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Tilting at Windmills

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February 13, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

NEUTRALITY vs. OBJECTIVITY....Congress used to have an agency called the Office of Technology Assessment, famed for producing sharp analysis of technical topics using only a tiny staff and a tiny budget. Unfortunately, science being what it is, sometimes serious research leads scientists to conclusions that conservative politicians don't like. So Newt Gingrich killed the OTA.

Science, needless to say, marches on, and so does the need to suppress it. At NASA, climatologist James Hansen said he was recently warned of "dire consequences" if he didn't stop suggesting that global warming was real and something ought to be done about it. Meanwhile, over at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, controversy about the effect of global warming on hurricanes has been suppressed and scientists have been warned not to give interviews without prior permission. Jerry Mahlman, a former director at NOAA who retired in 2000, says that dissenting scientists are being intimidated from talking to the press and that their papers are being withheld from publication. "I know a lot of people who would love to talk to you," he told TNR's John Judis, "but they don't dare. They are worried about getting fired."

And it's not just science that modern conservatives are trying to shut down. It's broader than that. As Beth Daly of the Project on Government Oversight says, it's more like a Republican "campaign against expertise," and its latest target is the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Daly was referring to Republican congressman Pete Hoekstra's recent attack on a pair of CRS reports about the NSA's domestic spying program reports that happened to come to conclusions inconvenient to the Bush administration. Hoekstra implied that CRS's analysis was fatally flawed simply because one of the analysts involved was formerly a Democratic staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. No Democrats allowed in the CRS!

But at least CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan defended his agency in that case. Not so in the case of Louis Fisher, a long time CRS analyst who's a highly respected expert in separation of powers issues ("His writings are considered the gold standard," says Robert Spitzer of the State University of New York). On January 10 Fisher gave an interview to Government Executive in which he said that the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act hasn't been very effective "I get the picture that people can do really awful things inside agencies and they never pay any price at all, and that's really scary," he told the magazine and apparently this conclusion was inconvenient. On January 13 Fisher's boss told him he needed to be more "neutral" and on January 18 Fisher shot back with a long memo defending himself. Last week, according to Roll Call, Mulhollan ordered Fisher to apologize by the close of business Friday, something Fisher has so far declined to do.

Fisher's email to Mulhollan is worth reading for his defense of substance and logic over artificial neutrality:

The word neutrality appeared to rule out coming to a conclusion in ones writings, either inside or outside CRS. In the past, you had told me that if the evidence comes down on one side or the other, we should say so. We should not be forced to look for middle ground. Objectivity means looking at all the relevant material and presenting a report that has integrity, credibility, substance, and logic. Neutral writing implies that we take no positions and reach no conclusions.

....Any analyst in CRS, when asked to respond to a request, is often in a position of doing more than being neutral. If an attorney in [the American Law Division] is asked to analyze a draft bill and determine whether it is constitutional or not, the attorney does that, and mayproperlytell the office that existing caselaw indicates that the bill, if enacted, would likely pass muster in the courts or likely be struck down as unconstitutional. The goal of the memo is not neutrality.

Newspaper reporters might well take note of this: objectivity is not neutrality. The fact that there are two sides to a story does not make both sides equally valid. Louis Fisher appears to recognize this, and the only question left is whether he'll be fired for saying so. Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 6:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (80)

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Comments

The facts are liberally bias, just like the media.

Rush tells me so.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 13, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Newspaper reporters might well take note of this: objectivity is not neutrality. The fact that there are two sides to a story does not make both sides equally valid. Louis Fisher appears to recognize this, and the only question left is whether he'll be fired for saying so. Stay tuned. Kevin Drum

As they used to say at the U of W Daily, fuck objective journalism. The truth is more important.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 13, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, to read history's assessment on this surreal Orwellian government. Maybe I will read it by the light of the burning furniture.

Posted by: Ty Lookwell on February 13, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Experts"?! -- you know how you get to be an so-called "expert"? by going to a university, that's how. And you know what universities are, don't you? That's right, they g*dd*amn liberal indoctrination factories that's what they are! That's why you can't trust "experts" -- they're nothing but liberal elites acting like their opinions are worth more than yours or mine.

Posted by: Nils Gilman on February 13, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Even if we ignore the huge volumne of problems in foreign affairs caused by these hoodlums, it will take us decades to fix the problems caused to our domestic body politic by Bush a his gang.

I used to be so optimistic about my country. It is now so depressing.

Posted by: Keith G on February 13, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that there are two sides to a story does not make both sides equally valid.

Yes! Yes! Oh, God, yes! More! Please! More!

Wow...

That was great. Thanks Kevin.

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP hates facts unless the facts toe the party line--more generally, the GOP hates the truth, for the truth exposes the GOP for what it is.

Posted by: LeisureGuy on February 13, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

it's more like a Republican "campaign against expertise,"

This explains everything. When the president is a low-grade bonehead who isn't actually good at anything other than thinking up fratboy nicknames, well, you'd better get rid of the smart people real quick. Wouldn't want Jesus, er, Bush, to feel bad now.

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

The President stands up in front of a group and brags that he made C's while the PhD's work for him ("now what does that tell ya? heh heh").

And it's just dawning on you that there's a campaign against expertise? His base are the know-nothings that always resented those college types thinking they know eveything, so now their boy is in power, and they'll show 'em!

Posted by: Ducktape on February 13, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Whew, someone turn the hose on craigie. Not that I disagree with his point. Keep it up, Kev.

Posted by: shortstop on February 13, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

The President stands up in front of a group and brags that he made C's while the PhD's work for him ("now what does that tell ya? heh heh").

Bush uses this line every time he appears in public with someone who has a doctorate. I'm waiting for the day one of those Ph.D.s replies, "It tells me that my father cared about education and your father was the President."

Posted by: Constantine on February 13, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Who knew that the Republicans are all closet deconstructionists. Jacques Derida would have been ecstatic.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Whew, someone turn the hose on craigie. Not that I disagree with his point. Keep it up, Kev.
Posted by: shortstop

Yeah. He sounds like one of those, apparently, affection-starved chicks in the shampoo commercials.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 13, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Again; define "neutral"
define "objective"

These definitions are made in the minds of people, by those who monopolize the cable news and talk radio outlets. Big Money. Information Warfare.

The academics don't stand a chance. Just like they didn't stand a chance against Hitler, and Stalin.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 13, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Scientists almost exclusively are liberals and are becoming more so by the day. The enormous contempt that the Repukeliscum hold for science is really too much to take.

Repukes hate science, because, to quote King Moron, "It's hard."

These days, listening to Repukeliscum is like listening to that 1990 Barbie "Math is hard"

Posted by: POed Liberal on February 13, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

The academics don't stand a chance. Just like they didn't stand a chance against Hitler, and Stalin.

That's why today we academics are getting more and more contemptuous of the Repukeliscum. They are genuinely stupid, and are happy to be so.

Posted by: POed Liberal on February 13, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah. He sounds like one of those, apparently, affection-starved chicks in the shampoo commercials.

Oh, sure, just lower the tone. Sheesh.

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney can't even off someone in his own hunting party.

Posted by: Ugh on February 13, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II:affection-starved

That's a very interesting interpretation of someone in the throes of full-throated screaming orgasm. You may conflate the two, but I assure you the mistake is not universal.

Posted by: shortstop on February 13, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah. He sounds like one of those, apparently, affection-starved chicks in the shampoo commercials.

Oh, sure, just lower the tone. Sheesh.
Posted by: craigie

But Craigie, I meant that in a good way. Afterall, I'm the only one so far who's been riled enough to drop the F-bomb.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 13, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

"that their papers are being withheld from publication."

This speaks volumes about the Bush administration's campaign against science.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on February 13, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

US Fish and Wildlife is next. In the ESA polar bear study they'll have to take a position on global warming.

Posted by: B on February 13, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II:affection-starved

That's a very interesting interpretation of someone in the throes of full-throated screaming orgasm. You may conflate the two, but I assure you the mistake is not universal. Posted by: shortstop

Perhaps I don't command quite the depth of understanding of female sexuality as I thought. Maybe chicks can get-off by shampooing their hair. Madison Avenue is usually right about other stuff, so I guess I should trust them on this one, too.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 13, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Yee haw, Jeffie, following your reasoning, "Chicks get affection by shampooing their hair." Haw! Haw! God, you're so iconoclastic and edgy, you know?

Back to posts with a little more meat in them: Constantine, yours of 6:38 made me wonder just how many Ph.D.s in Washington have this little fantasy conversation in their heads. Now being able to tell Bush what a dumbfuck he is...that's a spontaneous orgasm. But then you disappear in the night, and that's a drag by any measure.

Posted by: shortstop on February 13, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Yee haw, Jeffie, following your reasoning, "Chicks get affection by shampooing their hair." Haw! Haw! God, you're so iconoclastic and edgy, you know? Posted by: shortstop

I didn't mean all chicks. Just those, again basing this entirely on consuming a steady diet of midday television, who use Herbal Essence shampoo. I think Michael Eagan can, perhaps, better articulate my confusion. Being a Dad

Posted by: Jeff II on February 13, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps I don't command quite the depth of understanding of female sexuality as I thought. Maybe chicks can get-off by shampooing their hair. Madison Avenue is usually right about other stuff, so I guess I should trust them on this one, too.

Depends on the shampoo bottle....

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

We wouldn't want them to say the sky is blue if you asked them, eh?

Posted by: Crissa on February 13, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, now, Stefan's got it all sussed out. Who's been telling you this? She must pay. Rules are rules.

Posted by: shortstop on February 13, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm off to run errands, make a few phone calls, and maybe, um, take a bubble bath a little later. Hey, it's just because of the stressful day! What are you looking at?

Stefan, you were on fire today. craigie, you, too, but when aren't you? To bring the conceit full circle, I wish I could bottle y'all's sense of humor.

Posted by: shortstop on February 13, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

It took me a while to figure it out. I just used to think it was my great water pressure....

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Showers? Is someone talking about showers? You know, I've got my own loofah if you need a hand...

Posted by: Bill O'Reilly on February 13, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Remember when it was the conservatives who used to rail against "relativism."

Not that it isn't a misnomer in the first place. "Relative" meaning that ALL factors need to be considered, not just some presumably absolute standard.

Posted by: brodix on February 13, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, shortstop. Enjoy the bubble bath.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

My question is:

As far as press bias goes - does this following set of headlines belie a conservative or a liberal bias?

Investigators slam Katrina response
White House takes heat over Cheney shooting mishap
Lawyers group slams Bush over eavesdropping
Saddam lashes out at Bush, Judge in court.

On the one hand, all four of these articles a critical of Bush, and the Bush administration.

Liberal Bias.

On the other hand, everyone who criticises Bush, from Investigators, to Gun Safety Nuts, to Lawyers groups, are in good company with that crazy Saddam Hussein. . .

More Liberal Bias. Uh huh.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 13, 2006 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

BBC Radio 4 aired a program recently called "The Science Blacklist" on this very subject. You can view the program's page here and listen to the program at the link on that page.

Posted by: Mornington Crescent on February 13, 2006 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK
And it's not just science that modern conservatives are trying to shut down. It's broader than that. As Beth Daly of the Project on Government Oversight says, it's more like a Republican "campaign against expertise," and its latest target is the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Even that is too limited. As the exchange that gave us the phrase "reality-based community" revealed, the war isn't against science, or expertise, its against the entire concept of objective, knowable reality. The goal is that reality is whatever Big Brother decides it is each day. Anything which obstructs that goal must be destroyed, or at least discredited.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 13, 2006 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin.

Posted by: beth on February 13, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Remember when it was the conservatives who used to rail against "relativism."

These days conservatives think "relativism" means giving your lame-brained son a job as a columnist at the right-wing drool rag funded by your brother-in-law's oil company.

Jonah Goldberg, William Kristol, Daniel Pipes...

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 13, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

OBF, glen greenwald's ignited an interesting debate with his post on that very issue: how the Right defines "liberal" as "anyone opposing or criticizing Bush and/or Bush policies." He notes that such wild-eyed lefties as Richard Clarke, James Wilkerson, and Bob Barr are now derided as "liberals" by the RIght. He says "conservatism" isn't about policy anymore; it's become entirely swamped by authoritarian Leader-worship cultism.

You really should check out his blog, glengreenwald.com

The comments are amazing. Every "conservative" posting there to attack him just reinforces his point. And there are quite a few conservative useta-be Republicans talking about how they've left the GOP because of it.

Posted by: CaseyL on February 13, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Glen Greenwald's blog seems to be glengreenwald.blogspot.com, actually.

I know this because our trusty firewall here in Vietnam blocks all blogspot.com addresses.

They don't have the resources to field thousands of websurfing censors to check up on every blog like China, so they just block the whole domain...

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 13, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Fisher is a mensch.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely>"the war isn't against science, or expertise, its against the entire concept of objective, knowable reality.."

Yet the groundwork was laid by self-styled "progressive" academics, through radical relativism and a third-rate philosophy fashions. It should have been corrected earlier, but it took a physicist (Sokal) some years ago to give them a hard knock. Yet still they dominate much of academia, rendering it worse than useless, as they probably will until they retire or die.

They produced at least a couple of decades worth of liberal-arts graduates no longer believed in "linear" political activism. They tended to gravitate to whooly anti-globalization movements instead, and at the far end "anarcho socialism", just the end point of the problem that defines the error well.

The few that would wander into NGO and political party campaigns that I worked on needed extensive deprogramming before they were even useful. Even the only moderate victims of the brain rot hold a deep doubt about the worth of traditional, rationally planned and executed political activism of the sort that brought us the existance of the middle class, legal equality of persons, and protection of the environment. And their suspicion of the scientific method further handicaps true progressives.

The left made it quite far with enlightenment values, the belief that objective truths existed, and reason and rationality could etch away injustice. We should be ashamed that it's now right-wing think tanks that laim that now falsely claim that heritige more often.

cmdicely>"The goal is that reality is whatever Big Brother decides it is each day."

Yup, that was the predictable result. The idiots somehow managed to believe that if you declare all truth to be defined by power, that will bring about an egalitarian society. It's amazing how wide the gap can be between verbal and rational intelligence within a given individual.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on February 13, 2006 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

As I've said here before.

My wife, a well published research scientist (climate related), has noticed a startling shift in conversations with scientists in this country over the past 4 years. Leaving the country for better research opportunities is no longer an occasional topic. In almost every conversation, the issue comes up and has quite often simply boiled down to: "When are you getting out?"

We almost left for New Zealand in December, but decided to stick with it and continue to fight..... for now.

Posted by: Simp on February 13, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Objectivity is not Neutrality" It's interesting that we're just now learning these lessons. Is it that we're just now figuring this out, or that the meaning of objectivity never had to be defended from malefactors in the past, or what?

Posted by: yesh on February 13, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce's point, if I was reading it right, was that the colleges have made anarchists and suits, and we're living with the result that suits don't care about facts, and anarchists aren't into working?

That's one heck of a theory.

Posted by: Crissa on February 13, 2006 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Is it that we're just now figuring this out, or that the meaning of objectivity never had to be defended from malefactors in the past, or what?"

Not to this degree. Of course, I remember Uncle Ronnie telling us inspiring tales of real-life WWII pilots who ended up existing only in some movie he was in.

The Bushies thought they had the power to tell us a tale that exists only in the imagination and finally make it stick. They have had unprecedented cooperation from the media in the construction of this grand narrative. Reality, unfortunately for both, is not so easily contained.

Posted by: brewmn on February 13, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

At NASA, climatologist James Hansen said he was recently warned of "dire consequences" if he didn't stop suggesting that global warming was real and something ought to be done about it.
-Kevin

There's a danger in assessor of the problem, using media to create a scare and get better funding for his work.

The scientist can't really say 'No problem, cut my funding, can he?'.

Posted by: McA on February 13, 2006 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

The scientist can't really say 'No problem, cut my funding, can he?'.
Posted by: McA

Thankfully, though, he CAN get the dipshit republican bush appointee to quit in disgrace.

Posted by: Nads on February 13, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

"There's a danger in assessor of the problem, using media to create a scare and get better funding for his work."

Yep, all those scientists are just trying to get media-scare-based funding increases. And all those biologists and geologists and etc. are repressing anything outside of Darwinist dogma to, um, get something, and who knows what the Big Bang folks are trying to get (although it may involve shampoo . . .).

Yep. That's it.

Posted by: Dan S. on February 13, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

McA:

I would ask you to please point to something that says that Dr. Hansen would only be able to get funding to study global warming. Is this the only area he is an expert in? Is global warming the only unknown area in meteorology. Is it the only thing left undiscovered in climatology?

In my experence, the quest for research grants is a long and time consuming process. You get enough to hire a couple of grad students and pay them slave wages but generally the main researcher gets nothing from it except his research done which may or may not be worthy of publication.

Y.

Posted by: Yelling in the fog on February 13, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Faux objectivity is the greatest enemy in journalism today. Two sides, one is right and we can't say so.

Posted by: Mark A. York on February 14, 2006 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

NASA's Goddard Center is bigger than Jim Hansen. But he's the climate monitoring chief scientist. This is not about the straw man wingnut argument about snaring research money. It's about a conclusion based on the data.

Posted by: Mark A. York on February 14, 2006 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

...and the only question left is whether he'll be fired for saying so.

Not "whether", "when".

Posted by: Cyan on February 14, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

Man, the tell-all books that will be coming out about three years from now will be something to behold.

Of course, we'll all have gills and webbed feet by then.

Posted by: Kenji on February 14, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Let me agree the comment that scientists dont make statements to get more research money. If more research money were the goal, you could keep quiet while the government "studies" the problem instead of addressing it. If you have followed the history of climate research under the Bush Administration, you will know that this is the pattern. At first the BushAdMin claimed that the IPCC report 2000 was a flawed document, and then convened a National Academy Report to critique it. The National Academy called in many US scientists, including James Hansen, whom it considered more objective than scientists who had contributed to the IPCC report. The Nat Academy report, however, confirmed the IPCC findings, to great consternation in the Bush Admin. Then the AdMin announced a grand research project to study the uncertainties in climate change. Scientists took the funding and started to resolve the remaining controversies that had been claimed by global-warming skeptics. Guess what? When looked at carefully, some critical climate-skeptic arguments fell apart. So the Bush administration is having trouble with its holding action on climate change. The climate skeptics are not being vindicated by careful research. So the Admin must resort to killing the messenger.

In short -- if the science community were only interested in maintaining its funding stream, it would promote the idea that there is still insufficient evidence to decide whether global warming is real or not. The Bush Admin would buy them off in a heartbeat with more research dollars.

The view advocated by Hansen wouldnt guarantee funding in a Democratic Admin, either, In the Clinton years, the Admin sent the message that it was more important to develop mitigation strategies than to do further global-warming verification research, because then (in 1992) they had decided that global warming was real. Why study it more?

People who suggest that climate scientist hype their results to get funding dont know what they are talking about.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 14, 2006 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

McA:

I would ask you to please point to something that says that Dr. Hansen would only be able to get funding to study global warming.

Posted by: Yelling in the fog on February 13, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Here's one for you.

How much of global warming research is funded by government pressured to do so by greenie doomsayers? Lots.

What else do climate researchers do? Not much.

Just google the guy and you'll find his academic life and prestige are linked to global warming.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hansen.


Posted by: McA on February 14, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_cooling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Warming

Here's a point. They were rabbiting on about global cooling until 1979. With Newsweek writing about the next Ice Age in 1975.

Then every reversed their positions very rapidly.

Posted by: McA on February 14, 2006 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/newsweek-coolingworld.pdf

Here's the newsweek article you patsy's.

Posted by: McA on February 14, 2006 at 3:07 AM | PERMALINK

McA, if you're writing crap like this and not getting paid for it by the petrochemicals industry, you're just a fool. Even the dozen or so so-called scientists who are still willing to pretend global warming isn't happening only do so in exchange for large consulting fees.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 14, 2006 at 4:31 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the inconvenience of our Constitution makes the Great Leader and His thugs upset. Similarly, facts become inconveniences to those that are more interested in profit rather than rationality. Let us hope that These do not distort reality too much, eh?

Posted by: parrot on February 14, 2006 at 4:36 AM | PERMALINK

Whoa, sixty comments and no one has mentioned Mao Zedong yet?

At the start of the Cultural Revolution, the Great Helmsman declared that it was "better to be red than to be expert," then set out to purge those who were insufficiently red, starting with the experts.

Hmmmn, Maoist loyalty tests ... Cult of Personality ... who'd've expected such things from the G.O.P.?


McA: There's a thing called better modeling.

Posted by: keith on February 14, 2006 at 4:43 AM | PERMALINK

The climate scientists changed their minds about a possible cooling trend after the 1970s because the historical climate data didnt support the hypothesis. The global cooling hypothesis was based on the recognition that the last 800,000 years of Earth history has been characterized by ice age cycles, and all of human civilization has developed in the most recent interglacial period (10000 years). Based on past timing alone, one might expect the next glacial period to be imminent. However, it was not known then (or now) what confluence of weather variables would indicate that the glaciers were coming. So, the climate scientists looked for them, and journalists picked up the story.

Fast forward to 1980. By this time a serious change in global climate trends was apparent, changing from stable temps to a rapid rise, starting with the big El Ninos of the mid 1970s. Perhaps a true-red ideological politician would stick to his first hypothesis to be consistent, in defiance of the data. But good scientists are not ideologues. They are trained to discard a hypothesis if the data dont support it. Since the 1980s our ability to collect data and to model climate interactions has improved markedly, and the global warming hypothesis is still supported by the research.

Some people worry that the longer-term glacial trend will eventually overcome the present anthropogenic global warming trend. However, all models for how an interglacial climate becomes a glacial climate involve a drawdown in atmospheric CO2. This wont happen in our lifetimes, or at least until we have burnt up all the accessible coal and oil and methane hydrates, so the worry is probably moot.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 14, 2006 at 4:57 AM | PERMALINK

McA: There's a thing called better modeling.

Posted by: keith on February 14, 2006 at 4:43 AM | PERMALINK

Sure but if modeling isn't good enough that it might not reverse itself with another 10 years data - it isn't good enough to justify enviromental actions with trillions in costs, is it?

If weather varied in the past for these ice cycles - its not a disaster if it keeps varying.

And any science that's prepared to reverse their position over 5 years, making judgements on weather cycles over 1000 years for another 10 years data is shit science.

I repeat in 1975 Newsweek had a "Global cooling" panic article. By 1980, the scientists were predicting worldwide doom by 2000.

As it is, they are just fixing models and issuing press releases to keep up the 'panic' money.

They barely know the globe is warming. Have no idea on causation. And no idea what measures will fix it but want billions in economic growth wasted.

Posted by: McA on February 14, 2006 at 5:39 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, McA, here's an idea for you - don't take your ideas about global climate trends from a single, out of date article in Newsweek! Instead, try checking what the overwhelming and near-universal consensus of all the climate scientists in the world is, backed up by 20 years of intensive research.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 14, 2006 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

Nice post, Kevin. "Objectivity is not neutrality." Your best line that I've ever read on this site.

Posted by: Rick on February 14, 2006 at 7:35 AM | PERMALINK

"That's why today we academics are getting more and more contemptuous of the Repukeliscum. They are genuinely stupid, and are happy to be so."
Posted by: POed Liberal

If shoving my head up my academics would make me act like you then you're right, I'm doing back flips for not being as smart as you are.
I'm all for education but when you let the minutiae of complexity blind you to the simplicity of common sense then you have become a Briliant Idiot. 'AAAND...you are happy to be so.

Posted by: Lurker42 on February 14, 2006 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

McA

You are truly full of shit. Please learn something about climate science before you rant about it. Otherwise your posts are a complete waste of other people's time.

But maybe that was your goal, my friend?

Posted by: troglodyte on February 14, 2006 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

As a Christian evangelical, I am uneasy at the readiness with which my co-religionists get snookered into the "man causes global warming" proposition. Most of them start from the leftist point of view that man is inherently evil in everything (unless corrected by elites who are good and all-knowing.) Another assumption that resonates with believers is that man is always overwhelmingly important in the scheme of things.

More than all that, Christians can be just as prone as anyone to lapse into hysterics, especially of the self-serving variety. My wife and I have good Mormon friends in Utah who are absolutely convinced that every ailment which afflicts the wife of the Utah family stems from childhood exposure to above-ground nuclear testing.

The lady is a certified down-winder and has been in line for decades to receive a pay-off as soon as doctors ever really find anything seriously true among all her medical complaints. The funny thing about Mormons in Utah is that, historically, their cancer rates have always been a little below the rest of the nation.

Never-the-less, local courts have bought into the argument that the true disease rate for Utahans should have been LOWER STILL, because of their historic church ban on smoking, caffein, alcohol, and excess in any guise. Under this reasoning, huge amounts of cash have been awarded to "downwinder" familis whose dearly beloveds most probably died of natural causes.

I guess you have to believe a whole lot of things to look at the world the way our friends do. For one thing, I knew some good Mormons who would sneak way out back for a smoke. For another, Utah is an extremely dusty place to start with and it is well documented that mineral-laden airborn dust can be a bad thing for human lungs. Also, the WATER in Utah has always been problematic. Residents there flocked to the bottled water consumer phenomenon, for good reason.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on February 14, 2006 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

As a Christian evangelical, I am uneasy at the readiness with which my co-religionists get snookered into the "man causes global warming" proposition

Uh, global warming caused by greenhouse gases has been kicked around in the public sphere for almost 15 years now (to say nothing of its history in the research community). Back in 2000, Bush said, "we need to do more research." It's 2006. No serious climate scientist disputes the reality. If anything, your fellow evangelicals are behind the times. That they're slightly ahead of the curve compared to a group of ignorant Republican politicians doesn't mean they've "jumped the gun." They're catching up. And good for them.

Posted by: Constantine on February 14, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

backed up by 20 years of intensive research.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 14, 2006 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

And 20 years before that, they had a totally different opinion backed up 20 years of intensive research.

Plus if you want a list of material check the global cooling wikipedia link I gave earlier.

Plus I know a lot about statistical modeling and the global climate models are all extrapolating like crazy, all the time. Constantly adjusting themselves and getting a media boost for the model that happens to be right in hindsight.

Its a mugs game. Its like an old stockbroking trick. You call up 32 people and name 32 high volatility stocka, one each. Then say "I'm not asking you to buy anything. But this stock will go up". Wait one week. Half goes up, half go down. Pick the 16 that went up. Give them another stock each. Then say the same thing. Wait a week. half will go up. Call the 8, "Tell them, I've been right twice. Want to buy my next pick?".

They'll be backing away from Global Warming for Global Unpredictability soon. Easier to spin.

-----------
McA

You are truly full of shit.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 14, 2006 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Can't answer, so ad hominem.

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

Posted by: McA on February 14, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

As a Christian evangelical, I am uneasy at the readiness with which my co-religionists get snookered into the "man causes global warming" proposition. Most of them start from the leftist point of view that man is inherently evil in everything (unless corrected by elites who are good and all-knowing.)

This is a "leftist" point of view? I thought you conservatives believed we leftists were too tolerant of human nature. You're the ones, after all, who like to legislate against sexual activity.

And if you're arguing from a Christian perspective, it makes even less sense. You imply that you don't believe man is inherently evil; is man inherently good? Then why was Christ necessary?

Another assumption that resonates with believers is that man is always overwhelmingly important in the scheme of things.

Um ... are you saying this assumption doesn't resonate with you? Again, from a Christian perspective, this would be an extremely odd thing to argue.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 14, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

"snookered into the "man causes global warming" proposition"
Posted by: Michael L. Cook

I have heard (Can't prove either way) that one strong volcano eruption will spew more green house gasses into the air than man has since the dawn of the industrial revolution.
Even if this is true, are you saying that we have NO responsibility to attempt to protect the only planet that we can presently live on? Don't you think that it would be wise for mankind to attempt to minimize the damage that WE do to the earth? As a christian I am somewhat surprised that you don't take our stewardship over this planet more seriously.

Posted by: Lurker42 on February 14, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

McA:

When you cite some physics and chemistry in your complaints about climate change research, instead of the silly trend analysis you have been spouting, I will take your posts more seriously.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 14, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK
As a Christian evangelical, I am uneasy at the readiness with which my co-religionists get snookered into the "man causes global warming" proposition. Most of them start from the leftist point of view that man is inherently evil in everything (unless corrected by elites who are good and all-knowing.)

The fairly standard Christian fundamentalist position on Original Sin is not a "leftist point of view". It's pretty much the defining common underlying principle of conservatism, though some ignorant people may be confused and think that since Lenin essentially bolted this position onto Marxism to attempt to avoid the necessity of going through a functioning capitalist phase with a class-conscious working class from a pre-capitalist traditional economy to get to a "communist" society, think that it is a leftist idea. It's not, and its one of the (many) reasons that many leftists have criticized Leninism (and, similarly, its children Stalinism and Maoism) as not being a genuinely leftist system.

As for the rest of your post, um, WTF does that story have to do with anything?


Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2006 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Lurker42

I dont know about the exact numbers, but volcanoes emit a significant amount of CO2. There is a hillside in the Mammoth Mountains area where all the trees have been suffocated by CO2 seeping up from the magma chamber deep in the crust beneath.
The plus-up in CO2 during the last 100 years, however, is definitely due to human activities. The carbon isotopes in the CO2 fit the profile of fossil fuels, not volcanic emissions. In fact, the plus-up in atmospheric CO2 is roughly half of the CO2 emissions estimated from fossil fuels and the clearing of forest for farmland. Earth's biosphere is absorbing a lot of the CO2. Some of the mitigation strategies for global warming involve attempts to consume the atmospheric CO2 more efficiently. Natural plant growth doesnt seem to be doing it.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 14, 2006 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

As a Christian evangelical, I am uneasy at the readiness with
which my co-religionists get snookered into the "man causes
global warming" proposition. Most of them start from the
leftist point of view that man is inherently evil in everything
(unless corrected by elites who are good and all-knowing.)

Actually Mr. Cook seems to be summarizing the talking points of Thomas Hobbes' book Leviathan, the sort of worldview that used to be associated with right-wing fascist governments. Karl Marx had an opposite view of human nature, with a utopian vision of the workers governing themselves without the need of supervision. Yeah, it took Lenin to take the Rovian step of giving Marxism a method for gaining and holding power.

Hobbes was the realist, Marx the utopian. And if we are talking religion, the Apostle Paul had a mighty jaundiced a view of human nature.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 14, 2006 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Yesterday I had a thought:

Is the current denial of climate change by conservatives analogous to thier denial of the dangers of facism before WWII?

Posted by: jefff on February 14, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Michael L. Cook,

"Most of them start from the leftist point of view that man is inherently evil in everything (unless corrected by elites who are good and all-knowing.)"

Isn't "man is inherently evil" a fundamentally conservative statement? It's certainly congruent with Burke, not to mention the idea of original sin.

One of the hallmarks of liberalism as a political philosophy of the enlightenment is just the opposite - that man is the possessor of natural rights and is perfectible.

McA,

You claim expert knowledge of statistics. I claim passing familiarity as well. Why don't you post a link to a relevant article so we can have a vigorous discussion of methods in this forum?

Posted by: Arr-squared on February 14, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the experts:

http://www.realclimate.org

Posted by: Mark A. York on February 15, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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