Thursday, July 10, 2008

Box seat at the train wreck

Tokyo Tom has been writing some very good stuff lately. Eli made his acquaintance at the late Prometheus before RP Jr. swept out the bar-room floor and made everyone drink the Kool Aid if they wanted to post. As well as anyone, Tom works hard at trying to reconcile an economic libertarian view with the reality of man made climate change. Eli thinks that this is a job for the sorcerer's apprentice because of the time scales (gotta do something now to have any effect thirty years from now), the global nature of the problem (multi-player prisoner's dilemma), but that's for another post.

Lubos has gone off his meds again. Tom has the play by play and the prologue.

UPDATE: There is more and more and knowing Lubos, there is sure to be more.


Anonymous said...

anon 1117

Unfortunate. Motl should know better, though he only starts really hyperventilating at the end.

However, its a case of sow the wind reap the whirlwind on this one. AGW proponents have been politicizing the scientific debate from the start with crazed accusations about the motivations and funding of everyone who disagrees with them, and have been confusing the role of analysis of the data and prescription for how to deal with it.

Eli himself gives examples of the problem every time he posts.

The problem is, if you conduct the debate in terms that says that all my opponents are evil right wing neo conservatives, Republicans, anti-evolutionists, apologists for big tobacco and big oil, then people start to believe you. However, they don't believe exactly what you assert. They believe the underlying message. They start to think this is not about science, its about picking a side. You think you have showed them how awful your opponents are. Actually, all you have done is show them what the two sides are. It is clear to them now, the sides are Republicans and Democrats.

At that point, they decide that they don't much like socialism or the Democratic party or whatever, and they go on their own version of the traditional AGW rant. This is what we had from Motl.

The most constructive thing you all could do for the planet is stop the personal attacks and focus on the data. This way you would have a chance of reaching those who, right now, are simply dismissing everything you say because of who they think you are, in exactly the same way as you dismiss everything that (say) Spencer says, because of who he is. You could also get some of the secret data revealed to those of us who want to do science on it.

Pielke, both Snr and Jnr, are a welcome beacon of light in the middle of this dark morass. Despite your sarcasm directed at them, they know how to act, they keep personalities out of it, they express their views forcefully but politely. They don't post these combinations of personal insults, in-jokes and political rants when the subject is a scientific hypothesis. They don't take the same view of the matter as you, but this does not mean they are silly or in bad faith.

You need to stop it too. If you stop it, maybe Motl will. Maybe we could all calm down then, and get back to science?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1117 chants the good old mantra again:

The Alarmists Are Just As Bad... The Alarmists Are Just As Bad... The Alarmists Are Just As Bad... The Alarmists Are Just As Bad... The Alarmists Are Just As Bad... Om... Om... Om...

Pardon me if I'm wrong, but I think I remember that Hansen only advocated that oil CEOs and think-tanks be "tried".

Now Motl can't even be bothered with any legal process, and is openly advocating that all Alarmists be jailed and executed, period. And now he's even saying that Alarmists should be quarantined and euthanized.

Lindzen once compared the AGW theory to eugenics. Isn't it wonderful to know that AGW is just 'sort of like' eugenics, while Motl the AGW 'skeptic' is literally advocating eugenics?

-- bi, International Journal of Inactivism

Anonymous said...


No, I am not saying that 'the alarmists are just as bad'. You are doing the exact same thing I criticize. Your only interest is in deciding is this guy one of us or one of them. If he is not one of us, he must be one of them, so slam him.

I am saying something quite different. That this whole approach neither advances the science, nor helps lay people to understand the debate. In fact, it gets in the way, because it encourages them to think that what counts is not understanding, but taking sides.

The first step everyone needs to take is recognize that reasonable sincere people may take different views on the reality, extent and causes of GW. The second step is to recognize that the reaction to remarks like Motl's does not have to be either supporting or defending them. I guess this is what lies behind the comments on the last post. He is not condemning Motl. Therefore he must be an enemy. Well, applause and condemnation are not the only appropriate reactions.

It is like watching a boxing match. If you do not cheer for one of the fighters, it could be that you think people should not beat each others' brains out for the amusement of spectators. Its not that you want the other guy to win.

Anonymous said...

"No, I am not saying that 'the alarmists are just as bad'."

Har har. Then what's your excuse for, um, excusing Motl's blatant literal support of eugenics?

The Alarmists Are Just As Bad... The Alarmists Are Just As Bad... The Alarmists Are Just As Bad... Om... Om... Om...

-- bi, International Journal of Inactivism

Anonymous said...

ANON 1117, two things--

You wrote: AGW proponents have been politicizing the scientific debate from the start with crazed accusations about the motivations and funding of everyone who disagrees with them.

First, accusations have been properly levelled at the few people taking the money of Ex and WFuels (even if through an apparent money laundering operation like GMI) for producing PR or propoganda and passing it off as science. Whether it is to deceive people about the safety of tobacco, or the safety of coal--presenting PR to the public as science breaks several kinds of trust, deliberately. They deserve to be outted. I can't wait.

By delaying a timely response to the largest environmental crisis to ever face man, they have done harm to billions of people-for many centuries to come.

You wrote: "The problem is, if you conduct the debate in terms". Chemistry and Physics are not being "debated" here. The denial machine tries to frame it that way--but I am sure a reasonable person like your self will see how impossible the concept is. If science proceeded by debate, we would still be pondering the properties of phlogoston.

You need to look at the recent peice by E. Rabett on "The Iceman Goeth" or a thousand other real observations (nicely condensed by thoughtful researchers) which are consistent with the models. That is not debate, it is science.

TokyoTom said...

Anon 1117, I can sympathize with some of what you say, as political and social battles inevitably prompt tribal reactions and misperceptions. I continually see this in action, as I noted here, in the context of Nick Kristof`s comments on some of the mutual detestation of Obama and Clinton supporters:

But why is it "a case of sow the wind reap the whirlwind on this one"? You can read through my posts - where did I invite Motl`s overreaction?

And why is it that you want to point a finger at AGW proponents, while downplaying the patently absurd and inexcusable nonsense that Motl and Bret Stephens serve up?

"AGW proponents have been politicizing the scientific debate from the start with crazed accusations about the motivations and funding of everyone who disagrees with them, and have been confusing the role of analysis of the data and prescription for how to deal with it."

Books have and will be written on this. My own brief view is that the science has been politicized because the domestic parties at interest have all fought over influence over government - either to realize their preferences or to defend their existing positions - and have until now preferred not to make any bargains on how to deal with the data. There has also been the complicating factor of the competitive jockeying among nations. While it is fair to note some politicization by enviros, it is hardly fair to blame them for the underlying dynamic (a fight over unowned resources) or the tactics of the fossil fuel producers and users.

As for the side-picking, I do agree that it gets in the way of clear thinking, as well as progress on the political front. However, we should also recognize that we can`t peel the emotion away from man (as Lubos demonstrated, despite his insistence that science be pure), and social pressure is a perfectly appropriate (and non-coercive, non-state) tool by which a community can address a commons problem.

I do agree that it helps to create a shared understanding of the facts, which is an enormously difficult thing to do in this area. It may also be helpful to discuss underlying institutional issues: open access commons, use of government by pressure groups for private gain, desires by politicians to expand and man the pork spigots, and problems with government mismanagment of resources (evident in our crashing salmon fisheries, gross inefficiencies in power distribution, and pork to ethanol).

TokyoTom said...

Eli, many thanks for the link.

However, while I understand the problems posed by the lag between GHG releases and climate responses, I`m not quite sure I get what you`re driving at with the sorceror`s apprentice metaphor.

I do find the reference intriguing in several senses: first, mankind himself can be seen as the apprentice, but an unconscious one unknowingly playing with the world; second, clearly Motl and other "skeptics" see the Warmers as naive fools wanting to play with natural and economic ecosytems; and third, the "skeptics" who offer up the wonders of possible geo-engineering to rescue us from our unwillingness to mitigate also look rather like fools who want to play with complicated systems.



Anonymous said...

"Then what's your excuse for, um, excusing Motl's blatant literal support of eugenics?"

None. I didn't do it. I didn't see the part about eugenics and have said nothing about it. I don't know what eugenics has to do with warming. Nor am I downplaying whatever Bret Stephens did. First time I ever heard of him. What a weird lot of accusations.

See. a lot of you think there is us and there is them there deniers. And if you are not us, why, you're one of them there deniers. And then all that rage and spleen we have, Lord knows what from, we'll vent it on you. And this is the problem. Its your problem, but there are enough of you that its everyone's problem because of the reaction it provokes.

Something similar happens with the Mac fanatics, who must have lost Apple more sales than any amount of bad products could. I guess the wilder Islamicists must have cost Islam more support than the most persuasive Churchmen. It does sometimes happen that the greatest menace to a cause are its adherents.

Lepus says "By delaying a timely response to the largest environmental crisis to ever face man, they have done harm to billions of people-for many centuries to come."

Well this is the thing isn't it. This may have happened, action may have been put off as a result of what some people have said. I'm not at all sure that this is the largest environmental crisis ever to have faced man. I'm not really sure how much of a crisis this really is. I also don't know why Lepus thinks people have harmed billions of people for centuries to come just by expressing scepticism. Because, regardless, actually all they have done is expressed or publicized an opinion, which people are free to believe or not believe. They did not actually do anything to make anyone believe anything. They advocated, and may have done so convincingly.

The opinions have been believed because they were convincing. This is the hard part for people to accept.

The evidence of the polls is that people in the UK and the US do not believe in the AGW story. We need to find out why. We need to find out what would convince them if they saw it. They are not idiots. They are used to assessing evidence all the time in daily life. The answer is not suppressing argument. That will never convince them. The answer is not discrediting people by personal attacks. That makes them more sceptical. The answer is, get the facts out there in the most convincing way you can. If it doesn't work, well, maybe the story is not as convincing as you thought.

The tobacco story after all has been out there and combatted since the fifties, but I never knew anyone who took the tobacco companies' line seriously. I mean, the only reason why the claim of no warming since 2000 is taken seriously is that there has been rather little warming. That's a problem with the facts, not with people saying things. Not with who pays them.

What's the bottom line? Abuse of critics doesn't convince the public. Accusations of everyone being funded by Exxon doesn't either. What in the end wins the day in these matters, if its going to, is calm reasoned argument from the facts.

And if it doesn't? Well, there is probably something wrong with either the argument or the facts. Hard to accept, but this is historically how its usually worked out.

Now, before you reach for your pen and dip it in acid, just think. Is what you are about to write part of this problem, or is it part of the solution. Is it abuse or is it persuasion? If its abuse, put it down and don't bother. If you want it to be persuasion, well, put it down also, and think hard about what will persuade. Hard work, but its what the planet needs.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:19 PM, truth and honesty are what is important. Lies, distortion and obfuscation are the problem.

The average person does not have the scientific ability to know what is the truth and what is misinformation.

Showing who are responsible for that misinformation is part of the solution.

You seem to think that both sides are based on "opinions'. That is clearly not true.

Why do you support lies and misinformation, evenly indirectly?

Marion Delgado said...


I think there should be a serious and concerted Motl boycott/blackout. His despicable choice to try to settle science controversies by character assassination - at least - extends to everything he's commenting on.

Since that's not, in fact, helpful about settling things, setting an example by not mentioning him would
be a good step. It's not just the LM posts, it's that they invite tit-for-tat responses that are just as unhelpful.

Poissonally, I find the denialist anonymice here too fishy to respond to, as well.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:19pm acts ignorant even after I've explained what Motl just did:

"I didn't see the part about eugenics and have said nothing about it. I don't know what eugenics has to do with warming."

Yeah, if you ignore Motl's outright call for Alarmists to be quarantined and euthanized, then an argument can be made that The Alarmists Are Just As Bad.

* * *

Marion Delgado:

Won't work; the inactionosphere will mention him when it suits their purposes, and what makes you think they won't simply ignore his worst excesses?

Not sure myself what's the best thing to do here though. (Maybe Anthony Watts was along the right lines when he tried to organize a poll against James Hansen to send to the Senate -- though he botched up its implementation.)

-- bi, International Journal of Inactivism

Walt Bennett said...

Anon 1117,

Wandering into the clubhouse to tell them that they have a stupid club, is at best self-righteously blind and at worst a case of inflated ego.

I stopped being a regular here some months back when I attempted to point out that mitigation is an absolute requirement of any feasible solution; that is, we must, simply must, find a way to actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Hansen has said he exact same thing. We will need to lower atmospheric CO2 from its peak, and do it quickly. Well, nature ain't gonna do that on its own, now is it?

If there is a more puffed up, self important loudmouth in any AGW forum than bi...iji, I have yet to stumble across that person. He is nothing more than a sniper, on the lookout for anybody who wants to advance the issue in a non-partisan way, and anybody who wants to discuss the problems with the "solutions" proposals. His favorite term is "inactivist", as if everybody who takes issue with the proposed solutions can and should be painted with the same broad brush.

My point? Move on. You have zero chance of making a dent on the stupid people in this stupid club.

It's Eli's playpen, and he likes his friends.

Anonymous said...

Denialists have lost; the public by 70-80%, Republicans/conservatives by a majority, the Republican base by a primary, most of the corporations, developing nations, and the White House on 19th January. They have lost. The major fight begins now, I suppose it's never too late.

Anonymous said...

Walt Bennett:

"anybody who wants to advance the issue in a non-partisan way"

Woohoo, now outright advocating that Alarmists be quarantined and euthanized is "non-partisan"! Thank you, thank you. Now we know where Walt Bennett really stands in this matter, and it's not in the middle.

I'm still waiting for the inactionosphere's furious indignation over Motl's proposal for literal eugenics. They sure gave Hansen one heck of a crapstorm for suggesting less than that. Where's the crapstorm now?

* * *


The majority in the US Senate is still not big enough. Two-thirds, my friend, two-thirds.

-- bi, International Journal of Inactivism

TokyoTom said...

Anonymous 12:19 PM, you`re right; those who are concerned about climate change and would really like to see meaningful changes in our energy systems need to do a better job of persuading others.

This is hard to do, for a number of reasons: we individually have a difficult personally FEELING climate change, we tend rather naturally to take sides - and to not merely discount points made by others, but to subconsciously filter it out while painting the OTHERS as not merely mistaken, but evil and ourselves as intelligent and virtuous - and, given the fact that groups are fighting over government to suit their own preferences, it is also undeniable that the science has been deliberately spun in order to mislead and to secure advantage. While the enviros do this too, I`m sorry but I think we can`t avoid pointing out the investments by fossil fuel industries - aided by the Bush/Cheny administration and many Republicans - have deliberately manipulated the debate via misinformation and propaganda. The same fear of Islamfascism that has channelled hundreds of billions to defense contractors has also been directed as fear of enviros to help Peabody, Massey, Exxon, the auto industry and the power industry. This dynamic must be understood.

Motl is mainly a sideshow, but still a useful one, because his own lack of reason and eliminationist fantasies can be thrown back in the face of Bret Stephens and others who decry environmental concerns as a "religion" and all those who have them - scientists, industrialists, and world leaders as well as man-hating enviros - as being "believers" and cultists rather than people with legitmate concerns and preferences.

Motl of course is also fascinating, as an object lesson of what none of us wants to become, even as his passion entices a similar response.

TokyoTom said...

Marion: It's not just the LM posts, it's that they invite tit-for-tat responses that are just as unhelpful.

I disagree. It`s helpful to point out obvious and prominent dis-reason, while taking care not to take pleasure in it and to be aware of our own penchants for hypocrisy.

More of Lubos@ eliminationist fantasies here:

TokyoTom said...

Walt, you can try to be thick-skinned, or you can give up. It`s nice to see you haven`t yet really chosen the latter course yet.

We`ve all got feelings, by the way - you might recall that Roger Jr. couldn`t take Eli`s criticsim and chased him away.

Besides, it seems that Eli`s mind is not quite as closed as you suggest; he is, after all, now providing a forum for LIBERARIANS!



EliRabett said...

Concern trolls are Ethon's favorite dish. Eli, OTOH, grew up in Brooklyn where folk just punch you in the face. It's a matter of style he supposes.

Anonymous said...

ANON 1117, I think I see a disconnect here. You wrote: "Well this is the thing isn't it. This may have happened, action may have been put off as a result of what some people have said." and "They did not actually do anything to make anyone believe anything."

On the contrary, they set out (as evidenced in their own paperwork) to buy and use scientists to produce confusion over climate science--and delay any regulatory actions aimed at the fossil fuel industry. The work of these degreed PR persons became the foundation for most of the ongoing confusion.

The Union of Concerned Scientists have provided a good write up on one of the covert actions directed at the American public.

Google "ucs exxon soon" without the quotes. Read the pdf. Please.

There are many other paper trails if you have an interest in becomming informed on the issue.

Anonymous said...

... just a note that, as a conservative, I have never had any problems with Eli's writing. And yes, denialists are predominantly conservative, and their denial is due to their small-government and market-fundamentalist ideology and not what some unknown person said about conservatives. The denial movement has been supported by fossil-fuel corps from the beginning, their funding PR spin of loudmouths and astroturf organizations dutifully and unthinkingly echoed by denialists in the MSM and online media. Those who get their 'science' from op-eds in the WSJ and newsbusters are not interested in learning science and never have been. The public have excellent instincts and can sniff a whiff of ideology and corruption a mile off, and trust scientists. Hence the polls.

Anonymous said...

Ideology... throw in some Judeo-Christian dogmatisms popular among some US conservative activists (Mark Stein, David Klinghoffer), anthropocentricism and 'worship the Creator and not the created', or perhaps that should be 'worship the Creator and trash the created'. Who view environmentalism as a competing religion, though sane Christians and the leadership of most denominations, from Catholic to Eastern Orthodox to Anglican to Evangelical, are seeking to incorporate environmental damage as an ethical concern.

TokyoTom said...

I would hate if people missed Lubos parts III and IV:


Anonymous said...

lazar, I hope you are right but am not quite convinced of the public's ability to sniff ideology and corruption -- at least not without some help. I was told by an American colleague that the recent turnaround in public opinion was _not_ due to the Nobel prize, Arctic melting and all that, but -- to the Bush admin's clumsy attempt to shut Hansen up. Suddenly all those anti-govt instincts that had benefitted the denialists turned around :-)

Take this explanation for what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

While some might think Motl was forced out of Harvard because of his blogging and other extracurricular activities, I happen to believe it had far more to do with his performance -- or lack thereof -- as a physicist.

When viewed in this light, Motl's criticism of so many others (several of them significantly more accomplished than himself in physics) as "crackpots" is more than a little ironic.

But it nonetheless makes perfect sense. It's called "projection."

Anonymous said...

"I stopped being a regular here some months back when I attempted to point out that mitigation is an absolute requirement of any feasible solution;"

Either Walt is confusing "mitigation" with 'adaptation" or he is just very uninformed because mitigation is what Eli and others have been suggesting for a long time.

Then again, I've read Walt's posts elsewhere (eg on real Climate).

He comes in with the idea that he has "the answer" (ambient air extraction of CO2) and that nothing anyone else (ie, people who are actually knowledgeable) says is worth a damn.

John Mashey said...

A serious question, not rhetorical:

Can someone explain to me why people should be concerned with LM's views?

EliRabett said...

A serious answer, he has a large audience to whom he feeds pap. More seriously, I suspect he has the ear of the current Czech president. If you think that is not a problem, look at how Lomborg has leveraged his views into Danish policy

John Mashey said...

0) Can you say more about the large audience?

1) DENMARK: The government liked Lomborg a lot during 2001-2004, but it is not clear that the current one does as much. It seems pretty clear that Lomborg and Connie Hedegaard (minister of Climate & Energy) are not buddies:

[Although, if you look there, ignore labels Liberal and Conservative :-)]

2)CZECH: As far as I can tell, Vaclav Klaus was saying anti-AGW things at least 6 months before LM moved back. Do we know of any contact beforehand?

3) IMHO, Lomborg is rather better at politics & public relations than LM.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Not sure if this counts for much, but Motl occasionally has the ear of the High Respectable Inactionosphere.

Motl also has a Czech blog, though it's stale...

EliRabett said...

0 - Technorati has motls at 14,014 which is pretty high as these things go (the bunny farm is hopping along [you started] at 117,252 and realclimate is 3,405) From Sitemeter he gets a bit less than 3,000 visits a day. Plus which he is linked into the denialsphere [(c)Frankie bi] blogs.

1 - The point is that Lomborg's first book met the political needs of the previous government and he was able to leverage the connection which formed. He doesn't need this now to get stuff into the NYTimes, etc. and pull in consulting money, book contracts, etc. but it was what established a second rate statistician. Think Henry Kissinger, hell think Roger Rabett Jr.

2 - Not specifically at this moment, but the Czech Republic is a small country, Motl was a shining star for them. Klaus reminds me of Mbeki, a really smart guy, who knows a lot, but not much in a particular area where self study has convinced him that the people who study it know less than he does. In other word, dangerously delusional.

3. Motl is not smooth agreed. If you asked Eli, he got beat up a lot as a kid for being too smart and retaliated with his mouth. This is only speculation.

Marion Delgado said...

I don't believe Motl was forced out of harvard, per se. He simply no longer had the exact right situation for him, more like.

He's made serious contributions to his field, albeit (and that's a whole 'nother topic) most of them in the collaborative we-dont-have-to-really-be-showing-anything style peculiar to string theory.

Part of it is that string theorists are very much a dime a dozen, unless they're truly outstanding, which Lubos is not. Ironically, another issue might be that he's actually towards the reality-based community end of the string in some respects, at a time when there seems to be a rah-rah rally towards the anthropic principle and the multiverse landscape.

But I suspect it's simply getting no support when he's behaving in a completely inappropriate way (which is basically whenever he contests anything whatsoever publicly) vs. being told to get lost that was the actual situation.

I just challenge the whole generic approach of ad hominem, well-poisoning, and inappropriate ad authoritem arguments, without having to give the individuals who are leading practitioners of that approach specific attention.

Just my take, but I think he moved on rather than being moved on.

Anonymous said...

don't believe Motl was forced out of harvard, per se. He simply no longer had the exact right situation for him, more like."

People might leave the phys ed department at Podunk College because they "don't have the exact right situation', but they don't leave the Harvard Physics Department (one of the best in the country ) for that reason.

There is more than one way to ask someone to leave. For example, you can tell them in no uncertain terms that they will no longer be tenure track.

I don't know what the actual case is, of course, but it's really not hard to read between the lines in this case.

Motl may have a gift for manipulating string mathematics, but based on what i have read on his blog and elsewhere, it seems to me that he has a basic lack of understanding of very basic physics, something that may get a pass at some backwater colleges, but just does not cut it at harvard.