Sunday, May 07, 2006

RTFR (and the dictionary and the thesaurus, and don't forget Bartletts)

E has been out and a commenting in various places. Unfortunately he is not very impressed by the moral behavior of many posters. Being an old bunny, E is well aware that folk will utter absolute nonsense with perfectly straight faces, but he is shocked, I say shocked to have discovered that this behavior is common among the purveyors of Potemkin science (see the end of that post).

It is hard to know where to begin. Well we can start with two little libertarians at Deltoid. In defense of his pathological hatred of government Nanny Government Sucks used this quote:

"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence - it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master" - George Washington
and if you google that little beauty you get about 46,000 hits, which shows that those of the libertarian persuasion at least know how to use the copy and paste function of their computers. One problem. No one can find the original source. George never said it

In the same thread, Jack Strocchi chimes in with another golden oldie
"Thomas "government is best which governs least" Jefferson
This one, it appears was originally adopted (there appears to be an earlier source) by Henry Thoreau who attributed it to Jefferson, but TJ never said or wrote it.

We now move on to E's favorite pinata, RPJr. himself. RPJr is a smart cookie. Although I would bet significant money that he has access to the second draft of the IPCC report on climate change (AR4), he knows that he cannot quote directly from it without exposing himself to significant censure. Therefore he used a quote from a Yahoo Asia report to launch the first of many attacks on the document. Roger has the Steve Colbert's to write:
A second key difference is the substitution of the phase "dominant cause" for the word "most." IPCC terms are not chosen arbitrarily and my reading of this is that as far as GHGs, it represents a step back from the statement in 2001. I equate "most" with a majority (>50%) and "dominant" with a plurality. I am sure commentators will have a field day with that. Were I a betting person I'd wager that "dominant" won't last until the end.
As Eli pointed out there is only one problem with this. The definition of dominant.

Function: adjective
1 : commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others
2 : overlooking and commanding from a superior position
3 : of, relating to, or exerting ecological or genetic dominance
4 : being the one of a pair of bodily structures that is the more effective or predominant in action
synonyms DOMINANT, PREDOMINANT, PARAMOUNT, PREPONDERANT mean superior to all others in influence or importance. DOMINANT applies to something that is uppermost because ruling or controlling .

And, just for fun, how about most

1 : greatest in quantity, extent, or degree
2 : the majority of

Let us be plain, Roger sucked in some pretty sharp characters with his little newspeak dictionary work. Andrew Dressler wrote
As far as "dominant" goes, I agree that this is not clear. I hope that they substitute this with a more transparent word when the final version comes out.
And after it was pointed out that dominant was totally clear and transparent to anyone with a dictionary and without an agenda he was not able to accept the idea that his friend Roger purposely mislead him
I think that what the writers intended for "dominant" was the meaning of "vast majority". But I agree w/ Roger that "dominant" is a poor word.
Eli had to hammer the point home
Andrew, what problem do you have accepting that if someone says dominant with respect to the influence of greenhouse gases they mean a commanding and controlling forcing prevailing over all others? They certainly do NOT MEAN MOST.
Unfortunately this caused Andrew to say
I have the document and the quote above is correct. I do not have a problem with "dominant" if that's what they mean. My point was that since this is a draft, I wonder if they really mean that. We'll see when the final version comes out.
Which, at least technically is a violation of the conditions he accepted for viewing the AR4 draft and I am sorry that he felt compelled to do that. Roger, of course, having set the trap, did not step into it. You do have to pass the definitions part of the SAT to be a professor at Colorado?

And finally in the analogy section of the test we have Ian Castles, who used this beaut:

I've seen a lot of consensuses evaporate in my time, but let's take an example from climate change science. In October 1987, Richard Morgenstern of the US EPA spoke on 'Implications of climate change for environmental policy making' at the conference 'Preparing for Climate Change' which was sponsored by the World Resource Institute, UNEP, the US National Science Foundation and 12 other US-based organisations.

He said that there was 'an emerging concensus that the global warming could result in a rise in sea level on the order of two to seven feet by 2100', and cited multi-authored books that had appeared in 1983, 1985 and 1987.

The 'two to seven feet' translates into 61-213 cm. Thirteen years later the IPCC concensus for the sea level rise between 1990 and 2100 was 9-88 cm - a decrease of 85% at the top of the range and nearly 60% at the bottom. Doesn't this mean that Paltridge may have a point when he says that 'Consensus on its own is not the sort of thing on which sensible people put their money?

The only problem being that he is comparing a 20 year old conference report by one person, expressing his seat of the pants impression of emerging science, representing at most one agency and one government, to a published report resulting from a structured consultative process involving international panels of experts.

And you know, people fell right into the hole that Ian Castles dug for them.


coby said...

Well, I did start out with "There are so many differences here I don't know where to start" I obect if you are saying that I was one of the one's falling in the hole! Sometimes I find it a good tactic to accept a faulty premise when even with it an opposition argument fails.


Wadard said...

dominant cause = "we nailed it"
most = wriggle room for old fossil's fuel and gw contrarians