CLIMATE SCIENCE WITHOUT MATH
W.C. Fields is said to have been the first to say, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit,” and I have to admit that, while it may not be the most altruistic of statements, it does describe the way humans respond when they find themselves cornered in any sort of debate.
Kids do it all the time, when caught breaking rules at the Childcare on our farm. I can hardly blame them; for many of the rules are State Laws made up by people who want to bubble-wrap childhood. For example, any toy higher than the height of my knee must have a six-inch bed of woodchips beneath it.
That is a rule begging to be broken, because children love to climb. I too attempt to circumvent the rule, because I have no desire to buy or shovel woodchips. Therefore I seek to avoid the State Law by purchasing very short toys, however the kids still manage to break the law by stacking the toys up into teetering towers and then climbing them. This forces me to be one of the frowning teachers who, in my own boyhood, we rudely called, “The Gestapo.”
Of course, there are a whole bunch of other State Laws that force me to be a rather prissy Gestapo, as Gestapi go. I can’t treat kids the way teacher’s treated me.
I’m old enough to remember when teachers were allowed to haul you down to the principal’s office by your ear. One teacher, (who had the wonderful name of “Mr. Lynch,”) was said to have grabbed a misbehaving boy, dangled him upside-down by his ankles, and lowered him into the wastepaper basket. I never actually saw him do this; he’d done it once in the distant past, and word spread from boy to boy across time until it reached me, and I did not want to test the man’s reputation: I behaved remarkably well, for a small hooligan, in Mr. Lynch’s class.
Nowadays, of course, Mr. Lynch would be swiftly fired. I am asked to care for children in a kinder, gentler fashion. For example, word recently dribbled down from on high that so-called “Time Outs” were no longer an acceptable response to a misbehaving child. Instead something called “Redirection” was urged.
This puzzled me. Wasn’t a “Time Out” supposed to “redirect” a child? For that matter, wasn’t tanning a child’s hide with a willow switch supposed to “redirect” the child? What was this exercise in semantics intended to do?
Semantics don’t change the reality. At times using the word “redirection” is a bit like a glowering police chief informing a surly suspect that their “failure to communicate” requires “an attitude adjustment.”
Kids are kids, and they need to learn their limits, and the way they learn is to test their limits. Children are downright scientific as they test. Even when they do things for the fun of it they are a researcher, eager “to see what happens.” When Johnnie pulls out the chair as Susie sits down, it is a laboratory experiment, and, among the other observations he jots down in his mental notebook, is the observation that steam comes out of the teacher’s ears, as he gets “redirected.” Calling it “redirection” doesn’t change the fundamental fact that the teacher is laying down the law.
The law doesn’t really seem to matter a hill of beans to a child. They have a desire, and a rule stands in the way, so they break the rule. This actually doesn’t bother me all that much. I like the fact humanity strives to overcome limitations. I just don’t want the kid to get hurt. Therefore I, as the ruler, have lots and lots and lots of rules, at my Childcare.
In the eyes of many children the main advantage of rules, (it seems to me,) is that rules can be used to get other kids in trouble. If Johnnie has the wagon Susie wants, and gets tattled on by Susie for driving it full tilt into the pond, then he gets redirected, and Susie gets the wagon.
Children are constantly coming before me like little lawyers, and I am the judge. When they bicker about who ought have a certain toy, I, with the Wisdom of Solomon, decide we should cut the toy in half. Even three-year-olds know sharing-the-wealth is a stupid idea, when it destroys the wealth, and they break my law by refusing to break the toy, and instead resort to more sensible sharing. In the same manner, it is amazing how swiftly children patch up a quarrel when you exile them to opposite sides of a playground: Moments before they were shouting at each other, stating they were not going to invite each other to each other’s birthday parties, but now they suddenly are creeping and sneaking, just to get back together.
Of course, when there is a real danger of them getting hurt, I have to adopt a different demeanor. For example, my personal Childcare Law #727B states that flying machines will not be tested from a height above the child’s own shoulders, and that leaping from the peak of the barn to test out wings is strictly forbidden. When I spot a child attempting to break that law, I might be chuckling on the inside, but on the outside my brow darkens like thunder. I don’t say much, and do nothing, (and therefore break no State Laws,) however the children bite their knuckles and say, “Oh, Oh.” The difference is in my demeanor.
I actually think it makes little difference if a child is “redirected” or caned. They both can be equally ineffective, or effective, depending on demeanor.
For those who like to quote, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” I can only state I attended an English boarding school for a year, at the very end of the time when caning was allowed, and saw first hand that, among many of the boys, being whipped was more of a badge of honor than a deterrent. Not that boys wouldn’t try to talk their way out of punishment, if possible, but if caught red-handed, they were proud of the machismo they (to some degree) displayed, and when, afterwards, other boys demanded, “Show us your stripes,” they did not hesitate to drop their trousers to show off their welts.
It is no longer politically correct to drop your trousers in this manner, and anyway, where is the glamour of showing off the wounds of “redirection?” People who wished to make childhood kinder and gentler have robbed boyhood of one of its simple pleasures.
(As an aside, Winston Churchill experienced an above-average amount of corporal punishment, even to a degree where the other boys wished he’d stop antagonizing teachers, however he was what he was: Rather than surrendering to the dictatorship of the headmaster he would…well…look like Winston Churchill.) (I suppose nowadays Winston Churchill would be put on Ritalin, likely when he was six months old.)
Speaking subjectively, I found the good side of corporal punishment was that it was so swift, and when it was done you had served your time and were free. You were forgiven. Whatever your transgression was was forgotten. You walked into a new day, cleansed of all guilt, (until the next time.)
It was the adults who suffered. I didn’t believe it, at the time, when they said, “This hurts me more than it does you,” but it was in some ways a very real truth. Adults (supposedly) know more about cause and effect, about reaping what you sow, about “Karma,” and they worry about what they may reap when they strike a child.
When I passed my 21st birthday I inherited a small amount of money. It was just enough to do what you did in those days, which was to emulate the Beatles. Airfare to India was $650.00, so off I went, to “seek.” One thing I found was an explanation of the Karmic consequences of corporal punishment that would make any parent think twice, before spanking a child.
As it was explained to me, Karmic law states that when a child is spanked, all the bad Karma the child would have earned from their transgression passes to the parent or teacher punishing them. Even if this law is merely a superstition, it might be a good thing if adults feared that being cruel to a kid might get them “Bad Karma,” (especially if they feared a fate worse than having “a millstone tied around their neck,” and being chucked overboard in a deep, green sea, as was suggested by Jesus.)
(Not only would they be slower to spank, but also I think they’d be slower to drug a child. For the life of me I’ve never quite understood why smacking a fanny is deemed worse than smacking a brain.)
However I have learned both spankings and drugs are unnecessary, if you know how to frown. Your demeanor has power. But what exactly is “demeanor?”
“Demeanor” is an intangible indicator of whether you are in trouble or not, with a fellow human. What is most surprising is how little it actually has to do with being sensible. When a beautiful blond smiles at a young man, all is right with the world, but when she glares, he starts hopping about like a cricket in a skillet.
We like to believe that men get better at being sensible as they get older, however I’m not entirely sure they do. What is so sensible about George Washington wearing that silly white wig? What is so sensible about Abraham Lincoln wearing that silly stovepipe hat? A future president might have a tattooed tongue, and what would be the sense of it? I myself think fashion is rubbish, but have to confess my wife halts me as I’m heading out the door on a regular basis. She looks me up and down, pats my hair, adjusts my collar, hands me a Kleenex, and tells me to zip up my fly. So I begrudge the fact that even I get shoved around, by what the world calls “correctness.”
To children correctness is largely a game. Superficiality is dress-up, and they have no trouble donning Washington’s white wig or Lincoln’s stove pipe hat; one moment they are wearing the armor of the past, (a cardboard box,) and the next they are wearing the space helmet of the future, (a cardboard box.) Adults tend to be indulgent about such disregard towards the current social norms, however when the weather gets hot, and the child strolls by wearing nothing at all, the current generation utterly freaks out.
Such was not always the case. Nudity comes and goes with the strange regularity of other fashions. In the 1930’s and 1940’s the French were scandalized because the English allowed their children to “paddle” naked on beaches; these same French were determined to “civilize” African women by forcing them to wear blouses in jungle heat, only to start going topless on their own beaches after the Africans complied.
In the same manner many of my own generation have swung from one extreme to another. As a young, somewhat prudish hippy I never was all that comfortable with the nudity which was the norm at certain pools and parties, and was informed on a regular basis that my discomfort was proof I was oppressed by irrational inhibitions which I ought to overcome. Now, (perhaps due to what occurred at some of those parties,) I am informed I ought suspect every person who comes within fifty yards of a child at our Childcare.
The laws concerning “background checks” are quite strict. It does not matter if I am hiring an old friend to come by after my Childcare is closed, to help me shovel stables and milk goats; I must tell him to get a background check and be fingerprinted, which takes both time and money, and is somewhat offensive to boot. Even more offensive are the names that can pop up during a background check. Perfectly harmless people are labeled “predators,” and mixed in with the truly foul people who likely ought not even be allowed out on the street.
For example, if you are a red blooded fifteen-year-old boy, and mess around with a eighteen-year-old girl, she might end up on the dreaded list, but if you mess around with a fourteen-year-old girl, you might end up on the list. It is no joke to be on that list, either. You are likely to receive hate mail and death threats. All in all, it proves we are undergoing a backlash to the “free love” of the 1960’s, and may be moving towards an oppressiveness that could make Puritans look liberal.
The reality that social “correctness” can go through such enormous swings, even during my life, tends to suggest many laws are not commandments written on stone, and may explain why some small children don’t take laws all that seriously. Not that one small child won’t be completely horrified and scandalized if another walks by buff naked, however that same moralistic tot might take toy scissors and shave the head of another child’s Barbie Doll, five minutes later. Adults must step in and draw lines.
I usually skip the bother of explaining the logic behind my rules, when I lay down the law. I try to avoid saying, “Because I said so,” because using the word “I” involves me. I find it is better to speak of “the Law” as if laws were some alien power, separate from me, like gravity. It saves a lot of time ordinarily spent arguing. However, if I have the time, I actually like listening to the arguments of little lawyers.
In a strange way the manner that children argue gives me hope. It demonstrates that down near the core of the human spirit is a huge desire for freedom that balks at any sort of limitation. “Something there is that does not love a wall.” The fact that this may lead to anarchy and boyish bullshit does not belay the inherent beauty of the impulse, and understanding the forces behind boyish bullshit and excuse-making not only helps me understand children, but also Climate Scientists.
Most people, when they are honest with themselves, must confess that when they were young they were not entirely honest with their elders. Many can even confess they were proud of their dishonesty, for they saw adults as the Gestapo and they themselves as the French Resistance. Among some boys honesty itself is seen as a sort of betrayal: One must not “tattle,” “squeal,” or be an “informer.”
While it is good fun to hang out with a gang and consider yourself a member of a counter-culture, there arises a sad day when one is faced with the onerous prospect of increased responsibility. Perhaps one is working at Floppy Burger and gets the chance to do twice the work for a ten-cent raise, and accepts a promotion to the position of “Assistant Manager.” On that day one discovers a remarkable thing. The other workers abruptly regard you with suspicion, for you have sold out and joined the Gestapo. Suddenly rather than inventing excuses you start to hear them. Rather than dolling out bullshit you receive it.
This downfall happens to the best of us. Even those who attempt to avoid ever graduating from college, or who join some group which attempts to avoid responsibility and forever blame the responsible, (such as some labor unions,) tend to go home and find they have children of their own, dolling out bullshit. Even George Washington had to give up revolution and become a president.
Once you accept responsibility then other responsible people, such as your own parents, stop looking so unreasonable. One starts to see that there are reasons for rules, and rules stop seeming so oppressive. One can even feel grateful for some of the rules they had to endure, when young.
However one doesn’t want to go overboard, and forget the reasons for the rebellions of youth. If one is totally accepting of the limitations and disciplines that exist, one loses something important: Freedom. While it is true that freedom and discipline walk hand in hand, and “freedom isn’t free,” if one becomes too conventional imagination gets stifled, and one is also likely to accept some erroneous belief, such as that the sun goes around the earth.
One discipline I rue rebelling from involves Math classes at school. Math just wasn’t my cup of tea. I have since had many occasions to regret I learned so little in thirteen years of Math classes, and if I awoke and found the past fifty years were a dream I likely would do differently. However that would mean I would turn out differently. Rather than a writer I likely would be a mathematician. However that was not my fate; my mother didn’t raise me to be no mathematician. (Even if she had attempted it, she likely would have failed, for it doesn’t seem to be in my make-up.)
I think each child is born with a gift, and one reason they rebel is because we are trying to make them be something they aren’t. In my case Math classes were trying to discipline my mind into a square peg for a square hole, when the shape of my mind was nonlinear.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t do Math, if I gritted my teeth. I recall that, back in third grade, the entire concept of division made absolutely no sense to me, and the teacher didn’t help me by calling it “backwards multiplication.” Then, after strenuous contortions of boyish logic, division suddenly made sense, and the golden flash of realization that then flooded my skull seemed to light the entire room. It was definitely a very enjoyable sensation, however it was a very long run for a very short slide, and I found there were other ways to experience the same flashes of inspiration. Other ways were, to a person of my psychic make-up, much easier, (and led in the direction of becoming a writer.) Therefore I took the route of least resistance, even when it involved a lot of resistance to Math teachers. I pity those teachers. The only reasons they put up with me at all were that Math was a required class, and also I provided a certain comic relief.
As the years passed I am ashamed to confess the depths I sunk to, to avoid the disciplines of Math. I mostly hid behind my book while looking out the window, however when necessary I copied, cheated and lied. The lying helped me hone my skills as a creative writer, and involved the bullshit teachers must endure when they ask for homework that cannot be produced, because it doesn’t exist. The silver lining was that, by being forced to explain what doesn’t exist, I learned some principles of both Physics and Religion.
At reunions former classmates have since told me that my excuses were often the most interesting part of Math class. For me, however, it was agony, and the clock never moved slower than it did waiting for Math class to end, hoping and praying I could escape without needing to come up with yet another excuse. In fact one of my first poems was written in Math class, describing how slowly the clock moved, and was called, “Math Forever.”
Bullshitting wasn’t merely a matter of making things up. One had to tread warily, for some teachers did not take kindly to being lied to. There was the necessity of charm, tact, humor, and believability, which, among other things, has helped me spot others who stretch the truth, over the years, and has made me suspect Climate Scientists right from the start.
However Climate Scientists are good at Math. In any debate with them, I was at a distinct disadvantage, if I allowed the subject to move towards Physics. Fortunately I could fall back on all my experience in Math classes, and adroitly steer the subject away from Math with baffling brilliance. (It’s a skill and an art: I’m sure some of my Math teachers wondered how in the world, when they asked me for my Math homework, they wound up talking about their childhoods.)
Some might wonder how and why, considering I was so unskilled with Math, I could have the nerve to criticize a Climate Science that was so highly mathematical. The simple fact of the matter is that wisdom does not require Math. Shakespeare likely would be puzzled by any modern Math beyond basic arithmetic, however his depth of understanding resulted in works that have shaped and changed people all over the planet, including some who don’t even speak English, for centuries.
What is that “depth of understanding?”
My personal view is that “depth” is an extra dimension gained by being broad minded, and having the ability to grasp a concept some find difficult to grasp: The concept that there can be more than one answer to a single question, and that it is possible to accept both answers simultaneously.
The simplest example of this is the fact we are not formed as a Cyclops, and instead have two eyes. By using both eyes at the same time we gain a depth perception neither eye has by itself. We gain an extra dimension by holding two views.
There are all sorts of dull and tedious people who insist there can only be one answer to a question. Included are policemen who are extremely frustrated when they get ten differing eyewitness accounts of the same event, and historians who wade through the winner’s and loser’s differing versions of a battle. In attempting to arrive at a single “version” of what occurred, they inadvertently winnow out what allows an extra dimension, and in the end arrive at the myopia of a Cyclops.
Life is full of events that have different versions. For the fun of it, imagine a dullard historian interviewing a husband and wife just after they have made love, and then writing a history about what occurred. Obviously he will have two highly different versions of what occurred, and will need to cancel out all conflicting testimony. After canceling out all the differences he will either arrive at the conclusion that nothing happened at all, or concede there was an exchange of a small amount of bodily fluids. This will be a correct, and scientific, history. It will also miss a large part of what just occurred.
For another example, simply look at some small object across the room, such as a thermostat on the wall, and line up your thumb so it blocks your view of that object. Often you will need to close one eye, because your thumb is too small to block the view from both sides of your nose. If you block the view from your right eye, your left eye can see, but if you shift your thumb so the left eye can’t see, the right eye can. Then ask the stupid question, “Which position of the thumb blocks the view?” Or the even stupider question, “Which version is correct?”
Obviously the questions are to blame. They are simply inadequate. However it is amazing how often people get sucked into choosing between one version or another version of history. Often they take sides, or get so frustrated they reject both sides, when the truth of the matter is that both sides have validity.
I think I began thinking about this stuff due to the fact I loved both my parents, but they went through a particularly ugly divorce involving two very different versions of history. The simple fact I refused to take sides broadened my mind even as their minds remained one-sided, until I had a sort of marriage in my skull even as they enacted divorce in real life. I gained a dimension they lost.
This “depth of understanding,” which I gained in a small way, is what Shakespeare had in a Great Way. It allows you fathom human nature. It also fills you with a thirst to hear different versions, even when they conflict with versions you have already heard. You listen to story after story, and “story” is five-sevenths of the word “history.” Beyond that, very little Math is involved at all.
History holds a golden hue, which we fail to notice during the drudgery of our day-to-day disciplines. People sometimes scorn that gold, claiming it is a delusion, caused by a sort of amnesia that sets in, causing us to forget past pains, but actually it is the other way around: The pain in our current situation blinds us to the gold which is all around us. Only when that pain is gone does a woman think she might like to have another child, or a man think he might like to start another business, or climb another mountain. When we speak of “twenty-twenty hindsight” or even use an expression such as “absence makes the heart grow fonder” we are recognizing the golden vistas history allows us to glimpse. Even people who despise history books and historians often like to open an old photo album, and simply remember.
When seen in this light the expression, “when seen in this light,” is seen in a new light. It is a phenomenon many can relate to, however we are running headlong into a problem. This golden light is a light science has yet to measure. Cameras cannot record it, thermometers cannot measure it, tweezers cannot tweeze it, and therefore to even broach this subject is to leave the firmly grounded rock of science and venture out onto the treacherous quicksand of pseudoscience.
Because I don’t want to go there, I simply won’t call it science. I’ll call it nostalgia. I likely should leave it at that, however it is my understanding English is a limiting language, because it only has one word for nostalgia. Other languages go into greater detail, recognizing the nuances of nostalgia by using different words. For example, in one language (Japanese?) remembering-your-mother-after-she-has-passed-away is described by a different word than remembering-your-mother-while-she-is-still-alive.
To demonstrate the strange power of nostalgia I will bring up two things from the past that were a royal pain, back in the day, but that now can make old-timers smile. The two things were two knobs on the side of an old fashioned TV set called “vert” and “hoz.” They were necessary because the “picture” (IE; Video screen) of old fashioned TV’s had the annoying tendency to flip or warp in a manner difficult to describe to modern youth, but which requires no description to old-timers.
This annoyance made no one smile back in the day. The only reason mentioning the “vert” and “hoz” knobs now makes old-timers smile is because such problems seem so much simpler than a computer virus. The only time an old-fashioned TV crashed was when someone pitched a beer bottle at a commercial.
However sometimes the “vert” and “hoz” knobs failed to stop the screen from flipping and warping, and when this was occurring during the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series, it called for desperate measures: Sometimes the problem could be fixed by giving the TV set a firm but not-too-firm whack on the side.
I was good at TV whacking, as a youth. People may well have said, “That Caleb Shaw may be no good at Math, but he sure can whack a TV.” It may have been the only reason my girlfriend’s father allowed me in their house at all. Looking back, the main reason that some lacked this skill was because they had too much respect for the delicate circuitry of a TV set, and when they dared whack a TV at all, did so in a tentative manner that was barely more than a gentle tap.
I have no idea why giving the circuitry of a TV a jolt stopped the picture from flipping and warping. Perhaps there was a build up of static electricity in the cathode thingy which was released by the whack, however I had no pretentions that I was any sort of TV repairman, nor that I had a clue how the gizmo worked. Despite the fact I, as a teenager, tended to brag and swagger about all sorts of things I had no business acting knowledgeable about, it never even occurred to me that I ought pretend I was an expert on TV’s.
Therefore it amazes me that some psychologists have the audacity to pretend they understand the human brain, after using electroshock or drugs to basically give a person a whack on the side of the head. The circuitry of a brain is far more complex than the circuitry of a TV, and just because whacking a brain may stop a mind from flipping gives the whacker no right to state he knows what is happening, or why whacking works.
This is not to say psychologists can’t save lives. Lonely people need someone to talk to. Misunderstood people need understanding. The mentorless need mentors. However this is not science; it is kindness. To pretend it is science is to step across an invisible line into the landscape of fraud.
There is a temptation to make a science out of psychology, because certain patterns of human behavior seem recognizable. Though Chaucer created the Wife Of Bath back in 1375, she reminds me of a lady who served me burgers back in college, and though Shakespeare created Falstaff in 1593, Flastaff reminds me of a guy I worked third shift with, in a cannery. Certain characters are like certain weather maps, and provide us with analogs we use, and give us the sense we can predict behavior in the same manner we can predict the weather.
However every forecaster knows that all it takes is some stupid butterfly flapping its wing somewhere, and two maps which start out nearly identical can come to quite opposite solutions. In the same manner two people, both resembling Falstaff, can reach a fork in the road where one is redeemed while the other progresses steadfastly on to their tragic demise.
Human being are, in fact, chaotic systems, and when we deal with chaotic systems we need to be humble and say something difficult to say, namely: “I connot predict the future with 100% certainty.” This is not to say that, when we meet a Falstaff, we ought loan him money, or that, when the sky gets pitch black and thunders, we should ignore our raincoat. We are allowed to forecast, and in fact it is our nature to forecast; we just need to be prepared to be wrong, and not get all crabby about it when it happens.
It is when someone is dealing with a chaotic system, and puts on a white coat and pretends to be sure, and to be able to speak with scientific certainty, that the fraud enters in. They are claiming to have authority they lack, and are setting themselves up for a Falstaffian fall. Unfortunately they see some short-term gain in their pompous buffoonery, money to be made and power to be gripped, and they often hurt others in the process of acting out their tragedy.
In the case of psychologists, bad ones can clamber up onto pedestals and claim to be experts, pontificating upon “predatory behavior” even while they themselves prey upon the most vulnerable and hapless members of society, bullying meek clients with thinly-veiled threats to incarcerate them and subject them to cruel and unusual punishment without trial. In the process they destroy the reputation of good psychologists who do save lives, and the public gradually gets so disgusted that it may even pass a law such as the one passed in Texas, which had to be vetoed by the governor. (That law stated that when psychologists gave testimony as expert witnesses in trials they had to wear tall, pointed, wizard-hats, complete with stars and moons.)
To conclude, we need a different attitude when dealing with chaotic systems than the attitude we adopt when dealing with Math, and Climate Scientists have failed to adopt this attitude.
For the non-mathematical reasons mentioned in the first two parts of this essay I distrusted Climate Scientists as soon as I became aware they had staked out a certain turf to call their own. First, they were pretending to be certain about a chaotic system. Second, they behaved in a manner that resembled Falstaff. Third, their versions of history shifted like sinister shadows amidst the golden versions of history I knew. Lastly, they somewhat snidely stated I couldn’t know anything because I didn’t know the mathematics of programming modeling into computers. I think it was that last thing that really got me riled up. Perhaps it is pure egotism, but I have never taken kindly to people who tell me I’m stupid.
Fortunately I enjoy debating, and my hot temper is nicely balanced by my ability to fearlessly apologize, which tends to keep my opponents off balance. Of course, keeping your opponents off balance is totally unnecessary, and not anything you want to do, if you are debating in good faith, seeking to find the Truth. It is only necessary when your opponent is slightly immature, and perhaps behaving a bit like a jerk.
When three-year-olds come to me like little lawyers at my Childcare, they tend to be slightly immature, but completely sincere. Often they are arguing about a relatively worthless object, for example, a mere stick, one of hundreds of sticks in our woods. I scratch my head in wonder, aware the reason for rage is not the stick, it is the principle of the thing. Who “had it first,” and who “started it,” matters a heck of a lot more than the stupid stick does, as the tots bellow jaw to jaw, eyes bugging out and veins bulging and skin turning purple. Fortunately they are so small it is comical, and not only does my sense of humor kick in, but also fondness comes welling up from my heart.
The same sense of humor kicks in when I am dealing with people who ought be old enough to know better. There is the same illogical tendency to drift from the subject at hand to who “had it first,” who “started it,” and whether or not I have the IQ of an opossum. It is a big mistake to move in this direction with me, for it is a movement away from Math, which I struggle with, into landscapes I’m more familiar with.
Some day sooner than I like I will stand before my Maker, and He is likely to ask me, among other things, why I spent so much of the last ten years quarreling with Alarmists. I fear my first response will be that of a three-year-old: I will point my finger and say, “They started it.” As I recall how things developed, such blaming is actually the truth. Initially I was not arguing, but rather merely asking questions. My questions had to do with the Medieval Warm Period, and the Viking colony in Greenland.
I knew a fair amount about those Vikings, due to my love of history. (My brain is full of interesting trivia I collected when I should have been doing my Math homework.) I knew those Vikings raised cows, and grew barley for beer, in an environment where it currently is impossible. Therefore when the Medieval Warm Period was abruptly “erased” by Climate Scientists I had questions. When I got answers they were the sorts of answers that do not give you a sense of peace, but rather make you restless with many more questions. For example, I was told the Medieval Warm Period only occurred on either side of the North Atlantic, and no where else. In order for this to occur some new and interesting rearrangement of the Gulf Stream and the Jet Stream would have to exist, and persist for decades and even centuries, and I was curious about this unheard-of weather pattern. At this point I started to get the impression my questions were unwelcome.
This struck me as unusual, for it had always been my experience that scientists studied obscure things no one else was interested in, and often felt misunderstood and starved for attention, and when someone actually asked a question about what they were studying they either fainted in shock, or else were so overjoyed about finding a listener that you couldn’t get them to stop talking, once they started. To receive a cold shoulder instead made me instantaneously curious.
I suppose it involved the same principle as playing “hard to get” involves. When I was in high school, and a girl spurned my adolescent grins, my older brother told me to stop being so friendly, and to utterly ignore the girl. To my complete astonishment, the ploy worked. Of course, I didn’t have a clue what to do next, but at least I had her attention.
When a person becomes evasive, we immediately wonder what they are evading. When Climate Scientists and their Alarmist groupies stopped answering questions I developed a curiosity I might otherwise not have possessed. The situation then became odder, because they turned out to be Falstaffs who loved basking in the spotlight. They wanted attention but didn’t want it; they loved looking wise but didn’t want certain questions to be asked. They were like James Bond strolling into a casino, sticking out like a sore thumb at the same time they were secret.
It was at this time people who knew their Math, such as Steve McIntyre and Willis Eschenbach, first began asking questions and first ran into the evasiveness that eventually resulted in stonewalling and the need to employ the Freedom Of Information Act. However for a person like myself, who knew little Math, the evasiveness took the form of The Snoot. Just as a psychologist might haughtily state, “You can’t possibly understand; you haven’t studied psychology,” I increasingly heard the news that I couldn’t possibly understand, because I am a moron.
Well, I admit that, but even a moron has the right to ask questions. Then I ran into the evasive tactic of using jargon and big words an ordinary person doesn’t use. However, due to my love of writing, I have a rather large vocabulary for a moron, and even when I didn’t know the meaning of a word, I could always ask what it meant. For example, the first time I heard “dendochronological” I was silenced and had to back off, but, after a pause, I persisted, pestered, (and even when the answers were evasive I could Google the word,) and I wound up exclaiming, “Oh! Tree rings! If you meant tree rings, why didn’t you say so!” I then discovered that haughty people do not like it when you simplify things they are haughty about.
The question, “Why do you use the word ‘dendrochronological’ when you could say ‘tree rings’ ?” is admittedly drifting a bit off-topic from the actual topic of tree rings, but so is the topic of whether I am a moron or not. So is the topic of whether or not I am “a shill of Big Oil,” “ a ditto head,” “a wing nut,” a “useful idiot,” or any of the other interesting gobs of mud I’ve found flung my way. Fortunately I’m not the sensitive young poet I once was, have a thick skin, and also think it is good fun to devise sophisticated and witty insults to reply with. In fact I’ve been told I’m fairly good at the sort of insult you have to scratch your head over, before you realize it is an insult. (We used to call these “polar bear traps,” for a polar bear trap is a sphere of frozen fat with a coiled piece of steel within. As the fat melts in the polar bear’s stomach, the steel springs out straight and kills the bear; in the same way, some sweet words only stab you when they are digested.)
However descending to the level of mud slinging, even when it is gussied up with charm, gets tiresome, and asking real questions and getting to the real Truth turns out to be far more interesting and rewarding in the long run. That is why I was always so swift to apologize, (even when no one apologized for calling me a moron,) and returned to innocent and sincere questions.
An amazing thing happens when you do this. You learn. You can even learn a little Math. Not much, I’ll admit, but enough to get by on.
One technical word that backed me off, in the beginning, was the word, “albedo.” For the Alarmists it was a sort of magical word that explained everything. I ran into it due to my interest in Vikings, and the amount of ice up by Greenland. The more I asked questions about “abedo” the more questions I had, and the more annoyed the people I was questioning became. They wanted to strictly focus on the Arctic Sea, but I wanted to explore the Antarctic. Then I asked an annoying question about the albedo of the Arctic land masses when they are covered with snow. I think this was annoying because it turned out freshly fallen snow has a significantly higher albedo than rotten ice, and the people I was talking with had neglected to include the albedo of vast stretches of tunda, from Finland to Sibera to Alaska to Canada, in their calculations. Then I asked about the albedo of flat, open water, when the sun sits low on the horizon, as it does in September at the North Pole, and discovered water has a higher albedo than ice does when the sun is that low. This was annoying because it suggested the opposite of what Alarmist theory suggests; rather than absorbing more sunlight, open water would reflect more sunlight.
It was not necessary to develop a counter-theory. Using “doesn’t-it-follow-that” questions would suffice. For example, your question could be, “If freshly fallen snow has a higher albedo than ice, and the northern hemisphere has just had its greatest snow cover in recent history, doesn’t it follow that…”
Asking so many questions was great fun, for I learned all sorts of interesting trivia, for example I learned that salt water behaves differently than fresh water when both are chilled to thirty-three degrees. However it was also fun because I discovered I was putting Alarmists on the defensive, because most had not done their homework. There were a few who were as eager as I was to learn new things, and these few were wonderful to talk with, but most behaved as I once had behaved, facing my Math teachers with undone homework, and I found it great fun to have the tables turned, and to watch them squirm.
One neat thing about being a Math teacher is that you get to assign homework, without having to do it. Simply by asking questions I was demanding answers that involved the sort of work that people who delight in Math find joy in, but others are made miserable by. For example, asking about the “area of albedo” involved finding the surface area of the globe north of eighty degrees latitude, between seventy and eighty degrees north, between sixty and seventy degrees north, and between fifty-five and sixty degrees north. While someone like Willis could figure out such things on the back of an envelope, the Alarmists I was questioning tended to turn an interesting shade of green.
I wasn’t asking these questions to cause trouble. I had simply turned my globe upside-down, and realized Antarctica had sea ice at the latitude of northern Scotland. I began to wonder if sea ice at lower latitudes had a greater effect than ice at higher latitudes, because the sun has greater power at lower latitudes, and there is more of it to reflect. After all, albedo means very little when the sun is on the horizon and weak, or even has set. I decided the word “albedo” was insufficient. There needed to be a word for the sunlight that actually was reflected, and, because the Alarmists I was questioning had no such word, I decided the word ought be coined, and ought be, “calbedo.” (Not derived from “calorie,” which would be sensible, but rather from “Caleb,” because I am vain.)
Once your questions are along the lines of, “Isn’t the word ‘albedo’ insufficient, and shouldn’t there be a word such as ‘calbedo’ in order to…” Alarmists tend to be in full retreat. They haven’t done their homework, and the best they can do is defer to authority, pointing at the gobbledygook of computer code they themselves don’t understand, and insisting that it proves something you can’t understand. This debating technique is often seen among three-year-olds at my Childcare, and usually takes the form of, “My Daddy is bigger than your Daddy.”
This retreat is also a form of evasiveness much like the behavior of Shakespeare’s Falstaff. Honest people do not need to evade in such a manner.
In conclusion, without Math, and only asking questions, it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that Climate Science, at the very least, is not a thing that is “settled” to a degree where we ought to invest in what it concludes. The buyer beware.