Agnotology: followup

by John Quiggin on May 5, 2010

In my last post, I promised a separate discussion on the tu quoque response; that is, the claim that confirmation bias, closed-mindedness and deliberate promotion of ignorance are universal phenomena, just as bad on the left as on the right.

More over the fold on this, but here are some links that have come up since I posted

Slacktivist gives some striking info on the “P&G in league with the devil” rumors. Key points.

*The rumors were apparently started by distributors for Amway, but went viral (compare AGW delusions and Exxon).

  • (Many of) those propagating the rumors, even excluding those with a monetary axe to grind, were not innocent dupes, but were well aware that they were peddling lies.

David Frum reduces Jonah Goldberg to a stammering wreck on the question “Is Obama really a Marxist/Socialist”.

A second example of a rightwing critique of agnotology. Note: In the original version of this post, I incorrectly linked to an example of agnotology instead of a refutation, then corrected it (as I thought) but failed. I think it’s right this time. Even inadvertent error can be hard to correct! -JQ

Scott McLemee reviews the book of the concept.

A striking example of the asymmetry of agnotology. The right has made big play of alleged weaknesses in the “hockey stick” paper of Mann et al. But the critique they primarily rely on, by Wegman et al, is a pile of plagiarised nonsense.

Anyway, back to the main point. Let’s grant that confirmation bias is a characteristic trait, not confined to any time or social group. That doesn’t mean that it is uniformly distributed. Cultures that reward it, such as that of the US right, will tend to attract those who are prone to it, reward its further development, and expel those who don’t display it.

So, to test this, we need to ask whether there is anything on the left comparable to the near-universal promotion of the Oregon petition on the right. Some ground rules, derived from experience at my blog. I’ll start with an example of what doesn’t work, the proposition “GM foods are evil”. This fails in at least three ways.
(1) It’s a value judgement ,not a claim of fact
(2) While it’s more prevalent on the left than on the right, it’s not a claim that is generally accepted by nearly everyone left of centre (in the US context, this means Democrats and mainstream liberals as well as environmentalists and leftists in the narrower senses of this term)
(3) Even restated as a factual claim (say, GM foods are bad for health) it’s too broad to be refuted by simple factual observations as can be done with the Oregon petition
Spelling (3) out more broadly, there’s no point in posting references to broad claims that you may think are held by the left but refuted by evidence (say, that nuclear power is a bad choice for energy or that the EU outperforms the US economically). What’s needed are specific factual claims, unchallenged on the left, but easily shown to be false, in a way comparable to “31000 scientists reject global warming”.

Finally, I’m willing to concede that, if you go back several decades, the asymmetry I’m talking about was, at a minimum, much less apparent. The left was more tolerant of delusions of various kinds, and the right more in touch with reality. So, examples should be from this millennium, not the last one.

Go to it!

{ 312 comments }

1

NomadUK 05.05.10 at 12:02 pm

David Frum reduces Jonah Goldberg to a stammering wreck on the question “Is Obama really a Marxist/Socialist”

I don’t think it’s really fair that I should be forced to cheer for David Frum.

2

JMurphy 05.05.10 at 12:30 pm

For the detailed info on the Wegman plagiarism, you should go to Deep Climate who was, I believe, the first to really investigate that Report.

3

Metatone 05.05.10 at 1:18 pm

Surely the best example of agnotology on the left is the embrace of so many of the economic zombies you have written about, John Q?

4

Substance McGravitas 05.05.10 at 1:33 pm

Jonah Goldberg is too easy a target but he’s always funny.

5

wkw 05.05.10 at 1:34 pm

I don’t have the time to dig up links for you, but my vote would go to:

The financial crisis was caused by deregulation.

It’s not that this provably wrong; it’s just that it’s accepted as a matter of faith nearly universally on the left, and there is little or no actual evidence to support it.

6

Neil 05.05.10 at 1:35 pm

Somewhat beside the point, but I get really annoyed when people interpret opposition to GM foods as entailing that the person thinks they are unhealthy. The rational grounds for opposition, and the grounds that explain opposition, is that whatever their possible benefits they are likely to do more harm than good. Roundup-ready plants increase the use of pesticides, rather than reduce them More relevantly, once we understand opposition to GM foods as turning on costs to farmers and the environment, assessing the claim that they are bad becomes more difficult, since its truth will depend on claims about how they are likely to be used, which ones will go into commercial production, and so on. The opposition is performing an induction from the known behavior of big corporations; while those who support GM foods will point to the efficiency of market mechanisms in the longer term,

7

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.05.10 at 1:50 pm

It’s all about race.

8

chris 05.05.10 at 2:02 pm

(2) While it’s more prevalent on the left than on the right, it’s not a claim that is generally accepted by nearly everyone left of centre (in the US context, this means Democrats and mainstream liberals as well as environmentalists and leftists in the narrower senses of this term)

I think this is where attempted examples of left-wing orthodoxy are going to tend to fall down. The left doesn’t have orthodoxies because (a) it isn’t unified enough and (b) it doesn’t value orthodoxy (if anything rather the reverse).

I don’t think the left has necessarily become less tolerant of delusions — for example, the Huffington Post has been accused of harboring antivaccination quackery — but it’s largely *other leftists* who are criticizing the delusions of leftists. The left’s tradition of internal criticism, though often bemoaned as interfering with unified action, is precisely what protects it from enshrining delusions as orthodoxy. Wide acceptance is only earned by beliefs that can withstand scrutiny and criticism.

Carl Sagan famously analogized democracy with a free-speech tradition and science; the analogy isn’t perfect, but it works to the extent that ideas are critically examined and the ones found wanting discarded. But as Sagan didn’t point out (AFAIK), some political groups are more likely to follow this pattern than others. I don’t think it’s an accident that they also tend to have science on their side.

Orthodoxy chains you to your grandfather’s mistakes, whether it’s a flat Earth, excessive faith in invisible hands, or the “Treasury view” of policy goals in depressions. Critical examination allows you to keep your grandfather’s right ideas and discard his wrong ones, and then build on that foundation.

9

Kaveh 05.05.10 at 2:34 pm

Seconding Neil @5’s point about GM foods–I don’t think I’ve ever read anything saying that they are bad for you. The objections are mainly about the dangers of cross-pollination and property rights, and I’m not sure that the objections are blanket objections to GMO foods, so much as objections to how the technology is being widely deployed before we understand the effects. There were cases of farmers whose non-GMO crops were fertilized by GMO pollen that blew over from nearby GMO fields, and the company (Monsanto?) that made the GMO seed sued the farmer for using GMO seed w/o permission. There are concerns about the risks of genetic contamination of wild plants, as well as the issue of farmers losing control over their seed stock (as GMO plants are often sterile) and being overly reliant on the company for seed. It’s not that people don’t understand that human activity has been modifying plant genomes for millennia.

10

Kaveh 05.05.10 at 2:42 pm

@2 Anecdotally, I would agree, I didn’t read much from the Zombienomics posts so I don’t know the ideas in question (though I could probably guess…) but I think a lot of people are dismissive of economics as a discipline, so it’s not just that they maintain the “wrong” position on these ideas, but that they don’t really have a good idea of how to evaluate these beliefs based on evidence, and aren’t that interested in doing so, because they’re suspicious of the very endeavor of economics as a social science.

11

Tim Worstall 05.05.10 at 2:42 pm

“While it’s more prevalent on the left than on the right, it’s not a claim that is generally accepted by nearly everyone left of centre”

Slightly an unfair restriction: for the deliberate ignorances you’ve pointed to on “the right” aren’t by any means held by all right of centre. Rather a more specific subset.

A few from green, environmental and generally lefty sites (this first is certainly common at Matt Yglesias for example).

Creating jobs is a benefit of a plan. The Green Part manifesto for the current election for example extolls wind power over other forms of generation because it creates more jobs per terawatt hour. When of course the creation of jobs is a cost of such a scheme: not just in that we’ve got to pay all of those people out of what we pay for our power but also in that we have an opportunity cost here: we lose whatever else it was/could be that those people could be making if they weren’t hand cranking windmills. This turns up in Yglesias like places when extolling say rail transport systems. Just think of all those hundreds of thousands of “good jobs” that could be created.

Yes, there’s a slight let out when we’re in recession, when boosting AD is a good idea but as a general rule “creating jobs” is a cost of a plan, not a benefit of it. If windmills are such a good idea because there are 2000 jobs per terawatt hour and nuclear only 75 (from that manifesto) then the 3.4 million per terawatt hour from pedalling bicycle based generators would even better, no? At that stage we start to see the silliness of it.

Recycling saves resources….sure, it does sometimes but certainly not always. Given that with recycling of domestic waste no one ever (to the point that I’ev asked both the UK and EU govts for their estimates and they have none) counts the time spent in sorting domestic waste for recycling. Human labour is indeed a resource and not counting one of the major inputs, like that labour, into a process means we can’t actually tell whether resources are saved or not.

Globalisation is one part of the cure for climate change. All those people shouting that we must have more local, regional, economies. Might be all sorts of reasons why this could be a good idea (Polanyi style stuff anyone?) but climate change isn’t one of them. Looking at the emissions scenarios from the IPCC (in the SRES) the globalised families (A1 and B1) have lower cumulative emissions than A2 and B2 respectively. Thus the very source document already assumes that globalisation reduces emissions as compared to localised or regionalised economies.

All that’s needed to reduce population growth is a lot more contraception being made available. Yet all of the evidence shows that it’s changes in desired fertility which move actual fertility: the availability of contraception is about 10% of the changes in observerd fertility. Of course this doesn’t mean that we should therefore not provide contraception to those who would like to have it. But the lack isn’t the root cause of large families in poor places: the desire for large families in poor places is.

Economic growth cannot continue (Boulding’s permanent growth in a finite system thing). GDP measures value added not resources consumed. Thus economic growth can continue as long as we continue to find more ways to add value. The physical constraints of the one planet we have are not the binding restrictions upon economic growth for value add isn’t one of those physical parts of the world (yes, economic growth is often accompanied by increased resource use but it doesn’t *have to be*. Economic growth can also be accompanied by reduced resource consumption. It depends rather than physical limits being the determinant of the possible continuation of economic growth). As a subset of this Jevon’s Paradox does not say that increased efficiency will lead to increased resource use: it says it might, it depends.

OK, you can say that none of these are quite the same as the Oregon Petition but the “recycling saves resources” one is so well accepted (even while being wrong) that it’s now law in many places that you must recycle in order to save resources. Job creation being a benefit of a plan rather than a cost is certainly deep rooted while still being wrong.

12

The Raven 05.05.10 at 2:48 pm

wkw, this just might be the wrong place to say that.

13

y81 05.05.10 at 2:54 pm

I don’t like this rule about not going back too far into the past. If we’re not allowed to claim that our opponents are heirs to, and responsible for, the Inquisition, then how can have a normal political debate?

14

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 3:05 pm

The financial crisis was caused by deregulation.

It’s not that this provably wrong; it’s just that it’s accepted as a matter of faith nearly universally on the left, and there is little or no actual evidence to support it.

This seems a rather odd thing to say. What would count as evidence that the financial crisis was called by deregulation? What is being presented as evidence that really isn’t?

John Q: I’m actually hard-pressed to define “the left” these days in ways doesn’t include a huge chunk of moderates. Someone – it may have been here – once said that a lot of “the left” are actually moderates that have been radicalized by the Bush years. A lot of those moderates might even come from the right of the center.

15

Bruce Baugh 05.05.10 at 3:06 pm

Among my friends, there was once a pretty wide streak of shared concern that genetically modified plants might well turn out to be toxic or contributing to long-term health problems in ways we couldn’t predict in advance. And that was a sensible concern, given the manufacturers’ demonstrated disinterest in public well-being beyond their balance sheets. These days, though, that’s very much receded in favor of the issues like property rights.

(The initial concern remains sensible for every new introduction, too. It’s like Monsanto and their ilk have become more concerned about the public weal lately.)

16

ajay 05.05.10 at 3:07 pm

Seconding Neil @5’s point about GM foods—I don’t think I’ve ever read anything saying that they are bad for you. The objections are mainly about the dangers of cross-pollination and property rights

Google “Arpad Pusztai”.
While the legitimate objections may indeed be on the grounds you give, there’s certainly been a lot of opposition to GM food on the basis that it might be unhealthy. The French government, for one, cited possible health effects as one reason for its ban.

17

ajay 05.05.10 at 3:13 pm

What would count as evidence that the financial crisis was called by deregulation?

I think wkw is trolling. When asked for something provably false that’s widely believed on the left, he comes up with something that isn’t provably false, and refuses to supply any links.

Also, “recycling saves resources” does not imply that labour is a resource. The whole point about recycling is that you put additional labour (sorting and processing) into domestic and industrial worstall in order to conserve (non-labour) resources like metal and glass, rather than taking the more labour-efficient route of tipping all the worstall into a landfill site, or incinerating it or whatever.

18

Sebastian 05.05.10 at 3:21 pm

“Even restated as a factual claim (say, GM foods are bad for health) it’s too broad to be refuted by simple factual observations as can be done with the Oregon petition”

This is one of those challenges where you win by definition setting, but I’m not at all sure that it makes sense to set the definitions the way you do.

The fact that the left is making strong factual claims that are too broad to be refuted by simple factual observations is a good thing and/or a thing which tends to show that the left is not as likely to be grabbed by confirmation bias, closed-mindedness and deliberate promotion of ignorance? That seems incorrect.

And the factual claims on GM could be fairly stated in such a way as to be very testable. For example, anti-GM people very often come at it from an allegedly science-informed position: “It is a scientific fact that GM crops are dangerous to health” or the flip side “It is a scientific fact that organic unmodified foods are more healthy”. Of course that is blatantly false (the effects are mostly reported in obvious pseudo-science, and the science actually done on the topics show little, no, or sometimes positive effects). It is also fear-mongering, which is a pretty common trait of these type of things.

Also the idea that trade is usually negative-sum is rather prevalent among the non-economist left. This is provably false, and should be laughable to anyone who has ever participated in a functioning first world economy, but is said with seriousness even on this very blog.

And even if you limit yourself to Global Warming, I think there are serious signs of “deliberate promotion of ignorance”. Much of the recent global warming scandal is about emails which essentially consist of “we can’t show the real data because it isn’t strong enough for the message we want”.

19

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 3:28 pm

Also the idea that trade is usually negative-sum is rather prevalent among the non-economist left. This is provably false, and should be laughable to anyone who has ever participated in a functioning first world economy, but is said with seriousness even on this very blog.

Is this an example of trolling?

20

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 3:32 pm

And even if you limit yourself to Global Warming, I think there are serious signs of “deliberate promotion of ignorance”. Much of the recent global warming scandal is about emails which essentially consist of “we can’t show the real data because it isn’t strong enough for the message we want”.

I think, ajay, that this is definitely trolling. And probably the sign of desperation. There really isn’t that much on “the left” that’s comparable to the willful ignorance displayed on the right. In fact, I’d have to say that “the left” is rather consciously drawing on the tradition and spirit of scientific research.

21

Tim Worstall 05.05.10 at 3:32 pm

“Also, “recycling saves resources” does not imply that labour is a resource.”

But labour is a resource and a resource with value. Unless you value the labour you’re putting into the recycling how can you calculate whether you’re saving resources or not?

22

piglet 05.05.10 at 3:41 pm

“Recycling saves resources….sure, it does sometimes but certainly not always. Given that with recycling of domestic waste no one ever (to the point that I’ev asked both the UK and EU govts for their estimates and they have none) counts the time spent in sorting domestic waste for recycling.”

Worstall, this is embarrassing. That “time spent in sorting domestic waste” is a sham. Waste disposal is one of many domestic chores that have to be done. It’s not an invention of environmentalists. As an aside, did anybody ever count the time consumers spend sorting through dozens of different cell phone deals etc. as a cost of telecommunications deregulation?

Your wind mill argument breaks down when you ask which resources are more limited: labor or nonrenewable natural resources? The labor cost of building wind mills is an argument against building wind mills only when labor is in short supply and energy from other sources is plentiful. In the context of this thread, you seem to claim that advocating recycling or wind mills is flat-out irrational, on par with claiming that the earth is flat. That is absurd. Your take on wind mills is based on assumptions that are debatable at best. To portray this as a case of reason against superstition is beyond the pale.

23

Sebastian 05.05.10 at 3:42 pm

“Is this an example of trolling?”

Why? Are you one of the people who believes that trade is often negative sum?

24

james 05.05.10 at 3:45 pm

Example of Left Agnotology.
The second amendment only applies to a States right to have a militia.

- This belief requires that the Second Amendment be interpreted differently than the first. Namely that all group rights listed in the First Amendment are applied to the individual but no group rights listed in the Second Amendment are applied to the individual.
– Requires a disregard to all historical documents on the topic.
– Resulted in fraudulent work at the University level to support the belief.*
– Belief is currently maintained by the ACLU even though the current Supreme Court rulings have stated that it is an individual right.

*This is also an example of why the Right tends to question Science. They can point to fraud / group think at the university level that occurred even though it passed through peer review.

25

piglet 05.05.10 at 3:49 pm

“Also the idea that trade is usually negative-sum is rather prevalent among the non-economist left. This is provably false”

It may be trolling but let’s clarify: I have never heard that claim being made that trade is “usually negative-sum”. What I have heard is neoliberals claiming that trade is overwhelmingly – not usually, overwhelmingly – positive-sum. That is provably false and critics of neoliberalism have pointed this out for a long time. So Sebastian is exactly right if you take the opposite of what he says to be true.

26

ajay 05.05.10 at 3:51 pm

20: in some contexts, labour is best described as a resource. In others, not. Would you describe, say, Bangladesh and Kuwait as “resource-rich countries” simply because Kuwait has a lot of oil and Bangladesh has a lot of people? No.

Furthermore, labour is a renewable resource. Recycling is aimed at conserving non-renewable resources.

Now, you could make the argument that “recycling is not economically efficient” – based on the cost of labour – and that would be a sensible argument. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but at least it’s defensible.
But redefining labour as a resource in the context of recycling is not defensible.

Furthermore, your “creating jobs is a cost” argument is also silly. If it means that windpower is more expensive to the consumer per kWh than coal, then that’s an important point – but the number of jobs itself is irrelevant to that argument, the higher cost could equally be due to higher capital requirements.

Say wind and coal cost the same, but wind produces twice as many jobs per kWh; why does that mean that coal is better?

27

piglet 05.05.10 at 3:51 pm

“A second example of a conservative criticising the bogus Oregon petition.”

The link you provide is not what you say it is. Maybe a mixup?

28

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 3:52 pm

“Is this an example of trolling?”

Why? Are you one of the people who believes that trade is often negative sum?

Sigh. Let’s rewind the tape:

Also the idea that trade is usually negative-sum is rather prevalent among the non-economist left. This is provably false, and should be laughable to anyone who has ever participated in a functioning first world economy, but is said with seriousness even on this very blog.

Where is the evidence for this rather remarkable statement? For that matter, how can this statement even be falsified?

29

piglet 05.05.10 at 3:53 pm

ajay 25 you put it better than I did.

30

ajay 05.05.10 at 3:56 pm

I’d love to see an example of a member of the non-economist left saying that “trade is usually negative-sum”. Google records that no one has ever said this anywhere.

31

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 3:56 pm

It may be trolling but let’s clarify: I have never heard that claim being made that trade is “usually negative-sum”. What I have heard is neoliberals claiming that trade is overwhelmingly – not usually, overwhelmingly – positive-sum. That is provably false and critics of neoliberalism have pointed this out for a long time. So Sebastian is exactly right if you take the opposite of what he says to be true.

Chuckle. Good one. That’s like the story about the 3rd grader who said an antonym is like a synonym except the opposite.

32

james 05.05.10 at 4:01 pm

Recycling is advocated as a net positive because it saves resources and is good for the environment. If it actually takes more total energy (minus labor) to recycle something compared with properly throwing it out and making a new one from scratch; then Recycling is harming the environment. I have no idea if this is true. A rather interesting show ‘Pen and Teller: Bull$hit’ did an episode on the idea. Not calling the show a good reference source but it will give you an idea of the topic.

To give you an idea why someone might start down that path. Some examples where the environmental position was off.

At highway speeds, it is more energy efficient to close car windows and run the air conditioner. This is opposite to the belief that windows down was more environmentally friendly.

Disposable ( biodegradable ) dippers are near equal to the environmental costs of creating and washing cloth dippers.

33

dsquared 05.05.10 at 4:03 pm

Roundup-ready plants increase the use of pesticides, rather than reduce them

And how …

Meanwhile, while people definitely do fret and worry about health impacts of GM foods for no reason, it’s very unfair to stick that one onto Arpad Pustzai’s name. He produced a piece of perfectly good science and was quite scandalously run out of his job with a load of “Devastating Critiques”. The study of the production of ignorance by means of the arrogance of media-friendly doctors (see also: “vaccines can’t possibly be bad for you, you silly women!”) might be a productive branch of agnotology.

34

dsquared 05.05.10 at 4:07 pm

recycling saves resources” does not imply that labour is a resource.

Labour, of course, isn’t a resource. Try saving or stockpiling some if you don’t believe me. Labour-power comes in natural units of worker-hours and disappears at a constant rate whether or not used. That’s why it’s treated as a separate factor of production from capital or land.

35

ajay 05.05.10 at 4:07 pm

Recycling is advocated as a net positive because it saves resources and is good for the environment. If it actually takes more total energy (minus labor) to recycle something compared with properly throwing it out and making a new one from scratch; then Recycling is harming the environment.

Well, not quite. Energy demand isn’t the only way that the environment could be damaged. Say, for example, the process of manufacturing the item produces air pollution. If you recycle it, maybe it’ll mean more total energy but less pollution. Especially if the energy I use is renewable, that’s still a benefit for the environment.
Or perhaps the actual alternative isn’t “properly throwing it away” but just dumping it in a landfill for it to, say, leach out its heavy metal content, because it’ll just get thrown in with the rest of the household waste. Recycling is a benefit here, simply regarded as a form of proper waste treatment.
Or if the item contains, say, rare earth metals – by recycling them, I’m reducing the need to mine more, which is environmentally destructive.

See?

36

ajay 05.05.10 at 4:09 pm

Meanwhile, while people definitely do fret and worry about health impacts of GM foods for no reason, it’s very unfair to stick that one onto Arpad Pustzai’s name.

I wasn’t trying to stick it on him – but googling his name is a good way to find lots of examples of people opposing GM foods on health grounds.

37

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 4:09 pm

To give you an idea why someone might start down that path. Some examples where the environmental position was off.

That’s probably true , but I don’t think it fulfills the criterion of this thread. The person holding the position can’t just be wrong, they’ve got to stay with that opinion even after it’s been rather compelling shown to be untrue.

At highway speeds, it is more energy efficient to close car windows and run the air conditioner. This is opposite to the belief that windows down was more environmentally friendly.

Something like this I think a lot of people would accept. But they’d probably also ask if it wouldn’t then be even more efficient to just run the fan with the air conditioner off. I’m thinking a better example might not be “paper or plastic?” It seems more symbolic somehow.

38

Sebastian 05.05.10 at 4:10 pm

Oh and how did I forget the vaccines cause autism movement?

39

soru 05.05.10 at 4:12 pm

If you define ‘left’ sufficiently broadly, I think this counts:

Andy Brooks, general secretary of the central committee of the New Communist Party of Great Britain and representative of the Britain-Korea Friendship and Solidarity Movement, said that with nothing can the South Korean authorities justify their action of bisecting the country with the concrete wall never to be seen in the world and that they would conduct more energetic international movement for the demolition of the wall.

By other accounts, no such wall exists.

If anything, that is even more impressive than the supposed anti-AGW scientists. That’s a level of total control over information that would make Fox News jealous.

40

james 05.05.10 at 4:13 pm

Well, not quite. Energy demand isn’t the only way that the environment could be damaged. Say, for example, the process of manufacturing the item produces air pollution.

Aboslutley. Where rescycling value tends to become a negative is in plastics. But this is being worked on.

41

Tim Worstall 05.05.10 at 4:13 pm

“Waste disposal is one of many domestic chores that have to be done. It’s not an invention of environmentalists. “

Sure. But the sorting of waste into 4 (or 9 or whatever) buckets, the washing out of the peanut butter jars, the turning over of the compost heap, these are inventions of environmentalists, they do take time and they do take more time than simply putting it all in one bag and putting the bag into a hole in the ground. That time is time spent doing this and not able to be spent doing other things. That time is thus a resource being used in this activity and needs to be accounted for.

“In the context of this thread, you seem to claim that advocating recycling or wind mills is flat-out irrational, “

That’s not the claim at all. The claim is twofold. First, that we must account for the time spent in recycling as a resource that is used in recycling. Only by doing so can we work out whether we are saving resources or not. The second is that the claim often made, that renewables energy is a good and fine thing *precisely and exactly because it requires more labour* than non-renewables is a fallacy, a nonsense.

Renewables might be just fine and dandy for all sorts of reasons other than that one (my day job involves finding the weird metals they require for example so I’m all in favour personally, because of the externalities of CO2, whatever) but that specific argument put forward is, quite simply, wrong. However widely it is held.

This is what John was talking about, at least I think it was. Ideas which are strongly held out of manufactured ignorance. there’s so much Hosannahing going on about “recylcing saves resources” that no one’s actually looking at whether it does or not (or to be more accurate, of course some does but perhaps some doesn’t and shouldn’t we find out?)

42

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 4:14 pm

Or perhaps the actual alternative isn’t “properly throwing it away” but just dumping it in a landfill for it to, say, leach out its heavy metal content, because it’ll just get thrown in with the rest of the household waste. Recycling is a benefit here, simply regarded as a form of proper waste treatment.

Yeah, neglecting externalities is one way people can “prove” all sorts of contrafactuals in these sorts of circumstances.

43

dsquared 05.05.10 at 4:15 pm

the idea that trade is usually negative-sum is rather prevalent among the non-economist left

I don’t think this is true at all. The common assertion is that the payoff from unregulated trade is negative for the third world party, but that’s a statement about one of the payoffs, not the sum. If me and Sebastian pooled our funds into a successful horse-racing syndicate, then I ran off with the case, that would be a positive-sum game, with a negative payoff for Sebastian.

My entry for the competition, however, would be the very prevalent indeed (although not ubiquitous because I don’t believe it and I don’t think John does either) belief that European farm subsidies are bad for the Third World.

44

ajay 05.05.10 at 4:17 pm

how did I forget the vaccines cause autism movement?

Oh, I’d love to see you try to pin that on “The Left”, given that it was mainly pushed in this country by the Daily Mail.

45

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 4:18 pm

But the sorting of waste into 4 (or 9 or whatever) buckets, the washing out of the peanut butter jars, the turning over of the compost heap, these are inventions of environmentalists, they do take time and they do take more time than simply putting it all in one bag and putting the bag into a hole in the ground. That time is time spent doing this and not able to be spent doing other things. That time is thus a resource being used in this activity and needs to be accounted for.

Interesting. Nowhere do I see any accounting of the costs of simply throwing rubbish into the ground. As I said, it’s easy to make these sorts of arguments if you’re allowed to discount externalities.

46

Tim Worstall 05.05.10 at 4:18 pm

“Furthermore, labour is a renewable resource.”

Unless you’ve got a Dorian Gray up in your attic your time is the one and only truly non renewable resource.

“Furthermore, your “creating jobs is a cost” argument is also silly.”

Here’s the actual quote from hte Green Party Manifesto.

http://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/resources/Manifesto_web_file.pdf

“Our energy policy is not just the best for climate change –
it also produces the most jobs:
energy source jobs per year per terawatt hour
Wind 918–2400
Coal 370
Gas and oil 250–265
Nuclear 75″

They really are saying that using more labour to produce something is a good idea, in and of itself. That lowering labour productivity is a good idea.

47

Sebastian 05.05.10 at 4:21 pm

I’m not sure what to make of the idea that you’ve never heard of leftists who think that trade is usually/often negative sum. A huge part of the last hundred comments in the recent thread which turned to Marx, here operates under that assumption (that labor trades with capital tend to be negative sum), and much of Marxist analysis is based on the idea that trade between countries necessarily immiserates one of them. And a huge part of leftist chatter is about how the middleman in trades is necessarily just a waste.

But again, I don’t see how we are so easily dismissing the GM case. It is pretty much just unfounded fearmongering pretending to be science-based.

And the autism vaccine link is positively science-resistant.

48

Tim Worstall 05.05.10 at 4:22 pm

“Well, not quite. Energy demand isn’t the only way that the environment could be damaged. Say, for example, the process of manufacturing the item produces air pollution. If you recycle it, maybe it’ll mean more total energy but less pollution. Especially if the energy I use is renewable, that’s still a benefit for the environment.
Or perhaps the actual alternative isn’t “properly throwing it away” but just dumping it in a landfill for it to, say, leach out its heavy metal content, because it’ll just get thrown in with the rest of the household waste. Recycling is a benefit here, simply regarded as a form of proper waste treatment.
Or if the item contains, say, rare earth metals – by recycling them, I’m reducing the need to mine more, which is environmentally destructive.”

Exactly!

Which is why we need to measure all of the resources being used in either virgin production or recycling, why we need to look at all of the effects of either method. Including, naturally, the labour we use to do one or the other.

49

ajay 05.05.10 at 4:22 pm

That time is thus a resource being used in this activity and needs to be accounted for.

No, see 33.

the claim often made, that renewables energy is a good and fine thing precisely and exactly because it requires more labour than non-renewables is a fallacy, a nonsense.

No, see 25.

Interestingly, it’s probably OK to recycle previously-rebutted arguments, because it would almost certainly require more time and labour to throw them away properly and come up with new ones.

50

Tim Worstall 05.05.10 at 4:28 pm

“Interesting. Nowhere do I see any accounting of the costs of simply throwing rubbish into the ground. As I said, it’s easy to make these sorts of arguments if you’re allowed to discount externalities.”

Perfectly willing for all such to be included. When I’ve written at more length on the point I’ve done so. The argument isn’t that recycling is good or bad, it’s that we’ve a method for deciding whether it is or not. One that requires looking at all of the resources, effects, externalites etc of either course of action. And one of those resources we need to measure is the labour required to do either.

And in domestic recycling we do not include the hours of household production required in our calculations. Which is, I submit, an error. Even if it’s 15 minutes per household per week that’s 300 million hours of labour (in the UK) that needs to be accounted for. And as Hansard has it:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm081009/text/81009w0004.htm#08100960005218

No estimate of these hours is used when working out whether recycling saves resources or not.

51

ajay 05.05.10 at 4:29 pm

A huge part of the last hundred comments in the recent thread which turned to Marx, here operates under that assumption (that labor trades with capital tend to be negative sum)

This is not true. The question addressed in that thread is: did Marx think that all trades had to be negative-sum? I don’t think you can produce a quote from someone in that thread who actually thought that trades in reality tend to be negative-sum. And (see 42) just because a trade immiserates one party doesn’t mean it’s negative-sum.

52

ajay 05.05.10 at 4:30 pm

49, see 25 and 33.

53

Tom Scudder 05.05.10 at 4:41 pm

Oh and how did I forget the vaccines cause autism movement?

Do you honestly think this argument is unchallenged on the left?

54

Sebastian 05.05.10 at 4:43 pm

“The question addressed in that thread is: did Marx think that all trades had to be negative-sum?”

Ok, first the answer that question (for at least most trades) is clearly yes. But there was also intense discussion about whether or not Marxist thought was relevant, and that idea is one of the cornerstones of Marx. Further, the discussion was not only about what Marx himself thought but about what current leftist thought was, it come coming back to what Marx thought as a dodge from the other points Martin Bento was making.

I think you’re pretty much crazy if you haven’t seen the trope among leftists, but I’m about to go on a two day holiday so how about this easier one:

Africa is currently poor largely due to the immiseration effect of past colonialism and/or current trade exploitation.

Which leads me to my main thought on the debate–tropes on the left that fit this general category (“confirmation bias, closed-mindedness and deliberate promotion of ignorance”) tend to be widely held beliefs that are trumpeted as unarguable facts, but which have very little actual science/basis behind them.

The GM food thing is a classic, and the Marxist immiseration explanation for 3rd world poverty is another.

55

Kevin Donoghue 05.05.10 at 4:44 pm

“My entry for the competition, however, would be the very prevalent indeed (although not ubiquitous because I don’t believe it and I don’t think John does either) belief that European farm subsidies are bad for the Third World.”

But that belief is widely held on the right also, it’s not a particularly leftist notion. Defenders of the EU don’t put much effort into refuting it; and for people who know nowt about trade it’s not that easy to refute.

56

dsquared 05.05.10 at 4:57 pm

Africa is currently poor largely due to the immiseration effect of past colonialism and/or current trade exploitation.

this certainly isn’t obviously counterfactual and quite likely isn’t even counterfactual.

57

psycholinguist 05.05.10 at 4:58 pm

I think there is evidence to support Quiggin’s thesis that you won’t be able to find equivalent examples at all, or certainly at anywhere near the same rates, on the left as on the right.

Quiggin argues from an “individual differences” stance – the tendency to ignore evidence contrary to your beliefs, and embrace even low quality argument or evidence when it is consistent with your world view is stronger in the right than the left. So, the implication is that this tendency towards confirmation bias or agnotology co-occurs with some other trait that is also unequally distributed across the political spectrum.
Here’s a few empirical findings:
Jost et al,, in a 2003 meta-analysis of 88 studies across 12 countries, concluded that conservatism ideology is motivated by the need to manage uncertainty and threat. So, the more intolerant one is to uncertainty and threat, the stronger will be the pull of conservative ideology. Specifically, he found correlations between conservatism and these variables:
death anxiety ( r=.50); system instability (.47); dogmatism-intolerance of ambiguity (.34); openness to experience (-.32); uncertainty tolerance (-.27); needs for order, structure, and closure (.26); integrative complexity (-.20); fear of threat and loss (.18); and self-esteem (-.09).
Note that uncertainty tolerance, and openness to experience have a negative correlation with conservatism, and dogmatism/intolerance of ambiguity have a high positive correlation with conservatism.
So, the argument for Quiggin’s proposition would be that people self-select conservative ideologies because it addresses their higher needs for stability, order, etc. and it is just those people who are also more likely to demonstrate “motivated cognition” such as confirmation bias – aka agnotology. Basically liberals and conservatives don’t think the same way, we have different goals in developing and maintaining belief systems, and we have different motivations for holding on to those beliefs. And Meghan wonders why all her professors are liberals.

58

sorry to interrupt 05.05.10 at 5:01 pm

The popular defense by liberals of Israel.
The defense of neoliberal policies as liberal ones.

The behavior of faded European empires in the third world, even after Europe had experienced the terrors of Naziism. How odd that the French were capable of behaving as they did in Algeria after what they had been through themselves.

“Both dogmas, I shall argue, are ill founded. One effect of abandoning them is, as we shall see, a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science.”
Again: the popular quackery of Quine. And as well the academic obsession with finding single universally applicable “right” answers to questions that will always be dealt with in cases. How much energy has been wasting searching for precise definitions of justice?

As with trade there is no absolute measurement of energy. If recycling takes more energy but that energy is renewable so what? If conservation means we get where we’re going more slowly, where exactly are we “going?” And it makes sense that geographic areas maintain some independence from one another and not rely solely on imports for basics. Too much interdependence leads to economic inflexibility.

The vogue for networks is just that. It’s an analogy that as oversold as pesticides and antibiotics.. But when it fades another one will take it’s place.

This sort of debate is a symptom of the dumbing down of everyone, left and right.
The right has become pathological but as someone else said recently the Cambridge Apostles are not a model for democratic intellectual leadership, and that is precisely the model of the academic elite regarding intellectual life, and politics. Read that bit by Quine again: “…a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science.” It’s just bizarre. And Quine was also politically, deeply conservative.

We don’t need more “right” answers we need more adults, and this conversation as now constituted is not helping.

59

Sebastian 05.05.10 at 5:02 pm

“Jost et al,, in a 2003 meta-analysis of 88 studies across 12 countries, concluded that conservatism ideology is motivated by the need to manage uncertainty and threat. So, the more intolerant one is to uncertainty and threat, the stronger will be the pull of conservative ideology. “

Which surely explains the GM food thing…

60

Kevin Donoghue 05.05.10 at 5:08 pm

I presume Sebastian’s dismissal of the immiseration effect of past colonialism on Africa relies on a view of African history which leaves out the slave trade, lots of wars, apartheid etc. Certainly, if you just ignore all the bad bits the rest is pretty good.

61

psycholinguist 05.05.10 at 5:16 pm

Sebastian, have you ever known an American right winger who wasn’t willing to embrace corporate hegemony? Why should they feel threat or uncertainty when Monsanto and Dow are the ones developing those Roundup resistant soybeans.

62

Rich Puchalsky 05.05.10 at 5:33 pm

Tim Worstall’s objections are really just as silly as I thought they would be. And we haven’t even gotten yet to the 30% of climate science that he doesn’t agree with. (Or was that the other Tim? I forget.)

The “saving resources” claim is just sophistry on Tim’s part. Yes, environmentalists know that sorting trash takes some time. No, that isn’t what they mean by resources. Yes, they can estimate the cost of the time if they want to. But — of course — the trend, over time, for recycling programs is that automatic separation of trash is becoming more and more widespread; environmentalists were already perfectly aware of this… and yes, some recycling may cause more problems, in terms of resources or what have you, then it relieves. There are battery recycling sites that are large sources of lead pollution. This objection starts with sophistry and goes on into a claim that when people use a one-sentence summary of a position, they have to then go on for paragraphs about the exceptions, or they don’t know what they are talking about.

As for job creation being a benefit? Worstall’s presentation here is just wrong. The cost of energy involves the cost of the materials used to get it, the investment in capital, and the money spent on jobs. Can green energy compete on costs per kwH? Then the costs of whatever jobs are involved is included. Is it better for the public to have a higher proportion of the cost of energy be in the form of jobs and a lower proportion be resources, as long as the overall cost of energy is the same? Yes, it is. Because in our system, people need jobs in order to live.

The others are dimly lit caricatures of positions — maybe there is someone somewhere who holds them, but so what? Everyone who I know of who is concerned about population talks about more rights for women, not simply about providing contraception…

Knee-jerk contrarianism isn’t really the wonderful thing that some people seem to think that it is. We don’t have to show that we’re scrupulously fair by ginning up some fake example of how every side is equally bad.

63

alex 05.05.10 at 5:51 pm

Let it be remembered that the original definition of a ‘resource’ is something that comes back; that there is always more of. Whatever else you might say about the capacity of land to be a ‘resource’, in terms of agricultural productivity, for example, there is a hard limit on how much of it you can fill up with mixed domestic waste, and what you have filled up is often no longer usable for anything else. Thus, in the original sense, landfill is the permanent [or, let’s be charitable, semi-permanent] destruction of a resource. And that’s before you get into issues of groundwater contamination, etc etc.

64

Rich Puchalsky 05.05.10 at 5:54 pm

“Much of the recent global warming scandal is about emails which essentially consist of “we can’t show the real data because it isn’t strong enough for the message we want”.”

Now this, by Sebastian, is a deliberate lie. The “recent global warming scandal about emails”, i.e. Climategate, was investigated thoroughly and found to be nothing of the sort. Sebastian can’t even claim ignorance, as this has been covered so heavily, unless it’s deliberate ignorance preserved so that he’s not technically lying when he writes this.

I wonder if Anderson will show up again to tell me what a bad person I am for dismissing Sebastian as a troll and to tell me that the refusal to coddle the likes of Sebastian is why the left isn’t getting anywhere.

65

chris 05.05.10 at 5:59 pm

I think you’re pretty much crazy if you haven’t seen the trope among leftists

Wow, check out that bar-lowering. From closed-mindedly promoted/defended dogma to “see[ing] that trope among leftists” in one fell swoop.

It’s almost as if nobody has ever pointed out that the left tends to be on both sides of a lot of issues (except that, of course, plenty of people have pointed that out, including earlier on this thread).

I trust you don’t want me to start listing tropes I have seen among rightists (that have not been elevated to orthodoxy). I don’t want to either. There are many that are a good deal uglier than global warming denial.

P.S. @57, what’s the liberal defense of Israel? Universality of human rights (a core liberal value that might actually rise to the status of an orthodoxy, but not eligible for this thread because it’s a value judgment and not subject to factual refutation) is kind of fatally incompatible with nations that are “for” a particular ethnic/religious group to the exclusion of other people who happen to live there — that’s the liberal *critique* of Israel in a nutshell.

66

james 05.05.10 at 6:17 pm

I think there is evidence to support Quiggin’s thesis that you won’t be able to find equivalent examples at all, or certainly at anywhere near the same rates, on the left as on the right.

No. Anyone trying to demonstrate the Lefts ‘s tu quoque on a left leaning sight is automaticly limited to examples that are former beliefs. Even then, the examples must be idea’s that can not be attributed to ancient history or the ‘other side’. Otherwise the conversation would be about the idea presented and how it is correct. The thread on Eugenics is an example of this limitation. Where the belief was attributed to a) an idea from the Right, b) everyone was doing it, and c) its ancient history.

67

Kevin Donoghue 05.05.10 at 6:25 pm

Well James, you were reduced to cititing the Left’s stance on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. When you wrote that, did it even dawn on you that the author of this post is Australian?

68

Kevin Donoghue 05.05.10 at 6:27 pm

Citing, that is. In comment no. 23 (assuming you’re the same James).

69

james 05.05.10 at 6:42 pm

Kevin Donoghu at 66.

No, I assumed he was British. My mistake. The initiating thread was the Oregon Petition. This specifically referenced an item from a subset of the continental United States. It seemed reasonable that an item from the entirety of the United States would also be acceptable.

70

Colin Danby 05.05.10 at 6:45 pm

1. Anti-knowledge, if I understand the post, requires a deliberately-cultivated immune response to counter-evidence and critique. I think of woo and conspiracy-theorizing: woo being the opposite of natural science and conspiracy-theorizing the opposite of a careful understanding of the political world. You can identify, loosely, left and right varieties of each. If you want leftish examples there’s plenty of woo floating around the Huffington Post, and Michael Moore relies heavily on conspiracy theorizing.

2. Sebastian has Marx backward. The argument he *could* make is that there’s an ancient strain of thought that’s suspicious of trade and exchange in general, which generally took conservative or reactionary forms in earlier centuries, but which in the 20th century often takes a more leftish form, as in critiques of consumer culture. People who don’t know Marx, left or right, sometimes assume retrospectively that that’s his view.

71

Rich Puchalsky 05.05.10 at 7:10 pm

Oh, great. Here comes Colin Danby to tell us that Michael Moore is fat.

Let’s have actual examples of conspiracy theories, please. Well really, just one. Then we can dig in to whether it is a) actually a conspiracy theory, b) unquestioningly believed by some large segment of the left.

Here, I’ll help. How about 9/11 Truth? Surely all leftists must get together around their unquestioning support of … wait a minute.

72

Colin Danby 05.05.10 at 7:24 pm

Farenheit 9/11 spends a lot of time trying to tie the Bush family to Saudi Arabia. Why?

FWIW I admire “Roger and Me” and a lot of other work by Moore.

I don’t find “large segment of the left” a meaningful phrase, which is why I don’t make any claims along those lines.

Unclench, Rich!

73

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 7:33 pm

I’m not sure what to make of the idea that you’ve never heard of leftists who think that trade is usually/often negative sum. A huge part of the last hundred comments in the recent thread which turned to Marx, here operates under that assumption (that labor trades with capital tend to be negative sum), and much of Marxist analysis is based on the idea that trade between countries necessarily immiserates one of them. And a huge part of leftist chatter is about how the middleman in trades is necessarily just a waste.

Sigh. Yep, you’re playing the troll all right. Note the walkback from this original assertion:

Also the idea that trade is usually negative-sum is rather prevalent among the non-economist left. This is provably false, and should be laughable to anyone who has ever participated in a functioning first world economy, but is said with seriousness even on this very blog.

Going from “rather prevalent” to “at least one”? Using that standard, Sebastian will doubtless smugly object to my statement that dogs are four-legged animals: “look, here’s a picture of a three-legged dog.”

Note also how Sebastian doesn’t actually provide any, you know, actual quotes. I skimmed through this thread and didn’t see anything like even his amended, much diluted assertion.

What a loser.

74

ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 7:36 pm

I think you’re pretty much crazy if you haven’t seen the trope among leftists, but I’m about to go on a two day holiday so how about this easier one:

Translation: “I refuse to provide any evidence for my belief, but I’m still right.” Sebastian here is clearly demonstrating the agnotology of the right, but what we want are some examples on the “left”.

75

Uncle Kvetch 05.05.10 at 7:40 pm

Farenheit 9/11 spends a lot of time trying to tie the Bush family to Saudi Arabia. Why?

Because the longstanding personal ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royals (which are very well documented — Moore didn’t have to “try” particularly hard) effectively demolish the ludicrous claims that the invasion of Iraq was about “promoting democracy in the Middle East.” There were probably quite a few Americans who saw that movie who hadn’t previously been aware that one of our closest allies in the region is a feudal monarchy in which adultery is punishable by stoning and women aren’t allowed to drive cars.

What any of that has to do with conspiracy theorizing escapes me.

76

sorry to interrupt 05.05.10 at 7:42 pm

No group has a monopoly on anti-knowledge. At this point the right is unified behind a number of ideas, fixations, delusions, choose your term, while liberals and the left are less so. And in our technocratic society liberals also have a better grasp of straightforward technical knowledge but that does not move them beyond the realm of unreason.

Fact: By any standard definition Zionism is founded on racist logic.
“Liberal” Israelis want a two state solution and argue that the Palestinian citizens of Israel will and should want to leave. “Left wing” activist Uri Avnery has said that Jews want to live by themselves. That is neither a left nor liberal sentiment.

Fact: there are as many Palestinians under effective Israeli authority as there are Jews.
This bothers Israelis of all stripes. I do not worry about the “browning” of America, Germany, France the Netherlands or Israel. Israelis as a whole worry about the “browning” of Israel by the people who lived there 60 years ago and their descendants. That fear is not liberal. Israel is defended in it’s fears by those who call themselves liberal. They do so by use of false reason and delusion. And those who point this out make no headway whatsoever. The facts of Israeli action have been the same for 50 years. That things are changing is not the result of a slow change of consciousness, of perspective not reason.

When arguing in detail facts and values fade together. That’s why political decision-making is more founded on civic harmony than “truth.” The right has a history of denying that and so do liberals. especially those who are less liberal than they claim to be.

It’s very dangerous to focus on the irrationalism of others. Better, safer, more useful and more truthful, to focus on the human capacity for unreason.
Fact: Cold War liberals were never the best judges of Stalinism. Catch my drift?

77

Rich Puchalsky 05.05.10 at 7:54 pm

I don’t know, why does the movie do that? Perhaps because there really are strong ties between the Bush family and the Saudi Arabian royal family. Does the movie go from accepted facts into support for a conspiracy theory? I don’t know; I haven’t seen it. Don’t you think it’s up to you to make the case that it does, since you were the one who brought it up as an example of conspiracy theorizing?

And why should I think it’s important whether you admire some of Moore’s work? In a discussion of whether “there is anything on the left comparable to the near-universal promotion of the Oregon petition on the right”, you brought up Moore. I’d be willing to guess that a majority of the people here knew what I meant with “Michael Moore is fat”, even though you hadn’t said that he was fat. Why do think that is?

78

Tim Worstall 05.05.10 at 8:05 pm

“Whatever else you might say about the capacity of land to be a ‘resource’, in terms of agricultural productivity, for example, there is a hard limit on how much of it you can fill up with mixed domestic waste, and what you have filled up is often no longer usable for anything else. Thus, in the original sense, landfill is the permanent [or, let’s be charitable, semi-permanent] destruction of a resource. “

Umm, in the UK at least, we dig more holes to extract aggregates and the like than we have rubbish to fill such holes. So unless gravel pits are desirable agricultural features and landfilled areas restored to level land are not this doesn’t really fly.

But it’s still true that the labour used to recycle is regarded, in the cost benefit analyses of whether we should recycle or not, as a free resource. Which was rather my orginal point. Labour ain’t free and yet we’ve got a leftist (OK, environmentalist perhaps) trope built on the idea that it is. While this is a different idiocy from the Oregon Petition it’s still an idiocy. Which is what JQ was asking for, no? That there were comparable idiocies either side (although he was obviously hoping that there weren’t).

79

parse 05.05.10 at 8:06 pm

I wouldn’t make the claim that agnotology is just as bad on the left as on the right. On the more specific question of whether there is anything on the left comparable to the near-universal promotion of the Oregon petition on the right, I think there are a few candidates.

1) Domestic violence calls in the U.S. spike on Superbowl Sunday.

2) Between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.

3) Matthew Shepard was the victim of a hate crime. (I’m not sure this is “provably false,” but I think Joann Wypijewski’s reporting makes a compelling case against the claim.)

80

chris 05.05.10 at 8:08 pm

If you want leftish examples there’s plenty of woo floating around the Huffington Post

Yeah, that’s why I used it as my primary example of left-left disagreement back in comment 7. I don’t think you quite grasp what kind of phenomenon we’re looking for, here. Lots of propositions are discussed and controverted in leftish circles. Far fewer are uniformly accepted, defended and enforced. HuffPo woo does not qualify for the latter category.

I don’t find “large segment of the left” a meaningful phrase, which is why I don’t make any claims along those lines.

Then you can’t really talk meaningfully about the phenomenon under discussion, can you? I mean, how can you evaluate the concept of “whether there is anything on the left comparable to the near-universal promotion of the Oregon petition on the right” without some way of talking about and measuring how widely accepted (and disseminated, and defended) a particular position is within a particular group? Did you think that the word “near-universal” had somehow been included by accident and wasn’t important to the concept?

81

Substance McGravitas 05.05.10 at 8:17 pm

1) Domestic violence calls in the U.S. spike on Superbowl Sunday.

What makes this idea leftist?

82

John Quiggin 05.05.10 at 8:47 pm

“Domestic violence calls in the U.S. spike on Superbowl Sunday.”

http://www.thenation.com/article/second-sex-super-bowl

A quick search finds a feminist critique of Superbowl advertising by Jaclyn Friedman , in leading leftist magazine The Nation, noting, in the light of domestic violence incidents involving sports figures

“Is it any wonder that the mythic connection between the Super Bowl and domestic violence is so hard to debunk? For the record, there’s no evidence of an overall spike in domestic abuse on Super Bowl Sunday, but new research suggests that there may be an increase in perpetration of same by male football fans when a home team suffers an upset loss at any point in the season. “

So this counts not merely as a fail, but as a good counterexample. Even though it would obviously suit Friedman’s case to cite the bogus stat she spells out that it is false.

As for Sebastian’s desperate attempts to pin the vaccine-autism link on the left, maybe he should tell Dan Burton about this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Burton

Tim, I’m asking for obviously false factual claims, unchallenged despite regular refutation. So, there is no value in pointing arguments or analyses you consider to be invalid, or even idiotic. And, the failure to count domestic labour (even your own) in weighing costs and benefits is a very widespread errer.

In fact, the recycling case is an own goal: the bogus claim “recycling uses twice as much energy as producing new material”, started by John Tierney IIRC remains in circulation long after it was refuted.

83

parse 05.05.10 at 8:47 pm

I don’t think we are looking for leftists ideas, but claims generally accepted by nearly everyone left of centre. I think this was generally accepted, but I’ve never attempted to prove that and probably couldn’t if I needed to. If others have evidence that this wasn’t generally accepted by nearly everyone left of center, I’ll cheerfully accept that this particular candidate for left agnotology does not deserve election.

84

John Quiggin 05.05.10 at 8:52 pm

soru @38, the fact that you have to go to a Stalinist groupuscule to find a level of delusion comparable to that of Fox News and the Republican party might make you think a bit about your side of politics.

85

parse 05.05.10 at 8:55 pm

So this counts not merely as a fail, but as a good counterexample. Even though it would obviously suit Friedman’s case to cite the bogus stat she spells out that it is false.

If Friedman is an example of the common current attitude about the Super Bowl statistic, it is indeed a useful counter example. But given that there’s isolated right-wing pushback against the Oregon petition, Friedman herself can’t demonstrate a good counterexample. Remember, we need to get past a handful of counterexamples, or even into double figures.

86

Tom Scudder 05.05.10 at 9:00 pm

81: I think it’s slightly off-point to point out that right-wingers also subscribe to vaccination-related idiocy. More on-point is noting that anti-vaccination views are regularly debunked on the left. One example, googled in about ten seconds: this extensive debunking by a leftish poster on a blog which lists Sebastian as a contributor.

87

Substance McGravitas 05.05.10 at 9:54 pm

For a right-wing meme that never dies, see “Al Gore says he invented the internet.” And once again, Jonah wears the dunce cap. Now to be fair, this has been flagged at the NRO as false, but long long ago. What can this be but the maintenance of ignorance?

88

John Quiggin 05.05.10 at 10:04 pm

parse, as far as I can tell, the Superbowl violence myth was the subject of a press release in 1993, which was retracted when the error was pointed out. The right has been chewing over it ever since – nearly 20 years now. I can’t find any instances of it being stated as fact by any source more authoritative than “some random in a comments thread”. Can you point to anything in the last decade.

Given the longevity of the “feminists falsely claim Superbowl violence” meme, based on a quickly corrected error (maybe repeated once or twice since, but not for a long time), I’d say that this actually counts as another own goal for the right.

89

John Quiggin 05.05.10 at 10:25 pm

James, as others have pointed out, I’m not an American and therefore not an expert on the Second Amendment or US constitutional law (I somehow suspect you aren’t an expert either). But I’m aware that a recent decision of the Supreme Court split 5-4 on left-right lines, and that vast amounts have been written of this question with a wide range of different views.

It doesn’t seem to me that there is any “truth of the matter” here. Within a fairly wide range, the Constitution means, in practice, what the Supreme Court says it means. If you are claiming that the majority in this case was self-evidently right, it seems to be that you are exhibiting ignorance, not exposing it.

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ScentOfViolets 05.05.10 at 10:50 pm

If others have evidence that this wasn’t generally accepted by nearly everyone left of center, I’ll cheerfully accept that this particular candidate for left agnotology does not deserve election.

Yet another case of a right-winger trying to impose (deliberately) bad conditionals: “If you can’t make me say I’m wrong I win.”

No, Parse, I don’t think anyone particularly cares about what you say you’ll “accept”. The burden of proof is on you to shows that this particular candidate for left agnotology does deserve election, not on anyone else to show you that it doesn’t.

This, btw, seems to be a rhetorical technique rather more prevalent on the right than the “left”: the notion that one can boldy state something as a fact and then require that others prove that what you said ain’t so.

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Chris Williams 05.05.10 at 11:05 pm

“New Communist Party of Great Britain” – you do realise that this is three men and a dog in Southampton, don’t you?

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parse 05.05.10 at 11:09 pm

Scent of Violets, I’m not claiming a win, and the reason I mentioned the Superbowl myth as a possible example of a false belief widely held on the left is because I missed the contemporary correction and, probably through 2005 or so, believed it myself. Snopes.com describes my own experience pretty well: “The retractions and corrections received far less attention than the sensational-but-false stories everyone wanted to believe, and the bogus Super Bowl statistic remains a widely cited and believed piece of misinformation.”

One thing that does separate both the Superbowl and the human trafficking statistic from the Oregon petition cases in the latter case global warming has been consistently debated during the life of the petition, and there’s ample de-bunking of the global warming claims in widespread circulation. I don’t think there’s been similar effort to debunk the other claims, so even sustained leftist belief in them wouldn’t demonstrate willful ignorance as much as a lack of inclination to research a fairly minor data point.

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pdf23ds 05.05.10 at 11:37 pm

What james said. Anyone trying to demonstrate the Lefts ’s tu quoque on a left leaning site is, of course, not going to get any agreement at all. The conversation will be dedicated to how, of course, the right’s claims are completely false and worthless. (Duh.) Why does the race-intelligence connection not count? According to you guys, because it is completely false and discredited (and furthermore, only pushed by racists). Quiggen would say it doesn’t meet the requirements of the post, because it’s not “easily shown to be false”.

OK, so I’m actually leftist myself. I don’t think it’s a great example, either–either genetic links to intelligence, or the socially constructed nature of race or gender. Those examples, while being areas of unquestionable orthodoxy, unfortunately, are not susceptible to easy refutation, unlike many examples from the wingnut right. They’re extremely fraught, scientifically speaking, at this point. The most the left can be accused of is incredible close-mindedness in the area, and of way understating the evidence that does exist in their favor. Personally, I think the left is probably right on the issue (of race, less sure about sex), but I think there’s a substantial chance (10-20%) we’re not, which is orders of magnitude more skeptical than usual, and does warrant some scientific inquiry.

I would like to take the opportunity to ask any here: If the issue is so cut and dried, shouldn’t there be a resource similar to the talk.origins FAQ to dispel all the bad arguments? I mean, granting arguendo that the right on this issue is crazy, certainly creationists are at least as crazy, and yet there’s still an entire site dedicated to debunking their claims in glorious detail, with full references. Could you give me a link? I’d love to see such a site. In every commentary I’ve seen on the subject in the past few days (linked to a recent news event, natch) all leftist arguments have only addressed the easily discredited claims, not made by anyone intelligent seriously espousing such issues—not the strongest positions available. The same is true for people beating up on creationists on non-specialist sites, for the simple reason that few blog commenters are experts on the subject. But surely, there being many experts in the world, they have managed to pull together such a resource. Maybe not a FAQ, but perhaps a blog or (at worst) a book. (Preferably something a little more recent than The Mismeasure of Man.)

Incidentally, I feel the same way about transhumanism, but it’s not a good example because it gets so little mainstream attention, left or right. My transhumanist views likely lead to my sympathy for hereditarians.

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pdf23ds 05.05.10 at 11:40 pm

“Those examples, while being areas of unquestionable orthodoxy, unfortunately, are not susceptible to easy refutation”

from the right, that is.

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Matt 05.05.10 at 11:43 pm

My entry for the competition, however, would be the very prevalent indeed (although not ubiquitous because I don’t believe it and I don’t think John does either) belief that European farm subsidies are bad for the Third World.

I don’t have a settled opinion on this and can see arguments either way. But, I asked the head of economic research for the WTO, a guy who, in addition to being a fun no-bull-shit guy who pulls a mean pint, knows a thing or two about trade, about this last fall, and he said that he thought the case was far from clear on either side and that more research would need to be done before it was clear, and that it would likely differ from country to country. He seemed pretty sure that people shouldn’t feel too confident about the answer.

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Salma von Hayek 05.05.10 at 11:52 pm

It clearly didn’t make it through, but here’s my contribution:

Human biodiversity. There is a non-trivial possibility (some would say, a likelihood, but let’s just stick to possibility) that there are, e.g. genetic racial differences in intelligence, and yet I think it’s clear that wide swathes of the left rule it out a priori. If anything counts as “confirmation bias, closed-mindedness and deliberate promotion of ignorance” on the behalf of antecedently held political beliefs, I think the left’s attitude to HBD does.

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LizardBreath 05.06.10 at 12:03 am

I don’t think it’s a great example, either—either genetic links to intelligence, or the socially constructed nature of race or gender. Those examples, while being areas of unquestionable orthodoxy, unfortunately, are not susceptible to easy refutation, unlike many examples from the wingnut right.

Doesn’t this, without more, make them irrelevant to this discussion? While the conversation you’re bringing up might be an interesting one to have, it’s not one about something that is (a) demonstrably false, and (b) is unquestioned leftist orthodoxy.

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pdf23ds 05.06.10 at 12:06 am

Um, I just asserted that they were unquestioned leftist orthodoxy.

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pdf23ds 05.06.10 at 12:07 am

Oh, if you’re saying it’s irrelevant because they’re not BOTH A and B, then I guess the entire thread is irrelevant. Really I wanted to post that because of the third paragraph. I really want to see if there is any comprehensive debunking site for the issue.

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LizardBreath 05.06.10 at 12:16 am

97: Well, right, as I understand it both (a) and (b) are necessary — “Leftists are intolerant and unwilling to listen to differing views on a topic that they’re probably, but not certainly, right about” is a worthy subject of discussion, but it’s not this subject.

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John Quiggin 05.06.10 at 12:17 am

PDF23ds@92 Maybe you’re right and we/I would ignore or explain away obvious examples of clearly false statements about simple matters of fact (comparable to “31 000 scientists reject global warming”) even if they were pointed out.

But we are 97 comments in – have you seen any examples ? James’ best was “the left are ignorant because they disagree with my interpretation of the US constitution”.

Obviously, as you say, there are instances of orthodoxy on questions that can’t easily be resolved. If this weren’t true, it would be hard to see how terms like “left” and “right” could have any meaning at all (as it is, they are vague, but still useful).

The claim being made here is simple: the orthodoxy of the right is supported by lots of factual claims that are widely made, and almost never criticised by other rightwingers, even though they can easily be shown to be false. There is nothing comparable on the left.

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LizardBreath 05.06.10 at 12:18 am

And for debunking – it’s not what you’re asking for, in terms of a compilation of articles specifically addressing particular claims, but have you read Cosma Shalizi’s stuff on intelligence? His blog’s in the sidebar here, and he’s got an “IQ” tag that gives you the relevant posts.

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piglet 05.06.10 at 12:20 am

“But the sorting of waste into 4 (or 9 or whatever) buckets, the washing out of the peanut butter jars, the turning over of the compost heap, these are inventions of environmentalists”

Worstall, the compost heap has been around longer than anybody started calling themselves environmentalists. Actually recycling and reusing were around forever and didn’t have to be “invented” by modern-day environmentalists. Your claims are between petty and embarrassing. I don’t think I spend even a minute longer per day when I sort my trash into different containers – throwing it all in the same container takes time too, you know – and even if I did, citing this as an example for a supposedly irrational policy is ridiculous. What do you say to the example I gave? Consumer choice is universally regarded as a good thing by economists and yet it undeniable comes at a cost. Sorting through N different offers for insurance, cell phone deals, or even different cereal products costs the consumer time. There is not a single mainstream economic model that even tries to take these costs into account as negative costs of consumer choice. Am I justified to claim that the whole notion of consumer choice being desirable is scientifically unfounded? By your standards, I would be.

a market economy comes with costs , and I am not aware

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Rich Puchalsky 05.06.10 at 12:30 am

“What james said. Anyone trying to demonstrate the Lefts ’s tu quoque on a left leaning site is, of course, not going to get any agreement at all. […] OK, so I’m actually leftist myself.”

What?

Let’s review this for a minute. John Quiggin uses the Oregon Petition as an example of a specific right-wing falsehood that the right will not let die. The Oregon Petition involved the false or at least misleading (if you argue over the purposefully vague term “catastrophic”) claim:

“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

It also involved a document faked up to look like it was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which the NAS had to explicitly disavow. The signatories to the petition are again and again misrepresented as being scientists when they generally are not.

And against this, someone (who helpfully says “I’m leftist myself”!) sets the race-intelligence connection? Something he thinks that the left may have a 10-20% chance of being wrong about, on no particular evidence?

Look, I know that a number of people on CT are fine upstanding people who like to hold up their standards of civility by tut-tutting whenever anyone takes this stuff seriously enough to get annoyed. But this is annoying. The right-wingers will not learn from exercises like this thread. All that they will do, as Tim Worstall is doing, is recite conservative talking points. (His was popularized by John Tierney’s “Recycling is Garbage” piece of 1996 and has been recycled, with no thought to the domestic labor costs of people who have to read it again, ever since.) They will never admit to anything. Nor will the centrists and most of the left-wingers here learn anything from it. Anyone who still expects logical argument from the right is hopelessly asleep at the switch, or interested in politics for purposes of vanity, not because they care about anything actually getting accomplished. The rest will just look at the comparison of the supposed 10-20% race-intelligence connection and the Oregon Petition and feel pretty much what John Emerson feels. At least I do.

Quiggin said that we shouldn’t engage with the right as serious intellectuals, but he doesn’t seem to have internalized the statement. This thread really could only turn out as it has.

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ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 12:31 am

Lizardbreath, I actually have one of those bookmarked: g, a Statistical Myth. Nice article with good examples. This is something of a hobby horse, or at any rate, a hobby pony of mine, that people think just because they can run a regression or know some SAS that they can do statistical analysis. Often, they are just abusing statistical analysis and don’t even really understand explanations as to why their particular number crunching doesn’t say what they think it does.

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ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 12:40 am

Scent of Violets, I’m not claiming a win, and the reason I mentioned the Superbowl myth as a possible example of a false belief widely held on the left is because I missed the contemporary correction and, probably through 2005 or so, believed it myself.

Well, I don’t know what to make of this then:

If others have evidence that this wasn’t generally accepted by nearly everyone left of center, I’ll cheerfully accept that this particular candidate for left agnotology does not deserve election.

Blink. What I am saying here is that you can’t do this. Period. Even if you happen to be right. The accepted procedure is that if you make a statement, the burden is upon you to prove it, not on me to refute it. There’s a back and forth, of course; if I ask you to prove that the sky is blue or that tires are made out of rubber or any of a number of obvious and commonly accepted statements you’re free to call me an obstructionist and suggest that I take a hike. But you just can’t say, per Sebastian, that “the idea that trade is usually negative-sum is rather prevalent among the non-economist left “, not provide any proof, then announce that you’re right but you can’t be bothered with looking up cites because you’ve got more important things to do.

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ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 12:45 am

Why does the race-intelligence connection not count? According to you guys, because it is completely false and discredited (and furthermore, only pushed by racists). Quiggen would say it doesn’t meet the requirements of the post, because it’s not “easily shown to be false”.

Yet another rhetorical misstatement; no, according to “us guys”, there has been no credible proof offered that there is a connection between race and intelligence.

If you want to make the claim that there is, back it up. I’m willing to see what you’ve got. But these ridiculous and easily seen through attempts to shift the burden of proof have simply got to stop. Again, this is something far, far more prevalent on the right than on the “left”, at least in my personal experience.

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sorry to interrupt 05.06.10 at 12:52 am

“But we are 97 comments in – have you seen any examples ? James’ best was ‘the left are ignorant because they disagree with my interpretation of the US constitution’.”

This post isn’t about the left and right, it’s about ‘liberals’ and the right.

The narrative of European Jewry takes precedence in the liberal imagination over the Palestinian narrative of expulsion and exile. That’s a fact and is not arguable; but the non-response of liberals to facts is a retreat and a form of panic. The right is in full retreat, and panic, in response to a wide range of threats to their assumptions. The threat to those of liberals are more diffuse and with a few exceptions are easier to avoid.

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stubydoo 05.06.10 at 12:53 am

Aside from the fact that Prof. Quiggin’s Oregon petition example falls a loooooooooonnnnggg way short of being universally accepted on the right (is it endorsed by CT’s favorite whipping boy of late – Bryan Caplan?) — well I guess I’ll play along and propose a left wing example: the claim that the working class benefits from a system of collective bargaining through unions.

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John Quiggin 05.06.10 at 12:55 am

RP@102 “Quiggin said that we shouldn’t engage with the right as serious intellectuals, but he doesn’t seem to have internalized the statement. This thread really could only turn out as it has.”

This thread is in the nature of a final demonstration for me (and I hope for others here), that there is in fact no reason to treat the right as intellectually serious, or to give credence to some sort of “symmetry in error” claim about the left.

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parse 05.06.10 at 1:03 am

ScentofViolets, it’s often true when someone says “If you prove A, then I am wrong” they mean to imply “and if you don’t prove A, I am right.” So it’s not unreasonable for you to take that inference from my post. But I did not mean to imply that, nor did I believe it.

I said I believed that the Superbowl myth was possibly an example of a claim that is generally accepted by nearly everyone left of centre As I mentioned in the post that’s giving you so much trouble: I think [the Superbowl] was generally accepted, but I’ve never attempted to prove that and probably couldn’t if I needed to. And I explained that if I was wrong about that, then I was wrong about any possibility of the Superbowl claim being a parallel to the Oregon petition. Since being generally accepted by the left was only part of the criteria John Quiggin stipulated, I could be correct about that much even if I hadn’t identified a genuine example of left agnatology. I was acknowledging early on that I believed but could not prove that claim was generally accepted as true and noting that if I were wrong about that, there wouldn’t be any reason to investigate whether it met the other criteria.

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Eli Rabett 05.06.10 at 1:35 am

FWIW deregulation was a necessary but not sufficient condition leading to the financial crisis.

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John Quiggin 05.06.10 at 2:05 am

@stubydoo Do you have any evidence that Caplan has criticised the Oregon petition? Or are you proposing the absurd interpretation that every single person on the right should have explicitly endorsed the claim?

The closest thing I can find to a statement from Caplan is this
http://www.newsfromplanetearth.com/24057/focusing-illusion-climate-change-and-demagoguery-bryan-caplan/
which implicitly endorses the rightwing orthodoxy that climate change isn’t a problem.

As for your suggested topic, FAIL. General propositions on which you disagree with the left are not examples. Reread the post on what kind of examples are needed.

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ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 2:12 am

ScentofViolets, it’s often true when someone says “If you prove A, then I am wrong” they mean to imply “and if you don’t prove A, I am right.” So it’s not unreasonable for you to take that inference from my post. But I did not mean to imply that, nor did I believe it.

(Bangs Head) No, no, no. To quote a Doyle sock-puppet, “Absence of evidence is not absence of evidence”. For all I know, you’re right. Or wrong. I don’t particularly care.

What I do care about is this easy and slipshod treatment of the whole notion of the burden of proof. If you want to claim something, fine. But it’s up to you to prove it. If you don’t prove it, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong (think Fermat and his last theorem), all that has happened is that you haven’t proved that you’re right. For anyone to assume that because you haven’t demonstrated your case the opposite is true is just as egregious an error.

My problem here is that it is an attribute of the right – admittedly not being explicitly discussed – that makes light of this very important idea. The, left, not so much. Look upthread if you don’t believe me. That is often a best-case scenario, btw. It seems to me that it is often the case that some right-winger will make an assertion and when called on it, will challenge others to prove them wrong. And – whadda surprise – they also labor mightily to impart the deception that they are the ones who are the arbiters on whether or not this has happened.

Or as I like to put it, the old “if you can’t make me say I’m wrong I win” game.

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piglet 05.06.10 at 2:38 am

“belief that European farm subsidies are bad for the Third World”

You think it is absurd to claim that European sugar export subsidies (or, for that matter, US cotton subsidies) hurt third world sugar (or cotton) producers? On what grounds? What economic theory do your rely on? I was under the impression that standard economic theory looks harshly on these kinds of market distortions but if you have other information, let us know.

Of course the term “European farm subsidies” includes a host of different things and some of them have nothing at all to do with the third world. But is there any doubt that a subset of these subsidies impacts the third world?

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Rich Puchalsky 05.06.10 at 2:42 am

“This thread is in the nature of a final demonstration for me (and I hope for others here), that there is in fact no reason to treat the right as intellectually serious, or to give credence to some sort of “symmetry in error” claim about the left.”

I understand. But there is no such thing as a final demonstration. Or rather, there may be a final demonstration for an individual person — I think that mine was sometime in the late ’90s — but as a community, we see this same thing, over and over.

I had hoped that the community as a whole would have the Bush years as their final demonstration. That is parochial of me, but it isn’t true even in the U.S. People are still insisting that some wingnut is the magic wingnut who it’s really good to engage with, and anyone who doesn’t is is an over the top dirty hippie. Or that we really have to consider that evidence-less 10% chance that we’re wrong about a race-intelligence link or we’re just as bad as … no, nausea compels me to not finish that sentence.

All right, back to work for me. Sorry to go on about this: you, John Q,, don’t really deserve it.

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piglet 05.06.10 at 2:46 am

Here’s Joseph Stiglitz writing back in 2003 (http://www.zcommunications.org/the-global-benefits-of-equality-by-joseph-stiglitz):

Picture yourself as a poor African farmer, scraping a living on a hectare or two. While you may not have heard of globalisation, you are affected by it:
you sell cotton, which will be woven into a shirt by a worker in Mauritius in a style designed by an Italian, to be worn by some well-off Parisian. You are better off than your grandfather, who relied on subsistence farming. But you are also the victim of globalisation, and the unfair global economic regime that has been crafted – and, in some cases, made increasingly unfair
– over the years.

The price of the cotton that you sell is so low because America spends up to $4bn a year subsidising its 25,000 farmers, encouraging them to produce more and more cotton – the subsidies even exceed the value of what they produce -and as they produce more, the price of cotton falls lower and lower.

You had thought about supplementing your income by buying a cow and selling its milk. But the price is so low that it does not pay: your fresh milk has to compete with powdered milk from America and Europe, who subsidise their cows at $2 a day, more than you and any of your neighbours actually make.

You wonder, what would life be like if you were treated as well as Europe treats its cows?

Your sister used to supplement the family income by working in a factory in the city, but almost 10 years ago the government was forced to take away its mild tariffs, and the factory closed down: something called the “Uruguay round” said that tariffs and subsidies on the goods you produced that competed with those produced in Europe and America were illegal.

I guess it’s all irrational conspiracy theory by some loonie on the left. Who happens to be a Nobel prize laureate but that would be making an argument by authority so let’s just leave it at that.

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bread & roses 05.06.10 at 2:52 am

In my experience, those on the left who believe that
homeopathy
chiropractic
acupuncture
reiki
massage therapy
aromatherapy
treatment with magnets
vitamin supplements
“herbs”
etc, jointly or severally, are effective cures or palliatives for disease are remarkably insensitive to evidence that this may not be true, and are remarkably eager to accept evidence that these things are effective. Sometimes it seems to me that it’s only necessary for the speaker to say “the modern medical system is a money-grubbing patriarchal system that is incabable of seeing patients as whole people” and these people will believe whatever- ANYTHING- that is said next (…”and you need to wear turquoise next to your skin to keep your energies aligned with primordial forces”- to invent something that would flow right in with the rest of it).

The people who are susceptible to this anti-medical-establishment claptrap are not 100% on the left (my perception is that they mostly are, but I don’t know how to check that) and certainly not everyone on the left is in this camp. But it is a striking example, to me, of shutting out all contradictory evidence and letting all confirming evidence in.

It is also my experience that those who believe eating local food is better for the environment are uninterested in hearing evidence otherwise. Ditto biodiesel. Same for eating organic food. I think the evidence that organic food is better for the environment or human health is stronger; but I think it is by no means unequivocal, and it’s not often I meet a left-of-center person who is willing to think about that.

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Matt 05.06.10 at 3:13 am

Piglet- in his linked discussion, Daniel explicitly states that US cotton subsidies are clearly bad for the 3rd world. They aren’t part of European agricultural subsidies, though. Sugar in the EU is probably a good example, though I’m not up-to-date on the scheme used there now. (In the US the problem is more protectionist quotas than subsidies for sugar, though of course there are big subsidies for corn.)

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Harry 05.06.10 at 3:35 am

breadandroses — all I can say, then, is that you meet a very, very strange sample of left-of center people. It sounds like you live in a small college campus town which got frozen in 1981 after expelling 90% of the students.

My real suspicion, in fact, is that you know lots of left-of-center people who are not nutty, but either think that because they are not nutty they are not left-of-center or think that they are not left-of-center because they keep quiet about it.

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bread & roses 05.06.10 at 3:58 am

Harry:
most of the people I know are left-of-center. Many of the people I know are nutty, but not necessarily in a way that correlates with politics. I’m not trying to claim that beliefs in magical alternative medicine are prevalent in any particular percentage on the left; just that those who hold those magical-alternative-medicine beliefs are utterly uninterested in examining them critically.

the local food, organic food, and biodiesel beliefs seem more discussable. But I don’t see anyone in the media on the left challenging the local-food-is-better meme. Do you?

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bread & roses 05.06.10 at 4:00 am

Perhaps I should clarify that I’m left-wing, and I therefore assume that I won’t be able to see examples of comprehensive left-wing blindness, being blinded myself. The issues I brought up are ones that I do see- and perhaps they are ones in which I am heterodox. But I don’t see much orthodoxy on the left.

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parse 05.06.10 at 4:06 am

ScentofViolets, you are right. I didn’t win. Saying “I think this is true” does not mean that I win unless someone can prove I am wrong. You are absolutely correct about this. If I gave the impression I thought otherwise, I need to be more clear.

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Aulus Gellius 05.06.10 at 4:16 am

D2’s example of ag-subsidies, even if it technically fit’s what the post asked for, doesn’t really help the tu quoque argument. As someone pointed out above, it’s pretty widely believed left, right, and center — which means that a leftist who believes it isn’t necessarily ignorant because he’s trapped in a leftist echo-chamber. The claim about the right is not just “they believe dumb stuff,” but, “they believe dumb stuff because they get all their information from right-wing sources; if they listened to non-right-wingers, they’d know better.” It’s really not equivalent to say of left-wingers, “they believe dumb stuff because they get all their information from a pretty wide, but not absolutely universal, range of sources; if they read that one article of D2’s in the Guardian, they’d know better.”

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pdf23ds 05.06.10 at 4:19 am

sleep lab on june 15.

John:
“Maybe you’re right and we/I would ignore or explain away obvious examples of clearly false statements about simple matters of fact … even if they were pointed out. But we are 97 comments in – have you seen any examples?”

No, I haven’t. My worry is that, not only all of you, but I would be blind to such a thing. I just don’t think this post is a convincing demonstration of that, but then I have no idea what would be. Perhaps a list of issues on which someone sensible on the right would say meets the burden would be a good start. (Though I don’t know if a sensible conservative could come up with such a list.) I’m certainly not advocating treating the right, as it exists today in the US, seriously.

“have you read Cosma Shalizi’s stuff on intelligence”

I’ve tried, but it’s very dense, and I actually think the whole race subject is rather boring. My interest in it is as a case study in the irrationality of “my” side.

“And against [the Oregon petition], someone (who helpfully says “I’m leftist myself”!) sets the race-intelligence connection?”

I didn’t set it against that, no. I said it wasn’t comparable. And I think it’s kind of funny that the statement “I’m a leftist/liberal, but…” has no credibility. Funny, but probably not wrong.

ScentOfViolets:
“Yet another rhetorical misstatement; no, according to “us guys”, there has been no credible proof offered that there is a connection between race and intelligence.

“If you want to make the claim that there is, back it up. I’m willing to see what you’ve got. But these ridiculous and easily seen through attempts to shift the burden of proof have simply got to stop. Again, this is something far, far more prevalent on the right than on the “left”, at least in my personal experience.”

I think this whole burden of proof thing is bullshit, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. I wasn’t taking the right-wing position in my comment above, I was asking if anyone had proof they might be kind enough to show me, that might change my mind on the issue. Just a bleg, really. What specifically made you think it was an attempt to shift the burden of proof? I don’t think I understand your position.

I used to be into Christian apologetics, and I saw no small number of debates that consisted entirely of “burden of proof” ping pong. Of course that kind of thing is a waste of time, and you seem willing to play it, but it seems your position is going even farther than that, isn’t it? On the race issue, I think there are a number of pieces of evidence of varying quality I could have raised (if I had wanted to talk about it), like measured IQ disparities and measured genetic bunching of different groups. (Please let’s not talk about those, though. Of course they’re problematic.) Would that have been enough, in your view, to shift the burden of proof?

P.S. that whole gravatar piece of javascript that reloads the icon every time I press a key in the comment box es mucho molesto. (Using FF 3.5.)

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pdf23ds 05.06.10 at 4:20 am

Umm, I’m not sure how that first line got there. Please ignore.

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John Quiggin 05.06.10 at 4:27 am

As regards alternative medicine, I found some links criticising the UK Greens for adopting an anti-science health policy in 2009, apparently on the initiative of a single individual. This criticism seems to have been taken to heart, since their 2010 manifesto calls only for “Make available on the NHS complementary
medicines that are cost-effective and have been shown to work.”

OTOH it proposes “More NHS dental care rather than the mass fluoridation of drinking water.” which implies a misreading of the literature on the effects of fluoridation, although it might be defended on purely libertarian grounds (not convincing to me, but not an error of fact).

Still, the central point here is willingness to correct errors when they are pointed out, and this seems to have happened.

And, of course, none of this meets the original post of a position generally held on the left.

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Charles St. Pierre 05.06.10 at 4:46 am

One of the difficulties about presenting a mass delusion held by the left is that since it may be so widely held to be true, one is also stuck with the burden of proving it false. I think, for instance, that the belief that free trade is an unalloyed good is such a erroneous belief. I’m not sure if it’s universally held on the left, or is widely held just on the left, but the administration seems to basically support it.

I think free trade is not universally beneficial. It is inevitable that it be abused, and that some nations will practice mercantilist policies to the harm of their trading ‘partners.’ My own observation, (in which I may have been scooped by Antal Fekete, but oh, well) is that where one country runs a trade surplus, and its trading partner a deficit, the country with the surplus grows at the literal expense of the country with the trade deficit. The country with the trade deficit exports its money, and deprives its own industries of the revenue they need to grow and to even sustain themselves. (The imports compete against them, reducing both the prices and the quantity of the goods they sell.) They contract. The industries of the country running the surplus, flush with the extra cash imported from the country with a deficit, enjoy extraordinary profits, and grow accordingly. (Because much of their production is exported, their domestic prices are elevated. Counting the exports, both their industries’ prices and the quantity they sell increase.) See the post ‘The effects of Unbalanced Trade’ at my blog.

It is thus no coincidence that China prospers, and we do not. Nor is it coincidence that they are experiencing inflation, while we are experiencing (asset, eg housing) deflation. Or that Germany prospers, and its trading partners do not.

Ian Fletcher, in his book ‘Free Trade Doesn’t Work What Should Replace It and Why’ presents numerous other arguments. Perhaps the most compelling: “(Mathematical Modeling) reveals that under free trade conditions between nations with merely different time discounts of consumption, the nation with the higher discount (more impatient) will tend to maximize present consumption by having past generations (who produced the assets that can be sold off) or future generations (who will service the debt) pay for present consumption.” (p47) He attributes similar reasoning to: Joseph E Stiglitz “Factor Price Equalization in a Dynamic Economy,” Journal of Political Economy (May/June 1970)

I hope my arguments at least raise the issue of Agnotological behavior on the left. The issue of Free Trade itself is something which merits more discussion than it gets. Its unmitigated virtues are often extolled despite what I believe to be increasing physical evidence to the contrary.

One example does not prove the thesis, but I do believe it shows the left is also capable of some seriously damaging false beliefs. Other examples?

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pdf23ds 05.06.10 at 4:55 am

One more point: even if the race issue is not clear by any stretch, the level of vilification and poor argumentation that can go on in discussions of it, and gender issues, definitely qualifies it as an instance of agnotology. Divining the hidden motivations of people who disagree with you is not a healthy practice, generally speaking, and making ridiculous arguments isn’t either. Sometimes the motivations are obvious and the arguments are a fig-leaf (Family Research Council, anyone?) but I think the left goes too far on issues related to bias and prejudice. I believe a vigorous defense of tolerance and equal opportunity and whatnot is possible without such relentless suspicion of the bias of your opponents. Now, granted, perhaps only a minority on the left are guilty of it, but it is true that very few on the left call out those guilty of it.

Again, it’s not really equal to what we see on the right. But I’d say it qualifies to be on-topic on this thread.

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dsquared 05.06.10 at 5:08 am

You think it is absurd to claim that European sugar export subsidies (or, for that matter, US cotton subsidies) hurt third world sugar (or cotton) producers? On what grounds? What economic theory do your rely on?

I said “European subsidies” for a reason, and the EU does not subsidise cotton production. Europe does subsidise sugar, but it is important to note that the third world contains consumers of sugar (and of food in general) as well as producers, and also that global sugar subsidies and tariffs are mostly a problem for Australia, Brazil and Malaysia, not the Third World.

I can see that my original point was a bit of a debating trick, because all these weaselly little qualifications aren’t particularly clear in the sentence I used, so sorry for that, but the economic theory is explained at the Guardian article I linked to and it is, as far as I can tell, basically sound.

131

Lee A. Arnold 05.06.10 at 5:45 am

The following isn’t exactly a “specific factual claim” that is “easily shown to be false.” But in the U.S., the Left appears to be trapped in a dangerous ignorance. It has a dichotomous aspect: in one part, the Left believes that it should not have to fight, because its ideas really ought to be self-evident. And in the other part, the Left believes that it is in a losing battle. You can smell this complicated attitude everywhere. For example, you read a lot of whining about how Obama let them down, on this, on that, so it will never work. And so forth. I’ll admit the evidence doesn’t always look good. But this complicated meme on the Left is wrong — though it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Right never makes this mistake. The Right understands that it is a class war and that it is continuous. They will even use easy falsehoods to try to win it. The Left is lazy and isn’t ready to fight. The Left does not appear to understand that the fight is almost entirely rhetorical. And the Left doesn’t know what is necessary in a rhetorical fight; they were taught that rhetoric is a lesser art. They feel helpless — yet engaging in politics is beneath them. This is a complete misreading of what is going on, and what to do about it.

132

parse 05.06.10 at 6:18 am

The Left is lazy and isn’t ready to fight.

What does it mean to say the Left is lazy?

133

Tim Worstall 05.06.10 at 6:50 am

“In fact, the recycling case is an own goal: the bogus claim “recycling uses twice as much energy as producing new material”, started by John Tierney IIRC remains in circulation long after it was refuted.”

So much in circulation that I’ve never heard of this clearly nonsensical statement. For of course it depends on which material and how it is being recycled. It might be true that paper or some other product requires such (glass for example? WRAP, the UK Govt body that deals with this sort of stuff says that the recycling of green glass in the UK, for complex reasons (essentially, we don’t bottle much in green glass domestically but do import a lot of it as wine bottles thus there’s an oversupply) produces more emissions that not doing anything with it) but as a general statement it’s clearly nonsense. The energy required to extract alumina from bauxite and then to convert the alumina into aluminium costs in the $800/$900 per tonne of aluminium range. Re melting aluminium uses a pittance of energy in comparison which is why such things as UBC (Used Beverage Can) scrap has a value of $800-$900 per tonne as a minimum.

There’s an entire industry (secondary aluminium) built on this simple recycling of Al uses less energy than producing virgin material.

Still, at least we have agreement that not counting domestic labour is an error.

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Robert 05.06.10 at 6:54 am

I consider Sebastian and Worstall, like many rightists these days, to be uncivil. Being apathethic about whether you are continually writing lies and nonsense is not civil and polite behavior. Sebastian even writes lies and nonsense about what is said on another Crooked Timber thread.

135

Martin Bento 05.06.10 at 6:58 am

What Sebastian said above may be addressed to one of my comments in a previous thread, so let me make myself clear. I said that a consequence of Marx’s model of exchange value would be that trade was negative sum. I was not saying that trade is negative sum, in fact I believe I stated the contrary, nor that Marx believed trade is negative sum. I was arguing that his model of exchange value was wrong. No need to derail this thread getting into all that again. I just don’t want to be misunderstood or misquoted.

136

John Quiggin 05.06.10 at 7:45 am

Tim W, here’s Jay Lehr at Heartland, which seems to be accepted by the other rightwing thinktanks as no more dishonest than they are

http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results/11735/Recycling_Your_Time_Can_Be_Better_Spent.html

You’ll note that your point about domestic time is combined with the claim I mentioned (though he’s backed off from “twice as much” energy).

Readers with an interest in a career in agnotology may want to Google “Jay Lehr”+felon. It really is a second chance!

137

Martin Bento 05.06.10 at 8:16 am

Tim, even if I accept all of your premises, which others have challenged as several levels, at most you are arguing that whether recycling realizes a net savings is resources is *unknown* if one counts expended labor as a resource since no one measures that. Unknown is different from easily provably false. As for the need for Dorian portraits, to the extent your labor is replaceable by others – which for garbage sorting is probably a very great extent – the resource of labor is not limited by your personal limitations, such as mortality. If you are Beethoven, the ability to write symphonies quite like that without imitating that may well die with you. Garbage sorting.. well, you would have to be one hell of a garbage sorter.

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Alex 05.06.10 at 9:20 am

Anyway, if it’s five or fifteen minutes a day, it’s trivial. Not worth considering. Indistinguishable from observational errors. (The windows up/windows down thing upthread is similar.) I would reckon the average person spends more time commenting on blogs (and I do mean “average”) or masturbating.

139

Warai Otoko 05.06.10 at 11:21 am

Is this comparison at all meaningful? Surely there are several factoids or myths that circulate in some parts of both groups, and I can’t imagine one can come to any general conclusion about either group’s tendencies to hold false beliefs from just observing a few cases of “obviously” false statements floating around in various books or articles.

That being said, I do vaguely recall something that might count as a “leftist”-factoid: the claim that Vietnam veterans committed suicide to a very large extent during and after their service. I remember stumbling upon this claim in Zillah Eisenstein’s “Sexual Decoys: Gender, Race and War in Imperial Democracy”. Unfortunately I sold the book a while back, but I recalled that she put the number of veterans who had committed suicide at a very unbelievable number(tens of thousands IIRC). The source for her claim was an obscure article, which seemed to pull the number out of thin air. Eisenstein is at least ostensibly a serious “left-wing” scholar, so it kind of goes to show that ‘confirmation bias’ can be found even at high levels of academia(I doubt this surprises anyone).

140

Russell 05.06.10 at 11:26 am

John Quiggin has provided a very odd link above-

second example of a conservative criticising the bogus Oregon petition. It would be great if we could get past a handful of examples

Instead of connecting to the critique of conservatives as knee jerk climate contrarians that appears elsewhere on that website ,
http://www.takimag.com/blogs/article/climate_of_here/
it links to a prime example of agnotology, a Pat Buchanan rant on the Great Global Warming Swindle that seems almost exclusively informed by the stuff Marc Morano is paid to dish out. John may wish to look as well at another piece there that deals with the parochial, and thus pathological socoiology of erstwhile ‘ science ‘ reporting on the right-

‘Protocols of the Elders of Bryan’ which chronicles neocons and social conservatives addictive confusion of science and religious apologetics – far from limiting themselves to Darwin bashing, the usual suspects at The Discovery Institute regularly attack climate science and its putative policy consequences as being agin Dominionist theology, and for reasons only they can fathom , badmouth general relativity.

At the height of the Cold war you could hush the Moral Reamament types by observing that materialism was too important to be left to the Marxists , but their solipsistic triumphalism has made the journals and think tanks where their intelligently designing succcessors dominate the science desks contemporary loci classici of agonotology.

here for the curious is the whole line up of paleocon critiques of pop science and climate contrarianism at the journal in question :

http://www.takimag.com/blogs/article/the_rights_science_problem/

http://www.takimag.com/blogs/article/a_matter_of_degrees/

http://www.takimag.com/blogs/article/the_protocols_of_the_elders_of_bryan_the_discovery_institute_inherits_the_w/

141

Warai Otoko 05.06.10 at 11:33 am

Here, I found the quote:

“Yet over 120.000 dutiful sons who fought the Vietnam War came home to commit suicide – twice as many as were killed in the war”. Page 24 of Sexual Decoys.
http://books.google.se/books?id=c22VbFCdcdMC

This doesn’t really amount to much, but it is a little funny.

142

soru 05.06.10 at 11:40 am

the fact that you have to go to a Stalinist groupuscule to find a level of delusion comparable to that of Fox News and the Republican party might make you think a bit

err, that was my point exactly. In order to get away with that style of never-retreat propaganda, you need things the US Left doesn’t have. The progression goes something like:

1. no newspapers , TV stations or radio shows: US left
2. multiple TV stations/… : US right
3. all TV stations/… : Iran, …
4. above plus no internet, mobiles or tourism: North Korea

It is mostly a matter of matching tactics to resources. Human wave tactics don’t work very well if there are only seven of you.

about your side of politics.

I suppose I might, at a pinch, pick the US Republicans over the Communist Party of North Korea, but even that would be reluctant, not something that makes them _my side_.

143

Ebenezer Scrooge 05.06.10 at 11:40 am

Left agnotology is much more subtle than right agnotology. To take two claims discussed above: “nukes are evil” and “GM is evil.” Or anything said by Noam Chomsky. What you see with leftie agnotologists is a perfectly rational argument for such propositions. It gets debunked. Another perfectly rational argument springs up, based on different premises, or making a slightly different point in the same direction. It gets debunked. Lather, rinse, repeat. The arguments are always reality-based, but always change. The basic idea remains inviolate.

In other words, many lefties are perfectly happy to privilege their preconceptions over any facts that may subsequently develop. Sounds like agnotology to me. But they are less uncouth than the right, and believe in the rules of rational argument. Which, unfortunately, are necessary but insufficient for rational results. You also need to be persuaded by rational argument, rather than just change the point a bit.

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John Quiggin 05.06.10 at 12:09 pm

But Ebenezer, it seems pretty clear to me that the substantive position of leftists, as a group, has shifted on these two issues. On GM, at least in Australia, the standard position is compulsory labelling so consumers can choose + some restrictions to stop GM/nonGM hybridization – that’s a fair way from “GM is evil”. On nuclear, I’d say that the modal position now is some combination of reluctant acceptance as a last resort alternative to coal + rationally-founded scepticism that nuclear will actually deliver affordable electricity in any case. You can find some diehard unconditional opponents but you can also find a fair number of zealous converts (I have several among the commenters on my blog)

145

Hidari 05.06.10 at 12:26 pm

‘To take two claims discussed above: “nukes are evil” and “GM is evil.” ‘

As a matter of fact these two claims are not ontologically equivalent. For example, I happen to believe that ‘nukes are evil’ and, yes, I am not open to rational discussion about this topic because it is a value judgement. I can have a debate about the presuppositions that led me to this belief, and I can also have a debate about what we should do about it (it doesn’t mean that I necessarily approve of unilateral nuclear disarmament) but the basic proposition, that nuclear weapons (which must, by definition, unless we are talking about small scale battlefield, ‘tactical’ nukes, kill many, many, innocent civilians) are intrinsically and inherently evil.*

I might be being unfair in this, but it’s hardly ‘agnotology’ as per the definition chosen above.

*(And no, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that in some circumstances they might not be the least of a large selection of other evils).

i thought I’d clarify here, rather than way downthread. I took “nukes” to mean nuclear power stations, as have others. I entirely agree with you that “nuclear weapons are evil” and plan a long post on this Real Soon Now. JQ

146

chris y 05.06.10 at 12:28 pm

Count me among the partial converts on nuclear power. I remain sceptical about the cost and security issues, but on the other hand it’s difficult to see any other alternative to fossil fuels which will deliver sufficient energy within the next generation, even with the best political and commercial will in the world. I don’t think the rejectionist stance was necessarily naive in the 1970s; everybody’s understanding of the situation has changed. In fact, the situation has changed, et nos mutamur in illis.

I’m not sure there was ever an anti-GM consensus on the left outside a very narrow faction of the green movement (whose leftist credentials are obscure to me). Most concern is and was around the question of corporate control of seed grain and the litigiousness of companies like Monsanto in pursuit of people who had ‘violated their copyrights’ without even being aware of it. that concern remains, but it isn’t anti-GM, it’s anti-capitalist-bastards-behaving-like-barbarians.

147

Russell 05.06.10 at 12:29 pm

Move over, Pat Buchanan and Ian Plimer–On the strength of Alexander Cockburn’s views on climate science as expressed in The Nation, I hereby nominate him as The Greatest Living Agonotologist :

http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/05/nation_denounce.html

148

Scott Martens 05.06.10 at 12:36 pm

“31000 scientists reject global warming”

I’m not sure this doesn’t fail itself, given the criteria set out. Who’s a scientist and what does it mean to reject global warming? You can find 31,000 people with B.Sc. degrees to say most anything.

Alas, I am with Ebenezer on Chomsky. If there is a left agnatology, it can surely be found there. But Chomsky is by no means universally proclaimed and loved on the left, not to the degree that various frauds are proclaimed by the anglophone right.

149

alex 05.06.10 at 12:53 pm

When we’ve finished counting the domestic labour involved in recycling, can we start charging for housework?

Or, to take an example not confined to the grubby old Sphere of Reproduction, can we calculate, and then whinge about, the time wasted by being forced to stick to the speed-limit?

150

Bruce Baugh 05.06.10 at 1:14 pm

On nuclear power, if you take some time and work it over, it turns out that a lot of leftie skepticism is anchored in an entirely justified distrust of the actually existing industry that would be building and operating new plants. There are a lot of people these days who don’t think anything important belongs in the hands of actually existing investment firms and banks playing that kind of speculative games, who nonetheless do believe in investment, have no trouble with futures markets, and the like. Same kind of deal.

By contrast, nuclear power advocates very seldom (in my experience) have anything to say about the real record of nuclear power firms’ corruption, bungling, and otherwise ethically shoddy operation, and nothing at all about what a serious reform effort might look like. And refusal to go along is a very sensible response to that.

151

AGWSkeptic 05.06.10 at 1:21 pm

Hide the decline!

I’ve taken this out of moderation, though I’m unsure whether AGWSkeptic is a genuine exhibit in agnatology, repeating one of the most thoroughly refuted pieces of rightwing agnatology. Anyway, this phrase (Google it if you need to) is an indication that the production, distribution and exchange of ignorance on the right, of which the Oregon petition was an early example, is a boom industry – JQ

152

klk 05.06.10 at 1:44 pm

Isn’t “alternative medicine” widely beloved by the right/libertarianosphere as a way for good people to take control of their health from pointy-headed meddlers at the CDC or whatever?

153

Bruce Baugh 05.06.10 at 2:15 pm

Klk: Yes, though it’s important to separate some strands of thought here. The first place I actually encountered Liberty magazine was in the waiting room of a doctor practicing a mix of conventional and experimental treatments for immune disorders. (I got good help, too, but like a lot of alternative medicine practitioners, he settled into a specialized, mono-focused kookery. There’s a half-life to genuinely useful non-traditional medical practice.) Others doctors I saw over the decades also had much enthusiasm for various libertarian outlooks.

But this exists side-by-side with and often in intense conflict with the pharmaceutical-sponsored toadying of people like Jon Stossel and Michael Fumento. Reason magazine, for instance, keeps ending up with an editorial stance something like “We must smash the FDA to let a thousand flowers of health bloom, but then we must all restrict ourselves to wisdom as given to Monsanto, and not ever wish for what our pharmaceutical overlords choose not to give us.” And they get endless sterile arguments about all this; as they do with most fields of human life, a lot of libertarians combine boundless hostility to the idea of community, shared responsibility, and the like with boundless devotion to some particular mix of corporate authorities.

(There are, of course, some businesses busily profiting off different strains of alternative medicine, too, but they tend not to be visible icons the way a firm like Monsanto is.)

154

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 3:07 pm

breadandroses—all I can say, then, is that you meet a very, very strange sample of left-of center people. It sounds like you live in a small college campus town which got frozen in 1981 after expelling 90% of the students.

Indeed. In fact, I hear a lot more about how “liberals” think from conservatives than I’ve ever heard from the real Slim Shady’s.

My real suspicion, in fact, is that you know lots of left-of-center people who are not nutty, but either think that because they are not nutty they are not left-of-center or think that they are not left-of-center because they keep quiet about it.

This is the problem with trying to shut down discussions with this sort of demonizing and labeling: sure, it might work for a while to say that “liberals” oppose Reagan’s tax cuts or Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But after a while, when everyone left-of-center and in fact most moderates are pegged as “liberals”, conservatives have effectively labeled themselves into a minority. I suspect it also explains why this sort of agnotological phenomenon is simply not possible on “the left” – conservatives have made them too diverse a group.

155

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 3:15 pm

ScentofViolets, you are right. I didn’t win. Saying “I think this is true” does not mean that I win unless someone can prove I am wrong. You are absolutely correct about this. If I gave the impression I thought otherwise, I need to be more clear.

Hakuna Matata. I’m not saying you are doing this specifically, I’m saying that it is a tactic fostered by unprecise and ill-founded notions of proof standards. If I say that, for example, time slows down for for fast-moving objects relative to a stationary observer, it’s up to me to prove it. Not on others to disprove it. Further, if I fail to prove this it doesn’t mean I was wrong, it simply means that it has not yet been proven. Failure to provide a proof is not the opposite side of the coin; that would be active disproof. I think a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that because something hasn’t been proven that it must necessarily be wrong.

156

Rich Puchalsky 05.06.10 at 3:21 pm

“Alas, I am with Ebenezer on Chomsky. If there is a left agnatology, it can surely be found there.”

Thread still going, eh? OK, Scott and Ebenezer, what, specifically, that was said by Noam Chomsky do you think qualifies as left agnatology? Let’s hear it. I was able to describe how I thought that Marx had been wrong in a couple of sentences in another thread: you should be able to have a try at it. Don’t just teleport in to tell us that Michael Moore is fat and then make hints that one of his movies had conspiracy theorizing.

Oh, and by the way, this kind of knee-jerk, contentless dissing that you do doesn’t make you clever freethinkers who are brave and clear-sighted enough to see what the rest of the left does not. I’ll reserve judgement on what it does make you until I hear which of Chomsky’s many types of statements are the ones you’re complaining about.

157

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 3:24 pm

“Yet another rhetorical misstatement; no, according to “us guys”, there has been no credible proof offered that there is a connection between race and intelligence.

“If you want to make the claim that there is, back it up. I’m willing to see what you’ve got. But these ridiculous and easily seen through attempts to shift the burden of proof have simply got to stop. Again, this is something far, far more prevalent on the right than on the “left”, at least in my personal experience.”

I think this whole burden of proof thing is bullshit, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. I wasn’t taking the right-wing position in my comment above, I was asking if anyone had proof they might be kind enough to show me, that might change my mind on the issue. Just a bleg, really. What specifically made you think it was an attempt to shift the burden of proof? I don’t think I understand your position.

It was an attempt to shift the burden of proof because saying that there has been no credible proof offered is very different from saying that “Why does the race-intelligence connection not count? According to you guys, because it is completely false and discredited (and furthermore, only pushed by racists). ” The former statement puts the burden of proof quite squarely where it belongs – on the person making the claim. Your formulation is not only false, it’s shifting the burden of proof to the skeptics.

I used to be into Christian apologetics, and I saw no small number of debates that consisted entirely of “burden of proof” ping pong. Of course that kind of thing is a waste of time, and you seem willing to play it, but it seems your position is going even farther than that, isn’t it? On the race issue, I think there are a number of pieces of evidence of varying quality I could have raised (if I had wanted to talk about it), like measured IQ disparities and measured genetic bunching of different groups. (Please let’s not talk about those, though. Of course they’re problematic.) Would that have been enough, in your view, to shift the burden of proof?

With all due respect, go screw yourself and the horse you rode in on. If you have no idea about the notions of proofs and the requirements thereof, and further you dismiss them as unimportant, you’ve really got no business posting here on this thread. And to answer your question, no, it would not. That’s not how science works, period.

158

piglet 05.06.10 at 3:25 pm

“Piglet- in his linked discussion, Daniel explicitly states that US cotton subsidies are clearly bad for the 3rd world. They aren’t part of European agricultural subsidies, though.”

Believe it or not but I am aware of that Matt.

“Sugar in the EU is probably a good example” It certainly is so could anybody explain again why stating that rich country farm subsidies hurt the third world is an example of “deliberate promotion of ignorance” on the left? Let’s also point out that dsquare started this subthread with an unattributed straw man argument. Who on the left says what exactly about farm subsidies? If you start with specific claims, we can talk about to what extent they may be exaggerated. But even that wouldn’t get you anywhere close to the Oregon petition.

159

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 3:27 pm

I consider Sebastian and Worstall, like many rightists these days, to be uncivil. Being apathethic about whether you are continually writing lies and nonsense is not civil and polite behavior. Sebastian even writes lies and nonsense about what is said on another Crooked Timber thread.

Indeed. That sort of behaviour is extremely nasty and rude.

160

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 3:34 pm

Left agnotology is much more subtle than right agnotology. To take two claims discussed above: “nukes are evil” and “GM is evil.” Or anything said by Noam Chomsky. What you see with leftie agnotologists is a perfectly rational argument for such propositions. It gets debunked. Another perfectly rational argument springs up, based on different premises, or making a slightly different point in the same direction. It gets debunked. Lather, rinse, repeat. The arguments are always reality-based, but always change. The basic idea remains inviolate.

I have no idea what this means, probably because you have neglected to refer to any particulars. Do you have a specific example of the behaviour you’re attempting to describe?

161

piglet 05.06.10 at 3:39 pm

“It is also my experience that those who believe eating local food is better for the environment are uninterested in hearing evidence otherwise. Ditto biodiesel. Same for eating organic food.”

Biodiesel has come under heavy fire from the environmental-leftist camp. It is in fact an example where many environmentalists started being sympathetic but changed their mind due to scientific facts. If you read writers like George Monbiot, who is clearly on the left, you will find many examples like that. About organic food and local food, the question is what is the quality of the “evidence otherwise”. A lot of this is similar to Tim Worstall’s bogus claims about recycling. Preferences for local and organic food (and mind you there are plenty of leftist writers who criticize parts of the organic agribusiness, check out Michael Pollan) are based both on measurable criteria (better for the environment, less energy expended on transport) and on value judgments (I want to know the farmer who grows my food). The latter are just as legitimate but they can’t be measured in dollar or Watt. Some of the criticism of local and organic food is based on a dismissal of the latter kind of motivation as unscientific. That is nonsense.

162

Matt 05.06.10 at 3:41 pm

Believe it or not but I am aware of that

Then it’s a mystery why you thought the large majority of what you had to say had anything to do with Daniel’s point.

163

piglet 05.06.10 at 3:45 pm

As a brief follow-up to the farm subsidies, I had a look at the Guardian article linked by dsquared. The headline is “there is nothing (sic!) wrong with developed world farm subsidies”, and the article does not cite any scientific or other factual evidence in support of his claims. If that is a good example of “left-debunking”, well, do I need to say more.

164

piglet 05.06.10 at 3:47 pm

Matt: Daniel Davies’s article is explicitly about “developed farm subsidies”. It is true that Davies does criticize the cotton subsidies but that only shows that he is inconsistent. Cotton subsidies ARE farm subsidies, and he says “there is nothing wrong with developed world farm subsidies”. Anything else Matt?

165

piglet 05.06.10 at 3:57 pm

140 – I pointed that out before. John, could you enlighten us about the discrepancy?

166

Matt 05.06.10 at 4:01 pm

I think you’re mistaking the fact that the headline (did he right it? I don’t know- often authors don’t) and some parts of the article could have been more tightly written with it being inconsistent. I don’t know if Daniel is right. I think the case is likely less clear than his piece implies. But I think you’re giving an obviously uncharitable reading to it. Beyond that, I’ll let him speak for himself.

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piglet 05.06.10 at 4:10 pm

dsquared 130: Two links on EU sugar dumping:
http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/policy/trade/downloads/bn_eu_sugar_dumping.pdf
http://www.flex-news-food.com/console/PageViewer.aspx?page=28546&source=xml

I don’t think there is any debate that these subsidies are indefensible and damaging. Brazil and Thailand whether you call them Third World or not are being hurt, furthermore subsidizing sugar (same with HCFS in the US) is extremely dumb from a public health perspective (and not a good idea from the consumer perspective either). The Daniel Davies article you link to boldly proclaims that “there is nothing wrong with developed world farm subsidies”. You know this claim is wrong so why do you bother making that argument?

168

piglet 05.06.10 at 4:22 pm

“But I think you’re giving an obviously uncharitable reading to it”

Matt you have now moved from the claim that “the large majority of what (I) had to say had (nothing) to do with Daniel’s point” to “some parts of the article could have been more tightly written” and “I don’t know if Daniel is right. I think the case is likely less clear than his piece implies.”

So what is the claim that I am supposed to be debating now? That Daniel Davies’ article can be read in a way that doesn’t require us to conclude that it is either inconsistent or wrong, and just leaves us with saying that the case isn’t quite settled? And what, exactly, is “the case”? That farm subsidies are not “the work of the devil” (Davies)? You know what, let’s agree on that. Farm subsidies are not “the work of the devil”. I am willing to publicly contradict any leftist who makes that claim. Now satisfied?

169

klk 05.06.10 at 4:30 pm

Thanks, Bruce Baugh. What you say sounds right about conflicted opinions regarding medicine on the “right.” My point was that opinions about these things are not correlated with politics, or not easily so, and you confirmed that. Also, I liked your description of the scriptural quality of corporatism.

170

Bruce Baugh 05.06.10 at 4:59 pm

Glad to help, klk. I feel a mixture of appreciation for medical help I really needed, irritation at the follies, and hostile contempt for the toadying-to-money parts of that subculture, and am trying to do justice to all sides of my experience there.

171

Matt 05.06.10 at 5:06 pm

Piglet- you started out making your case based on subsidies that 1) were not European ( Daniel was talking about European ones) and 2) were for cotton, something that is also i) not European and ii) explicitly mentioned as bad by Daniel. You also discuss sugar, which is a closer case, but not directly on point. The Stigletz piece you quote also has stuff on manufacturing not related to subsidies at all in it, so that wasn’t even arguably relevant. Your reason for thinking these issues were relevant seemed (and seem) pretty obscure to me, though it seems you just read the headline of Daniel’s piece at first and now have applied an uncharitable reading to the text. If you can explain why American cotton subsides are relevant to a discussion of European subsidies on food, we’ll have made progress. Otherwise, I’ll stick with my claims that most of what you cited wasn’t really relevant and that your reading of Daniel was uncharitable.

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piglet 05.06.10 at 5:36 pm

Matt, your attempts at moving the goal-posts are comical. Leftists are crazy to claim that farm subsidies might ever hurt third world countries but U.S. cotton doesn’t count as a counterexample because it’s not European, sugar is “not directly on point” for unspecified reasons, and Stiglitz’ milk example can be dismissed because he also mentions manufacturing.

I didn’t start out to make any case. dsquared started out making a case of the left having false beliefs about farm subsidies, and you seconded him, based on a link to an article that is full of inconsistencies and bereft of any verifiable empirical evidence and clearly refers to “rich country farm subsidies” not restricted to EU. I demolished that article and showed that your and dsquared’s claims are untenable. If you think that is not relevant to this discussion, so be it. Now if you’d please excuse me, I am tired of this BS.

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Matt 05.06.10 at 5:44 pm

I’ll leave it to others to decide if that’s an accurate account of the exchange, Piglet.

174

sorry to interrupt 05.06.10 at 5:54 pm

“Piglet- you started out making your case based on subsidies that 1) were not European ( Daniel was talking about European ones)”
The title of DD’s piece in the Guardian:
“There is nothing wrong with developed world farm subsidies. Why do so many people think they’re the work of the devil?”
Everyone likes to think they’re incapable of spouting absurdity.
‘Everyone likes the smell of their own farts.’ A Swedish line I think.

This post is a defense of the arrogance of experts against the anger of know-nothings, claiming that the experts are on “the left” and that the know-nothings are on the right.
It reminds me of the articles and books claiming that conservatives give more to charity, which made that argument by lumping liberals with moderates. Quiggin does the same thing for the same reason: to defend his own preference: for experts and expertise as such. But who watches the watchmen?
I won’t defend the old Krugman, free trader, any more than I will the World Bank the IMF or the Army Corps or Engineers.
Less humility on the part of Harvard Boys of any stripe is not the answer.

The thing about facts is that if everyone pretends they don’t exist, they tend to go away.
Until they don’t.

175

Stuart 05.06.10 at 6:28 pm

Given the longevity of the “feminists falsely claim Superbowl violence” meme, based on a quickly corrected error (maybe repeated once or twice since, but not for a long time), I’d say that this actually counts as another own goal for the right.

Shouldn’t that be a “turnover by the right” rather than an own goal, as I don’t think you can score own goals in American Football.

176

Substance McGravitas 05.06.10 at 6:31 pm

Shouldn’t that be a “turnover by the right” rather than an own goal, as I don’t think you can score own goals in American Football.

Agnotology alert! Though the practice is tightly regulated, Americans are allowed to play sports other than American Football.

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chris 05.06.10 at 6:53 pm

@175: Yes, but not in the Super Bowl, which I assume was the point of the joke.

178

pdf23ds 05.06.10 at 6:53 pm

ScentOfViolets: I’m sorry to say that I still don’t have a clue about your position.

179

Antonio Conselheiro 05.06.10 at 7:06 pm

#118: In America homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, reiki, massage therapy, aromatherapy, treatment with magnets, vitamin supplements, and “herbs” are neither right nor left. It’s a weird area where back-to-nature leftists converge with far right lunatics and mainstream groups like Mormons, Adventists, etc.

Free trade is not a left idea either. Freemarket Republicans and libertarians support it, Buchanan conservatives and labor liberals oppose it.

180

Ben Kalafut 05.06.10 at 7:06 pm

A very easy one: the claims

(1) That having a firearm in the home causally puts one at greater risk of crime victimization

(2) That one is more likely to be injured by one’s own firearm in an encounter with a criminal than to use it successfully to deter victimization

were both rapidly discredited but persisted for well over a decade. We could also talk about fallacious arguments involving body counts (“43 times…”) as though killing the bad guy is a measure of success. That number itself was calculated incorrectly, and was repeated, again, for nearly a decade.

Of course you could say that not all left-wingers are hoplophobes. Not all right wingers are global warming denialists. However, the position is popular enough for it to be comparable.

If historical narratives are allowed, the claims that the New Deal ended the Depression, that Hoover was a free-marketeer, that the California energy crisis was caused by “deregulation” or “laissez-faire”, or that the current recession was caused by either of University of Chicago economists or deregulation are all not only insupportable but very readily discredited, and not by appeal to anything obscure or esoteric.

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Ben Kalafut 05.06.10 at 7:09 pm

Locavorism is another example. It is simply assumed that–to pick a food–a banana grown in Casa Grande and consumed in Phoenix is either healthier, better for the environment, or both than a banana from Honduras.

182

Substance McGravitas 05.06.10 at 7:18 pm

@175: Yes, but not in the Super Bowl, which I assume was the point of the joke.

Oh damn.

183

Tim Worstall 05.06.10 at 7:28 pm

“You’ll note that your point about domestic time”

Indeed JQ, I do. I even note that he manages to get to opportunity costs: what else might be done with that time which is more valuable?

Come along now, you’re an economist, you know that these are both valid concepts and valid questions to ask about domestic recycling. Even if it is someone at Heartland writing about them.

184

Tim Worstall 05.06.10 at 7:34 pm

137

“Tim, even if I accept all of your premises, which others have challenged as several levels, at most you are arguing that whether recycling realizes a net savings is resources is unknown if one counts expended labor as a resource since no one measures that. Unknown is different from easily provably false.”

But we can go on to show that ignoring a major resource (labour) used in recycling is in itself wrong. Which is my point at heart. I am absolutely in agreement that some things are better recycled because it reduces resource use (not to mention makes a profit which is one way, absent externalities, of measuring lower resource use).

I’m not trying to claim that recycling is one of these manufactured ignorances that JQ is asking us to identify. I am claiming that a refusal to count the labour involved is. That refusal leading us to not knowing whether resources are being saved or not…..but the refusal to even admit that we should count the labour being one of those manufactured ignorances.

185

Tim Worstall 05.06.10 at 7:37 pm

“Anyway, if it’s five or fifteen minutes a day, it’s trivial.”

In a country with 24 million housholds 15 minutes a week (a week, not day) is 300 million labour hours a year. That may be many things but trivial ain’t one of them.

186

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 7:39 pm

ScentOfViolets: I’m sorry to say that I still don’t have a clue about your position.

What are you talking about? I don’t have a position on the issue of whether or not there is a connection between race and intelligence. Neither do the “liberals” I know. That’s my point. Claims have been advanced by others and they are – rightly – skeptical of the evidence that’s been presented so far.

And if someone says there is a connection, they’ve got to prove it. I don’t have to do one blessed thing to prove them wrong, nor am I under the slightest obligation to do so.

This really can’t be that hard to understand. What is your specific point of confusion about this procedure anyway?

187

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 7:44 pm

Come along now, you’re an economist, you know that these are both valid concepts and valid questions to ask about domestic recycling. Even if it is someone at Heartland writing about them.

Uh-huh. Gas currently costs $2.80/Gal where I live. Are you claiming that this is incorrect because it doesn’t take into the account the costs of my time to actually drive to the station and pump it myself? Yes or no, no equivocation . . . since if you want to play by certain rules you yourself are bound by them.

188

bread & roses 05.06.10 at 7:58 pm

Piglet: Biodiesel has come under heavy fire from the environmental-leftist camp.

You’re right. That’s where I first heard the arguments against it, and was convinced. It seems to me that it’s uphill sledding to spread the word. Few people are eager to hear evidence against a notion that they really like.

189

Ben Kalafut 05.06.10 at 8:19 pm

“Uh-huh. Gas currently costs $2.80/Gal where I live. Are you claiming that this is incorrect because it doesn’t take into the account the costs of my time to actually drive to the station and pump it myself? Yes or no, no equivocation . . . since if you want to play by certain rules you yourself are bound by them.”

Argument from equivocation, if I ever saw it. You’re using “cost” in a different sense as in the passage to which you refer.

The price of gasoline, colloquially called the “cost” is $2.80/gal. The cost to you of purchasing the gasoline is higher. Consider why you don’t usually buy a gallon of gas at 15 stations to fill up the tank, or why, in traffic, you’re more likely to buy from a station on the right than one on the left.

190

joel hanes 05.06.10 at 9:10 pm

The science-based case against Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready GM crops is not based on deleterious health effects on people who eat food made from them, but rather that horizontal gene-transfer is pretty well demonstrated between plant species, and thus teaching corn and beans to resist Roundup will is quite likely to result in genetic resistance spreading to the weed species that Roundup currently controls — so that, after a decade or two, Roundup will become far less valuable overall as an herbicide.

191

Ebenezer Scrooge 05.06.10 at 10:19 pm

@Scentof Violets 159:

The argument changing?
1960’s: Cooling nuclear plants kills water life.
1970’s: Three Mile Island. China Syndrome!
1980’s: More of same, but declining. Plus: the industry is run by Homer Simpson. And waste disposal is very difficult.
1990’s: We don’t need it. Plus more Homer Simpson. And proliferation. And waste disposal.
2000’s: Less Homer Simpson. Waste disposal and proliferation. Conservation is more important and if rewire all of our political and economic institutions quickly, we can switch to renewables quickly enough.

There are two important things here. First, none of these arguments is without merit, or at least was without merit in its time. Second, pretty much the same group of people flitted from argument to argument, as previous arguments became technologically outmoded, or otherwise less persuasive. (For example, “Homer Simpson” does not appear to be a French name.) You know the type. The Rousseauvian lefty.

As for myself, I was pro-nuke in the 1960’s and 1970’s, became agnostic in the ’80s and ’90s, and got mugged by global warming in the past decade. And I loathe Rousseau.

192

Charles St. Pierre 05.06.10 at 10:33 pm

Tim Worstall @ 184 “In a country with 24 million housholds 15 minutes a week (a week, not day) is 300 million labour hours a year. That may be many things but trivial ain’t one of them.”

Agreed, but it is not like they’re taking time off from work to do it. I think labor used inefficiently is better used than labor not used at all. Best efficiently used of course, but my (US) society seems to have some problem finding efficient use for all its labor.

As for the loss of leisure time, there is that nice little feeling of virtue I get when I toss the can in the bin. It’s not as though I do it for nothing. Of course, it may all be a happy delusion…

193

John Quiggin 05.06.10 at 11:12 pm

@140, @165 Sincere apologies. I not only screwed up the first time, I corrected it and obviously failed to save. Straight on to it now.

194

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 11:18 pm

“Uh-huh. Gas currently costs $2.80/Gal where I live. Are you claiming that this is incorrect because it doesn’t take into the account the costs of my time to actually drive to the station and pump it myself? Yes or no, no equivocation . . . since if you want to play by certain rules you yourself are bound by them.”

Argument from equivocation, if I ever saw it. You’re using “cost” in a different sense as in the passage to which you refer.

The price of gasoline, colloquially called the “cost” is $2.80/gal. The cost to you of purchasing the gasoline is higher. Consider why you don’t usually buy a gallon of gas at 15 stations to fill up the tank, or why, in traffic, you’re more likely to buy from a station on the right than one on the left.

Oh, puhleeze, you want me to quote the entire post?

“You’ll note that your point about domestic time”</i

Indeed JQ, I do. I even note that he manages to get to opportunity costs: what else might be done with that time which is more valuable?

Come along now, you’re an economist, you know that these are both valid concepts and valid questions to ask about domestic recycling. Even if it is someone at Heartland writing about them.

So Tim really is talking about the opportunity costs of leisure time, and this point has been made more than once:

Worstall, this is embarrassing. That “time spent in sorting domestic waste” is a sham. Waste disposal is one of many domestic chores that have to be done. It’s not an invention of environmentalists. As an aside, did anybody ever count the time consumers spend sorting through dozens of different cell phone deals etc. as a cost of telecommunications deregulation?

So here’s the deal: you want to call what Worstall is trying to pull here equivocating? Fine. I agree. If you don’t think he is, well, that’s your prerogative. But don’t say that we’re doing different calculations here; that’s being hypocritical.

Ironically, this touches upon that whole burden-of-proof thing I was alluding to earlier. The way it’s structured helps to shut down time-wasters like Worstall. He has been, to put it mildly, less than convincing in his argument. And as for me, I don’t feel obligated in the slightest to prove him wrong, nor could I care less whether or not he styles himself “convinced” by anything I might say. The alternative convention of course – which the right loves – is the “he said she said” style of journalism that benefits no one but the equivocators who do go on about “teaching the controversy”. No thanks. I’ve had quite enough of that sort of mischief.

195

John Quiggin 05.06.10 at 11:18 pm

OK, really fixed this time. Apologies to all. And it’s a reminder to me that error, even fairly persistent error, can be the result of inadvertence.

196

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 11:24 pm

The argument changing?
1960’s: Cooling nuclear plants kills water life.
1970’s: Three Mile Island. China Syndrome!
1980’s: More of same, but declining. Plus: the industry is run by Homer Simpson. And waste disposal is very difficult.
1990’s: We don’t need it. Plus more Homer Simpson. And proliferation. And waste disposal.
2000’s: Less Homer Simpson. Waste disposal and proliferation. Conservation is more important and if rewire all of our political and economic institutions quickly, we can switch to renewables quickly enough.

There are two important things here. First, none of these arguments is without merit, or at least was without merit in its time. Second, pretty much the same group of people flitted from argument to argument, as previous arguments became technologically outmoded, or otherwise less persuasive. (For example, “Homer Simpson” does not appear to be a French name.) You know the type. The Rousseauvian lefty.

Need I point out this isn’t addressing what you originally said:

What you see with leftie agnotologists is a perfectly rational argument for such propositions. It gets debunked. Another perfectly rational argument springs up, based on different premises, or making a slightly different point in the same direction. It gets debunked. Lather, rinse, repeat. The arguments are always reality-based, but always change. The basic idea remains inviolate.

Further, you don’t really source these ideas, and as someone else as already pointed out, these are pretty much the same argument, namely a lack of trust in the people running the plants to do their job properly. Also, this seems to be more of a caricture of a “liberal”; in fact, most of the people I know who are against nuclear power tend to be on the right.

197

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 11:33 pm

And, um, hey, why don’t we also do that “liberal” thing of posting sources and cites? How about taking a poll and looking at the results?

It’s hard to tell from these charts, but the difference between liberals and conservatives who are skeptical don’t seem to be that great. It’s at the other end where the difference shows up, and there you have conservatives in much greater proportions than liberals favoring nuclear power. This seems to me to be significant.

198

ScentOfViolets 05.06.10 at 11:37 pm

Here’s another one, this time by Gallup.

199

Charles St. Pierre 05.06.10 at 11:45 pm

To return to the thread, I think people on the left tend to be guilty of ‘not thinking about things they don’t think about.’ This is hard, because I don’t think about these things. It’s like a “Maybe we don’t have all the answers, but we have all the bases covered,” sort of thing.

I can think of one thing that doesn’t seem to be covered: The future. Not just GW or will we have enough money for Social Security, but what kind of society will we have in 10, 20, 30 years or even farther into the future. The left envisions a planned society, or at least a managed society, but doesn’t seem to have a plan. Or maybe that’s too strong. A vision. Or a way to get there. Especially one that deals with the realities of overpopulation and a declining environment.

Ahh..maybe Denmark is already there. Maybe not. The US isn’t, that’s for sure.
And the US doesn’t have any plans for its future, either.

200

Sebastian 05.07.10 at 12:07 am

““Much of the recent global warming scandal is about emails which essentially consist of “we can’t show the real data because it isn’t strong enough for the message we want”.”

Now this, by Sebastian, is a deliberate lie. The “recent global warming scandal about emails”, i.e. Climategate, was investigated thoroughly and found to be nothing of the sort. Sebastian can’t even claim ignorance, as this has been covered so heavily, unless it’s deliberate ignorance preserved so that he’s not technically lying when he writes this.”

Well, here at least we have excellent evidence that left-winger Rich is in the throes of agnotology.

The Climategate investigation showed this email which is precisely on point: ” But the current diagram with the tree ring only data [i.e. the Briffa reconstruction] somewhat contradicts the multiproxy curve and dilutes the message rather significantly…” (Folland, Sep 22, 1999).

Briffa worries about this and writes “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple… [There are] some unexpected changes in response that do not match the recent warming. I do not think it wise that this issue be ignored in the chapter…

For the record, I do believe that the proxy data do show unusually warm conditions in recent decades. I am not sure that this unusual warming is so clear in the summer responsive data. I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago. I do not believe that global mean annual temperatures have simply cooled progressively over thousands of years as Mike appears to and I contend that that there is strong evidence for major changes in climate over the Holocene (not Milankovich) that require explanation and that could represent part of the current or future background variability of our climate.”

After a meeting with Mann, Briffa backs off and the diagram is put forward the way Mann wants avoiding that annoying message dilution that the IPCC wants.

And the reason Phil Jones wasn’t prosecuted was because the ICO said that the statute of limitations had expired, not that he hadn’t broken the law. They wrote “The legislation prevents us from taking any action but from looking at the emails it’s clear to us a breach has occurred.”

And if you are talking about the Oxburgh whitewash, you have even less of leg to stand on. They took less than three weeks to investigate, mysteriously ignored the main papers in question (Jones 1998 and Briffa 2006), and did not address the IPCC graphic.

201

Ebenezer Scrooge 05.07.10 at 1:06 am

Scent @ 196:
You are perfectly right; my recent post on the history of antinuclear arguments wasn’t addressing what I originally said. I only mentioned some examples of a mechanism of left agnotology in passing; the original post worked mostly on the mechanism. You wanted a more flesh on my examples. It was a fair request (although it didn’t involve the mechanism of left agnotology), and I complied with it. You now want citations. Since you don’t seem to be disagreeing with my characterization of the antinuclear arguments of the time, I think that this is a stalling tactic, rather than a fair request. I will not respond to it.

And no, these antinuclear arguments don’t have a common thread of fear of the competence of nuclear plant operators. The cooling water argument (which was true, for its time) goes perhaps to their greed; perhaps to environmental externalities. The 1970’s argument (OMG! China Syndrome!) was viewed as inherent to the technology, although maybe there was some competence. Only in the 1980’s did it develop into a well-reasoned attack on power plant operational competence. The waste disposal argument goes to our ability to preserve civilization for 10,000 years or so and intergenerational discount rates, which has little to do with the present competence of plant operators. The “we don’t really need nukes to avoid global warming argument” also has little to do with the competence of operators.

202

ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 1:18 am

You are perfectly right; my recent post on the history of antinuclear arguments wasn’t addressing what I originally said. I only mentioned some examples of a mechanism of left agnotology in passing; the original post worked mostly on the mechanism. You wanted a more flesh on my examples. It was a fair request (although it didn’t involve the mechanism of left agnotology), and I complied with it. You now want citations. Since you don’t seem to be disagreeing with my characterization of the antinuclear arguments of the time, I think that this is a stalling tactic, rather than a fair request. I will not respond to it.

I do indeed disagree with it, and no, asking for citations is standard procedure. Let me guess – you’re another one of those who really don’t like burden of proof requirements.
And you just “know” this is true, so you aren’t going to bother to post cites. What is even more remarkable is this:

And no, these antinuclear arguments don’t have a common thread of fear of the competence of nuclear plant operators. The cooling water argument (which was true, for its time) goes perhaps to their greed; perhaps to environmental externalities.

So you agree that the concerns as you have characterized them were legitimate . . . but this is still an example of “liberal” agnotology?!?!?!?! Jesus on a stick, what would it have been if they were wrong?

I think it’s high time you admit you were wrong on this one, and also that you haven’t been straight with offering any proof for your statements (why did you think I disagreed with you, and why did you think I wanted to see some cites when you yourself agree with those concerns? Think before you post!!!!!!)

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ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 1:53 am

Yep, troll that he is (or someone swallowed up in right-wing agnotology, take your pick) Sebastian can’t do even the minimal research to follow up on these accusations. Here are the findings, the RA-10 Inquiry Report: Concerning the Allegations of Research Misconduct:

Allegation 1: Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data?

Finding 1. After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data. While a perception has been created in the weeks after the CRU emails were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did so, and certainly not while at Penn State. In fact to the contrary, in instances that have been focused upon by some as indicating falsification of data, for example in the use of a “trick” to manipulate the data, this is explained as a discussion among Dr. Jones and others including Dr. Mann about how best to put together a graph for a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report. They were not falsifying data; they were trying to construct an understandable graph for those who were not experts in the field. The so-called “trick”1 was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field.

Decision 1. As there is no substance to this allegation, there is no basis for further examination of this allegation in the context of an investigation in the second phase of RA-10.

And so on and so forth. Sebastian has seen this stuff before. But as you can see from his denialism of APG – more right-wing agnotology – he’s probably not going to back off from this sort of dishonesty. Which, again, is a large part of why burden of proof standards are formulated the way they are; it keeps cranks and certain mischevious sorts from monopolizing everyone’s time and energy.

204

John Quiggin 05.07.10 at 2:00 am

I’m impressed, Sebastian. Three official inquiries and at least two unofficial ones have reached the same conclusion as cited above. And anyone who knows anything about the way scientists talk could reach the same conclusion independently.

But you prefer the spin provided by people who (either as hackers or leakers) are self-admitted criminals, liars and thieves. It’s little wonder that agnatology is such a rapidly developing field.

BTW, how are those weapons of mass destruction coming along?

205

Sebastian 05.07.10 at 6:10 am

“I’m impressed, Sebastian. Three official inquiries and at least two unofficial ones have reached the same conclusion as cited above.”

One of them was from the University of East Anglia itself, the same organization which is claiming vindication *even on the Freedom of Information* issue despite the fact that the ICO said it would have prosecuted except for the very short six month statute of limitations had passed.

I think that Judith Curry (Climate Scientist and until her April comments on the Climategate scandal welcome at the generally well regarded RealClimate.org) puts it very well here:

When I first read the report, I thought I was reading the executive summary and proceeded to look for the details; well, there weren’t any. And I was concerned that the report explicitly did not address the key issues that had been raised by the skeptics. Upon reading Andrew Montford’s analysis, I learned: “So we have an extraordinary coincidence – that both the UEA submission to the [UK Parliament’s Science and Technology] Select Committee and Lord Oxburgh’s panel independently came up with almost identical lists of papers to look at, and that they independently neglected key papers like Jones 1998 and Osborn and Briffa 2006.” I recall reading this statement from one of the blogs, which seems especially apt: the fire department receives report of a fire in the kitchen; upon investigating the living room, they declare that there is no fire in the house.

So in summary, Jones, Briffa et al. can be relieved that they have been vindicated of charges of scientific misconduct. Even with the deficiencies of the Oxburgh report, I don’t disagree with their conclusion about finding no evidence of scientific misconduct: I haven’t seen any evidence of plagiarism or fabrication/falsification of data by the CRU scientists. Sloppy record keeping, cherry picking of data, and inadequate statistical methods do not constitute scientific misconduct, but neither do they inspire confidence in the research product. Further, the “bad apple” issue is still out there, but this is something that is impossible to assess objectively. And the behavior of these scientists (sloppy record keeping, dismissal of skeptical critiques, and lack of transparency) has slowed down scientific progress in assessing and improving these very important data sets. Therefore I have been proposing that we move away from the focus on individual behavior, and shifting focus to issues related to the IPCC assessment process, addressing issues related the availability of data and transparency of the methods, and to improving the temperature data and proxies. Once these issues are addressed, the “bad apple” issue becomes mostly moot.

The corruptions of the IPCC process, and the question of corruption (or at least inappropriate torquing) of the actual science by the IPCC process, is the key issue. The assessment process should filter out erroneous papers and provide a broader assessment of uncertainty; instead, we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative.

You can see there and in the rest of her interview (there are 3 parts) that she believes

A) that climate change is real and at least largely man made
B) that ultimately good science will vindicate that
C) that there really were very serious problems with the way the IPCC was being run

for example:

Corruptions to the IPCC process that I have seen discussed include:
• lead/contributing authors assessing their own work – (e.g. von Storch criticism in 2005), in some cases resulting in an overemphasis on their own papers written by themselves and their collaborators;
• tailoring graphics and not adequately describing uncertainties ostensibly to simplify and not to “dilute the message” that IPCC wanted to send;
• violations of publication (in press) deadlines for inclusions of papers in the IPCC report;
• inadequacies in the review process whereby lead/contributing authors don’t respond fairly to adverse criticism; this inadequacy arises in part to the authors themselves having ultimate authority and in part to cursory performance by the Review Editors;
• evasiveness and unresponsiveness by the IPCC regarding efforts to investigate alleged violations occurring in the review process;
• IPCC Review Editors and authors using the IPCC to avoid accountability under national FOI legislation.

The skeptics have argued (and I agree with them on this) that Chapter 2.3 in the IPCC WG1 Third Assessment Report and Chapter 6 in the IPCC WG1 Fourth Assessment Report, both of which address the paleoclimate proxy record, were not accurate assessments of the science and its uncertainties. The “elephant in the room” is the 1000-year reconstructions involving Briffa, Mann and Jones, regarding which the CRU emails certainly provide much evidence relating to the authors’ conduct as IPCC authors that violate the IPCC process protocols. Process matters. If the results of the assessment weren’t being questioned, process violations would be a non-issue. The failure of the various inquiries to seriously engage on this conduct results in a situation where the public is left with the impression that such behavior and conduct is condoned by IPCC and its scientists.

With respect to the torquing of the science by the IPCC, there are many small examples, but I describe here three broad issues:
1) a senior leader at one of the big climate modeling institutions told me that climate modelers seem to be spending 80% of their time on the IPCC production runs, and 20% of their time developing better climate models.

2) there is a huge rush of journal article submissions just before the IPCC deadlines; clearly many scientists are trying to get their latest research included in the IPCC. There is the perception out there that best way to have a paper included in the IPCC is to support the established IPCC narrative.

3) scientists involved in the IPCC are attempting to influence the research process (e.g. peer review in journals, not making key data and metadata available) to support the IPCC narrative and using the IPCC platform to editorialize against and discredit critics (examples of these abound in the CRU emails).

“But you prefer the spin provided by people who (either as hackers or leakers) are self-admitted criminals, liars and thieves. It’s little wonder that agnatology is such a rapidly developing field.”

Really?

You almost had me thinking you cared about the issue.

Leakers or hackers are thus self-admitted criminals liars and thieves and thus should be ignored? Formal investigation by the self interested parties says there was no serious wrongdoing so the questions are therefore over? I suppose you think the same for those who leaked about US torture? Should have been dismissed once the government said that everything was fine, right? Wouldn’t want to listen to those damn crimminal leakers.

I’m sure that brilliant analysis also applies to the Pentagon Papers?

“It’s little wonder that agnatology is such a rapidly developing field.”

Yes, you’ve just provided quite an excellent illustration.

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Tim Worstall 05.07.10 at 7:52 am

“So Tim really is talking about the opportunity costs of leisure time, “

Not just of leisure time. That time could also have been spent in either paid (market) labour or in some other form of household production.

It’s not like I’m being extreme here or anything. It’s an implication of that report that Sen and Stiglitz did for Sarkozy (I assume it’s OK to take two Nobel Laureates seriously?).

Hours spent in household production need to be valued. Their direct point is that we need to value this household production when looking at better versions of GDP. Such a valuation, well, it’s tough to measure the output so we’ll measure it much the way we measure govt itself. We’ll measure the input and call that the addition to our new and improved GDP. They say that these hours of household production should be valued at the “general undifferentiated labour rate” ie, something like minimum wage.

But we don’t just invent such things out of whole cloth. We need to also say that if we insist that people must engage in such household production then the time they spend on that household production must be similarly valued. Other wise our sums don’t balance….we’ve the benefits of recycling but we’re not including the costs of doing the recycling. So we cannot measure value add which is of course what we’re trying to measure.

As to the point about feelings or virtue etc. Sure, that’s part of it. But then if that value were thought to be sufficient to encourage people to do that extra labour in and of itself then there would be no need for fines or laws to force people to do that extra effort. That there are fines and laws forcing the action shows that those forcing the action themselves do not believe that it will be an entirely voluntary action.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.07.10 at 8:01 am

Sebastian writes, “The Climategate investigation showed this email which is precisely on point: ” But the current diagram with the tree ring only data [i.e. the Briffa reconstruction] somewhat contradicts the multiproxy curve and dilutes the message rather significantly…” (Folland, Sep 22, 1999).
Briffa worries about this and writes “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple… [There are] some unexpected changes in response that do not match the recent warming. I do not think it wise that this issue be ignored in the chapter…”
“The corruptions of the IPCC process, and the question of corruption (or at least inappropriate torquing) of the actual science by the IPCC process, is the key issue. The assessment process should filter out erroneous papers and provide a broader assessment of uncertainty; instead, we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative.”

–NO this is wrong. Nothing was torqued and Briffa’s worry is not yours. He was worried about being accurate. You are misinterpreting what was going on. The other proxies don’t have a decline, and they comport at their right ends with the instrumental record, while the tree ring divergence had already spawned a big batch of research papers which examined the discrepancy and discussed “hiding the decline” in journals such as Nature among others. NO secrets; it was all already published. No papers were written to “support an established narrative.” They were trying to present all the evidence fairly in a general assessment for the public. The tree ring proxy divergence is an interesting problem, but it doesn’t change the main outline of the global warming scenario. In fact they solved their presentation problem for the IPCC Third AR (2001), which is a assessment report for the public, by writing a separate section on the known problems with the tree ring proxies where all these papers are cited, including Briffa’s. You can read it yourself: see the section beginning with this sentence, “Several important caveats must be borne in mind when using tree-ring data for palaeoclimate reconstructions…,” on page 131, here:
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/pdf/TAR-02.pdf

Note that this part of the so-called scandal was cooked-up upon emails regarding the writing of the 2001 TAR report, not the AR4 which completely superceded it in 2007. However, the AR4 also clearly describes the problems with the tree ring proxies. See Chapter 6, pp. 472-473, in here:
http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter6.pdf

The rest of your arguments appear to be mostly aspersions derived from your misinformation.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.07.10 at 8:18 am

Tim Worstall, keep this up and in no time at all we will have you defending retirement security and universal healthcare because institutions reduce social transaction costs and therefore they release time for labor or leisure.

But “recycling” for me is rather like “putting aside the race intelligence question” or like “being quiet in a library” or like doing the “Locomotion” in a “line dance”: it is because you want to set a good example and not be an obnoxious idiot.

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Tim Worstall 05.07.10 at 10:29 am

“Tim Worstall, keep this up and in no time at all we will have you defending retirement security and universal healthcare”

I do defend both. Just not perhaps the exact manner in which those two are currently provided…..

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ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 1:32 pm

“So Tim really is talking about the opportunity costs of leisure time, ”

Not just of leisure time. That time could also have been spent in either paid (market) labour or in some other form of household production.

So Worstall can comment on the opportunity costs of leisure time, but – mysteriously – he can’t give a simple yes or no question as to whether or not $2.80/Gal gas is really $2.80/Gal because it doesn’t include the opportunity costs of doing something else besides pumping gas? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

I’m also interested to hear how I can turn that 5 min/wk extra I spend on recycling into cash with paid (market) labor. But I don’t expect a reply.

Tim, your points have been considered by this skeptic, and rejected with prejudice. If you want to claim that opportunity costs for leisure activities put recycling of paper/glass/metal/plastic into the red, let’s see your figures. While we’re on it, let’s see your figures showing that the opportunity costs of going out and buying gas don’t exceed the costs of the gas itself. Since you’re so intent on getting accurate figures ;-)

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james 05.07.10 at 2:14 pm

John Quiggin at 89, 101, and 110.
As you said, you are not familiar with the US constitutions Second Amendment. Your lack of knowledge on this issue is completely understandable. Your response, however , is exactly the behavior of someone desperate to hold onto a belief. Rather than grant me good faith, you went defensive.

Here is a respected Liberal news source reporting on the belief switch.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/us/06firearms.html?_r=1

Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, said he had come to believe that the Second Amendment protected an individual right.

“My conclusion came as something of a surprise to me, and an unwelcome surprise,” Professor Tribe said. “I have always supported as a matter of policy very comprehensive gun control.”

The first two editions of Professor Tribe’s influential treatise on constitutional law, in 1978 and 1988, endorsed the collective rights view. The latest, published in 2000, sets out his current interpretation.

Several other leading liberal constitutional scholars, notably Akhil Reed Amar at Yale and Sanford Levinson at the University of Texas, are in broad agreement favoring an individual rights interpretation.

The money quote:
The earlier consensus, the law professors said in interviews, reflected received wisdom and political preferences rather than a serious consideration of the amendment’s text, history and place in the structure of the Constitution. “The standard liberal position,” Professor Levinson said, “is that the Second Amendment is basically just read out of the Constitution.”

Laurance Tribe is the leading Left/Liberal constitutional scholar in the US
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_Tribe

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The Fool 05.07.10 at 2:18 pm

Here is what it comes down to: the left and the right have different policy goals and this creates an assymetry that explains the right’s agnotological tendencies .

The right wants to benefit the few, while the left is concerned with helping the many. This creates a structural problem for the right because if they want to win elections they have to get the votes of the many. This is of course difficult to do when you are pursuing the benefit of only a few. So the right is forced to lie about their goals and pretend that policies that really only benefit a few, benefit the many.

This creates a pressure on the right which is lacking on the left. Specifically, it creates a pressure to lie or to delude oneself into believing that policies that in reality only benefit the few, somehow benefit the many.

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sorry to interrupt 05.07.10 at 2:20 pm

I have one in moderation Not any more. Go away and don’t come back – JQ

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Kaveh 05.07.10 at 2:49 pm

I’ve been thinking about bringing up the recent anti-religion movement (exemplified by Dawkins, PZ Myers, Hitchens) as an example of agnotology–their whole “I don’t need to spend years studying Aquinas to know that there’s no god” approach to issues where religion is involved is really not about defending their atheist beliefs, it’s a way to extend their authority to issues that are much less clear-cut than whether you need to have extensive knowledge of theology to hold any view on the existence of deities.

The recent stink-up over a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics that had the gall to discuss a sensitive issue in a pragmatic way is an interesting case. By no means is everyone on the left lined up behind this view–in fact, Equality Now is taking an approach more associated with the neocon right. But I think it’s a good example of what agnotology on the left can look like, even if it’s not something comparable to the wide anti-AGW dogma that is more uniformly embraced on the right.

Summary of the controversy: A report by the AAP discusses the option of offering a ritual “nicking” or “pricking” (something much less disruptive than male circumcision) to some families who are determined to have their daughters undergo female genital cutting (FGC), as an alternative to actual FGC. The AAP report did not actually endorse this alternative, only discussed it as one approach that has been considered. An Equality Now press release asserts their position that FGM is a form of gender-based violence, and accuses the AAP by implication of condoning gender-based violence. P G Myers picked up on this and completely went along with Equality Now’s characterization of the AAP report as “[coming] up with a compromise on female genital mutilation” (Myers’ words). Which is not what the AAP did, they simply mentioned this “compromise” as one of many solutions proposed, and emphasized that the goal should be to eradicate FGC.

While this doesn’t hold a candle to AGW denialist dogma on the right, it shows how agnotology can exist within certain parts of the left.

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Ebenezer Scrooge 05.07.10 at 2:59 pm

Violet @201:
I apologize. Although your comment @160 to mine @143 was worthy of response (which I did @195), I should have ignored you @196. We’re headed for the gutter.

You have already used troll four times in this thread against others: @19, @20, @73, and @202. You are welcome to use it against me, too.

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Ebenezer Scrooge 05.07.10 at 2:59 pm

Violet @201:
I apologize. Although your comment @160 to mine @143 was worthy of response (which I did @195), I should have ignored you @196. We’re headed for the gutter.

You have already used troll four times in this thread against others: @19, @20, @73, and @202. You are welcome to use it against me, too.

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ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 3:16 pm

Ebenezer, we’re headed towards the gutter because of your behaviour, not mine. And rather than complain about my behaviour, you might, you know, actually offer up some evidence for your assertions. Whining that I’m being mean because I’m asking for references – and for clarifications of your extremely vague claims – is nothing more than a tactic to avoid giving any evidence. I’ll also note that, unlike you, I actually posted cites about the actual numbers of “liberals” and conservatives who oppose nuclear power. Big surprise – there’s not that much difference. Not that I was under any obligation to post anything whatsoever, but it does demolish your example, doesn’t it ;-)

And no, you don’t get to decide how many trolls are posting here. Particularly since three of those four references are to just one person (and Sebastian certainly qualifies as a troll, I would think. ) But hey, let’s conveniently leave that fact out.

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ben 05.07.10 at 3:35 pm

As some folks already mentioned specific examples, I’ll just mention: Anything involving firearms or the second amendment of the US Bill of Rights. The left is getting better, finally, but still not so good, especially in the larger media outlets.

Another failing of the left is the seemingly pervasive belief that folks on the right are nearly universally racist.

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IM 05.07.10 at 4:20 pm

Belief in the innocence of the Rosenbergs was once quite widespread on the american left.
Innocence, not overly harsh punishment.
Of course this example is somewaht dated and you have to eclude moderate democrats for this definition of left.

Belief in the innocence of Mumia Abu Jamal is a article of faith on the global radical left.

Anti-vaccination is a fine example, but isn’t really political. Not only is even the movement in the US only a majority leftwing movement, in other countries it has rather a right-wing slant.

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IM 05.07.10 at 4:25 pm

There is also the “a land without people for a people without land” myth, very durable. But is it a left-wing myth?

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Bruce Baugh 05.07.10 at 4:28 pm

IM: I know people who’ve put time into trying to get Mumia some justice. What they’re all convinced of, 100%, is that he didn’t get a fair trial, and I find the evidence for that completely convincing. He might well be guilty; he certainly doesn’t strike me as a good guy. But bad guys get targeted and railroaded too and deserve actual procedural justice anyway.

I’m sure there are a lot of leftists who think, based on very little knowledge, that Mumia is a swell guy the cops picked on arbitrarily. But there are also quite a few informed leftists who think that his niceness or lack thereof has nothing to do with the merits of the case brought against him.

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Kevin Donoghue 05.07.10 at 4:45 pm

I’ve no great interest in guns or the US Constitution, but I’m struck by how James demolishes his own argument with his link to the story of Laurence H. Tribe:

There used to be an almost complete scholarly and judicial consensus that the Second Amendment protects only a collective right of the states to maintain militias. That consensus no longer exists — thanks largely to the work over the last 20 years of several leading liberal law professors, who have come to embrace the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns.

James presents this as evidence of liberal agnotology. Bullet, meet foot.

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ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 4:48 pm

I’d to look at this from still another angle, lets look at this Pew Poll about scientists. Turns out that scientists break down (by self-identification) as 53% Democrat, 32% Independent, and only 6% Republican. Further, going by self-identified ideological orientation, scientists are 53% liberal, 35% moderate, and only 9% are conservatives.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I’d suggest that this is a case of “facts have a liberal bias”. Scientists (the ones I know at least), believe very strongly in the scientific method, falsifiability, burden of proof standards, etc. I’m not saying that they have any sort of special handle on what is true; rather, they do have pretty good bullshit filters that allow them to reject obvious silliness (see above.) Does this extend to “liberals” in general? I’d have to say that based upon my personal experience that it does. Admittedly, I hang with mostly scientists and I live in a college town, so make of that what you will.

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ice9 05.07.10 at 4:49 pm

A: IM, that’s just wrong and dumb. I was never very invested in Rosenbergs but I had a flaming liberal college professor who ranted about how the Jamal case was a shameful failure of the facts–that’s how I first heard of it. It is not an “article of faith” by any stretch.

And anti-vaccination is indeed not political; I’d call it anti-political. These PhD’s in agnotology are overwhelmingly the relatives of autistic children. I excuse them, because they are randomly selected (across every spectrum, political included) and because they are subject to a mercilessly effective emotional appeal that is renewed every morning when their child wakes up (if the child sleeps at all.) A profoundly autistic child can shift reality.

They are a fascinating group of groups. There are only two factors that apply to them. Either they have a direct relationship with an autistic child, or they will happily profit from autistic children. I know several people who are convinced anti-vax+ridiculous sequence of logical/scientific patches of the moment AND who happily and comfortably associate with people who utterly disagree with them in every other area of life. Indeed, you see fascinating subspecies of agnotology within the organizations that cater to (and abuse) these people, in which competing pseudoscientific doctrines (and their quacks) contest and refute and fact-check each other from an ever-shifting scripture of acceptable wisdom, all of it walled off from real science. Also I’d say no group is more ruthless in expelling those members who backslide from any part of the complex machinery of belief (that is, who Manzi the group.) Luckily, those who Manzi can quickly find another group to join, because there are plenty.

By the way, I found this smoking gun of agnotology on Slacktivist–perhaps the best writer on the web, present company included. The ‘fact’–that the Mission Accomplished banner was put up by the crew of the carrier. It has its own coinage which should be revived and circulated in this conversation.

http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2003/10/sforzian.html

ice9

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ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 4:52 pm

James presents this as evidence of liberal agnotology. Bullet, meet foot.

I’d also suggest that things like interpretation of the Second Amendment or the conferring of personhood upon fetuses aren’t really amenable to falsification. I think that Quigggan was thinking about falsifiable beliefs like the effects of DDT on wildlife or the connection between autism and vaccination.

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James Brewster 05.07.10 at 5:33 pm

Perhaps tangential, but the “GM is evil” and “vaccines cause autism” memes are hardly endemic to the left. They straddle the far side of the political Moebius strip where the radical left and libertarian right meet minds. I think it’s partly because the center of global neoliberal capitalism is so dismissive of their concerns. In my experience, the conservatives with these kind of leanings are less likely to try to parse out the relationship between their distrust of corporations and their other, more orthodox political alignments.

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Sebastian 05.07.10 at 5:48 pm

“I’d also suggest that things like interpretation of the Second Amendment or the conferring of personhood upon fetuses aren’t really amenable to falsification.”

Personhood on fetuses could be considered a unfalsifiable, but many interpretations are not. If I said that my quoted sentence really meant “thinking about the Seventh Amendment is a progressive nightmare” I would falsifiably be wrong. The fact that some competing interpretations might be right does not imply that other interpretations can’t be flatly wrong.

The modern liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment has tended to be falsifiably wrong or at the very least intentionally out of step with how they interpret words in the rest of the amendments. It is difficult to say with a straight face that one has a solid Constitutional theory that both protects abortion rights (unmentioned) AND nearly writes out of existance gun rights (rather prominently mentioned). And it wasn’t wrong in just a happenstance kind of way. It was wrong with what could at very most charitably be called years of intellectual ‘confusion’ sown into the field.

And there is the recent study showing liberals and left much more likely to think exceedingly stupid things on particular economic issues. In particular 80% of progressives and 70% of liberals still don’t understand that rent control causes shortages.

[BTW I think the study wasn’t designed well for its apparent purpose, which was to show that liberals are worse on economic understanding *in general*. For that purpose the design of the study was bad because it doesn’t test the types of economic questions that conservatives are likely to get wrong and some of the questions are too open to interpretation. But it does show that on certain clear cut cases like rent control and housing restrictions, people on the left in the US have demonstrably wrong views which are apparently quite resistant to evidence, as the rent control problem has been well understood and accepted for almost the entire post-WWII period.]

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Warai Otoko 05.07.10 at 5:54 pm

I don’t really know why concepts such as “falsifiability” and “burden of proof standards”, two concepts that haven’t been very popular in epistemology for some time, always seem to emerge in the most random places. The first concept is a remnant of Popper and not of much use to anyone, because claims, as Quine famously said, “face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body”. There simply is no way of falsifying anything, in the original sense of the word.

When if comes to “burden of proof”, it is held by the person making a claim that is controversial. A claim is controversial if it is in opposition to some other piece of knowledge. This means that a claim that is controversial to me(for example the claim that it makes no sense of talking about events as simultaneous in modern physics) might not be controversial to someone else. There is really no objective answer to the question “who bears the burden of proof?”, because claims are only controversial relative to a body of beliefs, and people have different beliefs.

This also means that claiming that your opponent has the burden of proof isn’t very relevant in an argumentation. He/she may simply take their burden, and go somewhere else, with their rationality intact.

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Steve LaBonne 05.07.10 at 5:54 pm

There is no fact of the matter as to what the drafters of the Second Amendment would intend their words to mean in a radically different world which they could not even begin to imagine. I realize the legal profession has to pretend the contrary because SOME decision needs to be arrived at somehow, but really, it’s cretinous for the rest of us to pretend to believe this fiction.

230

Rich Puchalsky 05.07.10 at 6:49 pm

Let’s look back at the big picture of what’s going on with this thread:

1. The right-wingers are steadily repeating their talking points, ignoring any refutations. Sebastian, the liar, is going ahead and implying that people in Climategate would have been charged with trying to cover up problems with the consensus on global warming if the statutory time limit hadn’t run out — as opposed to possibly being charged with dragging their feet about filling lots of wingnut FOIA requests for all of their data. Worstall remains unable or unwilling to generalize his point about domestic labor in recycling to domestic labor used for all other sorts of economic activities.

2. Various supposed left-wingers are showing what freethinkers they are by coming in, accusing the left in general of agnotology around some left-ish celebrity, and then never elaborating on their claims. This inclides Colin Danby with Michael Moore, and Scott M. and Ebenezer with Noam Chomsky. That’s quite admirable, to agree with contentless right-wing propaganda points like that. Good going, you guys.

3. Still other more or less well-meaning supposed left-wingers are coming up with whole vague syndromes that the left is supposed to be fooling itself around. GMOs! Nuclear power! (Stretching back for decades — you see, even when the left was right, they weren’t really right, because they were right for the wrong reason.) The race-intelligence question!

I suppose that some of the people doing this may have thought that they were being admirable, as opposed to, say, boring, vain, narcissistic, wrong, and in general the kind of person who would diss people on their supposed side for no good reason. It surely fills me with confidence, knowing that these people have my back.

This whole thing really isn’t necessary — that’s the lesson I wish that people would take away for next time. It is not necessary for the left to prove that they are fairer than anyone else and to form a circular firing squad to come up with ways in which we are supposedly wrong in order to prove our fairness, or to prove our individual freedom from supposed leftist dogma. It’s not something that marks you as someone who is taking politics seriously. On the contrary, it marks you as being a prat.

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Sebastian 05.07.10 at 6:55 pm

“as opposed to possibly being charged with dragging their feet about filling lots of wingnut FOIA requests for all of their data.”

Sending out requests for other people to destroy copies of their emails isn’t exactly dragging your feet. You can stretch the interpretations far, but not that far.

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IM 05.07.10 at 7:07 pm

ice9,

wrong and dumb? I said innocence. Not due process. And it is something of a enduring cause here among the radical left, who doesn’t cares much otherwise about bourgeoise concepts like due process. And as far as I understand the situation he is at best covering for his brother. And he sabotaged his own defense during the process.

And you seem to violently agree with me on vaccination.

What about the Rosenbergs? (a bit dated, yes)

233

Kevin Donoghue 05.07.10 at 7:59 pm

Sebastian: “there is the recent study showing liberals and left much more likely to think exceedingly stupid things on particular economic issues.”

Ilya Somin: “the study doesn’t really allow us to say whether liberals or conservatives are the ones with the greatest levels of economic ignorance.”

Ilya Somin is right and Sebastian is wrong. A quick glance at Somin’s post and the study itself will confirm this. Incidentally the study, based on a Zogby poll, is a crock.

It’s not hard to find examples of sloppy reasoning on economic issues from both left and right. But even in that field, nobody seems to be coming up with an example of leftist agnotology which meet John Quiggin’s criteria.

I don’t think dsquared’s suggestion qualifies. It relates to trade theory, which is tricky, it’s a widely held belief on the right as well as on the left and the EU has not made much effort to show that Africans are not made worse off, in aggregate, by these policies – probably because doing so would highlight the fact that the biggest losers are EU consumers and taxpayers.

Tim Worstall is just nit-picking about cost-benefit analysis, AFAICT. Am I supposed to count the walk to Tesco and the wait at the checkout as a labour cost, which must be added to my grocery bill? In economics it is commonplace to ignore certain costs to simplify the analysis. If simplification counts as agnotology, even the best economists are in trouble.

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libertarian 05.07.10 at 8:55 pm

You know, I hate to say it, but Quiggin has a point. Where would be if not for the clear-headed and deep thinkers on the left?

Just look around you. The screen you are reading this on was built by highly efficient government enterprises manned by enlightened bureaucrats. You no doubt drove to work today in a government-built car, with decades of gains in efficiency, technology, and comfort all borne out of the altruistic vision of our almost god-like state-planners.

Thank goodness the left triumphed over the right in the great ideological battles of the 20th century, for otherwise we’d all be making do with the inferior output, quality, and individual freedoms afforded by that most demonstrably inadequate of social systems: free market capitalism.

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Steve LaBonne 05.07.10 at 9:11 pm

I see we have yet another winger who can spew the usual talking points but can’t actually address the content of the post in any way. So predictable.

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IM 05.07.10 at 9:13 pm

libertarian,

you do know that the internet, especially the wordl wide web was a government (CERN) creation.

You no doubt drove to work today in a government-built car

As long as you drive Volkswagen or Renault…

237

ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 9:18 pm

I don’t really know why concepts such as “falsifiability” and “burden of proof standards”, two concepts that haven’t been very popular in epistemology for some time, always seem to emerge in the most random places. The first concept is a remnant of Popper and not of much use to anyone, because claims, as Quine famously said, “face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body”. There simply is no way of falsifying anything, in the original sense of the word.

Not a math or science sorta guy, are you? I claim that there are no numbers that can be expressed as the cubes of two integers in two different ways. 10^3+9^3=1729=12^3+1^3. I’d say the claim has been falsified ;-)

When if comes to “burden of proof”, it is held by the person making a claim that is controversial. A claim is controversial if it is in opposition to some other piece of knowledge. This means that a claim that is controversial to me(for example the claim that it makes no sense of talking about events as simultaneous in modern physics) might not be controversial to someone else. There is really no objective answer to the question “who bears the burden of proof?”, because claims are only controversial relative to a body of beliefs, and people have different beliefs.

Right. And who decides what is controversial? Nope, the person making the claim has the burden of proof. It’s a simple and unambiguous standard. If you want to challenge me if I say that, for example, the sky is blue, it’s not hard for me to come up with a multitude of sources and cites. And if you keep asking me proofs at every step of the way, even when they are this trivial, I would quite rightly dismiss you as someone who was being obstructive. See your incorrect formulation below.

This also means that claiming that your opponent has the burden of proof isn’t very relevant in an argumentation. He/she may simply take their burden, and go somewhere else, with their rationality intact.

That’s fine. It’s also what a lot of right-wingers do – make a claim and then challenge them to prove you wrong. What’s hilarious about this sort of ignorance of the procedure is that if I were a venture capitalist and people came up to me with a proposition wherein I supply the money and they supply everything else, if I were to ask them to justify their business model and their underlying assumptions and they came back with some nattering about how I had to prove that they were wrong, well, do you think I’d be giving them any money? Well, actually from the above, yes you would.

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Hidari 05.07.10 at 9:25 pm

‘You no doubt drove to work today in a government-built car

As long as you drive Volkswagen or Renault…’

Not to mention that, as of last year, GM is now, essentially, a Govt. owned company.

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james 05.07.10 at 9:26 pm

Kevin Donoghue at 220 -
If you had read the article you would see that it is a liberal scholar stating that the default liberal view was a collective right interpretation. The conservative scholars have always held an individual right interpretation. The liberal scholar is admitting that the liberal view of collective rights was incorrect.

I have found an issue that
1. was a significant liberal / conservative divide in a significant country
2. where the leading liberal scholars have said they were wrong.
3. where the leading liberal scholars had said the reason the incorrect liberal view was held was just because it matched the liberal ideology.
4. where the scholars who have changed their position are still considered both leading and liberal even after changing their position.

A complete admission of hidebound thinking by large, significant, liberal ideology by the those considered the most informed liberal thinkers on the subject.

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Steve LaBonne 05.07.10 at 9:48 pm

Hidebound thinking, even granting purely for the sake of argument that this is a fair characterization, != agnotology, not even close. But hey, it’s obvious by now that there simply is no right-wing response to Quiggin’s point that isn’t pure bullshit.

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Alex 05.07.10 at 9:49 pm

The screen you are reading this on was built by highly efficient government enterprises manned by enlightened bureaucrats. You no doubt drove to work today in a government-built car, with decades of gains in efficiency, technology, and comfort all borne out of the altruistic vision of our almost god-like state-planners.

You almost certainly received this over lines installed by a state monopoly or a private company chartered and heavily regulated by the state. If you read this on an iPhone or similar, or used a cellular broadband service to get it, the first sentence is not far off given the history of GSM, UMTS, and for that matter SS7. The basic concept of a personal computer originated with Doug Engelbart’s Augment Lab at SRI, working on ARPA contracts; the story of the Internet is well known; Ethernet originated from the University of Hawaii’s AlohaNet; Unix from Berkeley and AT&T, a company that could afford to run Bell Labs because of its state-given monopoly. The whole project of modern electronics depends on the fact Bell Labs published the details of the transistor in IEEE Spectrum. Fibre-optic technology originated at Southampton University and most of the patent base at BT when it was a nationalised industry. Out of the four major telecoms equipment vendors, Alcatel is sufficiently influenced by the French government that the CEO’s job is in the president’s gift and Huawei is formally a worker-owned business, but a lot of people suspect that it’s run by the Chinese defence establishment.

Could you honestly have picked a worse example?

Further, no matter whether you bought the car from the French government, the province of Lower Saxony, or the US Federal government, you certainly drove to work on a road.

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libertarian 05.07.10 at 9:51 pm

“you do know that the internet, especially the wordl wide web was a government (CERN) creation.”

Sure it was. That’s why my web browser has “Made by the Swiss Government” stamped on it. And my ethernet card. And the router in the next room. And…

I don’t recall the lefty argument being “let the state fund basic research but leave the rest up to the free markets”. Leftards think the government should run everything. Thank the lord you morons lost that argument.

243

Steve LaBonne 05.07.10 at 9:54 pm

Web browsers? History of Mosaic

What an amusingly clueless idiot libertarian is, even more ignorant than some others of his ilk.

244

Steve LaBonne 05.07.10 at 10:00 pm

By the way, O clueless one, the actually existing left in the US, such as it is, is largely comprised (and 100% of it that has any real political influence) of people who favor a regulated mixed economy and positively encourage private-sector commercialization of government-sponsored research.

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Alex 05.07.10 at 10:01 pm

No, Tim, it is trivial. That is simply the argument from big number. Multiply small number by population/GDP/whatever, shout a lot, don’t mention the bigger number that would result from multiplying – say – average hours worked by the US population. Consider this a contribution to agnotology.

Meanwhile, if you want an example of anti-knowledge on the left, this might do.

246

Alex 05.07.10 at 10:04 pm

If you use a Mac, the command line interface will actually tell you the OS (or substantial fractions thereof) is the work of the Regents of the University of California at Berkeley…

247

piglet 05.07.10 at 10:33 pm

It is clear that Worstall is trolling but I’ll violate the rule against troll feeding one again in the hope to come to some sort of closure. I think Worstall should if the least bit honest respond to my point made in 103 and before (which is similar but not identical to SoVs argument in 187). If he is serious about counting the minutes supposedly spent sorting waste, he must also insist on counting many other minutes, including those spent by hundreds of millions of consumers reading and/or throwing away advertisements, calling insurance agents to get quotes, shopping for vacation packages, flight and hotel deals etc. on the internet, reading package labels at the supermarket, figuring out which of 137 cereal brands to buy, etc. etc. etc.

Some of these activities are not done of consumers’ own will but they are imposed on them by our economic system. If Worstall is serious, he would have to count all those billions of minutes wasted as a cost of market capitalism. No economic model that I know of has ever accounted for these costs. Ergo, by Worstall standards, we don’t have sufficient data to conclude whether consumer choice is a good thing or not. Worstall, yes or no.

That line of argument accuses Worstall of being inconsistent but doesn’t necessarily disprove his claim about recycling (I assume he refers to mandatory recycling laws) imposing a considerable cost on consumers. Is it true? We all should be able to answer that. I think it’s bogus. Any halfways competent person will be able to integrate recycling into his/her regular domestic routine efficiently enough to not feel it as a burden at all. Waste disposal requires an effort whether the wastes go into one or several containers. The claim just isn’t plausible.

More generally speaking, industrial civilization is complex and handling complexity requires an effort. To complain about this effort is pointless unless you seriously consider reducing our society’s systemic complexity.

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Kevin Donoghue 05.07.10 at 10:34 pm

James: “If you had read the article you would see that it is a liberal scholar stating that the default liberal view was a collective right interpretation.”

I did read the article, which is how I knew you were misrepresenting it. Readers are invited to click on your NYT link and verify that. Also, legal scholars who reconsider their interpretations are hardly guilty of “hidebound thinking” whatever else they may be doing wrong. Finally, as John Quiggin has already pointed out, questions about what a badly-worded clause in a very old document should be taken to mean are largely value judgements.

BTW folks, ISTR that John Quiggin banned “libertarian” some time ago. If so it’s a waste of time responding since those comments will probably disappear in due course.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.07.10 at 10:54 pm

Sebastian @228: “Sending out requests for other people to destroy copies of their emails isn’t exactly dragging your feet. You can stretch the interpretations far, but not that far.”

No response to my #206 and this comment will not avail you either. They were hounded by intellectual clowns who were purposed to misinterpret. Those guys had been seen already for years blathering gibberish at dodgy conferences hooked up with industry lobbyists. I would delete my emails too! Recycling? No sense saving THOSE goddamned emails. You just know you’ll be spending more labor-time later! Delete!

But you notice they didn’t delete anything.

Next up? “But but but, they also swore to redefine the age-old definition of what peer-reviewed literature is!”

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John Quiggin 05.07.10 at 10:58 pm

For the moment, I’m not doing any banning, since the exhibits of rightwing agnatology provided by libertarian, Sebastian and others are so excellent.

251

Warai Otoko 05.07.10 at 10:59 pm

@scentsofviolets

Sorry, I don’t know how to do quote-tags.

“Not a math or science sorta guy, are you? I claim that there are no numbers that can be expressed as the cubes of two integers in two different ways. 103+93=1729=123+13. I’d say the claim has been falsified”

Well, if you want to know more about me feel free to mail me at hotguy21@gmail.com.

Anyhow, I wouldn’t really accept that as a proof(doesn’t really have the structure of one). However even if it was a proof it doesn’t really engage with my argument. Well-formed mathematical statements can be seen as analytically true, thus statements that mathematical propositions are true will be tautalogical. So for example if you claim that 4 is a prime number, this claim isn’t falsified by some observation, but by the definition of the terms “4” and “prime number”. The claim isn’t falsified, it is just false “by definition”. Scientific statements and mathematical statements are not similar, and we do not gain knowledge about their truth or falsehood in similar ways.

“Right. And who decides what is controversial? Nope, the person making the claim has the burden of proof. It’s a simple and unambiguous standard. If you want to challenge me if I say that, for example, the sky is blue, it’s not hard for me to come up with a multitude of sources and cites. And if you keep asking me proofs at every step of the way, even when they are this trivial, I would quite rightly dismiss you as someone who was being obstructive. See your incorrect formulation below.”

As I said, what is controversial depends on what other statements you believe in(so in a way, you yourself decide it!). I think I can illustrate this with an example: You and I are standing by a large lake. I make the claim “There are fish in the lake”. You question this claim. Who has the burden of proof? I would say you have it, since it is common knowledge that lakes contain fish. “Ah”, you might say, “but only lakes with water contain fish, how do you know that this is water?”. Now the burden is on you to prove that this lake is not water. But then you notice that we are standing on one of the moons of Saturn, and you notice that I know this too. Is the burden of proof still on you? I would say that it has again shifted to me.

You might of course say that it was always on me(or that it is on both), but this ignores the point of this example, which I think demonstrates that the answer to the question “who has the burden of proof?” shifts with epistemic context. If we were to follow the rules “the person making the claim has the burden of proof”, one would have an obligation to be able to prove most everyday statements that one makes, but it is a bit absurd to think that obligation would fall on those who make everyday claims rather than those who question them. Besides, there are better things to do then to argue about who has to justify what; it’s better to produce a positive account that contradicts a claim rather than to just contradict it.

“That’s fine. It’s also what a lot of right-wingers do – make a claim and then challenge them to prove you wrong. What’s hilarious about this sort of ignorance of the procedure is that if I were a venture capitalist and people came up to me with a proposition wherein I supply the money and they supply everything else, if I were to ask them to justify their business model and their underlying assumptions and they came back with some nattering about how I had to prove that they were wrong, well, do you think I’d be giving them any money? Well, actually from the above, yes you would.”

I don’t really see what you analogy is supposed to show. I didn’t make a claim about justification; it is good that people justify their claims. I did make a claim about the concept of “burden of proof”, my claim was that I deny that there is any objective way of determining who has the burden.

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John Quiggin 05.07.10 at 11:07 pm

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not an expert on American constitutional law, or even an American or a lawyer, but it strikes me that there is only one coherent interpretation of the Second Amendment that is consistent with the actual facts of the matter. The Amendment states
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It’s obvious, two centuries later, that the presence or absence of a well regulated militia is neither necessary nor sufficient for the security of a free state. Contrary to the expectations and hopes of the Frames, the US, like every other state relies on a standing army. And, if the military did decide to take over, it’s equally obvious that the National Guard would not be much use against this.

So, I’d suggest parsing the odd punctuation to mean “As long as a militia is necessary to the security of the free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Since this necessity has now ceased to exist, the Amendment no longer binds the government.

(I’ve left out the irony alerts, but feel free to add them if you need them spelt out).

253

Sebastian 05.07.10 at 11:10 pm

Kevin:

Sebastian: “there is the recent study showing liberals and left much more likely to think exceedingly stupid things on particular economic issues.”

Ilya Somin: “the study doesn’t really allow us to say whether liberals or conservatives are the ones with the greatest levels of economic ignorance.”

Ilya Somin is right and Sebastian is wrong. A quick glance at Somin’s post and the study itself will confirm this. Incidentally the study, based on a Zogby poll, is a crock.”

Well now we’ve just confirmed that you don’t even read what I write before you whine about it.

The particular economic issues in question were rent control and building regulations. For which the polling showed that liberals and progressives were very unlikely to get the correct answer. And I wrote, in the very same post:

BTW I think the study wasn’t designed well for its apparent purpose, which was to show that liberals are worse on economic understanding in general. For that purpose the design of the study was bad because it doesn’t test the types of economic questions that conservatives are likely to get wrong and some of the questions are too open to interpretation. But it does show that on certain clear cut cases like rent control and housing restrictions, people on the left in the US have demonstrably wrong views which are apparently quite resistant to evidence, as the rent control problem has been well understood and accepted for almost the entire post-WWII period.

Which ummm, is EXACTLY the point you made that you said I got wrong.

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Sebastian 05.07.10 at 11:15 pm

And this btw, is an excellent example of why it is difficult to talk here. Even when I make a point that you agree with entirely, because it has a conservative’s name attached you feel the need to rudely disagree.

255

IM 05.07.10 at 11:21 pm

By the way, I now remember a almost perfect historical example of liberal agnotology:
The jus primae noctis.

It never existed and that should have been obvious even in the 19th century. But because it did fit so well to the liberal narrative of feudalism and could be used against conservatives, one liberal writer would copy from the other going back to some very dubious early 19th century research.

I don’t know if the concept is still being defended, but I am sure that it was still mainstream 40, 50 years ago.

256

piglet 05.07.10 at 11:39 pm

I don’t know about the jus primae noctis but the flat earth legend comes to my mind. Educated people in the middle ages knew of course that the earth wasn’t flat and the church didn’t make any flat earth claims. The legend is an interesting story but does not fit the requirements of this thread.

257

ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 11:45 pm

Anyhow, I wouldn’t really accept that as a proof(doesn’t really have the structure of one). However even if it was a proof it doesn’t really engage with my argument. Well-formed mathematical statements can be seen as analytically true, thus statements that mathematical propositions are true will be tautalogical. So for example if you claim that 4 is a prime number, this claim isn’t falsified by some observation, but by the definition of the terms “4” and “prime number”. The claim isn’t falsified, it is just false “by definition”. Scientific statements and mathematical statements are not similar, and we do not gain knowledge about their truth or falsehood in similar ways.

You need to stop snipping text. You claimed that “falsifiability” and “burden of proof” were these quaint concepts that went out of style soon after the passing of Popper. Obviously that’s not true, as my example shows (or yours, for that matter.) The same thing with any of a number of statements such as “time slows down for fast-moving objects” (true), or “acids can never be bases” (false.) I take it from your response that you retract your earlier (and very odd statement) about falsifiability.

258

IM 05.07.10 at 11:50 pm

But it was used by liberal historians and other liberals in the 19th century who liked to attack their opponents as defenders of feudalism. And while it lost it’s political content when nobody on the right could be described as a feudalist, it survived long in more popular depictions of the middle age.

And liberals of the 19th century can already be described as left wing.

My source:

Boureau, Alain. The Lord’s First Night: The Myth of the Droit de Cuissage, translated by Lydia G. Cochrane, University of Chicago Press, 1998

259

ScentOfViolets 05.07.10 at 11:56 pm

It is clear that Worstall is trolling but I’ll violate the rule against troll feeding one again in the hope to come to some sort of closure. I think Worstall should if the least bit honest respond to my point made in 103 and before (which is similar but not identical to SoVs argument in 187).

Actually, piglet, I think you brought this up first @22. Credit where credit is due. And yes, my point was not so much that Worstall is a hypocrite, but that if he really believes this, then he also believes that a rather substantial body of economic analysis – which also doesn’t account for these types of costs – are also invalid.

260

Salma von Hayek 05.08.10 at 12:16 am

The best example is still the maintenance – in the face of all available evidence – of some kind of biological egalitarianism. People like the guy who blogs at http://liberalbiorealism.wordpress.com and who believe, for instance, that “the best evidence is that the black-white IQ gap is real, that IQ measures something basic about intelligence, and that the difference between the average IQ of blacks and the average IQ of whites is based in substantial part on genetic differences between the two groups” are extremely few and far between on the left. Sure, there are a bunch of superficially plausible argumentative manoeuvres which one can use to obfuscate the issue, entrench one’s position, and probably even convince the slower members of the rank and file, but hey, that’s the point.

(Just as an aside, Quiggin’s terminology seems to me barbarous. “Agnotology” refers to the study of the phenomenon of the manufacture of ignorance, not the phenomenon itself. Talking of “left-wing agnotology” is rather like saying that someone has “oncology of the liver”.)

261

Rich Puchalsky 05.08.10 at 12:43 am

“The best example is still the maintenance – in the face of all available evidence – of some kind of biological egalitarianism. “

What “all available evidence”? There isn’t any evidence.

Let me rephrase that. All available evidence indicates that you’re a racist, because you’re willing to claim that there is evidence of racial differences in intelligence where there in fact is none. What does that indicate, other than that you personally are a horrible person?

262

John Quiggin 05.08.10 at 12:48 am

SvH, a quick visit to Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence
suggests that your confident assessment of the evidence is not shared by the relevant scientific community. To quote “The American Psychological Association has concluded that the racial IQ gap is not the result of bias in the content or administration of tests, but that no adequate explanation of it has so far been given

To repeat, what I am looking for are examples of simple, and easily refuted, factual claims, not complex arguments where you think your side has won and the left is refusing to concede defeat. IQ and race is an issue where rightwingers have been particularly prone to claim victory, even though there are gaping holes in their argument, most obviously the lack of a satisfactory explanation of the Flynn effect.

Coming to the use of language, I take your point, but “pathology” is an analogous term, used similarly.

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PCFG 05.08.10 at 1:38 am

Just to back up JQ’s comment at 259, I happen to work a few doors down for one of the world experts on intelligence testing; who also happens not to have a dog in the “black-white IQ gap” debate, but is nevertheless extremely well-informed on the topic. His summary of the literature is almost identical to JQ’s. The gap is a well-replicated empirical phenomenon; and so far defies clear explanation. A very large number of “obvious” environmental-, economic- and outright bias based explanations have been tested. None have provided anything close to an adequate explanation. So far, there’s no real evidence for a biological basis for the effect, but neither is there evidence for any other explanation.

(As an aside, since the topic of IQ is now “up” in this thread: could we please stop linking to Cosma Shalizi’s supposed “debunking” of g, as per Lizardbreath @102. There’s a reason why those posts appear on the internet and not in the journals. It’s because those posts are a classic two-step of terrific triviality: either he is saying something blindingly obvious, that the psychometric models are just reliable and sensible redescriptions of a frequently observed covariance structre; or else he’s saying something very, very stupid; namely that the enterprise is flawed. I suspect Shalizi actually intended the former, because he was arguing against a particularly ridiculous position, but almost every time I see those posts linked to (e.g., Lizardbreath @102, the context implies that the linker thinks he’s saying the latter, stupid thing. Please don’t do it. In the long run, you’ll end up looking exactly as dumb as the people you’re trying to refute.)

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Henry 05.08.10 at 3:00 am

quoting from the said Cosma:

bq. In primitive societies, or so Malinowski taught, myths serve as the legitimating charters of practices and institutions. Just so here: the myth of g legitimates a vast enterprise of intelligence testing and theorizing. There should be no dispute that, when we lack specialized and valid instruments, general IQ tests can be better than nothing. Claims that they are anything more than such stop-gaps — that they are triumphs of psychological science, illuminating the workings of the mind; keys to the fates of individuals and peoples; sources of harsh truths which only a courageous few have the strength to bear; etc., etc., — such claims are at present entirely unjustified, though not, perhaps, unmotivated. They are supported only by the myth, and acceptance of the myth itself rests on what I can only call an astonishing methodological backwardness. The bottom line is: The sooner we stop paying attention to g, the sooner we can devote our energies to understanding the mind.

I think it is fair to say that Cosma is saying that the whole enterprise is flawed (and if you don’t get this from the reading, I really don’t think you have read as carefully as you ought). I imagine that Cosma, if asked, might even use a considerably more pungent adjective than ‘flawed’ to describe the enterprise. I think it is also fair to say that Cosma’s piece is (a) not very, very stupid, and that it is also not (b) a two-step of terrific triviality. As Cosma makes clear, he is not attempting to be original, but instead summarizing the general wisdom of a number of respectable statisticians, who have published peer reviewed research on this topic – and that this wisdom is that _g_ and the far reaching claims made for IQ are a bunch of cobblers. Of course, it is possible that Cosma and the people whom he cites to are all wrong – but you would have to make a specific argument as to _why_ they are wrong, showing why Cosma et al. misunderstand the underlying statistical theory, or the way it has been applied. I wouldn’t care to do this myself – but if you want to, go ahead.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.08.10 at 3:13 am

“Biological egalitarianism” is a good rule of thumb, since it helps to avoid an error that is, again, almost a mainstay of the Right: the idea that genetics is both hardwired and long-term. Of course evolutionary biologists figure that speciation in smaller animals (fish, etc.) needs on the order of ten thousand generations. That’s long! But some of genetics obviously changes very quickly. For example the Ashkenazi Jews (who test on average above the IQ norm) converge genetically to around 2000-2500 years ago, which suggests that any mutation for “smarter” may be a magnitude more frequent. Multiply that by the sheer increase in human numbers. What if it can happen to ANY pair, in ANY race, TOMORROW? Perhaps it has happened frequently and continues to do so, but in social systems where IQ isn’t of much daily use, or the child’s life gets squashed or waylaid, or is female, or she or he doesn’t meet the correct mate to continue the line, and so on. Then it wouldn’t be selected. Also to select this advance in the symbolic-ratiocinative function, you would need a fairly advanced symbolic cultural system already. You would need the educational time to drill writing and maths into the students and so on, and a business culture that is the reason why. So with modernity we would see an increase in selection of the mutation, which means that right now we should see more families of really smart high achievers, in all races — and indeed I think we do. On top of all this we see the Flynn effect, showing perhaps that something as simple as acquaintance with symbolic culture or more social capital can also improve test performances. And now, the whole issue will shortly be moot! Genetics is becoming rewirable, even after birth. In twenty years you will take a pill to excogitate like Einstein.

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PCFG 05.08.10 at 3:36 am

if you want to, go ahead.

As you wish. I can go into considerably more detail if you like, but maybe what I should do instead is point to the actually-relevant quote from Shalizi’s piece on g (i.e., this one). As regards the methods used by people like Carroll for developing hierarchical factor analysis models (generally called CHC theory):

“This is a perfectly reasonable and useful way to do data reduction and exploratory pattern hunting.”

This is exactly what actually-competent researchers use it for. Just because a bunch of idiots think it says something else says nothing whatsoever about whether those patterns uncovered by the application of the method are interesting or useful.

As it happens, the patterns that are found are consistent, and have useful predictive properties. Of course, the CHC measurement model has various extremely well-known flaws, some of which Shalizi explains pretty well. It is is not a theory of intelligence, of course, but no-one with even the most basic training in psychometrics actually thinks that it is. The problem seems to be that a lot of people outside the field (and a few inside it) think that IQ tests are intended to be anything other than proxy measures that have some strengths and some weaknesses. Cosma’s articles make the case very strongly that g (and covariance structure models generally) don’t give you an explanation of intelligence, but that really is very, very obvious.

267

sorry to interrupt 05.08.10 at 4:20 am

Blatant attempt at derailment deleted. You’re permanently banned – JQ

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PCFG 05.08.10 at 5:09 am

Actually, just because I’m in a truly foul mood today and might have been opaque, I’ll try to be clearer about my basic point. Like Shalizi and everyone else who understands psychometrics, I don’t believe that g is a real entity. It’s an empirical effect, which has multiple possible explanations. Like Shalizi and most people on this thread, I think that there’s a lot of charlatans who want to want to exploit race effects in IQ measures for political points. I disagree with Shalizi’s interpretation (and by extension Roger Millsap’s) of the comments in the APA report on intelligence regarding measurement v prediction bias in the context of race effects. And most importantly, I very strongly object to the idea that we should take “the enterprise” to correspond solely to “the behaviour of the least competent and least trustworthy people in the field”. On that basis, every field is discredited.

As an example, what we use IQ measurement for in my department is as a dependent measure that we can use to track the influence that lead poisoning has on cognitive functioning, taking longitudinal measurements on the same people. We don’t make cross-group comparisons, because we’re all well aware of the probable failures of measurement invariance of CHC theory across groups. This kind of thing is socially responsible, statistically justified, and is a core bloody part of “the enterprise of IQ testing”. But it becomes very hard to do this kind of work, because of the general view that you run into that we’re all a bunch of incompetents.

I hate to say it, but Cosma’s posts indirectly contribute to this. The reason is that the standard sequence of an “internet IQ argument” is as follows: (1) some idiot falsely claims that there’s scientific evidence for biologically-caused racial differences in IQ, (2) people get outraged, claim that IQ measure must be biased or something, (3) someone links to the Shalizi posts as evidence that IQ statistically unsound, (4) everyone on the thread stands around blinking in incomprehension because none of them really know much about the underlying statistics, but then (5) they massively overgeneralise from those posts and come to believe that IQ measurement is inherently bad practice.

In fact, that does rather look like what happened on this thread. Lizardbreath’s invocation of the Shalizi posts occurred at 102, in response to the question at 93: “Why does the race-intelligence connection not count? According to you guys, because it is completely false and discredited”. Why on Earth would you link to the Shalizi posts here? They don’t really show that. They’re not even close to the kind of discrediting that is required (to be fair to Lizardbreath, she does sort of say that they’re not really the “kind of debunking” required, but frankly it feels like a bit of dog whistle — if they aren’t relevant, then they aren’t relevant, and you shouldn’t refer to them at all). The correct perspective (which is that the actual origins of the black-white IQ gap are still unknown) is much more easily demonstrated the way that JQ did @259.

So, I’ll say again: those posts don’t do anything other than tell you stuff that every competent researcher already knows, and it’s only a small number of charlatans that are engaging in the bad behaviour in question. Please, if you’re going to link to them, be aware that his (actually reasonably accurate) posts are very limited in scope. They’re an attack on a few people he calls “g-mongers”. That’s it. Nothing more, and nothing less. They don’t justify dismissing anything other than a few of the most outrageous claims about IQ research; but I really am starting to get frustrated at seeing them used to justify general-purpose attacks on intelligence research. Perhaps I’m being a bit too aggressive here, but I do work in a closely related field: we do use these tests safely, and to good effect. I’m getting very tired of this dog-whistle from people whose politics I actually agree with.

In the context of the current discussion of agnotology, the current state of the literature that we on the left can’t completely dismiss the possibility that the black-white IQ gap might be real, but neither do we have to listen to idiotic arguments on the right that claim that it definitely is. We are definitely not justified in dismissing the research involved just because a mathematician points out the bloody obvious about how basic data analysis works.

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PCFG 05.08.10 at 5:10 am

Gah. Bloody strike through tag.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.08.10 at 5:17 am

PCFG, the original person who brought this up referred to the race-intelligence link, not the race-IQ link. Feel free to insist that the difference between them should be obvious to everyone, but clearly it isn’t.

And what did Salma von Hayek write? They presented the following as an ideal statement of belief that they thought was correct and that they’d like to see more of:

“the best evidence is that the black-white IQ gap is real, that IQ measures something basic about intelligence, and that the difference between the average IQ of blacks and the average IQ of whites is based in substantial part on genetic differences between the two groups”

You can say that that g doesn’t give you an explanation of intelligence, and that should be very, very obvious — but actually, it is not obvious to the people who we are actually answering.

Why isn’t it obvious to them? This person believes that “the black-white IQ gap is real” (perhaps true), “that IQ measures something basic about intelligence” (which you’ve described as being obviously wrong), and that “the difference between the average IQ of blacks and the average IQ of whites is based in substantial part on genetic differences” (evidenceless). In other words, they believe, based on no evidence, that one race is superior to another. There’s nothing very complicated about that. It’s classic racism.

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PCFG 05.08.10 at 5:39 am

Okay, I’ll stop now, but look… here’s part Henry’s quote from Cosma again. Taken line by line…

There should be no dispute that, when we lack specialized and valid instruments, general IQ tests can be better than nothing.

True.

Claims that they are anything more than such stop-gaps … are at present entirely unjustified, though not, perhaps, unmotivated.

True.

They are supported only by the myth,

Depends. If you mean that the usefulness of IQ measurements depends on the ontological status of g then that’s ridiculous. Their usefulness depends on their predictive power in the particular context in which you want to use them. If you mean that the belief that g is a real “thing” rather than a summary measure, then it’s totally a myth. Not exactly clear which version he means, but…

and acceptance of the myth itself rests on what I can only call an astonishing methodological backwardness

Say what? Okay, it could very well be that he intends to imply that the people advocating that g be treated as a “real” thing are methodologically backwards (which is true), but that would be a bizarre interpretation given that his point is that:

the myth of g legitimates a vast enterprise of intelligence testing and theorizing

So he can’t just mean a few incompetents. He must be referring to everyone involved in this vast enterprise of intelligence testing and theorising (either that or it’s just very poor writing). Which must in turn mean that in the previous point he was referring to the ridiculous claim that you can only use IQ if you think g is real. But he can’t mean that either, because he’s not a moron. But nevertheless… that’s exactly what everyone seems to take away from the post. As an excellent case in point, here’s Henry:

think it is fair to say that Cosma is saying that the whole enterprise is flawed (and if you don’t get this from the reading, I really don’t think you have read as carefully as you ought). I imagine that Cosma, if asked, might even use a considerably more pungent adjective than ‘flawed’ to describe the enterprise.

Which rather does bring us back to the point about the two-step. It might not be deliberate, but its there. If the posts are making a basic methodological point (which I think they are) then they’re widely known, and they do invalidate a lot of the most stupid claims out there. But if he’s trying to cast aspersions on the whole enterprise (which Henry thinks, and is sort of implied a lot), then it’s ridiculously over-broad.

Sorry for going on about this. Really. I really just wanted to make the point that JQ’s position about the status of the black-white gap is a fair summary of the literature. I didn’t really want to go into this. But in the context of a discussion on agnotology, maybe it is relevant that I’m having to go into all this, just to defend the use of an IQ test as a fairly reasonable proxy measure in specific contexts. Because there does seem to be a bit of a knee-jerk response on our side to assume that the measures are inherently wrong. It doesn’t rise to anything near the level of idiocy that underlies climate-change denialism, but there’s definitely something weird going on here. It feels to me like there’s something that worries us about the fact that we can’t prove that the right-wingers are wrong here, and that it’s easier to dismiss all intelligence research rather than acknowledge the fact that some of it is good, some of it is bad, and the true state of the world is still unknown.

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PCFG 05.08.10 at 5:48 am

Rich: I don’t think we disagree by much. I think it really should be obvious that g, IQ and intelligence are three different things, and that the relationship between them is messy. But that’s because I actually work in the area (sort of). Salma von Hayek’s claim is straight out wrong, I agree, and I’ll even concede that racism is probably a big determinant of this sort of thing (in general; I know nothing about SvH in particular). But this is a thread about what we might be doing wrong on our side (the left), not theirs. In that context, I think I read the reference to Cosma’s posts as a bit of a dog-whistle (again, I might be wrong about Lizardbreath’s intent in this instance; but I’ll say in my defence that I have seen this happen a lot), and I honestly think that people on our side have a tendency to want to disregard the good and the bad regarding intelligence research, precisely because we can’t yet prove that the arseholes are wrong on this.

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Tim Worstall 05.08.10 at 8:02 am

“Tim Worstall is just nit-picking about cost-benefit analysis, AFAICT. “

Indeed I am: and arguing that if we’re trying to work out whether recycling saves resources then we have to count the resources that we put into recycling. Otherwise, how can we work out whether recycling saves resources?

The specific agnotology I’m pointing to is the willful refusal to count household labour as a resource which is used in recycling domestic waste. In the UK situation, the entire waste disposal system costs around £3 billion (from the PM’s Strategy Unit paper called “Waste Not Want Not”….actually, £1.6 billion when the paper was written and predicted to rise to some £3 billion around now). If it’s 15 minutes per household per week (one number given for a simple recycling scheme) at minimum wage (As Sen and Stiglitz suggest that labour should be costed) then that’s a cost in the system of around £1.8 billion. If it’s 45 minutes (from the same survey for a complex system including food and garden waste) then it’s over £5 billion.

Those are big enough numbers that they really should be included in our calculations of the costs and benefits of recycling. And yet they’re not and as above there’s a certain resistance to even considering whether to do so.

As to waiting in line for gas. Sure, why not include that time? We all do do that anyway. Who waits in line 30 minutes to get a few cents off a gallon of gas? Who doesn’t happily potter along to the next garage and pay a few cents more without having to wait? We might happily wait around for 40 minutes or an hour to get a table at a decent restaurant….but who does that for a simple burger? We all apply a value to the time we have to wait for things anyway….the value of our time….and isn’t that what economics is supposed to be doing? Aiding us in understanding what humans actually do out there in the real world?

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Kevin Donoghue 05.08.10 at 8:48 am

Tim, numerous economists have explained why it’s a bad idea to try to incorporate all the complications of the real world in an economic model. AFAIAC the most succint was Joan Robinson: “A map on a scale of 1:1 is no use to anybody.” Milton Friedman’s Methodology of Positive Economics makes the point at greater length; Paul Krugman’s The Accidental Theorist (on Slate), is a spirited defence of a model which assumes that the economy produces nothing but buns and burgers.

But if you want to do a cost-benefit analysis which incorporates all sorts of commonly neglected niggles and hassles, go right ahead. Come back in 2050 and let us know how the first draft is coming along.

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Warai Otoko 05.08.10 at 9:08 am

@scentofviolets

You need to stop snipping text. You claimed that “falsifiability” and “burden of proof” were these quaint concepts that went out of style soon after the passing of Popper. Obviously that’s not true, as my example shows (or yours, for that matter.) The same thing with any of a number of statements such as “time slows down for fast-moving objects” (true), or “acids can never be bases” (false.) I take it from your response that you retract your earlier (and very odd statement) about falsifiability.

You have a very strange way of arguing. In any case, I am beginning to believe that you do not know what falsification is, or that you only have a rough idea. In any case, if you want me to qualify my statements that falsification in its original form is not popular anymore, I can provide you with some references. I don’t mean this quote as an argument from authority, I just want to show that my opinion is not in any way odd:

[T]here is no such thing as a completely conclusive refutation of a theory by experiment. – James Ladyman – “Understanding Philosophy of Science”

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Warai Otoko 05.08.10 at 9:12 am

Sorry, I am a bit drowsy. The quote is from page. 80. I also used the phrase “In any case” one time too many.

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Alex 05.08.10 at 9:56 am

Because Tim is too lazy, I did the sum. An official working week = 37.5 hours. 15 minutes = 0.25 hours. 0.09% of a working week. “Down in the noise” is putting it charitably.

Of course, the point here is that the actual numbers count for nothing. It is guff and front. Similarly, the references to Stiglitz and Sen – it’s basically pretending to be reasonable while getting the core business, grunting about “recycling! stupid hippies!” (subtext: women’s work!) in order to please the Malkindroid fanbase that drives ad revenue at Tim’s spam blog, done. It’s dog whistle bollocks.

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PCFG 05.08.10 at 10:28 am

Oh God. I obviously have OCD, because:

Why isn’t it obvious to them? This person believes that “the black-white IQ gap is real” (perhaps true), “that IQ measures something basic about intelligence” (which you’ve described as being obviously wrong), and that…

Strictly, it’s not obviously wrong to believe that IQ measures something basic about intelligence. I think that (some subtests more than others) it’s sort of okay sometimes. In psychology, we’re usually happy when we can meet that standard. The problem is that the data clearly show that it doesn’t measure everything about intelligence. And it seems very likely that the “stuff” that’s missing really matters in the context of the black-white IQ gap. In other contexts, it doesn’t matter as much, because we can statistically control for the things that we suspect are causing the problem.

What’s obviously wrong is (a) to believe what SvH apparently believes without actually bothering to look at the fucking data or (b) to believe that intelligence testing is inherently stupid without actually bothering to look at the fucking data.

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Gareth Rees 05.08.10 at 10:30 am

0.09% of a working week.

I make it 0.67%.

But the “15 minutes” figure seems very exaggerated to me. Where does this come from? If you’re spending 15 minutes a week per person on sorting your household waste, ur doin it rong. (Maybe the figure refers to all waste-disposal activity? But you’d have to do nearly all of that anyway even if there were no recycling. It’s only the sorting step that’s extra.)

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Tim Worstall 05.08.10 at 1:24 pm

“Tim, numerous economists have explained why it’s a bad idea to try to incorporate all the complications of the real world in an economic model.”

Sure, we want to include only the bits that are actually relevant to the question we are pondering.

“But if you want to do a cost-benefit analysis”

That’s exactly what I’m asking: that a cost benefit analysis be done of the recycling of domestic waste including the labour that must be used. So that we can work out whether it does save resources or not.

Perhaps everyone would be happier if I phrased the question differently.

Assume that we are going to recycle anyway. OK, should the sorting be done by the householders or should it be done centrally at the depot? Unless we start asking how much time the householders do have to spend we can’t even begin to answer this question, can we?

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Kevin Donoghue 05.08.10 at 1:51 pm

Well I’m only a sample of one, but here you are: I have two bins and the time I would save if I had only one (and hence no sorting to do) is no more than five minutes a week. Also, most of that time is spent at weekends when I have no alternative gainful employment. It probably comes out of my blog-reading time. But that means marginally reduced eyestrain, so you have to factor that in, together with the cardiovascular benefit of five minutes chucking things into bins relative to five minutes sitting on my arse. There’s also reduced wear on the chair and the seat of my trousers of course, but additional wear on my shoes. I’ll leave it to you to translate these costs and benefits into pecuniary terms.

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Salma von Hayek 05.08.10 at 2:40 pm

It doesn’t rise to anything near the level of idiocy that underlies climate-change denialism, but there’s definitely something weird going on here. It feels to me like there’s something that worries us about the fact that we can’t prove that the right-wingers are wrong here, and that it’s easier to dismiss all intelligence research rather than acknowledge the fact that some of it is good, some of it is bad, and the true state of the world is still unknown.

This is exactly it. The aim of discussion on this topic for the vast majority of the left is not dispassionate discovery of the truth, but rather (as Quiggin nicely put it) “present advocacy for the general proposition “We are good, people who are Not Like Us are bad”. Since this is advocacy rather than analysis, it’s OK to present only evidence that supports your case, and to obfuscate or ignore disconfirming evidence. And, as in standard legal argument, it’s OK to argue simultaneously for multiple, mutually inconsistent hypotheses, as long as they all support the same final conclusion.”

Simply put, the phenomenology of discussing the racial IQ gap with a left-winger is almost identical to discussing, say, climate change with some of the dimmer members of the right. The objective is clearly all about winning points and presenting a superficially plausible case for their side, no matter the actual facts. And if (god forbid) you manage to demonstrate the inadequacy of an argument in terms so strong that even your interlocutor can’t deny it, well, no problem, because they can always retreat to the next line of defence which has been so helpfully laid out in advance by their ideological brethren. There’s no such thing as intelligence; and even if there is, it has nothing to do with IQ; and even if it does, disparities in IQ between races are the result of testing biases; and even if they’re not, there’s no such thing as race anyway; and even if there is, IQ is not heritable; and even if it is, that heritability is wholly due to environmental or cultural factors. Trying to refute all of these at once is like playing whack-a-mole.

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Hidari 05.08.10 at 2:45 pm

‘There’s no such thing as intelligence; and even if there is, it has nothing to do with IQ; and even if it does, disparities in IQ between races are the result of testing biases; and even if they’re not, there’s no such thing as race anyway; and even if there is, IQ is not heritable; and even if it is, that heritability is wholly due to environmental or cultural factors. Trying to refute all of these at once is like playing whack-a-mole.’

Well that’s unfortunate, because all these statements happen to be true.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.08.10 at 3:27 pm

PCFG: “because there does seem to be a bit of a knee-jerk response on our side to assume that the measures are inherently wrong.”

You have to look at context, PCFG. If someone pops up and says, as Salma von Hayek has “IQ is basically intelligence and racial differences in IQ are mostly genetic and therefore black people are biologically inferior and you won’t admit it because you’re leftists who ignore science neener neener”, then, yeah, you get a knee-jerk response. A quite justified and understandable knee-jerk response, actually.

Is that hard on people who measure g for purposes of tracking neural damage due to lead poisoning? Yeah, I guess it is. But prioritizing the hurt feelings of people who work on g over the righteous indignation of people slapping down a racist only really seems to make sense if you’re one of the people who work on g. Things like racism are only condemned if people actually condemn them, reliably, socially. You can’t expect them to be perfectly aware of the details of psychological testing every time.

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ScentOfViolets 05.08.10 at 4:10 pm

As to waiting in line for gas. Sure, why not include that time? We all do do that anyway. Who waits in line 30 minutes to get a few cents off a gallon of gas? Who doesn’t happily potter along to the next garage and pay a few cents more without having to wait? We might happily wait around for 40 minutes or an hour to get a table at a decent restaurant….but who does that for a simple burger? We all apply a value to the time we have to wait for things anyway….the value of our time….and isn’t that what economics is supposed to be doing? Aiding us in understanding what humans actually do out there in the real world?

Chuckle. Nope. You don’t know anything about how the numbers fall out until you actually do some sort of quantitative study. That you would even attempt to make such a claim after so vigorously agitating for such studies wrt recycling, well, let’s just say your agnotology is showing.

Oh, and btw? As I remarked before and will say again since some figures are being thrown around here, I spend maybe, maybe five extra minutes a week recycling, call it 1/480 of a regular work week. And it’s not even five minutes all at once. I’m wondering what Worstall thinks I could be doing instead during those dribs and drabs of seconds.

Worstall, you’re not even trying to make a case; you’re just being mischevious.

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ScentOfViolets 05.08.10 at 4:26 pm

Strictly, it’s not obviously wrong to believe that IQ measures something basic about intelligence. I think that (some subtests more than others) it’s sort of okay sometimes. In psychology, we’re usually happy when we can meet that standard. The problem is that the data clearly show that it doesn’t measure everything about intelligence. And it seems very likely that the “stuff” that’s missing really matters in the context of the black-white IQ gap. In other contexts, it doesn’t matter as much, because we can statistically control for the things that we suspect are causing the problem.

Since I was the one who linked to the “myth of g” post, let me respond: I’ve had this argument – what? – thirty or forty or fifty times now? The progression usually goes along the lines of some right-winger pointing out the persistent gaps on these sorts of tests, the comeback is that these tests don’t measure intelligence, though they may have a rough and ready correlation with what some mean by that (very hard to define) term. The winger then replies that the test is obviously measuring something, and that’s when I talk about g and how it’s not even clear we’re dealing with a phenomenon that has unitary roots. If they’re the tiniest bit literate in statistics (or think they are), well, I have a bunch of links like the one I posted that I can send them. Doesn’t change their minds of course; despite the actual scientific consensus in the field, you get yobbos who think their own agnotology shows a peculiar blindness on the part of “liberals”. People like Hayek are thus not only not competent to discuss this particular topic, but they also lack metacompetence as well. But that’s for another post :-)

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ScentOfViolets 05.08.10 at 4:32 pm

This is exactly it. The aim of discussion on this topic for the vast majority of the left is not dispassionate discovery of the truth, but rather (as Quiggin nicely put it) “present advocacy for the general proposition “We are good, people who are Not Like Us are bad”. Since this is advocacy rather than analysis, it’s OK to present only evidence that supports your case, and to obfuscate or ignore disconfirming evidence.

Since the scientific consensus is against you Hayek, and since pretty much all of us know this, why do you think we’re going to do anything but point and laugh at you? Do you honestly think that by merely repeating your talking points ad infinitum that you’re going to convince anyone? This goes back to the “liberal bias” of academia; doubtless the fact that there is no acceptance of the notion that there is a race-based[1] difference in intelligence in the field itself just goes to show how hostile academia is to conservatives.

[1]It’s not been brought up yet, but it is also the consensus in the relevant specialty that there is no scientific basis for the concept of race.

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Kevin Donoghue 05.08.10 at 5:24 pm

Sebastian: “Even when I make a point that you agree with entirely, because it has a conservative’s name attached you feel the need to rudely disagree.”

Nah, nothing to do with your politics. Or not much anyway. You annoy me, that’s all. And I’m not sure that I do entirely agree with your point, but it’s Saturday night so I’d sooner argue with somebody in the pub. Peace be with you.

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liberal biorealist 05.08.10 at 5:34 pm

One thing that really bothers me about how John Quiggen has set up his discussion of “agnotology” here is that it’s framed from the beginning as essentially a partisan issue.

As framed, the issue is: which side has more of this awful stuff, agnotology, the left or the right? And his clear answer is: I think it’s the right! That means that we win!

But this is just to reduce the issue of Ignorance to one of shirts vs skins. In the larger scheme of things, isn’t the real problem Ignorance itself? Don’t you think the left has an important obligation to root out Ignorance on its side in all its myriad forms? How and why does the partisan fight become more important than the elimination of false thought?

It is probably fair to say that generally the right inclines much more to outright denial of established scientific fact. I would say, though, that the left has a trademark move of its own when it comes to promoting ignorance: obfuscation. Now obfuscation is perhaps a more evolved form of benightedness than is rank denial of established fact. But benighted it remains.

The problem for the left is this: even if they happen to exhibit a higher form of ignorance when do so exhibit, that ignorance can plausibly be said to be even more basic to their core beliefs than is the ignorance on the right to theirs.

The best example of that is the belief on the left that racial differences in IQ must be almost entirely explained by environment. Now, at least PCFG above acknowledges the possibility that this isn’t so.

But what happens if that possibility comes in time (and it might be a short time measured in a handful of years) to be acknowledged as true? To me, it seems pretty clear that the entirety of the left as a movement will be subject to a catastrophic collapse. Simply too much of its ideology and energy is built on the premise of near perfect equality between groups. In the academic world, this is quite obvious: there exist entire disciplines essentially based on this premise — various ethnic and racial studies departments, feminist philosophy, etc. What remains of what has previously been argued in these disciplines if the premise is established as false?

Yet I don’t know how an honest person can look at the overall evidence for a substantial genetic difference between groups on socially important traits such as IQ without concluding that there’s a very decent likelihood that the premise of near perfect equality will, in fact, come to be shown to be false.

The ascendancy of identity politics in the left poses therefore a very substantial risk, leaving the left as hostage to scientific fortune.

And one of the most disturbing aspects of how the left is exposed to this risk is the very language it uses to smear those who would question in any way the orthodoxy. The classic accusation, of course, is that such people are “racists” for believing that there are (or only may be) important genetic differences between groups. They are pilloried as believing in the “genetic inferiority” of certain groups.

But what happens if science proves them right? Must we now say that, indeed, certain groups are properly described with the morally loaded term “genetically inferior”? Is anyone who accepts the science now properly described as a “racist”? Is this scientific finding a vindication of racism?

The problem is that those very people on the left who have engaged in those smears will be on record in asserting those very equivalences. They will be convicted out of their own mouths on these matters.

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PCFG 05.08.10 at 7:56 pm

Rich: I agree that “our hurt feelings” are trivial in the big picture. If that’s the price that has to be paid in order to kill off Bell Curve style idiocy, then so be it. What worries me is that academic blogs like CT are read by people who sit on grant advisory panels, and I’d hate to see good research lose funding just because people writing on an academic blog aren’t “perfectly aware of the details of psychological testing”. At the pub, knee-jerk away. On CT, the details matter.

Salma: You do realise that I’m not actually agreeing with you, right? While there is a bit of a knee-jerk response from the left on this topic, it’s probably being caused by people demanding that we agree to claims like:

“the best evidence is that [1] the black-white IQ gap is real, [2] that IQ measures something basic about intelligence, and [3] that the difference between the average IQ of blacks and the average IQ of whites is based in substantial part on genetic differences between the two groups” (numbering added)

The problem, of course, is that we can’t agree to that, because [3] is wrong (as far as I know), [2] needs needs to be caveated and footnoted like crazy, and [1] is only true in the trivial sense that the IQ gap exists, and is horribly misleading unless you add the additional proposition [4] that there’s no particularly good reason to think that black-white IQ gap reflects any real differences in abilities, and some good reasons to suspect it’s an artifact.

Don’t take my minor bitching about people on the left overgeneralising from the Shalizi posts as evidence that I agree with your much more ludicrous overgeneralisations. I’m arguing the details with them because there are people on this blog for whom the details matter. And in light of the fact that I now have a crying baby to deal with, that’s as far as I’m willing to go on this topic this morning.

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Luke 05.08.10 at 9:27 pm

there exist entire disciplines essentially based on this premise—various ethnic and racial studies departments, feminist philosophy, etc. What remains of what has previously been argued in these disciplines if the premise is established as false?

Actually, almost all remains.

Let’s suppose you’re smarter than me – 10 IQ points, 20, 40, whatever. Or more creative, more athletic, whatever. Does that give you a right to enslave me? To rule me? No. Does it give you a right to treat my interests as less important? No. Does it give you a right to presume other facts about me, or dismiss me on the basis of what other people do? No. In short, does it remove the requirement of equal respect? No.

At least to my mind, things like feminist philosophy or ethnic studies are founded on the fact that large groups have been and are massively denied due respect in systemic ways. The question of whether there are genetic differences is an important but very much secondary question. Conclusive scientific evidence of them would cause a lot of anxiety and pose a lot of questions but wouldn’t cast doubt on the central point about respect.

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liberal biorealist 05.08.10 at 9:30 pm

PCFG,

I do wonder how you might justify your characterization of the results of The Bell Curve as being “idiocy”. No doubt not everything claimed therein is true; perhaps some of it is even ill-supported (or not).

But “idiocy”? Isn’t that a pretty tendentious way to characterize views that may at least possess some scientific plausibility, even if, say, not actually true? And isn’t it just that kind of derisive treatment of opposing scientific views, when those views conflict with the leftist orthodoxy, that represents the left’s own problem with “agnotology”?

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Russell 05.08.10 at 9:52 pm

Tim Worstall 05.06.10 at 7:37 pm
“Anyway, if it’s five or fifteen minutes a day, it’s trivial.”

In a country with 24 million housholds 15 minutes a week (a week, not day) is 300 million labour hours a year. That may be many things but trivial ain’t one of them.”

As 300 million hours forced hard labor equals several thousand lifetimes of dawn to dusk slavery, abolitionists of all parties should demand that Mr. Brown’s Ministry of Green dispatch a posse of Sorto-Serfs to each shire to spare free Britons from this durance vile.

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liberal biorealist 05.08.10 at 11:51 pm

Just to provide a few examples of the obfuscatory role leftists often assume, I would point to some of the arguments proposed by Richard Lewontin, Shalizi, and Clark Glymour.

Richard Lewontin proposed a embarrassingly bad argument that race can’t be based in genetics, now known infamously as Lewontin’s Fallacy.

Shalizi’s obfuscation is pretty well captured by PCFG’s description of it.

Clark Glymour argued along the same lines as Shalizi, adding further criticisms that even the basic statistical techniques used in the argument for the differences in question lacked real scientific soundness. He did not blanch from drawing the further obvious conclusion: that social scientists in general — who utilize these same techniques for virtually all purposes — are making a serious methodological mistake in doing so. It did not seem to trouble him that he was essentially putting himself in opposition to the actual conduct of science by actual scientists. (Neither did doing so bother some of the ideological hacks who praised his work — for example, Brian Leiter, who just a day or two ago expressed approval of this exact aspect of Glymour’s conclusions). Who truly is standing of the way of science when they presume to adopt such an arrogant, dismissive approach? I should mention that, so far as I can make out, the alternative approach and formalism Glymour proposed has hardly taken the world by storm. Social scientists and others seem quite happy to ignore his proposed new “scientific” approach.

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rosmar 05.09.10 at 12:31 am

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John Quiggin 05.09.10 at 12:37 am

LB, I hadn’t heard of this before, but the article (Lewontin’s fallacy) certainly doesn’t seem to support its own title. The criticism is a TSOTT, jumping from “given enough data, we can determine the population from which an individual is descended to any desired degree of accuracy” (trivially true, since we can identify the individual’s parents with enough data) to “race is a meaningful construct, even when members of different putative races are more similar to each other than to the average of their own putative race” (the negation of Lewontin). The Wiki article you link to certainly doesn’t appear to endorse the Edwards title which is its subject.

And anyone who would rely on Murray or Herrnstein has no business using the term “ideological hack”.

Having got this far with you, in line with the arguments in my post, I don’t intend to engage further.

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liberal biorealist 05.09.10 at 3:09 am

John Quiggen,

If you want a more detailed exposition of Lewontin’s Fallacy, go to one of the original sources, AWF Edwards. Actually, though, the same fallacy had apparently been exposed in a paper that came out almost immediately after Lewontin’s original, well, perpetration of the fallacy.

And I am hardly “relying” on Murray and Herrnstein for my own views — indeed, for the most part, they themselves rely in The Bell Curve on the work of others, though some of the statistical arguments they make are mostly their own. On the other hand, I don’t see much in that book that would be in any way considered questionable as science (even if not always fully convincing) were it not for the very unwelcome conclusions they draw.

And if you want an example of how agnotology infects the left, I should think of your own attitude toward The Bell Curve to be a splendid example of it; you know, somehow, that it’s “ideological hackery”, though you present not even a particle of evidence that it is so. Worse, you simply expect that your readers might reasonably be persuaded to your view of The Bell Curve without such evidence.

I, on the other hand, when I describe Brian Leiter as an ideological hack, do so in the process of presenting an example of it. There are, of course, other examples.

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Yarrow 05.09.10 at 3:44 am

If you Google for {intelligence myopia correlation} you’ll come across some studies and a few news stories that seem to say that near-sighted folks score about half a standard deviation higher on intelligence tests than those with perfect eyesight. Two points: first, nobody cares: the myopia search gets fewer than one percent of the hits that a similar search using race gets. As an article (by Chomsky?) I read about 40 years pointed out, if it weren’t for racism, nobody but a few scientists would care about putative IQ differences between “races” either.

Second: I’ve by no means made a through review of them, but as far as I can tell none of the studies consider the hypothesis that nearsightedness might cause slightly higher IQ scores by encouraging activities like reading and thinking that tend to aid test takers, and discouraging less relevant activities like playing football. They don’t argue with, discredit it, or brush it off in passing. The hypothesis that smart kids read more and damage their eyes goes in and out of fashion. Most of the papers I scanned were written when it was out of fashion, so their theory was that — well, darn it, something genetic affects both IQ and myopia! It’s deeply weird that for these folks “high IQ can change the shape of your eyeballs” is a reasonable hypothesis (whether it’s true this year or false), but “nearsightedness can make you a better test-taker” is not even wrong.

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Substance McGravitas 05.09.10 at 3:54 am

Regarding The Bell Curve liberal biorealists can go suck eggs.

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liberal biorealist 05.09.10 at 4:25 am

rosmar,

Both of your links essentially have the same bottom line: the Black/White IQ gap can be explained by so-called stereotype threat or the “caste mentality”.

There are many problems with this claim. But let me describe perhaps the most obvious, and quickest to state of these difficulties.

The Black-White IQ gap has been constant across virtually all contexts in which it has been measured, and across the full range of IQs. Essentially, it’s as though the curve of the measured IQs for Blacks has the identical shape to that of Whites, except that the Black normal curve is displaced almost exactly one standard deviation to the left of the White curve. Now this is pretty much exactly what assuming a dominantly genetic basis of the gap would predict, without further ado. What is the purpose of the stereotype threat or caste mentality in this context? Basically, to save the thesis of a predominantly environmental basis for this same behavior.

But consider the problem with this claim. The same discrepancy is to be found essentially throughout all of our history over roughly the last century to this very day. The same displacement of the Black IQ curve, at almost exactly one standard deviation below.

Does it make any sense to you that through the worst years of Jim Crow policies to this very day, in which we have an African-American President celebrated for his intellectual prowess, the same level of stereotype threat and caste mentality should be operative? Look, for example, at SAT scores — they are essentially identical today, after Obama’s election, to where they were two or three years ago, or a decade ago, or three decades ago. Only the slightest movement over that time has ever been recorded. (FWIW, I have a post addressing a similar point on my blog, called “The Vice Tightens”.)

If one assumes a genetic explanation, the data are all accounted for without batting an eye. If one assumes the caste mentality explanation, it’s all quite completely mysterious; it seems that the caste mentality is practically as unalterable as genes themselves.

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liberal biorealist 05.09.10 at 4:43 am

Substance,

I looked at the link. It depends almost entirely on an article by James Heckman. Most of the relevant argument described in at least the summary of the article appears to be rehash of criticisms of the concept of IQ and g that go all the way back to Stephen Jay Gould. These criticisms have been answered any number of times by Jensen himself and any number of other psychometricians. You can google them up if you want.

Likewise, Murray himself (Herrnstein died of cancer soon after the publication of The Bell Curve), in later editions of The Bell Curve, responded in an Afterward to these criticisms, which you can also look up if you want.

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John Quiggin 05.09.10 at 5:23 am

LB, everyone (including those who find these characteristics admirable) knows Murray to be a reliable rightwing hack and a racist, independently of The Bell Curve. His horror at discovering dark-skinned people in Paris, discussed here at CT, is only one example. Here he is defending the sacking of David Frum from AEI

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MDk4NjA3NmU5NTI3ZDNhOGM4ODUzOWI2OTViNTg1NDM=

If you’ve been convinced by Murray’s , on any topic whatsoever, you’ve been conned. If you rely on his summary of the literature, you can count on it that it’s slanted to support his cause.

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liberal biorealist 05.09.10 at 6:48 am

John,

I don’t know how to respond to Murray’s supposed horror at seeing dark people in Paris, not being familiar with the reference.

But I took a look at his defense of the firing of Frum. I’m pretty astounded that you would consider that post standing by itself as sufficient reason to regard him as some kind of terrible person who should never be listened to. Maybe it’s just outrageous that Frum was fired; maybe it wasn’t; I have no absolutely no idea. There are, after all, both good and bad reasons to fire an employee at any organization. Murray’s own account seems internally coherent; I can’t possibly know whether it is accurate. In all truth, are you in some kind of privileged position to know the facts of the case?

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Walt 05.09.10 at 7:00 am

I fully support the right of the myopic to enslave the non-myopic. Though you libs, never willing to accept the consequences of the truth, will probably want to fund departments of Non-Myopia Studies.

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John Quiggin 05.09.10 at 7:29 am

LB, you do realise we are talking about the American Enterprise Institute here? Doesn’t that name ring any bells for you? Or, perhaps, are you entirely familiar with it, and sailing under a false flag?

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Colin Danby 05.09.10 at 8:05 am

It’s your thread, John, but you’re dealing with a notorious racist crank.

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John Quiggin 05.09.10 at 8:39 am

It certainly looks that way, doesn’t it.

LB, nothing more from you please.

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Kevin Donoghue 05.09.10 at 8:47 am

It usually turns out that what’s really bugging these guys is affirmative action, or something like that. Somehow it’s all linked to genetics in their minds, but they never quite manage to explain how; or why the rest of the world should give a shit about such purely American concerns.

A recurring theme is the notion that liberalism would be rocked if scientific racism become orthodox. They don’t seem to be aware that liberalism was invented at a time when scientific racism was orthodox, yet somehow liberal thinkers from J. S. Mill to J. M. Keynes were unpersuaded by the case for slavery.

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Tim Worstall 05.09.10 at 12:11 pm

“You don’t know anything about how the numbers fall out until you actually do some sort of quantitative study. That you would even attempt to make such a claim after so vigorously agitating for such studies wrt recycling, well, let’s just say your agnotology is showing.”

Umm, excuse me? I’m leaping about asking for quantitative studies and this shows that I’m guilty of manufactured ignorance (which I think was JQ’s original definition of agnotlogy)?

“If you’ve been convinced by Murray’s , on any topic whatsoever, you’ve been conned. “

Well John, I hope you going to give Harry a stern talking to then.

http://crookedtimber.org/2006/06/01/charles-murrays-in-our-hands-left-or-right/

“So, are you ready for a rave review of Charles Murray’s latest book, In Our Hands, on Crooked Timber (yes, that Charles Murray)? Its a book that just about anyone interested in policy ideas ought to be read; I recommend it highly and without reservation.”

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Salma von Hayek 05.09.10 at 1:11 pm

What an excellent demonstration of the defence and enforcement mechanisms at play! Someone who is broadly on your own side gets smeared as a racist within, oh, about 10 posts, for having the temerity to argue that there is even a possibility that the leftist orthodoxy on this topic could be wrong. (And seeing as LB is presumably not going to have the chance to defend himself, I’ll say it – anyone who has had the briefest look at his blog and understands what his project is ought to be ashamed at calling him racist. Not that that will stop anyone.)

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Kevin Donoghue 05.09.10 at 4:35 pm

“…anyone who has had the briefest look at his blog and understands what his project is ought to be ashamed at calling him racist. Not that that will stop anyone.”

So, what should we call somebody who believes “the difference between the average IQ of blacks and the average IQ of whites is based in substantial part on genetic differences between the two groups” if the term racist is ruled out? I gather some people prefer the term racialist. Does that really sound more respectable?

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John Quiggin 05.10.10 at 5:24 am

@Tim. In 2006, I might have felt inclined to write a post like this, celebrating an occasion when I could find common ground with someone on the right, even a hack like Murray. As the post indicates, I wouldn’t do so now, certainly not for anyone associated with AEI (or worse). Murray’s post-2006 contributions are an example of why not.

Harry may have a different view, but you’d have to ask him.

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