I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days, but have been uncertain as to whether or not to write it; partly because I wouldn’t mind some peace and quiet, partly because I may not really do it justice, and partly because the response to it may essentially illustrate what I’m trying to point out.

Those involved in the climate debate may be aware that Willard often refers to ClimateballTM. I think there are some who interpret this as suggesting that the climate debate is just a game and we that we are all just having fun. I don’t think that is correct. What I think is being suggested (and Willard can correct me if I’m wrong) is that it’s a game whether we like it or not. If you’re going to get involved, it’s best that you understand that it is game, how to play the game, and what the rules are. If you want to know the rules, they’re explained quite succinctly here. To be clear, I wish this weren’t true, but I think – broadly speaking – it essentially is.

It would be wonderful if we could have thoughtful discussion amongst people who broadly disagree, but who are willing to listen to what the other person has to say, give it some thought, and maybe actually agree with some – if not all – of it. Instead, it’s more about scoring points. Find a way to undermine the other person’s argument. Find a way to undermine their credibility. Find a way to dodge their arguments against your position. Don’t necessarily apply the same standards to yourself as you apply to everyone else (of course, you then make out that you hold a higher moral ground). Again, to be clear, I certainly don’t think this is how it should be conducted; it just appears as though this is – sadly – how it is often conducted.

What made me decide to write this was largely the response to my Criminally negligent post. I thought I’d written something quite benign. I was suggesting that we probably shouldn’t be considering willful/cynical climate misinformers (if they exist) as criminally negligent because our policy makers should really be able to determine who/what is credible and who/what isn’t. If they can’t – or choose not to – then I was arguing that that is our own fault (the electorate). It’s a democracy, so ultimately we’re responsible for our policy makers. I should also make clear, that by misinformers, I was only referring to those who are knowingly misinforming for their own benefit. I also, in my post, set a hypothetical suggesting that if it did turn out that some people/groups were cynically influencing policy makers for their benefit and to our (the public’s) detriment, then wouldn’t we all – irrespective of our views today – agree that that was unacceptable. I was just trying to see if we could agree on what was unacceptable or not, even if our current views are not aligned.

Did it turn out benign? Of course not. I was heavily criticised for not moderating a comment about Anthony Watts and Goebbels fast enough, while at the same time defending myself against accusations of promoting totalitarianism (not because of the comment, but because of what I’d said in my post). There were commenters getting on their high-horse about comparisons with totalitarian regimes while, in the same comment, suggesting that environmentalists have totalitarian tendencies. It was, in my view, a remarkable display of double standards. Of course, as I pointed out earlier – and should have realised myself – this is all allowed within the rules of ClimateballTM.

Does it stop there? Of course not. My Criminal Negligence post was a comment on an article written in The Conversation by Lawrence Torcello, an Assistant Professor of Philiosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. According to DeSmogBlog (also covered by Sou) Lawrence Torcello has now had 700 items of correspondence complaining about his article and which include such gems as Die you maggot.

One of those who’ve written to complain (to the provost of Torcello’s college) was Lord Christopher Monckton himself. Can we find any instigator for these complaints? Well archived here is a WUWT post promoting Monckton’s letter. An earlier post (archived here) is Anthony Watts referring to Torcello’s article (which I doubt he actually read) as despicable climate ugliness, and giving people information about where to write to complain. He does add

If you choose to lodge a complaint, be sure to be courteous and factual, we don’t need to surrender the moral high ground to anger.

Well, unless the reports about the correspondence are wrong, this suggestion was ignored by many.

Anthony Watts was sufficiently appalled by the comment that I failed to moderate quickly enough, that he made it quote of the week (archived here) and – ironically – also mentioned his post giving details of where to complain about Torcello. Is Anthony going to now have a post illustrating his disgust at the behaviour of some of those who’ve complained about Torcello? I doubt it. Why? Because it’s not required within the rules of ClimateballTM.

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73 Responses to Climateball(TM)

  1. Unfortunately this is the normal mode of operandi for most of these type of folks. You know that for example Watts had no problem whatsoever with using Hiroshima bombs to give his readers an idea about the amounts of energy involved. But as soon as it was used to illustrate how much extra energy our planet is absorbing he objected to the usage (and defended his usage).

    So the same goes for anything that could be used against them, or undermines their opportunities to spread their misinformation. That’s why people have so much issue with you speaking out for more science litteracy, especially when you say this about politicians. As that’s the only place where they still have people who take them serious. They lost the debate in the scientific literature, so that’s all they have left.

    So when they can use something to cast you in a bad light, or cast doubt on what you say, they will use it. And it’s extremely rare that they will speak out against people on their side when they misbehave. That would undermine their goals.

  2. jsam says:

    Scientists play the game to learn. Denialists play the game to win.

  3. Lars Karlsson says:

    A little reminder about Roy Spencer’s recent “Time to push back against the global warming Nazis”,

    And here is James Delingpole: “Why do I call them Eco Nazis? Because they ARE Eco Nazis.

    “(The only real difference between the Thirties Nazis and their modern eco counterparts is that they were a bit more honest as to exactly HOW they were going to deal with this population “problem”)”

  4. Andy Skuce says:

    I am sure that Willard, being learned and all, is aware that the underlying idea of CalvinballTM was first proposed by the anarchist epistemologist Paul Feyerabend, who summarized the scientific method as “anything goes” in his excellent book Against Method. Slow train that I am, I have only just realized that Calvin and Hobbes were named, respectively, after a theologian and a philosopher.

  5. @karl: That’s just another example of fake outrage and not understanding what people mean when they talk about science denial.

  6. jsam,
    Yes, that’s a good way to put it. In fact I’ve had discussions with some who – without irony – will regard it as something to win rather than – as you suggest – a learning process.

    Yes, some seem to be completely ignorant of the concepts of irony and hypocrisy.

    Interesting, I was unaware of that provenance. I’m sure that Willard was well aware of it, though.

    Indeed, much fake outrage and lack of understanding.

  7. Does all this tell more about climate specific issues or more generally about blogosphere and its influence on public discourse?

  8. John Mashey says:

    See 4-year-old PDF @ Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony.

    ‘Unlike the time of the tobacco wars, the media and Internet now amplify anti-science attacks by:
    (a) enabling a few determined people to divert chosen scientists‘ research time entirely into responding to FOIA requests and personal attacks and (b) inciting harassment of scientists via public outcry, hate mail or threats of violence.’

    pp.9-14 The Machinery of Anti-Science, especially the figure on p.10.
    All this is akin to a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attach on the Internet, stirring the most intense of the dismissive category of Yale/GMU SIx Americas study shown there, although the same behavior patterns are seen elsewhere.

    I do not claim the models in that section are perfect, but they are relatively comprehensive, and in 4 years, I haven’t seen anything to cause any major changes, although more parts of the picture have come into better focus. For the reasons catalog on p.14, the only real changes since, suggested by others have been:
    PSY9 General psychology denial: problem too big, fear:determination -> paralysis (UPDATE)
    PSYb Good life, but much CO2: “narrative denial”, guilt avoidance (NEW)

  9. Pekka,
    Interesting question. I don’t know the answer. My guess is that it is the latter, but with climate specific issues being an extreme example of this. I guess, in this case we can all agree that we can attribute anthropogenic influences to these extreme issues 🙂

  10. John,
    Thanks. I keep meaning to read more of your book, but keep running out of time. I should stop writing blog posts and spend some time catching up on my reading.

  11. John Mashey says:

    Well, just read a few pages … much of that one is a reference encyclopedia.

    one point of all this is that some people have been studying this machinery from a while, longer than I have, so there’s no need for everyone to start from scratch. The other point is that for some topics {historians, social scientists, investigative journalists, etc} are the folks to look to first.

  12. > Does all this tell more about climate specific issues or more generally about blogosphere and its influence on public discourse?

    I think it may apply more generally, e.g.:

    I’m not “seeking lolz” Willard; but I’m the kind of guy who gets a kick out of it when it’s around.

    A work in progress.


    The Torcello Affair made the Leiter Report, btw:

  13. Willard,
    Thanks. The Leiter report is certainly short and to the point.

  14. verytallguy says:

    A suggestion. Perhaps

    “Trying to keep the discussion civil”

    should be

    “Well, I tried to keep the discussion civil but it’s too f***ing difficult with you arseholes commenting here, why don’t you just piss off and get you own f***ing blogs”

  15. verytallguy says:

    With my apologies for all the f***ing.

    WordPress seemed to censor me when I put the actual word in.

  16. VTG,

    “Well, I tried to keep the discussion civil but it’s too f***ing difficult with you arseholes commenting here, why don’t you just piss off and get you own f***ing blogs”

    Tempting, but a bit too long 🙂

    I had been tempted to add to the post that another ClimateballTM tactic is to criticise the lack of civility given that I claim to be Trying to keep the discussion civil. Given that it typically comes from those who’ve barely bothered themselves, it’s not something that I take too seriously.

  17. badgersouth says:

    Willard: Did you really trademark “Climateball”?

  18. uknowispeaksense says:

    Im going to use that

  19. > Willard: Did you really trademark “Climateball”?

    Nope, Badger. Nor did I trademarked INTEGRITY ™:

    Though I’m tempted to trademark RHETORICS ™ with-an-S and said really fast so that we clearly hear the “tricks” at the end.

  20. This tweet is a nice example of the rules of climate ball.

  21. Victor,
    That is just the most remarkable hypocrisy. How can anyone take him seriously (rhetorical question, obviously)?

  22. It would be a great resource to have a list with the largest 3 regressions of every player. Okay 10 for Monckton, choosing would be too difficult.

    Maybe a tumblr blog would fit nicely for that. Just quotes, pictures and tags for the names. That visualise the hypocritical and unchristian behaviour of the “debate”. It could also be a community project, on tumblr everyone can prepare a post, which the host only has to approve and publish.

    This debate has nothing to do with science, so I would personally not blame it on Feyerabend, who was still thinking of science.

  23. Vinny Burgoo says:

    If ClimateballTM is getting old, how about a game of Max Clifford’s Climate Penis?

    You play someone discussing Max Clifford’s penis and how big it is. You haven’t actually seen his penis but you know that his doctors say that it exists and is between two and nine inches long depending on its sensitivity to a variety of factors (sultry feedbacks, honest mismeasurement, sudden shocks, etc.). Most likely length: five inches. Your task is to keep bashing out your particular version of Max Clifford’s penis come what may.

    Some possible approaches:

    1. Max Clifford doesn’t have a penis: his doctors were bribed to say that he does.

    2. Max Clifford has a freakishly small penis: the doctors said ‘two inches’.

    3. Max Clifford’s penis? We’ll deal with it when it arrives.

    4. Max Clifford’s penis? We can shrink it by agreeing targets for shrinking it.

    5. Max Clifford has a freakishly large penis: the doctors said ‘nine inches’.

    6. Max Clifford’s doctors say that his penis threatens mankind’s survival.

    Extra points for including the following phrases:

    closely coupled

    cultural coition

    business as usual

    Koch brothers

    fossil fuelled by


  24. Andy Skuce says:

    VV: I wasn’t blaming Feyerabend, just pointing out that he described a no-holds-barred approach to science that was in contrast to the revisionist assumptions of civility, sober methodology and rationality in the growth of scientific knowledge.

    He wrote: “‘anything goes’ is not a ‘principle’ I hold… but the terrified exclamation of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history.”

    Perhaps he exaggerated about science, but there is little doubt that the inconsistencies, hypocrisies, opportunism, ad-hockery and general lack of rules he described in the development of science are being fully deployed in ClimateBall.

  25. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Instead of suggesting changes to “trying to keep the discussion civil”, one could ask:

    Why are you still blogging?

  26. For what it’s worth, it seems that our Laughing Philosopher has chosen to prudently distance himself from some of his or her commenters’ position.

    To that effect, he reminds his or her readers that he will try to follow Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s dictum to defend to the death his or her commenters’ right to say whatever they fancy by censoring moderating all incoming comments:

    All comments must now be approved before they appear. […]

    A bit before, he or she also defended that right by removing more a dozen comments or so on a previous thread, among which there is one where this quote was posted:

    Unquestionably philosophy is among of the most male-dominated disciplines in universities today, but inviting outside review by the American Philosophical Association’s (APA) Committee on the Status of Women was guaranteed to produce a finding as predictable as the Salem Committee to Investigate Witchcraft in 1691.

    Our emphasis.

    Our Laughing Philosopher is also distancing himself from what Steven F. Hayward was saying there and which Pr. Tooley decided to publish on his website. For those who have not followed that story, here might be a good introduction:

    Yes, but Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

  27. Eli Rabett says:

    Leiter has his own CalvinBall issues

  28. @ATTP: Monckton is someone I do not take serious at all, especially when he suddenly asks for civility. The hypocrisy he displays with how uncivil he can be invalidates anything he says on that subject (especially when said that a jew was part of the Hitlerjugend).

  29. “Denialists play the game to win”

    More like playing for a draw or extra time, and trying anytime you get a touch of the ball to kick it into the long grass in the hope that it will not be found again. And unfortunately that also works.

    Indeed I suspect on some level they are as baffled as anyone else as to how they are on the field in the first place, and can’t believe their luck.

  30. Reich,

    Why are you still blogging?

    Yes, a fair question. I don’t have a fair answer, though.

    Indeed. I don’t take him remotely seriously at all either.

    This is the first time I’ve encountered Leiter.

  31. Marlowe Johnson says:


    FWIW i enjoyed my conversation with Pekka on the ‘criminally negligent’ thread. I think it showed, among other things, that reasonable people can agree to disagree without being unreasonable towards one another ;).

  32. Marlowe,
    I’m glad you enjoyed the conversation.

    I’ll add that I’ve had some fairly heated exchanges here (including with Pekka 🙂 ), but – by and large – reasonable people tend to find ways to remove the heat and increase the actual information content. In most cases I too have ended up enjoying discussions with people, even if we don’t actually agree about everything. That was the goal and even though it hasn’t worked all the time, it’s nice to know it works some of the time.

  33. badgersouth says:

    For the “Beyond Climateball” file…

    Climate science sceptics target philosopher with toxic hate mail by Graham Readfearn, Planet Oz, The Guardian, Mar 27, 2014

  34. Overheard in a private conversation:

    [A cynic friend] It occurs to me that philosophy, or at least studying the work of the philosopher trolls, up to and including the Putnams and Quines, is not the path to enlightenment.

    [Me] Only ClimateBall ™ leads to our true flourishing as individuals and as a specie.

    H/T to Anscombe for the concept of flourishing.

  35. idunno says:

    Plato draws a nice distinction:

    In one of the dialogues, I hazily recall Socrates asserts that to lose an argument is to win, or gain… the ‘loser’ gains or ‘wins’ new insight and knowledge. the winner of an argument has gained nothing.

  36. idunno,
    Certainly an interesting way to look at things. I’ve certainly learned a lot over the last year through various discussions, often starting with me being wrong – or, at least, not as right as I initially thought I was 🙂 .

  37. andrew adams says:

    In answer to Pekka’s question, I think that in a lot of ways the climate debate is fairly representative of the kind of political discourse that takes place in the blogosphere in general. Certainly in terms of the “civility” of the debate it is no worse than in most other subjects an better than some (checkout any discussion on Israel/Palestine for example), and my most heated exchanges in blog discussion have been on subjects unrelated to climate. A lot of the debating tactics, rhetorical devices etc. are pretty universal as well.

    Maybe people expect that the climate debate should be different because it is a scientific issue and so it should be more “objective”. But a lot of the arguments around climate change are essentially political rather than scientific.

  38. Andrew,

    But a lot of the arguments around climate change are essentially political rather than scientific.

    Yes, I think that’s essentially correct. Also, I get the impression that even if you try to make a scientific argument, it’s perceived by many as being political. So, it seems virtually impossible to stick to science only, because you get dragged into political-type discussions whether you like it or not.

  39. andrew adams says:


    There are some people whose objections to action on climate change are entirely politically driven, and the only way to rationalise their position is to assume that those who do advocate action, and even the whole mainstream scientific position itself, are driven by a particular (left wing) political agenda. With those people any discussion is inherently political however much one tries to stick to the science.

    And in a sense there is an inherent political dimension because although I reject the notion that our politicians are determined to use climate change as a political tool (I think the opposite is true and they would rather the whole thing just went away) the reason we fund so much research into climate change, why we have the IPCC process, why many of us take a particular interest in the subject, is that it could potentially have big implications for our society and require political action to address the risks involved.

    So while it is still possible to have purely scientific discussions on some of the more narrow technical issues, once we get onto questions about likely impacts and their wider implications, ie we start saying this could actually be quite serious and we should really think about doing something about it, which is a perfectly valid scientific judgement, that political dimension immediately rears its head.

  40. Eli Rabett says:

    The problem with treating climate as a political issue is the physics. Frankly, Eli can see some pretty conservative solutions as well as some pretty progressive ones but what he can’t see is the blind refusal.

  41. Pingback: Another Week of Global Warming News, March 30, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  42. Angech says:

    Verytallguy Seagull chess?
    I do like to argue for it’s own sake but I do try to stick to real facts as I see them

  43. AnOilMan says:

    More like [Mod: snipped] chess…

  44. AnOilMan says:

    WIllard, Not sure if that is a happy ‘please’ or a condescending ‘please’. Anyways, I wonder what the Roman’s would think of the current discourse we engage in?

    I came across this in my searches on antique books. It was manufactured with movable type set using the same techniques as the Guttenburg Bible.

    Somehow, I think it belongs on your book shelf.

  45. > Anyways, I wonder what the Roman’s would think of the current discourse we engage in?

    It would be all greek to them.

    Here’s an interesting analysis of one ClimateBall ™ move by Cicero:

    Thanks undoubtedly to his own propaganda efforts, we see 63 b.c.e. as the climax of Cicero’s career. Serving as consul, the highest office in Rome, Cicero expeditiously and nonviolently (except for five executions of questionable legality) suppressed the “conspiracy of Catiline,” which had threatened the overthrow of the republic. It seems surprising, therefore, that, less than a year later, Cicero defended one Publius Cornelius Sulla against charges arising out of the man’s alleged participation in the plot. The allegations were not improbable: A rich profiteer and nephew of Rome’s most recent revolutionary general, Sulla had previously been convicted of electoral bribery and stripped of his own consulship. He could thus be counted among the abandoned men with little to lose who Cicero generally thought were drawn to conspiracy. But even more surprising than Cicero’s advocacy is the substance of Cicero’s appeal. He makes a gesture at defending Sulla, walking through the evidence against him, idealizing his character, and arousing his auditors’ pity. The weight of the speech, however–the first and last appeal, constituting over a third of the address–is on what Cicero himself repeatedly calls his auctoritas, his own authority (2, 10, 33, 35, 80). Indeed, in what May has called a “too blatant” manner (1988, 78), Cicero claims right at the beginning of the speech that his authority is sufficient to support an acquittal. If he proves, he says, something of himself, he will prove as well the case for Sulla (2).

    Thank you for the book. Do you pay for shipping too?

  46. AnOilMan says:

    Funny… that doesn’t sound like Greek.

    This is more of a case that I think you need some real Geek bling associated with your blog. Maybe you could use a Roman name to match. “Marcus Fabius Quintilianus” sounds way better than “Willard”. Just say’n…

    I definitely think you should buy, and you should ship. 🙂

    I think the first Climate Change asshattery starts with Tyndall 1861… He accuses much of the previous work in the field as being ‘insensible’. Of course, I may be interpreting those words in a much harsher light these days.

  47. Pingback: The Tolgate saga | And Then There's Physics

  48. Oiled One,

    I might as well disclose where I’m heading with ClimateBall:

    In that presentation, we see logic modelled as an adversarial conversation in which proofs are adversarial dialogues, with proponents and opponents having different goals. What logicians may not have not foreseen is that we need to be able produce interactive results while getting cross checks and illegal tackles all the time.

    Hope this clarifies my avatar’s name,


  49. w, That video sounds interesting, but I am not sure whether I understood anything. Could you maybe given some sort of introduction for natural scientists to the talk?

  50. AnOilMan says:

    Victor, I had the same impression. I think it’s important to consider that in whatever field you work in, it fills with a lot very precise language and behaviour. For me the salient statement was that logical discourse was normal for people trained (technical education) to do so.

    However in engaging an uneducated public (Anthony Watts high school diploma) Willard’s statement kicks in, “What logicians may not have not foreseen is that we need to be able produce interactive results while getting cross checks and illegal tackles all the time.”

    I didn’t watch the last five minutes, because that talk was making me pretty sleepy.

  51. AnOilMan says:

    What Willard is saying is that we need to adapt to logical discourse where there are no rules. If you play chess, it’s pretty cut and dried about what you can do, how, and when. Then some asshat comes along and doesn’t play by the rules. This video best explains what I mean, just skip to 1:40 in;

    See Willard, that video has bling.

  52. One might also question the power of logic, when the starting points are not that simple. The tendency of trying to transform complex assessment to simple logic is not restricted to one side of the climate argumentation.

  53. AnOilMan says:

    Pekka it is most definitely confounded by personal values.

  54. The connection between personal values and more concrete conclusions is often obscure. It’s common to think that the conclusions are based logically on fundamental values and clear facts, but in my experience this is seldom, if ever, really the case. It may be more correct to say that people end up with various conclusions for various reasons, and then work backwards to justify them for themselves by manufacturing a connection that has the structure of logic, but has actually many gaps that they choose to overlook.

    People whose conclusions you consider immoral may have exactly the same values at a more fundamental level, and consider them fully consistent with their very different conclusions.

  55. > One might also question the power of logic, when the starting points are not that simple.

    One might question anything. The possibility of questioning never invalidated anything. On the contrary, in fact.

    The starting point of logic, in its natural history at least, is discourse and dialog. Anyone who thinks that these are simple has not read my comments.

    What we can say, though, is that logics (notice the s) have much better norms than other kinds of discourses to create proofs. This is why logics provide a normative framework to such endeavours.


    > The tendency of trying to transform complex assessment to simple logic is not restricted to one side of the climate argumentation.

    Whatever that means, “climate argumentation” is too boringly stupid to make for an interesting logic. So I would contend that the “complex assessment” is a misnomer. Climatological arguments do not rest on complex assessments, for the simple reason that it’s quite easy to create an argument with the conclusion that one shall not dump CO2 like there’s no tomorrow.

    The complexity of the climatological problem is not in its conceptualization, but in its implementation. What needs to be done resides at a complexity level where human cooperation has never worked before, except if we accept idealizations like invisible hands. But even then there are multi-agent modal logics that may compete with the most complex mathematization of decision problems, including the whole of economics.


    But that’s notwithstanding ClimateBall ™, and I believe that there’s something to do with that concept, which may only be another way to talk about eristic:

    Eristic, from the ancient Greek word eris meaning “wrangle” or “strife”, often refers to a type of argument that focuses on ending with successful disputation of an argument as opposed to approaching a given truth. According to T. H. Irwin, “[i]t is characteristic of the eristic to think of some arguments as way of defeating the other side, by showing that an opponent must assent to the negation of what he initially took himself to believe.” That is, eristic arguments focus on being right, or being perceived as right or compelling. The aim usually is to win the argument and/or to engage in a conflict for the sole purpose of wasting time through arguments, not to potentially discover a true or probable answer to any specific question or topic. Eristic is arguing for the sake of conflict as opposed to the seeking of conflict resolution

    By the way, it would not be correct to say that ClimateBall ™ has no rules. What we know is that rules are being made as we go along. Not only the rules evolve, but they change according to playing fields. Normativity is not evacuated, but relativized in time and space. Just like blogs’ moderation rules.


    But right: logic is not science or real life. Let’s blame all those logicians who forget that.

  56. “This is why logics provide a normative framework to such endeavours.”

    Does a “normative framework” mean that logics provide rules? Or does that mean that logics provide ethics? That is one of the terms that make understanding the video hard for me. I guess that in both cases this is only for the people that chose to play within the framework.

  57. .. it’s quite easy to create an argument with the conclusion that one shall not dump CO2 like there’s no tomorrow.

    That far it’s easy, but it’s not as easy to say, how much CO2 we may dump anyway, or to tell, how the necessary reductions are to be implemented.

    My doubt’s on the power of logic concern it’s role in answering those questions, more relevant for the actual decision making.

  58. Steve Bloom says:

    Sadly, the effort to arrive at a true or probable answer is often the most effective way of maximizing conflict, thus the appeal of arriving at a mutually acceptable answer that is neither true nor even probable. It’s an approach that works right up until it doesn’t. Here‘s the latest chapter in an ongoing excellent example.

  59. AnOilMan says:

    More often than not when I’m talking on line I know that many other folks will read what I say. It’s not about our argument, or the argument with them, it’s about how it appears to Joe Public;

  60. Indeed, Oil Man. This looks compatible with an observation I just made at Eli’s:

    Here’s how Radford Neale responds to Nic Lewis’ pet topic (i.e. OBJECTIFY ALL CLIMATE STATS!):

    > Thanks for the clearly written exposition of how a standard “subjective” Bayesian analysis can sometimes differ dramatically from an analysis based on an “objective” Bayesian prior (specifically, Jeffreys’ prior). As I’ll explain below, it illuminates very well the way in which your philosophical standpoint is not one I agree with.

    Neal holds no punches. But notice how he can backup all of them. He mixes restraint and frankness. This appeals to me, as it helps him to show that Lewis’ approach looks unjustified to him.

    Nic will save his face. He will certainly follow up his pet topic anyway. There’s little we can do with humans with pet topics.

    Just try to stop me from talking about Climateball ™.


    Sooner or later, auditors will attract the attention of real formal guys. When this will happen, statistical shadow boxing will disappear. It’s as simple as that.

    Later today I’ll try to make an outline of the video for Victor and others. Since philosophy could very be considered as the discipline that helps understand and criticize arguments, this should be something I like to do.

  61. AnOilMan says:

    willard, two comments on that…

    One… perhaps we should start mustering other experts to start looking at the garbage being promoted by the pseudosceptics. The arguments with Mark Bahner purporting to claim its too expensive to fix climate change are a prime example. His arguments seem to focus on taking the narrowest view possible of economic data, however its equally obvious we need more economists patrolling.

    Two… Have you considered developing a scoring system for Climate Ball? This is one of my favorite scenes from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead;


  62. Nice. Thanks, Oil Man!

    As long as we accept that there are not only one set of rules, and that ClimateBall ™ is most enjoyable if we allow ourselves to break down the rules and make others as we go along, I believe this could be done. In fact, C.L. Hamblin has started something like this a while ago:

    Into the 1960s, Hamblin again increasingly turned to philosophical questions. Besides writing an influential introductory book into the formal logic which is today a standard work on fallacies. It dedicated itself to the treatment of false conclusions by the traditional logic and brought in it formal dialectic and developed it further. As such, Hamblin is considered as one the founders of the modern informal logic.

    Source: Wiki. Vaughan Pratt told me (pers. comm.) that he worked for that guy when he was an undergrad or something. Aussies have a solid tradition of logicians. Rachel may take note.

    In Fallacies, Hamblin outlines something like the question game, based on a formalization of scholastic’s disputation game, of which this sounds like a good outline:


    Happy Easter!

  63. AnOilMan says:

    Agreement, 1 all.

  64. We seem to always have people, who do not accept the unavoidability of the subjective choice of the prior. Nic is not the only one to have problems with that. For some reason he chose to write a blog post on a case where the untenability of his position is particularly clear. We’ll see, whether the response he got from Radford Neale has some effect. Whether Nic will change his mind or not, many others will certainly perpetuate the error (independently on their position on climate change).

  65. Victor,

    I promised you an introduction to the talk. It’s a bit late, so I’ll be brief for now. I’ll simply state the problem in a way to express why it speaks to me.

    The question of the talk is to try to see in what sense could logic be seen as a set of norms. Novaes’ starting point is a problem that is stated in the abstract of an article by McFarlane, whom incidentally has a really cool website generator, and to whom she refers:

    > [I]t turns out to be surprisingly hard to say how facts about the validity of inferences relate
    to norms for reasoning, and some philosophers have concluded that the whole idea is

    So the mind or thought would seem be a natural locus to see constrained by logic. This kind of idea culminated with Kant, but it still seen in cognitive sciences. The whole idea that we may posit a language of thought and want to construct logical machines that would reproduce the human mind. Good old artificial intelligence.

    I never was a big fan of this project. Hence the reason why the talk speaks to me. Instead of modelling logic that way, Novaes contends that logic is something that takes place in a adversarial conversation. This has lots of historical plausibility.

    This should be enough to understand the first half of the talk and get to the long quote, ca 20:00. Exploring this idea of modelling logic that way is more or less relevant here. The framework that is used, where a deduction is seen as a dialog between two players, could be fruitful for ClimateBall ™, although I’m not sure how for now.

    There are lots of interesting ideas in the second part of the talk. But I’ll skip these for now. I’ll simply say that modelling fallacies takes place around here, i.e. to distinguish authorized moves from unauthorized ones. I’ve never been a big fan of such dichotomy between fair and unfair moves, more so if we consider contexts like online debates where just about anything goes. The conclusion of the talk justifies ClimateBall ™ quite directly, as Novaes concludes that human thought should not be seen as a deductive engine and that deductive reasoning ought to be expected in very specific situations.

    So the question where the talk leads is: could a place like climate blogs be such a place? I don’t think so. While there are glimpses of hope that the discourse will evolve into a saner confrontation, there’s no reason to expect that we’ll sit and calculate, as Leibniz envisioned.

    I might be biased, but I surmise that it’s way too amusing to play ClimateBall ™.

  66. Thus spake And Then:

    I think my interpretation of Climateball is somewhat different to yours and elaborating may help John to understand where I’m coming from. I agree – in general – with your first paragraph (in fact, I agree with most of what you’re saying). However, as I see it, it’s hard to not be influenced by others who are explicitly playing Climateball. Therefore, ideally, one should understand what moves others could make if you were to do something. That way you can avoid defending something you hadn’t anticipated having to defend and hopefully focus on the point you were trying to make. So, in some sense, if you’re sensible, you don’t play Climateball to win or lose. You play Climateball so as to minimise how much you have to actually play Climateball. You’re, essentially, trying to spend as little time as possible in the game.

  67. Kevin O'Neill says:

    The earliest use of the term ‘Climate Ball’ in the sense that discussion of climate is a game is probably by an organization called Blackout Britain in October 2007.

    In a short section titled “CLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGE HOW TO MAKE GORDON BROWN TURN GREEN” you will find this:
    Like most of the industrialised countries of the world, Britain is not really playing Climate Ball. Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions are going into reverse, and the pollution from flying is not even counted in the total figures.

    The BOBs didn’t understand the rules.

    BTW, I registered the domain. Why? I have no idea. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. Perhaps I’ll work on the board game, or the android app. Or let it sit there unused (most likely).

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