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Wednesday
Jan072015

So you want to meet the 'Pakistani Dr'? Just pay a visit to the Kentucky Farmer

I now realize that a lot of people think that Hameed’s Pakistani Dr—who without apparent self-contradiction “disbelieves” in evolution “at home” but “believes” in it at work—is a mystery the solution to which must have something to do with his living in Pakistan (or at least having grown up and gone to school there before moving to the US to practice medicine (Everhart & Hameed (2013)).

That’s a big mistake! 

Indeed, in my view it gets things exactly backwards: what makes the Pakistani Dr so intriguing, & important, is that he is the solution to mysteries about the psychology of a lot of people born & bred right here in the U.S. of A!

One place where you can find a lot of Pakistani Drs, e.g., is in the South & Midwest, where their occupation of choice is farming.

Public opinion studies consistently find that farmers are deeply skeptical of climate change (e.g., Prokopy et al. 2014).

Which is to say, when you ask them if they believe human fossil-fuel burning is heating up the planet, they say, “Heck no! Don’t give me that Al Gore bull shit!”

But that’s what happens, you see, if you ask them about what they believe “at home.” 

If you ask them what they believe “at work,” where they must make practical decisions based on the best available evidence, then you are likely to get a completely different answer!

Or so a group of researchers recently reported in an amazingly cool study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics (Rejesus, Hensley, Mithcell, Coble & Knight 2013).

Analyzing the results of an N = 1380 USDA-conducted survey of farmers in Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin, RHMCK reported that less than 50% in each state agreed with the statement, “I believe human activities are causing changes in the earth climate.”

Indeed, only a minority—around a quarter of the respondents in Mississippi, Texas, and Wisconsin; a bit over a third in North Carolina—indicated that they “believe climate change has been scientifically proven” at all.

But when these same respondents answered questions relating to how climate change would affect farmers, only a small minority expressed any doubt whatsoever that the impact would be considerable.

For example,

nearly 60% of producers in Mississippi and Texas, states where scientific proof of climate change is typically not agreed to, believe there will be some change in crop mix resulting from climate change.

Majorities in Mississippi (55%) and North Carolina (56%) also indicated that it was likely that, in response to climate change, farmers in their state would be buying more crop insurance to protect them from the increased variability in yields associated with a higher incidence of extreme weather events.

Of course, you can insure yourself from risks only if the benefits exceed the expected costs of enduring them. A lot of farmers think that farming won't be profitable be in the future-- thanks to climate change.

In North Carolina (57%) and Texas (51%), a majority of the respondents indicated that they thought it was either “likely” or “extremely likely” that climate change would force some farmers out of business.

In none of the states did anything even close to a majority indicate that they thought it was either "unlikely” or “extremely unlikely" that farmers would resort to greater crop rotation, increased insurance coverage, or simply quitting the business altogether in response to climate change.

Obviously, some fraction of the positive responses to these questions came from the minority of farmers in these states who indicated that they do believe climate change is "scientifically proven." 

But it turns out the views of “believers” and “disbelievers” on these matters didn’t vary by much.

  • Likely that farmers will resort to crop diversification as a result of climate change
    Believers: 51% agree 
    Disbelievers: 47% agree

  • Likely that farmers will be driven out of business by climate change:
    Believers: 50% agree
    Nobelievers: 47% agree

  • Likely that farmers will acquire greater crop insurance protection to deal with climate change:
    Believers: 56% agree
    Nonbelievers: 45%, agree

These self-report data, moreover, match  up quite well with behavioral data, which show that climate-skeptical farmers are already adopting practices (like no-till planting, new patterns of crop rotation, adjustments in growing season projections) in anticipation of climate impacts.

Business actors, moreover, are rushing in to profit from the willingness of farmers to pay for services and technologies that will help them weather climate change. Just ask Monsanto, which is perfectly happy to proclaim its belief in climate change, how excited farmers are about its climate-change resistant GM crops, as well as the company’s new business ventures in supplying climate data and climate-change crop insurance.

How to make sense of this?

 The most straightforward answer is the one set forth in the Measurement Problem (Kahan in press): whether people say they “believe” or “disbelieve in” human-caused climate change is not a valid measure of what they know about climate science; rather it is simply an indicator ofidentity on a par with people’s responses to items that solicit their cultural values, their right-left political outlooks, their religiosity or whathaveyou.

Farmers who express their cultural identity by saying they “disbelieve in” human-caused climate change actually do know a lot about it—much more, probably, than the average person who says he or she does “believe in” climate change but who it turns out is highly likely to think that global warming is caused by sulfur emissions and will stifle photosynthesis in plants.

What do "believers" & "nonbelievers" in human-caused climate change know about climate science? Not much! Click & see for self.In the Measurement Problem study, I used a climate-literacy assessment instrument the items of which were carefully calibrated to disentangle or unconfound "identity" and "knowledge."

To me, the RHMCK results suggest that one can unconfounded "identity" and "knowledge" in an equivalent way with items that, unlike the cultural-identity-eliciting "do you believe in climate change" item, effectively assessed what farmers understood the evidence of climate change to signify for their vocation.

Cool, okay.

But the much more difficult question is—what exactly is going on in the heads of those farmers who clearly comprehend the evidence but who say they “don’t believe in” climate change?

This is exactly what the Pakistani Dr has been trying, so patiently, to help us figure out!

If he hadn't been so persistent in trying to pierce through the dense armor of my incomprehension, I would have had nothing more to say than what I just did—viz., that what a farmer in Mississippi, Texas, North Carolina, or Wisconsin says he “believes” about climate change measures something entirely different from what he “knows” about it.

But now, thanks to what the Dr has taught me, I have a hunch that the “climate change” that that farmer doesn’t “believe in” & the "climate change” he does “believe in” are, as the Dr would say, "entirely different things!"

“Climate change,” certainly, can be defined with reference solely to a state of affairs, or the evidence for it.

But as an object of belief or knowledge, climate change can’t be defined that way.

It’s just plain weird, really, to imagine that if we could somehow take a person, unscrew the lid of his mind, turn him upside down, and shake him a bit, a bunch of discrete “beliefs” would fall onto the ground in front of us. 

What we believe or know—the objects of those intentional states—don’t have any existence independently of what we do with them.  The kinds of things we do, moreover, are multiple and diverse—and correspond to the multiple and diverse roles our integrated identities comprise.

The Pakistani Dr is an oncologist and a proud member of a science-trained profession.  His belief in evolution enables him to be those things.

He is also a devout Muslim.  His disbelief of evolution enables him to be that—when being that is what he is doing.

There’s no conflict!, he keeps insisting. The evolution he “accepts” and the evolution he “rejects” are entirely different things—because the things he is doing with those intentional states are entirely different, and, fortunately for him, perfectly compatible with each other in the life he leads.

This is Scott Travis, the Kentucky farmer. Click to have a conversation. He can teach you something.Well, for the Kentucky (Mississippi/Texas/North Carolina/Wisconsin/Indiana  etc.) farmer, there are two climate changes: the one he rejects to protect his standing in a particular cultural community engaged in an ugly status competition with another whose members’ “belief in” climate change serves the same function; and the one the Kentucky farmer accepts in the course of using his reason to negotiate the challenges of his vocation.

Sadly, the Kentucky farmer lives in a society that makes reconciling the diverse roles that he occupies—the different things he is enabled to do—by “believing in” one “climate change” and “disbelieving in” another much less straightforward, routine--boring even--than what the Pakistani Dr does when he accepts one evolution and reject another.

This is a big problem.  Not just for the Kentucky farmer but for all those who live in the society so many of whose members find what the Kentucky farmer is doing with his reason not only incomprehensible but simply intolerable. 

References

Everhart, D. & Hameed, S. Muslims and evolution: a study of Pakistani physicians in the United States. Evo Edu Outreach 6, 1-8 (2013).

Kahan, D. Climate Science Communication and the Measurement Problem. Advances in Pol. Psych (in press).

Prokopy, L.S., Morton, L.W., Arbuckle, J.G., Mase, A.S. & Wilke, A. Agricultural stakeholder views on climate change: Implications for conducting research and outreach. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society  (2014).

Rejesus, R.M., Mutuc-Hensley, M., Mitchell, P.D., Coble, K.H. & Knight, T.O. US Agricultural Producer Perceptions of Climate Change. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 45 (2013).

 

 

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Reader Comments (53)

If any of the authors are out there reading, I'd love to see the phrasing of the "responses to extreme weather events" questions -- it's not entirely clear to me from the paper whether they asked what measures farmers will adopt in response to extreme weather events caused by climate change or, as phrased on p. 703, simply "how farmers in their region might respond to extreme changes in weather (i.e. more frequent droughts, floods, frosts, etc.)." In other words, I don't know that predicting these responses to extreme weather was logically contingent on predicting that there actually would be extreme weather due to climate change. They might just be saying "around here, when farmers get pessimistic, they buy crop insurance instead of irrigating."

Similarly, predictions about mixing crops and such might just be predictions about whether *other people* believe in climate change, no?

I have no explanation for the 19% of subjects who disagreed/strongly disagreed that climate change is proven/caused by humans who also expect crop yields to change due to climate change, other than that those ~80 respondents are "Pakistani Drs."

January 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMW

Unreasonable belief in CAGW? Or is it AGW? Or is it GW? Or is it CC? Kind of matters how one frames the questions in your polls. As one who wears the title "Denier" as a badge of honor, I would answer yes to CC, GW, and AGW ( more than just CO2 affects local climate), but answer no to CAGW where the policy issues reside that matters.

For fun, and cherry picking, try looking a temps from 2000 to 2014, then 2001 to 2014.

http://woodfortrees.org/plot/wti/from:2000/to:2014/trend/scale:1.00

http://woodfortrees.org/plot/wti/from:2001/to:2014/trend

Strong increasing trend looking from 2000 to 2014 and a strong declining trend looking from 2001 to 2014. Best part is that if you do not like the answer given, you can always find a model or a data set that will give you want you want to find. It’s fun playing with graphs and "trends"!

January 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

@MW:

I agree it would be very useful to have the study instrument -- it's not good practice not to include it, in my view.

But in reporting the results, the paper describes the items in question as "Perceptions About the Likely Response of Farmers to More Extreme Weather Resulting from Climate Change."

They also characterize the individual items that way in discussing them in text:

Approximately 42–56% of producers in all states believe that buying crop insurance is a likely or very likely response to extreme weather caused by climate change.

Approximately 30% of respondents have no opinion regarding crop diversification as a response to extreme weather caused by climate change, whereas 44% to 51% think that greater crop diversification is likely or very likely and a much smaller proportion view increased crop diversification as unlikely or extremely unlikely....

They do in various places omit the "caused by climate change" langauge in discussing the items too. But I can understand why, having indicated that the items are worded that way, they'd feel free not to repeat the phrase every time. In contrast, for them to descrbe the items anywhere as involving expectations about responses to "extreme weather caused by climate change" if the items didn't refer to "climate change" can be explained only if we impute to the authors the desire to miselead readers.

I will inquire, though -- for sure one should in fact always see the exact wording of items before drawing inferences from them!

Also, yes, it's possible too that the farmers who said they didn't "believe in" climate change but expected these responses as a result of "extreme weather caused by climate change" were forecasting mass hysteria by other farmers.... As you know, in any empirical study of any sort explanations (or theories, mechanism, etc) are inevitably underdetermined with respect to the data. All one can do is go with one's own judgment about whether the logically possible alternative explanation seems as likely as the one offered & of course stand ready to revise one's view if someone presents results that expose the alternative explanation is in fact the real one...

January 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"I have no explanation for the 19% of subjects who disagreed/strongly disagreed that climate change is proven/caused by humans who also expect crop yields to change due to climate change, other than that those ~80 respondents are "Pakistani Drs.".."

How about:

1. CC is not believed to be human caused.
2. CC producing a somewhat warmer climate coming out of the LIA makes for better crop growth
3. An increase in atmo CO2 increases plant growth which affects crop yields

January 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

@Ed

I try to avoid referring to those who don't believe in or are skpetical about climate change, human causaed or otherwise, as "deniers." You say you are "proud" of the label, but my understanding is that most "skeptics" view "denier" as one of disapprobation. But decisive for me is that I myself find the use of term disturbing; It's rhetorical punch is that it equates those who say they don't find the evidence on on climate change convincing with Holocaust deniers. To me genocide is singular in its moral deprvaity; it risks belittling the gravity of it to assert that people who don't share one's conclusion about the strengtht of the evidence on climate change -- something most people don't have any meaningful understanding of whether they "belive in" it or not -- are equivalent to Nazis. But this really is more a report about my own emotional sensibilities, I guess; in any case, I don't proselytize on this issue any more than I do on vegetarianism..

As for what sort of skepticism or disbelief the subjects had, it turns out there isn't a straightforward answer! Look at the article yourself. You'll see that many people answered questions about the existence and cause of climate change inconsistently -- exprssing the view, e.g., that it "isn't proven" & that it's "cause" is natural cycles etc. or both natural cycles & human etc.

This isn't surprising. Questions like this measure an affective stance or attitude. When one sees a question, one picks the response that best expresses the attitude one has relative to the alternatives. & so if one gets a series of questions, the answer that meets that criterion might not be consistent, as a factual or logical matter, across quesetions. But that's b/c the questions aren't *measuring* genuine factual views of the sort that bear logical analysis of that sort; they are, as I said, measuring attitudes.

Not to get this is to leave oneself open to regular states of extreme confusion as well as considerable manipulation by "advocacy pollsters"

January 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Ed,

Yes, I suppose "climate change is not scientifically proven, but I do believe it is happening to some degree" would resolve the apparent conflict, although don't know how likely it is that that's what they were thinking. Note that a fair number of those who thought climate change is not "scientifically proven" said they expected crop yields to decrease, not increase, due to climate change (Appendix Table 3).

A request: I'm not deeply involved in substantive discussions about climate change, so please avoid undefined acronyms like CAGW and LIA in messages to me! I've looked those up, but I'm sure there are many others out there I don't know. Thanks.

@DK,

Cool; thanks!

January 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMW

Terminology is a constant problem in this debate.

The words "climate change" are ambiguous. Many people interpret it to mean the modern theory and political movement of detectable anthropogenic climate change caused by increased CO2 leading to catastrophes and heavy social and environmental costs. Others interpret it in its literal sense of "a change in the climate".

The ice ages are an example of climate change. The Dansgaard-Oeschger events, the Bond interstadials, the Younger Dryas, the Holocene optimum, the Minoan warm period, the Roman warm period, the Medieval warm period, the little ice age, the green Sahara, they're all examples of climate change. Even on a shorter timescale, the slow variations of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation change the climate on the conventional 30-year timescale - they're surely 'climate change'. Is this what you mean by the words?

Farmers surely know that climate changes, and always has. They're well aware that agriculture in an area is dependent on it, and shifts in the pattern of rains and frosts can play havoc with farming - turning fertile land into barren wastes and back again. North America, for example, has long been susceptible to mega-droughts - the Mayan empire collapsed because of one. So it's clearly a concern.

If you ask a farmer whether he is worried about climate change, and whether he thinks it might damage his livelihood, he may well think and answer in that context. It doesn't mean he believes in the anthropogenic catastrophe. In fact, farmers being sensible people more aware of the vagaries of weather and climate than most - he's more likely to regard the political theory as obvious nonsense.

Or it may be that he regarded the question as a hypothetical one based on a conditional - if the climate changes then what would happen to crop yields? Well, if you also don't change the crop or how you grow it, then obviously yields will decline. But how likely is it they'll do that?

We constantly get this in surveys and studies about climate change - the researchers are always asking the wrong questions, because they don't understand the debate. They ask questions like "Do you believe in climate change?" without seemingly realising that the vast majority of climate sceptics believe in climate change, and even that it has an anthropogenic component - without necessarily subscribing to belief in many other associated dogmas. It would be like asking creationists whether they believe that animals reproduce themselves, and declaring that a majority of them secretly believe in evolution when they all say 'yes'. It's hard to understand how genuine scientific researchers can be so ignorant of their subject of study, and so oblivious to their lack.

Some of it can be explained by the work of the political activists pretending to be scientists, and those fooled by them. Some may be explainable by the political lop-sidedness found within academia. But surely not all.

Some of this might be aided if, instead of speculating and hypothesizing about why subjects acted as they did, researchers tried asking them. Find the farmers who both believed in climate change and disbelieved in catastrophic anthropogenic climate change requiring urgent political intervention of a left-wing nature to fix, and ask them how they resolved the apparent contradiction. They might even tell you!

January 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV:

People do ask all the time. That's what Hameed does. The reactions to his work show why your suggestion, "just ask people," isn't particularly satisfying First, it's not clear that people have conscious access to the dynamics involved. Second, interviews necessarily involve limited numbers of people & lots of interpretation by one assessing the answers.

Don't get me wrong: I *do* think interview data are critical here! That's why I keep focusing so much on Hameed's stuff.

I believe in convergent validity: attack from multiple angles & have confindence when you get results that fit together. If the studies my research group didn't have a point of contact w/ ethnographic work, I would myself find it quite defective. But I imagine many doing ethnographic work feel the same way about our studies -- that we show w/ our methods what one might expet if *their* otherwise vulnerable interpretaions are right!

In any case, for sure we are talking about dynamics that it woudl be a mistake to think can be observed & explained by subjects. Motivated reasoning is unconscious & one of its manifestations is post hoc confabulation. Even the interview data are going to be helpful only b/c we might have a sense of what we'd expect people to say if what was going on is a particular thing that they (& we, at least not dirtectly) can't see.

But if you want to talk w/ someone, sort of, watch the video of Scott Travis. That's him "at work." I can't know for sure, of course, but my strong suspicion is that he would pick "don't believe" option in a survey; he'd likely see "don't believe" as the option that gets closest to his attitude toward the "climate change debate" w/ its stock cultural characters. But get down to brass tacks -- or soybean seeds -- & he's got a lot to say about climate change, not to mention God & making a profit by mastering the vicissitudes of nature (not his words)

January 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Ed & @NiV:

Read Prokopy et al. I predict you'll find it quite interesting (apparently there are some Pakistani Drs in climatology too!...

January 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

==> "How to make sense of this?"

I figured for sure as soon as I read that, I'd find NiV in the comments suggesting that they thought climate change is happening but that it ain't anthropogenically caused.

Didn't have to wait that long, however, as Ed piped up...


==> "1. CC is not believed to be human caused."


I'm not saying I find that a totally satisfying answer, as I think it is very likely that people can simultaneously think that AGW is happening even as they say that they don't. it seems to me that people find all kinds of ways to reconcile contradictory reasoning. I certainly see it in the blogosphere all the bleedin' time (e.g., there is no such thing as average global temperatures and it can't be measured anyway, but we know that global warming has "paused" because of a relatively flat trend that has been measured in global average temperatures).

People can do all kinds of weird shit when they get "motivated."

But....I do think that the terminology needs to be more explicit in order to really support conclusions being drawn.

January 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua:

The study could actually be seen as a bit of a mess b/c of the diversity of questions about "belief in"; this would not be the strategy one would use if one wanted to pin down, logically, what the rspts "believe."

But the pinning down actually would itself be imposing a form of logic that isn't necessarily present in the subjects' beliefs. If the responses are expressions of attitudes -- yay or boo-- then they can be "logically consistent" even if they aren't when treated as factual propositions about states of affairs external to those who hold the "beliefs" in question.

It's actually useful to be able to see that, too.

But as for "support for conclusions," it goes w/o saying that the "conclusions" are not conclusive & are open to challenge. They always are; that's inhrent in the nature of empirical proof.

I think it is helpful, as always, to think of empirical proof as supplying weight on one or the other side of a balance rather than some premise in a syllogism that necessitates a single answer.

Even w/o this study we have evidence, understood as weight on one side of the balance, for seeing a group of people who say they "don't believe in" climate change, human caused or otherwise, *behaving* in ways that evince that they do believe in it when they are making practical decisions. That evidence is behavioral -- what individual farmers are donig, what business actors who understand farmers are investing in etc.

This study is more evidence, w/ LR ≠ 1, to same effect.

Probing the internval validity of evidence -- trying to figure out if it really does support the inference that is being drawn-- is one thing. But people who think that "logical deconstruction" is an appropriate way to engage empirical evidence generally don't get empirical proof.

Rather than show that "some other inference is logically possible" -- that's always true & hence uninteresting -- it makes more sense for those who want to test it to look for additional evidence, w/ LR ≠ 1, that bears on the issue.

Again, that attitude does presuppose that the evidence in question gives at least *some* reason to view one conclusion as more likely than it otherwise would have seemed. that's the internal validity question.

But I think some people make the mistake of thinking that a study can't be internally valid *unless* the results the study generates conclusively demonstrate the conclusion the study is being presented as supporting. People who believe that (those who say it as well as those who merely show it by their resort to "logical deconstruction" when they engage proof) need to go back & examine the fundamentals of causal inference & empirical proof.

I'm not talking about you, either. B/c of course I agree w/ you that the conclusions being drawn here are ones that it makes sense to have additional evidence on.

January 8, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"Read Prokopy et al. I predict you'll find it quite interesting (apparently there are some Pakistani Drs in climatology too!..."

I read it. The table of data at the end is interesting, but the most notable feature of the essay itself is how many non sequiturs and unsupported assertions it manages to fit in. It reads like an undergrad essay.

The paper takes it for granted that it is their role to advise on how to persuade the public - although it is at least open about its activism. And it uses argument from authority repeatedly - citing surveys of scientists to claim strong evidence for AGW. But the authors apparently don't read the numbers being reported - seeing figures of 50% to 90% as evidence of certainty rather than controversy. I mean, they surveyed climatologists and found 53% supporting what many see as the 'IPCC consensus' statement: "Climate change is occurring, and it is caused mostly by human activities". Fifty three percent! Not even I expected a number that low, although the tiny sample size means I'm not going to take it too seriously.

But Doran and Zimmerman (which is cited) got 82%, and they cite a Pew survey saying "84% of scientists" do so, which are presumably based on rather larger samples. They've read these numbers, but still think this is evidence of a 'scientific consensus'. Why? How? I don't know that I'd say they're 'Pakistani doctors' in the sense of believing the number is 50-85% when at work but "overwhelming majorities" when at home, but I'd be fascinated to understand what on Earth their thinking is.

The most significant aspect for the current discussion is that even among the climate sceptics, no more than 3.5% think climate change is not happening. Thus, their answers to questions that fail to distinguish between "climate change" and other variations are not indicative of any contradictory beliefs. A solid majority on both sides believe in climate change. Incidentally, their categories are not mutually exclusive - it's possible to believe climate change is occurring and that there is insufficient evidence to be sure of it.

It's ironic, because the actual scientific evidence according to the mainstream most closely matches the "not enough evidence" position, which relatively few of any category picked. As the IPCC put it (in AR4 WG1 Chapter 9) "As noted in the SAR (IPCC, 1996) and the TAR (IPCC, 2001), unequivocal attribution would require controlled experimentation with the climate system. Since that is not possible, ..." and "The approaches used in detection and attribution research described above cannot fully account for all uncertainties, and thus ultimately expert judgement is required to give a calibrated assessment of whether a specific cause is responsible for a given climate change." Detection and attribution are by no means a done deal. It's surely notable that the group who got it most right were the farmers - so perhaps what this research is really showing is that the farmers ought to be making better efforts to educate the climatologists?!

January 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV:

I just thought you'd find a survey of individual scientists very interesting. I did!

If the authors have a view on what conclusion the state of the evidence today beset supports on climate change, that's their prerogative. all that matters is that they report their data on the subject at hand in an honest & complete way so that people can make of it what they will.

No one should demand that another "agree" with him or her before evaluating another's evidence or having it evaluated by another. All anyone interested in truth-seeking should demand is that people attend in an honest, open-minded way, as best they can, to likelihood ratios.

The authors do that. Without comment, qualitification, heeming, hawing. they are scholars.

January 9, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan,

"I just thought you'd find a survey of individual scientists very interesting. I did!"

I agree, the data itself was interesting. Although because it tends to confirm what I previously believed, I need to be particularly careful to be critical of it, and seek out any potential flaws.

"If the authors have a view on what conclusion the state of the evidence today beset supports on climate change, that's their prerogative. all that matters is that they report their data on the subject at hand in an honest & complete way so that people can make of it what they will."

I have no argument with that! In fact, their evident bias tends to support the credibility of their results. Had they been dishonest or incomplete, they'd have likely found some way to twist the numbers to yield a "97% consensus" or some such thing. Kudos to them for their integrity in this.

"No one should demand that another "agree" with him or her before evaluating another's evidence or having it evaluated by another."

Agreed.

"All anyone interested in truth-seeking should demand is that people attend in an honest, open-minded way, as best they can, to likelihood ratios."

Quite so. I was questioning whether they were doing that. They can see from their own numbers that on the question of climate change both sides are united, and that on the question of cause even the experts are not as united as many would claim, and yet they still hold to their belief that the evidence for AGW and the need for action is strong, that the scientific consensus is strongly on the side of the only option that would demand action, and that the only reason the farmers don't agree with the climatologists is the usual conspiracy theory of misinformation from vested interests.

Now, maybe their priors are so strong that the evidence they have found wouldn't move them much in the other direction, and they still hold to their beliefs for that reason. But they write as if the data supports their contentions. Surely they would want to comment on the findings that the consensus is apparently far less than 97%, and that many/most of the climate-sceptical farmers are holding self-consistent positions equally supportable by the actual scientific evidence?

Hence my puzzlement - what likelihood ratio do they see here? And on what basis? Why is it apparently different to what *I* see when I look at those results?

There are lots of possibilities. Maybe they had to write it that way to get the numbers past peer review and published. I'm dubious, though. They seem sincere to me.

Nevertheless, thanks for pointing out their interesting survey. It may come in useful.

January 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

"Scientifically proven"?

Talk about an oxymoron.

I suppose there are all sorts of philosophies of knowledge and philosophies of science.

But where I come from, nothing is ever "scientifically proven."

As Carroll Quigley put it in The Evolution of Civilizations:

Thus scientific theories must be recognized as hypotheses and as subjective human creations no matter how long they remain unrefuted. Failure to recognize this helped to kill ancient science in the days of the Greeks. At that time the chief enemies of science were the rationalists. These men, with all the prestige of Pythagoras and Plato behind them, argued that the human senses are not dependable but are erroneous and misleading and that, accordingly, the truth must be sought without using the senses and observation, and by the use of reason and logic alone.

As Jonathan Haidt and a number of other researchers have discovered, if you want to live in a certain and doubt-free world, empiricism is definitely not your gig. "Rationality," or at least what commonly passes as rationality these days, is definitely the way to go.

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Joshua ""I'm not saying I find that a totally satisfying answer, as I think it is very likely that people can simultaneously think that AGW is happening even as they say that they don't. it seems to me that people find all kinds of ways to reconcile contradictory reasoning.""

I would change this to read that: people have to find ways to reconcile contradictory reasoning. Simplistically, thought and consciousness require continuation.

Another factor that NiV mentions is "approaching with honest open minded way." Here is one of the human factors similar to what NiV posted.

The pause has continued long enough that AR4 has been invalidated. AR4 had a bound for natural variability that the pause has exceeded for the maximum value AR4 stated for 2030. This was true at the time of publication of AR5. Yet, the authors of AR5 concluded that despite the increase in uncertainty, there was increased confidence in attribution.

The reason this is the same as the farmers is that attribution was assigned by subtracting the natural variation and correlating the trend. So confident in AR4, it is stated that due to the CO2 already emitted, that even if in the period after 2001, there were no GHG emissions, that the next two decades would see 0.1C/decade to 0.2 C/decade. This did not happen. Based on AR4, the minimum that could have been seen by this time is a rate of 0.2 C/decade. This has not occurred.

In this respect the farmers and the AR5 scientists are not different. They continue to update their thinking. My opinion is that the AR5 authors exhibit cognitive bias just the same as anyone else. In this respect, as you have pointed out, I do not look not at the politics, but the funding or the cost to the individual, to select how they stand on climate change. In this case, climate change that requires action such as continued funding, and government intervention.

For those not familiar, Joshua, among others ;) , has correctly pointed out that there is a strong correlation between political identity and position on climate change.

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

The "pause" (a period of time of no significant increase in world temperature) has now extended between 19 & 26 years, depending on the data set used. This "pause" has become so embarrassing to alarmists ( those who believe climate change is human caused and will be catastrophic) that it is causing severe distress to them. This "pause" was acknowledged in the last IPCC ( Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ) report. There have been a number of responses by alarmists trying to deal with this "pause" as it invalidates their entire premise that climate change is human caused and that this human caused climate change requires drastic political solutions now to forestall catastrophe.

Some alarmists are proposing that the 95% confidence limit is too restrictive and needs to be reduced to 90% to protect us from undervaluing threats.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/opinion/sunday/playing-dumb-on-climate-change.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22%7D&_r=1

Some alarmists propose that government by democracy is inadequate to address the problem of catastrophic human caused climate change and may need to be suppressed.
http://www.humansandnature.org/can-democracy-in-crisis-deal-with-the-climate-crisis--question-7.php

Other alarmists are trying mightily to explain the "pause". The number of explanations for this "pause" are now at 52 and continuing to grow.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/09/11/list-of-excuses-for-the-pause-in-global-warming-is-now-up-to-52/

I submit that it is those trying to push the "science is settled" meme that human caused climate change is causing irreparable damage that are being unscientific and are trying to reconcile believing In diametrically opposed facts.

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

@ John F Pittman said:

I do not look not at the politics, but the funding or the cost to the individual, to select how they stand on climate change.

Well you would certainly make Machiavelli, Adam Smith, Richard Dawkins and the other apostles of the myth of self-interest proud.

If only the world were so simple!

But, as Peter Turchin points out in War and Peace and War:

The willingness of the British, the French, and the Germans to fight for their country is only one of the many striking examples of the human capacity to sacrifice for the sake of a very broad common good... The "common good" does not refer to the whole of humanity, but only to a part of it, the group for which the sacrifice is made, be it the Serbian, Palestinian, or English nations.

And as if thousands of years of human history, replete with examples of humans sacrificing themselves for the common good, were not enough evidence to debunk the self-interest myth, as Turchin goes on to explain:

Behavioral experiments using the public goods and the ultimatum games decisively prove that Machiavelli's self-interest premise was wrong. It is simply not true that all people behave in entirely self-interested manner. Some people -- the knaves -- are like that. However, other kinds of people, whom I have called the saints and the moralists, behave in pro-social ways. Furthermore, different societies have different mixtures of self-interested and cooperative individuals.

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Glenn,

Let us not forget this explanation for behavior:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot

"....The use of the term in political discourse has since been extended to other propagandists, especially those who are seen to unwittingly support a malignant cause which they naïvely believe to be a force for good.."

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

@ John F Pittman said:

For those not familiar, Joshua, among others ;) , has correctly pointed out that there is a strong correlation between political identity and position on climate change.

Without dwelling on the obvious contradiction between this statement and the statement of yours I quoted above, if we class political groups as "cultural groups," isn't this exactly the point that Dan Kahan is trying to make?

And you, Ed Forbes and NiV provide some pretty compelling evidence that substantiates Kahan's theory.

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Glenn,

The entire controversy on climate change is political. If it dealt with obscure science with no bearing toward political policy, such as astronomy, the public would pay it no attention at all. So, yes, political grouping matters on ones "belief" in CAGW ( catastrophic anthro global warming ).

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

DK has offered evidence of cognitive bias, and one of the most interesting offers was that the higher the education, the more entrenched the ability to use information to support the bias. PhD's and advance pursuit of knowledge and publication certainly puts such people in the more educated group.

You offer evidence of selflessness as though it negates self interest; it does not. You do not offer evidence that the climate scientists of AR4 and 5 are engaged in a sacrificial involvement. In fact, they are paid for the work they do. This was also an underlying attribute in DK and others research. You have not offered evidence that selflessness for country is connected to selflessness wrt climate change and cultural groups.

Yes, I have cognitive bias, as do other humans. That includes climate scientists. You should at least state the contradiction you wish to discuss. That is not dwelling on it. That is stating it so that your part of discussion can be understood.

In regards to my statement: the current pause invalidated AR4; AR5 acknowledged the increase in uncertainty due to the pause; AR5 stated an increase in confidence that climate change was anthropogenic in nature while keeping the models at about 0.2C /decade. This confidence is contra indicated. In other words, they maintain and even increased the confidence of their claim, despite recent results that indicated the opposite. They are like the farmers. This is not to say that the claim of 0.2 C/decade will not eventually be correct. However, I do maintain that this behavior by the authors of AR5 provides "some pretty compelling evidence that substantiates Kahan's theory."

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

@ Ed Forbes

Just because your motivations for engaging in the climate change debate are political does not mean that everybody's are. People's motivations for what they do are highly varied, complex and defy pigeonholing.

Neil deGrasse Tyson did a great interview the other day where he spoke of what motivates some scientists:

What drives people to do it? Because there is a boundary between what is known and unknown, and some percent of our species is curious as to the answer as to what lies on the other side of that boundary. And they explore it."

Tyson cites the example of Einstein's research paper on stimulated emission of radiation, which had no practical application whatsoever at the time he did it.

And Einstein himself wrote extensively on what motivates some scientists, including this famous passage:

Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures.

Some people tend to forget that Einstein, in addition to being a scientific giant, was a moral giant as well.

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

"Well you would certainly make Machiavelli, Adam Smith, Richard Dawkins and the other apostles of the myth of self-interest proud."

So far as I know, none of those three would say "all people behave in entirely self-interested manner", as is suggested here. In fact, Dawkins wrote an entire book (The Selfish Gene) explaining at length exactly where and why organisms (people included) don't.

" However, other kinds of people, whom I have called the saints and the moralists, behave in pro-social ways."

Turchin's knaves behave in pro-social ways, too. Except that they don't try to pre-judge what other people want (or worse, impose on them what they *ought* to want) but instead allow everybody to express their own desires, and trade for them. The saints and moralists decide what everybody else needs, and what everybody else ought to do. Saintliness has often been very destructive.

The basic problem is that society is far too complex for any individual or group to know what is best "for the common good". There are billions of people, each with their own preferences and priorities, and none of us are mind-readers. How can you tell what is "in their interest" in the sense of "what they want"? More often, people substitute what *they* would want if they were in the other person's place, or what they think people *ought* to want, and either way you end up with one group imposing their preferences and morals on the rest of us.

"The common interest before self-interest" as the slogan goes...

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Dan, Of all your offerings, "Nullis in verba? Surely you are joking, Mr. Hooke?" is the one that I think explains the poisoned scientific battle of climate change. The political one is a subject of its own.

From the misuse of feedback, to the political maneuverings for the determination of human influence on climate, and that other disciplines of science have methodologies relevant to climate change. In the proving of evolution, the science and scientists complemented each other. This is not to state that competition of ideas did not occur.

The point is that not being able to replicate everything by each person applies to climate scientists as well. Thus when replication is done by other scientists and the findings indicate problems, refusal to answer or down right denial of the problems, automatically causes other scientists to wonder if the science is to be trusted. This was the most common theme of the bio sketches at JeffID and Judith Curry's blogs.

Short version, I agree that humans know well how to sift the wheat from the chaff.

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

@ NiV said:

So far as I know, none of those three would say "all people behave in entirely self-interested manner", as is suggested here. In fact, Dawkins wrote an entire book (The Selfish Gene) explaining at length exactly where and why organisms (people included) don't.

I've heard that claim about Dawkins made before, and most emphatically by the celebrated evolutionary scientist himself.

However, Dawkins seems to suffer from the same affliction as our good 'Pakistani Dr' does, or our farmer friends in the Midwest and South. For without apparent self-contradiction he "believes" in the self-interest myth "at home," but "disbelieves" in it at work.

Other scientists, however, have not been as tolerant of Dawkins' contradictions as his sycophantic popular audience.

Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd, and Ernst Fehr, for instance, note in Moral Sentiments and Material Interests that:

Biologists have been lulled into complacency by the simplicity and apparent explanatory power of two theories: inclusive fitness and reciprocal altruism....

These theories convinced a generation of researchers that, except for sacrifice on behalf of kin, what appears to be altruism (personal sacrifice on behalf of others) is really just long-run material self-interest. Ironically, human biology has settled in the same place as economic theory, although the disciplines began from very different starting points, and used contrasting logic. Richard Dawkins, for instance, struck a responsive chord among economists when, in The Selfish Gene, he confidently asserted "We are survival machines -- robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.... This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behavior." Reflecting the intellectual mood of the times, in his The Biology of Moral Systems, R. D. Alexander asserted, "Ethics, morality, human conduct, and the human psyche are to be understood only if societies are seen as collectives of individuals seeking their own self-interest....

And David Sloan Wilson, writing in Skeptic, notes that:

In retrospect, it is hard to fathom the zeal with which evolutionists such as Williams and Dawkins rejected group selection and developed a view of evolution as based entirely on self-interest. Williams ended Adaptation and Natural Selection with the phrase “I believe that it is the light and the way.” Here is how Dawkins recounts the period in his 1982 book The Extended Phenotype:

"The intervening years since Darwin have seen an astonishing retreat from his individual-centered stand, a lapse into sloppily unconscious group-selectionism … We painfully struggled back, harassed by sniping from a Jesuitically sophisticated and dedicated neo-group-selectionist rearguard, until we finally regained Darwin’s ground, the position that I am characterizing by the label ‘the selfish organism'...."

This passage has all the earmarks of fundamentalist rhetoric, including appropriating the deity (Darwin) for one’s own cause. Never mind that Darwin was the first group selectionist. Moreover, unlike The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype was written by Dawkins for his scientific peers, not for a popular audience!

Dawkins gave an even more stunning demonstration of the 'Pakistani Dr" syndrome in a PBS interview he gave a couple of years ago, where he confidently asserts, without apparent self-contradiction, that we "can override biology with free will," that we can "depart from the dictates of the selfish genes" and "build for ourselves a new kind of life which as far as I am concerned the more un-Darwinian it is the better, because the Darwinian world in which our ancestors were selected is a very unpleasant world."

I suppose that Hobbes' dog-eat-dog world of mechanistic predestination is a little bit too harsh for the sensibilities of Dawkins' liberal popular audience.

The rest of your comment is a confirmation of what Gintis et al point out, that "human biology has settled in the same place as economic theory." It reads like a catechism of the secular stealth religion revealed by the gods of Chicago: first Frank Knight, then George Stigler and Milton Friedman, and penultimately Gary Becker and Richard Posner.

As the historian of science Naomi Oreskes points out in this interview, this was the same ideology embraced by the handful of prominent nuclear physicists that the tobacco industry recruited to evangelize the "smoking causes no harm" gospel.

Oreskes says she believes that the generous retainers the tobacco companies lavished on these world-renowned nuclear scientists was not enough to get them to prostitute themselves, that it was a combination of the money, their overblown egos, and their ideology which inspired them to participate in such a harmful and destructive disinformation campaign.

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Oops!

Here's the link to Dawkin's PBS interview:

http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/transcript/dawk-frame.html

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

"For without apparent self-contradiction he "believes" in the self-interest myth "at home," but "disbelieves" in it at work."

Evidence?

"Biologists have been lulled into complacency by the simplicity and apparent explanatory power of two theories: inclusive fitness and reciprocal altruism"

I presume the implication is that there is something wrong with those theories, but the quotation doesn't say what. What's the problem?

"In retrospect, it is hard to fathom the zeal with which evolutionists such as Williams and Dawkins rejected group selection and developed a view of evolution as based entirely on self-interest."

Not really. The reason is that the natural selection mechanism has no way to implement group selection, since groups as such don't reproduce. Only individuals do. An arguable exception is social insects such as ants and bees, where the lack of reproductive competition between hive/nest members gives them a common, group interest. But they're still gene machines working for the passing on of their own genes; only they do so via the queen.

Nor is it precisely individual self-interest they're proposing. The point of the genetic mechanism is that individuals are not the units of genetic inheritance and hence evolutionary interest, genes are. Hence it is the reproductive success of genes that evolves, not the self-interest of individuals or groups. It so happens that promoting some forms of individual and group self-interest happen to be successful strategies from the genes' point of view, and individual self-interest far more so than that of the group, but in cases of conflict where this is not the case the genes always win in the long run.

"Dawkins gave an even more stunning demonstration of the 'Pakistani Dr" syndrome in a PBS interview he gave a couple of years ago, where he confidently asserts, ..."

How is that a problem or self-contradiction?

Genes have developed intelligence as a flexible, adaptive mechanism that can lead to behaviours not pre-programmed by the genes themselves, because they aid the genes' reproductive success. This allows the rapid development of far more sophisticated strategies that are considerably better than the rather crude ones that the genes can hard-wire. Cooperative and pseudo-altruistic strategies are some of the best ones, and result in a world more pleasant (i.e. conducive to genetic success) that the 'red in tooth and claw' world more primitive strategies result in.

It's exactly the same theory, arising by the same mechanism. But it has heritable strategic content not incorporated into the genes themselves, which is where Dawkins came up with his theory of 'memes' as an analogous heritable and evolving entity of cultural development. However, if you just look at the output of this gene-developed intelligence as 'free will', it's clear that it can result in more general behaviour not encoded by the genes alone.

"As the historian of science Naomi Oreskes points out in this interview, ..."

Oreskes is a historian? I thought she was a post-modern left-wing propagandist?

"... that the tobacco industry recruited to evangelize the "smoking causes no harm" gospel. "

The issue was that at the time the evidence was technically insufficient, and being scientists who valued the integrity of the scientific method over supporting popular political causes, argued so. Generating the right answer by the wrong method is still bad science.

Science is adversarial - a theory is proposed and others try to knock it down. If the theory survives everything thrown at it, it gets accepted. But partisan political advocates like Oreskes want to remove the adversarial component by condemning and outlawing opposition to and dissent from their own preferred theories. Their model of science is that *they* present the scientific truth, which *is* the science, and anyone who challenges it is therefore anti-science, and a corrupt servant of that global conspiracy of vested capitalist interests that opposes their political programme.

They are the ones pushing the concept of "scientific consensus", as if scientific truth was decided by a vote. They are the ones promoting the lowering of standards of evidence, excusing technical flaws in the interests of 'the cause', refusing to cooperate with those trying to check their work. They are the ones insisting it is illegitimate to even challenge them, and that those who do should be excluded, ostracized and ignored. Or worse, persecuted and prosecuted.

The eventually-demonstrated harmfulness of smoking was a great victory for them - they showed that the challengers to their preferred theory were wrong, and ever afterwards anyone who opposes them in any way gets compared to the tobacco industry. It is their grand precedent and the model for how politically-correct science is henceforth to be. "First they came for the smokers, and I did not speak out, because I was not a smoker..."

Opposition, conflict, and survival of the fittest hypothesis is what science is all about. Without the opposition of tobacco industry scientists, how could you have ever been sure that smoking was harmful? How would you have known that there was not some flaw in the evidence you had missed?

And likewise with economics. Without North Korea, Maoist China, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and so on, how would we know whether left-wing economics really worked or not? We all need opposition, to keep our arguments fresh and from falling into dogma. It's the way it is.

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

JFP -

==> "I would change this to read that: people have to find ways to reconcile contradictory reasoning. Simplistically, thought and consciousness require continuation."

Hmmm.

If we could only believe those things for which there were absolutely no contradictory evidence, we'd believe in very little, indeed.

And I certainly can't think of anyone who doesn't reconcile contradictory evidence by, essentially, stepping outside the evidentiary chain, at some point (I'd be open to learning about examples).

But I'm not sure what you mean when you say that people have to find ways to reconcile contradictory reasoning. For example, a "skeptic" doesn't "have" to believe that there's no such thing as global mean temperature and that even if there were, it cant/hasn't been measured even as he/she thinks that there's been a "pause" in global warming/global warming has stopped. He/she could pick either one side or the other of those beliefs. Or he/she could just find some way of reconciling those beliefs - due to a motivation to do so.


==> "Another factor that NiV mentions is "approaching with honest open minded way."

I don't understand how that is "another factor," and how to put it together with your statement about people "hav[ing]" to reconcile contradictory beliefs.


==> "The pause has continued long enough that AR4 has been invalidated."

Invalidated? I really don't want to get into the weeds here (such as issues of time frames, whether people are talking about "global warming" or mean SATs, etc.)...but as I understand, if we accept for the sake of argument that at this point current trends are outside the 95% CI, still, the 95% CI would indicated that the current trend would occur in 1 out of 20 similar circumstances. My point being, I would certainly consider adaptive behaviors to 1 out of 20 events that might have significantly harmful impact during some % of those 1 out of 20 times. Of course, what adaptive behaviors is the key there.

==> "AR4 had a bound for natural variability that the pause has exceeded for the maximum value AR4 stated for 2030. This was true at the time of publication of AR5. Yet, the authors of AR5 concluded that despite the increase in uncertainty, there was increased confidence in attribution."

They present a technical argument there. Now you might be able to understand the science well enough to conclude that their scientific reasons for their attribution confidence is nothing more than motivated reasoning. I'm not able to do that, so I have to weight the probabilities behind the likelihood that your analysis might be "motivated" in comparison to theirs. So what I end up with is uncertainty, with a subjective evaluation of probabilities (e.g., that all expert scientists who think that the attribution confidence was increased are either inferior to you/"skeptics" who agree with you in their analysis or unlike you/"skeptics" who agree with you in their analysis, biased).


==> "In this respect the farmers and the AR5 scientists are not different. They continue to update their thinking. My opinion is that the AR5 authors exhibit cognitive bias just the same as anyone else."

I think that there is a certain probability that the vast majority of experts in the field might exhibit bias "just the same as everyone else," but there is also a certain probability that their analytical process is more systematic, and is more tightly controlled by a methodology that is specifically targeted towards identifying biases.

==> In this respect, as you have pointed out, I do not look not at the politics, but the funding or the cost to the individual, to select how they stand on climate change."

1) I don't say it is be cause of "politics." That is a simplification of my view that may contain an element of accuracy, but in balance is so much of a simplification that it I'd have to call it inaccurate.


==> "In this case, climate change that requires action such as continued funding, and government intervention...."

I'm kind of surprised to see you go there. That is one "skeptic" argument that I think is fundamentally highly improbable for multiple reasons. It is a specific argument that I consider to be much more highly improbable than arguing that the "consensus" view is heavily influenced by the biases of motivated reasoning/cultural cognition.

==> "For those not familiar, Joshua, among others ;) , has correctly pointed out that there is a strong correlation between political identity and position on climate change."

But it is important to point out -a I hinted at above, that I am most definitely not arguing that political identification is causal. In that sense, my view is very, very different than how you have characterized it, as well as very different from being a parallel to the argument you offered - about a causality from "continued funding and government intervention" - which, again, I think is unfortunately simplistic.

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Glenn--

Agree that "scientifically proven" is grating; science's way of knowing addresses only what *sort* of proof should be viewed as capable of enlarging knowledge & treats all conclusions drawn from use of that method as provisional. This might well be the most important thing anyone could understand about science -- & also the thing about it that is most commonly misunderstood about it...

But that's an entirely separate question from whether the survey item is validly measuring something.

January 11, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Niv

It is quite obvious that you are a man in love with theory, and especially Hobbes' theory that man is a brutish savage who lives in a dog-eat-dog world.

You assert, for instance, that "Science is adversarial - a theory is proposed and others try to knock it down. If the theory survives everything thrown at it, it gets accepted." And as if this were not enough, you later express you belief even more emphatically: "Opposition, conflict, and survival of the fittest hypothesis is what science is all about."

This is of course a partial-truth, with just enough truth about it to be verisimilar. It is a simulacrum of the very ample and complex tradition of how science actually gets done in Western Civilization.

As Carrol Quigley observes in The Evolution of Civilization, the idea

about the social (and dialectic) unfolding of truth is at the foundation of Western science. It assumes that science is never static or fully achieved, but pursues a constantly receding goal to which we approach closer and closer from the competition-cooperation of individual scientists, each of whom offers his experiments and theories to be critically reexamined and debated by his fellow scientists in a joint effort to reach a higher (and temporary) consensus.

And if you were aware of what is going on in the world of science, you would know that the privatization of scientific research and knowledge threatens this cooperation and sharing that has been the hallmark of Western scientific tradition.

It comes as no surprise that you would latch onto Hobbes' theology as sure truth.

Hannah Arendt called Hobbes "the true philosopher of the bourgeoisie" in The Origins of Totalitarianism.

"What Hobbes actually starts from is an unmatched insight into the political needs of the new social body of the rising bourgeoisie, whose fundamental belief in an unending process of property accumulation was about to eliminate all individual safety," Arendt explains. "What he actually achieved was a picture of man as he ought to become and ought to behave if he wanted to fit into the coming bourgeois society."

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

What we are interested in here isn't just the communication of science. It is the conveying of the necessary urgency regarding the scientific information to allow the public to intelligently assess needed related policy changes. And lifestyle changes. Thus, the entanglement problem. And, it isn't just a matter of members of the public accessing the information based on their own internal compasses. There are active political forces and corporate vested interests working hard to deliberately push them towards positions in which some new knowledge is assessed in accordance with previous tribal positions. And the political gains that can be created by enhancing those tribal alignments.

In the case of the tobacco lobby, the contentiousness exceeded the time in which the science was actually well established. Their efforts went well beyond a scientifically productive adversarial process. This effectively served to delay, to the benefit of tobacco companies, policy and attitude changes that affect tobacco consumption. And that cost some people their lives. An important part of that effort was the tobacco industry's manipulation of tribal identity politics and how it could be used to thwart political change.

As noted above, farmers are making many changes based on local climate as they see it. It could be argued that this just represents their acceptance of the vagaries of weather. But successful farmers also need to be cognizant of global commodity trends. So, if a farmer were to chose to expand into crops now possible by being in a warmer area, (say peaches or grapes or berries) before making that investment, that farmer would also be wise to understand if such expansion is happening elsewhere. So again, more than the rest of us, they would be likely to understand regional, and even global trends. At the same time, the farmer is very dependent on fossil fuel consumption, impacted by pollution control rules, and as large landowners, land use and development policies. They may also be very dependent on low cost labor for harvest. Especially with increasing mechanization, if they have offspring, there may not be room for them down on the farm. Those offspring are likely to be better equipped for blue collar jobs than to become college professors. In our political system, these positions become package deals.

So, as a policy matter, here in Washington State, thwarting Governor Jay Inslee's Carbon Cap and Trade Program is in the hands of State Senator Doug Ericksen, who was recently re-elected with the aid of the oil and gas industry and represents the rural end of Whatcom County. He has hosted a noted local climate denialist in the legislative chambers: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/12/18/3483984_whatcom-senator-stands-in-the.html?rh=1. Ericksen, with the aid of his political consultants, embodies and promotes a tribal identity in which energy consumption is seen as freedom. That despite the fact that being adjacent to or displaced by oil refineries and coal terminals and having one's land criss-crossed by rail lines and pipelines would seem to be detrimental to a farm owner.

I don't think that this works because of the science, I think it works because the opposing tribe has its own issues. Washington state high tech industry is not directly impacted by the tax on polluters as described above. Boeing, for example. Flying aircraft through the skies is not a climate change neutral activity. More indirectly, companies such as Microsoft and Amazon are dependent on energy consumptive server farms. Some of the energy, and some of the servers are out of state, and thus would not be impacted by the Inslee proposal as written.

Especially when looking at lifestyle choices, I think that Scott the Kentucky farmers professed climate denial does not make him the only one that is in denial regarding climate change. If we look at actions, as well as words, many who claim to understand the importance of global climate change on our future fall short.

NiV: There are many limitations on scientific research on humans and complex ecosystems. It would have been good to run the impact of North Korean economics as a thought experiment, without subjecting the North Korean people to the real experience. Similarly, we don't have to run the planet out to an extreme climate state just to see if our models are right.

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Hello Joshua. You state "If we could only believe those things for which there were absolutely no contradictory evidence, we'd believe in very little, indeed." I have no problem with this. I stated simplistically. Yes there are many ways to reconcile, and some may neither be obvious nor consistent.

An example of this is the part I wrote about AR4. The methodology that was used in AR4 was used in AR5. They did not address the internal inconsistencies. The reason it is important is that the method they used had been invalidated at the 95% at the time of AR5. This should have been addressed. Methodology is the nature of science. Assuming a normal distribution, the odds drop off exponentially Joshua. With the pause continuing, it may well be below 1 in 100.

Joshua you state " It is a specific argument that I consider to be much more highly improbable" concerning how funding can effect output. The problem is that having worked with persons seeking funding and those over grad students, I know for a fact that such is considered on an individual and organizational basis. I have also helped prepare proposals for grants in business, and yes, the nature of what is sought or thought to be sought, is a concern in both academia and business. I cannot claim that I have seen it in climate change science. I remind you that this was one of the problems evidenced in the history of the IPCC and why I thought we had to address this problem and was one of the reasons I do not believe it will go away. AR5 refusing to address the problem that the models appear to be running hot reverses their stand when the models appeared on the mark. Good science is hallmarked by the methodology.

I understand you do not believe that political identification is causal. But please remember, the name supports my contention. I is the Intergovernmental PCC. That is why it is so important to remember that Santer and NGO's determined it was anthropogenic the first time. The NGO scientists are activists and political operatives. To not look at the adverse reactions to those who publish papers that challenge the consensus as evidence I do not understand. I understand when persons react poorly to the anti-science that the sky dragons write. I wonder why those who claim it is science to ignore when there is science that questions, or when someone abandons methodology, while claiming to use it, and not be questioned on their scientific veracity.

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

If we as humans are going to have democratic institutions and apply those to global decisions, we need intergovernmental agencies. If decision making is going to be science based, those agencies need to involve scientists. In my experience, participation on science based governmental policy committees is slow moving and often an unpleasant and time consuming process to participate in. But one that can also be a satisfying experience of public service. I'm sure that the IPCC is no exception. That explains the fact that turnover on the IPCC from one assessment report to the next is actually fairly high. In my opinion, it is unfair to generally denigrate such scientist participants as activists or political operatives. Sometimes these same sorts of sources criticize scientists for being too disengaged, for working in research areas that aren’t economically significant. It’s always something.

Science is always a work in progress. The amazing thing about the overall methodology of science is the manner in which it succeeds despite many imperfections. The processes of science help to ensure that the information garnered by various investigations is winnowed and sorted such that overall progress is made. In presenting any particular set of data at some specific point in time, (presuming the scientist is positioned in a field of inquiry that is fruitful), there are questions that can be asked, more that can be done. This also means that the work can always be pointed to as inadequate. The work of any individual scientist is likely to be loaded with personal quirks and biases. Time, money, interest all play a role in deciding directions. Some work might even be corrupt. But collectively, progress is made. The scientific method is effective.

Sometimes, there really is a maverick scientist that, despite all odds pressed against them by the scientific consensus, persists and is proven right in the end. One of my favorites, because Eastern Washington is my childhood home, is J Harlan Bretz. Modern Geology sprang out of efforts to explain the earth without invoking the Bible. It centered on the doctrine of Uniformitarianism, the idea that processes seen now could be extrapolated back in time. Specifically, Geologists were dead set against invoking Noah's Flood as an explanation for things. Thus when Bretz announced that his explanation for the scabland country of Eastern Washington was a cataclysmic flood, he was roundly criticized and ostracized. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missoula_Floods . However, there is a big difference between Bretz and modern climate scientists. What we know about global climate change has a lot of scientific breadth and depth. Diverse and pretty much isolated scientific fields, agronomists, oceanographers, glaciologists, and of course atmospheric scientists, among others are all involved in discoveries for which, when looked at globally, support anthropogenic climate change. Bretz was in an isolated area, of little interest to others. No oil, no gold, no exciting volcanoes, just miles of boring basalt. Few others wanted to spend much time looking into the details here.

Being the maverick scientist that gets proven right is frequently exciting and fun. And it is this desire to be the one who upends things that drives some scientists to try something else, in response to what they know about the work of others. This helps provide impetus for corrections and to move science forward. But this maverick designation is also a storyline that can be utilized by those interested in promoting denial of actual scientific knowledge. Many of those who feel, or want others to believe, that maverick lack scientific material that would withstand the scrutiny of a peer review journal. . (Bretz did get published first, laughed at later Bretz, J Harlen (1923). "The Channeled Scabland of the Columbia Plateau". Journal of Geology 31 (8): 617–649.)

What is happening with public understanding of mainstream science with regards to controversial topics is distorted by the forces that control search page rank on the internet. But there are real scientists who enjoy playing whack a mole with the other side. Anyone who can find one sides arguments can also locate that of genuine scientists. And yes, some of this questioning process can get the scientists to not only hone their talking points but inspire additional avenues of research. But disprove anthropogenic drivers of climate change? Unlikely.

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

@ Gaythia Weis said:

Thus, the entanglement problem. And, it isn't just a matter of members of the public accessing the information based on their own internal compasses. There are active political forces and corporate vested interests working hard to deliberately push them towards positions in which some new knowledge is assessed in accordance with previous tribal positions. And the political gains that can be created by enhancing those tribal alignments.

As you guys strive to "disentagle" things, there are without a doubt "political forces and corporate vested interests" trying to re-entangle things, or at least keep things tangled.

But in all fairness, one must also examine the political and economic interests on the "left" which, just like those on the "right," want to keep things tangled too.

I personally agree with Rogers Brubaker when he says that "invoking" groups, "evoking" groups, "summoning them up," "calling them into being," "reifying" them, is what economic and political entrepreneurs do. As he goes on to explain, their reasons for doing so are "to stir, summon, justify, mobilize, kindle and energize."

And probably one of the most successful "leftist" economic and political entrepreneurs of the moment, when it comes to the climate change debate, is Naomi Klein. And I believe Klein is as guilty as anyone of trying to drag a bunch of cultural baggage into the climate change debate.

If one reads the introduction to Klein's latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, one can see that Klein correctly identifies the dilemma in which the environmentalists are trapped: that very few people are willing to sacrifice their luxurious, high-energy-consumption lifestyle to save the planet.

And as Klein also correctly asserts, (Exxon chairman and president) Rex Tillerson's promised future carbon energy Utopia "wins every time we accept that we have only bad choices available to us: austerity or extraction, poisoning or poverty."

But in order to escape this dilemma, Klein doesn't offer up the steady diet of sublime visions of a future Green energy Utopia that many on the "left" do, such as can be found here or in the movie Climate Nation. (An acquaintance who subscribes to the Green Utopian vision claims Climate Nation "highlights ways in which the 16 terawatts of energy the world consumes can be met while reducing or eliminating carbon-based sources.") Instead, Klein serves up a buffet, so we can pick and choose what fits our own sensibilites.

For instance, if we want to serve ourselves up a plateful of the wishful thinking and Promethianism of the Green energy Utopians, there's a healthy offering of this:

[C]limate change—if treated as a true planetary emergency akin to those rising flood waters—could become a galvanizing force for humanity, leaving us all not just safer from extreme weather, but with societies that are safer and fairer in all kinds of other ways as well. The resources required to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and prepare for the coming heavy weather could pull huge swaths of humanity out of poverty, providing services now sorely lacking, from clean water to electricity. This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond “mitigating” and “adapting” to it in the grim language of the United Nations. It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere that seems, frankly, better than where we are right now....

As part of the project of getting our emissions down to the levels many scientists recommend, we once again have the chance to advance policies that dramatically improve lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs, and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up....

Power from renewable sources like wind and water predates the use of fossil fuels and is becoming cheaper, more efficient, and easier to store every year. The past two decades have seen an explosion of ingenious zero-waste design, as well as green urban planning. Not only do we have the technical tools to get off fossil fuels, we also have no end of small pockets where these low carbon lifestyles have been tested with tremendous success....

Fortunately, it is eminently possible to transform our economy so that it is less resource-intensive, and to do it in ways that are equitable, with the most vulnerable protected and the most responsible bearing the bulk of the burden. Low-carbon sectors of our economies can be encouraged to expand and create jobs, while high-carbon sectors are encouraged to contract....

[We have] to pull off this massive transformation without delay....

It seems to me that our problem has a lot less to do with the mechanics of solar power than the politics of human power....


But on the other hand, if we believe a little sacrifice and ascetism is in order, and we take a more modest stance on the human will and the capacity of man to make himself master and possessor of nature, she gives us a healthy dose of that too. To wit:

For us high consumers, it involves changing how we live, how our economies function, even the stories we tell about our place on earth....

In fact we humans have shown ourselves willing to collectively sacrifice in the face of threats many times, most famously in the embrace of rationing, victory gardens, and victory bonds during World Wars I and II. Indeed to support fuel conservation during World War II, pleasure driving was virtually eliminated in the U.K., and between 1938 and 1944, use of public transit went up by 87 percent in the U.S. and by 95 percent in Canada. Twenty million U.S. households—representing three fifths of the population—were growing victory gardens in 1943, and their yields accounted for 42 percent of the fresh vegetables consumed that year. Interestingly, all of these activities together dramatically reduce carbon emissions....

I have also come to understand, over the course of researching this book, that the shift will require rethinking the very nature of humanity’s power—our right to extract ever more without facing consequences, our capacity to bend complex natural systems to our will. This is a shift that challenges not only capitalism, but also the building blocks of materialism that preceded modern capitalism, a mentality some call “extractivism.”....

For a quarter of a century, we have tried the approach of polite incremental change, attempting to bend the physical needs of the planet to our economic model’s need for constant growth and new profit-making opportunities. The results have been disastrous, leaving us all in a great deal more danger than when the experiment began....

Yes, there will be things we will lose, luxuries some of us will have to give up, whole industries that will disappear. And it’s too late to stop climate change from coming; it is already here, and increasingly brutal disasters are headed our way no matter what we do. But it’s not too late to avert the worst, and there is still time to change ourselves so that we are far less brutal to one another when those disasters strike. And that, it seems to me, is worth a great deal.


Then she pays homage to the ascetic saints of the late and post-Roman worlds, who have become "very fashionable" in the universities recently because "in their lifetimes" these saints rejected "the material values of their own societies, and our world, which is yet more materialistic and 'corrupt'" (see Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization). Klein thus tells us:

Still, we’ve gone soft since those days of wartime sacrifice, haven’t we? Contemporary humans are too self-centered, too addicted to gratification to live without the full freedom to satisfy our every whim—or so our culture tells us every day.


But not to worry! We don't have to wear the sackcloth and ashes for long, for all that ails humankind can be blamed on the "capitalists" and "an economic system that makes daily life so much more expensive and precarious," as Klein puts it.

As it happens, I do agree with Klein's dire assessment and urgency of the global warming problem. However, in her search for evil and the sins of others -- in her "groupism" -- she confounds global warming with our current economic malaise and assumes there exists no other, or can exist no other, cause for what might be causing our current economic problems, other than those evil capitalists.

Other possible explanations of what might be causing our current economic problems, such as the glaring reality that energy supplies (which just happen to fuel our entire economy) are depleting and growing scarcer and more costly every day (as this graph of crude oil prices since 1861 very handily illustrates), simply don't exist.

So it's blame-the-capitalists time:

So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house?

I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets....

[M]arket fundamentalism has, from the very first moment, systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change....

The core problem was that the stranglehold that market logic secured over public life in this period made the most direct and obvious climate responses seem politically heretical. How, for instance, could societies invest massively in zero-carbon public services and infrastructure at a time when the public sphere was being systematically dismantled and auctioned off?

How could governments heavily regulate, tax, and penalize fossil fuel companies when all such measures were being dismissed as relics of “command and control” communism? And how could the renewable energy sector receive the supports and protections it needed to replace fossil fuels when “protectionism” had been made a dirty word?....

The problem...is that this scale of economic planning and management is entirely outside the boundaries of our reigning ideology. The only kind of contraction our current system can manage is a brutal crash, in which the most vulnerable will suffer most of all....

Right now, the triumph of market logic, with its ethos of domination and fierce competition, is paralyzing almost all serious efforts to respond to climate change....

So this book proposes a different strategy: think big, go deep, and move the ideological pole far away from the stifling market fundamentalism that has become the greatest enemy to planetary health.


I, conversely, am old fashioned and still subscribe to the old saw that says "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." Could it be that the Green Utopians' "better mouse trap" isn't as great as what it's cracked up to be? That certainly seems to be what four scientists who Frank White cites here, here, here, and here seem to think.

Omitting the increasing scarcity and cost of energy from the possible causes of our economic malaise is, as identified here, a "manipulation of content" called "begging the question: making a claim while leaving out one or more major contributing factors that may affect the conclusion." And after committing that logical fallacy, Klein descends into rhetological bedlam, resorting to all sorts of logical and rhetorical fallacies in order to demonize, stigmatize and scapegoat the opposing ideological group.

January 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

JFP -

==> "The problem is that having worked with persons seeking funding and those over grad students, I know for a fact that such is considered on an individual and organizational basis."

Sure. I am certainly not unfamiliar with how the funding mechanism influences (biases) how science and research are conducted. I see it is my work also, and in my observations of the larger mechanisms.

The problem however, IMO, is in trying to reverse engineer from the existence of that phenomenon to, mostly selectively, impugn scientific output in a way that serves a personal narrative. I see that very frequently, also.

People take a complacent approach to pattern recognition. They find gross similarities and stop there, because they can then confirm their biases and engage in identity-aggressive and identity-defensive behaviors. We take a valuable tool at out disposal, in fact I think the most fundamental tool that supports our very reasoning processes, and exploit it to serve an emotional need.

==> "I have also helped prepare proposals for grants in business, and yes, the nature of what is sought or thought to be sought, is a concern in both academia and business."

Nice to see that you're willing to go beyond the binary thinking that I see typically in these discussions.


==> "I understand you do not believe that political identification is causal. But please remember, the name supports my contention. I is the Intergovernmental PCC."

The organizational structure supports an assumption of influence, IMO. But as I would not categorically dismiss that assumption, nor do I think that a determination of causality is probable. Influence = fine. Causality = improbable, IMO.

==> "The NGO scientists are activists and political operatives. "

As are those who disagree with them.

==> "To not look at the adverse reactions to those who publish papers that challenge the consensus as evidence I do not understand"

??? Please explain. Who fits that description?

==> " I wonder why those who claim it is science to ignore when there is science that questions, or when someone abandons methodology, while claiming to use it, and not be questioned on their scientific veracity."

Again. ??????

January 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

""The problem however, IMO, is in trying to reverse engineer from the existence of that phenomenon to, mostly selectively, impugn scientific output in a way that serves a personal narrative. I see that very frequently, also."" ""The organizational structure supports an assumption of influence, IMO."" My opinion is based:
1) on the history of the Rio meeting: that the data supported not committing to anthropogenic influence, until Santer and the NGO's pushed which has been written up, that apologists ignore the timeline of how this occurred; 2) The continuation of NGO's actions claiming the IPCC's work as their own as at Copenhagen; 3) scientific problems with proxies and poor performing models, and 4) the recent AR5 in which one of the legs, models, should have lost confidence, was written that confidence increased contrary to the principles of science that the authors of the IPCC AR4 claimed were correct without explanation or refutation of said work. This is why I stated to you way back when that I thought until the history of the IPCC and its political bias was resolved, it could not be trusted as the authority on climate change. You disagreed and thought it could be fixed. AR5, and recent review of the IPCC by professional scientific organization for physics, indicate otherwise. This does not mean the AR$ and AR5 are worthless. They are perhaps one of the most useful publications around. But, as all compendiums are limited, out date by publication, etc, it does not matter one being selective in a manner to support a personal narrative, if the criticisms are valid. Assigning motive, even remotely, to scientific argument most often misses that motive does not matter in science, or should not.

you stated "" ==> "The NGO scientists are activists and political operatives. "

As are those who disagree with them."" I disagree. I have opposed their activism paraded as though it is science, and the bias to science that they have been shown to impart in the IPCC process. I want the science to be freer from such interference.

""==> "To not look at the adverse reactions to those who publish papers that challenge the consensus as evidence I do not understand"

??? Please explain. Who fits that description?""

Steve McIntyre, JeffID, Anthony Watts, and others had opposition because of the politics not the science. I have not found those who have done this suffered or were even taken to task. Include Glieck and his crimes, where was the outcry. Those who oppose science should be taken to task just as the tobacco companies, Koch brothers, or power companies and their huge ash ponds. Not just the politically unpopular.

""==> " I wonder why those who claim it is science to ignore when there is science that questions, or when someone abandons methodology, while claiming to use it, and not be questioned on their scientific veracity."

Again. ??????"" This is what the authors of AR5 did with respect to AR4. Using the methodology, the confidence should have decreased, not increased. Again, why no outcry from the "warmist" side.

January 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

It seems to me that we need to recognize that the problem here is not a lack of understanding of science, on the one hand, or a lack of skill at science communication on the other. What we have is an assault on the institutions of democracy and economic opportunity, by those in positions of power, particularly, but certainly not limited to, Big Oil. Which has led to the greatest income disparity that our society has seen in quite some time.

Which has led to this; http://techcrunch.com/2015/01/12/climate-change-denying-senator-ted-cruz-will-oversee-nasa/?ncid=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=sfgplus&%3Fncid=sfgplus.

Dan Kahan talks about attitude above. What is needed is an understanding of the creation of attitudes that have caused thinks like the sons of many Kentucky farmers and similar offspring of the white working class, to outfit pickup trucks for "Rolling Coal" and to do so whenever a Prius or a bicyclist happens by. http://dailycaller.com/2014/07/10/smoke-responsibly-and-roll-coal-the-right-way-with-these-truck-modification-options/.

This is about a divide and conquer strategy that thwarts a united populism. It is why the KKK and Jim Crow forces arose after the Civil War, brown shirts in post WWI Germany, or McCarthy anti-Communists in the 1950's.

If you are genuinely suffering, as many young people, especially young white males, in our society really are, upon whom should blame be fixed? Silly eggheads, or wealthy oligarchs?

In fact, a lot of liberals have done a poor job in addressing the basic economic structural issues. At one point, home buying was made easier, and promoted as a route to the established middle class, only to have those homes in many cases, foreclosed upon. Education has been touted, especially in STEM fields. Join the knowledge society! But in fact many such fields (notably my own, chemistry) has woeful employment statistics. Even computer science is a difficult field to enter successfully. And so the net result is that many of those aspiring to a better life by hard studies, have only been left with massive college loans. The only loans that cannot be discharged by bankruptcy.

There are some very scary previous examples of disastrous responses to local climate change. The Anasazi, for example, certainly sequestered themselves and their grain stores in harder and harder to reach places, and may have collapsed in a fit of cannibalism: http://archive.archaeology.org/9709/newsbriefs/anasazi.html

The question is, can we do better? Or will the Koch brothers be the last two men standing?

January 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

@ Gaythia Weis said:

What we have is an assault on the institutions of democracy and economic opportunity, by those in positions of power, particularly, but certainly not limited to, Big Oil.

This is the same conclusion which Naomi Klein came to in her latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.

But is it true?

One must consider other causes of our economic malaise besides blaming it on the other team. Could it be that maybe it is nature that is mounting "an assault on the institutions of democracy and economic opportunity"? And could it be that neoliberalism is a symptom of, and not a cause of, the real disease?

Our economic problems, and the concomitant roll-out of neoliberalism, began at approximately the same time that oil prices began shooting into the blue empyrean, as this graph amply demonstrates.

Dennis Meadows sums up the underlying problem this way:

What we know is that energy, food and material consumption will certainly fall, and that is likely to be occasioned by all sorts of social problems that we really didn’t model in our analysis. If the physical parameters of the planet are declining, there is virtually no chance that freedom, democracy and a lot of the immaterial things we value will be going up.

The reaction to this rather unpleasant reality by those in both the "rightist" and "leftist" cultural groups has been denial and wishful thinking, and to blame the other group. And at the same time, Utopian visions, inspired by almost eight centuries of humanist-Modernist-Positivist thinking (the philosophy and stealth theology which both ends of the cultural spectrum pretty much religiously adhere to), flourish everywhere.

On one side, for example, we have Exxon president and chairman Rex Tillerson's promised future carbon energy Utopia, described (and debunked) by Michael Klare here.

And on the other side of the cultural divide we have the promised future Green energy Utopia, described variously by the Popular Resistance blog here, by the movie Climate Nation (As a friend of mine puts it, Climate Nation "highlights ways in which the 16 terawatts of energy the world consumes can be met while reducing or eliminating carbon-based sources."), or in Klein's latest book.

Here is how Klein envisions the future Green energy Utopia in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate:

[C]limate change—if treated as a true planetary emergency akin to those rising flood waters—could become a galvanizing force for humanity, leaving us all not just safer from extreme weather, but with societies that are safer and fairer in all kinds of other ways as well. The resources required to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and prepare for the coming heavy weather could pull huge swaths of humanity out of poverty, providing services now sorely lacking, from clean water to electricity. This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond “mitigating” and “adapting” to it in the grim language of the United Nations. It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere that seems, frankly, better than where we are right now....

As part of the project of getting our emissions down to the levels many scientists recommend, we once again have the chance to advance policies that dramatically improve lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs, and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up....

Power from renewable sources like wind and water predates the use of fossil fuels and is becoming cheaper, more efficient, and easier to store every year. The past two decades have seen an explosion of ingenious zero-waste design, as well as green urban planning. Not only do we have the technical tools to get off fossil fuels, we also have no end of small pockets where these low carbon lifestyles have been tested with tremendous success....

Fortunately, it is eminently possible to transform our economy so that it is less resource-intensive, and to do it in ways that are equitable, with the most vulnerable protected and the most responsible bearing the bulk of the burden. Low-carbon sectors of our economies can be encouraged to expand and create jobs, while high-carbon sectors are encouraged to contract....

[We have] to pull off this massive transformation without delay....

It seems to me that our problem has a lot less to do with the mechanics of solar power than the politics of human power....

Any number of scientists have poured cold water on Klein's Green energy Utopia too, just like they have on Tillerson's carbon energy Utopia.

Wishful thinking and Promethianism seem to be the order of the day on both sides of the cultural divide.

As the physicist Tom Murphy warns :

[T]he vast amounts of surplus fossil fuel energy we have enjoyed have made us dangerously overconfident and unable to see that we will have to cope with a diminishing supply rate that has been of paramount importance to our high-tech existence. He concludes that we face the sobering possibility of a substantial ratcheting-down of the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.

January 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Hobbes was actually a very decent fellow. But I bet he knew even less about how to prove things empirically than Bacon, who clearly didn't grasp that despite thinking so darn much about it!

January 13, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Glenn,

"It is quite obvious that you are a man in love with theory, and especially Hobbes' theory that man is a brutish savage who lives in a dog-eat-dog world."

That's odd, because I don't think that at all.

I'm a believer in justice: that people should only be expected to work for others in exchange for those others working for them, for mutual advantage. You could call it a dog-trades-with-dog world. To demand that a dog subordinates their own wants and needs to the group, to demand that they seek no personal advantage, is to effectively enslave that dog. He or she has to work for the group, but gets nothing in return for it. Other members of the group get the advantages but do none of the work. In such a world, it is the latter form of dog that eats the former, and I'm strongly opposed to it.

"This is of course a partial-truth, with just enough truth about it to be verisimilar. It is a simulacrum of the very ample and complex tradition of how science actually gets done in Western Civilization."

As previously, you say I'm wrong but you don't say in what way.

"It comes as no surprise that you would latch onto Hobbes' theology as sure truth."

As that wasn't what I did, and indeed was a position I was arguing against, I'm not sure how to respond to that. Should I try to explain my position further in the hopes of making it clear, or is this one of those situations where that doesn't work because what one person says isn't what the other hears?

The sort of cooperation and sharing I'm in favour of is that motivated by scientists getting paid, or receiving the credit for the work they do. They benefit personally, at the same time society does. A group-interest motive would have the scientists doing their work for society's benefit alone, such that they get no pay or praise or personal enjoyment for what they do. Society enslaving its scientists is what this comes down to.

"One must consider other causes of our economic malaise besides blaming it on the other team. Could it be that maybe it is nature that is mounting "an assault on the institutions of democracy and economic opportunity"? And could it be that neoliberalism is a symptom of, and not a cause of, the real disease?"

Our current "economic malaise" is only relative, not absolute. In an absolute sense, we're still far richer than we've ever been before in human history.

"Neoliberalism", of course, is what communists started calling capitalism after it became too embarrassing to claim that capitalism wasn't better.

"What we know is that energy, food and material consumption will certainly fall, and that is likely to be occasioned by all sorts of social problems that we really didn’t model in our analysis. If the physical parameters of the planet are declining, there is virtually no chance that freedom, democracy and a lot of the immaterial things we value will be going up."

Neo-Malthusianism?

I believe according to their earlier predictions, we all ought to have run out about 30 years ago. It doesn't seem to be true.

"Any number of scientists have poured cold water on Klein's Green energy Utopia too, just like they have on Tillerson's carbon energy Utopia."

I'll save myself the effort, then.

"[T]he vast amounts of surplus fossil fuel energy we have enjoyed have made us dangerously overconfident and unable to see that we will have to cope with a diminishing supply rate that has been of paramount importance to our high-tech existence. He concludes that we face the sobering possibility of a substantial ratcheting-down of the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed."

As noted, they said that 40 years ago.

To quote Henry George: "Both the jayhawk and the man eat chickens; but the more jayhawks, the fewer chickens, while the more men, the more chickens." Resources are not diminishing, any more than the chickens are. They're generally expanding.

---

Gaythia,

"If we as humans are going to have democratic institutions and apply those to global decisions, we need intergovernmental agencies."

And we need to be able to vote them out, too. When was the last time you voted for who ran the UN? When did we vote in the members of the IPCC?

"Democratic institutions" indeed...

"In my opinion, it is unfair to generally denigrate such scientist participants as activists or political operatives."

They're so denigrated for saying things like:

"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."

The right balance is between being effective and being honest? How else would you characterise it?


"The processes of science help to ensure that the information garnered by various investigations is winnowed and sorted such that overall progress is made."

Exactly. "Winnowed" means that the mixture of grain and chaff is tested and the chaff thrown away. Science operates by challenging what scientists say, trying to knock it down, and only accepting what survives. It doesn't work by hiding the data and the calculations so nobody can check it. It doesn't work by excluding critics from the debate. It doesn't work by expressing disapointment over the "damage" a criticism might do because the math in it appears to be correct.

" What we know about global climate change has a lot of scientific breadth and depth. Diverse and pretty much isolated scientific fields, agronomists, oceanographers, glaciologists, and of course atmospheric scientists, among others are all involved in discoveries for which, when looked at globally, support anthropogenic climate change."

Very few of them are. Most of them do studies along the lines of "If climate change happens as predicted, it's consequences will be...", and they write them because it's easier to get grants of public money that way.

"Many of those who feel, or want others to believe, that maverick lack scientific material that would withstand the scrutiny of a peer review journal."

The first McIntyre/McKittrick paper got rejected (after a long fight) by Nature on the grounds that it was too long, not because they could find any errors in it. Journals know that if they publish sceptical papers they'll get their more regular customers trying to boycott them, or putting pressure on editors to get them sacked. There's a much higher bar set for scepticism.

That said, there are lots of climate sceptic papers that *did* get published in peer reviewed journals.
http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

"What we have is an assault on the institutions of democracy and economic opportunity, by those in positions of power, particularly, but certainly not limited to, Big Oil."

Conspiracy theory?

I note that big oil are funding the climate scientists, too.
(Scroll down to the 'Acknowledgements' section here: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/about-cru/history )

"Which has led to the greatest income disparity that our society has seen in quite some time."

And the greatest income. One tends to go with the other.

Income disparity is a consequence of some people having rare but immensely valuable skills that they can use to the benefit of society, for which society gives fair value in return. The income is what motivates them to use their skills for everyone's benefit, rather than just their own, and what buys them the infrastructure and tools to be able to do so. The purpose is to motivate other people to acquire those same skills, for our collective benefit.

Income disparity is bad, because it means that we have a shortage of certain skills we need to make things better. The idea of paying more is so that somebody in a low-wage job wanting higher wages will come along and offer to do the job for slightly less than the current incumbent. This results in low wage earners getting more, reduces the price of goods in the shops, and frees up resources (the difference between the old wage and the new one) for the employer to employ more people doing more things to ensure there are more goods to go around. So if the income disparity persists, it means there is some barrier stopping people moving into the jobs we need more people doing. Removing these barriers would be good.

Of course, sometimes the barrier is that it is inherently a difficult or unpleasant job to do, and you will always need to pay more to get people to do it. (STEM subjects are of course noe of the most notable examples.) People with the economic freedom to do what they want, rather than what they have to, choose to do something easier and more pleasant. I support their right to choose, (and take the consequences, of course, like lower pay). But sometimes the barriers are artificial, designed by someone to keep prices high, and if so then I approve of them being removed.

However, income is more important than income disparity. It's better to have a mix of rich and poor than it is for everyone to be uniformly poor.

"If you are genuinely suffering, as many young people, especially young white males, in our society really are, upon whom should blame be fixed? Silly eggheads, or wealthy oligarchs?"

Or yourself?

If you don't like it, do something about it. Go get one of those high-paying jobs, and thereby do your bit to reduce income inequality.

John,

"4) the recent AR5 in which one of the legs, models, should have lost confidence, was written that confidence increased contrary to the principles of science that the authors of the IPCC AR4 claimed were correct without explanation or refutation of said work."

As I understand it, if you read the statements they made very carefully, (rather than the press releases and media headlines,) they didn't. They made the same statement they did previously at the same confidence level, and made a subtly different statement at a higher level of confidence. People got the two statements confused, and thought they'd increased it.

January 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Yes, I agree. Thanks for the clarification, and reminder. Though I would say as presented to the public, both AR4 and AR5 differ in subtly different ways from the actual publications. But in my opinion this is worse; it shows purposeful misdirection. But still, the problem is that there is an unresolved conflict between using even the same confidence for models and impact in AR5, since AR4 limited how much variance could occur by 2030, and this was exceeded before the publication of AR5.

January 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

==> "Income disparity is a consequence of some people having rare but immensely valuable skills that they can use to the benefit of society, for which society gives fair value in return."

Wow.

January 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

Was that the "Wow" of dawning enlightenment? Of praise and admiration for my pithy explanation of the economics? Or admiration and awe for the marvelous human achievement of economic civilisation?
:-)

I think I can guess, but I wouldn't want to unfairly misinterpret your gnomic comment based on my stereotypes and prejudices.

January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

It was a wow because I am always impressed with the power of faith.

It can lead to beliefs without room for uncertainty regarding very complex matters, even when there is abundant contradictory evidence.

January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

What made you think it was certain faith, rather than casual simplification?

January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

What does "causal simplification" mean? Do you mean what I would call an influence but not a cause? Do you mean one influence among many influences?

You made an absolute statement - of the sort made by religious believers.

If you want to walk it back, by talking about other influences, by talking about the magnitude of one mechanism of cause and effect, fine, I'd like to read it. We might then get to discussing the reality behind your absolutist statement - to discuss how how operational is the absolute causality you asserted.

But you and I have had similar discussions in the past. As just one example, I spoke of observing people that I felt had extraordinary skills and talents who got paid little more than minimum wage, and as I recall, you basically rejected that possibility, IMO, by tautological reasoning that if they were paid minimum wage their skills couldn't be extraordinary.

I might add other examples, such as poor starving artists, or people who are born into an elevated status in life (is there any single factor that predicts future income better than the SES into which someone is born?) - but my guess is that you will present yet another (IMO) tautological response.

But hey - maybe that's just my motivated reasoning at work? :-) Surprise me.

January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Casual", not "causal".

I meant that I made a statement of the obvious, that I wasn't particularly expecting to be argued with, and so didn't take much care to include all the caveats and details and exceptions that one would need if one was to be strictly rigorous. Certainly I'm aware that there are exceptions - I discuss how to deal with some of them further down my comment - but it's how things work in the majority of cases. And I therefore assumed I could simplify for clarity. My point was that income disparity is a symptom that appears in response to the problem, not the problem itself, and in thinking about solutions it's wise to be clear about what the problem actually is.

It seems our background worldviews are further apart than I supposed.

"But you and I have had similar discussions in the past."

I presume you mean the discussion at Keith Kloor's two years ago.

"As just one example, I spoke of observing people that I felt had extraordinary skills and talents who got paid little more than minimum wage, and as I recall, you basically rejected that possibility, IMO, by tautological reasoning that if they were paid minimum wage their skills couldn't be extraordinary."

Yes, I think you used the example of hospice workers/aides.

They're nice people and they do a dirty job for which those they help are immensely grateful, but their skills are not rare. It takes no education to empty a bed pan, or mop the floor. There's no shortage of people willing to do it, either. As I pointed out at the time, it would be a more productive use of their labour to solve a harder problem, like being a doctor or an engineer. But you can only take what you can get.

And I think I was pointing out that getting minimum wage was evidence that what they did wasn't extraordinary. If it was, they would be struggling to find enough people to do the work, and would therefore have to pay more to attract people from other occupations into the job. Since they don't do that, they can't be having any difficulty finding people with those skills. Therefore they're not rare.

Starving artists likewise - there are lots more people wanting to be artists than there are people who want their art. Relative to the demand for it, it's not a rare skill.

"or people who are born into an elevated status in life (is there any single factor that predicts future income better than the SES into which someone is born?)"

This is a good point - but it's not for the reason you seem to think. Future income is most strongly determined by people's culture - their attitude to work, reward, intellectual pursuits, education, personal integrity, and how they fit into society. (As I said about this once before: "Educational success is not a product for sale in the shops, that parents can buy. It's other stuff associated with poverty.") People inherit their attitudes from their parents, and from the people they know as they grow up. The children of successful people learn a culture that tends to enable them to succeed as well. The children of poor people usually acquire the same cultural habits and attitudes that made their parents poor.

That attitude is an important part of the 'skills and talents' by which people are able to contribute more to society. And the fact that it is an indicator of future income implies that it is rare - we can't find enough people who have it, and therefore have to pay more than the minimum to attract them away from other occupations.

I'm not unsympathetic. This is not a situation any of us - on left or right - should be happy with, and we should do what we can to fix it. The difference is that those on the right think the problem is the poor don't have the skills to earn the fruits of success, and so should be given the skills, while the left seem to think they should instead be given the fruits. The right believe in wealth creation, the left in wealth redistribution.

It's another simplified stereotype, and I'm sure you're going to argue that it doesn't apply to the sorts of situations you were talking about. I agree, the left's argument is a little more sophisticated than that. But it does cut to the heart of the core difference between the philosophies.

"Surprise me."

That's unlikely! :-)

However, thanks for answering my query. My curiosity is satisfied.

January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "They're nice people and they do a dirty job for which those they help are immensely grateful, but their skills are not rare. It takes no education to empty a bed pan, or mop the floor. There's no shortage of people willing to do it, either."

What I spoke of was people who do that work with rare skill. And how telling that you would reduce that set of skills, of being a hospice worker, to emptying bed pans and mopping floors. Perhaps you have relied on hospice workers at some point in your life, but I can tell you that if you have, your impression of the value of their work, and the commonness of people who do it well, is an outlier. I can tell you that I have heard good hospice workers being praised for their skills and the value of their work that would move most people to tears. And very few people who have relied on those skills would dismiss its value as you do.

I didn't expect anything less than tautology, but at least you could stretch your mind a bit to convey alternative viewpoints accurately.
'

==> "Starving artists likewise - there are lots more people wanting to be artists than there are people who want their art. Relative to the demand for it, it's not a rare skill."

Well, you completely missed that point, didn't you? The point was that the value of an artist's skills are evaluated arbitrarily - often by a mere matter of luck, or perhaps some other quirky form of influence. The notion that there is some automatic equation of "skill" or "rarity," is, of course, obviously false.'

==> "Future income is most strongly determined by people's culture - their attitude to work, reward, intellectual pursuits, education, personal integrity, and how they fit into society. "

Wow! I have to say that I never pegged you as such an elitist. What a bizarre notion, that people who are wealthy are somehow distinguishable by their "attitude to work." Tell that to people who work multiple minimum wage jobs and watch the prospects of their children in contrast to trust fund babies who watch the prospects of their children.
'
Anyway, the rest of that dreck is so obviously flawed and diluted, it's enough to leave it here.

Same as it ever was, NiV. Catch you on another thread.

January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

" I can tell you that I have heard good hospice workers being praised for their skills and the value of their work that would move most people to tears."

Can you be more specific?

"The point was that the value of an artist's skills are evaluated arbitrarily - often by a mere matter of luck, or perhaps some other quirky form of influence."

An artist's skill is measured by how many people want to see their work, and how much they want to.

"The notion that there is some automatic equation of "skill" or "rarity," is, of course, obviously false."

I'm not making any equation of skill and rarity. I'm saying that to have value the skill must be rare.

There are lots of basic skills humans have that are very complicated and difficult in an absolute sense - walking, using language, recognising objects by sight, ... but they're not rare skills. Nobody is going to pay much money for someone just because they can walk and talk.

The basis of economic value is the law of supply and demand. People want certain goods or services, that take skill to provide, but how much they want them varies from person to person. Relatively few people want it enough to pay a high price for something, but a much larger number do want it enough to pay a lower price. If you plot the number willing to pay it against price, that's called the demand curve.

At the same time, supplying it takes effort - to learn skills, to make/buy tools, or simply to sit down and do it - and people vary in their willingness to do that work. Relatively few will do it for low pay, but lots more people will do it for high pay. If you plot the quantity of goods/services produced against the price paid, that's called the supply curve.

And the idea of a market is to balance people's desires and their willingness to work to supply them, to give people as much pleasure for as little effort as possible. The value of a good is the price where the two lines cross. Here, the number of people willing to pay that price to get it exactly matches the number of people willing to produce it for that price. Any lower, and there will be more demand for it than can be supplied. Any higher, and not enough people will buy it to absorb all the goods produced. Whenever the price for a good is below the market rate you get a shortage, and whenever it is above you get a glut.

The value of work is not simply about how difficult it is, or how virtuous it is, or how much time and effort it takes. It's also determined by how much the rest of society wants it. You're working for other people, to meet their needs. In each transaction, for each type of good/service, you're balancing the needs and desires of the people wanting them against the efforts of the people who have to produce them. The price rises when more people want it than are currently willing to produce it, and the price stays persistently high when you can't find enough people willing or able to supply it at a low price to meet demand. That is to say, when the skill of producing it or doing it is rare, relative to the demand for it.

This stuff is Economics 101. It's not controversial.

"Tell that to people who work multiple minimum wage jobs and watch the prospects of their children in contrast to trust fund babies who watch the prospects of their children."

Don't confuse the number of hours worked with the quality of the work. People who work multiple minimum wage jobs are people without the skills to do anything people actually want or need. They can cook and clean, but so can everyone else. They can mow lawns and weed gardens, put things in boxes, assemble a few simple, standardised components. But so can anyone - or they can learn quickly. You're only going to pay someone else to do what you can do yourself if they're willing to do it cheaper.

So the question is how did they get like that? Why are some people incapable of doing any but the most basic jobs? And in my limited experience, it's mostly down to their attitude to school. They're the ones who were proud of their inability to do mathematics, who regarded studying as 'boring' or 'hard' or 'not cool' or 'girly'. They're the ones who skipped class, or were disruptive. They didn't take it seriously.

And they're also the ones who blamed the world, or other people, for their woes. They came to believe life was too difficult for them, and they needed (and eventually came to expect) extra help. People felt sorry for them and frequently did try to help them, but they didn't help by helping them become stronger, they helped them by lightening their load, and letting them bypass the hard parts. In the end, that was what crippled them - they came to expect it, and never learned the strength they needed.

At the same time, I've also seen plenty who started off in places like that and succeeded anyway. And the thing that distinguished every one of them was their attitude. They saw problems as things to be solved, not suffered. Some were the entrepreneurial type - they bought stuff and sold it, and talked people into things. Some had a particular hobby or passion that they managed to turn into a business. Some rebelled against rebellion, decided they quite liked maths, and didn't care about being one of the cool kids (I was one of those).

When you employ people, you can feel it - the difference between a genuine enthusiasm for doing a good job, and those who hate work and are only doing it to pay the bills. The enthusiasts are far more likely to succeed.

It's not something you can buy. But you can learn it from somebody who's got it too.

"Same as it ever was, NiV. Catch you on another thread."

I'm sure.

January 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

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