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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Causality Hoax and Peak Ponies

The rhetorical tricks of Intelligent Design have entered into the Peak Oil discussion sphere. In particular, I have noticed that some of the strongest oil depletion cynics have started to argue in terms of causality, and how causality prevents us from predicting peak oil with any credibility at all. I can just imagine the governors of the Discovery Institute appreciating the essential misguided beauty of the causality argument. Like the rationale behind Intelligent Design, causality hypes up the imponderables at the expense of science and math.

I don't particularly understand the roots of the argument, a malady brought about by way too much logical dissonance, but I think I can relate it briefly:

Peak Oil models violate causality: No one knows the ultimate cause of oil production, therefore all models that purport to equate cause with effect suffer from a fatal flaw. Nobody knows what riches lie below the surface of the earth; to assert otherwise produces an effect without a cause.

It leads to statements such as this from Michael Lynch:
They have repeatedly misinterpreted political and economic effects as reflecting geological constraints, and misunderstood the causality underlying exploration, discovery and production.
The layman's definition of causality derives from observations of cause and effect. Or nothing can occur without a cause. I take an even more basic view of things; you can only violate causality if given access to a time machine or by occupying a niche within the quantum world. However, the causality police don't reason that way. Instead they prefer to believe in black and white, either we have no oil to speak of (i.e. the endgame rhapsody, see Example 1) or, more likely, untold riches. Why? Because you, oh pathetic modeller, cannot prove otherwise! As a corollary, they lay no credence to a Bayesian belief structure. It does not matter that the inhabitants of this planet have discovered most of the oil we will ever find already, resulting in a discovery peak several decades ago.
Lynch: The argument that the drop in global discoveries proves scarcity of the resource is the best example of the importance of understanding causality. While it is true that global oil discoveries dropped in the 1970s from the previous rate, this was largely due to a drop in exploration in the Middle East. Governments nationalized foreign operations and cut back drilling as demand for their oil fell by half, leaving them with an enormous surplus of unexploited reserves. It is noteworthy that none of those pessimistic about oil resources show discovery over time by region, which would support this.

See what I mean? Evidently, preponderance of evidence arguments get trumped by talking points of the oiligarchy fueled by unbridled optimism. Everyone, including both members of the left and the right, wants their very own brand new pony. Unfortunately, we will likely hit Peak Pony soon and have to deal with the consequences:
Experts Warn of "Peak Pony"
Posted by The Editors under Uncategorized

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans have had it tough over the last few weeks, with President Bush approval ratings below 40%, the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on conspiracy and money laundering charges, and the expected indictment of several senior White House officials for blowing the cover of a CIA operative. Republican woes have been a boon for the pony markets, which have seen prices soar to historic highs due to increased demand from ecstatic liberals. This spike in demand has led many experts to warn of a near-term pony shortage, and led to fears that the world may be approaching "Peak Pony", the point at which nations are no longer able to meet their vital pony needs.

For most of the 20th century, ponies were primarily used as imaginary companions for giggling pre-teen girls. However, the market base for ponies has expanded considerably in recent weeks and months, as liberal euphoria has reached such giddy heights that only brightly-colored, silken-maned, magical sparkly friendly talking flying ponies are capable of expressing.

The oil shock model does not violate the rules of causality. We have a finite supply of oil in the world. An undebateable fact. Humans discover the oil, providing both a stimulus and a cause for extraction. The trends show what we should expect given all prior information. The short-term promise of ponies for everyone notwithstanding, we have to think beyond political gratification and wrestle with the real issues.

Example 1:
- God loves you! Deal with it.
- We'll leave the lights on for you ... in hell.


Professor Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Lynch is a candidate for peak mendacity, lagging somewhat behind reality.


12:40 AM  

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