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Global warming is a better test of irrationality that theism

-2 Post author: Stuart_Armstrong 16 March 2012 05:10PM

Theism is often a default test of irrationality on Less Wrong, but I propose that global warming denial would make a much better candidate.

Theism is a symptom of excess compartmentalisation, of not realising that absence of evidence is evidence of absence, of belief in belief, of privileging the hypothesis, and similar failings. But these are not intrinsically huge problems. Indeed, someone with a mild case of theism can have the same anticipations as someone without, and update their evidence in the same way. If they have moved their belief beyond refutation, in theory it thus fails to constrain their anticipations at all; and often this is the case in practice.

Contrast that with someone who denies the existence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). This has all the signs of hypothesis privileging, but also reeks of fake justification, motivated skepticism, massive overconfidence (if they are truly ignorant of the facts of the debate), and simply the raising of politics above rationality. If I knew someone was a global warming skeptic, then I would expect them to be wrong in their beliefs and their anticipations, and to refuse to update when evidence worked against them. I would expect their judgement to be much more impaired than a theist's.

Of course, reverse stupidity isn't intelligence: simply because one accepts AGW, doesn't make one more rational. I work in England, in a university environment, so my acceptance of AGW is the default position and not a sign of rationality. But if someone is in a milieu that discouraged belief in AGW (one stereotype being heavily Republican areas of the US) and has risen above this, then kudos to them: their acceptance of AGW is indeed a sign of rationality.

Comments (112)

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 16 March 2012 05:53:06PM *  28 points [-]

Contrast that with someone who denies the existence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW)

I don't have the knowledge of climatology to make a reasoned claim about AGW myself one way or another. Whether I believe or disbelieve in AGW, it would therefore currently have to be completely done based on trusting the positions of other people. Which are indeed Bayesian evidence, but "mistrusting the current climatological elite" even if someone places a wrong prior on how likely said climatological elite is to manufacture/misinterpret data, is not remotely similar to the same sort of logical hoops that your average theist has to go through to explain and excuse the presence of evil in the world, the silence of the gods, the lack of material evidence, archaelogical and geological discrepancies with their holy texts etc, etc, etc.

So your test isn't remotely as good. It effectively tests just one thing: one's prior on how likely climatologists are to lie or misinterpret data.

Comment author: Manfred 17 March 2012 02:40:14AM 4 points [-]

It effectively tests just one thing: one's prior on how likely climatologists are to lie or misinterpret data.

People don't start out with a high/low claimed prior on lying climatologists and then decide to start arguing about global warming on the internet - it's vice versa, in most cases. The end result tells you about this whole causal history, which includes a fair bit of irrationality along the way.

Of course, where the causal chain terminates is often in stuff like "my parents had political view X," which we don't particularly want to learn about, and thus has to be controlled for if we want to learn about the intermediate irrationality.

Comment author: Plasmon 16 March 2012 06:27:57PM *  -1 points [-]

One might argue that a typical theist's knowledge of the lack of material evidence for his religion is also pure hearsay. Neither most theists nor most atheists personally investigated the relevant archaeological artefacts. Similarly, few western theists directly experienced things commonly believed to be extremely evil (holocaust, famines, ). They are simply "mistrusting the current archaeological/historical" elite.

edit:

Yes, yes, of course virtually no real theists (or even agnostics) use the "it's all hearsay, I'm merely sceptical" defence. And indeed, large swaths of theology deal with virtually all problems you could think of. I was merely pointing out that an individual theist could, in principle, use a similar defence to the one ArisKatsaris was using.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 16 March 2012 06:47:30PM 5 points [-]

Religious people aren't generally skeptical that terrible things happen to a lot of people on a very large scale. A large part of the problem of theodicy is constructing explanations for this. You may have more of a point in regards to archaeology, but by and large most of these issues are pretty accessible (certainly more accessible to lay people than complicated climate models).

Comment author: steven0461 16 March 2012 07:49:58PM 46 points [-]

Here's the main thing that bothers me about this debate. There's a set of many different questions involving the degree of past and current warming, the degree to which such warming should be attributed to humans, the degree to which future emissions would cause more warming, the degree to which future emissions will happen given different assumptions, what good and bad effects future warming can be expected to have at different times and given what assumptions (specifically, what probability we should assign to catastrophic and even existential-risk damage), what policies will mitigate the problem how much and at what cost, how important the problem is relative to other problems, what ethical theory to use when deciding whether a policy is good or bad, and how much trust we should put in different aspects of the process that produced the standard answers to these questions and alternatives to the standard answers. These are questions that empirical evidence, theory, and scientific authority bear on to different degrees, and a LessWronger ought to separate them out as a matter of habit, and yet even here some vague combination of all these questions tends to get mashed together into a vague question of whether to believe "the global warming consensus" or "the pro-global warming side", to the point where when Stuart says some class of people is more irrational than theists, I have no idea if he's talking about me. If the original post had said something like, "everyone whose median estimate of climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 is lower than 2 degrees Celsius is more irrational than theists", I might still complain about it falling afoul of anti-politics norms, but at least it would help create the impression that the debate was about ideas rather than tribes.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 17 March 2012 09:18:29PM 10 points [-]

I really like this place. What a relief to have a cogent and rational comment about the global warming debate, and how encouraging to see it lavished with a pile of karma.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 17 March 2012 12:10:51AM 7 points [-]

And if we're going to talk on the level of tribes anyway then at least use reasoning like this.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 17 March 2012 10:27:50AM -2 points [-]

how important the problem is relative to other problems, what ethical theory to use when deciding whether a policy is good or bad

Apart from those two issues, the other points you bring up are the domain of experts. Unless we are experts ourselves, or have strong relevant information about the biases of experts, the rational thing to do is to defer to expert beliefs. We can widen the uncertainty somewhat (we can confidently expect overconfidence :-), maybe add a very small systematic bias in one direction (to reflect possible social or political biases - the correction has to be very small as our ability to reliably estimate these factors is very poor).

I might still complain about it falling afoul of anti-politics norms, but at least it would help create the impression that the debate was about ideas rather than tribes.

Excessive anti-politics norms are a problem here - because the issue has become tribalised, we're no longer willing to defend the rational position, or we caveat it far too much.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 17 March 2012 08:22:00PM *  13 points [-]

Unless we [...] have strong relevant information about the biases of experts, the rational thing to do is to defer to expert beliefs.

Well, yes, but the very fact that a question has strong ideological implications makes it highly probable that experts are biased about it. (I argued this point at greater length here.)

Comment author: steven0461 17 March 2012 08:45:30PM *  2 points [-]

Presumably most of those whose opinions fall outside of whatever the acceptable range is have those opinions either because they believe they have some relevant piece of expertise, or because they believe they have some relevant information about the biases of specific experts, or because they don't believe that their ability to estimate systematic bias is in fact "very poor", or even because they disagree with you about what the experts think. This seems like the sort of information people might falsely convince themselves that they have, but at least if we're no longer just looking at relatively narrow and technical questions like attribution and sensitivity but also at broader questions like policy, where expert consensus becomes harder to characterize and many different fields become relevant (including futurism and rational aggregation of evidence and weighing of considerations, which many LessWrongers are probably better at than most domain experts) the possibility that they're right surely is not so preposterous that we can hold it up as a stronger rationality test than theism.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 19 March 2012 09:55:33AM -1 points [-]

You're right of course - having policy niggles or disagreement is not a good sign of irrationality. But the harder the science gets, the more disagreement becomes irrational. And I've seen people cycle through "global warming isn't happening" to "it's happening but it's natural" to "it's man-made but it'll be too expensive to do anything about it" in the course of a single conversation, without seeming to realise the contradications (I've seen theists do the same, but this was worse).

So yes, mild anti-AGW (or anti-certain AGW policy ideas) is not a strong sign of irrationality, but I'd argue that neither is mild theism.

Comment author: drnickbone 27 April 2012 10:53:54PM 0 points [-]

Wouldn't denial of AGW equate to one of the following beliefs?

  1. Climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 is zero, less than zero, or so poorly defined that it could straddle either side of zero, depending on the precise definition.
  2. Increased levels of CO2 have nothing to do with human activity.

Anyone who believes in ~1 and ~2 must believe in some degree of AGW, even if they further believe it is trivial, or masked by natural climate variations.

Belief that sensitivity is below 2 degrees doesn't seem utterly unreasonable, given that the typical IPCC estimate is 3 degrees +/- 1 degree, the confidence interval is not more than 2 sigma either way ("likely" rather than "very likely" in IPCC parlance) and building that confidence interval involves conditioning on lots of different sorts of evidence. Belief that sensitivity is below 1 degree does seem like having an axe to grind.

All this is Charney or "fast feedback" sensitivity. The biggest concern is the growing evidence that ultimate (slow feedback) sensitivity is much bigger than Charney (at least 30% bigger, and plausibly 100% bigger). Also, that there are carbon cycle and other GHG feedbacks (like methane), so the long-run impact of AGW includes much more than our own CO2 emissions. Multiplying all the new factors together tuns a central estimate of 3 degrees into a central estimate of more than 6 degrees, and then things really do look very worrying indeed (temperatures during the last ice age were only 5-6 degrees less than today; at temperatures 6 degrees more than today there have been no polar ice caps at all).

Comment author: Dmytry 17 March 2012 09:22:55AM *  4 points [-]

Well, I wonder how global warming view correlates with correct solving of problems involving Bayesian reasoning, and things like monty hall puzzle, as well as bunch of other problems that you get wrong by a fallacy. It may be more correlated than religiosity, in which case it would be a better test. Or it can be less correlated, in which case it would be a worse test. You know, we can test experimentally what is a better test.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 16 March 2012 05:42:24PM 9 points [-]

This may be connected to a more general problem: One is trying to extrapolate on to a continuum of how rational people can be by referencing a single bit. Whether that bit is theism or AGW, that's still not going to be that helpful. More bits of data is better.

Theism is a symptom of excess compartmentalisation, of not realising that absence of evidence is evidence of absence, of belief in belief, of privileging the hypothesis, and similar failings. But these are not intrinsically huge problems.

All of these are small problems when they come up only in a narrow context. How often does someone who privileges the hypothesis only do so in a single context?

Comment author: atorm 16 March 2012 05:54:08PM *  2 points [-]

I think this a good argument for collecting more points that Less Wrongers can use in real life to guage someone's rationality. I like to bring up Newcomb's problem and ask for reasons for their choice, and if they're two-boxers I try to persuade them to one-box. One intelligent friend was quickly persuaded to one-box when I outlined the expected results, whereas another person eventually said "I think you should just go with your instincts". I felt that gave me a lot of information about their thinking, but more points to bring up would be good.

It would be especially good to find contrarian beliefs to ask about for different groups so as to more easily spot people who can think outside their group norm.

Comment author: satt 16 March 2012 08:42:21PM 4 points [-]

I think this a good argument for collecting more points that Less Wrongers can use in real life to guage someone's rationality.

Mmmm. Trying to pick out rationality litmus tests seems like the kind of project EY was talking about in "The Correct Contrarian Cluster" and "Undiscriminating Skepticism".

I don't know how feasible this is, ultimately. The closest test I can think of is probably the Cognitive Reflection Test. (Which has the advantage of being a trio of little arithmetic brainteasers rather than anything that'll trigger people's politics detectors.)

Comment author: [deleted] 16 March 2012 06:43:26PM *  7 points [-]

http://lesswrong.com/lw/9n/the_uniquely_awful_example_of_theism/

Tests which were proposed in the comments include whether a person favours legalization of marijuana, and whether they believe in astrology. (Well, the one about marijuana also includes value judgements: two perfectly rational agents with identical priors and access to the same evidence would agree about the possible effects of marijuana legalization but disagree about whether they're good or bad because of different utility functions.)

Comment author: [deleted] 16 March 2012 08:48:39PM *  6 points [-]

I'm thinking about this, and right now I think belief in astrology is the best test:

  • Theism correlates with where and when you grew up more than anything else. (ISTM that in Italy, people from the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies are far more likely to be religious than people from the former Papal States; and I think that in the Republic of Ireland younger people are less likely to be religious than older people. More generally, there are many more atheists in Europe than elsewhere.)
  • As for anthropogenic global warming, I just don't think the typical person has encountered enough evidence (of the kind they can understand) to have strong grounds to decide one way or the other, so different beliefs will mostly be due to different priors and/or motivated cognition, the former telling us nothing and the latter telling us the person's political affiliation more than anything else.
  • In the case of marijuana legalization (apart from the issue of value judgements), what I see confuses me: ISTM that most people above a certain age are against it and most people below a certain age (except politically right-wing ones) are in favour of it, but that would mean that either 1) support for marijuana legalization advances one funeral at a time, and hence ought to be larger now than 15 years ago than 30 years ago than 45 years ago, or 2) most people change their minds at a certain point in their lives, neither of which I've observed. I suspect that there's some kind of selection bias in the young people I know and the old people I know. (Also, signalling probably plays a helluva part in this, so maybe the old people who claim they never supported marijuana legalization are just lying.)
  • I can think of no social, geographical, or political factor which would substantially correlate with belief in astrology, like, at all. (Maybe I just lack imagination, though.)

BTW, I've noticed that among people I know, belief in God and belief in AGW appear to be strongly negatively correlated among physics professors, but not among the general population (any more than you'd expect from them correlating with right- and left-wing political views respectively, at least). Maybe that's just statistical noise from small sample size (and/or cognitive biases of mine -- it's not like I've given out surveys or made statistics).

Comment author: satt 16 March 2012 10:30:12PM 1 point [-]

In the case of marijuana legalization [...] ISTM that most people above a certain age are against it and most people below a certain age (except politically right-wing ones) are in favour of it [...]

A common error people make when they see an old vs. young split in opinion is assuming that it must be an age effect rather than a cohort effect. Thank you for avoiding that mistake by noticing that it could be either! (Maybe I could use that as a rationality litmus test, ha ha.)

I can think of no social, geographical, or political factor which would substantially correlate with belief in astrology, like, at all. (Maybe I just lack imagination, though.)

You got me curious! I pulled up a chapter from the NSE's latest Science & Engineering Indicators report; it links a spreadsheet of survey results from 1979 to 2010 on how scientific US adults think astrology is. (Strictly this isn't the same thing as believing in astrology but I'd expect it to be a fair proxy.) In the 2010 sample, people who were young, female, less educated, or knew fewer science facts were more likely to think astrology was scientific.

I should say that this doesn't automatically mean astrology is a worse rationality test than atheism. Atheism itself correlates with sex, race, age, and education level, at least in the US.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 16 March 2012 10:36:17PM 9 points [-]

It would amuse me if there was a sizable population that thought astrology was scientific and rejected it on that basis because they don't trust science.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 16 March 2012 11:55:46PM 5 points [-]

This is actually similar to the medieval Catholic church's position on astrology, at least if you understand "scientific" to mean "what passed for scientific during the middle ages".

Comment author: [deleted] 17 March 2012 12:12:32PM 4 points [-]

This reminds me of an old priest who pointed out that people who don't believe in God tend to believe in astrology and other superstitions, and said that was because “people have to believe in something or another”. However weird that might look now, I still think that among the demographics he was familiar with (people growing up in a smallish town in Italy in the early 20th century) his observation (about the correlation, not about its cause) was likely not wrong.

Comment author: atorm 18 March 2012 03:28:39AM -1 points [-]

I wonder if it ever crossed his mind that "What I believe is equivalent to astrology and other superstitions." Did he just think he was lucky to have slotted the truth into his belief-hole?

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 17 March 2012 12:48:29AM *  2 points [-]

TheOtherDave:

It would amuse me if there was a sizable population that thought astrology was scientific and rejected it on that basis because they don't trust science.

Eugine_Nier:

This is actually similar to the medieval Catholic church's position on astrology, at least if you understand "scientific" to mean "what passed for scientific during the middle ages".

What evidence are you aware of that the Church condemned those particular propositions for being "science" (natural philosophy), rather than for being "errors" (falsehoods)?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 17 March 2012 01:31:23AM 3 points [-]

What evidence are you aware of that the Church condemned those particular propositions for being "science" (natural philosophy), rather than for being "errors" (falsehoods)?

My point was that the church considered the evidence for the propositions suspect since it was merely "science" (natural philosophy).

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 17 March 2012 03:30:15AM 2 points [-]

My point was that the church considered the evidence for the propositions suspect since it was merely "science" (natural philosophy).

I'm pretty sure I understood your point. I was asking for some reasons to think your point is true.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 March 2012 12:07:18PM 3 points [-]

A common error people make when they see an old vs. young split in opinion is assuming that it must be an age effect rather than a cohort effect. Thank you for avoiding that mistake by noticing that it could be either! (Maybe I could use that as a rationality litmus test, ha ha.)

Actually, as for this particular issue, a cohort effect was what I used to consider obvious, and I didn't hypothesize an age effect until I looked for a long-term trend and failed to see one. (Maybe I haven't looked in the right places, though.)

Comment author: [deleted] 16 March 2012 11:26:03PM 0 points [-]

people who were young, female, less educated, or knew fewer science facts

Assuming by “young” they mean (say) younger than 18 rather than (say) younger than 50 (and that they're talking about age effects rather than cohort effects), and with the possible exception of gender, that does sound like a description of the groups of people who I'd expect to be less rational. Hence, that doesn't sound like as strong a reason to doubt the effectiveness of belief-in-astrology as a test for rationality as finding that people from South Examplistan are more likely to believe in astrology than people from North Examplistan.

Comment author: satt 17 March 2012 12:23:50AM 1 point [-]

"Young" is my own way of summarising the results for the different age subgroups; I saw no correlation with age for ages >34, but people aged 18-24 thought astrology was more scientific than people aged 25-34, who in turn thought it more scientific than people aged 35+. (The sample had no under-18s, unfortunately.) In any case, astrology seems like a good item to add to a potential list of rationality probes.

Comment author: gwern 16 March 2012 09:08:09PM 1 point [-]

In the case of marijuana legalization (apart from the issue of value judgements), what I see confuses me: ISTM that most people above a certain age are against it and most people below a certain age (except politically right-wing ones) are in favour of it, but that would mean that either 1) support for marijuana legalization advances one funeral at a time, and hence ought to be larger now than 15 years ago than 30 years ago than 45 years ago, or 2) most people change their minds at a certain point in their lives, neither of which I've observed. I suspect that there's some kind of selection bias in the young people I know and the old people I know. (Also, signalling probably plays a helluva part in this, so maybe the old people who claim they never supported marijuana legalization are just lying.)

You may find http://www.gwern.net/docs/2007-danigelis.pdf interesting although unfortunately the survey data does not include questions about marijuana or drugs in general.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 March 2012 09:35:41PM 1 point [-]

(I haven't finished reading it yet.)

Yeah, I had forgotten about population aging, though I'm not sure how big an effect it is. I'd guess the median age (in Italy) has increased between 5 and 30 years in the past 45 years.

From the abstract:

the direction of [intracohort] change is most often toward increased tolerance rather than increased conservatism

That's what happens in diachronic linguistics too: when adults change the way they speak, that's usually towards the way younger cohorts speak rather than away from it (just google for Queen vowels). In absence of any population aging, that would only accelerate linguistic changes among the population as a whole.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 17 March 2012 09:50:01PM 5 points [-]

Tests which were proposed in the comments include whether a person favours legalization of marijuana, [...]

This is actually a good test, but not in the way it was intended. Drug laws are not about drugs, and I expect someone who claims a high level of rationality about political issues to understand this point. So when someone discusses the issue of marijuana prohibition by doing some sort of cost/benefit analysis that takes the purported motives of these laws at face value, I find this to be a miserable failure, no matter what his ultimate conclusions.

Comment author: optiment 16 March 2012 10:26:08PM -1 points [-]

I'm not sure the case for marijuana legalization is cut and dried even for pot lovers:

"Our neighborhoods continue to complain daily about the disruption and public safety issues presented by medical marijuana businesses operating in the city,'' says [a popular Los Angeles City Councilman].

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/LA-Medical-Marijuana-Pot-Law-Huizar-Motion-134390463.html

Maybe marijuana really does cause less trouble overall if the law forces you to smoke it on the sly.

Comment author: gwern 17 March 2012 03:58:27AM 14 points [-]

'disruption and public safety' sounds like it would be a kind of trouble an order of magnitude or two below trouble like 'the destroying of thousands of lives through courts & prisons'.

Comment author: optiment 20 March 2012 09:33:07PM *  1 point [-]

How about making penalties for marijuana use lighter?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 17 March 2012 09:28:34PM 5 points [-]

Point of order - marijuana legalization is not synonymous with the particular legal and regulatory regime for medical marijuana adopted in Los Angeles, CA.

Comment author: optiment 20 March 2012 09:21:59PM *  1 point [-]

All I said was that the case wasn't cut and dried...

Comment author: Will_Newsome 17 March 2012 12:25:01AM *  18 points [-]

Endorsing notions like "global warming is a better test of irrationality than theism" is a better test of irrationality than theism. More generally, engagement in vague tribal politics is a better test of irrationality than any object level belief. Liquor is quicker but meta is betta! Meta meta meta meta... MEH TAH! Sing it with me now!

Comment author: TheOtherDave 17 March 2012 12:55:17AM 3 points [-]

What about endorsing notions like "Endorsing notions like 'global warming is a better test of irrationality than theism' is a better test of irrationality than theism"?

Comment author: Will_Newsome 17 March 2012 01:04:45AM *  3 points [-]

I think it's a sign of rationality, at least in context. Angels would likely consider it insufficiently meta, but man's intellect is bounded.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 17 March 2012 03:42:01AM 4 points [-]

That is a decidedly ambitious use of the phrase "of course."

Comment author: Will_Newsome 17 March 2012 03:49:00AM 4 points [-]

Heh, fair enough, I guess I don't actually have that good a model of angels. I'll replace "of course" with "likely".

Comment author: Thomas 17 March 2012 03:04:31PM 5 points [-]

I work in England, in a university environment, so my acceptance of AGW is the default position and not a sign of rationality.

No conformation bias here, I am sure.

Comment author: Emile 16 March 2012 09:29:39PM 6 points [-]

When I opened this (already heavily downvoted) thread I was actually expecting to read an argument that belief in Global Warming would be the sign of irrationality.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 17 March 2012 10:40:30AM *  -2 points [-]

:-)

It's quite interesting - it's one of my most heavily downvoted posts ever!

Comment author: atorm 18 March 2012 03:30:26AM *  2 points [-]

Congratulations?

EDIT: If you're actually excited because you are interested in the response you got and what it might mean, genuine congratulations. Way to care more about learning than about signalling.

Comment author: drethelin 16 March 2012 05:57:38PM 8 points [-]

As long as we're mindkilling let's use whether someone's a republican or a democrat to gauge their rationality!

Comment author: Incorrect 16 March 2012 06:06:54PM 1 point [-]

Or whether someone's a neonazi!

Comment author: Manfred 17 March 2012 01:32:17AM *  0 points [-]

Good idea. Let's ask for their political party so we can control for it in our prior probabilities of global warming wackery.

Comment author: Document 25 August 2013 04:16:51PM 0 points [-]

(For posterity: The Two-Party Swindle explains one of the key reasons why not.)

Comment author: hankx7787 16 March 2012 06:22:04PM 6 points [-]

I looked into this issue and found no conclusive evidence of any global warming, let alone AGW or any catastrophic warming trends. Granted, this was several years ago. So where's the evidence? links?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 17 March 2012 09:46:32PM 5 points [-]

A global temperature trend data set based on satellite data that I consider reliable is maintained at:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/

The data goes back to 1978. The last 6 months or so look like a particularly high variance, low trend period, which leaves me thinking that when the variance dies down, we may see a significant shift in the 5-10 year trend line.

The guy has been a skeptic, but has accepted that his data shows a warming trend, though on the lowest end of the UN commission's estimated ranges, coming in at about 0.13C per decade.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 17 March 2012 10:21:37PM 6 points [-]

There's this presentation by Richard Lindzen to the British House of Commons explaining why the predictions of catastrophic consequence of global warming are BS.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 17 March 2012 05:20:11AM 6 points [-]

I upvoted you (from -1), not because I agree with your conclusion but because you're asking for additional information to inform your decision, which should be celebrated not punished on Less wrong.

Comment author: steven0461 16 March 2012 07:56:09PM 7 points [-]

There's an entire climate blogosphere out there, full of people who know more and care more, and I see no reason for people to rehash the debate here.

Comment author: CarlShulman 16 March 2012 08:10:36PM *  2 points [-]

Here's an article by William Nordhaus, a climate economist often attacked by people like Joe Romm for arguing for a slower path of carbon emissions reduction than others.

Key graph here. It's hard to do a thorough search and miss such things.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 17 March 2012 08:42:56PM 7 points [-]

Here's an article by William Nordhaus, a climate economist often attacked by people like Joe Romm for arguing for a slower path of carbon emissions reduction than others.

In this article, Nordhaus says that because there is no outright Soviet-style repression against dissenters in the academia, it's absurd to suppose that dissenters might be afraid to speak their mind. Regardless of whether his overall positions about global warming are correct, Nordhaus is being either naive or disingenuous here. Clearly there are many ways in which expressing contrarian opinions might be deadly for one's academic career, and which don't involve any open persecution (or even any open formal condemnation by the official institutions).

Comment author: JoshuaZ 19 March 2012 02:14:47AM *  3 points [-]

Nordhaus's position to me seems to be stronger than you make it out to be. Here's the thing: even in the Soviet repression some academics risked their lives to speak out. You'd expect at least that much speaking out then among academics in the relevant fields when all they have to risk is their academic careers. Yet, in the relevant disciplines, one doesn't see much of any at all. Similarly, if repression of some form were serious, one would expect that the tenure system would cause more people to be free to speak out and one would expect a lot more vocal expressions of dissent from tenured professors than non-tenured faculty, but there doesn't seem to be such a pattern.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 March 2012 02:38:04AM 3 points [-]

You'd expect at least that much speaking out then among academics in the relevant fields when all they have to risk is their academic careers.

Well, this is an example that I linked to elsewhere in this thread.

Comment author: hankx7787 16 March 2012 08:36:32PM *  1 point [-]

I appreciate someone at least providing some evidence :P

However, this article doesn't address the criticism that the temperature graph is flawed/inaccurate as I have seen persuasively argued. I don't have any resources on hand since I looked into this years ago.

If you want to make the case that this issue is a rationality "litmus test", then not only should you really be providing some evidence, but you should be showing that the arguments against the evidence are wrong, too. You should be able to make a pretty unequivocal case, right?

Comment author: CarlShulman 16 March 2012 09:29:43PM 7 points [-]

I'm going to take Steven's advice below and not recap climate discussion here. However, if you want to do your own research and make a large-stakes bet about persuading some designated neutral judges on the extent of warming in the last 100 years, structured to express the disagreement, I would probably be keen to take it.