Policy in the language of science

I was listening to the a Received Wisdom podcast. It’s a podcast by Shobita Parthasarathy and Jack Stilgoe, which I have written about before. At the beginning of the podcast, the hosts were discussing the Great Barrington Declaration, and Jack Stilgoe said something that I found quite interesting. He suggested that – in the UK – the Great Barrington Declaration has been taken up by certain groups to generate an alternative scientific narrative and went on to say

oh god, is this like climate change all over again? A vital debate about policy options actually gets had in the language of science.

I agree that this there are many parallels with what is happening now with respect to COVID-19 and what has been happening for many years with climate change. I also agree that it’s very unfortunate that debates about what we should do, end up being debates about the scientific evidence. I think both in the context of climate change and COVID-19, it would be much better if the public debate were more about what we should do, than about the science itself.

However, one thing that motivated my rather uncharitable previous post was that the research field that could help us to understand how to do this, is the very field to which the hosts of this podcast belong. Researchers in this field have had many years to study this in the context of climate change and have, in my view, largely failed to come up with suggestions as to how to mitigate this.

In fact, in my experience, some of the contributions from researchers in this field have been less than helpful. One way you might help to limit the policy debate degenerating into a discussion of the science is to stress where the consensus lies. That way it might be obvious who is basing their arguments on fringe views and who is basing them on the views held by a majority of relevant experts. However, researchers in this field have explicitly argued again consensus messaging, because it’s, apparently, polarising and narrow.

Jack Stilgoe himself suggested that the Lancet letter (a response to the Great Barrington Declaration) was potentially an example of stealth advocacy. I should acknowledge having signed the Lancet letter, but given the signatories, who has endorsed it, and the list of those presenting similar arguments, it would indeed seem to be presenting a consensus position.

So, if someone is going to undermine attempts to highlight the consensus, then it seems a bit ironic to then complain when the policy debate degenerates into the language of science. It seems like an obvious consequence of a situation where the scientific evidence suggests that we may need to do things that some would find inconvenient, or that might challenge their ideologies. They will clearly then be motivated to promote any evidence that seems to support their preferences and the debate will degenerate into one that’s more about the science, than about policy.

Maybe there are ways to avoid this without highlighting the consensus. If so, I’m not quite how this would work. I may well misunderstand the basic issue, but that the debate about COVID-19 has degenerated into a fight about science is unsurprising, given that this has happened in the climate context too. I do think that this distracts from the discussion that we should really be having: what should we do?

Would be nice if there were a way for scientists and those studying the science/policy interface to work together to find ways to address this issue. This, however, hasn’t worked all that well in the climate context and I suspect it’s going to be no better in the COVID-19 context either. I hope I’m wrong.

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77 Responses to Policy in the language of science

  1. This is the parallel between fighting a virus and depleting fossil fuels, from late March

    http://peakoilbarrel.com/the-oil-shock-model-and-compartmental-models/

    nothing to do with climate science except indirectly

  2. mrkenfabian says:

    False claims that climate science was divided, with fundamental disagreements ran deep prompted correction, ie pointing out there was strong agreement/consilience, ie consensus messaging. Blaming the consensus messaging for being divisive seems more like yet more false claims by the Doubt, Deny, Delay brigade. That some of the same interested parties also have an interest in preventing greater social responsibility with respect to a pandemic from being a burden on businesses does not surprise me.

  3. Ken,
    I think it can be more complex, so I’m not convinced that it’s motivated by deny/delay. My impression is that we could somehow have policy discussions that take so many other factors into account so that the science doesn’t play a big role. The problem I have, though, is how would you motivate something like a lockdown if it wasn’t for the evidence suggesting that many would die and ICUs would be overrun if we didn’t. How would you motivate drastic emission cuts if you didn’t have evidence to suggest that not doing so could have substantial negative impacts due to climate change. So, I never quite understand how we’re meant to have these supposedly effective policy discussions without the scientific evidence playing a key role, even though many others factors will clearly also being important.

  4. Rob Kenney says:

    When ideology is able to defeat science there cannot be a rational debate.
    The problem lies at the pivot point – that is, where evidence overwhelms ideology.
    In both herd immunity mentality and climate that evidence has dire consequences.
    While “policy” is a core problem, the real issue is in national leadership, given there is nowadays an international leadership void as a result of deranged media pushing irrational agendas (on many fronts).
    What I believe needs to happen is for science to gain the upper hand in “messaging” (ie, information dissemination via all media avenues). But science is not “sexy,” so we need do couch the issues and consequences in everyday language. Until then, “reaching” the masses with the “truth” (ie what we know can be shown to be evident or most likely) we remain on a hiding to a slow death.

  5. Rob,

    What I believe needs to happen is for science to gain the upper hand in “messaging” (ie, information dissemination via all media avenues). But science is not “sexy,” so we need do couch the issues and consequences in everyday language. Until then, “reaching” the masses with the “truth” (ie what we know can be shown to be evident or most likely) we remain on a hiding to a slow death.

    Except, this is tricky. Science isn’t some product that people are trying to sell. It’s a process of developing understanding that can lead to “truths” about the world, but that also has uncertainties. There are clearly ways of explaining this that can be compelling, but I think it’s important to be honest about the strengths and weaknesses and that always puts it at a disadvantage when coming up against those who are not engaging in good faith and are willing promote anything in order to justify their preferred options.

    In a sense, I’d hoped that researchers who study the science/policy, science/society interface might help to develop methods to counter this kind of thing, but this doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. Having said that, there are some researchers who are coming up with ways to counter misinformation, but it’s a pretty slow process.

  6. Rob Kenney says:

    Is not about selling science as such. It’s about the soundbite or meme or vlog – or whatever medium is used – that distills the science into something everyone “gets.”
    Frankly, you will be hard pressed to find someone who knows there are at least half a dozen completely different “scientific” pathways to a COVID-19 vaccine. The public just want a VACCINE.
    The scientific nuances to reaching a vaccine are interesting only to people who want to follow that type of thing.
    Similarly, the science of climate is interesting – aside from being complex – so why not just dumb down the message that it’s getting hotter. And there are economic, social and economic consequences that will compound over time until the situation is reversed.
    Instead, good scientists are spending a lot of time countering arguments that cannot be sustained. The message is then simple. “We have shown that it cannot be getting colder now. If there is science that shows different, then we welcome it being brought forward.”
    We need to put aside the things that complicate a simple message.
    Today Trump is again saying the USA has “turned the corner” and his loyal followers believe him. The rest of America can be shown a simple chart that makes it clear that they turned the wrong way.
    The other point in relation to these “debates” is that we should never be diverted from the simplest messages. Let the irrational continue to make arguments and brush them aside when they do not address the message. Never enter into a debate that has an irrational basis or is intended to obfuscate.

  7. Steven Mosher says:

    just some experience that I cannot detail too much.
    when the science or even random facts challenges someone’s identity there
    is only one method that works.
    more science won’t work,
    more appeals to consensus won’t work.
    The only thing that I know from experience that works is non scaleable.
    one on one approach and the road to damascus.

    1. The person has to have an experience that challenges their identity
    Their identity has to stop working for them.
    2. It’s best if the communicator has shared a similar past identity.

    Sometimes #1 is enough. Think Chris Christie.

    Let’s put it this way. there are 2 audiences
    1. Those who have no identity problem with the policies. Al gore will
    speak very effectively to them. The consensus will comfort them.
    2. Those who have an identity problem with the policy
    NO ONE can speak effectively to them until their identity “stops working”
    for them, and THEN they become open to listing to someone from their tribe.

    So maybe if trump had spent a week on vent 3 weeks in ICU and lost 30 lbs
    people would listen to him.. But even there they would have to be suffering immensely
    before they themselves would change and wear a mask.

  8. Joshua says:

    I agree with Steven. You need to address the issues at their root, which imo, is identity-based cognition.

    > Blaming the consensus messaging for being divisive seems more like yet more false claims by the Doubt, Deny, Delay brigade.

    IMO, “blame” is irrelevant. The relevant question is whether consensus messaging is effective, and for whom, and from whom, and what the “cost” might be. If consensus messaging doesn’t work, “skeptics” might be entirely responsible – but then being responsible wouldn’t make it work. Likewise, if the people blaming scientists for negative outcomes from consensus messaging are wrong, and in fact “skeptics” are to blame, that wouldn’t mean that the negative outcomes would just disappear.

    How could we measure the impact of the John Snow Memorandum? I’d say no more easily than how we’d measure the impact of consensus messaging in the climate change domain. My guess is that the effect is marginal in either direction. Haters gonna hate. Skeptics gonna skeptic. Once these issues get overlayed onto the ideological battlefield, my guess is that for the most part the battle lines are drawn and there are no atheists in foxholes.

  9. Rob Kenney says:

    If you are a scientist then it is unlikely that “identity-based cognition” (IBC) determines what you believe. Instead, you have to set aside information that confounds your beliefs, and selectively draw from information consistent with them. Defeating these beliefs by using science is not difficult.
    If people who are untrained indulge in IBC, then let them be happy in what they believe. I do not argue with people who believe in god as there is little point. What they are incapable of doing is prosecuting any reasoned case beyond personal belief.
    Where tangible evidence is available to shape beliefs, then there is likely to be a point in time where most reasonable people accept that evidence as compelling.
    We do not need to convince the population at large as decision makers in society are a very small subset of the population, are typically well educated, and they will know when the tide has turned, just has it did for the US thermal coal industry. In democracies that tide will carry intransigent decision makers. At the other end of the Spectrum we have China proposing net CO2 neutrality by 2060, while its climate experts think 2050 is possible: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/4-EJfwl6F3a94Yu4O96_Jw
    My view is that science now needs to refocus from “proven” AGW to now addressing the future of energy. We are at a stage where renewables are cheaper than oil and coal, and just need to determine the best mix for nations consistent with their natural resources.

  10. Joshua,

    Haters gonna hate. Skeptics gonna skeptic. Once these issues get overlayed onto the ideological battlefield, my guess is that for the most part the battle lines are drawn and there are no atheists in foxholes.

    Sure, but then are we in a situation where complex, contentious topics will almost always end up being in the language of science – i.e., people will latch onto whatever evidence (however weak) that appears to support their policy preferences. If so, rather than complaining about this, maybe we should think of ways to develop policy despite this.

    However, if some think we should aim to avoid policy degenerating into the language of science, maybe one thing they could do is not publicly criticise attempts to highlight the consensus, even if doing so isn’t necessarily all that effective.

  11. Rob,

    My view is that science now needs to refocus from “proven” AGW to now addressing the future of energy. We are at a stage where renewables are cheaper than oil and coal, and just need to determine the best mix for nations consistent with their natural resources.

    Yes, I agree. However, there are still peoplel promoting misinformation and I still think it’s worth trying to counter that. Even if it doesn’t change people’s minds, not doing so will make the misinformation seem more credible.

    Another problem that we have at the moment, is that even those who agree that we need to replace fossil fuels seem to have very strong views about what the solution has to be. We seem to now be splitting into factions, with some strongly supporting nuclear, some strongly supporting renewables, some supporting individual action, and others arguing for systemic change. I think this is very unfortunate, especially as the solution is probably both a mixture of all of the above, and will also depend on local conditions.

  12. Not-in-my-name says:

    “I think both in the context of climate change and COVID-19, it would be much better if the public debate were more about what we should do, than about the science itself.”

    This must be one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever read. How can we debate what we should do if it is not based on evidence? The precautionary principle never works, as history proves over and over.

  13. Not-in-my-name,
    Well, I’m not suggesting that we ignore the evidence, since that will inform what we should do. I’m suggesting that it would be better if the policy debate were more about policy than about the science (i.e., what should we do, rather than specifically arguing about the science).

  14. Rob Kenney says:

    Ken, the misinformation on climate has been countered many times over, so why not put the shoe on the other foot? That is, what mechanisms suggest the earth can or will cool any time soon? It’s a simple proposition. Let’s stop debating “proven” science and instead see what the denialists can put forward: reframe the debate if you want to have one at all.
    With regard to renewables as a solutions, there cannot be a one size fits all approach, and I suggested that a nation’s natural resources (which would include wind, wave/tide, hydro geothermal, solar, etc) be factored into the solution. Although I favour a significantly large “hydrogen” energy future because it has the least CO2 impact (and is cheaper than nuclear), it seems to be an agenda being shaped by market forces rather than cutting edge science or the cost benefits over energy alternatives from a climate/environmental perspective.

  15. Rob,
    You make it sound simple, but this has essentially been done. We had years of people claiming that there’d been no warming since 1998. When it become clear that that was wrong, it switched to no warming since 2016. You might think that people who’ve made incorrect predictions time and time again would suffer reputational damage but, as far as I can tell, they mostly don’t. People simply don’t remember, or they excuse them if the message they’re promoting is convenient.

  16. Rob Kenney says:

    Ken, my point is that the AGW argument should be avoided as much as possible as it simply keeps the door open to denialists.
    instead, if there is science supporting cooling, bring it on! Place the onus on the other camp to present their science so it can be debunked rather than have AGW on continual defence.
    Force policy makers to PROVE that their proposals actually lead to cooling. If a policy cannot be shown to cool the planet, how can it be beneficial?
    If the policy makers don’t agree, then keep a public scorecard.
    Right now the Paris Agreement is unintelligible to the public in terms of effort to reduce emissions, so we need something simpler, something digestible to the public at large.

  17. mrkenfabian says:

    “If a policy cannot be shown to cool the planet, how can it be beneficial?”

    Rob, I think since the intention of action is to prevent further and continuing warming and crossing irreversible tipping points – NOT induce cooling – no-one should have to demonstrate policies to induce cooling are viable. Not that there is not concern about stabilising climate at a warmer state than we have had since industrialisation, but I am not aware of any viable means to induce cooling that doesn’t have potential serious side effects as well as costs.

  18. Rob,
    But people do present counter arguments and the only way to debunk is to present the evidence that supports AGW. Consequently you end up focusing on the science. I don’t think that if we didn’t highlight AGW that others would suddenly stop presenting alternatives. If anything, it would probably provide more space for them to provide supposed alternatives.

  19. Ben McMillan says:

    Seems like there will always be people whose policy preference leads them into a dispute with science; this has been going on for centuries, and scientists can’t do much to prevent it.

    But on long timescales science-vs-whoever has been a pretty one-sided battle, even if the zombies keep coming.

    I can see it doesn’t look that way, given that the same people are still making the same stupid discredited arguments. Actually, of course, they won’t live forever. And those were never people you would convince anyway. I guess I’m somewhat optimistic about overall public opinion slowly turning, given that policy slowly seems to be improving.

    I think digging up fossil fuels turning into a money-losing venture, and clean tech firms rapidly overtaking them in valuation, will help speed things up. Once the science and the money are on the same side things get a lot easier.

  20. Rob Kenney says:

    Mr Fabian, I was not advocating policies of cooling as such. Instead, if the actions necessary to carry out a policy initiative cannot be made CO2 neutral, or negative, then they will add incrementally to warming – a trivial fact. WRT energy policy as an example, it would not be difficult to ensure any necessary fossil fuel-derived power was wholly offset by renewables.

    Mr Rice, by all means do any necessary science to determine if an alternative view stacks up. But if it doesn’t, then say so in plain English for the public at large, and leave the proven science for the antagonists to mull over. I went back into some old forums I posted to some 15 years ago – not science-based but on the topic of climate. Some of the same people are still posting the same or similar debunked nonsense to this day. When asked what might cause the planet to cool, they have zero to offer.
    I am not aware of any science that could give rise to a permanent reversal of the warming trend within coming decades, based on where we are today. That’s the message for policy makers. The logic of continuing to focus on the fact that planet is warming escapes me.

  21. Rob,
    I’m either explaining myself poorly, or you’re not putting much effort into understanding what I’m saying.

  22. Willard says:

    Rob,

    You said that “the Paris Agreement is unintelligible to the public.” I showed you a video explaining it in over a little more than one minute. Then you switched to an unrelated point about “practice.”

    The same video shows you a policy that could help us staying under 2C. It defeats your “If a policy cannot be shown to cool the planet.” So I’m not sure where you’re going with this rope-a-dope.

    If, as you say, it “would not be difficult to ensure any necessary fossil fuel-derived power was wholly offset by renewable,” then by all means share the solution.

  23. In market research we occasionally use ‘logic traps’ to weed out respondents who prevaricate about their qualifications in order to participate in market research and win incentives that are increasing to real money status.

    If you ask 1,000 people if they have skiied on a particular mountain, you’ll get a few ‘yes’ responses.
    If you ask the same 1,000 people if they have gone bungee jumping or skydiving, you’ll get a few more ‘yes’ responses.

    People who claim to have done both are usually excused from the research study.

    I understand why some people are climate skeptics. Many are intelligent people who have studied the issue.

    I can understand why some people are skeptics about various aspects of the scientific study of Covid-19 and attempts to deal with it.

    I think people who tick both boxes are in a bit of difficulty dealing with reality.

  24. Actually, the example I gave above is a ‘rare items’ test, not a logic trap, which is something else entirely. (I say I’m a CTO, but give my annual income as below $30K…)

  25. Joshua says:

    > I think people who tick both boxes are in a bit of difficulty dealing with reality.

    From my observations, I’d say about 95% of “skeptics” who comment at online climate blogs tick both boxes. Of course, they aren’t a representative sample in either category – and it’s quite possible that those “skeptics” who click both boxes are more likely to comment on Covid than those who only click the climate change box.

  26. Rob Kenney says:

    Willard, how the Paris Agreement works on actually measuring a country’s performance on CO2 abatement is a bit of joke. Some 5 years on and in Australia we have this (from my earlier link):
    “Disagreement over Australia’s plan to use an accounting loophole to meet its climate target will spill into 2020 after a United Nations conference in Madrid failed to reach consensus on rules to implement the global deal.”
    Are we supposed to believe our government when they tell us how well we are doing WRT the Paris Agreement, or to climate scientists? The competing claims are a gulf apart.
    On my idea about policies that favour cooling, I admit to being wrong in using CO2 as the metric as I really mean energy intensity wherein a renewable output offsets a fossil fuel output. I realise we can’t magically return the CO2 input to create a solar panel or wind turbine.

  27. Rob Kenney says:

    Ken,
    Maybe it’s me with the poor explanations!
    I was focussing on what you earlier proposed:
    “One way you might help to limit the policy debate degenerating into a discussion of the science is to stress where the consensus lies.”
    We are not far away from a 6th IPCC Report and all are saying the planet has warmed and the trend will continue. In that context I cannot understand why AGW needs to be further argued, especially given the breadth of national inputs into IPCC Reports.
    I am definitely not suggesting that we stop carrying out climate science, in fact the contrary. Instead I am suggesting that we adopt a Trump-like approach to the public at large, but with an ethical twist. The “fake news” approach has been a very powerful “influencer” but fails scrutiny. Calling out denialists with a “failed science” tag line, that is underpinned with the facts is a clearer/cleaner message than a detailed scientific explanation of the whys and wherefores.
    You and your scientifically trained colleagues live in world that is rational and thrives on knowledge and understanding. The natural response is to defend what you know and how it is derived. However in doing that you immediately move away from what you really want to achieve, viz. “it would be much better if the public debate were more about what we should do, than about the science itself.”

  28. Rob,

    In that context I cannot understand why AGW needs to be further argued, especially given the breadth of national inputs into IPCC Reports.

    I’m not suggesting that it *needs* to be further argued. However, there are those who regularly promote information that is incorrect. I don’t think they’re going to suddenly stop doing this if scientists decide to refrain from publicly commenting on the science, or stop highlighting the consensus. If anything, they’d probably feel emboldened.

  29. Rob Kenney says:

    Ken,
    I have tried to show that a change in focus is needed. Why?
    Because you closed your OP with “Would be nice if there were a way for scientists and those studying the science/policy interface to work together to find ways to address this issue. This, however, hasn’t worked all that well in the climate context and I suspect it’s going to be no better in the COVID-19 context either. …,”
    Science presents a complex message and pseudo-science just says it’s wrong.
    I suggest it is time for science to now sell a simple message (which has substantiation) and now tell pseudo science they are wrong.
    You are keen to argue the actual science whereas I am more keen nowadays to sell the message. The denialist playbook has been honed from asbestos to smoking to AGW and now plays out for COVID-19. Science communication needs to be similarly honed if we are to have a better chance to counter misinformation and outright lies.

  30. Rob,

    I suggest it is time for science to now sell a simple message (which has substantiation) and now tell pseudo science they are wrong.

    This has been happening for years. You seem to think that I’m arguing that we should treat pseudo-science with some kind of respect. No, I’m simply suggesting that it can’t be ignored. It would be great if all we needed to do was point out it was wrong. This has been happening. It doesn’t work.

  31. Willard says:

    To presume that science does not sell a simple message would be false:

    Perhaps Bill isn’t the science. How about National Geographic:

    OK. That’s just a magazine. How about the MET Office:

    Alright, alright. Climate isn’t weather. How about a whole site with resources:

    https://climate.nasa.gov/

    NASA has a whole page of evidence one does not even need to read:

    https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

    Even if people didn’t get it (and they do), that may not suffice to explain why doing something about AGW (we actually do) is hard.

  32. Willard says:

    Even simpler:

    This got Zeke’s seal of approval, so it’s good for me.

  33. Joshua says:

    Been thinking about modeling and COVID….somewhat off topic…but not entirely…

    So after the IC modeling, there were critics attacking that modeling as not only “wrong” (as if any modeling isn’t) but morally unsupportable because forecasts involving life and death were based on uncertain parameters and outcome modeling that was heavily dependent on those uncertain parameters.

    And in many cases those critics got behind another set of modeling that forecast “herd immunity” at relatively low %’s of infection…

    But in a manner that is interesting to me from a more abstract perspective but entirely banal and predictable from the life on the ground perspective…we now see that those critics are explaining difficulties with their modeling by pointing to the uncertainty in input parameters…

    Meanwhile, over at Climate Etc., Nic has had relatively little to say recently as infection #’s in Sweden have spiked some 700%, even though he asserted rather confidently that the low number of infections in Sweden, some 5 months ago, proved that they’d reached a “herd immunity threshold” at that time.

    He has made some rather oblique references to (1), changes in behavior more recently where behaviors have gone more back to “normal.” Well, in a way that makes sense but he kind of downplayed the importance of specific behaviors as relevant to his modeling months ago and in fact, months ago he posted a picture of young people partying in Sweden in support of an argument that they had reached a “herd immunity threshold” status precisely BECAUSE their behaviors there were more “normal.” (2) that even as the infections have spiked the # of deaths and ICU beds occupied haven’t spiked. Well, first it’s questionable as to whether there has been enough time passed since the infections started to take off again to allow for the time lags – particularly when you consider that the increase in infections likely started among younger people and the transition in transmission from younger people to older people who you’d expect to be hospitalized and to die would in itself likely take weeks…then there’s a lag in the trajectory of the illness in individuals, and there are lags in reporting…And second, if there is a spike in infections but not in deaths (which could actually be the case for any variety of reasons), does that not still indicate that the pronouncement of “herd immunity threshold” status was wrong?

    Of course, it’s early times. Seems to me what’s really needed are data on positivity rate, stratified by age, as only then do we really know to what degree are the increases in infections a function of better and more widespread testing, and by what function are the #’s of deaths related to factors such as better protections and treatments for those most vulnerable?

    But anyway, it’s rather interesting and yet banal to see Nic reverse engineer from a low level of infections 5 months ago to conclude they’d reached “herd immunity threshold’ status in Sweden and then turn around and dismiss the high level of infections there now as not relevant to whether they’ve reached “herd immunity status.”

    All of that aside, even if he’s entirely right and the rate of infections can be used to prove his modeling whether that rate is high or low, it doesn’t excuse his advocacy where he’s seeking to extrapolate from the outcomes in one context to draw conclusions about what the policies should be in a very dissimilar context without even making a cursory explication of how to account for a long list of potential confounding variables.

  34. Joshua,

    But anyway, it’s rather interesting and yet banal to see Nic reverse engineer from a low level of infections 5 months ago to conclude they’d reached “herd immunity threshold’ status in Sweden and then turn around and dismiss the high level of infections there now as not relevant to whether they’ve reached “herd immunity status.”

    I don’t even understand this. Of course, it’s hardly surprising that Nic has made strong claims about a topic and then found some way to still be correct even when the evidence seems to suggest that his initial claims were wrong.

  35. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Yah. It’s the “strong claims” part that I think is most problematic. Sure, do some modeling and see how it plays out. Lot’s to learn there.

    But you should (1) take the time to caveat your work as much as possible. Look for potentially confounding variables. Define and quantify them. And do the work involved to provide confidence intervals and error ranges. (2) for god’s sake, be careful about extrapolating from one context to apply findings from that context to other completely different contexts. As near as I can tell Nic systematically avoids doing that.

    That it takes place at Judith’s, whose primary gambit is to highlight uncertainty….

  36. Joshua,
    Indeed. I think Nic’s done some good stuff and it is very useful to try these things. That’s certainly not an issue. The issue I have is with underplaying the uncertainties and assumptions in his modelling, and strongly highlighting them when it comes to other people’s work.

  37. jacksmith4tx says:

    Well lookie here… Judy has been advising the Trump’s team of politically appointed minions leading NOAA. Looks like corrupting the entire array of public health and safety institutions (HHS/NIH/CDC/FDA/EPA) has worked pretty good so let’s ‘fix’ NOAA/NASA/NSF/USGS/BLM.
    I’m truly impressed. With the lopsided SCOTUS in place there is a good chance they could reverse the landmark CO2 endangerment case that is the underpinning to almost all environmental endangerment regulation.
    Original story:

  38. Willard says:

  39. Joshua says:

    Jack –

    It’s a good thing that Judith opposes scientists politicizing science and scientists acting as policy advocates.

  40. wILLARD,

    tHIS IS THE SO-CALLED OFFICIAL uk covid-19 WEBSITE? (caps key now off)
    https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/deaths
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phe-data-series-on-deaths-in-people-with-covid-19-technical-summary

    JHU is using the lowball number of ~45K deaths. I’ve been out of the loop, for a while, so to speak. But have sort of restarted. I now consider JHU to be somewhat unreliable (e. g. Spain is a real mess), spurious sporadic dumps that have to be folded back to previous days using some form of smoothing distributions.

    UK 45K vs 60K? = SNAFU!

  41. jacksmith4tx says:

    Joshua –
    Duh, I had her pegged when she framed the entire AGW debate as a “Wicked problem” followed by her fixation on the mystical “stadium wave”. Sometimes I think they confuse astronomy with astrology.

  42. jacksmith4tx says:

    Joshua –
    Sometimes I think the whole point in Climate Etc. is what the the White Hat hackers call a Honey Pot. It’s a place where you set the bait, this time as self proclaimed “Noble Crusader for Climate Truth” by pointing out perceived flaws in the prevailing paradigm and then sifting through the comments for ideas on how to cast doubt or discredit their ideological opponents. Notice how smoothly they transitioned from climate denial to COVID-19 conspiracies. It’s a feature not a bug.

  43. Willard says:

  44. Ruh Roh …

    Raw Source Shown: https://github.com/CSSEGISandData/COVID-19/tree/master/csse_covid_19_data/csse_covid_19_time_series

    World death doubling time = 144 days (15-day OLS data window) on 2020-10-14
    World confirmed doubling time = 79 days (15-day OLS data window) on 2020-10-01

    It appears that both have peaked, death peak lags confirmed peak by ~two weeks. The so-called ‘teeth’ in the daily deaths are due to several countries dropping large + (and occasionally -) numbers on a single day (7-day moving average gives those occasional spikes their width of seven days).

    Thus, it appears that the world will go super-exponential (down slope) for a while on doubling times sans serious countermeasures. 😦

  45. World = all countries
    EU = Europe
    US = United States
    RoW = World – (CN + EU + US), CN = China
    SAM = South America (including Panama)

  46. Joshua says:

    This is perfect.

    -snip-

    It is “futile and immoral” to seek herd immunity as a protection from a pandemic, and the transmission of an infectious disease like Covid-19 cannot be fully halted without a vaccine, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has said.

    -snip-

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/coronavirus-herd-immunity-sweden-covid-cases-anders-tegnell-b1421541.html

    This, I’m sure, will be completely ignored by the right-wingers and libertarians who have been thanking God for SOSHLIST!! 11!!! Sweden.

  47. an_older_code says:

    maybe scientists should wear sponsor jackets, like racing drivers, then we know who owns them

    HT Robin Williams

  48. Steven Mosher says:

    “It is “futile and immoral” to seek herd immunity as a protection from a pandemic, and the transmission of an infectious disease like Covid-19 cannot be fully halted without a vaccine, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has said.”

    ‘This, I’m sure, will be completely ignored by the right-wingers and libertarians who have been thanking God for SOSHLIST!! 11!!! Sweden.”

    There is always a pathway to denial. and don’t forget Patrick Henry

  49. You all can debate the ethics and morality of this and that. I just don’t want to be the last fool that dies of covid 2 days before a vaccine is available.

  50. Tom,
    Indeed, that’s another reason that I think the herd immunity strategy is flawed. Given that we could develop a vaccine, or better clinical practices, it does seem unethical to follow a strategy that will probably lead to many deaths now that might actually be avoidable.

  51. Joshua says:

    Given the improvements in treatment it would likely take decades of no vaccine for a country like South Korea or Taiwan or Finland to reach the per capita death rate of a country like Sweden. And there doesn’t, at least as of yet, seem to be an economic advantage to Sweden’s approach.

    The development of a vaccine would make Sweden’s gamble just all that much more of a mistake.

  52. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    Do you have a way around that paywall?

    Hard to believe, but if I’m not mistaken Nic hasn’t posted anything in a while about Sweden even though things have changed quite a bit there since he asserted 5 months ago (was it 6?) that they’d reached “herd immunity” status.

    A while back he speculated that the increase in infections in Sweden might be a “blip.” I’m thinking that’s not very likely at this point.

    But why hasn’t Nic commented?

    Seems to me that as a serious scientist, he should be sure to clarify whether his theory has been falsified.

  53. David B Benson says:

    Another way to model:
    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-11-infectious-diseases.html

    Social distancing as same-charge repelling.

  54. Willard says:

  55. Everett F Sargent says:

    I guess it is good that there are those, in 2020 mind you, that see what LBJ saw in 1964, what Lincoln saw in the 1850’s, what … decent historians have seen since 1492. :/

    Eurotrash just doing what Eurotrash does best. Discriminate. Disenfranchisement. Conquer. Control. Kill. Enslave.

    “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack” Truer words have never been spoken, in my actual case, at least.

    We usually call them hypocrites, no not the old school stuff, but the 2020 breed, that simply refuses to do anything meaningful with their rather easy lives. All talk, no actions.

  56. Steven Mosher says:

    Steven –

    Do you have a way around that paywall?

    No sorry

    Hard to believe, but if I’m not mistaken Nic hasn’t posted anything in a while about Sweden even though things have changed quite a bit there since he asserted 5 months ago (was it 6?) that they’d reached “herd immunity” status.
    Ya, But I suspect he would say the cases are false positives. That’s the latest move

    A while back he speculated that the increase in infections in Sweden might be a “blip.” I’m thinking that’s not very likely at this point.

    But why hasn’t Nic commented?

    haha ya

    Seems to me that as a serious scientist, he should be sure to clarify whether his theory has been falsified.

  57. Everett F Sargent says:

    That place was almost sane for a moment on election night (JC’s CE blog). But the rancor is back and dialed past eleventeen. I normally refrain for engaging with FReepers, Idiotarians and Illiterati. Jimmy is a keeper though, straight outta 50’s buzzcut hell.

    Their so-called citizen scientists are really rather cute even. They have fringe theories and stuff and are so transparent when talking pass each other (which is like 100% of the time). And I really like how they just butcher up the scientific language so well over there. 🙂

  58. verytallguy says:

    Thanks for the Latif Nasser link Willard

  59. Chebyshev says:

    A scientist’s job is to come up with testable hypotheses and test and report. That’s it.

    Problems arise when Scientists overstep their boundaries. When they do they harm both Science and the world outside.

    Politics is about balancing many interests – across groups and across time – and decisions can have immediate, irreversible human consequences that are not caught by models.

    Both climate engineering and covid problems are complex and they both are being reduced greatly to almost toy models (reduce carbon emission / household quarantine). This is a consequence of scientists actively inserting themselves in areas they should not peddle in.

  60. Chebyshev,
    I’m never a fan of the whole “scientists overstep their boundaries” argument. People do this all the time, including scientists. I don’t think we should define who is allowed, or not allowed, to engage in public discussions about complex topics. I also don’t think that scientists should get some special treatment when they do. Ultimately, decisions are made by policy-makers, not scientists, and they’re responsible for making these decisions and for being informed when doing so.

  61. chebyshev.

    it’s scientists and science, please stop being a capitalist. oh and peddle should be meddle …

  62. Chebyshev says:

    …and then there’s physics:

    It seems to me that the incentive structure (e.g. funding/grants) is conducive to Scientists playing an activist role i.e. selling what they do aggressively. This invariably results in stretching toy models into realms that the toy models grossly misrepresent (under-represent).

    Scientists have an important role to play. That, IMHO, is setting boundaries of the feasible to enable “engineers” and “managers”.

  63. toy models?

    nope, no giveaway there at all. :/

  64. Chebyshev,

    It seems to me that the incentive structure (e.g. funding/grants) is conducive to Scientists playing an activist role i.e. selling what they do aggressively.

    Not sure this is true. Universities like publicity, which can be a problem, but grant panels rarely judge a proposal on the basis of the likely publicity it will produce. If anything, scientists with high public profiles probably struggle more to get funded than those who focus more on research and publishing.

  65. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    Raj Chetty talks here about overlaying a map of slavery on a map of economic outcomes in the US:

    https://www.vox.com/2019/8/15/20801907/raj-chetty-ezra-klein-social-mobility-opportunity

  66. Who knew that the Deep South was poor. Pretty much everyone who has ever looked at state economic rankings, at the county level. that is who. Elvis Presley grew up in a shotgun shack in Tupelo, MS. It is almost a white poverty map too. Poor whites then. poor whites now. Very few whites were rich in the Antebellum South. Oh wait, but they were not slaves, so that does not count. Not trying to be too dismissive mind you, there are major problems down here, major racial problems, the loss of Reconstruction after US Grant and the loss of northern white support in that cause are major contributing factors. It will be something that will still take a very long time to solve, no make that something that could have been solved, but whites, both northern and southern, have for the most part only sporadically cared about. Where did the white civil rights activists go after the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South? I keep looking for those similar kindred spirits but I guess I showed up twenty years too late. Here, in Vicksburg, there are major historical Black areas which is typical of most southern towns and cities, voluntary segregation, to some extent, but mainly due to continued economic disparities.

    Look at the mean distance of migration in the US. Most people never move 100 miles for their birthplace. There were several major so-called Black flights out of the south, so moving to the north or west didn’t solve those racial inequalities.

    How about giving each Black person a car? Now that is real mobility and you might be surprised at the number of Blacks that I know who don’t own a vehicle, dozens within a block or two of where I live. Heck, I barely have a car, but I’m good for antique car tags this December (anything at/over 25 years old counts as an antique 1996 Mazda 626 I4). 🙂

    Those maps are basically maps of larger urban areas and there associated transportation networks, which have been there since these lands were originally settled by white people. I do find it odd that more people don’t understand these basics, but if that is what it takes to make the rest of the US see it, then so be it. 🙂 But maybe instead of just looking. you might actually try to do something really meaningful about the so-called Black problem nationwide?

    Some people need to read up on US History, all of it, not just the stereotypes. :/

  67. I might also add that it was white flight that left historically Black urban areas, leaving Black majorities mostly along those original transportation corridors (e. g. Mississippi River, I-20).

  68. Steven Mosher says:

    Willard, I read that thread when it hit my feed. I loved it.
    especially since I now spend all my time building maps ( I used to hate geography)

    But something bothered me about the map. The history was really cool, but…..
    land doesn’t vote.

    some of the pattern remains however, so maybe the story is a bit more complex.

  69. Steven Mosher says:

    I shared this with Dr. Rice

    It’s interesting. especially where the guy mentions the use of the word should

  70. Steven Mosher says:

    “Both climate engineering and covid problems are complex and they both are being reduced greatly to almost toy models”

    i won’t quibble with the toy model designation.

    The first thing I would do is add things like “war models” yes we make them and we use them
    to make policy. You have no idea how “toyish” they are.

    Any way.

    Here is the thing. For something like a pandemic or a war, you will always and forever only
    have toy models. You start with a lack of data. Then you pile on the in ability to do any
    controlled real world testing. HEY, lets attack canada to calibrate our model. Hey, lets
    infect some folks and test various NPI!!

    The problem is you can’t AVOID using a model of some sort. Think back to the beginning
    of covid. What did skeptics say? “its the flu” Now, this is not a MATH model, but it’s a model.
    When the USA was looking at a war in Afghanistan people used two kinds of models
    A) math models
    B) analogy: ie, russians failed. our future will be like their past.

    BOTH of these are “models” one says, use the Russian experience as a Guide.
    One says: use this math as a guide.

    There is no avoiding models EVER. Every damn thing you do is guided in some sense by a model.
    Covid will be like the flu. model. analogy.
    Covid will follow the SEIR model. model, math

    So people who argue that folks were somehow wrong about following a toy math model, forget
    that they also had a “model” for covid. usually an unstated model. In some cases a stupid model: it’s the flu.

  71. Steven Mosher says:

    “Who knew that the Deep South was poor. Pretty much everyone who has ever looked at state economic rankings, at the county level. that is who. Elvis Presley grew up in a shotgun shack in Tupelo, MS. ”

    I once drove from Jackson MS to Natchez

    fuck

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