Not long ago, Richie contended that sticking to presenting true information and letting otters decide what to do, given that information, was “the neatest little summary of the linear model.” This short note should suffice to show that this claim is far from being true and that a whole fleet of Gremlins may have infiltrated communication channels between Richie and AT.
First, let’s point at this:
Then let’s point at this:
Spot the outlier:
[RG1] I’ll stick to presenting true information and letting otters decide what to do.
[LM1] Doing basic research will turn into applications that will in turn benefit society.
[LM2] Achieving agreement on scientific knowledge is a prerequisite for a political consensus to be reached and then policy action to occur.
[LM3] Specific knowledge or facts compel certain policy responses.
It’d be hard to reconcile RG1 with LM3 or even LM2.
So I see three versions of the misnomered linear model (the label was already taken and sequentiality ain’t linearity), not two. Since our Honest Broker claims there’s a stronger version, let’s assume they belong to a hierarchy of versions, even if the progression is far from being obvious. This assumption doesn’t matter much, as the only version that matters here is LM2, as the word “consensus” indicates.
All version (especially the second one) should imply something that ClimateBall ™ players now know as the deficit model, i.e. the idea that people would make better decisions with better information. This idea is as old as Plato, and as young as how Scott Adams would like to be:
[W]hen my knowledge of proper eating reached a good-enough level I dropped ten pounds without using any extra willpower whatsoever. Now I eat as much as I want, of anything I want, all day long, and I don’t gain a pound. The secret was learning how to manage my cravings. I can eat anything I want because I no longer want unhealthy foods. Knowledge replaced my need for willpower. For example, I now understand that eating simple carbs for lunch kills my energy for the rest of the day. It doesn’t take any willpower to resist doing something I know will make me feel like hell in an hour. But before I knew simple carbs were the culprit, I assumed eating in general was the problem, and I couldn’t avoid eating during the day. Knowledge solved a problem that willpower could not.
That’s crap, of course. Willpower is a bit more complex than that. Every non-hyperrational human being has his own stock of examples as to why we don’t act according to our best judgment, starting with chain smokers. This knowledge is so old there’s even a Greek name for it: Akrasia.
As one can read in that Stanford entry, our ClimateBall quandary already divided platonists and aristotelians. At least insofar as we like staging debates, because it’s easy to find some common ground between the two stances. Both positions still require that we value knowledge, truth, and rationality. Otherwise both positions would become caricatures of themselves.
Truth, truthfulness, and trust should matter to everyone, or at least to the ATs and the Richies of this world.
* * *
How to build truth, truthfulness, and trust looks like a more interesting question than Richie’s Gremlins. To that effect, the discussion sparked by Doug McNeal over the tweeter may be worthwhile to mention, in particular that clarification:
Everyone should at least agree that declarative knowledge is less actionable than procedural knowledge: that egg shells can break is less useful than to know how to make an omelet. The vividness of the second kind of knowledge lies in the storytelling: being told that scientists agree over AGW should be less powerful than to see scientists explaining us how they reached their conclusions.
There are many other ways to cut our knowledge into kinds. You already know that beyond the what and the how, there’s the why, i.e. explanations. But I’d like to finish this note by mentioning the who question: who will be telling people how some scientific knowledge has been reached?
That question matters here because by appealing to an unidentified group of scientists, consensus messaging, whatever that means, may fail to make us see scientists in action. Perhaps this is why the 97 hours of consensus reached millions. To be able to identify with whom’s talking is crucial to build trust.
As a ninja, I ought to know. My play style needs to adapt to the distrust my character brings. As someone who likes to read citations, when I see an Honest Broker talk about unidentified “scholars,” my ninja senses tingle. As a fan of Kurt Vonnegut Jr, I also ought to know that the mirror image to the Pure and Noble Scientist is a disinterested and disembodied freak who builds Ice Nine remorselessly. As a fan of Kate Marvel, I finally ought to know that there are marvelously likable climate scientists.