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A Tale of Two Complexities

Since the dawn of time mankind has been faced with two brute facts: Nothing is straightforward and entropy is a bitch. To address the former, and in apparent defiance of the latter, our species has benefitted from two developments that have broadly co-evolved: Complex brains and complex societies. So much has been written about these two phenomena that one truly doesn’t know where to start evaluating the literature. So I won’t. Instead, I would like to share with you just a couple of papers I came across recently that illustrate how consideration of these two complexities tends to pan out in the hands of the climate concerned. Firstly, let us take a peek at the world of cognition.

Two Short Planks

As climate change ‘deniers’ we are all familiar with the stirling work undertaken by Lewandowsky et al in revealing the extent to which our cognitive abilities are ultimately limited by our conspiracist obsessions. Even so, back in October 2019, two business school lecturers succeeded in publishing a paper so ground-breaking and full of insights that even The Big Lewandowsky would surely be forced into meek genuflexion. The paper, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, has a number highlights. I know this because the authors say so even before they present their abstract. The first ‘highlight’ reads as follows:

“Cognitive complexity is positively related to climate change belief.”

The second ‘highlight’ advances the above revelation as follows:

“Cognitive simplicity leads people to be skeptical about human-caused climate change.”

Which is to say, it fails to advance it at all. In fact, I think it is fair to say we are still on our first highlight. Then comes the third (second) ‘highlight’:

“Cognitive simplicity is a precondition when framing positive arguments is effective.”

To make sense of this gobbledygook you need to have first read the abstract that follows, which explains:

“We compared the two most common types of arguments in discussions of climate change: 1) Presenting facts about climate change on their own (one-sided); 2) Presenting opposing arguments (i.e., misinformation) together with the correct climate change facts (two-sided). Participants with lower cognitive complexity were more likely to believe in climate change when exposed to facts of climate change on their own compared to the two-sided, refutational [sic] combination of misinformation and facts…”

Basically, the cognitively simple respond better if you just say “because I say so!” The intelligent children, on the other hand, respond better if you reason with them. Something like: “Can you now see were you went wrong? Okay, run along and try to be a good boy/girl/it from now on.” Or, to put it in the authors’ own words:

“…but those with higher cognitive complexity were more likely to believe in climate change when exposed to the refutational combination rather than facts alone.”

Which goes to explain the authors’ final ‘highlight’:

Cognitive complexity can help deter the damaging impact of conflicting arguments.”

Now, if you are anything like me, there will be a number of questions in your head at this point. For example:

  • What do the authors think they mean by ‘cognitive complexity’ and how did they go about measuring it?
  • In what way does the concept of cognition lend itself to the demarcation of individuals into two neat groups: complex and simple?
  • What is it that they teach you in business school that qualifies you to make any of the above assessments?
  • What is it that they teach you in business school that qualifies you to determine that all opposing arguments to climate change belief can be assumed to be “misinformation”?
  • How do I get a grant to study the effects of cognitive complexity when attempting to overcome the misinformation that lies at the heart of many of today’s climate concerns?

But, moreover, you are likely to be bristling over the fact that here, yet again, we have a study that treats climate change sceptics not as a group with which to engage but one to be studied like lab rats (bless them) struggling to escape a scientifically constructed maze. In fact, the authors (our two short planks, magically carved from the finest business school woodland) would no more consider listening to their experimental subjects than they would the squeaking of rats struggling with a pair of electrodes stuck up their arse. Admittedly, in this instance, their subjects were actually primates. But, even so, the scientific code is quite clear on this matter: Never have intercourse with your experiment. Or, as Steve Martin in The Man With Two Brains explained indelicately, you can’t fuck a gorilla!

Thankfully, the paper itself is behind a paywall and so the pecuniary gods have stepped in to protect me from further self-harm. Maybe, the paper provides answers to all my questions but, in lieu of that, I have to be satisfied with the closing statement within the authors’ abstract:

“Media and scientists need to consider the cognitive complexity of their audience when dealing with climate change.”

What it must be to enjoy such an evolutionary advantage.

Social Complexity

I move on now to the second paper that caught my eye. But, before I do, I need to introduce a bit of background theory. This means I have to use some big words and (thanks to our business school duo) I am now conscious of the potentially knuckle-dragging nature of my audience. So, unless you are at the cognitively complex end of the pig shit spectrum, you might want to leave the room now.

Still with me? Great, but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

Ever since sociology first dare speak its name, it has been anxious to adopt whatever has been the scientific paradigm du jour, in order to bolster its scientific kudos. Accordingly, for many years it adopted the Newtonian paradigm of a clockwork universe full of agents acting in a strictly deterministic manner amenable to reductionist analysis – basically because that is what the physicists were doing. Of course, physicists were not saying that all systems could be treated in this manner – only that those that couldn’t, lay outside of their capacity to investigate and predict. However, the fact that social groups would be one such class of system did not deter sociologists who, doing their best, came up with the notion of ‘methodological individualism’, in which the properties and behaviours of groups could be statistically determined from the properties of their constituent individuals.

Then the new scientific paradigm of complexity came along, in which disciplines such as network analysis, systems theory and non-linear dynamics started to play an important role. In this new world view, reductionism and analysis were to be replaced by a holistic approach based upon synthesis. Importantly, the relationships between agents became at least as pertinent as their inherent properties, and otherwise mysterious self-organization and emergent behaviours could be explained using concepts such as the open, driven, non-linear system far from equilibrium.

That sounds good, thought the sociologists, and so was born the discipline of Social Complexity Theory, in which all things from the outbreak of social conflict to the emergence and demise of cultures and belief systems could be explained using mathematical models employing complexity theory’s precepts. Given the nature of your average social agent, this newfound interest in complexity theory was understandable; it was an approach that seemed to throw light on how organization and social structure can spontaneously arise without the presence of a ‘guiding hand’. And it didn’t take too long before those sociologists and anthropologists with an eye on environmentalism took note.

Which brings me to my second paper, Making Complexity Your Friend: Reframing Social Theory for the Anthropocene, by Sandi Smith-Nonini of the Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina. As an overview of the development of complexity theory and its application within the fields of sociology and social anthropology it’s not such a bad paper. It is erudite, well-researched and clearly written and provides an interesting discourse on how homo sapiens, interacting with its ecological niche, can be viewed as a complex system. To that extent, it is a worthy piece of work; which already places it well above the efforts of our two business school Woodentops. That’s not to say that I agree with its thesis, which is basically an anti-capitalist inspired attempt to persuade that Social Complexity Theory will provide the insights required to free ourselves from the yoke of self-interested economic growth, establish a new environmental justice and see us through our current ‘existential crisis’. As the author says:

“Networked politics is a politics of scale, and scaling must be “glocal” (simultaneously up and down) in order to transform new awareness into political capital and accelerate the cultural shift that we now know is inevitable.”

Stirring stuff, but there is one problem as far as I can see. I discern nothing in the author’s thesis that acknowledges that applying the principles of complexity theory can not only help bring about the cultural shift required to solve the problem, it could have also brought about a cultural shift that contrived an unreliable belief in the existence of the problem in the first place. In that sense, the paper is no better than that produced by our cognitively simple business school chums. The reality of ‘the problem’ is taken as axiomatic rather than something to be proven. Consequently, the full might of the intellectual apparatus at the author’s disposal is used against the naysayer without recognizing how it can, and perhaps should, be self-directed.

So I am afraid complexity, whether it be cognitive or social, is destined to remain a concept wielded in the name of the good fight, and forever withheld from those who would wish to counterbalance the arguments of the climate concerned. If we have any cognitive complexity, it is just there to enable the concerned to better educate us. And if we have any views regarding social complexity and how it, rather than solid science, may have brought about our current eschatological convictions, then we are perfectly entitled to keep them to ourselves. Certainly, the other side has no use of them.

27 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Complexities

  1. As a person who finds the arguments for a climate crisis weak to non-existent, I think I can dismiss these papers by social pseudo-scientist without bothering to read them.

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  2. Lysenko is happy to see these academics working so hard. He is feeling lonely in his special place in hell, but now he knows a nice cadre of new academics will eventually join him.

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  3. Not come across Nonini before. But regarding Lew and crew, it often seems to me that many in social psychology and related fields are uncomfortably aware at some level that these warriors of climate psychology have left the path of science far behind. Yet they hold their tongues or delicately skirt around the issue. Occasionally, they even hold their noses and cooperate. Ultimately, they appear to be taking the tack (whether subconsciously or consciously) that he’s right even if for the wrong reasons; yet even to say so would undermine the cause. In that respect, regarding climate change catastrophe and the motives that ‘must’ be driving skeptics, then indeed they nearly all appear to think as Nonini does regarding her complexity theory, i.e. “the reality of ‘the problem’ is taken as axiomatic rather than something to be proven”. A welcome exception is social psychologist Jose Duarte, who is no climate skeptic but whose take-down of Lew was epic and (necessarily) brutal. This all seems to me to reflect exactly what goes on in physical climate science too. The huge latitude granted even by the good cops, to mannian or catastrophian theories pumped out by the bad cops, is boggling, and I presume due to exactly the same domain-related biases.

    Unfortunately, another problem is that the climate change issue in social psychology seems to have inflamed decades-old conflicts and armed those upon the side of tradition and image, rather than actually on the side of science. The former appear both fascinated by the authority of ‘hard science’ (which is why they so easily believe that catastrophe is an unquestionable output of same), yet resist tooth and nail the intrusion of hard science assistance plus principles into their domain. For instance explanatory theory coming from anthropology or cultural evolution or god-forbid, biology, is frequently resisted, sometimes fiercely, despite in the end all our brains and social institutions did actually (co-)evolve, so you’d expect to see at least the root causes of behaviour from evolutionary understanding. Yet this is too ‘reductionist’, and they like I think to keep a mystique that such explanations deconstruct. I’ve even seen arguments that *nothing* ‘reductionist’ can be valid in social psychology at all, despite that reductionism has been one of the most successful tools in science (and of course, they get to decide what is ‘too reductionist’). I think this fascination explains the (fortunately not universal) copying of paradigms; they copy the clothes of same, but these are (often) not derived from underlying principles, hence are just window dressing to bias (and agendas). The latter team, the good cops, stress data-driven approaches and welcome the input of related / outside fields, whether from evolutionary theory or statistics or economic game theory or whatever. In short, the climate change issue is ravaging good sense and method in the social sciences, plus promoting its weakest ideas, just as it is in those physical science areas related to climate change.

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  4. Ron,

    Quite. But it’s amazing how wrong you can be once you know you are right.

    Bill,

    I think you are giving them far too much credit.

    Hunterson7,

    The Lysenko reference may be a bit strong but there can be no doubt that there is ideology behind their ‘science’. But at least the Nonini paper was intelligently written. I’ll credit her that.

    Andy,

    I’ll respond when l have more time.

    Stay safe everyone.

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  5. John. Don’t take this the wrong way but I have little idea of what the authors of the papers you discuss are on about and very little desire to penetrate deeper. I’m with Billbedford, in that I don’t believe I’m missing much by not delving deeper. I read a line of print from a quotation where I should understand the meaning of every single word yet in total it’s like spaghetti. People who “communicate” like this, aren’t (except with fellow members of a limited and specialist grouping). You are doing stirling work John, but unfortunately it’s currently wasted upon me.

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  6. Alan,

    I think the purpose and conclusions of the Journal of Environmental Psychology paper are pretty clear from its introduction, despite the authors’ appalling command of the English language. As I said, however, the paywall is probably protecting us all from further grief. The Nonini paper, on the other hand, is very long and, as you read it, it becomes increasingly self-indulgent (to an extent that I can see where you are coming from). I read it to the end but only paid enough attention to get the gist. I certainly hope that I didn’t give the impression of encouraging others to follow suit – I flatter myself that my summary tells you everything you need to know. Really, at the end of the day, there is only one thing I want the reader to take away from my article: Don’t attempt intercourse with a gorilla.

    Just you take care of yourself now and leave me to worry about wading through spaghetti. It’s a fetish of mine – I quite enjoy it.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Lysenkoism was about toadying boot licking corruption, not ideology.
    The ideology came as a result of the corruption that enabled the Bolshies to seize power.
    Lysenko and his enablers were monetizing that corruption.

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  8. Andy,

    It reflects badly upon our times that something like the Journal of Environmental Psychology even exists, let alone that such a journal could recognise in two business school lecturers the expert authority to pontificate upon matters psychological. I hope my article adequately conveyed the contempt I have for the results of such an unholy arrangement. I don’t intend discussing that matter any further. Your analysis is more than adequate.

    The situation regarding Social Complexity Theory, however, is more nuanced. I had been aware for some years now that, from the genesis of complexity theory, there existed a desire to seek a cross-disciplinary approach to its study. This much is reflected in the remit of the Santa Fe Institute that Murray Gell-Mann and his associates founded in the 1980s. From the outset, both physicists and sociologists were rubbing shoulders and sharing insights during its sessions, so I have no qualms regarding the emergence of Social Complexity Theory. I can also see the wisdom of treating social and environmental complexity holistically rather as separate and unconnected issues. However, as regards the Nonini paper, it is worth pointing out that I came across it in a futile search for anything in the canon that had applied the tenets of complexity theory to better understand the development of one of the most significant emergent belief systems of our day; namely catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. Given the relevance of complexity theory to emergent, self-organised structure, it seemed to me such an obvious connection to make. And yet there is nothing out there (that I could find, at least). Instead, we have papers such as Nonini’s that can see a benefit in applying complexity theory’s insights for the purpose of encouraging action to solve a problem, but cannot see how such insights can throw any light on the legitimacy of the belief systems promoting the problem. The blind acceptance of climate science orthodoxies is proving hugely damaging, not only to climate science, but to other fields of intellectual study that need all the help they can get.

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  9. I’ve written to author Professor Kerrie Unsworth via Reasearchgate asking for a copy of the paper. It would be interesting to replicate using other examples of truth and fake news, e.g. the Anglican thirty nine articles versus the Nestorian heresy. Or Joe Biden versus Tara Reade.

    This finding could make science redundant. It seems to confirm Orwell’s unscientific insight that only very clever people believed in fascism. The cognitively simple-minded tend to recognise a crock of business studies when they see it.

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  10. John,

    Heh, functionally it’s a ‘holy’ arrangement rather than an ‘unholy’ one, despite a dreadful output 😉

    “…it is worth pointing out that I came across it in a futile search for anything in the canon that had applied the tenets of complexity theory to better understand the development of one of the most significant emergent belief systems of our day; namely catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. ”

    Other than spawning social network analysis, I didn’t even know social complexity theory was really still a thing. It seemed like a vague approach to me rather than a solid path to progress, which doesn’t mean it is bad and may work through widening / informing the lenses of others rather than as a frontal assault. At any rate, I’m not surprised you found nothing at all. It isn’t only in complexity theory that you should find something. The CACC belief system is so big and blindingly obvious it should be a big red flag across a whole raft of social science domains that should, even according to their current well-accepted principles (i.e. not needing anything new), have easily characterised it years, possibly even decades, ago. Cultural evolution (itself a cross-discipline thing) is the place you’d expect the most interest / output; emergent belief systems like religions being right up its main-street. But there’s not a sausage. Not there or anywhere else as far as I can see (and I’ve spent a long time looking, albeit the literature across all the relevant disciplines is vast so I could have missed it, but if it does exist it must be in a locked toilet). This is largely why I set out upon the path of doing it myself; my various guest posts at Climate Etc since about 2014 each nibbles off part of the issue or provides aspect characterisations.

    The biggest problem (with essentially zero resources beyond my own fingers on the keyboard), is getting data orientated support. This provides much more solid foundation than ‘compare and contrast’, or what appears to be true from surface observations (e.g. consensus-policing is classic cultural behaviour), no matter what good external / historic refs one provides. Without data, such an approach can nevertheless still be seen as a subjective, ultimately. Public surveys are useful. As you very perceptively observed and which most people don’t get, when looking for cultural influence their poor wording or ambiguity (whether intended or not) actually amplifies not obscures what is being sought. I’ve also found a decent mine of data from Dan Kahan’s work; he doesn’t believe CACC is a cultural belief system and sadly only looks at the US, but he has good methodology that protects from bias and works from the ground up with his own designed studies and data. This means his data *does* show what one would expect, but the huge Rep / Con versus Lib / Dem polarisation in the US allows for an alternate explanation to which he is currently sticking (albeit I think it’s very weak, and he has a ‘missing piece’ he needs to make it work, which I think he will never find as a mass effect).

    I eventually came up with, as Baldric would say, a cunning plan. Strong cultures in long contact interact. It very belatedly occurred to me that therefore, that as the catastrophic climate-change culture (CCCC) has been around for say 20 years minimum in a reasonably robust and global form, it should have a strong systemic relationship with religious faith across national publics (and it shouldn’t really matter *which* faith). And Bingo. There is data available. It shows correlations (and anti-correlations, both are expected for different aspects) that most social studies would die for. And from easily accessible public data. It demonstrates that CCCC is indeed a culture, and that no responses by national publics to any type of survey question on climate change is rational, they are all culturally determined. And you can predict the responses per nation knowing only religiosity (for unconstrained questions, plus for reality-constrained questions a minor secondary factor of GDP-per-Capita, which exacerbates a cultural issue). Please check out the first two posts of the series over at Climate Etc. Even for the properly engaging comments, it’s too left-field for most folks (far less engagement than some of my more popular stuff like the Child Prophets post). But it needs validation (or debunking) for which some proper critique is very necessary; if you can blow a hole in it, do so.

    To return to the utter lack of sausages above, as far as I can see from a cursory overview (and reading a couple of the most interesting papers), the current inter-sectional (religion and climate-change) literature is almost entirely devoted to figuring out how to use the various faiths as a tool to help promote climate change policies. It goes into great detail of each faith, and achieves the entirely un-notable result that this (despite strong statements of alliance from religious leaders), is… difficult. On the ground, so to speak, when there is any real clash with reality or current values, the faithfuls simply don’t buy into an essentially competitive culture of CC. At any rate, this huge focus, which the literature itself freely admits, means academia has completely failed to see the blindingly obvious (although to be fair, it’s also taken me the quite a few years to realise where to look 0: )

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Geoff,

    You are obviously more dedicated to the cause than I am. Good luck with your request, though I suspect you might receive a ‘why would I share with you if…” response.

    I presume that your Orwell reference was alluding to his famous quip that “Some Ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” Another good one from Orwell is: “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” I think this would be something that Alan could readily agree with.

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  12. Andy,

    I’m not sure whether we are talking at cross-purposes when we refer to social complexity theory. What I have in mind could hardly be characterised as a ‘vague approach’, and it most certainly has ‘spawned’ a great deal more than social network analysis. In fact, I believe it to be the nearest thing to hard science that you are likely to encounter within sociology, and it enjoys a firm mathematical foundation that enables specific predictions to be made. So maybe we are not talking about the same thing (that’s very possible because sociology can be a bit of a terminological wild west). If you want to better understand where I’m coming from you could do worse than read “Two’s Company, Three is Complexity”, by Oxford physicist, Neil Johnson (though note that he does not actually use the term ‘social complexity theory’).

    That said, your point regarding wider negligence within the sociologist brotherhood is well made and very pertinent. You are, indeed, trying to do the job that an army of sociologists should have already have been engaged in a long time ago. The fact that no such army exists speaks volumes.

    As for your recent postings at Climate etc. I have to admit that I have already read them, appreciated them, and yet demurred from comment. The reason is that I have only one pertinent thing to say and I didn’t think it would be helpful. But I’ll say it now, anyway. Your work is interesting, valuable and suggestive, but inevitably inconclusive since it is not based upon a structured causal model (yes, that old hobbyhorse :-)). If your data were to be re-analysed in the context of such a model then your conclusions may be corroborated or otherwise. Unfortunately, my armchair expertise is not enough to enable me to help you out in this manner and so it perhaps would be better if I were just to keep my mouth shut rather than cast what could be misinterpreted as aspersions.

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  13. John,

    “…it enjoys a firm mathematical foundation that enables specific predictions to be made.”

    My ignorance then, albeit likely the wild-west too as I’ve seen it referred to in distinctly non-mathematical speculation.

    “As for your recent postings at Climate etc. I have to admit that I have already read them, appreciated them, and yet demurred from comment.”

    Cool, thanks.

    “…but inevitably inconclusive since it is not based upon a structured causal model”

    Well that stops us from drawing some conclusions. But not all conclusions. For instance that *something* has to explain this data (if, of course, the much easier task of validating the data is achieved by someone who is not called Andy West). And, albeit not carrying the weight of a ‘conclusion’, rationality based upon a knowledge of climate science or policy, is not looking like any kind of possible candidate however one might massage this.

    But you hit upon the reason for an absence of model above. This is what should come from the army that is missing in action (assuming indeed the angle would pan out given such an army, which of course is not a given – but the point here is that no-one has even thought to try or even recognises the subject). I think there are suitable mathematical approaches from memetics (which sadly also got politicised, so now people do the things within it anyhow yet without using the memetical terms) and the broader field of cultural evolution. But these are beyond me to apply. At some level of recognition, someone else who *is* capable will maybe think to apply, or at least add another voice / propagation that leads to an application. But indeed getting sufficient recognition is a major issue; Climate Etc has a surprisingly broad reach, so I was hoping someone, *anyone* who might take up the baton, as at least assist in the baton eventually being taken up, might see it. I deemed this was ‘valuable and suggestive’ enough for follow-up, albeit that also means profile enough for upsetting various interests and not just in the climate divide (religion also controversial, as are the other contentions noted above). But even if take-up does not occur at this pass, that is not a reason to take the steps 😉

    Bear in mind too that Darwin’s natural selection had to run for a century without any firm underpinning about how it worked, i.e. until DNA discovered. In the early decades especially, various explanations for how it worked underneath were wrong, including Darwin’s own. But that century nevertheless saw tremendous advances based on the fact that the surface assumptions nevertheless worked. While it should always be an aim, the lack of firm underlying mechanics (and there’s still a raft of things that we don’t understand about how evolution works, and so disputes concerning same), doesn’t always mean that theories are merely interesting yet not useful, albeit such ‘corroboration’ as occurs is necessarily empirical.

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  14. You are quite right. The model would provide the scientific context (complete with assumptions) within which to fully evaluate the data — but no army, no science. Your work was sufficiently suggestive to warrant a baton pass but I fear you are running on your own. Let’s hope not.

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  15. While waiting for the paper on cognitive complexity by Chen and Unsworth, a few words on the second paper on “Making Complexity Your Friend: Reframing Social Theory for the Anthropocene.” I can’t agree with you that it’s: “erudite, well-researched and clearly written.” If you measure erudition by width of intellectual references, it fails. An awful lot of the links come back to the same sources. Morin 2008 is quoted 16 times, Meadows 2008 nine times. That’s two eco-doom best sellers with no more scientific credibility than your average business school course.

    (I can’t actually back that up, because I haven’t read Edgar Morin’s book “On Complexity,” but in googling around for references to back up that assertion, I find myself at the ESSEC Business School Edgar Morin Chair on Complexity website. And the link to Meadows 2008 doesn’t work, but she is one quarter of the Club of Rome, and their 1972 epic fail “Limits to Growth” also gets a link.)

    It’s supposedly about complexity, and it does give one interesting example of complexity in action in a summary of research into water temple rice paddy management in Bali. Experts came in with new rice ideas and screwed up. An anthropologist turns up and sorts it out, explaining how the democratic structures of water temple management balance irrigation needs with pest control. It’s fascinating in a specialised sort of way, and would make an excellent episode for “Batman and Malinowski,” if such a series ever got off the ground.

    But complexity is not really Smith Nonini’s thing, as is evident from her first paragraph.

    As a gregarious adolescent, riding ponies and climbing trees in the 1960s, summer was my favorite season. But things have changed. The year 2016 was the warmest year since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, and the third year in a row of record-breaking surface temperatures, according to both NASA and NOAA. So summer is now a deadly season: 70 000 people died from a 2003 heat wave in Europe, killer heat and drought are plaguing India, and the World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050 climate-related deaths from heat stress, malaria, malnutrition, and diarrhea will rise by an additional 250,000 per year. The reinforcing feedback loops of warmer seas and arctic ice melt, combined with other new weather patterns, are likely to produce changes in growing seasons and shifts in habitable zones that last thousands of years. Human extinction is not ruled out.

    Note the subtle elision from “riding ponies and climbing trees in the 1960s” to “heat stress, malaria, malnutrition, and diarrhea” in 2050. And all in the first paragraph. The “gregarious adolescent” that was Smith Nonini reveals her fears for the years when she will be a centenarian, leading to her conclusion that “human extinction is not ruled out.” Indeed it’s not. In fact I’d say it’s pretty much inevitable for each and every one of us. But that’s hardly
    complex. And it hardly justifies the name of a new anthropocene age.

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  16. CHESTER DRAWS
    Bless you. There’s material here for many hours of harmless fun. For starters, the research by Unsworth in Leeds, England, and Chen, in Nanjing, was conducted in Australia, under University of Western Australia rules. Then there’s this:

    All the arguments about climate change are from John Cook’s Skeptical Science website (https://skepticalscience. com/print.php). We randomly selected 16 paired arguments from the website listing the most popular arguments by rolling a die and se- lecting the next one in the list (see Table 5). In the one-sided argument condition, sentences which can all confirm the existence of climate change were presented to participants. Sample sentences were “97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming” and “The warming trend is the same in rural and urban areas, measured by thermometers and satellites” (see column b in Table 5). Participants in the one-sided argument condition were asked to read all 16 sentences. In the two-sided argument condition, conflicting arguments about the existence of climate change were presented to participants. Specifically, participants in this condition read sentences which deny the existence of climate change together with the sentences that were shown to the participants in one-sided argument condition. Sample sentences against the existence of climate change were “There is no consensus” and “Sea level rise is exaggerated”…

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  17. For me sociology is generally a derivative proxy of academic politics. A lobbying branch of the feudal system that represents modern higher eddication, as TH White had done characters say. I know of a case in Arizona where a young sociology PhD was leap frogged to tenure and full professor…right after Arizona’s legislature dared to pint out that immigration reform was needed and that unlimited open immigration was having some negative impacts.
    The sociologist of course was promoting unlimited open immigration giving it an academic approval.

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  18. Geoff,
    I feel you are being a little harsh, in the same way as I had been far too lenient. Notice that I say ‘I feel’ rather than ‘I think’. If I had done a bit more thinking I would probably be agreeing with you wholeheartedly.

    I could suggest meeting in the middle but if we did so we would probably not recognize each other, let alone ourselves.

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  19. Chester,
    Thank you for your efforts but I am going to carry on pretending it is still behind a paywall, if you don’t mind. When I was reading the abstract, I was thinking “it’s as if Cook had written this tripe”. Turns out he had! ‘Nuff said.

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  20. OFF_TOPIC HELP!

    Hey, no comments I make on the Covid / Climate Open Thread are coming out. No error message either. Any ideas? I tried to post the following twice, plus a note that I thought it’d dropped into moderation, plus a ‘test…’. But nothing appears. Appreciate if someone can transfer this across…

    Jaime. “Because of the curious epidemiological nature of Covid-19, it’s probably much lower. Nic estimates 17% in the case of Stockholm, Sweden.”

    It’s not just to do with the nature of Covid, albeit the nature of transmission makes a difference. But in generic terms, because the population appears to be treated in the (Ferguson and other) models as either homogeneous or as nearly so, which isn’t actually the case for any disease. Having said that I don’t know about the relative importance of factors in this case – hence my hopefully not inept comment at Climate Etc below…

    ‘Balanced’ or ‘maintained’ genetic polymorphism in species is supposed in part to be a protection against diseases. I guess this turns up mainly as ‘social-connectivity unrelated variability in susceptibility’, which should also manifest as more than just differences in the immune system. I lost track in the text of the relative importance of this compared to social connectivity factors, and indeed whether this is determinable. Is it so? (The spread of genetic variance over at least some nations must be known, as these have been been sampled pretty often by now I guess, which is maybe helpful in estimating this from a different angle).

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  21. Andy,

    I have released your comment. For some reason, your comments are being treated by WordPress as spam. I had the same problem recently. There seems no rhyme or reason to it.

    Like

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