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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Same Circus, Different Clowns

Welcome to The Sideshow
I guess if people don't go to school they can be convinced that when we run out of oil, we'll have electric or alcohol-fueled cars and nothing else will change. They'll forget what the term "petroleum products" means, and they will forget what they look like, too.



Seemingly simultaneously, a couple of "institutes" have materialized to proclaim the wondrous state of the environment, climate change or not. One in England and the other in Australia:

No question that these groups have absolutely nothing to contribute to the advancement of knowledge. The telling statement comes from the mouth of the network's director Julian Morris:
He added that his $1 million budget is small compared to those of international groups, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

Clearly the budget won't go into any kind of research or even think-tanking. This becomes obvious when you consider that the monetary yardsticks used in comparison come from the activist side of the pond (FOE and Greenpeace aren't your typical research organizations). And what kind of science would they do anyway? I don't see any indication of computer simulations grinding away driven by the coinage. So that leaves us with marketing and propaganda production.

I guess if people stop being intellectually curious, they can be convinced that when the climate starts to turn on us, we'll adapt and nothing else will change.


I pulled the following suggested tools for understanding logical arguments from Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit:


  • Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts
  • Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  • Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").
  • Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  • Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.
  • Quantify, wherever possible.
  • If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.
  • "Occam's razor" - if there are two hypothesis that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.
  • Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

How many clowns are out there? Billions and billions. We need all the intellectual ammunition that we can lay our hands on.

9 Comments:

Professor Blogger Tom Raworth said...

Sometime between 1972 and 1977, when we lived in the US,there was a television commercial that only appeared once: it showed the inside of a typical American house from which article after article vanished until it looked like a house from the 19th. century. The text was something absolutely simple, like "without oil". We never saw the commercial again, but it was effective enough to still be in my memory. Actually I thought the 19th.century interior pretty liveable, but...

12:13 AM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

I have similar memories with respect to old TV shows. However, the modern appliances get replaced with Flintstones-style gizmos. Like the foot-powered cars ...

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