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The Lost Art of Connecting Dots: Part Four

science (noun): the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena.

In the phrases, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation, that definition recalls the words of Albert Einstein:

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re different.

EDITOR’S NOTE: SEE PRIOR PARTS IN THIS SERIES BELOW⤵︎

The Lost Art of Connecting Dots: Part Three

Those phrases also recall Thomas Kuhn’s notions about science from his 1961 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In that book, Kuhn wrote this:

Men whose research is based on shared paradigms are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice. [We’ll call this Group A.] That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for … the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition … The new paradigm implies a new and more rigid definition of the field. Those willing or unable to accommodate their work to it [we’ll call this Group B] must proceed in isolation or attach themselves to some other group.

In case it escaped your notice, the words settled and denier are conspicuously absent from Kuhn’s writing. And at no point does Kuhn suggest the members of Group B are, in any form or fashion, wrong because their inclinations and their work are different from those of Group A. The inclinations and the work of the members of Group B might be different from those of Group A. The members of Group B might be more curious than the members of Group A. But Group B is not wrong for disagreeing with Group A.

Settled and denier are used most frequently in these enlightened and narrative- and ideology-driven times, of course, in reference to climate change. But science, by nature and definition, can’t be settled, ever. And aside from its being a naturally occurring phenomenon of a dynamically evolving planet, neither can climate change. That’s how and why we have this post — “Ice Follies” (that contains actual empirical data and unsettled science) — from the site, Watts Up With That?

My fervent hope is that you’ll read the whole post and that you’ll study the historical data charted and graphed therein. But if you don’t (or you won’t), please at least read this:

Despite being unable to explain … increases and decreases in sea ice, despite being unable to explain why the world cooled from about 950 AD to the depths of the Little Ice Age, despite being unable to explain why the globe stopped cooling around 1700, despite being unable to explain why the current warming period started a hundred and fifty years before the modern rise in CO2 … alarmist scientists are quite happy to assure us they know what the global average surface temperature will be eighty years from now, and to warn us endlessly that the Arctic will soon be ice-free.

If you’re anything like me, reading things like that makes you contemplate cause (agendas) and effect (climate hysteria). Once you do that, you’re bound to encounter those troublesome dots again. And here they are, in an article entitled, “Climate activists invest in property on beaches they say are disappearing”, that starts out like this:

From Bill and Melinda Gates to climate envoy John Kerry, climate activists have sounded the alarm about how melting ice will soon raise the ocean to levels that swallow the world’s beaches. But some of the country’s most vocal climate change activists have invested heavily in luxury oceanfront property along beaches they’ve claimed will be underwater one day due to rising sea levels.

Well, steal my wallet and call me Oliver Twist. Why in the climate-changing, rising-tides world would they (and the rest of their political cronies) do such a thing? Could it be they know anthropogenic climate change is just a power-preserving exercise in political and economic chicanery? Could it be the reason they promote climate-change hysteria is to keep us away from the oceanfront real estate they’d just as soon have for themselves? Could it be they do it because, given their financial independence, they get a boot out of soaking the rest of us? (No pun intended.) Or could it be they’re just blatant, shameless hypocrites?

I don’t know. But I do know if we accept their motivations without asking questions, we do so at our own peril and to our own detriment.

Errors look so very ugly in persons of small means — one feels they are taking quite a liberty in going astray; whereas people of fortune may naturally indulge in a few delinquencies. (George Eliot)

It’s not the going astray that bothers me. It’s the reasons for which they go astray. We are, after all, living in The Age of the Narrative. We’re being fed immeasurable volumes of information. That information is coming from sources driven by commercial, political, faux-scientific, and increasingly special interests. We’re being challenged to find the truth in any of it. And if we give the people of fortune an inch, they’ll take a mile, along with all the power, control, and money they can grab.

Why is that? Not surprisingly, the answer is ideology. Given the facts that (A) we are, indeed, living in in The Age of the Narrative and (B) we are, indeed, being fed immeasurable volumes of information from sources driven by commercial, political, faux-scientific, and increasingly special interests, we come increasingly to believe our choices are limited to this or that. One or the other. In the zero-sum assault on and lobbying for our attention spans, everything is either black or white. Right or wrong. For or against.

No shades. No nuance. No middle. No other possibilities. And if one side is wrong, nothing about the other side can be right. In this force-fed reality, those on any side simply can’t allow for the possibility of another side. That, boys and girls, is as blatant an appeal to ideological predispositions as we’re ever likely to see.

While we’re on the subjects of narratives, ideology, and connecting dots, there’s always this humanity-blaming rallying cry: “But 97 percent of climate scientists agree about anthropogenic [pick one: global warming or climate change]!” Do they? By what sources of information would have us believe that’s true? Where does the funding for those sources of information come from? Why would they have us believe it’s true? Do you wonder? Have you explored it for yourself? In the words of Ross McKitrick: “What we really need to call out is the use of false propaganda and demagogy to derail factual debate and careful consideration of all facets of the most complex scientific and policy issue of our time.”

Thomas Kuhn could explain how that could be true — how false propaganda and demagogy have buttressed our ideological stances on climate (and everything else, for that matter), how propagandists and demagogues could selectively choose the findings of Group A over Group B and pass them off as truth in the popular political narrative. He did just that in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:

Different men confronting the same range of phenomena, but not usually all the same particular phenomena, describe and interpret them in different ways. What is surprising, and perhaps also unique in its degree to the fields we call science, is that such initial divergences should ever largely disappear. For they do disappear to a very considerable extent and then apparently once and for all. Furthermore, their disappearance is usually caused by the triumph of one of the pre-paradigm schools, which, because of its own characteristic beliefs and preconceptions emphasized on some special part of the too sizable and inchoate pool of information.

Please pay special attention to Kuhn’s language here: The triumph of beliefs and preconceptions emphasized on some special part of the too sizable and inchoate pool of information. What is that special part? What makes it special? To whom? Why did some particular beliefs and preconceptions(!) triumph? Who ensured their triumph? Why? Why are we not allowed to ask? Why are we demonized if we do?

Aren’t we supposed to be more protective of — more defensive about — falsehoods than we are the truth? Who’s so afraid of the truth? Why? Why is a questioner necessarily a denier? If Group A and Group B are practicing literal, exploratory science, how can anything either of those groups finds or examines be considered settled?

The only way to resolve conflict is to embrace it. Likewise, the only way to learn anything is to let the scales fall from our eyes, to pry our noggins open, and to question everything.

Everything.

I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned. (Richard P. Feynman)

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Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brienhttps://obriencg.com/
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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2 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Thanks, Mark.
    Three quick questions:
    What is your ideological motivation?
    I read (A) and (B) in your narrative over and over. In the words of Townes van Zandt: “If three and four are seven only, where does that leave one and two?”
    Is it possible that some people’s position on issues is built upon a firm foundation of equal parts ethics, research, and compassion?
    Be.
    Mac

    • Hi, Mac.

      My ideological motivation is to know the truth.

      The truth is in some combination of A and B, presuming A and B continue their work and don’t base that work on models created to serve particular ends.

      Foundations based on ethics, research, and compassion will vary by their builders. We should be very careful about what we decide is firm.

      I am. 😉

      Mark

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