I’ve decided to add an FAQ to address … well, questions. The ones that are frequently asked. Though, really, some of these are Frequently Given Answers to unasked questions. This will start slow and build up over time.
Greg’s Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you change it from Global Warming to Climate Change, huh? Trying to hide something?
I had nothing to do with that, and in fact, nothing actually happened. Both terms have been used, more or less interchangeably, for decades. They do have somewhat different meanings but they are so intertwined that the distinction is not usually considered important. Referencing the change is a dog whistle for “Hey, I’m a dumbass who doesn’t believe in science.” So now you know. To know even more, see this write-up at Skeptical Science.
I did not know that! Therefore it is wrong!
You have made an argument from incredulity. There is this thing you did not know, you encountered it, and because a) you did not already know it and b) you are All Knowing, you have decided that it can’t be true. Good luck with that All Knowing thing.
I should note that there is a good chance that the Internet is your reality, things that happened before the Internet and/or before Wikipedia, that happened to have not been picked up since, may not be real to you, or things that simply happen outside of that purview (and there are a few things) don’t exist. But there are books, people talk, take and teach classes, read other stuff, have seminars, do research, and in some rare cases, experience something other than what happens on their computer screen. I know, I know, you never saw this yourself so you don’t believe it exists … Can’t help you with that, sorry.
What does an anthropologist know about climate?
Depends. I my case, a lot. I am, among other things, a palaeanthropologist and have studied climate change through the ages. For a while I sat on the faculty of a major climate change research institution. As a writer and science communicator I am a specialist in two areas: Evolutionary biology and climate change.
If you were thinking that there was no way an Anthropologist could ever know about climate change because all they do is to study primitive tribes somewhere then you need to update your understanding of what an anthropologist does. I would even say that asking this particular question does not make you look very smart.
Where do I get my tin foil hat?
Why am I such a jerk?
You are probably not that much of a jerk. You are probably just a sadist.
Why don’t you use zero on your global temperature graphs? You are lying with statistics!!!
This climate denialist meme may be newly emerging (or re-emerging). There are two parts to this. One, you should use Kelvin for all temperature measurements. Two, you should set all your scales at zero. Otherwise you are lying with statistics.
It is true that one can lie with numbers under many conditions by not using proper numbers and scales on a chart’s axes, but this does not apply to everything. For example, lets say I want to chart how far away from a house we typically find key outdoor objects or areas (I’m an archaeologist, I’d actually do this). Like, how far from the back door is the braai or bbq, how far out the front door is the mailbox, etc. But I want to do this in absolute terms and use a proper zero. Since I’m working in the United States, zero is the point in Colorado which is the center of the country. So, all my measurements should be expressed in terms of distance from USGS ground zero. Right? No. Not right.
Or, say, I am studying human body temperature in the clinical or medical context. I want to make a chart or table that shows the typical range at which humans are at severe risk because their body temperature is too low or two high, the point at which temperature is normal, etc. If I follow the dual ideas of using Kelvin and setting zero at absolute zero (which to some people makes sense) I might get a chart like this:
Obviously, with something like temperature, or geographic location, the selection of appropriate starting points and scales is important. It could even be a bit tricky. And, you can probably find ways to lie with the numbers. But starting at zero and using Kelvin (or the geographic equivalent for space) are not the presumed default.
But what about climate change specifically? Shouldn’t we be using Kelvin because the Earth is out in space and Space is really really cold? Or, at least, aren’t the vast changes in average global surface temperatures that come along with the Ice Age and intervening warm periods so large that a 0-based Kelvin scale would work?
I was once asked to show this graph:
Using “zero.” The graph was in F and C, so I suppose the complainer might have meant 0F, but really, what is 0F but an arbitrary point on an arbitrary scale? Why not 0C? Since the graph has both F and C, and that was not specified, I have to assume the complainer did not actually look at the graph. In any event, really, “zero” in temperature is 0K. So, I decided to show the entire NASA instrumental record (1880-present) in terms of K with the vertical axis set at zero. To see how that works. This is what it looks like:
It didn’t work.
About Me and This Blog
I am astonished at how many “about” pages fail to mention the name of the blogger! So I’ll start by mentioning that my name is Greg Laden. Given the name of this blog you probably already knew that, though.
I am a blogger and writer and independent scholar who occasionally teaches. I have a very fancy PhD from Harvard (written in Latin and everything) in Archaeology and Biological Anthropology, as well as a Masters Degree in the same subjects (also from Harvard). I was awarded a MD from Harvard as well, but that was a clerical error and it was quickly revoked, much to the annoyance of my patients …
My undergraduate degree in Anthropology is from the Regents College of the University of the State of New York, which is an individualized degree program. My academic advisors were Dean Snow and Bob Paynter, which probably gives you a good idea of what I was into at the time.
For some reason the previous paragraphs have enraged a number of readers.1 Harvard this, Harvard that. Why is the guy telling us he went to Harvard? If you are such a reader, let me speak to you for a moment. Well, the reason I’m telling you this and other things is because YOU clicked on “About” on MY blog. So you get a wordy version of my c.v., and I’m not going to lie on my c.v. just to make you feel better. I assure you that had I known you would be so offended I would have gone to what you might consider to be a lesser school, such as the one you went to. There, do you feel better now? Good. On with the show.
I am a biological anthropologist, but for many years before going to graduate school (did I mention that was at Harvard?) to study human evolution, I did archaeology in North America (some of that was done at Harvard). I think of myself as a biologist who focuses on humans (past and present) and who uses archaeology as one of the tools of the trade.
Recently, there has been a bit of discussion on the blog about what exactly an anthropologist is. Or, perhaps, what exactly I am. One commenter noted (on a post about geology) that I may not want to blog about geology since I’m an anthropologist, and another was surprised that I said something about working with rocks. Yet another told me to not write about palaeoclimate because a “biological anthropologist” knows nothing about palaeoclimate. Let me clarify. I am not a social or cultural anthropologist (though I’ve done way more fieldwork with living people than many who call themselves such). Anthropology in the US includes Archaeology, Biological Anthropology (a.k.a. “Physical Anthropology”), Cultural Anthropology (sometimes called “Social Anthropology”) and Linguistics (though these days many academic departments don’t do Linguistics, or if they do they call it “Anthropological Linguistics” and it’s more of a sub-sub field, part of Cultural Anthropology) and these days there is a crossover discipline called “Palaeoanthropology” which includes bits and pieces of Biological Anthropology and Archaeology with a bit of old time Cultural Anthropology and for many a certain degree of either Physics or Geology, depending.
Is that clear? Good. Where I fit in is like this: I’m a Palaeoanthropologist, a kind of Biological Anthropologist, who studies Human Behavioral Biology and Human-Environment Interaction using, among other things, Archaeology as a tool, but with a strong background in North American Historical Archaeology, North American Prehistoric Archaeology in the Glaciated Zone (and thus with a fair amount of background in glacial geology) and an Africanist. For a while I was on the faculty of the UMN lake research center and supervised MA and PhD students in paleoclimate studies, which was a nice extension of my earlier interest in sea level rise and paleoclimatic change during the late Pleistocene and Holocene in North America. More recently, along these lines, I’ve been working with a group of scientists, journalists, and science communicators to help people understand the current situation with anthropogenic climate change.
I had the good fortune of starting my thesis work with Glynn Isaac, and working with the Efe Pygmies in the Ituri Forest, of Zaire. This involved looking at the relationship between the Efe’s land use patterns and their ecology. Glynn tragically died while I was in the field from disease(s) he contracted while working in the field himself, but fortune smiled on me again and Irv DeVore kept me up and running long enough that I gained the distinction of being his last PhD student prior to his retirement.
I worked with Richard Wrangham and others on two key theories about human evolution. One is the idea that the chimp human split involved a population of chimp-like common ancestors making the switch to using roots, instead of leaves, as fallback foods. The other involves the origin of the genus Homo (rising, as it were, from a Australopithecine stock) with the invention of cooking. Papers about this and other research topics mentioned here can be found by rooting around on this page.
Oh, and also, recently, I wrote a novel, of sorts. This started out as a fund raising challenge. Over a period of 37 hours, I wrote an novella loosely modeled after the Heart of Darkness combined with the Call of Cthulhu and a bit of Laura Croft and Indiana Jones mixed in. It is a combination African Adventure story which is both unbelievable and totally plausible at the same time, and a satirical spoof on the modern Skeptical and Secular movement. The name of the novel is Sungudogo and you can find out about it here.
I am an unabashed feminist, and this has caused a lot of men to hate me. You know the type.
A lot of people think that spelling errors are a sign of lesser intelligence and are very willing to point that out. In my case, it is caused by dyslexia which I can do nothing about. So if you complain about my spelling you are being an abelist, so fuk you. Having said that I am always happy to take corrections. If you leave a comment about something you think should be edited in a blog post I’ll assume you want it deleted after the edit.
I live in the northern reaches of the greater Twin Cities with my wife, Amanda. Amanda is a high school biology teacher. My daughter, Julia lives with us half-time. We recently produced a new offspring, named Huxley. We spend a fair amount of time in Northern Minnesota.
My most recent fieldwork has been in South Africa (if you are my Facebook friend you can see pictures), and I have many interests there including field survey and the development of what we might call “ecotourism” (but that is too simplistic of a term). With my colleague Lynn Simpson, we run an entity called “Bushrock” which provides customized tours for individuals or small groups. If you are going to South Africa drop me a line, I’ll fix you up.
I have been involved in the evolution-creationism debate since God was a child (had he actually existed). Being married to a real-life biology teacher has given me a deeper appreciation of this particular battlefield in the culture wars, where simply trying to do a good job teaching science is seen by many as a barrier to their salvation. More like a holy war than a culture war, isn’t it?
Off in the sidebar is a list link to other blogs and things I write. I’ve had other web sites before as well, including one at Harvard. Where I went to school (had I mentioned that already? Oh, sorry).
Starting late in 2009, my blog has increasingly been used by nefarious forces as a staging area for unacceptable garbage. For instance, recently an anonymous commenter posted about ten items on race, each indicating ways in which it was scientifically proven that blacks are inferior to whites, with numerious implications of supporting data but not a single reference, and numerous unfounded conclusions.
Also recently, anthropogenic global warming deniers started to use my blog as a link farm, a place to put links pointing to denialists sites, which then gives those sites higher rankings and more Google visibility, etc. This is a widely used tactic and I prefer that my site not be used in this manner. When people with questions about climate change post them, I’ll try to answer them, even in some cases of obvious deniers with their lame attempts to cherry pick data or make stuff up. However, there is a pattern that often happens. A denier posts a question, I answer it. They post another item, I address it. This gets their name on the “non-moderated” list, and next thing I know there are a dozen posts each providing untruths or cherry picked data, and usually with links to either denialist sites or to aforementioned cherry picked data. Then, said denialist’s comments get moderated and the next thing I know I’ve got complaints that I’m being unfair, trying to avoid the truth, or violating someone’s rights of free speech. If you want to know what I think about climate change, click here and browse through my posts on the topic. If you have specific questions about climate change that I don’t address, this is an excellent site that covers everything. If you put a valid question in the comments, I’ll try to answer it, but if you spam my site with numerous inappropriate (as per the above outlined policy) than I won’t, or if I do, I’ll take my time getting to it and not post your comment until there is an appropriate rejoinder, and how long it takes me to do that is mainly a function of things that have nothing to do with your argument or question, but more likely, with my schedule both professional and personal. I assume that is OK with you.
And now, Scienceblogs is transforming into more of a family friendly place, given our association with National Geographic. Interestingly, those who post racist or denialist remarks on this blog tend also be profane, obnoxious, and often threatening. And if anybody around here is gonna do that, it’s ME, dammit!
Given all of these considerations, I’m cracking down. If you want to get rough with your commenting, please feel free to do so. If you get too far out of line, however, several possible things may happen to you. This may include being moderated henceforth. It may include deletion of your comment. It may include me editing your comment mainly but not exclusively by putting big XXXX’s all over it to cover your inappropriate and offensive language.
Whatever I decide to do, you most likely won’t see it coming.
Sometimes I’m hard on an entire state. Like Texas. Or, recently, West Virginia.
It’s funny when the slack jawed yokels who live in these god-forsaken shitholes get annoyed at that.
But seriously folks. I’m hard on your state for a reason. I do it for your own good. A state is a democracy. If you have medical care that is second only to a despotic third world war torn failed state, that is because it is what you vote for, what you strive for. If you have a state with a system of education that produces high school graduates who couldn’t pass the entry exam to Romper Room and have no chance of going to a good college unless they happen to be one of the athletes you raise up and systematically traffic, then you got that way because that is what you vote for, what you strive for.
While you were busy clinging to your guns and your gods and that watery piss you call beer, other states were getting their acts together to have positive growth, clean and stable industry, a clean environment, excellent education, proper infrastructure, humane health care, proper beer, etc. You know Obamacare? Actually, a big part of Obamacare is about pulling your stupid-ass nuts out of the fire, because those of us who live in the progressive states fixed half those problems you are living with a long time ago. Yet you are the states that seem to be sending more than your share of teabaggers to DC to complain about the very progress that is going to keep your 11 fingered offspring from the misery that your created environment imposes on them.
OK, maybe I’m overdoing it a bit.
But by now I think you get the point. If you are one of these backwards, anti-progressive third world states, I’m trying to do you a favor by humiliating you. I’m trying to bring attention to the fact that you could do better by changing your politicians, and in some cases, throwing off the yoke of one oppressive industry or another that owns your local politicians. We could just breed a lot more liberals and send them there, like we did to Virgina. Or we could ignore you and wait for some major natural disaster to mostly wipe you out, like happened in Louisiana.
If you were not dragging the rest of us down with you, I (and others) would not feel the need to do this. But you are, so we do. Deal.
Oh, and do feel free to say humiliating things about my state. Please do. We are the state who elected Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty as governors. We are the state that sent Michele Bachmann to Washington. Multiple times. We are very worthy of humiliation. We don’t get enough of it. Please send some our way.
And stop whining about stuff I say about your stupid state. Stop whining and just fix it.
About your rules. Every now and then this thing happens, where someone tells me that I am violating an internet rule. For instance, I don’t like to link to certain kinds of sites. Anti-vax sites, other anti-science sites, are not good to link to because people then go to those sites and become misinformed, and because their google juice goes up. (Yeah, I know about “nofollow” but I don’t believe it to be effective.)
So, I have a personal guideline of not linking to some sites even if I reference them, but I do provide a way for you to find them. I name the site, for instance. So, this is like saying “Sean Carroll said this interesting thing about the Higgs Field in his book, ‘The Particle at the End of the Universe'” but then I don’t hand you the book and point to the paragraph he said it in. There is nothing wrong with doing it the way I’m doing it.
But, I get complaints from people who have made up their own rule about what I am supposed to do, decided that I’ve violated their rule, and are busy convicting me and carrying out some sort of horrific punishment, usually a verbal “tsk tsk” associated with a promise to never like me again.
It is disappointing when the imposition of a rule that flew randomly out of someone’s hind quarters comes from a colleague or a friend, amusing when it comes from a hater or troll. In all cases it is wrong. Your idea of what my rules or guidelines should be regarding commenting, linking, all of that are things you made up in your head.
That is not to say there are no conventions, there are. That is not to say that there is not a polite way to do things, but it is not appropriate to demand that I be polite to people who are spending the day talking to lawyers about suing me for disagreeing with them, or making up twitter accounts that mimic my account (but one letter is different) so they can attempt to embarrass me, or people who send me notes about how they want to cave my skull in or shoot me with their Glock, etc. etc.
So, if I am violating a rule that flew randomly out of your nether regions, I have a suggestion. Put it back where you found it. Thank you very much, that is all.
1Yes, there is a backstory to this whole “Harvard This, Harvard That” thing. I have found that far too often I need to tell people that this is a joke. Listen: It’s a joke. Well, the basic facts are true (I really did get my PhD at Harvard) but the harping about it comes from a conversation with some early Internet Trolls who I think might have gotten their degrees as Stanford or Brown. Figures. Also, do note that this was a PhD not an undergraduate degree. Going to Harvard College vs. Harvard University Graduate School are not the same thing. There are no finals clubs in graduate school and you don’t have to learn how to swim.