Archive for the ‘commons’ Category

Evolution, religion and our insistence on a still undefined "objective" moral order

August 28th, 2009 3 comments

I refer to my previous posts on the interesting subject of whether there is an “objective moral order”, which Gene Callahan broached in a May blog post, returned to in a subsequent post but abandoned, to be picked up but ultimately punted by Bob Murphy (and again by Gene when he visited Bob`s thread).

While I certainly agree that man has an exquisite moral sense, my own view is that that sense and capacity are something that we acquired via the process of evolution, as an aid to intra-group cooperation,

– as Bruce Yandle has suggested,

– as argued by Roy Rappaport (former head of the American
Anthropology Assn.)
in his book “Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity” (which I have discussed here) and – as I have recently discovered –

– as David Sloan Wilson has argued in his book “Darwin`s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society“.

I note that the NYT has recently run a series of posts on related topics

In my view, our moral sense, rituals and “sacred postulates” (later,
religions) have played a central role in the evolution of man as a social animal, by
providing a fundamental way of ordering the world, the group`s role in
it, and the individual`s role in the group – thereby abating commons
problems both within and created by the group. The religious
lies at the root of our human nature, even as its inviolable, sacred
truths continue to fall by the wayside during the long march of
culture and science out of the Garden of Eden. While we certainly have made progress (partly with the aid of “universal” religions) in expanding the boundaries of our groups, we very much remain group, tribal animals, fiercely attentive to rival groups and who is within or outside our group, and this tribal nature is clearly at work in our cognition (our penchant for finding enemies, including those who have different religious beliefs that ours).

But I didn`t really kick off this discussion – why are Callahan and Murphy so reticent to describe what it is they think they mean when they assert that there are “objective moral truths” and an “objective moral order”?  (I can understand why I seem to have earned the clear hostility of one them; after all I have proven by my persistence or thickheadedness to be, if not an “enemy”, then in any case not one of the august clear-sighted.)

Here are a few questions I left with them at Bob`s most recent post:

Are those who believe that there is an objective “moral” order
asserting that, for every being – regardless of species – that there is
a uniform, objective moral order in the universe? Or is the argument
that there is an object moral order only for conscious and self-aware
beings, and none for organisms that are not conscious, or are conscious
but not self-aware?

– Or is the argument that the “objective”
moral order exists only for humans, and perhaps someday can be
identified and located in universally shared mental processes, based on
brain activity and arising from shared genes?  Will such objective moral order still exist if all mankind ceases to exist?

– Or is the
objective moral order one that exists for some humans, but not all –
depending on physical development of the brain as we mature (with the
development of some being impaired via genetic or other defect)?

– Is the human “objective” moral order universal, for all individuals – of whatever, gender or age – across all history?

– Is an objective moral order something real that can be tested for
despite the inability of a particular observer to perceive directly –
like beings that can`t directly perceive light (or like us who can`t
personally physically observe much of what technology allows us to)?

– And
if the objective moral order is a part of the universe, can we apply
the scientific method to confirm its existence of and explore its
parameters, and to explain (and test) it with “laws”?

– What are some of the parameters and laws governing the moral order?

If I`m being self-deluded about the willingness of those who believe that there IS an objective moral order to explain it (and to evidence it in their actions), I hope a good reader or two will let me know.

Climate/Oceans: A brief reminder to Ron Bailey that, even though models aren`t always right, the atmosphere and oceans remain open-access commons

July 6th, 2009 No comments

Ron Bailey, science correspondent for ReasonOnline, on July 1 noted in a Hit & Run post that “Models Aren`t Always Right“.

I left the following comment, which I copy here since I didn`t see it post:

“Ron, of course models aren`t always right, but;

1. even Lindzen is arguing for net positive feedbacks;

2. even with the apparent recent temperature plateau, the climate system and oceans are very noticeably changing;

3. we know that there is tremendous inertia in the climate system and that our forcings will play out over centuries;

4. we know that the atmosphere and oceans are open-access commons that will require widespread agreement and cooperation to manage effectively; and

5. there are wide mismatches between those whose investments/activities generate climate risks and those who face the greatest risks.

While haste may make waste, none of these points counsels a do-nothing approach.

Running irreversible, planetary-wide experiments is hardly a conservative or libertarian endeavor.”

In the face of these factors and the rapid pace at which atmospheric levels of CO2 and other GHGs continue to grow, it is hardly reassuring that, as physicist Russell Seitz has noted, “variables as critical as the sensitivity of the climate to the doubling
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have failed to converge on
uncontroversial values”. 

While MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen may think that climate “sensitivity” (mean temperature response to CO2 doubling) is as low as 0.5 degrees centigrade only a month and a half ago all of his colleagues disagreed with him in a publication trumpeted by MIT“New projections, published this month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius [9 degrees F!] by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees [6.3 to 13.2 degrees F!]. This can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees [and the temps reported are averages, with many places warmer].”


Evolution & religion: Idle hands express idle thoughts about Bob Murphy`s determination to apply reason to his insistence that "non-believers burn in hell"

June 22nd, 2009 No comments

I refer to Bob Murphy`s blog post, “Do Non-Believers Burn in Hell?”, which is still active, but with little further contribution from Bob (who`s been busy doing God`s work  on other matters). In the post Bob asserts that “the doctrines of Christianity make sense and are logical” and attempts to explain what he means by his belief that atheists are “going to hell.”

Below are my two posts on the thread.  The first asks Bob to clarify his logic; the second steps back to meta-issues that are too often unexplored in arguments over religion.

A. June 14, 2009 5:23 AM

Bob, if you`re in favor of using your reason when contemplating God, can you tell me:

1. is there a hell? what evidence is there for hell?

Who goes to hell? You suggest “person[s] who actively rejected the
Creator’s offer of friendship”, but by this (a) do you imply that
everyone got a “personal” offer? how so?

(b) if not, what
happens to those throughout human history who never got a personal
offer, or who thought their offer was to follow Judaism, Islam, the
Budddha, etc?

(c) what about those with limited capacity –
children (including those stillborn, or naturally or artificially
aborted), the mentally handicapped? do they burn in hell for eternity,
or are they united in communion with the Creator?

I`m not sure
where reason leads us in matters of faith, other than we have a
capacity to believe all manner of what seems obvious nonsense now.

B.  June 22, 2009 4:42 AM

James, I think you are being far too judgmental.

And I think this discussion generally is too shallow.

I suggest that you – and others – step back to consider the role of
“Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity,” as explored in a book
of that title by Roy Rappaport (former head of the American
Anthropology Assn.
and published postumously)?

recognized the role that ritual and “sacred postulates” (later,
religions) have played in the evolution of man as a social animal, by
providing a fundamental way of ordering the world, the group`s role in
it, and the individual`s role in the group – thereby abating commons
problems both within and created by the group.

The religious
lies at the root of our human nature, even as its inviolable, sacred
truths continue to fall by the wayside during the long march of
culture and science out of the Garden of Eden.


Google Books

review by Mary Catherine Bateson


Especially as we live in an increasingly global world, it behooves us all to know ourselves better – even us hermits in Tokyo.

Can we sheath our vorpal swords?




Question at Bob Murphy`s: can ending a tragedy of the commons create jobs / enhance wealth?

May 22nd, 2009 5 comments

Check out the comments to Bob Murphy`s post that rightly but shallowly criticizes the “green jobs” mantra, EDF Summarizes Bastiat in One Picture.  I refer to Rockwell and Block.

Categories: Block, Bob Murphy, commons, rockwell Tags:

Overlooked by those warmed by climate rhetoric ("alarmist" or "denialist") – the fact that our most important commons have NO property rights rules

March 12th, 2009 1 comment

Roger Pielke, Jr., a political scientist who rather persistently blames politically naive climate scientists for the very natural fact that there is a politicized debate over climate policy,  posted last week at his Prometheus website a guest commentary by Michael Zimmerman, Professor and Director, Center for the Humanities and Arts at the University of Colorado.  Zimmerman’s post, “Coal Trains, Death Camps, and Recent Anti-Modernism,” which only recently came to my attention, apparently addressed politically-oriented remarks and actions by climate scientist Jim Hansen.  “Apparently”, I say, because the essay itself has been taken down by the author in light of factual errors and other criticism made of it, both at Prometheus and around the blogosphere (which sometimes does not lap so strongly at my distant shores).

But having finally been drawn toward Roger’s site by the fuss and taking a look through comments, I felt compelled to make a few comments, despite my inability to read the actual post.  I felt particularly struck by the commonness of a refrain we are hearing from various pundits who prefer to question the good will or sanity of environmentalists over the harder work of engaging in a good faith examination and discussion of the underlying institutional problem of ALL “environmental” disputes:  namely, a lack of property rights and/or a means to enforce them. 

We can see this not only in George Will‘s recent piece about sea ice, but also in the ongoing series of posts by the supposedly “free market” libertarian Rob Bradley and his co-bloggers at MasterResource.

With that as background, here is what I posted at Roger’s (emphasis added):

I’m sorry I missed the fun; did anyone happen to archive Mr. Zimmerman’s work, apparently so flawed that it required a withdrawal rather than an update or two?

Roger, I note the criticisms of you and Mr. Zimmerman at Things Break, and have to say I agree with them: Perhaps Mr. Zimmerman has never carefully read the man whom he attacks in his piece, but you have, and it’s crystal clear that Hansen has ALWAYS been talking about coal’s relationship to species extinctions, not coal’s impact on humans. I’m surprised that you would post such an obvious misreading of Hansen.

I think I can agree with tomfid and Len Ornstein without the benefit of reading Zimmerman’s piece. It’s clear that we have no ability to instantly replace coal, but it’s also clear that even without the climate change issue, coal is not even now bearing its environmental costs – witness the roughly $1 billion TVA flyash spill, the 25,000 or so annual deaths that the American Lung Assn attributes to coal, etc – w/o even getting to China and India. Investors make profits, while losses are shifted to others. There’s hardly anything conservative or socially beneficial in that business model.

It’s also very clear that, far from wanting to return to a golden age, environmentalists (largely a well-to-do/wealthy slice of America) have quite legitimate concerns about the future, and about our uncontrolled, widespread and large-scale experiments with our planet. Find me someone ranting about “Malthusians” or somesuch, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand – or refuses to acknowledge – the difference between wealth-creating markets based on private property / contracts protected by law, and the tragedy of the commons situations that result when there are NO property rights (atmosphere, oceans) or when the pressures of markets swamp indigenous hunter-gather community rules.

Just look at how the oceans are being trashed and strip-mined of fish, for an alternate example. It is a first order priority of mankind to grapple with the problem of managing our commons, before we irreversibly impoverish them. For the atmosphere, the handwriting has long been on the wall, though those who profit by externalizing risks have done a pretty good job of scribbling all over it.

Of course, while on the one hand the “skeptics” manage to so completely ignore their supposedly much greater understanding of markets, on the other hand, we hear very little talk about markets from most of the enviro pundits.   Even if scientists have a right to be worried, that doesn’t really tell us what we should do. 

So what’s the deal?  Here’s a perfect opportunity for skeptics to educate the supposedly market ignorant, but they refuse, preferring to focus instead on why concerned scientists must be wrong, how concerns about climate have become a matter of an irrational “religious” faith, or that those raising their concerns are “misanthropes” or worse.

Both sides, it seems, prefer to fight – and to see themselves as right and the “others” as evil – rather than to reason. 

While we should not regret that we cannot really constrain human nature very well, at least Austrians (a breed of libertarian-linked economists, for any visitors not already familiar with these pages or the great LvMI organization that hosts them) ought to be paying attention to the inadequate institutional framework that is not only poisoning the political atmosphere, but posing risks to important globally and regionally shared open-access commons like the atmosphere and oceans (which are probably are in much more immediate and grave threat than the climate).  And they also ought to recognize that there are important economic interests that profit from the current institutional framework and have quite deliberately encouraged the current culture war.

(One such economically interested party, Exxon, has recently stopped funding one culture war outfit, Rob Bradley‘s climate “skeptic” shop – “MasterResource” – which remains dedicated to trumpeting relentlessly pro-coal talking points – e.g., civilization will collapse if we try to substitute nuclear, gas or other technologies for coal, or try to make coal investors pay for the climate and other environmental risks that they shift to society as a whole!)


Save wild fisheries – buy your certified sustainable salmon from Walmart!

December 9th, 2008 No comments

I’ve blogged before on the “tragedy of the commons”/bureaucratic mismanagement problems that underlie the crashing of the West Coast salmon fisheries  and that imperil the giant Atlantic bluefin tuna ; a recent article by Fortune shows that there are glimmers of hope for ocean fisheries, when large-volume purchasers like Walmart lead the charge by insisting that the fish they purchase come from a fishery that is independently certified as sustainable

In my post on tuna, I suggested that hope might lie in having the Japanese, who consume most of the tuna, bring concentrated pressure to bear on fishermen; here’s to hope that they and that fishers of Atlantic bluefin (and their governments) can similarly get their acts in order before the resource is decimated beyond recovery.

Who knows – maybe ensuring sustainability and creating ownership rights in stocks may also be a way to for environmentalists and the Japanese and others to bury the hatchet and come to terms on minke and other non-threatened whale stocks

h/t to Lynne Kiesling, who at her blog Knowledge Problem points to the Marine Stewardship Council as the organization that has been leading the “bottom-up, voluntary, collaborative” effort with scientists, industry, consumers and environmental groups to develop sustainability criteria for various fisheries and to support sustainability by tying sustainable practices to market demands via a credible third-party eco-label.

Great idea? Corporations create a patent commons in order to protect the environmental commons!

October 3rd, 2008 2 comments

Or a frightful thought – corporations cooperating with greenies to advance shared goals?  By sharing patents for free in order to clean up the environment and limit environmental footprints, are corporations being co-opted by socialists?  What corporations in their right minds would do such a thing – give away patent rights and cooperate with Environazis in establishing an “Eco-Patent Commons“? 

How about Bosch, DuPont, IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes, Sony, and Xerox?

A cynic might say this could be just good “corporate citizen” PR.  But an Austrian would applaud voluntary efforts to contribute to shared resolutions to shared problems, and note that it may make sense for corporations to enhance not only their public image but to strengthen internal cooperation by expressing widely shared preferences and aspirations.

Allow me to quote from a recent press release:

“Geneva, 8 September 2008 – Bosch, DuPont and Xerox Corporation have joined the Eco-Patent Commons, a first-of-its-kind business effort [launched in January 2008 by IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes and Sony in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)] to help the environment by pledging environmentally-beneficial patents to the public domain. The three companies and founding member Sony pledge environmentally friendly patents to the public.

“The newly pledged patents include:

  • A cutting edge, Xerox technology that significantly reduces the time and cost of removing hazardous waste from water and soil;
  • A technology developed by DuPont that converts certain non-recyclable plastics into beneficial fertilizer;
  • Automotive technologies from Bosch that help lower fuel consumption, reduce emissions, or convert waste heat from vehicles into useful energy;
  • Technologies developed by founding member Sony that focus on the recycling of optical discs.

“The Eco-Patent Commons … provides a unique opportunity for global business to make a difference — sharing innovation in support of sustainable development. The objectives of the Eco-Patent Commons are to facilitate the use of existing technologies to protect the environment, and encourage collaboration between businesses that foster new innovations.

“Today’s pledges more than double the number of environmentally friendly patents available to the public. They are available on a dedicated Web site hosted by the WBCSD ( Patents pledged to the Eco-Patent Commons may involve innovations directly related to environmental solutions or may be innovations in manufacturing or business processes where the solution also provides an environmental benefit, such as pollution prevention or the more efficient use of materials or energy.

“Since the launch of the Eco-Patent Commons in January, many of the patent holders have been contacted directly about their patents and at least three patents have already been used by others. “We are pleased that the commons is beginning to have an impact,” said Bjorn Stigson, president of the WBCSD. “We hope it will be a positive contribution to the challenge of technology diffusion around the world.”

Destroying the salmon; the socialized commons and climate change (Part II)

July 23rd, 2008 3 comments

I briefly commented previously on the perilous state of the West Coast salmon fishery, which is crashing due not only to climate change-related stresses in the ocean and in stream flows, but also to our government’s destruction of Indian-held private and community property rights to salmon and substitution by a classic tragedy of the commons, bureaucratized mismanagement and political favoritism.  I made related remarks in connection with an article by George Monbiot, who bemoaned the role that European governments were playing in subsidizing the destruction of regional and global fisheries.

I expanded further on this in a comment on the NYT’s “Dot Earth” blog run by Andy Revkin.  I copy below my remarks, including the portion of a comment by another to who I was responding (emphasis added):

#62 Mike Roddy:

” I lived in the Northwest for many years, where clearcut logging muddied rivers and destroyed salmon runs. This caused serious damage to drinking water and wildlife, and a major economic group was damaged: salmon fishermen.

Even with the combined effects of ecosystem damage and hardship in another sector, nothing changed. The timber industry did not pay for this damage due to their political clout, and continued to be handed subsidies in the form of roads and favorable tax rates. Destruction of salmon runs continued, and does to this day.”

Mike, you are spot on about subsidies and cost-shifting, but are missing the chief cause, as documented by the free market environmentalists at PERC and others – the state and federal governments essentially removed the salmon from ownership/management by Indians and substituted, first, and open-access commons, with the resulting tragedy of the commons, that the government then tried to manage bureaucratically (essentially socializing the ownership of salmon).

Because no one has any vested rights (other than the Indians to net a portion of the take left after catches at sea), no one has an incentive to invest in maintaining the resource, and no rights to stop those damaging it like loggers (or otherwise making deals with them).  Instead, we have a bureaucracy that thinks it knows better than everyone, substitutes its judgment for everyone’s and becomes the battleground for parties who have legitimate interests but are unable to conclude any deals. 

Government has consistently benefitted from this situation, while everyone else has been frustrated, though insiders of course also benefit – as when Cheney single-handedly killed tens of thousands of salmon in Oregon by ordering water diverted from federal dams to farmers (during a time of low streamflows).

Mismanagement and the destruction of the great salmon runs has what we’ve purchased.  We need to privatize the salmon, so their owners can protect habitats and returns on the respective rivers, and stop free-for-all ocean takes.

Luboš Motl 2: The cool-headed overheat; to this "rational" scientist, I’m a freedom-hating hypercommunist Nazi who should be "jailed or executed"

July 7th, 2008 7 comments

It looks like Lubos woke up on the wrong side of bed.

BELOW is the type of “rational”, “dispassionate” response that my previous attempt at discourse with Luboš Motl has earned from that fan of Bret “Mass Neurosis” Stephens.  Just who is “sick-souled”, anyway, and finding it difficult to distinguish between reality (my actual points about management of resources and politicized battles) and fantasies of “alarmist” strawmen?

These are Lubos’ responses (indented) to some of the points from my preceding post, My further comments are bracketed:

TT:  While some aspects of the “Warmers” and the Jehovah’s Witnesses may be linked, the Warmers are descendants of those who raised awareness and fought for control of REAL pollution in the 60’s and 70’s.  Warmers also point to REAL phenomena, like increases in GHG levels, acidifying oceans, dramatic warming in the higher latitudes, pronounced climate zone shifts, etc.

LM:  There may have been real pollution 40 years ago but the claims about it have always been overblown. Today, they are overblown by many orders of magnitude. My criticism and Jehovah’s Wittnesses analogy applies not only to the present global warming quasi-religion but, to a greater or lesser extent, to all previous fantasies that the environmentalist movement has invented during the last 50 years.

[TT:  Sure we’ve made strides at cleaning up pollution in the West, but that pollution wasn’t a fantasy, was extremely costly and much of it is still around.  LM’s Jehovah’s Witness analogy is useful (as not only cultists but all of us have difficulties in changing our minds, particularly on matters we cannot personally physically verify), but clearly doesn’t cover all environmentalists, many of whom understand that the lack of clear and enforceable property rights (and markets) lies at the core of environmental problems.]

LM:  They never learn anything from their failures and try to predict things that can’t be predicted and pretend that clearly very unlikely things are likely. The only different aspect of the AGW cult is that they also include a lot of scientific buzzwords but they don’t do proper science because they don’t abandon conjectures that have been falsified. In some sense, bad science is even worse than pure religion because the conclusions are equally crappy and moreover, it contaminates the good name of science.

TT:  Care to elaborate on your complaints?

LM:  Whoever doesn’t want to or isn’t capable to understand basic complaints about the contamination of science by ideology, won’t understand them. In your case, it has been clearly proved that it is a waste of time to try to debate these serious matters with you.

[TT:  I’m quite aware of how not only ideology and politics contaminate science; in fact it’s a point I made to LM.  I’m sorry he’s not interested (or too busy being offensive) in taking up my invitation to elaborate on how he sees that it has affected climate science in particular.]

TT:  Stephens’ discussion of the psychology of belief in and of itself is fine.  It’s his pretense that EVERYONE who takes a different view than himself is either masking an ideology or is irrational (or both) that offends, and is obviously unsupportable.  If Stephens is “rationally” engaged in logical fallacies, then he’s being deliberately deceptive; otherwise, he’s engaged in self-deception of the type he accuses others of.

LM:  The reason why it looks like Stephens thinks that every alarmist is masking an ideology, personal interests, or a mental disorder is that every alarmist is masking an ideology, personal interests, or a mental disorder. If there exists an exception, I have certainly not met one yet.

[TT:  “Alarmist”? Nice strawman, and not intellectually honest.  So like Bret Stephens, for whom global warming is “a nonfalsifiable hypothesis” and thus a matter of belief, LM lumps everybody who disagrees with him – scientist, economist, industrialist, etc. – into the “alarmist” category.]

TT:  I would agree that a scientist may have little or nothing to add to a discussion of policy – and that others should not assume such expertise – but it is not only impractical to not refer to the credentials of a scientist who chooses to get involved in political analysis, but perhaps dishonest not to.  Moreover, scientists may of course have much to offer in policy discussions.

LM:  I find it dishonest if the scientific credentials are mentioned or overblown in the context of activists who have contributed virtually no good science besides the “science” that is used by other activists. I find it incredibly insulting and dishonest if bad scientists and pseudoscientists similar to Michael Mann and hundreds of others are presented to be on par with real leading scientists – if not above them. All these people are crappy radical activists and this is what defines their primary activity in their lives. Saying that they’re scientists is effectively a kind of a lie. And again, my complaint is that science itself should be free of politics, a statement that you deliberately seem to oppose. In my understanding, your approach is on equal footing with the approach of the Nazis who also wanted to manipulate science “to their image”. I consider these things incredibly dangerous, extraordinarily serious, and I would be among the first ones to fight in a civil war meant to protect the society against a new cancer of this type.

[TT:  LM’s view of who is a scientist and who is a pseudoscientist is besides the point, which is when someone with a science background speaks, we should pay attention to whether they are discussing science or policy, and their basis for either.  I agree that it is desirable that science itself be free of politics (which is why I pointed to problems with government funding of science); I just don’t think it is possible to lock scientists out of having or expressing views on politics.  I certainly do not support a politicization of science by the powerful, which has been a clear effort by parts of the fossil fuel and by the Bush administration.]

LM:  I am blogging and in that role, I am a blogger. In fact, I am a kind of full time blogger, in some sense. 😉 And of course, a part of my motivation is to counteract the “activists” who are using science incorrectly. So I am, in some sense, in a similar position with the opposite sign. Unlike them, I don’t hide it. And unlike them, I think it is extremely wrong if the scientific discourse is driven largely by activists of either sign.

TT:  While your stated aims may be admirable, Lubos, they are inescapably a surface manifestation of your own policy goals and preferences.

LM:  This is postmodernist bullshit. You simply can’t understand how objective science or objective scientists could possibly exist – because you are infinitely far from them – so that’s why you assume that they can’t exist. It is circular reasoning and a very insulting one for every honest scientist in the world.

[TT:  This is primitive spleen-venting.  Sorry; I’m not a robot; perhaps LM is – albeit an interesting one that swears and has emotions an awful lot like a real person.

As to the existence of “objective” scientists, even the best scientists have a hard time keeping an open mind.  People have a hard time changing their minds, especially on matters that are not staring them in the face, and even very highly intelligent people and, yes, scientists. Man did not evolve to truly understand the world, but to understand enough to help us to survive and have off-spring. The result is that we build basic maps of reality in our heads and reform them when we have to. Cognitive science shows that we subconsciously filter out much dissonant information, and we all know that it is easier to defend our current reality and to dismiss information that would force us to do to much work in changing our minds. That’s why Darwin, Pasteur and Einstein had such a difficult time. In science, someone with a break-through idea often needs many years to accumulate the evidence and conduct experiments that prove them right, in the face of the opposition of more senior scientists seeking to defend their own established views and reputations.  That’s the reason for the old saw, that “breakthroughs in science occurs one death at a time”, as the “old guard” dies.

But my point was simply that while LM states that he thinks “it is extremely wrong if the scientific discourse is driven largely by activists of either sign“, in fact, as he notes below, he is “fighting only against those whose policies I disagree with. Why? Because I happen to like exactly the policies that reflect the actual science.”  It’s hardly a sheer accident that LM attacks only those who policies he disagrees with, and ignores the demonstrably nonsensical science offered by others who also support LM’s policies.  LM also ignores that “science” itself dictates no policies, which are chosen based on competing values.

TT:  Obviously we have common concerns here, although my view is that the unfortunate role of government in climate science has not so polluted the results as to wholly discredit them.  There are lots of incentives to confirm results and to correct bad work, and many organizations with quite different views and interests involved in the cross-checking.

LM:  Yes, there are these mechanisms. But there are also mechanisms that try to drag science to fulfil some ideological and political goal. Whenever the second force becomes stronger than the first one, and it is indisputably the case of the present climate science, the gross conclusions of the discipline will converge to the pre-determined ideological stuff rather than the scientifically correct answers. What matters is which force behind the scientific process is the strongest one, and when the search for objective, unemotional, unpolitical answers is not the #1 defining goal of science, no one should call it science. It is some Nazi-like ideological crap.

[TT:  It’s fair to worry about the influences of ideology, funding and politics, but there are many scientists, organizations and nations involved in climate change science and investment decisions.  There IS no “Nazi-like ideological crap” that drives them all.

TT:  We are currently conducting an uncontrolled experiment on Planet Earth, Lubos.

LM:  A very nice prayer but not for me. Rationally speaking, the uncontrolled experiment has been conducted on this Earth for 5 billion years and it is called life. This 99.99999% of this correct proposition is inconvenient for you so you don’t mention it, right?

[TT:  LM of course is right, that life on Earth is uncontrolled and that mankind has only been around for a tiny fraction of time, but life is not an “experiment” unless one posits a Grand Experimenter.  While an interesting topic, it is hardly relevant to the current topic, which is that small slice of bio-geologic time inhabited by man, who is very much the experimenter and purposefully changing his environment.]

TT:  Isn’t the real question not whether “science” is involved in measuring changes, parsing through paleodata, making hypotheses and reviewing them in the face of new information, but simply how long we should let the experiment continue and accelerate uncontrolled, before we make private and collective decisions to respond to the changes, including modifying the experiment?

LM:  The uncontrolled experiment called life will last until the planet Earth will exist. And it will be uncontrolled until some fanatical and self-serving totalitarian people – Hitlers, Ahmadinejabs, or the environmentalists – acquire enough weapons to make the Earth “controllable”. I will do everything I can to prevent such a catastrophe. Why the fuck do you think that life should be “controlled”? I would vomit from your proclamations. I am amazed that a hypercommunist like you who hates freedom more than all the old Czechoslovak communists did dares to use the word “libertarian”. 

[TT:  More blind and primitive spleen-venting by our cool-headed scientist blogger-partisan.  Since he metaphorically left the Garden of Eden, man has always been deliberately tinkering with life and seeking to control his environment.  The effects of our activities are undeniably worldwide.  Just as other communities of resource users decided to act collective to manage common, shared resources like ranges, fisheries, water and forests (and man-made resources like cities, the Internet and blogs) – such management sometimes occurring via community rules or through more sophisticated and formal property rights or laws/regulations –  we face similar challenges about managing other resources that we jointly use.  Unlike LM, I do not assume that a coercive global government is required to manage such resources.]

TT:  Because the experiment involves common resources, inescapably decisions about maintaining and modifying the experiment are unavoidable “political”, about which all have rights to express concerns, even concerns that seem to concern YOU.

LM:  You have the right to express your idiotic concerns but you have no right to “control” the experiment that takes place on Earth – you have no right to control life of other people. Can’t you understand this principle, Nazi?

[TT:  It appears that LM is arguing with someone else.  He certainly appears to be using his words in an attempt to intimidate others.]

TT:  It’s helpful to fight against pseudoscience, but that’s a fight that one should wage on all sides, not merely against those whose policy view you disagree with.  The case against pseudoscience (and wishful thinking) from the “skeptics” is quite strong.  Besides the issue of partiality, it is clearly wrong and not forthright (and perhaps deliberately deceptive) to ascribe irrationality to all those who have different preferences over how to manage the global atmospheric commons.

LM:  I am fighting against all pseudoscience, and at the same moment, I am fighting only against those whose policies I disagree with. Why? Because I happen to like exactly the policies that reflect the actual science.

[TT:  This is simply unresponsive to my points.  But clearly LM is not concerned about fighting pseudoscience generally, but only when it is used by those whose policies he opposes.  Nor is he concerned about calling everyone who disagrees with his policy views irrational.]

But please give me a break with your disgusting texts already. I am amazed that after all the disasters of the 20th century, someone is still ready to propose that life on Earth should be “controlled”. In my opinion, people like you should be put in jail or executed before it’s too late.

[TT:  De gustibus non disputandum est, as they used to say.  As for tastes, he has his; I have mine.  But LM is clearly disgusted with a phantom, rather than the real person with whom he is having a monologue.  My suggestion was not that “life on Earth” should be “controlled”, but that we should pay close attention to how we manage our mutually shared, but not clearly owned, resources, being aware that as a lack of property rights makes private transactions difficult, we are likely to try to exert influence via words, including the kind of sulfurous hot air that we see from LM (and appears to be his custom).  Pinched noses, if not gas masks, may be the order of the day!]


 [TT:  I’m very glad LM gave me his “best”; it shows his fundamental good will.  Thanks, LM, and cheers!]

[Update] Another Clear Thinker at Mises warns us about "The vicious lie behind the global warming scare"!!!

June 26th, 2008 No comments

This time it`s David Veksler, with a post on the main LvMI blog, with the title I`ve quoted above.

Why is it that so many Mises commentators flee from reason and prefer a fever-pitched focus on strawmen when it comes to addressing environmental issues?

I copy below my comments on the thread [note:  I’ve added a few links, along with bracketed comments]:

David, I read your post with interest, but came away disappointed, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, you didn`t identify the “vicious lie” behind the global warming scare.  What`s the lie, what`s vicious about it, and who`s behind it?

Second, even if THERE BE VICIOUS LIARS behind the AGW scare (the monolithic movement of envirofascist/commie/watermelon man-haters), you really haven`t helped me figure out why it`s so important  that we should focus our attention and energies on the vicious liars

Do they occupy the entire universe of people who have announced their concern over climate change, man`s likely role in it and what if anything we should do on  a organized basis about it?  Or do they so predominantly provide the driving power and strategy for such concerns that we should simply ignore everyone else as mere puppets of the All Powerful Enviros – that is, all of the prestigious National Academies of Science (East, West and South), other scientific associations, the period internationally reviewed digests of ongoing scientific work regarding climate change, all of the world leaders who have backed study and action for the past twenty years, corporate leaders (including captains of insurance, finance, industry, power and fossil fuels), leaders of established religions, and defense and intelligence heads?

Third, assuming again that there are vicious enviro-liars, you clearly overstate their views on geo-engineering, which run the gamut from reflexive opposition to a nuanced recognition that, given the long-lasting effects of GHGs and the continued ramp up in emissions worldwide, some degree of geo-engineering may be desirable. [Enviro-liars like me have made a number of blog posts on geo-engineering]

Fourth, you paint, without support or discussion, a rosy picture of how cheap and effective geo-engineering is likely to be.  I`m not very well-read in this, but from what I`ve seen, they are not cheap or certain and offer potential negative consequences as well.

Fifth, you ignore the fact that the institutional settings in which geo-engineering will occur are clearly statist.  The firms that have started to explore “ocean fertilization” have done so in the expectation that carbon capture and sequestration efforts would be compensated under incentives created by carbon-trading schemes.  While your tacit approval of use by states of tax dollars to cure problems that our industries have created for us seems hardly libertarian – in the face of adamant opposition to the decades-old arguments (by vicious liars like Stephen Hawking [whom you link to], Joe Stiglitz, Kenneth Arrow, Thomas Schelling, Robert Mendelsohn, William Nordhaus, Martin Weitzman and Gregg Mankiw [many whom I’ve referred to a number of times]) that governments introduce disincentives to GHG releasing activities – it certainly seems rather prevalent.  [In effect – the principled/preferred approach seems to be to let industry transfer costs to others and THEN use government/tax dollars to pay for remediation; that way, politicians can dole out pork twice – first, by looking the other way; then, by regulating in a way that locks in advantages for established firms.]

Dr. Reisman, for example, has thought long and hard and come up with a number of brilliant statist ideas, for which he longs for a good old-fashioned heavy industry-loving left to spearhead, including the following:

“there is a case for considering the possible detonation, on uninhabited land north of 70° latitude, say, of a limited number of hydrogen bombs. … This is certainly something that should be seriously considered by everyone who is concerned with global warming and who also desires to preserve modern industrial civilization and retain and increase its amenities. If there really is any possibility of global warming so great as to cause major disturbances, this kind of solution should be studied and perfected. Atomic testing should be resumed for the purpose of empirically testing its feasibility.”

Sixth, you fail to explain to your readers on the basis of Austrian understandings – from von Mises through Block and Cordato – why we should not take seriously the expressed concerns of the vicious enviro-liars (or others) about AGW.  Are there no problems that arise when property rights are not in place for open-access resources or are not clearly aligned to external costs, or if homesteading and private transactions are not practical?  Or when resources are “owned”, but mismanaged by governments and fought over by rent-seekers in political battles?  In such cases, do Austrian insights tell us to ignore the preferences and frustrations of particular groups of people, in favor of other groups that apparently have done a better job of purchasing political influence? 

Seventh, as a tactical matter, are essays like this the best approach to productively engaging the all-powerful enviro-liars?

Shall we ignore any underlying commons problems simply because we hate the vicious enviro-liars?  Or is it your view that, in hating the enviro-liars, we most effectively resolve commons issues – by clarifying that powerful industries (those few not controlled by enviro-liars, that is) have first dibs on them, and that those with other preferences need to pay off industry (and their political handlers)? [Of so, then have we just clarified the applicable property-rights rules?  Great!  Now citizens and other groups will know how to proceed to with “market” transactions!]

I could go on, but as you can see, I`m simply puzzled and lack your clear views about whom we should hate and what we should do.

Sadly, my confusion seems to be shared by a number of others here, who also seem confused about the principled basis and efficacy of hating enviro-liars, whomever and wherever they may be.

In fact, the responses by others here are almost enough to make a good Austrian wonder whether even the Mises board has been infiltrated and infected by vicious enviro-liars!

You might consider asking the blog administrators to take close note of those who are clear sympathizers of the enviro-liars, and where appropriate to suspend commenting or blogging privileges, such as for particularly vicious and unprincipled man-haters.  Watermelons should be roasted whenever and wherever found, I say!  Enviro-haters, unite! 

Or maybe you`re way ahead of me on that? 

[There’s gotta be a good way, after all, to remove the “stain” of those nasty enviros or to at least to contain the infection threat posed by their evil but insidious views.  Let me know if I can make any further suggestions.]