Have you Had Enough Spin Yet?

It’s not easy when you stop trusting particular sources of information. It tends to reorder your world. Oftentimes there’s a precipitating event that suddenly puts the source in a different (and unflattering) light.

This appears to be the case for John Callender, a birder, computer programmer, and blogger.  Callender is an avid consumer of climate media, particularly blogs. He counts Grist’s David Roberts as “one of my favorite writers on climate issues.” But in recent months Callender’s “taxonomy of the climate change debate” has been thrown into turmoil. In this post, he discusses the response to a newspaper article that reinforced

a decision I made recently to remove [Greg] Laden and [Joe] Romm from my newsfeed. It’s not that I’m in the denialist camp that disputes the science of global warming. But just because one champions scientists doesn’t make one’s own assertions scientific. Laden and Romm have let their adopted role as advocates carry them past the point of being honest brokers of information. They’re peddling self-serving spin as truth, selecting what to pass on not on the basis of skeptical inquiry, but simply on the basis of which untested hypotheses paint their enemies in the worst light.

The sooner more people come to such a realization–about the spinners in their respective camps–the sooner we can have a more constructive debate on climate change.

325 Responses to “Have you Had Enough Spin Yet?”

  1. Barry Woods says:

    Hi KeithOn this topic about trust. I’ve enjoyed your articles at Yale, and have contributed positively to the comments there for some time. But I no longer trust it as a source, because I do not now know who they are moderating away out of existance.The Scott denning recent article particularly was very interesting and Scott was active in the comments, which I thought was very good of him. And I commended him for this comment..Scott Denning:”Besides the Heartland conferences, I do a lot of public presentations on climate change, and I particularly enjoy engaging with hostile audiences. My experience has been that a lot of pleasant, decent people are predisposed to doubt the science. They’re not evil. They care deeply about their children’s and grand children’s’ futures, and genuinely want to do what’s right. These people are reachable, there are thousands of times more of them than there are climate scientists, and a lot of them vote. Not surprisingly, they often find unpersuasive an arrogant attitude that dismisses them as anti-intellectual fools.”——————————- Howevr – I made one comment on the John Abrahams article, online civil discourse, which sat in moderation for a day and has now disappeared, it is very much on on topic and positive and I do not see how it can fall foul of any comments policy.  my observation being that the article wants an onlkine civil discourse, yet talks about climate change ‘deniers’ and I asked politely if they could stop this and explaine politley why this was increasing the polarisation of the debate.Sadly they have not allowed it (yet many comments explaining why ‘deniers’ are exactly what people shoud be called.Perhaps you could have a word with theeditor. the One thing about Collide a scape i have enjoyed the most, is a place of intellectyual hinesty, where the host does NOT have an agenda that would silence anybody. Perhapsyou could have a word.. Who else perhaps are they blocking, ie Lord Monckton had one reply on another article. John Abrahams writes an article to rebut him.. And sadly now, I do not trust Yale not to have delted him out of hand (not that I’m exactly Lord Moncktons biggest fan, quite the contrary) Maybe you could ask why they deleted this sceptic and depending on the answer think about why you write thereI put in a follow up one line comment asking if perhaps it was stuck in a filter (ie had 2 urls. one to Tamsin Edwards, one to her comment at Bishop Hill)

    Maybe Keith, you could ask for me what is going on at Yale.

  2. Barry Woods says:

    HOW, do I make a paragraph break and line space!!!

  3. BBD says:

    Well, we can start with the pernicious ‘can the science be saved’ meme. That needs stamping out, for a start.

  4. grypo says:

    I’m predicting many bruised egos.  Let’s see if I get that right too!

  5. Anteros says:

    Good points Keith.

    I’ve mentioned before how instructive it is to ask which of the advocates on ones ‘own’ side are the most dishonest – the least interested in truth. It’s quite a test of partisanship.

    FWIW, from the non-alarmist coterie I’d dump Delingpole, Tim Ball and Moncton without further ado.

    There are plenty of alarmists I find offensive – Romm, Rahmstorf and Tamino for instance, but because Hansen does the most damage to the CAGW cause, I’m quite content for him to keep spewing his garbage for decades to come.

    He can talk about death trains, crematoria and ineffable disasters all he likes as it quite reasonably provokes healthy scepticism in people who aren’t already devotees one way or another.

  6. BBD says:

    Speaks a man who has never read a scientific paper by Hansen…

  7. willard says:

    I’m not sure where I to stop, if I were to apply this criteria, Keith.

    Does talking about spin counts as spin too?

  8. Keith Kloor says:


    As most people have figured out by now, all comments have to pass through moderation at the Yale site.  I know that a few find this annoying, especially when comments are delayed. But that’s their policy and their right.

    As far as I’m concerned, people get too hung up on the way comments are handled at various sites. For my money, what counts more is what appears on the site by the contributor(s). This is not to take anything away from readers, many who help make some sites a lively community and an interesting forum for additional viewpoints.  

  9. Anteros says:

    BBD – the purpose of your ignorant trolling?

  10. Tom Fuller says:

    Anteros, the purpose of BBD’s ignorant trolling is to stop conversation about the topic. 

    And Keith, that’s the problem with your premise. You think that if the spinmeisters realize the error of their ways they will change. But it is not accidental, it is intentional. Both with Joe Romm and your commenters.

  11. stan says:

    Spin does nothing to hurt the skeptics’ case.  It destroys the alarmist case.  The essence of the alarmist case is an appeal to authority.  Spin by those in authority wrecks their credibility.  The essence of the skeptic case is that the emperor has no clothes.  The little boy who points out the absence of clothes need have no authority to be correct.  He could, for purposes of argument, be the same boy who cried wolf and his point about the emperor would still be absolutely valid.  Climate science “authority” built on the gross incompetence seen in studies by Mann, Rahmstorf, Jones, Briffa, Steig, and the polar bear study was embraced by the science establishment.  Skeptics do not need any credibility of their own to point out the circular reasoning of the IPCC, the corruption exposed by the CRU emails, and the general failure to operate with any concern for quality.

  12. willard says:

    I’m not sure of the purpose of your #5 either, Anteros.

  13. willard says:

    Seems that #5 fulfills the prediction in #4 quite expediently.

  14. Anteros says:

    Willard – did you read Keith’s article? It was about someone taking the step of admitting advocates of their own side were dishonest. I did the same – sort of what you’d expect in a comment really.

    Why don’t you try it? See if you can step past your prejudices as John Callender did.

  15. Keith Kloor says:


    The spin of Watts, Morano, Bishop Hill et al (to varying degrees) is just as corrosive as the spin from the other side. Like I said, both sides feed off each other. 

  16. willard says:


    Thank you for your concern.

    Yes, I did read Keith’s latest.

    Hence my question: how many blogs does that leave?

    Would you say that Science of Doom makes the cut? Some would say no. Ask Tallbloke.

    Speaking of him, how about Tallbloke?

    Don’t you see where naming names lead?

    Besides, do you really believe readers have forgotten your last comments?

    Are you genuinely oblivious to what’s happening here?

  17. harrywr2 says:

    #10 TomThe problem with the spinmeisters is that much of what they write can be easily shown to be misleading at best. (Good propaganda always has a kernel of truth and Romm is a skilled propagandist).

    So if I was a ‘tool of the evil oil industry’ I would never even bother trying to question ‘the science’…I would spend all my time attacking the misleading portions of Romm or Laden’s writings. Which is exactly what Marc Morano does for a living.

    In other news that actually matters but is reported almost nowhere

    Westinghouse, Burns and McDonald and General Dynamics Electric Boat have joined forces for a SMR demonstration project.


    Nuscale(backed by Fluor) appears to have found a ‘first customer’ in SCANA for it’s SMR offerinf


    Of course Romm and Grist are both certain ‘nuclear power’ is dead.

  18. Tom Fuller says:

    Keith, it is not advocacy that undermines the conversation, nor is it passion. It is dishonesty. What Callendar is charitable enough to call spin is actually just one part of it. There is an unwillingness on the part of Romm and Morano to look at what is true. What serves is the only thing that’s important.

    And it’s really too easy to make those two the poster children of bad behaviour–because I think what is actually happening out in the real world is that a lot of bloggers drift in and out of crusader mode, actually trying to make a real contribution for some or even most of the time but lapsing into dishonesty from either ignorance, inability to grasp the consequences of some positions, or a desire to fool themselves.

    What’s notable about your blog is that you have not fallen into these traps, and you should be commended for it. It would be far easier to make a list of ‘honest’ blogs than those who fall into Rommism or Moranomania from time to time. You, Bart and Lucia head the list.

    I think you vastly underestimate the effect of commentary on the central message of a blog, which is probably only natural. A future generation of social anthropologists will find a gold mine in communications studies on the anchoring effect of comments in weblogs.

  19. Keith Kloor says:

    Willard (16)

    You’re being trollish. I’ve asked you before not to personalize these threads so that yet another thread gets hijacked back and forth point scoring.

    You got something constructive to say about climate spinmeisters or do you just want to climb into the weeds with your fellow commenters? 

  20. stan says:

    Keith, Yes, I understand that you think spin is corrosive.  My point is different.  My point is that one side suffers far more damage when its prominent scientists and spokesmen engage in spin.  Just like the prosecution and defense in a criminal case or the US military and guerrillas in war, the conflict is asymmetrical.  This is made particularly so in the case of CAGW because the alarmists have made the enormous tactical blunder of basing so much of their case on an appeal to authority.  The skeptics do not need credibility to win.  The alarmists cannot win without it.

  21. BBD says:

    Anteros @ 9

    ‘Ignorant trolling’

    With Keith’s recent remark in mind: this is about spin. You characterised Hansen as a ‘spewer of garbage’. I suggest that this betokens real ignorance of Hansen’s formally published work on your part. You respond by calling me an ignorant troll.

    This sums up your absolutely self-serving take on the concept of spin.

  22. Anteros says:

    Willard. I’m seriously happy to take each on their own merit/demerit. I think it is a useful exercise.
    Science of Doom always strikes me as dispassionate and sincere – I’ve spent a lot of time there and also learned a lot. I can’t be doing with the nuttiness at Tallbloke’s site.
    Which sceptics would you most wish to keep in the public eye on account of their doing the sceptic cause the least good?

  23. MarkB says:

    It has taken until now for Mr Callender to dump Joe Romm? If he’s been buying in to the JR shtick for any length of time, it’s remarkable he was able to come back to reality.

  24. Anteros says:

    BBD – I consider Hansen’s comments – in his published work – as garbage. ‘Ineffable disasters’ is a good example of it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with science – it’s merely chaotic and feverish imagination.

    You accusing me of not having read any of Hansen’s papers(being obviously false) is what is called a lie. Also trolling.

  25. willard says:

    Dear Keith,

    You’re being desingenious.

    See? There’s no need to name names to sound trollish.

    Starting a comment with “You’re being X” where X is non complimentary often leads to food fights.

    Anteros considers that naming names is instructive in #5. I don’t find that naming names is that instructive. That’s the whole point of my comment. I don’t believe that naming Tallbloke is a big surprise here. Have you read his blog lately?

    I also believe that “Bishop Hill” refers to a blog curator that exists. So I believe that “Bishop Hill” acts as a name, in one of your sentences above.

    I also believe that “Dave Roberts” has just been added to a class called “spinners”, and that this class seems to include “Laden” and “Romm”. Now, what was the last time when did I hear the name “Romm”. It’s your own whipping boy, Keith. At least own that!

    Sometimes, I really ask myself if bloggers ever heard of the Golden rule. But then, perhaps I’m too busy waiting for Godot, like everyone of us hereunder.


    Since you ask, I could add something that might be constructive: I do believe that there is some “feeding” going on. Climate blogland could very well be modelled in ecological terms. All those niches feed on one another.

    Since I agree with you about that, surely you can agree with me if that to claim otherwise would contradict this belief. I know I just stated a truism. I just find this funny.

    Here’s a comment that would contradict your claim:

    For every Hansen and Bart, there are covens full of Elis, Tobises, Lamberts and Romms. Not to mention their groupies. The result is what you see around you.


    Nevermind who said this. This is unimportant. What matters is what is said and done with this kind of claim.

    First, notice the names named.

    Second, notice that the claim presupposes that the process is directional.

    Please recall how many months Joshua spent deploring that kind of claim.

    This kind of claims are all over climate blogland.

    And I don’t mean all over the comment threads.

    I mean: all over climate blogland

    And that includes you, Keith.

    And that includes me, I’m afraid.

    This is our predicament, Keith.

    Now, what shall we do?

    More Godot waiting?

    More Lobster chess?

    My own hypothesis is that only love and light will save us.

    How original.

    I know, I know.

    Non nova, sed nove, I guess.

  26. willard says:

    Thank you for your #21, Anteros.

    I’d rather stay away from naming names, at least when not showing what the names is being purported to claim.

  27. Mary says:

    I’ve been thinking about “trust communities” a lot since this article last week–and their role in spreading information (good and bad):
    How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit

    When I posted it on G+ it devolved into claims that I don’t understand Wikipedia (I do, ok?). But that’s not the point–it’s about information sources and manipulation of them. It was both scary and hopeful to me, actually: you can get lied to (or spun), but some places call BS effectively.

    Violating trust communities is also certainly not new to the intertubz, but it’s faster here.

  28. Keith Kloor says:

    Anteros & BBD–enough.

    Personally, I think it’s important to distinguish between Hansen’s published, peer-reviewed work and that of his personal statements. Of course, the latter make that hard to do for many people and he’s made his peace with that tradeoff.

    I also respect Hansen a lot, for I don’t think he’s engaging in spin. I think he sincerely believes what he does and respect his right to communicate this the way he does. It doesn’t follow that I necessarily agree with him on everything, but I do very much respect his work as a scientist and what I consider to be his sincerely motivated concern. 

  29. jeffn says:

    #17- Romm can’t support nuclear power because he isn’t a environmental or global warming blogger- he’s a writer for a political organization that promotes progressive (read “liberal”) policies.

    There is nothing wrong with being a political writer, but it’s important to remember the distinction. He will advocate policies that fit his politics and fight those that don’t. If the latter just happen to be more effective, then Romm is an agent of delay and obfuscation. This is why folks like me get a chuckle out of the claim that “deniers” are the agents of “stasis” or delay. Two sides of that coin.

    Progressive Democrats take great pride in having killed nuclear power in the 70s and 80s, a flip-flop on the issue would be damaging at the polls. Why go with the party that got it wrong? How can you blame Exxon when you were the reason we’re powered by coal (which Exxon doesn’t even produce)?

  30. Keith Kloor says:

    Willard (25),

    I hear what you’re saying, but I do think it’s rather hard to avoid the use of names in the body of blog posts. My objection is when commenters square off in a thread with mutual insults and oblique references to previous comments and blog threads. That’s when it becomes about you and not the subject of the post. I find that very off-putting.

    As for my mention of Roberts: I did that to demonstrate Callender’s own place in the climate taxonomy. Otherwise, those who reflexively rise to the defense of the Romms and Ladens would be quick to write Callender off as the enemy. 

  31. Keith Kloor says:

    Mary (24)

    Thanks for bringing that article to my attention. Fascinating! 

    Stan (20)

    Okay, I see what your point is.

  32. Tom Fuller says:

    As the author of the comment in the call-out in #25, I’ll take ownership of both the comment and its consequences.

    First, I believe it to be true. There are honest and passionate advocates for the climate consensus, eg Hansen and Bart Verheggen. There are also advocacy sites that are less honest, such as Deltoid and Rabett Run, aimed at their own like-minded constituencies and focusing on crowd-pleasing content. These produce either virtuous or vicious circles (depending on your point of view) of arriving at opinions on the topics of the day. The audiences use these self-reinforcing tropes as they migrate to more general topic weblogs. Hence, what may sound like convivial buddy talk in the comments of Deltoid is shocking and out of line when it is carried over to Bart’s or here. (For some reason they don’t spend too much time at Lucia’s–she can be a bit tart with them.)

    Second, the consequences of these groups (covens, as I called them) have been pernicious to their own cause. They do not appear to be winning advocates to the consensus. If blog commentary sheds any light on the subject, the Romms, Lamberts and Rabetts–and especially their commenters–appear to be driving people away rather than attracting them. Because of the self-reinforcing nature of their writers and audiences (which I would say are ‘closed’ groups rather than ‘open’, such as at Bart’s or here), nobody calls bullshit on the most extreme expressions within them. Whereas the Sky Dragon and Iron Sun theories are quickly discredited over at Judith’s or Lucia’s, nobody points out the absurdity of some of what is said at Deltoid or Rabett Run.

    All amateur analysis and I have no doubt that contrary examples of both sides of the coin can be easily found. But finally, I think a successful weblog is in fact a community that extends far past the writings of the blogger, and that is a two-edged sword. When I go over to Deltoid I do see sound comments from some, including from scientists. But Deltoid will always for me be associated with the worst of what is written there, both by Lambert and his commenters. I personally prefer ‘open’ blogs where people from both sides show up. This is one of the best of them.

  33. Barry Woods says:

    8# Keith you misunderstand I have made a number of comments at Yale before, and happily waited ‘pending moderation’. This time the comment was visible, pending moderation for a day, whenever I went back to the Yale article.  Now when I look at the article, the comment and the message have gone. ie now ‘moderated’ away?

  34. Anteros says:

    Keith – the problem with Hansen is that the emotive, speculative and imagination-riddled parts have found their way into his published work.

      “We conclude….that goals of limiting human-made warming to 2C and CO2 to 450ppm are prescriptions for disaster”

    This isn’t anything to do with climate science. It is an expression of personal prejudice and peering into the dark – in an area he knows nothing about.

    For the record, I think he is eminently sincere. Just wrong.

  35. Keith Kloor says:

     Barry (33),

    Please, why gunk up this thread with your problems with another site? I just write a weekly column for the Yale Forum. I have nothing to do with the comments policy there. Can you just direct your question to the editor of the site, Bud Ward, and leave me in peace?

    Anteros (34)

    Which paper was that? I’m not referring to his commentary papers, and I have a feeling that may be one of them.

  36. Anteros says:

    Tom Fuller – I agree. I think what you say also applies to the likes of Bishop Hill and Wattsupwiththat.
    There are too few ‘open’ blogs IMO.

  37. Anteros says:

    Keith – 20110118_MilankovicPaper.pdf (application/pdf Object)

    I’m not sure where it was published.

  38. Tom Fuller says:

    Anteros at #36, yes, I agree–the phenomenon is surely not limited to consensus blogs, but that was what I had referred to in the comment that was called out.

  39. BBD says:


    The problem is that, having failed to understand the scientific import of Hansen’s published papers, you fail to understand that quoting snippets out of context with negative editorialising is spin.First, let’s supply the context (Hansen & Sato 2012):

    We conclude that Earth in the warmest interglacial periods of the past million years was less than 1°C warmer than in the Holocene. Polar warmth in these interglacials and in the Pliocene does not imply that a substantial cushion remains between today’s climate and dangerous warming, but rather that Earth is poised to experience strong amplifying polar feedbacks in response to moderate global warming. Thus goals to limit human-made warming to 2°C are not sufficient ““ they are prescriptions for disaster. Ice sheet disintegration is nonlinear, spurred by amplifying feedbacks. We suggest that ice sheet mass loss, if warming continues unabated, will be characterized better by a doubling time for mass loss rate than by a linear trend.

    The anti-Hansen spin continues with your erroneous statement that Hansen is ‘ peering into the dark ““ in an area he knows nothing about’.

    This proves that you have *not* read Hansen (2007) either.

    You are a biased contrarian spinning against one of the world’s pre-eminent climate scientists. It isn’t Hansen who is exhibiting personal prejudice and speaking from profound ignorance. It is you.

    I’m fed up with the stream of ad-hominem against Hansen. Keith has asked you to stop. So pack it in, eh?

  40. Anteros says:

    BBD – you choose to link to a different paper from the one I quoted. The context is irrelevant to the quotation. You also misunderstand what ‘prove’ means.

    The point is – and always has been – that ‘disaster’ and ‘catastrophe’ have nothing to do with science – they are personal, subjective assessments, which Richard Betts tried to explain to you. Hence my agreement with Betts (and by his estimation most climate scientists) in dismissing the ‘2 degrees is dangerous’ meme.

    It isn’t ad-hominem to point out the demarcation between science and imagination, and what you’re fed up with is neither here nor there.

  41. BBD says:


    BBD ““ you choose to link to a different paper from the one I quoted. The context is irrelevant to the quotation.

    You provided a misleading frankenquote from the draft of what was to become Hansen & Sato (2012). I provided the missing context from the final published paper. I also provided a link to previous work on the subject of non-linear ice sheet response to temperature. Thanks for proving that you haven’t read any of Hansen’s scientific papers, that you are biased, spinning and clueless.

    Here’s the expanded quote, with the snippet you provided emboldened to aid reading comprehension:

    We conclude that Earth in the warmest interglacial periods of the past million years was less than 1°C warmer than in the Holocene. Polar warmth in these interglacials and in the Pliocene does not imply that a substantial cushion remains between today’s climate and dangerous warming, but rather that Earth is poised to experience strong amplifying polar feedbacks in response to moderate global warming. Thus goals to limit human-made warming to 2°C are not sufficient ““ they are prescriptions for disaster. Ice sheet disintegration is nonlinear, spurred by amplifying feedbacks. We suggest that ice sheet mass loss, if warming continues unabated, will be characterized better by a doubling time for mass loss rate than by a linear trend.

  42. willard says:


    I can understand the need to put names on stories. We were storytellers before we were truthtellers. And there should always be a place for public denunciation. I believe it’s even a human right, and sometimes an obligation.

    Your comment #30 made think about this half-baked formal description of blogging:


    If you read the comment thread over there, which you have to read from the bottom to top, you’ll notice that you were breaking up my description. But we both have to admit that the formal model is quite good:

    1. Here, look at A.

    2. See how it’s stupid

    3. Maybe we should ponder on that.

    4. Instead of a conclusion, look at that link I just fished in a ten second search.

    Please bear in mind that this is tongue-in-cheek.

    But this has some truth to it. To model a frequent comment, we could simply replace “stupid” with “the roots of all climate blogland evils”. and “let’s ponder on that” with “let’s wonder how they can sleep at night”.

    Commenters tend to forget that the Internet is there forever. Even bloggers, from time to time.

  43. Anteros says:

    BBD – Do you understand what ‘demarcation’ means?

  44. BBD says:

    Tell you what, Anteros, you do some reading (actually, lots), and we’ll discuss this again when you are up to speed.

  45. Eli Rabett says:

    Mr. Fuller, in #32 you make a number of empty accusations.  Links please that Eli may discuss.  Otherwise withdraw your characterizations. 

  46. Anteros says:

    Same old, same old. Ignore the question and run.

  47. BBD says:

    No Anteros. I’m not ignoring the question. In order for you to demarcate fact from alleged fiction, you would have had to have *read* some (at least) of Hansen’s scientific publications. You seem to have skipped over the debacle at # 41, so let me remind you what we discovered: you haven’t read any of Hansen’s papers. So you cannot ‘demarcate’ or otherwise opine on the scientific investigations therein.

  48. BBD says:

    This, to be sure and stay bang on-topic, is spin:

    Pick a climate scientist. Abuse same without bothering to read/understand their work. Repeat said abuse ad nauseam in blog comments. Defend this indefensible tripe as if it were valuable insight. Confuse and mislead as many people as humanly possible.


    Have we had enough spin yet?

  49. BobN says:

    BBD – The link to Hansen 2007 seems broken.  He had several publications in 2007.  Were you referring to “Scientific Reticence and Sea Level Rise”?

  50. BBD says:


    I was, and my apologies. Try this (full pdf – small).

  51. Jonas N says:

    I found this description quite appropriate:

    “Pick a [somebody who makes a reasonable point about somthin gwrt to climate]. Abuse same without bothering to read/understand their wor[ds]. Repeat said abuse ad nauseam in blog comments. Defend this indefensible tripe as if it were valuable insight. Confuse and mislead as many people as humanly possible.


  52. BBD says:

    SuperTroll is back. So I will be going elsewhere.

  53. Anteros says:

    Prediction – he’ll be just as unpleasant on his return.

  54. Jonas N says:

    Anteros, look at it from the bright side: You usually get his best ‘arguments’. Most people aren’t stupid, they see this too … 

  55. NewYorkJ says:

    Romm: If this story bears out and Gleick is vindicated…This does not appear to be “maximum spin” as asserted by some-random-blogger-that-keith-suddenly-likes-because-he-bashed-Romm.  On the contrary, Romm seems to be waiting for the story to be confirmed before endorsing it.  Callender does not read past the title.If you look at Callender’s previous posts, he endorses McArdles arguments on the strategy memo and her certainty in Gleick’s authorship, and might be a little sensitive in having to backtrack on the issue.Looks like more disingenuous political positioning for Keith.

  56. Anteros says:

    Jonas – fair point 🙂

  57. huxley says:

    I salute John Callender for reassessing his position and alliances, then speaking out for rational discussion. However, I question how thoroughly he has renounced spin when he uses the obvious spin word “denialist” in the very same article.

    Then when I drop to the previous article on his blog, I discover that he was excited by the new Chris Mooney book, “The Republican Brain,” to explain “why people believe the wacky things they do” but disappointed that Mooney was too partisan to do the job right.

    From there Callender links to a previous post of his from 2007 in which he suggests that the United States needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to recover from the Bush administration because to Callender those years were the equivalent of apartheid South Africa.

    Given the mindset Callender has about skeptics and conservatives, I doubt that I could have much of a constructive discussion with him. It’s nice that he tries to avoid total tribal warfare and is not as extreme as some such on his side, but he still seems blind to how biased he is.

    The problem with the current debates (not just climate) is not just spin but the two sides are so polarized that there is little space for open and civil debate, even from those who believe they are offering it.

  58. ivp0 says:

    Romm is simply Rush antimatter.  I go there when I need a good laugh… not the truth.

  59. willard says:


    I believe that when you talk about demarcation in #43, you’re referring to the demarcation problem, am I correct?

    In that case, yes, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make.

    For I believe that your argument hints at the fact/value dichotomy. And that dichotomy is not entailed by the demarcation between science and non-science. One could be a Popperian and hold that there are still values in sciences, say coherence, simplicity, etc.

    So I’m not sure what’s your argument against the IPCC’s terminology, say to describe turning points in the evolution of some species. If your beef is only against words like “catastrophe”, which expressions would you prefer? As I already said, the IPCC might very well be in dire need of editors.

    Please show us an example of what you have in mind.

  60. Marlowe Johnson says:

    +10 to # 42.

    Willard nails it in my not so humble opinion. I predict that Keith will do his best to brush this particular comment under the rug as it cuts to the heart of his argument in an unflattering way….

    In other news…..Tol (he of trollish hair) disagrees with RPJr and TBI!!!!Didn’t he get the memo about tribes?

    And where is Keith’s post about the bit(s) where he diverges/disagrees/condemns/labels the RPJr/TBI/Revkin/Third-way tribe?Inquiring minds want to know…

    p.s. having to manually type in html code is so 90s…

  61. willard says:


    I’m glad you liked my comment, but I’m not sure how it cuts anything. It seeks to be descriptive. I leave scientific inquiries to others.

  62. Marlowe Johnson says:

    naming names willard….

  63. huxley says:

    I’m intrigued by Keith’s current string of meta topics in which he overviews the climate debate as he sees it, and seems to be doing his bit to nudge that debate in more constructive directions.

    I wish him well. It’s refreshing after all these years of the climate orthodox dismissing, censoring, and demonizing their opponents.

    Somewhat cynically I wonder if this isn’t a tactic born of general desperation as reality sinks in for the climate orthodox that their agenda has failed politically and will likely remain moribund for the rest of the decade.

    Some of the orthodox, like Romm and Gleick, have become more extreme in response. A few though, like Kloor and Callender, seem to be searching for a more civil middle ground for the climate debate.

    I’m good with that.

  64. andrew adams says:

    You object to Hansen’s use of words such as “disaster”. Well fair enough, it may be better to keep such emotive and indeed subjective terms out of scientific papers and I’m sure it would be possible to find a more “neutral” form of words while still conveying Hansen’s point, which is that the target of keeping the rise in global temperature to 2C, even if achieved, will not be sufficient to prevent substantial mass loss from the polar ice sheets.
    Of course making such cosmetic changes to the wording would not make any difference whatsoever to the scientific findings of Hansen’s paper, which deserve to be considered on their merits. Nor do such objections logically lead to the conclusion that Hansen is “peering into the dark ““ in an area he knows nothing about”, which is different allegation which requires substantiating. Hansen has, after all, been working in this particular area for 40 years or so, so it would seem to me rather likely that he does actually know quite a lot, even allowing for the uncertainties inherent in such work.
    Or maybe you mean he knows nothing about the potentially “disastrous” consequences he envisions. But even again allowing for the uncertainties inherent in future projections, if Hansen is correct and we do see more substantial mass loss from the polar ice sheets than is currently envisioned then we do actually know what will happen with a high level of confidence – there will be a substantial increase in sea level which will render some areas uninhabitable and others much more vulnerable to flooding. Of course we don’t know the exact extent of such sea level rise or of the consequences although it would certainly be more than the current IPCC projections, so I don’t doubt that you would still consider the use of the word “disastrous” to be presumptuous, but I would say that “dangerous” would not be an overstatement, and many of us would consider it to be a particularly mild adjective in the circumstances.     

  65. Anteros says:

    Andrew Adams Thanks for your measured response.

    My criticism of Hansen is not merely that he uses extreme emotivism, it is that he allows imagination to totally swamp his conclusions in the first place. Watering down ‘ineffable disasters’ to something less apocalyptic would miss my point.

    In simple terms I think he should stick to science. You’re right to surmise that it is the ‘disasterousness’ of his envisioning that leads to me suggesting that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He would need to begin a study of the history of adaptation, the false certainties in negative imagination, the nature of change, the relationship between climate itself and human resilience and so on. His ‘envisioning’ is nothing more than imagination.

    Hansen claimed only recently that in the coming decades food prices would reach ‘unprecedented’ levels. Nothing better could expose his ignorance of the history and trends in agriculture and food prices – and the history of similar predictions.

    It may seem reasonable for you to say something is ‘dangerous’ (to humanity?) but this is a value judgement – something appears dangerous <b>to you</b>. Other people might make a different value judgement, but the essential thing is that science has nothing to do with the difference, though we all like to imagine that science is on our ‘side’.

    The way we look at thing is also critical in how we arrive at our very different conclusions. It seems to me easy – but misleading – to <i>imagine</i> a change in state (say, a three foot rise in sea level) as if it was going to come into being next Monday afternoon. Inevitably, hysteria ensues. Al Gore has feasted on this particular vulnerability for decades, but such things don’t come about in an instant – sea level rise today is significantly less than the average for the last 15,000 years.

    My criticism is focused on the fact that Hansen’s studies in atmospheric physics give him no insight into humanities changing relationship with the climate – none whatsoever. However, there are people who think his lab-based speculations mean we should give extra credence to his imaginings.

    If the IPCC want to take some notice his ideas about Polar ice loss all well and good (they don’t, for some reason) but when he tries to use his position as a ‘Nasa scientist’ to give authority to his belief about what constitutes the <i>’biggest threat to humanity and all life on earth'</i> then yes, I think it is important to make the point that he really doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    I fully agree that his science should be taken on merit. I think his imaginings should be assessed <i>separately</i>.

  66. harrywr2 says:

    #63, will not be sufficient to prevent substantial mass loss from the polar ice sheets.
    Please define ‘substantial’.

    Obviously if a cubic foot of ice melts in my beer cooler then that would represent a ‘substantial’ amount of ice in the cooler melting and the disastrous consequence of warm beer. While it would be a personal tragedy for me I hardly think the ‘world will act’ to rectify the situation.

    Or to quote Joe Stalin to demonstrate how problematic using worlds without quantification is –

    One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is just a statistic.

    The practical problem with Stalin’s ‘truism’ is that we may allocate resources ineffectively in an effort to prevent ‘tragedy’ while ignoring the ‘million deaths’.

  67. Anteros says:

    Willard –

    I didn’t mention the IPCC, and wasn’t referring to them. I was solely talking about James Hansen.

    Most of my answer to your question about demarcation can be found in my response to Andrew Adams above.

    I would add that it isn’t simple a case of a fact/value demarcation – it is speculation/value, which makes the influence of the values even greater.

    To me this goes a long way to explaining why the climate debate is so polarised – it isn’t as much about science as about world views.

  68. willard says:


    Thank you for your answer to Andrew Adams, which I felt answered my question. It clarifies that you were indeed referring to the demarcation problem:


    I don’t believe the demarcation problem was ever solved. Intuitively, it makes sense to separate what is scientific and what is not. But as your answer to Andrew made clear, you are condemning Hansen’s speculations. Not because it does not deal with unscientific content, not because he uses hyperboles, but because he “talks through his hat”, so to speak.

    I believe this is a fair point. Hansen does appear to get quite conversational when he speaks to the media. And he does seem to speak for his values.

    But now you are stuck with the fact/value dichotomy. An honest broker could come along and tell you that there is no such thing as a value-free science. Quite frankly, I would tend to agree about this point.

    A dichotomy is not needed to be able to distinguish between some facts and some values, of course. But I believe that if we can have a way to separate most facts and most values, then it would be trivial to condemn any scientific claim on the basis that it carries values. In a nutshell, you have to convince me that your argument is not of the kind that makes Procrustes happy.

    That said, there is something in your argument that I like. You say that Hansen should stick to his own field of expertise. I believe this is another fair point. I’m not sure that to say that he “does not know what he’s talking about” is warranted, but I do agree that scientists ought to speak from authority where he can claim some.

    This does not settle everything, but this might provide a good start. I believe we can reconcile both of your points with the role of a witness as defined by Hansen. This concept could deserve due diligence, as it has been misconstrued by commenters.

    I mentioned the IPCC because I don’t believe that we need to generalize. As interesting as Hansen’s work might be, it might be better to keep the eye on the ball. And the ball are honest brokers. And the main one we have is the IPCC.

  69. willard says:

    I just said that I don’t believe that we need to generalize. On the contrary, I do believe we do need to generalize.

    We should speak for the values we stand for or against, not for or against people we try to portray as symbolizing them.

    We should mind the four idols [FourIdols] instead of the climate idols.

    [FourIdols] http://www.sirbacon.org/links/4idols.htm

  70. willard says:

    Another missing negation:

    But I believe that if we can’t have a way to separate most facts and most values, then it would be trivial to condemn any scientific claim on the basis that it carries values.

  71. Eli Rabett says:

    Willard makes a category error in #68,  based it is true, on the confusion besetting the term honest broker.  If, in the Pielkian sense, you mean that an honest broker tells her client (brokers sell stuff you know) everything out there, then you hit the INTERNET swamp, because everything is out there, including stark raving idiocy of the Sky Dragon quality

    Consider RP Jr own introduction to this, where, when being asked for a restaurant recommendation the honest broker tosses a telephone book at the questioner, while the issue advocate says, well, Joe’s ain;t bad for this burgh.  Which advice is useful?
    Eli has written on this in more detail

  72. andrew adams says:

    Anteros,OK, so you do not have a problem with Hansen’s science <i>per se</i>, just “the “˜disasterousness’ of his envisioning”. However, I wonder why you assume he does not in fact take into account things like “the history of adaptation, the false certainties in negative imagination, the nature of change, the relationship between climate itself and human resilience” when making his more pessimistic statements? And even if the issue of how we will adapt to a warmer climate in general is a complicated one we do not have to use too much imagination to try to estimate the likely impact of increased floods, droughts, heatwaves etc. – we can look at how those kind of events impact our civilisation at the moment. Similarly, how do you know that he is ignorant of “the history and trends in agriculture and food prices”, or more to the point why do you assume that past trends in agriculture and food prices must necessarily continue into the future when the world in the 21st Century will be very different from the way it has been in the past?
    Yes, to say something is “dangerous” does imply a value judgement. But then there are certain values which are reasonably considered universal and without acceptance of this it is impossible to have a meaningful discussion on any political issue. If your values do not consider the likelihood of thousands, possibly millions, of people being forced out of their homes or being exposed to severe risk of flooding to be a bad thing then I guess you might consider “dangerous” to be an inappropriate word, but then there would be little point in our discussing this (or indeed any other) topic. And that <i>is</i> going to be the consequence if Hansen is correct, the only question is how long it will take. And the fact that there have been much faster rises in sea level in the past than we are seeing right now is not something to give us comfort – Hansen’s whole point is that ice sheet mass loss will not be linear, we can’t assume that current trends will continue. Of course we may be lucky, the process could be slow enough that severe impacts will be many centuries away, certainly no-one is saying that it is going to be next Monday afternoon, but maybe we won’t be so lucky.

  73. Anteros says:


    For the most part, yes.I think it’s not only instructive but important to understand that value-free science is an impossibility. However, it doesn’t have to be value-soaked or value-drowned.

    You’re right that my beef with Hansen is with his penchant for making definitive statements (about disease, agriculture, species extinction, the end of humanity..) in areas where he has no expertise whatsoever. But you would also be right if you observed that I consider him to be ‘wrong’, which is also pertinent.

    Richard Lindzen doesn’t have any obvious training in the psychology of negative imagination, but I would say he has stumbled inadvertently on an important insight when he says that many people who are climate-alarmed are akin to small children shutting themselves in closets to see how scared they can make themselves. This resonates with my understanding.

    Lindzen’s ideas on climate sensitivity, though can be assessed without the interference (beyond what is inevitable) of value judgements. How both he and Hansen arrive at their positions is to my mind by the by, even if the ‘facts’ they both see are considerably determined by the perspectives that are entailed by their values.

    Here’s an example of Tamino’s that illustrates my point – where there is an insistence that a value judgement is actually an indisputable scientific fact –

    “The science is clear. Those who don’t want to believe it are fond of
    screaming that “the science isn’t settled, science is never settled!”
    That’s a lie. Certainly not
    all the science is settled, it never
    is. But we know some things for sure, like gravity works and smoking
    cigarettes causes lung cancer. And “” the globe is warming, it’s caused
    by human beings, and it’s dangerous. Very dangerous. Extraordinarily

    Tamino’s use of the word ‘science’ and the phrase ‘what we can know for sure’ are very different to mine, and I think while a dichotomy is unrealistic, understanding is better facilitated by separating as much as possible values and ‘facts’.

  74. Anteros says:

    Andrew Adams

    I agree that we have to have a reasonably common understanding to make communication possible. However I think there can be great differences in both beliefs about consequences and also whether we class something as dangerous.

    You say that if Hansen is right, the consequences will be as he describes. I don’t think that is necessarily true – though it may look like that is the case. Again, the speed of any change and human adaptation are both very relevant and I think it is easy to be unnecessarily pessimistic.

    I suppose my major contention is that pessimism fails to acknowledge that the impact of climate on our lives has been diminishing for centuries, in exactly the same way that the world is becoming more peaceful and with less disease. We never hear about such things because good news is no news, but on all three counts the differences are at least an order of magnitude.

    All three are directly correlated with development, so it seems to me that the major changes of the 21st century for the developing world (the most climate-vulnerable) will be more peace, less disease and greater climate resilience. What is the most powerful – and something which dwarfs the current changes in climate – is the movement from climate-vulnerable to climate-resilient.

    My view is that if a total of 2 degrees of warming is reached by the end of the century,  humanity will experience dramatically less climate impacts than it does today, even if the net effect of global warming is measurably negative.

  75. BBD says:

    What happened across the entire Western US during the MWP (~1000 – 1300 CE)? When it was a little warmer than today. And how might that bear on modern agriculture, and on the global food supply? How might this have informed Hansen’s remarks about food prices/shortages etc?

  76. BBD says:

    Please give full and careful consideration to *water* availability in any response.

  77. harrywr2 says:

    #73,What happened across the entire Western US during the MWPWe don’t need to go back to the MWP to understand what life was life in the Western US prior to modern irrigation and soil erosion policies…we only need to go back to the 1930’s. The ‘dust bowl’ years.  (1934 contending as the warmest year in the US instrumental record before ‘adjustments’).What happened was we adapted. We learned to build dams, manage irrigation and switch crops depending on ‘water availability’.In Eastern Washington State…on the banks of the Columbia River where there is plentiful irrigation we grow fruits and vegetables…elsewhere where there is little or no irrigation we grow wheat.  

  78. BBD says:

    That was a short, sharp drought. What happened during the MWP was a succession of megadroughts lasting decades. There is no possible canal, aquifer or other irrigation strategy that could cope with drought on that scale and of that duration. Anybody read Dai et al. (2010) Drought under global warming, a review by the way? 

    Here’s a pretty picture illustrating just one aspect of Hansen’s ‘ineffable catastrophe’ or whatever it was he was being spun against for saying.

  79. Tom Fuller says:

    Guess we’ll all shrivel up like little raisins and die, then. At least we’ll die happy in the knowledge that there by God was a MWP…

  80. BBD says:

    Just not a simultaneous global event…

  81. Tom Fuller says:

    Current warming does not appear to be either simultaneous nor global.

  82. Tom Fuller says:

    Wanna guess the author? 

    “Warming is larger in the Western Equatorial Pacific than in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific over the past century, and we suggest that the increased West”“East temperature gradient may have increased the likelihood of strong El Niños, such as those of 1983 and 1998. ”

    …”current warmth is nearly ubiquitous, generally larger over land than over ocean, and largest at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.”

    …”Fig. 1 B shows an absence of warming in recent years relative to 1951″“1980 in the equatorial upwelling region off the coast of South America. This is also true relative to the earliest period of SST data, 1870″“1900 (Fig. 3 A). Fig. 7, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site, finds a similar result for linear trends of SSTs. The trend of temperature minima in the East Pacific, more relevant for our purpose, also shows no equatorial warming in the East Pacific.”


  83. Tom Fuller says:

    Wanna guess the author? 

    “Warming is larger in the Western Equatorial Pacific than in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific over the past century, and we suggest that the increased West”“East temperature gradient may have increased the likelihood of strong El Niños, such as those of 1983 and 1998. “

    “¦”current warmth is nearly ubiquitous, generally larger over land than over ocean, and largest at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.”

    “¦”Fig. 1 B shows an absence of warming in recent years relative to 1951″“1980 in the equatorial upwelling region off the coast of South America. This is also true relative to the earliest period of SST data, 1870″“1900 (Fig. 3 A). Fig. 7, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site, finds a similar result for linear trends of SSTs. The trend of temperature minima in the East Pacific, more relevant for our purpose, also shows no equatorial warming in the East Pacific.”


  84. BBD says:

    Did you just not understand this paper Tom, or are your snippets a deliberate attempt to misrepresent it? I really think you are trying to misrepresent Hansen here. This is blatant quote mining.

    Just in case anyone is puzzled by Tom’s use of selective quotation to mislead, global warming varies regionally, but it is still *global*.

    From the same paper – Hansen 2006 Global temperature change:

    The pattern of global warming (Fig. 1 B) has assumed expected characteristics,
    with high latitude amplification and larger warming over land than over ocean, as GHGs have become the dominant climate forcing in recent decades. This pattern results mainly from the ice”“snow albedo
    feedback and the response times of ocean and land.

    Let’s clear away your distortions. Let’s go and look at something you cannot misrepresent. Scroll down to Global Surface Temperature. Look below GISTEMP and to the right. See that box labelled ‘Time series 1884 – 2010’? 

    Now, click the slider and move it gently to the right. See that? That’s global warming.

    Please don’t do this again Tom. It diminishes you.

  85. willard says:


    I acknowledge that you consider Hansen wrong about his definitive statements outside his area of expertise and that you share Lindzen’s opinion that CAGW is all but a scare in an echochamber, if I may paraphrase what you are saying in #71. Lindzen might not have any particular qualification in the psychology of masses, but he sure can find effective images, the one you underline sounding a lot like an ad superbiam. In the field of rhetoric, we can both surmise that Lindzen is a natural.

    Perhaps I’m being uncharitable by saying so, and that both you and Lindzen really mean it. More importantly, perhaps I should presume that you interpret Lindzen as making a descriptive claim. This would explain why Hansen does not resonate as well than Lindzen to you: according to you, Hansen is factually wrong and Lindzen might very well be factually right.

    I don’t believe that Hansen only sticks to facts. In fact, I do believe that he says so when he explains his stance as a witness:

    My role is that of a witness, not a preacher. Writer Robert Pool came to that conclusion when he used those religious metaphors in an article about Steve Schneider (a preacher) and me in the May 11, 1990, issue of Science. Pool defined a witness as “someone who believes he has information so important that he cannot keep silent.” I am aware of claims that I have become a preacher in recent years. That is not correct. Something did change, though. I realized that I am a witness not only to what is happening in our climate system, but also to greenwash. Politicians are happy if scientists provide information and then go away and shut up. But science and policy cannot be divorced. What I’ve seen is that politicians often adopt policies that are merely convenient””but that, using readily available scientific data and empirical information, can be shown to be inconsistent with long-term success.

    Again, I express my gratitude to grypo for the quote.

    I chose this quote because I know you did connect a few times, here and elsewhere, climatological and religious beliefs. One can see that the idea is not new: Science was already promoting this trope in 1990.

    From that quote, we can see that Hansen disagrees that his comments are merely factual. I know that you dislike your facts soaked in values, which is fair enough. At least the disagreement is clear.

    But now, please consider Lindzen’s stance on the same subject. Do you really believe that his stance is only scientific? I sincerely doubt it, and I doubt one can sincerely believe that.

    In fact, it seems tough not to take Dick as much of a witness as Jim. I suggest that Dick can’t say so directly because his main target might react negatively. If we don’t accept that both Dick and Jim are playing a PR game, we oftentimes get the narrative of a knight knight fighting alone against the corrupt scientific Order.

    This last paragraph has been inspired by this very nice post by grypo:


    Whatever the factual merits of these narratives, we must agree that they are narratives. Not perspectives, nor conceptual schemes, even less Weltanschauungen. The very idea of a conceptual scheme could very well be dubious anyway, but let’s not digress too much.

    Let me finish with Lindzen’s ideas on climate sensitivity. I do not believe that it can be assessed without the interference of value judgements. For the simple reason that one could very well consider that Lindzen is pushing the limits of justified disingeniousness. For this, I don’t believe I have to know in advance who between Hansen or Lindzen are right. All I need is the way the narratives are built.

    I won’t comment on Tamino’s case, because the post is already too long, and because Keith warned us against oblique references. I believe Keith does have a point, and in any case he’s the boss here, which is confirmed by his Twitter photo. So I won’t follow through this specific example.

    Not that I am not tempted. I do like to dance.

    Thank you for your calmness and your patience.

  86. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, BBD, which part of Hansen’s statement here is incorrect?”¦”Fig. 1 B shows an absence of warming in recent years relative to 1951″“1980 in the equatorial upwelling region off the coast of South America. This is also true relative to the earliest period of SST data, 1870″“1900 (Fig. 3 A). Fig. 7, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site, finds a similar result for linear trends of SSTs. The trend of temperature minima in the East Pacific, more relevant for our purpose, also shows no equatorial warming in the East Pacific.”

  87. Tom Fuller says:

    Without disputing temperature rises over the past decades, it is clear to anyone with a brain that a global average temperature is an accounting fiction. Hansen knows that, BBD. Why don’t you?

  88. Anteros says:

    WillardPerhaps I should have added a few caveats with my statement that Lindzen’s metaphor resonated with my understanding….. I wouldn’t go much further than  it seems to me right on the money in the context of a lot of people thinking about the future (the dark), and allowing their imaginations to do what they may with information that suggests the future could be, in some way, different.I don’t necessarily endorse anything else Lindzen says, and would agree with a characterisation of him as a contrarian. Disingenuous too, but in the way that almost all advocates are, Hansen included (though perhaps less consciously in Hansen’s case)  Your quote from Hansen was interesting and this stood out for me – “someone who believes he has information so important that he cannot keep silent.” This belief that he has information worries me – it has a slight hint of Aspergery fundamentalism. He seems to want to say ‘I have facts’ when in truth he has some images, pictures – the product of imagination. It then seems even odder that this information is translated into the prediction of ineffable disasters and it being ‘game over’ for the climate (in itself quite a remarkable mental construction). Perhaps Tamino’s paragraph can serve as an exemplar of what I mean, at some other time and place.. Imagination and emotion disconnected from reasoning!

  89. Anteros says:

    Ah, apologies – the technical bit.

    It’s late here in Piccadilly Circus..

  90. Sashka says:


    I’ll mention math & theoretical physics as examples of value-free science. I could add chemistry for good measure. Would that be enough?

  91. Sashka says:

    @64, andrew

    In one of his pieces Hansen told about the numerical experiment where he was trying to run his GCM until the ocean boiled. Unfortunately, he said, the model went unstable before ocean boiled.

    Question for you: what do you think of the intentions of the scientist who sets up such a model run? If the ocean did boil, do you think it would be a publishing-worthy material?

  92. Tom Scharf says:

    One only needs to look to Hansen’s recent NYT op-ed to see he is a full blooded alarmist.  My problem has been he is using his position as a NASA scientist to promote his personal alarmist view. A misdirection of appeal to authority. He signs the op-ed with his NASA title. NASA has become so pathetic that they refuse to clamp down on this. Hansen’s alarmist views are also immune to any measured observations. Given business as usual CO2, we have seen a deceleration in temperature and sea levels which directly contradicts his scary pronouncements. Results matter to some of us to gauge credibility.  To Hansen, no matter, just adjust aerosols 40%, and the model still fits his unchageable paranoid view. Hansen hero worship does not come without its downsides you should understand. 

  93. willard says:

    Tom Scharf,

    Thank you for your concerns about Hansen’s personal alarmism, which misdirects an appeal to his own paranoid authority.

  94. willard says:


    And your point would be?

  95. hr says:

    Keith it seems you want to remove the extremes, leave the centre and thru’ this we’ll be lead to enlightenment. I’m not sure it’ll work this way. Personnally I’m flip-flopping around in the centre. with a skeptic bias but also keeping a cAGW scenario on the table. I’m waiting to be dragged to one of the extremes thru’ force of argument. That’s how I see resolution coming about.

  96. hr says:

    The sad truth might be that no matter how unpleasant a human being Romm is, how much his tactics resemble an attack dog. He might actually be on the right path.

  97. BBD says:

    Tom Fuller (with apologies to other readers)

    To my frank astonishment, you repeat your deliberately misleading quote from Hansen et al. (2006). The only charitable explanation is that you are clueless, but if so, how did you find this quote in the first place?

    The matter here deals with the effects of global warming on ENSO. The issue is the interplay between surface water warming and deep water warming (see bold). If the quote is *expanded to provide proper context* they ‘mystery’ disappears:

    Theory does not provide a clear answer about the effect of global warming on El Niños (19, 20). Most climate models yield either a tendency toward a more El Niño-like state or no clear change (22). It has been hypothesized that, during the early Pliocene, when the Earth was 3°C warmer than today, a permanent El Niño condition existed (23).

    We suggest, on empirical grounds, that a near-term global warming effect is an increased likelihood of strong El Niños. Fig. 1 B shows an absence of warming in recent years relative to 1951″“1980 in the equatorial upwelling region off the coast of South America. This is also true relative to the earliest period of SST data, 1870″“1900 (Fig. 3 A). Fig. 7, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site, finds a similar result for linear trends of SSTs. The trend of temperature minima in the East Pacific, more relevant for our purpose, also shows no equatorial warming in the East Pacific.

    The absence of warming in the EEP suggests that upwelling water there is not yet affected much by global warming. Warming in the WEP, on the other hand, is 0.5″“1°C (Fig. 3). We suggest that increased temperature difference between the near-equatorial WEP and EEP allows the possibility of increased temperature swing from a La Niña phase to El Niño, and that this is a consequence of global warming affecting the WEP surface sooner than it affects the deeper ocean.

  98. BBD says:

    TF @ 87

    Without disputing temperature rises over the past decades, it is clear to anyone with a brain that a global average temperature is an
    accounting fiction. Hansen knows that, BBD. Why don’t you?

    First, I didn’t illustrate the point at # 84 with a bald statement of GAT. Did you not bother following that link? It showed global temperature change as change in regional warming over time? I even went so far as to say you couldn’t misrepresent that visualisation. And I was right – you’ve switched tactics.

    And what’s this ‘Hansen knows that’ crap Tom? Let’s have a Hansen quote backing this up please!

  99. andrew adams says:

    Sachka,I believe that Hansen considers “runaway” warming a possibility – in that sense his views do go further than the mainstream. My guess is that in running his model to try to make the seas boil he was trying to establish just how likely (or unlikely) the possibility of such runaway warming actually is. Or maybe he thought it was an interesting experiment to do for its own sake. As for publishing he results, sure – why not? Bear in the mind that the most likely conclusion would be that the circumstances required for such a thing to happen are way outside anyting we are likely to actually experience.

  100. huxley says:

    They’re peddling self-serving spin as truth, selecting what to pass on not on the basis of skeptical inquiry, but simply on the basis of which untested hypotheses paint their enemies in the worst light.

    — John Callendar

    Upon looking at the categories listing at John Callendar’s site, http://www.lies.com, (good domain name snag!) I find that Callendar is indeed a typical liberal obsessed with George W. Bush. The george_w_bush  category far exceeds all other categories except the generic tag for the USA. When it comes to lies, John Callendar is not an equal-opportunity critic.

    For example, I looked up one of the great lies from the Bush era, the forged memos Dan Rather used on 60 Minutes to attack Bush’s National Guard record two months before the 2004 election, and I found Callendar’s version of the “fake, but accurate” defense, in which he mistakenly upholds the media’s responsibility to truth in that incident, while fingering the real liars — alley-oop — “the Bush people” because they used the “60 Minutes” forged memos to distract from the National Guard controversy.

    To John Callendar, it matters not that someone forged military documents nor that one of the most prestigious news venues on television, “60 Minutes” would air those forged documents against the recommendation of its own experts in order to attack a sitting president and possibly subvert a presidential election. To John Callendar the real issue was that the effort to paint his enemy, President George W. Bush, in the worst possible light failed.

  101. Keith Kloor says:

     huxley (101)

    We all see these events through our own ideological/political filters.

    On balance, though, I think history will come to view the Bush Administration over its deceptive/false pretext for war with Iraq the same way history now judges the Johnson Administration and its deceptive/false pretext for its ramping up the war machine in Vietnam.

    What bothers me more is that many people don’t seem to be bothered by that.  

    I can’t think of any greater indictment of a president than willfully misleading the American people over its reason for going to war.

    So while I haven’t read more than a few posts of Callender’s (and those were climate related), I think the name of his blog is wholly appropriate just based on this issue alone.

  102. willard says:


    Your caveat does make sense: there is a concern that imagination that runs wild can become counterproductive. Someone that find the projections counterintuitive won’t be convinced with eschatological stories. On the other hand, we might doubt they do serve a function. If that way to raise concerns in a population had not an effect, we’d stop doing it.

    The big question is if that’s enough. Some witnesses can continue to testify that way. But about all the others? There must be some space in the media for other kinds of message. More so if you, Anteros, is the prototypical member of the audience to be reached.

    There are two things that I believe deserve to be said here. They are so important, in my opinion, that I will say them and return to your other points at another time. And the first one is already implied by my last paragraph: there is no need to think in terms of “what is the best way to convey one’s point”, for I believe that many ways must be tried at the same time, and see how they compete or cooperate.

    That means my second point is important. And in fact, it’s not really my point. It is Randy Olsen’s:

    Voice, voice, voice. Communication is about “voices.” People listen to voices they like. They don’t listen to voices they don’t like. The bosses at BP figured this out the hard way last spring. Shortly after the Gulf spill they began running television commercials featuring BP CEO Tony Hayward and his British accent. Guess what? Within a month they wised up, dumped those spots, and came out with a whole series of commercials featuring working class Gulf of Mexico residents with their deep southern drawls. It’s about voice.


    So I believe we need voices. When you say that Lindzen says something that resonates with you, I believe that’s what you say. You do prefer Dick’s voice to Jim’s. This voice matters so much that you still listen to Dick, even if you agree to describe him as a desingenious contrarian.

    So there is something in Jim’s voice that you do not like. What you said so far about Jim does not pertain to his voice, but you have to admit that it does not help. The image of an Asperger talking carries a voice. The image of a fundamentalist too. If Jim sounds like an Aspergian fundamentalist, I suspect that his voice does not appeal to you.

    Whatever the way we wish to communicate, if we accept the fact that people listen to voices, we must also accept that witnesses should keep an harmonious voice. Ideally, the voices of the witnesses would then form a chorus that would attract more attention. If people say that you shriek, it might very well be a good idea to lower down your pitch.

    I know that this comment does not address your points about facts. But I believe that voices and facts go hand in hand. So I owe you an explanation why I think so. But if you want to think about it by yourself, you can ask yourself how people with the Asperger syndrome process their emotions.

    Bye for now,


  103. Sashka says:


    Is feigning stupidity the latest and greatest in troll’s toolkit? The post of the village idiot is firmly occupied by your buddy; you don’t even have a chance.

    The point is that not only value-free science exists but that’s the only kind of real science there is.

  104. harrywr2 says:

    #102I can’t think of any greater indictment of a president than willfully
    misleading the American people over its reason for going to war.

    For any given policy there are multiple reasons for engaging in that policy.  Many policies are based on indirect causes and effects that may take decades to play out.

    I can’t think of any greater indictment of the US Mass Media then their inability to even discuss policies that have ‘indirect’ causes and effects. Granted it’s difficult for many to follow A->B->C->D->E.

    Hence, Presidents that  engage in policies where the desired ‘effect’ is indirect and may take decades to play out end up looking like ‘liars’ in contempory media.

    When historians write history they have the benefit of being able to view whether the ‘indirect’ costs and benefits were desirable or not.

    Nixon’s China Policy which was quite controversial at the time was based on the idea that trade would lead to ‘economic freedom’ which would lead to ‘political freedom’. We still don’t know whether it will play out that way 40+ years later.

    Then we have the policy’s of Jimmy Carter as epitomized by Zbigniuw Brezinki’s comment…”What’s a few riled up muslims compared to the fall of the Soviet Empire?”

    In light of 9/11 maybe a few riled up muslims ended up being a larger indirect cost then Zbigniew anticipated..

    Another historical example of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ that went bad was the Treaty of Versailles.

  105. Sashka says:


    It is impossible to establish anything with such a numerical experiment. The model was never designed to deal with such extreme conditions. (Not to mention that it is disputable what is it that it’s supposed to do well, or does it really do it well, but it’s a longer story.) Therefore it’s not interesting in any sense. And, one doesn’t need a model to conclude that “the circumstances required for such a thing to happen are way outside anything we are likely to actually experience”. Half a brain should be plenty for such a profundity.

  106. willard says:


    Thank you for clarifying your comment #104.

    You seem to say that by real science we mean math & theoretical physics, and perhaps some chemistry, or any discipline that is value-free. Science is value-free, everything else is not real science.

    I don’t believe that this discussion is about math and theorical physics. So this discussion is not about real science as you just defined it. So I wonder what’s the relevance of your comment in our actual discussion.

    In other words, the relevance of what you now claim would be your point is moot at best.


    If I may digress from our actual discussion, I’d like you to ask one question. In real science, is there something like truth? Coherence, perhaps? And what about simplicity?

    Please tell me how to define that in a value-free way.

    Perhaps you could then have the conceptual apparatus that your appeal to “real science” is itself value-free. Considering your overall dismissiveness, which carries with it its own set of values, I’m afraid that you’re just shaking the YesButPhysics strawman. We could also surmise that this strawman acts as a macho superego: sashka is a real man of science.

    There is no need to rehearse Latour’s analysis to protect ourselves from the straw coming out of your energic shaking.

  107. willard says:

    The bold should end at “real science”.

  108. Sashka says:


    We’re talking about science here. Not math or physics specifically. In 68 you tried to advance an outright lie:

    An honest broker could come along and tell you that there is no such thing as a value-free science.

    My comments 90 and 104 are sufficient to close this attempt to mix the science with post-normal science and other kinds of bullshit.

    I didn’t give you any definitions, that’s another lie, I just gave you examples. If you show me science with values added I’ll show you bullshit science.

    Not interested in your pseudo-philosophical digressions either. You can troll someone else to your heart content.

  109. huxley says:

    Keith @ 101:Obviously I disagree with you. I believe history will sort in the other direction. Likewise I disagree with your claim that the Bush administration misled the nation on the Iraq War.

    See the Joint Resolution and see how much of that you consider to be lies. As to WMD, see all the world leaders, intelligence services and Democratic leaders who agreed that Iraq had WMD. Note that the Duelfer Report admitted the possibility that WMD were shipped out of the country in the truck convoys that left Iraq. Note that some WMD were found in Iraq. Note that large amounts of chemical WMD that the Iraqis admitted having were never accounted for. Etc.

    We can rehash those arguments with cites and four-part harmonies, if you like. It won’t turn out well for you. One can certainly say Bush made mistakes and one can certainly disagree with his decisions, but that’s not the same as saying he lied. That liberal argument by repetition is, as far as I’m concerned, a lie.

    However, in the case of Callendar’s blog: he titled it “Lies” — not “Bush Lies” or “Republican Lies” or the “Lies of People I Don’t Like.” Yet that is mostly what he delivers, albeit with the occasional slap to Romm and the like. In this he is not an honest broker of information. He is not objectively examining lies whichever side they come from, as his blog title indicates. No, he specializes in the lies of his enemies for his partisan reasons.

    That you can’t be bothered to make that distinction either does not bode well for you as an honest broker of information opposed to spin.

  110. willard says:


    I believe that this thread is about spin. So I’m not sure what you mean by “we’re talking about science here”.

    Let’s quote that statement that you believe is a lie.

    An honest broker could come along and tell you that there is no such thing as a value-free science.

    I’m not sure that your assumption that science is value-free shows shows this is a lie.

    An honest broker could very well come along and tell you this, even if you assume that he would not talk about real science. In fact, we know that something like this has already been written in a book about honest brokerage.


    You are challenging my use of the word “defined”. Here is where I believe you defined science:

    The point is that not only value-free science exists but that’s the only kind of real science there is.

    I believe that this can very well be considered a definition. It’s incomplete, of course. But it does state an essentialproperty of science: being value-free. Please do not ponder on what “essential” means in that sentence, or else you’ll troll yourself into thinking, which might be bad for your writing habits.

    You have yet to argue for your assumption that science is value-free. If you do not like “value-free”, consider that it could very well replaced with the expression “contain judgement calls”. Judgements calls have an intriguing tendency to correlate with social norms, as your latest reply to andrew shows.

    Please tell me how my comments presume anything about post-normal science. Everything said so far is compatible with any reasonable verion of physicalism you like.

    So I believe I have shown that your point is quite remote to our discussion, is being submitted as a proof by assertion, and contains two misreading and at least one misrepresentation.

    Please acknowlege this.

    If you do, we could try to see what we can do with your challenge: I believe I can come up with so many examples readers will have to wonder how many theories are not bullshit science according to you.

  111. Sashka says:

    I did not assume anything. I told you what I know and what every scientist knows.

    If you wish to bring up examples of what you consider science that contains judgement calls – go ahead.

    There is no need to wonder about my views. I gave you examples of math, physics and chemistry upfront.

  112. willard says:


    I only know of one person that had any success sincerely believing he takes nothing for granted. He does not even exist for “real”.

    The focus of this discussion is not about science. Please acknowledge this.

    I did not claim that all sciences was value-laden, I invoked an hypothetical honest broker to prove a point unrelated to yours. Please acknowledge this.

    You did invoke a minimal characterization of science as being value-free, contrary to what you claimed earlier. Please acknowledge this.

    Since your last comment makes me trust you in acknowledging all this, here are three examples:

    For maths: the Axiom of Choice.

    For physics: string theory.

    For chemistry: ununseptium [1]

    And that’s notwithstanding mundane entities like trees, rocks, and Pluto.

    I also have a more significant example, if you know what I mean.

    Waiting for your acknowledgements,

    Best of luck,

    [1] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/science/07element.html

  113. Sashka says:

    The discussion have started with spin which is certainly your area of expertise but, as it often happens, the subject changed along the way.

    Thanks for your examples but I don’t see how value enters any of these. Please elaborate.

  114. willard says:

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Please tell where the subject changed.

  115. willard says:

    Zermelo’s original purpose in introducing AC was to establish a central principle of Cantor’s set theory, namely, that every set admits a well-ordering and so can also be assigned a cardinal number. Zermelo’s 1904 introduction of the axiom, as well as the use to which he put it, provoked considerable criticism from the mathematicians of the day. The chief objection raised was to what some saw as its highly non-constructive, even idealist, character: while the axiom asserts the possibility of making a number of “” perhaps even an uncountable number “” of arbitrary “choices”, it gives no indication whatsoever of how these latter are actually to be effected, of how, otherwise put, choice functions are to be defined. This was particularly objectionable to mathematicians of a “constructive” bent such as the so-called French Empiricists Baire, Borel and Lebesgue, for whom a mathematical object could be asserted to exist only if it can be defined in such a way as to characterize it uniquely. Zermelo’s response to his critics came in the form in two papers in 1908. In the first of these, as remarked above, he reformulated AC in terms of transversals; in the second (1908a) he made explicit the further assumptions needed to carry through his proof of the well-ordering theorem. These assumptions constituted the first explicit presentation of an axiom system for set theory.


  116. willard says:

    Although string theory dates back to 1970, the field took off in the mid-1980s when researchers realized it had the potential to be the long-sought Theory of Everything””one that unifies the physics of the familiar, everyday world with the odd quantum behavior of atoms and even smaller things. A second wave of theoretical breakthroughs in the mid-1990s drew even more people into string theory research.

    But skeptics are many, and they came out in full force last year with the publication of two books critical of the theory: Not Even Wrong, by Peter Woit of Columbia University, and The Trouble With Physics, by Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute in Canada.

    Right or wrong, string theory has been drawing big crowds””from more than 900 people at the first Isaac Asimov Memorial debate in 2001 to a sold-out crowd at the 2003 Aspen Institute Ideas Festival.


  117. willard says:

    By scientific custom, if the latest discovery is confirmed elsewhere, the element will receive an official name and take its place in the periodic table of the elements, the checkerboard that begins with hydrogen, helium and lithium and hangs on the walls of science classrooms and research labs the world over.

    “For a chemist, it’s so fundamentally cool” to fill a square in that table, said Dr. Shaughnessy, who was much less forthcoming about what the element might eventually be called. A name based on a laboratory or someone involved in the find is considered one of the highest honors in science. Berkelium, for example, was first synthesized at the University of California, Berkeley.

    “We’ve never discussed names because it’s sort of like bad karma,” she said. “It’s like talking about a no-hitter during the no-hitter. We’ve never spoken of it aloud.”

    Other researchers were equally circumspect, even when invited to suggest a whimsical temporary moniker for the element. “Naming elements is a serious question, in fact,” said Yuri Oganessian, a nuclear physicist at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and the lead author on the paper. “This takes years.”


  118. willard says:

    Perhaps we can offer this “constructive” proof, with at least two puns intended:

    1. Think of a word or an expression that designates a field of science or a theory.

    2. Fire up your favorite browser and open your search engine.

    3. Enter the word or the expression you chose and add to it “debate”.

    4. Try not to find a debate where values do not clash.

    Perhaps we should add a warning: Debates may contain traces of values. Those who are allergic to values should consult their physicist.

  119. Sashka says:

    Sorry, I still don’t see any value judgements.

  120. willard says:

    You don’t seem to see that I asked you two times now to acknowledge your previous mistakes.

    Perhaps someone in the audience can help Sashka, here?

  121. willard says:

    Perhaps we could agree on what is a value judgement:

    A value judgment is a judgment of the rightness or wrongness of something, or of the usefulness of something, based on a comparison or other relativity. As a generalization, a value judgment can refer to a judgment based upon a particular set of values or on a particular value system. A related meaning of value judgment is an expedient evaluation based upon limited information at hand, an evaluation undertaken because a decision must be made on short notice.


    Could we agree on this? I hate when people play shrubbery grames when they don’t tell me what’s a shrubbery in the first place. I really hate it

    It. It. It. Still here, Sashka?

    I’m starting to miss Anteros.

  122. Nullius in Verba says:


    I don’t see any value judgements, either. I wonder if this is an argument about definitions. ‘Values’ is usually interpreted to mean the “ought”s that Kant said could not be deduced from an “is”. I get the feeling that by “value judgement” you mean something like “opinion”.

    The nearest you get to a value judgement in mathematics is the concept of ‘beauty’, in which an equation, method, or proof is judged to be beautiful or elegant. Proof’s “ought” to be elegant, we want them to be beautiful, but from a pure mathematical point of view they don’t have to be.

    The difference of opinion over the axiom of choice was not about this – it was about whether it was safe to assume, whether doing so could lead us into paradoxes and contradictions – which is very much not about values. It turned out the answer was definitely “no”, and besides being interested in knowing which results depend on it, there is no issue there any more.

    A better example of a scientific point that depended on aesthetics would be the Copernican circles versus Ptolemaic epicycles. The epicycles were more accurate, but many chose heliocentrism out of aesthetics.

    Even then, it’s arguable that it has a practical purpose, in that beautiful theories are often more true, and lead us to deeper insights.

  123. willard says:

    The last four paragraphs of #123 contradict its first, and renders the first sentence vacuous. That Nullius does not see what he says is his own problem.

    Besides, the word “aesthetics” minimizes the importance of simplicity, which is a value:


    Incidentally, we read on that page another bit about Kant and parsimony. The problem of deriving ought from is ordinarily associated to Hume, and is not directly related to what we’re talking about here. It could very well be false, if we consider speech acts like promises.

    We get to choose how to take what is into account, from the most part. The best accounting we got is called science. But most of the choices are made according to values.

  124. willard says:

    Instead of entering into an epitemological debate, we might wish to return to the topic of this thread, perhaps we can invoke two authors that cite Dick Lindzen:

    Richard Lindzen, of the Massachusetts
    Institute of Technology, has emphasized that
    problems will arise where we will need to
    depend on scientific judgement, and by ruining
    our credibility now we leave society with a
    resource of some importance diminished . The
    implementation of public policies must be based
    on good science, to the degree that it is available, and not on emotion or on political needs. Those who develop such policies must not stray from sound scientific investigations, based only on accepted scientific methodologies. Such has not always been the case with environmental
    tobacco smoke.


    Depending on scientific judgement.

    Good science.

    Sound scientific investigations.

    Accepted scientific methodologies

    Value-free science.


  125. Nullius in Verba says:


    I will clarify – I don’t see any ‘values’ in the examples you give. Simplicity is a perfectly objective metric, an “is” that can be tested – the preference for simplicity is an aspect of aesthetics, though.

    You’re right about Hume rather than Kant. My mistake.

  126. Nullius in Verba says:


    And are those part of the desiderata or the definition of science? Bad science is not science. It only pretends to be.

  127. willard says:


    Thank you for the clarifications.

    Really, it’s quite clear that choices are made regarding the acceptance of the Axiom of choice or string theory, and that these choices depend on values. Even choosing a cool name for a new element takes years: have you ever wondered why?

    All the time I have for today is to point a critical discussion of an argument by Putnam:


    I’m not really a Putnamian, and I can get Sashka’s point. When he will acknowledge what I asked him thrice to acknowldge, I’ll underline the relevant words in my examples.

    Open up the debate, they said…

  128. willard says:

    > desiderata or the definition of science

    Looks like a distinction without a difference.

    Or perhaps there is: we don’t need to define science to do science. In a way, we do need some desiderata.

    But in another, we really don’t. Even monkeys jumping on a typerwriters can write Sashka’s comments.

  129. Anteros says:

    Willard –

    I returned to provide you some relief..

    Both your points are interesting. I wondered how literal you were being with your sense of ‘voice’ and was reminded of how Margaret Thatcher learnt to lower her voice by at least a tone as she was told she sounded strident (from having a strident mind?). Also, it just happens that I find Jim Hansen’s voice trustworthy – it exudes sincerity. Not so Dick Lindzen – I feel on my guard when I listen to him and the need to verify everything I hear..

    So, in a sense I’m talking about content – and perhaps something else too [the unnoticed relationship between emotive visualising, and reasoning?] In every general sense though I agree that it makes sense for every message to have a great number of ‘voices’ if only to match the number of listeners and their individual perspectives.

    The value/fact discussion above is interesting, but to me ‘values’ needs some exploring. It’s not just the assumptions and choices that we make during our supposedly objective decision-making, to me it always asks about world-views and fundamentals about our relationship with what is. Often, this is given away in our choice of adjectives.

    One example – if I’m talking to someone and they routinely plonk the word ‘fragile’ in front of the word ‘ecosystem’ I can make a large number of reasonable assumptions about that persons world-view. my view on life, death and the fundamental nature of change is that ecosystems are fragile in the way clouds are.

    My guess is that Jim Hansen thinks of civilisation as fragile and thus any change in its environment (the climate) feels worrying. And here is the crux; it seems to me important to establish feelings and reasoning for what they are – it makes sense for him to say something feels dangerous or that it looks worrying to him. Without that qualification, something about his utterances doesn’t make sense. Of course that goes for everyone who is ‘selling’ something, but I notice it most when people with a very strong emotional motivation (Hansen, for instance. Do ignore my Asperger comments – they were both ill-judged and inappropriate for JH).

    I’ll leave you the link to Tamino’s version of Hansen’s warning because it illustrates very well what I mean about not only the demarcation between reasoning and feeling, but also an inability to understand that emotional reactions are subjective. That is, they are relative to the perceiver. The insistence that Tamino’s readers should be scared in just the way Tamino and Hansen are fails to understand that the state of the Universe or planet or climate is only one half of the equation.

    Why I Must Speak Out about Climate Change | Open Mind

    If I can backtrack slightly, I would admit that if I saw and felt and worried about the future as much as Hansen and Foster, I would have little problem using any and all emotive language to sell my message. In that respect I think Hansen is being honest to his imagination but as I think his vision is flawed, the use of the ‘NASA head scientist’ label of authority always grates a little with me.

  130. andrew adams says:

    Sashka,It is impossible to establish anything with such a numerical experiment. The model was never designed to deal with such extreme conditions.Your first sentence simply isn’t true. Hansen did find the experiment interesting and useful otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it. The fact that the outcome might have matched our expectations doesn’t in itself mean it wasn’t useful.I really don’t know what your problem is here. Why shouldn’t Hansen have done what he did? 

  131. Sashka says:


    Sorry, willard. I do have a rather intense day job so please excuse my intermittent appearances.

    Out of 3 versions in 122, 2nd and 3rd seem agreeable. But unrelated to your supposed examples.

  132. Sashka says:


    I invoked an hypothetical honest broker to prove a point unrelated to yours. Please acknowledge this.

    No I won’t. The point quite related.

  133. Sashka says:

    andrew, you seem to be saying that I’m wrong because Hansen must be right and he couldn’t possibly come up with anything stupid.

    In this case, have a nice day.

  134. PDA says:

    The point quite related.Sashka, if it helps, I’m fairly sure that Keith doesn’t charge by the word. You should feel free to use verbs, or even dependent clauses, in the exposition of your thoughts here.

  135. BBD says:

    Careful what you wish for.

  136. Anteros says:

    PDA –

    Space isn’t exactly at a premium either – you can leave spaces after full stops 🙂

  137. PDA says:

    I blame this wonky editor! There were actually two paragraphs in between the quote and the comment.Likethis

  138. Sashka says:

    Congrats on joining grammar-Nazis, PDA.

  139. andrew adams says:

    Sashka,No, that’s not it at all. What I’m saying is that Hansen performed an experiment, presumably because he found it interesting. He also seemingly found the outcome interesting as well. There’s no “right” or “wrong” about it – he’s not making any grand claims based on the outcome. I just don’t see why anyone would object to him doing it, or indeed why he should care if they did.

  140. andrew adams says:

    Why do my line feeds keep disappearing?

  141. PDA says:


  142. Anteros says:

    I think everyone should complain to the management.

  143. willard says:

    Click on the blue brackets, PDA.



    I’m glad you found the the 2nd and the 3rd cases agreeable. This is a bit surprising, since the 1st is the most clearcut case, as the words “provoked considerable criticism” makes quite clear. In any case, you know what this agreement entails, right?

    Perhaps not. Perhaps we do not agree about what is a value judgement. So I’m still waiting for an agreement on what’s the shrubberry you’re looking for.

    And I believe that PDA’s point was not about grammar, but about arguing by assertion:


    And I believe you have not stated what you understood was my point. You fumbled, the first time.

    And I believe you have yet to identify when the conversation turned to be about science.

    And there are two other acknowledgements you kinda forgot.

    Your gaslighting game makes me wonder if you really are a real scientist. Are you?

  144. Anteros says:

    Willard –
    You drive a very hard bargain.. 🙂

  145. willard says:


    You’ll have time to make a few rounds in Picadilly Circus, tonight: I’ll return tomorrow.

    Voiceover: Wonder what will willard weasel away? Tune it tomorrow! Coming up next: Yes, but Yamal! Who was in the center of story putting Gleick at the center of Gleick story? Romm! Romm! Goddam it, Joe!


  146. andrew adams says:

    AnterosThere are
    of course lots of uncertainties around the consequences of AGW, both about the
    immediate impacts and the consequences for our civilisation. However, there are
    some things which are more certain than others,
    and there are some things we can say with confidence. In the specific
    case of the ice sheets, we do know that if the earth continues to warm the ice
    sheets will continue to lose mass, just have they have done in the past. We also
    know that this will cause sea levels to rise – it cannot do otherwise, and that
    this will ultimately lead to some areas (in the absence of some pretty drastic
    engineering projects) either becoming uninhabitable or at least being much more
    prone to flooding, as well as other negative effects such as the contamination
    of aquifiers. There really is no doubt about
    this, it is merely a question of timescales. If you claim otherwise then you
    will need to tell me exactly where the above is wrong.
    Hansen’s research indicates that he process is likely
    to work faster, possibly much faster, than we have previously thought. I don’t
    claim he is right, but assuming he is confident in his findings it is perfectly
    rational for him to be concerned.
    What I really object to in your argument is the notion
    that people’s concern over the consequences of AGW is somehow down to “feelings”
    and “imagination”, as if a large number of people had not spent a great deal of
    time on research into the likely impacts of AGW and what a warmer world will be
    like. The reason by people like Hansen, Tamino and others are concerned about
    the future is not because they have over active imaginations, it is because they
    have looked at the evidence, looked at the published research and reached their
    conclusions accordingly. Such judgements are always going to be imperfect given
    the uncertainties which remain but it doesn’t eman they are based on

  147. andrew adams says:

    Oh look, I got my missing line breaks back.

  148. Sashka says:


    The reason to object is that this “experiment” has no scientific value for the reasons explained above. I wouldn’t object even then but he feels obliged to talk about it to the media as if a small numerical problem was in a way of scientific discovery.

  149. Sashka says:


    You made a groundless assertion about science in 68 which resulted in conversation turning to science beginning from 90. Then your tried to justify your “point” by pasting 3 unrelated quotes that have nothing to do with discussion. You never explained it ever since. If you want to explain where you found value judgements in there go ahead. Otherwise have a nice day.

  150. Nullius in Verba says:

    This is just a ‘for example’.

    “In the specific case of the ice sheets, we do know that if the earth continues to warm the ice sheets will continue to lose mass, just [as] they have done in the past.”

    Ice sheet mass balance is a balancing act between precipitation (snow) in the accumulation zone, and the flow rate. There is an argument that global warming will increase humidity which will increase precipitation which will cause ice sheets to build up. There is also an argument that ice flow is an extremely complex hydrodynamic problem. Most of the ice sheet is trapped. The weight of the ice depresses the crust of the Earth so that the ice mass rests in a bowl surrounded by mountains. There is spillover from the edges through glacial valleys, but for the vast majority of the ice sheet the gradient is slight, the flow rate is slow and the mass change as a proportion of the amount of ice there is tiny. The fast flow at the edges is highly variable, but not significant.

    Take a look at those studies claiming mass loss, check what period of time they were done over, and compare the loss to the total mass of the ice sheets. How long would it take, even assuming that the flow continued indefinitely, to significantly reduce the mass? Do you think these claims are to be taken seriously?

    Consider also – if the average temperature in Antarctica is -40 C, and it hypothetically rises 3 C to -37 C, how much ice will melt as a result? How long will it take for a 3 C temperature rise to diffuse/conduct through a 3 km thick slab of ice? Is it really so obvious that the ice will disappear? Why did it not disappear during the Eemian, for example, for which we have a continuous ice deposition record?

    That’s not to say it’s not possible – vaguely plausible mechanisms have been proposed – but that it isn’t a straightforward question. You have to know a lot about the physics of glaciers and ice sheets to be able to hazzard an educated guess.

    “and that this will ultimately lead to some areas (in the absence of some pretty drastic engineering projects) either becoming uninhabitable or at least being much more prone to flooding”

    I thought they used to teach this in first year geography. Perhaps they don’t any more. I don’t know.

    Do you know how river deltas are formed? Do you know how coral islands are formed (Charles Darwin figured it out), and why they are so very flat and so very close to sea level, despite the sea level having risen hundreds of metres over the past ten thousand years?

    Bangladesh and many coral islands have been increasing in area, despite the sea level rises over the past 150 years. This is the just normal coastal physics. The balance between deposition and erosion may shift, but not by all that much.

    Consider – have your sources for these alarming reports made all of this clear?

  151. Eli Rabett says:

    In #45 Eli made a polite request:

    Mr. Fuller, in #32 you make a number of empty accusations. Links please that Eli may discuss. Otherwise withdraw your characterizations.

    Neither has occurred. Mr. Fuller should either take responsibility for his utterances or back them up. Failing that we can draw conclusions

  152. willard says:

    In an old paper that I just discovered, Richard Rudner argues that the very fact that scientists reject or accept hypotheses knocks down the fact/value dichotomy:

    [S]ince no scientific hypothesis is ever completely verified, in accepting a hypothesis the scientist must make the decision that the evidence is sufficiently strong or that the probability is suffciently high to warrant the acceptance of the hypothesis. Obviously our decision regarding the evidence and respecting how strong is “strong enough”, is going to be a function of the importance, in the typically ethical sense, of making a mistake in accepting or rejecting the hypothesis. Thus, to take a crude but easily managable example, if the hypothesis under consideration were to the effect that a toxic ingredient of a drug was not present in lethal quantity, we would require a relatively high degree of confirmation or confidence before accepting the hypothesis-for the consequences of making a mistake here are exceedingly grave by our moral standards. On the other hand, if say, our hypothesis stated that, on the basis of a sample, a certain lot of machine stamped belt buckles was not defective, the degree of confidence we should require would be relatively not so high. How sure we need to be before we accept a hypothesis will depend on how serious a mistake would be.


    I believe this argument bears directly with the predicament of climate blogland. It is interesting insofar as it does not appeal to any meta, proto or pre-scientific issues. And the image shows that as soon as a science endeavour has a non-negligible impact regarding public health issues, the dichotomy, even if it were true elsewhere, which we have good reasons to doubt notwithstanding Sashka’s gaslighting, is irrelevant in this very thread.

    So much the worse for the proof by asserting “science bullshit”.

  153. BBD says:

    Once again, NIV demonstrates that he doesn’t understand:

    – the underlying geology of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and its implications for glacial drainage

    – the relationship between marine ice shelves and glacial drainage rates from the WAIS

    – that the process is determined by gravity and friction and obstruction (ice shelves), not surface temperature

    – that on the scale of outflow from the WAIS and the age and depth of the ice sheet, precipitation is an irrelevance

    The relatively short periods of observations (GRACE) do not mean that the observations of the increasing rate of mass loss are invalid. That’s just misdirection.

    Furthermore, there is this to explain away. I’m sure NIV will try, and his failure will be instructive. Now is probably the moment to remind ourselves that the observations of the WAIS strongly support Hansen’s position. 

    In case anyone finds all this a bit fanciful, the collapse of Larsen B ice shelf provides an instructive case study of 1/. abrupt ice shelf disintegration and 2/. consequent increased glacial flow rates:

    Rignot E, Casassa G, Gogineni P, Krabill W, Rivera A and Thomas R 2004 Accelerated discharge from the Antarctic Peninsula following collapse of Larsen B ice shelf Geophys. Res. Lett. 31 L18401

    Rignot E and Jacobs S S 2002 Rapid bottom melting widespread near Antarctic ice sheet grounding lines Science 296 2020″“3

    Scambos T A, Bohlander J A, Shuman C A and Skvarca P 2004 Glacier acceleration and thinning after ice shelf collapse in the Larsen B embayment, Antarctica Geophys. Res. Lett. 31 L18402

    Shepherd A, Wingham D, Payne T and Skvarca P 2003 Larsen ice shelf has progressively thinned Science 302 856″“9

    Shepherd A, Wingham D and Rignot E 2004 Warm ocean is eroding West Antarctic ice sheet Geophys. Res. Lett. 31 L23402

    Oh yes, and let’s not forget that NIV apparently believes that floating sea ice can impede glacial outflow.

  154. BBD says:

    Do you know how river deltas are formed? Do you know how coral islands are formed

    Rapidly. But not rapidly enough to cope with ~5m sea level rise in a century.

    I wonder if you would be so very sanguine if you lived on a delta already prone to flooding by storm surges? Really, I do.

  155. BBD says:

    Or ~2m come to that. Or anywhere in between.

  156. Nullius in Verba says:


    There’s a distinction between the science and the uses to which it is put. The science says something like “the probability of these observations occuring with more than 5% of the pills toxic is less than 80%”. The user says “that’s no good enough! Small children and cute fluffy animals use these drugs!” The science replies “nevertheless, the probability of these observations occuring with more than 5% of the pills toxic is less than 80%”. It makes no difference to the science that we’ve put values on the consequences. The moral weight of the consequences does not push the number up to 99%; only a better experiment can do that.

    What Hansen is doing is trying to use moral weight to take the place of better evidence. It’s the Pascal’s Wager gambit. If people decide on the basis of probability times cost, and you can’t make a case for a high probability, then simply offer ever more excessive speculations about the cost. You don’t know the probability that Tlaloc the climate god exists, but the consequences are so dire if he does that perhaps we ought to make a few sacrifices, just in case.

    Or to put it another way, he’s trying to say that science has shown that more than 5% of the children and cute fluffy animals are going to die if we carry on, and therefore we all need to deny life-saving drugs to sick children.

    Actually, science hasn’t shown that any of the pills are toxic; all it has said is that they might be, and we can’t be sure they’re not. We’ve speculated about a highly emotive potential cost, shown that the science cannot rule it out, and then used our authority as scientists to advocate for a particular policy. This approach has the perverse property that the less certain the science the more urgent action becomes. And unlike Rudner’s example where greater moral importance demands higher scientific standards, the moral scare implies that greater moral importance demands lower standards and sloppier science, because the threat is so great that as soon as it is recognised scientists need to put down their test tubes, come out of the lab, and wave placards at protests demanding immediate action. Working to improve the quality of the evidence is a waste of valuable time.

    It’s a point of view, certainly. But that’s still an argument about how we use science, it’s not the science itself.

  157. Nullius in Verba says:

    #153,“Furthermore, there is this to explain away. I’m sure NIV will try,”No, I don’t think I’ll bother.

  158. BBD says:


    I think you should resist the temptation to make *any* further comments on the WAIS. Not on my account, but you might confuse or even mislead others.

    As an exercise for the interested reader, is the WAIS grounded above the datum, at the datum or below the datum, and by how much? 

  159. willard says:


    If there’s a distinction between the science and the uses to which it is put, or science itself, one can’t say:

    > The science says something like […]

    > The science replies […]

    > Science has shown […]

    > It makes no difference to the science […]

    > Science hasn’t shown […]

    > Science cannot rule it out […]

    Science does not say, show, distinguish, or rule out. Science itself has not enough self to do all these things. Science itself is more or less a bunch of equational theories and hopefully truth-functional models.

    Even if you maintain that science to its simplest expression, you’re still stuck with problems like the inscrutability of reference:

    If one is to find out the referential object of any word from any language there are always multiple possible systems of hypotheses, which are equally correct. The referential relation is inscrutable, because it is subject to the background language and ontological commitments of the speaker.


    To talk about science itself is certainly interesting, but lack pragmatism. In fact, the expression “science itself” usually leads to an essentialist outlook. If pragmatic considerations regarding science makes you think of Pascal’s wager, speaking of science itself makes me think that you wish to return to Aristotle.

    And speaking of Pascal’s wager, we already been there. You still conflate the precautionary principle with Pascal’s wager, aren’t you?

    Sometimes, I wonder if we could write a Poe about the relationship between Pascal’s wager and the EPR paradox and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

  160. Nullius in Verba says:


    And what would happen to sea level if the Himalayas fell into the sea?

    I don’t need to make any reply to your comments because I’ve already discussed the general tactic in Hansen’s case.

  161. Nullius in Verba says:


    “Science itself is more or less a bunch of equational theories and hopefully truth-functional models.”

    Science is a method for finding things out. People have produced scientific theories and models by using it. Those theories and models have often proved useful.

    Natural languages are inherently ambiguous. This sort of introspective navel-gazing about what we can mean or know eventually leads to solipsism. Sure, but it’s not very useful.

    “And speaking of Pascal’s wager, we already been there. You still conflate the precautionary principle with Pascal’s wager, aren’t you?”

    Yep. You still think there is a difference?

    “Sometimes, I wonder if we could write a Poe about the relationship between Pascal’s wager and the EPR paradox and Heisenberg’s uncertainty

    Sounds interesting! Please do elaborate.

  162. willard says:

    In #150, Sashka claims that the conversation turned to science from his own 90. If the subject of the discussion “has changed along the way” and that 90 introduces the question of real science, and perhaps more importantly real scientists, even Sashka should infer that the discussion was not about these things in the first place. Since a conversation usually takes more than repeated proofs by assertions and cheap macho insults, we could even argue that Sashka never joined the conversation.

    If Sashka can’t see there are still question in mathematics regarding how constructive it should be, then I have to wonder if Sashka should work as a real scientist. He’s be perfect as an HBGary agent. His gaslighting number looks like he could be a pro.

    Let the interested readers observe that Sashka is still stuck at answering for his mistakes already underlined in #107 and #111. Not that it matters much if your aim is not to have a conversation, but to gastlight like a professional HB Gary agent.

  163. willard says:


    Your interest about the Poe is duly noted. I’ll see what I can do.

    The precautionary principles has many instances, the majority of which have nothing to do with Pascal’s wager. Pascal’s wager could very well be formally valid, by the way. But it’s tough to know, since interpreting what Pascal had in mind is still tough.

    Speaking of the precautionary principle,

    Regarding the precautionary principle, even Martin Peterson admits that it has a plausible epistemic interpretation:

    [I]t seems that an epistemic interpretation makes sense, according to which it is more desirable that risk assessments avoid making false-negative rather than false-positive errors.


    Let’s bear in mind that if we stick to science itself, we have none of these problems, since it remains a meta-scientific principle, in which case the statistical lingo is only metaphorical, as it was when with Trenberth’s alpha version of his speech.

    Oh, you know that what I said about holism also holds in falsificationnism? An interesting story.

    You can’t say that I’m not giving you options there, Nullius…

  164. willard says:

    In the thread at Bart’s where I first made the comment above, there is this Big Think presentation that relates to spin:

    Not only we dislike being told to change our hairstyle, appealing to our fears does not motivate us to change it:


  165. willard says:

    From that same thread, again related to spin:

    I for one would emphasize beauty. Here’s an explanation why:


    Inspiring people means sending fitness signals, not distress signals.

    Seems that aesthetics is an evolutionary virtue, not just something that relates to mathematical elegance.

    As the love of my life is fond to say, truth is sexy.

  166. Nullius in Verba says:


    I find the gaslighting accusation interesting, as it looks somewhat self-referential to me. Sashka makes a perfectly straightforward observation that consideration of values are conventionally excluded from the practice of science, and you try to persuade Sashka that this perception is wrong, the argument diving into a whirl of surreal allusions to the axiom of choice and referential inscrutability, to somehow end up at the conclusion that Sashka is an agent of HBGary and trying to fool us.

    Poe’s law seems to indicate that a gaslighter trying to persuade their victim that they are the gaslighter ought to be mistaken for a clever parody. I’m not sure, myself – is it possible to tell?

  167. BBD says:


    I don’t need to make any reply to your comments because I’ve already discussed the general tactic in Hansen’s case.

    Your # 151 was a Gish Gallop of ill-informed nonsense. But then you come out with:

    What Hansen is doing is trying to use moral weight to take the place of better evidence.

    But Hansen’s position is based on far better information than you *demonstrably* possess. Which makes me wonder why you expect to be taken seriously. 

    Viewed objectively, your commentary is scientifically weightless anti-Hansen spin.

  168. Eli Rabett says:

    There is an important point amidst the flotsam here, actually two.  One is, that if the number of people at risk is large and the percent to be affect is not vanishingly small, you can pretty much bet the bottom dollar that there will be problems and get pretty close to how many bad outcomes there will be.  A good example of this is children’s pajamas.  If they are not fireproof, even tho the risk to any child is small there will be numerous burns and deaths.  On the other hand, even large changes in a rate, for example the risk from some drug increasing by a factor of two, might be worth taking if the total number of bad outcomes across the population goes from one to two per year.  Of course it would suck to be that extra one, but if the benefit accrues to many that would be worth it.
    This is, of course, the issue with testing for breast cancer for women under 40 and cancer of guys (aka prostate).  
    The point is that rates can be tricky, an in assessing outcomes you have to look at the expected number of both good and bad outcomes, not the rates.

  169. Nullius in Verba says:


    I don’t expect to be taken seriously, or not taken seriously. I say what I say, and you say what you say, and onlookers can make their own minds up.

  170. BBD says:

    >>onlookers can make their own minds up.

    That’s the idea.

  171. Nullius in Verba says:


    Yes. Although you have to be careful to present all of the risks, and alternative risks for all the options, and not just a select few to suit a particular campaign. Like, do you spend your resources on spraying DDT on the walls of African houses, or making sure their children’s pyjamas are fireproof? Because every dollar spent on one is a dollar not spent on the other. And children will suffer burns in accidents anyway. If it wasn’t the pyjamas it was the kettle, or the matches, or the candle, or the cooker. You can’t make the entire world fireproof.

  172. BBD says:

    You can’t make the entire world fireproof.

    False equivalence with climate science and its policy implications.

  173. willard says:

    Nullius’ #170 entails that he still expects something from the readers: that they will make up their own mind.

    That on their own free will they take him seriously is none of his concerns.

    That means he can say whatever he fancies. What he says is what he says, after all.


  174. BBD says:

    Things disappear upthread so fast. Let’s not forget the recent past:

    # 151 – NIV: Gish Gallop of nonsense about WAIS etc

    # 154 – 6 BBD: Response

    # 157 – NIV: continues anti-Hansen spin without reference to # 154 – 6

    #158 and # 161 – NIV: refuses to engage with central issues in # 154 because inconvenient

    # 168 – BBD: Points out that NIV has nothing but continues his anti-Hansen spin anyway

    Only on the internet, eh?

  175. Nullius in Verba says:


    I wasn’t even thinking about climate.


    I said onlookers can make their own minds up. You don’t have to if you don’t want to.



    Really? I remember it somewhat differently.

    #154, BBD provides Gish gallop of nonsense assertions.
    #155, BBD makes another unsupported assertion.
    #156, Another slightly smaller one.#159, BBD is patronising.
    #168, BBD does more proof by assertion and appeal to authority.
    #171, BBD agrees with NiV.
    #173, BBD leaps to a conclusion.
    #175, BBD makes a self-congratulory list, rewriting history to show how clever his arguments were.

  176. harrywr2 says:

    #147,The reason by people like Hansen, Tamino and others are concerned about the future is not because they have over active imaginations, it is because they have looked at the evidence, looked at the published research …

    It’s folly to believe one can peer into the mind of another and deduce ‘the reason’ they think as they do. The idea that a given human mind rationally looks at facts and then attaches a fear rather then the human mind experiencing a fear then attaching facts would be an extraordinarily difficult case to prove.

    The list of things that could go horribly wrong in the future is almost infinite. There is no shortage of people concerning themselves about what could go horribly wrong in the future.

    Personally I think the odds of a pandemic that wipes out 1/3rd of the global population should probably be the largest concern given the speed at which disease can travel with international air travel and the fact that a significant portion of the population now lives in dense urban centers.

    Of course there are others that view the size of the human population as the ‘most important’ concern for the future and would welcome the ‘natural death’ of 1/3 of the population as long as it they aren’t the ones dying.

  177. BBD says:

    #154, BBD provides Gish gallop of nonsense assertions.
    #155, BBD makes another unsupported assertion.

    Due diligence time, NIV…

  178. BBD says:

    And don’t forget to explain how sea ice impedes glacial outflow. We should be told.

  179. willard says:


    Reading again your comment this morning, I find not much disagreement with you. I believe I can agree with most of what you say. Your anecdote about Thatcher is the kind of details that makes me read comment threads, by the way. Everything else is so Waiting for Godot all over again.

    I will confide that this includes what you say about Tamino. The main reason why I have problems judging his specific case is that my last two encounters were untasteful. First, his mockery of Vaughan Pratt (see his Mathurbation) was not only unwarranted, but showed that he was just a patzer. That he refused to acknowledge a simple question by moderating it just tops it. Second, I believe that he’s just a blogger with an attitude, and I got tired of bloggers with attitudes a while:


    His latest encounter with Brandon Shollenberger just shows how one can lose a won position simply by preferring one’s attitude to simply winning.

    Not that simply winning is that simple. Simplicity is not that objective anyway. No time to delve into information theory.

    Reading back the Wiki entry for the inscrutability of reference (which relates to undetached rabbit parts, not Rabett parts, wink wink), I realized that the entry was flagged as being written like an essay, not an encyclopedic style. So I clicked to know what was encyclopedic style, and there it was:

    Wikipedia articles, and other encyclopedic content, should be written in a formal tone. Standards for formal tone vary depending upon the subject matter, but should follow the style used by reliable sources, while remaining clear and understandable. Formal tone means that the article should not be written using unintelligible argot, slang, colloquialisms, doublespeak, legalese, or jargon; it means that the English language should be used in a businesslike manner.

    OK, perhaps this discredits most of my posts. By chance, I only am Keith’s gardener and do not wish to become climate blogland’s encyclopedist. Hank Roberts fulfills that job quite well already. My sole excuse is that I try to remain playful.

    (As an aside, I almost wrote “cheerful”, instead of “playful”, but Keith’s warning is too fresh in my mind to rely on auditor expressions. So please consider that the paragraph that you are reading right now has never been written. If you do, I might have to kill you.)

    So onto the word “businesslike”. I never looked at the definition before. Here it is:

    1. Methodical and efficient, in a way that would be advantageous to a business or businessperson

    2. Earnest and practical without being distracted or enthusiastic.

    I believe this could sum well where our mutual agreement can converge: we would prefer a businesslike presentation of the science, even in the media.

    If we agree on this, I believe there is no need to go around arguing about how emotive Jim Hansen can sound or if science is only contain factual judgements or not. If you remain unconvinced, I still have two other points to bring. The first is another post by Randy Olsen, about the four channels of a message. The second is about a Gedankenexperiment about a rope by C.S. Lewis. So much to do, so little time right now, that this will have to wait.

    Your comment made my day, by the way. I feel like a human being truthfuly talking to a truthful human being. The opposite effect of gaslighting, so to speak.

  180. BBD says:

    Have you had much conversation with Anteros before, willard?

  181. willard says:

    Yes, BBD. No worries. I think Prudence will make him keep his religiological comments outside of this thread”¦

    You know, it’s OK if people disagree. In philosophy, it happens all the time. As long as it’s kept businesslike, all is well. Businesslike, my new mantra.

    And fun, too, of course! If you like to dance, that is.

    There are other types of dances than moshing.

  182. BBD says:

    I’m a businessman. Perhaps your understanding of the term is not based on practical experience?;-)

  183. Eli Rabett says:

    “Because every dollar spent on one is a dollar not spent on the other.”

    Not as long as there are printing presses and negative real interest borrowing rates.  Besides which, time and again we know that using this excuse to not spend on something worthwhile is to guarantee that it will not be spent on the other thing.

    In other words, were this true, no economy would ever grow.

  184. Sashka says:


    willard, I take you abandoned your (never actually started in serious) project to demonstrate presence of value judgement in your 3 examples? That’s good. Why don’t you just say so before changing the subject? But I’m disappointed that you didn’t even try. If you don’t feel strongly that you’re making sense why did you bring it up?

    Now I am supposed to be scared out of my pants by the towering authority of Richard Rudner himself. OMG. Let’s see what he has to say, though.

    How sure we need to be before we accept a hypothesis will depend on how serious a mistake would be.

    I’m afraid this is a common case of condusing science with policy. How we choose to deal with the hypothesis does depend on how serious a mistake would be. But taking certain line of action doesn’t necessarily constitute acceptance of the hypothesis. It’s purely a risk management issue. Nothing to do with science.

  185. willard says:

    Dear Sashka,

    Are you a betting man?

  186. Sashka says:


    If Sashka can’t see there are still question in mathematics regarding how constructive it should be, then I have to wonder if Sashka should work as a real scientist.

    I never said any such thing as anyone can easily see. Are you unable to argue without lying?

  187. Sashka says:

    @186 – usually not. But you can make a proposal. It’s free.

  188. willard says:


    If I prove that you have everything already in this thread and that you are just gaslighting me, would you take your leave from Keith’s until 2017?

  189. Sashka says:

    “Prove” as judged by whom?

  190. willard says:

    Good question. Keith, perhaps?

  191. willard says:

    If you think about it, Sashka, you might have a glimpse as to why your last question defeats your point.

  192. Sashka says:

    I don’t think Keith would be suitable arbiter for this. BTW, what if I win?

    Either it’s a good question or it defeats my point. I go for the former.

    But I’m pleased that I annoy you enough that you’re ready to go extra mile just to get ris of me. (I wonder what you’d do eliminate NiV?) I have to confess in return that you don’t bother me nearly as much.

  193. willard says:


    What would you like in return?

    Who would you rather have as a judge?

    Do you agree with the Wikipedia definition of value judgement?

    Do you realize you never said what science was, except that by stipulating that real science has no values, which kinda begs the question?

    Do you see how the betting setting compels you to answer questions, out of a sudden?

    You asked what kind of bet I could offer. I believe this offer is reasonable. It might help get rid of shameless serial gaslighting that happens in climate blogland.

    Next time you will have the urge to type “lie”, I expect you to remember me and read with more diligence beforehand.

  194. Sashka says:

    In return, I’d like you switch to the skeptical side. Not the Morano or even Watts style. More like Lucia or Mosher or yours truly.

    Of the frequent posters here I find only NiV acceptable. But you apparently have enough time to hang out on many blogs. Feel free to bring outside talent.

    On wiki question, you already have the answer./br>

    I don’t feel like I need to say what science is. I didn’t and I don’t plan to.

    No I don’t feel compelled to answer any questions that I didn’t answer before.

    Sorry, your offer is too vague.

  195. willard says:


    Thank you for your carefree answer.

    Please explain to us the debate surrounding the axiom of choice without invoking values. If you don’t, I will consider that you have lost your bet. Not only are values in mathematics, sometimes even numerical ones, an honest broker could very well hold that there even are value judgments in mathematical debates.

    I am quite sure you are not on the skeptic side. You do not show are not a skeptic. You don’t even know what skepticism entails. A real skeptic should remain agnostic. I am agnostic.

    You’re just a contrarian.

  196. Sashka says:

    Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn what you consider.

    You brought this up so go ahead defend it.

    The honest broker could well tell you just imagined him.

    You’re right that skeptic should remain agnostic. That’s exactly what I am, no matter what you say.

  197. PDA says:

    M:  Oh look, this isn’t an argument.A:   Yes it is.M:   No it isn’t. It’s just contradiction.A:   No it isn’t.M:  It is!A:   It is not.M:  Look, you just contradicted me.A:   I did not.M:  Oh you did!!A:   No, no, no.M:  You did just then.A:   Nonsense!M:  Oh, this is futile!A:   No it isn’t.M:  I came here for a good argument.A:   No you didn’t; no, you came here for an argument.M:  An argument isn’t just contradiction.A:   It can be.M:  No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.A:   No it isn’t.M:  Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.A:   Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position. M:  Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’A:   Yes it is!M:   No it isn’t!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y

  198. Anteros says:

    Willard –

    Indeed. Business-like would be a good thing to aim for.

    I think also there is something still missing about much communication and rather than stress the relativity, I think it pertains more to the necessity for relational terms.

    If someone (was foolish enough to) say that ‘The science has spoken’, beyond noting that science doesn’t (and can’t) speak, I’d insist that the foolish speaker add that the science has spoken ‘to me’.

    This is actually a poor example, but always our desire to pretend that our own perspective is, or should be universal makes us leave out relational terms. Adding them seems to diminish the message but in doing so makes it honest.

    The psychotherapeutic world often does little else but emphasise the importance (to emotional health) of making value statements and emotional utterances specific and personal. We try to say A is B, and forget that A is B to C. C usually being ourselves.

    What appears dangerous? What appears dangerous to whom.

    The most common example of the need for this is with morality and ‘should’. When I hear ‘should’ out of habit I want to ask ‘to achieve what? and for whom? Taken far enough this obviously removes any normal conception of morality – positivism in the extreme – but even in everyday understandings asking ‘to what end?’ often uncovers something not very well thought out.

    With the communication of imaginings purportedly underpinned by science, these questions are especially useful – and expose the messy quagmire that is Hansen’s ‘voice’.

    I note that I’ve wandered somewhat, but it has been an enjoyable trip.

  199. PDA says:

    I clicked the blue brackets.M:  Oh look, this isn’t an argument.A:   Yes it is.M:   No it isn’t. It’s just contradiction.A:   No it isn’t.M:  It is!A:   It is not.M:  Look, you just contradicted me.A:   I did not.M:  Oh you did!!A:   No, no, no.M:  You did just then.A:   Nonsense!M:  Oh, this is futile!A:   No it isn’t.M:  I came here for a good argument.A:   No you didn’t; no, you came here for an argument.M:  An argument isn’t just contradiction.A:   It can be.M:  No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.A:   No it isn’t.M:  Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.A:   Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position. M:  Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’A:   Yes it is!M:   No it isn’t!

  200. PDA says:

    I give up.

  201. Sashka says:

    Don’t sweat, PDA. Everyone knows what you have in mind.

  202. willard says:

    > The honest broker could well tell you just imagined him.

    Exactly, hence the majestic ridiculousness of saying that this is a “lie” that an honest broker could hold that there are no science without values.

    I never brought up what you said I brought.

    Asking that I defend my arguments with other arguments could make for an infinite gaslighting game. This is not skepticism, this is denial logic.

    Only a food fight can save you, now, Sashka.

    A food fight, or your fleeting freedom to feverishly affirm your favorite froufrous.

  203. Sashka says:

    All right. It was not a lie. It was a pseudo-argument based on imagining of a non-existing entity and assuming that said entity would have the views convenient to you. How could I call it lie? My most sincere apologies.

    Of course you brought it up. Beginning 68 and detailing in 116-118.

    I’m not asking you to defend your arguments with other arguments. You never made any arguments so far. All you did is copy-pasting. Now you might want to explain what you had in mind, if anything.

  204. Tom Fuller says:

    Sashka, DFTT.

  205. willard says:


    The Axiom of choice belongs to set theory. Set theory can be considered as a branch of mathematics, right? I don’t know why you offer mathematics as an example of science, but let’s agree that it is one, for argument’s sake.

    Now, some mathematicians objected to this axiom. Why? Look outline the quote:

    The chief objection raised was to what some saw as its highly non-constructive, even idealist, character: while the axiom asserts the possibility of making a number of “” perhaps even an uncountable number “” of arbitrary “choices”, it gives no indication whatsoever of how these latter are actually to be effected, of how, otherwise put, choice functions are to be defined. This was particularly objectionable to mathematicians of a “constructive” bent such as the so-called French Empiricists Baire, Borel and Lebesgue, for whom a mathematical object could be asserted to exist only if it can be defined in such a way as to characterize it uniquely.

    I see a clash of values there.

    You lose.

    Now, please indulge and say that you don’t see it that way.

    Or please say that this debate is not mathematics per se.

    Now, let’s do the same with the continuum hypothesis. Or perhaps the Church thesis?

    Perhaps you’d like to entertain us with the idea that science does not include any thesis or any hypothesis?

    Or perhaps the food fight?

    Or perhaps some parsomatic?

    If you keep shuffling from one square to another with the same piece, soon you’ll lack the space needed to have a position. Ask Nullius if you don’t understand that suggestion. It’s a fair one.

  206. willard says:

    & DFTT.

    What are Trolls?

    The best answer I found is over there:


    Anteros will appreciate the relational character of mike’s terminology.

  207. Eli Rabett says:

    Oh, and here is <a href=”http://rabett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/judith-curry-thinks-plans-to-kill-her.html#comments”>something for the Broders</a> to sink their fangs into

  208. willard says:

    May 5th, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Willard, we have come to a parting of the ways, and none too soon. I will not be responding to any more of your comments.


    Was #205 a response to my comments?

    I forgot to ask the definition of “response” and “comment”. Damn.

  209. Sashka says:

    I don’t see a clash of values. You lost this one unless you choose to elaborate further. Feel free to try others. </br></br>In the end you’re asserting to have made a fair suggestion as if it’s something unusual on your part. A remarkable honesty.

  210. Anteros says:

    Willard – indeed 🙂

    If I can jump into the science/value ‘discussion’ (without adding much) I would suggest two reasonable statements –

    a) Science, itself, is value-free

    b) Science, practised by human beings is value-tinged (at least).

    I don’t think there is much mileage in looking for the truth-value of the statement –

    c) science is value-free.

    To further the cause of reasonableness, some scientific enterprises are vastly more value-laden than others.

    There are only hints of vestiges of value-inputs in determining the ratio of atoms of hydrogen to oxygen in water. Somewhat more in assessing probabilities of catastrophic sea level rise…

    Just my tuppence-worth

  211. willard says:


    Thank you for your contradiction.

    Some saw as its highly non-constructive, even idealist, character.

    I will leak my explanation drop by drop, and when I will conclude, I will pay due diligence to all your cheap insults.

    As for your last insinuation, I feel compelled to play the Give and Take game, even when players don’t. Even now. You’re using that as a hack. This is a good tactic for debates with impatient interlocutors and limited.

    You did not choose wisely. The Internet is there forever and my name, on all my work, is my honor. This is my work.

  212. willard says:

    Sashka can thank you, Anteros.

  213. BBD says:


    Is this the consolation of philosophy?  🙂

  214. PDA says:

    As an empiricist I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer . . . For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer’s gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.

    – Willard Van Orman Quine

  215. Sashka says:

    I don’t see any contradiction.

  216. Anteros says:

    PDA –

    Glad Quine had his moments of reasonableness too.

    Spot on.

  217. Nullius in Verba says:


    Please explain to us the debate surrounding the axiom of choice without invoking values.

    Wonderful! I like having an excuse to talk about interesting maths!

    Around the start of the 20th century Russell, Frege, Whitehead, and others set out on a programme to derive the whole of mathematics from the ground up, using logic. They thought at first that it would be straightforward, and chose to build first set theory from logic, then the rest of mathematics from set theory. But in the process Russell found their initial set of axioms led to paradoxes. What seemed at first glance to be obvious and intuitive axioms turned out to lead to contradictions and the collapse of the structure built.

    A debate ensued over the best way to deal with this. The aim was to produce a set of axioms powerful enough to generate all of the the most useful mathematics, but not to produce contradictions. Some people felt that this would be more likely to succeed if they stuck to axioms that could be constructed explicitly in reality – in essence, borrowing the property of consistency from the laws of physics. Because we are sure reality is consistent, a mathematics built on a subset of its operations must be too. Operations that cannot be physically achieved we could not be so sure about.

    It turned out that some of the non-constructive axioms people had been most concerned about were not a problem. It was proved that standard mathematics with the axiom of choice is consistent if and only if standard mathematics without it is. So you can safely include it without having to worry about paradoxes. In the process, mathematicians gained an interest in knowing what results depend on non-constructive axioms, just as they were interested in what points were constructible using ruler and compass – the only methods admitted by the ancient Greek geometers. But that doesn’t mean they reject non-constructive mathematics, any more than they reject Pi as a number (which can’t be constructed with ruler and compass).

    The question that concerned people was simply whether the axiom of choice might lead to paradoxes, which is an objectively determinable issue. It’s not a question of ‘ought’, but ‘is’. As such, it is value-free in the sense I would use the term.

    It’s probably the case that many mathematicians have an aesthetic preference for constructive methods, but that wouldn’t stop any I know from using a non-constructive approach if it was easier, or got another paper out the door. Nor would they reject a result for that reason. (And I do not think the constructivists of the past would have objected very strenuously had they known.) Such personal preferences are not a part of mathematics itself.

  218. Steven Sullivan says:

    Can none of you use this new gadget called the Internet?

    Anteros:Keith ““ 20110118_MilankovicPaper.pdf (application/pdf Object)
    I’m not sure where it was published.

    It was published in 2012, as a chapter in the *book* titled   “Climate Change: Inference from Paleoclimate and Regional Aspects”, Berger, Mesinger and Sijacki, eds.  which is largely a report/follow-on from a 2009 paleoclimate symposium held in Serbia. As neither Drs. Hansen nor Sato are listed as presenters I am going to guess theirs was an invited chapter. .


  219. Sashka says:

    NiV, he was planning to argue that aesthetic preferences belong to the set of values all along.

  220. willard says:

    Thank you for your comment, Nullius.

    Constructivism is a project that interprets the phrase “there exists” strictly as “we can construct”:


    The point of this interpretation is to forbid any mathematical entity that is independent from the process of mathematical creation, with an ontological framework that exists in a platonism realm of intelligible forms. This is a commitment as to what ought to be considered as a mathematical entity. What a proof is depends on what we ought to choose.

    The only alternative would be to say that mathematical entities are what they are, independently of what we think about them. This kind of platonism still has currency. But I have yet to see a Platonist that claims this is not a personal choice, that fits with his own value judgements as how to conceive his mathematics.

    Incidentally, one of the value that is at stake in this debate has been mentioned earlier. It is parsimony. There are other values, but I’ll let Sashka simmer a bit, while reminding him that he has yet to tell us what he believes is a value judgement. I’ve offered twice now the Wikipedia definition. Nor has he told us why he thinks mathematics is a real science. Indentally, according to constructivists, the very idea of a science per se makes no sense whatsoever.

    Next time I see you or Sashka mentioning Ockham’s Razor, you’ll hear of me…

  221. Sashka says:

    Ockham’s Razor.

  222. Nullius in Verba says:


    “The only alternative would be to say that mathematical entities are what they are, independently of what we think about them.”

    Do you think you have found an alternative form of mathematics in which mathematical entities can change what they are, depending on how we think about them? Two plus two can equal five if we think about it the right way? That it’s a personal choice?

  223. willard says:

    What kind of entity is “Two plus two can equal five”?

  224. willard says:

    Thank you, Sashka.

    Read and learn:

    Are there general arguments against abstract objects? There are some, although it must be said that some of the most famous deniers of abstract objects have not always based their rejection on arguments. This is the case, for instance, of Goodman and Quine who, in their Steps toward a Constructive Nominalism, base their rejection of mathematical abstract objects on a basic intuition (1947, 105).

    One argument against postulating abstract objects is based on Ockham’s razor. According to this principle one should not multiply entities or kinds of entities unnecessarily. Thus if one can show that certain concrete objects can perform the theoretical roles usually associated with abstract objects, one should refrain from postulating abstract objects. The effectiveness of this kind of appeal to Ockham’s razor is, of course, conditional upon our having been shown that concrete objects can play the theoretical roles associated with abstract objects. But if every theoretical role played by abstracta can be played by concreta and vice versa, then one needs a further reason why one should postulate concreta only rather than abstracta only. Sometimes the only evidence for the existence of the abstracta in question is that they perform the theoretical role in question. In that case one can use the principle that one should not postulate ad hoc entities or kinds of entities unnecessarily (Rodriguez-Pereyra 2002, 210″“16). That is, one should not postulate, if possible, entities for which there is no independent evidence, i.e. entities for the existence of which the only evidence available is that they satisfactorily perform a certain theoretical role.


    The first paragraph is quoted only to wake up PDA and Anteros and all those who can think of the Holocaust when they hear “deniers.”

    Nominalists as deniers of abstract entities. Take that, Ockham!

  225. Nullius in Verba says:


    A predicate equation. But really I was asking about the mathematical entity ‘two plus two’, which is an expression. And of course alluding to Orwell, where it turned out that mathematical entities are whatever The Party says they are; we just have to think about them the right way.

    Or as I expect you would put it – Yesbutnineteeneightyfour. 🙂

  226. Nullius in Verba says:


    And how does that argument apply to the axiom of choice?

  227. kdk33 says:

    A mistake.

  228. willard says:


    The sentence you take objection could very well be a truism. It basically says that the only alternative to anti-platonism is platonism. Anti-platonism does not entail pure conventionalism, nor does it entail some kind of mathematical solipsism. Searching for “mathematical solipcism”, I found this joke

    The dean of a small university wants to build a new faculty
    (Why? Eh, for the fame? Bugs me, it’s a joke) and since
    it’s a small university (I said that?!) they are short on
    money, and he asks a financial expert (who will probably
    charge more for his advice than is saved): “Which kind of
    faculty will be least expensive?”
    The expert: “My second best suggestion would be a
    math faculty. Give them enough pencils and paper and
    a waste basket and they’ll be the happiest guys on earth.”
    “And you can top that still?!”
    “Yes. Do a philosophy faculty and you can even spare the
    money for a waste basket.”

    Not that I would say that my sentence is a truism, mind you. For the life of me, I would never say that. Take a look at the last time I said something like that:


    This should remind you the last time we talked about dancing, btw. Wink, wink.

  229. willard says:


    The main argument about the axiom of choice is that it leads to platonism.

    “Two plus two” are just words, by the way.

  230. willard says:


    The question that concerned people was simply whether the axiom of choice might lead to paradoxes, which is an objectively determinable issue.

    is proven false by referring to the constructivist debate. Paradoxality is not the only question for mathematical foundations. Besides, there are other questions than foundational ones:

    I think this is the real reason to avoid AC when you can: even if it’s true for boring old sets, in lots of other natural situations it’s just false. This is the same point that Harry was making, but I think it’s seeing the examples that really drives the point home.


    So much the worse for aesthetics.

    What is aesthetics, by the way?

  231. kdk33 says:

    I would like to be your banker.

  232. willard says:


    My last comment was adressed to you.

    Since I need to say this, let me remind you that my #221 should make clear that the question how to derive ought from is has no bite when we don’t need to derive ought from is in the first place.

    What is still remain what it is, of course. That has been known since Parmenides.

  233. willard says:


    Please leave bankers out of this.

    Bankers suffice to make Sashka lose.



  234. willard says:

    Is my #230 starting to sink in, kdk33?

    Please, do join the conversation.

    As Musashi once said, the more the merrier.

    No, he did not say that exactly.

    And what he said was not said it in English.

    The last sentence is here to underline Nullius’ use of “expression” above.

  235. kdk33 says:

    What does it mean to win?  What does it mean to lose? 

  236. Nullius in Verba says:


    That’s news to me…


    Constructivists became constructivists over concerns about paradoxes.

    The mathoverflow quote is highly dubious. I think they’ve tried to generalise a particular implication of the concept in a particular way to completely different sorts of objects and found it doesn’t work, but this is like arguing that because the concept of multiplication doesn’t generalise to multiplying lemon cheesecake, we ought to abandon the notion. More likely, they just generalised the wrong way.

    Aesthetics is an instinctive enjoyment of the process of recognising subtle patterns to reduce apparent complexity. The greater the reduction (as a ratio), the more attractive it is.

  237. willard says:


    If what I say is news to you, either you have not read the Stanford entry about AC, or you do not realize that the accusation of “idealism” refers to platonism. In any case, you might be conflating paradox solving and founding mathematics: once you solve all the paradox, you still have problems left.

    My only need for the Mathoverflow quote is to show that there are practical considerations at stake. Unless you wish to argue that pragmatism is only a matter of aesthetics, you can’t say that all this is only a matter of aesthetics.

    You can raise your concerns to Shulman himself:


    Please dare.


    To make the conversation flowing and not get into a quagmire of shrubbery games, here’s a value that does not seem to be aesthetic: heuristic value. Why do we maintain the Church-Turing thesis? One reason is that it has heuristic value. One can use to orient one’s research.

    Quite frankly, Nullius, you do seem to be arguing that reducing all value judgements to matters of taste would prevent you from acknowledging values.

    Quite frankly, Sashka seems to be holding that science does not contain hypotheses.

    Not that he does. He’s just a ghostly manifestation of Knights of say Ni. But with kdk33 joining the chorus, it will be a more aesthetic experience.

  238. willard says:

    > What does it mean to win?

    What is the meaning of a word?

  239. kdk33 says:

    …and, by themselves, can words have meaning?

  240. willard says:


    Winning and losing, in the context of a discussion, usually means that a decision obtains regarding a question, that this decision allows an evaluation, that this evaluation can be use as an agreement for the sake of the other points of the discussion.

    To recap, since I believe you were away last week, Sashka claims that there are no values in real science.

    Not only he seems to claim that, but his whole posturing seems to entail that it would be ridiculous to think otherwise. The only reasons for believing there are values in science seem barely rational to him.

    So “winning” here means we get to inspect this posturing.

    Note that this posturing entails that one can freely decide to left the contentious terms undefined, one can even freely decide to refuse to say what one means, and that one can keep on arguing by freely asserting. And that’s notwithstanding the free uses of the word “lie”, the misreadings of what has been said, and the refusal to acknowledge that all this is irrelevant to the conversation we were having.

    Thanks for asking.

  241. willard says:


    “What is the meaning of a word” can’t be decided unless we make the question more precise:

    There is no simple and handy appendage of a word called “the meaning of the word (x).


    Please tell me what you mean by “words by themselves”.

  242. kdk33 says:

    In isolation.  Without the other words….and, if so, which was the first word?

  243. kdk33 says:

    So “winning” here means we get to inspect this posturing.

    In what sense then is it possible to lose.  And if you cannot lose, how can you win?

  244. Nullius in Verba says:


    Idealism is the position that reality is a mental construction. Platonism is the position that mental constructs (concepts) have an independent reality. The two are not the same.

    The mathoverflow comment isn’t a practical issue with the axiom of choice. It’s an issue with how to generalise it to other sorts of objects with different properties. Category theorists tend to be obsessed with universals that can be generalised into other areas of mathematics, and they’re not interested in stuff that can’t be. But if a counter-example could be presented in which the axiom of choice was false, it wouldn’t be an independent axiom. It would be simply false.

    The Church-Turing thesis is a conjecture. We’ve got lots of those. It just means nobody knows for sure. It’s like Fermat’s Last Theorem before Wiles proved it. It’s not even particularly useful as a heuristic – if it was false, that would be useful. We could compute things we currently cannot. But assuming it is true doesn’t enable us to do anything extra, unlike something like the Riemann Hypothesis.

    There is nothing preventing me from acknowledging values – I’ve already acknowledged the (limited) role of aesthetics. But it’s a matter of principle in the hard sciences that we keep “ought” and “want” firmly separated from “is”, and the subject of the science is the “is”.

    As I said at the beginning, I think the problem is one of definitions – what does “value” mean? I keep thinking you’re meaning something else by it. There are values in the application of science to practical problems, and in the choices we make about what science to do. But we have to keep them out of the science itself, or we’re fooling ourselves.

  245. kdk33 says:

    Can we know what it means to win, without first knowing what it means to lose?

  246. kdk33 says:

    I read once the percentage of internet traffic devoted to pornography.  The number was astonishing.  I’m tempted to say 70%, but I don’t remember exactly.In a broader sense, while some small fraction of internet traffic is devoted to information exchange, the internat is actually a masterbation tool – but masterbation takes many forms.  Hence espistemology –  whose appeal can be traced, I suspect, to the guilt associated with the baser form.  Which is more productive is a value judgement.

  247. willard says:

    > which was the first word?

    I believe it was a verb.

    Another interesting question would be:

    What was the first sentence?

    I believe this is an open problem.

    Am I right, kdk33?

  248. kdk33 says:

    I would think expletive.

    Does open mean unsolved? 

  249. willard says:


    Citation needed about your 70%.

    If you can find any statistical detail behind this number, it would be appreciated too.

    Do not worry, we’re not into epistemology yet.

    Besides, I’m not the one who holds anything about what real science is.

    Besides, nobody forces you to play games you do not like.

    Not even commenting on games you do not like.

    I never really understood why commenters took time to say that they take no interest whatsoever in what they read.

    On a more constructive note, we can observe that mathematicians do seem to need a stable environment:

    This history should make one thing clear: we are less certain than ever about the ultimate foundations of (logic and) mathematics; like everybody and everything in the world today, we have our “crisis”. We have had it for nearly fifty years. Outwardly it does not seem to hamper our daily work, and yet I for one confess that it has had a considerable practical influence on my mathematical life: it directed my interests to fields I considered relatively “safe”, and it has been a constant drain on my enthusiasm and determination with which I pursued my research work. The experience is probably shared by other mathematicians who are not indifferent to what their scientific endeavours mean in the contexts of man’s whole caring and knowing, suffering and creative existence in the world. (Weyl 1946, 13)


    Perhaps Weyl is only expressing aesthetical judgements there.

    Perhaps not.

  250. willard says:


    Are you saying that the Bible contains expletives?

    I believe theologians still argue about where should end the first sentence of the Bible.

    But it’s been a while since I asked my friend interested in theology.

    Is theology per se a science?

  251. willard says:

    Another question:

    Is real theology void of judgement values?

  252. Nullius in Verba says:


    See #157 paragraph 2 for my comment on climate theology. Was that a judgement value? 🙂

  253. willard says:

    > Can we know what it means to win, without first knowing what it means to lose?

    I suppose so: Paul Morphy did. Not that it helped him much when he was deprived from any opportunity to lose. In itself, winning brings oneself closer to reality.

    But usually the effect of a loss does motive oneself to learn how to win. Loss too brings oneself closer to reality, but in a more indirect way.

    We do value winning and losing. Our survival might very well depended on this valuation.

  254. willard says:


    I believe that describing climate science as theology carries some kind of judgement value and that this judgement value is not quite favorable.

    Is sociology qua sociology void of judgment values?

    Here’s your chance to insert your favorite theme into the discussion, Anteros.


    Is willard really hinting at the fact that science is built upon values? When will the conversation be about objectivity? And what about the very notion of judgment: will the participants satisfy themselves with the duality between emoting and rationalizing? Tune in later tonight!

    I’m starting to appreciate Rorty’s conception of philosophy as conversation. Tough to blockade a conversation. The relationship between Nimzovitch and the Knights that say Ni might only be a coincidence, but it’s amusing for chessplayers that love Monty Python. Ain’t it, Nullius?

  255. kdk33 says:


    You seem to have taken offense.  None was intended.  I willingly participate, but I also recognize it for what it is.  It was, in a way, a self-deprecating remark – meant to bring pleasure, primarily to myself.  I assume you can connect the dots.

    You can google up the 70%, it’s in the ballpark -probably depends on how you measure you it.

  256. kdk33 says:

    Are you saying that the Bible contains expletives?

    Is that a serious question?  In a word: yes.

    But does ‘yes’ have meaning without ‘no’.  And can it have meaning outside of a sentence?

  257. willard says:

    > Is that a serious question?

    It was not really a question. It was a way to convey the idea that I was talking about the Bible.

    I do know that the Bible contains expletive. What would be your favorite one? I surmise that you know that Big Book better than most here.

    The first sentence of the Bible, which we don’t know where it ends I believe, does not contain expletives, I presume. But how can one be sure it we don’t know what is the first sentence of the Bible?

    Perhaps we should invent theological constructivism.

    Please note, dearest readers, that the inspiration for constrivism was the presence of the word “constructive” in that thread. There are 22 occurences to date. The main one that inspired me was Keith’s, when he asked if I had something constructive to say…

  258. willard says:

    > But does “˜yes’ have meaning without “˜no’. And can it have meaning outside of a sentence?

    Can a sentence have a meaning outside a paragraph?

  259. kdk33 says:

    Moses may have been promised a room, but he forgot to make a reservation, and there weren’t enough rooms to go around, and it all took a bit of soring out.Apparently, the festival was in town.  Something to do with trumpets.

  260. kdk33 says:

    I surmise that you know that Big Book better than most here.

    Really.  Why?

  261. willard says:

    > Really. Why?

    Ask your girlfriend.

  262. kdk33 says:

    That didn’t take long.

  263. kdk33 says:

    BTW, did it ever get sorted out if the collapse of the west antarctic ice sheet would allow glaciers to speed up and how?

  264. willard says:


    Just read your #257.

    Understood. No offense taken. I know what you can bring to a conversation. I accept that.

    Proust once said something like this:

    It is not to another intelligent man that an intelligent man will be
    afraid to look dumb.

    I see no reasons to be afraid of anything else than Knights who say Ni.

    Not that I am afraid. If they turn into a chorus of Erynies, I might have to change my mind. But for now, it’s tough to create that kind of chorus with half an assertion every few hours.

  265. willard says:

    I just read your #246, Nullius. I’ll reply later. Meanwhile, please check your notes about the heuristic value of the Church thesis: by assuming something true, we can get some maths done. It’s not a mathematical conjecture, btw, because it’s a formal claim on both sides of the equation.

  266. willard says:

    Oh, same goes to you, Anteros: I hinted thus with my emoting/rationalizing duality.

    And if you wish something that takes a bit longer, kdk33, I could say that we have evidence that you do know Bible’s message in a biblical sense…

    This feels like a chat, now. It should always feel that way.

  267. Anteros says:

    Willard –

    Perhaps I hardly need to add that the ‘words have meanings’ idea (although astonishingly ubiquitous) is bogus – it is only three-fifths of a sentence, with zero sense.

    Words have meanings….to people. In other words [and this is a tiny weeny stumbling block for many] words don’t have meaning (on their own)

    Where is meaning? It is in people. The number of exact meanings for the word ‘yoga’ is equal to the number of people with it in their minds. Many more others have potential meaning for the word. And the meaning of the word yoga to each individual changes over time.

    Any wise lexicographer will admit that a dictionary is merely a generalised repository of how most people appear to be using words at a particular time. 

    As a somewhat separate but related note, if my primary objective is to understand and be understood, I should use words in the way they mean to my listeners, and give the same meaning to words as meant by those I am listening to.

    This however is, by and large, impossible. We believe the meanings we have for words are the meanings of the words themselves and when others use words differently to ourselves they are clearly and obviously using words wrongly!

  268. Sashka says:

    Quite frankly, Sashka seems to be holding that science does not contain hypotheses.

    Would you mind sharing how you arrived to this remarkable conclusion?

  269. Sashka says:

    As expected, I was quite right in my concluding remark in 109.

  270. kdk33 says:

    The question, said Alice, is can you make words mean so many different things.

    The question, said Humpty Dumpty, is who is to be master, that’s all.

  271. willard says:



    How we choose to deal with the hypothesis does depend on how serious a mistake would be. But taking certain line of action doesn’t necessarily constitute acceptance of the hypothesis. It’s purely a risk management issue. Nothing to do with science.



    Citation needed.


    On the contrary, language is a social art, as my alter ego used to say:


  272. willard says:

    Erratum to #268:

    It’s not a mathematical conjecture, btw, because it’s not a formal claim on both sides of the equation.



    How we choose to deal with the hypothesis does depend on how serious a mistake would be. But taking certain line of action doesn’t necessarily constitute acceptance of the hypothesis. It’s purely a risk management issue. Nothing to do with science.


    Not feigning anasthesia against #242 would be nice too, but Knights who say Ni only show up to say Ni.


    Citation needed.


    On the contrary, language is a social art, as my alter ego used to say.

  273. willard says:


    Thank you for your #270.

    Speaking for my alter ego, I believe that language is a social art, in other words that meaning are what people share with one another. According to that view, meaning does not lie in our heads, but between us. At the very least, it works from outside in, not inside out. Think of how babies learn.

    I’m not here to say that the debate between externalists and internalists is settled, only to say where my alter ego stands. Where he stands is compatible with your idea that meaning are not in words. This hints at the fact that meaning is not an objective mode that would be independent from us, as Frege seemed to have thought, to name an important name nobody except philosophers and perhaps logicians know.

    Naming Frege reminds me to name another one: Michael Dummett, who passed away not so long ago:


    An interesting philosopher who worked in mathematics when he was younger, and later on Frege quite a lot. In between, he worked in logic, and especially intuitionnism. This brand of philosophy of logico-mathematics questioned the law of the excluded middle: how can we be sure that to disprove not P entails we prove P? This should be enough to remind Nullius that there are other problems that motivate constructivists than solving paradoxes.

    The main reason to mention him is that his most celebrated contribution might interest you. He used his intuitionnist “intuitions” to develop a theory of meaning that he dubbed anti-realism, as you can see if you read his Stanford page. The way the debate between both realist and anti-realist is quite elegant:

    A meaning-theory of the type favored by Dummett will explain how, when we see what words are used in a sentence and the order in which they are put together, we are enabled to understand the truth-conditions for that sentence. The realist, adhering to the principle of bivalence, supposes that all the sentences will be determinately true or false. The anti-realist, on the other hand, can bring other notions into play to explain what it is for a sentence to be true.

    My alter ego disagrees about this (some consider him as a closet platonist), but that’s unimportant for now. It seems, then, that there is indeed a relationship between semantics and our discussion of the Axiom of Choice. Contrary to what was said in the other page, platonists are here considered the ultimate realists, not idealists. Both meaning make sense: they can be said realists, for they believe that ideas exist, but they can be said idealists, for they believe in ideas. Words can have many meanings from one context to another, and words that end with “ism” are the worse.

    This other bit is also relevant for another part of the discussion, and might be more to your taste:

    there can be no element in linguistic understanding that is not manifested in the way a word is used in practice. When we recognize that a sentence is true, we are manifesting that we have a certain ability “” the ability to recognize that the sentence has been verified. The same holds when we recognize that a sentence has been decisively refuted. According to an anti-realist meaning-theory, in which justification is central, ability to recognize when a sentence has been decisively confirmed or refuted is constitutive of knowing the meaning.

    This looks a lot like what I had in mind by “winning” earlier. Incidentally, there is something called game semantics, where “being true” is interpreted as a winning strategy in a formal game.

    There is also in that Dummett page an interesting proof of the existence of God that kdk33 might enjoy. Easier to announce God’s death that to destroy its possibility with a philosophical argument. Knights who say Ni might take consolation in that predicament.

    I’m not sure if all that is being so far is very important. But I’m quite sure this lies a bit beyond aesthetics. In any case, Dummett’s most important contribution might turn out to be his argument against UK’s policy against immigration.

    Hope you don’t mind this meandering,

    Good night,

  274. willard says:


    Not enough energy except to warn you that there are some breadcrumbs for you in the previous comment.


  275. kdk33 says:

    Wow. Willard.  It’s like, you were talking.  About stuff.  And wow.  You were talking.  And it was cool..  And stuff.

  276. willard says:


    The overall takehome from this is that you should stop worrying about Humpty Dumpty. It’s just an egg that tries to sit on a wall.

    Frege was worried about Humpty Dumpty. Well, not Humpty Dumpty per se, but the treath that what was in our minds could never be shared:

    If each man designated something different with the name “˜moon,
    namely one of his own ideas, somewhat as he expresses his own pain with the cry “˜ouch, then the psychological point of view would indeed be justified; but an argument about the moons properties would be pointless: one man could perfectly well assert of his moon the opposite of what another man, with equal right, said of his. If we could not grasp anything but what was within ourselves, then a conflict of opinions (based upon) a common understanding would be impossible, because a common ground would be lacking, and no idea in the psychological sense can be such a ground. There would be no logic to be appointed arbiter in the conflict of opinions.


    Basically, Frege is arguing against explaining mathematics by way of psychological states. His own realism is motivated by something called anti-psychologism. At the beginning of the 20th century, many philosophers accused one another of being a “psychologist”. This was worse than “denier”: Husserl (another famously unknown name) did not take it very well when Frege criticized his Logical investigations. Even the word “psychologist” can become a label.

    I’m citing these notes simply because I wanted to copy-paste this quote instead of typing it. I take no responsibility for what is written in these notes. But it tends to illustrate what kind of notes students of philosophy have to decipher nowadays. People that believe that philosophy is still a bunch of Hegelian rhapsodies, you’re in for a big surprise.

    Do not worry, I’ll be returning to our normal programming soon enough.

    As long as you mind your Humpty Dumpty cliché, I will keep away from real semantics.

    Is real semantics void of judgement values, by the way?

  277. kdk33 says:

    Strangely enough, MS Excel agrees with Frege.Which makes Frege a Corporatists.  And Greedy.  And evil.  And perhaps a republican.  And unlikely a fair judge of equality.  And not to be trusted.

  278. willard says:

    Lots of values there, kdk33! Beware to say that you’re doing real science, or you might hear from the Knights of Ni.

    Please tell me more about Excel’s fregeanism.

    I just found some old notes about winning, if you’re interested.

  279. willard says:


    Reading back the thread, I noticed this claim in your #237:

    Constructivists became constructivists over concerns about paradoxes.

    Do you have a reference I could read to verify that claim? In the Stanford entry for “Constructive mathematics”, there is no occurence of “parad”. I do not have much time to find a citation to could render justice to your claim.

    Many thanks!

  280. Nullius in Verba says:


    Gosh, it’s been about 20 years since I read much on the foundational debate. It was complicated, and I simplified somewhat for the sake of explanation. The concern about admissible methods in mathematics has always been about the fear of using plausible but essentially invalid methods that lead to erroneous results. Paradox is simply the sharpest example of that. Much of it dates back to the Bishop of Berkeley, and his criticism of calculus (“the ghosts of departed quantities”), from which came the attempts to put mathematics on a solid foundation, which led to Russell and Frege trying to axiomatise it, which led to the discovery of the Russell paradox, which led to the Hilbert programme and the Intuitionist programme, which all led to Godel.

    It’s like asking a historian what caused the first world war. You could even say it goes all the way back to Euclid’s parallel postulate.

    You could start here:


  281. Sashka says:

    I don’t see any relation between the quote in 274 and the question in 271 which it is supposed to answer.

    Since willard doesn’t seem to be able to understand “concluding remark” I’ll oblige:

    You can troll someone else to your heart content.

  282. willard says:

    Sashka identifies his “concluding remark”:

    You can troll someone else to your heart content.

    Sashka earlier claimed:

    As expected, I was quite right […]

    Can Sashka’s demand be “quite right”?

    Can a demand even be a remark?

  283. willard says:

    Richard Rudner claimed:

    [S]ince no scientific hypothesis is ever completely verified, in accepting a hypothesis the scientist must make the decision that the evidence is sufficiently strong or that the probability is suffciently high to warrant the acceptance of the hypothesis.

    Sashka had an “OMG” moment:

    How we choose to deal with the hypothesis does depend on how serious a mistake would be. But taking certain line of action doesn’t necessarily constitute acceptance of the hypothesis. It’s purely a risk management issue. Nothing to do with science.

    Perhaps Sashka should clarify what he means for him to “choose to deal with an hypothesis”, how this relates to Rudner’s argument, and how his counter-argument does not exclude hypothesis formation from real science.

    There is nothing in science that determine which hypothesis to choose or to discard. If we knew what real science was, except by “What Sashka can’t call bullshit science”, this applies to real science too.

  284. willard says:

    For completeness, let’s quote Sashka’s “concluding remark”:

    Not interested in your pseudo-philosophical digressions either. You can troll someone else to your heart content.

    We certainly can concede that Sashka seems to be right about his lack of interest.

    Readers will judge if my digressions are “pseudo-philosophical” as Sashka presumed in that quote. Interestingly, this accusation was lacking from his latest comment.

  285. Sashka says:


    I did not demand anything. Have you started imagining things, dear willard?


    Sashka doesn’t feel like he needs to clarify anything. Because he was quite clear all along.

  286. BBD says:

    How can willard be ‘pseudo-philosophical’ by inquiring into the meaning of things? By definition, he is philosophical, surely?

  287. willard says:

    I believe that the sentence “You can troll someone else to your heart content” expresses a demand, dear Sashka.

    Perhaps it was simply a wish?

    Perhaps it was just a declaration, like “you may now kiss the bride”? [1]

    A reminder of my rights as a commenter, perhaps?

    Or just an assertion about my metaphysical possibility?

    A suggestion about my future options?

    Pray tell, can you tell me what kind of remark was clear to Sashka all along?

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_act

  288. willard says:


    The philosophical interlude started when Anteros asked you if you knew what demarcation was around #40.

    The use of “pseudo” in “pseudo-philosophical” did not mean much. It was just a cheap insult. I believe the philosophical interlude shows that this insult lacks justification.

    Sashka knows what real science is. Sashka does not feel compelled to define science, to justify is accusations of lying. Sashka simply knows he was clear all along.

    Speaking of “pseudo”, here’s another use:

    It was a pseudo-argument based on imagining of a non-existing entity and assuming that said entity would have the views convenient to you.

    Here’s for the non-existing entity:

    Douglas has written a useful book with a clear thesis. However, in the end it offers far more support for the myth of the value-free ideal than might be expected by the overall thesis. Douglas is right in saying that moving beyond the value-free ideal indeed makes good sense, for the practice of both science and policy. But her analysis would be more consistent and more helpful if she pointed out that the goal should not be the unattainable value-free science but the more realistic value-transparent science. Scientists certainly should feel empowered to advocate for a course of action where the scientific evidence is weak or inconclusive, but they ought to be explicit in explaining that this is what they are doing. The alternative is not value-free science, but a science that hides values from view.


    Could we honestly broker Junior as a “non-existing” entity?

    In that article, we can also note an interesting distinction about different kinds of values: ethical, cognitive, and epistemic. No mention of aesthetical values.

    I’ll return to the argument Sashka characterized by a cheap insult later today. I need to answer Nullius before that.

  289. kdk33 says:

    Another kind of value is also on display:  $$$.  Which many consider aesthetic.  Or at least desirable.

  290. willard says:

    Indeed, kdk33 and bringing the two sides of the Venusian symbol together: interest.

    Climate blogland is convincing me that the ancient frameworks were quite robust:


    Did I just say “robust”?

  291. BBD says:


    Why people find it necessary to abuse you is beyond me. One couldn’t wish for a more civilised commenter. There’s just no pleasing some people.

    An interesting link to RPJ’s review of Douglas’ book. Science that hides values from view, eh? Sounds bad. Only alternative to the ‘myth’ of ‘value-free science’… didn’t you say something about that recently… ? I really must keep up 😉

    Could we honestly broker Junior as a “non-existing” entity?


  292. BBD says:

    Did I just say “robust”?

    A filthy habit.

  293. BBD says:

    Ah yes, Anteros asking whether I understood the demarcation between science and (Hansen’s fevered) imagination. I opined that Anteros had not read Hansen’s science, or the science supporting said fevered imaginings, and wasn’t in any position to determine anything. If that constitutes a philosophical interlude, then we are all wiser and more profound that we thought. So I shall have a cup of tea.

  294. Anteros says:

    BBD –

    I most definitely didn’t ask you whether you understood the demarcation between science and (Hansen’s fevered) imagination. That’s what we call ‘made up’. A false invention.

    I asked you whether you understood ‘demarcation’ – you just imagined the rest.

    The relevant point – which you missed – is the difference between one kind of thing and another. Between a state of affairs (say an increase in temperature of 1.5C) and its meaning (‘dangerous!’ ‘catastrophic!’).

    The great misunderstanding (which you share with J Hansen) is that science can underpin fevered imagination.

    I’ve read much of Hansen’s science and not a shred of it can underpin his imagination of dangerousness.

    I recommend you revisit R Betts argument for why this is the case. The science and the meaning-value are not related in the way that you think.

  295. BBD says:


    # 24 BBD ““ I consider Hansen’s comments ““ in his published work ““ as garbage. “˜Ineffable disasters’ is a good example of it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with science ““ it’s merely chaotic and feverish imagination.

    # 40 It isn’t ad-hominem to point out the demarcation between science and imagination, and what you’re fed up with is neither here nor there.

    # 41 BBD ““ Do you understand what “˜demarcation’ means?

  296. BBD says:

    I’ve read much of Hansen’s science and not a shred of it can underpin his imagination of dangerousness.

    No you haven’t. Caught you out on this upthread. What about Hansen (2007) on the non-linear response of ice-sheets? Also you ignored my reference to Dai et al. and to Western US megadrought during the MWP. Which strongly support Hansen’s remarks about agriculture and food scarcity.

    I’ve taken you to task for misrepresenting Betts before. Don’t make me do it again. Remember this?

    Nov 11, 2011 at 12:34 PM | MacRichard Betts has admitted that the 2 degree meme is in no way dangerous.

    [RB:] You are wrong, I didn’t say that. What I actually said was:

    While really bad things may happen at 2 degrees, they may very well not happen either – especially in the short term (there may be a committment to longer-term consequences such as ongoing sea level rise that future generations have to deal with, but imminent catastrophe affecting the current generation is far less certain than people make out. We just don’t know.

    But remember, this is the guy who said this:The most solid evidence for something with serious global implications that might happen at 2 degrees is the possible passing of a key
    threshold for the Greenland ice sheet

    To completely ignore the WAIS is, in a word, wrong. Maybe you should place quite so much confidence in RB. You might also have noticed that not a single other climate scientist has endorsed his remarks. Probably because they were questionable, and in my view, ill-advised.

  297. Anteros says:

    BBD –

    Have you seen me dispute the likely non-linearity of ice-sheet response? Of course not – I never have.

    You seem to think because I dispute Hansen’s claims about meaning, I dispute (necessarily) his science. Not true.

    I think those that presume a linear response through 1, 2, 3 degrees C are wilfully naive.

    I dispute ineffable disasters.

    And game over.

    I still don’t think you get RB’s point – which is much milder than it appears. [and yes, it was mis-interpreted by many sceptics for their own ends] It isn’t primarily that he doesn’t feel (personally) that 2 degrees is dangerous. It is that ‘dangerousness’ is 100% a value judgement about which science has nothing to say. I think you’ll find the vast majority of scientists concur with this – as RB suggests.

    Hansen and Rahmstorf et al feel that they ‘know’ something about dangerousness when in fact they are incredibly ill-informed. They appear to know nothing at all about people, societies, adaptation, agriculture, the market, innovation or especially, the past.

    We know very well that in the past life was an order of magnitude more violent. It was beset by (at least) an order of magnitude more infectious disease. What H and R (and others) seem unaware of is that climate-impacts were also (more than) and order of magnitude more severe in the past. This trend – towards climate-immunity – is a result of development.

    Whatever the possible change in average weather, the important changing variable yesterday, today and tomorrow is climate-resilience. It dwarfs climate-change.

    Hansen’s claims that we are stuck with infrastructure specific to a particular climate are simply embarrassing and uninformed. Our infrastructure is changing dramatically faster than climate is ever likely to.

    As I’ve said before, he would do well to sticking to good science.

  298. BBD says:


    Multi-model global drought projection, 2030 – 2039 (data from Dai et al. 2010)

    Chuck in accelerating SLR as the WAIS starts to go and I wonder just how much of a spanner in the works we’re looking at. If, as you claim, you had read around the two subjects of drought and ice sheet responses you would not – could not – be so complacent and confident:

    Whatever the possible change in average weather, the important changing variable yesterday, today and tomorrow is climate-resilience.
    dwarfs climate-change.

    Hansen’s claims that we are stuck with infrastructure specific to a particular climate are simply embarrassing and uninformed. Our infrastructure is changing dramatically faster than climate is ever likely to.

    Climate resilience, eh? You are seeing only what you want to see.

  299. BBD says:

    I think those that presume a linear response through 1, 2, 3 degrees C are wilfully naive.

    A provocative and profoundly contrarian claim. Your references would be of great interest.

  300. Anteros says:

    BBD – 

    A provocative and profoundly contrarian claimHow is it contrarian? Is Hansen a contrarian? I think naive is precisely how Hansen sees those who presume a linear response. My references would, of course, be anything that Hansen has published on ice sheet loss in about the last 25 years.

    Climate resilience, eh? You are seeing only what you want to see.

    We mean something different by the word ‘see’. I am talking about what we know. The dramatic and profound development of climate-resilience that easily matches our overcoming great numbers of infectious diseases. That trend is occurring today.

    You’re relying on computer models to ‘see’ something that suits your speculation.

    It is true that it is easier by far to imagine ‘bad’ things and to be moved by them, than to put them in realistic contrast to things happening in the opposite direction. 

    If humanity is another order of magnitude more climate-resilient in a hundred years time, it would need a genuine climate apocalypse to prevent us from being better off.

  301. BBD says:


    I haven’t read you straight – I took the linear response to be T. Not ice sheet response. Scratch that.

    What we know is that it was slightly warmer ~1000 – 1300CE across the Western US, and there were megadroughts that would obliterate modern agriculture in what is today a massive, globally important production zone. There’s exactly no reason why this won’t happen again in the next few decades (see Dai et al.) as temperatures rise and the Hadley cells expand, shifting rainfall patterns poleward.

    I find models useful. You do the usual sceptic thing and imply that they are not to be trusted. Nor do the projections ‘suit my speculation’. They are validated by the paleoclimate evidence of drought across the Western US.

    Denying yourself whole sections of the key knowledge available on this topic fatally limits your grasp of it and leads to dispute such as this. As I said, if you would but read… and stop denying the utility and value of models… And examine the flimsy foundation on which your  complacency rests…

  302. Anteros says:

    BBD –

    My complacency? Your alarmism?

    The most important resource for this topic is actually history. And what people (particular those who are ‘alarmed’ by the future) fail to understand is that the important part of this history is not the events themselves. No, indeed not. What is important is the history of belief.

    It is very easy to look at the present, extrapolate (with some models) into the future, see changes implying disaster and assuming that this is therefore what is going to happen.

    Neo-Malthusians are particularly prone to this. What is needed is a history, not just of food production per capita, but the beliefs of fellow Malthusians over the past 200 years. Always it looks like population will outstrip production, and without the knowledge that indeed it has always looked like that, it is easy to convince oneself that disaster awaits – just as previous Malthusians did.

    And of course, Malthusians have been wrong 200 years in a row but still see the future in a Malthusian way.

    What is needed is the recognition that models, extrapolations and imaginings always misunderstand the future because they misunderstand the nature of change.

    When it looks like there will be climate disasters (droughts, floods, whatever you get your models to generate) you only have a small proportion of the relevant information. 

    I don’t doubt that it can look very like a changing climate will result in catastrophe and calamity but a history of things that have looked like that hint that expecting disaster is just a human disposition.

    There was exactly no reason to expect that quadrupling the human population during the 20th century would not end in billions of deaths from famine, and yet the globe has a food surplus.

  303. willard says:


    Thank you for your honest answer and for the Stanford you made me read. For me too it’s been a while since I’ve studied these things, as one can infer from the background I already underlined at Jeff’s


    I am happy to have thought about asking you, as I had no idea why you claimed that paradoxes mattered that much. After reading this page about the finitist program, all has become clear and I believe we can reconcile our positions. This reconciliation will also help advance the discussion, bringing much joy to our beloved Knights who say Ni, no doubt.

    First, I had forgotten that the finitist project was grounded into some kind of Kantian epistemology:

    [A]s a condition for the use of logical inferences and the performance of logical operations, something must already be given to our faculty of representation, certain extralogical concrete objects that are intuitively present as immediate experience prior to all thought. […] This is the basic philosophical position that I consider requisite for mathematics and, in general, for all scientific thinking, understanding, and communication. (Hilbert, 1926, 376)

    If Hilbert’s program centered everything around consistency, I now understand why you say that escaping paradoxality is crucial.

    Second, considering this background, Weyl’s and Frege’s criticism makes sense:

    [I]f mathematics is to remain a serious cultural concern, then some sense must be attached to Hilbert’s game of formulae, and I see only one possibility of attributing it (including its transfinite components) an independent intellectual meaning. In theoretical physics we have before us the great example of a [kind of] knowledge of completely different character than the common or phenomenal knowledge that expresses purely what is given in intuition. While in this case every judgment has its own sense that is completely realizable within intuition, this is by no means the case for the statements of theoretical physics. In that case it is rather the system as a whole that is in question if confronted with experience.

    This, in a nutshell, means that the consistency of a formal system (the angel-twin of coherence, to which I alluded in #59) does not suffice to warrant truth.

    I agree that consistency makes sense. But that’s not enough to tell us what we should accept as true. I believe we can agree about that.


    Here is a quote that I believe can help us get the discussion moving:

    Hilbert suggested further restrictions on the theory in addition to conservativity: simplicity, brevity of proofs, “economy of thought” and mathematical productivity.

    When you said in #218 reminded me that constructivists had a very conservative conception of mathematics. And this reminded me why I was happy to find Rudner’s paper in #153: it helped me connect all this with the notion of hypothesis. For this I also thank you.

    The notion of hypothesis is important here because that’s how science is connected to the world. But this connection does not proceed by deduction or by prediction: as Quine & Ullian wrote in **The Web of Belief**, “hypothesis is guesswork; but it can be enlightened guesswork”. These authors mention four virtues that an hypothesis can enjoy.

    The first is conservatism, oftentimes misconstrued as Ockham’s razor, according to which you try to keep as much knowledge intact as you can.

    The second one is modesty, soon to be favorite of Anteros, according to which you try to diminish your assumptions as low as possible

    The third one is simplicity, which is explicitely said to have a “nagging subjectivity”, because that means we should prefer the shortest tale of the world, and that the shortest tale of the world is to be measured by our own language’s standards.

    The fourth one is generality, which is a no-brainer: we should prefer what explains the most.

    Of course, these four virtues are not independent: they form a continuum. And sometimes they collide: we must choose one over the other. But I believe that calling them “virtues” show that if the core of a science is its mechanism to work out hypotheses, then we should agree that there are at least some judgement calls.

    This is what I had in mind when I said that science rested on values. One of the most important value is truth. Hence the Fregean excursus.

    Truth has a cognitive component: we need to be connected to the world veridconditionnally, so to speak, to survive. Truth can have an epistemic component: we need as a warrant for our judgement, as underlined by the Weyl quote above. Truth can also have an ethical value: we need to act in a truthful manner toward one another, for the most important parts of our lives.

    I have nothing prepared for the cognitive component, though I could dig into Herbert Gintis’ work. For the epistemic component, I have some Dummett quote I found while trying to validate your claim, in an article he wrote about intuitionnism. For the ethical part, I just re-read Frankfurt’s magnificient little book on truth. Finally, there is also Putnam’s book on the fact/value dichotomy that could be of interest, since Roger Pielke Junior handwaved to this book in HB.

    I apologize for the prolixity. If that can console you, this thread will be my last neverending audit. At least at Keith’s.

    But quite frankly, to answer Keith’s question in the most conservative, modest, simple and general way I can, I believe that it’s time to finally say that I had enough of the spin.

    Please do mind playing the Give and Take game whenever you can, your time on earth is worth it,

    Thank you for having been a worthy opponent,

    Due diligence,


    PS: You can find my email on my tumblog if you need to contact me. Or you can return anytime on this very thread.

  304. willard says:


    Minimization and denial feed one another. Worse, the roles get switched depending on the topic. Please help Keith break this spinning spiral of shrieks.

    You appealed to Malthus five times in your last comment. Quite frankly, it is insulting. I’m sure you can think of more creative ways to drive the same point.

    At the very least, let us have an inspiring wait for Godot.

  305. Anteros says:

    willard –

    Fair point about Malthus. Relevant but overdone.

    I’m not sure why I would need to wait to champion the minimising of assumptions [your ‘modesty’] – I’ve been cheering that team-aim for many a year.

    Perhaps, though, a more important activity is actually keeping abreast of the assumptions we make. The unwitting ones as well as the semi-conscious choices. It requires deliberate effort that I think is often side-stepped in pursuit of ‘the result’.

    Tamsin Edwards alluded to this in her last post on Climate Sensitivity, although I only saw comments about witting assumptions, not any of the subvocal types.

    Incidentally, I checked out your David Stove quote again at Jeff Id’s. I used to be a big fan in the days when my sceptical firmament needed additions to the solitary David Hume. But the idea of claiming that people have thought ‘longer and better’ in so many different contexts strikes me as crass as well as sloppy.

    How much of that ‘thinking’ has proved to be in the slightest bit useful? I’d guess 99% of it is ‘pouring from the empty into the void’, and typically, given the kinds of thinkers Stove admired, not in any way connected with the lives and loves of living, breathing, feeling human beings.

    Ooh, now I have recollections of why I took a swerve from academic philosophy. No regrets!

    The history of hysteria is a much more edifying pursuit  🙂

  306. willard says:


    Stove is regrettably right about how philosophy evolved. But I do share your sentiment, in a way. At least, I did the same as you, but a bit later.

    I had a different concept of minimization in mind:


  307. willard says:


    I need to add another link. Please beware that the concept of hysteria was quite obscure:


  308. Anteros says:

    willard –

    I’m much more familiar with that conception of minimising and its counterpart maximising (cf alcoholics stereotypically minimise, addicts stereotypically maximise), but I confusingly chose the word instead of ‘diminish’ for some reason. A Jungian slip perhaps.

    I’m not sure that either denial or minimising are appropriate when the future imagined is pictured mainly by speculation. It is a strange world where people are accused of denying others’ fears. It speaks of a quite fundamental certainty in the beliefs of the worried.

    An interesting link to the origination of the concept of hysteria. I should note that had it not been for the attractions of alliteration I would have used another term.

    “A History of (anxiety-laden, future-imagining) Beliefs” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, though.

    Having said that, the history of the conceptions of ‘mental illness’ has its own fascination [‘to me’, need I add].

  309. willard says:


    Nice distinction between addicts and alcoholics.

    If you like this kind of work, you might be interested in the work of Gary Gutting, who just wrote an interesting op-ed about a bout about nothing:


    The bout is really about nothing, about a recent explanation of the creation of the universe out of “nothing” by a cosmologist, who seeks to claim that

    philosophy and theology are incapable of addressing by themselves the truly fundamental questions that perplex us about our existence.

    If you follow the link, you’ll read a very brutal review by David Albert. Yes, philosophers being brutal and scientists being vindicative. Imagine that.

    Gutting worked on Foucault a lot, but in a way that renders him intelligible.

    I believe the word you’re looking for is scare, by the way. Look for “X scare” on your favorite search engine.

  310. willard says:

    Here’s the ngram for “scare”:


    I forgot to add: notice the word “by themselves” in the quote.

  311. Anteros says:

    willard –

    Much obliged.

    You have a veritable cornucopia of links. 

    Funny, I thought of ‘Discipline and Punish’ when I glanced at your ‘hysteria’ link. 

    “By themselves” Now that would be worth (me) getting scared about…

  312. willard says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Anteros

    Now that neverending audit has ended, I can look at other sources in my Reader. So here’s a last one from the Stone, for your Piccadilian night:

    The plumber’s or electrician’s activities are a manifestation of the same kind of intelligence as the scientist’s or historian’s latest articles “” knowledge of truths. It is true that someone might be adept at car mechanics and hopeless at philosophy. But it is also true that someone might be adept at theoretical physics and hopeless at philosophy. Distinctions between what one is adept at and what one is not adept at do not correlate with the folk distinction between practical and theoretical pursuits. If only to appropriate student loans rationally, we must also recognize distinctions between professions, the mastery of which requires learning many and perhaps more complex truths, and professions that one can master more easily. But these are distinctions along a continuum, rather than distinctions in kind, as the folk distinction between practical and theoretical pursuits is intended to be.

    Jason Stanley works on practical reasoning, which might be more pallatable to you than formal epistemology.


  313. Tom Fuller says:

    Anteros, by the authority vested in me I hereby award you the internet for this statement: “It is a strange world where people are accused of denying others’ fears.”

  314. willard says:


    When I said that minimization and denial feed one another, I said something that made no sense.

    I meant that minimization and alarmism feed one another.

    Fear and fearing fear is another common transaction loop.

  315. BBD says:


    I’m curious as to whether you regard what I have said here about droughts and ice-sheets as alarmist or simply a recitation of what is now on the table.

  316. willard says:


    First life is knocking to the door, and I just wrote this [1] in a discussion that shows a counter-example to your claim that I’m always polite and perhaps illustrate reasons why I seem to attract insults, so I’ll try be brief:

    I don’t know. I would have to think about it. And even then, I’m not sure there is an univocal answer to your question.

    I believe that Anteros’ point in this discussion is to say that there never are alarms on the tables. Well, since there can be, let’s say instead that there can’t be alarming reports on tables.

    Alarms are what hear people that read the reports, or what people hear from people who did read those reports. Alarms can raise many concerns. One of them is that is can be a false alarm. That seems to be one of Anteros’ concern.

    My own concern is that if I kept hearing an alarm, my first reflex would be to shut it down. In fact, I already did this, and the firemen were not happy. It was not my job to do so. Since the alarm was kept quiet, they could not track back from where the alarm rang. Not that it mattered much, in the end, since the panel could not indicate precisely anyway, but this incident changed some policies, and the panel.

    Hearing an alarm and thinking don’t go well together.

    On the other hand, the “middle way” that all this discussion presumes made sense in Lao Tsu’s times, but make little sense nowadays. But I’m willing to be convinced. Who’s pinching in to write the Tao of Climate?

    [1] http://judithcurry.com/2012/05/26/doubt-has-been-eliminated/#comment-204391

  317. BBD says:


    Thank you for your response. I won’t detain you any longer than to say your assessment of your own degree of impoliteness is overstated. Only look around. Oh.

    I’ve enjoyed your commentary greatly. For example, the possible readings of this line alone should give both Anteros and me pause:

    Hearing an alarm and thinking don’t go well together.

    Wonderful stuff, ambiguity.

  318. willard says:


    Now everything’s calm and I have a minute. Since earlier today, I’ve had time to think a bit more about ice ages, ambiguity, and politeness. I will try to connect these topics together. Wish me luck.

    First, ice. Since it’s the last of the neverending audit at Keith’s, I’m putting some order into my notes. Emptying my Circa (an Atoma clone), I saw this quote from Dick in response from a comment by Anna about that advocating a 1 degree CS is tough to reconcile with what is known about glacial cycles:

    The paleoclimate people have usually never worked with theory of climate. The papers by Jerry Robe, by Peter Huybers and Milankovitch are theory. […] So it’s pure ignorance to say paleo demands it. Hanson has said this for years, it doesn’t make any sense and I don’t think it’s even widely accepted. The paleo community has grabbed on to it, says oh, now we’re relevant but I mean I don’t think it matters more than that.


    The cascade of minimization is impressive, starting to “it’s all theory” to what Dick’s statement of opinion: “I don’t think it matters more than that”. Sounds like spin to me.

    Consider the mental effort it takes to see how this cascade answers the question. In all fairness, Dick also shows some kind of calculation in the middle of all this, but this calculation does not erase the spin. By itself, the spin does not respond to what Anna brought: it amounts to accumulate indirect attacks on the certainty about the 3 CS from paleo.

    Dick’s line of defense does not amount to a knock-down argument. All it does is to mix objective from subjective claims. And even on that ground, some claims are ambiguous.

    Take “this is all theorical.” It can be used as a accurate description. But here it is not purely descriptive: it functions like an argument. Being theorical, the works of Huybers & al are insufficient. What’s dogwhistled here is that it would be better to have empirical results.

    I’m not saying it to hold any grudge against Dick. It’s certainly his right to step up on the political arena and debate. We all do this, and all have this right, and sometimes the obligation, to do so. Besides, these are claims made in the flow of an interview

    An interview does not work exactly like a conversation, but it does share some conversational aspects: the need to be interesting, the somewhat free associations of ideas, etc. In that kind of setting, you’re quite right to underline to efficiency of ambiguity.

    And this is where politeness enters my point. To converse is not to debate. The way to win in a conversation is not the same as in a debate. It’s easier to act in a judicary accusatory mode during a debate. In a conversation, it sounds odd.

    Hence the power to remain polite. But there is polite and polite. Fred Moolten is polite. But he does not use his politeness to say more than he could say if he shouted. I won’t surprise anyone by saying that it’s possible to use politeness in such a manner.

    In hockey, a player that believes he will be called for a penalty will try to entice a player to retaliate. To that end, he sometimes use insults. If you don’t know anything about this kind of behavior, I suggest you look at the best hockey movie: Slap Shot. One of the main reasons why I got hooked hereunder was because I like hockey.

    Thank you for your kind words,

    See you around,


  319. willard says:


    I share the sentiments of what you’re saying in #257, and will soon take measures accordingly. I believe that this cartoon conveys a similar feeling:


    This might contain all I could say for YesButFreedom.



  320. kdk33 says:

    Your link goes nowhere.  Ironic, that.

  321. willard says:


    Try the source, then, instead:


    I just copied that link from the page you said was empty. Perhaps a Tumblr glitch. Sorry.

    Oh, and this reminded me of your allusion to Jericho:

    At the round earth’s imagined corners, blow
    Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
    From death, you numberless infinities
    Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go,
    All whom the flood did, and fire shall, o’erthrow,
    All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
    Despair, law, chance, hath slain, and you whose eyes,
    Shall behold God, and never taste death’s woe.
    But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space;
    For, if above all these, my sins abound,
    “˜Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace,
    When we are there. Here on this lowly ground,
    Teach me how to repent; for that’s as good
    As if thou’hadst seal’d my pardon with thy blood.”

    John Donne knew how to make words blow off.

  322. BBD says:

    Dean Donne knew more than was good for him 😉

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