointed at the front & back hitches so I don’t have to get in & out of the truck so many times to get a perfect alignment. Anyhow I’m now crossing “truck driver” off my bucket list. It’s a stretch but I doubt I’ll have an opportunity to put any time in behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler mostly because you need a commercial driver’s license for it and I can’t justify the time to get one. I did however take the time back in the 1990’s to get private pilot crossed off my bucket list. That’s some scary schit and I never got comfortable nor very proficient at landing small planes in crosswinds but it’s an experience all self-styled modern Renaissance Men must have because you just never know when you’re going to have to land a plane because the regular pilot went tits up behind the yoke. Indiana Jones I’m sure can pilot a plane in a pinch. Which reminds me I need to get a bull whip…

    • Specialization is fer insects (and koalas.)

  52. The article is excellent in discussing the societal aspects but does not go into the biology much. Apparently cholinergic neurons in the nucleus basalis are involved. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stimulate them into action when students in the class are inattentive? NB seems to have a strong connection to the visual system so some kinds of visual stimuli just might be the ones that stimulate creativity. Someone ought to follow this up if it hasn’t been tried. As to polymathy, we live in an age of information overload. What makes someone constantly pick new things to follow while others mind their knitting is very hard to guess. I suspect the difference comes down to personality traits that might well be inherited. They would not likely be simple Mendelian traits but might be more broadly distributed among closely related groups. Might even be behind group differences such as those that distinguish the Ashkenazi jews from North African jews. But I digress. The author has opened up a line of thought that educators should take advantage of.,

  53. Chief Hydrologist

    Hi Robert, below is a letter from R. Gates. I can understand if you want to move on and are getting bored with CE, but I do want to let you know that you are a highly valued participant, and one of a few whose posts i make a point of reading. Thanks again for all your input and participation. Judy
    —–
    Judith,

    I wanted to contact you regarding Robert Ellison’s decision to no longer participate at CE. I hope you feel as I do that he is a valuable contributor there. Along those lines, I know that he and I have had our share of personal attacking of each other and certainly we both are guilty of letting our emotions get the better of us. While it is true that “Chief Hydro” also tangles with others, to the extent that his leaving is related to my own exchanges with him, I of course would never want to be the cause of that. He may have just decided that overall it is time for him to move on, as certainly that happens. As much as I enjoy what you’ve created at CE, Robert is certainly more valuable a contributor than myself (I can at least be honest about that), and if my staying in the background and not posting would entice him to stay I would certainly be willing to do that. This may make no difference to him, as he may just need to move on, but I thought the offer was something I could at least make.

    Best regards,
    (R. Gates)

    Thanks Guys,

    No need Randy – I wish I was called Randy.

    I didn’t think it was a big deal and certainly am not stressing about it. Have we not reached the point where everything we have to say has been said a thousand times – liberally salted with pointless quibbling and personal abuse? Pointless quibbling is a just a waste of time but personal abuse is something a street fighting boy for the slums of Balmain never backs down from. Perhaps I should work on that.

    There is a central point that Pekka alluded to recently. That climate is so humungously complicated that silly little climate narratives do it so little justice. Essentially – as in the ‘Wrong Trouser’ paper I keep quoting – both sides telling themselves and each other stories superficially in the culturally significant, objective idiom of science. Superficially I say because it lacks anything much in the way of hypothesis and analysis and proceeds straight to synthesis. But heartfelt – we are all aware of various eccentrics who insist on some mad theory and repeat it endlessly. Mostly on the skeptic side it seems to me – but by no means entirely.

    I check the site and intend to continue – Judy is far too clever and dedicated not to. But perhaps I should just shut up for a while.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      seeing as I am in moderation – perhaps I can fix the formatting – thank you Judy.

      Hi Robert, below is a letter from R. Gates. I can understand if you want to move on and are getting bored with CE, but I do want to let you know that you are a highly valued participant, and one of a few whose posts i make a point of reading. Thanks again for all your input and participation. Judy
      —–
      Judith,

      I wanted to contact you regarding Robert Ellison’s decision to no longer participate at CE. I hope you feel as I do that he is a valuable contributor there. Along those lines, I know that he and I have had our share of personal attacking of each other and certainly we both are guilty of letting our emotions get the better of us. While it is true that “Chief Hydro” also tangles with others, to the extent that his leaving is related to my own exchanges with him, I of course would never want to be the cause of that. He may have just decided that overall it is time for him to move on, as certainly that happens. As much as I enjoy what you’ve created at CE, Robert is certainly more valuable a contributor than myself (I can at least be honest about that), and if my staying in the background and not posting would entice him to stay I would certainly be willing to do that. This may make no difference to him, as he may just need to move on, but I thought the offer was something I could at least make.

      Best regards,
      (R. Gates)

      Thanks Guys,

      No need Randy – I wish I was called Randy.

      I didn’t think it was a big deal and certainly am not stressing about it. Have we not reached the point where everything we have to say has been said a thousand times – liberally salted with pointless quibbling and personal abuse? Pointless quibbling is a just a waste of time but personal abuse is something a street fighting boy from the slums of Balmain never backs down from. Perhaps I should work on that.

      There is a central point that Pekka alluded to recently. That climate is so humungously complicated that silly little climate narratives do it so little justice. Essentially – as in the ‘Wrong Trouser’ paper I keep quoting – both sides telling themselves and each other stories superficially in the culturally significant, objective idiom of science. Superficially I say because it lacks anything much in the way of hypothesis and analysis and proceeds straight to synthesis. But heartfelt – we are all aware of various eccentrics who insist on some mad theory and repeat it endlessly. Mostly on the skeptic side it seems to me – but by no means entirely.

      I check the site and intend to continue – Judy is far too clever and dedicated not to. But perhaps I should just shut up for a while.

  54. Latimer Alder said on December 15, 2013 at 11:20 pm
    “I am constantly amazed and disappointed by how little of general human history many climatologists seem to know.”

    They seem content with rewriting it, based on the error that Greenland temperatures follow the rest of the northern hemisphere. They probably think that the historians have it all wrong.

  55. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That?

  56. Agreed “polymathy”.

    I have been puzzling out “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming” since late 2008, ever since Obama pitched the urgency of Global Warming and the necessity of government control of CO2 emissions. A comparison of political initiatives revealed similarities to the Soviet “Turnover Tax”.

    A citizens’ level of understanding is obviously top level (i.e., shallow). I found that even shallow understanding involves science, economics, politics (power), history and some acquaintance with used car salesmen.

    What to do? My advice is to read widely and critically throughout your life, and take no one’s word for it. Even mine.