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Paper: It's valuable to lie and cheat in the name of AGW

Climate Depot has informed us about a new remarkable paper in American Journal of Agricultural Economics

Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements by Hong (Nanyang) and Zhao (Hong Kong).
The paper discusses a simple mathematical model in "game theory" of a sort and concludes that if you want many countries to join the climatic hysterical treaties, it's a great idea to lie and manipulate/varnish the information. They explicitly state that "Al Gore, the IPCC, and the mainstream media varnish their reports to accentuate the damages of climate change" and they ask why it is so. Their shocking answer is that such "manipulation of information has a great instrumental value". Yes, they lie, Hong and Zhao write, and it's great that they do!

More precisely, they say that the lies are only calculably effective once a sufficient number of countries has already joined the climate hysterical treaties. For the initial countries, the effect cannot be distinguished from zero at this moment. These two different predictions are described by the Latin phrases "ex ante" and "ex post" for the authors to sound smarter.

Now, there exists at least one climate skeptic who is not stunned by this paper. It's just mathematics – they take some axioms and (sloppily) derive their consequences. I am surely among those who are stunned.

Just to be sure, the environmentalists have never belonged among the people who had a lot of respect for the truth. After all, environmentalism is one big lie. But at least, the environmentalists tried to be more "truthful" about the smaller statements. This inclination has weakened when environmentalism has morphed into its more radical and more Marxist reincarnation, the global warming alarmism. Every global warming alarmist is spitting lots of lies on a daily basis.

But what's been even more remarkable is that lots of them aren't even afraid to admit that it's great to lie in the name of the global warming hysteria. I think that no previous major global ideology attempting to reshape all the people according to a template – for example, Catholicism, fascism, or communism – was so open about its dishonesty. Stephen Schneider (SS) was among the first well-known climate alarmists among the scientists (or "partial scientists": the reason for the adjective will be clarified soon) who has made it very clear that the climate alarmism isn't just about science, it isn't just about the truth:
SS: On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both. (Discover, October 1989)
It obviously cannot be both. Effectiveness of a proclamation is pretty much uncorrelated to its truth value. Moreover, "effectiveness" is a relative concept that is attached to the particular "effect" (goal) someone wants to achieve – and different people prefer different "effects" (goals) which eliminates any objectivity of "effectiveness". Schneider was the first would-be "credible" scientist who would say that a climate scientist is allowed to be "in between" an honest scientist and a dishonest left-wing demagogue and activist. You may see, the statement back in 1989 was relatively modest and the suggestion that one should be dishonest in the name of the "cause" had to be softened by nonsensical proclamations that "effective" and "honest" statements might be the same characteristics.

These days, no such softening is needed anymore. It's apparently OK to "calculate" that it's a great idea to lie. Obviously, if you want other people or nations to act stupidly, offering them "information" that pushes them to such stupid acts increases the chances that they will act stupidly. It works as long as they trust you, at least partially. Needless to say, pretty much all the information that you need to give the people for them to behave stupidly are lies.

Fine, their ultimate axiom is that "one should do everything to increase the number of signatories" under the idiotic and inhuman climate treaties. Of course, Hong and Zhao are not proving that it's good if nations participate in these things; they treat this assumption as an axiom. A mathematician is allowed to assume anything he wants. But the journal where they published the text is clearly an "applied science" journal. So mathematical derivations are only valuable if their assumptions are actually believed to be correct. And Hong and Zhao explicitly say that they believe that their (incorrect) assumption is correct. The assumptions are also expected to be believed by a sufficient number of readers, and if that's so – and it clearly is so – the conclusions of the paper should be believed by these readers, too. The previous sentences are meant to defend the interpretation that the paper is meant as a recommendation to the climate alarmists to manipulate the information because the manipulation has an "instrumental value". It is an advise to remain the same dishonest jerks they already are or maybe even to become worse ones than ever before.

People in everyday situations may find good reasons to manipulate the information or lie. I think they do these things way too often even non-scientific situations but there exist at least some arguments that some lies may be "useful" or "human". However, such situations become nearly non-existent in science. Science is a process to learn the truth and to do so, you just shouldn't lie or manipulate the information.

At the end, I believe that lies are bound to be counterproductive even in policymaking that depends on scientific questions. If you define "well-being" W or "happiness" H or something like that using some tools that may be scientifically studied, science is capable of finding the behavior that maximizes the value of W or H or its expectation value. To deviate from the truth that science finds or may find means to reduce W or H, too.

For this reason, the fact that they may derive (although I surely wouldn't call it "quite rigorous mathematics") that lies are actually helpful to make many nations join the climate hysteria proves that many countries' membership in the climate hysterical treaties is ultimately bad for the mankind's well-being. If it were good, it would be aligned with the truth.

What I find paradoxical about the paper by Hong and Zhao – and the alarmists' way of thinking in general – is that they are not able to look at themselves critically enough and to see that they're victims of lies and brainwashing themselves. Hong and Zhao seem to realize that it's good for Al Gore and the IPCC and the mainstream media to flood the public discourse with lies and manipulation and that they are actually doing so. But they are not intelligent enough to figure out that the very claim that "climate hysteria is a good thing" is one of these lies and manipulations that they have been "trained" to accept themselves. They're just not able to add two and two together.

Many climate alarmists have openly said that it's OK to lie or manipulate the information in the name of the "cause" (the climate hysteria and the ill-advised policies that are being justified by the climate hysteria). However, it's sort of unusual that this "defense of lies" is presented by people who probably like to be called "scientists" – and that this "defense of lies" is actually printed as a scientific paper. As far as my reading of the IPCC reports was sufficiently detailed, the authors of the IPCC reports or Al Gore haven't admitted inside the report that the report books or movies are piles of lies and trash. Hong and Zhao have finally done so.

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reader Uncle Al said...

Sacrificing virgins has never been unpopular or uncreative.
The challenge is convincing the virgins lest they undignify the ceremony.

There was not a single uprising in any of Hitler's camps over all time despite the empirically obvious for able newcomers. Social engineering has ever since stood in awe - and has generously applied the same methods to the same success. Give people virtual hope despite real contradiction, then take everything. Test of faith!.

reader Honza said...

Dear Lubos, you say: "I think that no previous major global ideology attempting to reshape all the people according to a template – for example, Catholicism, fascism, or communism – was so open about its dishonesty." Well, perhaps you are sufficiently younger not to be forced to read works of Lenin in school, but I assure you that he was very open about necessity to be dishonest, steal and kill in order to achieve his goals. I was always thinking that given what he said, they should keep his works secret, rather than force people to read it. Goebbels and Hitler were pretty open about that as well.

For example:

(“The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.”
The more modest its intellectual ballast, the more exclusively it takes into consideration the emotions of the masses, the more effective it will be.
The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way the result is weakened and in the end entirely cancelled out.

—Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter VI)

It is necessary to be able to withstand all this, to agree to any and every sacrifice, and even if need be to resort to all sorts of stratagems, manoeuvres and illegal methods, to evasion and subterfuges in order to penetrate the trade unions, to remain in them, and to carry on Communist work in them at all costs.
VLADIMIR ILICH (ULYANOV) LENIN, “‘Left-Wing’ Communism, An Infantile Disorder,” V. I. Lenin; Selected Works, vol. 10, p. 95 (1938)

reader Bill Bogus said...

Great article, I would add one thing: These people think that the climate hysteria is worth spreading even if there is only 1% chance of it being 'real', which may appear justifiable... But it is not. It is 99% that we as a society will not be able to trust our scientists anymore, and it may leave us blind to potential real issues.

In some sense it is already happening since most people don't reject the hysteria, because they would understand how it is extremely unlikely; they just don't trust these folks anymore (and rightfully so)

reader lukelea said...

Dear Lubos, Nice post, and I agree with almost everything. But this sentence jumped out at me:

"If you define "well-being" W or "happiness" H or something like that using some tools that may be scientifically studied, science is capable of finding the behavior that maximizes the value of W or H or its expectation value."

I don't think that is a true statement. Not today anyway, and maybe never.

reader rsala said...

I found your penultimate paragraph really insightful. Gullible people buy into the current state of lies regarding AGW and then justify telling even bigger lies without ever realizing that these axioms themselves are are just the earlier iteration of lies -- kind of an ice-nine for hysterics!

reader Brute said...

Off topic. I remember not long ago you commented on not being a native English speaker and this somehow being a problem. It just isn't. Please disabuse yourself of the notion that "nativism" has anything to do with language dexterity and that your knowledge of the English language is anything but extremely well above average. As a friend likes to say when asked about Chomsky's linguistic pursuits: "Among many follies, the charlatan looked for ways to support entrenched cultural bigotries claiming that you can consider yourself Shakespeare among non-natives even while illiterate among your own."

reader Curious George said...

".. to increase the number of signatories under the .. climate treaties". Fortunately it means nothing. Russia is a proud signatory under a 1994 treaty guaranteeing a territorial integrity of Ukraine.

reader Timo said...

I believe in religious discussions, this technique has been called: Heavenly Deception or Divine Lies.

reader Stephen Paul King said...

hear hear!

reader Eclectikus said...

"I think that no previous major global ideology attempting to reshape all the people according to a template – for example, Catholicism, fascism, or communism – was so open about its dishonesty."

Well, I do not think that Catholicism can be considered an ideology, though their elites have used politics (i.e. ideology) to achieve greater power throughout history. Catholicism (Latin Church) has been a perfect example for centuries, but today I think it isn't the best representation of the use of politics (to reshape people) by religion. It seems to me here that Islam would be an epitome in that regard in this time, perhaps the only remnant...

(And fully agree on everything else in the entry.)