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May 11 2014

The right wing’s new/old strategy for dealing with an uncomfortable reality

Declare that they are smarter than scientists. Simple!

George Will and Charles Krauthammer are right wing hacks who have an air of cultivated superciliousness that passes for intelligence in the smugly self-serving atmosphere of the Sunday morning talk shows…but they have no other talent or ability to justify their existence. The two got together on Fox News to pontificate on the usual conspiracy theories about how scientists are all lying. Here’s Will:

Now, there is, as Charles says, the policy question is how much wealth do we want to spend directly or in lost production in order to have no discernible measurable effect on the climate? People say, well, what about this report? There is a sociology of science. Scientists are not saints in white laboratory smocks. They have got interests like everybody else. If you want a tenure-track position in academia, don’t question the reigning orthodoxy on climate change. If you want money from the biggest source of direct research in this country, the federal government, don’t question its orthodoxy. If you want to get along with your peers, conform to peer pressure. This is what’s happening.

Krauthammer doubles down by claiming that all of science is subjective and simply made up by the eggheads.

99 percent of physicists convinced that space and time were fixed until Einstein working in a patent office wrote a paper in which he showed that they are not. I’m not impressed by numbers. I’m not impressed by consensus. When I was a psychiatrist, I participated in consensus conferences on how to define depression and mania. These are things that people negotiate in the way you would negotiate a bill, because the science is unstable, because in the case of climate, the models are changeable, and because climate is so complicated.

And then he declares that the conclusions of science are equivalent to superstition.

And you always see that no matter what happens, whether it’s a flood or it’s a drought, whether it’s one — it’s warming or cooling, it’s always a result of what is ultimately what we’re talking about here, human sin with the pollution of carbon. It’s the oldest superstition around. It was in the Old Testament. It’s in the rain dance of the Native Americans. If you sin, the skies will not cooperate. This is quite superstitious, and I’m waiting for science which doesn’t declare itself definitive but is otherwise convincing.

Do either of these guys have any knowledge of how science actually works? No. That doesn’t stop pundits from declaring it all invalid when it produces answers different from their ideological presuppositions, though. Isn’t it nice that the news media has become a haven for propagandists? It pays them a cushy salary and bolsters their prestige so they can go on air every week and engage in that exercise in projection in which they declare scientists to be scum-sucking shills who’ll say anything for money.

And now watch Marco Rubio. Oh, he’s pandering to the Tea Bagger vote.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asserted recently that there was nothing that humans could do to stop climate change because it was not caused by humans, and that any new laws would only destroy our economy.

In an interview that aired on Sunday, ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked the Florida Republican if he agreed with scientists who said that two of the cities in his state were being threatened by climate change.

I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there — including scientists — that somehow, there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate, Rubio insisted. Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research, and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activity.

Don’t try to tell me these frauds aren’t science deniers.

74 comments

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  1. 1
    Pierce R. Butler

    Krauthammer was a psychiatrist?!?

    Maybe the Scientologists have a point after all…

  2. 2
    Randomfactor

    George Will’s first college degree (a bachelor’s) was in religion.

    He never really left that field.

  3. 3
    Terska

    Try to imagine someone desperate for help and getting stuck with Krauthammer as the attending. I remember him diagnosing of the the Dem presidential candidates and publishing his diagnosis. It was either Kerry or Obama. Truly a scoundrel. I wonder if he was forced to leave the profession.

  4. 4
    atheist

    @Terska – 11 May 2014 at 8:00 pm (UTC -5)

    Try to imagine someone desperate for help and getting stuck with Krauthammer as the attending. I remember him diagnosing of the the Dem presidential candidates and publishing his diagnosis.

    I don’t know about candidates, but I remember when he diagnosed everyone opposed to the Iraq war as having “Bush Derangement Syndrome”.

  5. 5
    mikeyb

    The conservative/republican stance is active smug open hatred and utter contempt for science and scientific facts. They don’t even take the pathetic Skeptical Environmentalist guy stance that its happening but its no big deal. We’re way way beyond it’s just a theory territory with global warming. We’re just about the level of consensus of evidence on par with the theory of evolution, gravity or cigarettes contribute to cancer. Without getting alarmist, this has very serious consequences if we don’t get our act together globally very soon. This has consequences not only for producing a generation of imbeciles but doing real harm and suffering to millions of people not to mention global biodiversity if we don’t start dealing with this, many of which will be born by developing nations but eventually by everyone. It is time we start treating denialists with utter ridicule and contempt every time they open their mouths, same as creationists. In my book a climate denialist and a creationist are one in the same. Mountains of evidence are there if you open your eyes. The debate on the basic facts – human behavior is the decisive factor in the temperature rise, all other natural factors (water, sunspots, etc.) do contribute to climate but cannot contribute or explain the decisive temperature increases which have and continue to occur. It might already be too late to completely prevent many of the long term consequences but the time for action is now. Denialism is no longer respectable, the excuses are gone. Let them whine and complain and squeal all they want, but we must act.

  6. 6
    chimera

    When I was a psychiatrist, I participated in consensus conferences on how to define depression and mania. These are things that people negotiate…

    Well, if it’s the DSM he’s talking about, he’s right. Not really what you’d call scientific. But that is no reflection on climate science.

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    If you want to get along with your peers, conform to peer pressure

    You gotta admit, that is a pretty good description of the republican party. Uh. That is what he’s talking about, right?

  8. 8
    oualawouzou

    If you want a tenure-track position in academia, don’t question the reigning orthodoxy on climate change. If you want money from the biggest source of direct research in this country, the federal government, don’t question its orthodoxy. If you want to get along with your peers, conform to peer pressure. This is what’s happening.

    I have a friend doing scientific research, and I’m about certain his funding requests do not boil down to “my research aims to prove that yep, we’ve got it all figured out and there is nothing new to find about the way reality works”.

  9. 9
    chimera

    Sounds like the Creationists have been dipping into Paul Feyerabend. I didn’t have to look very far for this quote, it’s from Wikipedia :

    Feyerabend described science as being essentially anarchistic, obsessed with its own mythology, and as making claims to truth well beyond its actual capacity. He was especially indignant about the condescending attitudes of many scientists towards alternative traditions. For example, he thought that negative opinions about astrology and the effectivity of rain dances were not justified by scientific research, and dismissed the predominantly negative attitudes of scientists towards such phenomena as elitist or racist. In his opinion, science has become a repressing ideology, even though it arguably started as a liberating movement. Feyerabend thought that a pluralistic society should be protected from being influenced too much by science, just as it is protected from other ideologies.

  10. 10
    HappyNat

    It’s telling how Will can’t conceive that the scientists could only be interested in finding climate change real for the paycheck. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t get them huge bags of cash, it shows that he sees no value in the truth he sees value is saying stuff that will get you paid. I guess it makes sense as this has been his standard MO for his entire career. Act smart, use “big” words and say what your employers want you to say. Why chase the truth when you can chase a pay check?

  11. 11
    raven

    Frauds are right.

    One of the early disasters of climate is change is predicted to be…Florida, where Rubio is from.

    From a recent article. Miami is 4 feet above sea level. But it is far from the ocean. This is good? Not really. The rock is limestone, a lot like Swiss cheese, and water travels easily through it. Sea walls won’t work because the water will come up from below.

    A few feet of sea level rise, a high tide, and a storm surge and Miami is going to be flooded.

    Climate change happens slowly compared to human planning horizons, these days one election cycle of 2 years. By the time Miami floods, Rubio will be dead and forgotten.

  12. 12
    atheist

    From Chait’s piece:

    Krauthammer proceeds to make his most radical argument against science:

    And you always see that no matter what happens, whether it’s a flood or it’s a drought, whether it’s one — it’s warming or cooling, it’s always a result of what is ultimately what we’re talking about here, human sin with the pollution of carbon. It’s the oldest superstition around. It was in the Old Testament. It’s in the rain dance of the Native Americans. If you sin, the skies will not cooperate. This is quite superstitious, and I’m waiting for science which doesn’t declare itself definitive but is otherwise convincing.

    I have encountered this fascinating argument — that environmentalism (or in this case, climate science) is simply another religion — from conservatives before. I think it is a really brilliant example of right wing projection. The speaker is someone with a religious worldview, and the only way they can process these scientific statements is to consider them as coming from an opposing religion. This is a rhetorical strategy used by the smarter conservatives.

  13. 13
    raven

    Miami is one of USA’s top hot spots for climate change
    www. usatoday. com/story/news/nation/…/miami…florida…hot…/8803849…

    4 days ago – Miami and other parts of south Florida, where streets routinely flood at lunar high tides, comprise one of the nation’s most vulnerable hot spots …

    Already Miami floods at high tide. Add another 2 or 3 feet of sea level rise and a storm surge and…

    and that any new laws would only “destroy our economy.”

    And just what is Florida sinking underwater going to do to its economy?

    PS It’s blatanly obvious that we aren’t going to do anything about the cause of global warming. It’s a world problem. And the social, political, and economic will simply isn’t there.

  14. 14
    atheist

    @HappyNat – 11 May 2014 at 8:55 pm (UTC -5) Link to this comment

    It’s telling how Will can’t conceive that the scientists could only be interested in finding climate change real for the paycheck. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t get them huge bags of cash, it shows that he sees no value in the truth he sees value is saying stuff that will get you paid.

    Projection, projection, projection.

  15. 15
    tussock

    99 percent of physicists convinced that space and time were fixed until Einstein working in a patent office wrote a paper in which he showed that they are not.
    That’s not right at all. The scientific community had an ongoing conundrum regarding the strict incompatibility of electromagnetic laws and Newtons laws of motion.

    It was known they couldn’t both be true without something very strange happening beyond the Earth, but it wasn’t until Maxwell settled the electromagnetic side of it that it was even possible to reconcile them sensibly (there’s an older equivalent to Relativity that used older electromagnetic theories, and it didn’t work because they were incomplete).

    The theory of the Ether, it was an ugly hack with no evidence, it was only good enough to explain the problems until someone worked out how to test it.

    What the Michelson-Morley experiment showed was that Maxwell’s laws held at any speed, there was no Ether to manipulate light speed, which in turn meant Newton’s laws were the insufficient part. What Einstein did was gather together enough Mathematicians to show what that meant.

    That Relativity promptly solved a good many other known problems in theoretical physics, that certainly helped, because it created rather a lot more of them too. Black Holes, indeed, how ever do you put a hole in space and time from which nothing comes out? Craziness!

  16. 16
    raven

    Feyerabend described science as being essentially anarchistic, obsessed with its own mythology, and as making claims to truth well beyond its actual capacity. He was especially indignant about the condescending attitudes of many scientists towards alternative traditions.

    I’ve never heard of Feyerabend but he is clearly an idiot.

    The is straight Post Modernism. A failed and discredited philosophy.

    PoMO failed when confronted with science for a good reason. Science describes the real world, objective reality. And, oddly enough, there is only one physical reality.

  17. 17
    Akira MacKenzie

    It’s the oldest superstition around. It was in the Old Testament.

    Considering that many of the followers of Mr. Krauthammer’s political persuasion are die hard fans of the Old Testament and angry God that rains destruction upon us for everything from legal abortion to gay rights, I find it odd that he would dismiss the idea of divine wrath as a “superstition.”

    Or is religion for the “little people,” unlike him?

  18. 18
    Akira MacKenzie

    EDIT: …an angry God…

  19. 19
    HappyNat

    atheist @14

    Yup. Just like the antivax/homeopathic/Alt meds who preach fear about BIG PHARMA and all the tons they are raking in . . . while pulling in huge sums for their hokum books/fake pills/detoxing that don’t even do anything useful.

  20. 20
    mikeyb

    Feyerabend wrote a famous philosophical work called Against Method. Essentially he was a radical relativist along the lines of post-modernism, claiming there is no such things as the scientific method, no such thing as progress, just scientific ideas wining out not because of evidence but through rhetoric and power moves. He was akin to Thomas Kuhn, but he took his relativism a few degrees further. I know he engaged with Wittgenstein and Popper so he did think he was putting together a serious philosophical position. Now I think he is viewed more as a curious case of the excesses of taking social relativism too seriously.

  21. 21
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    It’s the oldest superstition around. It was in the Old Testament. It’s in the rain dance of the Native Americans. If you sin, the skies will not cooperate. This is quite superstitious,

    Do I hear a phone ringing in the governor’s office in Texas?

  22. 22
    Dr. Strabismus

    @raven #11

    “Miami is 4 feet above sea level. But it is far from the ocean.”

    What?! Far from the ocean? You’re kidding, right?

  23. 23
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    George Will is an erudite dunce.

    Charles Krauthammer doesn’t rise to that level.

  24. 24
    screechymonkey

    There is so much more money to be made being a flack for the Koch brothers and right-wing politics, that if I was an undergraduate science student who only cared about money, I’d go into climate science, get my PhD, and then write a Koch-approved book on how it’s all a myth. Sort of like what’s-his-name, the Young Earth Creationist who got a Biology PhD just to be able to say he had it.

  25. 25
    krubozumo

    Florida’s mean elevation is around 30 meters asl, its highest elevation is just over 100 meteres asl. It is not so much underlain by limestone as an unindurated conglomerate of shell fragments called cocina (sp). With the rising acidification of the oceans due to the formation of carbonic acid, Florida is in danger of
    being dissolved.

    Yes, climate is a complex system. No we don’t understand it, how it works, or have even the slightest clue as to how to manipulate it in a way that might offset the wholesale pollution of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that we are causing by buring 32 billion tonnes of fossil carbon every year. For all we know if we stopped burning carbon entirely NOW it would have no beneficial effect in the long term.

    It appears that what the deniers are arguing for is the deliberate suicide of Homo sapiens. After all , we exist by exploiting the natural resources of both the earth and the biosphere for our own use and benefit
    without really providing much in the way of an ecological contribution in return, except perhaps to viriols and pestilential bacteria. Based on a geological background I think that the biosphere and earth will edure our neglect and incompetence. The great promise of an intelligent civilization will just not be
    realized. We had our shot at becoming an interstellar civilization and we choked. It has probably happened a million or more times before just within this tiny galaxy of which we are an infinitesimally small part. Just another dead end.

    Is it a pity? I don’t know. It surely is for all those who aspire to gain new knowledge. But they are just as surely a small minority. Most humans appear to be not only struggling to maintain but fully enamored of the status quo. Distracted by distraction.

    Why should not old men be mad?

  26. 26
    brucegee1962

    There is just one question we should be asking these people:

    “All scientific theories are falsifiable. You claim to have a scientific theory that global warming is a myth. What observable phenomena would it take to convince you that you are wrong?”

    That way, when the planet is drowning and starving, at least we’ll know when we can finally say we told you so. At that point, we’ll be happy for whatever crumbs of comfort we can get.

  27. 27
    Muz

    I do wonder how these guys reconcile that assertion that ‘reacting to climate change will destroy the economy’ when all the theories that fueled their free-market loving hearts were trying to draw on the observation that the economy is almost infinitely malleable and defies attempts at constraint.

    I doubt they even try, really. But I do wonder.

  28. 28
    screechymonkey

    No matter how much the ice caps melt, there will always be land that remains above sea level.

    No matter how much arable land is lost, there will always be some food available.

    No matter how many people die, there will always be some left to act as servants.

    And the richest .01% will always be able to afford all of the above.

    So really, looked at from the “right” perspective, is climate change such a problem after all?

  29. 29
    unclefrogy

    I doubt we will have to wait decades to watch the destruction of Miami Fl.
    I can’t wait to hear what Rubio has to say to the survives about how humans activity had nothing to do with it
    uncle frogy

  30. 30
    tacitus

    Do either of these guys have any knowledge of how science actually works? No.

    Actually, I suspect that both Will and Krauthammer know exactly how science works. They are not dumb. (Neither is Rubio, but then, as we already know, he will say anything he believes his base wants him to say.)

    They’re not attacking science, they are attacking the scientists. They are doing everything they can to discredit the scientists–calling them emotional unreliable superstitious greedy opportunists who will say anything to win plaudits from their peers and cash from their paymasters, even to the point of falsifying their life’s work.

    It’s the age old ploy used when you have no rebuttal — shoot the messenger.

    It’s a lazy, dishonest tactic that, if anything, is worse than using bad science to argue your case, since it dismissively calls the integrity and intelligence of thousands of scientists who are working their butts off to determine the course of the planet’s climate over the next few decades.

  31. 31
    mudpuddles

    I’m amazed that Krauthammer and Will are often referred to as “intellectuals”. Over on this side of the Atlantic, the label assumes a certain level of intelligence. Seems to me that in the US (at least on cable news shows) it just means someone who has read a big book and can talk shite for half an hour.

  32. 32
    playonwords

    If Will is correct

    Scientists are not saints in white laboratory smocks. They have got interests like everybody else

    Then does that mean that Will and Krauthammer are not duplicitous demons intent on hurling everyone else into the fire?

    The answer is no.

  33. 33
    mudpuddles

    I have worked on several climate change studies over the past 15 years, mostly looking at impacts on biodiversity and social systems. According to Krauthammer, Will and other twits, the teams I work with routinely make stuff up – tell big lies – in order to obtain grants. Apparently, all the lies on grant applications are successful, and we get “big money”. We then work in the lab and in the field, recording our observations and developing models which are also a big pack of lies. We then write manuscripts full of lies, and submit them to peer review journals where other liars, who know we are lying as soon as they read our work, nevertheless comment and recommend changes (because we didn’t lie properly?) to make sure that our lies are consistent with the lies of others who have published previously, which we duly take on board and resubmit and get through to publication. We go to conferences where we stand up in front of other scientists, and tell our lies openly to a room full of other liars. We all know we are lying. Everyone in the room knows we are lying. All the other speakers lie in their presentations and papers too. Like a big Bullplop Convention. And then we and the attendees at many other Bullplop Conventions around the world somehow manage to participate in a grand conspiratorial liars consensus, where we and thousands of other scientists, including people from at least 150 different countries, speaking over 40 different languages, manage to cobble together a clear message (of lies), which we call a consensus.

    And we do this all for money. Which is why earn about the same as a cab driver. Seems to me like an awful lot of effort for not much return.

  34. 34
    Lars

    If you want to get along with your peers, conform to peer pressure. [...] 99 percent of physicists convinced that space and time were fixed until Einstein working in a patent office wrote a paper in which he showed that they are not.

    Oh, so that is why Einstein never got any recognition as a scientist.

    It all makes sense now.

  35. 35
    screechymonkey

    Lars@34:

    Yep, that’s the kicker, isn’t it? The scientific community is so stupid/corrupt that it can overlook/stamp out contrary evidence and theories, until the insurmountable might of a patent clerk crushes it.

  36. 36
    msm16

    “99 percent of physicists convinced that space and time were fixed until Einstein working in a patent office wrote a paper in which he showed that they are not. ”

    This is a lie. Physicists knew Newtons laws were wrong because of some glaring issues reveald by experiments. They were just lacking a new consensus view until Einstein.

  37. 37
    chimera

    I wonder what Feyerabend and others of his ilk –they are mostly all dead now– would think if they knew that their work was being mined by creationists. Would they be shocked and regretful or applaud? Also, was it inevitable that this would happen? And what are the lessons here? It’s fascinating in a morbid sort of way.

  38. 38
    atheist

    @krubozumo – 11 May 2014 at 11:14 pm (UTC -5)

    Why should not old men be mad?

    The problem is old men, nor is it postmodernism. The problem is an economic system that cannot limit itself, and secondarily the powerful Oil industry. I understand the attractions of fatalism, but I can’t accept that view. Consider our civilization being like a program running on a computer. Are we really willing to watch the circuitry catch fire until the entire program is lost irretrievably? I think that sort of species decline is a bad enough outcome that we ought to fight it.

  39. 39
    aggressivePerfector

    Such arguments are so instantly self defeating that I propose using Dan Dennett’s strategy (paraphrasing):

    Sure, I believe you completely, but the problem is: everything you said proves unambiguously that you are a ham sandwich, wrapped in tin foil.

    They can’t have it both ways, either they reject logic and science completely, and hence declare themselves to be insane, or they demand that statements such as the above can be refuted empirically, thus establishing exactly the standard that destroys their own thesis.

  40. 40
    glennedwards

    I love comparing the GOP’s attitude on this to long-term fiscal projections (generally and w/r/t SS, Medicare, etc.). On climate change, of course we know there’s some possibility the scientific consensus is wrong (not much, I think), but we have 2 choices: We can work on fixing the problem, the worst result of which — if science is wrong — is we needlessly divert some resources that could have gone to activities of greater utility (maybe..obviously there’s an argument that much of it will be otherwise-idle resources anyway, there will be technological benefits, etc.), and we probably get cleaner air anyway from getting rid of the dirtiest fossil fuel sources. Alternatively, we can do nothing, and if science is right, we may be dooming certain civilizations (including, perhaps our own — as we know it, anyway). Seems like a pretty clear choice to me.

    Meanwhile, on the budget, the mere possibility of long-term fiscal problems — as to which there is substantially less consensus — is enough to demand pain NOW for these guys, because otherwise we’re being irresponsible to future generations.

    Am I wrong to think that the difference is all about whose ox is going to be gored? Poor people/poor countries can suck it, but don’t ask us to give up our fossil-fuel activities (and profits).

  41. 41
    Lynna, OM

    I’m not impressed by numbers. I’m not impressed by consensus.

    I’m not impressed by Charles Krauthammer. He claims to debunk whatever facts shine a revealing light on his brand of conservatism, including the Republican war on women, which he says does not exist. He might feel differently if we mandated internal ultrasound probes of his nether regions.

  42. 42
    congaboy

    Homo Sapiens, probably the shortest run on the planet by any species–and we’re taking as many other species down with us as we can. At least those of us who accepted climate change will be able to say “I told you so.”

  43. 43
    anteprepro

    First off, you gotta absolutely love that they team up with two contradictory messages.

    “Science is worthless because scientists obviously are peer pressured and grant moneyed into supporting the status quo!”

    “Look at how Einstein drastically changed scientific understanding and made all other scientists before him wrong! Just look at how rapidly scientists change their opinions! The scientific consensus can change so quickly that it is worthless!”

    Which is it, wingnuts? Is it a dogmatic, religious orthodoxy that is cemented by groupthink, a desire for profit, and obedience to authority, or is it a wishy-washy entreprise that is too unstable and susceptible to rapid change due to new information such that it cannot be taken as an authority? Is it too stubborn and persistent or not stubborn and persistent enough? Is it too malleable and open to new information or not malleable and open enough? Pick One.

    Also: gotta love the “superstition” bit. Not only is it a complete own goal against their comrades-in-arms, but it also is based entirely upon the idea of being punished for “the sin” of CO2 emission. The only problem? They have it ass-backwards. CO2 is only considered “a sin” entirely BECAUSE we know of the effects (“punishment”) that is a consequence of it. This isn’t “God smites us with a hurricane because masturbation is bad”. This is “CO2 emissions result in increased likelihood of hurricanes and thus high CO2 emissions are bad”. This isn’t superstition and it isn’t about supposed sins or evils. It is all about observing cause and effect, and minimizing the cause when we don’t want the effect. It is the best case of applied science. And it would be a shining example if it weren’t for politically and financially motivated fuckwitted shitstirrers like these two fucking highly regarded blowhards.

  44. 44
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Will and Krauthammer are just Kochroaches. They will do whatever they are bid by the rich and powerful who keep them well fed in pate and champagne. I doubt that even they believe their own bullshit. Their concern is not capitalism or economics, but rather in keeping a particular class of bloated plutocrat in power so they can dine on the crumbs brushed from their table.

    And in a world where all too many of the denialists are anonymous, Will and Krauthammer are high profile. I suspect that history will not be kind to them. Then again, I am sure they are already working on their lamentations that the scientists didn’t warn them it time. Loathesome little turds.

  45. 45
    Lynna, OM

    More coverage of Rubio’s failure-to-comprehend:
    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/marco-rubio-climate-denier

    […] For context, it’s worth noting that Rubio is a member of the Senate Science Committee, is on the subcommittee that deals specifically with science and space, and represents a state facing an extraordinary threat from rising sea levels, but the conservative senator just doesn’t seem moved by the evidence. […]

    John Oliver on his Last Week Tonight show covered the issue well. Scroll down at the link for the video clip. Very funny.

  46. 46
  47. 47
    Lynna, OM

    YouTube link for the John Oliver segment.

  48. 48
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Feyerabend was an idiot of the first order. That is all.

  49. 49
    David Chapman

    16
    raven

    PoMO failed when confronted with science for a good reason. Science describes the real world, objective reality. And, oddly enough, there is only one physical reality.

    Fuck! I’ve just realized I’m cross-eyed! :(

  50. 50
    David Chapman

    38
    atheist

    The problem is [not] old men, nor is it postmodernism. The problem is an economic system that cannot limit itself, and secondarily the powerful Oil industry.

    You might well be right about the damage that the inherent flaws in our economic system may inflict on us, but the way we think — or don’t think, or pretend to think — is never out of the picture. Not least because one of the worst vices of postmodernism is that it was frequently a mush of erzatz psuedo-intellectual pretending-to-be-oh-so radical left-wing thought, and just by its existence it must have buried a lot of real and sensible radical critical thinking in the gloop; thereby proffering a rich resource of evidence that radical thought was nothing but a lot of pretentious spoiled academics inventing bullshit ways of talking about the World. This must have been a big contributor to the mess we’re in now, because the real, perceptive and urgent radicalism, such as environmentalism, could be dismissed as being more of the same.
    The signal got lost in the postmodernist noise.

  51. 51
    aggressivePerfector

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space, # 48

    Feyerabend was an idiot of the first order. That is all.

    Absolutely!

    It’s worth remembering, though, that Feyerabend represents a particularly explicit presentation of a point of view held by many other, far more respected philosophers, such as Kuhn and Popper. Views, in fact, that many scientists still look favorably upon.

    To some extent, these anti-science expressions are echoes of sounds emanating from the scientific community (albeit highly selective and highly amplified echoes). There is desperate need to fix science education, so that scientists and ‘lay people,’ alike, understand the true inductive basis of scientific method. When the scientific community is still confused, there can’t be much hope.

    That is all. For now.

  52. 52
    markkernes

    Krauthammer was a PSYCHIATRIST??? Who were his patients? Charles Manson and Ted Kaszynski???

  53. 53
    Crimson Clupeidae

    Republicans and climate change, in song (yes, most of you can probably guess what this is.

    Sing along!

  54. 54
    imthegenieicandoanything

    This place never sounds more like a church than when it starts raging about “PoMo” – and it’s darn embarrassing to read the spittle (as ignorant and game of “telephone” informed as the average creationist ranting about evolution) as it flies.

    Enjoy being right and pure and ignorant, you fine rationalists. You’re not hurting anyone, after all, and I don’t have to clean up after you.

    I’ll pretend this never happened. Again.

  55. 55
    David Chapman

    51
    aggressivePerfector

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space, # 48

    Feyerabend was an idiot of the first order. That is all.

    Absolutely!

    It’s worth remembering, though, that Feyerabend represents a particularly explicit presentation of a point of view held by many other, far more respected philosophers, such as Kuhn and Popper.

    I can hardly see how that makes sense with regard to Popper. The intellectual relativity of this creep Feyeraband — which I guess is what you’re talking about — is drastically incompatible with Popper’s whole approach which is all about getting to the truth: The truth.

    There is desperate need to fix science education, so that scientists and ‘lay people,’ alike, understand the true inductive basis of scientific method.

    Can you explain the true inductive basis of scientific method succinctly? ( Possibly in a Lounge or Thunderdome rather than here, as it is getting off-topic. )

  56. 56
    Monsanto

    As famed scientist and psychiatrist Dr. Krauthammer said, “These are things that people negotiate in the way you would negotiate a bill, because the science is unstable…”. Yeah, we already know that scientists will change their ideas on a whim, just because they’ve uncovered a new fact. Why not wait until that decide that there is no climate change again? The great thing about opinion is that you don’t need to change it just because you found a pesky fact that disagrees.

  57. 57
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    When I was a psychiatrist, I participated in consensus conferences on how to define depression and mania. These are things that people negotiate in the way you would negotiate a bill…

    Because psychiatry is totes the same as physics and climate science. *nod nod*

  58. 58
    aggressivePerfector

    David Chapman, # 55

    I can hardly see how that makes sense with regard to Popper.

    Feyerabend was a radical relativist. So was was Popper. Popper believed that scientific progress (1) is strictly deductive and (2) proceeds only by falsification.

    Science is not deductive. Falsification is not even deductive, as I explain in Inductive inference or deductive falsification? . In short, falsification is necessarily probabilistic – if large residuals between theory and experiment are enough to deductively falsify the theory, who decides what constitutes ‘large.’

    I guess most scientists don’t realize this, but Popper was a radically strict falsificationist. Thus, in Popper’s view, any two theories that had not been falsified in the strictest sense (by which he meant deductively, which is actually usually impossible, though he couldn’t grasp this) were necessarily of equal merit. Thus, in Popper’s mind, the theory that rain dances affect the weather, if it hasn’t been deductively falsified, is exactly as believable as any other non-falsified theory of the weather. No amount of negative statistical evidence counted. Prior implausibility was just not an option. Furthermore no amount of corroborating evidence was ever sufficient to enhance a theory’s status – induction is impossible, he said. This is open-mindedness to the point of brain-fell-out-long-ago-ness. This is the wrong kind of relativism – very much like Feyerabend.

    (You might respond that Popper was different to Feyerabend in that Popper believed in a unique truth – actually Feyerabend explicitly accepted this position also – it’s just that he was that little bit more incoherent than Popper, which led to some more obviously self-contradictory statements.)

    Can you explain the true inductive basis of scientific method succinctly? (Possibly in a Lounge or Thunderdome rather than here, as it is getting off-topic.)

    I don’t think it is off topic – it is very much on the topic of the cultural environment that permits views such as those climate-change denials to survive without being instantly ridiculed by every literate person who is exposed to them.

    I have quite a bit of accumulated material on the inductive nature of science, apart from the above linked post on falsification. You could try these blog posts:

    Total Bayesianism
    Ockham’s Razor

    The reason that science can not be deductive is what I call the calibration problem, which happens to be the subject of a forthcoming post (up in a day or two, I hope).

    I also have several glossary entries, of most relevance would be:

    Science
    Bayes’ Theorem
    Probability

    If you have any questions about the material, you can ask me here, or you are most welcome to contact me through my website.

  59. 59
    David Chapman

    58
    aggressivePerfector

    [I]n Popper’s mind, the theory that rain dances affect the weather, if it hasn’t been deductively falsified, is exactly as believable as any other non-falsified theory of the weather. No amount of negative statistical evidence counted. Prior implausibility was just not an option. Furthermore no amount of corroborating evidence was ever sufficient to enhance a theory’s status – induction is impossible, he said. This is open-mindedness to the point of brain-fell-out-long-ago-ness.

    But even if I were to agree with all that, which I don’t, there’s another issue here. Popper wouldn’t see the point in believing in the rain-dance theory, since it isn’t scientific, and accepting such a hypothesis is, generally speaking, taking the wrong approach to understanding andor controlling the World. Because it isn’t falsifiable, it isn’t useful or interesting. So there is no need to take it seriously. We don’t need to find another way to reject it, and we needn’t be bothered about the fact that it hasn’t been disproved. It can’t be disproved, ( if the witchdoctor keeps claiming it will work tomorrow, that is. If only they get the dance steps right this time. ) therefore there’s no reason to regard it as a scientific theory at all.
    Instead of trying to think of an argument to convince the witchdoctors’ acolytes that there is no such thing as a dance that makes it rain, you can explain to them that science works by falsification and how successful it’s been. What’s wrong with that?

    Well of course you don’t accept that falsification makes logical sense. Whereas I like Popper’s approach intuitively, I don’t have a definite view about this and I’m interested in reading your arguments for induction and against falsification. I won’t raise any more objections until I read some of this material. For which, thanks.

    You might respond that Popper was different to Feyerabend in that Popper believed in a unique truth – actually Feyerabend explicitly accepted this position also

    Yes he may well do, but I don’t believe him. In saying that Popper believed there was only one truth, ( that is, only one Reality ), I was saying — and I think you understood me to be saying — that contrary to your opinion of him he is not a relativist. Whereas Feyerabend, while he might claim to believe there is only one truth, is a dedicated multi-culturalist. And this is not really compatible with the claim that there is only one truth, one Reality, because our scientific culture makes claims about the Cosmos that radically contradict those of other traditions. ( I know I’m preaching to the choir here about Feyeraband but I want to get this straight. ) To quote the man himself:

    First-world science is one science among many; by claiming to be more it ceases to be an instrument of research and turns into a (political) pressure group.
    Pg iii (Intro to the Chinese Edition of Against Method)

    Rationalism… is a secularized form of the belief in the power of the word of God.
    Against Method p227

    Traditions are neither good nor bad, they simply are… Rationality is not an arbiter of traditions, it is itself a tradition or an aspect of a tradition.
    Science In A Free Society p27

    So, the less said the better about Feyerabend perhaps…… I just want to ask also: You say about Popper:

    This is the wrong kind of relativism

    I’m curious as to what the right kind of relativism involves. ( I’m not posing as some kind of purist here, I’m simply curious. )

  60. 60
    chimera

    dilbert space @48

    Feyerabend was an idiot.

    That’s beside the point. And I’d use stronger language than that but it’s still beside the point. It’s also not very interesting.

    agressivePerfector @58 gets it right when s/he claims that Feyerabend’s or Popper’s work on how truth can and can not be determined

    … is very much on the topic of the cultural environment that permits views such as those climate-change denials to survive without being instantly ridiculed by every literate person who is exposed to them.

    Thank you, Perfector, for those links which I’ll be reading too. Still, I think

    atheist @38‘s link to a Nation article provides a more likely explanation of why creationist arguments have any traction at all. It’s more about the 1%’s money than any problems of epistemology.

    I mentioned Feyerabend because I could hear him speaking out of that creationist George Will’s mouth and in particular, the quote about climate science being basically a lot of rain-dancing. It is ironic at very least that the kind of thought that once paraded itself as, in Chapman’s words @50, an oh so radical left-wing position has been taken up by the right. That’s news to me, perhaps not to other readers here, but it’s why I posted the quote from Feyerabend in the first place.

    Creationists are mining post-modernism. I suppose this implies that some hungry grad student with a background in theory and lots of debt on their backs spent a couple of months at one of those right-wing think tanks going through old PoMo anthologies with a highlighter to find arguments the creationists could use. Or maybe they were a recent convert to Christianity. Or maybe a Christian enrolled in a theory class for the purpose of mining it. Who knows.

  61. 61
    aggressivePerfector

    David Chapman, # 59

    Popper wouldn’t see the point in believing in the rain-dance theory, since it isn’t scientific, and accepting such a hypothesis is, generally speaking, taking the wrong approach to understanding andor controlling the World. Because it isn’t falsifiable, it isn’t useful or interesting.

    On Popper’s philosophy, he was absolutely committed to accepting rain dances as equally as plausible as any other non falsified (and falsifiable) theory. Of course, he might have said something different if you questioned him directly on it – but that is simply a measure of his incoherence. Rain-dance theory is absolutely falsifiable – we can test it with simple statistics and it will be falsified (probabilistically) very quickly. We can also test unfalsifiable theories, by the way, as I show in Bayes’ Theorem: All You Need to Know About Theology (that article also explains why the falsifiability criterion works).

    Note that all your Feyerabend quotes are about method, rather than reality – he was primarily concerned with overturning science’s unique claim as an epistemological method. I think, though, that you can find some quotations where he is explicitly relativistic about external reality. We can’t expect mad people (speaking colloquially) to avoid self-contradiction all the time.

    I’m curious as to what the right kind of relativism involves.

    My brain (and yours) is a physical object, whose condition is a matter of objective truth. There are, therefore, facts about the universe that depend on the state of my brain. Facts that vary as my thoughts and beliefs vary.

    In particular, the correct view of morality is necessarily relativistic. What is moral for me might not be moral for you. I discuss this in Practical Morality, Part 1, and various other places linked to from there.

    NB: Correct relativism does not mean that I can make a thing true just by believing it! (I can’t make an act moral just by deciding that’s what I want to do.) Nor does it mean that all methods are equally successful at identifying truth.

    chimera, # 60

    It’s more about the 1%’s money than any problems of epistemology.

    (for your future convenience, I am a he)

    But for the argument’s pushed by the 1% with the cash to do any work, they must have some form of credibility. I believe there is enough mild confusion concerning how science works floating about – confusion that often emanates from the scientific community – for somebody with an adjenda to compound it and exploit it to radical effect. (Logically, any single false statement implies every other statement, true and false, so there is infinite capacity to exploit such confusion.)

  62. 62
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    The problem faced by any science denialist–on the left or on the right–is that science works. It has in less than 500 years completely revolutionized the way humans live, think and view the world. It is hard to argue with that success, and so the denialist usually adopts one of 2 approaches:

    1)”But climate science/evolution/vaccination studies isn’t real science.” This is a transparent and easily discredited lie, because scientists in related, but slightly removed fields have endorsed the findings of researchers in the given field. In the case of climate science, not only do more than 97% of climate experts say we are warming the planet and that it is a risk, but every National Academy of Sciences and professional organization of sciences that matters has endorsed these conclusions and the process by which they were reached. So from here, the denialists’ arguments usually collapse into accusations of corruption or simple denial of the evidence. In any case, the denialist is discredited in the eyes of anyone who isn’t similarly deluded.

    2)The “relativistic” approach championed by Feyerabend is a little harder to argue against because it is so slippery. It sounds reasonable–science is just “one way of knowing”, and all ways of knowing are on an equal footing–science, tradition, revelation, common sense. It plays on the prejudices and vanities of laymen who don’t really like all those pointy-headed scientists in any case. What it ignores is that science works, while the other “ways of knowing” are unreliable.

    The denialists also love to invoke Popper–either to claim that anthropogenic is falsified on the basis of some bullshit criterion or to claim that climate models are not falsifiable and therefore aren’t physics. They seem oblivious to the fact that Popper’s idea of falsifiability is only a tiny part of the picture. It applies only to fairly simple conceptual models that yield unambiguous predictions rather than probabilities. Nowhere does Popper consider plausibility of the proposed mechanism or how a theory might change in response to a “falsification” without utterly discarding the theory. Anybody who invokes Popper as if he were the last word on philosophy of science reveals himself as an ignoramus who has never done science.

  63. 63
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    Michael Gerson, of all people, is the voice of reason.

  64. 64
    David Chapman

    61
    aggressivePerfector
    Rain-dance theory is absolutely falsifiable – we can test it with simple statistics and it will be falsified (probabilistically) very quickly.

    You don’t appear to be addressing the scenario I described, where:

    It [rain dance theory] can’t be disproved, ( if the witchdoctor keeps claiming it will work tomorrow, that is. If only they get the dance steps right this time. )

    There are two excuses for raindance theory here, one is that an insufficient sample of dancing has been performed. Your claim about statistical analysis might well have some purchase with regard to the first: that’s beyond my expertise and I won’t try to answer it, unless I achieve a better understanding of the case you are making.
    But there is another issue, or an exacerbation of the first issue. The witchdoctor explains the failure of any previous dance attempts on shoddy raindancing technique; thus immunizing the theory from statistical criticism.
    This might seem a frivolous and unimpressive aspect of the situation. But in fact this apparent frivolity is nothing but a reflection of the dangerously credulous attitude humans — including really clever humans — frequently show in response to psuedo-explanations. As no doubt you already know, Popper introduced the falsifiability criterion precisely because people such as Freudian and Adlerian psychologists and Marxists were wont to invent such ad-hoc hypotheses — promiscuously and without stating criteria whereby they in turn might be falsified — in order to preserve their original theories from refutation. And their Worldviews were hailed as science by educated and uneducated people alike; with disastrous consequences for the history of the 20th century. Far from being a frivolous problem, this is how people tend to respond, or have responded to explanations of the World.

    It is this issue — a profound dillemma in the World, the difficulty ( which exists for whatever reason or reasons ) that people find in differentiating between criticisable and critically bland theories about the World — that Popper’s theory addresses.
    Restating the problems he addresses while subtracting the vital dance-step competence element gives a false impression of what the theory is doing. Science to his way of thinking is a system of controlling the proliferation of excuses, of demanding a higher quality of auxillary hypothesis ( that is, something better than an arbitrary excuse.) I don’t see why the criterion of falsification logically implies that raindance theory or any other theory that constantly fails to make accurate predictions, and is constantly in need of excuses to explain its failure, is plausible.

  65. 65
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I don’t see why the criterion of falsification logically implies that raindance theory or any other theory that constantly fails to make accurate predictions, and is constantly in need of excuses to explain its failure, is plausible.

    That’s where the null hypothesis comes into play. Given five years of excuses, the null hypothesis becomes not that the the rain dance works, but that it doesn’t work, and to show it works requires sufficient evidence to falsify the null hypothesis. Science doesn’t get stuck in loops of doubt. It changes the game so that it does work, by using the null hypothesis and parsimony. Which is where pseudoscience fails each and every time.

  66. 66
    David Chapman

    @62
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    I would just say that Popper is SPECTACULARLY badly misrepresented by secondary accounts of his work in the philosophical literature. It’s quite bizarre.

    As I mention in my reply to aggressivePerfector I am not mathematically competent to assess these aspects of Popper’s work, but just to give you some indication, the whole second half of Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery is dedicated to how his theory interacts with probability; including Popper’s interpretation of quantum mechanics. And I quote:

    The relations between probability and experience are also still in need of clarification. In investigating this problem we shall discover what will at first seem an almost insuperable objection to my methodological views. For although probability statements play such a vitally important role in empirical science, they turn out to be in principle impervious to strict falsification. Yet this very stumbing block will become a touchstone upon which to test my theory, in order to find out what it is worth.

    — Logic of Scientific Discovery, Chapter 8, Probability.

    Whether Popper succeeds in demonstrating his theories worth here I could not say, but my point is that his theories are very different from the ultrasimplified caricatures of them that are often published.

  67. 67
    aggressivePerfector

    David Chapman,

    Your version of rain-dance theory is unfalsifiable. The one I was talking about, and the one that I said Popper was committed to taking seriously, is not. It consists only of the proposition that people can control the weather by performing dances.

    I don’t see why the criterion of falsification logically implies that raindance theory or any other theory that constantly fails to make accurate predictions, and is constantly in need of excuses to explain its failure, is plausible.

    It doesn’t. Unfalsifiability presents a special class of proposition that can be tested (and rejected) without need for any empirical data. This follows from the requirement for infinite degrees of freedom coupled with the mechanics of Bayes’ theorem, as I show in the very deliberately titled ‘All you need to know about theology.’ Popper’s use of falsifiability for demarcation was one of the things he got right (though this is often misunderstood, in part because Popper himself didn’t properly understand it – unfalsifiable is not the same as untestable, non-falsifiability just provides a very convenient shortcut).

    What he got horribly wrong was his outright rejection of inductive inference. Thus, if I invent some crazy (but falsifiable) hypothesis, that nobody happens to have tested: there is a galaxy up there made entirely of teapots – Popper would have to admit that he was totally ambivalent, “it’s as good as any other hypothesis,” he would have to say. For him, the answer, “probably not,” was useless.

    In an important sense, ‘falsification theory’ enabled Popper to cling to this bizarre rejection of induction (it gave him the an alternative mechanism for scientific progress), but the falsifiability criterion is not what I criticize Popper for.

  68. 68
    David Chapman

    65
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I don’t see why the criterion of falsification logically implies that raindance theory or any other theory that constantly fails to make accurate predictions, and is constantly in need of excuses to explain its failure, is plausible.

    That’s where the null hypothesis comes into play. Given five years of excuses, the null hypothesis becomes not that the the rain dance works, but that it doesn’t work, and to show it works requires sufficient evidence to falsify the null hypothesis. Science doesn’t get stuck in loops of doubt. It changes the game so that it does work, by using the null hypothesis and parsimony. Which is where pseudoscience fails each and every time.

    My point was that aggressiveProtector was addressing a specialized, restricted case, and Popper was not.

  69. 69
    David Chapman

    61
    aggressivePerfector

    Note that all your Feyerabend quotes are about method, rather than reality

    Thank you yes I did note that actually. ( That’s why I described the implications of same. )

    – he was primarily concerned with overturning science’s unique claim as an epistemological method.

    Test-tube envy.

    I think, though, that you can find some quotations where he is explicitly relativistic about external reality.

    Yet I don’t think you would dispute that the quotations I did post, peg him out for what he is.

  70. 70
    David Chapman

    @68.
    David Chapman
    My point was that aggressiveProtector was addressing a specialized, restricted case

    aggressivePerfector, excuse me.

  71. 71
    aggressivePerfector

    David Chapman,

    I did note that actually. ( That’s why I described the implications of same. )

    Whereas Feyerabend, while he might claim to believe there is only one truth, is a dedicated multi-culturalist. And this is not really compatible with the claim that there is only one truth, one Reality, because our scientific culture makes claims about the Cosmos that radically contradict those of other traditions.

    My point was that his multi-culturalism was primarily about method (though it did stray occasionally into more radical expressions). His claim was that no single method (culture) has a monopoly on the assessment of truth. The fact that different cultures make contradictory claims about reality doesn’t contradict this. This is a small point, but it is important for broader reasons. What I’ll say next might seem harsh, but to think multiculturalism implies multiple realities is to make essentially the same mistake that Feyerabend makes.

    Perhaps the most useful philosophical tool I’ve come across is Ed Jaynes’ formulation of the simple phrase, ‘mind projection fallacy.’ It represents the stupidly simple insight that the features of models of reality are under no requirement to exhibit exact correspondence with features of reality. By capturing this simple insight in a short catchy phrase, Jaynes makes it easy to avoid a huge catalog of common philosophical errors. I hope this helps :)

    And just so you know, Popper’s theory on probability, propensity theory, is pure mind-projection fallacy from start to finish. Probabilities are fundamentally quantifications of justifiable belief. Like so many before him, he tried to make them into rules of mechanics (frequencies: I believe 80% in X, therefore X is true 80% of the time).

  72. 72
    David Chapman

    71
    aggressivePerfector

    My point was that his multi-culturalism was primarily about method (though it did stray occasionally into more radical expressions). His claim was that no single method (culture) has a monopoly on the assessment of truth.

    And this claim is true, but the quotes I quoted go beyond this.

    I don’t know Feyerabend well at all, I’ve always avoided him like the plague because the little I knew of him was so crap. I find the existence of authors like this — I mean the fact that they are accepted and lauded by our culture — not a little distressing and disorientating. But as a consequence, I’m no authority on what exactly Feyerabend is saying, but I think the quotes I quoted speak for themselves.

    The fact that different cultures make contradictory claims about reality doesn’t contradict this.

    No it doesn’t. There are other wisdoms of pre-scientific traditions, or semi-scientific traditions that may be at least as good as those of our science-informed culture. But to take the superstitious claims of pre-scientific cultures to be equivalent to the modern world’s scientific Worldview means that there would have to be multiple realities, or a superposition of contradictory realities, with the Earth going round the Sun and the Sun going round the Earth, because our culture holds the first and some tribe in New Guinea are still betting on the second. I’m concerned if I managed to sound as if I was saying that respect for many different cultures necessitated any such bullshit. I’m quite puzzled here trying to figure out what you think I think. The only interpretation I come up with is that is that I was sloppy in the use of the word, ‘multi-culturalism.’ I suspect I just made the assumption that this bad multiculturalism is what the term would communicate in this sort of conversation on this sort of website; perhaps I was wrong there.
    I meant it in the way that Feyerabend means it when he says:

    Traditions are neither good nor bad, they simply are… Rationality is not an arbiter of traditions, it is itself a tradition or an aspect of a tradition.
    Science In A Free Society p27

    but there are obviously more positive and less loony and harmful meanings, an interest in and a willing to learn from different traditions and people with starkly different life experiences. Of course that can be of enormous benefit. But I certainly don’t think that such humanistic open-mindedness is to be avoided, because it necessitates this loony postmodernist equation of scientific achievements with religious mythologies, this mad, bad multiculturalism which was the meaning I intended. Please let me know if I’m on the right track here.
    Or are you making a point more along the lines of the claim that Feyerabend and others are mistaken in thinking that pre-scientific cultures relate to their Worldviews in a very different way from the way we relate to our scientific Worldview? ( I hope not. )

    And just so you know, Popper’s theory on probability, propensity theory, is pure mind-projection fallacy from start to finish.

    The fact that, as I live, I learn is a constant joy to me.

  73. 73
    aggressivePerfector

    David,

    But to take the superstitious claims of pre-scientific cultures to be equivalent to the modern world’s scientific Worldview means that there would have to be multiple realities, or a superposition of contradictory realities, …

    Again, in itself, it is a minor point, but what I was alluding to was the difference between types of equivalence. Equivalence of truth follows your description. Equivalence of ability to describe reality doesn’t. If all methods are equally bad then none of them delivers the truth – analogous to Popper saying if it’s not deductively falsified, then we can say nothing about it.

    I haven’t devoted much time to Feyerabend, either (for similar obvious reasons), but I think a major part of his mistake was the same as the one I discuss in Parameter Estimation and the Relativity of Wrong: all theories are ultimately false, but that doesn’t make them all equally wrong.

    I’m concerned if I managed to sound as if I was saying that respect for many different cultures necessitated any such bullshit.

    I never doubted that we agree that respect for different cultures doesn’t imply equivalence of fidelity or diagnostic success. Of course, respect can mean simply not pissing people off, just for the sake of it. But there is also a genuine potential for learning, where different cultures interact. In particular, the more removed a culture from our own, the greater in expectation its potential to teach us something about the perception of value.

  74. 74
    schnitzi

    >Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asserted recently that there was nothing that humans could do to stop climate change because it was not caused by humans

    I wonder if that’s why we sometimes have trouble putting out forest fires. By this logic we should only be able to put out the ones started by arsonists, but not ones started by lightning.

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