Free speech in academia

I wrote a post a while ago about the newly formed Heterodox Academy. The basic motivation of the Heterodox Academy is [t]o increase viewpoint diversity in the academy, with a special focus on the social sciences. The basic idea being that there is too little political diversity in some academic areas that and this creates an environment with little viewpoint diversity and in which certain ideas become orthodoxy.

I had two main criticisms of the basic premise of the Heterodox Academy. One was simply that if there are biases in academia that can lead to poor scholarship, then the solution – in my view – is to promote good scholarship, rather than simply introducing a new set of biases. The other criticism I had was that even though I am a huge fan of diversity, there is – again, in my view – a difference between a diversity of intrinsic characteristics, and a diversity of viewpoints. I think it quite reasonable (in fact, essential) that people should not be personally challenged because of their characteristics; people of all races, genders, sexual orientations,…. should feel welcome in an academic environment.

Should this also be true for people of all viewpoints? I can’t see why. The right to express one’s views (within the law) is a fundamental part of a free and open society. Universities are intended to be sites of Academic Freedom, where people are free to do research that might produce inconvenient results, and to express views that may be uncomfortable to some. That doing so may create an environment in which people with certain viewpoints may not feel comfortable, or welcome, is not a reason to discourage people from doing so. Of course, doing so in a classroom setting may not be appropriate, but we’re talking here about viewpoint diversity amongst academics, rather than between academics and students. Which brings me to the reason why I’m writing this post now.

Something that has struck me about this whole topic is that it is often framed in terms of being a “free speech issue” and yet some of the proposed solutions (or some of the criticisms of the current system) appear to be suggesting that we attempt to constrain what others can say. This, to me, seems rather ironic, and is the topic of a recent article called The Free Speech Fallacy that discusses this in the context of the Heterodox Academy (H/T Joshua).

The basic point is that arguing against what others have said on the basis that what they’re promoting would impinge free speech, seems to essentially be doing what you’re critising others for supposedly doing. You’re not actually addressing what they’re saying; you’re simply trying to deligitimise it on the basis of it violating something we hold as fundamental to our societies. Even if you have a point, your argument is not really any better than the argument you’re criticising. Of course, given the existence of free speech, one is quite entitled to make such an argument, but then it’s hard to believe that you’re doing so because you greatly value free speech; it would seem more likely that you just don’t like what the other parties have said.

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353 Responses to Free speech in academia

  1. Morbeau says:

    “The basic idea being that there is too little political diversity in some academic areas that…” isn’t fundamentally informed by right-wing views of economics. I see this as part of the grand plan by business interests to colonize various areas of human knowledge. Call me paranoid.

  2. izen says:

    Maybe we need to embrace a wider diversity of views in climate science… let others feed at the trough?

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/qa-author-feminist-geology-study-reflects-sudden-place

    If this is a Sokal joke it is being maintained with a very straight face!

  3. If we are going to promote ideological diversity, I assume that will mean giving more jobs and opportunities to communists, Marxists, anarcho-syndicalists, left-libertarians, deep green environmentalists, intersectional black feminists, Native American activists, Pagan priests, and radical liberals and leftists of all other varieties.

    These are underrepresented ideological groups that regularly get ignored and dismissed in the mainstream. Including them in larger numbers will improve academia and the sciences, right?

  4. The “heterodox academy” assumes the equivalency of conservative thinking and progressive thinking. But this assumption is false. For example, science denial is not as intellectually valid as science affirmation – it’s just plain not intellectually valid, period, to deny science. And trying to excuse genocide is not as intellectually valid as affirming that genocide is not OK – it’s just plain not intellectually valid, period, to try to excuse such. (This is relevant since science denial and such crazy thinking as excuse-making for genocide is becoming more and more part of what it means to be a conservative nowadays, even more prevalent among better educated conservatives than less well educated ones. See some of the cited articles below.)

    Maybe the “under-representation” of conservatives in academia is because the conservative mindset is just not as compatible with truly honest and rigorous academic thinking as is the progressive mindset. Consider all the following:

    First, see this interesting article by a conservative:

    Rethinking the Plight of Conservatives in Higher Education
    Findings that run against the grain of assumptions.
    By Matthew Woessner

    Quotes:

    “…my research into the politics of academia-conducted with my wife, April Kelly-Woessner-has led me to some surprising and, admittedly, somewhat difficult conclusions. Whereas my conservative colleagues tend to portray academia as rife with partisan conflict, my research into the impact of politics in higher education tells a different story. Although the Right faces special challenges in higher education, our research offers little evidence that conservative students or faculty are the victims of widespread ideological persecution.”

    Now see this article by the author of the book, “The Republican Brain”:

    http://www.scienceandreligiontoday.com/2012/04/13/why-are-conservatives-more-likely-to-be-skeptical-or-distrustful-of-science-when-theyre-better-educated/

    Quotes:

    “Why Are Conservatives More Likely to Be Skeptical or Distrustful of Science When They’re Better Educated?

    The question refers to the considerable body of research, discussed at length in my new book The Republican Brain, showing that political conservatives with higher levels of education are more in denial about the science of global warming than those who are less educated. I dub this the “smart idiot” effect, and show how it also emerges on non-scientific topics. For instance, research has also shown that better educated conservatives (or, those professing to know more about the issue in question) are more susceptible to believing falsehoods about “death panels” in the Affordable Care Act, and to holding the incorrect belief that President Obama is a Muslim.

    So how do we explain this counterintuitive and, frankly, stunning finding?

    In The Republican Brain, I discuss a number of explanations that should be thought of as complementary, rather than at odds. Probably all of these factors are at work:

    Motivated Reasoning:…

    Fox News Viewership:…

    Distrust of Academia and Science in General:…

    Rigidity/Authoritarianism:…”

    Finally, see this article, which is one that comments on another one that was published in an academic journal, which is also given below:

    Is Political Conservatism a Mild Form of Insanity?
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/genius-and-madness/200809/is-political-conservatism-mild-form-insanity

    Quotes:

    “…Republicans hate community organizers, liberals (surprise!), Madonna, the “east coast elite,” the “angry left” media, trial lawyers, people who are too smart, people who are “cosmopolitan”-the list goes on into eternity.

    Listening to this litany on Wednesday night in particular reminded me of a research article that came out roughly 5 years ago on political conservatism and motivated social cognition (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski & Sulloway, “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition,” Psychological Bulletin). In a nutshell, the article-by Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers-seems to suggest that conservatism is a mild form of insanity.

    Here are the facts. A meta-analysis culled from 88 samples in 12 countries, and with an N of 22,818, revealed that “several psychological variables predicted political conservatism.” Which variables exactly? In order of predictive power: Death anxiety, system instability, dogmatism/intolerance of ambiguity, closed-mindedness, low tolerance of uncertainty, high needs for order, structure, and closure, low integrative complexity, fear of threat and loss, and low self-esteem. The researchers conclude, a little chillingly, that “the core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and a justification of inequality.”

    The above list of variables is more than a little unsavory. We are talking about someone full of fear, with a poor sense of self, and a lack of mental dexterity. I always tell my students that tolerance of ambiguity is one especially excellent mark of psychological maturity. It isn’t a black and white world. According to the research, conservatives possess precisely the opposite: an intolerance of ambiguity and an inability to deal with complexity. Maybe that’s one reason why Obama seems so distasteful to them: he is a nuanced, multi-faceted thinker who can see things from several different perspectives simultaneously. And he isn’t preaching fear, either.”

    Here is that academic article:

    Political conservatism as motivated social cognition.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12784934

    This article followed the above:
    Psychological motives and political orientation–the left, the right, and the rigid: comment on Jost et al. (2003).
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12784935

    The immediately above article offers that “rigid adherence to any extreme ideology regardless of whether it is right wing or left wing” is the key.

    But it should be clear that this rigidity (such as being closed-minded rather than open-minded) is much more prevalent in conservative thinking than it is in progressive thinking. One example of this rigidity in action in the face of contrary evidence: A conservative thinker would be more likely than a progressive thinker to say something like “The Bible says…” to try to counter contrary evidence. Here is a horrible example of this, committed by William Lane Craig, a Christian philosopher who has published in philosophy of science:

    Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig
    Richard Dawkins
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/richard-dawkins-william-lane-craig

    Quotes:

    “This Christian ‘philosopher’ is an apologist for genocide. I would rather leave an empty chair than share a platform with him….”

    Should we not expect academia, which we would think should practice the highest intellectual standards that humanity can muster at any given time, to have fewer such thinkers (who practice this rigidity in question in ways as in trying to make excuses for genocide as does Craig or deny science as does Happer) than their opposites?

  5. Tom Curtis says:

    The Free Speech Fallacy mentions an op-ed about a lecture by Jasbir Puar, which states:

    “The article attributes to Puar the claim that Israel allows Palestinians only the bare minimum needed to survive, and that Israel mines the organs of dead Palestinians for scientific research, evidence used to accuse her of reviving the “blood libel” against Jews. “

    The claim of “blood libel” was picked up multiple times in comments.

    What is interesting about that is that in the 1990s, Israeli medical authorities did in fact harvest organs from dead Palestinians, without consulting the family of the dead Palestinians, and with the knowledge and approval of the Israeli military. (Source) There have been further accusations as recently as late 2015 that this practice continues. Predictably the charge is again called “blood libel” without investigation, and in order to prevent independent investigation, even though it is acknowledged that such practices have occurred in the past.

    It is unclear whether Puar referred to either the acknowledged harvesting in the 1990s, or the alleged harvesting in 2015, or both. Conceivably she referred to neither as we only have the op-ed’s allegations to go on. Regardless, however, there is some substance to Puar’s alleged claim. The claim of “blood libel” and “anti-semitism” (itself a racist term*) is clearly deployed to prevent academic scrutiny of incidents that actually happened, and of alleged incidents very similar to those that actually happened. The notion that you can use the term “blood libel” in this tactical way without actively desiring to suppress free speech in academia is laughable.

    (* “anti-semitism” is a racist term in that it is applied only to hostility to Jews, whereas Arabs and Palestinians are also Semites, even if we take the strict definition of purported descendants of Abraham rather than the more Biblical definition of “descendants of Shem”. That leads to the absurd situation that being pro one semitic race will lead to a charge of your being “anti-semitic”.)

  6. Tom Curtis says:

    Sorry, if forgot the link for the further accusations.

  7. Tom,
    Interesting, thanks. I don’t know if you noticed Lee Jussim’s comment. He’s one of those involved in the Heterodox Academy and appears to have simply made a sarcastic comment that doesn’t fairly represent the point of the article – as far as I can tell, at least.

  8. Benjamin,
    Indeed, that seems to be the other obvious problem with this. Where do you draw the line; why don’t we have more committed Socialists in the banking sector?

  9. Pingback: Impossible Nightmare Scenario | izen

  10. toby52 says:

    Maybe relevant, maybe not.

    The Brainwashing of My Dad

    “Jen Senko, a documentary filmmaker, looks at the rise of right-wing media through the lens of her WWII vet father who changed from a life-long, nonpolitical Democrat to an angry, right-wing fanatic after his discovery of talk radio on a lengthened commute to work. In trying to understand how this happened, she not only finds this to be a phenomenon, but also uncovers some of the forces behind it: a plan by Roger Ailes under Nixon to create a media for the GOP; the Lewis Powell Memo, urging business leaders to influence institutions of public opinion – especially the universities – the media and the courts; and under Reagan, the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine – all of which helped to change the entire country’s direction and culture, misinformed millions, divided families and even the country itself.”

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3771626/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

  11. Before criticizing a solution, you should of course first examine the problem. The problem is this: The majority of US academics vote Democrat, while the LibDems poll strongest among UK academics.

    There are three consequences. First, science is seen as partisan. You see this most strongly in the US, where some dismiss all research as liberal nonsense. The unhappy experience of climate research in Australia is another example: If research gets associated with a particular political party, it become a target for the opposition.

    Second, research may be biased, particularly in fields that are close to policy, such as environmental science, social psychology and economics.

    Third, talented people may not feel welcome and leave academia. This is a loss to science and reinforces the problem.

    The Heterodox Academy may or may not be a solution to the problems in social psychology. I cannot judge. It is the wrong solution for economics, and I can’t see it work in the environmental sciences.

    But instead of dismissing the HA, it would be better to suggest a more suitable alternative.

  12. Richard,

    The problem is this: The majority of US academics vote Democrat, while the LibDems poll strongest among UK academics.

    That was also my understanding; so what?

    There are three consequences. First, science is seen as partisan.

    Maybe, but this doesn’t mean that it is partisan and it doesn’t mean one should impose some kind of viewpoint diversity. There are other potential solutions. For example, social scientists who see this as a problem could potentially investigate if it is indeed partisan, rather than simply being perceived to be partisan.

    Second, research may be biased, particularly in fields that are close to policy, such as environmental science, social psychology and economics.

    If it is biased then – in my view – the solution is to promote best practice, not introduce another set of biases. Again, I’m not arguing against viewpoint diversity, simply arguing that it is not – IMO – a solution if there is indeed a bias in research.

    Third, talented people may not feel welcome and leave academia. This is a loss to science and reinforces the problem.

    Possibly, but these aren’t people who are discriminated against because of some intrinsic characteristic; they’re simply people – assuming they actually exist – who somehow feel unwelcome and uncomfortable in academia because of how their views differ from what they perceive to be some kind of norm. Dealing with this would seem to require discouraging certain views from being expressed and being careful as to how one challenges the views of others. Doesn’t seem to be promoting free speech, and that’s the point of this post; the irony of a group of people who claim to be promoting free speech while apparently suggesting solutions that would curtail it in others.

    In fact, the only person I’ve ever seen express publicly a view that some individuals shouldn’t be in academia is you. The only people I’ve seen make accusations of fraud against other academics (as yet unfounded, I will add) is yourself and others associated with the Heterodox Academy. That – in my view – is the irony of the position; a group who claim to feel as though their free speech is being curtailed, presenting arguments that would appear to be wanting to curtail the free speech of others. The alternative interpretation is that it is group that regularly say things that are objectionable and would really like to do so without being challenged.

  13. Roger Jones says:

    Richard,
    “The unhappy experience of climate research in Australia is another example: If research gets associated with a particular political party, it become a target for the opposition.”

    Only that’s not what happened. Originally there was broad political consensus. One side of politics gradually moved itself away from identifying with the science and then, when a gap had been established, used partisan framing as a political wedge. We had scientists working on climate change in Australia with political views across the spectrum (but weighted progressive). This process began in the 1990s when the conservative parties decided that the science was too unpalatable for their political program first and ideological program later. The scientists on that side of politics, some quite active, removed themselves from active politics because they had to choose between science and politics to maintain their scientific credibility. A few stayed with the politics to become full-on contrarians.

    A similar thing happened in the States. Kerry Emanuel was linked to the Republican side, for one, but had to withdraw. Later on it became a full-on political shit fight along scientific lines, but that’s not how it started.

    It’s good to get causality around the right way because it can completely change history otherwise.

    Social hysteresis means the clock can’t be turned back and solution(s) independent of the cause need to be found. Passive-aggressive posses of ‘conservatives’ forming pop-up think tanks, disgruntled because they aren’t part of the mainstream scientific defence against these pressures, ain’t the answer. If they have scholarship, they should get it out there and stop tacitly applauding the anti-scientists just because they both oppose the liberal science project.

  14. If they have scholarship, they should get it out there and stop tacitly applauding the anti-scientists just because they both oppose the liberal science project.

    That’s it in a nutshell, in my view.

  15. guthrie says:

    I do wonder how things are supposed to get done/ changed in a society in which politicising issues to do with the natural world that will have a bad effect on said society is a bad thing? Maybe we should all submit to rule by bloodless technocrats?

  16. @Roger
    You know Australia much better than I do.

    In the US, climate policy was bipartisan until 2006. Recall that Bush Sr was president when Rio, and that Bush Jr campaigned with a pledge to tax carbon.

    But the issue is much broader than climate. In the US, you can see the college towns on the electoral map, so you should not be surprised when people whose prime interest is power, use academia is a tool.

    I don’t know the solution to this, but for starters we could try to be more tolerant of viewpoint diversity within the academy.

  17. I don’t know the solution to this, but for starters we could try to be more tolerant of viewpoint diversity within the academy.

    Indeed, and I’m not sure why you think people aren’t. As I said above, my view is that this is more to do with people who feel uncomfortable being challenged, than with a lack of tolerance in academia. It’s quite possible to be tolerant of other viewpoints while also being critical of those other views.

  18. tonylurker says:

    “Before criticizing a solution, you should of course first examine the problem. The problem is this: The majority of US academics vote Democrat, while the LibDems poll strongest among UK academics.”

    But isn’t this a chicken and egg problem? They way I see it, most academics have become Democrats, because for the past four decades (or more, my experience only goes back so far) The republicans have been espousing anti-“elite” ideas and attacking both science and scientists (fights over teaching creationism and environmental issues being the primary drivers of this).

    I’m a conservative, but the GOP hasn’t given me a pro-science candidate to vote for in the majority of the elections for the past two decades. (I once had two local, consistently pro-science GOP politicians I could vote for, but one of them retired at the turn of the century and the GOP keeps throwing up anti-science loons to try and win his seat back from the Democrat who won the seat after he retired. So, every two years I have to choose between a corrupt schmuck and a raving tea-party loon.)

  19. tonylurker,
    I think what you’re suggesting is similar to what Paul Krugman has suggested.

  20. “I don’t know the solution to this, but for starters we could try to be more tolerant of viewpoint diversity within the academy.”

    Indeed, and I’m not sure why you think people aren’t.

    Here’s an example.

  21. Roger Jones says:

    tonylurker,
    and that was what I was suggesting has disenfranchised conservative scientists from their political base, also.

    Richard and ATTP,
    we are hearing a lot about entrenched sexism not reforming and loss of access to younger researchers as the system tightens up with less funding. Taking some of this pressure off would help foster diverse views. In some respects, this problem is systemic and institutional – way more fundamental than name-calling. Any push to divest from the sector should be opposed by anyone who wishes society to use our noggins a little more wisely. I can’t see that happening quickly, but culture-jamming, disruptive innovation and science-jamming has to be part of it.

  22. dikranmarsupial says:

    TE note: “attacked Lomborg’s lack of scholarly standing.”

    If Lomborg had a strong record of academic publication (to justify the funding) then you would have a better case. I can see how it would be considered the sort of adding opposing bias, rather than addressing the bias that ATTP describes. If Lomborg built up a foundation of academic papers first (like everybody else has to do), I suspect there wouldn’t have been any objection (just academic criticism of the work, which is a good thing).

  23. Roger,
    I agree. There are others issue more fundamental than simply a lack of viewpoint diversity and that – if we were to address them – would probably help to reduce a lack of viewpoint diversity anyway.

    TE,
    Dikran’s already said part of what I was going to say. Let’s put the Lomborg issue into some kind of perspective.

    1. He’s a controversial public figure who is regarded (by many experts) as regularly saying things that are wrong, and that are very obviously wrong.

    2. His academic credentials are extremely poor. Even though the h-index is not a good indicator, his is only 3 – which is extremely poor – and he has 56 total citations. Most academics who would be being given a senior role in a new centre, would have multiple papers with at least 56 citations, not 56 citations in total.

    3. He appears to have been parachuted into a leading role in this centre, the funding for which appeared to be associated directly with his appointment and was provided without any form of competition or any consulation with others.

    Now, if the formation of the centre had been done through some kind of competitive process and if Lombord had been appointed via some kind of competitive process, I suspect it would have been very different. Of course, if it had been a process open to more than just Lomborg, I doubt he would have been selected. Also, as Dikran implies, if he had been appointed to some kind of junior position where he could have worked of building his research credentials, I doubt there would have been any complaint either (or not much). Being tolerant of other viewpoints doesn’t mean not objecting to appointments that appear to be politically motivated.

  24. “Indeed, that seems to be the other obvious problem with this. Where do you draw the line; why don’t we have more committed Socialists in the banking sector?”

    On the other side, why are fascists underrepresented in liberal arts and theocrats underrepresented in the social sciences? Heck, why are so few creationist fundamentalists found in the biological sciences? It must be that the system is rigged and our society is ruled by an oppressive ruling elite that is silencing dissent.

    As for the committed socialists, they are too sneaky to operate out in the open. The ruling liberal elite are the socialists. Along with dominating academia, they control the entire government. Don’t worry… they’re working on a plan to take over the banks as well. Give them time.

  25. izen says:

    @- Benjamin David Steele
    “The ruling liberal elite are the socialists. Along with dominating academia, they control the entire government. Don’t worry… they’re working on a plan to take over the banks as well. Give them time.”

    (grin)
    The liberal ruling elite lost the battle some time ago. The Banks, and the rest of the corporate system achieved regulatory capture of governments over the last few decades in most modern democracies. Governments that had briefly controlled the means of production during WW2 as part of a total war economy leveraged that into managed economies that significantly reduced the vast inequalities in wealth and assets that pervaded the Fin-de-Siecle, Belle Epoque period. But the roles of governor and governed reversed. Now the primary aim of our politicians is to facilitate the smooth functioning of the industrial/business ecology.
    (/sarc off)

  26. Tom Curtis says:

    TE, in Australia there is a fairly established procedure for getting research funding. Had Bjorn Lomborg followed that procedure and got funding, there may possibly have been some outcry, but not from major political figures, and certainly not from academics.

    Rather, what was objected to was the parachuting in of a Lomborg center to provide ‘diversity of opinion’ that happened to coincide with the the governments views without establishing academic merit.

  27. matt says:

    “The problem is this: The majority of US academics vote Democrat, while the LibDems poll strongest among UK academics.”

    So weird.

  28. Tom Curtis says:

    Anders, no I hadn’t noticed Jussim’s comment, but it is truly appalling. That a man who purports to be an academic will so quickly assert ‘blood libel’ when (literally), two google searches was all it took to find out that the claim he dismisses as libel has a basis in fact shows overwhelmingly that his biases absolutely blinker his understanding. That is particularly the case given that the claim of ‘blood libel’, given the atrocities the real blood libel was used to justify, must be as offensive as the ‘blood libel’ itself.

    As a side note, in checking who Lee Jussim is I found another example of his bias relating to climate science:

    “Jussim’s talk began with one of the most egregious examples of bias in recent years. He drew the audience’s attention to the paper: “NASA faked the moon landing – therefore (climate) science is a hoax.” The study was led by Stephan Lewandowsky, and published in Psychological Science in 2013. The paper argued that those who believed that the moon landing was a hoax also believed that climate science was a fraud. The abstract stated:

    We…show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings above and beyond commitment to laissez-faire free markets. This provides confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science.

    After describing the study and reading the abstract, Jussim paused. Something big was coming.

    “But out of 1145 participants, only ten agreed that the moon landing was a hoax!” he said. “Of the study’s participants, 97.8% who thought that climate science was a hoax, did not think that the moon landing also a hoax.”

    We are told his “…fellow psychologists shifted in their seats” after that revelation, but I hope it is because they were being made uncomfortably aware that they were being lectured by a psychologist who did not know, or whose bias was so strong it prevented him from noticing, that P(A|B) is proved to be low by showing that P(B|A) is low. Or more simply, by example, we do not prove that “Mammals are air breathers” is false by showing that 97.8% of air breathers are not mammals. (That is quite aside from his contracting “cluster of conspiracy theories” to just one.

    IF Jussim it typical, it appears the Heterodox Academy is an attempt to ensure right wing voices a position in academy that is immune to criticism on the basis of scholarly standards.

  29. @wotts
    ““I don’t know the solution to this, but for starters we could try to be more tolerant of viewpoint diversity within the academy.””

    Indeed, and I’m not sure why you think people aren’t.”

    As I wrote, and you seemed to agree, the political make-up of the academy is a different one than the political make-up of the country. There can be three explanations for this, in use parlance:
    1. conservatives are less intelligent
    2. intelligent people are less conservative
    3. conservatives opt out of academia

    I have a hard time believing 1 or 2, so that leaves 3. We can then have a long discussion about the relative importance of push and pull, but Schelling will tell you that you do not need a lot of push.

    http://ncase.me/polygons/

  30. 1. He’s a controversial public figure Right – that’s the point – avoid controversy. But sometimes, the truth is controversial, so…

    who is regarded (by many experts) as regularly saying things that are wrong, and that are very obviously wrong. Top three examples?

    2. His academic credentials are extremely poor. Even though the h-index is not a good indicator, his is only 3 – which is extremely poor – and he has 56 total citations. Most academics who would be being given a senior role in a new centre, would have multiple papers with at least 56 citations, not 56 citations in total. I don’t know much about these things but it sounds like you are providing a pretty good explanation for why academic inbreeding occurs – advancement comes from mutual admiration societies ( I’ll cite your paper if you cite mine ). This explains why controversial ideas are not welcome.

  31. Richard,

    I have a hard time believing 1 or 2, so that leaves 3.

    Really? 😉

    You seem to be ignoring the possibility that’s also been suggested. Academics have long careers (30-40 years). The political make-up of a country can change quite quickly. It’s possible that what’s happened is a shift in the political make-up of a country that has yet to be reflected in academia.

  32. snarkrates says:

    Richard,
    Did it occur to you that conservatives value money more and so eschew low-paying academic positions? Left-leaning folk are under-represented in aerospace engineering–do we need a “crash” program there, too?

  33. snarkrates says:

    TE,
    The problem is the Lomborg has provided no helpful insights. Had he done so, he would have been cited.

  34. “You seem to be ignoring the possibility that’s also been suggested. Academics have long careers (30-40 years). The political make-up of a country can change quite quickly. It’s possible that what’s happened is a shift in the political make-up of a country that has yet to be reflected in academia.”

    That’s an interesting point. If that is the case, the bias in academia isn’t that it is too liberal. Quite the opposite.

    The younger generations are even more liberal than the older generations. In fact, what has come to be seen as radical by older generations (democratic socialism, New Deal-style progressivism, etc) has majority support among the younger generations.

  35. TE,

    Top three examples?

    There are plenty of examples in here. It’s also not hard to find critiques of Lomborg. There’s a whole site dedicated to his errors. Of course, the existence of such a site doesn’t prove him wrong, but you understand this well enough to check for yourself.

    I don’t know much about these things but it sounds like you are providing a pretty good explanation for why academic inbreeding occurs – advancement comes from mutual admiration societies ( I’ll cite your paper if you cite mine ). This explains why controversial ideas are not welcome.

    What? I’m suggesting that you don’t typically give senior research jobs to people who do not have suitable credentials. This is probably true even in circumstances outside academia. There may be some exceptions, but it’s pretty standard for someone to have some relevant expertise before they’re given a job. The more egregious issue, though, is someone being parachuted into a job, than them not having much relevant expertise.

  36. Marco says:

    “Top three examples?”

    See http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

  37. Marco says:

    Oops, sorry ATTP, we crossed.

  38. whimcycle says:

    (Might I suggest that Eddie ask Professor Tol directly about Lomborgh’s inconsistent discount rates?)

  39. whimcycle,
    Indeed, Richard could confirm if this is true, or not (from your link).

    I claimed on February 12th here in the newspaper that Bjørn Lomborg´s conference has used one rate of interest for climate projects and another rate of interest for other projects.

    On February 14th Lomborg writes here in the newspaper that my claim simply is wrong.

    But, unfortunately, it is fully correct. There really have been used different rates of interest. This appears from the papers in the Copenhagen consensus conference, and it has also been confirmed to me by one of the climate economists of the conference, Richard Tol.

  40. So no specific top three errors?

  41. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Richard Tol says:

    1. conservatives are less intelligent
    2. intelligent people are less conservative
    3. conservatives opt out of academia
    I have a hard time believing 1 or 2, so that leaves 3.

    I hate to break this to you, but the academy is full of conservatives.

    The fact the the average academic is to the political left of the Koch brothers, does not entail that the average academic is a liberal.

    Hell, most universities and colleges by now have at their institutional cores a well-endowed School of Business Management.

    There may be a rare sighting of the endangered liberal in a Department of Critical Theory or of a socialist in a Department of Philosophy, but they will be completely extinct by the time Bernie Sanders dies.

  42. izen says:

    @- Tol
    “2. intelligent people are less conservative”

    It may be personality type rather than intelligence. Humans are not the only social mammal that show a range of response to unfamiliar novelty. Some respond with curiosity, some with caution.
    It is possible that academe attracts and rewards the curious, the risk-takers when confronted with novelty.
    While commerce attracts and rewards the cautious and prudent. Given the gender dimorphism with regard to risk-taking behaviour, this may be part of an explanation for the paucity of women as well as conservatives in science research.

  43. TE,
    Have you read the links? There are quotes from Rhamstorf. One above from Richard Tol. Here’s PZ Myers on Lomborg. Here’s Stefan Rhamstorf on Lomborg. Here’s Ken Caldeira on Lomborg. Enough?

  44. Willard says:

    Eddie’s peddling “but Bjorn.” This ain’t about Bjorn.

    The “here’s an example” was a creative way to cloak the whataboutism.

    Here would be a recipe:

    1. Pick a general claim.
    2. Insert what could be an instance of that claim with “here’s an example.”
    3. Wait for responses to have your topic peddled in the discussion.
    4. Never return to the general claim.
    5. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.

  45. Willard,
    Indeed, but it’s hard to spot till after it’s been done 🙂

  46. Joseph says:

    In the US, climate policy was bipartisan until 2006. Recall that Bush Sr was president when Rio, and that Bush Jr campaigned with a pledge to tax carbon.

    I can’t think of time where action on climate change was bipartisan, nor do I recall Bush Jr. supporting a carbon tax. You might want to do a little more research on that.

  47. @wotts
    You are a professor. Don’t you think that a conservative lecturer would reassess her chances of promotion when she reads your “joke” about the intelligence of conservatives?

    You are probably aware that you should not make such “jokes” about people of a different gender, skin colour, or religion than you. Why do you think you can about people with a different point of view?

  48. Eli Rabett says:

    Now some, not Eli to be sure, are really old but Eli OTOH was nurtured in US physics and chemistry departments in the 1960s, when the faculty in both were rather to the right of Bernie Sanders, even Hillary Clinton, and pretty close or to the right of where George Bush the Elder lived and thought. So the question is what changed, and the Bunny would point to the Grand Old Party.

    Would anybunny care to reconcile Republicans and biological science. Eli wishes you good luck.

  49. Richard,

    You are a professor. Don’t you think that a conservative lecturer would reassess her chances of promotion when she reads your “joke” about the intelligence of conservatives?

    I’d hope not. I’d hope that they’d realise that they live in a free country where making jokes about politics is perfectly acceptable.

    You are probably aware that you should not make such “jokes” about people of a different gender, skin colour, or religion than you. Why do you think you can about people with a different point of view?

    Because – as far as I’m aware – political views are not a protected characteristic. Are you really suggesting some equivalence between polticial views and race, gender, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics? That’s a serious question.

  50. Richard,
    How about this post of yours? Not only does it ascribe political views to people that are probably not correct (I should know, I’m one of them) but uses terms like “nutters”, and makes associations with the Taliban. I’m not complaining. I think you are free to write such stuff. I’m trying to understand why you – as a Professor – are free to do so, but me – as a Professor – should avoid even mild jokes on a blog. Maybe you can explain?

  51. Tom Curtis says:

    Of interest to this discussion is Cardif and Klein (2005) which finds a ratio of 5 across tenure track staff in Californian universities in 2004. For comparison, the equivalent ratio across all Californian voters in the same year was 1.24%.

    Some interesting points:
    1) As of 2015, the Democrat to Republican ration among registered voters in California had lifted to 1.54%. That is, the drift has been in the opposite direction to that suggested by Anders in response to Richard Tol above. If the very high ratio was not sufficient by itself to refute his potential explanation (I think it is), that opposite drift would.

    2) The D:R ratio varies substantially by faculty and by academic division, being highest (for the later) in the Humanities at 10:1 (see table 3), and lowest for Military/Sports at 0.7:1. The range of ratios can at least in part be explained by self selection to areas of interest based on political affiliation. Thus it is no surprise that Business has a low ratio at 1.3:1 while Social Sciences a high one at 6.8:1. However, except for the relatively small faculties included in Military/Sports, no academic division has a D:R ratio less than the general voting population of California, which puts paid to my theory that the disproportionate number of left leaning academics in social sciences was due to self selection.

    3) Hard Sciences/Mathematics has a D:R ratio of 6:1, while Engineering has a D:R of 2.5:1. I consider these cases significant given that the subjects have no innate political content. The high D:R ratio in both relative to the general population, and in Hard Sciences/Mathematics relative to the academic population puts paid to any theory that citation bias or other academic biases is the cause of the high D:R ratio. It also makes very questionable the idea that the high D:R ratio is due to selection bias in recruitment.

    That leaves several possible explanations. Of those the most favourable to conservative feelings is some variant of “those who can’t do, teach”. Put alternatively, the bias may arise from Democrat leaning people having a greater interest in teaching and/or research rather than exploiting their skills to maximize individual financial return (which is presumably more attractive to conservatives). Alternatively, left leaning people may be more attracted to the type of reasoning needed for academic success – specifically the ability for nuanced reasoning and suspended belief, a theory for which there is some independent evidence. This should not be mistaken for a theory that conservatives are less intelligent, there being many different ways of being intelligent. However, that is the third possibility; and as conservative academics have certainly been willing to entertain an equivalent hypothesis with regard to race of far less reliable evidence, it is not a theory that should just automatically be dismissed.

  52. Tom,
    That’s just California, though. Does the drift in California imply a similar drift across the US?

  53. @wotts
    It is, of course, legal to mock someone’s political views. The question is whether it is wise.

    That post is about radicalisation, an unfortunate aspect of religion.

  54. Richard,
    I’m struggling to see how that makes your post better. Religion is a protected characteristic. Of course, you appear now to have ascribed religions to people, which is even more bizarre than ascribing political views to them.

    Maybe you can now explain why your blog post is wise, while my one word joke on a blog is not?

  55. toby52 says:

    Joseph,

    George W Bush campaigned in 2000 on a platform of “mandatory carbon reductions” for coal-burning plants, not for carbon taxes.

    The objective was not really to do anything about it, but to counteract Al Gore’s strong environmental record. Anyway, Bush reneged, or maybe Dick Cheney told him he was a naughty boy. Bush’s EPA Director, Christine Todd Whitman, resigned over the issue.

    http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=3657&method=full

  56. Tom Curtis says:

    Anders, for the US as a whole, the D:R ratio was 1.06 in Dec 2004, and 1:23 in March, 2016, at least according to the Gallup poll. The figures seem to jump around alot, however, so it may be better to consider it no overall trend. Regardless, I doubt it has ever been the case that registered Democrats outnumbered Registered Republicans by 5:1 in the US, as would be required by your thesis.

    I’ll note that Eli’s thesis is a reasonable fourth thesis not excluded by the data.

  57. Tom,
    Okay, although what I was getting at was similar to what I think Eli is saying.

  58. wheelism says:

    (I pray the current D:R ratio is NOT 1:23. 😀)

  59. geoffmprice says:

    izen seems to me to be pointing at obvious factors with “It is possible that academe attracts and rewards the curious, the risk-takers when confronted with novelty”.

    As a general rule, how often in history have institutions of learning/academia been significant centers of conservatism *relative* to the larger culture or society that they exist in? By definition, academic institutions are the places where new things are discovered/considered which may or may not thrill existing institutions, beliefs, culture etc. The problem of “relatively liberal” academia seems essentially baked in to the concept. Hence trying to find a “solution” to the problem sounds strange.

    In return maybe the argument is that this is too simple/general a definition of conservative/liberal, and that Richard means something more narrowly ideological in terms of “viewpoint diversity”, e.g. differences on the relative utility of government involvement in the market. Though even that seems to sound like framing things in a way that invites a priori polarization on a topic like climate change.

  60. Tom Curtis says:

    wheelism, sorry 1.23:1, but that is just the ratio of voters with a registered affiliation to a political party (not membership in a party). It doesn’t directly translate to voting intentions. Including people who lean one way or another, the ratio falls to 1.2:1, and undecideds may strongly favour one side or the other come the election.

    Anders, sorry if I misrepresented you. I was taking your position as:

    “You seem to be ignoring the possibility that’s also been suggested. Academics have long careers (30-40 years). The political make-up of a country can change quite quickly. It’s possible that what’s happened is a shift in the political make-up of a country that has yet to be reflected in academia.”

    where by ‘political make-up’ you mean relative preference for one or the other party among voters. I now take it you mean political positions of candidates for the respective parties.

    In that case, I don’t think it is a lag issue. Scientists are never going to be happy with the current Republican stance on science. Not even if hell freezes over. The change in political position has been such that for any truly intelligent person, a vote for the Republican’s must be in spite of their policies on science, and science related areas – not because of them. Indeed, for a person with intelligent (ergo nuanced) opinions, I doubt the Democrat policies in areas of economics and security can be sufficiently bad to outweigh the truly atrocious Republican stance on science.

    That said, Cardif and Klein surveyed the situation in 2004, when the Republican stance on science, if a little uncomfortable in the biological sciences, was not yet outright irrational on climate science. Specifically, it was not a party dominated by Tea Party candidates until 2010. And until now, it has not been a party that could accept a Trump presidency.

  61. Joseph says:

    “mandatory carbon reductions” for coal-burning plants, not for carbon taxes.

    It looks like he reneged on the pledge in the first year in office. So to claim there was some sort of bipartisan support for climate change policy based on what George W Bush did in office is untrue. And I think importantly there has never been any real support for action among Republican members of the House. The Senate has had some members who have proposed taking action on climate change like John McCain, but not that many.

  62. Think of them what you may, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush wouldn’t even get a seat at the table in today’s Republican Party. They simply aren’t reactionary enough.

    That moderate, thinking, conservatives now self-identify as independents (or even Democrats) shouldn’t surprise anyone. Reagan may have ushered in the era of GOP fantasy — with his “balance the budget, cut taxes, and increase defense spending” mantra — but his actual political views were relatively moderate compared to today. What we have seen since the 80’s is a party hell-bent on trying to look ignorant and proud of it.

    Moreover, they simply ignore anything in the real world that contradicts their fantasies. The basics of economics, healthcare, and science are apparently subjects that are all matters of opinion. Data cannot be allowed to infringe on one’s beliefs.

    The whole inanity of the party can be read in the signs that you see at their political rallies; my favorite always being: “Keep the government’s hands off my social security.”

  63. Tom,

    Anders, sorry if I misrepresented you. I was taking your position as:

    where by ‘political make-up’ you mean relative preference for one or the other party among voters. I now take it you mean political positions of candidates for the respective parties.

    Having read what I said again, I didn’t make it very clear and I don’t think I was quite clear myself which way I meant. I was really just meaning that politics can change on timescales shorter than the timescale over which you might see a change in the demographics in academia. I agree, however, Eli’s suggestion is more plausible.

  64. dikranmarsupial says:

    TE wrote “I don’t know much about these things but it sounds like you are providing a pretty good explanation for why academic inbreeding occurs – advancement comes from mutual admiration societies ( I’ll cite your paper if you cite mine ).”

    If academic advancement arose through citation counts, you might have a point, but it doesn’t, so you don’t. Academic advancement is generally the result if research impact, which is usually achieved by demonstrating problems with the current paradigm (or better still forming the new one), with high quality. “Mutual admiration societies tend” to get you nowhere in the long run, and most academics are running a marathon, not a sprint.

  65. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “Why do you think you can about people with a different point of view?”

    so what are we permitted to make jokes about?

    Great, so scientists are not allowed to make jokes, and are not allowed to have emotions regarding the topic of their work, even on social media.

    ‏@RichardTol

    Richard Tol Retweeted Eric Holthaus

    aren’t scientists supposed to be objective? emotionally detached from their subject?

    Richard Tol added,
    Eric Holthaus @EricHolthaus
    For coral scientists, emotional responses to #GreatBarrierReef bleaching are heartbreaking:
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/03/29/widespread_coral_bleaching_in_australia_s_great_barrier_reef.html

  66. My personal view is that the answer to that is obviously “no”. I don’t think scientists are meant to be automatons, who don’t get excited by their research when the results are fascinating, or concerned when their research suggests that we might be doing damage to something they regard as having value. The key point is that this is why we have a method; we don’t trust individuals, or single papers, we begin to regard our understanding as having some credibility when it’s been reproduced/replicated by different groups in differents countries, using different methods, etc. That way scientists can behave like humans, and we can still feel that a lack of emotional detachment does not mean that we cannot trust our scientific understanding of a topic.

  67. dikranmarsupial says:

    I just read Richard’s article that ATTP linked earlier. I have to say it is one of the most disappointing things of Richard’s that I have read. Trying to draw parallels between a scientific view you don’t like and religion, e.g. “Environmental scientists are cast in the role of priests”, is absolutely transparent sophistry. The aim is to be able to dismiss the opposing argument as being based on superficial “faith” rather than rational consideration, so you don’t have to deal with its content. I see this sort of cheap rhetoric a lot on blogs, but it is a shame to see it from a leading academic, who ought to be able to do better.

  68. Dikran,
    It is a slightly bizarre piece of writing. I can say with absolute certainty that one of those he names has never belonged to the Green party, never belonged to Greenpeace, and is only really an environmentalist in the sense of happening to like our natural environment. And yet, Richard somehow manages to make an association with the Taliban and somehow suggest that they’re implicitly responsible for Greenpeace damaging historical sites.

  69. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP indeed, scientists need a combination of both enthusiasm and self-skepticism to be successful.

  70. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP indeed, Richard complains about people making projections of the future that can’t be easily verified, but make projections about the present without taking any steps to verify them! ;o)

  71. dikranmarsupial says:

    BTW it appears that Richard didn’t even read the tweet very carefully

    “For coral scientists, emotional responses to #GreatBarrierReef bleaching are heartbreaking:”

    This seems to be saying that the scientists have empathy for those who have an emotional response to the science, not that they an emotional attachment to science itself. I understand empathy is also a good thing to have.

  72. I never tire of wondering out loud if perchance reality has a liberal bias.

  73. dikranmarsupial says:

    Actually the article itself does say that, so I admit my error.

  74. @wotts, dikran
    Religion used to offer theories of what is and of what ought to be. The Enlightenment replaced religious theories of what is by scientific theories of what is. Some people also look to science for a moral theory of what ought to be. This mistake is not uncommon in the environmental movement, and climatism has many of the characteristics of millenarianism. Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything is an example of climate change as a rapture. All religions have their extremists, and scientism is no exception. Besides the examples listed in that blog, we have recently seen death threats to the grandchildren of a prominent climate sceptic, and John Vidal’s forgiving of Pachauri’s sexual escapades because he did so much good for the environment.

  75. guthrie says:

    It is possible to be objective and yet also emotionally involved or driven in your subject. One of the things historians of science have been doing for the last few decades is revealing the human emotional involvement in their subjects of scientists, instead of the dry boring super rational myths that are often peddled.

  76. Richard,
    Be that as it may, it still doesn’t answer my question as to why your post is wise, while my little joke is not. Let me point out the following. In your post, you say

    Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists.

    In other words, anyone who perceives themselves as an environmentalist is tainted by your perception of green radicalism. Hence, any academic who happens to regard themselves as en environmentalist is – in your view – tainted. How is that welcoming? How is that “open to other viewpoints”? Why is okay to libel and slander environmentalists, but not okay to say things that might make conservatives feel uncomfortable?

    In a similar vein, I could go and find various appalling things done by people who regard themselves as conservatives and then – by association – claim that this taints anyone who regards themselves as a conservative. That’s the one obvious issue with your post (the other being that the only people you’ve named appear to have no formal association with any of the events you regard as examples of green radicalism).

    This brings me back to the point of the post. Those who seem to be promoting the idea that we should work towards more viewpoint diversity in academia appear to be people who write and say obnoxious things and then feel as though the response to what they write and say makes them unwelcome in some environments. The solution, in my view, is to either simply stand up for what you believe in and take the criticism, or to say fewer obnoxious and objectionable things. Instead, you seem to be suggesting that others should somehow change what they’re doing so as to make you feel more welcome. So, it seems that you want to curtail other people’s right to say what they want, so that you can say what you want to say without be too harshly criticised. I don’t see that as the route to better scholarship and a more open and free society.

  77. In fact, I don’t think this is quite correct

    In other words, anyone who perceives themselves as an environmentalist is tainted by your perception of green radicalism.

    It should be

    In other words, anyone who you perceive to be an environmentalist is tainted by your perception of green radicalism.

    Essentially you have complete freedom to taint whoever you want. You get to choose if they’re an environmentalist or not, and you get to then find them guilty, by association, of green radicalism. The illustration of this is that I can say with absolute certainty that one of those named in your post has never been a member of the Green party, or Greenpeace and is not an environmentalist by any standard definition (other than as someone who happens to enjoy being outside). Apart from the possibility that your post is libelous, you’re – however – free to express these views. I simply don’t see why you think you get to do so, while promoting the idea that academia should actively try to avoid saying things that might make certain people feel unwelcome or uncomfortable.

  78. Anders,

    Be that as it may, it still doesn’t answer my question as to why your post is wise, while my little joke is not.

    Because it’s self-evident: Tol is wise and you are not. That he can’t bring himself to actually say it is somewhat amusing.

  79. Tol,

    All religions have their extremists, and scientism is no exception.

    Since we appear to be making this up as we go, I’ll offer that scientism is the extreme exception.

  80. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “Religion used to offer theories of what is and of what ought to be… ”

    You are being disingenuous, your article begins:

    “Things used to be simple. The Church taught how the world worked and how to behave. The positive and the normative were united. The Enlightenment put an end to that. We are supposed to follow evidence rather than dogma.”

    So you are making the contrast between enlightenment evidence based reasoning and religious dogma (which you go on to associate with environmentalists) explicit from the outset. As I said this is cheap rhetoric.

    “Besides the examples listed in that blog, we have recently seen death threats to the grandchildren of a prominent climate sceptic”

    Funny you don’t mention that mainstream climatologists have also received death threats and that it has been going on for some time. There are some very sick people out there, but that doesn’t mean that it is representative of environmentalists as a whole, any more than those who sent death threats to Phil Jones are representative of skeptics.

    “Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists.”

    I have to say this is pretty much as anti-enlightenment an attitude as you could want to see.

  81. dikranmarsupial says:

    Brandon, I beg to differ, the example I would cite would be the eugenics movement of the early 20th century.

  82. Dikran,
    There’s a great deal of irony in this whole situation. If anyone uses the term “denier” they’re typically accused of using a pejorative label and making an association with an horrific past event. This is true even if the person doing so makes clear that they’re simply referring to the fact that there are some who clearly “deny” well accepted aspects of climate science. Richard, on the other hand, writes a post making explicit links between environmentalists (who he gets to define) and terrorist atrocities and it gets promoted on Bishop Hill.

    In a sense it seems that this whole viewpoint diversity issue in academia is similar. The impression I have is that it’s not so much an attempt to promote viewpoint diversity, it’s an attempt to discourage others from expressing views that they find uncomfortable, because of how it portrays their own position. As you say

    I have to say this is pretty much as anti-enlightenment an attitude as you could want to see.

  83. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “@wotts
    You are a professor. Don’t you think that a conservative lecturer would reassess her chances of promotion when she reads your “joke” about the intelligence of conservatives?”

    Speaking of cheap rhetoric, note that Richard specified the gender of the conservative lecturer, even though it is not in any way relevant to the point being made. Of course this would in no way prime the readers “system 1” thinking processes to associate the conservatism with a more pervasive and pernicious gender bias.

  84. guthrie says:

    Who says scientism is a religion anyway?

  85. @wotts
    As with religion, I think we should embrace the diversity of moderate standpoints on the environment while condemning the violent extremes.

    The environmental movement is tainted, in my eyes, because its leaders are often loth to call out bad behaviour from their midst.

  86. dikranmarsupial,

    No true scientist supported eugenics.

    I’m prickly about the word “scientism”. One might even say it’s a trigger word.

    /mild snark

    Anders,

    Because – as far as I’m aware – political views are not a protected characteristic.

    I’m not sure that actually answers Tol’s question. My read is that Tol wasn’t asking you to quote law, chapter and verse, but to justify it with a moral argument.

    Are you really suggesting some equivalence between polticial views and race, gender, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics?

    I’ll field that one myself because I think it’s an interesting question. First way I evaluate them is to categorize them by whether they are due to personal choice or not. So, political views are a personal choice, the rest except gender (which is a grey area) are not. I now toss in a ringer: religion, which in the US is a protected class in terms of non-discrimination for employment, housing, services, etc. as well as for hate-crimes.

    Now imagine a UKIP devotee being turned down for employment solely on the basis of what’s written on their voter registration card. There are some instances where that might be clearly appropriate, but I trust you won’t run to the edge and corner cases.

    So yeah, I think there’s some equivalence.

  87. dikranmarsupial says:

    “No true scientist supported eugenics.” Francis Galton was not a true scientist? Ronald Fisher (who wasn’t just a statistician)? Many of the founders of the eugenics movement were excellent scientists.

  88. Tol,

    As with religion, I think we should embrace the diversity of moderate standpoints on the environment while condemning the violent extremes.

    I think we should embrace the concept of calling bad science bullcrap.

    The environmental movement is tainted, in my eyes, because its leaders are often loth to call out bad behaviour from their midst.

    [cough cough, hack hack]

  89. dirkan,

    At ease sir. Note the mild sarc tag, which was intended to convey that my use of the No True Scotsman fallacy was ironic in nature.

  90. Willard says:

    > [Richie’s favorite target] is tainted, in my eyes, because its leaders are often loth to call out bad behaviour from their midst.

    Richard invokes the famous green line test with the usual meme, a meme studies on Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) may not support, e.g.:

    The present experiments suggest that the effects of symbolic threat and group identification on SDO are in fact contingent upon the ingroup’s core political values. Highly identified members of groups that tolerate social hierarchies respond to symbolic threat with high SDO, as was found with conservative Republican participants in Studies 1 and 3. In contrast, highly identified members of groups that do not tolerate social hierarchies respond to symbolic threat with low SDO, as was found with liberal Democratic participants in Studies 2 and 3. These results hold even after taking into account perceptions of relative group status and RWA [Right-Wing Authoritarism], both of which were measured in Study 3. Thus, the effects of party ideology on SDO are not due to the relationship between SDO and RWA (which increases in response to individual-level threat), nor are they due to any perceived status differences between Democrats and Republicans.

    https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/63589/606_ftp.pdf

    Should we infer that Richie’s tainted?

    ***

    I note that another of Eric Holthaus’ articles have been mentioned recently on this blog. Betting the farm on a journalist is seldom a good idea.

  91. Richard,

    As with religion, I think we should embrace the diversity of moderate standpoints on the environment while condemning the violent extremes.

    Indeed. One should, however, probably avoid associating people with the violent extremes unless you actually have evidence for some association.

    The environmental movement is tainted, in my eyes, because its leaders are often loth to call out bad behaviour from their midst.

    I have no doubt this is what you believe. However, why is your judgment of this group any more valid than someone else’s judgement of another. You’re free to express this view and others are free to express theirs. Additionally, you’ve decided to associate people with the environmental movement (and judge them accordingly) despite having no evidence that they have any actual association.

  92. dikranmarsupial says:

    @Brandon I stand at ease ;o)

  93. Brandon,

    Now imagine a UKIP devotee being turned down for employment solely on the basis of what’s written on their voter registration card. There are some instances where that might be clearly appropriate, but I trust you won’t run to the edge and corner cases.

    So yeah, I think there’s some equivalence.

    I think one can justifiably argue that people shouldn’t be discriminated against simply because they have some association with an organisation that has views that others might disagree with (and, just to be clear, I’ve never argued that we should; Richard has simply been implying this). However, I do think that there isn’t an equivalence between protected characteristics (such as race, gender, sexual orientation) and viewpoints (political views). We want to live in societies where people are not judged on the basis of an intrinsic characteristic, because there is no reason to think that any of these characteristics are an indicator of – for example – someone’s abilities. On the other hand, we’re quite entitled to judge people on the basis of the views they express.

  94. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard writes “@wotts As with religion, I think we should embrace the diversity of moderate standpoints on the environment while condemning the violent extremes.”

    This seems to me obviously inconsistent with viewing those with a moderate standpoint as tainted by the actions of extemists”, as in:

    “Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists. “

    That attitude would tend to denigrate/marginalise the diversity of moderate standpoints (both religious and environmental).

  95. Marco says:

    @Dikran and @Brandon, add John Maynard Keynes, Linus Pauling, and Robert Millikan as promotors of at least some forms of eugenics.

  96. Joshua says:

    ==> I think we should embrace the diversity of moderate standpoints on the environment while condemning the violent extremes.”

    I think we should avoid obviously fallacious arguments, such as drawing generalizations from unrepresentative sampling.

    Which problem is bigger: (1) extremists, who are by definition outliers (and in most cases but certainly not all, don’t wield a great deal of power), or (2) the ubiquitous phenomenon of activists’ cynically exploiting extremism to pursue identity-based agendas (i.e., generalizing from unrepresentative sampling)?

    It may be a close call, but I suspect that (2) is a bigger problem. Richard’s calls for “condemning violent extremes” seem more self-referential to me than anything else – in the sense that (IMO) it is naked identity-aggressive behavior. Violent extremes are, already, generally, “condemned.” Is there evidence that a small amount more of explicit condemnation will have any material affect on our society? I’d say doubtful, although I’m open to evidence. The polarization would continue on very much the same trajectory, IMO. This just looks to me like moral posturing of the sameosameo variety. My sense is that what Richard is so concerned about would not make any difference at all. Why is Richard so concerned about something that wouldn’t likely have any material impact?

    I’m reluctant to make the jump from Richard’s moral posturing, or that of other members of the Heterodox Academy, or that of other individuals who are calling for more political diversity in academe, to characterize the entirety of the Heterodox Academy or of all people advocating for more political diversity in academe. Underlying the question of whether behavior like Richard’s is generalizable here is what, IMO, is a legitimate question to which I’m still somewhat ambivalent. To what extent is increased political diversity in academe a desirable goal. Looking beyond the fallacious exploitation by some of that question to pursue a larger political agenda, and looking beyond the important question of what actions would it make sense to take to increase that diversity (which, of course, is contingent on answering the unsettled question of causality) I think that there is a legitimate issue there.

    We shouldn’t reject the validity of the question due to a few bad actors.

  97. dikranmarsupial says:

    @Marco, @Brandon was being too subtle (at least for me), but educational as I didn’t know the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Finding out about it on Wikipedia made me think of Carry on … Up the Kyhber though, which shows the sort of dirty trick that your “system 1” thought processes can [be used to] play [on you]. ;o)

  98. Willard says:

    That debate evolved a bit since then:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/eugenics

    Note the discussion on “liberal” eugenics, which may even cohere with bleeding heart libertarianism.

  99. Willard says:

    AT’s no true Scotsman.

  100. AT’s no true Scotsman.

    I’m not following this.

  101. Willard says:

    You were not born in Scotland, AT. I was trying to underline the nationalist background of that rhetorical meme:

    The term was coined by Antony Flew, who gave an example of a Scotsman who sees a newspaper article about a series of sex crimes taking place in Brighton, and responds that “no Scotsman would do such a thing.”

    When later confronted with evidence of another Scotsman doing even worse acts, his response is that “no true Scotsman would do such a thing,” thus disavowing membership in the group “Scotsman” to the criminal on the basis that the commission of the crime is evidence for not being a Scotsman.

    However, this reasoning is fallacious, as there exists no premise in the definition of “Scotsman” which makes such acts impossible (or even unlikely).

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/No_True_Scotsman

    You’re not a true Scottish skeptic either.

  102. Joshua,

    We shouldn’t reject the validity of the question due to a few bad actors.

    Indeed. I have no particular issue with people promoting the idea of viewpoint diversity in academia. If people want to go out an encourage others with views they think would be of benefit to academia, they should go ahead and do so. My issues are simply that I don’t think that this is – alone – a solution if there is indeed some kind of bias in how people undertake research. I also don’t think that there should be an expectation that some other views are not expressed simply because it might make some with different views uncomfortable (just to be clear, I’m talking about people with different views only).

  103. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> My issues are simply that I don’t think that this is – alone – a solution if there is indeed some kind of bias in how people undertake research.

    Right. The argument that it is a stand-alone problem can be dismissed. But beyond that we then have a legitimate question, IMO, as to the dimensions of the problem and accordingly, how to determine when someone is peddling (if I understand the use of the term “peddling” properly), or fear-mongering, or exploiting the problem.

    ==> I also don’t think that there should be an expectation that some other views are not expressed simply because it might make some with different views uncomfortable (just to be clear, I’m talking about people with different views only).

    Of course, that runs both ways. There is a symmetry here, in that the Heterodox Academy and others are, ostensibly, making essentially the same argument. If what lies behind the ostensible is an unintentionally ironic inability to perceive their own violation of that principle, still there is a legitimacy to the question of, say, whether campus protests are enabling those who are seeking to extract from the academy, views make them uncomfortable.

  104. There is a symmetry here, in that the Heterodox Academy and others are, ostensibly, making essentially the same argument.

    I don’t quite see the symmetry.

    still there is a legitimacy to the question of, say, whether campus protests are enabling those who are seeking to extract from the academy, views make them uncomfortable.

    I don’t quite get this (did you leave out some words 🙂 ). I agree that some of the no-platform demonstration are potentially problematic from a free speech perspective. However, that’s dinstinct – in my view – from whether or not people with certain views feel comfortable – or not – in an academic environment.

  105. Willard says:

    I think the heterodox argument could be interpreted as a “balance argument,” AT – we’d need every sides of the political aisles in academia, just as a piece of scientific journalism (say) needs to present every sides of an issue. I expect those who frown upon the usual balance argument we encounter in ClimateBall to frown upon the heterodox argument, just as I would also surmise that libertarians love it.

    One might even say that balance arguments have a libertarian bias.

    We might distinguish the two arguments by the kind of balance involved. The heterodox argument is related to political viewpoints, and perhaps also social and economical values. The usual ClimateBall argument is related to scientific viewpoints. In principle, it would be possible to accept one argument and reject the other.

    Both types of arguments could be used as peddling, just like the balance counter-argument “What About The Men?” (WATM) acts as a bait and switch in feminist issues. In other words, one should expect the heterodox argument to be used as something like “What About Libertarians?”

    Many recognized minorities and “tokens” (i.e. a tinier % of a population than a minority) have their issues. These are usually addressed using ethical arguments such as the ones that lead to positive discrimination. There are decades of research on these matters, and I’m afraid the psychologists behind the Heterodox thing are reinventing a suboptimal wheel.

    Moreover, I’m not sure we should divert these efforts to wonder about the poor minority of Kings of coal the academy could mistreat.

  106. Francis says:

    The purported requirement of leaders to condemn radicals is just utterly obscene. Whether it’s Muslim leaders who must condemn jihadis or now environmental scientists who must condemn green radicals, this ritual is stupid and ridiculous. Indeed this entire process says much more about the people demanding the ritual than those performing it. What’s actually being said here is that the people who demand this useless ritual are authoritarian bullies who are demanding obeisance from people who actually owe them nothing.

    “You must condemn!” “What? No, I don’t. Get a life and leave me alone. You’re not the boss of me and I refuse to let you have any influence as to my participation in the public sphere.”

    Ye gods, this stuff infuriates me.

  107. @Willard – “One might even say that balance arguments have a libertarian bias.”

    Right-libertarians, to be specific.

    Many of these same right-libertarians are fine with the mainstream continuing to ignore and exclude left-libertarians. The supposedly desired ideological diversity isn’t supposed to invite left-libertarians into the circle of acceptability.

    Right-libertarians have their think tanks and even sometimes host shows in the mainstream, such as on Fox News. But left-libertarians are so far outside of the mainstream that they are rarely acknowledged.

    When people say ‘libertarians’, they just assume that what is meant is right-libertarians. Right-libertarian thought has become so dominant in the mainstream that they don’t even need to distinguish themselves from left-libertarians.

  108. Francis,
    Well, yes, I find it rather irritating too. Even more so, given that some of the associations are entirely fabricated.

  109. Tom Curtis says:

    Francis, I think it is a reasonable position that leaders of groups should condemn extremist acts performed in the name of their group. The caveat is important. It would be unreasonable to insist that economists condemn Tol’s comparison of an accidental slight, damaging of a cultural artifact to a deliberate complete destruction of a cultural artifact, for example, for in his blog he is not speaking for economists. But when terrorists act in the name of right wing politics, it is reasonable to expect those who support similar political views to condemn the acts; and to not just qualify it as inappropriate at this time.

    What is truly annoying is the insistence that there be apologies for what are clearly not extreme acts (such as draping bits of plastic across a cultural icon), when those apologies have already been made. Or insistence of condemnation of “islamic” terrorism when those condemnations have been loud, frequent and comprehensive. That the incidents needing condemnation are carefully remembered and brought up years later, while the demanded condemnations are ignored, or forgotten immediately shows the demand to be bad faith tactic. It it a tactic that gains its force, however, because the actual demand is reasonable in principle.

  110. Eli Rabett says:

    Heterodox Academy: Jobs for yobs.

  111. Francis says:

    Tom, I understand your point, but it’s a really slippery slope. Once a leader (who are the leaders? who decides?) feels obliged to apologize for the act of someone who claims to be acting in furtherance of the leader’s goals, where do you stop? This act requires public condemnation, but that one doesn’t? Who really tracks all these acts of condemnation? Does Richard actually know that the leaders of the environmental movement are loathe to call out acts of extremism, or is that one of those toss-away comments that’s designed to shift the burden from presumption of innocence to presumption of guilt.

    OK, maybe the occasional Muslim leader feels the need to denounce ISIS as propagating a false version of Islam. But to be realistic, what Richard is trying to do is (a) create a presumption of guilt across the entire spectrum of environmental activists, and (b) insert himself as the true voice (honest broker?) of who are the legitimate voices on environmental issues.

    The only appropriate response to that kind of conduct is to say, quite bluntly, Go F___ Yourself.

  112. Willard says:

    I’d rather thank Richie for his concerns, Francis.

    We could also condemn once and for all everything condemnable.

  113. I’d rather thank Richie for his concerns, Francis.

    Indeed. I once did as Francis suggests; I haven’t been allowed to forget it 😉

  114. Eli Rabett says:

    Really AT, you have to inculcate a more Christian attitude, it is better to give than receive.

  115. Eli,
    Sometimes people don’t appreciate my gifts.

  116. Eli Rabett says:

    AT, well Dickie does speak German.

  117. Phil says:

    Once a leader (who are the leaders? who decides?) feels obliged to apologize for the act of someone who claims to be acting in furtherance of the leader’s goals, where do you stop?

    I think a further point can be made: if someone deemed a “leader” apologizes for an act, then, by doing so, they implicitly acknowledge that they were in a position of influence over the actors, which, if they were not, creates a misleading impression and an unjustified rod (metaphorically speaking) for them to be beaten with by those that oppose them. So there is a distinction to be drawn between condemning an action and apologizing for it.

  118. Anders,

    I think one can justifiably argue that people shouldn’t be discriminated against simply because they have some association with an organisation that has views that others might disagree with (and, just to be clear, I’ve never argued that we should; Richard has simply been implying this).

    Understood, and agree. It has been noted the Heterodox Academy seems to be arguing for false balance. To wit:

    The Problem

    American universities have leaned left for a long time. That is not a serious problem; as long as there are some non-leftists in every field and every department, we can assume that eventually, someone will challenge claims that reflect ideology more than evidence.

    There’s another term for what they’re setting up here: affirmative action. For sake of argument, I’ll swallow the supreme irony that US conservatives tend to have a dim view of demographically-based quotas. Right libertarians are typically for pure meritocracies. It’s arguable that I have some left libertarian leanings for being somewhat sympathetic to that argument.

    Point of all the above being: it wouldn’t surprise me if one reason self-identified liberals are members of the Academy at least partially on the basis that it’s consistent with the concept that major societal institutions should be actively brought into balance with general population demographics.

    However, I do think that there isn’t an equivalence between protected characteristics (such as race, gender, sexual orientation) and viewpoints (political views). We want to live in societies where people are not judged on the basis of an intrinsic characteristic, because there is no reason to think that any of these characteristics are an indicator of – for example – someone’s abilities. On the other hand, we’re quite entitled to judge people on the basis of the views they express.

    Two things:

    1) You just implied that someone’s political alignment is a basis for judging their abilities. I don’t think you meant to, but that’s how I’m reading it.
    2) It’s become more socially acceptable (maybe not at dinner parties, but online fer shure) to mock someone for their political views. Not so much for their religious views. (Different story for those who lack religious beliefs.)

    My original argument prevailed on questioning why should religious and political views should be treated so differently by law in terms of protection against discrimination. Neither are intrinsic properties.

  119. Vinny Burgoo says:

    That was pretty much my point.

  120. STEM education will over time migrate to online only. the only industries that matter will longer
    require a 4 year degree from a brick and mortar University.
    Brick and mortar universities will just turn out coddled useless liberal arts types. let them.
    More and more we will just ignore what happens at brick and mortar Universities.
    We wont hire their students, we will watch their sports.

    The faster this happens the better.
    Consequently, just let the leftists control the brick and mortar universities.

  121. “STEM education will over time migrate to online only. the only industries that matter will longer
    require a 4 year degree from a brick and mortar University.”

    STEM education will over time migrate to online only. the only industries that matter will NO longer
    require a 4 year degree from a brick and mortar University.

  122. Eli Rabett says:

    In the US context see the First Amendment to the Constitution. Other countries play by different rules, and like in Climateball the rules change over time

  123. SM writes: “STEM education will over time migrate to online only. the only industries that matter will longer require a 4 year degree from a brick and mortar University.”

    Distance learning has been around for 40 years or more.

  124. Tom Curtis says:

    Francis, an apology is appropriate where you are the leader of the organization, members of which performed the act that ought to be condemned, and/or you are a leader of an organization in the name of which an act that ought to be condemned is performed and from which the organization benefits. If the people performing the act that ought to be condemned are not members of your organization, and your organization does not benefit, then there is no need to apologize but you ought to condemn the act.

    On the other hand, whether or not an act ought to be condemned is a matter that you must decide for yourself. Others will, however, decide for themselves as well. In cases were condemnation or apology is clearly appropriate, the refusal to do either is rightly viewed as an implicit endorsement. However, nobody has the right to assume that because they have not heard your condemnation, that you did not make it.

    Richard does not know that the members of the environmental movement are loath to call out extreme acts, for in fact they have done so yet he still condemns them for not doing so. At the same time he equates accidental damage of a cultural site to the complete and deliberate destruction of a cultural site, showing his blog article to be an unethical attempt to blacken the name of his political opponents without regard to truth or fair dealing.

    I will note that Richard is on very slippery ground here. He is a member of the academic advisory board of the GWPF. As such, he is obligated to condemn any irrational or misleading report from that group. Instead he always turns up to defend them. In short, he is himself clearly at fault on the very grounds that he falsely condemns environmental leaders of being at fault.

  125. Tom Curtis says:

    MOSHER:
    “STEM education will over time migrate to online only. the only industries that matter will NO longer require a 4 year degree from a brick and mortar University.”

    Because laboratory experience is so easy to develop online.

  126. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    I’m with Francis and Phil here.

    ==> Francis, I think it is a reasonable position that leaders of groups should condemn extremist acts performed in the name of their group.

    I’m not feelin’ this. I’m surprised to read you taking that position.

    To take an extreme example – does a Muslim leader, who has been advocating inter-faith dialog and tolerance for his entire career, who has risked his life to promote democratic principles, have more of a “should condemn” Muslim extremism obligation than a Christian leader – even though that Muslim extremism is diametrically opposed to the basic tenets of the Muslim leader’s religious practice and every other aspect of how s/he’s led his/her life? Why would we pick one leader who doesn’t share ideology with the extremist, and oblige him/her to condemn that extremism, and not place a similar obligation on the other leader?

    For the most part – who is it that makes a big deal out of leaders having an obligation to condemn extremism performed in the name of the group with which they identity? IMO, it is most often those who are seeking to paint with the brush of guilt by association. For example, who is it, for the most part, who is concerned about a supposed obligation that Muslim leaders have to condemn Muslim terrorism? Rightwing Islamophobes, who are seeking ammunition to undermine the influence of those religious leaders.

    The Muslim leader I described is already doing something which has much more impact to combat extremism than some condemnation of extremism. Pretty much every aspect of their life is an expression of their opposition to terrorism. Muslim leaders who promote inter-faith dialog, tolerance, and who promote democratic principles have my respect regardless of whether or not they make some public pronouncement of the obvious – that they condemn extermism. In their practice of their faith, they clearly differentiate themselves from Muslim terrorists – and if a given observer is too thick, or too uninformed to see that distinction, that’s on them not the leader. And certainly I see no reason why that leader has an obligation to condemn extremism performed in the name of their group because someone whose actual interest is in painting with a brush of guilt by association thinks that they have such an obligation.

  127. Joshua says:

    ==> But when terrorists act in the name of right wing politics, it is reasonable to expect those who support similar political views to condemn the acts;

    How is it that they have “similar views” if their views proscribe terrorist acts? You are cherry-picking points of comparison, IMO.

  128. Joshua says:

    ==> We could also condemn once and for all everything condemnable.

    I hereby do that right now. And expectation that everyone else should do so, also. Anyone who doesn’t, even if they haven’t read this thread and learned of my expectation, is morally inferior. Ignorance of Joshua’s expectation is no excuse.

  129. anoilman says:

    Tom Curtis, perhaps he’s talking about the PR industry…

  130. Willard says:

    Let’s make STEM education great again:

  131. Joshua says:

    heh. Extermism. When Craig Thomas goes [rogue]

  132. Tom Curtis says:

    Joshua and others, I have a comment stuck in moderation at the moment that fleshes out my opinion. I think it largely serves as a response to your points as well. I will wait till it appears, and respond to responses to that comment.

  133. Francis says:

    “I’d rather thank Richie for his concerns, Francis.” OK, so long as you add “Bless your heart” at the end.

  134. Willard says:

    If I can add “bless your bleeding heart,” you got a deal.

    Sometimes, all it takes is a team effort:

  135. izen says:

    @-“Reality has a liberal bias”

    Not true of course, a political bias can only be held by a person, not the totality of the material universe.

    But the ability to imagine and discover new knowledge about reality does have a liberal bias.
    Those open and eager to discover the new and novel are more likely to follow a political position that is progressive rather than one that accepts the status quo and is resistant to change.

  136. Brandon,

    1) You just implied that someone’s political alignment is a basis for judging their abilities. I don’t think you meant to, but that’s how I’m reading it.

    Not quite. I said views they express, not known political alignment. Firstly, I think it obvious that within society we can judge people on the basis of what they say. Even in work, you can do so. Imagine we were planning to appoint a senior academic to oversee undergraduate teaching. Would you appoint someone who has publicly stated that there are too many undergraduate students, that most are not capable of doing a degree, and that we should fail and eject 50% of our first years? It’s a view that one can hold (I suspect some do) but I doubt you’d appoint someone who had expressed such a view to oversee undergraduate teaching.

    Of course, if the view someone has expressed is irrelevant to the role one is trying to fill, it shouldn’t influence the decision. However, it seems perfectly reasonable to use what someone has said, when judging their suitability for a job.

  137. Brandon,

    My original argument prevailed on questioning why should religious and political views should be treated so differently by law in terms of protection against discrimination. Neither are intrinsic properties.

    I agree, and this has bothered me too. I did come across this which says

    The belief must be genuinely held, must have a similar status or cogency to a religious belief and must be more than an opinion or viewpoint. Support of a political party cannot, itself, amount to a philosophical belief but belief in a political philosophy might qualify.

    It seems to be suggesting that if what you have is a deeply help political philosophy – rather than simply a political view/support of a party – it might be a protected characteristic. Of course, this is based on someone who believes in left-wing democratic socialism, so I wonder what Richard thinks of it 🙂

  138. Tom,
    I don’t see any comment of yours in moderation. Did it make it out, or did it disappear?

  139. izen,

    I should probably disclose that I stole that joke from some Usenet wag years ago, but not before I had stated it more correctly, IRL amidst some conservative friends of mine: perhaps the liberal media better represent reality. IIRC, “bite your tongue” was the immediate response.

    I was mulling over what Eli wrote earlier about the political mix of physics departments during the Stone Age, which got me thinking about the state of Fortune 500 corporate America. Still dominated by white men. Right or wrong, my perception is that most of them have more conservative political views than liberal, but not all. It got me further wondering whether companies that are more progressive are more innovative. Apple and Google vs., say, Raytheon or General Electric.

    I have other anecdotal examples more in line with what you’re saying. Another conservative buddy of mine once complained to me, “change for the sake of change is not a good idea.” Topic was marriage equality.

  140. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “My original argument prevailed on questioning why should religious and political views should be treated so differently by law in terms of protection against discrimination. Neither are intrinsic properties. “

    Religious beliefs are often a proxy for ethnic differences (e.g. Northern Ireland, plantation of Ulster etc.), so discriminating on the basis of religious belief could mask ethnic discrimination (which is intrinsic). It is not clear to me the same applies to political views.

  141. According to Nature, 83% of UK academics are for Bremain. At last week’s Royal Economic Society conference, 97% or so were against Brexit. The academy is clearly not representative for the British electorate.

    Is this a problem? I think so, in two ways. First, I do not envy the academic who dares to speak out in favour of Brexit. The debate is thus impoverished. Second, universities lose legitimacy in the eyes of the 50% or so of Brits who are for Brexit. A small fraction of these will wonder why to send their sons and daughters to university (or choose a conservative private university in the US instead), and why their tax pounds are used to support us academics.

    This is just a small thing. But many small things can add up to something larger.

  142. Richard,

    Is this a problem? I think so

    Well, yes, this isn’t a surprise.

    I do not envy the academic who dares to speak out in favour of Brexit.

    Again, not sure why this is a good reason. Nothing stopping them from doing so.

    universities lose legitimacy in the eyes of the 50% or so of Brits who are for Brexit.

    This doesn’t make universities less credible though. The research universities do doesn’t become more credible because those who do it are seen as representative, or because the results suit some kind of national viewpoint. It’s the evidence that counts. Finding ways to make universities appear more legitimate doesn’t guarantee that they will be more legitimate (legitimate is probably the wrong word, but it’s what Richard used, so that’s the context).

  143. Anders,

    Not quite. I said views they express, not known political alignment.

    If all you had said was “views they express” I’d be in deep kimchee. Two sentences prior you wrote: However, I do think that there isn’t an equivalence between protected characteristics (such as race, gender, sexual orientation) and viewpoints (political views).

    Without further qualification, and not knowing a thing about your own views from prior readings, I would naturally assume that “views they express” means “viewpoints (political views)”.

    Would you appoint someone who has publicly stated that there are too many undergraduate students, that most are not capable of doing a degree, and that we should fail and eject 50% of our first years?

    I would not because I think one key role of educators is to do all within their power to teach those who are willing to learn.

    Of course, if the view someone has expressed is irrelevant to the role one is trying to fill, it shouldn’t influence the decision.

    Exactly.

    I did come across this which says

    The belief must be genuinely held, must have a similar status or cogency to a religious belief and must be more than an opinion or viewpoint. Support of a political party cannot, itself, amount to a philosophical belief but belief in a political philosophy might qualify.

    Based on some conservatives AND liberals I know, I would say that belief in a political philosophy DOES qualify. So I think we agree here.

    Of course, this is based on someone who believes in left-wing democratic socialism, so I wonder what Richard thinks of this 🙂

    My guess is that he would agree. Whether he’d agree with a known communist sympathizer (and *obviously* a Bernie Sanders supporter — oh noes!) in public is a different matter entirely …

    … whoop, I forgot, wrong side of the pond.

  144. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard wrote ” First, I do not envy the academic who dares to speak out in favour of Brexit. ”

    Pretty much any academic who is afraid of criticism or disagreement is unlikely to make much of an impact on their field of research.

    “Second, universities lose legitimacy in the eyes of the 50% or so of Brits who are for Brexit.”

    So universities should be populist rather than being guided by what they think is correct? No thanks! If someone “loses legitimacy” in your eyes simply because you disagree with them on some subject, that is pretty irrational.

  145. Marco says:

    “First, I do not envy the academic who dares to speak out in favour of Brexit.”

    Neither should you envy the academic who dares speak out in favour of Bremain. After all, he has 50% of the British public against him!

    “universities lose legitimacy in the eyes of the 50% or so of Brits who are for Brexit. ”

    And with that this discussion is going into a direction that is beyond absurd. In essence Richard Tol is telling us that members of the National Academy of Sciences should (also) be selected based on their views of creationism, with many more believing the earth was created in a few thousand years, to make sure that the NAS members reflect the opinions of the general US public on this topic. Otherwise the NAS does not have any legitimacy to 50% of the US public. Of course, when it does so, the NAS will lose legitimacy to that other half of the US public, because it accepts so many members that hold scientifically untenable ideas…

  146. Brandon,

    and viewpoints (political views).

    Okay, fair point. I was just really trying to distinguish between something intrinsic (a characteristic) and something that represents a choice they’ve made (a viewpoint). I wasn’t trying to suggest that being aware of someone’s political leanings would be a valid way to judge their competence. On the other hand, Richard’s comment illustrates an interesting point. Most universities – I think – regard being in the EU as a positive (both in terms of funding and collaborations). Would a university appoint a known UKIP supporter to a senior strategy role?

  147. Marco says:

    And a small BTW, late to the party, so apologies if this has been covered already:
    It is quite rich of Richard Tol to demand people distance themselves from certain organizations, when this same Richard Tol then features in a Marc Morano movie. That’s the guy who happily publishes e-mail addresses of scientists and invites his readers to send e-mails. When those e-mails are threatening,he doesn’t care, because that is just something those scientists must accept as part of the process. In other words, Richard Tol happily associates himself with extremists like Marc Morano.

  148. Marco says:

    “Would a university appoint a known UKIP supporter to a senior strategy role?”

    That will depend on where the university wants to take its strategy. If that is completely contrary to what the UKIP wants, it would be unlikely that this supporter is hired, because it is less likely that he would execute the strategy the university wants to see. It would be like hiring an avid supporter of the Communist Party of Great Britain to lead the transition of the NHS from government-control to the free market.

  149. That will depend on where the university wants to take its strategy. If that is completely contrary to what the UKIP wants, it would be unlikely that this supporter is hired, because it is less likely that he would execute the strategy the university wants to see.

    Indeed, so being aware of someone’s underlying views on policy, for example, may well play a legitimate role in determining whether they’re suitable for a role or not. Of course, Richard may argue that he’s talking more about academics who have more general roles, and that’s a valid point. However, it doesn’t change that there are scenarios in which it would be appropriate to take someone’s general views into account when considering their suitability for a job.

  150. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “Would a university appoint a known UKIP supporter to a senior strategy role?”

    I don’t see why not, I suspect it is possible to have a rational stance against membership of the EU and support UKIP as a short term pragmatic measure. I don’t think it would be fair to view the conspicuous, shall we say “eccentrics”, who have been involved in the leadership of the party as being representative of supporters in general (at least I would hope not!).

  151. @wotts, dikran
    Recall that the UK is a democracy, and that universities derive a large share of their income from tax money, either directly or indirectly.

    I don’t think we should be populist, but we should wonder why we disagree with the majority of people — and that we should take corrective action if we find that certain groups are systematically excluded.

  152. Anders,

    I wasn’t trying to suggest that being aware of someone’s political leanings would be a valid way to judge their competence.

    Understood, and I didn’t actually think that’s what you meant. I more meant to point out how I could quotemine and accuse you of dog-whistling were I so inclined.

    Would a university appoint a known UKIP supporter to a senior strategy role?

    That *does* seem to be one of the Academy’s concerns. I’ll even cop to having trolled you a bit by using UKIP in my example. 🙂

  153. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard “Recall that the UK is a democracy, ”

    Yes, but truths are not democratic and are not decided by voting. The views of university academics should (apparently) be decided by evidence based enlightenment style reasoning.

    “but we should wonder why we disagree with the majority of people”

    Yes, we should indeed do that, and indeed do.

    “and that we should take corrective action if we find that certain groups are systematically excluded.”

    Not necessarily, see example given above, should biology departments be forced to have the same proportions of evolutionists and creationists that there is in the general public? I dare you to give a straight answer to that example!

    Whether corrective action is required depends on the nature of the group that is under represented. For example it would be a very good thing to increase the number of women in STEM subjects and for them to have a good working environment. I don’t see why that should be extended to e.g. UKIP supporters.

  154. Dikran Marsupial says:

    BTW to suggest that BREXIT supporters are “systematically excluded” is obvious hyperbole. I very much doubt that political stance on Europe has ever been a significant factor in faculty appointments.

  155. @dikran
    Apparently, it would be unwise for a job candidate to reveal her euroscepticism if you are on the selection committee.

    I don’t know your discipline. In economics, and I presume political science etc, we frequently get job candidates to talk about current issues — because that is what they’d have to do in class.

  156. There’s a difference between discussing Euroskepticism and expressing Euroskepticism.

    I’m out most of the day. Will respond to other comments when I get a chance.

  157. Dirkan,

    @Brandon was being too subtle (at least for me), but educational as I didn’t know the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

    It’s also likely that I was being more cryptic than subtle. Had I been less fatigued, I might have instead mentioned that Margaret Sanger, feminist and co-founder of Planned Parenthood was known for her endorsement of negative eugenics and is also quite controversial now for her then views on race. I think it’s the epitome of silly to diminish her good works for women, birth control and safe medical abortion on the basis that she was also arguably a white supremacist.

    Your link to Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow is appreciated. I didn’t know of it, looks quite interesting.

  158. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard Tol wrote “Apparently, it would be unwise for a job candidate to reveal her euroscepticism if you are on the selection committee.”

    Richard doesn’t appear to be following the conversation very well, given that I replied to ATTPs

    ““Would a university appoint a known UKIP supporter to a senior strategy role?””

    by writing

    “I don’t see why not, I suspect it is possible to have a rational stance against membership of the EU and support UKIP as a short term pragmatic measure. I don’t think it would be fair to view the conspicuous, shall we say “eccentrics”, who have been involved in the leadership of the party as being representative of supporters in general (at least I would hope not!).”

    So clearly it wouldn’t be an issue for me, and I have made that abundantly clear.

    I note that Richard has again made the candidate female to encourage a subconscious association between a euroscepetic bias and a more pernicious gender bias. You might get away with that rhetorical trick once, but not twice, especially after it has already been pointed out on this thread.

  159. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Brandon, the Kahneman book is well worth reading. The first half, which deals with cognitive bias, was the part I found most interesting (and having worked with neural networks I could see the truth in the argument), but I found it less interesting towards the end where it becomes more about economics (which is more the consequences of the biases).

  160. Dikran Marsupial says:

    BTW just to be clear, I don’t think I have any really strong views on euroscepticism, basically I think it would be better to stay in Europe and fix it, but I wouldn’t say that is based on a particularly well informed opinion in my case and I am willing to listen to cogent argument (silly hyperbolic rhetoric I have rather less time for).

  161. Dikran,

    I just realized I’ve been transposing the letters of your name.

    At 500 pages, it doesn’t look like a one-sitting read but I’m keen on both topics so I’ll definitely track it down at the library or local book shop.

  162. @dikran
    I took my cue from your “eccentrics”.

    For the record, as a matter of courtesy, I always use the female form to refer to someone of unknown gender.

  163. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “@dikran
    I took my cue from your “eccentrics”.

    Well perhaps you should have read the whole sentence then, rather than jumping to conclusions. I was pointing out that we shouldn’t be biased by the conspicuous eccentrics. Your apology for the inaccurate accusation of bias is duly noted. ;o)

    “For the record, as a matter of courtesy, I always use the female form to refer to someone of unknown gender.”

    There is no need to be courteous to notional candidates that don’t actually exist, so you should use “they” (and leave the gender unspecified), especially when it is important to avoid injecting additional bias by association.

  164. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Brandon, no worries, it is only a “nomme de guerre” anyway!

    I think Richard could do with reading “Thinking, fast and slow” as well (or maybe he already has? ;o)..

  165. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard, to get back to the subject of whether academia should reflect the diversity of public opinion, please give direct answers to these questions:

    (i) Should biology departments have a similar proportion of faculty that accept evolution by natural selection and those who accept creationism as is found in the general public?

    (ii) Should environmental science departments have a similar proportion of climate skeptic faculty and those who are in line with the IPCC position as is found in the general public?

  166. Joshua says:

    As a Pastafarian, I think that climate science departments should have equal representation of academics who think that pirates cause global warming.

    http://www.venganza.org/about/open-letter/

  167. @dikran
    No. Biology departments should not hire creationists, epidemiology departments should not hire miasmists, and economic departments should not hire mercantilists. These theories have been falsified, even if not everybody realizes that. There is a difference, however, between political viewpoints and testable hypotheses.

  168. Willard says:

    > There is a difference, however, between political viewpoints and testable hypotheses.

    How do we test evolutionism, again?

    Testability has been refuted in the 30s, yet here we are.

  169. Joshua says:

    ==> Biology departments should not hire creationists,..

    Interesting. Given the high prevalence of creationists,or at least Intelligent Design believers among conservatives, then it might get a bit tough for biology departments fulfill a quota for hiring conservatives.

    It’s also interesting that while Richard thinks that biology departments shouldn’t hire someone who shares religious beliefs with Roy Spencer, I’m going to guess that he thinks that climate science departments should go out of their way to make sure that they hire people who share religious beliefs with Roy Spencer?

  170. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard Tol wrote “These theories have been falsified,”

    Have climate skeptic theories been falsified? Should environmental science departments have the same balance of climate skeptics and mainstreamers?

    “There is a difference, however, between political viewpoints and testable hypotheses.”

    Whether being in Europe is beneficial or not is also a testable hypothesis, the experiment is obvious and possibly underway.

  171. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    ==> . In cases were condemnation or apology is clearly appropriate, the refusal to do either is rightly viewed as an implicit endorsement.

    I find this quite problematic. Interpreting implicit endorsement (and whether a condemnation is “clearly appropriate”) is highly subjective and often, very much a function of “motivated” reasoning.

    We have a rather substantial problem in this country where many Americans see “implicit endorsement” of terrorism among all Muslims. One of the rhetorical devices that they employ to confirm that belief is a bottomless quota of appropriate condemnations.

    I think this argument of yours must border on a classic fallacy.

  172. @dikran
    Exactly. The impact of Brexit is the different between a nebulous future inside the EU and an undefined future outside. So the overwhelming support for Bremain among economists may be a sign of bias rather than learning. The overwhelming support for evolution among biologist is, I believe, a sign of learning rather than bias.

  173. I’m going to guess that he thinks that climate science departments should go out of their way to make sure that they hire people who share religious beliefs with Roy Spencer?

    What about astronomy? Could someone who shares the same religious belief as Roy Spencer teach cosmology?

  174. izen says:

    The idea that universities should have a greater diversity of viewpoints, that the preponderance of progressives, atheists, males and the intellectually curious is a curtailment of academic freedom is almost always a power play by some under-represented group.

    There is no credible argument or evidence that science suffered from a shortage of Young Earth Creationists in biology and geology, or UKIPpers in cosmology. But the idea that central control should be imposed to make academe more acceptable to the taxpayers that fund it seems to assume that the science would be improved by a more diverse faculty. Evidence of this would help.

    Otherwise the assertion seems to be based on the idea that science research is not a meritocracy, based on the utility of its results, but a social enterprise that must be organised to reflect the exact diversity of the population in which it operates.
    That may be sensible if the aim is to commodity education and attract the widest intake of students.
    It is demonstrably less successful if the goal is to maximise cited papers, patents and Nobels.

  175. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard, I note that you didn’t answer the questions that I posed, here they are again:

    Have climate skeptic theories been falsified? Should environmental science departments have the same balance of climate skeptics and mainstreamers?

    “The impact of Brexit is the different between a nebulous future inside the EU and an undefined future outside. So the overwhelming support for Bremain among economists may be a sign of bias rather than learning” [emphasis mine]

    There is a big difference between “may” and “is”. It is more likely that the economists think the uncertainties involved in staying in the EU are smaller than leaving. As a non-economist that seems reasonable to me, we have been in the EU for a long time, we ought to be able to work out the direction in which it is heading. We have rather less direct evidence of what it would be like for us outside.

    “The overwhelming support for evolution among biologist is, I believe, a sign of learning rather than bias.”

    If you are going to dodge the question about environmental science departments, you should probably make it a little less obvious. Would you say that the overwhelming support for the mainstream view amongst climatologists is a sign of learning rather than bias?

  176. Tom Curtis says:

    Joshua, I doubt it is a classic fallacy in that I have merely stated a position, not presented an argument.

    More importantly, only with the whole position do I consider it reasonable. Specifically:

    “On the other hand, whether or not an act ought to be condemned is a matter that you must decide for yourself. Others will, however, decide for themselves as well. In cases were condemnation or apology is clearly appropriate, the refusal to do either is rightly viewed as an implicit endorsement. However, nobody has the right to assume that because they have not heard your condemnation, that you did not make it.”

    I could put the last sentence another way. If you want to draw the inference from a lack of condemnation/apology to tacit endorsement, the onus is on you to prove that no condemnation/apology was made. In the “islamic” terrorism case, if you want to condemn a mufti as tacitly endorsing terrorism, you would need to show not just that they have not condemned the terrorism in English on national media, but also that they have not done so in Arabic in the mosque, and not just that they have failed to condemn a particular act of terrorism, but also that they are not on record as condemning terrorism generally (which by implication condemns any particular act).

    In many cases (and every case that I have investigated), the Islamic leaders condemned by the Islamophobes for tacitly endorsing terrorism in fact are on record as condemning it. In fact, in a number of cases the charge has been that though the leader condemned terrorism, they endorse it in Arabic in the mosque (stated without evidence); or the condemnation was not acceptable because it was nuanced, or some other crap excuse for maintaining a condemnation of Islamic leaders for ‘not condemning terrorism” when they are on public record as doing just that.

    From my perspective, it is just a matter of fact that our values are shown by what we do, including how we react to what others do. No amount of sermonizing on honesty shows us to value honesty if we tell untruths. It follows from that that how we react to terrorist acts (or other condemnable acts) also shows our values; and it is reasonable for people to draw conclusions from our reactions, or failure to react under certain circumstances. However, it is only reasonable if they have taken substantial measures to show they are not condemning us based solely on ignorance of our reaction.

    Finally, people do have different values. And that will show up in some people considering some acts damnable, while others do not. I, for example, will not condemn as a terrorist act any sort of military operation by civilians which we would have considered heroic and praiseworthy by French partisans in WW2. Nor will I condemn as terrorism any act that attacks only military targets as defined by operational practice of Western armed forces (including attacks on infrastructure, military and/or police forces, all of which were considered fair game by the US in the 2nd Gulf War). This may lead some people to accuse me of endorsing terrorism, but tough. I will accuse those same people of being hypocritical in the extreme, ie, of having values that mould to serve their interests rather than being based on principle.

  177. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard wrote “There is a difference, however, between political viewpoints and testable hypotheses.”

    I wrote “Whether being in Europe is beneficial or not is also a testable hypothesis, the experiment is obvious and possibly underway.”

    Richard wrote “Exactly. The impact of Brexit is the different between a nebulous future inside the EU and an undefined future outside…”

    Is it just me or is that a complete non-sequitur?

  178. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Actually, pointing that out is probably counterproductive as it gives an opportunity for Richard to avoid answering the questions about environmental science departments.

  179. Marco says:

    “The overwhelming support for evolution among biologist is, I believe, a sign of learning rather than bias.”

    Creationists disagree. They argue that creationists are systematically prevented from presenting their science, and that young people only get taught the dogma of evolution. What you believe is therefore irrelevant, because the fact remains that a significant proportion of the US public believes in creationism, and by your own line of argumentation this means they should be represented in similar proportions in academia and schools in order to prevent these organizations to lose legitimacy. But as also already noted, adding such people to the organization would reduce their legitimacy in the eyes of those who are *not* creationists.

    “The overwhelming support for Bremain among economists may be a sign of bias rather than learning”
    The split view in the British public may *also* be a sign of bias rather than learning. In fact, it is in my opinion more likely to be a sign of bias in the general public than the overwhelming support for Bremain being a sign of bias among economists.

  180. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP, 7.04 am: ‘…but belief in a political philosophy might qualify.’

    In your link, that interpretation of the law was bolstered by Grainger et al v Nicholson (2009), which is relevant to this discussion in other ways. A Guardian headline about the case:

    Judge rules activist’s beliefs on climate change akin to religion

    Tim Nicholson was sacked as head of greenwashingsustainability at a property company for, he said, taking climate change too seriously. He took his ex-employers to court, claiming that his sacking was contrary to the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 because his concerns about climate change were central to his life and should be given the same protection afforded to philosophical and religious beliefs. The company argued (somewhat cheekily) that the immaterial was immaterial: that Nicholson’s concerns were based on fact and science, not faith and conscience. Judges at successive hearings disagreed, saying that beliefs based on science could be considered philosophical or religious if the believer believed in them fervently enough – and Nicholson did, they reckoned. He was at the CAGW end of climactivism. A QC summed up his position as follows:

    The philosophical belief is that mankind is heading towards catastrophic climate change and therefore we are all under a moral duty to lead our lives in a manner which mitigates or avoids this catastrophe for the benefit of future generations, and to persuade others to do the same.

    This belief, Nicholson said, informed every aspect of his life…

    …including my choice of home, how I travel, what I buy, what I eat and drink, what I do with my waste and my hopes and my fears. For example, I no longer travel by airplane. I have eco-renovated my home. I try to buy local produce. I have reduced my consumption of meat. I compost my food waste. I encourage others to reduce their carbon emissions and I fear very much for the future of the human race, given the failure to reduce carbon emissions on a global scale.

    (Hands up here who agrees with him.)

    Grainger said Nicholson’s climactivism had nothing to do with his sacking but settled out of court all the same.

    Nicholson went on to work for 10:10 and now sells solar panels.

    The final ruling is here:

    http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2009/0219_09_0311.html

    Much learned discussion of the nature of belief and whether economic catastrophists should also enjoy employment protection and how much wiggle room does the European Convention on Human Rights allow UK legislators and why is a duck and so on.

    For an easier read, here’s Frank Swain using the ruling as a launchpad for an attack on the pietism, puritanism, scientismistical noble cause corruption and outright woo woo of ideological, quasi-religious environmentalists:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20120517164516/http://scienceblogs.com/sciencepunk/2009/03/is_being_green_a_religious_bel.php

    (Trigger warning: Swain quotes Patrick Moore favourably.)

  181. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    Thanks. No time now, will try to respond later.

  182. Vinny,
    I wasn’t aware of that, but it still appears to be consistent with the idea that it has to be something akin to a religion, not simply some kind of political viewpoint.

  183. Joshua says:

    Time for a drive-by, however…

    In case anyone was feeling that there’s a shortage of unintentional irony in the “skept-o-sphere,” Marco and Izen do a nice job of outlining just how ubiquitous it is…

    ==> Otherwise the assertion seems to be based on the idea that science research is not a meritocracy, based on the utility of its results…

    and

    ==> Creationists disagree. They argue that creationists are systematically prevented from presenting their science, and that young people only get taught the dogma of evolution. What you believe is therefore irrelevant, because the fact remains that a significant proportion of the US public believes in creationism, and by your own line of argumentation this means they should be represented in similar proportions in academia and schools in order to prevent these organizations to lose legitimacy.

    In this case, they’re only outlining the level of unintentional irony in Richard’s arguments…but I think that the phenomenon generalizes pretty well.

  184. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard wrote: “The impact of Brexit is the different between a nebulous future inside the EU and an undefined future outside. So the overwhelming support for Bremain among economists may be a sign of bias rather than learning” [emphasis mine]

    My hypothesis would be that the difference arises because for some whether we are in Europe or not is a political issue, rather than primarily and economic issue, and the difference arises because economists are primarily concerned with the economics (which seems appropriate behaviour for economists). Looking at the diversity of opinion in a politics department might be more interesting.

  185. izen says:

    Increased diversity in economics to reflect the population division of brexit or bremain would seem to assume that this would improve economics because the popular view is a more accurate representation of the issue.

    That ignores that the overwhelming majority of the U.K. Media, news and opinion forming commentary is pro brexit. Perhaps a more diverse media that allows the freedom to support bremain without vilification or accusations of scare-mongering would change the popular position.
    Or perhaps the immunity to the prevailing media consensus by economists requires explanation.

  186. Willard says:

    > The final ruling is here

    FWIW, the tribunal’s decision rests on these definitions:

    “(1) In these Regulations –

    i. “religion” means any religion,
    ii. “belief” means any religious or philosophical belief,
    iii. a reference to religion includes a reference to lack of religion, and
    iv. a reference to belief includes a reference to lack of belief.”

    http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2009/0219_09_0311.html

    If we accept this, then there’s no such thing as a scientific belief. It also follows from these definitions that any set of socio-econo-political beliefs could be construed as a religion. This could go beyond that. When THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BURTON sits alone to present this verdict, is he stating any belief at all? After all, Burton’s argument rests on some points of the philosophy of law.

    When I say “there’s no such thing as a scientific belief,” am I stating a belief?

    PS: Please mind your C memes, Vinny, or cf. at Judy’s.

  187. Vinny Burgoo says:

    But Willard, catastrophism was central to Nicholson’s victory. He won because being that worried about climate change counts as a philosophical belief (rather than, say, a political viewpoint; or a neurosis).

  188. He won because being that worried about climate change counts as a philosophical belief (rather than, say, a political viewpoint; or a neurosis).

    You’re over-stating it. He claimed that his belief in climate change counted as a deeply help philosophical belief that influenced how he conducted his life. It doesn’t follow that being worried about climate change necessarily counts as a belief akin to a religion. The summary of the tribunal says

    A belief in man-made climate change, and the alleged resulting moral imperatives, is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations.

  189. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP, you’re right. I was thinking of how some commentators interpreted the ruling.

  190. Willard says:

    > catastrophism was central to Nicholson’s victory

    Unless you can substantiate that with a quote from your legal source, dear Vinny, I duly submit that the C meme is more central to your peddling than anything.

  191. andrew adams says:

    ATTP

    why don’t we have more committed Socialists in the banking sector?

    Well I’m doing my best but I must admit I’m ploughing a somewhat lonely furrow!

    I don’t think there is any real contradiction between being socialist and working in banking, most socialists don’t actually want to abolish money after all, I guess it maybe just tends to attract people with a certain worldview. And I suppose the same goes for some other professions, including academia. I know that some climate change “skeptics” seem to think that climate scientists and academics in general are suspiciously left wing but there is nothing odd or suspicious about it any more than there is about the fact that people in my industry tend to be left wing.

  192. andrew adams says:

    The impact of Brexit is the different between a nebulous future inside the EU and an undefined future outside. So the overwhelming support for Bremain among economists may be a sign of bias rather than learning

    I kind of agree with your first sentence, not the second. There are well defined economic benefits to the UK being in the EU, there is no guarantee that we would be able to retain these benefits if we left and even if we did it would only be after a protracted period of negotiation, and even then there is no strong case for saying we would ultimately be any better off economically overall. It’s not bias to point that out.

  193. but there is nothing odd or suspicious about it any more than there is about the fact that people in my industry tend to be left wing.

    Did you mean “tend to mean right wing”? I agree, I don’t think there is anything suspicious about it. There’s been a suggestion that somehow either conservatives are discriminated against in academia or don’t feel welcome. I can’t speak to the latter, but the former is less likely given that I have no idea how I can know someone’s political views unless they’ve made it clear. Given that this is not something asked on an application form or during an interview, it’s pretty tricky to see how it can play much of a role.

  194. entropicman says:

    ATTP

    Perhaps a conservative mindset does not sit well with academic rigour and the ability to change one’s viewpoint as the evidence changes?

    In that case an academic career would not be attractive or suitable for a conservative. The possible leftward lean of academics may therefore be the result of a form of natural selection.

  195. Eli Rabett says:

    “For the record, as a matter of courtesy, I always use the female form to refer to someone of unknown gender.”

    Horseshit

  196. @andrew
    The impact of Bremain is nebulous: We stay in the EU, but we don’t know what the EU will be like in 10 or 50 years time.

    The impact of Brexit is undefined: There are some 160 countries outside the EU. Will the relationship between the UK and the EU be like the one between the EU and Norway, Switzerland, Canada, or Peru?

  197. Dikran Marsupial says:

    There is no substantive difference between “nebulous” and “undefined” – the past is a different country (where they do things differently), likewise the future EU that may be different in 10 or 50 years time is like a different country. The difference is that we have experience of being in the EU and are not without some control of how it will change with time. To suggest that the levels of uncertainty are basically the same seems unrealistic to me (and certainly isn’t established by assertion).

  198. “Because laboratory experience is so easy to develop online.”

    easy peasy.

    1.people should not be doing lab work. Leave it to robots or AI
    2. telepresence.

    the sooner we become brains in vats the better.

  199. What I always loved about science was its ability to transcend political and cultural boundaries, and while it is naive to imagine science can hermetically seal itself off from society, it is true that at its best, passionate scientific debate about the science does not require agreement on political views.

    Why would a conservative physicist have an issue with a liberal one, when discussing the veracity of a gravitational wave theory or experiment?

    But of course Lysenko (totalitarian agricultural bias) and Lenard (hatred of “Jewish science”) provide examples of how this well of cross cultural co-operation can be poisoned. Those like Fred Singer, in there attacks on climate scientists, have sought to obfuscate the science, and history will judge them as little better. I really don’t care if they regard themselves as ‘conservatives’ or ‘liberals’ – the behaviour is appalling. The poisoning of the well is a betrayal of the science they claim to love.

  200. wheelism says:

    (Is it me, or is SM hoping-in-vain that we dismiss his earlier DUI drive-by as an April fool?)

  201. Tol,

    I see others have tried, but I’ll take my own crack at this.

    Biology departments should not hire creationists, epidemiology departments should not hire miasmists, and economic departments should not hire mercantilists.

    I don’t disagree in principle. I think the better practise would be to let individual institutions decide for themselves who to not hire and why. With caveats of course. If the most qualified candidate professes an “unpopular” political viewpoint, rejecting their application on that basis alone is arguably an unwarranted discrimination.

    I submit that strident partisanship knows no political boundaries. I think it’s possible to hold a “radical” or “extremist” political position without being intolerant of opposing views. In practice, extreme intolerance seems to be a defining characteristic at either pole of a given political spectrum.

    In sum, this seems optimal to me: hire/fire/censure based on merit — qualifications, performance and productive relations with other faculty and students. Let the ideological balance work itself out as a function of the fitness of the individuals who hold them.

    But … tenure …

    There is a difference, however, between political viewpoints and testable hypotheses.

    In practise perhaps. I see only tenuous definitional reason why that should be the case.

    dikran,

    Is it just me or is that a complete non-sequitur?

    It’s not just you. It helped me to abstract before I could see it.

    Vinny Burgoo,

    Hands up here who agrees with him.

    [raises hand]

    Hands up here who share his stated commitment in practise.

    [thinks about last night’s juicy steak, shoves hands in pockets, shuffles feet nervously]

  202. @Richard E
    This is an issue in the social sciences and where the natural sciences touch on policy, climate research being a prominent example.

    I am pretty sure our host’s work on disk accretion is unaffected by his political views. At the same time, senior academics do more than just research: We teach, run departments, hire and fire people, etc.

  203. Marco says:

    “people should not be doing lab work. Leave it to robots or AI”

    Being in a lab-based research environment, I can only say that this would be a mistake. Humans have multiple senses that contribute to our understanding and insights. With robots or AI you are likely to miss relevant observations. I even dare to say that human intuition should not be underestimated in understanding the world, even though it also opens up for biases.

    Moreover, the fewer people have hands-on experience, the fewer will be able to understand how to program the robots or AI to perform the experiments properly. Robots are great for processes that have been well-established, making sure things are done the same way all of the time and allow greater throughput. But don’t assume they are error-free (and neither is AI).

  204. wheelism,
    I was wondering the same myself 🙂

    Richard,

    I am pretty sure our host’s work on disk accretion is unaffected by his political views. At the same time, senior academics do more than just research: We teach, run departments, hire and fire people, etc.

    Indeed, so maybe you can explain why – if you’re arguing that senior academics should be cautious in what they say publicly – your post on “Radical greens” was wise (or irrelevant)?

  205. @wotts
    As I wrote, I think leaders should call out the extremists in their midst. I leave it for others to decide whether it is wise for me to claim leadership in the environmental movement.

  206. Richard,

    As I wrote, I think leaders should call out the extremists in their midst.

    Ahh, so you’re claiming that your post was calling out extremists? Let me see if I can understand this. You named two people in your post. Both of those people work in an academic environment and both have been – at times – critical of what you’ve said or promoted. Your response is to associate them with environmentalism (despite no real evidence that they have any association), the Taliban, call them extremists (and “nutters”), and suggest that you’re making some kind of stand against extremism. Maybe you can explain why your doing this is somehow a reasonsed response to their criticism. Also, given the tone of your post it would seem entirely reasonable to regard your response as extreme and to call out your extremism. I’m guessing that you think you’re in some kind of position to call out extremism, while others are not?

    I leave it for others to decide whether it is wise for me to claim leadership in the environmental movement.

    “Wise” isn’t the word I’d use. Again, you appear to have entirely missed the point. Your post associated “environmentalists” (and Greens) with radicalism and with terrorist atrocities. If you think it important to make people with alternative views welcome in an academic environment, why was writing such a post wise?

  207. @Richard Tol … This brings us back to the Gavin Schmidt presentation at AGU that’s been posted many times, where he emphasises the need to distinguish between the “Is” (evidence-based research) and “Ought” (ones values) and how these together can inform the “Should” (our political prescriptions) … which might in turn lead to “Do” (walk the doing and doing something).

    Clark et al.’s recent paper on millennial sea level rise is representative of most of the good climate science that in my view reveals nothing of the author’s political pre-delicitions. What some might say in a blog or in interview (e.g. Pierrehumbert talking about the urgency of action) in no way undermines their scientific output, any more than the author’s of the Royal Commission’s report on smoking, whose statistical work established the connection between smoking and health (principally lung cancer rates), could be criticised for interviews they may have given calling for action.

    I think it is those that don’t like the implications of the science who then wish to say that the “Is” has been corrupted by the “Ought” but fail to demonstrate this so then get into the nasty tactics a la Cruz.

    Global Warming; Gene editing; The Internet of Everything; … science has social implications wherever we look. And yes, scientists need to be much better at navigating the science-policy interface.

    Unfortunately we seem to be going through a period (started by Reagan and not at a crescendo) where the ‘Liberal Far Right’ (Cruz /GOP) has abandoned the consensus that policy should have a science base. For them: Darwin was wrong, the Surgeon General was wrong, the IPCC was wrong, … if they don’t like the implications they attack the science, then they attack the scientists.

    It is they, not climate scientists, who have poisoned the well of informed debate on the policy implications of the science.

  208. @Richard E
    I largely agree, but with one nuance. In the climate debate, you often hear politicians say “the science demands action” or some such.

    That claim is false. If you’re on a beach and you see the water rapidly withdraw, then science says it is a sure sign of an imminent tsunami. Science also tells you that you will increase your chance of survival if you run for the hills. Science does not tell you to run for the hills. Your survival instinct does. Science even tells you that the instinct to survive is strong in the vast majority of people. But science does not tell you to run for the hills.

    So, if a politician says “science says we have to do A”, opponents can politely point out that the politician made a categorical error, and that one can agree on facts while disagreeing on values, and that the same evidence can be used to support B. By then, the cameras have been turned off.

    Alternative, opponents of A can attack the science. It’s much more direct and much more effective.

    Abuse of science invites attacks on science.

    The topic of this thread, by the way, is inadvertant bias in research due to viewpoint bias. That can also lead to attacks on science, although a gradual erosion of credibility and legitimacy is a more likely outcome.

  209. As an example of the virtues of viewpoint diversity, consider Katherina Hayhoe. As an evangelical, she is much better at convincing her fellow Christians of the reality of human-made climate change than a godless person like me.

  210. Richard,

    The topic of this thread, by the way, is inadvertant bias in research due to viewpoint bias.

    Even if true (and I don’t really think you’ve provided much evidence for this) it is not obvious that the solution is more viewpoint diversity. Our best understanding is not some kind of average of the results obtained by researchers who are being influenced by their various different biases.

    That can also lead to attacks on science, although a gradual erosion of credibility and legitimacy is a more likely outcome.

    Again, I don’t see that this is necessarily true. However, it seems clear that a senior academic going around highlighting this possibility could make this more likely.

    As an example of the virtues of viewpoint diversity, consider Katherina Hayhoe. As an evangelical, she is much better at convincing her fellow Christians of the reality of human-made climate change than a godless person like me.

    So, we should engineer more viewpoint diversity so that we can more easily convince those with certain viewpoints? I can imagine that this wouldn’t go down well with some, if it became clear that this was the motivation behind a strategy to increase viewpoint diversity.

  211. izen says:

    @-Tol
    “KatherinE Hayhoe…
    As an evangelical, she is much better at convincing her fellow Christians of the reality of human-made climate change than a godless person like me.”

    Possibly not. She has already been rejected by a large proportion of her co-evangelicals because of the climate change statements. Suffers the -‘not a Real True Christian’ accusation. And as is often found, authoritarian groups are more censorious of the close heretic than the distant heathen.

  212. izen says:

    Tol has another advantage over Hayhoe.
    1 Tim 2:12
    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

  213. @Richard Tol … should we blame the scientists for what politicians or others do with the science, conflating the ‘Is’ and ‘Ought’? If a journalist talks about 3 parent babies when it is more accurately 2.01 parents, do we blame the scientist or the journalist? The HFEA did however do a brilliant public engagement to ensure that people were educated and able to discuss concerns. I think with climate change, everyone should agree it could have gone better, in retrospect. It is never too late to re-engage, and many are doing just that. Some however are trapped in this antagonism.

    I met group at the early stages of building 6,000 zero carbon houses in a new sustainable development (with lots of great ideas around water management, transport, local employment, etc.), and it is run by a Conservative authority. They are anticipating adaptation requirements (very wet winters and very hot summers in 2050, for example). For them, the transition to more sustainable communities has started and party politics is an irrelevance. Everyone sees that what they are doing is good even if they do not label themselves as “environmentalists”. I know many conservatives who think like that. They have moved on from the ‘debate’ on the science. The debates are now more about what solutions to adopt; and there an many ways to move to zero/ low carbon.

    The imminent tsunami analogy is problematic because one of the challenges in communicating the risks are that while action to transition the energy infrastructure needs to be over a few decade, the consequences (and some level of which is already baked in) are over a longer period, and in the case of Antarctica, centuries and millennia.

    This mis-match of time periods is a fundamental problem in communicating the risks, not least to politicians who get re-elected on a cycle of 4 or 5 years.

    The better analogy may be the young midshipman trying to warn the captain of a latter day ‘Titanic’ to slow down because of hazards (rocks only slightly visible below the waterline) ahead, and the owners of the boat saying ‘we cannot slow down, it will kill the project (economy)’. But when everyone finally agrees it is time to slow and steer away it is too late because the ship’s inertia is so great. That is where we are with the climate right now. The midshipman is being accused of being an alarmist, but he has keener vision, and a better telescope.

    How do we deal with this difficult balance of conveying urgency about things that seem far off, but need at least to start action ‘now’ to address (start turning the wheel)?

  214. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard wrote “This is an issue in the social sciences and where the natural sciences touch on policy, climate research being a prominent example.”

    Funny then that you were willing to answer my question about bias in biology departments, but repeatedly dodged the questions about climatology:

    “(ii) Should environmental science departments have a similar proportion of climate skeptic faculty and those who are in line with the IPCC position as is found in the general public?”

    Have climate skeptic theories been falsified? (in response to Richard’s answer about why we don’t need to encourage more creationists in biology departments – which which I agree).

    Should environmental science departments have the same balance of climate skeptics and mainstreamers?

    It seems to me that Richard doesn’t want to set out his position unambiguously and explicitly (or even put bounds on his position), presumably because he knows it is indefensible. Needless to say, this is not the way academics ought to discuss something if they are free of bias.

  215. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “As an example of the virtues of viewpoint diversity, consider Katherina Hayhoe. As an evangelical, she is much better at convincing her fellow Christians of the reality of human-made climate change than a godless person like me.”

    I suspect it is because she understands the viewpoint of her audience. Believe it or not, you don’t need to hold a viewpoint to understand it, indeed the ability to do that sort of thing is a large part of what being human(e) is about.

  216. Tom Curtis says:

    Richard Tol, science by itself cannot demand any action; but science with a set of values can. Thus together with the widely assumed value of self preservation, the withdrawing water does demand that you run to higher ground. Together with the widely shared value of benevolence to our fellows, it also demands that we warn them while running, and even assist those with difficulties with mobility.

    Further, given the widely shared nature of some values, there is no need to spell out the values when making the argument, except in formal contexts.

    Turning to the global warming context, when a politician says the science demands action, the appropriate response of those who disagree is to either explicitly challenge the assumed values; or to ask what the assumed valued actually are if you don’t think they are widely shared after all.

    So, appealing to the widely shared values of self preservation, concern for our progeny, and benevolence to our fellows, the science does indeed demand action; and very pressing action. If you want to reject this on the basis of the presumed widely shared value (or personal value) of unenlightened self interest, by all means state that fact. The Kochs and Cruzes of this world who would rather use dishonest tactics to impeach the science and the scientists then be explicit about their values are beneath contempt. No amount of waffling about the fact/value distinction alters that fact.

  217. Dikran Marsupial says:

    TC ?”Further, given the widely shared nature of some values, there is no need to spell out the values when making the argument, except in formal contexts.”

    Indeed, the Golden Rule is not exactly brain surgery, never mind rocket science, and it is pretty cross-cultural. It is so natural, that to point it out explicitly in discussing what to do about climate change would probably be taken as deeply patronising, but it is more or less all that is needed to join the science to at least the fact we probably ought to do something. I suspect when scientists are accused of being activists is probably because the listener is automatically inserting the golden rule and turning a scientific projection into a call to action and assuming that is what the scientist means.

    Having said which, I have no problem with scientists who are also activists, as long as they are clear in separating one from the other. It would be both unreasonable and unjust to do otherwise ([patronising] golden rule again[/patronising] ;o).

  218. Having said which, I have no problem with scientists who are also activists, as long as they are clear in separating one from the other.

    Except when they criticise Richard Tol; in that case they’re extremists 😉

  219. Marco says:

    I’ll just repeat once again that Tol has associated himself with Marc Morano by featuring in the latter’s film in a supportive role. Clearly Tol does not consider Morano an extremist in the field of climate science (or science in general, perhaps, whenever it goes against certain republican ideologies), since he did not only not call Morano out, he even helped Morano with his project.

    Now consider that for a person at the extreme, the vast majority of people are extremists…

  220. Marco,

    Now consider that for a person at the extreme, the vast majority of people are extremists…

    That’s a good point. I hadn’t considered the possibility that Richard was talking about relative extremism, rather than absolute extremism.

  221. @wotts
    Hayhoe used to be one of Schneider’s proteges. Schneider was about as liberal as an American can be.

    @marco
    Morano used footage in the public domain, and footage from an interview. I have been interviewed more often by the Guardian than by CFACT, so I guess my association with the former is stronger.

  222. Richard,

    Hayhoe used to be one of Schneider’s proteges. Schneider was about as liberal as an American can be.

    I’ve no idea what you mean by this.

    Morano used footage in the public domain, and footage from an interview. I have been interviewed more often by the Guardian than by CFACT, so I guess my association with the former is stronger.

    You appear quite happy to condemn the Guardian.

  223. Marco says:

    “You appear quite happy to condemn the Guardian.”

    Exactly.

    And let’s not forget Tol’s loud condemnation of several members of the GWPF Academic Advisory Council, who can easily be considered extremists, too (for example, Ian Plimer or even more obviously, William Happer). Oh wait…Tol never did that either.

  224. Marco says:

    “Hayhoe used to be one of Schneider’s proteges.”

    Citation needed.

  225. Actually, I took Richard’s word for that. I can’t, however, find any association between Katherine Hayhoe and Stephen Schneider. I realise that that will not stop Richard from claiming that there is one.

  226. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Citation? ISBN-10: 0691122946

  227. Willard says:

    FWIW, Frankfurt’s On Truth‘s even better.

  228. @guys
    You’re all getting very excited about this whole “extremist” thing. I prefer to reserve that word for illegal acts, or even violent ones.

  229. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Sadly the earlier book does sum up what is wrong with much discussion on blogs. I find asking direct questions that place bounds on my interlocutors position to be quite useful. If they keep evading them (but do not stop responding), it is usually an indication that they are not really interested in getting to the truth. If they are interested in getting to the truth, then giving a good answer is a pretty direct route to convincing me they are right, or for them to find the flaws in their argument. In principle it ought to be a useful step either way, but YMMV.

    Will have a look for “On Truth” – cheers Willard.

  230. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard writes “@guys
    You’re all getting very excited about this whole “extremist” thing. I prefer to reserve that word for illegal acts, or even violent ones.”

    Captain subtext translates as “no, I don’t have a citation, and no, I am not going to say anything negative about Morano or the GWPF”.

  231. Richard,

    You’re all getting very excited about this whole “extremist” thing.

    I don’t quite see where people are getting “very excited”.

    I prefer to reserve that word for illegal acts, or even violent ones.

    Let’s make something clear. In this post you’ve associated me personally with illegal and violent acts. I think I’m showing quite a lot of restraint. Let’s also be extremely clear. I have absolutely no association whatsoever with any of the acts that you mention in that post. I’ll also be clear: I don’t particularly care. I genuinely doubt anyone (well anyone who’s opinion/viewpoint I might value) takes what you’ve written in that post (or anywhere) seriously. I’m far more interested in how you can write that post, and then criticise others for saying things that might make some people feel uncomfortable, or unwelcome.

    So, why do you think that it’s perfectly fine to write such a post (which basically associates all environmentalists and greens with violent and illegal acts) and then go around complaining that some people might feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable, in academia?

  232. @wotts
    I wrote that you “attack others for their climate heresy”. I certainly did not mean that you would physically attack people. Please accept my apologies if it was read this way.

  233. Richard,
    I’m not looking for an apology, but thanks anyway. I’m not sure why you think my issue was that you were suggesting that I might physically attack people; I suggested nothing of the sort.

    Let me highlight the key phrase

    Every movement has its nutters. Climate warriors have long ago stopped being civil. But we seem to be entering a new level of radicalisation.

    The Buddhas of Bamiyan were blown up by the Taliban in 2001. In 2014, Greenpeace activists damaged the Nazca Lines.

    So, climate warriors stopping being civil (which is a little ironic coming from you) has lead to a new phase that is somehow equivalent to the Taliban blowing up the Buddhas of Bamiyan and Greenpeace activists damaging the Nazca lines? Let’s bear in mind that you associate with people who complain about “denier” being an association with the Holocaust (even though direct associations are rare) and yet you feel quite comfortable making a direct association with terrorist atrocities? So, maybe you could answer the key question, which is relevant to this post

    So, why do you think that it’s perfectly fine to write such a post (which basically associates all environmentalists and greens with violent and illegal acts) and then go around complaining that some people might feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable, in academia?

  234. @wotts
    There is a paragraph break between these sentences.

  235. Richard,
    I realise. Are you really suggesting that that somehow means that you’re not making an association between radicalisation of climate warriors and illegal and violent acts? Seems a bit weak. I’ve never made a direct association between climate science deniers and the holocaust, so it’s okay for me to use denier?

    You still haven’t answered my question, though. The key point is that you’ve associated environmentalists with radicalism. You say

    Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists.

    Many academics are probably environmentalists, or feel an associating with environmentalism. Why, if you think it would be valuable to encourage viewpoint diversity, do you think making such an association is acceptable/wise? To be clear, you’re suggesting that we should aim to make those with different viewpoints welcome in academia, and should aim to not say things that might make them feel uncomfortable. That does not appear consistent with what you actually say publicly. Could you explain this apparent discrepancy?

  236. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “There was a paragraph break between these sentences”

    In most writing, paragraphs are not written down in a random order.

    n.b. ATTP reproduced them with the paragraph break intact.

  237. @wotts
    I do make that link: There is violence in the name of Gaia.

  238. Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists.”

    This goes one step beyond guilt by association; guilt by appellation?

  239. andrew adams says:

    Richard,

    The impact of Brexit is undefined: There are some 160 countries outside the EU. Will the relationship between the UK and the EU be like the one between the EU and Norway, Switzerland, Canada, or Peru?

    Yes, that’s a good question. You’d think that those actually advocating Brexit would have a clear idea though. It’s all a bit “we don’t know what it will be like but we’re sure things will turn out for the best”. Now what does that remind me of 😉

  240. Every science fields has contain careless researchers. After all, science is mostly crap. However, we seem to be entering a new level of crappiness.

    (Insert paragraph break here.)

    Just like the Oregon standoff don’t rejoice freedom fighters, Gremlins taint all econometricians:

    I am an econometrician, by the way.

    http://andrewgelman.com/2014/05/27/whole-fleet-gremlins-looking-carefully-richard-tols-twice-corrected-paper-economic-effects-climate-change/#comment-167656

  241. Richard,

    I do make that link: There is violence in the name of Gaia.

    I realise. I’m trying to understand why someone (or some group) doing something in the name of Gaia, justifies you tainting everyone who associates with Gaia (to use your terminology; replace Gaia with whatever group seems appropriate). Of course, I should probably have said “everyone who you decide is associated with Gaia”.

  242. For those who are new to ClimateBall ™, Richie’s doing two things, one older than the other. The first is good ol’ hippie bashing:

    Will Herberg’s 1967 rant against hippies, published in National Review, spearheaded some of the hippie caricatures that continue to this day:

    The corporate mental life of the hippies would seem to be rather vacuous. They do show some talent for organization (after all, they’re all Americans, aren’t they?), but the thinking they do, if indeed thinking it can be called, is more like orgiastic love-spluttering than coherent thought. Unlike the more pretentious beatniks of yore, they do not claim to be producing a new and esoteric kind of poetry or music; they just want to be left alone to wallow in their “love-ins” and their nature “happenings.”

    http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2011/05/10/quote-for-the-day-1-19/

    Freedom fighters only rediscovered a reactionary genre. The second one is what Andrew Adams calls:

    Sometimes, it’s called a greenline or a Rorschach test. Other times, it appears as a request for an argument against self-interest. Whatever the word, it’s part and parcel of the lukewarm playbook:

    The lukewarm gambit exploits both Skydragons and the CAGW meme to stretch the Overton window and portray its minimization as the middle ground.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2015/12/normal-science.html

    The rhetorical technique is as old as storytelling:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three_(writing)

    Eli should include an outline of the ClimateBalll technique in his future e-book.

  243. Eli,
    Yes, I am aware of that one.

  244. Found it eventually. Richard Tol tried the totalitarian trick here too.

  245. Only holding up mirrors.

    Getting back to the theme of the post, why do you think you’re in a position to do so, while encouraging others to not do so? You still haven’t answered that question (and – for the moment – I’m ignoring the obvious follow up of why you think it’s okay to make things up while supposedly holding up mirrors).

  246. Richie will ask for the data in 3, 2, 1:

  247. Francis Logan says:

    “There is a paragraph break between these sentences.”

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

    nope, too brief. Let me begin again.

    In 25 years of practicing law in various fields, including environmental law, I have seen all kinds of terrible argumentation. Lawyers, their clients and their experts stretch the truth beyond all bounds, elide contrary evidence, obfuscate applicable precedent and engage in all types of logical fallacies.

    You, however, are really starting to shine as an outstanding example of truly embarrassing argumentation. As a professional academic, you are supposed to hold yourself to a higher standard than my crew. Understanding is supposed to be your goal, not counting coup. The mirror you hold up to show how poorly this community is behaving shows only your own face.

    After that preface, let me reiterate: You should be ashamed of yourself.

  248. Richard Tol (@RichardTol) said April 2, 2016 at 8:13 am,

    “In the climate debate, you often hear politicians say “the science demands action” or some such.

    That claim is false. If you’re on a beach and you see the water rapidly withdraw, then science says it is a sure sign of an imminent tsunami. Science also tells you that you will increase your chance of survival if you run for the hills. Science does not tell you to run for the hills. Your survival instinct does. Science even tells you that the instinct to survive is strong in the vast majority of people. But science does not tell you to run for the hills.”

    I’m surprised no one seemed to really challenge this, since the term “science” in normal usage in such phrases as “science says” and “science tells us” is just a metaphor for certain factual knowledge, which most certainly can tell us to act certain ways. The fact that “science” is combined with such predicates as “says” and “tells” is proof beyond reasonable doubt of this.

    In addition, there of course exist many transitive (causal or temporal) relations such as this: Certain factual knowledge such as knowing that a tsunami is about to hit -> certain activity in our minds and brains such as the survival instinct taking over -> certain physical activity such as actually running for the hills, which by transitivity gives us an example of “science” as certain factual knowledge -> action. And yes, we can substitute such terms as “says” or “tells” for the “->” symbol: Given Richard Tol’s assumption here that science and our survival instinct can each “tell” things, science “tells” our survival instinct to run for the hills, which in turn “tells” us to run for the hills, and since “tells” is a transitive relation here, science “tells” us to run for the hills.)

  249. @AmandaandKeefe
    Thanks for the neat illustration why it is so much easier to attack the science than the policy conclusion that does not follow.

  250. @wotts
    Not sure which question I did not seem to have answered. Perhaps the answer is that I wrote “are tainted” rather than “should be tainted”.

  251. Richard,
    The basic question that you haven’t answered is why you think it okay to say things that would make people will some viewpoints feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable, while arguing that others should avoid saying things that would make people will other viewpoints feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable. I don’t really expect an answer, but I’ll highlight the question again for the benefit of others.

  252. Marco says:

    I just realized that yet another thread here has become all about Tol.

    http://inspirationalquotes.gallery/never-wrestle-with-pigs-you-both-get-dirty-and-the-pig-likes-it/

  253. @wotts
    I have nothing against environmentalists. Some of my best friends are environmentalists.

    I have something against people who break the law in the name of an ideology, and particularly so when it involves violence.

  254. Richard,

    I have something against people who break the law in the name of an ideology, and particularly so when it involves violence.

    Absolutely, I agree, as – I suspect – do many. I shall simply just quote, again, from your post

    Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists.

    I was going to stop there, but I’ll make a broader point. It may well be that Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims (I’m not sure if this is true, or not, but it might be). However, if it is, most reasonable people would (I think) argue that this is not a reasonable inference; that Boko Haram does atrocious things in the name of Islam does not mean that all Muslims should be associated with Boko Haram, or should be judged on the basis of the atrocious things done in the name of their religion.

    You, however, appear to think that this is acceptable and then use this to somehow justify tainting all environmentalists because some people, who claim to be environmentalists, have done things that are unacceptable. I won’t bother asking – again – why you think this acceptable, while arguing that others should avoid saying things that might make people with different viewpoints feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable.

    I have nothing against conservatives. Some of my best friends are conservatives.

  255. I should probably add this. Richard’s post continues with

    But whereas Islamic leaders immediately distance themselves from any new outrage, environmental leaders pretend nothing happened.

    I’ve no idea if this is true, or not, but even if it is, environmentalism is not a religion, however much Richard might feel that it is. One might argue that Islamic leaders represent all Muslims, but it’s fairly clear that environmental leaders do not represent all environmentalists.

    Anyway, as Marco says, this has degenerated into another post about Tol, so I’ll aim to spend my Sunday doing something other than going in circles with someone who seems to think it okay for them to malign people with whom he disagrees, while arguing that others should avoid saying things that might make people with whom they disagree feel uncomfortable.

  256. verytallguy says:

    Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists

    Yeah. Ban all greens while the problem is sorted. Or build a wall to keep them out. Or something. They’re all rapists y’know.

  257. Actually, I should follow up on this comment. The reason we shouldn’t associate all Muslims with Boko Haram is not because Muslim leaders have publicly distanced themselves from atrocities done in the name of Islam, but because it is unreasonable to make such an association. This is independent of whether or not publicly distancing oneself from such atrocities might be a sensible thing to do.

  258. Joshua says:

    ==> …does not mean that all Muslims should be associated with Boko Haram,

    Jesus fucking Christ. Most victims of Islamic terrorists are Muslims. The logic that Muslim leaders have some obligation to condemn a;group that is killing Muslims is very confused.

    Richard’s line of reasoning could be used for a textbook on fallacies.

    ==> You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Shame requires that you understand that there’s a problem. As near as I can tell, Richard actually thinks that he’s making insightful arguments.

  259. Joshua says:

    ==> Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims,

    What kind of reasoning generalizes and judges “Muslims” (as a group, with no qualifiers) on the basis of Boko Haram?

    Not only should we thank RIchard for his concerns, we should thank him for illustrating that many “skeptics” are willing to align with people who employ that level of reasoning in pursuance of their activist agenda.

  260. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Joshua, almost all of Boko Haram’s victims are Christian.

    ATTP, RJT has already said that he was describing what is, not what should be: Boko Haram DOESN’T endear anyone to Muslims, not Boko Haram SHOULDN’T endear anyone to Muslims. (As an aside, I suspect that Boko Haram’s intention is that its antics SHOULDN’T endear anyone to Muslims: they want to to create anti-Muslim sentiment in Nigeria because anti-Muslim backlashes will boost recruitment – and perhaps even split the nation in two. No relevance to envionmentalism there, though – or none that I can currently think of.)

  261. Willard says:

    > Some of my best friends are environmentalists.

    That rings a bell. Ah, yes, Senator Michele Bachmann, appearing as guest on radio program in 2004.

    This is not about hating homosexuals. I don’t. I love homosexuals.

    http://www.thebachmannrecord.com/thebachmannrecod.html

    For more on the “I have X friends” line:

    https://www.quora.com/Why-do-bigoted-people-think-that-saying-I-have-X-friends-is-a-justification-for-their-viewpoints

  262. Vinny Burgoo says:

    (Boost, not create, anti-Muslim sentiment in Nigeria. There has always been animosity between Christians and Muslims in the north of the country.)

  263. Marco says:

    “Joshua, almost all of Boko Haram’s victims are Christian.”

    Vinny, that is simply not true. Maybe that’s the story you are being fed through your preferred media, but people in Nigeria know that Boko Haram attacks everyone that opposes the organization. Christian, muslim, atheist, whatever, it doesn’t matter. For example:
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/nigeria-boko-haram-terror-kano-mosque-bomb-carnage-claims-50-bodies-1477145

  264. Willard says:

    Even better:

    Prospective Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is well-known for his opposition to same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights causes, so recently he decided to protect himself from accusations of bigotry by relying on a popular fallacy. “People can be my friends who have lifestyles that are not necessarily my lifestyle,” he insisted. “I don’t shut people out of my circle or out of my life because they have a different point of view.”

    http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/mike-huckabee-best-friends-gay-problem/

  265. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Thanks, Marco. I didn’t realise that.

    I have just had a quick look online for tallies of BH victims by religion. One report based on 2009-2012 data reckoned that 2/3 were Muslim. Dunno how credible the report was but clearly almost all victims aren’t Muslim.

    My bad.

  266. Joshua says:

    Vinny –

    Leaving aside Marco’s comment in response to your point …

    Please read what I wrote again. Regardless of the religion of the majority of Boko Haram’s victims, my comment stands.I could spell it out, but I think that if you read again, carefully, you’ll see that.

    And Vinny,

    ==> RJT has already said that he was describing what is, not what should be: Boko Haram DOESN’T endear anyone to Muslims, not Boko Haram SHOULDN’T endear anyone to Muslims.

    We all know that some people would be inclined to judge Muslims (no qualifier) on the basis of what Boko Haram does. The relevant issue here (for me) is whether anyone should judge “Muslim” (no qualifier) on the basis of what Boko Haram does, and further, whether we should be using the fact that some people judge Muslims (no qualifier) on the basis of what Boko Haram does as a object lesson in guiding our behavior. Should Muslim leaders – whose communities are victimized by Boko Haram, have an obligation to take public action to prevent bigots from being bigoted?

    That Richard argues that we should craft our behavior on the basis of how bigots reason isn’t terribly surprising – as in past comments he shows that he will pull any vacuous and juvenile (did you read his “mirror” argument) statement out of his hat in these comment threads. I’m kind of surprised to see you step up in defense.

  267. Vinny,

    RJT has already said that he was describing what is, not what should be: Boko Haram DOESN’T endear anyone to Muslims, not Boko Haram SHOULDN’T endear anyone to Muslims.

    Yes, I know. However, the implication of what Richard says afterwards is that the reason Boko Haram doesn’t/shouldn’t reflect on all Muslims is because Muslim leaders distance themselves from such atrocities. According to Richard, green radicalism, however, reflects on all environmentalists because environmental leaders do not – according to Richard – distance themselves from this radicalism. I find this a bizarre assertion. There may well be valid arguments for why certain groups should publicly distance themselves from atrocities/radicalism. That, however, still does not mean that atrocities done in the name of some group should automatically reflect on all who associate with that group. I’ll add (again) that at least one of those who Richard names in his post has no association with any of the groups that he later mentions in the context of radicalism/atrocities.

  268. “RJT has already said that he was describing what is, not what should be”

    Perhaps if he doesn’t think that is how things should be, he should have made that clear in the article, as otherwise it could be taken as implying that this is how he thinks it should be.

  269. Willard says:

    Some may need subtitles for this ClimateBall episode:

  270. BBD says:

    Now, this matters.

    Heads up those with an interest in such things.

    Apologies to ATTP for OT post. Unlikely to do it again, but stuff like this just does not happen every day. Trebles all round!

  271. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP: ‘Yes, I know. However, the implication of what Richard says afterwards is that the reason Boko Haram doesn’t/shouldn’t reflect on all Muslims is because Muslim leaders distance themselves from such atrocities.’

    Nope. You are reading an awful lot into two short sentences.

    ‘There may well be valid arguments for why certain groups should publicly distance themselves from atrocities/radicalism.’

    Atrocities/radicalism? More like atrocities/vandalism.

    But, yes, there are. One is that it helps keeps their brand clean. Another is that atrocities and vandalism are wrong.

    ‘That, however, still does not mean that atrocities done in the name of some group should automatically reflect on all who associate with that group.’

    But you just agreed (‘Yes, I know.’) that RSJT didn’t say that they should do that, just that they do. Real world and all that.

    As for whether you have any associations with Greenpeace (or Boko Haram or the Taliban or Natalie Bennett), he didn’t say that either. All he said was that you spend a lot of time policing ‘climate heresy’. Which you do.

    I think your dislike of RSJT has made you react as though his blogpost was all about you. It wasn’t. He made lots of points, some related, some not.

  272. Vinny,

    Nope. You are reading an awful lot into two short sentences.

    Really? Explain this then

    Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists. But whereas Islamic leaders immediately distance themselves from any new outrage, environmental leaders pretend nothing happened.

    or, don’t bother explaining it; I don’t really care either way.

    All he said was that you spend a lot of time policing ‘climate heresy’. Which you do.

    No, that isn’t what he said. Try reading it again. Furthermore, you’re essentially doing what Richard is doing; equating criticising what people say with “policing climate heresy”. I would like to say that I think it odd that people who think that climate scientists should be open to criticism, seem to object to criticism of those with whom they agree, but I don’t.

    I think your dislike of RSJT has made you react as though his blogpost was all about you. It wasn’t. He made lots of points, some related, some not.

    I didn’t say it was all about me. In fact, you’re missing the key point. Richard is advocating that academics should promote viewpoint diversity and should aim to avoid saying things that might make those who associate with other viewpoints unwelcome, or uncomfortable. I’m trying to understand why he could advocate this, while writing a post that associates environmentalists (collectively) with the Taliban and Boko Haram. I don’t – anymore – expect to understand this, but I do think his position is inconsistent. I am not surprised by this.

  273. Oh, and Vinny, Richard didn’t say

    green radicals are seen to taint all environmentalists.

    he said

    green radicals taint all environmentalists.

  274. @Vinny
    Indeed: The blog was a response to a series of green incidents in which our host played no role. He appears in supporting role, that’s all.

  275. BBD says:

    Indeed: The blog was a response to a series of green incidents in which our host played no role. He appears in supporting role, that’s all.

    In which Richard mistakenly conflates physical climatology* with ‘The Greens’.

    *And those who discuss it.

  276. Indeed: The blog was a response to a series of green incidents in which our host played no role. He appears in supporting role, that’s all.

    Hmm, I’m not sure how this is better. I have no association whatsoever. None.

    However, you’re still (no great surprise) missing the key point. Given that you appear to be advocating more viewpoint diversity in academia and suggesting that academics should avoid saying things that might make those with other viewpoints unwelcome (or uncomfortable), why was your post wise? I don’t expect an answer, but that is still the key issue.

  277. Joshua says:

    Vinny –

    ==> One is that it helps keeps their brand clean.

    What does this mean?

    Whose views are changed by Muslim leaders condemning Boko Haram?

    If you have no evidence to support such speculation, then what analogous situations do you have on which to base speculation that Muslim leaders condemning Boko Haram would materially affect the views of a significant number of people?

    My guess is that people who are inclined to judge environmentalists as a group on the basis of the actions of a tiny outlier of people who identify as environmentalists is a pretty small group.

    A far larger group, IMO, is likely to be one what purposefully and fallaciously generalizes about environmentalists as a group from an unrepresentative sampling of a tiny outlier group – in service of reaffirming their political identification. In other words, they aren’t using the evidence to form an opinion about environmentalists, but using the actions of a few environmentalists to strengthen and confirm their preexisting condemnation of environmentalists as a group.

    But my guess is that members of neither of those two groups are likely to have their views changed by statements of condemnation from environmentalist leaders.

    But perhaps you have some evidence in which to ground your speculation, Vinny?

  278. Joshua says:

    Vinny –

    Please pay close attention. Richard says the following:

    ==> He appears in supporting role, that’s all

    What is the evidence to show that our host played a “supporting role?”

    Do you think that Richard’s opinion about that “supporting role” would have been altered with the existence of a statement of condemnation?

  279. Joshua says:

    Vinny –

    Do you think that our host played a “supporting role.”

    If not, then why do you think your opinion differs from that of Richard?

  280. Let’s try to bring the discussion back to the theme of the post. The theme is “free speech in academia”. Richard appears to be advocating that academics should try to avoid saying things that might make those with other viewpoints unwelcome, or uncomfortable. The main reason I brought up his post was to understand how he could advocate that while writing a post that essentially made an association between greens/environmentalists and terrorist atrocities. I realise that some might argue that these were simply illustrative, but if your goal is to avoid making those with other viewpoints uncomortable, that seems a rather weak argument. So, if someone advocates that academics should be welcoming to other viewpoints, should they avoid writing posts like that written by Richard?

  281. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> The main reason I brought up his post was to understand how he could advocate that while writing a post that essentially made an association between greens/environmentalists and terrorist atrocities.

    I don’t think that Richard’s own behavior speaks to much of anything generalizable. Whether or not he acts consistent with the argument that he’s making has no direct relevance to the assertion that academics should avoid saying things that might make those with other viewpoints unwelcome, or uncomfortable.

    IMO, you are setting the post up for a split topic if you simultaneously focus the post on the general question and on Richard’s behavior.

    ==> The main reason I brought up his post was to understand how he could

    IMO, the answer as to “how he could” is bleedin’ obvious.

  282. Joshua,

    IMO, you are setting the post up for a split topic if you simultaneously focus the post on the general question and on Richard’s behavior.

    Ahh, it wasn’t really Richard’s behaviour I was aiming at, but I see what you mean. Maybe I was a bit too subtle in my comment. What I should probably have said was “promoting that academia be an environment where we actively avoid saying things that might make those with some viewpoints unwelcome, is entirely inconsistent with writing a post associating greens/environmentalists with the Taliban/Boko Haram”. I guess I could ask Richard to explain/justify the apparent inconsistency, but I suspect that would be rather pointless.

  283. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Incidentally, the study saying that two thirds of Boko Haram’s civilian victims from 2009 to 2012 were Muslim started with data saying that only one sixth were Muslim. In the researchers’ dataset, most of the victims were of unknown religion so they used ancient (1950s and 1960s) censuses to guess the current Christian/Muslim ratios in the Nigerian states where Boko Haram’s unknown-religion victims were killed then applied those ratios, unweighted, to the unknown-religion victims in each state.

    So please treat the 2/3 estimate with great caution.

    And note that Boko Haram has got a lot more murderous since 2012, so the proportion, whatever it was, will likely have changed.

    (Yes, dear tribalists, it’s still fair to say I was wrong about ‘almost all’ victims being Christian. Not trying to wriggle out of that. Honest.)

    The study is one of many in this 1.2MB PDF:

    https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/23853/ASC-075287668-3441-01.pdf

    Look for ‘Body count and religion in the Boko Haram crisis: Evidence from the Nigeria Watch database’.

    *

    I’ll respond to recent posts tomorrow. Perhaps.

  284. Joshua says:

    ==> I’ll respond to recent posts tomorrow. Perhaps.

    Perhaps you’ll respond to my 1:50 as well. You seem to have misinterpreted what I said, so I’d like to clarify whether, upon a closer reading, you can understand your misinterpretation. If not, I’ll elaborate.

  285. Yes, dear tribalists

    You may want to consider the irony of this comment. If possible, could we avoid this moving into a discussion about the details of terrorist atrocities. I suspect we all agree that they’re atrocities. The broader point was whether or not it is reasonable to tar everyone in a single group on the basis of the behaviour of an extremist minority; especially if most have no actual association with that extreme minority.

  286. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==>? What I should probably have said was “promoting that academia be an environment where we actively avoid saying things that might make those with some viewpoints unwelcome, is entirely inconsistent with writing a post associating greens/environmentalists with the Taliban/Boko Haram”.

    Again, that seems bleedin’ obvious, to me.

    Of course, generalizing from unrepresentative sampling in order to assign guilt by association is inconsistent with the goal of creating an academic environment where people avoid saying things that make those with other viewpoints feel unwelcome.

    I see little reason to think that such fallacious argumentation isn’t specifically intended to make those with other viewpoints feel unwelcome.

  287. Again, that seems bleedin’ obvious, to me.

    It did to me too, but then after going in circles about this for a day or so, I start to doubt myself. That may, of course, be the intention.

  288. BBD says:

    ATTP

    The broader point was whether or not it is reasonable to tar everyone in a single group on the basis of the behaviour of an extremist minority; especially if most have no actual association with that extreme minority.

    Obvs not, but even if you did, there’s still this daft conflation of ‘The Greens’ with the science of physical climatology. It’s a glaring false equivalence.

  289. Obvs not, but even if you did, there’s still this daft conflation of ‘The Greens’ with the science of physical climatology. It’s a glaring false equivalence.

    Agreed. It’s why I keep pointing out that – despite Richard’s post – I have no associations with greens/environmentalists, radicals, or not – well, apart from liking nature, which I think is not particularly unusual and doesn’t really qualify as being an environmentalist.

  290. BBD says:

    ATTP

    Agreed. It’s why I keep pointing out that – despite Richard’s post – I have no associations with greens/environmentalists, radicals, or not – well, apart from liking nature, which I think is not particularly unusual and doesn’t really qualify as being an environmentalist.

    Yes, I noticed that. And I noticed that it was absolutely ignored by some commenters. Weird, eh?

  291. Richard Tol (@RichardTol) said on April 3, 2016 at 6:13 am in reply to my comment on April 3, 2016 at 12:24 am,

    “Thanks for the neat illustration why it is so much easier to attack the science than the policy conclusion that does not follow.”

    I demonstrated a claim you made to be false. Demonstrating a claim to be false is an illustration of attacking science only if the science being attacked is false. So you tacitly admitted in your statement above that your claim I attacked is false.

    Given certain assumptions such as humanity not being suicidal, the policy conclusion that humanity should be doing something about emissions does follow from the science. Yes, it is a fact that different assumptions such as humanity being suicidal can give a different policy conclusion from the same science, and this different policy conclusion can even be the negation of the prior policy conclusion, namely doing nothing about emissions. But it is also a fact that the conjunction of the former and latter compound implications is not a contradiction, which implies that both compound implications can hold, which implies that the science does imply the public policy of doing something about emissions given the appropriate assumptions.

    Here’s some symbolic logic to illustrate this: This conjunction of compound implications
    [p -> (q -> r)] & [~p -> (q -> ~r)]
    is not a contradiction (is not false in all substitution instances). (Symbols p and ~p can denote an assumption and its negation, respectively, q can denote the science, and r and its negation ~r can denote a public policy conclusion and its negation, respectively. And of course each variable itself can denote a conjunction or disjunction of conditions.)

  292. anoilman says:

    ATTP: BBD: I’ve noticed that the denial sphere likes to think that somehow science is green propaganda. Being in oil I’ve seen this described in an ever silly manor. (Apparently we’re all mindless drones doing this to give power to Bill Mckibben or something.)

    Oh and a new household record… The air conditioner had to be turned on on April 2. Its getting hot after a warm dry winter.

  293. Confusion reigns. It may be abated if people note the distinction between environmental scientists and environmentalists, and the distinction between moderates and extremists.

  294. Richard,

    Confusion reigns. It may be abated if people note the distinction between environmental scientists and environmentalists, and the distinction between moderates and extremists.

    Indeed, but I suspect you will fail to acknowledge the irony of you saying this. However, you still fail to explain the key point. I’ll put it in a simple bullet point form so that you might understand.

    1. You appear to be arguing that academia would benefit from more viewpoint diversity.

    2. You appear to be suggesting that to achieve this we should aim to avoid saying things that people of other viewpoints would find uncomfortable or unwelcome.

    3. You have written a post associating green radicalism with the Taliban and Boko Haram, and suggsted that this radicalism taints all environmentalists.

    4. There are almost certainly academics who regard themselves as greens, and many who associate with environmentalism.

    5. How is your suggestion that academics avoid saying things that might make those with other viewpoints unwelcome/uncomfortable, consistent with your post about green radicals?

    6. I don’t expect an answer; at least not one that makes any sense. Feel free to treat the final question as rheotorical.

  295. Marco says:

    Since the topic of the thread remains Tol, perhaps I can link something relevant to the topic also:
    The Tol-Ackerman controversy. For those who don’t know: our dear “viewpoint diversity is needed!” proponent Richard Tol has attempted to suppress the academic opinion of Frank Ackerman with legal threats of libel.

    In that respect Bob Ward is lucky that Tol only throws personal insults in his direction. I guess that’s just fine, all in the name of “freedom of speech” and “diversity”, and it makes Ward so welcome in the academic world.

  296. Here’s another example of Richard showing how to be welcoming to those with other viewpoints

  297. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard Tol wrote ” and the distinction between moderates and extremists.”

    well perhaps you should have written an article saying that moderate muslims shouldn’t be tarnished by the behaviour of extremists such as Boko Haram and likewise environmentalists shouldn’t be tainted by the acts of extremists.

    It is precisely you that did not make that distinction. Of course you know that perfectly well and this is just sophistry used to avoid having to admit your error.

    I wonder if Richard thinks his academic reputation should tainted by his sophistry on social media and blogs.

  298. @wotts
    Cook, Marcott and Turney should quit academia because they’re bad academics.

  299. Richard.

    Cook, Marcott and Turney should quit academia because they’re bad academics.

    In your view, of course, which is the issue you seem unwilling to acknowledge. We can all pass judgement and then use our judgement to justify the opinions we express. Given this, it seems difficult to then impose some kind of expectation that people avoid saying things that might be perceived as unwelcoming to those with different viewpoints.

    I will note that those you regard as bad academics appear to be those who say things with which you appear to disagree. This is a little odd given what the GWPF – which you advise – typically promotes.

  300. verytallguy says:

    Marco, the Irish question may also be of interest in your researches.

  301. BBD says:

    Richard

    Confusion reigns. It may be abated if people note the distinction between environmental scientists and environmentalists

    Which you [blurred].

    Cook, Marcott and Turney should quit academia because they’re bad academics.

    People in glass houses shouldn’t throw gremlins.

  302. Willard says:

    Here’s how we do this, Richie:

    I am so sorry now that I fell for the great Thatcher-Reagan promise. I can’t deny that I did. I believed all that stuff about privatisation and free trade and the unrestrained market. I think I may even have been taken in by the prophecies of a great share-owning democracy.

    I thought – this now seems especially funny – that private British Telecom would be automatically better than crabby old Post Office Telephones.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3520932/PETER-HITCHENS-Privatisation-Free-trade-Shares-great-ruined-Britain.html

    If you could get in touch with Lord Lawson at the GWPF for a reaction about what was and still is his promise too, that would be nice.

  303. Eli Rabett says:

    OK, Richard is arguing for trigger warnings for right wing nut jobs. Eli can understand why.

  304. Chris Colose says:

    I hear Rabett’s house is a safe space for Republicans? It has carrots, and bunnies.

  305. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “Cook, Marcott and Turney should quit academia because they’re bad academics.”

    “Second, trolls attack people’s reputations and integrity in a way that is quite out of bounds in normal science-related discourse. “

    H/T ATTP

    Personal attacks on fellow academics is not exactly the hallmark of a good academic, nor is sophistry. While citations aren’t everything, John Cook’s google scholar profile suggests that not everybody agrees with Richard in his assessment (I certainly don’t, and if you want a second opinion, he is also a fine cricketer! ;o).

  306. All 3 (Cook, Marcott and Turney) have pretty respectably academic profiles. You may note that Richard makes an appearance in that article. I had nothing to do with that 😉

  307. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Richard wrote ““Cook, Marcott and Turney should quit academia because they’re bad academics.”

    who could have predicted that? … oh yes, the article did:

    “Similarly, check out Frank Ackerman’s responses to Richard Tol, a notoriously nasty economist who publicly attacks other academics with whom he disagrees”

    priceless! ;o)

  308. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Marco, yes it is a shame that Richard cannot learn from a very eminent statistician like Gelman, so much so that he goes on to make the same mistake again in subsequent study (as pointed out be a rather less eminent statistician, which just attracted the same sort of weak response from Richard). Plus ca change, …

    Refusing to give a straight answer to a direct technical question about his work is also not what I would expect from a good academic.

  309. Joshua says:

    Thanks for that link.

    Here’s an absolute classic:

    Richard Tol says:
    May 28, 2014 at 1:37 am

    5….Instead of bitching about someone else’s work, you may consider helping to solve this problem:

  310. Joshua says:

    Wow.

    Richard Tol says:
    May 28, 2014 at 3:23 am

    […]…You got all the data. Get to work. Show me how it’s done. There are plenty of journals that would love to publish your solution to the problem.

  311. Joshua says:

    There’s a Yiddish word that you non-Jews are probably familar with: Chutzpah.

  312. Willard says:

    Trigger warnings are not always optimal:

  313. BBD says:

    Joshua

    There’s a Yiddish word that you non-Jews are probably familar with: Chutzpah.

    A fine word, indeed. In certain parts of the post-industrial Mordor aka Northern Britain, we call it ‘brass neck’.

  314. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    Yes, “Brass neck” seems to fit rather nicely.

    I just heard another term that I think provides a nice angle: Moral disengagement:

    I don’t think that “good people do[ing] cruel things” applies here – that’s a too dramatic…but the notion of “selectively engag[ing] and disengag[ing] standards,” along questions of morality, seems to apply quite well – to the climate-o-sphere more generally and to some individuals in particular.

    Don’t know if Bandura would accept applying the term in a less morally severe context.

  315. snarkrates says:

    It is very important to Richard’s approach to separate those concerned with what we’re doing to the planet into “good environmentalists” and extremists. That way, he can deposit anyone he doesn’t like in the latter bin.

  316. Francis says:

    Dikran and others, a query from the ignorant. Has sufficient time passed from the publication of the first Tol paper on the economic impact of global warming to assess its accuracy?

    Also, how would you measure the accuracy of his paper? Does the Syrian civil war’s impact on global GDP count? How about the war’s impact on the global misery index?

    Thanks.

  317. markbofill says:

    Joshua,

    What up. I saw Tom Curtis posted that too on a SkS thread (if that’s where you noticed it, I guess it’s possible something else might have brought it to both of your attentions). Very interesting, although I’ve only listened closely to about half of it so far.

    Just dipping my toe in the water over here, to see if it’s too cold. Or if anyone’s going to bite me. Greetings all, hello Anders.

  318. @snarkrates
    I reserve the word extremist for those who resort to (the threat of) violence in the name of. Others use that words for those who break the law in the name of, but perhaps we should call those people fundamentalist (in the sense that they think that their values trump societal norms).

  319. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Francis, I can’t comment on the economics, but as a statistician there are big problems with the statistical modelling (which Andrew Gelman also pointed out). At the end of the day, there was only one study that supported the idea of any significant benefit from modest warming (Tol’s earlier paper), so not even considering that it might be an outlier in the statistical modelling is an obvious flaw in the study. Not determining the possible effect of the outlier on the model is even worse. These things are very important when fitting a statistical model to a small dataset where the individual datapoints are not independent and of differing quality. The real problem though is Prof. Tol’s behaviour when his work is criticised.

  320. Richard,
    Ahh, but then you conveniently taint anyone else you want to, if you decide they have some association (however tenuous it might be; non-existent in some cases).

  321. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ” fundamentalist (in the sense that they think that their values trump societal norms).”

    That is your own personal sense of the word “fundamentalist”, it actually means a “point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles”, those “fundamental principles” quite often are societal norms.

    Richard fails to address the point that he failed to make “the distinction between moderates and extremists” in his article. When he wrote

    “Just like Boko Haram does not endear anyone to Muslims, green radicals taint all environmentalists.”

    that islinking moderates and extremists (note the radicals are associated with Boko Haram, so don’t try sophistry about “radicals” versus “extremists”). If Richard doesn’t think that radicals should taint all environmentalists then he should have made that distinction explicit.

  322. OPatrick says:

    Ah, Brassneck. It’s struck me in the past that the lyrics have a certain resonance to the climate debate.

  323. Joshua says:

    Hey Mark,

    I was listening to an interview with a guy who wrote a book about “public shaming,” who mentioned moral disengagement as a way to frame an interesting story about what happened to a woman who got treated viciously by people who probably generally object to people being treated viciously. He also wrote this article about the incident:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=0

    …and I thought it presented an interesting parallel to the kinds of inconsistencies I see in Richard’s approach to who has which moral obligations.

    Funny coincidence: just last night I was wandering around the climate-o-sphere and came across your exchange with Neil over at Lucia’s crib. Reminded me that you’re one of the few folks that I’ve been able to have a good faith discussion with in the blogosphere about fundamental points of disagreement. Too bad my foray over to Lucia’s ended so poorly. Opportunity lost.

  324. Mark Bofill says:

    Joshua,

    Thanks for the link, very interesting article, disturbing subject. Makes me wonder if anyone ever really believed any of the theology justifying human sacrifices in various religions throughout history or if people merely enjoy being part of a mob and destroying other people.
    I asked about the moral disengagement video because I saw it here posted by Tom Curtis on a thread I found interesting over there. But I’m scared to post too much off topic (or too much at all 🙂 ) over on SkS; don’t want to provoke the moderator into doing anything rash with his or her clippers. I’m hoping if I’m well behaved Anders may tolerate me for a bit. 🙂

  325. Willard says:

    “But moderation” may not be that well-behaved, MarkB. Twice in a row makes it a bit too obvious.

    If you could also

    that would be nice.

  326. Joshua says:

    Perhaps it’s appropriate to offer a benefit of the doubt approach – if not to whether it was “but moderation” with reference to SkS, but in reference to ATTP…

    At least I didn’t read it that way with reference to ATTP…and personally, I may be naive, but I’d rather not grease the skids if it can be avoided.

  327. Joshua says:

    Mark –

    ==> Makes me wonder if anyone ever really believed any of the theology justifying human sacrifices in various religions throughout history or if people merely enjoy being part of a mob and destroying other people.

    Have you watched “The Walking Dead?” If so, consider what underlies it’s popularity and appeal.

    ==> I’m hoping if I’m well behaved Anders may tolerate me for a bit. 🙂

    In my experience, Anders is pretty tolerant of wide-ranging discussion, and he’ll let you know when he feels it’s gone over the line. That isn’t an invitation to go off-topic, but an observation that he doesn’t draw a line around topicality in as biased a manner as is often found in the climate-o-sphere (i.e., the same topic can be either on or off depending on the views of the person commenting). It is also my experience that “good behavior” goes a long way. YMMV.

  328. Willard says:

    > I’d rather not grease the skids if it can be avoided.

    I’d rather not play the ref, Joshua.

    “But SkS moderation” is a kind of “but moderation” and MarkB’s expressed hope that AT’s not like SkS twice, without and with a smiley.

    This is not the place to whine about SkS.

  329. Mark Bofill says:

    Thanks Willard. I’ll bear that in mind.

  330. I haven’t really been concentrating on this. Mark’s welcome to comment here, and I’m not quite sure what SkS has to do with anything.

  331. Mark Bofill says:

    Anders,

    Thank you. It’s got nothing to do with anything, Willard’s quite right. I meant nothing by it and would be glad to move on from that subject.

  332. A few comments separately to keep each focused.

    The age profile of conservative vs. liberal in the US is a bit more involved than the steady older = more conservative. There is that progression, for some value of ‘conservative’, but I’ll suggest that in the US the people who came of (political) age in the 1950s to 1970s were/are more liberal than their parents were at each age (e.g. at 30, the ones who came of age in 1964 were more liberal than those who came of age in 1944). Those who came of age in the 1980s and 90s, in to the early 2000s were more conservative than their parents (at given ages). (The ‘Reagan revolution’) They account for much of the Tea Party at this point.

    The last decade’s bunch are once again more liberal than their parents. But the inversion of a couple decades’ population being more conservative than their parents is now playing out in some wild, destructive, politics.

  333. A decade back, in the Dover trial, a UK philosopher was arguing in favor of affirmative action for creationism. Sounded much like the special pleadings now under the label ‘heterodox academy’. The special pleading in Dover involved complaining that since evolutionary biology had 150 years of development, creationism needed affirmative action to get enough people involved to develop their ideas so as to be competitive with the ‘evolutionist orthodoxy’ in academia. (Sound like ‘Team B’ proposals wrt climate anybody?)

    Dover was a school district in Pennsylvania where the school board tried to force creationism in to the classroom, originally by way of requiring the ‘textbook’ _Of Pandas and People_, reduced to board members reading a statement about evolution not really being science after the science teachers refused to introduce non-science in their public school science classes. Lauri Lebo’s book _The Devil in Dover_ gives an excellent history of the events and people. Wikipedia gives a summary and link to Judge Jones’ decision at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

    Jones’ decision is itself a great read. Really something of a work of art. Plus, in reading it, recall that Jones was a conservative judge, of conservative religion, appointed to the bench by W. Bush.

  334. geoffmprice says:

    Ray Pierrehumbert referenced Jones’ writing in that Dover case in this enjoyable RC essay of yore, if you didn’t catch it, applying his assessment on ‘what is science’ to AGW:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=258

  335. Robert,
    Thanks.

    Geoff,
    That RC post by Ray Pierrehumbert is excellent. I particularly like his description of the theory of global warming.

    An increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other long lived greenhouse gases requires the surface temperature to ultimately increase so as to maintain a balance with the absorbed solar radiation. The increase is amplified by water vapor (also a greenhouse gas), which increases with temperature in such a way as to keep relative humidity approximately constant. Melting of ice will further amplify the warming, particularly in high latitudes. The resulting widespread warming corresponding to a doubling of CO2 will be large enough and rapid enough to be well outside the range of past experience of the human species, by an amount comparable to the difference between a glacial and interglacial climate. Changes in atmospheric cloud properties may somewhat reduce or increase the sensitivity, but do not substantially alter the conclusion.

  336. Nice link geoffmprice.

    The thing which strikes me most about the complaining of the need for ‘Team B’, ‘heterodox’, types in the Academy is the profoundly lacking evidence presented for the A Team being wrong about anything, much less being wrong in a way the B Team ideologues would fix.

    Sure, there’s plenty of whining, and assertion of error, but smoke is not fire. And in a number of cases, the smoke is simply sign of a smoke machine.

    In contrast, a much better job of climate modeling was done by young earth creationists (YEC). (There’s a statement!) One of the problems for young earth creationists is the existence of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. 4000 meters of ice is hard to deposit in only 4000 years (time since the end of Noah’s flood / the deluge). This is something normal science people have pointed to as a flaw in the YEC ‘model’. The YEC response was actually far more substantive than the people pleading for affirmative action for the ‘heterodox’ or ‘Team B’. (Not that there wasn’t also whining and special pleading for quite some time.) Vardiman and Oard acquired one of the available climate models (NCAR’s; counterexample to the whinges about climate models not being available) and adapted it to run on their personal computers. Entered what they said were the post-deluge conditions of the ocean and came out showing 4000 meters of ice accumulation in only a few hundred years. If you read their documents, what they did is, of course, rubbish.

    But the point is, they _did it_. The ‘heterodox’ crowd fails even to rise to the scientific level of young earth creationists. While complaining about ‘pal review’ and the like, they don’t even execute a climate model that supports their conclusions in the slightest.

  337. Joshua says:

    I have to wonder what members of the Heterodox Academy have to say about this kind of thing:

    battle is shaping up across the country over various pieces of legislation that proponents argue protects religious beliefs while others argue are tools to discriminate.

    Despite the ferocious attention paid to newly passed laws in Mississippi and North Carolina, nearly 200 bills have been proposed in legislatures in 2016 that could lead to discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people, according to Eunice Rho with the American Civil Liberties Union.

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/06/us/nationwide-bill-religious-freedom-sexual-orientation/index.html

    Sure, it isn’t happening in academia per se…which is largely the focus of the Heterodox Academy. But part of the HA’s rhetoric has been along the lines of a societal shift, as reflected among young liberals on campuses, of a “culture of victimhood” or of students being asked to be “coddled” with great negative outcomes in their ability to face the diverse world outside their campuses. One problem with that rhetoric, IMO, is that is isolates what is happening on campus from far more widespread patterns that exist in the larger community. I’ve tried to get Haidt to comment on his blog about the politically correct hand-wringing among “conservative” about a “war on Christmas” because someone wishes them ‘Happy Holidays,” or among “skeptics” if someone calls them a “denier.” He didn’t respond.

  338. I actually think Eli’s comment nails it (Okay, I might not have used “right-wing nut jobs”). There does seem to be an irony in what the HA is promoting; criticising the idea of safe spaces, while – apparently – promoting the idea of a safe space for people who hold viewpoints that they regard as under-represented in academia.

  339. Joshua says:

    We’re certainly not facing an irony shortage anytime soon.

    As an aside, I was looking for the Tom Lehrer “Irony died when Kissinger won the Nobel Prize” quote to use it in this context…only to find that it was “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize.” Doesn’t work quite as well.

  340. I’ve just been reading some of Jonathan Haidt’s blog. Found this post, and the comments, interesting.

  341. Willard says:

    > I meant nothing by it […]

    Of course you did not, MarkB.

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