From Watts Up With That: Richard Lindzen On Positive Climate Feedback

Updated post here.

“The earth’s climate (in contrast to the climate in current climate GCMs) is dominated by a strong net negative feedback. Climate sensitivity is on the order of 0.3°C, and such warming as may arise from increasing greenhouse gases will be indistinguishable from the fluctuations in climate that occur naturally from processes internal to the climate system itself.


“Alarming climate predictions depend critically on the fact that models have large positive feedbacks. The crucial question is whether nature actually behaves this way?

Sounds reasonable, though I need some help with this one.

And…the NY Times publishes a piece about Freeman Dyson and his global warming skepticism.

Maybe one thing that I’ve been convinced of in all this global warming talk is the need people have for belief, and that perhaps secular belief is striving to be as potent a political and social force as is religion (though I don’t think they are equivlaent in depth).  It’s interesting to observe how public opinion becomes the ever shifting floor upon which politicians must move.  An examined life?

Addition:  How did we end up putting this much pressure (much of it misapplied) on our political system anyways?

On This Site:  Freeman Dyson On The Question Of Global Warming

From Chris Colose: Lindzen On Climate Feedback

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From Andrew Sullivan: A Brief Discussion Of John Rawls

Full post here.

From one of Sullivan’s readers on Rawls:  

“Rawls political philosophy seems to me to be little more than an emaciated form of liberal Christianity, sure of what it wants but unwilling to appeal to any foundation in nature, history, or religion.”

He made a good case for political liberalism…Also:

When I read Rawls, I read a humane, decent man that quite obviously was a liberal Protestant who lost his faith, but wanted to keep the attic finery of Christianity around.”

Maybe was a little deeper than that...

Related On This Site:  Perhaps Samuel Huntington was a believer in political liberalism who lost faith, pointing out its limits and failures…From Prospect: Eric Kaufmann On ‘The Meaning Of Huntington’…and Roger Scruton pines for the old days, when humanism more seriously maintained the values of the church…Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism.

People on the modern American right take issue with Rawls, but have they addressed his depth?:  From The American Conservative: Going Off The Rawls–David Gordon On John Rawls

John Rawls His Life and Theory of Justice

by Miller Info Commons

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Revisiting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

He may have been fired for many reasons, but Summers off-the-cuff Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce had a lot to do with it:

1.  The first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis-Summers notes that high positions demand high commitment.  Science could be analogous to other professions like law.   He appeals to a longitudinal study that suggests that fewer women may agree to, or be willing to, devote such time and energy to their jobs over their careers as do men.  Changing the nature of these professions to higher female ratios may change some of the fundamental ways we arrange our society:   

“…is our society right to expect that level of effort from people who hold the most prominent jobs?”

Perhaps…though the subtext might be:  are some members of our society right to expect that the guiding ideas of diversity and equality won’t come with a host of other problems…?

***Charles Murray takes it a few steps further, asserting that our social sciences are leading us to become more like Europe (less dynamic and less idealistic in our pursuit of Aristotelian happiness)  He also argues that there is a sea-change going on in the social science that will come to support his thinking. This could be a few steps too far…

2.  The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end-The bell curve argument that there are more genius and idiot men.  When you get to MIT, 3 and more standard deviations above the mean…means a lot. 

3.  The third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search-If discrimination is such an important factor in there being a lack of women scientists, then economic theory holds that there are going to be:

“…very substantial opportunities for a limited number of people who were not prepared to discriminate to assemble remarkable departments of high quality people at relatively limited cost simply by the act of their not discriminating.”

So if the theory holds…where are the science departments scooping up all women scientists at low cost…who’ve been rejected elsewhere due to discrimination?


I believe there is arguably discrimination against women in the sciences, and they have a harder road to reach success.  But there is also substance here…and clearly politics was a factor in Summers’ firing as well;  the women’s groups who viewed his ideas as an attack on their belief appealed to public sentiment in the worst kind of way.  

Will social science ever be enough to address such an issue…or is it possibly changing to adapt to the demands people require of it?

On This Site:  Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Addition:  I always get an email or two that suggests I’ve joined the ranks of those who don’t fully understand the problem and seek to oppress women.  I don’t think I’ve done such a thing, and if women are going broaden and deepen feminism, they may well have to answer to arguments like these.  

It’s not like there aren’t women in the sciences either, Vera Rubin, Lisa Randall and Lise Meitner come to mind, but this debate is clearly not just about science.  It’s also about feminism, the social sciences, money, politics, public opinion etc…

Larry Summers - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2007 by World Economic Forum

Other things on his plate-worldeconomicforum

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Repost: From MIT OpenCourseWare: Walter Lewin’s Lecture On Lightning

Full lecture here.

My brief summary:

So at room temperature, the electrical breakdown of dry air at 1 meter of distance is 3 million volts (at which point you have discharge sparks, visible light and heat, and moving air). 

Go and shuffle your feet on the carpet and touch the doorknob and if you see a spark of 3 mm it’s around 10,000 volts on average according to this calculation (a little prickle on the fingertip, maybe through your hand).

In the very large electrical field generated during a thunderstorm (400,000 storms every day on earth) you can get up to 300 million volts and more, blinding light and up to 50,000 degree F superheated air rushing outward in waves, or thunder.  The current should it ground itself through your body, can clearly kill you:


Through induction the stepped leader has made contact with the earth, and the return strokes travelling back up to the cloud are visible and audible.

**Of course, if you go and look at the nearest light bulb, the current passing through the resistive filament also produces light and some heat. 

That’s my oversimplification.  Listen to the lecture, it’s worth it.  A whole semester’s worth of his lectures are available for free at that link.

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Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Full paper here.

It’s one thing to question the influence of a thinker’s effect on intellectual history (Kant poisoned everything after him with his idealism and mysticism,  and his “leaving room for faith” as Rand claims), it’s another to dispute his metaphysics.  Ayn Rand rejects Kant’s a-priori category of knowledge upon which he built much of his metaphysical system.  The author of the paper discusses (and summarizes) Rand’s similarities and differences with Kant.

“(1) They both accept the existence of a world whose major constituents they call entities or objects and regard as ordered in a system of space, time and causality and perceived by men generally. This world Kant calls “empirical reality” and Rand calls simply “reality.” In contrast to this world are some illusions and delusions whether individual or collective. These can be detected and corrected by the application of ordinary rules and processes. (But Rand interprets Kant as saying that the whole of what he calls “empirical reality” is itself a “collective delusion,” which is universal in scope.)

(2) They both agree that the proper use of man’s perceptual and conceptual faculties, in other words, his reason, in dealing with this world, results in knowledge.

(3) They both agree that man, by accepting this world as metaphysically given, i.e., “outside the power of any volition” (Rand), can adjust to it, control it and thrive in it.

(4) They both agree that in dealing epistemologically with the universe as a whole, we cannot treat it as an entity in the sense in which we call a table or a chair an entity, and can deal with it only in terms of the most fundamental concepts.”

You’ll have to go to the link for the differences.  As for me, I just had a conversation with a bright Objectivist and felt the need to respond much better than I did in the conversation.

Here’s Albert Einstein discussing Hume and Kant, among other ideas, in his Remarks On Bertrand Russell’s Theory Of Knowledge:

“The following, however, appears to me to be correct in Kant’s statement of the problem: in thinking we use, with a certain “right,” concepts to which there is no access from the materials of sensory experience, if the situation is viewed from the logical point of view.

As a matter of fact, I am convinced that even much more is to be asserted: the concepts which arise in our thought and in our linguistic expressions are all — when viewed logically — the free creations of thought which cannot inductively be gained from sense experiences.”

An old German rationalist?  

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From Bloggingheads: Daniel Drezner and David Frum Briefly Discuss China

Diavlog here. (About 5:00 min or so)

China is still heavily dependent on exports and has a big economic engine it has to keep running to stay ahead of the masses of people flooding into its cities…as well as the civil unrest that can potentially come from new questions of freedom and a people living under a formerly communist apparatus…

If the Chinese keep growing economically, will we see a rise in nationalism and military self-determination? Saber-rattling?

If they fail economically in an important way, are they strong enough to pose a threat to the U.S. militarily?…(obviously) to their neighbors?

I’m sure there are plenty of people in the U.S. who wouldn’t mind a new cold-war dance partner.

See James Fallows’ Atlantic Monthly site.

Related On This Site:  We’re certainly dependent on each other economically:  From The American Interest Online: Niall Ferguson on ‘What Chimerica Hath Wrought’

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