Saturday, 06 April 2013

How science becomes "fact" in conservative circles On March 30th, The Economist published “Climate science: A sensitive matter,” in which James Hansen, formerly of NASA, noted that “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.” The article then outlines the many ways in which the scientific community is attempting to account for the fact that the mean global temperature is “already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models.” Different models are consulted, other mechanisms suggested, alternate sensitivities proposed, i.e. science happens. Or, as Rich Lowry wrote at the National Review on April 2nd, “[i]n other words, the scientific ‘consensus’ [has] been proven wrong.” Granted, he actually writes that the consensus “will have been proven wrong” if the mean global temperature remains flat “for a few more years,” but that’s a difference without distinction. First, because he declares himself arbiter of a scientific consensus he doesn’t understand; second, because he chooses the scientifically precise date of “a few more years” before the consensus he doesn’t understand will be invalidated; and third, because he’s drawing the conclusion that “the ‘sensitivity’ of the global climate to carbon emissions has been overestimated” despite the fact that his own article contains a paragraph about factors that might be mitigating warming. He tacitly admits that carbon emissions may still have a warming effect, it’s just that, for example, “new coal-fired plants in China and India, releasing so-called aerosols into the atmosphere that act to suppress warming, may be partly responsible for the stasis in temperatures.” Which is only to repeat myself: he’s writing about a science he doesn’t understand; moreover, he’s doing so from a position of ignorance so profound he doesn’t even realize his arguments might be entirely compatible. In the same way that I can be both an athlete and a writer, so too can carbon emissions be pushing temperatures up while aerosols drive them down. Arguing that X doesn’t do Y because A does B isn’t much of an argument. Unfortunately, he’s sharing his misunderstanding of logic and science in the influential pages of the National Review, which means that despite the fact that he misrepresents processes he doesn’t understand, his conclusion will shortly acquire the status of received wisdom as it’s repeated, in ever more ignorant forms, by other writers in the pages of the National Review. For example, today Victor Davis Hanson wrote “[t]he global warming hysteria—with no measurable planet warming in the last 15 years despite sizable increases in carbon emissions—is abating[.]” His evidence? He doesn’t need to cite evidence. Lowry already established this new conclusion as a fact. Which means I can propose my own new theory: based on the evidence above, conservatives require six days to transform science into stupid and stupid into ideology. I less-than-eagerly await the inevitable proof of my error.
Mad Men: Now, where were we exactly? To celebrate what’s going to be a very Mad Men week at Lawyers, Guns & Money—at least two posts by me and a podcast starring an illustrious cast of thousands—I thought it’d be good to remind everyone where we left off. (And by “everyone” I probably mean “me,” as I need to pick up threads I’ve forgotten about in the intervening months.) So here’s where we left off (plus a little coda) according to Yours Truly: My previous post, on “The Wheel,” discussed in great detail the relationship of Don Draper to his past via the fading photographs of him and Betty and the children. “Nostalgia,” Draper says,”literally means pain from an old wound.” The “twinge” Don describes to the Kodak Eastman people is tinged with sadness—the life projected on the wall is one his actions have destroyed—but it is also a pain that’s tempered by the knowledge that it can be compartmentalized. The Kodak Carousel is more than a projector: the titular wheel effectively functions as a container for captured moments that can be opened and reexperienced at a whim or it can be a simple storage device for memories a person wants to know are safely preserved. This second person doesn’t necessarily want to reexperience their lives one twinge at a time, but the thought of being unable to do so could cause a pain unmitigated by memory. This would be a powerful pain, a constant reminder of itself by virtue of its absence. In “The Wheel,” Don feels remorse for transforming the family projected on the wall into something that evokes no more than the twinge of memory. He claims that twinge is “more powerful than memory alone,” but clearly it isn’t. In the fifth season finale, “The Phantom,” directed, like “The Wheel,” by Matt Weiner, the problem with Don’s definition of nostalgia is immediately challenged by, of all things, a toothache: But his toothache isn’t an ordinary toothache. As his dentist informs him later in the episode, his tooth had formed an abscess, which means that its core has become rotten and the tooth must be pulled. It’s an absence that can only be treated by the creation of a larger controllable absence. Early in “The Phantom,” the abscess functions as a physical manifestation of the guilt Don feels about his complicity in the suicide of Lane Pryce in “Commission and Fees.” Weiner signals as much in the form of the phantom that accompanies Don’s pain: The reverse from Don’s swollen jaw and tired eyes to Adam’s calm and open face connects the pain to its source: Lane’s the second person who came to Don for help and, after being turned away, committed suicide. Don can feel a “twinge” of nostalgia for the family he fathered under his assumed identity, but his feelings for his younger brother, Adam Whitman, are complicated by the fact that he tried to store them in a wheel he knew he’d never attach to a Carousel. Adam had been stored and...

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