It Ticks! (Chortle!)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Well! Only about a year after I noticed that the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists appeared to be stuck, it seems that they are finally going to move its hand forward from -- Say this in an ominous voice. -- seven minutes to midnight!

That's what passes for the "good news", if you count such things as wakefulness by a bunch of doddering lefty scientists as such.

The bad news is ... that a bunch of doddering lefty scientists are the ones doing the moving. According to the news story, they are being coy about what direction they plan to move the hands of their clock, but the clincher is this:

The group did not say in which direction the hands would move. But in a news release previewing an event next Wednesday, they said the change was based on "worsening nuclear, climate threats" to the world. [bold added]
Well, if, as I pointed out, their detailed knowledge of Iran's -- What was their word for it? Oh yeah. -- impressive degree of development of nuclear technology wasn't enough to prompt them to move the hand forward by now, then obviously, global warming would be.

Heck. Maybe they'll even move the hand back if they see this story between now and next Wednesday.


-- CAV


Dan said...

I had to chortle a little myself.

The "idiots" reference towards these "doddering lefty scientists" you made at the end of this post brought this thought to mind, 'It takes one to know one'.

No, not, 'It takes an idiot to know an idiot', but rather, 'It takes a scientist to know a scientist'.

From your 2006 post you linked to in this one, you stated, "For one thing, I know how far to the left many scientists are: I am, after all, the only scientist I know of in my department at work to have voted for Bush and so was outnumbered three-to-one by scientists in my lab who voted for Dennis Kucinich in the Democrat primaries."

I gather you work with your share of these "doddering lefties".

Probably helps to fuel your desire to blog, where yhou can use your mind in 'the world as it ought to be' ... and helps to explain your desire to become a professional writer.

Please, correct me if I'm wrong.

Just trying to figure out 'The Mystery Man' known variously as GVH and CAV in the blog world.

Gus Van Horn said...

Hi Dan.

When I first started reading this, I thought, "Hmmm. Haven't gotten one of those comments in awhile."

Your are right that being surrounded by lefties all the time adds fuel to the fire. It's not so much that I have to hear their opinions all the time, but that I know that discussing politics with almost anyone at work is a waste of time at best. So that's something I find interesting and yet have to avoid. (I bring up politics only when necessary, like when my silence might be taken for agreement with something really loony or dangerous.)

But it is easy to avoid politics. In the above context, this is merciful, but in a broader context, it is draining. Why? Many of my colleagues are focused on their work almost to the exclusion of anything else. This is partially just the nature of the beast (of a career in science) and partially a reflection of the extremely narrow way science is too often done these days. So just being in this profession demands of me that I find ways to "branch out", to use my mind for more than one thing.

And then, although I love to write, I hate most scientific writing passionately. To draw an analogy, let's say you enjoy running. Now, tie your feet together with a chain about two feet long, strap on a 100 pound backpack, wear something appropriate for the arctic, and a gas mask. Now jog in this getup for a couple of hours in Houston's 90 degree heat and 90 percent humidity. That's how much I enjoy scientific writing. As far as I am concerned, scientific writing is -- about 95% of the time -- a contradiction in terms. This problem is multifaceted, but I have to leave it at that.

This partially explains why I want to write professionally. There are other reasons, too, but I haven't the time or inclination to discuss them just yet. Among the reasons are that I have always enjoyed writing, have always been told I am a good writer, and that I am at once very worried about and very fascinated by the state of the world.

Does that help you "figure out 'The Mystery Man'?" a bit more? If not, take heart. I'm trying to crack that nut myself!


Vigilis said...

Gus, given the million plus year geological record of regular climate changes (very long ice ages to relatively short warm periods in between) how statistically significant for prediction purposes can the last 112 years of recorded weather data possibly be? Right. Then how accurate can interpretations and extrapolations of indirect temperature and atmospheric measurements for the last 100,000 years be?

Grant addicts are do not objective scientists make. The real question has to be whether the sky will fall before global warming drowns them. Hmmm.

Andy said...

I wonder if you find the same "inspiration" in frustration, not around opinions, but around assumptions often made by coworkers? Working in the People's Republic of Cambridge, I often hear people start conversations with strange assertions of fact, and then base their opinion on that. The opinions are barely tolerable, but the skewing of fact is the part that really gets me.


And thanks for updating the clock story. I'd just been wondering its status this morning, and you've saved me the research :)

Gus Van Horn said...


The only way to answer your last question would be, of course, through many more years of government-funded research, provided that Congress skews the debate by intimidating any privately-funded research that may contradict the pre-ordained findings.


You are correct there. It isn't that my fellow scientists cannot think logically about anything outside their specializations, but that they hold certain opinions on faith, almost as if they are axioms.

This phenomenon can be explained in part by the fact that everyone must at some point take the word of others about certain things. (A common nonpolitical example would be car repair.)

Many scientists are suckered by opinion-makers who are less-than objective. Nevertheless, this does not fully excuse them for accepting some of their "starting points". For example, many think we should socialize medicine outright, despite the mountains of evidence from abroad that this is a horrible idea.

I think a big problem is intellectual laziness outside of science, which is encouraged by the philosophy of pragmatism, which holds that there are no guiding abstract principles to action, that dominates our culture. So "freedom" (really the mixture of freedom and government controls) doesn't "work". All the "aproved" socialist experts say socialized medicine will "work" (defined by the smuggled-in moral criteria of altruism). Ergo, we should socialize medicine.

The big problem in arguing against such people is that it would take hours (at best) to straighten them out -- if they'd really listen in the first place.


PS: I used to have a big problem with one far-left guy who would constantly send me emails in order to hector me with his views. These were, of course, simply links to articles in such outlets as Mother Jones or The Village Voice, the arrogant assumption here being that if I'd only heard of these places, I'd have the "correct" opinions.

I solved this by emailing the guy to let him know that I'd already herad of all of these outlets and that I was never surprised by anything I read in them, so there was no need to trouble himself by culling the articles for me. We would have to "agree to disagree". It seemed to work well enough.