Believe It Or What?

Credit: Tim O’Brian

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31 Responses to Believe It Or What?

  1. Chris Peterson says:

    In order to explain Trump’s alternate facts, one must look to the master of alternate realities, Dr. Who:
    “You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views.”

  2. Greg Goodknight says:

    There are always “alternative facts”, and it’s unclear in many cases which are correct, which are false, and how many of each category are clearly conflicting with others.

    One fine example of this is the climate record and AGW… those who focus on the terrestrial record and computer models have theirs, and others who focus on satellite records, weather balloons and solid physics have theirs.

    In the case of the crowd estimates, there’ve been many amateurs in crowd estimation snookered by attendance on the National Mall… in fact, the Park Service stopped giving their estimates when, in the aftermath of the so-called Million Man March, they were accused of being racist in not seeing more than they found.

    Add to that, at least when it comes to the CNN crowd photo, they made the assumption that the biggest audience would be at the start of the Trump speech… without actually showing that the attendance didn’t grow as time passed. There are news reports that there were demonstrations at the security checkpoints that slowed down the people trying to gain access to the area, so just assumptions that they guessed the right time for a peak is less than convincing.

    What I think we have here is a press corps that are quick to call anything Trump says is a lie, and Trump having far more confidence in his judgments than is justifiable. I expect Trump to get better at this as time goes on. The press may, or may not.

    I’d have had a lot more respect for the journalists who were grilling the Trump team had any of them stopped the inquisition and asked a simple question before the “L” word made its appearance… what evidence do you have for that claim, that interpretation?

    You know, what used to be good journalism. Go in for the kill afterwards. Then there’s the view from long ago in a galaxy far, far away:

    Luke: Ben! Why didn’t you tell me? You told me that Darth Vader betrayed and murdered my father.

    Obi-Wan: Your father… was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be the Jedi Anakin Skywalker and “became” Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So, what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.

    Luke: A certain point of view?

    Obi-Wan: Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

    Yes, point of view really is important.

  3. steven frisch says:

    Sometimes the warning of Francis Bacon is warranted:

    “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion … draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises … in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate”. –Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620

    So we are left with the question, as Greg put it, what evidence do you have to support your claim?

    But then again when someone’s contention is that they will only produce facts that support their own case ignoring the rest of the scientific record, that they will discount any facts from sources that don’t agree with claiming they are biased even when they number in the thousands of organizations and respected sceintists, regularly cherry pick only the facts that support their case ignoring all other recorded facts particularly from from other branches of science they are less familiar with, and are so sensitive to question that they take any question about facts as a personal insult and attempt to demean the intelligence of their detractors claiming their knowledge is inferior, then they probably have not only small hands…but they are purveyors of “Alt-Facts.”

    Sound like anyone you know?

    • Judith Lowry says:

      Sadly Steve, just about everyone I know.

      “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”
      I have always liked that quote, it’s attributed online to Both Ben Franklin and Dale Carnegie.
      Can anyone clear this up?

    • steven frisch says:

      Clearly needed better editing this morning.

      “…that they will discount any facts from sources that they don’t agree with…”

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Steven, once again, you miss the point. Perhaps intentionally so.

      In science, it isn’t the volume of facts that makes the case. As Feynman so famously put it, (altogether now), “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

      Feynman also wrote, “Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation…. As a matter of fact I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

      It isn’t cherrypicking to focus in on the facts that make the case for a falsification, it’s the essence of the scientific method.

      Since the L-word became the be-all of the White House Press Corps, when a whiff of inconsistency came to the journalists (and here’s another obvious truth, practically none of them vote GOP) the bloodhounds of truth become more like the hounds in “UP!”, looking for the squirrel. I’d rather they stay journalists more than they’d like before the feeding frenzy begins.

  4. Judith Lowry says:

    And from another Bacon,

    “If you want to convey fact, this can only ever be done through a form of distortion. You must distort to transform what is called appearance into image.”

    Francis Bacon (painter)

  5. Chris Peterson says:

    The problem with lying, (I’m sorry; alternative truth), is that we all have to have a good grasp of the truth you’re trying to cover up, in order to understand it. In other words; if it were the truth, you wouldn’t need an alternative explanation.

    Isaac Newton claimed that truth is a simple construct, and the more convoluted your explanation, the less likely it is to be the truth. Such is the case with inaugural crowds, climate change, and political rhetoric. Despite the weather conditions, wind direction, or the lower IQ of those looking for the event this year vs Obama’s inaugural, apples to apples, 10 am to 10 am, the crowd was one third as big this year.

    Same with climate change; arguing that computer models, (which we are to assume were arrived at by some hocus-pocus, rather than so much physical evidence that it takes a computer to correlate it), arrived at by the overwhelming majority of global scientists, is not as trustworthy as your local weatherman, because he has balloons, is a laughable hypothesis. It’s like ten doctors telling you that you have cancer, but one insists that it’s just a phase because he’s observed you walking to your car.

    You’d think that the best result to be hoped for would be an example of Buridan’s ass, but a quick check of the subsequent Women’s March in cities across the globe shows us that, without a doubt, the majority of intelligent humans are not buying into this “alternative truth” movement, which is so central to this new administration’s loathsome aspirations.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      About a year ago, Freeman Dyson, the closest we have to a living Feynman, was interviewed…
      ******************************
      Q: It’s now difficult for scientists to have frank and honest input into public debates. Prof Brian Cox, who is the public face of physics in the UK thanks to the BBC, has said he has no obligation to listen to “deniers,” or to any other views other than the orthodoxy.

      A: That’s a problem, but still I find that I have things to say and people do listen to me, and people have no particular complaints.

      It’s very sad that in this country, political opinion parted [people’s views on climate change]. I’m 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on this issue, and the Republicans took the right side.

      Q: Are climate models getting better? You wrote how they have the most awful fudges, and they only really impress people who don’t know about them.

      A: I would say the opposite. What has happened in the past 10 years is that the discrepancies between what’s observed and what’s predicted have become much stronger. It’s clear now the models are wrong, but it wasn’t so clear 10 years ago. I can’t say if they’ll always be wrong, but the observations are improving and so the models are becoming more verifiable.
      ******************************

      By verifiable, Dyson also means “falsifiable”, that concept Frisch has a hard time with. They are wrong, having so moved away from measurable reality in ten years that the idea they should be used to predict climate a century or more in the future is less than prudent.

      It should be noted that the two scientists that appear to be in the running for White House Science Adviser and similar posts are Princeton’s Happer, a physicist, and Yale’s Gelernter, a Computer Scientist. I’m delighted with both, we live in interesting times.

      • Chris Peterson says:

        I hate to take up so much space with such a large post, but I think it important to know that Dyson does not disagree with either the rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere, that it is human caused, or that it is causing oceans to rise and heat to increase.
        “Dyson agrees with the prevailing view that there are rapidly rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere caused by human activity. To the planet, he suggests, the rising carbon may well be a MacGuffin, a striking yet ultimately benign occurrence in what Dyson says is still “a relatively cool period in the earth’s history.” The warming, he says, is not global but local, “making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter.” Far from expecting any drastic harmful consequences from these increased temperatures, he says the carbon may well be salubrious — a sign that “the climate is actually improving rather than getting worse,” because carbon acts as an ideal fertilizer promoting forest growth and crop yields. “Most of the evolution of life occurred on a planet substantially warmer than it is now,” he contends, “and substantially richer in carbon dioxide.” Dyson calls ocean acidification, which many scientists say is destroying the saltwater food chain, a genuine but probably exaggerated problem. Sea levels, he says, are rising steadily, but why this is and what dangers it might portend “cannot be predicted until we know much more about its causes.”
        Basically, he is at odds with those who claim that all the evidence is in, and says we by no means should stop studying the issue as a closed debate. To that; I agree.
        We can all take solace in the fact that he claims, should the CO2 rise too high in the atmosphere, we can always plant more trees. (A backhanded admission that perhaps cutting so many down wasn’t so wise, in the first place.) At any rate, he does not disagree with the findings of most scientists on climate change; merely that the conclusions are not set in his mind, as of yet. So, to use his opinion as a dispute of knowable facts is plainly false-headed.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            That’s from early 2009, Chris. My quotes are from October 2015.

            The money quote from the latter that you should pay attention to is “What has happened in the past 10 years is that the discrepancies between what’s observed and what’s predicted have become much stronger. It’s clear now the models are wrong, but it wasn’t so clear 10 years ago. I can’t say if they’ll always be wrong, but the observations are improving and so the models are becoming more verifiable.”

            In short, since 2009 he’s noticed what I have noticed and you have not. Open your eyes, Chris.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            “In short, since 2009 he’s noticed what I have noticed and you have not.”

            That’s incredible, Greg; to think that he could have forgone all his intellect and education and simply come to you for the answers.
            And to think that constant experiment and upgraded technology over a ten year period could possibly change the projected outcome of a scientific study is blowing my mind. Who da’ thunk it, (besides you and Dyson, I mean). I suppose you’re going to try to tell me that things will change, yet again, in the next ten years. BOOM! I can’t keep up with you.

            You are truly one of the great thinkers of our time.

            (Oh, by the way, he still thinks CO2 is rising, oceans are rising, the heat index is rising, and it’s a man-made phenomenon. He still doesn’t dispute that it’s happening, he just doesn’t agree with what that means. Of course, being intellectual twins, you knew that.)

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            That’s just the voices in your head feeding you straw man snark, Chris.

            I understand, it’s a difficult subject and you have little to no education in the physical sciences. Religious arguments is all you ever seem to have.

            Yes, CO2 makes the atmosphere a bit warmer, just not enough to justify alarm and personal attacks against those who don’t attend your church.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            My religion? My church? Sir, you have crossed the line!
            I am indeed an ordained minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the one thing we won’t put up with is ANYONE taking our congregation seriously. (Especially since it cost me $25 online for the certificate.) You’ll never see the free beer and stripper factory in the afterlife with an attitude like yours’.

            And thanks to the new President’s doctrine of alternative facts, your education don’t mean shit. I would have thought a conservative zealot like you would have embraced that by now.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Chris,

            Let’s go back to Dyson’s 2015 quote that you managed to ignore:

            “I’m 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on this issue, and the Republicans took the right side.”

            There’s no spin you can do to undo this. Literally one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century and a Democrat, saying you got this one wrong.

            There are literally thousands of papers in peer reviewed journals that, in part or in total, support what Dyson is saying. Most scientifically illiterate progressives deny this and so, when they get flustered, they resort to sarcasm and personal attack.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            Recap? OK, let’s go there.

            Dyson believes the empirical evidence showing a significant rise in CO2 to be true.
            Dyson believes that the oceans are rising as a result.
            Dyson also believes that this is a condition caused by human burning of fossil fuels which is causing the melting of our polar regions.

            Where the 85 year old scientist differs with the majority is his OPINION that that’s not such a bad thing. He rightly claims that Earth’s biggest growing spurt was at a time of elevate CO2, which he describes as a “natural fertilizer.” He further postulates that we can “plant more trees” if the temperature goes to high. In addition, he suggests that the global community comes together to make it snow more at the north and south poles to regulate our planet’s thermostat.
            In short; he doesn’t disagree with what is, and is going to, happen, and why, he only disagrees that it’s a global catastrophe.

            So yeah, he disagrees with Obama, the Dems, and the scientific community on the threat of the outcome, but where he differs from the Republicans is; he understands and agrees with the fact that it is happening, whereas they, out of pure ignorance, simply deny it altogether.
            And yes, he agrees with you, Greg, if you’re one of those who thinks displacing billions who live at sea level is no big deal.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Chris, it appears Dyson, when faced with improved information, is capable of changing his mind. You need to get past Dyson’s interpretation of the state of the science in 2009.

            It happened to me in 2007, and it happened to others before that, and after that. For a good time, try to find someone with a clue (a real science education counts) going from skeptic to alarmist in the last couple of years… it’s virtually all people heading towards the exits as IPCC predictions fail.

            PS no one disputes more CO2 is entering the atmosphere and that more CO2 will make it warmer… it just ain’t very much if the climate doesn’t boost that with positive feedbacks and the news since 2009 is that the positive feedbacks are either non-existent or much weaker than the modelers assume. No positive feedbacks, no danger. Sorry.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            Well, here’s a quote from him in Dec. 2015, (which, by my calculation, isn’t all that long ago):
            “China and India have a simple choice to make. Either they get rich [by burning prodigious quantities of coal and causing] a major increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or they stay poor. I hope they choose to get rich. …

            The good news is that the main effect of carbon dioxide … is to make the planet greener, [by] feeding the growth of green plants of all kinds [and] increasing the fertility of farms and fields and forests.”

            So, apparently, he still believes in anthropomorphic “global warming”, as he himself calls it, but still insists that the consequences of inaction are a livable scenario, as long as you don’t live near a coastline.

            If he lives to 95, he can issue another statement claiming, as he has for twenty years, that climate change is real, but he can still live with it. Hopefully, you’ll be around for another ground-breaking regurgitation of his SOS.

          • Gregory says:

            Golly, Chris, your comprehension this time is remarkably low, even for you. Let’s dig into it:

            “Well, here’s a quote from him in Dec. 2015, (which, by my calculation, isn’t all that long ago [congrats, you got something right-gg]):
            “China and India have a simple choice to make. Either they get rich [by burning prodigious quantities of coal and causing] a major increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or they stay poor. I hope they choose to get rich. …””

            Chris, if you unravel that a bit more carefully, you’ll note Dyson is saying that he hopes India chooses the path that leads to less poverty… burning huge amounts of coal.

            “”The good news is that the main effect of carbon dioxide … is to make the planet greener, [by] feeding the growth of green plants of all kinds [and] increasing the fertility of farms and fields and forests.”

            There, Dyson is saying that the “greening” effect is more significant than the actual warming effects… Plants evolved in atmospheres with ten times (and more) CO2 than what we had 100 years ago. Photosynthesis *needs* CO2 in trace amounts and our atmosphere has been so lacking that many greenhouse operators actually burn gas inside the nurseries to bring CO2 closer to 1000ppm to increase growth. They get more growth, and faster growth. Even the Sahara is getting more green as a result… there is an upside to more CO2 in the air, and the 300ppm of the 19th century was a shortage, as far as plant life is concerned. So is our current 400ppm.

            “So, apparently, he still believes in anthropomorphic “global warming”, as he himself calls it, but still insists that the consequences of inaction are a livable scenario, ”

            So do I.

            “as long as you don’t live near a coastline.”

            Chris, that last one is not supported by any recent Dyson musing.

            Anthropogenic CO2 has an effect on temperature and ocean levels, but it’s so small it’s nearly invisible next to natural variations and that includes sea levels.

            Here’s a satellite radar altimetry of sea level:
            http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/2016rel4-global-mean-sea-level-time-series-seasonal-signals-retained

            3.4mm/yr is about one foot of ocean rise in a century, and it may head to a lower rate or even a decrease in a short amount of time if solar physicist’s forecast of a quiet sun in our near future is correct. Time will tell.

            That is why Dyson is now saying the GOP chose right and you have chosen wrong.

            I think you’d find Dyson doesn’t think either Dems or GOP chose wrong or right due to any inherent differences in intelligence; taken as a group both are woefully ignorant of basic science concepts. So, celebrate the mediocrity of the body politic, you fit right in.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            Showing off your mediocre understanding of climate change isn’t helping your cause, Gregory. Like the saying goes, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Your long-winded, Cliff Claven diatribe could be pared down to 3 sentences:
            Dyson says global warming is real.
            Dyson says oceans are rising.
            Dyson says human are causing it.

            The rest of your pseudo-intellectual babble is really superfluous. You’d do well to quit while you’re moderately behind, like your new emperor, Tweetler.

            You can add as much alternative truth as you want; he said what he said, and your comical attempts at obfuscation are symptomatic of the truth-resistant mind of today’s typical neocon, much the same as an antibiotic-resistant disease.
            Fear not; the cure is on the horizon.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Chris, we both know if I followed you down your rabbit hole of personal insults, I’d get “moderated”.

            RL, double standards really are not better than no standards at all.

            “I’m 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on [the climate] issue, and the Republicans took the right side.”-Freeman Dyson, 2015

            I hate to keep with the argument to authority, but that’s all some people are able to make sense of. Without a year or two of real collegiate chemistry and physics it can be difficult just to read the journal articles yourself, let alone discuss the issues.

          • Michael Anderson says:

            Greg, just curious, why did you put the word ‘moderated’ in quotation marks?

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Michael Anderson, you’ll just have to use your imagination for that.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            Calm down, Gregory, my descriptions of your argument are hardly face-slapping “insults.” And maybe, in your mind, you should be able to slight me in every one of your posts without repercussion, and yell “Mommy” should anyone push back, but it just don’t work that way in the real world.
            The quote you keep coming back to, (if you don’t mind staying on subject), is one where Dyson again states that he can live with global warming, ( a position closer to the opinion of the Republican party, which is, unlike his own, based on the pure ignorance that it’s NOT happening), whereas the rest of the world says otherwise.

            Your arguments make me ponder, who was the last “scientist” to claim that the world was flat, and how many mediocre minds stuck with him? I’ll bet you, dollars to donuts, that it was more political or religious than scientific.

          • steven frisch says:

            Chris I think you are calling Greg a climate denying snowflake 🙂

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          “Basically, he is at odds with those who claim that all the evidence is in, and says we by no means should stop studying the issue as a closed debate.”

          No one says that, Chris, besides the voices in your head.

  6. steven frisch says:

    I am not sure why anyone would listen to advice from Greg Goodnight on climate related information when there are thousands of scientists out there who are actually practitioners who overwhelmingly agree the climate is changing and the cause is anthropogenic.

    People are free to look for themselves. The overwhelming body of evidence, not just modeling but direct evidence, from numerous fields of science–botany, chemistry, biology, etc. –from direct experimentation show the climate is changing.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Beyond the sometimes very political posturing that decides a person’s opinion on the subject, I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would be against cleaner water, cleaner air, and a lifestyle more in tune with the planet we all live on. What’s the downside of more sustainable, cleaner energy sources? Many countries on the globe have much more restrictive fossil fuel usage than we do, and they haven’t shown the slightest damage to their economies as a result. Seriously, someone please explain to me how living on a cleaner planet would do you, personally, harm.

      With the preponderance of credible scientists calling for action, it seems that the only ones with any possible reason for objecting would be those who make their fortunes from fossil fuels themselves. Life evolves; carriage makers and footmen become obsolete; such is the unstoppable progress of the human specie. And the ones who are the most ignorant are those who’s lives wouldn’t change in the least by the change, but continue to argue against it for political reasons.

      If neither reality nor progress is on your side, then it’s time to rethink your position.

      • Greg Goodknight says:

        “What’s the downside of more sustainable, cleaner energy sources?”

        People dying unnecessarily of cold and hunger, just not in California or Oregon. No one you know, Chris, so don’t you fret.

      • Stronzo says:

        Did you know that, in the early days of the automobile, it was believed a man would suffocate if he went over 60 MPH?

        Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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