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Saturday, 27 February 2010

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Jonathan Dresner

Speaking as a former resident of Hilo (we lived up the hill, though), that tsunami wasn't even close to boring. The waves that hit Hilo Bay sloshed it like a toddler's bathtub, and Hilo's had two catastrophic tsunami events over the last century. Yeah, people were calling it "anti-climactic" because there wasn't a movie-quality disaster with atomic bombs and scientific mavericks, but that was a bona fide white-knuckle near miss.

And the yahoos who say the predictions were wrong aren't paying attention, either: the first wave arrived right on schedule, and the surge was within the margin of error of their predictions.

I've seen, by the way, truly disappointing tidal waves. While we were living in Japan there was a minor scandal because the Hawaii Tsunami Center failed to pass on a tsunami warning to their Japanese counterpart. It was a 20 centimeter tsunami, and the Hawaiians just didn't think it was worth it, but the Japanese news stations dutifully broadcast live video of the coast as the eight-inch tsunami made landfall.

Fritz Hemker

"Because of these pig-ignorant people, any scientific finding that doesn't correspond to the dominant scientific paradigm becomes "another nail in the coffin" for that paradigm."

Theories explain and predict facts. If your theory fails to adequately explain or predict facts than your theory has problems. That raises the question as to whether the solution is an epicycle or a revolution.

Jonathan Dresner

If your theory fails to adequately explain or predict facts than your theory has problems.

Once more, oh ye of little reading comprehension: the theory succeeded in predicting the timing and scale of the tsunami. The theory only failed from the perspective of journalistic blood-sniffers who think the SyFy channel is fiction based on science.

Fritz

Since science is the testing, modification, abandonment, and adoption of theories by their ability to predict and explain facts, by definition any scientific finding that doesn't correspond to the dominant scientific paradigm becomes "another nail in the coffin" for that paradigm.

I tend to think the thrust of Scott's post is correct. My comment was about that one particular sentence which I quoted.

Rich Puchalsky

These people are making you write stupider, Scott.

"any scientific finding that doesn't correspond to the dominant scientific paradigm becomes "another nail in the coffin" for that paradigm."

That's not what your own post says, really. It should be "any scientific finding that doesn't correspond to the winger conception of what science should be becomes "another nail in the coffin" for that paradigm." Science predicted the tsunami waves; it didn't predict that they were necessarily going to be of the towering destructiveness that the wingers imagined. Likewise, science predicts that heavier snow in some geographic areas is a likely outcome of anthropogenic global warming. Leaving aside the difference between climate and weather, the fact that wingers expect "global warming" to equal "less snow in DC" doesn't mean that anything has gone against the dominant scientific paradigm. It just means that wingers are stupid, and that the people who create lies for them are evil.

The post could conceivably have gone somewhere more interesting if it addressed actual supposed findings that go against the paradigm. But you can't have that conversation here. Why? Well, for one thing, because you foolishly invited conservatives to share your space. But more specifically for this post, because the thread continues as the thread starts. And it started with Argumentum Ad Some Guy In A Comment Box. Pleasing as it is to find someone who is stupid enough to believe in some specific stupidity, it's really not a surprise that somewhere on the Internet, they exist. And it's a waste of time. If people are really pressed on it, they have to admit that this really doesn't show anything more than the classic right-wing Argumentum Ad Protestor With A Sign Somewhere.

Not all of this is from some guy in a comment box. There's an organized campaign, from industry, to put out material on this for the teabaggers. The whole Climate-gate thing, for instance, was an organized political dirty trick. But writing about that kind of thing takes more effort than Googling some guy.

It also takes more moral effort to take the depressing feeling that people are stupid and start to apply it to actual people who you sort of know -- not just anonymous commenters on someone else's site. It starts with getting rid of the "pig-ignorant" excuse and admitting that these people are drawn to evil because, at base, that's what they want to believe. That the racist people who you casually meet in the South -- your usual touchstones when I bring this up -- aren't ignorant victims who can be convinced otherwise. They're just ordinary racists. Talk isn't going to bring them around; only changing the political situation will bring them around, and any talking that people do about that is only hurt by including them or taking their views as if they have any serious underpinnings.

Jonathan Dresner

Fritz: you're using 'paradigm' differently than I am, which is the problem. You're using it the same way anti-science "luminaries" do, as a stand-in for any scientific understanding, when it really refers to something much more fundamental, a way of doing science and understanding the world. Even in the Kuhnian sense (and I think Kuhn's useful as a starting place, but not much more than that), paradigms aren't subject to constant revision: until a new understanding emerges, the old paradigm continues to be the frame of reference and investigation.

SEK

There's an organized campaign, from industry, to put out material on this for the teabaggers. The whole Climate-gate thing, for instance, was an organized political dirty trick.

Absolutely, but because we live in a deliberative democracy (at least in theory), we need to be concerned with how this material filters down. For example, the problem with the Climate-gate affair is that illegally-obtained information was leaked to people who misconstrued what it said and meant to further their own end. I'm more interested in how that illegally-obtained information was disseminated and re-interpreted by the people invested in the political process, because the manner in which it is has more of an impact on climate policy than a thousand conferences attended by rational people.

Naadir Jeewa

Althouse is such a twat that she doesn't realise that the singular failure of the paper's hypothesis actually gives greater certainty to predictions of much higher sea levels, of around 2m by 2100, and 6m over the ensuing millennia.

The paper's claim was that sea level rises would plateau out by 2100, rather than increase further, so they got their estimates of an upper-bound of 80cm. It's the plateau that was over-estimated, not absolute sea-level rises. If it wasn't for the paper, it's likely that the last UN IPCC report (AR4) would have included ice sheet melts in their figures.

That said, the wingnutosphere's misuse of the word "overestimate" does suggest that scientists have a responsibility to re-read everything they write in the most creatively stupid way possible just to prevent 'misunderstandings' like that of Althouse'.

Naadir Jeewa

"I'm more interested in how that illegally-obtained information was disseminated and re-interpreted by the people invested in the political process, because the manner in which it is has more of an impact on climate policy than a thousand conferences attended by rational people."

Absolutely. Let's not get into the whole Science & Technology Studies is anti-science thing. The one thing scientists should have learnt from the more constructive STS folk (Bruno Latour, Shapin & Schaffer, etc...), was that the public takes much of what it knows as "scientific facts" on trust, and this trust functions much like it does for any public authority. That the organised campaigns of the oil industry have succeeded in reducing public trust in climate science, by relying on claims to the scientific method shows they learnt from the studies of scientific practice whilst the 'anti-anti-Science' crowd were too busy getting Thatcher to axe STS funding because they were offended.

Fritz

There is no scientific theory which isn't in principle falsifiable. Our entire scientific understanding of the world (qua science) is subject to radical revision.

Whether any particular scientific theory has been subjected to a critical test and failed (or what that critical test may be), I'm not competent to judge. Which is why I wrote that the solution for any particular failing may be an "epicycle or a revolution."

It goes without saying that whether there actually is a particular failing is dependent on a correct understanding of the theory and the relevant facts.

Jonathan Dresner

It goes without saying...

No. I said it. You finally got around to it, thanks.

Rich Puchalsky

"I'm more interested in how that illegally-obtained information was disseminated and re-interpreted "

Why? It's endless repetitions of the same old thing.

Even if your skills are those of a teacher, there are some people who are unteachable. Even if your skills are those of an analyst, there are some syndromes that have been thoroughly analyzed already.

What's needed at this point is someone with the political courage to just push these people aside. They're a minority, and don't need to be coddled as they did when a majority of people were overt racists. They can spend the next twenty years whining about socialism, just as they did with FDR, and by then it will be too late for them to ever do anything about it. But even then they will still be doing the same posts about how it snowed outside today and that proves that the whole global warming thing was a myth after all.

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