the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Flexible Thoughts

Posted by Jeff Id on January 19, 2014

I’ve spent a little time over my years studying the math behind neural networks.   I find the self-organization of neural networks to be mathematically interesting in the same way that evolution is.  While we humans can’t claim to understand the whole of the math of even a single neuron, the basic concepts lead toward some interesting conclusions.   I think of a simplified neuron as a device with inputs and outputs that trigger in a binary fashion to analog style weighting of its own inputs.  The binary threshold, no matter what its nature, creates a mathematical stability when presented with a wide variety of simultaneous inputs.   That trigger threshold is known to self adjust as neurons learn and the combination of inputs from different stimuli on the same neuron means that a single neuron is capable of participation in unrelated decisions at different times.   The result is a certain flexibility of thought over time which is beneath the level of our own perception.

Neruons are known to continually change connections (mathematical weights) and have a random physical structure which by feedback grows in a fashion that is mathematically weighted toward non-random (learning).  This means that the comprehension, memory, and decision making environment in your mind is ever-changing.   Sure, some experiences will guide you, but how you perceive things will be guided by a different set of neural connections who’s weighting has taken over your current ones even if the results are the same.  In addition, the math behind the learning process is fully able to accept all kinds of interrelated information with the right kind of input and interpret even the most nonsensical information as truth.

It is particularly important to understand that emotion plays a role in learning as emotions can direct the physical learning process to absorb or reject information.  If  a mind wants to believe something is true, it will find extraordinary ways to rationalize how that information comports with reality and be satisfied for the effort. Perhaps emotion encourages or discourages connections of reason or maybe it just participates in the assembling of incomplete information, the actual function isn’t as critical for this post as knowing of its existence.  Even more than emotion, learning is especially influenced by being exposed to certain facts in repetition.   It isn’t an unreasonable statement that after years of dedication to the study of a particular phenomenon, confirmation bias is one of the greatest hurdles that a scientist faces.

For these reasons, I believe that the human mind has more flexibility of perception than people often realize.  Rather than being more complex and massive, I believe our personalities are actually smaller and more fluid than is often believed and that highly malleable personalities actually drive us.  You literally won’t be the same person in 10 years that you are today.  I don’t have any physiological evidence to support my statement, so perhaps it is what I want to believe, but it does seem to support my general observations.

So it is a common contention that we humans are all susceptible to this kind of bias, I have a few examples outlandish conclusions people have reached based in my understanding of these principles.

- The oft-stated belief by certain climate scientists that skeptics are oil funded.  I like this one because it is relatively benign, but seems to ignore the possibility that oil companies don’t mind the supply restrictions being caused in the energy industry by production reducing regulations.   I’ve often wondered why people like Michael Mann and Stephan Lewandowsky believe that oil companies don’t want supply limitations which cause people to pay more for oil? Paying more per production gallon means more profit.  No, I’m not saying that some money from oil companies isn’t spent in all directions, but it doesn’t take a big leap of understanding to know why the oil companies fund mainstream climate science and promote expensive “green” energy on their signs.

- Belief that industry or capitalism are making people poor.   This is a very common conclusion today and it is no wonder considering the vast repetition of this concept being fed to society, but people are wealthier in capitalist pro-industry society than at any time in our history.  The bifurcation of logic is extraordinary, yet this message has come to be believed by more people than not.   The popular thought today is that it is the fault of business that people are poor, not the fault of the poor individuals who on immediate inspection are not producing anything of value.

- Lewandowsky and Mann “According to the World Health Organization, climate change is already claiming more than 150,000 lives annually (Patz, Campbell-Lendrum, Holloway, & Foley, 2005), and estimates of future migrations triggered by unmitigated global warming run as high as 187 million refugees “   Despite there being literally zero evidence supporting this statement, this is something these authors have come to fully believe.

- Belief that global warming will not only destroy the world but will destroy it soon.  This belief is common among those who are immersed in the field of climate science.  For example, it isn’t hard to visualize James Hanson literally screaming wildly at his keyboard for this old quote from an article which literally compared coal to the “death trains” of humanities darkest history:

“The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions over the next few decades. As Arctic sea ice melts, the darker ocean absorbs more sunlight and speeds melting. As the tundra melts, methane, a strong greenhouse gas, is released, causing more warming. As species are exterminated by shifting climate zones, ecosystems can collapse, destroying more species.

The public, buffeted by weather fluctuations and economic turmoil, has little time to analyze decadal changes. How can people be expected to evaluate and filter out advice emanating from those pushing special interests? How can people distinguish between top-notch science and pseudo-science?

Those who lead us have no excuse – they are elected to guide, to protect the public and its best interests. They have at their disposal the best scientific organisations in the world, such as the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences. Only in the past few years did the science crystallize, revealing the urgency. Our planet is in peril. If we do not change course, we’ll hand our children a situation that is out of their control. One ecological collapse will lead to another, in amplifying feedbacks.”

Clearly, while there are climate models predicting warming, there is no evidence of the kind of destruction tormenting Dr. Hanson’s mind.  He clearly believes in what he is saying, yet for those who haven’t been regularly cuddled by “pro-green” message, we cannot see any of these possibilities as rational.  It is my impression that nothing frustrates Dr. Hansen more than humanities refusal to jump off the cliff with him.

Rationalization:

Now clearly, all of the above anti-reason comments can be rationalized by an individual.  I can say that easily because so many people find the above concepts certain and true despite what appear to be such nonsensical roots.  You don’t even have to agree that ALL of the statements are nonsensical, just pick one of them that is nonsense and we can agree that rational irrationality is part of our human nature.  The human ability to rationalize anything is so powerful that entire governments and societies are based on the unprovable certainty of superiority of their deity over another.  Still, the truly brutal impact of those governments on their populations does disturbingly little to perturb their popular beliefs.

We can conclude from this, that it is an unfortunate fact that it isn’t the quality of the information which determines the number or percentage of humans who subscribe to a belief, nor even the difficulty of rationalization, but rather the emotional investment and degree of repetition which makes the final determination of what you believe.  Today, many IPCC climate scientists fret over the fact that so many of us cannot see their version of reality, while simultaneously recommending extremely dangerous economic measures like massive curtailing of meat and energy production, or the use of food for production of transportation fuel.  These extreme anti-industrial measures clearly contribute to impoverishment and starvation of the poorest societies of the world the scientists profess to protect.  Some find the solution to be to give these poor money, which obviously just enslaves them to the payments. All of this rationalization to address a planetary destruction which at this point isn’t even remotely in evidence.  They are completely immersed in the field, with their like-minded peers reinforcing their political and scientific certainty.  For some, it seems that every piece of their self image has become tied up in this certainty of knowledge of the future climate as well as their authoritarian style global government solutions.

The whole situation is crazy at this point but the global political news machine is still repeating the global doom message at top volume, reinforcing all necessary aspects of global climate doom and promoting the wrong-think it supports.   So far there have been a lot of people who have declared the end of the world, and so far they are batting a perfect zero.

So, since climate models are running hotter than measurements by 2X or more, and since not a single destructive change definitively related to climate change has been recorded in the entirety of human history, how about we just settle down for say 20 or 30 years and see where climate is then?    Doesn’t that seem a tweak more reasonable than making regulations which preemptively shut down energy production or drive food and fuel prices through the roof?

18 Responses to “Flexible Thoughts”

  1. omanuel said

    Thanks, Jeff, for your inquisitive mind and your courage to challenge conventional ideas.

    The “Belief that global warming will not only destroy the world but will destroy it soon” is perhaps mirrored (hopefully with more rational thought) in my personal belief that:

    “Science is the most reliable way humans have to perceive reality, and contact with reality is critical for our survival.

    Therefore, mankind “shot himself in the foot” by supporting misinformation as “settled science.”

    We will end deceitful science or we will perish ! We have no other options.”

    http://orach24463.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/the-invisible-judith-curry/

    • omanuel said

      Jeff, I would like to encourage you to use your inquisitive nature and your keen analytical mind to analyze the relationship between the animate (living) and the inanimate.

      When Einstein reported in 1905 that mass (m) is stored energy (E), i.e.,

      E = mc^2

      Does that suggest an equality of near opposites?

      (Life, energy, motion) = (Mass, inertia, inanimate)

      The universe seems to be expanding because compressed nuclear is becoming energized atomic matter. Here in the solar system, at exactly one astronautical unit from the Sun’s pulsar core,

      Atoms – ejected from the Sun’s core 5 Ga ago, were finally shielded from the high energy pulsar radiation by a layer of waste products in the photosphere – and then organized into living forms of plant life about 3-4 Ga ago that used light from the photosphere to convert CO2 into starches, sugars, and proteins. Animal life came later as a parasite on plant life.

      Fast forward: The inanimate compressed nuclear matter in the solar core is the source of every atom, every bit of energy and creativity that we celebrate today in

      Aristotle, Copernicus, Galileo, Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, Einstein, etc.

      Their contributions are the result of:

      Neutrons => H, He, C, O, etc + energy

  2. OK S. said

    I don’t know the exact mechanism, but I rather like Franklin’s observation: So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.Weekly Story: A Reasonable Creature.

  3. Jeff,
    Awesome as usual. We are experiencing what Charles Mackay described as the “Madness of Crowds”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_Popular_Delusions_and_the_Madness_of_Crowds

    How else can you explain the fact that the Hansen rant you quoted was taken seriously by the people who spend our tax dollars. Here is an excerpt from your quote:

    “They have at their disposal the best scientific organisations in the world, such as the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences.”

    When it comes to “Climate Science” the above organizations are in lock step with the IPCC. They don’t care about scientific integrity, truth or honesty. The only thing they care about is the gravy train funded by governments around the world.

    • omanuel said

      That is the most revealing fact from the surroptious release of Climategate emails and documents in November 2009:

      Our most trusted scientific organizations betrayed the public that supports them !

  4. Bernd Palmer said

    Thanks, Jeff, for these thoughtful words that summarize the state of humanity as it is and as it always was. Humans are not perfect because nature has never defined the term “perfect”, and for good reasons: each situation requires a different approach and humans must be capable to adapt … or they will perish.

  5. Chuck L said

    Jeff, I would not minimize the socio-economic and political aspects of this. With the UN at the forefront, there is clearly an effort underway to redistribute income and increase central control whether by national governments or supranational “governments” like the UN, using global warming at the pretext.

    • omanuel said

      I agree. Fuel poverty is the problem created by man out of FEAR of nuclear energy.

      AGW is the disguise used by world leaders to mask the problem as one mankind can solve by burning less fuel.

      Fuel poverty is the result of decisions made in 1945 to hide the abundant source of energy that Lord Francsis William Aston described in the last paragraph of his Nobel Lecture on 12 Dec 1922 as “powers beyond the dreams of scientific fiction !”

      Here is a brief summary of nuclear forces, nuclear structure and the solution to our energy needs:

      http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/skunkworks-fusion/#comment-56544

  6. I am reminded of Bill McKibben’s search for victimhood. The babyboom generation of Americans were one of the first raised in relative luxury, with few needs unmet and many wants fulfilled. So apparently they had to find a reason not to feel so well off and generated an industry of victimhood. Something had to be wrong with the world that they could live in such relative comfort!

    So they created crises. First cooling, then Warming. Neither got a big foothold as the Cold war dominated. But once that bugaboo was gone, then the phony crises could be used to explain why we were evil to have enjoyed such relative wealth.

    and from that, they convinced themselves of many things. They still do to this day. No longer are they the oppressors, they are the oppressed. Oppressed by the engines that created their life of ease, that gave them so much free time that they could use the time to work for the day when no one would enjoy such comfort.

    Rush Limbaugh called a version of it Affluenza. But that version is restricted to those who actually earned what they had. The AGW version is for the ones that had it given to them.

  7. Brian H said

    connections who’s weighting whose
    the role that emotion plays a role pick one

    while there are climate models predicting warming, there is no evidence of the kind of destruction tormenting Dr. Hanson’s mind.

    Particularly since all historical evidence shows warming to be highly beneficial to man and beast. Why would this time be different?

  8. omanuel said

    There is an interesting survey by the Scottish Climate & Energy Forum at: http://scef.org.uk/survey/index.php/524582/lang/en

    After completing the survey, readers are invited to leave comments.

  9. hunter said

    I am pleased to see you back to posting. And very well at that.
    It is the social dysfunction of the AGW community that has intrigued me for years. Madness of the crowd, meme corruption, etc. etc. etc. The ability of the AGW believers to believe magical stupid things is amazing.

  10. Anthony Ratliffe said

    You said “not a single destructive change definitively related to climate change has been recorded in the entirety of human history”. This seems a bit extreme to me. How about 1816, the year without a summer (caused by a volcanic explosion in what is now Indonesia)? I suspect you meant something more nuanced from what you actually said. Comments?

    Tony.

  11. Anthony Ratliffe said

    Jeff, thanks, and agreed.

    Tony.

  12. Hi Jeff,

    It is nice to see you have time again for some blog posts.

    I have always thought that climate science is unique in the sense that it has ‘perfect storm’ conditions for generating and sustaining bias.

    It starts with the self-selecting nature of participation in the field. People who are environmentally concerned naturally gravitate to climate science; consider how many well known climate scientists, like James Hansen, were formally trained in other subject areas, but found their way to climate science. People who go into the field these days, starting as undergrads, are pretty much all ‘deep green’ from the get-go. The dominance of ‘green’ politics in climate science enables long term bias in the field by reducing the number of people will to call rubbish what it is. While the the few who do, at least in any public way, are consistently ostracized by the ‘consensus’ majority. These folks want to restrict economic activity independent of the scale, timing, and consequences of GHG driven warming. They mostly think there should be a lot less people on Earth, and generally see humanity as a ‘bad thing’ for Earth. This leads inevitably to “We should force restrictions in energy use, no matter any uncertainty about GHG driven warming, because it is the right thing to do.”

    Second, the field is relatively new and focused on very complicated processes. Good quality data is scarce, so too often the field works on data that is very close to ‘made-up’, like Andy Dessler’s ‘reanalysis temperatures’ used to ‘prove’ cloud amplification. The CGCM’s are an endless source of made-up data that has been used in thousands of peer reviewed studies. The lack of a solid foundation in honest-to-goodness measured data too often lets the inmates take over the asylum. The unchecked bias allows the field to head off into a never-never land of frightening scenarios, grotesque kludges, and rapid arm-waves in place of real data.

    Third, when people believe they are saving the world, they too often conclude that any who oppose their goals are not just mistaken, but absolutely wrong and profoundly evil. So they they can, and too often do, justify behaviors, both their own and others, which range from obnoxious and arrogant, to willfully deceptive, to downright criminal. ‘Nuff said about that.

    Finally, global warming is a perfect camel to carry a heavy load of ‘progressive’ goals. The argument is always: “Well yes, these changes will be costly, disruptive and very unpleasant. They will reduce people’s economic activity and restrict their personal freedoms. But gee, if we don’t do these things then the world will come to an end.” There are a lot of frustrated ‘progressives’ looking for any available means by which to force upon the public their political goals, so climate science has a natural base of support in academia, government (at all levels), much of the main-stream media, and of course, progressive politicians. This insulates climate science from actually having to make technical progress: no matter how wrong the projections have turned out, public defunding is politically impossible. The association between climate science and its political supporters is so intimate that one often wonders where climate science ends and politics begins. My conclusion: there is no separation.

    Let’s hope for another 15 years of ‘the pause’, and a continued ~3 mm per year of sea level rise, so that the worst of the projections are shown to be plainly false by observed reality before terribly foolish policies are adopted.

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