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« On John Timmer | Main | Myles, Roger, and Chris hit Rotterdam »
Wednesday
Dec172014

Mark Maslin does fallacy

Mark Maslin, the head of geography at UCL, has written another of those "I won't discuss the science with bad denier people" articles that adorn the left-wing press from time to time. His hypothesis is that we are simply arguing the toss because we oppose the inevitable consequence of avoiding manmade global warming, namely the introduction of international Marxism:

So in many cases the discussion of the science of climate change has nothing to do with the science and is all about the political views of the objectors. Many perceive climate change as a challenge to the very theories that have dominated global economics for the last 35 years, and the lifestyles that it has provided in developed, Anglophone countries. Hence, is it any wonder that many people prefer climate change denial to having to face the prospect of building a new political (and socio-economic) system, which allows collective action and greater equality?

The lack of self-awareness in his accusations of political motivation is comical of course, but it's also worth pointing out that the motivational fallacy has been understood since the time of the ancient Greeks. Unfortunately word of this learning doesn't yet seem to have filtered through to University College London, where Professor Maslin seems blind to the possibility that the upstarts who disagree with him might be correct despite the fact that they don't want the UK to look more like China or North Korea. (Or even that people might find the failure of the models or the lack of significant warming just a bit of a worry).

Perhaps someone should drop Professor Maslin a copy of Madsen Pirie's How to Win Every Argument which explains these things in a wonderfully accessible fashion. I worry though that Professor Maslin might think that Dr Pirie is only promoting the use of logical argument as a way of opposing international socialism. It's hard to get through to some people.

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Reader Comments (111)

I'm not sure what relevance politics and science are to geography anyway.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:06 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@ Phillip Bratby

I'm not sure what relevance politics and science are to geography anyway.

Politics has some relevance for human geography. Science is relevant to physical geography.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Am I expected to accept the whole chain of argument that goes through dodgy science right through to a pre-ordained socio-political solution without an opportunity to question it? I will not.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

" Many perceive climate change as a challenge to the very theories that have dominated global economics for the last 35 years, and the lifestyles that it has provided in developed, Anglophone countries. Hence, is it any wonder that many people prefer climate change denial to having to face the prospect of building a new political (and socio-economic) system, which allows collective action and greater equality?"

Take care comrade! You are very close to letting the cat out of the bag! Remember our discussions:-

"Climate change provides an excellent opportunity to challenge the very theories that have dominated global economics for the last 35 years, and the lifestyles that it has provided in developed, Anglophone countries. It is essential in building our new political (and socio-economic) system, which allows elite collective action and greater inequality that we engendering a fear of climate change in the populous"

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:31 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand


despite the fact that they don't want the UK to look more like China or North Korea.

Doesn't this rather illustrate the point that Mark Maslin was trying to make? Those who dispute mainstream climate science tend to have the view that any action to combat climate change will require some form of regulation that will undermine the wonderful free-market and turn us into a communist dictatorship.


the upstarts who disagree with him might be correct

Go ahead and publish it, ideally in an actual peer-reviewed journal, rather than in a report for a right-wing think tank.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

This quote is telling:

"prospect of building a new political (and socio-economic) system, which allows collective action and greater equality?"

As usual no science in the discussion, just a particular political position. CAGW believers will always snipe but never debate in public due to cowardice. But is does not stop them riding the gravy train!

In a public debate their spurious arguments would be exposed for the nonsense they are.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Leave Maslin alone, he's been the Guardian policy expert of choice for Lima, a true polymath.

I just wonder what he'll be an expert of, today? Maybe colics in adults, or toothache, or Icekandic commercial law in the XVIII century.


Ps Schopenhauer

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:48 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Since joining twitter on Nov 17th, Maslin has retweeted Russell Brand four times, and said
"@rustyrockets: About time everyone started to talk about inequality - in country and between countries "
and "@rustyrockets Brand vs Farage on Question Time next week - go for it Russell no contest!"
Yet he claims that those who disagree with him are politically motivated.

As you say the lack of self awareness is comical - or would be if this man was not responsible for £40M of mostly taxpayer-funded grant funding.

Another example of his cluelessness is that he talks of "deniers" "paid lobbyists" and "raving lunatic" and then professes that HE struggles to understand why the climate debate inspires vitriol!

The entire article is a car crash from start to finish.

A fool like him blundering in to the climate debate can only enhance the pollution, polarisation and politicisation of the climate debate, and spoil the patient efforts of people like Tamsin and Richard.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:52 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Maslin must be a naif. Either that or he is being used as a 'useful idiot' - 'though not for the cause, but for the multi-millionaires who are coining it on the back of CAGW. Where's their ideal of a 'collective'?

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

is it any wonder that many people prefer climate change denial to having to face the prospect of building a new political (and socio-economic) system, which allows collective action and greater equality?

I love his ideological naievty.

If delivery trucks stopped turning up each morning at London supermarkets, rioting and looting would begin within less than 48 hours.

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

Executive Director of Rezatec Ltd.

Despite receiving a grant from the UK space agency, he seems quite willing to bite the hand that feeds. Perhaps his anti Anglo-American rant is directed at gaining some remote sensing contracts from other governments around the world.

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

He believes that "highly educated" people (like himself) believe in catastrophic climate change, and therefore it must be true. If it's "true" then people who have any problems, either with the science or the policies, shouldn't be listened to. I have pointed out to him on twitter that my lifelong experience is never to conflate "highly educated" with "clever". They are two very different human characteristics.

Here's a case in point, from someone who at least purports to be "highly educated":

"Doesn't this rather illustrate the point that Mark Maslin was trying to make? Those who dispute mainstream climate science tend to have the view that any action to combat climate change will require some form of regulation that will undermine the wonderful free-market and turn us into a communist dictatorship."

From which peer-reviewed paper did ATTP get this nonsense.

It is apparent to anyone with a little life experience that there will be no agreement on CO2 reductions, now, or in the long term as the rest of the human race strives to get itself into the "wonderful free-market" position of the Western Industrialised World. It is apparent to anyone with the slightest knowledge of physics or engineering that the renewable solutions proposed will not come near to replacing the current fossil fuel energy unless the cost of energy rises dramatically. If there is a problem, for which there's no real world evidence don't forget, just activist scientists creating problems in models, but if there is one, then the solution would be to accept it, stop throwing money at climate science research, and throw it at nuclear power research.

As for our "wonderful free markets" I'm assuming you're being ironic and foresee a situation where the "highly educated" decide on what can be bought and at what price. Or are you praising our free markets are you?

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

They're giving me a hard time in comments on that 'conversation'
Backup needed.
https://theconversation.com/why-ill-talk-politics-with-climate-change-deniers-but-not-science-34949#

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

Maslins complains of vitriol, without any awareness of himself calling people deniers and trolls (on twitter, and in his own comments)

from an earlier conversation: (in the coments responding to Rob - of Skeptical science)

Dear Rob

I have to say I am slightly surprised that the climate trolls have decided to take their views on to The Conversation but at least apart from Willis Eschenbach they are maintaining some level of civility. Unlike before, during and after Copenhagen COP when I received a torrent of abusive emails aimed at myself and my family. But I have found in the past that answering questions can be like cutting of the head of a hydra as two or more questions fly back at you." - Prof Maslin

https://theconversation.com/how-does-the-ipcc-know-climate-change-is-happening-33704

-------------


the trolls he is presumably referring to are Andrew, Geoff, Paul and other members of the public,

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The haters form these views about their opponents without actually talking to any of them. Then again aTTP talks to us but doesn't listen.......in the very vain hope that he might get it through his head one day here is a correction of his false premise...,

Those who dispute mainstream climate science tend to have the view that any action to combat climate change...... will be futile gesture politics that will just make energy scarcer, less reliable and more expensive and so will leave everyone worldwide much worse off unless/until fossil fuels can be easily replaced by renewables, which is not the case at present. Got it?

So that's the policy part. The sciency part is that the scientific advice driving the policy is coming from scientists who only pretend to know what drives global warming (the real meaning of climate change here) while freely admitting that they don't know what natural variation consists of and being unable to come up with any cogent explanations for past global cooling periods. Without one you cannot determine the extent of the other. The only logical argument left in the face of such uncertainty is that we are tweaking a climate system that has shown a tendency to suddenly change in the past but that's when you should look at the actual records and discover that all warming has been benign or beneficial thus far.

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Prof Maslin won't talk science, but happily quotes George Marshall as an authority on climate denial....


"Recent work has refocused on understanding people’s perceptions and how they are shared, and as climate denial authority George Marshall suggests these ideas can take on a life of their own, leaving the individual behind. " - Maslin

my thoughts at the Conversation (should they disappear)


"George Marshall is a career activist, so citing him as an authority on climate denial, basically his pet theories of his bitter 'sceptic' opponents seems a bit of a poor source and his layman/armchair psychological views of the general public..

ie his own motivated reasoning and ideology about the nature of his opponents, might just cloud his judgement, just possibly, might any member of the public think? -

George was a co-founder of Earth First! (UK) and a proponent of direct action that even made Greenpeace and FoE a bit nervous.. (one of their first actions involved Sea Shepherd -all ref - Earth First history of the anti-roads movement - Derek Wall))

He was also responsible for creating Deniers-Halls of Shame at the activist organisation Rising Tide (which he founded) - is this really a neutral person here on psychology of people he put into deniers Halls of Shame?

Marshall did a degree in sociology I believe in the 80's and then spent next decade or 2 at the Rainforest Foundation, founded Earth First!, campaigned against roads, and Airports and even a stint as a director of Greenpeace USA.

here is Marshall at a workshop of his at Climate Camp, making an analogy that the public are in denial, as compared to people being taken away screaming in the night, 'holocaust' and in denial of 'cattle trucks' leaving full of people and returning empty... (the full Godwin)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SqFZgoE_Us#t=102

Can we find an authority on climate denial, that is perhaps bit more neutral? less directly involved

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

He gives himself away with his use of the term 'neoliberalism' which is Guardian speak for 'stuff I don't like and don't understand':

This is because climate change challenges the Anglo-American neoliberal view that is held so dear by mainstream economists and politicians.
or, in other words, by people who know what they are talking about, rather than professors of Geography who don't, and

Hence I am very sorry but I will not be responding to comments posted concerning the science of climate change but I am happy to engage in discussion on the motivations of denial.

So he won't talk about 'the science' but only stuff of which he is completely ignorant.

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Street

Maslin's Conversation post is arrogant, conceited, laughably simplistic, unoriginal, insulting to climate change sceptics of course, but ultimately, insulting to his own profession and the academic institute where he is employed, namely University College London.

He won't debate 'deniers' on the "weight of scientific evidence" in favour of accepting climate change because it is weighted in terms of consensus rather than scientific evidence. He knows he will fall at the first few faltering steps. So he wades waist deep into the muddy waters of politics in the secondhand belief that intelligent and knowledgeable climate deniers are permanently blinded by their political and ideological affiliations - an affliction to which "real" sceptics and proper scientists are immune it seems. He will come unstuck here as well, though it may take slightly longer. Meantime, he is doing a grand job of discrediting the impartiality of climate science and climate scientists in general, so let him at it!

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterJaime Jessop

The faux academic is mis-shaping the careers of future academics and doing damage to any he teaches.

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

It's the age old tactic of painting your opponents as evil so you don't have to consider what they say combined with the newer media tactic of pretending to be an expert on something merely by repeating the claim in an echo chamber of similar views - not by actually predicting anything correctly.

Lefty views seem to be dominant in academia while resolutely rejected at the ballot box. As soon as they leave and try to make a proper living somewhere on their own wits they soon change their tune about taxes and the value we actually get back from such gesture politics.

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Tallbloke: Rog, when I see a comment on The Conversation like this (from a Ted Rees)[my bold]:

Rather, the rational people of the world should resolve to hold deniers guilty of ecocide, and have them all jailed or beheaded as local laws permit.
I realise that it's not a place I want to waste keystrokes on.

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

What this statement shows is that Mark Maslin is the very exemplar of a "watermelon".

Dec 17, 2014 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

I'll try making my point one more time, in the hope that someone actually addresses it. What Mark Maslin is suggesting is that there are certain people with whom discussing science is pointless. The reason, he argues, is that their views a dominated by an ideological concern/fear of what might happen if we were to try and minimise the risks associated with climate change. In his view, if one is to interact with such people it's better to talk politics, than science. FWIW, I agree.

Here's the point: maybe he's wrong. However, it's hard to conclude that when the post claiming that what he's said is a fallacy says


despite the fact that they don't want the UK to look more like China or North Korea

and the comments include similar reasoning. So, if you think he's wrong, simply saying so is not really going to be very convincing if what you actually say appears to confirm that he isn't.

James,


It's the age old tactic of painting your opponents as evil

I don't think that his article is suggesting that those with whom he disagrees are evil. If you want to see people making that kind of argument, you could try reading through the comments on this site.

Paul,


that HE struggles to understand why the climate debate inspires vitriol!

It's encouraging to see that you acknowledge that vitriol exists. In my view, however, people get to own their own behaviour. Excusing it because people are annoyed with what others have said is not a particularly strong excuse.

Dec 17, 2014 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Wotty, you are as clueless as ever, which is hardly surprising since you often exhibit the same kind of hypocritical double standards as he does. He cheers Russell Brand and goes on about promoting equality, then accuses others of being politically motivated. He throws out vitiolic abuse, then wonders why there's so much vitriolic abuse around.

Dec 17, 2014 at 1:05 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Debating the science involves addressing the false alarms. I see that Paul H has tried to introduce some into the discussion. Not holding my breath waiting to see them addressed.

Dec 17, 2014 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterClovis Marcus

"face the prospect of building a new political (and socio-economic) system, which allows collective action and greater equality?"

ATTP, are you really saying that this statement is not a call to set-up a new socialist totalitarian state.

Dec 17, 2014 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Paul,


you are as clueless as ever, which is hardly surprising since you often exhibit the same kind of hypocritical double standards as he does.

And you're as unpleasant as ever. At least you have an excuse. What was it again.....oh some people have said mean things about other people. Brilliant. Are you actually an adult, or is someone else responsible for your actions?


He cheers Russell Brand and goes on about promoting equality, then accuses others of being politically motivated

So what, I don't think he said he wasn't politically motivated himself. Nothing wrong with holding views about politics. It's what democracy it about and should be applauded. I don't believe he was objecting to others holding political views, simply pointing out that discussing science with certain people wasn't really worth the effort.


He throws out vitiolic abuse, then wonders why there's so much vitriolic abuse around.

To whom did he throw vitriolic abuse? Some generic group of people who reject mainstream scientific evidence. You on the other hand, do so to actual individuals. Again, I think it's pathetic to excuse your behaviour on the behaviour of others. If you don't like vitriolic abuse, stop doing it. If you want to do it, stop complaining.

Breath,


are you really saying that this statement is not a call to set-up a new socialist totalitarian state.

Of course it isn't. "Greater equality" is not the same as "communist dictatorship".

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Maslin's political bias in favour of the action which he claims is justified by the findings of climate scientists - himself included - is glaringly obvious for all to see. What is truly astounding is that he is willing to step up to the plate and strongly endorse the opinion of non-scientists that virtually all intelligent climate sceptics capable of understanding the important aspects of the science are, regardless, fatally under the spell of their own political bias, therefore cannot logically process the information which they are nevertheless able to comprehend! And he does so without a hint of irony or introspection! Does being a climate activist do this or is it perhaps being a 'climate scientist' that instils within him such unshakable self-assuredness? Maybe both. Or neither. Maybe such faith sprung fully formed from the fire of his presumably youthful Marxist/Socialist fervour?

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaime Jessop

You are still completely clueless. I'm not complaining, or trying to excuse my behaviour.

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Paul,


You are still completely clueless.

Sure, and you qualify as one of the most unpleasant people I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. Given that you appear to hold a position that is at odds with the vast majority of the available scientific evidence, you might expect that you would be cautious about claiming that other people are clueless. Then again, maybe attack is the best form of defense.


I'm not complaining, or trying to excuse my behaviour.

Really, could have fooled me. So you're just extremely vitriolic because that's in your nature, not because others with whom you disagree have been vitriolic in the past - which is what you appear to have been suggesting? Treat that as rhetorical, given that engaging in any kind of discussion with you is clearly pointless - rather illustrating what Mark Maslin was suggesting in his article.

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

They can impound my laptops and router, but they'll never destroy the data. Our planetary-solar model now accurately replicates 4000 years of prime 10Be climate proxy with three orbital periods and their subharmonics. The IPCC (nor anyone else) has anything that comes near this.
See for yourself:
https://tallbloke.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/salvador-4k-annotated.png

Calling people names and shutting down their journal for criticising their cruddy theory doesn't change scientific fact.
http://bigcitylib.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/copernicus-publishing-temrinates.html

@Harry Passfield

"Pah, 'tis but a scratch. Come back and fight you chicken livered pansies!"

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

"I'll try making my point one more time, in the hope that someone actually addresses it. What Mark Maslin is suggesting is that there are certain people with whom discussing science is pointless. The reason, he argues, is that their views a dominated by an ideological concern/fear of what might happen if we were to try and minimise the risks associated with climate change."

It's been addressed before. I have several times in these debates offered multiple capitalist, free-market solutions to the climate change problem. The left-wing climate activists decrying the political obstructionism of the right an asking how they can talk them round showed no interest. Usually, they responded by arguing about how capitalism and free markets were bad.

I concluded that 'solving the climate problem' wasn't the point. They weren't interested in any solution that would actually solve it, especially if it meant supporting free market policies. All they were interested in was using it to push their own agenda of wealth redistribution and anti-industrialisation, and when they asked for ideas for bringing the right wing of the population on board, what they were actually after was ideas for ways to trick the right wing into supporting left wing policies. So I gave up.

As several people have pointed out, the most obvious and most practical option open to us is to go nuclear, and in a big way. Drop all the regulations and planning rules and endless public enquiries that cost the money, and put a nuclear power plant in the middle of every city. And who exactly is it that's opposing ,i>that idea?

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Nullius,


I have several times in these debates offered multiple capitalist, free-market solutions to the climate change problem

Sure, but that - I think - is Mark Maslin's point. Talking about science is pointless. Talk instead - if you want to - about policy.


The left-wing climate activists decrying the political obstructionism of the right an asking how they can talk them round showed no interest. Usually, they responded by arguing about how capitalism and free markets were bad.

And this site is full of people complaining about lefty, greeny activists, so I'm not sure that you hold the moral high ground in that regard.


As several people have pointed out, the most obvious and most practical option open to us is to go nuclear, and in a big way.

Yes, I agree that nuclear is a sensible option. I hope you don't assume that just because someone agrees with mainstream climate science that they some kind of Greenpeace/WWF supporter. I will say, however, that it's not clear that nuclear is the immediate solution for the developing world, but it should certainly play some kind of role.

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

"Many perceive climate change as a challenge to the very theories that have dominated global economics for the last 35 years, and the lifestyles that it has provided in developed, Anglophone countries. "

I certainly HOPE that is so, because the theories of the past few decades very much need to be reconsidered, and some repudiated. Not in favor of theories of the 19th century such as Marxism, mind you, but in favor of older, so-called "Enlightened" theories of the 18th century.

For example of a decades-old theory and decades-long political experiment in social-economic management, there was a scientific and statistical observation that students in public schools who had a good lunch got better grades, final test scores, higher acceptance rate into good colleges, etc. The statistics were very clear. No one denies it. The response was to have governments fund and provide a good lunch to all students. In fact, overall, the result measured in grades, test scores, acceptance rates into college etc has either not changed or have fallen. In the US, the "marker" of accepting a free or reduced-price lunch is used as a new statistical indicator excusing and explaining poor academic results, (though not as a experimental finding showing how the provision of lunch is a waste of government money) In short a statistical correlation probably resulting from hidden co-factors (parents who CARE about their kids, evidenced by providing a good lunch) has been misinterpreted and now needs MAJOR rethinking, and policy correction.

Similarly the science behind the fluoridization of drinking water. The statistics between fluoride and caries are clear. It is NOT clear that overall costs and health problems assorted with dental disease have been affected by the US fad to treat all urban water with supplemental minerals. It's also unclear that IF treating drinking water with "healthful, essential" minerals is good policy, that fluoride compounds, alone of all minerals, is the substance of interest. If everybody should be treated for a disease afflicting a minority why not lithium for depression, zinc for those suffering nasal disorders, etc? Here again a policy based on decades-old "science" BEGS to be reconsidered.

What current studies support current public policy on the value of "educational television" -- the US "Sesame Street" and other similar productions in other cultures? The theory, apparently well supported at the time of inception, was that using "technology" to supplement vocabulary, numerical, and musical instruction among pre-school aged children would produce smarter children at entry to formal classrooms. Has anybody even attempted to validate that hypothsis? Isn't it time we tried?

Long standing economic science sets out the concept of a "natural monopoly" for services such as telephone or mail delivery systems. If a publically owned and managed utility and charter is not granted to a sole provider, the cost and quality of services would, we think, suffer. Some areas would be served by one provider, some by an in-compatible different provider, some served by several (with higher costs as several sets of wires and poles and delivery trucks run in and out of the same neighborhoods) and some areas would never be served at all. So we've all learned. But in the US, at least, lately, we see the government postal service trucks, brown commercial UPS trucks, blue-white FedEx trucks, and other trucks running in and out of one neighborhood. One neighborhood is served for commo by twisted-pair wire telephone service, and DSL, and cable-TV coax, and LTE AND 4G wireless cellular, and satellite up/downlinks. The current evidence suggests that the whole concept of a "natural monopoly" is due for a re-think. Who is leading the world in such research? Anybody at all?

I dunno about the decades old theories referred to. But I do know James Hansen is attacking "business as usual" with regard to energy production. Having seen the results of government managed lunches, TV, water, and post offices, I do, loudly, deny that I want any part of such a changeover.

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterpouncer

"Many perceive climate change as a challenge to the very theories that have dominated global economics for the last 35 years, and the lifestyles that it has provided in developed, Anglophone countries. "

I certainly HOPE that is so, because the theories of the past few decades very much need to be reconsidered, and some repudiated. Not in favor of theories of the 19th century such as Marxism, mind you, but in favor of older, so-called "Enlightened" theories of the 18th century.

For example of a decades-old theory and decades-long political experiment in social-economic management, there was a scientific and statistical observation that students in public schools who had a good lunch got better grades, final test scores, higher acceptance rate into good colleges, etc. The statistics were very clear. No one denies it. The response was to have governments fund and provide a good lunch to all students. In fact, overall, the result measured in grades, test scores, acceptance rates into college etc has either not changed or have fallen. In the US, the "marker" of accepting a free or reduced-price lunch is used as a new statistical indicator excusing and explaining poor academic results, (though not as a experimental finding showing how the provision of lunch is a waste of government money) In short a statistical correlation probably resulting from hidden co-factors (parents who CARE about their kids, evidenced by providing a good lunch) has been misinterpreted and now needs MAJOR rethinking, and policy correction.

Similarly the science behind the fluoridization of drinking water. The statistics between fluoride and caries are clear. It is NOT clear that overall costs and health problems assorted with dental disease have been affected by the US fad to treat all urban water with supplemental minerals. It's also unclear that IF treating drinking water with "healthful, essential" minerals is good policy, that fluoride compounds, alone of all minerals, is the substance of interest. If everybody should be treated for a disease afflicting a minority why not lithium for depression, zinc for those suffering nasal disorders, etc? Here again a policy based on decades-old "science" BEGS to be reconsidered.

What current studies support current public policy on the value of "educational television" -- the US "Sesame Street" and other similar productions in other cultures? The theory, apparently well supported at the time of inception, was that using "technology" to supplement vocabulary, numerical, and musical instruction among pre-school aged children would produce smarter children at entry to formal classrooms. Has anybody even attempted to validate that hypothsis? Isn't it time we tried?

Long standing economic science sets out the concept of a "natural monopoly" for services such as telephone or mail delivery systems. If a publically owned and managed utility and charter is not granted to a sole provider, the cost and quality of services would, we think, suffer. Some areas would be served by one provider, some by an in-compatible different provider, some served by several (with higher costs as several sets of wires and poles and delivery trucks run in and out of the same neighborhoods) and some areas would never be served at all. So we've all learned. But in the US, at least, lately, we see the government postal service trucks, brown commercial UPS trucks, blue-white FedEx trucks, and other trucks running in and out of one neighborhood. One neighborhood is served for commo by twisted-pair wire telephone service, and DSL, and cable-TV coax, and LTE AND 4G wireless cellular, and satellite up/downlinks. The current evidence suggests that the whole concept of a "natural monopoly" is due for a re-think. Who is leading the world in such research? Anybody at all?

I dunno about the decades old theories referred to. But I do know James Hansen is attacking "business as usual" with regard to energy production. Having seen the results of government managed lunches, TV, water, and post offices, I do, loudly, deny that I want any part of such a changeover.

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterpouncer

"Sure, but that - I think - is Mark Maslin's point. Talking about science is pointless. Talk instead - if you want to - about policy."

I agree that talking about the science is pointless if what you're after is a resolution of the political argument. The real argument is about politics, not science. But talking about policy is pointless, too, since neither side has any intention of budging on the policies they're prepared to accept.

But there are other reasons for discussing the science besides driving political action - because it's interesting and enjoyable, because science is important to society, because getting the politics out of science would be a useful thing to do.

I don't talk about the science here in any expectation that I'll persuade climate catastrophe believers that they might be wrong. I talk about it because I enjoy it. I like to learn, and I like to help others to learn. And that seems to me like a good enough reason for anyone to talk about science. I can only conclude that if Professor Maslin disagrees he has some other purpose for the talk in mind.

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Nullius,


I talk about it because I enjoy it. I like to learn, and I like to help others to learn. And that seems to me like a good enough reason for anyone to talk about science. I can only conclude that if Professor Maslin disagrees he has some other purpose for the talk in mind.

I too enjoy it and it can be enjoyable to talk about science. I think we may have had some moderately pleasant discussions in the past, although maybe you disagree. I don't think Mark Maslin's suggestion is that one shouldn't talk about the science at all, simply that there are some with whom it would be pointless if your goal was to actually convince them of the strength of the current evidence.

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Love the update. I'm sure Maslin came onto Twitter expecting that arguing the case for climate action on the basis of the 'science' would be a breeze.

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaime Jessop

"I hope you don't assume that just because someone agrees with mainstream climate science that they some kind of Greenpeace/WWF supporter."

I hope you don't assume that just because somewhat argues that mainstream climate science is so far insufficiently mature and persuasive to justify major economic restructuring -- and perhaps, nuclear war against rogue nations that refuse or are unable to reduce carbon emissions (and if you don't support war to enforce proposed treaties, tax schemes, and international "targets", how DO you suppose such ideas will be, shall we say, encouraged?) -- that they are some sort of jew-hating, holocaust supporting, tobacco-growing, oil-profiteering "denier".

I don't deny physics. I do deny that physicists have a privileged insight into the ideal arrangement of human affairs. The professional, expert, well-researched and carefully presented opinions of climatologists into the debate on humanities future is very welcome. But we ARE having a debate, and the climatologists (and supporters) do NOT get special exemptions from rebuttal -- or even hecklers.

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterpouncer

pouncer,


that they are some sort of jew-hating, holocaust supporting, tobacco-growing, oil-profiteering "denier".

No, I don't and have never said, nor suggested, any such thing.


I do deny that physicists have a privileged insight into the ideal arrangement of human affairs. The professional, expert, well-researched and carefully presented opinions of climatologists into the debate on humanities future is very welcome. But we ARE having a debate, and the climatologists (and supporters) do NOT get special exemptions from rebuttal -- or even hecklers.

Indeed, and noone should really have some kind of special/priviledged platform. As free as you are to heckle, they're not obliged to engage with you. If you really want to do so, you can always do some research and publish it.

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

ATTP:
"What Mark Maslin is suggesting is that there are certain people with whom discussing science is pointless."

Well, about that I can agree... but there are those sorts of people on both sides of the disagreement. The troubling part is that some, on both sides, are supposed to be scientists.

But really, it is a straw-man argument. Yes, there are nut cakes, on both sides. Yes, it makes no sense to argue with nut cakes. The problem is that people who are concerned about GHG driven warming (like you!) seem all too willing to dismiss as a 'denier' just about anyone who looks at the data and doesn't see the need for costly (both economic and political) immediate action to drastically reduce fossil fuel use. GHG's do warm the Earth's surface. How could they not? But how much warming, over what time, and with what consequences, are the real issues. It is here that climate scientists have an obligation to present better evidence, and as best they can, to not let their personal values, goals, and policy preferences bias that evidence. Political preferences have a huge potential to bias 'factual arguments'... heck, even to bias published papers.... and it's just as true of climate scientists as everyone else. It is naive to think otherwise. I sometimes read your blog for the comedy of a bunch of very politically motivated people on the green-left (including of course some 'climate scientists') accusing everyone else of be politically motivated. That they are so very unaware of their own biases only makes the spectacle funnier.

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Fitzpatrick

It wouldn't matter what the hue of the present political and socio-economic system there is a fundamental problem with the following:-

"is it any wonder that many people prefer climate change denial to having to face the prospect of building a new political (and socio-economic) system"

because it could also be:-

"is it any wonder that many people prefer climate change denial to having to face the prospect of building a new political (and socio-economic) system"

As trying to change the other person is one the least effective pastimes know to man. Trying to change the other persons political (and socio-economic) system, especially one that has longevity in improving his well being is very unlikely to happen.

So simple question, why is there a need to be "building a new political and socio-economic system" in order to promote the acceptance of clean nuclear power?

The developing world will not stop developing, the genie will not go back in the bottle, fossil fuels will be used. The developed world can best help by stopping utilising valuable resource on ineffective power systems. Develop nuclear, quickly, the resultant technology made available to developing nations. Keep research going on the "potentials", fusion, thorium etc.

If we really do have a CO2 issue then I can envisage the least effective course of action, by far, would be to start changing the world's political and socio-economic systems.

Edit:- forget get it, senior moment!

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:12 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

"I too enjoy it and it can be enjoyable to talk about science. I think we may have had some moderately pleasant discussions in the past, although maybe you disagree."

No, I've enjoyed them too. In fact, they were just the sort of thing I was after.

"I don't think Mark Maslin's suggestion is that one shouldn't talk about the science at all, simply that there are some with whom it would be pointless if your goal was to actually convince them of the strength of the current evidence."

Again, it depends on your purpose in talking to them. If your idea is that you want to persuade them, then I agree that there are many people on *both* sides of the debate who are simply unpersuadable. They don't have the technical skills to evaluate the scientific arguments themselves so they rely on other criteria, and in many cases have too much of their self-identity invested in their position.

However, a strongly motivated and technically competent person who disagrees with you is the ideal person to talk to from a scientific point of view. Our confidence in scientific conclusions is justified by the extent to which they have been challenged. We all have our cognitive blind spots, but we can use other people with different blind spots to help us see into them. By arguing against someone who vehemently believes we are wrong, and is motivated to comb our arguments and evidence for any flaw, any alternative interpretation, any gap in the logic, we gain assurance that if our arguments survive the attack they are strong.

It's like natural selection. You put all the competing ideas into the arena, let them fight it out, and the survivors are the best and strongest. That's why science works. It certainly helps if you train scientists in logic and method, but those are not sufficient on their own. The reason why science is so powerful as a method of finding out how things work is that it is ruthlessly red in tooth and claw.

Whereas a debate in which scientific ideas are developed by panels of accredited 'experts' is more like 'intelligent design'. And debates in which opposition is excluded are like one of those remote islands with no predators, full of dodos and other flightless, crippled, but oh-so-colourful birds.

Strong opposition is necessary to good science. Good scientists should seek it out. So when scientists start excluding or avoiding opposition, saying crazy things like "Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?", they're following the path of the dodo.

That somebody is really bad at the science is a fair enough reason not to talk to them, (unless it is to help them be better at it) - that they are politically motivated to disagree is not.

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Nullius,
Well, yes, I broadly agree. The problem is that what you describe isn't what I normally see not experience.

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

@ATTP

If you take the politics out, there is pretty good agreement I think:

Burning coal is a stupid idea as it kills miners and pollutes the atmosphere
Nuclear power looks like the best replacement at the moment
Hydro and Geothermal will be appropriate in some places
Wind is pretty much useless everywhere, and is never likely to be cost-effective
Solar is useful in places much nearer the equator than the UK, but not elsewhere
Fracked NG is a useful bridge fuel to quickly reduce coal use whilst nuclear is being built

None of the above need a change to the socio-economic system to begin immediately, though some relaxation of necessary regulation and elimination of subsidies will be helpful.

They will mostly, though, be opposed by 'Green' groups, Greenpeace, WWF, Green Party and so on, and probably by Prof. Maslin too.

Since these actually go some considerable way to solving the problem (assuming there is one), and smashing 'neoliberalism' will not, why would this be, do you think?

Is it perhaps, that it is Prof. Maslin and his Green fellow travellers who don't in fact want to solve the CO2 problem but instead want to impose on an unwilling electorate a socio-economic system which has been repeatedly rejected by voters in democracies?

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Street

Michael,


If you take the politics out, there is pretty good agreement I think:

With some, sure. Not with all, and I've certainly encountered many for whom this would not be true.


Is it perhaps, that it is Prof. Maslin and his Green fellow travellers who don't in fact want to solve the CO2 problem but instead want to impose on an unwilling electorate a socio-economic system which has been repeatedly rejected by voters in democracies?

No, I don't think that anyone is suggesting circumventing the democratic process.

Dec 17, 2014 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

aTTP
It isn't an "ideological concern/fear of what might happen ". It is a racing certainty that replacing cheap, reliable power with expensive, unreliable power will cause overall harm. Also arguing whether the red hand or the invisible hand are better ways forward is pointless because as it stands the only policies proposed thus far seem to rely on the free market magically finding energy solutions after the cost of fossil fuels has risen sufficiently.

What is puzzling to me is that such rank pessimism about future temperatures and the conditions that may arise from it seems to go hand-in-hand with boundless optimism about renewables.

We could achieve some rapprochement if people stop with the silly names and stop assuming that dissenters are all funded by big oil. Except for very few people we are all dependent on fossil fuels whether we admit it or not! A grown-up debate that discusses realities, rather than just hypocritical hype, would be nice.

Dec 17, 2014 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

@ATTP

Thanks for the reply.

He, and the Green groups, are of course fully entitled to campaign for their preferred economic system at the ballot box.

Seems a bit of a distraction, though, when the solutions already exist and can be implemented immediately without such an unlikely change being needed..

Dec 17, 2014 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Street

"The problem is that what you describe isn't what I normally see not experience."

Me neither.

One has to be patient. If people are talking politics, then pass by in silence. If you come across what looks like an interesting scientific conversation, then jump in. Stick to the technical arguments and avoid the editorials and asides (unless you don't mind the effect it has). Be open to the idea that there might be something for you to learn - or at least, pretend you are. If you disagree with something, it often works better to phrase your objection as a question - as in: "How do you deal with this problem?" or "What happens if that were so?" Don't expect fairness - you're in the gladiatorial arena here. You're looking for a challenge. Don't stake anything on holding your position - if it's not going anywhere interesting then fell free to shrug and concede a point tactically, even if you don't think you're wrong. It helps in that it makes others less dogmatic and more likely to concede points if they see you do it. And if anybody tries to drag the fight down into the gutter, ignore them. The natural human tendency is to try to fit in with the general social behaviour of the people around them, so the best way to get people to respond to you at a polite, intellectual rather than a gutter level is to behave that way yourself, no matter what the provocation. It drags the quality upwards, and makes the crudity of those others more obvious by contrast. It's sometimes slow, but people do usually respond to persistent politeness eventually. Again, don't expect fairness - how others treat you is no reflection on you - only how you behave and treat others is. But if you do feel the need to offer criticisms, don't be surprised to get some back.

The internet is full of people at every level, engaged in every sort of exchange. We might be looking for an intellectual debate, but lots of other people aren't and it's their internet too. The interesting technical debates do happen, from time to time, but you shouldn't expect them to happen all the time. As they say, it takes all sorts.

Dec 17, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Michael,
If we could have more discussions about how to proceed, given that AGW presents a future risk, that would - in my view - be a marked improvement. My experience, though, is that there are still many vocal people who will not acknowledge that it presents any risk, nor that we should really consider doing anything at all (other than simply letting things proceed as they are today).

Nullius,


One has to be patient.

Easier said than done and - to my shame, maybe - I find I have less patience than I once thought I had.

Dec 17, 2014 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

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