Saturday, February 23, 2019

What’s natural about Steele’s take on Carl Sagan? - 97% - Pacifica Tribune 2/20

A study guide to Jim Steele’s  “What’s Natural?”, featured in the Pacifica Tribune.

What’s Natural? (#5)  Jim Steele, Pacifica Tribune, February 20, 2019
The Scientific Baloney Detection Kit. 

This is the second half of the previous post, please refer to it for an introduction.  
Basically Jim Steele is lecturing us on how to interpret Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit.  It promises to be an insightful journey into the workings of the libertarian deception.  

My intention is a point by point review of libertarian deception in action.
(please click on image for sharp view)

Before we begin, let me share Sagan's (or was it Feynman sage advice for us science spectators: “Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out!”
Jim Steele writes:  “To overcome our biases and strive for a greater scientific truth, our discussions will be well served if guided by Sagan's principles. Below I paraphrase the most pertinent points in Sagan's Scientific Baloney Detection Kit. (I add my comments in parentheses.)” 
Wait a minute.  Check out what’s going on here, reread that first line.

To overcome our biases” and “striving for a greater scientific truth.” Those are two very different things and must be recognized as such. 

Carl Sagan’s book was written to and for us regular people, non-scientists, we who look at the scientific community and their studies from the outside.   

Recognize that not everyone can be an Earth scientist.  It takes a particular perspective on life and a burning curiosity to understand nature, along with a disciplined character that’s always striving for greater scientific truth.  

The point I’m trying to get across is that before we can continue with this discussion - we must openly recognize who’s who.

Jim is no expert, neither am I, all we have is self-taught.  That’s one reason I’m always sharing links to the real deal for the curious.  Neither of us, nor any lay person is in any position to seriously second guess experts. 

Experts are experts in their field for excellent reasons, such as thousands of hours of focused study, work, experience - pretending that ain’t so, just isn’t being real Jim.  
1. Do: Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view. 
(Saying there's no more debate triggers the Baloney alert.) 
Please note, there's a difference between serious debate and theater.

What’s baloney is trying to have a political debate with a serious scientist.  The lawyerly/political debate is focused on winning an argument at all costs, honesty and ethics be damned.  

Scientists are only interested in a serious ‘constructive debate’.

Basic Laws of a good faith Constructive Debate:
THE GOAL - A more accurate understanding!
Truthfully represent your opponents position and evidence.
Listen to and absorb what your opponent is explaining.
Truthfully represent your own position and evidence.
Acknowledge and process ALL the information at hand.
Allow the facts to guide what you believe.

(When I shared this with Editor Fredrick and Mr. Steele I included this invitation under each item.  I'm now posting the same invite here, simply to remind them, I'm ready for a constructive dialogue, so long as it's honest and fact based!   2/28/19)
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:

2. Don’t: Avoid arguments from authority. They carry little weight -- "authorities" have made mistakes in the past. 
(Unable to refute Einstein's ideas, his antagonists claimed authority via consensus and published 100 against Einstein." Evoking the mythical "97 percent of all scientists agree" is a similar tactic.) 
That’s cute, please notice that flipflop on display.  

Proclaim what not to do, then immediately jump right into reinforcing a contrarian argument from authority.  Why care about arguing over what the 97% checked off on a questionnaire?

Aren’t we supposed to be focusing on the physical evidence?  And what we’re learning from the science?

An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:

3. Don't: Don't attack the arguer, attack the argument. 
(mud-slinging dominates politics. Dismissing valid arguments by calling the arguer a "denier" {or "obsessed internet sniper" or distract by opining about their "wretched life"} -  muddies the science.)

UPDATE: Ironically when someone does want to debate the good Jim Steele, this is what he comes up with: 

Revealingly Jim Steele write to editor Fredrick"Since learning I have the What's Natural column he keeps emailing me all sorts of dishonest BS so I am no going to block all his emails. So I will no longer be privy to his attacks that he emails you. He is simply an obsessed internet sniper. Sniping at me somehow gives purpose to his wretched life."
Sure, don’t attack the arguer, listen to them and evaluate best you can. 

Then again, if the arguer insists on parroting endlessly repeated false claims, misrepresentations and ignorant arguments, even though those mistakes have all been repeatedly explained to said arguer, then one should expect the argument to go off the rails.

Also keep in mind there’s a difference between an insult and a descriptive.  

“Denier” has a specific meaning:  “One who denies and ignores well known and understood facts.”

If the shoe fits . . .
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:

4 Do: Spin more than one hypothesis. Think of all the different ways in which something could be explained. Think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. 
(Climate change is extremely complex and governed by many variables. The aim of the What's Natural column is to delve into all those complexities. Detailing natural climate change is not denying a greenhouse effect.) 
Sure, be a bit skeptical of everything you hear.  Weigh it against the knowledge you’ve acquired, research it some and see what comes out of it.  Investigate your doubts and alternate theories, wrestle with the problem until it starts making sense.  

If you’re really stumped, write a scientist, bet you’ll get a concise helpful response.  I sure have often enough.

But don’t trick yourself into believing you are smarter than the experts. 

Learning is about gathering all the available evidence and arriving at our best understanding, until more evidence arrives.  Never forgetting there is much we ourselves don’t understand, but that experts are already thoroughly familiar with.

It’s not about nit-picking and cherry-picking and pretending we’re in a position to be lecturing the experts.  

It’s about us arriving at a rational understanding of what the scientists have been explaining to us. Just because we don't like the news, doesn't make the reality go way.
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:

5. Don’t: Don't get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting your favored hypothesis. If you don’t, others will. 
(no comment offered)
Great advice, just keep it in perspective.  

Carl wasn’t talking about laypeople sitting in judgement on any scientific community’s educated hypothesis.  
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:
6. Do: Ask whether a hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. 
(Unfortunately, predictions generated by climate change theory cannot be falsified or verified by simple experiments or short-term weather events.) 
Get the irony here?
Steele is opining then playing his own Authority Card. 

Besides, he’s wrong, though it requires some good faith homework to understand it.

Climate science is an Earth systems science, it cannot be compared to a nice neat table top chemistry experiment, but aspects of it are most certainty falsifiable.

Before heeding that “falsifiability” dog whistle - take a little time to appreciate the complexity of the down to Earth subject we are studying, namely our global heat and moisture distribution engine.  
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:
Allow me to have a genuine expert explain it.  The late, great, Stephen Schneider, PhD.

Climate Change: Is the Science “Settled”?
Stanford | Published on May 13, 2010

(February 4, 2010) Stephen Schneider, professor of biology at Stanford and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, unpacks the political and scientific debates surrounding climate change.

This course was originally presented in Stanford's Continuing Studies program.

7. Don’t: Don't argue via adverse consequences. 
(Claiming we will be 'under-water in 70 years" or the world will be "irreversibly destroyed in 12 years," are common adverse consequences; scare tactics that set off a Baloney alert.) 
Correct, keep your eye’s on the physical facts, still those include trends - and if the future matters, then defined forecasts help us better understand our situation.  

In our real world, we use our understanding of physical facts to help us navigate our lives.  We learn things in order to utilize the knowledge we gain to guide the choices we must make about our lives and futures.

Incidentally, something that should raise the Baloney Alert is when contrarians use random wild media claims, to smear scientists, who’ve had nothing to do with said sensationalist’s speculation.
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:
8. Don’t: Don't "appeal to ignorance." In other words, don't claim that whatever has not been proved false then must be true. 
(The earliest claim that 97 percent of all scientists agree, was an appeal to ignorance. It was assumed if authors did not explicitly disagree with CO2 driven climate change theory then they must all agree. In subsequent surveys, only 22 to 32 percent of scientists ever replied. Of those responding, only+9 percent believed humans are causing more than 5o percent of observed climate change. That means only 16 percent have actualIy agreed.) 
Wow, this is weird.  Why are we back with the 97% scientists agree, no they don’t, yes they do, song and dance?  

Incidentally, notice Steele doesn’t specifying climate scientists.  Why?  Aren’t those the experts we should be listening to regarding global warming issues?

Also notice that Jim’s comment is in fact an Appeal to his own Authority.  He is telling us what to think about that survey - he doesn’t share the questions nor context, no need, we got it on his authority.  

For those who are curious, take a look at one of the surveys -

Oh, on top of that, Jim shares some outrageously suspect numbers and offers no details or sourcing, merely his personal assessment, again we’re supposed to take him on his authority.
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:

9. Don't confuse correlation with causation. 
(A recent extreme weather event happening when CO2 concentrations are high, may or may not have been worsened by high COz. Far worse weather events happened over the past thousand years.) 
Here we have another straw man argument.

How about we not confuse bullshit with science.  Focus on the science, on the facts, on the expert understanding - discuss that!  But some never do.  

In response to Steele’s outrageously disconnected suggestion: Jim, It’s The Atmospheric Insulation Silly!

CO2 does not directly cause extreme weather.  That requires a cascade of geophysical consequences. 

These days excessive atmospheric CO2 is causing our global heat and moisture distribution engine to warm up from historic levels - that is, the climate plateau of the past ~6,000 years.

It is the warming of our various climate engine components, along with a jet stream that’s become more erratic, a cryosphere which is fracturing and melting, rising sea levels, along with saturating our skies with more moisture; these are the components at the heart of extreme weather. 

Isn’t Steele once again doing exactly what he just told us not to do: “Don't confuse correlation with causation.” ?
Steele: “Far worse weather events happened over the past thousand years.”  
So what, they were far rarer - so lets focus on the geophysics of today’s +410ppm world rather than such tricky dicky acts of misdirection and grand generalizations.
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:

10. Don't use straw man arguments - caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack. 
(A common straw man attack I encounter has been Jim Steele ignores the effect of rising CO2 only pointing out other possible reasons for climate change.'I do indeed point out natural causes to provide a greater climate perspective. But I never ignore the greenhouse effect. Clearly climate has been changing since the 1800s. CO2 concentrations are unprecedentedly high and CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Those are undeniable facts on which we ail agree. 
But there is absolutely NO scientific consensus regards
how "sensitive" the earth is to a doubling of CO2 concentrations. IPCC estimates of how global temperature will respond to a doubling of CO2 range greatly from 1 to 5 degrees centigrade. To accurately determine the earth's sensitivity to higher levels of CO2, we must accurately assess natural climate change.) 

The blind spots are astounding.  Steele admonishes us not to “caricaturize” positions, then Jim comes up with a killer line like: 
absolutely NO scientific consensus regards how "sensitive" the earth is … (to CO2)”
It’s easy to prove him wrong: 
“It is defined as the change in global mean surface temperature at equilibrium that is caused by a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence)16. The lower temperature limit of the assessed likely range is thus less than the 2°C in the AR4, but the upper limit is the same. This assessment reflects improved understanding, the extended temperature record in the atmosphere and ocean, and new estimates of radiative forcing. {TS TFE.6, Figure 1; Box 12.2} 
Of course, this official definition isn’t precise enough for Steele’s biased unrealistic expectations.  That’s his opinion.  But then, what does he know?  In any event, there certainly is a serious scientific consensus.
Consensus Affirmed: Virtually All Climate Scientists Agree Warming Is Manmade
BY PHIL MCKENNA  |  APR 14, 2016

Ninety to 100 percent of climate scientists agree that the planet is warming due to human activity, according to a peer-reviewed paper published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters
The study, called a "consensus on consensus," synthesizes findings from prior published research.
While there is a near-unanimous consensus among climate scientists that human activity is causing the planet to warm, public opinion in the U.S. lags far behind.  Only 70 percent of Americans (79 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans) believe there is evidence for global warming, according to recent national figures. 
Corporate funding that seeds doubt on the science of climate change has helped create this wide disparity in beliefs on climate change between scientists and the general public, particularly 
Republicans, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Republican party's two leading presidential candidates say they do not believe in manmade global warming. …

Please note Mr. Steele is again asking us to rely on his authority to believe that there is no consensus among scientists although evidence to the contrary is easy to find.  
What should we make of that?
All the while Steele tries to dismiss the concept of consensus as if it isn’t the cornerstone to our functioning complex society.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Incidentally, how about taking a close look at what has been proven! 
CO2 Science - Proof is in the pudding! Impossible Modern Marvels
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:

11. Don't just count the’ hits" and forget the "misses" when evaluating a hypothesis. 
(There are many hits, yet many misses by both CO2 global warming theory and natural climate change theories. The science is not settled and the time for rigorous debate has not passed.) 
Rigorous debate.  How about a constructive debate?

How about a debate where the goal is for citizens to acquire a better understanding of why scientists tell us what they do?

Some fundamentals of a Constructive Debate:

THE GOAL - A more accurate understanding!
(As opposed to superficially “winning” an argument.)

Truthfully represent your opponent’s position and evidence.
Listen to and absorb what your opponent is explaining.
Acknowledge and process all the information at hand.
Directly respond to your opponent’s argument(s).
Honestly represent your own facts in a constructive educational manner.
Allow the facts to guide what you believe. 
An invitation for Mr. Steele to respond:

We The People of the United States have a moral, ethical right - along with a pragmatic need - to learn what scientists have learned about this planet's biosphere and climate engine without constant dishonest crossfire.    
We should not tolerate serious scientists constantly being drown out by amoral, ruthless and frankly ignorant arguments - that an astoundingly ruthless GOP PR factory repeats over and over again, without ever learning a damned thing from the evidence in front of us.
Deep Background

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