Author Archives: Chris Byrne

Scientists, Signalling, and Sides

Recently, a scientist who I generally quite like… and who in geek circles has a lot of cred and “cool” (though he’s done a good job of beclowning himself in the past few weeks), Neil Degrasse Tyson; has used the big soap box of his reimagined “Cosmos” TV show, to essentially dismiss anyone opposed to the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming causing catastrophic climate change, as being “anti-science”.

He is sadly incorrect in this…

There are plenty of scientifically literate, educated, pro-science folks, who understand the facts and the issues at hand, and do not subscribe to what is in fact a rather radical theory which is thus far not only not supported by the evidence, but which is in fact contradicted by it.

Unfortunately… he is correct ENOUGH, that it has become a matter of ingroup and outgroup identification and “the drawing up of sides” (which, of course, has exploded into total ridiculous “politics as a team sport” over the past few weeks with the quote fabrications issue).

All too often, ones position on this matter IS a matter of scientific ignorance, and has become simply signalling of ones sociopolitical/ideological position.

Often enough that it’s a good enough proxy for many to simply make the assumption…

NOTE: This leaves aside the corruption of funding question. The funding corruption issue is an entirely separate issue. It’s a serious and important issue that I’ve addressed before… and it is a large part of the explanation of why the proponents in and around the field of environmental science behave as they do. The funding question however, is neither necessary, nor sufficient, to explain the political or social positioning, or the passion and intensity thereof, when it comes to the huge majority of scientists whose funding has nothing to do with environmental and climate science whatsoever.

The problem is, for Tyson… and for a lot of other scientists… This stopped being about the facts of the case …or for that matter about science at all… a long time ago.

It became about sides…

One side being pro science, the other side being anti-science.

One side being everyone who respects science, and education, and opposes ignorance…

The other side being the Kansas and Texas textbook authority people. And the creation museum people. And the anti-gay, anti abortion people. And the science funding cutters and actual anti-science nutjobs.

AND IN PART… UNFORTUNATELY OFTEN IN LARGE PART… THEY WERE RIGHT…

Since the “social conservatives” drew up some pretty clean lines, with congressional support and legislative activity on “their side” (particularly on the state level), everything else, which had been fairly fractured politically from the perspective of science, felt an existential threat. Those who were not politically active and motivated got so, in a big way, quickly, when they saw the way things were going.

As soon as this bloc hardened up, it had to become unassailable… It couldn’t admit error or fault in even the smallest way, or it would become politically vulnerable. The “other side” would use that error to force their anti-science agenda through.

This isn’t to say the liberals didn’t already have their blocks of agenda science… Of course they did; the entire block of ” environmental science” formed its core and still does. If you consider “social science” a science at all (at it’s best, it is, but mostly it isn’t), that is even more politicized and agenda driven, and always has been.

But the “social conservatives” (who, I keep emphasizing in these pages, are mostly anything but “conservative”, they are mostly populist religious reactionaries) essentially unified the vast majority of science, and mostly aligned on the left (since the anti-science folks are mostly aligned on the right) against their direct assault.

And yes, often, it has been a direct assault. A mostly weak, futile, and stupid one to be sure, centered around local and state level action, mostly in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, and Arkansas… But very direct and tangible assault it has been and continues to be.

An Aside: Don’t try to defend the “social conservative” position here for the most part. If it were an actual social conservative position, that would be fine… and defensible…

The only “socially conservative” science position has to be “science is science, leave agendas out of it, left OR right. Stop using it as an excuse for social experimentation and social engineering”.

It would be things like “stop trying to teach sex-ed in kindergarten as a mask to set up a gay rights educational agenda for 5 year olds” (something I actually fought down in Phoenix, and I generally support “gay rights”… but that’s MY job to teach, when and how I think it’s appropriate for MY kids… not the schools job).

But right now, the self identified “social conservative” position and agenda certainly isn’t that. It’s trying to make it illegal to teach ACTUAL SCIENCE in high school for example.

And no, your personal religious views… NO MATTER WHAT THEY ARE… have NO place in the classroom.

In any way.

Under any circumstances.

So long as we compel public education and there is no publicly funded alternative, this must always be so.
Stop trying to disguise it with “intelligent design” or “teach the controversy” garbage as well… it’s a disingenuous lie, insulting to everyone elses intelligence, and everyone knows it.

It’s not about “inclusiveness” or “teaching alternatives”… It’s about trying to force society to stop teaching actual science and history, and start teaching what YOUR church tells YOU to believe.

If you want to teach your kids that everything their science and history teachers teach them is wrong and against Gods will and teaching… go for it. That’s what churches and home bible study, and home religious schooling, and private religious schools are for.
But you don’t get to legislate that my kids have to be taught your religion, or that they NOT be taught what your religion says is false. In fact, you don’t even get to try…

What is more… by trying, you permanently forfeit any right to participate any more in any public process other than voting and speechifying. You have proven that you neither understand, nor respect, the rights and liberties of others. You have proven, that you are not to be trusted.

If you think that somehow your moral or religious superiority justifies ignoring (or altering) our societal rules, moral conventions, laws and constitution… because God looks on your views with special favor and you have to see his good works through… or some other such twaddle… You think the ends justify the means, and you are not to be trusted.

That view makes you every bit as dangerous as the islamists… and every bit as dangerous as the left wing think you are…
Not just dangerous to their agenda… Dangerous to the United States, to science, to education, to the fight against ignorance, and to the fight for liberty.

And yes… that means that the atheists and the liberals “automatically win” in schools when it comes to science.
Get over it.

They “won” the second you decided that science and history were your enemy. You SHOULD lose here… For the United States to continue, you NEED to lose on this issue.

The schools are not supposed to be a battleground (yes, they are, but they are not supposed to be and making it worse is not helping), and your side here is flat wrong… Better in degree than the Islamicist lunatics, but not in kind.

If you think your beliefs can’t stand up to the “threat” presented them by science and history… Well the first thing is you might want to take a look at your personal faith… and the second is, you may want to re-evaluate those beliefs.

So for right now, it has become impossible for those who support science as a whole, but want GOOD science to prevail, to assault the BAD science that dominates the field of environmental science. The entire science “bloc” is in “defend science against anti science bigots and extremists and idiots at all costs no matter what” mode.

Every time someone gets up there and says “I believe every word of the bible is literally true and you shouldn’t be allowed to teach children otherwise” they make it worse.

Oh and before anyone tries to say I’m an atheist, or anti religious… nope. I am a confirmed and sincere catholic. I’m just anti-stupid.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

What the Heck is a Muscular Minarchist?

CByrneIVHeadShot

 

I am a Muscular Minarchist.

What does that mean?

Well, the way I’ve introduced the concept for the past 20 or so years is”

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist. 

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

That’s a bit of “ha ha only serious” there… and really does fairly encapsulate my personal moral and ethical position… it’s the “elevator pitch” version as it were.

The next sentence of the elevator pitch is:

I believe in an absolutely minimalist government that provides a strong defense. I want a government that stays out of my wallet, out of my bedroom, and out of my business.

I realize that’s a lot to ask, but I don’t believe it should be.

I write, because from time to time I must express my anger, frustration, ire, pique, and general cussedness in a format that is unlikely to result in my imprisonment.

I can just see it now “Radical right wing gun nut takes out entire joint session of congress”

Hey a guy can dream can’t he?

Of course I’m not a radical right wing anything; I’m a radical about liberty. I make careful note that I am a philosophical libertarian (note the small “L”) and I take those principles seriously. It’s not just a question of politics, it’s a matter of morals and ethics. Since I hold all involuntary collectivism as an inherent evil; that, by the very definition used by modern media, is radical right wing.

The thing is, my opposition to involuntary collectivism is from all sides. I reject collectivist government, as much as I reject collectivist social policy, as much as I reject collectivist moral policy, or religion (not all religion, just the promulgation of involuntary collectivism through religion) , or any other concentration of the power to coercively limit liberty.

I believe in Liberty, Responsibility, Service, and Honor… I guess I’m just funny that way.

Okay so who am I?

Personally, I’m a husband, a father of three, a son, and a friend. I am a sincere and faithful, but dissenting and schismatic, Catholic. I am a cancer warrior, because I didn’t just survive cancer, I kicked its ass.

Professionally, I’m a veteran of the United States Air Force, an Aerospace Engineer and Computer Scientist by education; and an enterprise, infrastructure, systems, and security, architect and educator; by way of employment.

Passionately, I am a shooter, a singer, a guitar and bass player, a driver, a rider, a sailor, a pilot, a builder, a craftsman, a hunter, an outdoorsman, a reader, a writer, a poet, a cook and brewer, and a lover of fine food, and spirituous beverages.

Finally, by fundamental nature, I’m a hard core geek, about all of those things above, and more. I am by my nature compelled to learn, and love, and know, and understand, everything I care about, as fully and deeply as I possibly can.

I revel in my geekitude.

I work, play, game, read, speak, think, drink, and live, geek.

I am one of the original co-founders, contributors, and editors of  The Liberty Papers. I’ve been here from the beginning, and plan to be here until they pull the plug and turn out the lights.

And now, I’m getting tired of talking about me, so if you want more, look at my personal blog… or my post archive here on The Liberty Papers, and let the ranting begin again.

NOTE: This profile was originally published November 22nd 2005, for the launch of The Liberty Papers. The author was lazy and didn’t get around to updating it until October 16th 2014… when it was pointed out that in the intervening almost decade, he had somehow managed to acquire a wife and children (he met his wife shortly after the founding of the site), which he had neglected to mention. 

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

“Climate Change”, and the false dichotomy of “evil or stupid”

As we run up to the midterm elections, the drumbeat is once again sounding throughout that land, that Republicans… or rather, everyone not Leftist… are “anti-science”, “pro-ignorance” etc… etc…

I am constantly hearing some variant of “Republicans are either evil or stupid for not… X”.

The sad part of course, is that a certain percentage of non-leftists, including libertarians and conservatives are in fact, nuts, particularly about science… and another large block are ignorant.

Of course, so are large blocks of those on the left… but that’s not what we’re talking about right now.

There are certainly many scientific issues over which the ideological spectrum split, but likely the biggest one, with the most uniform split (there’s very few whose ideological “side” don’t match the position staked out by that side, to some degree or another)….

“Climate Change”

Ok, talked about it here before, and there’s plenty of great resources on the topic (try Climate Skeptic for a start)… But it’s an issue among my friends right now, and Neil Degrasse Tyson has been talking about it lately (before his most recent brouhaha), facebook is… well, pretty much always covered with it etc…

Let me just lay things out for a bit…

First, YES, there ARE loonies out there who say that there is no climate change “because Jesus” or “It’s all a conspiracy man” etc… etc… etc…

Feel free to ignore them, as you would on every other subject. They don’t represent any kind of reality based universe, never mind a rational position.

There are also those who simply say that there is no such thing as climate change whatsoever… But mostly they are either ignorant of, or don’t understand, the science, math, or historical record in question

And yes, there are far more of those than there should be in 2014.

However, some of us come to our positions through a knowledge of science, engineering, math, the scientific method, research methodologies and data analysis.

There are those, myself among them, who actually DO understand science, and don’t believe in CATASTROPHIC, ANTHROPOGENIC, global warming, leading to systemic, catastrophic climate change.

We are not irrational, ignorant, evil, driven by unsavory motives, or stupid.

We come to this position, because we understand that:

  1. The question isn’t whether climate is changing and will change in the future, it always has and always will. The question is how much has it, how much will it in the future, and why.
  2. Catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming leading to catastrophic climate change, is a tightly interconnected theory. For any element of the conclusions to be correct, ALL of the suppositions within the theory must be correct. The instant any of them changes, at all, the theory falls apart.
  3. The mathematical models for this have always been highly speculative and have proven non predictive both forward and backward.
  4. The data is greatly variable ( and often poor) in quality, and is adjusted in ways that make it less than useful for a model with high sensitivity predictions, because small changes or inconsistencies in the data make big changes in the model.
  5. The catastrophic model adopted by the U.N. has some major dependencies which are entirely theoretical, and have not been borne out by historical facts; specifically estimates of forcing, estimates of weighting of various factors, and particularly estimates of extremely high sensitivity to certain factors (especially CO2), that while throughout all of history have exhibited one behavior (a stable, negative feedback system), for some reason (i.e. humanity is bad and stuff), things have changed now… even though CO2 has been much higher in the past, and it didn’t happen then… Such that a very small change in CO2 will have a large multiplier effect, transforming the stable negative feedback system that the climate has been throughout the entirety of history to this point, to an unstable positive feedback system.
  6. There is no evidence for this catastrophic theory, nor does it correspond with historical models, or models that prove to be historically predictive (i.e. if you run the model backwards and forwards in time, it matches roughly with what actually happened).
  7. This prediction has been made since the mid 80s (prior to the mid 80, from the early 70s they were predicting global cooling and ice age by the way), and the models have proven to be grossly inaccurate. They are constantly revised to reflect the same conclusion, but never actually predict what ACTUALLY happens in the real world. There was initially slightly more warming than the previous historical models predicted, but by 1991 warming was back to the historical trend line, and there has actually been no significant warming since 1994-1998 depending on exactly which dataset you look at.
  8. Human outputs from all of industry, vehicles etc… Make up less than 1% of total atmospheric CO2… actually between .3 and .4%. The VAST majority of CO2 comes from forests, oceans, animals, and soil (and the bacteria contained therein). They also absorb CO2 in the natural CO2 cycle.
  9. If the historical, non catastrophic models prove correct, and they have so far, there will be between less than 1 and just over 2 degrees centigrade warming in the next 100 years. This is not catastrophic, and is consistent with warming/cooling cycles throughout history.
  10. If all human output of carbon dioxide and other theorized elements of climate change stopped right now, today… That number wouldn’t change at all, or at most very little. Within the margin of error.
  11. Once you take the catastrophic sensitivity to a tiny change out of the model, many other factors become far greater “forcings”, particularly the suns variability (relating to sunspot cycles).
  12. If the catastrophic models are correct, either we already have, or we soon will, pass the point of no return. We would not only have to completely stop emitting CO2 entirely, but we would have to take large amounts of it out of the environment.
  13. No matter what, the developing world isn’t going to stop burning wood, and coal, and growing and modernizing and using as much hydrocarbons as they can. They don’t give a damn what european liberals think, they just want to cook their dinners and have lights at night.
  14. No matter what, China and India aren’t going to stop being 60+% of all CO2 emissions from human sources (that’s according to the environmentalist group, the earth policy institute. UN numbers say it’s more like 30-40%), because if they did they’d all be plunged into even greater poverty and likely starve to death.

What it comes down to is this:

  • If the catastrophic models are correct, it’s too late to do anything about it anyway.
  • Even if every western nation utterly stopped producing ANY output which contributed to climate change, it wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever.
  • If the catastrophic theory is wrong, and everything point to it being so, then we would be spending trillions of dollars, destroying economies, ruining millions or billions of peoples lives etc… All for little or nothing.
  • There are real, actual, proven problems that are far more likely to be important, and that we can actually do something about, that are much better ways to spend our time and money.
  • Ok… so why do so many people support the idea… particularly so many scientists?

    The same reason anyone does anything… because it aligns with their perceived incentives, beliefs, worldview, narrative, and identity.

    To wit…

    1. Funding
    2. Social signaling an ingroup identification
    3. Politics
    4. Power and control (climate change legislation is all about taking power and control from one group, and giving it to another)
    5. Ideology and alignment with world view
    6. The precautionary principle
    7. Anti-capitalism
    8. Funding
    9. Because if they don’t, they don’t get jobs, their papers don’t get published, they don’t get university positions etc…
    10. Because they know that it’s not as bad as the press makes it out to be, but that making it super duper scary is the only way to make the morons out there pay attention and actually make some of the good positive changes that need to happen (like more energy efficient technology, and more research into alternative energy)
    11. Because the entire world has lined up into teams, not just about climate change, but about ALL social, cultural, and scientific issues… Evolution, homosexuality, everything else about the environment etc… and one team has decided to label themselves “progressive” and “liberal” and “pro science” and the other team “anti science”, and nobody wants to be “regressive” and “anti-science”.
    12. Did I mention funding? There is no funding in saying “things are going to be about like they always have been, with some small changes as expected, and maybe a very small degree of increased change… it will have some moderate impacts”. That’s boring, and it gets ignored, and no-one gets any funding, and you can’t do additional research on it. No-one is paying for research into squirrel populations and how “1 degree per century of climate change will impact them).

    Yes… I repeated myself, in several different ways there… That was intentional.

    The Broken Record

    Catastrophists have a record, of being broken records… and being mostly or entirely wrong.

    From 1974 until 1985 or thereabouts, many of the exact same scientists, politicians, pundits, and environmentalists who today are saying are going to warm our way into a combination of ice age, deserts, and typhoons everywhere… were saying the exact opposite.

    At the time, their theories and models said that we were going to precipitate our own ice age, blocking out the sun, and that crops would fail and we would starve to death.

    The fact is, we’ve heard over and over again for decades that if we don’t do exactly what this one particular group wants us to do about any particular issue within 5, 10, 20 years etc… that we’re all gonna die, the world is gonna end, everything will turn to dust, there will be no birds, no trees…

    Anyone remember when acid rain was going to kill us all?

    Yes, in part, it’s because we did respond to the concerns of the environmentalists, regulations were changed somewhat, technology got better, we polluted less and cleaned up more. These are all good things.

    But mostly it was because they were dramatically overstating both the problems, and the solutions; either because they actually believed it, or for political reasons…

    Seems to me, mostly for political reasons.

    Mostly we haven’t done what they asked.

    The world didn’t end.

    We didn’t all die.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t right this time…

    …One of these times they just might be… or at least they might be more right than wrong…

    …it just means that we should really be very careful, and very skeptical, about what they say, what we believe, and what we do about it.

    Oh and one more thing…

    There is one final, and almost universal test of the validity of someones claim that “everything has to change”.

    It can’t prove that a claim is true… but it can nearly always prove a false claim to be false, or at least greatly exaggerated.

    Simplified, it’s called the “Act as If” test.

    Does the person making the claim, act as they would if the claim were true, and as urgent as they say?

    Is it conclusive? No… but it’s a pretty strong indicator.

    Do those who say they believe in truly catastrophic anthropogenic global warming pass this test?

    Do they actually act as they would, if they actually believed their predictions.

    The answer is very much no… not even close.

    So, if they don’t… why should anyone else?

    I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

    Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

    Cost is NOT Price, and Neither Cost, nor Price, are Value

    Prices Provide a Misleading Measure of Dollar Devaluation
    Forbes Magazine Online – Keith Weiner

    There’s not a human being alive who doesn’t know the dollar is falling. Everyone over 25 has stories of what prices were like, way back when (and younger people have heard them). I remember when gasoline was 60 cents a gallon, and my mom remembers when it was 20 cents.

    Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen acknowledges the official objective to push the dollar down by 2 percent per year. This intention is behind the Fed’s ill-conceived loose money policy.

    It’s important to measure each drop. This is not just to keep a scorecard on the Fed, but because a change in the dollar skews historical comparisons and distorts business decisions, like giving increases to workers and pensioners….

    Read the whole piece, and then come back…

    The thesis statement of the piece is correct, in that prices provide a misleading indicator of currency valuation (and that our weak dollar policy, as pursued by every administration since Bush 1 to some degree or another, is fundamentally wrong and destructive for that matter).

    Unfortunately the author suggests that simply using a different price denomination and comparison (to gold) is a less misleading indicator… In this, he’s absolutely incorrect.

    What you really want to compare is purchasing power parity (PPP) as measured by equivalent standard of living, expressed as a dollar cost in constant dollars normalized to average labor hour wage or compensation.

    i.e. this item costs 5 minutes of average labor, this costs 8 hours, this costs 20 years; the cost to maintain this equivalent normalized standard of living across an aggregate population is 1940 hours of median labor wage etc… etc…

    Note, this is NOT an expression of the fallacious labor theory of value, it is an explicit measure of purchasing power parity as actual cost, INCLUDING opportunity cost (in terms of time), not currency denomination.

    The critical function isn’t price, and it isn’t wage… it’s cost, in this case expressed as a cost to value ratio as a normalized dollar (to make it easy to relate to wages and prices).

    Cost is not price; it’s a totalized measure of inputs including resources, time, and opportunity.

    I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

    Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

    “Bad” or “Wrong” or “I don’t like it” is not equivalent to “Unconstitutional”

    In a comment on someone elses post, another reader wrote “The DEA is an unconstitutional and illegal agency”.

    This bugs me… We frequently see these sorts of statements made about the DEA, the ATF, the federal reserve (where ok, there’s at least a rational and reasonable though flawed argument to be made… most of the people shouting stuff like that above aren’t making those arguments, but still)… Basically any federal agency that they don’t like, or which enforces laws, or uses delegated powers which they personally don’t like.

    No, the mere existence of the DEA is not unconstitutional or illegal. It is perfectly constitutional in that it is an executive agency chartered to enforce the laws promulgated by the legislative branch.

    The fact that the federal government has no constitutional authority to outright ban or criminalize such substances as the DEA is chartered to regulate, or to ban or criminalize their manufacture, use, or possession (and only limited power to regulate their sale. No, sorry, regulating interstate commerce and making such laws as necessary for the general welfare does not grant them such broad and deterministic powers… and Wickard v. Filburn is bad law and needs to be overturned), does not mean that all laws relating to such substances are illegal or unconstitutional. There are legitimate regulatory powers that such an agency may lawfully and constitutionally exercise.

    AS CURRENTLY EXTANT AND IN THEIR CURRENT ROLES AND ACTIONS… The DEA often engages in unconstitutional behaviors, and acts to enforce unconstitutional laws. That much is certainly true. But they are not inherently unconstitutional, or illegal.

    Those are actually really important distinctions. Not just semantics or distinctions without difference.

    This is so, because you go about addressing the issues, and solving the problems, differently. Things which are blatantly and directly illegal or unconstitutional are best addressed in one way. Things which are peripherally so, are best addressed in a very different way.

    You have to shoot at the proper target, with the proper ammunition.

    Also, it’s really important to remember, that “bad and stupid” or “harmful” or “undesirable”, or “pointless”; does not necessarily mean “unconstitutional”. Nor does “constitutional” mean “good”, or “useful” or “effective”.

    That’s not even a matter of judges discretion or interpretation… The constitution actually provides far less protection of rights, and limitation of powers, than people believe it, expect it, and wish it to (at least explicitly… the 9th and 10th amendments… there’s much bigger and messier issue).

    I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

    Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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