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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ig Nore Ad Vice

After Khebab posted Part II of his very extensive Oil Shock Model analysis, this comment by Engineer deserves a bit of reflection:
You can make a (simplified) elevator speech about how it works, and most people will get it. Don't mention the math.
This appears as an intuitive bit of advice, but then tristero from Digby's blog offers a swift counterpoint. Tristero's opinion centers around the outcome of framing the scientific dialog and perhaps dumbing down and making the results more exciting. So you end up getting something like this:
Not only is it pointless to try when that is the case, it is counterproductive as it comes off as phony pandering and a waste of time ("The Higgs Boson: What's In It For Me?").
PZ agrees with the ultimate futility of this attitude and to science writer Chris Mooney's approach to injecting a religious frame to certain debates. This apparently has the effect of drawing in the people that would normally never engage in a scientific discussion. According to people witnessing Mooney's experiment in action, it appears not to work.

So, no pandering from me.

A second rhetorical observation I can make from Khebab's post. Why, and how, with the billions of dollars invested in the fossil fuel industry does it take amateurs to decipher our reality-based future? I bet that the oil industry actually doesn't want to know, and even if they did know they never seriously wanted to teach it to the engineers and scientists studying the discipline. Considering how fundamental these mathematically-based rate theories that Khebab and I delve into, it borders on the criminal that people more "in the know" completely ignore this train of thought.

I can come up with any number of analogies to hypothetically missing theories or laws in other engineering disciplines, but they would seem preposterous to imagine actually happening. Like what would happen if we built up our electronics industry without actually understanding Faraday's Law.

So Engineer has a point but I can't think of making an elevator speech centered on how an inductor actually works. And have that person step off the elevator retaining anything I said. It hurts my brain to even think about it.

So we have to do the math. And I suggest we leave the framing arguments to subjective opinions like my second rhetorical observation. It gets the people "in the know" upset enough that they will send flunkies to look up the math and report back on what the heathen have figured out. Only then will we make progress.

2 Comments:

Professor Blogger Step Back said...

Wow.
You touched on a lot of sore spots in this one post.

1) "make a (simplified) elevator speech": This tells us two things about our society: First, we suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because we are so self-important and busy-as-bees that we have no time to listen to messages larger what can be filled into a beer bottle.
Second, we are simpletons and cannot be "educated" into understanding complex systems

2) "it borders on the criminal that people more "in the know" completely ignore this train of thought."

An activity is "criminal" if it violates the law. But laws are made by and for TPTB. People in the oil extraction business are TPTB. Thus they will not make laws that criminalize their own, self-interest driven activities.

Additionally, TPTB are (were) "trained" in college to think only in terms of business, in terms of making a profit. That is their train of thought.

3) "I suggest we leave the framing arguments to subjective opinions": IMHO, Mother Nature does not divide herself into "specialities". Framing is as much a reality of our Universe as is the math of depletion curves. I don't see it as a disciplined engineering move to bury yourself in the math and ignore the chemistry of mind altering "frames". They are both of equal importance and effect.

8:56 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

All very valid points. I am just frustrated that the math might only get accepted after the fact -- i.e. way down the depletion curve. And all the framing arguments are no match for a right-wing spin machine.

9:09 PM  

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