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)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

At Kloor's and at Curry's

At Kloor's, someone called Huge Difference, pretty clearly a climate consensus doubter, says
This is what I’ve said before, you seem to rely on proxies, just like the rest of us. Because I rely on proxies outside my own field, I do not say things like “So and so is right, and so and so is wrong”, I say, it seems mainstream scientific thought believes that, but there seem to be significant amounts of disagreement. Many lawyers seem to feel that law would be … but there are others who disagree. I don’t think that’s an emphasis on false balance, I think that’s an emphasis on my stating what I’ve heard, giving people references, and letting them decide for themselves.

But what I see from you and other journalists, is Very Serious Person reporting.
I think there's something to hold onto in that. I replied (pending moderation, which Keith does to me sporadically):
While I am sure Huge Difference and I have huge differences regarding climate change, his point here is extremely cogent and sound. ...

This is just the flip side of my usual complaint: an incapacity of the journalistic profession to make adequate judgments of who the non-serious people are follows from an incapacity to judge who the serious people are. While this has been my key complaint about journalism, and indeed accounts for HD’s apparently skewed vision of the balance of evidence, it cuts both ways.

As I read in a very different context, and have quoted several times since, “when deep quality metrics are unavailable, customers will base their decisions on shallow metrics instead.” That is, we base our beliefs on signals of credibility when we are not in a position ourselves to judge credibility. Since the world is complex, we mostly base our beliefs on shallow metrics. If achieving shallow symbolism of credibility is much easier than achieving actual credibility (which becomes true the more the academic system is flawed, and nobody would argue that it is safe from charlatans nowadays) and false expertise will tend to drive out real expertise. The peer review defense fails once a topic gains broad enough interest; the definition of the peer group becomes unclear.

And here we find ourselves, both in environmental sciences and (I would argue) at least as seriously so in economics. We don’t have a quality metric. We (and this includes our political leadership) look to the press to solve the problem, and the press emits a massive shrug, and the world continues to spin out of control. The whole idea of democracy rides on it: these are not small problem domains.

If academic peer review can’t scale to meet the problem, something else has to. Our natural expectation is to turn to journalism, which basically punts or at best tries valiantly to manufacture some meaningless “middle ground” between theories which can’t be averaged out to anyone’s satisfaction.

My conclusion is that science journalism is too important to be left to nonspecialist journalists. We need a new institution and it will take some time (time that many of us do not feel is in ample supply) to develop its credibility.

Curry, meanwhile, has finally been diagnosed. Stoat says, in a gloss on a comment by Eli:
Still, she seems happy to attempt to re-write Climate from the ground up on her blog. It won't work, and it isn't interesting to watch, but it keeps her followers happy. Perhaps in part because if you do it like that, you can never leave the basic level, so it all remains very easy to understand
and I think that nails what she is trying to do. It's as if she had heard of science but never seen it done. Sorry, everybody, but science (and engineering and medicine and everything that separates us from the ancients) is a collaborative enterprise. Curry seems to be taking this "nullius in verbum" thing altogether too seriously. (I understand it did not originally mean "Don't trust nobody, kid" but rather meant "Dogma is not decisive".) In fact, nobody since Descartes has managed to be a renaissance man, and that's why it's called that. Success depends on standing on the shoulders of giants. This means, of course, you have to have some sense of who the giants are.

Curry now has an article provocatively entitled "education versus indoctrination", which is certainly a good marketing pitch. One instinctively thinks that "education" is the good stuff and "indoctrination" the bad stuff. Now it just remains for the arguer to come up with a plausible distinction. And here it comes:
Often, the purpose of this knowledge transmission seems to be to convince people to “act” or support certain climate change policies, rather than education. True education occurs when the learner is enabled to critically examine the material. How can we we enable true education and engagement on the issue of climate change?
Aha. Well, to some extent we can't. I can't teach my clever cat to do Lebesgue integrals no matter how hard I try; even elementary limit theory seems to escape her. She will never have more than the crudest grasp of it, nor of the greenhouse effect. Most humans can get a glimmer of it, but few will spend the hundreds of hours needed to go from, say, high school algebra and physics to a reasonably complete grasp of the details. Yet we are in a democracy, and most humans must be convinced to take action, as the evidence for such action is quite overwhelming.

To some other extent, we could conceivably do vastly better than we do. The letter at Curry's from Michael Larkin is quite compelling:
I started getting more interested in the nuts and bolts. I desperately needed to find a decent primer. But no one out there seemed to be clued in to my entry behaviour. They seemed primarily involved in one of two things. First, disseminating not things that would help me think for myself, but convince me one way or the other. Second, things which I could perceived had educative value, but which were presented at too demanding a level. I was often referred to scienceofdoom, and all sides seemed to think that site is worthy. But it started at too high a level, and from my viewpoint rapidly went stratospheric. I needed something to bridge the gap between entry behaviour and that.

I haven’t even mentioned all the emotional influences in the debate. Partisanship, disdain, defensiveness… and all the rest, which, once perceived (from whatever side), cast doubts on reliability.

Somehow, I had to negotiate my way through the morass. The only place I found that sometimes spoke to my ignorance was WUWT, and particularly a fellow by the name of Willis Eschenbach. Willis may not realise it, but he is a born educator; he has an instinct for how the na├»ve mind works, and does not speak down to it. Okay, sometimes he goes above my head, but there is no one else in quite the same league. Yes, he’s a sceptic, but in no ways a bigot, and he can be as harsh on misinformed sceptics as on proponents, and that impressed on me his likely integrity.

Ouch. None of us is doing as well as Willis Eschenbach! Now I will give Willis this much: he's hardly the worst of the bunch and he does seem capable of getting some things right. But if he's the person a serious reader ends up watching closely (and I don't doubt that this happens) we are failing to serve that portion of the public that actually wants to think about these things as best as they can with the knowledge base they have.

This is a real problem, and if Curry were to stop here I'd be on her side.

On the other hand, this is fertile ground for denialists to sow confusion. It's why-why-why land and it's obviously bottomless. People who understand what is going on normally get to control the attentions of the student so as to optimize the path to understanding. But here we have a situation where people are, um, pessimizing. Directing attention so as to maxize the probability of confusion.

Curry fails to acknowledge this. Instead, her example is to doubt everything. Well, to doubt everything is to know nothing. We might as well abandon science if this is really the model of scientific thought. Without community there is no science. Without a credentialing system the community fails. If people are getting their understanding from Willis Eschenbach, they aren't getting it from the scientific community. And policy continues to ride off the rails, taking all us poor passengers alike with it.

39 comments:

gryposaurus said...

If WUWT or Willis is considered the best education for entry level climate science, there is something rotten in Denmark. But let's face reality here...if someone were truly looking for the basics of what climate science is about, choosing a site where both information that flies in the face of basic physics and information that follows physics are treated as equally balanced science should tell us something about the chooser, not the state of internet climate education. Either you're intellectually lazy and going with page one of Google or you really want to believe what is being displayed. Also, all too often skeptics use the "meenie-poopie-head" defense as to why they no longer use scientific sites and, failing that, paywalls as to why they don't use scientific literature. But the most famous defense against using mainstream science is that pro-AGW sites are "catastrophic". This is the best tip-off that the person is using value judgments to decide what is and what isn't good science.

sharper00 said...

I guess there are at least a couple of issues here:

1. People like Willis can sound compelling because they're unconstrained by reality. This isn't a problem just for climate science but science generally. Explanations can be very logical and intuitive but be utterly wrong. It's particularly aggravating to read the chorus of praise that inevitably goes with such an explanation since they'll usually be in the form of "A very logical and clear cut rebuttal of that theory! Well done!". Sure it meets all the criteria it's being praised for but does anyone care if it's right?

2. It's difficult to create an environment that provides people with a ground-up understanding of climate science because the issue is so heavily polarised/politicised. Most of the pro-science sites are forced to enact strict moderation policies because all it takes is one guy with nothing to do all day but post "BUT WHAT IS THE 'OPTIMAL TEMPERATURE' HUH MR SCIENTIST!?" all day to wreck a forum.

Sites which do effectively rebut "skeptic" arguments while also educating and informing (e.g. skepticalscience.com) end up being painted as one-sided or extremist owing to their tendency to go with the best explanation instead of the one that's fairest to "both sides".

" One instinctively thinks that "education" is the good stuff and "indoctrination" the bad stuff. Now it just remains for the arguer to come up with a plausible distinction. "

Having spent some time reading Dr Curry's site I find she regularly writes things which are hard to disagree with in the general but the meat of the problem is how to separate one from the other. She tends to leave that part unsaid leaving the reader to imagine she means the things are bad they think are bad.

"Curry fails to acknowledge this. Instead, her example is to doubt everything."

We know this isn't the case however. It's reasonably well established at this stage she applies enormous degrees of doubt to one set of arguments from one group of people while applying no doubt at all to another set of arguments from another group of people. All well and fine except when someone is claiming to argue on general principle but absolutely fails to apply them.

Tom said...

The reason why consensus scientists are not looked to as educators is more or less symbolized by no less a personage than Michael Tobis.

It is correctly diagnosed by Curry's partition of information efforts into 'indoctrination' and 'education.'

In a year that saw Prall, Schneider et al, Mashey and Angliss publish material that is so shoddy it deserves the term 'anti-science,' Tobis chose to describe Curry's work in this fashion:

"We have reached a point where it is impossible to judge that Curry is in touch with the science that she is supposed to be a prominent participant in. So has she lost touch, or has she never had much scientific insight to begin with? That's the only question any of this burbling raises.

Or alternatively, is the peer review system so shabby that a person of modest intellectual accomplishments, one who, despite years of connection to the scientific community, numerous publications and promotion to a position of responsibility, is capable of such vapid, illogical, pointlessly contentious writing."

Because you are very nakedly a politcal partisan, no thinking person could ever approach you as an educator. Whether Eschenbach is or not is moot.

You spend more time railing against Lomborg, Pielke and Curry than you do writing about the science. Your defects are shared with Romm, Lambert and Rabett.

The result is that you are losing every battle that you fight, as you have acknowledged repeatedly on this weblog.

But you refuse to change. You personally deserve to lose--you chose the battleground, the weapons and the time frame and you blew it.

The point about Eschenbach is that he is doing his job better than you are doing yours.

frank -- Decoding SwiftHack said...

Tom:

You can keep up your invisibility act all you like, but the fact is that you keep making a lot of denialist noise, while repeatedly claiming that the public's confusion isn't caused by your denialist noise in the slightest.

You're like someone brings a loaded gun into a fist fight, shoots you opponent to death, and then claims 'No, my gun has nothing to do with his defeat! He was just too weak!'

* * *

-- frank

frank -- Decoding SwiftHack said...

Tom:

You can keep up your invisibility act all you like, but the fact is that you keep making a lot of denialist noise, while repeatedly claiming that the public's confusion isn't caused by your denialist noise in the slightest.

You're like someone brings a loaded gun into a fist fight, shoots your opponent to death, and then claims 'No, my gun has nothing to do with his defeat! He was just too weak!'

frank -- Decoding SwiftHack said...

And...

MT:

Huge Difference's idea of 'letting people decide for themselves' after throwing out a pre-assembled list of links is a totally ridiculous idea to me.

If HD had created his reference list without any critical thought or fact-checking, then he's just doing the equivalent of typing keywords into Google -- and what makes he think I can't do the same thing myself? His uncritical list of references will simply provide zero value.

-- frank

Tom said...

(not-so) Swift Hack, the mere fact that you describe me and what I write as 'denialist' says all that needs to be said about your point of view. You could save yourself and readers a lot of time and effort if you limited your comment to just that one word.

sharper00 said...

Tom,

"Whether Eschenbach is or not is moot."

This appears to be some sort of bizarre new type of way of looking at the climate science debate, one which I think is exemplified by Dr Curry but of course there are others too.

It basically says that it doesn't matter whether AGW skeptics are right or wrong, honest or dishonest. It doesn't matter how they're funded, how well or poorly they act individually or collectively. It doesn't matter whether they're contributing to understanding or creating unwarranted uncertainty. No aspect of their behaviour, arguments, motives or impacts is considered relevant.

Meanwhile those in the climate science camp are expected to always stick to the science unless of course what they're supposed to have done was not stick to the science and speak out against other climate scientists. They're expected to present "both sides" of a particular issue unless of course the person making the argument perceives no value in "one side" of a particular issue (e.g. greenhouse gas physics) in which case one side is just fine. They're supposed to be out there educating people on climate science but not crossing the magical line into indoctrination. They're supposes to be engaging the issues but not crossing another imaginary line and getting into advocacy.

If people want to take up a particular point of view that's one thing. However when people want to simultaneously advance a point of view but retain the middle ground of "I'm not really on one side or the other" that's significantly less fine with me.

I fully expect climate scientists to be human and to have limits. Ironically it's those who use the rhetoric of dogma and priesthood to describe them that demand a real priesthood of supermen who can do no wrong and be all things to all people.

Does that mean it's "ok" for scientists to have a bunker mentality or whatever else is doing the rounds today? No it doesn't. However demanding they don't while ignoring the reasons they do is simply more noise in an already noisy debate.

Steve Bloom said...

Fuller, the fact that you're a denialist using a concern trolling technique writ large was obvious the minute you appeared on the climate blog scene. Try as you might, you just couldn't keep your impulses under wraps. Later, with your cutely-titled book, you let your freak flag fly (er, not literally) in the hopes of striking media gold, but all it did was destroy any remaining bit of credit non-denialists might have been willing to cede to you. Better luck with your next career move, and imaginary deity save your clients, if there really are any.

PDA said...

Culturally, types like Willis and Rush Limbaugh are popular on the psuedoskeptic side: "plain-spoken" men who reduce everything to math done on the back of envelopes. You can't understate the challenges of refuting that with calculations that may require a whole sheet of paper. I do like what Dr. Pratt tried to accomplish at Curry's, Quixotic as that effort was.

The "greenhouse" thread over there left me with the strong impression that most people already have their minds made up before they read one word on the subject. Not that I would discourage for a moment anyone's effort to educate, but it seems like it is belief that has primacy here.

And as much as I wish it were otherwise, I kind of feel the same way about this as I do about other beliefs, like religion. As much as I think certain beliefs may be bad, wrong and stupid, I think all I can do is argue against the consequences of those beliefs, not the beliefs themselves... even though all that leaves us with is sectarian war, and those never end up well.

Tom said...

Bloom, you're record is unblemished. I have never seen anyone with your uncanny ability to be wrong about literally everything.

You obviously still haven't read the book you are so quick to characterize (can't really use the word criticize, if you can't be bothered to read it). My clients are quite pleased with my work--pleased enough that I had to retire from blogging, because I got more work--through writing reports about renewable energy and energy efficiency that actually used facts--I know facts don't mean anything to people like you, but clients like 'em.

And I kept nothing under wraps--my very first blog post stated my position, and I adhered to it all the way through the last.

But of course with your unerring aim for the ludicrous and merely wrong, you have to characterize anyone who doesn't march under your banner as a 'denialist.' Which is a big reason why you keep losing every battle and bid fair to losing the war.

Tom said...

sharper00, if you think this fight is about science, you haven't been paying attention. Curry and Tobis agree on about 98% of the science. Look at how he slimes her.

Alla this has nothing to do with the science. Nothing.

dhogaza said...

"sharper00, if you think this fight is about science, you haven't been paying attention. Curry and Tobis agree on about 98% of the science. Look at how he slimes her.

Alla this has nothing to do with the science. Nothing."

Thanks, Tom, many of us have been saying from the very beginning that Curry's Complaints have nothing to do with the science. She'd take the time to better educate herself regarding the "problems" she complains about if it were.

Glad to see that you agree ...

Michael Tobis said...

OK, y'all. Time to start moderating. Put a lid on it, please.

Tom said...

Just noticed your little dig disguised as a blanket exemption for my comments.

Not sure what you're trying to say--you don't want criticisms from people better than me? Why is that, Tobis? Don't want to play in the big leagues?

Back when I was blogging I got criticisms from Steven Schneider, Robert Grumbine, Scott Mandia, Bart Verheggen and many more. Of course, they were usually drowned out by hysterics like Steve Bloom, Dano, Dhogaza and the usual gang of fools.

But I wanted the best and the brightest to come over and confront my ideas, because I wanted to learn, improve and sharpen my exposition. Why don't you?

A little too comfortable here with your acolytes, aren't you?

Pangolin said...

I don't understand the fascination with Judith Currey. From my reading she's wrong on several basic points of climate change science and doesn't correct herself when the fault is pointed out.

Where is the line where you say "that's it, out of the academy and into the crackpot dungeon"? Do you really have to refute every fiction they come up with line by line or can you just point out that they're nuts like WUWT or Glenn Beck.

Throw the layman a line here, please. What's the point.

Steve Bloom said...

Sorry, Fuller, your history here and elsewhere includes way too many examples of climate science discussions where you disappeared in a cloud o' ink when confronted by people far more informed about the subject. Your claims otherwise are pathetic.

Michael Tobis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Tobis said...

Tom, it's a joke.

Pangolin, it's a good question. The fact that she paid her dues and is currently is chair of a major atmospheric research department at a major research university makes her hard to dismiss within the ordinary rules of academic discourse, in exactly the way that Watts or D'Aleo etc. are easy to dismiss.

Whether to dismiss these people in the blog world is another matter. Here I actually agree to some extent with her main point. While no physicist needs to expend much effort on Time Cube Theory, Time Cube guy has really no significant following or agenda.

Our crackpots do. It is important to understand their appeal, and to challenge them in ways that make sense.

I absolutely don't agree with the idea that on the whole the Curry/McIntyre/Liljegren crowd is either stupid or dishonest, and while they are immensely tolerant of crackpots that doesn't mean they all are. Their attitude is not solely a consequence of their own flaws nor of the merchants of doubt. There is some truth to the claims that the science is inaccessible.

I remember immense frustration coming into climate science as a successful engineering student. Had my brain gone bad, I kept wondering? (Now I am old enough that the wonder starts to make some sense, but I've been carrying it for twenty years.) The fact is that being a small discipline with an enormous premit, climate sciences are not up to the pedagogical caliber of other fields. People coming from other fields sense this BETTER than people who have been in climate sciences throughout their career, not having experienced excellent pedagogy.

There are many other legitimate grounds for complaint scattered amid the confusion about the actual subject material, though that's a key one. Denying every critique makes us into denialists too.

So I absolutely don't want to disengage with anyone who shows good faith and a modest amount of competence.

Tom Fuller, by the way, is in my opinion operating in good faith, but cannot be reasoned with anyway. He doesn't enjoy me pointing out that I don't think he's smart enough to bother trying to reason with, and who can blame him? Why does he keep coming back for more? I can't imagine.

But just because there are people of bad faith and people of limited skill out there is not enough reason to fail to reach out to the others. The main reason we fail is not our own denial but the sheer scale of the problem compared to our ludicrously thin resources. But I don't think that looking the other way is the right approach.

GM said...

The *very* (*very*!) occasional "needle in a haystack" at sites like WUWT, CA, &c is extremely difficult to find given the vast morass of imbecility at those places. Engaging the honest skeptic is more an exercise in massive babble-filtering than anything else.

In the real world, perhaps 10% of the populace is utterly unreachable by fact, reason and evidence. On the standard "skeptic" blogs, that proportion is at least 90%.

Michael Tobis said...

GM, sure. But that's not the point and never has been.

If you think you are talking to the person talking to you on these sites, rather than to the casual reader, you are being used. This site, and other blogs I find interesting, are aimed at regular readers who are interested in some the host's obsessions and tolerant of the others.

Denialist blogs like regular readers and contributors too, but the are aimed at the casual reader, the person with SOME curiosity about climate as a topic, but not enough to do a lot of work. There is nothing wrong with that. I am interested enough in, say, metallurgy, to read a story about it when a bridge fails, interested enough to lean toward one side in a controversy, but not so interested as to develop any serious expertise. You can't know everything, and that's part of the problem.

But every time we lose a person like that to Watts, and angel loses its wings. It makes no sense to ignore that this is what is going on.

The fact that they have an easier job (throwing theories up until one sticks) than people telling the truth (one slightly fuzzy theory, take it or leave it) and that they have a resource pool to support them and we don't is just part of how crazy the world is.

At least the bulk of the scientific community is finally starting to understand what has been going on here for fifteen years. Good morning!

Tom said...

Well, before your schtick was that I didn't understand the science. But then, when you said that Judith Curry didn't understand the science, I guess you had to play the escalatio game. Now you say I'm just dumb.

Which is why when we get into comment wars you end up moving or deleting entire threads, deleting comments, etc.

I'm in awe of your perspecuity, Tobis, being able to judge the intelligence of people you have never met.

And to answer your implied question, I keep coming around here first, to remind you that you owe Judith Curry a public apology for what you said about her and second, when you keep mentioning me. Write a post apologising to Curry, don't mention me, and you'll never hear from me again on this site. It's not like you write much of any use here--Ooh, that crazy Lomborg, boy is he a pest. At school he leans all over me and copies from my test. (Danny Kaye, 1962)

Michael Tobis said...

Several funny, insightful replies to Fuller in the queue. What to do? What to do?

Tom said...

What a dilemma, Tobis. Somehow I think I know the answer. Just a quick advance notice, I won't be able to respond in my dumb and halfwitted way until the weekend.

But since you asked, what you need to do is put a post weighted to last one week at the top of this blog that has an unconditional apology to Judith Curry for what you wrote about her.

Since you don't have the balls to go to her site and engage her.

Marco said...

Release the comments, Michael! Release the comments! Otherwise you will be villified over at CA for not wanting to share the data.

On a more serious note: I wonder if Tom's clients have ever seen his comments on Only in it...
If I were such a client, and see his diatribe here, I'd withdraw my work offer in a second.

Martin Vermeer said...

> Moderation is ON.

Funny

keith said...

It always amazes me how people are so quick to assume the heavy hand of a moderator when the occasional comment gets randomly sucked into the spam filter or moderation que.

Michael, you've never been on moderation, and the best I can tell is that your recent comment had a link in it, and sometimes that's all it takes.

Otherwise,glad to see that you have something in common with Huge Difference. I guess dissatisfaction with the journalism profession is one thing that makes for uncommon bedfellows
--Keith Kloor

Bart said...

Michael,

In you rreply to pangolin you say some important things on the importance of engaging with "skeptics" and that often/sometimes there is some merit in their argument. Searching for and engaging them on that merit is perhaps a more fruitful strategy than engaging them on the accusatory framing, doubt mongering or other things that we disapprove of.

Re Curry, Randy Olson's essay she refers ot is well worth reading. It rings a bell with the circling the wagons strategy not being effective, a favorite line of Curry's with which I agree.

Bart

Roddy said...

‘My conclusion is that science journalism is too important to be left to nonspecialist journalists. We need a new institution and it will take some time (time that many of us do not feel is in ample supply) to develop its credibility.‘

That’s just funny. I guess it means you'd BAN Keith for irresponsible writing, RED-CARD for 6 months. And another 3 months for writing about things he doesn't understand, like vaccines! Let’s hope he's learned his lesson when he returns. Meanwhile his role will be taken over by a quasi-autonomous-non-governmental-organisation who will have the automatic right to column-inches in the national press, television, radio, and automatic right of response on irresponsible blogs. WUWT has been shut down.

MT – you do make me laugh, really.

And if you didn't mean this, what on earth did you mean? What is this 'institution' that we 'need'? Who will run it and vet it? How will it get people to read/watch/listen to it?

PDA said...

Well, my Zen teacher always used to say "Before you speak, ask yourself if what you have to say will improve on silence."

That being said, Dr. Tobis, don't tease. Post them all and hold everyone but Tom in the queue...

frank -- Decoding SwiftHack said...

Roddy:

How about this: news agencies can actually try to seek out people who don't have a track record of being 100% wrong. But that won't suit your 'warmofascists!' narrative will it?

* * *

MT:

"So I absolutely don't want to disengage with anyone who shows good faith and a modest amount of competence."

You're not engaging Tom Fuller. You're only indulging him.

I can't figure out what your principles are, MT. First you say that honesty is a prime virtue in science, yet you lash out at honest people (e.g. Gavin Schmidt) over minor points in doctrine, while you keep indulging dishonest people (e.g. Tom Fuller) because they happen to say something at some point in time which seems reasonable and honest when taken totally out of context.

WTF, MT?

-- frank

PDA said...

you don't have the balls to go to her site and engage her

No, he tried. So if there is any lack of gonadal fortitude, it would be on Curry's part, but I suspect that she's just not particularly interested.

Loath as I am to discourage in any way your chivalrous defense of fair Judith's honor, it does seem worthwhile to point out that she has not asked for any sort of apology. One might be forgiven for wondering if this crusade of yours might be misdirected.

Shorter me: if you ask Dr. Tobis to apologize to you, Tom, he might just do it.

Roddy said...

frank - can you explain how your comment on my post relates in any way to my point? I was asking, humourously I hope, what MT meant when he said 'My conclusion is that science journalism is too important to be left to nonspecialist journalists. We need a new institution and it will take some time ... to develop its credibility.'

MT did not say journalists do a poor job, should do better, he went beyond that to saying they can't be trusted, we need something new.

Do you ban Monbiot and Pearce and other long-standing environment hacks if they go off-piste, boycott the Economist for its recent mega-adaptation piece? What is this 'new institution' that is needed?

I was puzzled and wondered what it might mean, in practice, in MT's head? I can't see it myself.

Michael Tobis said...

Frank, blame it on Fidel.

Anna Haynes said...

A suggestion:

> my Zen teacher always used to say "Before you speak, ask yourself if what you have to say will improve on silence."

If In It's comment form were adorned with this missive, I suspect my inane-comment output would be reduced; perhaps others' as well.

Michael Tobis said...

Nice idea, Anna. Done.

PDA said...

It's a wonderful maxim, and one I clearly don't remember as often as I should.

Buddha would lurk.

EliRabett said...

Let my comments go

Belette said...

> nobody since Descartes has

Don't forget that Descartes was hopelessly wrong about most things; eerily reminiscent of the worst of the Greeks.