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[P]
How a Pseudoscientist Duped the Big Media

By greenrd in Media
Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 04:32:26 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

It's well-known that the editors of certain prominent online news sources aren't too careful about fact-checking - often letting violently mistaken distortions into an article and only registering the mistake some time after publication. This slapdash approach is often contrasted with the supposed relative reliability of the established media... or at least the more reputable newspapers and websites.

The truth is not nearly so clear-cut. When it comes to science and technology issues in particular, mistakes, confusions, and even denial, abound.


Some are minor, such as The Times' mistaking an infamous "how to build a nuke" hoax for the real thing, or repeated confusions between sequencing and interpreting the human genome, to take two examples at random.

However, bad science can be dangerous. If the pseudoscience book The Bell Curve had been published today, one would hope that no serious white journalist would gullibly become converted to white supremacism. Likewise, when reporting on a new book that threatened to undermine the credibility of the entire environmental movement, perhaps a little caution was called for. This is exactly what did not happen.

To briefly summarise the linked article in a paragraph: Despite the fact that the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist [see Amazon customer reviews] had never published any peer-reviewed papers in the environmental sciences - and despite the fact that the rather startling arguments (to put it politely) in the book hadn't successfully weathered a process of critical peer review - the book was reviewed favourably by conservatives and so-called liberals alike. Without, it seems, the most minimal effort being put in to check that the arguments were not factually incorrect, or unsound.

Why could this be?

A genuine book review should, after all, involve slightly more work than merely changing a few words on a press release or wire story - which is what a lot of newsroom work now involves (sorry to burst any naive bubbles there). Moreover, if any book - especially a political or politically-important book - purports to marshall scientific arguments to support its positions, is it really too much to ask that the book be reviewed by someone competent to assess the science? There are, after all, plenty of environmental and environment-related scientists out there. (And not all of them are congenitally incapable of writing for the lay reader.)

Alas, apparently many publications felt that this was an unnecessary extravagance. Or perhaps, pointless, because you would still be left with two opposing "opinions". It's worth pointing out, then, something that should be obvious - but apparently isn't obvious to everyone: An expert is more likely to find flaws in an argument than an ignorant reviewer comparing argument A against counterargument B. If an ignorant reviewer says he finds counterargument B "intuitively plausible", there might still be many holes in it which she or he lacked the knowledge or expertise to spot.

In any case, some journalists attempt to rationalise their lack of concern for verification (reminiscent of Slashdot's "like it or go away" approach):

Browne says journalists shouldn't test "the validity of certain bits of science," but simply judge if someone appears credible and give them an airing to foster debate.
The marketplace of ideas, eh? Nice in theory - the trouble is, popular books promoting ideas like "environmentalism is really a load of nonsense" are quickly seized upon by special interests, and can have an influence totally disproportionate to their accuracy (or lack of it). Unfortunately, in the real world, people aren't perfectly rational calculators, and bogus ideas can gain sway with millions. In a "marketplace of ideas" in which no attention is paid to discerning truth from falsity, he with the most money often has the most influence. Who has more money - Big Oil or Greenpeace?

In any case, Browne's rationalisation conveniently misses the point. The problem is not so much about giving crackpots a hearing - what the media is accused of is painting a very misleading and politically damaging picture. It is the equivalent of presenting Creationism - or the doctrines of Scientology - as established scientific fact.

Might there be something in common - after all - between the openly biased editorial slant of Slashdot, and the editorial decision-making (and the journalistic ethos in a wider sense) of the likes of the NYT, the Chicago Tribune and the Guardian? To put it bluntly, might there sometimes be:

  1. A tendency to value controversy over accuracy
  2. A bias (shared with the overwhelming majority of humanity) to favour arguments which seem to support one's preconceived notions?
The Guardian and The Observer, in particular, are quite an interesting case, because the two sister papers are widely regarded as "liberal", and they frequently publish pro-environmental reports and op-eds (especially noteworthy are those by John Vidal and George Monbiot). However, they are still very much establishment-oriented papers. Discourse is still, most of the time, relatively narrowly constrained - compared to an overtly socialist paper like Socialist Worker - an effect produced by the triple forces of advertiser pressure, an essentially pro-establishment mentality and culture, and public opinion. In any case, not all of their journalists are as supportive of the environmentalists as Vidal and Monbiot. For example:

Anthony Browne, whose articles in the London Observer first brought attention to the English-language edition of The Skeptical Environmentalist, says most environmental journalists spend most of their time "acting as publicists to those who have a vested interest in scaring people about the state of the environment."
Of course, there is a grain of truth in what Browne says. And the environmental movements are not whiter-than-white when it comes to science. Mistakes have been made. Causes have been overhyped. And so on. But the fact that a person points out all this does not imply that everything else they say is correct as well. From the wellspring of praise that has gushed forth, I get the impression that some reviewers have fallen into this elementary fallacy.

Because, presumably the ideologues that lauded this book actually believed much of its arguments - it's not that they're being intentionally deceptive - it's that they've become ideologically blinkered.

The publisher, too - none other than the respected Cambridge University Press - must share some responsibility for giving this book undue credence:

"Despite the sales that have been generated, CUP's credibility and reputation will suffer," says Jane Lubchenco, distinguished professor of zoology at Oregon State University and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Many of us have inquired of our Cambridge contacts how they could have published a book that so clearly could never have passed peer review."

The book was acquired by CUP's social science group, rather than its natural science division...

Thus underlining the lesson of Alan Sokal's Social Text hoax - never rely on social scientists or non-scientists alone to peer review an argument based in the physical sciences. Except in the unlikely event that they have PhDs in both subjects, they are not qualified to do so.

And finally, we must not forget the author himself. How could a "former environmentalist" and vegetarian, presumably aware of the relevant pro-environmental arguments, fall into such glaring errors? Does this transition have anything in common with the oft-remarked tendency of people to become more politically conservative with increasing age?

The most likely explanation is that - like many people - he didn't know all the relevant details of the pro-environmental arguments in the first place - and still doesn't. (For example, as the TomPaine article notes, he spent some time "rebutting" arguments which almost no-one believes any more.) In other words, he stumbled from being (partway) correct without deeply understanding why, to being just plain incorrect. For example, I would be willing to bet that - irrespective of whether the IPCC is correct or not about human-induced climate change - fewer than 1% of the supporters of CO2 reduction policies actually understand the science of climate change in a non-trivial way (myself included). That doesn't, of course, make us necessarily wrong.

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Poll
Were the Big Media named here really duped?
o Yes - by the environmentalists 10%
o Yes - by this anti-environmentalist book 16%
o Yes - by both 14%
o Yes and no... it's more complicated than that 23%
o No - the New York Times never ever makes a mistake! 1%
o No - they simply passed on claims, without endorsing them 2%
o Don't know 8%
o Don't care - we're all going to die anyway, so what's the fuss? 20%

Votes: 67
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o prominent online news sources
o not nearly so clear-cut.
o The Times
o mistaking
o confusions
o The Bell Curve
o did not happen.
o Amazon customer reviews
o special interests
o gain sway with millions.
o The Guardian and The Observer
o George Monbiot
o Cambridge University Press
o Alan Sokal
o IPCC
o Also by greenrd


Display: Sort:
How a Pseudoscientist Duped the Big Media | 175 comments (149 topical, 26 editorial, 0 hidden)
Oh, the irony! (3.60 / 10) (#1)
by greenrd on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 07:18:05 PM EST

Many of you will know me as "that conspiracy nutter", who sometimes posts bizarre stories to k5 without checking the facts very carefully, or at all. As such, it's a bit - shall we say - ironic for me to write an article criticising others for the same fault.

I'm not going to cop out by saying I'm not a journalist, and they are. Kuro5hin is just as much a publisher as the NYT is. Likewise, the fact that there is a process of editorial review doesn't excuse me from the responsibility to check out the facts. However, I do have more limited resources (time and money, and contacts). I'll try and do what I can.

You can call me a hypocrite if you like. I don't care. ;-) In any case, even if I am a hypocrite, that doesn't automatically invalidate the content of my article.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

without checking facts (3.75 / 4) (#43)
by kubalaa on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 10:03:00 AM EST

To be fair, it sounds like that's what you did, yet again. You are correct that this doesn't automatically make you wrong. However, it doesn't make you right either. Those of us who don't have the time to study the issue in great depth would benefit more from a detailed, well-researched rebuttal with references. What we got is basically someone pointing and yelling "pseudoscientist here!"

Both sides are guilty of a lot of handwaving. Scientists unfortunately do not make good counterarguments because they hold a lot of things for "obvious" which, frankly, aren't, to anyone but themselves. And nobody has time to learn everything necessary to come to an informed opinion.

The really unfortunate thing is that most people don't care: they'll get their opinions from their parents or friends, and wave around articles like yours as evidence that they're right.

[ Parent ]

Yes (2.50 / 2) (#67)
by greenrd on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 03:30:56 PM EST

Those of us who don't have the time to study the issue in great depth would benefit more from a detailed, well-researched rebuttal with references.

I agree. However, I did not set out to write a rebuttal to the book. My aim was different: it started out at as just an MLP and then turned into some rather embarassingly long-winded speculations as to why so many were fooled. Far more competent people than me have already written scientific rebuttals. I should have linked to them - that was a mistake.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

a note about structure (none / 0) (#78)
by stfrn on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 07:41:44 PM EST

"long winded" puts it lightly. you might have been better off presenting some sort of argument at the begining and then stated that each speculation was such. but it is acceptable now, and honestly most people wouldn't have done as well.

"Man, I'm going to bed. I can't even insult people properly tonight." - Imperfect
What would you recomend to someone who doesn't like SPAM?
[ Parent ]
The big difference (3.66 / 3) (#46)
by jd on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 10:21:37 AM EST

Posting a story on K5 is to peer-review it. That's what the entire voting system is about (although it's not always used that way).

On the other hand, to publish a book is to claim that the published contents have already been reviewed. As such, they are often not subject to even the most basic investigations.

The most fascinating of the "arguments" so far presented is whether we are running out of oil or not. The answer is "that depends on what counts as running out of oil". There is only a finite quantity of ANY complex substance on the planet, and production of such substances is generally much slower than consumption. Further, the second law of thermodynamics makes it very clear that the production of complex materials is never free. You always lose. In conclusion, in an "absolute" sense, OF COURSE we're running out of oil!!!

Now, if you're looking at a specific time-frame, then things are different. We don't know the total oil reserves of the planet, but we can guess that they're probably still substantial. However, they CANNOT exceed, even in theory, the free oxygen in the atmosphere, minus the carbon held by organic life, minus the elemental carbon (eg: graphite, diamond), minus the carbon held by other compounds. It's a lot. Not infinite, but a lot.

But here we run into a problem. The larger we deem one resource, the SMALLER the upper limit of all other related resources becomes. The sum total is fixed. When the Earth first formed, there was no free oxygen. Since then, the amount of oxygen added or removed from the planet has not been significant, so if you were to calculate how much carbon dioxide and water has been converted to release enough free oxygen for that oxygen to make about 18-22% of the atmosphere, then you can figure out the total amount of carbon & hydrogen freed up to produce compounds containing one or both of these elements.

What does this al boil down to?

An environmental argument has no validity without a scope. This book has no defined scope. Therefore, however "correct" any subset of the arguments are, in any given scope, and however "correct" all the arguments are, if you fish hard enough for the right scope for each, that "validity" is meaningless.

[ Parent ]

Running out of resources? Not so (3.00 / 3) (#52)
by Anatta on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:20:42 PM EST

The most fascinating of the "arguments" so far presented is whether we are running out of oil or not. The answer is "that depends on what counts as running out of oil". There is only a finite quantity of ANY complex substance on the planet, and production of such substances is generally much slower than consumption. Further, the second law of thermodynamics makes it very clear that the production of complex materials is never free. You always lose. In conclusion, in an "absolute" sense, OF COURSE we're running out of oil!!!

Actually, we're not. We won't ever "run out" of oil. It may be that (centuries from now) oil will get quite expensive and that we will turn to other, cheaper fuels, but as far as "running out" as in no more oil on the planet, we will never reach that point. Why? Because as resources get expensive, people are encouraged to innovate new ways to find and process the resources in order to make money, or they find substitute resources. Price, the best measure of the current and future scarcity, tends to fall dramatically for virtually all commodities. In fact, we now have more oil (and every other commodity) readily available to us than ever before, and long-term prices are the lowest they've ever been for virutally every commodity.

For more information on the behaviour of commodity prices, and information on why resources on Earth are essentially infinite (in terms of utility), take a look at this link, a text written by economist Julian Simon, famous for his bets with alarmist Paul Ehrlich about the availability of natural resources. Not surprisingly, he was very right (thanks to whomever posted that link earlier in the discussion).
My Music
[ Parent ]

Sadly... (5.00 / 2) (#62)
by jd on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 02:00:19 PM EST

That philosophy relies on several assumptions of it's own.

  • That there will BE a practical alternative
  • That such an alternative will be producable, given the resource problem that caused such an alternative to be produced in the first place
  • That political pressure will not be used to discredit the alternative (eg: British Nuclear Fuels paying politicians to falsify cost/watt figures, during the 80's, to destroy the threat posed by the Salter Duck project) - I will absolutely NOT mention Microsoft here, either, though I'm tempted to
  • That the means (and will) to switch to the alternative actually exists, even though the alternative itself does (eg: IETF's uphill struggle to get IPv6 even recognised, let alone used, by anyone other than a few geeks and academics in need of a research paper)
  • That economics is even a viable model to simulate behaviour (eg: the Open Source model violates virtally every supply/demand rule in modern economic theory, along with the reward/punishment scheme, and all these other polarized systems. People aren't binary, and minds aren't linear)

Bottom line - until economic theory has progressed enough to understand the last 25 years, I'm not going to trust it much with the next 10,000.

[ Parent ]

These assumptions have been justified (2.00 / 1) (#80)
by pyramid termite on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:34:22 PM EST

Once oil gets expensive enough, solar power would be an obvious alternative, as far as electrical generation was concerned. If it were to be cheaper than oil, it would be practical, it would not be a resource we would be in danger of running out of, it's hard to imagine political pressure turning against it if the alternative was to be an energy shortage, the means are already here, the will would be provided by a shortage. The only question left is whether economics would be a viable model in this case. I think it would be.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Solar Power (none / 0) (#128)
by jd on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:34:40 AM EST

The energy production of solar power is, frankly, abysmal. IIRC, the theoretical maximum efficiency of conversion of sunlight into electricity is less than 10%, and sunlight (being a fairly long wavelength) doesn't have that much energy in it, to start with.

The solar car race across Australia is a good example. You need practically the entire surface area of the car to be a solar panel, and you need the high levels of consistant sunlight found only in a desert, in the sub-tropics and tropics.

Solar panels for heating water are generally much better, as they are able to make better use of the energy, over a much wider range of frequences. You're not trying to blast electrons out of their orbits, but rather excite (heat up) a layer of material. Such devices can operate very efficiently, even in very cold, cloudy climates, making them practical devices.

Wind power is a little more interesting, but the techniques used are a better demonstration of human stupidity than human ingenuity. Those gigantic windmills you can see, in some parts of the world, don't handle high wind-speeds well. They are also notoriously inefficient, if the wind changes direction, as they need to re-point. Well, those even capable of repointing.

Another design was tried at an alternative energy centre, in mid-Wales, which basically looked like an upturned egg-whisk. It was stable at even high speeds, and did not need to turn, as it already "faced" all directions at the same time. From an energy perspective, this was a brilliant design, but has never become popular. The truth may out, but the general population seems to do a good job of ignoring it, sometimes.

Tidal power has been tried in a variety of forms. Huge, underground generators have been experimented with, on the French coast, with huge whirlpools marking where the water feeds in. It's not economic, and it really makes a hash of the coastal environment. (Fish generally don't do well, when run through power generators.)

The Salter Duck was the most successful of all the tidal schemes tried. It actually generates power at a higher watt-per-unit-cost than nuclear power, hence the attempt by BNFL to stifle it. You won't see them, though. Environmentally, they're probably one of the better choices, but they do still have an impact. Economically, though, they're a nightmare. You need a lot of Salter Ducks, strung over a wide river, to generate any measurable amount of power. This instantly makes life awkward for the shipping and fishing industries. Gaps large enough to take a supertanker, or a super-cargo ship, are probably going to be so large, there's not enough space to generate any power. And you're definitely NOT going to have fun, using drag-nets, with this device.

Geothermal power is popular, in countries that have enough activity to use. But that's not many, and the power obtainable is still limited. However, it's probably the least-damaging and most cost-effective solution going, for places like New Zealand, where costs of importing fuel are going to be painful, even if it's plentiful.

Hydroelectric dams are proving to cause so much environmental damage, that they are now being dismantled in many places.

In summary, for 99.9% of the world, no alternative energy sources exist. The schemes devised so far are just intellectual exercises, not serious power sources. If you can't even run a car, you're not going to run an entire city. And if you can't run even one city, you ain't got shit for running the country.

[ Parent ]

say what? (5.00 / 1) (#133)
by physicsgod on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 12:21:33 PM EST

Some of your claims are rather...fantastic. I'd love it if you would back them up.

Theoretical max. effeciency of 10% on solar panels? Right now there are lab panels that are at 8%, and I think there are plans for panels that are 11% effecient. You aren't blasting electrons out of orbits (and even that's not too hard, it's how you get static electricity), you're "blasting" the electrons from the valence band to the conduction band, and we've got 50 years of experience with tailoring semiconductor bandgaps. And with ~2kW per square meter there's plenty of energy, at least during the day, and in heliocentric orbit there is no night.

The wind power problems you pointed out were solved 10 years ago, by a transmission. As the wind speed goes up the tranny shifts gears, which makes the blades harder to turn. I've drven past a windfarm in Wyoming on days when there's hardly any wind and on days when semi's are being overturned, the blades on the windmills are always spinning at the same speed. Pointing is pretty much a passive operation. The big problem with the vertical mills is that they take up more land than the ones on a pole.

Where are they taking down dams? I know there are people who are opposed to building new dams, and Turkey's having some problems. And I know there are people who want to take down Hoover dam, but nobody important listens to those kooks. The thing with a dam is that about a month after you build it the local enviroment is gone, totally.

Finally, why did you neglect nuclear? It works everywhere, is safe (in 50 years of use there's only been 1 significant release of radiation, and that was from a brain-dead reactor design), and if the proper technologies are used the waste isn't even much of a problem. The only problems are political around the waste issues and ignorance on the part of the general public.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

Solar energy figures (none / 0) (#151)
by ariux on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 04:35:12 AM EST

Theoretical max. effeciency of 10% on solar panels? Right now there are lab panels that are at 8%, and I think there are plans for panels that are 11% effecient. You aren't blasting electrons out of orbits (and even that's not too hard, it's how you get static electricity), you're "blasting" the electrons from the valence band to the conduction band, and we've got 50 years of experience with tailoring semiconductor bandgaps. And with ~2kW per square meter there's plenty of energy, at least during the day, and in heliocentric orbit there is no night.

I find these figures online (admittedly a far cry from in peer-reviewed journals):

Efficiency. I find estimates in the range of 10 to 15 or 25 percent or even higher. The consensus seems to be around 10% in production and maybe 20-something in the lab. The jarring 32% claim is CNN and may just be someone's "optimistic" press release.

Surface incident power. Estimates range from 160 to 1000 W/m^2. The lowest estimate seems best supported and includes nights and the poles. I couldn't find an estimate as high as 2kW; some places mentioned 1.35kW incident on the atmosphere.

Mass-market products: the Sunnyvale Fry's sells Siemens 40-watt solar panels (with integrated storage batteries to smooth out the day-night cycle) that are 1-2 square meters in size, advertised for RV use. Note that this technology is in its commercial infancy - these big, clunky panels are the equivalent of $2000 VCR-sized cell phones 15 years ago.

[ Parent ]

Another Cute Idea (none / 0) (#154)
by S_hane on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 10:09:32 AM EST

Then of course there's this scheme, which also sounds like it has a lot of potential.

Brief summary: A huge inverted funnel with turbines in the shaft. Sunlight heats the air in the funnel part, which rises up the shaft and turns the turbines. One is apparently going to be built in Australia.

-Shane Stephens

[ Parent ]

Yes, it's best just to ignore economics. (none / 0) (#93)
by Anatta on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 09:35:07 AM EST

Let's examine your arguments:

That there will BE a practical alternative

There already are several practical alternatives to oil/natural gas. Among the alternatives: hydro, biomass, solar, nuclear fission, steam. These energy forms completely ignore advances in the processing of oil/natural gas, such as fuel cells. Humans spent 7000 years burning wood, 300 years burning coal, and has in the last 150 or so years discovered oil, natural gas, solar, and nuclear energy. This suggests that the discovery of new forms of energy is speeding up.

That such an alternative will be producable, given the resource problem that caused such an alternative to be produced in the first place

Well maybe if all the nuclear plants fail at once and poison the atmosphere to the point of killing the species, then I think we've got something to worry about. Barring that, I fail to see any validity in this point.

That political pressure will not be used to discredit the alternative (eg: British Nuclear Fuels paying politicians to falsify cost/watt figures, during the 80's, to destroy the threat posed by the Salter Duck project) - I will absolutely NOT mention Microsoft here, either, though I'm tempted to

The pursuit of profit will motivate people to find alternatives, as it always has.

That the means (and will) to switch to the alternative actually exists, even though the alternative itself does (eg: IETF's uphill struggle to get IPv6 even recognised, let alone used, by anyone other than a few geeks and academics in need of a research paper)

Would that suggest that IPv6 is probably not appropriate for the mass of humanity? Or that the costs of switching to IPv6 outweigh the benefits for those who are making their living off of such issues? Perhaps a more interesting example is Bluetooth, which has an economy of scale such that it is extremely expensive to produce the first chips, but as the fabricators became experienced in producing them (the Learning Curve effect), and produce them in sufficient quantities, the chips become very very cheap. There was a great deal of question as to whether industry would make it over that hump, that companies would risk enough capital making the expensive chips in order to lower the cost enough to make them viable in mass production. And guess what, it seems they're starting to reach that point right now, and Bluetooth appears on the verge of a rapid expansion.

That economics is even a viable model to simulate behaviour (eg: the Open Source model violates virtally every supply/demand rule in modern economic theory, along with the reward/punishment scheme, and all these other polarized systems. People aren't binary, and minds aren't linear)

Open Source isn't some incredibly new economic model, though its genesis has certainly generated interest among economists. In fact, economists have been analyzing it for quite a while. The economics of open source software really aren't that different than any collaborative effort, take for example a band with multiple members composing music. Some do it for profit, others do it for the joy of creation, others do it in hopes of attracting chicks. Open Source programming is the same (yes that last comment was a joke).

Bottom line - until economic theory has progressed enough to understand the last 25 years, I'm not going to trust it much with the next 10,000.

Yes, I think it's best to ignore it.
My Music
[ Parent ]

typical tree-hugging (none / 0) (#132)
by CodeWright on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 12:16:04 PM EST

When Germany was re-arming for World War II, their war-planners had a distinct understanding that Germany had low to non-existant oil reserves. It was also understood that oil was the lifeblood of their new combined arms and lightning-war (blitzkrieg) strategies. Significant efforts were made to reduce this weakness.

On the strategic front, plans were drawn up for Germany to militarly sieze oil reserves in the Near East, as well as the Russian Caucasus.

On the scientific front, efforts were made to come up with alternative energy sources. The primary triumph of the scientific effort was the creation of the Fischer-Tropsch Process of petroleum synthesis. Essentially, the Fischer-Tropsch process was used by the Germans to extract natural gas from their large shale and anthracite coal reserves and convert it to petroleum. Later in the war, the same process was used to convert grain oils into petroleum.

Use of this process basically enabled the Germans to create a renewable and infinite source of petroleum and kept the Panzers rolling until the fall of Berlin.

Today, the Fischer-Tropsch process is used to convert methane directly into petroleum. The energy cost to do the conversion is presently high enough that existing natural petroleum reserves are generally more cost effective, but only marginally. If nuclear energy were more prevalent (to power the Fischer-Tropsch plants) or the cost of oil doubled, then Fischer-Tropsch cracking plants would take over the supply of petroleum to the industrialized world.

In other words, dire warnings to the effect that we will someday run out of oil are wrong.

We will never ever run out of petroleum unless we run out of hydrogen and carbon.

With 70% of the world's surface covered by H20, and much of the crust to a depth of hundreds of kilometers being composed of various carbonates, there are billions upon billions of tons of atomic hydrogen and carbon available on earth.

Unless we use atomic fusion to convert all the hydrogen and carbon on the planet earth into heavier elements (say, iron), they will always be available for conversion into petroleum. (hint: the only things capable of converting that much heavy matter through fusion are gravity furnaces, aka stars -- and it typically takes several billion years worth of fusion to accomplish that process).

[406@k5] NON ILLIGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
[ Parent ]
The real question... (5.00 / 1) (#143)
by physicsgod on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:32:49 PM EST

is whether the Fischer-Tropsch process is worth it. If you put 2x joules of energy into producing oil with x joules available you might want to think of something else. The only real benefit to oil in that case is not having to refit all the automobiles.

The simple fact of the matter is that we're going to run out of natural petroleum someday. When that happens we're going to have to find an alternative, either making our own oil and building all the infrastructure that entails or converting to another energy source.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

presume too much (none / 0) (#157)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 04:36:43 PM EST

Petroleum fuels are not an energy source.

Before you call me crazy, think about the effort and energy required to locate, drill, pump, store, transport, store, transport, store, transport, store, and burn petroleum fuels. In all likelihood, it barely breaks even or comes up short....but many of the energy costs required to do all of those things are carried by other energy sources.

Petroleum fuels are actually an energy storage medium which are very useful. Easy to transport (pumpable "relatively" stable fluid within human-normal temperature and and pressure ranges), easy to use (inside a piston, just apply catalytic heat in the presence of an oxidizer stream), easy to find (and make).

All existing petroleum reserves are actually stored solar and gravitic energy (plants absorb solar radiation, convert it to sugars & proteins, animals eat plants, convert it to complex sugars & proteins, animals die and become part of sediment layers, compression produces complex hydrocarbons such as petroleum products and coals).

The Fischer-Tropsch process just uses some other form of energy to create an easily usable energy storage medium (petroleum). So, one could use hydro-electric, geothermal, wind-turbine, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, or as-yet-undiscovered power sources to provide energy for the Fischer-Tropsch process to store energy in a convenient medium (petroleum).

[406@k5] NON ILLIGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
[ Parent ]
Fischer-tropsch as an energy source? (4.00 / 1) (#152)
by ariux on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 04:56:14 AM EST

Do you have a reference indicating that fischer-tropsch is a way to capture additional energy, not just a way to reconstitute existing fuel?

Also - there does seem to be some arguable science indicating that continued widespread use of carbon-based fuels might cause climate problems to the extent that we'd have to cut back on them. (Despite all the political scheming and distortion that surrounds this core of science.)

[ Parent ]

Fischer-Tropsch isn't an energy source (none / 0) (#159)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 05:26:32 PM EST

Do you have a reference indicating that fischer-tropsch is a way to capture additional energy, not just a way to reconstitute existing fuel?
No, because it isn't a way to capture additional energy. It is just a way to (inefficiently) convert one form of energy to another.

For example: a nuclear fission power plant converts energy [inefficiently] from atomic decay into heat energy, which is then converted [inefficiently] in a steam turbine into rotary kinetic energy, which is then used to in an integral electromagnetic dynamo to convert [inefficiently] into electrical energy which is then used to power a plant using Fischer-Tropsch to convert the electrical energy [inefficiently] into chemical bond energy in petroleum.

It would be FAR less wasteful to use power sources directly (like solar or nuclear) rather than relying on a fuel like petroleum, but petroleum is so damn convenient that it will probably be used for some time.

Even though the sciences of physics, chemistry, biochemistry, and computer science have all made tremendous (staggering) strides in the past century, functional applications of these technologies have lagged, except for computing (where we see daily advances in the state of the art). With regards to heavy manufacturing, we are still stuck in the Industrial Era, dependent upon macromolecular energy.

Sad to say, the reason for that can be mostly laid at the door of the environmental movement, who have, beyond all odds, stymied the deployment of atomic power. Widespread availability of clean fission (contrary to popular belief, such a thing exists: read up on "Fast Breeder" reactors which consume their own waste fuel) would have revolutionized manufacturing processes in the First World, and increased demand for functional fusion power sources.

Ideally, we would use nuclear fusion for all power needs, because it is perfectly clean, extremely efficient, and produces vast amounts of power. Unfortunately, conventional attempts at high-energy fusion have been less than successful, but mostly because of the fusion sources being used. Most fusion experimentation relies on fusing various hydrogen isotopes (deuterium, tritium) to each other in various ratios, none of which have been particularly successful (excepting the work done at the University of Wisconsin in spherical electromagnetic confinement).

However, that needn't be the case. There is a known form of fusion which is functional using existing technology: Carbon-Nitrogen-Oxygen catalyzed Helium-3 & Deuterium fusion.

Unfortunately, the entire reserves of He3 on Earth are less than 3kg.

If for no other reason, the ready availability of He3 on Earth's Moon (over 3 billion tons of He3 surface reserves) should be a primary economic motivator for Lunar exploitation.

Three billion tons of He3 would provide about a million years of power generation for the entire planet Earth at today's consumption levels. During that million years' time, it would be relatively easy to extend Humanity's He3 reserves indefinitely by setting up solar wind catchers in sol-synchronous orbits (all He3 on the Moon is present in the surface dirt from constant collision with He3 charged solar wind from the Sun).
Also - there does seem to be some arguable science indicating that continued widespread use of carbon-based fuels might cause climate problems to the extent that we'd have to cut back on them. (Despite all the political scheming and distortion that surrounds this core of science
I agree with the term "arguable" in your characterization of the so-called science of global warming. In fact, most studies of "global warming" are based on anecdotal collection of contemporary temperature readings. Although this vast body of data is a great boon to the study of meteorological science, it is of limited utility in deriving temperature trends on the geologic scale.

That difficulty arises primarily due to the fact that the body of modern temperature readings has been made in settled/urban areas where the ambient temperature (due to presence of humans and their artifacts) is higher than the overall background temperature.

However, doubtfulness of statistical data aside, even if global warming were a stark reality, the appropriate solution is not to force modern technological society to regress or otherwise abandon their capabilitities and conveniences.

The appropriate solution would be to carefully examine the problem, explore options of manipulation, and implement either regional or global mechanisms of climate control.

Although controlling the weather of the entire planet is hubristic to the extreme, all of human technological endeavor is a challenge to nature. This would just be one more accomplishment in a long line.

In fact, global manipulation of the Earth's climate would not be very difficult or costly (relatively speaking) to accomplish.

For example: aluminized mylar (that is: very very thin but strong plastic with a layer of reflective aluminum only a few atoms thick) is very lightweight but fairly strong per unit mass.

A gigantic mirror of the stuff could be deployed between the Earth and the Sun, spin stabilized, and using solar energy and solar wind for attitude control. Placed in a stable LaGrange orbit between the Earth and the Sun, it would effect a permanent eclipse and could be adjusted to reduce or increase the relative wattage of Solar light reaching Earth very precisely.

Experiments have already been conducted in Earth orbit with solar mirrors of this exact construction, but on a much smaller scale (25 meters diameter compared to the 1200km diameter required for a functional Earth-Solar mirror).

However, for the amount of money spent in a decade on maintaining and launching the shuttle (around $3-6 billion per year or more, for a total of about 30-60 billion dollars), the entire project could probably be funded.

It would probably take about ten years to get all of the components in place, but by that time, a very simple tool for global climate control would be in place. Further refinements (such as soft-landing a small comet in the Sahara desert to recreate the Ordovician sea) could be attempted at a later date....

[406@k5] NON ILLIGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have a lot of confidence... (5.00 / 1) (#162)
by ariux on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 08:30:03 PM EST

...that we understand the climate well enough to reliably manipulate it like that - which is why I think that, if we consider this important, we need to invest a bunch more money in fundamental research, without applying political or industry litmus tests to the results.

[ Parent ]

probably right (none / 0) (#167)
by CodeWright on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 09:37:28 AM EST

Given the bureaucratic entities that would probably end up in charge of such an endeavor, you're probably right. When I said "reliably manipulate", it was from a technical point of view.

From a realistic point of view, it would probably be a nightmare.
I would have a very hard time disagreeing with further fundamental research. Far too little money is spent on all kinds of both fundamental and applications research.

[406@k5] NON ILLIGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
[ Parent ]
Thermodynamics (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by Bad Harmony on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:53:17 PM EST

The Earth is not a closed system. This invalidates arguments based on the second law of thermodynamics.

54º40' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

To a large extent, it is. (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by jd on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 01:50:54 PM EST

Sure, meteors, meteorites and the occasional comet smash into the atmosphere, and occasionally strike the surface, but we're talking very small amounts of material, here. The Earth is BIG, compared to a rock the size of a pea (most meteors are smaller than a grain of sand!), so for Earth to gain a significant amount of material, you're going to have to talk about events orders of magnitudes larger than the one believed to have killed the dinosaurs.

Indeed, only one such event has even been suspected in Earth's history. The moon -may- have been formed from a super-massive collision with a body of significant mass, literally blasting a large glob of the planet off the surface.

However, here we get another question. Such events cause matter to be lost from the planet. Often, this'll be lighter elements, but'll include heavier stuff too. So, when you get a large enough event to make a real difference to the Earth, will such an event actually cause material to be gained, or will Earth actually lose more matter than it acquires?

Then, there's the energy input/output. For the purposes of this argument, low levels of energy are of no importance. Very few chemical reactions occur purely from the energy from the sun, for example. Otherwise, we wouldn't have an atmosphere. It would have long-since blown itself away.

Chemical reactions necessary to build complex chains are actually extremely difficult. You can't buy an octane-construction set from Walmart yet, for example, even though it's nothing more than eight carbon atoms surrounded by hydrogen atoms. Neither of those are hard to obtain, and the structure is well-known, but you don't see oil companies being at any risk from D-I-Y gasoline, do you?

[ Parent ]

The sun (2.00 / 1) (#63)
by Anatta on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 02:06:49 PM EST

The sun is far far away from the earth, and it beams in massive amounts of energy.

Add that to meteors and other space debris, and one must conclude that the earth is most definitely not a closed system.
My Music
[ Parent ]

closed, yes; isolated, no (none / 0) (#98)
by physicsgod on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 12:35:08 PM EST

The mass falling into the earth from space debris is negligible, so the earth can be considered a closed system (remember that there is no such thing as a truly closed system, just "close enough").

The energy from the sun is not negligble, so the earth isn't an isolated system by any stretch. However if you want to create oil from hydrogen and carbon you're going to need solar energy, so you're converting solar energy into chemical energy (probably by converting solar to electrical energy) into electrical energy (assuming you burn it in a power plant). You'd probably be better off just generating electricity directly from solar.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

no, it's okay (2.66 / 3) (#53)
by theantix on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:23:59 PM EST

The biggest complaint that I ever had was that the volume of your MLP posts for a while there was staggering (not to mention a tad paranoid). Now, I'm all for a healthy dose of skepticism in any form, but it was a little much. Here, I would have voted +1FP if I had the chance. This article seems to be well-thought out, and was actually an article not an MLP. Cheers,

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]
I don't buy it (4.29 / 17) (#3)
by Wondertoad on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 08:40:17 PM EST

What this story really boils down to is: what are the real, scientific beefs with Lombard's (the author whose name greenrd dare not mention) science?

Certainly one need not be a scientist to study and determine facts and determine truths. So, I figured the original TomPaine article would really lay into his whoppers. What specific things did Lombard get wrong? That would help me determine that the guy was truly acting in an anti-scientific way.

But it doesn't!

Except for one paragraph, the TomPaine article only goes on at length to say that the book's observations are quite contrary to commonly-held scientific beliefs about the environment. Contrary. Well, that's kinda damning, but it stops short of indicating that he's wrong.

Then they finally get specific. Here are the beefs :

Lomborg devotes entire chapters to "revealing" that we are not running out of oil or metals, although virtually nobody in the environmental movement has claimed otherwise in the past twenty years. He also marshals statistics to prove that human life expectancy and the global Gross Domestic Product have improved over the past two centuries and that the green revolution increased agricultural production, as if anyone is arguing the contrary. Lomborg shows the Kyoto agreement will have only a slight impact on global warming, apparently unaware that the treaty is indeed conceived as a "down payment" on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

In each of these cases, the beef is not that Lomborg is wrong; no, he's repeatedly RIGHT, but he's saying things that were ALREADY KNOWN.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the green movement is royally ticked that someone could construct such a damning collection of evidence that much of the movement is hooey - and REALLY royally ticked that everyone is taking it seriously. The circumstantial evidence that supports that? Greenrd's own approach, of course. He is not qualified to judge the science, yet he labels Lombard a "pseudoscientist", a "crackpot", etc. Can you imagine anyone using such labels railing AGAINST pre-conceived bias?

No. As much as The Skeptical Environmentalist may be loaded with bias, there is a whopping ton of it in both the original TomPaine article and in this K5 article.

Oh come on (3.00 / 3) (#10)
by greenrd on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 09:27:14 PM EST

You believe that no valid criticisms exist, just because the article doesn't bother to mention them? It's probably a simple matter of word limits. It was meant to be covered on another page, but the link was broken. Try http://www.anti-lomborg.com/ instead.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Strike two (3.00 / 9) (#11)
by Wondertoad on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 09:39:12 PM EST

If I were seeking the truth, I wouldn't go to a site called "anti-lomborg".

The reason would be evident to anyone who seeks truth without bias. Is it evident... to you?


[ Parent ]
You can take a horse to water... (4.20 / 10) (#13)
by greenrd on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 09:55:03 PM EST

*takes deep breath* One two three four.

I was going to say something un-polite then.

Might I suggest that you might be a touch closed-minded. There are some arguments linked on that site which provide what you were looking for, criticisms of Lomborg. Is that not what you were looking for?

By analogy: If I was a teenager and I wanted to find out what the arguments against abortion were, I don't think it would be stupid to go to anti-abortion and pro-choice websites. I think it would be a perfectly valid way to conduct an investigation of both sides of the issue. I might want to go to other sites as well, but I certainly would not avoid visiting a site just because it was called "anti-abortion" or something. Now that would be stupid - for someone who doesn't know what the arguments are - in my humble opinion.

I think that listening to people who are irritated with Lomborg is a perfectly valid way to find out what some of the criticisms against his work are. After all, distinguished scientists have been very pissed off by Lomborg. It's not only "extremists" who get angry when someone trashes their views - ordinary scientists, as you might well expect, can get annoyed as well if someone trashes their work or even their whole field from a position of apparent ignorance.

Also, it's possible that neither side is telling the truth - but, despite being a skeptic about many things, I think it's still far more likely that one side (which I'll dub pompous outsiders) doesn't have a clue, and another side (known as scientists) actually do know what they're talking about, and are basically correct (within error bounds). That's just my hypothesis.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Nicely bitchy, but... (2.00 / 8) (#45)
by Treach on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 10:20:56 AM EST

I think it's still far more likely that one side (which I'll dub pompous outsiders) doesn't have a clue, and another side (known as scientists) actually do know what they're talking about, and are basically correct (within error bounds). That's just my hypothesis.

I think it is still more likely that one side (which I will dub scientists willing to overlook evidence in order to attempt to create social change conforming to their desires) is deceiving the public, and another side (known as anyone willing to examine the facts without a quasi-socialist predisposition) is attempting to stem the tide of this deceit.

I would say, "That's just my hypothesis", but since I was awake and paying attention to my seventh-grade science class, rather than either sleeping or furiously masturbating to a dog-eared copy of Earth in the Balance, I know better than to dub it as such.

[ Parent ]

without bias (4.66 / 6) (#42)
by kubalaa on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 09:54:35 AM EST

So believing something to be wrong is "bias". That is, having an opinion at all is "bias". Do you see how that makes the term meaningless, and therefore useless?

[ Parent ]
Political vs. scientific debate (4.20 / 5) (#6)
by ariux on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 08:55:34 PM EST

The problem with this debate, as far as I'm concerned, is that its tone is shrilly political, not scientific - which virtually guarantees lots of noise from all parties but a lack of agreed conclusions.

It's a commons problem, so to speak - when you put name-calling polemics first and topical, factual arguments last (if bothering to include them at all), you may strengthen the faith of the converted, but you'll also give anyone who wants to undermine you a way to cast doubt on your conclusions.

The people who want to genuinely make progress on both sides had better make a concerted effort to exclude and marginalize all the polemicists and carpetbaggers and get down to the actual factual debate. Doing otherwise mutates an important discussion about the physical world into a pair of deadlocked political tests of faith.

To clarify (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by ariux on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 08:57:19 PM EST

...I mean the environmental debate in our society at large, not our debate here on k5 ;)

[ Parent ]

Here's a more interesting article (4.45 / 11) (#8)
by Anatta on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 09:09:48 PM EST

examining the arguments of those who are attacking The Skeptical Environmentalist.
My Music
Why didn't you just say (3.33 / 3) (#40)
by slippytoad on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:32:44 AM EST

"Here's a solid character assasination of those who would attack the Skeptical Environmentalist." It's funny that their article ends with an accusation of just that, because out of five or six segments only one deals with, like, numbers and stuff. The rest is just an examination of the backgrounds and character faults of his critics.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
[ Parent ]
Your reading skills are not up to par. (3.50 / 2) (#44)
by Treach on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 10:14:44 AM EST

The point of the article was to point up how critics of the book were willing to ignore the truth. Point was made. Noting that, for instance, Ehrlich lied about supporting Woodlands is not character assassination in this context - because Ehrlich was claiming that Lomborg was assassinating his character.

[ Parent ]
Reading skills: 100%. Editorial in question: 0-0 (5.00 / 3) (#160)
by slippytoad on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 05:43:06 PM EST

An ad hominem attack is one which asserts that your opponent's position was arrived at unreasonably, and therefore his premises need not be considered. Which is exactly what you said was established. Nothing of substance was discussed at all. Let's go over it in pieces so you can understand. Line one of the article:

Bjorn Again! Fundamentalist Greens Launch Smear Campaign

We begin the day with a friendly ad-hominem label.

Suggesting to ideological environmentalists that the natural world is not about to collapse under the assault of a greedy and heedless humanity is akin to telling a convention of Southern Baptist preachers that gambling, drinking and dancing are not sins. In both circumstances, the Green ideologues and the Baptists will denounce you as a venal heretic who must be cast out of the company of decent men and women before you contaminate them with your dangerous ideas.

A lot of very colorful rhetoric which is intended to paint said ideologues as hysterical and immune to reason.

Bjorn Lomborg, the author of the superb book

That's not an unbiased opinion now, is it?

The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World , just published by Cambridge University Press, has raised the ire of the environmental fundamentalists. Consequently, this former Greenpeace member is now suffering through a savage disinformation campaign orchestrated by some of the world's largest and most prominent environmentalist lobbying groups, including the World Wildlife Fund and the World Resources Institute. As part of that campaign, the WWF and WRI have sent a joint press release to members of the Society of Environmental Journalists warning them "to exercise caution in reporting on Bjorn Lomborg's new book." Why? Among other reasons, the book "has been heavily publicized and championed by conservatives." The WWF/WRI press release, signed by WRI President Jonathan Lash, claims that the book is "riddled with misleading arguments and factual errors." They then go on to list "Nine Things That Journalists Should Know About The Skeptical Environmentalist," including the hoary old ad hominem strategy of questioning a challenger's credentials--attack the man, not the argument.

Wow. It's about to get too thick to walk in

Pimm's Cup of Nonsense

We'll skip a bit. There's some expository stuff here that is entirely subjective. Like the title though. It's cool and collected reporting all around.

... One of the reviewers selected by Nature is the notorious environmental alarmist, Stuart Pimm,

There, did ya see that Treach? The first time an actual name has come up, and he's a "notorious environmental alarmist." No source, no qualifications, just splat there is the apellation. Therefore everything we read after this about Mr. Pimm is to be viewed with a jaundiced eye.

a Columbia University Conservation Biology Professor. Interestingly, Professor Pimm has just published, The World According to Pimm, and a quick look at the 245 or so endnotes backing up his ideologically orthodox - and therefore gloomy -- assessment of the state of the natural world, finds that at least half of the sources that Pimm himself cites are from non-peer reviewed sources including numerous reports from environmentalist lobby groups like WRI and the Audubon Society, and international and government agencies like the FAO, UNEP, and others. He also cites numerous non-peer reviewed books like Cadillac Desert and Guns, Germs and Steel, along with numerous secondary sources, like the Encyclopedia Britannica, media reports from the New York Times, Barron's, The Economist, and Vanity Fair. In fact of the 245 endnotes, Pimm cites Nature articles only 10 times-admittedly that is 4% not 1%. But it is not clear that an additional 3% more Nature citations adds to his credibility since, after all, Lomborg must have cited Nature at least 20 times to get 1% as calculated by Pimm. As for Pimm's disparagement of "web downloads," looking at Lomborg's references one finds that most of the web downloads are in fact of reports by international and government organizations that collect and publish the environmental statistics that even alarmists like Pimm use in his own book. So Pimm is criticizing Lomborg for doing exactly what he himself does and which he knows is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Clearly, Nature 's editors should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this shoddy and intellectually dishonest review.

So far, there's nothing about Lomberg in here. We have however successfully called the kettle black, and avoided debating the question in question. That's ZERO for ZERO, Treach. No useful information has been communicated.

The Forest for the Trees

The WWF/WRI attack press release cites as an example of Lomborg's "pseudo-scholarship" an alleged misquotation of a WWF report that found the "nearly 2/3rds of the world's original forests, dating to the pre-agricultural period (defined as 6000 BC), had at one time been cut." Actually, Lomborg does no such thing. He is merely refuting a misleading WWF press release from October 8, 1997 that announced, "WWF today revealed shocking new figures which show, for the first time, that nearly two-thirds of the world's original forests have been destroyed. Of the 8,080 million hectares of forest existing in the world 8,000 years ago, only 3,044 million hectares remain today." First note how the WWF rhetoric was subtly shifted from the original inflammatory "forests have been destroyed" to the more judicious "had at one time been cut." Furthermore, the WWF "report" was apparently never issued much less peer-reviewed. As for 8 billion hectares cited for "original" forest cover, one of the world's leading forest researchers Roger Sedjo, who is a senior fellow at Resources for the Future in Washington, DC says that that number is much too high. In fact, a study issued by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1997 found that forests might have covered an estimated 6.8 billion hectares 8,000 years ago. Even more interestingly, if one goes back 18,000 years to the end of the last Ice Age, the Oak Ridge study found that forests covered only 2 billion hectares of the earth. Note also that 18,000 years ago, tropical rainforests covered about half a billion hectares while tropical forests of all types covered just over 0.9 billion hectares. Today, 18,000 years after continental glaciers retreated and even after humanity's impact, tropical forests cover about 1.7 billion hectares. Although not directly comparable to the Oak Ridge forest data, the latest U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report on the state of the world's forests finds that global forest cover is 3.9 billion hectares. "Look, the relevant issue is what is happening to forests today," says Sedjo. "The fact is that northern temperate forests have been expanding for decades and the rate of tropical deforestation is slowing." Sedjo also agrees with the experts that Lomborg cites that about 20% of the forests have been converted to other uses, primarily agricultural, in the past two centuries.

OK, numbers and, like, stuff. Unfortunately, it's all about something that virtually no one can check up on. Estimates aren't facts. And again the pot points out that the kettle is black. No surprises here.

Reversing Cause and Effect

Next, the WWF/WRI press release claims that Lomborg has mistaken "association for causation," specifically that Lomborg "attributes environmental improvements to increases in standard of living rather than to improved scientific understanding research or to firm environmental policy." This is completely misleading to the point of being dishonest. Lomborg favors strengthening some environmental regulations and clearly states "it is probably fair to say that regulation is one of the reasons for the reduction of pollution."

However, unlike his ideologically motivated

Ad hominem attack again

antagonists, Lomborg further points out that "technological factors also play a major role" in reducing pollution. For example, consumers have done a lot to clean up the air simply by choosing to switch from relatively dirty fuels like wood and coal to cleaner electricity and natural gas. The World Bank has identified "environmental thresholds" that occur when average incomes in a country reach certain levels, e.g., $1200 for clean drinking water, and $3200 and $3800 for the beginning of cuts in air particulates and sulfur dioxide. The green ideologues have in fact largely reversed cause and effect themselves--good science and strong environmental regulations are adopted when people achieve a certain level of income. In other words, as people's incomes rise, then they become concerned with environmental amenities.

A subjective assessment, no primary sources, nothing to check. I love science!

When Is an Endorsement Not an Endorsement?

Next, the Nature reviewers make recourse to the nasty tactic of calling up their ideological confreres to "refute" Lomborg. Specifically, Lomborg cites doomsters Paul Ehrlich and E.O. Wilson

Well if they're "doomsters" I'm not even going to bother to read what they have to say. Structure, Treach. Structure. A well-structured argument, even if completely illogical, can have you agreeing with things you have no concept of.

as supporting the Wildlands Project which would reserve 50% of the North American continent as uninhabited wildlands. So, Pimm and Harvey say that they simply called up Ehrlich to ask him if he supported such a plan. "I know of no such plan," replied Ehrlich. "If there were one, I wouldn't support it." So Lomborg must be wrong, right? Wrong.

Lomborg and all other readers of Science magazine may well be forgiven for thinking that Ehrlich and others support the project since. After all, an article entitled "The High Cost of Biodiversity" in the June 25, 1993 issue of Science plainly said that they did.

"[T]he principles behind the Wildlands Project have garnered endorsements from such scientific luminaries as E. O. Wilson of Harvard, Paul Ehrlich of Stanford (who describes himself as an "enthusiastic supporter"), and Michael Soule of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who is one of the project's founders," reported Science. Could this be a case where an ideological environmentalist forgets what he said earlier when it was convenient to do so?

And with the out-of-context quote we complete our assasination. Ehrlich and Wilson are argumentatively dead. The reader can't take seriously anything that's associated with their names. Their doomster ways and their contrarian quotes have destroyed them. And yet we've no idea what they really think, or what their specific objections to Lomberg's book are.

The Dismal Science

Do I have to point this one out?

On climate change, the WWF/WRI press release dismisses Lomborg for allegedly relying on "one controversial economic model" in his analysis of the costs of trying to cut fossil fuel emissions as a way to control global warming through the Kyoto Protocol. A negative review of Lomborg's book by British analyst Michael Grubb in the November 9, 2001 issue Science agrees with WWF/WRI and asserts that Lomborg's book "reaches its nadir when Lomborg turns to climate economics and the Kyoto Protocol." Amusingly, the very same issue of Science in which the Grubb review is published appears an article by Yale University economist William Nordhaus called "Global Warming Economics". Nordhaus oversees the very same "controversial economic model" that is dismissed by WWF/WRI and Grubb. Nordhaus calculates that had President Bush not withdrawn from the Kyoto-Bonn Protocol, implementing it would have cost the United States $125 billion a year, reaching a total of $2.5 trillion over next ten years. Even without U.S. participation, implementing the treaty will cost Kyoto signatories more than $600 billion to implement over the next ten years. "The Kyoto-Bonn Accord will make little progress in slowing global warming while incurring a substantial cost," concludes Nordhaus. So much for oft-heard green assertion that cutting fossil fuel use will save more money than it costs.

What exactly was this intended to prove? That economists are still dictating environmental policy? I knew that.

Just Dessert? Again, without a hint of embarrassment about the fact that they had just excoriated Lomborg for allegedly using web-based information and non-peer-reviewed sources, the Nature reviewers finish their critique by pointing readers to a website, www.anti-lomborg.com , which contains no peer-reviewed analyses whatsoever, only unoriginal, standard issue, doomsaying by environmentalist ideologues. The site does contain a picture of a green ideologue throwing a pie at Lomborg's face at a book event - now how's that for reasonable debate?

A picture of a straw man attacking successfully, you mean. Of course a pie-throwing loony looks good when he's the only one you're arguing against. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good refutations of Lomberg coming from figure-throwing fact-gathering loonies as well. It's not their fault that pie-throwing straw men have joined them.

And the green hate campaign against Lomborg rolls on. According to Pimm and Harvey, Scientific American has commissioned 5 reviewers to debunk Lomborg--nothing like prejudging the conclusion.

Ah, this passage is so light on factual information, and so heavy on bias.

Finally, in book dealing with so vast a topic as "Measuring the Real State of the World" there are bound to be minor errors and missteps in interpretation and analysis. Finding and correcting those is an important and honorable exercise, but that is not what the environmentalist ideologues are doing.

No, but the ones at grist magazine are, and they're doing a thorough job of it.

Instead they try to find minor flaws and then exaggerate their significance while hinting at larger errors. By thus vilifying Lomborg, they hope to prevent concerned citizens, policymakers, and journalists from reading and evaluating The Skeptical Environmentalist for themselves.

There's enough actual substance to the grist magazine articles that I'm actually going to go find myself a copy of Lombard and deconstruct it for myself as much as I can. But I would get absolutely nothing out of this cheerleading, rah-rah-rah article except that the other side is a bunch of bad guys who are wrong about things that aren't important to the central argument.

"If you're a little skeptical of both sides, I think you'll see that I continually cite scientific evidence and arguments," says Lomborg. "My critics continually try to prejudice readers against me, to sort of attack my character rather than my arguments. That would tend to make me a little suspicious of their arguments." Amen.

This gem of a phrase at the bottom of an article full of words like "doomster" and "dismal science." And empty of any argumentative substance. This is a piss-poor editorial, not an exposition of the counter-arguments against Lomberg. My reading skills are fine, Treach. But you might have your bullshit detector serviced.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
[ Parent ]

Grist articles (4.00 / 1) (#166)
by Simon Kinahan on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 09:25:38 AM EST

A couple of points:

1. The Grist cover article is vulnerable to exactly the same treatment you (rightly) gave above. One had already decided Lomborg was right, the other that he was wrong.

2. However, its great they made an effort to collect the contra-Lomborg articles in one place. I've already read some of them, and will give the others my attention at some point.

3. However, some of the articles are bloody awful. E O Wilson and Lester Brown in particular have failed to engage with Lomborg's arguments at all, and have instead just rewritten their standard spiel. Both sides in this argument have fallen into the "enemy's enemy is my friend" trap, and both are thoroughly hypocritical when they attack the other for shoddy science.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Source (4.25 / 4) (#56)
by Rand Race on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:50:50 PM EST

The credit on that article: Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent and the editor of Earth Report 2000: Revisiting the True State of the Planet. Looking further into his book it turns out is sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Apparently the CEI has a bit of an agenda themselves.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

The actual scientific criticisms (4.22 / 9) (#15)
by greenrd on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 10:22:00 PM EST

Sorry, I should have linked to these in the main article:

Here's a special issue of Grist Magazine (the Earth Day Network magazine) critiquing Lombard: (Lombard is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist)

http://www.gristmagazine.com/grist /books/lomborg121201.asp Great quote from E. O. Wilson:

My greatest regret about the Lomborg scam is the extraordinary amount of scientific talent that has to be expended to combat it in the media. We will always have contrarians like Lomborg whose sallies are characterized by willful ignorance, selective quotations, disregard for communication with genuine experts, and destructive campaigning to attract the attention of the media rather than scientists. They are the parasite load on scholars who earn success through the slow process of peer review and approval. The question is: How much load should be tolerated before a response is necessary? Lomborg is evidently over the threshold.
The link to that magazine issue was supposed to be in the linked article at TomPaine.com, but it was broken.

See also:


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
A level of arrogance beggaring belief. (4.72 / 11) (#16)
by demi on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 10:56:01 PM EST

[these contrarians] are the parasite load on scholars who earn success through the slow process of peer review and approval.

I hope that you people don't come away from reading that quote thinking that the peer review process is slow or thorough, or even that it requires unanimous approval. I am a professional scientist. I can say with firsthand knowledge that a full professor at Harvard would experience no meaningful resistance if he wanted to publish research in a second-tier journal, or in some cases the first-tier journals such as Science and Nature. What absolutely infuriates me about that quote is that he seems to be annoyed by the fact that people have read Lomberg's (moderately researched) arguments, and found them to be a reasonable (or maybe remotely plausible) challenge to work that has been peer-reviewed.

My friends, the peer-review community for atmospheric research in climate change, in other words, the number of people that would regularly be consulted to review papers for a first-tier journal, is a small number, less than 50 people for sure. To review a single, seminal paper, there will typically be 4 or less reviewers. Granted, the editors of the journal will try hard to select those 4, but depending on the prestige of the individual reviewers, it is not uncommon for a paper to be published on the recommendation of a single scientist (over the objections of the other, less reknowned reviewers).

I do think that peer-review is necessary for whatever integrity scientists are expected to hold on to in this day and age, but to hold it up as a means of discrediting work that is not peer-reviewed is highly disingenuous.



[ Parent ]

I think you're missing the point (4.00 / 3) (#21)
by greenrd on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 11:35:14 PM EST

I think Wilson's main point is merely that professional scientists have to go through a long hard slog of rigorous work before attaining fame and fortune (if they're lucky), whereas Lombard has got there by writing (to paraphrase) crap.

And let's not forget, 99% of "science" that is done outside the establishment is crap. There are diamonds in the rough (very important ones!), but it's a valid rule of thumb.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

You're right, it's not "science"... (4.66 / 6) (#27)
by demi on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 01:12:32 AM EST

I think Wilson's main point is merely that professional scientists have to go through a long hard slog of rigorous work before attaining fame and fortune (if they're lucky), whereas Lombard has got there by writing (to paraphrase) crap.

Well from my perspective reading the summaries (although I haven't read Lomborg's book), there is no science at all in TSE. It's just a re-examination of the statistics and analytical evidence that has been used in the past to support certain arguments. There is no reason to suggest that his criticism of their analyses is invalid or even weakened just because it didn't pass peer review. And, I don't mean anything personal here, but I don't think that you are qualified to say whether or not TSE is 'crap' (I'm not qualified either FWIW). If you are concerned that right-wing ideologues are picking up some of its arguments superficially and using them against the Green movement, I would say that concern is justified.

And let's not forget, 99% of "science" that is done outside the establishment is crap. There are diamonds in the rough (very important ones!), but it's a valid rule of thumb.

You are right about scientific work that comes from outside the mainstream. It is usually treated with skepticism and that treatment is well-deserved. But to say that countering arguments that have not been peer reviewed is a waste of scientific resources is an example of pointless arrogance, and an inability to form meaningful conclusions in the first place.



[ Parent ]

Correct - SE is based on others' reports (4.00 / 1) (#101)
by adamsc on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 03:18:10 PM EST

Well from my perspective reading the summaries (although I haven't read Lomborg's book), there is no science at all in TSE. It's just a re-examination of the statistics and analytical evidence that has been used in the past to support certain arguments.
That's exactly what SE is about - the author is examining the claims made by various groups against accepted research, often the same studies the groups quote. His contention is that most of these studies are either misapplied (there's a great example of a widely used figure for european soil erosion which was originally taken from a single study of a .11 hectare plot of sloping farmland and includes a warning from the author against generalizing from his study) or deceptively used (e.g. reporting the worst case as most likely).

I'm not a scientist, so I can't say whether the book is "crap" either but I will note that Lomborg does a better job of supporting his arguments than his opponents who rarely cite actual references to back their claims and generally come off sounding like they decided which side was right before actually checking - in contrast, Lomborg cites thousands of references, encourages the reader to check them, repeatedly reminds the reader that many issues are still uncertain (requiring more research) and stresses that we shouldn't dismiss environmental concerns outright but simply consider them more realistically.

One of the contributors to Scientific American's article made this interesting comment that to make the world a better place, they'd have to get media coverage and to get that they'd need to "offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have" - this is, more or less, exactly the sort of behaviour Lomborg shows.

It was also interesting to find this letter to Scientific American on Lomborg's site from a MIT climate scientist whose research is briefly mentioned in SE who accuses the author of the climate section of SA's feature of misrepresenting "both the book he is attacking and the science that he is allegedly representing". This would seem to support the idea that the case against Lomborg isn't as clear cut as they suggest.

[ Parent ]

balls to that (none / 0) (#120)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:29:10 AM EST

Who peer-reviewed Edward Wilson's last excursion into sociobiology? No sociologists, that's who? He's a big fat hypocrite for ragging on Lomborg for that reason, even if he might happen for once to be on the right side.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Hmm. (4.50 / 2) (#24)
by ariux on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:17:54 AM EST

So Wilson basically argues that this debate should not be had in public - that it should, instead, be had within the scientific community, and only the consensus answer presented for public discussion.

I hadn't framed this as a question before, but if I do, his answer does seem to have some weight. Browsing the internet for fifteen minutes is enough to make it obvious that public, non-scientific debates on technical, scientific questions tend to be hysterical in tone and fraught with ignorance, misinformation, and veiled agendas. (I can't make a comparison with internal scientific debates because I don't have a shelf of journals ;)

What do you think?

[ Parent ]

Scientific work *should* be questioned IMO. (5.00 / 4) (#29)
by demi on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 01:35:50 AM EST

So Wilson basically argues that this debate should not be had in public - that it should, instead, be had within the scientific community, and only the consensus answer presented for public discussion.

Well, the way I read it was that there is a problem when respected scientists have labored to collect, compile, and analyze all of this data, which can easily be refuted by 'contrarians' like Lomborg. Wilson thinks it is a waste of resources (!) to even have to make counter-arguments to this guy.

OK, so does it mean that once research has been published (and accepted by a 'consensus' in the scientific community), even if its conclusions reach too far and its support is weak, it is a waste of time to address public criticism of that work? If he is trying to argue that Lomborg should have just taken up his fight in the primary literature, I can say that there is no possibility that could have happened. As a professor of statistics in a Poly-Sci department, none of his work could have made it past the reviewers (or maybe even the editors), because outsiders are not welcome or tolerated. IMO if Lomborg had reservations about how environmental scientists were treating data, he did the right thing in publishing that book. Science needs to be questioned by more than the 50 people that constitute its peer review circle if we are going to use it to influence government policy.

What do you think?

For example, controversies over things that may seem very trivial questions in Chemistry can rage for decades or longer. To settle certain scientific questions like you describe, there is not usually a definitive single experiment that can destroy a new theory (although some simple work with calorimetry destroyed the phenomenon of cold fusion). What will happen is that competing sides will publish papers and ripostes until there is a decline in acceptance of the discredited viewpoint. It's not really vitriolic compared to political or philosophical matters, but if you are involved with the experiments it can be exciting.



[ Parent ]

Yessss (none / 0) (#141)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 05:20:12 PM EST

And Wilson is well known for his balanced view of his intellectual rivals, and reluctance to tread on other people's turf isn't he ?

It would be much more useful for Wilson to "waste" some of his time - it would stop him writing about sociobiology, for a start - and actually martial arguments against Lomborg. Of the three critiques solicited by the union of concerned scientists, his was by far the least useful, and the most sarcastic. He went out of his way to dismiss Lomborg as a kook on the level of Peter Duesberg. The arrogance is truly astonishing.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Science at the geopolitical interface. (4.87 / 8) (#23)
by demi on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:15:30 AM EST

This piece is a good example of how published, peer-reviewed scientific research has come to be abused in much the same way that the Bible, the Koran, the Constitution, and sociological research and polling has. People with a political agenda, desperately trying to add credibility to their ideas, will find a trusted and respected source of information and twist it to their own ends. Well-conducted and controlled scientific analysis, after the age of Enlightenment and 20th century postmodern theory have nearly destroyed the factual efficacy of human ideas, is now being used to assist mainstream political propaganda. The short-term gain is to make some political flack appear better informed, but the long-term loss is in the credibility of scientific research in general.

Who would you trust more, a politician screeching rhetoric from the pulpit, or a serene doctor dressed in a lab coat, explaining the 'facts' of the matter?

During the last century, research in the social sciences has been almost completely subverted by the efforts of statistic-mining ideologues. Especially with regard to health-related research and biological-related research, there is often an unavoidable political component to the publication of results that certainly puts the analysis of data in a compromising situation. There really is no better example of how this has come to affect the credibility research in climate and environmental science than the debate over global warming. It has gotten to the point where both sides wish to lay claim to a scientific 'consensus' that vindicates their arguments and political objectives. Exactly how this is evaluated is never made clear, since it usually comes out of the mouth of one (albeit well-known) person, and then parroted endlessly by nontechnical personnel. As far as I know, there have been occasional scientific congresses where certain resolutions have been adopted, but often the makeup of the congresses are already slanted toward one point of view during the planning phase (i.e., the plenary sessions are organized to build upon a pre-arranged theme which may culminate in some kind of resolution). If you would not accept the resolutions of the Southern Baptist Convention as having a consensus position among Christians, then you should be wary of the Congress Regarding Global Climate Change as a consensus of scientific opinion.

Before you consider why a scientist would voluntarily distort his own opinions to become someone's pawn, remember that the stakes are often very high, especially when it comes to researchers at high-profile institutions who work in sensitive areas like medical, economic, sociological, and environmental research. Not only is there the potential to be lauded widely in the national press for your good work, but there is also the possibility of being denounced, ostracized, and slandered just for analyzing data in a certain way and reporting it.

There is a huge political expediency to generating 'friendly' scientific support for certain policies. For example, if new data were to turn up that definitively (remember, this is a hypothetical situation here) showed that there is no significant anthropogenic effect on climate change, that would have a hugely adverse effect on the political fortunes of a lot of scientists, bureaucrats, and leaders both in the US and Europe. Remember how much political mileage was gained before Sept. 11 on that issue (Kyoto) alone. So it's natural, and completely not surprising, that Lomberg would be attacked, regardless of the quality of his research (which I am in no position to evaluate).



You know it's bad when little girls get censored: (4.75 / 8) (#31)
by Kalani on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 03:10:12 AM EST

My 3rd grade cousin had her (Social Science) Science Fair project pulled for just the reasons you've stated: http://www.thielen.com/barbie/

-----
"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Cool! (3.50 / 2) (#69)
by farmgeek on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 03:47:16 PM EST

I read about that back when it first happened. Tell her she did an excellent job, and that it was a great idea.

I wish I had the brains to think of science projects like that when I was her age.

[ Parent ]
Almost (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by vmarks on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 11:43:19 PM EST

Her project was cool, and better than the one I presented at that age- but upon reading the experiment page, the hypothesis was that people pick what they're familiar with- so I wished that there had been more information on who the Adults and Kids were that were surveyed, and what their description of Barbie is, sight unseen.

Also, I wished that she had included some history on Barbie, including when the first Black Barbie was introduced, compared with the ages of the Adults, so we can tell if they were possibly exposed to Black Barbie in their youth...

Oh well, I know- too much to ask of a third grader...

Still, good job.


[ Parent ]
That was scary to read... (2.00 / 2) (#33)
by Echo5ive on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 06:14:54 AM EST

Unfortunately, stuff like this is all too common. "Protect the children!"



--
Frozen Skies: mental masturbation.

Doh! Replied to wrong comment. (none / 0) (#35)
by Echo5ive on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 06:17:01 AM EST

I was aiming for this comment.



--
Frozen Skies: mental masturbation.

[ Parent ]
Definition of Pseudoscience (3.25 / 12) (#36)
by PresJPolk on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 06:25:51 AM EST

Why is it whenever a political scientist writes on environmental issues, it's called pseudoscience by someone outside his field, but when an envrionmentalists make political recommendations it's slavishly embedded into global treaties?

Political Science is an oxymoron (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by hughk on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:08:53 AM EST

There is a subject called Political Science taught at some universities, but there is no way that it is science!!!!! It isn't even a soft science.

All persons can comment on political implications, you don't need a special qualification to do this. If I therefore want to talk about the politics of cryptography, that is perfectly valid, because I know cryptography, even if my knowledge of politics is limited to news sources. Same for the environmentalists, they can spout on about the politics of environmental issues, but perhaps some of them are disqualified for the reason that they are numerate and understand budgets and statistics which many politicians seem unable to do so.

The day that someone has to be an expert in politics to make a political recommendation about their field is the day I become an anarchist!

[ Parent ]

Definition of Political Science (3.50 / 2) (#38)
by PresJPolk on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:16:59 AM EST

Er.. Politics (and therefore Political Science) isn't what you think it is, obviously. And yes, political theory is vital to the design of a treaty like the Kyoto one.

[ Parent ]
Political Action (3.40 / 5) (#48)
by Khedak on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 11:52:24 AM EST

Why is it whenever a political scientist writes on environmental issues, it's called pseudoscience by someone outside his field, but when an envrionmentalists make political recommendations it's slavishly embedded into global treaties?

What exactly are you suggesting? That only political scientists should be involved in drafting treaties? That the only valid concern for nations contemplating political action are the opinions of political scientists? I would tend to think that this is folly: If you want to address a particular issue, as a nation or in treaty with other nations, you consult experts for whatever that issue may be, along with your political scientists. If your economy is in a slump, consult economic experts. If your agriculture is suffering, consult an agriculture expert. If your neighbors threaten you militarily, consult a military expert. And if your country is imperiled by environmental concerns, consult an environmental scientist.

Political scientists are for evaluating how nations interact and are likely to interact in the future. They are not supermen with insight into every conceivable field. The reason environmental experts are consulted on environmental issues is because they have knowledge that is applicable to the situation. Political scientists should be consulted as well, but only to ensure that the actions you contemplate are politically viable, and their opinions must be weighed against the consequences your experts predict.

[ Parent ]
Dissent (4.33 / 3) (#74)
by PresJPolk on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 04:59:28 PM EST

I'm suggesting that it's hypocritical of the environmentalist movement and it supporters to routinely dismiss dissenting views of anyone outside of their field, while actively engaging outside of their own field themselves.

I think this pattern is dangerous, because there's a suspicious amount of conformity within the field of environmental study. Climate isn't exactly an easy thing to study; the chaos involved has to make it at least as hard as studying, say, a black hole. Measuring the temperature 100 years ago is no easy task, leading to conflicting data.

With a complex subject, no solid models, and sketchy data, there should be differing opinions, a variety of models being put forth, as there are in physics or other fields. Yet, in environmental study, there's a scary amount of uniformity. *Everyone* thinks there's global warming. *Everyone* thinks humans caused it. *Everyone* thinks it'll do more economic and social damage to make drastic industrial reductions, than to let things continue as they are.

At the very least, the difference in solar output between the Maunder Minimum and today should leave *some* doubt about the cause of any climate change.

When there's that much uniformity, peer review suffers. Ever seen the "hockey stick?" http://www.vision.net.au/~daly/hockey/hockey.htm Even things that are easily discredited get used over and over, by one government or organization after another. Why? All the dissenting views are coming from outside, and are being ignored.

Yes, it'd be nice if people who have made a career of studying this stuff could come forward vocally. But, until that happens, the best we have available are poltical scientists and other motivated dissenters to take a critical look at environmental study.

[ Parent ]
Ratings (none / 0) (#156)
by PresJPolk on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 03:12:54 PM EST

Hmm.. someone give the parent to this comment a 0, so that it will get the whole set of ratings. :-)

[ Parent ]
You are forgetting something..... (4.00 / 4) (#39)
by hughk on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:27:53 AM EST

Evereyone has an agenda, we hope normally that the author of a scientific paper's principle agenda is scientific truth, but that is a little naive.

In reality CUP is a business. It wants to make money. It shouldn't care if something is contreversial and maybe even inaccurate as long as someone can say it is ok from their review panel. The book makes some points, some of which are inaccurate, but mostly are just misrepresentations. For example, yes, there is plenty more oil around, but it is just going to cost significantly more to get it out of the ground (and also, it may no longer be under you but under an unfriendly country). Ditto for many other minerals.

An article in a journal is somewhat better than a book. A journal has a reputation and has a review board that are stuffed with people that want to protect that reputation. If the paper is frequently cited, then perhaps it really is interesting. That is how it works.

A book is different. I don't buy a book automatically because of the publisher, and even O'Reilly has its duds. The publisher asks either the author to pay (vanity publishing) or it looks at a return. An academic publisher, like CUP may take a hit on some books as long as it can break-even overall.

But back to the subject of enviromentalism though, the Internet gives some interesting ways to present climate models and data. Perhaps some of those creditable experts should try to spend some time using better ways to present data to the public as a whole. It is easy to 'sell' good news, it is much harder to 'sell' bad news.

Misplaced cycnicism (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:26:40 AM EST

In reality CUP is a business.

No. In reality it is the university press of Cambridge University (the clue is in the name). Cambridge University is not a business, and CUP has no business printing things which diminish the credibility of Cambridge University, upon which CUP trades.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

I don't see... (5.00 / 5) (#41)
by cyberdruid on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:59:40 AM EST

...why Lomborg gets all this media attention? In Sweden, where I live, there was even a documentary on his ideas on prime-time. SciTech Daily Reivew (excellent site by the way) published a few links on the matter, a while ago. In my opinion this rebuttal by the World Resource Institute was the most interesting.

It would seem to me that if you want to see some genuine arguments against the view that the world is dying an environmental death, check out The Ultimate Resource II (free web-edition of the book) by Julian Simon. Julian Simon is perhaps most famous for his bet with alarmist Paul Ehrlich (you know, the "Club of Rome"-guy, who, in ca 1968, claimed that we would all die horribly gruesome deaths in the 70's and who has given similar predictions every decade or so, since) concerning the price of certain commodities. Of course, as with most writing concerning political issues, taking claims with a grain of salt is prudent. Simon was an economist (he died in 1998), so the perspective is very different from the norm.

For a scientific criticism, look to SciAm (4.75 / 8) (#47)
by Tuor on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 11:39:58 AM EST

Several people have comment that the book contains some factual errors; in point of fact, many of the central ideas and their associated 'statistical' evidence in the book are riddled with poor scholarship and worse statistics. For a thorough rebuttal of the book's central ideas written by the leading climate researchers, please read the January 2002 issue of Scientific American.

People have already said this, but... (3.80 / 5) (#49)
by derek3000 on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 11:53:16 AM EST

Julian Simon did this before and probably did it better. I can understand how people would feel that our environment is getting worse, but most of the data shows us otherwise.

Compare the scientific validity of The Population Bomb (Ehrlich) with that of The Ultimate Resource (Simon) and you'll see that Simon is more credible.

Sometimes the right answer isn't always the easiest to understand. Does this mean you should feel free to throw your shit all over? No, just on your land. Public land: owned by everyone, respected by no one.

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars

The reality of Environmentalism (4.18 / 16) (#50)
by jd on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:03:27 PM EST

Many environmentalists forget that their science is relatively new, and covers a time-scale and physical framework more massive and more complex than any ever studied by a scientific discipline before or since. There is simply no system known that is more complex than a planet containing a significant, diverse, biological system, intricately interconnected within itself and to the inorganic environment in which it exists.

When a deduction is reached, by an environmentalist, said environmentalist needs to place a definite scope on that deduction, along with definite pre-conditions, and definite cases in which that deduction is either partially or totally false.

Let's take an example. We know that, in the early Earth atmosphere, there was no free oxygen. Today, there is somewhere between 18-22% free oxygen in the atmosphere. Since the amount of oxygen added or removed from the Earth has been negligable (although it won't be zero), it follows that the sum total of all material which will readily react with oxygen must exactly balance the free oxygen that exists.

In conclusion, given a long enough time-frame, if hydrocarbon fuels continue to be burned (whether that's coal, wood, peat, methane, ethane, butane, octane, etc), enough elemental carbon is burned (eg: diamond, graphite), and enough other elements/compounds which react with oxygen (eg: hydrogen, sulpher, etc) are burned, then the oxygen level in the atmopsphere will be eventually reduced back to zero.

This isn't degree-level science, it's a simple application of very elementary arithmatic.

If A + B = 20, then the more A is, the less B is. Duh!

Ok, but what does this mean to, say, Joe Q Average, and his 16 gallons/mile SUV? Not a whole lot. Sure, he's changing the values in the equation, but by such small amounts that you're simply not going to detect it. Even the entire population of the Earth - 6 billion or so people, all of whom convert O2 to CO2 on a constant basis, is not enough to radically change the balance, at least over the lifetime of a person.

Environmentalism, then, is not about "next week", for the most part. 100 years, in terms of the life of a planet, is a pitifully small time. You need to move into the thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions, of years, for some of the more subtle effects to be noticable, let alone significant.

HOWEVER, there is a catch. The environment changes slowly, but so does the rate of change, and the rate of change of the rate of change. The effects of humans, over the past 100,000 years, on the has been significant, in terms of the landscape. Europe has been virtually wiped clean of trees, for example. Wood is grown, commercially, but it's not native species, for the most part. The tree versions of cash crops are what people grow. Money, not habitat, is the driving force.

Then, there are the oceans. Whaling has been banned for many decades, but Blue Whale stocks have barely changed. (I'm using the figures from NOAA reports, here. I don't have the URL to hand, but I'm sure anyone interested enough can look this up, from the information given.) Cod and mackrel stocks are dangerously low, in many European waters. Fleets regularly over-fish, in violation of EU law, and then simply sell the surplus to nations outside the EU. Predatory tactics, such as the Spanish incursion into Canadian waters a few years back, are common.

Sharks are suffering from being finned (which kills them), from being hunted for sport, from being entangled in netting, or from lack of food, given the total destruction of their major food sources. Manatees are being chewed up by boats, have had their environment virtually obliterated, and exist in unsustainable pockets in environmentally hazardous places.

There were an estimated 50 Gangee dolphins, last year, in total. The population at the start of the 20th century is estimated at 20,000. That's a significant drop, and it's very very likely that the Gangee dolphin will go extinct within the next few years.

The impact of all this? Well, fewer fish means that predators relying on those fish will be reduced in number. Which means predators with a more generic diet will increase in number. However, you've also all but eliminated the top of the food chain, so the next layer down will explode in numbers, virtually obliterating the next layer down, etc. The entire ocean population is becoming horribly unstable.

(Anyone who remembers the environmental computer game "foxes and rabbits", where you had to try to get a stable population of foxes and rabbits, will know that this kind of balancing act is very, very unstable. Even tiny changes can have a dramatic impact.)

In the long term, the bottom of the food chain (plankton and sea-based plant-life) will also become unstable. We're already seeing this, with massive algae blooms in the Mediterranian, which (almost) suffocate the sea there. Oxygen levels plummet, and life becomes extremely difficult to sustain.

If we stopped all fishing tomorrow, it would take maybe 10,000 years for the population to return to it's natural level. After all, it has taken that long to produce such levels of damage, and recovery is generally no faster. In that time, many species are likely to become extinct, simply from the momentum of the damage, and the viability of the surviving population.

If we continue fishing the way we do, in another 10,000 years the oceans would simply not support life. Notice the time-frame, though. 10,000 years. We're not talking about a weekend fishing trip destroying civilization as we know it. We're talking about sustained damage.

And this leads me to the final point, global warming. People have argued that volcanos bellow out far more sulpher dioxide than the entire human population has in it's entire existance. True, but irrelevent. Environmentalism isn't about first-order equations. Total isn't nearly so important as the rate of change of displacement, over a prolonged period.

Spikes (which is all volcanos produce) are negligable, in the scheme of things, no matter how large they are. It's just a blip. Although a volcanic erruption is now believed to have extinguished all higher life on Greenland, in the 12th century, and caused severe famine in the north of Scotland.

On the other hand, a continuously increasing impact, over a prolonged period, no matter how small any given instantaneous impact is, will have a much greater cumulative effect.

An analogy would be pushing a boulder over a series of large bumps. One instantaneous shove could launch the boulder most of the way up, but it'll roll right back down again, most of the time. It needs to be truly massive, to have the effect of launching the boulder into the next dip. The boulder then stops dead, and you need another huge shove to launch it anywhere else.

On the other hand, a continuous push doesn't need to be big, to have a cumulative effect. You're not launching, so the energy required to roll it to the top is much, much, less. The momentum is then boosted by gravity, which means that you need even less effort to get to the top of the next rise. And with each successive dip and rise, your cumulated momentum makes it easier and easier to go further and faster. Now, if you suddenly realise that the boulder is going to squash your house, you've a problem. All this accumulated momentum is going to have to be opposed, by an equal and opposite force, over whatever timeframe you have left.

This is how it is with environmentalism, and this is why it is one of the hardest to get actual action on. The "boulder" of environmental damage might not do anything utterly, irreversibly catastrophic for centuries, millenia or even tens of millenia. But you -really- don't want to wait to the last minute to stand in front of it. You'll be squished like a bug. The only real hope is to stop the build-up of harmful momentum when it's still so small that stopping it is even feasable.

Today, the damage is noticable, but not threatening on a global scale. There's some momentum, but it's nothing that can't be worked out, given the time and the effort. It's taken 100,000 years to get here, so it's no weekend task to get things straightened up.

But herein lies the problem. Find me 10 people, over the entire globe, who really, truly give a damn about the impact their car will have on the climate, in 100,000 years time. I can't honestly say that I'm exactly in a rush to do anything, and I am convinced that there's a problem.

What political groups tend to do, then, is to reduce the timescale somewhat. What would really take a thousand years becomes 10. What could take 10,000 becomes "your child's lifetime". (Apologies if anyone here has a lifespan in excess of 5,000 years.) It's the only way they can convince people to do anything. What they say is generally (but not always) correct, but the timescale is usually a blatant lie, to grab people's attention. Suffocating from SO4 fumes, next week, gets a bit more attention than the idea that your great great great great great great (.....) great grandchild would suffer such a fate. Most people just don't think that far ahead.

And why should they? It's hard enough to cope with life now, never mind worrying about life in the next millenium or ten.

Which leads me to my final conclusion: Environmentalism is important, but expect it to meet fierce resistance, if presented as a threat to someone's way of life. It's only hope is to be seen as a blessing to the here-and-now, not a curse.

on manatees and preserving sinecures (4.00 / 3) (#54)
by tanner andrews on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:38:14 PM EST

manatees ... have had their environment obliterated
I live in Volusia County, where the St. Johns River is considered ``prime'' manatee habitat. Large numbers of the creatures spend colder days and nights at Blue Springs.

Let's consider what we actually see in Volusia County. First, of course, one could consider the numbers of creatures. From a dozen or fewer at Blue Springs when it was still the Thursby estate, we now see over 60 of the creatures. For all the shrill complaint about how endangered the creatures may be, the reality (as confirmed by the annual census) is that the population is steadily increasing.

That brings us to the habitat problem: the creatures tend to live and feed in the river. They eat aquatic grasses (and, unfortunately, not water hyacenths). The amount of habitat is not declining: the river is not getting shorter.

However, the food supply is. The increasing numbers of the creatures means that more of the river grass is eaten. It has reached the point where the bass and other fishes have a hard time finding grass beds in which to spawn. Thus, the natural population of fish is declining.

There is, however, a thriving manatee protection bureaucracy growing in Tallahassee. (It's even less endangered than sea cows, because a bureaucrat will never go away once established.)

I make no comment on the balance of the science presented by the poster because I have less direct involvement.

[ Parent ]

Hang on a sec... (4.50 / 6) (#58)
by Anatta on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:56:26 PM EST

We have this quote from you:

Many environmentalists forget that their science is relatively new, and covers a time-scale and physical framework more massive and more complex than any ever studied by a scientific discipline before or since. There is simply no system known that is more complex than a planet containing a significant, diverse, biological system, intricately interconnected within itself and to the inorganic environment in which it exists.

And then this one:

But herein lies the problem. Find me 10 people, over the entire globe, who really, truly give a damn about the impact their car will have on the climate, in 100,000 years time. I can't honestly say that I'm exactly in a rush to do anything, and I am convinced that there's a problem.

You start out mentioning that the Earth and its climate is perhaps the most complex system ever examined, it is multivariate, non-linear (likely chaotic), and even the leading scientists admit that they haven't even discovered at least 50% of the variables that affect climate, and then you speak about the affect Joe Q. Average's one SUV has to the multivariate, non-linear (likely chaotic) system. There seems to be a disconnect here. Changing one variable a miniscule amount in such a massive system will do practically nothing. Changing one variable a significant amount (say the Kyoto Protocol) will also likely change nothing. Even assuming that humans could change that variable at all is a significant assumption. It's hubris to think that humankind can control climate in any meaningful way even with Kyoto or some other ginormous effort, let alone one person in an SUV.

Hell, we don't even know if there is such a thing as a "climate", or if there is a long term average at all.

We have a hard enough time figuring out what the weather will be in Topeka on Thursday, yet you seem to feel that we know what impact Joe Q. Average's 16mpg SUV will do in 100,000 years to the most complex system humankind has ever seen. The bottom line is that we have no idea what the SUV will do the climate in 100,000 years, and we certianly would be wise not to destroy the world economy in order to (possibly) change one variable in a incredibly complex, multivarite, non-linear, probably chaotic system, a variable which will likely do nothing at all to the overall climate.
My Music
[ Parent ]

The problem of chaotic systems (4.50 / 2) (#59)
by jd on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 01:32:15 PM EST

Lies in the so-called "butterfly effect". Small changes can make huge impacts. (The reverse is actually also true. Huge changes can make negligable impacts.) The problem is that, with a chaotic system, it's very difficult to determine what effect anything will have.

A good example is the Red Spot, on Jupiter, which is a stable construct, despite being composed of extremely chaotic, unstable elements. The Red Spot system changes only very subtly, when you consider the sheer magnitude of the storms within it, or the sheer scale of any variations that must occur.

On the flip-side, you've got the Lorenzian Waterwheel.* This is a completely unstable system. The wheel flips one way, then the other, never repeating itself. And yet, the input is almost totally steady and stable.

*The Lorenzian Waterwheel is a simple device to construct, and has been built. It comprises of a number of buckets, rather than paddles. Each bucket has a hole in it. The buckets & holes are ideally identical. The bucket is connected to a central wheel, in a way such that it is free to rotate. You then have water enter the system at a fixed rate, off-center. The wheel will rotate as the buckets fill. However, provided the water entering the system exceeds the water leaving a bucket within 1/2 rotation, the buckets on the opposite side will gradually contain more and more water. This continues, until the system actually reverses, and the wheel turns in the opposite direction. After a while, the same condition will cause the wheel to reverse again. This continues indefinitely. The system never oscillates or enters a stable state.

A single SUV -could- potentially have a massive impact. Most likely, as you say, it'll have no impact at all, in and of itself.

This gets to my main point, which I probably didn't phrase well, which is that if you accumulate -enough- small, "insignificant" changes, over a long enough period of time, then they will actually overwhelm the larger components of the system, which are generally just very brief spikes.

(We have all heard of the "straw that broke the camel's back", but that saying is grossly misleading. It puts too much emphasis on a single component, when that single component, in isolation, is trivial. It is the entire system, comprising of a great many straws, which breaks the camel's back. It is the cumulative, not the singular, which makes a difference.)

[ Parent ]

The butterfly-effect... (4.00 / 3) (#75)
by cyberdruid on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 05:17:29 PM EST

...does not actually exist.
Not as it was originally stated, anyway. It is based on someones (I forget who) ingenious calculations concerning how fast the perturbations of a butterfly's wing-beat will spread across the earth in the chaotic system that is our weather. The conclusion is, I believe, that it would just be a matter of days before the butterfly could have an extreme impact on the weather, anywhere on the globe.

The problem, which was later discovered, with the calculation is that it assumes classical physics (i.e continuous energy levels). But when you think about the amount of actual energy that reaches a point, say, 10 meters from the butterfly's wing, it is quickly realized that it is in the domain of quantum mechanics. The energy of quantum mechanics have to drop in discrete levels (this, for example, is why electrons do not spiral in to the nucleus). This means that quickly after the wing-beat, the energy perturbations will die out because the levels will be to small to perpetuate - thus no butterfly-effect. This conclusion is boring and less spectacular than its predecessor, so it is still not mentioned in most pop-literature.

The concept is, of course, still valid for other systems, but for far fewer than was originally assumed.

[ Parent ]
Not convinced! (none / 0) (#105)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 08:19:36 PM EST

This means that quickly after the wing-beat, the energy perturbations will die out because the levels will be to small to perpetuate - thus no butterfly-effect.

I've heard this before from David Deutsch I think, but I don't buy it. I appreciate that the original calculations may have been wrong; however: This argument seems to assume its conclusion. The whole point of chaos theory is that the deviation from what could have been - had the initial conditions been different - can get larger and larger with time. As long as it doesn't get so small that quantum effects become overwhelming at any point, the butterfly effect can work - I would have thought.

Besides, the fact that quantum theory is discrete doesn't by itself preclude chaotic effects. Discrete dynamical systems can be chaotic.

For that argument to work, it would have to explain exactly what makes chaos theory inapplicable to the butterfly effect but still applicable to other real-world physical systems.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

It explains why quite clearly (none / 0) (#122)
by cyberdruid on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:30:46 AM EST

"Besides, the fact that quantum theory is discrete doesn't by itself preclude chaotic effects."
Hence my concluding comment saying so...

We went through the math in a course I took in "chaos theory, fractals and dynamical systems". The reason why some phenomena exhibit chaotic behaviour is that sometimes the perturbation effects the system faster than the energy falloff to quantum levels. In essence you have two competing functions, an exponential loss of energy and the quadratic magnification of the perturbation. Normally you could just integrate over the resulting function and see whether, statistically, the effect dies out. However, when integrating over very large distances (in space or time) even a very small energy level (the ones that should not be included because they cannot be transmitted) gives a significant contribution. There is a large difference between the integral of an idealized function that goes smoothly and asymptotically towards 0 in infinity and a real physical function that will (in this case) quickly look more like a stair and actually reach 0. If you are a programmer, you can also quite easily simulate the system to find the tresholds (not quantitatively, but you'll see that they are there) for when a system is chaotic and when it is not.

[ Parent ]
several points (3.00 / 1) (#79)
by luethke on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:24:43 PM EST

first off, you admit that no one really knows what these changes would cause. The thing that is interesting to me is that the argument swings to both sides. If you can not acuratly predict what is going to happen (if you think you can go read through some of the physics udnerlying this stuff)then how do you "fix" it. First off it is very difficult to say we have a problem. So the earth is warming - is it our fault? sure we are putting some gasses in the air - have they been here before (actually they have), is the temp change abnormal (actually the earth has seen even more massive changes). Did I just prove anything? not really - we could be the cause, we could not be. Ok, so now we go and try to fix what we might have caused. Lets forget economic problems for now. How do we fix it. Ok, we run some numbers that we don't know are right and do that. Did we actually change anything? did we make things better or worse - another hard question - since we only have a very small understanding of what is going on. We don;t know if we can even produce enough small "insgnifigant" changes over a long enough period of time to change anything. The reality is when these simulations are run not all of them show that the earth is going to gloom and doom even in the 10,000 year or 100 million year time frame. One of the published studies showing death in severl thousand years used ocean currents and assumed they stayed the same - well, the study was thrown out the window when the currents cited changed - ohh well. if the little petrubations pushing the boulder are not large enough to actually move it at all, the boulder won't move.

Even if we conclusivly show that our lifestyle will radically change the environment in 100,000 is that neccessarily bad? for the current life yes, but that is assuming nothing on earth will adapt to the new climate. sure all the lions dying out suck for the lions but it may be the greatest thing for the leapards - which in turn may diversify life in a few thousand years - being good - or it could destroy the entier foundation of life on earth. Species go extinct, has to happen, we are loosing them faster than average but to say the earth has never seen a faster decline is just plain wrong. The biggest extinction occured a the beginning - to quote http://www.dinodata.net/EH/Permian.htm:
The mass extinction that occured at the the Permian-Triassic Boundary (PTB) featured the largest extinction ever recorded in earth history. During this period, the world was becoming increasingly warm (Newell 1953). Along with this rise in temperature, much of the ocean's water evaporated, causing a drop in sea level of up to 200 meters (Gall 1998). Scientists estimate that approximately 85% of all marine species (predominately invertebrates) and 70% of all terrestrial species went extinct in less than one million years (Bowring 1998).
also realize that the dating method used is ver granular, that is why it says in less then 1 million years. also the end of that page correctly says that fungal species were the dominate terrestrial lifeform! we are not nearing that much trouble and the earth successfully rebounded from that. These studies basically have to hold some variable steady and those variable aren't - making simulations to the point of beinbg intractiable.

that being said, should we do nothing? on a localized scale we can see farily massive changes (look at smog) so the answer is no, we should at least try and fixed the localized problems. But to argue how we should "fix" the global stuff is way to premature, for all we know our fixes will be worse than the problem.

[ Parent ]
Wrong bottom line (4.00 / 2) (#64)
by greenrd on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 03:01:55 PM EST

The bottom line is that we have no idea what the SUV will do the climate in 100,000 years, and we certianly would be wise not to destroy the world economy in order to (possibly) change one variable in a incredibly complex, multivarite, non-linear, probably chaotic system, a variable which will likely do nothing at all to the overall climate.

Destroying our life support system is more dangerous than destroying the world economy. Would you rather be alive and poor, or dead? If the earth heats up too much, the human race will be decimated or even destroyed. In any case, the Kyoto protocol is not likely to "destroy the world economy".


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Oh, brother. (4.00 / 1) (#76)
by Ludwig on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 06:33:01 PM EST

Deprecating unnecessarily inefficient commuter vehicles will destroy the world economy? Now who's the shrill alarmist?

[ Parent ]
Kyoto would destroy the US economy (4.00 / 1) (#77)
by Anatta on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 07:39:25 PM EST

I have seen estimates of $300 billion dollars annually, or $2500 per household. I have seen estimates up to $33 trillion dollars to the US alone over time (that's bigger than the entire yearly world economy).

Europe would largely escape unscathed due to the 1990 date chosen (East Germany, Russia, France, and Britain were at their worst pollution levels in 1990), as would developing countries like China and India, who weren't even going to sign the treaty. The US would be the one that would take the brunt of the costs of Kyoto.

Yes, the Kyoto Protocol would have destroyed the US economy.
My Music
[ Parent ]

Destroy the environment. Destroy the economy. (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by Trepalium on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 10:57:31 PM EST

Most of those estimates are done by people with an axe to grind. The ones that say it would destroy the economy are the ones that don't want to see their business or way of life interrupted, so in aiding in their estimation, they make several "worst-case" assumptions, like that there would be no scientific progress and the level of technology would be exactly the same as present time. The environmentalist camp, on the other hand, exaggerates the importance and significance of everything in order to try and make people believe there's a dire need for the changes. I wouldn't doubt that something like the Kyoto Protocol would be expensive, but I don't believe for a moment that it would've destroyed the US economy. The business sector and economy would adapted and would've likely come up with some clever solutions to the problems.

I don't know about everyone else, but it seems to be a reflex action by both parties. In particular, I've seen the business sector claim that nearly everything was going to destroy the economy, but when they couldn't get rid of it, and finally accepted and adopted it, they started making even more money.

[ Parent ]

Nonsense! (5.00 / 2) (#106)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 08:34:25 PM EST

Yes, the Kyoto Protocol would have destroyed the US economy.

No, no it wouldn't. That's just propaganda from special interest groups. Introducing more energy efficiency measures could substantially reduce US greenhouse gas emmissions, create new business and employment opportunities in the area of green tech - and increase economic efficiency. Here's what some of the oil companies have said:

Faced with this uncertainty, BP Amoco believe that adopting a precautionary approach to climate change is the only sensible way forward..."

"It would be unwise and potentially dangerous to ignore the mounting concern. We need to take precautionary measures now." (CEO John Browne, 1997)

"The agreement reached in Kyoto in 1997 provides a useful framework and is a step in a continuing process. BP Amoco supports this process."

--
"We do know that [global warming] is, in effect, irreversible. It makes sense therefore, to take prudent cautionary measures now."

"The Shell Group supports the Kyoto agreement."

Read more on the page I linked above. Not all of them support Kyoto, obviously - and these quotes only represent positions at a particular point in time, which may change.

Crazed environmentalists, are they? Perhaps you should reevaluate your out-of-touch "libertarian", extreme right-wing worldview, and take a dose of your own medicine: start taking biased propaganda from special interest groups with a grain of salt - just as you expect others to do.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Free Oxygen (4.66 / 3) (#68)
by Bad Harmony on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 03:45:07 PM EST

This isn't degree-level science, it's a simple application of very elementary arithmatic.

That's obvious, and it's typical of the level of science that I have become accustomed to seeing from so-called environmentalists.

...it follows that the sum total of all material which will readily react with oxygen must exactly balance the free oxygen that exists.

No, it doesn't follow.

All children have a mother.
All mothers are female.
Therefore, all females are mothers.

54º40' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

trial periods (4.00 / 1) (#85)
by Weezul on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 12:54:23 AM EST

Enviromentalism is a religion. Not destroying resources which we lack the technology to replace (biodiversity & ecosystems) is common sence.

Still, I feal we should adopt a "trial periods" view point to most things: humans should be allowed to engage in questionable activities, wether it's cloning supermen or building atomic reactors, but they need to "show significant progress" towards finding cleaner & less dangerous versions of their activities. If an oil company is show to not be promoting it's solar power division then *surprise* decorperation time (corperate death penalty). If your a libertarian, this could come in the form of an unlimited liability trail for stock holders, i.e. the historians notice that Ford caused unnecissary externalities, so all the voting stock holders during the questioned period of time get fined for the clean up (even if the clean up is unending and costs arbitray amounts of money).

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
But what is "long enough"? (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by A Trickster Imp on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 09:13:33 AM EST

In the original industrial revolution in England a hundred and fifty years ago, you had choking smoke in London, yet longevity increased astronomically. The population exploded because suddenly almost all your children lived to adulthood, and the 3rd world existance of breeding a dozen kids on the hopes some would survive became a liability.

In other words, choking smog + long factory hours + dangerous work conditions = much, much, much (etc. many much's deleted) better than what went before, when the air was "pure" and the dangers to life weren't machinery but just everyday life.

A Dickensian environmentalist pleading for a return to the previous state would be no friend of humanity, that's for sure!



[ Parent ]
kinda the point (3.00 / 1) (#94)
by Weezul on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 11:27:39 AM EST

You would never be asking for a return to the previous state. You would be asking for an improvment every few years.. a reduction in the problems caused by all the smoke and bad working conditions. If the factories claimed they could not provide it you would say ok, but when historians came to the conclusion (in some kind of court of law) that the factories avoided their improvments for profits then you would see the share hoders in the factories get tagged with with big fines (libertarian view) or decorperation.

The whole point is for the law to understand that advancemnt is always better then stagnation. I'm also kinda hoping that if you make the penalties for being totally heartless over a long period of time large enough and remove any statute of limitations then Wall St. will notice and try to be objective about things. I know the dot.com bubble was one big non-objectivity fiasco for Wall St., but it didn't last that long. If people were getting liability shares as a dividend and it cost them money to get rid of these things they might notice.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
longevity in the industrial revolution (5.00 / 2) (#118)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:23:05 AM EST

In the original industrial revolution in England a hundred and fifty years ago, you had choking smoke in London, yet longevity increased astronomically.

  • The industrial revolution began in England two hundred years ago, not one hundred and fifty.
  • For the first half of the nineteenth century, life expectancy, average heights and many other "quality of life" indicators worsened dramatically.
  • The improvement in standards of living in the second half of the century began at pretty much exactly the same time that measures were taken to sort out the smog (, cholera, malnutrition) problems brought about by the Industrial Revolution.
  • I do not regard it as a coincidence that these material improvements in the condition of the working class began shortly after the publication of the Communist Manifesto.


--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
But why do anything for dangers in "10,000 Ye (2.00 / 1) (#90)
by A Trickster Imp on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 08:16:19 AM EST

Destroying our life support system is more dangerous than destroying the world economy.
If a complete destruction of the "life support system" occured, yes. That is not what is happening by any means, though it is the rhetoric.

Destroying the economy will have a massive effect on slowing, if not reversing quality of life, destroying it. There is the problem laid bare. To virtually any realistic problem, the cure is worse than the disease.

We were supposed to be out of oil. We're not. It's cheaper than ever before. Had we continued with governmental intrusion on the basis of phony scarcity we would have far more expensive gasoline today.


Anyhoo, why worry about 10k years in the future? Twenty years ago people worried about species being extinct. We're now in the process of resurrecting dead mammoths and friends. The shameful worry about hideous humanity making species extinct was never an issue, and the strong laws about it did indeed affect the economy, not to mention a loss of freedom as people suddenly couldn't use their land because someone sitting in an ivory tower decided the land was better suited to other purposes, and had the armed thugs to back them up in their property seizures.

Don't even dream of trying to predict the technology available in a hundred years. We may not even be here in any recognizable form. To guess that, in 10,000 years, science wouldn't be able to handle some measly problems is ludicrous. (Ludicrous, unless you have massive environmental [or socialist] sponsored governmental control. In that case, I can envision science not being significantly advanced over today.)

[ Parent ]
Start of Comment is Flat-Out Wrong (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by RHSwan on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 07:15:17 PM EST

Sorry for the reply title, but I couldn't think of a easier way of saying it.

Your first paragraph is:

"Many environmentalists forget that their science is relatively new, and covers a time-scale and physical framework more massive and more complex than any ever studied by a scientific discipline before or since. There is simply no system known that is more complex than a planet containing a significant, diverse, biological system, intricately interconnected within itself and to the inorganic environment in which it exists."

Astronomy and it's closely related discipline Cosmology study a timescale two to three times older than the earth. Some cosmologist spend time thinking about what the universe was like before there was time. And the physical framework isn't even close. We are talking billions of cubic light-years (approximately 6 trillion miles) here. And I would argue the Universe as a system is more complex than this planet. You could even argue it contains this planet.

Just to set things straight.

An amateur astronomer.

RHSwan



[ Parent ]
i dont agree. (none / 0) (#129)
by chopper on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:44:30 AM EST

i really don't believe that astronomy is any more complicated than the study of the entire earth, just because the time scale and size is different. when the poster talked about a "massive physical framework", i think he was talking of massive complexity.

now, whereas the universe as a whole is rather large, it mostly follows very basic rules. we can look at a cluster of galaxies, and determine their probable behaviour based on gravitational laws that are rock-solid. hell, in a lot of cases gravitational computations based on Newton's 300-year-old laws can be used.

on the other hand, the earth is an incredibly complex system, involving non-linear high-order dynamics in every single sphere of behavior, from the weather to the flow of surface water, stuff that we can't begin to simulate. and don't even try to get started on interactions of living things, and their (and our) influences on the planet. as an example, why is it we can predict accurately where Venus will be in the night sky over Chicago 50 years from now tonight, but we can't accurately predict the weather over the same town a week in advance?

environmental science is very complex, given that our own presence is affecting the environment itself. whereas its all well and good that astronomers are trying very hard to understand the early universe (and BTW, its widely believed that there was no universe "before time", since there is no such thing as "before time"), human beings have so far had no discernable effect on the environment of the universe outside the earth.

no offense to astronomers or anything, they do fine work.

give a man a fish,he'll eat for a day

give a man religion and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish
[ Parent ]

And in Reply (none / 0) (#145)
by RHSwan on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:04:30 PM EST

Everything follows some basic rules, we just don't always know what they are ;). We have some good approximation but no single theory which explains everything (Einstein linked matter, energy, and electromagnetic radiation but not the strong or weak nuclear force).

Don't forget that astronomy must try to explain how the earth's atmosphere formed and acts to a certain extent or how Venus got to where it is. No I'm not talking about Venus got to that spot in the sky but why Venus is in that orbit in the first place. Planetary formation must explain the wide variety of planets we may have found and their orbits. Stellar formation and evolutionary theories also must explain the wide variety of very weird objects out there and I mean weird. And it extrapolates from there. Astromers use supercomputers for long periods of time to try and model things too.

Even simple rules can combine to create very complex objects and behavior. Like environmental science, astronomers are good at gross approximations, but not on details.

Just for your information, did you know the Sun is outputting more energy. In at least one graph I've seen, it follows the warming of the Earth quite well.

An Amateur Astronomer

Richard Swan

[ Parent ]
Science review of Skeptical Environmentalist (3.37 / 8) (#51)
by ikillyou on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:19:21 PM EST

The Journal Science reviewed the "Skeptical Environmentalist" in its Nov 9 issue:

From the review:

Lomborg has compiled an immense amount of data to support his fundamental assertion that in many respects the environment is getting better rather than worse and to argue that we should not worry much about the state of the world. These are two distinct theses. For the most part, I find his analysis of the first contention compelling but his case for the second woefully inadequate. Along the way, he revels too much in slaying caricatures and falls into some of the same traps of selectivity for which he lambastes the environmental movement.

...

That, at heart, encapsulates the flaws in Lomborg's thesis. Many (though not all) aspects of the environment are getting better--good. Therefore, environmentalists are stupid--a complete non sequitur. And technologies will solve any outstanding problems, so we don't need policy--generally wrong. As a counter-Litany, this seems more misguided and more dangerous than the Litany that Lomborg attacks. Doubtless he would complain that this summary distorts his views. However, the principal tone of the book and the surrounding publicity invite such an interpretation, and Lomborg has done nothing to dispel it. That is the pity of The Skeptical Environmentalist; perhaps it was just too ambitious. While reading the statistical analyses, I thought it could help lift the environmental debate to a new level of maturity. It hasn't, and I doubt it can. Reading the rest--and seeing how keen certain media have been to promote some of the less rigorous contrarian fodder it contains--I fear it risks doing the opposite.

Generally wrong? (none / 0) (#89)
by A Trickster Imp on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 07:45:43 AM EST

And technologies will solve any outstanding problems, so we don't need policy--generally wrong.
Actually, generally right. It is the failure to recognize this that is at the heart of the problems rabid environmentalism would bring upon the world with idiocy like Kyoto.


[ Parent ]
No (none / 0) (#110)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 09:29:37 PM EST

Since when has technology alone solved the problems of: domestic violence, sexism, racism, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, widespread illiteracy, poor education, widespread hunger in the US, ethnic conflicts, religious cults, the abortion debate, cancer, heart disease, iatrogenesis, hazardous workplaces, annoying people on k5, etc. etc... All these problems still exist somewhere in the world. Yes technology has helped in some cases, but more than mere technology is needed.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Julian Simon (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by ikillyou on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 04:37:40 AM EST

The main thrust of Julian Simon's argument is that people, being intelligent creatures, will find solutions their problems - and part of that solution is regulation by the government.

He doesn't claim that technology will automagically solve environmental problems. In fact, he says:

http://juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/TCHAR15.txt

A study of European countries confirms the theory that increased income brings about decreased pollution. Countries with higher per capita income tended to have more laws that control pollution.

...

The key conceptual difference between a natural resource and pollution is that the goods we call "natural resources" are largely produced by private firms, which have a strong motive - profit - for providing what consumers want. A deal is made through the market, and people tend to get what they are willing to pay for. In contrast, the good we call "absence of environmental pollution" is largely produced by public agencies through regulation, tax incentives, fines, and licensing. These political mechanisms that adjust supply and demand are far less automatic, and they seldom use a pricing system to achieve the desired result.

Another difference between natural resources and pollution is that natural-resource transactions are mostly limited in impact to the buyer and the seller, whereas one person's pollution is "external" and may touch everybody else. This difference may be more apparent than real, however. One person's demand for natural resources affects the price that all pay, at least in the short run; conversely, the price that one person must pay for a resource depends upon the demand of all others for the resource. Much the same would be true for pollution if there were a well-adjusted system by which people had to pay for the privilege of polluting. But such a price system for regulating pollution is not easy to achieve. And hence resources and pollution tend to differ in how "external" they are.

The Kyoto Protocol, flawed as it may be, is in fact an attempt to create price system for regulating pollution on a global scale.



[ Parent ]

Hmm (none / 0) (#125)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 10:05:18 AM EST

OK, well I reckom whoever wrote that either only read half the book or only read Lomborg's article in Science.

On the two theses he's roughly right: Lomborg show's statistically in a very convincing manner that most environmental issues are overplayed.

On the second - that environmentalists are silly: he never says that directly. In fact I think the closest he gets is in saying many are misguided, and pointing out that there are counterincentives running against sound science inside organisations like Greenpeace. Given he claims to support a more skeptical environmentalism himself - hence the title - the reviewer seems to be overplaying this.

But the really irritating part is the claim Lomborg believes no policy is required. He says precisely the opposite in the summary of his book, and especially in the parts on Global Warming.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Sources (3.75 / 12) (#55)
by sonovel on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:38:36 PM EST

I'm not going to defend a book I haven't even read, but your attack on it seems to be based on one article on a web site that doesn't even seem to have have figured out how to use dns.

Hardly authoritative.

Note that this doesn't mean their facts are incorrect, that would be a falicy of argument. But it would be nice to have some more trustworthy data.

That doesn't mean the book is correct, it is just yet another article from you with a source that is a little hard to believe.

There is very little facts in the article. If the book is so full of egregious errors, why didn't the article discuss any of them? The article is mostly full of innuendo and unquoted sources. For instance:

----
Several scientists interviewed for this article were dumbfounded ...
----
Who are these people who were dumfounded and why so, in their own words?

Things like:
----
Lomborg devotes entire chapters to "revealing" that we are not running out of oil or metals, although virtually nobody in the environmental movement has claimed otherwise in the past twenty years.
----
This is an odd statement as Ehrlich only lost his famous bet on resources a little over ten years ago! Ehrlich is not "virtually nobody", his books have been very influencial in the environmental movement.

How about this quote:
----
Lomborg shows the Kyoto agreement will have only a slight impact on global warming, apparently unaware that the treaty is indeed conceived as a "down payment" on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
----
So he is correct factually and they agree, but somehow he must be wrong anyways!

I would love to read about the mistakes in the book. Unfortunatly, this review or whatever it is (hatchet piece, IMO) doesn't provide any information that helps one judge the book. It is full of innuendo and unamed "sources".

Do you have a point zzzeek? (2.33 / 3) (#66)
by sonovel on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 03:10:45 PM EST

What is your point zzzeek?

Do you have something to add to the discussion?

If so, add it. I would love to read your comments.

If not, why rate?

What exactly didn't you like about my post?

I assume you can read and write but maybe I give you more credit than you deserve.



[ Parent ]
Adapt and continue... (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by A Trickster Imp on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 07:40:58 AM EST

Lomborg devotes entire chapters to "revealing" that we are not running out of oil or metals, although virtually nobody in the environmental movement has claimed otherwise in the past twenty years.
This is an odd statement as Ehrlich only lost his famous bet on resources a little over ten years ago! Ehrlich is not "virtually nobody", his books have been very influencial in the environmental movement.
You have to remember what a massive victory this was against rabid environmentalism, and more importantly, against the notion pure scientists know what the future holds.

Julian Simon demonstrated over and over again how humanity, free humanity, would come up with solutions to the problems, and that these would always be better than massive governmental command and control of things.

"Twenty years" ago, these environmentalists were telling us that by the year 2000, we'd be out of oil. According to Simon, gas would be ever cheaper. It's about $1.00 per gallon now, quite literally the cheapest in history after inflation.

Simon was right. Humanity will deal with the problems, find more sources, find alternatives, and do it when it is economically necessary and not when some scientist does a static, zero-sum analysis that is as accurate as throwing a dart at random.

Now, given how foolishly some people believed in the imminent shortages problem, should you trust their judgement about other problems, especially when the same guy, Simon, who shot them down over that, shoots them down over other environmental issues with the exact same observation? Environmentalists try to adapt and continue by lopping off their diseased, stinky right arm, not realizing their entire body is festering.



[ Parent ]
Ideologically, you're way out there on right field (5.00 / 1) (#109)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 09:10:58 PM EST

You have to remember what a massive victory this was against rabid environmentalism, and more importantly, against the notion pure scientists know what the future holds. Julian Simon demonstrated over and over again how humanity, free humanity, would come up with solutions to the problems, and that these would always be better than massive governmental command and control of things.

So what you are saying is that pure scientists can't predict the future, but economists like Simon can? He is making a prediction by saying "humanity will come up with solutions". Not a very specific one, sure, but still a prediction.

This smells bad to me. Economics is very ideological and prone to errors (just look at the IMF's catastrophic disasters in promoting free market policies, over and over again). Hard science tends to be more reliable.

Simon was right. Humanity will deal with the problems, find more sources, find alternatives, and do it when it is economically necessary.

The market cannot solve all problems. Anyone who has a clue about economics and is not ideologically blinded by "libertarianism" knows this. One reason is that the market is often too short-termist. If a problem only creates economic problems when it is too late to get rid of it, you have a market failure. Another reason why the market doesn't always work, is the "tragedy of the commons", which - ironically - is an argument even some libertarians use (against welfare). Global warming, if the IPCC is correct, is precisely a tragedy of the commons situation - everyone seeking their own self-interest creates global misery. And whatever else you may say, you can't show beyond reasonable doubt that the IPCC is incorrect. It's the future of our life-support system at stake - I think we should be very cautious.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Simon and Economics (5.00 / 1) (#124)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:57:04 AM EST

Julian Simon's work on environmental issues is not really based on economics. He was basically a statistician, and that work really reflects that. All he and Lomborg have shown incontrovertably(and Lomborg's arguments are basically Simon's), is that the overall trends predicted by some environmentalists are not supported by the historical data. Lomborg's main advantage - and the reason for his better press coverage - is that he is not a right wing economist and left off the speculation.

However, the speculation is worth looking at, and has nothing to do with free markets, or what is normally called economics. The argument is that human ingenuity will overcome problems - especially scarcity - as and when we come to them, by whatever means is required. In the case of warming that would of course involve government action (although Simon did not believe the problem existed, Lomborgh does). Compare with the counterargument: that at some hint of a problem, we should act to avoid it, even if uncertain that it exists, and unclear as to the costs of leaving it alone.

Personally, I prefer Simon's view, because I find it more likely to work, even if all currently supposed environmental problems are real (something I cannot personally judge). Yes, the argument is related to that for economic liberalism, but its not the same, and cannot be dismissed in the same wave of the hand.


Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Political Science Joker (3.40 / 5) (#65)
by ZimZorl on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 03:07:23 PM EST

Look, if the counter article is correct and this person is a political scientist it stands to reason that the book is merely a common disinformation document. You write a seemingly analytical document and back your reasoning with "facts" and "statistics" so that the reader thinks that more people have studied and agree with your opinion. It's a common propaganda technique. Probably one of the most effective because the only difference between a fake scientific analysis and a real one is that the real ones "statistics" and "facts" have been compiled using scientific method or something vaguely similar.

Don't be surprised if this guy writes a social science book analyzing how this book was received by different people and organizations. I actually think it's funny and sad at the same time.



Catch 22 (4.00 / 3) (#70)
by gnovos on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 04:23:04 PM EST

I'll keep this short, since many others have said far more than I could and more eloquently. What I find most disturbing is that most "environmentalists" can not really see the forest fo the trees, if you'll forgive the pun. There is, quite literally, a nearly infinite supply of energy and raw materials for man-kind to exploit, and that just in this solar system alone, not even considering the energy and materials elsewhere in the galaxy, in the universe. Unfourtunately, in order to harness that energy and material, we need to burn a whole bunch of what we have down here to get up there. If we start conserving our own energy now and turning away from Progress(tm), we will never be able to actually start tapping those nearly infinite supplies just waiting up there for us. What envoronmentalists need to realize is that the "future" isn't going to be next week, or next year, or even in 50 years. The future will be in the next 100 or 200 or 1000 years. Eventually we will reach the point where we have a 100% clean Earth, but it's going to take time.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
Debunking or attacking a heretic? (4.50 / 16) (#71)
by adamsc on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 04:38:03 PM EST

I've noticed that many of these points "against" Lomborg are really points against what his critics wish he'd said. For example, he never said that the environment doesn't have problems or that environmentalism was a waste of time - he carefully made the point that there's a considerable difference between "not as bad as they claim" and "good enough" and frequently repeats his view that over-focus on some issues takes time & money away from other problems. (A related topic is his discussion about many groups which claim to be environmental watchdogs but are really pushing for a more extreme goal - his comment wasn't that these weren't legitimate causes but rather that it was dishonest to claim that, say, the only alternative to environmental devastation is halting all development)

The more disturbing trend is the way some of the reviewers treat science like religion. One particularly glaring example was in Pimm's Nature article:

Like bad term papers, Lomborg's text relies heavily on secondary sources. Out of around 2,000 references, about 5% come from news sources and 30% from web downloads -- readily accessible, therefore, but frequently not peer reviewed.
This is an attempt to smear Lomborg by association (we wouldn't want anything off of that icky, unscientific web would we?). Lomborg explicitly stated that where possible he was including URLs so that readers would be able to check citations without a major research library. Given that the articles in question were overwhelmingly from UN & government, environmental groups (e.g. WWF) or scientific journals, it's ridiculous to claim that the same UNESCO study is somehow pseudoscience if you read it on the web.
This bias towards non- peer-reviewed material over internationally reputable journals is sometimes incredible -- for example, the claim that the evidence for pollution at New York's Love Canal was "jaded". At other times it seems fictional. "Scientific luminaries such as Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson and Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich are the enthusiastic supporters of an ambitious plan ... to move the entire population of the US. ... people would live in small enclosed city islands." The reference is directly attributable neither to Wilson nor to Ehrlich. "Is it true?" we asked them. Ehrlich: "I know of no such plan. If there were one, I wouldn't support it." Wilson concurred.
Now, if we were to actually check the Science article Lomborg cited for that quote (260:1868-71) we would find the following text:
"Yet the principles behind the Wildlands Project have garnered endorsements from such scientific luminaries as Edward O. Wilson of Harvard, Paul Ehrlich of Stanford (who describes himself as an `enthusiastic supporter'), and Michael Soulé of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who is one of the project's founders."
Lomborg based his claim on an article in an accepted scientific journal. Pimm is attempting to disprove him using an unverifiable phone conversation with someone who's backpedaling from an unpopular position. This is supposed to convince me that science needs defending from Lomborg?

The other curious aspect is the way so many people didn't read the original book (let alone checking the thousands of references backing up each claim), read a single article, usually written by a biased individual, don't read Lomborg's responses to these articles and then conclude that Lomborg has been debunked. This is supposed to be science?

(Me? I'm a small-e environmentalist. I enjoy being outdoors & want my children to be able to enjoy the environment, too. I just disagree with those who think environmentalism is some sort of holy crusade which trumps all other concerns or that any cause requires lying to support it. The extremists who exagerate, misrepresent or even fake evidence end up hurting the environment by stealing attention and money from other areas and giving the anything-goes-if-it's-good-for-business types ammunition)



What else is new? (3.00 / 1) (#87)
by A Trickster Imp on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 07:19:05 AM EST

> I just disagree with those who think environmentalism is some sort of holy
> crusade which trumps all other concerns or that any cause requires lying to
> support it.

Back when environmentalism was called ecology and was just getting started out as a religion, it was noted that there was almost a 1-1 mapping between rabid ecologists and the far left, with the suggestion that both were of the type of mind that loved massive governmental control over just about everything. As the years wore on and the far left's politics became marginalized in real governments, the "rabid desire for massive control" shifted from a base of pure "People's State" apoplexy to a "scientific" one of environmental irrationalism.

[ Parent ]
on being careful (5.00 / 2) (#165)
by gregbillock on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 09:11:48 AM EST

Lomborg is quoted as saying:

Scientific luminaries such as Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson and Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich are the enthusiastic supporters of an ambitious plan ... to move the entire population of the US.

whereas the article cited says something quite different:

Yet the principles behind the Wildlands Project have garnered endorsements from such scientific luminaries as Edward O. Wilson ...

Evidently there is something called the "Wildlands Project" which advocates mass displacement of Americans, which is based, or is claimed as being based, on various principles which would be endorsed by Wilson, Ehrlich, and probably others (perhaps even you and I). It is possible to propose measures in the name of principles like 'sanitation' (for example), where the principles do receive widespread support but the measures do not. Or, to take another case, there are many who would be happy to have more people join their religion, but very few willing to endorse a crusade or fatwa to encourage that to happen.

It is this kind of lack of attention to detail that appears to plague Lomborg's book. Many people are wowed by lots of references to journals, but the quality of such references is more important than their quantity. Perhaps he's accurate enough overall that spot checks didn't catch errors like this, but I suspect that the book simply didn't receive this kind of care, either by the author or the editor.

[ Parent ]

Bell Curve turning people into white supremacists? (4.50 / 4) (#73)
by cyberbuffalo on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 04:39:14 PM EST

That would be quite a feat since the curve had Asians and Jews being "superior" to whites.

wow (5.00 / 5) (#81)
by luethke on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:54:10 PM EST

you mean there is someone else out there that when they talk about the bell curve has actually read it instead of taking whatever someone else said about the book for granted? In fact the said constantly throughout the book that they were not saying what many journalist said they were, that you needed to understand what the statistics meant ( such as "correlation does not imply causality" or actually understandin what a mean IQ of a ethnic group compared to another meant). And that part was a very small part of the book, the majority of the book was dealing with how was school/work dealing with above average people and showing why thier ways of dealing with them were counterproductive. They were trying to show that catering to higher intellegence people (and yes they udnerstood that IQ isn't the difini9tive guide) in many situations was more beneficial than catering to the average or lowest common demoninator as the very intelligent would generally (but not always) produce more per capita and harder to produce stuff. They also did not condone leaving the average behind. What they had the most problems with was things like my education. When you took chemistry there was one chemistry class and we moved at the rate of the slowest students in the class. They wanted to see seperate classes universially (some schools do, some do not). there was muc more in there but I can not paraphrase in a short enough space what they said, but it basically said to stratify some classes by intelligence and nothing else. In the end I am not really sure why they talked about race other than they had produced the data. They seemed to know people would misunderstand what they were saying and included it anyway. They probably dedicated aver 100 pages to the fact that if the mean IQ of a jewish person is 5 points higher that a typicall mexican it meant nothing when looking at individuals. In the end I think they went over most peoples heads and they took the wrong idea and then perpetuated it with people who have never read the book.

[ Parent ]
Secular Dogma run over by speeding Karma (4.75 / 4) (#95)
by tz on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 11:34:10 AM EST

Plate Tectonics - the scientific theory was posited in 1905 and was received as well as creationism is today. Now Plate Tectonics IS the dogma.

Things like CFCs *causing* the ozone hole or global warming are pseudoscientific because they can't demonstrate causality. CFCs happen to be heavier than air, and are normally digested by bacteria in the soil. Those dispersed earlier haven't had a chance to reach the stratosphere. So IF they ever reach the stratosphere, and IF they decompose to chlorine monomers, and IF there is enough to affect the ozone forming process... But it happens at earth, and/or the Ozone molecules feel the evil intent of CFCs 50 miles below and swoon? Mt. Pinatubo throwing billions of tons of chlorine directly into the stratosphere couldn't have anything to do with it? But the Greens can't stop a volcano, and besides, volcanos are "natural". But we don't have a scientific debate, we have dogma and heretics.

But the article above contains its own contradiction. "The Bell Curve" does happen to be scientific, moreso than a lot of other junk. Someone may disagree with the conclusion, but someone needs to attack the data or methodology.

Meanwhile, it attacks "creationism". The problem is that if evolution is true, eugenics follows whether we like it or not. The one thing you cannot expect is that the different races (varieties or subspecies) of homo sapiens would not differ in intelligence, strength, and nearly every other attribute. So "The Bell Curve" which is heretical (since it goes against the dogma of strict equality) confirms the dogma of evolution.

The much larger problem is that we don't have a rational debate. It is easier to explain we will all die unless we become farmers or give up our air conditioners (or have the poor give up their inexpensive CFC based ACs).

But even right reason eventually says "I don't know, I'm not a crystal ball". Complex systems like the stock and other markets, Ecosystems, and even the Human Body are unpredictable. We know some things work or help. Other times we just want to "do something". Circa 1800, medicine was leeches and poultices. Our economic treatments prescriptions are similar (look at Japan as it is where we are headed - we reflated our bubble well beyond irrational exuberance when the NASDAQ was below where it was today and the capital was destroyed). One small ecosystem is beyond are ability, so things like the earth as one big ecosystem and climate are well beyond us. But we seem to demand the policy equivalents of leeches and poultices.

Maybe one day we will have both the understanding and the fortitude to avoid the quick fix. But when we don't have the understanding, we should adopt a policy of leaving things alone beyond shepherding our resources - conservation and temperance instead of abstinence.

But that does not sell magazines. Only on the shores of unconfirmed and uncertain science and research can mainstream magazines descend into the depths inhabited by the national enquirer and weekly world news without hurting their reputation.

[ Parent ]
fool fooled by foolishness (5.00 / 2) (#116)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:13:54 AM EST

CFCs happen to be heavier than air

Indeed, and dirt is heavier than air, which is why there is no dust in the upper atmosphere?

Ever heard of "wind"?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

fools are fooled (none / 0) (#146)
by luethke on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:07:56 PM EST

Indeed, and dirt is heavier than air, which is why there is no dust in the upper atmosphere?

Ever heard of "wind"?


dust is very small particles of dirt. the ability of something to "float" or be suspended in a fluid is based on it displacing the same or more weight than it has. So for example a very small peice of dust displaces nearly it's own weight in air thus wind is capable of "floating" it. as dist clumps together it's dynamics change and it no longer displaces the same amount of air for it's volume. Secondly dusts weight compared to what the friction of the air is is very high, as an example of what I am trying to say is that it is easy to float a feather in the air but ball that feather up and it become much harder. This is because air is in a gaseous form and dirt or dust is a solid. Now when CFC's are released (say freon) they are in a gaseous form and have totally different equations on how they disperse in the air. lets look at what you can do if you get a good lung full of dust, blow air out very hard and it will clear most of it (same with smoke). Now take a large breath of freon - blow as hard as you like but you will suffocate because you can't blow it out of your lungs. You must turn upside down to give the gas a way to excape. You argument would be valid if the two materials behaved the same while in air (which is actually quite heavy) but, well, they act very differently.

[ Parent ]
and a medical fallacy (5.00 / 2) (#117)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:15:03 AM EST

Circa 1800, medicine was leeches and poultices

Not true; vaccination and the circulation of the blood were discovered in the 18th century.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Actually yes (none / 0) (#104)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 07:57:43 PM EST

That would be quite a feat since the curve had Asians and Jews being "superior" to whites.

You'd think that would disprove it, woudn't you? But the truth is, many white racists look up to (some) Asians [probably based in part on IQ research, and partly on ethnic stereotypes of "hardworking, intelligent" asians.] For example, the overtly racist organisation American Renaissance:

"So long as cities keep turning black and Hispanic (an Asian influx can be a different matter), they will continue to deteriorate."
So you see, the racist bastards do not always hate all other ethnicities.

Anyway, the Bell Curve, and some of the key research that went into it, was heavily funded by a racist Neo-Nazi group. That alone makes me suspicious. If you know of a good article which shows that the Bell Curve is not racist after all, I'd be interested to see it.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

actually no (5.00 / 2) (#112)
by luethke on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 12:22:45 AM EST

just a few qestions. How many white supremists do you know? If you are interested go search on the web for them and see if they like any other ethnicity but a WASP (many even hate catholics). A white supremeist that finds asians ok are in the very small minority.

second, I belive hernstein was from harvard? at least one of the ivy league schools so I dounbt his research at the school was funded by a white supremeist groups - I don't think tenure would help you there. Go read psycologists/psychiatrists/and related fields views of the research - it was pretty well recieved. The arguments against it came mostly from minority groups that didn't understand what was being said, even now a search on the web about it is mostly filled with "I am a black woman and I am very smart" or "I don't believe it, something must be wrong" but they never point out what is wrong (at least a valid point - I am black and smart negates nothing of what they said). There are also several white supremest sites that cite it - also very wrongly. The biggest part of the study and book was looking at identical twins that grewup in different socio-economic classes and how similar they turned out. Thier findings basically stated that genetics plays a large part, but not all, of how you will turn out. The section about black/white/asians/jews/etc was very small. Personally I don't see what is so controversial - we know genetics plays a large part in how tall we are, how fast we run, wheather we will be fat or skinny - but mention that it may influence intelligence and you get flamed. The other major part is how intelligence affects what socio-economic class you end up in. In general smart people have smart kids and smart people make more money. That is of course in general, no gurante that a stupid person won't get rich or smart be poor, but on average that is what occurs. Hard work makes up some, but stupid people tend not to work hard, smart tend to work harder - also not always true, ther are many exceptions - but in general it is true. You don't like that - fine - go stick you head and the sand and deny it, it won't change reality. hier final argument was that, plus if you ignore it and pretend that doesn happen you will get git in the end, at the very least if you are trying to change the way the people act use the data available to tailor your proposals, not the way you fell things should.

[ Parent ]
I don't buy it (5.00 / 1) (#148)
by greenrd on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:50:20 PM EST

The other major part is how intelligence affects what socio-economic class you end up in.

So together with racism we have classism - social darwinism. A dressed up "let them eat cake".

even now a search on the web about it

which took 5 seconds, reveals this from the NY Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2004

"Rather, I made a critique of specific points based on my reading of the evidence. In this connection, it is noteworthy that Professor Lynn does not attempt to defend his spurious claim that the average IQ of black Africans is only 70--a refutation of which occupied a considerable part of my article."
Personally I don't see what is so controversial

How can you not see that???

What if I say "Americans are genetically less intelligent than Brits". What if I say "Certain kinds of drug abuse are higher among whites than blacks, therefore whites are predisposed to criminality." (Both nonsensical, of course.) Do you begin to see the controversy here? Do you begin to see what might make people's blood boil?

Do you have any CLUE AT ALL as to the very real discrimination black people still face today? And the indignation at how this kind of junk science could entrench and spread such racism even further?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

ohh well (5.00 / 1) (#164)
by luethke on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 12:03:10 AM EST

<me>The other major part is how intelligence affects what socio-economic class you end up in.</me>

So together with racism we have classism - social darwinism. A dressed up "let them eat cake".


umm, so intelligence has no bearing on what socio-economic class we end up in? the difference in what I meant (maybe I wasn't clear enough) and classism is in classism we would test and say a person with a low IQ HAS to be in a low - what I said was that intelligence (you can argue how acurate IQ is at rating it, that's another story) is an indicator - that is not classism. If an idiot refuses to work and is poor how is that racism and classism. If you take IQ of a random sample of several different races and plot them and one race scores one standard deviation below the other, and another scores about 1 standard deviation above the higher in the previous example how is that racism? racism, at the least, means that I would have a predjudice against a certain race - last time I checked a variable in a mean is not race. The fact is that hernstien and murry took a good random sample. They plotted things such as mean, socio-economic class and calculated things such as the correlation between them, found a high correleation - discussed several reasons there could be behind it (including genetic). The case they gave for genetic used identical twins that both grew up in the same socio-economic and disfferent socio-economic and published thier numbers. No where in what they or I wrote was it purposed that racism or classism is good.

<me>Personally I don't see what is so controversial</me>

How can you not see that???


again, they took a good random sample and calculated means and standard deviations. It's like claiming gravity is controversial. What some poeple said the book said is - but that was never written in the book.

What if I say "Americans are genetically less intelligent than Brits".

if you had both a good random sample that showed a merked diference and the identical twin study (that is identical twins, one in britain and one in the us, and a controll group) as hernstien and murry had, then, well that's what is implied

What if I say "Certain kinds of drug abuse are higher among whites than blacks, therefore whites are predisposed to criminality." (Both nonsensical, of course.)

well, the same applys here, if you had an accurate random sample compared to a good controll, well that's the way it happens

begin to see the controversy here? Do you begin to see what might make people's blood boil?

yes I see what. You do not like what the study showed so you either ignore it or make wild accusations. Black people physically tend to have longer leggs than white poeple making them better at many sports - no amount of whining will change that fact. I can hate that to my very core, consider it blantant racism that nearly all basketball players are black - but that doesnt make it actually racists as colleges and profesionals simply get the best players regardless of thier race. Your whole argument against what was siad boils down to "I don't like what was said". no where have you shown mathematical errors, sample bias, or intential fidging of numbers. You also claim that both them and I have said something we didn't (or at least you didn't take what I wrote for what I meant).

Do you have any CLUE AT ALL as to the very real discrimination black people still face today? And the indignation at how this kind of junk science could entrench and spread such racism even further?

yes, I have a clue. you have not shown why it is junk science (other than not liking what they said). I can see how it would entrench those views - lets face it everything does. The afore mentioned most basketball players are black entrenches those views, many things do - that does not make what entrenches thier views wrong. As for the link to nybooks if you would follow several of the link for Mr. Charles Lane you find find that his reputation seems to be, well, not that good. There are several people arguing with him and shown a complete sloppiness of his articles so I would nat take what he said as gospel. If you would like to read a much better rebuttle of the bell curve read http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/taboos/tbc02.html this person at least has a good education but still makes the mistake that the white supremists make. They read it as saying "black are worse than whites" which was not intended in the book. It is not too difficult to finnd someone that disagrees with it, but the community as a whole (read the majority) agree with the numbers and are still arguing some of the interpretation. Of course you can find dissent - you can easily find people who belive the holocost didn't happen, we didn't land on the moon, and the earth is really flat on the web, finding a dissenting voice is not the point - you need to show both a good dissenting voice and that a large part of the community think it is junk - that is not the case with the bell curve and ranting about it does not change reality.

[ Parent ]
No bias, blah, blah. (3.70 / 10) (#82)
by Sheepdot on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:55:03 PM EST

Bias here, bias there, but can you gather 19,200 signatures of American scientists (who receive no money for signing) *against* the Kyoto protocol with no financial benefits if they sign?

Yes, you can.

Note that the green community has been trying to register fake signers in the past to illegitimize the list they are so extremely upset that this list exists.

Can you gain the same amount *for* it?

I don't know, has anyone ever tried?

Where's the refutation to this by the scientific community?

I mean, come on, there's a *lot* more going on behind the scenes that the media simply isn't reporting about, and to be upset that this guy actually got some press is downright hilarious for those of us who've been following the green religion for quite some time.

I think that in order for their messages to be accepted as realistic, enviromentalists need to put a legitimate time frame on these things. Especially when after the "little ice age" (1550-1850 A.D.) temperatures have risen only 1 degree Farenheit.

I've seen fair and unbiased views of global warming before, but they don't seem to come from professors backed by *either* sides money.

Are the signers all qualified? I didn't think so (none / 0) (#108)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 08:57:29 PM EST

Here's an interesting "talking point" piece about the impressive-looking "petition project" you linked:

The Petition Project: A Global Warming Case Study

...However, it gets worse. Again, in the stacks in front of you, you'll find copies of an unpublished professional paper. The authors are from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) and the George C. Marshall Institute. However, the format is an exact duplicate of that used by the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. The apparent intent is to make the paper appear as though it has been through the peer-review process. In my mind, the overstated case--coupled with the misrepresented paper--is outright fraud!

"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]
So then, (none / 0) (#144)
by Sheepdot on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:32:55 PM EST

Is a document that has not gone through peer review not fact?

Is a document that has gone through peer review fact?

Who are the *peers* that review? Does that have any basis on what is fact and what is not?

Like I stated, biases abound. But can you get 19,000 signatures by qualified (read it again, they are definately more qualified than you or I) professionals (most with Ph.D.'s) to sign a statement that says that current carbon dioxide emissions are *good* for the environment?

The existence of such a petition was an eye-opener to myself, my family, and my friends. Ironically I didn't hear about the project through traditional media. I heard about it through an Internet site.

And you want to know why these Internet sites gain popularity despite the efforts of traditional media? Because they *ARE* biased. Because they aren't afraid to post something that won't strike well with every subscriber or reader.

If I want the news that repeats what I already know, I go to the NY Times, CNN, FoxNews, etc. If I want the stuff people don't want me to know, I go to IndyMedia, DrudgeReport, Kuro5hin, etc. With one I rarely have to take what is said with a grain of salt, with the other, I do, and heavy portions of which.

When I see 19K signatures, I feel assured that there are others who think as I do. Your attempt to illegitimze the petition was a *VERY* weak one, akin to a fictional story used for a professor's class to give student's a homework assignment.

When I see that the green religion has been trying to smear the petition with illegitimate signers and tried to denounce such signers with familiar names, I *know* that this petition has merit. The question is, why hasn't more attention been placed on it in the media?

[ Parent ]
The point (none / 0) (#147)
by greenrd on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:34:00 PM EST

My point was, if they have a PhD in Astrophysics or English they are most likely not qualified.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Heh. (none / 0) (#150)
by Sheepdot on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 02:15:59 AM EST

What about Philosophy or Political Science? Cause *those* are the people the media turns to for their data about the environment.

[ Parent ]
Sometimes you are right, sometimes not (4.50 / 2) (#97)
by Highlander on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 12:21:24 PM EST

What is getting published is a reflection of what people like to hear. You fear that undeducated people are easily swayed by the display of wrong opinions with the authority of a reliable newspaper.

What you should do then, is to educate people, to point out which newspapers got it wrong the most often this year, and to offer better newspapers.

And sometimes, the marketplace of ideas really works, and gets more arguments to those still unconvinced.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

OTOH (4.60 / 5) (#99)
by triticale on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 02:19:46 PM EST

What ever happened to the the threat of the coming Ice Age? "the continued rapid cooling of the earth since World War II is also in accord with the increased global air pollution associated with industrialization....." (Reid Bryson, "Environmental Roulette", 1971). Considering the hundreds of people who have died in the last couple of years due to unseasonably cold weather, I'd consider this a much more serious threat.


No joke (none / 0) (#107)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 08:44:56 PM EST

The threat is still there - although not for the original, erroneous reasons. Some scientists now believe that it's possible that global warming could trigger global cooling (sorry for not finding a better source, I just linked this to prove I'm not making it up).


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

what? (1.71 / 7) (#100)
by turmeric on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 02:31:14 PM EST

Dude, I hate slashdot as much as the next guy, but really your shit is disorganized. What the fuck are you talking about here? I didnt know this book was famous, I dont know whats in it, i dont know that the 'media was duped' or even what the fuck that is supposed to mean. I have read 'exposes' of the NYT or whatever where they totally fucked up some story, ignored facts, stomped on the lone noble reporter, etc. These were usually pretty heavy with specfics about what happened and why it sucks ass. Your article, on the other hand, leaves me thinking 'yeah, man, fuck slashdot' and 'the media sucks' but i dont really know what happened, why , how, who, or where.

streetlawyer summary service (5.00 / 1) (#115)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:09:48 AM EST

"I'm ignorant and it's your fault".

Thanks, thanks, I do these for the love.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Idea Futures (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by mlinksva on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 11:09:48 PM EST

Real money idea futures could help separate bunk from truth, and if the masses persist in believing bunk, you can profit. Unfortunately only play money idea futures markets exist due to the onerous legal and regulatory obstacles to anything that looks like gambling. Example IF claim: By 2030, the greenhouse effect and other causes will have raised the average world sea level by 1 meter from its 1994 level. Last traded at 26.
--
imagoodbitizen adobe unisys badcitizens
Idea Futures (5.00 / 1) (#135)
by kurthr on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 12:35:29 PM EST

Sounds like a good idea, but you better not let the bets be anonymous. That way leads to some twisted motives. For example: I bet that wild apes will be extinct in 20 years. Of course my business is collecting and selling ape skins for illegal trade and export so who would be better at making the guess. Ah and my profit skyrockets, if i make damn sure... where's the gun. Hey, if Enron had been able to make bets on the California energy crisis, perhaps they wouldn't be bankrupt:^) Futures allow one to hedge losses due to econmic events, but some global environmental (or economic) events could prevent future payoff. This is especially true where one is dealing with a commons that benefits a huge number, but can be destroyed by the legitimate economic interests of a few. To take the fur trade example again. If I already have more ape skins in storage than there are living apes, my profit goes up dramatically, if i can just burn them all out, even if I can't find them. The future of idea futures depends on exactly how they are implemented.

[ Parent ]
The Bell Curve is not pseudoscience (3.00 / 3) (#113)
by roffe on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 04:14:50 AM EST

The case of the Bell Curve is in fact the opposite: media didn't like what it perceived to be its conclusions and debunked it as pseudoscience. Quite similar to, say, Noam Chomskys alleged refutal of Skinner's Verbal Behavior.

--
Rolf Marvin Bøe Lindgren
roffe@extern.uio.no


In a little more detail ... (none / 0) (#138)
by Hobbes2100 on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 04:49:20 PM EST

I have not read "The Bell Curve". I have read a bit of "The Mis-Measure of Man" by Stephen Gould (I think). This book TMMoM is termed "the definitive refutation" of TBC.

Now, to call TBC pseudoscience on the basis of agreeing with Gould is one thing. To call TBC pseudoscience on the basis of newpaper articles and reviews is just as bad as any other fallacy. In fact, blindly agreeing with Gould is just as bad as thinking that an arbitrary paper reviewer is going to do a good job reviewing the book (do you expect the reviewer to be smart/competent/doing anything other than making a living?). If you can't make up your mind first hand, then you have to decide (carefully) whose opinion your are going to trust.

The analogy with Skinner vs. Chomsky is an interesting one. Chomsky is perceived to have demolished Skinner's behaviorism but 1) what did Skinner say about Chomsky's ideas and 2) has behaviorism ever been extended to incorporate Chomsky's criticisms? For the record, I do know of some hard-core behaviorists who 1) are not idiots and 2) are familiar with Chomsky's work. Does this mean Chomsky is wrong? No, it simply means there is a diversity of opinion about his conclusions (although in this case, there isn't much diversity).

One final similar situation is the supposed rebuttal of Karl Popper's theories of scientific development and Thomas Kuhn's "counter-arguments". In fact, Popper saw little conflict between their lines of thought and he considered Kuhn's work "very interesting". Other people have drawn the conclusions that they are at odds but, hey, we have to make up our own minds (whether we do it first hand or otherwise).

Regards,
Mark
Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? --Iuvenalis
But who will guard the guardians themselves? -- Juvenal
[ Parent ]

mis-measure and non-measure (none / 0) (#153)
by roffe on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 05:50:39 AM EST

The Bell Curve cannot be refuted by The Mis-Measure of Man, since the issues discussed in TMMoM are not the same as the ones raised in TBC. Gould has spoken out against TBC later.

The Bell Curve cites and summarizes a lot of well-founded research (albeit some of it funded by dubious sources). The conclusions that Herrnsein and Murray draw, may be labeled pseudoscience because (I would prefer speculation), in fact, one cannot draw political conclusions directly on the basis of scientific evidence. There are always interpretations.

There is no need to incorporate Chomsky's ideas into Skinner's work. He would have found answers to his objections in the book had he but read it.


--
Rolf Marvin Bøe Lindgren
roffe@extern.uio.no


[ Parent ]
What's really wrong with Lomborg. (3.00 / 3) (#121)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:36:16 AM EST

I actually read the book when it came out, and found it reasonably interesting; I didn't agree with all the assertions and a lot of it seemed to be more or less bashing for the sake of it. But it was very good on the subject of population nutters and had some quite good points on resource exhaustion. My friends who know more than me said that the bits about extinction were rubbish. He had one graph of atmospheric pollution in London that had to be crap. Etc, etc.

But the real problem is in his conclusion. After going through the whole book debunking millennial predictions of environmental doom, his argument seemed to be: "Should we risk huge damage to our economy for these feeble predictions?"

Yep, that's right. After writing a huge-ass damn book showing how complicated and wanting in hard evidence the predictions of environmentalists were, Lomborg took one massive, millennial, hysterical prediction by an economist straight off the shelf and treated it as if it were the inexorable Newtonian consequence of the Kyoto treaty.

That's when I became pretty sure that either he was an ideologue himself, or he had fallen into the hands of an editor with an ideological axe to grind.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

A couple of things ... (none / 0) (#123)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:42:37 AM EST

1. What is your friend's argument on extinction ? If I remember correctly, the core of Lomborg's argument was just that there is no data behind many of the spuriously precise figures being bandied about. I felt it was one of his weakest chapters, but I felt the point about the absence of evidence was well made.

2. The graph of atmospheric pollution in London is extrapolated from figures for coal sales where no atmospheric data was available. Why does it have to be rubbish ?

3. I think you misrepresent Lomborg's conclusion. His argument is not "how can we risk this economic damage ?" (that would indeed be the kind of crap that comes out of right wing think-tanks), but rather, "we must weigh the economic costs to humans against the environmental costs to humans, and rule everything else out of consideration".

Given that he - like Julian Simon - is principally a statistician, this conclusion is perhaps not surprising.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
answers (none / 0) (#127)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:25:22 AM EST

1: Can't really remember. The basis of it was that Lomborg had been nothing like as diligent as he represented himself as having been in searching into the extinction literature.

2: Over the period Lomborg used, we really don't have a consistent definition of "London". Is Hampstead in London? Definitely yes today, basically yes in 1800, but definitely no in 1620 and obviously no in 1500. There was no attempt to deal with this sort of consideration.

3: No, you're being far too generous to him. He gave dollar estimates of the cost that the Kyoto treaty would impose on future generations. These figures are, have to be, necessarily, junk economics. They consist of taking a small percentage off a long term GDP growth forecast and compounding it over future years as necessary. You then produce a "low" estimate by taking a small percentage and a "high" estimate by taking a large percentage. But this ignores the fact that the precision is spurious; long term GDP growth depends on technological progress and we don't know what effect Kyoto might have on that. Lomborg is guilty of exactly the kind of hand-waving estimate in economics that he castigates in ecology.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Extinctions... (none / 0) (#140)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 05:06:05 PM EST

I have a real problem with the claims that are being made about extinctions because they seem to be made by extrapolation. In other words, "we found x new species per square mile of rain forest (in those parts of the forest where we actually looked), and we're losing y square miles of rain forest each year, therefore we are losing x*y species each year.

What really freaks me out about this is that the idea of "what is a species" has become a political football. When I was in school I was taught that a species was a group of animals that could successfully interbreed. In other words, since pomeranians and pit bulls can interbreed, they are part of the same species.

But this definition creates two problems: First, there are lots of physically distinct types of animals which are capable of interbreeding if they really want to (for example: grey wolf plus coyote yields red wolf yields big argument about whether or not red wolfs can be considered endangered when they can be 'recreated' on demand). Second, since the discoverer of a new species gets to name it, and gets the glory, biologists have a vested interest in "discovering" as many species as possible.

So now the current definition of "species" is "genetically and geographically distinct population" - which is so vague and arbitrary that, yes, the different races of humans would count as different species. (and, before you flame me, no I do *not* believe that this is true...)

So, seeing how iffy the definition of species is, I have trouble taking changes in the absolute number of species very seriously.



People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]
Lomborg, the media, and reading the book first (4.36 / 11) (#126)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:06:53 AM EST

Firstly, I've actually read Lomborg's book. Most of those both criticising and praising it don't seem to have gone to that much effort, since they say things about it that simply are not true. Here we have an article comdemning the media for failing to read the books they review. Well, big shock there. If I were a book reviewer for a weekly I wouldn't plough through 2000 pages of 2-column text, tables and graphs either. However, the author, and the author of the linked article over at tompaine haven't read it either, or they would not say most of the things they say about it. Nor have the "scientists" and IPCC officials quoted, for similar reasons. So, we've got someone decrying the state of the media for giving positive reviews to a book he hasn't read and whose position he doesn't understand, on the basis that what its said has upset some people who haven't read it either (just like the journos) but who he'd prefer to believe. I find it hard to say who sucks most in that ...

Since I've actually read the book, and so many people who haven't seem to want to present their opinion, here's mine:

1. Its no great work of scholarship. In fact there isn't a single original idea in it. Its all been said before. Lomborg's contribution is to pull it all together in one place, and to use the statistical data to cry foul to some people who've been overstating their case. There's a name for this kind of publication: its called grey literature. Summaries, introductory texts, report, collations, and so on are all grey literature. Such writings are not peer reviewed because they aren't original. What they draw on, of course, should be peer reviewed. If you want to argue the specifics, you're expected to do further reading. Its worth noting that the IPCCs reports, and most environmentalist literature, fit the same bill and aren't peer reviewed either.

2. Lomborg does not entirely understand some of the fields he is arguing in, and a lot of criticism has focussed on this. Where he steps away from statistics and tries to theorise, he does make errors. The editor should have exised these bits, but I expect he got bored.

3. He does know his stats, and the statistical analysis - the body of the book - has largely escaped criticism. Most of this stuff is drawn from Julian Simon anyway. The best original bit, statistics wise, is the chapter on global warming. This seems to have escaped intelligent comment completely, as its at the end of the book, and wasn't in the pre-digested "Science" article from which most "reviews" and "essays" on the book were drawn. The comments from the IPCC betray a complete lack of interest in even finding out what Lomborg *said*, since he's not opposed to action to reduce CO2 emissions, but wants them based on a weighing of costs and benefits, not on the Kyoto treaty. His analysis is based on combined economic/atmospheric simulations, which are largley seen as credible.

4. I've spent several days searching the web for criticisms of Lomborg. They fall into a few broad categories:

a) Territorial pissing from natural scientists. The broad point being "who is this wretched soggy polisci on my turf ?" Criticisms regarding lack of peer review, or lack of reputation tend to fall into this bucket.

b) Minutiae, that don't contradict the broad point being made when Lomborg used them. Usually combined with a. The author usually then goes on to say that this disproves the entire thesis of the book (having not read it all), and that Lomborg should go back to polisci.

c) Apologia for the environmentalist movement. This is includes claims that "noone believes that anymore", calls on the wretched infernal "precautionary principle", statements that lies don't matter as long as your intentions are good, usually accompanied by that old saw of armchair dictators everywhere, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem". Its worth noting that a lot of things "noone believes any more" have found their way into everyday political discourse in circles less tuned to the inner workings of the green movement. A more public change of stance might be in order.

d) Rave reviews. There have been far to many of these. On that we agree. Those who wrote them rarely seem to have read the book, since they take Lomborg as endorsing a stance - opposition to environmental controls - that he explicitly rejects.

e) Flames. Like the one linked above. Once again, the authors do not appear to have read the book, and seem worryingly happy to take the words of people Lomborg criticises at face value. They usually proceed from the assumption Lomborg is wrong - usually by caracaturing his point - and go on to suggest impure motives. The word propoganda appears a lot.

f) Substantive criticisms of particular points. There are all too few of these, and due to the ghastly writing style current fashionable amongst scientists, they're easy to mistake for b. There are some, though.

Unfortunately, noone has collated the contrary evidence, which is a great shame, and make me wonder how the lay-people writing (e) know "the vast majority of his points have been disproved", unless of course they haven't read the book, or don't care.

5. Lomborg is not opposed to environmental controls. Contrary to some of the rave reviews.

6. Lomborg's principle purpose appears to have been, in repeating Simon's arguments in a more respectable manner, to incite informed debate. Its a great shame there's been so little.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
"pc" (3.00 / 2) (#136)
by fradolcin on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 04:16:10 PM EST

Item 4.c. in this post, 'if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem' reminds me of what I once read was the origin of political correctness: avoiding arguing with the minor details of a political platform when the ultimate objective of the platform is a good one. I think the example that the article gave was of a Black Panther rally when somebody spoke up that, actually, according to recently gathered statistics, police targeting of blacks had been substantially reduced. Everybody shut that guy up, because the actual degree of police harassment of blacks didn't matter in light of the continued disfranchisement of black people which, of course, still exists. Bringing up that detail was being politically incorrect in the original sense.

I disagree with this post because I think Simon, not to mention Lomborg, are being PI in the same fashion. If Lomborg has anything to add to address the question of whether, in fact, the environment is not as bad off as it seems, fine, but he should write it write it according to scientific guidelines and rigor. Writing an anti-environmentalist political invective, however, even if it was completely accurate in its points, denies the ultimate truth that United States industry should have as little impact as possible on the environment; arguing against progress in that area is wrongheaded.

[ Parent ]

hahaha. (none / 0) (#137)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 04:46:47 PM EST

I don't know if your example is true, but it certainly captures that aura of "the ends justify the means" that surrounds advocacy groups of all stripes. It also succinctly captures the built-in problem facing such "issue organizations" - groups that advocate particular solutions or policies. By definition if such a group wins the battle, it should cease to exist. Such groups never do this - they just redefine the problem to include previously benign side issues. Or else just lying about the state of the problem.

Note that I'm not singling out greens here - if you listen, you can hear the same styles of arguments, paranoia and hype issuing from the pro-development, pro-choice, pro-life, gun-control and gun-owner groups. Heck, politics is getting more like comp.sys.amiga.advocacy every day.



People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]
Read The Book (none / 0) (#139)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 05:05:38 PM EST

Its not political invective. It follows the forms of introductory scientific literature. It can legitimitly be criticised for lack of balance, but not invective. Not is Julian Simon's (its not clear whether you're addressing him or me at one point). I suppose you might class my post above as invective, if you'd lived a very sheltered life, but it certainly wasn't intended as such.



Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
ok... (4.33 / 3) (#130)
by mickj on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:49:20 AM EST

so you say there was grossly factually incorrect statements in the book. You have not given one example in this entire thing you've written. Example please?

Examples (5.00 / 1) (#163)
by davebo on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 12:00:37 AM EST

So a quick check on everybody's favorite search engine using "skeptical environmentalist rebuttal facts" turns up Grist Magazine's collection of rebuttal essays.

My personal favorites:

E.O. Wilson's comments on extinction rates.

Emily Matthew's comments on forests (i.e., 7.5 million square kilometers becoming 7.5%)

[ Parent ]

The acrimony is telling (3.60 / 5) (#131)
by redelm on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 12:05:19 PM EST

Leaving aside the technical details of the debate on Lombard's work, I look at the meta-data of how it is conducted. I see a great deal of invective and emotionally-charged statements and phrasing.

In my experience, people especially scientists do not resort to emotional arguments when logic and facts are available and they feel will suffice. True crackpots usually are ignored or patiently refuted as to a child.

Lombard has not been. He evidently has touched a raw nerve where his respondents feel vulnerable. This is obviously worth watching.



Whupps, typo: Lomborg not Lombard (none / 0) (#158)
by redelm on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 05:14:19 PM EST



[ Parent ]
The refutation dilemma (none / 0) (#169)
by Macrobat on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 09:00:09 PM EST

True crackpots usually are ignored or patiently refuted as to a child...Lombard has not been. He evidently has touched a raw nerve where his respondents feel vulnerable. This is obviously worth watching.
Not necessarily true. Most astronomers ignored the publication of Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision, figuring it would die a quiet death. It didn't, and considerable numbers of people swallowed his story about Venus being ejected from Jupiter and causing the Biblical stopping of the the sun by temporarily halting the Earth's rotation. The fact that numerous scientists didn't speak up against it was hailed as evidence of the book's veracity.

So, when Erich von Daniken came out with Chariots of the Gods, astronomers, sociologists, and skeptics came out vocally in opposition to it, mostly so they wouldn't have to deprogram hippy college students when they got them in their classes a few semesters down the line. It had nothing to do with "touching a raw nerve," and everything to do with the fact that an obviously silly book received more attention than it deserved. But of course, von Daniken used the "upset the establishment" argument to further sales of his book.

This same problem can be found in more recent manifestations with Graham Hancock, James van Praagh, and Jonathan Edwards. If you ignore them, they claim nobody has refuted them. If you refute them, they claim success because they've tarnished the icons of the scientific establishment.

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

Aptly titled (none / 0) (#170)
by redelm on Sat Jan 05, 2002 at 12:32:45 AM EST

It is indeed a dilemma -- Whether to speak up aginst something and thereby publicise it further or to ignore it and risk silence being interpreted as acceptance.

What IMHO must never be done is to speak up shrilly or in any way open to criticism. A simple "no" is much better than an emotional outburst. A number of these controversial writers seek nothing more than controversy, and do you really want to pour fat onto the fire?

When you are faced with some controversial statements, you can either:

  • A) ignore the matter
  • B) accept what one specialist says because we are in agreement with it;
  • C) accept a specialist because of credentials,
  • D) Attempt to determine the veracity by indirect means (track record, quality of discussion, etc)
  • E) Determine the veracity for ourselves.

    Modern society is very complex and it requires specialist training to analyse. Relatively few people are able to understand any given interpretation thoroughly. These high costs tend to rule out (E).

    [ Parent ]

  • If only people listened to reason (none / 0) (#171)
    by Macrobat on Sat Jan 05, 2002 at 03:39:04 PM EST

    The problem with stating a point rationally, though, is that people do not listen to reason, or at best, don't listen to reason alone. That's why people really do need to get involved emotionally if they believe that an untruth is being propagated. Sometimes the truth needs a little rhetorical lubrication to slip into narrow minds. Unfortunately, good argument requires a different set of skills than good science, and no argument is ever completely impervious to criticism.

    I recall Richard Dawkins writing in The Blind Watchmaker that the book would be an uncharacteristically vigorous attempt to defend the evolutionary position, simply because scientists get shouted down by fast-talkers in debates where it really counts (like whether or not Biblical creationism should be taught in public school science classes). That's a question where the evidence is even more one-sided than most environmental issues, and look at how hard it is for reason to prevail there.

    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    Who's keeping score? (none / 0) (#172)
    by redelm on Sat Jan 05, 2002 at 11:32:14 PM EST

    What ever happened to Thomas Payne: I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend unto death your right to say it? I automatically assume that anyone who stifles debate is holding a weak position to be so afraid.

    Your "rhetorical lubrication" may sway some people, but it will alienate others. Who do you want on your side? Is numbers the only thing that matters? Personally, I don't care for numbers or even right (whatever that might be) prevailing. What matters is that there be a respectful, lively and open debate. Stimulating thinking is the objective. Uncritical acceptance of the truth is almost as bad as uncritical acceptance of falsehood.

    I rather oppose teaching Old Testament creation in public schools on 3rd Am. grounds. But if it is still done, then I would insist that non-Abrahamic religions like Hindu, Bhuddist, Kwazaa, Animist, etc be given equal time. I find the debate fascinating (mostly to ponder the mindset of Creationists) and moreso since the Pope has accepted evolution rather cleverly.

    But in any event, people will make up their own minds. They don't have to listen to reason, and you certainly cannot make them. They do have the right to be wrong. Or do you subscribe to theories on brainwashing? Then there's only one cure -- thinking. Brainwashing with only the truth still leave you vulnerable.



    [ Parent ]

    I respectfully disagree (none / 0) (#173)
    by Macrobat on Sun Jan 06, 2002 at 12:03:43 AM EST

    Actually, I think I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but let's clarify some things to make sure.

    First, to me, lively and respectful debate are not ends in and of themselves, unless you're arguing about whether Star Trek or Babylon 5 is the better TV show. Lively, open-minded debate is valuable chiefly because when it happens, rare bird that it is, it tends to lead towards the truth. That, and it provides the brain with good exercise. But when it comes down to spending public money and influencing people's lives, I would really hope a concern for the truth comes first.

    Second, in light of this, honest rhetoric (in the classic sense of the term) in the service of a well-grounded opinion is not brainwashing; it does not aim to control the mind of the listener. It serves chiefly as an emotional amplifier and a mnemonic for the expressed opinion. ("What is expressed is impressed.") People who disagree with said opinion will still disagree, but will also have to reconsider their opinions more thoroughly, which may lead to changing them, modifying them, or strengthening them. All three are good things; none should be considered a failure of rhetoric.


    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    We mostly agree (none / 0) (#174)
    by redelm on Sun Jan 06, 2002 at 02:55:05 PM EST

    I think I can agree with your first point.

    The second I can agree with so long as the rhetoric is used to summarize and encapulate logical argument, and not as a substitute. Anything that can make anyone reconsider their position is a good thing. But I strongly suspect that purely emotional appeals do _not_ because they can be easily dismissed as such.

    But perhaps we have a different definition of logical argument and rhetoric. Nothing says logical agrument has to be dry. Reductio ad absurdam and other tactics are fair game. Invoking authority ("most scientist agree ...") is not.

    [ Parent ]

    Hehehe (none / 0) (#155)
    by trhurler on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 12:26:35 PM EST

    Your rant has all the hallmarks of lunatic mindless eco-worship; it is full of invective against other people and things they've said or done, and contains not one example of what most of us call "factual evidence in support of your claims."

    Maybe the book is horrible. Maybe it is not, but you and many who think like you happen to disagree with it. How would we ever know?

    I wish I'd been here to vote this down and ask you to resubmit it with some actual content; I'd like to know what the fuss is all about, but you obviously did not tell us in this story.

    By the way, the mainstream press far more often hypes environmental causes far beyond their reality than it denigrates them; would you be as vocal in condemning that practice? Obviously not, since we've never heard you comment on it. This is what is known as "an ax to grind."

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    Fair points (none / 0) (#168)
    by greenrd on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 05:52:34 PM EST

    How would we ever know?

    By reading a book review? Or the book itself? This piece was not intended as a book review. I agree it should have been better thought out.

    would you be as vocal in condemning that practice?

    No, not as vocal, because I don't see it as so important. But yes, I would be against falsehoods presented as accurate facts, but not against speculations presented as speculations.

    This is what is known as "an ax to grind."

    I've never denied that I have an axe to grind.


    "Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
    [ Parent ]

    As with anything... (none / 0) (#161)
    by Ressev on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 06:01:08 PM EST

    ...Buyer Beware.
    "Even a wise man can learn from a fool."
    "There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." - Mark Twain
    The Lure of the 'Leak' (none / 0) (#175)
    by ned1954 on Thu Feb 07, 2002 at 10:13:54 PM EST

    Thank you for the thought-provoking article. This is an example of a growing tendency of journalists, in all media, being so wrapt up in the need of the 'exclusive' that certain members of the profession are tending to publish using snap and irrational judgements. These give media validity, to 'quasi' stories that have not been verified or researched sufficently. This seems to be a dangerous path down which those with the power in the profession have to travel responsibly.The power of the media to mould opinion has never been greater, and it is a power that must be treated with respect and common sense.

    How a Pseudoscientist Duped the Big Media | 175 comments (149 topical, 26 editorial, 0 hidden)
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