The Illusion of Relevance


I’m not a big fan of the human intellect.      In fact I think one of the most obvious points in science – too rarely addressed – is how inadequately evolution has prepared us for the challenges of modern technological times.     A simple example is the fact many of us eat too much, and die early from diseases that we’d rarely get if we maintained a healthy lifestyle of modest calorie intake and modest exercise.

Every year *billions* of life years are lost simply due to minor deviations from our evolutionary designed healthy lifestyle recipe.   This is not to suggest that recipe of modest calorie intake + modest exercise is a health panacea, but those two factors dwarf most others in the developed world.    Poor countries, on the other hand, suffer more from *too few” calories and vices like smoking, war, and poor health standards.      In fact it is in this arena where humanity could have a stunning impact on raising the standard of living for about a billion people with a modest investments in health, water, and infrastructure.

Yet a combination of dictatorial regimes, inept bureaucracies, human ignorance among the victims, and widespread indifference from the affluent countries condemns an extraordinary number of people to a lifetime of relatively poor health and poverty.

What does this have to do with the illusion of relevance?     I think one aspect of our intellectual inadequacy is that we often assign importance to the wrong things.      Why is the death of Michael Jackson so much more interesting to so many than the deaths of some 125,000 children that have happened since Jackson’s untimely demise?   Every week sees hundreds of thousands die – often painfully and miserably – from diseases like malaria, rotoviruses, and malnutrition that are all easily preventable at relatively low cost.     This is NOT to suggest the people dying do not have responsibilities here – they do and I think a key component of bringing higher global health standards is to treat parents in the third world more harshly when they ignore the needs of their children in favor of their own bad habits and bad decisions.   Political correctness prevents using some marketing tactics that might prove effective in combating the profound, pervasive ignorance that often creates irrational aversion to great programs like vaccinations, health, condoms, schooling for girls, and other standard western rights that are currently beyond the grasp of so many in the developing world.

The tragic circumstances of the third world are not generally our *fault* as suggested by the naive who fail to see that it is the *lack of US participation*, not the presence of it, that has condemned so many poor economies to failure.

Still, solving these problems remains a large part of our *responsibility* as global citizens.    Partly due to the moral imperatives that are a product of the worldview most of us share but I think more importantly simply because we *can* solve these problems if we can extract ourselves from the foolish concerns that plague so many otherwise intelligent people.

More importantly, solving these problems requires us to dispense with the illusion of relevance about so many topics that have so little meaning to the collective humanity.     Britney Spears news vs Clean water for a billion people news.

You decide.

ClimateProgress.org bans most reasoned dissent?


As a long time blogger I’m going to start calling out other blogs for an outrageous practice that is becoming very common and very frustrating to any clear thinker:  banning comments simply because they don’t line up with a particular blog’s point of view and biases.     Blog authors have a lot of control and it’s increasingly abused in the name of groupthink.    At the WordPress conference I was alarmed to hear a prominent blogger say something along the lines of “it’s my house and I can kick out whoever I want to”.    Blogs already suffer from inhibiting good two way communication and it pains me to see bloggers make the problem worse by wasting their time censoring comments.   I comment far less now than I used to at blogs like RealClimate.org because I know that even a calm and reasoned comment may be deleted by the heavy handed and irrational moderation practiced there.    This form of censorship distorts the conversation, often misleading the gullible into thinking there is concensus where there is none.

There are many obvious gray areas in terms of censorship but I’m seeing an increasing number of blogs cross the lines of reasoned discourse in the interest of lining up support for their positions.   Interestingly this is becoming something of standard operating procedure in much of the climate alarmism blog community, where ClimateProgress stands out conspicuously as an alarmist voice for the poorly informed who want to stay that way.

My hypothesis is that this irrationality and censorship stems  from several new factors:  Ego-driven science of the last few decades, unreasonable attacks on scientists that were common in the Bush “anti science” administration, overspecialization in the sciences that creates narrow bands of expertise that have little relevance to larger context issues like Climate Change, grade inflation (there are a remarkable number of scientists who now write and discuss things as irrationally as a TV pundit – acting more as advocates than purveyors of information.

A spectacular example of this is Joe Romm’s ClimateProgress.org , a targeted and uninformed collection of misleading  posts about Climate Science.   Most are simply attack dog pieces on reasoned voices who do no share Romm’s irrationally alarmist views about Climate change.     Although I’m a fan of Tom Friedman his implied endorsement of this blog forces me to reconsider Friedman’s coherency.

Now, we are living in the blogosphere so ranting irrationally has a lot of entertainment value, but Romm’s has the audacity to simply ban or moderate those who don’t agree with him.

I feel a combination of anger and pity for people who choose to limit the conversation to strengthen their own (usually weak) positions, but when this is done in the name of “science” it *REALLY* pisses me off, and I’ll be bringing this up regularly as the intersection of advocacy and science continues to metasticize in the blogOsphere.

OK, I admit the comment below, posted over at ClimateProgress.org  is kind of snarky but he should at the very least post it in the interest of dialog since he’s attacking *both* Pielke’s, who any reasonable person would agree are well qualified climate scientists who suffer enormous abuse at the hands of their intellectual inferiors for simply pointing out the obvious about climate alarmism.

Ad Hominem BS as usual – do you EVER address any reasoned scientific critiques here? Both Pielke’s represent voices of reason in the rising sea of alarmism that represents the greatest exaggeration of risk in the history of humans on earth.

The main point for those of us who accept global warming and accept the anthropogenic nature of that warming but don’t preach catastrophe is that 1) related natural factors are very significant and poorly understood and affecting things as is obvious from the last few years of cooling 2) the models suck to the extent they don’t predict things well and are generally presented as unfalsifiable 3) the changes are gradual and small, presenting us with engineering issues, not existential ones.

These three points are *totally obvious to informed people* yet they don’t line up the groupthinkers.

PS – shame on you for deleting this comment!

Or this one at RealClimate.   I used to participate there often but noticed that if I addressed people who attacked me in the same snarky vein I’d sometimes be moderated.    This form of targeted censorship has no place in the blogs where free spirited discussion should rule the day.

Commenter Chris wrote: <i>In the interest of civility, I think we should await Pielke’s response before heaping abuse on him</i>

My reply: (I predict this will be deleted by the RealClimate censors):  Sure, but you obviously don’t belong here at RealClimate, where no reasoned objection goes unchallenged by blustering nonsense. Only here does “less change” become “more change”. The whole problem for clear thinkers is that the models are predicting things that are not happening. Predicted warming is not materializing as expected, and the *very recent* data suggests even more strongly that the idea we are poised on the brink of (Hansen’s term here) “Climate Catastrophe” is simply nonsense. I don’t even think you guys are *sincere* anymore. Egos and alarmism now trump the data on virtually every public front, though ironically the non-politically polluted studies remain of good quality.