Archive for March 8th, 2010


Decision Squeeze

March 8, 2010

According to a Friday article in Washington DC’s moon-rag, a few scientists at the National Academy of Sciences are preparing to fight back against climate contrarians. The NY Times picks up the thread, Andrew Revkin wonders whether scientists should do this, Matthew Nisbet offers an intelligent commentary on how such a response may place the climate community on a war footing, while¬†Randy Olson argues that scientists should absolutely tackle this issue head on.

There are a few things to say about this. First, it’s not clear that an aggressive response from the scientific community will do the trick. Judy Curry notes in the Washington Times article that such responses haven’t worked in the past, though she doesn’t offer a clear reason why. Nisbet does. Second, it’s sure to fuel the fires of the contrarian community, as Nisbet points out. Fighting fire with fire can’t help.

Surely, some folks will suggest that rather than fighting fire with fire, a better response is to change the frame of the debate entirely, to focus on the energy discussion (say) or on a new jobs bill. From my vantage, these views are only partly correct. They begin by assuming what they purport to address: that the policy discussion should move in the direction of climate-friendly policy.

Climate contrarianism is alive and well not because there’s not enough information out there — there’s plenty — and not because there are people who don’t value the state of the earth, the lives of other people, or potential impacts on future generations — though, obviously, there are pathological jackasses who actually don’t — but for other reasons, partly associated with the ideological and political predispositions of given actors, but also associated with generalized clashes of approaches to practical reasoning. The latter may be too big an issue to take on here, but I’ll give it a quick go.

Consider the following parallel:

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Why Bother?

March 8, 2010

Why bother with academic majors that essentially make up the core of the academy…like, oh, I dunno, philosophy. It’s useless anyway.