Thursday, July 17, 2014

Christy in NYT, little girl, and school bus

The New York Times have published a relatively friendly story by Michael Wines about John Christy, a well-known climate skeptic:
Though Scorned by Colleagues, a Climate-Change Skeptic Is Unbowed
I say that the article is "relatively friendly" because it pictures Christy as a decent human being and an achieved enough expert while his opponents, the climate alarmists who have contaminated the community of atmospheric scientists, were shown as what they are, a cruel, fanatical, inhumane, Gestapo-like sect that won't even shake Christy's hand.

From an emotional viewpoint, they treat Christy well. However, as James Delingpole nicely discusses, there is some hidden negative message in the article because the author partly intends to legitimize the isolation of Christy in certain circles of his colleagues.

I have never changed my mind that in the long run, the New York Times is a politically centrist newspaper that rarely becomes a flagship of dishonesty and contemporary versions of fascism such as environmentalism and feminism. Well, one rarely gets aroused by their articles – just like one rarely gets aroused by other grey ladies – but I do think that the New York Times preserve a certain level of being fair.

Needless to say, the New York Times article got a worse rating from the true extremists in the debate. Lindsay Abrams, an assistant editor at Salon, responded with the rant
New York Times’ climate skeptic debacle: How a new profile sets back science
where she attacks John Christy and his science from all conceivable and inconceivable angles. I find the very concept that someone would allow someone like Lindsay Abrams to "rate" a scientist with thousands of citations absolutely surreal. It's surreal for numerous reasons – and one of them allows us to classify this article as just another example of feminism run amok.

Dear Lindsay, let me tell you something: if some people have been telling you that with your IQ, your understanding of science, or your scientific achievements, you may beat John Christy's left ring finger or his right testicle, for that matter, they have been deceiving you. Instead of attempting to join the climate debate, you should work hard and learn how to wash dishes because you don't have a clue.

Let me discuss the last paragraph of her rant:
Christy’s supporters are already up in arms about that one. But the comparison is apt, and it’s the reason why, even if history does turn out to vindicate Christy, he won’t be remembered as an anti-establishment hero. He’ll just be someone who, against all evidence to the contrary, got really, really lucky, and put not just a little girl, but the entire world at risk in the process.
That's just crazy. First of all, Christy isn't supposed to be an anti-establishment hero. From a comprehensive viewpoint, as a rather typical conservative scientist, he represents the establishment of the human civilization and it's the tree huggers, climate alarmists, proponents of carbon taxes, and similar crackpots including Lindsay Abrams who are fighting against the establishment, against the technological world, against progress, and against capitalism.

Second, it's nonsensical that when the climate apocalypse fails to materialize in the next 10, 20, 50, or 100 years, people will think that the Earth will just have been lucky. The atmospheric processes are affected by lots of chaotic, hardly predictable phenomena. On the other hand, many dynamical variables describing the atmosphere are intrinsically classical variables governed by nearly deterministic theories, up to some noise whose effect may be reduced by averaging. In a few decades, it will be possible to see not only that the climate apocalypse will have not materialized; but also that its probability to emerge as of 2014 (and calculated with the hindsight that people will acquire in the future) will have been virtually zero.

Indeed, by the very definition of the probability and the basic axioms of the probability calculus, it is "extremely unlikely" (the probability is \(p_1\) which is small) that in the future, scientists will think that the mankind will have survived the 21st century only because it was "extremely lucky" (where the good luck corresponds to something whose probability is \(p_2\)). In fact, one may easily see that \(p_1\lt p_2\).

In the New York Times article, a well-known climate alarmist nutcase named Kerry Emanuel offers this emotional metaphor:
It’s kind of like telling a little girl who’s trying to run across a busy street to catch a school bus to go for it, knowing there’s a substantial chance that she’ll be killed. She might make it. But it’s a big gamble to take.
Well, totalitarian movements have always loved to abuse children and adults' positive emotions towards children – and climate alarmism is obviously no exception, nothing that would deviate from the "textbooks of propaganda" used by the Nazis and similar folks. A few weeks ago, I was amused by the story about the perfect Aryan girl poster. The Nazi propaganda chose a girl to be the "sun in the house". Needless to say, she turned out to be Jewish. Click at the picture above to read the amusing story.

Kerry Emanuel's "metaphor" suggesting that to realize that climate alarmism is a pile of šit is on par with sending little girls to the cemetery may be seen as one that is beyond the pale. It's clearly nasty for Mr Emanuel to try to hurt the image of his climate skeptic colleagues in the eyes of the gullible people by this completely demagogic metaphor.

On the other hand, there is a sense in which the metaphor is fair and we should embrace it. If you describe the metaphor from the opposite perspective, it says:
Climate alarmism is like telling a little girl to stop attending the school because there's a substantial chance that she will be hit and killed by a school bus or another vehicle on the busy street over the years. Even without any education, she might grow into more than a cave woman and survive in the modern world for decades. But it's a big gamble to take.
The point is that individual people as well as nations and the mankind faces many risks that are "not strictly zero" but just because something can't be "completely rigorously proven to be impossible", we can't completely stop doing things that have some (probably small and hard to quantify) potential to increase the probability of the bad outcomes. It's like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

A girl may actually be hit and/or killed by a vehicle on the busy street and some girls indeed are but an average girl is still better off when she learns how to cross the busy street, how to use her eyes and the traffic lights to improve her safety, how to enter the school bus, and how to attend the school. Moreover, the car accident in front of a school bus while going to school is extremely far from being the only (or the dominant) cause of death – children may be killed by cars even when they don't attend schools and there are lots of other causes of death that are unrelated to traffic – and it is therefore irrational or demagogic to separate this threat from the context and to inflate it out of any sensible proportion.

Analogously, a "climate apocalypse" is extremely unlikely, CO2 changes its probability by a tiny and hard-to-quantify amount, and there are many other possible threats – as well as positive opportunities – to consider while making rational decisions. It would be just totally idiotic to stop or reduce an important part of the world's economy because one of the thousands of hypothetical threats may be argued to be "not strictly zero".

And be sure that to force the civilization to stop using fossil fuels would be at least as bad for the prosperity and happiness in the world as the decision to "leave the children behind" by abolishing schools. That's why I think that Kerry Emanuel's quote – even though it was meant to be a cheap Goebbels-style backstab to the climate skeptics' backs – is actually a decent metaphor and Emanuel and his fellow alarmist lunatics are fundamentally wrong about the sensible behavior in both examples and in many other situations, too.


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  2. QsaTheory regarding point 4, can you give us some examples of low ambition level topics to understand your point better?

    E.g do you think AGT correspondence and Gaiotto dualtities is a low ambition topic? What about S-dualties, Higher Spin Gravity, 6D SCFTs, non perturtarbative effects in M theory or EP=EPR ?

    Which are the high ambition level topics in your opinion?

  3. To fix Kerry Emmanuel's analogy I would say that climate science is like taking food from the starving babies in Africa, selling it and using the money from it to build a gold plated bridge to allow the little girl to cross the road without noticing that there are no cars to worry about because the bus has just stopped on your side of the road.

  4. Christy made his name with analysis of the troposphere. It may be worth pointing out that the troposphere dataset was flawed. As a scientist, he reported what the data told him, can't fault him for that. However, others examined the data and found errors attributed to satellite drift, sensor differences, and the like. Once the data was calibrated it aligned with the other datasets in support of global warming.

    Searching google scholar with (Christy John OR Christy J OR Christy JR) AND (Meteorology OR Climate) produced 23,400 citations. There is another John Christy, a biologist.

    For some information on the tropospheric study:

    Human nature is ruthless. The ugly side of this debacle is the aspect of peer pressure and ridicule directed toward reputable scientists that do not appear to be politically motivated, and merely present their data. The degree of crack-pot deniers and alarmists does not help matters. Science progress often occurs at the expense of a few, only later post humus to be lauded or at least acknowledged for driving the necessity to acquire more convincing evidence..

  5. Yes Christy is a scientist and behaves honourably. I have never seen Schmidt or Jones or Mann or any of the leading alarmists behave honourably. If you find an error in their work they either refuse to admit it, claim that it is not an error but a feature, call it a new statistical method, claim that they were aware of it but had decided not to mention it and have already fixed it, attack you personally for not having published your claim in the peer-reviewed papers (that they control), claim that you are funded by big oil so are a liar, trash your name on wikipedia with false claims, etc....

  6. Sure. Sorry I find an old thread or just leave it.

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  8. From Cristy's 2003 testimony concerning Kyoto:

    I often mention that early in my career I served as a missionary in Africa. I lived upcountry with people who did not have access to useful energy. Put simply, access to energy means life, it means a longer and better life. I watched as women walked in the early morning to the forest edge, often several miles away, to chop wet green wood for fuel. They became beasts of burden as they carried the wood on their backs on the return trip home. Wood and dung are terrible sources of energy, with low useful output while creating high pollution levels. Burning wood and dung inside the homes for cooking and heat created a dangerously polluted indoor atmosphere for the family. I always thought that if each home could be fitted with an electric light bulb and a microwave oven electrified by a coal-fired power plant, several good things would happen. The women would be freed to work on other more productive pursuits, the indoor air would be much cleaner so health would improve, food could be prepared more safely, there would be light for reading and advancement, information through television or radio would be received, and the forest with its beautiful ecosystem could be saved. Access to inexpensive, efficient energy would enhance the lives of the Africans while at the same time enhance the environment.

  9. Well, let me explain better in case you misunderstood me. My example was an analogy for a particular situation in science and not science as whole as you tried to imply.

    This is also related to my last comment to Lubos. We don't do science by polling every Tom, Dick and Harry. But it is imperative that people who the general science community has decided that its opinion has a weight to be the ultimate arbitrators. these include a diverse group of people with track history of successful work, professors in highly reputable universities ....etc.

    For example, you don't see people opposing "core" QFT including re-normalization procedure( they work to an excellent degree). But if you check Arxiv many other things are open game, that is the whole point of research to find new, better or workable solutions. Some achieve the status of "worthy" of further developments. But non so far has achieved the Breakthrough where more than substantial people(in the field) would say "yes" that is it, even after long period of examination.

    Axiom in mathematics is a stark example, who gets to say what is evident truth. This is how science works, for better or worse, the majority in the field get to decide, Just like in any other field, these are human activities and are not revelations. I would have loved it to be otherwise (of course I actually don't), my theory would have been a superstar.

  10. I did understand your previous remarks, as well as those just above.
    You are confusing the sociology of science with science.
    I stand by my initial response.

  11. The New York Times is not centrist and hasn't been for a long time. By American standards, it is leftist. It routinely slants its news coverage to benefit the left. During the Bush 43 administration, it was the attack dog of the Democrats. I maintains a pretense of balance while serving as an effective propaganda arm.

    Yes, sometimes they are sort of reasonable. But on balance, they are well to the left of the American center, and they are a shameless propaganda outlet for the Democratic party.

  12. I really hate to use this wonderful discussion forum for what I am going to say, but I feel you have forced me by using inappropriate words to discredit me. Some people are natural athletes some have wonderful voice ...etc. I have always excelled in science. I have Masters(EE) from University of Sussex which is a top UK(10) and world(100something). Science is as natural to me as breathing. I came up with ideas which other mathematicians where working on when I was only 16 living in an unknown dusty town.

    please read the history section . As a matter of fact the geometric integral is nothing but the path integral of QFT. and it was me who introduced it to them.

  13. It is interesting to see the debate surrounding string theory. As a professional scientist in a different field, I fully appreciate the reality of knowing the technical details and divorcing this understanding from outside interpretations that really have nothing to do with the science per se. I am happy to see you pooh pooh this idea of "post-empirical science". It really is just plain stupid. Talk about ad hoc; the idea can only be applied to modern high energy physics! Every other physical science I am aware of, including areas outside of high energy physics such as for example condensed matter physics, are as empirical as science ever was. Therefore, the idea of "post-empirical science" is one of those "cherrys on the top" you mentioned in the article. It is a completely ad hoc idea that is meant to apply only to one single (sub)area in modern science.

    The debate about string theory seems to stem from the great success of physics, the oldest and most mature of all the sciences, and of course, the most mathematical. Based on my years of doing science, I find it hard to believe so many competent professionals in your field could be suckered in by a pipe dream or fantasy. I am glad you take the time to write articles like this that clarify why theoretical physicists spend their time and brain ATP on this problem. I do not think people like Woit or Smolin are stupid or bad. They are more inside the fold than this philosopher Dawd. But it seems to me that all their comments amount to cries of anguish over the complex, difficult technical problems faced in physics today. Obviously, wailing and cries of anguish will not solve the technical problems, but it is a reflection of the extreme uphill course that high energy physics is facing to progress. And obviously, some people are less emotionally capable of dealing with the complexities of things than others. Your area of physics is the victim of its own success. But surely this is just a temporary situation. As the oldest, most mature and most mathematical science, and the big brother to all sciences, if you folks can't figure your way out of this wet paper bag eventually, then surely we are all doomed!



  14. Sorry for the late reply. I have been thinking a bit and reviewing some materials including your exchange with Woit. I have gone quickly through this

    I can't make up my mind about how much of that is ACTUALLY about string , something in its direction or some "interesting" ideas.

    Maybe I am impatient, but I feel any theory(TOE) should start from some basic "principle" and everything else should naturally follow without these equation twisting. Also my criteria maybe too ambitious but I don't see a way around it.

    1. all couplings values and their relations and origin. That includes computing the behavior at all energies (and distances-up to edge of the universe if there is one(CC)). and if there is a physical cut-off or not.
    2. the theory must predict particles with their masses explained.Including light and its clear relation with matter.

    3. What is charge exactly and how does the value come about.

    4. the origin of Spin and entanglement (Non local).

    5. how do particles behave in flight, like the double slit experiment.

    6. The real source of the effect of relativity. That is of course includes what is Space and time (do they have relation with matter/energy). and what is vacuum made of.

    7. the relation between all of the above.

    8. the origin and the fate of the universe or(universes)

    Now, I know that ST does not pretend to solve all of these, but I and maybe others get confused over Lubos statement like "ST is our best theory" which in some respect is true(it is better than all available) but some may interpret as he is touting it as a final thing or something very close.

    The ideas you mentioned are very interesting (Lubos did a good job above) and I think things should go in that direction because of its connection with QFT(What is QFT?). I even got the feeling that even Woit seemed to got interested.

  15. Thanks for you detailed answer. I just have two other follow up questions.
    1. Is it possible to formulate ST without an explicit time.
    2. In my own stupid looking theory it shares somethings with ST. One is that if two particles are very very near or sitting on top of each other I can do any number of dimensions I please, but as soon as the two particles separate(low energy) I can only do 3d space meaningfully and I get EM and gravity only. i.e. there is no need for compacting. I don't expect a comment on this question but I would appreciate a comment on the first one.

  16. I have just learned that the sentiment expressed in the last paragraph above now has a name - Brandolini's Law:
    I think he has missed the mark by several orders of magnitude, but what can you do?