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Michael Shermer: The Importance Of Skepticism

Without it, we're slaves to our beliefs
Wednesday, August 3, 2016, 2:34 PM

As humans, the way we process and react to information is influenced by both the biology of our brains as well as our social and cultural norms. We've talked many times here at PeakProsperity.com about the influence -- conscious and subconsious -- that our beliefs exert on our actions. Our past podcasts on behavioral economics have delved into this in detail.

But just because we believe something, that doesn't make it true. Which is why the scientific process is so important: when followed without bias, it enables us to understand reality as it truly is. And such accurate understanding of the facts allows us to make more useful decisions.

In this week's podcast, Chris speaks with Michael Shermer, monthly columnist for Scientific American and founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, about the importance of cultivating a questioning mindset:

By skeptic, I just mean the scientific approach to claims and most scientists are skeptical by nature. Not by human nature, but by dent of their training because science starts with the hypothesis. It starts with the idea that whatever your claim is it’s not true until you prove to us otherwise. An example I use that everybody is familiar with…if you think you have a drug to cure AIDS or cancer or whatever, you can’t just send it to the FDA and ask for their approval without submitting your studies. Where are the peer-reviewed studies? Where are the journal articles? Where is your epidemiological evidence? Where is the controlled double blind experiments or something? You can’t just assert that something is true; you have to actually prove it. The FDA will not grant you permission to sell your drug until you prove to them that your drug is real. It’s always like that. You think Bigfoot is real? That’s nice, prove it. Show us the body. You want to name a new species in biology, you actually have to have a physical specimen that we can all look at. Grainy photographs, blurry videos and anecdotes about things that go bump in the night…that’s not evidence in science.

We start skeptical and then we go from there. It’s not like skeptics and scientists are curmudgeons and don’t believe everything. Just watch any science show, pick up any science book, there’s tons of things that scientists believe from the Big Bang Theory to quantum mechanics, to evolution germ theory of disease, plate tectonics in geology…tons and tons of theories that are believed in that sense because the evidence is there. Another analogy I make is are you a global warming skeptic or are you skeptical of the global warming skeptics, which would make you a believer? Skepticism is not just you go into it and you don’t believe anything period. It just depends on the particular claim and the evidence for it. I might be skeptical of global warming; I once was. Now I lean towards skepticism of the global warming skeptics because I think the evidence for global warming is pretty strong so that’s kind of a way to think about it.

By reason and science, I mean that the idea that we should try to solve problems in a rationale, systematic way…that really began with the scientific revolution and the enlightenment. It begins with Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton and the idea that the universe is knowable…it’s governed by natural laws we can understand. From there it just trickled down into biology and economics. The original economists were really scientists working in areas unrelated to the economy. Francois Canet, the advisor to King Louis XIV in France, he’s the guy that coined the term “laissez-faire”…leave them alone. He said the economy is like blood flowing through the body; it needs to flow openly, freely, and if there’s too many obstructions it’s causing disease. Too many taxes cause disease of the economy. That’s where that idea comes from. The idea that an economy or a colony is governed by principles that we can understand and apply…that’s what we’ve been doing for centuries.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Michael Shermer (35m:41s).

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and it is July 22, 2016. For years, I thought I was in the information business. I gathered all the latest and greatest information from the fields of energy, the environment, and the economy. I carefully assembled it and presented it to many people, thinking that they would somehow see things differently as a result and, more importantly, take different actions in their lives as a result. Most didn’t, by which I mean 99% or more were unchanged by what I considered really earth shattering information about the trajectory of humanity over the next couple of decades.

So, I had to sit back, scratch my head, and take things from an entirely different angle. If information was perhaps necessary but insufficient to lead to personal change, what was still missing? After a lengthy detour through such fields as behavioral economics, psychology and addiction research among others, I had my answer…beliefs. Beliefs stood in the way. To effectively communicate challenging material, I had to be aware of the role of beliefs in causing people to either accept or reject information no matter how good that information was. Further, the way in which emotions and believes are intertwined was a complication. Given where we are in this crazy world today with more predicaments than you could sanely shake a stick at, and given how hard it is to dislodge cultural beliefs that stand in the way of progress, one could be forgiven for wondering if there’s any hope left…but there is, there always is.

Our surprising messenger of hope today is Dr. Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, a regular contributor to time.com, and Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His new book is The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Towards Truth, Justice, and Freedom. He is also the author of The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies--How we Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. These are both books that I’m really looking forward to diving into here today. Welcome, Michael. Before we dive into your books, how did you come to be the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine? I’m wondering what events motivated you to place your energies there.

Michael Shermer: Well a couple things. First, I’m a science guy. I have training in the social sciences, experimental psychology in particular, and my Ph.D. is in the history of science. So, I have a broad education in a lot of different sciences and in the scientific method itself. When I was in graduate school the first time in the late 70’s, there was much scientific interest in the paranormal, ESP, psychic power, telekinesis…that sort of thing. Llife after death and whatnot. There were scientists doing this research and I thought there might be something to it, since I was just a grad student. So what do I know…so I was interested in it that way and then I was also interested in the intersection between science and culture, science and politics when I was doing research on the creationist movement in the 1980’s, when I was in my history and science doctoral program and why it is that people could not accept evolutionary theory. I mean, it was so obviously true. It was centuries worth of evidence piled up in support of it, and yet there was this pocket of pretty much only American fundamentalists, religious people who would not accept it. It was obvious to me there were some cultural, political, religious, whatever motive behind that. So that got me interested in motivated reasoning and the psychology of belief.

When we founded Skeptic magazine in the early 90’s…’92, as a science magazine that would specialize in areas that other science magazines didn’t cover. For example, for my monthly column in Scientific American called Skeptic, I would deal with say…the climate deniers, whereas scientists in the magazine as a whole would deal with climate science. I would deal with the margins, the fringes, the areas that had to do with belief for example. So, that’s sort of the background.

Chris Martenson: Well, if we could spend just a little time there, I know you’ve got a new book out but I’d like to go back to The Believing Brain for a second because it’s so important to what you’re saying and to my own work. What is a belief in your words and how important are they in our daily lives?

Michael Shermer: Well, beliefs are kind of broken down into either thoughts or language by which we communicate, and they’re the things that we hold to be true about any number of different areas,; anything simple from physics like: if I drop something it will fall, if I jump off a cliff I will die, my car will do this and that, just basic stuff…folk biology that organisms are alive and have an essence to them and they’ll act a certain way in a predictable manner. And then folk economics, folk politics…the way we think the world works by our intuitions. Those we evolved. There’s good reasons why, for example, people are uncomfortable with economic inequality; because our species evolved in these tiny groups, these small bands of hunter/gatherers that had very few resources at all. And there was much transparency in the group, because there’s not much else to do and everybody could see how much everybody had, which was not much. That’s what we’re used to, so when there’s cumulative wealth, and there’s not transparency, it feels like something is up…like somebody is cheating the system, somebody is getting too much. That would be an example of folk economics that runs counter to how we know markets worked, and so much of the modern world is counterintuitive to our intuitions about how the world works.

Chris Martenson: I think implicit in that is that what we’re seeing is what we’re getting. It’s certainly true that humans are motivated by incentives and we have very complex systems and some people have better access to the complexities of those systems. I would dare say that in my experience, and it’s fairly considerable at this point…we do not have a level playing field when it comes to markets at this point in time. As much as people would like to believe in free markets, my direct experience is they’re not free. We have asymmetry’s of information, colocations of servers, a variety of things that clearly say there is something less than a level playing field from time to time, but I will agree with you that as primates we’re wired for fairness. It’s part of our social package, our software package if you will. Can you talk to us about that sense of injustice and unfairness and how that forms our actions here?

Michael Shermer: Sure, it’s definitely genetic. In my talks I like to use this video clip from Franz de Waal’s research with capuchin monkeys…

Chris Martenson: Oh, the grape video!

Michael Shermer: You’ve seen that.

Chris Martenson: I love that one.

Michael Shermer: These monkeys, for your listeners, are trained to swap a little pebble for a piece of food and by the time they run the experiment in the day they’re hungry so they’re motivated and so they run over and get a little pebble and give it to the experimenter, who gives them a slide of cucumber and they like cucumbers…but they like grapes even better so they’ll work harder for grapes. They’ll swap two stones for a grape versus one stone for a slide of cucumber. Anyway, in this famous experiment there’s two side-by-side capuchin monkeys in a transparent cage and the one gets a slice of cucumber and he eats it and the other one swaps and gets a cucumber. Then the next one, in the next round, the other monkey gets a grape and so the first monkey sees this…Oh, we get a grape, oh boy! He runs and gets his pebble and gives it to the experimenter and he’s looking forward to getting his grape and instead he gets a cucumber slice and you can see he is not happy about this. He throws the cucumber slice back at the experimenter, he pounds on the cage floor, he rattles the cage walls. These are small-brained monkeys. They don’t have language. They can’t say…Hey, that’s not cool! I am not pleased! But they can express those emotions through their behavior and it's clear what their actions are saying. There’s lots of examples of that. The fact that we’re separated by tens of millions of years of evolutionary history with capuchin monkeys tells us that the sense of fairness is deeply ingrained in all humans.

We know from these experimental behavioral games that are played around the world with, not just Western cultured people, but in eastern cultures, and in traditional societies, and farming societies, and herding societies. Everybody has a sense of fairness and when somebody gets something more than you and it isn’t clear why they got it, the immediate impulse is to think they got it unfairly. Really historically, even the last couple thousand years, that often was the case. The system was hugely rigged through kings, and priests getting the unfair share of the goods from the commoners. The whole system has always been rigged so all we can say about our system is that it’s not as bad as it used to be [laughs] and that it’s getting better. And the whole idea of constantly tweaking our governance system is to try and lower the barriers to entry for everybody and to make it as fair as possible, which is why we have insider trading laws for example. The same thing with doping in sports. You have the rules; you try to enforce the rules,. It’s not a perfect system.

Chris Martenson: Indeed, and I would say that at this point in history, as we look around what’s really happening across the world, we might say that science has brought us really far and we would love for it to continue. There seems to be some counter-veiling forces always because what’s the old…science advances one funeral at a time. There are certainly some elements now, perhaps in our education system or otherwise, that might lead one to suspect that science is sometimes getting a bad rap. In some cases, we have organized PR firms that are actively undermining what I consider to be science. First, the definition of a skeptic is a person who is inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions, but you’re promoting something called skepticism and perhaps that’s something different. What is the difference?

Michael Shermer: By skeptic, I just mean the scientific approach to claims, and most scientists are skeptical by nature. Not by human nature, but by dint of their training, because science starts with the hypothesis. It starts with the idea that whatever your claim is it’s not true until you prove to us otherwise. An example I use that everybody is familiar with…if you think you have a drug to cure AIDS or cancer or whatever, you can’t just send it to the FDA and ask for their approval without submitting your studies. Where are the peer-reviewed studies? Where are the journal articles? Where is your epidemiological evidence? Where is the controlled double blind experiments or something? You can’t just assert that something is true; you have to actually prove it. The FDA will not grant you permission to sell your drug until you prove to them that your drug is real. It’s always like that. You think Bigfoot is real? That’s nice, prove it. Show us the body. You want to name a new species in biology, you actually have to have a physical specimen that we can all look at. Grainy photographs, blurry videos and anecdotes about things that go bump in the night…that’s not evidence in science.

We start skeptical and then we go from there. It’s not like skeptics and scientists are curmudgeons and don’t believe everything. Just watch any science show, pick up any science book. There’s tons of things that scientists believe from the Big Bang Theory to quantum mechanics, to evolution germ theory of disease, plate tectonics in geology…tons and tons of theories that are believed in that sense because the evidence is there. Another analogy I make is: Are you a global warming skeptic or are you skeptical of the global warming skeptics, which would make you a believer? Skepticism is not just you go into it and you don’t believe anything period. It just depends on the particular claim and the evidence for it. I might be skeptical of global warming; I once was. Now I lean towards skepticism of the global warming skeptics, because I think the evidence for global warming is pretty strong. So, that’s kind of a way to think about it.

Chris Martenson: I note that you were once a skeptic of global warming, but then new facts came to your attention that skepticism experienced a conversion of sorts. I’m interested in that process of how, if I can paraphrase what you said…skepticism is a method, not a position. It’s saying…Listen, until the facts come in I’m going to hold this view. When new facts come in, I might hold this view. Take us through that journey of conversion. You were skeptical in the first place, but you shifted. What caused that shift with global warming for you?

Michael Shermer: It was really starting to look at the primary literature, the scientific papers. Cumulatively, to be honest, I’d been a skeptic a long time; really since the 70’s when I started college when the doomsayers were making these claims about the end of the rain forest, and the hole in the ozone, and peak oil, and running out of minerals, running out of gas, overpopulation, billions of people would die…none of this happened and by the 90’s I thought…You know what? These guys are doomsayers. I think they’ve gone too far here; I’m skeptical.

I didn’t pay that close of attention to the research on global warming in particular until I was at my first TED in 2006, before TED was a big thing and Al Gore gave his lecture on The Inconvenient Truth. It became a movie later, but that was his keynote slide show that he became famous for…that’s where he gave it. I saw it and I went…Huh, okay. There’s a lot of stuff going on here. I’d better read more about it. It wasn’t that Al Gore turned me into a global warming believer, but he stimulated me to at least read the primary literature and science and I did and there’s just tons of it. We did issues in Skeptic on it pro and con by global warming skeptics published in there and I gave it a fair shot, both sides, but I just came to the conclusion that it’s very probably real and very probably human caused.

Chris Martenson: That’s fascinating. I saw you most recently at Freedom Fest 2016 in Las Vegas, where you were part of a mock trial where the claims of global warming were being both prosecuted and defended. Tell us about the experience for you, and how did it turn out? What did you learn?

Michael Shermer: I’ve been going to Freedom Fest for years. Mark Skousen is a good friend of mine, and so he talked me into doing the mock trial. We have to remember it’s just kind of for fun and sort of a show. It’s entertaining. Okay, that’s fine…so they actually have a jury and a judge. Michael Medved was the judge and they handpicked the people from the audience as the jury. They tried to convict me of exaggerating the evidence and the jury was hung at 6:6 so I was acquitted in that sense so I feel like I won, which was my second victory of the day, because earlier in the day I debated Dinish D’Souza on the Bible…good book or bad book…and I won that one. I converted more people to my side by show of hands before and after, so it was kind of a double whammy victory for me. I felt pretty good about that, but of course, that’s not how science works. It’s not done by debate or vote. When we talk about consensus in climate science it isn’t a democracy. It isn’t that we’re basing our truths on how many people think it’s true…no. It’s that the people that are most qualified to assess the evidence have come to a sort of consilience or convergence of evidence towards one conclusion.

I cited a study I wrote about in Scientific American that the number we often hear…97% of scientists believe in global warming…that’s not actually correct. A study found that 97% of 11,000 published papers concluded that global warming is real and human caused. What about the other 3%? Maybe they’re right. Maybe the 97% is wrong and the 3% is right; it’s happened before. The authors of this paper pointed out that there was no convergence of evidence in the 3%. In other words, they didn’t all conclude that: it’s due to sun spots, it’s due to volcanic activity, it’s due to misreading of the earth’s temperatures because the thermometers were in cities instead of out in the rural areas…nothing like that. They were all over the board whereas the 97% all converged to the same lines of evidence over and over and over. The reason that’s particular powerful is these are different scientists working in different areas. They don’t even know each other. They don’t go to the same conferences. tThey don’t publish in the same journals. Some of them are physicists, some are meteorologists, some are ecologists, geologists…they have lots of different fields, and so it’s not like they’re meeting on the weekends to get their story straight because we’ve got to destroy capitalism and free trade. No, nothing like that at all.

That’s also what helped turn me around was so many scientists from so many different fields who don’t work together, don’t even know each other, keep coming to this conclusion over and over again that tells us that it’s a fairly robust theory.

Chris Martenson: Indeed, I had an interesting experience sitting towards the back of the audience at that trial where you were on trial. A gentleman in front of me, when he was presented with…you presented some carbon dioxide data that came from bubbles, that came out of the ice cores, and went back a number of years…and he just flatly shook his head and said…”Blah, blah, blah.” That was his rejection method…”Blah, blah, blah.” He didn’t believe it. But then there was this former Princeton professor who came on and said…”Oh by the way, we have CO2 data that goes back 65 million years and that shows that it was higher once”, and this guy shook his head up and down and said…”Yeah, how about that.” He loved one piece of data, hated the other. Presumably, both came from scientific methods. One confirmed beliefs, one ran afoul and therein lies the difference in his reaction.

Michael Shermer: That’s right. You have to accept evidence even when it goes against your belief. This is the problem with certain areas of science. When they bump up against moral foundations or world views that are important…deep world views…religion, politics, economics, ideology…most people accept most of science so it’s not like Republicans hate science. No they don’t. They love science. They use science and technology all the time. It’s only certain areas like creationism, because the theory of evolution feels like it's threatening our religion. Well, when I point out that it doesn’t have to threaten religion at all…you can be a Christian and believe that evolution was the means that God used to create diversity of life. Oh, okay! In fact, millions, many millions, tens of millions of American Christians believe that. The statistics are about 45% of Americans believe that evolution was God’s way of creating life. Okay, I’m an atheist. I’m a materialist. I don’t accept that, but I’m happy to give them that…whatever it takes for improving science education.

With global warming there’s this sense that if it’s real, then the government is going to impose these draconian laws that will restrict free trade, and capitalism, and business, and the economy, and we’ll go to hell in a handbasket because of that. No, I don’t think so at all. First of all, I don’t think that’s the solution. I think markets can solve the solution…people like Elon Musk, electric cars, whatever. If there’s a way to make money capturing carbon dioxide, some entrepreneur will do it [laughs] so I say…Katie, bar the door, let people have at it…solar panels, whatever. The deeper point is that it’s true whether you want it to be true or not so let’s look at why did you not want it to be true and diffuse that bomb. It’s not going to take away your world view. It’s not a threat to your ideology.

Chris Martenson: Well in that vein then, let’s turn now to your new book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Towards Truth, Justice & Freedom. In there, you present evidence that scientific rationalism is responsible for moral progress. First, is that an accurate way to capture that and second, what exactly do you mean by moral progress?

Michael Shermer: Yup, that’s an accurate assessment. By moral progress, I mean things are getting better in the long run. Follow the trend lines not the headline. This tragedy in Munich is unfolding in the news right here in front of me…six dead, another shooter, who knows…could be terrorism, could be a nut ball or whatever. If all you did was watch the news, it would seem like things are bad and getting worse when you talk about moral progress. We have to look at the long run and the long term over the course of centuries. I really start centuries or even millennia ago and look at how things used to be compared to now. I think of it as three steps forward, two steps back in terms of progress. There’s always going to be enough bad things that happen to fill the evening news with bad news because that’s what news does but if you look at the long term trend, the expansion of civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights, the abolition of slavery, the abolition of torture, worker’s rights, children’s rights, there’s just lots and lots of ways that we’ve tweaked the system for more people to have more prosperity, freedom, liberty, and choice than ever before.

You and I as men would have had a pretty high probability of dying violently if we were living in the Paleolithic era as the small bands of hunter/gatherers were constantly at war with each other, constantly fighting over land, and resources, and women, and it was dangerous place to be and we just don’t have that anymore. The raw numbers from World War II are staggering but the percentage of the population that dies violently is much lower…orders of magnitude lower than it was thousands of years ago. So, in the long run things are getting better. There is an arc to the moral universe, as Dr. King said, which inspired my title The Moral Arc.

By reason and science, I mean that the idea that we should try to solve problems in a rationale, systematic way…that really began with the scientific revolution and the enlightenment. It begins with Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton and the idea that the universe is knowable…it’s governed by natural laws we can understand. From there it just trickled down into biology and economics. The original economists were really scientists working in areas unrelated to the economy. Francois Canet, the advisor to King Louis XIV in France - he’s the guy that coined the term “laissez-faire”…leave them alone - he said the economy is like blood flowing through the body; it needs to flow openly, freely, and if there’s too many obstructions it’s causing disease. Too many taxes cause disease of the economy. That’s where that idea comes from. The idea that an economy or a colony is governed by principles that we can understand and apply…that’s what we’ve been doing for centuries, so that’s what I mean by that.

Chris Martenson: So this is a moral arc then that you’re describing where we build upon past progress, and off we go, even though we seem to have some temporary setbacks like ISIS seems to be a little bit of a throwback. You said an important word in there, though, about the Paleolithic’s…they were fighting over resources; be that land, food, women, whatever the resource was in question. I want to get your opinion on how much the moral arc is indeed due to a relative abundance that people can experience and what might happen if, in your mind, to the moral arc if suddenly humans encountered something like you were talking about in the 70’s…if we did experience a shortage of resources, since most wars, even Paleolithic and modern times are wars of resources in one form or another? What would happen to the moral arc, do you think, in a time of declining or stagnant resources?

Michael Shermer: Well, two things. First, it’s an intuitive idea that if life is good, then there’s moral progress, and if life is harsh them things get worse morally. But it could easily be argued the other way, that if you’re mistreated, if you’re poor, if your life is nasty, brutish, short and miserable, maybe you’re more sympathetic and empathetic with people that are also in your plight, so you’re less likely to be violent to them. It could go either way, so the question is, historically: Did it happen? And the answer is: The timing is not quite right. For example, some of the most brutal treatment of other people has happened during the Roman Empire at its height, when it was very prosperous, all the way to some of the Arab States today, where they have unfathomable amounts of wealth and yet they have the worst track record of civil rights. It’s not necessarily true that as life gets better we’re nicer to each other. That said, if we ran out of water, yes of course, that’s going to cause some conflict locally, but I think globally the expansion of the moral sphere has been due to other things, not so directly related to prosperity.

Prosperity has more indirect causes. So, for example, democracies are better than theocracies and autocracies for a lot of reasons, not the least of which, economies are more likely to flourish and wealthier countries can spend more on healthcare, education and so on, and an educated populus is likely to be more economically prosperous, and so it feeds back on itself. The rich shall get richer…the Matthew effect. Those are hard to untangle. It’s a thick web of causal variables going on there…democracy, free markets, education, health…they’re all going upwards, so it’s hard to pin which one is the main cause.

Chris Martenson: It’s interesting. I just finished reading a book called Why Nations Fail…interesting hypothesis in there. It has a good explanatory track record for why some nations succeed and others don’t, and in there I think the main conclusion would be if you have inclusive political institutions, meaning there isn’t just a tyrant and things don’t corruptively end up in the hands of a few, that’s marker number one. Number two, you need to have free markets and free access to capital, and there has to be a level playing field. That’s why I think that it’s really absolutely critical that we understand things like where does this moral progress come from and why do things succeed and fail, because there are in my estimation certainly some dark clouds on the horizon for things like freedom, which is why I attended Freedom Fest. To really understand what are the trends in play, what are the forces, certainly there have been some things that I consider to be counterproductive to inclusive political institutions and free markets [that] have developed of late, and of course you can’t…what would I say…you can’t just assume they’re going to be there. These are things that have to be carefully guarded, I would suppose.

Michael Shermer: Absolutely, there’s nothing inevitable about the arc of the moral universe bending towards justice and freedom and prosperity. The whole thing could turn around. This is not a gallein Marxist type end of history…the whole thing could go south on us for sure. But the further down the path you go, the less likely it is to make a massive reversal like that. Just think about, for example, everybody is worried about Putin. But what are the chances of Putin cobbling together something the equivalent of the USSR in the 1960’s and 70’s…all those states? The chances are pretty slim of that happening. Same thing with slavery. Slavery is illegal in every country in the world now. It’s still practiced a little bit in the form of slave labor and sex trafficking, but it’s illegal in those countries and the laws are just not enforced because the governments are corrupt. So, it’s really a pragmatic problem of law and order, rather than convincing people that slavery is bad. So, we’ve won those battles. Chances of any group of people voting back into their Constitution slavery is pretty nil. It would require a massive extinction of most of humanity and starting over for those kinds of institutions to come back. So, I think we [have] made so much progress that we can be fairly optimistic about that. We’re really talking about fine tuning the system here and there. As you said, setbacks in freedom here and there, you have to follow the Freedom House Survey every year…it goes up and down. This many countries are free, and this many countries are partially free, and not very free, and these are definitely not free. They have these categories and that kind of waxes and wanes. It’s not the all-time high right now. It’s down a little bit. Why? Why did that happen? Well, Syria for example. There’s been an uptick in homicides in Chicago. Why? There’s been an uptick in battle deaths because of Syria. Why? It really comes down to the details of figuring out the specific cause of the problem in that particular area to reverse the trend back in a positive way.

Chris Martenson: Well, Michael, in closing here, I have to ask…I ran across a really charming story you wrote a while ago about an event that shook your skepticism to the core. It was around your wedding. I’m wondering if you would relate that experience and if you have had any other thoughts about it since.

Michael Shermer: Oh sure, yes [laughs]…it was a little bit out of character for me, but it happened. So, I wrote about it in one of my columns in Scientific American - about the day my wife and I got married here at my house. She moved here to LA from Cologne, Germany. So, this was quite a step for her; and the steps that led to us getting married on this particular day were kind of random and it just happened because of immigration law and stuff like that. Better to do it now than later, okay…let’s do it this particular day…boom. It was kind of upon us quickly and there was no time for any of her friends or family to be here, so she was feeling kind of lonely and bad that I had my friends and family here and she had nobody. She was raised by a single mom and a grandfather, and her grandfather passed away now and she was close to him. So, she shipped over this radio that they used to listen to music on…classical music. It didn’t work and I couldn’t get it to work. I spent time trying to get it to work: new batteries, checking the wiring, but it was dead. So, I put it in the back of a drawer in the bedroom. Anyway, long story short, we’re getting ready and all of a sudden we heard music playing in our bedroom. It’s like…I don’t have a stereo system. Maybe my iPhone is on or something. No, it’s not the iPhone. Laptop? No, not the laptop. Neighbors? No, not the neighbors. Where is this music coming from? It was right underneath the printer/FAX machine and it's like…wait a minute, these things have a lot of functions, but they don’t have a radio, do they [laughs]? Sure enough we open the drawer and it turns out it was the radio playing. Totally random, came on at the very moment she called me to the back of the bedroom to just have a moment of privacy, because she was feeling so bad, and there was her grandfather’s radio playing classical music. It played the rest of the day and night, went dead the next morning, and it’s been dead ever since, despite my efforts.

What does it mean? I don’t know. I’m not going to take the leap that…oh boy, her grandfather was channeling through this particular radio station…who knows, but it’s the timing, the emotional component to it, and since I wrote about that I got hundreds of letters from people saying similar things happened to them. So, I think we should keep an open mind about the fact that anomalous experiences can have an effect on people’s lives, and that it’s okay to think about it and experience it. We don’t have to go crazy and project some new age theory about quantum physics, and consciousness, and life after death. Just enjoy the mystery and leave it at that. Even a skeptic scientist like me can say…You know what? I don’t know everything. Science doesn’t know everything. Who knows? I don’t know and I’m just going to appreciate it.

Chris Martenson: Well said. You know, I’m a scientist myself with Ph.D. in neurotoxicology and you know what Michael, I used to know it all. The older I get, the less I know. Science is uncovering mystery after mystery. Just for myself, looking at how the gut biome exploded across our consciousness and awareness, there’s so much yet to learn, so I love keeping the mystery open. It's healthy, I think, to understand we don’t know everything by any stretch.

We’ve been talking with Michael Shermer. He is the founder and publisher of Skeptic magazine and the author of the new book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Towards Truth, Justice & Freedom. Michael, thank you so much for your time today.

Michael Shermer: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

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Stan Robertson's picture
Stan Robertson
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Posts: 665
97% BS

Shermer would have a lot more credibility as a skeptic if he would examine his fabled 97%.

Why do at least 97 percent, and perhaps as high as 99.9 percent of climate scientists say
it’s [Human cause of Global Warming] real?
-10,257 Earth Scientists were sent an invitation
– 7,054 scientists did not reply to the survey (leaving 3203 respondents)
– 567 scientists surveyed did not believe man is responsible for climate change (leaving 2636)
– Only 157 of the remainder were climate scientists (of 2636)
– The “97%” is only 75 out of 77 subjectively identified “specialists” or 2.3% of the 3203
who participated in the survey out of 10,257 invited. What’s interesting is that 3% of the
invitees didn’t think the earth had warmed since the Little Ice Age.
So the 97% is 75 of 77, but it is really only 48% of the 157 and only 2.3% of the 3203.

Luke Moffat's picture
Luke Moffat
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Posts: 379
The price of milk

OK, against my better judgement, i'll bite. What does that have to do with the price of milk? Joining your theme of purely anecdotal wisdom, here's my favourite;


Max Planck wrote:

A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

What does the 'truth' look like in 20 years time? And what guilt burden is associated with a generation that went on a credit splurge and a petroleum binge? Do people not have to overcome that first?

I've never had a problem accepting the effects of atmospheric conditions. Since I first became interested in the solar system I noticed that Venus had a higher surface temperature than Mercury despite being further from the Sun. To satisfy my curiosity I looked at why that would be the case and noticed the difference in atmospheric conditions of the planets. Mercury's atmospheric pressure at the planet's surface... trace. Venus' ... 92 bar. Turns out that Mercury has a tiny atmosphere in comparison with the other planets. Mercury's atmospheric composition, 42% oxygen, 29% sodium, 22% Hydrogen, Carbon Dioxide... trace. Venus' atmospheric composition, 96.5% Carbon Dioxide, 3.5% Nitrogen. 

There was also a question knocking around about what we can do about climate change in another forum. And if we can't do anything about it then why worry? My guess is that everyone is running their own race on their own terms. But why should that mean that we can't discuss the data? If ignorance is bliss then why come to Peak Prosperity? My guess is that CO2 emissions will only come down when Homo Sapiens (Sapiens?) run out of carbon to burn. What the planet looks like then... who knows?

Mark Cochrane's picture
Mark Cochrane
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Posts: 1227
Reality

Skeptics have to be open to examining actual evidence. Simply promulgating talking points of 'true dis-believers' is not skepticism it is activism. (If you want to debate AGW, Stan, come back over to the climate thread)

As an actual publishing scientist who does work on climate issues (heck I have even played one in cartoon form) and posts here under my real name I can guarantee that the vast majority of scientists who truly work on the subject of climate change consider the existence anthropogenic global warming (AGW) settled science. There is plenty of room for skepticism about many aspects of the process and how it will impact the world but you'd have as much luck pretending gravity didn't exist as you would disavowing AGW.

But don't just believe me, you can go here and click on any of the scientists images and get their name and quote (link). I and others provided materials in prior years (scroll down in this if interested - link). These are real scientists, not numbers in a throw away quote.

Beyond that you can look at numerous scientific meetings, like the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) meetings that bring together 24,000 (2015) Earth and Space Scientists in one place, and see how many (if any) sessions or abstracts exist for those claiming AGW doesn't exist. Good luck in your search.

Ultimately it doesn't matter how many scientists are in which camp about AGW, what matters is the strength of the actual evidence that each brings to bear. It is telling that there is not a single (not one!) alternative 'theory' that can explain existing climate observations (not models - measured values).

A skeptical mindset is critical in evaluating the world around us but a real skeptic is always open to accepting the thing that they are skeptical about if the necessary evidence can be provided to address their questions. Not posing those questions or being willing to set any threshold for acceptance of the answers is not skepticism, it is obstructionism.

DennisC's picture
DennisC
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Posts: 324
Or the Price of Cockroach Milk

https://askentomologists.com/2016/07/31/cockroach-milk-is-not-the-next-s...

Just a little scientific sarcasm to brighten up the day.  So much cockroach milk and potentially no humans to consume it!  How's that for "spilled milk under the bridge"?  Wait, is that what they call a mixed "metaphor"?

As an alternative, I was also thinking that CO2 emissions may come down when we run out of "Homo Sapiens (Sapiens?)"  To wit, one of my favorite quotes, from a former colleague..."overcome by events" is the default outcome.  Where's that mothership when you need it?

Mark_BC's picture
Mark_BC
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It took me a while to sort

It took me a while to sort out my belief system. Being heavily scientifically minded, when younger I always associated myself with Atheism because I equated materialism with science, and by default with Atheism. The world follows a series of set natural laws and rules, which can be known through science, and this ultimately will be able to explain how the universe works through material reductionism. The only limit to this is how far science can see given our technology of the time.

…so I believed. The problem with this world view was that the more I learned through science, the more my natural skepticism made me increasingly uneasy about this belief system, like I was having to run around trying to plug leaks for all these observations that just didn’t seem to be supported by that world view. In the end I had to let go of Atheism when I was faced with the question: do I want to be a scientist, or an Atheist?

Today, I would say that my belief system is Scientific Skeptic. It is actually an anti-belief system and has some common philosophies with eastern religions like Buddhism, although I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist. I don’t believe IN anything, except what can be demonstrated by observation. Beyond that, anything is POSSIBLE. It is inverse. I hike with a friend who thought it was ridiculous that I would tend to think that ESP is real since several times I have had thoughts of people pop into my head from nowhere and then instantly later the phone rings and it’s that person. In fact, it happened this afternoon. She says, “How can you believe that, you’re a scientist!”. It seems she doesn’t understand how science works and equates science with material reductionism… Science cannot disprove my observations.

In the interview Michael says that the scientific method works by scientists needing to PROVE something before it is accepted by science. I’ll cut him some slack because he was speaking off the cuff in an interview, but what he said isn’t correct. Science cannot PROVE anything. Science can only DISprove things. It is not possible to prove that a relationship that you previously observed will not be true tomorrow or somewhere else and represents eternal TRUTH. All science can do is disprove the hypothesis, and one then has to revert to the null hypothesis, which asserts that there is no relationship between those objects. Then the hypothesis has to be modified, reduced in scope, or rejected. This is how the scientific method works. One might think this limits science, but to the contrary it makes it very powerful, which I argue is why so many people are afraid of what the findings of science may implicate for their belief systems… this makes science powerful because it can also use evidence to estimate the LIKELIHOOD of a given hypothesis being disproven, and also be used to disprove alternative hypotheses.

It was asked in the interview what a belief is. My definition of a belief is that it is “a set of accepted rules and behaviors by which objects that we have created in our minds interact with each other.” It is dualistic. It uses nouns and verbs. “An atom does this”. “A population of lemmings interacts with the ecosystem in this way”. ”A car is a hunk of stuff you sit in which moves you down the road at speed”. “God created the universe”. “Genes randomly mutate to create genetic diversity” The point is that WE create the objects in our heads. There is a subject and a predicate.

Because science is about DISproving assertions or hypotheses, I like to use it to do just that – to disprove commonly held beliefs. Some people like my friends think you need to have a completely airtight and thorough alternative explanation to be able to disprove certain beliefs but you don’t. Even one observation will suffice, if it is so critical to the belief being held that the belief cannot continue given the disproving observation. “You only need one”.

Here are some of the commonly held beliefs that I have found through scientific scrutiny to be false and not supported by scientific evidence:

It is interesting that Michael mentioned Munich, since that also seems to have been a hoax. It was filmed by Richard Gutjahr who also filmed the Nice “attack” a couple weeks previous. It is not statistically possible for a “local reporter” to be standing by with his camera rolling immediately before two such terror attacks separated by hundreds of miles. This implies that it was staged. If it was staged then ISIS didn’t do it and it was a hoax. No way around that.

Recent machete attack in Germany: supposedly two people were killed by ISIS but the footage clearly shows that there was not a drop of blood on the machete lying on the ground with a chalk outline around it and the suspect lying on the ground in handcuffs only meters away. Not possible.

Nice, France truck attack: Close-up footage of the truck being towed away shows not a drop of blood on it, and it is white. Poor quality video footage of the carnage afterwards clearly shows mannequins were used. No footage is in existence showing anyone getting run over by a truck despite the thousands of onlookers that must have been present if 300 of them got run over, all wielding smart phones with video.

Orlando night club shooting: TV footage mistakenly broadcast which shows the “rescuers” putting the “wounded” back down on his own two feet, then stepping away and laughing, as soon as they thought they were off camera. No explanation for this.

Sandy Hook, etc etc, insert your terror attack [here]; most are fake. If they did one hoax it doesn’t take much to assume they have a whole hoax “program” going on. In fact, it would be unreasonable to assume that they ONLY did one hoax, if they could pull off one.

9/11 was done by al Qaeda. It was actually an inside job. Reams and reams of evidence supporting this, the most compelling to me is the free-fall collapse of Building 7.

Moon landings: I summarized here the evidence which disproves that Apollo 15 could have landed on the Moon, from NASA’s own mouth.

Natural selection of random mutation is the driving mechanism for evolution. This is what really pushed me into a different belief system. I set out to strengthen Atheism but in my quest for evidence I found none. Simply put, there is no evidence at the genetic level which shows that new desirable traits upon which natural selection can act can arise out of random genetic mutation. There are two problems: 1) it is not statistically possible, given the natural mutations that we see in populations, for new functional genes to be created out of this that can actually encode for a new protein and phenotypic trait -- the whole “irreducible complexity” problem. Secondly, even if such mutation rates were possible, it would turn the rest of your genome into Swiss cheese by the time you got a beneficial mutation. I challenge anyone with knowledge of genetics to do a rudimentary statistical analysis and you will quickly see how utterly absurd the proposition is. It’s not that the evidence exists but isn’t very clear, or is inconsistent. It’s that THE EVIDENCE SIMPLY DOESN’T EXIST. The fundamental core of the entire Atheist belief system HAS NOT A SHRED OF EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT IT, unless something has come along in the last few years since I went searching, which I highly doubt.

When I point this out to Atheists they respond with the typical avoidance behaviors, and I then usually soon get banned form the forum. Atheists are just like everyone else… Does this mean evolution is wrong? No. Does it rule out natural selection as one of the driving forces for evolution? No. It merely shows that the emergence of new traits must be governed by additional as-yet unidentified “processes”. The theory of evolution needs to be modified, opened up to new ways of thinking. Unfortunately, scientists are the ones stifling discovery here because they think that an admission of this debunks the whole theory of evolution, which it doesn’t. It only implies that deterministic material reductionism as an over-arching philosophy for understanding how the universe works needs to be re-evaluated, which the vast majority of scientists are unwilling to do, especially biologists. They also have in instinctive gut reaction to anyone pointing these facts out as being on some religious agenda and shut off discussion. It’s really unfortunate.

What causes new traits to emerge in the genome then? I don’t know; many people would call it God, which is fine. I don’t believe in that because I don’t believe in the existence of duality. I believe in inspirational consciousness, which is what the scientific method guides in a reverse belief system. The inspiration for new hypotheses comes from our consciousness. No one knows how this works and I don’t think we ever will. These hypotheses are new proposals for understanding how the world works by piecing together all the previous scientific knowledge about how all the other objects we’ve created work, and then making that into something more than the sum of its parts – and a new hypothesis is born. I ask: why does the emergence of new consciousness (hypotheses) need to be limited to abstract thoughts in our brains? If it’s all “one” then there is no reason why inspirational changes cannot also occur at the genetic level as well, because these are small enough to not follow materialistic determinism and instead are impacted on the level of quantum mechanics, as scientific evidence shows our consciousness is. No one intuitively understands quantum mechanics because it can’t be understood: it is not deterministic with cause and effect relationships between defined objects, which is how our dualistic logical brains create order out of the universe.

Here are some of the commonly held conspiracy theories which I have found to be false:

Chemtrails: no evidence whatsoever other than white lines in the sky, no whistleblower mechanics working on the planes, no technical or biological plausibility for how this is even remotely possible, let alone likely.

The assertion that global warming is not real. Won’t talk about it here, it is covered well in the interview.

Flat Earth. LOL.

spencer91189's picture
spencer91189
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Posts: 4
Techno optimism

Probably my least favorite part was here, when Shermer said:

"I think markets can solve the solution…people like Elon Musk, electric cars, whatever. If there’s a way to make money capturing carbon dioxide, some entrepreneur will do it [laughs] so I say…Katie, bar the door, let people have at it…solar panels, whatever." 
 
This is techno optimism, a form of faith in Science.  Shermer's beliefs seem to include the  myth of Progress. He should read some of John Michael Greer's work. Nobody seemed to like JMG when he was interviewed last time, but maybe PP should give him another shot, particularly as his new book is coming out.
 
agitating prop's picture
agitating prop
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Posts: 863
911

I would like to hear Shermer's take on the official 911 story. 

LesPhelps's picture
LesPhelps
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Posts: 806
Deja Vu, all over again.

The climate change debate dominates comments about a conversation that covered a broader range of topics.

I use to get hot and bothered regarding the AGW debate, until I decided my personal climate needed to cool down.

Now I largely ignore the fuss and pay attention to the thermometer where I am at.  My personal observation is that it has gotten document-ably warmer where I live over the last 30 years.

Couple that with the less complicated topic of peak oil/peak energy and it is darn difficult to argue that it is unnecessary to be frugal when it comes to energy consumption.

Nits are being picked here.  Current consumption practices are jeopardizing humanities future and doing damage to the planet, whether you believe in AGW or not.

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
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Posts: 602
Dynamic disequilibrium?

Climate change or variation?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/heavy-rainfall-floods-fort-mcmurray-as-wacky-weather-plagues-prairies-1.3703530

“When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself.” 

- Mark Twain

Grover's picture
Grover
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Historical Perspective
Luke Moffat wrote:

<snip> There was also a question knocking around about what we can do about climate change in another forum. And if we can't do anything about it then why worry? My guess is that everyone is running their own race on their own terms. But why should that mean that we can't discuss the data? If ignorance is bliss then why come to Peak Prosperity? My guess is that CO2 emissions will only come down when Homo Sapiens (Sapiens?) run out of carbon to burn. What the planet looks like then... who knows?

Luke,

I wish it were just a simple process of looking at the data and accepting it at face value. Unfortunately, climate change and the potential horror that will be unleashed as a result are extremely emotionally charged. It is very difficult for those susceptible to common advertising to discern potential from an imminent calamity. If they were prohibited from voting, I would consider the information for what it is and let it be. Since you mentioned my post, I'll repost it here. I admit that it is strongly worded, but I put out two more polite requests earlier and heard nothing. (As of this writing, I've still heard nothing.)

Grover wrote:

I'd like to report to Chris that some of the insects he missed on his windshield during his recent trip to the beach have shown up here. Unfortunately, I don't even hear crickets. It's been another week since I asked for a plan to combat climate change ... I'm really disappointed in the climate change worriers.

Mark Cochrane wrote:

The real debate about the existence of AGW happened years ago, the debate we need now is what, if anything, to do about it?

If there isn't any solution, why agitate people with the constant drumming? So, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing. What can be done about it? So, sea levels look like they're rising. What can be done about it? So, species are going extinct at phenomenal rates. What can be done about it?

Do you think I enjoy harping about it? No! I really want a solution that is attainable. My problem is that I just can't see one! I'm convinced that the earth (Gaia) will find a solution to this problem. I suspect it will be something similar to advice my mother gave me: "Feed a fever. Starve a cold." As soon as the infection (human overpopulation) is under control, the fever will stop. It might take centuries for the fever to subside, but that isn't even a 24 hour bug to Gaia.

If the real problem is human overpopulation, then any society wide solutions will fail. Perhaps we should focus on individual solutions. What can you do to avoid the peril that will strike the masses? Isn't that better than nothing? For instance, Mark wrote a post on the Climate Change thread pertaining to sea level rising 1.2 meters and impacting 1 billion people who live that close to current sea level. If I lived that close to sea level, I'd seriously consider moving to higher ground before the herd realized it and real estate values plummeted. It isn't going to change the end result, but it will save me the expense of having worthless real estate that is (literally) under water.

If it were as innocuous as that, I wouldn't waste my time writing about it. Unfortunately, the worry warts keep the angst machine running at full speed. Other chicken littles are drawn to the doomer porn like moths to a candle. Because they can only wring their hands and sweat bullets, they're prime fodder for a charismatic charlatan who claims to know the way out of this predicament - it will be based on smoke, mirrors, and hope ... and naive fools will swallow it. The answer will include One World Government with the charismatic charlatan in control. If that happens, kiss freedom goodbye forever.

I've kept this discussion in this thread because of the freedom aspect. I'll give the climate change brain trust another week to at least address my concerns. If crickets are the only sound, I'll move the show to the climate thread.

Grover

Mark's quote was the salient part of his first paragraph in comment #79 where he and rhare were sparring. I take him at his word and I agree that it is past time to debate whether or not AGW is factual. We now need to debate what, if anything, to do about it.

I've been questioning Mark for 3 years about what can be done about it. Our first spat occurred toward the end of the Fourth Turning thread: http://www.peakprosperity.com/podcast/82232/neil-howe-fourth-turning-has-arrived?page=3#comments. [Note that comment #150 on the previous page was a link from jgritter of a Guy McPherson article that jdye51 referenced.] That diverted the thread from T4T and started the conversation down the ole' AGW path. Mark bloviated and chastised me for my incorrect usage of words. Then, invited me to debate AGW on the climate change thread. In post #157, I said,

Grover wrote:

I'll accept your invitation to discuss this matter on the climate thread ... as soon as someone can come up with workable proposals aiming toward a solution. I'm not interested in nattering. Climate change is a predicament that will be addressed individually. This is not the thread to discuss these matters unless any generation is more apt to deal with the problems that society faces.

Here are my posts on another climate related thread so you can see where I'm coming from:

Please send me a PM with links of credible solution(s). To all the climatologists, please don't hijack this thread.

Grover

Over the years, I've seen and admired Mark's ability to leave impressions without personally committing to anything. Imagine my shock when he actually said it is time to debate what to do about AGW. (Frankly, I think he was just trying to shut down rhare.) So, I called him out on it. I'm sure he'll never make that mistake again. Professorial types don't like to be pinned down. After all, it's hard to be beaten and maintain an inflated self image.

Like I said, if it weren't for the side effects, I wouldn't care what the climate change brain trust writes about. Unless something can be done about the impacts of climate change, it merely amounts to worthless fear mongering.

Grover

PS - Mark, Do you really think I'm going to drop this meaty bone?

Mark Cochrane's picture
Mark Cochrane
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To do nothing is still making a choice

Hello Grover,

It is not a question about not wanting to be 'pinned down' on something it is being intellectually honest enough to avoid pretending that I have 'answers' since neither I nor anyone else on the planet has the 'solution' to this predicament we face. The issues are so unimaginably big and convoluted that the IPCC tasks hundreds of scientists with making the world's biggest book report on 60,000 papers every 6-7 years to simply summarize what we think we know. Short of the obvious, slowing down intentionally making things worse with our continued greenhouse gas emissions, there is precious little that is obvious about how to respond to or manage the situation. Anyone have a cure for peak oil or our current economic woes? They are more acute problems for society but relatively minor in significance by comparison over the longer run. The world economy can crash and burn and we will cobble it back together again in some form or other within months to a year. Peak oil/energy can progressively send us back toward the stone age over centuries but humans survived without it before and can do so again, while the rest of nature will actually improve for all of our troubles. Climate change will make our economic and energy problems worse and we will be living in a climate that no human being has ever (!) experienced at a time when every species on the planet is stressed and trying to move to more appropriate locations. I do not claim to know how this will play out but it is not a recipe for stability or harmony.

Whatever we do personally is our own choice, personally I like Les Phelps take on the matter. However, what we do as a society requires a debate because it is a question of collective values more than 'techno-cures'. There are no ready-made solutions coming in nice gift wrapped boxes, we have to make decisions that will require changes and sacrifices if we want to provide more options to the people who come after us. So far we have been collectively deciding to do nothing in the hopes that this predicament could be debated away somehow. At this point we know that is not a viable option and we are collectively delaying action in the hope of clear leadership. Throwing up our hands and saying don't bother me until you have solutions is like sitting in the middle of the desert and refusing to move until you can be certain in which direction the nearest water is located. We don't know were it is other than it is certainly not here. What we need to do is start moving to see if we can find it elsewhere. In terms of global climate change we need to just start doing something, anything, and then evaluate if it is making enough of a difference or if we can do more or need to change direction? As we do so more and more options or clearer paths will open before us because we will learn and grow.

P.S. I have been writing more on the actual impacts that we need to be managing over on the climate thread. Interestingly, I find that there is much less interest from people about the real day to day impacts we need to manage than the big picture gee whiz science.

reflector's picture
reflector
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Posts: 269
skepticism

i submitted a link to the 8/2 digest in the hopes of eliciting a comment on a theory i read about, that seems fascinating but hard to believe.

a couple weeks ago i discovered a youtube channel called suspicious 0bservers, they have interesting videos of sun spots, earth weather, and earth seismic activity. i've been watching their videos, apparently the working hypothesis is that the sun's solar flares / CMEs can cause earthquakes here on our own humble planet.

the idea seemed hard to accept - how could a stream of charged particles from the sun do any more than cause some pretty colors in the sky (northern lights)?

but, if i'm understanding the concept correctly, the earth's core is both liquid and highly magnetized, and the earth resides in the sun's magnetic field, and fluctuations in that field can cause shifts to occur here on earth.

and they seem to have data which shows a high correlation between solar activity and earth seismic activity, here is the associated website space weather news:

http://spaceweathernews.com/spf/

also: http://www.suspicious0bservers.org/

has anyone come across this theory before?

Rector's picture
Rector
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Sometimes I wish we could all be in the same room

It would be fascinating to assemble this group of people and hammer these things out one topic at a time.  We could start with easy stuff and then get to AGW and atheism at the end.  Imagine the conversation. . .

Rector

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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more on eqs

If you want to play around with the ideas of CME stimulated quakes and correllations between quakes and perigee/apogee/full moons/syzygy , the current website for that would be

earthboppin.net

The science is in the super-beginning stages (stamp collecting) but that doesn't make it any less a science, rather it makes it lest respected. It also makes the whole field subject to non-scientific stuff as well, so read everything with a huge grain of salt.

This was the heir to Jim Berkland's syzygyjob.com; as he approached his death through old age, he stopped maintaining his website, and one of his associates started up earthboppin in parallel.

Jim Berkland was a usgs employee who nonprofessionally but very publicly predicted several great quakes, including the World Series quake, and got slapped down as a result.

I fully encourage you to start reading about it; it is a beginning science, so it's one of those fields where it's just as hard to make a dent, but conversely, it's easy to make a dent and be famous if you luckily stumble on the right formula; and you can push the field through simple hard work and maybe become a household name one day. So if you want to do it, go for it.

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It has happened before

"The Inklings"

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Equitable Sacrifies

Mark Said:  " we have to make decisions that will require changes and sacrifices if we want to provide more options to the people who come after us."

OK so here is the sacrifice we all need to make....if we all lived equally on this planet,  consumption would drop as would pollution. There are 7.4 Billion people and 241Trillion dollars of wealth to divide equally.............. so that gives each of us a nice $32,567.00 to work with. I guess my wife and I'll get 1/8 acre of land with a 250 square foot cabin on it and a scooter to get around. That should leave us some money for food and clothes. No travel more than 60 miles from home.  Anyone else want to join this plan?    We all have to leave our  $300,000.00 homes multiple cars etc. and all the energy it takes to maintain that standard of living.

 

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Techno-Triumphalism

Hi Spencer,

You called it techno-optimism. James Howard Kunstler has given talks about collapse aka "The Long Emergency" at places like Google Headquarters. He says those techies are in denial, telling him "Dude, we got all this technology..." True dat. We have tons of technology. But what they don't understand is that fossil fuels are the feedstock for almost all of this technology. We haven't been looking forward, we haven't been planning. Or. more precisely, we have been planning for a world that will stay the same, instead of the one that is already changing.

Kunstler again has pointed out that Capitalism is the system that is the most efficient (best) for exploiting fossil fuels on the way up Hubbert's Peak. But on the way down.... you know where I'm going with this, market forces - can we count on market forces to save us? Let me put it this way: The Tesla vehicle is not likely to survive the next recession.

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if capitalism is the best

system for exploitation on the way up, what is the best system for the remedevalization?

 

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Techno-isms...

Pyrana, and others...

Kunstler again has pointed out that Capitalism is the system that is the most efficient (best) for exploiting fossil fuels on the way up Hubbert's Peak. But on the way down.... you know where I'm going with this, market forces - can we count on market forces to save us? Let me put it this way: The Tesla vehicle is not likely to survive the next recession.

I am not sure that a form of free market capitalism wouldn't work if we simply were able to value things correctly in the context of what is true.  This is one of the goals of the current hybrid or hyphenated study called environmental-economics.  You can have a dumb, techno-hopeful capitalism, or simply capitalism that deals with truth.. which is not to say that we have much capitalism at all anymore in the era of central planning.. but you get my drift.   

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Answer

Robie,

Kunstler doesn't offer solutions.

Martenson says we're in a predicament. And, since climate change is already here, one thing we have to do is to deal with it. Or, we need to deal with it in a more sustainable way. I mean, when hurricane Sandy comes do you encourage people to re-build in that sensitive area? Or hurricane Katrina, before New Orleans was built there were thousands of acres of wetlands that would have cushioned the blow of Katrina - literally.

But to your question of what economic/political system is best for "remedevalization" I will only say that you know and I know that whatever it is, we Americans aren't going to like it.

Nevertheless, we're headed into a period of less resource availability. Maybe we should voluntarily consume less. I suppose there is something anti-capitalist about that.

 

 

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Oliveoilguy wrote: Mark
Oliveoilguy wrote:

Mark Said:  " we have to make decisions that will require changes and sacrifices if we want to provide more options to the people who come after us."

OK so here is the sacrifice we all need to make....if we all lived equally on this planet,  consumption would drop as would pollution. There are 7.4 Billion people and 241Trillion dollars of wealth to divide equally.............. so that gives each of us a nice $32,567.00 to work with. I guess my wife and I'll get 1/8 acre of land with a 250 square foot cabin on it and a scooter to get around. That should leave us some money for food and clothes. No travel more than 60 miles from home.  Anyone else want to join this plan?    We all have to leave our  $300,000.00 homes multiple cars etc. and all the energy it takes to maintain that standard of living.

Interesting idea.  

So a family who decided to have 6 children would get a much larger allocation than a family who chose a more conservative one or two children?  A person who lounged around all his/her life, would get the same distribution as a person who worked hard for 40 or 50 years and saved?  Keep in mind, it was the latter persons work that made it possible for the former person to lounge.

What happens when one family quadruples their allocation, while another family squanders their allocation and becomes destitute again?  Does the first family reallocate funds to the latter?  I wonder where the capital comes from to start a business or build a hospital?

Interesting plan.  I think I'll wait to see if any other ideas crop up, before I jump onboard.

cool

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It's not technology that will save us...
pyranablade wrote:

(...) We have tons of technology. But what they don't understand is that fossil fuels are the feedstock for almost all of this technology. We haven't been looking forward, we haven't been planning. Or. more precisely, we have been planning for a world that will stay the same, instead of the one that is already changing.

This point needs to be made over and over again; technology is not going to save us.  We already have all the technology (and understanding) we need, but we're not using it yet.

The simple example I keep hammering over and over is solar thermal.  Black boxes that sit on roofs and have pipes in them which heat water for next to nothing after manufacturing and installation.  Nothing sexy, nothing hard.

They work fantastic in MA, would work even more fantastically in more southerly areas.  They make sense on every dimension; financial, ecological, local jobs & investment, and even national security (as fossil fuels not needed to heat water limiting foreign dependence).

There is no logical or rational barrier to not using solar thermal.  The reason we don't is because people don't yet believe we need to.  It's about beliefs, not reason.  

We don't need an Elon Musk to come along and wow us with $80,000 cars that drive as awesomely as we hope such expensive vehicles might.

The difficulty I have with the Shermers of the world is that they have the mental ability to run the numbers, but they don't.  They just wave their hands lazily at the shiny, new technologies and then use the equally lazy magic incantation "market forces."

Together these ideas form an impenetrable fortress of "reason" for many people.  The very height of sophisticated rationality.

The only problem is they have not managed to account for this chart:

How about we don't lazily wave our hands at Elon, but instead put forward a rational plan for replacing 11 billion tons of petroleum equivalents?

It has to happen someday, and, no, "market forces" are not up to the task of replacing denser fuel sources with less dense, more expensive fuels.

 

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Best system for remedevalizatien

I'd say that would be prayer, scripture reading, and quiet labor.

Monasticism can help, but isn't all that without the other.

You did ask for best, didn't you?

Perhaps you'd better define the word. Josef Stalin's boxcars also work, and from his point of view that's best.

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thanks Mike

had my mare settled, and now she has freshened..ie.we're pre collapsing. Stalins boxcars seem another method of extraction, just not capitalism?  Natures boxcars would be to solve the over population thru....that is going to happen whether we want it to or not.

I was wondering outloud if society could find a way to remedevalize with out nature forcing acute depopulation. I gratefully lifted the word, remedevalization from JHK.

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Chart

Would love to see the chart "World a Energy Consumption by Fuel" projected out a few decades or even a century.  Any guesses?

AK GrannyWGrit

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Techno-optimism

This presentation was disturbing (yet stimulating, no complaint here) on a number of levels.

One, the idea that science (the use of cause and effect analysis to predict the behavior of something that lacks free will) is or should be the basis of dealing with people and to base government action, with outcome determinative effects on freedom and liberty and a world view on this  has been hijacked by the elite including their government apparatus.  Most jobs and functions of the "science" and "scientists" presented here ( "I’m a science guy. I have training in the social sciences, experimental psychology in particular") are government apparatchiks who deny our basic freedoms and manage our lives because they know more than us how we should live.  Thus we have government psychology "scientists" in the "science" fields of "psychology, the science of human behavior" and "economics" tell us with authority or simply take actions as in the case of government control of returning veterans (government psychologists take away their guns, limit freedom) and dissidents (put them into mental hospitals to protect politicians from their truth) etc. to restrict them for their own good.  We learn from a "science guy" in human behavior and in the "history" of all science that  "We have to look at the long run and the long term over the course of centuries. I really start centuries or even millennia ago and look at how things used to be compared to now.......(therefore) the rich shall get richer."  So lets accept the rapid loss of freedom and the sudden impoverishment of the people in favor of our super rich elite ruling class.  Its really nothing compared with your life 10,000 years ago, so be happy!  This is a standard elite meme, that Warren Buffet promotes.  Do you realize that the formerly middle class (now poor) people in America live better than the Kings of the middle ages?  Be thankful! Nothing to see here, just move along.  We get this same garbage from "I am a PhD economics scientist and I will micro manage your work/economy because I know better than you" from the Federal Reserve that similarly has been hijacked by "scientists."

Trust me, I am a scientist.  As a scientist I have carefully checked the data and it is a basic "scientific!" fact that "The rich shall get richer" so get over it.   

The word "science" and the meaning of "scientist" has been hijacked by a group of people that need to control money "economics scientist" and other people "social sciences, experimental psychology" for THEIR (or their managers) benefit.  The government administration support apparatus of the elite naturally employ such "science" and "scientists" as cover for their aims (as a fig leaf to cover their otherwise raw dictating) and the newly impoverished are beginning to figure this out.  As a result, the meaning of "science" and "scientist" is severely damaged irrevocably in the minds of the populace who no longer trust "scientists" and eventually hate "scientists." This is similar to what happened at the end of the Roman Empire and is one characteristic of the coming dark ages.  Gerald Celente pointed out this problem and explained that any real scientist will have to find shelter in a type of small, resilient community monastery in the years ahead.  
Those of us baby boomers who grew up in the 50s and 60s saw how "science!" was used to sell toothpaste and mouthwash.  This has evolved to a general control/rationalization by the elite in our lives.  In my view thus, the "techno optimism" meme mentioned by Spencer#### is just another tool employed by a (system?) of the ruling elite to have their way with us.

 

 

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As a project manager for prestress, I can say...

... that your plan would double my cash reserves, meet my housing, and meet my land ownership.

The scooter would be an improvement on my walk today, but a step down from my normal minivan (which is in the shop right now). But if it is as you describe, I think I'd prefer bicycles, with electric assist carts.

Just sayin'.

Say, I have an idea...
... if your state of life is above that which you described, we wouldn't have to wait for everyone else. You could downgrade, I could upgrade, and we'd be known as early adopters!

what do you think? Give it a go?

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The guilt of being comfortable

I feel a certain amount of guilt to be so blessed to have a "easy" life relative to so many unfortunate people in the world. Yes ....I work very hard, and do charitable giving....and am trying to live with a light footprint (solar, rainwater, gardens, etc.), but there is nothing that could compel me to give up my entire lifestyle and immerse myself in poverty.  Obviously the scenario in the earlier post is impossible, but assuming some science fiction moment where the benevolent dictator could readjust all the world's inequities and reset the "fairness meter", it would just be a starting point with everyone having their 32K. It would have to be a one time reset. And you have a point Les, that going forward, things might not be so great. All the people who's wealth had been taken for redistribution would be pissed, unless the dictator had some good mind control tools at her disposal. And the incentive to excel might be missing.

The question is .....How much are we willing to give up to try to achieve fairness? And don't we all think that we might be better stewards of our possessions than the next person, and that for the common good many items should remain under our control?

I guess anyone with a conscience grapples with this issue.

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Skeptic or Debunker

Shermer, like many skeptics, doesn't carefully analyze data.  So called skeptics dismiss data that doesn't fit their world view --- the antithesis of the scientific method. They also don't understand the limits of science, the politics involved in the scientific process.

When it comes to persistent claims of paranormal or other worldly events, they aren't content to be agnostic. They have to describe in belittling terms, what can't be recreated in a lab setting, as untrue. Simple reason suggests this is blinkered materialism, at it's worst. 

Why not simply admit that much of life is experiential and science can't replicate it. 

I am still waiting to hear what he has to say about 911. I would also like to know more about his take on Csicop, (Psi-cop) and it's ties to Prometheus books and if it's true Csicop had a convicted or suspected pedophile among their membership-- Also if these same members were ever on their board of directors. I want to know, if it IS true,  did they investigate these individuals thoroughly before they disseminated the 'false memory syndrome,' theory into the mainstream. Another question I would ask is why both are headquartered in Arlington, Virginia--Spooksville. 

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cmartenson wrote: pyranablade
cmartenson wrote:
pyranablade wrote:

(...) We have tons of technology. But what they don't understand is that fossil fuels are the feedstock for almost all of this technology. We haven't been looking forward, we haven't been planning. Or. more precisely, we have been planning for a world that will stay the same, instead of the one that is already changing.

This point needs to be made over and over again; technology is not going to save us.  We already have all the technology (and understanding) we need, but we're not using it yet.

The simple example I keep hammering over and over is solar thermal.  Black boxes that sit on roofs and have pipes in them which heat water for next to nothing after manufacturing and installation.  Nothing sexy, nothing hard.

They work fantastic in MA, would work even more fantastically in more southerly areas.  They make sense on every dimension; financial, ecological, local jobs & investment, and even national security (as fossil fuels not needed to heat water limiting foreign dependence).

There is no logical or rational barrier to not using solar thermal.  The reason we don't is because people don't yet believe we need to.  It's about beliefs, not reason.  

We don't need an Elon Musk to come along and wow us with $80,000 cars that drive as awesomely as we hope such expensive vehicles might.

The difficulty I have with the Shermers of the world is that they have the mental ability to run the numbers, but they don't.  They just wave their hands lazily at the shiny, new technologies and then use the equally lazy magic incantation "market forces."

Together these ideas form an impenetrable fortress of "reason" for many people.  The very height of sophisticated rationality.

The only problem is they have not managed to account for this chart:

How about we don't lazily wave our hands at Elon, but instead put forward a rational plan for replacing 11 billion tons of petroleum equivalents?

It has to happen someday, and, no, "market forces" are not up to the task of replacing denser fuel sources with less dense, more expensive fuels.

 

Totally agree. There has been, in my opinion, out and out blockading of serious efforts to employ tech we already have. This is radiating from within the deep state outwards.  Oil has been backing the dollar, giving it reserve currency status.  That status has subsidized the U.S and also provided a conduit for Saudi money-- funneled right back into American banks.  The American way of life has thus far been running on oil. It feels like this is slowly changing and the control of the financial sphere, globally, will be executed from satellites.  This is no doubt the reason tension is developing towards China, another power poised to compete in that stratosphere. I suggest listening to Catherine Austin Fitts on Dark Journalist. 

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Mots wrote: This presentation
Mots wrote:

This presentation was disturbing (yet stimulating, no complaint here) on a number of levels.

One, the idea that science (the use of cause and effect analysis to predict the behavior of something that lacks free will) is or should be the basis of dealing with people and to base government action, with outcome determinative effects on freedom and liberty and a world view on this  has been hijacked by the elite including their government apparatus.  Most jobs and functions of the "science" and "scientists" presented here ( "I’m a science guy. I have training in the social sciences, experimental psychology in particular") are government apparatchiks who deny our basic freedoms and manage our lives because they know more than us how we should live.  Thus we have government psychology "scientists" in the "science" fields of "psychology, the science of human behavior" and "economics" tell us with authority or simply take actions as in the case of government control of returning veterans (government psychologists take away their guns, limit freedom) and dissidents (put them into mental hospitals to protect politicians from their truth) etc. to restrict them for their own good.  We learn from a "science guy" in human behavior and in the "history" of all science that  "We have to look at the long run and the long term over the course of centuries. I really start centuries or even millennia ago and look at how things used to be compared to now.......(therefore) the rich shall get richer."  So lets accept the rapid loss of freedom and the sudden impoverishment of the people in favor of our super rich elite ruling class.  Its really nothing compared with your life 10,000 years ago, so be happy!  This is a standard elite meme, that Warren Buffet promotes.  Do you realize that the formerly middle class (now poor) people in America live better than the Kings of the middle ages?  Be thankful! Nothing to see here, just move along.  We get this same garbage from "I am a PhD economics scientist and I will micro manage your work/economy because I know better than you" from the Federal Reserve that similarly has been hijacked by "scientists."

Trust me, I am a scientist.  As a scientist I have carefully checked the data and it is a basic "scientific!" fact that "The rich shall get richer" so get over it.   

The word "science" and the meaning of "scientist" has been hijacked by a group of people that need to control money "economics scientist" and other people "social sciences, experimental psychology" for THEIR (or their managers) benefit.  The government administration support apparatus of the elite naturally employ such "science" and "scientists" as cover for their aims (as a fig leaf to cover their otherwise raw dictating) and the newly impoverished are beginning to figure this out.  As a result, the meaning of "science" and "scientist" is severely damaged irrevocably in the minds of the populace who no longer trust "scientists" and eventually hate "scientists." This is similar to what happened at the end of the Roman Empire and is one characteristic of the coming dark ages.  Gerald Celente pointed out this problem and explained that any real scientist will have to find shelter in a type of small, resilient community monastery in the years ahead.  
Those of us baby boomers who grew up in the 50s and 60s saw how "science!" was used to sell toothpaste and mouthwash.  This has evolved to a general control/rationalization by the elite in our lives.  In my view thus, the "techno optimism" meme mentioned by Spencer#### is just another tool employed by a (system?) of the ruling elite to have their way with us.

 

 

 

I would love to read this but I can't because I will get eye-bleed trying, if it isn't broken into more paragraphs. Bummer, because grammatically, it maybe shouldn't be.  But my eyes. Oi oi oi ...what can I say??

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Overly Theatrical Election Politics

I'm not hard over on this one, just putting it out there. Something to consider.

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Mare settled?

 

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Weird
Time2help wrote:

I'm not hard over on this one, just putting it out there. Something to consider.

I had this very same thought for the first time earlier this afternoon.

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Laying it by, indeed.

After watching that video, Peak Oil doesn't look as scary as it's played up to be. How's that work for hilling potatoes? Managed to get my old Troybuilt tiller to last 31 years, but they stopped making the Kohler 8 horse engine. Just defrosted my 43 year old freezer yesterday and she didn't break a sweat getting down to temp. My scythe still cuts and my wife and I after 46 years of marriage still bake bread, can produce from the garden and kill chickens together..

Perhaps we should stop focusing on GDP and direct our efforts to making things that last, whether it be animal, mineral or relationships. Skeptics are just realists that get things done. Do we really need more experts to advise us on how to live?

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.  - John Kenneth Galbraith

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A Different Focus Needed

Hello Mark,

Thanks for answering me. I can see now that you really don't have any answers to the problems poised by climate change. I was actually hoping that you would have some ... or at least one. I do have a quibble or two. If it truly is a predicament (as defined at PP,) then, there truly isn't any solution possible - only outcomes to manage.

Mark Cochrane wrote:

In terms of global climate change we need to just start doing something, anything, and then evaluate if it is making enough of a difference or if we can do more or need to change direction?

This statement is totally contrary to accepting climate change as a "predicament." When you implore people to just start doing something, anything ... you build on the worry that there is a solution, but we're just not smart enough to find it. There is no solution - only outcomes to manage. Why do you make statements like the above quote?

Earlier in your reply, you stated:

Peak oil/energy can progressively send us back toward the stone age over centuries but humans survived without it before and can do so again, while the rest of nature will actually improve for all of our troubles.

I think you're overly optimistic that we have centuries before we'll be back in the stone age. The economy needs ever increasing energy to function as it has been designed. When energy constraints limit economic growth, debts become increasingly difficult to be paid thus causing banks to suffer. With enough defaults, banks become insolvent. Without solvent banks issuing letters of credit, commerce drops rapidly. Can central banks buy up all the bad debt to keep the banks liquefied? Perhaps for a while, but when Joe Sixpack sees that his friend defaulted without significant consequences, the contagion will overwhelm the central banks' ability to forestall the inevitable.

Knowing how long the economy can function on fossil fuels is critical to building the infrastructure that will replace it. If business as usual can last for centuries, we've got plenty of time to develop and build alternate energy sources. If the economy collapses in 5, 10, or even 50 years, we'd be hard pressed to ramp up these alternate energy sources so they can keep business continuing as usual. Because people have been led to believe we have centuries of oil left, there isn't any rush.

I've started looking into the partial solutions that Doug suggested on the Freedom Fest thread Comment #46. It is relevant here because these are some of "just start doing something, anything" possibilities.

Doug wrote:

<snip> The science is pretty clear and a lot can be done about it while recognizing there are still differences at the margins.  Wind, solar, other renewables, carbon taxes and conservation are obvious partial solutions that could be initiated and scaled up rapidly.  Don't let issues like using cement in the foundations stop us, find some other foundation methods.  Drilling into bedrock works.  There were at least dozens of small hydroelectric dams in upstate NY before they were decommissioned and torn down in favor of large grid systems.  Well, maybe its time to rethink some of those local solutions with compromises to protect populations of aquatic species.  I'm still hesitant about nuclear as it has problems that seem insoluble, waste being the biggie.  But, there are smart folks out there who might be able to resolve those problems. <snip>

Of these, solar has the most promise and mostly in low latitude locations. As Chris noted, passive solar to heat water is a great idea for individual homes/businesses! There are few moving parts to wear out and it can be built inexpensively. It will augment another water heater, but not replace it everywhere year round. Solar energy is intermittent. When it comes to photovoltaic panels, unless batteries are incorporated in the system, the energy needs to be consumed the moment it is generated or it is lost. From what I understand, cheap batteries wear out rapidly. Good batteries (like nickel iron) are expensive and relatively inefficient, but they last much longer. Either way, solar panel salesmen won't included that in their EROEI calculations.

Wind turbines share solar's intermittent character. I was surprised to see University studies that claimed that harvested energy can replace invested energy in 5-8 months and that these turbines have a design life of 20-25 years. Again, these studies ignore battery EROEI or the need for traditional electrical generation facilities. It makes sense if are willing to use all the energy created when it is created and be willing to not use it on cold, windless, winter nights. I guess I don't buy the 5-8 month payback time.

Worse than that, wind turbines are designed to need regular maintenance. What happens in a Kunstleresq "Lights out" scenario. Without needed maintenance, the machines will eventually destroy themselves.  This 6+ minute video shows some of the other problems with wind turbines.

I'm not sure what Doug means by other renewables. I also suppose Doug can wave his magic wand and create new foundation methods so we don't have to deal with the problems of reinforced concrete. Drilling into bedrock still requires reinforced concrete. What do we do when bedrock is too deep or too rotten? 

Hydroelectric comes with its own environmental issues. I doubt one could be environmentally cleared and built in 10 years. Smaller, older units are being decommissioned and removed across the country. Besides, most of the appropriate sites have already been dammed. Nuclear power plants will flame out in a "Lights out" scenario like a wind turbine ... only much more impressively.

Mark noted that he likes Les Phelps' approach to voluntary conservation of fossil fuels. It makes sense on a personal economic basis to reduce the need for fossil fuels, but we can't conserve a finite resource (like oil) enough to make it sustainable. The oil that Les saves will just be consumed by the next person in the gas line. If enough people adopted Les' approach, oil demand would drop ... as would the prices. We would still run out of oil. It will give us more business as usual so the world population would grow bigger.

Finally - carbon taxes. What would happen if the US imposed carbon taxes? It would make economic sense for any business that could offshore their work to do so - to avoid the tax. What would happen if every government in the world instituted carbon taxes? Products would become more expensive so people would consume less. (On the surface, that's good.) Businesses would contract. There would be less economic activity (meaning more loan defaults. Below the surface, that's not so good.) What happens when a foreign country decides the economic pain due to carbon taxes is too much to bear? There's quite an incentive to cheat. How are you going to keep them from cheating? If you don't, others will cheat as well. I suppose we could all vote for One World Government. Who's going to keep the "leaders" in check?

This is why I'm allergic to partial solutions.

Grover

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The Ego.

When you attach your ego to an idea, you've got problems.

You are not the idea. The idea can die and you will lose no blood. I promise.

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Grover wrote:Mark noted that
Grover wrote:

Mark noted that he likes Les Phelps' approach to voluntary conservation of fossil fuels. It makes sense on a personal economic basis to reduce the need for fossil fuels, but we can't conserve a finite resource (like oil) enough to make it sustainable. The oil that Les saves will just be consumed by the next person in the gas line. If enough people adopted Les' approach, oil demand would drop ... as would the prices. We would still run out of oil. It will give us more business as usual so the world population would grow bigger.

You finally, barely mentioned the elephant in the room, POPULATION.  

There is an easy, quick, inexpensive, low energy, partial solution to climate change.  Produce 7.3 Billion identical pills, half of them lethal, half of them placebos.  See that everyone takes one...

I'm obviously not serious, but dealing with the population issue, if we ever do, is going to cause more of a ruckus than getting people to voluntarily reduce their energy consumption.

Rarely, does anyone talk about population, in a climate change debate and yet, population is one of the two components of the ecological foot print.  Consumption changes are always discussed, but never population. Even stopping continued population growth, rarely gets honorable mention.

If AGW is legit (and I won't join that fray), population has to be addressed.  It simply has to, or there is no real solution.

I don't agree that partial solutions aren't the answer.  An adequate mix of partial solutions can change humanities path.  I've cut my oil consumption dramatically, but sadly only compare favorably to other U.S. Citizens.  If everyone else worked toward the same goal, we could perhaps double the life span of remaining petroleum reserves, giving us twice as much time to employ alternatives.

My wife and I just spent a couple of days with some close friends at their lake cabin.  We saw them using SUVs, ski boats and other gas powered toys and tools.  In retrospect, I didn't see them having a greater amount of fun, or accomplishing more than I do.  My hybrid gets me just as far, just as fast as their Suburban.  I believe I have just as much fun, or perhaps more, riding my scooter to the hardware store as they do water skiing or riding an tube behind a boat.  In fact, they spent and spend a lot more time maintaining their lake cabin, ski boat, fishing boat, pontoon boat and other toys, than they do "enjoying" them. It is not a lifestyle that I want to duplicate.

Humans are "monkey see monkey do."  Every person who demonstrates that you can truly enjoy an alternative lifestyle helps.  If Hollywood ever started selling alternative lifestyle, instead of what it tries to sell today, Katie bar the door. 

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Rector
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Solar Thermal Water Heater - No Joke

I finally got a chance to install one of these things - and WOW - in Texas it works like a new car.  It is producing so much hot water, that we had to build a roman shade device for it that will partially shade the tubes!  It was heating water well in excess of what could be used.  It is such a simple device that I am embarrassed that I have waited this long to put one in.  Really like it for a family of six.

Rector

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Thumbs up!
Rector wrote:

I finally got a chance to install one of these things - and WOW - in Texas it works like a new car.  It is producing so much hot water, that we had to build a roman shade device for it that will partially shade the tubes!  It was heating water well in excess of what could be used.  It is such a simple device that I am embarrassed that I have waited this long to put one in.  Really like it for a family of six.

Rector

yesyesyes

Way to go!  Doesn't endless free hot water feel good?  Free after installation I mean.

People could also, should they choose, built net zero, or even net negative structures.  Nothing stopping us but the faith that fossil fuels will always be there.

 

 

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Turnkey Solar Thermal Water Heater for Climates w Freezing

Could those of you who are familiar with this technology point us to a turn-key unit that would be suitable for a climate where winter freezing occurs.  (We have ~20 days where temps are below-freezing each  year in central Virginia.)

Just a note of appreciation to rector above for pointing out a specific product that he has used.  Very helpful for those of us unfamiliar with the technology.  It looks like this particular product is best suited for warm climates, though.

 

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Solar Water Heating for Winter Greenhouse

Does anyone have experience using a barrel or tank of solar heated water to sit in a greenhouse in winter to keep temps stable and well above freezing?

I have seen gardeners put several large (50 gallon) barrels full of water inside greenhouses to function as a "heat mass" that absorbs heat in the daytime and releases heat at night to even out daily temperature fluctuations inside the greenhouse.

But to really garden during a prolonged cold spell, we would need active heating of the water.  Anyone have experience with heating a large tank of water that would sit in a greenhouse?

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Ken From Utah pointed out ....

at the Rowe Conference this year, that a devastating war or pandemic that killed off half of humanity's 7 billion people would still only set the population levels to those seen in the 1960s. 

Such is the deceptive nature of the steep part of an exponential curve.

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I think there's a better way to do solar/wind.

Suppose you make a concrete building, with concrete vanes that spiral inwards, and a "floor" that goes from perhaps 10' high up to 50' high.  On the outside of the concrete fixed vanes, place adjustable metal vanes.

Now, the metal vanes control flow; the fixed vanes and the sloping floor concentrate the velocity.  At the center, it all funnels into a small tesla turbine that dumps to the top. The tesla turbine, in turn, drives a shaft that operates one of 6 generators (2 @ each phase) down below.  At this point, you can take out of service 1,2,3 or 4,5,6, and repair/replace them. 

So I suspect that this turbine will be easier to replace.  Moreover, the number of moving parts are greatly reduced:  the turbine is small, and not at risk of explosion or disintegration; the venturi is without moving parts. 

Now, to make the thing less sporadic and more efficient, paint your concrete vanes with carbon black, and use mirrors to direct sunlight in to the interior of the windmill.  The solar will heat the air as it increases speed, resulting in an increase in pressure, that makes even a small wind much more effective.

Item number 3:  place a giant underground concrete flywheel, with permanent magnets down below.  Use that flywheel to store excess daytime energy, and release it as needed.  At this point, you are not sporadic.

There's one more, for an item #4, but I'm going to reserve that for now... it's a much better design for electric motors and generators in general.

 

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Northlands Winter Greenhouse

Hi Sandpuppy

I don't have an answer to your question, but here is a very interesting, well-tested tangent that's working for market farmers and homesteaders in N. Minnesota.  It it a greenhouse model that keeps temps high enough even in Minnesota to grow baby greens throughout winter.  It uses heat sinks like water, but adds some other construction elements to capture and store solar heat for the plants.

I have not built one yet and may not because I'm north of 49, and every degree north reduces sunlight in winter.  The folks I contacted at the university were not sure it could work any further north because of the low angle of sunlight in winter.  Anybody else here have experience with this?  Canadians? Northern Europeans?

There is an excellent how-to book, The Northlands Winter Greenhouse Manual

As well, the U of M has taken the building technology on.  Super interesting.

http://www.extension.umn.edu/rsdp/statewide/deep-winter-greenhouse/

Cheers

Susan

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Elephants and Barrels
LesPhelps wrote:

You finally, barely mentioned the elephant in the room, POPULATION.

Les,

I've mentioned this several times in the past. I agree with you that it is the elephant in the room. Because we can't actually address it, nothing can be done to solve our situation. I don't know what the final global population should be. I contend that when everything is reduced to local sustainability, some areas will turn into ghost towns and some areas won't notice as much disruption. Las Vegas is a leading candidate for future poster-child ghost town. Small towns with sufficient local food should weather the inevitable storm better.

I used to drive a Prius myself. It got great gas mileage. I haven't checked into how much energy was needed to manufacture it, but that needs to go into your mental calculation as well. The roads you drive on, the hardware store, the supplies you buy, etc. all have embedded energy. It isn't just the gas that powers you that matters.

There aren't enough partial solutions to overcome the elephantine problems. Some can be scaled up, but we need to know (or assume) how much time we have to do so. If you think we have centuries, there isn't any urgency. If we only have years up to a decade or two, it is already too late. Currently, these solutions are marginal at best. As people drive by giant wind farms in their SUVs towing boats and other gas powered toys, they get a false sense that we're actually solving the big problems. It keeps them off the politicians' backs; therefore, the politicians win.

I'm glad that you are enjoying yourself. I've found that frugality is its own reward. Of course, the economy would collapse if everyone followed our example.

Sand_Puppy,

I placed 8 55 gallon drums in my 16' X 16' greenhouse one year to help overwinter plants. We had a cold snap with temps dropping to near or below zero for a week. The barrels all became ice cubes and I lost my delicate plants. That wasn't sufficient to keep it warm for this long. I've considered building a rocket mass heater, but haven't done so yet. It will take a while to learn how often it needs to be fired, but I think it is a promising solution for keeping a small space warm enough if you have enough woody debris and have the time to tend it.

Grover

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Is this the focus you want?

Hello Grover,

Not quite sure we are seeing this the same way:

Grover wrote:

Mark Cochrane wrote:

In terms of global climate change we need to just start doing something, anything, and then evaluate if it is making enough of a difference or if we can do more or need to change direction?

This statement is totally contrary to accepting climate change as a "predicament." When you implore people to just start doing something, anything ... you build on the worry that there is a solution, but we're just not smart enough to find it. There is no solution - only outcomes to manage. Why do you make statements like the above quote?

I do not agree with your interpretation. When you are diagnosed with diabetes (type II) you are not stuck with either curing it (solution that isn't forthcoming) or doing nothing. Diet and exercise can go a long way to managing your predicament, as my own mother has shown, or you can move on to insulin injections. You could use the same analogy with the predicament we all face, namely the terminal predicament of aging. There is no cure but plenty of ways to manage the situation, some more effective than others.

With climate change we can't put the genie back in the bottle (cure/solve). We can manage the predicament through either cutting greenhouse gas emission levels (mitigation) so that things don't get as bad as quickly, or through adaptations like moving to cooler climes or building higher and higher sea walls. Mitigation is analogous to the diet and exercise for the diabetic (all of us actually), while adaptive actions are like taking insulin to help mask the symptoms. It is not an either/or proposition, we can and should do both at this point. Business as usual is clearly not viable, we need an adaptive strategy moving forward where we cut emissions and determine if we can and need to do more every several years, we also need to engage in adaptive behaviors (sea walls, crop shifts, water management) but again evaluate when to change approaches (do we raise another higher sea wall or finally abandon London?).

I do think that it would take quite a while to get back to the stone age through energy starvation unless we really do something apocalyptic since there is a lot of embodied energy left to mine from our existing systems (ala John Michael Greer) and we'd need to either use up all of our accessible coal or lose all of our knowledge-base. This doesn't mean that our economy would look anything like it does today. The economy we have has no independent reality, it is a construct of our belief system. Our species will continue whether or not this economic model continues to exist, however, our way of life will not continue without it. The current social systems that we enjoy are predicated on lots of nearly-free energy from fossil fuels. Without that bounty of extra energy we drop back into something more akin to the 1750-1850 era of energy dynamics. It doesn't mean we have to recreate a feudal system but that is one model that has been shown to work under lower energy availability. I am not arguing for its moral desirability just its proven track record. Other options are possible.

The fly in the ointment of everything is population as Les keeps banging home. Our climate problem is primarily a function of population in the current economic system and our economic system's survival (growth!!!) is primarily a function of population growth. We can try to live poorer and poorer lives (in terms of energy consumption) but if the population keeps growing we will only delay the inevitable. Our economy dies without growth of consumption, growth of consumption (of food if nothing else) dies without growth of population, but ultimately our environment collapses without a decrease in our consumption levels, taking out humans and our beloved economy if we don't act. The only choice we have is when and how we will address this catch-22.

There are other ways to live, even if we have a hard time imagining doing so. This can be forced upon us (see Kunstler's World Made by Hand series for an illustration) or it can be done by choice. I think Les hits the nail on the head!

Humans are "monkey see monkey do."  Every person who demonstrates that you can truly enjoy an alternative lifestyle helps.  If Hollywood ever started selling alternative lifestyle, instead of what it tries to sell today, Katie bar the door.

If enough of us embrace our personal collapse and beat the rush (Orlov) mentality we will lead by example and eventually drag the rest of the world with us since once enough opt out of the current growth of consumption at all costs mentality the economy will face its own adapt or die moment. Let's not kid ourselves, this process is underway right now whether or not we front run it by creating alternative lifestyles. Squeezing the blood out of everyone outside of the few 'elites' is killing consumption and driving 'growth' lower and lower by the year already. Wealth concentration and rising energy costs would kill the current economic model even if we did not face climate change issues.

The only way to manage our populations lower is for death rates to exceed birth rates over the long haul. For example, if death rates exceeded birth rates by 7% per year we would drop our population by half in just 10 years. The ways to accomplish this are a moral quagmire of choices for selecting winners and losers though. We manage the populations of other species all of the time so, objectively, we know very well how to do this. The mind (at least mine) is revolted by the prospect of implementing such a process on our own kind though and that is why no one really discusses population control.

Anyone care to take that on?

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Anyone care to take that on?

Nope. 

We entertain such a variety of belief paradigms, even in the US alone, I see no way forward on a global scale to stabilize population.

After all, it is a well- established practice to encourage reproduction among your 'membership'  (however that is defined) so that over time, your tribe, your belief system becomes the dominant one, and therefore the one in power.

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Check your arithmetic
Mark Cochrane wrote:

The only way to manage our populations lower is for death rates to exceed birth rates over the long haul. For example, if death rates exceeded birth rates by 7% per year we would drop our population by half in just 10 years. The ways to accomplish this are a moral quagmire of choices for selecting winners and losers though. We manage the populations of other species all of the time so, objectively, we know very well how to do this. The mind (at least mine) is revolted by the prospect of implementing such a process on our own kind though and that is why no one really discusses population control.

Anyone care to take that on?

Mark,

If the rate of increase of population per year was R, and it was exceeded by a death rate that was 1.07R, then the population would decline exponentially with a half time of .693/(.07R). That would be ten years only if R=0.99 rather than something more like the actual R of approximately 0.01.

Stan

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Mark Cochrane
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Actually

Hello Stan,

If the Death rate (D) exceeds the Birth rate (B) by 7%, for example B= 3% but D = 10%, this signifies that the population (P) after year 1 will be P*(100%+(B-D)) = 1*93% of what it was, 86% after year 2, 80% year 3, 75% year 4, 70% year 5, 65% year 6, 60% year 7, 56% year 8, 52% year 9, and 48% year 10. So between years 9 and 10 you would reach 50%. If you really want to land on 50% after 10 years you need a net decay rate of 6.7% if we are picking nits. This is exponential decay.

Mark

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