How to Convey the Complexities of Science?

The cantankerous Jerry Coyne, in a recent post, takes issue with popular

“science-lite” books that offer superficial analyses of and solutions to social problems or””most disturbing to me””superficial descriptions of scientific work.

This is a recurring bugaboo for scientists. It springs from a deeply rooted attitude that science journalist Deborah Blum aptly described here.

So which authors have committed crimes against science, according to Coyne? What are some of the faulty, superficial best-sellers? He obliges:

To me, these include books like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (a page-turner, but one that left me cold), Jon Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (with its unfortunate concentration on group selection) and The Happiness Hypothesis, David Brooks’s execrable The Social Animal, Nicholas Wade’s The Faith Instinct (funded and vetted by the Templeton Foundation), and all of the books and writing of the now-disgraced Wunderkind Jonah Lehrer.

Gladwell receives the lion’s share of abuse from Coyne and his readers pile on. Then something interesting happens: A mystified Gladwell shows up to defend himself. His exchanges in the comment thread are worth reading, especially this bit from him:

I have to say that I find some of the hostility here towards my work a bit puzzling. As anyone who writes for a living knows, it is very difficult to write about science in a way that satisfies all audiences. You have to choose who you want to reach”“and if you aim at the left side of the continuum it is almost inevitable that you will alienate someone on the right side of the continuum. (And vice versa). I have chosen, for better or worse, to be “popular” science writer, which necessarily entails sacrificing some degree of complexity for accessibility.

This is an explanation that should resonate with science writers who aim to reach a lay audience. But it’s probably not going to sway Coyne and I don’t think it addresses what David Dobbs, a science writer I’ve long admired, raised last week. Ed Yong succinctly captured its essence:

David Dobbs on the No 1 challenge for a science writer: portraying complexity & uncertainty, and avoiding tidy fables

I’m sure there are wide ranging views on how to accomplish this. Personally, what I have found is that the more politicized and emotionally charged an issue–such as climate change–the less appetite there is for conveying complexity and nuances. But that is a topic for another post.

381 Responses to “How to Convey the Complexities of Science?”

  1. charlie says:

    There was a good proposal a while back that we should stop teaching algebra and trig/calculus/physics in high school.  They are pretty useless,  and you’ll never use them. A basic grounding in statistics and risk analysis, however, is something you need everyday for the rest of your life.

  2. Joshua says:

    Charlie –

    The only good reason that everyone in high school needs to study algebra is the unfortunate goal of preparing all of students for college. Which, given that most people never use algebra in college (or beyond), actually means prepare them for the largely invalid criterion (in terms of measuring the desired effect – how well someone will do in college) of how well they do on SATs.

    I like your idea of teaching statistics and risk analysis as a primary goal, and algebra then becomes a useful tool – and thus meaningful – for understanding statistics and risk analysis. Of course, I’d also add wood working and conflict resolution to those fundamental skills.

  3. Robert David Graham says:

    Gladwell isn’t a science writer, but pseudo-science. What he writes is not true. It’s not that his simplifies things that makes scientists upset, it’s that he calls what he writes “science”. It’s little different than astrologers claiming to be scientific.

  4. harrywr2 says:

    Personally, what I have found is that the more politicized and emotionally charged an issue”“such as climate change”“the less appetite there is for conveying complexity and nuances. 

    Or maybe the opposite is true. The more complex and nuanced an issue the more politicized and emotionally charged it becomes.

  5. jim says:

    As we struggle through a financial crisis created in part by laughably bad risk analysis, it’s hard to agree that the science of risk analysis is sufficiently understood to teach to high school students. 
     
    The problem with the lack of algebra use for high school students would be best remedied by requiring more rigorous math and science classes in college, not by ditching algebra altogether.  Algebra is a basic scientific skill.  Simple algebraic/physical equations like F=ma are basic mathematical models.  Understanding the way these equations are manipulated to give insight to, and are applied ““ and misapplied ““ to, physical problems is fundamental to understanding science.  Algebra also has myriad applications to everyday personal financial problems like mortgage interest and compound annual growth rates.  
     
    Science’s biggest mistake over the last few decades has been the watering-down of university level science courses.  Ditch science courses for non-majors.  Demand higher level science skills of all graduates, including 200-300 level science course(s) with significant math components. 
     

  6. Joshua says:

    The problem with the lack of algebra use for high school students would
    be best remedied by requiring more rigorous math and science classes in college, not by ditching algebra altogether.  Algebra is a basic scientific skill.

    The % of high school students that will ever need those more rigorous skills is rather small. The point is to better differentiate which students need which skills, and to help them to become intrinsically motivated to master the skills they need. One size fits all is a terribly poor model for education. It breeds passivity about learning and convergent, rather than divergent, thinking. Better individualization is what would help. That may mean offering more rigorous math at the college level. Individualizing curriculum for high school students to better meet their needs and providing rigorous math education in college  are far from being mutually exclusive; in fact, they would by synergistic goals. 

    In the end, however, until the method for selecting students to get into college is changed, you do any particular student a disservice if you don’t provide them instruction in algebra.

  7. Mary says:

    Yay, another cycle in the scientists vs writers merry-go-round.

    I’ve tried to learn a lot more about the process of science communication over the last year or so. And I find I have much more sympathy for the position the writers find themselves in. But that does not mean that bad behavior is acceptable (lying, cherry-picking, quote fabrications, etc). It does mean that I don’t hold them responsible for crappy headlines (as I have learned they most often don’t write them), and trivial errors no longer cause me to light my hair afire.

    At the same time its hard to watch what happens to scientists who try to do outreach themselves. Saganization, threats, name calling, shill claims, limited audiences–makes you wonder if that’s worth it.

    I don’t know what the solution is either. I guess what I’d love to know is what is really effective. But effective at what? Knowledge increase in readers? Support for research and funding? Improving policy? Improving health and well-being in individuals? That’s kind of a lot to expect, and incredibly hard to measure.

  8. Ed Forbes says:

    math classes in school are filters.If you can not learn and retain trig and calculus, it is an indicator that you will not do well in other rigours fields of study.I will say that my 3rd sem calculus class almost “filtered” me out 🙂  

  9. Joshua says:

    math classes in school are filters.If you can not learn and retain trig and calculus, it is an indicator that you will not do well in other rigours fields of study.,…

    I think it’s a myth that Einstein failed math, but no doubt many people capable of doing well in rigorous fields of study have. Your statement is ill-considered as you are ignoring many of the variables in play in who fails or doesn’t fail “math classes in school,” including, not the least, the poor way that math is often taught in school.

    However, it is true that math classes, like most classes in our contemporary schools, are filters. They are social-sorting filters that essentially reproduce the existing socio-economic status quo. The best predictor for success in our schools is the socio-economic background of a student’s parents. It’s a complicated filter, and I would say that to some degree there is a correlation between, say, math class and some types of “intelligence”; however the link is very complicated, largely misunderstood and over-stated, and cross-over or generalization between reasoning in math and other areas of rigorous study are far from a given.

  10. Nullius in Verba says:

    “The % of high school students that will ever need those more rigorous skills is rather small.”

    The percentage needing virtually any of the more advanced skills learnt in school is rather small. How often have you needed physical geography, or cell biology, or poetry reading? Or music/art? There are more reasons to study mathematics than that it is useful. Although it is that too.

    “They are social-sorting filters that essentially reproduce the existing socio-economic status quo.”

    I tended to find that it was a matter of whether people wanted to learn maths; whether they thought it was a worthwhile thing to do. Parents can instil that sort of work-ethic, ambition, self-belief to make them think they could, and should.

    Maths is peculiar in that it is one of the few skills where people seem almost proud to be bad at it. I’ve even known people to hide the fact that there were good at it, for fear of the social penalty. Sometimes when people lack confidence in their abilities, they turn it around and make a virtue of the deficiency. It’s a way to defend their self-image. Socio-economic status probably has a lot to do with that.

  11. Joshua says:

    NiV –

    There are more reasons to study mathematics than that it is useful.

    I think that there is reason to study math beyond the mastering the specific skills entailed – but keep in mind that it used to be thought that studying Latin would make someone more logical. Do some research to see how well-founded that belief was.In reality, The transfer of cognitive skills across domains is largely assumed even though the evidence is not terrible strong. To the extent they are transferable, it is largely independent of the specific area being studied, but related more closely to more fundamental aspects that underlie many different subjects. 

    I tended to find that it was a matter of whether people wanted to learn maths;

    I agree – but that is largely correlated with SES variables, and other variables like gender. Lots of tough aspects of determining causation there. Not a particularly good area for facile conclusions.

  12. Joshua says:

    The percentage needing virtually any of the more advanced skills learnt in school is rather small.

    I would disagree with that- depending on how you define “advanced skills.” I think that higher-order cognitive skills are needed. The problem lies  whether they can be taught and how to best “teach” them. I would suggest that teaching risk assessment and statistics as an umbrella could be a better methodology, operationally, than teaching “math”  to reach the “higher order” goal.  With the proximate goal being risk analysis and statistics, it is relatively easier to encourage motivation (intrinsic motivation) – and learning math then becomes a skill that one needs to reach the proximate goal.

  13. Nullius in Verba says:

    “I think that there is reason to study math beyond the mastering the specific skills entailed”

    It’s not even about more general cognitive skill, although it’s a good point. Reasons for studying are the same as reasons for studying poetry or art or music. Because it’s interesting. Because it’s beautiful. Because it is one of mankind’s crowning achievements. Because it’s pleasurable, if you have the background knowledge needed to appreciate it.

    School is not just about training drones for the factories. It’s about making well-rounded human beings, and citizens, too.

    “I would suggest that teaching risk assessment and statistics as an
    umbrella could be a better methodology, operationally, than teaching “math”  to reach the “higher order” goal.”

    There are all sorts of justifications and motivations you can use. You can teach accountancy and economics, so people know what businesses and politicians are up to. You can teach statistics so people know what advertisers and propagandists are up to. You can teach engineering and computers, so people know what the technology that runs their world is all about.

    I agree that people are often taught the wrong sort of maths in school, for the wrong sort of reasons. It needs to be more directed towards their actual needs, and what would be useful to them. But people think maths isn’t useful in their everyday lives because they don’t have the skills to apply it, and so must do without. Of course, they survive fine. But how much better might they have done if they did have the skills handy? Is it not used because nobody has the skill, or does nobody aquire the skill because it’s not useful?

  14. Joshua says:

    Reasons for studying are the same as reasons for studying poetry or art or music. Because it’s interesting. Because it’s beautiful. Because it
    is one of mankind’s crowning achievements. Because it’s pleasurable, if you have the background knowledge needed to appreciate it.

    No disagreement there. But I’m sure that you know well that this is not a terribly common viewpoint. I have been involved, first hand, where adults who thought they “couldn’t do math” or who “hate math” have discovered the qualities of math as you describe – but if you just say to someone that they should study math because it’s beautiful your message will more often than not fall on deaf ears – even with people who are adept in “rigorous” fields that don’t directly involve math. More than likely, when people hear something like that they think that something must be wrong with them because they don’t share that perspective – and then they shut down. It happens just as dramatically with younger students.

    I agree that people are often taught the wrong sort of maths in school, for the wrong sort of reasons

    That is true, yes, but IMO, the problem is more the poor methodology widely employed to teach math.  In fact, the commonly used methodology is founded on the very principles of education directed towards a goal of training people to work in factories. That was actually the explicit underpinnings of our commonly utilized approach to education  – and the notion that all students should match some hypothetical model of a “good” student, and that individuality isn’t key, is big part of the problem. That mentality is reflected in the notion that all students should be taught algebra (because that is what a “good” student should master).

    Generally speaking, such an approach lowers motivation in more students than it raises. The criterion used to determine what “should” be taught is largely arbitrary.

  15. Nullius in Verba says:

    #14,

    Agreed.

  16. Joshua says:

    # 15

    Sorry for being even more pedantic than usual. It is an issue that I care a lot about.

  17. Ed Forbes says:

    With a wife with 30 yrs of teaching math, this discussion comes up at times..My education was in Engineering and later in a Masters program for Public Administration. .I have 4 kids, 2 in collage and 2 in high school and I am pushing all 4 towards Liberal Arts in general ed, and then for them to go get training in what they want to do…Math programs teach you how to think. Geometry, algerbia, and trig and teach you HOW to think, and to think logically in sequence. If you can not master these, mastering logic becomes problematical. If you do not come out of school mastering logic, IMHO you have wasted your time.

  18. Ed Forbes says:

    With a wife with 30 yrs of teaching math, this discussion comes up at times..My education was in Engineering and later in a Masters program for Public Administration. .I have 4 kids, 2 in collage and 2 in high school and I am pushing all 4 towards Liberal Arts in general ed, and then for them to go get training in what they want to do…Math programs teach you how to think. Geometry, algerbia, and trig and teach you HOW to think, and to think logically in sequence. If you can not master these, mastering logic becomes problematical. If you do not come out of school mastering logic, IMHO you have wasted your time.

  19. Joshua says:

    Ed –

    Math programs teach you how to think.

    There is a  large body of research that is not in alliance with your argument by assertion. If you have any evidence from qualified researchers to support your statements, I’d love to see it. And FWIW, my anecdotal experience in this area is significantly more broad and deep than yours. I’ve also studied these questions. That doesn’t prove me right by any means just as your less deep and broad anecdotal experiences don’t prove you right.

    I suggest that you study the issue a bit and then if you’re still interested, get back to me so we can discuss what you’ve learned. I’d be interested to hear about it.

  20. JEsse says:

    The discussion over teaching algebra is really over whether peopel should be educated at all. I mean really, how many people need anything more than how to add, subtract, multiply and divide if all the jobs are service jobs at Starbucks? Why bother anything over a 3rd grade reading level? Why teach history at all, you never need it, right? Heck, you could likely get through one of those jobs and not even have to read more than a 5-year old. First the utility argument. Try cooking from a recipe without algebra. I was a carpenter and used it constantly — even the “advanced” stuff. (Try reframing a door or building a roof without it). Also, if you want to teach anyone about stats you have to have some algebra, there’s just no way around it. Leaving that aside, while it is true that much of our modern education was geared to making people good factory workers, there was also always the sense that for any democracy to function you need to teach people stuff like, thinking skills. That can come from any subject. Some people get logic from math. Some people learn it by looking at the structure of Dickens. Some from the sequence of history and thinking about contingency. But since no one area of knowledge provides all the things the others do, you gotta teach ’em all. I teach a martial arts class. You don’t “need” most of the technique we go over. But the point isn’t to turn out killing machines. he point is to build certain habits, and that comes from learning all aspects of the art. And only about 1/3 of it is actual fighting. The best fighters — boxers, for instance, such as Manny Pacquiao — don’t just know how to hit someone. The point is that to make citizens you have to teach people logic skills. You have to offer more than what is “useful.” Our democracy couldn’t function if nobody was ever taught what the Bill of Rights was, even though you don’t need that knowledge to function on a day to day basis. I just have trouble believing that we are even having this bloody discussion in an modern democratic society at all, based on the idea that knowledge is not the sole domain of the privileged.

  21. Ed Forbes says:

    Love the “math wars”….I have been involved with them since the “new math” of the 1960’s…The fights that one gets in academia on this subject are truly astounding. Just as bad as any seen in the CAGW fights…Been there…bought the shirt…..Thanks, but I will stay with the more traditional side and continue to support liberal education over the “flavor of the month”. 

  22. JEsse says:

    sorry about the lack of line breaks — seems to not like my return key..

  23. hr says:

    It’s strange to imagine that somebody should get all their knowledge of a subject from a single article.Keith if you write something interesting in all likelihood I’ll Google on the keywords, Google Scholar it, find interesting papers, look at the papers that cite that paper, find scientists university homepages etc. etc. etc.So Keith write on subjects at the level that most interests you (it’s likely to interest us most), that attract comments at a level that interest you and leave it up to the rest of us with brains, fingers and access to the internet to find our own level. There’s really no need to feel some sort of moral obligation.There seems an assumption of a certain passivity in the readership in this sort of discussion

  24. Tom Scharf says:

    To think that anyone who can’t pass beginner algebra will “get it” in basic statistics is wishful thinking, and vice versa.  Once you get past the first week of simple probabilities and flipping coins, statistics requires actual ability. Whether both, one, or neither are appropriate in high school is a fine question.

    I find it shocking that students are forced to pass algebra but graduate without basic skills such as understanding a mortgage, balancing a home budget, and retirement planning with the concept of compounding interest.  There are certain life skills that require some mathematical background, and these should be mandatory.  For example only caring about your monthly payment when buying a car is ill advised (can I interest you in our 1200 month payment plan?).

    There are some really important statistical concepts that take a while to get into your head, such as applying some standard statistical measurements on non-Gaussian data is a train wreck waiting to happen and the disproportionate effect of outliers on statistical measurements.  You can only grasp many concepts through experience and processing a lot of data.  There are far too many who use statistics as a magic black box where upon great truth is output every time.  Math is a tool, not an answer.

    Statistics is so misused and abused in medical research and certain other controversial scientific fields that there ought to be a law against practicing it without a license.  It’s an epidemic and everyone knows it.  The practices of data mining and pre-filtering are huge areas of abuse.  It’s so bad that most people don’t even know they are using it in inappropriate ways.  I don’t think Mann 1998 knew his techniques were inappropriate, but of course religiously defending them after it was pointed out is another matter entirely….

    You are much better off by examining the data and trends instead of examining the statistical measurements of the data itself.  Case in point is the debate over “statistically significant” warming over the past 20 years.  One is lead to believe if the trend surpasses a arbitrary 95% confidence test it is truth.  94% is a falsification.  Ridiculous.

  25. Matt B says:

    I remember in high school guys that heroically failed every kind of math (I’m talking getting a 200 on the SAT which they achieved by signing their name) yet could calculate batting averages, ERA’s & track payoffs instantaneously and accurately. I tried to convince them it was the same math in a classroom but they weren’t buying. Plus, they were pretty apathetic about school in general and most math & science teachers in my scuffling school system were terrible.

    If they had offered “Math for Bookies” the class would have been full and enthusiastic……..

  26. Tom Scharf says:

    #19 Joshua, nice generalized and vague appeal to your own self professed authority.  Others must provide proof on your request, but of course you live by different rules.  

  27. willard says:

    > I find it shocking that students are forced to pass algebra but graduate without basic skills such as understanding a mortgage, balancing a home budget, and retirement planning with the concept of compounding interest. There are certain life skills that require some mathematical background, and these should be mandatory. For example only caring about your monthly payment when buying a car is ill advised (can I interest you in our 1200 month payment plan?).

    Me too. But this only take the 72 rule and linear algebra. Besides, if we don’t teach our youth to spend and spend and spend, who will pay for our virtual prosperity? And more importantly, how will we be able to control their time and their mind if we can’t drown them in debt before they realize it too late?

  28. Joshua says:

    #26 – Tom-

    Let me explain. I agree that our individual anecdotal experience is of limited value. What counts more is the evidence from research. But if we’re going to go with anecdotal evidence, as Ed offered as his single, solitary, lonesome basis of expertise, mine trumps his. I worked in the field for years and studied the issues at hand. You have no more evidence for my descriptions of my experience than you have for Ed’s.

  29. Joshua says:

    #20 – JEsse –

    I was a carpenter for many years myself. Laying out stairs was an excellent reason to appreciate both algebra and geometry. That said:

    Try reframing a door or building a roof without it..

    What does “reframing a door” mean, and what would algebra have to do with it? And while algebra and geometry are useful for framing a roof, knowing simple mechanics of using framing square will pretty much suffice, and if you think no one who couldn’t pass an algebra test couldn’t frame a roof, you ought to meet about 1/2 the carpenters I’ve worked with. Do you think that the carpenters who 130 years ago built the gambrel on my carriage house or the mansard on my main house had ever heard of exponents, variables, or how to cube a trinomial?

  30. JEsse says:

    @Joshua–Re-framing a door: changing the door frame from a single closet door to a sliding one or putting in a different-sized door from the one that was there before. You remove door, cut out new space for the frame, and install. But you need to measure the thing properly, and the width of the new door isn’t an even multiple of the old one. Anyhow, the more important point, Joshua, is you seem to define algebra as “anything hard.” No, you needn’t cube a trinomial building a staircase, but solving for an unknown variable came up an awful lot. Even the basic use of a T-square, plumb bob and string to lay out a foundation uses many, many algebraic concepts. And how the hell do you calculate how high a roof peak should be without elementary trig? (I want a roof peak to be H feet above the horizontal ceiling of the top floor. To get that number — as well as to figure out how long the roof supports should be — you need at least a wee bit of trig. Or did your crew boss say “Let’s lay an arbitrarily long piece of wood across the roof, lift it to the height we want on one side and just cut it off when it looks good?”). And learning how to calculate things that DO come up in all our lives, like interest, requires algebra. Holy crap, p=e^r/t is pretty basic for understanding interest. Exponents, and even a natural log are all in there. Then there’s the more important point: education itself. Honestly, every high school student SHOULD get a damned good liberal education. No, they won’t “need” it in the way I need to know how to change a tire. But that isn’t the point. Job training and education to become a thoughtful, functional citizen are two very different things. In the US they have become conflated because even entry-level job ads are asking for college degrees (where they aren’t really necessary). But that doesn’t have any bearing on the value of education. You want a functional democracy? Then you have to have people who are exposed to a wide range of ideas, who can do logic, (which geometry teaches you quite handily) who know all that “useless” stuff about how, say, slavery ended. God how useless that is! When was the last time anyone quizzed you on the Civil War, right? Why do you need to know it? Why do you need to know anything at all except how to string a few letters together?  Why teach science at all? The vast majority of students will never use it. The problem with the premise that “not everyone will go to college” is that it assumes a LOT about linear career paths. I have met more than one person who went to college late in life, or changed professions late in life. Education at the start, from the K to the 12, prepares you for that. No, you may never need a lot of it, but don’t you think it’s better to have the tools available in your mental box than not? You mentioned you were a carpenter as well. Tell me, Joshua, did you leave half the tools at home thinking “Oh, I’ll NEVER need that 3/8 inch bit on this job.” Or did you bring a full set because, you know, a job almost never goes as you plan it? The purpose of education — in algebra or anything else — is to give people the mental tools necessary to offer maximal flexibility and increase people’s ability to take part in our political process. Not everyone will, of course, but you never know and you can’t assume that “those people” won’t. Now there’s a whole other discussion about how math is taught (and, relating to the OP, science). But that is a whole other issue. And there’s plenty of room for debate on that. I happen to be a traditionalist, but I also recognize that I might have been better “primed” for it for all kinds of reasons. I think it’s interesting that you brought up whether the guys you worked with could pass an algebra test. That is manifestly NOT the point, anymore than being able to instantly recall the presidents in order is a measure of understanding history. We educate people to give them the tools to find knowledge, to bloody well take part in a heritage we are all part of and all deserve. Knowledge doesn’t exist in isolated little domains, at least not the kind that lets you build a society that is worth living in.

  31. JEsse says:

    Godammit! no line breaks again!

  32. PDA says:

    I wonder, Keith: would it be very much trouble to ask your web developers to replace the comment submission widget with a simple text field?

    At this point, it seems like the utility of styled text and inline links is pretty minimal compared to being able to just hit <enter> for a paragraph break.

  33. Louise says:

    I have recently used trigonometry to calculate the height of a tree in my garden to see if it would fall on the house when felled and I also use algebra all the time when shopping to work out if products are actually bargains or hype (along with solving simutaneous equations).

    It astonished me that people think that these things shouldn’t be taught in school

  34. Keith Kloor says:

    @32

    I appreciate the suggestion and have passed it on. And I’m sorry to those of you who continue to be frustrated by this odd quirk in the comment software.

    But here’s the larger picture: The blog is a professional hobby for me and a nice forum for regular readers. I understand it has a certain public value, as enough people that I respect have told me this privately–and it is read and followed and cited, to a certain degree, by my colleagues. (And in some circles–found at both ends of the ideological spectrum–it is not much liked.)

    But the blog is not cost-effective for me at this point in time. So I’m currently mulling some options about its future. Thus, any improvements to its function (which cost money for services) are on hold, until I make a decision on its future. That’ll happen in early September. 

  35. PDA says:

    That’s entirely understandable. 

    JEsse, the secret of line breaks is that you must switch to HTML mode by clicking the <> button, and insert two paragraph breaks between the </p> and <p> tags at the end of each paragraph.

  36. Ed Forbes says:

    Having math as a filter works. If you can not master a subject that is hard and of little interest to you (such as higher math), you may find it hard to master other subjects you have little/no interest in that are MUCH harder in a real life work experience. As an employer with several job apps in front of me for review, I consider the apps math history even for positions that do not require higher math. Having a successful math experience in school is something I look for and give extra weight for. Success in math does not directly relate to success in the world, but it is a pretty good indicator that you can apply yourself and succeed in a hard subject.  

  37. Sashka says:

    @33

    I also use algebra all the time when shopping to work out if products are actually bargains or hype (along with solving simutaneous equations).

    May I ask you for an example?

  38. JEsse says:

    @PDA thanks so much

    @37 Here is an example: I see an advert in a store that says “30 percent more dishwashing liquid for less! $4.99” and the container holds 1000 ml.

    I see another of the same brand that holds 750 ml and sells for $2.99.

    Without algebra, tell me which is the better buy and if the ad is correct, or if it matters. You;ll find it hard to do that.

  39. Joshua says:

    JEsse –

    I have widened or otherwise altered the size of rough openings for doors many times. Never used algebra once when doing so. Pulling a 3,4,5 to square two walls is always fun, and yes, it employs fundamentals of geometry, but you don’t need to have studied geometry (or algebra) to do it. Egyptians used 3,4,5 triangles before Pythagoras even appeared on the scene. Measure your height and your run and put some of those brass buttons on your framing square and you’re good to go.

    You have conflated what I’ve been saying with saying that students shouldn’t engage in rigorous study. If that’s what you got from what I said, more power to you, but I’m all in favor of a “good liberal education.” Nothing I’ve said should be misconstrued otherwise. If students are intrinsically motivated to study algebra, or if you can so motivate them, by all means give them rigorous instruction. The problem is when all students are forced to learn algebra independent of their motivation to do so, and further when the instruction is methodologically miscast.

    Algebra in particular is an issue because it involves a kind of abstract thinking. The movement from concrete thinking to abstract thinking is a developmental process (read some Piaget – some of his work may be considered obsolete, but there are basic truths in his work related to cognitive development). Some people take to that transition relatively easily. Students who for one reason or another who don’t take to it easily (maybe they’re not developmentally ready, or maybe they are students who want to know the “whys” behind abstractions at a level that their teachers aren’t prepared to explain) tend to start hating “math” because they think that their failure to understand abstraction is personal.

    In fact, well-designed instruction can very much help students to bridge the gap between the concrete and the abstract, but forcing instruction in abstract concepts on students and then evaluating them on their ability to master those abstractions, in effect, can have a negative impact on many students. Look at some studies about adult attitudes about math and/or algebra and work you way backwards to see cause behind that effect. There are many causes, e.g., poor instruction, lack of motivation, etc., but the notion that all students will take Algebra 1 in, say  6th grade, without consideration of their individual cognitive development or intrinsic motivation, or understanding for why they are studying algebra,  is part of the problem.  What is fascinating, IMO, is to watch adults who said that “I can’t do math” unlock the beauty of algebra when, as adults, you take them back to establish the links between the abstractions of algebra and their concrete roots: Here’s one of my favorite materials for doing that.

    And just because given the nature of blogland I probably need to proactively dismantle straw men, that isn’t to say that wishy-washy lets not have any expectations of rigor on students is the answer. Having worked with international graduate students and taught in Asia, I am well-aware of how much more advanced many  international students are, say, in understanding algebra, generally, despite that they have no less in the way of expectations to study algebra (in fact, despite that they have greater expectations often). But there are many variables that get put into play there as well. I’m not saying that the solution is simply to lift expectations that students study algebra, I am saying that it is facile to think that forcing students to study algebra will ensure some type of rigorous intellect, is in and of itself some kind of precondition for developing an rigorous intellect, or doesn’t have negative ramifications.

  40. Joshua says:

    BTW  – JEsse

    In case it wasn’t clear – that link was to a “trinomial cube.” Kids can start playing with that at maybe age 5 or 6, and when they’re ready, you can lead them through a process whereby they are able to cube a trinomial with only paper and pencil – but they will have an understanding about what they are doing rather than simply dealing with an abstraction. 

    In my view, if there is a strong argument against my position, it is well-represented by these folks here: They employ top-notch methodologies to teach algebra. Given that kids need to learn algebra to compete (and I would argue, not from a pedagogical perspective), I think the work they do is very commendable.

  41. harrywr2 says:

    #25

    I remember in high school guys that heroically failed every kind of math
    (I’m talking getting a 200 on the SAT which they achieved by signing
    their name) yet could calculate batting averages, ERA’s & track
    payoffs instantaneously and accurately.

    I had a friend who dropped out of highschool. 3 years of math was a requirement for graduation. He failed the first year, so with no hope of graduation he quit.
    He ended up working in a factory that made replacement rockers for rocking chairs. Within a week he had a full command of algebra and geometry.

    Some people are aural learners, some are visual learners , some are touch learners. Rarely will  a classroom or school district excel at teaching even one group…never mind all three. 

    In the US the focus has been on ‘equality of education’ for quite some time. One size fits all ends up winning over having a ‘complex and nuanced’ educational system tailored to different learning styles.

  42. Tom Scharf says:

    #26 Joshua,

    Everyone with kids have anecdotal experience in education by the heaping bucket loads, and it is plenty valid   And everyone has an opinion.  My wife tried teaching Algebra in a public high school several year ago for a semester (and quit from frustration).  I can attest to the fact that there isn’t much learning of algebra in algebra class after helping her grade tests.  They need to work on fractions and addition.  Only the college prep / AP students are absorbing anything.

    The point being that the argument of “my anecdotal  > your anecdotal” is just another appeal to authority.  I read your posts but am unable to discern what you are trying to say.

    The teachers unions have the largest anecdotal evidence of all and look where that has got us.  They are the biggest roadblock to change.  If you want to truly be disgusted, read up on the Atlanta school system standard test cheating scandal at the AJC.  It shook me to my core.  Systemic cheating by teachers school system wide.

    That being said, I don’t believe teachers are the big problem here, it’s the parents of the under-performers and the neighborhood culture.  They don’t value education, and that is passed on in a cycle of low education and poverty.  Changing this culture may be near impossible, but failing to identify it as a one of the primary causes due to our politically correctness is a shame. Try the theme “blame the parents” at the next school board meeting and see how well that goes over. 

  43. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    The point being that the argument of “my anecdotal  >your anecdotal” is just another appeal to authority.

    I said, twice, that anecdotal experience is trumped by validated research. Twice. Notice my original use of “FWIW” after I asked for Ed to provide me with validated evidence? I also said this:

    That doesn’t prove me right by any means just as your less deep and broad anecdotal experiences don’t prove you right.

    My whole point was in response to Ed’s discussion of his anecdotal experience. By his logic, my anecdotal experience should trump his. 

    I think it is fascinating that you would jump right over his “appeal to authority” to focus on my “appeal to authority” even though it was accompanied by statements, twice, that validated evidence trumps anecdotal experience, and was in direct response to his appeal to authority and used to underscore the point that validated evidence trumps anecdotal experience.

    Do you think that’s interesting also? I could offer an explanation based on my past experience with similar situations, but I’m trying to minimize my participation in petulant blog arguing. So you make the call.

  44. JEsse says:

    Joshua–But now you’re talking about instructional methods, really. That’s a whole other question quite apart from whether the subject should be taught at all. And again I ask: why not apply the same reasoning to every other subject?
    Why, in shot, teach anything at all that requires a wee bit of effort?
    Learning is hard. Teaching is hard. Thinking in abstract terms is absolutely necessary to get through your day, whether it be reading a subway map or understanding what voting means.
    Tell me, would you be for not “forcing” kids to learn to read because they might form a bad attitude towards laces? Because some kids have more trouble?
    Again I stress, the problem you are describing is with HOW one teaches. I already outlined the reasons for WHAT one teaches.
    And dude, a 3,4,5 triangle won’t get you far if you are building a roof with any other slope. 🙂 And presumably when you ordered the wood for sliding doors you didn’t just say “gimme anything over 6 feet long, the per foot cost doesn’t matter to my boss.”
    That’s algebra. Basic, yes. But solving for an unknown variable is algebra! That’s why I said you seem to think “algebra” is “anything hard(er).”
    Now, most people won’t use discontinuous functions. Most people won’t “use” anything they learn in school so directly. So again I ask, why bother with school at all? That is the question Hacker brought up, without realizing it.
    And again, I say, not everyone will use everything. But presumably you don’t have exactly the same interests you did when you were five, or ten, or a teenager, or a young adult. I sure don’t.
    The reason people have issues with math and science generally is the method of teaching, which you rightly say runs into serious problems. But I can teach people to read badly, too, and many people don’t like to read, and never pick up a book after school is over. Why force people to read at all? Should we eliminate reading from the curriculum? Of course not! And I think (I hope) you would agree with that.
    There’s another aspect to teaching and learning, which I think dovetails into what you are speaking of more. That’s teaching kids that failure is OK. Jennifer Ouellette, over at the sciamblogs,
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/2012/08/14/make-us-do-the-math/
    talks about that a lot. I want kids in my (martial arts) class to fail and to make mistakes. Because ONLY through failure do you learn how to get back up and succeed. And in any subject, be it math or martial arts, you can’t learn a damned thing if you never make a mistake.
    So when a kid goes down, I say, “You got hit. Get up and get hit again. And again. And only then will you learn what you did wrong and fix it.” Not every kid becomes a black belt, but they don’t have to.
    This is all about instructional methodology tho. And I will agree with you that in the US it is often flawed, deeply. In the US we tend to prioritize success as an end in itself, and I agree with you that the cram-and-test method is messed up from the get-go. But that is a rather separate discussion from the one Hacker was having, since in his op-ed he emphasizes, as you did, the “use.”
    Have you never, ever in your life had the experience of “wow, I am glad someone taught me X so long ago, however much I hated it then?” Never?

  45. Tom Scharf says:

    #41 harrywr2,

    “In the US the focus has been on “˜equality of education’

    I’ve run across this many times myself.  It gets to the point where you sometimes believe they will knowingly cripple the better performers in order to close the so called education gap.  I understand the need to give low performers more resources, but that has to be balanced by letting the high performers truly excel.  

    For example , in Pinellas county they are restricted by law from teaching gifted reading classes at more than one year above grade level.  These kind of things just boggle the mind.  

    I remember my sixth grade teacher just handing me a 7th grade math book and telling me to go as fast I want by myself.  She’d probably get reprimanded today.

    Most of the high performers excel at self paced learning and can finish school years ahead of pace.  Allowing this to occur is a fight with the school system.    

  46. Tom Scharf says:

    #43 Joshua,  I see you are once again appealing to the authority of you own arguments.  ha ha.

  47. Joshua says:

    JEsse –

    I’m forced to conclude that you aren’t reading what I’ve said. Speaking of which, I didn’t say that you can rely on 3,4,5 triangles to lay out a roof.  (Have you ever used a framing square to lay out roof rafters? Use the guides for hip, jack, valley, and common rafters, put the stair gauges on, use a little common sense, and fire up your worm drive. You’ll be good to go.

  48. Sashka says:

    Within a week he had a full command of algebra and geometry.

    Shall I assume that you have administered a full exam in algebra and geometry to verify that?

  49. Tom Scharf says:

    KK,

    I assume you are going to get around to this:

    http://environment.yale.edu/climate/publications/Political-Benefits-Pro-Climate-Stand/ 

    That should liven things up around here…

  50. Sashka says:

    To add to 45. In our school district, in middle school they merged B- and C- math classes together. In high school, they lowered the (adjusted) numerical value of grades for AP and Honors classes and raised it for CP2 level classes. All in the name of fairness, of course.

  51. andrew adams says:

    Joshua (and others),You may possibly find this interesting. It is a “mathematician’s lament” about how maths is taught in schools.http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

  52. Joshua says:

    #51 – AA –

    Thanks for that! Very apropos. And right on the money. Many good quotes. Given JEsse’s last part of post  #44 – I thought I’d select this one (with reference to a nightmare world with mandatory music classes):

    “It’s a lot for them to learn, but later in college when they finally get to hear all this stuff, they’ll really appreciate all the work they did in high school.”

  53. Joshua says:

    Reading that piece makes me think of one of my favorite aspects of math instruction in schools. I have often seen kids receive instruction on how to divide fractions by fractions in four, or maybe five subsequent years. They’re told it is simple, “Why you just invert and multiply, of course!” 

    They aren’t told WHY you invert and multiply. And they aren’t given lessons to learn why the hell anyone would be dividing a fraction by a fraction to being with  (I mean seriously, when was the last time you had any reason to divide a fraction by a fraction?)

    So they are taught how to divide a fraction by a fraction four or five years in sequence because most of them (not all, of course) can’t remember how to divide a fraction by a fraction after they spend the summer doing something useful and meaningful like running around and flirting with other kids. All they did the previous year was memorize some abstracted formula – so of course they forgot. Is there some big mystery that if someone keeps forgetting something it’s likely because they didn’t find it useful or didn’t understand it at any deep level of meaning?

    Now that sort of problem isn’t inherently caused by a mandatory approach to teaching math – but it does go, unfortunately, hand-in-hand with a rote and entirely unintellectual approach to education, as so well-represented by some of the comments here. You know, I can’t help but find it someone amusing to wonder if there may be some correlation between antiquated views on education and climate “skepticism.”  

  54. Joshua says:

    Jeebus – That piece is a gold mine:

    I don't see how it's doing society any good to have its members walking around with vague memories of algebraic formulas and geometric diagrams, and clear memories of hating them.

  55. Marlowe Johnson says:

    FWIW, the best math course i took in high school was finite math. who doesn’t want to learn how to win at poker or blackjack 🙂 ? the best teachers IMO find a way of relating theory to their audience…curriculum be damned…

  56. Matt B says:

    @ Joshua 53: but it does go, unfortunately, hand-in-hand with a rote and entirely
    unintellectual approach to education, as so well-represented by some of
    the comments here. You know, I can’t help but find it someone amusing to
    wonder if there may be some correlation between antiquated views on
    education and climate “skepticism.”  

    This thread had the potential to be a tipping point favoring civil conversational tone…………..oh well…….

  57. harrywr2 says:

    Sashka,Yes I did administer a full enough exam to my friend that ‘miraculously’ finally managed to get Algebra and Geometry after taking a job in a rocking chair factory. The mathematical description of every rocking chair part made in  is in a book. I had tried to help him out with his math prior to the dropout but  was getting absolutely know where.I was the only student in my school to get a 100% on my Algebra and Geometry Final Exams, which was kind of necessary because my ‘homework credit’ and ‘class participation credit’ was zero.I am definitely not an ‘aural learner’. So the whole ‘lecture’ part of education was completely wasted on me which resulted in spending an inordinate amount of time in the principals office for ‘failing to pay attention in class’. Eventually I found a few ‘enlightened educators’ that just let me sit in the library and ‘read the book’ and ‘take the test’ rather then sending me to the principals office all the time.

  58. Joshua says:

    – 53 – Mark B –

    Nice call. Old habits die hard. I still haven’t successfully got my habit of taking cheap shots under control. 

  59. Matt B says:

    @ Joshua……fair enough! Habits do rule us whether we like it or not………Habit is something you can do without thinking, which is why most of us have so many of them. – Frank Clark

  60. Tom Scharf says:

    Joshua

    ” correlation between antiquated views on education and climate “skepticism.””

    If you ever want to get around to telling us what you would change about education from your oh so enlightened viewpoint, feel free to do so.  So far there has been 10,000,000 warm and fuzzy words and you haven’t said a thing past taking pot shots at other people.  Par for the course with you.  

  61. Louise says:

    Joshua – As you may have noticed, it is very doubtful that I could be called skeptical of AGW yet I believe very passionately that geometry, algebra, trigonometry, probabilities, fractions, etc should be taught to all school children. I believe they are severly disadvantaged through life if they do not master these basic maths procedures. Innumeracy is as disabling as illiteracy.

    Some children grow up to be adults that do not have fond memories of maths classes – I think this is invariably down to how they were taught maths rather than the subject itself. A good teacher enthuses their students, regardless of those students’ abilities.

  62. Joshua says:

    Louise –

    Yes, I have noticed that you are not what I would call a “skeptic.” 🙂 Thanks to you as well as Mark for pointing that out. I shouldn’t have taken that cheap shot (although I really do think that there is something here related to political ideology acting  as a moderator or mediator on views w/r/t climate change and education).

    I agree that in an ideal world, all kids should spend some time exploring the disciplines on your list. I do not believe that a commonly held dislike of those disciplines among adults is (necessarily) based on anything intrinsic to those disciplines. I don’t conclude that necessarily, some adults will hate math. However, the practice of making instruction in those disciplines mandatory is inherently flawed – mostly because it greases the track that leads towards methodological malpractice, but not only for that reason.

    Making instruction in those disciplines mandatory leads to them being taught at developmentally inappropriate times. It leads to treating them as rote subjects, devoid of creativity. It leads to people mistaking math as some sort of mental obstacle course that separates the “rigorous” thinkers from those incapable of “rigorous” thinking (it is more than interesting, I would say, that people who hold that view “coincidentally” most often happen to have taken well to math instruction.)

    I would say that it would be impossible to make those disciplines mandatory without having those phenomena result. It’s absolutely true that the exceptional teacher can overcome those results with some students. However, in my experience, only the best of teachers using the best of methodologies can effectively help instill the kind of love of math that you wish students to not miss out on. And even with those teachers, there is  still a relatively high % of students who leave their classes hating math or considering themselves unable to do math. 

    That is not the problem of the discipline themselves, but with the fact that they are being presented to students as something they “need” to learn as opposed to something that they might love if they explored. This style of presentation easily appears  false for them. They know that they don’t “need” to learn algebra when they go home to their (perhaps successful) parents and ask for an explanation, and their parents although perhaps very much happy about the experience to explore with their children, often do not have the knowledge to help their children learn what they supposedly” need.” Or maybe their parents aren’t so happy to help their children because they hate math because it was mandatory for them to learn it even thought they didn’t understand it; it becomes a viscous circle. And there is an inherent contradiction there that children are not blind to.

    Teaching math is not unique in being negatively impacted by the notion of making instruction mandatory. This is a problem that plagues our methodological paradigm of education more generally. But I would argue that there are certain characteristics about the discipline – particularly once you advance beyond the basic levels that are used on a regular basis later in life – that make it particularly ill-suited for being mandated as subjects in school (the article that AA linked above does a very nice job of breaking down those attributes). I don’t think that the comparison to reading (literacy) applies:  The vast majority of students (living in a literate culture) are going to learn to read independent of whether learning to read is a mandatory requirement in school. The same does not apply to learning algebra or trig.

    No, we should not limit instruction to only those subjects that students will clearly “need” later in life – but once we get beyond what students clearly will need, we need to pick an choose very carefully what we present to them as mandatory. When such an approach is as counterproductive as we can easily see with math instruction (specifically math that is predicated heavily on abstract reasoning) – as we can easily see in studies of adult attitudes towards math – then maybe we should deconstruct how that problem has developed. (Not to say that there aren’t  many influences; controlling for variables in studying educational outcomes is incredibly complicated.)

    Given the choice, I’d rather have well-taught algebra being mandatory than poorly-taught algebra being mandatory. I’m actually not completely sure that I wouldn’t rather have well-taught algebra being mandatory than algebra being non-mandatory. But given the practicalities involved, making abstract-level math instruction mandatory in school has more cons than pros, IMO.

    Did you read the article that AA linked?

  63. Tom C says:

    Joshua – Re-reading the characterisitc fog of words you generated on this thread it is not clear at all what the “broad and deep anecdotal understanding” of yours is based on.  Moreover, anecdotal experience is by definition shallow.  I’m an engineer, was once a math tutor, and raised kids.  Why do you assume you know more about teaching math than everyone?

  64. Joshua says:

    Tom C –

    I think that everyone here could agree that my posts could be just a tad more concise. Probably the only thing we could all agree on.

    Moreover, anecdotal experience is by definition shallow.  I’m an engineer, was once a math tutor, and raised kids.

    I qualified the value of my anecdotal experience repeatedly, and quite clearly.

    Why do you assume you know more about teaching math than everyone?

    I don’t make any such assumption. I know far less than many people do. I have, however, had years of experience in studying the subject as well as practical first hand experience in exploring the world between the theory and practice of education generally, and teaching math specifically. Take that for what it’s worth.

    Once again, my anecdotal experience may be more deep and wide than yours, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any more valid. Any substantiated evidence that contradicts what I have said, that you could bring to my attention, would be appreciated.

    Here’s something that you might like to read. It is a treatise by a well-known climate change “skeptic” on issues related to mandatory education. I disagree, fundamentally, with much of what this man has to say about many things – but IMO he gets some things absolutely right in this paper.

  65. andrew adams says:

    <p>Joshua,</p> <p>I’m glad you liked the article. I wouldn’t say I agree with all aspects of his argument but there is much which I sympathise with. I have read and enjoyed books about how our knowledge of mathematics was developed, how it relates to the world we live in, and some of the quirks and oddities it has thrown up, and I think that if pupils spent some time studying these things it would give them a greater appreciation for mathematics as something fascinating and sometimes beautiful in its own right, and this can only make pupils more engaged with the subject. I think his points about proofs of theorems are very well made, and I would like to see more use of the kind of puzzles and curiosities which Ian Stewart has collected in his books.</p> <p>Having said that I don’t think this means that pupils can’t or shouldn’t actually be taught algebra, geometry, calculus etc. Whether or not these particular skills will be required in our daily lives is not the only consideration – a proportion of students will go on to study mathematics, and other disciplines where such skills are required, at a higher level so they will need to have a strong grounding in the basics. And I don’t think you can teach these things entirely without an element of rote learning and mundane repetetive excercises – as much as I would love pupils to find all of their lessons engaging and relevant sometimes they will need to knuckle down and get on with stuff which they find more mundane, and there is some value to them learning this kind of discipline.</p> <p>So while I reject the “Gradgrindian” approach which our government in the UK seems to be keen on imposing on our schools, and my natural instincts are sympathetic to Lockhart’s arguments I think we have to slightly temper his very idealistic views with more practical considerations. But I think we can certainly use his ideas to improve the way maths is taught in our schools.</p>

  66. andrew adams says:

    Joshua,
    I’m glad you liked the article. I wouldn’t say I agree with all aspects of his argument but there is much which I sympathise with. I have read and enjoyed books about how our knowledge of mathematics was developed, how it relates to the world we live in, and some of the quirks and oddities it has thrown up,  and I think that if pupils spent some time studying these things it would give them a greater appreciation for mathematics as something fascinating and sometimes beautiful in its own right, and this can only make pupils more engaged with the subject. I think his points about proofs of theorems are very well made, and I would like to see more use of the kind of puzzles and curiosities which <a href=”Ian’>http://www.amazon.co.uk/Professor-Stewarts-Cabinet-Mathematical-Curiosities/dp/1846683459/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345036890&sr=8-1#_“>Ian Stewart</a> has collected in his books.
    Having said that I don’t think this means that pupils can’t or shouldn’t actually be taught algebra, geometry, calculus etc. Whether or not these particular skills will be required in our daily lives is not the only consideration – a proportion of students will go on to study mathematics, and other disciplines where such skills are required, at a higher level so they will need to have a strong grounding in the basics. And I don’t think you can teach these things entirely without an element of rote learning and mundane repetetive excercises – as much as I would love pupils to find all of their lessons engaging and relevant sometimes they will need to knuckle down and get on with stuff which they find more mundane, and there is some value to them learning this kind of discipline.
    So while I reject the “Gradgrindian” approach which our government in the UK seems to be keen on imposing on our schools, and my natural instincts are sympathetic to Lockhart’s arguments I think we have to slightly temper his very idealistic views with more practical considerations. But I think we can certainly use his ideas to improve the way maths is taught in our schools.         
     

  67. Steven Sullivan says:

    I’d take Gladwell’s ‘surprise’ with a giant hunk of salt.  His work has  come in for such criticism and even hostility well before Coyne’s post; it can’t possibly be new to him. 

  68. Tom Fuller says:

    Kind of a trend during the course of my lifetime. When I learned to type my calligraphy skills atrophied. When calculators replaced slide rules, they also reduced my needs for higher maths. Email reduced my letter-writing to an effective zero, and free e-cards even knocked my Christmas greetings online. Wikipedia means my encyclopedia can travel with me and Google means my memory is becoming a vestigial manifestation.

    What’s happening in higher maths is just a symptom.

    We are externalizing much of what it means to be human. 

    A child born today may never know what it feels like to be lost. That’s a clear victory for mothers everywhere. I’m not sure what it means for children…

  69. jim says:

    Joshua,
     
    Oh well.  I’ll bite.
     

    “they are being presented to students as something they “need” to learn as opposed to something that they might love if they explored.”
     
    “”¦instill the kind of love of math that you wish students to not miss out on.”
     

    Oh my.  It’s disappointing that so many adults now believe that if children don’t love acquiring the skills they will need later in life those skills aren’t beneficial.  Kids don’t need to love math (or reading or writing).  I don’t love math, and I HATE writing.  I USE both because the help me achieve other goals.   The goal is for students to LEARN, not love, skills that are advantageous.
     

    “if someone keeps forgetting something it’s likely because they didn’t understand it at any deep level of meaning?”

     
    The “deep level of meaning” of fractions?  J  Seriously now.  There’s no deep level of meaning to fractions.  And I do divide fractions by fractions all the time.  There are hundreds of calculations in science and finance that require that sets of fractions are divided by other sets of fractions ““ stable isotopes, for example.  It’s increasingly common to see stable isotopic data reported in newspaper articles about enviro issues, so it’s hardly an academic topic. 
     
    I struggled through almost every math class, right up through Diff Eq.  I persevered because I knew it was beneficial to do so.
     

    “You know, I can’t help but find it someone amusing to wonder if there may be some correlation between antiquated views on education and climate “skepticism.””

     
    You know, I think you’re right.  I think people that have built the skills to analyze data independently are more likely to come to an independent judgment on the meaning of that data and less likely to overreact.  They are also more likely to look beyond the simple “X is happening!  We Must Act!” mentality ““ a fear-driven mentality ““ and delve into the uncertainties involved in the science of X, the outcome of the proposed response to X, and the uncertainties of the proposed outcome.  That is exactly what science and math education is supposed to do: give us the skills for independent analysis. 
     
    The wide array of views on climate science defies your simple “pro-con” characterization.  That characterization is politically beneficial to advocates, but detrimental to society.  Society benefits substantially from the broad range of views that actually characterize ideas about past and future climates and, as is almost always the case in these situations, the effective solution that we eventually choose will come from somewhere between the extremes.  How much longer will we wait for the extremes to accept that middle ground is possible?
     
    It’s not clear that “antiquated” is equivalent to “incorrect.”  The presumption that education must be artificially flavored for a tasty experience is one of many modern attitudes held by the education establishment that is wrong and destructive.  It implicitly communicates to the student that s/he has no role in h/her own education, that s/he is simply a receptacle that sits and waits for the instructor to engineer a method by which the necessary knowledge can be installed. 
     
    And therein lays the Achilles heel of most education research.   Students are not receptacles.  They can ““ and should ““ provide their own motivation.  Beyond a certain age, student motivation is probably the primary factor influencing the outcome of a student’s experience in the education system.  The “modern” education establishment essentially believes that this motivation can be affected by some scientifically developed technique.  Having failed at finding that technique, they are now perversely arguing that reducing educational requirements will allow them to discover their holy grail!  Definitely a modern viewpoint.   One we could all do without.
     

  70. Tom Scharf says:

    It’s useful to point out that this is a generalized problem, not limited to the subject of math.

    How many people fell in love with reading because the “classics” were jammed down their throat in high school English?  How many people found these books relevant to their life?  Is anyone questioning whether reading above a 6th grade level should be a mandatory life skill?

    You’ll get a lot more readers later in life by having them read Harry Potter instead of Shakespeare.   

  71. Joshua says:

    AA (65)

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying that I think that these subjects “shouldn’t” be taught in schools. I’m questioning the impact of making them mandatory subjects of instruction. Also, I’m not saying that the criterion of measuring how many people will directly use skills later in life should be some kind of iron rule about whether those skills should be the subject of instruction. And yes, there is some degree of “rote” learning that is sometimes required as a prerequisite to advance learning: however, it is far, far less than what is typically incorporated into educational methodologies, and conflating rote learning with discipline is, I think, a big error that happens far too frequently in education. Not to create straw men from what you were saying, but to make it clear that nothing I said should be construed to mean that what I just listed is different than what I am saying/believe.

  72. Joshua says:

    It’s useful to point out that this is a generalized problem, not limited to the subject of math.

    Ya think?

    Teaching math is not unique in being negatively impacted by the notion
    of making instruction mandatory. This is a problem that plagues our methodological paradigm of education more generally.

  73. Tom C says:

    Very good post jim

  74. Joshua says:

    Yeah – Good post Jim –

    It’s disappointing that so many adults now believe that if children don’t love acquiring the skills they will need later in life those skills aren’t beneficial.

    Straw man #1

    Kids don’t need to love math (or reading or writing).

    Straw man #2

    I don’t love math, and I HATE writing.  I USE both because the help me achieve other goals.

    Logical fallacy #3 (false dichotomy)

    The goal is for students to LEARN, not love, skills that are advantageous.

    Logical fallacy #4 (false dichotomy)

    The “deep level of meaning” of fractions?  J  Seriously now.  There’s no deep level of meaning to fractions.

    Could be a logical fallacy, or could be just a misunderstanding due to my ambiguity. What I was referring to was that they need to have a deep understanding of fractions. I would argue that the conceptual understanding behind concepts such as fractions is deeper than you describe.- and that is why so many people don’t understand them well. Try reading the article that AA linked in that regard. Similar problems apply even with basic concepts such as place value. Students learn abstracted algorithms and simplistic ways to manipulate numbers but lack a deeper conceptual understanding precisely because building that deeper understanding takes time and expertise.

    And I do divide fractions by fractions all the time.

    I’m glad that  you do. It is a fairly specialized skill. What % of the public divides fractions by fractions as you describe, or reads a newspaper article about stable isotopes with understanding at a level that the concepts that you’re discussing are meaningful? My guess is that it is rather a small %,  despite the fact that they studied the division of fractions by fractions, most likely, multiple years in school. So that isn’t only a fallacious argument, but it is largely irrelevant to my point. You the concept of dividing fractions by fractions because you use it. As people develop a reason to understand the division of fractions by fractions at a level deeper than just memorizing an algorithm that they don’t understand, they can easily develop that skill. Most people learn a rather meaningless algorithm and then forget the skill entirely because they never use it. And in the meantime, many have the additional undesirable result of either disliking math (fractions) and/or thinking of themselves as incapable to do math.  If that makes sense to you as a system, more power to you.

    The presumption that education must be artificially flavored for a tasty
    experience is one of many modern attitudes held by the education establishment that is wrong and destructive.

    Yet another straw man (#3, but I skipped over a bunch).

    “Artificially tasty?” The notion that motivation and interest correlates strongly with the quality of learning (and memory) is well-established in educational research, as problematic as that research is. It is also just plain common sense.

    AFAIC, the rest of your post is a similar mixture of straw men, other logical fallacies, and weak arguments. Others, like Tom C clearly disagree. So be it. The task of similarly deconstructing those other weak arguments doesn’t seem worth my while. I’ve read your viewpoint and taken it into consideration. If you want to engage in a meaningful exchange, try responding to what I said rather than to straw men through fallacious reasoning. I’m open to debate with someone who considers what I say meaningful enough to not distort it. If that isn’t you, you can join a long list who feel similarly.

  75. Joshua says:

    Hey Willard – in case you’re reading this thread (i.e., if you’re that much of a masochist).

    In re our previous discussion: This thread seems to me to be a good example of what I was speaking about w/r/t the poor “listening” that takes place in blog discussions. It seems that I have to consistently keep saying, “That’s not what I said.” The more I try to explain, it seems, the more I keep saying that.

    Just curious on your take – in a general sense. Is that because I’m ambiguous and/or too verbose? Is it because I can’t be objective about critical responses? Or is it because people don’t “listen” well? 

    And please, if you do answer try to not be so cryptic in your response that I can’t understand. I appreciate your style, but sometimes what you write is beyond my abilities. Dumb it down a bit for me.

  76. Keith Kloor says:

    Joshua (75) 

    “And please, if you do answer try to not be so cryptic in your response that I can’t understand. I appreciate your style, but sometimes what you write is beyond my abilities.”

    To me, Willard is the “Chauncey Gardiner” of the climate blogosphere. (My apologies, Willard, if you are gardener in real life. But I’m guessing you are a Phd in something.) Whatever he says can be whatever you want it to be.

     

  77. Nullius in Verba says:

    #75,

    “It seems that I have to consistently keep saying, “That’s not what I said.” The more I try to explain, it seems, the more I keep saying that.”

    I find the same thing happens to me.

    The truth is that human language is naturally ambiguous and underdetermined. What people say is far less than they actually mean – most of communication is actually filled in from shared context, expectations, and a mental model of the speaker’s intent by the listener, as they parse the many different options for what might have been meant. More, the speaker chooses what to include and what to leave out based on their expectations of the listener’s capabilities and likely interpretation. What’s more, both sides do it sub-consciously, without even realising they’re doing it, or being aware that others meaning were possible.

    It’s this unspoken and implicit component of communication that causes the misunderstandings, because people sometimes have completely misaligned contexts and models of the other. It’s also why it took so long to get computers to understand speech, and why none of them even now can pass a Turing test.

    The verbosity, which I suffer from too, is an attempt to compensate – to try to exclude the possibility of misunderstanding. It doesn’t work, because it is (without being obviously so) a task of almost impossible complexity.

    In my case, I usually get accused of being dishonest. The trick is to know what’s causing it and not to get worked up about what other people say or think. It’s perfectly natural and to be expected.

  78. andrew adams says:

    Joshua,Sorry if I appeared to be falsely ascribing views to you – I was trying to express my own views on the topic in the context of the article I posted and views I had seen expressed in this thread in general (if that makes sense).

  79. #77 I agree. My wife has recently taken to saying that the largest barrier to communication is the presumption that it has already happened.It’s basically not easy to estimate what shared understanding you have with someone. Typically the shared basis is overestimated. The more so if you only have a model of who someone is from text and have not met them.I seem to have fallen into this trap a few times recently. 

  80. Ed Forbes says:

    USC string theorist Nick Warner………http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/2012/08/14/make-us-do-the-math/……………Only authoritarian and reactionary politicians benefit from a population for whom abstractions have no meaning. Such a population will be satisfied by sound bites and flag waving and will be placated by bread and circuses while their economy is subverted and their democracy implodes. Like mechanics problems in physics, the study of algebra, and the skills it develops, are not just critical to our long-term health individually but to our survival as a society..

  81. willard says:

    Joshua,

    Thank you for your questions and for your input.

    I just skimmed the thread, and at first glance, I believe you’re doing fine. We could expect more charity from everyone, including you and me, but such is blogland.

    My overall feeling is that your interlocutors do not seem to like reading lots of words with nuances for which they see no use. This might explain why we see the usual reactionary frame against something that looks like the situation of pedagogy of mathematics. We should expect no less from our contrarian friends.

    Notwithstanding the merits of their own op-eds (I believe they do have a point) the abuses by which they were conveyed can’t be justified by your writing style. If people don’t get what you say, they can ask questions. No, I sincerely believe they are simply indulging.

    To show you’re a tough guy, you need to act like one, I suppose. Perhaps it’s a stance that leads to some success, if we’re to trust David Mamet’s movies. Perhaps it would be better to interpret such stances with six hats:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats

    Keith asked a good question elsewhere:

    > Why do people engage with those who they hold in such disdain?

    It’s a good question, if you ask me.

    No wonder, then, that listening gets tough.

  82. Joshua says:

    -MT – (# 79) – 

    The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

    That is a George Bernard Shaw quote. It is up on my refrigerator, and my girlfriend frequently finds opportunity to reference it.

    It’s basically not easy to estimate what shared understanding you have
    with someone. Typically the shared basis is overestimated. The more so if you only have a model of who someone is from text and have not met
    them.I seem to have fallen into this trap a few times recently.

    I have always found that one of the biggest obstacles in teaching is  the assumptions I make about how easily I “should” be understood. For me, teaching is very much about the process of figuring out what I’ve taken for granted about what a students understands – and to not take it personally (nor blame the student) for how I effed things up. The most striking experience I had in that regard was trying to teach English to Cambodian immigrants (in a welfare to work program) who not only didn’t have any experience with the association of segmental sounds to letters, but who had also no experience of ever being in a classroom. The entire “student sits in chair and teacher explains things” paradigm was completely foreign to them.  It was a very humbling experience because after teaching for years in a wide variety of contexts, I kept finding out just how much I (wrongly) took for granted (out of cultural conditioning) about the underlying basic structures of teaching and learning.

  83. Joshua says:

    – 78 – AA

    Yes, makes sense completely. And I had some similar reactions to the article (it is unrealistic) –  although like you, I found much to appreciate in it.

  84. Joshua says:

    – #77 – NiV –

    +1.

    I share your perspective on much of what you wrote there. I generally find that verbosity is an acceptable trade-off for clarity and explicitness – but there certainly is a very tricky point of diminishing (or negative) returns in that regard.

    I’d add two other factors. Probably the most important, it seems to me, is a lack of good faith on the part of the interlocutor. Secondly, as “they” say, some 70% of what we communicate in a face-to-face context is conveyed through body language, facial expression, etc. In addition, so much in verbal communication (say, over the phone), is communicated through word grouping, pitch (and pitch change), volume, pace, etc. I think that is why I use so many commas and parenthesis – as a way of trying to force-feed those nuances that we usually convey through easily manipulating those characteristics of speech. The conversational aspect of blog comments makes those nuances more salient, somehow, and more difficult. As obnoxious as emoticons are, if I were less embarrassed to use them it would probably help. 🙂

  85. Joshua says:

    #81 – Willard –

    Thanks. Your input helps as a touchstone.

    I’m trying to back off the tough guy posture. I’m not sure how it would help in anything other than as an immature way to protect my own ego. Protection from acting tough seems ultimately pretty pathetic to me.

  86. Marlowe Johnson says:

    very interesting comments on this thread. props allround.

    oh and joshua if you’re going to use emoticons, at least use the cool ones 🙄

    lastly, Keith, I will give you my second-born child if  you could convince your web dev guy to enable us to post gifs. ‘letters’, ‘words’ and ‘sentences’ are so 20th century….

  87. Joshua says:

    And Willard –

    Thanks for dumbing it down, bro’.

  88. Joshua says:

    Why do people engage with those who they hold in such disdain?

    It is a good question. It’s one that I’ve thought about quite a bit. And a corollary question (which I find no less interesting) is why do people engage with those who hold them in such disdain?

    I think that the psychology of addictive behavior offers a lot of insight towards answering those two questions – and insight into why that cartoon is so spot on. 

  89. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe,

    Thanks, but two is plenty for me. 

    I’m speaking with my web developer tomorrow, as it happens. Folks should take a look at this comment format. I might just go with this software, if it can meet the basic needs without all the headaches people are still having.

  90. Joshua says:

    Keith – check out the commenting interface at Little Green Footballs. Far and away the best I’ve seen. I have no idea if Charles Johnson sells his format to others, but at least there are some good ideas there to steal 🙂

  91. Joshua says:

    – 90 – You can’t see the feature until you post a comment, but there’s even a little button that you can hit that enables you to make corrections (up to 90 seconds?) after you’ve posted a comment.

  92. Tom C says:

    What a fascinating thread, Joshua. Many of us wondered about the exact nature of the broad, deep experience that rendered your contributions so superior to ours. Maybe that means that you did not do a good job conveying what those experiences were.

    Many of us (jim, Louise, Andrew, Tom, Tom C) also thought you were advocating that only children who demonstrated a love of math should have to take the subject. Again, maybe you did not make your points clear from the start.

    jim wrote a good rejoinder to the idea that seemed to be under discussion, pointing out, among other things, that being forced to do unpleasant things is often good. My kids never liked to clean their rooms, but I forced them to and I think they are the better for it.

    As for your drive-by smear that climate skeptics have antiquated ideas about education, not a single piece of evidence was advanced, as far as I can tell. Moreover, maybe jim is right that the antiquated methods were better. It is not at all clear to me that children are less innumerate than 40 years ago.

    Verbosity does not suggest clear thinking; nor is it rhetorically compelling.

  93. Tom C says:

    What a fascinating thread, Joshua. Many of us wondered about the exact nature of the broad, deep experience that rendered your contributions so superior to ours. Maybe that means that you did not do a good job conveying what those experiences were. Many of us (jim, Louise, Andrew, Tom, Tom C) also thought you were advocating that only children who demonstrated a love of math should have to take the subject. Again, maybe you did not make your points clear from the start. jim wrote a good rejoinder to the idea that seemed to be under discussion, pointing out, among other things, that being forced to do unpleasant things is often good. My kids never liked to clean their rooms, but I forced them to and I think they are the better for it. As for your drive-by smear that climate skeptics have antiquated ideas about education, not a single piece of evidence was advanced, as far as I can tell. Moreover, maybe jim is right that the antiquated methods were better. It is not at all clear to me that children are less innumerate than 40 years ago. Verbosity does not suggest clear thinking; nor is it rhetorically compelling.

  94. Tom C says:

    FYI – I hit the Submit button twice just to irk you.

  95. Nullius in Verba says:

    #88,

    “And a corollary question (which I find no less interesting) is why do people engage with those who hold them in such disdain?”

    And similarly, why do some people refuse to engage with people who they hold, or hold them in disdain? What does such a “fugitive and cloistered virtue” do for their breadth of experience?

  96. Joshua says:

    #95 –

    Yes, good point. Although there is a relevant difference between someone disagreeing with me and someone holding me (or my opinion) in contempt.

  97. willard says:

    Tom C

    For what it’s worth, here’s Joshua’s point:

    The % of high school students that will ever need those more rigorous skills is rather small. The point is to better differentiate which students need which skills, and to help them to become intrinsically motivated to master the skills they need. One size fits all is a terribly poor model for education. It breeds passivity about learning and convergent, rather than divergent, thinking. Better individualization is what would help. That may mean offering more rigorous math at the college level. Individualizing curriculum for high school students to better meet their needs and providing rigorous math education in college are far from being mutually exclusive; in fact, they would by synergistic goals.

    Now, compare with your rewording:

    [O]nly children who demonstrated a love of math should have to take the subject.

    I’m not sure how the emphasized sentence in the first quote entails the second one.

    The second quote is clearer, and yet is a caricature.

    “Love” seems to be problematic.

    Please make that what you will.

  98. PDA says:

    My apologies, Willard, if you are gardener in real life. But I’m guessing you are a Phd in something.

    QLTM at the guess and at the assumption that Ph.D.s can’t be gardeners.

    My strategy has always been to imagine that willard’s not a native English speaker. Recombombulate subjects and verbs, figure out which subject goes with which predicate, and it all scans true.

  99. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @90

    Fair enough. A wise friend of mine suggested that one should never have more children than one has hands.

    wrt to the utility and efficiency of using gifs rather than ‘words’ this one nicely summarizes many of comments that you’ll find in blogland.

  100. Marlowe Johnson says:

    if you’re a cat lover this one will do nicely as well.

  101. PDA says:

    @89: Keith, that LOOKS fine, but so does this. My only question is whether it works, and it seems impolite to use that page for a test.

     As I said, I’d gladly trade bold, italics, bullets and embedded cat GIFs for the ability to make line breaks eith the key. Others may differ.

  102. Joshua says:

    Tom C –

    Let me try your style of logic out to see how well I can pull it off:

    My kids never liked to clean their rooms, but I forced them to and I think they are the better for it.

    All kids should study algebra because you like the outcome of making your kids clean their rooms.

    How’d I do?

  103. Joshua says:

    Actually, I should have said:

    Studying algebra must be mandatory because you like the outcome of making your kids clean their room.

    Sorry for inaccurately paraphrasing your statement the first time. We all make mistakes, eh?

  104. Tom C says:

    Willard – Thanks for mining Joshua’s prodigious output and offering to help. I accept your reproach regarding the use of “love”. Unlike you, I do think, my re-wording largely captures the meaning of the sentence you bolded.

    How, in high school, do you “differentiate which students need which skills”? How can you divine their career path at this age? What this boils down to, practically, is giving a test and assuming that those who do well are going to continue “needing” math skills. jim’s point was that even if you are not good at math, and even if you will not need to use it in your career, being forced to take it develops skills of careful thought, attention to detail, etc.

    That may or may not be a good basis for education policy, but it is certainly a reasonable viewpoint. I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. But jim did not deserve the avalanche of “strawman!” “logical fallacy!” blah, blah, that Joshua provided.

    I do not fall for Joshua’s faux civility. I eagerly await his expanding on the connection between math education policy and CAGW skepticism. Until then I will consider it an unsupported smear.

  105. Tom C says:

    Joshua –  I think it is pretty clear.  Making my kids clean their rooms had derivative benefits of teaching discipline and responsibility.  Maybe making students study algebra has derivative benefits also.  I don’t know, but it is certainly a reasonable position.

  106. Joshua says:

    …and even if you will not need to use it in your career, being forced to take it develops skills of careful thought, attention to detail, etc.

    Do you have any validated evidence of this? Are are you just making an assumption in that regard? Perhaps you’re  inventing a cause and effect simply because you wish it to be so? Do you doubt that you might have developed those skills absent the study of algebra? How do you square your opinion with the reality that many students do not develop those skills as you describe despite having been forced to take algebra?

    The data supporting your belief aren’t there, my friend. I’m quite confident that if you looked into it, you’d find that to be the case. Have you looked at any evidence in this regard?Mandating algebra as an isolated entity in some fashion is not an effective way to “develop skills of careful thought, attention to detail, etc.” It certainly can offer a rich environment for the development of those skills along with many other environments. It is not uniquely suited for that purpose.

    Making my kids clean their rooms had derivative benefits of teaching discipline and responsibility. 

    Interesting. I would have guessed that more about their upbringing would have taught them that than simply making them clean up their rooms.

    So, since the goal is teaching discipline and responsibility, I guess we should make room-cleaning a mandatory curriculum along with algebra? Judging from a lot of the students I’ve worked with – it seems to me that making algebra mandatory hasn’t worked as well as we might like in that regard. Onward forcing room-cleaning in schools!!!

    Anyway, I give up Tom. You win. You’ve sussed out my faux civility to bring me to my knees.

    Uncle.

  107. Joshua says:

    And just to make it clear, that last part of room-cleaning was to mock your logic (in my faux civil manner, of course). I recognize the fallacy of such logic.

  108. Tom C says:

    Joshua -Room cleaning had derivative benefits of teaching responsibility and discipline. Apparently you do not have children. I set this forward as an example of derivative benefits.

    In the case of teaching math the derivative benefits could be attention to detail and careful thought. You elided these two in order to blur the fact that one was an example and to make the example look ridiculous. That is what sophists do.

    Regardless, I said twice that I don’t have strong opinions one way or the other, and I have not studied the issue at all. The mandotory position seems reasonable. What information I have is anecdotal and therefore not very compelling. Unlike you, I know what the word anecdotal means. Now, please elaborate on the connection between opinions on math education and CAGW skepticism.

  109. willard says:

    Tom C,

    Thank you for the kind words.

    It was no sweat, really. I simply started from the top and found the first occurence of something that would look like a point. By some strange serendipity, the quote even contains the word “point”.

    I believe Joshua is more talking about capacity or need than willingness. This point is parallel to yours, which I could summarize as no pain, no gain.

    Incidentally, this might also be true of love.

    I’m sure that Joshua agrees about that, in a way. That’s not the point of your contribution in this thread, I believe. As I read it, what you’re saying amounts to:

    (1) Joshua is a blowhard.

    (2) Joshua is full of air.

    (3) Joshua is condescending.

    (4) jim has a point.

    (5) I don’t have a strong opinion about jim’s point.

    (6) What does it have to do with the price of tea?

    I submit that your focus is on Joshua, not on pedagogy.

    And I hope you do not wonder why Joshua gets defensive.

    ***

    In any case, speaking of algebra, here’s something that might be worth investigating:

    http://dragonboxapp.com/

    Even playing games can help teach responsibility and discipline .

    BTW, you do realize that the transient father figure in your comments and jim’s has been incorporated into Conservatives’ playbook?

  110. willard says:

    & So, since the goal is teaching discipline and responsibility, I guess we should make room-cleaning a mandatory curriculum along with algebra?

    That would be a great idea. We could learn kids that all one need is water, vinegar, oil soap, sodium carbonate, and perhaps some borax.

    I remember having a mandatory cleaning chore at an invalid’s house. There, I learned to wash windows. I had to be disciplined.

    Without discipline, I would have stayed much longer.

    The same applies to everything that empower people and save money: cooking, sewing, etc. The fatherly skills are left as an exercise to jim and Tom C.

    Perhaps we should also make good manners mandatory: how to sit guests, who gets to introduce people, what is the purpose of a conversation, etc.

    Perhaps we should also transform the military service into a democratic one: by the age of 18, everyone could be enrolled into the electional process, to see how it works.

    Just a “party theory”, of course, to keep the conversation going.

  111. Joshua says:

    I remember having a mandatory cleaning chore at an invalid’s house.
    There, I learned to wash windows. I had to be disciplined.

    Here’s an interesting paradox. Although we must recognize that responsibility for a lack of discipline lies at the feet of degenerate parents, we must also mandate algebra in schools so that students can learn discipline. 

    Which leads me to think that maybe the real answer is to eliminate schools altogether, and mandate that kids learn algebra at home as they clean their rooms. Synergy! We could save on teachers’ salaries and maid salaries, and spend that money on cleaning supplies. Borax in every cupboard.

  112. Tom Scharf says:

    @72 Joshua,

    Don’t mistake me for someone who is hanging on every word you write.  When you say everything, you say nothing.  

  113. willard says:

    > When you [Joshua] say everything, you say nothing.

    See (2) above.

    > Don’t mistake me for someone who is hanging on every word you write.

    Left as an exercise for jim and Tom C.

    That ought to teach them responsible rhetoric.

  114. Tom C says:

    So Willard, Joshua – How did you guys do in math in high school?

  115. willard says:

    Not bad, Tom C, but what does it have to do with the price of tea?

  116. Tom C says:

    Willard – Not much, but I am curious whether opinions on whether math should be mandatory correlate with past performance.

  117. mt says:

    OK, I get it now. Keith is unhappy with the direction the conversation took because he is bored with climate and not so much with water policy. As Arthur points out, water policy cannot be seriously considered entirely outside the climate context, but certainly there are things that can be said about it that go outside the usual climate, ahem, narrative.

    What Keith does not let us know is what the content of such an interview would be, though. Only that it isn’t that. But, then, what?

    I am immensely interested in water policy in Texas, and fascinated by the clusterf* in the California/Arizona/Nevada region, and also by the discovery of  newfound troubles in Georgia vs Alabama and Florida in the context of the ongoing Georgia drought. Any of these could occupy my attention. But I see little to generalize about them. The issues are historical and legal and most of all parochial. The generalizations seem to me complex and not suited for a TV interview format on the general question of drought resilience of water supplies. And I don’t really know if there is any evidence that Sachs knows all that much more than I do about it, which is to say, far too little to justify a national interview.

    I also want to say that in trying to research Sach’s background in water policy I came up with this video. Now Keith is adamant that my confusion about what he means by the “deficit model” is irredeemable, that my confusion must be based in some stubbornness so deep that he refuses to try to clear it up. I find this both uncharitable and counterproductive. Usually when I am confused about something after trying for a while, I find that I have identified something that others are confused about too. If it’s important, one should keep trying to clear it up. 

    So I find it interesting to see Sachs, in this video, evincing exactly the same opinion about overcoming poverty as I say about climate. And that is exactly what I think Keith means by the “refutation of the deficit model”. Sachs claims that the key to the issue is public understanding. 

    So Keith, or somebody else who understands what Keith means, please. When Sachs says that the key is public understanding, is he evincing a “deficit model” of the sort purportedly refuted by social science? Does this differ in this regard from my saying that “the key is public understanding” with regard to climate change? 

    But maybe it’s the whole point of the refutation of the deficit model that if people don’t understand something they are irredeemable. Then the function of journalism reduces to a branch of entertainment, and all is well. So if I don’t understand sustainable development, or climate change, or the deficit model itself, all of it is a matter of indifference because it can’t possibly matter, according to the secret refutation of the deficit model. 

    If that’s right, one wonders why the enlightenment founders of the republic were so concerned with this not-yet-invented fringe entertainment industry, though, and why it deserves the existence of whole schools within major universities.

    But maybe it’s wrong. Does the refutation of the deficit model instruct those who understand it not to explain the refutation to those who don’t?

  118. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, you have a habit of putting thoughts into other people’s heads, opinions in other people’s hearts and words into other people’s mouths.

    Sadly these thoughts, opinions and words are rarely what would have been expressed by these people.

  119. mt says:

    #118 is another self-reference, Mr. Fuller. Unlike you, I am putting nothing. I am genuinely asking.

    I am asking whether I have it right, not asserting anything.

    Is Sachs advancing a deficit model? If not, why am I advancing one when I make very similar claims?What is the social science that definitively refutes me? Does it refute Sachs as well?

    These are reasonable questions. I am not passive-agressive internet age just-asking. I am asking. I don’t get it and I’d like to. Do you get it? If so, please explain. If not, please leave me alone. 

    Do you really think you added any value to the conversation in #118? Just asking.

  120. Tom Fuller says:

    That would depend on what you meant in 117, wouldn’t it? Do you really think Keith is bored with climate or are you being snide? Do you think Keith considers himself an entertainer or are you just upset that he stubbornly continues to cover and criticize both sides of the climate issue?

    When you make blanket statements that seem to be categorical in error, do you think it is wrong to point that out? It certainly seems to be a tactic you practice yourself. Do you think it adds to the discussion?

    From my point of view you said several pretty stupid things in #117. I don’t think it harms the discussion to point that out.

  121. Do you really think Keith is bored with climate or are you being snide? 

    I never said Keith is bored with climate! 

    I said he is bored with trying to explain the “deficit model” business to me. He has said pretty much that. But I still want to know what he means by it. So I am asking whether Sachs is acting against the research when he suggests that public understanding is the key to the international development issue. 

    “Do you think Keith considers himself an entertainer?” No, but I don’t understand where “refutation of the deficit model” leaves serious journalism.

    “are you just upset that he stubbornly continues to cover and criticize both sides of the climate issue?”

    Sort of. I don’t think “sides” is a useful model at all. 

    So yes, it upsets me when he defines two intransigent “sides” and parks himself in the middle. 

    I believe that is a very simplistic model of what is actually happening. I think it’s lazy. I think it plays into the hands of the very people he likes to criticize at the expense of those who want to engage. I think he can do better. 

    I also think this it is symptomatic of what is wrong with the American journalistic culture. We need a segment of journalism that sees beyond the tiresome two-party model of the world and beyond what is happening this week.

    When you make blanket statements that seem to be categorical in error, do you think it is wrong to point that out? 

    Certainly it is potentially the case that I overstated something. I have been known to get things wrong and have even been known to back down and occasionally apologize. 

    However I respectfully disagree with you on all instances you have brought up in #120. All appear to misunderstand my points.

    To the issue of whether #118 was even potentially constructive, you didn’t say what the points of contention were until #120! Had you gone directly to #120, better yet something like #120 politely leaving open the possibility that you might be misunderstanding my intent, it might even have counted as helpful. Maybe.

    That said, you’ve successfully buried the lede. Hang on while I dig it up again. Anyone care to take up #117?

  122. Nullius in Verba says:

    #117,

    Did you mean to put that comment on this thread? I didn’t see how it follows from what goes before.

    I don’t remember exactly what your previous discussions with Keith on the deficit model were about, but I got the impression that Keith was not saying that you didn’t understand it, but that you fundamentally disagreed on the role of journalism in addressing it and it wasn’t the sort of disagreement that could be resolved by more discussion.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Keith that the deficit model is wrong, and I agree with you that journalists in general don’t do a very good job of handling it.

    The deficit model is based on the intuition people have that because they personally found a presentation on the science convincing, that if everybody else got the same presentation that they would and must find it convincing too. Thus, if there are people walking around who are not convinced, it must be because they haven’t had the truth explained to them properly yet. (Or failing that, they must be irrational or malign in some way.)

    And where this view comes into conflict with journalists is when journalists don’t take sides, asserting the truth and debunking the false as determined by their convictions. Journalists instead often present conflicting views as if they were somehow equally legitimate, giving the reader no clear steer as to what they should believe.

    Unfortunately, the deficit model is incorrect. This is shown by the number of people who have seen the same presentation and come to different conclusions; who do know a fair amount about the science and are yet unconvinced, and can even give detailed and plausible sounding reasons why. Merely asserting the ‘correct’ conclusions just bounces off, and trying to explain the science leads into an extended and heated technical discussion of point and counterpoint that most onlookers get bored with (or confused and lost) long before it concludes anything.

    The vast majority of people don’t form their views about scientific issues by understanding the science anyway – on either side of the debate. And those people who do differ markedly in what sorts of evidence they find convincing. The convinced of both sides are uncomprehending of how anyone could rationally disagree with them, and annoyed with the communicators for not presenting it right so they don’t.

    Journalists know that people hold many different views, and that it is not their job to adjudicate. They have no right to decide the truth for other people – that way lies trouble. It’s also not good business – they sell their wares to people of all opinions. And it doesn’t work anyway – if they take sides, they just get a reputation as an unreliable partisan and rejected by those not on the same side. That’s an over-generalisation – some journalists do make a good living by specialising in a particular market niche, playing to the prejudices of a particular audience – but it’s something journalists accept as an ideal of good journalism.

    The job of the journalist is to do the research that their readers don’t have the time or energy for, and present it in an easily digestible form. It’s not to draw a conclusion from it. If I’m interested in something, I can go out on the internet and to the library, gather data, check references, check for opposing views and contrary arguments, see if claims have been debunked previously, and assess them for validity, and so on. But it’s a lot of work, and I’m maybe not that interested. But if enough people are mildly interested, they can employ one person to do the work, and share the cost. That’s a journalist.

    But I don’t want the journalist doing the research and just telling me the answer, because I don’t get any real understanding or assurance from that. I want the research doing for me, but I will form my own opinions based on the collated evidence. I don’t want a journalist who takes sides, or presents only the evidence in support of their favoured position (or even mine). I want to know what the best arguments are on all sides so I can decide for myself.

    Some journalists are pretty bad at that – regurgitating press releases and advocacy, asserting their own personal opinion without any balanced look at the arguments. But the ideal of the impartial journalist giving the reader all sides of the debate is still there.

  123. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, Your contributions in a nutshell:

    #117: Keith is unhappy with the direction the conversation took because he is bored with climate and not so much with water policy.

    #121: I never said Keith is bored with climate! 

  124. Tom Fuller says:

    #121: Dr. Tobis, if you don’t believe ‘sides’ is a good way of looking at this, why do you work so hard to perpetuate an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ point of view?

    You describe and name your ‘enemies of the people.’ You call them ‘forces of evil’ and suchlike. You called Lucia a force for evil and she knits and composes haiku, fer gawdsakes.

    I submit that you have done as much to create the environment within which this debate is occurring as any other human being you could name. If you don’t at this point in time think this environment is conducive to a useful exchange of information or winning your political battles or both, I suggest you take to heart the phrase, ‘change begins with me.’

  125. #123 d’oh! Me wrong. Oops. Point for Tom Fuller.

    #125 just because there is an identifiable group that I would claim has behaved unethically in the past doesn’t mean it follows that there are two groups. I’ve already made a case for ten camps and I now think that’s a severe underestimate.

  126. Tom Fuller says:

    Then why do you treat everyone who is not in your camp as one lumpen mass of untermenschen?

  127. #122″The job of the journalist is to do the research that their readers don’t have the time or energy for, and present it in an easily digestible form. It’s not to draw a conclusion from it.”

    Deciding what to include and what to exclude is always a judgment. Value free reporting does not exist. This is a sort of middling-deep observation, not all that difficult to grasp, and journalists are clever people. So most journalists have at least thought about this and understand it. Acting as if it were otherwise is something of a pose.

    “I don’t want a journalist who takes sides, or presents only the evidence in support of their favoured position (or even mine). I want to know what the best arguments are on all sides so I can decide for myself.”So given the British spelling of “favoured”, you are not an American? Strange, my gripe is very specifically about US journalists. I do not believe any of this applies in the UK. I don’t think the British press operates in the way I am complaining about.”But the ideal of the impartial journalist giving the reader all sides of the debate is still there.”That works if there are shared values and mutual respect among participants in a real debate. On the other hand, if there is gross and systematic dishonesty it is the traditional job of the press to ferret it out and let us know about it rather than include it as a legitimate option.

    And they won’t. Why? Because it ‘feels too partisan for the officially unaligned. Exposes the press to criticism in too clear a fashion. Messes with the “both sides do it”/”we’re impartial” narrative that political journalists have mastered and deeply believe in.’ in Jay Rosen’s words.

  128. Tom Fuller says:

    The real reason I left Examiner.com was because I was becoming an advocate for the Lukewarmer position. I felt it was appropriate to take independent status so I could express my opinions freely without worrying about its effects on Examiner or my role there.

    I don’t think you get it Dr. Tobis. I don’t think you understand the role of journalism. I don’t think you understand that Dave Roberts is as bad as George Will, or that Joe Romm is as destructive a force as Monckton.

  129. Keith Kloor says:

    Tom (129):
    Hang on a second. I wouldn’t confuse any of those people you cited as journalists–in the traditional sense. They are part the commentariat (although I’m not sure what Monckton is–maybe a traveling clown act?).

    Michael (128):
    “if there is gross and systematic dishonesty it is the traditional job of the press to ferret it out and let us know about it rather than include it as a legitimate option.”

    Yup, that is certainly one of the jobs. No argument there. But be careful what you wish for. 

  130. Nullius in Verba says:

    #128,

    “Acting as if it were otherwise is something of a pose.”

    Possibly that wasn’t clear. I was thinking about the phrase: “the key complaint about the press is its refusal to evaluate factual claims”. It depends what you mean by “evaluate”. If you mean present the arguments for and against, I’d agree. If you mean decide whether it’s true or not and tell the reader what they ought to believe, which is what I thought you meant, then I’m disagreeing.

    That applies to sceptic journalists, too.

    “So given the British spelling of “favoured”, you are not an American?”

    No, I’m not.

    “Strange, my gripe is very specifically about US journalists. I do not believe any of this applies in the UK. I don’t think the British press operates in the way I am complaining about.”

    Sorry, I missed the bit where you said that. But I’ve not noticed any particular differences between British and American press in this regard, to the extent that I’m aware of the American press. Perhaps you had some examples in mind?

    “That works if there are shared values and mutual respect among participants in a real debate. On the other hand, if there is gross and systematic dishonesty it is the traditional job of the press to ferret it out and let us know about it rather than include it as a legitimate option.”

    It’s precisely the case of dishonesty where journalistic impartiality and presenting all sides is most important. Cases of dishonesty are usually disputed. One side asserts dishonesty and makes accusations, while the other protests their innocence and tries to explain how evidence was misunderstood, taken out of context, etc.

    It’s usually not a black and white issue, and people with differing values will often make different trade-offs; accept or reject different excuses and mitigating circumstances and plausible explanations. But the reader can do that part for themselves – what they can’t usually do is get hold of all the facts.

    The role of the journalist is thus to gather the facts, the accusations, the explanations for what is often a very convoluted story and make it comprehensible. The ‘prosecution’ and the ‘defence’ both get their say. And if the facts of the case are such that it is obvious who is in the right, that will come out.

    On the other hand, if it’s obvious that the journalist has carefully presented only one side of the story, having come to a verdict themselves, it renders anyone who believes them vulnerable in debate to those with a more complete knowledge of the facts.

    As J S Mill said: “If the cultivation of the understanding consists in one thing more than in another, it is surely in learning the grounds of one’s own opinions. Whatever people believe, on subjects on which it is of the first importance to believe rightly, they ought to be able to defend against at least the common objections.” The whole chapter is worth re-reading – it answers a lot of the issues this discussion raises.

  131. Tom Fuller says:

    When we wrote the book on Climategate, I at least approached it as a journalist. I tried to get facts and to put both sides forward. 

    A lot of skeptics weren’t pleased about that. Of course, nobody on the other side of the fence even read it.

    Keith, my opinion is that the definitions of both journalist and journalism have changed. By my definition, Romm is a journalist. So is Tobis.

    What they do is different from what other web content providers do. Their content is different. It isn’t what you would find in a newspaper. But it isn’t very different from what you would find in Rolling Stone or Mother Jones. And maybe not everybody who writes for those two magazines are journalists. But journalists write for them.

  132. mt says:

    ” But be careful what you wish for. “

    Why? I don’t wish for dishonesty under any circumstances by any party.

    You mistake me for a partisan because I have an opinion. But that is exactly the problem I am complaining about!

    The balance of evidence has no party. I’d love it if the evidence went the other way! Journalists mistake scientists explaining their expertise with partisans advancing a program. But the science doesn’t exist in order to support any program. To the extent that it really is science, it just says what it says.

    This means that the extent to which what claims to be science really is science is the responsibility of the press to investigate and report. Please do so, and please do it right.

    Truth has no party. Untruth has no equal rights.

    Moynihan’s rule is crucial. Report competing opinions fairly by all means, but please do not report untruths as alternative facts. I know that’s not easy. But that is your job.

  133. Tom Fuller says:

    Who specifically is doing that? Reporting untruths as alternative facts? 

  134. Tom C says:

    Keith – George Will is not a journalist?  Sometimes you seem pretty open minded but that strikes me as a reactionary leftist sort of statement.  Whether you agree with him or not, he is a pretty solid journalist.

  135. Keith Kloor says:

     Michael (133) 

    You are an awesome generalizer. I also wish I could understand what you are complaining about. Perhaps instead of being didactic, you should show me some relevant examples that typify where the press is reporting untruths about climate change.

    I mean, you make it sound like it’s epidemic, so it should be easy to pull out a few examples where a mainstream climate reporter made a botch of the truth.

  136. Tom Fuller says:

    That’s why I came up with bloggers up above, because I don’t know of any mainstream reporters who have screwed the pooch in the other direction. I think quite a few have been a bit complaisant and complacent about accepting the consensus story too easily and at face value. But Dr. Tobis should be mightily pleased with the performance of the mainstream media on climate.

  137. Keith Kloor says:

    TomC (135)

    George Will has always struck me as one of those public intellectuals who writes an opinion column. I’m not passing judgment on his politics.

    But I recognize that the definition of a journalist would include Will and others that write commentary.

  138. Nullius in Verba says:

    #133,

    “I don’t wish for dishonesty under any circumstances by any party.”

    Me neither.

    “You mistake me for a partisan because I have an opinion.”

    I am regarded as a partisan (and I tend to agree) because I have the opposite opinion. That’s the problem. The extent to which what claims to be science really is science is exactly what is disputed, and opinions differ. People differ on how they define “science”, how far you can bend purity of principle when trying to do it practically in the real world, how much care and validation is necessary, how much approximation and assumption is tolerable, and on the content itself.

    Generally, not even scientists can safely pronounce on such matters, and journalists just dipping into the topic certainly can’t. The best that can be done is to try to explain what the dispute is about, and what the issues are. If a media-level summary of the arguments is sufficient to draw a conclusion from, then good. If it isn’t, it’s extremely dangerous to have the journalist be more definitive than they’re really confident with on the subject. If it can’t be properly explained at an ‘everyday’ level, then it is better to conclude that you don’t know. That’s the truth, and a more accurate summary of the situation.

  139. mt says:

    #139 that’s all fair as far as it goes. People should not pretend to know more than they do. True.

    But that only means that the wrong reporter is on the beat. You wouldn’t put me on the sports beat. I’m not interested, I have no context, and I have only a crude understanding of the games. Why do people with no understanding of science report on science related issues? It’s like asking me to report on baseball.

    Somehow society has to be able to learn from evidence. In the past it was a luxury but in a crowded and complex world it becomes necessary. 

    Sufficient familiarity with the domain may be necessary in order to convey matters with appropriate balance and nuance

    The picture coming from the scientific community is not coming from motivated parties. Despite the mythological constructions of our enemies, the climatological community does not like politics, does not benefit from controversy, would be far better off without this problem and did not have the skills to willfully create it. 

    We are, though, faced with an unfortunate ethical obligation to communicate it. It turned out in practice to be drastically more difficult than expected. An amazing number of obstacles that seem to arise to make sure that by the time it gets to the public eye, it is muddled, misrepresented, maligned and misconstrued. The fact that enormous private financial interests are at stake might be coincidental but one can be forgiven for suspecting otherwise.

    In a more competent world, the press would understand that this is really a story about willful obfuscation and cynical manipulation of the public’s perspective. But it would not just violate the press’s principle of studied neutrality and the press’s posture of perfect neutrality. The most salient single fact of the global warming controversy is that the press can be manipulated by a few bad actors, and the various pedants, paranoids, extremists and crackpots they attract in their wake. To acknowledge this would make the press part of the story. And the biggest rule of the view from nowhere is that no matter what, the press must believe and claim that the press is not part of the story.

    At this point, we have to be ready to give up on the press altogether and tell our own story. Yes, there are a couple of Justin Gillises and Elizabeth Colberts who actually tell the real, interesting, fascinating, terrifying story in rich detail without being distracted by charlatans. Just the two of them represent a huge improvement over a few years back. But they are outliers in a sea of mediocrity and compulsive difference-splitting.

    So, much as Jay Rosen dislikes the ideas of bloggers replacing professionals, in science-related fields it makes perfect sense. We scientists should just be telling our own story. It’s easier to teach a scientist to write than to teach a writer to think like a scientist. The press has done enough damage. Call me a replacenik.

    See you guys later, then. You know where to find me.

  140. Louise says:

    Excellent blog post that discusses why all children should be taught maths http://climatechangefork.blog.brooklyn.edu/2012/08/06/is-algebra-necessary-yes-it-is/

  141. Keith Kloor says:

     Michael (140)

    That’s a wonderful soliloquy. You have a talent for them. I’ve heard many other wonderful variations of this one in the last three years. They have often come in response to requests from persons such as myself or John Fleck to back up your sweeping analysis.

    So this is by now a very old routine. 

    I asked you a very specific question in #136: “…Show me some relevant examples that typify where [how] the press is reporting untruths about climate change…it should be easy to pull out a few examples where a mainstream climate reporter made a botch of the truth.”

    You cited two journalists that meet your standards. 

    But there are other longtime environmental/science reporters that cover climate change as part of their beat. They work at Time, Newsweek, The Economist, Greenwire, the Washington Post, Guardian, the AP, etc.

    Their coverage of climate change is abundant. Please feel free to draw from any of these sources.

    Or maybe it’s just easier to launch into another generalized soliloquy…

     

  142. Nullius in Verba says:

    #141,

    Is it?

    While I’d tend to agree that the NYT op-ed it discusses is problematic, I didn’t think the discussion was very insightful.

    Prof. Hacker is raising the point that a lot of the algebra taught genuinely is not needed for most of the things people do in their adult lives. Tomkiewicz uses as counter-examples the use of exponentials for projecting population and economic growth, plotting graphs, unit conversions and percentage calculations.

    Problem is, you can in fact plot graphs, do unit conversions, and perform percentage calculations without algebra, although I would agree it may be difficult to understand the reasons for the rote rules for percentages without it.

    Projecting growth using exponentials does require rearranging simple one-variable equations – but that’s a long way from the full extent of algebra. (And is in any case a potentially misleading thing to do, since growth is rarely exponential for very long.)

    So there’s nothing in this argument that says you couldn’t cut algebra back to just those bits people need. He’s still arguing in terms of the minimum people need to know to operate in society, and the argument of the don’t-teach-math group has always been that much of what is taught is not useful for that. They’d just say, ‘we’re not proposing to cut those bits’.

    The reasons for teaching/learning mathematics go far beyond simple everyday utility, and the big question is not whether it is worth teaching but why do students find it so difficult? Is it because some people are simply inherently not capable, or is it because it is being taught badly?

    Teaching professionals, obviously, are not keen on saying it’s being taught badly, so they look for other explanations and solutions.

    I don’t know for sure, but I feel Feynman’s experience with the teaching industry might give some insight.

  143. Louise says:

    The BBC got the ‘Rice Yeilds fall’ completely wrong although did correct this when it was pointed out to them (see very bottom of link)http://climatechangefork.blog.brooklyn.edu/2012/08/06/is-algebra-necessary-yes-it-is/

    They initially reported that rice yeilds were falling when the science said that the growth in rice yeilds is falling

  144. Louise says:

    Sorry – last link repeated, here is correct BBC one

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10918591

  145. Nullius in Verba says:

    #145,

    That’s not the only problem with the article. Black says “Scientists found that over the last 25 years, the growth in yields has fallen by 10-20% in some locations, as night-time temperatures have risen.” But the study only looked at records between 2 and 6 years in length. The 25 years number comes from the fact that for at least part of the study they didn’t compare yields against temperature trends at the actual survey sites, since the actual records were too short and noisy to identify a trend, but instead used 25 years of global data from a much wider area (the 5×5 degree NCDC gridcell, about 500 km across) to compute the trend.

    While temperature changes may have had an effect, the biggest effects were the economic factors – farm size, market price, and workers wages. These determine the techniques that can be used to increase yields, and given that average yields varied from 5.0 tons/hectare in Vietnam to 6.3 tons/hectare in China, there’s evidently still a lot of mileage in improving methods.

    Which of course is the main point. Advancing technology and cheap energy will allow yields to expand much faster than climate change can reduce them (if it does), farmers will not sit still if they see yields dropping, but will adapt by using different crop varieties and methods, and in the future we will have more food and less poverty, with people freed up from having to work the land by automation.

    As the IPCC SRES predicts: “The A1 storyline is a case of rapid and successful economic development, in which regional average income per capita converge ““ current distinctions between “poor” and “rich” countries eventually dissolve.” Doesn’t that sound like the sort of future we want?

  146. Tom Fuller says:

    Sorry, Louise–that can’t be faulty environmental/climate change reporting. It’s Richard Black.

  147. Keith, asking me to “typify where the press is reporting untruths about climate change” is pretty obtuse. I don’t think the press habitually reports untruths. I think the press habitually misses the story. I think the press reports the truths that fit in with its preconceptions, including the absurd attachment to moral equivalence on both sides of any given controversy. It waters down strong cases and props up weak ones in service of this neutrality. It’s chief weapon is to leave everything inconvenient to its own narrative out.

    That’s hard to prove with a single article.

    Consider how few people understood the role of Heartland prior to Gleick’s self-immolation and Bast’s subsequent over-reach. It shouldn’t take extreme events like that to get the real dramatis personae onto the stage. Heartland should have been news for a decade before that. And the whole politics by 501c3 scene, which is frankly a subversion of public-spirited laws by the 1% and arguably illicit, should have opened up for public discussion at that point. This is where the old muckraking press could really strut its stuff. And what do we get?

    Babkes is how I’d spell it, but maybe it’s bupkis. Not a hell of a lot, anyway.

  148. Tom Fuller says:

    Heartland should have been news for a decade? For what? And what do 501c3 organizations have to do with climate change? How many hats do you think reporters should wear? You’re the one asking for competence and subject matter expertise…

    You’re not even making a serious argument. Bupkes is maybe a subject on which you are a bit too expert.

  149. “what do 501c3 organizations have to do with climate change?”Exactly. That is a good question. Is Heartland unique in this regard or is there a whole slew of comparable organizations injecting comparable misinformation into various public debates? Isn’t that exactly the sort of investigation we have a free press for? 

  150. Tom Fuller says:

    Is that what you want a climate science beat reporter to focus on? Seriously?

  151. BBD says:

    Tom

    Is that what you want a climate science beat reporter to focus on? Seriously?

    mt said ‘a free press’ 😉

    I bet if I say ‘Oreskes & Conway’ you will get upset 😉

  152. Keith: “typify where the press is reporting untruths about climate change“ 

    me: No untruths, simply crucial omissions about climate change. What about Heartland and similar?

    Tom: “Is that what you want a climate science beat reporter to focus on?”

    me: Hmm. How did the word “science” find its way in there?

    To the question, no. No, I don’t want Gillis wasting his talents on this subject, or me either. But it’s deflecting my point, almost as if you were more interesting in defeating or embarassing me than in understanding what I am saying on this particular occasion. I don’t see why I’m so especially important that Fuller thinks everything I say needs to be disproven. It’s kind of tedious, honestly.

    To amplify my point, I don’t see why Peter Gleick should have had to resort to such extreme measures to get this horrible situation on the public radar for even a minute.

    This matter is clearly the job of the press and well within its supposed core competencies and traditions. It requires no particular subtlety about scientific minutiae. And yet we get nothing from the conventional press at all, except what leaks through the tut-tutting about Gleick’s transgressions.

    That even that was enough to severely damage Heartland shows that the public is not indifferent to being manipulated. That means there was always a story there. Is the story over then? Hell no. For instance, last time I looked Morano was still hard at work at his calling of making sure we cook ourselves crispy. That’s not especially subtle or obscure. Who pays him? Why?

  153. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, I’d be happy to acknowledge it if you got something right. It’s a real pity that after three years I must ask you to take that statement on faith.

  154. Tom Fuller says:

    Your entire comment at #153 is symptomatic of your inability to be correct about… well, anything.You hale after Keith in comment after comment about how bad a job the press is doing on climate change. Then, when pressed, you say they are not reporting on… omissions. In other words, reporters of news are failing to report things that are not news. You then wonder why I would assume a science reporter would be reporting on climate change… before agreeing on the absurdity of a science reporter reporting on the tax status of charitable foundations. But for some reason you think I’m trying to deflect something, you never explain what, or defeating or embarrassing you. I don’t need to do that, Dr. Tobis. You do it yourself.You then commence a rather hilarious rant. You ask why Peter Gleick should have had to resort to theft and forgery to get this on the public radar. Dr. Tobis–it didn’t. It got theft and forgery on the public radar. And, contrary to your assertion, that didn’t severely damage Heartland. What damaged Heartland was their decision on what to put on their billboard.As for Morano, if you can’t find out who’s funding him in five minutes, I’m canceling your subscription to the internet.Your post #153 should be bronzed and put in the public square as an example of how many ways you can be wrong. You are a credit to your political position, Dr. Tobis, long may you inveigh against the forces of evil.

  155. Tom Fuller says:

    Formatted:Your entire comment at #153 is symptomatic of your inability to be correct about”¦ well, anything.

    You hale after Keith in comment after comment about how bad a job the press is doing on climate change. Then, when pressed, you say they are not reporting on”¦ omissions. In other words, reporters of news are failing to report things that are not news. 

    You then wonder why I would assume a science reporter would be reporting on climate change”¦ before agreeing on the absurdity of a science reporter reporting on the tax status of charitable foundations. But for some reason you think I’m trying to deflect something, you never explain what, or defeating or embarrassing you. 

    I don’t need to do that, Dr. Tobis. You do it yourself.

    You then commence a rather hilarious rant. You ask why Peter Gleick should have had to resort to theft and forgery to get this on the public radar. Dr. Tobis”“it didn’t. It got theft and forgery on the public radar. 

    And, contrary to your assertion, that didn’t severely damage Heartland. What damaged Heartland was their decision on what to put on their billboard.

    As for Morano, if you can’t find out who’s funding him in five minutes, I’m canceling your subscription to the internet.

    Your post #153 should be bronzed and put in the public square as an example of how many ways you can be wrong. You are a credit to your political position, Dr. Tobis, long may you inveigh against the forces of evil. 

  156. Keith Kloor says:

    Michael,

    I can’t follow your logic. A few days ago, you paint with a broad brush, waxing on in hundreds and hundreds of words about the lousy job the climate media is doing.   You don’t say how, or give any examples. Just a lot of hand waving.

    I ask you a few times to show me some typical examples of what you mean. Now you say you can’t, but you mutter offhandedly about the role of 501c 3 organizations and the Heartland Institute. Are you serious? Do you not see how skewed your perspective is? As if the climate reporting–on the whole– by BBC, AP, Reuters, Guardian, NYT, WaPo, LA Times, et al was influenced by Heartland and similar other types of groups? The importance you assign to Heartland and dismissives is way, way out of proportion to their influence, which is marginal, at best. It’s like you’re fighting with shadows.

    This kind of tunnel vision is exactly what led Gleick to lose his bearings. After that unfortunate incident came to light, I thought that his colleagues in the climate community shared some of the responsibility, because the warning signs were there and they should have done an intervention.

    I don’t think it’s possible for you to see how skewed your take is on the media. But if your friends and allies were smart, they would try to talk some sense into you. Unless they think there is some value to your endless and substance-free carping about the media. 

  157. Marlowe Johnson says:

    I don’t think it’s possible for you to see how skewed your take is on the media climate change politics. But if your friends and allies were smart, they would try to talk some sense into you. Unless they think there is some value to your endless and substance-free carping about the media bloviating about tribalism and climate change. 

    Yup, sounds about right.

  158. Keith Kloor says:

     Marlowe.

    Nice to see you’re having fun! But remember: Friends don’t let friends go off into never-never land. Your interests are not served by unnecessary misdirection, and that is what Michael’s flowery bloviating on the media amounts to. 

    But in lieu of progress, I suppose scapegoats are necessary.

  159. willard says:

    Keith,

    Would you care to comment the link provided in #128? Here it is:

    http://pressthink.org/2012/07/if-mitt-romney-were-running-a-post-truth-campaign-would-the-political-press-report-it/

    A part of climate science journalism should be taken as a subclass of political journalism, as the example of the 501c3 question, which I note you do not seem to seriously consider.

    I am asking because I think the 501c3 is more serious and important than your weekly encounter with MT.

    Please mind our endearing Groundskeeper Willie.

  160. mt says:

    “I’d be happy to acknowledge it if you got something right. It’s a real pity that after three years I must ask you to take that statement on faith.”

    Well, I’ve said on multiple occasions over the past three years that Tom Fuller means well. Should I consider myself corrected on that matter as well? (grin)

  161. Keith Kloor says:

    Willard,

    Show me some typical examples where the media gets snookered  by 501c3’s (such as Heartland) and misreports climate change. Michael can’t seem to come up with specific examples that illustrate this great flaw of climate reporters. Maybe you can do better than echoing his generality and referencing Jay Rosen.

  162. willard says:

    Keith,

    I’m not sure why I should be burdened with such a task. In any case, MT already told you that

    I don’t think the press habitually reports untruths. I think the press habitually misses the story.

    Thus I’m not even sure how asking for an example of the press “being snookered” would confirm the fact that the press “misses the story”.

    Nor do I believe I can understand this:

    Now you say you can’t, but you mutter offhandedly about the role of 501c 3 organizations and the Heartland Institute. Are you serious? Do you not see how skewed your perspective is? As if the climate reporting”“on the whole”“ by BBC, AP, Reuters, Guardian, NYT, WaPo, LA Times, et al was influenced by Heartland and similar other types of groups?

    unless the word “Gleick” pushed some button in you.

    Do we need a conspiracy between think thanks and media outlets to claim that journalists “are missing the story”?

    Oh, and speaking of friends, in the comments thread:

    http://planet3.org/2012/08/07/wherein-our-hero-slips-into-social-science-denial/

    I believe that Jonathan Gilligan and Dan Thompson did not have to allude to never never land to put forward their criticisms.

  163. Keith Kloor says:

    Willard,

    I don’t why I have to be burdened responding to you, but tonight is your lucky night. 

    What are you talking about? Can you please, for the love of God, stop trying to be so clever, and just make your point as lucidly as possible?

    So let’s start over and stay with this, via Michael: 

    I think the press habitually misses the story.”

    I don’t believe it’s missing the story the way Michael thinks it does (and apparently you agree with him).

    So assuming you agree with Michael (and anybody else that agrees with Michael: How is the press missing the story? That’s all I’ve been asking.

    I could tell you in a heartbeat what the main story of climate change is–as its been conveyed by the media over the last decade. I could give you typical examples of this in seconds. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll put them up in a fresh post for you. But first, tell me, Willard, Michael et al: How has the press habitually missed the story?

  164. Matt B says:

    From MT 140: But that only means that the wrong reporter is on the beat. You
    wouldn’t put me on the sports beat. I’m not interested, I have no
    context, and I have only a crude understanding of the games. Why do
    people with no understanding of science report on science related
    issues? It’s like asking me to report on baseball.
    I think MT nails it, and not just from the climate brouhaha perspective but journalism for all sciences. Science journalism is run by journalists that are on the science beat, not scientists on the journalism beat. Revkin has an undergrad degree in biology (better than nothing) but what about the rest? Seth Borenstein? Richard Black? How do they know when a skilled scientist/promoter is pushing an agenda or not? It isn’t easy to spot a skilled scientific charlatan, even in your field; usually many hands need to be dealt before you confidently know someone is counting cards. To MT’s point about the silliness of “asking me (MT) to report on baseball”; would MT get away with reporting on baseball? The answer is no, even though MT is a clever guy. Why would he fail? Because the baseball-story audience has a high enough % of people who are interested in baseball and track the happenings in baseball. They know the rules of the game, they probably played the game once upon a time, they know some of the history of the game, they know the great successes & great scandals, and they know game’s unpredictability. Do they have a deep understanding of baseball? Many times not. But, they know enough that they will immediately detect from MT that he has ” no
    context, and…….only a crude understanding of the games.
    Science journalism is bad because the audience has no context, and only a crude understanding of the game. Until the audience demands better, there’s no compelling reason for science journalism to improve.

  165. willard says:

    Keith,

    To answer your question: I don’t have any opinion about “the press misses the story”. I do believe that MT can have his idealistic moments, that Groundskeeper Willie is a serial misrepresenter and that you and MT shares a story of tough love, which is understandable considering that MT’s criticism is towards journalism.

    Standing that aside, I would note that your caricatures of his position is not much better than his glorification of G.

    Perhaps one day you’ll understand that I express myself the way I do because, well, that’s the way I do.

  166. Keith Kloor says:

    Okay, Willard. Duly noted that you’re taking a flyer on Michael’s big beef. Anybody else game?

    The question stands unanswered: How is the press missing the story?

  167. Marlowe Johnson says:

     How is the press missing the story?  since you asked…

    on our current path we are in for a shit storm of epic (that one is for you Joshua) proportion. this is the CONSENSUS position. Do you think that the American public truly grasps this Keith? Michael’s contention (I think) is that the press — writ large — is largely responsible for the fact that the U.S. electorate (both dems and republicans) DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE MAGNITUDE OF THE DANGER THAT BUSINESS AS USUAL poses to human civilization as we know it.

    Keith, your ploy of alluding to the ‘climate press’ and asking for evidence looks like an artful doge, and frankly, misses the larger point that Michael is making. this isn’t about your reporting skills of a particular report, be it Revkin, or Justin Gillis, etc. He’s making a systemic critique that you refuse to engage in good faith. From where I sit, it looks like you’re personalizing arguments that you aren’t prepared to confront head on.

    p.p.s. apologies to all for the liberal use of caps but Keith is being a fucktard.

    p.p.s Keith, just because I disagree with you, doesn’t mean that I don’t value the time and effort that you put into this blog FWIW.

  168. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe,

    Thanks, we’re finally, torturously, getting somewhere:

    “Michael’s contention (I think) is that the press “” writ large “” is largely responsible for the fact that the U.S. electorate (both dems and republicans) DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE MAGNITUDE OF THE DANGER THAT BUSINESS AS USUAL poses to human civilization as we know it.”

    Can you clarify this just a bit more? Do you mean that the U.S. electorate does not understand the threat of man-made climate change? That the press has not adequately conveyed this? Because I’m not sure what you mean by “business as usual.”

    You mean if we do not de-carbonize the global economy by transitioning off of fossil fuels?

    And this might be too much to ask: But is it possible I could get an example of a mainstream climate story that typifies how the press is failing to convey  the “magnitude of the danger?”

    Assertion alone won’t cut it for me.



  169. Tom Fuller says:

    Just because Dr. Tobis prays at the Church of Perpetual Error does not mean we need to indulge this particular whine, which he has been keening about for at least two years.

    At the end of the day his complaint is that journalists don’t take his direction in reporting on the political struggle around global warming.

    We see by his refusal to be specific that he has no grounds for complaint on how the basic elements of the story are being reported and that the details that really gripe him are so trivial and so disputed that it would make him look ridiculous to utter them.

    He has been gaming the ref for two years. Dr. Tobis–put up or shut up, I beseech thee from the Boolean Bowels of Beelzebub–consider that thou might be wrong!

  170. Tom Fuller says:

    Sun’s over the yardarm.

  171. Tom Fuller says:

    From the von Storch survey of 379 published climate scientists: The survey’s question read, “Some scientists present extreme accounts of catastrophic impacts related to climate change in a popular format with the claim that it is their task to alert the public. How much do you agree with this practice?”Less than 5% agreed strongly or very strongly with this practice. Actually 56% disagreed strongly or very strongly. Joe Romm, Tim Lambert, Michael Tobis”“are you listening? The scientists don’t like what you are doing.

  172. Tom Fuller says:

    #168, multiple citations needed.

  173. Keith Kloor says:

     Tom (170)

    I’m indulging it because Michael is by no means an outlier in his assessment of mainstream climate coverage. He (and Romm, for example) have just been out front with this particular complaint. It’s become the press is a failure meme. 

    I’m indulging it because it bears no relation to the actual truth (what an irony, since Michael likes to talk about the truth).

    I’m indulging it because this blog has enough readers (and commenters) who are just as concerned about climate change as Michael and Marlowe. I’m sure they have their own ideas of where the press fits into the whole blame equation. So the question stands for them, too. 

  174. Tom Fuller says:

    fine, Keith. I’ll pile on, then.

    I don’t see this reported in the mainstream media–and certainly not mentioned by Dr. Tobis or Joe Romm. It also comes from the von Storch survey of accredited, published climate scientists who support the IPCC and strongly believe that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 have contributed to climate change:

    …only 32% agreed or strongly agreed that the current state of scientific knowledge is developed well enough to allow for a reasonable assessment of the effects of greenhouse gases emitted from anthropogenic sources. 

    You limeseam, umm, manyseam, umm, whatever burnalists, umm, kernelists have a lot to answer for!

  175. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Do you mean that the U.S. electorate does not understand the threat of man-made climate change?  

    Absolutely.wrt to BAU (Business As Usual) consider McKibenn’s recent observation that there are more than $20 TRILLION worth of carbon reserves yet to be brought to market. 

    As I’ve said before, one of the fundamental misunderstandings that the public has wrt to climate change (and the nature of biochemical cycles in general) is that carbon emissions are CUMULATIVE on policy relevant timescales. Care to guess how many ‘climate change’ articles mention this-oh-so-important-fact? If they did, then people would understand, correctly, that delay is very, very costly.This is why I find the TBI/Hartwell/RPjr narrative so deceptive and ultimately counterproductive. They make promises (oh wait no regrets) without being upfront about the inadequacy of their proposals.

    I’ve said before that I was one of Chris Greene’s (aka one of the founders of Hartwell Inc.) inaugural students in the 90s so it’s not like this line of argumentation is news to me….

  176. Tom Fuller says:

    Keith, I gotta object. The plural of kook is not mainstream. Just because Romm joins Dr. Tobis on this churnalism stuff doesn’t make it coherent, let alone legitimate.

  177. Tom Fuller says:

    #176, would it be unseemly to point out that your link regarding the costs of inaction on climate goes to a news article from Reuters?

  178. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @175Keith if your argument is that the MSM is not the ‘primary’ reason for sufficient climate change mitigation policy then I might be inclined to agree with you. But if that’s your view of Michael’s argument (and mine), then i’d suggest that you’re constructing a straw-man in bad faith. MSM  framing wrt to climate change policy isn’t the only obstacle, but it is, without a doubt, an obstacle. 

    agree or disagree?

  179. Marlowe Johnson says:

    small nitpick. Tom, as your eternally vigilant editor, it behooves me to point out that Romm has a Ph.D so you should address him with the same  “Dr.” that you afford to Dr. Tobis 😉

  180. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe (176)

    Let me see if I’m reading you correctly:

    Climate stories that clearly articulate the dangers of global warming isn’t enough; these stories that highlight global warming as very real with potentially catastrophic impacts to the planet and civilization should also make clear that “carbon emissions are CUMULATIVE on policy relevant timescales”?


  181. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @182yes. and that delay is costly. or a ‘penny saved is a penny earned’, or ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.

    Do you see where I’m coming from?

  182. Tom Fuller says:

    Joey can suck eggs with his PhD. I force myself to put Dr. in front of Dr. Tobis’ name to remind me not to express myself as forcefully as I would like.

    As my eternally vigilant editor, perhaps you can provide a comment to #178 or the citations I previously asked for.

  183. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe (179)

    Don’t move the goalposts. I’m interrogating Michael’s (widely believed and accepted) claim, which has assumed urban myth status in the climate community. You came to his defense, so you’re making his argument for him. I’m waiting for him to join in.

    We also have a lot other smart commenters that I’m waiting to hear from. 

  184. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @tom

    fwiw I consider you to be a ‘kook’ (your super-secret reports to 10 downing street as an example).
    @keith

    I don’t see how i’m moving the goalposts given our dialogue. Could you elaborate?

  185. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @keith

    feel free to doge my questions. it’s your blog after all.

  186. mt says:

    HOW IS THE PRESS MISSING THE STORYHmm. Let me see if I can come up with ten important things that A) the public does not seem to know or even suspect,  that B) pretty much all climate professionals in the main hump agree to, that C) constitute a deficit preventing a sensible consensus policy from emerging and that consequently D) constitute deficits that a competent press would be working to remedy.

    1) Carbon is forever. The climate system does not care very much about how fast we emit, but only what total amount we emit. Whether it happens over one century or three matters little. Consequently, if there is some level of alteration we do not wish to exceed over all time, the total amount of carbon we can emit over time is limited.  

    2) The next ice age has already been cancelled. The effects of our current generation, the preceding one, and the next few, will persist over millennia.

    3) Bugs, weeds, jellyfish, rats. Rapid climate changes mean that the remnant ecosystems will constitute communities of species that are maladapted. Networks of coevolved behavior will disintegrate if climate changes too rapidly. Whole biological communities decline under rapid climate change. Other stresses and habitat fragmentation already are causing stresses. Edge species, weeds and vermin, coarsely adaptive things which basically things humans don’t like because they compete with us, will proliferate at the expense of highly specialized and extraordinary species and systems. 

    4) CO2 disrupts directly. Competitive advantages and disadvantages of various plant species change with CO2 concentration so many land-based ecosystems will be fundamentally altered even in the absence of climate change. These exacerbate the decline of nature.

    5) Rapid increases of atmospheric CO2 poison the ocean. Only one known event in the history of vertebrate life has had CO2 rises even remotely comparable to the present one. Most aquatic species became extinct. The present CO2 pulse is probably more rapid and may become larger.

    6) Some people become unpleasant and paranoid as they age. Some of these people are wealthy. Unscrupulous actors seeking to separate crabby and lonely old men from their money will, historically, say whatever is necessary. It is to their advantage to pose as charities.

    In America we do see especially irresponsible, frankly political opinions coming from organizations that pose as educational, are largely supported by ultra-wealthy individuals, and have achieved dubious 501c3 tax status. Whether any of them has separating rich people from their money as a primary purpose and consider destroying the world as a merely inconsequential side effect is undetermined but worthy of investigation.

    (OK, maybe that one fails to be consensus, but I had to say it.)

    7) The CRU hacking revealed no incident in which data were hidden or wrongfully manipulated in any way that consequentially affects the balance of scientific information on climate change. Most of the events revealed were directly related to prior incidents that could easily be construed as harassment or  defamation against the parties whose mail was stolen and published. 

    8) Many people believe nevertheless that systematic misrepresentation of science  by the scientific community occurred. This belief has been diligently promoted by the network of 501c3s.  Hopelessly unrealistic distortions and even outright lies are now widely believed or at least ascribed to in major political parties in the US and elsewhere. These distortions cast not merely doubt but hostility on climate scientists, who whatever else they may be are not an especially sinister lot.
    9) Until the moment we get this problem under control and for a few decades to follow climate will get not just hotter but more peculiar and fraught with extraordinary events, some of them disruptive. Climate variation is largely driven by anomalous surface conditions in the oceans. Declining sea ice will constitute a major disruption of habitual surface forcing in at least some of the seasons, as will changes in distribution of surface heat in the ocean. “Normal” years, meaning years where every location has its ordinary preindustrial climate, are impossible. The departure from normal will continue to increase.

    Typical preindustrial conditions may prevail at some places at some times, but they will be embedded in changed large-scale patterns. These changes will continue to increase until some decades after emissions are drastically reduced. 

    10) Uncertainty cuts both ways. I’ve said this enough times so go look it up. Uncertainty is not our friend, and doubly not the no-policy-advocate’s friend.

    No problem. My fingers never left the keyboard. 

    Is this all too much for most people? Probably. But it all needs representation in the media so those interested can absorb the issues and their consequences, so that what we are up against becomes part of the zeitgeist.

    Every one of these is a woefully under-reported story. Every one of them directly affects what we should do. In each case I fault the press. Most of them really for epresent the consensus of serious thought, though I admit I am out on a limb for #6.

    These are each fairly complicated but crucially consequential ideas, and they are woefully underrepresented in the public mind. Climate change is still seen as filler for page 17. That it doesn’t make the front page is a more and more absurd and tragic failure with every passing year.

    Someone will probably argue that this lack of prominence is the editor’s fault and not the journalist’s. I’m sure that’s mostly the case. The fellow who writes the story always wants in on the front page. But the fact remains that, for whatever reason and by whoever’s fault, the product which the institution of the press is delivering is not fit for purpose.

    hth

  187. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe, Of course, you don’t see it. This exchange of ours springs from an assertion Michael made, which I challenged. Go back and re-read Michael’s initial comments in the thread. I asked him to stop generalizing–or as Joshua likes to say, to stop arguing by assertion.

    He just went on asserting. That’s when you jumped in–very tribally, I might add. 🙂

    You’ve done a better job than Michael in making the assertion more specific. But you haven’t back it with any proof, either. (Just more assertion.)

    And now you want to expand the argument to cover other parameters. I call that moving the goal post.

    Now, unless you want to support your assertion with some evidence (I keep asking for that, have you noticed?), I’ll kindly wait for Michael to come back and join us.

  188. willard says:

    > I’m indulging it because [the press is a failure meme] bears no relation to the actual truth.

    The Truth makes Keith Do It.

  189. Keith Kloor says:

    Michael,

    I like how you’re speaking on behalf for what “the public does not seem to know or even suspect.”

    Do you intuit that the public doesn’t understand this or you just haven’t read stories covering all these bases?

    At any rate, quite a list. Presumably, you don’t expect it all to be covered in one article? It is the sort of information that would have to be parceled out in dosages, so as not to overtax Joe the public’s short attention span.

    Just a quick aside: to make up for the apparent deficit of information in the media, I presume you’re covering these 10 important things over at Planet 3?


  190. mt says:

    Regarding the “Dr Tobis” thing it is my fault.

    I am a bit fussy about my name. I like being called “Michael”, “mt” or “Doctor Tobis”. I don’t like being called “Mike” nor, when somebody is arguing science with me, “Mr. Tobis” (though I happily accept it from my doctor or my plumber etc.). At one point when he was really getting my goat I asked Tom Fuller to cut out the “Mr. Tobis” and he has per my requestbeen immensely formal about my credential ever since. Sort of.

    Barring the calling me scatological names and such anyhow. It’s not just “Dr. Tobis” it’s “Dr. Tobis you slime” etc. I apparently have many such titles.

    I would prefer to call Tom Fuller “Tom”. But as long as he calls me “Dr. Tobis you slime” etc. I am cornered into to calling him either Mr. Fuller or Tom Fuller. Calling him Mr. Fuller seems like pulling rank, and I really don’t like doing that except when I’ve been thoroughly insulted. 

    Though on the other hand I am beyond being insulted by Tom Fuller. At some point, you know, it stops mattering.

    Anyway I’d prefer if Tom Fuller would call me “mt” or “Michael” when addressing me, like everybody else does, since it seems unlikely he will stop talking about me or to me, if it’s all the same to Tom Fuller. And I’ll be happy to address Tom Fuller howsoever he prefers.

  191. mt says:

    “I presume you’re covering these 10 important things over at Planet 3?”That’s more or less the goal.

  192. mt says:

    I could probably find the odd story in the mainstream press about most of these matters. But complex ideas take repetition. These should be major themes. 

  193. Tom Fuller says:

    We have moved past argument from assertion and into argument from delusion. I don’t know which of the two is more deluded–Marlowe Johnson or Dr. Tobis.

    But they are ignoring published consensus science with claims that are about as well-founded as the Iron Sun theory. 

    If the mainstream media were to cover them, it would be on the astrology page–or the funny papers.

  194. Tom Fuller says:

    #193, do you mean you are shifting your argument from ‘the mainstream media is lying by omission’ to ‘the mainstream media covers the subject but not as much as I would like’?

  195. mt says:

    #195, Since I am in a friendly mood and trying to be accommodating, yes, sure, call it backing down if it helps. 

    Not “lying by omission”. Rather “lying by near-omission and by contextual clues of unimportance,” e.g., placement on page 17 or the online equivalent.

  196. BBD says:

    I must admit I have seen exactly nothing about either the Arctic melt or the Greenland albedo flip in the MSM. However, this is quite possibly because I don’t consume much MSM. Has their been coverage of these important developments in the cryosphere?

  197. BBD says:

    oh dear: ‘their’ = there.

  198. grypo says:

    I believe the press failing is both on the time scales of the physics problem and implications of half-measure policy ideas. A good example is the applause given to change over to natural gas, which, while looking great now, if fully implemented as the ‘solution’ will surely crowd out both nuclear in the short term and renewables decades from now. It shows that their is a misunderstanding of the cumulative nature of carbon, and a misunderstanding of the uncertainties of methane release in the short term.

    Another example is the push to replace CO2 policy with Black Carbon policy. The logic of this escapes me. There is no reason why these two problems, which work on completely different time scales and have drastically different solutions, can’t be worked on separately and simultaneously.

    Considering both groups have these misunderstandings, I can’t blame tribal groupings for these problems. One group has had to cede to these half measures and talk themselves thinking that it’s enough.

    Unfortunately, there’s been very little investigation from the press about what happens if we try and solve big problems with politically polite solutions that fit nicely into politician’s plans, but spell disaster for who the press is charged to serve.

    I remember some high profile reporter saying it is unfair to expect policy makers to solve problems on the large time scales that CO2 works on. Perhaps. But who told him that? And why is it up to the press to make that call?

  199. kdk33 says:

    1.  Carbon is actually not forever, but perhaps it lasts a long time.  There a bit of an argument here, perhaps you should try to present the numbers, not Rachel Maddow like assertions about “forever”2)  Please.  And nothing that follows this Maddow-esque assertion supports it3)  Ewhhhh scary.  Ecosystems are constantly changing.  Often because of man.  How exactly did scary icky stuff become genetically pre-adapted to CO2?  Maybe you should have kept your list to 9.4)  Actually 8 would have been better.  Your limited to 9 anyway because 4 is just 3 repackaged.  Please see my pre-adaptation question above.5) A sane one (it’s been a while – since 1 actually).  Perhpas you could back this up with some data and you might have something to talk about.6) Yes, blessed be the poor…  I believe you have out Maddowed Ms Maddow.  Is it your contention that the homeless should run the country?  If not, exactly how much wealth is required to make one evil?  If wealth makes one evil, is the pursuit of wealth a sin?  Is unemployment righteous?  Of course, you never trust anyone over 30.7) The CRU hack revealed the way in which “consensus” was bootstrapped via the IPCC and the power it bestowed on certain leading “climate scientists”.  Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  I think you know this, but your 7 is the standard dodge – you can do better.8) ???  for a scientists, you count badly.9)  A not insane one, but wholly inappropriate for your list.  This isn’t an item in a list, this is actually your argument.  Not many people disagree qualitatively.  The questions are “but how much”, “to what end”.  And the getting under control part has a cost to which these questions must be compared.  Maybe you should have stuck with 9 and skipped all the rest.10)  Wow.  the precautionary principle.  Of course, we could be hit by an asteriod in the next few decades – and we will certainly be hit by one eventually.  How’s about we sink a few trillion into asteriod avoidance systems.  One of the sillier climate scaare tactics.  You can do better.You can call me Dr. kdk33. 

  200. kdk33 says:

    1.  Carbon is actually not forever, but perhaps it lasts a long time.  There a bit of an argument here, perhaps you should try to present the numbers, not Rachel Maddow like assertions about “forever”

    2)  Please.  And nothing that follows this Maddow-esque assertion supports it

    3)  Ewhhhh scary.  Ecosystems are constantly changing.  Often because of man.  How exactly did scary icky stuff become genetically pre-adapted to CO2?  Maybe you should have kept your list to 9.

    4)  Actually 8 would have been better.  Your limited to 9 anyway because 4 is just 3 repackaged.  Please see my pre-adaptation question above.

    5) A sane one (it’s been a while ““ since 1 actually).  Perhpas you could back this up with some data and you might have something to talk about.

    6) Yes, blessed be the poor”¦  I believe you have out Maddowed Ms Maddow.  Is it your contention that the homeless should run the country?  If not, exactly how much wealth is required to make one evil?  If wealth makes one evil, is the pursuit of wealth a sin?  Is unemployment righteous?  Of course, you never trust anyone over 30.

    7) The CRU hack revealed the way in which “consensus” was bootstrapped via the IPCC and the power it bestowed on certain leading “climate scientists”.  Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  I think you know this, but your 7 is the standard dodge ““ you can do better.

    8) ???  for a scientists, you count badly.

    9)  A not insane one, but wholly inappropriate for your list.  This isn’t an item in a list, this is actually your argument.  Not many people disagree qualitatively.  The questions are “but how much”, “to what end”.  And the getting under control part has a cost to which these questions must be compared.  Maybe you should have stuck with 9 and skipped all the rest.

    10)  Wow.  the precautionary principle.  Of course, we could be hit by an asteriod in the next few decades ““ and we will certainly be hit by one eventually.  How’s about we sink a few trillion into asteriod avoidance systems.  One of the sillier climate scaare tactics.  You can do better.

    You can call me Dr. kdk33.

  201. PDA says:

    The thing about tribalism is that it pre-disposes you to dismiss some people because they are being critical of your team.

    Being tribal also allows you to overlook/ignore the missteps of your own side. 

    Keith, I’d invite you to entertain, just for a moment, the possibility that a reasonably objective observer might be able to view this whole interchange between you (as a member of the “journalists” tribe) and mt in this light. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It doesn’t mean mt’s right.

    It does sort of suggest, though, that you could take a look at your emotional reaction to mt and use that as a way to better understand people on the “extremes…” in pursuit of figuring out things like how to explain the complexities of science and what to do about the polluted climate discourse. 

  202. PDA says:

    Jesus.

    The thing about tribalism is that it pre-disposes you to dismiss some people because they are being critical of your team.

    Being tribal also allows you to overlook/ignore the missteps of your own side. 

    Keith, I’d invite you to entertain, just for a moment, the possibility that a reasonably objective observer might be able to view this whole interchange between you (as a member of the “journalists” tribe) and mt in this light.That doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It doesn’t mean mt’s right.

    It does sort of suggest, though, that you could take a look at your emotional reaction to mt and use that as a way to better understand people on the “extremes”¦” in pursuit of figuring out things like how to explain the complexities of science and what to do about the polluted climate discourse.

  203. PDA says:

    I give up. Imagine italics had ended at “Keith,” please. 

  204. Keith Kloor says:

     PDA, That’s a very Willard-like comment. Which means I don’t understand it.

    As you know, I frequently explore how and why the climate discourse is polluted. It just so happens that in this rather futile exchange between myself and Michael, I was trying to get him to explain/show precisely how the press has contributed to that polluted landscape. Getting him to be as specific as possible took some doing.

    Evidently, that bothered a few people. Why?

    I’ll chalk it up to tribalism. 🙂

  205. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @199 & 200Do I need to remind you guys about the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’? 😉

  206. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @Keith

    You’ll notice that while MT’s list was quite a bit longer than mine, I said essentially the same thing as him (i.e. carbon is forever) and grypo (i.e. politically palatable  measures such as nat gas, black carbon, ‘oblique’ tactics etc.) are grossly inadequate.

    Remind me again how I’m moving the goalposts? It seems to me that your questions have been answered quite thoroughly. Man-up and have the good grace to acknowledge it. 

  207. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe,

    Yes, I’ve noticed the proffered wish list of topics that the press doesn’t cover on the front page everyday.

  208. Marlowe Johnson says:

    The point that you refuse to acknowledge Keith is that the press is getting the basic outlines of the story WRONG. 

  209. PDA says:

    Keith, this:The thing about tribalism is that it pre-disposes you to dismiss some people because they are being critical of your team. Being tribal also allows you to overlook/ignore the missteps of your own side.is a quote from you.My goal was not to score a gotcha, but to leave room for an opportunity to explore if “journalists” might be a tribe, and how they might respond to criticism if so.

  210. PDA says:

    OH FOR GOD’S SAKE.

    Keith, this:

    The thing about tribalism is that it pre-disposes you to dismiss some people because they are being critical of your team. Being tribal also allows you to overlook/ignore the missteps of your own side.

    is a quote from you.

    My goal was not to score a gotcha, but to leave room for an opportunity to explore if “journalists” might be a tribe, and how they might respond to criticism if so.

  211. Keith Kloor says:

     Marlowe,

    You’re somewhat right. Just not for the reasons you think. 

    The outlines of the climate story have been conveyed very simplistically and crudely. The essential message, however conforms to what you and Michael would like: Global warming is real, it’s happening, and it’s going to be catastrophic if nothing is done about that.

    That you and Michael can’t see this is rather astounding. 

    Should we have a more sophisticated conversation than that? 

    Sure. That’s not how daily beat journalism works–on any issue, be health care, drug policy, poverty, environment, etc.

    The daily story is driven by events, research, politics, and so on. The deeper, more enterprising stories are not every day on page one. (But a good example of one was a few days ago in the Sunday NYT review section by Rosenthal on the air conditioning problem coming down the pike.)

    The irony of all this is that I agree with the overall sentiment expressed in your complaint: Environmental issues, including climate change, are on the whole treated rather superficially. We just disagree on the cure.

  212. Keith Kloor says:

    PDA,

    I know that’s a quote by me and it sure looked as if it was meant to be a gotcha. But whatever.

    Absolutely. Journalists are every bit as tribal as everyone else. Of course, that’s legitimate to explore. But it was diversionary for this particular thread.

  213. PDA says:

    No, it isn’t at all a diversion. It’s exactly to the point under discussion.

    This thread (at least this branch of it) is about mt’s critiques of journalism. You’re a journalist. You rejected his critiques without comment, except for an offhand dismissal of them as a “proffered wish list of topics that the press doesn’t cover on the front page everyday.”

    I’m not saying “oh, absolutely, you must be tribal because you’re overlooking and ignoring mt’s criticism.” I’m saying “isn’t it possible?” And wouldn’t it be absolutely central to this discussion if it were?

  214. John F. Pittman says:

    I would like to point out that mt is doing to ecology, history, and biology what he claims skeptics are doing to climte science in 1, 3, 5, 7, 10. mt’s claim is that skeptics ignore a wealth of science for their inconsistant veiws, and this is what he is doing. The idea of carbon lasting “forever” ignores the science of ecology and history. For 1,We are mining fossil phospahtes and generating organic nitrogen in ever increasing rates, and this means the bio static models should as the Bern model misrepresent what has and is occurring. For 3, Eco systems are always responding. Once again persons are presenting a skewed veiw that species that have a quick response will win. The truth is they tend to win on the short term, but other responses win on the long term. This was shown by the Odum(s)  in the classic Succession in a Georgia Field (If I remembered it name correctly). For 5, Once again a biostatic model is presented the long term while discussing a short term phenomena. Coral evolved in atmospheres much, much higher than present. Recent studies indicate that some benefit from CO2. Once again alarmists are presenting change as though it never happened before and it is bad. The first is wrong, and the second is unknown. For 7, Once again persons are ignoring what the IPCC said in attribution and the role of proxies. Once again there is a failure to understand the significance of how what was revealed effects the claims  that can be supported by the models that were used, and the role of this support for confidence in attribution, and the amount that could be attributed to anthropogenic emissions. For 10) Uncertainty does cut both ways, but the precationary principle usurped the methodology of risk management, and invalidated capital conservation in the face of uncertainty. This bias is present, is historical, and is ignored by activists. The policy implications, and the fight about these isues, continues to be ignored by those calling for action. It is a self induced circular argument that ignores the historically successful practice of no regrets, and capital conservation until more certainty can be achieved.

  215. PDA says:

    Hint: Elisabeth Rosenthal’s piece doesn’t address any of the points mt raised.

  216. Keith Kloor says:

     PDA,

    I have engaged with Michael’s critiques of journalism at some extent, repeatedly over the last few years, and have found them wanting. He’s got some major blind spots. I’m not the only one who has pointed this out to him. 

    He exasperated John Fleck to no end, as well. And you all love John more than me. 🙂

    Michael has compiled a grab bag of issues that he feels should be a stronger part of the overarching climate story. The best thing for him to do at this point, is to lead by example. Show us how it’s done at P-3. A fancy schmancy web site is a terrible thing to waste.

  217. willard says:

    > We just disagree on the cure.

    Two quotes would be nice to illustrate the disagreement.

    Meanwhile, I will point at this:

    The irony of all this is that I agree with the overall sentiment expressed in your complaint: Environmental issues, including climate change, are on the whole treated rather superficially.

    as a basis to focus some meeting of the minds.

    ***

    And for my own personal edification, I would like to know what is hard to understand from this request:

    It does sort of suggest, though, that you could take a look at your emotional reaction to mt and use that as a way to better understand people on the “extremes”¦” in pursuit of figuring out things like how to explain the complexities of science and what to do about the polluted climate discourse.

    Must be Willardesque, since I get this.

  218. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Keith,

    one last try. do you think that the public understands that carbon emissions are cumulative and that delay is more expensive (absent pixie dust) than taking action now?IMHO these are the crucial elements that are missing from the conventional framing of the ‘story’ by the MSM.

  219. Keith Kloor says:

     “that you could take a look at your emotional reaction to mt.”

    That is utter BS. You and PDA are making assumptions (suggesting motivation). If you’re gonna go down that route, where the basis of of my engagement is going to be speculated on, then why should I bother?

    Take my engagement at face value, based on the content of my comments, not on what you think it’s based on.   

  220. willard says:

    Keith,

    > That is utter BS.

    Thank you for your assessment devoided of any emotional content.

    Your ability to see through me and PDA is impressive, considering that it is based on your reading of a willardesque comment.

    Reading your reactions to mt’s comment in this thread alone should show anyone that there is no need to speculate about your mind states, Keith.

  221. John F. Pittman says:

    Keith was it this thread or another where it was pointed out that tribes insist on putting you in the other tribe, if you don’t agree to their more and more polarized beliefs? I would say that as far as I know, unless we start permitting one nuke a day, it doesn’t matter if the story is told different, it won’t accomplish what is claimed is needed.This is based on the studies from wind in US, Denmark, and other States and solar from Spain. Historically wind and solar have been the energy that man has been using the longest. Take the Wyoming (IIRC) study: it was called “practical and economic” by those selling wind; yet the study stated that from 7% to 9% to get to 21% to 30% penetration required software and hardware that did not exist, increased cost exponentially, and came up with a installation of this imaginary hardware and software about 3 times less than what the norm in industry currently is where I work.

  222. mt says:

    Marlowe #219: “do you think that the public understands that carbon emissions are cumulative and that delay is more expensive (absent pixie dust) than taking action now?IMHO these are the crucial elements that are missing from the conventional framing of the “˜story’ by the MSM.”

    Exactly right. If I had to pick one of the ten points, it would be #1, to which this is equivalent.

    And for the nitpickers, this is  exactly an instance of Schneider’s quandary. (“Carbon sticks around for a very long time compared to human decision making absent CO2 sequestration” is more correct but less compelling than “carbon is forever”, but that doesn’t make “carbon is forever” actually substantively wrong. It’s a good first approximation, the best way to put it in three words.

    Keith # 212: The outlines of the climate story have been conveyed very simplistically and crudely. The essential message, however conforms to what you and Michael would like: Global warming is real, it’s happening, and it’s going to be catastrophic if nothing is done about that.

    That you and Michael can’t see this is rather astounding. “

    I agree that people are aware of the proposition that “Global warming is real, it’s happening, and it’s going to be catastrophic if nothing is done about that”, though many of them (well represented in conversation here) think there are no real costs to disregarding it.

    Even here you are not entirely off the hook. I think some combination of willful misrepresentation and wishful thinking has obfuscated the fact that this is not about “in the opinion of some scientists” or “in the opinion of most scientists” but is actually part of the fabric of science; that the “97%” number frequently quoted has to be adjusted for the fact that whatever impulses there are toward denial apply to scientists as well, and that the 3% tend to be old-timers; that an eventual catastrophe from accumulating carbon is etched in the stone walls of science. The perceived scientific controversy is a key case, in fact, of the professional obfuscators manipulating public perception and the press playing along.

    Should we have a more sophisticated
    conversation than that? 
    Sure. That’s not how daily beat journalism works”“on any issue, be health care, drug policy, poverty, environment, etc

    Daily beat, shmaily beat. We are not talking about this role or that role within the normal practice of journalism. We are talking about what needs to be done to build the consensus to achieve the necessary policies. If this branch of the media can;t handle it for this reason and that branch can’t for that reason, that is well and good. The question is, rather, how do we get people to get a sufficient understanding of the situation to support adequate policy?

    You call me obtuse! I cannot understand how you don’t understand that this is the issue: What medium, extant or imagined, is up to the task of creating sufficient public understanding for a workable policy? If no such medium exists as yet, how can we invent one?

    The only explanation I can come up with is that you have excessive confidence in the BTI/Lomborg/RPJr worldview. Well, I can’t swear that their approach won’t work. It certainly ought to be pursued. I think it’s a long shot and perhaps you don’t, but that isn’t really important to our purposes. That’s because the BTI approach is very much like the science naysayers in one important regard: it implicitly claims perfect confidence. 

    In the event that, say, carbon-free alternative energy technologies come on the scene (as if they didn’t exist already) yet they stubbornly remain more expensive and/or less convenient than fossil fuels in some important applications, some policy harmful to the fossil fuel interests and inconvenient to the public’s short term interests will still be needed. And unless something changes in journalism, it will be very easy to continue to confuse people, at the present level of understanding, that it won’t be. 

    I don’t object to placing bets on the BTI scenario, since those investments will be worthwhile in any case. But insisting that by itself it is an adequate way forward is insanely reckless in my opinion. It is true that if it works it saves us from having to grow up about public understanding of complex information. But that is basically betting the entire world on our number coming up on the roulette wheel. Nothing cheaper or more convenient than coal or gas is actually in prospect, and there are solid technical reasons for suspecting that will not change, as Joe Romm, managing to be both tireless and tiresome at the same time, is constantly trying to explain.

    Anyway, as the world gets more crowded, more complex, more polluted and more used up, climate will not be the only such issue we face. In a globally connected world, people can’t base their opinions on just what they see in their own back yards. We need either a more sophisticated public or a more trusting one along with a more sophisticated batch of politicians and policy professionals, or some combination. In any case it boils down to a communication issue. The space to fix it is in the communication professions. Obviously. Whether existing institutions or new ones are needed, something is needed.

  223. Tom Fuller says:

    The next time Dr. Tobis brings up the faults of journalists wrt climate change–like maybe tomorrow–we only need to point him to this thread.

    What a joke.

  224. willard says:

    So, is there anyone here who could substantiate:

    > We just disagree on the cure.

    so that everyone knows what is the nature of the disagreement?

    If we just disagree on the cure, I’m sure we should talk about the cure.

    Perhaps the quote is not enough willardesque.

  225. mt says:

    Well, “so, what is the cure, in that case, Keith” might have been clearer than Willard’s #225 and more to the point than my #223.

    So, Keith, what do you propose?

  226. Tom Fuller says:

    From Google News front page (no search terms entered)Arctic sea ice set to hit record lowCloud engineering could SAVE HUMANITY, suggests boffinButterflies Come en Masse to MassachusettsDiscovery News – “Ž1 hour ago”Ž Butterflies that previously were found only further south have been making their way into Massachusetts. A Harvard study found that warm-climate species have become increasingly common in Massachusetts.CLIMATE CHANGE: Governor unveils web siteEnter search term “climate change”, 119,000 results.

  227. willard says:

    Here’s the Cure I propose:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsBe2WqpLmk

    Let us stay close to one another.

  228. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, in comment #187 you list a series of assertions that you believe should be covered repetitively and conspicuously by journalists.

    Before you make such a demand, you should offer evidence for your assertions. I note just as an example that CO2 is not forever, nor even forever on the timescale of policy-making. 

    I am sure you are familiar with Archer, Caldeira et al 2009 which compared model analyses of CO2 lifespan that noted only 25% to 30% of CO2 was retained after synthesizing the results of model runs.

    This of course was a project undertaken to counter the claims of the climate denier organization known as the IPCC, which wrote in their AR4 report: ” “About 50% of a CO2increase will be removed from the atmosphere within 30 years, and a further 30% will be removed within a few centuries. The remaining 20% may stay in the atmosphere for many thousands of years.”

    Another climate denier organization, Nature, wrote on this issue, “CO2 gets taken up by a variety of different processes, some fast and some slow. This is what makes it so hard to pin a single number, or even a range, on CO2’s lifetime.”

    Nothing is forever. Not even threads where Tobis laments climate journalism.

  229. willard says:

    #223

    And for the nitpickers, this is exactly an instance of Schneider’s quandary. (“Carbon sticks around for a very long time compared to human decision making absent CO2 sequestration” is more correct but less compelling than “carbon is forever”, but that doesn’t make “carbon is forever” actually substantively wrong. It’s a good first approximation, the best way to put it in three words.

    #224

    What a joke.

    #229

    I note just as an example that CO2 is not forever, nor even forever on the timescale of policy-making.

    What a joke indeed.

  230. Tom Fuller says:

    #187: 1) Carbon is forever. 

  231. Tom Fuller says:

    That’s your cure for the information deficit? A three-word catchphrase that is factually wrong?

    Great. This is Peter Gleick’s world, now. We just live in it.

  232. willard says:

    Let’s recall #212 (which was a great comment, btw, Keith):

    [Keith, speaking to Marlow] You’re somewhat right [As Judy would say: wow]. Just not for the reasons you think. [Oh, shoot.]

    The outlines of the climate story have been conveyed very simplistically and crudely [which is the point of the blog post, after all]. […]

    Should we have a more sophisticated conversation than that?

    Sure. That’s not how daily beat journalism works”“on any issue, be health care, drug policy, poverty, environment, etc.

    The daily story is driven by events, research, politics, and so on. The deeper, more enterprising stories are not every day on page one.

    […]

    The irony of all this is that I agree with the overall sentiment expressed in your complaint: Environmental issues, including climate change, are on the whole treated rather superficially. We just disagree on the cure.

    Shirt rippin’ ought not distract anyone from this window of opportunity.

  233. PDA says:

    Not just because I’ve apparently been assigned to the willardian tribe (though I’m fine with that), but I think it would actually be interesting to try an armistice on the basis of:

    I can’t swear that the [BTI/Lomborg/RPJr] approach won’t work. It certainly ought to be pursued.

    Environmental issues, including climate change, are on the whole treated rather superficially.

    As the world gets more crowded, more complex, more polluted and more used up, climate will not be the only such issue we face.

    Take my engagement at face value, based on the content of my comments, not on what you think it’s based on.

    Call it the “cooperative model of communication.” We’re unlikely to convince each other of anything, so why not focus on the points of agreement and see if anything comes of it?

  234. The bolded texts are paragraph heads, not intended to
    carry the burden of the argument. If they were, there would be no need of a supporting paragraph. Indeed, the supporting paragraph was just intended to identify the area where I would argue that better public understanding is necessary, not itself to carry the argument.

    Nevertheless, I thank Tom Fuller once again for the opportunity to clarify this important point, in the process raising a good issue about how to balance accuracy and accessibility. That 50% is immediately absorbed in the ocean and biota is quite right. So a valid explanation of the slogan needs to address the sense in which carbon in these active reservoirs has not actually gone away.

    Tom Fuller’s argument conflates dissolution in the ocean with natural sequestration. Carbon dissolved in the ocean has not gone away although it does not affect radiative balance directly. Whether it is disrupting the atmosphere or the ocean, the extra carbon is still a key component of the environment that is changing rapidly and increasingly disrupting ordinary processes.  (A similar argument applies to the carbon content of the biota.)

    What’s more, the dissolved carbon is still available to the atmosphere. (The ocean’s capacity to replenish the atmosphere needs to be considered in an ambient capture scenario, where the disequilibrium could be reversed and the carbon flow the other way. The ocean is not fitted with a one-way valve.)

    The ultimate natural sink of CO2 is geological sequestration via limestone formation and controlled by weathering of olivines. Those time scales are long compared to human history.

    Regarding climate specifically, see Allen et al, Nature 458, 1163-1166 (30 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08019

    The factually correct statement is thus “the relationship between cumulative emissions and peak warming is remarkably insensitive to the emission pathway“. It might have been a better paragraph head. But it’s not very catchy, is it?

    So this is a nice example of the quandary. Being clear and not perceived as inaccessible is the rock. Being immune to nitpicking is the hard place. Does that mean that in the presence of a determined opposition that public perception cannot be refined? At present that indeed appears to be the case.

    Tom Fuller, while considering himself a moderate, is nevertheless a natural adopter of the denialist methodology, able to muster both the populist and the perfectionist attacks, but unwilling or unable to engage with the balance of evidence as a whole. It seems he will reject everything I say on one basis or the other, rather than for a moment considering that I might evenm possibly know more about this than he does and might even possibly be trying in good faith to communicate.

    Without at least provisional trust, no progress in mutual understanding is possible. That’s clear enough.

  235. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, I have been willing for three years to consider that you might know more about this than I do. 

    I asked to interview you when I wrote for Examiner.com. You refused. I offered to let you write a guest article for Examiner.com. You refused.

    I proposed a list of areas of science where you could test your repeated insults about my lack of science knowledge. You refused.

    Instead, you made wild, inaccurate claims tying perfectly normal events to manmade climate change–claims that have been refuted by climate scientists in peer-reviewed journals. 

    You claim that I adhere to some denialist methodology, which I consider complete bullshit. It seems like you are projecting–you in fact adhere to the wildest of alarmist methods and tactics, while seeking to shelter behind a more rational persona.

    You don’t care what I believe. As long as I don’t believe the same as you I am a denialister. Time after time you have written on your weblog of your surprise that you and I advocate the same solutions to  the problems we face. And ten minutes later you call me a denier again. And ten minutes later you are radically wrong on the science again.

    Tell us all once more how the Egyptian revolution was caused by climate change…

  236. BBD says:

    Fuller:

    You claim that I adhere to some denialist methodology, which I consider complete bullshit.

    No, you are a crypto-denialist. We’ve been through a year of discussion now, and if nothing else, this is now clear.

  237. Tom Fuller says:

    From Unleashed, with Bob Hoskins as Bart:Bart: Danny, you’re starting to piss me off. Danny: I want a piano. Bart: [laughs] That’s what I love about you, Danny. One thought at a time. Bart: [each time he unleashes Danny] Get em. Bart: [right before truck crash] I tell you this is gonna be one lovely day! [for Danny’s “audition,” he is put into the ring with the reigning champion; Danny kills him in less than five seconds, then walks outBart: If you want us back, you know where to find us. Wyeth: Oh, we definitely want you back. Only, next time, could you make it a bit more… entertaining? Bart: I’ll see what I can do.  

  238. Tom Fuller says:

    From Unleashed, with Bob Hoskins as Bart:

    Bart: Danny, you’re starting to piss me off.

    Danny: I want a piano.

    Bart: [laughs] That’s what I love about you, Danny. One thought at a time.

    Bart: [each time he unleashes Danny] Get em.

    Bart: [right before truck crash] I tell you this is gonna be one lovely day!

    [for Danny’s “audition,” he is put into the ring with the reigning champion; Danny kills him in less than five seconds, then walks out]

    Bart: If you want us back, you know where to find us. Wyeth: Oh, we definitely want you back. Only, next time, could you make it a bit more”¦ entertaining?

    Bart: I’ll see what I can do.  

  239. “Instead, you made wild, inaccurate claims tying perfectly normal events to manmade climate change”“claims that have been refuted by climate scientists in peer-reviewed journals. “

    This is silly. Why would someone refute a blog post of mine with a peer reviewed article!? Would it not be more correct to say that the claims a re “disputed in various peer reviewed articles”? Was Hansen, Sato and Reudy, explicitly taking the opposite point of view on the same events, not also peer reviewed?

    “Tell us all once more how the Egyptian revolution was caused by climate change”¦”

    Sure. Maybe you’ll get it this time. Climate affects food prices. Food prices affect political stability in poor countries. Food prices spiked just before the Arab Spring and just after widespread crop failures in 2010. I didn’t suggest that the anomalous global climate of 2010 was the sole cause of the unrest, only that it might well have been the precipitating event. I don’t think I was the only person to make this connection.

    Please don’t ask these questions again without accounting for my answers.

  240. BBD says:

    Tom, it’s Bob ‘Oskins. Innit.

  241. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, let me refresh your memory. You did indeed say there were other factors at work. But then you wrote, climate change => crop failures => increasing food prices => unrest where “=>” can be read as “contributes substantially to” We can discuss any of the components. When in fact we began to discuss the components, you wrote, But climate will be an increasing stress and is already a component of stress everywhere. Poorer populations suffer more and resentment against richer populations builds. This is why it is often claimed that “climate change is a national security issue” and later,While it’s problematic to associate individual events to anthropogenic forcing, the Russian event was associated with a persistent jet stream pattern that has no clear precedent; the July Moscow temperature was so anomalous that it is fair to suggest not only that it has no historical precedent, but that it’s conceivable that one would likely have to go back beyond the Holocene (a couple of million years) to find the like. (We haven’t had 100,000 years of interglacials in the Holocene.) I would claim that any food-stressed society in 2011 is already coping with consequences of climate change that show up in the slightly but measurably reduced production of grain in 2010. I find it peculiar that this meets with such resistance that the very idea is subject to mockery. This is not a game. Climate disruption seems to be happening already  After some back and forth, I wrote, “Egypt is importing wheat because its population doubled in 30 years. Their farms are producing more than at any time in history.Tobis admits he is wrong on the central question”“do agricultural yields in Egypt provide an indication of catastrophic climate change? As yields are improving, it is clear they do not.”I stand by what I wrote. Do you, Dr. Tobis? (As far as the Russian heatwave goes, The NOAA says not. Its draft report on the heatwave (Sept 2010) says that, while the blocking high was the most extreme since 1900, “˜The indications are that [it was] intrinsic to the natural variability of summer climate in this region.’ The heatwave was, it says, “˜principally related to a natural extreme event’.)

  242. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, let me refresh your memory. 

    You did indeed say there were other factors at work. But then you wrote, climate change => crop failures => increasing food prices => unrest where “=>” can be read as “contributes substantially to” We can discuss any of the components. 

    When in fact we began to discuss the components, you wrote, But climate will be an increasing stress and is already a component of stress everywhere. Poorer populations suffer more and resentment against richer populations builds. This is why it is often claimed that “climate change is a national security issue” and later,

    While it’s problematic to associate individual events to anthropogenic forcing, the Russian event was associated with a persistent jet stream pattern that has no clear precedent; the July Moscow temperature was so anomalous that it is fair to suggest not only that it has no historical precedent, but that it’s conceivable that one would likely have to go back beyond the Holocene (a couple of million years) to find the like. (We haven’t had 100,000 years of interglacials in the Holocene.)

    I would claim that any food-stressed society in 2011 is already coping with consequences of climate change that show up in the slightly but measurably reduced production of grain in 2010. I find it peculiar that this meets with such resistance that the very idea is subject to mockery. This is not a game. Climate disruption seems to be happening already  

    After some back and forth, I wrote, “Egypt is importing wheat because its population doubled in 30 years. Their farms are producing more than at any time in history.Tobis admits he is wrong on the central question”“do agricultural yields in Egypt provide an indication of catastrophic climate change? As yields are improving, it is clear they do not.”

    I stand by what I wrote. Do you, Dr. Tobis?

    (As far as the Russian heatwave goes, The NOAA says not. Its draft report on the heatwave (Sept 2010) says that, while the blocking high was the most extreme since 1900, “˜The indications are that [it was] intrinsic to the natural variability of summer climate in this region.’ The heatwave was, it says, “˜principally related to a natural extreme event’.)

  243. willard says:

    Let us note the correlation between our Groundskeeper Willie’s actual shirt rippin’ and the occurrence of an armistice offer.

    Yes, mimicking a scientific discussion can be use to wait for Godot.

  244. willard says:

    In case there are people who can’t understand what’s happening between our beloved shirt ripper and MT, here’s the script your reading:

    A classic running gag in the strip involved Lucy taunting Charlie Brown by holding a football and promising to let Charlie Brown kick it. Initially, Charlie Brown claimed that he would not trust her because she has tricked him this way many times, but Lucy then gave some reasons why Charlie Brown should give her credence. For example, to give him a signed document stating that she would not pull the ball away from him (later to reveal that the document had never been notarized). His doubt undermined, Charlie Brown then sprints toward Lucy to execute the place kick. At the last possible second, Lucy snatched the ball out of Charlie Brown’s path, causing him to be flung up into the air and land hard on his back.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Brown

    In our actual case, Lucy is our shirt ripper, Charlie is MT, and the football is pseudo-science.

  245. Tom Fuller says:

    Willard, apparently our truce is off. Your amusing sideline commentary is quite close in #246, except you have mislabeled the characters.

    But then pseudo-philosophers do that, don’t they?

  246. willard says:

    Groundskeeper Willie believes there was a truce. He promised never to react to my comments. I promised never to mention his name again.

    Our beloved Groundskeeper Willie yet again breaks his promise. He shows he has no honor.

    Yet again.

    My name is my honor.

  247. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, you write above, “Without at least provisional trust, no progress in mutual understanding is possible. That’s clear enough.”I wrote below that, “I asked to interview you when I wrote for Examiner.com. You refused. I offered to let you write a guest article for Examiner.com. You refused.I proposed a list of areas of science where you could test your repeated insults about my lack of science knowledge. You refused.”I repeatedly made good faith efforts to engage with you about science for publication in a widely read online newspaper. You responded with insults. 

  248. Tom Fuller says:

    “My name is my honor” says an anonymous blogger. 

    I agree.

  249. willard says:

    More shirt rippin’.

    Our Groundskeeper Willie’s shifting from scientific diversion to more personal reminiscences, reaching the same effect of shifting the focus of the discussion on MT.

    Now that we can reach an armistice, our Groundskeeper Willie poisons the well, as he did for a few years now, each time his eristical tricks fade.

    Keith, please mind our beloved Groundskeeper Willie.

  250. Tom Fuller says:

    And when all else fails, whine to Keith. That’s a lot of honor.

  251. BBD says:

    I want a piano.

  252. PDA says:

    Now, now you two. Unilateral disarmament is often the first step towards armistice. Which of you will be brave enough to take that step?

    The settlement of the Tom/willard problem, which is so close to being achieved, is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all of the climate blogosphere may find peace.

    It can be peace with honour. I believe it can be peace for our time.

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds.

  253. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, before we were so rudely interrupted I wrote,

    “Dr. Tobis, you write above, “Without at least provisional trust, no progress in mutual understanding is possible. That’s clear enough.

    “I wrote below that, “I asked to interview you when I wrote for Examiner.com. You refused. I offered to let you write a guest article for Examiner.com. You refused.I proposed a list of areas of science where you could test your repeated insults about my lack of science knowledge. You refused.”

    I repeatedly made good faith efforts to engage with you about science for publication in a widely read online newspaper. You responded with insults.”

    Can you tell me how that fits in with making sure good science appears in newspapers?

  254. willard says:

    > And when all else fails[…]

    Begging the question.

    whine to Keith.

    My request was already made in #160. But it seems Groundskeeper Willie felt justified to pile on:

    fine, Keith. I’ll pile on, then.

    That was more than 75 comments ago

    Lots of honor in piling on, it seems.

  255. Re #244 If crop yields increased in Egypt over decades how does that refute 1) that crop prices increased globally and abruptly in 2010-2011 2) that Egyptians and Tunisians were hungry as a consequence and 3) that the hunger contributed to the unrest? 

    I do not dispute that crop yields increased globally, nor locally in any particular place, over the past few decades. I said the climate globally was in a very odd state in 2010 leading to acute crop failures. No contradiction whatsoever. I said that this odd state seemed likely connected to climate change, which I stand by and which Hansen et al 2012 now formally supports.

    What is the relevance if crop yields in Egypt rose and the population rose over deacdes, or if Egypt’s increasing imports are related to population rise? I stipulate these facts and don’t find them surprising. They seem to have little bearing on the abrupt changes in global food commodity prices over the past few years. (I suppose one could propose interesting tipping point arguments but nobody has to my knowledge.) A sudden increase in climate variability leading to large scale crop failure might well, on the other hand, be relevant, especially in 2011. It was widely reported that these sudden price increases, which for the lowest priced foods were proportionally very large, triggered the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt.

    On the other matter of #255, I don’t think anyone is under any obligation to any particular opportunity to publish. Regarding publication on the web, I already do that anyway with an audience that overlaps with yours, so I wouldn’t take it as an extraordinary opportunity. That said, I don’t recall the incident in question. If you took offense at anything I said in turning the offer down, I am sure you are correct that I was rude and that your own behavior was beyond reproach, so I apologize.

  256. willard says:

    As long as our Groundskeeper Willie will rip off his shirt in this thread distracting us from the conversation between mt and Keith, I’ll respond to his piling on.

    As long as our Groundskeeper Willie will refrain from ripping off his shirt in this thread distracting us from the conversation between mt and Keith, I’ll keep quiet.

    My name is my honor,

    w

  257. Tom Fuller says:

    And you wonder why the conversation never gets anywhere.

    Your ramblings about Egypt literally make no sense.

    As for the other part, this was back in the days when I was being polite to you–remember them? I offered you a guest post. You said I was pulling s*** out of my a**.

     Hand-waving, general apologies prefaced by sarcasm just so everybody knows you’re kidding–you’ve had a lot of practice with that, haven’t you?

  258. Tom Fuller says:

    Willard, you’re going to do what you’re going to do. You seem to confuse punctilio with honor, perhaps because you don’t understand either concept. 

    Just do what you do. Invent phrases. Spout metaphysical nonsense. Defend your alter ego. Your initial is your honor.

  259. BBD says:

    Tom, re # 258

    See what he did there? 🙂

  260. BBD says:

    We crossed, and the answer is evidently not.

  261. Tom C says:

    mt wrote – “I said the climate globally was in a very odd state in 2010”  “A very odd state”  Nothing beats scientific precision!

  262. Tom C says:

    Tom Fuller – Re Tobis and the Egyptian revolution, it could be worse.  Romm claimed the bridge in Minneapolis that fell 5 years ago fell due to climate change.

  263. #263 You don’t remember it? There was an amazingly large and persistent buckle in the jet stream all summer, causing all sorts of havoc in Asia.

  264. Tom Fuller says:

    It’s just as wrong at P3 as it is here.

  265. willard says:

    Because PDA has been castigated to the tribe of gardeners, I’ll repost the elements of his armistice proposal in #234:

    I can’t swear that the [BTI/Lomborg/RPJr] approach won’t work. It certainly ought to be pursued.

    Environmental issues, including climate change, are on the whole treated rather superficially.

    As the world gets more crowded, more complex, more polluted and more used up, climate will not be the only such issue we face.

    Take my engagement at face value, based on the content of my comments, not on what you think it’s based on.

    We now can continue our normal program with more shirt rippin’ and more pilin’ on.

  266. Tom Fuller says:

    Willard, I welcome PDA’s offering and am happy to pursue some sort of grand reconciliation. What is your reaction?

  267. willard says:

    #269:

    I welcome PDA’s offering

    #267

    It [Top Ten Things Aunt Sally Doesn’t Know About Climate and Greenhouse Gases]’s just as wrong at P3 as it is here.

    Let’s recall my pledge:

    As long as our Groundskeeper Willie will refrain from ripping off his shirt in this thread distracting us from the conversation between mt and Keith, I’ll keep quiet.

  268. Tom Fuller says:

    I welcome PDA’s offering and that list is just as wrong at P3 as it is here.

    Why do you think people care if you keep quiet?

  269. mt says:

    “It’s just as wrong at P3 as it is here.”

    Certainly. As the French would say with their trademarked shrug, mais eviddement. And how wrong is that? And in which way?

    Are the points factually wrong? Misleading? Contested? True but actually widely understood? Not as consequential as proposed? And what of the various points proposed by others in comments?

    Oddly I have received no substantive arguments to date, and Keith is oddly silent. It’s actually Keith I’d most like to hear from. Or failing that, from Fleck or Revkin or Yulsman. But Tom Fuller is welcome to weigh in, and be just as right here or at P3.

  270. mt says:

    There is always a prominent complaint of how “poisonous” the climate debate has become, but like those that rue our “poisonous” tax debates or our “poisonous” social debates, their solution to the poison is typically to concede the debate to the people who have done the most to make it poisonous.– Dan Moutal at P3

  271. Tom Fuller says:

    It’ll have to wait until another day. I’ll do it here as I might get censored over at P3.

  272. willard says:

    > Why do you think people care if you keep quiet?

    V. #254, #261.

    This question, when following #269 (“What is your reaction?”), makes little sense.

  273. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, let’s see how far I get before I have to do something actually productive. Dr. Tobis thinks everyone should know, that all scientists agree and the media should emphasize…

    1) “Carbon is forever. The climate system does not care very much about how fast we emit, but only what total amount we emit. Whether it happens over one century or three matters little. Consequently, if there is some level of alteration we do not wish to exceed over all time, the total amount of carbon we can emit over time is limited.”

    Not an auspicious beginning. This is factually wrong, as noted above. Carbon is not forever. Only between 20% and 25% sticks around for any length of time in our atmosphere according to models and observations and we don’t know how long. Therefore the time frame of total emissions matters enormously.

    The idea of leading off a list of instructions for the media with something that is not true seems dubious to me. The idea of a catchphrase is appealing, but probably requires more work.

    It is a pity that your NGO media kiddies spent most of the last two years demonizing CO2 as a pollutant, often referring to it as carbon pollution, which is about as unscientific a phrase as has appeared in this debate.

    If you were to rework this in the interest of saving humanity, you might look at semi-humorous efforts from the past. The concept of CO2 concentrations being similar to weight gain has been used successfully, if somewhat ponderously. Think of the ramifications of ‘an instant on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’ and imagine what might have been had you understood your mission in all this.

    Diamonds are forever. CO2 emissions increase concentrations which are a pain in the ass and will prove to be a real problem if we don’t start addressing them now. 

  274. Tom Fuller says:

    Moving on, we see again that Dr. Tobis wants the press to hammer away on a theme that is not only not proven but essentially unprovable.

    2) The next ice age has already been cancelled. The effects of our current generation, the preceding one, and the next few, will persist over millennia. 

    We have absolutely no idea what the relative strength of human impacts on climate is when compared to other possible impacts. None. 

    You want science reporters to focus on this? Good luck educating the public on the myriad factors making up your imaginary estimate of something far in the future. You would have to explain repeatedly when the next ice age is expected to occur, the factors behind the prediction (have fun with precession and obliquity in the U.S.) and ignore the many scientists who contest our knowledge of future ice ages.

    Every climate scientist I have seen comment on runaway warming and tipping points has actively worked to walk away from this kind of comment since COP-15, as if new marching orders had been issued. Which would have made good sense.

    If you’re going to predict something between 10,000 and 20,000 years in the future, why on earth would you be so foolish as to predict ‘the global warming we are creating now will prevent something horrible happening in the future’? 

    The reaction of most people to the idea of preventing or even delaying an ice age would be to strike a match.

    The reaction of a media strategist planning public information campaigns would be somewhat ruder.

  275. Tom Fuller says:

    Continuing with Dr. Tobis’ parade of tropes on which he wants the media to focus, his third point is:

    3) “Bugs, weeds, jellyfish, rats. Rapid climate changes mean that the remnant ecosystems will constitute communities of species that are maladapted. Networks of coevolved behavior will disintegrate if climate changes too rapidly. Whole biological communities decline under rapid climate change. Other stresses and habitat fragmentation already are causing stresses. Edge species, weeds and vermin, coarsely adaptive things which basically things humans don’t like because they compete with us, will proliferate at the expense of highly specialized and extraordinary species and systems.”  

    You were better off with charismatic megafauna. Pity your troops couldn’t have stopped lying about the polar bears.

    What studies over the past 10 years have revealed is the amazing resilience of biological communities, with the poster child being coral reefs. The elasticity of both individual species and the food chain–sorry, biological communities–that surround them may not be infinite, but they have shown remarkable abilities to adapt. And the point is we do not know the limits of adaptation. Those who find life in undersea volcanoes might be more optimistic.

    More strategically, you should be wary of emphasizing a point that can be quickly attacked with legitimate science by those with differing points of view.

    Those who disagree with you will quickly note that you cannot accurately describe the speed of climate change and that your attempts to do so to date have been overly pessimistic. They will point out that some species will benefit from climate change and they will be right. They will note that others will move, as they are now and as they always have, and they will be right.

    And this will bring you into conflict with others who should be on your side, environmentalists who will scream ‘99% of the threat to the flora and fauna on this planet comes from habitat loss, introduction of alien species, pollution and hunting–and you want all our efforts to be diverted to averting climate change you cannot quantify or time?’ I believe Marc Morano might be writing your list for science reporters.

    I don’t think you benefit from your marching orders to journalists.

  276. Tom Fuller says:

    I will let Dr. Tobis answer the village sot: “Nevertheless, I thank Tom Fuller once again for the opportunity to clarify this important point, in the process raising a good issue about how to balance accuracy and accessibility. That 50% is immediately absorbed in the ocean and biota is quite right. So a valid explanation of the slogan needs to address the sense in which carbon in these active reservoirs has not actually gone away.”

    The point is that putting a meme into the media that has to be caveated and qualified the minute it is released is not good media strategy.

  277. mt says:

    Tom Fuller’s critique of point 2 is that it is impolitic. But maybe there is more to relevant public knowledge than advancing one extreme or the other. You’d think a silver lining point like this would be welcomed by a centrist.

    That said, the cultural context of suggesting point 2 as a part of the top 10 is to get across the idea that the forcing is already enormous compared to natural forcings, cumulatively far larger than the Milankovic forcings which drive the glacial cycles informally known as “ice ages”. The system is (ponderously on human time scales but very quickly on geological time scales) starting to respond. But only starting. 

    Maybe “next ice age cancelled” isn’t punchy enough to deliver that message.

  278. Tom Fuller says:

    Hey Marlowe–are you going to decisively refute yourself in another comment here? I cannot quit laughing at your citing a Reuters article covering subject X to prove that major media isn’t covering subject X.

    Have a drink.

  279. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, you are not reading what I write. Read what I write. Then think about it. Then respond.

  280. Tom C says:

    I for one would like to thank Tobis for cancelling the next ice age.

  281. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Tom as usual your reading comprehension skills are lacking. one article does not a trend make.

  282. mt says:

    All memes have caveats, including this one.

    That’s a version of Schneider’s Quandary. Politicians can slap simplistic labels on things (e.g., “climategate”) with impunity. Scientists talking to the public are always dancing between getting the main point across in a memorable way and defending the edges and boundaries of a literally defensible text.

  283. willard says:

    > [P]utting a meme into the media that has to be caveated and qualified the minute it is released is not good media strategy.

    Let’s play a game.

    Anyone can find a meme.

    I’ll try to make sure a caveat will be needed.

    If I can’t, I lose.

    If I can, I win.

    Best of luck!

  284. Tom Fuller says:

    The problem with Dr. Tobis’ 4th point is again its vulnerability to critics. (Please remember the point of this, Dr. Tobis.)

    4) “CO2 disrupts directly. Competitive advantages and disadvantages of various plant species change with CO2 concentration so many land-based ecosystems will be fundamentally altered even in the absence of climate change. These exacerbate the decline of nature.”

    First, CO2 will benefit some species of flora and some of the fauna that depends on that flora. And we cannot pick winners or losers in advance because of the complexity of the interactions involved. 

    You leave yourself wide open to exhibition of examples of cute or valuable species that will benefit and pests or weeds that will be hurt. You will counter with examples of the opposite. The argument will sink into the weeds.

    I assume you want journalists to focus on these issues because you believe they advance your cause. I think that’s an admirable goal, if somewhat late in the day to arrive at.

    This is not one that highlights danger from anthropogenic contributions of CO2. You are telling people that the same messy interplay of ecologic forces will continue–but that different forces will be stronger and we don’t know the outcome.

    What do you think the reaction of the average reader should be to that? 

  285. Tom Fuller says:

    Never mind. I was just trying to help.

    Please bear in mind Little Big Man’s advice to General Custer and continue with your brilliant campaign. ‘Onward to victory, men of the Seventh!’

  286. willard says:

    > I was just trying to help.

    That’s easy to refute, for instance:

    Pity your troops couldn’t have stopped lying about the polar bears.

  287. mt says:

    My cause is that people adequately understand the situation. I believe and hope they can be convinced to act appropriately if they do. I believe that they cannot be so convinced if the understanding is at the present level.

    It is not a “deficit model” in that I propose such understanding is sufficient. It is a”deficit model” in that I propose that it is necessary.

    I actually appreciate any sniping ad argumentum, especially if it stems from a misunderstanding of my intent. This is a valuable sort of feedback.

    The main question for Keith, though, and the reason I raise it here, is whether topics like these should be published outside the climo-blogosphere, and if so, where and how.

  288. PDA says:

    The gardeners may have reason to suggest we are asymptotically Getting to YES:

    CO2 emissions increase concentrations which are a pain in the ass and will prove to be a real problem if we don’t start addressing them now. 

    there is more to relevant public knowledge than advancing one extreme or the other.

    the same messy interplay of ecologic forces will continue”“but that different forces will be stronger and we don’t know the outcome.

    “Separate the people from the problem.
    Focus on interests, not positions.
    Invent options for mutual gain.
    Insist on using objective criteria.”

    So mote it be.

  289. willard says:

    PDA,

    Could you make that in three eight-words stanza?

    Many thanks!

  290. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, instead of performing the same exercise on your remaining points (just lose the Climategate crap–you’re wrong and it’s obvious you don’t know what you’re writing about), I will give you my best recommendations. 

    Please take them for what they are worth and not at face value. Recognize they come from someone who does not agree with you and who thinks that you have acted like a little shit for over two years.

    1. Your goal is to regain lost credibility–not for your science, but for your messaging.

    2. You do need the help of journalists to do that. Journalists are time-starved, under-educated and need simplicity. So do their readers.

    3. You will not convince people you know the future. Concentrate instead on showing you understand the past. The past will sell your position just fine.

    4. You need one theme, not eight. Read about positioning, pillars and messages. Think about them. Much as I think you’re a little shit, you have done here what I haven’t seen any other member of the Climaterati do. Test your messaging in advance of deployment. There is hope for you yet.

    5. Admit your failures–in messaging. Frankly state you want to start over with a clean slate. 

    6. Remember that if you predict the end of civilization, there are only two possible outcomes, neither of them good. Either you will be categorized with the cranks who do this regularly or you will demotivate those who would otherwise work on your behalf.

    7. Make the Paul Kellys of the world your new poster children–throw away all pictures of polar bears. Not because Paul will change the climate. But because he will change the politics.

    8. Remember the story of the bird who got covered in cow manure.

  291. Marlowe Johnson says:

    you have acted like a little shit for over two years. 

    feeling all warm and fuzzy eh Tom 🙄 

  292. Tom Fuller says:

    Tell whoever’s reading this to you to read the whole passage, #296. 

  293. willard says:

    Marlowe,

    I believe the warm and fuzzy feeling refers to this:

    He [mt] waited a month and retreated to friendly territory and engaged in unprovoked character assassination.

    http://cluebyfour.com/2010/10/tobis-on-currys-uncertainty-and-doubt-series/

    Now, just imagine that mt wrote about Judy two or three times a week for more than five years…

  294. Tom Fuller says:

    He was on track to do that until he opened P3.

  295. willard says:

    I point to this:

    > He was on track to do that until he opened P3.

    and I point to this:

    > You will not convince people you know the future.

    Seems that some still can convince people they know the future past.

  296. #299; No, I had already stopped writing about her shortly after my vocal critique of her incoherent Italian Flag. I had done her enough damage at that point and don’t want to get into a vendetta like some people seem to. I have no particular reason to wish her ill on a personal basis.

    It’s true that I wrote about her a lot before that. It’s also true that P3 is trying to attract a broader audience and so keeps away from blog drama as much as possible. 

    It’s untrue that I waited a month to respond to the Flag nonsense, as Willard’s link kindly reminds me. I don’t see that as particularly important. Still, it is odd to see someone repeating a long-refuted error.

    I stand by the assertion that it is so obviously nonsensical as to raise questions about Curry’s suitability for her position. Perhaps I ought to have have toned down the shark-jumping talk. But the revealed incompetence shocked me, after months of following Curry and puzzling over how she could say some of those things. The answer appears to be that she lacks clarity of thought.

    There are at least three kinds of wrong. With the Flag piece, Curry hits the lowest kind, the kind that a nonspecialist can easily refute, in a big way. Somebody needed to say it.

    And every time Tom Fuller brings it up, I have to remind everybody that there was a spectacular failure of reason than several nonspecialists have fully and easily understood. So the kindest thing for Tom Fuller to do for Curry would be not to continue defending her error, but to join me and her in letting the matter drop.

  297. willard says:

    Let’s note this gardener’s note from the previous link I cited:

    Tom, for the third time: Tobis’s post was not about “Doubt” from September 15, but rather “Overconfidence in IPCC’s detection and attribution: Part III” from October 24. “Born Beyond the Shark” was posted on October 26.

    If you want to try and sell the idea that your complaint with Tobis is that he should have posted his argument in raw HTML inside a comment box on Etc., fine. Good luck with that.

    You’ve had ample opportunity to respond on the substance of his argument. You’ve posted a dozen comments here, every one of them argumentum ad hominem. It’s not that you’re too busy, or that the subject is somehow beneath you. It’s because spluttering hatred of Michael Tobis is literally all you have.

    At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    There is this other one:

    I don’t think I was all unclear about my motivation in posting this redaction and the type of discussion I wanted to encourage. Since you’ve just explicitly stated your intention in commenting here was to derail any such discussion, I hope that you’ll understand why any further comment from you will be placed in queue.

    Let’s also note this comment from Lazar:

    PDA created this post for people to have that discussion. There is the Collide-a-Scape thread to make the point about the horribleness of mt’s insults”¦ twenty times over.

    Now, what thread was it?

    There is this one:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2010/10/26/curry-the-apostate/

    There sure are others. In fact, I can’t recall any thread at Keith’s with mt that did not have some shirt rippin’ from our gracious Groundskeeper Willie.

  298. Tom C says:

    mt – If you cancel any other epochs, either prospectively or retrospectively, you might want to post notice here on Keith’s blog.

  299. re #295, My resolution to be nothing but kind to Tom Fuller is sorely tested. A number of delicious ripostes must be eschewed. 

    I limit myself solely to thanking Tom for calling me “little”, something that nobody else has done for a very long time.

  300. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, you don’t need to be or pretend to be kind to me. You just need to start being factually correct, something that seems to perennially elude you. You cannot be factually correct about those you support, those you oppose, your policies, the policies of your opponents, what has happened in the past or what is happening in the present. Just be right once in a while.

  301. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Michael, 

    I, for one, won’t think less of you if you fail in holding to your resolution in this instance. I think a reasonable claim of undue provocation can be made.

    Since I can’t comment over at P3 right now, another two other pithy memes come to mind:

    – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; and

    – Your mother was right. Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.

  302. Tom Fuller says:

    Actually willard, there was a period in late 2011 where I did not comment here at all, including many threads where Dr. Tobis posted. I read them. I did not comment.

    Nice selection of greatest hits from that thread. You forgot the one where Dr. Tobis admitted his attack on Judith Curry was a political hit job. Or maybe you didn’t forget…

  303. PDA says:

    We can do as the Harvies do.

    Most of us begin negotiation by identifying a position and arguing for it, such as: “I want to retain the CEO title.” But such positional bargaining can limit your ability to arrive at a “wise agreement” that benefits both parties “” the proverbial middle ground and the whole purpose of negotiation. Instead of thinking of a “position,” identify the goal. You want remuneration for the sweat you put into your company. You want, for example, status (to remain CEO). But a specific position is binary “” you either get it or you don’t. A goal can be attained in many ways, giving you many more options for arriving at a solution.

    As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden. — Chance

  304. willard says:

    #307,

    I was waiting for our Grounskeeper Willie to quote it, but in the spirit of good faith, here it is:

    If Curry had introduced this nonsense through normal scientific channels (rather than in her self-congratulatory blog where it is aimed at a largely nonscientific audience) I would never have been so rude as to publicly say what I was thinking.

    It is the high profile of the nonsense, and the widespread admiration that it attains despite its incoherence, that makes it necessary to raise the profile of the rejoinder. Though people think its inappropriate to pay attention to what her readers are saying, and it’s not what PDA wants here, I think this adulation is really the core of the story.

    Anybody can be wrong on the internet, but when somebody is wrong and attracts an enthusiastic following, it is worthy of some attention. If it were simply a botched attempt at science, it would have been sufficient to simply and politely ignore it. But it is an attempt to sway people’s opinions using botched science. That’s a different matter, and that’s why somebody has to call BS.

    It’s a wonder how the emperor’s clothes parable is selectively celebrated. For the twentieth time, if any of this makes sense, let’s see somebody explain it. Pending that, this is indeed about politics, not about science. There’s no sign of science to be seen.

    Our emphasis.

    Agreeing with mt that all this has political basis might help us reach the Garden of Yes. We’re so close to the edge:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEfZY04fsr0

    (You can listen to this one, Keith: it’s from the early 70s. Not that 80 Cure stuff from the other day…)

    In exchange, I’d like to have a link to a late-2011 thread such as described.

  305. Tom Fuller says:

    willard, you’re free to do your own searching. Happy hunting. I was off this blog (of my own volition) for at least three months through the end of the year.

  306. While Tom Fuller thinks and frequently alleges that I am a very bad person, I think he means well and simply misunderstands me (and the climate mainstream) pretty badly. So I plan to be as nice to him as I can manage.

    But I have to defend myself if he attacks. Tom Fuller has filibustered me out of here for a long time, but I think that isn’t fair. I enjoy this crowd, even some of the most exasperating people like Sashka and Nullius. And God help me, I even enjoy Tom Fuller’s stuff sometimes. 

    I understand he thinks I am just faking being polite. So be it. In being or pretending to be polite, I am trying to create a circumstance under which he will be motivated to be polite or pretend to be polite to me too. If he chooses not to notice that, so be it, but I think it won’t help his cause.

  307. BBD says:

    mt

    Hear, hear.

    Or put another way, +1. I shall never, ever use a higher figure again, promise.

    🙂

  308. #309, thanks!

    Tom Fuller, is that supposed to be “the one where Dr. Tobis admitted his attack on Judith Curry was a political hit job”? That seems a rather skewed summary.

  309. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, this is liable to bring the wrath of Keith down upon us so I will be brief. You attacked Judith Curry, not her Italian flag construct. You attacked her character and her competence and questioned her intelligence without reading her published work. 

    You have done exactly the same thing with both Pielkes, Steve McIntyre, Lucia Liljegren, Steve Mosher and myself. 

    You attack someone in political opposition. You don’t read what they write. You are wrong on the facts. And you don’t care.

    That is as close to a textbook definition of ‘acting like a little shit’ as I will ever see in my lifetime.

  310. Marlowe Johnson says:

    He’s done it again! So be it.

  311. PDA says:

    We don’t have a choice about whether conflict will happen in our lives. But we do have a choice about how we will deal with it. We really have three choices: flight, fight, and unite.

    Each of these responses has advantages and disadvantages:Flight: We can avoid dealing with a conflict. Sometimes the wisest thing to do may be to let the other person have his or her way to get something more important. But if we ignore conflicts that hurt others, our relationships, or ourselves, the conflict is likely to continue and grow.Fight: In other situations, we may decide to address the conflict through confrontation. This can take many forms: the justice system, an arbitrator, an argument, or force. These approaches give one party victory but the other defeat.Unite: There are times when we want to address a conflict in a way that both solves the problem and improves our relationship with the other person. While this requires self-discipline and time, it has the benefit of increasing long-term cooperation and mutual respect. We call this approach Cooperative Problem Solving or CPS.

    El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido. Viva el cooperative model.

  312. willard says:

    PDA,

    Are the disadvantages of the last choice discipline and time?

  313. willard says:

    Tom Fuller Says:
    October 7th, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Mr. Tobis, you will have a challenge in helping your team insure that this does not resemble old wine in a new bottle. Good luck.

    As I don’t consider myself one of the Elect, I will probably not be a frequent flyer there. I’m sure that displeases you greatly”¦

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2011/10/07/clubby-climate-blogosphere-gets-clubbier/#comment-80000

  314. willard says:

    From the same thread:

    Tom Fuller Says:

    October 15th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Well, sadly, Planet 3.0 is just more of the same. I went over there and commented on Neven’s reposted essay in praise of Dr. Malthus. Stayed on point, was rigorously polite. Tobis snarked on his mistaken opinion about my comments, edited one comment and refused to post another.

    Same old, same old.

    How many months, again?

  315. PDA says:

    Well, that, certainly… it’s also a lot less fun and dramatic.

    The South African Andrew Mandla Masondo famously said “Understand the differences; act on the commonalities.”A former UmKhonta wzSizwe (Spear of the People) guerrilla, he became a major general in the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) and was in charge of integrating the military until he retired in 2001.

    I often think of South Africa when people tell me how hopeless the culture war and the divisive political climate is. If they could get it together after Sharpeville, the years of oppression, necklacing… imagine what we could do.

  316. willard says:

    Seems that our patient Groundskeeper Willie has not commented on this thread:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2011/11/18/games-people-play/

    I now recall at least one thread at Keith’s with mt and without the usual shirt rippin’.

    I stand corrected.

    An interesting thread, btw. Interestingly,for those who know some transactional analysis, our beloved Groundskeeper is playing the Kick Me game.

  317. I don’t know what Willard wants to prove with #320 but I feel compelled to respond. I have admitted that purging one Tom Fuller comment and one NiV comment early in the history of the sire was not a productive policy. I have apologized for this on several occasions. Shortly thereafter we instituted our posting policy, adapted from Steve Easterbrook’s:“Constructive comments that move the discussion on are always welcome, no matter what line of argumentation they take. Comments that add nothing interesting or which try to derail the ongoing discussion are ruthlessly purged. In doing this, we are not worrying about fairness, balance, etc. All we care about is constructive engagement. Comments from nonmembers must be explicitly approved, while comments from members may on occasion be demoted. Comments which are rejected or demoted, or where part of the article is edited, will be visible in full here(Stuff falling into the spam filter is not reviewed manually or moved. It greatly exceeds real comments in quantity.) So far about 100 comments have been manually moved off thread as non-constructive. Nothing has been removed, except for the odd false positive in the spam filter that we might have missed. Our editorial judgment is therefore visible and can be contested.

  318. argh…

    I don’t know what Willard wants to prove with #320 but I feel compelled to respond. 

    I have admitted that purging one Tom Fuller comment and one NiV comment early in the history of the sire was not a productive policy. I have apologized for this on several occasions. 

    Shortly thereafter we instituted our posting policy, adapted from Steve Easterbrook’s:

    “Constructive comments that move the discussion on are always welcome, no matter what line of argumentation they take. Comments that add nothing interesting or which try to derail the ongoing discussion are ruthlessly purged. In doing this, we are not worrying about fairness, balance, etc. All we care about is constructive engagement. Comments from nonmembers must be explicitly approved, while comments from members may on occasion be demoted. Comments which are rejected or demoted, or where part of the article is edited, will be visible in full here

    (Stuff falling into the spam filter is not reviewed manually or moved. It greatly exceeds real comments in quantity.) 

    So far about 100 comments have been manually moved off thread as non-constructive. Nothing has been removed, except for the odd false positive in the spam filter that we might have missed. Our editorial judgment is therefore visible and can be contested. Disagreeing is OK. Being wrong is OK. Stubborn refusal to express any understanding of other people’s responses is not OK. 

  319. willard says:

    > I don’t know what Willard wants to prove with #320.

    First, that the claim

    I was off this blog (of my own volition) for at least three months through the end of the year.

    might need some revision.

    Second, that the onlookers should know that you and Groundskeeper Willie share an history of fond affection:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F0k7_FuzPA

    Third, that if we see how tiresome this is, we might stop.

    Fourth, that all this is very sad.

    PS: Please listen to this album if you can, mt. It’s one of the best albums of all times.

  320. Tom Fuller says:

    Dr. Tobis, instead of performing the same exercise on your remaining points (just lose the Climategate crap”“you’re wrong and it’s obvious you don’t know what you’re writing about), I will give you my best recommendations. 

    Please take them for what they are worth and not at face value. Recognize they come from someone who does not agree with you and who thinks that you have acted like a little shit for over two years.

    1. Your goal is to regain lost credibility”“not for your science, but for your messaging.2. You do need the help of journalists to do that. Journalists are time-starved, under-educated and need simplicity. So do their readers.

    3. You will not convince people you know the future. Concentrate instead on showing you understand the past. The past will sell your position just fine.

    4. You need one theme, not eight. Read about positioning, pillars and messages. Think about them. Much as I think you’re a little shit, you have done here what I haven’t seen any other member of the Climaterati do. Test your messaging in advance of deployment. There is hope for you yet.

    5. Admit your failures”“in messaging. Frankly state you want to start over with a clean slate. 

    6. Remember that if you predict the end of civilization, there are only two possible outcomes, neither of them good. Either you will be categorized with the cranks who do this regularly or you will demotivate those who would otherwise work on your behalf.

    7. Make the Paul Kellys of the world your new poster children”“throw away all pictures of polar bears. Not because Paul will change the climate. But because he will change the politics.

    8. Remember the story of the bird who got covered in cow manure.

  321. willard says:

    What the Hell.

    Let’s point to this:

    > Remember that if you predict the end of civilization, there are only two possible outcomes, neither of them good.

    and this:

    Humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075. If they all come from coal we’re ruined.

    http://3000quads.com/

    This might explain this question:

    > Why do you think people care if you [are coherent or not]?

  322. Tom Fuller says:

    Willard, that’s not a prediction. It’s a statement contingent on fulfillment of a condition. 

    It’s also true, easily shown and, as far as I’m aware, undisputed.

    What it is not is a prediction of the future.

  323. #329 Very odd. That is exactly what I was going to say.

  324. Tom Fuller says:

    It’s also why concentrating on current weather is bad tactics and strategy.

    Weather changes. Being on a straight line trend to using six times as much energy as we do today is a downhill slope to misery. Even skeptics would agree that a world full of cities as polluted as the worst of Chinese cities is not a good thing to have happen.

  325. PDA says:

    The world’s population is now estimated to peak at between 9 and 10 billion people somewhere around 2075. If they use energy at the same rate as the average American, they will consume 3,000 quadrillion btus.

    […]

    If most of that energy is provided by burning coal, we face something close to disaster.

    Another point of agreement between Groundskeeper Willie and Dr. Doom.

    Imagine that.

  326. Tom Fuller says:

    Do you have a point, PDA?

  327. willard says:

    #330,

    That’s odd, because I thought a prediction was a statement contingent on fulfillment of a condition. In other words, it’s a counterfactual:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-counterfactual/

  328. willard says:

    I believe PDA’s point was that there was another point of agreement between Groundskeeper Willie and Dr. Doom.

  329. Tom Fuller says:

    I’m sorry willard. I bow to your undoubtedly superior if somewhat idiosyncratic definition of prediction.Hence my saying that should the sun quit shining it will be cooler is a prediction? Good to know.

  330. PDA says:

    Indeed.

    However, I didn’t mean for my thoughts about a cooperative model of communication to disrupt the nth rematch of the Michael Tobis vs. Thomas Fuller lucha libre.

    http://bit.ly/MPhfjb

  331. Tom Fuller says:

    332 and 335, if that really is your point, I’ll refer you to what I wrote above:”You don’t care what I believe. As long as I don’t believe the same as you I am a denialister. Time after time you have written on your weblog of your surprise that you and I advocate the same solutions to  the problems we face. And ten minutes later you call me a denier again.”

  332. willard says:

    #336,

    I never offered a definition of a prediction. What I said was the a prediction was a counterfactual.

    Not all counterfactuals are predictions.

    To make predictions, we also need a scientific framework, usually involving time and causality.

    The point is that the sentence “The next Ice age has been cancelled” contains implicit preconditions.

    ***

    If we stricty obey to the practice of conditionalizing our claims, we can’t even say something like:

    Snow is white.

    ***

    Instead of playing a game of Big Cat with our Groundskeeper Willie, we’ll give a very big hint. We should say:

    If we don’t act, something bad will happen, [so we should do something about it].

    and not

    Something bad will happen [and there’s nothing we can do].

    or

    Something bad will happen, [unless we do something about it].

    The problem is that all the facts are of the latter form.

    Snow is white and there’s not much we can do about it.

    ***

    Groundskeeper Willie’s not very far from Dr. Doom. His browbeating has no merit.

  333. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, tell them if you meet them.

  334. willard says:

    A true stychomantic experience:

    Just came back from my basement.

    Found a box of books I did not know I had. Opened a book at random. Here’s what I read:

    Heavy rainfall may be the cause of flooding, but we should not normally regard the fact that no flooding occurs as a cause of the absence of rain.

    [Causal Relations, G. H. von Wright, in Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, vol. IV – The Ultimate Battle]

    Only the citation has been beautified in the story.

  335. PDA says:

    stichomancy +1

  336. Actually, we have reached the point in this story where some very bad consequences will happen regardless of what we do about it, and a few very bad consequences have already happened.

    The future is not yet written. But our hand weighs upon it already.

  337. Tom Fuller says:

    #343, it is just this type of bald assertion that kills your chances for communication with anyone who doesn’t already believe it.

    That bad consequences have happened is eminently debatable–it certainly is not proven and peer-reviewed publications dispute your point vigorously and, IMO, cogently. 

    That bad consequences are a foregone conclusion due to climate change is similarly suspect. It depends on what we do. 

    Statements like yours make it ever-more likely that we will do nothing.

  338. If nothing much is done, the day will come when #344 makes no sense as a prescription, whether that day has happened already or not. There’s a long way between bad consequences and the worst possible ones.

    What’s more it’s an odd argument. In the past, no less than John McCarthy (among many others) argued that no action would be taken UNTIL bad consequences had ensued, because people won’t believe an obscure scientific discipline and need clear empirical evidence. Now I see Tom Fuller with an argument that no action can be taken AFTER they happen, because it’s uninspiring or something.

    If both premises are correct our goose is well and truly cooked, isn’t it?

  339. willard says:

    > If both premises are correct our goose is well and truly cooked, isn’t it?

    Not at all, Dr. Doom:

    I [Groundskeeper Willie] really do believe that we are entering a new age full of potential and the promise of a good life, rather than stumbling gasping through the end of the last good years of humanity.

    http://3000quads.com/2012/08/19/energy-as-a-constraint-on-growth/

    Let’s rip off our shirts and expose ourselves to the dawning of the age of Aquarius.

  340. mt says:

    This is the dawning of the Age of Arrhenius.

  341. Tom Fuller says:

    You guys are always suckers for an end of the world scenario. You having a party on December 21st? How will you feel on December 22nd?Willard, if you were numerate you would realize that if the world does not enter a new age of potential and full of possibilities, the emissions needed to sustain your Endgame will not occur, do you not? 

  342. kdk33 says:

    It turns out that I very much agree with MT.  Bad things are already hapenning, and I, for one, am hoping we take action soon. 

    For example:  wealth squandered on wind and solar endeavours that will never materialize, agricultural resources diverted from feeding a hungry planet to growing fuel, government corruption and crony capitalism, economic hardship as readily available energy sources are left untapped thus artifically raising the price of… everything, perversions of sciencem unwarranted angst and worry.

    Hopefully things will get better.

  343. willard says:

    > [I]f you were numerate [1] you would realize [2] that if the world does not enter a new age of potential and full of possibilities [3], the emissions needed to sustain your Endgame [4] will not occur, do you not? [5]

    [1] Ad hominem.

    [2] A rationalist counterfactual.

    [3] Note how the dawning of the Age of Arrhenius is being essentially characterized.

    [4] Incorrect attribution, forgetting about one’s Humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075. If they all come from coal we’re ruined..

    [5] Rhetorical question.

    ***

    Among the five (!) rhetorical tricks that contain this single sentence, only [3] seems like a novelty.

    Not that Hopes and Fears have not been tried before:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oextk-If8HQ

    This is beginning to look like a peddler contest.

  344. willard says:

    Instead of waiting for more shirt rippin’, I’ll show the problem underneath [3].

    Let’s assume the “Age of Arrhenius” counterfactual:

    [AA] Dumping CO2 leads to blissful possibilities.

    That is, the fact that we do dump CO2 ipso facto leads to blissful possibilities. This is a direct effect caused by dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

    That we’re dumping CO2 seems indubitable.

    Perhaps more than that: to have more blissful possibilities, we need to dump more CO2 into the atmosphere. This presupposition will not be explored here.

    Now, let’s consider our renewed faith in humanity:

    [GW] I really do believe that we are entering a new age full of potential and the promise of a good life.

    This belief refers to the consequent of AA, which we just assumed.

    What was the precondition, again? That we’re dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

    What does this precondition triggers, again? Blissful possibilities.

    Here’s our quandary. If we assume that dumping CO2 into the atmosphere leads to blissful possibilities, why the hell do we need to have faith in the Age of Arrhenius?

    Faith is cheap when it’s based on (partial) definitions.

    But selling hopes sure sounds more sexy than selling fears.

    ***

    Meanwhile, let’s not forget that humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075 and that if they all come from coal we’re ruined.

  345. Tom C says:

    As long we are on the topic of EnD-of-the-World-as-we-Know-It, did everyone see that Joe Romm (Joe Romm!) is out with a book on how to use language persuasively. http://www.pointofinquiry.org/joe_romm_language_intelligence/ 

  346. Tom Fuller says:

    Hi Tom C, yes, something rich in comic possibilities.

    I wonder if I should adopt Dr. Tobis’ strategy of pretending the book doesn’t exist, or if I should pursue the 3 x R + S routine? (Read, Ridicule and Rip Shirts…).

  347. Tom Fuller says:

    As for raggedy shirt, it seems pretty simple to the rest of us.Go forth into this new world of the future and make energy part of the future we are pursuing. Renew nukes, uprate hydro-electric, make cars hybrids at least, and go after the other renewables with determination. Displace coal with alternatives in the developing world through partnership, technology transfer, low interest loans and charity.But that way nobody has to rend their own shirts, daub their faces with sackcloth and moan about the futility of it all–so I’m sure you won’t be interested.

  348. willard says:

    #353,

    Yet another angle for our relentless Grounskeeper Willie’s political hit job.

    I thought that hit jobs did not take years to be executed.

    I like that concept: political hit job.

    Reminds me of a book.

  349. willard says:

    Another flower for PDA’s garden:

    Renew nukes, uprate hydro-electric, make cars hybrids at least, and go after the other renewables with determination. Displace coal with alternatives in the developing world through partnership, technology transfer, low interest loans and charity.

  350. Tom Fuller says:

    Raggedy Shirt, you’ve read a book?

  351. mt says:

    Re #354: <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNfGyIW7aHM”>How to play the flute</a>. 

  352. willard says:

    > [Y]ou’ve read a book?

    I did read Bishop Hill’s political hit job.

    As for the companion book, I asked many times to Groundskeeper Willie’s companion.

    Seems that there are always 20 millions things to do than to acknowledge that request.

    All in all, let’s not forget that humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075 (is that a prediction?) and that if they all come from coal we’re ruined (let’s not talk about really, really, really clean coal).

  353. willard says:

    Too bad Dr. Doom does not believe in the unclean hands doctrine as auditors usually do, for then he would have no reason to lend me his copy.

  354. willard says:

    NOT to lend me his copy, that is.

  355. Tom Fuller says:

    You could have had it in your hands a long time ago. It isn’t that expensive.

    Far less than the cost of designer shirts that have special tearaways so you can always whine that your shirt has been ripped by the forces of evil.

  356. Tom Fuller says:

    Maybe this mythical Dr. Doom thinks his honor is worth more than the cost of the book.

    Of course, an anonymous blogger who says his name is his honor wouldn’t really understand that, would he?

  357. willard says:

    Groundskeeper Willie should authorize me to have Dr. Doom’s copy.

    Honor does not entail one writes under one’s real name.

    Speaking of which, here’s an interesting story:

    In another unusual move, when replying to me Steve used my full name as opposed to the name I posted under (I used the name A(nother) John and in his reply Steve called me John (Cross). It seems quite unprofessional (and perhaps some might find it intimidating) to have your name posted like that if you disagree (in a civil manner of course) with the views of the site. Anyone who does not wish to be outed beware.

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/26984643115

    I’m quite confident that Groundskeeper Willie could out me any time he pleases. It’s not that hard.

  358. willard says:

    Meanwhile, let’s not forget that humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075 and that if they all come from coal we’re ruined.

  359. Tom Fuller says:

    If I see Groundskeeper Willie I’ll give him your opinion. My opinion is that if you can afford a connection to the internet and have adequate time to spend with your pseudo-metaphysical meanderings, you can afford the book. 

  360. Tom Fuller says:

    I’m not interested in your real identity, Willard. I’m not interested in your anonymous construct, either.

    I find it hilarious that you say your name is your honor and you don’t have a name–hence you assert that you have no honor.

    But of course, anybody reading you (and who could avoid you) over the past few years already knew that.

  361. willard says:

    > You can afford the book.

    I’m sure I can, but that is irrelevant to the fact that Groundskeeper Willie’s already said he was OK with Dr. Doom lending me his copy, if Moshpit was OK with it.

    As if it was that complicated for Grounskeeper Willie to ask Moshpit.

    ***

    > I’m not interested in your real identity,

    That explains:

    Your initial is your honor.

    Besides, cf. http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/30073327576

    ***

    > you don’t have a name

    My name is willard.

    My name is my honor.

    My name is my honor. If I do not keep my word, I lose my honor, and my name, which is part of my identity, however virtual Groundskeeper Willie’s trying to portray it.

  362. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, willard, metaphysics is your thing obviously. Equally obvious, logic isn’t. Want to read the book? Buy it.

  363. willard says:

    I bow to our Groundskeeper Willie’s Spock-like logic.

    Meanwhile, humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075 and that if they all come from coal we’re ruined.

  364. Tom Fuller says:

    I hope you make that your signature, Willard. At least that way you will make sense on at least one thing in every comment you make.

  365. willard says:

    So much talent, and yet so juvenile.

    Even Brice de Nice has more rhetorical flair:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTz5wT34tLI

  366. Tom Fuller says:

    Where’s your signature, Willard?

  367. willard says:

    Just the type rhetorical question that kills your chances for communication with anyone who doesn’t already believe the self-serving assumption it contains.

  368. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, I’ll take that with all the seriousness it merits, coming from someone who practices the opposite of communication.

  369. Tom Fuller says:

    Not a match, Willard.  The board goes back. Observation leads to understanding.

  370. BBD says:

    willard @ 379

    Red lobsters and the last few days here remind me of Pincher Martin.

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