Wednesday, February 04, 2009

be careful who you give the keys to your blog

popular blog boingboing has had a lot of guest bloggers lately. there's nothing wrong with that: if you pick the right people it can spice up your blog and take it in new, exciting directions. (note: this is my personal blog and mine alone. no guest bloggers here.) but you don't want to just let anyone be your guest blogger, because if you pick poorly, it could damage your blog's reputation. that's a lesson the boingboingers seem to be learning.

it turns out their current guest blogger, charles platt, is a global warming denier. overnight, charles wrote four posts in a row of climate change "skepticism". this caused an ashamed cory doctorow to follow up with his own four posts full of actual scientific information about climate change.

the result is that if, like me, you just woke up and checked your feed reader (or boingboing itself), you were overloaded with posts about global warming and climate change. and because of the descending chronological nature of blogging, my initial reaction was "why in the hell is cory going on about climate change today?"... that is, until i scrolled down far enough to start seeing charles's posts.

maybe next time the boingboingers will be more selective.


varangianguard said...

And here I had been on a roll of agreement with you lately.

Regarding climate change, as I watch the thermometer hover around the -3ºF mark, I just have to mention two items concerning "global warming".

One, is concerning the science of climatology. Geologically speaking, we seem to have barely brushed the surface with the data we have been able to acquire. In effect, we are taking a micro-slice of time and expanding the findings to explain away the whole shebang. Now, what happens when one of those "bits" of data happens to have been skewed? Boom. Magnification of error to the nth degree.
We really don't know much of anything about macro-climatology. Take that ignorance and hand it to some politicians and WHAM! Macro-ignorance with a built-in audience. Cool (or warm, I suppose).

Two, what hubris that we think that we matter so much on the global scale. The problem is this. We could cease all activities that supposedly are causing climate change, then next week a couple of volcanos erupt and what? Global cooling on a scale that dwarfs anything that we puny humans could have accomplished on our own (in the other direction). And, there are other variables outside of our control that could radically affect climate as well. Frankly, I'm more interested in getting the Mayor to plow city streets and develop sustainable urban mass transit than I'm going to worry about whether or not I'm warming the earth by staying cozy in the winter.

The thing is, either side could be right. We don't know. You want to support those who think we are cooking ourselves, OK. But, when a soapbox and preachiness is involved, then brother let me off that bus.

virago said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
virago said...

from what i've heard, "global warming" is really a misnomer. it's global climate change that we should be worried about... and from he crazy weather, increased hurricane strength, etc. we've been seeing lately, there seems to be some merit to it. it's true that nature can dwarf any damage humans can do, but if we're making our climate less hospitable and we can still do something to ameliorate it, i definitely think we need to look into it, asap.

stAllio! said...

Regarding climate change

and how much time have you spent studying climate change?

what you're basically saying is that because you don't understand the subject, then the scientific community (the vast, vast majority of which agrees that climate change is at least in part caused by humans) must be as ignorant as you are.

and what does preachiness have to do with anything?

varangianguard said...

Perhaps virago. It certainly doesn't hurt to keep your point in mind.

As usual stAllio!, you are set off by just about whatever I write.

I actually spent a couple of years in close academic proximity to a group of climatologists. Since then, I have kept somewhat abreast of the subject. So, the subject isn't some ethereal quantity to me, and I am able to think critically about the "research" floating around out there.

Yes, I don't understand everything about climate change, but then neither do the scientists either. Otherwise, there wouldn't be differing opinions, theories, and conclusions.
You're wrong that there is a "vast, vast" majority out there, and in that you have to resort to some kind of subjective nonsensical phrase to quantify it, just confirms it to me.

I think that perhaps that defines our differences most conclusively. I know enough to recognize that I don't know everything. You don't. You have opinions, I have opinions. They don't always mesh. I don't think you're an incompetent, lazy thinker for all that. Please accord me the same courtesy.

And the preachiness comment was about politicians, not you (if that is what you're upset about). Having a politician climb up on their soapbox and declaim that they now know an Almighty Truth, and all must bow before their cleverness, is just beyond my bounds of taste.

stAllio! said...

again, what do politicians and preachiness have to do with the subject at hand?

i gladly admit i'm no expert in climate change. that's why i defer to the experts. and the consensus among the experts—even if they don't agree on all the details—is that human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change.

if only you would give me the benefit of the doubt that you give to the global warming deniers...

varangianguard said...

The subject "at hand" being guest bloggers? Well, nothing I suppose.

When it comes to climatology though, when an expert is attempting to explain global processes against the backdrop of a few billion years, I find it difficult not to be a little skeptical about important things like theories, assumptions, data, sampling processes, statistical rigor, and conclusionary preponderance.
If I allow that the earth stabilized into something like the semblance we know today only two billion years ago (instead of 4+ billion), and if we could somehow quantify data for say 100, 000 years, then the best/largest sample size we would have would be about 0.00005 of the "universe" of our world's climate.

Normally, most researchers are required to attempt to find data that would be able to deliver about 0.1 of the "universe" for a random sample.

Can you see the mathematical difference just in potential sample sizes, not to mention other potential problems dealing with the quality of the climate data that might be found?

Any statistical processes that might be performed on such data would frankly be hardly worth more than the paper it printed on. Almost might as well just sit down over a few beers and talk it out.

The main difference here is that you are simply taking somebody's word on it, seemingly because they are claiming to be experts. Expertness based on what? The opinions of other experts just like themselves. Academia is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assisting lots of graduate students too often is just so that there are more people around later who are there to bolster your own reputation.
I wonder if most of them would even have tried tackling something like this, had not there been the scent of funding floating about. Too much to lose otherwise.

An aside, but I find most people who research micro-climatology to do good work. Why? Well, they have more closely defined a limited area of study (both in space and time), and acquiring a set of data within a more limited framework seems to yield more rigorous results (academically speaking).

All that bluster above, and who knows - the experts you prefer might be right. But then, people have a hard time explaining what the weather will be like at the end of the week. So I think I'll just remain a little skeptical for a little longer.

stAllio! said...

The subject "at hand" being guest bloggers?

the subject at hand is the science of climate change. your response was "i don't like preachy politicians." this suggests that your perspective on the issue is off. (besides, if they're correct and the planet is in danger then their preachiness is justified.)

The main difference here is that you are simply taking somebody's word on it, seemingly because they are claiming to be experts.

not just "somebody" but many thousands of somebodies, with reams of evidence. and you're disregarding their opinion simply because... why? because it's politically inconvenient? because al gore is preachy?

the argument you're making is the same argument that creationists make: there are gaps in the theory of evolution, therefore i don't believe in it. the same argument could be made for any field of scientific knowledge. scientists don't know exactly how gravity works, either, but i believe in gravity and i suspect you do too.

An aside, but I find most people who research micro-climatology to do good work.

oh, so you're not completely anti-intellectual: you just pick and choose which fields of science you trust. good to know.

varangianguard said...

"...(T)he planet is in danger..."? That is just a wee bit melodramatic for me. And perhaps a bit overblown. Our perspectives differ.

"Thousands of somebodies..."? If I give you that there are thousands of climatologists presently working in the world, still they all wouldn't be macro-climatologists.

As to "...reams of evidence...", I'll give you an anecdote of my own. I've been corresponding with a person who swears that the "preponderance of historical evidence" is that adherents of Trotsky were just about ready to lower the hammer (or perhaps it was the sickle) on Stalin and return the Soviet Union to the "true path of Marxist-Leninism" (as defined by Trotsky), right before mass arrests began the Great Purges. Let me assure you that his theory is just so much Trotskyist-revisionist delusionalism. But, these revisionists have published reams of "evidence" to the contrary. Theirs is a failure of interpretation. They wish so hard that their theory were true, that the only "evidence" they see is corroboratory in nature. Everything contradictory is conveniently ignored. This is how I view most of the alarmists. They wish so hard to be "right", that anything that might contradict them is ignored or dismissed, instead of having a dialogue to address it.

Your anecdotal comparison is a fallacious argument. I remain skeptical of "global warming" because I am not yet convinced that it isn't simply bad science masquerading as rigorous science.

I am shocked and amazed that you would call me anti-intellectual. I don't simply pick and choose whatever science I like or don't, but I am quite capably trained to be able to think for myself and to be able to critically examine different kinds of academic work, if I so apply myself. That you would choose to try to delegitimize me simply because I don't subscribe to the same conclusions you do is very disappointing.

If any item might be a guide here, I would suggest this one. If "global warming" was so irrefutable as a concept, then why the ongoing subtle movement to change the denotation to the more prosaic phrase "climate change"? If you sit down and have a critical look at both sides, I think that you might actually see that the tide is turning against the calamity crowd.

If that doesn't sway you, then let's just agree to disagree, because you won't be changing my opinion either. ;)

stAllio! said...

if you don't want people thinking you're anti-intellectual then you need to stop saying shit like this:

Expertness based on what? The opinions of other experts just like themselves. Academia is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assisting lots of graduate students too often is just so that there are more people around later who are there to bolster your own reputation.

varangianguard said...

You're being dimissive again. And, have you ever attended graduate school for any length of time? If you haven't, you are simply speaking from abject ignorance. If you have, then perhaps instead of being outright dismissive of a differing opinion, you would care to have a dialogue about it?

stAllio! said...

dude, that passage i quoted is textbook anti-intellectualism. if i'm being dismissive, it's only because you are—you're being dismissive of a broad majority of experts in favor of a small minority that you agree with.

varangianguard said...

You're exhibiting textbook O.D.D. behavior. Does that mean you have "oppositionally defiant disorder"?
No, not necessarily, but there might be plenty of psychaiatrists that would diagnose you that way just by reading your posts in this thread.

I'm not being dismissive. I'm withholding my own approval based upon my own critique of the current body of work promoted by climate alarmists. It isn't the same thing. And that seems to drive you right up the wall. Why, I cannot imagine as I have tried to keep this on a rational level.

But, most importantly, besides me, who in academia cares what I think? Whether climate alarmists are right or wrong doesn't hinge upon my approval, or lack thereof. If you thought that I was so wrong, you should have just said so. No need to elaborate all kinds of delusional reasons as to why I'm wrong. It makes you sound more like your blog nemesis.

Finally, I don't think you quite mean to call me anti-intellectualist. Wikipedia (because I'm in a bit of a hurry) seems to indicate something else for that term.

stAllio! said...

"climate alarmists"? i'm being "delusional"?

thanks for keeping things so rational.

fine, if you want me to spell it out: insinuating that the many, many thousands of researchers who disagree with you are caught in a policially correct feedback loop, rather than having formed their own opinions based on their research, is dismissive. and yes, anti-intellectual. here's the relevant passage from wikipedia:

Political bias

One type of criticism is based upon the perception that university professors and other academics have increasingly inculcated their own political ideologies into pedagogical interactions and professional research at the cost of the quality, objectivity, and appropriateness of each. In the United States this claim is more often made by those individuals on the conservative side of the political spectrum against political liberals, as understood in a contemporary sense of the term as well as radicals and leftists. Whether this focus on the proverbial "ivory tower left" is deserved is the subject of much intense debate both within the Academy and various political spheres.

stAllio! said...

another way you're being dismissive is with all these comments about my emotional state, as if i'm only arguing with you because i'm upset, and not because i disagree with your opinion.