Civility

A recent discussion has led me to think a bit more about civility. This was partly motivated by my own intention to maintain it when I started this blog (which didn’t always succeed) and by the other party being someone who has publicly discussed how to improve the overall climate debate, and who recently promoted a call for civility in science. I think it would be great if people were more civil, but I’m not a huge fan of explicit calls for more civility. This is partly because it sometimes seems to be motivated more by a desire to deligitmise one’s critics than by a genuine desire to promote more civility, partly because we sometimes seem to value civility even when the person is mostly talking nonsense, and partly because it doesn’t even really make much sense to me.

I can understand how we can define what is unacceptable; personal attacks, prejudice, blatant rudeness, verbal abuse, harassment, etc. How, though, do we define being civil? Is sarcasm allowed? Is it okay to be a bit snarky? Do we always have to say please and thank you? Is highlighting an error that will almost certainly embarass the person who made it acceptable? My own view of what qualifies as civil is essentially “not openly rude”. Others, on the other hand, seem to have their own definitions, often – as far as I can tell – to suit their arguments (i.e., the person they disagree with is somehow being uncivil, while those they agree with are not being uncivil because what they said was jusitified). I’m essentially not convinced that we could even all agree on what actually qualifies.

So, I’m not arguing against people being civil, simply suggesting that I don’t really see the merit of people openly arguing for greater civility. If some think there would be merit in people being more civil, maybe they should really just aim to lead by example. Maybe others will follow, maybe not, but it would – at least – be a start. It would certainly be nice if there were more of it, but I also think it can be over-rated. I, for example, tend to have more time for those who aren’t always civil, but who mostly talk sense, than for those who are religiously civil, but mostly talk nonsense. Others may have different preferences, which might essentially be the point: rather than trying to tell others how to behave, just do what you think is right, because you’re really the only person whose behaviour you can control.

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152 Responses to Civility

  1. verytallguy says:

    I think we’ve been here before AT, you stinking billy-goat, you horned monster, you malevolent vituperator, father of lies and author of chaos… May Divine vengeance destroy you as an enemy of virtue, a parricide who tries to ruin wives and decency by mendacity, slanders, and most foul, false imputations. If you must be so scornfully arrogant, write your satires against those who debauch your wife.

    Yours civilly, VTG

  2. I think we’ve been here before AT

    Yes, we probably have.

  3. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Personally, I’d rather see intellectual honesty than mere civility. The semblance of civility with disingenuous argument is if anything worse than rudeness with disingenuous argument, but i’m Not sure exactly why. Honesty is a basic requirement for scientific discussion imho, politeness is a bonus.

  4. Honesty is a basic requirement for scientific discussion imho, politeness is a bonus.

    Yes, I agree. I would say, though, that if you want to actually resolve something you probably need both (in the sense that being openly rude can make your arguments seem rather unconvincing, even if they’re right).

  5. Magma says:

    I think harsh insults and crude sarcasm should be discouraged and those who run blogs have every right to set their own boundaries as to what constitutes acceptable vs. unacceptable commenting on their forums.

    That said, witty insults or deft sarcasm/irony can merit a place of honor. And given the topics that are usually discussed here, commenters should be able to grind weak scientific arguments to as fine a powder as they wish without a whisper of apology.

    A more subtle form of insult is to endlessly repeat the same disinformation or debunked memes, a tactic anyone reading this website has seen too many times to count. The time wasted on reading, thinking about, or refuting this sort of dishonest filler amounts to a form of intellectual theft.

  6. Magma says:

    “a tactic anyone reading this website has seen too many times to count”

    That came out very wrong. I meant a tactic anyone following the false ‘debate’ on climate change for any period of time has seen too many times to count.

  7. izen says:

    I think Potholer makes a strong case for civility.

  8. RICKA says:

    I am pro civility. I would recommend not name calling. That would include calling people deniers.

  9. guthrie says:

    I am for civility at first, until eventually the deniers and anti-science nutters reveal themselves, at which case who case, they deserve it.

  10. Mal Adapted says:

    I’ve made no secret of my moral judgment of committed AGW deniers. I think there’s no ‘civil’ justification for anyone who isn’t a working climate scientist to publicly challenge any of the following three propositions: the Earth’s surface is warming; the warming is anthropogenic; and its global cost, in money and tragedy, will mount as long as the large-scale anthropogenic transfer of fossil carbon to the atmosphere continues. The only reason to reject any of those statements is unwillingness to accept moral responsibility for one’s share of AGW’s costs, whether or not one is legally compelled to pay for them.

    Volunteer pseudo-skeptics who express distrust of climate scientists, but don’t acknowledge that they have even less reason to trust the AGW-denial industry, are exposing both their gullibility and their excessive self-esteem to public ridicule. They are abetting the Koch club’s Serengeti strategy, at great cost to to the rest of us.

    I do not advocate legal sanction for volunteer AGW-deniers, but IMHO AGW-denial should be no more socially acceptable than racism is. If AGW-deniers are entitled to their opinions, then within the bounds of legal liability we are equally entitled to heap scorn and derision on them, the more sophisticated the better. If they don’t like being publicly shamed, they can keep their AGW-denial to themselves.

  11. Mal Adapted says:

    Magma:

    “a tactic anyone reading this website has seen too many times to count”

    That came out very wrong. I meant a tactic anyone following the false ‘debate’ on climate change for any period of time has seen too many times to count.

    FWIW, I understood you the first time, and I see nothing wrong with what you said 8^D!

  12. angech says:

    “I don’t really see the merit of people openly arguing for greater civility.”
    ” This was partly motivated by my own intention to maintain it when I started this blog.”
    It is like a lot of philosophy in that there is no fundamentally correct position.
    Take free speech, we all have limits.
    Take hurling insults, every human group does it.

    What upset me the other day was thinking of the horrible things that people have done to others in the past and why those people, sometimes quite intelligent, found no qualms in their doing so.
    A little bit of denigration, name calling, condescension, is mile removed from the terrible physical things people have done in the past.
    Basically we define our position and to fortify it keep away other people’s views that disagree. It is uplifting and exclusive, like a Gentleman’s club and helps keep the riffraff out. Nothing wrong with that if you are a gentleman.
    -“Honesty is a basic requirement for scientific discussion, politeness is a bonus.”
    I think any blog is a gentleman’s club and the rules for civility are up to the host and gentlemen.
    It does no harm to people outside.
    Where people outside blogs on both sides are denigrated, targeted and imposed on because of their views is where it becomes upsetting.
    Now back to the science,witty insults and deft sarcasm/irony.

    BTW this blog is a model of civility compared to many on both sides where the insults swing wild and free. I have even seen commentators from here get nastily savaged on a pro warming site for being too soft and liberal. Non sarc.

  13. Francis says:

    The civility call is a not-so-subtle demand for maintaining the status quo. The whole point of protest, activism and demands for change is to force people to make big changes in their lives. That makes people uncomfortable.

    I’m old enough (just) to remember race riots in Boston in the late 70s, over busing decisions. The calls for civility then were really nothing more than a request for African-Americans to remain in their place.

  14. Ken Fabian says:

    I do try to remain civil and in the face of error and misunderstanding filled comments I will make my position clear – just once is my usual intention. But sometimes I can’t help but go another round or two. I don’t find it hard to stay within those boundaries now – but I wasn’t so constrained in the past.

    I have a strong dislike of any variants on the “kill them” or “wish they would die” type of comments – truly not necessary or helpful. I don’t use “denier” without specifying them as “climate science denier” but that’s just me conforming to a kind of Political Correctness; I think the association with holocaust denial is (almost) never intentional but I use a more precise phrasing to prevent the faux accusations of such intent and the diversions that they can provoke.

  15. Bob Loblaw says:

    Being civil is one way to make your opponent blow a fuse, which can be a tactic all on its own. I’ve been accused (at work) of being uncivil (or stronger words) by pointing out in fairly civil terms that someone is full of $#!^.. Some people take being told they are wrong as a personal attack.

    Accusing someone of being uncivil is often, as others here have suggested, a tactic to deflect attention away from the argument. The person who raises civility is often the worst offender. It’s much like what I call “the free speech looneys”, who seem to think that you exercising your right to free speech is an infringement of their right to free speech. They think their right to speak is a right to speak unopposed.

    The most amusing (In a rather shocking way) example of incivility I have seen in my many years on the Internet is the recent thread on Eli’s Green Plate Theory:

    http://rabett.blogspot.ca/2017/10/an-evergreen-of-denial-is-that-colder.html

    One person in particular (a rather bizarre example of a physics denier) has a real potty mouth. I’ve wondered how bad it has to get before Eli starts to remove comments – given what hasn’t been moderated, but then I remember that Eli is from Brooklyn:

    http://rabett.blogspot.ca/2014/11/how-to-talk-to-someone-who-denies.html
    http://rabett.blogspot.ca/2014/11/blacks-lament.html

  16. David B. Benson says:

    In an attempt to indicate just how bad the excess carbon dioxide levels will be, I devised an “if this goes on” to show we are headed for mid-Pliocene climate. Being accused of piling assumption upon assumption by someone who doesn’t actually seem to understand climatology very well despite his claim to be a scientist I chose to summarize the argument in
    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/561/back-future
    I do hope this is both correct as well as civil.

  17. Rick,

    I am pro civility. I would recommend not name calling. That would include calling people deniers.

    I’m pro-civility too, but I’m simply not that keen on explicit calls for others to be more civil. I try to avoid using “denier”, but I can see circumstances where others might see it as appropriate – there are certainly people who are denying something that is almost certainly true and who will almost certainly not engage in substantive debate. It might be nice not to call them “deniers” but that would be the only reason for not doing so (many of those who warrant it seem quite comfortable using labels to describe others).

    Ken,

    I have a strong dislike of any variants on the “kill them” or “wish they would die” type of comments – truly not necessary or helpful.

    Yes, I do too. These are the kinds of things that I would regard as easily defined as unacceptable.

  18. Marco says:

    “The semblance of civility with disingenuous argument is if anything worse than rudeness with disingenuous argument, but i’m Not sure exactly why”

    Passion vs ratio, maybe? The rude person appears to react from their gut, the civil one appears to use their brain.

  19. Bob,
    I think that person finds it harder to comment than on Rabett Run. The problem, though, is that if you try to moderate to keep things civil, you can get accussed of censorship (although, most people are reasonable enough to recognise that moderation sometimes just happens). If you moderate less, things can get out of hand. It’s a bit of a balancing act.

  20. Eli Rabett says:

    +1 for accussed. As to moderation even a Bunny has limits which have been reached.

  21. +1 for accussed.

    Unintentional, I have to admit.

  22. AT, you stinking billy-goat, you horned monster, you malevolent vituperator, father of lies and author of chaos, I would accept climate change is real if only you guys were more civil.

  23. Bob Loblaw says:

    “…moderate….censorship…”

    Well, that’s the other side of the “free speech looney” card I mentioned. The civility troll will use a lack of civility on your part as an excuse to ignore the substantive part of your argument, while any attempt to call them on their incivility (either as moderator or participant) will be viewed as censorship. Different blogs have different balance points. I’m sure that BP over at Eli’s thinks (s)he’s “winning bigly”, whereas it’s obvious to nearly everyone else that (s)he is Dunning-Kruger on steroids with zero social skills.

    …but now I have just labelled someone! Oh, my. Well, I didn’t use the D word, but … it is almost impossible to engage in a discussion without using words, and labels are just more words. I reserve the D-word for those that really deserve it, and I think I am more likely to use it in the -al form than the -er form (focusing on the action rather than the person). When labels are used to concisely summarize a series of statements or position, I don’t hesitate, but what is uncivil is to use a label as a pejorative to associate unrelated bad qualities on someone. {“…but that’s communism!!!…”}

    And I agree: using polite words but refusing to engage in honest discussion is very uncivil in my eyes. I am not bothered by the occasional cuss word or impolite comment if it is accompanied by substantive debate.

    P.S. I enjoy Eli’s – as I said, the thread I linked to is amusing in certain ways. No problems in my mind on how he runs his blog. I given up on Stoat’s though – tired of seeing legitimate discussion dismissed as “uninteresting” and positions mislabeled with statements like “you just want more regulation…”.

  24. Bob Loblaw says:

    P.S. Comment appears to be in moderation – perhaps because of the two words of ATTP’s that I quote at the beginning!

  25. Bob,
    I think it was actually “troll”. I should maybe go through my moderation words and just relax it somewhat.

  26. Willard says:

  27. dikranmarsupial says:

    “(in the sense that being openly rude can make your arguments seem rather unconvincing, even if they’re right).”

    indeed. Discussing science is a lot more productive when it is focused on the content rather than the style of the argument, however this is difficult for those that want to argue about things that they don’t really have the basis to understand the content, at which point tone/style seems to become an (unreliable) proxy.

    I agree about the point of not making general calls for good behaviour, but trying to be well behaved yourself, however that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t point out specific instances of bad behaviour when you see it.

  28. that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t point out specific instances of bad behaviour when you see it.

    I agree, one can certainly call out examples of bad behaviour. Of course, in some cases, the problem that I can see is that this won’t stop people from defining behaviour as bad when it isn’t really (as, I would argue, happened on Twitter yesterday) or those being called out having some kind of justification for their conduct. However, I do think it is easier to define what is unacceptable than to specify what is acceptable.

  29. Bob Loblaw says:

    “…moderation… just relax it somewhat…”

    Or, as I did, relax and wait for the post to clear moderation… Nothing I say is really that urgent.

  30. Trol, with one more l or without r seem like perfect moderation words. Normally nothing good will follow.

    ATTP: “(in the sense that being openly rude can make your arguments seem rather unconvincing, even if they’re right).

    dikranmarsupial: “indeed. Discussing science is a lot more productive when it is focused on the content rather than the style of the argument,

    Within science it is because within science it is possible to convince people with arguments. Being civil helps a scientist to stay in science mode and not to switch to human mode and feel attacked.

    With people who made attacking climate science their identity there is nothing that can move their public claims. These interactions are for any audience present. Showing at least some emotions can help the audience understand better what is going on.

    When Pielke Jr. write his piece in FiveThirtyEight the reply by Kerry Emmanuel was a slaughter feast. If someone is ever able to write such a piece about my work, I would leave science. My impression at the time was that many did not get how brutal the reply was because it was so scientific.

  31. Joshua says:

    It seems to me that civility is an important issue in a sense, in that it is a sense of a lack of a growing lack of incivility is a reflection of the perhaps objectively measurable increasing levels of partisanship:

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/28/politics/poll-politics-low-point/index.html

    Amid a growing partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans, a new poll shows that 71% of Americans believe the country’s politics have reached a dangerous low point in the Trump era.

    According to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released Saturday, only 29% said they believed this period in American politics is “similar to most periods of disagreement.” And the majority of participants who said politics have reached a dangerous low point said the climate is a “new normal,” not “temporary.”

    In that sense, I think that the focus on civility probably really reflects an authentic concern about the possibility that the fabric of our society is unraveling at the seams a bit.

    But on the other hand, I think that a putative concern about civility is a bit of a red herring – which as alluded to above in the OP and some of the comments, is often, cynically used primarily as a way to advance partisan goals. I think of the oft’ found theme of: “If only those poopyheads would stop calling us poopyheads, we could sit down to have reasonable interactions.” For example, how often have we found in the climate wars something on the order of “The constant name-calling, like calling me a denier, just shows that the fraudulent, capitalist-hating alarmists could never be reasoned with?”

    IMO, what matters more than civility is good faith. They are obviously similar concepts, with overlap, but I think not quite the same. IMO, what is important is that people engage with an assumption that interlocutors are sincere in their beliefs with a sincere intent – primarily to exchange views for mutual benefit and learning. If you start with views such as some of those expressed by Mal above, then good faith exchange is not possible. Without good faith, then the existence of civility or lack thereof is, IMO, basically irrelevant.

    That isn’t to say that I think that attributing malevolent or insincere intent isn’t ever justified. But I do think that judging intent is extremely difficult unless you have a great deal of detailed evidence. It certainly seems to me that it is very easy to think that you have enough evidence to judge intent when in reality, you don’t. Often, IMO, assessments of intent are a kind of circular system – whereby you project an impression of malevolent intent as a form of confirmation bias. That system, it seems to me, can often be found in the real world at many levels, even between people who have important and close relationships. I think that often I have found that I have misjudged intent in others, who are close to me, as a form of projecting my own fears or insecurities . But in a modern medium of exchange,- where we are much likely to be exchanging views with people where we lack context and real world evidence that might inform us of intent – it seems to me that the danger of determining intent w/o sufficient information is exacerbated.

  32. Joshua says:

    Wow. That first paragraph was a total mess. Not to say that the others weren’t also. But I think if you ignore all conventions of grammar and syntax, you might be able to understand what I was going for. 🙂

  33. Joshua,

    IMO, what matters more than civility is good faith.

    I agree. I’m certainly have more time for those who appear to be trying to engage in good faith even if they aren’t always civil and don’t always get things right. Of course, it’s maybe hard to judge if someone is actually trying to engage in good faith, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt for a while at least, if it appears that people are at least trying.

  34. Joshua says:

    BTW – as I think about it, it strikes me that the responsibility for good faith exchange is bilateral. It isn’t enough to assume sincerity and honesty on the part of one’s interlocutor, but also it means accepting responsibility for doing as much as one can to establish one’s own sincerity and honesty. Basic techniques such as distinguishing between “I-statements” and “you-statements can help, being “civil” is another such “basic” technique. Of course, accepting responsibility also means displaying accountability for failure in those regards – such as apologizing for being uncivil. IMO, awareness of tools used in conflict resolution, stakeholder dialog, etc. can help.

  35. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Of course, it’s maybe hard to judge if someone is actually trying to engage in good faith,..

    Indeed. It can help to have an external structure, such as a basic format of stakeholder dialog or consensus building where the end result is a shared responsibility and ownership over the final outcome. But what do you do when no such external structure exists? How can you effectively assess the “faith” of one’s interlocutor? It’s a tough nut.

  36. How can you effectively assess the “faith” of one’s interlocutor? It’s a tough nut.

    Indeed, I can’t claim that I’ve managed to work out some kind of effective way of doing this.

  37. izen says:

    Eli’s GPE and the incivility it prompted has been raised, so perhaps this is no entirely off topic…
    Would this be a civil response, or even intelligible!

  38. Andrew J Dodds says:

    Izen – more like classy, I’d say. You’d need peril-sensitive sunglasses to deny it..

  39. izen says:

    Thanks!
    Simplified thermodynamic system.
    If Each ball=40J

    Then without the Green box the Blue box would receive and emit 150J/sec and working back from S.B, emitted E=T^4, has a temp of ~ 196K

    With the Green box returning and extra 10J/sec to the Blue box as back radiation it emits 160J/sec and has a temp of 200K.
    The Green box receiving and emitting 40J/sec has a temp of ~141K

  40. Civility is over-rated. Nick Stokes has the patience of Job, and maybe AW would have banned him from the site years ago if Nick wasn’t civil, but I’m not sure the results have really been any different. I hope Nick has changed some minds over there or at least cuased a few of the denizens to think, but it’s hard to tell.

    Most of the time tone trolls are just that – trolling. And most people that are civil get civility in return. If not I think observers can draw their own conclusions and it generally benefits those that *are* civil

    Myself, there are certain viewpoints and repeated exposure to them, to which ridicule is the only real rebuttal.

  41. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “But I think if you ignore all conventions of grammar and syntax, you might be able to understand what I was going for. 🙂”

    Perhaps I should be worried that it made sense to me !
    The problem with a good faith dialog and avoiding partisanship, is that declaring that the other side is beyond the reach rational argument has become a key component of tribal flagging.
    As any tabloid, (or Guardian?) comments section displays, assertions of the inherent duplicity and ignorance of your opponents is often the ONLY dialog that is valued.
    That the other side thinks that there IS a ‘good faith’ discussion about the ‘matter’ is cited as evidence of this malicious idiocy.

  42. Susan Anderson says:

    Here’s another example from my beleaguered country of phony “free speech”. The white supremacists wanted to hold a “free speech” rally here in Boston after Charlottesville some months ago. 40 of them showed up. 40,000 of us (not including me) showed up. I was so proud of my city!

  43. Steven Mosher says:

    ya probably want something beyond boni fides

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

    When one side sees the planet being at risk, and the other side sees their present economic well being at stake, my sense is neither can really commit to a good faith or utmost good faith discussion.

    Uberrima fides comes rather close to describing the approach of “science” where full disclosure is required. This of course gets us back to the Schneider dilemma.

  44. dikranmarsupial says:

    I think NIck Stokes does a great job at WUWT, as does Ferdinand Engelbeen, who is also apparently tirelessly civil. They may not make much progress with the denizens, but they do an excellent job of providing the material for any lurkers who might otherwise read the articles and think they may have some merit (occasionally they do. but sadly not very often).

    SM there are also those who see the planet and their economic well being at stake and want to approach the dilemma in a rational manner. Good faith is easy, you just need to choose to have it, and work on your biases rather than leave them to accumulate. Sadly in the online debate another cause of bad faith is people just wanting to have an argument (or enjoy watching one) without caring about the validity of the argument.

  45. angech says:

    “When one side sees the planet being at risk, and the other side sees their present economic well being at stake,”
    False dichotomy.
    “Those evil money grubbing capitalist deniers” against the saintly save the worlders?
    1-0 of course for the Captain Planets.
    What about those who see the planet at risk v those who do not see the planet at this particular risk without sidetracking?

  46. Eli Rabett says:

    Izen +2. Where are you hiding it?

  47. JeffH says:

    RickA has his feelings all hurt by being called a denier. Tough. He is a denier. The term is entirely appropriate to describe the vast majority of those who continue to insist that humanity fiddles while Rome burns. The problem with civility is that we are running out of time. Those distorting science to promote nakedly political and economic agendas are not sceptics, or contrarians etc. These terms tend to legitimize them, as if they are just honest brokers in search of the truth. They are not honest; they are a veritable bunch of liars who will continue to deny, deny, and deny until we are over the precipice and plunging into the abyss. Furthermore, check out the language of many denier blogs and compare that with the discourse on most blogs that support AGW theory. Denier blogs routinely resort to ad hom smears. The contrast is actually quite striking.

    As for Ferdinand Engelbeen, I don’t care how civil he is. He is IMHO a complete layman and a denier. The fact that he writes gibberish on a vile site like WUWT is far more important to me than his alleged ‘civility’. Folks, this is not a scientific debate but a street fight and it has to be seen in this light. I am a tenured Professor and I have been engaging with climate change deniers and anti-environmentalists for over 20 years. The vast majority of these people camouflage their political biases with shoddy science. I have been trying to encourage more of my peers to leave their ivory towers to descend into the trenches to counter the lies and distortions of the deniers. I have a major paper coming out soon – you will all know about it as soon as it clears the embargo period – with some very esteemed co-authors in which we do just that. I teach a course in scientific advocacy at the Free University in Amsterdam and I encourage my students to more critically evaluate what they read in the social and mainstream media when it comes to environmental science with policy implications. Again, I have no time for being civil with an army of dishonest people.

  48. Steven Mosher says:

    angech,

    When one side sees the planet being at stake and another side see their economic well being being at stake, then the utmost good faith is not possible.

    Note. I should be clear that there are more than these sides. I am rather trying to raise an issue about the lmits of good faith and the utmost good faith.

    In short, when folks tend to see that the stakes are really high, they ca be more likely to value those stakes HIGHER than they value their commitment to the utmost good faith.

    Put another way, if you thought I could take away all your money, would you lie to thwart me?
    If you thought that a lie would save the planet would you tell one?
    which do you value more your good faith or your livelihood? or your good faith or the planet?

    Yes yes we hope to preserve all these values… but thats not the question.

    Or you could consider the schneider dilemma: IF you

    a) Thought Science X was true
    b) Thought that others belief in this was important.
    c) Thought that explaining all the possible caveats to science X, might lead some
    to wrongly question X
    d) Thought that belief in X was vital to saving the planet

    would you skimp on explaining all the uncertainties?.
    Note this is not telling a lie, but rather, not telling every last detail about every last uncertainty?
    would you avoid the utmost good faith to preserve the planet or your livelihood?

  49. Steven Mosher says:

    “. I am a tenured Professor and I have been engaging with climate change deniers and anti-environmentalists for over 20 years. ”

    Thank you for your service.
    Every day folks come to me and explain that you changed their hearts and minds with your love and tolerance.
    good job ! we need more like you!

  50. Steven Mosher: “When one side sees the planet being at risk, and the other side sees their present economic well being at stake, my sense is neither can really commit to a good faith or utmost good faith discussion.

    I hope you just wanted to say, that both sides feel the issue is important.

    For every dollar we invest in reducing CO2 emissions we get dozens of dollars back in reductions in damages. Even according our blond Danish propagandist. Thus fighting for less climate action is the de-growth strategy.

    If you give up morals (norms and institutions) to achieve your aims, you lose both. That was an important lesson from WWII, which people seem to start to forget, especially Trump Republicans.

    Steven Mosher: “d) Thought that belief in X was vital to saving the planet
    would you skimp on explaining all the uncertainties?

    More uncertainty is more risk. More reason to act. The uncertainty monster is not our friend.

  51. Steven Mosher says:

    Victor.. Im not talking about climate change. Im talking about X

  52. Willard says:

    > Uberrima fides comes rather close to describing the approach of “science” where full disclosure is required.

    Yet everything from the Contrarian Matrix remains caveat emptor, e.g:

    The planet’s not at stake. We are.

    So let’s underwrite deeply uncertain checks.

  53. angech says:

    “If you thought that a lie would save the planet would you tell one?”

    too tough.
    I would really not want to tell a lie.
    Not even to save the planet.
    What sort of planet do I have to live on to tell a lie to save it?
    Surely telling the truth would be better, and still try to save the planet.
    I do not think this is a fair choice.
    Others may think differently but I think that most people trying to save the planet genuinely believe the things they say are true.

    Smaller scale
    I would really not want to tell a lie.
    Caused me a lot of problems in my life being too naive when younger.
    Does not mean On a balance of real life options that a lie may seem better in the overall scheme of things. Crops up with family medical problems where people do not want to give loved ones a diagnosis. I have always felt miserable and compromised about being put in a position. I always advise them to be honest and talk to the family member about it. Does not always happen.
    Lies have a way of being found out.
    The truth is nearly always better though quite unpalatable at times.

  54. russellseitz says:

    JeffH:”I have no time for being civil with an army of dishonest people.”

    The good news is that a platoon of poltroons does not add up to an army- Heartland’s lists of “300 scientists” and ” 400 scientific papers” largely represent wishful thinking on the part of the grifters, propagandists and PR flacks who commission them as advertising tools.

    The bad news is that calling their propaganda propagands does not absolve the propagandists who oppose them of putting the idea of disinterested ( and civil) scientific discourse at risk.

  55. Steven Mosher says:

    “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

    Note my reference above to the “utmost good faith” go read that definition.

    let’s put it this way.. when the stakes are sufficiently high in any contencious issue,
    “civility, good faith, and the utmost good faith” are the last things you can probably expect or demand. It would be nice if it were different.

    Schneider had it right… there is an ethical dilemma.
    That should tell you something about what you can expect in terms of what to expect when opposing forces meet

  56. angech says:

    “If you give up morals (norms and institutions) to achieve your aims, you lose both. That was an important lesson from WWII, which people seem to start to forget, especially Trump Republicans.”

    To overcome an enemy one becomes the enemy.

    I would rather not support some of the Republican views but cannot support possibly mistaken zeal. Only answer is more open science and discussion until there is certainty. The fact that you can see and know the certainty but cannot convey it absolutely to people like Judith and Roger and 45% of the voting US public means there is more work to be done.

  57. Willard says:

    When issuing a correction on the Lomborg Collective and Schneider’s quotation, John Rennie first recalls the Schneider quote and reminds that that the bind wasn’t a real dilemma:

    The misused quotation in question appeared in an interview with Schneider in the October 1989 issue of Discover magazine. Schneider was reflecting on the sometimes grueling difficulty of being both technically accurate and understandable to the public when explaining climate science.

    On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but—which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.

    http://blogs.plos.org/retort/2013/08/13/a-correction-on-lomborg-and-schneiders-quotation/

    Second he adds the most civil caveats, so civil in fact they deserve to be quoted in full:

    Really, though, that was probably just an innocent slip on Lomborg’s part, because let’s face it, Schneider was incidental damage in this passage; SciAm and I were his real targets. That’s why Lomborg was speculating airily (and wrongly, because I hadn’t read the Discover interview) that we might have been inspired by Schneider’s words to be misleading. I understand how that happens: heat of the moment, and all that. No offense taken here, and of course it’s all very old news today. Lomborg was just engaging in some strong rhetoric.

    It’s too bad, though, because in his conversations with me it was obvious that Schneider regarded Lomborg’s passage as yet another repetition of Simon’s lie. Remember, Lomborg was writing this in late 2001 or early 2002. Schneider had publicly corrected Simon’s misquotation in 1996, more than five years earlier, and he considered it highly unlikely that Lomborg was unfamiliar with the substance of his answer to Simon.

    How could it be another repetition when Lomborg noted Schneider’s desire for scientists to be honest and effective, as so many others did not? Perhaps it goes to perceptions of actual intent, and not merely the words on a page. Some might say the problem is that if you understand that Schneider was firmly opposed to ends-justify-the-means dishonesty in climate science explanations, then the only respectable reason to cite the Discover quote is to make that point. If you bring up the quote for the purpose of hinting that Schneider maybe sometimes suggested lying to the public was okay , then it seems like you’re misusing it no matter how many extenuating phrases reflecting the true meaning you attach.

    Or maybe that’s just reading too much into the situation. Lomborg is a careful writer, and he seems to have included every reasonable disclaimer that Schneider definitely did not want to lie to the public. Really, I can’t see why Schneider would have a complaint with this. Can you?

    When the Lomborg Collective sells you an indirect quote, reach out for your wallet.

    WARNING. Batteries non included. May contain nuts. Use within the first five decades for optimal freshness. Reading that quote may cause side-effects like information deficit disorders and increased rationality.

    EDIT. Added a quote end tag. Replaced “NB” with “WARNING”. Deleted a “that.”

  58. I would argue that Schneider claimed there is a *practical* dilemma, which means you have to put in work to ensure you do both. The shorter the sound bite the media grants you the harder it is. Fortunately, we have the internet now and there is more information than anyone will ever read, likely even more information than anyone can read.

  59. Willard says:

    StephenS simply rediscovers Grice’s maxim of quantity, VeeV:

    Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange). Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_principle#Grice.27s_maxims

    What the Lomborg Collective did was to hint that this conflicted with Grice’s supermaxim of quality, i.e. Try to make your contribution one that is true.

    In other words, the Lomborg Collective’s underwriting fails basics of pragmatics.

    EDIT. Added “of quality”.

  60. russellseitz says:

    VV: “More uncertainty is more risk. More reason to act. The uncertainty monster is not our friend.”
    It was ever so.
    At the nadir of the Little Ice Age, five centuries ago, a spear-shaking climate warrior wrote:

    And through this distemperature we see
    The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
    Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
    …The spring, the summer,
    The childing autumn, angry winter, change
    Their wonted liveries, and the mazèd world
    …now knows not which is which.

  61. russellseitz: “At the nadir of the Little Ice Age, five centuries ago, a spear-shaking climate warrior wrote:

    Historian Sam White argued in the Climate History Podcast that the main problem of the little ice age in Europe was not that the winters were cold, but that the weather was unpredictable.

    Theoretically, science could help reduce this uncertainty this time. If only people would listen rather than harass scientists for their inconvenient message. If only governments would act to protect their communities rather than forbid civil servants to use the term “climate change”.

  62. russellseitz says:

    Victor, the sonnet excerpt appears in Sam White’s book, which I highly recommend-

    A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America
    Sam White Harvard University Press, 361 pp., $29.95

  63. russellseitz says:

    OTOH, Shakespeare may be recycling the admonitory quote from Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound that appears on the wall of the main NAS auditorium as:

    Of stormy winter, flowering spring and fruitfull summer
    They had no certain knowledge on which they could depend
    And not knowing, they wrought all things in confusion

  64. Steven Mosher says:

    the question is simple.
    willard.
    would you leave out some caveat to save the planet。?
    would you leave out some caveat to save us,?

    good faith question. its not even about climate science.
    marsup…attp… angech. joshua..
    anyone?

    this is a basic question. a simple yes or no.
    its not even about climate science.

  65. Steven,

    would you leave out some caveat to save the planet。?
    would you leave out some caveat to save us,?

    Maybe you need to provide some additional context, but I don’t think that advocates have to provide all caveats; they can provide arguments for something without having to provide arguments against. So, as a member of a democratic society, I don’t think I would necessarily provide all caveats if I was openly advocating for something. As a scientist, though, if I were asked to provide information for – for example – policy makers, then I would endeavour to provide all necessary caveats (although I’m not convinced one could easily define what this is).

  66. Willard says:

    > the question is simple.

    Ze question, again.

  67. Mal Adapted says:

    aTTP:

    I try to avoid using “denier”, but I can see circumstances where others might see it as appropriate – there are certainly people who are denying something that is almost certainly true and who will almost certainly not engage in substantive debate. It might be nice not to call them “deniers” but that would be the only reason for not doing so

    Deniers deny by their words, so ‘AGW-denier’ is an easily verifiable description. It’s also pejorative, because denial in the psychological sense, “in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence”, isn’t respectable even if it “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”; and figuratively, AGW-denial does both!

    There may be people who say AGW-denial is morally equivalent to Holocaust-denial, but they’re responsible for their own words, and in any case they have no authority to re-define ‘deny’, ‘denial’ and ‘denier’ to refer always and only to the Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust is hardly the only uncomfortable fact one might wish to deny, and AGW-denial carries its own heavy moral burden.

    So, AGW-deniers who object to being called that are cravenly playing the victim. It’s nothing more than an obvious rhetorical ploy:

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

    Sorry, AGW-deniers, you aren’t master of those words. If you don’t like being called that, don’t deny AGW in public.

  68. Steven Mosher says:

    thank you victor.
    i think that means you are a good partner for good faith discussion. on any subject.

  69. Steven Mosher says:

    the evasiveness wrt a simple question reminds me of that potholer video.

    its also a sign of a bad potential partner for good faith discussion.

    of any kind on any topic.

  70. Willard says:

    How to burden anyone with anything in three steps:

    (1) Ask that person any question.
    (2) Tell that person that unless the question is answered, some negative effect follows.
    (3) Return to (1) until satisfied.

    A variation:

    ***

    Schneider’s bind is not a trade-off between the quality and the quantity of a message (i.e. truthfulness and efficacy), but between the amount of information that would optimize efficacy. Saying too much makes the audience snore. Saying too little confuses the audience.

    Finding a good trade-off is something a very old discipline tries to answer. This is still an open problem. There would be a way to create a Goldilocks Dutch book to make any speaker S lose: posit an audience when one person says “you say too much!” and another who asks for more and more caveats.

    This discipline is called rhetoric.

    ***

    If you ask someone a question where only one response makes you that person a valid interlocutor, you’re asking a rhetorical question.

    Burdening people with irrelevant, rhetorical questions at the very least lacks civility.

    EDIT. Deleted a “you” and replaced by “that person”.

  71. Willard says:

    Let’s push ze question a bit further:

    Would you lie to save something or someone you hold dear?

    Could be one of your kid. Could be your parent. Your spouse. The world.

    Anything.

    Imagine a setup where the very existence of that something or that someone depends upon your speech act. If you tell the truth, it ceases to exist. If you lie, it persists.

    Would you lie?

    Kant would say no – you always have to tell the truth.

    Somehow, this response is not that popular.

  72. Steven Mosher says:

    “If you ask someone a question where only one response makes you that person a valid interlocutor, you’re asking a rhetorical question.”

    Except I havent done that.

    Victor answers Yes. So, we of course can continue in the process of deciding if the other party continues to be a good candidate

    Wht if you answer no?

    ‘its also a sign of a bad potential partner for good faith discussion.”

    Note the words I chose carefully

    1. a SIGN, only a sign.
    2. Potential, not necessarily.

    So if some one answers no, there may be more things I want to know before I accept them
    as partner in a good faith discussion. Or I may practice good faith myself and decide to be very aware of the other parties willingness to shade the truth.

    WRT to the Lie question.

    I already posed it that way up thread. Decided it was better to focus the discussion away from good faith in climate questions and address it in general, and then to look at the harder question of “utmost good faith”

  73. Steven Mosher says:

    “Most recent blog post
    https://izenmeme.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/back-radiation-and-the-2nd-law-of-thermodynamics/

    I really really like this, especially as a visual thinker

  74. izen says:

    @-SM
    “I really really like this, especially as a visual thinker”

    Thank you.
    A picture is worth a thousand words.
    Animation at 30 pictures per second… (grin)

    @-“the question is simple.
    would you leave out some caveat to save the planet。?
    would you leave out some caveat to save us,?…
    this is a basic question. a simple yes or no.”

    The question is NOT simple and has no simple answer.
    It is entierly context dependent with the specific caveat, the issue and the audience all factors.

    Cleaving to an absolute principle of ‘honesty’ divorced from context is evidence of an undeveloped ethical insight.

  75. dikranmarsupial says:

    good faith question. its not even about climate science.
    marsup…attp… angech. joshua..
    anyone?

    this is a basic question. a simple yes or no.
    its not even about climate science.”

    I didn’t see a simple yes/no question, but I’m usually willing to give a straight answer to a direct question.

    would you leave out some caveat to save the planet。?
    would you leave out some caveat to save us,?

    ?

    No and no, but I would leave the caveats until we had reached agreement on the basics. The thing I want most is for society to act rationally and democratically, the former requires we consider all the factors that matter, the second requires we communicate them (at some point). I realize I might be somewhat of an outlier on this one.

  76. dikranmarsupial says:

    izen, the animation is excellent.

    Cleaving to an absolute principle of ‘honesty’ divorced from context is evidence of an undeveloped ethical insight.

    yes, quite possibly.

  77. dikranmarsupial says:

    WRT civility. A very good reason to be civil is to avoid backing yourself into a corner where you can’t admit you were wrong without making yourself look utterly stupid in front of your own group. I’ve seen this repeatedly explaining the “mass balance” argument (which is by no means “gibberish”) on skeptic blogs. There are those that are utterly dismissive of it and insulting towards those who explain it, and are then left in a position where they won’t even answer simple questions, such as whether the carbon cycle obeys conservation of mass, because they know it is a matter of algebra from that point. So instead they have to repeat the same misinterpretations of the equation (normally arguing that it is a model of the carbon cycle rather than a constraint). Of course this keeps the peanut gallery happy, but just end up marginalising themselves from being taken seriously elsewhere. A bit less hubris makes it easier to accept being wrong when you are.

  78. Sheldon says:

    Civility is a very dangerous thing.

    It can lead to cooperation.

    And nobody wants that, do they?

  79. Steven Mosher says:

    izen.
    your devotion to honesty is dependent on context. I get that. it seems to mean that i would then have to know what context you think is relevant. do you just decide these contexts willy nilly or is there some principle.

    how do engage with me if i tell you my honesty with you will depend on circumstances.

    perhaps cleaving to the principle that circumstances rule the day is the undeveloped insight.

  80. Steven Mosher says:

    marsup just moved the question to a different set of values.

    his question would now be

    would you act irrationally or undemocraticly to save us?

    victors epitaph is easy. he lived for and died for the the truth. his choice. the single choice of an individual. i would not stand to second guess that or call it undeveloped or irrational or whatever. His choice.

    for marsup i imagine he would not choose to live an irrational life. the irrational life is not worth living. here lies the rational man. a fine choice.

    we are coming close to a different meaning of the term good faith:

  81. Steven,
    Are we talking honesty, or are we talking caveats. As you said here

    let’s put it this way.. when the stakes are sufficiently high in any contencious issue,
    “civility, good faith, and the utmost good faith” are the last things you can probably expect or demand. It would be nice if it were different.

    which, sadly, is probably true. I might not expect an advocate (someone with an open agenda) to provide all caveats when promoting their agenda. However, I would still expect them to be honest (in the sense of not saying things that are clearly untrue). I would also expect people to be honest about their role. In other words, don’t pretend to be an honest broker when you’re acting as an advocate.

  82. izen says:

    @-SM
    “your devotion to honesty is dependent on context. “

    Not quite, honesty, what it is and how you define it is dependent on context. My, or your devotion to the abstract concept is largely irrelevent.

    @-“do you just decide these contexts willy nilly or is there some principle.”

    It is not entirely arbitrary, but exactly what is, or is not honest can only be decided from the context. It is by no means clear that omitting caveats would in all, or any cases be dishonest.

    @-“how do engage with me if i tell you my honesty with you will depend on circumstances.”

    By finding our what the circumstances are.

    @-“perhaps cleaving to the principle that circumstances rule the day is the undeveloped insight.”

    I have always struggled to get beyond pragmatism and accept abstract concepts.

  83. dikranmarsupial says:

    “for marsup i imagine he would not choose to live an irrational life.”

    we do not have that choice, or biological hardware prevents us from being rational (at least reliably so), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim to be rational on the important things that affect society

    “the irrational life is not worth living. here lies the rational man. a fine choice. ”

    I don’t think it particularly civil to request a direct answer to a question and then take the piss (even subtly by chariacature) out of somebody who answers for the answers they give.

  84. Susan Anderson says:

    In general, the use of “civility” complaints is endemic to invalid (in both senses of the word) arguments. I just had one at my home turf NYTimes from a guy who responded to a my effort with this opening remark: “Gee Susan, And I thought you had developed some civility.” Given what had gone before, that’s intended to prevent people from looking at the material. (I was a little snarky, now I look back again; this guy is hard core and getting better at pretense.)

    One must remember that when dealing with arguments that don’t stand up to real scientific honesty that claim to be honester than most real science, this is tactical misrepresentation to gain an advantage. Most respondents here, like Richard Tol, are masters of changing the subject in this way, avoiding content and facts in favor of discrediting the writer or speaker.

    Over time, I have decided that since I haven’t given up hope that we can all work together to solve problems, I need to speak to opponents with respect and avoid insult (idiot and moron are not useful unless you are getting your yah-yahs out, idiotic and moronic as some of the arguments are). I can hope that once in a while someone will look at the material itself, and if I insult them or tell them they are flat-earthers, that’s a conversation ender. We need them, whether we like it or not.

    In addition, being expertise-challenged myself, I have to point past myself and stick to statements I feel I can support. However, a blizzard of technicalities is also a turnoff. Putting something in simple lay terms can be useful.

  85. Willard says:

    Would you lie to save your own life?

    There. Simple.

  86. Willard says:

    Still waiting.

    If you don’t answer, you know what that means.

    If you do answer and don’t respond like I want, you know that that means too.

    Thank you.

  87. Susan Anderson says:

    Willard, I’d suggest it’s not that simple. Would you lie in a way that hurts somebody else to save your life? Would you lie to save yourself if as far as you could discern it would hurt nobody? [not entering the thickets of whether that discernment is accurate, which it often is not …]

    I’d say yes, if I thought there was no harm. And I would lie to save somebody else too. A direct example: Dad’s doctor recently told me a hospital evaluation would only take a day. Triage … very much not true, but in the best interests of all concerned, to the best of their ability. Questions of this nature are part of medical training in patient treatment.

    Too bad climate change is not treated as the public health problem it is.

  88. Willard says:

    > I’d suggest it’s not that simple.

    That’s what I’m suggesting too, Susan. Simplicity is not often related to the amount of words. It’s not as if we never have been entertained with greenline tests before.

    I agree with you that AGW could be presented as a public health issue:

    Presentations about climate change that encourage people to consider its human health relevance appear likely to provide many Americans with a useful and engaging new frame of reference. Information about the potential health benefits of specific mitigation-related policy actions appears to be particularly compelling. We believe that the public health community has an important perspective to share about climate change, a perspective that makes the problem more personally relevant, significant, and understandable to members of the public.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898822/

  89. Joshua says:

    let’s put it this way.. when the stakes are sufficiently high in any contencious issue,
    “civility, good faith, and the utmost good faith” are the last things you can probably expect or demand. It would be nice if it were different.

    Well, “expect” and “demand” are different (the difference is important, IMO), and both are different than “strive for.”

    Extrapolating from the blogosphere is risky – although it does seem to me that what we see in the blogosphere is ever becoming more generalizable to the real world.

    But there are situations where discussions over public policy and or scientific reasoning take place in an environment of good faith (and where civility is likely an operative attribute).

    But if you’re mixing it up in the blogosphere, IMO, it makes sense to attempt to create good faith exchange, but isn’t particularly logical to “expect” it and downright inane to “demand” it.

  90. Joshua says:

    Dammit. Help a brother out an turn off those italics, please (after “different”)?

    [Mod: fixed]

  91. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    would you leave out some caveat to save the planet。?
    would you leave out some caveat to save us,?

    Devoid of context this question is hard for me to answer. What kind of caveat? Who is the audience? What would the impact of communicating the caveat likely be (what would change contingent on discussing the caveat)? What is the medium of exchange?

  92. would you leave out some caveat to save the planet。?
    would you leave out some caveat to save us,?

    Well, if the options are binary (include caveat – planet destroyed: leave out caveat – planet saved) then the answer seems pretty obvious.

  93. Joshua says:

    BTW –

    Off topic and clearly ignoring calls for civility and good faith…

    I hope folks have been reading the Climate Audit and Lucia’s Place devolution into salons of unabashed conspiracy ideation?

    I highly doubt that proclivity towards conspiracy ideation is distributed in association with views on climate change, but what’s going on at those sites is, IMO, quite fascinating.

  94. I haven’t looked at either site for quite some time. Your description doesn’t suddenly make me want to do so 🙂

    Did have a reasonably brief Twitter exchange with Lucia a few days ago that pretty much went as I would have expected.

  95. Joshua says:

    Well, if the options are binary (include caveat – planet destroyed: leave out caveat – planet saved) then the answer seems pretty obvious.

    Yes, that’s what I meant about context.

    But that kind of binary context seems so unrealistic – certainly for me to be making such a decision but even for someone who has significant political power – that it seems rather akin to “What would you do if you won the lottery” or “Would you take an action to kill one person if it saved a group of people.” Perhaps interesting in a sense for small talk at parties, but ultimately not terribly informative of much, IMO.

  96. Willard says:

    My answer to Moshpit’s yet-other-stupid-greenline-test would be this:

    If the planet’s really, and I mean really at stake with what I’m gonna say, I might consider taking a minute or two to eliminate the need for adding a caveat. I wouldn’t chance the planet on some silly weasel wording. Nor do I think the planet needs a blurb to be saved.

    Caveats stand for caveat emptor, BTW.

    An example of going full caveats:

  97. Michael 2 says:

    Civil is what breeds civilization. What exactly that means is going to be cultural and somewhat geographical/geopolitical. Where circumstances require human cooperation, such as most of Iceland’s 1100 year existence, you learned to get along with your neighbors, and support them, even if (and particularly if) you hated them; since you needed their services on different days. Those that couldn’t get along killed each other over the span of a few hundred years. That is why Iceland is called by some “Niceland”, the epitome of being polite even to those you detest.

    But when you don’t need or care about what others think, and are quite sure you will never need anyone else’s approval (other than that of the Alpha of course) then you can, as someone wrote above, “grind them to dust” unless of course they are already doing that to you.

  98. Willard says:

    OK. I think I got this. Let’s assume that the planet depends upon my reaching out to the promoters of the Contrarian Matrix:

    Why… are you doing this? Why? Isn’t the blogosphere big enough… for both of us? Ha ha ha ha. What is wrong with you people?

    We could work together. Why be enemies? Because we’re different? Is that why?

    Think of the things that we could do.

    Think how strong we would be. Scientists… and contrarians… Together.

    There is nothing that we could not accomplish. Think about it. Think about it.

    Why play mean ClimateBall… when we can create stupendous ClimateBall? We can have it all, or we can smash it all.

    Why can’t we… work out our differences? Why can’t we… work things out civilly?

    Fellow contrarians… why can’t we all just… get along?

    Thank you.

  99. mt says:

    On the one hand, a Nazi soldier (a real one, not someone more or less metaphorically Nazi-like) once asked my father, who was skulking around in the dark from one hiding place to another, to pull his pants down to prove he was uncircumcised. My father, though duly circumcised, was fluent in high German, and basically lied that he was a Big Nazi and the soldier’s career would be in the toilet if he pursued that line of inquiry. On account of this lie (and various others of that ilk), he lived to tell the tale and as a consequence I exist.

    On the other hand, it is the role of science to be the eyes and ears of the society. The more so nowadays that journalism is broken. In order that our advice be taken as seriously as it deserves, we need to be utterly scrupulous in our communications to the public. Any sign of bias or self-censorship ends up doing far more long term damage (by reducing credibility of science) than good (by advancing an immediate sensible outcome over an immediate foolish one).

    If, however, the credibility of science is already in ruins, due whether to baseless attacks or to well-intentioned misrepresentation, I don’t know what to do. I’m increasingly disappointed in humanity and I think we are in for quite a bruising, at best. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.

    If a vicious neo-Nazi asks me if I’m a Jew, I’ll probably be stupid enough to say what I say to everyone else who asks. “That’s a matter of opinion. I could argue either way.” (By the Jewish religious tradition of matrilineal descent, while I’m 75% ethnically Jewish, it’s the 25% that matters and I am not a Jew. And it’s clear that I’m neither atheist nor Christian nor practicing Jew. So I am quite unsure what I am.)

    If a Nazi asks me if the globe is warming as a result of human activity, I’ll probably be stupid enough to say “yes, that’s not really a matter of opinion anymore.”

    I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who would lie in such circumstances. I am (very unlike my father) just a hopelessly bad liar. I may end up a martyr on the altar of truth after all, if only through my incompetence as a liar.

    Even though I might have the rare occasion to wish I were a more talented liar, I think when we have our scientist hats on, we should follow Galileo’s example. It is our privilege to spend our lives understanding Nature, and our obligation to have the temerity to say about that what the Pope and his bishops do not want to hear. (We do at least in ordinary circumstances that are not implausible trolley problems such as the one where the fate of the world rests directly on a willingness to lie.)

    The ethical burden of honesty on the scientist is a stronger constraint than on most people in most other roles, because the very principle of evidence based reasoning is at stake.

    If civilization as we older folk were taught to imagine it is already extinct, or was a fantasy in the first place, that is silly of course. But in that case, lying or telling the truth are presumably equally futile, and it’s all about power. Social construction if you prefer. In that case, any ethical advice is pretty much moot, isn’t it?

    I prefer to act as if there remains some hope that some amount of democratic civilization remains possible. Even if it’s futile, where’s the harm in it?

    Our love of science is based on its capacity to reveal the sorts of truth that the universe offers us, which may not be the sorts of truth we always want, but are always something to appreciate. I think that, except in the most extreme of (hopefully hypothetical, but human history can get weird) circumstances, such as being faced with assassination or extinction for telling the truth, it’s churlish of us to lie or dissemble or misdirect.

    We owe society that much in exchange for our good fortune.

  100. Michael 2 says:

    Steven Mosher says: “how do engage with me if i tell you my honesty with you will depend on circumstances?”

    I assume this is true in all conversations with anyone. There’s a circularity to your question; shall I assume the question itself is honest? Clearly it depends on circumstances.

    “perhaps cleaving to the principle that circumstances rule the day is the undeveloped insight.”

    I believe that insight is well developed. For instance, many people ask questions not to obtain information but to provoke behavior. “Why didn’t you take out the garbage?” is often not an invitation to explain why the garbage has not been taken out, but a command to do so. This is one reason that high-functioning autistic people have difficulty is they treat questions as questions, commands as commands and make few, if any, assumptions on circumstances.

  101. Michael 2 says:

    mt says: “On account of this lie (and various others of that ilk), he lived to tell the tale and as a consequence I exist.”

    Circumstances! Do you have a duty to tell the truth to an enemy? In my circumstance, no. ANY rule that is considered 100 percent binding can be used as a weapon and forms the basis of one of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

    “On the other hand, it is the role of science to be the eyes and ears of the society.”

    Says who? “Science” is a container word without eyes or ears! It cares nothing for society, it doesn’t even care for itself. Into this container go things that are physical and exist. Physicality is important so I can go to that same container and see for myself that an object still falls accelerated to Earth at 9.81 meters per second per second (for instance).

    Citizens are the eyes and ears of society (except in London, city of cameras).

    “Any sign of bias or self-censorship ends up doing far more long term damage (by reducing credibility of science) than good (by advancing an immediate sensible outcome over an immediate foolish one).”

    Substitute “scientist” for “science” and I would agree with you. Scientists make claims, science does not. Scientists care, science does not.

    “If a Nazi asks me if the globe is warming (*) as a result of human activity, I’ll probably be stupid enough to say yes, that’s not really a matter of opinion anymore.”

    But of course it is an opinion. Opinions are what happens when factoids lodge in your mind and causes to you to think or act a certain way because of their mere existence.

    * (comment on globe warming) The Globe does not exist as a homogeneous entity with a temperature! It is likely still cooling from the time of its formation. Oh, but you mean portions of the surface, as measured by the aggregation of a set of thermometers.

    “I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who would lie in such circumstances.”

    I would and do. But lying is self-referential and does not speak to truth; only to your belief. If you go against your belief, you are lying, but could actually be telling the truth at that very moment. Example: A man that believes the Earth is flat, but claims it is round (to gain acceptance in a teaching position) has lied (his behavior or intention is to deceive) but objectively he also told the truth.

    Flipping the situation; a person that speaks his belief cannot be lying; but he can be mistaken.

    I am, and you are encouraged to be, suspicious of persons claiming “truth”. The best anyone can do is speak your beliefs and hope or expect based on your education and experience that the things you say are indeed “true”.

    “lying or telling the truth are presumably equally futile, and it’s all about power. Social construction if you prefer. In that case, any ethical advice is pretty much moot, isn’t it?”

    It is always about power; but there’s personal power and social power with evolutionary forces on each. The arise of civilization is a rivalry between giving up some personal power so that collective power (over other groups doing likewise) is enhanced. Too much giving to the state one’s personal power removes incentive to excellence. People discover things; science does not. It is vital to civilization that persons, not people, discover and do many things of their own free will.

    Civilizations arise when persons persuade neighbors and peers to a particular “ethic”, usually by religion but any social control force (this blog for instance) will suffice.

    Therefore ethical advice is rarely “moot” even though its immediate benefits not obvious.

  102. Michael 2 says:

    Willard says: “Fellow contrarians… why can’t we all just… get along?”

    DNA.

    Wanting to get along originates from a position of weakness; the Alpha doesn’t want to “get along”, he’s already got that and more!

    Intelligent people, in my opinion, can be persuaded to recognize that they might be following the wrong Alpha, or there isn’t one, or the human race would be overall and personally better off without the constant battle that identifies Alphas. There’s no target on my back and I’m not wasting my life trying to take down the Alpha so I (or someone else) can take his place. But because I don’t play the game, well, I also don’t get the prizes (*) that come to those that play the game.

    * social intangibles, job and career opportunities, mating opportunities. It is (IMO) why people engage in stupid Greek rituals at colleges.

  103. Magma says:

    …then you can, as someone wrote above, “grind them to dust” unless of course they are already doing that to you — Michael 2

    Some, myself included, might argue that civility includes the courtesy of reading and quoting another person’s statements accurately with respect to words, meaning and intent.
    “commenters should be able to grind weak scientific arguments to as fine a powder as they wish”

  104. Willard says:

  105. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I haven’t looked at either site for quite some time. Your description doesn’t suddenly make me want to do so 🙂

    What I find most interesting is the confidence with which opinions are offered about issues where, as near as I can tell, the commenters lack both information and expertise. That is something that I have always found when looking at comments at Lucia’s on any number of non-technical discussion threads (I can’t really judge expertise or knowledge on technical threads) . The thread devoted to discussing Clinton’s “Parkinson’s disease” was my all time favorite. In other words, it’s DK all the way down. (Brandon deserves a gold star for his attempts on that thread to throttle down the DK, and also for his attempts to do the same over at CA more recently).

    And again, while I can’t really judge the DK issue on the more technical discussions, the ubiquity of the DK apparent on other issues strongly suggests, to me, that DK is a problem with that crew more generally – with interesting implications to the “skeptic” team more generally.

  106. izen says:

    @-Michael 2

    I agree with most of your posts, except possibly this;-

    ” Too much giving to the state one’s personal power removes incentive to excellence. People discover things; science does not. It is vital to civilization that persons, not people, discover and do many things of their own free will.”

    At the risk of sounding like Hulme, or even Ravaatz, science is a social, collective enterprise. Human preference for hero narratives highlights the genius scientist, and there are good examples. But that same bias means that the contingent and collective nature of scientific progress gets ignored.

    Edison is lauded as a great inventer, but what he realy invented was the research team. While the great scientists of the past, Galileo, Newton, Einstein can be seen as the persons with the excellence to make the big advances, it is arguable if that it had not been them, it would have been others. the ideas they developed were under wide consideration. All the advances they made were contingent of the historical science of the time, Newton did not discover electromagnetic waves, and if he had died in the plague I think we would not have had long to wait before the concept of mechanics, gravity and light had been formulated by other persons.

    The collective action of governments, whether they encourage or inhibit scientific research is at least as influential in advancing a subject as the existence of the lone genius. A recent example would be the massive investment and encouragement that the German government made to chemical science around the 1900s. With the result that a disproportionate number of the ‘new’ chemicals that still make up modern chemical engineering, medicine and manufacture turn out to be first synthesised and discovered by a German team between 1890 and the 1930s crash.

  107. mt says:

    Eyes and ears do *not* care. That is exactly my point. That science doesn’t care is both what limits it and what empowers it. Science is necessary but not sufficient, just like eyes and ears that don’t lie.

    Perhaps eyes and ears that care too much are the ones that hallucinate. We don’t thrive if we can’t trust what we see and hear, though I suppose it can be rather exciting for a brief time.

    Also M2, you elided a crucial “if” in your last clipping of my posting, putting words in my mouth that don’t belong there.

    Overall, if you have a point, I don’t know what it is. My point is that the situation must be very extreme to justify *any* shading of the truth from anyone claiming to represent the scientific community.

  108. Michael 2 says:

    izen says: “science is a social, collective enterprise.”

    That is how the word is often used by people for whom everything is a social, collective enterprise. A weakness of using “science” in that manner is that it becomes indistinguishable from any other social, collective enterprises such as the Catholic church (or any church), and indeed the word is frequently used in exactly the same way: Science says X; bible says X; — appeal to Authority in each case but that’s not scientific.

    To me using it that way is somewhere between comical and puzzling. Consider: “Science denier”. What exactly does that mean? What CAN it mean? Science is not a claim that can be denied, not a thing that can be argued. Suppose for a moment we use your definition, that “science is a social, collective enterprise.” What does denying such a thing mean?

    So let us suppose anti-Catholic, or anti-Mormon, or anti-anything. It usually means all of it; everything Catholic is opposed, usually for emotional reasons. Is it possible to be anti-science, opposed to all of it? Opposed to gravity? Opposed to the speed of light?

    No, such a thing is silly, humorous to contemplate the absurdity of it. Nobody can be “anti-science”, for science is knowledge of everything that exists. I doubt that more a a few lunatics are even capable of denying all of science; all that is known or knowable; to do so one would have to possess that knowledge in the first place so as to deny it.

    But when science becomes a thing of its own, snaps off the stalk of knowledge and goes drifting with the wind encapsulated within itself this or that; THEN you can use it as it is frequently used. It becomes a dogma; a SET of beliefs that is used in the singular: It becomes THE science, the one and only true Universal Science to which you must bend your knee and your mind.

    Civility belongs to people and people “do science”. They might be doing science at the behest of a government or industry; but everything that is done is done by Persons. There is no science without Person, nor can there be, since it isn’t science until held in the mind of Person. Apples have fallen for millions of years; it became science when Newton developed laws of motion around a common observation.

    I recognize it would be tedious to write or speak full sentences every time the topic arises; “The science” is perhaps shorthand for “Denying certain claims made by scientists regarding human involvement in climate change.” That is good language; claims can be denied and those claims can arise through scientific methods. But what is being denied is a claim, not “science” itself. And yet, how often does it seem that science is this thing that can be worshipped or denied?

  109. Michael 2 says:

    mt says: “My point is that the situation must be very extreme to justify *any* shading of the truth from anyone claiming to represent the scientific community.”

    I recognize your point, I think, but how would I know that I recognize your point? A problem of human language is that your intention to speak only the truth is thwarted by your listeners/readers different usage of words.

    I applaud your desire to tell the truth but express some caution, and perhaps dismay, that such a thing is humanly possible. This is where “civility” kicks in when you come to that realization there’s no hope that your 100 percent truthful explanation that requires 140 IQ to “grok” in the first place has no hope of reaching more than 3 percent of Earth’s population in the form you intended.

    I get it in my profession; if I speak “unshaded truth” nobody knows what I just said or wrote. If I try to make it understandable, then it has just been shaded.

    So why civility? Because if I am seen as a courteous, intelligent human being, then I am trusted, permitted and even encouraged to pursue whatever it is that I am pursuing that somehow makes things better for my employer.

    Civility opens doors that Truth does not.

  110. Michael 2 says:

    I should add to what I just wrote; if civility opens doors, its opposite closes them (as Donald Trump experiences from time to time).

    I don’t always need to understand you; but if I don’t, it helps if I trust you. Actually, that’s probably more important than understanding anyway. Civility helps with trust. Civility is tested; and things that humans test are tested because of their importance. What is your response to minor offense? “Hazing” exists to answer that human survival question.

    On blogs, everyone gets tested, insulted, to see what you will do about it. There is no single right response; a civil response will increase your respect among civilized people while deprecating your respect among those who value clever insults. When many people were civil they formed civilization. When not; tribes!

    Or something like that. Your mileage may vary.

  111. Willard says:

    > There is no science without Person

    Personhood is a Roman invention, and Archimedes did science. Checkmate.

    People who compare science as a collective to religions ought to pay due diligence to how religions as collectives work for real.

    Worshipping Persons is like worshipping lone wolves. Rambo looks cool until the movie ends. And when he gets back to civilization, his anti-social demeanour bites him back.

    It’s hard for Atlas to civilly shrug.

  112. russellseitz says:

    ATTP:
    The problem of civility posed by such sites as Watts’ or Jo Nova’s is most often how to contain ones mirth.

    Willard:
    Some invention– in Rome , children were personae owned by their pater familias, who could dispose of them as slaves if he pleased.

  113. Steven Mosher: “would you leave out some caveat to save the planet?
    would you leave out some caveat to save us?

    ATTP: “Well, if the options are binary (include caveat – planet destroyed: leave out caveat – planet saved) then the answer seems pretty obvious.

    There was no talk of certain destruction. Destroying or saving a planet takes time and convincing many people. Someone will come up with the caveat, which endangers the saving, especially if it is clear that I knew the caveat all the time.

    People who lie about such things may think they are smart, but they are mostly frustrated losers. Like the angry fans of incompetent conman Trump and the anti-Muslim parties in Europe who are full of losers, the opposite of white supremacy, many with a criminal record.

    They may think they are Rambo or an alpha male, but we do not live in monkey band where one male dominates reproduction. We live in mostly monogamous relations and the differences in reproduction are small, which is likely how we managed to get collaboration with large groups of people who are not kin working, via altruism and well-placed trust. This is key to the success of humans.

    If people know there is a problem, but because of some caveat they decide to destroy the planet, that is their choice. That is democracy. Who am I to decide for everyone else that the caveat should be ignored? Who am I to take away their freedom to live a self-determined live? I am not a Dunning Kruger alpha male. I am human.

  114. Steven Mosher says:

    oh you asking me willard?
    yes i would lie to save my life.

    its not that hard. but it seems that with tge exception of victor and marsup…
    the rest of the folks share the same epitaph.

    here lies the wishy washy

  115. Willard says:

    Speaking of the wishy washy of religious collectives:

  116. Steven Mosher says:

    ““the irrational life is not worth living. here lies the rational man. a fine choice. ”

    I don’t think it particularly civil to request a direct answer to a question and then take the piss (even subtly by chariacature) out of somebody who answers for the answers they give.”

    Huh.

    The thrust of the question is to uncover the thing you value most. The thing you would die for.
    That’s an existential choice. I honor your choice. It is yours and no one elses to make.
    I dont question it, or challenge it. I cant make it for you. That’s the point.

    Some folks choose diferrently.. like give me liberty or give me death. Victor chose truth.
    You appear to value rationality above all else, and also perhaps truth.

    There is another meaning of the term good faith. You appear to have that. So does victor.

    Sorry if my way of putting it led to you misunderstanding

  117. Joshua says:

    would you leave out some caveat to save the planet。?
    would you leave out some caveat to save us,?

    They are wishy washy questions.

  118. Steven Mosher says:

    “I have always struggled to get beyond pragmatism and accept abstract concepts.”

    here lies the pragmatic man. He did what works,
    for him. RIP

  119. Steven Mosher says:

    “That’s what I’m suggesting too, Susan. Simplicity is not often related to the amount of words. It’s not as if we never have been entertained with greenline tests before.”

    except its not a test. There is no right answer, or rather there is just your answer.

  120. Victor,

    There was no talk of certain destruction. Destroying or saving a planet takes time and convincing many people.

    Well, yes, I wasn’t suggesting otherwise. I was simply pointing out that if it was that simple (it’s not as if Steven provided any context) then the answer would be simple. Since, it almost certainly isn’t that simple, the answer isn’t.

  121. dikranmarsupial says:

    “The thrust of the question is to uncover the thing you value most. The thing you would die for.”

    that was not the question you asked. While I think the choices that govern society should be made on as rational basis as possible, and feel it would be my duty to play my part in that, it certainly isn’t what I value most, nor does it imply that I would want to lead my life in a completely rational manner (for example there is no rational reason for parents to love their children, but most do). “the irrational life is not worth living. here lies the rational man. a fine choice. ” is a rather unflattering charicature of what I actually wrote. I am not Vulcan (as far as I know).

    I am also aware that there is very little rationality in the governance of society, 2017 has been a good example of that (it turns out the film Idiocracy was a documentary). What I do to change that is unlikely to have much effect, but that is not a good reason not to do it.

  122. Michael 2 says:

    Dikranmarsupial writes “What I do to change that is unlikely to have much effect, but that is not a good reason not to do it.”

    The word I use for that concept is honor. Doing what is right even if, and especially if, you are the only one doing so. It also seems irrational; but in my opinion society and civilization has advanced in fits, starts, jumps and lurches by certain people doing exactly what they mean to do with passion and conviction and with no obvious reward.

  123. Magma says:

    Most here will be familiar with Stephen Schneider’s “double ethical bind” remark and the ways it has been misrepresented. And most will also be familiar with the information overload phenomenon that occurs when you enthusiastically try lead an audience deep into the weeds of a topic that fascinates you but not them. Always important to watch for glazed eyes!

    An earlier version originated with Einstein, though the punchy short version that is better known is a paraphrase. In 1962, Time magazine published an editorial including the following passage (popular press seems to have aimed a little higher then than it does today):

    In fields of specialized knowledge, we aim to render an account that is plain and simple, yet does no violence to the difficulty of the subject, so that the uninformed reader can understand us while the expert cannot fault us. We try to keep in mind a saying attributed to Einstein—that everything must be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.

    https://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/05/13/einstein-simple/

  124. Willard says:

  125. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    That difference between the two question scenarios is interesting. Just goes to show how meaningless it can be to give definitive answers to wishy washy questions.

  126. Willard says:

    The respondents were all wrong:

  127. Willard says:

    Here’s an explanation as to the difference between the two questions, Joshua:

    The distinction doesn’t seem obvious to everyone.

  128. Joshua says:

    Re: question #2. Who would have guessed, when asked “Would you take an action that would cause one death to prevent five deaths? ” that 56% would answer probable or definitely not?

    Prolly people who don’t answer dumb questions about vague scenarios?

  129. angech says:

    Second question misses the answer that you could jump on the rails in front of the trolley yourself to save 5 people.
    Of course you would not want to be a criminal?

  130. izen says:

    @-Michael 2
    “A weakness of using “science” in that manner is that it becomes indistinguishable from any other social, collective enterprises such as the Catholic church”

    Indeed, a danger I acknowledged with the reference to Hulme etc.
    It is an avoidable error. I apologised if I have made it.

    @-“Nobody can be “anti-science”, for science is knowledge of everything that exists. I doubt that more a a few lunatics are even capable of denying all of science;…”

    There seem to be more than a few lunatics who TRY, if you wander the Twilight zone of the internet.
    But you are correct, science denier is usually qualified with the specific aspect of science that a person is rejecting. The fossil record or the 2nd Law of thermodynamics for Creationists, The temperature data or the 2nd Law of thermodynamics for AGW contrarians.

    There is a strain of anti-science that seems to reject anything post 1900. Quantum mechanics and Relativity come in for especial disdain. I particularly liked this comment on the basis of the 2LoT at Roy Spencer place –

    “Boltzmann, Kircheoff, and Planck knew little or nothing about electrons and their importance in atomic structure. This work needs to be scrapped and we need to go back and study heat properly, as a real, physical phenomenon, and not as a mathematical obfuscation.”

    @-” There is no science without Person, nor can there be, since it isn’t science until held in the mind of Person.”

    There is no science without society, nor can there be, since it isn’t science until it is spread and used by society. Otherwise your just an alchemist with ideas unshaped by social utility.

    I have obviously failed to convey the point I intended with the examples of how science is dependent on both persons and the society.
    The dichotomy is as false as the old dispute about whether persons are shaped by Nature or Nurture. The two are inherently inseparable. It is like asking whether it is the pedal crank with 2 cogwheels or the back wheel axle with 5 that makes it a ten-speed bike.
    Of course some will want to know where the missing 3 cog-wheels are…
    P.K.D (grin)

    @-” Apples have fallen for millions of years; it became science when Newton developed laws of motion around a common observation.”

    The ‘common observation’ also required the long work on astronomical positions by Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and all their predecessors.
    And it was the practical application in navigation that resulted in society adopting Newton’s understanding of orbital motion rather than his alchemical work.

  131. Joshua says:

    angech –

    Second question misses the answer that you could jump on the rails in front of the trolley yourself to save 5 people.

    Yes.

    I thought about that also. It occurs to me that it’s part of the reason for the difference in the breakdown of how people selected responses.

    In scenario #2, you have the option of sacrificing yourself to prevent deaths of others, and choosing to “sacrifice” the unfortunate bloke standing next to you instead, adds a level moral complication. It almost feels to me like murder, as opposed to simply choosing a lesser of two evils. I would imagine it adds a component of guilt. That is something missed in the video explanation

  132. Magma says:

    I don’t know why the trolley dilemma hasn’t been updated to a more realistic scenario.

    You’re driving on a wet, slippery road and — too late — notice pedestrians crossing the road. You will be unable to brake sufficiently to prevent serious injuries or deaths to any individuals struck, but you can steer enough to choose between hitting one pedestrian, or a group of five pedestrians. (Amend as desired… one child vs. a group of elderly people, one elderly person vs. a young family, etc.) The problem can even be modified to include the option self-sacrifice, for example you can hit the pedestrian(s) or steer off the road and hit a large tree.

    There are other versions, naturally.

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/an-ethical-trilemma
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/self-driving-car-ethics
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/the-ethical-fourier-transform

  133. angech says:

    Tamino starting to blog again. One post relevant to here, all 3 actually. Arctic ice amount always good to hit me with. UAH up, JCH will like that.
    It will turn JCH.
    Joshua, ” It almost feels to me like murder” sums it up. Thanks.
    Magma , a much better problem.

  134. Willard says:

  135. Michael 2 says:

    Willard writes (quotes) “If you had One shot Or one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted In one moment Would you capture Or just let it slip?”

    Probably let it slip. In my life I’ve done it both ways. Much depends on your faith that this is one of those situations. There’s a lot of “if” in those ifs and to pursue one means to abandon others.

  136. Willard says:

    > Probably let it slip.

    Very well. You choose the irrational path.

    You can’t be a good partner for good faith discussion. On any subject.

    Your choice.

  137. JCH says:

    angech – I do not care what UAH does. Up, down, flat, it’s a piece of politicized crap. RSS says the thermometers are better at measuring the surface. That’s science. And RSS will fluctuate. So what?

  138. izen says:

    Am I the only person who finds the hypothetical ‘trolley problems’ and whether it is moral to seize everything you ever wanted at least a little marginal when back in reality Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov seems to have found an answer to both ?

  139. tonylurker says:

    My problem with the being civil debate, is that it is generally used as an argument by people who will, quite politely, slander and lie. It is rather annoying to have a person politely accuse thousands of scientists of fraud and then turn around and accuse someone else of being uncivil. It’s tiring when someone accuses scientists of oppressing their work, or being unethical, and then turns around and complains about the rudeness of others.

  140. Szilard says:

    I guess litigation generally is a sign of a breakdown in “civility”: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/mark-jacobson-files-lawsuit-over-critique-of-100-percent-renewables

    Or a sign of stupidity, maybe.

  141. Willard says:

    On the technological obsolescence of thought experiments:

    It’s not just the fact that trolleys are outmoded—or that, since they travel about 10mph the workers would probably see the damn thing coming and just move out of the way—that makes this a highly unrealistic hypothetical.

    https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/11/the-trolley-problem-will-tell-you-nothing-useful-about-morality/

  142. angech says:

    “RSS says the thermometers are better at measuring the surface. That’s science.”
    That is an opinion.
    Science is saying why, repeat why an opinion is right and reliable.
    Not just a blanket opinionYou may be right but it is only an opinion.

  143. angech,
    What are you on about? RSS does not measure surface temperatures. Thermometers do. It’s not much of a stretch to then conclude that thermometers are better at measuring surface temperatures than RSS.

  144. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Angech, IIRC Mears (RSS) did say why.

  145. Dikran Marsupial says:

  146. On the issue of temperature measurements: This graph shows a current comparison of global average temperature anomalies from satellite observations and from surface stations:
    http://www.climate4you.com/GlobalTemperatures.htm#Comparing surface and sattellite temperature estimates

  147. The link didn’t work as expected, here is a link to the graph:

  148. The trolley problem is too abstract for most lay people. If one wants to ask a question that is probably more immediately relatable I’d suggest considering the example of speeding.

    In the West it is understood and accepted that we should obey the laws that dictate that we should stay within a prescribed vehicle speed limit. If we break the speed limit when driving our vehicles we risk damaging people’s property, or killing them or their children, and/or damaging or killing ourselves. Many people disregard speed limits for their own convenience or personal benefit, with the result of the consequences just described. No one (rational) would say that we shouldn’t have speed limits, and many people – especially conservative folk – are appropriately aggrieved when speeders harm others. We structure our society to actively and specifically prohibit speeding.

    Warming the planet is effectively no different to speeding in a vehicle. The laws of physics dictate that there is a maximum limit to heating the planet before we harm ourselves, other people, their children, or other species. And just with speeding many people are prepared to break these laws for their own, personal benefit – but just as a society does not condone speeding we should not condone behaviour that leads to excessive planetary warming…

    And yet many people are happy to warm the planet with gay abandon, simply because the consequences are not as immediately observable as are those of speeding. But at an ethical level it is difficult to argue that harming others for personal benefit/convenience is not good when speeding, but that it is fine when one is adding CO₂ to the atmosphere and consequently warming the planet.

    Some people’s mileage may vary, and I’d be very interested in the logic that they use to excuse global warming when they’d seek maximum punishment if a speeding driver killed their son or daughter…

  149. Magma says:

    @ Willard

    Thanks for the link to that excellent (and well-timed!) article at Current Affairs. It was both thought-provoking and highly enjoyable to read.

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