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Thursday
Jun292017

Still *another* study finds "scientific consensus messaging" ineffective

At this point, we are seeing the social-science equivalent of running up the score, but here's yet another study that finds that "scientific consensus messaging" doesn't work.  


So that makes 4 studies that have explicitly found this result --

  • Bolsen, T. & Druckman, J.N. Do Partisanship and Politicization Undermine the Impact of Scientific Consensus on Climate Change Beliefs? Working paper (2017)
  • Deryugina, T. & Shurchkov, O. (2016). The Effect of Information Provision on Public Consensus about Climate Change. PLOS ONE 11, e0151469.
  • Cook, J. & Lewandowsky, S. Rational Irrationality: Modeling Climate Change Belief Polarization Using Bayesian Networks. Topics in Cognitive Science 8, 160-179 (2016).
  • Dixon, et al. Improving Climate Change Acceptance Among US Conservatives Through Value-Based Messages, Science Communication. (2017)
plus one that disguises that it found such a result,
  • van der Linden, S.L., Leiserowitz, A.A., Feinberg, G.D. & Maibach, E.W. The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence. PLoS ONE 10 (2015).
to 1 reasonably sound study that genuinely found that the message did seem to work with an Austrailian convenience sample:
  • Lewandowsky, S., Gignac, G.E. & Vaughan, S. The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science. Nature Climate Change 3, 399-404 (2012).
I don't know if 83% is a "consensus," but I do know that the weight of the evidence is growing stronger in favor of rejection of the proposition that all you have to do to change their minds is tell skeptics that the vast majority of scientists disagree with them.

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Reader Comments (53)

Can't see the actual study, but from what I can tell, unfortunately it is another study that is limited by exploring the effect of consensus messaging in a controlled setting, as opposed to a real world setting. A similar limitation as the study which finds evidence that consensus messaging does work.

And from what I can tell from the abstract only, it also doesn't seem to provide evidence that consensus messaging has a meaningfully counterproductive effect (in the real world) for those who wish to advance policy goals through its use. So it doesn't seem to support the conclusion offered by many, that consensus messaging meaningfully increases polarization beyond levels that would exist in its absence.

My own guess is that the finding of a lack of "significant effect" is the most likely real world outcome of consensus-messaging. To whatever extent there might be a counterproductive effect, it could very well be offset by a beneficial outcome (from the perspective of the consensus messengers) of mitigating the effect of anti-consensus messaging. So a wash in the end. And so then all the energy spent on arguing about the effects of consensus messaging could be better spent on other endeavors (such as 'targeted messaging")?

June 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan -

=={ but I do know that the weight of the evidence is growing stronger in favor of rejection of the proposition that all you have to do to change their minds is tell skeptics that the vast majority of scientists disagree with them. }

Hmm. Rather unfortunately strawmanish, I would say. As much as i might feel that those who are confident that consensus messaging works are probably going beyond the evidence to reach their conclusions, I don't think I've seen any who would say that "all you have to do" is tell "skeptics" that the consensus disagrees with them.

Based on your own arguments, I would guess after more reflection you might agree that such rhetoric is rather ironically more likely to produce a backfire effect than to change the mind of anyone who disagrees with you on the topic.

June 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan,
growing stronger in favor of rejection of the proposition that all you have to do to change their minds is tell skeptics that the vast majority of scientists disagree with them.

As Joshua has already pointed out, this is a strawman; I would be surprised if anyone associated with consensus messaging thinks this. More specifically, I blog about the topic and am now an author of two consensus papers, and I certainly do not. The same is true of all my co-authors with whom I've spoken about this. What you seem to have ignored is that a key aspect of what you call consensus messaging is to highlight the consensus gap; the difference between what the public thinks the level of consensus is (often about 60%) and what it actually is (probably more than 90%). This is not specifically aimed at changing their minds, it's aimed at addressing a misconception about the level of agreement among experts and/or within the literature.

What I find disappointing is that science communication is a big tent; I certainly think that it is important to understand all the different strategies that might be employed. Sometimes it's appropriate to simply highlight that there is more agreement than many people think. Sometimes it's appropriate to simply present scientific information, even if it's unlikely to convince everyone. Sometimes it's good if the person communicating is someone with whom the audience can identify. I certainly see the various communicating strategies as complementary, rather than in competition. Is very unfortunate - in my view - that you appear to see it as some kind of competition between your view of what is best and your perception of what others regard as best (which, as already pointed out, probably isn't their view at ll).

Agreed with all of the above re a straw man argument, but more importantly, you factually misrepresent the evidence base, here's another series of studies that support consensus messaging broadly that you did not inclide:

Bolsen, Toby; Druckman, James (2015). "Counteracting the politicization of science". Journal of Communication. 65 (5): 745–769. (consensus helps reduce directional motivated reasoning)

Cook, J; Lewandowsky, S; Ecker, U (2017). "Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their influence". Plos ONE. 12 (5): e0175799. (consensus neutralizes worldviews)

Myers, Teresa; Maibach, Edward; Peters, Ellen; Leiserowitz, Anthony (2015). "Simple Messages Help Set the Record Straight about Scientific Agreement on Human-Caused Climate Change: The Results of Two Experiments". PLOS ONE. 10 (3): e0120985.

van der Linden, Sander; Clarke, Chris; Maibach, Edward (2015). "Highlighting Consensus among Medical Scientists Increases Public Support for Vaccines: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment". BMC Public Health. 15 (1): 1207.

van der Linden, Sander; Leiserowitz, Anthony; Rosenthal, Seth; Maibach, Ed (2017). "Inoculating the Public Against Misinformation About Climate Change". Global Challenges: 1600008 (replicates the consensus condition).

Dixon, Graham (2016). "Applying the Gateway Belief Model to Genetically Modified Food Perceptions: New Insights and Additional Questions". Journal of Communication. 66: 888–908.

Correlational

Tom, J. (2017). "Social Origins of Scientific Deviance: Examining Creationism and Global Warming Skepticism". Sociological Perspectives.

Hamilton, L. C. (2016). Public Awareness of the Scientific Consensus on Climate. SAGE Open, 6(4), 2158244016676296.

Ding, Ding; Maibach, Edward; Xiaoquan, Zhao; Roser-Renouf, Connie; Leiserowitz, Anthony (2011). "Support for Climate Policy and Societal Action are Linked to Perceptions about Scientific Agreement". Nature Climate Change. 1: 462–466

That's a majority in favor, plus you actually misrepresent most of the "against" studies, Bolsen & Druckman (2017) more or less directly support the GBM, Deryugina & Shurchkov found some positive results with the "hard" treatment (which is most similar to the 97% message), Cook & Lewandowsky found positive consensus-effects for the Australian sample in their study and Dixon (2017) seems to contradict both van der Linden and your own studies, as he points out that no backfire effect was found for consensus messages among free-market conservatives. He also notes the same for this 2016 GMO study. If I remember correctly, CC of scientific consensus predicts polarization, which Dixon directly refutes (as do other studies). In short, although the weight of evidence seems in favor, even if it were not, communicating the consensus appears to do no harm.

June 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJesse

I think that the point missed by some of the consensus messaging studies is that in science, consensus is reached by the preponderance of the evidence, not a popular vote. Furthermore, I believe that the public kind of understands this which is why "consensus" is seen as an effective lever by those special interest groups seeking to undermine the credibility of that evidence. Creating the image of a brave, solo Galileo type appeals to some people, perhaps especially those who view themselves as rugged individualists. This is at any rate an argument I find to be frequently brought up by those who consider themselves to be "skeptics". I believe that the effective counter to this is in conveying the breadth of the evidence, what we know, why we know it, and how that knowledge can be used to make predictions. This argument is sometimes buried within studies of the statistics about numbers of scientists.

More cynically, I'd point out that the current US Federal Administration is well on its way to solving the whole problem, by drastically cutting the number of people employed as climate scientists. Thus reducing the ranks of people who can be credibly recognized as professional climate scientists. The change in political and funding atmosphere also is likely to make scientists in related fields more likely to label themselves by their subfield, like meteorology, oceanography, agriculture or forestry rather than to highlight the linkages of their continuing research work with anthropogenic climate change.

In my opinion, how we communicate consensus in science is important. It get to the heart of how we can use scientific data in making predictions, despite the ongoing need for revision and changes to modify those previous predictions with new data. This is an important concept to get across to members of the public. It is crucial to understanding the effective use of the best available science in making policy decisions in a democratic society.

June 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"I don't know if 83% is a "consensus," but I do know that the weight of the evidence is growing stronger in favor of rejection of the proposition that all you have to do to change their minds is tell skeptics that the vast majority of scientists disagree with them."

By the commonly accepted standard, yes, since the figure for climate change (depending on exactly what and who you ask) was about 82%.

"I would be surprised if anyone associated with consensus messaging thinks this."

I've met people for who this was their only argument, who clearly appeared to expect me to be convinced by it, and who were very surprised when I wasn't.

Nowadays, I think most experienced professional climate communicators have seen the argument fail often enough that I'd be surprised if any still thought it. But it's a mystery to me then whey people are still writing papers as if it *does* work.

"What you seem to have ignored is that a key aspect of what you call consensus messaging is to highlight the consensus gap; the difference between what the public thinks the level of consensus is (often about 60%) and what it actually is (probably more than 90%)."

If that was their aim, they wouldn't keep on quoting the "97% of scientists" lie.

The figures according to Doran and Zimmerman (one of the most commonly cited sources), are 64% meteorologists, 82% scientists generally, 88% climate scientists, and 96-97% of the tiny number of climate scientists able to get lots of papers past the journal gatekeepers.

It would be easy enough to give this information more widespread distribution, but they don't. 97% sounds more persuasive, which is the aim. Scientists solving Stephen Schneider's "'double ethical bind" without using a formula...

" Sometimes it's appropriate to simply present scientific information, even if it's unlikely to convince everyone."

"The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone." etc.

" Is very unfortunate - in my view - that you appear to see it as some kind of competition between your view of what is best and your perception of what others regard as best"

Isn't that how science works? A competition between hypotheses?

I think Dan's idea is that you can't make correct policy decisions without an accurate understanding of their effects. If consensus messaging doesn't work, then everyone ought to stop wasting precious bandwidth on it and find something else that *does* work.

"I think that the point missed by some of the consensus messaging studies is that in science, consensus is reached by the preponderance of the evidence, not a popular vote."

But in politics, consensus is achieved by authority figures telling their followers what to believe. Politicians and political activists think primarily in terms of Argument form Authority.

" Creating the image of a brave, solo Galileo type appeals to some people, perhaps especially those who view themselves as rugged individualists. This is at any rate an argument I find to be frequently brought up by those who consider themselves to be "skeptics"."

:-)

"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual."

"I believe that the effective counter to this is in conveying the breadth of the evidence, what we know, why we know it, and how that knowledge can be used to make predictions."

"Here, the expected 1990-2003 period is MISSING - so the correlations aren't so hot! Yet the WMO codes and station names /locations are identical (or close). What the hell is supposed to happen here? Oh yeah - there is no 'supposed', I can make it up. So I have :-)

If an update station matches a 'master' station by WMO code, but the data is unpalatably inconsistent, the operator is given three choices:

<BEGIN QUOTE>
You have failed a match despite the WMO codes matching.
This must be resolved!! Please choose one:

1. Match them after all.
2. Leave the existing station alone, and discard the update.
3. Give existing station a false code, and make the update the new WMO station.

Enter 1,2 or 3:
<END QUOTE>

You can't imagine what this has cost me - to actually allow the operator to assign false WMO codes!! But what else is there in such situations? Especially when dealing with a 'Master' database of dubious provenance (which, er, they all are and always will be).

False codes will be obtained by multiplying the legitimate code (5 digits) by 100, then adding 1 at a time until a number is found with no matches in the database. THIS IS NOT PERFECT but as there is no central repository for WMO codes - especially made-up ones - we'll have to chance duplicating one that's present in one of the other databases. In any case, anyone comparing WMO codes between databases - something I've studiously avoided doing except for tmin/tmax where I had to - will be treating the false codes with suspicion anyway. Hopefully.

Of course, option 3 cannot be offered for CLIMAT bulletins, there being no metadata with which to form a new station.

This still meant an awful lot of encounters with naughty Master stations, when really I suspect nobody else gives a hoot about. So with a somewhat cynical shrug, I added the nuclear option - to match every WMO possible, and turn the rest into new stations (er, CLIMAT excepted). In other words, what CRU usually do. It will allow bad databases to pass unnoticed, and good databases to become bad, but I really don't think people care enough to fix 'em, and it's the main reason the project is nearly a year late.

June 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

https://phys.org/news/2017-06-context-king-advocating-renewable-energy.html

"We've found that climate change is not an effective frame to gauge people's opinion about renewable energy," she said, "so whether it's Democrat or Republican talking about climate change, no matter how we frame it, if we talk about climate change it doesn't move people." The term has become synonymous with partisanship, Stokes said, and less about the actual issue at hand.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2017.107

However, policy design and framing can strongly influence public support. Using a survey experiment, we show that effects of renewable portfolio standards bills on residential electricity costs, jobs and pollution, as well as bipartisan elite support, are all important drivers of public support. In many states, these bills’ design and framing can push public opinion above or below majority support.

June 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

NiV - no need to cross the Atlantic! Evidence of the massive AGW scam is easy to find domestically:

http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-sues-epa-obama-clean-power-claims/
"..... In an August 2015 press release announcing the Plan, then-EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy claimed: “By 2030, the net public health and climate-related benefits from the Clean Power Plan are estimated to be worth $45 billion every year.” The regulatory plan, like the legislation Congress rejected, was promoted as combating “anthropogenic climate change” [....] The EPA omitted the “2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths” figure in its final rule......"

July 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

PS if what passes for mathematical modeling in the AGW-infested EPA and related government agencies applied to other scientific analyses, the "anti-science" charge leveled at the Trump administration would collapse into the ridicule it so richly deserves. Evidence from Fourier transforms in gravitational waves:
https://www.quantamagazine.org/strange-noise-in-gravitational-wave-data-sparks-debate-20170630/

Raw data matters, as does its cleanup, and any honest modeler knows that.

July 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/climate/scott-pruitt-climate-change-red-team.html

July 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan,

Thanks for the 'red team' link, that's interesting. It's fascinating to see who is proposing use of the scientific method, and who is (still!) trying to evade it.

I don't know if it will be enough, but I get the impression Scott Pruitt is getting some good advice - don't simply defund them and shut them down (which would only provide a focus for a political counterattack). Instead, invoke the scientific method and insist on open presentation of evidence and argument from both sides. If it's all been proven and checked, as they claim - it would be an easy win for the climate scientists... just cut and paste the evidence you've already got. I think plenty of people will read the right message from their unwillingness to do so. As they say: "One of the problems is that I’m caught in a real Catch-22 situation. At present, I’m damned and publicly vilified because I refused to provide McIntyre with the data he requested." I guess the idea is to put the whole of climate science in that same Catch-22.

It could, of course, result in the climate scientists managing to up their game and answer all the climate sceptic questions and objections to the point where anyone can see why they're wrong, and what the evidence is, and shift opinion among all those who have staked their trust in those scientific sceptics. That, surely would be a good thing? People can self-justify changing their mind by pointing to the improved quality of the new evidence. “When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do?”

Of course, the other possibility is that climate scientists win the political fight, and science winds up dropping the scientific method entirely. High stakes...

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

The Keynes quote was easy, but here is the link for the climategate email in quotes in above post >
http://67.225.133.110/~gbpprorg/mil/mindcontrol/global_warming_hoax/FOIA_2011/mail/3341.txt
> and there I wonder, if all this conspiratorial correspondence aims at extracting public funds based on fake research, why is it not prosecuted? Two (self-serving) investigations cleared the climategate heroes, but no prosecutor filed a charge.

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

This article is only tangentially related, except for one thing - and it's vital: James Watson, a genius turned into an "unperson" from runaway political correctness, is justly cited as an authoritative source. Not too late to restore his well-deserved prior "personhood"!
https://www.wired.com/story/this-pill-promises-to-extend-life-for-a-nickel-a-pop/

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute, this is important because it has a lot to do with the science of science communication. With regards to metformin, there is no particular reason to think that James Watson is any more of an authoritative source than Linus Pauling was with regards to Vitamin C. Both are intelligent people who are capable of reading the scientific literature and also humans and as such susceptible to making personal conclusions based on their own biases. And the science here, along with the actual science of the structure of DNA, is independent of James Watson's expressed racist and sexist views. Although those recently publicly expressed views highlight the underlying politics that explain the lack of acknowledgement that Rosalind Franklin's scientific contributions to the elucidation of DNA have been given in the past. All of this does not make James Watson a "non person" but it does mean that his contributions to our understanding of DNA ought to be placed in a more appropriate context. And that greater attention within the scientific community needs to be paid to ensuring that racism and sexism do not continue to derail or dissuade females and minorities from careers in science. Diversity among the backgrounds of professional scientists in turn, aids in public identification with scientists and with their messaging. And diversity among scientists helps with research agenda setting and peer review. A good discussion of James Watson, and the impact of his personal views is given here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/01/dna-james-watson-scientist-selling-nobel-prize-medal. "“No one really wants to admit I exist” says Watson. That’s not it. It’s more that no one is interested in his racist, sexist views."

Metformin is commonly prescribed for the treatment of diabetes, and sometimes pre-diabetes. It thus is tied to obesity. Which of course is linked to heart disease. Both are highly correlated to diet and exercise. All of which affects brain function. Studies of the use of metformin for type 2 diabetics and pre-diabetics show that it is effective, but actually less so than "lifestyle intervention" involving diet and exercise. But of course, taking a pill is easier, and more profitable for Big Pharma. Thus inspired, Big Pharma is well on its way to defining a new disease, Fatty Liver Disease, also related to obesity.

If we all want to extend our lives, we should go take a walk. And not treat ourselves to ice cream afterwards.

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Gaythia - the Guardian article you linked is nothing short of despicable. Watson sold his Nobel medal in order to set up a trust fund for his son - so severely schizophrenic he needs 24/7 care. Most fortunately some Russian bought the medal at auction - remembering Russian biology's, not to mention agriculture, destruction by political correctness as defined by Stalin and his favored "scientist" Lysenko - and did the honorable thing in returning it to Watson for the rest of his life. As to that alleged "sexism" I've met the man and he obviously enjoys meeting a presentable woman, as, indeed, does every single world-class man I've ever come across in my own life, including people with zero personal interest, as in e.g. the late Yves Saint Laurent, my hairdresser etc. Nor do I believe there is any basis in the racism accusation - how you, who presumably know enough to check facts before expressing opinions, could fall for such despicable propaganda is beyond my understanding.

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Re: James Watson: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2014/12/01/nows-your-chance-to-buy-james-watsons-nobel-prize-because-racism/

"scientists need not be held up on pedestals: They are human. Sometimes they can be really cool, but sometimes they can do not-cool things – and they should be held accountable."

"In a 2007 interview with the Sunday Times, Watson expressed the belief that some races are inherently less intelligent than others.

He was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa," he said, because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really." He added that while he hoped everyone was truly equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.""

"So Watson must be apologetic about the flagrant racism of his remarks, right? Yes? We hope?

Nah. Watson is proving himself to be king of the non-apology.

“I apologise . . . [the journalist] somehow wrote that I worried about the people in Africa because of their low IQ – and you’re not supposed to say that," he told the Financial Times. "

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"In a 2007 interview with the Sunday Times, Watson expressed the belief that some races are inherently less intelligent than others."

I think the point being made here is this this is only 'racism' if it's not founded on rational evidence/argument. Otherwise you could argue that saying some races are inherently less good at basketball than others is 'racist'. Or that some races are more prone to sunburn and skin cancer.

The problem is that race is a shibboleth issue in American politics - if someone was to say they thought Republicans were mentally inferior, they're effectively saying exactly the same sort of thing, but they're not getting into nearly as much trouble for it. Cultural shibboleths trigger an emotional response, which distorts rationality.

I don't think Watson is correct on the science here, but I agree with him that once you start banning certain scientific hypotheses or conclusions on political grounds as "socially unacceptable", you kill science itself, and that's an even worse crime in my view. It's also indulging in exactly the same sort of in-group/out-group denigration that it claims to denigrate.

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Dan,

I think that the headline on the piece you link to in this post is misleading. It is not “Value-Based Message Targeting “ that is needed but rather messaging that takes into account the threat to people's real and perceived economic livelihood (which of course is strongly related to what they value, but that is not the lead in). There is a strong corporate interest in the short term profit benefit of business of usual. As well as perhaps, the long term benefits to some of climate change (such as Arctic ports for Russia). Scientists don't offer their messages into a vacuum or even a level playing field, and so the objectives of other messaging agents on the audience also needs to be taken into consideration. People are being left behind by the disruptive nature of our transition away from fossil fuels as well as by automation. Tribal scapegoating is probably as old as human society itself.

The statement NiV gives in a comment above is of course true, “"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual."” Which is precisely why the arguments regarding the best available science should be made based on the evidence. The worth of the evidence is of course weighted by the weight given to the experience and reputation of the scientists involved. But sure, the process needs to be open to new ideas that may disrupt old ones.

Climate science, which is dependent on a very broad base of evidence types is replete with such examples. The CO2 measurements made by Dave Keeling at Mona Loa and on the Olympic Peninsula were originally undertaken to provide data for studies of the chemical equlibria between ocean and other waters, the atmosphere and carbonate rocks. https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/2013/04/03/the-history-of-the-keeling-curve/. Only later were these tied to temperature. Temperature data has had a number of challenges, that have led to further research, such as the changes in the monitoring stations based on urban heat island effects and the effects of ocean heat absorption. Which then led to concerns about ocean acidification. https://academic.oup.com/icesjms/article/65/3/414/789605.

The process of new data and model adjustments is ongoing. This is something that denialists would like to cite as if it were a failing, but it is a strength.

From a later comment by NiV: “If it's all been proven and checked, as they claim - it would be an easy win for the climate scientists...” Continual debate of matters considered settled is not part of the scientific method. Science builds on previous work. Scientists, of course do not wake up in the morning (checking first to see if gravity still of about the same magnitude as the night before) get up and go to the laboratory, recheck that matter is made of atoms, those atoms organize into molecules and those molecules react to form other molecules and so forth and so forth before embarking on the research work of the day. That said, in doing research, scientists need to be open to evidence that does require going back to recheck items that may have seemed to provide a basis for the current research. Which may lead to a change in research directions. There is plenty of opportunity for research evaluation at conferences and of course with the more formal peer review process of publication. Is this a perfect process? Of course not! But even with plenty of examples of work later upended, this process of developing the best available science on an ongoing basis is one that is highly useful for human advancement. We can always make improvements, but the basic process is sound and should not be discarded.

Where would this process of challenges stop? From Florida comes a disturbing example that could stop the process of public school science education by bogging it down in “hearings”: https://ncse.com/news/2017/06/floridas-antiscience-bill-becomes-law-0018567


When it comes to Pruitt's proposed red/blue commission: Been there, done that, still doing much. The ongoing processes of IPCC itself is designed for such checks. And then there was the Best Commission: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all. Pruitt himself, of course, is not unbiased: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/07/trump-names-scott-pruitt-oklahoma-attorney-general-suing-epa-on-climate-change-to-head-the-epa/.

This isn't about the process of science, this is a blatant very political attempt by those supported by the fossil fuel industry to delay innovation, regulation and retain economic control.

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Ecoute: " this is only 'racism' if it's not founded on rational evidence/argument." is exactly what we are talking about here.

James Watson's statements:

"He was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa," he said, because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really." He added that while he hoped everyone was truly equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.""

are racist. Period.

This is not a case of "runaway political correctness".

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Dan,

I think that the following statements by Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse is the best 4th of July message I'vve seen so far.

Within the subset of science, how do we communicate our shared values?

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/02/politics/ben-sasse-donald-trump-media-attacks/index.html

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Gay this +

=={ this is only 'racism' if it's not founded on rational evidence/argument." is exactly what we are talking about here. . }==

Please note: Tweren't Ecoute.

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Gaythia - before we get to express some opinion on a statement, as you do e.g. here >>>>>>>>>>>

"................James Watson's statements:

"He was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa," he said, because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really." He added that while he hoped everyone was truly equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.""

are racist. Period..................."

>>>>>>>>>>>> shouldn't we first ask whether it is TRUE?

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Joshua is correct, I failed to notice that NiV had chimed in and attributed to Ecoute a statement actually from a comment by NiV. I was wrong.

Unless we live in a post fact society, the statement of James Watson as recorded by the Sunday Times can be deemed as reliable, further emphasized by the fact that it was followed most immediately by James Watson by the evasive non denial as recorded by the Financial Times. I think that we can all realize that giving interviews to media is tricky. The need to speak in soundbites is not always fully and effectively realized. So it is possible to realize afterwards, OMG! I just said something awful. But James Watson did not start his responses with an immediate outright assertion that it had been a horrible mistake, a mangled statement that he wanted to firmly disavow. Perhaps that is what he meant to say as recorded here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/10/18/nobel.apology/. But even this did not happen until after an avalanche of cancellations. And he is in the predicament of having any comments made now only remind people of a whole string of questionable statements he made further in the past.

So he remains someone who despite his scientific achievements and despite the fact that perhaps his friends find him to be a very nice guy, is no longer seen as a desirable public speaker at many although not all science oriented venues. From 2011: https://vimeo.com/75428437. Circumstances may be different for different famous scientists, but maintaining an extensive speaking career into ones 80's is much more the exception than the rule anyway.

In my opinion, the matter that ought to be of greatest concern is not the impact of his statements on him, but rather its impact on women and minorities contemplating or with careers in science.

Many things that get brushed off as "runaway political correctness" in fact ought to be matters of real concern, and deserve to be addressed as such.

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Also of interest:

On the issue of obesity, Watson has also been quoted as saying, 2000: "Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you're not going to hire them."[87]

While speaking at a conference in 2000, Watson had suggested a link between skin color and sex drive, hypothesizing that dark-skinned people have stronger libidos.[87][88] His lecture argued that extracts of melanin – which gives skin its color – had been found to boost subjects' sex drive. "That's why you have Latin lovers," he said, according to people who attended the lecture. "You've never heard of an English lover. Only an English Patient."[89]

Watson has repeatedly supported genetic screening and genetic engineering in public lectures and interviews, arguing that stupidity is a disease and the "really stupid" bottom 10% of people should be cured.[90] He has also suggested that beauty could be genetically engineered, saying in 2003, "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great."[90][91]

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Not only can we not expect mass-produced pretty girls any time soon, we can't even have designer mini-pigs:
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608207/china-genomics-giant-drops-plans-for-gene-edited-pets/

As to those fat people, read Gaythia right here on this page for the obesity solution - it's diet and exercise!

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Gaythia,

""He was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa," he said, because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.""

He explicitly bases his opinions on evidence.

"Unless we live in a post fact society, the statement of James Watson as recorded by the Sunday Times can be deemed as reliable, further emphasized by the fact that it was followed most immediately by James Watson by the evasive non denial as recorded by the Financial Times. I think that we can all realize that giving interviews to media is tricky. The need to speak in soundbites is not always fully and effectively realized. So it is possible to realize afterwards, OMG! I just said something awful. But James Watson did not start his responses with an immediate outright assertion that it had been a horrible mistake, a mangled statement that he wanted to firmly disavow."

It wasn't a misstatement. He had no intention and felt no need to disavow it. His belief is that - socially unacceptable, politically inconvenient, and counter to what he (like us) wants to be true - objective testing confirms the statement to be true, and in science, objective evidence overrides any amount of what we want to believe or what society tells us we ought to believe.

Dan keeps on telling us that people will reject objective evidence if it conflicts with their cultural identity - this is what it looks like when somebody doesn't. Watson is saying that the evidence (Africans do get lower scores on IQ tests, just as Asians get higher ones) conflicts with the beliefs inherent in our shared cultural identity (that racism is wrong and unacceptable, and all races are identical), but that if we're going to be truth-seeking scientists rather than culturally cogitating conformists, we ought to go with the evidence despite the heavy social cost of failing to conform to our social group's beliefs. He is putting his scientific principles first.

And looking at what has happened to his career and reputation, and the way you are reacting, I think we can readily see why some scientists would abandon scientific principle and bend their results to fit what society wants them to say.

"In my opinion, the matter that ought to be of greatest concern is not the impact of his statements on him, but rather its impact on women and minorities contemplating or with careers in science."

I agree. If you prevent research into the reasons women and minorities don't go into science - denying that there are any differences to research purely for political reasons - then you'll never actually solve the real problem, and the women/minorities will be left to struggle. You can only make correct policy decisions and solve problems with undistorted information.

In my view, the differences are a result of inherited culture, rather than genetics, and if understood as such easily correctable. Black children adopted by white families grow up with educational attainment levels indistinguishable from white children. It's not genetic.) But the problem persists because society both denies the existence of any differences in ability, whatever their cause, and defends minority cultures from pressure to change or integrate. That's a moral decision, of course, but it has these consequences.

--

"Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you're not going to hire them."

That seems like an accurate and unobjectionable statement. He's saying that we're biased today against fat people in the same sort of way that in the past we used to be biased against black people, and that we know this is bad and feel guilty about it. Was there more context?

"Watson had suggested a link between skin color and sex drive, hypothesizing that dark-skinned people have stronger libidos."

Is that any less likely than suggesting that dark skinned people are better at basketball? He offers a vaguely plausible biological mechanism backed by some indirect evidence. And it's not like it's a bad thing he's accusing them of...

I'm highly dubious, myself, but I wouldn't exclude the hypothesis from needing to be tested.

"Watson has repeatedly supported genetic screening and genetic engineering in public lectures and interviews, arguing that stupidity is a disease and the "really stupid" bottom 10% of people should be cured"

Don't teachers try to cure stupidity? Is that a bad aim?

I agree there may be a valid moral argument about the method. But selective abortion has many of the same moral issues that abortion does, and I don't see why aborting an embryo because it might be stupid is obviously any worse than aborting it because it might be a financial drain and an impediment to one's career. But being a 'moral values' question, I'm sure opinions will differ...

"People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great."

I think, given a choice, most girls would prefer to be pretty than ugly. But again, if making all girls pretty is a bad thing to do, there would be more opposition to the make-up and beauty industry.

It's not a point of view that everyone agrees with, nor ought to, but it's one side of an important debate. How can you have a debate if you completely outlaw one side of it from expressing their opinion?

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

But back to the science...

" Continual debate of matters considered settled is not part of the scientific method."

Actually, yes it is.

" Scientists, of course do not wake up in the morning (checking first to see if gravity still of about the same magnitude as the night before)"

Actually, yes they do. There are stations continually monitoring it.
https://www.ngs.noaa.gov/PUBS_LIB/NGS_Absolute_Gravity_Program_TR_NOS130_NGS43.pdf

"There is plenty of opportunity for research evaluation at conferences and of course with the more formal peer review process of publication."

Nope. Peer review in the scientific sense only occurs after publication. Journal peer review is only a quick filter and sanity check to make sure papers are worth people's time to check in detail. When you get the post, you first throw away everything written in green crayon. That gets it down to a manageable amount that you can then try to replicate/extend/debunk. Only if it survives a number of years of such attempts (and the majority of peer-reviewed journal papers don't) does it gain any scientific credibility.

"Where would this process of challenges stop?"

It never stops. Continual systematic scepticism about everything, even things long accepted, is science's immune system by which it weeds out errors and misunderstandings in the same way that an organism's immune system continually weeds out harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and cancers. It never says "that's enough" and gives up. Because as each generation learns science, even if it starts off as correct, copying errors, omissions, over-simplifications, and misunderstandings continually creep in.

"When it comes to Pruitt's proposed red/blue commission: Been there, done that, still doing much. The ongoing processes of IPCC itself is designed for such checks."

Yes, but the IPCC review process didn't work. The IPCC published a set of results that, when an outsider finally after three years asked to see the data for, turned out to be based on corrupted data and bogus, mathematically incorrect methods. At no time, in the peer review process, the IPCC review process, or the three years after publication by the IPCC, had anyone else ever obtained and checked the data/calculation.

I quoted a large section above from a climate scientist complaining that he couldn't replicate the previously published results and was having to make data up to get it to process, admitting that he knew this would corrupt the climate databases. In another place in the same document, he complains that undocumented methods cause statistical errors that render parts of the data "meaningless". Data from that particular database was cited without caveat in the IPCC report, too. Not even the institution that generated the data could replicate it! Clearly, nobody had ever checked it.

You can read to official aftermath report requested by UN Secretary General and the IPCC Chair here. They say things like:

The Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers has been criticized for various errors and for emphasizing the negative impacts of climate change. These problems derive partly from a failure to adhere to IPCC’s uncertainty guidance for the fourth assessment and partly from shortcomings in the guidance itself. Authors were urged to consider the amount of evidence and level of agreement about all conclusions and to apply subjective probabilities of confidence to conclusions when there was high agreement and much evidence. However, authors reported high confidence in some statements for which there is little evidence. Furthermore, by making vague statements that were difficult to refute, authors were able to attach “high confidence” to the statements. The Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers contains many such statements that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or not expressed clearly. When statements are well defined and supported by evidence—by indicating when and under what climate conditions they would occur—the likelihood scale should be used.

and

IPCC assessments are intended to rely mainly on peer-reviewed literature. Although the peer review
process is not perfect, it ensures that the study being considered has had the benefit of independent scrutiny and quality control before it is used in the assessment. However, peer reviewed journals may not contain all the useful information about some topics, such as vulnerabilities and adaptation and mitigation strategies of particular sectors and regions, which are a significant part of the Working Groups II and III reports. An analysis of the 14,000 references cited in the Third Assessment Report found that peer-reviewed journal articles comprised 84 percent of references in Working Group I, but only 59 percent of references in Working Group II and 36 percent of references in Working Group III (Bjurström and Polk, 2010).

and

Although the Committee finds that IPCC’s procedures in this respect are adequate, it is clear that these procedures are not always followed.

and

Another issue is whether it is appropriate to use quantitative subjective probabilities when statements are qualitative in nature or imprecisely stated. Many of the 71 conclusions in the “Current Knowledge about Future Impacts” section of the Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers are imprecise statements made without reference to the time period under consideration or to a climate scenario under which the conclusions would be true.

and

In the Committee’s view, assigning probabilities to imprecise statements is not an appropriate way to characterize uncertainty. If the confidence scale is used in this way, conclusions will likely be stated so vaguely as to make them impossible to refute, and therefore statements of “very high confidence” will have little substantive value.11 More importantly, the use of probabilities to characterize uncertainty is most appropriate when applied to empirical quantities (Morgan et al., 2009).

and

The IPCC uncertainty guidance provides a good starting point for characterizing uncertainty in the assessment reports. However, the guidance was not consistently followed in the fourth assessment, leading to unnecessary errors. For example, authors reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence, such as the widely-quoted statement that agricultural yields in Africa might decline by up to 50 percent by 2020. Moreover, the guidance was often applied to statements that are so vague they cannot be falsified. In these cases the impression was often left, quite incorrectly, that a substantive finding was being presented.

and

The IPCC uncertainty guidance urges authors to provide a traceable account of how authors determined what ratings to use to describe the level of scientific understanding (Table 3.1) and the likelihood that a particular outcome will occur (Table 3.3). However, it is unclear exactly whose judgments are reflected in the ratings that appear in the Fourth Assessment Report or how the judgments were determined. How, exactly, a consensus was reached regarding subjective probability distributions needs to be documented. The uncertainty guidance for the Third Assessment Report required authors to indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (Moss and Schneider, 2000), and this requirement is consistent with the guidance for the Fourth Assessment Report.

and

IPCC’s guidance for addressing uncertainties in the Fourth Assessment Report urge authors to consider the amount of evidence and level of agreement about all conclusions and to apply subjective probabilities of confidence to conclusions when there was “high agreement, much evidence.” However, such guidance was not always followed, as exemplified by the many statements in the Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers that are assigned high confidence, but are based on little evidence. Moreover, the apparent need to include statements of “high confidence” (i.e., an 8 out of 10 chance of being correct) in the Summary for Policy Makers led authors to make many vaguely defined statements that are difficult to refute, making them therefore of “high confidence.” Such statements have little value.

and

Data are the bedrock on which the progress of science rests. The extraordinary development of new measuring techniques and new digital technologies has enabled climate scientists to assemble vast quantities of data. However, the large size and complex nature of these databases can make them difficult to access and use. Moreover, for various reasons many of these scientific databases as well as significant unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature are not in the public domain. An unwillingness to share data with critics and enquirers and poor procedures to respond to freedom-of-information requests were the main problems uncovered in some of the controversies surrounding the IPCC (Muir Russell et al., 2010; PBL, 2010). Poor access to data inhibits users’ ability to check the quality of the data used and to verify the conclusions drawn. Consequently, it is important for the IPCC to aspire toward ensuring that the main conclusions in its assessment reports are underpinned by appropriately referenced peer-reviewed sources or, to the greatest extent practical, by openly accessible databases.

In my view, they were being unreasonably polite about it all! But as an "intergovernmental" panel it's clearly a political matter, too. But that's what happens when you exclude or ignore challenge by critics.

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." That is the core bedrock of the scientific method. We can only have justified confidence in science because it is being continually and endlessly checked for errors.

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV, Yes! Science is a continual work in progress. It is also a body of tested experimental evidence that can be relied upon to make predictions. Even as it is subject to continual refinement and in some cases outright revision.

The force of gravity for practical purposes, can be relied upon. The reason for continual measurement refinement of the gravitational force, and work to refine the accuracy of those measurements is to improve our knowledge. We can rely on gravity in our day to day lives, or for engineering purposes, even though there is much we don't understand about gravity and how it is connected to how the Universe works.

Human intelligence is a complicated thing. An IQ test, or any designated "intelligence" tests are only narrow measures of certain aspects of that. Basketball is a game where the rule are set up to be biased in favor of people who are taller. None of this is defined by race.

The IPCC is still a work in progress, as is climate and related research. There is still much that we do not know. but also things that we do understand well enough to draw conclusions that can inform policy. CO2 levels are increasing, as are global temperatures, and this can be attributed to human burning of fossil fuels. Some of the things advocated as policy solutions turned out to have unanticipated complications. Many people thought that natural gas would make a good transition fuel as we moved away first from less clean burning coal. Methane releases in the process of natural gas development is making this a less good idea than originally thought. The ocean was thought to be a good CO2 sink, but ocean acidification is turning out to be a serious issue.

Science is much more than a belief in the ignorance of experts. It is a system based on evidence, open to changing evidence, one in which individuals can be recognized as experts, but also a system is designed to be still open to change based on new evidence. Is it perfect? Of course not. It is still a highly worthwhile human endeavor.

Pruitt is no scientific expert. His challenges to climate change are based on politics, not scientific evidence. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/05/24/scientists-just-published-an-entire-study-refuting-scott-pruitt-on-climate-change/. and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-02520-7.

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Gaythia - there is something absolutely fascinating about your posts here: they consistently fail the Turing test, meaning that if I had no extraneous data other than your posts (duly processed by AI programs) I would conclude you are a bot.

In previous threads I told Joshua the same thing, but as he seemed to get horribly offended at the idea he might be a computer, I hasten to add I do have extraneous data (other people here know you both personally) so I trust you will not get upset and instead focus on the analytics involved.

To see what is involved consider an early question from Turing's day: "Do submarines swim?" Bots will answer yes. Humans consider the question nonsensical. From today's massive AI databanks we get similarly nonsensical replies. Asked to produce a picture of a barbell, the most advanced (non-military) AI system came up with one that had a human arm attached. Obviously that's because it never saw any other kind, but equally obviously it's not a mistake even a young child would make. Just to finish with the background info, you make absurd claims on gravity, not even thinking to check that, at least since the GRACE satellites went up, changes in local gravity measurements are as good a predictor of earthquakes as any we've got - and if that is not a "practical purpose" then nothing is.
https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/k-4/features/F_Measuring_Gravity_With_Grace.html

Ok, so now moving from the general to the particular: your posts resemble AI swimming submarines and barbell pictures. Please go back and read your posts here starting with the simplest questions, answerable by yes or no.
Do you see anybody asking you whether Watson's statement is racist? No, Gaythia, you do not, but that is precisely the question you keep answering. Next: do you see anybody asking you whether the statement is true? Yes, you do.

It gets worse from there, and if you get beyond Y/N (perhaps you can't, being solidly encased in some kind of Kafkaesque conceptual carapace) you'll see that questioning NiV's observation on evidence (aka demonstrable facts, or repeatable experiments) by quibbling on measurement errors simply compounds your original Y/N error.

Happy Fourth :)

July 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

The genius of Kafka in describing the brutality of enforcing what Dan terms "cultural cognition" but is more accurately captured by Lenin's phrase "political correctness" is not to be found in either Metamorphosis or The Trial - in neither of which the ultimate cause of the hero's suffering is spelled out. Instead, it is outlined in its full horror in The Penal Colony.

http://www.kafka.org/index.php?aid=167

And THAT is where James Watson has been dispatched. I certainly hope he is freed in his lifetime. But I have little expectation that any PC enforcer will demonstrate the basic decency of the Officer in the story.

July 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute,

Why is it that you can't see or are refusing to see the grievous harm done to others by such blanket and highly biased statements by James Watson such as the ones below.

" "Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you're not going to hire them.""

or

"people who have to deal with black employees...."

or implying that "girls" should be pretty

or that it should be possible to abort homosexual fetuses

James Watson is not being denied freedom of speech. He is finding it more difficult to find speaking engagements than he feels himself to somehow be entitled to.

Not engaging him as a speaker is well founded based on considerable evidence as to the racist, misogynistic, homophobic and generally biased nature of many of his public statements. Finding his statements to be inappropriate, and not desiring to go out of the way to provide him with additional platforms for exposing his views is perfectly legitimate.

Working to overcome discrimination and biases against women and minorities that have held back their full participation advancement in science and in other areas ought to be something in which all scientists are actively involved.

July 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Ecoute -

=={ In previous threads I told Joshua the same thing, but as he seemed to get horribly offended at the idea he might be a computer, }==

By what evidence do you determine that I was "horribly offended" by your ludicrous comments?

July 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"The force of gravity for practical purposes, can be relied upon."

I agree. But our continued understanding of it cannot. As I said, copying errors and misunderstandings creep in as each new generation learns from the last, and need to be constantly weeded out.

"Human intelligence is a complicated thing. An IQ test, or any designated "intelligence" tests are only narrow measures of certain aspects of that."

Agreed. It's an attempt to measure our problem solving capacity, and that depends on lots of things - education and culture especially.

"Basketball is a game where the rule are set up to be biased in favor of people who are taller. None of this is defined by race."

Agreed, except to say that height is partially correlated to race - hence the connection. The point is that it is entirely possible for other characteristics to be correlated to race - for accidental, genetic, cultural, or historic reasons - and it does no good to deny it if it's true. Just as it does no good to make up distinctions that are not true for similarly political reasons.

As many people have noted before, asians tend to do better on IQ and education that caucasians, even in places where they're a minority. It's not racist to say so if that's what the tests tell us. Interpretation of the observation is often a different matter.

"The IPCC is still a work in progress, as is climate and related research. There is still much that we do not know."

I agree. I don't have a problem with climate science being a very young science in the early stages of its development, and with an incredibly complex and under-observed subject matter to study. The problem I have with it is when they start laying claim to levels of certainty not justified by the evidence, and when they start using such a young and uncertain science for trillion-dollar stakes of other people's money, seemingly with no regard to the quality control that they could easily achieve, even with present-day scientific knowledge. For example, a lot of the problems with that database I alluded to above have had solutions in the field of computer science for several decades now.

The difficulty has been that until recently climate science was a quiet academic Ivory Tower backwater where the strictest levels of quality control are rarely necessary. (Bad science won't kill anyone.) But once it started being used for making trillion dollar decisions, it ought to have been brought up to the stricter quality standards we use for safety-critical or business-critical science. The culture shock involved in the shift is immense, though, and the academics have resisted it. That's not the sort of selfish and self-indulgent behaviour we can tolerate if the fate of the planet is truly at stake.

"CO2 levels are increasing, as are global temperatures, and this can be attributed to human burning of fossil fuels."

This is the 'correlation implies causation' fallacy. Even the IPCC conceded that quantifying the uncertainties involved could not as yet be done, and therefore the attribution of cause depended on "expert judgement" - i.e. their opinion. The furthest they were willing to go was to say "more than half", which if you work out what theat means, puts you at the levels of climate sensitivity that most climate sceptics would agree with anyway. The issue is that the models predict more warming than has been observed, so for the claims to be justified it would have to be more like 150% of the observed warming being anthropogenic, not 50%. The IPCC don't make that claim.

"Science is much more than a belief in the ignorance of experts. It is a system based on evidence,"

That was what Feynman meant. You don't trust the experts, you trust the evidence. The only use experts have in science is to point you to the evidence.

"Pruitt is no scientific expert. His challenges to climate change are based on politics, not scientific evidence."

Possibly so, but then so is all the support for climate science. It shouldn't matter what your motivations are, though, so long as both sides subscribe to the scientific method.

--

"Why is it that you can't see or are refusing to see the grievous harm done to others by such blanket and highly biased statements by James Watson such as the ones below."

I'm not sure if you're talking about Ecoute or me, but the answer is "Because we don't share your cultural biases".

I don't think Watson meant by any of those statements what you seem to think he meant. For example, he's not saying girls ought to be pretty, he's saing girls generally want to be pretty, and it's a good thing to be able to give people what they want. Do you think any women's fashion magazine says any different? Judging from the number of beauty products being advertised, I don't think so.

As for abortion, I don't think there's any point in going there - it's so politically entangled in the US that discussions inevitable run into multiple cultural taboos. There are plenty of people who object, in precisely the same terms to all abortion - especially that done to avoid the expense or the inconvenient career break it would involve. It's "a woman's choice", and pro-choice advocates don't set any lower limits on the seriousness of the reasons for doing it. But that's a case of different cultural biases. A pro-life advocate would see abortion for the sake of a woman's career as repugnant as a typical pro-choice advocate would an abortion because of homosexuality. Watson is simply being pro-choice.

"Not engaging him as a speaker is well founded based on considerable evidence as to the racist, misogynistic, homophobic and generally biased nature of many of his public statements."

Sure. So long as you accept the right of the other side to "no platform" people who have socialist, pro-environment, pro-gay, anti-Christian views. Science requires you to tell the truth (as you see it), but you only get paid for telling people what they want to hear. The question is which you put first: your scientific principles or getting paid.

"Working to overcome discrimination and biases against women and minorities that have held back their full participation advancement in science and in other areas ought to be something in which all scientists are actively involved."

I agree, but there's more than one way to do that. Watson's approach, as strange as it may seem to you, is aimed at helping women and minorities in science. The idea is that rather than deny there are any differences, you should instead identify their causes and find a way to fix them, or work round them.

It's like saying that women don't go into science because they prefer to raise children. Now you can either say "that's sexist" and deny absolutely that women are any different to men in this regard, or you can acknowledge that the observation is true and instead introduce workplace childcare facilities so that parents can mix a science career and raising a family. Which approach is better for women and minorities?

You can't solve a problem (for women and minorities, or for anyone else) if politics requires that you deny the problem even exists. Science requires putting the evidence first. And if that means you lose speaking engagements because other people do put politics first, so be it.

July 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

From Kafka's The Penal Colony (link in my previous post here):

"......... The Traveler bit his lip and said nothing. For he was aware what would happen, but he had no right to hinder the Officer in any way. If the judicial process to which the officer clung was really so close to the point of being cancelled—perhaps as a result of the intervention of the Traveler, something to which he for his part felt duty-bound—then the Officer was now acting in a completely correct manner. In his place, the Traveler would not have acted any differently..."

"Science of science communication" has no hope of success when the listener's sense of self crucially depends on NOT understanding the content of the scientific communication. If Gaythia and Joshua (btw, old threads and your posts on them are readily accessible on Dan's website right here) in some unguarded moment DID understand the communication, they might feel compelled to act exactly like the officer in Kafka's story. Self-preservation dictates not even reading the story, then there's no danger of understanding it. Brilliant.

July 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute -

What evidence do you use to base your opinion that I was "horribly offended" by your ludicrous comments?

July 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua - this question was already answered in a previous post here.

Gaythia - twice I have asked you "Is it true?" in reference to Watson's statement, and am still waiting for the courtesy of a reply.

There is a definite communication problem here.

July 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Upon reflection the problem may not be communication per se, but reading comprehension. The reply to Joshua's question is 4 lines from the end of my post immediately preceding his repeated question, and in case that, too, is not clear enough, here is a cut-and-paste:

>>>>.. Joshua (btw, old threads and your posts on them are readily accessible on Dan's website right here) ..<<<<<<

July 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute,

Journalism, like science, has standards for professional integrity. I believe that numerous credible sources have determined that James Watson said what they quoted him as saying, and furthermore that he made a very slow and limited effort at making amends for the impact of these various statements. As I believe I have stated above.

NiV,

I believe that this statement "saying that women don't go into science because they prefer to raise children." is not only sexist but lacking in scientific documentation. Hinging on how you define "prefer" with respect to the sexist environment many women find themselves to be in. Of course I believe that there ought to be workplace accommodations such as childcare facilities for parents with children. But please do not start off that conversation with assumptions about what women prefer.

Additionally, this is a highly personal matter for me as I was laid off by a major corporation when 5 months pregnant. I disputed this action, but faced with a situation in which it was stated "you will have one lawyer, we can use 60", settled for a additional severance package along with a lengthy extension of the extremely essential health insurance package. (This was before the institution of what is known in the US as COBRA, which would give an extension of up to 18 months for health insurance as long as the person was able to pay for it themselves).

July 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Ecoute -

=={ Upon reflection the problem may not be communication per se, but reading comprehension. The reply to Joshua's question is 4 lines from the end of my post immediately preceding his repeated question, and in case that, too, is not clear enough, here is a cut-and-paste }==

I guess I should explain further, as disparaging my reading comprehension doesn't help to clarify for me what I don't understand.

The point is that I wasn't even remotely offended, let alone "horribly offended" by your absurd comments about me being a "bot." My assumption is that either your speculation about that was either some kind of a lame joke, trying to level some kind of a lame and pathetic insult, or that you were simply engaging in unhinged reasoning. I'd like to think it was one of the former two - but who knows.

As such, I was curious about what might make someone who presumably is capable of sophisticated reasoning to reach such a completely incorrect conclusion. Neither handwaving to the comment threads on Dan's blog as an explanation, or making comments about my reading comprehension help me to understand. I'm asking you to be more specific. What was it that lead you to think that I was "horribly offended" by your ludicrous comments? It is always interesting for me to see how someone's "motivations" can lead them to fully confident, yet completely incorrect conclusions. Or perhaps you're right, and I was "horribly offended" and didn't realize it? In which case you would be doing me a favor by offering deep insights that are beyond the reach of someone so far beneath your level of sophistication?

July 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Gaythia - you miss the point completely. Nobody disputes Watson was accurately quoted in the media - he does not claim so himself. But if his statement is TRUE - and why you keep dancing away from this simple question is a mystery to me - then it follows logically that NOBODY could possibly be HARMED by it. If you think the statement is FALSE, why not say so?

Joshua - my evidence for your reaction are your several posts, distributed over several threads, in response to my observations concerning those selfsame posts. These are, we are agreed, readily accessible on this very website, so I fail to see what the problem is - if you are looking for an editor of the "collected online post by Joshua, with glossary and explanatory notes", kindly apply elsewhere since much of the time I have no clue what you are talking about.

July 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

..............typo alert.......

"collected online post by Joshua, with glossary and explanatory notes"
should read
"collected online posts by Joshua, with glossary and explanatory notes"

I regret the error.

July 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

"I believe that this statement "saying that women don't go into science because they prefer to raise children." is not only sexist but lacking in scientific documentation."

Have you looked for any?

"Hinging on how you define "prefer" with respect to the sexist environment many women find themselves to be in."

By "prefer" I mean what the economists call "revealed preferences".

By "sexist environment" I assume you mean "culture". I don't disagree that culture may be at the root of a lot of people's behaviours and choices - but whatever the reason for them, my point is that there is no point in denying that those behaviours exist. Far more women than men choose to raise children. (86% in the UK. That's well documented.) Saying it is "sexist" to say so gets us nowhere. It just makes the people making the claim look ridiculous.

As it happens, there are measurable mental differences between the sexes, which is how you can get transgender people when they get the brain wiring from the wrong sex. To claim it is "all culture" is to deny the basis of transgenderism, which in this politically correct world is considered "homophobic" or "transphobic", depending on your local usages. And if you think being a woman in a sexist world is bad, you should try seeing what it's like to be trans!

"Additionally, this is a highly personal matter for me as I was laid off by a major corporation when 5 months pregnant."

So how did you expect the company to generate the money to pay for your temporary replacement when you wasn't working?

Because there are biological differences between the sexes (only one gets pregnant), and different career choices made by the sexes, the employment costs faced by companies are different for the two sexes. If you force companies to pay these costs out of the general pay budget, thus forcing them to pay all the other employees less, raise costs, and reduce employment, then you create a rational motivation for them to do exactly that sort of thing.

The companies are not being sexist - all they're interested in is the cost of employment, which is an entirely gender-neutral motive. If pregnant women are on average more expensive to employ, that's reflected in the pay, conditions, and job security they offer in return for your work. To stop it happening, you need to change the costs so that men and women are equally expensive to employ.

That's what I mean about understanding the problem versus simply denying that it exists, or asserting that it shouldn't exist and therefore we're all going to act as if it doesn't. The latter approach just results in people circumventing your measures because they still have to deal with the real costs in the real world. Only the former approach can actually solve it.

July 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Ecoute -

=={ Joshua - my evidence for your reaction are your several posts, distributed over several threads, in response to my observations concerning those selfsame posts. These are, we are agreed, readily accessible on this very website, so I fail to see what the problem is - if you are looking for an editor of the "collected online post by Joshua, with glossary and explanatory notes", kindly apply elsewhere since much of the time I have no clue what you are talking about. }==

Once again, hand waiving in some vague way about the comment threads doesn't offer an explanation that is of any help to me. I am asking for something more specific. What is it within those comments that leads you to think that I was "horribly offended" by your ludicrous assertion that I could be some kind of "bot?" It's interesting that you have no clue what I'm talking about much of the time, yet seem to be so clear in that interpretation (even thought it is completely wrong). I'm not looking for some kind of an editor...I'm just asking for an explanation.

It seems to me that you keep ducking a simple question. It seems to me that an actual answer, rather than just vague hand-waiving, should be fairly simple to provide.

So which of my comments, or more specifically what is it in some particular threads at this website, that leads you con (wrongly) conclude that I am "horribly offended" by some anonymous commenter writing ludicrous comments?

July 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

NiV, corporations are run by people, not culturally unbiased free market algorithms. Biases frequently come into play. One example: https://hbr.org/2017/06/male-and-female-entrepreneurs-get-asked-different-questions-by-vcs-and-it-affects-how-much-funding-they-get.

Workers are human and not robots. Thus various health and personal issues can have significant impacts. Along with biases on the normalcy and acceptability of such impacts based on the existing culture and the nature of the managerial level workforce. During the time I was negotiating pregnancy related issues, all involving the ability to make long term planning, at least 3 upper level white male managers had heart health problems that caused them to take an abrupt leave of absence, or in one case, be hauled off the worksite in an ambulance.

A larger talent pool and diverse experience base would be an asset for the corporation rather than a liability. Furthermore, making extra effort to make the cultural changes necessary within corporations to be inclusive can be seen as a vital asset for the society at large and thus something that they ought to regulate for the benefit of the society as a whole.

July 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"NiV, corporations are run by people, not culturally unbiased free market algorithms."

I'm not saying that unjustified bias doesn't exist or never happens - I'm saying that sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, and we need to be critical about asking which is actually the case, not jump to culturally biased assumptions.

"Biases frequently come into play."

Interesting example. My first thought on reading the description of the experiment was to ask whether there were any other differences between the proposals and pitches besides the gender of the entrepreneur. For example, suppose the women tended to leave out mention of defensive factors more often, leading the VCs to ask about them more.

The way to test it would be to have randomly assigned male and female presenters present exactly the same proposal and pitch, and see if there was still a difference in the questions being asked.

The method could be a bit like that play where they had Trump and Clinton switch genders. A lot of people assumed that Trump won the election at least partly because he was a man, and society is sexist. It turned out that Trump's pitch and presentation was even more convincing when presented by a woman, and when Hillary's technique was reproduced by a man it made him "punchable".

Supposing that we do the test and find there is a genuine difference purely because of the presenter, we then need to ask ourselves why. Because while one possible explanation is a cultural sexist bias, it's not the only one. People form stereotypes for a reason - they're trying to simplify a complicated world by making statistical generalisations. Quite often they're not very good at it, relying on biased samples ("None of my friends did...") or out-dated data. But sometimes there is a valid reason for the stereotype. People assume the woman is more likely to drop out of work to look after the kids because more women actually do. Maybe male and female entrepreneurs have different management styles, because of the different cultures they operate in, leading to differences in expected business performance that the VCs have picked up on? Does the difference in perception of male and female entrepreneurs have a true and valid justification behind it?

Note, I'm not saying it does - I'm saying we need to ask the question. You can't just *assume* it's because VCs are sexist pigs, especially when the female VCs were just as bad. It's legitimate to ask the question as to whether there is a real difference between the sexes here; you can't exclude questions from scientific enquiry because they're politically inconvenient.

"During the time I was negotiating pregnancy related issues, all involving the ability to make long term planning, at least 3 upper level white male managers had heart health problems that caused them to take an abrupt leave of absence, or in one case, be hauled off the worksite in an ambulance."

Yes, and I'd expect it to get factored into the economics. Older men in their 50s and 60s will be less valued than younger men in their 30s and 40s because of health concerns, and any man known to have health issues liable to soon result in being off work long-term I would expect to be heavily discounted. Likewise for men approaching retirement age. (I've seen instances of both.) It's why our government outlawed age discrimination as well - people *do* take it into account.

"A larger talent pool and diverse experience base would be an asset for the corporation rather than a liability."

I agree. It is. And if there are lots of companies who don't recognise that, there's a market advantage to be gained by any company that does. A company willing to employ women can get more talented individuals at a lower cost and so make more profit - which results either in that business expanding and employing more women until their wages have risen to the point where costs balance, or in other companies rushing to jump on the high-profit bandwagon. Businesses are automatically rewarded for doing the right thing.

But there are costs as well as benefits to diversity, and a company has to look at the *total* cost in making its decision, it can't just look at a subset and ignore the rest. If it does, it will lose profits relative to the competition and be driven out of the market.

And it's impossible for any central authority to determine and compare all the trillions of competing costs and benefits in transactions across the entire economy and locate an optimum, so they can't tell where to set the culture for the benefit of society as a whole. Not even professional economists understand the reasons for everything going on in an economy - and politicians/legislators *definitely* don't! Command economies run by legislators don't work. If they tinker with the wrong parts (which is overwhelmingly the most likely case), and outlaw those bits that *do* have valid reasons for them, they wind up working for the detriment of society as a whole.

I agree that sometimes culture can get in the way of the market's competitive evaluation of ideas, and if, for example, there are *no* companies employing women, there's no opportunity for the market to demonstrate that women can do the job just as well. However, once you've nudged things to the point where the market is at least trying it out, then you have to sit back and let competition decide which is best. Sometimes that might not be what you expect or want, but if you're really interested in working for the benefit of society as a whole, that's what you've got to do.

The way to fix corporate culture is not to force existing corporations to change by legislation, but to set up a competing corporation with the right culture, and use the advantage to beat them. If you're right, they will then have to either change themselves or be driven out of business. If you're wrong, you won't do any damage.

July 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Starting up a corporation takes capital. Capital is in the hands of those who benefited from the past system.

Breaking the cycle, as in many things that involve putting the general social good ahead of a few privileged individuals who currently enjoy power, involves collective action. Commonly, in democracies this involves governmental actions often referred to as regulation.

In the specific case of venture capital for funding high tech startups, read this:

http://fortune.com/2017/07/05/venture-capital-sexual-harassment/

"On Friday, the New York Times reported that female entrepreneurs who were sexually harassed by investors including Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups, Chris Sacca, who recently retired from his firm Lowercase Capital, and Marc Canter, an entrepreneur-turned-investor. Following the report, a number of women chimed in on social media with their own tales of unwanted sexual advances from these men."

"Why this is happening now?
The simple answer is that until very recently, making a public accusation was a potentially career-ending risk. Anyone speaking up was likely to be ignored, labeled a problem, and avoided. The men who harassed them would stay in their jobs (or, as happened with Justin Caldbeck, be quietly let go and able to raise new funds)."

"In May, Susan Fowler advocated that tech companies end forced arbitration, end the practice of buying their employees’ silence with severance packages and non-disparagement agreements, end unnecessarily strict confidentiality agreements, institute training and enforce zero-tolerance policies:"


What generally has happened, as I personally experienced is that an individual with individual extenuating circumstances stands little chance of prevailing on their own. What is happening now is a positive example of what the reach and clout of social media can accomplish.

July 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"Starting up a corporation takes capital. Capital is in the hands of those who benefited from the past system."

Capital is in the hands of those who were most successful at benefiting others in the past system.

If you offer something of benefit to a million people, and they each give you a dollar for it, you get a million dollars. You can only make that sort of money by doing something that benefits millions of people; it's what you get in return for helping others. Money is the measure of the good we have done for the rest of society, that society has not yet repaid. And given that it hasn't repaid it yet, the balance of benefit done is actually pointing the other way.

People with more capital than they can directly use themselves are perfectly willing to loan it out. All you need is a business case - a convincing argument explaining how you'll use the money to the benefit of humankind, the excess benefit you create being measured by the greater amount of money you get from your customers in return.

The skills and experience needed to do that - to offer something millions of people want/need cheaper than they can get it elsewhere - are incredibly rare, so I won't say it's easy, but if you've got a good business case then getting hold of the capital to fund it is relatively straightforward.

"Breaking the cycle, as in many things that involve putting the general social good ahead of a few privileged individuals who currently enjoy power, involves collective action. Commonly, in democracies this involves governmental actions often referred to as regulation."

Mostly, "collective action" and regulation are methods used by people who don't have the skills and experience to offer something that millions of other people want, but who want to reap the benefits of having done so anyway. They therefore take it from those who can/did. Governments originate as "stationary bandits".

"Following the report, a number of women chimed in on social media with their own tales of unwanted sexual advances from these men."

What does that mean, exactly?

If taken literally - they asked when the person asked didn't want to be asked - it evokes an impossible social dilemma. How do you know it's "unwanted" until you've asked and been told "no"? How is humanity supposed to reproduce, if both sides are sat there unable to tell if the other person is interested?! That's insane.

On the other hand, it might be a euphemism for something else. One possibility is advances being continued even after it's been made clear that they're unwanted. That's bad, and I've got no problem with it being stopped - but it has absolutely nothing to do with venture capitalism. It applies to any social situation, any combination of people. To raise it as an argument against venture capitalism or capitalism generally is illogical.

Another possibility is that VCs are offering to accept part re-payment of the loan/investment in the form of sexual favours - either loaning more or loaning when otherwise they wouldn't in return for something of greater value to them. From an economic point of view, that's just another transaction offering something for something, and so long as it's with mutual informed consent and for mutual benefit, I don't have a problem with it. I'm a little resentful that I'm at a disadvantage because nobody is likely to offer me favourable financial terms for my body, but that's life. We each have our own gifts. (I'd admittedly be extremely unlikely to accept the offer of a loan in exchange for gay sex, even in the unlikely event it was offered, but I'd not be offended by the offer. The principle is exactly the same.)

But so long as it's clear what's being offered in exchange for what, and so long as any entrepreneur is free to refuse if the price isn't right, that's fine by me. Consenting adults in private who aren't harming anyone else can do what they like. I realise that authoritarian conservative attitudes to sex do think it's OK to impose constraints on other people's private behaviour in this area, but on this topic I'm definitely a liberal.

July 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV - your model of contract terms determination fails on at least a dozen points, documented in excruciating detail by the recipients of the 2016 economics Nobel prize.

Very briefly, and on the topic of unwanted advances, the fact is that very, very, few men will make advances if they face a significant probability of getting bashed over the head - this from personal experience, not from the Nobel lectures. Possibly fear of jail is a factor here, but much more probable is contract incompleteness - as spelled out in both Nobel recipients' lectures - inevitable in cases where one party is significantly more powerful than the other. The relative weakness may be financial, social, legal, or physical, but is summarized in the question "how is this contract to be enforced?"

If the proposed deal is "spend the night in my hotel suite and you get funding for your project" or some such, the contract is by definition incomplete, and certainly unenforceable, even if in writing, with terms and conditions spelled out in advance and in detail.

And that is where the value of communication protocols (or cultural cognition) appears most clearly. In days before wireless, ships at sea had to run up little flags with universally understood signals so as to decide their course of action. Humans entering into incomplete contracts proceed in similar fashion, by signaling. Language is only part of signaling, so even a taped conversation may prove inconclusive concerning the parties' intent.

But what is conclusive in communication limited to alphanumeric characters, as in Turing's test, and also on this website (at least for posters not known by sight) is the text itself, because it alone encompasses the signaling.

An example: having finally given up understanding what on earth Joshua is talking about, I emailed a friend of mine, expert linguist, with the following 2 excerpts from posts on this page:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>>>
"The point is that I wasn't even remotely offended, let alone "horribly offended" by your absurd comments about me being a "bot." My assumption is that either your speculation about that was either some kind of a lame joke, trying to level some kind of a lame and pathetic insult, or that you were simply engaging in unhinged reasoning. I'd like to think it was one of the former two - but who knows."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"=={ Joshua - my evidence for your reaction are your several posts, distributed over several threads, in response to my observations concerning those selfsame posts. These are, we are agreed, readily accessible on this very website, so I fail to see what the problem is - if you are looking for an editor of the "collected online post by Joshua, with glossary and explanatory notes", kindly apply elsewhere since much of the time I have no clue what you are talking about. }==

Once again, hand waiving in some vague way about the comment threads doesn't offer an explanation that is of any help to me. I am asking for something more specific. What is it within those comments that leads you to think that I was "horribly offended" by your ludicrous assertion that I could be some kind of "bot?" It's interesting that you have no clue what I'm talking about much of the time, yet seem to be so clear in that interpretation (even thought it is completely wrong). I'm not looking for some kind of an editor...I'm just asking for an explanation.
It seems to me that you keep ducking a simple question. It seems to me that an actual answer, rather than just vague hand-waiving, should be fairly simple to provide. "

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In my email I added at first I thought this is some badly programmed bot, but after I realized it is actually human, wondered whether its communication protocols are garbled. Take the first part of the quotedtext: rather that believe some unknown poster just posts drivel (always a possibility!), Joshua would rather suspect some dastardly plot to make jokes at his expense or even cause damage? This makes no sense.

I got back an email to the effect the quoted text I sent appears to be "English as lexifier with a creole substrate." Dunno, but if it were me I'd rather be a bot :)

July 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute -

=={ Joshua would rather suspect some dastardly plot to make jokes at his expense or even cause damage? This makes no sense. }==

Dastardly? Hardly, just inane. But it wouldn't be a "plot." I'm not paranoid! It would just merely be someone with a poor sense of humor or an odd way of thinking. And once again, I have no idea why you think that your inane comments would "cause damage" - which is why I ridiculed the notion earlier.

It strikes me as rather bizarre that you would be seriously under the impression that my comments were written by a bot, as there are so many obvious indications that it isn't the case.

That said, one can never account for the strangeness and poor thinking of other people...but even if you seriously were laboring under such a mis-impression, it seems hard to believe that your way of checking out your theory would be to consult with an expert since there would be much easier ways to make a determination (e.g., a simply improvised Turing test).

But all that said, once again you seem to be ducking a simple question.

What did I write that gave you the impression that I was "horribly offended" by your ludicrous comments (or laughably unfunny jokes) about me being a "bot?"

Why haven't you answered that question?

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Very briefly, and on the topic of unwanted advances, the fact is that very, very, few men will make advances if they face a significant probability of getting bashed over the head"

That would be assault and battery, and is illegal.

But what does that have to do with anything?

"this from personal experience, not from the Nobel lectures."

Oh? How often do you bash men over the head for politely asking if you would like to go out for lunch with them?

"Possibly fear of jail is a factor here,"

What for? Basking people over the head? I fear we may be talking at cross-purposes here.

"but much more probable is contract incompleteness - as spelled out in both Nobel recipients' lectures - inevitable in cases where one party is significantly more powerful than the other."

In my experience, the women are generally in the more powerful position - both legally and in respect of the social protocols involved.

Since you're in a different legal jurisdiction things might be different where you are, but if so I've not heard about it.

"Humans entering into incomplete contracts proceed in similar fashion, by signaling. Language is only part of signaling, so even a taped conversation may prove inconclusive concerning the parties' intent."

True, which is why naturally evolved social protocols generally include extensive error correction steps and some degree of tolerance for genuine misunderstandings.

"NiV - your model of contract terms determination fails on at least a dozen points, documented in excruciating detail by the recipients of the 2016 economics Nobel prize."

You're being especially vague about what you mean here, but I'm guessing you're talking about Hart et al.'s work on incomplete contracts, where when future circumstances can't be predicted, one party has the right to decide what to do and they have the greater bargaining power as a result. In sexual relations, if there is a change in circumstances and the question arises whether consent still applies, the legal position is that the woman can say "no" at any time both up to and during the act itself, and that decision cannot be challenged by the man. The man can say "no" at any time too, of course, but is less likely to want to, and therefore the incomplete contract power tends statistically to favour the woman. The man can't say "yes", and make that decision stick. There's a basic legal asymmetry there.

Given that, I have no idea what you are talking about. Would you care to elucidate?

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

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