Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Complicity and Sympathy for Comforting but False & Dangerous Ideas

St JudeImage by Fergal OP via Flickr
Comment on:

http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/455387977/i-think-we-can-get-past-the-lie-and-it-was-a-lie

When dealing with someone so bugfuck crazy like RPJr or Bjorn, you practically have no choice but to abstract away these bad actors into fake-controversy-creating-automatons, and focus on those who allow these trolls to be heard.  And, practically everywhere from practically everyone, you find complicity and sympathy for these comforting but false & dangerous ideas.

There is no evidence that humanity likes science or the burden of responsibilities that pay out decades in the future.  Humanity does not mind playing with some the end products of both, like consumer electronics or the body of modern medical knowledge, but humanity really doesn't like either science or the responsibility of the very long view.

Our only tools are to consciously move the Overton Window as quickly as possible to something compatible with humanity continuing to exist, and, in the mean time, remember "[Our] basic function [is] to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable." (a quote from Milton Friedman, speaking about something other than climate change, but the idea applies).  Obviously, that means our last, best hopes will be way past their shelf life, and we will only be left crude largely ineffectual measures for cooling the globe and dumping antacid into the ocean.  It also means making the best arguments for the alleged "Conservatives" and "Libertarians" for them, because their mental failure modes mean they themselves cannot; because those bodies of thought, reasonably applied, have something to offer to guide towards sensible policy.

[Edit 3/18/10]

Consider RPJr's strange book review in Nature - he is reviewing 4 books, none less than 300 pages, and his review could fit comfortably on 2 sheets of college ruled paper, even though the books are competing for space with RPJr's opinions.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v464/n7287/full/464352a.html

It is a perfect example of concern trolling.  Quoting:

> Incremental approaches to climate mitigation that can be modified by experience offer a chance that realistic and democratically grounded actions might rise to a challenge that will be with us for decades to come.

In other words, don't yell "Fire" in a crowded theater, especially if the theater is actually on fire.  Eventually, enough of the patrons will catch on fire to allow a rough consensus to take hold. Poppycock.

The piece is self-refuting, but the issue is that it was allowed to be published.  We should hold the editors of Nature up to ridicule.  If those editors wish that the issue is taken away from the facts of science and into the realm of political science and economics (as they must plainly feel), then print articles papers from publishing political scientists and economists.  Instead of concern trolls without any stake in substantive argumentation.

[Edit 03-26-10: see comment by Marion Delgado]
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4 comments:

EliRabett said...

Eli has a couple of Pielke jokes you might like, especially this one

manuelg said...

RPJr has already demonstrated himself to be a joke. The only open issue is whether the editors of Nature wish to be seen as one too.

Marion Delgado said...

Pielke, Jr. is a "publishing political scientist," more's the pity. And he's insinuated himself into quite a few science policy institutes.

Also, in the "pirates vs. ninjas" vein: Idsos or Pielkes? Which would win a fight?

manuelg said...

Marion:

My bad. I meant to say "papers" instead of "articles". The solution to a supposed failure of peer-review is not *less* peer-review.

I am not going to delve into the muck of whatever the hell RPJr is or is not. He is best seen as a symptom, not an actor. When RPJr is discarded like a used piece of tissue, another professional obscurantist will step forward.