57 Responses to If someone says “deficit model thinking” again I’ll…..

  1. A quick comment. It’s hard to get everything across in a post. Although I’ve use science communication in the post, I don’t really mean that it’s only scientists talking to the public, dialogue can also be an important part of engaging publicly.

    Also, I mention that research in the physical sciences should be value-neutral (the results shouldn’t really depend on our values). However, I think this should apply to research in all areas. If the result you’re likely to get depends on our values, then that would seem to suggest that the research is not unbiased. Of course, research being truly unbiased is probably not actually possible, but it would seem to be the goal. We’re searching for emergent truths about the system being studied; be it a physical, natural, or societal system.

  2. angech says:

    there are scientists who think hostility to science, or a lack of trust in science, is because of a lack of understanding,
    Found these while looking up terminology.
    SHRIMP – Sensitive High-Resolution Ion MicroProbe
    SIESTA – Spanish Initiative for Electronic Simulations with Thousands of Atoms[5] (siesta = afternoon nap in Spanish)
    SPIDER – Spectral Phase Interferometry for Direct Electric-field Reconstruction
    SQUID – Superconducting Quantum Interference Device,
    Jargon in the fields of science and medicine often leave people bemused and perplexed.
    Translating into laymanese is an art poorly practiced by most scientists who are blissfully unaware that their simple explanation might need another two layers of toning down to induce understanding.

  3. angech,

    Translating into laymanese is an art poorly practiced by most scientists who are blissfully unaware that their simple explanation might need another two layers of toning down to induce understanding.

    Maybe, but this is more to do with effective communication than deficit model thinking.

  4. doug1943 says:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this sentence: ” They see science communicators as presenting scientific “truths” while ignoring many other important societal and cultural factors; not somehow taking our values into account. ”

    Most science-sophisticated people are liberal, and it’s probably hard for them to empathize with non-liberals who, for example, are sceptical about climate change. But consider this: scientists are part of broader community, which we might call ‘the academics’. And there has been quite a lot of palpable nonsense and obviously-politically-biased pronouncements coming out of the non-physical-science wing of the Academy in the last few decades. Despite the fact that the best debunking of this stuff has come from liberals (eg ‘the Sokal Hoax’), the physical sciences may be tarred with that brush in the eyes of many laypersons.

    And … facts don’t just exist in isolation from society and history. Consider a PhD proposal: “An Examination of Financial Crimes Committed by Jews Prior to the Rise of Hitler”. It’s a perfectly legitimate topic … as much as an ‘Examination of the Contribution of Jews to Advances in Science, Mathematics and Medicine” … but wouldn’t you be a bit uneasy at approving this as a thesis topic? I certainly would.

    Or take the scientific investigation of group differences in cognitive ability, otherwise known as the ‘Race and IQ’ hot potato. Can a liberal even imagine reading such a study, assuming it arrived at uncongenial conclusions, with scientific neutrality? I believe most people’s minds are made up in advance on this issue, and not on the basis of scientific evidence one way or the other, but on the basis of their values.

    Another point: it’s inherently difficult to teach people to approach the problems of life in a scientific manner, when most people are happy to accept the most improbable evidence-free assertions about matters of fact, provided they are called ‘religious’. They do this because to question the factual assertions of religion appears also to question the moral values of religion.

  5. Chris says:

    “Translating into laymanese is an art poorly practiced by most scientists who are blissfully unaware that their simple explanation might need another two layers of toning down to induce understanding.”

    that’s a rather unsupported assertion angech – examples please.

    your post in fact is a model of dismal communication IMO – you cut and pasted a phrase from the OP without indicating that you’re using someone else’s words (try putting things that other say in quotation marks), you cut and pasted text from a Wikipedia site without attribution and then made an empty assertion….not good…

    There is nothing inherently problematic about the use of acronyms – if you are using a technique or concept you have to give it a name. It’s only problematic if you use it without further explanation outside of an informed context. So you need to give some examples (lots of examples since you asserted “…most scientists…”) of the use of acronyms outside of an informed context. As the use of LASER or COBRA (Mrs May has just come out of a COBRA meeting) or MRI indicate, acronyms are very useful and are not a necessary impediment to clear communication.

  6. doug,
    Interesting comment. I agree that there could well be certain research topics that society regards as unacceptable. However, those you highlight all seem to be social science topics. Be interesting to think of anything similar in the physical sciences (don’t study nuclear physics so as to avoid weapons of mass destruction; don’t land a probe on another planet to avoid contamination,…?).

    Your last paragraph is, I think, an important point. I think that we maybe don’t spend enough time communicating about the scientific method and how science works. You might think that this would be something done by social scientists who profess to be experts at the scientific method. Mostly (from what I’ve seen) they prefer to muddy the water, than help to clarify how science actually works.

  7. Dan Riley says:

    I think it’s only true that “the goal of scientific research is to be unbiased” if you take an unreasonably narrow definition of scientific research. I’d say that the goal of scientific research (and the point of the scientific method, whatever it is in practice) is to arrive at minimally biased answers to specific questions. However, there are values embodied in both the choice of questions and the presentation of answers, and I think both of those things are necessarily part of scientific research.

    First, there’s the choice of what questions we choose to research. Doug gave some extreme examples, but it’s more generally true that the questions we think are worth pursuing (or not), and how we pursue them, are influenced by cultural and societal factors. Why are some topics considered worth pursuing while others languish for lack of interest or funding? We don’t have an unbiased method of choosing research topics (I doubt one is even possible), so the questions we ask reflect our values.

    The presentation of results is also often influenced by societal and cultural factors. What results are worth presenting, what makes a result significant, choices of presentation can be influenced by societal and cultural factors. This is particularly true for research that has potential policy implications.

  8. Scientists have no special skills when it comes to solving the dirty culture war in America. That is something for everyone. We do have some skills when it comes to science and some when it comes to explaining that science. Even if explaining science is not effective in a laboratory when people are not interested in the topic, I feel it is important that the information is available when people are looking for information and that they are then not left alone with the flood of drivel produced by the mitigation sceptical movement.

  9. lerpo says:

    ATTP: “you can’t make something up in order to be more convincing to a particular audience”

    Somewhere Anthony Watts is having a little chuckle.

  10. Dan,

    I’d say that the goal of scientific research (and the point of the scientific method, whatever it is in practice) is to arrive at minimally biased answers to specific questions.

    I’d agree with that. I was really just suggesting that the intent is to be unbiased, but it’s unlikely to be absolutely achieved. We, ideally, tend towards it by reproducing and replicating scientific research.

    I, of course, agree that the questions we choose to answer can be influenced by our values, but I would argue that once you’ve decided what question to answer, the goal is – again – to do so in a minimally biased way. I can see how the presentation of the results can be influenced by our values, etc, but I would expect this to still correctly represent the results. Admittedly, it can probably be done in a way that highlights specific results, and downplay others. So, yes, I’d agree that that is a factor that can be influenced by societal and cultural factors (caveat: I would still argue that if what you take away from a presentation is wildly inconsistent with what the research actually suggests, then the presentation is flawed).

  11. lerpo,

    Somewhere Anthony Watts is having a little chuckle.

    Ahh, yes, I guess I was technically wrong. You can, of course, make stuff up to be more convincing to some audiences, but you really shouldn’t (well, if you want to be an honest science communicator).

  12. Victor,

    I feel it is important that the information is available when people are looking for information and that they are then not left alone with the flood of drivel produced by the mitigation sceptical movement.

    Yes, exactly.

  13. Joshua says:

    doug –

    =={ Most science-sophisticated people are liberal, }==

    What evidence do you use to draw that conclusion?

  14. Marco says:

    “Somewhere Anthony Watts is having a little chuckle.”

    i am quite convinced Watts believes essentially all he says/writes. While there are plenty of propagandists out there who gladly make stuff up, I don’t think Watts is among them. This does not absolve him of any of his many mistakes, though.

  15. @ATTP, @doug1943,

    Many scientists, engineers, and, hopefully, people in the mathematical sciences are aware of the complicated and occasionally embarrassing history of Science intertwingled with social movements, and to the degree to which forces of sociology, of male bias, and of Eurocentrism have worked to Science’s detriment. In geophysics, it took J. Tuzo Wilson to convince American geological scientists of the basic ideas of Wegener, not to mention the ridicule of Marie Tharp who had WHOI data to challenge results from Lamont-Doherty. There’s the eugenic results at the turn of the century by R. W. Fisher. Professor of Eugenics, indeed, was one of his appointments. There are the social Darwinism movements of the late 19th century. Some of all this happened because, well, scientists got funding from lectures, for instance, as part of the Lyceum Movement, and controversial topics or presentations got a bigger draw. Some of this was just the culture.

    But in modern instances, I think people working these fields are very much aware of the pitfalls of these ideas. In Ecology, for instance, while the Gaia Hypothesis is a romantic notion, it is also untestable, and, so, is not Science. That does not inhibit groups of environmentalists from embracing it. Similarly, wildlife population management is a thorny area. When put in practice, it’s difficult to win. I think it’s only natural for people to want to “retreat to the world of published journals.”

  16. Willard says:

    Here’s a non-liberal:

    Here’s another one:

  17. I’m not a scientist. I’m a statistician and engineer. But while I often align and cooperate with people who are progressives, I don’t consider myself one. The closest I’d say that I am is that I very much think of myself working in the original spirit of 19th century Statistics, where it was seen as an evidence-based way of improving the human condition. I am politically active, but it’s policy politics, very much an engineering-like thing, working with business and politicians in Massachusetts of all parties to get things done. I think some of my progressive friends think I’m too close to business. And, on energy, I am — and call myself — a solar revolutionary and I have very strong libertarian, counter-utility views on residential solar.

    I recently unenrolled from the Democratic Party, which I joined during the last campaign season so I could support Sanders versus Clinton. i am completely unimpressed by the Democratic Party. And, if it was not for the extreme fringe of Republicans on the matter, I think they take environmentalists support way too much for granted. I would vote for a climate hawk Republican in a blink of an eye. Governor Baker of Massachusetts isn’t showing stellar leadership on climate and energy, but he is showing leadership.

    So, yeah, I think haphazardly aligning all techie types with progressives and liberals is wrong.

  18. Steven Mosher says:

    Just keep communicating science the way you want to. The right receivers will tune in. Those with busted receivers or receivers out of band are not your concern. And ignore the hecklers.

    Will your audience be yuge? Wrong question. Serve those that can hear you well. Marketing will handle the growth.

  19. Willard says:

    > ignore the hecklers

    Fine.

    [Slams door.]

  20. Just keep communicating science the way you want to.

    Pretty much what I try to do.

  21. Francis says:

    aTTP:

    A lot of the confusion about science communication could be resolved if the participants asked / stated what the purpose of the communication was.

    The vast bulk of science communication should have the limited purpose of reporting a possibly interesting result of a legitimate inquiry. It is not intended to persuade; it is intended to inform. The author of the piece may hope that his publication is persuasive, but that depends on a whole suite of circumstances (scope of the paper, credibility of the author/journal, quality of the research etc.) And as pointed out repeatedly on this blog, no one paper on any topic should be persuasive; it is the cumulation of evidence that establishes the truthfulness of the underlying point.

    For example, what was the purpose of the publication of the consensus studies? It was to inform the public that a consensus did actually exist. A second-tier purpose was to increase the burden on opponents of the consensus — they not only had to establish the correctness of their own point of view but they had to explain why everyone was wrong. But expecting the consensus studies of having the third-tier effect of persuading people to vote for Democrats / support climate change reduction policies is one step too far. It does not take into account that many people don’t like to be bullied, and one way to bully people is to tell them that everyone feels that way.

    Which takes us to the ongoing question this blog attempts to answer — whose job is it to persuade? Again, we would all be better served by a) breaking down in detail what the actual question is that we are trying to establish the truth of and b) the context in which the question is being asked.

    As I see it, the proponents of climate change reduction policies have a 3-step obligation. A — climate change exists. B — there is a point at which the economic / ecological / humanitarian impact of climate change is dangerous / immoral. C — the following policies will mitigate those impacts. These are not solely scientific questions. The second question, in particular, asks about our values. What if, for example, the only visible effect over the next 70 years is the destruction of Bangladeshi agriculture? Should Americans care? People who can be persuasive on this point include: politicians, national security experts, ethicists, economists and more.

    For me personally, one place where I think that the on-line science community — including this blog — falls down is demonstrating why 450 ppm CO2e / 2 C warming is the danger point. I read with interest the attacks on Dr Tol’s piece with regard to the benefits of warming. But I do not see the ongoing regular analysis of the new papers being published which dig into this issue.

  22. Francis,

    A lot of the confusion about science communication could be resolved if the participants asked / stated what the purpose of the communication was.

    Indeed, and that is what I’ve tried to do. Science communication is – in my view/experience – primarily about communicating scientific information.

    For me personally, one place where I think that the on-line science community — including this blog — falls down is demonstrating why 450 ppm CO2e / 2 C warming is the danger point.

    I don’t think is easily demonstratable. I’ve certainly never intended to demonstrate this, and wouldn’t know how to do so. There will always have to be some kind of judgement as to what the targets should and if, indeed, we should have targets. What is generally regarded as pretty clear is that the impacts will become more severe the greater the warming, and that the level of warming will depend on how much we emit. It’s also clear that the it is probably unrealistic to reduce emissions fast enough to prevent future warming and it’s generally accepted that the changes are probably irreversible on human timescales. Hence, the longer we wait before we start reducing emissions, the more drastic the action might need to be. As it stands, we probably cannot easily achieve the 2C target, so we’re already in a position where we’re probably heading towards 3C. If we don’t start acting soon, then it will be more than 3C. Then we really do have to hope that those who argue that 2C should be the target were wrong.

  23. Given that some authors of consensus studies also produced studies showing that consensus messaging works, I would argue that consensus messaging is not only done to inform people, but also to convince people. Given the enormous impacts of climate change, any communication is bound to have a bit of both aims.

    Even if informing people is apparently not that effective in the public “debate” and getting millions of people who do not want to be informed up to the level of PhD scientists is not a practical solution, in science informing works pretty well and that likely guides the intuition of communicating scientists. Even scientists who are rationally convinced that information does not work likely still hope deep down inside that it does.

    It is a pity that because of the large amount of debunking we do and the emphasis on explaining the importance of climate change, we often “forget” to talk about the beauty of science and the beauty of the climate system. I put “forget” in quotes because conveying these beauties is hard, requires communication skills way above my pay grade, which may also be a reason to not even try.

  24. @Francis, and @ATTP,

    Yeah, there’s no crisp “line in the sand.” That edge is always statistically blurred. If one wants to avoid all effects of climate disruption, it is already too late: There’s a long term commitment to sea level rise already which will take out most of what we know presently as coasts. That’s because much of the excess energy has gone — and continues to do — into the oceans, and, no matter what we do they’ll hang on to that heat for 20,000 years or so.

    But there are other effects, such as ocean acidification which we can dodge without killing off most ocean life. And we simply don’t know how quickly the collapses of ice sheets will occur if humanity continues emitting. The consensus is presently a century or longer, but every couple of years there are surprises which come out of that work. People are only now being able to construct models with the complexity backed by adequate computing power to address these additional and highly nonlinear things. A lot changes in predictive skill when you drop a simulation cell from 10 cubic kilometers to less than one.

    There’s a lot to be said for making the purely economic argument. I think the most compelling one is that if things really do turn out very very badly, there’s no “going home again,” that is, going back to where we are even now. Not only is it impossible to extract that extra heat in the oceans, the present estimates of costs, based on completely immature technology, for extracting CO2 from atmosphere are horrifically high …. Many multiples of the 2014 Gross World Product, for instance. And these assume we’ve zeroed emission aforehand.

    So, it can be posed as a one-in-a-hundred chance of totally ruining everything, versus it might be okay. Trouble is, after Kahneman and Twersky, and even Mark Carney we know people and organizations and companies and governments will take that 1%. Of course I don’t know it’s 1%. Could be higher. If it is 1%, that’s about the failure rate of the now mothballed U.S. Space Shuttle system. Wanna take that chance?

  25. thefordprefect says:

    Steven Mosher says: May 27, 2017 at 5:04 pm
    Will your audience be yuge? Wrong question. Serve those that can hear you well. Marketing will handle the growth.
    ———————————-
    Steven you are just so wrong.
    Modern “social media” has so much influence you would just lose the valid information in the invalid, but “I-want -to-believe-it” news.
    The UK lost to the european exiteers (through lies) and we are now embarked on an individual journey into unknown but probable disaster just when the world needs to act as one.
    You have a president that most of the world considers a joke (check youtube)
    France somehow managed to sidestep disaster.

    wuwt blogs and their non scientific stories need to be counteracted with real info. on the blog. If Trump can use wuwt stories to support actions then you must see the problem.

  26. Willard says:

    Moshpit was saying that AT should just be himself, Ford. Why would the future of mankind rest on AT’s shoulders, again?

  27. Steven Mosher says:

    sorry you feel that way ford.

    I like ATTP, just the way he is and think that he should thank hecklers for their concerns and just carry on doing what he does. He will attract an audience of people who can hear him.
    That’s enough. Job well done. Life well lived. If you die and make him god, then he will have larger responsibilities.

  28. doug1943 says:

    Joshua – you ask what evidence I have for my assertion that ‘most science-sophisticated people are liberal’.

    I didn’t think that was controversial. (There is controversy over what this might imply about the validity of liberal vs conservative political positions, but that’s another matter. You’re probably aware of the ‘conservatives are the stupid party/ conservatives have shrunken anterior singulate cortexes’, argument.. [Summarized here: https://braindecoder.com/post/politics-neuroscience-1282982492%5D )

    Here are some places with relevant information about the correlation between ‘scientific sophistication’ and liberal politics. (I grant that ‘scientific sophistication’ is perhaps too vague a term. I wanted to include more than just practising scientists in my assertion, and this was the best term I could think of. Perhaps a better phrase might be ‘people who would appreciate being given a subscription to New Scientist.) The links below are relevant but don’t directly use my particular category.)

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Political_beliefs_of_academics

    http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-4-scientists-politics-and-religion/

    An extract from the above:
    “Most scientists identify as Democrats (55%), while 32% identify as independents and just 6% say they are Republicans. When the leanings of independents are considered, fully 81% identify as Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party, compared with 12% who either identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP. Among the public, there are far fewer self-described Democrats (35%) and far more Republicans (23%). Overall, 52% of the public identifies as Democratic or leans Democratic, while 35% identifies as Republican or leans Republican.

    Majorities of scientists working in academia (60%), for non-profits (55%) and in government (52%) call themselves Democrats, as do nearly half of those working in private industry (47%).”

    https://www.desmogblog.com/conservatives-versus-science-new-scientific-validation-republican-war-science-and-republican-brain-thesis

    Not directly relevant to this issue, but relevant to the Original Post: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/public-confidence-in-scientists-has-remained-stable-for-decades/

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/09/majority-of-americans-say-scientists-dont-have-an-ideological-slant/ (The majority of Americans obviously don’t agree with me, or at least believe that the political beliefs of scientists do not influence their science, which is,again, a different question.)

    Let me repeat: I am NOT saying that ‘liberalism is true because intelligence/education/scientific sophistication correlates with liberal political beliefs’. That’s a different argument (which, in fact, I don’t believe is valid.)

  29. David B. Benson says:

    Francis, please read “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas. A good summary is available on a Guardian site. David Archer uses this book as one of the two texts for his introductory climatology course at the University of Chicago.

    I opine that we have committed the future to at least 3 °C of further warming. That might well be tolerable, after all, our very remote ancestors lived in such a world. However, all the biologists seem to find that the rate of temperature increase is too fast for the ecosphere to adapt, i.e, evolve.

  30. Griff says:

    “we often “forget” to talk about the beauty of science and the beauty of the climate system”

    None of you forget your collective fascination for science.
    Having followed ATTP VV Tamino and others for years the thing that keeps me coming back is the wonder that underlies your thinking.

    Why? The answer to life, the universe and everything
    A question we all ask and only science has yet to find a convincing answer for .
    Even if the scope and emptiness in the answer leaves many cold..

    The attacks on science are attacks on our understanding of the world .
    Those attacking do not offer anything palatable to take its place.

  31. thefordprefect says:

    Willard says: May 27, 2017 at 11:03 pm
    Moshpit was saying that AT should just be himself, Ford. Why would the future of mankind rest on AT’s shoulders, again?

    Steven Mosher says: May 28, 2017 at 1:57 am
    sorry you feel that way ford.
    I like ATTP, just the way he is and think that he should thank hecklers for their concerns and just carry on doing
    ———————————–
    OK it seems as if my response was considered a criticism of ATTP.
    It was not meant to be a criticism of anybody!!
    It is a plea to ALL to post on the likes of wuwt, etc.

    What is happening in this current society is that people are reading wuwt, Daily Mail, The Sun, where they see a mass of false or at least distorted news.
    This is so easy to believe, because it says they do not need to do anything. They then pass it on as fact on social media.

    They do not even have to have a statement of “facts” on their side – they just need to spread doubt:
    There’s no mid tropospheric hot spot that was predicted so the AGW is false
    Just show me the proof of AGW
    How can an increase of 300ppm be significant.
    I do not need to give you evidence – you claim AGW so show your proof.
    etc., etc.,
    Followed of course by:
    Well I’d like a bit of that GW in uk/Canada/Siberia
    CO2 is plant food and that massive doubling of plant food is greening the planet

    If the scientific evidence gets buried on a blog read by a few other scientist then how will the truth get out there to the masses?.
    Papers like the Guardian, the Independent etc. may print some evidence but they have readership numbers swamped by the trash papers.
    “you” need to post refutation/evidence/truths where it will be seen by the “masses”. (“you” meaning every one with honest facts!)

  32. Chris says:

    The deficit model is certainly part of the story if one considers the story to be optimal societal responses to relevant scientific information; of course “optimal” is a value-laden and political concept. And so scientific information has to take its place amongst competing considerations.

    For example it’s scientifically uncontroversial that overuse of antibiotics, e.g. as growth promoters in animal feedstocks, promotes resistance to antibiotics. Some feedstuff growth promoters are medically important antibiotics – the scientific consensus is that these shouldn’t be used as growth promoters.

    The response to this scientific information is varied. In the US controls on the use of antibiotic growth promoters is opposed by a powerful lobby in support of intensive farming practices which don’t work without large scale use of antibiotic growth promoters. Controls against use of growth promoters are stronger in Europe; Sweden banned antibiotics as growth promoters 30 years ago and partly in association with this, use rearing methods involving improved animal welfare – it is possible to raise animals on an “industrial” scale without using antibiotics as growth promoters but only if their living conditions are improved; it is more expensive though.

    In short, how one uses scientific information depends on the values of the society, relevant economic considerations, the strength of corporate lobby perhaps (e.g. where what might be considered appropriate responses threaten particular industrial/corporate interests), and also the extent to which the public is faithfully informed about the scientific issues and their real and potential consequences.

    The role of scientists should be to keep on communicating the science so that this is represented as faithfully as possible in the mix of policy considerations – if the science is right, policy does often eventually follow. In Jan this year the US FDA put in practice a directive that antibiotics in animal foodstock industries can no longer be sold as for “over the counter” use, but must be used in accordance with veterinary prescription practice or under veterinary supervision.

    As scientists, or individuals that consider that scientific information should be faithfully communicated and taken into account in policy making, we should recognise that appropriate policy may take a long time to enact in complex societies – so science communicators have to keep plugging away!

  33. Chris says: “The deficit model is certainly part of the story … For example it’s scientifically uncontroversial that overuse of antibiotics, e.g. as growth promoters in animal feedstocks, promotes resistance to antibiotics. Some feedstuff growth promoters are medically important antibiotics – the scientific consensus is that these shouldn’t be used as growth promoters.

    At least for me this would be more of an example that the deficit model explains a lot. I hardly know anything about this topic. That I accept it is based on my general understanding of antibiotics, evolution, the scientific consensus that seems to exist and the lack of credible counter arguments. Getting the entire population to the knowledge level of the scientists is not gonna happen.

    I also prefer policy to be informed by the best scientific understanding of reality, but that is a different argument.

  34. Willard says:

    > It is a plea to ALL to post on the likes of wuwt, etc.

    I agree, up to a point.

    The Auditor’s, Lucia’s, and Jeff’s are dead as far as ClimateBall is concerned. Tony’s has become tin foil hattier than it was in the beginnings. Mr. Pile’s has yet to gain any traction and their black helicopters are not that interesting. BradK can’t even keep his editorial prerogative.

    All contrarians have left is Judy’s. Even then, it’s not what it once was. It’s hard to lift off anything when we have arguments like these:

    You might very well be used to the methodology of PeterL’s argument, but I don’t think you’re used to formulating an argument. The logical form in your:

    P1: the global mean surface temperature averaged 7C warmer than now for the past 650 Ma

    P2: Life is known to exist in myriad forms at 7C higher than today.

    C: Dangerous and catastrophic impacts of global warming can be totally ruled out.

    is totally unrecognizable.

    If there’s no mention of “Dangerous and catastrophic impacts of global warming” in your premises, how the hell can you conclude anything about it?

    Come on.

    https://judithcurry.com/2017/05/19/uncertainty-about-the-climate-uncertainty-monster/#comment-849887

    And that’s coming from a contrarian I consider a friend.

    ***

    So yeah, scientists should step up from time to time. But addressing Judy’s crap doesn’t take much anymore. And nothing will make her change her mind. It’s Mr. T all the way down.

    Here he is in action: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

    Perhaps I could start to convince contrarians if I could find simpler are more evocative arguments about the risks of a +2C world as Francis suggested. So far, my most common counterargument is that one does not simply ask for evidence about the future. I recently tried the Dust Bowl, to hint at the fact that we do know what droughts can do. It was met with a Wizard of Oz quote, by Ragnaar, another contrarian friend. So it may be promising. I’ll soon be paying due diligence to the thermal equator. Watery events are also very suggestive – Montrealers recently went through historical floods.

    But really, if climate scientists need an obscure ninja like me to come up with convincing semi-empirical arguments about the risks of a 2C world, then Francis may very well be right.

  35. Chris says:

    Victor: “At least for me this would be more of an example that the deficit model explains a lot. I hardly know anything about this topic. That I accept it is based on my general understanding of antibiotics, evolution, the scientific consensus that seems to exist and the lack of credible counter arguments. Getting the entire population to the knowledge level of the scientists is not gonna happen.”

    No, although it wouldn’t surprise me if the Swedish population were rather more informed on this subject than those in the US, for example, since in Sweden policy aligns more closely with the scientific evidence and so there is no need for misrepresentation of this evidence. I’m not suggesting that the science on this subject is misrepresented in the US (don’t know whether it is or isn’t although it would be surprising if corporate lobbying didn’t have some elements of misrepresentation) – it may be that the issue simply falls under the radar of most people.

    Another example (which supports the deficit model but not completely) might be the association of lung cancer with smoking. This was highlighted by Richard Doll in the UK who published convincing epidemiological evidence for a causal association in the early 1950’s. Although many informed individuals (including Doll himself) stopped smoking more or less immediately there were lots of competing considerations. Even the UK Department of Health were reluctant to act on the evidence, one of the reasons being that the government considered it problematic to address measures that might increase life expectancy since this would be an economic drain on the state pension system. It apparently was only when the media became convinced of the evidence and began to publicise this in the 1970’s that there began to be an acceptance that government policy to minimize smoking (increased taxation on ciggies, restricted advertisement and packaging and eventually restrictions on smoking in public places etc) was appropriate. Smoking in the UK has been reduced markedly (45% of adults smoked in 1979; now it’s around 17%). That rather supports the deficit model and also shows the importance of alignment of social values with government policy.

    The residual 17% of smokers don’t suffer from a knowledge deficit; presumably they don’t care (and there’s no reason why they necessarily should do, although one might consider that they should pay the full economic costs of smoking) or are simply unable to give up – likewise the rather slow ramping up of policy to reduce smoking in the UK was done in association with efforts to protect the very profitable UK tobacco industry, amongst other things by finding new markets abroad.

    Again, quite clear scientific evidence is only part of the policy consideration, even if in the case of smoking it’s a fundamental part. And policy may take a long time to play out in complex societies where other factors are important (e.g. protecting industries while these realign to the new realities). Personally speaking, although never a smoker, I’m quite nostalgic of standing on the terraces at evening rugby matches in a warm fugg of second hand cigarette smoke….

  36. Chris says:

    One of the things that struck me in reminding myself of the Richard Doll smoking – lung cancer link in my post above was the quite long delay in the UK between scientific and government awareness of the strong epidemiological evidence and major policy to address the health risks. In my opinion this relates to the difficulties of making abrupt science-based policy decisions in complex societies. Since the UK tobacco industry provides/provided both considerable employment and tax income, the industry could hardly be slammed shut in response to the scientific evidence and no doubt the misrepresentation from the tobacco industry and their advertising was actually helpful in allowing a graduated political response to the science that was played out over several decades.

    So it’s not surprising, for example, that Kenneth Clarke (Health Secretary in the later stages of the Thatcher government) was later a non-exec Deputy Chairman of British American Tobacco, and Thatcher herself was an advisor for Philip Morris after her resignation [*]. Whatever one thinks of the morality of this, it seems likely that these efforts were made to protect what was/is considered to be an important industry as it was forced to transition in the face of scientific evidence of the dangers of ciggie smoking.

    I wonder whether a similar process is occurring with respect to the science on climate change and its policy implications and responses. While the contrarian/denialist vs scientist/pro-science advocate provides a smokescreen of pseudo-debate that may be seen to abrogate requirement for abrupt policy response, the policy responses are going on nevertheless in the background. I’m reminded of this pretty much daily with news this week, for example, that the UK has just achieved a record contribution of solar to the electricity supply and that (in this week’s Science) developing technologies in CO2 driven turbines might make useful inroads into enhanced energy supply efficiencies and carbon capture and storage [ http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6340/805 ].

    These may be drops in the bucket in terms of overall impact – however, clearly the industrial/technology sectors consider that there is an imperative for new technologies for renewable energy, energy efficiencies and greenhouse gas reduction. Many of the people that matter are not sitting around waiting for a false debate to be resolved.

    Again the role of scientists should be to keep on communicating the science since this will continue to inform productive policy, even if this might not always be outwardly apparent. And although it’s important to continue to counter misinformation it might make sense to pull back from engaging with science-misrepresenters (however much fun this might be!) or even being overly concerned with how science might be misrepresented.

    [*] see e.g. Petticrew M and Krishnaratne S (2014) The Fag Lady, revisited: Margaret Thatcher’s efforts on behalf of the tobacco industry. Public Health 128, 904-910. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2014.07.006

  37. Joshua says:

    Doug –
    Your brain decoder link didn’t work. Could you respost? (I’m generally not too impressed with theories that brain architecture in libz and conz is different – how would that work, exactly, would being born into an lib culture and thinking like a lib affect your brain development differently than if you were born into a con culture? Or would being born with a particular brain architecture incline you towards lib thinking and another brain architecture incline you towards con thinking? I wouldn’t buy either – and anyway, near as I can tell there is much more diversity n thinking among conz and libz, respectively, than there is between the “average” con and lib

    =={ “Most scientists identify as Democrats… }==

    I would imagine that scientists are a tiny % of the overall population, so I don’t really see that stats on the political orientation of scientists goes very far as evidence for your statement that:

    =={ ‘most science-sophisticated people are liberal’…. }==

    As you note, the term “science-sophisticated” is vague, so maybe there’s some wiggle room there –
    but there are some studies out there that, for example, show that “skeptics” as a group might be someone more knowledgeable about climate change than “realists” as a group, and so you could probably extrapolate to the same pattern playing out with conz compared to libz.

    =={ Majorities of scientists working in academia (60%), for non-profits (55%) and in government (52%) call themselves Democrats, as do nearly half of those working in private industry (47%).” }==

    I would imagine that those %’s aren’t representative for people working in non-academic scientific fields.

    =={ Not directly relevant to this issue, but relevant to the Original Post: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/public-confidence-in-scientists-has-remained-stable-for-decades/ }==

    I’m not sure how that’s even indirectly related, or the other link about Americans’ views about ideological slant of scientists?

    Let me repeat: I am NOT saying that ‘liberalism is true because intelligence/education/scientific sophistication correlates with liberal political beliefs’. ….

    Right. But it seems that you ARE making a statement about intelligence/education/scientific sophistication correlating with liberal political beliefs, and as near as I can tell you haven’t provided solid evidence of such.

  38. Andy Skuce says:

    One example of how physical science research is far from value-free is the controversy over solar radiation management research. Some scientists are opposed to any research because of the moral hazard implications. Others argue that we need to do it, because SRM for global temperature modification is cheap, fast and imperfect (Ted Parson). If we don’t understand it and model it better, some country could do it unilaterally and partly blindly.

    I saw a brilliant talk by Ted Parson on geoengineering recently at U Vic. Some of the points he made can be read in this paper.
    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2339238

  39. @Andy,

    Neat! Thanks!

  40. angech says:

    Just show me the proof of AGW.
    One metric that should not be used is Arctic Sea Ice Extent.
    The reason is obvious.
    Yet it is used all the time.
    This facile, self aggrandizing argument just has the opposite effect when considered properly.
    In other news I think 97% of the media is pro AGW despite the occasional sensational comment to the negative. thefordprefect can sleep securely at night in my opinion.

  41. doug1943 says:

    Joshua — try this for the ‘Brain Decoder’ link: https://braindecoder.com/post/politics-neuroscience-1282982492
    (The last three characters on the original link screwed it up.)

    And you’re right — although it’s pretty easy to establish that most scientists are in the liberal camp, broadly speaking, my extension to ‘science-sophisticated’ people is just an inference.

    I think it’s valid, but I don’t know of any studies that have tried to correlate ‘science-sophistication’ or something equivalent to it, to political views. There have been numerous studies — the Brain Decoder piece mentions some of them — that have apparently shown that liberals have somewhat higher IQs, and higher levels of educational attainment, than conservatives, and while there are plenty of criticisms to be made of these studies — sample size, failure to distinguish between ‘traditionalist’ conservatives and libertarians — I personally suspect they’re broadly true, although of minimal relevance to how one should decide this or that disputed political issue. (Historically, especially in other countries besides the US, political differences have revolved around economic issues, with less-educated people, the poor and the working class, broadly in support of the Left, and the more-educated middle and upper classes leaning to the Right. But so what?)

    This argument is similar to one I had years ago, when I asserted on a left wing forum that ‘Black Studies’ courses were largely vacuous, and consisted mainly of political indoctrination (or, more likely, the ‘study’ of content which validated the pre-existing prejudices of the people who enrolled for these courses). I couldn’t ‘prove’ it, but I thought, and still think, that’s it’s a reasonable inference.

    Similarly, wouldn’t you agree that it’s a reasonable inference to predict that in the US today someone who rejects the theory of evolution is likely to be a self-described conservative, and that someone who affirms it is more likely to be a self-described liberal? (A hundred years ago, in the age of Populism and William Jennings Bryan, the opposite was probably the case.)

    However, i freely grant that I can’t ‘prove’ my assertion, and in any case, I don’t think anything flows from it. Some of the most intelligent people around — say, the European intelligentsia during most of the 20th Century — have naively supported appalling political regimes (Joseph Stalin’s, in the case of many European intellectuals).

    So I respect people who know what a second-order partial differential equation is, and might give extra credence to their opinion on, say, how close we are to getting workable fusion-based power, but I don’t extend that credence to their opinions on whether or not we should relax or constrict our immigration controls, or raise taxes to fund high-speed rail.

  42. angech,

    One metric that should not be used is Arctic Sea Ice Extent.

    Why not?

  43. Andy,
    That is a good example. However, from what I’ve seen most public communication about that topic often includes a discussion of the controversy associated with Solar Radiation Management. So, yes, views about whether or not we should do such research is clearly influenced by our values, but it does seem as though this aspect of the topic is not being ignorned by science communicators.

  44. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Just show me the proof of AGW.”

    proof is for mathematics, alcohol and typesetters. Asking for proof is frequently used as an example of impossible expectations in science it is not generally possible to prove a causal relationship regarding the real world, only provide solid evidence and a good agreement with theory. You may as well ask “show me the proof of evolution by natural selection” or “show me the proof of gravity” (I can show you lots of things that are behaving according to the laws of gravity, but I can’t prove that gravity is the reason they are behaving that way – c.f. Hume?). Science is generally about reduction to the best explanation, not proof.

    There are plenty of places to look for the evidence. The most obvious being the IPCC reports, the WG1 report being basically a compilation of the evidence produced by the climatologists.

    I don’t see the problem with sea ice either.

  45. angech says:

    ” One metric that should not be used is Arctic Sea Ice Extent. Why not?”
    Long answer, it represents one small part of the globe over too short a time frame. Indistinguishable from natural variation.
    Climate change with the world temperature response we see to date is too gentle to create the effect seen.
    Claiming the one effect seen as proof of climate change in general is not possible, no large scale effects anywhere else and in particular is not possible because it can represent a purely local change.
    A canary in a coal mine? Maybe. But canaries can die from natural causes as well.

  46. angech,

    Claiming the one effect seen as proof of climate change in general is not possible

    Maybe you need to find an example of someone using Arctic sea ice decline as proof of climate change. It’s more simply used as one consequence of global warming.

    A canary in a coal mine? Maybe. But canaries can die from natural causes as well.

    Except people have looked at Arctic sea ice decline and it is almost certainly not mostly natural.

  47. Marco says:

    “Climate change with the world temperature response we see to date is too gentle to create the effect seen”

    Assertion without evidence. Or rather, I smell the argument from incredulity. The current temperatures in the Arctic region (at least in the Canadian Arctic) may not have been seen before since 44,000 years ago, and perhaps even 120,000 years ago (Miller et al, https://doi.org/10.1002%2F2013GL057188).

    “no large scale effects anywhere else”

    Some people, in particular climate scientists, will point out there ARE large scale effects everywhere on the globe. Like those observed for the Antarctic peninsula, in the Himalayas (in particular the Eastern part), the amazonas, many parts of Europe, etc. etc. etc.

  48. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Long answer, it represents one small part of the globe over too short a time frame. Indistinguishable from natural variation.”

    please give a [reference to a] statistical analysis that demonstrates this assertion is true.

    “Climate change with the world temperature response we see to date is too gentle to create the effect seen.”

    please give an [reference to an] argument with observational support to show that this assertion is true.

    “Claiming the one effect seen as proof of climate change in general is not possible, no large scale effects anywhere else and in particular is not possible because it can represent a purely local change.”

    Does anyone actually do this. Please give a verifiable reference to someone making this argument.

    You asked “Just show me the proof of AGW.”, I gave links to several sources of evidence (proof being impossible for AGW as it is for gravity and evolution) to show that AGW exists. Please can you state whether you accept those lines of evidence or not.

  49. @angech, and everyone,

    Consider two independent univariate Gaussian densities, one, G1, with mean zero, and unit variance, the other, G2, with mean 1 and variance 1.5. Suppose G1 represents a “how things were” situation, and G2 represents an altered state. The point at which the densities are equal is about 0.686. Suppose in a mixture one draws 1000 observations from G1, and 1000 observations from G2. Two observations:.

    First, given that an event comes from G2, about 40% of the time it will lie well under the probability mass of G1. In fact, if one asks what the probability of such events coming from G1 is, it is about 75%. Flipped, if one inspects an event from G1, even out to the mean of G2, there’s only about a 15% chance that such an event would be assigned to G2.

    Second, if there were a difference in the sample sizes drawn from the two populations, so size(G1) >> size(G2) in the mixture, the assignment of origin is even tougher, because now there’s sampling uncertainty as well.

    My point, assuming I got all the above correct, is that even if climate disruption is raging and it can be represented by such a model, there is no surprise at all that a look at the recent observational record tends to convince people nothing much is going on. The point is that looking at the recent observational record in anything but the most sophisticated way, namely, bringing prior models to the data, is going to be completely unhelpful in deciding the question. Without such prior models, the best that can be said is “We don’t know.” Of course we don’t know and, so, prior models are necessary. By the time G2 gets to having a mean of 3, we’re cooked.

  50. dikranmarsupial says:

    @hypergeometric nice. Fortunately we *do* have lots of prior knowledge/models, and it is irrational to ignore it an only look at the statistics (IMHO).

    “Indistinguishable from natural variation.” is basically setting up the null hypothesis of a NULL Hypothesis Statistical Test (NHST). However, if you are arguing *for* the null hypothesis (as angech appears to be doing here), rather than against it, then the onus is on you to evaluate the statistical power of the test to show that a failure to reject the null is surprising/informative. However that is very rarely actually done in practice. This is because NHSTs are not symmetric. A better approach is to use a test where you are arguing *against* the null hypothesis. My attempt to explain why that is here FWIW.

  51. angech says:

    Long term watcher of opinions and graphs on Arctic Sea Ice Blog. Do not see JCH there as he has more sense than to watch ice grow and shrink, like yacht racing. A friend of mine is doing a U3A presentation on Arctic Sea Ice as a proof of AGW soon which I was arguing against.
    Expecting a good skeptic 6 months re PIOMAS, Arctic sea ice extent and Global temps.
    I am going on a months holiday taking I-Pad which seems to fail overseas. Passwords get mixed up. Will probably be low/no commentating.
    If I find a good article re stats for Dikran I will put it up.
    Cheers and keep blogging.

  52. dikranmarsupial says:

    I asked ” Please give a verifiable reference to someone making this argument.”

    angech replies:

    “A friend of mine is doing a U3A presentation on Arctic Sea Ice as a proof of AGW soon which I was arguing against.”

    That is not a verifiable example.

    “If I find a good article re stats for Dikran I will put it up.”

    You need to be able to support your assertions before you make them. Making assertions that you can’t support when challenged is Frankfurterism, something I have pointed out to you before, yet you keep doing it.

  53. dikranmarsupial says:

    I also wrote

    “You asked “Just show me the proof of AGW.”, I gave links to several sources of evidence (proof being impossible for AGW as it is for gravity and evolution) to show that AGW exists. Please can you state whether you accept those lines of evidence or not.

    making requests and ignoring the answers is also hardly an indication of truth seeking scientific discussion.

  54. angech says:

    Dikran I tried a post earlier in reply but it seems to be missing, perhaps it did not send. I apologised to you in general for my intemperate arguing style.
    I try to only object to evidence that is misrepresented or on rare ocassions wrong.
    You referenced to the IPCC Climate change how do we know with a CO2 graph claiming it has never been above the 300 ppm mark in 400,000 years. Probably not true. There have been monstrous volcanic eruptions in that time producing masses of CO2.
    A small excursion of 100 ppm up for only say 30 years would not even register on that graph as it would be too short a time period to register. Correct?
    Sea level rise double from 8 inches a century to 16 inches a century in the last 2 decades.
    Yes, evidence the time span is short, only 20 years.
    Global temperature rise. Evidence of a warming world. Time span problems.
    Warming oceans since 1969. Yes.
    Declining Arctic extent and thickness over the last 2 decades.
    Yes, 20 years too short.
    Glacial retreat
    Yes glaciers are retreating in a lot of places. Yes the world is warming.
    Ocean acidification by 30% since the industrial revolution.
    Is this really a good scientific statement? A claimed PH change of 0.1 over a couple of 100 years with an extremely unreliable measuring accuracy and extremely unreliable sites around the world in an extremely unreliable solution. This is one which while textbook correct is impossible to show to show in decades.It takes 1000s of years to get a sort of change that would be statistically relevant and claiming 30% for a 0.1 change, while true, is making a deliberate mountain out of a molehill.
    Decreased spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere for 5 decades and melting earlier.
    True. The Winter stats show increased cover and earlier freezing over the same 5 decades.
    This is not worth mentioning??
    Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass from GRACE??? between 2002 and 2005 when reported in 2014. We now know that this wrong and that Antarctic ice sheets, by GRACE have actually been increasing over the last 30 years. AS per the most up to date report last year.
    You are right , there is lots of evidence of warming. The significance is the question.
    As pointed out Showing figures as short as 4 years and 20 years is not very statistically sound.
    Pointing out only the parts that agree is not great science.
    Making wrong assertions, well they were right in 2014, and not acknowledging them now is not helping.

  55. angech,

    Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass from GRACE??? between 2002 and 2005 when reported in 2014. We now know that this wrong and that Antarctic ice sheets, by GRACE have actually been increasing over the last 30 years. AS per the most up to date report last year.

    I think that is from one paper. A more recent paper says:

    In both cases, gains in East Antarctica are smaller than losses in West Antarctica.

    It’s also not the only recent paper that concludes this. It seems you’re not quite as up to date as you think you are.

  56. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech wrote “Dikran I tried a post earlier in reply but it seems to be missing, perhaps it did not send. I apologised to you in general for my intemperate arguing style.”

    Do be aware that I see your comments elsewhere, which give grounds to doubt your sincerity.

    “You referenced to the IPCC Climate change how do we know with a CO2 graph claiming it has never been above the 300 ppm mark in 400,000 years. Probably not true. There have been monstrous volcanic eruptions in that time producing masses of CO2.”

    I referred you to the entire IPCC WG1 report as a source of evidence for AGW, and picking one (unspecified) diagram is a cherry pick. Where is your data on how much CO2 those volcanic eruptions have generated? Where is your explanation of why the CO2 released by e.g. the Toba eruption doesn’t show up in the ice core records, or any of the proxies. Why don’t large volcanic eruptions like Pinatubo register on instrumental measurements of CO2? The CO2 from volcanic sources is not actually as large as some would portray it to be:

    Supereruptions are extremely rare, with recurrence intervals of 100,000–200,000 years; none have occurred historically, the most recent examples being Indonesia’s Toba volcano, which erupted 74,000 years ago, and the United States’ Yellowstone caldera, which erupted 2 million years ago. Interestingly, these calculations strongly suggest that present-day annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions may exceed the CO2 output of one or more supereruptions every year.

    [Gerlach, EOS, 2011]

    This shows the benefit of bullshit. Angech can blithely disregard the work of climatologists as “Probably not true” without presenting anything more than argument from incredulity, and makes no effort whatsoever to see if the incredulity is justifiable. To respond to the bullshit on the other hand requires going out and looking for the evidence.

    “A small excursion of 100 ppm up for only say 30 years would not even register on that graph as it would be too short a time period to register. Correct?”

    An excursion of 100ppm would not be small, and would last longer than 30 years (the adjustment time of CO2 in the atmosphere is 50-200 years, with a long tail, so there would be a detectable disturbance for thousands of years). Even a supereruption would not emit enough CO2 for a 100ppm rise in the first place (see Gerlach). So this is a bullshit question.

    I can’t be bothered with the rest of your Gish gallop as the first item demonstrates you made no genuine effort to evaluate it. I rather doubt you even read the chapter of the IPCC report that contained the diagram you are dismissing.

  57. lerpo says:

    Can Repeating False Information Help People Remember True Information?

    http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/lombrozoMI.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s