Understanding versus Accepting

If there’s one thing about which even reasonable people can disagree, it’s science communication. The more I encounter this, the more I think that it’s often a misunderstanding about what others are actually trying to do. For example, a typical claim is that the deficit model has failed. What I think is meant by this is that if you want people to accept a scientific position, simply trying to reduce their knowledge deficit is a particularly poor strategy. The problem is that, as a physical scientist, my particular interest is public understanding of science, not public acceptance of science. As far as public understanding is concerned, the deficit model is essentially all there is. I think improving public understanding of science is a good thing to do, even if it doesn’t particularly influence public acceptance of science. Whether or not people choose to accept a scientific position is, in my view, entirely up to them.

On the other hand, I think that some physical scientists who criticise social science, don’t quite realise that what’s of interest to social scientists isn’t necessarily public understanding of science, but why some people don’t accept certain scientific positions, and how we can increase the level of acceptance of these positions. Physical scientists may be more interested in public understanding, than in public acceptance, but that doesn’t mean that studying public acceptance of science isn’t an interesting issue. It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where everyone understood everything that they accepted, but we don’t, and it would be naive to think that we can. We all accept things that we don’t fully understand. There will also be occasions when working out how to increase public acceptance is important.

So, it would seem useful if people tried a little harder to understand each other’s motivations. I think improved public understanding of science is intrinsically good, even if it doesn’t lead to increased acceptance of contentious scientific positions. However, I also think that understanding why certain people may not accept certain scientific positions, and what strategies could be used to change this, is also useful; even if I have no great interest in using those strategies myself.

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94 Responses to Understanding versus Accepting

  1. aTTP,
    I agree on what you write, but I think further that it’s often more important to improve understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge than some specifics of the substance knowledge.

  2. Pekka,
    If you mean that we should also improve understanding of the fundamentals of the scientific process too, then I agree.

  3. It would especially be interesting to understand the differences between countries (and periods) in accepting specific sciences.

  4. The acceptance of science is an important problem. I do not want to return to the Middle Ages where the people in power determine what is true. It is part of our open democratic societies that we at least pretend in the public debate that evidence and arguments are important. Preferably really act like it. I have the feeling that that is fading and that really worries me. Much more than climate change.

  5. Victor,
    I hadn’t seen it quite in that way, but you’re right; it is important to try and by driven by arguments and evidence, not by spin from those in power.

  6. useful distinction

  7. I really like your distinction between science acceptance and science understanding -and I agree with Victor that there are serious and ongoing problems about how our society makes sense of scientific knowledge. That is why the trend in recent decades to use think tanks to create alternative version of natural science is, I think, the deeper worry behind the specifics of the climate change issue.

    It is obvious that the public cannot be expected to recreate scientific expertise (bridging that knowledge deficit really means doing years of study), but even recognising expertise is a knowledge-deficit issue. I think part of the problem is that our society does not have a well developed scientific meta-literacy, as John Neilsen-Gammon puts it; the traditional basis for accepting scientific knowledge has been an argument from authority.

    A simple norm of scientific authority was assumed to make up for the knowledge gap, and has been fairly uncontroversial throughout most of the twentieth century -but it no longer works, not least because of a focused campaign to build up the regime of political counter-science we see around us today, in which political tribes have their own ‘experts’.

    ATTP, your very first paragraph is spot-on: scientists should be aiming to bridge the knowledge gap -why not communicate what you know best? I think it is well past time researchers in the social sciences confronted the question of how we assist our communities to develop meta-literacy, to demarcate reliable scientific knowledge from politically motivated counter-science.

  8. Willard says:

    > As far as public understanding is concerned, the deficit model is essentially all there is.

    If only the deficit model was a model.

  9. anoilman says:

    Adding an engineer’s perspective, there’s always practicalities in the real world. Its not possible for any one person to verify every single bit of climate science. Meaning, that at some level you just have to accept that it is right.

    We do this all the time in engineering. For instance its not possible to verify that an aircraft carrier even works. No man can do that in a life time. You couldn’t get through the manuals, let alone the science behind it.

    What we do in engineering, is called a ‘bore down’ vertically through some chunks of the material. (For a product, that starts with the final components and you work you way back to the manufacturing, then the design, then the science.) What’s important is that you can’t do it all so you only take a few segments at random and see what you find. The intent is to verify that all the processes and procedures were followed and verified, and therefore the product is a known quantity. If there’s glaring discrepancies in any of the work, then you know you have serious issues.

    In my case I simply dug through about a dozen bits of denial drivel and satisfied myself that A) the claims were wrong, and B) that I understood the core science of why the claims were wrong.

    At some point you just have to accept that there has not been some drastic miscarriage of scientific material, 10’s of thousands of Phds, and Engineers have globally put together a convincing bit of work, and that if you think something’s wrong, more than likely the experts know more than you. (But if you are curious. Ask. Look. Learn.)

    If you don’t want to accept it, then you need to understand it, or at least some of it. So do a bore down and learn. Ask an expert for where to get started.

    I want to add a very very critical difference between denial, understanding and acceptance. For some reason, the denial community doesn’t accept anything. They deny everything that supports the global warming argument, like ocean acidification, and gosh golly an awful lot of physics. For that reason it should be clear that acceptance and understanding of climate science were pretty much off the table for the denial community right from the beginning.

  10. Brigitte says:

    Yes, ‘model’ is a weasel word in some parts of social science … and the deficit ‘model’ has become a sort of fetish…
    So, I think you might enjoy this article with which I very much agree:
    http://www.scidev.net/global/communication/editorials/the-case-for-a-deficit-model-of-science-communic.html
    And yes, we should try to improve understanding of the scientific process. Some people have started to talk about this a while ago, but it is quite difficult to achieve:
    http://www.scidev.net/global/communication/feature/how-journalism-can-hide-the-truth-about-science.html

  11. victorpetri says:

    I do not concur with the feel that we are heading towards the Middle Ages in general and on climate change in particular (btw, I do not concur with the view that the Middle Ages in general was a period of no progress, there was much advancement, but that’s another discussion).

    Taking the US:
    “Views on gay marriage have shifted unusually quickly, but that is not an isolated example. In 2002 only 45% of Americans thought that having a baby outside marriage was morally acceptable, according to polling by Gallup. Now 61% do. Stem-cell research, one of the most controversial ethical questions during George W. Bush’s presidency, now has the backing of 64% of Americans. On climate change, where America has long been an outlier in the rich world, the country now looks less exceptional: 64% of adults support stricter limits on carbon emissions from power plants, according to polling by Pew, including half of all those who identify themselves as, or say they lean, Republican.”
    http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21656667-nine-judges-are-being-asked-compensate-political-stalemate-both-troubling

  12. Andrew Dodds says:

    VV –

    Yes.. Historically, the whole notion of science – the idea of testing by experiment, the idea that the theory is more important than the person expounding the theory, the idea that telling a person that they are wrong (because of evidence) is not a mortal insult.. these things are anomalous, and very fragile.

    The majority of people in political power, even now, will react quite violently and irrationally to having their personal beliefs dissected by science, however dispassionate. We are, after all, a bunch of slightly evolved apes with a strong sense of group bonding and social hierarchy.

    And since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a major brake on these people has been removed. When you have a serious existential threat on the doorstep, you have to listen to reality, at least a little bit. Take it away, and there are no longer serious immediate consequences to being wrong. From economics to medicine to climate science to geology.. you can be confidently wrong for a long time before the consequences come home.

  13. Mark R.,
    Thanks, very interesting. I think that’s a similar point to what Pekka was making; it’s not just about public understanding of the science itself, but understanding the scientific method and how to evaluate scientific claims. In a sense, the evaluation of a scientific claim is more to establish if it is probably nonsense, rather than to establish if it is actually correct. Normally, acceptance of a scientific idea requires reproducibility and repeatability, but rejection can be much easier.

    Brigitte,
    Very good article. I am often surprised by how negative some social science rhetoric can be, which I assume is related to the idea that this deficit model has failed. When I first became interested in this, I naively assumed that many social scientists were interested in how to improve public understanding of science and the scientific method, rather than in the public acceptance of scientific positions. I agree that improving public understanding is difficult, but – IMO – very important if we are to be driven by evidence, rather than ideology.

    On a side note, what doesn’t help are the various policy people who spend a good deal of their time pointing out that evidence-based policy making doesn’t work in reality. That may be true to a certain extent, but doesn’t mean we should be striven to develop a system where it does work.

    VP,
    I think you may be over-interpreting Victor’s comment. As Andrew is pointing out, it’s more to do with being wary of allowing those in power to control the narrative, than literally going back to the dark ages.

  14. Michael Lloyd says:

    There is another distinction that needs to be made much clearer. There is a big difference between science and technology but maybe not in the public’s mind.

    Here is one article on this:

    American political bat shit: Climate Change http://ruminator.co.nz/american-political-batshit-climate-change/

    and the extract:

    “For the sake of argument, let’s say that you are a 56-year-old lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce, which is a DC-based trade association that influences lawmakers on behalf of enormous corporations.

    Each morning, you wake up to the alarm on your Smartphone, a miracle of modern technology that can give you easy access to damn near every bit of information in the world. You walk into your kitchen for breakfast, and while you eat you turn on your television, flip through the hundreds of channels available to you, and decide to catch up on the news.

    You then shower in water that is made piping hot by a high-efficiency, state-of-the-art water heater that can heat up to 50 gallons of water with barely any energy expenditure whatsoever. You dress yourself in attire that is suitable for work on Capitol Hill, walk out the door, and get into your car.

    And what a car it is! It has a dashboard camera that turns on and shows you what’s behind you when you put the car in reverse. It has buzzers that go off if you start to drift out of your lane and into others. It has anti-lock brakes, a “steel bathtub” frame, crumple zones that help cushion the force of a collision in case you crash, and in the event that you do, there are also multiple airbags that are capable of cushioning every part of your body.

    As you drive to work, your car automatically gives you a traffic alert and lets you know that there is a severe traffic jam on your normal route to work. Using Global Positioning Satellite technology, your display screen gives you an alternate route to work, providing you with audible instructions so you can keep your eyes on the road.

    While taking your detour, you use your voice activated personal assistant to book a vacation for you and your wife to the Bahamas. You then make an appointment with your doctor so you can get a refill of the prescription that has helped fix the rigidity problems you’ve been having with what your wife refers to as “The ol’ bingbong” (it’s ok. You’re 56. It happens to the best of us).

    You arrive at work just in time for your morning briefing, and a half an hour later, you have a meeting with a Congressman, where you will look him straight in the eye and tell him that science is bullshit.

    This might seem like an inconsistency to y’all, but you have to understand that in America there are two different types of science. There’s science that is profitable for corporations, which is good and righteous and rock solid. That’s the Smartphone, the water heater, the GPS, the 700 channels on the 62 inch flat screen, the boner pills, and so on and so on. And then there’s the science that costs corporations money, which is fraudulent, con-artist mumbo jumbo. Under that second definition are things like climatology, pollution measurements, oceanography, and other disciplines that might fuck up the profit margins of energy producers and manufacturers.”

  15. Michael,
    Yes, a good point. Not quite the same thing, but it’s certainly the case even in the UK that there has been an attempt to encourage more of a focus on research that can have a more quantifiable economic benefit, than on research that might be described as blue-skies. Apart from the obvious issue that many technological developments have come from what was regarded as, initially, blue-skies research, this also devalues the whole inquisitive nature of scientific research.

    I’ve sometimes argued that we should perceive scientific research as being similar to the arts; something we do because as a society we’re fascinated by the world/universe around us and we would be a far poorer society if we didn’t value such activities. Many in the physical sciences are worried about such a narrative because they’re concerned that if we were to promote such views, the politicians would give us the same level of funding as they give to the Arts – i.e., not much.

  16. WebHubTelescope says:

    It’s not understanding of science. It’s not acceptance of science. It’s often just a lack of curiosity about science. Can never fully explain this attitude. Why Pluto, and why not El Nino?

    Perhaps because someone said that ENSO and El Nino was chaotic and therefore not worth pursuing. Bull.

  17. victorpetri says:

    @Michael
    That piece could use a distinction as well, that between tobacco, which has no benefits to society, which disappearance would have no negative trade offs, and fossil fuels, which has been the most beneficial resources mankind has ever used, and which disappearance would have major negative consequences to human well being.
    It also sells short of the 50% republicans that do believe evidence is solid that GW exist a percentage that has been rising, so whatever PR campaign conspiracy theory this blog writer is envisioning, is not working.
    His abusive language on the lay off of 200 people at a certain company, is really the low point of his rant, as if this should not be normal business practice in a decently functioning economy.

  18. vp,

    His abusive language on the lay off of 200 people at a certain company, is really the low point of his rant, as if this should not be normal business practice in a decently functioning economy.

    That may be true if we actually had decently functioning economies that operated in some kind of idealised way, but we probably don’t and probably can’t ever have the perfect economy. In some idealised sense it may be true that the ability to simply lay people off is good since the company laying them off would be able to improve their performance and the people being layed off would be able to take their skill sets to some other companies that will be looking for exactly such people. The real world isn’t – I would argue – quite that simple.

  19. Brigitte, I have to look at that site more often! I think those links are very useful insofar as they allude to the problem of getting from A to B when:

    A – misunderstanding of highly specialised knowledge, such as the underlying statistical worldview of the climate sciences, is a clear barrier to political action;

    B – getting part of the way from ignorance to mastery of that specialised knowledge is a huge problem, when partial knowledge combined with strong ideological motivation perfectly describes many anti-climate science activists. At the end of the day, there’s a good reason people spend years in Universities before becoming practicing scientists -if our society could actually transfer that knowledge via op-eds, blogs or feature length documentaries, we’d be doing it.

    If the goal is to educate a lay public to understand the nuances of a particular scientific discipline in order to make informed decisions, there is -oh, let me guess- a 100% chance that a motivated counterscience movement will cut off the process somewhere in the middle, claiming ‘we now know as much as the so-called experts -and they’re all wrong’.

    ATTP, you wrote In a sense, the evaluation of a scientific claim is more to establish if it is probably nonsense, rather than to establish if it is actually correct. In one of your recent posts, you detailed a few equations from Monckton et al – I bet the equations would be gobbledygook to over 99% of people, yet you saw elementary errors in them.

    We cannot expect the public to see what you -or indeed even Monckton for that matter- see in such equations; the deficit in that level of discipline-specific knowledge can’t reasonably be made up. But I think there is an indirect effect of the seemingly endless rebuttals, which is to gradually build up a contrast between how scientists and counterscientists use their skills and knowledge.

    You can demarcate one set of impenetrably complex radiative transfer equations from another, but I’m not sure very many people could even tell. I think communicating, by example, why scientific communities produce the most consistent and reliable knowledge of any communities -that’s contributing to the meta-understanding which will lead to durable acceptance.

  20. WebHubTelescope says:

    Acceptance induces passivity.
    Curiosity induces action.

    Classical skeptics are often more curious than blind acceptors and thus more active in their approaches to impacting change.

  21. WHT,
    Yes, but I’m not talking about scientists, I’m talking about the general public. I’m all for improved public understanding of science and the scientific method, and it’s certainly what interests me. However, that doesn’t mean that studying why there is a lack of acceptance of certain scientific ideas, and how to change this, isn’t an interesting thing in itself.

  22. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    Whatever your ideology might be concerning lay offs, it is normal practice in the US. And if the CEO of privately owned mining company decides to lay off staff due to a changing business environment, he is in his right to do so, and abusing him as a “total flaming red asshole” is absolutely uncalled for.

  23. vp,
    Sure, but I think freedom of speech is also normal practice in the US. The right to do something, doesn’t mean the right to do something without being criticised.

  24. Part of the research is pure science part targeted to solving problems of economic or other interests external to science itself. Both are important and both need funding. How much funding the second kind of research should get, can be, at least in principle, justified by the external benefits that it’s expected produce. The appropriate funding for pure science must be determined by some other arguments.

    What’s the resulting ratio of the funding for each type of research is purely an outcome of value judgement. It’s quite possible that we find it necessary to argue that even the apparently pure science leads in the long term to external benefits, but then we are telling that its funding should be, in part, dependent on those benefits.

    This kind of questions have become very relevant in recent decades for two reasons:
    – The overall volume of research has increased strongly.
    – Part of the pure science is presently very expensive due to its dependence on mega projects.

  25. Pekka,

    This kind of questions have become very relevant in recent decades for two reasons:
    – The overall volume of research has increased strongly.
    – Part of the pure science is presently very expensive due to its dependence on mega projects.

    Yes, that is certainly true. I have wondered about the future of certain research areas in which the current cost of their projects is now in the billions. What will the next generation of projects cost, and will it be worth actually funding these projects? In some cases it seems likely that the results would simply be a slight improvement in understanding, rather than some kind of major change in understanding.

  26. Pekka,
    I will add, though, that given the technology required to do high-impact, blue skies research these days, there is always a link between research and economic impact, even if the research itself doesn’t have a specific economic benefit. My personal view is that trying to quantify the benefit is often impossible, and not worth doing and is driven more by a desire to find a way to justify the expense, than a real sense that quantifying it will help to improve the research and it’s impact on society and our economies.

  27. WebHubTelescope says:

    Hard to tell whut you are talking about. I love talking about the science, as if that was not obvious.

    The case in point is ENSO. The only acceptance that I see is that there is no way to predict ENSO more than a few months in advance. So obviously there is no understanding of the dynamics behind ENSO. If there was, then the scientists could predict it.

    The understanding and acceptance criteria for ENSO is a hopeless case.

    And you do know why I am messing with you?

  28. And you do know why I am messing with you?

    No, not really. It’s just what you do?

  29. Willard says:

    > No, not really.

    It’s called drive-bys, AT.

    [Mod : redacted the last part of this comment.]

  30. WebHubTelescope says:

    Blogging science is still in its infancy. I wanted to point out the lack of intellectual curiosity around any new ideas relating to climate science. If it was me that was exposed to something novel, I would be all over it like flies on cow-pies. Yet blogs such as this one never show any excitement.

    What I see is that you essentially accept whutevah mainstream science places on front of you, and you work your understanding around that. In a sense, so do I, but there are ways to be creative in your interprertation. So for ENSO, the curious aspect is that sloshing in the ocean is no different conceptually from sloshing in a tank. Mainstream climate science already has the equations in place yet evidently no one is curious enough to try them out

    Or perhaps they tried and then gave up. That is a form of acceptance in that something can’t be done, which is what I was getting at earlier. The rationalization is that ENSO is chaotic and therefore toss in your chips and admit rhat you can not succeed.

  31. anoilman says:

    The average Joe simply doesn’t care, and I don’t mean that in a blaming way.

    But if you were to look around you, there’s a healthy hundred years of research and engineering in most of the stuff around you. No one doubts that phone lines still function, yet there’s tons of physics and chemistry there. (Your phone lines are negative cathode so they don’t rust.) No one is standing around and claiming Fowler-Nordheim Tunneling is a faulty concept;
    http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/jap/40/1/10.1063/1.1657043

    Yet, we all simply accept that our computers work, and will continue to do so without knowing how, and all that came before.

    A big part of the problem with understanding science is cultural. Its simply not taught in North America. When I was in the US, I was barely exposed to technical language and logic, yet I was in the gifted set in California. When I hit South Africa, everything was presented as science logic, and I was taught how to do proofs.

  32. Willard says:

    Here’s one thing that bugs me about most arguments I’ve seen against the so-called “deficit model”: they do not distinguish between cognitions and meta-cognitions. The consensus claim (Lew & al) is about the collective knowledge of AGW, not beliefs in AGW, i.e. the relevant target of the so-called deficit model. As I understand it, the deficit model is simply that the more you know about (say) AGW, ceteris paribus, the more you should find AGW compelling. The consensus argument targets the bandwagon effect, and has little to do with the specific content of AGW, or else.

    Messing up with the ceteris paribus clause of the deficit model does not contradict it. To take one example, the cultural cognition thesis is not incompatible with the deficit model: introducing a process whereby the agent discovers ClimateBall as he learns more about AGW only shows that there are lots of bad ways to learn stuff about scientific theories, e.g. cable TV. At best the cultural cognition (what a lousy name!) proponent can argue that the deficit model is not sufficient to explain the knowledge gap.

    The deficit model is a strawman because it’s not a model, but mostly ClimateBall code word. It’s more like “but CAGW” than a real cognitive hypothesis. While I can concede that content-oriented chaps have a jejeune tendency of idealizing rationality, there is something truly special about truth, without which it would be hard to explain our success as a specie.

  33. Willard says: “As I understand it, the deficit model is simply that the more you know about (say) AGW, ceteris paribus, the more you should find AGW compelling. The consensus argument targets the bandwagon effect, and has little to do with the specific content of AGW, or else.

    That is at least often what is studied, whether how much you know correlates with accepting science. That relationship can easily go in the other direction. It is completely normal that someone who simply accepts the science does not know much about it. That surely is true for me; I cannot study every topic and normally just assume scientists did their work right (and my phone will not kill me).

    A more realistic “deficit model” would be that information can help misinformed people find their way back home. That is not the same. First of all these people do have some information and as any teacher will know, the hardest part of teaching is combating the misconceptions of the students. Still Potholer claims that that works. And we have seen some examples here at ATTP; see my old blog post on talking to mitigation sceptics and see also the “related reading” section.

    Also that “deficit model” is clearly not 100% predictive. While I am sometimes shocked knowledge/confidence ratio of some mitigation sceptical scientists, they have more information than you can expect the mitigation sceptical third of the American population to acquire. At least for them, the deficit model did not work.

  34. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP says “I think improving public understanding of science is a good thing to do, even if it doesn’t particularly influence public acceptance of science. Whether or not people choose to accept a scientific position is, in my view, entirely up to them.”

    That is essentially identical to my approach to discussion of religion, or the art of photography or computer programming. I will fill holes in someones understanding of specific claims for the social benefit of helping people make better informed decisions. In the realm of photography, for instance, their motivation may be very different from mine in which case, having been better informed, they still choose differently (Nikon vs Canon, or creative art vs portraying the actuality of a scene).

    “On the other hand, I think that some physical scientists who criticise social science, don’t quite realise that what’s of interest to social scientists isn’t necessarily public understanding of science, but why some people don’t accept certain scientific positions, and how we can increase the level of acceptance of these positions.”

    Yes, a different goal entirely. Physical scientists wish to know how things work for the purpose of either pure research or making better things, sociologists wish to make better people but of course necessarily assume they are the SOA (Source of Authority) for what constitutes a better person.

    A particular sociologist that was a professor of a class I attended in college hugely inflated the number of slaves brought to America, a trend I note also in National Geographic. I did some calculations and decided it would take a fleet of 600 sailing ships 200 years to accomplish it; not even Ronald Reagan managed to build a fleet of 600 ships despite that being the goal.

    So I presented to my professor two thoughts:

    (1) Growing the number weakens each slave. If 50 scurvy Portuguese sailors attempt to capture 50 Africans you can imagine it might be a struggle. But for 50 Portuguese sailors to capture 16 million Africans and transport them to America one reasonably concludes they made little or no effort to avoid capture. They might even have been waiting to go to America, much as the Europeans that accepted “indentured servitude” to go to America.

    (2) Growing the number weakens the credibility of the claim itself.

    I expected to get an “F” out of the class but to my great surprise an “A”.

    I also had a bit of fun with my special talent for putting rival memes into the boxing ring. It hardly matters which meme “wins”, it is the drama of the conflict I find interesting.

    This sociologist professor asked sort of as an aside, “Why would anyone want a concealed carry permit?” I blurted out mostly on automatic pilot, “Well, since the criminals are already armed, how about some equality and let the victims also be armed?”

    My remark produced an immediate uproar with students leaping on top of their desks to see over the heads of the students closer to me who had merely stood on their feet, all yelling one thing or another, but mostly the same anti-gun meme, even the several military persons in the class.

    It caused a direct collision between two rival, strongly held principles: disarmament versus equality. Which is it going to be? You cannot have both! If you disarm, then stronger people have advantage over weaker people and there is no equality. That’s the law of the jungle. But a gun lets a 120 pound woman be the equal of a 300 pound wrestler, at least in certain ways where it could matter the most.

    Since disarmament is impossible, that leaves equality.

    Sociology is right there with religion for something futile but entertaining to debate.

  35. Michael 2 says:

    anoilman says: “When I was in the US, I was barely exposed to technical language and logic, yet I was in the gifted set in California.”

    Well there’s part of the problem: California. You probably hit right at the peak of “New Math” which started there, more or less.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Math_wars

    My daughter wanted help with multiplication and division. Easy for me, impossible for someone that didn’t memorize the multiplication table. Her method was incomprehensible. Turns out it was the “Egyptian Method”. I don’t see how it is any easier. It is extremely cumbersome. My math instruction at the age of eleven was tedious, page after page of long multiplication and long divisions and fractions. I hated it with a passion but many decades later I still remember it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_multiplication

    A similar “war” has taken place in reading:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teaching_reading:_whole_language_and_phonics

    “When I hit South Africa, everything was presented as science logic, and I was taught how to do proofs.”

    I had a school year (9 months) of Geometry which at the time was mostly proofs. Now, proofs seem to no longer be needed, mere assertion by an Authority is supposed to suffice.

  36. Regarding Willard’s last comment –

    Personally, I think Daniel Kahan’s ‘cultural cognition’ thesis is one of the clearest explanations for the failures we often see in communicating scientific knowledge to the public. For me, there are three key parts to Kahan’s argument:

    First, that people cannot reasonably reproduce expert knowledge, so they use ‘certifying’ heuristics to work out who they should trust as experts. These heuristics cannot be more sophisticated than the level of knowledge a person already has about a given field of knowledge -in other words, my criteria for judging expertise in a field about which I know nothing cannot be as sophisticated as the criteria an actual expert in that field would use. Scientific communities also use cultural cognition, but they have very particular cultures which are geared towards reliable knowledge. Most of the general population rely on cultural indicators of expertise that have been passed down through the examples of parents, teachers and so on -things you have to unlearn in the course of a science education.

    Second, he points out that we need to look at what is ‘decision-relevant science’ for a person. As several contributors to this thread have noted, we are surrounded by the achievements of science every day – 99% of scientific knowledge goes unchallenged because it is relevant to our everyday lives. Not believing the science behind electronics would lead to a peculiar, dysfunctional way of life, but what happens when believing in the science of evolution could lead to social friction in a person’s community?

    Kahan’s third main argument is that it is perfectly rational for a person to choose unscientific beliefs if there are clear social reasons to do so -and if accepting some kinds of scientific knowledge has no clear benefit for them. The fact is that, for people with really strong attachments to certain political identities, accepting the science of evolution or climate change has only an abstract or indirect effect on their everyday lives, but an instant social effect.

    This is why I think the ‘meta-scientific literacy’ idea is so important. The underlying premise of the whole climate change debate is that the knowledge built up by scientific communities is just one more partisan perspective -which makes it OK to choose ‘our’ science over ‘theirs’, as though the sun is Republican and CO2 is Democrat.

  37. Rob Nicholls says:

    Michael2, I liked your latest comment. ” It hardly matters which meme “wins”, it is the drama of the conflict I find interesting.” I would guess that you find climate blogs a great source of entertainment?

    WHT: “Why Pluto, and why not El Nino?” Are you asking this question of scientists, those who allocate funds to research projects, or the general public?

    Personally, I’ve been wanting to know what Pluto looks like since I was 5 years old, and I can’t explain why but I am so happy to see some really nice pictures of this planet, even if it’s been demoted to a dwarf (and the discovery of quite a lot of other dwarf planets beyond Neptune is just awesome).

    El Nino isn’t quite such an easy thing for me to connect to emotionally (Maybe if there had been more sci-fi films which centred on atmospheric / oceanic circulation patterns when I was young then my emotions would be different). I don’t think I’d heard of ENSO until 5 or 6 years ago, and since then I have always found it difficult to get my head around. If some pretty smart people with decent ability in maths are saying it’s chaotic then I reckon it’s way, way beyond me to prove them wrong.

    I realise you’ve mentioned ENSO once or twice recently 🙂 , although I haven’t closely followed the discussion – have you been developing a predictive model, and if so, is it looking promising?

    The only analysis I’ve ever done involving ENSO was regression modelling with various lags to try to adjust for the *effects* of ENSO (along with major volcanic eruptions and total solar irradiance) on global mean temperature (I was initially just curious to see if I could get similar results to Foster and Rahmstorf (although I left out the 2nd-order Fourier series to remove residual annual cycle, as that was just way beyond me), and then having done that I was curious to see if I could develop models with multiple lags (spaced far enough apart to keep collinearity within tolerable limits), with the lags selected quasi ‘a priori’ as far as possible i.e. without using the y-variable (global temperature) to select the best lag. And then, I was curious to see if I could train such models with data from say 1979 to 1995, and then see how well they predicted the apparent “slow-down” in global surface temperature increase from 1998 or 2000 or whenever. (I realise there are better ways of testing models than splitting data into a training sample and a validation sample, but conceptually for a non-statistician like me splitting the data seems easier to understand). These models did pretty well considering their simplicity and the known missing variables, (although they didn’t predict the full extent of the apparent “slowdown”), so I drew the conclusion that F&R’s findings were robust as far as I could possibly tell…Really enjoyable playing with regression models. but v time consuming, and in my case probably lots of pitfalls that I wasn’t aware of. And like always, just this playing around was difficult enough for me, so I really have no idea how people ever actually get things worked up to the point of being able to publish them…I was recently thinking of adding more variables particularly if I could just find something simple to represent anthropogenic aerosols. But I just haven’t had time.

    I remember seeing that you (WHT) have produced regression models looking at global temperature trend with a lot more variables in them, with some interesting results (and I remember being a bit amazed that Length of Day could really be a useful variable in this context), maybe I’ll have another look at those.

  38. “I realise you’ve mentioned ENSO once or twice recently 🙂 , although I haven’t closely followed the discussion – have you been developing a predictive model, and if so, is it looking promising?”

    It’s actually a full behavioral model that will explain the standing wave oscillations of the ENSO dipole precisely,

    The basic mechanism for ocean oscillations is fundamentally derived from angular momentum forcing changes, so it is geophysics at work. That is why the LOD will likely figure in prominently, as the variation of Length-of-Day is the most accurate measure of angular momentum changes in the earth’s rotation.

  39. Michael Lloyd says:

    @vp

    You are entitled to your opinion.

    As for the laying off of 200 people at a certain company, did you read the Washington Post article that was link in?

    to quote:

    “On Wednesday, Murray also laid off 54 people at American Coal, one of his subsidiary companies, and 102 at Utah American Energy, blaming a “war on coal” by the Obama administration. Although that charge was repeatedly leveled during the election, energy analysts say that the coal-mining business is suffering because of competition from low-cost natural gas and rising production costs of coal, especially in the Appalachian region.”

    Looks like coal is uncompetitive and that is why people were laid off and that is how the market works. To blame the democratic outcome of the election rather than the operating of a free market is seeking to externalise the responsibility.

  40. victorpetri says:

    @ML
    I am not to the debate mr Murray’s ideology, decision making, incomplete political views or lack of understanding of the coal market, nor whether it makes any sense at all to blame the Obama administration for a war on coal. I just acknowledge that in the US you are free to lead a company any way you see fit (within legal bounds) and that as a CEO, he is just like any other company’s boss, free to incorporate his idea of how the world works in the direction he wants to take with his company. Free markets will sort out the well-run companies from the poorly run soon enough.

  41. Michael Lloyd says:

    @vp

    Yep! And a CEO is quite free to be an idiot and be called out for it.

  42. vp,
    Everything you say may be true, but that doesn’t mean that one is prohibited from calling the boss of a company an asshole just because he was legally allowed to make a particular decision. How decision are perceived is part of the free market process.

  43. victorpetri says:

    @ATTP @ML
    OK, bunch of flaming, commi assholes!

  44. Michael Lloyd says:

    @vp

    Good to see you have a sense of humour!

  45. vp,
    Ahh, you think you’re illustrating something. Let me point something out to you. Firsly, criticising a CEO for a decision, doesn’t make someone a commie. That should be obvious. Secondly, if I actually call someone an asshole, I don’t expect to ever engage in dialogue with that person again. Just because I said that people should have to right to do so, doesn’t mean that I would typically do so.

    I do find it ironic that many proponents of the free market seem to perceive it only in terms of what companies are allowed to do, without recognising that it should also be perceived in terms of what society should be allowed to do. A company that makes a decision and gets a lot of bad media coverage as a result, can’t insist that people keep buying their product because the decision they made was a good market decision. That they received a lot of bad publicity probably means that it ultimately was not.

  46. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    You misunderstand.
    For me, as a proponent of the free market it is not the companies whose rights I defend, it are the consumers. For me consumers are end all in determining my views on how economies work efficiently. It is why I favor trade and globalization, free traffic of people and goods, competition between companies and the disappearance of jobs that the market deems obsolete.

  47. victorpetri says:

    Ow, and most radical, the abolishment of copy right.

  48. Michael Lloyd says:

    @aTTP

    I consider the term ‘free market’ to be a misconception. What happens is that there is a struggle to externalise as many costs as possible. For companies this maximises profits. For individuals, this is seeking the lowest price.

    Since what we get from our environment, our planet, comes to varying extents at zero monetary cost and does not charge for dumping of waste, this does not factor in in current free market exchange.

    We are slowing finding out how much the cheap fossil fuel is actually going to cost. We may discover that it wasn’t a benefit to human kind after all.

  49. vp,
    You clearly musunderstand me too, but having just been called a “commie asshole” (even if in jest) I’m not hugely interested in continuing this discussion.

  50. victorpetri says:

    @Michael
    Democracies (especially) have a long and treasured tradition of internalizing externalities within a Free market system.

    “We may discover that it wasn’t a benefit to human kind after all.”
    pfff, no way; the most beneficial, by far.

    @ATTP
    ” I’m not hugely interested in continuing this discussion.”
    I know you, you can’t help yourself.

  51. vp,

    I know you

    No, I really don’t think that you do.

  52. Michael Lloyd says:

    @vp

    Necessity is the mother of invention. This is well known.

    Less well known is that: Invention is the mother of necessity.

    Think about it!

  53. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    lol, apparently I do, since you can even help discussing that.

    @ML,
    I dont get it, please elaborate.

  54. vp,
    You can stop being insulting, or you can go away. Do you understand?

  55. victorpetri says:

    Your defense of freedom of speech seems skin deep.
    I can hardly see anything of offense I have written, but I do seem to rub you the wrong way.
    I’ll quit talking now.

  56. Michael Lloyd says:

    @vp
    For example,

    We invented a use for fossil fuels (out of necessity, I live in an area that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution where coal was used to replace wood/water power). All that we have built and all that we rely on are dependent on a continuing supply of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels will become uneconomic to extract at some time.

    We have the necessity of replacing fossil fuels.

  57. vp,

    Your defense of freedom of speech seems skin deep.

    Wow, you clearly do not understand the concept of free speech.

    I can hardly see anything of offense I have written, but I do seem to rub you the wrong way.

    Someone calling me a “commie asshole” – even in jest – pisses me off; especially as your doing so entirely missed the point. Someone suggesting that being offended implies that I don’t defend free speech, also pisses me off. Is that clear enough for you? Your right to free speech doesn’t mean that you can’t say something offensive, or that you have the right to say whatever you want, wherever you want. It doesn’t mean that you can ignore social conventions.

  58. A lighter topic.

    ATTP: “Brigitte, Very good article. I am often surprised by how negative some social science rhetoric can be, …

    Me too, they call that critical analysis; I think. As a natural scientist I would call it a lack of objectivity. (Note that not all social science articles are affected.)

    Scientists are humans, it is expected that they have emotions, but writing up your ideas is best done in a dispassionate way, that makes it easier to see the holes in the argumentation.

    Is social science so much different from natural science? Or is one of the communities not critical enough about its writing style?

  59. Andrew Dodds says:

    vp –

    The problem is, as always, in the detail..

    Trade is great.. but if my country trades freely with another country that – as an example – has no worker protections – then my country will lose jobs (unless it repeals those laws). If such trade effectively stops my government performing the will of the people, it is not really promoting freedom; quite the opposite.

    Free movement of people would be fine if all countries were broadly the same, economically. But that isn’t true right now, which creates all sorts of political tensions. Competition between companies is great – but you need an enforcer with a very big stick to keep them honest. Collusion is much easier than competition, after all.

    Jobs are an interesting topic.. but if there is to be a free market of this sort in jobs, then there is a huge need for a Citizen’s income and access to free education and training for life.

    So yes, all the things you mention are great, but they don’t actually work unless you have a government that is committed to keeping them working properly and resolving the problems that free markets throw up (such as global warming). And this is important; take away this government commitment and those free markets will blow up or stagnate into oligopoly all too quickly.

  60. Richard says:

    … returning to the deficit non-model … I think it has been much overused as an argument for not informing people. Informing people is surely crucial. An example.

    In 2012 the HFEA ( http://www.hfea.gov.uk ) launched a public consultation on a new treatment for mitochondrial diseases that involves using a tiny amount of DNA from a donor in addition to the parents. Following this consultation the treatment as approved in 2015. It takes time to deal with difficult issues. A ‘meta literate’ member of the public might scoff at journalists who write stories about “3 parent babies” and say “no it is 2.01 parent babies, don’t exaggerate”, but the less literate might say “ok, but explain why that 0.01 is not a risk?”. It seems the HFEA did a great job in doing this.

    As Gavin Schmidt said in his great AGU talk a while ago about AGW communication, we should separate “Is” (the science), “Ought” (our values) and “Should” (our advocacy of policy).

    The problem too often is that in debates about genetics, or AGW, is that instead of the HFEA like process – establishing a level playing field of understanding (“Is”) before then declaring their values (“Ought”) and then debating the policies, that clearly be debated (“Should”) – the combatants the septics do almost the opposite. They fail to declare their values and then critique the science with a mind colour by them; and that then avoids getting into the real discussion we must have on policy.

    As David Attenborough said in his discussion with Pres. Obama, he has never met a child who is not interested in nature. I simply do not agree that if people in USA or elsewhere are immune to great teachers. And I have never met someone who when you point out something interesting – like the colours of a butterflies wing “have you ever thought how they get the colours?” – who will not engage you.

    On AGW, helping people who are interested in understanding it is obviously valuable, and the hard part is making it clear, without dumbing it down, and as accessible as possible. This is difficult but is essential.

    But don’ waste time trying that out with the tiny fraction of people on this planet who simply have no interest in understanding it including that crank-attractors in the media (for them, the deficit model is indeed sadly true).

  61. Richard says:

    excuse the woeful number of typos [trying out the new grammar deficit model 🙂 ]

  62. Willard says:

    > Or is one of the communities not critical enough about its writing style?

    Natural scientists are no parangons of clarity either, VictorV. To take the most recent example in a journal that is supposed to have some kind of reputation:

    Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) primes macrophages for enhanced microbial killing and inflammatory activation by Toll-like receptors (TLRs), but little is known about the regulation of cell metabolism or mRNA translation during this priming. We found that IFN-γ regulated the metabolism and mRNA translation of human macrophages by targeting the kinases mTORC1 and MNK, both of which converge on the selective regulator of translation initiation eIF4E. Physiological downregulation of mTORC1 by IFN-γ was associated with autophagy and translational suppression of repressors of inflammation such as HES1. Genome-wide ribosome profiling in TLR2-stimulated macrophages showed that IFN-γ selectively modulated the macrophage translatome to promote inflammation, further reprogram metabolic pathways and modulate protein synthesis. These results show that IFN-γ–mediated metabolic reprogramming and translational regulation are key components of classical inflammatory macrophage activation.

    http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ni.3205.html

    The main difference between this piece of jargon and the social scientists’ is that we can pretend to understand the latter.

    In other words:

  63. Willard says:

    > Personally, I think Daniel Kahan’s ‘cultural cognition’ thesis is one of the clearest explanations for the failures we often see in communicating scientific knowledge to the public.

    I think so too, and that depresses me.

    First, there’s very little “cognition” in the cultural cognition thesis; Dan only recently rediscovered Peirce’s theory of beliefs, which is not pragmatist, but pragmaticist, i.e. neo-Kantian. Second, there’s very little “communicating scientific knowledge” too, except some kind of low-hanging fruit “let’s focus on what unites us” arm-waving. Third, the “failure” is left unanalyzed, and mostly taken for granted. Fourth, the explanation lacks a real mechanism beyond storytelling about people and their communities. Fifth, cultural bias is already well-known.

    Finally, to make matters worse, cultural cognition is now promoted as some kind of “paradigm shift,” which shows more about Dan’s ambitions than his understanding of paradigms.

    ***

    As for Dan c. Lew’s debate, I left a comment at Dan’s a month ago or so:

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2015/6/10/against-consensus-messaging.html#item21354489

    No response yet.

  64. Willard,
    You say in your comment,

    As far as I can see, the two research programmes are not incompatible. How could they be when “cultural cognition” and “consensus messaging” are two orthogonal concepts?

    I agree, and it’s one reason I find Dan Kahan’s rhetoric about consensus messaging a little odd. They’re not obviously incompatible and it certainly comes across as an attempt to attack his opposition, than a genuine attempt to understand why certain people don’t accept various scientific ideas, and how one might go about changing this level of acceptance.

  65. Willard says:

    > They’re not obviously incompatible and it certainly comes across as an attempt to attack his opposition […]

    Or the other way around:

    The caption reads: Post-debate press conference… did I mention my sore shoulder?

    The title of the image: Fight Club.

  66. anoilman says:

    victorpetri: Can I just point out that you claimed it was wrong and immoral for me to speak out against oil and gas even though I derive my income from it. And what do you do for a living again?

    By your own logic, you are incapable of using logic regarding fossil fuels. There’s a short circuit in your brain which clearly says, “I cannot say anything bad about carbon, because I make money from it.” The rest of your views are clearly molded around that.

    So, if we put your views together with Michael 2, what will we get? More armed guards for sure. You should check out the printing contract for the Nuremberg Chronicle (pre-copyright), the artists were required to sleep and watch over all the wood blocks and original copy at all times. (It was still copied.) M2 wants them to use guns in close quarters. Sounds like heaven to you?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_Chronicle

    Michael Lloyd: A very apt sum up of the free market. Those that want to get rid of regulations frequently forget what it was like before. John Mashey summed up Free Market proponents a while back;
    “Usually, it’s someone who has never actually participated in useful competitive free markets and who claims that all problems are solved by the market, and there should never be government rules for anything.
    Many are employed by think tanks funded by industries that privatize profits and socialize the losses.

    (Speaking as a semi-retired corporate executive veteran of Silicon Valley, home of rather intense competition in more-or-less free markets (chips and computers), who has often spoken to CEOs who welcome reasonable regulation to keep level playing fields and let them do “the right thing” without suffering from competitors who don’t. A lot of the think tank economics pundits wouldn’t last very long as SV executives or even business planners.)”

  67. mwgrant says:

    Good post aTTP.

  68. Michael 2 said on July 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm, when speaking of slaves taken from Africa across the Atlantic,

    “….one reasonably concludes they made little or no effort to avoid capture. They might even have been waiting to go to America, much as the Europeans that accepted “indentured servitude” to go to America.”

    Since no one seems to have challenged this nonsense, which clearly questions and seeks to minimize the horror of the slave trade, of the inhumanity over more than three centuries, especially of the voyages as a “tip of the iceberg” that shows how slaves were treated, I thought I’d address it with some data and eyewitness testimony from history. Forgive the length of this comment and some graphic descriptions therein of the horror, but I think it’s appropriate when such nonsense presents itself.

    Although there are many places all over that give lots of data, I encourage everyone to see this two minute animation at this first page below. It’s reproduction of data is remarkable. And read the whole article, much of which I reproduce below. (The graph and the animation show that it took a while to really get going in the transport of slaves across the Atlantic, but once it did, the floodgates opened – by the size of the flood [and this includes not just how many voyages there were but how very many hundreds of slaves they started to stuff into many of those ships], it seems that somehow, someway, a whole bunch who wanted to make money got in on the act.)

    “The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes”
    “315 years. 20,528 voyages. Millions of lives.”

    [a given explanation]
    “This haunting animation maps the journeys of 15,790 slave ships [slave ship voyages] in two minutes”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_history_of_american_slavery/2015/06/animated_interactive_of_the_history_of_the_atlantic_slave_trade.html

    “…Of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans to eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, just 388,747 – less than 4 percent of the total – came to North America. This was dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to British, French, Dutch, and Danish holdings in the Caribbean, and the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.

    This interactive, designed and built by Slate’s Andrew Kahn, gives you a sense of the scale of the trans-Atlantic slave trade across time, as well as the flow of transport and eventual destinations. The dots – which represent individual slave ships – also correspond to the size of each voyage. The larger the dot, the more enslaved people on board. And if you pause the map and click on a dot, you’ll learn about the ship’s flag – was it British? Portuguese? French? – its origin point, its destination, and its history in the slave trade. The interactive animates more than 20,000 voyages cataloged in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. (We excluded voyages for which there is incomplete or vague information in the database.) The graph at the bottom accumulates statistics based on the raw data used in the interactive and, again, only represents a portion of the actual slave trade – about one-half of the number of enslaved Africans who actually were transported away from the continent.”

    By the conclusion of the trans-Atlantic slave trade at the end of the 19th century, Europeans had enslaved and transported more than 12.5 million Africans. At least 2 million, historians estimate, didn’t survive the journey.”

    Here’s more:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannibal_%28slave_ship%29

    “To prevent the slaves from running away he was advised to cut off the arms and legs of some to terrify the rest as was the practice of many other slave ship captains, but he refused to do something so drastic.” [such a good man!]

    http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Slave_Ships_and_the_Middle_Passage#start_entry

    “Slave ships ranged in size from the ten-ton Hesketh, which sailed out of Liverpool and delivered slaves to Saint Kitts in 1761, to the 566-ton Parr, another Liverpool ship that sailed in the 1790s. Ships comparable in size to the Hesketh were designed to carry as few as six pleasure passengers; refitted as a slaver, the Hesketh transported a crew plus thirty Africans. The Parr, on the other hand, carried a crew of 100 and a cargo of as many as 700 slaves. Most ships-nicknamed Guineamen, after the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa-were sized somewhere in between, growing in tonnage over time as the Atlantic trade itself grew.”

    http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/slaveship.htm

    “She was a very broad-decked ship,…She had taken in, on the coast of Africa, 336 males and 226 females, making in all 562, and had been out seventeen days, during which she had thrown overboard 55. The slaves were all inclosed under grated hatchways between decks. The space was so low that they sat between each other’s legs and [were] stowed so close together that there was no possibility of their lying down or at all changing their position by night or day. As they belonged to and were shipped on account of different individuals, they were all branded like sheep with the owner’s marks of different forms.

    But the circumstance which struck us most forcibly was how it was possible for such a number of human beings to exist, packed up and wedged together as tight as they could cram, in low cells three feet high, the greater part of which, except that immediately under the grated hatchways, was shut out from light or air, and this when the thermometer, exposed to the open sky, was standing in the shade, on our deck, at 89′. The space between decks was divided into two compartments 3 feet 3 inches high; the size of one was 16 feet by 18 and of the other 40 by 21; into the first were crammed the women and girls, into the second the men and boys: 226 fellow creatures were thus thrust into one space 288 feet square and 336 into another space 800 feet square, giving to the whole an average Of 23 inches and to each of the women not more than 13 inches. We also found manacles and fetters of different kinds, but it appears that they had all been taken off before we boarded.
    The heat of these horrid places was so great and the odor so offensive that it was quite impossible to enter them, even had there been room.

    While expressing my horror at what I saw and exclaiming against the state of this vessel for conveying human beings, I was informed by my friends, who had passed so long a time on the coast of Africa and visited so many ships, that this was one of the best they had seen. The height sometimes between decks was only eighteen inches, so that the unfortunate beings could not turn round or even on their sides, the elevation being less than the breadth of their shoulders; and here they are usually chained to the decks by the neck and legs. In such a place the sense of misery and suffocation is so great that the Negroes, like the English in the Black Hole at Calcutta, are driven to a frenzy. They had on one occasion taken a slave vessel in the river Bonny; the slaves were stowed in the narrow space between decks and chained together. They heard a horrible din and tumult among them and could not imagine from what cause it proceeded. They opened the hatches and turned them up on deck. They were manacled together in twos and threes. Their horror may be well conceived when they found a number of them in different stages of suffocation; many of them were foaming at the mouth and in the last agonies-many were dead. A living man was sometimes dragged up, and his companion was a dead body; sometimes of the three attached to the same chain, one was dying and another dead. The tumult they had heard was the frenzy of those suffocating wretches in the last stage of fury and desperation, struggling to extricate themselves. When they were all dragged up, nineteen were irrecoverably dead. Many destroyed one another in the hopes of procuring room to breathe; men strangled those next them, and women drove nails into each other’s brains. Many unfortunate creatures on other occasions took the first opportunity of leaping overboard and getting rid, in this way, of an intolerable life.”

  69. Joshua says:

    mwgrant –

    I tried posting the following a response at Judith’s. She has me in permanent moderation and for some reason she found my response unacceptable.

    It went something like this.

    ==> “I do not feel a need to account for biases when I clearly state an opinion is indeed an opinion.”

    I don’t get that. When I formulate an opinion, I try (often if not always unsuccessfully) to account for my own biases.

    ==> No, I do not even attempt to explain beyond ‘been there’ — ”

    It would seem to me that if you’re going to speculate about “wiring,” you must have some further thoughts about how that might work? For example, do you think that people with wiring that leads them to be bad at handling risk are drawn to being scientists? Do you think that something about doing science changes “wiring” to make people bad at handling risk issues?

    You’ve observed some sort of pattern that you think rises above confirmation bias – so surely as someone scientifically inclined you must have given some thought to explanation.

    What is it about the “wiring: of scientists that leads them to be bad at handling risk?

    I think your speculation seems quite implausible – so I was hoping you might elaborate.

  70. According to some reports, June 2015 is the hottest month on record. Do you think that ENSO had something to with it? That’s why it is so important to have good models for ENSO. A good model can match the compensation error that rides on top of the global warming signal.

  71. mwgrant says:

    Joshua. I will get back…I want to think, etc., and avoid clogging aTTPs blog. [apologies aTTP]

  72. Joshua says:

    Migrant –

    Thanks. If you think it would be better, respond over at Judith’s in the appropriate subthread.

  73. On the Kahan vs Lewandowsky issue:

    My reading of Kahan is that he thinks the public interpret consensus messaging as a boundary-marking exercise: it further demarcates ‘them’ and ‘us’. His mode of argument is very much to go back to his empirical data -but I’m not sure about the assumptions underlying that data…

    One of the things he has done very well, is to design tight surveys which clearly separate out politically loaded from politically neutral survey questions -and his data shows there is little difference in general science literacy between those who accept and those who reject climate science.

    What I think he does demonstrate is that neither people who accept, nor people who reject, climate science do so because they have a high, or poor, understanding of the science -the level of popular understanding is pretty much even. If people are not choosing a side because they understand the underlying science, his point about consensus messaging is therefore that it preaches to the converted -especially when there is a noisy claim from the think tanks that they are all part of the expert scientific community and they don’t agree with the consensus. For people who are open to the argument that Chris Monckton is a climate expert, consensus messaging reads like an attempt at exclusion.

    It is clear that the people generating the public debates are the “8 percenters” we find at either end of the opinion polls -there is no message that will change the ineducable 8 percent.
    I wonder how well the cultural cognition thesis explains the decisions of people who are in the undecided middle?

    The widespread perception that the scientific community is in disagreement about climate change tells me there is a broader issue, which is that stating the 97% consensus is not enough – there needs to be better understanding of what scientific consensus actually means, and why science actually works best when it is done by professionals.

    In the absence of more reliable indicators , (that is, in the absence of thoughtful tools to distinguish politically motivated counterscience from professional science) people who are kind of 50/50 on climate change will tip towards the opinions of sources with whom they identify.

    But this is the big question I have about cultural cognition: how committed are the people in between the die-hard 8 percenters at either end of the spectrum? For most people surely these are not ‘line in the sand’ choices; most people don’t care passionately about politics, and they do think it’s sensible to go with trustworthy advice – such people could change their minds with the right meta-science education.

    It’s just that we have a problem, which is that a group of political activists have managed -at least for now- to convince the public they are doing real science. This problem in our society is really very new, and the solutions are not worked out yet. It is a social science problem. It sure is wicked, but…I have hope!

  74. Willard says:

    > it further demarcates ‘them’ and ‘us’. His mode of argument is very much to go back to his empirical data -but I’m not sure about the assumptions underlying that data…

    All I’ve seen regarding this is Al Gore jabs and handwaving to national surveys which proves nothing one way or the other, and counterfactuals like “If that would work, I would have expected it to work by now,” a kind of counterfactual I usually call an Inhofe Cheeseburger:

    Source: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/02/inhofe-disproves-poverty.html

    ***

    > For people who are open to the argument that Chris Monckton is a climate expert, consensus messaging reads like an attempt at exclusion.

    It clearly is, and goes beyond that: it tries to remind them that if they’re going to listen to the Monktopus, they’re going against virtually every publishing scientist in the field.

    Sure, that kind of campaign will never convert die-hard contrarians. However, not all those who listen to Fox News are die-hard contrarians. If this consensus messaging is complemented with proper channels (as in channel theory) to help those who wish to delve into science discover how science is being done, we might even reach die-hard contrarians. The only justification I need to present for that hypothesis is that at any rate, scientific establishments should seek to improve the means to delve into science for its own sake.

    ***

    I spent many years among contrarians. Most of the times, they just have an antiquated conception of science. Showing them that empirical science proceeds via inferences, i.e. inferences to the best explanation, would go a long way in getting them to scratch their own itches and do their own science. Being a ninja, I can only tell them so. Only scientists would be able to show them. Ideally, nobody would need authority, but this is how it works, and it works even more like that among conservatives. Ideally, we would resurrect Feynman to tell them to stop their cargo cult.

    To understand science, the best way is to see how scientists work. By that I mean we need to focus on the scientists themselves, not just what they say. Whether it’s music, hockey, maths, we learn by watching others. A fundamental side-effect is to see that scientists are human beings, just like everyone of us. Seeing the passion and the intensity in the eyes of scientists would go a long way in improving their credibility, which is already quite high. One may even surmise that all the character assassination we are witnessing are preemptive strikes against this strategy.

  75. Willard says:

    Here’s a project that shows scientists:

    http://scaredscientists.com/

    My point is not the message, but about what you see on the page, after you click on the quote.

    People.

  76. Willard: “Most of the times, they just have an antiquated conception of science. Showing them that empirical science proceeds via inferences, i.e. inferences to the best explanation, would go a long way in getting them to scratch their own itches and do their own science.”

    I absolutely agree.

    And I agree that “to understand science, the best way is to see how scientists work.”

  77. victorpetri says:

    @anoilman
    I said, last year (!) to [Mod : really unnecessary] called Jac who very proudly proclaimed he found out I worked in the oil industry, although I had already many times mentioned this before:
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/talk-politics-not-science/#comment-40407
    “I personally think people who work in oil, but declare it to be the root of evil are hypocrites, luckily I hold no such position. If I would thought so, I would quit.”
    Has it been keeping you awake at night?

    I wish you’d remember any of the other stuff of my views that I had told half as well.
    e.g. I told you on your exact same remark:
    “I am not really sure why you direct that comment at me. And I am perfectly capable of naming the disadvantages of fossil fuels, I only differ from most here to see fossil fuels as a net positive to mankind.”

    Further, I do not understand being lumped together with M2 and something about gun laws, and in any case I am in favor of very strict gun regulations.

    And concerning free markets, it seem to be unclear what it is and what it isn’t, it is a natural way to let supply meet demand, to optimize profits and wealth and to allocate scarce resources most efficiently. It isn’t however end all in a modern society which hold many alternative desires that are not optimized within a free market such as, clean air, equality and no global warming. As I said, democracies (especially) have a long and treasured tradition of regulating free markets in order to optimize alternative societal needs, which I think is a good thing.

  78. Willard says:

    > [Free markets] is a natural way to let supply meet demand, to optimize profits and wealth and to allocate scarce resources most efficiently.

    How to define a thing by its wishfully thought properties.

    If free markets are so natural, how come they don’t exist yet?

    ***

    Speaking of ClimateBall:

  79. victorpetri says:

    @Willard
    Much than can be considered natural doesn’t exist anymore. E.g. to bash someone’s head in without impunity or to walk around naked. As a society we have put contraints to this behaviour.
    The very definition of free markets states that vendour and consumer are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority, to consent to a mutual agreeable price. It is natural in the sense that it seems to me to be a self emerging property from a system of consensual trade bound by no constraints put on it from above.

  80. Willard says:

    > The very definition of free markets states that vendour and consumer are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority, to consent to a mutual agreeable price.

    For instance:

    The widespread use of children in cocoa production is controversial, not only for the concerns about child labor and exploitation, but also because up to 12,000 of the 200,000 children working in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s biggest producer of cocoa, may be victims of trafficking or slavery. Most attention on this subject has focused on West Africa, which collectively supplies 69 percent of the world’s cocoa, and Côte d’Ivoire in particular, which supplies 35 percent of the world’s cocoa. Thirty percent of children under age 15 in sub-Saharan Africa are child laborers, mostly in agricultural activities including cocoa farming. It is estimated that more than 1.8 million children in West Africa are involved in growing cocoa. Major chocolate producers, such as Nestle, buy cocoa at commodities exchanges where Ivorian cocoa is mixed with other cocoa.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_in_cocoa_production

    Children wants jobs, and the cocoa industry wants little working hands for their tiny, fragile beans. Consensual contracts of mutual agreeable prices all the way down. A brave new world nearing optimality.

  81. While claiming to be the champions of the free markets, many mitigation sceptics seem not to believe in free markets. They often claim that the introduction of renewable energy will lead to energy shortages. If they really believed in free markets they would not see any reason why shortages should increase, prices will bring supply and demand together. If that becomes more efficient, electricity prices may fluctuate more than they currently do, like gasoline prices already do and most other commodities. It is a rarity that electricity prices are kept fixed over long periods, probably reflecting that distribution and metering is a bigger part of the electricity price than its generation.

  82. dhogaza says:

    VP:

    “Much than can be considered natural doesn’t exist anymore. E.g. to bash someone’s head in without impunity or to walk around naked. As a society we have put contraints to this behaviour.”

    In Portland Oregon it is perfectly legal to walk around naked, as long as the intent is not sexual titillation.

  83. Rob Nicholls says:

    Web Hub Telescope, belated thanks for your reply to my question about modelling of ENSO. Are you getting good results from this yet?

  84. jac. says:

    vp July 16, 2015 at 11.05 am :

    “I’ll quit talking now”

    Promises, promises, promises.

    vp, July 17, 2015 at 7.47 am :

    ” I said, last year (!) to [Mod : really unnecessary] called Jac who very proudly proclaimed he found out I worked in the oil industry, although I had already many times mentioned this before: ”

    Touchy and rude.

  85. Victor Petri says:

    @Willard
    How does that contradict with anything I said?
    @VV
    You clearly do not understand anything of the argument of people in favor of free markets, please try again.
    @jac.
    You might reflect on your own comment, and how it might feel for someone such as myself, who puts great importance on his moral integrity and who is very much concerned with the well being of all of mankind, to be called a a liar (I never lied about anything of personal nature or my job in the oil industry), to be merely interested in my own well-being and to be a denialist (I have never denied anything of global warming).
    It is a very sad thing that I give all you the courtesy to believe that your intentions are all well-meaning, although I do not agree with your reasoning fully, whilst my intentions are doubted, with which your ridiculously unnecessary internet stalk action was the absolute low point (as in, in no way at all you found anything I had not yet disclosed about myself before on this site).

    I realize that some of the stuff I say sounds radical (e.g. the fact that I do not put intrinsic value on nature), but really, I can not comprehend how someone could get this angry with me, just for having the beliefs that I have.

  86. vp,
    I’m off on holiday, so maybe we can avoid turning this into a major fight.

    You might reflect on your own comment, and how it might feel for someone such as myself

    You should probably reflect on how some might feel with regards to what you say. It’s a two way street.

  87. Willard says:

    > How does that contradict with anything I said?

    Exactly.

  88. anoilman says:

    victorpetri: Except I never said oil was the root of all evil. Find quote. Go fetch or admit you just made it up. You know, man up.
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/ecology-and-the-environment/#comment-54012

    In fact most of what was being discussed was that the fossil fuels cause CO2 emissions, which causes global warming. Its quite straight forward.

    You take the opposite position like clockwork with industry centric propaganda.

    I’m not the only one to notice the implications of your views;
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/talk-politics-not-science/#comment-40452

    Here’s what Anders said;
    “So, I would guess that AoM doesn’t think the oil industry is actually the root of all evil and neither do I, but the implication of what you said was that someone who works in that industry, but thinks that we should be actively reducing our use of fossil fuels, is a hypocrite.”

    In short, I think we should address global warming no matter how inconvenient it would be for my pocket book.

    As for M2, well, he has similar views to you, and he chimed in the same way at the time.
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/talk-politics-not-science/#comment-40486
    “You have previously claimed to be 46 years old and retired from working in oil. Consequently you are free to bite the hand that once fed you, just as retired professors can be critical of their former employers. But I agree that clean energy is better than dirty energy.”

    For clarity, I’m semi retired (work 4 hours a day) and currently working on a patent for the drilling industry. So M2 is implying that I really am biting the hand that feeds me. He reaches that conclusion because I derive my paycheck from from oil, yet speak clearly in support of climate science.

    Obviously I don’t understand why I need to reject portions of science based on paycheck and or ideology. Yet, you and M2 do think that.

  89. “belated thanks for your reply to my question about modelling of ENSO.Are you getting good results from this yet?” Unbelievably good results. I apply a wave equation transform to the data and compare that to the modeled forcing and find the agreement in the chart I show earlier. One of the keys is to acknowledge a shift around 1980, which Astudillo et al also find [1]. The deterministic forcing is definitely there and no doubt excellent predictability of ENSO and El Ninos is just around the corner.

    [1]H. Astudillo, R. Abarca-del-Rio, and F. Borotto, “Long-term non-linear predictability of ENSO events over the 20th century,” arXiv preprint arXiv:1506.04066, 2015.

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