The Philosophy of Climate Change

Guest essay by Leo Smith

Introduction

I decided to pen this, not because I am a ‘philosopher of climate change’ like the esteemed Rupert Read, whose self styled ‘philosophy of climate change’ is really a thinly disguised justification for Green politics, but because it appears to me that very very few people in the climate change business, actually understand why they need to understand a little philosophy to enable them to judge the climate change phenomenon – the social phenomenon that is – in a suitable context.

I am not a trained philosopher. I am an engineer, by training, but that was just a job. I have always retained a curiosity about other things, and part of that curiosity led me to try and understand the issues of philosophy as a part of something else I was engaged in, which has no bearing here.

I was moved to write this, because a short post as an obituary to one of the greatest philosophers of science ever – Hilary Putnam – received essentially no comment at all. I realised that not only did no one actually know who he was, but no one even recognised the importance of what he did.

What the philosophy of science does, and its part of what I want to introduce today, is to define what science is, and particularly what it is not, and to clearly delineate its limits. Since Climate Change is variously described here in disparaging terms as ‘Climate Sceance’, and ‘Scientastic methodology’ , It’s clear that many people have a gut feeling that Climate science is not ‘proper’ science. Also, a few years ago I was also involved in some online arguments with Creationists who declared that Creationism and Intelligent Design was equally valid a science as say Physics.

Finally, this gem caught my eye from Judith Curry’s site:

“In our post-modern world, climate science is not powerful because it is true: it is true because it is powerful.”

Lucas Bergkamp

All these examples show us that there is a problem: We feel that Science is being usurped by imposters, who are almost perpetrating a modern form of black magic with its tenets, and yet we can’t actually say why they are wrong…without which we can’t refute their arguments…and this is made worse by the conclusions of modern philosophers that actually, we don’t know and can’t know what is really real, because what we deal with is ‘Reality as a Social Construct’. This is taught to every good PPE. And a brief diversion into metaphysics is necessary at this point – a horribly crude one, but the attempt must be made – to outline what this actually means, and why it’s sort of true, but not the whole truth…

Reality as a Social Construct

I am going to assume everyone has seen the film The Matrix, about which I will say nothing beyond noting that it highlights a very real problem that has been at the basis of Metaphysical ponderings for millennia. Namely, how can we be sure that our perception and experience of the world, shows us what it really is, rather than some abstract model of it?

Or in fact, to go even further in the direction of what is called in Philosophy, Idealism. Throughout its history, Philosophy has veered from one extreme to the other, at times claiming that the material world, was merely a manifestation of Spirit, or Mind (Idealism), and at other times, claiming the exact opposite , that spirit and mind were merely what you get with physical beings as a property of what they are (Realism, especially Material Realism). If you like, Idealism said ‘what you see is what you (or God) create as a sort of illusion’ and the Realists said ‘what you see is what is really there, no need for all this god/spirit/consciousness rubbish. THAT is all an illusion…’. And no one could in fact decide which was which until the rise of Newtonian physics rather made it look like the Realists were onto something, and that by careful analysis of the material world, as it appeared to be, we could predict the future, in small but important ways.

And then Kant first, and then Schopenhauer put the spanner in the works by pointing out that the world, as it appeared to be, had to be at least partially a human construction. Now, two things are worth pointing out about that last sentence, and the first is that Kant and Schopenhauer and indeed their intellectual descendants were safely ignored by science, for the next 150 years or so, but their descendants were not ignored by more ‘social’ scientists. And the second is that all important qualifier – at least partially. Both Kant and Schopenhauer introduced the concept of (in Kant’s case) ‘Things in themselves’ – that is, what was ‘actually there’ beyond our mere perception of it, whilst Schopenhauer corrected that to ‘thing in itself’ claiming correctly that number and quantity were in fact part of the human construction, so we couldn’t say whether Reality consisted of one or many things!

Which is why today you will find social scientists glibly talking about reality as a social construct as if that were all it were, and scientists talking about reality being very nearly exactly what it seems to be, as if quantum physics had never been invented.

I personally grappled with these issues and came to a certain conclusion, and so I think did Hilary Putnam, before I even knew he existed, because neither model worked very well to describe the way science worked, especially quantum physics. And our resolution of the problem, expressed in as simple terms as it is possible to do, is basically this:

“We cannot know (lacking a Red Pill) whether we are in a Matrix, or not, and whether that Matrix is our own construction, someone else’s, or an aspect of what the world really is. So we cannot assume that our experience is ‘what is really there’ but on the other hand, to say that ‘all that is really there, is our own construction, implies that magic (control of Reality by Mind) ought to work, and it doesn’t. Therefore a model which says that there is something unknown and perhaps unknowable there, all right, but which we can only experience via self-constructed perceptions of it, seems to be the most efficient. And this is precisely what Kant and Schopenhauer said, and what quantum physics is revealing, and What Hilary Putnam said, and what I feel is worth trying to understand – namely that the world is in fact utterly weird and different from our experience of it, but all we have to work on is our mentally ‘socially constructed’ models of it. That is, we know our experience is limited, and less than the whole, and filtered by our own cultural prejudices, but that is all we have to go on”.

Of course the above, itself, is in fact just another model! And so is not ‘true’. But this brings me to one of the most fundamental issues that the philosophy of science has emphasised, are we actually looking for Truth, at all, when we Do Science?

Truth, Science and Occam’s Razor

People talk glibly about ‘scientific truth’. But, is there such a thing? Most philosophers would say no, there isn’t. And the way science is done, shows us why. Science begins in a view of the world – a model if you like – that starts with some ad hoc assumptions (the Kantian a-prioris) that we cannot know to be true. Namely that the world of our experience as a collection of ‘things’ in a space time universe where ‘stuff happens ‘ to change the experience of it over a a period of time, cannot in any way be shown to be correct. Nor indeed a further assumption, that in fact these changes are brought about by timeless Eternal Rules, what we would call the laws of Nature, or Physics, operating mathematically and exactly to turn the present into the future, via Causality.

But in order to ‘do science’ we have to assume that they are true. Which is why they are referred to as ‘metaphysics’ and ‘a priori‘ because they are ‘beyond physics’ and ‘before the fact’ of science.

Science made a huge impact on the philosophy of its day, because in spite of these objections to it, which were quite well understood by the theologians and philosophers of the day, it worked, and worked spectacularly well. And is is that success that led its protagonists, from Galileo to Dawkins, to claim that must mean it was True. And to this day the ‘social sciences’ are trying to emulate its successes and claim some truth content thereby, by calling themselves sciences, a condition known as ‘physics envy’.

And from there, it was but a short step from observing that one didn’t need to ‘believe on God’ to ‘do science’ which worked, to thereby claim that therefore God did not exist. But that’s a whole new can of worms.

Let me state the position that I believe Philosophy of Science to be in. The fact that Science works, when operating on the ‘rational materialist’ model that it has to assume is the case, neither ‘proves’ that the inductive hypotheses that it posits are ‘true’ or that indeed the whole rational materialist edifice upon which it all rests, is in fact valid metaphysics at all!

And this is where the pseudo-scientists and religious fundamentalists step in to say ‘well it’s all just another belief system, innit?’, and claim that it’s therefore no better than ‘climate science’ or ‘creationism’. Or ‘my little Jihad’..

And in a limited sense they are right! But there is one thing that separates proper science from the rest, and that is that it works! Yes, behind all the formulae and the mumbo jumbo that it seems to be, if you take the rational materialist’s world view, and operate upon it scientifically, you get to predict the future, more or less. The ‘planets’ will be where you thought they would, experiment will more or less produce the predicted results, and science based technology will mostly just ‘work’ as evinced by the fact that I can type this, and you can read it.

And that in the end is the only defence Science has to offer. Not that it’s true, or has any ‘truth content’ at all – although some still claim that the fact that it works is ‘strong evidence’ that its ‘true’ more or less – but that it works. And when it stops working, that’s a sign that it’s no longer science, or is refuted science. A proposition that didn’t produce predictions that matched reality…

The acknowledgement of this utter inability to provide any sort of proof of being true, is what the widely quoted and usually totally misunderstood ‘Occam’s Razor’ is all about. What the monk William of Ockham actually said was roughly “apart from God and the Holy Scriptures, and things that are self-evidently True, we should not construct elaborate fancies to explain things when simple ones are just as good”. This is widely misunderstood to mean that the simple explanations are the true ones. That was never Occam’s point. His point was all about utility – not truth content.

And that really sums up the second part of this diversion into philosophy: Science isn’t true, it’s what works to predict the future, and if it fails to work, it’s not Science any more. Creationism, Intelligent Design, and My Little Jihad, don’t predict the future. In fact they don’t actually even set out to predict the future. They are therefore Not Science. And not on a par with science. Insofar as Climate Science does set out to predict the future, its failed, or refuted science, because it’s failed to predict it accurately or usefully, and, insofar as it never was really intended to predict the future, it’s just another metaphysical position entirely on a par with Creationism, Intelligent Design, and My Little Jihad.

And that brings me to the final point I want to try and make, as to how philosophy, and in particular the a priori model of the sort of metaphysics that I, and I believe Hilary Putnam, espoused, can make sense of the socio-political narratives of climate change alarmism. And indeed very much of the politics of what is generally termed the Left, which is inextricably linked to it, as well as the Religious Right.

Morality as a Social Construct – the Emotional Narrative.

When I described the function and purpose of what I consider to be Science, what is perhaps startling is that in the end, the only value judgement I applied, or indeed feel I can apply, to it, is that it just works.

And this brings me to a peculiar moral position. Morality, more than physical reality, is a social construct. Moreover its not based on anything beyond humanity. Does the Universe care if we live, love, die, or were never born?

Only if you believe in an Anthropic God.

Otherwise it is simply not possible to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, in any absolute sense. And yet our media is awash with narratives – emotional narratives – exhorting us to ‘Do the Right Thing’. But what actually is The Right Thing? Where can we find some objective yardstick for moral behaviour? Scriptures? The Democrat Party or the UK Labour Party? The Koran?

What light does the metaphysical model outlined earlier shed on the issues of right and wrong, good and bad?

Almost, but not completely, none. It has no concept of a morality in the traditional sense, it, like science, is totally amoral. But just as we arrive at a justification for Science in terms of its utility, we arrive at something like a moral position in terms of utility, too…

…It is conventional wisdom that Darwin’s theory of evolution leads to a sort of law called ‘survival of the fittest’ . However on closer inspection, that sort of Nietzschian perspective is shown to be false as well. What is actually the deductible corollary of the Theory of Evolution, is that it only leads to eradication of that which is so counter-survival, that the young of the species do not live long enough to reproduce themselves.

And that is why we still have appendices. They haven’t killed us. Yet. Mostly.

This basic principle, that ‘That which persists, is that which is not sufficiently dysfunctional to create its own downfall is a very important point to note, because it explains in a way why this is the worst of all possible worlds. It simply only needs to be that good, to keep ticking over.

If we apply it to humans and their socially accepted ideas, not just about the nature of physical reality, but the nature of the sort of moral and social reality which is the sandpit of the Intellectual Left, and of course those involved in proselytising Religions, like Radical Islam (My Little Jihad) and Creationism, we can see that any sort of elaborate nonsense, provided it doesn’t lead to complete mass suicide, is as good as any other, especially in a socialist post-modern industrialist society with welfare, where frankly all you need to do to survive is work out how to game the system for the welfare, and walk to McDonalds. What you happen to believe – whether you are in fact God’s chosen ones, or the dregs of society – is a free choice at the functional level. As long as it doesn’t make you sufficiently depressed to kill yourself before Having Sex, and Making Babies, it’s cool!

And if you have a Vote, or a pocketful of Someone Else’s Money, given to you by a Compassionate Caring State (allegedly), why then, if someone wants that money or that vote, and are not particular about how they get it, they will tell you anything you want to hear, and basically what that means is they will tailor an emotional narrative to exactly make you feel as good about yourself as possible, and sell it to you. Or one to make you feel as bad about yourself as possible, and sell you the antidote!

Whatever.

c.f. Marxism as the classic example. You the mass of voters are miserable, because they, the few people who have a bit of cash, are oppressing you, and so by revolting against them, you will all be as rich as they were before you took all their money. Or the State did, on your behalf.

The problem with selling you a reality that makes you feel good about yourself – ‘God loves you: Chill!’ is that you can’t actually really sell a product based on that. All the best marketing comes from identifying, or if not creating basic needs that the product will satisfy. Over and over.

Until Colgate, no one brushed their teeth twice a day, let alone after every meal, and if they did, they used salt. The Genius of Colgate, ‘For people who can’t brush their teeth after every meal’ was the subtle implication of guilt if you didn’t do that (and who did?) and the instant catapulting of Colgate Toothpaste into the top brand arena…

Prior to the invention of Radio, then TV, of course there wasn’t much opportunity for all this. OK we had religion, and could sell ‘indulgences’ to free people from sin, and pieces of the One True Cross. And saint’s bones and the like, all of which were profitable, but there are only so many bits of The One True Cross that you can sell.

But with the invention of the Printing Press, the Radio, and the State Broadcast, all this stuff – previously the province of either priests chanting in the Churches, or hedge witches muttering curses under their breath, in the pagan arena, this became a billion dollar business, and the primary means by which nation states that didn’t want to actually start a real war, fought each other. As an offshoot of the Great Game, propaganda and marketing became the primary weapon of war of all power blocs, and parties with aspirations. Less a Game of Thrones and more a Game of Lies.

And the reason is simple. Morality and emotion are in the end human constructs, and so are all the beliefs about rights and wrongs, good and bad, and so on, and have absolutely no objective Truth at all. When I talked about Idealism and Realism, it was with respect to the science of the material world, which I posited did at least represent something external, beyond human construction.

Where morality is concerned, however, there is nothing. Not if we are considering it as rational beings. We need to posit an external physical world in some sense, to make sense of everything, but there is no need whatsoever to posit an external moral standard. And that is the frightening and appalling truth that people find very hard to stomach, and why they find it easier to behave as if there were such a standard, and what we can say is that societies that have such cultural patterns, that behave as if there were some moral standard, are less dysfunctional than those that do not. If this is sounding a bit Nietzschian, and God forbid, Third Reich-ish, you are right. Societies bound by common beliefs that are strong, and beliefs not so fallacious as to ensure their destruction, are likely to trample all over societies that really can’t say any more what is right or wrong. My Little Jihad trumps Western Liberalism, Western Liberalism trumps careful scientific scepticism, because at a given level, they are simple clear and cohesive messages.

Not because they are true, or even morally right, but because they have a momentum and a quality that makes them successful.

And this is, I would aver, precisely where we are with Climate Change, the socio-political phenomenon. Most people do not know the truth of whether it’s science or not, or whether it is true or not, even if it is science. And, most tellingly, most people do not care. Because in the field of human behaviour, voting and spending power is deployed not according to what is true, but according to what people (want to) believe to be true, or can be manipulated to believe to be true, and those can be poles apart. And Climate Alarmists are simply acceding to this position, They either don’t know that they are lying, or they actually don’t care if they are lying, because lying actually gets them, personally, a better life, than the truth!

It’s only when we have to deal with the physical reality of the world, that the truth has any point to it.

False beliefs spin no turbines, but they can spin the economies and politics and religions of this world indefinitely. So long as they are not so dysfunctional as to result in “no sex and no propagation”.

And the wonderful post Christian compassionate Welfare States that we have built, with the best of intentions, have resulted in a population who can believe in almost anything, from Aromatherapy to Zoroastrianism, without it actually being a huge problem for their survival.

Until the wind drops, the turbines stop and Physical Reality kicks them in the pants.

Then the law of eradication of that which is counter-survival will happen, and billions will die.

Up till now, the questions have been:

Do you want to be:

(a) On the winning side?

(b) Morally right ?

and

(c) Scientifically correct?

(d) Alive?

And by choosing climate alarmism most people felt they made (a) and (b) and hoped that if (c) were true, (d) would result.

But a careful recourse to sceptical philosophy, shows that (c) is almost certainly wrong, and because it’s wrong, (d) becomes a real issue, and because (d) is a real issue, it’s not so clear that (a) accrues either. And who cares about being morally right, if you’re scientifically wrong, on the losing side, and dead?

The very great danger that we face, is that political propaganda, hearts and minds, and all that, has gone too far. Much too far. It’s one thing to sell toothpaste to guilty teeth-brushers, but to sell wind turbines and Carbon Credits to guilty Ecos, is pushing it. And if the total inanity and confusion with which the Left have flooded Western Society for the last two generations has resulted in a society that no longer knows what it believes in, or why, and where anything it feels is probably wrong in someone’s moral handbook, and is too polite and nice to say ‘so what?’, proves to have basically resulted in no ability to cohesively resist forces which will destroy it, well, so, it will be destroyed. There comes a point at which dysfunctionality will destroy a society that is full of crazy ideas and has no idea how to keep itself alive.

A simple message went out: “Climate change threatens our very existence, because it is true”.

We need to reverse that with a simple statement: “Climate change threatens our very existence, because it isn’t true”.

And if you want voting guidance, remember that all you are voting for is always going to be a pack of lies, no matter who is telling it. Just vote for the most amusing liars, and the ones that look too incompetent to wreck everything, and hope that someone somewhere has the intelligence to realise that it is in the end it is not in anyone’s best interest to destroy the world in pursuit of power and profit, no matter how much they tell you that that is in fact exactly what they are trying to prevent.

In conclusion

It has been interesting trying to compress a lifetime’s personal journey, into just a few pages, and focus the impact down to a very selective target audience. What I really hope to have done, is to show why and in what way some of the more interesting aspects of metaphysics are really important in terms of real-life/here-now issues.

Metaphysics is, in itself, the study of the assumptions we have to make in order to be able to think and talk about the world at all, the concepts and ideas and prejudices that underpin our idea of ‘what the world consists of’. It has gone out of fashion because after millennia of argument, the modern philosophers decided that it wasn’t possible to decide what the One True Picture really was, and that argument was therefore pointless. If I read him aright, that’s probably where Wittgenstein left the matter. However as an engineer, I am not interested in the One True Picture, just a useful picture (or indeed pictures) that work, to solve the problems I encounter. And that is where I find value in metaphysics, in the construction of pragmatic metaphysical systems, that actually solve problems. These metaphysical systems are of course just models, and therefore can never be proven to be true, all one can hope for is that the insights they provide and the pictures they produce help to solve immediate problems.

Hilary Putnam was the philosopher who most seemed to be taking a similar approach. Unsurprisingly since he was working with physicists at the edge of quantum theory to try and make sense of the ‘facts’ of quantum physics and reconcile them with the ‘facts’ of ordinary common sense, a similar conflict led me to similar territory. Namely the hypothesis that the world we experience as individuals and indeed cultures, is a model, that is limited in scope, thoroughly and inevitably steeped in prejudice, and is an unknown and unknowable distance from ‘the Truth’. It is that dreaded Social Construct . And conflicts arise because we deny this. Once we acknowledge the terrifying truth that everybody lives in their own world, and that stuff which they will swear is Real and the Truth, is to other people, simply perplexing rubbish, because they are employing a different metaphysical set of assumptions about it, most of the conflicts disappear.

It is the humility needed to accept that science is not truth, on the one hand, but neither is the moral high ground of the ‘Liberal Arts’ crowd either. There is an apocryphal joke that sums it up:

“When I want to get somewhere, the last form of transport I would choose is a Harley Davidson”

“But when I am awn ma Hog, I am already exactly where I wanna be!”.

And there, in a nutshell we have it. In the absence of an external point of moral reference, we need the emotional narratives to somehow inform us at a personal level of where we want to be. But in terms of getting there, we have to throw out the left brain, and invoke the right brain, to arrive. The mistake of the adherents of the Left, is that they fail to do this. The mistake of the adherents of the Right, is that they don’t actually know where they want to go.

Perhaps Western technology came so fast that we were spoiled for choice as to where we should go, and that explains the rise and rise of the ’emotional’ side of ourselves, as we desperately looked for reasons why we should or shouldn’t deploy the technology in terms of creating a ‘better future’ without really knowing what that meant, until it arrived. And found that perhaps after all it wasn’t better. Just bigger. A telling point is, that as compared with say a generation ago, the biggest killer of young males is no longer road accidents, but suicide.

We have lost the emotional certainties of a cohesive religious culture, and thrown open the door to any and every kind of nonsense, all competing for space in our brains, and most of which is marketed to strip the individual of his vote or his cash, or both.

I have no solution, other than to reiterate what I answered in reply to “You claim to be an Atheist, or at least an Agnostic, yet seem to behave as a better Christian than most churchgoers. How come?”

“Because I think it’s a better way to live, to behave as if there were a God, as if there were some judgement over one’s life, and not only does it make me personally feel better, it creates a cohesive humble and co-operative and strong society. Why can’t we accept paying lip-service to a religion we don’t believe in, on the grounds that its simply a good thing for us, and society to do, for our own survival?”

Where metaphysics is concerned, we are compelled to behave as if the a priori assumptions we make about the world are in fact ‘true’.

In the end, my point is that we can’t prove that they are, and they may not be, so we should not prosecute our deductions from those assumptions with the zeal of certainty. But neither should we give up. They may not be the Truth, but they are, used correctly, nearer true than anything else we have to hand. And what is manifestly and demonstrably false is when we hypothesise a structure that claims to explain and predict some aspect of the metaphysical position we have already taken, when in fact it does nothing of the sort. AGW fails to actually pass the tests of a scientific theory.

There is no moral compass. But there is a pragmatic one. It is the one that gets us where we want to go, and its name is Science and Reason. It can’t help with deciding where we want to go, but it can once we have decided that, tell us how to get there efficiently. If applied correctly.

There is no way we can know absolute truth, but, inside of a set of metaphysical assumptions, we can tell if some hypotheses are less true than others, because they don’t actually work.

It’s a pretty lousy set of criteria on which to base the survival of a whole species, but friends, in the end, that is all we have got. Put your trust in what works. Not because [it is] true, but because [it] is not demonstrably false. Yet.

And hope that you have not simply found a temporarily advantageous metaphysics.

The one and only cautionary picture belongs here.

clip_image002

“How are you getting on with that Jumping Out of the Window and Not Hitting the Ground thing, Carruthers?”

 

Leo Smith

Advertisements

262 thoughts on “The Philosophy of Climate Change

    • Gross and Levitt, along with Martin Lewis, are also editors of another excellent book titled: The Flight From Science and Reason, published in 1997 by John Hopkins Press, there is a section on Environmentalism that is as timely for the Climate debate today as anything recently written.

    • The human problem is our abstract thinking ability in a body born with instincts and needs. We are not looking for what is TRUE. We are looking for what we want.

      • Surely it’s obvious
        Doesn’t every schoolboy know it?
        Ends are ape-chosen
        Only the means are mans’
        —Aldous Huxley

    • I think this article is terrible. It concedes to Kant that humans cannot know reality, that they can only know a piece of it and even that piece is “filtered” by “categorical imperatives” thus we can never know the “truth” even through science. Maybe you should read ” The Evidence of the Senses” by David Kelly which clarifies the “Realist” position on reality. The article sounds like the primacy of consciousness that man makes up reality and that reality is not “real” or objective, it’s just one opinion out of many and thus any groups claim to truth is just as true as any other. This is a terrible thing to concede to environmentalists or mystics or any political philosophy that claims a “right” to your wealth and to distribute it to anyone who doesn’t have it.

      • and that reality is not “real”

        IMO Results from Wheelers Delayed Choice experiments and Relativity, almost require it to not be all that real. Others argue it means no such thing, To me it seems they are grasping at straws.

      • We are born with amnesia and spend the rest of our lives poking throught the fog to see what is really going on.

  1. Typing error Leo…. ” Not because its true, but because is isn’t demonstrably false. Yet. ” ..IS should be IT, I would think !

  2. David Wootton defined science quite well: “Science offers reliable knowledge (that is, reliable prediction and control), not truth.” In a nutshell that’s why today’s “climate science” and any public policy derived from it bad.

  3. The perception of reality is reality. Based on that, how does one go about wanting to change their perception? While possible, it is not probable with a true believer.

    • A good place to start would be influencing or controlling print, TV and Internet media. Perhaps student curriculum could be adjusted as well.

      • A good place to start would be influencing or controlling print, TV and Internet media. Perhaps student curriculum could be adjusted as well

        Rather “A good place to start would be to stop influencing or controlling print, TV and Internet media. Perhaps student curriculum could be adjusted as well.”

        I have come to the conclusions that the only thing that can possibly work, is precisely what we are doping here, and that is engaging in dialogue as the ancient Greeks did, in the hope that the best ideas, whatever that means, will triumph over bad ones.

        All of the for-profit outlets are peddling stuff that accords with the wishes of their paymasters. That should be taken for granted.

        WE need to point that out, and provide a counter culture, knowing that it too, will one day get taken over by the powers that be, and perverted just as the Green movement has been.

        Sic transit Gloria Mundi

    • You have missed the whole point. The perception of reality is NOT reality. And that’s how changes in perception have to occur. When the mental model fails to be congruent with what happens, the perception of reality is seen to be wrong.

      The point at which that, rather than cognitive dissonance (denial) occurs varies between individuals.

      Another tipping point is Kuhn’s ‘paradigm shift’ where suddenly a new way of looking at things makes so much MORE sense than the old, that it becomes the new paradigm.

      I suppose that’s what I am trying to engineer here, a paradigm shift, so that we look at Climate change the social phenomenon with new eyes, and see it more clearly and indeed more sympathetically.

      I do not claim that this is a BETTER or MORE TRUE way of seeing it, just a more productive one, of course ;-)

      • Location, location, location.

        I would ask for the physical location of the truth that supports the assertion. See how long it takes for a person to point to their own head.

      • Leo, you’re both erudite and sincere, and I hope your brain doesn’t hurt from writing all that. Mine is starting to smoke from READING it . . . ;-)

        Here’s the thing: Step off the roof, you find out PDQ that gravity “works.” Go out and stand under a dark woolly cloud, the ice cold rain runs down your neck. Stand in the sun long enough, get warm. “Science” began with simple “experiments” like these when we still lived in caves, and proceeded from there. BTW–all of the above work whether or not one is man, beast, “moral,” depraved, or has an agenda.

        “Morality” is a moving target, culturally constructed, and when you start lifting up the rocks always has a hidden element of pragmatism. In the days when laws enforced primogeniture, virgin brides and fidelity were prioritized. Producing many sons was vital to hand-work agriculture for centuries. When women were incapable of living economically independent lives, the culture proscribed them. When the infant mortality rate was high, “alternative” sexualities and non-procreative acts were forbidden. Since NONE of those conditions pertain today, the moral codes in the West have loosened rather noticeably.

        For a generation now, a concerted effort has been made by our “elite” culture-makers to instill Green Malthusianism as a morally-enforced norm. They attempted to enlist “science” as proof of the practical necessity, and their “moral” position is now endangered (dare I say, absurd) because the “science” has proven no such thing–indeed, it has proven its polar opposite. It is no accident that the only people still pushing this are actors, musicians, politicians, propagandists, and those in their pay.

        What’s really going to call the shots here is the same thing that always has–THE MONEY. And as a libertarian entrepreneur, I have MUCH faith that people are going to “do the right thing” that is profitable, not counter-productive, due to the fact that losing money is a HUGE and universal disincentive!

        My upscale town is just ROTTEN with Elitists and their sycophantic wannabes, and I can tell you that currently concern about “climate change” is running far behind “concern” about erectile dysfunction, Kasich’s presidential chances, or catching MRSA at the gym. A few folks advertise their disposable income by plopping the ugly solar panels on their roof for Conspicuous Green Cred, but that’s about as far as it goes. And if it didn’t lower the electric bill for their home theaters, 9,000 KW all-night “security” lights, and electrically-heated spas, they wouldn’t have bothered, believe me!

        I think the very idea of “moral panic” about a natural phenomenon that takes thousands, sometimes millions of years to wax and wane is–well, rather strange. The idea humans own the “thermostat” to control it is even stranger. People now realize they’ve been had, AGW has failed the “silliness” test.

      • I burnt out a clutch once during a “paradigm shift”, ha ha ha….

        “reality is just a collective hunch” (I forget who coined that phrase first, Lilly Tomlin perhaps ?, but she is due all the credit).

        The reality (even though some folks with very vested interests cannot ever realize/admit it) is that there is no realistic observable evidence that Man made emissions of “greenhouse gases” are having any effect at all. None, zilch, nil, nodda, “one divided by infinity”, “zero point sh-t”…….

        There must be another explanation. There must be an alternative hypothesis that explains why “IR absorbing gases” (AKA “Greenhouse Gases”) are not demonstrating their overwhelming and awe inspiring ability to “control the temperature”.

        Cheers, KevinK.

      • Goldrider, you are in good and ancient company in separating morality and the physical world.
        “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
        Gospel According to Matthew
        There is some rebuke there for those claiming we can not know the world apart from our own perceptions.

      • Goldrider,

        really? 9000 kW security lights? Haven’t these people heard of LED security lights? My house had the Halogen ones when I bought it and I converted them all to LED. The LEDs are rated for higher lumen output yet my electric draw went from 2 kW to 56 W. What’s more, the new ones have a built in ambient light sensor to only come on when it is dark. Convenience and savings in the same package! I could probably put a couple of solar panels on the roof and even run them “for free” as the greenies like to think. Of course we all know that the non-subsidy payback time for them is essentially never since they wear out before the difference in electric bills can even come close to paying for their purchase and installation.

        Of course if you live somewhere like California where they are going to tax you to death anyway and run your rates through the roof, the economics change – take the money and run, it works within the paradigm of the society, but is it leading to a case of that which leads to destruction?

  4. Yes Ari, a Book I meant to mention in a similar vein was ‘Why Truth Matters’

    http://www.amazon.com/Why-Truth-Matters-Jeremy-Stangroom/dp/0826495281

    I think this was the first time I found the concept that whilst we can lie to ourselves and each other endlessly, we can’t lie to the physical world, Or at least we can, but it ain’t listening.

    Engineers are somewhat proof against human BS, because they spend a lot of their time dealing with stuff that simply wont tolerate it, And they also have a value system geared towards that which works, as much as that which is elegant, beautiful, or profitable.

    And engineer, it is said, is someone who can do for five bob what any damned fool can do for a quid. (or these days, a renewable energy company, for half a billion).

    I do think its important that we understand what is going on with the ‘opposition’ and whether they are ‘evil’ liars, deluded, or simply operating from a different perspective.

    • I do think its important that we understand what is going on with the ‘opposition’…

      They are mostly 1) the fearful and 2) the opportunists taking advantage of the A) fearful and B) those wishing to appear virtuous.

    • An engineer, it is said, is someone who can do for five bob what any damned fool can do for a quid. (or these days, a renewable energy company, for half a billion).

      My father, who designed machines to make things, used the same expression (only being less well off, he said for sixpence and a shilling!). Thanks for reminding me of him.

      Thanks Leo for an interesting and informative essay.

      The problem, as I see it, is that the Climate Change Industry actually does work. It produces employment, travel opportunities and Nobel prizes for people who couldn’t not otherwise have any hope of achieving them. It allows hundreds of thousands more to signal their virtue with absurd statements from the decks of their private yachts or their first class aeroplane seats. And millions more to agree with their ‘heroes’ and so feel good about themselves.

      That is what we need to fix, and ridicule is about the only weapon we have, since the money continues to flow from our pockets into theirs, however often people with more intelligence and experience than I try to do, on sites like this, which act as beacons of rationality in a world seemingly gone mad.

      Until we stop climate change working for these people, and they are many, we will continue to waste money, time & resources to the detriment of human progress everywhere.

      • Well said. I think Leo nailed the challenge at hand with his quote:
        “What is actually the deductible corollary of the Theory of Evolution, is that it only leads to eradication of that which is so counter-survival, that the young of the species do not live long enough to reproduce themselves.”

        That goes for ideas, hypothesis and theories too. And that, I think, is the reason behind Karl Popper saying:
        “what characterizes the empirical method is its manner of exposing to falsification, in every conceivable way, the system to be tested. Its aim is not to save the lives of untenable systems but … exposing them all to the fiercest struggle for survival.”

        And that is what I the principle I wish United Nations had enforced upon IPCC.

      • UN did not establish UNEP, UNFCCC and IPCC to fix the climate. They where established to fix the Western World.

    • Leo, first great article. Very insightful and well written. It would be nice for it to find a larger audience.

      You write:

      I do think its important that we understand what is going on with the ‘opposition’ and whether they are ‘evil’ liars, deluded, or simply operating from a different perspective.

      I’ve puzzled over this too, and from what I think may be the same perspective, which is an interest in figuring out how to reach them before its too late. For me, too late may not happen anyway, though I still have concerns for my children.

      My experience on social networks is limited to the comments section of various web sites like the Washington Post and the New York Times. I don’t have much face to face contact with proponents of CAGW. But what I believe I’ve learned is they’re driven by a desire to appear virtuous and also a desire to be recognized as intellectuals who are better informed than their opponents. These are the same motives we see in the Cleric class and I think it’s why the Movement rapidly took on a religious rather than scientific stance in society. I base this on their refusal to actually argue scientific evidence, instead sticking to dogma and attacking all opposing views with ad hominem. I’ve yet to engage a defender of AGW in a real evidence based debate and I’ve actually been bared from supposedly scientific web sites for using references to the

      So how do you “convert” people like this? I don’t think you can. After almost 10 years of trying all sorts of approaches, I can’t say I’ve found one that works for me. In all honesty, it’s been more frequent for me to be temporarily swayed by a pro-AGW position than it has been for me to sway an opponent. This is a short lived event since it always turns out to be a hoked up example of junk science if not an outright lie, still it can lead to uncomfortable moments.

      The problem is they’ve completely abandoned rational thought, making it impossible to convince them using rational argument. As you point out, it’s what they want to believe and they won’t be confused by facts.

      The closest I’ve been able to come is to try re-directing them to some other activity that doesn’t threaten survival of our species and still satisfies their desire to appear virtuous and superior (justifying arrogance). I point out that the climate is no doubt warming and there’s likely nothing that can be done about it, so wouldn’t it make more sense to concentrate on some other virtuous thing like feeding the hungry. Once and a while it seems to work but I have no idea how long it lasts.

      They have no real fear of having their theories proven wrong. They make their predictions in 30 to 100 year time frames and change them constantly. It won’t ever be possible to convincingly demonstrate their “science” isn’t to the scientifically illiterate. I believe at least the more Machiavellian of them understand and use this. The basic prime time TV crowd have the memory of a carrot and never notice this. On top of it all, the media love a good pissing contest and are going to keep this going as long as it sells advertising.

      I think the highest and best hope is the general population get tired of the show and lose interest, after which we’ll have another manufactured crisis, hopefully one with a proposed solution that doesn’t present an existential threat to humanity, because it seems to me these folks are dumb as lemmings and would be happy to go over a cliff on demand.

      • @Bartleby

        Excellent comment, sir! I could not agree more with you. And your comment:

        But what I believe I’ve learned is they’re driven by a desire to appear virtuous and also a desire to be recognized as intellectuals who are better informed than their opponents. These are the same motives we see in the Cleric class and I think it’s why the Movement rapidly took on a religious rather than scientific stance in society. I base this on their refusal to actually argue scientific evidence, instead sticking to dogma and attacking all opposing views with ad hominem

        fits the situation with trying to have a reasoned discussion with ‘believers’, perfectly.

    • leo –

      There’s one more motivator I hypothesize but don’t really have any proof of. It’s based on a vague sense I’ve gotten after years of conversing with alarmists. I think alarmism give meaning to their lives. I can’t be sure but I think many are relatively young, in their twenties and early thirties, some even younger. I get the feeling they haven’t found a sense of accomplishment or purpose in their other endeavors.

  5. Anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my apartment. (I live on the twenty-first floor.) Alan Sokal

      • Perhaps, when he wrote that, he did not anticipate the rush of people that would come up to his apartment !

        When lots of pretty young meat turned up to the party, maybe he figured it would be fun to play along, rather than remaining a grumpy old celibate philosopher.

  6. “We feel that Science is being usurped by imposters, who are almost perpetrating a modern form of black magic with its tenets, and yet we can’t actually say why they are wrong…”

    We can say why they are wrong, if CO2 was driving climate change, then it should be forcing a more poleward jet stream track. That would keep the AMO and Arctic cooler. The increase in negative North Atlantic Oscillation since the mid 1990’s driving the warm AMO and Arctic is completely the wrong sign to associate with increased GHG forcing of the climate.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch10s10-3-5-6.html

    • PB, so what is your criticism? You may have been given a superb education but, as the old saw goes: Pearls before…..

    • No fear about it mate. I never studied at at college, I picked it all up by working it out from first principles.
      Which means I don’t use words in the ‘accepted’ way, but it doesn’t mean that what I worked out is invalid.

      And maybe not being lumbered down with two millennia of almost pointless argument is actually an advantage.

      I am not ashamed either. As I said, feel free to do better. I will be the first to congratulate you.

      I feel there is a job worth doing, and no one else has tackled it. My attempts may well be amateurish, but where are your superior ones?

      • Great essay. One point I would dispute – re behaving as if there is a god. That doesn’t work – well, not as per most god definitions. What does work is as explained in an early paragraph : “There is one thing that separates proper science from the rest, and that is that it works”. So trying to behave as if there’s a god simply opens up a can of worms. Unless, that is, “god” is defined in a way that equates to “that which works”. What we actually need to do is to behave in a way that works. That’s why I want education to be founded on the basics again, but the four Rs not three. (The 4th R is Reasoning).

      • Sorry for being abrupt previously. Let me clarify.
        The central issue in the philosophy of science is the problem of inductive reasoning, which you seem to have missed entirely.
        What you are talking about is the problem of epistemology and the extent to which our beliefs based on the world of our experience can properly be considered, or give rise to, ‘knowledge’. This problem impacts all of our beliefs equally, not just scientific reasoning. This problem impacts religious and creationist beliefs just the same way and to the same extent. And, it includes and equally impacts your belief that ‘science works’. You believe that science works because you saw it with your own eyes right? Did you also hear a tree fall over in woods?
        Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and the rest were all concerned with ways to conceive of science without depending on inductive reasoning and thus avoiding the problem of induction. Paradigm shifts, conjectures and refutations, falsification, and so on and so forth, are all just ways to try to argue that science does not critically depend upon inductive reasoning.
        So you have missed the entire point of the philosophy of science.
        And your point concerning epistemology is entirely flawed as soon as you try to give special status to scientific beliefs as opposed to any other beliefs in this context on the basis that ‘science works’. Do you imagine that we believe that science works because of something other than our sensory experience of it? What does empirical mean…? Science may well have special status but not in this context.
        So, you have misunderstood your subject in quite fundamental ways, hence my earlier response.
        (And your grasp of the philosophical implications of subjectivist ethical positions is worrying.)

      • @PB
        Thank you for your clarification. I look forward to your next essay on tact and people skills

  7. Great stuff, but it would be very helpful if you went further into the question of what is truth. Since science investigates the knowable, is “the knowable” the truth? If so, then it exists beyond science. I am drawn to the Eastern philosophical distinction between what we “know”, that is what we tell each other about the things we have discovered through science and other approaches, and what these things are beyond our descriptions. “Mistake not the finger for the moon” is a Buddhist admonition that is highly applicable here. Climate change models are fingers, not moons. And surely we know enough about climate to insist that everyone recognize that climate changes, it has always changed, and always will. Induction is reliable provided you do not narrow your focus to a limited range of the phenomenon you are investigating. But many climate changers focus on a very limited and often flawed set of data, when they use data at all. Their predictions based on limited induction may be/are very flawed.
    But I had an excellent science education as it was always stressed that utility was the goal, not truth. Science is a difficult concept to get across to lawyers (sigh) as they are trained to use absolutes. They can be forgiven for this I suppose, but it is of great concern that so many climate scientists are making such egregious errors. Our society is like the Red Queen and Alice in having to run like mad just to stay where we are. The ability of our society to run so fast is due to science. Bad science will result in bad running (of society). So I agree that the greatest threats to people is bad science.

      • Philosophy is, at least as college course catalogs divide things up, those recondite subjects without good solutions. Unfortunately, at the schools I went to logic and rhetoric were in with epistemiology. Therefore, I previously made the comment that such discussions call for one’s favorite recreational drugs, as one will never reach a satisfactory solution.

  8. @ulriclyons

    Yes, that’s all very well for people who ‘get science’ and have the wit and the motivation to understand what all that stuff means.

    But that is a vanishingly small minority.

    The real movers and shakers here are the sorts of media establishment luvvies who gush over ‘science’ pretend they understand it, and provide air space to rubbish because its fooled them.

    I think that if you want to win the hearts and minds, you need to unfortunately come up with a compelling emotional counter-narrative, and that is that the world is more in danger from climate change alarmists than from climate change itself.

    That is the simplest message that will do the job.

    I am afraid these days I am tired and cynical. I now longer think that ‘if only everyone thought the way I do, the problem wouldn’t have happened’ is a good thought to have, because patently they dont think the way I do, and to be honest, I dont have the power, even if I felt morally justified, or even just plain bloody minded enough to force them or seduce them into thinking that way.

    They are, in the end, ‘no better than they ought to be’ and in order to respond to the truth, they probably need to be lied to. That is unfortunately the starting point of the alarmists too, and that is the effective policy. The only difference here, is that we cant be found out, because we have been careful enough to discern what the truth is before we start. And the lies we tell are only in the end simplifications.

    I.e to say ‘the greatest anthropogenic threat to the human race comes from climate change alarmists, and their ilk’, is a simplification, but its not far from the truth.

    • …media establishment luvvies who gush over ‘science’ pretend they understand it, and provide air space to rubbish because its fooled them.

      “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” ― Mark Twain

      Of course, one has to be humble and have humility in order to admit to having been fooled, and I don’t see much of those attributes in certain quarters these days.

      • “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” ― Mark Twain

        I just finished watching a very good documentary on that subject. It was about James Randi, aka “The Amazing Randi” titled “An Honest Liar”. It deals with many of these issues and I think anyone interested in the subject would find it worth a couple of hours. Netflix is streaming it I think, but it may have been Amazon.

    • “I.e to say ‘the greatest anthropogenic threat to the human race comes from climate change alarmists, and their ilk’, is a simplification, but its not far from the truth.”

      Apart from real detrimental climate change in the form of a deep and protracted solar minimum, that is the truth.
      I’m not sure that it would help telling them that their policies being harmful to humanity, they already claim that population reduction is the right thing to do, which has spilled out into some public opinion that humanity sucks and needs to be got rid of.
      At some stage there has to be a tipping point to a wider acceptance of what the observational data really implies, that AMO and Arctic warming is negative NAO/AO driven, and hence logically a feedback to a decline in climate forcing. And beyond that, a recognition of the solar and non internal cause of the increase in negative NAO since the mid 1990’s, and how that has overwhelmed the opposing effects of more CO2.

  9. Nastily, deep philosophical arguments usuallly imply drug consumption by most of the participants. As they are interminable, Irish Coffee and marjiuana seem reasonable, with the weed to keep down brawls.
    To get pedantic, there is some “science’ that is reliable enough to use as engineering–where one gets predicable results within some agreed degree of measurement. What most persons posting on this site agree is that “climate science”, particularly CAGW, is not engineering level now, and for various stated reasons, will not be for a rather long time.

  10. We feel that Science is being usurped by imposters, who are almost perpetrating a modern form of black magic with its tenets, and yet we can’t actually say why they are wrong…without which we can’t refute their arguments…and this is made worse by the conclusions of modern philosophers that actually, we don’t know and can’t know what is really real, because what we deal with is ‘Reality as a Social Construct’.

    I gotta say, I find this unbearably patronizing. Leo, perhaps YOU can’t say why the scientific imposters are wrong, but many of us can. You mistake your own blindness for a common shared blindness … and people wonder why philosophers get a bad rep. In any case, here’s the 411:

    The scientific impostors are wrong because they are not practicing transparent, honest science—they hide their methods and their code and their data.

    The impostors are wrong because they want to change the basic scientific rules, like reversing the null hypothesis.

    They are wrong because when their errors are discovered, they either deny that they exist or they claim that they make no difference, regardless of the importance of their errors.

    They are wrong because they refuse to face up to and debate those who point out errors in their scientific work.

    In some cases they are wrong because they deliberately distort the science. More often, they are wrong because of unexamined confirmation bias, shallow analyses, and the incorrect use of statistics through things like ignoring autocorrelation and neglecting the Bonferroni correction.

    Finally, some of them are wrong because they hide, cheat, lie, steal, subvert the IPCC, pack the pal-review panels, hide from the FOIA requests, and do whatever they can including breaking the law to advance their personal activist agendas. See the unindicted co-conspirators of ClimateGate, or Peter Gleick, as the poster boys for this kind of science.

    So there you have it, Leo. Turns out that Dylan was true, you don’t actually need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

    w.

    • Good post, Mr. Eschenbach – best nut-shell recap of the entire squalid business that I’ve seen in a while. I’ve been trying to condense it into something you can put on a bumper sticker (because I find it’s hard to argue with someone who’s just shouting slogans), but this is pretty good.

    • WE know this Willis because we’re in the thick of it. We’re interested in what the scoundrels are doing. Many people don’t. They haven’t studied climate ‘science’, they don’t know much about science or anything else and are too busy with their lives to much worry about it. That’s why there are still ‘believers’ out there.

    • Willis,
      You are right, of course. And this is where Leo’s argument strikes me as inconsistent. If right and wrong are not at the foundation of the scientific method, the enterprise falls apart. Beginning with an a-moral premise because one doesn’t have the courage to place moral axioms alongside scientific axioms eventually leads to corruption (and eventual death) of the scientific enterprise.
      Best,
      TGB

    • That’s another view Willis, and I sympathise with it, but unfortunately I dont have the confidence that you do, at the philosophical level.

      All you say may be true, from your perspective, but tell me, does knowing it stop them being that way? Why aren’t they ashamed of themselves?

      Do you not see that the secret to actually stopping this nonsense, is to understand the nature of the opposition?

      Because they will look at you and say ‘why that’s just your opinion., and I have 20 million Appeals To Authority standing behind me, so who cares what you think anyway?’

      • Excellent point Leo. And thank you for the work it took to put this piece together. “authority” in whatever form has, for centuries, been the source of resistance to scientific ‘truth’. As long as whole generations are raised and trained to believe one ‘thing’ and science and repeatable experiment shows that ‘thing’ to be not true there will be tremendous resistance to change that belief. eg – “the earth is flat” mantra which prevailed in the middle ages. ‘Authority’ will always oppose change in the belief system.
        Until we ‘know’ everything about every-thing in the universe we are stuck with that fact.

      • Thanks for your reply, Leo. Here’s the problem.

        I say in essence “Real science requires transparency, it requires you to reveal your code and data”.

        In response, you say that you “don’t have the confidence that [I] do, at the philosophical level.”

        I have no idea what this means. All I know is that science doesn’t work without transparency. How does that require “confidence at the philosophical level”? It is a simple statement of fact. Without transparency, science grinds to a halt, regardless of what Emanuel can or kant say about it …

        You also say:

        All you say may be true, from your perspective, but tell me, does knowing it stop them being that way?

        My knowing something can’t stop anyone from anything. Only actions can do that.

        All I can see to do is to point out over and over what true science looks like. It looks like this:

        Someone puts their ideas up in the public marketplace of scientific ideas, including all of the data, code, logic, math, and all the rest of the backup information to buttress their claims.

        Other people try to falsify their ideas. If they can falsify them, the idea goes in the wastebasket. If they cannot be falsified, then they become what might be called “interim facts”, that is to say, true until someone actually can falsify them.

        My knowing that doesn’t help. My pointing that out might help. I do note that as a response in some part to pressure from climate skeptics such as myself, the scientific journals are starting to require the archiving of code and data … so my experience is that my methods are not as fruitless as you imagine.

        Why aren’t they ashamed of themselves?

        For the most part, I would say that they are not ashamed of themselves because they are suffering from “noble cause corruption”. They seriously believe that they are engaged in saving the planet from themselves, so what is a little bit of fudging? This is particularly true since the noble green climate cause now has all of the trappings of a religion.

        Finally, you say:

        Do you not see that the secret to actually stopping this nonsense, is to understand the nature of the opposition?

        Mmmm … I’d say that the nature of the opposition is not the crucial issue. Like they say on the internet, haters gonna hate. I don’t think that understanding why they hate will change that much.

        For me, the only cure for bad science is twofold—advocate for good transparent honest science, and do good transparent honest science.

        Best regards,

        w.

      • Willis, you are quite right and your resume of failure and dishonesty of climate science it quite succinct. But you are missing Leo’s point.

        It reminds me of something I read here a while back: sceptics are bringing a knife to gun fight. Leo’s point is that this is not about science ( despite the alarmists’ insistence that they have a science based case ).

        Environmentalism is a cultural movement, not a scientific one. You have about as much chance of tackling this with good science, or accusations of bad science, as you would have of convincing someone who is into the Church of Scientology that they have been mislead and brainwashed.

        After the liberation from the imposed values of society that happened in the West in the 60’s, there has been a lack of any cohesive values. We are now seeing the denial of even the most basic societal structure that is even understood by all beasts of the world. Gender, we are now told, may have been “mistakenly attributed at birth”. Some gender bigoted doctor mistakenly thought the little dangly bits between your legs indicated you were male and ‘arbitrarily’ assigned you a particular gender.

        A society which starts to talk such nonsense is a boat without a keel and needs to get back in contact with natural world.

        People feel increasingly powerless as corporate and business structures usurp governments and which are negotiating away national sovereignty to faceless, nameless, non-elected bodies. They need something to believe in. For you, Leo and myself, that may be the rigour of the scientific method. That is not the only choice.

        Belief in saving “the planet”, Nature, that which sustains and supports us has a simple, logical appeal. People feel that they are kicking back against a pointless wasteful consumer society. At least that was the ground-swell that started the enviro movement.

        As Leo also correctly points out, any such movement as soon at it starts to get traction gets perverted and taken over and exploited by the those in power. That is where environmentalism now is.

        Very few of the probably well-meaning eco-warriors like the Guardian “environment” reporters seem to have realised that. They are today’s ‘useful idiots’. Their constant and disingenuous wailing about CO2 will not get them where they want to be because it is not the real problem. It is symbolic: the ‘lie’ to get to obeisance, to paraphrase Leo. It’s a symbol which has been perverted.

        Leo’s point, as I understand it, is that this has to be seen as sociological phenomenon. To keep battering away with scientific arguments is to miss the point and miss the target.

      • I think you have to keep banging on the science, showing them their data doesn’t mean what they say it means, which I think is Leo’s point, they think they have every good scientist telling them we have weeks to act, and after a few decades a lot of them believe it, or enough of it to turn to world upside down.

        It depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

      • Today’s climate science is not advanced enough to provide much utility, whether it’s alarmist or not. Let’s assume that CAGW is successfully falsified by the skeptics. What utility do the skeptics gain? Will we be able to predict the weather with such spectacular accuracy that the worried public will be forced to acknowledge the untruth they’ve been fed? Even if we can make great weather/climate predictions, will the truth not still be drowned out by the adjusted data and political vitriol of the alarmists? Skeptics have no product to offer the public, while the alarmists offer the security of false certainty and control.

        This war will not be won by science.

      • Skeptics have no product to offer the public

        We can offer to cut the arms off a a couple of the leaches feeding off their wallets.

        We can make a bigger impact on temperature by restoring land use, planting trees and grasses instead of asphalt and concrete, we can reduce the water vapor at altitude from Jets, a couple tenths of a degree seems pale compared to the 20 or 30F warmer my driveway is compared to grass a few feet away.

      • Furthermore skeptics have little financial incentive to win this battle, while there is an entire green economy guided by Adam Smith’s scientifically agnostic hand. Bureaucrats want more government. Rich greens get to invest in subsidized projects and receive higher than market returns for decades. Investment bankers finance those projects and get a quick percentage. Environmentalists get a louder voice. The list goes on…

      • Furthermore skeptics have little financial incentive to win this battle

        I’m not looking to pay 3 or more times the cost for energy.
        Collectively that’s a lot of money from “us”, and enough from “me” to feel it.

      • Collectively that’s a lot of money from “us”, and enough from “me” to feel it.

        There are many people who can afford to pay more for energy, and are happy to do so, because they aren’t currently starving or freezing to death, and they believe it’s a morally virtuous thing to do because it will “save the planet”. I am of course speaking of Leftist voters. Unless the CAGW is decoupled from partisan politics, or the Right is able to dominate the Left for the foreseeable future, the CAGW narrative will continue to be popular.

    • I’d like to add a lack of measurement to that list Willis. My personal complaint is they regularly manufacture data. They prey on people who don’t understand we have no precise measures of atmosphere composition or temperature that go back more than a few hundred years, and much of the data taken in the 20th century isn’t precise to the levels they’ve presented. They’ve made all sorts of absurd claims about climate 60 million years ago with no data to support them. For some reason I can’t understand, they get away with it.

    • According Herbert Marcuse its modern Marxism with its idea of domination of Nature. Nature has become one of many surrogates to attack and change the Western World. Climate science based on UNEP, UNFCCC and IPCC has become cultural/modern Marxism.

    • It is possible that both Willis and Leo are right (well at least partly)! It’s just that neither has identified exactly what they mean by “wrong”. Willis is right in pointing out that the climate modellers are wrong because their methods are wrong and their attitude is corrupt. But Leo is right in saying that we can’t prove they are wrong, in the somewhat narrower sense that we can’t prove their results are wrong. To any scientist, it is enough – or should be enough – that the methods are wrong, because in science that is sufficient to render results unusable. But in climate science, the inability of others to prove that their results are wrong has corruptly been used to promote bad science.

  11. Kant’s philosophy self destructs. I have a rule which serves me well regarding philosophy. “The first criteria any philosophy must meet is its own. “

    • Kant’s philosophy self destructs. I have a rule which serves me well regarding philosophy. “The first criteria any philosophy must meet is its own. “

      I dont think it does altogether, and Schopenhauer certainly made it a bit more secure.

      Its far more post modern stuff that self destructs. I think it was Jeremy Stangroom that pointed out that the statement that ‘reality is a social construct is, itself an unreliable social construct’ :-)

      I am aware of the problem of recursion: My proposition that all metaphysical systems are models, is not harmed by the understanding that that proposition too, is another model. It is a self affirming metaphysics, and therefore has persistence..:-)

  12. Really surprised that a man who has obviously read a few books did not even mention the one, or more, about the philosophy of objectivism. Perhaps a read of Ayn Rand: The virtue of selfishness might give an idea that morals are not relative. Or try: For the new intellectual. For an engineer: A is in fact A. Otherwise you could not do your job.

    • Dear old Ayn Rand. Yep. she has something to say on the social side of this, but I come from a more science arena, late to social philosophy.

      What I do with social philosophy is akin to Wittgenstein and metaphysics. Summarise it as ‘moral science is about what people think is good for them and bad for them. however I can find no absolute definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ beyond saying that whatever kills them and their moral compass is probably bad, or at least wont last long

      Even Nietzsche gets his knickers in a twist, lurching as he hoes ‘beyond good and evil;’ to say there are no externally imposed ‘laws of ethics’ but then coming up with a rubbish substitute and saying ‘therefore whatever you can get away with is cool’ more or less.

      Rand from limited perusal seems to be somewhat similar..

      • The Earth’s climate is an excellent example of an amoral universe–it’s just the Great Clockworks in the Sky. Not good, not evil, it just . . . is. And will ever be, long after our over-analyzed dustball flips into the Sun.
        Who gets fried, frozen, or batter-dipped in lava is simply the luck of the draw.

      • ‘therefore whatever you can get away with is cool’ more or less. […] Rand from limited perusal seems to be somewhat similar..

        You’re mistaken, though I can understand why you might think that. Especially since you’re an engineer interested in philosophy you are doing your self a great disservice to not read a few of her best non-fiction books at least twice — they’re a real treat to read once it “clicks.” On first read many of her statements seem trivial or bizarre or just flatly wrong. Though after reading a few books / re-reading them you can recognize the very idiosyncratic way she writes and interpret what she truly means. She chose her words so carefully that until you’ve gotten used to her quirks of communication you simply can’t appreciate what she’s really saying. This is a big reason why there are so many even very intelligent people who read a little Rand and then reject immediately her as an uninformative if not bizarre crank. Though once you understand her careful use of language much of what she’s written not only makes perfect sense, it provides really a helpful and enlightening way of thinking about the world. That’s not to say she’s right about everything (she’s not), but I think she is the most under-appreciated philosopher of all time (yes, really). If people know anything about her at all it’s just enough to insult and dismiss her which is a complete miscarriage of intellectual justice. She was a flawed person to be sure, but her philosophy is actually really powerful.

        mod: if you could email Leo and give him my email address I’d love to chat offline. Or post a link to his website / contact info.

      • Rand never wrote or indicated that it’s okay if one can get away with it. That’s a common misconception. Rather, it’s right if it works (utility).

    • Yes; A = A, never B. If it works over the long term, it’s quite likely to be correct. If it doesn’t work, toss it out and find a different way. Applicable to Climate Science, ethics, or anything else I can think of.

  13. Great work! Though I think Leo overplays the non-objectivity of ethics. If we (pragmatically) understand ethics to be the science of survival in a social setting (by definition, or by axiom) then we can make at least some ethical claims that are as true as any other field of science. As far as anyone can tell there is a difference between life and death, and this is the where morality starts: as a way of categorizing things that helps us live vs. kills us. So if there is a difference between life and death then there are things to be learned about (our model of) humans and (our model of) reality and (our model of) the interaction of the two that can help us to survive/flourish and avoid death/suffering. That’s not to say there’s some Platonic “ethics” floating somewhere in another dimension, but just that ethics is part of a fact-space where discoveries can be made and theories can be tested out, not entirely unlike any other field of scientific study from physics to medicine.

    • Though I think Leo overplays the non-objectivity of ethics. If we (pragmatically) understand ethics to be the science of survival in a social setting (by definition, or by axiom) then we can make at least some ethical claims that are as true as any other field of science.

      That is a very fair point, and I wouldn’t totally disagree, except to say that the very fact that you feel the need to apply ‘in a social setting’ emphasises the human based context of ethics. All you are saying is that ethics is ‘what’s good for folks’ as opposed to physics, which is ‘what is, orthogonal to human existence’

      That is, if humanity dies tomorrow, ethics would die with them, but the (physical) reality of the Universe, one supposes, would carry on more or less unmoved :-)

      I have a concept in my head about the hierarchy of knowledge, and what bits of knowledge and human thinking are derivative of what basic assumptions and metaphysical propositions, so that all of human thought and so on exists on some sort of map where certain bits are derivative of other bits. In that space, ethics and morality sit in a more human based area, and a more derivative area than physics.

      Mutatis mutandis you can shuffle the elements of those maps around and change the order and the precedence. I chose a particular arrangement that gives me the simplest picture of the problem at hand, and that puts ethics in the doghouse . And frankly I think it deserves to be there. so call moral compasses have got more people hopelessly lost in moral mazes than anything else.

      My morality is simple. Am I personally where I want to be? If not, where is that place, and how pragmatically can I get there?

      And that’s all.

      I dont therefore think that you can really equate a subjective desire with what at least purports to be objective science. The only objective test I felt able to apply to a moral structure is ‘was it self propagating or self destructive’ . At least science allows us the luxury of ‘did it predict an outcome that happened?’ Morality doesn’t allow of that.

      That’s why I say its not on a par. How do you test a morality? As I said, does it have persistence? is all you cam ask, as far as I can tell.

      • That is, if humanity dies tomorrow, ethics would die with them, but the (physical) reality of the Universe, one supposes, would carry on more or less unmoved

        Probably true, though the same can be said about the scientific knowledge of physics. :) Reality might well go on without any humans, though the scientific knowledge of physics would likely die if humans died. As far as I can tell humans are a particular kind of physical process in a particular kind of environment. Physics tries to model the environment itself, and one could say ethics tries to model the interaction between the physical process we call humans and the environment in such a way that helps many humans to survive and thrive at once. In much the same way the science of medicine strives to help us maintain “health” even as we’re still relatively naive about how humans work and can be repaired and improved (it’s ongoing, but it can still make falsifiable predictions as we continue learning more — like ethics).

        My morality is simple. Am I personally where I want to be? If not, where is that place, and how pragmatically can I get there?

        The same sort of thing can be said of physics. One can have a theory in physics that doesn’t (yet) successfully model observations, and then with some changes it might then correctly model observations. Both physics and ethics can be discovered in a fact-space.

        At least science allows us the luxury of ‘did it predict an outcome that happened?’ Morality doesn’t allow of that.

        It could, though. I admit it isn’t normally structured this way. Though a science of ethics most certainly would be. I certainly hear what you’re saying that what we normally talk about when we say “morality” is really just explication of our assumptions and biases with lots of noise mixed in. Though I see no reason ethics can’t be a science in the same way medicine or physics is.

        How do you test a morality? As I said, does it have persistence?

        It has persistence in the same sense that knowledge of physics has persistence. Physics is a particular kind of (tentative) knowledge about reality. Ethics is a particular kind of (tentative) knowledge about humans and reality and the interaction between the two. You can test morality. The morality of murdering everyone you see does not succeed at maximizing survival and flourishing. It turns out that not murdering everyone you see works better for reasons we can theorize about and create models for. :) The decision by a human to breathe water will (usually) lead to death. These are things that exist in a fact-space we can discover and make prediction about and create models to explain.

      • Leo writes:

        My morality is simple. Am I personally where I want to be? If not, where is that place, and how pragmatically can I get there?

        Is this morality or goal seeking? Is the banker, lawyer or candlestick maker acting on a moral principal when they seek to improve their condition? Or are they simply acting from self-interest? I would characterize what you propose as pure self interest, not morality.

        If my personally want to eliminate a ethnic community in my geographic territory, I believe your analysis would be I’m acting morally; I want to be in a situation where I’m not in contact with that ethnic group. How is this “moral’?

      • I regret I tend to use angle brackets for parameterized text (BNF, the Bakcus-Naur form) and it gets edited out of my comments by the HTML robot filter.

        The line:

        If my personally want to eliminate a ethnic community…

        should have read:

        If I personally want to eliminate a “fill in the blank” ethnic community…

  14. I’m reminded of that Michael Crichton quote: “The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.”

  15. I don’t need a model to confirm that kinetic energy = 1/2MV where V is squared. Where is the provable formula with CO2 and World temperature?

    • @Number 7
      “kinetic energy = 1/2MV where V is squared”. is a model.

      It just happens to be one that, applied correctly, works ;-)

      • “Works” in the sense that when you apply that much energy toward rising in a gravity field, it predicts precisely how high the item will go before its kinetic energy reaches 0, ie when that much kinetic energy is converted into that much potential energy. (barring friction of course)

        Of course the reality would be to actually take an object, give it that much initial kinetic energy and watch it rise in a gravity field. The equations are just models that can tell us how that object should behave if the theory that created the mathematical model is correct.

        The video of the item rising in the gravity field is just an image, once removed from the real item (but not quite a model) (oh no! let’s not go into the whole representational levels of abstraction in philosophy – practical people’s heads may explode.) recursion sucks, but it seems most philosophy, when carefully observed leads to recursive assumptions and leap of faith starting points. Even mathematics has this in the basic axioms. 1+2=2+1 because it has been found to work, not because it has been “proven”. The later proofs rely on the basic axioms being true and if they are ever found not to be true, all of math will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. The whole edifice would collapse, and yet it has been found to be useful up to now.

  16. Nastily, deep philosophical arguments usually imply drug consumption by most of the participants. As they are interminable, Irish Coffee and marjiuana seem reasonable, with the weed to keep down brawls.

    Indeed. Psychedelic experiences certainly challenge the 1:1 assumed correlation between what you see and what you get. And lead to an appreciation of the fact that there might be something in this metaphysics stuff after all. But Its the people who dont let go of it afterwards., or who arrived by a different route, that struggle to slice and dice the issues into a usable form.

    Mostly we dont need to challenge assumptions by which we live our daily lives. However what’s been a hobby of mine for decades, now seems to me to have something useful to say. The times they are a changing, and we may need to go back to first principles and reassess how we construct our social world, when all is said and done, and the coffee is drunk and the spliffs have been smoked.

    If people are intelligent enough to understand the issues from the top down, then reason is adequate, if not then I am afraid all that will happen is that we will end up with a new ‘religion’. As Leftism and political correctness replaced Christianity, some sort of post modern perspective will be seized upon, and become successful, and then be claimed to be the One True View. Whereas what it will be, is merely adequate and not dysfunctional enough to destroy those who espouse it. :-)

    Perhaps that is after all all we can hope for, to acknowledge that the vast mass of humanity needs its beliefs, because they are too lazy or too stupid to think for themselves and what they want is for someone to tell them what to think, and it behoves those of us to whom the responsibility of actually thinking about it falls, to get it bloody well right and in the best interest of the sheeple, as opposed to those who simply say ‘if they are that stupid, and lazy, they deserve to be slaves’, and then tell them what to believe.

    Frankly we have been stupid and lazy. Thinking that the truth would out without being given a caesarian.

    The reality is that pushing the inconvenient truth, as opposed to Gore-ish convenient lies, is damned hard work.

    • ..I am proud to tell you Leo that yours is the first and only post at WUWT that I have ever rated with one star . ( and I have read and rated every single one ) Maybe you should lay off the Bong for a while ?

      • Marcus, anyone who reads and rates every article on WUWT needs help. I don’t see Leo being too devastated about how many you did or did not give him.

        Clearly that is easier than making a valid criticism.

    • Leo writes:

      it behoves those of us to whom the responsibility of actually thinking about it falls, to get it bloody well right and in the best interest of the sheeple, as opposed to those who simply say ‘if they are that stupid, and lazy, they deserve to be slaves’

      This “responsibility” you talk about is again, I think, an expression of self-interest? It’s essentially our job to correct them, to give them a course of action and a purpose that isn’t self destructive simply because we share a biosphere with them and if they choose to “go to hell” they will end up taking us with them?

      I can agree with that. You’ve made me consider why exactly I choose to spend inappropriate amounts of time (according to my wife) debating these ideas with people who are frankly unable understand what I’m telling them. So again, the “morality” of the debate reduces to self-interest.

      Much like the “too big to fail” argument for granting a pardon to out of control sociopaths who took advantage of a purely social contract to enrich their lives. But in that example, what we know of the mechanism of evolution (science) tells us the correct course of action was to let them die rather than save them to fail another day.

      In the example of the climate terrorists, it follows our best course of action isn’t to try saving them. It isn’t to try convincing them. In fact the best course of action is to actively prepare ourselves for the disaster they are engineering and wait patiently for them to die.

  17. First learning the difference between metaphysics and epistemology.
    Then rewrite your post.

    {First learn how to form complete sentences, then rewrite your comment. -mod}

    • First learning the difference between metaphysics and epistemology.
      Then rewrite your post.

      Sure. Fancy enlightening me? I never claimed to be an academic philosopher. Frankly nit picking terminology is not how I want to spend my life.

      Did you, who one presumes do know the difference, understand what I was trying to say?

      As I understand it, epistemology is a subset of metaphysics.

      Of course, you could rewrite the post yourself.

  18. This works for me:

    “Because I think it’s a better way to live, to behave as if there were a God, as if there were some judgement over one’s life, and not only does it make me personally feel better, it creates a cohesive humble and co-operative and strong society. Why can’t we accept paying lip-service to a religion we don’t believe in, on the grounds that its simply a good thing for us, and society to do, for our own survival?”

    • The system that provides the best life for the most people is one based on Protestant Christian principles. It gives a moral framework that crates conditions to have a very productive, and caring, society. When you loose that, cooperation, society falls apart. It was Protestant Christians, and only them, who cared enough about their fellow man to end the world slave trade. An example to ponder: I have read recently that there are as many people now in chattel slavery as there were in the 1700s at the height of the slave trade. So, Buckshot, do you care?

    • What is the quoted source? Sounds like a good reason for any religious skeptic to join a church (Unitarian, perhaps)

  19. Leo Excellent piece with which I completely agree.
    You say ” A simple message went out: “Climate change threatens our very existence, because it is true”.
    We need to reverse that with a simple statement: “Climate change threatens our very existence, because it isn’t true”.
    For clarity’s sake I would replace “Climate change ” in both statements with CAGW.

    • Dr Norman Page, if you have to adjust his words to say the opposite of what he actually said , how can you claim it is an ” excellent piece ” ?

    • Personally, I see no evidence whatsoever that “climate change” at present threatens our existence or even our comfort level very much. The next full-on reglaciation, of course, is a whole other story . . .

  20. Very nice essay. I tend to operate from a different perspective. Best described in the themes of my second book The Arts of Truth (actually about their opposites). But yours is equally valid. Cudos.
    The issue of how we ‘know’ something might be ‘true’ is ages old. First book chapter does a ‘don’t blink or you will miss it’ philosophical fly over that core question. Derived four categories of ‘knowing’. One is not so risky, but is data fraught. The second is easier, but more likely to lead to ‘Potemkin villages’ in erroneous “science”. The last two just enable varying degrees of political agendas. Lysenkoism and worse. Lots of illustrations.
    Again, nice essay. Cudos many. High regards.

  21. “People talk glibly about ‘scientific truth’. But, is there such a thing? Most philosophers would say no, there isn’t. ”

    instead of groping for synthesis of falsehood you can’t recognize and truth you can not define, why don’t you start FIRST with a definition of TRUTH.
    if you can’t get that far, give the up cuz you won’t be getting anywhere.

    your writing makes me think of jerry lewis staggering down a hallway full of mop buckets – just cringeworthy.
    start over with aristotle and the axiom ‘existence exists’.

    before you even think of tackling philosophy, you need a grasp of epistemology which is conspicuously absent.

    hey, john wright- you could get your site up and try to fix this, you know.
    it really is going to be the death of us all.

    • Why thanks for the moral support and the constructive criticism.

      I have three questions for you.

      If it’s so wrong, why don’t you write a better one? I am merely trying to point out some of the deep issues and misbeliefs people have about what science actually is, and what is factual knowledge and what is not. And how those misbeliefs and the emotional and indeed physical needs of peole drive them to not be ideal human beings, but simply ones that survive.

      Because it seems to me to be important, in the context of the abuse of knowledge and ‘intellectual authority’ that is going on.

      Or do you think that criticising, without offering an alternative is in fact a superior response?

      And finally, do you think that the subjects is important enough to shoot me down in flames, but not important enough for you to improve on what I was trying to do?

      Assuming you actually understood what I was in fact driving at.
      .
      Because I am afraid your response feels to me like the sort of response one gets from certain warmist trolls who say things like “Leo smith a well known denialist spouts more stuff that was all refuted years ago at ‘skepticalscience’ haha”.

      That was the FIRST TIME I ever used this name online in connection with anything, and they claimed I was ‘well known’ and had been ‘refuted years ago’, and the particular things I was discussing had to my pretty certain knowledge never been aired before.

      As I say, Id like to say that you were right, that I have thoroughly abused the philosophical vocabulary, got a lot of definitions wrong, and been inconsistent and cavalier with how I used words and imprecise in my definitions, and that that actually really matters. But I cant. IN the end this is an exercise in constructing a point of view, that I hoped would inform. If it conflicts with your point of view and upset you, sorry, but I have a task I am trying to do, and that is to construct a particular position, not for the benefit of philosophers, who in my experience are frightful pedants and would rather spend all day picking something to pieces than try and construct a meaningful sentence, but for people who have not had the benefit of your academic training in the subject, that you have so far not deigned to share with them

      You should know, that precise definitions of words is a fruitless enterprise when you are talking about the way in which words themselves and the meaning attached to them form our views of the world and what is real.

      IN the end the game here is thinking about thinking, and that is a deeply recursive exercise, to the point where precision becomes totally useless, and one must needs resort to poetic allegory.

      I know what I am trying to say, criticise me for failing to make it clear, criticise me for using the wrong words, rewrite it for the audience so that it is correct, but dont you dare criticise me for trying, something you have to date singularly failed to do.

      You want my respect? Come out and tell us where it’s at then? Or are we too stupid to grasp it?

      • no, sir, i can not educate you. that can only be done by you and only by making the effort.

        “You should know, that precise definitions of words is a fruitless enterprise ” < this is why you can not be educated even by yourself.
        words are the tools of cognition and you fail to grasp even that.
        so words will not cure you — you first need to learn the definition of 'definition' which you demonstrably do not know and which you dispute the validity of anyhow- yet you want me to credit your semiotics with meaning more significant than an animal's grunting? seriously? you don't even know how dumb that is because it's your core belief right where it kills your ability to know ANYTHING.

        no, i don't want your respect. no, i'm not your unpaid tutor. yes, you are- and stop waving your 'we'

      • Leo- i’ve written plenty. the ideas you struggle with are things i mastered before i was a teen.
        wherefore is it incumbent on me to rescue your willful failure?

        wherefore are you entitled to be upset, even? it’s only words and they have no relation to non-existent truth, right?
        yet you will try to use those undefinable whatever.they.ares to assert truths you disbelieve to claim abuse?
        sir- you are the abuser of words, of cognition itself, of truth.
        hypocrisy is another word and, like all words, it has a definition- that’s the definition of a word, in fact.
        if A then B. if not B then not A.
        if your ‘words’ don’t have definitions, then they aren’t words, helloooooo.
        you’ve failed the very basics and want credit for achievement?
        talk about embezzlement…

      • People tend to think that Truth/Lie = Right/Wrong = Good/Bad. Most people feel comfortable with Yes/No. Unfortunately, for them, the world is analog and not digital.
        Good essay. I understand your thoughts despite the words you used, that some people seem to have objected to.

      • here are 3 classic ‘spinners’ that are used to cripple a mind.
        they all resolve to simple self contradictions.
        here i will present them in simplest form so you can identify them in future:
        1 – there is absolutely no such thing as an absolute
        2 – there is truly no such thing as truth
        3 – it is known that one can’t know everything, therefore one can not know anything

        now see if you can tell where you have exhibited them
        that’s for diagnostic purposes.
        as i said before, the remedy is to start from the axiom ‘existence exists’
        everything logically follows from that – but you must not take anybody’s word for it (and i decline the easy shot, here) you must figure that out for yourself. you must know it for yourself. you must prove to yourself that your mind is adequate.
        nobody can do those things for you.

    • If only ‘gnomish’ could have been around at the beginning of civilization he would have saved folks a lot of time and energy.

      • Yep, where were all the condescending smart-arses when we really needed them?

        Just one of the those mind bending philosophical twisters, I guess.

    • @PB
      No way to reply directly under your post, so tacked on at the end.

      Sorry for being abrupt previously. Let me clarify.
      The central issue in the philosophy of science is the problem of inductive reasoning, which you seem to have missed entirely.

      Firstly thank you for (unlike others) taking the time and trouble to explain what you felt was wrong with what I wrote.

      Actually the way I personally understand it, is that inductive reasoning and its problem for philosophers of science and otherwise, is for me simply taken for granted. When I talk of a model, I assume people understand that a model is the result of induction, which is why it can’t be proved to be true. If you like, what I am getting at is not to try and find a fix for the problem of induction, but to accept that it absolutely and totally rules out the possibility of ever being sure about anything in model-space: Into that fog of uncertainty I try to inject a new approach. Which is to replace truth content with a different sort of value judgement, that of utility.

      What you are talking about is the problem of epistemology and the extent to which our beliefs based on the world of our experience can properly be considered, or give rise to, ‘knowledge’. This problem impacts all of our beliefs equally, not just scientific reasoning. This problem impacts religious and creationist beliefs just the same way and to the same extent. And, it includes and equally impacts your belief that ‘science works’. You believe that science works because you saw it with your own eyes right?

      No. That isn’t correct. I dont believe science works because I saw it with my own eyes. It could easily be that someone else …but no, that’s simply naive realism.

      It’s difficult for me to put into words the picture I hold in my head, especially since the words I try to use have often been assigned different meanings.

      First of all, for me, what forms our experience of the world, is a process I might call reification, the splitting up and categorisation of sensation into a world of ‘objects’ in ‘time and space’ made of ‘stuff’ and so on. The physical world anyway. Of course a similar process is happening with our touchy feelies, but we tend not to reify to such an extent. They remain vague and fuzzy.

      Now when I examine what I mean by that, I realise that at a subliminal level that is exactly, a process of making a model, out of sensation, and it is therefore just another load of induction, even though its pre – rational. So it’s not inductive reasoning, its just inductive construction of a series of propositions, subject object relationships which define and in the end construct a model of the world, which is what we then operate upon exclusively when in a rational context.

      When you talk about epistemology, it sort of simply not passes me by, but seems to be an argument that I simply feel we don’t need to have. The perceptual structure that emerges, is 100% affected by the inductive elements we have placed in it. If you like space and time and causality are what you call “beliefs based on the world of our experience”. I am not in the game of trying to find the One True Path To Truth etc. I gave that up decades ago as a fruitless search. Of course all our experience from which we derive any knowledge at all, unless you hold with Gnosis, is filtered through our beliefs, but I wouldn’t say they are based on the world of our experience, no, I would say it makes more sense to say that our beliefs form the very nature of our experience itself. But they are not alone in that.

      In quasi mathematical terms, our experience is a function of our innate beliefs, and ‘whatever is the case’ , the world of whatever it is that lies beyond our direct apperception. We have sensation, and from that, we, using whatever internal algorithms, mechanisms and structures we have somehow got access to, intuit the existence of the world, in the form it appears to us. That’s my position . That’s my temporary ad hoc ‘best position I can come up with’ model.

      My real fundamental issue was ‘how much of experience is in the mind, or is it all in the mind?” and that question itself I ultimately saw as unanswerable. But when I looked at what the options were, the pragmatic options, I realised that what is going on, is not that we are really arriving at truth, or even knowledge, but that we make a certain set of maybe subliminal assumptions, and by assumption I mean the a prioris of induction, to arrive at a view of the world, that is coherent and useful and allows us to live as if we were sane beings in a stable predictable physical world, with a McDonald’s on every street corner etc.

      And in that sense a lot of metaphysics and what you call epistemology became completely irrelevant. They were arguing over things they themselves had invented. Trying to establish in-decidable things. Positing structures and positions that inevitably could always be refuted because in the end there is no One True Position.

      Did you also hear a tree fall over in woods?

      OK if that is what epistemology is supposed to be, fine, I am in that territory for sure. But not exactly in the way that you describe., You are describing problems that my construct simply doesn’t have, because it says that all constructs are in the end constructs, and constructs are all we have, but not all that there is. I find that Schopenhauer’s position is very useful here.

      I.e. What I am saying is that what we do, is to operate as if stuff were true. We make assumptions – like trees falling in the woods make a noise even when we don’t hear them – or we can assume the opposite. It doesn’t matter, because the truth content is in either case indecidable, what counts is the picture of the world that results, and how functional and effective it is as a vehicle to carry us through our lives.

      Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and the rest were all concerned with ways to conceive of science without depending on inductive reasoning and thus avoiding the problem of induction. Paradigm shifts, conjectures and refutations, falsification, and so on and so forth, are all just ways to try to argue that science does not critically depend upon inductive reasoning.

      I really don’t see that at all. I think they are rather ways in which inductive reasoning can be tested to make sure its not totally dysfunctional (Popper), and in the case of Kuhn describing the process by which some inductive reasoning works, not as a linear progression of speculation, but as a sudden shift to a new set of assumptions, that pull a new worldview into sharp focus.

      You can’t avoid the problem of induction, period. You/they are looking for certainty where none exists. Dead end. Accept it. Move on. End of argument.

      What is important about the physical world, in the sense we understand it, is that it makes the most sense when we regard it as an externality, an existence beyond our concept of self: That doesn’t mean it is, just that where we are today places it there, and gives it a rule set that is independent and beyond our power to affect it. That doesn’t make it true, or a fact, exactly, but if we operate on that set of assumptions when constructing a materialist world view, we do get an orderly arrangement of things which we can refine and make more precise, and to me that refining and precision is what science is about. Our whole world view is one massive lump of inductive logic, BUT the point is this, some choices of inductive logic premises lead to insane, uncomfortable or unstable relationships with ‘whatever is the case’ The triumph of humanity as a thinking entity, or entities, is to arrive at assumptions and relationships with whatever the Universe is, that are tight, functional and effective in allowing us to live and interact with it.

      So you have missed the entire point of the philosophy of science.

      Maybe so. Or maybe I just left it to smoulder in the dung heap of intellectual posturing it’s been mired in. I dunno. Maybe you have missed the entire point of whatever it is that I am talking about. Maybe it is after all what you call epistemology. I don’t particularly care. All I am saying is that somewhere in the dusty tomes of philosophy, are some ideas that may just help us and inform us on some issues of the day that we must personally feel important, or we wouldn’t be here on WUWT.

      And your point concerning epistemology is entirely flawed as soon as you try to give special status to scientific beliefs as opposed to any other beliefs in this context on the basis that ‘science works’. Do you imagine that we believe that science works because of something other than our sensory experience of it? What does empirical mean…? Science may well have special status but not in this context.
      So, you have misunderstood your subject in quite fundamental ways, hence my earlier response.

      My point is and remains this, simply. Within the context of an arbitrary world view, which is in itself an arbitrary piece of inductive modelling, that maps certain aspects of sensation onto the experience of ‘an external physical world’ science works in more accurately describing the relationship between those elements that arise from that process. That doesn’t make that world view the truth, and it doesn’t even make science true, in its analysis and modelling of the elements of that world view, but it does make the whole thing useful and internally self consistent. What we seem to be doing with science, in this model of how things are, is to use it to create an internal structure of precise relationships between precisely defined elements of our world view, to provide a more secure and predictable view of the world that results. None of this is ‘real’. But it is a way of living.

      AS such I claim that its a technique that is qualitatively different from religion, and so on, in that while they too seek to impose an order on the world view of their adherents, and to make everything well, and put God in his place, they don’t have the precision or the utility that science does. That is, whilst at one level they are on a par, at another they are not. Science is a tool that allows us a particular power. Maybe we trade other stuff to have that power, but still, it has a particular power that religion does not.

      If that is a bit opaque, perhaps an explanation is in order. Once I saw a flyer from some Christian order, that had a message from (Sir) Cliff Richard, the well known Christian pop star, saying ‘One day, instead of placing myself at the centre of my world, I placed Jesus there, and my world changed utterly’.

      And I thought ‘well you idiot, what else did you expect?’ That is what e.g. belief in God does, it changes people’s personal world views and gives them one presumes, a certain quality of hopefulness and peace and so on, which may in fact be very useful for their personal survival, But it doesn’t allow them to predict the future.

      Science, the placing of an inanimate, mechanistic world of objects related by blind uncaring natural law, at the centre of your world, allows you do do science and predict the future, insofar as it defines the way in which those terms are understood. If you want to feel loved, become a Christian, if you want to predict cool stuff, adopt the scientific world view. It’s really that simple. And you can in fact do BOTH. Just not at the exact same time. You dont got to church to do quantum physics and you don’t pray to a cyclotron.

      Does this explain my position? Science and the practice of it is part of a whole model of the world, which I would class as the scientific or rational materialistic sort of world view. What you describe as the philosophy of science, is simply a vain attempt to actually work out if that world view is ‘correct’ or not. I.e. It’s just another ‘Mine is the one True Stick’ game (I used to play this with my dog. There was, on any given day, only One True Stick to be thrown. However his memory was short, and it would be a different one tomorrow) and I gave up that game 40 years ago. Which is why I get rather irritated by most philosophy. The point is not that it’s correct, but that it exists and can be used.

      That’s one part of it, the other part is that in whatever world view we arrive at there does seem to be an external ordering of stuff going on, and that is stuff that directly affects us, and I find the rational material world view to be the one that squares up to the problem of the existence of something other than ourselves, in the most effective way.

      Effective, it is admitted, is yet another value judgement.

      The problem is, you seem to place all world views on a par, and that leaves you unable to defend any of them.

      And yet you seem unable to rise above them and see them for what I see them to be, just ways of relating to an unknown and unknowable world, that are different, and reflect different personal desires on the part of people who adopt them, like suits of clothes.

      And your grasp of the philosophical implications of subjectivist ethical positions is worrying.

      Well that’s a lot of big words in one sentence to be sure! All I am saying is that we all have to wear a suit of clothes, because going naked into the unknown seems to be a bit beyond us. All one can say about ethics is that they too are part of that suit of clothes, and suits of clothes are in the end a personal choice if you have the independence of spirit, or a uniform if you join someone else’s army. There’s nothing true or provable about ethics any more than there is about anything else. Some ethics keep some folks doing the life game longer than others, that’s all. My point was that you don’t need to believe, to wear a particular suit of clothes, that’s a mugs game and strips you having the full wardrobe. All that is required is to put on the suit of clothes, wear it and act as if it were the One True Stick you held, even though you know it isn’t, and that tomorrow it will be different. That’s a truth of a sort, you can’t, it seems, be in two world views at once, though you can seamlessly shift between them, and many psychotic and schizophrenic people do just that. The difference between a psychotic and a sane human, is that the sane person understands that is what they are in fact doing…

      And that is how I see most philosophy, with a few rare exceptions. People arguing over their wardrobes, because they feel that there has to be One True Stick, and its important they find it. I say there are an infinite number of them, and plenty more sticks that are demonstrably NOT the One True Stick, and its a free choice ultimately.

      With respect, and I genuinely feel that, you seem to be criticising me for not engaging in a debate about stuff I actually consider irrelevant because it is indecidable.

      What you say about where ‘the philosophy of science’ is at, may well be true, and maybe what I am espousing is simply a different view on things to that held by those esteemed men. Maybe it is the ‘philosophy of engineering’ I am talking about, because I am using such philosophy as I have understood, and plagiarised and dreamed up, not to establish truth content, but utility, and that leads me to a multi-faceted position, where all positions are demonstrably false, but some are more false than others, and some definitely lead to self extinction, and some have persistence. Choosing the ones less false with more persistence is, I aver, the nearest thing to a value judgement one can make.

      The problem with AGW alarmist, who are just a single class in a set of people who ‘believe in stuff that we don’t’, is that in terms of the suits they put on, they are completely right and justified, and denying that there is any set of clothes but the ones they wear, is a condition of wearing them: That is the subtlety of the propaganda that comprises their tailoring. The first rule of Fight Club is don’t talk about Fight Club etc. etc. Saying that they are wrong, from our perspective, is a waste of breathe mainly.

      They are however, dedicated followers of fashion, and all we can do is dangle a new set of clothes and wave a new True Stick in front of them, and hope that they will get bored with the one they have and gallop off and chase that one instead.

      It would be funny if AGW petered out, not because people had Damascene moments and realised they were Wrong, but simply because after all the fuss, people just yawned and said ‘Climate change?, yeah, whatever: Can’t we talk about something else, I’m BORED.’

      There are signs at some levels, that this may indeed be happening.

      • Leo, sorry but you are absolutely bastardising some very, very important philosophical concepts and in such a long winded way and to such an extent that it makes it very difficult to respond constructively for anyone who has a day job. Give me an hour or two an I’ll see what I can come up with.

        I’ll say this though – you have some balls to mock me for using long words after what I’ve just waded through.

      • @PB
        I believe Leo already thoroughly acknowledged the bastardization you speak of, several times. Pedantic adherence to philosophical definitions can stifle progress. A good example of this is your handful of posts which amount to little more than finger pointing without adding to the conversation, or correcting it as you believe is appropriate, but haven’t done.

        Scientific “knowledge” gained by inductive reasoning has utility, whether the epistemology is “absolutely” airtight or not. Perhaps the quotes I placed around these sensitive words will stop the steam escaping your ears.

        Thermodynamics doesn’t care whether existence exists.

  22. I’m not a practitioner of intelligent design, but it does attempt to predict the future in some ways. For instance, it predicts that life is irreducibly complex. Now tomorrow we could find a life form that uses DNA but only requires a handful of genes to survive and reproduce in nature. But so far that has not occurred, and the irreducible number of genes needed for life seems to be in the hundreds. I don’t personally see how hundreds of individual essential characteristics of life spontaneously originate, combine, and make life from nothing, but maybe we will understand it someday.

  23. William James on a new truth:
    1. Doesn’t refute necessary underlying truths.
    2. Leads to other, unexpected understanding.
    3. Has utility (“cash value”).

    CO2 climate science refutes how ozone warms the troposphere while requiring ozone warm the stratosphere by the same process. CO2 climate science doesn’t lead to understanding the physical world differently from non-CO2 climate science. CO2 climate science does not produce predictions that are useful (within demonstrable time frames).

    CO2 climate science is not involved with truths and only barely with hypotheses. (In fact, the adherents avoid hypotheses as testing leads to showing weaknesses if not actual failures.)

    CO2 climate science is still at the stage of theories. If it weren’t for the Precautionary Principle, we’d be doing nothing right now. And if it weren’t for faux social liberalism, with its dismissal of economic considerations for the quality of human life, we wouldn’t be ordered about by the Precautionary Principle.

  24. A wonderful meaty read, Leo and a good one to spread around to the high certainty crowd.

    “…evinced by the fact that I can type this, and you can read it.”

    Language is the most remarkable ‘human construct’. That it is instinctive in our species (other species communicate but not in high definition) and useful communication certainly improves chances of survival. It is also a dangerous weapon, of course, and can be used for other purposes bad for our survival.

    The bunny rabbit goes out daily and eats his willows and whatever and being poorly defended has a high breeding rate to ensure his survival. We, too, are poorly defended but have language and with it understanding (within your caveats) that gives us technology and insights. If the planet evolves all willows into thorn trees, the rabbit would probably go extinct. Humans have an ultra-high level of presently useless but interesting scientific knowledge. We are driven to study the near and the far without thought about application. This appears to be instinctive. We may, unwittingly, perhaps, be preparing to even leave this planet for another if we perceive conditions may possibly make our survival tenuous despite mitigating technology (I don’t include the sort of ‘imminent’ climate change prognosticated by alarmists as any danger, especially because it is a political crowbar with not much useful science content).

    ‘What works’, is a good guiding principle! But we have to have an education that helps us to be suspicious of the utility of human constructs that may subvert this principle to sell us toothpaste and worse. Scepticism is the thing! It is what drives the ideologues to distraction and worse, makes them consider terminal solutions to the ‘problems’ they create. Your essay makes the best case for scepticism as a ready tool to have handy. For me, it came naturally and I suspect most thoughtful sceptics came by it naturally. I’m not surprised that this type of ‘knowledge’ is not to be found in the “Core Subjects” stuff put together by ‘progressives’. I would like to see this essay have the broadest possible exposure.

  25. and yet we can’t actually say why they are wrong

    Well, I am able to tell people, but the issue is to hold their attention for long enough before the propaganda media interrupts.

    • The point I hoped to make in saying and yet we can’t actually say why they are wrong is this and its where Willis and I are probably going to disagree.

      If you allow for the uncertainty of knowledge itself and its contingency on the particular point of view of the antagonists, then you can in a world or constructs, only say that something is wrong from the perspective of a particular construct.

      I can’t criticise someone for e.g. believing in God, because I cant prove God does not exist, I can only criticise them for e.g believing in god and then behaving as if they didn’t. They are in that case wrong by their own /i>standards.

      Wrongness is in this case an internal contradiction.

      AGW protagonists are wrong only in the limited sense that they espouse the particular worldview in which science has meaning, in order one supposes, to give the pronouncements meaning, but then fail to keep to the particular standards of that world view in conducting their science.

      By their own standards, they are in fact morally right, because climate change the horror story MIGHT be true, and IF it is true, or even MIGHT be true they are justified in any amount of lying and fabrication of evidence to stop it. That’s the essential nature of the ‘honest’ alarmist world view, as far as I can tell.

      (Of course carpetbaggers along for the ride are what they always have been: opportunist crooks. But that is true of any movement with momentum).

      And that was the nature of the quandary: Its easy to sit in a cosy world view and say ‘you are in my terms, totally wrong’; But its doesn’t actually help, unless you are prepared to enforce your world view on the other person, take them to trial and convict them, essentially for believing something different to you.

      Unfortunately, stripping aside conventional moral outrage, that was Nuremberg. A bunch of people convicted of having a different ideology to one which was espoused by the winning side. I am not defending that ideology, but I am saying that at some level some of them probably thought it was the One True Ideology, and that what they did was morally justified.

      That’s why I hate using moral arguments. It’s a minefield. I rather prefer the man who says. Do what I say, because I have a gun, with the unfriendly part in your direction. There is not much in the way of mealy mouthed hypocrisy there.

      Lacking the equivalent of guns however, and feeling that AGW the social phenomenon is far far more dangerous than AGW the alleged reality could ever be, what is the best way to tackle it? Do we need to feel morally justified? Or can we simply say ‘hell; that’s plain WRONG’ and not hesitate? And even if that is what we feel, what is the effective course of action to undermine this emotional narrative that has I am afraid captured the hearts and minds of far too many people who are not really up to the task of the finer distinction of separating ‘fact’ from ‘fiction’ , whatever that may mean.

      Does it matter if we lie? They do. Should we? What are the consequences of being open minded, versus closed minded. What does game theory have to say about winning this sort of game?

      There is so much more that people could be doing if they cleared away their preoccupations with detail.

      I maybe did a piss poor job in writing this. Anthony just stuck it up anyway. But at least its provoked some reactions, positive and negative. And maybe people have evaluated where they stand a bit better as a result, Even if that’s all it did, it was worth it.

      • “what is the effective course of action to undermine this emotional narrative”
        Usually an alternate more effective reverse “emotional alternative”; especially if easily remembered and “catchy”.

  26. Let me take an abbreviated swipe at this.

    Science is about figuring out how reality works.
    Engineering is about using the bits of science we figured out to build stuff we want.

    But, as per Arthur C Clarke, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from science.

    We have long since passed the point in time, in the western world at least, where the majority of people spend the majority of their time interacting with the world through magic. They don’t know how the engine in their car works, nor their computer or entertainment systems, or their GPS or their cell phones. They just know which buttons to push (or things to say) to get them to do what they want. For most people, the world runs largely on magic.

    Which is why it is fruitless to try and explain Stefan Boltzmann Law or CO2’s effects being logarithmic, for on these two things alone, the argument should long have been over.

    And so, the world being run by magic, those who grasp for power are free sell their own version of magic, or the threat there of. What is the difference between “ugh, gods angry, bring much wampum, store in my tent” and “OMG! We’re frying the atmospshere, buy many windmills from me”.

  27. You didn’t mention that we have had about a billion years to refine an acurate view of reality, at least macro-reality. See Darwin, Charles

  28. I read a book by an atheist philosopher, Thomas Nagle, called ‘Mind over Cosmos’. He takes a look at consciousness and how evolution does not even start to explain it and how it began.
    We talk about our human consciousness and how it drives us to do certain things and not others. At the very basic level there’s good and evil which appears to be universal and laws like the 10 commandments have attempted to do the job of writing them down.
    For me, I find, if I honestly search my conscious it can tell me what’s right and wrong which appears in synch with others doing the same from their different experience/perspectives of life. Although we don’t always follow could concious be the TRUTH we have talked about?

    Thanks Leo. A thought provoking read…….

    • Although we don’t always follow could conscious be the TRUTH we have talked about?

      Light up your quantum bongs NOW. And inhale.

      It occurs to me, that the simplest theoretical structure that accounts for an observable and external universe. is a 3 dimensional one. in which something – let’s call it ‘consciousness’ intersects with something else, lets call it an unknowable, but not unstructured, reality, and the intersection of the two is what results in the third, the experience of an ‘external world’.

      This is not that far from some of the ideas that quantum science is pushing forward. The quantum reality is at some level almost unknowable, but is seems to have structure, but the crazy thing is it seems as if that structure that exists as a probability matrix, ‘collapses’ into a classical view of a material world, when it becomes part of the perceptual process.

      I dont think consciousness is the TRUTH, for me its just another hypothetical entity in a particular class of models, BUT that’s not to say that those models may not themselves be useful and gain a better insight into the cutting edge of physics.

      The real question is, how much knowledge is actually ‘discovered’ and how much is actually ‘made up’ by whatever it is we actually are. What you might call our consciousness,. How much does it reveal reality, versus how much does it invent it. And is that a helpful way to think about it?

      My thesis is that it is a helpful way to think about it, for many many reasons, and we shouldn’t rule out one view or the other. Consciousness invents in order to reveal, would be my stance, because that model I think has the most chance of going the furthest. Doesn’t make it true, but I think it might be very useful, none the less.

      • Leo Smith,

        It’s possible that current instrumentation is just not sensitive enough to resolve the apparent quantum weirdness of the double-slit experriment, the Copenhagen/observer quandary, etc.

        This article may have some answers.

      • The funny thing about The Matrix is that most people would wrongly assume Neo is “the One.” That’s why I like the movie … it can be enjoyed on many levels. Sometimes the lights and explosions are enough cos thinking is hard.

      • db, as long as “renormalization” is required to resolve the math to observation, I wouldn’t assume that the present concepts are anywhere near reality.

  29. Thanks for a thought-provoking article, and thanks also for clarifying in the article that “Philosophy” is not your ‘first language’, so to speak.
    Based on some of the comments above, it seems like a few of the “regulars” forget that Anthony’s site reaches a far broader audience than just the peanut gallery who comment here. Many (probably most) of his readers aren’t scientific or philisophical geniuses, and may be barely literate in these subjects..
    Most of the commenters here aren’t polymaths either-in fact some of the “really informed” ones make ignorantly stupid errors and comments at times (don’t we all?)”. I for one appreciate those writers who step out of their own intellectual comfort zone and make an effort to apply their reasoning to a subject , in this case Philosophy, that is not their usual one.
    Philosophy is a fairly contentious subject no matter who is writing about it.
    If your critics think they can write a better Philosophy article , then they could go ahead and do it, unless of course, criticism is all they have to go on. We are waiting :-)

  30. What is the difference between “ugh, gods angry, bring much wampum, store in my tent” and “OMG! We’re frying the atmosphere, buy many windmills from me”.

    Almost none. And that is another issue that really really worries me. WE have deployed so much easy to use technology, that the skills in using it and the understanding of how it works are almost completely unnecessary to have too USE it. And that means, that if in a generation more, it goes wrong, it’s a serious issue.Because peopel may not understand how to any more. Imagine if we built a self replicating robot, taht could design stuff? Brilliant. Until it goes wrong

    There was an advert for BT – BritishTelecom – the privatised British state telecommunications company that still runs all the installed copper in the country.

    Scene one, a little old lady lifts the receiver and say ‘oh no, the phone is dead’.
    Cut to scenes of BT vans rushing around the country, men in hi vis and hardhats up poles, men in cabinets joining wires, men with testgear prodding and poking….
    Cut back to little old lady , picking up the telephone again and hearing a dial tone ‘sometimes things just fix themselves all by themselves’. She smiles in blissful ignorance..

    I don’t have the answer.

    • “I don’t have the answer.”

      Neither do I and that is is my engine.

      Two philosophers worth a read are Ian Hacking and Nancy Cartwright who worked together as ‘entity realists’, i.e. entities are real but theories are not.

      Thanks for an interesting and well-written piece.

    • There was an advert for BT

      Friend of mine was a technician at a telco in Canada. Got a call from a little old lady who complained that her phone didn’t ring. He initiated some test procedures which included a ring back, which resulted in her answering the phone. She insisted it didn’t ring though. So how did she know to answer the phone? The dog in the back yard barked. Time for a personal field visit. At her house, phone tested fine, but ring back produced nothing… except the sound of a dog barking in the back yard. Arf, arf, arf, silent, silent, silent, arf arf, arf…

      Upon investigation a small dog was discovered on an aluminum choke chain, one end of which had been looped around the drop line from the telephone pole. Over time, the dog running back and forth had worn the insulation off the wires and the dog was getting 48 volts ring voltage through the choker chain….

      I don’t have the answer.

      Heh. We muddled through the “ugh, gods angry” centuries and we’ll muddle through this too.

    • …so much easy to use technology, that the skills in using it and the understanding of how it works are almost completely unnecessary…

      Yes. Knowledge and work processes are increasingly being built into software and therefore centralized and very often inflexible. Which makes individual-level problem-solving difficult (i.e., you’d need a programming team to develop a better way of doing things – is management typically interested in doing this? Of course not; they just spent millions of dollars implementing their system, which was likely purchased based on a demo and promises).

  31. Thank you. That helped me a lot with the Leftist insanity thing….they are reading a different Metaphysics manual.

  32. Good ole Scotty nailed it: “Ye cannae change th’ laws o’physics, Keptin!”

    And we’re a long way yet away from fully understanding them. The mission is separating the signal from the NOISE–in EVERYTHING.

  33. I’ve personally known a number of philosophers and they are really strange people (plus I just can’t seem to make myself care about the things they talk about), so here’s my synopsis, devoid of philosophy.

    You can explain the main conclusion of Climate Science in a 10-second sound bite (and that’s if you want the long version).

    To refute it, not only takes much, much longer than a sound bite, but requires the listener to learn all kinds of stuff that not only doesn’t entertain him, but requires some intellectual effort. Or her.

    That’s why the warmists rule and we don’t.

    • You remind me of a time when I was in a factory, and we needed to lift an engine out of a fork lift truck so we proposed to sling a chain host from a roof beam, and use that. I was concerned about whether it was strong enough, and being fairly fresh out of college, said ‘we should do some stress calculations before we start, to make sure that beam can take the weight’.

      ‘NO need’ said the charge hand.

      ‘Oh’, I said ‘and how exactly did YOU know that’

      ‘Cos we lifted a much bigger one with it last week’ he said with a broad wink…

      WE had a good time together after that. he learnt from me and I learnt from him.

      You are of course absolutely right, and accepting what you say, though I never got it so clear in my own mind as you have expressed it, is why we need a different strategy from mere refutation.

      Some people need to go through a sort of mental deconstruction though to understand why stuff wont work, before they can get on with stuff that will.

  34. @ Willis Eschenbach

    Willis. I cant respond to your post directly, because the way the site works wont let us nest the comments that deep, but I looked at your response to my response to your post, and I see where the difficulty lies at least, and it’s this.

    You are totally concerned with doing ‘good science’ and the AGWists are by your book, not doing good science. And for you the matter ends there.

    I take a more wide angle view. I am interested in that, yes, but I am also interested in what they think constitutes good science, because either they are knowingly doing bad science or they are (by our standards, because in this context I agree 100%) doing bad science because they actually think it is good science.
    And to that end I have tried to see if some of the post modern ideas about what is real and what is not, what is meant by good and bad, actually can inform on just how the hell these people can get away with doing what to you and me, is a total travesty of science, with something resembling a straight face.

    And beyond that, how can the many many journalists media luvvies, politicians and the like jump on a bandwagon and state with such conviction opinions that they are not qualified to hold, as facts?

    I am concerned with pragmatic result to specific problems, and my problem is how to stop the spread of lunacy, and fraud masquerading as scientific fact, an evidence based policies, from damaging an entire generation.

    Simply proving that the science is bunk, which it certainly is, makes no difference. They simply say ‘well that’s what a denier would say’ and ‘it’s just your opinion and 97% of people who matter disagree with you’.

    We could just wait till the civilized world collapses, because its been taken over by people who simply dont know what they are doing, sure. That is one strategy. But I felt it was worth having a go at another. And that is formulating a way to outwit the liars with the truth.

    I suppose the position goes like this. WE know that the knowing liars – the carpetbaggers like Al Gore, who know they are lying and simply dont care, because its just business, and the sheeple deserve it, will only respond to something which directly threatens their interests. If reversing his stance on Climate change gets Al Gore another billion, or the presidency of the United States, whey he will have a Damascene moment swear to God he made an ‘honest mistake’, and become the biggest climate denier in the senate (or wherever he sits).

    So these people are for sale. They are scoundrels with power, but they can be coerced and they can be bought, and they will respond to political pressure.

    What represents a more intractable problem are the ‘useful idiots’ . By this I mean the sort of half baked intellectuals of a vaguely lefty liberal sort of persuasion, who infest the media, and the more pathetic levels of academia. Wanna be smart people, who see Causes, and Fashionable issues, as being the very thing to make them stand out where their own lack of real talent fails. They aren’t really venal so much as desperate. They fear not being noticed, of losing their jobs, and they sort of comfort themselves and square their consciences by putting aside any lingering doubts and Believing. And they exist in a spectrum from rogue to actual genuine Believer, and the more Believer they are and the less rogue, the more amenable they are to changing beliefs. The key to these people is that they genuinely kowtow to Authority. If you can get Authority to change, these dedicated followers of fashion will shed one set of clothes and don another immediately.

    So the key to all this, is to get to Authority, and get it to announce a new message…

    And that is why I pent a lot of time looking at the Power of Ideas, in general, not just scientific ones.

    How can we get the people who are in charge of things at the moment, to realise that in fact whilst AGW may be a massively useful career boost, at the moment, it could mean that they end up in a world with no electricity and people dying on the streets, which is a problem for them as well. Its not enough to say ‘the science is wrong’ because they won’t understand the proofs anyway. What we need is an emotional counter narratives that shows them how believing in climate change and renewable energy will in the end cost them more than the profits they are making from it now, irrespective of whether its true or not. Because they dont care and cant assess whether its true or not, but they can understand a personal balance sheet.

    And to understand the way they tick we have to abandon our own certainties, and pretend we are like them. and our world is ruled by their passions, and judgements, to see where the weaknesses are.
    To say ‘I am completely right’ even when its totally demonstrably true, does not win friends and influence people.

    To say. ‘I understand that to you the most important things in the world is…..and that thing is threatened by climate change alarmism, because’…is a far far more successful strategy.

    • Leo Smith March 31, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      @ Willis Eschenbach

      Willis. I cant respond to your post directly, because the way the site works wont let us nest the comments that deep, but I looked at your response to my response to your post, and I see where the difficulty lies at least, and it’s this.

      You are totally concerned with doing ‘good science’ and the AGWists are by your book, not doing good science. And for you the matter ends there.

      First, Leo, my thanks for your detailed answer, much appreciated.

      I always get nervous when people start acting like they can read my mind … sorry, Leo, but the matter doesn’t “end there” for me. See, I thought you were discussing the science of climate change. Why? Because you said:

      We feel that Science is being usurped by imposters, who are almost perpetrating a modern form of black magic with its tenets, and yet we can’t actually say why they are wrong.

      So I responded to that … but that does NOT mean the matter ends there for me.

      Next, you say:

      I take a more wide angle view. I am interested in that, yes, but I am also interested in what they think constitutes good science, because either they are knowingly doing bad science or they are (by our standards, because in this context I agree 100%) doing bad science because they actually think it is good science.
      And to that end I have tried to see if some of the post modern ideas about what is real and what is not, what is meant by good and bad, actually can inform on just how the hell these people can get away with doing what to you and me, is a total travesty of science, with something resembling a straight face.

      Funny, most people (including me) say that they are suffering from Noble Cause Corruption. As that is the most common explanation for how climate activists can do what they do, I would have imagined that you would take that explanation as a starting point, and tell us why your theory is superior to the Noble Cause Corruption hypothesis. I note in passing that Noble Cause Corruption explains everything that you want explained—why the do bad science, and why they can do it with a straight face. It also explains the following question of yours:

      And beyond that, how can the many many journalists media luvvies, politicians and the like jump on a bandwagon and state with such conviction opinions that they are not qualified to hold, as facts?

      Seriously? They are JOURNALISTS and POLITICIANS, do you truly expect ethical behavior from either group?

      You continue:

      I am concerned with pragmatic result to specific problems, and my problem is how to stop the spread of lunacy, and fraud masquerading as scientific fact, an evidence based policies, from damaging an entire generation.

      Simply proving that the science is bunk, which it certainly is, makes no difference. They simply say ‘well that’s what a denier would say’ and ‘it’s just your opinion and 97% of people who matter disagree with you’.

      We could just wait till the civilized world collapses, because its been taken over by people who simply dont know what they are doing, sure. That is one strategy. But I felt it was worth having a go at another. And that is formulating a way to outwit the liars with the truth.

      That sounds good, Leo … but seriously, you are talking by your own statement above about battling lunacy with truth. So which truth is it that you plan to use to battle lunacy, and how exactly do you plan to do that?

      I suppose the position goes like this. WE know that the knowing liars – the carpetbaggers like Al Gore, who know they are lying and simply dont care, because its just business, and the sheeple deserve it, will only respond to something which directly threatens their interests. If reversing his stance on Climate change gets Al Gore another billion, or the presidency of the United States, whey he will have a Damascene moment swear to God he made an ‘honest mistake’, and become the biggest climate denier in the senate (or wherever he sits).

      So these people are for sale. They are scoundrels with power, but they can be coerced and they can be bought, and they will respond to political pressure.

      What represents a more intractable problem are the ‘useful idiots’ . By this I mean the sort of half baked intellectuals of a vaguely lefty liberal sort of persuasion, who infest the media, and the more pathetic levels of academia. Wanna be smart people, who see Causes, and Fashionable issues, as being the very thing to make them stand out where their own lack of real talent fails. They aren’t really venal so much as desperate. They fear not being noticed, of losing their jobs, and they sort of comfort themselves and square their consciences by putting aside any lingering doubts and Believing. And they exist in a spectrum from rogue to actual genuine Believer, and the more Believer they are and the less rogue, the more amenable they are to changing beliefs. The key to these people is that they genuinely kowtow to Authority. If you can get Authority to change, these dedicated followers of fashion will shed one set of clothes and don another immediately.

      So the key to all this, is to get to Authority, and get it to announce a new message…

      While that would be lovely, getting some agreed upon father figure to tell us the new revelation from on high … I gotta ask what you are imbibing if you actually think that will make a difference. Suppose Cruz were elected tomorrow and announced that from now on the US Gov’t would not support the bogus climate change claims.

      Do you truly think that would change peoples minds? Here’s the part you have left out. People would rather admit to being criminals than they would admit to being conned. You could have God herself announce the truth, and half the folks would still not admit that they had been fooled.

      And that is why I spent a lot of time looking at the Power of Ideas, in general, not just scientific ones.

      How can we get the people who are in charge of things at the moment, to realise that in fact whilst AGW may be a massively useful career boost, at the moment, it could mean that they end up in a world with no electricity and people dying on the streets, which is a problem for them as well. Its not enough to say ‘the science is wrong’ because they won’t understand the proofs anyway. What we need is an emotional counter narratives that shows them how believing in climate change and renewable energy will in the end cost them more than the profits they are making from it now, irrespective of whether its true or not. Because they dont care and cant assess whether its true or not, but they can understand a personal balance sheet.

      How can we get the powerful to realize that their actions are harming the poor?

      Well, me being a philosophical simpleton, I talk about the issues. I write posts like this:

      The Cost in Human Energy 2013-01-02

      For a while, I taught a course in human-powered machinery for the Peace Corps. You know, bicycle powered generators, treadle powered pumps, that kind of thing. One of the very rough rules of thumb regarding human energy is that an adult human can put out about a hundred watts on…

      We have met the 1%, and he is us 2013-01-13

      In explanation of my title, I fear I’ll have to go on a bit of a digression. Let me tell three stories, about people in three different parts of our amazing planet. STORY THE FIRST: In my early thirties, through a series of misunderstandings and coincidences I spent some time…

      Overhyped: The Human Cost of Climate Alarmism 2013-02-16

      I do love tracing down how numbers kind of ricochet around the web. This investigation started when I ran across a book review in the South China Morning Post of a book called “Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change“, by Andrew T Guzman. Figure 1. Andrew T. Guzman, law…

      James Hansen’s Policies Are Shafting The Poor 2013-03-15

      I was reading an interview with Adrian Bejan (worth taking a look at), and I got to musing about his comments regarding the relationship between energy use and per capita income. So I pulled up GapMinder, the world’s best online visualization software. Here’s a first cut at the relationship between…

      Energy, Resources, Money, and Technology 2013-03-17

      I’ve made some statements lately that I’d like to reprise. • There is never a shortage of resources. It’s a shortage of cheap enough energy to get the resources economically. • Energy and money are inextricably linked. • Making energy expensive hurts, impoverishes, and even kills the poor. • Technology…

      Obama By-Passes Gas 2013-03-17

      President Obama continues his Global War on Cheap Energy™, this time under the guise of avoiding “spikes” in gasoline (petrol) prices. He wants to pass gas without regrets and move post-haste to electricity and biofuels, although both are more expensive than gasoline and diesel for road and rail transport. According…

      How Environmental Organizations Are Destroying The Environment 2013-06-25

      The Washington Post reports: During an April visit to the San Francisco home of billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, who created a political action committee in March to target lawmakers supporting the Keystone pipeline, Obama noted that the issue of climate change “is near and dear” to Steyer and…

      And you … you write posts about the philosophy of science.

      I can tell you which one I think is more effective … four years ago when I started writing about the effects on the poor of the war on carbon, I was pretty much a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Now, it has entered the general discussion and a lot of people are talking about it. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that posts on the philosophy of science would have had a tenth of the effect of my posts that are actually about the problem itself.

      You continue:

      And to understand the way they tick we have to abandon our own certainties, and pretend we are like them. and our world is ruled by their passions, and judgements, to see where the weaknesses are.
      To say ‘I am completely right’ even when its totally demonstrably true, does not win friends and influence people.

      To say. ‘I understand that to you the most important things in the world is…..and that thing is threatened by climate change alarmism, because’…is a far far more successful strategy.

      My friend, you can’t even figure out what makes me tick. You claim regarding me that:

      “You are totally concerned with doing ‘good science’ and the AGWists are by your book, not doing good science. And for you the matter ends there.”

      If that were true, then I would not have written all those posts about the question of the poor.

      So I gotta say, if your plan is to convince people by figuring out what drives them, it’s not working for me. No surprise, you are not the first person to totally misjudge what I have done and what I think. But it highlights the problem with trying to guess what motivates one person … much less what motivates an entire disparate group of people.

      Yes, IF all of the people in that disparate group were motivated by the same thing, and IF we could determine what that thing is, we MIGHT be able to devise a strategy to appeal directly to their weaknesses and avoid their strengths. Seems doubtful, but may be possible.

      Now me, I figure every man has to choose where they think their energy is best spent. If you think that going by way of abstruse philosophy and trying to get inside the mind of the average alarmist is the best way to do that, then go for it.

      In the meantime, while you scope all that out, I plan to continue my simple cowboy ways, and just attack the problem directly.

      My best regards to you,

      w.

      PS—It would be very helpful if you could boil your argument down to the “elevator speech”. That is the version where you have the length of the average elevator ride to explain your ideas. I would be quite interested in your elevator speech regarding the head post.

  35. Last night at a lecture the speaker quoted a character in a Harry Potter movie. In this essay The Matrix (a movie) is invoked.
    If this were like a baseball game I would be one movie away from . . .
    I’ve not seen either movie, although I have heard of them. No value judgments, please.
    In my mind this raises the question of what percent of a sample group watches movies?

    • If you haven’t seen the matrix, its probably not something you need to see.

      I was just citing it as an example of the indistuinguishability of a a virtual reality from a ‘real’ reality, lacking of some point to stand outside of both, or a means to move from one to the other.

      WE can conceive of an infinity of things that MIGHT be true, but cannot be demonstrated to be. Science is in fact a collection of such things carefully selected to have not actually been refuted yet.

      AGW is was science except its fallen out of the collection of things that haven’t been refuted. It has been.

      • Leo – one point – consider this change:
        from:
        “I was just citing it as an example of the indistuinguishability of a a virtual reality from a ‘real’ reality, lacking of some point to stand outside of both, or a means to move from one to the other.”
        to:
        …I was just citing it as an example of the indistuinguishability of a “virtual reality” from REALITY, lacking of some point to stand outside of both, or a means to move from one to the other…

        “Virtual reality” IS NOT reality. That’s essential. Do you agree?
        Also, we can distinguish the two. That’s why we have the two concepts ;-)

        Another example of mistaken distinctions in conventional language from my field:
        “Artificial Intelligence” is a contradiction in terms. AI is better described as Augmented Intelligence as glasses, telescopes and microscopes augment vision. (Thanks to a computer science professor from Florida I once met at a conference.) Intelligence is the product and process of a mind. At a human level it moves from an animal’s mostly perceptual level to a potentially unbounded hierarchy of abstractions. That’s the human difference.

        Knowing what reality and intelligence are is an essential foundation for any competent philosophical thinking.

        Perhaps you would benefit from reading Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology – her theory of concepts. It establishes the clear and grounded relationship between reality and our world of concepts. It describes in detail, effective and ineffective concept formation. And it describes how to detect the errors as they inevitably creep in as we try to understand reality. It’s a never ending process of learning and verifying – in reality.

        In the climate debate, one must:
        1) compare mathematical models with reality to establish the respect they deserve;d
        2) one must ask what the risk-benefit tradeoff is of various scenarios – is a warmer world better for humanity it it were to come about?

        That’s “keeping it real”. And there’s no confusion necessary in this approach to questioning if one is honest about what we know and where we have open questions. I like to say, “Ignorance is not a pejorative, its an opportunity.” Acknowledging ignorance is the beginning of learning.

  36. Yes, Leo Smith, indogerman are agonal.

    That’s a gift, called ‘will to survive’. And it’s a burden we’re bound to live with.

    Regards – Hans

  37. Very interesting article, Leo–as well as the thoughts of a number of the commenters. I must admit, at some points I read rather rapidly. And, it being now past midnight here in Delaware, I apologize if my writing lacks for clarity or is just off-base. Here are my two-cents:

    First, two money quotes from you:

    “When I described the function and purpose of what I consider to be Science, what is perhaps startling is that in the end, the only value judgement I applied, or indeed feel I can apply, to it, is that it just works.
    And this brings me to a peculiar moral position. Morality, more than physical reality, is a social construct. Moreover its not based on anything beyond humanity. . . .”

    I think you are mistaken.

    “What is actually the deductible corollary of the Theory of Evolution, is that it only leads to eradication of that which is so counter-survival, that the young of the species do not live long enough to reproduce themselves.”
    (I must say I was impressed–jolted into thought–by your “reverse” articulation of the Theory of Evolution)

    Morality (Moral-like) and ethical (Ethics-like) behaviors are not confined to humans. It is my understanding that there is now an abundance of evidence that other species engage in proto-altruistic-like and cooperative sharing and protective behaviors that make it more likely that they “will survive long enough to reproduce themselves.”

    This is not confined to intra-species interactions, but can transcend species boundaries. For example, bird warning calls are attended to by all the birds and mammals within hearing range. Indeed, I believe there is some evidence that “lower” animals, bacteria, and even plants can communicate and cooperate in manners that improve the likelihood of survival to reproduction.

    My take is that the proto-morality utilitarian “Golden Rule” is an “emergent” consequence of evolution. And it happens to “fit” (feel right) because that is how normally (non-pathological) developed humans evolved–shaped like a lock and key. Further, by virtue of man having a brain capable of introspection, written records, etc., human moral codes can outpace evolution–for better or worse.

    As an aside. What kind of a metaphysical “social construct,” do you think proto-moral animals (and plants?) operate under?

    So, that’s it. Thanks again, for the thoughtful essay.

    • As an aside. What kind of a metaphysical “social construct,” do you think proto-moral animals (and plants?) operate under?

      What are these proto -moral animals?

      Organisms that have failed to die out, and pattens of behaviours inherent to the species, that haven’t killed them (yet)?

      YOU are investing them with a morality that I would say they simply don’t possess.

      Behaviour that appears to be moral is not the same as having a conscious abstract morality.

      But then I guess your world view considers that consciousness is ‘merely’ an emergent property of the material world., and is therefore thoroughly unimportant, if not an illusion.

      You can choose that view. Is it helpful? Did you choose it knowingly?

      I am sure from studying at least my pets, and some other mammals that animals have some sort of awareness of a structured abstract reality, its just miles away from where ours is. In particular they dont have very much language, if any.

      But saying they have a morality is a bit of step too far. For me. YMMV

      • Thank you, Leo, for taking the time to reply to my “aside.”

        I realize that the essay is now a day old and will soon be stale if it isn’t already so, but I wanted to respond to your comments. I apologize for not italicizing your words. I haven’t yet learned how–one of the many lacunae in my skill set.

        A.
        “What are these proto-moral animals?
        Organisms that have failed to die out, and patterns of behaviors inherent to the species, that haven’t killed them (yet)?”

        Of course not! I assume this wasn’t a deliberate misconstruction in the vein of, “I have no idea what you are talking about,” so in answer, I am referring to the kind of behaviors that are consistent with our concept of what is moral or just–NOT “any old” behavior. I am talking about selfless actions that actually benefit other individuals, or groups, at a cost to the actor. (Of course, in the grand evolutionary scheme of things, these behaviors benefit the “selfish gene,” too, and thus confer a selective advantage)

        To be concrete: 1) Human toddlers apparently will spontaneously share candy with other children that do not have candy, rather than hoarding the treats. This occurs before any sophisticated self-concept, and certainly well before any idea of what words like “morality” and its kin mean. This appears to be developmentally (i.e., evolution based) hard-wired. 2) Monkeys (not sure which ones) will vocalize to notify others that they have found a cache of food. Interestingly, if an individual fails to do this, and its subterfuge is discovered, it is punished by the defrauded group members that “play by the rules.” There are consequences to “bad” behavior.

        As an interesting side note, I believe the optimum strategy in the “Prisoners Dilemma” scenario is to start by assuming a cooperative stance and then to respond in kind to how the other player acts. This might suggest that morality is, in a sense, mathematically inevitable.

        B.
        “But then I guess your world view considers that consciousness is ‘merely’ an emergent property of the material world, and is therefore thoroughly unimportant, if not an illusion.
        You can choose that view. Is it helpful? Did you choose it knowingly?”

        Come on Leo. This detracts from your argument and diminishes you–at least in so far as I read the content and your tone. You are drawing unsupported conclusions and imputing unsupported value judgments. Am I really supposed to thank you for allowing me to choose a view (that, by the way, you have in your own mind selected for me) and then further expecting me to find the two follow-up challenge questions really material and offered in a true spirit to be helpful? I suspect Willis could do a better job here, than I can, but you get the idea.
        That said, moving on–and I hope we can.

        C.
        “I am sure from studying at least my pets, and some other mammals that animals have some sort of awareness of a structured abstract reality, its just miles away from where ours is. In particular they don’t have very much language, if any.”

        Really? Well here is some evidence to consider:
        I am sure you are aware of Washoe, the chimp that learned to communicate with 350 words of American Sign Language. Koko, a gorilla understands about 1000 words in ASL and 2000 English words. Koko had the cognitive status of a 2-3 year old human child. Corvids are famous for their reasoning abilities. You may recall a recent Internet news article about a parrot that screamed out “Fire, Fire” when the apartment it was living in caught on fire, and thereby saved a number of people from potential loss of life. Parrots are known for their amazing vocabulary and their ability to use the words appropriately to the circumstances. Here is a touching episode about Washoe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washoe_%28chimpanzee%29):

        “One of Washoe’s caretakers was pregnant and missed work for many weeks after she miscarried. Roger Fouts recounts the following situation:
        People who should be there for her and aren’t are often given the cold shoulder–her way of informing them that she’s miffed at them. Washoe greeted Kat [the caretaker] in just this way when she finally returned to work with the chimps. Kat made her apologies to Washoe, then decided to tell her the truth, signing “MY BABY DIED”. Washoe stared at her, then looked down. She finally peered into Kat’s eyes again and carefully signed “CRY”, touching her cheek and drawing her finger down the path a tear would make on a human (Chimpanzees don’t shed tears). Kat later remarked that one sign told her more about Washoe and her mental capabilities than all her longer, grammatically perfect sentences.”

        Using your essay’s argument about Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation is that the mental, cognitive, and emotional awareness of a structured reality by non-human animals and human children is on a continuum whose elements are one-and-the-same as adult humans.
        The concept of inter-subjective reliability; viz., that people can communicate about the physical world and their experiences in a mutually understandable and consistent way, adds further evidence for some kind of a utilitarian reality. Furthermore, the above evidence suggests that not only is there intra-specific “inter-subjective reliability,” but there is a comparable “inter-subjective reliability” across species that “WORKS.” I would suggest that the across species consistency evidence strongly suggests the “reality” of a non-solipsistic, pragmatic shadow reality.

        D.
        “Behavior that appears to be moral is not the same as having a conscious abstract morality.”

        As to the last sentence, I would argue that a “conscious abstract morality” is one end of a spectrum of morality. As pointed out above, some animals and human infants exhibit moral behavior and possess some level of consciousness about the world and their actions. I think the weakness in your bright line distinction between Science versus Morality (= being exclusively human) is that there is, in fact, no bright line that you can point to. When exactly does consciousness “begin” as a human matures? What is “abstract” enough to be considered “abstract”? And at what point does “behavior that appears to be moral” actually become “really” moral? The argument falls apart, like a lot of philosophy, when the definition of terms is examined closely. I think Daniel Dennett’s “intentional stance” may be helpful. It certainly is utilitarian and pragmatic, all of which is consistent to your main thesis.

        Another argument against even an unqualified version of “Behavior that appears to be moral is not the same as having a conscious abstract morality,” would be to subject the thesis to the equivalent of the “Turing Test” for consciousness.

        E.
        “YOU are investing them with a morality that I would say they simply don’t possess.”

        As you point out in your essay, Science is what works. And, Science has been exceedingly successful in its endeavors. Indeed, in the approximately three and a half centuries since Newton’s Principia, unimaginable progress has resulted. Science has never “claimed” to be complete. Given its success in its relatively short modern existence, and the unlimited future, I see no reason to summarily dismiss the idea that there are not valid scientific explanations for morality that transcend human exclusivity.

        That being said, your argument, “YOU are investing them with a morality that I would say they simply don’t possess,” is–without more– an Argument from Personal Incredulity. Such ex cathedra pronouncements are a species of logical fallacy closely analogous to arguments based on appeals to authority.

        F.
        In conclusion, once again, thank you for your response to my “aside.” I hope I have given you some rationale for my main point; that the separation between Science and (Mankind only) Morality is unnecessary.

        Regards

        Robert

  38. In our post-modern world, climate science is not powerful because it is true: it is true because it is powerful.”
    —Lucas Bergkamp

    “When all are wrong, all are right”
    —French aristocrtat

  39. Leo,

    “And that is why we still have appendices. They haven’t killed us. Yet. Mostly.”

    Check the Wiki, I suggest, and you will find that’s just an old “Evolutionist” yarn, and it is now believed to have several important functions.

    ” Also, a few years ago I was also involved in some online arguments with Creationists who declared that Creationism and Intelligent Design was equally valid a science as say Physics.”

    Let’s be realistic, and say Evolutionism.

  40. I think a lot of you are missing the forest for the tree huggers. Today, for much of the population, truth and reality are overrated. Today people can all be rock stars, geniuses, knights in shining armor, or whatever they want simply by believing it. Belief is everything now and science and truth can barely penetrate. Most everybody wants to believe they are important, and the best way to do this is to take on the mantle of “the savior”! First it was “save the trees”, then “save the whales”, then “save the rainforests”, bigger and better until Al Gore gave the people “SAVE THE WORLD!” Now every ignorant, lazy, idealist can believe they are personally saving the whole planet by simply complaining about somebody else. They are ideological warriors who demand applause and a pat on the back, and being warriors, know that they are nothing without a war, and so will not be dissuaded from their beliefs no matter how much science, logic, reason, or facts you throw at them. They have no plan to solve the problem because the war would end and they would have nothing to save. So the invented problem must be perpetuated at all costs. Ironically the masses are building windmills as delusionally as Don Quixote fought them. And their minions applaud them for this as the war goes on. To paraphrase Voltaire: “if there were no climate change, it would be necessary to invent it.”

    • I’ve always found the Alarmists to come in four basic varieties or a combo of them:

      A. The Malthusians – constantly whine about human population, want to kill off a few billion people, mainly the poor in other nations, never their own.

      B. The Militant Vegans – always whining about methane and effects of animal husbandry on the climate, want us all to revert to mindless herbivores, never tell us what they would have happen to the billions upon billions of domesticated livestock once we stop feeding them.

      C. The Eco-Communists – always whining about capitalism, but refuse to see that even democratic socialist governments use capitalism as the cornerstone of their economies. Have no alternative to offer.

      D. The Renewables Fetishists – always whining about fossil fuels, refusing to accept that petroleum is the underpinning of all modern civilization or that “renewables” are a pathetic source of electricity production

      All love to revel in apocolyptic doomsday scenarios that validate their own fantasies. All are scientifically illiterate and ignorant. All react instantly to clickbait headlines of doom and gloom with whinings about their favorite hate object.

      • And then there are the ‘Activists’, who will jump on any and every cause that comes along. Why? Because it makes them feel good about themselves? Because they think their duty is to right every claimed ‘wrong’? Because all the other Activists are on that particular bandwagon? Maybe all of the above.

        The Activists are the people who are most easily exploited by the leaders of movements, the Algores, Bill McKibbens, Maurice Strongs . . . going right back to Vladimir Lenin: ‘Useful Idiots’, he called them.

        /Mr Lynn

    • Hoyt., I think you have arrived at a place I have also arrived at, and that is not to be Baffled By Bull***t as the saying goes, but to see what is REALLY going on, or at least a useful view on what is going on, is that this is all part of a larger social phenomenon which may be something to do with the decline of religion and the onwards march of Marxist dialectical materialism and other such nonsense.

      People simply dont know their place in the world any more. The success of Science, based as it is on a world-view that posits an uncaring amoral mechanistic universe as its starting point, has led to the erroneous conclusion that because Science works, therefore that view of the world is a final complete and indeed correct one.

      The cultural Marxists have leapt into this void, and generated a ‘humanistic’ ethos based of politically correct values, which is totally at odds with the atheism inherent in Marxism, to the point where one wonders if indeed the construction of politically correct liberal humanistic values is in fact a deliberate ploy of the Marxists, or as I have seen it said. “if religion is the opium of the people, Marxism is its crack cocaine”.

      People yearn – some people – for certainty, even if its not the certainty of Truth, the certainty that comes from being one of the ‘97% of ‘ etc. etc.,.

      They used to feel, and be told, that their lives were paths, upon which they travelled, resisting temptation and being as good as they could, with the promise of eternal salvation. Today, their lives are utterly meaningless.

      Leftism and rightism gives their lives shape and purpose. And meaning. “A working class hero, is something to be”.

      And if that adoption of a touchy feely world-view that gives them back the self esteem they lost when someone told that that not only did God not love them any more, he didn’t actually exist, and they were pathetic for believing that he did, means rejecting the scientific world view, with its total absence of any moral or religious aspects, why then, that is to them a small price to pay. If there is one thing you find in Leftist spew, its is ‘Cary, Shary, Equally’ its all about self esteem, how you feel, how much of a victim you are, what terrible things they have done to you, and how by all organising together and singing kumbaya, and sitting down where someone wants to build as nuclear power plant, the world will somehow magically become a better place and they will be loved, if not by God, but by the State. Big Brother, Your Glorious Leader is watching out for you, and he Just Loves you..

      And that is exactly why I wrote my stuff. Because ‘science works’ doesn’t mean the axioms on which it is based are true, or the whole story.

      If you need to Believe to feel better about yourself, go ahead and Believe. Its not inconsistent with science ultimately, as long as you realise that the two views are both partial.

      Personally, as a former dog owner,. I go with the dogs. Up in the morning, new One True Stick to Fetch, who cares if God exists or if he is Dog Shaped, the world is there to be enjoyed and experienced, or simply slept through, so wag our tails and WUFF! with joy at the sheer unutterable lunacy of it and the total pleasure in being doggy shaped.

      You can learn a lot of philosophy, from dogs.

      • Yes Leo, I think you’ve described the modern world much as I see it. In my opinion there’s a lot of people that are no more complicated than a dog. Why does a dog chase cars? Because he has a different world view? Because he has a unique philosophy? Because he is mired in self delusion? No, it just makes him feel like a big dog. Why does a person hate fossil fuels? It just makes him feel like a big man.

  41. Why is it always the “intellectual Left” and the disparaging connotation of the “Religious Right”, as if the two are mutually exclusive?

    By the way, science isn’t Truth. Science is, in my humble opinion, merely a tool to open a window onto the world of the unknown. What we do with it then falls into that whole argument about our individual social constructs.

  42. “‘Reality as a Social Construct’. This is taught to every good PPE.”

    Having two-thirds of a PPE degree (the P&P), unless I missed that class…. Sorry, ‘training’… The untrained philosopher seems to be speaking some kind of a priori here.

    Of course some fall victim to a radical kind of relativism that would rule out ‘truth’ and the such like, erm, a priori. But it seems unlikely to me that those that do sink into such a postmodern funk have taken much real interest in philosophy, as much as enjoy what such a radical wildcard does for them. Like having dice with only sixes… Everyone’s a winner.

    Rather, “science” seems to have become an anti-philosophy, since we’re all, per Lytoard, “incredul[ous] towards metanarratives” now. The eschewing of philosophy — and even ‘ideology’ — much more than eschewing ‘science’ as such, then, might begin to give us a better understanding of environmentalism’s ascendency. In this respect, I don’t think Leo departs much from Rupert Read, or the problems of ‘postmodernism’ as he wants to. Read is inconsequential, as Leo rightly notes, though I doubt he is esteemed, since environmentalism has no real need for philosophers or even thinkers. He is useful though, for the glimpse into what passes for green ‘thinking’ that he offers. My attempt to make sense of Read is at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/06/why-do-environmentalists-hate-liberty.html — I think the more interesting question is ‘Why Do Environmentalists Hate Liberty?’, than how to do science better.

    A good indication that Leo has overstated the influence of the idea of ‘reality as a social construct’ is in his own debates with “Creationists who declared that Creationism and Intelligent Design was equally valid a science as say Physics”. The thing to note is that creationists of the past would rest their argument on the authority of the Bible, not claim the authority of “science”. The word of God is not sufficient, it seems, for today’s religionists — the claims of the religion being in question as a ‘social construct’, with science being, curiously, the transcendental method.

  43. I’ve been saying forever: The oligarchs have to bribe Congress, but you warmists settle for one small perfect moral plum– which you know is an illusion. You know that this Senate report http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/6ce8dd13-e4ab-4b31-9485-6d2b8a6f6b00/chainofenvironmentalcommand.pdf
    means that the oligarchs are paying the activists to invent outrageous lies. You know that by accepting the lies you are turning the environment and the planet over to those who care the least for them. You know their motive is to control global energy and development. That people will die because of it. But the illusion of telling yourself “I am saving the planet,” is more important to you.

    They’ve been too long on the fluoride that reduces IQ, too many vaccinations with adjuvants, too dumbed down at school, too isolated socially. Our only hope is to get rid of the oligarchs, since there’s no regaining control of the media while they rule.

    They’re giving one-day-old babies shots now. They’re teaching them this CO2 rot in GRADE school. Dear lord what will the next generation be like?

  44. Leo Smith,

    Thank you for your most thought provoking essay. And even more for your strenuous efforts to respond to the many comments.

    While I’m a regular reader of both essays and comments, I rarely comment at WUWT these days, and almost never at length. But I’ll break my own rules this time. For, like you, I am an amateur at philosophy (career in software development; trained long ago as a mathematician). Now, I’ve been reading WUWT for sufficiently long to know who among the regulars I trust (both scientifically, and in a more general sense) and who I don’t. What I noticed about this thread was the many good and often supportive comments from among those regulars whom I do trust and respect. So, let me add my two pence worth.

    First, science. For me, science is a way of constructing a model of our surroundings, intended to match as closely as possible the “reality” that we measure. (Re-reading your essay, I don’t think we are far apart on this). The better such a model matches measured reality, the more confidence we gain in it, and so in the assumptions and principles which underlie the model. If we are doing honest science, then if our model doesn’t match what we measure, we need to modify the assumptions behind it.

    But the reason why climate science isn’t science, for me, is not that it doesn’t work – not that the models’ predictions don’t match the measurements. It is that “climate science” has never been intended to match what we measure, but merely as a ruse to provide an apparent justification for harmful political policies. This is why, when their climate models’ results fail to match reality, the “scientists” don’t go back and modify their assumptions, like ditching the CAGW hypothesis; they just scream the same conclusions louder. For me, “climate science” is about perjury, not about science.

    Second, morality and ethics. I myself make a distinction between ethics (what is right and wrong) and morality (the customs of a particular society). You seem to suggest that there are no absolute standards of right and wrong, so that ethics is vacuous. I disagree. For if you reject ethics, you allow yourself no way to argue against a morality that has become corrupted. You are ceding the high ground, on which you should be able to criticize the powerful when they lie, mislead, steal or commit or order aggressive force. You are, in essence, taking the position that “Might makes right.” Granted, accepting the existence of absolutes of right and wrong doesn’t tell you what they are. But accepting that they exist allows you the opportunity to argue about what they are – which might prove a bit embarrassing for warmist hypocrites!

    One last thing. There is a concept I think you could have brought into in your essay, but didn’t. That’s the idea of honesty, particularly as applied to science. Look through this thread for the phrase “honest science,” and you’ll find that only one person has used that phrase before I did; that’s Willis Eschenbach. Everyone here will do well to re-read Willis’s comment on March 31st at 3:46pm (skipping his first paragraph).

    • Interesting. I am not sure that climate science was never intended to match reality. I think there is a lot of in between say the original exponents of it, and what happened after Al Gore and the rest got their hands on it.

      I understand why you think I say might is right, but I dont actually claim that. I say that what persists is what fails to die. Might is not always the optimal strategy. The storm uproots the mighty oak, abut the grass just bends before it.

      Likewise, honesty. Is it an optimal strategy? IN a relatively free and unregulated market, dishonesty means loss of business in the longer term. IN a market controlled by a few dominant de facto monopolies, it’s an every day part of doing business and will actually increase profits and returns

      And that is my problem with you and Willis, you are clear in your positions, and you make strong value judgements based on an ethical system you somehow assume everybody ascribes to.

      I am less sanguine. I think that for most people, lying cheating, gaming the system and generally behaving in a dishonourable and even criminal fashion, is actually getting them far more of what they want than being upright honest citizens.

      A more long term view of such behaviours will perhaps show that its somewhat self and socially destructive, but for now, its working very very well.

  45. Well written article. I realize that it states more “thoughtfully, clearly, and completely” what I have long felt vaguely. Similarly to you, the author, I am, by training, vocation, and avocation, an “Engineering Scientist” (an old one) who philosophies (to myself) a lot. Could be “why we see things similarly”?

    I’ve copied this one into my small “library” of “the best articles I’ve read on-line”.

  46. There is nothing in physics that yields any understanding of the origin of any sort of life.
    A free society can only exist when people exercise self-control . The Declaration of Independence gave the guidance for this great nation. God-less societies that depend on a police state to control their populace do not endure.

  47. “… For if you reject ethics, you allow yourself no way to argue against a morality that has become corrupted. You are ceding the high ground, on which you should be able to criticize the powerful when they lie, mislead, steal or commit or order aggressive force. You are, in essence, taking the position that “Might makes right.” …”
    ___

    Governments everywhere are doing just that. And for them, might does make ‘right’ in the morality of action, in-action and reactions of governments. And also anything else, as ‘society’ morality is relative to whatever government and society says, as the standard (and invariably deeply hypocritical and one-eyed) and what Dear-Leader says, and does, plus expects, especially with regard to self-censoring, conforming and being a ‘right-thinking’ little nationalist, and a positive team-player (yes-men, and women).

    I’m not willing to accept religiosity, now or ever again, or ‘scriptures’, or spiritual ‘guides’. They all fail and backfire and are deeply hypocritical and contradictory, as well as oppressive. The alleged positives don’t meet my law of diminishing returns testing.

    The author, Leo, suggests his own sort of morality, via pretending their is a god? So we will act like we have something to prove, and to fear of not living up to if we don’t, presumably? I don’t want to put words in his mouth but that seems to be the general gist. I would just say I don’t really see or experience a need a pretend there’s a ‘God’, with divine aspirations from my holy whatever, higher purpose or something? To become, or rather, to be ethical, moral, honest, sincere?

    It’s hard to see how that lines up and works itself out.

    There is however something I’ve noticed which makes all the difference for me. Firstly, I don’t ‘prey’ or ‘meditate’, or follow any belief construct, or believe in a god. However we do seem to be in an infinity, and an infinity does have potential for a god, I would admit that.

    But the naturally arising sense of ‘thankfulness’ I feel emerge, for what I eat, for bed and clean sheets, for a lover, for a piece of delicious fruit, for this sunset, or just a perfectly still night – produces a human being that’s more functional, orderly, stable, with constructive intent, and who remains outside the area of religious stipulation, or guidance of others, even philosophers, and remains distinctly unimpressed with governments as right via might, coercion and force, and indifferent to society’s ‘values’.

    But I also feel no desire to reform others as that’s their job. I have no say in it and I admit to ceding nothing by default – however, they may be, but that’s for them. To me this concept of ceding a high-ground is a fiction, that high ground is in me not in some other imagined contrivance.

    I might disagree with others but I’m not interesting in preaching to them, for them to develop or maintain a sense of ‘ethics’ and ‘morality’, that’s their job. and if you are naturally thankful it takes no effort to be ‘right’, yourself. I don’t accept it’s up to me, or to you either, to thus create a quandary or problem of immorality in others, for either me or you to solve. I can’t solve it, nor can you, but maybe they can.

    I also don’t accept that guides are helpful in this area, this is something people find in themselves or they don’t, it can not be an imported ideal or set of moral regs and codes. That doesn’t work, it’s as much the disease as a proposed ‘cure’.

    I’m just naturally thankful and what I think and do flows from there, and that seems to be complete and sufficient for what I find myself in, or doing. Others mileage may vary.

    But this has been an interesting post and comments that followed.

  48. Potter: Professor, is this real, or is it all in my head?
    Dumbledore: Of course it’s all in your head, Harry. How does that make it any less real?

    Interesting essay and the engineering organization and logic are well-displayed. The observations of behavior and manipulation are spot on. Regarding the philosophical part, though, the question left unaddressed is what is the First Cause of this reality (either actual or perceived, take your pick)? Settle that and a lot comes into focus.

    • Regarding the philosophical part, though, the question left unaddressed is what is the First Cause of this reality (either actual or perceived, take your pick)? Settle that and a lot comes into focus

      First Causes are like One True Sticks. They are part of the world view, and do not lie beyond them.

      Your statement implies that causality itself exists beyond human ken. I say that its an anthropic quality that we use to form our view of the world, not an innate quality of it, any more than space or time are.

      Causality is a magic tool,. it lest us separate things, and yet still preserve a relationship between them over time. In a sense, if we split sensation into matter-time-space-phenomena, Causality comes along as part of the package, as the remnant of the ‘interconnectedness of everything’ that we have removed by creating a world of discrete objects and moments.

      Or you can do the Buddhist thing, Grasshopper, and lurch into the Absolute, and experience it all as a single object in a timeless moment in Eternity, and ditch all that processing, and see it as a big transcendent blob. Shrug. Its one way I guess. “Before Enlightenment chopping wood, fetching water: After Enlightenment, chopping wood, fetching water”

      The value of enlightenment is not that it changes anything, but that it reminds you of what is under your control and what is not. ;-)

      As I said, all of this is ultimately indecidable. Certainty only exists in terms of deductive logic applied to conditional propositions. If this, then that etc.

      The nearest I can go to a prime cause, and its not exactly a cause, is to say that mathematically, I suspect that we need to have two independent variables to create a result that is of the nature of a perceived external reality.

      So we end up with a Trinity, just like the Jews figured out, and as it says on the cover of Shopenhauers book

      1/. The world (as we perceive it to be)
      2/. As Will. (whatever is the case, the stuff that has a ruleset of its own)
      3/. And Representation (consciousness, the means by which whatever is really there, is brought to our attention, in the way it is.

      Or maybe that’s what is meant by, respectively, the Son, the Father, and the Holy Ghost.
      Or in other (mystical) arrangements one finds more than three elements. But its seems that the worldview we inherit can be reduced to these three, in the limit, and beyond that, there might be Existence, but fer sure, we don’t have a view of it any more.

      They are not ’causes’ though, just the three pillars of the structure that underpins our world views. If they exist, so does the view. If they dont, no view is possible.

      And that’s as far as you can go. Its a Great Mistake to assume that anthropic qualities – space – time and causality, matter and energy, good and evil, or any of the elements that comprise our view of the world, are in themselves intrinsic properties of the world as it really is. Casually and mundanely we treat them, as if they were so, but in the limit, at the bleeding edge, I think its important to understand that they really are not.

      They are representations of something else. Dumbed down by our apparatus to be vaguely digestible.

  49. @gnomish.

    Maybe the fact that I appear to be behind you, is that in a finite universe, I am so far ahead of you, that I am in danger of kicking you in the butt.
    ;-)

    • I knew you were a contortionist…lol
      that’s how you are able to unhinge your mind to swallow contradictions bigger than your head.
      seriously, though – finite universe? ctrl – alt – del. start from scratch.
      Any 4 year old child of 2 can figure this stuff out.
      It’s your responsibility and there is no acceptable excuse for failure. Get sincere. Stop playing princess.
      Check each premise Did you know the sun is white, for instance? Somebody may have told you it was yellow, but logically you know that the solar spectrum defines the concept ‘white’.
      Use your reason. Nobody can do this for you.

  50. Enjoyed your essay. Any comment on the Scholastic school of philosophy and the Natural Law derived from it?

  51. Good read – thanks from another engineer. Can’t remember the quote but it was something like you can’t fully examine the concept within the paradigm.

  52. Interesting essay, and I share many of your conclusions. Some clarifications. Science predicts future observations, not necessarily “the future” per se. The observations may be about things that happened in the past.

    I view religion as a successful mechanism for producing cohesion among large social groups. There is an ongoing discussion about the evolution of “altruism”. Groups that contain altruistic individuals should be more successful than groups where everyone is selfish. However, within each group the selfish individuals should be more successful. They will benefit from the group’s altruistic members but will not bear any of the costs. The result is it should be impossible for altruism to evolve, because it would always be out competed within groups. There are mechanisms where groups come together, mix and then separate where it can happen, but these models do not match most societies or animal groups.

    Small groups can maintain cooperation (altruism) because everyone can remember the defectors, and punish them. As groups get larger, the punishment of defectors becomes more difficult, so the group will be taken over by the selfish. If a group could maintain the cooperative behavior whilst growing larger, then it would be more successful. Religion provides just such a mechanism. I believe that all large groups have religion because it is a successful way of ensuring cooperation. People often say that all religions are basically similar in their core beliefs. This would make sense as this is a successful set of beliefs for societies to grow.

    Occam’s razor you have right. It is the explanation with the fewest assumptions that is most useful. This is not “the simplest”. For example, we might say “god did it” to explain anything, which sounds like a simple explanation. From a scientific point of view this is a huge assumption, and hence not a simple explanation. Similarly with climate, we could say “nature did it”, which sounds like a simple explanation, but in fact requires huge assumptions about nature.

    This is all very interesting philosophy, but you stray outside philosophy with your conclusion about climate science. It is true that people will believe many things that are not true. This is the realm of psychology, not philosophy.
    “And Climate Alarmists are simply acceding to this position, They either don’t know that they are lying, or they actually don’t care if they are lying, because lying actually gets them, personally, a better life, than the truth!”

    How do you know if it the alarmists or the sceptics that are in this position? Continued use of fossil fuels will enrich those today whether or not climate alarmists are correct. Whatever mechanism would result in alarmists believing a falsity applies equally to the sceptics. For your discussion, you simply assume that the alarmists are wrong.

    “Western Liberalism trumps careful scientific scepticism, because at a given level, they are simple clear and cohesive messages. Not because they are true, or even morally right, but because they have a momentum and a quality that makes them successful. And this is, I would aver, precisely where we are with Climate Change.”

    You do not demonstrate why climate change should provide a successful narrative. After all, it requires people to make sacrifices. In the absence of a reflection of reality this should not be successful. I provided a reasoned argument why religion is a successful belief. I can offer a realistic argument why not believing in climate change is a successful mechanism. The fact is that most of the costs will occur in the future. Those currently consuming fossil fuels will pay the costs to benefit people in the future. For younger people today, those future people will be themselves. For older people today, they will be someone else. There is therefore a strong incentive not to believe in climate change. To believe in it requires either change – which will adversely affect your standard of life, or rejection of change- which makes you appear selfish.

    This means that scepticism offers a successful way to maximise your own benefits, without appearing selfish.

    On the other hand, belief in climate change requires either sacrifice or acceptance of selfishness. Either you change your ways or you acknowledge that you don’t want to pay for the benefit of other people in the future.

    Neither of these approaches says anything about whether climate change science is right. I believe it offers a better – or at least as good an – explanation of scepticism existing if the science is correct than it does of alarmism existing if the science is wrong.

    • To me, the “dead giveaway” that “climate science” is a pack of lies is the way they (and you) use language.

      ” I can offer a realistic argument why not believing in climate change is a successful mechanism. ”

      I’ve never in my entire life encountered a single person who believed climate does not change. You are spewing nonsense.

      • JohnKnight. I am sorry my language was insufficiently precise for your liking. When I used the words “climate change” I believed that it would be understood to be a sort of short-hand for anthropogenic climate change. Given the context here I think this is pretty obvious. I assure you it was not an incredibly clumsy attempt to trap the unwary into saying they agree or disagree with anything, nor to convey the impression that those that oppose the idea of AGW believe the climate does not change. That would be pointless anyway, since it is not a point I would wish to prove.

        Is that the only objection you have to my argument?

      • It’s not just about any old effects humans might have on any old climates, and you know that, I’m sure. Keep moving toward meaningful English and maybe I’ll believe you’re not a con artist.

    • Reality exists independent of our wants, desires, perceptions, or needs.

      can you prove that, or is it simply and axiom of your world view ;-)

      • It is logical. What exists, exists – it is a tautology. However it is quite useless as it tells us nothing about what reality is, nor whether what we perceive is reality.

      • Leo, we perceived a flat earth at first. We then came to know it was spherical (or so). If this is not the final answer, it does seem to be a demonstrably better notion of the reality of this situation. If a meteor is lighting up the sky and instantaneously 100 people turn and point to it, how can we define ‘reality’. We can even test the optical aspects of our eyes and find among us those whose optics don’t work. This little refinement must be based on at least some fuzzy reality.

        It does seem fanciful that we are living on a spinning ball among quadrillions of other spinning balls, but strength of materials demands that such large objects become round even if they were momentarily cubic at their creation. Perhaps we should define reality as consistent behavior of inanimate things at least if the question is a crippling one. The bunny rabbit doesn’t think, therefore he is. The opposite of Cogito ergo Sum of Rene Descartes.

  53. One of the problems is the human need for certainty. Put another way, ambiguity makes us uncomfortable. A further problem is that when we see what seems to be a pattern or story that makes sense, we jump on it and it feels good. When a narrative such as climate change lines up with ethical feelings (capitalism is bad) and religious feelings (nature is good, man has fallen from grace), you get a total loss of the ability to reason dispassionately. You get certainty where there should be room for doubt. And then anyone who does not agree is evil. And that is where we are.

    • Disbelief in climate change lines up with other feelings, I enjoy my SUV, I don’t want to pay more for fuel, I don’t want to pay more tax, I don’t want to be responsible for harming others etc. There is no reason why this should affect only one side.
      ” you get a total loss of the ability to reason dispassionately.” This presumes there ever was an ability to reason dispassionately. There will always be reasons for belief that are unrelated to pure reason.

      This is psychology rather than philosophy. It may explain why people do not agree but it does not help at all in deciding who is right.

      • Disbelief in climate change lines up with other feelings, I enjoy my SUV, I don’t want to pay more for fuel, I don’t want to pay more tax, I don’t want to be responsible for harming others etc. There is no reason why this should affect only one side.
        ” you get a total loss of the ability to reason dispassionately.” This presumes there ever was an ability to reason dispassionately. There will always be reasons for belief that are unrelated to pure reason.
        This is psychology rather than philosophy. It may explain why people do not agree but it does not help at all in deciding who is right.

        I started there, I like my cars. But I didn’t stop at that, I got the data and looked at how much it cools at night compared to how much it warmed the prior day, and on the land, since 1950 on average, it’s cooled slightly more than it warmed.

      • micro6500. Confirmation bias afflicts us all. We none of us can know for sure that we are not victim of it. You found the evidence that convinced you, I found evidence that convinced me. We can argue about the strength of that evidence. It is not conclusive to point out that “the other side” might have reasons to believe the wrong answer because it aligns with a certain preferred narrative, since everybody has such reasons.

      • Well, as you can imagine I don’t agree, but since this post was about philosophy, perhaps we can take up the cudgels in specific posts later? :)

      • seaice1
        April 1, 2016 at 7:36 am

        ” It may explain why people do not agree but it does not help at all in deciding who is right.”

        seaice1, would you say then, that scepticism about all important propositions is the premier, natural, first position to take under the circumstances? Confirmation bias may confound the picture and in cases where their is strong evidence of an ‘other’ agenda, there is a tendency of bias being actively sought. Scepticism is a refusal to simply jump in and agree without compelling evidence.

        The sceptic can put forward what he believes to be problems with a proposition to be ‘answered’ without risk. If he offers an alternative proposition then he would also be subject to sceptical response, of course. This is why the position of sceptic is so universally annoying to those who want an easy passage of their ‘beliefs’. This why things also can turn ugly. If 97% of scientists buy into CAGW, why, oh why is there so much animosity, threats of punishement, incarceration and even death. Why not ignore the flat-earthers and move on? The reason of course is over time (especially with the much hated and revised “Pause”) niggling little doubts are pricking the minds of research scientists. The epidemic of climate science depression/blues that began a few years ago was a product of suppressing the betrayal of their own minds.

      • Guy Pearce. “Why not ignore the flat-earthers and move on?” Largely because the debate is political rather than scientific. If the flat Earthers had a significant power base and were successfully challenging maritime trade, then we would not be ignoring them. Similarly with creationists, HIV/AIDS doubters and anti-vaxers. We need to engage them only because they are affecting politics and policy.

        The problem I see with the doubters is that there is no cohesive view of what they don’t agree with. It is a defensible position to say that the world is warming but we should not do anything because the damage will be relatively slight and future generations will be much wealthier than ourselves. There is something in the idea that a warmer world is better for humans. I might not agree with it, but it is a reasonable position to take. The trouble is that in order to defend the “do nothing” position too many people end up rejecting established facts such as the greenhouse effect, and that the earth is continuing to warm. That the current temperatures are much higher than the last equal sized El Nino really should make people realise that the warming is continuing. By trying to reject the facts it is diverting the argument form the real one we should be having, which is how should we adapt to the warmer world to take advantage of the benefits?

        There are good arguments for adaption rather than prevention. It has been pointed out that cities need not relocate instantly. Each building in a city only lasts about 20 years. if instead of rebuilding in the same place, we re-located the new building to higher ground we could re-locate the whole city in time at little cost.
        Maybe adaptation is better than prevention. That is a debate worth having. We cannot have that debate if attention is focused on rejecting reality.

      • Thank you seaice1. I believe you may be at least a bit closer to my view than you think. I agree it has gotten warmer (and, so far, am grateful for that compared to the LIA) but that there are many things happening at once including multi decadal natural variation and likely a longer term climb out of the LIA. I am a geologist (and engineer) and I studied paleoclimatology back in the 1950s when it was not a topical issue but rather part of the science of geology. This has given me some perspective on the considerable range climate has gone through throughout earth history. I’ve mapped ancient shorelines of Lake Agassiz in Manitoba which record the draining of this glacial lake (northern shore was the receding ice sheet which had attained about 2km thick over Winnipeg during the climate optimium).

        As a scientist, I am a natural sceptic (I hope this hasn’t become old fashioned!). As a knowledgeable person in some aspects of the subject of climate, I became a strong sceptic when I saw the egregious liberties taken with the facts and data and the manipulations engaged in by at least a few of the most prominent climate scientists to patch and perserve their CO2 control knob theory. Think here the erasure of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age because it gave too much to natural variation which they had been studiously ignoring until it was called out in the climategate emails that ‘something had to be done’ about these annoying periods. So said, so executed! I became appalled at what was convincingly the subversion of science to support a Eurocentric/UN political left. Of course politicians will take advantage when they can, but when they also generously fund the work, they become the masters and their agencies and beneficiaries become to some degree paid mercenaries for their cause.

        Now, looking at the natural aspect of things, we have been, in fits and starts, experiencing the expected decline in temperatures from the Holocene optimum ~7-8k years ago in harmony with previous interglacial periods of this general length. It has been warmer and the longer geological record has known periods of great biological abundance with 20 times the amount of CO2 presently in the atmosphere !

        Also, having (under the pressure of sceptics) to accept there was an LIA, they’ve changed the tune that CO2 only became a problem after 1950 to it having reared its ugly head in 1750 to harness the LIA to the cause. Did you know that the horror of +2C is now being measured starting with the LIA as the datum (when 1/3 of Finnlanders died of starvation, New York harbor froze over in the early 1800s and people used to walk to Staten Island, the Bosphorus and the Thames frozed over, expanding glaciers in Switzerland came into the valleys and crushed villages hundreds of years old…..). Ask yourself what the CO2 levels were during the MWP when the Scots enjoyed viniculture…. Look, it may warm or, frightfully it may cool this century. This could become very serious particularly in the latter case.

        Not a few think that warming a degree or two could have great benefits that outweigh negatives. Certainly large arid regions of the world are experiencing a ‘greening’ and food harvests have grown seemingly miraculously over the past 50yrs. Looking at the long sealevel rise of the past 12,000 years, rapid in the early millennia (up about 120m) with current rising only a couple of mm a year despite the hype over warming less than 1C in a century.

        This century will, about the halfway mark reach peak world population – we are about 80% there and the world today is feeding twice as many people as when the Club of Rome stuff came out (BTW, I was also a strong sceptic then when 2000 was going to be the end of the world for food, minerals and metals, etc). Here we are one sixth the way through the new millenium and, except for the last several months, we have known no warming – this without question has diminished the potential effectiveness of CO2 as the most important driver of climate. Let’s talk again at the end of this year when we may have a La Nina that could put the “Pause” back in play. If that happens, you will see slippage in the official position on climate change.

        I hope this hasn’t been a waste of my time. At least it should show you that all here are not floating on contrarian fluff or ideological clay. At my advanced age, I don’t really have any skin in the game but desire to at least see honest, inclusive analysis of the whole picture.

      • Gary Pearce says:

        I hope this hasn’t been a waste of my time.

        Probably with ‘seaice1’ it has been, but not for me, and I trust not for most other readers.

        That was an excellent comment. It deconstructs the alarmist nonsense, which is fueled by a mountain of grant money, but no credible science.

        It may not have been quite as apparent thirty years ago that the rise in CO2 has been a net benefit. But since then it has become increasingly obvious that more of that beneficial trace gas has held down food costs, and also that CO2 (at current concentrations) has no measurable effect on global temperatures. Nor, despite seaice1’s belief, has CO2 had any effect whatever on the amount of polar ice.

        Since 20X more CO2 resulted in a much healthier, more diverse biosphere in the past, and since 20X more CO2 did not cause runaway global warming (or any global warming, for that matter), it is only the money and politics that keeps the current “carbon” scare alive.

        That explains my disgust for people like ‘seaice1’, who totally avoid any scientific skepticism. They have an unspoken agenda, which has nothing to do with honest science.

      • Gary Pearce. My original point was that it is easy to see confirmation bias in others, whereas we all see our own quest as unbiased.
        ” except for the last several months, we have known no warming” Yet the peak temperatures after this recent El Nino are much warmer than the peak temperatures after the last similar El Nino. This is consistent with a rising trend with fluctuations. In order for Bob Tisdale to line up his graphs he needed to remove about 0.4C from the recent peak. This is not consistent with “no warming”. I don’t expect you to find this convincing, but it illustrates that even this simple statement is open to interpretation depending on your prior point of view.
        Skepticism is a requirement for honest enquiry. That includes skepticism about our own ability to remain aloof from bad reasoning.

      • @seaice,
        If there was a single thermometer that gave us a temperature, and it went up, it’s unambiguous, there was warming, but that isn’t the case, we have a lousy temperature record that has to be radically process to get that increase.
        I see easy ways that the process used on surface data could take a temporary spike and turn that into warming, but if you look at the day to day change, the derivative of daily temp change shows no loss of cooling.
        So even if there is warming, which isnt clear, it’s unlike from Co2.
        All of the other evidence could easily be the “warm” of the planet could and is just moving around.

  54. @Leo
    I’m still reading, and got work to do.
    If you haven’t run across him, you’d like reading some of Sascha Vongehr stuff.
    Wheeler’s Delayed Choice Experiment, to me shows that reality isn’t real, the future millisecond devolves into an infinite number of possible solutions, and I might even agree that the Universe is only the shared, agreed picture the collective draws on that cloud of nothing.

    Pragmatically, you get hit by a rock someone throws at you it really hurts.

  55. :-)

    Which is why I rejected pure Idealism from the start. There is whatever it is, something beyond merely MY mind and indeed other peoples’ minds, in play, with rules of its own.

    Or at least that seems to be the best way of relating to it.

  56. This is a great post, Thank you Mr Smith.
    As a 74 year old pop (poor old pensioner), I think it is incumbent on all our, especially, younger bloggers to support Anthony’s great website, and others which are on my favourites list. In not any particular order are :
    Bishop Hill, Andrew Bolt, Mark Stein, Paul Homewood, Pierre Gosseling, Marco Morano, Joanne nova,James Delingpole Briebart,Tony Goddard,Scottish Sceptics,Steve McIntire and greenie watch.
    This is by no means an exhaustive list of realist bloggers – just add your own.
    As a life long Catholic I can no longer abide with the pagan Gaian philosophy of the incumbent of Saint Peters chair in Rome. That said, it has been obvious that for many years the Catholic Church has gone down that road of apostasy.
    When the Catholic Church supports, abortion, population reduction and the denial of grown up energy to the poor of this world, then how can I, a life long Catholic, support this agenda.
    One of my hobbies is penning some indiscernible verse. The following should be read with access to the Club of Rome’s agenda to drag us all back to the dark ages

    Malthus Revisited.

    When birds begin to nestle
    We can tell that spring is near,
    A harbinger of summer
    Which has happened every year;
    Don’t heed Popes and scientists
    Who feed us with dread and drear,
    Birds and climate realists
    Know that cold is what we fear.

    The climate has been changing
    Before Adam was a boy,
    There’s only One can change it
    And it’s not you nor I;
    To try and prove the theory
    There is one thing you can try,
    Stop exhaling Co2
    Then see how long before you die.

    This Mann made global warming
    Is a theory with no proof,
    This world is not a greenhouse
    With a man made plastic roof;
    Just look at politicians
    Gather taxes and aloof,
    With Malthusian intent
    Global Warming is a spoof.

    A real scientist will allow
    Any peer to replicate,
    Their scientific findings
    – but revisit Climategate;
    Pseudo climate scientists
    Refuse options to debate,
    Global warming religion
    Is now rife in every State.

    To find the true Genesis
    Of the Global Warming goal.
    Read the Club of Rome’s agenda
    – human breeding to control;
    Population is a virus
    A threat to mother Gaia,
    To reverse human progress
    – they found their panacea.

  57. This reminds me of a couple of things:
    1. Curly’s (from City Slickers) “One True Thing”
    2. “But, how do you feel about 2 + 2 = 4?”

  58. I posted a comment here four times. Usually the moderator tells the author why a comment is withheld. I got nothing. I said nothing offensive, didn’t talk about anyone, only mentioned the sun as the driver of weather and climate. Was that it?

    • Bob, there are no other comments from you in moderation or in the spam bin. It was probably some sort of form submission failure with your browser, but that is just a guess.

      • Thank you Anthony. It was weird since I’ve always been posted before. I tested several times, including my hello below, and on a few other of your pages, primarily because I thought I was being moderated. So I’ll post the original comment again. While I momentarily have your attention- I’m writing something up for you.

  59. I do not understand this. I posted the same comment to the test page, and the same thing happened then as happened here, where even the 5th attempt had the same result. Anyway the comment was regarding the type I and type II errors that warmists made and their consequences.

  60. Greg April 1, 2016 at 2:39 am

    Willis, you are quite right and your resume of failure and dishonesty of climate science it quite succinct. But you are missing Leo’s point.

    It reminds me of something I read here a while back: sceptics are bringing a knife to gun fight. Leo’s point is that this is not about science ( despite the alarmists’ insistence that they have a science based case ).

    Environmentalism is a cultural movement, not a scientific one. You have about as much chance of tackling this with good science, or accusations of bad science, as you would have of convincing someone who is into the Church of Scientology that they have been mislead and brainwashed.

    As I mentioned above, I did not miss Leo’s point. Leo made a number of points. I responded to one of them, his strange claim that:

    We feel that Science is being usurped by imposters, who are almost perpetrating a modern form of black magic with its tenets, and yet we can’t actually say why they are wrong …

    by pointing out that in fact some of us know exactly “why they are wrong”.

    In response both you and Leo have accused me of ignoring the politico-religious aspects of environmentalism. Take a breath there, I don’t answer every point at once, and let me remind you that I have written extensively about environmentalism and environmental organizations, including among many others:

    Conservamentalism 2010-04-07

    I am surprised at the visceral nature of the rejection of the term “environmentalist”. I had not realized it had gotten that bad. I don’t think I’d want to be one of those if that’s how people feel. …

    NGOs: It’s Worse Than We Thought 2011-12-07

    The official numbers of partygoers to the 17th Conference of Parties in Durban, South Africa, shape up like this: Figure 1. Theoretical distribution of the 14,570 partygoers at the Durban 17th Conference of Partygoers. Numbers indicate total delegates from that group. Slightly more government delegates than NGO representatives. However, as in all things climate, it’s…

    How Environmental Organizations Are Destroying The Environment 2013-06-25

    The Washington Post reports: During an April visit to the San Francisco home of billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, who created a political action committee in March to target lawmakers supporting the Keystone pipeline, Obama noted that the issue of climate change “is near and dear” to Steyer and…

    Monetizing the Effects of Carbon 2013-01-11

    I see that the New York Times (NYT) is going to close their environmental desk. Given that there still are actual environmental problems on the planet, I consider the closing as a sad commentary on the hijacking of the environmental movement by carbon alarmists. CO2 alarmism has done huge damage…

    We Had To Pave The Environment In Order To Save It 2013-01-05

    Trading food for fuel, in a world where high food prices already affect the poor, has always seemed like a bad idea to me. If I have a choice between growing corn to fuel SUVs versus growing corn to make tortillas, to me that’s a no-brainer. I’ve known too many…

    I do have to laugh when people try to pull your kind of nonsense on me, claiming that I’m missing the point when in fact they just haven’t done their homework. I’m the one who has spent the last decade writing the posts and taking the heat for discussing the exact points that you foolishly claim I’m ignoring or missing or evading.

    So yes, Greg, environmentalism is not about science, these days it is mostly about religion … but I knew that already. Bear that in mind when you read my pieces about the environment, and you’ll see that I don’t approach posts about science the same way I approach posts about the environment.

    Best regards,

    w.

    PS—Accusing me of “bringing a knife to gun fight” is an accusation of stupidity, that I’m too dumb to see what is going on. Making that accusation is fine if you are right … but making that accusation when you haven’t done your own homework, as you did?

    Well, that’s about as dumb as bringing a knife to a gun fight …

  61. Mr. Smith:
    I worked with engineers for 27 years, and then retired at a very young age.
    Engineers tend to be comfortable with numbers, charts, data and physical things.
    An engineer writing a column about philosophy seems to be a mistake.
    You are what engineers I knew used to call a: “pointy head with too many years of edumacation”

    Your first sentence is a WHOLE PARAGRAPH.
    Many of your sentences are two, three or four normal sentences combined with commas.
    You may be a good engineer, but are one of the worst writers I’ve (tried) to read in years.
    I tried three times so far, but can’t get through your essay.

    I’ll present my own view of “climate science”,
    and just wondered if we have any thoughts in common:

    The “climate science” presented by politicians and the UN is not real science.

    The “scientists” and their climate models are props paid for by governments who want scary climate predictions.

    Politicians and UN officials want more control over the private sector of their economies.

    When called socialism, some people object.

    When called “Saving the Earth”, fewer people object.

    Most people don’t realize this is a new way to “sell” socialism: “Save the Earth (Socialism)”.

    Politicians claim don’t WANT more power to tell everyone else how to live, fill their pockets with Dollars, and enrich their “green industry” political supporters — only bad people would want that.

    Politicians want you to know they are good people — they NEED more power ONLY because they want to save the Earth from a coming climate change catastrophe … caused by that dreaded boogeyman: CARBON POLLUTION (scary music here).

    Politicians adopted a centuries-old principle that religious leaders have used to gain power:
    — Scare people enough about something bad coming in the future, and you can control them now.

    Religious leaders have their own particular “boogeyman” … hell !

    Religious right-wing political leaders used to have the “communism” boogeyman, and now they have the “global Islamic terrorism” boogeyman.

    Secular left-wing political leaders have their “climate change” boogeyman (formerly called “global cooling”, until it started warming … and then called “global warming”, until there was a pause)

    Real climate science concerns itself with climate history and the current climate.

    The future climate is unknown, and may be unknowable.

    How is it possible to “study” the future climate, and make predictions of the future climate, without a climate physics model that explains the causes of climate change?

    Without a correct climate physics model, forecasts the future climate are wild guesses.

    So far, climate modelers and their GCMs seem to be wasting taxpayers’ money.

    But even if we have a good climate physics model someday, it may still be impossible to forecast the future climate.

    Good science does not require a correct forecast of the near future to prove the science is correct.

    In your essay I read:
    “Science isn’t true, it’s what works to predict the future, and if it fails to work, it’s not Science any more.”
    This statement is not true.

    — Many things in life are not predictable, and will never be predictable.

    —- We may someday discover some characteristic of the Sun is responsible for all long-term climate change on Earth = we will then have the science 100% right … but if that solar characteristic had irregular, non-cyclical variations, we still would not be able to predict the climate!

    — There may be climate cycles that happen so far in the future, it could take hundreds of years to find out that a perfectly accurate forecast made today … was correct.

    So far we know 40 years of forecasts, from climate modelers and their confuser models, have been so far from reality … that the people who own the models have become desperate — they have resorted to repeatedly changing historical temperature data (which, unfortunately, they also own) to make their forecasts look better.

    That’s bad science, but it doesn’t matter, because climate change is mainly politics.

    My climate blog for non-scientists
    Free – No ads – No money for me.
    A public service
    http://www.elOnionBloggle.Blogspot.com

    • Your view of climate science is based on you projecting onto the scientists and policy makers. I can do the same the other way, and say that climate doubters (for a shorthand term) want to carry on using cheap fossil fuels with a clear conscience so they don’t have to pay for damaging others in the future.

      See – we can both justify our position by recourse to assumptions about the motivations of others. It is just storytelling, and means very little.

      “Your first sentence is a WHOLE PARAGRAPH.”
      Not necessarily a problem. Have you seen the first sentence of Robinson Crusoe? It is also a whole paragraph.
      I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho’ not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull: He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my Mother, Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family at Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Keutznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our Selves, and writer Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call’d me.

      Goodness, they could handle sub-clauses back then.

      • YOU WROTE:
        “Your view of climate science is based on you projecting onto the scientists and policy makers. I can do the same the other way, and say that climate doubters (for a shorthand term) want to carry on using cheap fossil fuels with a clear conscience so they don’t have to pay for damaging others in the future.”

        MY REPLY:
        I do not have a “view” of climate science.

        I do not “believe” in a coming climate catastrophe.

        Science is not a field that needs “views” and “beliefs”.

        I do have a view on why climate modelers,
        who seem to think they are the only “climate scientists” in the world,
        keep making wild guess predictions about the future climate,
        that have been inaccurate for 40 years,
        in spite of having no proof of what actually causes climate change,
        and no evidence that much higher CO2 levels in Earth’s climate history
        have EVER caused runaway warming.

        My hypothesis is that some scientists will say whatever they are required to say to get government salaries and grants.

        My experience is that politicians like having a “crisis”, real or imaginary, that can “fight” and be heroes!

        left-wing governments that wanted a “crisis” would only hire scientists who predict a “crisis”, and the result is bad science … because there is too much confirmation bias to keep the coming climate catastrophe predictions “alive”.

        This is one possible logical explanation of why such poor climate science comes from people with science degrees who should know better.

        (1) There is no scientific proof that CO2 has caused any of the warming in the past 150 years.
        (2) There is also no evidence that the warming since 1850 has been bad news.

        Government scientists ignore facts (1) and (2).
        That is bad science.

  62. Leo,

    I find much of your reasoning reasonable ; ) but some I find rather . . fanciful. For instance;

    “And that in the end is the only defence Science has to offer. Not that it’s true, or has any ‘truth content’ at all – although some still claim that the fact that it works is ‘strong evidence’ that its ‘true’ more or less – but that it works.”

    You’ve made a sort of entity out of “Science”, it seems, and that is just plain silly to me. There is no such beast, you’re imagining things, as I see the world I find myself in. There are people who do scientific experiments and such, and people who publish papers, people who sit on boards, apply for grants, etc, but no “thing” that exists independently of the people, which is “Science”, I say. (It seems almost an imitation of “the body of Christ” idea one sees in the Book . . to me.)

    And this quasi entity status given to “Science”, seems to me to be ruthlessly exploited by some (including some “climate scientists” in the case in point), through associative presumptions others make. Those called scientist are essentially presumed to be imbued with a sort of reverence and integrity, via occult like forces, that are totally unscientific.

    And this leads people to be baffled by something like the CAGW, as though it couldn’t simply be the handiwork of liars and cheats. like one sees routinely in organized crime . . Like all scientists are angels and saints or whatever, by some magical power. Science as “Savior” essentially. It’s a false religion to me.

  63. It generally is best to limit insight to a few key points; much easier to establish agreement, indifference, or rejection by one’s peers. So, with that in mind…

    I think you are misconstruing Ockham’s Razor, which was intended to be a guiding architectural principle for the construction of hypotheses, not a means of judging anything. (It is cheerfully being ignored by the cosmological-astrophysics community, lusting after cosmological recession, dark matter, and dark energy.)

    Apart from the subjective idea that “it works” will be evident to an “impartial” observer, there is one axiomatic principle without which science cannot even begin, namely: Thou shalt not bear false evidence. This is an ethical or moral principle, and is the starting point. Without it, “science” is a waste of time…because there is no possibility of constructing a theory that “works.” (Science is not the product of a single hermit genius living out an eternal lifespan. It is the product of society after society, having many practitioners, whose lives become libraries and knowledge passed from generation to generation.) I should think this principle excludes “climate science” from further consideration. (Humorous aside: I almost wrote “client science; it may have been closer to the truth.)

    Evolution is at best a hypothesis. A theory requires mathematical rigor and quantitative prediction. But it is a laughable hypothesis, since it is overthrown by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Can’t expect the emergence of order (reduction of entropy) out of a constant-temperature random process. Too much “workable” physics and engineering behind the 2nd Law (my background). An important part of science is that any new discovery must cohere with the rest of what is known. Difficulties over this point form controversies of unsettled science. Another deficit of “climate science.”

    • You should look up the second law. It refers to a closed system. Evolution does not contradict this, since the entropy of the sun increases more than enough to compensate for the decrease in entropy from our local organisation into complex forms. That you are prepared to reject evolution on such flimsy grounds does not inspire confidence in your rejection of climate science.

      • Well, let’s see… You don’t contest my first two sentences, so you concede that evolution is only an hypothesis

        This brings us to whether evolution is consistent with the 2nd Law (no spontaneous reduction of entropy), and you make reference to the interplanetary environment as voiding the description of the Earth as a closed system. Actually, it is a closed system; it has no material connection to anything else (excluding the accumulation of meteoric dust as a negligible effect). You are probably referring to the work of Ilya Prigogine in the mid-19670s (when I first read of it), where he showed how pockets of reduced entropy could be produced so long as there was a stream of power between two temperature reservoirs. This allowed consideration of the Earth’s hydrosphere and atmosphere as a heat engine, resulting in (e.g.) natural refrigeration processes (reduction of entropy). I admire the singular beauty of a snowflake as much as anyone.

        But a snowflake is not a living being.

        Let us first get something clear, or we will get ensnared in equivocation. “Evolution” is often taken to mean that, in all the vastness of life, more complex living beings will emerge into the biosphere as time progresses. I think this is a fair description of its popular meaning as a phenomenon. But what evolutionists really mean as “evolution” is not the phenomenon, but its explanation–which they take to consist of (1) random mutation, and (2) “natural selection.” Any thoughtful person can appreciate that “evolution” in the first sense does not inevitably lead to this preferred process (it could alternatively lead to Lamarckian evolution, for instance). Or iterations of intelligent design.

        I enjoy paraphrasing the above evolutionist position as: “It all happens by accident–somehow. …So long as we have something living to start with.”

        Yes, evolutionists have no story for the origin of life. Darwin had to assume it as a starting point. But, let us proceed. Random processes lead only to statistical dissipation, or the reduction of order. It is a virtual definition of a random process that it is the highest entropy state of a system, thus going in the wrong direction from the outset. What does this mean in living beings? “Random mutation” is, simply, radiation damage. The evolutionist message is that improved beings are forced into existence by radiation damage. If there are any examples of this, I’m sure the world at large would like to know. Mutated fruit flies are not an encouraging menagerie to contemplate.

        And what about natural selection? Or, better to ask: “What natural selection?” Have you ever looked at the variety of life in nature? The only lesson I can draw is that EVERYTHING thrives. If everything thrives, then virtually anything can thrive, and there is no selection, nor even preference. (Not to mention that the term “selection” involves the smuggled concept of a Selector and Criteria, neither of which exists, according to the evolutionists. An intelligent designer would make more sense.) The hollowness of this notion of “selection” is illustrated by the question of whether human beings are more “evolved” than bacteria. The usual evolutionist argument is that population dominance is the natural selector. So, it turns out that (according to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge) the biomass of bacteria on Earth exceeds that of all other living beings. But do we think of bacteria as being more evolved? I think not. So what was that waste of time and effort on the part of Nature, to “evolve” human beings, if we are of no account in the population of living beings?

        It all happens by accident–somehow. This is truly flimsy ground, and it is incumbent on the proposer of an hypothesis to bear the burden of proof. Arrogant puffing is not argument, there is no theory, and genetic damage cannot be the basis for genetic improvement.

  64. I must say, Avery good philosophical explanation,of “what is the truth” or not…:)

    But if I may add a point….of my own view, in a philosophical approach……….is the always back of the mind dilemma or question…” what is really morality”, does it really count or not, is it simply really and only a social construct product or more than that, more like a product of social affairs in a given natural environment!!
    Is it a fancy or a complete choice of humanity to have and act upon it or is it somehow one of the means borned and existing within the means of evolution and survival….which we in principle can not actually truly escape from….
    Do humans know to swim because they some time upon fancied to, liked to and chose to or simply because the humans actually had to…….which is which………..for many the swimming is not a must of survival at some point anymore…..due to the better and easier conditions offered by the civic evolution at this point.

    The point raised means that, if we can not properly anymore address the meaning of the concept “morality”, can we really pretend that it will be acted upon without any abuse and deception because in our modern world there is a lot of room to exploit it with no much regard, with no care and no regard that there still could be some limits which accordingly may actually back fire and cause at times in an “unprecedented” way problems in the social life and affairs of humanity if “trespassed” !

    Just a thought anyway…

    cheers

  65. Leo Smith: ‘That is, we know our experience is limited, and less than the whole, and filtered by our own cultural prejudices, but that is all we have to go on.’

    This is a reasonable, if unremarkable, set of claims about the human psyche. I support this statement, within reason, and admire its modesty and humility about the limits of knowledge.

    From the supporting comments, I assume the author also agrees with these sentiments, especially since he says they are his solution to the problem of the claim of reality as a social construct.

    What is not clear is how these claims support this statement:

    ‘They either don’t know that they are lying, or they actually don’t care if they are lying, because lying actually gets them, personally, a better life, than the truth!’

    The author has agreed that he has only limited experience, filtered through his own cultural prejudices, and nothing else. And yet he is able to make claims that imply a high level of certainty about the states of minds of others.

    The author needs to show the connection between these two statements, in a way that preserves the meaning of both of them.

    (Merely pointing to ‘evidence’ of ‘corruption’ and the like cannot resolve this issue, because that would merely beg the question. The issue here isn’t the evidence, but rather how we trust and interpret the evidence given that our experience is filtered through our cultural prejudices.)

    • Brendan H. I agree with what you have said. The essay seems to switch from an interesting discussion of philosophical matters (with which I have much agreement) to a point of view, and there is not much connection between the two.

      • seaice1: ‘The essay seems to switch from an interesting discussion of philosophical matters (with which I have much agreement) to a point of view, and there is not much connection between the two.’

        It’s a fairly common human practice to slip from description to judgement without realising we’ve made the jump.

        The interesting thing about this essay is that the author has consciously tried to detail and explain the various assumptions and biases underlying human thought, but nevertheless seems to fall into the very errors he describes.

        I say ‘seems’, because I could well be wrong, and the author has made a connection that has slipped my notice.

  66. I enjoyed the post a lot… thanks.

    I’m curious as to whether we CAN find a morality we can use and that might have a universal application.

    Looking at children, they are born curious and adaptable – you can turn a child into almost anything if you work at it and it takes some years of careful indoctrination to cure them of the native wonder with which they arrive.

    It seems to me, if we have a purpose, it is to learn the world we entered and given how many unique views there are, it would appear (if we have a purpose at all) we are here to learn every possible view of that world.

    So, maybe morality is the measure of how much an action aids or impedes the drive to learn? This would fit with the general idea we seem to have that oppression is wrong, even if we usually only see oppression ‘over there’ and ignore what is being done in ‘our’ society.

    This would make modern schools a very immoral choice for our society and help explain why we are (in general) turning out graduates with far less useful knowledge than we did a generation or more ago. We have very few who will questions the current ‘consensus’ in any field when it is clear the ‘Authority’ favours a specific PoV and ‘Climate Science’ is only the most glaring example of this.

    • MarkMcD
      April 1, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      I enjoyed the post a lot… thanks.

      I’m curious as to whether we CAN find a morality we can use and that might have a universal application.
      ———————————————-
      Hello Mark.

      In my view point and in my world or my own perception of reality, which actually it means that I still could be wrong, the morality still is a quantifiable entity as anything else, so to speak still it can be addressed and weighted through the” empirical’ angle,,,,, it could still be considered as a metric in assessments regarding human affairs and humans behavior in the prospect of social and civic progress….that is what all about it was always and still is.

      As far as I can tell there is a lot of examples through the human history to show that the morality has being considered and played as a real metric in human affairs……..

      For example lets take the USA, the most powerful nation in the world as per now.
      Its constitution and the legislation is very well orientated to the basics of what we call the human “morality”.
      At this point no much can be said or extrapolated as per considering the “morality” as a metric.
      But lets look at history.

      Galileo, is a very good example…. the Catholic church could not even find him guilty of heresy, even when his claims undermined the fundamentals of Catholicism itself more than anyone before him so plainly, simply because, regardless how wrong Galileo could have being with his conclusions, his science was basic and empirical in substance and very easy to replicate, therefore applying the metric of morality and find him immoral and sinful (a heretic therefor) would have made the case that the possible truth through simple scientific observation (experience) and empirical evidence would belong to immorality, sin and therefor the devil himself, and completely contrary to what the scriptures claimed.

      So the Galileo case is an example to show that science, science research and the scientific method are no subject to the metric of “morality, therefor can be considered in principal as “amoral”, no subject to the morality metric. That is what actually in principle “amoral” means to me….no subject whatsoever to the judgment through what we call “morality”
      So the straggle and the scientific endeavor towards the learning and the better comprehension of reality and environment in principle are no subject as to such as “morality” and generally are considered as “amoral”………

      Another example will be Oppenheimer, if I am not wrong………..regardless of what seems to be that science is “amoral”, and therefor Oppenheimer science and engineering under such circumstances could not be considered and “judged” through the “morality” metric under any circumstances that still did not stop him from doing just that and claiming that he became a destroyer of worlds, a destroyer of worlds in plural never the less.
      We know that not to be the truth (in our experience) in anyway, regardless of the claim.

      At most he was a beautiful scientifically oriented mind, not a dark “angel” or a dark “god” engaged in some way with destruction of worlds….but never the less through, I would say his own vanity, he applied the morality metric and declared himself a destroyer of worlds and ending up to be an example of immorality by his own judgement on himself, contrary to the truth that he was just another human ……doing his best in accordance with his own nature and character…..as all the rest has actually always done…..

      On my view point, considering your own self to be superior to other humans, or considering other humans as lesser, for whatever condition taken in account, even when considering your own intellect and IQ, gets you to be considered as under evaluation of what we call “morality”, and most probably than not will be that you are immoral in principle…..

      Considering that something can be and should be done because simply is within the powers and means of you doing it, or because every one else would have done the same under same circumstances while this projects a given profiteering or wanted and wished outcome with no regard at all for other conditions related, could very well be considered as immoral…..and showing or explaining the criminal intent at least in your own actions.

      In this context immoral means considering the “truth” to be and propagated as such in away against the “realistic” experience of what have being shown to work throughout all the history of experience that actually in the end happens to define your own life and existence…….simply because for a moment you happen to think and believe that you know better by a way of mass and industrial scale application of what you consider as a scientific discovery and in the same time consider that any one else under such conditions would do or would have done the same, and be completely justified in and by your own view point regardless of the environment you deal in ……..and that could very well mean that you do not care about the morality and therefor the “criminality” of your own acts………Hitler and Nazis come first at mind but that is not the only and an isolated case in human history, about genocide and crimes against humanity……..a product of an act of a wide scale social experiment in the bettering of humanity, still claimed to be based in some scientific research and discovery….and justified as a must be done…

      Is no any problem with morality as per scientific research and scientific application, what could make it immoral and criminal at the same time is the way and the excuses and justifications when a scientific discovery or knowledge from science is applied to a mass production and in an industrial scale with no regard, or when it tries to effect national or international policy in the given subject with no regard that the main drive is not even based in science or the scientific method but rather in dogma and ideology as such as ” saving the world” or destroying it.
      Either claiming that you are a destroyer of worlds or you are and belong with the “savers of the world” is no any much different, it is plainly immoral, in the verge of being criminal in essence…..or even insane at given degree of it…
      Megalomania is a very clear expression of immorality as far as I can tell..
      Immorality and crime are not very much different to each other, even in a given different scale or in a different perceived impact as……..the only difference in between is the excuse behind the act or the acts in consideration….and the time required to distinguish or appropriate in between the two…..

      It is a confusing issue yes..:)

      cheers

  67. In my view, you presented a lot of wisdom in this essay. I enjoyed reading it, and as others above, I will also keep it for later. Here are a few favorite quotes:

    “What is actually the deductible corollary of the Theory of Evolution, is that it only leads to eradication of that which is so counter-survival, that the young of the species do not live long enough to reproduce themselves.”

    ‘That which persists, is that which is not sufficiently dysfunctional to create its own downfall‘

    “Put your trust in what works. Not because its true, but because is isn’t demonstrably false. Yet.”

    «My attempts may well be amateurish, but where are your superior ones?

    What is noteworthy to me is the way you apply an evolutionary principle to ideas. In my view this is also what Karl Popper did. In my favorite take away from Karl Popper The logic of scientific discovery (First 26 pages contains the essence) , he clearly applies an evolutionary principle also to ideas:
    “what characterizes the empirical method is its manner of exposing to falsification, in every conceivable way, the system to be tested. Its aim is not to save the lives of untenable systems but … exposing them all to the fiercest struggle for survival.”

    Popper found out how we have to deal with the problem of induction. An idea is corroborated by the severity of the tests it has been exposed to and survived, not at all by inductive reasoning in favor of it – the idea should therefor be recognized by the conditions and the tests it has survived. And this is where I think climate science has failed. The climate science industry has not exposed the methods, ideas, hypothesis and models to the fiercest struggle for survival. Too much has survived.

    Hence, I agree with gnomish that the problem of induction is essential. To me the problem of induction is the root cause for discomfort with climate science. I think you should pay more attention to the problem of induction in your essay.

    If I may put forward a wish to you, it would be that you continue your work on this essay. I wish that you in consider to pay blood, sweat and tears in deleting every word and every sentence which isn´t absolutely necessary in putting forward the essence of your ideas. I wish that you follow the advice from Willis to develop the elevator speech version of this essay. I will look forward to read that version. The essence of your ideas is what I think I would like to bring forward to my children as a pragmatic perspective on our society.

    I definitely think of you as a philosopher – and I´m also wondering: Where are the superior ones.
    And, by the way, I think the essay would be better without any mentioning of God.
    All the best :)
    Science or Fiction

    • ooh- i can make one positive comment on the essay –
      Recognition that ‘survival of the marginally fit’ is NOT the operating principle that governs evolution is excellent.
      ‘extinction of the unfit’ is, in fact, the operating principle.

      There was a fellow named andy who occasionally posted here. His theme was ‘memes’, which most specifically applies a recapitulation of evolutionary principles to the entities called ‘ideas’
      This is also an excellent observation because, in fact, the mind does recapitulate the functions of dna.
      i.e., stores information, reproduces information with mutations, terminates the bearer if/when it fails a critical margin call by reality.
      Ideas do what dna does and recapitulate the pattern of virtues/vices with the same values. Its adaptive significance (of a mind) is that it does everything faster than a helix of codons can do.
      The observation that ‘falsification’ (for the popper freaks) extinguishes an idea in one’s mind is a recapitulation of the evolutionary scheme, i.e.: ‘extinction of the unfit’

      Please do note that these evaluations (fitness, truth) are hardly matters of opinion. Extinction is the end of the line, quite real and final.
      There is no call for mysticism in such matters. Asking ‘why’ implies purpose and is inapplicable. Ask ‘how is it that?’ to find objective relationships that are not supernatural.

      And finally- something Leo hasn’t grokked –
      Language recapitulates the entire scheme on the next level.
      The adaptive significance is the same but a new and awesome functionality appears (for a wondrous new user experience!) by virtue of the fact that WORDS (not freakin grunts) can be used to perform LOGIC (the science of non-contradictory identification) upon the conceptual entities the MIND has abstracted from reality.
      Logic is used to make proofs. It is as exact as any math, whether anybody understand it or denies it.
      This is where WORDS matter. If you don’t have proper definitions for your symbols, then whatever you are doing with them is not REASONING.

      Leo’s idea that words have very flexible meanings is like having a belief that the number 2 is not precisely definable and therefore might be equal to 1 or 3 depending upon the narrative. (and yet he is pretending to use words to prove this, ffs)
      That is how to fail at math and fail at logic and fail at philosophy. (and yes- there’s more!)

      Those who fail sometimes try to become teachers. I hate that. It’s false, bad and wrong.
      These evaluations are not matters of opinion, either. Observe:.
      2+2 is not ‘depends…’ That is false. It is a lie.
      Decisions based in any way on lies will be inaccurate. The outcome isn’t harmless.
      The main tool of survival for H. sapiens is his mind, therefore impairment of minds is an act of war upon him.

      Sorry for this wall of text. I’m guilty of a sermon. For penance, I’ll do some extra stfu

      • gnomish: ‘Leo’s idea that words have very flexible meanings is like having a belief that the number 2 is not precisely definable and therefore might be equal to 1 or 3 depending upon the narrative.’

        The difference between words and numbers is that numbers gain precision at the expense of meaning, while words gain meaning at the expense of precision.

        Apart from iconic terms such as ‘9/11’, everyday numbers have limited meaning. That is their advantage. They can be teamed with any number of words − two tables, two apples, two giraffes – while retaining their precision.

        The power of words is their flexibility. This flexibility enables us, for example, to talk about ‘impairment of minds’ being ‘an act of war’, even though such an act is very different from, say, Pearl Harbor.

        Let us celebrate, rather than bemoan, the flexibility of words.

      • Brendan- let me draw your attention to the fact that ‘two’ is a freakin word. It’s value as a word is a result of having a precise definition so it can be used as a tool of cognition.

        Note, also, that any and every proof of any and every kind is composed of freakin words used to perform logic.
        A proof is not even possible without precise and non-contradictory definitions.

        Logic can not be performed with vague, ambiguous and undefined. That’s how your thesis is self contradictory and therefore can not honestly be presented as truth.
        No, let’s not celebrate that.

      • Good point gnomish. Indeed, we may have archaic, redundant, troublesome appendages, like the appendix, but heck our brilliant minds have devised medicine and surgery to correct the flotsam and jetsam of evolutionary incompleteness. I am the beneficiary of two plastic lenses with which I can read a licence plate at a hundred yards and spectacles that can read the fine print on an insurance policy. I also have a pear of the latest hear aid teck and can hear as well as I ever could. There are people running the hundred metres on artificial legs faster than those with real legs! Living to be a 100 isn’t even newsworthy, another trip and a half around the sun and I’ll be 80% there.

        We have largely replaced the slow pace of evolution with our own technological evolution that is able to fix our faults, enhance our survival, adjustment ourselves to our environment and even adjust our environment.

      • Gary,
        I’ve been telling my kids (25-34) for 20 years they could live forever.
        Heck if I get lucky I might at 57, another 20 or so might get me 40 or 50, that’ll likely get me as long as I want.

      • I agree – I think.
        I admit that inductive reasoning can be used to come up with a hypothesis. I also admit that the scientist can dream it, guess it, overhear it on the bus, pull it out of a hat, read it in a book, get it from a misunderstanding of what is read in a book, being told by his wife that it just works that way, find a correlation by statistical means, find a correlation by multivariate analysis, find a correlation by artificial intelligence, find that any other explanation seems absurd – or whatever. (Artificial intelligence may still be a little bit too far fetched.)

        The point is – it doesn´t really matter how an idea is born. What matters, is how the idea is treated after it has been born. As soon as a scientific idea has been born, the scrutiny should start.

  68. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:

    Weighty, insightful, straight, I could add more.

    I found the article and many of the comments well worth my time.

    We engineers tend to focus on what works. What doesn’t work is Green policy and politics, as Willis has so often pointed out.

    I found it worth reading, and worth rereading. It is good to think things through deeply.

    As to morality, I think the Hebrew prophet Micah got it best:
    You know, meer mortal what is good. God has shown it to you. So, live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

    Honesty and openness follow from that. Liberty and minding own business follow from that. In short, it works.

    • as to morality –
      morality is the science of evaluating alternatives to make choices.
      evaluation requires a standard of values.

      define that standard and the principles become evident.
      horse pulls cart, eh

      without principles, all you have is authority and obedience, so make the wise choice because the consequences can not be escaped.

  69. Another aspect of the ‘Climate change philosophy’ is that anyone promoting carbon neutral polices is given a waiver to disregard safety legislation that applies to the rest of us.

    Since the promotion of cycling by the Greens, we’ve had an ongoing problem with reckless riding, especially shooting stop signals, failure to wear safety gear and being lightless at night.

    As to why they’re being allowed to disregard safety rules like this, seems to be a case of ‘green’ promotion groups wanting to present a utopian image of cycling as the ideal mode of transport, something that is done in ordinary clothes, needs no training or licence, that needs no special protective gear, and is perfectly safe.

  70. I’m not going to cut and paste here, but the first part of this essay says something like: There is one important difference about science …. it works! (I think the exclamation point *is* a direct quote, but “whatever”). But, the rest of the essay, and the invocation of Kant, especially, completely undercuts this point, since according to Kant’s epistemology, it is not possible to be sure that what you are observing is real.

    Our minds view reality through a filter, says Kant, which assures (!) us there will always be doubt about any conclusion we might come to. Given this, how do you know that you predicted the future correctly? Indeed, how do you know when the future has arrived? Wait, how do you know Kant himself (or Putnam, if you choose), is correct? Kant leads to scientific skepticism just as surely as he leads to moral skepticism.

    The next section on (practically perfect) moral skepticism then takes this to its logical conclusion – we all must do (or will end up doing, or some such) only what “feels good” at the moment, since that is, in essence, all that is available to us, with our impotent minds. So, we can’t blame the masses for being unable (or unwilling) to analyze the claims of the catastrophic warmists. Instead, we need to wait until the economic/energy disaster is put in place through political coercion, and then, seeing the immediate impact on their own existence, everyone will change their opinion. Or, maybe we can get them to change their opinion now, by scaring them into believing that disaster will follow from the warmist policies. Ah yes, the old “scare ’em more than the other guy” strategy.

    As others above have noted, there is an antidote to this muddle, and it is Ayn Rand’s Objectivist epistemology. She proved that (and how) our minds are capable of grasping reality, and, importantly, that this capability also enables us to choose right from wrong, properly understood (hint – the proper understanding does not involve a supernatural entity). Once you understand her, you will see the connection between “is and ought”. That she is ignored or vilified by today’s intellectual mainstream is evidence that she is on to something important.

    As a special bonus, reading Rand will help you to clarify in your mind the difference between metaphysics and epistemology.

  71. Mike Jonas April 2, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    It is possible that both Willis and Leo are right (well at least partly)! It’s just that neither has identified exactly what they mean by “wrong”. Willis is right in pointing out that the climate modellers are wrong because their methods are wrong and their attitude is corrupt. But Leo is right in saying that we can’t prove they are wrong, in the somewhat narrower sense that we can’t prove their results are wrong. To any scientist, it is enough – or should be enough – that the methods are wrong, because in science that is sufficient to render results unusable. But in climate science, the inability of others to prove that their results are wrong has corruptly been used to promote bad science.

    Wait, wait, wait … “Leo is right in saying that we can’t prove they are wrong”??? Say what?

    First off, we can indeed show that the results of the alarmist scientists and modellers are wrong, in a whole host of ways (because of bad math, bad logic, bad data, bad results, computer bugs, improper statistics, inappropriate methods, the list is long).

    Next, we can show that some of their claims are not falsifiable even in theory, and thus are demonstrably not valid scientific propositions.

    Finally, we can show that the predictions they’ve made based on their claims and models have provably not come true. Sea levels hasn’t overtopped Manhattan, coral atolls haven’t sunk, we haven’t seen the fifty million climate refugees promised by 2010, the models wildly overestimated the 21st century actual warming, the list is long.

    So I don’t have a clue what you mean when you and Leo claim that somehow scientific propositions are not falsifiable. What am I missing here?

    w.

    • I also chaffed on that in Leo’s essay, he seems to say falsification doesn’t matter even when demonstrated, for disagreement continues. That it is the willingness to ignore facts that matters more. That it is a matter of agreeing to agree, to disagree, about the results of testing, even when the results are clear and repeatable. The fact is an “honest scientist (TM)”, with be on the lookout for their own delusions regarding acceptance of anything the hold to be correct, and be more interested in efforts to test and disprove a hypothesis, than to promote a potentially false one, and discount falsifications, and discount room for significant doubt about claims (calling it ‘settled’, when honest scientist (TM), knows a final word is not possible and not a known). Yet Leo also says the saving grace and consequential difference here is that real science actually works, actually predicts, actually can be tested and validated.

      So the one that works is valid science, and the one that doesn’t, isn’t valid science.

      A proof and a dis-proof!

      So how is it not already dis-proven Leo? The claimant has to provide the proof of the claim, and they haven’t. The claimant is also supposed to provide the disproof of the claim, and they haven’t.

      But dis-proof has been provided, despite their failure to do so, or to accept being wrong. Whose the denier? Them? You?

      Surely not the one who provides the dis-proof, but is merely ignored on the grounds of being out of step with a fake consensus?

      • One group looks at Co2 in a lab, and says, the physics of Co2 prove if it increases in the atm, it will cause warming.
        The second group looks at the warming, and the hypothesis that the physics of Co2 causes warming in the atm, and compares the model to the measurements, and find that the warming demanded is not what’s happening, so must be wrong.
        Each side claims the other has blinders on.

      • It’s not just about physics theory of CO2. It’s the observations that don’t track this supposed physics predictions (as doesn’t their doom propaganda, as Co2 produces greening and higher biomass i.e. it’s both falsified, and hysteria). And it’s not even just for the ‘hiatus’, and not just for the past 1k years, but for the entire Quaternary’s CO2 rise and subsequent fall oscillations, which have lagged long behind each defrosting cycle, not lead them.

        So the proposition CO2 as a GH gas is a primary driver of planetary climate state and trend, and a primary warmer of the planet is falsified on all time scales.

        At best CO2 has a limited secular g/h effect that’s not even in any sort of conformity with the actual predictive CO2 GCM models.

        What’s worse is all modern temp observations are consistent with the natural variability range of prior weather and climate cycles that we know about.

        The CO2 theory has been tested and it just doesn’t work and it doesn’t fit the climate data we have, as a driver of planetary warming.

    • “So I don’t have a clue what you mean when you and Leo claim that somehow scientific propositions are not falsifiable.”

      If I may, I would like to add to your statement above, that regarding truth and falsity I think Karl Popper has got this properly covered in his masterpiece: The logic of scientific discovery.

      My perspective of Poppers scientific method is simply put this:
      1 A well defined idea – a hypothesis, theory or what you will – is proposed. The idea is still tentative.
      2 Testable predictions are deduced from the tentative idea and previously accepted statements.
      3 We expose the tentative idea to testing and observe whether the predictions are true within stated uncertainties
      4 If the predictions are false, we conclude that the tentative idea is false, it is not delivering what it promised
      5 If the predictions are true, that doesn’t show the theory is true, or even probably true. All we can say is that the theory has so far passed the tests of it under those conditions.

      The point made by Karl Popper is that an idea can be falsified, it can be proven wrong. Hence a scientific idea must be falsifiable, it must be testable. If not, it is not a scientific idea. He realized that an idea is merited by the conditions and the tests it has been exposed to and survived. the attempts of falsification it has been exposed to and survived. And not at all by inductive reasoning in favor of it.

      No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.
      – Albert Einstein

      Karl Popper solved the problem of induction. His method does not rely on induction. His method rely on deduction and observation.

      As Karl Popper phrased it :
      “From a new idea, put up tentatively, and not yet justified in any way—an anticipation, a hypothesis, a theoretical system, or what you will— conclusions are drawn by means of logical deduction.»
      Necessary consequences of the theory are predicted. If the prediction fails, the idea is wrong. (To be more precise, If repeated experiments demonstrate that the predictions differs from the observations by more than the stated uncertainty limits. The idea is wrong.)

      Theoretically, the proponents of the theory can evade falsification. As Phrased by Popper:
      “it is still impossible, for various reasons, that any theoretical system should ever be conclusively falsified. For it is always possible to find some way of evading falsification, for example by introducing ad hoc an auxiliary hypothesis, or by changing ad hoc a definition. It is even possible without logical inconsistency to adopt the position of simply refusing to acknowledge any falsifying experience whatsoever. Admittedly, scientists do not usually proceed in this way, but logically such procedure is possible»

      Consequently, the stratagem to evade falsification by changing definitions or adding ad hoc hypothesis are prohibited by Popper´s scientific method:
      “the .. method shall be characterized as a method that excludes precisely those ways of evading falsification which … are logically possible. According to my proposal, what characterizes the empirical method is its manner of exposing to falsification, in every conceivable way, the system to be tested. Its aim is not to save the lives of untenable systems but … exposing them all to the fiercest struggle for survival.»

      So, can’t a theory be altered then? Of course it can, but if the theory, definitions or hypothesis are changed – the validity of previous tests are nullified. The tests will have to be reconsidered to check if they are still valid.

      The consequence of the above is that it requires an extremely high degree of integrity to be a good scientist.

      (All quotes from The logic of scientific discovery – First 26 pages contains the essence)

      • Evidence will do.

        During the Quaternary glacial to interglacial changes the defrosting starts before CO2 starts rising, and the warming flattens and/or declines before the CO2 has stopped rising.

        If people ignore that fact they’re flogging a dead horse. Reforming a theory does not mean the theory shouldn’t be discarded unless and until claimants have clear evidence and not just an unclear unsupported reformatted theory.

  72. gnomish : ‘Brendan- let me draw your attention to the fact that ‘two’ is a freakin word. It’s [sic] value as a word is a result of having a precise definition so it can be used as a tool of cognition.’

    The word ‘two’ refers to the number 2. The word is not the same as the mathematical concept.

    Consider: in Spanish, the English word ‘two’ is rendered as ‘dos’. But Spanish-speakers have the same mathematical concept 2 as do English-speakers.

    The precision is with the number, not the word.

  73. so, let’s see if i’m getting this-
    ‘two’ is not a word because it’s a number…
    ‘red’ is not a word because it’s a color…
    ‘fish’ is not a word cuz it’s a smell…

    the precision is in the definition which is what makes it a word.

    the spanish word ‘dos’ is rendered in English as ‘two’ – because they mean the same? Color me shocked!

Comments are closed.