The Pursuit of Crappiness

Let’s take stock.

Computers and codes are in shambles. The Law is broken. Schools are useless to most. Sports are dope. Most jobs are absurd. Administrations are plagued. We already are living in a boring dystopia. Yet here we are.

this-is-fine

You don’t see the flames, now, do you?

Most scientific studies are false. Economics is pretty rubbish. Epidemiology is a mess. The whole hypothesis testing framework is Hell on Earth. Scientific publishing may never be fixed. Peer review is abysmal. A third of the World Bank reports has never been downloaded. Academics can’t write, journalists can’t read, scientists can’t count, pundits can’t restrain themselves.

Crap is everywhere. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Feel free to add to my list in the comments. An easy one would be this very post.

Nevertheless, things have never been better. Fast and cheap crap works.  Like IKEA revolutionized the furniture market by selling crap.  Like containers, perhaps the most underestimated innovation of the 20th Century: it allowed us to ship faster, cheaper crap all around the world.  Like AlphaChess, which learned to play in one day and on the second day could best the best Chess player known to mankind.  What I’m saying may be less crappy than it sounds.  Tim Harford holds something similar in a popular TED talk.  Perfect is the enemy of the good.  From crap good can emerge: more mistakes, more learning. Cheaper, faster, crappier crap is always on the way.

The war on error cannot be won by fighting people to issue corrections. It takes more effort to correct crap than to produce it. Corrections can themselves become subject to corrections. Audits never end. Nothing can withstand a line-by-line cross-examination. As soon as you can put someone in the witness box, defensiveness sets in. The accused always looks culpable of something. We all are.

The only constructive way I see to beat crap is to produce more efficient, catchiest crap.  Science is more a race for better crap than a boxing match.  Faster science means more trial, more trials means more errors, more errors mean faster learning.  Same for ClimateBall.  The Contrarian Matrix may never cease to raise concerns.  FUD machines are meant to produce FUD.  We should celebrate all this, and counter it with more and fancier crap of our own.

What we know is good enough to act. We don’t know where we’re going, but we need to move our hands and move our feet. Ballroom. Shmallroom. Dance! Dance! Damn all convention! It’s not about the points. It’s never been about the points. Chances are we only have one round anyway. Most of what we’ll try won’t work.

Let’s embrace crappiness.

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About Willard

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62 Responses to The Pursuit of Crappiness

  1. Scientific publishing may never be fixed.

    Don’t worry. Working on it. http://homogenisation.wordpress.com/

  2. Let’s embrace crappiness.

    It should be okay to make mistakes. But the mistakes should not be trivial. No crap please. WUWT does not make humanity better.

  3. Joshua says:

    Free speech is dead (especially on campuses).

    And Christmas has been vanquished.

  4. Willard says:

    > No crap please.

    Nature bats last, VeeV:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/dialog-on-nature/

    Nature makes humans produce crap.

    Eliminating crap right from the start might not even work for logic.

  5. I agree with Victor

    “‘to learn that we have said or done a stupid thing is nothing, we must learn a more ample and important lesson: that we are but blockheads”

    [Michel de Montaigne]

    We shouldn’t be so proud we can’t accept our mistakes/failures, but we shouldn’t be proud of them either or complacent about making more.

  6. Willard says:

    > we shouldn’t be proud of them either or complacent about making more.

    We still will make more crap, and obsessing over pride may not be the way to go, more so when most ClimateBall episodes involve otters’ pride.

  7. Willard says:

    Here’s how Rich promotes a post that embraces crappiness:

  8. Of course we will make more crap, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to maximise the signal-to-crap ratio, and it doesn’t involve any “obsessing over pride” (indeed my comment was about moderation of pride). Thinking you don’t make mistake is a recipe for producing crap, a bit of humility/self-skepticism helps. Perhaps then the “otters” and I might play a more interesting game than ClimateBall.

    Of course it is highly possible that I have not understood the intended message of your article.

  9. Willard says:

    > Of course we will make more crap, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to maximise the signal-to-crap ratio […]

    While I’m not fan of the “signal-to-noise” metaphor (i.e. I think it’s crap), it may be useful to convey the question I’m trying to answer:

    How do you maximize signal (i.e. more fruitful crap) over “crap” (i.e. less fruitful crap) when correcting “crap” is more expensive than producing it?

    The solution I’m trying to convey is that we should focus on our own production process. That’s how I think we should counter the outputs from the Contrarian Matrix. In other words, auditing is a fruitless enterprise when it’s not your line of business in the first place. It never ends.

    Recalling the last big election cycles should be enough to see where I’m going with this. Imagine that the Contrarian Matrix becomes powered by real bots. Not just RickA, a real army of virtual Agent Smiths. I’m not Neo, and I don’t believe in one.

    Everyone will need to be mobilized. To do what? Some speak of inoculation. I don’t really like that metaphor, but as long as it gets people on board, I don’t mind. I prefer to leave that question open. What I’m sure is that we’ll need more crap.

  10. Magma says:

    “Fast and cheap crap works.”

    There’s something to be said for the philosophy behind ‘good enough’. Or in fancy phrasing: the perfect is the enemy of the good…

    which led me via Wikipedia to this: “striving to better, oft we mar what’s well” (King Lear), and then via memory to this:

  11. “How do you maximize signal (i.e. more fruitful crap) over “crap” (i.e. less fruitful crap) when correcting “crap” is more expensive than producing it?”

    I think we need to consider the benefits of correcting the crap, rather than just the expense. For instance, at the time I thought it was worthwhile writing the comment paper explaining what was wrong with Essenhigh’s residence time argument. I was hoping that a peer-reviewed article explaining the basics of the carbon cycle and residence time -v- adjustment time might do something towards reducing the amount of time spent discussing this issue on climate skeptic blogs. This is worthwhile, because as Fred Singer points out, it doesn’t do either side of the argument any good (actually he only pointed out it damages the skeptic position, but it wastes time for both sides). However it has had other benefits, for example I learned a lot about the carbon cycle (and especially where my knowledge/understanding runs out). I think it has also been a useful resource for the “lurkers” in the discussion. So even though it didn’t achieve my initial goal, it was still worth doing.

    The solution I’m trying to convey is that we should focus on our own production process.

    I think it is better to seek an appropriate balance between your own production and paying attention to what others are doing. I don’t think we all have the same goals, or the same strengths, so we shouldn’t necessarily follow the same strategy. Sometimes a productive discussion comes of answering a skeptic talking point and we learn something (I certainly do, especially if I have the time to follow it up with some reading off-line). I also don’t believe a one-strategy-fits-all will be effective in changing public opinion.

    I should walk away from the discussion more frequently, that certainly is true. I managed to ignore one of angech’s more egregious bits of Jötun-nry today, and was (moderately) proud of myself for having done so! ;o)

  12. How do you maximize signal (i.e. more fruitful crap) over “crap” (i.e. less fruitful crap) when correcting “crap” is more expensive than producing it?

    The scientific literature does this by peer review.

    Outside of the scientific literature, I would like there to be always someone who feels responsible for the level of the discussion. For example, I should be able to moderate the replies to my tweets. If people want to spread crap, they can do so at home and hopefully drown in it.

    More in general, America needs to get rid of money in politics and in the media (more complicated to do because of the also valuable freedom of the press). The main reason good people need to waste their time correcting crap is because corporate interests are amplifying it. If it were limited to WUWT & Co., I would feel sorry for these people, but it would not be a societal problem.

  13. Steven Mosher says:

    its intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

  14. Willard says:

    > I should walk away from the discussion more frequently, that certainly is true. I managed to ignore one of angech’s more egregious bits of Jötun-nry today, and was (moderately) proud of myself for having done so! ;o)

    Good for you! I agree with everything you said, Dikran. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?

    Joke aside, I think it’s important to underline the costs of issuing corrections. As you say, they vary from one ClimateBall player to the next. As someone who likes to pay due diligence to contrarian concerns, it makes more sense to invest more energy on that crap. I don’t think scientists need to stop doing what they’re doing to do so.

    The fact that there’s no optimal strategy in the pursuit of crappiness argues in favor of embracing it, I think.

  15. Willard says:

    I edited your link, Russell, as there was a trailing apostrophe.

    Speaking of edits, I edited my comment regarding Rich’s pursuit of crappiness. It seems that he’s not the author of the Conversation piece. It’s just the way the Conversation pushes its stories over teh Tweeter.

    While editing my comment takes little effort, I won’t bother to notify the Conversation for their crappy tweeting facility.

  16. pendantry says:

    I think you need to have a word with His Holiness the Poop over at The Church of the Holy Shitters.

  17. Willard says:

    Notice how the Afghan war rug evolved:

  18. If the Google link to the photo above fails you, this one might be better:

  19. Willard says:

    Pedantry’s comment made me remember to add the following link to Brandolini’s Law under “more effort to correct crap”:

    http://ordrespontane.blogspot.com/2014/07/brandolinis-law.html

    In picture:

  20. verytallguy says:

    Interestingly, crap is often used by contrarians to justify inaction; the lesson from the horse crap crisis of 1894 is obviously that magick future technology will solve emissions effortlessly.

    https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Great-Horse-Manure-Crisis-of-1894/

    This is a variant of the “stone age didn’t end ‘cos of lack of stones”. Perhaps they were coprolites.

    Do these feature in the matrix?

  21. BBD says:

    I think this is all poppycock.

  22. Willard says:

    > Do these feature in the matrix?

    The Contrarian Matrix is for serious lines of arguments. I need a tangible citation. Talking points belong to my ClimateBall project, which I should pursue a bit more than playing ClimateBall as a dilettante.

    Since Webb Roberts gave me the @climateball handle, I have no excuse.

    ***

    A word from our Honest Broker, who suggests that better crap would be good enough:

    While scientists can work to improve science, governments and regulators can also do better. Most governments around the world have largely neglected the need to support reproducible research practices. Moreover, they have not used science as much as they should. This is particularly worrisome when the evidence is strong, yet governments have not acted forcefully enough. It is a scandal that we continue to allow companies to make money from selling tobacco products, despite expecting about 1 billion tobacco-related deaths in the next 100 years, a Holocaust equivalent of lost lives repeated every year. It is a scandal that the response of governments to climate change and pollution has not been more decisive. It is a scandal that we don’t have higher standards for drugs, biologics, and devices. It is a scandal that people die from measles in the 21st century. Current governments have plenty of room to improve over the mediocre performance of their predecessors. They can do this by using, not discarding, science.

    http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002576

    Via (Ermahgerd!) Junior.

  23. Willard says:

    Be more solemn, BBD: I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is poppycock, and it’s hitting the fan.

  24. Mal Adapted says:

    OP:

    Let’s embrace crappiness.

    Your position is admirably consistent with the mediocrity principle, yet the scope of one’s embrace matters. In the universal scope, everything is mediocre and nothing matters. In the scope of individual human choice, some choices will be superior to others. In the scope of global humanity’s collective choices, IMIMO capping anthropogenic global warming short of global tragedy is superior to letting it proceed unchecked.

    Whatever must be done to cap the warming can only be done crappily. It’s still worth doing the best we can.

  25. Willard says:

    Interesting read, Very Tall. Thanks. You remind me of these kind words:

    I think it’s Very Likely (TM IPPC) that Max10K and JimD are paid blog bombers. Paid by Dimowits or EcoNotSee Enviro groups. They just spend too much time and don’t even make sense most of the time. Better than Willard in that they occasionally make sense. But there was a good bit of craft in Willard’s Rorschach comments. Can’t say that about Max and JimD.

    By citation, I have this kind of thing in mind:

    Solar Cycle Lengths (SCLs) combine with CO2 to reduce Transient Climate Response (TCR) by 1.23X

    The TCR to doubled CO2 is less than 2K (1.93 ± 0.26K).

    Only 1.1K of HadCRUT4 warming is expected between 2000 and 2100AD.

    ∼35% of the warming during 1980–2001 was from solar variability, by 2 different analyses.

    Temperature is nearly 3 times as sensitive to solar radiation as to CO2 radiation.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364682616303479

    From the conclusion:

    The purpose of this paper is to draw attention again to the possibility that Solar Cycle Length (SCL) is a partial predictor of global temperature. Thus our main temperature model M0bc has just 2 effects – CO2 concentration and SCLs, and 3 fitted parameters.

    […]

    We used both our CO2/SCL model and our radiative forcing model to estimate the solar contribution to the warming in the period 1980 to 2001 (Section 5.12). These gave values of 37% and 33% respectively, which bracket Scafetta & West’s (2006) figure of 35% using the ACRIM composite – but these three results disagree with the Benestad & Schmidt (2009) analysis that the solar contribution was negligible. For the longer term, under the assumption of a continuing increase in CO2 of 2 parts per million per year, we project (Section 5.13) that the increase to the HadCRUT4 anomaly, from Cycle 23’s 0.42K centred at 2001, to the year 2100, will be 1.1K.

    I did not add that resource yet, because I can’t find any sound byte, and because it’s a backburner project.

  26. > Your position is admirably consistent with the mediocrity principle, yet the scope of one’s embrace matters.

    I’m not so sure, Mal. From one of W’s links:

    Good enough is not mediocrity. It has to do with rational choices as opposed to compulsive behaviour. The good enough approach is a way to drive ongoing improvement and achieve excellence by progressively meeting, challenging, and raising our standards as opposed to driving toward an illusion of perfection. A best practices approach to any endeavour is to start with good enough and raise the bar to achieve excellence—because being an excellent doctor should not compromise a good enough personal life.

    > Whatever must be done to cap the warming can only be done crappily. It’s still worth doing the best we can.

    I think that’s more or less the argument. The only way to make crap better is to make more of it.

  27. That first article on computers and code called “Everything is Broken” is fippant in that it ignores the CompSci/SWEng principle of Separation of Concerns.

  28. Willard says:

    More than that, Paul. It ignores ENSO.

  29. angech says:

    ” I should walk away from the discussion more frequently, that certainly is true. I managed to ignore one of angech’s more egregious bits of Jötun-nry today, and was (moderately) proud of myself for having done so! ;o) Good for you! I agree with everything you said, Dikran. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?”

    I’m not North Korean.
    Only jo [tun] king.
    Good to see you both in such a happy mood and such a pleasant change of pace.
    I should walk away from the discussion more frequently as well but it is like being a moth drawn to the flame. If I have one regret [I have a few] it would be about not walking away and coming back to write in a more composed and less attacking fashion.

    What is crap is the short time one has to do the things that one thinks matters and then to find the pencil broke or the words misspelled or that I should really have taken the wife out on a picnic today instead of worrying about all this ….
    Really enjoyed your comments, Willard and DM.
    Back to business tomorrow.

  30. Steven Mosher says:

    http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm

    your title is crappy. should have been the relativity of crap

  31. “More than that, Paul. It ignores ENSO.”

    Yes indeed. I was surprised earlier today when I found a Science paper titled “ENSO as an Integrating Concept in Earth Science” (700 citations). Note that they could have said Climate Science, but instead they deliberately chose Earth Science. That’s bold.

  32. AdamR says:

    Lest we forget, Sturgeon’s Law:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_law

  33. Willard wrote “I don’t think scientists need to stop doing what they’re doing to do so.”

    Indeed, one of the reasons I wrote the response to Essenhigh was so that a real climatologist didn’t have to (I don’t think there was a peer-reviewed response to “the rise in atmospheric CO2 is natural” arguments at the time of writing, but there have been several since). Was worth a try.

    There are cases where it is worthwhile, I think the recent response to Hermann Harde’s paper has brought a somewhat higher level of information in range of the public debate, I’ve certainly learned a lot from it. It also resulted in the journal tightening up it’s peer review process, which is also a good thing (I hope Elsevier extend it to all of their journals). Should scientists address every piece of nonsense that makes it through peer review? No, most of the time such papers are dealt with by being ignored (and not cited), which is the fate of most papers that are written. There is only an argument for addressing the error if it (is likely to) get some traction in either the scientific community or in the general public.

  34. izen says:

    Is this a restatement of the 2LoT ?
    Or at least the inevitable observation that results from it.

    The Net flow is always from hot to cold. Or order to disorder.
    But there is back radiation. And the universe is works so that complex order can spontaneously emerge from disorder as in the molecule from the quarks and the adult from the ovum.

    But always at the expense of a greater increase in disorder.

    Basic biology means we produce about 3 times our body weight of crap a year.
    And a quarter tonne of CO2.

    Consuming anything more than basic survival needs is bound to involve similar or worse useful stuff to crap ratios.

    I am not convinced that current consumption is getting less efficient at generating useful energy and ordered matter, or producing more crap per unit of utility. The increase in crap is a consequence of the increased production of value.

    The transition of much of the functionality of our machines from hardware to software has improved the production of order with much less physical crap.
    Although this simple machine which sums up the trade-off between waste and work is hard to beat for efficiency.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290350425_Resonant_behavior_of_a_Hydraulic_ram_pump

  35. Mal Adapted says:

    SM:

    your title is crappy. should have been the relativity of crap

    I had the same thought when I saw the title, Steven. IMIMO, crappiness is relative to the scope of one’s objectives. It’s also (by definition) relative on the scale of ‘best’ practice.

    Under the mediocrity principle, the result of our individual or collective best practices are cosmically crappy. Yet we are existentially permitted to feel that within the scope of global humanity’s current paramount objective, namely to collectively cap AGW while collective practice for any objective is still feasible at scales larger than a hastily-fortified town, the result of our best practice is less crappy than that of inferior or no practice.

  36. Dave_Geologist says:

    the horse crap crisis of 1894

    Didn’t they have farms outside the city?

    Dundee, in the middle of Scotland’s main (or one of two main) fruit-growing areas had a monopoly on horse-crap collection within the city limits, and the city council ran it as a profitable exercise, selling to local farmers as fertiliser. Valuable stuff before the Haber Process was developed.

  37. Willard says:

    > Is this a restatement of the 2LoT ?

    Not exactly, since nothing prevents you to waste time trying to perfect a small part of the world, say the Internet:

    My “let’s embrace crappiness” is more something like a collective imperative, but I need to work on that point.

    ***

    > The increase in crap is a consequence of the increased production of value.

    I also contend that production of value comes with our ability to produce crap. So in my “crapology” there should be a feedback loop from crap to value, and from value to crap.

    To echo Moshpit’s criticism, I am tempted to write an essay entitled The Relativity of Crapology. But then I’d need to write a bunch of other essays.

    A collection Crapoligical Relativity and Other Essays would befit my avatar.

  38. Dave_Geologist says:

    The universe is crap. A beneficent creator wouldn’t have given us the three laws of thermodynamics (at least the first two, the third one always struck me as more of an accounting convention than a true physical law).

    Although I prefer these 3LOT (h/t my old chemistry lecturer).

    1. You can’t win.
    2. Except at absolute zero.
    3. But you can’t reach absolute zero.

  39. Szilard says:

    dikranmarsupial says:
    May 3, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    “… the lurkers in the discussion”

    Lurkers get forgotten about too often. Most people reading most content on blogs etc are lurkers. If you’re writing in the hopes of achieving broad influence, they are your target audience. Vocal, partisan participants are a secondary target & really only to rebut, for the benefit of the lurkers. Most of everything else is rhetoric or in-chatter, which is generally counterproductive, IMO.

    As a concrete example, I think it was Dikran who took the time to write some stuff rebutting Salby or some other whack-job at BH, which I as clueless lurker found very helpful.

  40. Willard says:

    Love that wording, Dave.

    I would add:

    1. You can’t win.
    2. Except at absolute zero.
    3. But you can’t reach absolute zero.
    4. The only losing move is not to play.

    Illustration:

    .https://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/5986919630

  41. Dave_Geologist says:

    Thanks Willard (and again, h/t Dr. Laine, or Arnold Layne as we called him, after the Pink Floyd song released at the start of their psychedelic period).

    It shows the value of humour in education that I still remember it, although that’s partly because it’s too good not to use on a semi-regular basis.

    “Arnold” was a cool dude who’d have liked Andy Clark’s shirt but would have thought his hair was far too short. Come to think of it, he did look a bit like Syd Barrett. Forget which class of synthesis reaction it was he taught us using the example of a certain mind-altering drug which Syd was a bit too fond of for his own good. It did come with a don’t-try-this-at-home-warning, because it produced some highly toxic by-products which would have needed industrial-strength equipment to remove.

  42. Mal Adapted says:

    I like D_G’s, and Willard’s, wording too. I’m nonetheless impelled to point out that deacon Dodgson, who though in 1871 CE was far from the first to get it, got it in one sentence:

    ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’

    The current number of humans, and our per capita resource-exploiting ability, may be the only conditions we can justifiably say are new 8^(! (‘Pride goeth before a fall’).

  43. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    1) ‘You cannot win the game’.
    2) ‘You cannot draw the game’.
    3) ‘You can never stop playing the game’.

  44. Willard says:

    Nice.

    I’ll add this caveat to (3):

    Bonus points if you do so while standing straight, with your shoulders back.

    Embracing crappiness may conflict with Jordan’s Clean Up Your Room, something that refute many creative workspaces, e.g.:

  45. BBD says:

    Crap expands to fill the space available to it.

  46. izen says:

    @-BBD
    “Crap expands to fill the space available to it.”

    Actually it expands to exceed the space available to it.
    Hence hyper-inflation after the big bang.

  47. Mal Adapted says:

    I said:

    deacon Dodgson, who though in 1871 CE was far from the first to get it, got it in one sentence

    OK, two sentences. Still about as crappy.

  48. BBD says:

    Actually it expands to exceed the space available to it.
    Hence hyper-inflation after the big bang.

    🙂

  49. Willard says:

    May the Fourth be with y’all:

  50. There’s an analog to Brickwall RickA in the oil depletion universe. The thinking is not to conserve oil and keep it in the ground, since we will need all the oil we can get to power the technologies that will help us find energy alternatives.

    We are seeing the Red Queen effect playing out in the Bakken of North Dakota.

  51. Steven Mosher says:

    “As a concrete example, I think it was Dikran who took the time to write some stuff rebutting Salby or some other whack-job at BH, which I as clueless lurker found very helpful.”

    Yup. there is a certain class of people, while not “experts” themselves, that have the skill and patience to explain the complicated in terms and ways that are more understandable to ‘lay’ audiences.

  52. Greg Robie says:

    I’d add SBSTA 48 agenda points 9-11 from Bonn to that list.

    9. Impact of the implementation of response measures:

    (a) Improved forum and work programme;

    (b) Modalities, work programme and functions under the Paris Agreement of the forum on the impact of the implementation of response measures;

    (c) Matters relating to Article 2, paragraph 3, of the Kyoto Protocol.

    10. Methodological issues under the Convention:

    (a) Revision of the UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories for Parties included in Annex I to the Convention;

    (b) Guidelines for the technical review of information reported under the Convention related to greenhouse gas inventories, biennial reports and national communications by Parties included in Annex I to the Convention;

    (c) Emissions from fuel used for international aviation and maritime transport.

    11. Methodological issues under the Kyoto Protocol: land use, land-use change and forestry under Article 3, paragraphs 3 and 4, of the Kyoto Protocol and under the clean development mechanism.

    https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/SBSTA%2048%20PA_0.pdf

    The window for science to have significant input into the Paris Rule Book is closing. The crap of cap & trade with offsets is getting piled on higher and deeper. We’ve fiddled while Rome burns.

    If this doesn’t make sense, think how David Buckel’s sacrifice cuts cleanly through the BS [motivated reasoning] of CapitalismFail’s loyal opposition.

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCeDkezgoyyZAlN7nW1tlfeA

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart

    >

  53. Willard says:

    A friend sent me this reference:

    Why we learn the wrong things from narrative history, and how our love for stories is hard-wired.

    To understand something, you need to know its history. Right? Wrong, says Alex Rosenberg in How History Gets Things Wrong. Feeling especially well-informed after reading a book of popular history on the best-seller list? Don’t. Narrative history is always, always wrong. It not just incomplete or inaccurate but deeply wrong, as wrong as Ptolemaic astronomy. We no longer believe that the earth is the center of the universe. Why do we still believe in historical narrative? Our attachment to history as a vehicle for understanding has a long Darwinian pedigree and a genetic basis. Our love of stories is hard-wired. Neuroscience reveals that human evolution shaped a tool useful for survival into a defective theory of human nature.

    Stories historians tell, Rosenberg continues, are not only wrong but harmful. Israel and Palestine, for example, have dueling narratives of dispossession that prevent one side from compromising with the other. Henry Kissinger applied lessons drawn from the Congress of Vienna to American foreign policy with disastrous results. Human evolution improved primate mind reading—the ability to anticipate the behavior of others, whether predators, prey, or cooperators—to get us to the top of the African food chain. Now, however, this hard-wired capacity makes us think we can understand history—what the Kaiser was thinking in 1914, why Hitler declared war on the United States—by uncovering the narratives of what happened and why. In fact, Rosenberg argues, we will only understand history if we don’t make it into a story.

    https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-history-gets-things-wrong

    Let’s hope we’re not hard-wired for story-telling.

  54. Dave_Geologist says:

    Sounds a bit pomo Willard (but no, I don’t want to re-ignite that discussion).
    Baby, bathwater and Asimov’s The Relativity of Wrong come to mind. For example

    Henry Kissinger applied lessons drawn from the Congress of Vienna to American foreign policy with disastrous results.

    Was that because the Congress of Vienna has been wrongly recorded in history textbooks, because it was not an appropriate analogy for Kissinger’s day, or just that Kissinger was a lot less good at drawing lessons from history than he thought he was? Always assuming that this particular historical claim about Henry K is even true in the first place.

    In the other example, denying that the Holocaust or the various earlier pogroms and later persecution in places like eastern Europe happened, or that there were Palestinians with good (secular) title living there before the State of Israel, or that the Western Powers arrogated to themselves the post-Imperial disposition of the Middle East without much legal authority, is Flat-Earth wrong. Balancing the suffering of the Jews and the Palestinians and saying one is more deserving for their own suffering or culpable for the suffering they imposed on others, lies somewhere between Hayford vs. Clarke geoid choice and Not Even Wrong (i.e. an ill-posed question, because it’s a moral or political one, not primarily a historical one). Ditto for “give the land to the most wronged” vs. “give the land to the strongest”. And saying “because the Bible” is not history, it’s religion.

  55. Willard says:

    I know of no POMO who wouldn’t be able to POMO just by assuming the relativity of wrong, Dave.

    Since it’s his 200th BDay:

    My avatar was no fan of modal logic, BTW.

  56. Willard, the people are still celebrating March 14th, and this year as most the jubilation will likely continue past Hegel’s birthday in August.

    If the faithful want to draw a bigger crowd than the CPUSA, which is crowing loudly about its reflation to 5,000 paying comrades, they should find a jockey named Harpo, and enter Nietzsche’s horse in the Maryland Hunt Cup.

  57. Willard says:

    HansE’s recent “but the PP” at Judy’s made me find a paper that makes a similar point to mine:

    [C]ompeting on the basis of risk can be beneficial when it provides useful incentives for risk management and loss prevention. But, just as embracing risk is counterproductive when it becomes an excuse for leaving large losses on individuals, so, too, is competing on the basis of risks over which individuals have no control or moral responsibility. (Cf. Hellman 1997) Competing on that basis has the inevitable consequence of forcing some individuals to “embrace” – surely not an apt word in this context – large losses over which they have no control.

    Along with embracing risk, we need to re-invigorate a forgotten 19 century insurance idea – that of destructive competition. When insurance companies compete by “cream- skimming” the good risks and shutting out the bad risks, they destroy the safety net that insurance is supposed to provide.

    My usage of “embrace” sounds a bit different, but to embrace crappiness should mean we embrace some risks too.

  58. Willard says:

    Russell,

    Speaking of horses, John shows a very one good very way to embrace crappiness:

    He even gets the meteorological fallacy.

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