The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

And in the end

In the end, the crucial problem with Roger Pielke Jr.'s The Honest Broker is not the sloppy reasoning, nor even the wide celebration of it in various influential communities. This book is hardly the first or the worst example out there of that. The crucial problem is how this analysis is used to squelch critical thought which is values-influenced.

We are left with a purportedly iron-cast way of thinking that says that reasoned thought about the real world must not be values-influenced, and that thought about values must not be influenced by observations. The idea that this separation is workable is essentially stated without proof. No alternatives are presented or considered.

Realistically, in the case of sustainability issues, a wide variety of values-based and science based contingencies interact. The world does not guarantee us the clear simplification implied by Pielke's taxonomy. What Pielke's taxonomy does offer is a way to express outrage at anyone trying to grapple with the full specturm of challenges.

Just because "the honest broker" is a nice turn of phrase (and it is) doesn't mean that the book of that title is authoritative. In fact, it is just a muddle; more useful to prevent progress than to support it.

To be fair to Roger, in his meanderings he happens upon a quote that seems to me to make a great deal of sense, from Harvey Brooks, "Evolution of US science policy" in Smith and Barfield, eds. "Technology, R&D, and the economy", Brookings Institute, 1995:
In the process of using science for social purposes is thought of as one of optimally matching scientific opportunity with social need, then the total evaluation process must embody both aspects in an appropriate mix. Experts are generally best qualified to assess the opportunity for scientific progress, while broadly representative laymen, in close consultation with experts, may be best quallfied to assess societal need. The optimal balance between opportunity and need can only be arrived at through a highly interactive mutual education process involving both dimensions.
Well, though Roger doesn't note it, that's obviously about funding science, not using science, obviously, but most of it applies. The "highly interactive mutual education process" is key. There is no formula for good policy. Bad policy is dramatically easier to achieve than good policy both in enactment and in practice. Trying to bottle the conversation, to constrain people to specific roles, is an extra constraint in a problem that is already, apparently, overconstrained. It just makes achieving good policy all the harder.

107 comments:

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael- A few short replies, here is the first ...

Thanks for the further thoughts, but your critique has increasingly strayed from anything resembling what I actually wrote.

You claim that I argue that "reasoned thought about the real world must not be values-influenced, and that thought about values must not be influenced by observations" -- in a word, this is absurd. You cannot provide a single excerpt from the book to support this assertion of yours, because I say nothing of the sort.

Throughout the book, and indeed much of writings I argue exactly the opposite, that the idea that facts and values can be cleanly separated is a myth. How to make science a part of but apart from policy and politics is the core challenge that the book takes on (p. 5).

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael-

A second comment.

You talk about using science to "winnowing bad policies". "Winnowing bad policies" is simply a synonymous phrase for what I state as "reduce the scope of policy options"! (And surely you'd admit the logical point that when discussing policy one can only reduce, clarify, or expand options).

Efforts to reduce the scope of choice or winnow policy options is policy advocacy. However, you choose to phrase it, an effort to limit/reduce/winnow policy choice is advocacy. It is OK, you can admit it.

You then invent a strawman by suggesting that I call for "maximizing" the scope of options -- I never say any such thing.

Further, you confuse my discussion of the theoretical basis for the taxonomy (views of democracy/science) with how one might employ the taxonomy in particular contexts (considering values consensus/uncertainty). Not a single reviewer of my book had any trouble with this distinction, so I'd guess that your misrepresentation does not stem from the writing.

This sort of confusion about what you read seems to be a common trait on your part. For instance, you say of Brooks' quote -- "that's obviously about funding science, not using science" -- whereas Brooks' begins with -- "In the process of using science for social purposes". Obviously, Brooks' is talking about the relationship of producing and "using science"!

Finally, can you back up this assertion -- "how this analysis is used to squelch critical thought which is values-influenced"? I am calling for opening up debates, not shutting them down, so I wonder where you get this from.

Thanks again.

Michael Tobis said...

Roger, thanks for your patience.

"How to make science a part of but apart from policy and politics is the core challenge that the book takes on (p. 5)."

If this is your goal, I am in total agreement with it. Indeed, if I were going to go any further, I'd point out that your criticism of the "linear model" seems to contradict the thrust of your taxonomy.

But you don't elaborate how the coupling is supposed to work in the book. To the extent I understand it you prefer sharply delineated roles wherein decision making roles are sharply delineated from expertise.

As for your second point, I think that is far from the impression you leave. "Reduce the scope of policy options" is defined as an advocacy position. Trying to advocate for one position against another is implicitly neutral.

I perceive that as different from a mechanism whereby scientifically excluded opinions are excluded from policy consideration. I didn't notice anywhere in the book that you argued that defeating really worthless ideas was part of the job of advocacy.

It's obvious that we are failing on that score in practice. It is not clear to me how the mechanisms based on your taxonomy would help. And in fact, I see your taxonomy being used to achieve the opposite.

We've seen it these last few days, wherein a claim that expertise eliminates bad ideas is "authoritarian". Well, that's the worst idea yet, isn't it?

Hank Roberts said...

There have been many definitions of this role in the past.

Just one example, quoted in a paper that goes into the various definitions:

" The honest broker [Porter's term for the custodial role] and his staff are not intermediaries between departmental advocates and the president, like a centralized management staff, but they do more than simply insure due process. They promote a genuine competition of ideas, identifying viewpoints not adequately represented or that require qualification, determining when the process is not producing a sufficiently broad range of options, and augmenting the resources of one side or the other so that a balanced presentation results. In short, they insure due process and quality control. (Porter 1980, 26)

quoted in:
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+neutral%2fhonest+broker+role+in+foreign-policy+decision+making%3a+a+...-a0134170677

Hank Roberts said...

And a bit later:

"... Some limited forms of advocacy, however, appear inherent even in the broker role. As Porter observes, advocacy may be necessary "if the discussion is not sufficiently balanced and the president needs to hear an underrepresented point of view. He needs to reach for advocacy as an instrument of brokerage rather than undertaking brokerage because he is told to do so" (Porter 1980, 217; but see Moens 1990, 176-77).

----
Shorter: Roger's book is part of a large and long academic and political conversation about the 'honest broker' role -- a discussion that has been going on for decades. term, and it's not

James Annan said...

"Efforts to reduce the scope of choice or winnow policy options is policy advocacy"

Surely an honest broker advocates policies that meet the requirements of the client? That is what my stockbroker does, indeed it is what I pay him for.

Though he also increases the range of options by introducing ideas I haven't thought of. And clarifies what they mean, when I don't understand.

So is this broker honest, or dishonest?

(OK, I know I'm just channelling Eli really, but only because it seems to me that he is right on this.)

William T said...

"I argue exactly the opposite, that the idea that facts and values can be cleanly separated is a myth."

I think that this is a slippery slope to be starting along. Can you really choose your facts depending on your values? Obviously one's interpretation of a scientific finding may be influenced by one's values, but the whole history of science has been to provide an approach (the "scientific method") that can clearly separate "fact" from "belief".

Of course, politics is a whole other ball game...

Richard Tol said...

@James
A good adviser would narrow your options if the goal and means are clear.

A good adviser would point you to options you had not thought of if you appear in her office all confused about what you really want.

willard said...

A patient enters a doctor office. The doctor announces to the patient that he has a terrible illness. The patient must do something. But what?

- So doc, can we do something about my illness?

- Yes, of course. There are good chances to treat it.

- So, what do you suggest?

- Well, you have this treatment A, which have these consequences. (Inaudible.)

- ...

- And you have this other treatment B, which have these consequences. (Inaudible again.)

- So, doc, what do you think we should do?

- Well, you have two choices, A and B. Both have their benefits and problems.

And he goes on to repeat them.

- Ok, I know, I know, but what should I do?

- Well, you have two choices, A and B. Both have their benefits and problems.

And he goes on to repeat them.

- Ok, I get it! I have to choose. So, if you were Me, what would you do?

- Look, I am not you. And I abide by the Honest Borker's pledge. Have you read the book, by the way?

- Should I buy it, you think?

- Well, there are pros and contras.

***

This dialogue is inspired by this TED presentation:

http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html

So not only trying to make science a part but not apart from policy and politics is a very tough challenge from a logical point of view, its objective seems counterintuitive if we are to take into account the empirical evidence we can gather from the psychology of choice.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael-

A reply to your latest -- you state,

"Trying to advocate for one position against another is implicitly neutral.

I perceive that as different from a mechanism whereby scientifically excluded opinions are excluded from policy consideration. I didn't notice anywhere in the book that you argued that defeating really worthless ideas was part of the job of advocacy."

This is the core of our different point of views I suspect.

Winnowing options is policy advocacy, and is a function of values. There is no such "neutral" position. Annan hints at this when talking about the relationship of the expert and a client -- well in democratic systems there are a wide range of such clients, with many contradictory perspectives. One way for expertise to represent that diversity is through honest brokering as I've described it. The expert can also choose to represent a subset of that diversity -- that is advocacy. (James Madison thought that such advocacy would sum to a comprehensive representation of views, Schattschneider did not -- implying vastly different roles for expertise in democracy.)

Further, what constitutes a "worthless" policy is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Science does not confer worth to an outcome. And you cannot use science to determine worth. And experts are not more an authority on worth than non-scientists.

You seem to want to claim to be "neutral" and not an "advocate" but rather, someone who uses facts dispassionately to render expert judgments which dictate certain actions over others, and these judgments trump the views of the inexpert and those people driven by their passions. Guess what? You can't. You can choose to be an advocate or you can hide such advocacy behind science. There are no philosopher kings. Sorry!

willard said...

> Science does not confer worth to an outcome.

Showing how this does not amount to stating the fact/value dichotomy might be interesting.

Without being a fan of dichotomies (who is, really?), one might wonder how one could argue against the fact/value dichotomy, while still using it to clobber the opposition.

Michael Tobis said...

OK, sure, science as a process does not confer worth.

But science as a community is entitled to a privileged opinion, because the privilege is conveyed by expertise. These are different meanings of the word "science" and so the claims are not mutually contradictory.

We do not appoint shoe salesmen to run the Center for Disease Control, and we do not weigh their opinions on epidemiology as highly as we do that of epidemiologists. This is true even though, by chance, the intuitions of the shoe salesman may on rare occasion be more adaptive than the considered opinions of epidemiologists. It's still a bad bet, even though you sometimes do manage to draw to an inside straight.

But I really don't need to say anything. Jindal's berms refute Roger's simplistic claims in themselves.

It's a logical fallacy to say that "science says it is stupid to build the berms" but only in a hairsplitting sort of way. "Science indicates that building the berms serves no identified practical purpose" is well-founded, and "it is stupid to build the berms" is a straightforward consequence. So my question to Roger is who, in his view, is permitted to draw the obvious inference, and whose job it is to ensure that the governor hears about it, and catches holy hell if he builds them anyway.

Because if making that inference amounts to being "someone who uses facts dispassionately to render expert judgments which dictate certain actions over others, and these judgments trump the views of the inexpert and those people driven by their passions" then we have committed ourselves to a policy sector that is ignorant and incompetent.

Now, you may observe that the policy sector is indeed, in these matters, ignorant and incompetent. What Roger seems to be adding is a structural guarantee that this will not change.

Thanks, bunches, Roger.

If this is political science, it seems to me that political science is the opposite of science. The less of it we know the better off we are.

Michael Tobis said...

Clarifying previous comment:

Because if making that inference amounts to being "someone who uses facts dispassionately to render expert judgments which dictate certain actions over others, and these judgments trump the views of the inexpert and those people driven by their passions" and if in fact, as Roger suggests, "you can't" do thisthen we have committed ourselves to a policy sector that is ignorant and incompetent.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael-

We are going is circles, so perhaps this exchange has run its course. Let me however respond to this comment:

"Science indicates that building the berms serves no identified practical purpose" is well-founded, and "it is stupid to build the berms" is a straightforward consequence. So my question to Roger is who, in his view, is permitted to draw the obvious inference, and whose job it is to ensure that the governor hears about it, and catches holy hell if he builds them anyway."

In this example you have an implicit notion of what that purpose is. Once again, let me express that the purposes to which the berms are being used are not simply to keep oil off the shore. You may object to other uses for the berms, but such objections are not grounded in science, but values.

I do not object to your claim that expertise should be accorded greater weight on matters that can be adjudicated empirically -- of course it should (I have a category in my typology that you ignore, the science arbiter, which focuses on arbitrating such questions!).

Where I part ways with you is when you claim that such expertise confers authority in normative matters. We will have to simply agree to disagree on that last point!

Michael Tobis said...

"Where I part ways with you is when you claim that such expertise confers authority in normative matters. We will have to simply agree to disagree on that last point!"

I make no such claim.

Hank Roberts said...

Roger writes:

> the purposes to which
> the berms are being used
> are not simply to keep
> oil off the shore.

No. The berms can't keep the oil off the shore. This is like knocking two sticks together to keep elephants away, it's wordplay not purpose.

> You may object to other
> uses for the berms, but
> such objections are not
> grounded in science, but
> values.

It's not another use for the berms. It's using the story about the berms, or the two sticks, or the fairy dust, to get a headline.

Fancy way of saying the scientist is being used by the politician, and both of them know the politician is lying, innit?

The scientist is asked if the berms will stop the oil.

The politician doesn't care about the scientist's facts, the politician wants an announcement for the headlines.

So an honest broker can work for a dishonest politician, no problem with that? Look at the links you find with Scholar for 'honest broker' -- there's guilt and shame aplenty for those who fell into this historical trap.

Seems to me it would be more interesting to see how the other political scientists who have written about this issue over the past few decades have responded -- what have they said about Roger's book?

Pointers?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael-

Now you are walking back your earlier statements.

Perhaps one of these days you might parse this statement of yours:

"On complex matters which have significant objective and normative components, those opinions which are informed by expertise should carry more weight in decisions than opinions which are not well informed. The more complex the matter at hand, the more weight should be given to expertise and the less it should account for value-driven decisions that are likely to be ill-informed."

I read it as saying that the making of decisions (which includes normative considerations, as you state) should depend more on the views of experts rather than others. Maybe however you mean something else?

Michael Tobis said...

"expertise confers authority in normative matters"

"On complex matters which have significant objective and normative components, those opinions which are informed by expertise should carry more weight in decisions than opinions which are not well informed. The more complex the matter at hand, the more weight should be given to expertise and the less it should account for value-driven decisions that are likely to be ill-informed."

I don't think those are the same at all. I explained this already. I will try again.

Suppose there are two and only two components to a decision; the normative and the substantive. Suppose that some legitimate stakeholder has a weak grasp on the substance, and proposes policy A based on values, claiming that as far as he knows, policy A and policy B are equivalent on the substance. Another stakeholder has a strong grasp on the substance, claims no value-based preference, but provides plausible objective evidence that policy A is known to be counterproductive as to substance.

This is, in my opinion, exactly the situation regarding climate change, where one side is in "abortion politics" mode and the other is in "tornado politics" mode. To be sure, others disagree. Fortunately, Governor Jindal has presented us with a much simpler case where the same distinction applies in a way that should be clear and obvious.

Competent governance simply will not build the berms that don't work. If A or not A are the only alternatives (build them/don't) and if A fails to achieve its objectives at a greater cost than not A, the decision is dominated by the substantive question, and the normative question is moot.

It is Roger's failure to stipulate this perfectly apparent fact that stymies the conversation. It's also indicative of the sort of reasoning he is promoting. A society that devotes itself to building Jindal berms is not long for the world.

In the real world, the situation is usually not so simple as the one the berms present us with. Goals and problems overlap and interact.

Strictly speaking, science as a process cannot address norms. I agree with this. But scientists have insights. When a decision has a scientific component, those insights should carry some weight, whether the decision has a normative component or not.

There is no general formula for weighing normative and substantive constraints. I believe there can be none; we are stuck with coming up with an ad hoc process for the whole tangle of decisions we face. But the substantive constraints ARE constraints. To fail to use them in the course of decision-making; to simply encourage, indeed demand, that scientists limit themselves to producing a fat report that will be mostly ignored or misconstrued, and then going away and leaving the serious work of negotiation to the mature statesmen; that idea is frankly stupid.

Is that what Roger is advocating? Hell if I know.

He seems to be saying that it's okay to spend collective resources on projects that won't work because of "norms". I call those "abnorms" myself.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Hank- The reviews of my book can be accessed here:

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/special/honest_broker/index.html

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael-

I'm sorry, I don't understand your position at the level of generalities.

Perhaps we can move in a more productive direction by being more specific. Can explain what "substantive constraints" are imposed upon climate policy?

Hank Roberts said...

Here is an example of good honest information presented in an area with lots of industry spin and blog science:

"As a biochemist in lipid research, I wondered how the public messages could be so disconnected from what I knew about molecular mechanisms. The dissonance was amplified when powerful groups translated evidence from scientists into oversimplified public health messages. The translation involved appointed committees that vote for compromises among members’ viewpoints, bureaucrats who build dominant positions for their agencies and marketing organizations that word public messages to enhance their corporate financial priorities.
None of the groups convey the controlled details of the science or hold any direct responsibility for the public’s need to prevent disease. Citizens are left to choose among the oversimplified messages while managing their own health ...."

From a presentation at NIH
http://efaeducation.nih.gov
discussing among other things this problem:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36664612/

Quote from the file at
http://omega-6-omega-3-balance.omegaoptimize.com/files/8/9/8/7/3/147167-137898/Lands_Omega_6_Handout.pdf

Michael Tobis said...

Not all reviews were entirely enthusiastic.

Review of THB by a prominent "STS" researcher, S. Jasanoff:

http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/speaking-honestly-to-power

I am astonished to learn from that review that Roger has a background in mathematics. This makes his double derivation of his taxonomy far more egregious, in my opinion.

I am also astonished to find that the book was "written for scientists". I am not alone in finding it heavy going. H. Wanner in Meteorologische Zeitschriftconcludes "Overall, the book is not easy readable for natural scien-
tists, but it stimulates to think about our role we play in
scientific life."

Michael Tobis said...

"Can explain what "substantive constraints" are imposed upon climate policy?"

It has become clear to me that the public and the policy sector does not understand and/or properly account for the following:

Any policy which does not reliably lead to zero or near-zero net emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases by a date certain is not adequate to reliably achieve the objective of restabilizing the climate.

If someone wants to rephrase this as "science says we have to practically eliminate emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases in the foreseeable future" I can imagine many hairsplitting quibbles, but it's really a less legalistic way of making the same point and I would not raise my hand to object.

Hank Roberts said...

Plenty more out there, and when you start reading it, you find Roger's position pretty well understood by others in his area.

http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1066&context=poroi

"Climategate raises many interesting questions for rhetoricians of science, although answering them will prove complicated—first because of the privacy of the source material and secondly because of the questionable authenticity of the fragmentary remnants of the necessary data base circulating through skeptical media outlets.

However, documented reaction to the scandal so far makes at least two things clear. The IPCC scientists are having real problems with their ethos as “policy scientists”--scientists who advise policymakers on science-related civic issues. Moreover, they are acutely aware of this ethical instability and of its capacity to hamper their ability to persuade publics and policymakers in the court of public opinion.

.... the most prevalent and vehement attacks have used the climate scientists’ involvement in politics in the first place as grounds for discrediting their scientific findings....

... What’s wrong with climate science, in other words, is politics. If we refract this warrant through an ethical lens, we get the argument that it’s somehow inappropriate for a scientist to be involved in politics at all. And yet policy scientists regularly feature in the political landscape. In fact, they are accreted to it under the auspices of government agencies such as the NSF, NIH, and USDA.

The ethical paradox faced by the American policy scientist is well-documented. Steven Shapin (2008) and Roger Pielke, Jr. (2007), have recently explored the issue in historical monographs. Both tell versions of the same tale. Until the end of the 19th century, scientists were expected to moralize the results of their inquiries pro bono publico. Starting after the Second World War, however, American scientists fell under a philosophical stricture referred to as the “is/ought” problem or the “naturalistic fallacy.” This rule .... holds that democracies cannot make social or moral policy based on observations of the natural order. Facts are one thing. Values and the choices they undergird are another ....

Shapin and Pielke point to ample historical motivations for the “is/ought” stricture in the arguments of the post-WWII writers who invoked it, not least the terrifying results of the atomic bomb and the nazification of the life sciences. In addition, the post-war industrialization of science in America complicated the heroic ethos of its practicioners ....

However, and in fact because of these motivations for invoking it, the “is/ought” rule is impossible to enforce. In practice scientists are citizens with their own biases and opinions. These inevitably color their policy recommendations. Indeed, governments and publics routinely ask scientists to cross the “is/ought” divide in order to give advice about how to navigate civic questions related to their expertise, such as global warming...."

from:
Poroi
http://ir.uiowa.edu/poroi/
Volume 6, Issue 2, 2009
ISSUES IN THE RHETORIC OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Visual strategies to integrate ethos across the “is/ought” divide in the IPCC’s Climate Change 2007: Summary for Policy Makers

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael-

You write:

"Any policy which does not reliably lead to zero or near-zero net emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases by a date certain is not adequate to reliably achieve the objective of restabilizing the climate."

and they say that you would not quibble with:

"science says we have to practically eliminate emissions of
long-lived greenhouse gases in the foreseeable future""

The differences in the two statements are vast. The former makes the valued outcome a contingency, the latter does not. What about those people who do not value a "stabilized climate" or value other outcomes with higher priority? Science might say different things to these people, no?

Let me also say that your statement ignores uncertainties, but lets focus on values for now.

What about those who do not value the same outcome that you do? What does the science say to them? It certainly does not give them any constraints in policy, right?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Hank- Many thanks for that link to Iowa and the very positive reception of my framework in academic discussions!

The Briggle, Brown and Clark reviews of my book are the most in depth and challenging.

Michael Tobis said...

That's silly. You're the one who asked for specifics. First find the people who don't value a stable climate, and then we can discuss how to deal with them.

I already know your arguments against the latter formulation and that is why I choose the former to defend.

I think and concede that given most people's value systems the latter would be a reasonable restatement even if it offends against the is/ought distinction that you are trying so hard to defend. Only the former is defensible as a formal scientific statement given your distinction. But the consequence in reasonable conversation is reasonably summarized by the second.

And this is the issue. You give me permission to make the first statement, but as far as I can tell you give nobody permission to make the second.

So you accept A implies B. But you do not accept A as long as there is some lunatic somewhere who doesn't accept A. So we never get to B.

So what have you achieved with all your is/ought distinction?

It seems to me that there is some pragmatic limit to your philosophy that you are ignoring. Because you seem to be demanding incompetent governance as a matter of principle.

Hank Roberts said...

A bit more, to encourage people to read the whole piece. It's really a good take on the issue, focusing on the issue, not on Pielke per se.

pardon a long excerpt:

"... While both Shapin and Pielke define and make recommendations for amending the observed ethical paradox of the policy scientist, neither satisfactorily explains how late-modern civic debate generates the ethical paradox that Climategate has dramatized so vividly. ... scientists’ statements at the stasis of cause/effect are inevitably interpreted as value judgments and policy suggestions....
...
... Shapin’s and Pielke’s accounts ... prior to these very recent contributions, the ethos of the American scientist had already been amply graphed by philosophers, historians, and rhetoricians....
......
the cost of an integrated ethos for American scientist-citizens. When making policy decisions as voters, they somehow had to remove their “scientist hat,” and vice versa—a patently ridiculous proposition, which Weber sharply criticized in (1958). ...
...
...Pielke and Shapin both refer to uncertainty ... but in slightly different ways....

While both theorists have accurately identified the rift in the ethos of the modern American scientist ... neither has satisfactorily explained the paradoxical public reaction to scientists in policy debates ....
...
... Roman rhetoricians developed the stases ... used by democratic institutions...
Fact ... Definition ... Cause/effect ... Value ...Action ...
... the lower stasis questions (fact, definition, cause) are ones we commonly turn to scientists to help us answer ...
The “is/ought” schism occurs between the stases of cause/effect and value. ...

When scientists evaluate their findings in terms of “good,” “bad” ... according to the post-war linear model, they have transgressed the “is/ought” divide ....
... But the special character of the rhetorical attacks noted in the introduction tells us that more is going on here ... scientists’ statements on policy issues are treated not just as out-of-bounds but as evidence that the speakers are not real scientists....

---- end excerpt ---

Far more going on than the simple notion of the 'honest broker'-- discussed for decades.

EliRabett said...

Perhaps Eli might be of assistance, given Roger's definition there is no way an "honest broker" could be of any use to a citizen or a policy maker in any situation where either

a. There is any uncertainty
or
b. There are those pretending that there is uncertainty.

Might as well call it the "useless broker"

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael- What I am saying is that A does not imply B, and that is where your logic fails.

A decision to reduce greenhouse gases necessarily involves trade-offs, and as such people will weigh outcomes in a wide variety of ways.

The US has a majority of people who support action on climate change if the cost is <$10 per month, and only about 10% who support action if the cost is 8 times higher. In this case people's preferences for action is contingent on perceived cost, science provides no boundary to the decision. This is just an example to illustrate that there are many people who might choose a tradeoff differently than you suggest that science somehow compels.

I have enjoyed our exchange. Thanks for hosting it. It helps me to understand the challenge of communication faced by experts in the science/[policy relationship. But such efforts are worth doing.

My holiday is over in about 5 minutes (boarding a plane) and the realities of work and life will soon mean that I won't be able to pay close attention to this exchange for a while.

So thanks, and perhaps we can do it again sometime.

Michael Tobis said...

(sighing,

looking at Jello, nails, wall,

applying palm to face,

wishing Roger safe travels,

and signing out for now)

Steve Bloom said...

This seems like a good place to re-state my earlier point that what RP Jr. is mainly up to is trying to disqualify people he views a competitors in the policy advice biz. After all, a political science background confers no particular useful expertise when it comes to climate policy, so why should someone with such a background be asked to consult on climate policy in preference to a climate scientist who has a degree of experience with policy?

Anyway, Michael, you disagreed with me when I stated this view at the start of this discussion. Do I detect a shift in your position?

Michael Tobis said...

Steve, Upton Sinclair said "It is difficult to convince a man of something if his paycheck depends on his not understanding it."

I think Roger believes what he says, and what he says is convenient for Roger. That it is convenient for certain other parties is relevant, but need not feature prominently in Roger's justifications to himself.

I appreciate that he has been polite, more so than I have, in this conversation. So it would be churlish of me to suggest he is trying to squelch opposition. I don't see that at all.

Of course, that doesn't mean he is actually making a positive contribution. I'm pretty sure that isn't the case. I strongly disagree with his approach, I find his writing obfuscatory and dull, rather than revealing, and I find his reasoning imprecise and lacking in rigor.

I have no idea what amazing self-promotional skills have allowed him to capture as much of the limelight as he has done, and to be honest I wish I did.

But that's as far as I'll go. I see no reason to accuse him of dishonesty, unfair dealing, or even unkindness.

Steve Bloom said...

Fair enough, Michael, although shouldn't that be "*in*convenient for certain other parties"?

Re the self-promotion technique, I think I can answer that from my own experience: Actively work the press by putting out press releases, maintaining an e-mail list of reporters, responding promptly to all requests for feedback and quotes, aim for sound bites in doing so, periodically remind editors of your availability for op-eds, book reviews, etc., do as many public talks as possible, and last but not at all least flatter the reporters and editors. Keep up that kind of effort consistently over a period of years and you'll have yourself quite the media following. Of course most scientists will find such a course distracting, disgusting and ennervating, and who can blame them?

Doug said...

Steve-

Care to elaborate:

"a political science background confers no particular useful expertise when it comes to climate policy"

Understanding political behavior and institutions strikes me as particularly useful in understanding climate policy. Suggesting that we should 'ignore political scientists' sounds an awful lot like folks who say we should 'ignore climate scientists.'

Climate scientists are experts at climate science. Political scientists are experts in politics and policy.

Why is it okay, in your mind, to ignore one relevant field of expertise but not another? Don't both have valuable contributions to make?

Steve Bloom said...

Doug, I labor under the handicap of having known and worked with too many political scientists, policy analysts and politicians over the years. Such people tend to have in mind too many competing considerations to be able to choose well when it comes to climate policy. I see this as a burden of proof to be overcome, and RP Jr. has most definitely failed to do so.

Steve Bloom said...

Also:

A broad expertise in climate science takes considerable intelligence and many years of work to achieve, expertise in politics and policy not so much.

Steve Bloom said...

This post is relevant, Doug.

manuel "moe" g said...

[The blog commenting policy is to err on the side of civility. If the fine gentleman who runs this establishment strikes this comment down, at least the Bunny and Bloom make better points.]

M. Tobis:

> "First find the people who don't value a stable climate, and then we can discuss how to deal with them."

The Amish are well poised to deal with climate disruption. Their genes may be very well represented a few generations out, and not many genes peculiar to the city mice. It is awkward that they wouldn't agree with an analysis that required so much Darwinist book-learnin'... ;-)

Yoram Bauman (Ph.D. - World's first and only stand-up economist) had a better time nailing the jello of RPJr's thought to the wall:

http://www.standupeconomist.com/blog/economics/thoughts-on-roger-pielke-jr/

I found the replies craven (not that anyone should care about what I think - I fancy myself a "Disgusted Broker" ;-)

RPJr's position is consistent with a frantic goal to always make the moral consideration of future generations being left a livable world *always taking a backseat* to today's GDP/standard-of-living. Of course, if he ever stated it that plainly, he would lose his ability to maintain a comfortable career. It is not surprising that the outcome is wiggling jiggling jello English --http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm.

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks for the fascinating Bauman link, Moe.

One notable feature: any attempted paraphrase of RP Jr. is practically guaranteed to be wrong. Roger will object, saying you got him wrong.

It's a peculiar phenomenon. I am relieved to see that I am not the only person with an incapacity to summarize Roger to his satisfaction.

willard said...

Those who do not like to click might have missed this very nice parable from Bauman:

> An analogy will help explain other limitations of his [Junior's] approach: Let’s say we’re talking about global populations of tuna, and that scientists are telling us that tuna are being caught at an unsustainable rate and that we need to cut the number of tuna we catch by 20% by 2020 in order to maintain a stable tuna population. Then Roger comes over and tells us that what we really ought to be looking at is not the number of tuna being caught every year but the consumption of tuna per capita in different countries around the world. Then Roger shows us graphs about rising populations in the developing world and the rising consumption of tuna per capita all over the world and tells us how difficult it will be to reverse this trend: how many more chickens we’d need to raise, etc. Finally, Roger comes to the seemingly inescapable conclusion that the number of tuna being caught every year is going to keep on rising. Anybody with half a brain can see that there is something missing from this story: What happens if there are biological limits to how many tuna we can catch?

I'm sure it does not represent very well what Roger Junior is trying to say, but that made me cheerful nonetheless.

Neven said...

Biological limits? You're an advocate! We don't like authoritarianism. Not from humans, not from nature. There are no limits.

William T said...

"What about those people who do not value a "stabilized climate" or value other outcomes with higher priority? Science might say different things to these people, no?"

Unfortunately, yes. We have had past experience of science being used in the service of political philosophies that were destructive to humanity.

I think that in the case of "climate stabilisation" there is pretty clear evidence of the potential for destructive impacts on the future of humanity (and a good chunk of nature) and that scientists and politicians need to take a moral stance. There will always be "some people" who don't value the preservation of a livable future, but it doesn't mean that we have to appease them.

Doug said...

Steve,

Thanks for your replies and the link.

"Such people tend to have in mind too many competing considerations to be able to choose well when it comes to climate policy."

But, isn't this one of the major challenges with climate policy?

Climate policy does not operate in a vacuum. Climate policies need to be technically correct (i.e. climate science). They need to be politically pragmatic too. In other words, the implementation of climate polices need to be able to politically compete with other considerations.

I can think climate change is a major problem and want action. However, if I'm unemployed and can't feed my family, I want my elected officials to focus more attention on job creation than climate policy. It seems to me that political scientists and politicians are in a better position to understand these political trade-offs than climate scientists.

To tackle a complex issue like climate change, certainly we need to leverage expertise from a wide-range of disciplines beyond climate science...no matter how fundamental climate science is to climate policy.

Steve Bloom said...

And of course the latter will happen, Doug. It's a question of what the starting point is for policy. That needs to be the raw scientific truth. Policy "experts" like Roger are in the habit of sugar-coating it to be more palatable for politicians at first taste. If politicians are going to choose a course of action orthogonal to the science, there needs to be clarity that that's what they're doing.

We are faced with an emergency, BTW.

Hank Roberts said...

> preferences for action is
> contingent on perceived cost,
> science provides no boundary
> to the decision.

Therefore: convince people the cost will be far greater than science indicates, if you wish to delay action.

That fits the story thus far.
Is it safe to assume the actual goal is to find a way to present the problem to convince people not to support action anytime soon?

"It is within our technical and economic means to modify our energy and transportation systems and land-use practices to largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from our economies by mid-century. It is thought that the cost of doing this — perhaps 2% of the worldwide economic production — would be small, yet at present it has proven difficult for societies to decide to undertake this conversion."

- Dr. Ken Caldeira

Lenny said...

Willard,
You're forgetting about all those folks who don't value the continued existance of tuna.

EliRabett said...

Michael, perhaps Eli was never clear enough, it is not that any paraphrase of Roger will never be clear enough, or every quote of Roger will never be clear enough, because he will always find another quote or quibble.

There is no there there besides a thirst for notoriety and a ton of easily angered ego. As the Bunny said years ago, think Henry Kissinger.

Doug said...

"It's a question of what the starting point is for policy. That needs to be the raw scientific truth."

One of Roger's points in the honest broker is that the linear model (scientific truth is the starting point for policy) is often an unproductive way to understand how science is used in decision making. Roger is hardly the first to suggest this. Stokes, Gingrich, Sarewitz,and Jasanoff come to mind.

You can choose to ignore this fact, but ignoring empirical peer-reviewed research on the use of science in policy is akin to ignoring empirical peer-reviewed research on climate science.

willard said...

My understanding is that the linear model simply asserts that one must do ALL the science before doing some policy. This (caricature of a) model defines the starting point of policy as the end point of science. I might be wrong, so I'd like to see a quote that asserts that the linear model does define the starting point of policy matters in the scientific pursuit.

It's quite obvious that doing SOME science should be enough before doing some policy. It's also quite obvious that if problems show up at the policy level, returning to the scientific drawing boards might not be a bad idea. So what MT says does not entail the linear model at all.

Steve Bloom said...

Doug, I base my views on lots of actual experience on the implementation end. Roger doesn't.

The problem is that policymakers really prefer to rig the outcome in favor of ones they prefer for non-scientific reasons. That problem needs to be addressed directly. Balkanizing the process won't help.

Addressing it, BTW, mainly means tightening up the relevant legislation. In the case of the the legislatures themselves (including Congress), it means scientists have to be willing to call bullshit, including on colleagues when that's necessary.

Steve Bloom said...

Oh:

"You can choose to ignore this fact, but ignoring empirical peer-reviewed research on the use of science in policy is akin to ignoring empirical peer-reviewed research on climate science."

No.

manuel "moe" g said...

I would rather read a book from the commenter "Doug" than from Junior. I am inclined to grant Doug almost all of his points.

I think what Doug is saying is that even though political sophistry and political expediency can, in the extreme, lead one to drive off a cliff, that does not mean we should ignore its considerable near-term efficacy.

One of Junior's points, which you get him to almost admit with much arm-twisting, is that we do not have much experience with asking a whole populace to voluntarily lower their standard of living for environmental stewardship for future generations. Historically, there have been many times that a whole populace will voluntarily lower their standard of living for patriotism/nationalism (voluntarily, modulo manufactured consent engineered by elites). But not for environmental stewardship for future generations. (The Plains Native Americans could be a counter-example... Maybe the Eskimos and the Nordic... I am not sure -- probably the counter-examples from the top of my head are stupid.)

Junior's craven approach could be optimal if:

(1) you have to bow, scrape, flatter the dominant economics elites into contributing a pittance towards environmental stewardship, lest they petulantly destroy any chance of environmental remediation out of the fury of their wounded egos

(2) a major technological cure for accumulations of greenhouse gases and ocean-acidification is coming soonish (the detail's to be released in Junior's next book, he threatens)

(3) the world will be fatally walloped anyway by an asteroid in spite of humanity.

willard said...

Another interesting syllogism, previously posted on Junior's blog:

***

MT says:

> [S]cience constrains against certain courses of action presuming an entirely reasonable value consensus.

Roger Pielke, Jr seems to agree with this.

On the other hand, Roger Pielke, Jr previously commented that:

> Efforts to reduce the scope of choice or winnow policy options is policy advocacy. However, you choose to phrase it, an effort to limit/reduce/winnow policy choice is advocacy.

Accepting these two sentences seems to lead to a conflation between science and advocacy. Taxonomists should not like that. In any case, it would interesting to know how not to derive:

> Science is advocacy.

from the two previous quoted claims. Perhaps my understanding of winnowing and constraining fails me?

Doug said...

Moe-

Thanks. Perhaps one of these days I'll write a book. Although, I'm sure you'll be the only one to read it! :)

I agree with your characterization of my views, although my major point is more broad. There are a multitude of legitimate political issues in our society. Climate is one issue. Immigration, gun control, job creation, health care, and national security. To oversimplify, a dollar spent on climate policy is a dollar not spent on national security. An hour of a politician's time spent on health care is an hour not spent on job creation.

Politicians need to make trade-offs that may seem irrational to those focused on a single issue/goal. The creation of good policy often necessitates understanding the political context of more than the just technical details of the issue you are focusing on. Politics matters...and should matter in a democracy.

Doug said...

Steve-

"No"

I'd love to see your hierarchy of what types of peer-reviewed, empirical research is more valuable than others.

In other words, when is it okay to ignore relevant expertise/ research? From your outright dismissal of all political science, I take it we are free to ignore knowledge that doesn't agree with our political perspective? ;)

To be clear, my political leanings on climate change are towards your perspective. I just think political science has a valuable contribution to make in the climate debate.

Doug said...

Correction in my previous post:

"Climate is one issue. Immigration, gun control, job creation, health care, and national security are others."

David B. Benson said...

What EliRabett recently posted.

Richard Tol said...

@Michael
I note that you do not allow comments on "Roger's Revenge".

You may think that you are not authoritarian, but you sure write like one. Please forgive me for taking you on your word.

Here's my position: If it comes to facts, pay more attention to those with relevant expertise. If it comes to values, everyone is equal.

Michael Tobis said...

Richard, those are the easy questions.

If it comes to a question where facts mixed with values, what then? That's the problem. And that's the usual case, after all.

Mine is the obvious one of placing the problem on a continuum between "pure values" and "pure expertise" and taking a mixed strategy.

It seems that Roger's solution is that the minute values are involved, expertise cannot have any valuation. (Or, at least, we need to constrain ourselves to the totally confusing "expand choices" vs "constrain choices" boxes neither of which carry much influence.)

What's yours?

David B. Benson said...

Richard Tol writeth "If it comes to values, everyone is equal."

But some are more equal than others.

Three year olds are "everyones" but hafta go to bed when required.

Incarcerates hafta do what they are told by the incarcerators.

And so on.

[Word verificatin agrees, entoning "cootedit". So I did.]

willard said...

Here is an interesting book to start on the fact/value dichotomy:

http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Value-Dichotomy-Other-Essays/dp/0674013808

Blurb:

> Hume's and much 20th-century moral philosophy contrasted moral with factual judgments and led people to conclude that the former, unlike the latter, are subjective in the sense of not being rationally supportable. Putnam (philosophy, emeritus, Harvard) believes that the contrast is ill conceived and that the conclusion is both unwarranted and false. He acknowledges the usefulness of the fact/value distinction but denies that anything metaphysical follows from it. Indeed, he goes so far as to assert that knowledge of facts presupposes knowledge of values. He grounds his argument in Amartya Sen's discussions of non-self interested human motives and of "capabilities" people rationally value and enjoy freely exercising.

It costs less than **The Honest Broker**. I am an honest broker: I won't tell you to buy Putnam book instead, only point out it's cheaper and that the blurb mentions Sen ;-)

Here is an interesting analysis from Lars Bergström, showing what a "review" looks like in contemporary analytical philosophy:

http://www.philosophy.su.se/texter/putnam.htm

Richard Tol said...

@Michael
It is about time that you stop writing about the Honest Broker and start reading it. You constantly misrepresent Pielke's position.

There are few issues that are either purely factual or purely ethical. Any decision analysis has as inputs a mix of "scientific" and "value" judgements. In a formal decision analysis, you can neatly separate the two and evaluate their importance to the result. In an qualitative assessment, that is much harder -- but you should at least try.

Your notion that facts and values cannot be separated is post-normal claptrap.

@David
Sure. And people who disagree with Michael should be denied the right to vote.

willard said...

Conflating "having a weight as an authority on an issue" with "having the right to vote" is worse than post-normal claptrap. This is at best populist slogan throwing. This usage of "post-normal" has nothing to do with the usage of Ravetz anyway.

If "there are few issues that are either purely factual or purely ethical", there are few issues about which we can formulate a scientific ("arbitrator") assesment, according to Roger Pielke, Jr.'s position.

That has the effect to hide everything under the rug of values, and this is certainly not a way to smooth the fact/value dichotomy. On the contrary, it's the best way to use this myth to wedge the honest broker homunculus.

In any case, if one wants to stick to the dichotomy is not that difficult. As Allan Gibbard once said: "the justification of factual beliefs is a normative matter, but that does not turn factual beliefs into normative judgments".

Richard Tol said...

@Willard
Sorry. I meant "post-modern", not "post-normal".

willard said...

One can't say that the fact/value dichotomy is a myth while saying that it's always possible to separate them. Either one maintains that values form the basis of the ways we carve the facts, or you don't. There's no way around this contradiction, and the honest broker is no exception.

MT says something that makes sense when he says that facts are often mixed-up with values. This is not post-modernism, but what Putnam or Sen are maintaining, among others.

I wonder what Putnam or Sen would say if told their position is being labelled as post-modernism, Richard.

Michael Tobis said...

Tol: You constantly misrepresent Pielke's position.

If Pielke actually has a coherent position there is little wonder I misrepresent it. He hasn't explained it in any way that makes any sense to me.

There are few issues that are either purely factual or purely ethical. Any decision analysis has as inputs a mix of "scientific" and "value" judgements. In a formal decision analysis, you can neatly separate the two and evaluate their importance to the result. In an qualitative assessment, that is much harder -- but you should at least try.

I mostly agree. I just fail to see how Pielke's 160 pages add anything, either practical or theoretical, to that objective. And the summary statement which has been flung back at me as authoritarian is hardly distinguishable from "separate the two and evaluate their importance to the result".

The practical problem is that managing the crowded world is different from managing the open frontier world. Decisions are contingent on other decisions. This being the case, there is no neat separation. Technical decisions on one matter may change ethical constraints on another, and vice versa.

As far as I can tell, Pielke's objection to the "linear" model amounts to a similar statement. Yet he offers no insight as to how "the two", even if formally distinguishable, can collaborate in an extensive and contingent conversation.

I am anything but a postmodernist; I dislike relativism and resist it whenever it is reasonable to do so. But where I disagree with what you say is your suggestion that values and expertise can be "neatly" separated. Much of what I think is entirely expertise-driven climate science is interpreted by those who resist it as value-laden. Similarly, much of what economists think of as expertise is in territory which I think is normative rather than substantive.

In short, the world is complicated.

Wishing it were otherwise will not make it so. The present century at least presents us with challenges to the survival of civilization and democracy. We can see these coming. We had better get to work, and stop assuming that frontier ethics work on a world that is like crowded ship. Every action effects everybody. It's time we got a lot smarter about it.

I see what Roger did in his last book as offering little of value. Interestingly, THB itself can be seen normative and yet posing as value-neutral. However, it shows none of the rigor, self-skepticism, and hypothesis testing that we expect from value-neutral expertise. So even if it makes more sense than I was able to extract from it, it seems to me to violate its own advice.

Richard Tol said...

@willard
I am not familiar with Putnam's work. Amartya Sen knows the difference between facts and values.

@michael
Note that I did not try to summarize the Honest Broker. I would recommend that you read the book before you comment on it again.

EliRabett said...

Richard, Eli strongly recommends that you learn to argue honestly. MT is not an authoritarian or arguing for authoritarianism and your drive by, drive over and back up attempts to characterize him as such are nasty, brutish and Pielke like (you knew the last one was coming, but Roger's latest is all that and more, one of the reasons Ethon loves pecking at him).

FWIW, authoritarian rule is ARBITRARY, exactly the opposite of that which MT is arguing for, that attention should be paid to wisdom and knowledge, not that it should rule.

Michael Tobis said...

I would recommend that you read the book

What, again?

Richard Tol said...

@Michael
Yes, again, because you did not understand a word on first reading.

Richard Tol said...

@Eli
I quote: "First find the people who don't value a stable climate, and then we can discuss how to deal with them."

I would think that the implicit threat in the above takes Michael a tad beyond authoritarianism.

Michael Tobis said...

Oh come on, surely you didn't take that as a threat! I was simply suggesting that the constituency doesn't exist for practical purposes!

And here you are telling me to read more carefully!

Richard Tol said...

@Michael
You had been repeatedly accused of authoritarianism, so perhaps you should not have used the turn of phrase "deal with them" when referring to people who disagree with you.

As to the "non-existing" constituency, you may be aware that hundreds of millions of people voluntarily seek climate change every year. It's called holiday. A lower number seek a more permanent climate change when they move after retirement. If that does not convince you, then you may want to check out Minnesotans for Global Warming. They argue that MN is too cold.

I find it hard to imagine that you are not aware that other people do not share your concern for climate change.

Michael Tobis said...

Richard,

Well, until last week nobody ever accused me of authoritarianism, so maybe I'm not on guard against sounding like a movie Nazi.

Given who I am and where I come from and how I think and what I do, it's actually really hard for me to conceive of the idea that I am perceived as an authority figure, even by people who are just looking for an authority to reject.

I had a high school teacher, a sad little old man who taught us algebra and trigonometry, who used the expression "deal with" about forty times per class. This was a running joke among the kids.

Even so the old "ve haff vays off dealing viss ziss" never came up. The man was not suggesting incarceration or mistreatment, just algebra.

My apologies for blundering into your stereotype, one which I must say I do not entirely understand.

As for your question, I was not questioning the constituency for moving to Miami, nor even for warming Minnesota. I was questioning the idea that people want to warm Minnesota until it comes to a boil.

You may wish to note that the chapter of Muscovites for Global Warming has had a decline in membership this summer.

EliRabett said...

Richard, MT is being much too nice.

When people (e.g. you and Roger Jr.) repeatedly accuse people of being something that they are not (MT) for your own aggrandizement, that does not limit the ones you defame in any way, but merely labels you.

Thank you for disabusing Eli of one of his few illusions.

EliRabett said...

Oh yes, thanks also Richard for this wonderful lesson in tone trolling

Richard Tol said...

@Michael
I'm glad. You backed away from authoritarianism, and you admit that people may have different opinions about the desirability of climate change. You may not be aware of the fact that there is a small group of people who think that climate change is Armageddon, and who are burning is much coal as they can hoping to see the Second Coming during their earthly life time.

So now that we have established that a scientific "if then" does not imply a "therefore" in this case, you may want to reconsider what a scientific adviser to policy should do.

Michael Tobis said...

The thing to do about small groups of crazy, evil people is to try to make sure they stay small and try to convince them to be less crazy or evil. If you think otherwise, you're the postmodernist, not me.

I don't see what that has to do with the questions at hand about how expertise does or should affect policy.

I deny "backing away" from authoritarianism, as I have never been authoritarian. I do respect Nature's authority, though, and I respect people who have made the effort to gain some understanding of how Nature works. A competent political system would do the same.

On reflection, I can see how this might look authoritarian to people who really don't understand what science is. There really is a difference between authority and authoritarianism, though.

As I have said all along, recognizing genuine authority is not a trivial problem for the policy sector. But it is an unavoidable issue. Without close linkages between genuine expertise and policy, society becomes incompetent, and this, I believe, is exactly what we are seeing.

I cannot see, in what you and Roger have been saying, anything approaching a solution to this problem. I am not sure what your position is, but Roger's seems counterproductive.

manuel "moe" g said...

quote-for-truth Richard Tol:

> Note that I did not try to summarize the Honest Broker. I would recommend that you read the book before you comment on it again.

Some people use the Art of Controversy to accommodate a boiling planet.

A tic of these fine folks is that they use their books as the inescapable tomb for their ideas. The books they publish make them incapable of stating plainly their views in public forums, and answering unambiguous questions. (I don't understand the mechanism that renders them incapable to summarize. Maybe they are worried their wrathful ideas will rise up from the tomb, rattle chains, and scare them speechless. But their original ideas are so few and so slight that I cannot imaging them lifting even a single iron link, much less an entire chain.)

So they are left to speak like the copywriter for that fine product "HeadOn":

"HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead"
"HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead"
"HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead"

"Read the book."
"Read the book again."
"Read the book again."

Why is it that people who read the least books are always giving reading advice to people with a stack of waiting books to the ceiling? Thankfully, given the demands of my reading list, I don't have to actually read "Atlas Shrugged" to know that it is revenge fantasy for the weak minded who wet their bed in fear of Soviets and Socialists and Trade Unionists. Those with dry sheets need not bother.

Likewise, this book. I feel no compulsion to sooth the egos of the currently politically powerful - the politically powerful who cannot imagine creating human value without burning excesses of fossil fuels, such are their mental limitations. I also own a dictionary, so I was aware that "broker" already had a definition, and was not in want for a new one. I would only read THB if I was guaranteed that my lifetime would be extended by tenfold the time needed to slog through the pages.

manuel "moe" g said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
manuel "moe" g said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Tobis said...

Google is putting up gratuitous error messages again.

(I will be abandoning blogger soon.)

Richard Tol said...

"The thing to do about small groups of crazy, evil people is to try to make sure they stay small and try to convince them to be less crazy or evil." And straight back to authoritarianism.

Michael Tobis said...

So, any attempt to convince any member of the public of anything is authoritarianism?

Richard Tol said...

Yes, Michael, you disrespect other people's opinions, and you want to make sure that they are powerless. You returned to this position time and again during this discussion, so I'll just have to assume that you mean it.

EliRabett said...

One thing you learn growing up in a big city is that the thing to do about a small group of crazy and evil people is not to take any crap from them. Now one thing Eli has learned about Roger is that he will say anything about anyone who challenges him. Witness the damage he did to MT by falsely accusing him of wanting to kill people. Witness his attack on Evan Mills by distorting his CV. Witness his attacks on James Hansen. Witness the lies Roger tells about a small, but innocent bunny. Richard appears to be traipsing down the same alley.

Richard, you are full of crap. Go have a tone troll fit if you want.

EliRabett said...

MT doesn't want people to be powerless, he wants for them to be educated. The recent attacks on Roy Spencer and Roger Sr. for saying there really is a greenhouse effect shows where Richard's leading us.

You have a bankrupt argument Richard, of course, you are being well paid for making it by your masters. (Yes, Eli can play that game, didn't you know that Richard's job in Hamburg was funded by one of your garden variety libertarians)

Richard Tol said...

@Eli
It is obvious that you have never met Michael Otto, or even read his Wikipedia entry.

Michael Tobis said...

To recapitulate:

Richard: "there is a small group of people who think that climate change is Armageddon, and who are burning is much coal as they can hoping to see the Second Coming during their earthly life time"

me: "The thing to do about small groups of crazy, evil people is to try to make sure they stay small and try to convince them to be less crazy or evil." ... [this] "is authoritarianism?"

Richard: "Yes, Michael, you disrespect other people's opinions, and you want to make sure that they are powerless."

Sure. I recommend that the policy sector ignore them as much as possible, and that all of us try to make sure their ideas don't spread. That hardly seems unreasonable under the circumstances.

Apparently that is an authoritarian response.

Does somebody have an alternative suggestion? Perhaps we should convene an anti-Bruntland commission to promote maximum unsustainability to be chaired by such loons?

Any other ideas? Please. By all means. I'd hate to be authoritarian.

The hairsplitting and sophistry we are seeing here would be tedious under any circumstances. Given that we are trying to discuss the fate of the entire world, it is contemptible in the extreme.

One might even say "crazy and evil".

Doug said...

@Michael

"As I have said all along, recognizing genuine authority is not a trivial problem for the policy sector. But it is an unavoidable issue. Without close linkages between genuine expertise and policy, society becomes incompetent, and this, I believe, is exactly what we are seeing."

This is because your operational view of democracy is closer to Schattschneider than Madison (using Roger's typology from the honest broker).

Roger's summation of Scnattschneider (p12), "It is the role of experts in such a system to clarify the implication of their knowledge for action and to provide such implications in the form of policy alternatives to decision-makers who can then decide among different courses of action." This seems to be what you are saying. Experts are in a privileged position, due to their knowledge based authority, to make judgment calls for society.

Not everyone views a democracy this way. Madison is just one example. Folks who view democracy from a Madisonian perspective do not see the 'recognition of who is a genuine authority' as a true political problem. From a Madisonian view, disagreements on authoritative facts are sorted out through special interests battling it out in the political process. Trying to limit who has standing in political (value) debates is viewed as authoritarian because you are disallowing people the privilege to make decisions for themselves.

Michael Tobis said...

Um, but Roger only advises the "Madisonian" branch (this is his view, not mine, of Madison; I am quite certain these questions had no importance in Madison's time) when there are no values under contention (under the second derivation of the taxonomy). The Honest Broker path is a Schattschneider path. So you are saying that Roger is also an "authoritarian"?

What a muddle.

Richard Tol said...

@Michael
Indeed, it is authoritarian to want to deny influence to people who disagree with you.

Not too long ago, Catholics were deemed "crazy and evil" and denied the vote.

Michael Tobis said...

When did I suggest denying anyone a vote? I just suggested we take care to outvote them!

Doug said...

Micheal,

Two responses:

First, the Scnattschneider mixed with the linear model is authoritarian in my view (The science arbieter). There a situations where this is desirable. But, authoritarian none the less. Scnattschneider mixed with the stakeholder model is not authoritarian from where I sit.


Second, I have never seen Roger claim to be just an honest broker. He has consistently maintained that all roles have their place in our political system. While you dislike relativism, my guess is Roger would claim that he has played multiple roles, depending on the context. Yes, at times he has advocated for authoritarian decisions. Quick decisions made an emergency room is one example he has written about. But the role one should play is relative to the context.

Richard Tol said...

@Michael
Every time I confront you with whatever you just wrote, you back pedal and say that that's not what you meant -- only to repeat yourself two posts later.

willard said...

Richard,

We sure can expect that Armarthya Sen knows the difference between normative and factual statements.

Nonetheless, Sen's work emphasizes capabilities instead of other allegedly "more objective" functions, like utility.

To show that any economical theory or model makes normative assumptions, Sen has reexamined the work of Adam Smith to show that even the father made place for humane values:

Smith never used the term “capitalism” (at least so far as I have been able to trace), but it would also be hard to carve out from his works any theory arguing for the sufficiency of market forces, or of the need to accept the dominance of capital. He talked about the importance of these broader values that go beyond profits in The Wealth of Nations, but it is in his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which was published exactly a quarter of a millennium ago in 1759, that he extensively investigated the strong need for actions based on values that go well beyond profit seeking. While he wrote that “prudence” was “of all the virtues that which is most useful to the individual,” Adam Smith went on to argue that “humanity, justice, generosity, and public spirit, are the qualities most useful to others.”

In the above cited book, Putnam generalizes Sen's conclusions.

Michael Tobis said...

At the cost of repeating myself, when did I suggest denying anyone a vote?

willard said...

Whatever the stance regarding the fact/value dichotomy, taking values into account never does imply that "anything goes." If that's the conclusion we wish to convey, there is a risk that all the ethical realm gets explained away as the freedom to do whatever fancies. This amounts to say that to talk about values is a personal matter. Values are then like tastes and are not to be discussed. Saying that much corresponds to ethical relativism. If there is one current of thought that promotes ethical relativism, we can say it is post-modernism ;-)

For those who think this is useless abstraction, let's take one of <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html</a>' favorite example:

> [W]ho are we to say, even, that they are wrong to beat them with lengths of steel cable, or throw battery acid in their faces if they decline the privilege of being smothered in this way?

Consider this other one:

> [W]hat does voluntary mean in a community where, when a girl gets raped, her fathers first impulse, rather often, is to murder her out of shame?

Even though I am not a fan of his ideas, I think we must all acknowledge he has a point here and respect his stance.

So, if what I'm saying so far is right; if someone is willing to conflate every normative issue as matter of personal choice; if that someone also is willingly labelling as authoritarian any position that claims that there are some beliefs that are just intrinsically inhuman, then I suppose "agreeing to disagree" can only be enough for that very sorry person.

willard said...

Here is Sam Harris link to his TED talk.

Michael Tobis said...

At Pielke's, Tol summarizes as follows:

Over at "In it for the gold", Michael Tobis calls for the education of people who disagree and, if that does not help, their marginalization from power. Chilling.

Well, I'll tell you, I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy myself after a fair and accurate summary of my position like that.

As far as I know, I was just stating perfectly ordinary opposition to people who had an active policy of trying to destroy the world. I guess that puts me way beyond the pale.

Thanks, Richard. Charmed.

Richard Tol said...

@willard
I know all that, and I guess I agree with you at heart. For instance, you may have noticed that I am affronted by the notion of sending Christian fundamentalists to re-education camps.

These are deep issues. I think climate policy should simply respect such divisions of opinion. We may use other policies to counter the excesses.

Michael Tobis said...

I did not use the word "education" or "educate" in this thread, never mind "camp" as your browser's search function will happily confirm. (Eli did, but in an entirely innocent sense.) I can't fathom where this "education camp" stuff is coming from.

There are some deep issues here, but making nasty crap up about people you disagree with is pretty easy as ethical questions go. It's just basically not a good thing to do in most ethical systems.

Legal ones either, I expect.

I am finding this mighty close to defamation, and strongly request an apology at this point.

Lazar said...

Richard Tol,

it is authoritarian to want to deny influence to people who disagree with you

In which case...
a) democracy is authoritarian.
b) denying influence to people who wish to replace democracy with tyranny is authoritarian.
If "deny influence" means to persuade others through the use of facts and logic...
c) education is authoritarian.
d) debate is authoritarian.

Neven said...

e) Nature is authoritarian.

Steven Sullivan said...

The internet folks Tol usually hangs with want to marginalize anti-AGW activists from power. Therefore, authoritarian. Q.E.D.
-- Steven Sullivan

EliRabett said...

Something tells Eli that by Education Camp, rational people mean School.