Koonin Offers a Check on “The Science”

I ordered Steven Koonin’s Unsettled? more out of perversity than honest curiosity. It was a vote for a skeptic, for a man labelled a “denier” and thus worthy of canceling. I was wrong on several counts: it is holding on Amazon with a fairly high rating, and, I was able to get something out of it. He clearly wants to reach people like me, bewildered by charts and graphs. The tables are there, but his style and analogies accessible. (Which means it is dumbed down, but I appreciate his desire for a larger audience.) He has some of the commonsense of Lomborg: practical, prioritizing what is certain, seldom emphasizing the “wrong” and more often the imprecise, the unknown. Some reviewers found him full of himself, but his voice is that of a close reader, looking at the body of reports, comparing assertions and data with the summaries and interpretations. I assume his readings are honest and he is a good physicist but what do I know.

What struck me were the assumptions of a method he promotes, one other disciplines use and he sees as appropriate. In Chapter 11, “Fixing the Broken Science,” he suggests major reports on climate would benefit from being “Red Teamed.” The “Red Team” critiques it, “trying to identify and evaluate its weak spots,” “a qualified adversarial group would be asked ‘What’s wrong with this argument?’” Then the authors, the “Blue Team” rebuts, seeking more information, firming up arguments, gaining precision. He looks at examples where a report’s data did not support the conclusions or summaries (sometimes leading to popular articles with further overstatements). Perhaps the authors had more data, perhaps the summaries were written by those holding too strong an opinion to let the results stand on their own. Perhaps. . . But, of course, if conclusions don’t match research, that’s important.

Traditionally, peer review even in the humanities is designed to note such problems, but these have been less and less rigorous as more subjective definitions of “truth” evolve (or perhaps of careerism). More importantly, “The Science” (climate consensus) is not limited to the ivory tower; it influences awards of positions, grants, research. And, it affects policy. Seeing “The Science” as “settled” tempts those doing “science.”

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Why a Conservative Distrusts Cheney

Cheney thinks that questioning the election arises from a mindless, dangerous loyalty. It is great and fine that she is a conservative. But when she voted for his policies, didn’t she note how often they devolved power and now, she gives comfort to those who would nationalize elections, police, and lives? If he affected the Georgia senate race, is she healing the party or leading thoughtful discussions on the election given that the Democrat’s bill is now facing them? It is bad enough Democrats want to get in our heads to make our eyes and hearts and minds conform. But that leadership in Congress does is irritating – and apparently that is how Congress sees it. Thank God.

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Father and Jack: Conversation as Life Preserver

My grandsons wonder about life in the fifties, life in their mother’s mother’s village, state. So here’s a personal narrative. Each family was unique, but this does describe another time & place.

Jack was one of my father’s friends, indeed his best and closest. And I’m pretty sure my father was Jack’s. A bit of a narcissist, still, he would sob about my father’s loss if we ran into him for years after my father died. I doubt the depth of sentimental drunks, but he thought the affection was real – for all I know it was. My father was moody; I suspect he always saw himself (as did those around him) as unfulfilled and unproductive. I brought home a boyfriend well on the way to being an expert in Italian medieval history; he was surprised my father wanted to talk about meta-history – what was true and what wasn’t about the great arcs. I wasn’t surprised my father wanted to talk about that – that was the kind of thing he liked. If your life is unmoored, you want to make sense of it. I suspect he spent some time wondering about those arcs – what was real and what wasn’t, what they meant. He had plenty of time to speculate and Jack was his companion. Conversation went late into the night, beginning when Jack showed up at our door.

Neither Father nor Jack had much self-discipline, though a lack of self-discipline for those maturing in the dustbowl and enlisting in World War II, husbands and fathers in the fifties was not the immaturity of pajama boys living in their parents’ basements. My father felt some duty: to friends, town. And to tradition in a broad sense – it drove him and the Missouri Synod minster to start the Kenesaw Great Books Club, it made the Legion a social focus, kept him Presbyterian and Republican.

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Better Explanations?

We might be forgiven for thinking that China does not have our best interests in mind, given their halt of all national movement from Wuhan and encouragement of all international travel from Wuhan in the pandemic’s early months, given the secrecy that surrounds the Wuhan Institute and the belated admission of and tight controls on the WHO inspectors, etc. etc.

The tragedy at our border is huge and this seems almost a small part of it, but some acts seem to parallel China’s: Why are Americans expected to isolate themselves from useful pursuits (such as work and education and church), while Covid-infected illegal immigrants are sent on planes and buses to the interior (not that I’m all that crazy about how their policies are also refreshing the epidemic in Texas).

Stirring division, encouraging wokeness and discouraging economic recovery in Atlanta, ignoring the vulnerability of the border to human trafficking and terrorist entry, encouraging defunding the police and justice systems that show little (in some cases any) respect for property or the victims of violent crime: the quantity of “ironies” might be more easily explained as expected consequences to Biden/Harris policies. And so we might be forgiven for thinking that they, too, do not have our best interests in mind.

With Trump I’d turn to Instapundit and notice every day little and big things that seemed to free us or make the future more attractive, one of the values was that doing and speaking seemed aligned and Orwellian obfuscation was not omnipresent; it is, now, as opposite patterns can be easily discerned. Both seemed to be “busy” presidents – though that this seems to be coming from Biden seems hard to believe, it certainly is coming from “his” White House. And one’s busyness leads to productivity and the other’s to stasis – the position of a sitting duck.

A (partially successful) attempt at a reasoned response

to Harris/Biden in Atlanta on Friday. Or an exercise explaining Why I swear at the tv. Mid-way to rational thought, it is at least better than ***!!!###. Aside: Posting here is a great gift. Writing – like speech with others – forces us to use words. Our founders would use the word deliberate, to move from gut response to reason. Let’s begin with them for perspective:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . “

“Hate crimes” violate not only our laws but our core belief that in each (and all) is a divine spark, that is one way we are truly equal. However, “hate” for an individual or a random act of pointless violence is also hate. Inchoate anger is hardly virtuous. Haters choose the weak, the dependent, the isolated, the outlier; they want neither consequences nor pricks of conscience. “Knock out” punches throw the weak, the elderly, the unprepared to the ground and are often too random to easily assign blame; knowing society identifies less with such victims makes quick punishment less likely; an important distance comes from convincing one’s self such a victim is not “equal”, is not human – that stills the conscience.

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