Categorical Thinking and The Climate Debate

Guest post by Craig Loehle, Ph.D.

We often hear this disconnect in the climate debate: sceptic Joe says “human impacts are small and likely not harmful”; alarmist Arthur says “humans are affecting the climate, therefore we must act now”. It is not possible to get the alarmist to answer the claim of the skeptic that the impacts are likely to be small. I believe the disconnect results because the alarmist is using categorical thinking. In this mode, if something is bad, it is bad. Water is either clean or not clean. Forest is either wilderness or it is defiled. This conversation cannot progress because the world views of the sceptic and the alarmist are incompatible. The words they use do not mean the same thing. If the sceptic admits we are having a small impact on climate, the alarmist says “aha! You see? We are doomed!” This is not a conversation.

Categorical thinking is common in life. It is a critical mental shortcut that brings order to the chaos of sensory input—I do not claim it to be a defect. If someone lies to us once, they are now in the category of liar. This may work for judging likely human behavior but one hurricane is not a trend. If a person is in the clergy, we classify them as good. If they exhibit some defect such as shoplifting, we throw them down to the pits. They are either a saint or not a saint. We don’t say that a politician in the other party is misguided or has different goals from us, we call them evil (and they call each other evil). If some small thing goes wrong on a date or at a wedding, the event is “ruined”. In religion you are either “saved” or not, there is evidently no in-between category of semi-saved or saved part of the time or improved.

This categorical thinking permeates the climate change debate. A premise in categorical thinking about the environment that goes back before the current debate is that natural is good and artificial is bad, where artificial means anything affected by humans. In the case of nature this means that wilderness is good and trees planted in rows are bad (though birds don’t necessarily mind the rows). The categorical mindset means that any touch by humans ruins the wilderness, so humans in the US are being progressively excluded from wilderness (roads closed, no snowmobiles, horses banned, etc.) from the wilderness that they are supposed to value so highly. In the climate debate, it goes like this: “There is no doubt that humans have caused warming over the past 50 years. Therefore we must act now.” The question is posed as whether the climate has change, a categorical question. And of course it has changed and of course humans have had some effect even if tiny. The fact that there is some influence of humans is taken to mean that all the bad things one can imagine will consequently follow. In real life no one imagines that if their stock portfolio is yielding 0.1% annually that they are making money and therefore they are going to become rich and therefore they are already rich, but this is how the climate debate plays out, perhaps because climate is not something anyone has direct experience of so it is an abstraction, a “thing” not a process or continuum. James Hansen says “if we burn all the fossil fuels the ice caps are going to melt eventually and so we are doomed” (my paraphrase). The fact that it will take 200 years to burn all the fossil fuels and then 2000 years for the ice caps to melt to give his hypothetical sea level rise is immaterial to Hansen. If he can foresee it then it is already happening. But how can we seriously be worried about something that will take 2000 years to happen? I just hope civilization holds together for the next 100 years—that would be a great victory. Likewise, we can view the “bad weather” meme as a categorical construct. If the IPCC models forecast some increase in future bad weather, as they do, then it is assumed that this is a categorical change of quality in the climate, and that bad weather will be sweeping over us in waves rather than getting worse very very slowly (and for the record I don’t think the climate models are even capable of forecasting bad weather). Never mind that the IPCC SREX report couldn’t find any trends in bad weather over the past 100 years, the fact that models forecast something vaguely bad in 100 years is a categorical change that means that bad stuff is already happening. This mindset was labeled “future present tense” by Ben Pile, IIRC. It is certainly not possible for any human to have sampled enough of the weather to be able to say they have personally experienced an accurate trend in tornados or hail storms, which are distributed in space and random in time, and yet “future present tense” makes people sure they are already personally experiencing the bad stuff that is forecast to happen sometime in the future.

Categorical thinking also leads to innumeracy. We become unable to distinguish between 3mm/yr sea level rise and disaster because rising sea level as a categorical event is bad. There is no such thing as positive impacts of a warmer and wetter world fertilized by CO2 because human interference with climate is a disruption and unnatural and these are bad. If arctic ice melts this could not possibly have any benefits and the mere fact that it is a change must necessarily be catastrophic. If polar bears are negatively affected we are not allowed to talk about 50 other species that might benefit, including humans. Permafrost melting is lamented as if permafrost was some treasure that we will miss in future generations instead of a darn nuisance to any human activity and not even useful to the biota. That is, arctic ice and permafrost are treated categorically as “natural” and their loss lamented as a human interference without even thinking quantitatively about what benefits might accrue from the change or how large the harm might actually be. Any attempt at accurate accounting of costs and benefits is resisted in this categorical world. This categorical and innumerate view is the origin of loony statements like 50% of all species on earth are doomed or soon only Antarctica will be habitable.

And this is where “denier” comes in, because if the effect of man is bad per se, if we have polluted and affected the climate with our fossil fuels, it does not matter how much we have affected it and anyone who can’t see that we have caused this categorical change from the natural state is denying reality. When you sceptics try to talk about amounts of warming and model error and solar influence, it simply shows that you “don’t get it” in a categorical sense, that the climate is no longer “natural” and it is our fault. It is irrelevant how much we have changed it, we have changed the state, like spitting into the swimming pool makes everyone get out. The climate is now broken. And with a broken, human-altered climate, anything is possible, even super storms (which we can conveniently create by naming them such). It doesn’t matter if we only changed it a trivial amount, we’ve ruined the Garden of Eden with our sinful ways. I think this is why everyone has jumped on climate disruption as a meme—it so much better captures the idea of a broken climate, rather than one merely getting hotter.

This style of thinking permeates other aspects of the debate as well as environmental issues in general. It generates symbolic action. If building windmills is “good” it does not matter how good it is. It is in the good category and that is that. To complain that they are killing birds or that they are unreliable or way too expensive to save the climate is then viewed as just a ploy to achieve political ends by people who “don’t get it”. Other actions also are wrapped in this untouchable cloak of symbolic goodness and are not to be debated (solar, electric cars). Only when the green energy starts causing blackouts in Germany and Spain (and soon England and California) is there protest, but somehow their lessons-learned do not apply here. In other areas of environmental activism I will simply note that categorical thinking also means that there is no safe level of air pollution or water pollution or radiation, because if it is not pristine it is “polluted”.

There is of course categorical thinking on all sides, with some sceptics claiming CO2 can’t affect temperature or that all alarmists are uniformly evil, but overall the sceptic movement is populated by people interested in questions like “how much warming”, “how much impact”, “how much influence by the sun” and “how good are the models”. Which is so strange, because that is where everyone should be. You don’t put your money in the bank simply because it will make money (a category), you want to know the interest rate. You don’t accept a job because they pay money, you want to know how much. And at the restaurant you really are happy if your $16 steak is huge and tasty. No one treats the key personal decisions in their life, or even the trivial ones, categorically. But people are pushing for huge fossil fuel taxes and other restrictions on life with seemingly no interest in either whether the problem is big enough to worry about or whether the proposed solutions will be helpful. I am unable to understand why people act this way, but at least now I can categorize it!

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160 thoughts on “Categorical Thinking and The Climate Debate

  1. This is a nice way of saying that alarmists are drama queens.

    Kurt in Switzerland

  2. Some things really ARE categorical, black or white, 0 or 1 – like this computer, without categorical working it would not work nearly as well. It is all very well to talk about trinary logic and such ideas, but they’re freaking difficult to make work. When you’ve sold millions of computers and associated storage and communications systems built on trinary logic, then you can harp about categorical thinking. Until then … well, OK, so I know that there such things as Q-PSK and other multivalent modulation systems … but that doesnt blunt the point: some things ARE categorical.

    Perhaps wisdom consists not in choosing between categorical thinking or not categorical thinking (see what I did there?), but in knowing which applies to what?

  3. Thanks! This is one of the most important postings on the climate debate that I’ve seen in years. Categorical thinking and the resulting tendency for symbolic action might be more fundamental to the ongoing dispute than climate sensitivity and temperature records.

    I would have liked to send this article to my green friends, but I’m afraid they won’t like it. Most of them are veggies, some even vegans. They might be offended by the 16$ steak example at the end… Could you make that a salad maybe?

  4. I’m not sure how many are using categorical thinking. For many I’d imagine it is more the unwillingness to ask “how much?” rather than an inability to ask “how much?”

    The unwillingness comes from not wanting to lose the argument. They have a narrative, “the science says; the science is truth; we must act because of the science; etc.” and questioning the details just destroys the narrative’s power.

    The narrative has a certain number of pillars and none of them are open to question otherwise the building starts falling. The scientist who says it might be natural is obviously paid by big oil just like the tobacco companies paid for oddball scientists –– and let’s just ignore that the tobacco companies thought they were being oppressed by a consensus.

    What “we don’t get” is their deeper values and worldview. Blame Rousseau and new Romantics and all that. And the ex-Marxists who needed a new label. And so on.

    Rather, it isn’t so much that the thinking is in simple categories, it is that the thinkers are quite intuitive and can make fine threads of connection between “climate disruption” and all their own favourite worldviews.

    Show that political action would actually undermine their desired world, and then they’ll drop it immediately.

    I’m waiting for the incredibly efficient solar panel and windfarm, lots of cheap energy, that will make environmentalists quake in their shoes and run screaming back to the hills.

    Like what will the vegans say when we can grow meat in a lab?

  5. The human effect on climate is an open question. If we affect climate then so do insects since they produce more CO2 than we do burning fossil fuels, assuming that you believe the GHG theory of course. But if you believe that CO2 is a life giving gas that does not posses the properties ascribed to it for carrying out any warming then the question above is not needed. The climate system is a chaotic system with many inputs some of which we ignore, inflate or even are ignorant of but the main input is the sun. The sun is the only heat source capable of driving such a system providing enough heat to render the GHG theory unnecessary.
    See:- http://www.climateofsophistry.com

  6. I have been waiting years for the philosophers to get involved in this debate so I really welcome this piece. I understand the categorisation idea, I call it the ‘Crusoe effect’.
    I often think that the eco-zealots imagine going back to nature and surviving and prospering like Robinson Crusoe, overcoming all obstacles , living a halcyon life whilst leaving a tiny mark on the environment, whereas the sceptics know that in a very short time we would be ragged like that other castaway Ben Gunn, with our teeth falling out and desperate for a little bit of cheese.

  7. While there may be some alarmists out there who fit your description, to suggest that everyone who has come the conclusion that something needs to be done to restrain CO2 emissions has done so on the basis of “categorical thinking” is a prime example of categorical thinking in action.

  8. Black and white world. No gray. As Dr. Loehle points out, sometimes categorical thinking is not bad (when used as a guide on other people’s behavior), but you cannot live your life with categorical thinking. Since the world is made up of different shades of gray, you will always find some black or some white so you will get to a point of total inertia in seeing exactly what you want to see.

  9. The only warming of the climate due to humans is the land use changes and the BTUs that they emit.

  10. This is a very helpful article. I hope it gets wide play on both sides of the debate, but I don’t know how to get it in front of the ‘alarmist’ community. Very good job.

  11. My wife and I have fun with the “If it’s ‘natural’ it must be good for us” category. After all, we say, “Poison ivy is natural. So is the Amanita phalloides ‘death cap’ mushroom. And the typhoid bacterium. . .”

    Good points about categorical (‘black or white’) thinking, which is anti-science. But what’s really insidious about ‘Environmentalism’ and its errant stepchild Climatism is the religious zeal with which they are held, so opponents are heretics, or ‘deniers’. This is the stuff of which inquisitions are made. If I may quote myself, from the “Conspiracy of One” thread:

    Real scientists don’t talk about other scientists with contrary views as ‘deniers’. The Warmists are essentially claiming that their opponents are heretics, rejecting some kind of revealed gospel. This of course makes them immune to strictly scientific arguments. They can stand up and proclaim the Gospel According to AGW with a straight face, no matter how completely erroneous the ‘facts’ they cite are. And their sycophants in the media and the ‘environmental’ movement just nod and sing hallelujah!

    The problem is that the Warmists cloak their litany in the guise of science, which can fool most of the people most of the time. That makes sites like WUWT valuable, but hard to get out of the dungeon of ‘heresy’. We are lucky that there is yet no Grand Inquisitor to take more drastic action against the ‘deniers’.

    /Mr Lynn

  12. Yes, but I disagree about the CO2 (and the so called GHGs in general) – even that can be the subject of skeptical scrutiny and questioning. Not being able to affect the temperature is not the same as not warming, or not warming significantly, cooling… One has to solve the Earth’s surface heat transfer problem (no radiation balance at the surface) to calculate (or estimate) what will be the effect of increased CO2. Furthermore, one has to show that it’s possible to change atmospheric CO2 without changing climatic factors (long lifetime).

  13. @- “There is of course categorical thinking on all sides, with some sceptics claiming CO2 can’t affect temperature or that all alarmists are uniformly evil, but overall the sceptic movement is populated by people interested in questions like “how much warming”, “how much impact”, “how much influence by the sun” and “how good are the models”. Which is so strange, because that is where everyone should be.”

    What is strange is that ‘how much impact’ is where the scientific discussion is at. The statements by most of the leading scientific institutions, the vast majority of the scientists working on the field, and around fifty years of scientific papers on the subject confirm this.
    There may be a small clique of environmental activists trapped in categorical thinking that all climate change of whatever magnitude is bad, but they are easily offset by those categorical ‘thinkers’ who maintain in the face of all this evidence that the GHG effect does not exist or is insignificant.

    The result has been an inordinate concern with things like the arcane minutia of paleoclimate as those that categorically reject AGW seek any evidence that can support their position. Meanwhile as the Munich Re and increasing extreme weather events indicate the measure of how bad or good the ongoing climate change might be is evident in the current data, mining thousand year old proxy indicators is of minor relevance.

    One insight that historical data can reveal is that any climate change has bad effects on human societies and agricultural systems. Unfortunately human civilisation is often built with the implicit assumption that agricultural yields will be as stable as the climate, when both alter societies tend to collapse.

    While I am not convinced of the absolute validity of all that is done in the social sciences, the work of Altemeyer on authoritarian ways of thinking does indicate that categorical errors are rather more likely with those that conform to a free market, hierarchical authoritarian mindset.

  14. Perfectly stated. It is part of the environmental activist’s religion. Oil bubbling to the surface in nature=good. Oil drilling=bad. Noxious gas from volcanoes=good, noxious gas from factories-bad. Chemical compinds or reactions in nature=good, chemical compounds in the laboratory=bad. Gaia=good. Man=bad.

  15. Hi

    Thanks for your interesting post. Now, how do we counter this categorical thinking?

    One aspect is that categorical thinking may be strongly influenced by images (as opposed to verbal thought). For example, there were the pictures prevalent in the 70’s of men clubbing to death adorable white baby seals. This caught the attention of the whole nation. On the other hand, at the same time the Khmer Rouge were slaughtering 1 or 2 million people. There were no pictures and no interest as it happened.

    What images could we use to engage people who think categorically? Perhaps, we could use images of broken windmills and people freezing in the cold when the power grid becomes totally unreliable.

    One is tempted to simply call categorical thinkers fools and idiots. However, this is unlikely to convert them to a more realistic view.

  16. Very interesting article. The reason I think that most people fall into categorical thinking is laziness. It is far easier to think of the world in black and white as opposed to the reality which is gray. And this is also pure ethical laziness as well. Instead if agonizing about whether you tell the truth, people can fall into the trap of lying and other bad behavior by stating that its for a good cause and the lies will do good.

    Personally, it’s the mark of a person who is either unable to grasp the concepts or just simply refuses to do so. instead of educating themselves they simply take the lazy route and turn off their brains. It’s a large issue with well educated people who stop thinking and simply act without regard for what they are actually doing or saying.

    In the end, it really is cognitive dissonance.

  17. Thank you for this: Its the first time here I can recall philosophy being applied to the issue, and applied I think well.

    I would toss in a contentious point which resulted from a chance remark made to me by a philosopher friend that is about the importance of language in phislophy. Language encapsulates concepts. The phrase was ‘The problems of French philosophy would not have existed if they had written in German’. I believe it is a sort of stock phrase in his circles.

    So I was wondering whether, the growing suspicion I have that half the reason the Germans are so categorical in terms of all things green and climate, is because they speak live and think German.

    I speak less German than can be written in red ink on a matchbox, but working for Germans and being involved in translating some technical stuff – mainly guesswork plus a dictionary, and knowing what it probably meant, after having it roughly done by a non technical German speaker, I was struck by the preponderance of large composite nouns. The tendency to reify the world into real sold concrete objects. That is the language seems to me to naturally allow the easy construction of complex, but static qualities into a noun, but is very unsuited to encapsulating the idea of a complex dynamic into a single word.

    Whereas the Romance languages have enormous trouble in producing nouns at all – one of the unexpected side effects of the European Union is the appearance of multilingual booklets for equipment. Do the word count. English is usually the most compact. Dutch and German somewhat less so, and the Latin languages unbelievably verbose. “Warning: No user-serviceable parts inside” becomes “attention, no parts-of-the-sort-to-be-fiddled-with-by-non-specialists inside are to be found”, in German, and for the Romance languages you are likely to encapsulate the concept in a sort of “please don’t remove the cover and attempt to fix this as it not designed for the attentions of those unable to perform the actions, with competence”

    Lord (Shiva?) knows what the Sanskrit equivalent is..

    I think that linguistics has a very real part to play in the Climate change debate. I remarked to a US person that ‘I personally didn’t believe that CO2 had much impact on global temperatures’ the astonishing reply I got was ‘I have seen the ice melting myself’. A completely irrelevant answer, since I wasn’t denying that some warming had taken place. Stunned and shocked, I gave up.

    Another thing to understand, is how the principles of Agitprop have been seized perfected and refined to include every single aspect of current popular thinking. I have a friend who whilst being a self styled socialist and CND member is also deeply sceptical about AGW. “But cant you see” I said “That the same process that is being used to demonize CO2 was used to demonize nuclear power in the Cold War era?”. He held up the proposition that polonium release at Windscale had been ‘covered up’ and had led to clearly identifiable deaths from cancers in the Cumbria area ‘it was in the New Scientist, the Guardian, it was even mentioned on the BBC’ .

    Thanks to the Internet, I was able to confirm that indeed the story had considerable traction in the 60’s. And indeed polonium had been released, as it was being cooked up for weapons purposes. And indeed it had been covered up, because it indicated useful things about the UKs atomic weapons program.

    But nowhere was there any clear trail indicating that it had caused a single health problem. ALL the stories were of the ‘could’ and ‘might’ sort.

    Perversion of the reality – the numerical reality – of things is part and parcel of the agitprop method. Fear of radiation leading to rushed evacuations killed more people at Fukushima than the radiation itself, which the UN considers will have zero detectable health impacts anywhere. For example.

    And this methodology folds back neatly to the climate change debate. Agitprop or ‘marketing’ as we would call it today, is not interested in the truth, per se, it is interested in altering peoples perceptions to achieve the desired commercial or political result.
    Use of categorical language, as you call it (I am not sure you have used the right term, here but I understand what you mean) is simply one more tool in the toolbox.

    Science, to the marketing executive, is just another prop to construct what I call an ‘emotional narrative’. A plausible (false) picture of reality given more credence by a man or woman in a white coat being used to give the message. And the glue that binds the message together is emotion. fear of being a silly minority, a pariah element, and the joy of being the first one on the block to discover the wonders of ‘Snibbo’ (If you are too young to remember it, google it).

    I have taken the time to relate this, because to me AGW only makes sense in terms of a cynical deployment of typical cold war propaganda techniques to form and guide public opinion towards a series of political decisions that are of benefit to whoever stands behind the whole nonsensical debate.

    Viewed from that perspective it all makes sense. You elucidate here just one aspect of the way that is being carried out. I want to raise the possibility that it is but one of the tools, but the bag of tools has a name. Agitprop.

    And to make the point that to get embroiled in the detail of what is true and what is not is to misunderstand. The perpetrators are not concerned with truth: Truth doesn’t make profits, win elections. Perceptions do. And the easiest people to gull are the ‘concerned citizens’ of the liberal left. People who like to think of themselves as a bit smarter than they really are, and a bit more moral than they really are.

    AGW , renewable energy, sustainable growth, the green movement – whatever they once were, is not what they are today, they are a monstrous mindfuck, a marketing bandwagon that builds on a leftist perception of THEM, the giant corporations, the rich, the powerful as oppressing US, the intelligent but downtrodden and lied to masses..the subtle and marvellous transformation of course is achieved by the application of the final tool in the toolbox: the Big Lie. Because it is reasonably clear that who stands to benefit from all this is actually “THEM, the giant corporations, the rich, the powerful” They neatly avoid the accusation, by being the first to propose it! And the act of telling you that you are being oppressed is actually the sign that they, indeed, are doing just that.

    IN short the protest movements of the 60’s are now firmly in the control of, and willing participants of, precisely the forces they feared and identified as being the enemy.

    Oh the irony…

    I am a child of the 60’s. I was there. I saw honest protest movements infiltrated and influenced by hard left propagandists. I was there in Soweto, and heard also the same tune being sung to the townships by ‘the brothers from Cuba’ . I see the Arab spring, honest protest, infiltrated dominated and controlled ultimately by the Islamists.

    I am at heart a socialist, in that I wish to improve the lot of my fellow man, I am a scientist and engineer, so I have the tools to make a little difference. But all the time an old joke rattles around my head….

    Once upon a time there was a little bird, who was happy and contented. But a little over ambitious.

    He flew higher and higher trilling his happy song, until the earth fell away and he realised he was cold and hungry. He was freezing with the altitude. He fell.

    Into a warm moist cow pat. there he thawed, but could not escape.

    “Help me!” he cried. “Help me: I am a victim of misfortune!”

    A cat heard his trilling, and said “what is the matter?” .

    “I am up to my neck in bullshit” said the bird, “And I need help to get out!”

    “Nothing easier ” said the cat tugged him out and ate him.

    The morals of this story are as follows.
    1/. If you overreach your ability, you are likely to end up with your wings frozen and in the shit.
    2/. If you are warm and comfortable stuck in the shit, mostly its better to keep your mouth shut.
    3/. Not everybody who says they can help you out, is your friend.

    And that is the problem. Mankind is in the shit, and no one really denies that. The problem is working out who in fact is your friend, and who just wants to eat you.

  18. Categorical thinking has long been the MO of politics, religion and the modern environmental movement (which is a combination of the first two), but has never had a place in science! Science is all about quantifying, very specifically, the natural world. Science and categorical thinking are incompatibly.

    Thank you Mr. Loehle for spelling it out. The climate change debate has always been between scientists and categorical thinkers, speaking different languages.

  19. Thanks Craig, your note should be mandatory reading for everyone interested in climate science, it certainly rings a bell in the UK. We are sitting on large reserves of shale gas that we desperately need to develop, to get some growth into our near bankrupt economy. The operation will clearly not be without risk and will need to be managed carefully, but the ‘No Fracking’ protestors have been out in force this week taking the categorical view that it is environmentally unacceptable, stop.

  20. Bair Polaire says:
    March 5, 2013 at 4:56 am

    I would have liked to send this article to my green friends, but I’m afraid they won’t like it. Most of them are veggies, some even vegans. They might be offended by the 16$ steak example at the end… Could you make that a salad maybe?

    Another example of categorical thinking perhaps?
    All killing is bad, even killing to live?

    Nigel Harris says:
    March 5, 2013 at 5:08 am

    While there may be some alarmists out there who fit your description, to suggest that everyone who has come the conclusion that something needs to be done to restrain CO2 emissions has done so on the basis of “categorical thinking” is a prime example of categorical thinking in action.

    Perhaps but this actually explains a lot of my experience with people who are alarmed, never been able to quite put my finger on it before.

    DaveE.

  21. A nuanced commentary. The distinction is black or not-black, white or not-white. Simple set theory, which George Boole delineated so many years ago. Those of us who are sceptical about the impact of man’s contribution would do well to keep the WUWT app readilly available to show those who have trouble visualizing – not-black, or not-white, the images which show the facts.

    We need to stop the use of the false dichotomy, black or white.

  22. “I think that linguistics has a very real part to play in the Climate change debate. I remarked to a US person that ‘I personally didn’t believe that CO2 had much impact on global temperatures’ the astonishing reply I got was ‘I have seen the ice melting myself’. A completely irrelevant answer, since I wasn’t denying that some warming had taken place. Stunned and shocked, I gave up.”

    This happens all the time and it is stunning. There is a linguistic hockey stick (climate change, global warming…).

  23. It is as if, in a large classroom, one student has stood up here and made the above speech. In reality, he is just a student, and not a particularly good one, yet he talks like he is the professor, who has the answers required in the course. If it were not a classroom situation, everyone could spend time on his points, agreeing here and disagreeing there, but in the end his inexpertness–indeed, his incompetence in the handling of categories (so that he succumbs to them: “I am unable to understand why people act this way, but at least now I can categorize it!”)–is what should shine through. He himself categorizes falsely. He thinks the proper way to think about climate is “how much warming?”, and that of course is in line with Anthony Watts’ thinking, known as the “lukewarm” position. Unfortunately, it is incompetent thinking, the result of forty years of miseducation of climate scientists. And it is all of the incompetent scientists who have allowed the fearful and tyrannical dogma–not “category”, childish moderns, but good old fashioned dogma (the “greenhouse effect”, of increasing atmospheric temperature with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide)–to energize what is now, in fact, political insanity at the highest levels of governmental authority.

    The bell rung on the scientific bottom line–that the Standard Atmosphere model describes the real, equilibrium state of the atmosphere, and there is no destabilizing, global warming greenhouse effect–long ago, and without a real professor in sight, who knows that bottom line, this class has been dismissed for some time now. You are merely keeping the insanity going, by deluding yourself, and those who follow you blindly (dogmatically), that you have the answers.

  24. A very valuable contribution. By itself, this essay provides a perspective to explain a large part of something which has long puzzled me, and that is the speed with which alarm over carbon dioxide penetrated political and scientific establishments when the case for alarm was so flimsy.

  25. There are 2 kinds of people in this world; The first one thinks that there are 2 kinds of people in this world…

  26. Craig,

    Thank you for a truly insightful post.

    I’m reminded of ‘The Hitchikers Guide…’ (My bold.)

    ["In the first novel and radio series, a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer, Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. The Ultimate Question itself is unknown.
    When asked to produce The Ultimate Question, Deep Thought says that it cannot; however, it can help to design an even more powerful computer, the Earth, that can. The programmers then embark on a further ten-million-year program to discover The Ultimate Question..."]

    Hmmm…

  27. Scuzza Man

    Some things really ARE categorical, black or white, 0 or 1 – like this computer, without categorical working it would not work nearly as well. It is all very well to talk about trinary logic and such ideas, but they’re freaking difficult to make work.

    Thats where it gets interesting. A computer might be built on a machine which at its heart is 1s and zeros, black and white, but it doesn’t behave like that – it behaves like something which, increasingly, can deal with shades of grey. And colour since the late 90s.

  28. Craig, you write “Categorical thinking also leads to innumeracy.”

    Surely this is the crux of the issue. In physics, the only thing we can rely on is hard, measured, empirical data. In the case of CAGW, until we have an actual MEASUREMENT of climate sensitivity, no-one has the slightest idea of what it’s value is. The best we can say is that it is almost certainly more than zero, and less that some upper limit. And when we have a measuremnt, we have, at the same time, a meausre of accuracy.

    Surely the only conclusion we can come to in the debate of what is happening to the world’s climate, is that no-one really knows.

  29. I’m afraid to say that free marketeers engage in exactly the same thing.

    In this country, the UK, there is a sine qua non that ‘privatisation’ equals GOOD. Good for WHOM is the question to ask there? Privatisations are always priced generously to ensure that investors ‘get a good return’, so it is clearly good for them. However, once in private hands they can be freely traded and may end up in the hands of those who wish to draw profits in the UK to subsidise their own industry back home (it is reasonable to ask if French and German energy companies have engaged in this). It is not a sine qua non that privatisation benefits Joe Bloggs in his 3 bedroom terraced house in Manchester, Newcastle or the East End of London.

    There is also a sine qua non that ‘because we believe in free markets that everyone else does too’. In fact, most everyone else in most every major economy believes in a certain state protection of key strategic assets but are happy to engage in the carnage of the UK economy if the whores in the UK Parliament spread their legs for them. American investors know full well they’re not allowed to do in the USA what they rapaciously do here. That’s why they come!! It’s not just them, let me add.

    There is a sine qua non that ‘public sector operations are universally bad’. They aren’t actually. Wages are not depressed by the need to pay shareholders dividends and so the pay for workers in the public sector is usually higher than in the private sector. Those workers pay the price for the richer demanding dividends out of the private operation. If they don’t like it, foreign immigrants are brought in who will accept even worse conditions. It may benefit a few, but it doesn’t benefit the many.

    A global free market in financial investment means that British businesses can only gain investment if they are world leading. This creates a state of hopelessness for the vast majority who cannot be better than pretty good. The interests of the money men are served. Those of the majority are not. The reason? The societal value of full employment is never factored into investment decisions. It is why there is a discussion about nationalisation of banks right now.

    You’ll note that I’m not a fervent socialist, nor am I a no-holds-barred capitalist. I merely document and observe what has been going on to point out that those on the skeptical side of climate debates might like to ask if their behaviour in politics and economics is every bit as categorical as the warmists are in climate science.

  30. Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

    There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.
    by Michael Crichton
    San Francisco
    September 15, 2003

  31. Great concept. We can use this when discussing this with friends and family.
    Here is where the categorical thinking comes from, and how it is part and parcel of the Global Warming Cultists.
    I will go back as far as the philosopher, Hegel. Hegel was interested in many things, including how we continue to develop knowledge via our culture. He was a philospoher that appreciated the social and political aspects of things.
    He noted what we call the “Hegelian Dialectic.” This is a process by which we develop knowledge.
    Its “aphorism” is: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
    One person has an idea, or theory, about something in the world. A thesis.
    Another person has a differing view. Anti-thesis.
    They debate.
    Eventually, they, or someone else, figures out that the actual picture is more complex. Someone proposes a “synthesis” that incorporates the valuable aspects of each of the original two views.
    Here is a quick example: one person declares water temp is a function of sunlight exposure. Another person declares it is a function of depth. Finally, they arrive at the advanced idea that water temp is a function of both sunlight exposure and depth.

    Hegel could be described as a progressive, believing society was advancing, or could advance, if we could just identify the theses/antitheses and work to find the value in both, and advance to a more accurate synthesis.
    Hegel was very influential on a lot of ppl. Including a group of his students and followers that were labeled the “Young Hegelians.”
    One young Hegelian was a guy named Karl Marx.
    Marx applied the Hegelian dialectic more fully to political / social philosophy.
    Marx saw a dialectic betweeen the owners of the means of production, and the laborers who worked for them.
    Marx eventually calculated out where he believed this dialectic ought to advance for the betterment of mankind.
    This is Marxism: the laborers ought to be the owners of the means of production.
    It is a type of “progressivism” to believe that history is inevitably headed this way. It is a more advanced form of progressivism to believe that the logical and humane thing to do is to promote the conflict, the dialectic, so that you can make this eventual change come about.
    Marx believed that we will / would largely only get through the tension of the dialectic, and arrive at the new paradise of synthesis of the owner/laborer dialectic, by a revolution.
    Like an earthquake relieves tension on a fault, and makes the geology ultimately more stable.

    The early Marxists strove to provoke the workers. However, this did not work as planned.

    Later Marxists realized something: it is not just an economic arrangement – owner to laborer – but a more powerful, abstract social structure identified as the “cultural hegemony.” People are hesitant to have a revolution because cultural attitudes and beliefs are dearly held, almost not recognized or questioned, and these cultural values and beliefs are the cement holding us in the current status quo.
    So, to move to the Marxist goal of a world with no inequities – no oppression exploitation of the workers by the owners, it would take more than an uprising of workers against the owners of the means of production.
    It would take the dismantling of culture, or society.
    But to do this, you have to put a smiley face on it.

    A Norman Rockwell family, or small town, used to be admired. That is the status quo cultural hegemony. A Rockwell picture on a Saturday Evening Post edition helped reinforce the status quo.
    How can you attack that?
    One, by being idealogically driven to be opposed to such values and ideals.
    Two, by chipping away at its iconic status.
    The Marxists litreally for about the recent 80-90 years, have had a steady campaign to do exactly this.
    Here are the three targets, the unholy trinity, to the Marxists:
    The nuclear family, Christianity, and commerce/mutually acceptable economic activity.

    You can take it from there and trace how the good guys, and good things, have become the bad guys, and bad things.

    We readily nowadays accept the negative views of Christianity (Christians are dumb, ignorant, stingey, self-righteous, and hypocritical), of the nuclear family (divorce is better than kids growing up in a hostile household, single parenting is just as good as the traditional married male female nuclear family, two moms or two dads is OK, females and males are generally equal except for a few biological details, as we age, we should be taken care of by the medical field and social security, not our children, co-habitation is OK, married couples with all of their breeding are over-populating the planet and killing it off, it is offensive to some to have hetero media acceptable but not homo sexual accepted, two guys should be able to go to the prom, dating/sex/committed partnership is largely about mutual satisfaction not raising a family, the school can teach morals and values, The Beckhams are immoral for having four kids, etc.), and of commerce (Obama says you did not build your business, why do you really need an SUV, the price of various things – including gas, whenever the gallon of gas price rises, should be regulated, corporations are evil, banks are evil, credit card companies are evil, McDonalds is evil, we need to distribute wealth, we need to have local, self-sustaining communities with bartering brought back, and so on).

    All of these persuasive messages depend upon the categorical fallacy.
    Yes, there are two -male couples who raise children better than some hetero couple.
    Yes, there are polluting companies and oppressive companies.
    Yes, some Christians are bitter and small-minded, and not generous.
    Yes, for decent school achievement, some kids ought to be served breakfast at school.
    The exception defines the category, however, in this Marxist thinking.

    The heros in the old days were inventors, business laeders, and war heros. Now, many of our admired characters are laughable as any sort of role model – Holly wood people, and the panoply of drug-addicted, less-than-clean-living dead rock stars – Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Ray Charles, Jonny Cash, Jerry Garcia, and so on. Some of those characters have managed to continue surviving despite some crazy living. but we admire them for why? Can’t exactly say. And we make fun of a family guy just trying to take care of his family.
    All of the situation comedies are exactly this, from Dick Van Dyke show, That Girl, on to the present. A male in a position of authority is either a bumbling goof, or an evil, scheming oppressor.

    And we love it. We cannot get enough of it. We pay for it, and bear with commercials for it.
    Because these categorical views of society have ben manufactured according to a progressive political theory.

    This is why you find Marxists at the beginning of any chain of envorinmentalists. The green revolution is a way to hamper and control commerce and regulate child-bearing. That cpatures two of the three of the unholy trinity. The third – Christianity – gets shoved aside when you adopt the green revolution and Gaia as your religious dogma.

  32. Scuzza Man (@ScuzzaMan) says:
    March 5, 2013 at 4:51 am
    —-
    As near as I can tell, you are declaring that since computers use categorical thinking (either 1 or 0) and since computers are good. Therefore categorical thinking is good.

    Thank you for providing such an excellent example of categorical thinking.

  33. I’ve seen lots of examples in economics as well.
    Somebody points out a problem with capitalism, therefore capitalism is bad and since capitalism is bad govt MUST be perfect.

  34. I really don’t know what the alarmist are so worried about. They want humans to go back to the stone age or be eliminated all together. If their dire predictions come true, this will happen in due course and we will rid the planet of its human infection. Fear not, the earth will recover.

  35. izen says:
    March 5, 2013 at 5:32 am

    “What is strange is that ‘how much impact’ is where the scientific discussion is at. The statements by most of the leading scientific institutions, the vast majority of the scientists working on the field, and around fifty years of scientific papers on the subject confirm this.”

    That is almost a good point, izen. But categorical thinking still dominates the warmist arguments in the form of the following assumptions: feedbacks are all positive and natural climate variability is extremely small (just a product of volcanoes and TSI). These assumptions are categorically accepted by the ‘leading scientific institutions’ and ‘the vast majority of the scientists’ you are talking about, yet there is no compelling evidence for either one of them! In fact, the evidence that they are false has been growing since the assumptions were made. Accepting these assumptions as completely true is a form of categorical thinking hidden in the warmists seemingly scientific discussions.

    The falseness of these assumptions can be found in the historical records that you categorically dismiss while citing implied ‘trends’ in extreme weather events. Check the science and you will find that the trend is zero! (Munich Re measures damage costs, not weather events.)

    You did a great job of making Mr. Loehle’s point when you threw out the evidence in favor of the severe weather meme; a perfect display of categorical thinking!

  36. Mr. Loehle —

    This –> “In religion you are either “saved” or not, there is evidently no in-between category of semi-saved or saved part of the time or improved.” is simply not true, and offensive, to the vast majority of the religious today. You broadcast your ignorance when you step outside your own field. I would have thought, that with a PhD, you would have had at least a well-rounded general liberal arts education — but “evidently” not. Colorado State University did (and does) have some general religion classes — you should have included them in your course of study.

    Besides, didn’t your mother teach you never to bring up religion or politics in general conversation with strangers.

    An apology is due –

  37. Categorical Thinking and The Climate Debate

    Guest post by Craig Loehle, Ph.D. @ WUWT

    – – – – – – – –

    Craig Loehle,

    Thank you for serving up the tip of the philosophical iceberg on the topic of thinking per se.

    The issue at heart for thinking is its nature; its identity. Without that grounding your post does not address the fundamental problems in current climate science. Your ‘categorical’ references do not distinguish anything yet.

    I ask you to specify a unique identity for your idea of thinking per se.

    Again, the topic of thinking per se that you serve up is valuable in the climate science dialog.

    NOTE: in the History of Philosophy there is a lot of significance and diversity in the idea and concept of what sometimes is called categories / categorization. This needs to have some disposition to have a clear discussion.

    John

  38. The comments by Leo Smith could almost be part 2 of my essay–thanks Leo. I am of course aware of the role of agitprop and the way in which religion and politics encourage categories (you are either with us or against us) but I am also addressing the nature of the debate, how it is framed. For the “quantity” person (how much, how fast) it can be simply baffling when people think and talk in categories, so that was my purpose.

  39. Excellent observations. But you’re wasting your time, energy, and breath arguing with the Politically Correct Progressives who attack reason and science. Why?
    How about an explanation of your opponents? Only when you understand the basis of their strategy and tactics can you have a hope of overcoming them. Like a football coach who keeps defending the run when his opponents passes on every play, arguing with PC-Progs on their terms guarantees a loss.
    PC-Prog philosophy and belief system, even though the vast majority of them don’t know it, is based on the thoroughly debunked Hegelian Dialectic. This was the basis of Soviet theory and “science.” It was studied and worshipped, as Marxism-Leninist “science.” The PC-Progs’ reverence of their fake “science” today is an echo of Soviet “science.” This does NOT mean that our opponents are “Marxists,” or “communists,” or “socialists.” It just means that their belief system is based, even though they are unwitting of the source, on a debunked philosophy.
    Arguing with a Dialectic practitioner (like Mann and his ilk) is exactly what they thrive on. They do not believe in “Truth,” except as they decide to define it. Your arguing with them simply confirms their belief in the good/bad, right/wrong dialectic of materialism. Of course, they are right and you are wrong. In Dialectic practice, one side destroys the other, sweeps up the pieces, and creates a new, improved versison of society.
    Of course, to them, their argument is correct, which means that yours is wrong. Therefore, you must be destroyed. Once you are destroyed, evolution (toward their imagined nirvana) can continue.
    This approach to politics was introduced to American society in the 1920s and 1930s. It was deliberately introduced by its practitioners via our education and academic system. Dr George Counts was an agent who was particularly successful in this effort. See his “Dare Progressive Education be Progressive” speeches and articles to understand fully what they planned.
    The effort was focused on destroying traditional, capitalist America. Everything traditional was to be derided—“A racist, sexist, imperialistic, foreigner-hating, capitalist hell-hole. America must be changed.”
    This is a short version of who our opponents are, their belief system, and their goals.
    Arguing with them, reasoning, logic, real science, are all wasted on them. That is, until there is a defection. Just like the Soviet Union collapsing, once defections from their false nirvana begin, the collapse will be unstoppable.
    The only question is, how much damage will they do before the defections begin. That is what we can do—limit and slow the damage they do.
    Keep using real, factual, truth-seeking science.
    “The Dialectic:
    Fomenting the Revolution
    The concept of the dialectic has been around for a long time. It is simply that of opposite positions: Thesis (position) vs. Antithesis (opposite position). In traditional logic, if my thesis was true, then all other positions were by definition untrue. For example, if my thesis is 2+2=4, then all other answers (antithesis) are false. George W.F. Hegel, the nineteenth century German philosopher, turned that concept upside down by equalizing Thesis and Antithesis. All things are now relative. There is no such thing as absolute truth to be found anywhere. Instead, “truth” is found in Synthesis, a compromise of Thesis and Antithesis. This is the heart and soul of the consensus process.”

  40. I must respectfully disagree. I think that the viewpoint presented is quite valid but discusses a symptom, not a cause. The actual cause comes close to being intractable since it represents the core of life itself. Simply stated: Life cannot exist without meaning. The ‘meaning’ can be real or illusory, but survival demands that it be there, and if it’s illusory it’s obviously a problem.

    There are cultural displays all around us but there is one extremely powerful display that is universal and transcends culture. It’s very well recognized. In the literature it’s referred to as the ‘smile response’. It is the first thing the just opened eyes of the newborn sees. It is the first thing the infant responds to. It is so powerful that an infant will actually respond positively to one of those round, yellow, smiley faces. And it is the potential beginning of psychopathology. And this is because the infant has no life experiences, no way of knowing yet, whether the smile it responds to is a genuine representation of love or is simply a mask. If it is a mask, that infant’s first experience of life is grounded in an illusion, and that illusion will define his/her meaning.

    I recognize this sounds overly simplified and indeed it is. Development in childhood takes a while. I’ve never had children. But I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to be involved with several and, in particular, with one. About a year ago I said to him, “Well, Brian (not his real name), we’ve known each other for a long time.” He responded, “All my life.” He’s now 23. He believes in CAGW. He knows I do not. So neither of us discuss it. But I know, if he was in a position to act on his believe, he would do so in a manner that would insure no one was harmed, and everyone who accrued losses would be duly compensated. The meaning of his life is not based on an illusion. He has character. In the end, that is what it is all about. Long ago I learned that the beliefs do not define the person, the person defines him/herself. Eco-warriors need to know this. And if they have the opportunity to know someone who’s real meaning is not based on an illusion, they will not disparage humanity, but instead, stand in awe of a universe that had the courage to create a sentient being that could recognize its existence.

  41. Thanks for this article. I just finished a discussion with an AGWer where I realized that we didn’t have any noteworthy disagreements about the facts or the state of the science. The difference in our positions is due to philosophical factors. But I wasn’t thinking about it in the light of categorical thinking, this’ll give me something new to chew on for awhile.

  42. 97% of scientists make no claim about the human impacts of AGW on the climate

    I always use the Alarmists own peer reviewed research on the scientific consensus on climate change against them. They often quote the two 97% surveys and study as proof of whatever catastrophic outcome of AGW they can dream up.

    Expert credibility in climate change states:
    Preliminary reviews of scientific literature and surveys of climate
    scientists indicate striking agreement with the primary
    conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
    (IPCC): anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible
    for “most” of the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s average
    global temperature over the second half of the 20th century

    Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change states:
    2. Do you think human activity is a significant
    contributing factor in changing
    mean global temperatures?

    The Anderegg study clearly states that AGHG’s have been responsible for most of the warming over the past 50 years.
    The Doran survey mentions human activity in changing mean global temperatures

    Neither one makes any claim about the effects of AGW on the climate.
    As these studies and surveys have been done by the alarmists themselves what they have shown is that 97% of scientists do not make any claim as to how bad the effects of AGW will be.

  43. Categorical thinking is codified in the Endangered Species Act. Most folks probably don’t realized that any weighing of “cost versus benefits” when deciding on “mitigation” measures required under the act is forbidden. Therefore, a single endangered squirrel carries the same importance as the entire national economy.

  44. izen says: What is strange is that ‘how much impact’ is where the scientific discussion is at.

    Sorry to pick on you Izen, but most people here are talking baloney. “Alarmists” aren’t one homogeneous group. There are e.g. climate “scientists” who claim to study the climate. There are climate modellers who take the say-so of the “scientists” and create models from which they can make predictions.

    Then there are the impacts researchers whose input is “it’s going to warm by so much” and they try to model what effect that may have. Then there are the “jazz it up by mentioning global warming” researchers who have no idea about climate but find a vague trend is some natural system and then without any basis to do so claim it is “possibly another affect of global warming”.

    Then there are the PR staff who don’t even try to claim they know the science who take the “it may have a connnection with” (buried in a research paper) and write the press release headlining “Global warming could be causing ….”.

    Then there are the wind lobbyists and other sharks who will jazz up anything to enhance the case and increase the public fear. WHO DON’T CARE A DAMN ABOUT THE SCIENCE

    Then there are the real scientists … almost without exception they have been dragged like deabris in a tsunami away from the beadrock of real science by the torade of global warming nonsense … but that doesn’t mean they don’t attempt to approach the subject dispassionately … except when you are drowning in a sea of global warming crap, it’s hard not to cling onto some bit of turd floating by.

    So, the truth, is that an awful lot of these people don’t either bother to ask “how much”. It is a given that it is a problem, it is a given the people preaching from the pulpit have some basis for claiming Armageddon.

  45. Some years back two researchers won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering that some forms of stomach ulcers were caused by a bacteria; the H.Pylori bacteria.
    When this research was first presented (some years prior to the Nobel Award) at a conference of world experts the researchers were personally insulted and vilified by the “experts” in the audience.
    These “experts” (and they were world class experts !!) claimed that the research results were impossible because if it were true, it would have been discovered earlier (ponder for a moment the stupidity of this remark. Also these criticisms came from medical researchers).

    Why were these discoverers of the H.Pylori bacteria’s connection with stomach ulcers personally attacked and vilified? Why was the reaction of the those in the audience anger?

    Well, because implicit in their discovery was that the “world class experts” had for years been barking up the wrong tree and their discovery was, in effect, a repudiation of what the “mainstream” researchers had believed. It simply was a threat – a real threat – to much of the work they had done and published and promoted their entire careers. In essence, it made them look foolish; it was embarrassing.

    I mention the above because the AGW debate is no different. Ultimately one group in this debate will be humiliated (my guess is that it will be the AGW proponents) and shown to be wrong. And if you want to get someone totally pissed off and raging mad, humiliate someone in a very public forum.
    Of course, the AGW phonies have it coming because it was THEY who have agitated to shut down debate, personally attack reputable scientists who have legitimate questions, and see that research papers of those who question the AGW thesis were/are not published.

    As for me, well, I am a believer in Richard Feynman’s description of the scientific method (easy to find on YouTube). When a group of “scientists” deviate from that description, when they engage in personal attacks to “defend” their “science” , well, my take is that something is amiss, that someone is attempting to hide something.

    Of course, if you have the science behind you, you have nothing to fear, nothing to hide and you welcome debate.

  46. There are two kinds of people: those who think in categories and those who don’t.

    Just kidding, good article, and yes it is helpful to think about the ways i which binary black/white characterizations function in many different arguments. There are cases (good/evil) where it is morally important to make such sharp distinctions, but in many areas of environment and climate there are really gradations rather than absolute purity vs. absolute filth. The latter truly is how many environmentalists try to categorize everything, sometimes implicitly but often explicitly.

  47. This post reminds me that I am no longer supposed to use the term “Holocene Climatic Optimum” to refer to the interglacial temperature highstand 4-5,000 years ago. The CAGW meme has rebranded it the “Holocene Thermal Maximum,” even though earlier researchers chose the original term because of evidence that the biosphere seemed to reach peak interglacial productivity about the same time. That evidence did not go away, it just did not fit into an approved category.

  48. A very interesting piece. An essential premiss of such categorical thinking on the alarmist side of the debate, is an unquestioned belief in something I call the steady-state environment delusion.

    “We look at our world and the universe with human eyes and more importantly, with a human lifespan. In terms of the latter, we see an apparently ageless and unchanging view but it’s a false impression. When looked at through the eyes of “deep” time, it is dynamic, violent and forever changing. There is no ideal static harmonious state which must be maintained. There never was and there never will be either.”

    http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/the-steady-state-environment-delusion/

    Pointman

  49. Scuzza Man (@ScuzzaMan) says:
    March 5, 2013 at 4:51 am
    When you’ve sold millions of computers and associated storage and communications systems built on trinary logic,
    ==============
    There are millions of database machines in use – almost every one of them is trinary. While database newbies typically see the NULL as 0, it has a completely different meaning. The success and usefulness of NULL recognizes that logic is based on TRUE, FALSE, or UNKNOWN.

    Human beings create a great folly of logic in seeing the world in black and white and the climate debate is just such a case. Introducing the NULL shows where the error in our logic occurs:

    TRUE and TRUE = TRUE
    TRUE and FALSE = FALSE
    TRUE and NULL = NULL

    Humans are blind-sided by the NULL because we often fail to recognize that questions that contain the NULL do return TRUE or FALSE. They return NULL.

    Trinary objects are everywhere – yet we fail to account for this in our thinking. A coin toss need not yield heads or tails, the coin sometimes lands on edge. Thus, “not heads” is more likely than “tails”.

  50. Excellent article.

    It always strikes me as odd that humans are not seen as a natural part of the biosphere. This is probably from the religious dogma that God created everything and he created us special, as people that need to tend the Garden of Eden and be the keeper of the wild beasts. But we sinned and now we eat bread by the sweat of our brow.

    What’s odd is that most of my very liberal friends, the eco-nuts that think humans are bad, are atheists, and my conservative friends tend to be religious. Yet it’s my conservative friends that don’t have a problem with humans having an impact on the world and the atheists wish we were all dead. Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t the religious conservatives feel that humans are super special and we should be tending the gardens as God expects? And that the atheists would say “hey, we humans are just a part of the whole natural continuum and we should alter the world to suit our needs”

    Do you think amoungst beavers there are liberal beavers that lament their species damming up streams and altering their environment? Prarie dogs fill the plains with holes, bees and ants and termites infiltrate whatever they can reach with devastating affects. Should they be reprimanded for their thoughtless alteration of the environment?

  51. “The question is posed as whether the climate has change”
    Shouldn’t that be “whether the climate has changed” or am I missing something in the language?
    Great post and also @Leo Smith – March 5, 2013 at 6:06 am, that is a great post too.

  52. Old’un says:
    March 5, 2013 at 6:13 am
    We are sitting on large reserves of shale gas that we desperately need to develop, to get some growth into our near bankrupt economy.
    ===========
    North Sea oil turned UK poverty into prosperity.

  53. I think it’s wrong to state that there has been no philosophizing on this issue. But certainly Craig has offered a comprehensive analysis of the problems in the debate. What he exposes are the problems in agenda-driven science and the vacuousness of the debate it engenders.

    He writes: “A premise in categorical thinking about the environment that goes back before the current debate is that natural is good and artificial is bad, where artificial means anything affected by humans.”

    Which brought to mind a cartoon I saw recently. Two prehistoric men clad in animal skins are sitting in their cave philosophizing, as it were. One says to the other: “Something is not right. Our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, and yet no one lives past 30.”

  54. “It is not possible to get the alarmist to answer the claim of the skeptic that the impacts are likely to be small.”

    Sure it is. The answer has always been there from the beginning. WG II addresses impacts. The impacts can range from none to large.

    There is of course categorical thinking on both sides. In fact this piece STARTS with its own categorical thinking: Its impossible to get the alarmist to answer the claim.. Absolutely categorical thinking. Absolutely wrong, and a critical blindspot of the author.

    try this:
    It is not possible to get the skeptic to answer the claim of the alarmist that the impacts are potentially large.

    Same thing. different color

    There are claims of certainty on both sides: C02 has an effect: C02 has no effect. The sun dunnit. The sun didnt. Sensitivity has to be less than 1. Sensitivity has to be greater than 1. The temperature record is a fraud. The record is good. Warmists are all leftist. Skeptics are all right wingers.

    Categorical thinking is great. when it works. Shades of grey thinking is great. when it works.
    Pointing out that people engage in catagorical thinking is well, categorical. That’s because thought itself is categorical

  55. For full details on how/who/when American (and Western) culture was infected by the PC-Progressive anti-capitalist message, of which the capitalist-hating Man-Caused-Global-Warming cult is just the latest manifestation, see Willing Accomplices.

    http://www.willingaccomplices.com

    It’s not an accident that anti-science, anti-business, anti-Normal beliefs have taken over our culture. The transmission belts of our culture (the media, education/academia/Hollywood) are all carriers of this destructive virus.

    The core of anti-capitalism has been neatly packaged for the modern, non-thinking, low information consumer. They can be part of the Elite Vanguard guiding society to a better tomorrow.

  56. A friend of mine recently confessed that she went on believing in the reality of Santa Klaus till she was ten. She considered other children, who told her that he did not exist, nasty heretics. Something must have happened that changed her mind but she does not remember. I lost my faith when I was five and saw in my native village two Santa Klaus-es crossing each others roads.

  57. benfrommo says:
    March 5, 2013 at 5:57 am
    Personally, it’s the mark of a person who is either unable to grasp the concepts
    ================
    People have a need to be liked. It is built into the genetics of social animals. Thus, the question of true of false is not their motivation. If it makes other people like you, then it must be good. A white lie is good (socially acceptable) because it makes people like you. Telling the truth is bad (socially unacceptable) if it hurts people’s feelings.

    Thus, when we see movie stars on TV supporting such and such proposition, it has little or anything to do with truth. They are on TV because they have a need to be liked, and the cause they are supporting satisfies this need. If they are telling a lie in support of a good cause then it is socially acceptable (white lie), so the question of whether they are telling the truth or not is not an issue. They are doing a good thing if it makes people like them, and since it makes people like them, they must be doing a good thing.

  58. On thinking in general and particularly lazy thought – read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast & Slow, informed by N. N. Taleb.

  59. Kip Hansen: you think I owe you an apology for the saved/not saved distinction. There are plenty of people who think this way. Perhaps I can clarify that NOT EVERYONE thinks categorically about anything, but categorical thinking leads to this kind of good/evil, saved/not saved distinction. Perhaps you don’t live in the USA where we have evangelical churches and revival meetings.
    harrydhuffman: for some reason you think the lukewarmer position represents incompetent thinking. Without you being specific I have no idea what you mean, sorry.
    Rhys Jaggar: at the risk of getting into politics, “privatization” is of course subject to cronyism when gov assets are sold. In the long run, private enterprises are subject to competition which forces increased efficiency and lower prices than a monopoly. Gov services are inefficient and of course they can pay workers whatever they want, but at the cost of burdening the taxpayer.
    Wiliam Morey: thanks for Crichton quote

  60. Thanks Craig. You have outlined the problem perfectly. I have a friend with whom I would argue climate, until I realized he had no opinions of his own, really didn’t think about it at all. He just accepted and espoused the ‘authority’ view.
    coincidentally, the Non Sequitur comic strip for 3/5 is quite appropriate:

    http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur

  61. It goes way beyond categorical thinking to the friend vs enemy camp type of logic for many involved in the fray.

  62. I, too, write extensively about epistemology and human thinking, and the way I put it is that the human brain is a superb pattern matching generalization engine, to a fault! We see fluffy lambs in the clouds and the face of Jesus burned into a piece of toast and these become meaningful and not just the misdirection of the very same perceptual subsystems that would see a tiger hiding in the bamboo when there really was a tiger there and thereby ensure that the person who saw it survived to reproduce where his less imaginative cousin did not. Under those circumstances a “greedy” pattern matching engine was preferable to one that missed a few things, because there was a high payoff/penalty for correct guesses but little penalty for being wrong.

    As a consequence, today we find a four leaf clover and on the same day win at poker and for the rest of our lives four leaf clovers become “lucky”. We feel sad and lonely and invent an invisible friend that makes us feel better, and the fact that we did indeed feel better when we thought about our invisible friend stands as proof for the rest of our life that the invisible friend exists, and indeed becomes even more efficient at making us feel better in the future as we gradually imbue it with more and more magical properties. And yes, it still works correctly on occasion, we meet somebody who doesn’t feel quite “right” and avoid their company to learn later that they are indeed a child molester or axe murderer, or we are driving and change lanes for reasons we can’t fully explain just in time to avoid being tangled in a four car pileup. There are still tigers in the bamboo, and it is still often better to “see” ten tigers that aren’t really there than to miss the one that is.

    Categorical thinking and religious thinking often go hand in hand, and one can at least imagine whole evolutionary scenarios during the memeto-genetic co-evolution of human society where survival was enhanced by participation in social religious rituals and the adoption of altruistic religious ethics to strengthen the complex web of society to where it could withstand outside invaders from competing societies. In many cases the failure to acquiesce in religious categorical thinking, to accept the local societal norm without question, was more or less a death sentence, either for the individual in question at the hands of their own local social cohort or for that social cohort when confronted by a horde of more compliant true believers who lacked the doubt that their sacrifice would earn them a place in heaven. We see precisely this sort of religious categorical thinking leading to the historical rivers of blood shed in the conflict between Islam and Christianity and Judaism (and these three and everything else). Apostasy is not tolerated, and in Islam at least it is explicitly and in writing punishable by death on the spot. In Christianity it was de facto so punished for the better part of 1500 years (from Nicaea up until well into the Enlightenment) even though there is weaker scriptural support. In Judaism, Moses and God visited instant, usually horrible, death on apostates.

    For thousands of years, then, nearly everybody who survived in whole populations of individuals were those that were not apostates, those that would accept what they were taught was true in pure black and white terms. Shades of grey were culled from the herd (or became the leaders of the herd, the wolves that preyed on and ruled the socially compliant sheep).

    As religion itself has grown weaker, its memetic teeth and capability of visiting mortal sanction on unbelievers or apostates drawn, there are entire mental subsystems in most living humans that are literally flapping in the breeze, lacking a preprogrammed mental compass that delineates this as good, and that as bad. Scientists and lay persons alike still possess these systems — hardly anyone is totally free from them because they are often useful, as you say, in making a kind of imaginary order out of the chaos of experience at the ethical level, the level where ordinary scientific reasoning cannot so easily be applied.

    Small reason to be surprised, then, that this hammer, divorced from the nails that once bound together human societies in small clusters capable of withstanding the outside invading hordes, has found (or even spontaneously created) a new nail in the form of climate change. And look at the man who created it! James Hansen is, from all reports, someone that can easily be thought of as batshit crazy, a religious lunatic:

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2012/03/james-hansens-religious-ted-talk.html

    Hansen claims that we will see five meters of sea level rise in this century! Mind you, the actual data for SLR is three millimeters per year and has been more or less stable for the entire 130 years of gauge records. This is a rate of an inch a decade, in round numbers. To experience 5 meters of SLR by 2100 we can more or less ignore prior rises and details and divide 5 meters by 10 decades to get 50 centimeters per decade, or five centimeters — two inches per year, for every year of the next 87.

    The longer that it continues at 3 mm/year (or less), the faster it has to go later. This sort of disconnect from reality is difficult to even comprehend.

    It is also amusing to hear him talking about carbon futures in this talk. According to him, we will collect carbon taxes from all companies using carbon to make energy, and distribute them to all the people of the world directly (without the government getting a single dime, I quote), and somehow we will get more money back than the energy companies charge us extra for the money needed to pay their carbon taxes. This extra money — the money we pay out of pocket extra for energy, that is returned to us, somehow amplified by passing through the hands of the companies in business to make a profit, will then stimulate all sorts of extra jobs and enormous prosperity and will — somehow — cause the energy companies to stop using carbon to make energy and thereby save the planet.

    Physics and economics have a lot in common. Work and energy and “work and money” are not just metaphorically similar, in a lot of cases they are projective views of the same thing. The first and second law of thermodynamics apply equally well to free energy sources and work in physics and to microeconomic models in econ, where their ain’t no such thing as a free lunch either way. I find it somewhat disconcerting to hear a person presumably trained in physics glibly offer the entire world a free lunch on public television — it lowers my expectation that that same person is capable of balancing the books, so to speak, when it comes to mere joules and watts in physics.

    The talk makes it quite clear that what really happened is that Hansen made his own mind up long ago, back in 1981. Global warming is bad, and humans cause global warming by burning fossil fuels. That was the moment where the science was settled, at least for him. Nothing in the time since then has been permitted to shake that conviction, and all evidence has been twisted to support it. A rise in surface temperature is evidence of GHG-induced AGW. A failure to observe an increase in surface temperature is an excuse to look for the “missing heat” somewhere else. The fact that surface temperatures rose without help from GHGs for centuries, and that the historical record of Holocene temperatures indicates that most of the last 11,000 years has been spent as warm or warmer than it is today is ignored, but the lagged correspondence between temperatures and CO_2 levels is turned into proof that GHGs are responsible for the interglacials.

    And where is quantitative reasoning in all of this? Where is the quantitative basis for the projected 5 meter SLR by 2100? Where is the confrontation of the fact that he predicted that his own offices in New York would be underwater by a decade ago, where reality is that the sea level at New York has varied by roughly one whole inch — maybe — over that time? Where is the confrontation of the fact that it could be that the entire cooling hole associated with the 1940-1975 era that preceded the rapid upshoot of the 1980s and 1990s could have been caused by industrial aerosols — pollution — as indeed was claimed by Real Scientists in the 1970’s, so that the rapid upshoot was in part a delayed reaction to the Clean Air Act as the Earth rapidly went back to the quasi-equilibrium temperature that it would have had in the absence of that pollution all along, a trajectory that began at the end of the LIA?

    We are, slowly, getting some idea of how the composition of the atmosphere and variability of the Sun and Earth’s orbit mutually contribute to set the “base thermostat” for the planet about which its temperature oscillates chaotically with many nonlinear feedbacks and non-Markovian effects from the past with multiple significant time scales. Within another thirty to eighty years, we might get to where we can indeed make quantitative predictions of climate that aren’t simplistic one-parameter functions like Hansen’s scenarios A, B and C. The data itself has firmly rejected C (but Hansen hasn’t). B is at this point at least one standard deviation too high, working on two. The data from the satellite record best fits his scenario C, but that is the scenario where CO_2 does not increase and hence has no effect on global temperature! Somehow, the Earth is warming at a rate that is within noise from being somewhere in between no GHE warming at all — negative feedbacks more or less canceling the gain from increased CO_2 — to neutral feedback, only the warming produced by the increased CO_2 itself, with little to no positive or negative feedback. The data barely embraces weak positive feedback, and I don’t think it goes any lower than no warming (it is difficult to imagine more CO_2 actively cooling the Earth from warming feedbacks).

    What the actual climate data tells us is that there is no reason to panic. Hansen’s gloomiest, doomiest predictions have been proven overwhelmingly false, at least so far, not even close to the data. The only interval they successfully forecast was the 1980s themselves, when the globe was warming indeed as the air cleared of industrial aerosols and the sun was solidly in a double solar maximum state, as highest levels of activity as seen in at least one or two centuries. GHG-induced AGW is by no means disproven — indeed, it is probably somewhat true — but there is little evidence of a catastrophe, in any of the dimensions where catastrophe is “supposed” to occur. We are not seeing more extreme weather. We are not seeing more extreme storms or droughts or floods. We are not seeing 2 inches of SLR per year — we aren’t seeing a tenth of that. We are not seeing warming since 1997-1998 at all, and the entire reliable satellite record is basically almost flat up to a single event — the 1997-1998 super ENSO — and then is completely flat after that event.

    None of this disproves GHG-induced CAGW, but it certainly does not prove it. Hansen is reduced to amplifying the significance of things we couldn’t even detect until the last decade — ARGO data, GRACE data — as proof of continuing warming — where he is completely incapable of fairly comparing what those things were doing in the previous fifty or a hundred years, in other words in a complete absence of knowledge of what their actual baseline behavior is. Perhaps the ocean at depth substantially cooled when the surface temperatures were most rapidly rising (as would make sense if the ocean was releasing heat as a proximate cause of the warming as in the case of ENSO). Perhaps Antarctic ice mass substantially increased during the same era because warmer air with more moisture in it led to increased Antarctic precipitation. Perhaps the surface and air temperatures and the oceanic temperatures at depth act as mutual buffers that regulate temperatures close to some quasi-equilibrium baseline only weakly dependent on CO_2 levels.

    But these possibilities are not considered, because to the religious, there is only one possible truth. All evidence must be evidence in favor of that truth, once one has decided what the truth is, its just that perhaps we lack the wit to understand how.

    I’m still waiting for my own personal carbon dividend, of course. Somehow nobody has come knocking at my door to deliver the money I pay into “carbon taxes” back to me, with interest. I still await the massive creation of jobs Hansen so confidently predicts. Instead I look at Europe, and imagine a European banking system some half a trillion dollars richer because it did not piss the money away building windmills and so on, with countries that are not on the edge of bankruptcy as a consequence. I look at the third world, with any hope of getting simple things like washing machines and electric lights and something besides animal dung to cook on squelched in perpetuity by Hansen’s demonizing of CO_2. I look at the human misery and economic waste created by the current energy policy we pursue even though temperatures have not risen according to “plan”, even though there is no evidence of catastrophe, even though by our actions we are creating an easily measurable catastrophe not a hundred years in the future but right now.

    Hansen is doing it for his grandchildren. Well, I’ve got a brand new grandson as well, and I see his economic prospects — and the economic prospects of the entire world — being blighted by a policy that fails to provide the energy needed to run civilization not just for me in the rich US, but for every single human being on the planet. Let’s think for a moment about the grandchildren of people in Zambia, in Sri Lanka, in Laos, in Somalia living now, not in 2100. Right now they live in a state of poverty Hansen cannot even imagine with his midwestern background, and they are fundamentally starved for energy. Energy equals food, clean water, light, safe cooking, clean air (no smoke from animal dung), sewer systems, the industry needed to create screens for windows, build houses that are not nests of vermin, and yes, the energy needed to wash clothes some way other than in a crocodile and parasite and E Coli infested river. Energy equals a life elevated from the abject pre-industrial misery that these people live in now. To be frank, if AGW did elevate sea levels by a full meter by 2100 — which there is zero reason to think will actually happen as far as direct evidence is concerned — it would probably still be worth it to continue developing carbon-based energy resources until the third world becomes the first world, if that’s what it takes. And in 20-30 years, solar energy, at least, will mature and render the entire argument moot for the rest of eternity, or we’ll develop LFTR, or one of the exotic nuclear technologies (fusion, nickel-copper) will pan out. Panic and globe-spanning hardship are just stupid, at this point in the game.

    rgb

  63. Re:JAJA says:
    March 5, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Bravo! You’ve articulated something I’ve struggled to explain (less effectively) for years to those who ask me, “Why would all those experts lie?”

    Conscious lying is unnecessary when vested interest can be so powerful a hypnotic agent.

  64. Excellent article.
    Scalar thinking is the norm when people are discussing ideas. Binary or categorical thinking comes about when ideas get petrified into an ideology. And that happens (another of Ben Pile’s ideas) when people use ideas to fill a political void.
    A normal, rational reflection like: “We’re in danger of messing up our environment (so let’s do something about it)” morphs into “Man is destroying the planet” and accepted as a self-evident truth which propels a small number of Ehrlichs and Gores to fame and fortune, and creates structures which rely on the propagation of the idea which gave rise to them.
    Once it’s established itself, it’s difficult to eradicate.

  65. Thanks Craig.

    This sort of categorical thinking falls under what I call ‘Argumentum ad liturgiam’, or reference to the formulaic. It’s sort of the bastard love child of ‘ad verecundiam’ and ‘ad populum’. The level at which many people ‘think’ usually does not reach to a genuine appeal to authority. And they often have little concept of any demonstrable consensus in a given subject.

    Instead of vessels conveying a message, words become the message itself, taking on a power that is not theirs to take. The servant becomes the master, the letter of the law supersedes the spirit. And so it is in the weird world of the Khmer Vert, where off-pat words and phrases are elevated to positions of absolute lordship over any former intrinsic meaning they may have once had.

    There’s is indeed a black & white world without too many shades of gray. And yet life is a wonderfully rich spectrum of shades of nuance and subtlety. But such delicate notes are lost in the cacophony of bombastic dissonance of The Goreacle & Co and other such grandiloquent pronouncers of absolute ‘truth’. Yet it’s the loud and harsh notes that folk generally hear and adhere to, passing on the noisome bluster, without thinking, to us lesser mortals who sense that life is not quite as simple and settled as they would have us suppose.

    So yes, as others have stated above, great to have some clear philosophical thinking brought to bear on this, the world’s greatest and fairest science blog by far!

  66. Mosher –> This bit is, I’m afraid, simply not true –> “Pointing out that people engage in catagorical thinking is well, categorical. That’s because thought itself is categorical” You should stick to numbers — Thought itself is the very essence of a “million shades of grey” — that’s the more usual cognitive problem — they can’t cope with their inability to deal with the shades of grey. There are a lot of university level courses available on the subject of thought, thought processes, and disabilities that comes from non-optimum thought processes. There are no major current theories of thought, that I am aware of, that treat thought as categorical (as defined in this discussion — exclusively black and white — good or bad).

  67. wonderful philosophical reflection on our predicament with climate change discussions (and many other issues as well). Thank you. Well done.

  68. Thank you for this insightful post. As others commented above, I also found it a helpful way of understanding many puzzling and unfruitful interactions over the climate and CO2. I found two points particularly useful.

    1. Categorized thinking feeds into and reinforces tribalism. Many people don’t bother with thinking at all about the issue—they simply go along with what others in the tribe are saying. Our tribe is for this and against that—no discussion follows. As Jared Diamond reminds us, the tribe is basic in human survival, and part it is to fear, attack and, if possible, kill the other tribe, as they may carry diseases that could wipe out our tribe.

    2. The crux of the issue is moral, rather than religious. Yes there is a lot of believing, and not believing regarding climate change, along with confirmation bias, dismissal of uncertainties, etc. But you do well to position the question as a moral one: What is our responsibility for the planet and future generations? To come to answers on a moral dilemma requires judging and weighing many competing values, and this is what is needed on this subject. Those who won’t do this work are seen by all as moralists.

    There can be room for common ground. For example, some alarmists have declared it is too late to bend the warming trend, and adaptation is the only course of action now. Some sceptics have pointed out that the US is unprepared for a return of 1950s weather, let alone any unprecedented storms. Surely there can be agreement to invest in more resilient structures and infrastructures, whether our future brings warming or cooling.

  69. Your analyses do not contain proper populations of categorical thinkers. While categorical thinking is rather binary, the population of the thinkers is many shades of gray. This produces a richer spectrum of debate than your “he said, she said” bickering model suggests.

    A shade of gray: One thing that the alarmists might try in order to improve their argument is to show conclusive data collected from observation (and which is completely void of model output) that is the missing evidence that people are shuffling the atmosphere toward a tipping point.

    This addresses the concern that many skeptics have that the models are not only wrong, but cannot be made right to an adequate degree of certainty. Skeptics are not faith-based, for the most part, and the lack of skill in the models reinforces that. We see inadequacy in/junk out. Fix that. The burden of proof is not the role of the skeptics to provide.

  70. benfrommo says March 5, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Very interesting article. The reason I think that most people fall into categorical thinking is laziness. It is far easier to think of the world in black and white …

    Agreed, and that laziness often simplifies it (internally and personally) into a simple “for me” or “agin me” … there is a whole ‘industry’ that works/caters to that market segment (thinking now of populism, the muckrakers, activists, even outright ‘propagandists’) as well as those that work the ‘arbitrage’ (mediation specialists and apologists) field between the opposed ‘binary’ groups.

    The challenge for mankind going forward is to maintain an active ‘watch’ which forever challenges presupposed, un-based assumptions, avoids thinking or writing in anachronistic manner (chronological inconsistency) bearing in mind that what used to be mankind’s usual practices (in the past) have in the present mind (and press!) been recognized (or forcefully branded) as ‘evil’ and bad whereas in reality survival ‘then’ (literally: “back then” the scratching for daily subsistence) was NOTHING like it is today nor can we even *partially* (exc. for a select few reading these words; notwithstanding whole areas today in the 3rd world) imagine their difficulty in satisfying their daily hunger and thirst …

    .

  71. Similar points were raised at American Thinker, Feb 24th by Paul Masko.
    Three Reasons Conservatives are losing the Battle for America.
    He expressed it from a political point of view, but there in describes the confusion reasonable people find, when arguing with closed minds.
    I my opinion he offers a window into the mindset of those who must rule.For the good of all.
    As others had pointed out CAGW is politics thinly disguised as science.
    Politics always has a philosophy behind it.
    The circular thinking and hostility to alternate views of the state of our biosphere, from the Carbon Cult speaks for its self.

    Those of us who hold allegiance to the scientific method, know that when the facts show us to be mistaken, we must rethink, reassemble our world picture to accept this update to our reality.
    Life slowly rubs in the folly of failing to do so.
    Which is why, comfort with personal ignorance, can be expressed as “I don’t know”.

  72. As a climate sceptic myself, I agree this post makes a worthy point. However, I was chagrined to see only very recently for the post about the Van Allen belt that a moderator dismissed all talk of Electric Universe theory as “nonsense”. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not here to promote or defend EU theory. The point I’m making is that I was saddened because I saw the same kind of categorical dismissiveness that alarmists so frequently employ.

    The moderator could have said not to discuss it because it was off-topic (which would have been fair comment), but no: it was categorically dismissed. Scientists sympathetic to EU may be right, and they may be wrong: I don’t know. The ancient Greek Skeptikoi did not claim things to be true or not true; they knew that they did not know anything for sure. But generally, people seem impelled to categorise some things as unworthy of the least consideration, and climate sceptics are no exception. We are all blind to our own prejudices: all blithely unaware of the areas where we may be no different in principle than dogmatic alarmists.

    Think about it: on a number of scientifically controversial issues (HIV-AIDS, GMO crops, EU theory, the hard problem of consciousness, Cold Fusion/LENR, childhood vaccinations, etc), can one truthfully say that one has seriously investigated all the evidence completely impartially and come up with definitive proof of one’s view? I know I can’t: and the same goes for the climate debate. I lean towards AGW as being something that has been greatly exaggerated and think it has become a kind of religion, but I can’t say it’s absolutely impossible that alarmists are right to be alarmed.

    We can only hope that in the end, truth will out–whatever it might be. But until then, it behooves us to be truly sceptical, not least of our own opinions.

  73. Mr. Loehle — You don’t owe me an apology — you owe religious people in general an apology. You did not say that “evangelical churches and revival meetings” often/sometimes posit that….

    You said, and I quote in case you’ve forgotten, “In religion you are either “saved” or not, there is evidently no in-between category of semi-saved or saved part of the time or improved.” You have slandered an entire field of human endeavor and culture with a false, one-size-fits-all bumper-sticker-style slur. Had you said “Those Jews….” or “The stinkin’ papists…” you might admit your error more readily.

    Instead, you hide behind an exception to justify your stated rule.

    You exhibit your own categorical thinking about “religion” (and you have no idea just how ignorant the use of that word as an all-inclusive sounds to those of us who spent their university lives — UCSB — studying the field).

    At least you seem politically-correct not to slur any particular religious group….university presidents and politicians have been caused to resign over such slips.

    Just man up and admit your error.

  74. ” You cannot go against nature, because if you do, go against nature, you’re part of nature too.”

    “No New Tale to Tell” by Love and Rockets

  75. @Loehle
    I’m a little late to the party, but, i want to say that rationalizing your enemy’s defective reasoning is dehumanizing. They’re misanthropists, which is a very human condition. Tempting as it is to say they have a disorder of thinking that a remedial logic course would cure, they actually have a deficiency in their human existence that, as was the case with James Lovelock, time and experience may improve.

  76. John Stuart Mill’s take on utilitarianism would be a good counter to this catagorical thought. Stessing individuality and choices based on what creates the greatest good.

  77. Plenty of food for thought, for both skeptic and CAGWist alike. The commentary informative and thought provoking. Thank you all. GK

  78. Leo Smith says March 5, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I am at heart a socialist, in that I wish to improve the lot of my fellow man, I am a scientist
    and engineer, so I have the tools to …

    Just one quick questions Leo (good post above BTW), would you then, or are you now, willing to “share” your grade (or grades) among fellow students (i.e. grade-point sharing, as in averaging student grades among the attending-students in any given class)?

    Just curious how deep this ‘shawl’ of socialism really is … I’m thinking these ‘shawls’ are really just light ‘cover’ to keep the flack to a minimum from others one may socialize or spend time with (e.g. family, friends, other low-information-voter acquaintances, bosses and such).

    .

  79. Leo Smith says: March 5, 2013 at 6:06 am

    “I am at heart a socialist, in that I wish to improve the lot of my fellow man,”

    Leo, I understand your sentiment: I have been there as I was raised a Liberal Democrat and I believed.

    However, I found that I had to choose. I was either a liberal/socialist/Democrat or I wanted to improve the lot of my fellow man.

    Even if you aren’t a believing Christian, the Bible has “words of wisdom”.
    Matthew 7:15-16 “15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?”

    Or, in the colorful patois of the New Jersey docks: “Money talks and bull s—t walks.”

    The point is that I came to look at what socialists of one sort or another have actually accomplished. Talk is cheap; what are the living (or dying) conditions under various socialist regimes? What have they done “for the people”?

    The best result of socialism has been a sort of genteel poverty in the Scandinavian countries. The average result has been a grey, oppressive poverty as in Great Britain and Argentina. Worse still was National Socialism (NAZI), although it didn’t have the life span of the others. (The usual figure given for civilians deliberately murdered by the National Socialists is 12.5 million) The very worst have been Marxist/Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist socialism. (The toll for civilians murdered by regimes under the Marxist banner runs 120 million as a conservative estimate).

    The choice is up to you. A Socialist/liberal or improving the lot of your fellow man.

    I made the choice some 15 years ago.

    Curious life experiences: I know two people, one whose ancestors came from Lithuania and one from Estonia. WWII started when the Soviet Union and their ally NAZI Germany invaded Poland. The NAZIs invaded first on September 1, 1939 and their ally, the Soviet Union, invaded on September 17. As per their agreement under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Soviet Union went on to invade Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and half of Romania. The Soviets occupied these areas until they had a falling out with their ally, NAZI Germany in 1941. Then the NAZIs displaced the Soviets until the Soviets pushed the NAZIs out. The ancestors of my friends had the experience of living under the two forms of socialism. When the Soviets were returning, they decided that the Soviets were worse than the NAZIs so they left everything and became refuges.

    Regards,
    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin.)

  80. Hmmm, brings a whole new meaning to removing the scales from one’s eyes.

    The difficulty, off course, is not that dichotomies exist, trichotomies exist, quantum scales and continuous scales exist. The difficulty is in choosing which is the case in each instance.

    With “climate”, we’re dealing with multiple continuous factors, and ranges and differing scales (different ranges and mid-points) of individual preferences.

    I, personally, would be happy to see the over-crowded sea-boards flooded, for instance, and those sardine-people scattered while the population drifts slowly, gently down from universal reduction of over-breeding. But I’m aware that others prefer the beaches exactly where they are, the over-crowded cities even more crowded, the forests and prairies covered with ticky-tacky houses and factories. But science is science; facts are facts, and I’m not seeing any “catastrophic global warning”.

  81. Steamboat Jack says:
    March 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

    …”Curious life experiences: I know two people, one whose ancestors came from Lithuania and one from Estonia. WWII started when the Soviet Union and their ally NAZI Germany invaded Poland. The NAZIs invaded first on September 1, 1939 and their ally, the Soviet Union, invaded on September 17. As per their agreement under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Soviet Union went on to invade Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and half of Romania. The Soviets occupied these areas until they had a falling out with their ally, NAZI Germany in 1941. Then the NAZIs displaced the Soviets until the Soviets pushed the NAZIs out. The ancestors of my friends had the experience of living under the two forms of socialism. When the Soviets were returning, they decided that the Soviets were worse than the NAZIs so they left everything and became refuges.”

    Very true. My wife’s parents fled Estonia when the Soviets pushed the German’s out. They ended up in Denmark and Sweden and then Canada and then the US. My father-in-law praised the German’s as liberators, my mother-in-law to this day doesn’t trust Russians, and both say they wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world than the US. It’s the place of opportunity and the only place they didn’t feel like second class citizens. They both see socialism as a giant evil.

  82. izen says:
    March 5, 2013 at 5:32 am
    “One insight that historical data can reveal is that any climate change has bad effects on human societies and agricultural systems. Unfortunately human civilisation is often built with the implicit assumption that agricultural yields will be as stable as the climate, when both alter societies tend to collapse.”

    Well, I can report that farming in the Midwest was greatly improved after all the mile-thick glaciers had melted.

  83. In the literature on extremism, one of the check-boxes is Black/White, or categorical, thinking.

  84. Craig

    My wife opened my eyes in this area. It is the use of language that allows this categorization, and it is applied generally but lets keep it in the climate change arena. Someone figured out that if you categorize what humans do as “artificial” as opposed to “natural” you now have your meme upon which to expound upon why humans are evil as it is obvious that artificial = bad while natural = good. This is a false categorization as by definition humans are part of nature and by definition what we do is natural. I have gone to great lengths to challenge people that have this particular categorization as a core part of their beings and it has been interesting to watch the argument unfold.

    When you make this challenge the first response is that “well what humans do is harmful to other life and nature never does this”. When you point out that when flowering plants arose they completed reordered the biosphere and pushed thousands of species of plants into extinction and pushed the rest of the plant kingdom into niches from whence they have never recovered, it is like you short circuit their brains and they deny any such equivalence. When you then state that hydrocarbon consuming oxygen waste emitters called bacteria fundamentally changed the composition of the atmosphere of the planet in a process that is still going on today, their heads start to spin and all they can do is to deny that there is any equivalence to mankind’s alterations to the biosphere.

    They then talk about the damage to the climate that we are doing now. My response is that the ice ages, that just started a million or so years ago has done tremendous damage to the environment and that just 12,000 years ago 90% of all large mammal species were wiped out by the transition from the last ice age to our current Holocene period. First they deny that it happened, then when you list the animals like the sabertooth tiger, the Mammoth, and all the other animals that were wiped out. Then with a further hammer blow I hit them with the paper that indicates that it is the LOW levels of CO2 in the atmosphere today that helped with the extinction of many animal species due to the changes in plants to cope with the loss of CO2, you can see their heads figuratively explode and they simply quit the discussion. No admission that they are wrong, they just quit talking.

    The same thing is true in alternative energy. My latest and favorite question to ask is where are we going to get the energy to replace all the solar panels and wind turbines when all the oil is gone? This causes a major short circuit in their brains as they have never thought this through and the responses are tragically hilarious.

    Excellent exposition!

  85. addendum.

    The categorization of what humans do as artificial at the end of the day comes down to self hatred. The ones that are most vociferous about how we are destroying the world are those whose lives have been one of wealth and comfort. It is part of their rebellion against their comfortable lives that at the end of the day comes from guilt and self hatred. Interesting social phenomenon.

  86. Kudos to Craig Lohle and bravo to rgbatduke @March 5, 2013 at 8:08 am. My only disagreement with Craig is that at least some of the categorical thinkers are in fact evil, or at best their actions lead to evil (the kind of things RGB blasts Hansen over). The murderous effect of their proposed policies should be excoriated loud and clear at every opportunity, until it sinks in the heads of the masses of non-thinkers that they are sheep being sheared, and ultimately, eaten.

  87. 50 Shades of Grey seems to be the most popular recently. As long as it’s consensual, I guess that’s OK.
    :)

  88. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term “Future Perfect” has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.” — Douglas Adams riffing on time travel weirding language.

  89. JimF: I would agree that some individuals in the debate are in fact evil, but remember that they usually view themselves as having a noble calling. Even the old-style mafia had a “code of honor”.
    For some people it is “winning” in the sense of never being wrong, being the top dog. For me, it is integrity, which means admitting I am wrong instantly and fixing it. Two different definitions of winning.

  90. Craig Loehle,

    I think your ‘categorical thinking’ analysis has not given evidence of ‘non-categorical thinking’ as epistemologically distinct, much less what you hold to be the nature of categories and much less what you know thinking to be.

    Is your ‘categorical thinking’ the thinking about the nature of categories. If energy (in the physics sense) is a category then is categorical thinking about it your claim? etc. Please let us know.

    Is your ‘categorical thinking’ the thinking that exclusively uses categories as it propositions and conclusions? Please let us know.

    Is your ‘categorical thinking’ confusing the listing of logical forms by Aristotle with the metaphysical categories of Aristotle / Kant / Ryle? I think so.

    Your post stimulates but does not have fundamental content in the areas of: thinking per se, nor categories per se, nor the metaphysical / epistemological relationship in mankind’s means of knowledge. Without more info of your groundings, there can only be exclamations of ‘categorized thinking’ accusations across the climate science blogosphere directed between the already existing tribes.

    Without a broader context for your discussion then I find your thinking is adrift in the philosophical ocean.

    John

  91. Briliant!

    There is a lot of crap on this forum (to be fair in that it is far from unique!) but this has to be about the best summary of the state of the debate on climate change I have read anywhere. Being rather a “warmist” myself, I despair sometimes of the “categorical” nature of the comments on forums like Skeptical Science and Open Mind. On those forums you are truly either with them or against them. Hold a view that is anything other than the party line that catastrophe is imminent and you are categorised as a “denier”, or something even less savoury.

    For instance see the exchange I had with various people in the comments that follow from this point:

    https://tamino.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/death-by-chartsmanship/#comment-78815

    The point that you made that rang the biggest bell was the “future present tense” argument. The ice is melting so we are all going to drown.

    Er, not me.

    Perhaps my great, great, great grandson might get a bit wet if he inherits my current house (highly unlikely) which is at 3m above sea level and the government does not put in any flood protection (slightly less unlikely, but still pretty improbable).

    Global warming will probably be on balance a “bad thing” in many ways, but we probably have several hundred years to adapt.

  92. What a great collection of substantial comments!

    While categorical thinking may dominate any domain, the concept of ‘compromise’ inappropriately applied has comparably silly outcomes.

    Suppose you have a sum and are debating the solution: 4+4= ?
    One group says the answer is 8, no compromise.
    Another says the + was taken out of context, the character mis-typed and is should actually be x giving the correct answer of 16.

    The participants divide into two categories of thought. A compromise is proposed, being the average of the two answers, 12, and the mediator works strenuously to have both groups of categorical thinkers accept the compromise value.

    Science does not work like that because it is concerned with valid empirical information. Religion does not work that way either because it also is concerned with valid empirical information. Amazingly, some people place all religious thought in a category of ‘invalid empirical information’. They similarly place all valid empirical information in a category called ‘science’ and separate it from religion because, in their view, the fact that it is (apparently) valid means it is by definition not ‘religious’ but ‘scientific’. They seek to redefine religion to conform to their limited understanding.

    This pointless categorical division, one could even call fanatical division, is not performed by the religious, but by the irreligious making categorical observations about a system they (apparently) do not understand. Cherry-picking abounds when the irreligious talk about the religious. There is nothing inherent in systems of religion which prevents them from being analysed and understood in a scientific manner. In fact, belief which is opposed by facts is mere superstition. It seems that one technique of materialists and athiests is to categorise all superstitions as manifestations of religious thought in order to ‘demonise’ all religions and religious behaviour in a single go. What is remarkable is how religiously these categorists take their task. Dawkins comes to mind.

    The moral failings in the climate debate as so obvious that it is possible to describe the manipulations and exaggerations of reality as merely superstitions promulgated by compliant, untrustworthy, partisan media. CAGW is frequently and correctly described as a strange para-religious cult proposing a mix of innocence, sin, guilt, repentance and penance. The arbitrariness of its invented morality owes much more to Marxism and consumerism than to the Big Nine religious movements yet appeals to timeless virtues at the core of all true religions. Climatism tries to manufacture a new ‘purpose of life’ to fill the void created when a maturing realisation that mankind is one species, one human family, one population inhabiting one home rendered invalid any narrower category of self-definition. As the deep realisation that spaceship Earth is all we have spreads through the world, Climatism offers a new global enemy (CO2) to replace the old, now friendly, enemies of yore (each other). Quite frankly, I don’t need any new enemies.

    A maturing humanity must learn not to be so easily infatuated with one or another fad offering to create, nay demanding, unity in the face of ‘a common enemy’. The real enemy is ignorance and ignorance cannot be eliminated with faddist, categorical hype ‘manipulated for the good of the people’. Ignorance is defeated by education, universal education, teaching people to discern with their own eyes and hear with their own ears. We are building a global civilisation and must, of course, leave no child behind. How to accomplish that should occupy our fleeting existence, not yelling, “There be dragons!”

  93. ALIENISTA: recommended reading for environmental alarmists
    Speculative thought, not shored up by experimental evidence, is not science. Policy should never be based on it.
    The history of the 20th century shows the mischief that comes from public policy based on pseudo-science. Examples are: the geopolitics that explained a German March to the East as a natural Darwinian process; the eugenics of Nazis; the Marxist planned economy that misruled Russia for seven decades. Brazilians have a saying that intellectuals would have exterminated mankind, were it not for a ballast of common sense possessed by ordinary folk.
    This feeling is illustrated in a parody, Alienista, written long ago by Machado de Assis, the greatest of Brazilian writers. Mistaken policy takes course in Itaguai, an obscure community, 75 km west of Rio de Janeiro, where a renowned medical doctor has a practice. Devoted to medical research, he becomes interested in psychology, a popular topic at a time (1880s) when German researchers (Wundt et al) claimed to have based it on empirical evidence, as an exact science. The doctor persuades city hall to support an asylum for the insane. It would lock up dangerous people and would treat mental disorders of others; the doctor would gain guinea pigs for his experiments in the worthy cause of the advancement of science. Over time, a great number of citizens get interned on doctor´s orders, but the authorities do nothing. Scientific judgment should not be questioned by laymen. A rebellion led by a barber is crushed. The doctor changes his mind and discharges all patients. His new doctrine holds that most people have some degree of insanity, a condition that should be rated as normal; the perfectly sane are the abnormal ones who should be interned. Again, the authorities do nothing; politics should not trump science. In the end, the doctor frees all patients, declares himself the only sane man in town, and becomes the sole dweller of the asylum. The vicar was right; he had always noted that the doctor was the only madman in the parish.

  94. John Whitman: You would like to know the entire basis and credentials for my points in a mere 1 page essay? You are asking for a book. Perhaps you do not believe I am qualified to make such points. Perhaps not. Perhaps i’ve studied philosophy and cognitive psychology and logic. I am not asserting authority but sharing some insights which I hope others will find useful. Are you claiming that people never make sharp categories of things? Perhaps you have never heard a shrill political debate or people saying that all fossil fuels need to be shut down (not partial, not eventually, but now). Perhaps you don’t remember a famous enviro claiming that soon only antarctica will be habitable. And I did not say all thinking is categorical–did I not offer examples of quantitative thinking?
    Crispin in Waterloo: thanks for your comments.

  95. Categorial thinking: linear, no-threshold.

    Also a moral issue: right and wrong. Probably where this arises. Situational ethics is, according to the purists, no ethics. Right or wrong, ethical or not ethical.

    The issue is morality, not ethics, morality, not money, morality, not living a life that is filled with accommodations, unachievable goals and tolerance for competing desires.

  96. I think this is why everyone has jumped on climate disruption as a meme—it so much better captures the idea of a broken climate, rather than one merely getting hotter.

    I think you’ll find the most likely explanation is due to the fact that there has been statistically insignificant global warming in over 15 years. You can’t sell “global warming” if it ain’t.

  97. Some of the categorical thinking is driven by their green ‘hidden’ agenda. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a whole bunch of closet sceptical greens, climate scientists, journalists and politicians. Sometimes they say words like “even if it’s false we need to start using cleaner energy”, “peak oil means……………” etc.

  98. This is a fresh view, understanding how the opposite side thinks is always helpful. Maybe some of the scientifically orianted warmits can recognize this behaviour in themselfs if confroted.

  99. TLM says:
    March 5, 2013 at 11:26 am
    “Being rather a “warmist” myself, I despair sometimes of the “categorical” nature of the comments on forums like Skeptical Science and Open Mind.”

    Warmism was designed from the start to be a totalitarian and political movement. CO2 was chosen to fulfill the role of the scapegoat. In 1975.
    1975 `Endangered Atmosphere’ Conference: Where the Global Warming Hoax Was Born
    Mead, Schneider, Holdren and Lovelock

    http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/highlights/Fall_2007.html

    http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202007/GWHoaxBorn.pdf

  100. Good read. I had a “discussion” with a couple folks on yahoo and tried to make the point that belief in global warming isn’t a digital question…but of course I was told I was a pin head denier.

    I found it interesting that they didn’t seem capable of accepting some parts of an argument but rejecting others – they were digital thinkers (and programmed by John Cook). I used a couple of examples of climate scientists making predictions well beyond what the data could support – including the UN’s 50 million climate refugees by 2010 – to suggest to them that al is not known (yet). To my surprise, both immediately claimed that there were 50 million climate refugees…

    This kind of non-thinking is scary but seems to be the norm in a world where it’s more important to win than to be right.

  101. Kip Hansen says:
    March 5, 2013 at 8:20 am
    “Mosher –> This bit is, I’m afraid, simply not true –> “Pointing out that people engage in catagorical thinking is well, categorical. That’s because thought itself is categorical” You should stick to numbers”

    You do know that Steve Mosher is an English Major, don’t you?

  102. Here is an example of pretend categorical thinking.

    Dr. Phil Jones – CRU – 7th May, 2009
    ‘Bottom line: the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.’
    CRU Emails

    What these people display is one face to the world and another behind closed doors. They know what’s going on but put up a straight face and united front in the face of warming standstill and the relentless onslaught of the sceptics.

  103. Thanx, Jimbo:

    ‘Bottom line: the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.
    ~Phil Jones [emphasis added for effect]

    Why would they be ‘worried’ about our Goldilocks climate?

    …oh, right. Gravy train derailment.

  104. Leo Smith says:
    March 5, 2013 at 6:06 am
    “I speak less German than can be written in red ink on a matchbox, but working for Germans and being involved in translating some technical stuff – mainly guesswork plus a dictionary, and knowing what it probably meant, after having it roughly done by a non technical German speaker, I was struck by the preponderance of large composite nouns. The tendency to reify the world into real sold concrete objects. That is the language seems to me to naturally allow the easy construction of complex, but static qualities into a noun, but is very unsuited to encapsulating the idea of a complex dynamic into a single word.”

    German just tends to be a bit more polysynthetic than most other languages. Finnish would be another such language. After composing such a composite word it usually takes on a life of its own anyway.

    The fanaticism of German political movements like the German Greens is in my opinion caused by the gatekeeper role our public media (and the synchronized small remnants of private media) play. You must know that per capita Germans pay about six times as much for public media (not voluntarily of course) than for instance the Brits so we get six times the propaganda; and most Germans are simply too lazy to look out for English language news themselves. Did I mention that our public media are arch-green and ultra pro Europe, with a few specks of alibi criticism.

    So this is an easily controlled subpopulation. As for media like Der Spiegel, and other newspapers; they’re all part of Bilderberg meetings and Nato meetings; they’re about as independent thinkers as MSNBC.

    Information trickles in only slowly here and no German (except me and a very few others) knows what Climategate is or was.

  105. ****
    rgbatduke says:
    March 5, 2013 at 8:08 am

    or we are driving and change lanes for reasons we can’t fully explain just in time to avoid being tangled in a four car pileup.
    ****

    Driving to work one morning for the zillionth time & turning onto a road that never, ever had a car on it, I had a brief, sudden image of a car plowing sideways into me. So I actually stopped, and sure enough, a car went flying by as if on cue. If I had coasted thru as usual, I’d have been nailed.

  106. DirkH –> Maybe he should stick to English then, and leave the cognitive science to others.

  107. Mr. Loehle –> re: yours
    “For some people it is “winning” in the sense of never being wrong, being the top dog. For me, it is integrity, which means admitting I am wrong instantly and fixing it. Two different definitions of winning.”

    I’m still waiting for that admission on the swipe at “religion”.

  108. Where do you categorize this?

    The key role of heavy precipitation events in climate model disagreements of future annual precipitation changes in California
    Between these conflicting tendencies, 12 projections show drier annual conditions by the 2060s and 13 show wetter. These results are obtained from sixteen global general circulation models downscaled with different combinations of dynamical methods……

    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00766.1

    You see, they predict everything with different model runs and stash it away for a rainy day. If it gets drier they pull one set out, if it gets wetter they pull another set out, if it’s normal they remain silent. We are dealing with the biggest scientific fraud in history.

  109. There is an insistence that I took a swipe at religion by Kip Hansen. I did not take a swipe at religion. Are you claiming, Kip, that no religious people have the view I describe? I did not say all religious people are categorical nor that all people view those of the opposite political party as evil. I said IF one thinks categorically, that is what you get. sheesh

  110. Nigel Harris says:
    March 5, 2013 at 5:08 am

    While there may be some alarmists out there who fit your description, to suggest that everyone who has come the conclusion that something needs to be done to restrain CO2 emissions has done so on the basis of “categorical thinking” is a prime example of categorical thinking in action.

    As a wag once said, “There are two kinds of people: those who generalize, and those who don’t.”

  111. Mr. Loehle –> so much for the integrity claim. Your thinking and language is so sloppy that you can’t even own up to having mis-spoken. I will just have to accept that you just aren’t going to realize what you have said — it is struck in your mind what you meant-to/ought-to have said — as if you had actually said that.

    From your several replies, it appears you evidently meant to say (and even thought you said):

    “In the field of religion, there are some who say you are either “saved” or not, for them there is evidently no in-between category of semi-saved or saved part of the time or improved.”

    I probably won’t interest you at all to know that the vast majority of religious people don’t even have a concept of “being saved” as part of their religious understanding.

    I did like your essay on categorical thinking (and am amused by your living example).

  112. Kip Hansen,

    There’s nothing to apologize for. You’ve made repeated demands. They have been properly refused. Get over yourself.

    If you don’t like it, have your tantrum in private.

  113. And to think there was a time not long ago when the eastern thinking had permeated into physics via metaphysics and fuzzy logic was the next big thing, what happened?

  114. I found the best approach is to put questions like: How can you prove beyond all doubt the temperature is rising? They can’t answer that one.

    I only accept answers from skeptics I trust, like on this website. I’d never trust an answer from a scientist because they are biased.

  115. Sorry Kip, I was busy shoveling global warming off my driveway so I couldn’t respond instantly to your complaint. I happen to be a very religious person myself and happen to have had conversations with people who are saved or have that view. I was trying to illustrate how categorical thinking plays out for SOME people. And since I did not spend a month on this essay, not everything turned out perfectly phrased. Too bad.
    Nigel Harris objects that not everyone who has come to the conclusion that something needs to be done came to that conclusion by categorical thinking. This is true, not everyone. But enough have to make a debate very frustrating, and some of the biggest names, like Hansen, Gore, and Mann are take-no-prisoners-you-are-a-believer-or-a-denier types.

  116. One of the most fascinating blog posts I have ever read. And I read it ALL.

    It is definately a good idea to enquire into the thinking of warmists to at least try to understand them. Like most here I have been nonplused on occasions in discussions where warmists seemed simply to ignore argument entirely and speak wholly rhetorically. While this might be truly mindless in some cases, the idea of categorical thinking helps to explain the why.

    There is too much at stake to not engage in the debate. If warmists understood that categorical thinking will not persuade sceptics, mabe we could actually get to…a debate (as opposed to the current war)

  117. Why will AGW be bad?

    Well, we have adapted to our environment as it is. Cities, farms etc are positioned to take advantage of natural resources, including climate. Change the climate, and the cities and farms may be in the wrong place. Sure new farmland may open up, and sites that were’t previously any good for cities may now be able to support a metropolis. But the change from one location to another will usually be traumatic and difficult.

    That is the broad brush reason why people worry about AGW. And even “skeptics” understand that, which is why they prefer to pretend that nothing is happening.

  118. People’s attitudes and abilities range enormously, from questioning everything and learning from the experience, to bone-idle laziness parroting and believing the “consensus” view, because they were TOLD there was one.

    I’ve worked in many places with machinery of all kinds over the years, but what really stood out were other workers, when a machine developed a problem, were unable to diagnose the cause correctly. They’d faff about for an hour on several parts of the machine that had nothing at all to do with the problem. Their “cause and effect” diagnoses were routinely defective.

    It’s like flapping a blanket at the Aurora Borealis and believing its meanderings can be changed through this action, rather than understanding this is clearly not possible and it changes on its own.

    I’ve watched my ex-girlfriend’s mother, pulling the key in and out of her car’s ignition, believing that this very action somehow “unsticks” her defective starter motor. Even after I explained this to her numerous times in layman’s terms, she still believed that her action with the key had some merit.

    People often don’t have a great range of knowledge because they’re either too lazy to learn or remember what they’ve learned. On returning to Wodonga from Tasmania over Christmas, I was talking to a lady, probably older than myself, who lamented how dry everything looked.

    I told her that naturally grass does have the propensity to brown off during the summer. I noted to her that if the fields were covered with trees there wouldn’t be any grass to notice going brown. I reminded her that the 70’s were particularly wet, the 30’s were the dust-bowl years of the USA, a few hundred years ago we had the little ice age etc. She finally admitted she’d forgotten much of what she’d seen herself.

    It’s the lazy, non-critical thinkers that can be easily convinced that something so simple as CO2 is bad, because it’s a single entity. It’s easier to remember than the multitude of things volcanoes’ output. CFC’s being a case in point. It’s easier to say that “CFC’s” are causing an ozone hole, rather than “chloroflourocarbons”. It’s easier to blame a single thing, rather than telling them that sunlight itself creates and destroys ozone.

    Before CO2 and CFC’s it was easier to blame God and witches for Man’s ailments simply due to a lack of critical thinking. In my view, the layman hasn’t progressed at all.

  119. John Brookes,

    Is that the best you can do?

    Your whole comment is a strawman argument. Skeptics know that the climate is always changing. Always has, always will. We have been very lucky to be in a “Goldilocks” climate for the past century and a half. That will not last, because the climate always changes. Naturally.

    Your comment is full of “what-if’s”. Stop it. You’re scaring yourself.

  120. Mr Lynn says:
    March 5, 2013 at 5:17 am

    My wife and I have fun with the “If it’s ‘natural’ it must be good for us” category. After all, we say, “Poison ivy is natural. So is the Amanita phalloides ‘death cap’ mushroom. And the typhoid bacterium. . .”

    Or better yet, “made with all natural ingredients”. Everything that has ever existed, or will ever exist is made with all natural ingredients.

  121. @John Brookes, The Ozzie bureaucrat?
    Actually if we properly adapt to our environment as it is right now, you would be an endangered species.
    Or is your environment devoid of people and their follies ?
    You appear willing to surrender my freedoms for a “Bad” that none can measure.
    The present state of our economies and the power “emotive causes” currently exercise in our society, could be offered as evidence of, law abiding & civic minded, citizens failure to adapt to changes in our environment.
    Given the damage that fools and misguided do gooders are doing to our collective well being, adaption is necessary.
    From history, I suspect some off us will not enjoy the changes coming.

  122. John Brookes says:
    March 5, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Why will AGW be bad?
    [bunch of other crap left out]

    That has to be the silliest argument I’ve ever heard. Do you REALLY expect climate to be static??

  123. A most fascinating post!  Here is an attempt to understand what is going on in the minds of climate-alarmists. As Leo Smith correctly describes, there is something about German culture that makes it particularly vulnerable to producing climate alarmists. I grew up in Germany and have lived in the USA for almost 30 years now, hence, I straddle both worlds and both languages. So maybe I can help explain this mindset. Global warming is too close to examine well, but I remember “Waldsterben” (the dying of the forests due to acid rain). The word “Waldsterben” conjured up images of an unbearable loss, of barren landscapes, grayness, and despair. There were annotations of sacrilege, and of punishment for sins of greed. There were no gradations – it was never “we might lose 20 % of our forests”, but “there will be no forests left”. To further understand this, one has to consider the bankruptcy of religion after world war II in Germany. Hitler had produced a seductive ideology that led to utter destruction. The churches had remained largely passive and silent. When all was over, the German population looked a heaps of rubble, both spiritual rubble and piles of broken bricks. The only thing left untainted was nature. The only place where I could find a sense of awe, as a child, was in a forest.  The trees were old, silent and innocent. There was beauty and wholeness. 

    So yes, “Umweltschutz” (environmental protection), had a religious root right from the beginning. Religious thinking is categorical, emotional, image-based.

    Global warming alarmist thinking, I am convinced, comes from the same roots. It comes from guilt and from a yearning for a religious connection. As such, “stupid” is not the word to describe it. 

    So how does one deal with religious zealots (who can be quite dangerous)? Maybe, the way we have in the past… Build them a church with numerous rules and rituals to keep them busy, while the rest of the world pays lip service to that church and does its own thing anyway…

     

  124. Very nicely put. And I believe quite true.

    Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance (lovely book) has an episode in it which relates to the point being made. The protagonist repairs his friends expensive BMW motorcycle using an aluminium shim cut from an empty beer can. It is the perfect solution from the engineering point of the view – the aluminium has exactly the required physical properties – it is ductile and sticky and just the right thickness to do the job. However his friend is intensely insulted that his motorcycle was repaired with trash. That is basically Categorical thinking.

    The reason I raise this example is that Pirsig suggests that this type of thinking characterises the division between the arts and the sciences. Scientific thinking looks at the aluminium and sees that its physical properties are ideal for the job in hand, while artistic thinking looks at the used beer can and sees trash.

    The interesting thing about the AGW debate is that somehow science has been coopted to the support of categorical thinking.

  125. EternalOptimist says:
    March 5, 2013 at 5:04 am: I often think that the eco-zealots imagine going back to nature and surviving and prospering like Robinson Crusoe, overcoming all obstacles , living a halcyon life whilst leaving a tiny mark on the environment,…
    +++++++++++
    Imagine if 7 billion people lived that way… the destruction and disease would be rampant… 4billion wood burning stoves… human fecal mater in the water supplies…ughhh

  126. S. Meyer says:
    March 5, 2013 at 7:34 pm
    “So yes, “Umweltschutz” (environmental protection), had a religious root right from the beginning. Religious thinking is categorical, emotional, image-based.”

    Only that “Umweltschutz” did not have its beginning after WW II. Rather, before the Nazis there was Der Wandervogel; the proto-hippie movement, and Steiner’s antroposophs with their biologic-dynamic (organic) agriculture.
    The Nazis emphasized their love of nature; 70% of the Wandervogel followers joined the NSDAP. The Nazis subsequently installed the first Nature reserve (Naturshutzgebiet) in Europe.

    The Wandervogel, Steiner with his weird mythology, and the Nazis were all post-christian; creating their own religions with “umweltschutz” as a key element. Well basically all esoteric movements; see Blavatzky, Thule society etc.

  127. @ Ian H, I was reminded of that book as well, and of the shim incident. The protagonist described the split as classic versus romantic thinking. He described the formers’ purpose as bringing order out of chaos, and making the unknown known, while the latter is described as one of inspiration, imagination, creation, and intuition. Most people are probably a mixture of the two, however, there may be a tendency to favor one over the other. Environmentalists, and specifically those alarmed about human C02 emmissions and their supposed damaging effects on our climate are primarily in romantic mode. They are not thinking rationally, which is why attempts at logical argument with them are futile.

  128. Dr. Loehle –> Thank you for your response to my complaint. My wife tells me that I have been stubborn and overly fussy about a point on which I should have allowed you more slack. She is right, as always. Thus is the fate of older intellects.

    You have my apologies,

    Kip hansen

  129. denniswingo says:
    March 5, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Then with a further hammer blow I hit them with the paper that indicates that it is the LOW levels of CO2 in the atmosphere today that helped with the extinction of many animal species due to the changes in plants to cope with the loss of CO2

    Good comment, but I was wondering which paper exactly are you referring to specifically. If you have a link handy, it would be appreciated. THX GK

  130. Ok, so it is categorical thinking…. but why is it used in this case? And not in others…..The fundamental question – why environmental threats are so politically active and even, in limits effective, today, is not anwsered…Hence my rather weak response was, so what? IMHO philosophy cannot anwer this question, only history and politial analsis may get us somewhere. When have similar persuasions of society taken place and why? How were they resolved, it at all?

    • Sonja,

      Very good question. And you’re right. This is not a philosophical issue, but it is purely political (although the political operators, like Mann and crew, are likely unaware of the philosophical underpinnings of their anti-capitalist operations).

      The conjectures by others in this comment section about a German language/cultural connection to the issue are also quite on target.

      What is missing from this discussion is an understanding of the political origins of our opponents. The entire anti-modern, anti-business movement that is manifested today as Man-Causes-Global-Warming-Extreme-Weather-so-we-must-destroy-Western-economies-and-submit-to-control-by-3rd-world-bureaucrats is the latest form of Politically Correct Progressive (PC-Prog) political operations.

      The PC-Prog belief system may be summarized as: “America is a racist, sexist, xenophobic, imperialist, capitalist hell-hole. And it must be changed.”

      This suicical, self-hating point of view is not natural to the American political system. It rejects any positive contributions by America’s traditional society, culture or economy. It demands that the traditional be destroyed, and rebuilt.

      The missing piece to the consideration of this issue had been the origin of this self-loathing PC-Prog belief system. That was until my research and analysis, published in 2011.

      A German genius in covert influence operations (in effect, advertising, social engineering, and marketing combined, with all connections to the center carefully hidden) introduced the belief system into the US, beginning in the early 1920s.

      Willi Munzenberg, Comintern member, was a master of manipulating political and emotional targets. Muzenberg planned the payload, discussed at length in my book, and packaged it in fun and attractive social venues. He created the “Popular Front” network of social groups. He targeted American media, education/academia, and Hollywood.

      Munzenberg’s operations took longer than he expected. None of his operators survived to see the flowering of the seeds they planted. The destruction of normal-America ended up taking about 80 years.

      That is a brief explanation of why it is a total waste of time to attempt to debate PC-Progs. Their belief system is based on the Munzenbergian world-view that traditional-America and her allies are inherently evil. Thus, any means used to destroy their enemy is justified and morally good.

      The PC-Prog belief system and political tactics are completely based on falsehoods and mistaken philosophical beliefs about human nature. So they must lie, and lie, and lie, and lie. Acknowledgement of reality is not an option for them.

      Another tactic is their response when they are exposed: “Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations.” This is a classic covert action operator’s response.

      Hope this helps. Especially for those who are attempting to engage with our opponents logically, assuming that all is needed is one more logical explanation of why they’re wrong. It won’t work. Like any cult, outsiders (in this case, non-PC-Progs) are known to be devious, cheaters who will try to change cult members’ minds. You’re wasting your time.

      Full details: http://www.willingaccomplices.com

  131. Sonja: good question. I suggest 2 parts: a) environmental parameters are abstract and not directly perceptible in many cases and b) the dimensions of clean/dirty and natural/disturbed naturally align with or are linked to good/evil, which are categorical constructs. We all have experience with things that have become fouled, such as spoiled food or something weird in the swimming pool (perhaps a dead bird) and we do not tolerate it–if we can perceive it, we avoid it. It is not generally adaptive to try to see how much spoiled food one can tolerate. We react in a binary fashion. So we have this history of binary reaction to spoiled/ruined things that perhaps spills over to climate and environmental issues. There is also the religious/spiritual linkage which amplifies this. If you identify nature as a spiritual good, like a church, then ruining it is binary also, like sacriledge is binary. There is no such thing (to those who take offense at such things) as somewhat breaking a taboo (think about the reaction to the cartoons of Muhammed), it is black and white.

  132. though it seemed interesting in the start but i didn’t liked the way it was progressed. Such a long post with so many comments…huh..

  133. The purpose of rebuttal is NOT to convince the person who has made the assertion. It is for the benefit of those who may be inclined to accept the assertions, without sufficient critical thinking. In other words the “innocent bystander”. GK

  134. Dirk H:
    “Warmism was designed from the start to be a totalitarian and political movement. “
    A “categorical” statement if I ever read one!

    I am not a subscriber to the idea that whole global warming idea is a conspiracy. Sure the political left and “green” movement have somewhat hijacked the science, but that does not negate the fact that there is plenty of good science behind the idea that human activities are increasing greenhouse gases way beyond their natural levels and that this will inevitably lead to some warming of the atmosphere.

    My reading of the science tends me more towards the 1 – 2 c per doubling “luke warm” view, but that is not proven any more than the 3 – 6 c “catastrophic warming” view. In any case if we do see 3c or more it will be a very gradual change over two or three centuries. We will adapt.

    Unfortunately the only way we will know for certain is if the warming actually happens. The current hiatus in warming may just be a step in the up escalator or it may be the start of an extended period of reduced warming. Those who say they know it is just a short hiatus, such as John Cook or Tamino, torture the data as far as they can to prove “no trend” in the last 15 years. They could be right, but they just as likely could be wrong – and the longer it lasts the less effective will be their data torture.

    The same goes for rabid deniers like Monkton who bang on about how the lack of a trend in the last 15 years somehow disproves greenhouse gas theory – which is just as ludicrous a position to take as Tamino’s.

    My big problem with the global warming debate is that it can be so fractious, with the AGW crowd being the worse of the two offending groups. Open dialogue is essential and at least that is possible on blogs like this. The big difference between this blog and the likes of Skeptical Science is that comment is about as open as it could be.

    You are not continually slapped down by Anthony for daring to voice a contrary view – unlike at Open Mind and Skeptical Science where the blog editors stick the boot in and are continually cheered on by their little band of supporters who jump on interlopers as if they were a black man turning up at a Klu Klux Klan convention.

    If SKS had stuck to its original remit of putting the contrary view to skeptical points, it would be a good resource. However its increasingly strident and alarmist tone that does not permit any element of doubt or uncertainty puts people off and sends them here. The fact that their categoric attitude and tone is so offputting seems to completely pass them by. They seem genuinely mystified how WUWT gets such good ratings and theirs such poor ones.

  135. Nice post, Craig. It may be a bit of a novelty on WUWT, but discussions like this have been going on elsewhere, notably on Bishop Hill, for a long time.

    Some great comments, including (but not only) from Leo and rgb.

    Your point about a single act tainting forever a person who has otherwise led a good life is very telling. It is the “pollution” meme – which other commenters have admirably canvassed – in a nutshell. Pure/not pure are the only options in this paradigm.

    Political demonising, which you mentioned, is an interesting subject. Having worked as a public servant for various governments of varying political complexions, what I learned is that bad people can do good things, and vice versa. It’s complicated. Generally though, I am now very wary of politicians (or anyone else) who dons the mantle of “goodness” in pursuing their aims. I want to see facts and figures, cost/benefit analyses etc. I don’t give a rat’s about whether they claim to be more virtuous than their opponents. As a guide to policy, it is utterly unreliable.

    Binary thinking is a convenient shortcut that we all use every day, otherwise life would be intolerable. Will I cross the road now? No-one has the time or the energy to spend hours working out all of the issues in relation to that.

    The great thing about science is that it provides a sound basis for many binary decisions. The great thing about philosophy is that it does the opposite.

    The role of language in shaping how we think and perceive things is especially fascinating, and I thank the commenters who addressed this. As a tri-lingual person, I know just how true this is. The fact that some concepts are untranslatable should make us all pause and consider whether our cherished beliefs are anything more than just cherished beliefs.

  136. @TLM – Re: “I am not a subscriber to the idea that whole global warming idea is a conspiracy. ”

    Tim Wirth.

  137. Good job, Craig! Like the late Michael Crichton, you bemoan the inability of various alarmists to think quantitatively about the big questions of the day. Your analysis involved categorical thinking, whereas Crichton’s insight was about the Precautionary Principle. The PP is essentially a euphemism for panic as public policy. Here’s a trenchant comment from Crichton:

    “The ‘precautionary principle,’ properly applied, forbids the precautionary principle. It is self-contradictory. The precautionary principle therefore cannot be spoken of in terms that are too harsh.”

  138. Categorical thinking?

    We might be better to call it “color blind thinking” or “myopic perception”.

    Categories are good things; they are bad, when we view them shortsightedly, without any sense of GRADATION.

    We have “black” and “white” and many shades of gray in between. We need those first two categories to assess the many subcategories.

    It is not so much a matter of delineation, then. Rather, it is a matter of distinction.
    One tornado is NOT a season of tornadoes. One glacier melting is NOT all glaciers melting.
    One explosion driving the piston of a fossil-fuel-powered engine is NOT a nuclear bomb. One molecule of CO2 is NOT a molecule of arsenic.

  139. rgbatduke says:
    March 5, 2013 at 8:08 am

    For thousands of years, then, nearly everybody who survived in whole populations of individuals were those that were not apostates, those that would accept what they were taught was true in pure black and white terms. Shades of grey were culled from the herd (or became the leaders of the herd, the wolves that preyed on and ruled the socially compliant sheep).

    How then, after a 400k years of “human” evolution, do we get WUWT? According to your evolutionary dogma, non-conformism would have long been bred out of us. But all glimpses into ancient civilisations offered by historic writing show a picture of society much like today, with elites and marginalised subversives. Evolution is more complex than that and rewards a much wider range of strategies.

  140. Steven Mosher says:
    March 5, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Pointing out that people engage in catagorical thinking is well, categorical. That’s because thought itself is categorical

    At rgb has explained there is a natural tendency to categorise. Visually we do see patterns quickly – in fact the eye-brain system processes our visual input to a remarkable degree – what we “see” is a highly processed image with boundaries and edges sharpened (by something resembling the “unsharp mask” where the image is made into two copies, one is gaussian blurred the other not, then the blurred image is subtracted from the original image, the resulting image is mostly edges, this edge-image is added back to the original giving an edge-enhanced, sharpened image – all this is performed in real time by the optic nerve.)

    The brain has to sort a huge volume of sensory input between important and not important. Some indeed suffer the failure to do so and remember everything down to the tiniest detail – it drives them mad! We need to selectively forget.

    Some however go too far and pride themselves on being decisive decision makers because they reduce the world into a grossly oversimplified picture, and make decisions based on this cartoon cariacature of the world not the real world. Such people appear to have leadership skill but leave a track record of bad decisions.

  141. TLM says:
    March 6, 2013 at 10:08 am
    “Dirk H:
    “Warmism was designed from the start to be a totalitarian and political movement. “
    A “categorical” statement if I ever read one!

    So?
    Did you even read what I linked to? Did you read Limits To Growth? Did you read about Malthus?
    I have more than enough reasons to come to the conclusion that warmists are manipulative scoundrels who couldn’t care less about miniscule changes in an average temperature construct that is statistically meaningless. And couldn’t care more about power and money.

    “The same goes for rabid deniers like Monkton who bang on about how the lack of a trend in the last 15 years somehow disproves greenhouse gas theory – which is just as ludicrous a position to take as Tamino’s.”

    You have obviously never read anything by Monckton, as he repeatedly laid out his own estimates for the climate sensitivity of a doubling of CO2.

    Why do you pretend to know what Lord Monckton says when you actually have not read him? What is wrong with you?

  142. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen says:
    March 6, 2013 at 7:47 am
    “Ok, so it is categorical thinking…. but why is it used in this case? And not in others…..The fundamental question – why environmental threats are so politically active and even, in limits effective, today, is not anwsered…”

    The left in the West had for decades tried to motivate the workers to become politically active and revolt against their paymasters, to no avail. After the 1968 student revolts in Western Europe the KGB controlled communist groups even took to work in factories themselves, trying to agitate their colleagues, even that had no measurable effect.

    During the 70ies increasing pollution led to the re-emergence of environmental movements; fear of radioactivity led to widespread protests against nuclear power. Suddenly large swaths of the population took an interest in this issue.

    It took the communist groups in Germany quite a while but then they realized that this was the chance to mobilize the proletariat, so they joined the young German Green party, at the time an apolitical mixed movement, quickly ellbowed their way to the top and started to purge the party from non-leftist elements. To this day the German Green party is dominated by old communists – Trittin, Kretschmann, Roth, Fischer.

    Of course, after initial success with anti-nuclear protests, they picked up every remotely scary environmental issue as well; making hay from the Waldsterben scare, and later, after that fizzled out without any impact (it was a temporary drought that had caused some damage to forests), warmism. We saw the culmination of that in COP15 , 2009 in Copenhagen, when they carted thousands of Greenshirts into the halls to scream down skeptics Hitler-youth style.

    Make no mistake; warmism was never interested in a debate – oh, did I say that? Yes indeed – “The Science Is Settled”, isn’t it; that was their battle cry. It is about political power.

    Of course, ARGUING scientifically with such an enemy is simply orthogonal warfare – they were never prepared for that. We use their pretense of science against them – they have decided to abuse science, so they have an open flank in the form of their broken GCM’s and their ragged IPCC reports.

  143. Nigel Harris says:
    March 5, 2013 at 5:08 am

    While there may be some alarmists out there who fit your description, to suggest that everyone who has come the conclusion that something needs to be done to restrain CO2 emissions has done so on the basis of “categorical thinking” is a prime example of categorical thinking in action.

    Fee fie fo fum, I smell the blood of a straw man and his name is “everyone.”

    Some of my best friends are climate alarmists(!) and I know how they think. Dr. Craig Loehle’s analysis says just what I’ve been thinking, although I don’t have his skill with words.

    How else would you explain Dr. Richard A Muller’s bizarre pronouncements on global warming, when on just about every other topic, ranging from Fukushima to Bin Laden, he has shown himself to be calm, rational and well-grounded?

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