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Assorted bits

April 17th, 2011

* A reader suggests using that the term “Robin Hood tax” for the proposed tax on financial transactions is unfortunate, and that Global Financial Crisis Tax would be better. I agree. The ‘Robin Hood’ term applies to any redistributive tax, and is more directly descriptive of a progressive income tax. The ‘GFC tax’ term reminds everyone of the burden placed on the global community as a whole by excessive financial speculation.

* My colleague and co-author Grace Lordan, has an interesting post on health and discrimination

* Nine of ten authors on a list of “climate sceptical” papers have close links to ExxonMobil. Whocoodathunkit? [1]

** And surprise, surprise a large proportion of the “peer reviewed” articles are in sham journal Energy and Environment, while quite a few others are listed as “submitted”. Check the list here

fn1. Any commenters tempted to cry “ad hominem” at this point should look up “argument from authority” before making fools of themselves.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    April 18th, 2011 at 07:23 | #1

    I just wonder why Limits to Growth systems analysis and Biophysical Economics have not yet been taken as seriously as Climate Science. Reviews of the original LTG model (admittedly a simple model by today’s complex modelling standards) show that the model has been broadly correct in its predictions to date.

    http://www.esf.edu/efb/hall/2009-05Hall0327.pdf

    Can we have a LTG / Biophysical Economics sandpit please?

  2. BilB
  3. Alice
    April 18th, 2011 at 11:01 | #3

    Oh like to see “ad hominum” get a serve. Those who workpushing and peddling big business interests (or hope to). Its like saying “Im and ad man. Im an ad ad man, Im an apeman”.

  4. Donald Oats
    April 18th, 2011 at 17:12 | #4

    This is an ongoing problem, the pollution of climate science respected research literature with AGW-rejectionism, and it’s getting worse as Carbon Brief’s looky under the hood of latest schkeptic claims of scientific validity amply demonstrates. …And this post is a good illustration of the evil practice of “seepage”, whereby industrials choose to assist publication of generally favourable articles in the research establishment’s publications database, and over time these articles are unwittingly picked up by novice researchers and referred to in their research. As the citation count by new scientists, and perhaps some more senior scientists who are naiive to climate AGW rejectionist techniques, climbs, the AGW rejectionists “seep” into the more respected parts of the research publications database. Once the stain is set, it is virtually impossible to remove, in spite of what the ads may say.

    One recurrent problem is that scientific advance is often not entirely contigent on the bibliography – in its entirety – given at the end of a research article: placing articles in the bibliography merely because it looks good to have covered the existing literature is a sure fire way to incipience of the AGW rejectionist tosh in the respected research literature, if only in the by-ways of bibliographies. Don’t engage in bibliographic cut-’n'-paste or before you know it, there will be an incorrigible AGW rejectionist stain touching each and every part of the climate science domain’s literature. If an AGW rejectionist research article is essential to someone’s research, then of course it should be in the bibliography of the relevant publications, but not in one publication more.

    These AGW-rejectionists make me very cross.

  5. Martin
    April 18th, 2011 at 17:58 | #5

    Sorry, what’s the issue with ad hominem? The question is, does it matter who said it? If it’s just some random person’s opinion, no. If it’s a scientific experiment, and the author is a bona fide researcher, no. If the author is claiming to be an eye witness, then yes. If they’re claiming some sort of expert status, and relying on that for their claims, then yes.

    Argument from authority is something else again.

  6. Martin
    April 18th, 2011 at 23:07 | #6

    ok, should check before writing; read the Wikipedia articles that i linked to: ad hominem may be a valid counter to an argument from authority (ie arguing that the ‘authority’ is in fact not an authority). Confused it with ad baculum.

  7. Freelander
    April 18th, 2011 at 23:41 | #7

    For most of us the authority of a source is important. This is for two reasons. One. Rarely is sufficient detail provided so that, even if we were sufficiently expert and knowledgeable about the claims being put forward, we would be able to assess them simply on that detail. Two. Most of us are not so expert or knowledgeable in each specific area, so unless the claims are obvious dosh, or the reasoning clearly faulty, we often have little to rely on except apparent authority of the claimant.

    Above I refer to us ordinary mortals.

    With the average denier, they are clearly experts in all areas with knowledge beyond bounds. [The Infallible Pell comes to mind.] Nevertheless, they do tend to back up their claims by purported facts that turn out to not be facts, references that, where solid, do not support their case, and to back their assertions by claims of authority that also turn out to be spurious, or irrelevant.

    In these circumstances character is the issue.

  8. Ikonoclast
    April 19th, 2011 at 06:59 | #8

    But apart from that, they (science deniers) are nice guys, right? <– Irony.

    Currently, the reactionaries and obfuscationists are winning. Carbon price policy in this country is in tatters. Public opinion (fickle thing that it is these days) seems to have swung against a carbon tax.

    People are in favour of action on climate change in theory but not in favour of action in practice. As soon as they realise action might personally cost them some money or effort, it's all too hard. I've been disappointed in leaders for a long, long time. Now I'm becoming disappointed by the people at large. It doesn't leave much to hope for.

  9. Alice
    April 19th, 2011 at 08:40 | #9

    @Martin
    The issue with the use of “ad hominem” or “straw man” is that it brands you as a particular type. These are the two favoured cries of libertarians, deniers, pro nukers and other assorted fringe element idelogues ie ad extremum.

  10. Martin
    April 19th, 2011 at 14:17 | #10

    @alice “straw man” is not the same as “ad hominem” – a straw man attack means deliberately (or negligently) misrepresenting someone else’s position (and then arguing against the fake position and claiming to have refuted the original position). Both ‘ad hominem’ and ‘straw man’ may be legitimate criticisms of some arguments. Both admittedly can be misused, and no doubt there are those who don’t understand any form of logic and just have a bag with a few rocks in it to throw at anyone they don’t like.

    @freelander it is still better if we can identify specific faults in any argument such as that the data do not imply the conclusion, misuse of significance testing, selective quotation, outright falsehood etc. Admittedly any of us individually doesn’t generally have the expertise to refute an argument this way, but there is often someone who has that expertise and who can make the call.

  11. Freelander
    April 19th, 2011 at 14:57 | #11

    @Martin

    Life is short. Intellectual and other resources are scarce. Consequently, I tend to take a Bayesian approach to avoid wasted effort (except where I might engage in ‘debate’ for amusement or entertainment). My Bayesian approach is to simplify matters where a source has proved to be notoriously unreliable; I don’t rely on it, and don’t (except for the reasons given) attempt to conclusively find whether they have been unreliable once more. If people like to be dishonest or irrational in argumentation there is no point in taking them seriously. However, they do provide wonderful opportunities for ridicule. And that is the only way to successfully deal with them.

    Fools can handle anything but being laughed at.

  12. Jim Birch
    April 19th, 2011 at 15:16 | #12

    @Freelander
    There’s a simpler but also more seductive quality with argument from authority. In simple biological terms, gaining knowledge requires energy expenditure. This means that the value of any knowledge gained must be totted up against the energy expended to produce it. In our evolutionary history – ie the integrated period of our brain evolution – starvation was a regular threat. Simply running a large brain requires 20% of our energy, many other very successful mammals use considerably less. This produces a quite different knowledge strategy to what you might find in an epistemology text.

    We prize cheap information. We congratulate ourselves in having got to the “gist” of a situation on very limited information. The Climategate emails was a perfect example of this: virtually no one read the thousands of emails involved but a lot of people were willing to regard the three words “hide the decline” – without context – as as incontrovertible proof that the researchers involved were crooks, and QED that the other thousands of climate researchers were too. No doubt they congratulated themselves on their incisive intellectual capabilities in forming this judgement. This is “gisting” gone crazy. If it weren’t so tragic it might be funny.

    Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is not limited to anti-AGW types, it’s everywhere.

    This is also the key reason why science took so long to get off the ground: sitting around for days, months or years try to find outliers that disprove hypotheses just isn’t on in a nutritionally limited environment. Our brains contain Baysian inference circuitry gated by some pretty worldwise energy expenditure calculations.

    The argument from authority strategy is an energy saving knowledge strategy that is built-in or natural to us. The basic logic: “X says so, X has a pile of goodies/status, therefore X is probably right” is obviously logical piffle but is a reasonable biological strategy, in an evolutionary sense. Unfortunately, we (in general, not you or I :) are not that good at distinguishing where the pile of goodies came from and whether obtaining them required any relevant mental or physical effort at all.

  13. Freelander
    April 19th, 2011 at 17:19 | #13

    Very good. I am as wise and as efficient a reasoner as an AGW denier. I like it!

  14. Alice
    April 19th, 2011 at 20:02 | #14

    @Martin
    I wasnt suggesting “straw man” is the same as “ad hominem” Martin. I was merely suggesting I have noticed that they are the two favoured defenses of a certain class or classes of persons….listed above.

  15. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2011 at 20:26 | #15

    @Freelander

    “Fools can handle anything but being laughed at.”

    Works well on blogs. How does it work face-to-face when they are your boss?-

  16. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2011 at 20:52 | #16

    @Jim Birch

    How would evolutionary biology treat your comment @12?

    My question is not meant to be disrespectful or unnecessarily provocative. I am merely interested in the methodology of evolutionary biology applied to contemporary humans.

  17. Freelander
    April 20th, 2011 at 01:03 | #17

    @Ernestine Gross

    They can’t handle it either. However, the reaction is obvious. Likewise, don’t ridicule someone holding a loaded gun.

    Have you ever wondered why blasphemy seems to be the greatest crime of all in most religions? Of course, for precisely the same reason.

    The religious are happy to engage in allsorts of idiocy – martyrdom, wearing silly clothes, engaging in silly rituals even where they involve pain, humiliation or self torture (including the unkindest cut of all), but do not laugh at their idiocy, which is typically what blasphemy is, without being prepared for the reaction.

    Do not lampoon the ‘sacred’.

    Of course, one would think that if the religiously afflicted had any real faith in their deity or delusion, they would leave it to the deity to punish the wrong doer. But, not so.

  18. BilB
    April 20th, 2011 at 08:24 | #18

    First Ikonoklast, and now you, Freelander. The golden definitions just keep on coming. I’ve saved your 17 in my “special” file.

  19. gerard
    April 20th, 2011 at 08:30 | #19

    since this is a random post, can I post this here? An interview with the Republican frontrunner for 2012.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/42663336#42658437

  20. gerard
    April 20th, 2011 at 08:50 | #20

    Guthrie: The, umm, debt ceiling vote, the Republicans are saying they don’t think the debt ceiling should be raised (Trump nods head); businesses have warned there could be dire consequences.

    Trump: I don’t care, I wouldn’t raise it.

    Guthrie: And you know most economists say that would send the US economy back into a recession?

    Trump: What do economists know? Most of them are not very smart

  21. Freelander
    April 20th, 2011 at 09:08 | #21

    @gerard

    That thing that Trump has given a home to, that lives on top of his head is a lot smarter than what lies below.

    What is that thing he has on his head? Does anybody know?

  22. Ikonoclast
    April 20th, 2011 at 09:52 | #22

    @Freelander

    It’s Rocky Racoon.

  23. Jill Rush
    April 26th, 2011 at 12:43 | #23

    When I was younger I thought that presenting a reasoned and well supported argument was sufficient. Now I am older I realise that decisions are often taken in spite of evidence and that people can believe quite irrationally. Arguments need presentation in ways that take note of what drives people. If you want people to be altuistic it needs to be presented as to how it benefits them eg violence begets violence so be peaceful if you want peace.

    The government has not managed the climate debate at all well in Australia because it wants to inflict pain (clearly outlined by Tony Abbott) without any explanation of how it will benefit the nation. Of course the government can’t manage to sell a message as it is in the thrall of a Canberra cabal where everyone lives life in a bubble. Under the Labor Government the centralisation of government, started by John Howard and which led to his demise, has continued and strengthened.

    So all of the advisors have no understanding of those things that matter to everyday people nor how to address them. Worried about bills and while wanting to save the planet for tomorrow, most are more concerned about feeding their family today and getting the new flatscreen telly so they can ignore the future. If I was a well paid fat cat in Canberra this would not be my concern – as I would already have the flatscreen and an increase in bills is not of any real concern. The Labor Party doesn’t listen to its grass roots either. So the messages about the future of the planet will continue to be blown to the wind.

    People will compartmentalise issues and fail to have time to look at the authority of those who rant loudly on their flat screen telly. After all why would anyone rational want to pay higher bills when it probably won’t make any difference in the long term to anything much that matters to that individual? Until that question is satisfactorily addressed there will be a continuing growth of people buying AGW scepticism.

  24. Donald Oats
    April 26th, 2011 at 15:07 | #24

    When we have radio stations that habitually use the AGW climate change deniers as their interviewees for the purposes of kicking into the Labor Government, it is inevitable that some AGW scepticism among the public should turn to outright rejectionism. It is always a hard sell to present something with potentially negative implications (ie your power bills and others will go up), even when compensating mechanisms are present (ie tax breaks, rebates, etc) because people simply don’t believe governments when it comes to matters of tax; at the most basic level people are distrustful, whether that is justifiable or not, people feel vulnerable. Rational argument won’t easily penetrate the fog put up by uncertainty; indeed, that is why uncertainty is such a strong theme among AGW deniers.

    Nice day outside but.

  25. April 28th, 2011 at 09:52 | #25

    The ExxonMobil claims are nonsense,

    Rebuttal to “Analysing the ‘900 papers supporting climate scepticism’: 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil”

    Alarmist Challenge:

    The claims of this article have not been shown to be true. It is falsely implied that if a scientist went to a meeting for coffee and donuts hosted by an organizati­on that in the last 20 years received a $5 donation from a fossil fuel company that scientist is now “funded by the fossil fuel industry”.

    - Please provide actual documents irrefutabl­y demonstrat­ing direct fossil fuel company funding for any scientist.

    - Then prove that the same scientist has received enough energy company donations to sustain all their research over the years.

    - Finally prove that the same scientist changed their scientific position regarding AGW due to a monetary donation and did not hold a skeptical position prior to the donation.

    Only 14% of the peer-reviewed papers on the list are from the scholarly peer-reviewed journal, Energy & Environment. There are over 769 articles from 256 other journals on the list.

    Energy & Environment is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary scholarly journal (ISSN: 0958-305X)
    - Indexed in Compendex, EBSCO, Environment Abstracts, Google Scholar, JournalSeek and Scopus
    - Found at 157 libraries and universities worldwide in print and electronic form. These include; Cambridge University, Cornell University, British Library, Dartmouth College, Library of Congress, National Library of Australia, Ohio University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, University of California, University of Delaware, University of Oxford, University of Virginia, and MIT.
    - Social Sciences Citation Index lists Environment as a peer-reviewed scholarly journal
    - EBSCO lists Energy & Environment as a peer-reviewed scholarly journal (PDF)
    - The IPCC cites Energy & Environment multiple times
    - “All Multi-Sciences primary journals are fully refereed” – Multi-Science Publishing
    - “Regular issues include submitted and invited papers that are rigorously peer reviewed” – E&E Mission Statement
    - “E&E, by the way, is peer reviewed” – Tom Wigley, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
    - “I have published a few papers in E&E. All were peer-reviewed as usual. I have reviewed a few more for the journal.” – Richard Tol, Ph.D. Professor of the Economics of Climate Change, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands
    - Elsevier (parent company of Scopus) correctly lists Energy & Environment as a scholarly peer-reviewed journal on their internal master list. (Source: Email Correspondence)

    Submitted papers are not counted as explicitly stated,

    “Counting Method: Only peer-reviewed papers are counted. Addendums, Comments, Corrections, Erratum, Rebuttals, Replies, Responses, and Submitted papers are not counted but listed as references in defense of various papers or as rebuttals to other published papers.”

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