It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In Case You Think We're Making Progress

Lubos Motl may not be correct about earth science but as for the politics around it he has a point. Intelligent lay people are not buying what we are selling. Lubos points to the technorati discussion about Vaclav Klaus's recent Motlesque writings on climate change. It's sobering indeed.

Update: Lubos comments that I must be a propagandist because I linked to an obscure environmentalist website (which he characterizes rather harshly) to illustrate what Klaus has been saying. Fair enough, here's a link to more of what Klaus has to say from Lubos' own blog, to balance that. The point is not just that the president of a small country has bizarre opinions. That's bad enough but I have posted on that already. The point is that non-specialists who are interested enough to post a position on the subject increasingly tend to line up behind those bizarre opinions, which is very disconcerting.

Why is science losing to propaganda? Remember Mamet's Law:
"Law, politics and commerce are based on lies. That is, the premises giving rise to opposition are real, but the debate occurs not between these premises but between their proxy, substitute positions. The two parties to a legal dispute (as the opponents in an election) each select an essentially absurd position. "I did not kill my wife and Ron Goldman," "A rising tide raises all boats," "Tobacco does not cause cancer." Should one be able to support this position, such that it prevails over the nonsense of his opponent, he is awarded the decision. ...

"In these fibbing competitions, the party actually wronged, the party with an actual practicable program, or possessing an actually beneficial product, is at a severe disadvantage; he is stuck with a position he cannot abandon, and, thus, cannot engage his talents for elaboration, distraction, drama and subterfuge."
-- David Mamet in "Bambi vs Godzilla: Why art loses in Hollywood", Harper's, June 2005.
Also, it looks like I won't be making any money of Google AdSense. (See the sidebar on the right.) So far in just one day my page has been polluted both by GGW Swindling and by tasteless Gore-baiting. I'll let it run for a bit but I'm guessing I won't be able to stomach it. Update: It's gone. I would need much more traffic to make it worth considering. Definitely not worth the space for a few cents a day.

Who pays for this stuff? When will they have the decency to stop?

6 comments:

John Fleck said...

I decided against Google ads for essential the reason you cite: I didn't want the accusation or inference that I was financially beholden to whoever happened to show up in the rail on the side of my blog.

Interestingly, I have no such similar discomfort related to the ads that show up around my newspaper copy. I am, perhaps, a hypocrite? Or perhaps I just take my blog more seriously. :-)

Lumo said...

Dear Michael, I appreciate some of your kind words but you can see that your website is a propagandistic in each paragraph.

For example, you link to Klaus' writings about the climate - and the link goes to another ecoterrorist website called Terra Daily where abstracts are given.

Why don't you show your readers the actual texts that Klaus is writing such as the questions and answers on motls.blogspot.com, search for Financial Times? Do you think that your readers need the information pre-processed by an environmentalist? And do you really believe that they can't get the original text and they won't get it? Have you actually read the texts yourself?

Your methods of obscuring the whole topic are analogous to methods that have been used in the past in some countries. Except that you don't really have police and military working quite for you yet, and it makes a difference.

Dano said...

wrt intelligent laypeople:

I see all around me that decision-makers' staff understand the issue and are prepared to brief their elected/appointed.

And we must remember that it is nice to have the grassroots mobilized to force gummint to effect change, but it isn't a necessary condition. Many people don't want to lead, and our crowded, info-saturated lives preclude being well-informed on many subjects.

So, being a bottom-up guy, I'm concerned too. But the decision-makers know. There is no political will on this issue, but then again there is political will on few issues outside of the dog-whistle topics. It is a symptom of our times.

Best,

D

Michael Tobis said...

Lubos, I don't know who Terra Daily is, and I don't especially endorse anything else they say. In fact I have read none of it. I link to you sometimes and that doesn't make me responsible for anything you say, either.

I just wanted to capture the Technorati zeitgeist for my readers, so I was in a bit of a hurry to find an article which appeared to capture Klaus' position.

If you have a link to the original FT article or something similar, please pass it along and I will replace the link.

Lumo said...

Dear Michael, thanks for your update.

Klaus is not a president of a small country with bizarre opinions. Klaus is an extraordinarily bright president of a medium-size member of the European Union whose opinions are thoughtful enough to be repeatedly asked for by the U.S. lawmakers and The Financial Times and celebrated by a large percentage of those who read them.

Thanks for your understanding, Lubos

EliRabett said...

Clearly you need to re-evaluate your approach.