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This post is really about clearing out an idea that has been bouncing around in my head so that I can focus on the more important things that I want to say. It is about having a concept on the possibility and status of progressive change within a scientific paradigm. Fair warning, I go a little artsy talking about likelihood.


The night sky has been beautifully clear here over the Winter solstice. We have a low exposure to earth glow so we have had a wonderful view of the Milky Way, Venus and the Moon. I was aware, looking at the stars, that I was really looking back through billions of years of time, to where those stars were billions of years ago. It is such a contrast to the perspective of the Druids of Stonehenge, whose understanding of the workings of the universe were so much simpler. Although the modern perspective on the universe is far advanced on the Druids, there are still some aspects of science which in the distant future will be regarded as curiously and sadly limited.

Big picture scientific ideas can be as resistant to change as the belief structures of religious organisations. While science does not have a formally structured organisation, it can be considered as a structure of organised thought. This structure becomes resistant to change when it gravitates to consensus. It is in this context that I make the following observations, where the practice of science is regarded as an organisation.

The focus of this article is a laminated A4 poster, Figure 1 below, attached to the wall in our office as a permanent reminder of the need for change and improvement. It describes a formula attributed to a David Gleicher describing how organisational change only happens when the product of the drivers of change exceeds the magnitude of the factors that are the cause of resistance to change.


Figure 1: A formula, d x v x f > r , describing the likely success or failure of an organisational change program where change happens when d, you have dissatisfaction with things as they are now and v, a vision of what is possible and have a plan for f, the first step towards your vision where the product of these three factors needs to be greater than r, your resistance to the change.

It is my intention here to access change within a scientific paradigm, specifically climate change, to describe the likelihood of change within scientific opinion at some time in the future. It’s quite possible that social scientists may have already analysed science and other fields from this perspective, so this may not be an original concept, but it is new to me and to my mind worth a post.

A simple example of a possible application of the formula is at a personal level, where it describes the likelihood of me changing my personal opinion on certain scientific paradigms.                                                            Where,
d, is a dissatisfaction with a scientific hypothesis,
v, having an alternative vision to the one expressed by the hypothesis, and
f, planing a way to express my alternative perspective, which in this case is writing.
Where the product of
d x v x f needs to be greater than,
r, my apathy towards taking the time to make the effort to write, and my inability to think freely and arrange my thought clearly to present an independent perspective.

A higher order application of the formula can be made when science itself is viewed as an organisation. Then the formula can be applied to change within a scientific paradigm and to the development of scientific knowledge.                                                                                                                         Where
d, is dissatisfaction with regard to the compliance of the hypothesis with the scientific method,
v, is having observations which are at odds with the hypothesis, and
f, having an alternative model, as a first step, to explain the observations.
Where the product of
d x v x f needs to be greater than
r, the resistance of the scientific establishment to relinquish the nostalgic attachment to the prevailing paradigm and embrace change.

There are some notable examples of this happening in science, specifically within physics, including the heliocentric view of the universe paradigm and the late 19th century version of the black body radiation theory.

A scientific paradigm that is going through the process of change at the moment is climate change, or more correctly the Global Warming Hypothesis. I think this approach can be used to make a subjective assessment of the extent and rate of change within the paradigm.  Where,
d, is the dissatisfaction with the CAGW hypothesis and its failure to make any accurate predictions,
v, is the plateau, where the observations directly contradict the hypothesis, and
f, is a range of climate forcings which, are a first step of a plan to, collectively provide an alternate model to the greenhouse global warming hypothesis. Some of these forcings would include variations in TSI and the total effect of the sun on the earth’s climate, the effects of galactic radiation and albedo, ocean currents, the Iris Effect and the cooling effects of the dynamics of clouds at the equator.
Where the product of
d x v x f needs to be greater than
r, the difficulty socially progressive scientists have, in divorcing the practice of their science from the politics of science, to recognise that all the excuses they have made to explain the failure of the CAGW hypothesis to warm the planet are false.

Placing a form of value on each of these variables may be useful in accessing how the process of change is progressing over time. Such values could be generated with a probability/ likelihood grid, but I do not propose to address that issue. It would be a post in itself. So if there is not going to a attempt at quantifying the factors in the formula, what is my point? Well, the purpose was to prime you as a reader for my next few posts, where I will use the variables of the formula d x v x f> r , as chapter headings in an essay on some prevailing scientific paradigms with which I am dissatisfied.
The formula poster was reproduced with the kind permission of
Thomas Meier
Business Success Partner
Thexton Armstrong Meier
Thomas F. Meier@tfmeier

An update note,
In my last post, Taming Horticulture, I mentioned that I did not understanding a reference by Judith Curry, that climate change is not a tame problem. About a month later (maybe March) I came across a simple explanation of a simple concept. It turns out that a tame problem is one that can be explained in a simple linear relationship. While a problem that is not tame is one that is chaotic nonlinear, i.e.: one that is described by a complex curve. But the link that I had to that post seems to have gone missing.  No loss really, this editor will not let me place links where I want them regardless.



John Kerry: Secretary of Mis-State?

Watts Up With That?

kerry_muslimsGuest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

The Washington Examiner headline says, “John Kerry calls climate change deniers members of ‘Flat Earth Society’.” It typifies all reports about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s head-on attack on scientists trying to practice properly skeptical science. I challenge John Kerry to produce a single person who studies climate who denies climate change. Apparently everybody, except John Kerry, knows that climate changes all the time, it always has and it always will.

In statements made to support his political agenda, Kerry manages to perpetuate a series of errors, myths and slurs. One is the claim Al Gore made before the US Senate in 2007 that the “science is settled” and the “debate is over.” Kerry said,

“The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand,”

Kerry displays further ignorance by marginalizing those who question…

View original post 806 more words

Change you can believe in! Aussie government ditches the entire board of the CSIRO

Some context to the stories in the news today about public servants not being re-appointed to federal government boards.

Watts Up With That?

csiro-logoDoes not rehire any previous board level appointees

Story submitted by Eric Worrall

The Australian government has decided to not renew any of the management board of the Australian CSIRO. Naturally, outgoing board members are not very happy with the decision. According to Simon McKeon, outgoing chairman of the CSIRO;

“There appears to be a “brutal” rule that directors of federal government agencies appointed under Labor will not get another term, the outgoing CSIRO chairman Simon McKeon has said.
“The reality is that, yes, there is a rule that no one on the board of a federal government agency has been reappointed,” McKeon said when asked about the Labor board appointees at an Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) function on Thursday. “It’s an issue that many people are finding worrying.”
McKeon, whose term as the CSIRO chairman ends in June, said it was not about him.
“The great majority…

View original post 199 more words

Taming Horticulture

Considering how long it has been between posts, some of you few readers may be thinking that not much manages to lodge in my nostrils. Far from the case, it just takes me a long time to round up my thoughts and tame them into a cohesive argument. In truth I had very little on horticulture when I signed off on post number one, but shortly after the twitterverse provided me with all the material that I needed. So this blog is mostly about commentary that I have read since on climate change blog sites.
At the end of my first post I indicated that the next post would be on,
Horticulture, as in
‘You can lead a whore to culture but you cannot make it think’.
The quotation was intended to bade farewell Robin Williams with wit. I thought it apt for a man who made people think. I also knew that people in the climate change debate were inclined to imply that their rivals were whores, so the quote was also a cheeky way to end the post.
However, I soon became aware of what I had let loose when the quote started to pop up in paraphrase in a few places in the climate change debate. It shows how impoverished the climate change debate is when a new expression spreads around the globe faster than a rumour in a small town.
But first some background on the origins of the quote.
If you are thinking along the lines of the film Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Greer then you are well off the mark. This is the story of how educated intelligent ladies exchange insults when they are one step away from bringing out the claws. Its origins lie in a parlour game in New York some time in the 1800s. A bright young socialite was asked to include the word ‘horticulture’ in a sentence. Perhaps she was loosing out to her contemporaries who were taking a more physical, less cerebral approach in their rivalry to attract eligible young men.
It’s not hard to imagine academic types using the ‘horticulture’ quotation to imply that their rivals had a less than cerebral approach to science. This was my impression as a few weeks after post one my attention was drawn to a TV news interview with a CliSi professor. A well presented trim character in a new suit and well tendered beard. He was asked by a reporter why skeptics could not be convinced of the obvious truth of Greenhouse Global Warming. A first order Dorothy Dixer.
To which he replied,
‘You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them think.’
This was followed by the confident smirk indicating that he thought his wit was so sophisticated as to be beyond the perception of his audience. An in joke that only his alarmist mates would appreciate. Clearly he was publicly implying that all skeptics were whores. This prompted my memory of an anecdote that I once heard related by a solicitor.
The solicitor made the mistake of taking a superior tone with a prostitute whom he was representing. She accused him of hypocrisy. While she had no reservations about selling her body, she reserved a special contempt for him as his services involved selling his mind. Her mind was always her own and she bluntly told him as much. Of course this is a conflict of culture and values. Still the point resonated with the solicitor that people who maintain a position of superiority are deluding themselves when they judge others by their own values
Then some time later the following insult was hurled directly at a woman on a blog site
‘You can lead a climate change denier to the truth but you cannot make them think.’
The writer was so immersed in his own world, that he thought the obvious inference of the woman being a whore would be not be perceived by his rivals, who he clearly held in total contempt. The response that immediately followed, below, would indicate that he was badly mistaken.
‘For the community at this site, we have an explicit culture of evidence based reasoning. A culture that you are clearly unable or unwilling to engage with, a culture of honest enquiry that you seem to find offensive and threatening.’
The repetitive reference to culture in this reply is sending a clear message that the connection to the ‘horticulture’ quote was recognised and understood. Retaliation was swift. That was the last comment from that particular writer on the blog site. Never underestimate the spite of a woman scorned.
Unfortunately the community culture of evidence based reasoning was abandoned a few weeks later when the moderator allowed an episode of pure revenge. The two comments below were directed at a warmest with a female horsey avatar.
You can lead a horse to a source, but you can’t make it think.
You can take a sauce to a horse, and make it much more palatable.
Each line was intended to disparage their interlocutor as a whore. So much for a community culture which does not extend to a minimum level of respect for the dignity of the people with whom they engage.
Entertaining as it is read comments on blog sites where intelligent people exchange insults, the amusement only extends to a certain point after which it resembles nothing more than girls bitching and clawing at one another. It indicates a fairly superficial form of culture, more appropriate to a school yard and only applying when it suits the purpose. Yet this is a civilised and relatively tame blog site. There are no shortage of sites that have no cultural aspiration of any kind.
In spite of the way people interact on blog sites it is still possible to find genuine culture in the climate change debate. Judith Curry recently made the following observation about the culture of environmentalism (climatism), climate change and consensus which neatly illustrates a thought paradigm as culture.
‘I believe the systemic error behind the puzzlement of climate psychologists is readily identifiable. The error is that the climate psychologists do not perceive that a culture dominates environmentalism. A culture based upon misinformation about the certainty of catastrophe (from CO2). A culture which enforces a Consensus, as strong cultures do, upon scientific endeavor that is nowhere near mature enough to have reached consensus without enforcement.
The climate psychologists come in two groups, which I call the Bad Cops and Good Cops, and who intentionally or not end up policing the Consensus. Both appear to view climate change as essentially flat fact, purely settled science, notas a culture.’
Last year I read the text of a presentation that Judith made in which she referred to climate change as not being a tame problem. The meaning was lost on me at the time. But during my research for this post I stumbled across a cultural reference to ‘tame’ in the words of George Bizet’s opera Carmen.
The opera is about love in a tobacco factory. The tame reference comes in the opera moment for which Carmen is famous,
L’amour est in oiseau rebelle (Habanera)
One of the first lines is
‘Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame.’
Later lines go to describe how the more you demand a bird come closer, the more it flys away. Yet when you set it free, it comes to you. I see an analogy with climate change in that the more consensus is asserted the less it is achieved.
I now have the version of with
Lauris Elms mezzo-soprano with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra playing on repeat in my car. I am unable to understand much that she is singing, but having read the translation I feel that I know exactly what she is singing about
The translation can be found here.
So it would seem that I have been lead to culture. So now I am going off to think. Perhaps you should do the same.
I thought I might tackle an easier, simpler topic next time.
My perception of,
The Earth, Sun and Solar System in the Universe.

Reality Zone.

There is a certain disipline required to communicate in 140 chars and for some time I have found it comforting to express a relative small idea very precisely. It would be good if everything could be described in 140 chars, but big ideas are seldom reduced to such simplicity and small ideas commonly reveal themselves as something more elaborate when you realise in retrospect how inadequatly a 140 char tweet addressed an issue.

Making fine points in an argument requires a detailed exploration of an idea that a one line comment does not deliver.  It is the tangential lines of thought in an article that result in two writer with essentially the same position, producing completely different, but mutually supporting stories. While reading articles I sometimes think that I would change the spin in order to make a different point. To do  that I need to blog.

 An issue needs to be substantial to be worth the effort that a response requires. Often minior issues do go away when ignored.  But then there are other times when things attract my full attention and manage to  implant themselves up my nose. Cat hair is a prime example. Our cats sleep on our bed during the day.  So I wake up with long thin fibres firmly wedged up my right nostril. It’s always my right nostril. And it’s not the sort of thing that you can remove with a good dig with a finger nail.  No, that cat hair needs to be extracted with a bright light, a shaving mirror and a pair of tweezers.  But I do enjoy that satisfying tingle as it is removed.

So it is with with people and ideas. They occassionally manage to lodge themselves up my nostril. And they can stay there for days, sometimes years. These people and ideas seem to exist in an alternative universe.  And that’s Ok, as I maintain my own reality zone!! I try to keep a tight grip on reality.

The purpose of my blog then is to sooth my nostril irritation by using a mirror, a bright light and a pair of tweezers to tease out the flaws in arguments of other peoples reasoning and reconcile them to my own perception of reality.

Speaking of reality perception, vale Robin Williams.

Next post, on horticulture, as in, you can lead a whore to culture but you cannot make it think!