Who’s Binary, Us or Them?
As temperatures fall, (half a degree in the past few months, wiping out half a century of manmade climate change in the flight of a swallow) and as the Paris Agreement looks likely to follow the Iran Nuclear Deal into oblivion, and as climate activists are vanishing faster than Arctic ice, some in a puff of smoke, others in a wave of public revulsion, we at Cliscep are finding fewer and fewer subjects to comment on to justify our lavish Big Oil-funded lifestyles.
Luckily, though, there’s always climate psychology, as Paul demonstrated the other day, and as can be found for example in an article at the ever reliable Conversation entitled “The Thinking Error at the Root of Science Denial” by a certain Jeremy P. Shapiro, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University.
Case Western Reserve University is the best research university in Ohio, according to Case Western Reserve University, and I see no reason to doubt them. Adjunct Assistant Professor Shapiro’s adjunctions seem to be limited to a workshop in 2007 and another in 2013, as far as I can see. Otherwise, he’s a psychotherapist, specialising in child and adolescent therapy – a noble calling, and one in which I wish him well.
Off topic for him (but not for us) he thinks he’s found the source of the problem with us climate sceptics: – binary thinking.
As a psychotherapist, I see a striking parallel between a type of thinking involved in many mental health disturbances and the reasoning behind science denial. As I explain in my book “Psychotherapeutic Diagrams,” dichotomous thinking, also called black-and-white and all-or-none thinking, is a factor in depression, anxiety, aggression and, especially, borderline personality disorder.
In this type of cognition, a spectrum of possibilities is divided into two parts, with a blurring of distinctions within those categories. Shades of gray are missed; everything is considered either black or white. Dichotomous thinking is not always or inevitably wrong, but it is a poor tool for understanding complicated realities because these usually involve spectrums of possibilities, not binaries.
So far, so good. It’s perfectly true that I tend to view the heroes of the climate wars like Mann, Oreskes and Lewandowsky as mentally deficient worms whose pathetic bleatings from the first circle of Hell wouldn’t merit a mention from a latter day Dante if it weren’t for the fact that they have the tongues of the world’s Great and Good up their nether cleavages. OK, that’s binary thinking on my part. But binary thinking is perfectly acceptable in certain circumstances, for example when it comes to voting or supporting your team. And here we’re talking about the biggest Either/Or imaginable: the Survival (or not) of the Planet. What’s the Day of Judgement if not binary thinking Writ Large?
Binary thinking is indeed a poor tool (but aren’t we all?) when it comes to understanding complicated realities. On the other hand, when it comes to analysing an article in the Conversation, it’s just the job.
So far, so binary, but here Jeremy’s thinking bifurcates:
Spectrums are sometimes split in very asymmetric ways, with one-half of the binary much larger than the other. For example, perfectionists categorize their work as either perfect or unsatisfactory.. In borderline personality disorder, relationship partners are perceived as either all good or all bad, so one hurtful behavior catapults the partner from the good to the bad category. It’s like a pass/fail grading system in which 100 percent correct earns a P and everything else gets an F.
In my observations, I see science deniers engage in dichotomous thinking about truth claims… deniers perceive the spectrum of scientific agreement as divided into two unequal parts: perfect consensus and no consensus at all. Any departure from 100 percent agreement is categorized as a lack of agreement, which is misinterpreted as indicating fundamental controversy in the field.
So our problem is not just that we’re binary, but that we’re perfectionists who demand absolute certainty, says Jeremy. Here he’s lost me. I certainly don’t demand certainty, do you?
I have observed deniers use a three-step strategy to mislead the scientifically unsophisticated. First, they cite areas of uncertainty or controversy, no matter how minor, within the body of research that invalidates their desired course of action. Second, they categorize the overall scientific status of that body of research as uncertain and controversial. Finally, deniers advocate proceeding as if the research did not exist.
For example, climate change skeptics jump from the realization that we do not completely understand all climate-related variables to the inference that we have no reliable knowledge at all. Similarly, they give equal weightto the 97 percent of climate scientists who believe in human-caused global warming and the 3 percent who do not, even though many of the latter receive support from the fossil fuels industry.
And that’s all Jeremy has to say about us climate deniers. Having diagnosed us as suffering from borderline personality disorder on the basis of his psychotherapeutic experience, he turns his attention to creationists and Trump on vaccination and autism. But he does give two links to back up his claim that anyone questioning the science is barking mad. The second is to Graham Redfearn at the Graun, in support of the argument that, because Willie Soon once received funding from an oil company, therefore climate deniers need psychiatric help.
His first link is more interesting, since it addresses the “false balance” problem. To back up his claim that “climate change skeptics … give equal weight to the 97 percent of climate scientists who believe in human-caused global warming and the 3 percent who do not” he quotes this article originally posted at SkepticalScience by Alan Scuse, attacking an article by one James Powell who claimed in a paper in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society that the consensus was not 97%, but 99.99%.
In defence of the “robust” 97% consensus, and in opposition to Powell’s outlier estimate of 99.99%, Scuse cites his co-authors Cook, Rice, Nuccitelli, and Salsa Arrabiata. No doubt Scuse is absolutely right, and 97% is a fairer estimate than 99.99% of the number or articles demonstrating catastrophic climate change. I’ve been convinced of that ever since I took a peek at the evidence in the form of the ten thousand-odd articles examined by Cook et al and noted that number two in the list was a study of alpine grasshoppers in New Zealand. I mean, would a Kiwi grasshopper lie?
But to get down and binary, the point is, Jeremy’s one link in support of his thesis that deniers are borderline mental isn’t about deniers at all. It’s about a total loony called James Powell who believes what Jeremy believes, but even more fervently than Jeremy, or than his allies Redfearn, Scuse, Nuccitelli, Cook, and Ken Rice of this parish. Jeremy thinks that the fact that someone who agrees with him too much has been roundly refuted by someone who agrees with him just the right amount demonstrates that someone who doesn’t agree with him at all is borderline – you know…
If Jeremy would just let down his binaries a minute, he’d realise that either/or is sometimes the best policy. Some theses are defensible, some not. Anything defended by John Cook is not. Also, diagnosing people you’ve never met as borderline personality disorderly is bad medicine for a psychotherapist. And – Jeremy – Graham Redfearn, whom you cite as an authority, once referred to me as a climate denier. So when my cheque from Big Oil comes through, I’ll be contacting my lawyer in the US.
In the comments at the Conversation, Jeremy is ripped apart by Robin Guenier, who is as unbinary as they come, and by Paul Matthews.
wiping out half a century of manmade climate change
Let’s say ‘alleged’ in there, please.
I am perplexed, why didn’t you employ the big binary joke to devastate Jeremy’s logic: There are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don’t. Failing that one could fall back on the other oldie but goodie : understanding binary is easy as one, two, three.
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Shapiro himself is committing the false dilemma fallacy when dividing the the world in scientists and deniers.
Hans, yes, that’s what struck me about the article, see my comments there. By labelling people as scientists or deniers he is indulging in exactly the “dichotomous thinking” that he is complaining about!
It really is a terrible article even by the usual standards of the Conversation. A stream of unsubstantiated and untrue claims about “deniers” and sceptics:
“they divide the spectrum of possibilities into two unequal parts: perfect certainty and inconclusive controversy.”
“deniers perceive the spectrum of scientific agreement as divided into two unequal parts: perfect consensus and no consensus at all”
“For example, climate change skeptics jump from the realization that we do not completely understand all climate-related variables to the inference that we have no reliable knowledge at all. ”
He also attempts to smear climate sceptics by associating them with anti-vaxxers and creationists, and by saying they have borderline personality disorders.
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Here is the latest non-scientist at the Conv, writing about the evil oil companies.
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Paul. Gosh now the evil oil companies are being blamed for changing the way the sacred media and innocent climate science practitioners refer to the effects of the infamous carbon dioxide molecule upon the over-sensitive global climate. It beggars belief. The failure of warming predictions from overly pessimistic climate models, the recognition of a “pause”, all meant that WARMING was not going to fly as a viable prediction of oncoming doom. How kind of the marketing departments of big oil to come up with the alternative – climate change – with which to continue their proselytizing.
Where do places like the University of Reading get these people? Where do people like this Sylvia Jaworska (Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics) get the chutzpah to pontificate on recent history in their own subject when they display total and utter ignorance of it?
To quote from Charlie Brown “Good Grief”.
Butted up against each other are the two statements:
“How Big Oil distorts climate change reality with tweaks in language”
“Almost every climate scientist agrees human-caused climate change is a major global threat”.
If that ain’t a language tweak, then there is no meaning in language. The fact that a database produces the result the programmer intended the database to produce surprises nobody.
I used to call this ‘projection’. For e.g. Lew’s concern for the denying masses being victims of ‘conspiracy theories’ ignored his own ‘conspiracy ideation’, and of course, Sylvia Jaworska’s appears to be Lew ‘projecting’ on to sceptics the traits that better characterise what he calls ‘pro science’ arguments.
But ‘projection’ implies some passivity on the researcher-campaigner’s behalf. It is possible that they are that stupid, and I do argue that mediocrity accounts for a large part of institutional climate alarmism.
Here is my ‘favourite’ example of greens tweaking language, in which ‘international lawyer’, Polly Higgins makes an argument for there to be crimes against nature — ecocide — equivalent to a crime against humanity, genocide.
Higgins does this by modifying the text of the definition of genocide, but in the process neutralises the evil of genocide. I.e. she makes an equivalent of human life in particular with ‘life’ in general as a biological process. I.e. a slug’s ‘life’ is important as yours, whereas the thing which made crimes against humanity such as genocide and slavery wrong were the unique attributes of human life. Hence my response to Higgins argument was one of the few times I have used the term ‘eco-fascist’. She had imagined a tyranny (an equivalence of Nazis and oil companies), much like Jaworska imagines a tyranny, and responds to it by making the case to capture the power that the imagined tyranny to have, and then to use it to her seemingly noble ends.
So rather than being mere ‘projection’ — a rhetorical trick that makes any response that shows the lie for what it is seem churlish — there is an agenda.
Accordingly, where Jaworska imagines that ‘the discourse obscures the oil sector’s large contribution to environmental degradation and “grooms” the public to believe that the industry is serious about tackling climate change’, she makes the argument for the same intervention, at the expense of understanding what the debate is actually about. Rather than responding to what oil companies or deniers actually claim, then, the professor of linguistics instead encourages the debate to ignore the arguments in currency. She actively licences the tweaking of arguments.
Another irony is that these people Shapiro, Jaworska and Hornsey, psychologists and linguists, claim that sceptics are well funded by the fossil fuel lobby.
But they are climbing aboard the climate bandwagon, despite knowing nothing of the subject, because that’s where the grant funding lies, along with the free publicity from rags like the Con.
This is a perfect example of Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York Principle 5 (http://wp.me/p8hgeb-1v): The more vociferous/louder the claims made by a stakeholder the more likely that the stakeholder is guilty of the same thing. Gary states it better: “My experience is that the things people complain about loudly are so very frequently the same things of which they also are guilty. The inability to see oneself realistically is a fascinating human trait.” (https://rosebyanyothernameblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/reprisals-against-doe-scientists/)
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Another climate apparatchik trying to patholigize a difference of opinion.
The soviet mental health services were filled with appsratchiks who had dissidents to the 99.9% consensus on the wonders of the science of socialism committed to mental health facilities.
This schmuck should be so proud of himself.
What could be a better example of binary thinking than
“CO2 is a GHG, human caused CO2 is a planetary threat, and questioning this is a sign of mental illness”.
Roger, thank you for the links to those sites – I’d not seen them before.
No criticism of your post, but I wonder if a taxonomy helps us get to the bottom of his intransigence. From the testimony, 29 March 2017:
Mann: “There are a number of statements that have been attributed to me that are not correct. I don’t believe I called anybody here a denier, and yet that’s been stated here over and over again. So I’ve been misrepresented quite a bit today by several people…”.
Curry: “It’s in your written testimony. Go read it again.”
Full text of testimonies: https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2017/03/Climate-Science-March20171.pdf
Mann is challenged on his claims about Curry and Pielke from 2h.19m.00s for around 4 mins.
The denial of ones own recent, written, sworn and ‘carefully used’ words, and the subsequent shameless twisting in the face of being held accountable for them is surely a trait of something. It takes no small ego to be caught in such a lie, and to sustain the lie, and to double down on the lie. As Gary says, ‘The inability to see oneself realistically is a fascinating human trait’.
I don’t believe it is a normal trait. And counter to the “Serengeti strategy” hypothesis, it seems to me that it is people of this trait which are drawn to climate change, who thus elevate themselves to planet-savers. Or, as I have argued previously, perhaps the trait is the consequence of professional deformation, caused by the institutions. Put more plainly, but figuratively: either psychopaths look for causes, or institutions either enable or turn people into psychopaths.
Nobody could look at the constellation of climate stars and find them lacking in self-belief. It would be harder to identify their contribution to science. Yet they are frequently cast by others at least as much as they cast themselves. And this seems to suggest a pattern that now the likes of Jeremy P. Shapiro and Sylvia Jaworska can step into. Deeply flawed ‘research’ which increases the heat of ‘debate’, but sheds no light.
And what difference would debate over the science make, if its authors are no more committed to it than they are to their own testimonies?
A more honest climate alarmist is Eric Holthaus. But no less flawed. And I regret pointing it out, because he really does appear to be afflicted.
That was a year ago, though Holthaus’s emotional leakage was known long before:
‘I lose sleep over climate change almost every single night. I can’t remember how long this has been happening, but it’s been quite a while, and it’s only getting worse. I confess: I need help.’
‘I’ve spent most of the past year alternating between soul-crushing despair and headstrong hope.’
‘For now at least, the good days are enough to keep me going. But there are also days when I’m paralyzed.’
‘My support network has become those who are going through the same emotional crisis.’
Now it seems it’s too much for his home life, too.
Sarah E. Myhre, Ph.D. is no better hinged…
Holthaus and Myhre’s tweets qualify exactly as TMI. Far TMI, in fact. To bring one’s own deeply troubled domestic life and mental health problems into the ‘context’ of climate change — as Holthaus and Myhre do routinely — demonstrates that there is more going on in the ‘debate’ and peoples’ heads than a technical discussion, or simple concern for the future of the climate. Not least, it takes a particular kind of person to share such intimate details of their lives with a broader public. That something in most cases is more than a little dose of narcissism. And it does seem to be the symptom of the climate change alarmist that he or she struggles to make sense of the world without him or herself at the centre of it, because to criticise that understanding seems in each case to ‘attack’ the individual. Yet they are individuals who want to change the world, and to hide from criticism of that agenda behind ‘science’ and the fragility of their own egos.
I wonder if he has met with Holthaus or Myhre. Or Mann.
It seems to me that Shapiro, not unlike Lew massively overestimates the ability of his science to explain what he observes well beyond what is its usual object. In both cases: the diagnosis of people he has never met, never analysed, who have entered a debate he does not understand the terms of. And we can say the same about many climate alarmists: they may well understand that increasing concentrations of CO2 produce warmer global temperatures. But this understanding is not equivalent to an understanding of how seemingly subordinate natural processes and society are dependent on the condition of the atmosphere.
Is this the essence of climate change scepticism? It may be the claim of some. Certainly, some have argued this point is fatal for the understanding of the projected course of global warming, because of the nature and limitations of computer simulation — clouds being a particular shortcoming of that method. Meanwhile, as Mann’s testimony revealed, event-attribution can commit the same error in the opposite direction: to claim that an event was made N% more likely because of climate change, in spite of the fact that there are P% fewer events of that type in the era of climate change. It is surely this we can scoff at… The fudging of science, not ‘science’ just a few per cent short of 100%, but a half century of wildly speculative and hasty claims made to support a political agenda rather than an understanding of the world. To fail to understand that fact of a political dynamic, is to not merely reproduce that dynamic, but to amplify it.
It is the bumbling intervention of psychologists into the climate debate which brings the political and the deeply personal into sharp focus. We can now almost say that ‘science’ has almost nothing to do with it, and the personal and political agendas that the climate psychoanalyst brings to the debate that has everything to do with it. That is, after all, what the climate shrink wanted to say about climate sceptics. That he would end up saying more about himself was a possibility that should occur to any competent psychoanalyst, if there is such a thing: psychoanalysis requires two parties to meet in exchange, just as debate, if it is to be productive, requires the meeting of perspectives in good faith.
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Thinking about this some more, from the psycho-political point of view…
Although Mann is one year outside of the range of birth years designated as the ‘baby boomer’ generation, I wonder if he might nonetheless be included with James Hansen on one side of a significant distinction between generations, reflecting a broader dynamic.
Eric Holthaus was born in ’81, and Sarah Myhre graduated in ’06, which would seem to place her birthdate in the mid-’80s. Categorically, they are the millennials.
Hansen’s work is occasionally emotional. But it is not the blubbing of Holthaus. And it is not the compulsive over-sharing of Myhre’s mental status.
For better or worse, it would be unthinkable in Hansen and Mann’s generation to bare in public one’s emotional wreckage, let alone share the minutia of one’s private life. The selfie generation apparently think much less of it, and seem to have been encouraged to express themselves in this way.
I wonder if and what the role of psychoanalysis was in this change.
—— Spoiler alert. ——-
Don’t read any further if you haven’t watched all of The Sopranos.
Towards the end of the story, Tony Soprano’s psychoanalyst, Melfi, begins to wonder if she has enabled the sociopath after her own therapist reveals to his wife that Melfi is treating Soprano, as is revealed by an uncomfortable exchange between psychotherapists at a dinner party.
The guilt is too much for Melfi.
Of course, The Sopranos is just a TV show. But Yochelson’s words are real.
And it would be too much to say either that psychotherapy was responsible for creating and enabling mob bosses and climate sociopaths, or that it was not worthwhile. Nonetheless, psychotherapy did escape its confines to make its own mark on history, from Freud and Bernays onwards.
The following passage is from HJ Eysenck’s Uses and Abuses of Psychology:
Eysenck wrote these words before even Mann was born. Yet what prescience! I wonder if the layperson’s failure to distinguish between psychology, psychoanalysis and psychiatry still holds. Eysenck, after all, became deeply unfashionable, as his work on the inheritance of IQ became tarred with racism, in spite of hisown disavowal of racism, having himself fled the Nazi, and of course, his own field became dominated by the left.
Plus ca change… Eysenck was further criticised…
Eysenck himself is given only scant opportunity to put his own point accross:
It is not clear that the funders benefited from, or influenced the outcome of his research. Yet these are the implications of the story, in lieu of argument, nonetheless.
However, it was the object of Eysenck’s criticism — the psychoanalysts — who took the credit for encouraging women to smoke. And of course, at the same time and for the same reason, they can take credit for establishing the world of PR and its relationships with Big Tobacco and Big Oil.
Back to the climate. There is surely something that today’s psychoanalysts could do, to speak critically about how the climate has been internalised by some number of people. These people are particular, whereas it is the unnamed, anonymous, deniers — all and sundry — in general that are the focus of the psychoanalysts’ diagnosis in absentia. There is surely a difference between the generations’ expression of climate alarmism, as distinct as the stages, correspondingly, of the collapse of the left’s frameworks of understanding, and the diminishing expectations of psychoanalysis. As with many disciplines and doctrines, it seems that climate change has been a palliative therapy for tired academics who offer ever less promise, and who threaten an ever darker future.
Why they don’t, and the refusal of the psychoanalysts to make climate histrionics the subject of their studies is no doubt historically situated and has consequences for the unfolding of history. I don’t need 100% proof for it. The observation is not ‘binary’: there are no straight lines in this story. And denial of science has nothing to do with my account. Jeremy P. Shapiro is as much a victim as Holthaus and Myhre.
Many thanks to BEN PILE for drawing attention to the two excellent articles linked in the comment by ROGER CALAZZA above, one by Roger from his own blog and one by Willis Eschenbach. I hope one or the other or both will develop these insights into a proper post.
Ben’s insight: “either psychopaths look for causes, or institutions either enable or turn people into psychopaths” would be improved, I think, by replacing “psychopath” with “fantasist/Walter Mitty character,” though other descriptions might be equally relevant.
The weakness of any psychological analysis of warmism, as I keep banging on about – apart from the fact that it invites the response: “… and you’re another” – is that you have to explain how people with a certain psychological trait suddenly acquire the power to impose a certain world view in a number of disparate fields at the same time (politics, science, academia, media, charities…) Fantasising about making the world a better place is indeed a psychopathic symptom (though normally benign) and it fits the bill. The number of people with an urge to make the world a better place has exploded with the spread of further education and the opportunities for self expression, while the number of ways of actually effecting improvement remains basically the same. (Develop a new medical treatment, or a better mosquito trap, or finance such development, or shut up, would be my advice).
Warmism as fantasy explains the response of the likes of Mann to those who would prick their fantasy bubble. Such people can’t, mustn’t exist (in the fantasy.) That’s how Mann can deny their existence with the 97% consensus and deny Curry’s right to her opinion, and deny calling her a denier.
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Geoff — The weakness of any psychological analysis of warmism, as I keep banging on about – apart from the fact that it invites the response: “… and you’re another” – is that you have to explain how people with a certain psychological trait suddenly acquire the power to impose a certain world view in a number of disparate fields at the same time (politics, science, academia, media, charities…)
How a certain group obtained power is straightforward enough: they already had it. And no group is as promiscuous with ideas as people clinging on to power. Arguably, ideas are the afterthought of power.
I have argued it would be wrong to see the ascendancy of warmism as self-powered. They are very good at flattering power, however, especially when their unofficial function is to speak truth to it, rather than for it.
The long-march hypothesis of warming infecting the academy might be better seen more broadly. And the role of green NGOs can be seen in political terms alone, reading Brundtland, for instance, as a prescription for involving ‘civil society’ in geopolitics, there being no natural demos for a global ‘polity’.
That psychopaths come to populate the institutions mandated by government is as much of a head-scratcher as the sudden appearance of eco spivs selling solar PV panels, where they once sold dodgy mortgages and double glazing or PPI cold-calling. They are licensed sociapaths. Normal psychology is surely such that it would be a struggle for any right-thinking individual to easily convince themselves that they were not taking advantage of others, but were saving the planet for all humanity and future generations. The conceit required is astronomical, though, admittedly, I do not have a handy tool for the measurement of conceit. It seems only possible to do it through comparison. I think you have the answer:
Develop a new medical treatment, or a better mosquito trap, or finance such development, or shut up, would be my advice.
Cures for diseases are small fry, compared to only saving the entire planet.
What is the unit of academic conceit and self-deception. Could we call it a Lewandowsky? That would make it hard to assess other, lesser academics. Is half a Lewandowsky a Cook? Or a Ken?
Shapiro wrote (mimicking others) “As a psychotherapist, I see a striking parallel between a type of thinking involved in many mental health disturbances and the reasoning behind science denial.”
Using the deliberately provocative word “denier” naturally obscures a possible reality in his comment and skews any reasonable reaction to it by those seemingly being attacked. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the statement, shawn of its insulting intent, wasn’t at least partially true.
I have known from middle age that I think in ways different to many others. When trying to teach other people you realize that they commonly fail to understand what you are trying to impart because their ways of thinking differ from your own. They make mistakes that are seemingly impossible to fathom. In contrast, especially with your research students, they can sometimes make leaps of understanding that leave you floundering. Only in the past few years have I realized that much of my critical thinking goes through a sort of science methodology gateway in which I destructively “test” my chosen beliefs. I don’t know if others do the same, but if they do we may not be far from Shapiro’s comment.
I recall a holiday taken in Greece where our hotel room looked towards a limestone mountain which disturbed me greatly. As a geologist, I am used to being able to to “read” landscapes – to instantly understand how rocks are arranged (I can see the folds and faults). I had spent many summers working in the Canadian Rockies where I constantly determined the geological structure by inspecting the orientation of limestone layering exposed on mountainsides But within this Greek mountain the limestone beds were not visible and I found my inability to see them and so discern the geological structure rather disturbing. I found myself desperately examining the mountainside for any clues as to its internal structure. I’m sure that if I had spoken to a handy psychological science practitioner in the same hotel they would have diagnosed a mental health disturbance and I would have been forced to agree. But so what? In the same way, if my climate science heresy is a sign of thinking differently, then I am glad to do so.
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I gained a rather valuable insight today into the way climate consensus scientists appear to think and the way I think, which may or may not be typical of the way sceptics’ minds work in general. There was a big discussion on Twitter about RCPs, initiated by Matt Ridley’s tweet about RCP8.5 assuming a high climate sensitivity. It went on for some time, with Steven Mosher, Richard Betts and Ken Rice getting involved, among others. What struck me as fascinating was the way all three were choosing to explain the way RCPs were constructed, which had me confused, because the chronological order directly contradicted what I had read about how they were created. I eventually asked Richard directly where did the 8.5W/m2 forcing come from in RCP8.5 and he said it was chosen to be compatible with the earlier SRES scenarios. I was under the impression that the 8.5W/m2 forcing was derived via the models (which, as it turned out, it was, but by working backwards!)
After Richard’s reply, it suddenly became very clear – they were talking not physical processes but procedure, i.e. how the RCPs were created by assuming the forcing (for continuity and compatibility reasons) and then using the models to work backwards in order to get the desired end result. I was thinking purely in terms of the actual physical processes involved, i.e. emissions fed into the models to produce GHG concentrations and hence future forcings. It never once occurred to me that they were referring to the fiddle-fudging necessary to achieve a ‘desired’ forcing. I thought they were talking science, physics, but they weren’t, strictly, they were banging on about procedure. It strikes me that this may be a fundamental difference between the way ‘they’ think about climate science in general and the way I think, and probably many other sceptics think. In a sense, it is ‘binary’ thinking, black and white. There’s no room for shades of grey. You start with A, which gives you B, then C, and so on. That’s it. ‘They’ however, often – probably not always – think in terms of ‘well, we need a specific C so let’s go to A, make some adjustments to generate B, which will give us the desired C – purely for continuity purposes you understand – the underlying physics in the models is still sound’.
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ALAN KENDALL (12 May 18 at 6:11 pm) discussing his mental unbalance provoked by the view from the window of his Greek hotel contains more psychological insight than all the 1000+ articles by climate psychology professors at the Conversation. It’s certainly the first time I’ve laughed out loud at a discussion of limestone rock formations.
Jaime, RCP8.5 is a “what if” scenario, therefore it is science fiction. People have overwhelmingly started to believe that this science fiction is the real, most likely, future. They call all disbelievers deniers
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What I found somewhat remarkable is how some people can have engaged in discussions about this topic for many years (and who also claim to have relevant expertise) without understanding some things that would seem to be reasonably straightforward (if, maybe, not necessarily simple). It’s also maybe unfortunate that those who were initially confused still manage to blame others for their confusion, and insult them in the process, but it wouldn’t really be ClimateBall if this didn’t happen.
As far as RCPs go, bear in mind that many climate models were originally global ciruclation models that modelled circulation in the atmosphere, but not in the oceans. Most today do model circulation in the atmosphere and ocean (AOGCMs) but still do not include carbon cycle models. This means that these have to take concentrations as input, not emissions. This is – I think – one reason why we still mainly consider concentration, rather than emission, pathways. There are now some climate models that do include carbon cycle models, so can be driven with emissions rather than concentrations, but I think these are not all that commonly used, yet.
Another reason for using concentration pathways, rather than emission pathways, is that it’s somewhat easier to then quantify the different responses from the different models (i.e., if the concentration pathways are the same, then the forcing pathways are going to be essentially the same).
However, it is true that what we do is emit CO2 into the atmosphere, some fraction of which remains and increases the concentration. Therefore it is still important to associate these concentration pathways with emission pathways. However, there are carbon cycle uncertainties which mean that there isn’t a single emission pathway for a given concentration pathway. However, we can still associate a range of emission pathways with each concentration pathway.
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You will find no better example of binary thinking than Brexit. Mentally ill Brexiteers claim that we are either ‘in’ or we’re ‘out’. May claims that it’s not that simple, in fact it’s terribly complex and that she has to make compromises in order to please everybody. Rupert Darwall (a well known sceptic) sums it up very succinctly:
So tell me. Who is mentally unstable? Those who refuse to accept that there are only two uncompromising solutions to a binary problem, or those who accept that the choice is between black or white, and one or more of 50 shades of grey just doesn’t cut it?
“It’s also maybe unfortunate that those who were initially confused still manage to blame others for their confusion, and insult them in the process, but it wouldn’t really be ClimateBall if this didn’t happen.”
Name names. I noticed only one person using insults.
I wrote a response, but it disappeared. Yes, there was mainly one person using insults during the Twitter discussion, but I was also referring to your inference about that way *we* think (hard to see how you can infer this given that the discussion was mainly about what had happened). Anyway, the point is that there are reasons why we often use concentration pathways, rather than emission pathways.
I have to admit that when I read this post, my first reaction wasn’t to take offence, even though I fall squarely within the group that stand accused of suffering from mentally impaired binary thinking. The problem is that I can’t take seriously any lecturing or admonishment on the subject of uncertainty analysis from a profession that has such an infamously tenuous grasp of the technicalities of the subject themselves—so much so that their professional performance ranks amongst the worst within science’s Reproducibility Crisis.
The suspicion that it is not just p-hacking but basic incompetence that lies behind the psychologists’ failure to reproduce results was investigated by Rink Hoekstra of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. In a study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (“Robust misinterpretation of confidence intervals”, DOI 10.3758/s13423-013-0572-3), he demonstrated that:
“Both researchers and students in psychology have no reliable knowledge about the correct interpretation of confidence intervals …researchers hardly outperformed the students, even though the students had not received any education on statistical inference whatsoever.”
So, rather than take Professor Shapiro to task over his simplistic and ignorant grasp of the sceptical psyche, I’d much rather ascertain his depth of understanding regarding the philosophical foundations of uncertainty analysis and the various methods by which uncertainty may therefore be measured.
Perhaps I could start by asking him how he would go about determining the relative impact of epistemic, ontological and aleatoric uncertainties within a given climate model or RCP. If he could answer that question, he could be of some use to me—but I’m not holding my breath.
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Greek mountains hide their innards
causing the geological enfeabled
and others with less empathy(?), mirth.
Thus, is my climate denial
a symptom of mental
aberration or knowledge?
Should I laugh?
Singer beneath Bridges.
Geoff I am pleased you found laughter, although that was not its intent. To me the most interesting facet was the clues it gave regarding how I thought.
BENPILE (12 May 18 at 5:55 pm)
The “certain group” I had in mind was not the corporate structures I mentioned (politics, science, academia, media, charities..) but the members of society in general who had whatever psychological trait it may be that pushed climate catastrophism to the fore. I take it that the psychology of the actors themselves is of secondary importance. Once climate was established as the most important narrative in town, it was natural that climate scientists, environmental journalists, and politicians obsessed about lightbulbs would find themselves in the (low wattage) spotlight.
It seems to me that psychopathy fails as an explanation, because it’s not specific enough (and it’s rude.) Certainly psychopaths seek power, but societies (and not just democracies) have well tried procedures for reining them in, from royal beheadings to ridicule to the ballot box. We need to be much more specific.
For the same reason, Booker’s recent paper on Groupthink, excellent as it is as a history of the climate movement, fails as an explanation. Groupthink can explain how the thinking of a few people isolated from the outside world deviates into irrationality, but the climate Mafia are anything but isolated. Take a personality like Chris Rapley, who went from geography nerd designing satellite mapping systems for Antarctica to global warming expert to chairing a conference of the British Psychoanalytic Association devoted to making sane people depressed about the climate, to a one man show (financed by the European Union) at the Royal Court. And now UCL, where he’s professor, has a nice little earner with a Royal Society-financed private company flogging satellite photos of our threatened planet to worried farmers and insurance companies. This is not a psychopath or someone isolated in his ivory tower, but someone riding on a wave of something or other, something existing in the nebulous world of public opinion. We need much more detailed analysis of what’s going on. Your remark on a possible generational difference is an interesting path to explore.
“Yes, there was mainly one person using insults during the Twitter discussion, but I was also referring to your inference about that way *we* think”
There was absolutely no intention to insult on my part. I merely was pointing out the way ‘I’ think about things – and maybe other sceptics do too – and the way ‘you’ (collective) tend to think, as illustrated by the confusion on that thread. It was just an observation which I personally found quite instructive. Of course, that does not preclude you or anyone choosing to take offence at my observation, but that’s your choice. Being called ‘shit for brains’ and a moron doesn’t leave me with much doubt that the intention was to offend – though sadly for Mosh, that intention failed. I made some errors on that thread – which tends to happen when you’re on a steep learning curve, but the fact remains – climate sensitivity and the projection of a climate response was an integral part of constructing the RCP8.5 GHG concentrations and hence forcing.
Geoff, climate is the new religion and we are the new heretics.
Indeed, which is why I choose not to “like” or “RT” those tweets.
Okay, fair enough.
And I still disagree with this. The RCPs came first (whether you think this was the right order, or not, is not really relevant). Climate sensitivity/climate state does indeed play an integral part in constructing the emission scenarions associated with these RCPs, but not in the construction of the RCPs themselves (they’re simply a pre-defined concentration pathway).
Ken, worst case SRES A2 and A1FI were not bad enough for the RCP’s so the emissions were a bit topped up, and a sink saturation was assumed so concentrations flew over the top, especially in the hardly mentioned period after 2100.
In the mean time the over-the-top worst case RCP 8.5 scenario is now promoted to the business as usual projection, which was earlier reserved for SRES A1B.
RCP 8.5 is as unlikely as the earlier primitive 1% exponential emission scenarios. Modellers have completely lost touch with reality.
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“And I still disagree with this. The RCPs came first (whether you think this was the right order, or not, is not really relevant). Climate sensitivity/climate state does indeed play an integral part in constructing the emission scenarions associated with these RCPs, but not in the construction of the RCPs themselves (they’re simply a pre-defined concentration pathway).”
There you go, you’re at it again. How could the RCPs come before they were even created? I’ve already accepted the RCPs were created by working backwards from the forcings derived using the old SRES scenarios, so as to maintain continuity. But when you look at the PHYSICAL processes involved, the logical order is emissions>>concentrations>>forcings. In translating emissions to RCP concentrations, two models were used – an integrated assessment model and a basic climate model (MAGICC). That basic climate model generated a climate response using a set of parameters (one of which was ECS=3C) which fed back into the carbon cycle, which generated the final GHG concentrations which form the RCP8.5 database.
Anyway, we shouldn’t go on about this here. This thread is supposed to be about the mental illness of binary thinking in sceptics.
Geoff, you’re probably right that it’s too strong to call those who have seized the opportunities created by climate politics ‘psychopaths’ or ‘sociopaths’, all of a kind. Nonetheless, the psychoanalyst and the psychologist and the psychiatrist have expressed their desire to bring their sciences to the climate debate.
I’m always reminded by the climate debate of the 2003 documentary The Corporation. Here’s Wikipedia’s synopsis
I’ve long dreamed about the response: The NGO. Or for that matter, the QUANGO. Surely all corporate structures. But the partial analysis lets the filmmaker make his point — curiously, in that case, to the objection of the analyst.
The point is that alarmists who are apparently the psychologists’ comrades have not been the subjects of their analysis — they prefer to diagnose those they’ve never met, whose arguments they’ve never read, rather than the walking bags of symptoms that dominate the climate debate, and that this is evidently steered by the political weight of climate, the new role of the academy included, and the predominance of a particular politics in those disciplines in particular. Again, I make the point that this encourages [insert off-the-shelf diagnosis here] is almost prosaic: it’s the politics which is [X-]opathic. It’s for the shrinks to suggest otherwise.
That said, I am still interested in how the climate issue is internalised.
I would take issue with your observation ‘the climate Mafia are anything but isolated’. It is true that they are wealthy, connected and influential. No doubt. However, I think they are isolated by dint of their elevation — from our point of view, they have no visible means of support. Jaime observes above, for instance, the extraordinary tantrums that this class are capable of having in public over Brexit. The democratic deficit between the world’s publics and the new climate institutions was at least as pronounced as that between the EU/C and any European public. And such tensions have a habit of snapping. The climate issue has made much more of men like Rapley, King, Stern than they are equal to. It cannot have escaped their own notice.
The interesting dynamic in groupthink is the construction of that isolation. But by seemingly isolating inconvenient perspectives, the in-group isolate themselves. Stern, for instance, is insulated from debate by Ward, the other two have never lowered themselves, either. And I think this does explain, partially, the tendency of post-democratic politics and political institutions, including the academy. Surely, it would be hasty to call them psychopaths. But don’t we also want to hold them to account for what we believe the consequences of climate-centric environmentalism will be, i.e. the callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to maintain human relationships, the reckless disregard for the safety of others, the deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect the law.
It’s not enough, either, to say that they’re doing it because they believe it. Tony Blair — perhaps the epitome of the form of politics we are talking about — claimed that he believed he was doing the right thing, too, and that this should be enough for history to judge his actions, never mind the countless dead across the world, or at home, never mind the rolling back of political and civil freedoms, never mind the evacuation of democracy from British politics, and the fallout from restoring it. Psychopaths only tend to kill a few people, even in fiction.
You’re quite right that the climate Mafia are isolated by their elevation from the real world. It’s the links between such disparate corporations as earth sciences and psychiatry, the radical left and Tesla, Monbiot and Exxon (yes, they both support the same “science”) that is a mystery and resists analysis in terms of groupthink. My use of the term climate Mafia was unhelpful here, since it suggests the kind of underground links between likeminded brotherhoods in Chicago and Sicily. There is no climate freemasonry at work.
Your observation that the likes of Rapley, King and Stern isolate themselves from debate and exhibit psychopathic symptoms is surely correct. Their explanation would probably be that there is no one to debate with. And so how this situation came about becomes the key question.
The IPCC estimate of a climate sensitivity to CO2 of 1.5°C – 4°C, if it means anything at all, (which can be challenged) means that there are some people who think it might be high and dangerous, and others who think it’s low and irrelevant. Yet this debate can never happen, its possibility cannot even be acknowledged. That Rapley and Stern won’t debate can be considered normal, given that for decades they have been living a lie, fully conscious that their livelihood depends on their quasi-religious infallibility. But what of the lower beings, the mediocritariat like Shapiro or the amazing Professor Sylvia Jaworska of Reading University? At
she can be found musing about why Big Oil sometimes says “Climate Change” and sometimes “Global Warming.” One more tweak of her programme and she’ll come up with the answer 666.
Shapiro and Jaworska are not psychopaths, they’re just pitifully ignorant, and not bright enough to be aware of their ignorance. And it’s people like them, rather than the Sterns and Rapleys (or even Blairs) who fill the airwaves and animate the dinner parties.
Oh well. At least we’ve still got ATT Physics, bless him. I’d love to hear an explanation from him of why he takes so much time off from looking for exo-planets, surely one of the most exciting human endeavours since the invention of the flint axe, to defend imaginary pathways to nowhere.
“My use of the term climate Mafia was unhelpful here, since it suggests the kind of underground links between likeminded brotherhoods in Chicago and Sicily. There is no climate freemasonry at work.”
I would have thought that if the revelations of Climategate showed anything it was that there was an underground developing that controlled academic publication and curtailed opposition to the desired consensus.
Yes, Climategate revealed a mafia-like conspiracy between climate scientists to which Booker’s description of Groupthink applies perfectly. But while groupthink applies to a cabal like the climategate lot, it doesn’t explain the support afforded by other parties, in this case almost the entire press, government, the scientific establishment, etc.
I keep coming back to Monbiot’s initial reaction, which was to call for Jones to be sacked. This entirely logical overreaction was due to Monbiot’s (frankly absurd) faith in peer reviewed science, which he referred to as the gold standard, apparently unaware that clinging to the gold standard in 1929 was a disastrous policy luckily abandoned. Then the Graun’s top investigative journalist recused himself from the Graun’s investigation and recanted. Was he tortured by the climate inquisition? Or bribed by Big Green Blob? Probably neither. He conformed. We think we understand conformism in the context of a dictatorship, but why here and now, among people like us?
I spend my life criticising the cultural milieu I belong to – the open-minded tolerant over-educated opinionated lefty chatterati – but if they have one good point it’s that they favour non-conformity in opinions. Well, they did, in the period when I was still invited to dinner parties.
For an example of the level they have sunk to, take a look at this article at the Conversation.
The article itself is zero, so vacuous it doesn’t even count as stupid. In the comments Paul Matthews and Robin Guenier have as usual been attacked as trolls, and now the editor Willy de Freitas has insulted Hugh McLachlan, Emeritus Professor of Applied Philosophy, and threatened that any comment mentioning Cook or the 97% will be eliminated.
This has very little to do with climate, and a lot to do with very stupid people getting powerful and nasty.
“…it doesn’t explain the support afforded by other parties, in this case almost the entire press, government, the scientific establishment, etc.”
I don’t understand how you can write this. I have read you discussing the links between the components of society that directly or indirectly support the climate science regime. How scientists and science organisations defer to those they falsely believe are specialists and therefore should know more about climate, how those organisations controlled not only the scientific research strings but also the direction and emphasis that science should take. This in turn led to scientists in other fields finding that funding and advancement was easier when linking to the climate bandwagon. Since all these people conducting climate science (no matter how tenuously) rose to the defence of climate scientists when they were attacked; consequent links, obligations and commitments between different groups have been forged and strengthened. More important than these are links made with governments and organizations committed to environmentalism and “saving the planet”. How individuals and organizations rose and interacted to write and spread the climate gospel is an ongoing saga, which quite frankly, I don’t really wish to be involved with although, for my sins, I keep getting entangled with Ben.
I don’t think all these groups and individuals that are linked together to spread and defend a climate message are under the control of some “mafia” like cartel. To me they are more like the gang culture of a big city – competing, coming together when necessary, having common or parallel goals that ultimately are against the city’s best interests.
Alan, at the risk of entanglement, but also to hope to disentangle… I *think* Geoff is encouraging us away from descriptive generalisation as explanation, and to avoid getting lost in analogies like ‘mafia’, though notes the tendency is easy.
Some key claims, all of which I agree with in your post, include i) the desire or expectation to defer to expertise, ii) the development between this and other quasi-technocracies and politics; iii) the closing ranks of this new(ish) compact against critics; iv) the construction of new, supranational global political institutions more founded on seemingly ‘ethical’ (saving the planet), rather than ‘political’ objectives. Last, and most significant, you point out that this is culture, rather than (i think) ‘design’, so to speak.
Nothing to take issue with there as statements of how things are, and the above is analogous to ‘groupthink’. If my paraphrase is correct, I agree with you 100%. However, is it enough? If this culture has developed, how has it developed, and why? We know some of it was deliberate: the UN has been building environmental political institutions since the 1960s. Some of it less so, for instance, we know that political culture has become narrower and shallower and hollower over the same era, to the extent of transforming the relationships between individuals and state, and tending the state towards crisis.
It is a shame that it is much harder to be precise about historic change than about things like the concentration of atmospheric CO2 and its mode of action. And were talking about many more dynamic things: the composition of the individuals engaged in the [climate mafia/culture]; the transformation of institutions as varied as the UN and the daily broadsheets; the SOPs of governments & supranational organisations and their departments; and the public’s expectations. And so on. This is perhaps one reason why so many prefer the climate theory of everything: it wraps everything up under a single moral imperative, to make the rest accordingly simple. I say ‘perhaps’, but where to start demonstrating the ‘perhaps’ about it, to make it more concrete? The problem being that most claims about the ascendancy of climate alarmism would seem to struggle with remaining as hypotheses forever — especially so, since none of us are funded to develop them, and there are very few resources available in academia to such an endeavour.
What Ben said. But also:
I don’t think I ever said anything as lucid as your analysis of the way different groups have provided mutual support for the official climate narrative. It’s fine, as far as it goes. But it isn’t a case of groupthink, because, as the Irving Janis article on which Booker bases his analysis makes clear, Groupthink applies to small groups isolated from external criticism, so can’t apply to a worldwide phenomenon like climate catastrophism. Democratic governments are not immune to the views of their voters; civil servants have to beware of upsetting their political masters; universities are under funding pressure, and so on. It’s a bandwagon, an outbreak of mass hysteria perhaps. Which raises the questions: why this particular bandwagon, here and now? And why is it impossible to form any kind of rational opposition?
Take another example of a bandwagon: the military/industrial complex, which Eisenhower identified and warned about in the fifties. It’s perfectly rational and normal that the military, the arms industry, and certain political movements should get together and push for more military spending, and that other movements, political, religious media, etc. should push back. What wouldn’t be rational would be for ploughshare manufacturers to convert to sword production, for Lockheed to call for imports of arms from China, for religious groups to demand less charity and more hardware – but that’s what we’re seeing.
Ben has been pointing out for years that the climate movement lacks democratic support. Votes for green parties have rarely exceeded single figures and then only in the case of pseudo democratic rituals like elections for the EU parliament. Green politics is at its base about saving the whale (and sometimes the paedophile, though that one seems to have dropped off their endangered species list.) No-one likes wind turbines, let alone the subsidies to Chinese firms to make them. Yet the popular acceptance of the official climate narrative is real. And those one expects to question it, the far left, the comedians, the professional awkward squad, are almost entirely silent. Who have we got? Breitbart, Trump, Madame le Pen, Lord Lawson and the admirable Christopher Booker. This requires an explanation that goes beyond groupthink.
I feel sure that if we got around a table (especially with some light refreshing beverages and bar snacks) that we would quickly reach agreement. Clearly there would be some differences – I would be more willing to accept a deeper and more entrenched connection between different working groups, of all stripes. One important mechanism that encourages and promotes this is the continual sending of graduating students and research personnel to other like-minded institutions. This cross fertilization not only affects academia but government, intergovernment and industrial institutions. Over several decades this has produced a closely interlocking network of self reinforcing sites of information and opinion to governments. Gradually, over time, dissent has been squashed, driven underground (where outside the internet it is near invisible and ineffective) or has grown old and retired.
I am a pessimist. As an old fa^t, I know the utter impossibility of influencing a hoard of millenials whose minds have been carved into activists, whose goal is to save the Earth from disaster caused by the rampant depredations of globalization exemplified by fossil fuel corporations (while at the same time availing themselves of its many blessings). I believe only a short, sharp shock from Mother Nature will suffice to break us out of our current climate insanity. I thought “the Pause” might have done it, but sadly no. I suspect society will have to give those who support the current belief system an “out” – a gradual transition into normal behaviour, so that egged faces are a rarity.
‘In my observations, I see science deniers engage in dichotomous thinking about truth
claims. In evaluating the evidence for a hypothesis or theory, they divide the spectrum
of possibilities into two unequal parts: perfect certainty and inconclusive controversy.
Any bit of data that does not support a theory is misunderstood to mean that the
formulation is fundamentally in doubt, regardless of the amount of supportive evidence.
Similarly, deniers perceive the spectrum of scientific agreement as divided into two
unequal parts: perfect consensus and no consensus at all. Any departure from 100
percent agreement is categorized as a lack of agreement, which is misinterpreted as
indicating fundamental controversy in the field. ‘
Oh Jeremy Shapiro,
in science there is no
consensus, there’s no
argumentum ad populum,
jest trial ‘n error tests,
and for us sceps, those
binary tests, yr ”true’
or ‘false,’ or ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ‘s ‘
restricted to Einstein’s
dictum, ‘No experiment
can prove me right,
a single experiment
can prove me wrong.’
It would be nice if people directed some of their excellent comments to the original Shapiro article where Paul Matthews and Robin Guenier have been fighting alone in defense of sanity for several days now.
In response to your plea I have posted the following comment. I trust it will receive more attention than my last effort did:
You seem to be struggling to appreciate the misgivings of the sceptical contributors to this thread (e.g. Paul Mathews, Robin Guenier, etc.) and so, at the risk of putting words in their mouths, I offer the following attempt at elucidation.
When people are faced with a complex and seemingly intractable problem, a common heuristic is to replace the problem with a simpler one that is more amenable to evaluation. Sometimes this is a valuable and productive ploy; sometimes it simply encourages prejudicial ideation. The binary thinking that you believe characterises the sceptics’ rationale is a good example of this tactic in action. However, the fact that you choose to focus on this particular cognitive bias as the characteristic pathology of climate scepticism, is just a further example of the substitution of a complex problem with a simpler, albeit tractable, one. Indeed, I would go so far as to accuse you of professional deformation—your background in psychotherapy just happens to be the one that provides you with the necessary mental tools to identify the problem! A happy coincidence maybe. But the reality is that professional deformation almost invariably leads to oversimplification. Furthermore, in this instance, the oversimplification serves to portray those with whom you disagree as having sub-optimal cognitive faculties, and this is decidedly unhelpful to the debate.
There are those within the sceptical fraternity who hold views that are not supported by the strength of evidence. They choose to believe not, rather than not believe. However, my experience is that there are a great many whose position is simply that the strength of evidence does not justify the actions being proposed on climate change. This is a far cry from the simplistic certitude that you attribute to all sceptics. The rights and wrongs of the debate rest upon an understanding of technicalities that test the best of us. In particular, it requires an understanding of the conceptual basis for uncertainty and risk; an understanding that most people do not possess. Individuals such as myself would much rather be engaged in discussion of these issues than be dismissed as unsophisticated thinkers by professors of psychology who simply resort to the ‘my army is bigger than your army’ line of argument.
There are indeed many cognitive biases that are influencing the way people think about climate change. May I suggest that the most injurious is that of Bias Blind Spot, i.e. the ability to see cognitive bias in others but not in oneself.”
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John. If you’re not careful you’ll acquire a reputation as a “gun for hire” and be excluded from polite society. Your “poking stick” has the attributes of a battering ram.
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Alan, Thank you for those kind words. As it happens, I was excluded from polite society many years ago and that is the main reason why I am now settled in early retirement, living off a pittance, rather than raking in the money.
As for being a ‘gun for hire’, I note that it is still just tumbleweed down at the Ok Corral. The same goes for my response to Professor Jaworska–it’s nearly 4 days since I called her out, and still no comeback. No snide put-downs from Will either. Could this still be the calm before the storm?
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John they’re either cowardly critters or they’ve gone off in search of a top gun to bring you down. I’ll shave my head to re-enact the opening scenes from The Magnificent 7 if you’re brought low.
John. Beware it was speculated that your antagonist Chris Crawford over at Nonversation is none other than Brad Keynes (never confirmed), see discussion at back end of
No worries. I was intending one more attempt at clarification before giving up on CC. If it is Brad incognito, fair dinkum to him. His fascination regarding how sceptics react to extreme opinions is a legitimate one. I would be only too happy to add my own reaction to his database. Nevertheless, I will proceed on the assumption that CC is the real deal.
What I am really interested in, however, is receiving a response from the author of the article–unless it turns out that Brad wrote that as well!
Well Professor Shapiro has finally responded. There are no great surprises in his response.
As for Chris Crawford, I am not at all convinced by the Brad Keyes theory. I found the depth and complexity of Chris’s arrogance to be quite authentic. If I am wrong, then I say hats off to you Brad, your comments passed the Turing Test for Artificial Stupidity. That said, Chris’s bullshit responses to my Dempster-Schafer question were risible enough to be a Bradlian parody.
John. I have been following avidly and I am full of praise. Admittedly you are arguing from strength (as you admit) but you do it so softly and courteously. You give your opponents an out, which they ignore. I am reminded of a glove and mailed fist.
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Once again, Thank you. I guess I developed my style after working for years in quality management. Diplomacy combined with a firm resolve was very much the order of the day.
All this talk of cognitive bias reminds me of an article I wrote recently for WUWT. If I may be so crass as to indulge in a shameless plug, the article can be found at:
It was written tongue-in-cheek but I was still attempting a serious point, aimed at the likes of Jeremy Shapiro.
Well, congratulations are due to John, who has won this concession from Shapiro:
“In reply to John Ridgway
I appreciate your thoughtful response, and I will give it thought.
Meanwhile there’s a new article at the Con, just as silly as the Shapiro and Jaworska ones,
Flat Earthers vs climate change sceptics: why conspiracy theorists keep contradicting each other.
So far there are three comments saying much the same thing:
“There are clearly a lot of nutters in the climate camp but this is a false parallel…”
“… I myself have no reason to doubt the opinion of the scientific majority but to say that their models can be questioned is not the same thing as saying that the Earth is flat.”
“Another desperate attempt to smear climate sceptics by trying to associate them with flat-earthers.”
On twitter, the author describes his own article as excellent.
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Paul, Thank you for that. I must say, I was taken aback when I received Shapiro’s comment. Initially, I took it to be a placeholder, whilst he could muster a full-on riposte. However, as the clock ticks, this is looking increasingly unlikely. Strange times.
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Well done John. They haven’t yet found a way to ban you. But isn’t it strange to debate in such a non Academic way?
John. Their is great enjoyment to be had for spectators reading the interaction between one party who knows their stuff (especially if they have work experience) and another party for whom the advice “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” applies. Please note that, whereas it may be somewhat tiresome for the first party, they are not the only ones involved. There are others who learn much from the exchanges. I have stored your response concerning the non applicability of the Precautionary Principle to use if ever I am challenged and this chestnut is used. So I encourage you to continue with your slow demolition of Crawford (or Brad?) at the Nonversation.
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Man in a Barrel,
Actually, the academics seem remarkably reluctant to come out to play. Most of the exchange is between myself and Chris Crawford. I find arguing with him is like trying to flick snot off your finger.
On your behest, I have fired another salvo in Chris’s direction. If he comes back at me with fire and brimstone, I will blame you (smiley face).
Ellsberg’s Paradox, mmm
How little I know….
John. You have made me aware of just how important a good understanding of risk is when applied to matters like climate change. Certainly it was covered to some extent at UEA when I was there but nowhere with the rigour that you are using to smother Crawford. Do you know of anywhere in the UK that does combine a knowledge of risk evaluation with climate science (or are the two so antagonistic…)?
Alan. I gained my understanding of risk and uncertainty, on the job, as it were. The various aspects of systems analysis, design assurance and corporate governance that I was engaged with over the years provided a fine framework within which to develop such an understanding. And the more I looked into risk and uncertainty, the more subtle and fascinating they became. I will compile a list for you of the more influential and useful sources of information I have come across over the years (including some applications in climate science), but it will take me some time and I don’t want to do it just now–I have just returned from the dentist and I’m feeling a little sorry for myself.
John. It’s obviously the result of reading Chris Crawford’s finest efforts that have led to your plight. Grinding teeth is never a good idea.
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Alan, dealing with the fluent but uninformed folk such as Chris is an annoyance. They are just the people who want to be like Bob Ward. A separate question is how we arrived at a place where people aspire to be Bob Ward, failed PhD candidate. However, there are so many Bob Ward wannabes busily enforcing the content-free message that real debate becomes impossible. And the Shapiros of this world prefer to hide behind the Wardian curtain than expose their lack of intellectual power.
MiaB. I disagree. People like Chris know enough to be dangerous and they write with a facility to be considered very dangerous. They are tenacious, never let go (read the exchanges between him and Robin). Only when confronted by those with specialist knowledge and life experience are they truly exposed for who they truly are. Even then they have the chutzpah to challenge an expert. People like Chris need to be stomped on. Hard.
I do not disagree with the conclusion that people like Chris are annoying.
You asked for some sources of information regarding uncertainty analysis and its potential for application in climate science.
My interest in uncertainty analysis began way back in my project leadership days when I questioned the validity of using risk management tools to estimate completion dates for software development projects. These tools employ Monte Carlo Simulation. One has to understand its limitations, so my first reference is:
It transpired that my misgivings were justified, since a tool that was developed to deal with aleatoric uncertainty was being used to model epistemic uncertainty. For a good account of the importance of this distinction when modelling uncertainty, see:
In turning away from Monte Carlo based modelling, I became more interested in using Bayesian techniques to capture and evaluate uncertainties within predominantly epistemic settings. Since I was still working in the field of software development, I gained my understanding of Bayesian methods by reading the output of the likes of Professor Norman Fenton. See his website for a number of valuable resources:
You might also be entertained by reading a historical narrative of the development and acceptance of Bayesian methods in the face of fierce opposition from frequentist statisticians:
I have since come to appreciate that Monte Carlo methods retain a relevance in providing a basis for determining the a priori probabilities used in Bayesian inference, but I remain concerned that their application in climate modelling may be resulting in an inaccurate propagation of uncertainty. This suspicion is based upon the tendency to underestimate uncertainty when restricting one’s self to purely probabilistic techniques (perhaps I should say ‘restricting to precise probability’). Since my thoughts on this matter started when I was currently entailed in transport analysis, this led me to the following paper:
A good example of the application of possibility theory in climate modelling is:
Other non-probabilistic techniques that have found application in climate modelling include Dempster-Schafer Theory. See:
You may also be interested in this application of Info-Gap Decision Theory:
Thus far, I have concentrated upon variability and incertitude as the prime sources of uncertainty. The third source is vagueness. This has led to the development of Fuzzy Logic as a means of capturing uncertainty when modelling systems and evaluating uncertainty in decision frameworks. There are many sources of information on this subject—just steer clear of Bart Kosko. He may know his stuff but he is also a jerk.
For an example of fuzzy logic’s application in climate modelling, see:
On a related subject, I can highly recommend the following overview of the philosophical and linguistic implications of vagueness and its importance in the modelling of uncertainty:
Finally, on the subject of uncertainty in climate modelling, I found the following quite informative as a general overview:
Click to access Uncertainty%20in%20Climate%20Modelling.pdf
You will note in the above that reference is made to ontological uncertainty (the unknown unknown). I like to think of this as a second-order epistemic uncertainty. The impact of the unknown unknown has been popularised by Nassim Taleb in his book, The Black Swan:
Naturally, Taleb is an advocate of applying the precautionary principle for tackling climate change. Too much has already been written on the subject of the legitimacy of the precautionary principle. I advise that you restrict yourself to the clarification paper provided by UNESCO, and then make your own mind up:
Click to access 139578e.pdf
Other subjects that provide useful insights into the nature of risk and uncertainty (and the subtle relationship between them) are Decision Theory and Decision Analysis (the distinction between the two is not always clear, but it suffices to say there are prescriptive and descriptive elements to the study of decision-making).
There are several methodologies that prescribe the logic that should be followed in making a decision. See, for example, Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA):
Click to access Multi-criteria_Analysis.pdf
Other strategies for dealing with situations characterised by ‘deep uncertainty’ include Info Gap Decision Theory (see above) and Robust Decision Making (RDM). See:
If you become interested in this area, you will find yourself getting sucked into Game Theory, in which you will encounter strategies such as Minimax (to minimise the maximum loss) and Maximin (to maximise the minimum gain). See:
The descriptive study of decision-making addresses how decisions are actually made (as opposed to how they should be). This invariably involves an understanding of cognitive science. The seminal work in this area has been undertaken by Tversky and Kahneman. See, for example:
Another important contributor was Daniel Ellsberg, who drew attention to the irrationality that can arise when decision-makers allowed their ambiguity aversion to influence their perception of risk. See:
The IPCC devoted a whole section to the subject of uncertainty and decision-making in their Fifth Annual Report:
Click to access ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter2.pdf
I found it to be surprisingly uninformed and unduly concerned with the benefits of psychological trickery to gain the public’s support for the alarmist agenda.
Finally, although too many within climate science are determined to downplay uncertainty, there is one who seems to have understood what is going on and is not afraid to point it out:
I hope this brief summary of my educational journey helps. It only scratches the surface (no mention of measurement theory, basic statistics or the neuroscience of decision-making, for example). Nevertheless, I trust it serves to show that there is a world of information out there that the likes of Chris Crawford would do well to tap into before they deign to shoot others down.
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I have compiled a response regarding your request for information on uncertainty analysis. I tried to post it but it seemed to have been spewed out by the moderation process. I don’t know why it was but, on second thoughts, it might be a good idea to instead post my response as an article (it runs to 901 words and includes 20 hyperlinks, so I think it’s big enough!).
Stay tuned, and I’ll see what I can do.
WordPress thinks that comments with lots of links are spam. But your comment has now been liberated!
Yes, please put it up as a post. My holiday reading list (well, I’ll try.)
followed the link & found this paper – https://theconversation.com/people-with-depression-use-language-differently-heres-how-to-spot-it-90877
“Researchers are combining automated text analysis with machine learning (computers that can learn from experience without being programmed) to classify a variety of mental health conditions from natural language text samples such as blog posts.
Such classification is already outperforming that made by trained therapists. Importantly, machine learning classification will only improve as more data is provided and more sophisticated algorithms are developed.”
my blog post is “don’t worry, be happy”
Thank you John, I’ll try to read some of your recommendations but she who must be obeyed is pointing a paintbrush at me and towards a garden fence.
I don’t wish to be ungracious but what I actually asked about was whether you knew of any academic institution where climate change is linked to a proper evaluation of risk? If not, I may recommend UEA consider this possibility.
Sorry Alan, I didn’t point to any such academic institutions because I don’t know any (yes, plenty who specialise in uncertainty analysis, but none that do so with climate change specifically in mind).
It was remiss of me not to make this clear. However, you might wish to follow up the lead I gave you regarding the DMDU Society:
They seem to be a group of academics from around the world who have pooled their interests to address precisely what you are considering. I note that the Netherlands seems to feature prominently in the DMDU, presumably due to their interest in modelling long-term flooding risk. One of the DMDU members may be able to help you out better than I have.
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John’s long comment with all the references on uncertainty is now up as a new post, so please put any further discussion of that issue there.