Discalculia is a rather unfortunate disorder in which the sufferer is unable to deal with the abstract concepts of time and direction. They can’t recall sequences of past or future events. They’re unable to keep track of time.
Has Andrew Bolt, the mad munchkin of the lunar Right, acquired the disorder? That is the question that must be asked after yet another post that confuses the events of the past with those of the present.
Bolt recently remarked
how the record warm temperatures we were sweltering through in autumn were, in fact, too cold. He was relying on temperature data from last year.
He wanted to believe, and he wanted it badly. So badly that he didn’t bother to check whether he had the correct data or, even more simply, leave his air-conditioned office and walk outside.
That confusion over the order events returned today. You’ve got to wonder.
The munchkin moaned:
Gary Taubes, in Science magazine, says scientists now challenge that always shonky idea that global warming would bring terrible diseasesYou would think now would mean, well, ‘now’. This year, perhaps. Or even last year.
The opinion article was published in Science in 1997. Ten years ago.
It may surprise Bolt and like-minded denialists that more research has actually been conducted since then. Perhaps Bolt also didn’t realise that the article itself wasn’t a peer-reviewed paper either. It was merely one person’s opinion.
The research came a bit too late to stop unprincipled politicians and journalists from repeating the old we’-re-all-going-to-die schtick, though. It suits their agendas too well.Came too late? Perhaps it was delivered by a wingless, arthritic pigeon to the offices Kevin Rudd, Leader of the Opposition. Ten years too late. If only that bird could fly like a...um...bird, then Rudd wouldn’t have had to foolishly rely on actual recent research from Australia’s premier scientific agency that is specific to this country. What a terrible disaster!!
Bolta then goes on to quote himself quoting Stephen Schneider. It is immediately obvious why he didn’t link to Schneider’s real quotes.
According to Bolt:
Professor Stephen Schneider, global warming guru at Stanford University. ... pump(ed) away: “We cannot dismiss the possibility of potentially catastrophic outliers and that includes Greenland and West Antarctica (ice sheets breaking up), massive species extinctions, intensified hurricanes and all those things. There’s at least a 10 per cent chance of that . . . My God, that’s Russian roulette with a Luger.”Not only does Bolt get the date wrong yet again (Schneider made the remarks prior to 1989, not in 1996) but cherry-picks the quotes, making Schneider appear to say something quite different from what the full quotes imply.
Bang! Just what the Doctor Doom ordered. And no wonder, for Schneider is, like Flannery, just the man for this kind of job, having said in 1996 that scientists were ethically bound to “in effect” tell the truth, but . . .
But? Er, yes. But “on the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings” who wanted to “capture the public’s imagination” on this awful climate change.
“So,” admitted Schneider, ”we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”
Schneider’s first quote was actually this:
[Schneider] was concerned that the increase was more likely to be three degrees or above, with a 10 per cent chance of an extreme six-degree rise by the end of the century. "Hell, we buy fire insurance based on a 1 per cent chance," he said.It is the second quote that is really aimed at damaging Schneider’s integrity.
"If we're going to be risk averse … we cannot dismiss the possibility of potentially catastrophic outlyers and that includes Greenland and West Antarctica (ice sheets breaking up), massive species extinctions, intensified hurricanes and all those things. There's at least a 10 per cent chance of that. And that to me for a society is too high a risk … My value judgement when you're talking about planetary life-support systems is that 10 per cent, my God, that's Russian roulette with a Luger."
From Bolt’s little rant you would think Schneider is demanding scientists lie for ‘the greater good’. That is scientific misconduct, and a fairly serious accusation.
When you read the full quote, however, you’ll understand that wasn’t what Schneider was hoping for at all. In fact, quite the opposite:
On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This "double ethical bind" we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.It is worth directly noting what Bolt wrote:
“So,” admitted Schneider, ”we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.” And what he omitted:
This "double ethical bind" we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.So Schneider isn’t calling for scientific misconduct at all. He is calling for effective communication AND honesty.
One could hypothesize that it is Bolt himself that who is being dishonest and unethical, but I wouldn’t do that. I’m leaning toward symptoms of a dangerous new variant of dyscalculia.
There is hope however. After enough prodding Bolt reluctantly changed the ‘now’ in his first sentence. Little steps. That’s what you begin with on the road to health.
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