Weekend Musing: Not all opinions are equal

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Cross-posted from The Conversation:

Why we need to listen to the real experts in science

by Michael Clarke, Professor of Zoology at La Trobe University and Susan Lawler, Head of Department, Department of Environmental Management & Ecology at La Trobe University

If we want to use scientific thinking to solve problems, we need people to appreciate evidence and heed expert advice.

But the Australian suspicion of authority extends to experts, and this public cynicism can be manipulated to shift the tone and direction of debates. We have seen this happen in arguments about climate change.

This goes beyond the tall poppy syndrome. Disregard for experts who have spent years studying critical issues is a dangerous default position. The ability of our society to make decisions in the public interest is handicapped when evidence and thoughtfully presented arguments are ignored.

So why is science not used more effectively to address critical questions? We think there are several contributing factors including the rise of Google experts and the limited skills set of scientists themselves. We think we need non-scientists to help us communicate with and serve the public better.

At a public meeting recently, when a well-informed and feisty elderly participant asked a question that referred to some research, a senior public servant replied: “Oh, everyone has a scientific study to justify their position, there is no end to the studies you could cite, I am sure, to support your point of view.”

This is a cynical statement, where there are no absolute truths and everyone’s opinion must be treated as equally valid. In this intellectual framework, the findings of science can be easily dismissed as one of many conflicting views of reality.

Such a viewpoint is dangerous from our point of view.

When scientists disagree with one another, as they must to ensure progress in their field, it is easy to argue that it is not possible to distinguish between conflicting hypotheses. But scientists always agree that critical thinking done well eventually leads to a better understanding and superior solutions. All opinions are not equal.

If you are flying in an airplane at 30,000 feet, you will not be content with just any scientific study about whether the wing will stay on the plane. Most people will want to put their trust in the calculations of an expert aeronautical engineer who understands the physics of stresses on the wing.

So why do we not want to trust experts in bushfire management, or climate change? Because most people are happier with experts whose conclusions fit their own ideas.

This encourages people to express their opinions, and the internet allows those opinions to get a wide viewing. This makes for interesting times, but not always effective solutions.

Google experts

The internet is filled with information and ideas. Everyone can quickly find “answers”, and this means that everyone is an “expert”.

But using Google to find the answer to Trivial Pursuit questions is not the same as researching a complex question. Experts do have skills and one of those is the ability to use high quality sources, up to date theoretical frameworks, and critical thinking based on their experience in a particular field. This is why an expert’s answers are going to be more accurate and more nuanced than a novice.

For example, people who use Dr Google to diagnose their symptoms before visiting an actual doctor, sometimes ask to be tested for diseases they do not have, or waste time seeking a second opinion because they are convinced that their “research” has led them to a correct diagnosis. If it were really that easy, would doctors have to spend all those years in medical school?

There is another problem called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that “people who lack the knowledge or wisdom to perform well are often unaware of this fact”.

In other words, people who think all answers can be found on Google are likely to be unaware of the effort involved in solving complex problems, or why years of specialist training might help.

This is almost more dangerous than complete ignorance, because unlike Donald Rumsfeld, they don’t even know what they don’t know.

Easy access to huge volumes of confusing information sits very comfortably in a post-modern world. Unfortunately, the outcome is that most people are reluctant to do the intellectual hard work of sifting through competing hypotheses. So how are we to engage in robust scientific debates in such a public arena?

Science is not enough

It has been said many times that scientists need to communicate their research more broadly. The challenges are well known – peer reviewed scientific publications are necessary for our careers and time spent engaging with the public is time away from the field, our computers and laboratory benches.

Nevertheless, if we hope to influence government policy we cannot assume that the implications of our research will be understood by those who most need to know what we are doing.

Reaching out to busy bureaucrats and politicians is not something that comes naturally to scientists. To turn science into policy we need a diverse team of people with different but complementary skills who share a commitment to the task.

Skills that are not commonly found in scientists may be found in political scientists, lawyers, sociologists, public relations companies, the arts community and the media.

Forming relationships with people who can translate our findings into something that cannot be ignored may be critical to success.

Consider what we are up against, lobby groups with deep pockets have come up with brilliant assaults on the thoughtful management of our environment.

“Cutting Green Tape” or “No fuels, no fire” – these clever bits of spin threaten decades of rigorous research and policy development. This is not a failure of science, but a triumph of imagination. We have been dramatically out-manoeuvred, shown to be amateurs, in the world of presenting competing ideas.

At a recent fire forum we learned that current policy is: “Based on science, but driven by values.” This means that despite the best evidence, the values of our current society will decide when to act. This introduces another definition of truth seeking, based on who made the best argument in a political or legal process.

Science is meant to be done dispassionately and objectively, so scientists are not well equipped to participate in debates about values. This is the realm of ethicists, philosophers, artists and theologians.

But if we are passionate about applying the lessons learned from our research, we will need marketers, lobbyists, communication experts, accountants and economists. A multi-disciplinary team is required to convince society to change.

Perhaps the people with these complementary skills will be able to help break down the anti-intellectualism we face, for the benefit of all.


This is based on an address delivered by Professor Michael Clarke at the 2nd Biodiversity Forum held at the Royal Society of Victoria, Melbourne in 2014.

Comments

  1. migtronixMEMBER

    Wow so Dr Google is worthless? And how many people have had long standing illness alleviated because they traced symptoms they long had known and asked for a specific test?

    The arrogance in the piece is insane considering he wants non scientists to help him. Good luck with that

    • It pains to me to say it, but I tend to agree with you Mig.

      The comfortable arrogance displayed here is extraordinary, so convinced of the their superior knowledge, not daring to venture prospect for error, they demand blind adherence to their prognostications.

      Meh.

      “…the internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter. If you don’t know how to use it, or don’t have the background to ask the right questions, you’ll end up with a head full of nonsense. But if you do know how to use it, it’s an endless wealth of information. Just as globalization and de-unionization have been major drivers of the growth of income inequality over the past few decades, the internet is now a major driver of the growth of cognitive inequality. Caveat emptor.”

      More here
      http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/12/quote-day-hooray-nerdy-details

      And which experts on a topical issue like climate change would they recommend subscribing to? The following peak into the uncertainties existing within this so called settled sphere is illuminating

      http://euanmearns.com/the-nature-of-the-scientific-consensus-on-climate-change/

      • …the internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter. If you don’t know how to use it, or don’t have the background to ask the right questions, you’ll end up with a head full of nonsense….

        I think that is the point that the authors are trying to make …

      • migtronixMEMBER

        The whole thing is stupid 3d if opinions aren’t of equal weight what’s with all consensus nonsense? How many opinions have to be equal before they’re good enough to be more equal than others? Seriously Animal Farm much?

      • It would be nice if you could stop pretending to be objective 3D. I’m sure most people can google “scientific consensus on global warming” for themselves and find much better info than the cherry picked rubbish you post.

      • Case in point, 3d’s opinion on anything related to climate change is near worthless given his non-scientific background and well-established connections to the resources sector.

        Mig, you should be very concerned when you find 3d agreeing with your position.

      • 3d….New Year, Same Trash….

        There are differences of opinion and then there is fraud, of which you remain a predictable exponent.

        Your “objections” are not science. They are propaganda…deceit, lies, cheating…they are pollution of the mind…corruption, abuse, contempt, treachery…they are prostitution.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        @Lorax I wasn’t talking about science of climate change, just the dismissive nature of the author to “non-experts”. So if I have a engineering degree or two that does that mean all that training is useless to everything except those to disciplines? Idiocy, the whole point of tertiary ed is to develop thinking not just narrow exposure to a set of equations FFS.

      • @Lorax I wasn’t talking about science of climate change, just the dismissive nature of the author to “non-experts”.

        The author is not “dismissive” of non-experts.

      • HNY Lorax and Brief. 2015 and countdown on to two decade hiatus 😉 now don’t grumble, it’s to be welcomed, surely!

        Thanks GD. You know me well.

      • 3d: piss off.

        Mig: not dismissive of non-expert opinions, but expert opinions are certainly more valuable. I would value your opinion on engineering matters more than a non-engineer.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        I would value your opinion on engineering matters more than a non-engineer.

        Fine and dandy but how do you distinguish between two expert opinions then? Do you not follow the evidence through in your own head?!

        I just got back from drinks with a chemistry Phd who works in magnetic polymer inorganic chemistry and at first she couldn’t tell me anything about her research because, well I guess because she figured I didn’t know or it sounded to nerdy, but I just kept asking questiions about the crystaline structures she was after, what properties she was testing for, wether the magnetic switching mechanism was irradiated light or heat, what the units of measure for magnetism she was interested in. etc etc.

        Eventually I had a really good idea about what she was doing and she was speaking freely in the technical jargon no longer afraid she was boring her date mindless. If you have enough inquisitiveness and an open mind you don’t have to be an expert to know stuff…

      • Everybody who comes on TV is an “expert”… especially the real estate types. Craig James is an economics expert on Sunrise, even though his employer is a glorified building society with a share brokerage attached to it. Same with Mad Adam and Comical Andy.

        So how do you distinguish between experts and non-experts?

      • Fine and dandy but how do you distinguish between two expert opinions then? Do you not follow the evidence through in your own head?!

        Unlike you I don’t believe I can acquire expert knowledge over a few pints at the pub. I don’t think I’m stupid, and I don’t think you’re a genius, but I do think I have a more realistic assessment of my understanding of climate science. i.e. not much.

        Sure, I have a superficial understanding, but I don’t have the depth of knowledge to determine whether the skeptics are arguments are valid. Nor do you, and nothing you say will convince me you are an expert.

        Ultimately its a judgment call about the plausibility of the “skeptics” being correct. My judgment is that scientific fraud/hoax is extraordinarily unlikely, and can see no real motivation for it. OTOH, there are massive vested interests in the fossil fuel industry which stand to benefit if climate science is discredited.

        That leaves groupthink, confirmation bias, or they’re just plain wrong. Certainly possible, but it seems far more likely there is something to it, and a high degree of risk that there will be major implications for society. There is also the risk that climate scientists have underestimated the impacts, which is rarely considered.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        That’s Okay Lorax, you could have just told me you always do everything your betters tell you.

        I don’t think I get expert knowledge over pints at the pub I think I get knowledge by asking question where ever I am, be it the pub, the train station, the cab, the airplane, or the web browser… Often people are happy to have a yarn at the pub is all

        The whole scientific revolution came about by people from different disciplines thinking about discoveries they were reading about and hypothesizing

        But no, best not question anything outside your “expertise” and act like anyone who wants to talk about yours and isn’t an expert is pretty much beneath you

      • Mig: The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

        As has been stated by others, I was like you once. I thought I knew everything, I thought I could outsmart everyone. You can’t, you won’t, and you never will. Its foolish to believe otherwise.

        Your older self will be embarrassed by you.

    • Wow so Dr Google is worthless?

      This is not what is being argued mig.

      I would imagine a great many MB readers would think you above all others should probably heed this piece.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        That’s exactly what they said tho isn’t it Alex? It’s basically the left version of the people wasting time in doctors offices.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        n other words, people who think all answers can be found on Google are likely to be unaware of the effort involved in solving complex problems, or why years of specialist training might help

        In other words people who say nonsense like that are unaware that no matter how long you trained or practiced for you can’t be across everything. But God forbid you try and help yourself and your doctor. Ooooohhhh libertarians!

      • I am an expert on one particular medical topic (not a doctor, but studied this disease in depth for many years).

        Googling this disease will guarantee that you get mostly incorrect information. I know, n=1, but if this example is typical, Googling medical information must be done cum grano salis.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        I know that mambarino but the right answer is there too, the guy is right about having a conversation but then is so arrogant no one would bother

      • ceteris paribus

        I agree that the sceptical position on anthropogenic global warming is nowadays really a denialist position on the evidence. Very, very low probability of being incorrect.

        I have been recently reading a Lot of the so-called “professional historical critical” literature on early Christianity. Boy, do many of the historians in that field take a position and defend it to the death!! Stakes are high and casuistry rife on all sides of the debate. Some religious scholars give politicians a run for their money in developing an argument.

      • ‘I agree that the sceptical position on anthropogenic global warming is nowadays really a denialist position on the evidence. Very, very low probability of being incorrect’

        Certainly looking that way.

      • LOL! Mig offers his opinion on everything 10,000 times a day. Are you suggesting some of Mig’s posts are less valuable than other people’s contributions.

    • He has a point though. People who have a very rudimentary understanding of science, or hell even language (functionally literate maybe but not much more), are going to find it difficult to distinguish between fact and nonsense.

      The ability to review literature, tease it a part and critique it on its merits is critical when finding factual information on the internet.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        He absolutely had a point Jason, and he even identified what I consider the best short term solution (China-Bob has the best long term solution – school where they teach real things) – namely, open dialogue, but the delivery and finger pointing I found nauseating and counter to his purpose.

      • Then why the derisive “Dr Google” tag instead of Google?

        Because that’s what people say colloquially when they’re using Google to look up medical problems ?

      • migtronixMEMBER

        That’s your conjecture

        I’ve only ever heard it used derisively, by, you know, doctors.

      • That’s your conjecture

        Wow.

        As opposed to “the derisive “Dr Google” tag instead of Google” ?

    • Paging dr google… All I know is my father was very sick in hospital. Doctors convinced he has liver disease due to whatever belief they held about his consumption of alcohol..

      Family has a history of gullbladder cancer, dr google arrives and the family starts banging on to doctors who all ready know of this history…

      Result? Biopsy which showed cancer which was blocking the section of fluids with in hours it was removed.

      My grandfather died from doctors stuffing around. His gull bladder unluckily spread cancer my fathers luckily did not.

      What my point? Don’t be a sheep no one is going to fight for your best interest. Information is power As for climate change 1 degree of warming over 100 years can kiss my ass.

      Anyway I read Abbott is an idiot but seeing as he is the professional ill just shut my eyes, block my ears and go live in a cave. How dare i inform myself to counter the professional? You see where I’m going?

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Bingo! And I’m not even blaming the doctors, they are used to what they are used to, I do blame the arrogance of people that they know better just because “years of training and practice”.

        Shamans have years of training and practice, try getting the douche who wrote this piece to accept the advise of a shaman!

      • Anyway the inconvenient truth is the hysterical human climate change “debate” started when a movie of a similar title was released to the ill informed public… Oh the irony.

        Those in the hysterical climate change category have a poor ability to understand scale of time. which ultimately blinds them from the correlation between hype caused by the movie and reality.

        Hype is not justified reasoning for reinventing the modern world with a whip.

        Observed studies say (not computer generated spoof) says we have many years to evaluate and re-evaluate. Possibly 100 years+ at current rates.

        There’s no need to whip society into submission beacuse a handful of smelly hippies have poor time scale skills due to their exuberant time altering drug use.

        There are intelligent people, there are educated people and then there are idiots. The general population fall in the latter who follow the educated. but only those of intelligence can see the matter more broadly (using the educated infomation) and yes I’m putting myself into the former. :p and yes I’m poking my tongue at you…

        Wait a minute isn’t macrobusiness a whole heap of “uneducated” idiots who use intelligence to see thru the bullshit “professionals” spit out daily? This article is a swipe at us the reader!

      • migtronixMEMBER

        beacuse a handful of smelly hippies have poor time scale skills due to their exuberant time altering drug use.

        I distinctly resemble that remark. I don’t have those issues and for clarification I’m still not talking about climate change.

        I will note with mirth however that mambarino advocates that we either don’t ever have children or instruct our children not have any, then move into tiny houses for the balance of the short future of our lineage — to avoid the fate of mass die offs leading to the survivors living in huts.

        Crazy, I know

      • Those in the hysterical climate change category have a poor ability to understand scale of time. which ultimately blinds them from the correlation between hype caused by the movie and reality.

        So where do the 90-whatever% of actual climate scientists who think climate change is a big fucking problem and have for decades thanks to their extensive research on the topic, fall ?

        Congratulations. You’re personifying the Dunning-Kruger effect.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        You’re personifying the Dunning-Kruger effect.

        Don’t you mean exhibiting? Oh it’s smithy. Never mind.

      • Your grandfather’s “GULL bladder”? You mean gallbladder?

        Dr Google strikes again!

        Funny stuff on a Sunday, cheers! 😀

      • Revert2Mean

        Your grandfather’s “GULL bladder”? You mean gallbladder?

        Dr Google strikes again!

        Funny stuff on a Sunday, cheers!

        Lol that was classic… 10 points for spotting that.

      • Those in the hysterical climate change category have a poor ability to understand scale of time. which ultimately blinds them from the correlation between hype caused by the movie and reality.
        As the clearly went over your head I’m not sure Google will ever save you. It is because we are causing changes in decades that normally occur over thousands of years that we should worry.

        This article is a swipe at us the reader!
        Nope. Clearly more than the movie went over your head. 😛

    • Funny how with each revolution its the intellectuals that are shot, most recently in Cambodia where a vegetarian , environmentalist school teacher by the name of Pol Pot tried to “fix” the environment.

    • agreed. The writer hasn’t/cannot move- mentally- beyond the adolescence phase of life, unable to be self critical and unable to think outside the dialectic.

  2. ceteris paribus

    I think this is article is good in that it promotes the strength of science and rationality.

    Nevertheless, many scientists and academics need to know themselves first. In so many fields, and more but not only in the social sciences, practitioners appear to take a stance based upon values, needs or deeper emotional affiliations, and will argue tendentiously for their conclusions to the bitter end. A lot more scepticism and less casuistry from some academics please.

    • A lot more scepticism and less casuistry from some academics please.

      Most scientists would argue the default position for science is objective scepticism (at least scepticism anyway). I do agree with you that some seemed to have abandoned this for the reasons you have noted and I would add, for $$$.

      PS: One could argue the obsession for research $$$ and a greater commercial focus (ie: grants etc) might worsen these sorts of problems.

  3. “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

    Isaac Asimov

  4. What outrageous bullshit. Always question all elites, particularly those who claim to have a monopoly on the truth.

    • Scientists are not an elite. They live modest lives on modest salaries.

      But the people who pay to have comments like yours posted to the internet are definitely an elite.

      Oh, the irony. 🙄

      “The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those that speak it.” -George Orwell.

      • even more ironic – I’m a scientist, bro. I’d solicit a donation but I don’t want to compromise myself ;(

      • “even more ironic – I’m a scientist, bro.”

        I call bullshit. You’re no more a scientist than I am an Olympic-level sprinter.

        I work with people who actually are scientists (PhDs in hard sciences, extensive post-doc work). They know how to use capitalisation and don’t call people ‘bro’.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        They know how to use capitalisation and don’t call people ‘bro’

        Well lookie Dudley knows every PhD in the world!! I know a few and they’ll say “bro’ your hit”…

  5. Well, kudos to whoever posted this timely piece, one of the best reposts here at MB.

    I could write a long essay in response, but having just re-read Guy McPherson’s summary of the state of play in climate, I’m feeling a bit demotivated and gut-shot. “Let go, or be dragged” says the good professor. Part of me is letting go. I’m not sure my words here will make any difference, anyway. Those who are not astroturfers sometimes listen, but what good is it when the government of the day is a gang of anti-science, pro-corporate puppets?

    Consider what we are up against, lobby groups with deep pockets have come up with brilliant assaults on the thoughtful management of our environment.

    I am quite sure several of the more prominent posters here are funded by those same deep pockets. I’ve seen them and their ilk at work all over the internet, furiously trying to massage public opinion to protect their bosses’ profits.

    • Mark my words, the US Republicans and Oz Liberals using the ‘anti-elitist’, and therefore ‘anti-science’ crowd as useful idiots (in the 80’s and 90’s), and then seeing them take over the parties from the inside (in the noughties and teens) will spell something between a severe decline and a death-knell for the right.

      As a political/economic school of thought, they could have kept going. However, now they are now making ideological statements about scientifically discoverable questions of fact, in disagreement with almost every scientist out there.

      Either the scientific method will win out over time (pretty much inevitable), or their ideology will win out by crushing the use of scientific method (extremely unlikely, and if it occurs, we’re facing a second dark age in which society technologically regresses).

      Sure, there *might* be a huge case of global scientific conspiracy and group-think that has sucked in almost every climate scientist and meteorologist in every developed nation on Earth…

      … but if I were a gambling man, I wouldn’t bet on it. The big commodities traders and re-insurance companies certainly aren’t.

      The sad thing is, there’s no fundamental reason that fiscal conservatives (who those on the right claim to be) can’t handle climate change. Thatcher accepted it. Cameron accepts it. My bet is that new technologies and increases in efficiency will usher in a carbon-neutral world with no pain at all. I would argue that those who believe in the power of human ingenuity and the power of markets would agree…

      … but no. The current right want to preserve vested interests, irrespective of the cost to anyone else, including those who develop new technologies, and the general public. They’re so conservative that they’re trying to undo the creative destruction process that drives capitalism for their mates and funders.

      The right is dying. I actually have sympathy for some right-wing thought, but while the right in Oz and the US carries on with a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face, as a movement they will suffer nothing but decline.

      • How are the ‘left’ going in the United States?

        Obama is a reviled lame duck.

        Seen an Asian leader running on a climate change platform yet?

        The vast majority of the world’s population couldn’t give a shit about your white person’s problems – and they are going to take your ‘jerbs’ while you bask in your self importance worrying about the weather in 10 decades time.

      • 88888 – your post amused me. I obviously hit a nerve.

        I would like to note that most Asian leaders don’t run on anything; with a minor number of exceptions, they’re dictators or leaders of single party states. The region is very corrupt. If you’re looking to South East Asia as an example of good governance on anything, then your dying ideology is creakier than I thought…

        … plus, this is a failed attempt by you at obfuscation. Recognising that AGW exists, and formulating a workable policy response are two different things; most of the OZ and US right haven’t even made it over the hurdle of recognising that it even exists. The Chinese, Singaporeans, etc… have at least jumped that hurdle.

        … and what’s this rot about white person’s problems and Asians ‘taking my jerb’? Total non-sequiturs. Really bizarre. Please post something coherent and relevant next time instead of some utterly weird rant about ‘white people’s problems’.

        As for Obama: current approval rating according to Gallup: 48% (44% in December). Your knuckle-dragging man-ape in the Lodge (according to NewsPoll in November): 33%. How do you like them apples?

        Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-01-03/obamas-approval-rating-higher-than-disapproval-for-first-time-since-2013 , http://www.gallup.com/poll/116479/barack-obama-presidential-job-approval.aspx , http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/02/coalition-trails-labor-in-polls-as-pms-approval-rating-hits-five-month-low

        For comparison, the average 24th quarter approval rating for an elected president is 47%. Here are the approval ratings for other presidents in the second December after re-election:

        George W. Bush: 37%
        Bill Clinton: 67%
        Ronald Reagan: 48%
        Lyndon Johnson: 44%
        Dwight Eisenhower: 57%
        Harry Truman: 33%

        So your assertion that Obama is a ‘reviled lame-duck’ is demonstrable rubbish. His current approval rating falls in historical middle-ground. Please post something that you actually have clue about next time.

        As for ‘the left’ in the US, there IS no ‘left’ in the US, for crying out loud. Obama is a centre-right pro-corporate militarist. If you think he’s a lefty, you’re so far off the scale that you would also have to lambast Thatcher and Reagan as lefties. As for the US Republicans, according to Gallup, 60% of them believe humans were created in their present form by God 10,000 years ago. (source: http://www.gallup.com/poll/108226/republicans-democrats-differ-creationism.aspx ) Basically, the US Republican party has gone insane, and as I said was taken over by the ‘useful idiots’ some time ago. The last time said idiots controlled the country was a disaster (2 wars, continuous deficits, and a GFC).

        The current crop of Oz and US true-believer wing-nuts are so obsessed with ideological purity that you’ll paint anyone who disagrees with you as a lefty. This is what is destroying your parties; look at the Liberal Party for example; the true believers hate the likes of Malcolm Fraser and Malcolm Turnbull because they’re not ideologically pure enough, and thus lefties in your eyes.

        Expect more defections like Martin Hamilton Smith in SA (an all round good fellow, and too good for what remains of the Liberal Party). There’s a very good reason Fraser quit the party.

        Your post shows that you’re simply out of intellectual ammunition and are grasping at straws. Desperate much?

        Ha ha!

      • Last I looked the Democratic Party in the USA just emphatically lost another election. Both houses now under GOP majority – Obama has no mandate but to reduce his golf handicap.

        The left is so much on the ascendency as a result of climate change embracement that in the US you say it doesn’t even exist. Huh?

        But hey at least you have China on your side!

        Been to Beijing recently?

        The Chinese have a real pollution problem – not an imagined one.

        CO2 is not of anybody’s concern when you can’t see the other side of the street for particulate matter.

        Human ingenuity will always lead to more efficiency. Making people poorer to subsidise uneconomic energy production is not ingenuity.

  6. One of the most interesting “tricks” used by the think tank obfuscation crowd is what you might call the “hypocritical pre-emptive strike” This is where you accuse your opponents of your own weaknesses, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, because it takes the wind out of their sails when they accuse you in reply.

    The classic case is where think tank operatives- highly paid by their corporate masters- accuse climate change researchers of vested interests and “doing it for the money”. John Oliver pointed out the idiocy of the argument when he referred to climate change researchers as “thousandaires”.

    Another common use is when the ignorant accuse the knowledgeable of “arrogance”. Usually as loudly, abusively and arrogantly as possible. It’s typical of the bullying anti-intellectual brigade to demand a far higher standard of behaviour than they display themselves.

    I see both these tricks used here quite frequently.

    • Couldn’t agree more, adjust.

      What bugs me is those that espouse rationality (which is admittedly a noble pursuit) but then in the same breath will engage in wild conspiracy theories.

      Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people suggesting (directly or indirectly) that there is an evil mega alliance between the greenies, governments, socialists and a bunch of weak minded scientists that are all seeking to bring down capitalism. Hell, I enjoy engaging in my own crazy conspiracy theories from time to time too. However I don’t taint the fine tradition of rationality by claiming i’m being rational. I may think there is a little truth to my rantings, but I have no evidence. I’m mostly just having bit of fun with people! I could be wrong, but I think these people are actually serious!

      Annnyway.. I better go check that there are no reds under the bed before I have a nap.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        What a bizarre non-sequitor.

        So pursuit of a thesis based on rational dissection of the evidence has never uncover a conspiracy? Ever hear of Robert and John F Kennedys’ prosecutions against the mob or FICA?

      • “So pursuit of a thesis based on rational dissection of the evidence has never uncover a conspiracy?”

        Yes, but there is no credible evidence of a multi-decade, world world scientific/socialist conspiracy to mislead the people. That was entire whole point of my rant! Without actual evidence you have nothing to rationally dissect.

        And it’s not like these scientists are not under incredible scrutiny all the time. I can only image the resources put into investigating them and their work. The right-wing think tanks, various crazies, fossil fuel industry etc have all had decades to uncover this conspiracy. Where are they really at?

      • migtronixMEMBER

        The right-wing think tanks, various crazies, fossil fuel industry etc have all had decades to uncover this conspiracy. Where are they really at?

        Really boning up on your argumentation skills I see. So now “crazies” are going to put scientist underscrutiny? With what? The HB pencils shoved up their nose?!?

        You can’t have it both ways, they are either under scrunity from fellow experts or they are not under scrutiny at all!

      • “You can’t have it both ways, they are either under scrunity from fellow experts or they are not under scrutiny at all!”

        But I was never talking about fellow experts debating the merit of the climate change science (which is a completely legitimate and necessary thing) I was talking about the “theory” that there has been an unthinkably large, multi decade, deliberate scientific conspiracy to intensionally misled the world.

        So yeah, my argument skills poor and I may not be as intelligent as you, I accept that, but you still haven’t explained how over three decades of conspiring to mislead the people no usable evidence has popped up to prosecute these scientists for fraud. So how many more decades must pass without evidence surfacing before it’s ok to dismiss this conspiracy theory as bat$#! crazy?

      • migtronixMEMBER

        First of all it has nothing to do with intelligence, you’re running a strawman about “multi decade conspiracy” and “rationality” and how anyone who doesn’t worship at alter of IPCC is a “crazy”, and apparently it’s the “crazies” doing all the scrutiny.

        Either put forward a real argument about why exactly conspiracy doesn’t ever exist or you can stop saying “Conspiracy” is anti-rational. I don’t care which I just want consistency. Especially when I’m being called a “crazy”!

        BTW how many more years does the hiatus have to run before the models are thrown in the bin?

      • “..how anyone who doesn’t worship at alter of IPCC is a “crazy”

        I don’t think I’ve been clear what I’m talking about. I have no issue with people questioning or not worshiping the IPCC. Every powerful institution must be quesitoned and held to account. But i’ll come back to this point.

        “Especially when I’m being called a “crazy”!”

        I wasn’t referring to you. I actually respect most of what you have to say and I wouldn’t personally attack you (or anyone on here) like that. I was actually thinking of certain high profile people in the media, but I’ll admit that comment was poor form regardless of who I was thinking of.

        “Either put forward a real argument about why exactly conspiracy doesn’t ever exist or you can stop saying “Conspiracy” is anti-rational”

        I need time to think about that. I see your point, but I’m not willing to concede the point just yet.

      • Nobody said “rational dissection of the evidence has never uncover a conspiracy”, “conspiracy doesn’t ever exist”, or anything else like your ridiculous assertions.

        Your whole screed is, as usual, extremist non-sequiturs wrapped in straw men, surrounded by ad hominem.

        And you accuse others of being unable to make a logical argument, while not even able to make it a single post into a discussion without relying on fallacious reasoning.

        Comedy gold.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        What bugs me is those that espouse rationality (which is admittedly a noble pursuit) but then in the same breath will engage in wild conspiracy theories.

        They’re all wild until proven, such is the nature. You however can’t logically deduce something that simple, of course.

      • “Either put forward a real argument about why exactly conspiracy doesn’t ever exist or you can stop saying “Conspiracy” is anti-rational”

        Ok, admittedly I can’t do that, but it seems to me not all conspiracy theories can hold equal weighting. Some merely require an open mind, while others require a much more liberal acceptance of what is and isn’t possible/probable.

        If a conspiracy theory is highly improbable then is it rational to continue to attribute it much (if any) credibilty?

      • Ok, admittedly I can’t do that, but it seems to me not all conspiracy theories can hold equal weighting. Some merely require an open mind, while others require a much more liberal acceptance of what is and isn’t possible/probable.

        Exactly.

        If a conspiracy theory is highly improbable then is it rational to continue to attribute it much (if any) credibilty?

        IMHO, the quality of the evidence available should be considered more important than the probability.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        If a conspiracy theory is highly improbable then is it rational to continue to attribute it much (if any) credibilty?

        No but it makes no difference if its a “conspiracy theory” or your mother telling you wives tales, if its highly improbable treat it as such.

        Some people regard it as highly improbable the humans can effect a system as massive as the Earths climate for any appreciable length of time, so even with “highly improbable” you have to be careful.

      • “IMHO, the quality of the evidence available should be considered more important than the probability.”

        “so even with “highly improbable” you have to be careful.”

        Both fair points.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Yes Alex I wasn’t claiming the pause is unaccounted for or disproves anything, in exactly the same way an absence of a proven conspiracy for 30 years doesn’t mean anything (not saying one exists just saying the absence of proof doesn’t mean it can’t, conspiracies have a tendency to remain hidden for a long time)

  7. Everyone knows more about the experts, but are quick to tell others how superior their own knowledge is.

    I’ve seen many people on this site call upon their own authority on a topic, yet some here are very critical of a piece which in essence says trust experts.

    You cannot have it both ways, either you respect the experience and expertise someone has, and expect it from others for your own expertise, or you reject it as elitist nonsense and forfeit your own authority.

    All opinion and analysis should be examined with an equally critical eye, but that examination should include expertise and experience.

    • Well put, Phil!

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with researching things on the internet, but when it comes to complex issues it can’t easily replace the experience or knowledge of people that have spent their life studying and working with these issues.

      Always be sceptical, look at various sources, but also know your own limitations and weaknesses. Otherwise you’ll end up posting chemtrails on your Facebook page claiming we’re being poisoned by the government!

  8. If you can’t appreciate the truth of this piece, I’m arrogantly going to declare you a fool.

  9. Professor of Zoology I am sure can tell me how rare a certain green tipped lizard frog is and how many we will decimate by building a mine.

    He cannot make my mind up or convince the rest of the community as to whether we give a shit when said mine will employ hundreds of people, provide tonnes of important minerals and pay millions in tax.

    Same with climate scientists.

    They all agree on one thing – but cannot tell us how to fix anything or make a case that the cost (even if they could accurately predict one) is worthwhile for the benefit.

    Worst of all they are happy to accept and push costly ‘efforts’ like Australia’s Carbon Tax ($7bn in tax – 1% decline in emissions – mainly offshored) to make them feel good at conferences – knowing full well the effect on the environment would be zero.

    They wonder why people aren’t listening anymore.

    Further, comparing Zoology and Climate Science to the physics involved in keeping a 777 in the air is bullshit. Wankery at its finest.

    • Further, comparing Zoology and Climate Science to the physics involved in keeping a 777 in the air is bullshit. Wankery at its finest.

      They physics of climate science makes the physics of flight look like primary school maths. That is why we keep building super computers.

      Speaking of the 777, it was first fully computer designed commercial aircraft….

      • Agreed, but unfortunately the Climate Science models don’t actually work. I tip my hat to the complexity of the modelling but I am equally skeptical to its worth in real life – until proven otherwise.

        Further, I would add that the number of people calling themselves Climate Scientists who actually do attempt the insanely complicated (some would say futile) modelling as opposed to referencing someone else’s efforts would be tiny.

      • “1) IPCC’s admission that global warming has occurred much slower than IPCC previously forecast and (2) IPCC is unable to explain the ongoing plateau in global temperatures. IPCC computer models have predicted twice as much warming as has occurred in the real world, and virtually none of the IPCC computer models can replicate or account for the recent lack of global warming. ”

        ““So far, no one has been able to provide a compelling answer to why climate change seems to be taking a break,” IPCC Lead Author Hans von Storch told der Spiegel in a June 2013 interview. Storch said the IPCC will have tone down its climate models unless warming quickly and rapidly accelerates ”

        ”According to most climate models, we should have seen temperatures rise by around 0.25 degrees Celsius (0.45 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 10 years. That hasn’t happened. In fact, the increase over the last 15 years was just 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) — a value very close to zero,”

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2013/09/26/as-its-global-warming-narrative-unravels-the-ipcc-is-in-damage-control-mode/

      • Agreed, but unfortunately the Climate Science models don’t actually work. I tip my hat to the complexity of the modelling but I am equally skeptical to its worth in real life – until proven otherwise.

        Like everything that is insanely complicated, it is about a point of view. These models will probably never be accurate enough. There are too many variables and not enough research into feedback mechanisms etc. Heck we don’t even know how things like under sea currents impact gross weather patterns or if/how solar and stellar radiation patterns might be impacting us …Yes the models are not accurate or precise enough and this is because we don’t know enough about how climate actually works.

  10. There’s a missing variable here, and it’s that it’s not just a battle of “knowledge vs ignorance”. The real battle- the more disturbing one- is the battle of “evidence vs obfuscation”. Faced with a battle they can’t win, the obfuscators aim to generate as much noise as possible. If they can persuade the uninformed and crowd out legitimate evidence then they win usually where it really counts- at the ballot box.

    One of the things that scientists get used to that the obfuscators don’t have to deal with is that, if you’re wrong, nature kicks you in the arse. People don’t believe in climate change because some prophet told them they’d go to hell if they didn’t, they believe in climate change because the evidence has forced them to make that conclusion.

    We talk of a “consensus” scientific opinion on climate change. In some ways the use of the word “consensus” is misleading because people tend to think of consensus as politician-style bullshit compromise. The reason there is a “consensus” is because the evidence provided by nature has persuaded everyone and no one who honestly engages in the debate- note use of the word honestly- can find a better option.

    • the battle of “evidence vs obfuscation”

      Perhaps that boils down to “science vs money” or “science vs vested interests”

      Here’s what 3d’s mates do to scientists:

      Professor Stephen Schneider, a climatologist based at Stanford University in California, says he has received “hundreds” of violently abusive emails since last November. The peak came in December during the Copenhagen climate change summit, he said, but the number has picked up again in recent days since he co-authored a scientific paper last month which showed that 97%-98% of climate scientists agree that mankind’s carbon emissions are causing global temperatures to increase.

      Schneider described his attackers as “cowards” and said he had observed an “immediate, noticeable rise” in emails whenever climate scientists were attacked by prominent right-wing US commentators, such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

      “[The senders] are not courageous people,” said Schneider. “Where are they getting their information from? They just listen to assertions made on blogs and rightwing talkshows. It’s pathetic.”

      Schneider said the FBI had taken an interest earlier this year when his name appeared on a “death list” on a neo-Nazi website alongside other climate scientists with apparent Jewish ancestry. But, to date, no action has been taken.

      “The effect on me has been tremendous,” said Schneider. “Some of these people are mentally imbalanced. They are invariably gun-toting rightwingers. What do I do? Learn to shoot a Magnum? Wear a bullet-proof jacket? I have now had extra alarms fitted at my home and my address is unlisted. I get scared that we’re now in a new Weimar republic where people are prepared to listen to what amounts to Hitlerian lies about climate scientists.”

      • Lol!

        “To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.”

        – Leading greenhouse advocate, Dr Stephen Schneider
        “Discover” magazine

        And therein lies the essential unresolved problem with climate ‘science’. A curious mixture of fact and increasingly where the facts don’t fit, fiction.

      • Fiction? Only with hindsight of failed modelling did it become fiction – I’m sure at the time the motives were pure.

        Hurricanes?

        Droughts? (now floods)

        50million climate refugees from sea rises by 2010 (UN, based on modelling I assume?)

        Fiction is probably a better word for the importance leaped on the ‘deal’ done between China and Obama recently.

        Fiction could also describe the importance of Australia spending $7bn in taxes and losing jobs to reduce carbon emissions by 1%.

        Felt good for a while but, didn’t it?

      • Hurricanes
        http://www.skepticalscience.com/hurricanes-global-warming.htm

        Droughts and floods
        http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Threats-to-Wildlife/Global-Warming/Global-Warming-is-Causing-Extreme-Weather.aspx

        Refugees (just take 2013 for example):
        IDMC’s latest Global Estimates report shows that 22 million people were displaced in 2013 by disasters brought on by natural hazard events. As in previous years, the worst affected region is Asia, where 19 million people, or 87.1 per cent of the global total, were displaced during the year. Although both wealthy and poorer countries are affected, developing countries bear the brunt, accounting for more than 85 per cent of displacement. In the Philippines, typhoon Haiyan alone displaced 4.1 million people, a million more than in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania combined. Viewed relative to population size, seasonal floods also caused significant displacement in sub-Saharan Africa, most notably in Niger, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan – countries with highly vulnerable populations who are also affected by conflict and drought.

        The climate deal between US and China, and Australia’s failed ETS have nothing to do with fiction.

      • From your own link on hurricanes:

        “And to cap it off, two recent peer-reviewed studies completely contradict each other. One paper predicts considerably more storms due to global warming. Another paper suggests the exact opposite – that there will be fewer storms in the future.”

        The same arguments between scientists are found all around the place regarding droughts and floods.

        Hence – this is not science – this is guessing

        Failed ETS?

        What about the $7bn carbon tax and 1% reduction in emissions.

        Any ‘benefits’ to the environment from that nonsense was pure fiction. Unless you sold solar panels I guess…

  11. Gosh you guys really do like to argue about anything and everything you all should get out more an enjoy life. Personally after all the Xmas and New Year celebrations I’m barely able to raise my head from the pillow and totally unready for such fervent arguments,
    Using today’s twitter vernacular I’ll close by adding my two pence worth through #snoarlax.

    • Heh… I spent the two weeks before NYE on a family holiday (SoCal/Palm Springs). It was fun, but herding 3 kids around is tiring! After that, settling in front a computer with a nice beer and some jazz and arguing with (or agreeing with, or occasionally taunting) people I’ve never met is a form of chillaxation :).

      Plus, I only drank about a litre of beer on NYE; I’m almost 40 and am getting soft, especially considering NYE is my birthday.

  12. I read this post twice hoping to find something interesting in it. Finally, I noticed this –

    “But if we are passionate about applying the lessons learned from our research, we will need marketers, lobbyists, communication experts, accountants and economists. A multi-disciplinary team is required to convince society to change.”

    First of all, when a middle-aged academic says they are “passionate about ….” – run. Being passionate about things is a bit of a fad at the moment (although mostly seen in fathers of teenage girls who discover they are “passionate” about STEM and gender issues). Middle age doesn’t make you passionate, it just makes you fat and sleepy.

    Next, I can only assume that it was dry humour associating the word “discipline” with the rogues gallery of “marketers, lobbyists, communication experts, accountants and economists”. I was hoping bankers got a look in there as part of team-evil, but sadly no.

    Anyway, with this last paragraph, it would seem that the author has conceded defeat on the primacy of rational thinking. Effectively what he is saying is that science has determined the truth (which is possible), however rendering the truth unto the masses will require fighting dirty using all the grubby machinery that got us into the mess in the first place! The future of our civilization will be determined by a cage match! Triple H v. The Rock! Select your champion and hoot and holler till they win.

    Since Galileo, science has been on an amazing trajectory and religion had to take a back seat. Science delivered what religion could not – it got us from a medieval society to a post industrial one. Along the way, the notion that we have embraced the principals of scientific method and rational thinking has become something of a cherished ideal. That is the tone of this posted article.

    A more accurate observation might be that over the last few centuries, religious thinking took a back seat, but it was only a temporary setback. Most people fall back to the same ways of thinking that prevailed in medieval times. Factions, beliefs, superstition, prejudice, received knowledge. Few people think for themselves – even some scientists have more in common with a medieval monk than a galileo. It is not surprising then that debates like the climate issue closely resemble the troubles of the middle ages – complete with zealots and apostates.

    Looking at this from a historical perspective, you may be tempted to come to the conclusion that science is dead. Back in the 20th century, God was pronounced dead, but like in the movies he was just pretending – then he came back to life when science was resting on its laurels and BAM! smackdown on science. So, God and Science are on the mat bloodied and beaten. However, 16th century or 21st century it is ever the same ringmaster. Can you guess his name?

    • Mr Money, DM. “A more accurate .>>>>>>>>>>Can you guess his name?”.. Very well said.WW

    • Dark matter, dont forget galikeo, copernicus, newton etc were devout christians. The so called conflict between religion and science has never really existed. The real conflict is between naturalism and science. How can an unguided biological process grasp truth?

      • migtronixMEMBER

        But has there been a conflict between religion and free thought?

        You have been using a horribly circular line of reasoning with your essence a priori rubbish, even if one were to concede your proposition there is nowhere written it is so, its just your projection that gives “essence” a grounding, its as metaphysical as anything else and just as much “my opinion counts too”

      • –> squirell

        God and I have an arrangement. He pretends he doesn’t exist and I pretend I don’t believe in him.

  13. The comments here are great! I’ve really been enjoying watching 3D1K demonstrate that he drank every drop of the Kool-Aid and then took a dip in the loon pond afterwards.

    He keeps bringing up Plimer and Monckton. Plimer and Monckton? Bwahahahahahahaha!

    3D, maaaaaate, no-one listens to those goons anymore. Perhaps after Abbott is turfed out (inevitable at this point), you and he will be the last 2 attending Monckton’s lectures.

    I just wish I could post GIFs so I could show the image of Monckton standing in front of a swastika with a Ross Garnaut quote next to it…

    (Chris Becker can help here… Chris?)

    … aww, to hell with it. Why am I warning 3D about this? He might tone-down his rhetoric for his paymasters.

    It’s OK 3D. Monckton is a great guy. Please keep mentioning him. It really, really adds to your credibility.

    Ha ha!

  14. GunnamattaMEMBER

    The eternal struggle is not between expert and non expert, or even intellectual (or those who would call themselves thus) or dullard (or those who would have the epithet applied to them)……..

    But about belief (or values or interests, and applying knowledge to the greater glory of those beliefs) and unbelief (and the exploration contained therein, scepticism, a rational and open approach to considering and incorporating) .

    From here I take you on this hot summer’s day to the words of the late Peter Porter – whom I personally would always have a nap bet on as the greatest poet this nation has ever coughed up.

    A Short Ballad Of Unbelief
    Peter Porter

    It’s not a good time for risk taking
    The baleful brain says to itself.
    You’re not well, you ought to propitiate
    The God who ordains failing health.

    Though he might respect greater defiance
    No whimpering crossing the bar,
    The Atheist’s comedy playing
    The invite marked ‘come as you are’.

    Have they found what they looked for, those faces
    Whose names are now washed off their stone?
    Do their mounds keep them warm out of Domesday,
    A permanent summer of bones?

    You might toil up precipitous stairways
    To visit high altars and tombs
    Find Maria d’Aracoeli is worth it,
    Love shrunk to a handful of rooms,

    But nothing can prove your existence
    Will keep you going after you’re dead.
    You may think it is owed you – for instance
    That Paradise looms in your head

    And millions are born to ensure
    Creation should lead on to you
    With all the juridical gestures
    Which set the elect as the few.

    But can art and aesthetics survive when
    The body is held at discount
    By old age, and hope of survival
    Is more of a cringe than a flout?

    Will you ever convince your intelligence
    To accept the intentional breath
    Of frescoes and candles and statues
    The paraphernalia of death?

    Unbelief has just enough cunning
    To be grateful when nailing the lie
    Of transcendence that still every steeple
    Points nowhere but into the sky

    I had the great privilege of meeting him but once before he passed and for maybe half an hour chewed over the thoughts of this poem with the issues raised in this posting – do we believe, and apply what we learn to the beliefs we have, or do we question and act on what we think we know?

    He was quite firmly of the view his homeland had an anti-intellectual streak and that belief would always win out. But we shared a laugh at the joy of the question run amok amidst nicely ordered beliefs, and a subversive solidarity in helping the question along wherever belief was in rent seeking mode.

    • Gunnamatta, the only thing we can be sure of is that if no transcendence exists then nothing can ever hold true, which is why I’ve come to the conclusion those steeples must point somewhere.

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        the only thing we can be sure of is that if no transcendence exists then nothing can ever hold true

        …..good luck getting that peer reviewed.

      • interesting response, gunna, given that the people who arranged for the steeples to be erected are indeed each others peers, and tend to squirrel’s way of thinking.

    • I read The Stranger by Camus and Nausea by Sartre at age 12, and that was the end of religion for me.

      Later on, Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano hinted at subtle depths in life beyond existentialism.

      Now I am a fan of Alan Watts. Have been for years. You can torrent a lot of his speeches.

      • But if existence precedes essence, is not everything subjective, including science and religion … and its also subjective whether existentialism has any merit? Another pointless philosophy in an atheist wasteland which people put to one side as soon as they have to start operating in the real world.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        The Plague was truly depressing. I think I must have first read at it 15 and it still haunts me. Same with Kafka’s Penal Colony *shudder*

    • Gunna, read your poem offering,Pussy cat stuff
      Here is one I would offer, as a musing for the future. WW.

      So I sit and write and ponder, while the house is deaf and dumb,
      Seeing visions “over yonder” of the war I know must come.
      In the corner – not a vision – but a sign for coming days
      Stand a box of ammunition and a rifle in green baize.
      And in this, the living present, let the word go through the land,
      Every tradesman, clerk and peasant should have these two things at hand.

      No – no ranting song is needed, and no meeting, flag or fuss –
      In the future, still unheeded, shall the spirit come to us!
      Without feathers, drum or riot on the day that is to be,
      We shall march down, very quiet, to our stations by the sea.
      While the bitter parties stifle every voice that warns of war,
      Every man should own a rifle and have cartridges in store!
      Henry Lawson.

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        WW, I am a great fan of Lawson and would point you in the direction of Middleton’s Rouseabout (1896) as indication he had cottoned on to the shortcomings of a local mindset…..

        MIDDLETON’S ROUSEABOUT by Henry Lawson (1867 – 1922)

        Tall and feckled and sandy,
        Face of a country lout;
        This was the picture of Andy,
        Middleton’s Rouseabout.

        Type of a coming nation,
        In the land of cattle and sheep,
        Worked on Middleton’s station,
        “Pound a week and his keep”.

        On Middleton’s wide dominions
        Plied the stockwhip an’ shears;
        Hadn’t any opinions,
        Hadn’t any “idears”.

        Swiftly the years went over,
        Liquor and drouth prevailed;
        Middleton went as a drover,
        After his station had failed.

        Type of a careless nation,
        Men who are soon played out,
        Middleton was – and his station
        Was bought by the Rouseabout.

        Flourishing beard and sandy,
        Tall and robust and stout;
        This is the picture of Andy,
        Middleton’s Rouseabout.

        Now on his own dominions
        Works with his overseers;
        Hasn’t any opinions,
        Hasn’t any “idears”.

        Though for mine Porter’s piece had its sights set higher (with obvious concessions for prose and metre inclinations)

  15. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Property investors are good looking and I hear that scientists don’t make good property investors… so what does that tell you huh?

    • Its a good point. What science lacks is sex appeal. Maybe hot weather presenters should be cross skilled to peddle the climate change message. They might not know what they speak of but many more sill watch and listen.

      • Tim Flannery bought seaside property.

        Above or below the sea level rise he expects within his lifetime ?

      • Thanks for that link.

        I think 3d should apologize here for spreading lies and misinformation. 3D? We’re waiting …..

        (crickets)

      • Flannery purchased waterfront property.

        If it was on a high point (above flood level) my best guess is he is unperturbed about the spurious ‘severe weather events’ (cyclones, hurricanes, stability/erosion etc ) the AGW proponents are now clamouring on about – good grief they’ve now embraced weather over climate – the latter clearly not panning out as expected.

        If I recall correctly, one paper published the exact location!

      • 3d, that was not an apology for promulgating the “scientists buys waterfront property proving sea level rise is a scam” meme that the deniers love using.

        The fact that you changed “waterfront” to “seaside” suggests you knew it was a lie before posting it, so you carefully tweaked the language to allow you an “out”.

        And the issue was SEA LEVEL RISE not floods, cyclones, erosion etc. As you well know…
        You’re a very underhand, dishonest and unethical person.

      • R2M your extrapolation of my very simple question is propaganda itself.

        A bet on property or climate?

        One each way I reckon 😉

      • General Disarray

        LOL

        If it was on a high point (above flood level) my best guess is he is unperturbed about the spurious ‘severe weather events’ (cyclones, hurricanes, stability/erosion etc ) the AGW proponents are now clamouring on about – good grief they’ve now embraced weather over climate – the latter clearly not panning out as expected.

        When you get owned just make stuff up. Doesn’t work but sure is funny.

      • General Disarray

        A bet on property or climate?

        From the link MB provided “As Flannery pointed out to any journalist who asked, his house in fact sits above the most radical projections of sea level rises.”

        You should shut up now.

      • He wasn’t talking about sea level rise within his remaining lifetime of ~30 years, 3d, and you know that full well.

      • General Disarray

        Let’s just agree he was talking nonsense.

        If that is the case it’s no excuse for countering it with your own. You’re turning into one of those loons that hang around Bolt’s blog.

      • 3d, the long-term sea level that corresponds to current the CO2 concentration is about 23 meters above today’s levels. That’s from real longterm climate records, not models!

        Did you know that? 😯 No, is the answer, I’m guessing …… 🙄

    • Scientists aren’t well paid in Australia. Winners end-up rich. Therefore scientists are losers and shouldn’t be listened to. We should listen to winners like Gina, Gerry Harvey, and Harry Triguboff.

      I trust people who have proved they are winners rather than people who were picked on in school and then went on to not make much money. The ‘scientists’ aren’t as smart as they tell you and are really just a bunch of sore losers. Half of them mooch off the government through grants and such; their research is so useless, no-one will even pay for it!

      Scientists lack will-to-power, will-to-wealth, and are also lack-luster in the sack. It stems from their lack of willpower and desire, you see.

      They truly are pathetic creatures.

  16. the major problem arises from the fact that people do not know what science is (even most of scientists) and do not ask the basic epistemic questions: what can be known and how?

    In our schools we don’t teach logic, philosophy, we don’t teach epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, we actually don’t teach science and scientific method,

    the way we teach science is same we teach law, we (from the point of an authority) present to kids sets of laws (usually in form of simplified equations) and tell to follow them. We don’t ask and we don’t try to explain how and why?

    And I don’t blame teachers, because nobody can ask and answer these question during a selective, short and “all in one” “science” classes.

    Why these dilemmas do not exist in most of continental European countries? Because they (Germans for example) teach physics, chemistry, geography, … compulsory every year since year five until year 12. They also teach philosophy (ethics, logic,….).

    Our anglo saxon education is complete failure that produces graduates with huge self-esteem and complete ignorance. Our schools train people do not educate them.

    • agreed Doc – I’d like to see religious education (and probably some sport time too – bit too much of that, I think) replaced with courses on ethics, philosophy and logic amongst other educational reforms (i.e including removing the imperative from kindergarten onwards that school is ALL about getting a degree that gets you ONE job)

      But I’m holding my breath.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        What about economics, money creation and the legal basis for governments monopoly on force?

      • The problem with that Chris is we’d end up with the post modernist ‘there is no truth or right and wrong’ philosophy taught at unis by former communists. Armed with this the climate deniers could simply state their opinion is equally valid.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        alternative is we believe without really knowing what it is we believe in?

        You mean like money?

        • GunnamattaMEMBER

          Pretty much so…..

          There are those who gain an advantage from the belief as is, and I sometimes wonder why that advantage applies to them and not others

      • (i.e including removing the imperative from kindergarten onwards that school is ALL about getting a degree that gets you ONE job)

        I heard an (absurd, when you think about it) throwaway line the other day (on the ABC news, I think – maybe 7:30) about how today’s children can be expected to have 30 different jobs during their lives.

        I actually disagree that children are told they’ll get a degree that gets them “one job” – assuming by that you mean a single job for the rest of their lives. Nobody has seriously expected kids to have a single lifetime job for 20+ years.

      • @squirrell,

        Why?

        Derrida, Barthes et al., are all in the grave. John Searle is not, and philosophy, especially ethical philosophy, has kept on moving in new directions without them. With a bit of luck, if these educational reforms happened, they’d teach a view of philosophy that wasn’t thirty or forty years out of date.

      • Stat sailor,

        Ethics is meaningless if there is no design and therefore a purpose we should align ourselves to. Without god all you can have is an agreed set of principles (assuming democracy), or something imposed by a king or dictator. Ethics = what people can get away with, no ethical system is better than another, so what could you be teaching? People know what’s in their self interest, you don’t need to learn that, and if you do you will get someone’s biased opinion. Hell, most philosophers seem to reject free will these days.

      • @squirrell,

        You’re one of those, then.

        Plenty of atheist ethical philosophers. Girl in my class in high school’s dad was and is one. His philosophy certainly doesn’t reach the conclusion we should all act in individual self-interest just because he doesn’t think there is a god.

        By coincidence, the daughter of a different ethical philosopher was in my sister’s class, also an atheist, but otherwise completely opposed to the views espoused by my philosophy professor without coming to the conclusion that we should act as purely self-interested individuals.

        More than a touch of Horatio about your answer – a belief that an absence of belief in a deity leads directly to simple self-interest is a terrible failure of imagination.

      • More than a touch of Horatio about your answer – a belief that an absence of belief in a deity leads directly to simple self-interest is a terrible failure of imagination.

        It is always hilarious to hear people argue the superiority of religious “ethical” systems that are fundamentally built on a foundation of fear and oppression.

        I don’t need imaginary sky wizards, or their earthly representatives, to threaten me with eternal damnation to treat others with compassion and respect. Especially when I see the sickening hypocrisy of people like Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott proclaiming how their “beliefs” guide them.

      • Stat sailor, just cause there are atheists who contradict themselves by adopting ethics does not lessen the contradiction. If anything it proves my position. We are hard wired to think we are not a purely deyermined physical process and are forced to act as if we are free. Why would this be if it were not the case?

      • migtronixMEMBER

        If anything it proves my position. We are hard wired to think we are not a purely deyermined physical process and are forced to act as if we are free. Why would this be if it were not the case?

        WTF!! First of all nice petitio principii – Why would it not be even if it were the case?

        Secondly – where is the proof of this “hardwired” — is in the map of neural networks? Is it in the synapses? Is it in the electrical condictivity or capacitance?

        Utter fail at making a science of religious worship. What a surprise….

      • the problem our modern time is not that people think that some ethical system is better than the other, the problem is that most of people do not even think about ethics, and some do not even know that something like that exists.

        Teaching our kids all of the ethical systems will at least make them think about various ethical aspects of their decisions.

        We must teach our kids to think about ethics.

      • Mig, the fact that we cant operate tolerably in the world without the assumption of freedom suggests that free will is instinctive and primal ie hard wired. I dont need to locate a free will substance in a test tube any more than i need to map a consciousness process to know i am conscious. All knowledge has to be rooted in first principle common sense to avoid skepticism and self refutation.

        …. But dont blame me, i cant control the opinion produced by the physical process that is my mind.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        I dont need to locate a free will substance in a test tube

        Fine but don’t call it “hardwired” which is indicative of something that can be located and tested. That’s where you’re running off down the garden path….

  17. Read article on internet telling me to disregard what I read on internet -> disregards article. That was easy! Continue as per usual.

  18. For those that are interested in science, both the method and the knowledge that has come about from it, I can’t recommend these three things highly enough.

    1) Cosmos by Carl Sagan.
    This TV series explains a lot of what is known about the world and also spends some time explaining why we know it and why we should accept that knowledge over other theories. His manner of dismissing something like astrology is wonderfully calm and matter of fact. Almost foreign to people like me who have grown up with message boards.

    2) Science Matters by Robert Hazen and James Trefil.
    A simple book with a simple goal. To improve scientific literacy. It was written because when the authors would ask physicists or chemists about other fields of science they found that they were lacking in knowledge. And that is the same for most of us. It does not aim to make us scientists but merely wants the reader to have the ability to understand, and possibly critique, science discussions in the modern world.

    3) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.
    This is the big daddy of books on scientific theory. It is worth every second you put into it. It also helps in understanding any field of knowledge that has grown and changed over time; from theology to economics (but some would argue that they are the same thing).

    I have a really interesting fourth book that I imagine some would lap up because it is about alternate theories that are not accepted by the scientific community.
    4) Physics on the Fringe by Margaret Wertheim. It is a great complimentary piece to the ‘Structure of Scientific Revolutions’.
    http://physicsonthefringe.com

  19. Now on to something a bit different that I didn’t want to include in the above post.

    Science is not truth. Science is an attempt to explain the world through the use of models. These models are only valuable if they prove to be the best fit of the day. They can, and should, be tossed away if another model is found to provide a better fit.

    It is not always experts that come up with these models. In fact, as we see in many fields, it is generally the non-specialist or the young person who is not steeped in lore that sees the next great leap forward for that field.

    However, once the field has been accepted, and is being studied it is the experts, those that grind out the hours in the lab or in the field, that should be referred to for opinion and advice.

    This brings me to one of Australia’s more infamous voices on the topic of climate change/ global warming, Ian Pilmer.

    Ian Pilmer is an intelligent and well spoken academic whose knowledge and opinion should be sought and shared. But only if it is on the topic of geology.

    Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello and Billy Joel have all written classical pieces of music. They were all s**t.

    As I says to Withnail when left alone with a randy bull , “A coward you are Withnail, and expert on bulls you are not!”.

    His explanation of change in the environment being natural and independent of the goings on of humanity does not match the world as it is.

    Pilmer’s book ‘Heaven and Earth’ has been a wonderful little money earner for himself, and has made him far more famous than if he had stuck to his day job. It is “…not a work of science. It is the opinion, of an author, that happens to be a scientist.”
    (Professor Kurt Lambeck).

    The above quote was taken from the beginning of a public criticism of the work that was broadcast on ABC’s ‘Ockham’s Razor’ and can be heard here:
    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/comments-on-heaven-and-earth-global-warming-the/3147158
    Have a listen to it, he says everything that I am trying to say about the scientific process clearly and concisely. He also offers the proper critique of Ian Pilmer’s book.

    And before certain members of the gallery get their knickers in a knot, Ian Pilmer was given the mike for his reply a few weeks later: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/professor-ian-plimer-replies-to-his-critics/3099310

  20. How many frequent flyer miles do the scientists have that recommended all the desal plants dotted around the country ?

    They probably go into the field with good intentions but soon ( some) become just another palm to grease.

    Perhaps they need to elect a pope and cardinals.

    I also think we should start tagging marine biologists, only fair ( and the results might be useful?)

    • How many frequent flyer miles do the scientists have that recommended all the desal plants dotted around the country ?

      Are you saying that scientists are responsible for public policy now? My understanding is that all the overcapacity desal plants around the place are a result of knee-jerk policy making during the last (quite severe) El Nino cycle.

      • Hi Jason, in just saying they are happy to jetset around the world adding to co2 when their industry should be leaders in video conferencing.
        And it was their forecasting that prompted the desal plants, when the reality is no one seems to be able to explain historical numbers let alone foresee the future.

    • they already have a pope and cardinals… krugman is pope, piketty etc are cardinals… ny times is pravda…

      some call it the cathedral… with the liberal left as the inner party and the conservative right as the outer party

  21. Mig, i think you had it right at the start when you mentioned ” smart ideas being the answer”, if only you elaborated instead of keeping it all bottled up ( couldn’t resist), before the world goes all EU ( my words not yours).

    I would happily listen more intently to a self funded research group ( you know, from their own brilliant ideas etc.), we all know not to drive around with a pipe from the exhaust going into the car and what we are doing isn’t far removed (no matter how large the atmosphere).