Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How trusted is the "Big Five" Personality Traits in mainstream psychology?

flickr | Graela "Bathroom Personality Assessment - Part 2"
Comments to "Brain Structure and the Big Five"

Sanjay Srivastava | December 29, 2010 10:36 AM
Walter Mischel's famous critique predated the Big Five. His critique was of the concept of a personality trait more broadly. If you ask around at Mischel's home department they'll probably tell you that Mischel won the argument, but that's not the mainstream view among personality psychologists elsewhere. In fact, I don't think there's a single mainstream view on traits or the Big Five, but I'd guess that many personality psychologists would endorse, at a minimum, "useful enough until a better model comes along." Some might go a lot farther. (Some of my own views on the Big Five are in this paper, if you're curious.)
Russell Almond | December 29, 2010 11:15 AM
A quick comment about the Big-5. A couple of years ago, I did some consulting with a psychologist who was developing new personality measures. The standard practice for validating the new measure was to give it as part of a battery to a sample of the target population, along with the Big 5, and other known measure that were similar to the target. I got the impression that it wasn't that the Big 5 were thought of as the answer to everything, but that it was a starting point that most people in the field understood. The burden of proof was to show that your proposed measures was something other than a composite of the 5 factors in the Big 5.
My comments: trying to get a fix on the Big Five. George E. P. Box: "All models are wrong, some models are useful"
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fetishizing p-Values - The Cult of Statistical Significance William Sealy Gosset
Fetishizing p-Values; Tom Leinster - The n-Category Cafe
Recovering the insight of "Student" Gosset from the over-simplification of Ronald A. Fisher
Leinster: Now there’s a whole book making the same point: The Cult of Statistical Significance, by two economists, Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre N. McCloskey. You can see their argument in this 15-page paper with the same title. Just because they’re economists doesn’t mean their prose is sober: according to one subheading, ‘Precision is Nice but Oomph is the Bomb’.
Leinster: it is true that p-value does not measure the magnitude of the effect (but then, anyone who has taken at least one course in statistics should know that)
I think Jost, Ziliak and McCloskey would completely agree that anyone who has taken at least one course in statistics should know that. They’re pointing out, open-mouthed, that this incredibly basic mistake is being made on a massive scale, including by many people who should know much, much better. Bane used the term ‘collective self-deception’; one might go further and say ‘mass delusion’. It’s a situation where a fundamental mistake has become so ingrained in how science is done that it’s hard to get your paper accepted if you don’t perpetuate that mistake.
That last statement is probably putting it too strongly, but as I understand it, the point they’re making is along those lines.
From the 15-page paper "The Cult of Statistical Significance":
In 1937 Gosset, the inventor and original calculator of “Student’s” t-table told Egon, then editor of Biometrika, that a significant finding is by itself “nearly valueless”:
...obviously the important thing in such is to have a low real error, not to have a "significant" result at a particular station. The latter seems to me to be nearly valueless in itself. . . . Experiments at a single station [that is, tests of statistical significance on a single set of data] are almost valueless. . . . What you really want is a low real error. You want to be able to say not only "We have significant evidence that if farmers in general do this they will make money by it", but also "we have found it so in nineteen cases out of twenty and we are finding out why it doesn't work in the twentieth.” To do that you have to be as sure as possible which is the 20th—your real error must be small...
Gosset to E. S. Pearson 1937, in Pearson 1939, p. 244.
Gosset, we have noted, is unknown to most users of statistics, including economists. Yet he was proposing and using in his own work at Guinness a characteristically economic way of looking at the acquisition of knowledge and the meaning of “error.” The inventor of small sample econometrics focused on the opportunity cost of each observation; he tried to minimize random and non-random errors, real errors.
Edit 11/12/10
A very nice write-up here, along same lines: Significance Tests in Climate Science -- Maarten H. P. Ambaum --
Consider a scientist who is interested in measuring some effect and who does an experiment in the lab. Now consider the following thought process that the scientist goes through:
  1. My measurement stands out from the noise.
  2. So my measurement is not likely to be caused by noise.
  3. It is therefore unlikely that what I am seeing is noise.
  4. The measurement is therefore positive evidence that there is really something happening.
  5. This provides evidence for my theory.
This apparently innocuous train of thought contains a serious logical fallacy, and it appears at a spot where not many people notice it.
To the surprise of most, the logical fallacy occurs between step 2 and step 3. Step 2 says that there is a low probability of finding our specific measurement if our system would just produce noise. Step 3 says that there is a low probability that the system just produces noise. These sound the same but they are entirely different.
This can be compactly described using Bayesian statistics...
This comes from a summary of the paper: How significance tests are misused in climate science -- Guest post by Dr Maarten H. P. Ambaum from the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, U.K. --
Edit 11/21/10

Significance Tests, frequentist vs. bayesian

When we perform a test of statistical significance test, what we
would really like to ask is “what is the probability that the
alternative hypothesis is true?”. A frequentist analysis
fundamentally cannot give a direct answer to that question, as
they cannot meaningfully talk of the probability of a hypothesis
being true – it is not a random variable, it is either true or
false and has no “long run frequency”. Instead, the frequentists
gives a rather indirect answer to the question by telling you the
likelihood of the observations assuming the null hypothesis is
true and leaving it up to you to decide what to conclude from
that. A Bayesian on the other hand can answer the question
directly as the Bayesian definition of probability is not based
on long run frequencies but on the state of knowledge of the
truth of a proposition. The problem with frequentist statistical
test is that there is a tendency to interpret the result as if it
were the result of a Bayesian test, which is natural as that is
the form of answer we generally want, but still wrong.

The frequentist approach avoids the “subjectivity” of the
Bayesian approach (although the extent of that “subjectivity” is
debatable), but this is only achieved at the expense of not
answering the question we would most like to ask. It could be
argued that the frequentist approach merely shifts the
subjectivity from the analysis to the interpretation (what should
we conclude based on our p-value). Which form of analysis you
should use depends on whether you find the “subjectivity” of the
Bayesian approach or the “indirectness” of the frequentist
approach most abhorrent! ;o)

At the end of the day, as long as the interpretation is
consistent with the formulation, there is no problem and both
forms of analysis are useful.
This was my favorite comment, the whole sub-thread underneath is interesting. The original Open Mind | article has good qualifications to Dr Maarten H. P. Ambaum's Skeptical Science post.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Valuing stewardship of the environment for future generations, or not Sheep_eating_grass_edit02.jpg
Attempted to post comment to Offsetting Behaviour - Eric Crampton : Yer either fer us or agin us
[ I am not speaking to the game-theoretic analysis of New Zealand leaving Kyoto -- Bjorn's swaying this way or that notwithstanding, there is no rational reason for NZ to stay inside Kyoto, unless it was seen as the price for signaling environmental concern. ]
The same climate scientists that Lomborg disparaged for stating evidence of high sensitivities for carbon emissions are now the same climate scientists he will trust to run geo-engineering. This is the the most embarrassing contradiction of Lomborg's evolving stance.
The Copenhagen Consensus cost-benefit analysis put carbon taxes at the bottom by valuing stewardship of the environment for future generations at zero. The same way pre-school for my toddler would be at the bottom of a cost-benefit analysis of all uses of my money, if I valued his own future earnings and quality of life at zero.
If you are standing on the train tracks with a freight train coming in five minutes, you have the choice to leap off the tracks. A "compromise" position of shifting over a few inches will have no effect, no matter how much you value "moderation and reasonableness". If you limit your analysis to only the next step minutes and fifty-nine seconds, the energy expended in the leap is a waste.
I wish we had the choice to live in an "warmer average" world -- it would be nice. If you put two bullets in a six chambered gun to play Russian roulette, on "average", you are still alive but with a headache. But the "average" is an abstraction, and in reality you have to deal with the consequences of the spun barrel. The risk is not a warmer world -- the risk is an over-energetic world that no longer has the climate stability that allowed civilization and large-scale agriculture and inexpensive & quick transportation to be developed and maintained.
It is fine to consider all possible humanitarian uses of scarce capital. The weight that stewardship of the environment for future generations should not be infinite, lest you indulge in pointless profligacy towards but a single goal. But that does not imply that stewardship of the environment for future generations should be weighted at zero.
[ This implies value placed on trying to give future generations a "western/first world" standard of living much like what we currently enjoy. If we are satisfied with a few hundred thousand on each continent living under conditions like indigenous peoples, living along the new raised coastlines and grasslands freed from permafrost, with climate instability but the net warmth & wetness still giving the ability to feed from the meat of small grazing animals, the costs we would bare would be slight. ]
Edit 9/21/10: Reply via Google Buzz from Eric Crampton:
If investing in tech reduces more warming per dollar spent than do other things, what's the problem with redirecting spending towards tech?
Copenhagen valued future generations the same way that cost-benefit analysis typically values future generations: by applying a standard discount rate. That doesn't say that future people don't count; rather, it says that future people might prefer being given cash.
My reply:
"""That doesn't say that future people don't count; rather, it says that future people might prefer being given cash"""
If I am the victim of blunt trauma, I may not value a cash dispersal later over a medical intervention now. There is a rational case to be made that the two are hardly substitutes in some circumstances.
I agree that I should have been more careful and said "valuing stewardship of the environment for future generations, *particularly* in reducing the risk of the very worst outcomes". I will be more careful in future.
"""If investing in tech reduces more warming per dollar spent than do other things, what's the problem with redirecting spending towards tech?"""
No argument here. But the lack of breakthrough tech *now* implies non-zero carbon taxes *now* (and there is a moral argument for quite substantial taxes now). I am certain it will take a few decades of people seeing global military preparation for the worst possible outcomes of climate disruption before it is plain that environmental stewardship may be worth 5 or more points of global economic activity. It is not surprising that substantial carbon taxes have near zero political traction in the two largest economies, now.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, September 13, 2010

Selling Fantasies: Breakthrough Institute

Breakthrough Institute works like the Copy Protection technology wizards selling their tech to record companies. It cannot work, because the pirates will always find a workaround towards copy protection - you are merely punishing your customers and training them to be pirates when they try to use your product in convenient ways. The Copy Protection technology wizards are not selling a working solution - because a solution is impossible - they are selling a pleasant fantasy to the record companies in the few years their business model has left.
People do not confine themselves to buying working products. Sometimes they will purchase fantasies. Look at the exercise gizmos that people buy from TV.
The Breakthrough Institute doesn't have to provide solutions that work - it will provide fantasies that it can sell. So lets try and figure out who their customers are.
If you are in the top 0.5% of incomes, you are intelligent and you may be slightly distressed that your great grandchildren will be born into a boiling world (when you can be bothered to consider the issue). You have the ability to direct funding, and in these few years before the climate disruption really hits human agriculture and infrastructure, you are in the market for fantasies, sold to you by the semi-knowledgeable folk (who are probably sincere, because their confidence in their tech solutions surpasses their scientific capabilities). That is what people like the Breakthrough Institute are selling. For example, Warren Buffet doesn't consider himself a bad person, and he cares for his grandchildren. But he has also made a huge bet on coal transport infrastructure. He would love to support the Breakthrough Institute by some means, to reconcile his position on the responsibility of environmental stewardship for future generations.
"The Breakthrough Institute, a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc." lets you know about the customers they are after. How did good ol' John D. make is money?
Lets predict their structure. They will rarely speak in absolute moral terms - they will never flatly state that it is craven to leave future generations a boiling world just because a handful of generations could not bare to lower their standard of living. The absolute moral issues will always be left unspoken. Those that talk about the moral issues will be marginalized as "un-serious" or "alarmist".
They will strive to distance themselves from the worst of the denialists. Pielke Jr and Fuller practically fell over their own feet trying to run away from Virginia State Attorney General Cuccinelli. But they will take "warmist" commentators that have a record of limiting themselves to the published science, like Romm, and equate them with denialists that spout off bat-shit nonsense - even thought the implication of equivalence is ridiculous. But you will know them by their actions, because they will spend most of their energy arguing against those with the clearest grasp of the facts, and moral issues, and political challenges.
It is the foolish "moderate" position of shifting your stance a few inches when you are standing on tracks, freight train coming. The half measure doesn't leave you just half-dead.
All you can do is make the case to ethical decision makers that they are being sold a bill of goods, by comparing the statements and techniques and rhetorical stances of the Breakthrough Institute to bunglers that stood in the way of decisions of moral courage, and the weavers of the Emperors New Clothes. These are the "moderate" apologists for moral failures - like those who stood in the way of eradicating slavery, or were the audience for the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, or were willing to negotiate with Hitler, or were willing to overlook Stalin's crimes. In all these cases, you could find "moderates" that participated in moral failures, and argued for positions with shabby facts and shabby rhetorical devices.
Edit: 09/14/10
Moe, Rockefeller is the BTI fiscal sponsor; the main funder throughout has been the Nathan Cummings Foundation. By itself the fiscal sponsorship doesn't mean much,although it may well in this instance.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 30, 2010

How can we define "Useful", when it comes to our models of reality?

Wikimedia Commons: "N-Gauge Cassiopeia E26 & EF81 from Kato"
A comment to "Useful models, model checking, and external validation: a mini-discussion" by Andrew Gelman - Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

Gelman wrote (with Cosma Shalizi) a very fine philosophical justification for real-world, effective Bayesian techniques, which differs greatly from the usual philosophy associated with Bayesians.

Gelman, Shalizi: Philosophy and the practice of Bayesian statistics in the social sciences

My own recurring criticism of Gelman is of using Bayesian/statistical models to the exclusion of others.  I am more comfortable with the idea of models of different type in competition.
The multiple models you then have will now compete in different uses - based on predictive power, accuracy, ability to calculate meaningful error ranges, cost of collecting data, cost of computation, cost of comparison, ability to predict outcomes from interventions, cost of understanding, etc.

quoting Gelman:
"We always talk about a model being "useful" but the concept is hard to quantify."
My comment:
Simply build a model of costs and gains and methods of comparison between models!  If a model is good enough for your work, a model must be good enough as a working definition of "useful"!

Sometimes the best answer to "Why" is "Just because".  Sometimes the best mechanism for rating different models is another model.  The Skeptics will always howl, so you simply have to demonstrate that their own behavior is consistent with putting undue confidence in their own model, whether a conscious model or unconscious.  (And, it must simply terminate with a model, because of the limits of the tools available to the human brain.  Only a model, probably over-simplified, can be manipulated with the agility needed to predict future outcomes of the universe from actions considered now, in real-time.)

Just keep asking the Skeptic "Why" with regards to their own personal actions, and when they hit the "Just because" point, they probably have described a model of utility, assumed true without proof, as an answer to "Why" in the previous step.

If the Skeptic refuses ultimate responsibility over their personal actions, and tries to plead pure capriciousness or mystery, then their model is simply statistical, based on stimulus and internal states (like stress) that can be approximately discovered with objective external measures (like galvanic skin response).  Of course, it is easier to plead pure capriciousness or mystery than demonstrate it - if their behavior is well predicted by a deterministic model suggested by another, the Skeptic is shut up.  Most times the reason for behaviors is gross and banal, no matter how elevated the sophistry of the Skeptic.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thoughts on Roger Pielke Jr. | Stand-Up Economist - Yoram Bauman - Childe's_Tomb

Thoughts on Roger Pielke Jr. | Stand-Up Economist - Yoram Bauman
As an economist, I found Roger’s lack of discussion of climate impacts to be extremely disturbing. If—totally hypothetically—the science said that hitting 450ppm would cause the planet to explode, I’m pretty sure Roger’s talk would have looked different. (At least I hope so!) The economic point here is that cost-benefit analysis has two halves—costs and benefits—and you can’t do it by just talking about one of the two halves. Why Roger failed to talk about both halves has me totally perplexed and leaves me questioning how much he actually knows about economics. (For the record, he’s not an economist, so I think this is a legitimate question, not an insulting one. He’s a political scientist, but his talk was not about the intersection of science and politics; his talk was fundamentally about economics.)
RPJr's rhetorical trick "there is a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation displayed in this post... Fortunately, my new book covers all of these points so that there should be no ambiguity in my views." is annoying.
As if a book is a tomb for the ideas of a public intellectual, and it makes them incapable of stating plainly their views in public forums.

Y. Bauman refuses to play ball:
"Okay, here are some questions: (1) What did you say about the tenets of climate science? (Then I’ll try to get a video of your talk and see if I owe you an apology.) (2) How would you quickly characterize the main points of your talk? (3) Since you note above that you “did not discuss costs or benefits”, I’m curious about why. Do you not think cost-benefit analysis is important? (4) How (if at all) would your talk have been different if the scientific consensus was that 450ppm would destroy the planet?"
Is RPJr so craven as to simply "hit-and-run" from this forum, now that the questions are specific?  Stay tuned!


Related posts:
[Edit 7/31/10]

To my surprise, RPJr replied; his answers:
1. I used a “bathtub” model to describe the challenge of stabilization and I argued that everyone in the debate on all sides agree that CO2 has impacts. Where there are debates is when those impacts become dangerous (the height of the bathtub, e.g., 450 ppm) and the consequences of spilling over. Such debates are of course legitimate.
2. Three points: A. Targets and timetables for reducing emissions now being discussed or even enacted in law (e.g., in the UK) are not credible (I think I proved this), B. Stabilizing concentrations requires advances in technology deployment and innovation rather than GDP contraction (shown a bit, but largely asserted), C. Acccelerating decarbonization requires much greater public investments in technology (asserted not proven).
3. I’ve written a lot of CBA, and teach it as well. This talk was not about CBA, but policy evaluation. I am happy to discuss the topic.
4. I have no idea.
"Moral Compass" by "psd"
My comments to (1): "Such debates are of course legitimate."  RPJr has a problem with the debate coming to provisional conclusion, on the side of the science and the moral question of future generations being left a livable world - a provisional conclusion where we begin work on drastically reducing carbon emissions and mitigate previous carbon emissions, where GDP takes a major haircut if need be.  RPJr's fretting and fussing is consistent with the moral question of future generations being left a livable world always taking a backseat to today's GDP/standard of living - but he doesn't have the guts to admit that, or he realizes that if his cravenness is so obvious, he gives up any chance of political effect.

My comments to (2): Actually, this is the first sensible thing RPJr has ever said, to my knowledge.  It is very true: we have exactly zero experience with asking citizens to voluntarily cut their standard of living for the moral outcome of  future generations being left a livable world.  "Warmists", it can be argued, don't have the guts to admit this, or they realize that if they are so truthful they give up any chance of political effect.

My comments to (3): Why talk to economists about policy evaluation without reference to cause and effect?  That was Y. Bauman's original puzzlement.

My comments to (4): Pathetic.  Again, RPJr cannot deal with science predicting catastrophe (catastrophe, because it is hard to imagine the moral monsters that could cheerfully leave future generations an unlivable world), because his goal is that he moral question of future generations being left a livable world always taking a backseat to today's GDP/standard of living.  That can be used to perfectly predict his reaction to anything.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Protect American Jobs! No Soot Tax!
Ice cased Adelie penguins
after a blizzard at Cape Denison /
photograph by Frank Hurley
"The quickest, best way to slow the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice is to reduce soot emissions from the burning of fossil fuel, wood and dung, according to a new study by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson.
Soot from the burning of fossil fuels and solid biofuels contributes far more to global warming than has been thought, according to a new Stanford study. But, unlike carbon dioxide, soot lingers only a few weeks in the atmosphere, so cutting emissions could have a significant and rapid impact on the climate. Controlling soot may be the only option for saving the Arctic sea ice from melting."
I smell Stealth Issue Advocacy!  I smell a Dishonest Broker!  (I smell a witch)

Protect American Jobs!  No Soot Tax!  In my new book, soon to come out, I argue that there are huge technical barriers, costs are too high and that we lack political will.

The Nathan Myhrvold and the Freeman Dyson recommend painting black penguins white with lead based paint.


Related links:

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Can it be Irrational to prize Rationality? What is Rationality?
I am a big fan of Scott Plous's The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, because not only does it call out cognitive failure modes, but it also suggests remedies.  The book is written in a non-technical style, so uses the conventional language of modes of thought being "Rational" or "Irrational", and "biases" leading to "Irrational" decisions.

I found a blog post "Is postdecisional dissonance functional?" that takes exception to calling "Post-decision dissonance" irrational (post-decisional dissonance is where the self-judged value of a chosen item increases, and the value of a declined item decreases, compared to the self-judged values before the choice is made: ).

"Is postdecisional dissonance functional?" seems like a yes/no question, but the answer can change from situation to situation.  We can construct a situation where this bias is "Irrational/dysfunctional", or is "Rational/functional".

Example: If postdecisional dissonance is the way that one "stops" the decision process, instead of endlessly revisiting a decision and wasting time and energy, then postdecisional dissonance is functional (this is the point raised by Konrad Talmont-Kaminski).  If postdecisional dissonance keeps you from switching decisions when later you are offered the alternate choice along with a small but real payment, because you deny yourself the additional payment even though the options were judged to be identical in value, postdecisional dissonance is dysfunctional.

Which is the most likely scenario?  What is the cost of a more rigorous and rational analysis?  Different answers from subtle changes to these questions...

All of these biases, because they are manifest in humans today, cannot absolutely prevent reproductive success or success in cultural transmission of ideas, obviously.  So you are on very shaky ground calling these biases non-adaptive.  And if you cannot call them non-adaptive, what is the exact basis for calling them "Irrational/dysfunctional"?

Modeling, instead of using the language of Bias and Rationality and Functionality

George Mason University,
Dept of Statistics,
Gallery of Great Statisticians,
George E. P. Box
That is why it is not always wise to use the culturally defined notion of rationality, or assume an implied sound situationally defined notion of rationality, and why *sometimes* there is benefit to specifically stating:

(1) the failure mode of decision that you are trying to avoid and

(2) how you are modeling the
(2A) cost of falling victim the failure mode and the
(2B) cost of remedy

(3) how you are modeling the likelihood of different scenarios taking place.

And different models will give different answers.  As George E. P. Box says "All models are false but some models are useful."

[Edit 7/29/2010]

Very helpful reply [] from academic Konrad Talmont-Kaminski, but my profound ignorance prevents me from getting much from it.  I am self-taught exclusively from an engineer's perspective of decision making from Decision Analysis texts [ term coined in 1964 by Ronald A. Howard ].

I fixed the post above, to add

1) specific examples as to how postdecisional dissonance can be functional or dysfunctional,

2) why one is unjustified to call manifest biases non-adaptive, and

3) the need to model the likelihood of different situations arising, or else the the analysis is nonsensical.

[Edit #2 7/29/2010]

Konrad Talmont-Kaminski recommends the writings of Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize winner in Economics 1978.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The link between Judith Curry and John Christy oobrien
Judith Curry has the annoying habit of constantly recommending articles that she, herself, has not read closely and cannot personally vouch for.  As if she is feeding the text of opposing arguments to a mailing list, in partial real-time, and parroting back the links.

Plus the reality of SingerLomborg, and John R. Christy being spent forces for irrational climate inaction and denialism, because prior talking points have been proved absolutely ridiculous over just a few years.

So the next wave of voices, with watered down arguments and moved goalposts, are Pielke Jr. and Judith Curry.

Offering articles that you cannot stand behind yourself is just another "heads I win, tails you lose tails I don't lose" trick in the Art of Controversy.  So at least I can inform myself about the original source of the weak-soup arguments.

With not much to go on, and probably too much leaping without looking, I sense a link between the new voice of Judith Curry and the spent force of John R. Christy, made famous for his hatchet job on Al Gore in the Wall Street Journal opinion page.



Last updated August 29, 2009
The NASA Earth Science Subcommittee (ESS) advises the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) on priorities within the Earth Science Division (ESD), focusing on tactical implementation of the strategic vision expressed by NASA Initiatives and by external inputs from organizations such as the National Research Council (NRC). ESS was organized by NASA in April 2006 and presently has the following membership: Byron Tapley (chair), Daniel Jacob (vice-chair), John R. Christy, Judy Curry, James Hansen, Raymond Hoff, Gregory Jenkins, William Large, Patricia Matrai, Patrick McCormick, Anna Michalak, Jean-Bernard Minster, Michael S. Ramsey, Steven Running, Kamal Sarabandi, Robert Schutz, Hank Shugart, David Siegel, Mark Simons, Konrad Steffen, Charles Vorosmarty. Executive Secretary for ESS is Lucia Tsaoussi.

Nobel Laureate Dr. John Christy: “Without energy, life is brutal and short”
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal pointed to an interesting notable quote:
And when we build — and I’m one of the few people in the world that actually builds these climate data sets — we don’t see the catastrophic changes that are being promoted all over the place. ??For example, I suppose CNN did not announce two weeks ago when the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its all-time maximum, even though, in the Arctic in the North Pole, it reached its all-time minimum.

JOHN R. CHRISTY: My Nobel Moment (2007 Nobel Peace Prize)
Wall Street Journal | November 1, 2007 | JOHN R. CHRISTY
Posted on Thu Nov 01 2007 18:35:15 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time) by neverdem
I've had a lot of fun recently with my tiny (and unofficial) slice of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, though I was one of thousands of IPCC participants, I don't think I will add "0.0001 Nobel Laureate" to my resume...

Enhanced by Zemanta

Calling "Climategate" for what it really is - Kerry Emanuel

Image by IkaInk (Julian Wearne) via Flickr

Slams Lindzen, Singer and Happer as liars

MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel has been at the forefront of trying to explain many aspects of climate science to the public, especially in his field of expertise — hurricanes.  He has written a good essay on the hacked emails, ” ‘Climategate’: A Different Perspective [ ],” originally published at the National Association of Scholars [NAS] website.  Near the end, he notes:
While the climategate email authors are castigated for not being paragons of virtue, the sins of others go unremarked. In the summer of 2009, a one-page letter was sent to Congress, signed by one actual climate scientist and six physicists with little or no background in climate science, three of whom were retired.
Among other untruths, it contained the sentence, referring to evidence of anthropogenic global warming, “There is no such evidence; it doesn’t exist.” I confronted the sole climate scientist among the authors with this statement, and he confessed that he did not hold that to be the case. Last I checked, lying to Congress was a federal crime.
Emanuel doesn’t mention Richard Lindzen by name, but that is who he means (as is made clear here [ ]).  The laughable letter itself is here [ ].  Emanuel is thus calling out his old friend Lindzen, plus William Happer and S. Fred Singer, as liars on climate science.  No argument here.
Kerry Emanuel:
"those interested in treating the issue as an objective problem in risk assessment and management are labeled “alarmists”, a particularly infantile smear considering what is at stake. This deployment of inflammatory terminology has a distinctly Orwellian flavor. It originates not in laboratories and classrooms, where ideas are the central focus and one hardly ever hears labels applied to researchers, but in the media, the blogosphere, and political think tanks, where polarization attracts attention and/or turns a profit.
But it turns out that there are not enough mavericks in climate science to meet the media’s and blogosphere’s insatiable appetite for conflict. Thus into the arena steps a whole host of charlatans posing as climate scientists. These are a toxic brew of retired physicists, TV weather forecasters, political junkies, media hacks, and anyone else willing to tell an interviewer that he/she is a climate scientist."
The whole Climate Inactivist circle-jerk:

"But, but, but... we must not hamper "spirited debate"... um uh... guilty of "stealth advocacy"... hurr durr...  let's be "Serious" and "Reasonable"... herp derp... over-zealous scientists are most responsible for a warming earth..."

Kerry Emanuel is a welcome remedy to prattle.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Uncertainty is not an argument for the status quo

The cognitive errors that lets some take demonstrations of uncertainty and confuse them for arguments for continuing the status quo:

(For the following, substitute for "plausible" the phrase "developed/confirmed to such a degree that it is perverse to withhold provisional assent")

1) To inform a rational choice of actions, plausible full narratives compete solely with other plausible full narratives. If I open a door, and in the bright light of the room see a breathing tiger across the room, it is rational to step back out of the room and close the door. Any demonstration of uncertainty of my ability to tell a living tiger from a amusement park animatronic tiger is not an argument to stand motionless at the open threshold. The demonstration of uncertainty can be used to choose between plausible full narratives by discounting some narratives, but it (the demonstration of uncertainty) doesn't have the power to construct a plausible full narrative in opposition to the one under consideration, much less make the opposite of the considered action rationally attractive.

2) Rational action and rational inaction are both born of rational choice. By changing the language, changing the viewpoint, changing the scope, we can phrase action in terms of inaction, and inaction in terms of action. So what is temporally/culturally/situationally described as an action/intervention is under no extra burden of rational justification than what is likewise described as inaction/absence-of-intervention, and inaction does not have a lesser burden of rational justification than action. (Imagine that the decision to burn fossil fuels is remade on the 1st of each year, for example, with a corresponding decision of how much. So burning fossil fuels in the new year is the intervention, and we wish study if that intervention is rational.)

3) Demonstratively persuading plausible full narratives are not in competition with a swarm of idiosyncratic narratives that are each in contradiction with all others of the swarm. The contradictions inside the swarm renders the whole swarm repellent to the rational. From the swarm should emerge a small number of demonstratively persuading plausible full narratives, first, to challenge the mainstream narrative, second. Or else it is more likely the idiosyncratic narratives are just a symptom of the opposition to the mainstream being handicapped by debilitatingly idiosyncratic minds, incapable of meaningful rational persuasion.

Consider the inability to construct a plausible full narrative for a wide conspiracy to assassinate JFK from those who find fault with details of the many investigators that agree that Oswald was the sole gunman. Consider the inability to construct a plausible full narrative for a wide conspiracy throughout the US government to bring down the Twin Towers by controlled demolition from those who find fault with the details of the many investigators. Consider their pathetic nature. Likewise, note that those who would dispose of the mainstream narrative about carbon emissions and climate disruption and ocean acidification shirk from the burden of supplying an persuading plausible full narrative in opposition. How quickly they rush to use the art of controversy! Is it because they have no alternative?

Inspired by comments to the blog posting...

Only In It For The Gold: There Are Skeptics and Then There Are Skeptics

People who do not support vigorous policy can only be skeptics if they offer very high certainty that the science is biased to overstate the risks. Nobody does this very successfully. Some pretend to do this; at least their position is coherent, if not very well supported.
Enhanced by Zemanta

The Post-Email-Hacking phase of climate denialism - What can we expect?

Below is a great reply to RPJr from Bart Verheggen/ourchangingclimate

[To go along with Michael Tobis']

I really appreciate Bart quoting of David Keith:
"However when people and the political community hear technical people say “can’t be done” they assume we mean that technically can’t be done and that is untrue and destructive.
It’s destructive because it hides the central moral choice: we could cut emissions if we want to, we could have started decades ago when the scientific warnings about climate change were first raised, but we decided not to. It was a choice, implicit or not. A choice that, in effect, we cared more about current consumption than we did about preserving our grandchildren’s chances to enjoy a climate like the one in which our civilization developed."
Where do I agree with RPJr's list, and the viewpoint of the very-very-balanced never-dare-call-us-deniers boys and girls?  The most I would grant to RPJr, Fuller, et al. is that the lack of political will is as least as important as the science.  (I will not grant any more, because their behavior is consistent with a mania to provide intellectual cover for the powerful who refuse to consider a change in consumption consistent with the mainstream scientific view of the risk of climate disruption and ocean acidification.  The behavior consistent with mania (squealing for false balance and blubbering from hurt feelings from those naughty scientists) separates them from rational actors.)

These fellows cannot help but telegraph their moves, and, reading the above from RPJr, we can infer that in the near future morality and moral consequence will completely vanish from scope of their analysis.  It is a three-legged stool - science, morality, policy - and it is sufficient (and efficient) to attack a single leg to compromise the whole.  Their arguments (along with Kloor and Curry), now we are in the post-email-hacking phase, will suddenly be devoid of moral language, and they will open up the waterworks with Glenn-Beck-like whaling sniveling if any mainstream climate scientist dares to use moral language or draw out moral imperatives.

RPJr has already practiced with the term "stealth advocacy" for any climate scientist who has not suffered frontal lobe damage - in other words, for any scientists who is a whole human and cannot resist finding out the consequences of common moral imperatives (that we human individuals owe the future of the same quality (if not quantity) that we owe to the past that born us), and acting accordingly.

Comment on Pielke Jr’s main conclusions « ourchangingclimate/Bart

9. In their political enthusiasm, some leading scientists have behaved badly. (Pielke)
Without specifics, this is impossible to answer, and is bound to lead to even more misunderstanding. I could try reading your mind of course. You probably have some of your critics in mind, notably some RealClimate scientists as well as Hansen, who you have criticized. I find this very problematic. In most instances that I followed (involving Gavin Schmidt, Michael Tobis, Eric Steig, Hansen, Briffa at different occasions), I have found your and others’ criticisms off base, besides the point, largely irrelevant to the bigger picture and having the smell of a smear campaign (science-bashing). As I commented regarding the latest McIntyre affair (see my review here): “A lot of scientists are getting understandably frustrated with self-proclaimed auditors of science (and their supporters) who cast doubt about a whole scientific field by blowing minor flaws out of proportion and insinuate accusations of scientific misconduct”. Against this backdrop of a lot of people ready to embrace any little nitpicked criticism as if it overthrows the whole scientific consensus, and ignore the mountain of evidence in favour of this consensus, I can perfectly well understand that a lot of scientists (and their supporters) are getting frustrated having to deal with this behavior and (mostly) fake arguments. In the grand scheme of things, the big problem as I see it is the contempt of science and its practitioners by a sizeable segment of the general public and some high profile bloggers; if a scientist responds to faux criticism in a frustrated tone, I find that a minor flaw in comparison. Granted, they (climate scientists) are your subject of study, so you naturally focus on their behaviour, but at the same time, please consider the context in which they operate, as well as the main message they are trying to convey. In light of this, your claim that “bad behavior by the folks at Real Climate does more to hurt the cause for action than the political actions of the skeptics” is preposterous. William Connolley brought up Fred Singer as the most obvious example.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Krugman takes on the Pain Caucus - but aren't they simply Paper Tigers?

[To the right: a photo from an early morning white-paper presentation by the economists of the Pain Caucus.  The pages of the paper in question must have been scattered during the passionate post-presentation Q&A session.]

Krugman, below, correctly takes the insufferable David Brooks to task for mindlessly agreeing with the Pain Caucus - the idiots that, independent of evidence, think that inflation is a risk and stimulus must stop now, recovery or not.  Anything that takes these dopes down a notch is welcome.

On the other hand, too much is made of the Pain Caucus. Where is the government with the guts to cut their stimulus before the full recovery? Maybe Ireland displayed real guts, maybe the ex-Soviet satellite states displayed real guts - these are practically the only places with leaders with the guts to pull off real structural reform (cutting the stimulus without a plan for structural reform is just meaningless self-flagellation). Greece will go down that road toward structural reform kicking and screaming, but, *now*, *other* places in Europe have more violent protests. Everywhere else you see wimps - they talk about pain, but they keep paying off the voters today, with debt to be serviced by future generations, without the benefit of a foundation of sound structural reform. The Pain Caucus are paper tigers, so it is hard to get too worked up by their stupidity and hypocrisy.

Economics and Politics - Paul Krugman Blog - - David Brooks and the Pain Caucus; Arguments From Authority

A quick note on David Brooks’s column today. I have no idea what he’s talking about when he says,
The Demand Siders don’t have a good explanation for the past two years
Funny, I thought we had a perfectly good explanation: severe downturn in demand from the financial crisis, and a stimulus which we warned from the beginning wasn’t nearly big enough. And as I’ve been trying to point out, events have strongly confirmed a demand-side view of the world.
But there’s something else in David’s column, which I see a lot: the argument that because a lot of important people believe something, it must make sense:
Moreover, the Demand Siders write as if everybody who disagrees with them is immoral or a moron. But, in fact, many prize-festooned economists do not support another stimulus. Most European leaders and central bankers think it’s time to begin reducing debt, not increasing it — as do many economists at the international economic institutions. Are you sure your theorists are right and theirs are wrong?
Yes, I am. It’s called looking at the evidence. I’ve looked hard at the arguments the Pain Caucus is making, the evidence that supposedly supports their case — and there’s no there there.
And you just have to wonder how it’s possible to have lived through the last ten years and still imagine that because a lot of Serious People believe something, you should believe it too. Iraq? Housing bubble? Inflation? (It’s worth remembering that Trichet actually raised rates in June 2008, because he believed that inflation — not the financial crisis — was the big threat facing Europe.)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PyFilesystem and "filepath": abstracting the file-system in Python

PyFilesystem 0.3 released

Will McGugan: I am pleased to announce a new version of PyFilesystem (0.3), which is a Python module that provides a common interface to many kinds of filesystem. Basically it provides a way of working with files and directories that is exactly the same, regardless of how and where the file information is stored. Even if you don't plan on working with anything other than the files and directories on your hard-drive, PyFilesystem can simplify your code and reduce the potential of error.

PyFilesystem is a joint effort by myself and Ryan Kelly, who has created a number of new FS implementations such as Amazon S3 support and Secure FTP, and some pretty cool features such as FUSE support and Django storage integration.

[MMMG: Compare this to "filepath 0.1" from Jp Calderone]

Jp Calderone: I'm happy to announce the initial release of filepath.

filepath is an abstract interface to the filesystem. It provides APIs for path name manipulation and for inspecting and modifying the filesystem (for example, renaming files, reading from them, etc). filepath's APIs are intended to be easier than those of the standard library os.path module to use correctly and safely.

filepath is a re-packaging of the twisted.python.filepath module independent from Twisted (except for the test suite which still depends on Twisted Trial).

The low number of this release reflects the newness of this packaging. The implementation is almost entirely mature and well tested in real-world situations from its time as part of Twisted.

You can find the package on PyPI or Launchpad:

MMMG: This is all great stuff. From what I saw, the API of PyFilesystem seems like the winner, at least to my eyes. I will steal the best code from "filepath" to augment my personal version of PyFilesystem, then I will see what I can contribute back to these two wonderful projects.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, June 25, 2010

Is climate science unique? Do the scientists need to be protected from themselves?

I discussion of bias, or is it a license to dispense with scientific results that are displeasing?  Where are the outside mechanism to help scientists when they cannot help themselves, because of their own bias.

Why is the mechanism of publication insufficient, when in all other scientific fields it has been exactly the way that the scientific community/mainstream dispensed with invalid results and replaced them with valid ones?

Collide-a-scape » Blog Archive » Collide-a-scape >> The Unbearable Lightness of Bias

If these (don’t-you-dare-call-them-deniers) “bias-busters” could point to successes in other scientific fields for other scientific questions, all thanks given to their “bias-busting” scrutiny, a lot of people would see the benefit and drop suspicion.
Otherwise, we must pre-suppose that climate science is a “nonesuch” science — the only scientific domain where the practitioners must be protected from themselves.
Where is the rich history of success of outsiders providing “bias-busting” services for scientists? The outsiders that really help scientific progress get to know the practitioners and labs and journals so intimately, they end up having choices about how they ultimately publish and add to the literature — and that is, in fact, how it ultimately plays out successfully. And *not* by providing outsourced “bias-busting” services.

reply to Hector M. #14
I don’t deny that some assert that climate scientists must be protected from themselves.  I am curious to learn of the historical cases where outsiders’ free-lance bias-busting was found to be successful.
Because similar arguments were made that a cabal of Darwinists suppress papers that show intelligent design, and a cabal of medical regulators suppress papers that disprove tobacco carcinogenicity, and a cabal of dentists suppress facts about fluoridation’s mild control properties.
If I could consider the historical cases of success of outsiders’ free-lance bias-busting, when scientific practitioners needed to be protected from themselves, I could discern between clear-eyed skeptics and delusional denialists, and see if the proposed cure fits the illness.
Much like the judgement of the need for carbon taxation may be informed by the history of regulatory prohibitions of  fluorocarbons.  (Or the regulatory prohibitions on the sale of alcohol in the United States, they don’t all have to be positive examples of regulation.)
I am genuinely interested to learn more about outsiders’ free-lance bias-busting in science, where it had an effect, maybe good, maybe bad.  You overlooked part of my original remark in your reply.

It would be much easier see the good intentions of these denialists, if they didn't demand that everyone assume that climate science is a nonesuch science.

[Ugh, more]

reply to Judith Curry #24

"Scientific biases are challenging enough, but when these are augmented by political bias and a policy agenda, then the bias issue becomes the overwhelming challenge for the science."

This is asserted, but not demonstrated.

As a process that embraces self-correction, it is hard to come up with examples of errors that science has allowed to let stand, for all time, because of political bias and a policy agenda. I can't think of any.

[Aside: The closest I can think of is the denying of the possibility of a numerical intelligence quotient in the polite company of scientist, even though it is at least as well established as the Big Five Personality model, which is uncontroversial. But does that even count? Nobody is barred from publishing and the truth is available to the motivated. I am genuinely curious - Are there any examples of errors that science has allowed to let stand, for all time, because of political bias and a policy agenda?]

Is there really a need for a unique outside agent to police bias in climate science, alone?  The same process of refereed journal publication, that serves the scientific community/mainstream in other fields to dispense with invalid results and replace them with valid ones, breaks down *only* for climate science?  And where is the model for successful outside policing of scientific bias?  Does one even exist?  That would be even more controversial than the already controversial remedy of carbon taxation, because there is already research on the economic effects of taxation, and a history of taxation to counter perverse externalities.

Or is the issue of bias - a bias so insidious science should not dare to leave the extermination to mere scientists - a red herring?

The demand to treat climate science as a "nonesuch" science is the rub.  How can I distinguish a prickly intolerance for the possibility of bias from an excuse to discard results that are unwelcome from an excuse to disregard consequences of status quo behavior?

Reply to Bill Stoltzfus #26

Part of the reason that Judith Cury's "Team B" idea went over like a lead balloon was that the name "Team B" had an unfortunate historical connotation to the "Team B", commissioned by Director of Central Intelligence George H. W. Bush, of "outside experts" who attempted to counter the positions of intelligence officials within the CIA.  In reality, the CIA failed to represent USSR as enough of a military threat for the liking of defense hawks, so Team B manufactured Soviet military capabilities from whole cloth.

I would rather 100% of published scientific results be attempted for replication by third parties, rather than 20% of funding be spent on fishing expeditions.  Because, if this is a mechanism outside of current scientific publishing guidelines, a group of outsiders would choose where the 20% was directed.  Leaving aside the issue that the comparative invulnerability to political and other agendas of this extra-scientific group is being simply asserted without basis.

Then there is the strange issue why science is singled out for hobbling.  What percentage of business, family, or personal decisions (the analog of scientific results) must be legislated for scrutiny by third parties?  Because is the track record of science worse than the tract record of business, family, or personal decision making?

[double ugh, even more]

Reply to Steve Fitzpatrick #29

I am looking for ways to distinguish accusation of insurmountable bias in climate science from such claims made against in evolutionary biology, tobacco carcinogenicity, vaccine research, etc.

You bring up FDA regulations, but then conflate the issue by stating "Note that these regulations exist in good part to eliminate as much as possible the influence of biases", when in fact these are strictly to try to prevent direct harm to patients by the treatment intervention under investigation.  Demonstrated by how they do nothing to prevent biases that don't strictly harm patients directly -- how else could the bias for over-reliance on pharmaceuticals stand?...  if these were, by design, to try to eliminate bias?

"But a more relevant question is “Are there examples of errors that science has allowed to stand for a significant period of time?”  A search for these kinds of examples might not be so difficult."   Then humor me.  The remedy, to fit the topic, must be an extra-scientific mechanism to eliminate bias that scientists are fundamentally otherwise unable to.  To best understand the beast being discussed, I would appreciate examples.  If it never existed, and never will, then that is the very definition of a red herring to discard results that are unwelcome and an excuse to disregard consequences of the status quo.  I would like to see this is a good faith argument.

I don't deny that the public demands more from climate scientists than protein folders.  But I want to see the distinction of the demand from the demands put on evolutionary biologists by members of the public, from the demands put on mathematicians by those who trisect the angle or square the circle, from the demands put on medical animal researchers by the property destruction and harassment by anti-vivisectionist protesters, etc.  Are the demands, for the most part, strictly to promote scientific truth found in the least time in the efficient way?  Or not?
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

From the Ladies of Reddit: how "nice" guys are usually "not nice"

Growing up, I had the mistaken belief that I was a "nice guy", and that my lack of luck with women was because "women don't like nice guys".
This Reddit posting hit home, and felt like a slap across my face.  It is absolutely true:

2X - Can I rant about this "Girls don't like us nice guys" shit? : TwoXChromosomes:
Once again, a 'girls are stupid for not liking us nice guys' link is #1 on the comics subreddit and #1 on my main reddit homepage.
These things piss me off.
Why? Because I like nice guys. I like shy introverts. I mean, I'm a geek girl myself, so yes, I heart nerds.
And despite all that it was nearly fucking impossible to get a date in high school or college because I'm (frankly) ugly. I mean, ugliness and shyness/introvertness/nerdiness normally go hand-in-hand, right? These guys were never handsome, but by my being just as unpretty as they were, I was invisible. I was unclean.
So every time a guy is bitching and moaning that girls aren't flocking all over them, I want to slap them, because I showed interest in his type, time and time again, and got rejected because I lost the facial genetic lottery, just like he did.
Stop fucking whining that girls suck for not looking past your shy awkward exterior and seeing you for who you are on the inside; you never gave me that courtesy either.
[another commenter]
AHHH, I just read this from /r/bestof and I was hoping someone would have posted about it on 2XC.
Some of the comments (like that one) just don't get it. Women like nice guys.
The problem is that most people who think they're "nice guys" just aren't. In many respects, they're just as shallow as all the promiscuous "assholes" they detest: they'd fuck around if they could, and they put just as much weight on looks as anyone else. The main difference between "assholes" and "nice guys" is that the "nice guys" a usually a combination of: uninteresting, awkward, uncharismatic, not confident, not relatable.
The worst part is that they're (inherently!) jerks. Women actually tend to like nice men! If you, Mr. "Nice Guy," are going to assume that they don't, then that's just insulting and presumptuous. It's your way of saying, "women are dumb enough to not like men who are genuinely nice people." With a presumptuous attitude like that, it's no wonder that these "nice guys" don't tend to do so well.
I think it's a matter of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense for men to detest the guy who gets women, hence guys tend to call promiscuous men "assholes." But the truth is, most of these assholes simply aren't assholes. They tend to be fun, interesting, sociable, and kind of nice people. Yes they're promiscuous, but the majority of men would be if they could. Not all of them, but the majority of them. (Men literally do have a larger sex drive than women.)
A rule of thumb: If you think you're being "nice," then you're actually being a jerk. If you think you're "the nicest person in the world, holy shit I am putting my heart and soul into pleasing everyone and not being annoying," then it means you're being kind of nice.
There's a lot of other things I could say... but I feel it would all come off as extremely presumptuous.
[another commenter]
The problem is that most people who think they're "nice guys" just aren't. In many respects, they're just as shallow as all the promiscuous "assholes" they detest: they'd fuck around if they could, and they put just as much weight on looks as anyone else. The main difference between "assholes" and "nice guys" is that the "nice guys" a usually a combination of: uninteresting, awkward, uncharismatic, not confident, not relatable.
Totally agree with all of this, except for the last sentence. Let me fix it for you...
The main difference between "assholes" and "nice guys" is that the "nice guys" expect that doing nice things for hot women alone should make the hot woman attracted to him, they think that "being nice" ought to be the only quality necessary to entitle them to a hot girl of their own.
And this is absolutely, something totally different from actually being a genuine nice guy. Genuine nice guys are nice because they are actually nice, not because they want to get something out of it. By contrast, the nice guys we are talking about are usually just as asshole-ish as the rest of us, except when in the presence of a hot girl that they want. That's the only time that they feel any real need to be any nicer than usual.
The problem is when you are nice as a manipulative move to get something. That's not truly nice. Truly nice is when you are kind for the benevolent sake of helping your fellow man, with no expectation to receive in return. If that's not what is motivating you, then you aren't a nice guy, and stop describing yourself as one just because you keep offering your shoulder for hot girls to cry on.
[another commenter]
I think a good rule of thumb is to try to judge how nice you are being based on how you treat someone you are not attacted to. If you are only nice to girls you lust after, you are not a nice guy.

Shamefully, as a young man, I was guilty of exactly this.  At least I have a mature viewpoint to offer my own daughter.
Enhanced by Zemanta