Category Archives: Philosophy

That Time Of Year Again

It’s Victims Of Communism Day, 2017:

This year is a particularly important time to remember the victims of Communism because of the approaching one hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution – Bolshevik takeover of Russia. The Soviet Union was not the most oppressive communist regime. It probably did not match the even more thoroughgoing totalitarianism of the Khmer Rouge and North Korea. Nor did it kill the most people – a record held by Mao Zedong the Chinese communists. But the Soviet experiment was the principal model for all the later communist states, and it is hard to imagine communists seizing control of so much of the world without it. In addition to the significant material aid that the Soviets provided to communists in other nations, the communist seizure of power in Russia also greatly boosted the ideology’s prospects elsewhere.


Science As Religion

Nice to see things like this at Slate. Everyone who “marched” yesterday should read it. Didn’t like the “science deniers” reference in last graf, though.

[Tuesday-morning update]

The “March For Science” failed, as demonstrated by its own signs:

Time to brush up on your social science, Science Guy. You too, Astrophysicist Dr. DeGrasse Tyson. You too, all ye faithful March for Science marchers, all ye believers in Truth, Science, and the Objective Way. Beware your own version of science denial. The idea has not developed “somehow”, “along the way”, that belief is informed by more than just what science says. Modern humans have always interpreted the facts based on deep values and meanings, affective filters imbuing the facts with an emotional valence that plays a huge part in determining what ultimately arises as our view of THE TRUTH.

Tyson and others are profoundly (and willfully) ignorant of philosophy. Belief in an objective reality is a critical element of the scientific method, but it’s just a belief, not the “truth.”

Science On The Hill

The hearing has started, with Judith Curry, Roger Pielke, John Christy, and Michael Mann.

[Update about 10:32 EDT]

Mann uses the BS 97% number, and complains that he’s the only one on the panel “in the mainstream.”

[Update early afternoon]

Here is Judith Curry’s written testimony.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Here is all the written testimony. I’ll refrain from comment.

[Update a while later]

Here’s the story from Seth Borenstein:

At first Mann said he didn’t call Curry a denier. But in his written not oral testimony he called Curry “a climate science denier.” Mann said there’s a difference between denying climate change and “denying established science” on how much humans cause climate change, which he said Curry did.

But there’s this:

Former Georgia Tech climate scientist Judith Curry, who often clashes with mainstream science…

I don’t think she ever clashes with science, but I’m not sure what the hell “mainstream” is in this context.

[Monday-afternoon update]

The warm mongers’ five worst moments of that hearing.


[Update a few minutes later]

Another point of view from an eyewitness:

The big obstacle: managing bodies of the NAS, formerly respected academic societies, and foreign national academies adopted statements that either outright support or do not contradict climatist pseudo-science. This is an important fact. Of course, there are two causes for that: internal corruption that has been happening over decades and pressure from the Obama administration and its counterparts in other Western countries. Democrat Congresspersons might congratulate themselves for their contribution to shutting up opposition views. But it is hard to convince Republicans that this happened in front of their eyes and under the watch of many of them.

The problem with the academia extends beyond the climate debate. My thoughts are that sometimes things are too broken for repair, and can be only replaced. A replacement should be built before the old thing is discarded.

Lawmakers should be aware that they might need to rebuild American scientific enterprise and academia almost from scratch: create new universities and national labs, extricate competent departments, teams, and individuals from the corrupt institutions, and let them to grow organically in the atmosphere free from the interference from the Leftist and hostile foreign bodies. This is where the federal research and education budgets should go, rather than on continuing support of morally, intellectually, and soon financially bankrupt institutions.

The small obstacle, limited to this panel, was a problematic panel of witnesses. From the outside, it seemed to consist of three skeptics and one “consensus scientist.” In fact, it consisted of Michael Mann, two lukewarmers, and respected Dr. John Christy who, nevertheless, shook hands with Michael Mann in front of my eyes. Thus, the climate alarmism was represented by its most extreme representative, while opposition to climate alarmism was hardly represented at all.

It’s long, but read the whole thing.

[Tuesday-morning update]

Mann destroys his own case for climate action.

Death, And The Meaning Of Life

I have no idea how I will face my impending end (and I’m doing everything reasonable to put it off as long as possible), but I get meaning from my goal of moving humanity into space, and I’ll continue to do so as long as I’m alive. When I see people who win the lottery have their lives ruined over it, I suspect it’s because they don’t have any real purpose in life other than material pleasure, and have never given any serious thought to what they’d do with the winnings. I’d have no problems at all; if I had a billion dollars, I’d start a serious space venture.

Science And Policy

Words of wisdom from Daniel Sarewitz:

Whatever science you’re doing on a post-normal problem, it is always going to be incomplete, and it is always going to be subject to revision, and highly uncertain. It can be viewed from numerous scientific perspectives. So multiple scientific studies can come up with multiple results, so it leads to a profusion of truths that can be mobilized on behalf of different sets of values. Values and facts can pair up with each other in different ways.

One example I love is how everyone talks about how there’s a consensus on GMOs. Well there is consensus around a narrow part of the GMO issue, like there is a consensus around a narrow part of climate change. But the real problems have to do with the ‚what could be done?‘ questions. So for GMOs for example, when people say there is a consensus, what they mean is ‚we know they’re not a health risk‘. So I’ll accept it on health risk, I don’t have a problem with it. But then you say, ‚and we know that they’ll be an essential part of the economic future of Africa‘. Well, maybe that’s true — whose model are you using? What kind of data have you used to generate that? What are your assumptions? I mean anything dealing with projections of the future and claims about how the world is going to look, in a multi-variate, open system, are going to be subject to different people coming up with different claims and conclusions. And that’s exactly what happens.

And when you bring science into the political debate, you have to pick and choose which science you want to use. You have to match that with particular priorities about what policy problems you want to solve. I think science is really important, I think we want to be factual, I think we want to have a grip on reality and I think science can help us do that. But for problems where there are so many paths forward, so many competing values, the systems themselves are so complicated, I don’t think science is a privileged part of the solution.

…The post-normal science idea really does challenge the notion of science as a unitary thing that tells us what to do, PNS really says that we have to think of science in a different way in these contested contexts, and I don’t think most scientists want to go there. The deficit model puts them in charge: “we communicate the facts, you listen and take action.” So if the problem isn’t solved it’s not science’s problem. This is a self-serving superstition that the scientific community generally holds. And superstitions are hard to destabilize.

Over on Twitter, I’ve been having arguments with people about the proposed cut at the EPA, in which the budget for “protecting the climate,” is reduced to “only” $29M.

What in the hell does “protecting the climate” even mean?