Talking Climate Change at ‘The Federalist’

Another post is up at The Federalist: in this one I give some reasons why I’m skeptical of what is now called ‘Climate Change:’

You see, I can’t judge from what I don’t know (e.g., climate science), but I can judge from what I do know. I know something of history, something of philosophy, and something of human nature. I can observe what people are doing at the moment and listen to what they actually say.

Doing so, I note that the vast majority of people, including the cause’s most vehement advocates, are no more qualified to judge it scientifically than I am. Does anyone really believe that any of those people marching in Washington have the knowledge and ability to interpret data from a global climate survey? Have they sunk the necessary hours of study and objective research into this subject to be able to say what they say with any certainty, assuming they could ever be certain?

Of course they haven’t. They are going entirely off of what certain experts have told them — namely, a specific selection of experts who have come to their attention because the media has elevated them and political groups have championed and funded them. These climate change apologists are in no position to critically examine these expert claims.

Average Voters Cannot Verify Climate Change Claims

Now, if there is, for instance, a genuine international crisis (e.g., Venezuela), then people have resources to verify it. They can read testimonies and see photos and video of the event, and in the last resort, they can go there to see for themselves. If it is a question of domestic policy, people can consider their own experience and knowledge to judge which approach to, say, taxation seems to be the best.

People cannot do this with climate change. The signs of the crisis come down to weather and to intensely complex reams of data that require specialized knowledge to interpret. The latter is out of reach for almost everyone. The former could be used to justify just about any theory since it is a proverb for unpredictability and changeableness.

If you tell people the earth is getting warmer, they will remember all those hot summer days and snowless winters they experienced and say that warming is very likely. If you tell them it is getting cooler, they will remember the mild summer days and bitter winter nights and say cooling is also very likely.

The fact is, the average voter has no way to adequately judge the question of climate change. Yet he is assured that it is an existential crisis that must be dealt with immediately and by any means necessary. Politicians and media activists are thus urging him to favor certain actions to combat a crisis that he has no way to verify. Worse, this message tends to be directed toward impressionable young people — that is, those with the highest emotions and the least ability to examine these claims.

That is an extremely dangerous state of affairs for a representative government.

Read the rest here.

A Thought on Evolution

Something that occurred to me the other day: if natural selection and chance variables in genes from generation to generation is the main engine of change, then shouldn’t animals that reproduce most rapidly show the most accelerated evolution? That is, shouldn’t, say, the rabbits of today be markedly different from the rabbits of a thousand years ago? I am fairly certain there are potential developments that would render rabbits better able to survive and breed in their environment, so shouldn’t we be seeing continual changes in that kind of species from one century to the next?

Occam’s Razor in Action

So, there’s a study going around the different popular science sites of the internet to the effect that genetic testing indicates most animal species actually appeared about the same time as humanity: 100 – 200,000 years ago. Apparently, they can tell this by the lack of notable variations in mitochondrial DNA between different species.

I’m not a scientist, and I don’t really even understand the test they claim to have used, nor do I have an ideological dog in this fight, but my initial, and as yet unshaken response to this is: “maybe these variations in mitochondrial DNA just don’t mean what you think they mean.”

A Startling Conclusion

The real question raised by the tarantula hawk’s practice of paralyzing and laying its eggs into a tarantula before burying it is this; how does it know what a tarantula is, if it was born in the dark, underground, inside the thing? How does it know to go after the tarantula, sting it, bury it, etc.?

And the really startling metaphysical conclusion is this; the wasp enters the world already equipped with knowledge. The ‘blank slate’ conception of the mind is thus disproved by observation.

Check My Reasoning Here

I was fantasizing about pitting one of my characters against Hannibal Lecter (because I do that sort of thing) when I came out with an argument that rather surprised me. It went something like this:

When a psychologist is studying his patient, his only evidence are what the patient tells him about himself (drawn out by questioning) and the patient’s behavior. His only way to test any ideas he may have about the patient is to ask questions. But by asking questions, he necessarily plants ideas in the other person’s head, thereby changing the state of his mind. If a psychologist suggests a possible explanation, the patient will immediately take that explanation and see if it fits. And, since evidence can be found to fit any theory, he probably will, even if it has nothing to do with the real movements of his mind. The presence of a new idea itself encourages him to view his mind in light of the new idea. Therefore, in psychology the proposal of a theory alters the facts that are supposed to make up the theory.

Thus, psychology inevitably alters the the thing it studies while it’s studying it and can only study by changing it, meaning that, scientifically speaking, almost all psychological conclusions are worthless, because the very act of proposing them alters the facts they are meant to explain.

What do you think? Am I missing something here?

By the way, I don’t think psychology is practically worthless: I’ve benefited from counsellors and the like myself. What I am saying is that, as a theoretical or explanatory science, it has severe flaws. Psychology, as far as I can see, is in much the same state as medicine was in the Medieval period: a lot of the time it works, sometimes it doesn’t, we have no idea why and the explanations we do have are tenuous at best.

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“Oh, that’s…oh dear.”