Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Observation on conservatives and climate - suggestions?

From Jonathan Chait (here) at TNR (h/t TB):
A decade ago, nearly all conservatives rejected the connection between carbon emissions and climate change. Though many still do, a growing minority of right-wingers now accepts the mainstream scientific position. However, rather than proceed from that premise to some program of reduced emissions, they have feverishly devised a series of rationales for unlimited carbon use.
... The telling thing here is not that these arguments are provably wrong... It’s that those conservatives who have accepted climate-change science immediately jumped to some other reason to oppose government action.

...virtually no conservative intellectuals seem to settle, even temporarily, on the view that climate change is real and that government regulation is therefore appropriate. They cling to climate-science skepticism like a life preserver, and then, when they can’t hold on any more, they grasp immediately for a different rationale. If government intervention appears to be the answer, they must change the question.

I think we're seeing this locally as well. I'd welcome suggestions as to how you go about working with people who reject out of hand the most - perhaps the only - effective solutions.
(Particularly welcomed: ideas from the "let's work together" commenters in this thread on Pelline's blog, from earlier this month.)


gzaller said...

At this point in the debate the real problem seems to be how we approach each other rather than the facts. My experience has been that even with those who have the strongest bias against admitting climate change there is room for agreement if they are approached respectfully. The saying, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still," says it all.


Anna Haynes said...

> "The saying..."

The other saying being "it is difficult to convince a man of something if his paycheck depends on his not understanding it."

Though it isn't always money; there's also a culture-war thing going on, for the older guys.

Anna Haynes said...

Further thoughts re Greg's "At this point in the debate the real problem seems to be how we approach each other rather than the facts" - hey Greg, we don't have to settle for agreeing-to-disagree here, we can borrow a tool from science and do a little experiment; one I've suggested before....

(That's what makes science science, rather than "one of the basketweaving disciplines" - it makes you test your intuitions, to see if reality agrees with you.)

(agreed, a sample size of one is a little on the small side, but still it's worth doing.)

gzaller said...

I think that when it comes down to it, all sample sizes are one. In fact, that's supposedly how evolution works. Pretty good science there.

There may be other areas of convergence but, clearly, there is a huge peak oil problem coming anyone could see. We should all (red-blue, right-left,conservative-liberal) be able to agree on that. Addressing renewable energy from the perspective of peak oil puts everyone on the same page and bypasses all of this disagreement about greenhouse gases. Did you know it takes ten calories of oil to deliver one calorie of food? Everything will unravel if we can't afford to feed ourselves. This problem would make global warming look like child's play. Civilization is only three meals deep, they say. Without civilization, global warming is a tree falling in the woods.

Anna Haynes said...

> This problem would make global warming look like child's play.

um, no. Google "paleocene-eocene thermal maximum", which is something we could be headed for, if we keep on dumping the carbon (which nature had sequestered) from coal into the atmosphere.

p.s. re "all sample sizes are one. In fact, that's supposedly how evolution works"

just for the record, nope, since for natural selection to work, you need individual variation (so there can be variation in reproductive success); which presupposes more than one individual.

I'll see if I can ask around and find a good basic intro to evolutionary biology that explains the main concepts.

gzaller said...

Anna, If you were starving and I said this is an effect of "paleocene-eocene thermal maximum" you would not be interested. Imagine being in the state of acute starvation. Would you be interested in discussing global warming? No one would in such a case. If it was the case that your neighbors were starving, you would be more concerned about them eating you. Civilization would be in state of collapse. Bottom line is that if you can't eat you won't be able to do anything about global warming. Food scarcity and/or cost, then, is something we can all agree on.

Evolution theory is based on singular successful variations being multiplied more than others. You also said "you need individual variation." Individual means something that can't be divided which is "one." That's mainstream evolution theory. I don't understand your objection. We must be thinking about different things. For the record, I believe evolution theory is fatally flawed based on that complex systems cannot improve with random individual variation. Species alway go extinct. Perhaps epigenetics will explain this problem.

I think these topics make better discussions than an argument.

Anna Haynes said...

> Bottom line is that if you can't eat you won't be able to do anything about global warming.

Agreed, that an ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure - climate change is likely to really do a number on agriculture. We need to address it now, while there's still slack in the system - especially since due to lag time we already have another degree or so in the pipeline, that's coming regardless.

> ...fatally flawed...

A useful rule of thumb from your science PhD blogger: if someone thinks an entire field of science is fatally flawed, especially if it's one that they themselves haven't studied, it's safe to bet on it being pilot error.

(self-study doesn't count, since without expert feedback the student is wide open to the Dunning-Kruger effect)

gzaller said...

Who said I haven't studied evolution? In any case lets agree to not debate based on how much we think we know more than the other.

I'm more interested hearing what sources we might agree on as reliable would have to say about my comment,"I believe evolution theory is fatally flawed based on that complex systems cannot improve with random individual variation. Species alway go extinct. Perhaps epigenetics will explain this problem." Take humans, for example. Isn't our genome becoming progressively degraded? Explain how genetic diseases and random mutations will ever drop out of the gene pool. The only explanations I've ever come upon is that they can't be selected out and will continue to build up in the genome. There is a scientific term for it called "species senility."

Anna Haynes said...

We'll have to agree to disagree, Greg - I don't have the time, it's just not important relative to what we humans need to do, at this time, in order not to doom our children - the children living today, who play in my yard, who come into the coffeehouse, who you see waiting for the bus in the morning. Those children. Real human beings, alive now.


Anna Haynes said...

p.s. google "species senility" site:scienceblogs.com

Nothing comes up.


gzaller said...

I heard the term "species senility" used by a guest lecturer on paleontology while getting a minor in biology. I've asked the question I asked you many times to many PhD's. No one can reconcile the fact that all species decline against the underlying assumptions of Darwinists.

We can agree to disagree but the problem of cherry picking the facts to support our paradigms directly relates to the kind of world our children will inherit. Can we agree that our schools do not teach science but actively suppress the process of creative discovery? Would you like to talk about how to bring discovery back to our schools? I propose that this is the only way to change the course that our society is on.

Anna Haynes said...

Greg, I hope you saw Don's post yesterday?

The Secrets of Evolution are … Time and Death

And sex.
Nature makes new cards, reproduction shuffles the deck, bad hands die out, hands that work better (whether we happen to like them or not - think antibiotic resistance) stay in to get shuffled again.

And species give birth to other species.

gzaller said...

The card deck analogy is not accurate unless you are talking about breeding or Mendelian adaptation and it does apply there. I am talking about mutation adaptation. This is entirely different. The analogies for that would be changing a connection in your computer cpu or a letter in a book or a DNA code in an organism. The results are virtually always degradation that may or may not result in death or failure.

When species adapt, they loose their genetic diversity then die out because they cannot adapt any more to new conditions.

I don't have any idea how life began and I don't think anyone else does either.

Anna Haynes said...

I'm curious, Greg, did you watch the video that Don linked to?

One of the things that you learn in grad school is that a whole lot of people know a whole lot more than you do, about almost any topic. And you develop the ability to discern who these people are. It instills humility - and a recognition that one's time is usually better spent in learning than in expounding.

(...which is partly why I don't expound much, here; except, perhaps, about who to learn from)

gzaller said...

It isn't easy for me to voice my beliefs in "opposition" to "mainstream" science dogma. Of course, I am a nobody compared to the minds who would disagree with me. On the other hand I am not alone and there are many distinguished scientists who also think that mutation driven evolution is impossible.

My views were plainly explained for anyone to debate or correct and I would appreciate that response. That's the way true science works.

The science community is hampered by the idea that elite scientists should not be challenged except by the elite as you suggest. This is first a problem with science education.

When I was getting my Master's degree in science education I was horrified when I was the only one standing on one side of the room when the class was asked to take sides over an issue concerning GMO's. The entire class sided with the PhD expert speaker that industry and science should regulate themselves internally on the use of GMO's without government oversight. GMO's have the greatest potential over all other known means for use as weapons of mass destruction. Even through accident they may cause mass destruction.

It is inexcusable that these elite science teachers did not understand this and were encouraged to not understand it. Throughout its history, science has been plagued with prejudice and group think. It is not different today. The only way to counteract group think is to listen to sincere disparate points of views regardless of the source. This is also what is needed to close the divide between the right and the left.

Anna Haynes said...

BTW Greg, I googled
complexity evolution site:scienceblogs.com
and this page that popped up seems like it'll give you the info you're seeking:

National Geographic Gets Complex

p.s. re framing, take care you don't look at a meritocracy and see elitism; it's not helpful, if your goal is to learn.

gzaller said...

Have you looked much into Lyn Margulis and symbiogenesis? http://www.isepp.org/Pages/San%20Jose%2004-05/MargulisSaganSJ.html

I can lend you her book Acquiring Genomes if you are interested.

She is someone I definitely believe is meritorious and I admire her deeply.

I don't know what Richard Dawkins, the popular spokesman for mutation driven evolution, is. Is he meritorious or elite? In any case I believe you could pick any page out of his books and I could show you unsubstantiated assumptions. I have several of them and I cringe when reading them.