We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

But the church has no particular expertise in science… the church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science

Cardinal George Pell

Someone who has not adapted to modern society

A journalist called Catherine Porter took her nine year old daughter to a “Jobs, Justice and Climate” march in Toronto. While there the child had a conversation with Ezra Levant. Ms Porter gave her account of that conversation here: My daughter’s run-in with Ezra Levant at her first protest. She made Levant out to be a big bad bully. Her account appeared in a respected newspaper, the Toronto Star, and although Levant’s reply giving his own, very different account of his dialogue with the little girl was published, by the time it appeared the narrative had been settled and it was only his word against hers anyway.

Yes, of course I made that last bit up. This is the twenty-first century, you know. You know even if Catherine Porter does not. Naturally Ezra Levant made sure to get the whole thing on video and was able to conclusively – and amusingly – demonstrate that Catherine Porter’s account deviated from the truth in numerous ways. The weird thing is that she cannot have been unaware of the camera. Levant is a lawyer who has had numerous run-ins with leftists and he insisted on getting Ms Porter to state to camera that she gave permission for Levant to speak to her daughter. Incidentally, one of the details her account obscured was that it was Ms Porter who called Levant over to talk to her daughter and she who asked for the encounter to be filmed. He was initially quite reluctant to debate with a child, rightly fearing that Ms Porter Senior intended to set him up for propaganda purposes.

Why on earth did she write as she did in the Toronto Star? Good grief, it’s not as if potentially embarrassing encounters routinely being filmed at rallies as a defence against misreporting is something that only came in last month. Did she think Levant would just accept being slimed like it was 1999?

Hat tip: Bishop Hill

The horror. The horror

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Last weekend, I landed at Szczecin airport in Poland at around 11am on Saturday. I was on one of my many trips abroad, following my curiosity. I go to places, look at what is normal, look at what is not, and see how the world and the parts of the world I am most interested in are changing and evolving.

I was last in Szczecin in 2007. I even wrote about it briefly on this blog at the time, observing that it was in some ways very weird. As it happens, Poland was much more a post-communist country in 2007 than it is now. At that time a defining feature of the country was that it was an heir of the communist country it had been in 1989. Now, that is not true. Poland feels like a normal developed country. This achievement is magnificent, particularly when one compares it to the countries to its east. I cannot help but think that EU membership has helped Poland in this regard. Most dramatically, it has done this through the free movement of people between Poland and countries further west. People have come to Britain, Ireland, Sweden and elsewhere, have contributed economically to those countries, but also learned languages, skills and attitudes, and have made connections that have been useful at home. The number of people from further west who have developed connections, lives and businesses in Poland and places further west is smaller and probably less significant, but is still large enough to matter.

The journey trip in 2007 was in may ways quite surreal. The final day of it included a brief five minute period of being an illegal immigrant to Germany, and then a dramatic drive in a highly powered car along no speed limit German autobahns (legally in the country this time) later in the afternoon in a desperate and ultimately successful attempt to get to Lübeck airport in time for a flight home. However, that’s a story for another time. This journey was mainly an attempt to recap on what I saw on that surreal trip.

This time, I quickly picked up my rental car, and headed along the motorway towards the city – a port city on the Oder that was Prussian until 1945 and was known as Stettin until then. As is the case with many medium sized cities in Europe, Szczecin’s airport is a former military airfield that was later converted to civil use, and is therefore a little more distant from the city than would be an airport that was built from scratch to be a civilian airport. The drive from the airport to the city is therefore about 50 kilometres.

Leaving the airport and heading down the motorway towards town, I found myself driving past the sorts of things one normally finds oneself driving past on motorways just outside the edges of cities along airport corridors. 25 years after the end of communism, Poland in incredibly normal in respect of what one sees in such places. Warehouses, logistics facilities, light industry, lowish rent office parks, yards full of industrial equipment, rest stops with a McDonald’s a motel, and a petrol station, and…

WHAT THE HELL IS THAT????????????

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I saw something strange and weird next to the motorway – so strange and weird that I immediately pulled over to the side of the road and parked illegally on the hard shoulder, put on my hazard lights, and got out of the car to take photographs.

I saw field – a yard – full of new and strange things. Aerodynamic things. Not wings. Twisted things, but twisted far too gently to be any kind of propellors or airscrews. What were they. I have seem many, many industrial things in parks outside cities, but nothing like this before.

Then, however, the full, awful truth dawned upon me. I knew what they were. Possibly this indicates that Poland has gone through being normal, and is now post-normal.

The Poles have of course been encouraged, bullied, and otherwise required by their EU partners to waste resources, skills and time on such crap when there have been much more important things to worry about, both from an economic point of view and a security point of view. From an economic point of view, this should have been obvious since at least 2008, but the crap has somehow continued. From a security point of view, this has at least been obvious since last year. The Polish government does at least have its eyes on the ball at this point. I am less sure about one or two governments of countries a little further west.

Some things take a long time to die, though. Post-normal probably isn’t good.

Samizdata quote of the day

Nonetheless, environmentalists’ newfound enthusiasm for papal encyclicals is a little strange. After all, the Catholic Church isn’t too keen on abortion or contraception, which seems at odds with the green movement’s Malthusian concerns about overpopulation. The Church’s old-school attitude to homosexuality, and particularly gay marriage, flies directly in the face of the liberal leanings of many greens. Yet environmentalists have been happy to talk up the importance of the pope’s intervention, hoping that a bit of religious pressure will twist the arms of the world’s leaders into overcoming their silly worries about the effect that limits on carbon emissions might have on economic growth.

Rob Lyons

They don’t make ’em like that any more

“NYC Under Water from Climate Change By June 2015!”

As a bonus, the first talking head on the 2008 video clip is Peter Gleick, a liar.

On the other hand, you can be a liar without being wrong and wrong without being a liar. Prediction is tricky. I am still three-quarters half willing to be convinced that significant, although not catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming is happening. But supporters of this hypothesis have to explain why we should believe them this time when they were so confidently wrong last time.

Samizdata quote of the day

If Antarctic ice continues to grow, the trickle of refugees may become a stampede, as Antarctic climate scientists, some of whom have been there for years, are forced to leave their traditional habitats.

– Breitbart’s Eric Worrall laments the impact of climate change.

Earth Day! Another golden marketing opportunity!

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God bless Capitalism! And do not forget, turn every light in your house on to celebrate!

You might have thought decades of Ba’athist tyranny caused the war in Syria… WRONG!

Nope, it was not decades of murderous repressive Ba’athist socialism under the Assad family that caused the civil war in Syria, it was…

Climate change!

Say what?

And what is more, climate change has caused my cat to sing Sondheim at night. Climate change has made my tea taste bitter if brewed after 8 am. Climate change has created inequality amongst llamas in the Atacama Desert. Climate change has caused Putin’s man-boobs (daddaries?) to itch so much it drove him to invade Crimea. I defy anyone to prove scientifically these things are not true because the science is settled. Or something like that.

Obama to India: keep your people poor

The Obama administration has made it clear it wants to shove India into not producing more affordable power. After all, the poorer India stays, the lower its carbon footprint, right?

Delhi is perhaps the most polluted city on the planet. In a very rough estimate, Bloomberg News calculated that President Obama would lose 6 hours of his life following a brief visit to the city last month. Cars, diesel generators, coal burning – all of these sources pump out noxious pollution that fogs the ambient air.

Obama losing six hours of his life? Well I agree that is horrible but at least it is better than nothing.

Now that is what I call a put down!

The statistical methods used in the paper are so bad as to merit use in a class on how not to do applied statistics. All this paper demonstrates is that climate scientists should take some basic courses in statistics and Nature should get some competent referees.

Gordon Hughes

Bubbles, lies, and buttered toast

What happens if each of those experts feels entitled, even obligated, to lie just a little, to shade his conclusions to strengthen the support they provide for what he believes is the right conclusion? Each of them then interprets the work of all the others as providing more support for that conclusion than it really does. The result might be that they end up biasing their results in support of the wrong conclusion—which each of them believes is right on the basis of the lies of all the others.

That is one of the reasons I am not greatly impressed by the supposed scientific consensus in favor of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.

David Friedman

As I am fond of saying, it works like a stock market bubble. There is no need to posit a conspiracy. David Friedman’s view that this is a matter of a build up of many little lies rather than a few big ones is a more realistic as well as a more charitable picture of the mechanism at work.

I am yet more charitable than Professor Friedman. Though I completely agree with him that there are almost certainly many scientists shading their conclusions, it might well be the case that they are not doing so consciously at all. All it would take is for a lot of people with jobs to keep and mortgages to pay each to see which side their bread is buttered when the time comes round to apply for grants. As the American socialist author Upton Sinclair put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” On the unbuttered side of the bread, when a scientist observes that colleagues who raise doubts suffer for it, she would be acting much like the rest of humanity if she, while never aware of feeling fear, somehow finds herself more comfortable out of the intellectual proximity of these pariahs.

In a way the Rosetta scientists had it easy. All they had to do was hit a moving target half a billion kilometres away. Succeed or fail, there is no kidding yourself and no kidding others. Twenty-eight minutes later you and the world will know.

ADDED LATER: Fraser Orr comments:

“The answer to the CAGW people is simple: make a prediction that is falsifiable and can be measured in a reasonable length of time. Give me an example of a significant result where you predicted the future and it came true. Explain why your last fifteen years of prediction have been completely wrong, and if you have a wild ass explanation of something you didn’t factor in, give us a reason to believe that you didn’t forget something else.”

Dismal, deluded, and debunked con brio

Bishop Hill has linked to what he calls a “magnificent” polemical book review by a man from the other camp, Martin W. Lewis, who speaks from the conviction that “anthropogenic climate change is a huge problem that demands determined action.”

Magnificent it is. Magnificently funny, as in the bit about the pussycat apocalypse; and magnificently right about what is wrong with The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

Lewis writes,

Oreskes and Conway’s authoritarian inclinations are seemingly linked to their contempt for the West, which they identify with a dangerous devotion to personal freedom. The most telling passage to this effect is found in the authors’ interview, where Erik Conway states:

To me, [The Collapse of Western Civilization] is hopeful. There will be a future for humanity, even if one no longer dominated by “Western Culture.”

No matter that Oreskes and Conway see every last person in Africa perishing, they still apparently find such a scenario promising as long as Western Culture perishes in the process.

As noted at the beginning of this essay, tens of millions of people have reached the conclusion that anthropogenic climate change is a giant hoax perpetuated by corrupt scientific and journalistic establishments. In their previous book, Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes and Conway attribute such benighted views to the money and machinations of oil companies and other organizations with financial interests in the status quo. While I would not deny that such factors play a role, they do not provide a full account. Of particular significance are the writings of green extremists such as Oreskes and Conway themselves. By putting forth grotesque exaggerations, by engaging in misleading reportage, and by embracing authoritarian if not totalitarian politics, they discredit their own cause. The Collapse of Western Civilization, in short, reads as if it were part of a great conspiracy, one that that seemingly rests on an insincere approach to evidence and argumentation.

Martin Lewis also highlights an area of particular interest to me. Apparently Oreskes and Conway disapprove of those “overwhelmingly male” * physical scientists who concentrate on narrow “physical constituents and processes”, “to the neglect of biological and social realms.” Lewis quotes Oreskes and Conway as going so far as to regard statistical significance as an outmoded concept. Lewis writes further,

Although many of the key scientific questions of the day do indeed demand, as Oreskes and Conway write, an “understanding of the crucial interactions between physical, biological, and social realms,” it is equally imperative to recognize that most do not. Most of the issues addressed by chemists, physicists, and geologists have nothing to do with the social realm, and must be examined through a “reductionistic” lens if they are to be approached scientifically. To insist instead that they must be framed in a socio-biological context is to reject the methods of science at a fundamental level. Such a tactic risks reviving the intellectual atmosphere that led the Soviet Union to the disaster of ideologically contaminated research known as Lysenkoism. In the final analysis, the denial of science encountered in The Collapse of Western Civilization thus runs much deeper than that found among even the most determined climate-change skeptics, as it pivots on much more basic epistemological and methodological issues.

This passage describes one type of catastrophist error about science very well. I would like to point out, however, that it is not the only type. There are also catastrophists who propagate, some knowingly, some not, the opposite error. I refer to those who, rather than dismissing the Gradgrind-like definiteness of physics and chemistry, seek to borrow their reputation for precision and certainty in order to cloak the naked fact that no such certainty is even close to being achieved in the study and modelling of of climate systems.

*And boy, or rather girl, does that irrelevant slighting reference to the scientists’ presumed gender tell you nearly everything you need to know about Oreskes and Conway’s attitude to science.