CAGW bias in academia; Lesfrud and Meyer 2013 revisited.

Well I am very late in posting this at my own blog; bar 1 minor correction (old retained as strike-through) it is repeated below exactly as it appeared at Watts Up With That, the most viewed climate site on the planet, on 27th January. There is useful discussion in the comments there.

Posts at WUWT have often featured scientific papers that are clearly impacted by a cultural bias towards CAGW. Given the impressive reach of WUWT and the likelihood that a number of folks from academia will be peeking here, some examination of the impact upon conclusions, and also how bias has occurred for particular scientists or organizations, not only keeps alive healthy skepticism in science but hopefully might result, one day, in a reduction of the CAGW bias. In that spirit, this post revisits ‘Science or Science Fiction? Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change’ by Lianne M. Lefsrud and Renate E. Meyer, LM2013; It is not pay-walled. An article at Forbes plus the Investor’s Business Daily on the paper, triggered a WUWT post here. Unfortunately however, the former articles misfired into a tangent that was not well considered, greatly distracting from a deeper look at the paper; hence also from something that I believe is valuable, plus deeply ironic for the authors.

The post is adapted from supporting material in my essay The CAGW Memeplex summarized in a WUWT guest post here. However, no particular memetic insight is invoked here and none is needed to see how the authors of this paper have fallen victim to bias and ended up with unsupportable conclusions; just an appreciation (from history) that social narratives can acquire an inertia of their own, a kind of insistent culture that sometimes dominates events while leaving facts far behind. This can happen not only where the narrative is long-lived and wide in scope, e.g. mainstream religions evolving over many generations, but also where an original narrative is narrow in scope, e.g. Lysenkoism. Such narratives and counter narratives compete in our social space and may do so via strong or weak alliances and wider coalitions, for instance Lysenkoism was strongly coupled to Stalinism in the USSR, and the culture associated with Eugenics was loosely allied to right-wing various politics in various countries, later becoming strongly coupled to Fascism especially in Germany. Religions have often found alliances within shifting maps of state and regional politics. The increasing number (and depth) of comparisons between CAGW and religion (e.g. see the varied selection: UK MP Peter Lilley , blogger John Bell, Michael Crichton via blogger Justice4Rinka [Jan 10, 2013 at 10:07am], Richard Lindzen, blogger BetaPlug, philosopher Pascal Bruckner, blogger sunshinehours1 [cult], professor Hans Von Storch [prophets], Evangelical skeptics, and a Climate Etc post discussing this area, plus very many more), acknowledges that CAGW is a (successful) social narrative, an ‘insistent culture’ that has indeed left reality behind.

With the above in mind, the approach of LM2013 seems at first to be admirable. For instance social coalitions (termed ‘discourse coalitions’) are understood to be important entities backing the survival / growth of competing ‘storylines’ within a contestable narrative space, where coalition members attempt to ‘frame’ the debate so as to promote their storylines while trying to ‘break the persuasiveness’ of competing stories, a process within which apparent truths are relative (‘…experts construct interpretive packages or frames that stand in for the ‘truth’.’) It is also recognized that these ‘frames’ are intimately linked to the legitimacy and identity of the framers: ‘Besides defining the issue, framing is also the means by which professionals draw from broader values (Hulme, 2009), construct their self-definitions and expert identities.’ The latter is consistent with literature (e.g. the concept of the ‘The Social Mind’ by neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniger) essentially saying that our thoughts and identities are in some part formed by the societal entities we’re embedded in. This concept not only helps with understanding the motives of the players, it also helps regarding awareness of one’s own social embedding and hence the attempt to distance oneself from personal bias, as presumably the LM2013 authors would wish. Ultimately the authors appear to grasp that it’s a narrative war out there, in which ‘the truth’ may not always win out.

So what’s not to like? Shouldn’t a paper that recognizes these principles be robustly impartial? In trying to analyze the various ‘storylines’ shouldn’t the authors have attempted to position themselves, at least so far as is possible, outside of all of the relevant narratives? Well, unfortunately not…

Next page (2) for more…

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The CAGW Memeplex; a cultural creature

The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW.

UPDATE: as of 1st November, this Post is up at Climate Etc the blog of atmospheric scientist Judith Curry: http://judithcurry.com/2013/11/01/cagw-memeplex/
UPDATE1: as of 2nd November, this Post is up at ‘Watts Up With That’, the most viewed climate site on the planet: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/02/the-catastrophic-agw-memeplex-a-cultural-creature/

Whatever is happening in the great outdoors regarding actual climate, inside, truly inside, in the minds of men that is, overwhelming evidence indicates that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a self-sustaining narrative that is living off our mental capacity, either in symbiosis or as an outright cultural parasite; a narrative that is very distanced from physical real-world events. The social phenomenon of CAGW possesses all the characteristics of a grand memetic alliance, like numerous similar structures before it stretching back beyond the reach of historic records, and no doubt many more cultural creatures that have yet to birth.

Having painted a picture of CAGW from a memetic perspective in fiction last December, see the post: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/15/wuwt-spawns-a-free-to-read-climate-sci-fi-novel/, I realized that many people instinctively sense the memetic characteristics of CAGW, and typically express this in blogs or articles as relatively casual comments that cite memes or religion. Yet these folks appear to have no real knowledge of how truly meaningful and fundamental their observations are. Hence I have provided a comprehensive essay which attempts to fill in this knowledge gap, and indeed proposes that the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW is dominated by memetic action, i.e. CAGW is a memeplex. Note: a ‘meme’ is a minimal cultural entity that is subject to selective pressures during replication between human minds, its main medium. A meme can be thought of as the cultural equivalent to a gene in biology; examples are a speech, a piece of writing (‘narratives’), a tune or a fashion. A memeplex is a co-adapted group of memes that replicate together and reinforce each other’s survival; cultural or political doctrines and systems, for instance a religion, are major alliances of self-replicating and co-evolving memes. Memetics101: memeplexes do not only find shelter in the mind of a new host, but they will change the perceptions and life of their new host.

An amusing depiction of a serious entity; the narrative colony creature that is the memeplex of Catastrophic Antrhopogenic Climate Change

Because the memetic explanation for CAGW rests upon social and evolutionary fundamentals (e.g. the differential selection of self-replicating narratives, narrative alliances, the penetration of memes into the psyche causing secondary phenomena like motivated reasoning, noble cause corruption and confirmation bias etc.) it is not dependent upon politics or philosophies of any stripe, which tend to strongly color most ‘explanations’ and typically rob them of objectivity. Critically, a memetic explanation also does not depend on anything happening in the climate (for better or for worse). CO2 worry acted as a catalyst only; sufficient real-world uncertainties at the outset (and indeed still) provided the degree of freedom that let a particular ‘ability’ of memeplexes take hold. That ability is to manipulate perceptions (e.g. of real-world uncertainty itself), values, and even morals, which means among other things that once birthed the CAGW memeplex rapidly insulated itself from actual climate events.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens has likely co-evolved with memeplexes essentially forever (Blackmore), therefore they are a fundamental part of us, and indeed no characteristic of CAGW appears to be in the slightest bit new, quite the contrary. Underlining this ancient origin, one class of memeplexes folks are familiar with is: ‘all religions’. Yet these fuzzy structures are by no means limited to religion; science has triggered memetic themes before and extreme politics frequently does so, and there have even been historic memeplexes centered on climate. This does not mean CAGW is precisely like a religion, but being similarly powered by self-replicating narratives creates the comparable characteristics that many have commented upon.

Using a great deal of circumstantial evidence from the climate blogosphere and support from various knowledge domains: neuroscience, (economic) game theory, law, corporate behavior, philosophy, biological evolution and of course memetics etc. the essay maps the primary characteristics of CAGW onto the expected behavior for a major memeplex, finding conformance. Along the way, contemporary and historic memeplexes (mainly religious) are explored as comparisons. The essay is long, book-sized, because the subject matter is large. I guess an essay describing all of climate science would be very long, so one exploring the entire memetic characteristics of CAGW plus I hope enough context for readers to make sense of that, is similarly so.

The context is extremely broad, ranging from why pyramid building evolved in Egypt to a passionate cry against kings, priests, and tyranny in a radical women’s journal of the early nineteenth century. From the impact of memeplexes on the modern judicial system courtesy of Duke Law, to the ancient purpose of story-telling and contemporary attempts to subvert this, along with a plot analysis of the film Avatar. From the long and curious tale of an incarnation of the past is always better meme currently rampant on the internet, to the evolutionary selection of fuzzy populations in biology and the frankenplex multi-element cultural creature that is CAGW. From the conflict related death-rates in primitive tribes versus modern states, to analysis of corporate social responsibilities after the Enron and banking sector crises. From memetic chain letters that stretch back to the hieroglyphs (Letters from Heaven), to the analysis of social cross-coalitions via game theory within the perspective of economics. From the concept of ‘the Social Mind’ courtesy of neuro-scientist Michael Gazzaniga, to pressure upon religions by aggressive atheism as promoted by Richard Dawkins. From modification of theistic memes in the Old to the New Testament, to notions of Gaia and telegraph wires and wing-nuts. Plus memetic sex, witchcraft, cults, Cathars, concepts of salvation, Communism, hi-jacking altruism, Lynsenkoism, lichen, psychologizers, National Socialism, de-darwinisation, that ugly term ‘denier’, and much more.

Next page (2) for more…

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‘Engines of Life’ launched

Well I returned today from a gastronomic trip to New York (I can highly reccomend the [very] fine dining restaurant ‘Per Se’ :) ) to find Greyhart Press have launched my SF story collection on the very same day. What a lovely welcome home!

Engines of Life story collection Cover

Engines of Life Cover


Outstretched figure: image (c) Lonely – Shutterstock.com; abstract swirl (c) Emelyanov – Shutterstock.com

At the heart of all the philosophical SF novelettes (and a novella) in Engines of Life, beats some aspect of my major inspiring theme, evolution, be it cultural or genetic or both. Unique to this collection is The Curator; the story won the University of Central Lancaster (UCLan) Science Fiction competition a year or so back, but the publishing arm of the university ran into legal problems, leaving the story homeless. Until now that is :) .

The Greyhart Press Release is here.
Paperback (224 pages) amazon.co.uk RRP £7.50 | amazon.com RRP $11.50
Kindle amazon.com | amazon.co.uk at special launch price of 99c/ 77p
Coming soon in other eBook formats.

Some summary blurb is below (click on page 2). Enjoy,
Andy.

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‘Truth’ available at Smashwords

My Sci-Fi / Cli-Fi novelette ‘Truth’ is now available at the Smashwords book publishing portal. Find it here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/273983

The book remains free at this portal. However, normal publishing protections apply, so formats of ‘Truth’ loaded from Smashwords are not freely distributable under Creative Commons. If you want to distribute the work yourself (e.g. emailing the actual text or placing it direct on your website), you must use the pdf format available on the sidebar of this blog, which *is* distributable under Creative Commons (you can click on the CC License link inside the pdf to view the full conditions).

The upside of availability at Smashwords, which also partners to provide works at Barnes and Noble, Sony for their bookreaders and other outlets, is a much wider audience than just those from the climatosphere (see below for posts at climate blogs), plus availability in a whole list of formats including epub and .mobi for kindle.

Happy reading on whatever is your bookreading machine and format :) .

Andy

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Seven little gems from NewCon Press

Back in December I received a Press Sampler from NewCon Press (independant UK genre publisher) with 7 stories inside. As a NewCon regular I got this for free :) . However, you can read these too for less than the price of a coffee. I can highly reccomend.
PressSamplerCover
UK Kindle link, price is just 77p
US Kindle link, price is just $1.24

The original blurb is here:
The attached NewCon Press Sampler contains seven stories that are intended to provide a taster of titles due in 2013 (and the latter part of 2012). You will find here three stories from Imaginings volumes (Tony Ballantyne, Nina Allan, and Lisa Tuttle), two from imminent collections that fall outside the Imaginings series (Chris Beckett and Mercurio D. Rivera), a jolly little tale of seasonal terror from Gary McMahon (which is original to this collection), intended as a taster of his forthcoming novel The End… Plus a previously uncollected and never-in-print story from Adrian Tchaikovsky. This last is intended as a tantalising teaser for a very special and unannounced anthology, coming in 2013. Of course, to find out more, you’ll have to read on…

Amazon book description is here:
A deliberately low-priced anthology providing a taster of what NewCon Press is all about. Showcasing publications from 2012 and 2013, seven stories from seven premier genre authors: Nina Allan, Tony Ballantyne, Chris Beckett, Gary McMahon, Mercurio D. Rivera, Lisa Tuttle, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror at their best.

For pdf or epub, follow the link to NewCon Press on the right sidebar.
Enjoy, Andy

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Novelette ‘Truth’ featured in the ‘Cli-Fi’ Post at leading Lukewarmer blog

Well this Post is very belated as I’ve just returned from 2 weeks travel, on which I didn’t have sufficient time or access to do an update. But for anyone who hasn’t caught it yet, over the Christmas holiday my story ‘Truth’ was featured in the Cli-Fi (Climate Fiction) summary at Judith Curry’s blog ‘Climate Etc.’

The link is here: http://judithcurry.com/2012/12/23/cli-fi/

Other Cli-Fi works covered were Michael Crichton’s ‘State of Fear’, Rex Fleming’s first novel ‘Exposure’, Ian McEwan’s ‘Solar’, Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Fight Behaviour’, Clive Cussler’s ‘Arctic Drift’, plus several other novels and also one other novelette, ‘Harry Read Me’s Christmas Mission’ by Ahrvid Engholm.

For those not too familiar the the climatosphere, Judith’s blog is one of the leading ‘Lukewarmer’ blogs, perhaps the leading Lukewarmer blog. Judith herself is Professor and Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and President (co-owner) of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN). Loosely speaking, Lukewarmers occupy the middle ground between climate sceptics and alarmists, and Judith’s science plus policy orientated blog is a great place for genuine and deep exchanges from all points of view in the climate debate.

Andy

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Novelette ‘Truth’ posted up at most the viewed Climate site on the planet

WUWT
Anthony Watts kindly put up my post concerning ‘Truth’, which has a little background on how I came to write it and more detail than the post below. The blog stats tell me there’s about 600 views and 140 downloads of the story from WUWT references so far, pretty good going for around 22 hours. Plus a few welcome visitors here, as you may see below :)

Update 17th Dec.  Damn I forgot the Link, it is here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/15/wuwt-spawns-a-free-to-read-climate-sci-fi-novel/

Plus now reflected at UK climate site Bishop Hill: http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2012/12/17/global-warming-the-novella.html

Andy

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SF Novelette ‘Truth’ available for FREE!

Front Cover for Free SF Story 'Truth'
Front Cover for Free SF Story ‘Truth’

The Science Fiction novelette ‘Truth’ will no doubt be challenging and controversial to many. It draws aside veils to luridly portray social  memeplexes, and particulary the social phenomena fuelled by the concept known as ‘CAGW’ in the climate science and media spheres – ‘Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming’, or man-made Climate Change.

My intent with this work was to offer an enjoyable means to make folks stop and think, to prompt questions, to counter the inappropriate yet massive narrative weight of ‘certainty’ surrounding CAGW, and to make visisble the social engine driving this and other similar ‘certainties’. The story isn’t all philosophy though and there’s plenty of action too :) . For those already clued into the climatosphere, mention of climate change issues appears only slowly, but fear not a lot comes later, and for confirmed sceptics please do not baulk at the first mention of the word ‘denier’, the context will become clear.

I present ‘Truth’ FREE here. Click on that rather tasteful 1950s B- movie front cover for ‘Truth’ as it appears in the right-hand side-bar (or the link under ‘Free Stories’) to receive as a PDF. The work is available under the terms of a Creative Commons (3.0) License (the variant for free distribution but no commercial use or adaptations).

Enjoy!

Andy West

P.S.

For those not familiar with the climatosphere, there’s a raging war inside there, mainly over the three Cs: ‘consensus’, ‘certainty’, and ‘catastrophe’.  The tribes in this war range from the Skydragons to the Sceptical, the Luke Warmers to the Consensus, and on to the outright Alarmist advocates. By no means are all the climate scientists throughout the world (or indeed politicians and policy-makers and scientists in adjacent fields) within the Consensus. For the record, science is not done by consensus, and anyhow even a cursory look under the covers reveals that ‘The Consensus’ as it is often promoted in the media, i.e. meaning anyone worth listening to, is a narrative and not a reality.

Despite almost six years of soaking up the climatosphere, and so reasonable familiarity with the (wide!) array of science and position put forward by all the big tribes and many inbetweeners, I don’t know whether CO2 will work out to be big problem, a modest problem, or possibly not a problem at all. Considering the huge amount of scientific uncertainty, especially regarding feedbacks and natural variability, I really don’t think anyone yet has the means to know. But it is exactly this unertainty that allows a social memplex to breed. So, to compare CAGW with other social memeplexes: if the existence of God was unequivocally disproved tomorrow, there’d be no need for the huge infra-structures of religious paraphernalia. And, more interestingly, if he/she beamed down tomorrow and introduced himself/herself, there would likewise be no need for the same infra-structures. We’d all just get his/her phone number. Similarly if the case for CAGW was indeed proven (inclusive of all main mechanisms), the fact-space would be just as constrained as if it was disproven, and the whole memeplex would collapse. In the proven case, just as for historic major disasters or wars, everyone’s shoulder would be at the wheel, we’d all know what to do and all the social messaging and CC related promotion hierarchies and political positioning would evaporate overnight. As this clearly isn’t anywhere remotely close to happening, while terms like ‘believers’, ‘disbelievers’, ‘faith in the science’ (or loss thereof) and the ugly ‘deniers’ term, all abound, then I’m guessing that indeed there’s probably very little that is certain within the wicked problem of climate, least of all attribution.

Posted in Climate, Literary | Tagged , | 27 Comments

Amazon Reviews of ‘Assassins’

Seven so far, generous with stars, some posted at Amazon US site and some at UK site, all conveniently collected into one place by my partner in dastardly bio-crimes, Ian Watson, at his site here: http://www.ianwatson.info/amazon-reviews-of-assassins/

And here’s a little picture of us, imprisoned by natives in the deep Ethiopian jungle during researches for ‘The Waters of Destiny’.

O

Well okay… really it’s in Spain.

Andy West

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Be Techno-thrilled by ‘The Waters of Destiny’

Today saw the launch of a major project by my co-author Ian Watson and I, a three novel modern / medieval tecno-thriller ‘The Waters of Destiny’, of which we are very proud :) . All three books are available simultaneously:  ‘Assassins’ , ‘Tongue of Knowledge’, and ‘Death Overflows’. Angus Donald , bestselling author of The Outlaw Chronicles, has this to say about book One:

“Fluidly written, with finely drawn characters and spot-on historical research, Assassins (Book 1 of The Waters of Destiny) is a tightly plotted international thriller that flips effortlessly between the 12th and 21st centuries to tell a gripping tale of ancient hatreds and modern-day nightmares. Starring a murderous sect of medieval Muslims – that may just have survived into our own age – a Christian fundamentalist US Government agent hot on their trail, and a sexy Canadian history professor looking for love in all the wrong places, Assassins packs in conspiracy, action, romance and clock-ticking suspense into one thoroughly enjoyable Dan Brown-style yarn. Highly recommended.”

The series is a departure from SF for both of us, and we thoroughly enjoyed both the shared writing experience and the deep research into arcane scientific and religious knowledge, both medieval and modern.

The beautiful front-cover artworks were created by Ana Diaz. Here is the first one:

'Assassins' cover, first book in the 'Waters of Destiny' series

Front Cover Image for ‘Assassins’

Find the novels at www.watersofdestiny.com or at Amazon or Smashwords. Best of all, the first book is FREE!

Enjoy,

Andy West

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