Ktismatics

13 December 2007

What About Bali?

Filed under: Culture — ktismatics @ 6:36 am

USA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – The European Union threatened on Thursday to boycott U.S. talks among top greenhouse gas emitting nations, accusing Washington of blocking goals for fighting climate change at U.N. talks in Bali. The December 3-14 Bali talks are split over the guidelines for starting two years of formal negotiations on a deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, a U.N. pact capping greenhouse gas emissions of all industrial nations except the United States until 2012. Washington, long at odds with many of its Western allies on climate policies, has called a meeting of 17 of the world’s top emitters, including China, Russia and India, in Hawaii late next month to discuss long-term cuts. President George W. Bush intends the Honolulu meeting to be part of a series of talks to feed into the U.N. process. Washington hosted a similar meeting in September, which attracted few top officials and achieved little. The EU wants Bali’s final text to agree a non-binding goal of cuts in emissions of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 for industrial economies as a “roadmap” for the talks. The United States, Japan, Canada and Australia are opposed, saying any figures would prejudge the outcome.

“Those who are suggesting that you can magically find agreement on a metric when you are just starting negotiations, that in itself is a blocking element,” said James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “We will lead, we will continue to lead. But leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow,” Connaughton said. U.S. climate policy is to invest heavily in new technologies such as hydrogen and “clean coal,” without Kyoto-style caps.

The range of 25-40 percent cuts for rich nations was given in studies by the U.N. Climate Panel this year, which blamed mankind for stoking warming and urged quick action to avert ever more floods, droughts, melting glaciers and rising seas. Kyoto binds 37 industrialized nations to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Poorer nations, led by China and India, are exempt from curbs. Washington pulled out in 2001, saying Kyoto would harm the U.S. economy and wrongly excluded goals for developing countries.

* * * *

Global warming exemplifies the limits of American isolationism. America minding its own business is the main source of the problem, resulting not from national political action but from the distributed acts of the Multitude. The right thing to do seems obvious: the US signs the international agreements, then establish some sort of process whereby the targeted emission reductions can be achieved. But I can think of no precedent for the US government interfering in the domestic economy like that. Enforcing adherence to Kyoto and subsequent treaties wouldn’t just call on voluntary lifestyle changes percolating throughout the multitude at the individual, household and corporate level. These changes would be mandated, with punishments meted out to violators. When other than during wartime has the US government actively interfered in a way intended to slow down consumption and to shift production in specific ways that might not increase the GNP?

There aren’t enough economic incentives to hand around to energy companies that would make it profitable for them to shift rapidly and massively away from fossil fuel. Penalties for fuel emissions would have to be drastic and stringently enforced. Case in point: since the Iraq incursion began the price of gasoline at the pump has more than doubled in America, in effect amounting to a huge tax levied on the American consumer the proceeds of which are handed over to oil companies. But despite the big price bump consumption has not gone down.

The libertarian position is roughly this: Let’s say the scientists are right — global temperatures are going up because of emissions, the ice caps are melting, widespread flooding is likely to occur in coastal plains, that massive shifts in populations and agriculture will need to take place. So what? There’s money to be made: a new coastline means new shorefront housing to be built, when farming becomes unviable in one part of the world it will become profitable somewhere else, an ice-free Arctic opens new oil drilling fields, when the oil runs out the energy companies can shift to other energy sources and jack up prices some more.

Reducing American complicity in global warming cannot rely on spontaneous adjustments of the marketplace. Some sort of global idealism would have to motivate the US government to mandate reduced consumption. The federal government would have to act on principle against the economic interests of the Multitude. And to enforce such an act would require the government to act in a more invasive way, taking direct centralized control of economic forces. I don’t think either American business or the Multitude would stand for it. And though I’d rather have Al Gore appointees sitting at the multilateral global warming table, I don’t know what he would have done that’s different from Bush’s inaction.

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46 Comments »

  1. Here’s the introduction from the entry on Global Warming at the Conservapedia, a right-wing fundamentalist American cultural product:

    Global Warming is any increase in average air temperature at the Earth’s surface over a period of decades or more. Since 1989, advocates have clashed on the issue of whether human beings are more responsible than nature for modern periods of global warming. As an issue, it is a political battle over the science of climate change and is mainly used to justify support for the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to restrict carbon dioxide production on the grounds that it accelerates the “greenhouse effect.”

    Most non-scientific support for the global warming theory rests on popular accounts such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth or on reports issued by the UN’s IPCC. However, Keston Green of Monash University and Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School wrote that “Because the forecasting processes examined in Chapter 8 overlook scientific evidence on forecasting, the IPCC forecasts of climate change are not scientific.” Politician Al Gore calls it a moral issue, while scientist Richard Lindzen says, “It is probably the most immoral thing you could do to restrain energy so that the billions in the earth who don’t have access to electricity won’t conveniently get it.” However, it is to be noted that many proponents of the theory propose energy conservation only until ‘green’ energy generation becomes predominant.

    In general, the term global warming can be used for any upward trend in the global mean temperature, but it is mostly used to refer to the 1° F warming since 1850. The two sides are divided on whether this warming is a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age or a man-made environmental phenomenon. There are also debates regarding the potential positive or negative effects of a warming. Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. are evenly split on the issue. Boston Globe writer Ellen Goodman wrote: “23 percent of college-educated Republicans believe the warming is due to humans, while 75 percent of college-educated Democrats believe it.” As we learn more about climate, the “settled” conclusions of global warming alarmists appear more and more ridiculous. “Clinging to alarmist scenarios for which there is no evidence, is simply exploitation of public gullibility.”

    As we watch the US once again weaseling its way out of a multilateral agreement for restricting fossil fuel emissions, we realize how this sort of thinking continues to be used as a “smoke screen” disguising America’s refusal to do the right thing. Since its launch just about a year ago, Conservapedia has accumulated more than 20,000 “educational, clean, and concise entries” and has racked up over 42 million page views. According to the Statistics page, the top ten most viewed Conservapedia pages are, in descending order: homosexuality (2 million views), main page, homosexuality and hepatitis, homosexuality and parasites, gay bowel syndrome, homosexuality and promiscuity, homosexual couples and domestic violence, homosexuality and gonorrhea, homosexuality and anal cancer, homosexuality and mental health. One gets the sense not just that conservatives are obsessed with homosexuality, but that conservatism defines itself relative to homosexuality. The repeated association on these entries between homosexuality and illness conveys strongly the idea that homosexuality is a vector of disease, parasites, violence, madness — a virulent source of societal infection to which the Conservapedia is alerting us.

    I’m reminded of another conservative educational campaign alerting conservatives to the threat of infection: There are no good or bad parasites, decent or indecent parasites (lice!). The parasite always creeps up looking harmless, innocent, as if it belonged there. It is often attractive. It acts as an infection. A small cut, swelling, an abscess, poisoning, the destruction of the whole body. The infested body grows weak, sleepy, it resists no longer, produces no antibodies. The doctor notices, gives injections. Perhaps it is still not too late. If a host people shakes off the parasites and develops such strength that this purified people is admired in the whole world, there is the danger that all the host peoples will recognize the parasites as deadly foes and attempt to shake them off… Adolf Hitler brings salvation from the Jews not in a negative sense, but rather in the total return to health of our people’s body. He uncovers Jewish methods of betrayal, uncovers the parasitic principle of concealment… A German victory — the victory of the created order. (from Parole 21: Den Juden kennen heißt den Sinn des Krieges verstehen!”, Sprechabenddienst, Sept./Oct. 1944)

    (I’ve excerpted some of this from a post and comment I wrote at Open Source Theology.)

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 December 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  2. But this remains a democracy. If gov’t takes it into their own hands to regulate the environment to the point that it pains the multitude, then the multitude will vote them out.

    The exception: If the multitude believes the science, then they will act in their best interest. If the multitude is truly damaging the planet, then the multitude will take steps to preserve the planet. This is self-preservation of the species. It is a fundamental inclination; perhaps the most fundamental.

    Science must persuade the multitude.

    But science and politics are co-mingled. Either side can line up science in defense of its position. Furthermore, each side’s science is so self-evident that the other side is simply ignorant and driven by an strange anti-American ideal: Conservatives motivated by greed, Liberals driven by the leftist agenda.

    So the science is political. But those who are undecided/uncommitted in the multitude probably still believe that eventually the science will be clear and that the right path will be made evident.

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 13 December 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  3. You’re looking at the death of a few corporations. Once that sets in (as happened after Enron) there will be a change. I’m not as pessimistic as both of you guys are right now. With crude in the $90-100 range, margins have been squeezed as all those who are oil dependent try not to frighten the consumer away. Plastic raw materials are ubiquitously used in a tremendous number of industries and whatever gets manufactured has to get transported, so if the price rises were being passed on, it would have been a disaster, instead across the board one can see a terrified bunch of execs tightening their company belts and cutting bith overheads and trimming profits wherever possible.

    And politically there certainly is a connection between the rising energy costs and the increasing unpopularity of the GOP, though how strongly one could think of this as a ‘real’ correlation is open to debate.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 13 December 2007 @ 8:58 pm

  4. “But science and politics are co-mingled. Either side can line up science in defense of its position. Furthermore, each side’s science is so self-evident that the other side is simply ignorant and driven by an strange anti-American ideal: Conservatives motivated by greed, Liberals driven by the leftist agenda.”

    I wrote at OST that the fundamentalist right and the pomo emergings share this same attitude about science, that it’s just a matter of politics and rhetoric. Do you really believe this to be true, Erdman, that the environmental scientists (a) are equally divided on this matter and (b) that both sides are motivated by politics to make the findings come out the way they want them to? As a member of the multitude, what science would persuade you?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 December 2007 @ 10:36 pm

  5. “If the multitude is truly damaging the planet, then the multitude will take steps to preserve the planet. This is self-preservation of the species. It is a fundamental inclination; perhaps the most fundamental.”

    I think the fundamental inclination is preservation of the self; let the species take care of itself. The usual inclination, I expect you’d agree, is for people to grasp ideas like global warming in the abstract without taking the implications to heart and taking appropriate action as an individual. The multitude seems content to continue being extravagant energy users even with plenty of evidence that such usage will almost surely change the earth’s climate significantly in their lifetimes. Without a mandate from government people won’t change their behaviors if it inconveniences them. Perhaps individuals will be prepared to do what they know is right if they’re forced to do so, but I don’t think they will out of sheer moral commitment.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 December 2007 @ 12:12 am

  6. Yes, expecting voluntarism is expecting too much and with the election year now into full swing I guess you really willl have to wait till the dust settles to see if the powers that will be intend to actually nudge folks to do the wiser thing.

    In a thought that was sparked off by the discussion on Rom 8 at OST, I wonder if the Pandora’s box did not consist essentially in the short cut? That’s the old and hard way, here’s a quick, cheap and effective short cut that always gets the job done. It’s messy but who cares about that?

    Are we perhaps now incapable of progressing slowly and safely?

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    Comment by samlcarr — 14 December 2007 @ 5:20 am

  7. Doc K:
    “I wrote at OST that the fundamentalist right and the pomo emergings share this same attitude about science, that it’s just a matter of politics and rhetoric. Do you really believe this to be true, Erdman, that the environmental scientists (a) are equally divided on this matter and (b) that both sides are motivated by politics to make the findings come out the way they want them to? As a member of the multitude, what science would persuade you?”

    I would have thought that the Fundamentalist Right would have their own science. That the fr would be on the conservative side, i.e. the side of the corporation over and above the environment. Who are the fr in your opinion? Wouldn’t they side with Rush in favor of the freedom of the corporation?

    To answer (a), I don’t know that they divided or not. All I am suggesting is that each side can produce their own scientists. The Third Reich had good scientists telling the German people that the Aryan race was superior, didn’t they?

    To answer (b), I don’t know whether they are nonpolitical or not. Is it possible to be nonpolitical? And if a person is a part of the multitude and not a scientific specialist, then how would s/he ever know the difference, anyway, in an environment that is so politically charged?

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    Comment by Erdman — 14 December 2007 @ 6:47 am

  8. K: The multitude seems content to continue being extravagant energy users even with plenty of evidence that such usage will almost surely change the earth’s climate significantly in their lifetimes. Without a mandate from government people won’t change their behaviors if it inconveniences them. Perhaps individuals will be prepared to do what they know is right if they’re forced to do so, but I don’t think they will out of sheer moral commitment.

    I disagree on this. I think that the evidence is not overwhelming in the minds of the multitude. If the evidence was overwhelming then immanent environmental disaster would threaten the preservation of the individuals within the multitude, and then those individuals would be motivated to preserve the environment. This is not a moral commitment but rather a self-interested action of self-preservation.

    But the evidence is not there yet. There are too many voices on the right saying that the left is loony.

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    Comment by Erdman — 14 December 2007 @ 6:50 am

  9. It is very difficult for ‘the multitude’ to be able to figure out what the scientists-politicians are actually saying. There is good evidence that after Katrina a number of government scientists intended to make that connection but were anticipated by the Bush administration and told to shut up.

    It takes something like that, a definitive something to be able to really make a connection in paople’s minds.

    One is also reminded that the vast majority of the public believed in WMD mostly because of the unified voice, including even the Brits! With GW there is far too much dithering and there is nothing concrete that one can point to and say see “look right there, that’s GW in action”.

    Had we still been seafaring peoples, the opening of the North Passage would have seemed a huge thing, but while that is the most startling evidence to date, very few seem to even realise what it means.

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    Comment by ponnvandu — 14 December 2007 @ 8:08 am

  10. The conservative right does put forward its own science on global warming, then says that there are arguments on both sides of the issue and that it eventually comes down to values and politics. This strikes me as both a premodern and a postmodern attitude toward empiricism, denigrating science as a hegemonic modernist metadiscourse that ought to be resisted. Others (like me) contend that science is a set of procedures designed for cutting through values and politics in pursuit of something like unbiased knowledge. More often than not, the side in an argument that minimizes the objectivity of science upholds the position that’s not supported by the body of scientific evidence. I believe that to be the case here — not because of my liberal political bias, but because of my understanding of science and my reliance on scientific method to provide evidence that, while not wholly unbiased, is much less subject to bias than ideological or political arguments.

    So what’s your personal position, Erdman? Do you believe that science can measure the effect of human behavior on the environment, and project the continued effect of that behavior into the future? Do you think that the body of scientific evidence supports the hypothesis that continued use of fossil fuels will result in significant climate change? If not, why not? Is it because you disagree with the evidence that’s been presented, or that you’ve not taken the time to understand it, or that you harbor grave doubts about all empirical science and regard it as an unreliable source of input?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 December 2007 @ 8:22 am

  11. “But the evidence is not there yet. There are too many voices on the right saying that the left is loony.”

    The evidence is there, but the voices on the right continue to say that it isn’t there. They aren’t telling the truth when they say that the evidence isn’t in or that both sides can present equally valid studies supporting their position. I’m not even sure what advantage the left would gain by asserting that global warming is really happening. Is it the idea that the left really wants to take control of the economy and that enforcing the Kyoto Protocol is a step in that direction? I think it would be more honorable for the right and the left to say something like this: the evidence is clear that global warming is caused by human actions, that dramatic climate changes are underway, that reduction in fossil fuel use can modulate if not reverse this effect. If we had to wait for strong evidence that each of us as an individual is imminently threatened by unabated fossil fuel use, by then it would be too late. And besides, are we so self-oriented as to be concerned only about issues that concern us personally, regardless of adverse effects on others that we can prevent? What should and can we do about it that’s effective?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 December 2007 @ 8:32 am

  12. “One is also reminded that the vast majority of the public believed in WMD mostly because of the unified voice, including even the Brits! With GW there is far too much dithering and there is nothing concrete that one can point to and say see “look right there, that’s GW in action”.”

    The evidence for WMD was transparently shaky and already largely disproven by the CIA and international intelligence agencies even when Powell presented his case to the UN. I think the American democracy is overly swayed by fascistic instincts and demagoguery and political propaganda. The main countervailing forces I can think of are ideals and empirical evidence, both of which can potentially override considerations of personal or group gain in the name of more general or universal or objective criteria. If the multitude can’t wade through the political BS, and if the politicians consistently allow military and economic considerations to override the evidence, how will our democracies ever begin to function properly? Do we try to improve the quality of unbiased intelligence and research and assign more authority to this sort of politically-independent source? Or do we make decisions based on appeal to explicit ideals to which we subscribe regardless of which party is in power?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 December 2007 @ 8:40 am

  13. In light of the new house rules, I feel the nearly irresistible urge to hurl obscene and utterly profane insults in your direction, Ktismatics!!!

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    Comment by Erdman — 14 December 2007 @ 8:52 am

  14. Yes, this is the adverse effect of laying down the law, as we’ve discussed at some length elsewhere. I believe the volley of obscene and profane insults that have already riddled ktismatics constitute a reaction, either irresistible or consciously enacted, to the implicit rules of civil discourse that characterize our culture and in which we are embedded singly and collectively. By endorsing the law here I’m not really expecting to reduce the DESIRE to violate the law, and as you say it may serve to inflame that particular desire. There’s also no Big Other to whom I appeal in establishing the house rule. Nor do I put forward the house rule as the localized expression of a universal standard or fundamental human right. Rather, I’m saying that in this particular arena, at this particular time, I regard the house rule as the best corrective I can think of for a set of circumstances that violate my longstanding commitment to certain standards of interpersonal respect and goodwill. Does that work, do you think?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 December 2007 @ 9:04 am

  15. Still sounds like Law.

    “You know that ice cream is bad for you!”

    “I know. But now I want it all the more!”

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    Comment by Erdman — 14 December 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  16. Ktismatics:
    Others (like me) contend that science is a set of procedures designed for cutting through values and politics in pursuit of something like unbiased knowledge. More often than not, the side in an argument that minimizes the objectivity of science upholds the position that’s not supported by the body of scientific evidence. I believe that to be the case here — not because of my liberal political bias, but because of my understanding of science and my reliance on scientific method to provide evidence that, while not wholly unbiased, is much less subject to bias than ideological or political arguments.

    The above sounds to me like you are trying to establish science so that you can turn around and use your own science to advance your political agenda. I think this is the pomo suspicion of metanarrative: that either consciously or subconsciously all “evidence” is used to advance a bias.

    Remember, though, I have Gadamerian leanings, so I don’t view bias as a bad thing, in itself. But as a child of postmodernity I find it suspicious and a bit naive that anyone would point to any one thing (science, evidence, etc.) as a magic bullet that can cut through bias and prejudice. Bias/prejudice seems more often than not to dictate the results of scientific inquiry. Nietzsche speaks of the rational man in terms of a metaphor: someone hides a something from himself in a bush and then acts surprised when he finds it.

    But doesn’t all this sound like it all goes back to our explorations of the unconscious??? Hhhhmmmm….that’s your department, friend.

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    Comment by Erdman — 14 December 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  17. Actual quote from “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense”

    “When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding. Yet this is how matters stand regarding seeking and finding ‘truth’ within the realm of reason.”

    I found this the wording here to be both quirky and poignant.

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 14 December 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  18. “The above sounds to me like you are trying to establish science so that you can turn around and use your own science to advance your political agenda. I think this is the pomo suspicion of metanarrative”

    Forget the metanarrative; use science as a tool to do certain very specific things. Like preparing a balance sheet as an accountant or editing a book: specific tools for specific tasks. If you want to know how much the temperature has changed over the past 100 years, and its likeliest cause, and the projections of temperature change into the future, there are data and techniques for answering these questions. There’s no metanarrative, just a question and a technique for answering the question. Science works — for making computers, forecasting the weather, making airplanes fly.

    I would use science to answer these questions about climate change. I hear your skepticism, so what would YOU do to decide the scope of the problem and what to do about it? Agnosticism about such matters means that taking no action is the default. Do you on principle advocate no action just to avoid relying on scientific evidence?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 December 2007 @ 7:32 pm

  19. I think there’s a bit of confusion in terminology here. John has an extrapolatable micro view that is specifically tool-like. The problem is that with stuff like climate science there is nothing small about it and the exrtrapolatable part is what is very problematic.

    The problem comes both from assumptions and from approximations. The assumptions will have an effect on how questions are framed and the approximations on how equations and scenarios play out.

    The suspicion is that certain biases can lead to certain assumptions and these may even determine the way in which approximations and ‘fudge factors’ are applied and all of which means that each group of scientists can come up with confusingly different conclusions even when the data set is the same.

    I think a famous example was that Einstein during a particularly complicated set of calculations, in one spot assumed a 0 and finally concluded that the universe was in a steady state. He later retracted this and said he should have used a 1 in that place. The universe really was expanding. Needless to say, no one questioned his calculations at the time.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 14 December 2007 @ 10:41 pm

  20. On this problem Einstein was working in pure physics — almost entirely mathematical and theoretical. For climate change there is tangible evidence to be measured and interpreted — it’s an empirical question. Projecting forward in time is like weather forecasting: the results aren’t certain, but estimates can be generated from historical results and present conditions, with plus-or-minus confidence intervals and %-chance uncertainties built into the forecasts. On a year-by-year basis the forecast is pretty uncertain, but over a longer term these ups and downs smooth out. Changing assumptions in the statistical models do change the predictions, but then you can look at the range of variations between models. Net, the forecasters are almost unanimous in predicting significant warming over the next century. They might still be wrong — the future is uncertain — but the probabilities are very high that significant warming will occur. You won’t know for certain, of course, until the future becomes the present.

    What is far more certain is the immediate economic impact of imposing large mandatory restrictions on fossil fuel emissions. Also fairly certain in America would be the political upheaval caused by trying to make the mandates stick. I’d say that forecasts of economic impact of imposing restrictions on various sectors in the economy (with probabilities and confidence intervals) should be laid side-by-side against forecasts of climate change.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 15 December 2007 @ 5:12 am

  21. There is also the fear in conservative circles that the academia have been subverted by leftward thinking. I find that this perceprtion is particularly strong in America but actually world over, revolutionary, antinomian, subversive, thought is felt to originate amongst the intelligentsia who hide mainly in the world’s universities.

    When scientists come up with an unpopular and apparently anti market prediction, this is taken as just one more attempt at subversion, but disguised as pure ‘science’. It takes something like a Katrina to make a popular change and this is known and has been very deliberately and effectively controlled by the Bush admin.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 15 December 2007 @ 7:28 am

  22. In the critique from the left science is a regarded as a tool of the marketplace, doing government-sponsored R&D that businesses then exploit for financial gain. Science also fuels American military supremacy — I suspect most astrophysics research is funded more because of possible “star wars” applications than by liberals trying to debunk creationism. Because so much science is funded by the government, and since government grants are vulnerable to political preferences of the party in power, the government can encourage research in certain fields while discouraging it in others. I’m kind of surprised that so much climate research is still going on despite the administration’s reluctance to accept the findings. It suggests that the governmental science funding agencies retain at least a modicum of nonpartisan independence.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 15 December 2007 @ 8:05 am

  23. Bali will soon be under water when the ice melts, unless the govts stop debating carbon emmisions and start building dykes (mountainous ones).

    The plan should shift and be led by civil engineers not nature conservationists. The freeing of the polar ice caps will release land for future human settlement. Some major coastal cities may have to be relinquished to the ocean though.

    One fact from Bali is that if the whole earth was cultivated for bio-fuel, it would only supply 20% of the world’s energy requirements. At least one environmentalist non-sequiter demonstrated.

    A brighter day shall dawn.

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    Comment by hurricane X — 15 December 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  24. Interesting proposal, HX. The US’s refusal to agree to any fixed targets on reduced emissions resulted in the predictable “watered down” agreement at Bali. But Bush is already expressing “serious concerns” about the deal, implying that he will probably renege on even on informal commitments his negotiators just agreed to. Unless the new American president can manage a dramatic reversal in policy, the biggest fossil fuel user on the planet may continue usage levels without moderation.

    I wonder who would pay for these huge dykes? Indonesia doesn’t have the money to protect its lowlands; neither do a lot of other poor coastal nations. If the USA couldn’t be bothered to shore up New Orleans knowing in advance that a big hurricane would be devastating, it surely wouldn’t contribute to the dyke-building effort in the rest of the world.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 15 December 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  25. “I’m kind of surprised that so much climate research is still going on.”

    The funding cycle is long and tortuous and the Bush admin was slow to get serious about climate research and i think they believed that they could publicise what they wanted to and suppress the rest – and this they have done very effectively tho little has come out of the research to warm the cockles of their oily hearts.

    Bali was a surprise but perhaps there is a feeling that Bush has only a short way to go?

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    Comment by samlcarr — 15 December 2007 @ 7:12 pm

  26. Yes I suspect that’s it — let’s wait to see if the Democrats can manage not to lose this time. I think all the Republicans are too resistant to interfering with commerce. The Democrats though seem too cautious to make a bold enough stance on anything.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 15 December 2007 @ 9:41 pm

  27. “Still sounds like Law.”

    I think we need to distinguish between law as a code of acceptable social behavior and law as a personal heartfelt morality. In this situation I’m not trying to get people to agree with the house rules as a personal blogging ethic, and I don’t try to distinguish whether their adherence is authentic or just a deceptive public performance. I just want my guests to act with civility and courtesy to one another while they’re in my saloon.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 16 December 2007 @ 8:46 am

  28. Sam: The suspicion is that certain biases can lead to certain assumptions and these may even determine the way in which approximations and ‘fudge factors’ are applied and all of which means that each group of scientists can come up with confusingly different conclusions even when the data set is the same.

    Right.

    John:
    Forget the metanarrative; use science as a tool to do certain very specific things. Like preparing a balance sheet as an accountant or editing a book: specific tools for specific tasks.

    John. Your use of a “specific” example still has the same problem: interpretation.

    Per my experiences, accounting is not a pure science.

    Accounting involves interpretive judgments. Take the process of an audit. A so-called “independent” accounting firm (one that meets the specifications for independency, although they ironically get paid for being independent by the same company they are auditing) goes in to audit the books. There is an inherent tension: Cost versus procedure. An accounting firm could double check all transactions and the whole process from top to bottom, but that would be a redo of what has already been done. It would be too much time. The accounting firm must profit from each job. As such, they can only audit certain things. The auditor must constantly make a crucial decision at every step: Materiality. What data is material and what data can be discarded.

    Materiality is determined by so-called objective factors, but in practice it is primarily a matter of judgment. This judgment is an interpretive decision.

    Do interpretive decisions of materiality ever get skewed by bias. Never. It has never, ever happened in the history of accounting and bookkeeping. *roll eyes* Just being sarcastic here. Has anyone here ever heard of Enron??? (As an interesting side note, I actually interviewed with the firm that worked on Enron’s books. I’ve actually got a folder with Enron’s logo on it [along with other company’s logo’s of other clients the firm serviced] that I received when interviewing with the accounting firm that later got busted for cooking the Enron books. I could’ve been one of the stooges who had to say, “Uh, they told me to shred all those documents, sir. Honest, they did.”)

    So, John, I don’t mean to get overly sarcastic, but accounting is not a pure science devoid of human interpretation. Neither is the so-called science of global warming or other environmental sciences. There is always the human element of interpreting the data.

    Interpretation introduces bias. It is a necessary element. Without bias we could not even begin to make interpretations.

    “Truth is subjectivity.”
    – Kierkegaard

    John:
    Projecting forward in time is like weather forecasting: the results aren’t certain, but estimates can be generated from historical results and present conditions, with plus-or-minus confidence intervals and %-chance uncertainties built into the forecasts.

    Haven’t we only been tracking weather temps, etc. for something like a hundred years or so???

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 16 December 2007 @ 8:10 pm

  29. Ktismatics:
    I just want my guests to act with civility and courtesy to one another while they’re in my saloon.

    That still sounds like Law.

    Aren’t terms like “civility” and “courtesy” artificial?

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 16 December 2007 @ 8:13 pm

  30. To be frank, it does look to me that the scientists arguing against GW are doing a bigger job of selecting data and of minimising the supposed impact of human activity than are those on the other side. Still, what’s finally important is the perception of ‘the multitude’ and all I can see at that level is confusion.

    From the right wing, the best scientific reading of the data leads to a conclusion that GW is probably more the result of a sun cycle (more solar radiation hitting the earth) than that human output of greenhouse gases is to blame but they do not actually attempt to deny that GW is happening, but prefer to argue that the human input is minimal.

    Still the honest scientists on the right are quite circumspect and if they are right then there really isn’t much that can be done to prevent the effects of GW from damaging the earth’s ecology and probably causing a significant reduction overall in the human population. Now, that’s depressing. If true we should be directing our science towards facing this terrible challenge rather than fiddling around debating stuff. I actually see little sign that those on the right are alarmed enough to act, so this makes me deeply suspicious of their science. The alarmism really should be coming from the right and not the left!

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 17 December 2007 @ 4:22 am

  31. “accounting is not a pure science devoid of human interpretation. Neither is the so-called science of global warming or other environmental sciences. There is always the human element of interpreting the data.”

    Still, wouldn’t you agree that following generally accepted accounting principles an independent CPA would arrive at a pretty accurate picture of the financial condition of a given firm, and that any ten CPAs would arrive at roughly the same numbers? And if there are disagreements, the CPAs could then identify and evaluate differences in assumptions that might bring them into even closer agreement.

    We’ve had this discussion of empiricism before, Jonathan. Science isn’t only about raw observation of phenomena; it’s about interpretation, applying specific methods for understanding phenomena and then extending those understandings to other related phenomena. Theories and hypotheses are human interpretations of data. If anything this is even more true of “pure” science, which is more about theory than application of the theory to technology. Environmental scientists interpret past and present phenomena and extend that understanding to future phenomena. There’s uncertainty in the predictions, in part because of the inherent fluctuations in climate, in part because the theoretical assumptions behind the interpretations are also uncertain. But the assumptions can be stated explicitly, and so they can be subjected to critique. Same with accounting: you can state your assumptions and interpretations, and someone else auditing your work can evaluate whether those interpretations were justified. The methods of data collection and the assumptions for interpreting the data are made explicit and repeatable. With enough scientists looking at the same phenomena, evaluating the robustness of assumptions and interpretations, ferreting out possible sources of bias, looking over each others’ shoulders to make sure nobody’s “cooking the books,” eventually the discipline converges on a model of the phenomenon under investigation. Whether this sort of pragmatic criteria constitutes ontological truth isn’t really the issue: it’s whether the human-level understanding is a reliable for pragmatic human purposes like predicting scenarios we haven’t encountered yet and estimating the likely results of introducing change. Somebody could come along with a radically new theory, but it has to account for the data at least as well as the existing interpretive models do. The empirical findings are what keep science from drifting off into science fiction — the theories are held “down to earth” by the data.

    “Haven’t we only been tracking weather temps, etc. for something like a hundred years or so???”

    Sure, but that’s just one applied branch of environmental science; other envi sci practitioners have been working on things like world climate change for a long time too. Also, how old was nuclear physics before scientists were able to come up with a workable atomic bomb? If the professional consensus among environmental scientists is more or less accurate, a hundred years from now the climate will have already changed dramatically. World governments are already fighting over oil drilling rights under the Arctic Sea, which will only make a difference if the ice cap melts. I’m pretty sure the US isn’t sitting on the sidelines in this dispute.

    From a scientific perspective it’s almost certain that fossil fuel use is making the planet warmer. Coastal plains will experience ever more drastic flooding before they finally go under water; mass migration of people will be necessary; probably millions of people will die because they have nowhere else to go that somebody else doesn’t already own. The US is rich, so it can probably adapt — although governmental non-response to New Orleans says that if I lived near the coast I wouldn’t count on much help. It’s the places like Indonesia and Bangladesh that are going to bear the brunt of it: poor, coastal, surrounded by water or heavily populated areas. Does the US change its ways for the sake of these other places, these other people? How long do we prevaricate over the reliability of the scientific interpretations, given that the scientists themselves are as close to unanimous as they’re liable to get before world conditions start changing drastically?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 December 2007 @ 4:24 am

  32. “That still sounds like Law. Aren’t terms like “civility” and “courtesy” artificial?”

    Yes, I just said that it’s law. Paul’s argument is about whether law can bring justification, not whether law can serve as the basis for a stable social order. I have nothing against artifice — social systems and the rules by which they operate are cultural artifacts. Different societies, different circumstances, may call for different sets of laws. But following the law doesn’t make you a morally upright person, nor for that matter does violating the law.

    I agree that rules of civility and courtesy may well provoke a desire to be uncivil and discourteous. I suppose the question is whether individual self-expression gets either a privileged or a subordinate position relative to the society. Also, are there situations where rules of civility and courtesy facilitate individual self-expression more than they hinder it? I.e., if a stranger enters into a social environment where people are acting uncivilly toward one another, is that stranger more or less likely to engage in social discourse?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 December 2007 @ 4:44 am

  33. The tenor of that discussion did get very harsh but it was also very plain that the heat was mostly being directed internally (tho John did get a bit of stick too). For the outsider who dropped by in the midst of it either they would be horrified or find it slightly amusing and that second reaction which was mine was not good either for there was a lot of pain and real emotion floating around and not jest the parody that I initially mistook it for.

    In the final analysis though, I much prefer the attempt at frankness to an outwardly polite but actually much more deadly conversation such as those that one runs into more frequently, or am i now being really dumb?

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 17 December 2007 @ 6:00 am

  34. “I much prefer the attempt at frankness to an outwardly polite but actually much more deadly conversation such as those that one runs into more frequently”

    That’s my current thought too, Sam. Name-calling, attribution of hidden motivations, etc. substitute interpersonal conflict and self-analysis for joint attention to understanding the subject at hand.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 December 2007 @ 6:25 am

  35. K:
    There’s uncertainty in the predictions, in part because of the inherent fluctuations in climate, in part because the theoretical assumptions behind the interpretations are also uncertain…..Whether this sort of pragmatic criteria constitutes ontological truth isn’t really the issue: it’s whether the human-level understanding is a reliable for pragmatic human purposes like predicting scenarios we haven’t encountered yet and estimating the likely results of introducing change. Somebody could come along with a radically new theory, but it has to account for the data at least as well as the existing interpretive models do. The empirical findings are what keep science from drifting off into science fiction — the theories are held “down to earth” by the data.

    But my problem is with the switch-a-roo that takes place. Any science (accounting, climate, etc.) always involves interpretations and uncertainties. This is, as you suggest in so many words, built in to the nature of the task. But then the big bait-and-switch: Science becomes “fact” and “common knowledge.”

    Nietzsche talks about “forgetfullness,” and I think that this applies here. (“Truth is a movable host of metaphors that we have forgotten are metaphors.”) We conveniently forget the interpretive and uncertain element involved in science. The human element is replaced by a god-like status. I think it is a bit naive to suggest that anyone can come along with a new theory as long as it takes into account the data. Why is this naive? Because a new theory is usually a whole new paradigm for interpreting the data. As such, the old school theorists will suggest that the new theory doesn’t account for the data. But what this really means is that the new theory doesn’t account for the data in a way that I am comfortable with.

    To be fair and genuine. On your blog the science of global warming is assumed as fact or truth. You forget the built-in human element of interpretation and uncertainty that is foundational to the so-called factual nature of your claim. (Even in this very conversation, there is a trace of your forgetfullnes: “From a scientific perspective it’s almost certain that fossil fuel use is making the planet warmer.”)

    Scientific theory and procedure, riddled with assumptions/presumptions/bias/etc. becomes “fact” that we all just kind of take for granted as “fact.”

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 17 December 2007 @ 10:08 am

  36. My question:
    “Haven’t we only been tracking weather temps, etc. for something like a hundred years or so???”

    Ktismatics:
    Sure, but that’s just one applied branch of environmental science; other envi sci practitioners have been working on things like world climate change for a long time too. Also, how old was nuclear physics before scientists were able to come up with a workable atomic bomb?

    To be fair, earlier you mentioned the fact of global warming in relation to historical measurements:
    For climate change there is tangible evidence to be measured and interpreted — it’s an empirical question. Projecting forward in time is like weather forecasting: the results aren’t certain, but estimates can be generated from historical results and present conditions.

    But if we have been only keeping score for a hundred years or so, then historical measurements become limited, in my opinion. Therefore, for you to draw a comparison with nuclear physics is an invalid analogy, b/c that is an area where science can test its theory by making some bombs and testing it immediately. But if the science of gw is based on historical measurement, then one would rightly raise an eyebrow if we do not have a good deal of historical measurement to work with. Comparing gw science with nuclear physics is not a fair move. The former is based on historical data that is limited, while the latter can be tested immediately, even in the laboratory.

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 17 December 2007 @ 10:15 am

  37. “But then the big bait-and-switch: Science becomes “fact” and “common knowledge.””

    Who’s making this switcheroo? Maybe politicians and theologians, but not scientists. “Fact” is something like “it’s currently 48 degrees Fahrenheit in Boulder” — it’s observation with some measurement error on a conventional scale, but it’s a piece of data that doesn’t require interpretation. Non-scientific people want to turn all of science into something like fact, even though these facts are in the future. When the facts aren’t in hand, all you have are probabilities. Scientists live in a probabilistic world all the time, and present their findings that way.

    What if (I’m making up the numbers here) you’ve got a prediction, supported by 90% of environmental scientists, that there’s a 90% chance that the average temperature of the earth is going to increase by 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 50 years if carbon emissions continue to increase at the present rate. You have to act or not act based on the inherent uncertainty of the scientific task. Eventually you have to transform probabilistic information into a decision that’s either YES or NO, no longer probabilistic but definitive. Science will always be probabilistic; it’s a matter of the tipping point for making a human decision.

    “But if we have been only keeping score for a hundred years or so, then historical measurements become limited, in my opinion.”

    This isn’t my field, but I know scientists have devised methods for estimating temperatures going back thousands of years based on things like the amount of oxygen in the ice caps. Put it this way, Erdman: what level of confidence from the scientists would you regard as adequate? Every other Western country endorses the Kyoto protocols, as do practically every other country in the world. The vast proportion of environmental scientists, including the vast majority of US environmental scientists, contend that the models predicting global warming are accurate to a very high degree of probability. And yet the US is one of the only countries not to sign, and the US also happens to be the biggest user of fossil fuels on the planet. Don’t you become suspicious that US political and economic interests are using doubt about science as a justification to do what they want to do anyway?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 December 2007 @ 11:00 am

  38. There are a lot of emotive issues with climate “science” because the colonial-industrialised block sits in one place while everyone else is quite a ways back. I’m not surprised that Bush & Co are quite horrified that their team of negotiators actually negotiated and committed to signing up to a watered down, no figures, commitment ‘in principle’ to ‘drastically’ reduce the output of greenhouse gases.

    The issue of course is per capita gas emission and that hurts the industrialised nations. While China now produces a total amount of gas that is equivalent to what the US produces (or close to it) when corrected for population, the US puts out 5 times as much (per person).

    Erdmanian, there really are no serious doubts at all about the reality of GW. It’s rate of increase, potential consequences, and the amount of human contribution, are the areas of discussion. Don’t you think that precaution at least would be wise?

    Like

    Comment by ponnvandu — 17 December 2007 @ 12:03 pm

  39. K:
    Who’s making this switcheroo?

    You are. As I said earlier, on this blog and in most of your conversations, you assume that global warming is a crisis. At least, that’s the general sense I have gotten. Am I wrong about this?

    I just want you to be honest about where you are coming from. For example, what if we all find out in 50 years that the books were cooked, that there was no global warming (or that it was overblown and overpoliticized), and that there was absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Then how would you feel about all of the things you have said regarding global warming?

    My guess is that you would do like any of us would: You would justify your position based on the fact that you made the best possible decision with the best data that you had. In other words, you would say that given the probability you acted accordingly.

    But my point here is that in actual conversation you assume global warming as fact–not as mere probability subject to error, human bias, or political rhetoric. That’s what I think is disingenuous. That is why I mentioned Nietzsche’s forgetfullness idea. In the course of rhetoric and conversation and political debate we necessarily forget that our position is based on probability and we switch into a rhetorical mode where we assume that our position is factual.

    But is there really such a thing called “fact”? Even that is philosophically dubious.

    K: “Fact” is something like “it’s currently 48 degrees Fahrenheit in Boulder” — it’s observation with some measurement error on a conventional scale, but it’s a piece of data that doesn’t require interpretation.

    Philosophical question: Can you have a fact without language? (Now I really am going to force you back into Modernity!)

    At the very least, you have to say that facts are meaningless without language. Even if brute facts exist somewhere in the world, we can only make sense of them by use of language.

    Next question: With language are we not back to bias and interpretation?

    If we are, then we must honestly say that there is not such thing as a brute fact that is not subject to bias and interpretation.

    Ergo, why do you blame people like me for looking at all the highly charged political rhetoric that surrounds the global warming debate and remaining agnostic?

    K: Don’t you become suspicious that US political and economic interests are using doubt about science as a justification to do what they want to do anyway?

    Of course. I would assume that they are. I’m suspicious of US political and economic interests. But I am also suspicious about the politics going on in other countries that might have interests associated with various treaties.

    As I am seeing things, the difference between you and I appears to be that I am suspicious of all sides and you are suspicious only of the right. Is that fair?

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 17 December 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  40. P:
    Erdmanian, there really are no serious doubts at all about the reality of GW. It’s rate of increase, potential consequences, and the amount of human contribution, are the areas of discussion. Don’t you think that precaution at least would be wise?

    Yes. That’s my understanding as well.

    I don’t know if it would be wise or not. It’s pretty cold outside here in Indiana. I might prefer to have a 10 degree boost in temps right now!

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 17 December 2007 @ 2:09 pm

  41. “you assume that global warming is a crisis. At least, that’s the general sense I have gotten. Am I wrong about this?”

    Scientific consensus indicates that global warming will continue to escalate as a result of human use of fossil fuels. As I just said in my prior comment, these are probabilistic estimates about an unknown future, not facts. But on a probabilistic basis I’d say that the odds are pretty darned high that global warming will likely have catastrophic impact on some parts of the world and on a large subset of the world’s population. I decidedly do not assert that it’s a fact that significant global warming will definitely occur. But if I had to decide, yes or no, right now, I’d vote yes. So then the probabilistic basis for my decision gets occluded by the binary nature of the decision itself. Nevertheless, I maintain a probabilistic mental process going on in the background, amenable to change based on new evidence. Once I throw my decision in one direction I’m probably biased in favor of that direction, meaning that I’d need more evidence than perhaps I otherwise would if I had voted the other way. That’s cognitive bias rather than scientific method, something to acknowledge rather than something to be proud of.

    “With language are we not back to bias and interpretation?”

    The non-factual aspect of the statement “it’s presently 48 degrees outside” may be of philosophical interest but it is of no practical concern for the decisions we’re talking about. Forget “brute fact;” this is “pragmatic fact” — something we’ll agree to call a fact for the sake of getting on with more important matters.

    I think it’s reasonable to be suspicious of all political decisions. What’s your arbiter? For something like global warming and its likely impact on human lives, isn’t science the best option currently available despite its imperfections and uncertainties?

    “As I am seeing things, the difference between you and I appears to be that I am suspicious of all sides and you are suspicious only of the right. Is that fair?”

    What, in anything I’ve said so far, would cause you to infer that, Jonathan? Do you really believe that?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 December 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  42. “Ergo, why do you blame people like me for looking at all the highly charged political rhetoric that surrounds the global warming debate and remaining agnostic?”

    The fact that there is a heated debate (He he!) doesn’t really give you an excuse not to decide, nor to refuse to evaluate, nor to disagree with both positions, or whatever. Does one choose to remain agnostic simply because there is a lot to the discussion?

    “I don’t know if it would be wise or not. It’s pretty cold outside here in Indiana. I might prefer to have a 10 degree boost in temps right now!”

    Well I guess being somewhere safely distant from the rising oceans gives the idea of warm winters a rosy glow! Just imagine though that the West Nile virus has already reached your environs and will soon be followed by lovely little warm and fuzzy bugs like malaria, viral encephalitis, and dengue… The mosquito who carries them round the tropics would also enjoy a 10 degree rise in winter temps!

    We in the poor tropics would also benefit, for if such nasties came home to roost in the US and Europe, it wouldn’t take very long to find effective immunizations and better medicines to treat them with. Right now we are losing around 2 million kids a year to malaria alone!

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 18 December 2007 @ 7:01 am

  43. K:
    Once I throw my decision in one direction I’m probably biased in favor of that direction, meaning that I’d need more evidence than perhaps I otherwise would if I had voted the other way. That’s cognitive bias rather than scientific method, something to acknowledge rather than something to be proud of.

    Yea, that’s kind of the way things work when discussions turn political. By “political” I don’t necessarily mean the specific politics of winning elections, but the general rhetoric that we engage in when we urge each other to act in a certain way, i.e., you must not drive a certain car and/or you must use a certain type of light bulb.

    I will, of course, take all suggestions seriously once the movie stars and Al Gore stop preaching at me atop their multiple energy-wasting mansions. Once Gore consumes less energy per year than myself, then I will consider cutting back! But that ain’t gonna’ in this lifetime.

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 20 December 2007 @ 8:48 am

  44. K:
    The non-factual aspect of the statement “it’s presently 48 degrees outside” may be of philosophical interest but it is of no practical concern for the decisions we’re talking about. Forget “brute fact;” this is “pragmatic fact” — something we’ll agree to call a fact for the sake of getting on with more important matters.

    I don’t think that really addresses my philosophical concern, which was to argue that language is riddled with interpretation and bias. Regardless of whether we think through the language we use or if we just bypass the discussion for sake of “getting on with more important matters,” it seems rather clear that even so-called “factual language” is still language, which means that it developed through usage over time and is subject to the sort of Derridean scrutiny that reads the unwritten and examines the margins.

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 20 December 2007 @ 8:51 am

  45. “Yea, that’s kind of the way things work when discussions turn political.”

    I don’t think it’s just political — it happens when you decide anything, wouldn’t you say? Once you resolve ambiguity in favor of any uncertain choice, that becomes your position. Now you need more evidence or persuasion to budge off of your position than would have been the case if you hadn’t chosen. Trying to persuade others is another matter, but I’d say that if you can persuade someone else of your position it reinforces your own belief as well.

    “Once Gore consumes less energy per year than myself, then I will consider cutting back! But that ain’t gonna’ in this lifetime.”

    Would you’d agree with the person who says, “Once those pastors stop ripping off old ladies and whoring maybe I’ll take their preaching seriously”?

    “I don’t think that really addresses my philosophical concern”

    Language isn’t just language, signifiers floating free of signifieds. Language points to the world in a way that lets us both talk about the same thing. When I say “it’s 48 degrees F outside,” you can understand what I’m saying linguistically AND you can understand what I’m saying about the world. This is back to self-world-other triangulation in Davidson. Language is a tool, and that statement has philosophical meaning. “Riddled with interpretation” — it sounds like you think interpretation is a bad thing. If we can both agree on how to interpret “48 degreees F” and how that statement points to phenomena, then we have a useful tool for communicating with each other about the world.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 December 2007 @ 11:10 am

  46. WASHINGTON—In an unexpected reversal that environmentalists and scientists worldwide are calling groundbreaking, President George W. Bush, for the first time in his political career, openly admitted to the existence of carbon dioxide following the release of the new U.N. Global Environment Outlook this October. “As a leading industrialized nation, we can no longer afford to ignore the growing consensus of so many experts whose job it is to study our atmosphere,” Bush told a stunned White House press corps. “Carbon dioxide is real.”

    Many of those whom Bush has long considered to be his most loyal followers, however, have expressed disappointment with the development. “There is nothing about any ‘carbon dioxide’ in the Bible,” said Rev. Luke Hatfield of Christchurch Ministries in Topeka, KS. “What’s next? Claims that so-called ‘fossil’ fuels come from mythical creatures like dinosaurs? This has been a sad step backward for our nation.” A White House spokesman was careful to categorize the announcement as “cautious,” and reiterated that the president is still not ready to take any position on the existence of polar ice caps, ozone, or a controversial idea held by many scientists and often referred to as “weather.”

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 December 2007 @ 2:35 pm


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