Six years

I’ve just been reminded by WordPress that this is the sixth anniversary of me starting this blog. I’m somewhat amazed that I’ve kept it going that long. I am, however, finding it more and more difficult to find things to write about, which is partly why it’s been a lot less active recently than it has been in the past.

I have, however, learned an awful lot while writing this blog. I’ve read about, and thought about, topics that I probably wouldn’t have considered otherwise. I’ve had interesting discussions with many people, and still enjoy these discussions. I’ve also learned a lot from other people. I’ve, on occasion, had less than pleasant discussions, but these seem to be less commmon than they once were. This might be partly because the topic is slightly less contentious, but is probably also because people with different views are talking less to each other, which is a little disappointing even if it does make life more pleasant.

I want to thank those who’ve been supportive and those who contribute to the still quite active comment threads. I also want to thank those who’ve contributed guest posts, and those who’ve allowed their discussions with Willard to be posted here. I don’t know how active the blog will be in the coming year. As usual, I plan to simply play things by ear and to write what I feel like writing about, which can vary somewhat from time to time.

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117 Responses to Six years

  1. TTauriStellarBody says:

    I think the nature of denial has changed over the past decade. Its become more islolated from the mainstream, even more of an article of faith among the Tea Party\Trump tendencies in the English speaking world. Our biggest obstacles tend to be those who sort of accept the problem but do not place it high on their concerns when choosing who to vote for or when buying cars\consuming energy etc.
    I think in some ways obesity is a close parallel. Most people know being over weight is bad for us, most people know the solution. But a half dozen times a day people make small choices that hinder acting on that.
    The “big” solution is for governments to mandate infrastructure changes that means our small choices have lower carbon costs. But we loop back to the previous point, in the voting booth they choose lower taxes and issues associated with those kind of parties.
    On the flip side I think economics will be driving faster decrabonisation by the end of the next decade than political will.
    /rambling thoughts.

  2. TTauri,

    I think the nature of denial has changed over the past decade. Its become more islolated from the mainstream, even more of an article of faith among the Tea Party\Trump tendencies in the English speaking world.

    Yes, this is my impression too. I sometimes see people suggesting that we should come up with policies that appeal to Republicans, or Conservatives. The problem with this is that policies that might seem acceptable to Republicans/Conservatives are probably going to be policies that do little to actually address climate change.

  3. I started blogging in 2004 with frequent posts about various topics, but within a few years I transitioned to focusing only on original research with the intent of maintaining my blogs as an open research notebook. Of course the frequency of posts declined over the years (just because each post consumed a significant amount of time to produce), with the readership and commenting really declining. I’m glad I turned the best posts into a book on various earth sciences topics, because many of the graphs maintained by a free image hosting service have disappeared and much of the Latex markup for equations has become unmaintainable. Occasionally the comments turned contentious but I never had to turn on moderation/registration or ban people or delete comments, apart from paying Akismet a few dollars a month for anti-spam services. Without the Akismet plugin for WordPress comments, cleaning up the obvious spam would have driven me nuts. Just this past week, the plugin somehow got disabled during a WordPress update and so started getting 100 spam comments a day on a single post I did a few years ago.

    Curious to what the free blogs will look like in another 15 years. Entropy will rule, so thank goodness for conventional publishing.

  4. Thanks for all your thoughtful posts. The prevalence of courtesy here is outstanding.

    @aTTP: Good graphic: that’s a problem we all have, finding policy solutions that can be supported which will address real problems that we all would rather not face.

    @TTauri… Re obesity metaphor, there’s another useful understanding in that comparison. If one is overweight or especially obese (the extreme form), it’s a long process to recover. First, one must stop the increase (where we are now on climate), then slow it down, then level off. At that point, one can begin to remedy the actual problem. If we acknowledge that we are that far gone in fossil reliance and industrial-strength pollution and exploitation, that would be a start.

    @grinding my axe: I’m finding riches in my reading about the establishment of money and how property rights have all too often been exploited to advantage those who have and create conditions of slavery or near-slavery for those struggling to survive. In particular (forgive the continuing plugs), Steven Stoll’s Ramp Hollow which digs into the roots of industrial exploitation and its victims. While its main focus is Appalachia, it also addresses enclosure in the UK and African property appropriation, not to mention that there are earlier victims in my country, the original inhabitants, American Indians. Kingsolver’s diary from trying to be a true locavore (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral) discusses how we came to hunt in the supermarket for wasteful foods from afar in toxic plastic packets.

  5. izen says:

    Congratulations !

    Good excuse to do a retrospective comparison, perhaps derived from earlier threads ? There are three obvious elements.

    1)-How much has the actual climate changed ? (temperature, sea level, extreme events…)
    2)-How much has the active response changed ? (Solar, wind, increased CO2 emissions…)
    3)-How much has the discussion/politics changed. (less flat denial, more polarisation…)

  6. Congratulations!! Six years is not that much on climatic time scales. Hope you will keep on blogging.

    I must admit that I also do not blog that much any more and when I do more often about other stuff than climate change. We need a better kind of climate “sceptics”. That would make blogging more interesting.

  7. TTauriStellarBody: “I think in some ways obesity is a close parallel. Most people know being over weight is bad for us, most people know the solution.

    I know that a lot of people think that humans are not living creatures, but more like a bathtub, and claim you just need to ear less and move more, but I am not aware of any scientific study showing that any intervention has long term success in obtaining a stellar body. Do you have a source for the solution?

  8. correction: eat less and move more

  9. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    More and more I have become convinced that there are two main factors that drives blogging. One is it’s an opportunity to learn and share views, including with those who disagree. And another is a dopamine-driven reflex, to seek out a kind of validation (which, from a Buddhist kind of viewpoint is just an illusion anyway).

    Social media fora lend themselves to both impulses, IMO. They have explicitly been designed to offer the promise of the former and exploit the latter. I’m beginning to think that social media is a kind of perfect storm that feeds off and then amplifies certain features of evolution-based human psychology. It’s not that it’s created new features, but it may be uniquely situated to capitalize on them. There seems to be quite a number of negative psychological outcomes associated with the development and expansion of social media; of course, that doesn’t prove causality but I think there’s good reason to speculate, as well as plausible theories for a causal mechanism.

    At any rate, I think that the trick to maximizing the positive impact of social media is to try to maximize learning and talking aspect…and to let go of the dopamine aspect…and I have a clear sense that attempting to move in that direction pretty well describes the trajectory you’re on since I arrived at your blogospheric shores.

  10. VV said:

    “We need a better kind of climate “sceptics”. That would make blogging more interesting.”

    I would argue that we need climate science blogs that are of the caliber of serious science blogs such as exist in the math community. For example, start with Terry Tao’s math blog and then surf through his blog roll. https://terrytao.wordpress.com/

    Perhaps at one point I also thought that skeptics are what makes blogging interesting. But that’s only because blogging initially became popular from a political perspective, where conflict is pervasive. But now I think that it’s not skeptics but the research that ultimately makes science blogging interesting. Skeptics are more like a spice, not much nourishment but an occasionally interesting change of pace.

  11. layperson says:

    Congratulations from a layperson in Australia. The knowledge, authority and decency of the blog is greatly appreciated.

  12. Serious science blogs is an idea I like, but in practise most of my colleagues (scientists working on homogenisation) are not interested in it. So I would be writing for just a few people and most of my community would have to be reached in another way.

    Somewhat less serious science blogging would be to inform the climate science community about the state of the research on homogenization. That is something I occasionally do, but science does not change that fast, so if you do not go in depth that will always be a very limited number of posts.

    In case of very general problems in math and statistics you may get enough feedback to make serious science blogging at a decent level worthwhile.

    Apart from these special cases we first need to change the culture of science. Somehow, no idea how.

  13. izen says:

    @-VV
    “I know that a lot of people think that humans are not living creatures, but more like a bathtub, and claim you just need to eat less and move more,”

    All living creatures obey the laws of energy/mass conservation.
    Humans breath out an average of ~50g of CO2 per hour as a result of oxidising carbon in food with oxygen in the air. This can be measured by accurate weighing and measurement carbon of intake and exhaled output.
    Moving more can increase the weight of CO2 exhaled by ~20%
    Sleep can reduce it by ~50%.

    If you do not consume enough carbon to replace the carbon exhaled you loose weight.
    If you consume more carbon than you exhale you gain weight.

    @-“but I am not aware of any scientific study showing that any intervention has long term success in obtaining a stellar body.”

    Like the climate there are complicating factors. the more mass you already have, the more carbon you need to oxidise (and exhale) to maintain it. Your metabolic rate determines at what rate you oxidise carbon for that body mass. It has parallels with OHC and climate sensitivity.

    The problem is that there are subtle sensory feedbacks that shape your consumption of carbon, (hunger/satiety) as well as social cues that usually act to stabilise your body mass. Once ‘set’ these can be very hard to reset.
    But the ineluctable Laws of Thermodynamics dictate that if you consume less carbon (in the form of carbohydrates, fats/sugars) than you exhale your weight will drop. However while that can reduce your weight, maintaining that reduced weight requires a permanent reduction in carbon input and the reset of your metabolic and sensory system to maintain the new weight. That is the difficult part. So the method to reduce weight and maintain it is easy to define. But an intervention(?) that can achieve that is difficult because of the various feedbacks, metabolic and social, that oppose the change, and subvert the new balance.

    It may have more similarities to AGW than are superficially apparent!

  14. The first post on my climate change/economics/politics blog was in February 2009. I had zero visitors until June, when precisely 3 turned up. Blogger doesn’t tell you when you’ve had an anniversary so I didn’t get to think about it. So I’ve managed 10 years! Wonderlik!

  15. Sheila Rice says:

    Well done and carry on blogging – it’s always good to read your essays.

  16. Chubbs says:

    Congrats, biggest technical change in past 6 years is drop in cost for fossil-fuel alternatives. Have a feeling you will find something to write about as we cruise towards 1.5C with fossil fuels losing competitive advantage.

  17. Dave_Geologist says:

    Congratulations ATTP!

    I was a lurker for some time before dipping my toes (or rather my typing fingers) in. Haven’t regretted it.

  18. JCH says:

    I used to say the stacks (what we called the upper and hidden away rooms full of books at our university library) at RC were the best, but you really do have a lot really good things in those 6 years for those willing to dig.

    But there was no need to pile on by having your mother chime in.

  19. VV said:

    “In case of very general problems in math and statistics you may get enough feedback to make serious science blogging at a decent level worthwhile.”

    The blogger I mentioned above, Terry Tao, has a strong interest in Navier-Stokes and fluid dynamics, which is pretty specific and an applied math topic as well. His blog demonstrates that taking on difficult subject matter attracts other bright people that are likewise willing to take on tough challenges.

    It might be that the reason Tao’s blog an others like John Carlos Baez’s blog are so popular is that they can keep so many balls juggling in the air while maintaining deep analytical detail in their posts.

  20. mrkenfabian says:

    There aren’t that many blogs dealing with the climate and energy problem (much of my interest) where both the posts and the comments are actually worth reading – this is one.

  21. David B. Benson says:

    aTTP — A request if you please. On this mobile device I have no good way to reach the most recent comments. If these were listed most recent first my problem would be solved.

    Always enjoy visiting this blog.

  22. Joshua says:

    David –

    One possibility…do you see the comments at all? If not…this might do the trick:

    If you’re using Chrome on your phone, there might be an option to toggle between “simplified view” and whatever they call that other view….You can also try going to “settings” then “accessibility” to change the setting….

  23. Harry Twinotter says:

    “because people with different views are talking less to each other”

    Indeed. There is only so much of people making stuff up that one can take – you just have to move on at some point.

  24. I look forward to the next six!

    “but is probably also because people with different views are talking less to each other”

    I think the problem has never been with the talking, but the listening and the taking seriously. That has always been rather asymmetrical (e.g. writing a comment paper is quite a lot of work, but they don’t seem to prevent the skeptics from re-issuing the canard again regardless); at least not talking restores the symmetry! ;o)

  25. “Indeed. There is only so much of people making stuff up that one can take – you just have to move on at some point.

    I guess before Trump it was easier to fool yourself that while the arguments made no sense and many climate “sceptics” were manipulating data it might be possible that people do not understand what they are doing.

    With the Conman in Chief clearly not caring whatsoever whether what he says is true on any topic, it becomes easier to expert the same from his followers. Rather than writing debunking posts we need a political solution for the mess in America. My impression is that the main line of attack should be fighting the self-reinforcing complex of systemic corruption, inequality, monopolies and money in politics and media.

  26. Willard says:

    > It might be that the reason Tao’s blog an others like John Carlos Baez’s blog are so popular is that they can keep so many balls juggling […]

    Alternatively, Terrence is a wunderkind and John Carlos is a workhorse.

    Also, people tend to gravitate around a few blogs.

  27. “Also, people tend to gravitate around a few blogs.”

    That’s because blogs are dying out. At one time, we had lengthy active blogrolls, but now for most blogrolls you look at, the majority of the links turn out to be dormant. And few know what RSS feeds are, the best RSS reader was Google’s gReader which was discontinued in 2013. A few tried to create an alternative gReader but that was rather underwhelming and I just found out it disappeared last year with barely a whimper.

    I keep going because I use a blog as an open research notebook. A few others, including Nick Stockes, treat blogs that way.

  28. Joshua says:

    To the Swedish blogger John Nerst, online flame wars like those reveal a fundamental shift in how people debate public issues. Nerst and a nascent movement of other commentators online believe that the dynamics of today’s debates—especially the misunderstandings and bad-faith arguments that lead to the online flame wars—deserve to be studied on their own terms. “More and less sophisticated arguments and argumenters are mixed and with plenty of idea exchange between them,” Nerst explained in an email. “Add anonymity, and knowing people’s intentions becomes harder, knowing what they mean becomes harder.” Treating other people’s views with charity becomes harder, too, he said.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/erisology-the-science-of-arguing-about-everything/586534/

  29. David B. Benson says:

    Joshua, I see the comments in the order written. I don’t use Chrome for the main browser because that is not what is installed and I don’t know how to change it.

  30. Willard says:

    > Nerst and a nascent movement of other commentators online believe that the dynamics of today’s debates

    Ahem:

  31. Snape says:

    The internet has been my science classroom. I get into a debate on someone’s blog, which motivates research into a variety of subjects. Pressure, thermodynamics, wildfires, astronomy; literally hundreds of subjects that somehow, amazingly, end up relating to weather or climate. I learned about Milankovitch cycles, for example, by arguing whether or not the moon rotates about its axis….lol. Lots of fun.

  32. izen says:

    @-VV
    I think the ultimate example of Eristic argument can be seen in the ‘Flat Earth’ community that manages to deny all of science, optics, geometry, space and time, and logical reasoning while accusing their ‘globetard’ opponents of being malicious purveyors, or willing dupes of a vast and comprehensive conspiracy to misrepresent reality.

  33. russellseitz says:

    Andy Revkin has bounced back into view with the revelation thatforest management professionals have discovered that their charges emit more methane than all the world’s cows.

    Cue facepalm by Smokey the Bear

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2019/04/this-is-forest-primeval.html

  34. For those who are not native speakers.

    Eristic means “argumentative as well as logically invalid.” Someone prone to eristic arguments probably causes a fair amount of strife amongst his or her conversational partners. It’s no surprise, then, that the word traces its ancestry back to the Greek word for “strife.” Eristic and the variant eristical come from the Greek word eristikos, meaning “fond of wrangling,” from erizein, “to wrangle,” and ultimately from eris, which means “strife.” The adjective appeared in print in English in 1637. It was followed approximately 20 years later by the noun eristic, which refers to either a person who is skilled at debates based on formal logic or to the art or practice of argument.
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eristic

    Izen: “I think the ultimate example of Eristic argument can be seen in the ‘Flat Earth’ community that manages to deny all of science, …

    I would see the Flat Earthers as a commentary on the climate “sceptics”. Demonstrating that if you are disingenuous enough and care as much as Trump whether what you say makes sense you can keep a nonsense debate going until eternity. Makes your motivation to write an other blog post lower.

    But if you show Flat Earth videos to people a small percentage will be honestly fooled. If you do this with millions of people, like YouTube does, you get a movement that can fill a conference room. Depressing about a Flat Earth article recently in The Guardian was that many of those people had started with a YouTube video explaining why the Earth is really round. Makes your motivation to write an other blog post lower.

  35. Joshua says:

    In case anyone here’s interested (besides me) .

    http://rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/rs-229-john-nerst-on-erisology-the-study-of-disagreement.html

    This episode features John Nerst, data scientist and blogger at everythingstudies.com, discussing a potential new field called “erisology,” the study of disagreement. John and Julia discuss why Twitter makes disagreement so hard; whether there’s anything to learn from postmodernism; John’s “signal and corrective” model that explains why disagreement persists even when people agree on the key facts; and how the concept of “decoupling” helps explains Sam Harris and Ezra Klein’s debate last year about IQ.

  36. Willard says:

    Speaking of Ezra:

    Speaking of rationalism:

    Singal’s new article for The Atlantic is a combination feature/opinion piece (who can tell the difference these days?) which draws on citing three authors to make the case for a scientific study of conversational disagreement. Of interest here is that two of those citations are blogs. Both of those blogs are written by members of the “rationalist community”, and this should be something to keep in mind, because that community forms a subculture, with its own particular ideas and biases.

    […]

    The modern origins of the movement lie in two blogs, plus one later blog: OvercomingBias (now run by Robin Hanson, but originally run jointly by Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky) and LessWrong (which Yudkowsky left OvercomingBias in order to set up). SlateStarCodex is the third, set up by LessWrong user “Yvain”, now “Scott Alexander” – also an alias. He did so under the influence of LessWrong. SlateStarCodex is arguably the centre around which most rationalist discourse orbits today. I would argue this is probably because Alexander’s mode of thinking is less eccentric and his writing more demotic, though not much less wordy, than Yudkowsky’s.

    https://irrationallyspeaking.home.blog/2019/04/09/a-guide-for-the-perplexed-philosophers-jesse-singal-and-the-rationalist-subculture/

  37. angech says:

    A bit slow commenting but congratulations on the six years as well. I remain intrigued and hopeful as ever in view of your search for answers.

  38. Snape says:

    Completely OT, but might be of interest to someone….
    I live in the Pacific Northwest, where forest fires are a yearly occurrence, and I’ve been looking closely for a climate change connection.

    On a global scale, higher temperatures will increase evapotranspiration, the upward movement of water over land. Water moving upwards at a faster rate means water will fall back down at a faster rate, but not necessarily in the same location. That’s the kicker.

    So for example, on the western slopes of Washington’s Cascades Mountains, there’s been very little warming since 1900. Only 0.10 F /decade during the dry, fire prone months of May-August. Even better, rainfall has significantly increased, 0.09”/decade. That might not sound like a lot, but it has added up to over an inch per season. A big deal for preventing fire.

    A few hundred miles to the south, in the forests of Northwestern California, the situation is very different. Twice the warming (0.2 F/decade), and a rainfall defecit! (- 0.03” /decade) for those same months. A big problem.

    Bottom line, the climate change connection to wildfires likely varies tremendously from one location to another, even over short distances (the eastern slopes of the Cascades, for instance, have similar trends to NW California), something I hadn’t considered until recently.

    (All the figures come from NOAA’s Climate at a Glance)

  39. Snape says:

    Whoops, something I forgot to mention, from Wikipedia:

    “The Mendocino Complex Fire was the largest recorded fire complex in California history.[8] It was a large complex of two wildfires, the River Fire and Ranch Fire, which burned in Mendocino, Lake, Colusa, and Glenn Counties in the U.S. State of California, with the Ranch Fire being California’s single-largest recorded wildfire. The Ranch Fire burned eight miles northeast of Ukiah, and the River Fire burned six miles north of Hopland, to the south of the larger Ranch Fire. First reported on July 27, 2018, both fires burned a combined total of 459,123 acres (1,858 km2), before they were collectively 100% contained on September 18;[1] the Ranch Fire alone burned 410,203 acres (1,660 km2), surpassing the Thomas Fire to become the single-largest modern California wildfire.”

    Where is Mendocino County? It’s in NW California.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendocino_County,_California

  40. Dave_Geologist says:

    Snape, in general you can expect wet places to get wetter, dry places drier, and in places like India or California with seasonal climates, wet seasons to get wetter and dry seasons drier. But of course there will be local exceptions. And when it comes to fire, in some cases wetter will outweigh warmer, in others earlier snowmelt will dominate, in others extension of the fire season into a normally-dry-but-too-cold winter. Some references I dug out previously.

    Disequilibrium of fire-prone forests sets the stage for a rapid decline in conifer dominance during the 21st century

    Using a landscape simulation model, we estimate that about one-third of the Klamath forest landscape (500,000 ha) could transition from conifer-dominated forest to shrub/hardwood chaparral, triggered by increased fire activity coupled with lower post-fire conifer establishment. Such shifts were widespread under the warmer climate change scenarios (RCP 8.5) but were surprisingly prevalent under the climate of 1949–2010, reflecting the joint influences of recent warming trends and the legacy of fire suppression that may have enhanced conifer dominance.

    Parts of the forest are already out of equilibrium with the current climate, hanging on through inertia (big, old trees) and modern fire suppression (so far from making things worse, fire management practices are the only thing keeping the forest in place). The problem is not just burning but lack of natural regrowth, which will only get worse. So clear-felled areas may also be at risk of reverting to chaparral, unless human planting replaces the conifers.

    Time series of maximum fire size for different model simulation. Horizontal solid line indicates the historical maximum fire size recorded in the area (Biscuit fire 202,000 ha). See Table 1 for climate change scenario acronyms.

    In fairness to us humans, some of the disequilibrium is natural and associated with warming out of the LIA. Fire was more prevalent during the Medieval Warm Period. Of course we’ve now zoomed past that benchmark and are metaphorically pouring petrol on the flames. The area where forest is no longer the equilibrium biome also poses a sustainability question. Even if trees are replanted after logging, at what point will they fail to thrive, so “sustainable” forestry and CO2 cycling becomes unsustainable? I suspect, given the dry summers projected for the more northerly forests, the same will apply in Canada and Siberia. In some places, once a forest has burned it will never re-establish, because it’s only the presence of mature trees which provides an ecosystem in which saplings can thrive.

    In the Klamath, the influence of a reduction in severe fire during the Little Ice Age, or a period of frequent but lower-severity fire in 1700–1900 may have increased the dominance of conifer forests

  41. Dave_Geologist says:

    (continued)
    It’s arguable that the parts of the Klamath forest which already have a chaparral climate should just be left to revert to chaparral. Bur people prefer trees. If only to cut them down 😦 , And allowing them to burn won’t help the CO2 situation. I found this paper.

    The median area burned was 106 ha, and the pre-Euro-American fire rotation of 19 yr increased to 238 yr after 1905.

    Obviously the very long return time nowadays is because of human fire suppression efforts, given that the previous paper showed that we have moved into a more fire-prone climate not a less fire-prone one. And that may well be a factor in fire size. It’s an interesting question for a resident: would you rather have small fires nearby every twenty years or a huge one every 200 years? I also wonder if the pre-1900 burning was entirely natural. Some farming and hunter-gatherer tribes use managed fire to clear underbrush, drive game, make space for kitchen gardens, provide charcoal to till into the soil etc. And move around on a decades-to-generations basis, building a new village each time out of local material when resources are exhausted at the old place. If your home is birch-and-skin or mud-and-wattle, you might be content to move and burn your own previous home range to stimulate new growth you can exploit when you return four village-moves later. Not quite so easy if you have a million dollar home on the site. Or even a £100k home.

    BTW ATTP one reason I like coming here is that I’m stimulated to explore a subject I wouldn’t have explored otherwise, and more often than not I find it interesting.

  42. Willard says:

    > For those who are not native speakers.

    Eristic has become a synonym of “quarrelsome,” but it once was also known as contradiction:

    In philosophy and rhetoric, eristic (from Eris, the ancient Greek goddess of chaos, strife, and discord) refers to argument that aims to successfully dispute another’s argument, rather than searching for truth. According to T.H. Irwin, “It is characteristic of the eristic to think of some arguments as a way of defeating the other side, by showing that an opponent must assent to the negation of what he initially took himself to believe.” Eristic is arguing for the sake of conflict, as opposed to resolving conflict.

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

    Winning an argument looks like a good way to resolve conflicts. Nevermind. Disputation has a more venerable tradition than the prototypical Donald monologue or a review from Reviewer 2:

    In the scholastic system of education of the Middle Ages, disputations (in Latin: disputationes, singular: disputatio) offered a formalized method of debate designed to uncover and establish truths in theology and in sciences. Fixed rules governed the process: they demanded dependence on traditional written authorities and the thorough understanding of each argument on each side.

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

    Anyone who had to experience a thesis committee should have had a taste of eristic. Once upon a time, theses were meant to be provocative. If research results are not surprising, why publish them?

    ClimateBall is eristic applied to climate exchanges. It’s no “erisology” but an art form – at best a dance (hint: “ball”) since it comes with no real scoring mechanism. I don’t think combat or war can become a science.

    As a matter of classification, eristic is opposed to dialectic, i.e. a pure search for truth. A basic scheme I rather like:

    Overall, I duly submit that the “can’t we just all get along” stance is just as corrosive as pure antagonism. A concern troll who constantly asks for more civility remains a troll, and should be judged according to what he helps co-create. If we could all accept that people who comment online compete to win the hearts and minds of the audience while trying to make sense of it all, that’d be great.

  43. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    . If we could all accept that people who comment online compete to win the hearts and minds of the audience while trying to make sense of it all, that’d be great.

    Seems to me that while those might often be proximal goals (and it seems to me there might be other proximal goals as well), there might be other stuff going on underneath (or alongside) those proximal goals. I don’t know where the line of differentiation lies, or what’s most important, but for me it’s worth it to consider that maybe there’s more than what meets the eye.

    It seems to me that neither wining hearts and minds of the audience, nor making sense of it all, seem to be very common outcomes. Of course, I may be wrong about that, but to the extent that I”m not, I think it’s interesting to speculate as to whether or how activities engaged in often and with great intensity, but that (as near as I can tell) don’t often result in the identified proximal goals, might be serving less obvious goals in some fashion.

    Also,

    Overall, I duly submit that the “can’t we just all get along” stance is just as corrosive as pure antagonism. A concern troll who constantly asks for more civility remains a troll, and should be judged according to what he helps co-create.

    Does that target Nerst?

  44. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “It seems to me that neither wining hearts and minds of the audience, nor making sense of it all, seem to be very common outcomes. ”

    I would tend to agree that wining hearts and minds is not a primary goal, more a desired, or validating outcome of the proximal goal.

    I am interested to hear what you might suggest as other proximal goals.

    ‘Making sense of it all’ seems to be a primary motivation, often in the form of a narrative that enhances your allegiance and standing in a chosen community. (That it often fails may not indicate it is peripheral.)

    Hence the common trope of claiming to be on the side of righteousness because your opponents sacrifice and eat babies.
    The sense you make of things can easily be nonsense. (42)

  45. Joshua says:

    izen –

    ‘Making sense of it all’ seems to be a primary motivation, often in the form of a narrative that enhances your allegiance and standing in a chosen community.

    I guess my view hinges on some issues that might basically be semantical. First, I think that winning hearts might (in party) imply getting people who disagree or who are neutral to come into agreement. I don’t think that happens very often, so if people are engaging with that as one endpoint and that endpoint is hardly ever reached, then it suggests to me that there’s something else in play; why would people remain engaged in an activity despite gaining little of the benefit they desire from engaging in that activity? Although I suppose that often times people remain engaged in activities with little of the benefit they desire basically because they don’t get that benefit IOW, they’re chasing something unachievable because of some flawed development-based tendency to think that “If only I could achieve that….” presto, the problem would be solved. Obviously, I could be projecting there.

    Yes, I think that signaling your allegiance with a group is a pretty big part of it. But I think sometimes what gets overlooked is a kind of self-signalling. People engage not only because they want to signal to the others in the group, but because they want’ to gain confidence in themselves that they they weren’t wrong, and that they’re not in the wrong group. And yes, “they” eat babies would fit with both motivation: IOW, “Since the group that disagrees with us eats babies it’s clear that we don’t eat babies and since people in my group don’t eat babies I can rest assured that I don’t eat babies.”

  46. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “People engage not only because they want to signal to the others in the group, but because they want’ to gain confidence in themselves that they they weren’t wrong”

    Agreed.
    You can see it in the ‘Flat Earth’ conflict. It is both the ‘Flatists’ and the ‘Spherists’ who devote enormous effort, and a good many YT videos, to reassuring themselves, as much as others, that they are the right thinking people with the TRUE insight into the matter.

    In common with the climate disputes, one side is convinced that conventional mainstream science and the evidence it uses is correct, the other that there is a vast conspiracy to deny them the meaningful existence and validation they lack.

  47. Willard says:

    > Does that target Nerst?

    No idea. I know it targets Jesse:

    ***

    > It seems to me that neither wining hearts and minds of the audience, nor making sense of it all, seem to be very common outcomes.

    Objectives are not outcomes.

    ***

    > I think it’s interesting to speculate as to whether or how activities engaged in often and with great intensity, but that (as near as I can tell) don’t often result in the identified proximal goals, might be serving less obvious goals in some fashion.

    Go for it.

  48. Steven Mosher says:

    “If we could all accept that people who comment online compete to win the hearts and minds of the audience while trying to make sense of it all, that’d be great”

    “I think it’s interesting to speculate as to whether or how activities engaged in often and with great intensity, but that (as near as I can tell) don’t often result in the identified proximal goals, might be serving less obvious goals in some fashion.”

    Less obvious goals.
    amusing yourself
    fooling others

  49. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    Objectives are not outcomes.

    ?

    I’m questioning why would people continue in persuimg objectives that they don’t reach, i.e., if over an extended period of time of heavy engagement the outcomes of their activity don’t match those objectives.

    Maybe it suggests that their objectives are not what they appear to be. How long does one continue to try to win hearts (in much the same fashion) if one isn’t winning hearts? If they persist when their objectives aren’t met, why?

  50. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    Less obvious goals.
    amusing yourself
    fooling others.

    Again the question of relationship between goals and outcomes.

    Hard to judge from the outside, of course, but I don’t think I see either happening much as outcomes, if not as goals.

    In the pod I linked, they talk about how people in online discourse sometimes talk about how “amused” they are about the id*ots they’re interacting with, when in fact it doesn’t seem much like they’re actually amused – but using the putative amusement as an aggressive posture. (I’m certainly aware that I’ve done that in the past, and have tried to cut it out).

    I see a lot of people who look to me to be pretty hostile and angry. Not attributes that generally go along with amusement.

    There does seem to be mounting evidence that increased use of social media is associated with some pretty negative psychological outcomes although I don’t think that there’s much evidence to support causality….

    I don’t see much evidence that many people are getting fooled. Maybe you could describe what you see that looks like that to you?

  51. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    No idea. I know it targets Jesse:

    I was meaning to ask if you intended it to target Nerst (not whether it might apply to him). So it seems that the answer is no.

  52. Willard says:

    > I’m questioning why would people continue in persuimg objectives that they don’t reach, i.e., if over an extended period of time of heavy engagement the outcomes of their activity don’t match those objectives.

    You sure can. Please do. In return, I’ll continue to believe that people try to seek truth, beauty, and power all at the same time. It makes sense of what I do. It solves a theorical difficulty of having to classify exchanges. It parries “but I’m only here for the science” stance. It saves me from psychologizing. It minimizes moralism while being ethically sound.

    As for what really motivates us or causes this brouhaha, who is what they seem.

  53. jacksmith4tx says:

    It’s been a pleasure to read the posts and comments. Six years, my how time flies…. But it’s all really just a mater of perspective.
    Enjoy the End of the Universe!

  54. JCH says:

    We can all get along:

  55. Snape says:

    Dave geologist
    What a great comment! A quantum leap over most blog posts I’ve seen on the subject. I’m still working through the links, and will need to get back to you in little increments….hopefully the host won’t mind or we could take it up later as wildfires start to make headlines again.

    *******
    “In some places, once a forest has burned it will never re-establish, because it’s only the presence of mature trees which provides an ecosystem in which saplings can thrive.”

    Absolutely, but “in some places” is the key. There is a long, relatively narrow forested corridor that runs along the Pacific Ocean. Starts in Northern California and continues north way up into British Columbia. You’re probably familiar.

    On the eastern edge of this “green ribbon” the forest struggles because it’s getting too dry. A bad fire there, in combination with even drier and hotter due to climate change, I could see how the trees might not be able to reestablish. Same idea moving south as you approach Central California. The forests there may never recover.

    *****
    Something funny from one of your links:
    “Tree-ring fire-scar records, in contrast, are limited by their inability to reconstruct recurrent high-severity fire; long fire-scar records occur only in areas of low-severity fire (20).”

    Yeah, tree ring records are limited when there’s no trees……lol.

  56. izen says:

    @-W
    ” I’ll continue to believe that people try to seek truth, beauty, and power all at the same time.”

    I think I understand your explanation of why such a belief has utility. But I find such abstract concepts… difficult to define as core motivations for human actions.

    I would like to believe that those promoting the science of climate change are acting from a desire to ensure that they, and others hold beliefs that are valid given the evidence and logical conclusions we have from our experience of an external material reality. And that would also apply to those that promote such ‘realism’ against the Flat Earth, Anti-Vaxxer, and other irrational conspiracy convictions.
    But the fervency and extremism that some pursue this ‘search for Truth’ sows doubt. There would seem to be other motivations for the lengths that Extinction Rebellion for example adopt than just a wish to hold accurate beliefs.

    When looking at those that adopt Flat Earth, anti-vax or AGW denial beliefs, a desire for Truth Beauty and Power looks less cogent as an explanation.
    One feature, or possibly flaw, in sentience is that it motivates a desire to find legitimacy and meaning in our self-awareness. Science tends to indicate that our individual sentience is a very brief and small existence in a vast abyss of time and space. How much more satisfying to be convinced that we are special, important, and at the centre of the material universe, or at least the solar system. And that only evil powers are denying our ‘true’ importance in the grand scheme of things.

    Unfortunately it is only a small step from that to believing that those who would deny our beliefs in this meaning we have found are evil while we are good. And so the blood libel, pizzagate, and the conviction that the products of terminations of pregnancy are sold to the rich and powerful to perpetuate their life and privilege.
    Religions are especially prone to ascribing evil to others as a means of ascribing moral excellence to the believer.

    One test for this is whether those that believe that climate change is real, or that vaccination causes autism, or Islam burns down churches, is if, when faced with evidence that AGW, medical treatment, religion (or atheism), heliocentric systems etc are NOT as they believe they accept the evidence with relief, or double down in the evangelical absolutism of their position.
    It is difficult to do that if you have invested the legitimacy of your existence and moral quality in a particular world view.

  57. Izen: “When looking at those that adopt Flat Earth, anti-vax or AGW denial beliefs, a desire for Truth Beauty and Power looks less cogent as an explanation.

    What are the possible explanations for why people are Flat Earthers?
    1) Feeling like they are the middle point of the Earth?
    2) Making fun of climate “sceptics”?
    3) …

    P.S. JCH, wonderful picture of the flat and spherical Earth for people who claim the truth is in the middle to appease everyone.

  58. Joshua says:

    What are the possible explanations for why people are Flat Earthers?

    That is an interesting question.

  59. Joshua- most people, including me, have never met an actual flat earther. But they’ve seen lots of stories like this one where activists (on the left as in this case, and the right) shout down science:
    http://news.trust.org/item/20190418094429-rl1l2

  60. Steven Mosher says:

    “In return, I’ll continue to believe that people try to seek truth, beauty, and power all at the same time. It makes sense of what I do. It solves a theorical difficulty of having to classify exchanges. It parries “but I’m only here for the science” stance. It saves me from psychologizing. It minimizes moralism while being ethically sound.”

    seems about right.

    Psst. I like the interviews you do.

    I’d actually subscribe to a pod cast of them.

  61. Willard says:

    > I find such abstract concepts… difficult to define as core motivations for human actions.

    Then don’t use them for that. They have other uses in our quest for understanding. It provides minimal agency to those I encounter on the ClimateBall field or elsewhere. Private motivations of otters ain’t my business. I discover mine along the way.

    Our quest for understanding isn’t that dissimilar to when we seek an agreement or struggle to win a debate:

    Fighting is a non-ideal way to allocate an independently valuable resource—something we resort to when negotiations break down. This is a good critique of fighting. But it doesn’t extend to the case where the resource lacks independent value and is sought after precisely because it provides an occasion for fighting. Sometimes I want what you want, because you want it, indeed because that means I can fight you for it. And the reason I want to fight you is to know which one of us is stronger. In this sort of case I would reject a fifty-fifty division not because I believe I know I can get a better one, but precisely because I don’t believe I know, and finding out whether I can is my true goal.

    In such cases, the battle prize is knowledge of one’s own mettle. We want to come to terms with the potential we have in us, a potential that will be left forever unknown until it’s tested in the most extreme terms against the best opponent possible. That is a problem to which fighting is quite an efficient and rational solution. The only real way to know how hard I can fight is to fight as hard as I can. As Aristotle says, actuality is conceptually prior to potentiality.

    Whether fighting is rational or not depends on the status of the precise, certain knowledge of relative strength that only the actual fight can provide: Is it desired merely instrumentally, or for its own sake? Fighting, done right, is a form of inquiry. And that brings us back to philosophy.

    https://thepointmag.com/2019/examined-life/is-philosophy-fight-club-agnes-callard

    Trying to know thyself should be a Good Thing. Reaching that goal is probably impossible, but our knowledge of the world does not come from a placid stare. We need to interact with it. In it there are otters. To connect with otters is a great thrill. It does not always happen, but it’s worth trying.

    Popper said that life was problem solving. Emanuel Lasker contends it was more like a struggle. Forrest Gump’s mum preferred to say it’s more like a box of chocolate. Why not have it all? Let’s generalize: life is what you make it.

  62. Willard says:

    By serendipity:

  63. I liked that article from Agnes Callard, but I don’t like the machismo of fight club.

  64. “It parries “but I’m only here for the science” stance. ”

    not sure why that needs parrying.

  65. Willard says:

    > I don’t like the machismo of fight club.

    I mind it less than a decade ago. An acquired taste, perhaps. It feeds a poetry project centered on gaslighting. My reaction to it differs IRL. The delayed response time of online communication helps.

    Three points on this.

    First, online machismo looks ridiculous to me. At best it leads to what I call SpeedoScience. At worse it indicates the desperate need to terminate an exchange, e.g.:

    Second, online machismo reveals masculinity issues that we need to tackle. A fellow Montrealer suggests that traditional masculinity is good for academia. I don’t like the way he argued his point (I stopped at the third big blunder), but it should be possible to defend masculinity without sounding like a prick. That issue certainly should not be left to Freedom Fighters, the Dank Web, or himpathy enthusiasts.

    Third, online machismo needs to be confronted. I believe in learning-by-doing, and in what I call the reciprocation principle. (Basically, everything one does and say can be said and done against you.) Those who punch down might be tamed or at least contained enough to create some breathing room for those who prefer more pacific means of communication. This can’t be obtained by simply asking that “male energy” be toned down:

    These points involve having to deal with thugs. I don’t suggest anyone try this at home. It’s just something I decided to do.

  66. Willard says:

    > not sure why that needs parrying.

    There is a short and a long answer to this. If requested, I can give the long answer later tonight. The short answer is that it often excuses indirect aggression.

  67. izen says:

    @-W
    “It provides minimal agency to those I encounter on the ClimateBall field or elsewhere. Private motivations of otters ain’t my business. I discover mine along the way.”

    I agree with the aim to avoid mind reading, although the social imperative to employ empathy and construct narratives for otters, often based on equally fallacious stories we construct for our own motives, is difficult to avoid.

    @-“Sometimes I want what you want, because you want it, indeed because that means I can fight you for it. And the reason I want to fight you is to know which one of us is stronger. In this sort of case I would reject a fifty-fifty division not because I believe I know I can get a better one, but precisely because I don’t believe I know, and finding out whether I can is my true goal.”

    This, from the link you give, I find interesting. I am not sure it absolves us from ascribing or inventing intentional agency for otters.
    I will have to consider it further.

  68. >I mind it less than a decade ago. An acquired taste, perhaps. It feeds a poetry project centered on gaslighting. My reaction to it differs IRL. The delayed response time of online communication helps.

    I actually haven’t seen the film. I will make it part of my weekend to view.

    I like your three points, and will add that we also need more articles, publications, etc. articulating a different vision of masculinity, maleness, etc. apart from the philosobros.

  69. Willard: “The short answer is that it often excuses indirect aggression.”

    indeed; however sometimes it is simply the truth. Even if you yourself are not “just here for the science”, discussing the science is not a bad strategy if the science is on your side (or better still, you are on the side of science).

  70. Joshua wrote “I’m questioning why would people continue in persuimg objectives that they don’t reach, i.e., if over an extended period of time of heavy engagement the outcomes of their activity don’t match those objectives.”

    This sums up my cricket career rather too well! ;o)

    Relating to on-line engagement in the climate debate, I can give you an example from personal experience. I hate the idea that our societal [in]action on climate change will be based on bullshit. rather than a reasonable appreciation of the science. I know that my attempts to discuss the science is unlikely to have a significant impact in terms of the outcome, but I continued to do it because it was the right thing to do anyway.

    I suspect the objective of many climate skeptics is to gather a following (i.e. attention-seeking) and if it wasn’t climate change, it would be something else.

  71. Joshua wrote “I’m questioning why would people continue in pursuing objectives that they don’t reach, i.e., if over an extended period of time of heavy engagement the outcomes of their activity don’t match those objectives.

    I do not think it is knowable whether your engagement makes a difference. It is extremely rare for people to change their mind in one conversation, especially one in public and even more so if the initial motivation is political rather than scientific. It happens in science, but also then it normally takes more time, I have rarely seen it outside of science.

    I once had a long debate with a girlfriend and the next time we talked about it we had both changed our minds. During the discussion none of us gave in, but it did start us thinking and after some time changed our positions.

    Once it takes multiple interactions, you cannot only consider your contribution, but it will be many contributions and an unknown counter factual.

    Rather than personal experience, we would need science. My impression is that the only communication strategy with somewhat solid evidence behind it is to tell people there is a clear consensus among scientists that climate change is a man-made problem.

  72. Willard says:

    > sometimes it is simply the truth

    Could be, as we all need to provide cues to manage our roles and communication objectives. More often than not, however, “I’m only in it for the science” implicates “and your not.” Commenters who stick to the science (PekkaP, RonB, FredM, TomFid, PaulS, Chubbs, et tutti quanti) usually ignore everything except the scientific claims being made.

    ***

    > the social imperative to employ empathy and construct narratives for otters, often based on equally fallacious stories we construct for our own motives, is difficult to avoid.

    We are indeed social animals:

    The present studies (total n = 151) experimentally manipulated meaningfulness in novel social groups and measured any resulting ingroup biases. Study 1 showed that even when groups were arbitrary and presumptively meaningless, 5- to 8-year-olds developed equally strong ingroup biases as did children in more meaningful groups. Study 2 explored the lengths required to effectively reduce ingroup biases by stressing the arbitrariness of the grouping dimension. Even in this case ingroup bias persisted in resource allocation behavior, though it was attenuated on preference and similarity measures. These results suggested that one has to go to great lengths to counteract children’s tendency to imbue newly encountered social groups with rich affiliative meaning.

    https://psyarxiv.com/yh9xv/

    As the young so the old, if I believe what I witness from my family on the Old Social media channel. The accusation of tribalism is thus more than offensive, it fails on empirical ground. Most of us would not want to be cast away to a paradise island.

    By contrast, the Zarathustrean imagery signals loneliness more than creativity:

    Even if we embrace an individualistic ideal, AGW clearly shows that we’re all in it together and that we need to negotiate norms by which most of us are more or less OK.

  73. Willard: “As the young so the old, if I believe what I witness from my family on the Old Social media channel. The accusation of tribalism is thus more than offensive, it fails on empirical ground.

    I am confused. Doesn’t your quote above this claim state how easy it is for humans to fall prey to tribalism. That would make the accusation less offensive and empirically quite likely true.

  74. Willard says:

    > Doesn’t your quote above this claim state how easy it is for humans to fall prey to tribalism.

    The very idea of “falling prey” to tribalism presumes we could not, which I think goes against empirical evidence. There’s very little we can do about the reality that people identify with all kinds of things and concepts. It also presumes we should not. Sports fans around the world are still waiting for a strong case on that one.

    You yourself appealed to the “clear consensus among scientists that climate change is a man-made problem.” The tribe of climate scientists has thus spoken. Would this be a fair description? Probably not, as there are negative connotations to tribalism. The question then becomes – is using tribalism ever fair? Some argue that it is not:

    The success of the term ‘tribe’ in shaping our perceptions of the African societies may be seen in the widespread usage of the term by African journalists and scholars. Because English, French, Portuguese, and occasionally Afrikaans were the languages of the schools and the city, tribe, tribu, and the other cognates defined the language of urban and political interaction and defined the categories into which rural and urban societies were allocated during the colonial period. Now, prominent African leaders use the term in appealing for “an end to tribalism,” referring to the urban and national struggles for political power in utilizing ethnic and language ties as a means to aggregate power and authority. They too miss the ethnic dynamic and mistakenly link the urban ethnicity to the rural societies. Finally, tribe is a source of misunderstanding the great diversity of rural Africa by labeling small hunting and gathering groups of less than 100 persons as a tribe as well as a far-flung, multinational Fulani trading group of millions of persons across circa 19 nations as a “tribe.” The term had no validity for describing the pre-colonial period. It has less legitimacy now. And the term is as demeaning as ever.

    https://www.africa.upenn.edu/K-12/Tribe-and-tribalism-Wiley2013.pdf

    I’m not saying that what the kids do is rational. What I’m saying is that it’s natural and that we may need to develop a more nuanced conception of rationality to explain it properly. Just like absolute chaos is inconceivable without a more flexible conception of order, absolute irrationality cannot be clarified.

    Hence why I prefer “freedom fighter” to “rationalist” to characterize Jesse’s tribe.

  75. Steven Mosher says:

    “Private motivations of otters ain’t my business. I discover mine along the way.”

    I doubt folks will get that. requires reflection and a philosophical bent.

  76. Steven Mosher says:

    “Commenters who stick to the science (PekkaP, RonB, FredM, TomFid, PaulS, Chubbs, et tutti quanti) usually ignore everything except the scientific claims being made.”

    there was a funny test I used to do for this trait. Combine a truth with an ad hom.
    see if they ignore the ad hom. 2+2=4, you dummy.

    BTW I agree with your list.

  77. Willard “More often than not, however, “I’m only in it for the science” implicates “and your not.” “

    Yes, but that is also often true. A lot of people on both sides of the debate have a wider set of considerations (e.g. not wanting to be taxed or social justice), and I don’t see anything particularly wrong with that. On both sides of the science you get people that bend the science to match their position to varying degrees (e.g. Stephen Hawking), I don’t think anyone is perfectly objective about it. Communication problems can arise though if people are not open (or aware) of what considerations actually do lie behind their position.

    “Private motivations of otters ain’t my business.”

    I try to apply a variant of Hanlon’s razor, which is to interpret what other say in the best light that is consistent with the evidence, which is of course just an application of the Golden rule. This is difficult as it is human nature to search for slights/insults/duplicity in others (“theory of mind” is probably essential in an intelligent social species in order to avoid exploitation). If someone says they are only* interested in the science, discuss the science with them. I tend to be happier when I am able to do that.

    “I discover mine along the way.”

    Me also.

    * this is inevitably hyperbole, I don’t think anybody is ever only interested in one aspect of anything, so I’d treat it as meaning “predominantly”.

  78. Willard: “The very idea of “falling prey” to tribalism presumes we could not, which I think goes against empirical evidence. There’s very little we can do about the reality that people identify with all kinds of things and concepts. It also presumes we should not. Sports fans around the world are still waiting for a strong case on that one.

    I do think we have a choice. Europe used to be plagued by war and nationalist, but we learned the trick of collaboration and had mostly peace for over 70 years.

    People believing things because their systemically corrupt TV stations tells them that that is the correct position for their tribe is not a good way to discover which policies are best for you. I am happy to say that I think that is not how we should decide on policies or on how the world works. To determine how the world works by science rather than tribalism is a trick we recently discovered. It may well go away again, because it does not come “natural” to people, but I am in favor of it. I think it that makes the world a better place.

    There is no harm in letting your tribal instincts go in picking a random sports club and feel that club is the one and only, but when it comes to important decisions I prefer to use rational thought as much as possible.

    The winner takes all electoral systems in American and the UK probably also stimulate tribalism. In nearly all voting districts the voters have no influence, for those people it does not pay to invest time and money to inform themselves, it thus does not pay to have a press and broadcasters to cater to a tiny group for which this information does matter and also this small group is thus also not well informed. Then in the end the only thing that is left to make political decisions is tribalism. We are just seeing America and the UK going down because of this.

  79. Dave_Geologist says:

    Snape, your funny comment: “Yeah, tree ring records are limited when there’s no trees……lol.” reminds me of the weather West of Shetland. When the first permanent oil production facilities were put there in the 1990s, one had its hundred-year-storm in the first winter, the other in its first decade. That wasn’t (mostly) down to climate change. An old hand told me that in the absence of fixed installations, and before satellites, they relied on routine mariners’ reports for storm occurrence and intensity. Observations were truncated where the observing ship sank, or the crew were too busy saving the ship to bother about quantifying the storm.

  80. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    Third, online machismo needs to be confronted…. Those who punch down might be tamed or at least contained enough to create some breathing room for those who prefer more pacific means of communication. This can’t be obtained by simply asking that “male energy” be toned down:

    Seems we could turn that around also. IOW, those who exhibit “male energy” might at least be contained enough by asking them to tone down to create some breathing room…This can’t be obtained by simply by confrontation.

    Seems to me that establishing good faith is almost always a prerequisite for positive outcomes; w/o that, you mostly get same old same old. With good faith, a variety of strategies can be employed, without it, none are much of any good, IMO. Goes back to what is the point. Is your goal to have a convo?

  81. Joshua says:

    Arrgghh. Meant to put a close italics after “down.”

  82. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    Relating to on-line engagement in the climate debate, I can give you an example from personal experience. I hate the idea that our societal [in]action on climate change will be based on bullshit. rather than a reasonable appreciation of the science. I know that my attempts to discuss the science is unlikely to have a significant impact in terms of the outcome, but I continued to do it because it was the right thing to do anyway.

    While any individual might be an exception, my interest is more in the more general patterns. Of course, we both know that reflecting from our own experiences or what we observe in a somewhat limited domain could be misleading. But I would agree with what I think is your point – that our own reflection on our own experiences can certainly be useful and helpful. Along that line of thinking, I’ll just say that from my own experience, my attempts to affect certain outcomes (we could narrow it to online discussions but I think it applies more generally as well) when there is a rather extensive history of them not coming about deserves some due diligence. Yes, a kind of hope that past isn’t prologue is one factor, especially with aspirational goals. But w/r/t to my own experiences, I feel that there’s more that comes into play, and I think there’s a fair amount in related psychological literature to suggest there’s more in play as a general rule.

    The fact that you’re a scientist engaging in a discussion of science may, of course, be a mitigating factor for you in comparison to my views of my own experiences, and also w/r/t the general pattern. One argument that I’ve seen is that “experts” are less inclined to be influenced by certain biases within their domain of expertise.

    I suspect the objective of many climate skeptics is to gather a following (i.e. attention-seeking) and if it wasn’t climate change, it would be something else.

    My question about that is w/r/t the suggestion that “skeptics” are some kind of special case (if that’s what you’re suggesting). I suspect that they aren’t.

  83. Dave_Geologist says:

    H/t a Greg Laden post for the tribes moving around. That’s what the people he studied did, every five or ten years. Their lifestyle was sustainable the same way crop rotation is sustainable. After a while, they ran out of the best firewood, roots and fruits had been overexploited, and animals had learned to steer clear. Hunter-gatherer trips got too long, and they moved to pristine territory. Except it wasn’t pristine, they were just rotating within their own territory. They couldn’t go to pristine territory because that was someone else’s territory, even if it was currently vacant of villagers.

    I suspect something similar happened when Europeans came to the US West (outside of places which had stable agricultural settlements). “We can log, clear and farm this forest – you’re not using it”. “But we’ll need it in twenty years’ time, were just letting it lie fallow for now”. Except the second part of the conversation never happened, or was ignored.

    In places the Highland Clearances were similar. Agriculture relied on a system of inby and outby land. Even if the laird allowed the crofters to keep their houses and inby land, their lives were unsustainable if the outby land was fenced off for sheep and they couldn’t graze their animals there.

  84. Joshua says:

    VV –

    I do not think it is knowable whether your engagement makes a difference. It is extremely rare for people to change their mind in one conversation, especially one in public and even more so if the initial motivation is political rather than scientific. It happens in science, but also then it normally takes more time,…

    Yes, that’s an extremely important caveat. One that I sometimes overlook. Longitudinal evidence is needed to make an evaluation. An effort that seems futile in the moment can well be seen as part of a longer-term trajectory of change. We might have looked at any individual component of the civil rights movement, for example, as a failure whereas it could have been part of a longer term pattern of change.

    I have rarely seen it outside of science.

    So then a particularly interesting question might be in this particular context, where we’re talking about the interface of science with non-scientists.

    I once had a long debate with a girlfriend and the next time we talked about it we had both changed our minds. During the discussion none of us gave in, but it did start us thinking and after some time changed our positions.

    Again, I agree this is an important consideration..

    Once it takes multiple interactions, you cannot only consider your contribution, but it will be many contributions and an unknown counter factual.

    That makes me think of something I have tried to bring this discipline to my work with students. Often times, when I have large and development-related goals in mind, it is easy to get discouraged when students don’t display the outcomes I was hoping for. But an aspect of developmental work with students is that it’s a long term process, and sometimes a change only develops when a student is developmentally ready for it to take place. Sometimes it takes many repetitions of what might seem like failures to get students to a point in their development where they’re ready to change. I think also of a quote I once heard (from Baldwin, I think) – where when someone complained about a failure of production of written material (writer’s block) as a failure, and he? said that actually, that period of lack of production can be an indispensable part of the production process (i.e., you’re “thinking” about what will eventually become writing).

    Gladwell’s 10,000 hours is a useful frame also:

    https://www.businessinsider.com/malcolm-gladwell-explains-the-10000-hour-rule-2014-6

    The trick for me as a teacher is to not get frustrated when a student doesn’t display the outcomes I had been shooting for, and then turn that into a self-judgement about my own work as opposed to staying with a focus on whether the student is possibly doing the groundwork necessary to manifest the desired outcomes.

    Rather than personal experience, we would need science. My impression is that the only communication strategy with somewhat solid evidence behind it is to tell people there is a clear consensus among scientists that climate change is a man-made problem.

    Well, there I disagree in one sense: My view on the effectiveness of consensus messaging is rather different than yours. But yes, the science on the effectiveness of various communication strategies is helpful.

  85. Willard says:

    Dikran,

    A theory of mind (or a simulation) is indeed useful, if not required. My point, as always, is that the best way to discuss the science is to discuss the science. Posturing tends to shift attention to the discussants. As a ninja, my first reflex would be to pinpoint times that interlocutor broke this posture in the exchange.

    ***

    VeeV,

    I agree that our political landscape is skewed by reactionary forces. My point implies that the forces that will counter them won’t be less tribalistic. Coalitions comprise factions with inconsistent goals. Some policies are indeed better than others, but we’re still political animals, for better or worse.

    ***

    Joshua,

    That you seek good faith and posit it as essential for conversations has become common knowledge. I personally think assuming good faith works well enough, even in cases of pure trolling. I duly submit that insisting that we discuss in good faith tends to turn the discussion about good faith.

    How did it work for you so far?

  86. Joshua “While any individual might be an exception, my interest is more in the more general patterns.”

    I don’t think I am that exceptional in that regard in a scientific discussion.

    But I would agree with what I think is your point – that our own reflection on our own experiences can certainly be useful and helpful.

    I think that was Willard’s point and I was agreeing with it. Personally I don’t think I am much good at understanding subtext, and think it is better just to take what is said at face value, at least initially.

    “My question about that is w/r/t the suggestion that “skeptics” are some kind of special case (if that’s what you’re suggesting). I suspect that they aren’t.”

    I wasn’t suggesting that (subtext isn’t really my thing in either direction), however I suspect that they are. If you want to attract a following, then being contrary is likely to be an efficient approach. It isn’t just climate skepticism, ISTR people were talking about this sort of staking out of internet territory back in the early 90s.

  87. Willard “My point, as always, is that the best way to discuss the science is to discuss the science.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Posturing tends to shift attention to the discussants.

    Yes, this is why I avoid using the word “denier”, it invites shifting the discussion away from the science to the “Nature of the debate” debate.

    As a ninja, my first reflex would be to pinpoint times that interlocutor broke this posture in the exchange.

    Yes, however we are all (only too) human, so the occasional lapse is likely to happen even in an attempt at good-faith scientific discussion.

  88. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    That you seek good faith and posit it as essential for conversations has become common knowledge.

    That isn’t what I posit. I don’t think it’s essential for having a convo. Obviously, it isn’t.

    I think that establishing good faith is pretty much a prerequisite for certain kinds of outcomes from convos.

    I would appreciate it if you could answer my question. What do you see as evidence for positive comes from confrontation, let alone simply confrontation, particularly in online discourse?

    How did it work for you so far?

    How do you define “works?” What are your metrics? Basically, I asked you first.

    Sometimes I feel that I have productive discussions online – usually largely as a function of what I consider to be good faith. My thinking is that when people are open to me as a good faith conversation partner, it is possible they’ll examine my views openly rather than simiss th out of hand. To the extent that I am open to others as good faith conversation partners, I can examine their views openly.

    I see little of what seems to me to be positive outcomes from exchanges that seem to me to take place in poor faith. Certainly, if there are positive outcomes from such exchanges, they pale in comparison to people just shouting at each other, talking past each other, insulting each other, etc.. There does seem to be some increasing evidence of larger scale negative psychological outcomes from online discourse – of a sort that I think typically takes place in poor faith. The Nerst podcast discusses some of the dynamics of poor faith, online discourse.

    Of course, VV makes a good point about the hidden benefit possible from such exchanges, that might show up over time.

  89. Willard says:

    > I would appreciate it if you could answer my question.

    I’m sure you would. Yet you don’t even try to anwer it yourself.

    I’m sure you’re sealioning me in good faith.

  90. “What do you see as evidence for positive comes from confrontation, let alone simply confrontation, particularly in online discourse?”

    #metoo ?

  91. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    I’m sure you’re sealioning me in good faith.

    Bingo. Lest we judge intent.

  92. Joshua says:

    Dikran. –

    Yes, meetoo might be one. I’m not sure how we’d measure the impact, at least not yet.

  93. Joshua:

    “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.”

    – W Edwards Demming

    We don’t really need metrics to know that #metoo has been a good thing both in terms of encouraging a problem to be openly discussed and in making it societally unacceptable for men to carry on causing it.

  94. Willard says:

    > Bingo. Lest we judge intent.

    I wasn’t being ironic. Sealioning is annoying whatever the intent. Did I make any commitment that would compel me to answer the question you yourself find interesting but won’t answer?

    Two clarifications, though. A “convo” isn’t exactly a conversation. Confronting someone implies you talk to that person directly, not that you shout.

  95. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    I didn’t think you were being ironic. I was the one being ironic.

    The only problem is I wasn’t “seaioning” you. I was asking you questions about opinions that you expressed so that I could understand whether or not I thought that they made sense. That you judge them as being “sealioning” is certainly your prerogative. It looks to me like a judgment of intent.

  96. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    Did I make any commitment that would compel me to answer the question you yourself find interesting but won’t answer?

    Further, to your misunderstandings. I wasn’t suggesting you are compelled to answer any questions or attempting to compel you to answer any questions or think you are compelled to answer any questions. I was asking you to answer some questions.

    There aren’t any questions here that I won’t answer.

    For example, you asked me (rather rhetocrically) how it’s working out for me. Ignoring your rhetorical provocation, I answered.

  97. Willard says:

    > I was asking you questions about opinions that you expressed […]

    I don’t recall where I committed anything related to your question, Joshua. I do recall having rejected your framework. We both know that I have a policy against being baited to work against my own incentives or commitments.

    How do you recognize good faith, btw, if not by outcome?

    ***

    > It looks to me like a judgment of intent.

    That’s certainly your prerogative.

  98. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    We don’t really need metrics to know that #metoo has been a good thing both in terms of encouraging a problem to be openly discussed and in making it societally unacceptable for men to carry on causing it.

    Although agree w/r/t your assessment of those particular metrics (the second one in particular) imbedded in that statement are metrics.

    There are, other relevant factors to consider. IMO.

  99. Willard says:

    > I wasn’t suggesting you are compelled to answer any questions or attempting to compel you to answer any questions or think you are compelled to answer any questions. I was asking you to answer some questions.

    Over and over again. Asking for metrics while barely offering vague seemings. That’s not really how conversations work.

    Let me ask you a direct question – did you or do you participate at Star Codex?

  100. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    ” What do you see as evidence for positive comes from confrontation, let alone simply confrontation, particularly in online discourse? ”

    There is pleasure to be derived from creativity.
    I remember with some affection my early forays into online discussions, the Forum I participated in had a specific ‘Flame-Wars’ arena. The whole point was to insult, denigrate and deride the people with whom you were having a ‘convo’ as excessively as possible. Being called a ‘pinko, commie, faggot’ was a mild term of welcome, and the quality of your contribution was judged on the degree of excessive profanity and ad homs unrelated to the subject you could pack into a post.
    I miss it.
    Current lightly moderated discussion (reddit?) and even the extreme libertarian/racist/ supposedly uncensored sites seem to lack the unbridled vitriol that was a ‘feature’ of the past. (~2002?)
    This is of course a ‘good’ thing…

    Six years ago this site was much more focused on contending with the inanities promulgated by Antony at WUWT and others. It was largely reactive to a strong element in the public discourse in the climate debate.
    Obviously it is an improvement that it is now proactive and far more diverse in the subjects it covers. I doubt that the online discussions in blogs have caused this change, however good the faith in which they have been conducted.
    I suspect that it reflects the slow evolution of the zeitgeist around this subject, driven in part by the temperature record as well as other evidence.

    It is always a difficult task to distinguish between the influence of the discussion on the position of the Overton Window and the influence the shift has on the nature of the discussion. It may be a fallacious distinction.
    If you have a mind that is capable of change, it is usually a slow and gradual process shaped by the social milieu in which you choose to embed.
    The main problem with the current media environment is the economic motivation to provide exclusive bubbles for the world-view of an individual with strong reinforcement to avoid defection to diverse options because retaining the attention of the audience/participants is financially beneficial.

  101. Snape says:

    Dave Geologist
    Yes, the mariners weather report is the same idea, although losing communication in itself may have told the mainlanders all they needed to know, “it’s a bad one alright!”
    ***
    If you haven’t seen it, “The Big Burn” gives lots of insight into early fires. An interesting portrait of the Old West as well:
    https://www.pbs.org/video/american-experience-big-burn/

    It includes a story of men fleeing for their lives and taking shelter in a mine shaft. The problem with that is forest fires create a tremendous updraft, with surrounding air rushing in to fill the void. They began to suffocate as the fire approached and a vacuum formed. (Hope I have the physics right)

    ******
    Here is more on Native American’s use of fire. Happens to be where I live:

    “When early European settlers arrived in Western Oregon, they encountered a landscape quite different from what we see today. Much of the Willamette Valley was an open oak savannah, and the forests were a patchwork of new and old growth, reflecting centuries of intermittent fire. For many early visitors, this was the “natural” landscape – but in fact the native peoples of the area had been “managing” their environment for about 4,000 years, primarily through the use of fire. By using low-intensity spot firing in the Fall, the Kalapuya and other local peoples had learned how to maximize the landscape for the products they needed most – seed, textiles, wapato, and forage for game. In fact, they had maintained the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue Valleys in a truly prehistoric state – since the last great climate change about 4000 years ago, when a wetter climate succeeded a long dry period.”

  102. Joshua “Although agree w/r/t your assessment of those particular metrics (the second one in particular) imbedded in that statement are metrics.”

    Err, no they are not metrics as nothing is measured by them, they are subjective judgements. While I don’t think one needs to be “committed” to something for it to be a good idea to answer questions, I do think that if the question is answered that the person answering the question should do something with the answer. If that is not the case, how can it be distinguished from JAQing?

    Perhaps it is because I am an academic, and hence frequently burdened by pointless and ineffective metrics, but sometimes they just obfuscate rather than clarify.

  103. Joshua says:

    izen –

    There is pleasure to be derived from creativity.

    I agree. It can certainly stimulate creativity, and it can drive exploration and development.

    Obviously it is an improvement that it is now proactive and far more diverse in the subjects it covers. I doubt that the online discussions in blogs have caused this change, however good the faith in which they have been conducted.

    One of the things that is missing, somewhat, from the discussions of the impact of social media, is a way to also incorporate how social media and social media interactions have changed over time. It’s such a fast-moving dynamic.

    I suspect that it reflects the slow evolution of the zeitgeist around this subject, driven in part by the temperature record as well as other evidence.

    But what’s behind the evolution? And what about the temp record to you think has changed social media re climate change?

    It is always a difficult task to distinguish between the influence of the discussion on the position of the Overton Window and the influence the shift has on the nature of the discussion. It may be a fallacious distinction.

    Sure. Or the Overton window could be moving for entirely different reasons.


    The main problem with the current media environment is the economic motivation to provide exclusive bubbles for the world-view of an individual with strong reinforcement to avoid defection to diverse options because retaining the attention of the audience/participants is financially beneficial.

    This does seem to be an increasing trend. It’s hard to not react reflexively, that it is a really, really bad thing. But these things are always so complicated. I think of the long line of social developments that were seen as disastrous as they were first becoming apparent, but in retrospect are often seen more positively.

  104. Dave_Geologist says:

    By chance Snape, this came up today on a news feed (I have a library subscription but the ms. can be found on Google Scholar). Fire as a motor of rapid environmental degradation during the earliest peopling of Malta 7500 years ago. Of course the Stone Age farmers probably thought of it not as environmental degradation, but as turning unproductive forest into productive farmland. It was the low-single-figure-decades repeat time that triggered my thoughts on the Klamath repeat time being man-made. Interesting that it’s close to a human generation. Perhaps it’s that’s much about passing on knowledge of the fire cycles in a pre-literate era as it is about the optimum length of a fire cycle.

    The Holocene colonisation of islands by humans has invariably led to deep-seated changes in landscape dynamics and ecology. In particular, burning was a management tool commonly used by prehistoric societies and it acted as a major driver of environmental change, particularly from the Neolithic onwards. To assess the role of early human impacts (e.g. livestock grazing, forest clearance and the cultivation of marginal land) in shaping “pristine” island landscapes, we here present a 350-year record of fire history and erosion from Malta, straddling the earliest peopling of the island. We show that recurrent anthropogenic burning related to Neolithic agro-pastoral practices began ∼7500 years ago, with well-defined fire-return intervals (FRI) of 15–20 years that engendered erosion and rapid environmental degradation. As early as the Neolithic, this study implies that, in sensitive insular contexts, just a few generations of human activities could rapidly degrade natural islandscapes.

    These human-induced palaeofire cycles of 15-20 years mesh tightly with observed mean fire-return intervals in present human-modified ecosystems of the western Mediterranean

    Hope we’re not too off-topic ATTP, it is sorta climate change related because it’s about establishing the pre-industrial baseline, and also ties into Ruddiman’s Early Anthropocene Hypothesis, to which the authors give a nod.

  105. izen says:

    @-Dave
    “Of course the Stone Age farmers probably thought of it not as environmental degradation, but as turning unproductive forest into productive farmland.”

    IIRC a similar process happened on the Orkney Islands off the North coast of Scotland. In a timescale rather shorter than that on Easter Island they were rendered tree-less.
    A mix of agriculture and pastoral production then supported a culture that went in for megalithic rings and monuments….

  106. Snape says:

    Dave Geologist
    We’re sort of getting off topic from a climate change perspective, and from the area that I have anything valuable to add, which is the Pacific Northwest. My interest is specifically how higher temperatures and precipitation patterns effect the current mess.

    Cliff Mass, a University of Washington climate scientist, and influential blogger, argues that a couple of degrees F warming makes little difference to fire severity or frequency. That’s the position I was trying to challenge with my first comment here. An average of two degrees warmer, day in, day out, adds up to a lot more drying over the course of a a year…..if precipitation trends don’t compensate. Drier means a more explosive fire.

    That’s what I assume the models are showing too.

    *****

    As for the other anthropogenic factors, ie fire suppression, logging, invasive species….it’s really complicated. Also, the term “forest management” is a joke. Sort of a racial slur for NW tree lovers. Left alone, the forests here were healthy and magnificent. Naturally self sustaining.

  107. Snape says:

    Continued…..
    I should explain why the term “forest management” makes me angry. The vast majority of Pacific Northwest forest is second or third growth. Only a small fraction of the area’s ancient forest remains – most of it was logged (clear cut) years ago, a practice the US FOREST described as part of responsible forest management.

  108. Snape says:

    A short clip from 1971:

  109. Snape says:

    Parden the dorky narrator.

  110. Dave_Geologist says:

    Snape, 15 or 20 years ago I flew non-stop down the coast from Anchorage to LAX in an Alaskan Airways extended-range DC9. I was sat on the left and was horrified by the site of the huge, geometric patches of clear-felling.

    Looks from the ground can be deceptive. I remember being at a convention in upstate New York and it looked like pristine forest except for the campus. But there was loads of traffic. I asked why and was told most of that forest was just deep enough so you couldn’t see that vast areas of housing between the roads. Zoning laws said you had to leave it looking like forest to someone driving along the road, but anywhere else was fair game.

    Stonehaven, near Aberdeen where I used to live, is a bit like that. You drive along the main road (which bypasses the town inland) with a nice valley and country road on the left, and to the right is a wall of trees. But if you drive from the town out to that nice country road, you’ll pass through solid houses and commercial units almost to the main road, and see it’s only a narrow screen of trees, there for cosmetic reasons presumably, and to deaden traffic noise. Out of sight, out of mind.

  111. Snape says:

    Dave Geologist
    I’ve never been to Scotland, but Aberdeen’s only a few hours drive from where I live:

    “Aberdeen was named after a local salmon cannery to reflect its Scottish fishing port namesake Aberdeen, and because it, too, is situated at the mouth of two rivers (Aberdeen, Scotland is bordered by the River Don to the north and the River Dee to the south).”
    “By 1900, Aberdeen had become home to many saloons, whorehouses, and gambling establishments. It was nicknamed “The Hellhole of the Pacific”, as well as “The Port of Missing Men” due to its high murder rate.”

    Lol! Now it’s famous for being the birthplace of Nirvana.

  112. Dave_Geologist says:

    There’s also an Aberdeen in Hong Kong, round the island from HK city, which was also a fishing port but is now mostly a tourist trap. Oops, air miles guilt!. I took a break in HK while returning from a business trip to Shenzen, so I’ll blame my employer for the miles. And it was 2000, when teleconferencing was less available (I actually brought OHP slides, which I turned out to need because of incompatibility between my UK 50Hz Thinkpad and the local office’s 60Hz Thinkpads). And F2F contact is (or at least was) important in Asia.

  113. Snape says:

    In 2000 I was trying to drive less, but for some reason sort of shrugged off the carbon cost of air travel.

  114. Dave_Geologist says:

    Out of sight, out of mind. You weren’t filling the tank.

  115. Zeeshan Amin says:

    Congratulations for the sixth anniversary 😊 Six years is a considerably long time; kudos for coming that far. Best wishes for future 👍

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