The is-ought distinction

There was an interesting panel discussion, as part of Andy Revkin’s #SustainWhat webcast, involving Naomi Oreskes and Mike Hulme. Andy was highlighting it because of what Naomi Oreskes was saying about people staying in their lanes. There can be a tendency for scientists who are noted for having expertise in one field, thinking they can speak confidently about topics outside their immediate area of expertise. I think this was partly motivated by Steve Koonin’s latest foray into climate science.

Although I do agree that this is something to be cautious of, I don’t think we should immediately dismiss something because it’s being presented by someone who isn’t recognised as an expert in that field. People can clearly make contributions outside of the field in which they have expertise. However, I do think it’s important for people to acknowledge their expertise when speaking publicly.

However, as Gavin Schmidt pointed out, why is this so often targeted at scientists? It’s not as if scientists are the only people who ever speak confidently about topics outside their immediate area of expertise. Also, if you discourage those who know something from speaking broadly about related topics, there will be plenty of people who know nothing who will happily take their place.

After that rather lengthy introduction, what I actually wanted to highlight was what Naomi Oreskes says later about the is-ought issue. The is-ought issue is the idea is that we should distinguish between what is (scientific “facts”) and what we ought to do, given those scientific “facts”. Even though scientists claim to be clear about the distinction, they don’t always make this distinction clear when speaking publicly.

What I found interesting, though, was that Naomi Oreskes then suggested that the distinction isn’t always clear. In some sense, we can probably always distinguish between the scientific evidence, and what we should do given that evidence, but sometimes (given our morals and shared values) the scientific evidence very clearly indicates that we really should do something.

If a highly transmissible virus that could kill 1% of all who get infected starts spreading through the community, then we really should do something to limit the spread of the virus. If we discover our emission of gases into the atmosphere is changing the climate and that this could have severely negative impacts, then we really should do something to limit the emission of these gases.

If distinguishing between the is and the ought was straightforward, why is there a tendency for those who oppose some action to attack the science (dismissing the scientific evidence), rather than accepting the science and simply arguing against the action? That they attack the science, suggests that the science (the is) is, to a certain extent, defining what we should do (the ought).

So, maybe we should be careful of trying to constrain what scientists – or anyone – should say publicly. However, I do generally agree that people should be clear about whether or not they’re speaking within their area of expertise and should also try to distinguish between when they speaking as an expert, and when they’re speaking as a concerned citizen, even if their expertise does give them some relevant insights.

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55 Responses to The is-ought distinction

  1. The “is ought” may be more commonly recognized as the “if then” scenario that is a basis for a lot of fundamental computer programming. The programming formula shows up clearly in paragraph 6 and 7. That underlying, and more familiar, program function may be at the root of the problem that leads folks to attack the science as you cover in paragraph 7. Because of the common sense “then” step in If, Then calculations, a person opposed to the Then step is only left with attacking the If part of the program. We see that playing out all the time with attacks on the science, or more conveniently, through attacks on the scientists who present the science, if and when the scientists take the next logical step and discuss the Ought/Then action that arises from the condition encountered.

    Naomi is free and welcome to discuss these matters in an “is ought” distinction, but I think it makes more sense and is easier to understand if this is discussed in the more simple and familiar “if then” programming sense. In matters of settled science, the If/Then discussion might be presented as “Because/Then” or “Is/Ought” because the programming trigger of “If” is easily misconstrued as uncertainty when it is really about when a certain condition arises. The “If” condition is not about uncertainty of the condition itself, only about the uncertainty as to when the condition arises, but the “if, then” formulation has staying power for a lot of reasons.

    None of this matters much when an “expert” in a certain field attacks settled science in another field (unless that expert is the unusual and remarkable genius who has seen through and identified a fundamental flaw in an area of settled science, think Copernicus, for instance). I think that most of the time when an “expert” attacks settled science, we will find that we have left the arena of science and have stepped firmly in the the arena of politics. The arena of politics has a life of its own and can easily leave scientific facts floundering to keep up in the arena of politics. That dog will hunt. Just ask Mr. Koonin.

    Cheers
    Mike

  2. gator says:

    They attack the science because that allows them to avoid discussing the consequences. I’ve seen this in action personally with climate change deniers in my family. Basically all of their objections come down to “don’t increase my taxes” – but since they don’t want to *say* that, they jump through all the usual climateball shennangians.

  3. Chubbs says:

    I like Gavin’s point. The media and politicians have much broader reach with the general public than climate scientists. Their misleading points about climate science far outweigh any political statement from a climate scientist, in influencing public opinion.

  4. Thomas Fuller says:

    Well, most science does not reduce to Boolean algebra for is/ought, but as far as your “why is there a tendency for those who oppose some action to attack the science (dismissing the scientific evidence), rather than accepting the science and simply arguing against the action?” I guess that’s why the world has been carrying we Lukewarmers on their shoulders and throwing flower petals at our fee for the past decade, right? For accepting the science and arguing against (some of) the actions…

  5. Willard says:

    A better guess is that the scientific evidence does not point to anything lukewarm. Also, luckwarm fellows might often agree on what needs to be done, if only the concerns regarding the science were addressed.

    There are many ways to attack the science too. One could for instance publish a book that harps about scientific INTEGRITY ™, with or without the caveat (depending on the said book) that this changes nothing about the science.

  6. I guess that’s why the world has been carrying we Lukewarmers on their shoulders and throwing flower petals at our fee for the past decade, right? For accepting the science and arguing against (some of) the actions…

    Lukewarmerism seems like a classic example of the basic point. Most of the evidence suggests that climate sensitivity could be higher than most Lukewarmers will accept. Hence, it does indeed seem that they’re “attacking” (for want of a better word) the science in order to justify their preferences, rather than saying something like “climate sensitivity could be high, but we still think that we should do X”.

  7. Yes, now that the new and improved models point to an ECS of 6C I guess we’re all cooked, right?
    Just to remind you, the sensitivity we think is far more likely is well within the range offered by the IPCC. Or are they attacking science too?

    Sorry, don’t mean to be argumentative. I’ll shut up now.

  8. Tom,
    I’m sure we’ve had this discussion before, but I don’t think someone who regards the ECS as probably lying between 1.5C and 4.5C is really a Lukewarmer. Or, maybe more correctly, there certainly seem to be many self-professed Lukewarmers who promote ECS values that tend to lie near the lower part of this range.

  9. Thomas Fuller says:

    Hi ATTP, and happy Saturday. I know a goodly number of people who say they regard ECS as within that range, including myself. I just would bet on it being under 3C. And those of us who hold that view might be wrong, which is why I advocate mitigation and pre-adaptation starting now.

    But what I get yelled at for is maintaining that our obligations to future generations, while real and undeniable, must be balanced by our concerns for those in need today. We can do things to help future generations. But future generations cannot reach back to today and help those of us who suffer.

  10. Russell says:

    Willard is right up to a point when he notes: “A better guess is that the scientific evidence does not point to anything …”

    Because pointing at things has famous ramifications in philosophy of language. The name of a thing that physically exists and people can uncontroversially point to may be a rigid designator in the real set, like “this cel phone” , or, “that rhinoceros” .

    But many uncontroversial names do not apply to things, like ‘this climate model intercomparison” or “that unicorn”, because models are not things, and things that do not exist can have names as well.

    This makes life easy for lukewarmists who un-necessarily predicate indifference on uncertainty, and climate activists who elide model outcomes and future history.

    The hard problem is that it’s hard to tell what, if anything , it is that people pointing to the future may be pointing at.

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2021/05/try-this-if-uncertainty-monster-eats.html

    ATTP’s observation tha:

    t ” I do generally agree that people should be clear about whether or not they’re speaking within their area of expertise and should also try to distinguish between when they speaking as an expert, and when they’re speaking as a concerned citizen,”

    is somewhat problematic in policy controversy because “expert” is often legally defined not quantitatively, but as the quality of knowing more about something than the average member of the jury.

  11. Willard says:

    > people can uncontroversially point to may be a rigid designator

    A rigid designator is more rigid than that:

    In modal logic and the philosophy of language, a term is said to be a rigid designator or absolute substantial term when it designates (picks out, denotes, refers to) the same thing in all possible worlds in which that thing exists. A designator is persistently rigid if it also designates nothing in all other possible worlds. A designator is obstinately rigid if it designates the same thing in every possible world, period, whether or not that thing exists in that world. Rigid designators are contrasted with connotative terms, non-rigid or flaccid designators, which may designate different things in different possible worlds.

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

    Yes, Virginia: Kripkeans have not worked out the implicatures of their talk of flaccid designators. One could argue that Climateball is an obstinate designator game, but I’m not a Kripkean.

  12. Bob Loblaw says:

    “I know a goodly number of people who say they regard ECS as within that range, including myself. I just would bet on it being under 3C.”

    Gee, that looks like a “stealth” agreement with the IPCC range. My estimate is within the IPCC range – it’s just that I reject most of the IPCC range as unlikely. But I won’t try to argue against the IPCC range, I’ll deflect criticism of my position by saying “…but I’m within the IPCC range”.

    What odds would you give for that “under 3C” bet? 50:50? 2:1? 3:1? 10:1? All are very different bets, but they all fit with “I think it will fall somewhere in the IPCC range”.

  13. Ron Graf says:

    The biggest issue in the divide IMO is trust. It is hard for people to find honest brokers, expert or not. In the USA we used to have a time where journalists and scientists out their ethics first and politics second. I have watched that evaporate over the last 50 years at least in the USA.

  14. Ron Graf says:

    I meant “put their ethics first.” That means giving the counter argument in sincere fashion and acknowledging there is always a legitimate counter argument even if you don’t agree with it, or even if your are in the 90% majority..

  15. Willard says:

    But Advocacy, But the Press, But Bias, But Politics. All we need is But Evidence, But Science, But Truth, and But Costs to cover the core squares of the Climateball Bingo:

    Well done, Ron!

  16. Ron,

    In the USA we used to have a time where journalists and scientists out their ethics first and politics second. I have watched that evaporate over the last 50 years at least in the USA.

    This is possible, but I sometimes wonder if this isn’t more our own perception, rather than what actually happened.

  17. “the sensitivity we think is far more likely is well within the range offered by the IPCC

    Well, it’s never exactly clear to me what that lukewarmer range is, but if I was the author of, say, “The League of 2.5” at wattsupwiththat, I wouldn’t be too confident about fitting “well within the range” for too much longer.

    These, um, familiar names👇recently concluded the “likely” range is 2.6-3.9°C.

    Along with other recent research suggestive of (finally?) a narrowing of the canonical range, might the lukewarmer central estimate be creeping up soon?

  18. TYSON MCGUFFIN says:

    It is unhelpful that the opinions of a handful of contrarians are given the same weight in the press and the popular media as the studied conclusions of thousands of experts. This reinforces the perception that the science is uncertain, and provides cover for politicians and businesses reluctant to take action.

  19. Chubbs says:

    Tom – Bit of a stretch to think that adopting a personal ECS of less than 3, is going to help those in need today.

  20. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > In the USA we used to have a time where journalists and scientists out their ethics first and politics second. I have watched that evaporate over the last 50 years at least in the USA.

    >> This is possible, but I sometimes wonder if this isn’t more our own perception, rather than what actually happened.

    Rather typically I’m afraid, it seems Ron’s going with an emotional reaction, to create grand and sweeping narratives without bothering with a thorough assessment. If the narrative involves a conspiracy, so much the better.

    50 years ago was pretty much EXACTLY when we had Sprio Agnew’s “Nattering nabobs of negativism.” I might be tempted to blame conservatives’ need to self-victimize, but folks on the left also like to blame media to create simplistic narratives that feel satisfyimg rather than really dig in to complicated social phenomena.

  21. Russell says:

    While ECS estimates in studies by the last two generations of climate scientists have converged to define the IPCC bounds, those of the first three or four, ( see the linked ClimatePinball graph) suggest priors, Bayesian or otherwise, are not always our friends.

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2015/03/a-none-too-brief-history-of-climate.html

  22. Ron Graf says:

    “…our own perception, rather than what actually happened.”

    ‘ 50 years ago was pretty much EXACTLY when we had Spiro Agnew’s “Nattering nabobs of negativism.’

    Actually, I chose 50 years simply because that was my perception. Any accuracy of perception to reality is subject to exposure to valid inputs, of course. That was my point. Can we trust inputs when we are obviously self-selecting them in today’s information age?

    Anders, are you saying that the news dynamics may not have changed or that journalistic standards have not changed? Certainly you self-select to whom you trust and pay attention to. We didn’t have a lot of choice with broadcast news in the 1960s and 70s. We had some variation in political point of view in the print media but even there the range seemed much narrower as to what were points of contention. For example, I remember that nobody would admit they had voted for Nixon in 1975 after the Watergate (DNC headquarters burglary) coverup unraveled. Yet, conservatives and liberals alike condemned Nixon even though he had been elected winning 49 out of the 50 states in 1972. That shows a lot of people trusting the reporting and changed their opinion. Contrast that with today and it is hard to see anyone even trusting reporting outside of their chosen sources.

    Persuasion by information delivered in honorable fashion seemed to have been replaced by narrative creation and coercion, which in turn destroys trust. The US congress can agree to support fewer and fewer items on a bipartisan basis even if they agree on the substance of the proposal mainly because they lack the trust that any new legislation would be implemented as promised.

    This is the number one hurdle IMO to be overcome to get bipartisan support for alternative energy initiatives. Does anyone think that President Biden is doing a good job and fulfilling his pledge to being the two sides together? Please explain.

  23. Ron,
    I’m mostly just suggesting that maybe the past isn’t as perfect as it might seem from the present, and that the present may not be quite as awful as it currently seems. That’s not to suggest that there aren’t issues with some of these things now, just that maybe it’s not an entirely new problem.

  24. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    “If a highly transmissible virus that could kill 1% of all who get infected starts spreading through the community, then we really should do something to limit the spread of the virus.”

    This in not a universally held view. Some nations have decided that the economic impacts of the measures required to limit the spread offset the economic impacts of 1% of the oldest people dying, (Brazil). Others give lip-service to spread limiting measures but make no serious attempt to impose them.

    The fact there IS a highly transmissible virus that will kill ~1% of the population, clearly does NOT indicate that measures limiting spread OUGHT to be introduced. Or that individuals will follow them.
    Opinions may vary.

  25. izen,
    I should probably have said “most would agree that we really should do something to limit the spread of the virus.” 🙂

  26. izen says:

    Agreed.
    I am just trying to point out that the connection between a fact that IS, and a resultant action that OUGHT to be taken is not always inevitable.
    In fact I can think of few examples other than individual survival that are.
    Consider the ‘trolly problem’. If you take no action five people die, if you take action one dies.
    Does this mean that one OUGHT to take action ?

  27. Joshua says:

    Ron –

    Ron –

    > Actually, I chose 50 years simply because that was my perception. Any accuracy of perception to reality is subject to exposure to valid inputs, of course.

    Agreed, of course.

    >. That was my point. Can we trust inputs when we are obviously self-selecting them in today’s information age?

    Well, that’s a good question, and if that deserves a thoughtful consideration.

    I think there’s little doubt that a wider range of journalism is more easily accessed by more people, although for sure a diversity existed back in the day (my father was a regular reader of I.F. Stone’s Weekly, for example).

    But that there’s more diversity easily available doesn’t answer your question. And the rest of your comment falls apart, logically.

    There was plenty of resistance on the right to criticizing Nixon until the very end. The fact that the worm eventually turned doesn’t mean that journalists were more “honorable.” There are still plenty of situations today were there are large shifts in public opinion. Reverse engineering from the existence of one shift back in the day, to conclusions about the honor of journalists, may well support a view that there’s a conspiracy afoot, but it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny as support for your vision of some vast deterioration in journalism. Surely you must know about the Yellow Journalism of the William Randolph Hearst era?

    Your assumed mechanism that journalism explains public opinions rather than reflects public opinions is also questionable. The business model of journalism is to provide readers what they want to read. That journalism is more varied now, and often more targeted to a specific audience, doesn’t support some vast conspiracy of journalists to dishonorably drive public opinion.

    > That shows a lot of people trusting the reporting and changed their opinion. Contrast that with today and it is hard to see anyone even trusting reporting outside of their chosen sources.

    In the US, we are more polarized along party lines, but we’re not necessarily more polarized. As such, there might be more news that is crafted to reinforce what more party-polarized consumers want. But there also might be more quality, unbiased reporting as well.

    Blaming the lack of bipartisanship on journalism assumes a direction of causality that’s dubious, IMO – and it ignores that there could be many other explanations for a lack of bipartisanship, more party-polarization, and more diverse news availability. But you’re seeking out and getting satisfaction from a conspiracy theory the delivers some kind of emotional satisfaction. Maybe that’s a trend that generalizes, and that lies closer to the root of the phenomena you’re observing?

    Your final paragraph speaks to that.

    > Does anyone think that President Biden is doing a good job and fulfilling his pledge to being the two sides together? Please explain.

    There we go. Your whole explanation of vastly complex societal trends boils down to a conclusion that you started with – that you don’t like Biden. And from where I sit – it looks your whole model of explaining decades of complex trends is basically crafted to justify that conclusion – no matter how many logical gaps and congruities exist in your narrative.

  28. Joshua says:

    Ron –

    Here’s an explanation that offers an alternative model for looking at shifts in public opinion formation in the States, and the lack of bipartisanship – as opposed to your conspiracy-based reverse-engineering to craft a conclusion that confirms your premise (that it must be a loss of “honor” in journalism that is the explanation):

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/23/politics/republicans-extremists-worse-than-2012/index.html

  29. Joshua says:

    And Ron –

    Would you explain this as being a function of a lack of “honor” among journalists and BIden’s inability to gain bipartisan support?

    Marjorie Taylor Greene compares mask mandate to Holocaust-era ‘gold star’

    “You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” Greene said. “And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”

    https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/marjorie-taylor-greene-compares-mask-mandate-to-holocaust-era-gold-star-668816

  30. Willard says:

    > Persuasion by information delivered in honorable fashion seemed to have been replaced by narrative creation and coercion

    That is itself a narrative of self-victimization.

    The NHS tried to find the correct messaging to reach troglodytes on the efficacy of vaccines. They hired Frank Luntz. Here are the facts that worked:

    (Frank Luntz) Doug says he wants facts. Let’s go.

    (David Kestenbaum) Frieden had been listening, and it was like he’d been collecting all the concerns and questions he’d been hearing and lining up responses in his head. And in one minute, he just spit out these five things he wanted everyone to know as clearly as he could.

    (Tom Frieden) One, if you get infected with the virus, it will go all over your body and stay there for at least a week and be much more likely to cause you long-term problems than the vaccine. Two, if you get the vaccine, it will prime your immune system, but then the vaccine is gone. It will not be with you anymore. Three, more than 95% of the doctors who have been offered this vaccine have gotten it as soon as they can. Four, the more we vaccinate, the faster we can get back to growing our economy and getting jobs. And five, if people get vaccinated, we’re going to save at least 100,000 lives of Americans who would otherwise be killed by COVID.

    Source: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/736/transcript

    But it took the testimony of Chris Christie to finally get a change of mind from most. A great episode.

    The conclusion is that there’s no dichotomy between facts and values. We’re humans. We need both.

  31. Ron Graf says:

    Joshua, Willard, Anders, thanks for your thoughtful replies.

    I agree that there is bias in my thoughts and questions. I am here subjecting them to your counter biases for scrutiny.

    “Surely you must know about the Yellow Journalism of the William Randolph Hearst era.”

    Yes, great point. Problems in journalism that were recognized by “the consensus” in past times. This likely set up reforms on journalistic standards and integrity that I experienced growing up. Do you all agree that it may be possible that the same dynamics that produced Yellow Journalism (ex. profit) could have worked their way back over time?

    “Blaming the lack of bipartisanship on journalism assumes a direction of causality that’s dubious, IMO – and it ignores that there could be many other explanations for a lack of bipartisanship”

    I would be interested on specific thoughts on what promotes bifurcation and mitigates it.

    “There we go. Your whole explanation of vastly complex societal trends boils down to a conclusion that you started with – that you don’t like Biden.”

    I don’t like Biden’s policies. I have no animus against the man. But I believe a lot of his appeal to centrists was his promise to mend fences and build trust. I don’t think I am unique in seeing the problem as a real danger. I missed his actions aimed at his promise. But my eyes are admittedly biased. I am reaching out to you all to see if your eyes see a different image. And what examples can you use to help me see it?

    Does anyone disagree with these statements:

    1) Trust is the most important ingredient in cooperation of any group, from families, business, communities, political divides and competing nations?

    2) Any deal is entered into only after a level of trust is gained to believe the deal will be honored. Thus trust is a prerequisite to any deal or cooperation.

    3) Political bifurcation is a spiraling engine of distrust.

  32. Joshua says:

    Ron –

    > I missed his actions aimed at his promise. But my eyes are admittedly biased.

    What actions would you see him doing to achieve that goal. From where I sit, he is given zero room to make any bi-partisan outreach. But if I were him, I would make a bigger show of making an attempt, even if primarily knowing that Republicans will reject an such attempts.

    > 1) Trust is the most important ingredient in cooperation of any group, from families, business, communities, political divides and competing nations?

    Well, I’ll certainly agree that trust is important. The statement is a bit too general for me to completely agree.

    But you can’t create trust with people who have no interest in creating trust.

    > 2) Any deal is entered into only after a level of trust is gained to believe the deal will be honored. Thus trust is a prerequisite to any deal or cooperation.

    I dunno. Trust is great. But I’m a believer in stakeholder dialog, based on a kind of consensus framework, where people work to separate positions from interests and seek to obtain synergistic solutions where interests can overlap. Trust is great, but in a certain sense it’s less important than the structural framework where people are not digging in to positions but instead looking to find solutions that meet their shared interests.

    > 3) Political bifurcation is a spiraling engine of distrust.

    I look at the direction of mechanism as reversed. A lack of trust leads to political bifurcation.

  33. Ron Graf says:

    “But if I were him, I would make a bigger show of making an attempt, even if primarily knowing that Republicans will reject an such attempts.”

    This is very close to saying that mending fences is useless because the other side can’t be trusted. Yes, that is true. That is the whole problem. It’s a vicious cycle. But it takes a larger person to see that it is reversed by reaching out with small steps. This is what Biden promised. Many thought he would be that larger person. To be perceived as making the promise only to fool people into voting for him obviously is a step in the wrong direction in the cycle. One may defend Biden by claiming he is not in control. That would be more unfortunate since people assenting power in improper ways in the background is also a wrong step in the cycle, acting in covert fashion, improperly influencing policy.

    “Well, I’ll certainly agree that trust is important. The statement is a bit too general for me to completely agree.”

    Trust me. Trust is the starting point as well as the sin quo non. Do a thought experiment of where you would do a deal with someone that you knew wanted to harm you in any possible. Even in a nasty divorce, where a settlement is mandatory, there is usually some attempts at not devolving into a mutual suicide by lawyer.

    “But you can’t create trust with people who have no interest in creating trust.”

    This is where we can start to change the world through education. Donald Trump’s method, for example, was to educate Kim Jong Un by launching bellicose escalatory statements intentionally threatening an out-of-control spiraling deterioration from the status quo in order to motivate the interest in reversing the cycle, then aggressively moving to form a personal bond of trust coming from a position of strength to propose a deal.

    “I dunno. Trust is great. But I’m a believer in stakeholder dialog, based on a kind of consensus framework, where people work to separate positions from interests and seek to obtain synergistic solutions where interests can overlap. Trust is great, but in a certain sense it’s less important than the structural framework where people are not digging in to positions but instead looking to find solutions that meet their shared interests.”

    I think if you dug down into what made effective structural frameworks it is terms that require the least amount of trust.

    “I look at the direction of mechanism as reversed. A lack of trust leads to political bifurcation.”

    That is not the reverse. That half the cycle. The other half being the bifurcation making less and less opportunity for dialog and trust building just as you pointed out in your first paragraph with the presumption of bad faith and uselessness.

  34. Ron,
    One problem (IMO) is that we’ve recently had political leaders who are remarkably dishonest. I appreciate that politics can involve people (unfortunately) being slightly economical with the truth, but some of recent political leaders have taken that to an extreme. I don’t know how you can start to trust those who have a reputation for regularly saying things that are simply not true.

  35. izen says:

    Trust, but verify…

  36. Joshua says:

    Ron –

    > This is very close to saying that mending fences is useless because the other side can’t be trusted.

    No, that’s not close to what I’m saying. In fact. It’s almost the opposite.

    I’m saying give it a shot even if there’s abundant evidence that you’re engaging with peope who are completely disinterested in bipartisanship – because they see bipartisanship to be in a zero sum orientation with their primary goals – in this case maximizing political success by exploiting hatred of SOSHLIST libz.

    > Yes, that is true. That is the whole problem. It’s a vicious cycle. But it takes a larger person to see that it is reversed by reaching out with small steps. This is what Biden promised. Many thought he would be that larger person. To be perceived as making the promise only to fool people into voting for him obviously is a step in the wrong direction in the cycle.

    Thera is some evidence that he has reached out, although I think he should do so more forcefully. It would be a no lose move: either you get bipartisan achievements or you make it all that much more explicit that Republicans in congress are completely disinterested in (popular) bipartisan policies.

    But from where I sit, your singular objective here is to find fault with Biden. He’s only a small piece of the system which puts obstacles in the way of bipartisanship. Yet you focus almost exclusive on him, repeatedly. That logical discontinuity needs explanation.

    > One may defend Biden by claiming he is not in control. That would be more unfortunate since people assenting power in improper ways in the background is also a wrong step in the cycle, acting in covert fashion, improperly influencing policy.

    “Assenting power in improper ways” is hard for me to oarsez but it looks to me like tautology.

    > Trust me. Trust is the starting point as well as the sin quo non. Do a thought experiment of where you would do a deal with someone that you knew wanted to harm you in any possible. Even in a nasty divorce, where a settlement is mandatory, there is usually some attempts at not devolving into a mutual suicide by lawyer.

    I think that trust is an outgrowth. You don’t just magically make it manifest. If you work in a system where peope seek their own interests (rather than lock into positions), and settle on outcomes where interests coincide, trust isn’t particular relevant as a precondition. And in the end, trust is an outcome.

    > This is where we can start to change the world through education. Donald Trump’s method, for example, was to educate Kim Jong Un by launching bellicose escalatory statements intentionally threatening an out-of-control spiraling deterioration from the status quo in order to motivate the interest in reversing the cycle, then aggressively moving to form a personal bond of trust coming from a position of strength to propose a deal.

    Sorry, Ron, but lol.

    I think it’s ludicrous to believe that Trump established “trust” with NoKo. Not only were there no material outcomes from this putative “trust,” it was clearly a situation where Trump was pursuing political expediency and Kim was pursuing… well, who knows exactly and it’s really, imo, strange and condescending to think that you can know what someone like Kim wanted to achieve.

    > I think if you dug down into what made effective structural frameworks it is terms that require the least amount of trust.

    The only “trust” you need, in a sense, is that your counterpart is pursuing their own interests and isn’t locked into a postion. In other words, all you need is to know that they’re invested in the process as a way to get an outcome they want.

    > That is not the reverse.

    Well, I disagree. Trust doesn’t magically appear where it doesn’t exist. You invest in the process and possibly in the end trust is manifest

  37. Thomas Fuller says:

    Trust is a result, not a cause.

  38. Ron Graf says:

    This is very interesting sociologically that we can’t agree on what trust is let alone its importance.

    Joshua: “I’m saying give it a shot…” Yes you said: “I would make a bigger show of making an attempt, even if primarily knowing that Republicans will reject an such attempts.”

    You agreed that trust building is a worthy exercise even in the face of certain futility. That seems to be self-contradictory since certain futility justifies no such effort. Unless the effort is insincere and only to signal virtue in trying while not really. That would be a step downward on the trust spiral.

    Nonetheless, I missed this point and only focused on the “Republicans will reject” side rather than the “I would make a bigger show” side. My bad. It reveals my bias.

    Anders: “One problem (IMO) is that we’ve recently had political leaders who are remarkably dishonest. I appreciate that politics can involve people (unfortunately) being slightly economical with the truth, but some of recent political leaders have taken that to an extreme. I don’t know how you can start to trust those who have a reputation for regularly saying things that are simply not true.”

    In America we used to be taught that President Abraham Lincoln was honest. He but now popular culture is working to show that consecutive dishonest leaders goes uninterrupted back to caveman times (except for Pres. Jimmy Carter).

    T Fuller: “Trust is a result, not a cause.”

    I argue its both, just like a piston firing is both a result and a cause.

  39. Joshua says:

    Ron –

    > since certain futility justifies no such effort….

    I don’t think I said, but certainly didn’t intend to say certain futility. My use of “primarily” was intended to leave the door open a crack. You take a shot in case it might work, and you gain some polticial advantage if Republicans do what you expect.

  40. Ron Graf says:

    Joshua, my overall point is that political bifurcation is destructive to all parties. Even temporary winners will become losers in the long run. The CIA calls it blow back, not realizing that everything they do covertly to foreign governments destroys trust and thus will eventually result in blow back. Example: 1953 Shah of Iran coup — 1979 hostage crisis.

    My thought it this principle extrapolates to all aspects for sociology. I look at the media and the current administration in power as the two most important influencers on which way we go from here.

    Everyone who reads this blog does so because they are concerned about the future, thinking climate is our number one issue. I am also a futurist but I disagree on that. While I agree that alternative energy is a necessary eventuality, I think we need to understand trust and co-existence is our most important existential item. With greater cultural maturity to catch up to our current state of technological advance we can proceed more easily and safely with more technological advance.

  41. Joshua says:

    Ron –

    I don’t disagree with a whole lot in that comment. I happen to think that the struggle over climate change is effectively a proxy for a more widespread identity struggle. I do think that there is a notable change in modern American culture, where a broader sense of community has been lost. When I read about the war effort during WWII and the level to which people were willing to make sacrifice for community good, it seems like another planet from the one I live on.

    I lived In a small town in Italy in my late twenties. I’d go shopping in the old, walled city where I lived, stopping in 5 or 6 stores practically every day (the cheese store, the bread store, the wine shop, the meat store, the produce store, the fruit store, etc. A supermarket had opened up in the lower city and some people would go down there and shop, maybe once per week. Such a seemingly insignificant difference had a huge impact on people’s sense of community. When I’d go on my daily rounds, each shop-keeper would have a “special” item for me that day – because they knew what I liked. Even as a temporary transplant, I was a member of a community, where people knew who I was. I have neighbors who know me where I live now, of course, and some communities in the States aren’t all that dissimilar to what I’m describing about the communities in Italy – but I think that with modern society and conveniences much has been lost in our identification with a larger, national-level community – and that has led to a kind of isolation where people organize around a kind of abstracted political identity rather than an identity of shared experiences.

    Anyway, that may be one kind of a reason why our sense of shared community has diminished. Grand, sweeping conspiratorial explanations – rooted in some kind of demonization of the “other” and negative attribution of malign intent to human beings that have the same basic values and psychology as I have – a type of explanation it seems you favor, just don’t work particularly well for me. I think that more likely the reason for our loss of sense of shared identity is related to lots of little differences in how we live our daily lives – changes that lead to different ordering of priorities.

    Of course, at the same time we now have people, who were once denied basic rights and agency in affecting their own life course, who were never really part of some idealized “community” of which I speak. I’m somewhat agnostic about the balance of the trade-offs associated with the changes. Are we more bifurcated now than we were in the 60s? Well, I’d say that many African Americans or homosexuals, just to mention a few groups of people who were more excluded previously, might well emphatically answer “no.”

  42. Ron Graf says:

    Joshua, I very much agree with your observations about the need for community, a place to belong, shared asperations, etc… I agree with conspiratorial thinking and demonization is on the rise. This is why I tried to take a step back to see if there was a common factor in the changes we both agree we have seen.

    I love both dogs and cats. They seem to assume the worst about each other instinctively. But I have seen even they can slowly build trusting relationships if under a stable household together. We sometimes forget or deny our own animal instincts and needs. We all know somebody who has slipped into substance abuse or self-isolation and realize their behavior is not healthy but, of course, they cannot see it.

    Perhaps we need more sociology and psychology courses required for the lawyers that run our governments and big businesses.

  43. Willard says:

    Ron, Joshua,

    Have you considered an epistolary exchange? You’re starting to sound like what we can read in this site:

    https://letter.wiki/conversations

    I’ll underline this one, if only for izen’s sake:

    https://letter.wiki/conversation/1011

  44. Willard,
    Those conversations look interesting, but rather long and detailed (maybe social media has dented my attention span). The most recent (about Science being the only way of knowing) reminds me that we had a similar discussion here (that started with a discussion about whether or not Jordan Peterson speaks the truth).

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/11/04/jordan-peterson-speaks-the-truth/

  45. I notice that Mike Hulme has written an article about what he was saying in the panel discussion. It’s his “Do’s and Don’ts of Communicating Climate Science“. A bit ironic that in a discussion that focused on the distinction between is and ought he decided to write an article telling people what they ought to do, or not do 🙂

  46. izen says:

    @-W
    “I’ll underline this one, if only for izen’s sake:”

    Thank you for that… I think. Dennet’s contribution I find more, cogent?

    I will add this, its a little glib, but does speak to the difference between those involved in Climateball(TM)

  47. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    “2. Don’t demonize one’s opponents
    To stand in here, I use the case of climate scientist Michael Mann and his militarist vocabulary. ”

    I was under the impression this was in response to the virulent attack by Ken Cuncinelli (amongst others,) rather than an inherent trait of Mann.

    “2. Expose underlying values
    You certainly won’t find the message of climate “facts” by finding out more facts. No — political consensus does not follow from scientific consensus … and certainly not for climate change where the scientific consensus is actually over a rather minimalist set of claims about human influence on climate.”

    The fact that CO2 emissions are changing the climate and have the potential to continue to change it significantly is hardly ‘minimalist’. The individual and social injury from not wearing a mask, seatbelt or motorbike helmet are open to a political consensus that should follow the scientific consensus, unless vested status quo interests intervene. The facts about climate change should provoke a similar level of response.

    “3. Invest in political institutions/ processes
    … I would argue that over-emphasizing narrow science-based indicators – like global temperature, net-zero emissions — or the emotional rhetoric of 10 more years – are poor substitutes or short-cuts for political forms of closure. And they may feed suspicion or mis-trust in science. ”

    Hulme never fails to disappoint when it comes to fully balancing the message of facts with the politics of protection of the status quo and economic interests. He can be relied upon to emphasize the importance of preserving the current order in the face of scientific facts every time.

  48. ATTP or Izen,

    That link ATTP posted is broken at my end …
    http://sawyerseminar.americanassembly.org/blog/communicating-climate-science-three-strategies-mistakes

    Even just this …
    http://sawyerseminar.americanassembly.org/
    does not help.

    I have tried several searches but to no avail.

  49. Never mind, link works now.

  50. izen,

    I was under the impression this was in response to the virulent attack by Ken Cuncinelli (amongst others,) rather than an inherent trait of Mann.

    Yes, I think the “Michael Mann is too militant” argument ignores that he’s been “attacked” by some pretty powerful people. I also see people complaining about him going to court, because this is somehow against the scientific method. But he’s not suing other scientists, he’s suing journalists who’ve compared him to a peodophile.

    The fact that CO2 emissions are changing the climate and have the potential to continue to change it significantly is hardly ‘minimalist’.

    I’ve seen similar arguments from those who object to consensus messaging. It’s been suggested that the consensus is “narrow”. Given that the consensus (“humans are causing global warming”) underpins the whole topic, it’s hard to see how it’s narrow. I really can’t work out if people who make these arguments don’t get this, or if they’re actively trying to minimise the significance of this issue.

  51. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    “I really can’t work out if people who make these arguments don’t get this, or if they’re actively trying to minimise the significance of this issue. ”

    They are deploying a ‘soldier’ rationality. Marshalling their arguments, deploying their points, conceding as little ground as possible while attacking your position to defend their pre-determined conclusion.
    In contrast to the ‘scout’ who surveys the area with the intention of reporting back the most accurate information available.

  52. Willard says:

    My bet would be that we’re both soldier and scout. We’re territorial pattern-seekers. Take Ron’s discussion with Joshua. Compare with his current performance at Judy’s, e.g.:

    The very heart of their argument is a lie.

    https://judithcurry.com/2021/05/23/collapse-of-the-fake-consensus-on-covid-19-origins/#comment-950734

    I’d present what seeks to express Julia differently. Take Grice’s cooperation principle, i.e. Make your contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged. Ron’s reply was utterly unresponsive to what I said. He even doubled down when I told him so. However “scouty” he may have sounded to his target audience, he refused to cooperate. While it looks like he was fulfilling the maxims of quantity, quality, relation, and manner, he broke all of them. Too much information. Nothing relevant to my points. Soldiering opinions unsupported by evidence he can judge. His response cannot be constructive.

    As long as one is constructive, I don’t mind much soldierly contributions. And my understanding of constructiveness extends to humor and artfulness. There are tons of models that shows how competition can be beneficial to everyone.

    Which is why I believe that Climateball manners maketh the player.

  53. Mike Coday says:

    “I really can’t work out if people who make these arguments don’t get this, or if they’re actively trying to minimise the significance of this issue.”

    I employ Occam’s razor and can work out that the people who make these arguments are working on political games and results and are not engaged in a good faith back and forth and evaluation of the science. I believe some of these bad faith debaters will evolve over time and post lukewarmist positions as a device to suggest their position has evolved and that they are being swayed by the science and evidence of global warming which become more and more solid (and alarming?) over time. It is, as you say, hard to work out if they don’t understand the arguments and science or if they are posting in bad faith with the goal of minimizing the significance of the issue.

    Good luck with that difficult assessment.

    Cheers

    Mike

  54. mrkenfabian says:

    Hulme’s apologetics for climate science denial and opposition to taking appropriate action problem don’t impress me. I think that for those holding positions of high office, power and influence there are ethical obligations to take the expert advice seriously – quite apart from their political ideology or the fake debating of whether it should be trusted; they have an obligation to take it seriously. Failure to do so is negligence.

    Deflecting that responsibility by claiming they are responding to public opinion and their primary responsibility is to the will of the people rather than the good of the people – when they and the orgs they are part of have a lot of direct input into influencing public opinion – looks a lot more like justifying than justification. In many cases they have been knowingly deceiving the public with respect to whether they have grounds to dismiss or ignore or oppose successive rounds of consistent expert advice – and not pointing that out and failing to criticise might be less confrontational and more polite but is a profound failure of the body politic.

    Prime Ministers and Presidents and their governments have the means to have their doubts and questions addressed, to seek independent confirmation the science is valid and to investigate claims of falsification, misrepresentation and conspiracy – and it not a case of choosing between different “opinions”. They ought not have a “right” to misrepresent the advice or mislead the public – but effectively they do – and are held to be above any legal requirements for honesty or accountability for the consequences of such dishonesty.

    Public opinion about the IS – the climate and energy problem – as well as the OUGHT – the responses to it – don’t exist in isolation; I suspect the intricacies of how the range of influences interact to get a widely supported public opinion would rival any GCM’s for complexity. Public opinion influences politics but a whole range of people and orgs, including political ones, influence public opinion, but PMs and Presidents ignoring the expert advice whilst claiming doing so is deferring to public opinion still looks like profound negligence that needs calling out, loudly and repeatedly.

  55. Russell says:

    ” I believe that Climateball manners maketh the player.”

    True, but players may find themselves at a loss, for while the size of the ball matters, it has never been codified, and the rules of Court, Lawn,& Table Climateball may vary idiosyncraticly from one court or playing surface to another..

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