Why scientists should talk to philosophers

by Judith Curry

The divorce between philosophers and scientists is fairly recent.  Its time for a reconciliation.

[P]hilosophers have not kept up with science and their art is dead.Stephen Hawking

Philosophy is a field that, unfortunately, reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke, “those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t teach, teach gym.” Lawrence Krauss

[Philosophy] can really mess you up.  [P]hilosophy has basically parted ways from the frontier of the physical sciences. –   Neil deGrasse Tyson

Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll, a physicist at CalTech has a blog post Physicists Should Stop Saying Silly Things about Philosophy.  Excerpts:

The last few years have seen a number of prominent scientists step up to microphones and belittle the value of philosophy. 

The point, I take it, is to understand how nature works. Part of that is knowing how to do calculations, but another part is asking deep questions about what it all means. That’s what got me interested in science, anyway. And part of that task is understanding the foundational aspects of our physical picture of the world, digging deeply into issues that go well beyond merely being able to calculate things. It’s a shame that so many physicists don’t see how good philosophy of science can contribute to this quest. The universe is much bigger than we are and stranger than we tend to imagine, and I for one welcome all the help we can get in trying to figure it out.

Carlo Rovelli

The New Republic has a lengthy essay by physicist Carlo Rovelli entitled  Science is Not About Certainty, that picks up on the theme of scientists engaging with philosophers.  Excerpts:

What, then, are the aspects of doing science that I think are undervalued and should come up front? First, science is about constructing visions of the world, about rearranging our conceptual structure, about creating new concepts which were not there before, and even more, about changing, challenging, the a priori that we have. It has nothing to do with the assembling of data and the ways of organizing the assembly of data. It has everything to do with the way we think, and with our mental vision of the world. Science is a process in which we keep exploring ways of thinking and keep changing our image of the world, our vision of the world, to find new visions that work a little bit better.

This takes me to another point, which is, Should a scientist think about philosophy or not? It’s the fashion today to discard philosophy, to say now that we have science, we don’t need philosophy. I find this attitude naïve, for two reasons. One is historical. Just look back. Heisenberg would have never done quantum mechanics without being full of philosophy. Einstein would have never done relativity without having read all the philosophers and having a head full of philosophy. Galileo would never have done what he did without having a head full of Plato. Newton thought of himself as a philosopher and started by discussing this with Descartes and had strong philosophical ideas.

There is narrow-mindedness, if I may say so, in many of my colleagues who don’t want to learn what’s being said in the philosophy of science. There is also a narrow-mindedness in a lot of areas of philosophy and the humanities, whose proponents don’t want to learn about science—which is even more narrow-minded. Restricting our vision of reality today to just the core content of science or the core content of the humanities is being blind to the complexity of reality, which we can grasp from a number of points of view. The two points of view can teach each other and, I believe, enlarge each other.

Rotman Institute of Philosophy

The Rotman Institute of Philosophy is committed to fostering and supporting dialogue and collaboration between philosophers and scientists, and building bridges between the humanities and the sciences.

The Rotman Institute of Philosophy  has a series of 4 posts Why Talk to Philosophers (I, II, III, IV).   The series seems partly motivated by Neil de Grasse Tyson’s recent dismissive remarks about philosophy. Excerpts from Part IV (written by a quantum physicist Yvette Fuentes):

In our present search for knowledge there are many moments in which the lines between them blur. Every single scientific theory and philosophical exploration starts with questions and with reflection upon them. Basic ideas are produced in order to provide answers to these questions. These ideas are developed though critical and logical thinking. At this point science and philosophy are indistinguishable. Then comes the moment in which methods are applied to formalise the questions and the ideas to provide their answers. The methods in science and philosophy differ. Science generates knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions. Physics, for example, heavily relies on mathematics to make these predictions. Philosophy relies on rational argument. During this time science and philosophy become distinguishable; however, they merge again at later times. Once a new scientific theory is proposed, it is not only confronted with experiments (when possible) but also to philosophical scrutiny. Once a theory is born, there is an unavoidable need to interpret the objects of the theory and its results. At this stage science and philosophy again come close together. 

In my opinion a scientist who is not open to exploring that zone where science and philosophy overlap is missing out on the opportunity of taking his or her science to the point where truly new ideas are developed.

Once a theory is established, because it succeeded at predicting the outcomes of experiments, or because enough people were convinced to work on it, it becomes much less common that scientists become preoccupied with philosophical questions. This is perhaps necessary in order to make progress within a theory. This is when the shut-up and calculate or don’t-think and calculate style of working adopted by some scientists provides efficiency at finding results. However, if the theory fails at explaining parts of reality, then it becomes necessary to reflect on the assumptions made, to re-interpret, to think deeper. And we must enter that grey area between science and philosophy because the shut-up and calculate approach fails. This approach is no longer efficient when evidence points out for the need of a more fundamental theory of nature. When one is after something new, deeper questions are always essential. New perspectives require questioning the very fundamental elements of a theory, becoming aware of all the basic assumptions. It also requires creative thinking, inspiration, connecting dots, integrating. In my experience, interacting with philosophers and asking questions which some physicists would consider forbidden has helped me come up with new ideas. When considering philosophical questions, I often find myself thinking harder and understanding better my own work. The point of view of philosophers often provides different perspectives to my own. In my case, these new perspectives inspire me to come up with new ideas.

JC reflections

Most of climate science is in ‘shut up and calculate’ mode.  This is a very dangerous place to be given the substantial uncertainties, ignorance and areas of disagreement, not to mention the problems/failures of climate models.  Climate science needs reflection on the fundamental assumptions, re-interpretations, and deeper thinking.   How to reason about the complex climate system, and its uncertainties, is not at all straightforward.  And then of course there are the ethical issues, including understanding how the climate debate has gone so badly wrong.

An increasing number of philosophers have been focusing on climate science -some philosophers that I’ve been reading include Arthur Petersen, Wendy Parker, Joel Katzav, Eric Winsberg, Elizabeth Lloyd, Gregor Betz.  Other philosophers have focused more on the ethical and moral aspects of how we respond to climate change.

I have personally been moving in the direction of more fundamental questioning, reading philosophy papers,  and engaging with philosophers (in case you haven’t noticed!).  In fact, I have been invited to a Workshop at the Rotman Institute next fall.  I have also been invited to write a paper for a philosophy journal.

Motivated by policy makers’ needs for quick answers, climate science prematurely went into a ‘calculate and shut up’ mode, with anyone questioning the basic assumptions, climate models, or preferred policies are ostracized by the scientific community (see this recent profile of ‘outcast’ John Christy in the NYTimes).   The only way we are going to dig out of this rut is through some fundamental questioning.  Here’s to hoping that philosophers and the approaches of philosophy can help kick climate scientists out of their faux comfort zone of consensus and ‘settled science’.

295 responses to “Why scientists should talk to philosophers

  1. We’re learning what goes up also goes down. Jan-Erik Solheima, et al., are predicting, an average temperature decrease of at least 1.0°C from solar cycle 23 to solar cycle 24 (The long sunspot cycle 23 predicts a significant temperature decrease in cycle 24). We’re also learning that academia’s modeling skills have been embarrassingly juvenile and woefully incomplete when it comes to taking account of the solar energy and ocean-atmosphere mechanisms that working together drive changes in the climate, as follows:

    Formation of NADW [North Atlantic deep water] represents transfer of upper level water to large depths. The water is transported and spread throughout the Atlantic and exported to the Indian and Pacific oceans before updwelling in Antarctic waters. The return flow of warm water from the Pacific through the Indian ocean and the Caribbean to the North Atlantic, a distance of 40,000 km, takes from 13 to 130 years… There appears to be solar “fingerprints” that can be detected in climate time series in other parts of the world with each series having a unique time lag between the solar signal and the hydro-climatic response… with various lags from 0 years (Indian Ocean) to 34 years (Mississippi river flow) and 70 years (Labrador Sea ice)… [and] the top-down stratospheric response of ozone to fluctuations of shortwave solar forcing and the bottom-up coupled ocean–atmospheric surface response, acting together, can amplify a solar cyclical pulse with a factor 4 or more. (Solheima, et al., supra)

  2. Why bother talking to them?
    Just what do they bring to the table by sophistry?
    I have never heard a single philosopher suggest a way to unambiguously determine anything, or I ever hear is bilge.
    You should hear ‘philosophers’ talk about the ‘mind’ without knowing the basics of how brains work, or even more interestingly, what minds result from faulty or damaged brains.

    • Doc, at one level you have to be right.
      At another (perhaps Goethe) level, you might be wrong based on everything now known about stuff like emergent behaviour (UTrH, Clouds).
      So Climate science is just another litmus test of some sort. Useful perhaps for political sorting, but in the end contributing only to the Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing.
      Having only had one full years introductory course in philosophy, I was unaware that it touched on climate change at all until this post. Heck, I thought Plato was stuck on the ancient Greek philosophical immorality of Vietnam based on what my then University then taught. Vietnam plus Climate Change? Even harder to unify now according to the philosophy of Kant or Kierkegard.
      That is just what I was supposedly taught, not what I concluded using philosophy’s own reasoning methods also taught in that invaluable yet distant non- elective course. The august faculty of that august institution (which obviously admitted me by some ‘obvious’ gross mistake despite my then graduating summa) of course disagreed, inadvertently teaching additional life lessons that have resonated more than the trivial ones that faculty intended but utterly failed to instill.
      I remain a very hard case for those types. Neither forgotten nor forgiven despite all their subsequent fund raising appeals. My solicited gift dollars have learned to walk their previous talk. And walk we have til now.

      • There are a lot of hard questions that science backs away from. Questions that are important to most people–life after death, existence of God, what is truly moral, etc.

        I don’t blame scientists for acknowledging that their discipline is not fit to address these questions. But it is somewhat absurd for them to ridicule those that are making the attempt.

        Philosophers were far more gracious at ceding large areas of their endeavor to science when it became clear that science was better equipped to deal with them.

        Scientists could learn from them…

      • Better religion than philosophy.

      • “Tom Fuller | July 16, 2014 at 10:17 pm |
        There are a lot of hard questions that science backs away from. Questions that are important to most people–life after death, existence of God, what is truly moral, etc.”

        We do not have a definition of conscious.
        We do not have definitions for the various forms of unconsciousness, nor do we know how many different types there are. Some anesthetics render one unconscious and there is a blank in the memory, but with others there are typically nightmares.
        We don’t know what pain is nor how we can measure it.
        Even better, we don’t have a working definition of either living or dead.

      • Doc,

        What are you smoking?

      • I agree with DocMartyn that there are some rather profound mysteries regarding ‘consciousness’. There was an interesting TED talk by V.S. Ramachandran in 2007, also described here .
        Neurological conditions have shown that the self is not the monolithic entity it believes itself to be. It seems to consist of many components each of which can be studied individually, and the notion of one unitary self may well be an illusion.
        I mention these to emphasize that despite all the pride that your self takes in its individuality and privacy, the only thing that separates you from me is a small subset of neural circuits in your frontal lobes interacting with mirror neurons. Damage these and you “lose your identity”—your sensory system starts blending with those of others.

    • Few things are certain. Oxford Philosophers Peter Taylor and Jerry Ravetz (The Value of Uncertainty) ask: What if the answer isn’t at the back of the book?

    • Strangely though, physics over the last century seems to parallel concepts particular to Eastern mysticism (illusory nature of space/time; a universe emerging from nothing etc.). Which could perhaps explain the philosophical interests of Schrodinger, and apparently Heisenberg too.

    • Doc: Neuroscience has concepts of the mind but nothing more. One thought illustration put forward recently by a notable neuroscientist was that the mind is like a magnificent cathedral; it cannot be understood by simply understanding each of the parts.

      • I find the idea that something is not the interaction of its part, I know that the instructions in a fertilized egg go on to form a human brain, I know that stroke and dementia patients undergo massive changes in self and that taking a tab of acid completely changes my perception and analysis of the world.
        I also know that my self disappears for hours at a time, every night, and returns. My self has also disappeared when my head was hit by a cricket ball (in a maths lesson) or when I was undergoing proctology. I once had flu, real flu, and lived with a very high temperature and was ‘not my self’ for 24 hours, but did have a continuous sound track that I was unable to halt.

      • Doc: The concept that the mind is like a magnificent cathedral comes from “Phi: A Voyage from the Mind to the Soul” by Giulio Tononi, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, and a chief investigator at the University of Wisconsin Center for Sleep and Consciousness. The book is written as a mythical dialogue between Galileo and other people of science and art; as I recall one discussion was about the importance of art vs. science. It was not easy for me to read, but can imagine it being a joy for Beth.

    • Summing your points above, you seem to center your objection to philosophy on a failure to achieve definition, particularly in the matter of consciousness. This is not not correct historically. There are in fact many competing definitions of the self (i.e. the greater set containing consciousness) and a good many that define consciousness. For example, Descartes’ well known “I think therefore I am” represents a view of the self. The self in this view is a set that contains consciousness as an indivisible component. There have been many articles and books written about the play of consciousness and it’s nature in this context alone. For Descartes, talking about consciousness before self would be putting DesCartes before DesHorse. (You have now encountered what is to my knowledge the only “joke” in 3000 years of Western philosophical thought.)

      In so far as CS is concerned, there are two philosophical areas that are in play almost with every CS blog post by everyone, everywhere.

      The obvious one is ethics. Curiously (to me at least), although this can be an ethical matter for the author (i.e. is the author lying about, withholding or obfuscating data), more usually the ensuing debate becomes more an ethical/value based debate than it does a scientific one. That is, one can fairly accurately sum 99% of all contentious CS blog discussion this way: “My facts are better than your facts.” The amazing thing to me is that otherwise brilliant people don’t seem to follow this departure from the deterministic demands of science or if they do they miss the fact that they’ve departed from scientific discourse and have jumped with both feet into the realm of philosophy, casting off the mantle of science as if it were a dirty shirt.

      This segues nicely into the second component of philosophy that is abused in virtually all CS discussion, namely logic. To employ logic, we have to first agree on terms, as to whether our analysis (and the ensuing debate) will be deductive (deterministic, settled science) or inductive (non-deterministic, probability based). In the real world of people’s back forth, this is most always a matter of degree. Technically, this makes everything inductive. However, most people seem to be emotionally wedded to the authority of their idea du jour and therefore try to posture it as deductive in order to achieve unassailable heights of authority. Since it’s long been known that sow’s ears are not helpful in making purses, we can conclude that trying to build deterministic constructs out of inductive structures is going to be, to quote from Monty Python and The Holy Grail, “Fraught with peril.”

      If you’re eyes haven’t crossed yet from reading this much, I’ll add a bit more philosophy. There’s a mathematics/philosophical crossover area of study known as “Identity Theory” with which you may be familiar. This has been quite helpful to me professionally as I deal with with spectral analysis, wringing the determinate from the indeterminate for purposes of manufacturing control. In the current CS climate there is a central problem. Namely, consensus is not science. If you make lists of the components of consensus methods and conclusions vs. scientific methods and conclusions there will be few very few if any intersections. If the sets deviate at all then, quite simply consensus is not the same thing as science, A B.

    • You missed the point. Saying scientists should talk to philosophers>/em> is just a polite way of saying climatologists’ knowledge about ‘climate change’ is like that of farm animals.

    • David Springer

      70% of the universe is made of something we have no clue what it is called dark energy. Another 25% is dark matter we know very little about. The stuff that makes up stars and planets is 5%. Very little is out of bounds about the true nature of nature when physics can only explain 5% of it..

      • We don’t even know dark energy exists. All we know is our current models fail to match the results we observe. Dark energy is just a kludge which makes things line up. It’s perfectly possible the models themselves are the problem. If so, dark energy is nothing but a way of tweaking bad models to get the “right” results.

        If a climate scientist used that sort of argument, people would be all over them.

      • Hi Brandon. you could review Nassim Harimen’s view of the helical nature of mathematics required to uncap a few mysteries. His math seems really close to the mark. On some other items, maybe not so good a reputation. but sometimes the message outdoes it’s source, n’est pas? One interesting thing you can see in his video is the resemblence of a comet to a temporary pulsar.

        Some of his conclusions don’t match views I hold. But his math seems more astute than most.

      • captdallas2 0.8 +/- 0.2, indeed. The only difference is we at least know aerosols exist :P

        Alistair Riddoch, I only watched a couple minutes of that video before I gave up. That guy is nearly incomprehensible because of how off-base he is. He’s so off-base I’d like to believe it’s a prank of some sort.

        On the upside, it has made me decide I need to get a copy of The Black Whole. It seems like it will make for a great movie night.

      • he seems to have a rep for “decoding crop circles” without understanding the inherent implication that has. ooops in my book. philisophically approached. But finding his video on considering gravity to be a resulting of a massive time varied set of waves of helical graivtational motion, and the resulting shapes it creates are likely right, in my honest opinion. not for the reasons he espouses.

        the word exceeds the source, in some cases. but the source can deserve some respect for existing in the first place.

      • bs “If a climate scientist used that sort of argument, people would be all over them.”

        can you say aerosols?

      • In his discussion one wonders if instead of his explanation of the comet, it instead should be viewed as creating rips in the gravity field from the sun, that create a trailing tornado of cold fusion hydrogen creation. a rip in gravity. resulting light energy is high.

      • @ Brandon, maybe a “light energy creation” to show us where “dark matter” used to be a gravity balance process. perhaps.

  3. I must say I’m somewhat biased on this issue having a misspent youth studying some philosophy and formal logics in depth, and latterly worked closely with physical scientists. But my take on Climate Science has been a lack of reflection on the wider philosophical issue about the nature of knowledge in this domain. I see the methodological weakness (e.g. the uses made of statistical analysis) reflecting lack of grounding in the subject area.

    It isn’t as though the answer is for all people who collecting the data and crunching the numbers suddenly having philosophical reflections (all though the occasional argument down at the pub should be encouraged). The problem is there isn’t a group actively working in this area with sufficient mana (standing) to be leaders. This in turn stems from the perceived urgency of “solving the problem” that has seen funding going to those who exude certainty – and they have become the de facto leaders.

    • Ditto in terms of life experience. I was a teaching assistant in a philosophy department for a bit of my misspent youth. My life since than has been shaped by this axiom: “Those who don’t read history and philosophy are doomed to repeat the same well defined mistakes over and over again. Those of us who do read history and philosophy are doomed to watch those who don’t on the 6 o’clock news make those same mistakes while we drink heavily.”

  4. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    No mention of “philosophy” is complete without mention of Wendell Berry!

    Metrics from Google Scholar follow:

    author:”Wendell Berry” 586 results, top-cited essay is “What are people for?” (471 citations); top-cited book is “Unsettling of America” (1,405 citations).

    Articles/books *not* by Wendell Berry, uet specifically including “philosophy” and “Wendell Berry” in the title: The Educational Philosophy of Wendell Berry.;
    The Rural Educational Philosophy of Wendell Berry
    ; Zen, Taoism, and American Nature Writing: Spiritualism and Philosophy in Works by Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Wendell Berry.

    While we’re at it, here are citation-data for some much-mentioned climate-research names:

    author:”JE Hansen” climate  173 results, top-cited is “Climate forcing by anthropogenic aerosols” (2,766 citations).

    author:”ME Mann” climate  284 results, top-cited is “Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries” (1,694 citations).

    author:”N Oreskes” climate  73 results, top-cited is “The scientific consensus on climate change” (961 citations).

    author:”Anthony Watts” climate  3(?) results, top-cited is “Is the US surface temperature record reliable” (32 citations).

    author:”Christopher Monckton” climate  7(?) results, top-cited is “Climate sensitivity reconsidered” (9 citations).

    Conclusion  The 97% consensus is affirmed. And poet/farmer/philosopher Wendell Berry does *AMAZINGLY* well!

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    • Curious George

      My Google Scholar reports 8,440 results for author: ”Wendell Berry”. Are you based in China?

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Curious George, were you careful to *NOT* include a space after the “:”?

        `Cuz Google Scholar is exceedingly strict in regard to syntax!

        A little more seriously, a beautiful and delightfully *CONCISE* introduction to the full span of Wendell Berry’s philosophy is his recent 30-minute lecture Wendell Berry on H************ Marriage.”

        Needless to say, Berry’s essay is about *FAR* more than marriage.

        Hopefully (in FOMD’s view) there will not be even *ONE* Climate Etc reader who agrees with all of it … or who disagrees with all of it.

        Aye, Climate Etc lassies and laddies, now *THAT’S* philosophy!

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        by Wendell Berry

        ” I would hate to think that my work as a writer could not be done without a direct dependence on strip-mined coal. How could I write conscientiously against the rape of nature if I were, in the act of writing, Implicated in the rape ? For the same reason, it matters to me that my writing is done in the daytime, without electric light.”


        I wonder if he helps rape the planet by using modern medicine and dentistry?

      • DocMartyn, that is a good question. I wonder how much electricity it takes to make a billion doses of polio vaccine?

        I do hope they don’t make any at night!

        And I do hope that Wendell Barry is careful not to contribute in any way to such wanton rape of the planet!

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Respectful answer (below, with citations) awaits moderation!

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      • @ Doc Martyn

        “” I would hate to think that my work as a writer could not be done without a direct dependence on strip-mined coal. How could I write conscientiously against the rape of nature if I were, in the act of writing, Implicated in the rape ?:

        I wonder how Mr. Berry feels about paper mills, ink factories, pencil manufacturing plants, printing presses, book stores, and all the other infrastructure of modern society, ad infinitum, that allows idiots like him to not only live, but prosper?

      • Curious George

        FOMD, right you are. Without a space it is 907 results today. He must be exceedingly creative.

    • Naomi Oreskes wrote a very interesting piece on the philosophy of science as it relates to climate models. I am sure you have read it, eh FOMD?

      Verification and validation of numerical models of natural systems is impossible. This is because natural systems are never closed and because model results are always nonunique. Models can be confirmed by the demonstration of agreement between observation and prediction, but confirmation is inherently partial. Complete confirmation is logically precluded by the fallacy of affirming the consequent and by incomplete access to natural phenomena. Models can only be evaluated in relative terms, and their predictive value is always open to question. The primary value of models is heuristic.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Oreskes argues from history — rightly as it seems to FOMD — that commonly it is wisdom to attack ‘wicked problems’ even when the evidence is “open to question”.

        That is sound philosophy *AND* common-sense, eh TJA?

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      • TJA:
        Naomi’s broader and more biased writings are a specific reason I have personally protested to the president of the University that recently hired her with full tenure.. IMO they have made another Cornell West mistake. (If you are close to this, you will know the reference. My daughter got a ‘B’ in his former class merely because she was of the wrong ‘color’ to ever ‘appreciate’ his biased teachings.
        TG that CW was fired by Larry and is now at Princeton… ) Unfortunate that Larry then got fired by the U faculty for this and another politically incorrect impertinence. You can supply Larry’s last name. Hint, in the NH it is now summer.
        I will, as a triple alumnus of that non-Princeton yet very Ivy University, never abide its new solicitations ever, except on my own terms. The more they send big fund recruiters to visit me personally, and the more I buy them lunch on my terms, the more ‘fun’ this has become. Not really, only very sadly. But all must live with the consequences of their choices.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Rud Istvan opines “All must live with the consequences of their choices [in regard to CO2 levels].”

        Unassailable truth by Rud Istvan, climate-science implication by James Hansen (via FOMD).

        Also our children must live with *OUR* choices … and their children … and THEIR children … even unto the tenth generation (or longer).

        Your foresighted, morally grounded, science-respecting, philosophical wisdom is appreciated by *EVERYONE*, Rud Istvan!

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    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Wendell Berry opines “I would hate to think that my work as a writer could not be done without a direct dependence on strip-mined coal.

      Words quoted by DocMartyn, picture supplied by FOMD!

      Excerpts from Health is Membership, an essay by Wendell Berry:

      The word “health” comes from the same Indo-European root as “heal,” “whole,” and “holy”.

      To be healthy is literally to be whole; to heal is to make whole. I don’t think mortal healers should be credited with the power to make holy. But I have no doubt that such healers are properly obliged to acknowledge and respect the holiness embodied in all creatures, or that our healing involves the preservation in us of the spirit and the breath of God.

      A further problem, and [a] serious one, is that illness, in addition to being a bodily disaster, is now also an economic disaster. This is so whether or not the patient is insured. It is a disaster for us all, all the time, because we all know that personally or collectively, we cannot continue to pay for cures that continue to get more expensive.

      In medicine, as in many modern disciplines, the amateur is divided from the professional by perhaps unbridgeable differences of knowledge and of language. An “informed decision” is really not even imaginable for most medical patients and their families, who have no competent understanding of either the patients illness or the recommended medical or surgical procedure.

      Moreover, patients and their families are not likely to know the doctor, the surgeon, or any of the other people on whom the patient’s life will depend.

      In the hospital, amateurs are more than likely to be proceeding entirely upon faith — and this is a peculiar and scary faith, for it must be placed not in a god but in mere people, mere procedures, mere chemicals, and mere machines.

      It was only after my brother had been taken into surgery, I think, that the family understood the extremity of this deed of faith … [remainder of Berry’s essay highly recommended by FOMD!]

      On Wendell Berry’s standards for adopting a new technology

      1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
      2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
      3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
      4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
      5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
      6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
      7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
      8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
      9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

      Yah got philosophical problems with these notions, DocMartyn?

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      • Yah got philosophical problems with these notions, DocMartyn?

        Well yes actually;

        “1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.”

        The man is pictured standing in front of solar panels that have had more energy used in their manufacture than they will ever return in their lifetime.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        DocMartyn claims [without evidence] “Solar panels [have]  more  substantially less energy used in their manufacture than they will ever return in their lifetime”

        Sloganeering by DocMartyn, engineering by FOMD.

        Why Charlie Koch! Is that you?

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      • FOMD Kentucky has some of the cheapest electricity in the US and is cloudy

      • DocMartyn | July 16, 2014 at 11:04 pm |
        “…solar panels that have had more energy used in their manufacture than they will ever return in their lifetime.”

        Want to try and justify that claim Doc??

      • Energy Balance of the Global Photovoltaic (PV) Industry – Is the PV Industry a Net Electricity Producer?

        Abstrac:t A combination of declining costs and policy measures motivated by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction and energy security have driven rapid growth in the global installed capacity of solar photovoltaics (PV). This paper develops a number of unique data sets, namely the following: calculation of distribution of global capacity factor for PV deployment; meta-analysis of energy consumption in PV system manufacture and deployment; and documentation of reduction in energetic costs of PV system production. These data are used as input into a new net energy analysis of the global PV industry, as opposed to device level analysis. In addition, the paper introduces a new concept: a model tracking energetic costs of manufacturing and installing PV systems, including balance of system (BOS) components. The model is used to forecast electrical energy requirements to scale up the PV industry and determine the electricity balance of the global PV industry to 2020. Results suggest that the industry was a net consumer of electricity as recently as 2010. However, there is a >50% that in 2012 the PV industry is a net electricity provider and will “pay back” the electrical energy required for its early growth before 2020. Further reducing energetic costs of PV deployment will enable more rapid growth of the PV industry. There is also great potential to increase the capacity factor of PV deployment. These conclusions have a number of implications for R&D and deployment, including the following: monitoring of the energy embodied within PV systems; designing more efficient and durable systems; and deploying PV systems in locations that will achieve high capacity factors.

      • I’m not sure if DocMartyn has any philosophical problems with these notions, but I certainly do. For one, I’m not seeing any justification for any of these statements. What test should we apply to validate the truth of these statements? Is there some sort of Utilitarian claim that our lives (or society as a whole) will benefit if it follows these rules–or are we supposed to take these proclamations as absolute truth revealed? I fail to see how following these standards would consistently result in a better life, and I can think of numerous examples where following these standards would result in a far worse one.

      • How likely is it Wendell Berry clipped more intelligence from his last toenail trimming than I will garner in an entire life? Very. That said …

        I plan to read more of his work, but I got turned off by this opening:

        The word “health” comes from the same Indo-European root as “heal,” “whole,” and “holy”.

        because it sounds a lot like the lame opening of the toast your least favorite fraternity brother gave at the wedding to your second ex-wife:

        The dictionary defines love/health/faith/courage as …

        (All that’s missing is the “Duuuude! Huh heh.”)

        Super long quote of homespun wisdom by FOMD, snark supplied by Matt L.. :)

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        DocMartyn claims [without evidence] “Solar panels [have]  more  substantially less energy used in their manufacture than they will ever return in their lifetime”

        Michael asks [respectfully]  “Want to try and justify that claim Doc?”

        Good `ol DocMartyn was jest havin’ some fun, Michael! As is common with denialists, he didn’t really mean what he wuz sayin`.

        `Cuz *SERIOUS* engineers know that the recent astounding (and ongoing!) decreases in photovoltaic price are associated with dramatic increases in the photovoltaic Energy Return On Investment (EROI), such that good `ol DocMartyn’s denialist claims are as deceased as a Monte Python parrot.

        *EVERYONE* appreciates *THAT* — especially young engineers and young scientists and pleased solar-roof homeowners.

        Your “Dead Parrot” denialistic humor is appreciated DocMartyn!

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

      • David Springer

        Crank Alert! Wendell Berry’s crank. FOMD wants it.

      • A couple of notes about Fans link, which he or she title’s: dramatic increases in the photovoltaic Energy Return On Investment (EROI),.

        The actual title of that Verge article: Solar panels finally produce more energy than it takes to make them, study finds

        A subtitle, blurb quote in that article: THERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT CAVEATS TO THAT FUTURE OUTLOOK

      • FOMbs,

        If you cannot understand how silly Berry’s list of standards for adopting new technologies is, then you are as pitiful a quack faux-philosopher as Berry.

        Get rid of virtually all of your digital and even mechanical devices, because you are not allowed to advance beyond the 17th century.

    • “…it is wisdom to attack ‘wicked problems’ even when the evidence is “open to question””

      I think the wicked problem is that the evidence is open to question.

    • David Springer

      Crank Alert!

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      DocMartyn claims “FOMD Kentucky has some of the cheapest electricity in the US”

      Duke Energy! Is that you?

      DocMartyn, you somehow forgot to account carbon energy externalities.

      Recommended  Study the 21st century’s great philosophers, DocMartyn!

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

      • Why do you find human activity so distasteful?
        It is a strip mine. People are working to remove something out of the ground. Why is that any worse than a field of sheep or a field of canola?
        You are just a snob.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        DocMartyn asks [denialistically] “Why is [mountaintop removal] any worse than a field of sheep or a field of canola? You [Greens] are just snobs!”

        For all you LOTR fans:

        Saruman asks [denialistically] “Why is Isengard Energy (™) any worse than the Shire? Frodo, Treebeard, Galadriel, Gimli, and Gandalf … you are just snobs!”

        The world wonders … at denialism’s orcish economics.

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      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Saruman asks [denialistically] “Why is Isengard Energy™ Corporation any worse than the Shire? Frodo, Treebeard, Galadriel, Gimli, and Gandalf … you are just snobs!”

        Links fixed!

        More seriously, Berry’s Jefferson Lecture: It All Turns on Affection (2012) presents the Jeffersonian case for a sustainable “Shire” economy.

        Good on `yah, Wendell “Treebeard” Berry!

        Boo on `yah, Big “Saruman” Carbonites!

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      • A field of canola or sheep is completely unnatural

    • Actually, almost any discussion of philosophy would be complete without mentioning Wendell Berry. Philosophy actually is something. It’s not just what you think it means in the moment.

      • FOMT, as usual you push your peculiar OT obsessions into places they don’t belong. I have been reading and discussing philosophy for decades, and I don’t know of any *real* philosopher who finds it helpful to analyze Wendell Berry’s effusions. Certainly Berry offers nothing of substance for the topic of this thread! Berry is the poet laureate of the Gaia worshipping crank juice party set.

        (of course, it is characteristic of “philosophy” that its nature, boundaries, and legitimate practitioners will be frequent topics of philosophical dispute)

        In fact, other than FOMbs I don’t know of anyone who needs to make irrelevant invocations and incantations on nearly every thread at Climate, Etc. ” crank” hardly begins to characterize FOMT.

    • I don’t know much about Michael Mann’s 1,694 citations or Naomi Oreskes’s 961 citations, but…

      I do know Michael Mann hid his data, R squared results and his calculations, which included an incorrect modification of PCA that mined hockey sticks. I know Caspar Ammann’s replication of Mann’s hockey stick included an arbitrary modification to his RE results that involved making up a hertofore unknown ratio and assigning it an arbitrary threshold value and hiding all this in the supplementary material along with his failed R squared results. (I don’t know why this isn’t a bigger scandal)

      I do know that Naomi Oreskes, who is supposed to be an historian of science, does not include a clue of all of this in her book, Merchants of Doubt.(I read it) Instead, she implies that Michael Mann’s hockey stick troubles are all part of a well funded campaign by the fossil fuel industry without any evidence.

      I’m sorry. I don’t trust the climate scientists. They used up their good will.

  5. I believe I have come to absorb enough information and observation that I believe I can explain the main underlying principles of the climate system better than any other individual I am aware of. Though many many have excellent observations, and excellent theories (almost exclusively on the deniers side, where they seem to dig more altruistically. And everyone with an opinion on either side has shown themselves to care.

    To stay true to the nature of the thread, I would call myself an amatuer physicist, of much dedication, an avid researcher of things climate related, AND have taken two classes worth of university level philosophy. Although 101 seemed lame and all I remember taking from it was that although all lions are cats, all cats are not lions. It wasn’t worth $660 bucks! (maybe that was the true lesson)

    And I am a past member of mensa.

    And am willing to explain it in person to anyone with an open mind enough to be say, what if.

    And who has the ability to utilize the understanding I impart.

    There is no point having two people believe who are both considered cranks.

    So if you have credible “credentials” and care….

    705-327-9067. (north of Toronto -5 gmt)

    and I won’t bother anyone here with my input further.

    David Springer says, “Alistair, go away, you are not wanted here.”

    I can take a hint.


    • Hi Alistair

      Why “ex” member of Mensa? I remain a member in spite of somewhat childish behaviour from amongst the membership, and we get this type of thing everywhere! Judith’s blog is no exception but many of us will remain here, simply to learn. So Alistair, will you stay or will you simply repeat history?

      • Hi Peter. My membership at the time was to know that I could. I didn’t at the time invest in meeteings or anything, so it didn’t serve me any further purpose (perceived, afterthought, a mistake, but no regrets).

        Peter. I am that sure of the things that I have related, that my only next efficient purpose is to properly document the long chain, and communicate to someone who can act upon the information, or just communicate it directly to someon who can act upon the information.

        I see a ton of valuable data and observation and food for thought here. And hope it continues well.

        The politics of the issue were never a grat concern to me. They will go where they will. I only care about the mystery of why two large bodies of people can have such differing views. Where is the flaw in recognizing what is real.

        It was an excellent motivator thta has driven the solution of many puzzles to me.

        Here I could find discord, or inspiration for corollary investigation. But flat out, I don’t need it. Any more.

        I’ll keep watching what y’all talk about. Maybe a friendly +1 here and their. But any purpose of discussing arriving at a solution will only be frustrating for me. I’ll stay out of them.

        It’s just about efficiency of effort.

        The original offer in the previous post of offline discourse, stands in perpetuity, till the science proves that the debate is settled, and there is a final solution to the question. In hindsight the path there should have been much shorter. Gues part of the way was walking on quick sand. Cause E=MC^2 just isn’t quite right.

        Enjoy the journey.


        And Peter, thanks for the inquiry. ?;-)

      • OK Alistair, perhaps your theory could be right but there are many other theories being bandied about by climate sceptics who feel obligated to offer some from of alternative theory to AGW.

        My take on all of this is to watch and listen and learn. I try not to comment unless I feel that it will contribute positively to the dicussion.

        Judith Curry prefers that commenters generally comment less frequently and to stay strictly on topic and I fully support this.

      • I’ll make one last concise and considered comment then, in fair response to your request I consider my actions fully.

        A microwave heats water by oscillating it’s molecular vibrations, getting it to ride “standing waves” in magnetism to agitate it gravitationally in counter rotating directions. Heating it.

        A field of light is a pattern of magnetic oscillation.

        Gravity and light have an interference pattern that presents in a speeding up or slowing down of molecular oscillation, in materials and situations that are susceptible to such. In a counter helical direction that then presents in a colliding upward or downward vector.

        Because they intermingle thus, they automatically balance out constantly and thoroughly top to bottom. Through many mechanisms, some that insulate better than others, but then carry timed standing waves to the surface. They present quite well in the GRACE mission data.

        The relationship between gravity interference, light interference, magnetic interference, and resulting changes in the vectors it presents in, and therefor directly oscillate changes in barometric pressure are sun source most drastically in nature. CO2 is a potential factor as a result but under no circumstances a control. The paleontoligical data matches Milankotvich so well when magnetism is taken into account to cause ocean cooling and that should be the last piece of pie in the wedge.

        I think the nature of radioactive decay to vary in rate of energy production, even ever so slightly, will be found to be a significant manifestation of the overall effect. I don’t know but am 90% sure. And I think the ratio of earths outer sphere versus the inner barry center and the rate of movement towards or away from it are a “mirror” of rebounding phases that in conjunction with phases of solar activity and interelated strength and vector of direction of earths magnetic field is the other mirror point that determins on the whole, whether we are collecting or dissipating energy on over all basis. They are the rock and a hard place, betwee which we find weather, and ice ages and fooling ourselves as North America, about the evidence of the past and what it truly means to our opinion of current landscape, may be a lot more philispohically natural, than my concerns about kids brought up on stories of Noah’s Ark, and not being able to shake the idea that where there is smoke there is fire, and not being able to realize the two are not steadfast twins, and not count on the notion of the necessity of mans stewardship over earth, that every time I have seen, given the opportunity to speak for herself, she wipes slates clean, creating lakes from deserts, folds from trenches, volcanoes fro mheat, lightning from static buildup, and magnetic rings that catch energy and balance them out against the friction of universal entropy.

        I believe we live on a sphere of entropy trapped in the now, in perpituity. Pretending to see the future, while not recognizing NOW.

        When asked a question and told the answer in advance, philisophically, there is no denying that the earth has responded, go awy you silly human’s. you are not the boss of me. I don’t answer for, or even care what you think I am going to do, because inevitably I am going to exist.

        I think humanity fails to understand the true strength of us to prevail. By shear force of demonstrated ability to mass reduce through natural desire to do so a lot. We are like success full sea turtles and rabbits put together who invented glasses guns and rockets.

        Who is so silly to believe we have any concern that is truly global in nature, is just not recognizing the actual statistics of the statement very well. In regard ability to survive and thrive and prosper and endure and FIND happiness doing so, is the most future oriented demonstration of the ability of evolution. Yet our strengths are cradled with self doubt. hold back nuclear so we don’t blow ourselves up. They are not the needed emotions of a society that can count on it’s own kind to thrive indefinitely. Yet the fear can only truly result in a percentaged set back and a knowledge rich, resource rich, surviving few. It is individualistic and compassionate, but, not evolutionarily optimal, in the truest sense.

        So regardless of action, in one sense, one can recognize that individual purpose, regardless of intent, or reward, can and should only be expected to entail at least personal comfort if not enjoyment.

        Springer presumed to speak on behalf of the crowd. Un impeded by alternate opinion, I would have tried to impart this theory/belief elseware. Asked by you in a sense to do so, I have shared enough significant opinion of the nature of my belief to allow for extrapolation.

        The question to ask to a climate alarmist who doubts the impact of the ENSO cycle, is to answer the question “What IS the difference between Sun-Moon-Earth relationship that is not an exact parallel to microwave ovens.

        The response should be crickets. I believe.

        Then it will stop being the funny joke that it currently is, when you see the irony, of our ability to create before that which we recognize or understand.

        Singularly for your benefit, Mr Peter Davies S.

        With regard for your consideration. Per indication of concern.

        Now back to politics and philosophy and weather (NOT climate), where the rule is exchange of opinion of opinion, and not opinion of belief of concept, that can only result in difficulties in some rooms.

        Cheers, Bud.


      • Ah but Peter, the information you do not know is that behind the scenes I have offered enough information to DR. Curry personally and specifically, that while not all nice and neat and quantified, should be sufficient to the cause of conveying the nature of my suggestion. With a direct verbal exchange with her co-worker Greg. I have tried to restrain my observations but it is difficult. I may have trouble in writing, conveying the completeness, the amount of corroborating evidence I am aware of. But the essence of what I cumulatively have (in all honestly spouted) here, has never been with ill intent, or intent to provoke personal argument. Direct communication to Dr. Curry result in nil. Spring presumes to speak for all, and neither Dr. Curry nor anyone other than youself spoke up. Despite my high regard for most here, if I am correct, as I believe I am in essence, I at that point had no obligation for this to be the breeding ground for “person 2” who has the insights and awareness of data to match my thoughts to their observations. I need specific insight to elicit specific recognition in order for concepts to be properly conveyed. The audience helps create the story regardless of the story. Should my theory hold true and be a gift, I preferred it to be somewhere where at least person 2 might be the one person capable of understanding. If that is the situation. Where you asked, the response, and I propose perhaps a gift of undrestanding, couldn’t in good grace be potentially denied you. Nor with your regard could the potential to share that be held from silent tolerators of potentially unnecessary dismissiveness.

        As with IQ, as with “willingness to stand out” whether agreed with or not, percentages exist, and you are top 1%, by virtue of first. Thank you.

        If I am right, then thank you again for asking.

        If it’s not clear enough, I beg forgiveness this last appeal to your good senses, versus the potential my senses are that far off base as to require apology. Should it bear out that way. In advance.

        now back to politics and philosophy.

        Sincerely, Mr Peter Davies,
        With regard, and sincere appreciation,
        Alistair Riddoch

        For potentially being the 1% that spoke for others from the more civil and correct perspective, awareness and motive. The voice of good, if you will.

        Hat’s off. ?;-)

      • Peter Davies….Should it bear out that I played connect the dots best, whether by luck, special gift, or just fact of inevitability of existence -fate (which is also luck!). Either way. If I turn out to be THAT good of a troubleshooter, for yourspecial knowledge, I became aware thta mosquitoes kill 725,000 humans a year indirectly and I intend to make a dent in that number.

        If ever there was an opponent worthy of regard, and actually capable of mass death, not just mass fear, and mass accidental oppression.

        Because despite our own ability to scare ourselves into states of silliness (2012) without cause, when viewed en masse, without refute, our largest singular truist harbinger of death with the longest history of survival and destruction on the globe, that I am aware of, thta at least near us should be a more easily cheaper solvable problem is the menace that is a vampire in the disguise of a trillion or two hateful little quick replicating, blood sucking vermon!!! Mark those words, a better mosquito trap.

        Cimate should be done enough now. The data is there. Time to stop putting the puzzle together once it’s complete unless for the wrongful ill purpose of obfuscation for discord and attentions sake.

        If my thoughts havent been clear enough to paint the necessary picture I’ll work on that in silence. Solve other problems before coming back to Climate mechanics. Let the truth reveal it’s self or not, believing at least in this venue, I have given it the fair effort.

        Hope you understand all. Expect you probably do.


      • Alistair, if you go to to the Denizens page you will find that I and many others have backgrounds in economics and finance as well as in science.
        I had a peek at your FB page and see that you are an intuitive thinker and interested in science but seemingly not trained as a scientist.

        Your theory on climate change needs to be supported by the literature and developed with reference to current scientific paradigms and fully showing the logical steps you have taken along the way.

        My email address is located under my name in the Denizens page and you are welcome to discuss this further with me if you wish, but in any case, it would have been better if this new theory had been raised in an open thread on Judith’s blog.

      • Hi Peter. Sent you a FB message. :-)

      • Sorry Springer, your input in this particular sub thread is not welcome by myself. I won’t pretend to need or want to speak for it’s other participants, I don’t need to. If you have nothing nice for the remainder of this thread, to say, don’t bother. If not successful in proving several key theories starting with the ability to turn gravity into either self propelled forward acceleration, in perpetuity, or by harnessing the same priniple around a shaft, create a weight propelled gravity splicing dynamo driver, similar to a millstone driven by a bunch of blethering stupid mules. Except capable of a high efficiency low cost of engineering conversion of a percentage of gravity’s downward motion into a three way split torque drive vector that then gets converted to axial torque for conversion to electricity at high rate of efficiency. Spring loading the weight and trapping it in position allows it to fall, and “give” part of it’s weight over to twist in a perpetual gift of falling and handing it to us for our abiltity to catch it to be tested. This abilty through proper shape of running surface and angle of contact and distribution of weight, is like putting a balanced windmill facing up and running a big rock across it’s surface, and catching all of that energy as twist to drive generators. endlessly, quietly, perpetually, cheaply. surpassing all other energy production methods to date.

        I can also relay the proper gearing and shapes necessary to create personal and industrial transportation that perpetually wants to accelerate forward, unless restrained by braking which can then create free electricity. Backing up is a little tougher, but can be done.

        For bikes, trikes, cars, trams, trolleys, subways, trains, planes on runways, that based on the shape of their bearings, when released, will naturally want to carry their plane to take off speed without power from axle or engine, but accelerated by either.

        and Springer, I am here because I like it, with the exception of some of your interferences. and I think it has a good purpose. and I know I provide good value. If there is a second, that thinks I add value, even just for the purpose of deciding if I might. There opinion over rides my concern for yours, because in a crowd, where the vote is one to one, I trust the rest of the crowd to be more likely to vote on the side of instinctual goodness.

        I fear not the escalation of number of people willing to express an opinion one way or another.

        I don’t even pretend to feel the need to ignore you. I will answer to valid question from yourself included, if you feel so inclined. I will read material you post without prejudice it there is value to be supported, as I have already been doing. And I will cease bickering with you, even pass an electronic handshake. Now, with bygones, be bygones. There is no need by me, for there to be anything personal between us, other than my own right to defend my right to a fair hearing against others personal efforts to hinder that effort, beyond reasonable, or rational, or civil, levels of sensibility.

        But you have all the information you should or could need, in order to assess the situation for what it really is. and you do have all the power to voice any further opinion you wish outside my ability to stop your interference, or care enough to exercise anyways.

        Instead I offer you, put down you gloves and shake hands, or again speak in defense of the crowd you deem unworthy of speaking for themselve. and counter Peter Davies, legitimate requests within the scope of valid discourse, here and now, for no ill purpose that you can conceive, demonstrate, or even allude to.

        So I don’t know how to put this as nicely, or as effectively, shush now for a minute will you, and let us speak in peace, till we’re done this conversation, or join it as the rational, thinking, self aware individual you know you can be with your valid regard for your own intellect, and ability to think clearly and make a difference when the opportunity presents itself. Vociferous but engaged doubters are the truest critics because they are most likely to find and help you fix the weakest part of you argument.

        The reality is, as friend or foe, if you choose to include yourself i nfurther technical discussion, you would be providing similar value. And I still don’t actually wish to write off or dismiss the power of your intellect. just the manifesting choice of interaction at this time.

        Do you want to come over to the side carrying the force of intended good will? David Springer? It’s all right. No hard feelings regardless of how you conduct yourself further.

        Hope you are cool.


    • David Springer

      “and I won’t bother anyone here with my input further.”

      Thank you!

  6. Curious George

    In my young years we had to learn “Marx-Leninism” “philosophy”. It taught us that everything was relative except that the Party was always right. What a waste! There are still “philosophers” in American universities who take it seriously. I can’t take them seriously.

  7. “Science is a process in which we keep exploring ways of thinking and keep changing our image of the world, our vision of the world, to find new visions that work a little bit better/”

    Nice as an ideal. But it’s like thinking individual bees have an appreciation of the goals of the hive. Scientists are flawed human beings like everyone else…blindly pursuing their own narrow self interest. Anyone who fails to understand this is in danger of being badly misled.

  8. When the consensus GHG theory can explain all the warming since 1950, and more, requiring aerosols to bring it down to 0.7 C, is it rational to say this majority view must be wrong on the high side, and some as yet unknown force has been causing more than half the warming in the last 60 years? Not only that, but the skeptics seem quite certain of this ghost force. A philosopher would not like the logic and especially apparent certainty of this skeptical view.

    • A philosopher would not like the logic and especially apparent certainty of this skeptical either view.

      There – fixed that for ya.

      • Oh – didn’t work.

        A philosopher would not like the logic and especially apparent certainty of either view.

        This time for sure…

  9. Fantastic writing and thoughts. Enjoyed this post and loved this bit especially:

    “Climate science needs reflection on the fundamental assumptions, re-interpretations, and deeper thinking. How to reason about the complex climate system, and its uncertainties, is not at all straightforward.”

    As another erudite writer once penned :

    Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. — C.S. Lewis

  10. David L. Hagen

    Well put on the need to address philosophical issues.
    What temperature?
    When humans live in the Kalahari desert and above the Arctic circle, on what basis could we even discuss let alone decide what earth’s “ideal” temperature should be?
    When earth has varied between ~12 C and 20 C;
    When we are currently in an ice age at 12C;
    When plants die from lack of CO2 at 180 ppm and and vegetation grew very productively at 6000 ppm under balmier conditions;
    Why do climate alarmists worship our current temperature and atmospheric composition, demanding we pay all our wealth not to change it?
    Why should we settle for current cold unproductive conditions?

    Why not work to prevent our descending into next glaciation with its massive loss of human life?

    Why not restore Earth towards Eden?

  11. “Why do climate alarmists worship our current temperature and atmospheric composition, demanding we pay all our wealth not to change it?”

    As it happens, such worshipping and such demanding are precisely the things most likely to increase their own power and prestige. Must be just a coincidence.

  12. Judy,

    A smart and and courageous post.

    You couldn’t be more right in your lead-in to commenting about the Times’ piece that climate ‘science’ doesn’t even seem to have its first principles right, let alone those principles being sufficiently robust upon which to base models that can forecast the weather (i.e., long term weather = climate) 80 years into the future. As recently as last week I was listening to yet another climate ‘scientist’ belittle a meteorologist on this very point. Perhaps meteorologists are the only scientists that understand the magnitude of the challenge (an accurate 80-year weather forecast) and, perhaps, its futility given the current state-of-the-art.

    In some misguided climate ‘science’ circles, philosophy equals religion. It is shocking to hear the vitriol directed toward fellow scientists that practice a religious faith. Science and religion/philosophy have exactly the same goals: determining the truth. As such, they should be viewed as complementary rather than in opposition to one another.


    • Mike Smith, in your comment you stated philosophy and religion were separate, and I tend to agree. However, later you stated “science and religion/philosophy have the same goals”. While I would agree that philosophy may have similar goals science, religion is quite different. Most major religions establish a dogma which includes the answers to questions by invoking supernatural causes. For example, the ancient Hebrew religion’s answer to the origin of the universe was “G-d made it in six days”.

      • I must disagree with you Fernando L. The Catholic Church (of which I am a practicing member) is responsible for many of the great universities and medical centers around the world. If that isn’t dedication to learning and truth, I don’t know what is.

        “Let There Be Light” = The Big Bang. There is nothing inconsistent in that. The Book of Genesis is a (allegorically) correct description of creation. There is nothing inconsistent between evolution and God having created the earth. If you read the description of creation ( http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/genesis01-03.html ) you’ll find it roughly corresponds to what science now believes. Quite a coincidence for a document written 4,000 years ago.

        As to “six days,” that is actually possible because time can be measured in two ways. At the time of the Big Bang, the universe was moving at 99.99% of the speed of life. According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, that first ‘day’ lasted BILLIONS of years. Second ‘day,’ the universe had slowed down to something on the order of 99% of the speed of light so that second “day” (according to one physicist) lasted only a billion or two years. You get the idea.

        The Jesuits, the religious order which brought us Pope Francis, has produced a number of pioneering meteorologists. I’m proud to be part of meteorology and I’m proud to be part of a faith institution that has done so much good in the world.

  13. I have suggested this many times. It is always pointed out that the philosophers are just as easily corrupted by a “noble cause” as climate scientists, so you are just adding one more layer of indirection

    • Or ignoble. Hegel and the Prussian State?

      • Hegel, Fichte, Nietsche, von Treitschke…and Heidegger! Wouldn’t want to be a serf with too many opinions around that lot.

      • I think noble cause corruption’s too generous. More like delusions of grandeur corruption.

        pg, aspiring serf

      • They didn’t serf us well. mosomoso.)

      • “pg, aspiring serf,” a noble aspiration pokerguy.
        fer no better reason than it would uv irritated
        Hegel and Neitzche no end.

        Plato was against aspiration, avoid change, hence
        his ‘noble’ lie of the metals in men, gold, silver, bronze
        and whatever base metal serfs are made of.


    • Long ago as poor white trash – a condition not unlike a latter day serf but with anti-authoritarian indeed even criminal tendencies – I read Heidegger, Kant, Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Sartre in the UNSW library – before being a student anywhere. True to my less than distinguished poor white trash heritage I much preferred Camus, Genet, Celine, Kafka and Dostoyevsky morphing through the visionary poets to the beat poets and Ken Kesey, Thomas Pynchon and the electric Kool-Aid acid generation. I went on to study science and engineering.

      From my perspective – I doubt that any of them are talking the same language.

  14. One of the outcomes of WW2 from people like Norbert Wiener of MIT was the Laplace Transform, This made it possible to build huge mathematical models with both linear and non-linear components and string them together using the power of the new computers to calculate them in nanoseconds. Thus it was possible to do science in ways that were almost impossible for the human braun alone. So the temptation to use these new possibilities became difficult to resist. Let’s face it this was a true revolution in science, particularly in system dynamics such as climate science. There was no limit to the complexity one could tackle. So one could delve deeper and deeper and deeper into nature. But how deep? That depended on human judgement and validation techniques.

    So it is not surprising that the first and second generation models don’t work. The modellers have to learn on the job. but the lack of transparency in their work means they can fool each other, by their decisions on how deep they need to go. Mind you, they are working in good faith, but how far to go is still a matter of human judgement. It is possible of course using the methods of J S Allison to program the model to correct itself, but only if the model is structurally correct, so that is back to human judgement.

    • Milton Friedman, reflecting on Moore’s law, said “And in all that time, nothing has happened to the speed of human thought…” (long pause) “Think of the substitution possibilities!”

      • David Springer

        Friedman should check his facts before ‘reflecting’ on them. IQ is inexplicably on the rise and it’s well enough known so the phenomenon has a name: The Flynn Effect.


        IQ roughy correlates with speed of thought. Most IQ tests are timed and most people don’t finish every question. The questions are of a kind that most people, given enough time, can answer correctly. Ergo speed of thought is indeed on the rise.

      • Springer, if you really think the Flynn Effect–a tiny thing relative to Moore’s Law–undermines Friedman’s little joke, you need help.

      • David Springer

        He said nothing has happened to the speed of human thought. He’s wrong. IQ has been increasing 3 points per decade since 1930 which is around the time of the first transistor. That’s 25 IQ points. Meanwhile computers don’t even have an IQ yet despite miniaturization of several orders of magnitude. .If you hold Friedman in such awe you can’t admit his little joke is stupid then you’re the one that needs help.

      • David, you suggested… “He said nothing has happened to the speed of human thought. He’s wrong. IQ has been increasing 3 points per decade since 1930 which is around the time of the first transistor. That’s 25 IQ points. Meanwhile computers don’t even have an IQ yet despite miniaturization of several orders of magnitude. ”

        Hi David. As promised, and as an implied, not too subtly by you, requirement by you, on self appointed behalf, of all, I no longer speak here to the mechanisms of climate. Fair enough in your mind?

        As suggested, on other topics, I don’t feel so compelled to refrain. Politics can be fun. As can philosophy.

        So I wish to propose you consider, the joint power of the computer, peoples ability to think as a group, and the internet, put together, creates a combination of the two that seems to exist, and in sharing information, processes, experiences, and resources on a global basis, could in some senses be considered an opinion generating, mass personality driven, thinking organism. A symbiotic combination of people and electronics that creates a sum that is greater than that of either individual? A mass opinion and memory, and direction creating, meld of tissue and wires. That will at some point be recognized as a tool that can accelerate ability to learn quickly, and therefor a tool to increase IQ. albeit it can have a contrary deadening affect on inter personal relationships if utilized to the extreme for good or sloth.

        for your consideration, respectfully offered. with a handshake of offered contrition for prior disagreements regarding the whole climate thing. offered mano, et mano.

      • IQ is just a proxy for intelligence, and it is a poor one at that. Stating things with certainty based upon limited proxy data with known biases is exactly what we got from climate scientists ~15 years ago.

      • @ brandon, with it being inwardly reflected towards society by the percentages of actual existence, it is a sliding slope of opportunity to accumulate a wealth of knowledge and an evolutionary progression forward of the desire to put the advances to good use. Measured as a snapshot in time.

        We learn from regressions in a societies structural advancement, there is an incurred impairment of the opportunity to learn…a la China under eemperor(left unsaid). They burned books and closed schools. Shunned culture and teachers and games. Set their collective opportunity to learn back tremendously.

        But even repressed, they still have 10,000,000 geniuses. And they burn a lot of cheap coal to stimulate production now and drive a positive economy through global trade instead of inward self hating destructiveness.

        Headed towards freedom and away from corruption and nepotism.

        They are bouncing pretty quickly considering the extent to which I think they kicked themselves in the teeth.

        So maybe despite a sliding slope of opportunity, there is strength in numbers or determination to regain what was lost.??

        For consideration. :-)

      • stevepostrel

        Good luck trying to explain a joke to someone whose sense of humor is…subsumed by other concerns, let’s say.

      • Springer likes to score meaningless, orthogonal points.

      • However, to expand on Brandon’s point, it’s worth remembering that Flynn himself claims that there were no gains in working memory span over the 1972-2002 period (when digit span was part of the WISC). WM span is about the most general predictor of cognitive performance we have, and at least in the 2007 paper, Flynn makes no claim for a time trend in WM spans.

    • Thank you, NW and David for your replies. If you take a simple dynamic problem like damped simple harmonic motion whose characteristic equation is a quadratic and try to calculate the trajectory, it can take days, whereas any lap top computer could do it bin microseconds. That is what I meant. Evan that simple problem is well beyond fast solution by the human brain.

      Where the human brain shines is in the insight of the experienced engineer or scientist who can ‘guess’ solutions that are often remarkably correct. This the computer cannot do.

      • David Springer

        How fast can your laptop figure out a dog is about to take a piss on it and start screaming for help before it dies from being bathed in a highly conductive fluid?

      • if it was a highly conductive and highly flamable fluid, it might have been a cat that just sounded like a dog. “whooofff!”

      • David: I can easily figure out the dog problem you pose, in my head: the laptop computer has no voltages inside that could harm a dog..

  15. This is an excellent topic Judith and one with implications more profound than most realize. It is fitting and encouraging that you would be moving toward these philosophy/science interface discussions as it will be critical to have such broad-minded focus for the successful navigation of the immense changes ahead– all based on rapid scientific innovations. From nanotechnology to artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, these new technologies will challenge our perspective of who we are as humans. Philosophy may help us navigate that future. Climate change may well prove quite minor compared to these more profound changes.

  16. Philosophy could make a fine hobby for someone, but something tells me we have more “communication” coming.

    Perhaps a strenuous science based on observation and experience should be the priority. Might save us a few millennia of believing odd things about the Nile flooding…or the Antarctic collapsing.

  17. Whether by design or chance, life was breathed into Darwinism by philosophers at tables in French cafés, only to live and die in the mean streets of LA. “When we ask about the origin of life,” says Denyse O’Leary, “what question are we trying to answer? Darwin was a materialist; that is, he saw life as made up only of material bodies. He wanted to know how such a body could form, with input only from the laws of nature acting on chance events. In reality, life is mainly information. Our physical lives are not the sum of the chemicals that make up our bodies; they are also the staggering amount of information that governs the operation of the billions of molecular machines that manage all the chemicals. When we die, the chemicals are all still there, but the system of information that holds them together is lost. Perhaps the question we should ask is not how does life form by chance, but what is the source of all the information that life requires? Answering this question won’t be easy, because information is not measured in the same type of units as matter or energy. It is a real quantity but not a material one.”

  18. A Canadian sunset, observed across a distant watery horizon, reds oranges yellows and purples layered across the sky wants me to capture its gradual changing image, to last forever, when, in reality, another sunset will appear, equally as laudable as tonight. I spend hours watching the sun’s descent and the afterglow towards the first stars appearing.

    The gift of the sunset is: amazement, tranquility and paying attention to the foreground, gulls winging low after the fish-flies (Canadian Soldiers).

    At what point does magic inform science? At what point do your emotions invade your observations, and, hence consideration of your reality.

    I do not observe logic or fallacies or rigorous thought processes. I am in an emotive state: absorbing, letting “nature” descend upon me and feeling, feeling connected, a part of, belonging. I tend to do my best thinking in this state of mind. And, I listen, listen to my thinking, feeling and the connections I perceive.

    I don’t think my present being is science, nor is it philosophy, nor is it a yoga state of mindfulness. Rather, I am receptive to my world. So when scientists or philosophers or carnival barkers hawk their wares around me, I am prepared to assess if what they say fits my reality.

    So far, climate scientists sit low on the totem. Philosophers seem to be wordy and soon my eyes begin to feel heavy and glaze over. I haven’t found a word that characterizes my present state of being or thinking. For all I know I am lost in space. Are there other’s like me?

    • Magical observation, RiHo08, thx.

      Within the brazen circle of the sky’s rim,
      a child sits on the splintered doorstep,
      warm still from the sun’s rays at noon.
      Wondering she gazes at the oblivious stars
      and the pale arc of the crescent moon.

      And here at a microscope in a basement room,
      where no window opens to the world,
      a scientist is studying a fractal world,
      an ecosystem living on a lapwing’s plume.
      And so for an instant on a marbled speck
      the universe is reflecting on itserf.

    • Curious George

      Thank you for a piece of magic. The experience can be even enhanced by observing the sunset through a glass of whisky, or rum, or brandy, all of which share similar optical (and mental) properties.Here science enters the picture .. stealthily supporting and finally replacing philosophy.

  19. I kind of look at philosophy as being half way between religion an science. My observation from reading posts at Climate Etc is that the religious or philosophical views of many of the denizens has determined their views of climate change. From reading polls, I get the notion that it also true for the public at large. People’s philosophical and religious views also seems to have a strong influence on their political views. Although there is some merit in trying to demonstrate why any of these views are right or wrong, I think it is often just the way individuals see the world and how they might wish it to operate in their own idealist way. In other words they think they’re always right.

    • Shall we get logical? How about, climatological, geological, biological, technological, meteorological, ideological, sociological, philosophical? The philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that logic was the science of judgment. How shall we judge the science of AGW after years of a cooling trend?

    • Ordvic, our life’s experience and what we are taught shapes what we think. All of us, and this means everybody, have a tendency to discard that which doesn’t fit our preconceptions. And as the subject moves away from cold logic into the political arena (as this was driven by certain actors) then it does cause a hell of a lot more cognitive dissonance. I’ll give you an example in the medical field: up until about 20 years ago physicians believed the primary cause of gastric ulcers was high stomach acidity. Many physicians refused to accept the primary cause was a bacterium which reduces the mucous membrane’s ability to ward off the acid’s effect.

      Being a refugee from a communist dictatorship I had my mind shaped by what I experienced and suffered in that environment. This makes me have a sharpened perception to what I perceive as attacks on my personal freedom. It also leads me to write subtle (some say not so subtle) attacks against governments which abuse human rights. And it makes me somewhat intolerant towards people who wear a Che Guevara shirt, and things like that.

      What I’ve observed in the global warming brouhaha is a tendency by people to use the subject to peddle their political ideas. Go to any left wing newspaper written in any language and you’ll see articles and opinion pieces stating the “fight against global warming requires we do away with capitalism”. This of course is not a sensible idea.

      I’m not sure what right wing papers look like lately, because so many of them have taken such a neocon flavor, so I stopped reading them. However, I bet they would be a mirror image.

      • +1 Fernando Leanme ?;-)

      • Fernando,
        Thanks for the reasoned response to what I said. I think I understand why the left gravitated to climate change. They are always looking for emotional causes where they want to convince people that we should collectively do something about it. I also understand how this can lead the people in power to abuse of their power. They idealistic minions seem to either turn a blind eye to the real power and control motives of the governing few or are easily susceptible to their propaganda. I see similar problems with the right where the leaders take advantage of their supporters idealism. In my lifetime I’ve seen examples of both and an exponential growth of government often just waisting money and not really curing any of the problems. Now I don’t really like or trust either side. I have both progressive and conservative views depending on the issue but I don’t trust, or generally even like, any of the current crop of leaders. As I’ve grown older I have a more selfish view and mostly just look at what effects me personally. For instance I don’t like Obamacare as they are now forcing me to buy something I don’t need and can’t afford (I own a small business) or otherwise pay a penalty. I’ve pretty much given up on the system and I don’t vote.

        Conversely, I grew up (until age eight) in a mining town in northern Idaho. There was a stream that ran through the valley. It was grayish white from the mining tailings. It was known as lead creek by us locals. Several years later after we moved and before the Spokane Worlds Fair there was a chorus of need to clean it up and the silver and gold mines were mostly closed for market price reasons. When the market came back and the mines reopened they were more enviormentally responsible. The valley really benefited from the effort and was much more beautiful (it had also effected the flora of the valley). I found out some years later, however, that this pollution had severely effected Coeur d’Alene lake that is a big beautiful lake that was a highlight of my early life experience. They actually don’t even know how to remove this pollution and don’t know what the long term effects may be. Now I know in many communist countries there are plenty of examples of similar destruction, but this example is a good one regarding government regulations.

        Now we come to climate science and viewpoints and all the paradoxes of government and business and power and control come to the fore. For me personally I am just trying to understand the science first in as unbiased a manner as possible just to understand the magnitude of the problem. I am generally in favor of moving toward alternative energy anyway but I understand the economic impacts and possible harm to not only the poor but to everyone. I also don’t trust the government enough to see it actually solve the problem and as we’ve seen it just looks like another power grab. If CO2 is really as bad as they say then it really is a problem. OTOH even if some countries do do something probably most won’t so the problem won’t disappear and the doers will just be in an exercise of self flagellation with a big dose of government control and bureacracy to go with it. However it turns out what actually ends up happening seems to have high stakes and may shape more than just scientific or natural outcome.

  20. “Climate scientists” definitely need to reacquaint themselves with philosophy.

    Specifically, epistemology.

  21. Consensus climate scientists are as likely to be influenced by philosophers, as they have been influenced by statisticians. The science is settled and the grants are rolling in. They don’t need no silly egg head philosophers.

  22. Propose simple definitions:
    Scientists: Thinkers
    Engineers: Doers
    Philosophers: Dreamers

    Seems to me a lot of Climate Scientists have lost (or perhaps never had) the ability to think.

  23. The Big Bang, was all about using the God given space we had at that time and look where we have come to today. Scientists now think it was just a lucky break. That is not the way I read it. So simple some people just don’t get it. Just like it says.,

    • Except there was no space prior to the big bang.

      • We know that exactly how?

      • Because it’s a fundamental aspect of the theory. According to the theory, space and time came into existence along with the Big Bang. The “bang” described by the theory was not merely an explosion of matter. It was an explosion of space-time. If you rewound the space-time continuum to the point of the Big Bang, you wouldn’t be able to rewind any further because time didn’t exist before the Big Bang. Nothing did.

        Of course, that’s only true if you accept the model behind the Big Bang theory as is. Some people prefer to expand upon it, coming up with theories for how an existence outside time would be possible, and how it could have existed before the Big Bang. Richard Dawkins did that. That’s funny because there is no basis for any such idea, so the only reason to believe it is blind faith. You can’t accept the Big Bang and believe space existed prior to it without your view being as faith-based as any religion.

        Of course, you don’t have to accept the Big Bang model. A more sensible view some people advance is the Big Bang model is simply inaccurate as you rewind back to the singularity.

        The silly thing is most people ask, “What came before the Big Bang?” because of religious contexts. The truth is physical reality must be a closed system. Closed systems cannot speak to things outside of themselves. That means science can never hope to explain how existence came to exist. Science, by definition, will always be left puzzled as to what was the “first cause.” That proves science, by its very nature, can never fill certain explanatory roles of religion. It doesn’t matter what you say about the Big Bang.

      • “Of course, you don’t have to accept the Big Bang model.” Indeed, you can ignore it as having no bearing on how to lead a happy, harmonious life 13 billion (or whatever) years later. If there was a Big Bang start, did anything precede it? Don’t know, don’t care, no practical application.

      • David Springer

        Actually Brandon if you rewind the cosmos you get back to a singularity and our physics breaks down there.

        Time is an artifact of the law of entropy. No matter, no entropy, no time. The standard model breaks down at the point where density goes infinite so we can’t say there was a time when there was no time. We get to a point, literally, where all the time in the world was contained in a singularity.

        There is a lot of argument about what happens near the point where standard model breaks down. I’m more inclined to big bounce theory than big bang theory.


      • David Springer, I don’t know why you began your comment with the word actually. What you said is actually in line with what I said. Under the Big Bang theory, the singularity you describe is the beginning point of all space and time.

        As for the Big Bounce theory, that is a purely faith-based system. It’s like string theory in that lots of people have tried to come up with equations that could make sense if things were a certain way. They don’t even try to make testable claims. Most of the time, they don’t even try to use mathematically valid models. They just say, “The general idea works, so we’ll figure out the details later.”

        In other words, if you actually want to believe the Big Bounce is true (as opposed to just more likely than some other alternative), you need a lot of faith.

      • David Springer

        Brandon Shollenberger | July 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm |

        “David Springer, I don’t know why you began your comment with the word actually. What you said is actually in line with what I said. Under the Big Bang theory, the singularity you describe is the beginning point of all space and time.”

        No it isn’t. It’s the point where the standard model can no longer describe the evolution of space and time. There’s a difference between saying a thing doesn’t exist before some point and saying we don’t what exists before that point.

        Specifically the big bounce stipulates that quantum mechanics takes over from relativity and prevents the formation of a singularity. In that case space and time remains intact across oscillations.

      • David Springer:

        No it isn’t. It’s the point where the standard model can no longer describe the evolution of space and time. There’s a difference between saying a thing doesn’t exist before some point and saying we don’t what exists before that point.

        No. You’re misrepresenting what the the standard model says. According to the standard model, there was no before the Big Bang. One doesn’t have to accept that model is correct, but if one does, one must abide the limitations of that model. The only other option is to reject the model’s accuracy.

        Specifically the big bounce stipulates that quantum mechanics takes over from relativity and prevents the formation of a singularity. In that case space and time remains intact across oscillations.

        No it does not. You can’t simply pick one model of the Big Bounce and hold it as the only one. Only some proponents of the Big Bounce claim it prevents the formation of a singularity. Others say previous universes collapsed to a point beyond the singularity.

      • David Springer

        As usual you’re talking out of your ass instead of admitting a mistake. Your self-esteem must begin with a negative sign to be so insecure. I suggest you try reading the wikipedia article I linked which echoes every statement I made.

      • David Springer, resorting to lame derogatory remarks instead of actually arguing any points is pretty silly. It’s even more silly when the sole argument offered by you is:

        I suggest you try reading the wikipedia article I linked which echoes every statement I made.

        Yet that very link says:

        research in loop quantum cosmology purported to show that a previously existing universe collapsed, not to the point of singularity, but to a point before that

        Which is exactly in line with my comment:

        Only some proponents of the Big Bounce claim it prevents the formation of a singularity. Others say previous universes collapsed to a point beyond the singularity.

        A comment which you labeled as “talking out of [my] ass.”

      • In a torus that works along the lines of a twisted donut like a french cruller, are encaptioned many contrary yet mirrored thought about going around and coming around, the digestive system, mouth and ass, garbage in and garbage, etc. that seem like a springboard of opportunity to review the creation of the universe and rationally deduced conclusions that few other moments in time have frameworked quite so….


      • “cause ya are what ya eat, from yer head down to yer feet”.

      • “As usual you’re talking out of your ass …”

        Ouch.. Hate that when it happens.

      • “I suggest you try reading the wikipedia article I linked which echoes every statement I made.,
        Yes, wiki is the ultimate authority of course.

      • Hi R Gates,

        If you don’t mind my adding myself to the conversation, I would suggest the mathematics of Nassim Harimen, about a double torus universe, if changed to create a 3 axis universe tri phase torus, they are porbably at that point bang on, indicate a self recycling, self propelling, self balancing and “centers of slower entropy” will encase in a speres of diminishing lines of cracks in entropy. become when tri phased, to be spot on and then describe the nature of the shape of the hydrogen atom, the energy shells of atoms, and scales all the way up, explaining the existence of black holes, pulsars etc. His slightly transformed view and mathematics seem visually to exactly match visually, the mathematics of the universal gravity wave, it considered to be also a minature inverse “pull” of a universal “resulting” standing wave as the esence of all motion and energy transfer. Kind of like a universal average barycenter to orbital shape of the hydrogen atom cage, being “shuggled” in three dimensions by the averaged out average center of universal “resistance” to, or “acceleration with” that average jiggle. This defines local average and system energy levels, relative to their sphere of magnetism and rotation against their trajectory in the “averaged out” difference between the two average standing fields.

        I doubt the big bang. Nassim put it nicely, where then did the desire of an entire universes worth of mass to rotate at such velocity come from if the mas was previously spinning it wouldn’t have compacted. If it was not, there would be no need for a big bang to create angular momentum, unless as a result of an inherent internal discord of center of mass of universal existence, within the big bang sphere, which would then suggest a phase change in the center and speed of existence. like the center or duo-center of all galaxys. (see the cloud of heavy charge above and below the milky way. Miles mathis may have appropriate math to prove why that should exist.) If we see the universe, then as a phase changing rotating collection of mass anyways, take a step further, and see the universal french cruller.

        This shape will self replicate. Since all, friction is a manifestation of balance of entropy, the shape does not need to expand or contract in its entirety. It has many alternating and accelerated spheres of change of speed of existence.

        If we do stretch to see the universe this way, it does lead to a realization that our perception of the universe is limited by our flow within the “roil” and the proportion of gravity we have will affect the limitation of perceiving past a certain size of future without extrapolation and ripple deciphering of the microwave background radiation signal, I don’t think. Limit age of perception. Not age of existence of the medium.

        I think.

        With all due respect the nature of offering opinios of relative information related in a public forum of public exchange.

        On the topic of climate cause and Mr. Springer being a now settled conversation, in our agreed regards to my opinion anyways, not his own, which may continued unhindered on the opinion of climate cause without comment.


    • Ephesians 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;)

  24. The philosophy of Capitalism is the crowning achievement of humans. Perhaps it’s only flaw is the need for infinite growth on a finite planet.

  25. Once upon a time there were Shamans and Witches and they Knew the World. The People believed because they knew no other source for Knowledge; they had faith in Magic.

    But then language was invented and so the shamans and witches became Natural Philosophers who Knew the World. They invented Logic, Mathematics, Physical Science, and Rhetoric. Their knowledge was impressive and many of the People believed. They had faith in Philosophers. They had less faith in Shamans and Witches who still practiced their Magic.

    Next came the Enlightenment and Philosopher-Scientists invented the Scientific Method. The new Men (and Women) of Science made many discoveries, and they Knew the World. And many of the People believed. Still less believed in Shamans and Witches who continued to practice their Magic.

    Next came Specialization and Scientists became Chemists, Physicists, Mathematicians, Geologists, Botanists, Zoologists, and there became a plethora of specialties. And the Specialty Scientists made many discoveries and thought they could Change the World. So most of the People were impressed and believed. They had faith in the many Sciences and Scientists. Yet, the Shamans and Witches still practiced their Magic. Philosophers studied Logic and became a Curiosity.

    Next came a wave of Sub-specializations Chemists divided themselves into many varied specialist fields, as did all the other Specialty Scientists who became Sub-specialists in their many fields. They made even more discoveries and demonstrated great, detailed Knowledge of the World. Those who demonstrated and applied Sciences were called Engineers. And the People were impressed and believed. They had faith in all the New Sciences and Engineering fields. And the Philosophers, not to be outdone, also began to specialize and became Arcane. The Shamans and Witches continued to practice Magic but few of the People paid attention.

    Today, the Specialty Scientists continue to specialize, make impressive discoveries, and claim they can Change the World. They leave the details to the many fields of Engineering. And the People are sometimes impressed but sometimes confused. The language(s) the Specialty Scientists use have so many Big Words that few of the People understand. But most continue to have faith in the many Specialty Sciences and Scientists. And still the Shamans and Witches practice their Magic and more of the People are coming to believe in Magic again. Few pay attention to Arcane Philosophers who are considering becoming Shamans and Witches.

    The point of this story is that much of the discussions on this blog fall along two opposite philosophical points of view: Reductionism/ specialization vs Holism/ intuition/multi-disciplinary approaches to knowledge. Since the Enlightenment, Reductionism has been dominant – and for good reason: excellent results. This is true in all Science and Engineering fields; specialization is the norm and it attracts the money to solve problems, as discussed here. Yet complex systems such as Climate demand at least some degree of Holism if only under the guise of multi-discipline approaches.

    Holistic analyses are usually carried out by individuals who (today) are viewed as crack-pots and charlatans (Shamans and Witches) by the Establishment. It claims the epistemological high ground by virtue of the many successes of Reductionistic Science. This is a powerful argument, but then all theoretical science is subject to eventual review and change.

    Both Reductionists and Holists should return to original Philosophy for reflection. Aristotle or perhaps Thoreau. Think Walden Pond, but try not to think about the weather. There are good articles on both in Wikipedia.

    A character of my favorite author (Heinlein) said that specialization is for insects. I think he’s right. Full quote:

    “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.” R. A. Heinlein

    I haven’t tried ‘Dying Gallantly’ yet, but no doubt the poison-tipped spears will be coming…

    • Cirque, that’s very interesting material you write. In some fields specialization can be a serious handicap. I’ve had to layout career training and development programs for professionals working in a very competitive environment, and my strategy involved diversification. Some had to be pushed extremely hard. And some were placed so they could specialize and be less useful in the overall scheme of things, because not everybody has that wide spectrum curiosity which serves us so well.

  26. Steven Mosher

    philosophy is the queen of the sciences.

    • How do science historians rate?

      • the actual physical length of the liguid in the tube. is the raw data.

        Actually, the real raw data is the pattern of light entering the scientist’s eye(s). There are built-in neural preconceptions that filter what the mind perceives, long before scientific preconceptions can get hold of the “raw data”.

        e.g. What if there was a shadow across the thermometer, and the scientists didn’t measure the location of the meniscus, but another line their eye mistook for it?

      • Steven Mosher:

        I know you are joking. But still I would say that however the human has read the thermometer AND recorded the data – that is what is defined as the raw data.

        See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meniscus for a discussion of how a human is supposed to read a thermometer. We assume the person reading the thermometer is doing it correct and we assume the temperature recorded is not recorded in error. There is no way to correct for that (other than having multiple people take measurements and record the data).

        So the raw data is the recorded observation.

        From there we are modeling the data – I agree – but the raw data is not what the temperature actually read (because how can we tell that) – but what the human taking the temperature recorded. Otherwise what is called RAW data is not.

    • Possibly, if you mean flamboyantly campy then I will half agree with you.
      I you are not attempting to be funny, I will ask you to share with the class just what you mean by RAW data again

      • Steven Mosher

        Raw data. depends on the context.

        Lets take a thermometer reading.

        There is a LIG thermometer. Liguid expands in a glass tube.
        the observer comes to observe.

        the actual physical length of the liguid in the tube. is the raw data.

        The observer, records a number on the paper by looking at the device
        IF he follows the procedure, we are not there to observe him do this,
        IF he follow the proceedure he will “round” the result.
        sometimes he will round correctly, sometimes not.

        So the very first thing he writes down has been changed by a procedure.

        In fact the number he writes down is it the result of a procedure done while constructing the thermometer. It is not ‘the length of liguid’ but rather represents “temperature” given a whole series of asssumptions.

        so the raw data would be the property the device displays or shows.
        It’s a length of liquid. By applying procedures and assumptions to this, a number is observed next to the liquid and IF the observer follows the procedure he will ’round’ this number and write it down.
        in writing it down he may of course make a mistake. Later other people may correct it. At some point it may be copied again from hand written to typed format. Again with untracable changes. Then it might be keyed into a database. At this point someone may call it “Raw” later someone else
        may take that same data base and perform another operation on the data and label it adjusted.

        However, from start to end the data has been adjusted, re typed, rounded, corrected, copied, adulterated. And there is often no chain of custody.

        So if what we mean by “raw” is the data untainted by human decisions, what the device actually showed, we dont get that. what we have regardless of the name applied is data that has been “changed” by a human being or procedure.

        One approach to take is to make a simple practical decision.
        If the meta data for the data declares that it is adjusted. Then one can choose to trust this description. Recall metadata can be wrong as well.

        If the metadata declares that the data is raw, then one can choose to believe that. If the metadata says nothing. then you might choose to hold that data out.

        In any event at any point you draw the line you will be making a mistake
        The question is how sensitive is your answer to this choice.

        If you get really skeptical, at the bottom, you’ll question the whole notion of raw data and you will see that all you can do is make choices and compare the results of various choices.

        Of course, you can avoid having to write all this and just call it ‘raw’
        which means.. no metadata indicated it was adjusted.

        Thats a choice. an analytical choice. you can test how the answer changes when you vary this choice.

        Answer: the answer doesnt change.

      • the actual physical length of the liguid in the tube. is the raw data.

        Actually, the real raw data is the pattern of light entering the scientist’s eye(s). There are built-in neural preconceptions that filter what the mind perceives, long before scientific preconceptions can get hold of the “raw data”.

        e.g. What if there was a shadow across the thermometer, and the scientists didn’t measure the location of the meniscus, but another line their eye mistook for it?

      • k scott denison

        I see that pedantic Mosher is out in force.

        How about this: the raw observations are what Doc is interested in.

        By the way, IMO Mosher’s pedantic rant argues for the case that the data isn’t nearly good enough to use for any type of computation of a “global mean temperature”, which, by the way, is neither global nor a mean.

        So why not be a bit more accurate in your description of what it is that BEST estimates?

      • Doc
        Keep pushing for raw data. I.e Special Meteorological Summaries, for instance July 1950 for Portland Or. with hourly temperatures, read 40 min before the hour and 6 hourly observations of sky cover, pressure, and wind.

        Then one may take the t max and t min at one point or average all the termperatures for the day or night. At that point one can start making adjustments as long as the original data is preserved.

        Wow, what a concept for raw data.

      • Steve, I have looked at a few sites and your raw on BEST does not match the temperatures on the state logs that have been signed off at the end of the year.
        Frankly, the data you use as ‘raw’ has already had about 0.1 degrees added over 50 years.

  27. Do you believe the politicians who claim unelected bureaucrats can stop global warming?

    Anyone can answer because no knowledge of science is required. Global warming has become a question of philosophy. “The suspicion is in the air nowadays that the superiority of one of our formulas to another may not consist so much in its literal ‘objectivity,’ as in subjective qualities like its usefulness, its ‘elegance,’ or its congruity with our residual beliefs.” (William James)

  28. Contemporary ”climatology” is not science, but a religion – they shouldn’t involve the philosophers! ”Climatologist” should talk to the deniers regarding the ”normal” climatic changes, AND: how the planet earth is getting cooled: http://globalwarmingdenier.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/cooling-earth/

  29. “The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.”

    I agree with the last paragraph of the post. They didn’t want to think so much about what they were doing. They say it’s numbers and equations describing physical processes and some marketing. What one is supposed to be doing is a different question, and I don’t think that includes throwing Christy out. When one thinks they have taken up an altruistic cause there’s lots of question that need to asked on an ongoing basis. Are we really doing some good? Are we doing the most efficient thing. If we aren’t meeting our expectations, why is that? Are we doing things in a way that is consistent with our own personal code?

  30. I like Nancy Cartwright a lot. Philosophy of Science, specializing in Physics and Economics. The last decade she’s been particularly interested in the intersection between basic research and policy evaluation, and the different epistemic demands of those two things. Here’s a taste:


    …but that’s paywalled. However, drafts are available…


    • Nat, excellent talk by Cartwright, lots of food for thought, thanks.


      • You are most welcome. She’s one of the world-class phil. sci. people and I’ve learned a lot from her. She gives precise shape to lots of knowledge matters that have bugged me over the years. That is a way philosophy helps.

  31. I have a hard time getting worked up about dismissive statements from egotists. Much of what NeilDegrasse Tyson says on a whole host of issues tells us much more about him than about the object of his pontification du jour. Same with Stephen Hawking.

    It was one form of philosophy, theology, that gave rise to the western university and the scientific method. Without “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,” we wouldn’t have pop star ‘scientists” who confuse their own political and philosophical opinions for objective, scientific truth. They’d be busy trying to eke out a living like every other serf in the world.

    When someone says they disdain philosophy, or ideology, or morality, what they mean is they disdain everyone’s but their own.

  32. Just a short note: Arthur Pedersen actually is a philosopher AND climate scientist by training. He owns PhD’s in both fields, which is quite unique, as far as I know.

  33. Philosophy is more than a field of study and accrued knowledge. Like culture, it becomes a set of character traits we wear like comfortable clothes, informing our thoughts, reactions and other beliefs.

    Investigating this second definition of philosophy might yield interesting results in the context of discussions on climate change.

  34. Since we’re on the topic, check this out: http://www.ted.com/talks/david_chalmers_how_do_you_explain_consciousness

    • I will watch it. Wonder if he’s related to Alan Chalmers who
      wrote, ‘What is this thing called science?’ I am perhaps clan –
      related to them both – Beth Chalmers Cooper. :)

    • This is exactly the kind of thing that drives brain researchers nut; theories of the mind are just like anuses, everyone has got one.

  35. To heck with explaining it. I’m waiting on instructions on how to achieve it.

  36. Judith wrote:
    “Most of climate science is in ‘shut up and calculate’ mode. This is a very dangerous place to be given the substantial uncertainties, ignorance and areas of disagreement, not to mention the problems/failures of climate models.”

    I have to say that this is the most succinct and damning summary of the failure of ‘consensus’ climate science I have yet seen. Thanks, Judith!

    On the philosophy side, I find the work of the classic and enlightenment philosophers very interesting. Pretty much all of the post-WWII stuff I’ve read seems to devolve into arguing over the semantics of language. I’d agree with those who think philosophy has got stuck in a pretty deep rut. I think scientists and rational thinkers need to be very aware of the basics of philosophy, but I can’t see modern philosophers bringing anything much of value to the problems science is currently trying to solve.

    • In fact Judith, your comment spurred me on to finish a blog post I have been working on for a while.
      The point I make is that the mistake underlying much of what is wrong with the IPCC-backed science is a determination to do science, whatever science comes to hand, with the flawed data and methods that are available. Problems with the quality of raw temperature data are ignored, problems with GCMs that don’t work are ignored, the fact that temperature alone isn’t even the right parameter to work with is ignored. Exactly as people see faces in random patterns that just aren’t there, the urge to make sense of what you see is too strong. Backed up, of course, by the urge to shout down anyone who points out the problems in what you are doing.

  37. I highly recommend Bertrand Russell as an antidote to obuscatory gabblers. One of the clearest writers ever.

  38. And he could certainly spell obfuscatory.

  39. One of the (possible) valuable outcomes of philosophy that Wittgenstein tried to get at, e.g., was the examination of speech and the structuring of thought and their effects on what could be understood, and how. It is necessary to keep in mind what an astronomer (Eddington) said, “The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.”

  40. I did Philosophy as an undergraduate at Manchester where the late Dorothy Emmet was professor (along with Arthur Prior who invented Tense Logic). Dorothy told me that Robert Bolt the playwright had studied there and once, when he returned to visit, she asked him what he had got from Philosophy.He said “It taiught me to expect a standard or argument”. Just so.

  41. I doubt talking would do much of anything. Listening might help.

    • +1. Especially if you want a date with the philosopher.

      • “NW commented on Why scientists should talk to philosophers.
        in response to captdallas2 0.8 +/- 0.2:
        I doubt talking would do much of anything. Listening might help. ”

        “+1. Especially if you want a date with the philosopher.”
        =+1 as well

  42. “Most of climate science is in ‘shut up and calculate’ mode.”

    This is a nonsensical claim if ever there was one. Most of “climate science” is expert conclusion with very little proof or empirical evidence to back the claims. As for being divorced from “philosophy” this is even more absurd. “Consensus” climate science is engulfed in hardened left-wing ideology as a rule, that is nothing but “philosophy”. Never in history has a “hard” science illusion been so one sided and steep in green/Neo-Marxist culture and passed off to a public with the assistance of a partisan left media and “education” super support structure.

    As it has been exposed the proliferation of data and spaghetti charts of all types as a response doesn’t mask the reality. Climate science was/is a philosophy (political) directive that will lay waste to any historic science standard in its way. That the disease spreads to many other facets of reasoning and other fields of science is no surprise at all. That’s the nature of social decline and rotting.

  43. I wish you folks would quite confusing left wing with fascism. Just because some people say they are socialists, or left wingers, or liberal progressives doesn’t mean they are. You question everything else they say–why not question their labels for themselves?

    • “I know what you say, but what do you do?

    • Tom Fuller,

      Fascism is absolutely a creature of the political left wing. That reality has just been air brushed from history, as thoroughly as has the long, institutionalized, racist history of the Democrat Party.

      Fascism does not just refer to Germany, Italy and Japan in the 30s and 40s. Economically, it is about private ownership and state control of the means of production. Which should sound familiar to anyone living in the EU or US as the goal of our current progressive governments.

      Mussolini began as a Marxist, but decided over time it was best to enlist the aid of the capitalist owners of industry. He allowed them to make their profits, as long as they obeyed the state on economic policy. And the state maintained control.

      Jeffrey Imelt understands how that works.

      You know how often you progressives talk about the wonders of state run capitalism? Pointing out the “successes” of China in particular? Open your minds just a millimeter or two, and tell me the difference between state run capitalism and economic fascism?

      Capitalism – private ownership and private control of the economy. Liberty is the primary goal.

      Socialism – state ownership and state control of the means of production. Control is the primary goal.

      Fascism – private ownership and state control of the means of production. Control is still the primary goal but with the profit motive allowed to exist for a somewhat more efficient economy.

      State run capitalism – see Fascism.

      Fascism also belongs on the left because it never stops at government control of the economy. Such centralization of power leads inevitably to the government seizing ever more power over other aspects of the people’s lives. Witness the increasing attacks on free speech and free exercise of religion throughout the west. We have thought crimes and speech codes increasingly prevalent in western society. Political speech in particular was criminalized in the US, for sole purpose of protecting incumbents (and signed into law by a Republican president).

      Fascism is an epithet thrown around most commonly by the very progressives who are hell bent in reinstituting the system in the west. It would be nice if more of them actually understood the word. If the frog in the pot ever learns the real purpose of that knob he keeps turning upon request of the cook, he might stop being so obedient.

      • Gary, your response is remarkably reflexive–really, I know the history of that period quite well. I know how the Nationalist Socialist Party got its name and why. Thugs draped themselves in a red flag and cruised to power.

        Do you want to criticize the red flag or the thugs?

      • Varieties of Fascism by Eugen Weber compares and
        discusses the fundamental similarities and differences
        between Fascist, National Socialist, Communist and
        Socialist movements, with numerous primary document
        readings. Each political movement shares a commitment
        to strong centralism and extending the state monopolist
        organization of industry and finance.


    • While my response sits in moderation Purgatory (I wonder if I could buy some indulgences from the IPCC?), I came across this article at National Review Online that covers some of the same points.


      “My colleague Jonah Goldberg has labored mightily in the task of illustrating the similarities between old-school fascist thinking and modern progressive thinking on matters political and social, but it is on economic questions that contemporary Democrats and vintage fascists are remarkably alike. In fact, their approaches are for all intents and purposes identical….”

      • there is nothing new under the sun. indeed.

      • Fine, fine. Ignore the real world examples of the Scandinavian countries whose citizens have better lives than those there in the US and here in China. Real social concerns shared by a population lead to good things.

    • nottawa rafter

      Left Wing thought police and obsessive political correctness is ever bit as fascist as anything in the 20th century. It is sold euphemistically as seeking a caring society but the tactics line up nicely with those used for more nefarious purposes.

  44. stevefitzpatrick

    Nah, It is a dominant philosophy (Malthusian) which corrupts and biases climate science. This does not happen in most other scientific fields. Get the philosophy out and keep the science in if you want to escape the ‘science is settled’ mode of thinking.

  45. It seems to me the debate is becoming muddled because of semantics. ‘Philosophy’ from my Webster’s:

    • the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline. See also natural philosophy.
    • a particular system of philosophical thought: Schopenhauer’s philosophy.
    • the study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience: the philosophy of science.
    • a theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behavior: don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed, that’s my philosophy.

    It seems to me that Dr. Curry is referring to the first definition. Perhaps this discipline should be capitalized: Philosophy; then Philosophers practice this discipline. Philosophers may be Wacky, but then the Government is (probably) not paying their mortgages, so are (probably) more Trustworthy.

    Judith, I look forward to your work with the Rotman Institute; seems like they have some Philosophers grounded in Reality. I hope you find Truth.

  46. Paul Maeder

    The practice of science has been one of the most remarkable human achievements, yet I wonder if it is already passing away. There have been many comments on this blog regarding the rise of post modern science and much fear that such thinking spells the end of science. The possibility that Science (purposely capitalized) is a way of thinking specific to a certain era or culture and may come to an end is one that should be seriously considered, and that lies in the realm of philosophy. As a starting point, I recommend Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West.

  47. “Most of climate science is in ‘shut up and calculate’ mode.”

    Most of climate science is in “fudge you calculations until you get the philosophically desired result” mode.

  48. Climate Science:

    20+ years and billions of dollars and still can’t get the philosophy right.


    • 20+ years and billions of dollars and still :

      fitting straight lines to everything.
      extrapolating said straight lines.
      distorting data with running means
      doing linear regression on scatter plots and getting the wrong slope.
      “correcting” data to get the right answers.

      Never mind the fancy philosophy stuff, most of them still seem to be stuck at high school science.

  49. For those scientists who view philosophy as insufficiently rigorous, please take a few days and tackle Alvin Plantinga’s fine piece: “Where the conflict really lies”. It may change your views on both philosophy and science.


    • Steven Mosher

      Good another Plantinga fan
      I would suggest that folks read everything they can by Plantinga.

      While I didnt study with him (when he taught at Calvin(), I did have occasion
      to sit in on some of his classes when I was on break. Brilliant.

    • Is naturalism when you take off all your clothes and play volleyball with dusky young maidens, or am I thinking of something else?

  50. I disagree. Scientists should engage in ditch digging, auto mechanics, plumbing and carpentry. Bloody knuckles are the best teachers.

  51. Lubos Motl had a dissenting post on Sean Carroll , saying among other things:

    The philosophical approach remains tightly linked with the human language which has been getting, is getting, and will be getting increasingly inadequate as a language to accurately describe Nature. Philosophers almost always fail to appreciate that their language is rooted in assumptions that have been proven wrong which has made almost all their questions ill-defined and almost all their answers misguided.

    • Obviously what we are seeing play out here is far more than a re-writing of history and the corruption of science and abdication of the scientific method. At this point is ‘science’ — as an institution not a discipline — really up to the task of reclaiming its dignity in this generation? Has English been turned into a liar’s language in this society?

  52. Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist, more than Gauss! (Einstein)

  53. “When I became too stupid to do mathematics, I did philosophy, and when I became too stupid to do philosophy, I did politics.”
    Bertrand Russel

  54. Craig Loehle

    My recent foray into philosophy of science:
    Loehle, C. 2011. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Current Trends in Ecology 2:75-81.
    where I discuss the fact that a theory may not necessarily be easily tested, that facts can be ambiguous, etc. I have written several others.

  55. Scientists ARE talking to philosophers. The philosophers just aren’t listening.

    The scientists are those who build models of the real world with predictive power.

    The philosophers are those who practice the five tenets of (1) Falsification, (2) Peer-review and publication, (3) Counting Type II errors while ignoring Type I errors, (4) Validate by community consensus, and (5) Tune their models to produce social payoffs.

    The latter are Popperists, members of a school of philosophy, and practitioners of Post Modern Science. In laying out these principles, Science Philosopher Karl Raimund Popper (1902–1994) deliberately removed Cause & Effect, while famously proclaiming that “definitions do not matter”. His school covers the pro-AGW climatologists.

    Instead of listening, AGW Popperists comically tag scientists as “skeptics”, thinking that’s a pejorative instead of a virtue.

  56. Pingback: Scientists And Philosophers | Transterrestrial Musings

  57. Curious George

    There were times when philosophy was a queen of sciences: philosophers believed that everything could be discovered simply by thinking.

    These times are known as Dark Ages.

    • … philosophy was popular in the Golden Age of Greece too along with heavy infantry armed with long spears and short swords.

  58. “those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t teach, teach gym.”

    I’d always heard that as “those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t teach, teach in universities.”

    I guess he put his physique into the mix and decided to mock those who looked remotely fit.

  59. Schrodinger's Cat

    I cannot think of a single reversal in policy achieved by sceptics (UK spelling) or even a major change in scientific understanding of our climate proposed by sceptics and accepted by all.

    Yet, I do feel that the active presence of sceptics has had the effect of a brake on the momentum of the more alarmist faction of the global warming movement.

    To be fair, Mother Nature (MN) currently seems to be more on the side of the sceptics. This could change at any time, in either direction.

    This poses a number of questions. Has MN out classed the sceptics in curbing the excesses of alarmists? Perhaps the sceptics have had some success, for example, claims of worse tropical storms would be pounced on by sceptics brandishing the actual data trends. So, by acting as watchdog, some of the unsubstantiated alarmist claims are not made, or quickly attacked.

    MN may, in fact, have a greater role than given credit for. Natural feedbacks, solar activity, the changing strength of solar UV emission, the modulation of cosmic radiation all suggest that MN may actually control our climate to a much greater degree than the climate scientists assumed. MN appears to have conjured up the pause, a feat that has so far been more powerful than the omnipotent carbon dioxide.

    One might think that this possibility would be like a welcome miracle to the followers of Gaia. The Greens and eco-activists would love it.

    You know the answer as well as I do. Sceptical scientific interpretation of this natural process we call climate (aka MN) is the work of the Devil. Computer model output is the true faith and the only truth. Observations of MN, Gaia or whatever you want to call it is but a temporary aberration.

    Mother Nature has been replaced by a more credible digital algorithm.

    Have I got this about right? It does seem a bit bizarre. Perhaps I need to lie down in a darkened room for a while or am I thinking of psychiatry rather than philosophy?

    • I’ll ask my almost-18 tawny long-haired feline to move over on my lap and make room for you. Might make key-boarding even more difficult, though.

    • In a sense you are right. Skeptics are only talking to the public.

      Imperial Academia / Imperial Presidency — these are symptoms of a simple reality: the counterculture of the 60s in now the mainstream. Politicians like Al Gore, for example (elected to public office in ’77) are the norm.

      Global Warming is a political not a scientific issue. So, AGW will be reality for as long as the politics don’t change. And, I doubt the politics are going to change anytime soon. When they do we’ve learned from this example that change will be fast and deep –e.g., quicker than Eurocommunism in dead and dying old Europe because we can’t look to anyone else to prop us up.

    • “I cannot think of a single reversal in policy achieved by sceptics (UK spelling) or even a major change in scientific understanding of our climate proposed by sceptics and accepted by all.”

      +1 (except in, where co2-climate-thought-evolution “seems” to go counter-clockwise)

    • David Springer

      Schrodinger’s Cat | July 17, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Reply

      “I cannot think of a single reversal in policy achieved by sceptics”

      Skeptics prevented ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the United States which is probably the single most damaging thing to ever happen to global warming hysterics.

      • Agreed David and the irony about this is that the US has indeed cut its emissions far more than most Kyota Protocol ratifiers but that was probably due to the GFC.

  60. In many instances, the predictive sciences are attempting to define what one might call a “99.9% of the time truth”. Everyone seems to want 100% certainty, or on the other side these days says everything is relative and that there are no “truths”.

    If one drops an apple with no wind, is it going to fall toward the center of the earth? Well … almost 100% of the time the answer is a predictable yes. But what if a meteor hits a mile away at the same time the apple is dropped. This brings the certainty down from 100%, but the “99.9%” prediction by we humble humans is very usable … and has been very important to the advancement of humankind.

    The great problem with Climate Science is that some mediocre scientists stole the show … and are saying that we can predict something well that we just have not. Certainly, it is not predicted to this 99.9% level … and yet they allow the mainstream media and politicians to characterize their work or flat out quote them that they have good proof of future climate events and their cause.

    Over time we do define and predict within the “99.9%” truth, and this is really one of the most useful parts, if not the most useful part, of science for society. When we get to that level of understanding, then we often use engineering because the natural science figured out gradually over generations in the past has become so certain (but not 100%) that it is dependable.


  61. Ironically, I find most useful that corner of philosophy praising science while also seeking to grasp its downstream often distorted paths during use, communication, dissemination and the like: veritistic social epistemology.

  62. 97% of all philosophers are skeptics.

  63. There are issues related to science, where philosophers can contribute significantly, but their help should not be needed on the issues mentioned in the opening post and elsewhere in this thread as far as have noticed. Competent scientists should are able to manage all those points without any help from philosophers, while non-competent cannot take advantage of such help.

  64. Schrodinger's Cat

    Pekka – Sounds like a comment from inside the climate bubble.

  65. Just a thought: Science would not exist if there was no order in the world. Is order the only possible condition for the world? Couldn’t there have been a world without order? No Newton’s Laws, etc.?

    • No. Order is everywhere you look, even in chaotic systems such as climate, there seems to be patterns that can be investigated and various hypotheses can be drawn.

  66. Michael Larkin

    Surprising how much philistinism we have on this thread: one wonders if some have actually studied any philosophy. Metaphysics is one interesting area, but the surprising thing is that many scientists aren’t aware that modern science is based on the *metaphysics* of materialism, which may or may not be true, but is certainly not yet (will it ever be?) based on irrefutable empirical evidence. Even a quite cursory familiarity with philosophy would show this to be so.

    Ah well, it’s easier to be intellectually lazy and assert that philosophers are little more than tongue-flappers arguing about angels on pinheads without bothering to consider what they actually say. The best of them are at least as intellectually capable, and often more grounded in reality, as the best scientists. But then again, many of the best scientists are in fact philosophically inclined.

    • +1 – Pascal, Descartes and Newton come to mind. Scientists tend to rest in their “dogmatic slumbers” (Kant).

    • The “P” word, it’s humanity’s oldest profession. Task: Discern reality whilst being a sucker for illusion.

      We get seduced by the beautiful description. (Hence Wittgenstein’s warning …)

  67. Here’s what will get the attention of the phony, ideologically driven consensus;


    Complete political refutation. Intuitively, most people know it was a sham left over from the 60’s. Rejecting climate change philosophy is a growth niche for the GOP.

  68. FIXing the energy requirement problem significantly would make the climate cause debate moot.

    Allowing engineers to shine, at the end of the day.

    Being the ones that get it done, make it real. Deciding the debate between climatology and physics, like a parent being patient with squabbling kids..

    • David Springer

      Didn’t you promise to find a different blog to pollute with your asinine rambling?

  69. Fix the energy source issue, then physicists, philosophers, and climatologists will all have to bow to the engineers who being balance to the mix. The superior methodology of maximum visual absorption, ability to relate and meld patterns, in their dreams, and then tamper it with the actual most relevant needs of society as a whole and provide the convenience that spurs mankind to the next level of capability. There is no point in waiting for God to decide the issue, or for a superman to come from another planet, and quietly sit amongst us listening to our petty fears and squabbles, before revealing himself as the red blue blur and saving the world.

    We need the under recognized and under rewarded powers of the engineer. The Scotty in the crowd that listens to the idealists, the emotionalists, the politician full of promised hope and recognized need for human sacrifice, if necessary.

    And then in the back room is Scotty. The one guy who listens to everyone, gets the least billing, and is the one who actually always has to be included in the “getting it done”. They don’t get anywhere without him, they have no power to do anything without him. They can never pull off the heroic escape, or the desparate fight with gravity or time, or need for transparent aluminum, without good old Scotty. Even when he’s aged and pot bellied, and talking into a mouse cause he doesn’t adapt to immediate surroundings of inferior technology that quickly, you still see him pull it off.

    Be the unsung hero. The one riding the crest of “delivering miracles of accomplishment on a regular basis” and preparing to “pull of the desparately needed, last minute miracle” to save the day.

    Scotty always reluctantly agrees while complaining about resources. But he also listens, and buries his head when needed and 100% comes up with enough of the answer enough of the time, to be amongst the long term survivors, and have pulled the maximum amount of people possible away from the brink of death with him. Over and over again.

    So perhaps the Scottys and Professor Browns and the Howards and the Leonards and the Peters and the Iron Men of the world will be the actual and real heroes, again as they often have.???

  70. I’m not following the reasoning here. Natural philosophers, who build the basic fundamentals through rational thought and mathematics, have already provided the foundations for understanding climate. Fundamentals far, far more basic and far, far beyond the Climate Science standard hypothesis of a steady-state, radiative-energy transport equilibrium. The fundamentals, of course, contain this exceedingly simple case in a limit.

    The top down work has already been done for one to three centuries, more or less. I doubt that modern-day natural philosophers can improve on these foundations. No, not doubt, I’ll say flatly that modern-day natural philosophers will not improve on the foundations. It’s always storage, transport, conversions, and exchanges for mass, momentum, and energy for each system-response function of interest, for each sub-system. Always will be.

    Implementation of the basic fundamentals into tools to be used for getting a better understanding climate, and maybe for decision support, however, is a different matter. An altogether different matter of the greatest magnitude.

    What is needed is a bottom up approach to implementation. From the very bottom. Like for example, What are the system response functions needed for; (1) gaining better understanding of the total system, (2) for decision support. For each system response function, what are the critically important physical phenomena and processes in each subsystem that must be included into the implementation. Which physical phenomena and processes can be treated in a rough manner and not adversely affect the system response functions? Is a useful tractable formulation possible. & Etc.

    Having made these maps between the physical domain and our requirements, deep follow-on work down into each of the following domains is required: (1) the continuous-equations domain, (2) the discrete-approximation domain, (3) numerical solution methods domain, including Verification, (4) software domain, (5) application domain for each system response function, including Validation, (6) user domain, again for each response function.

    Generally, within (1) domain experts are needed for each of the physical phenomena and process in each of the sub-systems. And, again generally, domain experts are needed for each of (2) through (6).

    These procedures have been successfully applied to many inherently complex, wicked problems in several application arenas. Continued top down looking at the whole will not lead to a new, simple theory of climate. Careful focus on the response functions and the nitty-gritty aspects of the pieces parts will lead to success. If useful tractable problems can be formulated; an issue that needs some consideration given present-day computing power.

    • Curious George

      The problem is a quality of data – and possibly of people. Zeke Hausfather posted an article on temperature adjustments on this blog on July 7. He claims that to incorporate today’s temperature data we have to “adjust” the whole history. Am I the only one who does not believe it is necessary? George Orwell comes to mind.

      In this setting, a measurement of any response function is a hopeless task.

    • The reasoning is a desire to involve holistic type process in climate science.

    • ‘Sensitive dependence and structural instability are humbling twin properties for chaotic dynamical systems, indicating limits about which kinds of questions are theoretically answerable. They echo other famous limitations on scientist’s expectations, namely the undecidability of some propositions within axiomatic mathematical systems (Gödel’s theorem) and the uncomputability of some algorithms due to excessive size of the calculation.’ http://www.pnas.org/content/104/21/8709.full

      There is nothing new to be discovered in climate now? All that remains is more and more precise measurement?

      Palpable and laughable nonsense.

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  72. Philosophers have a bigger picture than science types can use, unless it’s philosophy of science guys like Popper, who themselves are out of it.

    I wonder what a science guy would make of Wittgenstein or Derrida or Cavell.

    Searle made a living out of misunderstanding Austin, and is sort of sciencey.

    • > Searle made a living out of misunderstanding Austin, and is sort of sciencey.

      I’d like to know a bit more about that, pretty please with some sugar on it.

      • Austin took metaphysics as morally corrupt., supplying a way out of ordinary obligations. The ordinary for Austin is primary.

        Searle did a metaphysics of performatives.

      • Let’s try a more precise question:


        Is there a misunderstanding in that article?

      • Look at “What Did Derrida Want of Austin?” and the following seminar in Stanley Cavell _Philosophical Passages_”, which has a bit on Searle taking over Austin’s work.

        Later in _A Pitch of Philosophy_ in the middle section Cavell goes into Austin but nothing much on Searle, whose explications of Austin do not enter in. Searle is everywhere confident, Austin tentative and experimental. That tentativeness is the point. The ordinaryis what rules, but you have to listen for it. It’s an anti-metaphysical voice.

        Amusing early Cavell chacterization of the encounter of Searle and Derrida, “the studied indecorousness of Derrida’s reply to the sheer dismissiveness of Searle’s reply…” (p.58)

      • Thank you for the references, rhhardin. I’ll try to look them up.

        That Searle disputed many things in Austin does not imply Searle misunderstood Austin. It’s quite possible, though, as there are many precedents in the discipline. If he did, perhaps Strawson, Searle’s teacher, would have frowned.

        Creating a more systematic outlook than a piecemeal Austinian would may need to come at a price. Simplifying reduces information. What’s quite clear is that Searle stands on the side of a correspondantist conception of truth, which leads to a Realism-with-a-big-R. But this is as much of a feature or Searle’s philosophy than a buggy reading of Austin.

  73. Judith, I appreciate your intuition for going back to philosophers on this. The problem has been fundamental outstanding ongoing and unresolved for hundreds, if not thousands of years. For example, the mind-body problem is one example of this problem’s representation.

    Neither science, nor philosophy are suited to deal with this problem as it is more fundamental and thus underlies both philosophy and science which are higher order abstract constructs.

    (Addendum to follow)

  74. Climate science could use Emmanuel Levinas’s observation that ethics comes before ontology.

    • David Wojick

      Nothing comes before ontology, literally.

      • Take the idea that a social order is necessary to stabilize the language. Then you can share stuff, and objectivity is possible.

        Levinas _Totality and Infinity_ would be a good source.

  75. David Wojick

    The number one problem in the climate science debate is the nature of the weight of evidence. This is a problem in inductive logic, hence it is a philosophical problem, not scientific problem.

    If science were more rational than philosophy, which some scientists seem to claim, then we would not be here debating climate change. The medium is the message. Fundamental debate is the realm of philosophy, and that is just where we are. Welcome to philosophy.

    • David,

      On both points you miss the essential.

      On the first point: Inductive logic gives only a partial answer. It cannot use all relevant input, and therefore cannot answer the real question. Youd claim is a pure case of logical fallacy.

      On the second point the question is not who is more rational, but who knows more. Science has produced knowledge that science can also use. A philosopher, who cannot use that knowledge lacks power. Drawing the conclusion, you draw is again a pure case of logical fallacy.

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  78. I believe it is necessary to study both the philosophy and the history of science.

    When I did my MS in Earth Science, one of the courses I enjoyed most was the History of Geology and the part I liked most was the contribution by James Hutton whose language was almost opaque but whose thoughts were of such huge importance that Charles Lyell spent his blood, sweat and tears translating and embellishing what Hutton had written..

    But we did not do any philosophy of science in the M.S. course, probably because so few philosophers know anything about Earth science. I relied on my memory of Thomas Kuhn’s book from time I spent doing research in London. Kuhn had written about scientific revolutions. Naomi Orestes wrote about Kuhn’s theories as applied to the rejection of continental drift and the revolution by plate tectonics.

    It was not until years after completing the MS (in 2005) that I discovered that most philosophers of science have never accepted Kuhn as a philosopher of science, but as a historian of science.and a promoter of a certain kind of science policy associated with “big science” after the manner of James Conant who had been his mentor. (I had used Conant’s examples of pivotal scientific experiments to teach science before I read Kuhn’s work.)

    As I understand it, Naomi Oreskes has clearly positioned herself as a historian of science and associated with view of science as consensus, “normal science” as defined by Kuhn.

    Some philosophers do deal with the same subject matter as Kuhn but in passing rather than as their core interest, Science-as-scientists-do-it interests some philosophers because it allows them to see the way in which theory and observation interact.

    This was what made Karl Popper especially famous and remembered long after the rest of the positivist circle of philosophers have been almost forgotten, at least for their philosophical views, Mach and Planck for example. Feynman’s famous injunction was to give up a theory that cannot be confirmed empirically. He got it straight from Popper. Well almost.

    Philosophers deal with problems of the existence of entities (ontology), and how we acquire knowledge (epistemology).

    For example, a tree exists in nature with or without the presence of a human being. You can test that by hugging one. [The philosopher who used a stone to make his point suggested kicking the stone, but we are not allowed to kick trees in our politically correct world.]

    But does a forest exist? If so how do you define a forest? Does it exist in nature or does the forest exist only in the mind? This leads to questions about forest ecology, symbiosis, commensalism, parasitism, mycorrhiza, and lots of interesting arguments for the existence of forests in nature. Similarly, does a biome exist?

    In geology, does a succession exist? Niles Eldredge and S.J. Gould collaborated on this question to develop a theory of punctuated equilibrium. Elizabeth Vbra edited a volume with a similar theme, Paleoclimate and Human Evolution.

    From the point of view of the philosopher, the question is not whether or not a theory is correct. But how the scientist forms the theory from its antecedents in knowledge and the existence of the entities that the theory describes.

    A tree exists, but does a species of tree exist? How about a genus (collection of related species)? This leads to exploring the work of Linnaeus and his taxonomy and then to phylogenetics, cladistics, and systematics and right back to Gould, Eldredge and Vbra.

    Very simple philosophical questions allow us to explore scientific concepts at a metaphysical level and thus see how branches of science relate to fundamental problems of being and knowing. We can also see at the meta-level the similarities of problems in various disciplines.

    I explored these ideas for a course on plate tectonics. (http://www.geoscience-environment.com/es767/comment.html) The web pages require scrolling down to the bottom to reveal the answers to the puzzles

    Best of all, philosophy, can help us reduce our ego investments in our scientific theories and perhaps avoid what Richard Feynman believed was the biggest trap for a scientist: self-deception. (Paradoxically, this is more than philosophers seem able to do with their theories about philosophy.).

    I have turned over in my mind the idea of growing my science website to include the leading modern philosophers of science, with the aim of exploring Earth science from their points of view, but I have held back because most people, not even scientists, seem to be uninterested in philosophy.

    I leave you with this: If you think philosophy is bunk, you philosophize.

  79. Doubting Rich

    At least two of the scientists quoted have publicly criticised scepticism of CAGW. Perhaps if they had more respect for philosophy they would know more about logical fallacies and not fall for the arguments against continuing scientific enquiry.

    After studying Natural Sciences my knowledge of that area was sadly deficient. It took an argumentative girlfriend with a philosophy degree to extend my education. Perhaps History and Philosophy of Science should have been a core course like maths, instead of an option.

  80. While we are expanding our horizons, it would not hurt the majority of us to allow our thoughts to turn to the great questions raised by the side of philosophy often referred to as religion or spirituality, which in the past was simply known as “wisdom”.

    It may not be for everybody but for those truly serious about coming to an understanding of the universe we live it, it can not be ignored.

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  82. Studying the philosphy of science about as helpful to a scientist as studying literary criticism is to an author.

    • Peter Drucker, who was called the man who invented management, once said that “the important and difficult job is never to find the right answer; it is to find the right question.”

      Another said “The quality of your answers is in direct proportion to the quality of your questions.”

      I’ve been told that Einstein once said,
      “If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I’d spend 55 minutes determining the right question to ask. Once I got the right question, I could easily answer it in 5 minutes.”

      My question would be “WHY do the two sides of the climate debate issue disagree”

  83. Excellent post. I’m experiencing many of these issues as well..