I, too, once saw a flying object I could not explain…A nearly perfectly stereotypical UFO.
Category: Science, Mathematics, and Statistics
The American “right” latched onto an “anti-climate change” attitude — and took that to the ridiculous extreme of being proof-of-membership-in-the-group — in large measure as a direct response to the early (and, alas, continuing) attitudes of the American “left” toward the subject.
From the earliest discussions of the potential for climate change and what we might do about it, the left succeeded in tying “climate change” nearly inextricably to “highly coercive and disruptive government mandated emergency command-and-control remedies”.
In that environment, there was simply no way to be both ‘conservative’ and accepted as someone who took climate change seriously. You were either wildly progressive or you were a “denier”. As far as the green left and the media that echoed its talking points was concerned, there was nothing, and no room for anything, in between.
To the extent that the “left” succeeded in transforming “climate change” from a legitimate scientific and policy debate into merely another excuse for getting what it had always wanted anyway and for other reasons — a self-righteous justification for telling us all how to live our lives coupled to yet more coercive authority concentrated in the hands of politicians and government bureaucrats (to be guided, of course, by academic intellectuals) — it did mean that the opposition from the “right” to “climate change” was much more about opposing that coercive policy agenda than it was about the science, itself.
I sincerely hope that ‘experts’ of all stripes — and not merely economists — take note of your admonition toward humility.
The kind of humility you advocate, however, is something one rarely sees among the ‘experts’ — within government and think-tanks and academia — who routinely proclaim to us all that they know “the truth” and that the proper role and responsibility for the rest of us is simply to shut up and do as they say.
That may not be completely fair: it may be that the apparent hubris of expertise is exaggerated by reporters and a news media that is besotted with the idea of ‘expertise’ and, therefore, amplifies the voices of the most self-certain while muting the voices of the humble. It may be that many or most experts are, indeed, well aware of their self-limitations but that their voices are not the ones that the media chooses to tell us about; or, it may be that the various caveats and disclaimers with which they accompany their assertions never make it through the filter of the reporters’ perceptions into the news stories and analyses written about them.
And, it may also be that those, in particular, who choose to go into government are self-selected from among the most hubristic precisely because their very self-confidence leads them to the belief that they should also have the power to impose their chosen “solutions” upon others.
Regardless of the reason, however, what is presented as ‘expertise’ for public consumption is, all too often, the farthest thing from your humble ideal: it is, rather, most often arrogant; and it is, far too frequently, also condescending.
And that arrogance and condescension is exacerbated by the fact that such experts frequently extend their claims to ‘expertise’ beyond what is justified by their training and experience. A medical researcher will discover some (perhaps tentative) connection between a chemical or a food and some health state, like heart disease. They will then not only exaggerate their certainty, proclaiming that the evidence of such connection is irrefutable and unequivocal (Eat this and you will die!), rather than provisional and subject to chance, but will also proclaim, with equal certainty, that a particular policy prescription — Ban that chemical! — is, by extension, mandatory; and they will claim that their policy prescription is simply a matter of “following the science” and, therefore, also wholly within their ‘expertise’, as if such policies have no other economic or practical or emotional or moral dimensions beyond the narrow realm of “science” that might require consideration.
This has nothing to do with political or social commentary — it is a technical professional article. Feel free to skip it if you aren’t a software nerd.
This is an early technical article I wrote dealing with how to manage the servicing of Watchdog Timers from within a multi-threaded application. I am posting it because it was originally published on paper, the original publisher is long gone, and, as near as I can tell (i.e. it doesn’t come up in a fairly detailed Google search), it was never digitized and made available online. Hence, for all intents and purposes in this digital age, it never actually existed.
I am publishing it here, in this wholly inappropriate forum, because it’s the only online presence I maintain other than a largely unused Facebook account.
Ten years ago, I wrote a post about the cost-ineffectiveness of solar power. Things have changed.
Today, we have a solar power array on our house that has, over the two years of its operation, supplied about 86% of our overall power needs and saved us about 6% on our electricity bill after accounting for the cost of the array, itself.
That glowing summary, however, reflects not actual day-to-day array performance but only an annualized average, made possible by a “net metering” policy that allows us to use the local electric grid as a “battery” and that provides some fairly generous — if hidden – subsidies to help defray the cost of the system.
That glowing summary also hides some fairly strict logistical limits that put an upper bound on how much solar power the grid can support without the net metering policy falling apart.
This is my report on my two years of experience with solar power, along with some musings on its benefits and constraints.
8 October 2008
I have a home construction project looming in my future, and I decided that would be a good opportunity to upgrade my environmental footprint (and reduce my energy bills) by adding a solar electrical generation system to the mix. So I did some research on what it would cost me and what I could expect to gain from it. My summary: we aren’t there yet.
Perhaps later in the season they can do a follow-on episode of “Eli Stone” in which the crusading hero sues another vaccine maker, this time to force them to continue making the life-saving vaccines his clients desperately need after the threat of massive awards in bogus liability lawsuits has forced them out of the vaccine business.
Last November, The New York Times published a piece by Paul Davies in which he took on the attitude of superiority with which secular scientists (his model, apparently, was those like Richard Dawkins, whose recently published book advocating atheism was one of several that sparked a firestorm between believers and non-believers) treated matters of faith. Some of his criticism hit the mark but I thought he went over the top when he claimed that science, itself, is an edifice built on faith — a faith in the scientific method and a presupposition that there are, in fact, physical laws underlying and explaining the way things behave.
Although I agree wholeheartedly that there is a general ignorance among both reporters and editors (and, by the way, among lawyers, and politicians, and “activists”, and a lot of humanities professors, and even some social scientists, and ecologists, and economists, and physicians) about those subjects, and that much better vetting of such stories is essential, the real problem goes beyond those narrow bounds.
The broader problem is that statistical and mathematical and scientific ignorance is magnified by a fundamental disconnect in language between those who generate such information and those to whom it is reported. Sometimes that disconnect is the result of simple misunderstanding. But often it is intentional – a kind of rhetorical bait-and-switch used to manipulate public opinion.