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Just the facts?

In the wake of the appalling mass shootings last weekend, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (the pre-eminent scientist/communicator in the US) tweeted some facts that were, let’s just say, not well received (and for which he kind of apologised). At least one of the facts he tweeted about was incorrect (deaths by medical errors are far smaller). However, even if it had been correct, the overall response would have been the same, because the reaction was not driven by the specifics of what was said, but rather by the implied message of the context in which it was said. This is a key feature (or bug) of communications in a politicized environment, and one that continues to trip up people who are experienced enough to know better.

Why bring this up here? Two reasons: First, I still come across scientists active in public communications in the climate realm that insist that their role is simply to give ‘just the facts’ and that they do so in a completely objective manner. Second, I often see people using ‘facts’ rhetorically to distract, diminish and devalue arguments with which they disagree without ever engaging with the arguments substantively. Thus it’s worth picking apart what is happened to Tyson with an eye to improving self-awareness on how ‘facts’ are received by the public and to help recognize, and maybe defang, the rhetorical use of irrelevant ‘facts’ as distractions. It should go without saying that, of course, I support basing discussions on truth, but any real discourse is far more than a mere recitation of facts.

Why isn’t a recitation of facts objective? The ‘fact’ is, that there are far more facts that can be brought up at any one time than there is time or energy to do so. Thus any intervention in a public discussion that is nominally fact-based has already been filtered – choices have been made in what is being presented, when it is being presented, how and why. All of these choices are subjective, and are affected by one’s own values and assessment of whether any intervention will be effective with respect to your goals. No facts really stand alone, all of them require explicit or implicit context to be made sense of.

For instance, “CO2 concentrations have exceeded 410 ppm” is a fact but for the importance of this to be clear, the reader might need to know that CO2 is a gas, in the Earth’s atmosphere, and that historical levels were much lower but now are rising fast, and that it affects long-wave absorption of radiation in the atmosphere and that this is a big part of what maintains the Earth’s climate, and that the last time CO2 was so high was perhaps in the Pliocene (3 million years ago) when temperatures were perhaps 3ºC warmer and sea level was ~25 meters higher than now. That’s a lot of implicit context for a simple ‘fact’.

If readers have a different context, an equivalently factual statement such as “CO2 concentrations have reached 0.041% of the atmosphere”, might have quite a different (intended) implication. And indeed, I see this one used all the time, with the implicit context that 0.041% is more obviously a small number, and that (implicitly) small concentrations can’t possibly have an impact (notwithstanding all the times when they do), and thus discussion of human-related causes of the CO2 rise is a waste of time.

I recall an episode when Joe Bastardi, trying to diminish the importance of rising CO2 for climate, described it as a ‘colorless, odourless, and tasteless gas’. These statements are correct, albeit that they are totally orthogonal to concerns about it’s increasing radiative effect. When I criticized his subsequent conclusions, he responded by claiming I actually agreed with him on most of his statements!

The implicit context of statements of fact has been extensively discussed in the philosophy of argumentation (notably by Toulmin), and is described as the ‘warrant’ for any conclusion. In the two examples above, a different ‘warrant’ is being appealed to. (Read Walsh (2017) for a good discussion on this topic in a climate context). Since warrants are frequently not spelled out, they are both a source of implicit bias and confusion. Different audiences can perceive different warrants, or none, and, especially on social media, can often assume the worst.

Claims, then, of pure fact telling, are thus correctly suspect. And worse, tit-for-tat exchanges of facts, each with differing implied warrants are almost totally pointless since the tacit (and conflicting) contexts are not being addressed.

At best, interventions like Tyson’s are ‘tone deaf’, since the implied warrant (‘people die all the time, so don’t worry about these’) goes directly counter to the more widespread value of empathy for the victims, and concerns that nothing is being done about these kinds of events. Any intervention that doesn’t acknowledge the reasons why people care (that acknowledges and shares their values) is going to be controversial (at best).

To conclude, facts don’t just stand on their own, and purveyors of facts are actually relying on implicit warrants that are values-based. If the goal is to generate more light than heat, these warrants need to be explicitly acknowledged and discussed (and that goes beyond mere facts). Conversely, if people are tossing out irrelevant facts, countering with other facts isn’t going to be productive. Either examine the implicit warrants and values, or just move on.

References

  1. L. Walsh, "Understanding the rhetoric of climate science debates", Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, vol. 8, pp. e452, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wcc.452

103 Responses to “Just the facts?”

  1. 51
    patrick027 says:

    … There is also the idea that we, at the government level, could do something about shooting deaths, and about climate change, that we (in the U.S.) are not doing, for no good reason, really, whereas there may be further safety and health improvements that could be made elsewhere but if they are not being made, it is for some reason (in some cases) (e.g. expense, limits to how quickly science can progress, perfection is not achievable, that unhealthy food just tastes so good and is really convenient… etc.).

  2. 52
    dhogaza says:

    Eliot Axelrod:

    “More people die from opioid overdose in this country than from car accidents and gun deaths combined, but mass shooting is in the news, and that’s is what has many people upset.”

    The opioid epidemic in this country has been top-level news for a year or two. And indeed manufacturers are being sued for liability and huge settlements are being negotiated and apparently agreed upon.

    I think a lot of people upset by mass shootings would be happy to see manufacturers held liable just as we’re seeing with opioids.

    And regarding car accidents and fatalities/injuries, why, subjecting gun manufacturers to similar safety standards auto manufacturers are held to would make many happy.

  3. 53
    Al Bundy says:

    Dominik Lenne: The art, the great art, is to allow somebody to concede that you have a point without making him/her feel, that he/she lost a battle.

    AB: Even artsier is to lead them to believe that the point is theirs. Your job is to be impressed with their logic. But hey, it’s often way more fun to just bludgeon them. Righteous Indignation and feelings of Superiority are intoxicating and mutual. Both of you get to walk away convinced that you blew the other out of the water without suffering a scratch.
    _____________

    NigelJ: Countries that did nothing much to fix the y2k issue didn’t suffer horrendous computer problems from what I have read.

    David Benson: I assure you that the Y2K problem was only resolved by the efforts of a great many programmers.

    AB: Y2K wasn’t a significant danger. I was contracting for Bell Industries and happened across a Y2K bug at the end of my last day before heading back to Georgia for Xmas, so instead of getting on the road (a blizzard was approaching) I stayed late searching their code for more. Fortunately, Y2K bugs are incredibly easy to dig out. Fortunately for Bell, Y2K bugs almost never affect operations, just reports. The “standard” Y2K bug is a report that a user happens to run with dates that span 99 and 00. So if you ran a report that compared PrevMonth (12/99) to CurMonth (01/00) the report would barf. But seriously, who cares? It’s not like such a report is terribly useful and the fix is easy: do nothing. The 01/00 to 02/00 report will work just fine. Fixing the bug is also rather easy and it allows you to rerun that “critical” report within an hour or so of being notified of the barfing. I left the list of Y2K bugs on my contact’s desk.

    I was proud of myself. I even made it through the blizzard!

    I found out later that the head of IT had bragged to the CEO about how IT had already resolved all Y2K issues through the efforts of a great many programmers. But by the first meeting of 00 one of the reports had hit the bug and somebody asked, “Is that report on “Al’s” list?” It was and the head of IT was humiliated by being exposed as a liar. He soothed the pain by firing my ass. I had done the search on my own initiative so I obviously wasn’t a team player.

    David, I’m guessing that you’re just parroting a head of IT. If not, you should be able to give an example of a Y2K bug that caused significant harm to somebody. Barring that, give one example of a Y2K bug that would have caused irreparable harm (as in more than fix-and-rerun) if it had not been found before it barfed (this one has anecdotal possibilities, but seriously, this is like Tyson’s point: Y2K might have crashed something of value somewhere but LOTS of bugs crash lots of things of value every day).

    Anybody got an example? I’ll start: A Y2K bug got me fired.

  4. 54
    David B. Benson says:

    Al Bundy @53 — State agencies, including universities, are under legal obligation to produce auditable accounting books. But already before Y2K various computer programs were generating letters addressed to great-grandmothers to report to kindergarten.

    I leave the potential chaos in the financial companies for you to dig out. You might also wish to consider the national security implications.

  5. 55
    David B. Benson says:

    Climate deniers get more media play than scientists: study
    Marlowe Hood
    2019 Aug 14
    Phys.org
    https://m.phys.org/news/2019-08-climate-deniers-media-scientists.html

    Somehow I am reminded of “It Ain’t Necessarily So ” by the Gershwins. Too bad that this has led to 40 years of inaction.

  6. 56
    Nemesis says:

    @Eliot Axelrod, #50

    ” More people die from opioid overdose in this country than from car accidents and gun deaths combined, but mass shooting is in the news, and that’s is what has many people upset.”

    Yeah, just like 9/11 had been in the news for days and weeks and months and years, while more people die from obesity alone (~ 300 000 every single year) in America than from all muslim attacks combinded :) Do you feel upset now?

  7. 57
    Astringent says:

    DB @55 . You might also wish to consider the national security implications.

    Considering….NORAD missing an incoming missile because their computer thought it was yesterday?

    I haven’t much time for ‘Y2K was all hype’ because its a bit like me saying ‘Cholera is all hype’, because I had a Cholera jab and didn’t get Cholera. However I’m honest enough to recognise that for many (most?) organisations 95% of Y2K investment went on audits, committees, reports and stickers saying ‘Y2K compliant’. In that sense rather like national climate change commitments!

  8. 58
    MA Rodger says:

    David B. Benson “55,
    The article being discussed in that physics.org news item is well worth a look – Petersen et al (2019) ‘Discrepancy in scientific authority and media visibility of climate change scientists and contrarians’. The headline finding is that tracking the media footprint of “prominent contrarians” (they found 386 at Heartland & DeSmog Blog) with “386 expert scientists” (the 386 most featured within the media) shows the false balance between science and denialism is maintained in main-stream media in the period to 2016 as they found a 50:50 appearance of the two – science & denialism.
    And in a broader media the denialists get significantly more mentions, 49% more, so 40:60.

    A quick scan of its 100 most “prominent climate change” scientists within the media they surveyed (Fig 2) shows one of our hosts Michael Mann in top slot, with (a quick scan up the list so apologies if I miss anyone) another in fourth place, Stefan Rahmstorf, and a third at 61st, Eric Steig.
    The article anonymises the denialsists (although for some reason Dickie Lindzen’s name appears in Fig 1b & Fig 1c) And they also had to reduce the numbers in the two sets, “scientist” and “contrarian”, as the initial 386 chosen in the denialist “contrarian” set comprised only 224 that had actually published anything scientific (or should that be ‘published scientifically’ as I doubt most could pass muster as “science”).

  9. 59
    Dan DaSilva says:

    If your daughter dies are you dismissive of her death because she died of illness? Does the grief only occur if she was killed in a mass shooting?
    The answer to both is no. So why does this difference mean everything to the so many in public? Because nobody in the public really deeply cares about your daughter (it is physically impossible). The “implied message” (to use Gavin’s term) of Tyson then pushes this set of facts into the brain to be considered and the result is cognitive dissonance.
    This dissonance affects people who believe they are morally superior because they care about everyone and everything. The implied message here is what all good progressives will feel when they read this.

  10. 60
    Al Bundy says:

    David Benson: State agencies, including universities, are under legal obligation to produce auditable accounting books.

    AB: One nice thing about Y2K bugs is that they ain’t subtle. You’ll either get a crash or totally nonsensical results. Another nice thing is that they are incredibly quick and easy to fix. So the books might be a day or two late but there’s no danger as long as folks have their eyes open.

    DB: But already before Y2K various computer programs were generating letters addressed to great-grandmothers to report to kindergarten.

    AB: LOL! Classic. Not just zero harm but providing entertainment value, including giving 105 year olds a conversation piece to share. (Note that anything that restricts itself to 105 year olds is about as anecdotal as it gets) But your point about legacy systems is well taken. If that kindergarten letter’s program was written in COBOL and was so stable that no COBOL programmers were on staff then it would be a bit of a pain to fix. (Or just wait 4 years for the bug to age out)

    DB: I leave the potential chaos in the financial companies for you to dig out. You might also wish to consider the national security implications.

    AB: And here we are, where our opinions diverge, and you got nada. We’ll see if anybody else digs up a real issue, as opposed to fear.

    Speaking of which, I understand the sentiment. Note my Bell Industries story. It took me a few hours to dig up the bugs for a fair sized company. No big deal. But that head of IT, well, I also know that many programmers are nearly useless or even counterproductive. Maybe he wasn’t lying per se. Maybe his crew was so inept that they spent tons of time not finding a single Y2K bug. But that reinforces my point. If an interest calculating module was going to barf and for some reason the bug was difficult to find the module probably barfed, the crew was embarrassed, they fixed the now-obvious bug, and re-ran. A little lost sleep. (This was 2000, when banking ran at more human speeds)

    Those “national testosterone” things, well, little boys generally get sucked into the moment when they play so they actually think that their game matters. No Y2K bug was going to launch a nuke. It’s not like some nefarious country would have a clue that the doors on Level B would refuse to unlock until the system gets rebooted and use said information to…

    Naw, the “Bad Guys” were worried about their own Y2K issues.

    “Just the facts”. But humans are driven by emotions and fear is the number one motivator. And if you think about it, Y2K was anthropomorphized. It became an entity that seemed to have agency. As others have noted, intent to harm sets off alarm bells. If you hurt somebody their response, including their level of perceived pain, largely depends on whether they think it was accidental or purposeful.

    And so instead of working to prevent catastrophe humanity is choosing to spend its treasure in a vain attempt to bludgeon each other into not wanting to bludgeon back. “Turn the other cheek” wasn’t a moral lesson. It was advice on how to get the best results. (Hat tip to Ray – morality is derived from the practical)

  11. 61
    Dominik Lenné says:

    The shootings are what is called a “potentially traumatic experience”. That is to say, that only about 10 % of people who went through it, remain traumatized. It does not help, if there is a kind of social “pressure” or “norm” to interpret the experience as “extremely and utterly tragic and bad”, and this public emotional and moral overloading may actually make a recovery more difficult for some of the afflicted people. A compassionate, but measured response might be better.
    Insofar, Tysons remark might possibly not only not harm, but do some good.

  12. 62
    Carbomontanus says:

    Ladies and gentlemen

    I suggested that I could help him. (“Dr” Gavin Schmidt)

    Riddle:

    DATA!…MAKTA!…PRAVDA!…FAKTA!…BASTA!…SVADA!

    What is so fappingly similar of all theese big words?

    Correct answer is that they all mean quite exactly the same.

    I even explained to him that Makta in Norwegian means might or mighty of being in charge.

    Despite of that, it vanished from this website.

  13. 63
    Faro says:

    The big difference between deaths in accidents and from diseases compared to gun-deaths, especially the more violent mass-shooting deaths, is how it impacts feeling of safety. People want to feel relative safety in their place of work and where they shop and spend time. And that is where terrorism, be it dogmatic or domestic, searches to strike. The amount of deaths is secondary, but the impact on personal security hits hard. Suddenly people no longer feel safe in their schools, work or places of business. That will increase stress levels incrementally, and people will grow tired of it eventually to a boiling point. And that is the point where the terrorists have won.

  14. 64
    Nemesis says:

    @Dominik Lenne

    ” A compassionate, but measured response might be better.”

    Sure, but that won’t save the El Paso shooter from electrocution, he won’t get any “compassionate response”, I guess. The relatives of the victims want to see him executed as some measured response, I guess. Yeah, Texas is a tough region, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, Texans are compassionate on one hand, but they can do measured responses as well, hell, they can. They make a measured difference between car accidents and mass shootings, obviously.

  15. 65
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    My objection to the tweet was because “Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data” is not supported by the data he actually gave. The reason for the emotional response to mass shootings is often anger at gun laws that make it so easy for a someone to kill so many people in so short a time. The only data-point that he gives that is in anyway comparable is “Homicide with hand guns”, as that is the only willful act on the list, but even the the root cause is the same (gun laws). Nobody deliberately makes a medical error or has a car accident (one would hope)!

    Flu and suicide – of course there is always more that society can do to reduce these things, but it isn’t as if there are laws that specifically enable/encourage the circumstances in which this happens.

    I didn’t like the tweet because it is rhetoric that is dressed up to look like a reasoned scientific argument.

  16. 66
    Mr. Know It All says:

    In all political debates, each side cites the facts that support their chosen position: gun control, climate change, opioids, suicide, abortion, economics, etc.

    Leftists scream and howl to outlaw scary, black, AR-15 style rifles; yet each year typically twice as many people are killed in homicides with hands and feet in the USA than with all rifles combined.
    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-4.xls

    They also scream and howl that the availability of guns is why the suicide rate is so high, yet they ignore the fact that many countries with few guns have higher suicide rates. No nation has even close to as many guns per capita as the USA, yet 33 nations have a higher suicide rate than we do. Listening to leftists, you might think suicide didn’t exist until guns were invented:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

    And folks like Al Bundy above, (having nothing more in their argument quiver than name calling) claim the shooters are taking orders from “Drumpf”, when nearly all of the shooters are leftists – look it up. Listening to emotional, illogical arguments of leftists, you might believe no homicides occurred until guns were invented. They ignore the inconvenient fact that throughout history governments have slaughtered hundreds of millions of unarmed people. A few tens of people killed by insane shooters is a cheap price to prevent genocide by government, and yes, each of those shootings is a horror for those of us who are sane:
    https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/MURDER.HTM

    Yes, we will eventually reduce the shootings:
    https://thebusinesstimes.com/why-yes-i-do-long-for-the-world-in-which-i-grew-up/

    We know how to reduce school shootings. When seconds count, the police (or an armed guard) are only minutes away, so the solution is to allow those teachers who are willing to carry concealed weapons to stop a shooter. If shooters know some teachers are armed, they will be less likely to enter a school – they want a high body count so they will go to a “gun-free” zone where there is no resistance.

    Leftists also don’t seem to care about or understand the US Constitution which specifically states: “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
    https://americanmilitiaassociation.com/well-regulated-militia/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhbKvts2O5AIVxiCtBh30dwVOEAAYASAAEgLvwfD_BwE

    It’s been a nice, cool summer here in the pacific northwest. Let’s be on the same side, using logic, not emotion, to find solutions to our problems. Carry on.
    ;)

  17. 67

    Nice to see Y2K getting a good press again.

    The fact is that date and time bugs are ubiquitous. In the late 1990s, a place I visited was switching in our out of daylight savings and the time a cron job was meant to run didn’t exist (or, at the opposite end of the time change, happened twice).

    Had there not been a major worldwide effort to fix Y2K bugs, something serious COULD have happened. But we can’t know since the risk on the whole was averted. Just like we have not had another outbreak of the Spanish flu because we have been more careful since. Or no other flu strain has been as virulent. How can we know?

    Actual disasters? Coming on top of the dot com bubble, a lot of software shops ended up over-staffed and hardware sales fell for a while because so many buyers had maxed out several years’s budget. Demand for computer science grads tanked. I scored by getting a nice retrenchment payout from University of Queensland after which I relaunched my career.

    It was however a great opportunity to sell a lot of new computer gear and work over legacy systems, much of which would have happened anyway but not as much at once.

    This is not a reasonable example to compare with climate change because most computer bugs can be undone (the worst-case scenario, a plane falling out of the sky is not likely – but that didn’t stop airlines from cancelling flights that crossed the 1999-Y2k barrier – I know, I tried to book one).

  18. 68
    Steven Sullivan says:

    “At best, interventions like Tyson’s are ‘tone deaf’, since the implied warrant (‘people die all the time, so don’t worry about these’) goes directly counter to the more widespread value of empathy for the victims, and concerns that nothing is being done about these kinds of events. ” – gavin

    Contrary to the blatherings in #31, Gavin gets it exactly right. NDG’s tweet was an embarrassment. Way to embody the socially inept science nerd stereotype, Neil!

  19. 69
    Astringent says:

    MKIA @66 Nice use of ‘leftist’. One thing that intrigues me about the ‘rightist’ mentality (apart from all the bits where faux libertarian rhetoric bumps up against liberty – whether drugs, immigration or emotive issues of women’s choice – is where the ‘well regulated’ bit of the constitution has gone to. OK – you can bear arms, but as part of a ‘well regulated militia’. That has got to imply licensing, registration, sanity checks, and probably a lot of spit and polish and saluting. Or are you allowed to read selectively like you can read the bible selectively and get all hot under the collar about one verse and ignore all the others as ‘doesn’t apply to me’?

  20. 70
    Killian says:

    Steven Sullivan, a well-articulated, logical opinion is hardly blatherings no matter how opposed to them you are. Act a fool if you wish, but do you really want to do so in public? If you’re going to attack others’ opinions for merely not matching your’s, leave thinking to the rocks, they’ll do it better.

    All the rest of you who keep talking about the emotional content of the list, of comparison of affective responses, and all the other way the hell off-point issues, you are all proving Tyson’s point that people do not understand risk analysis and do not apply logic effectively.

    His point was about perceptions of risk and how emotion interferes with rationality. Nothing more, nothing less. What are you going to do after the next shooting, discuss why he left his knife home and the best sharpening methods? That would be as germane your various comments here.

    If you’re going to discuss someone’s words, discuss them, not the headworms you’re carrying around.

    And, yes, you’re all projecting your issues on Tyson.

  21. 71

    KIA 66: nearly all of the shooters are leftists

    BPL: What weird parallel universe do you inhabit where this is true? All the mass shooters in recent years have been explicitly right-wing.

  22. 72
    Nemesis says:

    @BPL, #70

    ” What weird parallel universe do you inhabit where this is true? All the mass shooters in recent years have been explicitly right-wing.”

    He lives in a right-wing parallel universe, where the white “race” is a victim of global genocide and fossil fool induced climate heating doesn’t exist. Any uncomfortable truths? Just deny them, blame others or even better, blame some victims. That’s in fact very old right-wing propaganda strategy shit. I’m so sick and tired of that shit that I quit talking to these kinda guys altogether.

  23. 73
    Dan says:

    re: 66.

    Wrong and disgustingly vile per usual. The shooters are overwhelmingly *your* brethren, coward. The fact that you blatantly lie about this means a. you are incredibly insecure, b. a true coward, c. you have no critical thinking skills, d. you truly hate America (this is unequivocal based on your enabling hate and Antisemitism following the Pittsburgh shootings, trying to switch the blame), and d. that someone utterly failed to instill basic, fundamental values in you when growing up. Dead seriously. I have little doubt that you were one of those who questioned the Sandy Hook shootings. Probably even supported those who harassed the gentleman who took the scared kids into his home. Again,no basic morals or values evident.

  24. 74
    Dan says:

    re: 66. Try actually reading the 2nd Amendment, junior. You never have. Here let me help with the part you ignore: “well regulated militia”. Now read it again since you did not comprehend it the first time but instead just flaunted your ignorance of the subject. To be more specific, the 2nd Amendment is the only one which specifically calls for government regulation of an action. Don’t like it? That means you do not support the Constitution and it does not get more anti-American than that, sport.

  25. 75
    William B Jackson says:

    Thanks to all that responded to Mr Know Nothings froth and lies…you said it better than I could have!

  26. 76
    David B. Benson says:

    Why isn’t the off-topic blather by Dan sent straight to the Borehole?

    [Response: None of us has the time to do go through all the comments. And automating this would be difficult (though no doubt, could be done).–eric]

  27. 77

    Speaking of “warrants,” I’ve got to recognize one of my own, which was an early education–thanks to the excellent Mr. Shepard, my high school biology teacher–in the basics of ecology. I don’t claim true expertise by any stretch, but the ‘in the bones’ understanding that organisms function within ecosystems, upon which they depend for continued existence, has been in some ways foundational for me.

    And I’m struck by how little, still, this warrant is shared. For example, just now I read a comment on a story about the damage military sonar are doing to beaked whales in which the commenter imaged a future in which humanity was isolated and alone, having driven the rest of the biota to extinction. Well-motivated, no doubt, but I’d wish for a wider understanding that humans couldn’t survive for long in such a scenario.

    Similarly, debating climate change with denialati and ‘skeptics’ of varying degrees of good faith has left me with the distinct impression that a lot of these folks are biologically and ecologically pretty illiterate. You can explain all you want that climate change literally tears ecosystems apart, via the mechanisms of differential migratory capabilities and phenological mismatches, and that the result will be mass extinction, biological chaos, and that there will be massive economic and health consequences for humans… but it’s kinda like this:

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/22095854393296395/?autologin=true&lp=true

    No matter how clearly you lay out the background, the consequences, the logic, no matter how eloquently you phrase it, the concepts do not connect with anything in their background. Hence, no meaning happens.

    Education is one cure, but it’s a darn slow one, and we’re in a situation where quicker fixes are highly desirable. Ideas welcome…

  28. 78
    jb says:

    BPB at 71

    Ah, but BPL, haven’t you heard. Nazis are leftists under his view – because they are National SOH-SHU-LISTS. Never mind their policies. Never mind their beliefs. Never mind the fact that they march hand in hand with Trump voters, neo-confederates and other such execrables.

    That’s the weird parallel universe he lives in.

  29. 79
    Nemesis says:

    @Killian, #70

    Btw:

    ” how emotion interferes with rationality.”

    But, on the other hand, rationality without any emotions is in- humane as there is not a single human being without emotions. (Reasonable) emotionality is in fact a highly valuable social/psychological skill too little appreciated in modern mentocracy. Reason and emotion are both necessary for a healthy mental hygiene. In fact, when I imagine the brutal bloody killing in El Paso I feel highly emotional, I feel with the victims and I feel bad for american society.

  30. 80
    Mr. Know It All says:

    76 – Good question!

    79 – [edit – this is OT]

  31. 81
    Nemesis says:

    @Kevin McKinney, #77

    ” Education is one cure, but it’s a darn slow one, and we’re in a situation where quicker fixes are highly desirable. Ideas welcome…”

    My idea is as simple as that:

    If education can’t get through all that denier bullshit, pain will get through. And when these guys start to feel the real pain, then they will get real angry and they will do all they can to get in control of the situation. And then it will get real ugly. That game is already happening, the right wing, the alt-right is waking up to climate/eco reality, no matter, if they deny the anthropogenic part of it or not, they will surely try to adapt brutally in a brutal world. When the eco dictatorship comes, it will be a fascist regime, you can bet on that. And after that? Anarchy and chaos. And after that? The great silence on planet earth. And then?:

    ” Wunderliches Wort: Die Zeit vertreiben!

    Wunderliches Wort: die Zeit vertreiben!
    Sie zu halten, wäre das Problem.
    Denn, wen ängstigts nicht: wo ist ein Bleiben,
    wo ein endlich Sein in alledem? –

    Sieh, der Tag verlangsamt sich, entgegen
    jenem Raum, der ihn nach Abend nimmt:
    Aufstehn wurde Stehn, und Stehn wird Legen,
    und das willig Liegende verschwimmt –

    Berge ruhn, von Sternen überprächtigt; –
    aber auch in ihnen flimmert Zeit.
    Ach, in meinem wilden Herzen nächtigt
    obdachlos die Unvergänglichkeit.”

    – R. M. Rilke

    Sorry, but that’s just what I see on the horizon.

  32. 82
    Killian says:

    #79.

    Stating the obvious because…? Did someone say otherwise? No? Then…? Clearly there is too much emotion, so how is it germane to say people have emotions (duh!) in response to a caution against *too much* emotionality?

  33. 83
    Nemesis says:

    @Killian, #82

    Let’s see who will react emotionally when shit hits the fan. I do all I can to prepare myself for keeping my loss and therefore emotions low, no descendants, nothing to lose, no hope, no faith, even no love (just compassion). I feel relaxed and calm, no emotional sauce 8)

  34. 84
    O. says:

    @Nemesis: not Rilke, but… IMO more to the point:

    Die Welt ist am Ende! Kurz vorm Kollaps
    Alle wissen Bescheid! Nützt aber nix
    Wir machen immer weiter! Willenlose Junkies
    Therapie is nich! Der Arzt ist n Dealer
    Wir liegen da und fressen! Werden immer fetter
    Der Fernseher läuft! Alles ist gut

    Die Farben leuchten, die Lichter funkeln
    Und alles dreht sich zur Musik
    So ist es perfekt, so soll es bleiben
    Für immer Liebe, Spaß und Glück

    Alle sitzen im Bus, Autobahn Vollgas
    Da vorne isn Abgrund, aber is ja noch n Stück
    Wir könnten auch abbiegen, tun wir aber nicht
    Da ist ja nur n Sandweg, schlecht für die Achsen
    Bloß nicht Anhalten, Leben heißt Gas geben
    Kopf aus´m Fenster, hoch die Tassen

    Die Farben leuchten, die Lichter funkeln!
    Und alles dreht sich zur Musik!
    So ist es perfekt, so soll es bleiben!
    Für immer Liebe, Spaß und Glück!

    Lasst uns trinken auf das Leben
    Party, Action, auf die Fresse
    Chaos, Schicksal, Raubtier, Beute
    Vorwärts, Rückwärts, Stillstand, Ende

    Ihr wollt immer reden, wir haben keinen Bock
    Zeitverschwendung, alle andern sind doof
    Lieber gleich losballern, besser als selber tot
    Hauptsache schneller sein, rette sich wer kann
    Jeder gegen Jeden, sowieso alles sinnlos
    Maul halten Arschloch, selber keine Ahnung

    We are the Champions
    Smoke on the Water
    Whole Lotta Rosie
    Eye of the Tiger
    Nut Bush City Limit
    Tanz den Mussolini
    Wir sind die Roboter
    Kung Fu Fighting
    I shot the Sheriff
    Honky Tonk Woman
    Stairway to Heaven
    Seven Nation Army

    Die Farben leuchten, die Lichter funkeln
    Und alles dreht sich zur Musik
    So ist es perfekt, so soll es bleiben
    Für immer Liebe, Spaß und Glück

    Knorkator – Rette sich wer kann

  35. 85
    Nemesis says:

    @O., #84

    Shrug, gimme more popcorn, I like the show, lots of fun.

  36. 86
    Killian says:

    #83

    Non sequitur.

    You’re either getting lazy or bored.

    Drop the overt statements of fatalism (they gain you nothing) and get back to making pointed, if repititive, comments/observations. Or not.

  37. 87
    Al Bundy says:

    Faro: That will increase stress levels incrementally, and people will grow tired of it eventually to a boiling point. And that is the point where the terrorists have won.

    AB: You might want to consider that “Freedom Fighters” are people, too. Their definition of “winning” is to right the real-or-imagined grievances “their people” are suffering. Your take, which seems to be that “Terrorists only care about hurting others so as to make life Hell”, is illogical because it conflates the ends with the means. You want to stop “terrorism”? Just talk to the “Freedom Fighters” and fix the issues that motivate them to do what is unimaginable. You want to increase “terrorism”? Just refuse to talk to “terrorists” and adamantly insist on doing whatever evil crap you’re doing (but harder).

  38. 88
    Nemesis says:

    @Killian, #86

    ” You’re either getting lazy or bored.”

    Bored, just bored. I got nothing more to say, I said everything I had to say.

  39. 89
    patrick says:

    You won’t want to miss this, I think. And you won’t forget it.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/05/survived-warsaw-ghetto-wartime-lessons-extremism-europe

    Never underestimate the power of lies.

  40. 90

    #89, patrick–

    Excellent!

    1) “…there is no such thing as a “heroic generation”…”

    2) “…there is no such thing as a “heroic nation” – or indeed an inherently malign or evil nation either.”

    3) “…do not underestimate the destructive power of lies.”

    4) “…do not ever imagine that your world cannot collapse, as ours did. This may seem the most obvious lesson to be passed down, but only because it is the most important.”

    A very clear-eyed view from Mr. Aronson.

  41. 91
    Al Bundy says:

    KillingInaction: And folks like Al Bundy above, (having nothing more in their argument quiver than name calling) claim the shooters are taking orders from “Drumpf”, when nearly all of the shooters are leftists – look it up.

    AB: Seriously? Go ahead and disagree with my stuff but to deny its existence is unwise since everybody here knows that I bring a unique and creative perspective to most discussions. (And I’m a leftist terrorist. My technique is to induce unsuspecting readers to expel fizzy drinks from their nose.)

    I looked up your claim about terrorists and applied your values, which surely include (as Mitt Romney would agree) “Hummers are people, too”.
    https://www.deseret.com/2003/10/5/19788248/eco-terror-attacks-anger-hummer-owners

    And since some people are more valuable than others, the Hummer’s US$60,000 rolls right over the insignificant bio-human’s US$4.50.

    So you are right. Way right. So right you’d surely call a Tea Partier “left of center”. Hmm, that might explain your beliefs about leftist terrorists.
    ______

    Patrick, thanks.

    “I must confess that for much of my life, I maintained the view that it was important for Poles to feel pride in their wartime record – leading me, when recounting my experiences serving in the Home Army in Warsaw under Nazi occupation, to omit certain examples of indifference and uncooperativeness on behalf of my fellow Poles. It is only in recent years, as I have seen that pride turn into self-righteousness, and that self-righteousness into self-pity and aggression, that I have realised just how wrong it was not to be completely open about the failings I witnessed.”

    Mr KIA, Mr. Aronson is speaking directly to you.

    And seriously, you should probably stop with the Drumpfian lies. Otherwise folks might start expanding “Mr”, resulting in: Mentally retarded know it all.

  42. 92
    Adam Lea says:

    70: Appealing to pure logic whilst dismisssing human emotion in a situation where emotion is clearly a factor is itself illogical. Mr Spock made that mistake plenty of times. Humans are not Vulcans.

    You walk down the street, trip and fall, bang your head, you need hospital treatment.

    You walk down the street, I don’t like the look of you so punch you hard in the head, you need hospital treatment.

    Are they the same? Should they be treated as the same? Would you feel the same in both cases?

    Accidents and illness are natural occurances that are unavoidable. Malicious harm is avoidable, because it is a choice. and someone who deliberately harms someone else has shown a lack of regard for boundaries and will likely continue to delilbaretly cause harm if not stopped, and isa a danger to the public. That’s the difference.

  43. 93
    Sean Lee says:

    @DanMiller http://climateplace.org/

    Just a comment from a lay person. If you were to enhance your video illustration by using a hot light source to heat the different water samples would that not finish off the sentence about Climate change?
    I am assuming that whilst the specific heat capacity of the water is relatively unchanged the darker samples heat quicker and/or heat up more?

    Apologies for the failings of my long ago school education that may dispel any difference between heat sources on coloured water in clear containers and coloured containers with water in.

  44. 94
    Sean Lee says:

    Question to any who can calculate the following.
    Starting with the accumulated CO2 emitted by mankind since the beginning of Age of the car, how large a volume of “pre-industrial revolution” air could you make lethal to human life?
    How large an area of the planet could you cover with that volume to the depth of 1km?

  45. 95

    SL,

    CO2 needs to be much higher than it is at present to be lethal to human life. The Centers for Disease Control lists 100,000 ppmv (10% by volume) CO2 as immediately dangerous. The present level is 408 ppmv. You probably could not cover the planet with that much solely from burning all the fossil fuels.

    Volcanic action could do it if weathering was severely reduced, but it would take a couple of million years.

  46. 96
    Mal Adapted says:

    BPL:

    The Centers for Disease Control lists 100,000 ppmv (10% by volume) CO2 as immediately dangerous.

    From the CDC, presumably an authoritative number. This page on the Oregon State University volcano site, Lake Nyos – Silent but Deadly, says:

    As we learnt before, this gas was carbon dioxide. In concentrated form, when first released from the depths of the lake, it formed a white cloud, which then dissipated and flowed down hill into the valleys. Because carbon dioxide is denser than air, the flow hugged the ground, forming a 50 m high flow. Furthermore, any living thing (that breathes oxygen) that inhaled the surrounding air that was more than 15% concentrated in carbon dioxide died on the spot. If it was less than 15% concentrated in carbon dioxide, both animal and people would pass out, but eventually after time would regain consciousness.
    The “15% concentrated” (150,000 ppmv?) number isn’t cited, however.

  47. 97
    Mal Adapted says:

    Eric, inline:

    Why isn’t the off-topic blather by Dan sent straight to the Borehole?

    [Response: None of us has the time to do go through all the comments. And automating this would be difficult (though no doubt, could be done).–eric]

    Besides, the social cost of blather on RC is low: all you have to do is scroll past it as soon as you recognize it.

    Beyond that, I for one feel RC shouldn’t be seen to ‘censor contrary opinions’, at least not automatically. Harboring a few resident deniers, for example, can offer a useful contrast. Your Mileage May Vary, of course.

  48. 98
    Dan says:

    re: 76. I see. So when climate deniers and anti-science commenters such as KIA posts OT things such as which excuse hate and bigotry (see the Pittsburgh comments just for starters), that is okay with you. But responding and standing up to such ignorance and hate is “blather”. That speaks volumes. Scientific and otherwise. You might want to look up “enabler”.

  49. 99
    Killian says:

    Re #92 Adam Lea said 70: Appealing to pure logic whilst dismisssing human emotion in a situation where emotion is clearly a factor is itself illogical.

    Straw Man. Who said dismiss emotion? Who said it wasn’t present? Who said it shouldn’t be? My point should have been clear to you, but let me remind you.

    I said, “His point was about perceptions of risk and how emotion interferes with rationality. Nothing more, nothing less.” Interferes with. Not replaces. Not should be banned. Not should not be experienced.

    The failure to adequately deal with emition leads to crap policy. Are you suggesting we continue to make poor decisions so we can wallow in our fears? I and he suggested we manage our fears to make better societal choices and your response seems to be against that.

    Perhaps you can elucidate.

  50. 100
    Killian says:

    Adam further said Malicious harm is avoidable, because it is a choice. and someone who deliberately harms someone else has shown a lack of regard for boundaries and will likely continue to delilbaretly cause harm if not stopped, and isa a danger to the public. That’s the difference.

    OMG! REALLY?

    C’mon, dude.

    The list has you and most others completely confused because *you* are making the mistake he was warning of. I repeat: The list was nothing more than illustration that bigger risks get less attention. Now, listen reeeeeally carefully as I repeat this: The list **included** handgun deaths, which are every bit as shocking and avoidable and terrible as those other mass shootings… or should be.

    A teen in Alabama killed 5 members of his own family – his entire nuclear family, so far as I can tell – with a handgun just a few days ago, including three siblings.

    “In 2012, there were 8,855 total firearm-related homicides in the United States, with 6,371 of those attributed to handguns… In 2010, 358 murders were reported involving a rifle while 6,009 were reported involving a handgun…”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States#Accidental_and_negligent_injuries

    Kids:
    “Now, a study based on data from 2012 to 2014 suggests that, on average, 5,790 children in the United States receive medical treatment in an emergency room each year for a gun-related injury. About 21% of those injuries are unintentional, similar to the third-grader’s case.
    From 2012 to 2014, on average, 1,297 children died annually from a gun-related injury in the US, according to the study, published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.”
    https://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/19/health/child-gun-violence-study/index.html

    Useful if one wants to track such things:
    https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/child-injured-killed

    So, go ahead, ban assault weapons and watch the total deaths from firearms barely budge. Worthwhile, but not very effective if the goal is to dramatically decrease gun violence.