Hubris and Critical Thinking

Tom Evslin has an outstanding post up today titled Causes of Global Warming – Are We Fooled By Hubris?  Amy and I just finished watching Rome Season 2 and our conclusion is “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  Anyone feel like buying some indulgences?

  • I was going to recommend that you read The Black Swan by Taleb before I clicked the link, which references his earlier work, Fooled by Randomness. Both are amazing reads that most likely will change the way you think about a lot of things.

  • sigma

    Clearly, for ‘global warming’ we should look at temperature of the ‘globe’, i.e., temperature averaged over the surface of the Earth and over some reasonable period of time, e.g., one year.

    This measurement itself is already not easy. But suppose we have done it.

    For decades or centuries in the past, we will have to use other data to estimate these averages.

    Okay, likely still one of the best presentations of such data is in

    Committee on Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years, National Research Council, ‘Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years’, ISBN 0-309-66264-8, 196 pages, National Academies Press, 2006, available at

    as of Saturday, June 24th, 2006.

    So, as in this report, in particular, in the big graph on page 2, starting about 1000 years ago the Earth started getting cooler. By 400 years ago, we were in the coolest part of ‘the little ice age’. Since then the Earth has been getting warmer although occasionally for a decade or so it got cooler.

    Since 1950, the temperature has increased by about 2/3 of 1 C, which is tough to measure accurately, small, of little concern.

    More generally, there is plenty of evidence that at times in the past the Earth has been cooler than now and warmer than now.

    Moreover, so far, solid ‘exact science’ for the temperature of the Earth is too difficult to do. Net, we do not really understand either what causes all the temperature changes or what the effect of human generated ‘green house’ gasses is.

    In particular, for the idea that 2/3 of 1 C will ‘melt all the ice at the poles’, anyone concerned please camp out at the North Pole this winter, return in the spring, and report on all the balmy tropic breezes they found.

    So much for the science and being rational.

    But for what is in the media, a much better source is the movie ‘The Music Man’, especially the part about

    Oh we got trouble,
    Right here in River City.
    Trouble starts with a T,
    And that rhymes with a …

    Well, since it rhymes with much of the alphabet, it’s easy enough to continue with

    And that rhymes with a G,
    And that stands for global warming!

    The sales pitch continues with “Look for the telltale signs”.

    So, for global warming, don’t look at temperature: Heck no! Temperature would be less than 1 C over the past 50 years, and that’s too small to get any attention at all! So, when discussing ‘global warming’, don’t mention temperature!

    Instead of temperature, look at ‘the telltale signs’ such as the snows of Kilimanjaro, some glacier in Greenland, another glacier in Patagonia, some pictures of polar bears swimming in water with no ice visible, video clips of a glacier dropping icebergs into the sea, Katrina, any other changes can find in the climate or environment.

    Since the weather keeps changing, can always find changes. Then, just say that these changes are ‘telltale signs’.

    As in the movie, and like a tent preacher, play on human guilt about, and fears of, “sin and corruption”.

    Then, as in the movie, propose a solution, ‘carbon credits’ or some such.

    As has long been noted about propaganda, repeat it often enough and people will believe it.

    Then, better than in ‘The Music Man’, get the media on board. The media readily forms herds — “Yes, the do form herds” — and likes herds since it lets them get away with nonsense because everyone else in the media is spouting the same nonsense.

    Why should the media spout nonsense? Advertising revenue! They just want attention, eyeballs, ratings, and going way back, claims of fear, threat, danger, scandal, sin, corruption, etc. are among the best ways to get attention.

    Using ‘global warming’ as the ‘threat’ is clever: The weather is so complicated that addressing the subject with solid science is too difficult. So, without solid results from science, get to argue about the threat of some monster in the dark in the dust under the bed, in the closet or the attic, or in the woods out back.

    It was a good movie. In particular, such manipulations go way back. Since now the manipulations are working again, apparently more people need to see the movie.

    Besides, in that blue dress, Shirley Jones is GORGEOUS! WOW! I know: She was pregnant when she made that movie, and it had been a long time since she did ‘Carousel’ or ‘Oklahoma’, but she was still gorgeous.

    The media manipulations go way back, too, e.g., before ‘Citizen Kane’. More people need to see that movie, too.

  • Tom Evslin talks about it being possibly hubris for humanity to feel global warming is happening to humanity. The famed physicist Freeman Dyson has a skeptical viewpoint on global warming being necessarily caused by humans as well. You may find my summary of his perspective interesting: