Arguing online

Stephen Curry has an interesting article about how to have an argument on the internet. It discusses a rather amusing exchange on Twitter between Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s only MP, and Paul Nightingale, Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex. Paul Nightingale made an analogy – which may, or may not, have been any good – between trading and the Moon causing tides, and Douglas Carswell insisted that the Sun caused the tides. Much hilarity ensued, because the tides are primarily caused by the Moon, not the Sun.

One reason I found the article interesting is that it said

[o]ne tweeter pointed out that the sun’s gravitational influence on the tides is actually about 40% that of the moon’s

and that tweeter might have been me. Although, to be fair, I only knew this because I wrote this post a while ago.

The main reason, however, that I found the article interesting was the comments about online discussions, in particular how easy it is for discussions to simply degenerate into slanging matches and how the ability to communicate widely has added little to the public debate. The author suggested that they had started trying a different approach, and had met with someone who they’d confronted on social media and found a lot of common ground. I’ve done the same, on occasion, and it is indeed true that face-to-face is far more amenable to reasonable discourse. In fact, I’ve mainly discovered that when you meet someone in person you find that your online disputes are driven more by mis-understandings than by genuine disagreements.

Therefore, what I have been trying to do (I don’t always to succeed) is to not say anything more, if the only thing I can think of saying would not be particularly nice; in particular, I try not say anything that involves the words “You are a…”, or equivalent. It can be a little frustrating to walk away from a discussion while the other party is still throwing around invectives, but I have found that the frustration wanes far faster than the regret I feel if I don’t manage to avoid saying something unpleasant. If you’ve got to the point of throwing around insults, it’s probably got rather pointless anyway.

It might be nice if those who were interested in genuine discussions could draw a line between robust disagreement and outright insults, but I suspect things are unlikely to change. From what I’ve experienced many either do not recognise what they’ve said as insulting (assuming, I think, that if it is true, it’s not an insult) or they find a reason to justify their insults, while complaining about anything comparable from others.

As I think I may have said before, you’re only responsible for your own behaviour. If you think there is merit in improving online dialogue, all you can really do is improve your own and see if others follow suite. Complaining about the behaviour of others (specific, or general) without considering your own is all rather pointless. My intent is to avoid discussions that are likely to degenerate into personal insults; I may not always succeed, but I do intend to try.

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280 Responses to Arguing online

  1. Something that I’ve alse encountered are those who continue to complain about things that happened ages ago. Yesterday I noticed someone complaining about something that happened here a couple of years ago. I couldn’t even really remember it, so had to search through the comments. When I did find it, it turned out that it wasn’t about what had been said, but about the fact that I hadn’t warned people of something of which I was supposed to be aware (which I wasn’t really – or, rather, I wasn’t aware of the supposed significance). So, it seems that sometimes it’s not so much what you say, but what you don’t say. Basically, setting impossible standards.

  2. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “As I think I may have said before, you’re only responsible for your own behaviour.”

    Well said.

    I was surprised about the magnitude of the sun’s effect on the tides, I hadn’t realised it was quite so large as that, so IIRC Carswell was only slightly wrong in what he said. The real problem in the discussion was that he was unable to recognize or admit his minor error and instead (somewhat hubristically) went on the offensive. We should be more willing to admit our errors and be more appreciative of others when they admit their errors, rather than treating it as a sign of weakness (rather than rationality).

    I still haven’t got round to reading Jenny Clack’s book, the date of the previous thread suggests my book queue is far too long!

  3. Jim Hunt says:

    Speaking as someone who has some experience of “mud wrestling with pigs” on the controversial topic of declining Arctic sea ice I think it’s fair to say that your average “skeptic” isn’t the least bit “interested in genuine discussions”. They openly admit, for example, that:

    That ‘sound bite’ is a HUGE WIN for the other side. Add the Ship of Fools ‘win’ and they will bash us into the ground.

    I am sorry, but it is a complete PR disaster especially right before the US elections.

    As you well know this has never been about science.

    It is in actual fact all about plausibull propaganda plus added churnalism. The Donald agrees.

  4. BBD says:

    If you think there is merit in improving online dialogue, all you can really do is improve your own and see if others follow suite.

    I try. This blog has been a great help – as has Willard, who by deleting things best left unsaid does help remind where the line should be drawn.

  5. BBD says:

    I have to admit I *did* know about solar tides but only because an old friend is a keen sailor and attempted to explain tides in all their horrible, head-exploding complexity to me one Christmas when I was extremely drunk. The fact that there are solar tides is about all I can really remember.

  6. cgs says:

    Many times in the past if I have been arguing with someone in a comments section, though I may strongly disagree with their position, if I feel we’ve had a reasonable debate I will tell them they may have the final comment if they wish. It’s just my way of saying thanks for debating in a fashion that did not degenerate into something awful.

  7. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: How did you become so damned polite? 🙂

  8. cgs,
    That’s an interesting idea.

    JH,
    I don’t think I really am; I’m trying to do better 🙂

  9. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Not just the Moon and Sun, of course – All large masses in the Solar system create tides on Earth.

    After the Moon and Sun, Venus produces the greatest gravity differentials across the Earth, although they are only about one 10,000th the strength of those produced by the Moon.

    Maximum Tidal Forces of the Sun, Moon, and Planets on the Earth

    Moon 2.1
    Sun 1.00
    Venus 0.000113
    Jupiter 0.0000131
    Mars 0.0000023
    Mercury 0.0000007
    Saturn 0.0000005
    Uranus 0.000000001
    Neptune 0.000000002
    Pluto 0.0000000000001

    from:
    https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast04may_1m/

    Modelling the effects of just the Moon and the Sun alone is very complex – because the distances vary and because the Earth, Moon, and Sun are not uniform spheres…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_tides#Tidal_constituents

    Interesting historical note – Kepler argued that the tides were caused by the differential attraction of the Moon – a very prescient view that was later quantified by Newton in the “Principia” . In his “Dialogues on the Two Great World Systems”, Galileo rejects Kepler’s theory – openly mocking it – although not on-line. 🙂

  10. > I have found that the frustration wanes far faster than the regret I feel if I don’t manage to avoid saying something […]

    The effect is known:

    A growing body of evidence suggests that exactly how anger is handled may be less important than the fact that anger is so frequently felt in the first place. While venting anger may help to head off some forms of illness, studies suggest it may actually contribute to others. More important, the effect of venting anger on social interactions is often devastating.

    ”Talking out an emotion doesn’t reduce it, it rehearses it,” wrote Dr. Tavris, a social psychologist who has gathered hundreds of research references to support her views. ”People who are most prone to give vent to their rage get angrier, not less angry.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/1983/03/08/science/venting-anger-may-do-more-harm-than-good.html

    ClimateBall ™ – Wax In, Wax Out

  11. Andy Skuce says:

    According to this piece, Galileo would have agreed with Carswell.
    https://cosmosmagazine.com/geoscience/why-are-there-two-tides-day
    But Kepler correctly fingered the Moon as the prime culprit. However, neither explained why there were two tides per day. That explanation had to wait for Newton. Of course, both Sun and Moon work together to produce spring and neap tides. (I admit, the two tides a day thing is non-intuitive for me and I have to look up the explanation every few years.)

    As for Internet discussions, if you take the side of consensus/established knowledge it seems that you are held not only and rightly, to higher standards of coherence, but also higher standards of politeness because, perhaps, there is a perception that you are arguing from a position of power, whereas the contrarian feels victimized and frustrated by their outsider status. If you want a discussion to end, you either, in practice, have to be rude or let the contrarian have the last word. I suppose it’s a kind of noblesse oblige.

  12. According to this piece, Galileo would have agreed with Carswell.

    A Galileo gambit that would actually be correct 😉

  13. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Sorry, the formatting got screwed up (and some of my comment got deleted) because I used a greater-than sign in a way that screws up wordpress. Let’s try that again…

    ==> complaining about the behaviour of others (specific, or general) without considering your own is all rather pointless. I think it’s fair to say that your average “skeptic” isn’t the least bit “interested in genuine discussions” ==>

    Is the value to be obtained from complaining about the behavior contingent on whether one considers one’s own behavior? I would say not. I think that it’s always of value to consider one’s own behavior, and rarely, if ever, of value to complain about the behavior of others.

    ======================

    Jim –

    ==> I think it’s fair to say that your average “skeptic” isn’t the least bit “interested in genuine discussions” ==>

    Of course, they might say the same about your average “realist” (except they don’t use that term). Does commenting on the behavior of the average “skeptic” advance the cause of genuine discussions?

  14. It may be more constructive to talk about your last exchange, AT.

    Is calling someone a “time waster” polite?

  15. Willard,
    Do you mean the one on Twitter? I’m also trying to remember who called who a time waster.

  16. Willard says:

    Many did, AT – “you’re wasting my time” or “you’re a time waster” or “this is a waste of time” are usual tropes to bring closure to a ClimateBall exchange.

    Yes, I mean the last one on Twitter:

    Being ironic may not be polite.

    There so much impoliteness in this world.

    By chance the tears of this world are always in equal quantity.

  17. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “Is calling someone a “time waster” polite?”

    I’d say that rather depends on whether it is true and whether it is deliberate. If someone actually is trolling and you describe them as a “time waster”, then it certainly isn’t impolite, and the target cannot legitimately claim that correctly classifying their MO is “rude”. It is certainly more polite than calling them a troll, and even that may be “neutral” if it correctly classifies their behaviour. So I’d say it was probably somewhere between “a little rude perhaps” and “minimally polite” depending on the circumstances. ;o)

  18. “you’re wasting my time” or “you’re a time waster” or “this is a waste of time” are usual tropes to bring closure to a ClimateBall exchange.

    Indeed, and this probably doesn’t qualify as particularly polite.

    I was thinking a little about that exchange. Not quite sure how I would describe it; I don’t think I was taking it all that seriously, which is probably not an ideal way in which to interact.

  19. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Is it possible to argue on twitter without it being a waste of time?

  20. I think we can all agree that the answer to that is no.

  21. Willard says:

    Yes:

  22. Willard says:

    > even that may be “neutral” if it correctly classifies their behaviour

    One does not simply classify the behavior of a #ClimateBall opponent and expect Mordor to take this as a neutral stance, Dikran.

    As far as I am concerned, politeness is overrated.

  23. Mike Coday says:

    thanks for this post. though suntides etc are interesting, I think the point is about how arguments degenerate on the internet/twitter etc. I have been on receiving end of the name-calling on a comment thread at Open Mind and have been wondering if there was a way to pull the conversation out of the gutter once it get there. My sense at this moment? Probably no.
    Cheers
    Mike

  24. Jim Hunt says:

    Joshua,

    Where might one go online in order to find “genuine discussions” about climate science with UKIP MPs, MEPs or indeed common or garden members?

    I assume the same applies in the US to Trump supporters?

    I have had “civilised” face to face conversations with Brexit voters, but I don’t think anyone’s mind was changed as a result.

  25. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Willard: “One does not simply classify the behavior of a #ClimateBall opponent and expect Mordor to take this as a neutral stance, Dikran.”

    Well I did say “and the target cannot legitimately claim that correctly classifying their MO is “rude”.” ;o) I’m sure that Chuck Norris would, but perhaps I am confusing interweb memes.

    “As far as I am concerned, politeness is overrated.”

    I think it is underrated (at least judging by its scarcity) but there are always going to be circumstances where being blunt is preferable. The golden rule is a good guide, sometimes when we are being unreasonable (or wrong) our true friends are the ones that point it out to us clearly (for example), so we should try and be our interlocutors friend on that basis.

    ATTP: “I think we can all agree that the answer to that is no.”

    well given that it is a restatement of the rules of engagement for Twitter “time waster” definitely can’t be impolite! ;o)

  26. Willard says:

    > the target cannot legitimately claim that correctly classifying their MO is “rude”.

    Indeed he could. It’s ad hominem, for Chuck Norris’ sake!

    Being correct doesn’t grant any privileged ClimateBall role. It would be as absurd as to say “you’re acting like psychopath, but don’t take it personally, it’s just an objective description of your behavior.”

    Here are some inspiration for any ClimateBall player who’d prefer polite insults:

    http://mentalfloss.com/article/61819/42-old-english-insults

    Remember the golden rule:

  27. Willard says:

    A polite répartie:

    “Get a grip” echoes a previous exchange.

  28. Willard says:

    I should lay down my hypothesis right away: the constructive outcome I seek with my ClimateBall exchange with the Chemist is to clarify that politeness is slippery. At first, it may designate a stance (tone, role, etc) that is insult-free. The Chemist is falling back to a notion of politeness that may contain traces of insults.

    Speaking of which, here’s a recent tag team effort:

    https://twitter.com/hashtag/bestacademicinsults?src=hash

    One I rather like:

  29. John Hartz says:

    My contribution to being more polite on this site is to not get into peeing matches with Willard about anything. 🙂

  30. Willard says:

    A peeing match, JohnH?

    This insults me as much as if you killed my father:

  31. John Hartz says:

    Willard: Excellent clip. I have a hearing impairment and could not discern all of the dialogue though. Peace!.

  32. I’ll say it again, because it’s worth saying.

    Arguing with a climate ‘skeptic’ on the internet is pointless, in that you won’t change their mind. However it’s not pointless if, as you write, you’re considering how the argument will look to an undecided on-looker. So the criteria should be to ensure your answer is easily understood, well referenced to credible sites (like NASA), and you come across as honest, pleasant, reasonable and confident. If you do all that it really doesn’t matter what your your opponent comes back at you with—in fact the more belligerent they are the better—to any neutral onlooker you’ve won, so leave it there. Most importantly, you’ve helped some unseen person towards taking climate change seriously.

  33. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ” It’s ad hominem”

    That is only a fallacy if it is in place of a substantive argument. If you are trying to point out a problem with the hominid in question then an ad-hominem is completely appropriate (c.f. VTG’s comment I linked earlier). You can’t really criticise someone’s behaviour without it being an ad-hominem.

  34. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Willard “Being correct doesn’t grant any privileged ClimateBall role. It would be as absurd as to say “you’re acting like psychopath, but don’t take it personally, it’s just an objective description of your behavior.”

    So tell me, how do you point out to someone (out of kindness, following the “Golden rule”) that they are behaving badly, without an ad hominem (in the sense of “relating to or associated with a particular person”). Even if you say “people who do such and such a thing are very naughty indeed and make themselves look bad” that is still an ad hominem (if perhaps rather elliptical) if it is obvious by context that you mean your interlocutor (who has just done “such and such a thing”).

  35. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I very much agree with johnrussell40.

  36. Vinny Burgoo says:

  37. Andy Skuce says:

    John Russell, that’s good advice, but sometimes it’s hard to remain composed when people start not only questioning your (well-referenced) arguments with false, irrelevant and unsupported accusations, but also go on to say things like “why are you posting if you don’t even recognize the importance of this?” making you play “fetch” to find references that rebut their drive-by comments. Or say that your what’s left of your reputation is at stake unless you immediately condemn the comments made by x about y.

    I try to be as nice as I can be, but sometimes I can’t resist getting snarky when I’ve had enough. Maybe living up to Wilde’s definition of a gentleman is the best I can manage.

  38. verytallguy says:

    Just two things:

    1. People arguing online are a small self selected subpopulation. In other words, we’re weird.

    2. How people argue depends largely on what they want from the argument. To learn something? To prove someone wrong? To influence a wider audience?

    3. Don’t expect self consistency from someone arguing on the Internet.

  39. Dikran Marsupial says:

    VTG “2. How people argue depends largely on what they want from the argument”

    indeed, it isn’t uniformly ClimateBall.

  40. > That is only a fallacy if it is in place of a substantive argument.

    Fallacy or not, a ClimateBall ™ player has every reason to feel something personal when being described by another ClimateBall ™ player.

    I’m not suggesting to never describe what a person does, only that ClimateBall ™ players should accept that everything they do or say can be taken as a ClimateBall move. The most popular one is of course “but I’m not playing ClimateBall!”

    However sincere this plea might be, it doesn’t make the ClimateBall ™ field disappear.

    ***

    > [H]ow do you point out to someone (out of kindness, following the “Golden rule”) that they are behaving badly, without an ad hominem.

    You can’t. In an argumentative setting, anything can be taken as an argument.

    You also don’t. Unless a person invites you to comment on the behavior under question. The first rule of etiquette is the same as Fight Club’s – you never mention it. The idea is that good behavior wins by itself in all circumstances.

    That’s not to say you always refrain from telling someone about the thing that bugs you. It’s how one sets up one’s limits. Keeping everything to yourself would also break the norm of friendship. You don’t let a friend act like a jerk toward you without telling so. That’s why I tell Brad Keyes when I feel he’s acting like a jerk. That’s why he tells the same to me. But that’s a personal matter, and personal matters are of little interest to the audience. That kind of criticism should also be distinguished from this kind of comment, which I receive daily.

    While criticism should be welcomed, it needs to be somehow welcomed first. Mileage varies here: I can recall the time when an acquaintance from a friend started to criticize Habermas’ points as soon as the Maestro finished talking. He was kindly told afterwards that one waits for the right moment to do that, and that it may not be the most optimal entry point in a group of researchers.

    Whatever the local norms regarding politeness or cordiality, the overarching point is that constructive criticism conflicts with conversationalism. Remember – we’re on the Internet, not among friends. This exchange we have may persist forever. This is the closest we’ll ever get to an eternal process.

    I also agree with JohnR’s comment.

  41. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> If someone actually is trolling and you describe them as a “time waster”, then it certainly isn’t impolite, and the target cannot legitimately claim that correctly classifying their MO is “rude”. ==>

    Personally, I don’t care about “polite,” “rude,” and the like. IMO, anyone focused on proper etiquette shouldn’t be hanging out in the blogosphere. I find the focus that some people in these threads have on who is being “polite” or “rude\” to be pretty amusing

    But one thing that has always bugged me is when one person in the blogosphere (person A) accuses another person in the blogosphere _person B) of wasting their (person A’s) time. First, IMO, we’re all pretty much wasting time here. I see very little that takes place in comment thread arguments of the blogosphere that have any meaningful impact in the real world.

    But second, and I think more interestingly, I think it’s a weak argument to blame someone else, particularly someone engaging in comment thread discussions who has not clearly given an indication that they’re interested in “genuine discussion,” of wasting your time. No one else makes the decision for us in how we spend our time. If we choose to engage with someone who isn’t interested in genuine discussion, then we are making the decision to waste our time. Blaming that decision on someone else, IMO, lacks accountability.

  42. Joshua says:

    Jim Hunt –

    ==> Where might one go online in order to find “genuine discussions” about climate science with UKIP MPs, MEPs or indeed common or garden members? ==>

    In my experience, genuine discussions (between people of different viewpoints) about climate science very rarely take place in blogospheric comment threads. One example might be what used to happen sometimes at Climate Etc., but that was a pretty long while back. For the most part, IMO, what I see is when people of differing views interact in the climat-o-sphere, most of the time it isn’t to engage in meaningful discussion, but to confirm the superiority of their own views and denigrate the views of others.

    ==> I assume the same applies in the US to Trump supporters? ==>

    Between Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters, no doubt. It’s interesting to watch what takes place lately over at Climate Etc., which has to a large degree turned into explicitly political discussions. And indeed, we can see from “skeptics” there very much the same facile and overtly biased reasoning as we can see on the topic of climate.

    ==> I have had “civilised” face to face conversations with Brexit voters, but I don’t think anyone’s mind was changed as a result. ==>

    It’s an interesting question as to whether mind-changing is a necessary outcome of genuine discussions. Perhaps not, but I would say at least the potential for mind-changing needs to be a part of the discussion, and if exchange after exchange takes place with no one’s mind changing, then maybe it is questionable as to whether even the most “polite” or well-reasoned exchanges are actually genuine discussions.

  43. Jim Hunt says:

    Joshua – Since you mention Climate Etc. what do you make of this (archived) experimental data?

    http://archive.is/iSVQq#selection-33447.0-33457.5

    I’ve highlighted the low light for you.

    Actually a genuine discussion? Or not?

  44. Joshua says:

    JIm –

    I’m not sure which part you’re referencing…but in general, my sense at the time is that there was very, very little genuine discussing going on in that thread.

  45. John Hartz says:

    The use of humor has its place. For example…

    8 Cartoons That Expose Climate Denial by Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, Sep 30. 2016

    Sub-headline: A famous scientist and a famous cartoonist dismantle what they see as the biggest threat to the planet

  46. JCH says:

    Of all the skeptics who comment at Climate Etc., and I have said this several times, stevenreincarnated/steven is by far the most interesting. He reads the science; can argue his points well. I don’t agree with him.

    So I linked to 3 papers published this year. If the AMOC slows down, or less heat is transported to arctic, the could be a hiatus in sea ice loss in the coming years. I think two of the papers supported the possibility of that. The other a little less so. The papers appear to written by mainstream scientists… consensus guys.

    I try to stay away from the sea ice stuff. I would want to know the heat content of the water actually coming into contact with the ice.

  47. Willard says:

    The free lessons in tone policing may have ended:

    Our Chemist even got some fan reaction to his incisive “but anonymity.”

  48. Willard says:

    Seems that the “false machismo of the anonymous commenter” wasn’t enough:

    “Anonymous coward” – now we’re talkin’!

    No idea why our Chemist decided to ping a journalist.

    Perhaps he needs help to release his finest ClimateBall ™.

  49. Mike,

    I have been on receiving end of the name-calling on a comment thread at Open Mind and have been wondering if there was a way to pull the conversation out of the gutter once it get there. My sense at this moment? Probably no.

    I would guess probably no, too, but you never know.

  50. Willard,

    No idea why our Chemist decided to ping a journalist.

    Maybe because that journalist is as “unfailingly polite” as Blair.

  51. Jim Hunt says:

    You and me both JCH, and Steven is currently being a) patronising & b) evasive without being explicitly rude. Does that count as “unfailingly polite”?

  52. BBD says:

    Is that Mr Mosher?

  53. Steven at Climate Etc sounds like a classic troll and timewaster. Don’t bite. Don’t feed the trolls. If they have history changing their argument rather than processing information provided to complete an online discussion in a reasonable manner, then stop engaging with them. This is the response that handles several kinds of troll behavior imho.

    If an online community adopts this approach with the classic trolls/timewasters, they can post with their nonsense, but the isolation and lack of responses to the bait offered show that the poster is not taken seriously.

  54. BBD says:

    Thanks, Willard.

  55. Willard says:

    > Steven at Climate Etc sounds like a classic troll and timewaster.

    Everyone does from afar:

    The same effect can be observed with accents and facial expressions. Believe it or not, there are people who believe we never have any argument with each other around here.

    If a ClimateBall player feels that he’s being trolled or that he’s wasting his time, it might be better that he owns it, e.g. “I feel I’m being trolled” and “I am just wasting my time.” The blaming is still there, but at least the communication closure is cleaner.

    Socrates may have been the first troll.

  56. smallblue,
    As far as I can tell, what one person regards as a troll, others regard as valuable commenters. Not a fan of discussing individuals, but I have a fair amount of time for Steven M. The other issue with your argument is that I have tried to moderate strongly so as to encourage a level of discourse that doesn’t degenerate into name-calling and insults, and that just leads to accusations of censorship. Not everyone agrees on the optimal way in which to behave online, as far as I can tell.

  57. I like your model at this moment. It starts with higher baseline of respect. I used to suggest a strike system with three strikes in 60 day period for clear violations leading to disemvowelment. (back in the days when the disemvowel app was in use). I like the “hush” and “hide comments” function.

    thanks for your work on this site.

    mike

  58. John Hartz says:

    I’m a firm believer in scrubbing all crap* from comment threads.

    *Pseudo-science poppycock spread by hard-core climate science deniers.

  59. Jim Hunt says:

    SBM – In this instance I’m playing away from home. I am that “tr0ll”! Kool Kat’s definition of one:

    Somebody like you who doesn’t permit his utter ignorance of both the science and the actual events stand in the way of insulting those who actually know what they’re talking about and is full right up to the eyeballs with smelly brown stuff.

  60. Willard says:

    No more playing the ref, please.

  61. In the online climate “debate”, I’m generally doing my level best to show that my interlocutor is wrong — in that mode, I’m only attempting to understand their position so that I might better destroy it. Any author of a book on how to graciously host a dinner party will tell you that this is impolite behaviour. It’s certainly not an optimal path toward having a “constructive dialog”.

    OTOH, I think it’s impolite to lie, to put it mildly. Obviously Tone Police will object on that basis when someone points out that their *argument* is rubbish, and why.

    Neighbourhood of here is my magnum opus on not allowing disingenuous opponents to dictate for me how to comport myself online.

  62. Magma says:

    Not everyone agrees on the optimal way in which to behave online, as far as I can tell. — ATTP

    But it’s universally agreed that dry wit is the best kind.

  63. angech says:

    When people disagree on subjects but you know you are right is any invective directed at the person themselves or at the fact that they appear ignorant or because of the disagreement itself?
    Is the anger due to the fact that their argument has been phrased in a clever and hard to refute way?
    on the other hand is it the fear that one’s argument could be wrong?
    Why should we get angry at ignorant people, what allows us to do this?
    Is it frustration at not getting things done in the obviously right way.
    Do illogical people have a right to exist let alone argue?
    I know that if I had reflected without posting quickly a lot of posts would be rewritten or deleted.
    Particularly being smart, rude or taunting.
    On the other hand it hurts a little when being criticised , a lot more when I perceive it is unjustified but the worst is when making an obvious mistake.
    Thank you Willard for pointing out everyone should be treated equally if communicating in good faith*.

  64. Willard says:

    > Particularly being smart, rude or taunting.

    Don’t worry, Doc – you can still be all that even when you reflect. Witness how you just asked questions instead of saying what you mean.

  65. Magma says:

    @ATTP October 1, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Some journalists work for the New York Times and some work for Breitbart News.

  66. Mal Adapted says:

    Jim Hunt:

    I think it’s fair to say that your average “skeptic” isn’t the least bit “interested in genuine discussions”. They openly admit, for example, that:


    As you well know this has never been about science.

    I’m with you, Jim. Pretty revealing comment by “Gail Combs”. IMO, for hard-core AGW-deniers it’s always been about culture war. We encounter them in comment threads all over the Internet, rebunking the same undead memes no matter how decisively and repeatedly they’ve been refuted. Yet Combs continues with:

    their side are dirty street fighters using Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and lie and cheat and browbeat at every turn. So their side wins EVERY D@MN TIME!

    What a surprise to learn we were winning EVERY D@MN TIME! So how come atmospheric CO2 and GMST both keep going up?

    I just now became acquainted with Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, in condensed form at the link. For the most part they generalize to sound, practical tactics for supporters of the AGW consensus to use against politically motivated deniers like Gail Combs. AFAICT, they don’t call for lying or “cheating”, unless citing peer-reviewed source is cheating. As for “browbeating”: how uncivil of us to “Never go outside the expertise of our people”, and “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the denier”! And most of us know “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon”, and it’s OK to employ it against deniers, because “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” I confess I do take pleasure in showing an especially DK-afflicted AGW denier for a fool, by relying on what I know of climate science that he or she clearly doesn’t. I’m afraid I often resort to sarcasm, too. Now I won’t feel guilty about it ;^).

  67. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “You also don’t. Unless a person invites you to comment on the behavior under question. ”

    That is just silly. If we have become such sensitive souls that we can’t be corrected on our behaviour, to the extent that it is a breach of ettiquette, then it is hardly surprising that standards of online behaviour are so poor.

  68. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua “IMO, anyone focused on proper etiquette shouldn’t be hanging out in the blogosphere. ”

    I disagree, there is no real reason why people should behave poorly online. The reason they do is because they more easily get away with it, but as ATTP rightly says we are only responsible for our own behaviour.

  69. Jim Hunt says:

    Mal,

    I also succumb to “the lowest form of wit” fairly frequently. However in my experience the “hard-core AGW-deniers” of which you speak seem to be too dumb to realise when you’re ridiculing them. Take “Kool Kat” for example:

    http://archive.is/bxaaT#selection-35699.0-35717.48

    Now obviously (s)he’s never going to change her/his mind, but what about the “neutral onlookers” of which John Russell speaks? Do you suppose that (on average) they get the joke?

  70. Willard says:

    > That is just silly.

    Rude.

    > If we have become such sensitive souls that we can’t be corrected on our behaviour,

    Caricature.

    > then it is hardly surprising that standards of online behaviour are so poor.

    That is just silly.

  71. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Sorry Willard, if you set out the rules of engagement such that being corrected when you behave badly is frowned upon, then standards of behaviour are likely to fall; this is not “silly”, it is just common sense. Sometimes we are not even aware that our behaviour has fallen below a reasonable standard, and we are unlikely to notice and correct it if nobody points it out.

  72. sometimes the blogosphere remains me of the bar scene when I was a kid living in Austin. A lot of places looked like fun with longhairs and rednecks hanging out together, but some places erupted with fistfights, etc. more often than others. I don’t mind a little give and take and I enjoy banter, wit, mild ridicule, but if you can feel seething anger and hatred around you, maybe you strolled into the wrong blog. Just tip your hat on the way out and try another joint. Blogs are like buses, there’s another one coming by every 15 minutes.

    I like this one. The ground rules suit me.

  73. Willard says:

    > if you set out the rules of engagement such that being corrected when you behave badly is frowned upon, then standards of behaviour are likely to fall; this is not “silly”, it is just common sense.

    “Rules of engagement” are a bit more general than etiquette, Dikran. In any case, it is not your role as a ClimateBall ™ player to “correct” your opponent. My own experience is that it simply fails the principle of cooperation. It is not perspicacious to provide any kind of unsollicited advice, as it can be seen as patronizing. Transpose that kind of thing in a romantic setting to see why.

    If for you looking like another patronizing scientist is the common sense without which your ClimateBall ™ interactions are likely to fail, then keep on correctin’. Let me know how this works for you, even if we both know how it ends when you go (say) at Judy’s.

    ***

    > Sometimes we are not even aware that our behaviour has fallen below a reasonable standard, and we are unlikely to notice and correct it if nobody points it out.

    And then there’s moderation.

    There’s no need to appeal to any standard to set your own conversational limits with someone.

  74. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    It is not perspicacious to provide any kind of unsollicited advice, as it can be seen as patronizing. Transpose that kind of thing in a romantic setting to see why.

    Done.

  75. RickA says:

    My 2 cents worth:

    1. Don’t name call – this tends to derail discussion. Even calling someone a denier can be perceived as name calling. Calling someone stupid is not helpful. Giving some pet names intended to belittle is not helpful. All this also tends to look juvenile and may make other readers question the age of the person hurling names.

    2. Don’t accuse someone of being a liar or dishonest. This tends to derail the discussion. Stick to saying they are wrong – no need to imply intent to deceive.

    3. Don’t put words into someones mouth – they will always resist. I run into this a fair amount at another site. It usually goes like this: admit that you are stupid, or that you are wrong, or I will consider you a liar (I am paraphrasing – but you get the idea).

    4. Don’t tell someone what to do – like stop blogging or stop thinking a certain way – doesn’t help.

    5. If an impasse is reached – whats wrong with agreeing to disagree and stopping the discussion? You do not have to get the other person to agree they were wrong, as usually they will not agree that they were wrong. Sometimes when things get to repetitive I stop posting for awhile and re-engage when the discussion has moved on to something interesting again.

    6. [Playing the ref. -W]

    7. Try to avoid thinking your opponent is evil. They may be, but they may not be. Over time, the exchange will flesh that out for lurkers or other posters – but the false accusation causes the accuser to lose all credibility. Does anyone ever think they are evil?

    Just some thoughts from someone you might perceive to be usually on the other side of these exchanges.

  76. > Done.

    “You have a nail in your forehead” is not an advice. More generally, saying “you are an X” is not received as a factual statement. Also, the scene involves no seduction, an underestimated part of ClimateBall.

    Here are concerns raised regarding how Amy Dickinson uses the word “mansplaining”:

    Dear Amy: You used the word “mansplaining” in your reply to “Perplexed.” I don’t think it means what you think it means.

    Mansplaining is a sexist word used by feminists to shut down any debate with a man if they think they can’t win with their argument.

    Your use of it in your column is offensive to anyone who is capable of a logical discussion.

    — Mark R. Bates, National Coalition For Men

    Amy’s response:

    Dear Mark: Others complained that I had misused the word “mansplaining,” but you are the only person to mansplain while doing it.

    “Mansplaining” is a slang term used for when men co-opt ideas, thoughts or concepts generated by a woman and then re-explain these concepts back to her in a highly patronizing and “expert” way. (See above.)

  77. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “If for you looking like another patronizing scientist is the common sense without which your ClimateBall ™ interactions are likely to fail, then keep on correctin’.”

    This is a misrepresentation of what I said. What I said was common sense was that in the absence of correction, it is not surprising that behavioural standards would fall. I said nothing about patronising.

    “patronizing scientist” is also a charicature, and ad-hominem. Scientists are sometimes viewed as patronising for using the disparity in knowledge to belittle others. That doesn’t apply in this case as we all have similar levels of background knowledge as to what we consider reasonable behaviour. It is true that I am a scientist, but that is irrelevant, so it is not clear why you brought it up.

    Now personally, I think can actually aid cooperation for people to object to behaviour that is counterproductive to communication (for instance bullshitting or name calling or trolling). I know from personal experience that this is the case, and I would hope to respond to criticism more positively myself than dismissing it as “patronising”.

  78. Dikran Marsupial says:

    It’s funny, I seem to have a much larger proportion of my posts ending up in moderation now than I used to. I shall interpret that as me being in need of correction, and I will not ignore it, and I’ll start by ending my participation in this discussion here.

  79. Dikran,
    That one was “liar”. There are some words I’ve put into the moderation box which then results in automatic moderation if used.

  80. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I don’t think I said that, however I think if I write a post that ends up in moderation it is probably a sign that it is not a productive discussion and I should be spending my time elsewhere! ;o)

  81. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    You have a nail in your forehead” is not an advice.

    Neither is “”You have a nail in your forehead” is not an advice” – yet it could be seen as patronizing anyway.

    I don’t need you to tell me what is what, Willard.
    You’re always doing that.
    Don’t.

  82. Willard says:

    > I said nothing about patronising.

    I never said you did. I am the one saying that professing unsollicited advices looks patronizing.

    ***

    > “patronizing scientist” is also a charicature

    You wish. I wish it was too. It may not be wise to challenge me to provide examples.

    ***

    This:

    It’s funny, I seem to have a much larger proportion of my posts ending up in moderation now than I used to. I shall interpret that as me being in need of correction, and I will not ignore it, and I’ll start by ending my participation in this discussion here.

    should be included in any good ClimateBall textbook – it illustrates perfectly how to do things with politeness that one could not do otherwise. In this case, we have conspiracy ideation with the usual “funny” trope.

    This example also refutes RickA’s point – moderation has every little to do with tone.

  83. Willard says:

    > Neither is “”You have a nail in your forehead” is not an advice” – yet it could be seen as patronizing anyway.

    Of course it can. See if I care.

    Do you really think you will prescribe how I will respond to you after throwing me this touchy-feely squirrel, Reverend?

  84. Dikran,
    You’re correct; it was RickA who had the term “liar” in his comment. So, I don’t know why yours ended up in moderation. It does seem rather random, at times.

  85. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Do you really think you will dictate / prescribe how I will respond to you after throwing me this sexist red herring, Reveredn?

    You’re already there, Willard.

    Sexist?
    Red herring?
    Touchy-feely squirrel?

    Such an un-safe space, this.
    You might consider adding trigger-warnings next time.

  86. Willard says:

    > You might consider adding trigger-warnings next time.

    Done.

    Look, Reverend. I’m trying to make a point – tone is secondary, even for manners. What matters is what is being said and done, or rather exchanged. You don’t get that by just looking for the “content,” and certainly not the intent, but for the point.

    There’s no point in fussing about manners even from a mannerist standpoint.

    In my previous comment, it’s the “see if I care” that should provide the tell, for it triggers a ClimateBall trap. While I really don’t care if I’m being polite or not, I do care about getting my point across. This is a space to exchange ideas and points, and I care that it should remain so.

    I’m here for the argument.

    Sometimes, getting one’s point across requires that we “tell what is what.” That’s how analytical philosophy rolls. That analytical philosophers end up saying platitudes is more a feature than a bug.

    Nevertheless, there’s a limit to the idea that we can “tell what is what”:

    This impossibility reinforces the importance of our exchanges.

    We’re all in this mess together. We may need to get out of it before we make sure of everyone’s faith. So just assume that you’re OK, everyone’s more or less OK, and dance. If you dance like no one’s watching, people will notice.

  87. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    So you think you can dance, Willard?

    You care about the argument.
    Me too.

    You are trying to make a point, your point.
    Me too.

    Sometimes you just gotta “tell what is what” regardless of whether it’s polite or not.
    Sometimes it really is, sometimes it has to be… about the nail.


    We’re all in this mess together.

    Of course we are. See if I care.

    I hope I’ve made my point.

    Speaking of dancing, one of my favs:

  88. Vinny Burgoo says:

    A conceptual diagram of online debate from about ten years ago:

    HTH.

  89. John Hartz says:

    Vinny Burgoo: Your diagram sorta reminds me of Donald Trump blowing in the wind.

  90. Socrates may have been the first troll.

    Logic and truth have been known to be disruptive.

  91. angech says:

    Head down in the trench here.
    Arguing online.
    ATTP you really kicked the hornet’s nest with this topic.
    The nesting level of insights is seamlessly interwoven

  92. RickA says:

    Very funny Williard.

    Good one.

  93. Just to be contrary, I don’t think Carswell was as wrong as some people think because the original tweet talked about gravity, but also talked about it in terms of the tidal effect of Jupiter.

    At earth, both Jupiter’s gravitational pull and gravity gradient are less than the moon’s. Both of these facts affect Jupiter’s ability to raise tides relative to the moon’s.

    But while the Sun’s gravity gradient is less than the moon, its “pull” is much stronger. Carswell said “actually it’s the gravitational pull of the sun”.

    Also, the Moon’s position does cause the spring and neap tidal differences, so Carswell is right here too. Unfortunately, including this sentence means that people think his first sentence referred to tides too. So I suggest he may have just confused the tidal effect and the absolute strength.

  94. Thank you for the video, Reverend.

    My own favorite dance video:

    It doesn’t matter what you wear, as long as you are there. Music is facultative. Crickets are enough.

    ***

    Another kind of dance:

    Manners maketh man, but there is nothing noble in being superior to your fellows. True nobility is being superior to your former self.

    ***

    I’m a bit busy right now, so I may need to revisit the nail thing another time, when dust will settle.

  95. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Dance memes to the end of love, Willard.

    At Judy’s, dust, like science, is never settled.

    As for the nail:
    Meet sledgehammer…
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/wherry-trudeau-carbon-pricing-1.3789417

  96. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> I disagree, there is no real reason why people should behave poorly online. ==>

    I’m not saying that people should behave poorly online, but I would say that the ubiquity of people behaving poorly (by which I mean rudely) online is evidence in itself that there are “real” reasons why they, in fact, do so.

    ==> The reason they do is because they more easily get away with it, ==>

    That suggests to me that maybe you and I have somewhat different views of human nature. In fact, interestingly, it seems to me that there you are suggesting a view of human behavior that is commonly found among “conservatives,” IOW, the view that people inherently behave poorly unless external restrictions prevent them from doing so. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but anyway, I would say that the opportunity to behave poorly online does not give a reason why people behavior poorly online. The reason that they behave rudely online is because they get some measure of satisfaction out of being rude online. You might be able to control, to some degree, the amount of rudeness that takes place in a particular forum by not allowing people to “get away with it,” but you won’t affect the causality behind why they behave that way.

    IMO, it would be difficult to generalize about human behavior based on online behavior in comment threads. I would sat that one factor is likely to be that people who are prone to “poor” behavior are attracted to commenting in online fora. And keep in mind that not only are people who read these comment threads outliers, those who comment are outliers of outliers. Of course, your reasoning of causality could still apply to that outlier of outliers (i.e., that particular group is more attracted to commenting online is because they can behave poorly online)…but my guess is that people who behave poorly online are people who are more prone to behaving poorly in all walks of life, and it isn’t a behavior that they only engage in online because it’s possible to do so online.

    At any rate, my larger point is that the rudeness of online behavior is something that should be obvious to anyone who reads online discussions. It is a phenomenon which has been talked about a lot in the popular press. Thus, I would say that if you wade into online discussions with an expectation of people being polite, then you are likely to be disappointed. IMO, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. What I do find interesting, however, is how many people wade into the kitchen and then protest that it’s hot. Why would someone go into the kitchen expecting a cool atmosphere? I think that what is more likely is that a lot of people go online fully knowing that it is a rude environment, and then selectively filter out rude behavior in such a way as to confirm the superiority of their own group relative to other groups. Consider the ubiquity of the reasoning of “if you’re attacking me it’s because you don’t have any good arguments, (as is always the case with people who agree with you and not the case with people who agree with me.)”

    Here’s a good example of one form of that:

    –snip–
    Mosher, you cannot play the ball so play the man (ad homs) out of ignorance.
    –snip–

    https://judithcurry.com/2016/10/02/dust-deposition-on-ice-sheets-a-mechanism-for-termination-of-ice-ages/#comment-815051

    From someone who regularly engages in ad homs, and who regularly associates poor reasoning with one set of views on climate change to the exclusion of a parallel association with other views on climate change.

  97. Willard,

    I’m a bit busy right now, so I may need to revisit the nail thing another time, when dust will settle.

    Wow, somehow I missed that article. Oh dear, what a circus.

  98. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua “In fact, interestingly, it seems to me that there you are suggesting a view of human behavior that is commonly found among “conservatives,” IOW, the view that people inherently behave poorly unless external restrictions prevent them from doing so.”

    No, we all have good and bad impulses, only the proportions vary. Society deliberately puts restrictions on us that that reign in the bad impulses and inadvertently puts restrictions on us that reign in the good. Carrots and sticks are both required, which is why when someone admits they are wrong, it is a good idea to be gracious about it and have a higher opinion of them for doing so rather than lower (having seen both sides of that one, I know it to be true).

    “You might be able to control, to some degree, the amount of rudeness that takes place in a particular forum by not allowing people to “get away with it,” but you won’t affect the causality behind why they behave that way. “

    I disagree whether people are rude or polite online depends on the relative rewards and costs of both lines of action. The presence or absence of criticism and reward is part of the causality. Our behaviour is as much a product of environment as it is innate or learned.

    “IMO, it would be difficult to generalize about human behavior based on online behavior in comment threads. “

    I don’t think there is a reason to think that our online behaviour is anything other than a particular case of our general behaviour, just with fewer restrictions than usual (in bloggo veritas?)

    “Thus, I would say that if you wade into online discussions with an expectation of people being polite,”

    I don’t think anyone is that naive. It is reasonable to wade into online discussions with the expectation of having discussions with only those participants who are willing to be polite and issue a nolle prosequi to those that can’t manage that. Likewise if you wade into a discussion being rude and obnixious you shouldn’t have the expectation that anyone will take you for an attention seeking child.

    “IMO, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

    I disagree, that is pandering to those who can’t be polite. If someone cant take the heat of their behaviour being criticised, they can also stay out of the kitchen.

    Why would someone go into the kitchen expecting a cool atmosphere?”

    They would find it in my kitchen ;o)

    “Consider the ubiquity of the reasoning of “if you’re attacking me it’s because you don’t have any good arguments, (as is always the case with people who agree with you and not the case with people who agree with me.)”

    My approach is usually to ask questions about the content of the argument and they can demonstrate its strength or otherwise by their answers (or lack thereof – evasion is a common response). It is a bit like sledging in cricket. I’ve always thought it shows mental weakness on the part of the person doing it. If they were confident of getting me out they would be in a hurry to get back to their mark and do it. The fact they are sledging means they feel the need for an “edge”. I’m not naive enough to think that has any bearing on their actual ability to get me out. Likewise in climate discussions, it is the substance of the argument that matters, whether someone is rude is mostly just a distraction.

    ATTP hits the nail squarely on the head though. You are only responsible [and potentially in control of] your own behaviour [although you can influence the behaviour of others in either direction].

    Anyway, I think that will do for this topic. My substantive point was made in my first post, some time back.

  99. Joshua,

    IMO, it would be difficult to generalize about human behavior based on online behavior in comment threads. I would sat that one factor is likely to be that people who are prone to “poor” behavior are attracted to commenting in online fora.

    I don’t want to generalise either, but I am there are some sites where commenters regularly say things that most would regard as remarkably unpleasant, and yet none of the other regulars object. I don’t know if it is because they don’t want risk their own welcome, if they think that it was justified and hence don’t want to call it out, or if it is simply just that those have attracted people who are simply prone to behaving in such way (or something else altogether). It certainly seems quite possible that the conduct on some sites is such that it will only really attract those who also conduct themselves in a way that is suited to those sites.

  100. verytallguy says:

    Dikran,

    I don’t think there is a reason to think that our online behaviour is anything other than a particular case of our general behaviour, just with fewer restrictions than usual (in bloggo veritas?)

    I think how people behave in cars vs how they behave in general is a close parallel.

  101. Dikran Marsupial says:

    It would be an interesting experiment [although not interesting enough to actually perform it myself] to perform an tone analysis of the archives of usenet posts to see if there has been a detectable change in the way people communicate since the 80s. I don’t remember it being a particularly uncivilised environment back in the late 80s (but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t).

  102. Dikran Marsupial says:

    VTG absolutely!

  103. VTG,
    I didn’t notice you commenting on cliscep, did I? 😉

  104. verytallguy says:

    AT,

    mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

  105. Willard says:

    That’s what happens when you’re a slave to the rhythm.

  106. John Hartz says:

    Perhaps we’ve beaten this horse to death.

    Regardless, here’s some fodder for a new post…

    There are our carbon emissions — and then, there are the ones the Earth will punish us with by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Oct 3, 2016

  107. Mal Adapted says:

    RickA:

    Don’t accuse someone of being a liar or dishonest. This tends to derail the discussion. Stick to saying they are wrong – no need to imply intent to deceive.

    One learns to spot the hard-core AGW denier, who isn’t interested in coming to any agreement about the facts of AGW, but only in defending his “right” to socialize the climate costs of his comfort and convenience. It’s not about science with him, but about ideology, and he stays on message.

    Frequently, this type of denier isn’t so much lying as bullshitting. On comment threads he’ll doggedly repeat arguments that have been decisively refuted, often in the same thread; since it must be obvious to him they’re not scoring him any points, they’re presumably helping to sustain his resolve. He’ll never admit to being wrong and is impervious to insult, so accusations of dishonesty bounce right off him.

    It’s best to point the bullshitter out to the thread once, and ignore him thereafter. One may as well argue with a ‘bot.

  108. Szilard says:

    DM: Usenet back in the 80’s – back in the day I was struck by the number of (mainly) academics who seemed to be using the new medium as an opportunity to give their various character quirks a good airing. Endless flame wars, vicious personal attacks, threats of litigation – and endless discussion of these things.

    Signal/noise was generally better than yr typical climate blog, in the parts I frequented, but there was always a risk of things devolving rapidly in to a street fight. When that happened, it was as tedious then as it is now.

  109. Joshua says:

    Mal –

    ==> since it must be obvious to him they’re not scoring him any points, they’re presumably helping to sustain his resolve. He’ll never admit to being wrong and is impervious to insult, so accusations of dishonesty bounce right off him.==>

    I would guess that more likely she thinks that she is scoring points, but that the “realists” won’t admit that openly. She probably also thinks that she isn’t wrong, and that the insults sent her way are simply a reflection of the anger her interlocutor feels at being exposed, and and indication of her interlocutor’s inability to admit error.

  110. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> I don’t want to generalise either, but I am there are some sites where commenters regularly say things that most would regard as remarkably unpleasant, and yet none of the other regulars object.==>

    You do realize, I would guess, that the description you just offered is one that many “skeptics” think would be very apt for describing ATTP..

    ==> I don’t know if it is because they don’t want risk their own welcome,.. ==>

    I think that might be true to a very minor extent, but more explanatory is that they think that the venom directed at the minority participants is entirely justified. I think of my experience at Judith’s, where IMO, I was pretty rarely rude, and certainly far less rude than many of my interlocutors, but very often characterized as being particularly rude. Even someone like Mark Bofill, who I think tends to be more open to criticism than the average Joe blog discussion participant called me a “poopyhead,’ because of what he perceived to be my rudeness towards Judith, when from my perspective I wasn’t being rude towards Judith, but instead critical of her arguments. Mosher used complain frequently about how, in his view, I wasn’t criticizing Judith’s arguments but merely reflexively attacking her because I saw her as some sort of traitor or heretic. He even tacked onto that some nonsense about how his massive gifts in textual analysis enabled him to see how my supposed attacks on Judith were rooted in some kind of misogyny.

    ==> It certainly seems quite possible that the conduct on some sites is such that it will only really attract those who also conduct themselves in a way that is suited to those sites. ==>

    I question whether, usually, it is a matter of different sites having different character, as opposed sites having different alliances due to ideological orientation. Certainly, some sites are outliers, but It would be interesting to see a scientifically analyzed taxonomy of behavior traits at different websites. For all the absolute certainly on each side of the climate wars, respectively, that the other side disproportionately misbehaves, I remain dubious, and tend to think that the categorizations that people come up with are mostly just a form of confirmation bias and identity-reinforcement.

  111. hard to choose a favorite dance video

    명월

    http://thewordshop.tripod.com/Sijo/hwangchini.html

    hmm.

    What its like commenting on the internet

  112. John Hartz says:

    Comment threads are the last resort of scoundrels. 🙂

  113. “Judith were rooted in some kind of misogyny.”

    wrong.

    quite the opposite. basically Joshua what I argued was that your style, actually changes when you engage Judith in a very easily detectable way. And it has nothing to do with misogyny.
    quite the opposite in fact.

  114. anoilman says:

    Regarding anonymity… I’m not sure I’m comfortable revealing who I am. Strange things have happened out there, and the oil industry is as vindictive as it is stupid.

    Take this thread… A certain troll found out a poster’s real name, and called her at home to harass her. The Troll was slagging this person in another thread so I thought I’d verify it;
    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/thehill-v4/california_legal_victory_exposes_fracking_flaw_in_us_management_of_public_lands/#comment-2922358188

    What kind of person would go to that extent to get at someone?

    The fact is that we are free to speak and think as we like, but some people might not like it, and they may even go so far as to do something about it. There are also some really sick people out there…

  115. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua “You do realize, I would guess, that the description you just offered is one that many “skeptics” think would be very apt for describing ATTP..”

    They would probably also say the same about SkS, where abusive comments in either direction are a contravention of the comments policy and quite reliably moderated (at least they were in the period where I was active as a moderator, and I was not the only one doing so). It was one of the things that attracted me to commenting at SkS in the first place (i.e. that you could have a substantive discussion there without the name calling and rhetoric). “skeptics” saying that does not mean that ATTP’s observation isn’t correct.

  116. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Szilard – I was obviously following the wrong groups! ;o)

    One thing I have observed is that it only takes one member of a group (with a bee in the bonnet) behaving badly to spoil it for everybody else.

  117. Joshua,

    You do realize, I would guess, that the description you just offered is one that many “skeptics” think would be very apt for describing ATTP..

    Yes, of course.

  118. verytallguy says:

    Joshua

    For all the absolute certainly on each side of the climate wars, respectively, that the other side disproportionately misbehaves, I remain dubious, and tend to think that the categorizations that people come up with are mostly just a form of confirmation bias and identity-reinforcement.

    I’m sceptical. I propose that “sceptic” sites are overwhelmingly more vitriolic and abusive. I give you “cliscep” as exemplification.

    Show me your data (and code) to prove otherwise, poopyhead!

  119. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “For all the absolute certainly on each side of the climate wars”

    I don’t think there is absolute certainty on each side of the climate wars. While the basics of climate physics are well understood and there is a lot we can be certain about, there are also very significant uncertainties (e.g. we generally talk about a range of plausible values for ECS rather than a particular value) and science mostly works by trying to put constraints (bounds) to chip away at uncertainties. The IPCC WG1 report even has a well defined terminology to describe their lack of absolute uncertainty, which seems well understood by most “mainstream” blogs.

  120. Szilard says:

    SM: “Old Boy”. I’ve got a phone conf tomorrow which I expect to go like that, if I’m lucky.

    Looking forward to it.

  121. angech says:

    Joshua says:
    ” my guess is that people who behave poorly online are people who are more prone to behaving poorly in all walks of life, and it isn’t a behavior that they only engage in online because it’s possible to do so online.”
    A little glimpse of myself in the mirror? Made me think at any rate. Thanks Joshua.
    “your style, actually changes when you engage Judith”
    Not sure but something changes, I did not like some of your comments there and obviously some others felt the same. Perhaps attacking too much? Don’t know.
    ATTP site has improved out of sight from 3 years ago, Side effect is a few more skeptics do try to touch base here though the tribal nature of all sites means if you are not in you do get some heat. More argument is good both for reassuring that one’s own arguments appear sound and to get a little bit of angst [heat] out. Plus it makes for discussion, not back patting.
    verytallguy says:
    “I’m sceptical. I propose that “sceptic” sites are overwhelmingly more vitriolic and abusive.”
    Well, you did said it VTG.
    I would think any site you do not “belong to” is apt to appear more so.
    Dikran, last comment well put. Please stop, I don’t want to agree with you.

  122. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I should point out however that uncertainty is not a good reason to do nothing about climate change. The standard approach to decision making under uncertainty (i.e. cost-benefit analysis) is to work out the expected loss of each course of (in)action, integrating over the uncertainty, and take the course of action with the lowest expected loss. As the losses are though to be a non-linear and non-decreasing function of ECS, it is the high end of the range of plausible values of ECS that will dictate the rational course of action. Showing that ECS might plausibly be low doesn’t change things much, finding physical or observational constraints that rule out high ECS is a much more productive activity.

  123. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I think the thing I was trying to say is that if you go into a discussion with strong prior beliefs as to its nature, your perception of the discussion will be dominated by your pre-conceived view. If you think both sides are certain, then confirmation bias (to which we are all susceptible) will make you notice statements of certainty and blind to some extent to statements about uncertainty. For the most part AFAICS mainstream blogs seem quite upfront about the uncertainties in our knowledge, but the nature of the impacts means that we can be quite certain that we rationally need to do something about climate change even under those uncertainties. Perhaps that is partially my strong prior (being machine learning/statistics type I am comfortable with uncertainty and interested in discussions about it, so I will naturally pay more attention to that sort of thing).

  124. verytallguy says:

    Angech,

    “I’m sceptical. I propose that “sceptic” sites are overwhelmingly more vitriolic and abusive.”
    Well, you did said it VTG.
    I would think any site you do not “belong to” is apt to appear more so.

    Following from cliscep, a site supported by amongst others, a UK academic.

    Well, you would, wouldn’t you, you slimy little shits. Because the very idea that people might have differing views is such anathema that you think that merely demonstrating that some of the people who think that you’re a bunch of pathetic arseholes sometimes say things that are not in accordance with what some other people say (who also think that you’re a bunch of pathetic arseholes) somehow proves that you’re not a bunch of pathetic arseholes. And that by adding the names of Watts, Monckton, Christy and Plimer to a rehash of a blog article by Nazi crossdresser Cook and using the good offices of philosopher and female orgasm expert Lloyd to get published in a journal of epistemology you can further your nasty fascist project of keeping scepticism out of the public eye

    https://cliscep.com/2016/09/25/critique-of-lewandowsky-s-cook-j-lloyd-e-synthese-2016/#comments

    I defy you to find remotely similar vitriol and abuse from a mainstream climate alarmist blog.

  125. Willard says:

    > Side effect is a few more skeptics do try to touch base here

    I doubt this is true, Doc, and yet again you’re using a topic to make it about AT’s.

    Please desist.

    ***

    > I defy you to find remotely similar vitriol […]

    Not a good idea, Very Tall.

  126. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    ==>

    wrong.

    quite the opposite…And it has nothing to do with misogyny.
    quite the opposite in fact.

    ==>

    My point of bringing that up was more general than specific,- the more general point being that often, and probably usually, the way that minority commenters are categorized by the majority has more to do with their status as being in the minority than anything inherently characteristic about the nature of their comments). But one more comment on the specifics. Ok. So I misinterpreted the nature of your contention that I respond differently to her because of her gender. But I still challenge you to back up your assertion. I probably respond more carefully to Judith than to Climate Etc., commenters to avoid making comments that come across as attacking her rather than criticizing her arguments. But I do that with some other blog proprietors also, such as RPJr,, Kloor back in the day, Kahan, etc. The reason isn’t her gender. IMO, your confirmation bias leads you to see a (real) difference in my manner of responding to Judith in comparison to the “denizens,” and (falsely) attribute the causality to her gender.

  127. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> They would probably also say the same about SkS, … ==>

    No doubt,

    ==> where abusive comments in either direction are a contravention of the comments policy and quite reliably moderated (at least they were in the period where I was active as a moderator, and I was not the only one doing so).==>

    My bias is that the magnitude of biases like confirmation bias are not governed by political or other ideological orientation. So with that as a starting point, I need to see (or probably more accurately, be bludgeoned with) scientific evidence to be persuaded otherwise.

    So, without seeing hard evidence otherwise, I am not convinced by assertions that there is some overriding disproportionality in tone of discourse or nature of moderation in the blogosphere, in association with views on whether continuing ACO2 emissions poses a threat. No doubt, there could be outlier samples, say where a particular “realist” or “skeptic” site is entirely even-handed in the way that it handles tone, but to the extent that might be true, I think those individual examples would be dwarfed by the larger pattern where many people on both sides, respectively, are absolutely convinced of a more general disproportionality. The nature of motivated reasoning suggests that: (1) those strongly ideologically oriented would engage in identity protective and identity progressive behaviors and (2), those on each side would predictably, and very confidently, see a disproportionality along those lines, without the need for carefully evaluated evidence on which to base that view.

    ==> It was one of the things that attracted me to commenting at SkS in the first place (i.e. that you could have a substantive discussion there without the name calling and rhetoric). “skeptics” saying that does not mean that ATTP’s observation isn’t correct. ==>

    Part of the problem is that it would be very hard to objectively assess the moderation of a site without there being overlap with the more general context of the collection of participants involved, and the larger orientation of a site within the climate wars. I think that with a site that is set up with one of its goals to be exposing “deniers,” and with participants who are heavily identified within the larger identity-protective and identity-defensive context, it would be next to impossible to effectively isolate moderation policies to assess their objectivity and even-handedness w/r/t moderating for tone. The ambiguous nature of how language is interpreted (you and I often seem to butt into the question of prescriptivism vs. descriptivism), IMO, makes determining objectivity in this matter very complicated and subject to bias. Thus, I would say that even if a particular site might be objectively isolated as not fitting the pattern (something which I doubt, obviously) it would need to be seen fully in context of the larger patterns in play. That isn’t to say that an individual site standing out wouldn’t be instructive in some important ways. However, even if that is the case with SkS (and I don’t share your confidence that it is), that won’t change the reality of whether insisting that there is a clear distinction in that regard will meaningfully advance the prevalence of “genuine discussions.”

  128. Joshua says:

    Angech –

    ==> I did not like some of your comments there and obviously some others felt the same. Perhaps attacking too much? ==>

    I’m more interested in the discussion of the larger patterns in play. No doubt, “some” of my comments there deserved criticism in terms of holding the line on tone, politeness, and clearly distinguishing between criticizing logic and personal criticisms. But… for me the more interesting question is whether the constant barrage of vitriol directed my way, and the constant refrain of how the poor tone and blah, blah of my comments was characteristic of a broader difference between “realists” and “sksptics” (with, obviously, the negative balance lying on the side of “realists), could be validly explained by an objective evaluation of the nature of my comments, or whether the explanation lay more with the more general pattern of highly identified people reverse engineering from someone’s views about the impact of ACO2 on our climate (with those views being in opposition to their own) to then characterizing someone’s comments (and indeed, more importantly, the character of the commenter).

  129. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> I don’t think there is absolute certainty on each side of the climate wars. ==>

    I wasn’t saying that there is equal absolute certainty w/r/t the impact of ACO2 on each side of the climate wars, respectively. In fact, with an appropriate acknowledgement of my own biases, I do think that in the “skept-o-sphere” there is, ironically, more unscientific certainty expressed than there is on the “realist” side, even though many “skeptics” characteristically the rhetorical device of uncertainty as a weapon in their arsenal. Basically, while many “skeptics” pay lip service to uncertainty, they make arguments that aren’t consistent with respecting uncertainty (say, their arguments about the economic impact of mitigation, or their arguments about the uncertainty of temperature records juxtaposed to their arguments about the certainty of a “pause”).

    My point is that I often see arguments on both sides that express complete certainty about differences in the nature of the discourse, and that those differences fall in line with, basically, “us good, them bad.”

  130. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    ==> I give you “cliscep” as exemplification. ==>

    It would be hard to argue that “cliscep” isn’t an extreme example. I wouldn’t try. My question is whether we can extrapolate from that example to identity a more general pattern.

    ==> Show me your data (and code) to prove otherwise, poopyhead! ==>

    The problem with the climate wars could easily be solved if simply all those poopyheads on the other side would stop calling us poopyheads.

  131. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua said “So with that as a starting point, I need to see (or probably more accurately, be bludgeoned with) scientific evidence to be persuaded otherwise. ”

    But you don’t provide any yourself. I at least can point to a site that we agree skeptics would say is hostile so all you have to do is go and see for yourself. I can’t give links to the posts that are no longer visible because they have been moderated, but if your view is correct you should have no difficulty finding comments that make your point.

  132. verytallguy says:

    Climate “sceptics” do provide much humour, albeit not always intentionally.

    Whouda thunk an apparently scientific discussion of the role of dust in albedo feedback could end thus:

    To set the record straight, I am not and I have never been a “Mormon fundamentalist” in any sense whatsoever. I am one of the most liberal Mormon Ralph or anyone else will ever meet. I received master’s degrees in Jewish studies and biblical studies from the University of Oxford and from Trinity Western University, respectively, and am writing a doctoral dissertation on the cognitive science of religion and the Hebrew Bible through the University of Exeter. I do not believe that the Book of Abraham is a “genuine manuscript written by Abraham” at all and I never done or said anything that could ever possibly put anyone under the misapprehension that I do.

    https://judithcurry.com/2016/10/02/dust-deposition-on-ice-sheets-a-mechanism-for-termination-of-ice-ages/#comment-815361

    l blame Willard* for playing the man rather than the ball.

    *Yes, I know, not a good idea…

  133. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “Part of the problem is that it would be very hard to objectively assess the moderation of a site without there being overlap with the more general context of the collection of participants involved, and the larger orientation of a site within the climate wars. ”

    This suggests that you would reject any scientific evidence that could be provided as being non-objective. Is your position falsifiable? If so, how would you go about it?

    “My point is that I often see arguments on both sides that express complete certainty about differences in the nature of the discourse, and that those differences fall in line with, basically, “us good, them bad.”

    Again, I thin there may be some confirmation bias going on (but also it is the rusty hinge that gets the oil/squeaky wheel that gets the grease, so most of the discussion about the nature of the discourse will focus on the attention seekers and the naughty, rather than the average group member).

  134. BBD says:

    Can one say: dear God?

    🙂

  135. verytallguy says:

    That’s a shame AT, it’s both comedy gold and simultaneously a great exemplar of blogs getting the commentators they deserve.

    BBD, I think you’ll find you mean Dear obscure Armenian king. Or something.

  136. “My point of bringing that up was more general than specific,- the more general point being that often, and probably usually, the way that minority commenters are categorized by the majority has more to do with their status as being in the minority than anything inherently characteristic about the nature of their comments). ”

    Sorry, it looked like a specific case that in the years since you continue to bring up. For some readers your repeated attempts to recast and recharacterize what I said would be telling. Second,
    I never viewed you as a minority commenter, either in volume of positions. I merely note a style.. a form of presentation and certain definitive countable stylistic features that change as a function
    of the rhetorical situation. It’s funny Mcintyre asked me how I spotted Glieck from the bogus text he created. It was quite simple and natural for me. Now of course we are on the verge of having machines do the same thing. quite happy about that actually. Moving from the surface of the text to the generating mechanism of course is speculation.

    “But one more comment on the specifics. Ok. So I misinterpreted the nature of your contention that I respond differently to her because of her gender. But I still challenge you to back up your assertion. I probably respond more carefully to Judith than to Climate Etc., commenters to avoid making comments that come across as attacking her rather than criticizing her arguments. But I do that with some other blog proprietors also, such as RPJr,, Kloor back in the day, Kahan, etc. The reason isn’t her gender. IMO, your confirmation bias leads you to see a (real) difference in my manner of responding to Judith in comparison to the “denizens,” and (falsely) attribute the causality to her gender.”

    As you say ” probably respond more carefully to Judith ” And you didnt think that was detectable?
    Thanks for confirming the point I was making. So Point 1 we agree. How many years has it been?. maybe only months.. perhaps it has gotten under your skin. please accept my apology.

    That leaves one issue on which we disagree: I saw another difference in how you treat Kloor, Jr, and Kahan and how you respond to Judith.

    So, go read all your comments to Jr, Kloor, and Kahan, and then get a pile of all your comments to Judith ( If you could code a web scraper it would be easier ).. anyway.. if you cant keep all that in your head, go collect the corpi and then compare. Me pointing it out won’t help you. This is your quest.If you can’t see it, then go in peace and understand that your failure maybe a McGurk effect ( well really not since the McGurk effect is about two sensory channels giving conflicting input– same thing leads to motion sickness — so its dangerous to extrapolate from insights about vision and sound to insights about reading words on a page )

    It should not be surprising to anyone that we speak differently to our grandmother than our students. That we use different styles with strangers than with close friends. And it should not surprise you that (unconsciously perhaps ) you use different styles with men than with women.
    Did you think all that you had purged all hints of “sexism” from your language and style? My sense is that you maybe think you have, which perhaps explains why you appear to have taken my comment so seriously. The last question, the most important one, is this. In the meat world, beneath the pixels, do I think you are sexist? Nope. but this is the pixel world.

  137. Willard says:

    Blame all you want, Very Tall, I would argue that someone who sells books on conspiracy sites and does interviews with conspiracy specialists can still contribute to science with an interesting hypothesis. Even someone who stalks students IRL can be right from time to time. Newton may have done worse to Robert Hooke.

    OTOH, res ipsa loquitur.

    Pulling Tom in was certainly not a good idea. Which is why I contacted him:

    Oh, and it’s Sweet Izates bar Monobaz, Abgar V the Black, Abgar Ma’nu VI, and Abgar bar Manu VIII the Great. You can also add King Arthur. Don’t forget “Freemason” and the secret handshake.

    ***

    The most constructive aspect of this due diligence is the following model. Compare:

    [A]fter the Jewish Revolt, the Romans were fed-up with the more fundamentalist Jews causing rebellion in the east of the Empire. What Rome wanted was a Rome- friendly form of Judaism that would:

    Accept Romans as members (Judaism did not).

    Eat and pray with Romans (see Saul’s condemnation of Peter for not eating with Gentiles).

    Not need to be circumcised (see Saul’s condemnation of circumcision).

    Be peaceful (turn the other cheek).

    Pay Roman taxes (render unto Caesar).

    Saul’s new Simple Judaism (Judaism Lite) achieved all of that.

    Contrast:

    Decoding the New World Order is not an easy business, but researcher Jack Blood has a serious understanding of how the global super elite do their business. Interviewed by Russell Scott (WestCoastTruth.com), Blood discusses ending the Fed, government-sponsored terrorism, the police state, the United Nations agenda (Unalienable Rights vs. UN Privileges), Secret Societies, and Collectivism vs. Individual Sovereignty. Importantly, he encourages us all to move from exposing the problem to implementing the solutions for freedom _ some of which he shares here. We The People have the power; we are the huge base of the pyramid holding up the tiny top. 68-min.

    Omitting circumcision, we get this model:

    – Multicultiralism vs anti-multiculturalism
    – Pacifism vs Freedom to Open Carry
    – Tax obedience vs Citizen Sovereignty.

    No wonder Jesus as a collectivist myth fabricated by a global elite sells well among conspirational Freedom Fighters. And then there’s Lew.

    That such a fine scholar can still do science is all the more interesting to me. His ClimateBall ™ baptism may look like a cold shower, but he has seen worse:

    [Y]ou are mistaking Jesus’ 3rd degree initiation with his crucifixion. I too have ‘died’ and been resurrected, during my 3rd degree masonic initiation, but i can promise you I was not crucified.

    He’ll shake it off.

  138. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Perhaps you should huddle with some experts and come up with an algorithim to rate the civility of comments posted on threads such as this. 🙂

  139. Mal Adapted says:

    Joshua, we’re apparently thinking of different AGW-deniers.

  140. > an algorithim to rate the civility of comments

    That algorithm would need to read Midwestern Nice:

    Midwestern Nice is a vernacular of wholesome politeness masking bitter contempt. It is employed primarily by white Christians of the U.S. heartland. To speak Midwestern Nice, you must know certain key words, and Mr. Pence and Mr. Kaine lobbed them like they were in a Norman Rockwell battle royale. Mr. Pence rhapsodized about small towns and cornfields; Mr. Kaine hit back with Little League and Sunday school. Mr. Pence praised the power of prayer; Mr. Kaine name-checked a Methodist youth group.

  141. John Hartz says:

    Willard: Nice catch.

    BTW, Mr. Kaine was trained by Jesuits.

  142. This just in, Teh Modulz R Stoopid at Judy’s again … wherein Kip Hansen also strawmans Lorenz to death. Fun for the whole family!

  143. I told you it would be fun willard..

    instigator

  144. BBD says:

    I’m confused. Hansen did not strictly calculate ECS “based upon interglacial temperature and Co2 data” as Ralf Ellis incessantly claims. The calculation was based on purely radiative terms and compared the quasiequilibrium states at the LGM and the preindustrial Holocene. The TLDR is that the changes in total net forcing between the LGM and the preindustrial Holocene were:

    GHG: 3 W/m^2

    Surface albedo: 3.5 W/m^2

    These combine to yield a change in T of ~5C between the LGM and the preInd Holocene and so:

    5°C/6.5 W/m2 = ~ 0.7C per W/m2

    Reducing the surface albedo at the LGM with dust would – presumably – reduce the total net forcing change between the LGM and the preInd Holocene. This would increase the climate sensitivity estimate to a net forcing change, not decrease it, eg:

    5°C/6 W/m2 = ~ 0.8C per W/m2
    5°C/5 W/m2 = ~ 1C per W/m2
    etc.

    * * *

    In Hansen & Sato (2012):

    Fortunately, it is not necessary to have a detailed quantitative theory of the ice ages in order to extract vitally important information.

  145. verytallguy says:

    I’m confused.

    Yes. You’ve applied quantitative analysis to Ralf’s logic. What did you expect?

    Ralf doesn’t do maths. He does logic

    Your numbers are mere socio-political Machiavellian manipulation

  146. BBD says:

    I’m slightly amazed that you go there, vtg, but good for you, if you have the patience.

  147. verytallguy says:

    It comes and goes BBD. The thread with Ralf is highly amusing, if nothing else.

  148. It comes and goes

    Likewise. I find I have enough and stop commenting, and then I get bored and start again.

  149. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I find it difficult to get that bored anymore. As long as there isn’t another thread about Murry Salby* … ;o)

    * it is possible that there will be an article unequivocally saying Prof. Salby is wrong, in which case there would be no need for me to do anything more than agree and commend.

  150. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> But you don’t provide any yourself. I at least can point to a site that we agree skeptics would say is hostile so all you have to do is go and see for yourself. ==>

    I’m saying that evaluating the question is complicated, and subject to many types of biases. Just “going and seeing” is complicated. My starting bias is that the tribalism in the climate wars is affected by underlying human characteristics that run across different perspectives, and is not distributed in proportions based orientation of whether or not people think that ACO2 emissions influence climate. I like to think that I’m open to evidence otherwise, but I’m not likely to be persuaded by anecdotal example collecting, and if I’m going to be persuaded by evidence, it would have to be evidence presented in some scientific fashion.

    ==> but if your view is correct you should have no difficulty finding comments that make your point. ==>

    I’ve read SkS in the past and my recollection is that I felt that while there was a greater effort to be even-handed in moderation than at some sites, it wasn’t foolproof or immune to the kinds of group identity biases and identity protective behaviors I’ve been speaking about. Consider that I think that even the term “denier” is reflective of such behaviors. I would imagine that you don’t agree with me about that. So right there we’d have a definitional problem that would mean that carrying out your proposed exercise wouldn’t advance a discussion beyond that definitional divergence. I would say that the common use of “denier” was reflective of tribalism or impoliteness or hostility, and you would say that it isn’t.

    I am not interested in going over to SkS to get into culling examples because it would be time consuming, and because I think that doing so would only return us to trying to reach scientific conclusions without a scientific approach to analysis.

  151. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: You state:

    I am not interested in going over to SkS to get into culling examples because it would be time consuming, and because I think that doing so would only return us to trying to reach scientific conclusions without a scientific approach to analysis.

    If you cannot cite specific examples, your opinion is not even worth a bucket of warm spit.

  152. JH,
    I realise that you’re a moderator at SkS, and – in my view – do a commendable job. I – of all people – should realise how difficult it is. However, I do think that Joshua is making a valid point. We’re all susceptible to identity politics and we should try to avoid pretending that somehow we’re immune while suggesting that others are susceptible (and this wasn’t coming from you, but was general point about the kind of comments that can be seen on various sites). My impression is that – as Joshua says – SkS does try to be even-handed, but is probably not beyond some kind of bias – in many cases the same kind of bias to which I’m susceptible (not publishing nonsense on my site) but I suspect that there are also elements of identifying with particular views and that it is hard to not let that influence moderation practices.

  153. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> This suggests that you would reject any scientific evidence that could be provided as being non-objective. Is your position falsifiable? If so, how would you go about it? ==>

    I would look at any evidence with a skeptical eye, but I would be much more skeptical of evidence that didn’t place specific points of evidence within the larger context.

    At some point, I would say that most evidence, at some level, is affected by subjective biases in that it is collected by humans. But the impact of the potential subjectivity is relative, depending on the attempts made to control for potential biases. So no, I wouldn’t reject all scientific evidence on the basis of it being non-objective. But as the level of control for subjectivity increases, so does my evaluation of the validity of the evidence. But in this case, we’ve been talking about evidence that is almost entirely non-scientific in nature.

    ==> Again, I thin there may be some confirmation bias going on (but also it is the rusty hinge that gets the oil/squeaky wheel that gets the grease, so most of the discussion about the nature of the discourse will focus on the attention seekers and the naughty, rather than the average group member). ==>

    So how would we measure the degree of incivility of the average group member, in some fashion that tries to control for subjective influences? And then how would we measure the impact of of any group average differences relative to the impact of those at the more extreme ends of the scale? If, for example, on average there are small differences in level of civility in association with the different sides of the climate wars, at specific sites, how would the impact of those small differences be evaluated in the context of relatively similar of very uncivil behavior across many sites?

  154. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua “and if I’m going to be persuaded by evidence, it would have to be evidence presented in some scientific fashion.”

    So I repeat my question, what sort of evidence would falsify your position. I know falsificationism is not the “be all and end all” of science, but if you are going to ask for evidence presented in some scientific fashion that does imply that the hypothesis under consideration should be presentable in a scientific fashion.

    “I’ve read SkS in the past and my recollection is that I felt that while there was a greater effort to be even-handed in moderation than at some sites, it wasn’t foolproof or immune to the kinds of group identity biases and identity protective behaviors I’ve been speaking about.”

    well of course it isn’t, it would be an obvious waste of time to have a moderation system that was so thorough as to be foolproof. This seems a pretty unreasonable expectation to me. We can only do our best to address our biases, the idea that it is feasible to eliminate them entirely seems a bit of a stretch to me. Can you suggest how such moderation could be achieved in practice at a sensible cost?

    So you agree that there is a moderation effort at SkS where there is a greater effort to be even-handed, so can you give me an example of a climate skeptic site where the moderation makes an equivalent attempt at even handedness.

    “Consider that I think that even the term “denier” is reflective of such behaviors.”

    Not intrinsically, but it can be so. Essentially p(“deniers”|behaviour) is not p(behaviour|”denier”), observing the word “denier” is more likely in a hostile, partisan discussion, but that does not mean a discussion can be reliably identified as hostile and partisan because the word “denier is used”. Of course if your prior belief is that discussions are hostile and partisan than observing the word “denier” is likely to reinforce that belief (confirmation bias).

    Personally I am alright with “denial”, but rarely use “denier” simply because some people are offended by the latter term, even though it does have a valid and relevant meaning. Labelling the behaviour rather than the person is generally less offensive. Indeed being “in denial” at least suggests an internal conflict (not wanting to cause climate induced hardship on others but at the same time not wanting to reduce standard of living) reflecting a degree of unselfishness. We all have a tendency to “denial” in this way (often a “thinking, fast and slow” issue).

    “I would say that the common use of “denier” was reflective of tribalism or impoliteness or hostility, and you would say that it isn’t.”

    You would be essentially wrong, it can be, but you need to look a bit deeper than just keyword spotting and look at the argument made with the keyword.

    “I am not interested in going over to SkS to get into culling examples because it would be time consuming, and because I think that doing so would only return us to trying to reach scientific conclusions without a scientific approach to analysis.”

    It appears that you are unwilling to collect data to test your “starting bias” and set standards for others to provide evidence that nobody can feasibly obtain. Why should I be persuaded by your view if you demonstrate so little self-skepticism? As it is, we are just comparing “starting biases”, except I am willing to suggest feasible ways in which my “starting biases” can be moderated (although my starting bias is not very extreme on this already) or rejected.

  155. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ATTP I agree, the point is that we can only do the best we can to address our biases within the time and energy budget we can reasonably afford. That SkS makes a conscious to be even handed at all makes it fairly unusual (“better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”). If we go into every discussion with the belief it is largely about identity politics, rather than substance, then identity politics is likely to be all we notice and no progress is made. Better to look for the substance of the claims made and ignore the rest as otherwise we are just largely confirming our biases.

  156. Dikran,
    I agree. To me, it’s more about recognising that we have biases and doing our best to control for them, than somehow aiming for some kind of perfection.

  157. Willard says:

    > If you cannot cite specific examples

    Again, not a good idea.

    The first thing we learn young hockey defensemen is not to pass the puck in front of the net. If the pass misses, the puck gets where you don’t want it.

    Why the hell would you challenge anyone to redirect this discussion about SkS moderation?

    Just imagine the fun BarryW would have with that silly challenge. I’m sure Vinny has already found a troubling example or two.

    Don’t you realize what the possibility of “talking Midwestern Nice” implies, JohnH?

  158. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I asked “This suggests that you would reject any scientific evidence that could be provided as being non-objective. Is your position falsifiable? If so, how would you go about it?”

    Joshua answered “I would look at any evidence with a skeptical eye, but I would be much more skeptical of evidence that didn’t place specific points of evidence within the larger context.”

    This isn’t really answering my question (just a restatement of your position that I was questioning) as it is too vague to be actionable (this is one of the problems with falsificationism). An outline proposal for a feasible experiment is what is required.

    “So how would we measure the degree of incivility of the average group member, in some fashion that tries to control for subjective influences?”

    The obvious thing to do would be to recruit some human oracles from outside the climate debate to manually annotate a training corpus and then use machine learning/sentiment analysis techniques calibrated on the training corpus to analyse the discussion (and then look at the distribution of civility in each group). Again, we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    “And then how would we measure the impact of of any group average differences relative to the impact of those at the more extreme ends of the scale?”

    I’d survey those that take part in the discussion for their estimates of the distribution of civility in the other groups and test that against the baseline distributions obtained based on outside observers.

    We’d actually need to do the experiment to have worthwhile answers to the more advanced questions. If you know beforehand just what to do, it probably isn’t research! ;o)

  159. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    ==> Sorry, it looked like a specific case that in the years since you continue to bring up. ==>

    It’s a useful example. As it was when you indicated, with great confidence, how you had a window into my soul and understood better what I believe than I understand what I believe. There are lots of other examples involving you also. You are quite useful for illustrating certain points.

    ==> I never viewed you as a minority commenter, either in volume of positions. I merely note a style.. a form of presentation and certain definitive countable stylistic features that change as a function ==>

    And as many times before, despite being asked and challenged to be at least somewhat specific, you haven’t done so here, but merely alluded to something.

    In point of fact, you lack sufficient data to draw your conclusions. You don’t have enough data to determine why I might interact differently with Judith than I do with the commenters at her site. You don’t have enough data to determine if her gender is explanatory.

    On the other hand, I happen to know why I interact with Judith differently. It is because unlike the commenters at her site, her opinions matter. If I can get her to see weaknesses in her logic, it might have some impact in the real world. I recognize the likelihood of my being able to do so is quite low, and it seems that likelihood has decreased over time. When I first went to Judith’s site, it was because I heard her talking on the radio about tribalism among scientists, and I was quite interested from a non-climate change related context. I like thinking about how bias affects reasoning. And when I first showed up, I was kind of surprised by Judith’s interest in the topic, but what I felt to be Judith’s lack of interest in examining how her own reasoning was affected by her own biases. In the beginning, I actually thought that merely engaging her in good faith on the subject might get her to be more open to introspection. But over time, as she displayed a lack of receptivity to my perspective, and as the attacks from “denizens” piled up (they started in on my immediately with my first comments), I saw that odds for what I considered to be “genuine” exchange were quite low – but to the extent that there was any possibility, the possibility would be greater if I carefully modulated my approach. I didn’t always succeed, of course. But there is nothing different taking place there as there is in any discussions that I have were I care about, and think that there is some chance of, genuine exchange.

    I realize that you have great confidence in your ability to understand what I think better than I understand what I think, but it’s pretty funny that your assertions here violate basic principles of analysis. You simply don’t have enough evidence to draw your certain conclusions.

    ==> It’s funny Mcintyre asked me how I spotted Glieck from the bogus text he created. ==>

    I’m proud for you that Steve was impressed with your genius. That doesn’t change, however, that you are making assertions that lack sufficient evidence to support your conclusions.

    ==> It was quite simple and natural for me.==>

    Yes. That was EXACTLY my point. You confuse what is simple and natural for you with the scientific process.

    ==> As you say ” probably respond more carefully to Judith ” And you didnt think that was detectable? ==>

    Why do you think that I thought that? I didn’t question that I respond differently to Judith, or that it was obvious. MY OBJECTIVE WAS TO MAKE IT OBVIOUS.

    ==> hanks for confirming the point I was making. ==>

    That wasn’t the point I was disagreeing with. I was disagreeing with your conclusions about causality.

    ==> I saw another difference in how you treat Kloor, Jr, and Kahan and how you respond to Judith. ==>

    Go for it. And while you’re at it, if you determine some related causality, explain how you have based those conclusions are based in evidence.

    ==> Me pointing it out won’t help you. ==>

    Is your goal here to help me?

    ==> It should not be surprising to anyone that we speak differently to our grandmother than our students. ==>

    Which offers nothing in support of your stated conclusions. I never said that I don’t respond differently to Judith. I never said that we talk to our grandmothers in the same way that we talk to our students (as if there are no differences in the ways that we talk to different students, or that we might talk to some, compared to others, in ways that are more similar to how we talk to our grandmothers).

    ==> That we use different styles with strangers than with close friends. ==>

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz C’mon Steven. At least try to make a sophisticated argument than just repeat banal ones over and over.

    ==> And it should not surprise you that (unconsciously perhaps ) you use different styles with men than with women. ==>

    I don’t doubt that there are differences in how I interact with men compared to how I interact with women, generally.

    ==> Did you think all that you had purged all hints of “sexism” from your language and style? ==>

    Of course not. And I don’t need you to use the quote marks. As Hillary says., we all have implicit biases. The question is whether you have evidence to determine that specific aspects of my tone with Judith are explained by her gender. I say you don’t. If you do, then present it. Just appealing to your own authority won’t cut it.

    ==> My sense is that you maybe think you have, ==>

    Well, it’s good to see you use some conditional language there. It’s an improvement. But it juste so happens that your sense is wrong. I would never think that I have purged all hints of sexism from my language. It would be a rather absurd belief, IMO.

    ==> which perhaps explains why you appear to have taken my comment so seriously. ==>

    Again, I appreciate the unusual (for you) use of conditional language. But no, the reason I took your comment “so seriously” (an interesting conclusion on your part – the conclusion that I take it “so seriously” when in fact what you know is that I find to be a useful example of poor reasoning. Reminds me of the logical fallacy so often employed in the climate wars of “If you object to what I said it’s because you know it’s right.”)

    ==> The last question, the most important one, is this. In the meat world, beneath the pixels, do I think you are sexist? Nope. but this is the pixel world. ==>

    Of course I’m sexist. We all have implicit biases, That’s why I provided the link it help you understand your biases.

  160. John Hartz says:

    Wiilard: Joshua broached the issue of SkS moderation, not me.

  161. “If you cannot cite specific examples, your opinion is not even worth a bucket of warm spit.”

    One of the problems is this. The act of moderation destroys the evidence, unless the poster does a screen cap.

    So, you are left with going through the extant comments and finding examples of posts that you think violate the rules, but are left in place. If you then complain to the ref, that complaint itself can be moderated ( hehe Willard ) so, you are left with complaining about the site on other sites.

    Hmm.

    So once upon a time I was more of an ass here at ATTP. ask BBD he will confirm.

    Moderators moderated me, but not others, who I thought said similar inflamatory things
    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA I’M so hurt.

    A matter of judgement I suppose.

    after complaining about ATTP on other sites, I thought WTF, try to behave just a tiny bit more civilized. So, I decided to do an experiment. Try to be LESS of an ass, Mosher. just a tiny bit.

    worked.

    But At Sks nothing has worked, I guess maybe there is a lifetime ban. That’s ok. Their house, their rulz. I cant blame them. But neither can I endorse their approach to moderation.

    That said, there is no perfect system.

    And no I am not asking to be unbanned. Just saying that Joshua’s opinion comports with mine..

    Now, If you are open to evidence, then here is what you need to do.

    A) Establish a place for comments that were moderated out
    B) establish a place where that can be discussed. –away from the science threads

    Otherwise we are left with discussing SKS here, which is impolite.. or something like that..

    just weird.

  162. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    Will try to get back to this. Not sure when I’ll have time but not until tonight, at least.

  163. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ATTP indeed, and making an effort not to focus on identity politics of others is probably a good way of keeping our own in the background.

  164. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua – no problem. My position is basically that we think/talk too much about the motives of our interlocutors than is helpful to the discussion, so without evidence either way, we should just concentrate on the substance of what they are actually saying.

  165. Dikran,
    Indeed, that’s what I try to do, even if I don’t always succeed.

    General comment. Moderation is difficult, I didn’t/don’t enjoy doing it and I don’t think I was very good at it (Rachel was a great help). What would really help is if people tried to recognise that sometimes moderation happens just because it seems like the best thing to do given the circumstances. It’s good to have general rules, but some amount of judgement is always necessary and sometimes the moderations isn’t optimal (in my case, at least). I suspect that if I knew years ago what I know now, I would have done things differently. I can’t go back in time, so there’s nothing I can do about that now and I don’t particularly regret anything specific, though.

  166. John Hartz says:

    Re SkS moderation…

    As Dikran can attest, SkS moderators spend a lot of time discussing how best to moderate commenters who violate the SkS Comments Policy (which ATTP “borrowed” for the Comments Policy of this site). When we post moderator comments, sometimes we err in being too overbearing and other times we err in letting violations slide. By and large, we are pretty darn consistent and even-handed. When we err, we typically correct ourselves.

    As we frequently remind commenters, “Posting on SkS is privilege, not a right.”

  167. verytallguy says:

    Well, you might criticise Carswell for how he argues on line, but his colleagues’ approach to settling disputes seems worse still:

    Steven Woolfe ‘well and smiling’ after alleged fight with Ukip MEP

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/06/ukip-leadership-favourite-steven-woolfe-collapses-in-european-parliament

  168. anoilman says:

    I wonder if an aspect of society is changing and we’re just ill equipped to deal with it. Way way back, you’d hang out with friends and other people, but your exposure to new material was limited, and it was pretty rare that you’d be exposed to something way off your grid.

    Another thing is that we are all spending a lot more time online, and things are changing because of it. For instance, in video games, its becoming common to hangout in game rather than just play, or talk on forums. Its becoming quite a trope. Its considered a faux pas to go after someone who’s just hanging out. (In this ultra violent video game, they’ve added dance routines which people activate.. because… reasons. Enemies can actually join in.)

  169. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Steven Mosher wrote “The act of moderation destroys the evidence, unless the poster does a screen cap”

    However evidence of uneven moderation would still be there as there would be comments visible from the “home side” that weren’t moderated, so Joshua could still provide the evidence. Having been a moderator at SkS I’ve seen the evidence, which forms my “starting bias”, but I understand “nullius in verba” applies ;o)

    “But neither can I endorse their approach to moderation. … That said, there is no perfect system. “

    There is a clearly stated comments policy that is applied even-handedly (as possible – moderators are only human). This seems pretty reasonable to me, but I agree there is no perfect system, all you can do is consider suggestions to improve what you have.

    “A) Establish a place for comments that were moderated out

    Like RealClimate? I’m not sure the transparency there has changed perceptions of moderation there (but I haven’t studied it).

    B) establish a place where that can be discussed. –away from the science threads

    Again, isn’t that what RealClimate does? Never really looked, but I’d be mildly surprised if someone actually wanted to discuss it.

  170. Dikran Marsupial says:

    JH wrote “As Dikran can attest,…”

    and indeed I do.

  171. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: I haven’t engaged in much of the conversation on this thread because I believe the focus of the OP is tangential to the main event which David Roberts addresses int…

    No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Oct 4, 2016

    From my perspective, Roberts and others like him (James, Hansen, Bill McKibben, Joe Romm, etc) are modern day Paul Reveres sounding the alarm.

    When will we collectively awake from our slumber to face the stark reality of what we are doing to only planet? Only time will tell.

  172. BBD says:

    ATTP as usual being too hard on himself wrt moderation skillz. It was and is fine, and that in no way detracts from Rachel or W’s contribution to keeping the salon a survivable environment.

    General comment: thank you all for your time and efforts.

  173. John Hartz says:

    Many members of the all-volunteer SkS author team have advocated that the website have a “bore hole” a la Real Climate. I believe it is on the “To Do” list for our technical gurus (John Cook and Doug Bostrom) to implement.

    In the meantime, SkS Moderators now have the option to “strike though” comments, or portions thereof, that violate the Comments Policy.

    FWIW, all comments that have been deleted by SkS Moderators are accessible to members of the all-volunteer SkS author team, but not the public.

  174. > Joshua broached the issue of SkS moderation, not me.

    You’re the one who puts the puck in front of the net by sealioning him, JohnH.

    Start here:

    Chambers had pursued questions about the SKS link in comments at SKS and had been told by moderators to take it up offline with COok. Cook then contacted Chambers leading to the exchange. Chambers’ email questions were specific to the blog link: […]

    https://climateaudit.org/2013/04/03/tom-curtis-writes/#comment-409502

    You have no idea how much fun being a contrarian should be when we have defensemen like you on the ice, JohnH.

  175. John Hartz says:

    Willard: You have no idea how much I appreciate the fact that you have not attempted to play Climae Ball referee on the SkS website. 🙂

  176. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    An unanticipated hole in my schedule turned up.

    That said, I think that the discussion is getting so diffuse that it’s value is reaching a point of diminishing returns. I’m not ignoring all the various points of discussion, but I’m struggling to narrow the focus a bit. I am afraid this is going to be a repeat of what I said earlier, but I’m not sure how else to answer. Repeating is a reflection of an attempt to narrow the focus.

    ==> So I repeat my question, what sort of evidence would falsify your position. I know falsificationism is not the “be all and end all” of science, but if you are going to ask for evidence presented in some scientific fashion that does imply that the hypothesis under consideration should be presentable in a scientific fashion. ==>

    My hypothesis, as it were (I’m not sure I’d label my view as a hypothesis as I haven’t undertaken presenting my thoughts in a scientific fashion), is that incivility across the different “sides” in the climate wars is not disproportional in association with views on the impact of ACO2. The underlying mechanism associated with incivility that I see in play is a more general tendency in humans towards identity protective cognition, which is rooted in cognitive (pattern recognition) and psychological (need to maintain a sense of identity) attributes that we all share to a large extent. I see no particular reason to think that association with views on ACO2 are more explanatory for the presence of incivilty than the general influences in play in all people, more or less. The issue of climate change is just one issue, IMO, among many polarized issues where similar patterns play out.

    Related to the specific context at hand, (I like to believe that) two basic frames of evidence would convince me that I’m wrong. The first would be scientifically collected evidence to show that patterns in human behavior aren’t consistent with my impression – i.e.., that people don’t tend towards identity protective behavior, don’t generally share the cognitive or psychological attributes I described, etc.. The second would be scientifically collected evidence showing that there are meaningful differences, across the climate wars on a macro scale, that distinguish the different “sides.”

    Within the 2nd frame, evidence pertaining to a specific website, particularly given that websites are generally collections of outliers, and that their comments threads are collections of comments from outliers among outliers, doesn’t seem to me to be very instructive. Even more so, when the evidence related to one website is collected in an anecdotal fashion and not viewed explicitly within a larger context of many websites, and within a frame websites placed in the context of wider forms of evidence, and/or collected and evaluated by people who are heavily identified within the climate wars without an explicit application of scientific controls.

    I am REALLY not interested in re-litigating the arguments about moderation policies at SkS, or , Realclimate, WUWT, etc. for that matter. I see those arguments as largely beside the point, because we’d be looking at the trees beneath a microscope and ignoring the forest. And they are waged endlessly in the climate-o-sphere, with a lot of noise and very little signal, IMO. Evidence related to those sites is useful evidence, but discussing the evidence, particularly in this framework, among people who are highly identified,does not do much to inform the larger questions I’m talking about.

    One more point – given that I have said I’m not really interested in discussing SkS, I will say that I’m not saying that perfection in moderation is a reasonable expectation. A lack of perfection in moderation at one particular site, obviously, is not useful evidence for an argument that levels of civility are, in fact, associated with the “sides” in the climate wars, respectively.

    One irony here is that actually, I really don’t particularly care about civility or the lack thereof, except to the extent that it reflects larger forces at play, that generalize across a wide spectrum of arenas of discourse.

  177. Joshua says:

    JH –

    ==> Wiilard: Joshua broached the issue of SkS moderation, not me. ==>

    Sometimes this all just seems so childish…(but mommy, he did it first)…but in point of fact, I referenced SkS in response to a comment where Dikran brought it up.

  178. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: OK. My bad.

  179. John Hartz says:

    Joshua & Dikran: Perhaps your discourse has come full circle and should be concluded?

  180. Dikran Marsupial says:

    JH/Joshua worth pointing out that it was brought up during rational and civil (as far as I can tell) discussion of biases on climate blogs, that has now been disrupted, and JH’s question was (i) singular and (ii) apposite. I probably shouldn’t have posted this…

  181. Dikran Marsupial says:

    JH I think that is for Joshua to decide, the ball is in his court, however since our discussion is on topic for this thread, there doesn’t seem a good reason to conclude it (I don’t think it has come full circle).

  182. It’d be more coaching than refereeing, JohnH. It’s hard to referee a game where the rules evolve. Your drive-bys and your constant ref playing would be moderated at John’s.

    Pointing to Sou’s or Eli’s suffices to destroy any kind of point you think you may have.

  183. Let’s try to cut the sealion knot once and for all:

    > you are making assertions that lack sufficient evidence to support your conclusions.

    Change “conclusions” for “hypotheses” and everything starts to make sense.

  184. John Hartz says:

    Willard: Out of respect for ATTP, i will bite my tongue and not respond to your most recent insult — at least for now.

  185. Joshua says:

    Just to confirm, your 6:00 pm was directed at me, willard?

  186. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    BTW. FWIW, I think I’ve seen an interesting pattern, whereby Rud uses conditional language when engaging with you. Something I think he doesn’t much do with others.

  187. Okay, maybe we can stop the discussion about moderation. I think moderation difficult. I have a lot of time for those who do it (JH on SkS and Willard and Rachel here). I can’t see what will be achieved by continuing in this vein.

  188. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: I do believe Willard’s missive was directed at me.

  189. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua “My hypothesis, as it were (I’m not sure I’d label my view as a hypothesis as I haven’t undertaken presenting my thoughts in a scientific fashion)”

    In that case should you be requesting the evidence to be presented in a scientific fashion? To do so you need to know the scientific question is that is addressed by the analysis.

    is that incivility across the different “sides” in the climate wars is not disproportional in association with views on the impact of ACO2.”

    This is fine, it is a hypothesis about an association that could in principal be tested. I disagree, SkS being one example of a mainstream blog that makes an effort not to be uncivil and to be even handed.

    The underlying mechanism associated with incivility that I see in play is a more general tendency in humans towards identity protective cognition

    Right, now this is your underlying assumption, rather than the hypothesis. So to start with we could compare the civility of the discourse on political blogs where the groups are easily to identify (e.g. democrats and republicans) and see if there is less of a difference in civility between those groups than there is between skeptic and mainstream climate blogs. I would expect there to be a difference as there is some objective science in the climate debate (and it is disproportionately on the side of mainstream blogs), whereas this is much less obviously true in politics.

    “Related to the specific context at hand, (I like to believe that) two basic frames of evidence would convince me that I’m wrong. The first would be scientifically collected evidence to show that patterns in human behavior aren’t consistent with my impression – i.e.., that people don’t tend towards identity protective behavior, don’t generally share the cognitive or psychological attributes I described, etc.. “

    This would not answer your hypothesis. Undoubtedly people are influenced by identity protective behaviour, but that doesn’t mean that is the dominant cause of incivility in climate blogs. In other words your underlying assumption could be true, but your hypothesis could still be false.

    “Within the 2nd frame, evidence pertaining to a specific website, particularly given that websites are generally collections of outliers,”

    This is not correct (or perhaps your definition of an outlier is peculiar). An outlier is a datapoint that can’t be adequately explained by a model that otherwise provides a good explanation for the remaining data (in other words you can’t have an outlier without a model of what the data should be). They can’t all be outliers!

    “and that their comments threads are collections of comments from outliers among outliers, doesn’t seem to me to be very instructive.”

    This seems to suggest that comments threads from blogs provide no useful evidence of whether the discussions on those blogs are uncivil. That seems to me to be absurd, can you clarify?

    I think it would help us focus down on what matters if we try and keep the comments short and deal with only one issue rather than trying to deal with many, as that is pretty much a guarantee that we can deal with them each only in a rather superficial manner.

    As we can discuss the test of a hypothesis independently of the assumed causation, perhaps we should concentrate on the associative hypothesis to begin with?

  190. Dikran Marsupial says:

    BTW I should point out that by far the most civil person I know of in the climate debate is Ferdinand Engelbeen, who is a skeptic. I disagree with him on some of the science, but I certainly agree with his method of communicating it!

  191. Willard says:

    > I do believe Willard’s missive was directed at me.

    Not the “6:00,” JohnH, which was not directed at Joshua, but at sealioning in general. I’m more interested in sealioning than arbitrating who, between Joshua and Dikran, sealions the most in this thread.

    Look. It’s quite obvious everyone make assertions based on insufficient evidence all the time. While this may be how stereotypes are being reinforced, this is also both how we communicate how we feel and how we do science. So it’s easy to conflate or to switch between the different modes of communication.

    If someone tells you you’re an asshole (or alternatively, “i will bite my tongue and not respond to your most recent insult — at least for now.”), will you ask that person for his evidence basis? I know I won’t. Why? Because (1) it’ll redirect the discussion about me and (2) it’s not my job to cater for that person’s feelings.

    This is one reason why the “please, do continue” meme exists.

    Now, we all make assertions that lack sufficient evidence. Sometimes, they look like conclusions. This is a blog. Commenters comment. What the hell do you expect?

    Just look how our current exchange went:

    [A] Both sides think the otter’s the worse.

    [B] It’s quite obvious the otter’s the worse.

    [C] Not a good idea.

    [D] Take Clisep.

    [E] Take SkS.

    [A] SkS has its share of problems.

    [G] My name is G Montoya. You offended my family. Prepare to die!

    [C] Not a good idea.

    [G] Not you too, C! My name is G Monto…

    [C] Here you go: […] I don’t know where you learned to swing that sword that way, but it wobbles strangely toward your own chest.

    [G] I’ll bite my tongue for now, but prepare to die!

    How do you think this exchange will end?

    This illustrates the problem with sealioning – asking for evidence is all well and good when there’s a point to it. How exactly are we going to establish a metric that will help estimate the level of civility of comments? Worse than that – how do we establish blog in-group relationships? Just take JohnH and me – do we illustrate an in-group or an out-group fight?

    One easy way to measure civility in this very thread would be to look for the smileys ;-P As a guest appearance at the Auditor’s once said:

    ***

    My own hypotheses regarding blog interactions follow Haidt’s research: libertarians are pricks, liberals are jerks, and conservatives are Wisconsin polite. If you can’t annoy someone, there’s little point in writing.

  192. Willard says:

    This twitter rant on the “only joking” defense may be of relevance, as it covers many variables we may need to analyze online arguments:

  193. “BTW I should point out that by far the most civil person I know of in the climate debate is Ferdinand Engelbeen, who is a skeptic. I disagree with him on some of the science, but I certainly agree with his method of communicating it!”

    My vote is for him or Zeke,

    and Robert Way

  194. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Usenet’s eternal September:

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

    [Snip. -W]

  195. verytallguy says:

    My vote is for him or Zeke,

    and Robert Way

    Nick Stokes

  196. Speaking of our parangon of civility:

    It always amazes me that they use so much computer time that gives so different results for in the end to average it all out and then believe it tells something meaningfull.

    Is it just a smoke screen to cover up they could just have used CO2 forcing instead?

    I vote for the smokescreen.

    Just kidding.

  197. “There is a clearly stated comments policy that is applied even-handedly (as possible – moderators are only human). This seems pretty reasonable to me, but I agree there is no perfect system, all you can do is consider suggestions to improve what you have.

    “A) Establish a place for comments that were moderated out

    Like RealClimate? I’m not sure the transparency there has changed perceptions of moderation there (but I haven’t studied it).

    B) establish a place where that can be discussed. –away from the science threads

    Again, isn’t that what RealClimate does? Never really looked, but I’d be mildly surprised if someone actually wanted to discuss it.
    #######################################33

    yes, I like their method. I’d change a few things.

    note how whining about RC moderation has tapered ( now ATTP is a target)

    and we can point to the lack of discussion in those places RC provides as some sort of evidence that the concerns over moderation…

    are largely

    a

    side show

    ###

    Here is what I suggested to Judith

    1. A moderator who is not the owner or contributor. never comments themselves
    2. A violation should be LEFT IN PLACE with a warning from the moderator
    ( I saw SKS do this recently with a comment.. good practice)
    3. A second violation.. and you zamboni the comment, Move it to a Mosh Pit
    Note the reason for removal, and encourage interested parties to discuss the comment
    in the Mosh pit

    basically you give feedback,,, THIS comment violates THAT rule.. so people can see how you judge

    Next , if there is a serial offender, You REMOVE the comment from the science thread and toss
    it in the mosh pit. You havent deleted someones words, you just moved them to a different
    place where they can carry on, with carrying on.

    in the end… not so sure if it would stop any of the nonsense

  198. John Hartz says:

    Willard:

    Living in Columbia SC, I’m more concerned about Hurricane Matthew than I am about our latest kerfuffle on this thread. Peace.

    PS — According to the latest reports, more than 100 Haitians lost their lives when Matthew struck that county. The coastal areas of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are all going to be ravished by Matthew.

    For further details, see:

    Hurricane Matthew: ‘This storm will kill you,’ Florida governor says by Catherine E. Shoichet, Eliott C. McLaughlin & Max Blau, CNN, Oct 6, 2016

  199. “In the meantime, SkS Moderators now have the option to “strike though” comments, or portions thereof, that violate the Comments Policy.”

    Strike through… That’s a good idea. I shoulda thought of that..

    just dont disemvowel

  200. Willard says:

    > not so sure if it would stop any of the nonsense

    I doubt it would, Mosh, because ClimateBall.

    Tossing comments takes too much time in WP compared to removing them.

    Please stop playing the ref.

  201. “BTW. FWIW, I think I’ve seen an interesting pattern, whereby Rud uses conditional language when engaging with you. Something I think he doesn’t much do with others.”

    Good catch. Rud, I think, is starting to realize that there is merit in riding herd on his own team
    so you will see him more an more call out to skeptics to knock off the crazy ideas.

    Its a start..

  202. Joshua says:

    ===> Good catch. Rud, I think, is starting to realize that there is merit in riding herd on his own team
    so you will see him more an more call out to skeptics to knock off the crazy ideas. ==>

    I have a different interpretation. I think he’s more deferential to you, even as he mixes deference with ad homs, because buried beneath the grandiosity and pompousness and appeal to self-authority infused in his arguments, he’s worried about your counterarguments. Puts a hitch in his normal giddyup.

    In the political realm, where I am more comfortable evaluating, I see no sense of riding herd on crazy ideas.

    But I’m also aware that I’m reluctant to give him the benefit of the doubt – which your interpretation does.

  203. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    Look for the asterisked comment at the bottom before reading the rest…

    ==> In that case should you be requesting the evidence to be presented in a scientific fashion? ==>

    Not sure how “‘should” fits in here. I am saying that scientific evidence would more persuasive to me. No one has to care on wit about what I find persuasive.

    ==> To do so you need to know the scientific question is that is addressed by the analysis. ==>

    Can’t a non-scientific question be addressed by scientific evidence?

    ==> This is fine, it is a hypothesis about an association that could in principal be tested. I disagree, SkS being one example of a mainstream blog that makes an effort not to be uncivil and to be even handed. ==>

    First, I note the conditional of “makes an effort.” IMO, most people involved in these discussions see themselves as “making an effort” to be civil and even-handed, even though they will frequently justify the lack thereof (“they did it first,” “if we let them get away with redefining what is and isn’t civil, we will lose,”being civil to poopyheads will get you nowhere, you just need to stop being politically correct and call a spade a spade,” etc.), or fail in ways that might seem obvious or less obvious to otters. Judging the level of effort of others seems inherently problematic to me.

    ==> The underlying mechanism associated with incivility that I see in play is a more general tendency in humans towards identity protective cognition

    Right, now this is your underlying assumption, rather than the hypothesis. ==>

    I defer to your understanding of the technical terminology, but I think it’s kind of both. I don’t assume that it’s true, although I think it is highly likely. I consider it to be, to a certain degree, an unproven hypothesis. :Proving that hypothesis scientifically would be extremely difficult, IMO. But I do see a lot of evidence that to me, seems to support the hypothesis.

    ==> So to start with we could compare the civility of the discourse on political blogs where the groups are easily to identify (e.g. democrats and republicans) and see if there is less of a difference in civility between those groups than there is between skeptic and mainstream climate blogs. ==>

    I kind of do that, informally, and as such, I don’t see a significant difference. Part of the evidence that suggest that there is a lot of similarity is that there it often seems to me that there is a lot of seamless overlap between discussions about climate on climate blogs and discussions about politics on climate blogs. I have a great deal of difficulty seeing where the one stops and the other beings. And w/r/t that point, I hope that you’ve been reading Lucia’s blog lately. It’s really quite spectacular, and if I might say, the comments of Ron Graf, who has been a participant here, are a work of art and a thing of beauty, and IMO, offer a really interesting window into looking at the reasoning of an individual self-identified “skeptic.”

    But I would defer to scientifically evaluated evidence that compares levels of civility in a variety of discourse contexts, comparing “skeptics” with “realists.” As much as I read “skeptics” and “realists” quite convinced that their is a dramatic distinction there – to the point where often when they run a cross an uncivil otter, they say something on the order of “of course you’re uncivil, that’s only further proof that you’re a “realist/skeptic.” – I see little supporting evidence (other than anecdotal cherry-picking)

    ==> I would expect there to be a difference as there is some objective science in the climate debate (and it is disproportionately on the side of mainstream blogs), whereas this is much less obviously true in politics. ==>

    I’m now sure how we’d quantify “much less.” In other words, there is a lot of use in statistics in political discussions in blogs that, IMO, follows similar patterns as what I see on climate-related blogs. Likewise with methods of reasoning, the employment or rhetorical devices, the application of fallacious reasoning heuristics, etc. Yes, the weight of technical knowledge is heavier – but I’m not sure how that difference would play out in the evaluation of tone, civility, etc.

    ==> This would not answer your hypothesis. ==>

    Which is not a hypothesis? 🙂

    ==> Undoubtedly people are influenced by identity protective behaviour, but that doesn’t mean that is the dominant cause of incivility in climate blogs. In other words your underlying assumption could be true, but your hypothesis could still be false. ==>

    Ok, so reading along I see better what you were saying about hypothesis vs. assumption. But my head is spinning a bit on that, so let me tackle a point you were making there. No, it doesn’t mean that it is the dominant cause of incivility is the tendency towards identity-protective behavior. I don’t assume that it does. But from what I’ve seen, I think that it is the dominant cause in discussions about climate as well as in discussions of other polarized issues. It kind of bleeds into an assumption, but I’m trying to use scientific evidence as a bulwark to stop the bleeding. That’s why I look at the work of Kahan, who at least attempts to use the scientific method to distinguish assumption from hypothesis.

    ==> “Within the 2nd frame, evidence pertaining to a specific website, particularly given that websites are generally collections of outliers,”

    This is not correct (or perhaps your definition of an outlier is peculiar). An outlier is a datapoint that can’t be adequately explained by a model that otherwise provides a good explanation for the remaining data (in other words you can’t have an outlier without a model of what the data should be). They can’t all be outliers! ==>

    Again, I’ll defer to your technical understanding of the terminology, but what I am getting at is that climate blog readers and climate blog discussion participants are unusual in that unlike the vast majority of people, they have (1) a highly unusual level of interest in the topic and, (2) often, a highly unusual interest/motivation to argue about the topic (or certainly, at least read arguments about the topic). As such, generalizing from that example to infer something about incivility among “skeptics” and “realists” as groups that divide the general public would seem very problematic, to me. Members of any given website might not be an unrepresentative sampling w/r/t the segment of the public that actively reads and/or participates on climate blogs (although there’s not guarantee that they are representative – it certainly isn’t a random sampling), but they are very likely not a very representative sampling for understanding the potential differences between the segment of the public that says that say the don’t and/or do think that human activity has much effect on the climate or that the effect poses risks.

    ==> This seems to suggest that comments threads from blogs provide no useful evidence of whether the discussions on those blogs are uncivil. That seems to me to be absurd, can you clarify? ==>

    Hmmm. I’m trying to say that non-scientific analysis w/r/t the civility of comments on climate blogs can be interesting as examples, but provides little by way of understanding the more general patterns of civility between, as just one example of polarized exchange, the respective levels of civility between “skeptics” and “realists” as segments of the general public. Perhaps part of the problem here is definitional. When I say “skeptic,” I am referring to the entire segment of the public, that when asked about their views on climate change, say that they think that ACO2 is not having much effect on the climate, that climate scientists have relatively little understanding of the climate, etc. An interesting document w/r/t that breakdown of the public:

    http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/04/the-politics-of-climate/

    (As an aside: further complicating the issue, IMO, is that I think that there is quite likely a significant segment of the public who answer poll questions by saying that they don’t think that climate change is happening mostly due to human activity, but who are probably providing that answer as a way to affirm identity more than as a way to explain what they really believe about climate change. Note that while only 15% of cons in that poll said that they believe that climate change is happening mostly due to human activity, almost 50% said that they think that we will be making major changes in how we live to address climate change.)

    ==> I think it would help us focus down on what matters if we try and keep the comments short and deal with only one issue rather than trying to deal with many, as that is pretty much a guarantee that we can deal with them each only in a rather superficial manner. ==>

    Lol! That worked well, didn’t it? 🙂

    ==============================================
    As we can discuss the test of a hypothesis independently of the assumed causation, perhaps we should concentrate on the associative hypothesis to begin with?
    ===============================================

    * OK. So in sympathy with the intent to make the discussion more manageable, consider everything I wrote above that as background material, or just don’t read it, and we’ll focus on that question you asked just above. Perhaps you could start with a brief overview of your view of w/r/t that question. I kind of need a more clear framework to help me get started. Plus, I think that williard might have an aneurysm if I keep up with these long comments.

  204. I don’t disagree. He has some typical moves and lines that I can blunt.. so he is reduced
    to just touching pieces and not moving them.

  205. “I doubt it would, Mosh, because ClimateBall.

    Tossing comments takes too much time in WP compared to removing it.

    Please stop playing the ref.

    #############################

    Please. In my comment I had elaborated on how I would offer to install a secondary comment widget into wordpress for ATTP..

    but then I thought, no Willard will take that as playing the ref.

    Sometimes, its not about you.

    The only way you could establish a second channel of comments is to either raise up another
    page, or install a secondary comment section.

    And that would be quite ugly, although there are many options.

  206. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Come back Willard, all is forgiven.

  207. Willard says:

    > In my comment I had elaborated on how I would offer to install a secondary comment widget

    This is not the first time we have this discussion, Mosh. You’ve had it at Lucia’s, at the Auditor’s, at Judy’s.

    What you suggest costs money on WP.com and it requires more clicks. More importantly, your suggestion presupposes that deleting comments is not a good thing. I’ve asked AT. He prefers that comments get deleted.

    If you want to convince him otherwise, find his Tweeter account, or send him an email. Deal with it otherwise than to turn this into yet another conversation on moderation.

    Sometimes, discussing how we should run things is playing the ref.

  208. Since we were discussing moderation, it appears that cliscep has come up with a new moderation practice. It seems that whenever Raff now comments, someone edits his comments and changes it to make it sound like infantial ramblings.

  209. Let’s be charitable: maybe they’re just trying to help him fit in.

  210. Dikran Marsupial says:

    SM/VTG fully agree about the other role models!

  211. Dikran Marsupial says:

    SM Thanks for the comments on moderation, your suggestion isn’t all that different to what actually happens at SkS (advice, strike though, multiple boilerplate warnings, deletion for serial offences, ultimately revocation of privilidges, although the views on where the boundary points should lie is more tricky) except we don’t have the “Mosh Pit”, but these things are always under review. I can see the value of the “Mosh Pit”, it is a bit like journals that use double blind reviewing, in general it doesn’t seem to change the actual reviews, but the authors are less likely to feel they are being discriminated against.

  212. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua wrote ” Perhaps you could start with a brief overview of your view of w/r/t that question.”

    I already have, I even gave an outline experiment here.

    My hypothesis is the opposite of yours, which is that there is a disparity in the distribution of civility between the two sides of this particular debate. As our hypotheses are complementary, the same experiment would provide evidence on which to judge the relative merits of both.

    The reason I take the opposing view (note I am not saying there is a large disparity, just that we should expect one) is because the science is predominantly on the side of the mainstream blogs and it provides relatively scant support for the “skeptics” (c.f. Murry Salby etc.). There is two reasons why that should affect the relative civility of the two camps. Firstly, not everybody is strongly driven by identity politics, some people (e.g. scientists – social and antisocial) tend to be more rational and rational argument overcomes their innate group biases, so your hypothesis does not explain their behaviour. Secondly, if the science conflicts with your identity politics, then you can’t refute that with science (as you are wrong and your errors will be pointed out), which means you are more likely to become hostile and uncivil as a way of ridiculing or rejecting the science.

    Note there are some skeptics (e.g. Ferdinand Engelbeen) that very obviously fall into the “rationally motivated” rather than “identity motivated”, but people on “skeptic” blogs tend to be rather uncivil to him when he tells them things they don’t want to hear, it is very impressive that he still doesn’t respond in kind after all these years.

  213. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I missed an important point, which is that if the science is predominantly in favour of one side of the debate, that side of the debate is likely to attract more rationally motivated individuals than the other, and so we should expect that side to be less influenced by “identity politics”. Of course that doesn’t mean that side will get all of the rationally motivated people (i) because it is a spectrum and (ii) because we can’t always draw the right conclusion from the evidence we have seen – we are only human.

  214. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Oh, I’m sorry, this is “argument”, you want “abuse”, try 12a next door. ;o)

  215. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Steven Mosher FWIW I checked, you are not banned/blocked from posting at SkS, perhaps a password reset is required?. As long as your comments are within the comments policy, there should be no reason you can’t post there. If there is a problem let me know and I’ll investigate.

  216. Andrew Dodds says:

    izen –

    I was resisting the temptation to link to that..

    I think another problem is that humans, innately, react badly to being wrong and especially being publicly told that they are wrong. Even as a supposedly ‘rational sciency’ person I hate it. So people who don’t really have this background in science – a field where being wrong is part of the territory and you have to get used to it – probably do take it more personally when told that they are wrong.

  217. Steven Mosher says:

    Sometimes, discussing how we should run things is playing the ref………

    Read harder Willard. Find where I said “we”
    I was pretty specific in merely reporting what I said to judy.
    If you think that’s a passive aggressive form of suggesting what “we” should do I can only say sorry you read it that way.

    And ya..we discussed it before. Am I breaking another rule by discusing prior conversations?

  218. Steven Mosher says:

    Thanks dk.

    I’ve tried the password reset long ago. No joy.
    So I tried another email.
    No joy.
    So I gave up.

    Haven’t tried in over a year.

    Now I have a new ip…I’ll try again.

  219. BBD says:

    Dikran

    I missed an important point, which is that if the science is predominantly in favour of one side of the debate, that side of the debate is likely to attract more rationally motivated individuals than the other, and so we should expect that side to be less influenced by “identity politics”.

    I made exactly this point to Joshua some time ago when he proposed what to me is a false equivalence between contrarian and rational responses to the scientific evidence. To Joshua, everything is identity-protective motivated reasoning on both sides. I disagreed then, and now.

  220. Let me play Devil’s advocate here. What you suggest about who is likely to be more rational may indeed be what an outside observer were to conclude, were they to observe the whole public debate about this topic. However, being on the inside means being slightly more careful about how one assesses one’s own behaviour and whether or not it is more rational than that of others. I regularly see people on “sceptic” sites patting each other on the back for how amazingly they have torn apart someone else’s argument, and yet my own view is that most of what they said was nonsense.

  221. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ATTP indeed, which is why we need the training corpus annotated by outsiders in the experiment I suggested. One way of telling is whether people deal with scientific disagreements rationally (i.e. by sticking scientific arguments, as Ferdinand Engelbeen does) or by being hostile and uncivil or evading the science. If the science is on your side, you don’t need to be uncivil (and indeed it is worth avoiding so as not to give an excuse to evade the science by diverting the discussion onto the incivility the debate).

    For my part it could be that I tend not to frequent hostile blogs much (on either side) these days and have a biased sample, but that is why I require evidence (doesn’t have to be scientific, as long as the information content isn’t actually zero it should have some effect on my beliefs). Is there an example of a skeptic blog that is notably civil or has a deliberately even-handed moderation policy that I could compare to SkS?

    Personally I think a lot of the incivility is actually caused by attention-seekers rather than identity politics. It is an issue, but I agree with BBD that it isn’t all “identity protecti[on]”, there is more going on, and not all of it is symmetric.

    As for skeptics that claim they have refuted something (i) they need to publish it in peer reviewed journals and (ii) their claim rings hollow if they have been uncivil to those who point out the flaws. In my refutation of Essenhigh and Salby’s flawed ideas I did both. I published it in a peer reviewed journal (not appropriate for the material, but that was where Prof. Essenhigh published his work” and I have been fairly civil with those I have argued with about it (not as civil as Ferdinand though).

    This is why civility matters. Being civil is a check against these sorts of cognitive biases (identity protection and confirmation bias – you need to take your opponents seriously and being uncivil suggests that you don’t). Difficult to do of course, simply because we all do have these biases.

  222. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Steve if you have problems, let me know (you may need to check that the automatic notification email hasn’t been eaten by a spam filter etc.). Obviously if there is a technical issue with the system we would like to know about it!

  223. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Civility has its limits. Flattery will get us everywhere…

    How to make climate change deniers care about the planet: flatter them, Op-ed by Dave Brye, Guardian, Oct 6, 2016

    PS: You are the best blog-site host on the planet and Willard is a rare gem.

  224. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Also try http://www.skepticalscience.com/contact.php of course for more direct access to someone who can actually help.

  225. verytallguy says:

    JH

    What is going with on with these people? Kirsti Jylha, a psychology professor at Sweden’s Upsala University, recently published a thesis in the scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences that sketches a profile of a standard climate change denier. Jylha’s studies found that climate change denial correlates strongly with conservative political orientation, authoritarian attitudes and support for the status quo.

    Deniers tend to exhibit a low capacity for empathy and a high aptitude for dominance. They’re predisposed to closed-mindedness and seeing the world in a hierarchical structure, and they avoid experiencing negative emotions. Perhaps not surprisingly, they are usually male.

    A candidate for the “Lewandowsky award for winding up deniers by telling the truth about them”, and a good chance of Kirsti becoming hate figure du jour as a result.

    Those who enjoy arguing online might like to highlight it to the usual suspects, but I’m off for a gentle walk this weekend instead.

  226. verytallguy says:

    Dunno why the inline pic didn’t work in the previous comment, but I’m sure the excellent moderation here will sort it out (grovel grovel)

  227. verytallguy says:

    Ah, comment is in moderation, so the request to change it looks orphaned as only I can see it.. Apologies to readers for any confusion.

  228. John Hartz says:

    VTG: The paragraph that you bolded describes Donal Trump to a Tee.

  229. Willard says:

    > I made exactly this point to Joshua some time ago when he proposed what to me is a false equivalence between contrarian and rational responses to the scientific evidence.

    I don’t think you can argue being more rational than libertarians are, BBD. They are the ones who score higher on rationality. Libertarianism may just be another word for hyperrationality.

    You also know that we have empirical evidence contrary to what you claim. I don’t know why you’d deny it, but if you do, it might be for similar reasons that contrarians reject what you feel is obvious. While I understand why the establishment may still pretend being rational, your own blog contributions enough emotional baggage to see that you may not be as rational as you may think.

    The very idea that there are two sides is a myth. This myth helps associate contrarian positions with pure denial. It is an understandable shortcut, but not a very rational one.

    Besides, even a pitch perfect tone can’t cover the fact that “science” and “rationality” are being used more in a derogatory manner than anything above. It simply opposes science to anti-science and rational to irrationality. If I told you you were anti-science and irrational every single day of your life, how would you react?

    Ironically, from a purely objective standpoint, the odds are that contrarians have more chances of being right than those who defend the mainstream viewpoints. Science progresses one funeral at a time, and its wastebaskets contain more crap than you’ll ever fancy yourself. It’d be hard to argue that everything that is not in the IPCC manuals is denier stuff, yet it’s all contrarian territory.

  230. Willard says:

    Take this, for instance:

    Given their increasing relevance for society, I suggest that the climate science community itself does not treat the development of error-free ab initio models of the climate system with sufficient urgency. With increasing levels of difficulty, I discuss a number of proposals for speeding up such development. Firstly, I believe that climate science should make better use of the pool of post-PhD talent in mathematics and physics, for developing next-generation climate models. Secondly, I believe there is more scope for the development of modelling systems which link weather and climate prediction more seamlessly. Finally, here in Europe, I call for a new European Programme on Extreme Computing and Climate to advance our ability to simulate climate extremes, and understand the drivers of such extremes. A key goal for such a programme is the development of a 1 km global climate system model to run on the first exascale supercomputers in the early 2020s.

    Is Tim Palmer irrational?

  231. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    You say this:

    ==>…there is a disparity in the distribution of civility between the two sides of this particular debate. ==>

    And then you say this:

    ==> is because the science is predominantly on the side of the mainstream blogs and it provides relatively scant support for the “skeptics” (c.f. Murry Salby etc.). ==>

    Which suggest to me (it isn’t entirely clear) that consider “sides” to be largely congruent with what takes place on the blogs.

    Similarly, here…

    ==> Firstly, not everybody is strongly driven by identity politics, some people (e.g. scientists – social and antisocial) tend to be more rational and rational argument overcomes their innate group biases, so your hypothesis does not explain their behaviour. ==>

    Which suggests (I think) that scientists, or what scientists say, or indeed the scientific evidence in and of itself,largely overlaps with what comprises the “sides.”

    So if I understand you correctly, I think perhaps we have a matter of definition to settle on before going forward. When I talk about the “sides” I am referring to a very large number of people, only a tiny, tiny, % are scientists, only a small % of which even read much at all about climate change, almost all of whom have no real knowledge about what scientists actually say about climate change, almost all of whom who lack the knowledge and skill basis on which to evaluate the actual science, of which even a smaller % read blogs in the “climate-o-sphere,” and of which an even smaller % comment on climate-related blogs.

    So let’s work on that first. Are we talking about the same “sides?” Depending on your answer to that question, I’ll respond further. If we’re focusing on the association between civility and sides, we need to first determine what we mean by “sides. ”

    ======================

    Somewhat parenthetically (as whether it is directly relevant depends on your definition of sides), you are adding in the qualifier of being “strongly driven by identity politics.” That’s not a qualifier that I think is particularly apt. If we read polling data, a fairly large % of Americans have opinions about climate change, and their opinions are overwhelmingly associated with ideological orientation and, IMO more importantly, group identity. IMO, being “strongly driven by identity politics” is not needed to: (1) create a linkage for individuals between their group identity and their (stated) views on climate change or (2) following on, create a tendency towards identity-protective communicate behaviors when exchanging views about climate change.

    There are some other definitional issues as well (for example…establishing the prevalence of scientific knowledge among the participants on different “sides” in the blogosphere, or determining the strength of association between being a scientist and tendency towards civility when discussing politically-relevant issues which either are or aren’t directly tied to their field of expertise, etc.)…that will need to be addressed contingent on your definition of “sides.”

  232. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I think it is also the case that some people are just naturally contrary (stereotypical iconoclasts) which has little or nothing to do with identity protection or rationality. Perhaps there is an evolutionary advantage to have most of society being “followers” but retaining some “explorers” which allow society to test its own bounds and possibly discover better ways of doing things. Sadly those that do so will be a very small minority (rather like the proportion of scientists that overturn paradigms) and most will end up being crackpots.

    It isn’t as simple as rational or irrational, identity protection or natural contrarian -v- naturally accepting, but all of the above and probably some more stuff that hasn’t occurred to me yet, which is why social science is difficult (at least from my perspective from the outside).

  233. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua asked “So let’s work on that first. Are we talking about the same “sides?”

    As I have alluded to in the past, I don’t think “sides” is the right way to go about discussing science, but unfortunately the public debate on climate change has undoubtedly become partisan, the two sides being those who think we should take action to mitigate against the effects of climate change and those who think we shouldn’t, which broadly align with those that accept the mainstream scientific position as summarized by IPCC WG1 and those that don’t (even though there is more than the physical science basis that is relevant to this decision, often WG1 issues are used as a proxy for the things we really need to talk about, but apparently don’t want to). The second group can be described as “climate skeptics” and the former as “mainstream”.

  234. Dikran Marsupial says:

    BTW there is also a third side, which is those that are not interested in the debate and not taking part. If we are discussing civility, we can only meaningfully talk about those who’s civility or incivility we can actually observe.

  235. Joshua says:

    So then we are using a broader definition of “sides” – to mean those on either side, respectively, of the great climate divide? Is that right?

    If it is, how would we use blog discussions to inform us about the association between civility and beliefs about climate change on the respective sides? As a representative sampling?

  236. Dikran Marsupial says:

    AS a reminder, this is where we started:

    ATTP said “I don’t want to generalise either, but I am there are some sites where commenters regularly say things that most would regard as remarkably unpleasant, and yet none of the other regulars object.

    Joshua responded “You do realize, I would guess, that the description you just offered is one that many “skeptics” think would be very apt for describing ATTP.”

    So it is very clear that we are discussing the civility of climate blogs, and the two sides are quite clearly defined already, Joshua even used the usual label for one of those sides “skeptics”. Perhaps I have missed some concept drift going on, but my understanding was that this was what we were discussing.

  237. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> BTW there is also a third side, which is those that are not interested in the debate and not taking part. If we are discussing civility, we can only meaningfully talk about those who’s civility or incivility we can actually observe. ==>

    Take part where? When making comments on climate blogs? When making comments on newspaper blogs? Both? When answering questions on polls, which are scientifically designed to employ representative sampling?

    ==> If we are discussing civility, we can only meaningfully talk about those who’s civility or incivility we can actually observe. ==>

    So now it seems that by sides, you necessarily mean those who comment on blogs (whether they be climate blogs or newspaper blogs or both)?

  238. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> So it is very clear that we are discussing the civility of climate blogs, and the two sides are quite clearly defined already, Joshua even used the usual label for one of those sides “skeptics”. Perhaps I have missed some concept drift going on, but my understanding was that this was what we were discussing. ==>

    Well, perhaps it’s clear to everyone else but me, but that wasn’t the definition of “sides” that I was using (and I thought I had made that clear a number of times – although of course it can be difficult at times for anyone to know what I’m talking about, even myself).

    So now I just want to know from you, do you intend to limit the discussion to one of any association between civility and climate blog commenters, and if so, with the idea that it is or isn’t a representative sampling of the vast majority of “skeptics” and “realists” who don’t comment on climate blogs.

  239. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> Joshua even used the usual label for one of those sides “skeptics”. ==>

    Who are you talking to? Me?

  240. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    For your information, I look at blog conversations very differently depending on whether my interlocutor is: (1) exchanging in a discussion with me, (2) using a conversation with me as a way to address other readers. Of course, there’s always some overlap: Why else would we be exchanging views in a public forum if we weren’t at some level addressing an “audience?”

    But there’s a matter of degree, and when I’m exchanging views with someone and they say something like “Joshua even….” or “Joshua responded…” then it suggests to me that direct exchange of views is not the proximal goal.

    I was under the impression that direct exchange of views was a shared proximal goal, and that addressing the audience was more of a distal goal. If that’s not a shared orientation, I would appreciate you being explicit about that. If it is, then I would suggest that you reorient in the future exchange.

  241. BBD says:

    Willard

    Libertarianism may just be another word for hyperrationality.

    Not if it is strongly associated with climate contrarianism, which is irrational as it indicates an irrational level of dismissal of the scientific evidence.

    You also know that we have empirical evidence contrary to what you claim.

    Not sure what you are referring to – can we look at this?

    While I understand why the establishment may still pretend being rational, your own blog contributions enough emotional baggage to see that you may not be as rational as you may think.

    I’m not defending my own position or tone or presentation in blog comments, so it’s tricky conflating my behaviour with the ‘rational actors’ who accept the scientific evidence rather than attempting – irrationally, surely? – to dismiss it.

    The very idea that there are two sides is a myth.

    A simplification, yes, but a myth? Or are you referring to political inconsistencies such as anti-GMO or anti-nuclear sentiments being associated with some – though by no means all – of the ‘climate concerned’?

    Ironically, from a purely objective standpoint, the odds are that contrarians have more chances of being right than those who defend the mainstream viewpoints.

    I’m tempted to disagree vehemently with this but that may be irrational. Could you explain your meaning a bit further because chances are I simply have not understood what you are driving at here.

  242. Willard says:

    BBD,

    The evidence on rationality and libertarianism won’t go away by defining contrarianism as irrational:

    Some evidence on contrarians being rational is shown by reading Dan’s. Evidence that humans in general are not that rational created the field of behavioral economics.

    The concept of rationality is still problematic.

    Contrarians comprise a mix of conservatives who are Midwestern polite and of libertarians whom you can’ gross out. You will find among contrarians the most polite (Pekka) and the most rude (Don Don, Big Dave, Mosphit), teaming up against the scientific and with the economic establishments. Just like contrarians and conformists, liberals, libertarians, and conservatives deserve each other.

    How we evaluate rhetorical stances is not that rational.

    (Wait. Did I just said “conformists”? Technically, being anti-conformist implies being opposed to conformists. I’m sure you don’t mind being called conformist, right?)

    There is not one official contrarian position. Even if there was, like with the established viewpoint, most disagree with one another on many basic points. Just like scientists disagree on many established viewpoints. Just like we disagree right now. Humans disagree with one another all the time.

    Warren Buffet would agree that he’s a contrarian. Try to convince technical analysts that he’s irrational.

    Is Kevin Andersson irrational?

    What about Tim Palmer’s proposal I just cited?

  243. BBD says:

    Willard

    Some evidence on contrarians being rational is shown by reading Dan’s.

    Yes, certainly, but this does not demonstrate that libertarian dismissal of the scientific evidence on climate change is rational. Within this context, it is arguable that there is a libertarian tendency towards irrationality.

    There is not one official contrarian position.

    Of course, but there doesn’t need to be and a spectrum of irrational contrarianism is still irrational.

    What about Tim Palmer’s proposal I just cited?

    Entirely rational – and doubtless most climate modellers would agree, subject to reality checks in the form of financial constraints on realistically-available computing power for researchers.

  244. Willard says:

    BBD,

    Libertarians base their decisions on rational calculus more than any other groups. They score even higher on openness than liberals. It’s quite obvious that their stance can be reconciled with their values. The onus is on you to show any evidence that libertarian contrarianism is irrational.

    This is harder than it seems. For instance, you could argue (as I often do) that betting on a lower sensitivity is barely rational. Even we accept this, that doesn’t entail that it’s irrational for a Freedom Fighter to use that argument in a rhetorical stance. You’d need to argue that in a war, using weapons that work is irrational. The same applies to GRRRROWTH arguments.

    Thank you for your opinion on Tim Palmer’s position. Now, what if I told you that Tim’s position is also Senior‘s? You must accept that one of the most cited contrarian endorses a rational position.

    ***

    I’ll return later on the science conundrum I posed earlier and the problem with pinpointing a decentralized barbarian horde.

  245. “Steve if you have problems, let me know (you may need to check that the automatic notification email hasn’t been eaten by a spam filter etc.). Obviously if there is a technical issue with the system we would like to know about it!

    well my email is definiately in the system since it rejected a new registration.

    Did the pswd reset… no mail.. no spam mail.

    I will check again in an hour.

  246. BBD says:

    Willard

    The onus is on you to show any evidence that libertarian contrarianism is irrational.

    Libertarian contrarianism as expressed by a denial of the scientific evidence on climate change is self-evidently irrational as it does not rest on an evidentially-supported scientific counter-argument.

    Thank you for your opinion on Tim Palmer’s position. Now, what if I told you that Tim’s position is also Senior‘s? You must accept that one of the most cited contrarian endorses a rational position.

    Just because RPsr is right about some things (and there are many more than this example as we know) does not validate his general contrarianism. It does not make it a rational stance.

  247. BBD says:

    You’d need to argue that in a war, using weapons that work is irrational.

    I think where we’re coming adrift here is that I am suggesting that the irrationality precedes the superficially rational rhetoric that you are illustrating. A rational review of the scientific evidence on say, sensitivity would preclude the adoption of a lukewarmer stance.

  248. “libertarians whom you can’t gross out.

    yup

    first time I went to korea all of my business partners freaked out at the food.

    I loved it all even the food that tasted and smelled like .. well

    Place by my house has this

    Haha.. the waitress would not let me eat it until I convinced her

    These are awesome too

  249. Willard,

    I would not have classified Pekka as a climate contrarian, more like what I call a ‘proper’ sceptic. For me, the contrarian distinction comes down to whether one’s position supports or opposes emissions mitigation. I never got the sense he was opposed to mitigation.

  250. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua wrote “Who are you talking to? Me?”

    I think there are several people involved in the discussion, rather than just you and me. As I said, if we go back to where the discussion started, it was definitely about incivility of blogs, where the “sides” were clearly defined, and I was responding to your initial comment on that topic. I didn’t notice the context switch after that, but perhaps that shows a second benefit of exchange of brief comments in depth rather than long comments taking a “breadth first” approach, as it makes things less easy to miss. No problem, apologies for the confusion on my part.

  251. Dikran Marsupial says:

    JOshua ” and when I’m exchanging views with someone and they say something like “Joshua even….” or “Joshua responded…” then it suggests to me that direct exchange of views is not the proximal goal. ”

    I think you are overthinking it. The discussion started with just you and me, but others also then joined in, in which case it can be difficult to be consistent with this sort of thing. I don’t see how it really matters who the intended audience is, what matters is the content, and we at no point were having a private conversation. I appologise for the offence caused, it wasn’t intended.

  252. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Steve, can you send me an email at my gmail account (dikranmarsupial)? I’ll be around for another 20mins or so, but otherwise it may have to wait until Monday.

  253. Willard says:

    BBD,

    When you say that

    Libertarian contrarianism as expressed by a denial of the scientific evidence on climate change is self-evidently irrational as it does not rest on an evidentially-supported scientific counter-argument.

    you’re backtracking from irrationality to denial, which reveals that when you were speaking of irrationality, you had denial in mind. You’re also arguing with a negative existential which would be easy to disprove, e.g.:

    If I was giving round numbers, I would simply say 3+-0.5 (at 1sd, Gaussian) is a pretty good estimate – that makes

    2.5-3.5C is likely (68%)
    2-4 is very likely (95%)

    but I suspect the world isn’t quite ready for that yet 🙂

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2006/03/climate-sensitivity-is-3c.html

    (Notice this interesting usage of a scientific smiley.)

    Since the lukewarm playbook mostly works by shadowing the official one, you’d be hard pressed to find the denial and the irrationality you presume. Denial usually refers to the “lots of theories” level of the Contrarian Matrix. (I’ve recently added Javier’s “but obliquity” and Ralph’s “but albedo”.) Even then, the only line that would reflect pure denial is the first one:

    Global Warming (GW), or more precisely climate change, might actually be inexistent.

    https://contrarianmatrix.wordpress.com/lots-of-theories/

    Every other lines of the matrix accept AGW to some extent. The extent varies from one line to the next, as minimization is a matter of degree. Which goes on to show that the opposite of alarmism is minimization, not outright denial.

    ***

    The idea that the lukewarm playbook is shadowing the mainstream one offers a direct refutation of your overall argument. The stance does not rest on rejecting the evidence – it rest on minimizing the conclusions we can reach from it. The extent varies from one contrarian to the next. (See how Pop’s list embraces them all.) The levels of the Contrarian Matrix shows a progression in the overall playbook, progression that one can witness in about every exchange. Once you internalize the Matrix, you know enough ClimateBall “Kung Fu” to see the goalposts shifting as if they were in slow motion.

    Considering that the lukewarm playbook is shadowing the mainstream one, the difference between the two lies elsewhere. Where? In a word – branding. It fights for a different rhetoric niche, if you please. This is why I don’t think we’re drifting from discussing rationality. Most of the sides have access to a shared evidence basis, yet they reach very different conclusions. Why? The simplest answer is that values intervene. The preferences over the evidence are disputed. From the same premises can follow different prescriptions:

    At the end of the nineteenth century, just as colonial Africa was opening up as a market, all the manufacturers of shoes in Victorian England sent their representatives to Africa to see if there might be an opportunity there for their wares. All duly came back in time with the same answer. ‘Nobody in Africa wears shoes. So, there is no market for our products there.’

    All, that is, save for the Bata rep. He came back saying, ‘Nobody in Africa wears shoes. So, there’s a huge market for our products in Africa!’

    And that’s why signs promoting Bata appear all over Africa, even in the remotest of spots. It’s why Bata’s shoes are known as the shoes of Africa.

    http://www.kenburnett.com/BlogTheBataShoesStory.html

    If what I’m saying so far is correct, it would be possible for contrarian think tanks to build a bot that raises an infinite amount of concerns regarding mainstream science without rejecting any ounce of it. Just imagine, BBD – your very own Doppelgänger that sells the very crap you’re trying to fight, using the very same arguments as you do.

    Brace yourself – this is what’s coming.

    ***

    Let me conclude by telling how I stumbled upon that Tim Palmer paper. It started with Kip saying crap about BG. It made me comment on Senior’s drive-by. Senior replied to my criticism without addressing it. In my response, I noted that he went Pielkes all the way down, and recommended that he could pay due diligence to Palmer 1995 to which his letter was handwaving. Scratching my own itch, Palmer 1995 led me to Palmer 2016.

    Now, either I simply dismiss Senior’s illogical argument which rests on what I call the meteorological fallacy, or I try to find what could be his point. Since I have no expectation that Senior will ever be able to construe a real argument, I went for the latter. So here we are, with you having to entertain the idea that both Senior and Tim Palmer share the same dream. When Senior sells that dream, it sounds self-servingly contrarian. Yet when Tim Palmer sells the same dream, it looks kosher. Why is that?

    That’s not science, but it’s important.

  254. BBD says:

    Willard

    you’re backtracking from irrationality to denial,

    This is puzzling. Denial is irrational, so where’s the phase shift?

  255. JCH says:

    A friend of mine was stationed in Korea just after the Korean War. On a private’s salary, he rented a small house and hired a young girl to keep the house… and to provide other fringe benefits. He would send her off to buy takeout food from the base. One day she was late getting there, and what she brought back did not satisfy him. They had run out of the good stuff. He noticed she was eating a Korean dish that looked very good by comparison. He asked her to share it with him. She protested that he would not like it. He persisted. Finally, she gave him a piece of the meat. He thought it was very good, and he wanted to know what it was. Again, she protested that he did not want to know. He persisted, and finally she said, “GI call it K9.”

  256. BBD says:

    The idea that the lukewarm playbook is shadowing the mainstream one offers a direct refutation of your overall argument. The stance does not rest on rejecting the evidence – it rest on minimizing the conclusions we can reach from it.

    Which is arguably irrational if the premise is irrational. It’s the proverbial castle built on sand.

  257. Willard says:

    Not every irrational behavior amounts to denial, BBD. Furthermore, denial can be construed as a speech act descriptor, contrary to being irrational, which is an interpretation of a cognitive process. If someone denies the existence of God, there’s no need to check to see if that person is rational or if the argument justifying the denial makes sense or not.

    So you must at least admit there’s a phrase shift 😛

    ***

    Since I’ve already spent all my slack for the week and perhaps the month, let’s see if I can write a TL;DR on my “contrarians win” argument earlier.

    Assume fallibility, i.e. the idea that our (empirical, or at least non-tautological) knowledge can be wrong. Assume convergentism, i.e. the idea that scientific theories converge toward the truth. Let a theory T, with odds of holding true. The odds that a theory T being absolutely correct is infinitesimal:

    Realism holds that the constitutive aim of inquiry is the truth of some matter. Optimism holds that the history of inquiry is one of progress with respect to its constitutive aim. But fallibilism holds that, typically, our theories are false or very likely to be false, and when shown to be false they are replaced by other false theories. To combine all three ideas, we must affirm that some false propositions better realize the goal of truth — are closer to the truth — than others. So the optimistic realist who has discarded infallibilism has a problem — the logical problem of truthlikeness.

    In other words, it could very well be more rational to bet on non-T than on T.

    This might explain contrarianism as an evolutionary trait. Like most business endeavour, the odds that a contrarian C about his own hypothesis H is true is infinitesimal, at least in principle. But considering that scientific theories are likely wrong, their collective bet system amounts to a martingale. Chances are that at least one contrarian will be able to declare himself the winner in the long run.

    Confirmation bias always strikes again.

    Our society profits from such a winner. (We’re almost all writing our comments from systems or devices of two of these winners.) This is why capitalist tournaments are here to stay. OTOH, its MSM overvalues the rewards, and undervalues the losers. More than that, those who win never really lose. This is where cognitive traits that range from obliviousness to outright denial kicks in.

    If that interpretation holds true, dear BBD, then not only you are almost sure to lose as a defender of the establishment, but contrarians are somehow rationally justified to remain oblivious to their continual defeats because one of them will be able to win the crappiness lottery.

    With this in mind, try to read back the blog comments at Judy’s. Also bear in mind that many Denizens (and many contrarians in general) have lots of business experience. Tell me how this fares for you.

  258. Willard says:

    > It’s the proverbial castle built on sand.

    I prefer Neurath’s boat:

    There is no way to establish fully secured, neat protocol statements as starting points of the sciences. There is no tabula rasa. We are like sailors who have to rebuild their ship on the open sea, without ever being able to dismantle it in dry-dock and reconstruct it from its best components. Only metaphysics can disappear without a trace. Imprecise ‘verbal clusters’ [Ballungen] are somehow always part of the ship. If imprecision is diminished at one place, it may well re-appear at another place to a stronger degree. (Neurath 1932/1983, 92)

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

    The alternative is foundationalism.

    ***

    You know, there’s an alternative to saying we know what to do and still be rational:

    Politicians are ignorant about trials, and they’re weird about evidence. It doesn’t need to be this way. In international development work, resources are tight and people know that good intentions aren’t enough: in fact, good intentions can sometimes do harm. We need to know what works.

    […]

    Randomised trials are our best way to find out if something works: by randomly assigning participants to one intervention or another, and measuring the outcome we’re interested in, we exclude all alternative explanations for any difference between the two groups. If you don’t know which of two reasonable interventions is best, and you want to find out, a trial will tell you.

    Microfinance schemes help small producers buy in bulk to make larger profits, and they change lives. But are group-liability loans better, because people default less, so the project is more sustainable? Or do anxieties about shared reponsibility restrict recruitment? Some academics ran a trial.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/may/14/bad-science-ben-goldacre-randomised-trials

    Good ol’ trial an error can remedy neverending audits.

  259. izen says:

    @-“When Senior sells that dream, it sounds self-servingly contrarian. Yet when Tim Palmer sells the same dream, it looks kosher. Why is that?”

    Context and intent.

    When an expert in modelling extols the virtues of more it is advancing his own expertise. It is directed at an audience that he hopes to persuade to share his opinion about the importance of his efforts and support them.

    When an economeretrician advances the benefits of more modelling it is not because they have a direct interest or knowledge of the field. It may be seen as a rational reason to avoid precipitate action until we know more. It is likely to be directed at, and sought by an audience that seeks such advocacy specifically to use it as a counter to action with limited knowledge.

    Much of the meaning of rhetoric, like Art, lies in the ears of the listener.

  260. I may need to move my own goalposts on how to delimit climate contrarianism, Willard. Thanks.

  261. Willard,

    >Most of the sides have access to a shared evidence basis, yet they reach very different conclusions. Why? The simplest answer is that values intervene. The preferences over the evidence are disputed. From the same premises can follow different prescriptions.

    This. But:

    >If someone denies the existence of God, there’s no need to check to see if that person is rational or if the argument justifying the denial makes sense or not.

    Ahem. All swans are white? Denying a *belief* in God(s) for lack of evidence is a horse of a different colour.

    For rational, I *prefer* to follow the logics (as best as I can, it ain’t always easy). When the logic doesn’t follow, and pointing to it doesn’t prompt acknowledgement, irrational and/or denial become more appropriate.

    I’m still flummoxed about my historic use of “contrarian”. I’m beginning to suspect it’s my own Midwestern Nice for “dimwitted idiot”, or “denier” … which are more or less the same thing.

  262. Willard says:

    > Denying a *belief* in God(s) for lack of evidence is a horse of a different colour.

    I use that example because the oldest usage of denial I could find, excluding technical settings (e.g. law, manners) and not used to described a virtue (self-denial), refers to the denial of a religious doctrine:

    https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=3EksAAAAYAAJ&rdid=book-3EksAAAAYAAJ&rdot=1

    Once upon a time, the deniers were materialists:

    https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=B8NCAAAAIAAJ&rdid=book-B8NCAAAAIAAJ&rdot=1

  263. I should know better than challenge you on schools of philosophical thought, W. I’ll take your word for it that Milnerites were materialists, and from that infer that theirs was a denial of the (largely) Aristotelian metaphysics of St. Thomas. This would make contrarians Protestants, I believe. I’ll be happy if I’m in the ballpark.

    Ah yes, endorsed by one Henry Dwight, Pastor of first Presbyterian Church of Utica, N.Y.

  264. Willard, doesn’t monotheism deny the existence of other gods? And wouldn’t this place the first denialists back to the first millennium BCE?

  265. Steven Mosher says:

    “Since the lukewarm playbook mostly works by shadowing the official one, you’d be hard pressed to find the denial and the irrationality you presume. ”

    I rather describe it as occupying . Easier to work towards different conclusions from the inside.

    So. Occupy. .work the boundaries from the inside.

    It’s not like I made that a secret or anything. Although. .Stockholm effect.

  266. >Stockholm effect.

    In Ireland, Lebanon, Palestine and Berkeley
    Patty Hearst
    Heard a burst
    Of Roland’s Thompson Gun
    And bought it

    ~Warren Zevon

  267. izen says:

    @-“In other words, it could very well be more rational to bet on non-T than on T.
    This might explain contrarianism as an evolutionary trait.”

    Both biology and commerce have regulatory constraint and suppression of the evolution of novel contrarian alternatives.

    They favours local optima rather than seeking a perfect form. Enabling minor modification and re-purposing of existing patterns. Both employ an invisible hand to lock-in existing effective organisms/organisations. This is why the two systems we use in this medium are incompatible and less than optimal.

    The evolution of scientific hypothesis looks rather different to the biological and commercial examples. Relativity and Quantum mechanics are not minor modifications of Newton. Natural selection is not a variant of Lamarkism.

    I am unconvinced this makes betting on contrarian ideas in science any more rational than investing in radical ideas in commerce. Quantum shifts in biology and commerce are historically linked to adaption to significantly operating different environments.

    In science any new contrarian hypothesis is only accepted when it can function better in the existing material conditions. Radical change is driven most often by our increasing capability of measuring that environment.

    Betting on a new venture or radical mutation in commerce and biology is rarely going to win, but might have a better chance in a changed environment. Historically betting on a contrarian hypothesis in science is a sure loser unless it is capable of explaining the currently observed environment better than the existing theories. That fact those theories might be replaced with a new hypothesis that contains, not replaces, the existing understanding does not make it rational to deny the utility of the scientific theories we have.

  268. Willard says:

    > Betting on a new venture or radical mutation in commerce and biology is rarely going to win, but might have a better chance in a changed environment.

    We have a changed environment, izen – it’s the Internet. Researchers will need to embrace openness, or they will be redirected into industrial crap.

    ***

    > That fact those theories might be replaced with a new hypothesis that contains, not replaces, the existing understanding does not make it rational to deny the utility of the scientific theories we have.

    There’s no need to deny anything – raising concerns will always be enough to an Auditor.

    Most scientific theories are crap. Many are useful. They’re the best we got anyway. You can’t beat something with nothing.

    ***

    Enjoy your weekend,

    W

  269. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    ==> . I don’t see how it really matters who the intended audience is, what matters is the content, and we at no point were having a private conversation. I appologise for the offence caused, it wasn’t intended….I think you are overthinking it.,,,I appologise for the offence caused, it wasn’t intended….==>

    I’m not going to make too big a deal out of it (last comment on the subject), and yes, I could certainly be overthinking it, and It could certainly just be a convention that you use intermittently…but FWIW addressing people indirectly by talking to the “audience” about that person is often, what I consider to be a passive aggressive rhetorical device, with the effect of isolating a particular participant in a discussion, as if to distance oneself from the direct exchange (suggesting that the counterpart in the direct exchange isn’t worthy of direct exchange), and used to point out flaws in what a person has said (or defend what oneself has said) rather than just a more simple form of exchange (such as “Oh, I thought that when you were talking about ‘skeptics,’ you were referring specifically to participants in online blog comment sections”..in contrast to a comment in the form of ..”Joshua said ‘A’ and then Joshua said ‘B’, which wasn’t consistent with A”)

    I see it often in blog exchanges, typically in association with a lack of civility in exchange between people of differing viewpoints. I doubt that it happens nearly as often in more civil discourse contexts, or between people whose viewpoints are aligned.

    And so I don’t know if it “really matters,” as I’m not sure that any of this really matters, and no, no offense was taken (I don’t take offense in these exchanges even when offense is intended), and I didn’t assume that offense was intended, but I did want to clarify that when someone involved in directly exchanging comments to me and addresses those comments as if I were a 3rd person, I take note and wonder why it has happened and wonder what the implications might be to the ongoing exchange.

    ==> As I said, if we go back to where the discussion started, it was definitely about incivility of blogs, where the “sides” were clearly defined, and I was responding to your initial comment on that topic.==>

    That doesn’t quite add up for me, as I repeatedly talked about the differing contexts for assessing the civility or lack thereof on the different respective sides… but what actually matters, IMO, is having some clarity in definition if we continue the discussion.

    ==> but perhaps that shows a second benefit of exchange of brief comments in depth rather than long comments taking a “breadth first” approach, as it makes things less easy to miss. ==>

    Perhaps…

    ==> No problem, apologies for the confusion on my part.==>

    No apologies needed, but the offer is appreciated…

  270. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    So now the question is, if we’re going to go forward, which definition are we talking about?

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/arguing-online/#comment-86217

  271. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua, I am happy to continue with the original discussion, i.e. incivility on climate blogs and the reasons why there may or may not be a disparity between skeptic and mainstream blogs.

  272. Michael 2 says:

    Dikran Marsupial says: “So tell me, how do you point out to someone (out of kindness, following the “Golden rule”) that they are behaving badly”

    You blurt it out and accept the consequences; or decide that perhaps the issue on the table should be discussed rather than someone’s behavior. It probably won’t work to try to do both at the same time.

    The very act of deciding that someone’s behavior is “bad” is an assertion of your right as a judge to make that decision; and if you express it, you have also expressed moral superiority over another person, and that suddenly will become what is on the table to the exclusion of anything else. As many here do actually feel morally superior to their opponents, no meaningful discussion could ever take place between them anyway.

    This pertains also to praise of another person, a thing that can backfire unexpectedly. For me to praise someone is an act of judgement. If I am the expert and I praise an apprentice, that is good and positive; but for the apprentice to praise the master, that is at best fawning behavior, sometimes embarrassing, often arrogant.

    If I want to praise a peer, I don’t praise *him* I assert that I like his work and to the extent that he values my ability to judge the worth of a thing he will feel praised without me asserting judgment over him.

  273. Pingback: 2016: A year in blogging | …and Then There's Physics

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