Effect Measure

Biblical exegesis as it was meant to be:


  1. #1 Snowy Owl
    November 22, 2009

    Sunday Bells

    Owl Train to Shaking Temples Station
    November 22nd, 2009

    When I got out of the Owl Train,
    With the usual Regional Express Journal under my arm,
    Seeing this Station where I thought
    No Owls have gone before
    The vision before me was astonishing

    Made of very old rocks, the Station seems to have been hit by many earthquakes
    Over and over trough Milleniums and not so long ago.
    In fact there was an Earthquake few seconds
    after I put my Claws on its Ground
    And a Huge one,
    Of Course all Avians Fly up High
    Until the Earthquake was over

    Carved in Rocks in many languages, some problably extinct, it is written;
    All Authorities Dragging Minds Temples
    Are doomed by Transcendence

    A Dove welcome me and invite me to a Hall,
    He invite me with a soft sign of his Wings to Perch,

    He then say;

    Welcome to Shaking Temple Snowy Owl,
    We haven’t seen one of you since around two Centuries

    And as your Ancestor told us,
    I will share with you what your He, your Ancestor oopik
    Told us to tell the next time a Snowy Owl comes here.

    Hi Dear Descendant my name is oopik
    I came here at the end of the 1700’s
    At the Time when the Religions Mind Magnets
    Swing into the hands of Sciences

    As usual, Scientist will be speaking an unknown language by the People
    Having in their Hands the Book of Temporal Truth,
    Doctors and Scientists will become the Temporal Real Knower of Truth
    And, as usual, they will affirm that they Know what is Good for People

    I am sharing you what I have Witness from 1750 to 1850
    That was the Time where People swing their Religions
    Progressively to Knowledge,
    And the motto
    Will probably be Knowledge is Power

    Dear descendant
    As it was First described to me by the Pir of India,
    And as He he Reiterated this trough Centuries
    Since the end of the 1500’s Century

    He told me;

    Humanity Driving Force,
    Humanity Authority,
    Is on a Journey,

    From Instinctive inclination to Political Civility,
    Then via Transcendence Forces,
    The Political imposed Behaviors,
    Swing from Politics submission to Religious inclination

    Then Religious Authorities and People inclinations
    Via Transcendence
    Religious Authority Swang from to Science

    The Shaking Khand got swing by earthquakes provoqued by Sciences
    And if you are Here Descendant
    It is because the Time arrived
    That Sciences Authorities is swinging to the Intelligence of the Hearth
    Via the Driving Force of Transcendance

    Humanism transcend Sciences, Religious, Instincts
    Humanism is now the rising Consciousness
    Among the People

    With the Intelligence of One’s Hearth
    Each and ones of Humans
    Will know Within,
    what is Right and what is Wrong
    And will act accordingly, discretely,
    In Respect of Self and the Other

    Despite the remainders of;
    Political, Religions and Sciences ruins
    Called Eroding Enshrined Truths
    A new Behaviour is now unfolding,
    That Shall set Free Humanity
    From unnecessary deaths, fears, doubts and hesitations.

    This is a new Leap for Mankind

    Copyright Snowy Owl Achak 2009
    La vérité est en marche et rien ne l’arrêtera.
    [Emile Zola]

    Please confer to;
    Who are the criminals behind the conspiracy theorists?

  2. #2 Mary
    November 22, 2009

    Oh, that is hilarious, and perfect on a Sunday! Thanks for that.

  3. #3 Mencius Moldbug
    November 22, 2009

    Speaking of the Book of Genesis, any thoughts today on liberal creationism? (You might not agree with this new blog, but I’ll bet you’ll find it palatable and provocative – okay, even if your wife isn’t a Unitarian.)

    Also, the WaPo is echoing me on climate “science.” And that ain’t anything like the worst of it

  4. #4 revere
    November 22, 2009

    Moldbug: Took a look at the site, read a few entries. Doesn’t interest me. Sure there are genetic differences between people. No one says otherwise. I’m not interested in arguing what they mean for whatever it is this person cares about (which seems to be IQ; yawn). It’s an empirical question and my interests are elsewhere. I’m a cancer epidemiologist so the genetic differences that might or might not matter to me are the ones that bear on whether someone will get cancer and under what conditions of host and environment. Climate science is another matter. WaPo should take their cue from scientists, not the other way around. But WaPo is notoriously right of center and that’s how they interpret things. I’m left of center. Way, way left of center. I can’t even see the center from where I am. I’m so far left I might even be able to see you at some point.

  5. #5 Mencius Moldbug
    November 22, 2009


    I appreciate that! But don’t you think there are some, um, public-policy implications?

    I seem to recall you saying at some point you were for open borders – a laudably consistent perspective for a progressive. Frankly, there’s really no difference between discriminating by race and discriminating by GPS coordinates of birth. If the one is fundamentally immoral, so is the other. Otherwise, you’ve got a very strange moral calculus goin’ on.

    But what’s a fact is that most of your progressive co-believers (I’m afraid every man lauds himself a “freethinker,” including of course myself) are biocreationists, not biorealists. (I live in zip code 94114. I know.) They make public policy on this basis. They believe they are making public policy scientifically. They consider themselves the reality-based community. What have you done lately to disillusion them?

    All sorts of progressive public policies, foreign and domestic, look very different when evaluated in the light of biorealism. Instead of looking noble, they look criminal. At least in my own opinion. They sure don’t look the same! If you wonder what they look like, try the exercise…

    As for the CRU leak, don’t take my word or the Post’s. You should take a look at some of the emails yourself. You’re interested in the philosophy of science. This is a fabulous case study in the philosophy of science. People will be studying it for, well, as long as the philosophy of science is studied. Suffice it to say: I hope your academic enemies aren’t behaving like this!

    (A fine place to start is this explanation of “Mike’s Nature trick.” The pseudonymous author is, I believe, an applied math professor somewhere.)

    See, the basic problem is that your head is trapped in this democratic A-versus-B discourse. B sucks. Can we agree that B sucks? A, however, has some serious problems of its own.

    And if you try to position yourself in the center (BTW, I have noticed that the WaPo is positioning itself to the right of the Times, but if ever gets to be actually right of center it will come as serious news to the actual, present right!), you will find that this center moves. In order to remain in it, you have to keep changing your mind. Interracial marriage is a shocking idea in 1909. Banning interracial marriage is a shocking idea in 2009.

    As for left and right, Carlyle once said he was “no reactionary, but the deepest of radicals.” (Or something like that – I can’t find the quote.) He was of course a conventional radical (of sorts) in his younger days, which is why you know his name. If to be conservative is to believe unquestioned traditions handed down by history, there is indeed a lot of conservatism among our so-called progressives!

  6. #6 revere
    November 22, 2009

    Moldbug: Yes I am for eliminating artificial barriers between people, whether national origin or race or gender. Some of those identifications have a biological basis: gender, for example. Some don’t. I’d rather live in a world where people are taken for what they are. If they are evil, taken them for that and deal with it. For most other things, none of my business. I know somethng about slimcate science since I teach it and I’ve satisfied myself that human actions are contributing to climate change. I’ve actually considered the alternatives and at this point made a decision. Always subject to revision but not at this point. But I’m an old guy with young grandchildren and I’m placing my gets for their sake. I also don’t have that much time left and am using it for what is important to me in science, whether or not you think it should occupy me. I don’t know what your scientific credentials are and I don’t really care. Your science interests seem to be motivated by right wing politics. Mine started out that way but now. towards the end of my life, I am concentrating on certain puzzles about the logic of events in epidemiology (somewhat similar to quantum logic) and writing for this blog. Sometimes I wonder why I do the latter. but I do and as long as I am doing it I am bothering to respond to you.

  7. #7 Snowy Owl
    November 22, 2009

    Good evening Reveres,

    The reason I post the above, is that I am afraid that this will impact the credibility of the Experts, Scientists, Peer Reviews in the medical field too, since these behaviors are systemic.

    Bad time that all this is exposed while we are in a pandemic.

    Snowy Owl

  8. #8 Paula
    November 22, 2009

    Moldbug, you write “(I’m afraid every man lauds himself a “freethinker,” including of course myself)”; I’m wondering if you see the difficulty with your fourth word here?
    Revere, you say you wonder why you write for this blog. Does it help to know that this blog is one of the most helpful, informative, and somehow gently intellectual blogs on the Net?
    Revere, what–out of interest–in more detail does “the logic of events in epidemiology” cover/refer to?

  9. #9 revere
    November 22, 2009

    Paula: First, thanks for the kind words. The net can be a rough place at times and we have been doing this u7 days a week for almost 5 years (on Nov. 25). We are very weary and have almost closed down a couple of times. Somehow we keep going. I’m not sure how or why.

    The logic of events. It isn’t a very transparent phrase. It’s borrowed from quantum mechanics where observable events correspond to projectors of states onto a Hilbert subspace. (A Hilbert space is just like regular space but with a couple of additions and it can be infinite dimensional and use complex coordinates). The closed HIlbert subspaces have a structure, and it is the algebra of that structure which is what some people call quantum logic. I realize that is too concise and technical a description, but what I am doing in epidemiology is somewhat similar. There is an algebraic structure related to combinations of people and each person’s attributes (e.g., sex, age, cancer, etc.). That structure is called a complete lattice. I am examining (along with a mathematician collaborator) the sublattices corresponding to the kind of contingency tables we epidemiologists use to display and prepare our data for analysis. It is all very arcane, although it arose in trying to help communities solve certain kinds of problems that couldn’t be approached by conventional statistics (because the numbers weren’t large enough). I know, it’s probably more than you wanted. It’s one of my problems. I have a compulsion to explain.

  10. #10 Paula
    November 22, 2009

    Revere, this is exactly the long explanation I wanted on this; thanks. I learned a bit re Hilbert spaces years ago when in math–unfortunately, too many years ago, but the explanation is nevertheless quite clear.

  11. #11 Anne McKeel
    November 23, 2009

    Reveres, I have been a long time viewer of your blog. Not being in the field,( I am a piano teacher) I often times struggle thru the scientific data. My understanding / absorbtion level is now about 53.7% at best. Nevertheless I continue to read faithfully,and grow and learn. I thank you so much for continuing this blog, dispite the head butting that you receive from a few. For every one of those who think they know more, are the hundreds of us who value your efforts. Bravo Reveres,I give your efforts a standing ovation !

  12. #12 Mencius Moldbug
    November 23, 2009

    Paula, unfortunately the English language lost the difference between Mann and Mensch a long time ago. Yes, every womyn lauds herself a freethynker too. Yadda yadda. It’s not the ’80s anymore, you know.

    Revere, the last time I saw academia from the wrong end I was about a year and a half into the Ph.D program in CS at Berkeley. This was in 1994. 1994 was a long time ago – at least from my perspectives. Nonetheless, my experience was that even the most renowned of academic silverbacks refused to use their age as a defense, excellent defense though it is. Even my brain is no longer the instrument it once was. However, I keep learning more about how to use it.

    Historically, old age is associated with (a) decreasing cognitive dexterity, (b) decreasing adaptability to new ideas, and (c) increasing wisdom and judgment. (a) is irresistible, but great prizes remain available to those who can resist (b) while maintaining (c).

    It strikes me that you are at the point in your career where specialist beavering is no longer an option, and all that remains is philosophy – ie, raw, open-ended judgment. This is a promotion, not a demotion. Your mental range does not have to shrink – it can expand – it should expand. Indeed, as you observe, it has expanded.

    One of the (many) reasons I dropped out of grad school was that we find ourselves in an era of increasing academic specialization and bureaucracy. I happen to be a generalist by temperament, as you’ll see if you look at my blog – I take verse just as seriously as economics, history just as seriously as computer science. Whether I am doing these things right or wrong, there is certainly no place for anything like this combination in the modern university.

    As for “right-wing politics,” I am going in exactly the opposite direction. I started off a liberal, if not a progressive. It was Google Books that made me a royalist.

    What I find when I read history is that history has a right-wing bias. However, it does not have a moderate right-wing bias. It has an extreme right-wing bias. It confirms Sir Robert Filmer, not Glenn Beck. Once you see how it confirms Sir Robert Filmer, you can start to see how it (sort of) confirms Glenn Beck, except when it doesn’t. But you will never get there in one step – at least, not from where you are now!

    How can we detect that history has a right-wing bias? Because when we use hindsight to evaluate long-past intellectual controversies between left-wingers and right-wingers, we tend to see that the right-wingers get it right. This doesn’t mean they are right about everything, just that in these controversies, the prediction of the (extreme) right is typically better found to be better founded.

    For example, we were talking about biorealism – which happens to be the question at issue in the Mill-Carlyle debate. As you’ve admitted, Carlyle is clearly on the right side of this debate. And the intervening 150 years have clearly shown his predictions to be better-founded.

    Nonetheless, to almost everyone in the world today, Mill was right and Carlyle was wrong. And we are certainly making public policy based on this assumption! And have been for quite some time! Did you, for instance, see Bob Herbert’s op-ed about Detroit in this week’s Sunday Times? Moreover, I could give you quotes from Mill that are far to the right of anyone in the GOP today. I am pretty confident that if you could revive both Mill and Carlyle, and give them a look at the world today, Mill would simply fold and give the hand to Carlyle.

    As for why I comment and you respond, this is what I do. I go around the Internet finding professors who strike me as well-informed and intellectually honest, but vehemently express a perspective that I consider alien to reality. I try to inform them otherwise and see how they respond. I learn from their responses; so do my readers.

    As for why you respond, again – it can only be that you are not as ossified as you like to pretend! Here – let me show you a little piece of evidence that will at least tweak your intellectual curiosity.

    You think of yourself as a “freethinker.” Regardless of how free your thought may or may not be, you are certainly identifiable as a member of an intellectual tribe – the American progressive. It may be that this tribe is just right, or it may not be. Certainly, it is the political community of the intelligent and thoughtful.

    However, I assert that this characterization is mistaken. Cladistically – by intellectual descent, teacher-to-student – modern American progressivism is not a secular ideology at all. It is a Christian ideology. “Progressive” originates as an adjective to “Christianity.” Modern American progressivism is in fact a Puritan revival, with roots in the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th century. There is no serious historical dispute of this identification – you can see it traced over 350 years in this recent work from Yale University Press.

    So, for instance, your atheism itself is easily recognized as an extreme version of the Puritan opposition to idolatry in religion. The Puritans hated Christmas for exactly the same reason you do: they saw it as an idolatrous, superstitious festival. Removing the theological component entirely is simply the natural last step in the Puritanization of Christianity. From the perspective of a right-wing atheist like myself, it gets the right result for the wrong reason. Wouldn’t be the first time *that* happened.

    So. I said I had some evidence of this. In fact, there is no shortage of evidence, but one of the most striking is provided by this primary source. The worldview in the article is clearly yours. And in 1944, the readers of Time Magazine must not have shaken their heads to hear it described as – and I quote – “super-Protestant.”

    Now do you see why I find it funny to hear “progressive” and “freethinker” equated? You do, don’t you? It really is never too late for an old dog to learn a new trick or two…

  13. #13 revere
    November 23, 2009

    Moldbug, my friend. I am either simpler or more complicated than you assume. I am aware that you are fond of what you call “hit and run” forays into the blogs of others but when you make occasional visits you sometimes make unwarranted assumptions. For example, that I didn’t slam orthodox Jews or that I was married to a Unitarian (your stereotype of a Progressive, no doubt). Or, in the above, that I hate Christmas. If you will bother to take a peek at my Christmas posts for the last several years on this blog you will find my explanation of why Christmas is my favorite holiday. I won’t bother to explain why here because I’ve done it every year at Christmas and will almost certainly do it again this year. As for my atheism being another version of Puritanism, hardly. I’m an atheist only for purposes of talking about religious beliefs here. The depth of my atheism is that I hardly ever think about it except when I write about it on the blog. God isn’t on my radar screen. He/she/it/they is/are irrelevant to me, just like the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns or tea cozies. Not part of my world. But it amuses me to write about it once a week, just as Orac likes to write about quackery (although he feels much more emotionally about quackery than I do about religion). I care so little about religion I told my children never to let it be a barrier between them and someone else (it wasn’t important enough) so they both became Catholics to please their spouses and I calmly sat through two wedding masses because I love my children. They were the same people before and after they converted, their values were the same and I still loved them. And religion plays almost no role in their lives now, too. They are modern people and don’t have time for it. I just buried my mother-in-law and sat through a funeral mass, which was nothing but extortion to allow her to be buried next to her husband in a Catholic cemetery. I did it because I love my wife’s family (of which I have been a part for 37 years) and it wasn’t important enough to create a fuss over. No one was hurt by my going along and everyone else thought the thing was a sham, too. I went to four bar mitzvahs of my sister’s children (and even stood in for my brother in law once when he was hurt and couldn’t fulfil his part) because I love my sister. Big deal. It wasn’t important enough to make a fuss over there, either. No one was hurt by my thinking it was total bullshit. That wasn’t the time to say it or make something of it.

    As for my becoming more of a generalist, no, not at all. In my career I have written peer reviewed articles in many different fields (two of my latest were in the computer science literature, the one before that in computational biology, several before that in epidemiology, history, philosophy of law and much else) but now I am specializing. I used to do everything. Now I spend most mornings thinking about orthomodular lattices.

    So you see, when you just hit and run, you miss a lot of what’s going on.

  14. #14 Paula
    November 23, 2009

    Moldbug: . . .nor the forties.

  15. #15 Mencius Moldbug
    November 23, 2009

    Paula, do you mean the 1940s, or the 1840s? I’m actually more a 1740s kind of guy myself. My idea of good government: Frederick the Great. A homo, I’ll have you know.


    I do hit, but I don’t run! I would never comment on a blog I don’t read. Obviously, it was the flu that brought me here, and I admit I have not rummaged through your archives. Nonetheless, I try to keep up with EM, purely ideological content excluded, and I have found many posts quite cogent – for example, this one, which is why I really do want to hear your take on mammograms etc.

    And whether you are becoming more of a generalist or less, I am glad to hear I’m not wrong in identifying you as one. Your generation lived through a golden age of the university – it will never be as good or as easy for anyone.

    As for religion, I was not discussing your personal attitude toward it – I was discussing the historical origins of your belief system, progressivism. Obviously I do not know how you personally came to be a progressive. I have read quite a bit about the history of progressivism, however. Google Books is really a small miracle.

    The conversion of American Puritanism – whose main stream always has been, and always will be, whatever young people are taught at Harvard – from a Christian sect into a secular religion (ie, what you think of as the converse of “religion”) is a fascinating process. Note, for instance, the political importance of institutions like the YMCA a hundred years ago. The YMCA was holy when Washington was unholy. Now that progressivism has captured the Beltway, what is the YMCA? A gym.

    Meanwhile, separation of church and state does not apply to progressivism, because it is not “a religion.” Because it is atheistic. Nonetheless, its historical roots are in America’s most prestigious and powerful clade of Christianity – ie, Massachusetts Protestantism. Also, we only have to go back 60 or 70 years to see this belief system described as not just religious, but fanatically religious.

    You won’t fail to notice that this is exactly what creationists are trying to do. That is: they take a belief system which is clearly religious in historical origin, and try to disguise it as something that has nothing to do with God – as a way to install their religious doctrines as scientific public policy. Obviously, they haven’t fooled you! But that doesn’t mean others have not been more successful.

    Here’s another instance: you call yourself “Revere.” I’ll bet you’ve never once seen a historian even try to debunk the American Revolution. Well! As it turns out, a Mr. Sydney George Fisher did just that… in 1902.

    I cannot find much information on Mr. Fisher, but he is not alone in his take – it is more or less shared by other quite distinguished historians of the period, such as Lecky. It is even more or less synoptic with the take in Lord Acton’s Cambridge Modern History. Not at all disreputable.

    The high-Victorian narrative of the American Revolution is as unknown to Americans today as… as, well, anything. As quantum physics to the Victorians. It is essentially unknown. Yet when one reads this narrative, as any fool with a Web browser now can, one is at once struck by its cogency and simplicity. If it is the reality, there is simply no reality-based community in the world today – a thought that should disturb anyone with a brain!

    Also, on the subject of climate, you can at least read this open letter, “On the credibility of climate science”, by Judith Curry – an AGW proponent and a hurricane researcher at Georgia Tech, not a denialist at all. Dr. Curry is quite careful in her words, but surely few can disagree with her.

  16. #16 revere
    November 23, 2009

    Moldbug: You make quite a few assertions as if they are facts. Not an unheard of rhetorical device, but a rhetorical device nonetheless. You have a preferred reading of history (as we all do) and you are welcome to it. It’s yours. Wear it in good health. As for Revere, if you look at the side bar you will see why we have adopted this pseud. As for “hit and run,” that is a direct quote from you on your blog when you swept through here before your (and my) vacation in August, so if it is incorrect, you might have a further conversation with yourself. Let’s talk about some other things, for example, the nature of causation, about which Mill had much to say. What’s your view of Mill’s canons?

  17. #17 microdot
    November 24, 2009

    Mr. Revere, thanks for the Gervais piece! I’m going to cross post it on my blog and thank you of course!
    I posted the “A Virus Walks Into A Bar” piece just yesterday and we seem to both be reading BoingBoing!

    Did you hear the one about prayer being considered as an alternative therapy by a few senators in the discussion over the Health Care Bill? Believe it or not it was John Kerry and Orrin Hatch….
    I just prayed for everyone on the planet to feel “good”.
    Does this mean I’m entitled to some kind of subsidy?

  18. #18 revere
    November 24, 2009

    micro: I noticed after posting you had also posted it. Yes, BB is a great resource. There is all sorts of alternative medicine stuff in the bill, much of it due to Tom Harkin. It is exercising a lot of the science blogosphere, although I have less problem with CAM than they do. Prayer, OTOH, is more than a waste of money. Having just buried my mother in law and having the priest extort $500 from the family so she could be buried next to her husband is a bit much. Oh, well. This bill is like being buried up to your lower lip in shit and having someone heave a rock at you. Do you duck?

  19. #19 Mencius Moldbug
    November 24, 2009

    Revere, you too have a worldview and are welcome to it. I don’t challenge yours because I want you to change it. I challenge yours because (a) I want to see how your intellect reacts to an unusual challenge, and (b) I would like you to be a little less smug. (As a reader, that is.)

    Your worldview is your own; your absolute confidence in it and your absolute contempt for all others is less becoming. I admit that this habit is not your own; it is widely shared across the left. This is no coincidence – a glance at Vanity Fair will remind you that progressivism has always been the creed of the wealthiest, most fashionable, and most powerful Americans. Nonetheless, if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that any individual can either transcend or succumb to the culture around him. (Or hyr.)

    As for “hit and run,” I’m afraid I meant it more in the vehicular sense, with emphasis on the “hit.” You will certainly not find much evidence of me running! I even still read Tim Burke’s blog, although he took “the treatment” so hard that he appears to have closed new comment registrations just to keep me out. I’m afraid the high-Victorian narrative is not really of interest to the modern African development theorist, who has made such a garden of that continent.

    (The principal exception is the Jew-haters, who really have it in for me. In theory, due to my strange intellectual principles I find it equally essential to engage with the Nazi perspective as the progressive perspective. (Surely both have the most sinister of historical associations.) In practice, when confronted with the true Internet Nazi, often quite erudite – though, to be frank, I have never met a Nazi who knew anywhere near as much as me about the actual Third Reich – I have been known to shrink from the task. It is certainly never-ending.)

    Philosophy proper is not really my forte. So I certainly have no reason to doubt any of Mill’s analytical logic. His political and economic work is of much more interest to me. If Detroit was a thriving city when the Progressives seized power and is today a murderous, ruined wasteland, it is certainly not due to any misunderstanding of inductive causation! I do wonder what you attribute it to?

    Anyway: if you are ever seized by the desire to be less the Horatio, or if your smugness threatens to return, I suggest one of two intellectual-flexibility exercises.

    One: pick a major right-wing blog of top-notch intellectual quality, and read it for a month. I suggest one of: Steve Sailer, Larry Auster, Powerline.

    Two: read a book by a major Victorian thinker, liberal or conservative. I suggest one of: Popular Government by Sir Henry Maine; Modern Democracies by James Bryce; or, for comfort and familiarity, Considerations on Representative Government by J.S. Mill. Maine is conservative; Bryce and Mill are liberal.

    None of the above suggestions will expose you to the thinking of any mind below the caliber of your own. They certainly will not bore you! (Well, Bryce and Mill might come the closest…)

  20. #20 Mencius Moldbug
    November 24, 2009

    George Monbiot read the climate emails:

    It’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

    Yes, the messages were obtained illegally. Yes, all of us say things in emails that would be excruciating if made public. Yes, some of the comments have been taken out of context. But there are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad. There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.

    Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.

    And in the comments:

    I apologise. I was too trusting of some of those who provided the evidence I championed. I would have been a better journalist if I had investigated their claims more closely.

    Mr. Monbiot is not generally seen as a pawn of the fossil fuel industry. Libertarian Robin Hanson, on the other hand, believes it’s all okay – because everyone does it. My opinion of Mr. Monbiot has gone up several notches. My opinion of Professor Hanson has nowhere to go…

  21. #21 revere
    November 24, 2009

    Moldbug: Well we both would like the same thing (although I care less than you do). I would like you to be a lot less smug, as well. I have some victorian thinkers to suggest for you, too: K. Marx and F. Engels for a start. But the fact is that as much as you want to have me talk about what you want me to talk about, I have limited time (I’m talking about my life, not my day) and I am concerned with things that “aren’t your forte”, the problems of causation. Because that’s what gives people cancer and heart disease and helps us all understand how the world works. At this time in my life (which is much closer to its end than yours, at least actuarially speaking) the three things that occupy me (not necessarily in order of importance) are science (which been the preoccupation of my life), my family and the hope that when my life is over the world will be at least somewhat better than it would have been had I not lived. As for reading “serious” right wing sites (Powerline? you can’t be serious, except I am sure you are), it’s an opportunity cost I am not willing to pay. I rarely read any blogs, left or right, but if I were to, I wouldn’t start with that crap (which I looked at in the past when I didn’t mind wasting time as much as I do now).

    So that’s it, my friend. We’ve each had our say and I respected you enough to tell you where I stand and set you straight on some of your mistaken assumptions about me (mistakes you just smugly brushed off and went on to something else). But I have work to do and I’m not interested in pursuing your agenda. If you want to pursue my intellectual agenda and talk about epistemology and science, I’m more than happy. After all, you once did science of a sort (well, computer science isn’t really science, as you and I both know). Causation is a big topic in computer science these days via Bayesian networks and the work of Judea Pearl, Spirtes and others. Mill has something to say about it, as you know. Or Hume. When you are ready to engage in that kind of intellectual discussion, come on back.

  22. #22 Mencius Moldbug
    November 25, 2009


    All my questions to you have been questions of epistemology, and you’ve ignored them all! I’ve asked you to explain why you believe what you believe about (a) anthropogenic global warming, (b) the death of Detroit, and (c) the political victory of progressive ideology. Not to mention (d) the important scientific difference between saving 1 in 1300 lives, and 1 in 1900. What do I hear? Crickets. When you ask me to explain my beliefs, I have answers.

    As for “K. Marx and F. Engels,” our perspectives differ in one critical regard. Because I was born in 1973 and graduated from Brown in 1992, I am completely marinated in your perspective. No intelligent person can pretend to be unaware of progressive doctrine, still less one whose zip code is 94114! You, however, appear to have only the sketchiest and most distorted knowledge of any perspective to the right of yours. If you lack the inclination to change this, I cannot make you drink.

    My misfortune, I suppose, is that I took all the horseshit that was jammed up my young ass seriously. That is: I was told I was supposed to be tolerant, keep an open mind, and above all never hate anyone. Being foolish enough to take these principles seriously, I could not remain on the reservation. I still feel they are good principles, in theory. It is certainly never too late to apply them.

  23. #23 Paula
    November 25, 2009

    Mr. Moldbug, your questions to revere, noted by you as (a) through (d), have no relation to epistemology.

  24. #24 revere
    November 25, 2009

    Moldbug: Since practically no one in your generation has actually read Capital (I confess I’ve only read the first two volumes) I’m not impressed by your smugness that you know all about whatever you think progressive politics is and you’ve already demonstrated you don’t know what my perspective is. Since I consider myself a progressive and I don’t know what it is, maybe there’s a lesson there. As for the items on your list being “epistemology,” I guess you and I have a different notion of the meaning of that technical term. Look it up. I now know why you continually accuse progressives as being smug. Projection.

  25. #25 Mencius Moldbug
    November 25, 2009


    Of course my questions are questions of epistemology! They’re questions of applied epistemology. Some people can talk all day about how one knows what one knows, but grow silent when asked why they believe what they believe. Frankly, the best way for people to compare their epistemic models is to compare their results. If the difference reduces to a different theory of induction, so be it. But we are a long way from even this level of agreement!

    The attitude of the logician who refuses to explain why he believes what he believes is much like that of the kung-fu master who refuses to beat up the bad guy in a barfight. Does he really know anything about how to use his fists? Or could he kick the whole bar’s collective ass without a problem, but is just too cool to do so?

    So, for instance, let’s try this one. You mention Marx. You also mention the epistemic question of induction. How do we know that induction works? Many have chewed up many trees on the subject. My answer is: we deploy our common sense. What’s your answer? Why don’t we try it on the following case?

    It’s a matter of common knowledge that in the last century 10^8 people were killed by governments or parties that identified themselves as Marxist. Therefore, in our first, trivial pass at inductive reasoning, your recommendation of Marx for our political and/or economic woes strikes me as roughly comparable to a physician who prescribes thalidomide for morning sickness.

    Obviously you would never prescribe thalidomide for morning sickness. And you believe that this inductive hypothesis of causality (Marxism => mass murder) is in some salient way invalid. The question is: how? Why? Again, if I can see your epistemic process in action, I can evaluate it. If I have to file a FOIA request, I’m afraid I won’t bother.

    So here we have three subjects in the same question, all endorsed by you: epidemiology, Marx, and the epistemology of induction. If you can’t answer this, what can you answer?

    Now, I know that questions of this form are answerable. I know they are answerable because while you’re basically a Communist, I’m basically a fascist. You may not call yourself a Communist and I don’t call myself a fascist, let alone a Nazi, but the historical relationship between my ideas and Hitler’s is unmistakable. Hitler killed 10^7 people. But if you ask me for my answer to this question, I have it and I’ll give it to you. (And I certainly am not telling anyone to go read, say, The Myth of the Twentieth Century).

    That said, my analysis of your epistemic process is historical rather than mathematical. My view is that your beliefs are best explained not by the hypothesis that you derived them from available evidence using Mill’s canons, but by the hypothesis that you acquired them through the historically-transmitted transmitted tradition that we call the “progressive movement.” As it happens I know quite a bit about this movement, not least because my own grandparents were CPUSA members.

    I really don’t think Marxist economic theory, which is not especially lucid and of which you will find an excellent debunking in (for instance) Mises’ Human Action, has much to do at all with the modern progressive movement. The importance of Marx to American progressivism is greatly overstated, anyway. Until the last few decades the socialist and radical movement in the Anglo-American world is always associated with Christianity, and I feel even its present its vision owes much more to Bellamy than to Marx. Have you ever read Looking Backward? You will be shocked at how modern its attitudes are, although the writing is, of course, terrible.

    If you are interested in the early history of American socialism, you really cannot do better than Arthur Lipow’s Authoritarian Socialism in America. This work, UC Press I believe, is ideologically impeccable – Lipow was a student of Michael Harrington. If you don’t find it fascinating, I’ll be amazed.

    There is a basic problem with almost all conservative critiques of socialism: they tend to be contaminated with American nationalism. They refuse to recognize that socialism is fundamentally Anglo-American in origin. Thus, they focus on thinkers such as Marx, who while born a German Jew did most of his work in the British Museum, and when he wasn’t leeching off Engels made his paycheck by writing columns for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune. Distracted by Marx’s exotic Moorish features and enormous beard, they miss the obvious (and much more embarrassing) WASP-Puritan connection.

    So, an easy way to convince me that your epistemology – not your theory of belief, but the actual process that produces your actual beliefs – is not, as I claim, basically religious or para-religious in nature, is to explain why you believe what you believe. Because my contrary hypothesis, historical in nature, is that a large number of your beliefs have been acquired through tradition and authority, not Mill’s canons or any other theory of reason.

    Other odds and ends: one, I see I look like I’m ducking your comment that computer science is not really “science.” To the contrary, I agree with it. Moreover, my own specialty – system software – is one of its least scientific areas. Basically, 10% of CS professors should be in the math department; 10% should be in the EE department; and 5% should be in the art department, or wherever architecture is. As for the other 75%, I don’t see any reason why the King’s dragoons shouldn’t use them for bayonet practice.

    Two, on reflection I really should not have prescribed Powerline. I should have known it would raise your blood pressure. You will learn much more from Auster or Sailer, although they are far less conventional and much farther to the right. The Powerline guys are lawyers, and good ones – what they’ll give you is a brief for the neoconservative case. If you are in the habit of listening only to the prosecution, you will learn many things from Powerline, but I admit that most of us would rather not listen to lawyers at all.

  26. #26 revere
    November 25, 2009

    Moldbug: I’m not interested in your agenda. I have one of my own. I’m trying to understand causation for the purpose of science. In particular, the one of Mill’s canons that raises the problem of counterfactuals. Your arguments to me are the essence of smugness. You think you’ve discovered The Truth in Google Books. It is one of the conceits of youth masquerading as wisdom IMO. For my part, I have my own conceits. I’m trying to figure out how the world works. I am a scientist. I actually get my hands dirty with data and data collection and interpretation and trying to figure out what I have and haven’t. You are welcome to your amusements but they aren’t mine. If I didn’t feel like the sands of time were running out on me I’d have been glad to carry on this conversation but I can’t afford it. Interpret that however you like. I have work to do and so little time and I am extremely weary. So if you will now excuse me, I’d like to end this. Consider it cowardice or whatever you want. But you are now badgering me after I told you I didn’t want to pursue your line of inquiry because I have work of my own to do. You’ve got a blog of your own where you can abuse me to your heart’s content. I don’t think your readers are at all interested in what “a progressive” has to say anyway.

  27. #27 adam
    November 26, 2009


    I don’t have much of a dog in this race. But it really does look like you are dishonestly avoiding Mencius. In the time it’s taken you to provide all these convoluted excuses as to why you don’t want to engage him, you could’ve easily read the CRU emails and answered him.

    Just sayin’…

  28. #28 James
    November 26, 2009

    I agree with Adam.

  29. #29 revere
    November 26, 2009

    adam: I don’t have much of a dog in this race. But it really does look like you are dishonestly avoiding Mencius. In the time it’s taken you to provide all these convoluted excuses as to why you don’t want to engage him, you could’ve easily read the CRU emails and answered him.

    Just sayin’…

    Well, adam, is it honest to accuse someone of lying (by characterizing my responses as “excuses” when they are not excuses but explanations I wasn’t even obligated to provide?) and then add, “Just sayin’…”? That’s not “just sayin'”. That’s accusing someone of lying. And I don’t know what you mean by not having “much” of a dog in the fight (does it mean you have no opinion on the subject? or just part of the dog? which part? sounds likely to me you are the one avoiding telling the truth . . . just sayin’) but I will respond to you in moldbug’s style.

    He is very fond of coming onto someone else’s site (by his own admission) and provoking them with what he considers sophisticated hit and run arguments (at length, inconsiderately turning people off comment threads). He (to use his apt word, smugly) makes broad based characterizations of what “progressives” all believe and when I took the time to disabuse him in my case he ignores it and says he is just speaking generally. Of course I’m “just sayin'”. He appears never to have read any of the Victorian Marx’s serious work on economics but wants me to partake of his reading list of Victorian reactionaries. So let me return the favor and characterize reactionaries like moldbug and you (just sayin’): you are selfish and self-centered and want everyone to be interested in and engage in what you are interested in and engaged in, no matter what other priorities they might have in their lives. Of course Im’ just sayin’. As for following Mencius’s (aka moldbug’s) request that I read through and comment on a subject he brought up but I didn’t (presumably on the grounds that as a progressive I believe in AGW, which I confirmed to him I do), do you honestly think (or even dishonestly think; just sayin’) that whatever time I took and whatever response I made, that would be the end of it? Of course not. It is just his and your way of continuing to try to engage me in a subject that isn’t on my urgent list of things to do at the moment. It’s because you are both self-centered and selfish and too many people in your generation want what you want and you want it now. That’s what 90s dot.com reactionaries like you and Mencius are like. Just sayin’.

    On the internet what you and Mencius do is considered troll-like behavior. Just sayin’. But anytime you would like to come here and discuss the epistemology of counterfactuals as they pertain to evaluating scientific evidence, please feel free. It’s a big and important subject (consider, for example, the current issue of mammography). And if ever I feel the urge to talk about Carlyle I’ll head over to Mencius’s site and you can join in. Don’t hold your breath, but it could happen. Just sayin’.

    Now I’m going to help Mrs. R. clean the house before the family comes over. I know you’d rather I sit down and do what you want me to, but I’m just sayin’ . . .

  30. #30 Paula
    November 26, 2009

    Just sayin’, Revere, I appreciate your (29) takin’ out Moldbug, Adam, etc. It was time. We’ve all seen what trolling can do to listserves and blogsites. Now, baking a fish here. . .

  31. #31 m
    November 27, 2009

    Ouch. Speaking as someone who’s read a lot of these discussions, I’ve never seen a professor so thoroughly pwned as revere has been here, and so unwilling to question – or at least defend – his fundamental beliefs.

  32. #32 revere
    November 27, 2009

    m: LOL. Then I guess you have to read some more discussions! Troll time over. Bye.

  33. #33 Levy Tress
    November 27, 2009

    If you had the slightest shred of intellectual honesty and self-respect, you’d simply concede and walk away from this thread. You have neither, so you won’t.
    Sincerely, -Levy Tress

  34. #34 adam
    November 28, 2009


    You’re right. I’m a selfish lying troll of the 90’s dot.com era. And if I had a wife, I’d beat her. I smell, too. And I’m a complete ignoramus for failing to discuss the epistemology of counterfactuals.

    Now, can you look at the climate emails and tell me what you think?

    Again, in the time it’s taken you to call me all these names, you could’ve easily done all of this. But, of course, you won’t.

  35. #35 adam
    November 28, 2009

    One more thing, Revere,

    Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot: someone hacked into McIntyre’s Climate Audit servers and found him emailing his lackeys with the same exact dishonesties, data manipulation and skullduggery. What would you and the rest of teh internets’ reality-based science community have done? I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that you would’ve spent a month discussing it, taking it apart and tearing McIntyre a new one. You would be right to do so, as well. And I would be on his blog and posting the same stuff I’m posting here.

    You, on the other hand, have to help your wife clean your house. Hmmm…

  36. #36 revere
    November 28, 2009

    adam, Levy: You and other folks have been sent here from Mencius site, I see, and your adhering to the Party Line doesn’t surprise me. Mencius made a point that he shares an intellectual affiinity and history with fascists whose special skill is “just following orders.” Having said that, I expected better of him, but Hope Springs Eternal. This isn’t a climate change site (although since I teach the subject I’m willing to bet I know the physics much better than you, but it’s not the subject of this blog). We reserve the right to talk about what we want to talk about, not what Mencius (through you) wants us to talk about. You are not an ignoramus for not wanting to talk about counterfactuals. You are a willful ignoramus for failing to understand the point. So if you want to discuss lackeys, do it with your Seigneur, Mr. Mencius. The discussion of what the emails mean from my perspective is taking place elsewhere (e.g., RealClimate) and you are free to go there to sate your thirst for knowledge of what defenders of AGW think. You are clearly a troll.

  37. #37 Mencius Moldbug
    November 28, 2009


    I apologize for appearing to summon my dark orc-armies. Well, okay – I apologize for summoning my dark orc-armies. Normally I link to a conversation of this type only well after it has clearly timed-out. I violated that practice this week – for the first time – and I see at once why I had been practicing it! Not that I disagree with anything any of the further posters said, but the appearance of Black Hundreds appearing silently out of the Internet’s vast black night is uncomfortable to me.

    The basic problem with our conversation, I sense, is that I don’t want to talk – I have done enough talking in this conversation! Rather, I posted because I wanted to listen to your thoughts – on certain subjects. However, even though I prefer to listen rather than talk, I cannot expect to do so without extending you the same privilege, and answering any questions you may ask of me – however polemically posed.

    The problem is – I’ve done that, I feel. You asked me what I thought of Mill’s canons. I told you that I thought Mill’s canons were just fine, although like any inductive method they cannot be applied in the absence of common sense. The same is true of Bayesian reasoning and other inductive techniques. I don’t see how this answer can possibly be clarified.

    Similarly, you asked me what I thought of Marx’s economics, and I said I thought Marx’s economics was crap and well-debunked by Mises. This answer can certainly be clarified! However, since I have little to add to Mises on this point, I’m not sure it should be I who provided the clarification. I can offer more precise links if you clarify the question.

    And similarly, if you asked me what I thought of the Steelers, I would say: I like the Steelers just fine. Do they still have that Kordell Stewart kid? This would more or less exhaust both my knowledge of, and interest in, the Steelers. And I find it an odd response indeed to the important question of whether the correlation between Marxism and mass murder is causal or incidental! This could be outside the area of your interest, but – just as with mammography and EBM – you can see why I would find this surprising.

    So in any case, if you have either responses to my questions or questions for me, I remain happy to respond. Otherwise, I sincerely appreciate the conversation.

  38. #38 revere
    November 28, 2009

    moldbug; I told you the honest truth but somehow you didn’t hear what I said. I’ll say it again in a different and more explicit way. I am getting somewhat long in the tooth (I am 67) which is not so old but it happens that people are dying around me at a rapid rate: three family in the last 2 years, the most recently 2 weeks ago; the spouses of colleagues and colleagues themselves (one I posted about) and sibs of long time friends. I tell you this not because I want or need condolences but to explain that I have been feeling a real urgency to do some things and to focus. Recently I stumbled on the biggest research problem of my fairly long career, something highly risky but one I can afford to pursue because of my senior status. I don’t know where it’s going or how long it will take but it is consuming me, although I am trying to make room for other things that are also important in my life, like my family (my daughter’s two toddlers were here for the last few hours) and my students and certain causes (like war and peace) that are central to who I am, whether they mean anything to you or not. As a progressive I have a natural affinity for other topics, too, like climate change (I have 3 grandchildren, who, if they live as long as my mother will live well into the 22nd century) and it is a subject I am well versed in scientifically, having taught it at the graduate level. But the current brouhaha over the emails is not on my list. One reason is the simple matter of priorities. There are a lot of important topics progressives worry about that don’t engage me. The second is more pragmatic. It is clear to me that there is a lot of noise but not much music and I will do with the email issue what I do with flu. If you read this blog you know that I usually wait to see what is happening before posting on it. I’m not a news filter site. Others do that much better than I do. Looking at my publisher’s site (scienceblogs.com) I see that many others, some of whom are involved, are busy sorting this out (see the front page for what others are saying: http://scienceblogs.com/).

    Your answers to my questions weren’t really answers nor were my questions really questions. I was merely trying to point out that we are interested in different things on a substantive level and your answer about Mill’s canons was certainly not substantive. Only one of the four is used in epidemiology and it is deeply problematic for all sorts of reasons (induction not being one of them). I didn’t really expect you to engage in a deep discussion of the metaphysics of causality as it isn’t your thing, just as what your thing is isn’t mine. But apparently that wasn’t clear.

    The idea that the time it has taken me to give these explanations could have been used to read the email controversy is of course bogus (it wasn’t an argument made by you but by someone you say you agree with). I don’t have anything to say about the emails at this time because I’m waiting for the sifting and winnowing to be done and I have things that are more urgent in my life, as I explained. I have taken the time to explain because I respected your desire to engage substantively (even though I declined to do so) and thought you deserved an explanation why. Unfortunately other commenters were neither as respectful of me or of you. I consider their behavior sheer hackery if not trolling. I appreciate your further attempt to engage me and I hope you understand my decision not to do so. If not, there’s not more I can say.

  39. #39 vanderleun
    November 29, 2009

    And thus endeth the lesson as the Professor driveth off in a 1999 Blue Huff.

  40. #40 vanderleun
    November 29, 2009

    Next up, the ever-popular Father William courtesy of Lewis Carroll:

    ‘I have answered three questions, and that is enough,’
    Said his father, ‘don’t give yourself airs!
    Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
    Be off, or I’ll kick you downstairs!’

New comments have been disabled.