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« A tree ring blog | Main | Beddington's baloney »
Tuesday
Jul122011

A philosopher on Climategate

I've always been rather unimpressed with philosophy and philosophers - I keep feeling that there is much less there than meets the eye. I don't think this article in the New York Times is going to change my opinion much. In it, philosopher Gary Gutting looks at the AGW `consensus' and Climategate and frankly doesn't make much of a case. Here he is on Climategate:

Some non-expert opponents of global warming have made much of a number of e-mails written and circulated among a handful of climate scientists that they see as evidence of bias toward global warming. But unless this group is willing to argue from this small (and questionable) sample to the general unreliability of climate science as a discipline, they have no alternative but to accept the consensus view of climate scientists that these e-mails do not undermine the core result of global warming.

The "consensus view" about the emails that Prof Gutting cites is an article about the Russell review, which was not exactly chock-full of climate scientists and was not exactly full of people who could be described as honest brokers either. Prof Gutting also seems to have missed the point about the emails - if they really show that the peer reviewed literature was largely closed to sceptics, then yes climate science as a discipline is unreliable.

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Reader Comments (79)

Personally, I doubt that there is such a beast as an "expert" in climate science. The views expressed in this article are very simplistic and poorly argued.

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

'consensus view of climate scientists'

firstly the consensus view of Catholic priests is that god exist , but that does not mean they do.
secondly no actual knows what the majority let alone all climate scientists think on anything its simple never been researched. All they have , in respect to the population base, is ideas of how a small number of climate scientists answer some question ,with use of questioners being highly problematical to say the least , that is it . The mythic 97% turns out be virtual worthless .

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

I am sorry, but the article links for support for a strong consensus to Skeptical Science, Oreskes and Doran. All three are motivated by political advocacy, a far cry from impartiality. If Doran ever reveals the response to the missing seven of his nine question survey to Earth Scientists, instead of cherry picking a subset to two puerile questions that do not even consider CO2, I might rate his survey worthy of review. As it stands, continued reference to Doran among the AGW faithful confirms the utter flimsy of any claim to consensus among the scientific community as a whole. If this is the best survey the 'consensus' can offer up- it really does illustrate the total poverty of truth underpinning this whole ediface.

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

KnR has skewered the philosopher's sloppy thinking.

In climate science, clear thinking left the building a long time ago.The whole subject is circular logic spiced up with a few appeals to authority and apeals to "think of the children".

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Bishop, I have the utmost respect for (good) philosophers, but they tend not to commit two logical fallacies in the one op-ed: the argument from authority and the argument from popularity.

Consider this passage:
'Non-expert opponents of A.G.W. usually base their case on various criticisms that a small minority of climate scientists have raised against the consensus view. But non-experts are in no position to argue against the consensus of expert opinion. As long as they accept the expert authority of the discipline of climate science, they have no basis for supporting the minority position.'

This is arrant nonsense. Most critics, 'non-expert' or expert, quite properly question AGW on the basis of of the evidence for the predictions it yields. Crucially, it predicts water vapour will rise with warming (the evidence for this is weak at best), that there will be 'hot spot' in the lower tropical troposphere (there isn't), that (from a 1990 base) the world would warm substantially more than it has, etc, etc.

One does not have to 'accept the expert authority of the discipline of climate science' (whatever that might be - it usually self-defines as something like 'those atmospheric physicists, biologists, dendronchronologists, paleontologists, etc who agree with the dominant meme, since only those who disagree have their credentials questioned). Indeed, any layman can (and should) question the authority of any person - scientist, politician, philosopher or priest. Reason and evidence are the basis for knowledge; authority belongs to an earlier (pre-Enlightenment) age that keeps rearing its ugly head.

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Philosophers are needed to analyse the issue, but Prof Gutting seems not up to the task.

For instance, a logician might point out a lack of connection that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, to the catastrophic warming predicted. It is not just the relationship that is important, but whether there is sufficient quantity. Further, any logician reading the Hockey Stick Illusion (or a traditionalist looking at the art of rhetoric) would quickly realise that the defences put forward for the hockey stick have been seriously flawed.

A philosopher of science would say that an appeal to experts is very much secondary to verified empirical hypotheses. It is not just the Popperian view that Climate Science falls foul (non-falsifiable), but any that would might see the benefits of consensus in science. Where protection of the core beliefs from empirical reality has become the guiding purpose (as the Climategate e-mails and the attacks on dissenters in the press / blogs indicate) then there is a problem. Where most of the effort is deflection from dealing with the core science, and polarising the views into either you are with us, or are beyond the pale, then the science has long passed into a degenerate phase.

We need someone to define the boundaries of the necessary and sufficient conditions to recognise climate change as a real and challenging issue. Not for some prestigious bodies or eminent persons to say that lots of very bright experts have (somehow) agreed there is a great problem.

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

What is the point if metaphysics?

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

*of* even.., :p.

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Well put, Manic. Any decent philosopher would recognise that rhetorical devices and resort to various logical fallacies point to a a bunch of people with something (perhaps a weak case?) to hide. They would have quite happily shouted Galileo down with cries of 'Denier!'

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

It is amazing that people would continue to sell their credibility to protect the corrupt just because it is a preferred method.

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Id

Oops - It is amazing that people would continue to sell their credibility to protect the corrupt just because it is a preferred result.

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Id

Hey! I love philosophers and philosophy. I would say: climate skepticism is funded by big philosophy (if you get my drift). Let us just remember: all professors of philosophy are not philosophers.

And what magnificent instruments of observation we possess in our senses! This nose, for example, of which no philosopher has yet spoken with reverence and gratitude, is actually the most delicate instrument so far at our disposal: it is able to detect tiny chemical concentrations that even elude a spectroscope. Today we possess science precisely to the extent to which we have decided to accept the testimony of the senses — to the extent to which we sharpen them further, arm them, and have learned to think them through. The rest is miscarriage and not-yet-science — in other words, metaphysics, theology, psychology, epistemology — or formal science, a doctrine of signs, such as logic and that applied logic which is called mathematics. In them reality is not encountered at all,...

Nietzsche, on climate models - Twilight of the Idols, 1888.

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I should add that I studied at the University of Otago under Jim Flynn, and ethical philosopher firmly committed to humane ideals and vehemently opposed to racism. (He did jail time in the US during the civil rights era). Jim was a wonderful inspiration, and living proof of the weakness of Gutting's argument. Looking for a scientific critique of the work of Arthur Jensen on Race and IQ for his book on the justification of humane ideals, he found nothing but ad hominem attacks, so he set out to write his own critique. There followed a couple of decades of research (on which I crunched a few numbers for a couple of weeks as an RA while briefly unemployed post-doc), with much critique of Jensen (based on reason and evidence) which also led to the discovery of what became known as the Flynn Effect: all unstandardised IQ scores during the 20th C had improved. All the Ed Psych discipline, to whom Gutting would argue he should have deferred, had missed this, because they never worked with the standardised data.
There's a couple of Aussies here with a Nobel in medicine who refused to accept the authority of the discipline on the causes of gastric ulcers as well. There are endless examples, and its surprising to see a philosopher running with this tosh.

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

I've always been rather unimpressed with philosophy and philosophers . . .

That might be because you know nothing about the subject and would be well advised to steer clear of it.

I keep feeling that there is much less there than meets the eye.

It doesn't give you, by any chance, an urge to reach for a gun ??

No? Phew! That's a relief. Whatever, to extrapolate from Gary Gutting (WTF he?) to the pre-Socratics, to Aristotle, to Duns Scotus, Bacon, Berkeley, Descartes, Leibniz, Diderot, etc etc takes brass. But it doesn't take scholarship.

C'mon, Andrew, spare us this banal gobs***e. I think that "The Hockeystick Illusion" is a fine book even if I have lost a shed-load of friends defending it. You can - and should - do better than this.

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

re Gutting: am i allowed to say "what a wanker"?

hmmm.:

11 July: MSN: Is Google too close to the UK government?
A national newspaper has questioned whether Google is too close to the UK government after discovering that the search giant has had over 20 meetings with senior politicians over the past 12 months.
The Sunday Times uncovered the frequent conferences using Freedom of Information requests; revealing that Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne and Steve Hilton, director of strategy for David Cameron, among others, have all met with Google.
Google's executive chariman, Eric Schmidt, is also a member of the Prime Minister's Advisory Council...
However, few other companies have powerful British politicians' ears so regularly – apart from, perhaps, News International. And that's working out pretty well, right?
http://tech.uk.msn.com/news/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=158540775

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Philosophy, the art of dealing with theories of existence and knowledge.

Hockey sticks are for life and not just for Christmas.

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

The thing that strikes me about so much of this sort of commentary (and writings of journalists for that matter) is the apparent lack of any serious critical thinking. I realise that I must be careful myself to try to follow the principles of critical thinking, and can be misled. But from this viewpoint, the lack of commitment to critical thinking on the part of Professor Gutting evident in his piece is rather surprising for a professor of Philosophy.

Jul 13, 2011 at 1:01 AM | Unregistered Commentermondo

Sounds like regurgitated dinner party chatter. Why is it the more liberal a publication likes to consider itself, the less informed its columnists feel they need to be on any issue on which they choose to mindlessly pontificate? I ask this question as a liberal choking on an increasingly putrid and tedious cloud of NYT and Guardian smug.

Jul 13, 2011 at 1:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJJB MKI

Do not reject philosophy, stupid. Here is a proof (short video): http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xazb58_dominique-lecourt-le-rechauffement_news

Here is another one from the same philosopher (longer video): http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xfwexd_agora-des-savoirs-dominique-lecourt_tech

Of course, you must understand french before.

And what do you think about Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, W.V.O. Quine and I don't know, let say, Hilary Putman ("Representation and Reality") and Gaston Bachelard ("Le nouvel esprit scientifique") ? All these cleaver guys are gardians of rationality and science.

And that was my memo.

Jul 13, 2011 at 1:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterSirius

Gary Gutting needs to read some Philip Tetlock, Gardner's Future Babble, Wisdom of Crowds and some basic legal philosophy on why we still have juries and allow lawyers to cross-examine his supposed "experts".

His conclusion would be BS even if there weren't huge glaring problems with climate science. His conclusion is BS for any type of expertise and arguments from consensus.

But since he wrote about the supposed expertise of climate scientists and our need to rely on the opinions of experts to guide us, I have some questions:

If stats experts say that his climate experts are butchering their stats, who should we believe?

If software experts say that his climate experts are butchering their code, who should we believe?

If experts in computer models and forecasts say that his climate experts are screwups, who should we believe?

If quality control experts say that the climate databases lack quality control, who do we believe?

If ethics and conflicts of interest experts say that climate science has serious ethical conflicts, who should we believe?

If so-called experts in climate science abandon the scientific method, are they still climate science experts? Would it be permissible for the unwashed among us to ask these august titans why they no longer practice real science?

Jul 13, 2011 at 1:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Research over the past decade or so by the USDOE Low Dose Research Program shows that the ionizing radiation health experts got it wrong about the health effects of low dose radiation when they assumed, several decades ago, that the cancer risk is proportional to dose (i.e., linear). Yet, public policy continues to accept the LNT as a basis for regulations which add cost without any benefit. Why does anyone think that CO^2 will be any different?

Jul 13, 2011 at 2:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterobiwankenobi

The article finishes thus:

Once we board the train of climate science, there is no alternative to taking it wherever it may go

Which kind of train would that be then?

Jul 13, 2011 at 2:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

Gary Gutting writes:

"Precisely because we are not experts, we are in no position to adjudicate disputes among those who are. Finally, given a consensus on a claim among recognized experts, we non-experts have no basis for rejecting the truth of the claim."

Then he writes:

"There remain pressing questions, for example, about the likely long-term effects of various plans for limiting CO2 emissions, the more immediate economic effects of such plans, and, especially, the proper balance between actual present sacrifices and probable long-term gains. Here we still require the input of experts, but we must also make fundamental value judgments, a task that, pace Plato, we cannot turn over to experts."

Excuse me! Why not? Are there no experts among philosophers? Are there no experts among those who specialize in the study of value judgements? Are value judgments beyond expert elucidation and expert critique? Plato argued that poetry is inspired by the gods and should be prohibited in the ideal state, but I do not believe that he meant to exclude the study of value judgements.

So, why should we treat philosophers and scientists differently?

Scientists follow the Scientific Method which was first explicated by Galileo. Scientific method explains scientific explanation, prediction, confirmation, and all those rich concepts that make science intelligible to the scientist and the layman. Our understanding of scientific method expanded greatly in the Twentieth Century through the work of Carl G. Hempel, Israel Scheffler, Wolfgang Stegmuller, Isaac Levi, and others. This understanding is accessible to all who are interested. One does not have to be a scientist to understand it, though a scientific bent does make the task much easier.

Speaking as a philosopher of science, I would like to say to Professor Gutting that no part of climate science meets the standards of good scientific method. Some of the climate scientists rely entirely on Gaia Models that are not scientific hypotheses, cannot substitute for scientific hypotheses, and that have no track record of accurately representing reality in any manner whatever. Others belong to the school of Michael Mann and do nothing more than discover correlations between two sets of numbers, tree ring proxies and temperature readings. When they find that the behavior of their proxies is unpredictable and contradicts their desired correlation they merely "hide the decline." It never occurs to them, before or after the discovery of waywardness, that they needed reasonably well-confirmed physical hypotheses that describe the behavior of the proxies and can be used to explain why they "declined." To this day, none of the scientists on The Team are working on the problem. No scientific instincts whatsoever.

I share Bishop Hill's distaste for most philosophers. Many have embraced "Post Modernism" in philosophy, which was actually invented by English professors who desperately envied the ability of philosophers to garner respect while talking about concepts such as "truth." To a man, every one of them holds exactly the position stated by William James in "The Will to Believe," (1895) though none would admit it.

In my humble opinion, all that Gary Gutting has accomplished in this article is to demonstrate that he is willing to resort to sophistry in defense of indefensible practices among the Gaia Modelers and those who dabble in proxies.

Jul 13, 2011 at 4:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

"...the lack of commitment to critical thinking on the part of Professor Gutting evident in his piece is rather surprising for a professor of Philosophy." --mondo

In PostModern Philosophy, "critical thinking" means thinking the same as your professor thought.

Jul 13, 2011 at 4:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

O/T but the CO2 bubble is out of the bottle in Australia:

12 July: Reuters: Michael Perry: Australian carbon hedging limited until climate policy law
Australia's government is confident parliament will pass its carbon tax scheme within months, but financial institutions and carbon traders say the risk of it again being rejected will leave firms reluctant to hedge by buying carbon offset units.
However, high carbon emitting Australian firms that also operate in the EU and New Zealand, where trading schemes already exist, may seek to purchase additional carbon emission reduction units (CERs) as they could use them offshore if the Australian scheme does not materialize, said traders...
"There is a risk it won't pass. We have been close to a deal before and it's fallen over," said Connell Burke, head of Australian Power Trading at Westpac Banking Corp.
"I would not think anyone will jump into doing that (hedging by buying carbon credits) prior to legislation," said Burke, adding some Australian power generators were left holding CERs in 2009 when the last carbon scheme was rejected...
The carbon tax will rise by 2.5 percent a year before moving to a market-based trading scheme in 2015...
Eligible credits include certified emission reductions (CERs) and emission reduction units (ERUs) and removal units (RMUs)...
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/12/us-australia-carbon-hedging-idUSTRE76B14H20110712?feedType=RSS

the following can only be read by signing up for a free trial, but the bubble boys are described as "like bees to a honey pot" who are expecting a "bonanza":

13 July: Australian Financial Review: Banks cash in on carbon market
by John Kehoe
Banks will cash in on the government’s carbon policy, as they develop new financial products and services in a market worth many tens of billions of dollars locally…
http://afr.com/p/business/financial_services/banks_cash_in_on_carbon_market_ZHUVTvKlE0Akcs1JaL9n8M


http://afr.com/p/business/financial_services/banks_cash_in_on_carbon_market_ZHUVTvKlE0Akcs1JaL9n8M

Jul 13, 2011 at 5:47 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

That passage was written by a professor of philosphy? That passage, that turns on a false dichotomy? Good grief, would you get away with that in a Critical Thinking A-level essay? I seriously doubt it.

In the presence of that kind of reasoning the rest of it is not worth reading, never mind studying or commenting upon.

Jul 13, 2011 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

The argument quoted from Gutting is simply fallacious, as he surely must concede when he is properly wearing his philosopher's hat.

Opponents of global warming (who think that the climategate emails undermine global warming) are not forced to accept the consensus view unless they think the climategate emails decisive. Gutting simply overlooks that they may have other grounds for their scepticism.

Astonishing error for a Professor of Philosophy. Climate Science has this effect on intelligent people

Jul 13, 2011 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Thank you for the above expose of Theo, Theo. I follow your comments here and on WUWT? with interest and expectation. Knowing just a little more of you allows me to weigh your opinions more finely, and their influence more accurately. I do not believe I am mistaken when I allow your opinions to colour my own.

Jul 13, 2011 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

Professor Gutting says:
“Precisely because we are not experts, we are in no position to adjudicate disputes among those who are.  Finally, given a consensus on a claim among recognized experts, we non-experts have no basis for rejecting the truth of the claim”.
Which is precisely the argument made by the Sophists against the acknowledged non-expert Socrates.
Pass the hemlock Alice.

Jul 13, 2011 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

I think philosophers could spend their time more usefully deciding what colour global warming should be.

Jul 13, 2011 at 8:42 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Philosophers are as useful as Telephone Hygienists

Jul 13, 2011 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

BoFA

"Telephone Hygienists"

I seem to remember that Douglas Adams rated them quite highly.. :-)

Jul 13, 2011 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Stuff like this is intellectual Spam.

Just the watches, BDSM and other rubbish stuff spammed by our regular visitor, I ain't buying it.

Jul 13, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

Bishop, If you would like a reconciliation with no-nonsense philosophers (a rare species) try Bertrand Russell, although a classic already, worth reading and pertinent to the present. "In praise of idleness" and other essays are among my favourites.

Jul 13, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

Theo, your very clear denunciation of post-modern philosophers and PM philosphy is illuminating and instructive, and thanks for a very honest and revealing glimpse of yourself.
Gutting would have been shredded (gutted?), and very wittily, by the philosophers who instructed me in their discipline half a lifetime ago.
Gutting reminds me of the gloomy and poorly educated philosophers who impelled Ben Johnson to quip
'I too have tried to be a philospher, but cheerfulness kept breaking through!'

Jul 13, 2011 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

As for postmodernists, I don't think they ever managed to answer any of Alan Sokal's devastating (and at times very funny) criticism.
http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/

Jul 13, 2011 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

I think that "The Hockeystick Illusion" is a fine book even if I have lost a shed-load of friends defending it. Jul 13, 2011 at 12:13 AM | DaveB

I have found the results to be totally opposite. I have recommended and even borrowed (sorry Bish!) the book to people who have bought into AGW and without fail they have been horrified when the realize the shenanigans that have taken place within a small clique of "tree ring readers"!

As for Gary Gutting, maybe he should have read HSI himself, starting on page 448, where Mr Montford wrote, "What is extraordinary to me as a writer is how much of the contents of the emails corroborates what I had written in previous chapters". This added after the book was, essentially, completed and anyone who cannot agree with that has, in my mind, a blinkered mind!

How Gutting can come out with "they have no alternative but to accept the consensus view of climate scientists that these e-mails do not undermine the core result of global warming" simply shows to me that the guy does no research and has no idea what he is talking about.

Jul 13, 2011 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Once we board the train of climate science, there is no alternative to taking it wherever it may go
I've got a nice little train in my spare room. I can make it do whatever I like but it has to obey certain rules (like staying on the track).

stan -- the answer to your question why they no longer practice real science is simple.
"Real" science (as you and I understand it) doesn't give the right answers. Only post-normal science can be relied on to deliver the goods.

Jul 13, 2011 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Philosophical views on discounting (in my view) played a useful part in the discussion on the Stourton on global warming thread.

Jul 13, 2011 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

Gary Cutting also wrote an article on "Philosophy and Faith" in the NYT
http://richarddawkins.net/articles/495349-philosophy-and-faith

One of my jobs as a teacher of bright, mostly Catholic undergraduates is to get them thinking about why they hold their religious beliefs. It’s easy enough to spark discussion about the problem of evil

Maybe not your average Popper disciple?

Jul 13, 2011 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

BIshop - how about emailing Gutting and asking him for his comments on the HSI?

Jul 13, 2011 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Hi Stan,

you echo my thoughts on "experts" exactly.

We're expected to believe that 2nd rate guys like data collector Phil Jones at a backwater like UEA can suddenly become "expert" in a myriad of disciplines. The Climategate mails also exposed the backscratching going on to recommend each other for awards to puff up their titles to sound more authoritative.

The beauty of the internet is that the top end blogs (e.g CA, Air Vent, BH!) have attracted some real clever guys with curiousity to investigate the claims emanating from climate science. There was a thread here (can't find it now) and this one from JeffID's site about people's backgrounds:

http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/reader-background/

Where a debate overlaps our own discipline we can easily see who the "experts" are... and it ain't the climate scientists, e.g. any IT professional seeing the HarryReadMe file would weep.

My stats is patchy but I'd take Steve McIntrye, VS, Ryan O'Donnell and Nic Lewis as the "experts" any day over Steig and Mann.

The likes of Bob Ward slur the blogs and say listen to the climate scientists but to me one side has some frankly dodgy blinkered academics whose knowledge is spread thinly and the other has access to some of the best minds around honed in practical real life situations.

If there were neutral non-academic real life Statisticians, Modellers, Engineers, IT guys who would stick up for the Climate guys and their methods then I would definitely sit up and listen. But I don't see many.

Jul 13, 2011 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimonW

@simonw

Check out the Denizens of Climate Etc also

http://judithcurry.com/2010/11/12/the-denizens-of-climate-etc/

Jul 13, 2011 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Patagon

I wish Alan Sokal would write about AGW in some august journal. I bet they'd accept it.

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Actually the reference to being stuck on a train and having to stay on it no matter where it goes has some pretty dark implications.
It also demonstrates that this philosopher confuses theory and fact, hypothesis and current understanding rather badly.

Jul 13, 2011 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Thanks to Roger Carr and Alexander K for their kind words. In my posts, I try to navigate a straight-ish line and steer clear of the shoals. Ben Johnson's words ring true to me.

Jul 13, 2011 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

People can be self centered fools
Philosophers are people
Philosophers can be self centered fools

Gary Gutting over reaches and prostitutes himself. He is guilty of using his position and genius to push his opinion upon others, all the while knowing that trusting "experts" with your life and property can be VERY stupid and irresponsible. (Especially when these experts lack sufficient data to make an informed decision -- I vaguely recall back in 1492 most experts thought the World was flat.) He's a pundit. He's selling snake-oil. Beware of 'filosophers', they'll fleece you every time.

PS: If you ever meet a real Philosopher "listen" to him/her, then "think" about what you were told, and then make up your own mind --or not-- about what you heard and understood. It's your life, live it on your terms.

Jul 13, 2011 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPascvaks

Tetlock provided empirical support to the conclusion that anyone with any knowledge of history already understood -- experts are no better at predictions than a chimp throwing darts. Gardner's book is full of examples of the idiocy of the Erlichs of the world. The Wisdom of Crowds demonstrates that the distributed intelligence of the crowd is smarter than the limited knowledge of experts.

Gutting would be wrong, even if his experts were from a field with a track record of competence. Of course, the record demonstrates exhaustively that there isn't an aspect of climate science that isn't riddled with gross incompetence. From the instruments to the studies to peer review to the absence of transparency, audit or replication, to the stats, code, databases, and on to the assessments and the permanent laughingstock of the IPCC -- it's incompetent turtles all the way down.

We might refer to the hockey team as the Keystone Kops of science, but that would be unfair to the Keystone Kops. Perhaps a better choice would be the movie "Dumb and Dumber".

Jul 13, 2011 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

"I've always been rather unimpressed with philosophy and philosophers - I keep feeling that there is much less there than meets the eye." - Andrew Montford

And I'm sure philosophers are rather unimpressed with you as well Andrew.

However, logic is a branch of philosophy, maths is a branch of logic, and most physical sciences rely heavily upon maths, which makes your comment rather telling.

That was something called deductive reasoning, which is sound. In stark contrast to the inductive reasoning used by most round here to try and attack climate science, which are more akin to leaps of faith than logically sound arguments.

Jul 13, 2011 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

There speaks a true post-Modernist.
"Maths is a branch of philosophy".
Any more post-luncheon gems?

Jul 13, 2011 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

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