They can’t read very well, but they hate carbon emissions

Schools constantly complain about the pressure to meet actual academic standards, but they somehow always find time to beat the children over the heads with social or political issues — and always from the point of view of the Lefter side of the political spectrum:

Third-grade teacher Debbie Robles made her acting debut before a packed auditorium of youngsters at Rancho Elementary School in Novato. She bombed.

Playing the villain in a school assembly Wednesday aimed at educating the students about global warming, Robles – dressed in a witch’s black attire and prancing around the auditorium as “Queen Carbon” – drew the biggest response from more than 500 students who attended two “Curb Your Carbon” assemblies.

“My own daughter Hannah asked me, ‘Do you have to be my mother today?'” Robles said.

Teachers, parents and volunteers helped organize the assemblies and participated in the skits to help raise awareness about global warming and what people can do about it – exchanging traditional light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs, for example.

School officials distributed more than 500 CFLs last week.

On Friday, Rancho students will be given bilingual “Cancel-a-Car” coupon books filled with ways they can fight global warming.

Once the coupons are returned to school, teachers will track what conservation efforts are made and the date. Teachers will help monitor the progress. As the carbon reduction increases, images of cars will be crossed out on a giant poster kept at school.

Another Novato school, Lu Sutton, joined the program last month, bringing to eight the number of Marin schools that have introduced the program that began earlier this year at Bacich Elementary and Kent Middle schools in Kentfield.

The program is being financed by a $200,00 donation from the Earth Day Every Day Fund of the Marin Community Foundation. Three nonprofits, the Marin Conservation Corps, Strategic Energy Innovations and Cool the Earth are implementing the program and hope to introduce it to 25 Marin schools by the end of the year.

Even if I accepted the urgency of this whole Climate Change shtick, which you know I don’t, I would still find irksome the time wasting in which the schools routinely engage, pursuing any agenda other than the Three Rs. How about if they put a temporary stop to all the preaching and go back to the good old-fashioned teaching, with an emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic.

Of course, after spending hours perusing the appalling document that our local school board prepared — with the help of teachers — to establish teaching goals for the next few years, I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that schools spend a lot of time not teaching because of the teacher’s and administrator’s own educational deficits, deficits that don’t appear so much in math, but that reveal themselves in reading and writing. At our local schools, the faculty are very well-intentioned and committed to their jobs, and they manage to churn out high test scores by sticking closely to the prepared curriculum but, with some sterling exceptions (and my kids are lucky enough to have those exceptions this year), they are an ill-informed crew.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Ophi for helping me find what was manifestly a late night typo.  Making typos, however, is distinguishable from obscure or semi-illiterate writing, filled with cant, jargon and buzzwords, and impossible sentence construction, all aimed at concealing meaning (or the lack of meaning).

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  • Ophiuchus

    Danny, it is fundamental to all science — including the physical sciences — that we deal in models, not objective reality. The models are only an approximation of reality. We seek not to establish The Final and Ultimate Truth of Reality — that is hubris. We seek instead to produce models of reality that yield useful results. We still haven’t figured out all the details of dynamics (the forces that influence the motions of objects), but what we have figured out is good enough to send a vehicle to orbit Saturn. Now, climatology is a much more difficult problem than dynamics, but the models are capable of yielding useful results. How accurate are they? One of the best indicators is their consistency. Take the mean and standard deviation of the predicted temperatures from lots of models and you have a pretty good idea of the future temperature. The problem is that the standard deviation is still pretty high. That’s why the IPCC report gives so many confidence intervals — those confidence intervals are a numeric measure of the utility of the numbers.

    BTW, the IPCC doesn’t have models of its own. There are several dozen models being built by different research groups. The IPCC simply presents the results of those different models. And yes, the models are always undergoing revision as the research groups seek to improve their performance. That’s what science is all about — steadily improving your models.

    As to the hockey stick, there’s an excellent explanation of the confusion regarding that concept at, but WordPress won’t let me include the link. The IPCC doesn’t use that term in its reports because it’s “unscientific”. But in fact the IPCC report presents the concept quite clearly. For example, look at Figures SPM-3 and SPM-4 in the Executive Summary. Those graphs sure look just like a hockey stick, don’t they?

    Lastly, I’d like to offer a thought on the matter of intellectual humility. Where there is good reason for confidence in the results, the assertion of that confidence is not indicative of a lack of intellectual humility. True intellectual humility is a recognition of genuine uncertainty. You perceive uncertainties that I do not perceive. So, how do we determine the nature and magnitude of the different uncertainties? Answer: we study the research results (most conveniently presented in the IPCC reports).

  • ymarsakar

    This is why people can argue the science all they want, but it still won’t give them any answers to the practical question of what the policies should be. Policies have to deal with humans, not solar particles and changes in the solar system.

    It isn’t a far leap to go from thinking that mankind can change the temperature of the earth (let alone Mars, we won’t even mention that) to thinking that humanity has ultimate power over global, system wide, or universal situations.

    The problem provides its own answer. Even if greenhouse gases are being increased by human activity, what can anyone do about it without running over humans, literally? And if greenhouse gases are not being affected or increased by human activity, then you also run into the problem of dealing with humans that want to change the environment.

    Either way, somebody is going to get run down while the earth watches the antics.

  • Ellie

    It has been more than 30 years since I studied the history of science (in pursuit of a degree in Philosophy) so I forget was it Collingwood or Whitehead that said “scientists” never change their worldview (“paradigm”) — it dies with them and the new orthodoxy begins with the next generation?

    Science itself, no matter its claims, is more faith-based than any “Religion.” And far less tolerant of dissenters than the Spanish Inquisition.

  • Ophiuchus

    Ellie, your statement is reprehensible. You have no rational basis on which to make it — it’s just pure prejudice. You could just as well have used “blacks”, “homosexuals”, “Irish”, or “Baptists” in that statement.

    Please, let’s raise the standard of discussion above that kind of hateful talk.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Sorry, Ophi – I’m with Ellie on this one, even if tongue-in-cheek! She offers a legitimate criticism of scientific orthodoxy, of which we have seen much over the ages (Galileo’s critics, Lysenko, eugenics, etc.). I agree that there are many good scientists remain open-minded and not overly invested in their own theories. However, there are far too many (more, perhaps?) that are not this way.

    Besides, being a “scientist” is neither a religious faith (or is it?) nor is it an accident of birth, so it should be amenable to criticism as any other philosophy or “lifestyle choice”, shouldn’t it? Don’t be so sensitive! :-)

  • Ophiuchus

    You know not of what you speak — neither of you. Let’s walk through your cases, shall we?

    Galileo wasn’t persecuted by other scientists, he was persecuted by the Church. He was well-regarded by the intellectuals of Northern Europe.

    Lysenko was never accepted by scientists — he was regarded as a laughingstock. His patron was Stalin, and that’s all that mattered in the Soviet Union.

    Eugenics was a racist movement that had a couple of scientists behind it. It was never scientific orthodoxy.

    So, you’re batting zero for three. You write “there are far too many (more, perhaps?) that are not this way [open-minded].” OK, if there are so many, name five respectable scientists, and explain why you think that they are not open-minded.

    Besides, being a “scientist” is neither a religious faith (or is it?) nor is it an accident of birth, so it should be amenable to criticism as any other philosophy or “lifestyle choice”, shouldn’t it?

    OK, then I’m sure you have no objection to any of these statements:

    “Far too many lawyers are venal shysters.”
    “Far too many preachers are hypocritical sinners.”
    “Far too many Republicans hate the poor.”
    “Far too many Democrats hate America.”
    “Far too many housewives are featherheads.”
    “Far too many househusbands are emasculated wimps.”
    “Far too many male hairdressers are gay.”
    “Far too many blacks are criminals.”
    “Far too many Republican Senators are secret gays.”
    “Far too many radio talk show hosts abuse drugs.”

    This is the kind of thinking your endorse? I think you’re practicing base prejudice. I am a rationalist; I denounce such thinking.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Wow, Ophi…you certainly are sensitive. I gave you a few examples in jest. You’re proving my point that too many scientists take themselves way too seriously. Chill out!

    With regard to just one example: Instead of relying on Berthold Brecht’s version of events with Galileo, you might want to delve more into the real history. Galileo upset the (intensely jealous) scientific establishment of that time over a number of things. Academia, at the time, was mostly affiliated with the Church universities. Many academics were priests. Galileo was actually on very good terms with Pope Urban VIII, who tried to protect him and allowed him to publish his Copernican findings, as long as they were termed “theoretical”. However, Galileo made the mistake of publicly embarrassing the Pope, which caused the Pope to withdraw his protection of Galileo from his academic enemies.

    As far as your laundry list is concerned, let’s consider the facts:

    1) “Far too many blacks are criminals.” Hmm – as opposed to “just about the right amount” or “not enough”?

    2) “Far too many Republicans hate the poor”. I think that you either meant “poverty” or you meant “Democrats”. Republicans want the poor to be self-empowered to help themselves and life themselves. Democrats want the poor to stay poor and compliant. As evidence, I place Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and the destruction of African-American families by the welfare state on the table.

    3) Far to many Democrats hate America. And…?

  • Ophiuchus

    Danny, Ellie’s remarks were certainly not offered in jest. I can take a joke, and I’ve been known to crack a few of my own. But you’re defending a mean-spirited condemnation of an entire class of people offered only because you and Ellie don’t like the political implications of the work these people do. I have zero tolerance for such intellectual dishonesty. If you don’t like the politics, argue the politics. Denying the science is dishonest, and attacking the scientists is reprehensible.

  • Bookworm

    Honing in on just one of Danny’s points — professional jealousy.

    Danny is absolutely right about that one. Usually institutions, whether they be the government or the church, don’t have the specialized knowledge to understand or care about what’s going on in the scientific community. It is the business rivals or know and care deeply. On a very small scale, I worked on a case where our client had figured out a way, a very effective way, to defeat a disease that is killing oak trees. The local government went after him and destroyed him. But the reason the local government did so was because his competitors initiated his destruction — they figured out the regulation he could be said to have violated and created a case around that regulation against him. They then presented the case, signed, sealed and delivered, to the local government, along with some campaign donations, and that was the end of our client.

    To the objective observer, it was a case of government regulations destroying someone with a different scientific idea. To those in the know, though, it was a case of business sabotage, pure and simple.

  • Ophiuchus

    The argument that Danny makes in reference to professional jealousy is way off the mark. By Galileo’s time, the Renaissance was long over and Italy was an intellectual backwater, largely because of the stultifying effects of the CounterReformation. The Italian universities had been eclipsed by those in northern (Protestant) Europe. The academics at the Italian universities were chosen because of their Catholic orthodoxy. To compare that group of academics with modern scientists is absurd. The real scientific action was taking place elsewhere.

    Still, the modern scientific community has its jealousies, rivalries, and silliness. There was an excellent study recently on in-groups versus out-groups in small specialties, and it demonstrated some enforcement of orthodoxy in such small specialties. However, we’re talking about climate change science, which is being pursued by tens of thousands of scientists. Condemning this group is ignorant, ugly, and devoid of intellectual integrity.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I am not sure if your point on Galileo supports or counters my contentions regarding who did Galileo in and why. It reads as a non sequitur. While the northern universities were thriving, Italy certainly wasn’t an intellectual backwater if it was generating and supporting people like Galileo, even if he was relatively old at the time.

    However, Ophi, in bringing this to a close, I can’t help but have detected on your part a very clear diminishing and condemnation of the many credentialed and respected scientists who have opposed Climate Change orthodoxy. What’s good for the goose…


  • Ophiuchus

    My point, Danny, is that Galileo was NOT oppressed by the scientific community. He was oppressed by the Church which had blocked the development of science in Italy by putting people into academic positions based on their religious orthodoxy, not by their academic merits. The other academics who participated in the abuse of Galileo were by no stretch of the imagination scientists — they were the same kind of people that Stalin put into place in his universities, and who embraced Lysenkoism.

    Yes, Galileo was an exception to the rule — but Galileo was one of the great geniuses of Western Civilization. Lightning can strike anywhere.

    I can’t help but have detected on your part a very clear diminishing and condemnation of the many credentialed and respected scientists who have opposed Climate Change orthodoxy.

    Not at all. Whatever makes you write that? Please provide a quote from my writings in which I disparage credentialed scientists who oppose the mainstream on this. Indeed, I was the one who linked to ClimateAudit, a blog that presents contrarian arguments.

    That link you present — it appears you have been taken in by a fraud. All those people who signed the petition — did you bother to check them out? A few years back I selected one letter of the alphabet and went through the first 100 names in that list. Many of the names I could not track down. However, of those whom I was able to identify, there was only one credentialed and reputable scientist — and his last publication was on some species of insect in the Amazon rainforest 25 years ago. Among the others, I found a manager of an oil facility in Alaska, his wife, a state legislator in Alaska, a forestry guy, and a number of other non-credentialed people. You call yourself a skeptic but you fall for the most obvious of frauds. You can find a detailed discussion the paper these guys wrote here.

    It’s obvious that I have gotten a little hot under the collar about this. I don’t mind explaining the science to people who are willing to consider the facts. But I do not enjoy butting heads with people who simply refuse to consider the issues in an open-minded way. And I get especially angry when people start attacking scientists for utterly fallacious reasons. I think I have stayed within the bounds of civil behavior, but if you think I have crossed those bounds, I apologize.

  • ymarsakar

    Wow, Ophi…you certainly are sensitive. -D

    Watch out, Op might put you two on the list, if you folks keep bringing up objections. Simply agree, or simply play on his pre-chosen field, and things will be a okay.

    He was oppressed by the Church which had blocked the development of science in Italy by putting people into academic positions based on their religious orthodoxy,-Op

    Without a clear understanding of why humans behave the way they it do, it patently does not matter whether someone thinks it was the Church or some other institution; that person would be wrong on both accounts.

    Yes, Galileo was an exception to the rule — but Galileo was one of the great geniuses of Western Civilization.

    I don’t know where people pick up this scientific dogma. Real historians are required to look at people as they lived, not as modern biases would wish them to be.

    The censure of the astronomer Galileo (1564-1642) in 1616 and 1633 may be the most notorious and famous Catholic error ever made, and the favorite (myth-filled) tale of those who believe religion and science are inexorably opposed. Catholic dogma had never enshrined geocentrism, and Galileo (a faithful Catholic) had been supported by many notable churchmen, including three popes. Indeed, his biographer Giorgio de Santillana stated that “It has been known for a long time that a major part of the church intellectuals were on the side of Galileo, while the clearest opposition to him came from secular ideas” (The Crime of Galileo, University of Chicago Press, 1955, xii-xiii). But the scientist (though basically correct) was overconfident and quite obstinate in proclaiming his scientific theory as absolute truth, and this was a major concern. Accordingly, St. Robert Bellarmine, who was directly involved in the controversy, made it clear that heliocentrism was not irreversibly condemned, and also that a not-yet proven theory was not an unassailable fact. Bellarmine actually had the superior understanding of the nature of a scientific hypothesis. Galileo was scientifically fallible, too. He held that the entire universe revolved around the sun in circular (not elliptical) orbits, and that tides were caused by the rotation of the earth. True heliocentrism wasn’t conclusively proven until some 200 years later. Pope John Paul II apologized for the Church’s mistake, but the Holy Office had done so in 1825, and Galileo’s written works were permitted in 1741.

    Minor facts, even if re-interpreted over and over, still have limitations on what truth may be squeezed from them.

    Greatest genius of Western Civ? A scientific dogma concerning a dead saint if I have ever heard one. Hero and mythological worship taken into the modern world and repainted over with modern sentiments.

    A scientific way of dealing with these “facts” would be to try to get more of them, or re-interpret them, or massage them in such a way that it eventually supports a scientist’s conclusions. Someone using deductive logic, which is mandatory in situations in which data and information are extremely limited (such as spycraft or warcraft), would leave such data alone and only look at what sets of data are consistent with each other and what sets of data are not consistent with the others.

    Here we have Book’s comments about rivalries as being an integral part to human competition and vices. We also have the fundamental human understanding that no one is 100% correct, not even after the fact from historical perspectives. Churchill faced disasters and mistakes before WWII and after, when the people of England fired the Prime Minister. FD Roosevelt had judgment problems with Stalin and Communism. Truman had disagreements with MacArthur over dropping nukes on China. For every additional set of data used, deductive logic is able to narrow down the most probable truth further and further from many to few, and then fewer. In science, for every additional set of data used, more questions are simply created instead of answers.

    I don’t mind explaining the science to people who are willing to consider the facts.-Op

    That really translates as Op not minding that he argues from the advantage of being right while you two argue from the disadvantage of being wrong, Ellie and Danny.

    Who would mind having the advantage in an argument of being right and having to explain their rightness to others? Some, but certainly not most.

    But I do not enjoy butting heads with people who simply refuse to consider the issues in an open-minded way.-Op

    Which can be translated as “people who can and do think outside the box of scientific orthodoxy”. Or even just any box, for that matter.

    When you don’t do things Op’s way, then that is butting heads. When you do do things his way, then things are calmer and more agreeable. Simple, really.

    so I forget was it Collingwood or Whitehead that said “scientists” never change their worldview (”paradigm”) — it dies with them and the new orthodoxy begins with the next generation?-Ellie

    You don’t need those two for such truths as this. Simple sociology, or the study of human behavior, would tell us that. People become enamored of certain beliefs, and then they won’t let them go because a mind is a difficult thing to change (according to Neo-Neocon). Look at Vietnam, certainly psychological shock is very effective at etching a permanent spot in someone’s psyche for the rest of their lives. It either takes a psychological shock or death to make people accept something new. WWII did it for segregation in the US military and the death of previous generations made way for the end of racism in 1990s America.

    Besides, being a “scientist” is neither a religious faith (or is it?-Danny

    Aside from the sainthood of the greatest genius in Western Civilization, Galileo, it can go either way I suppose. Every scientist believes in something different, or at least slightly different from their fellows. There are factions and groups, of course, given how humanity loves and requires hierarchies when cooperating with each other.

    Scientists, when you strip the pretensions and illusions away, are true believers in the scientific method. They have faith that hypothesis, the gathering of facts, and the testing of theories can lead to truth or at least more truth than before. Regardless of whether scientists discover new truths, certainly scientists discover new “somethings”, very useful somethings for that matter. This belief is based upon faith, faith that the scientific method will not fail them the next time or faith that the scientific method will protect them, if it failed to deal with certain human problems in the modern day. Thus, just like religions, the act of having faith and believing creates the reality.

    A man in need of faith can pray and obtain that strength. Whether it came from god or his own actions, is uncertain. A scientist that keeps faith to the scientific method will eventually figure things out, but whether this is because of the certainty of the scientific method or the maintenance of faith is also uncertain. Thus is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle allied to human affairs and activities.

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