THE PEOPLE WHO TELL ME IT’S A CRISIS START ACTING LIKE IT’S A CRISIS—Law professor Glenn Reynolds’ famous line about promoters of global warming. In other words, “they” (Al Gore and his ilk) should be living a spartan life using minimal energy—walk the talk—if they expect people to believe them. Then there is this: The Left Doesn’t Really Believe In Climate Change.

“Climate Change And The Need To Suppress Dissent”

From Manhattan Contrarian, an excellent summary of the current state of affairs on “climate change.” (Hasn’t it always changed?) Francis Menton’s money quote:

Well, I think it’s a pretty good principle of life that those seeking to suppress the other side of the argument have a good sense that in a fair debate they are going to lose.

Policy: Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims

Teaching policy-making politicians to think critically about science…good luck with that! Read the 20 tips from Nature—part of the introduction:

In practice, policy-makers almost never read scientific papers or books. The research relevant to the topic of the day — for example, mitochondrial replacement, bovine tuberculosis or nuclear-waste disposal — is interpreted for them by advisers or external advocates. And there is rarely, if ever, a beautifully designed double-blind, randomized, replicated, controlled experiment with a large sample size and unambiguous conclusion that tackles the exact policy issue.

In this context, we suggest that the immediate priority is to improve policy-makers’ understanding of the imperfect nature of science. The essential skills are to be able to intelligently interrogate experts and advisers, and to understand the quality, limitations and biases of evidence. We term these interpretive scientific skills. These skills are more accessible than those required to understand the fundamental science itself, and can form part of the broad skill set of most politicians.

To this end, we suggest 20 concepts that should be part of the education of civil servants, politicians, policy advisers and journalists — and anyone else who may have to interact with science or scientists. Politicians with a healthy scepticism of scientific advocates might simply prefer to arm themselves with this critical set of knowledge.

On Philosopher David Hume

An interview with Simon Blackburn and five book recommendations.

Hume had a message he wanted to get out — particularly as regards skepticism about religion — but he was no proto-Richard Dawkins, says Simon Blackburn. He chooses the best books on David Hume.


“Cleaning up science”

From The New Yorker—the opening line:

A lot of scientists have been busted recently for making up data and fudging statistics.

It ought to be cleaned up…since too many people take every word from the scientific community as gospel (particularly when it supports their political agenda).

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Writing is bad for you

Now they tell me! Rick Gekoski says, in a Guardian article, “I’m not sure about the improving influence of reading, but I’m certain that writing brings out the worst in me.” And:

We live in a literary environment that – a little uneasily, I often think – feels the need to justify the reading and study of imaginative literature. That is understandable, for writers and readers often have to stand up and fight for what they care passionately about. We believe it is good for us, it must be good for us, this force we attribute to the enterprise of reading and writing. A wide exposure to great literature, it is claimed, provides a basis upon which we may feel more deeply, understand more widely, become better.

If this is an empirical proposition, I rather doubt it, though I have no substantial evidence for my scepticism…

There is, no doubt, a reasonable basis for skepticism.

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David Hume

Saturday May 7, was philosopher David Hume’s 300th birthday. He’s dead, of course.

From the New York Times:

Hume was most concerned with the nature of knowledge, morality, causality — not with fashioning a philosophy for everyday life. And yet his life, like his work, does offer insights about how to live. Consider an episode in Hume’s life that reflected his most provocative and misunderstood claim: that reason is and always will be the slave to our passions….

From Discover:

David Hume, famous scolder of those who would derive “ought” from “is,” was born 300 years ago today. In point of fact Hume, while not enjoying the name recognition of Plato/Aristotle/Descartes/Kant, is certainly in the running for greatest philosopher of all time. He was a careful thinker, resistant to dogmatic answers, and a relatively sprightly writer as philosophers go. An empiricist who was as persuasive about the temptations of radical epistemological skepticism as anyone, but was still able to resist them….

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The Father of All Bloggers

This New York Times article (December 17, 2010) is about a new book by Sarah Bakewell on “the 16th-century nobleman, wine grower and essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne.” As a fan of the good man, here is the entire article for your reading pleasure:

Continue reading The Father of All Bloggers