Gavin (selfishgene) wrote,
Gavin
selfishgene

Suppression of Science Within Science

Lomborg’s text employs the strategy of those who . . . argue that gay men aren't dying of AIDS, that Jews weren't singled out by the Nazis for extermination. So global-warming denialism is as much beyond the pale as AIDS denialism. Except that – and perhaps you’ve noticed – Duesberg has never denied that AIDS exists, he just has a different explanation for what caused it. And Lomborg doesn’t deny that global warming is occurring, he doesn’t even question that human activities are contributing significantly to it, he is just making a cost-benefit argument.
The chickens are coming home to roost. Decades of support from centralized governments have caused centralized bureaucracy to overwhelm good science. You can have millions for research but only if your research isn't going to rock the boat. When you take the King's money you are the King's servant no matter what he told you beforehand.
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I simply don't understand how Duesberg can still be arguing that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. While I know nothing about medical science, I'd expect that if there were no causal connection, others would have started noticing by now. I haven't seen anything to warrant doubting the orthodox position.

It's true that science has its orthodoxies. Peer pressure can be an even bigger factor than government money in stifling dissent. "Denialist" is the modern word for "heretic," in every way; both denote someone who rejects a well-established position, and both carry the connotation of sin. In many cases people don't even realize they're being biased, as they throw out data which is inconsistent with their theories as "experimental error."

In areas where I don't have enough knowledge to judge, I have to incline myself toward what I judge are the more trustworthy opinions, but I also don't pretend I'm entitled to ridicule the dissenters.
I have strong opinions about AGW - its junk science. Climategate is showing what I already suspected.
I don't think Duesberg is right, but he is a real scientist not a know-nothing crackpot. He should not be ridiculed for having a different opinion.
On the tangential issue of AIDS statistics I suspect numbers have been vastly exaggerated - especially in Africa where existing health issues may have been shoveled under the AIDS banner. Funding may relate to incidence - hence a bias to increase incidence figures.
You're cheering for a team instead of analyzing the implications of statements. Stop it.

By which I mean that if Lomborg is right (dunno, haven't read his argument) then global warming is occurring, it is manmade, but it would be too expensive to prevent the vast economic and human catastrophe it's going to cause. The correct reaction is either to try to find more cost-effective methods (geo-engineering), or to try to find ways to minimize damage (plans to relocate people in coastal areas) or something.

Instead, you're saying "We don't need to stop global warming? Sounds like a position LIBERALS wouldn't like! Ha ha! In your face, liberals! This proves all government bureaucracy and scientific researchers are stupid and evil!"

Forget that this would show climate researchers are actually *right*. Forget that it means we need to develop some sort of response plan ASAP. It's all about some sort of huge political clash between good and evil factions and has no other relevance to the world except being a point scored by your faction against the other.

How a climatological phenomenon ever became some sort of sign of group identity such that people on both sides have become completely uninterested in it except as a way of shifting the "evil" label between corporations and bureaucrats will one day be thought of as one of the great mysteries of our time.
It is because Anthropogenic Global Warming is the perfect man-made storm to advance the greatest wealth-redistribution scheme ever envisioned by collectivists to be foisted on the world.

Marx himself would be damn proud. This scheme dwarfs anything He could have envisioned. Stalin, Mao -mere pikers!

-Just follow the money.
I want to address the substance of your argument. But first I want to mention the post was about suppressing dissent - not about whether I agree with the dissent. The funding of science by central government necessarily leads to groupthink. Instead of having to fight established opinion to spread a new idea, one has to scrabble for funds to even investigate new ideas. Every person in science will claim to favor original thinking but in practice it is easier to rationalize existing dogma. When almost all funding is controlled by centralized committees this tendency is even stronger.
Even if AGW is true that doesn't mean it can be stopped or reversed. There may be technical or financial or political constraints. It is true that discussing these constraints may provide ammunition to politically motivated doubters. That is not a good reason to suppress scientists giving their honest considered opinion. If science truly become just a propaganda machine (as many already believe) then that is bad for the growth of human knowledge and wellbeing in the long run.
I admit that my skepticism has some political flavor but I observe strong political flavor to many scientific publications. I also admit that almost no amount of evidence would convince me that centralized government is the solution to any crisis whatsoever. This is the result of seeing many examples in history where some crisis was used to justify state intervention - in almost every case the crisis was exaggerated or fraudulent or the intervention did nothing to actually solve it.
Well, anarchic Somalia has some crises that seem to require gov't-based solutions: a transparent system of natural monopolies (i.e., public utilities like water and electricity), a final authority for deterring and investigating crimes (i.e., police), and a final authority for peacefully settling disputes and administering justice (i.e, a judiciary).

I agree that a single, centralized source of research funding is asking for trouble, and it's caused problems in the UK, for example. However, this is not the case in the United States, and it's not the case for climate science in general. The US has a panoply of funding agencies with different agendas and different oversight committees in Congress, and researchers compete for grants from all of them. It would be preferable if these agencies were private foundations instead, but historically basic science has always been state-supported.

The problem with climate science is that they are huge economic (and therefore political) implications, so know-nothings with large voices inject themselves into the process and create noise and defensiveness. I don't know what a good method is for getting everyone to just chill out when discussing how to solve a communal problem ...
'good method is for getting everyone to just chill out when discussing how to solve a communal problem' - from a libertarian viewpoint we already have a solution. First commit to persuading people to your idea instead of getting the government to force them to comply. As soon as you try to pass laws or raise taxes, people resent being compelled to obey instead of being asked. Each side immediately focuses on how to gain political power to influence legislation rather than focusing on explaining their ideas.
Imagine having a rules dispute in chess with someone who grabs for a gun on the ground. Immediately you forget about playing chess and focus on grabbing the gun first. Who was right in the original dispute is forgotten.
All true, though I don't know of an alternative for solving externalities. For the sake of argument, let's say that AGW is real, and that it will cause devastating economic consequences. What would be the libertarian solution to this problem?

Remember that the Coase Theorem assumes minimal transaction costs and well-defined property rights -- these wouldn't hold for an entire planet of people and a resource like climate.
The solution is to persuade people to take individual action. Look how many people already take action to buy hybrid cars etc. They do this because they are persuaded. When a activist group starts to get hostile I suspect them of lying. Honest people should make their case openly as many times as it takes to convince enough people. It is frustrating but resorting to second-hand violence is counter-productive in the long run. Experience shows that legislatures soon become corrupt and filled with pathological liars who vote self interest, not to solve real externalities.
Well, the number of people changing their behavior in ways that would actually help is too small. Even if others wanted to, they couldnt' -- no trains/buses to replace their cars, no high speed rail to replace airplanes, no viable food protein alternatives to animal meat. These require infrastructure.

Do you think a gov't that has the power to intervene in the economy attracts especially selfish people?
Infrastructure can be built by profit or non-profit organizations. We are used to major stuff being built by government but there is no valid reason for that.
I think that power attracts people who want to abuse power. Imagine you want to be town mayor in order to do good. How many hours a week will you work for that? Maybe 20 - bearing in mind you have a real job too. Now imagine a corrupt building contractor who knows he can approve millions of dollars in bids from his dummy corporation. He is quite willing to put in 60 hour weeks to become mayor because that is his real job. Furthermore he can make excessive campaign promises and bribe key people because he is not concerned with the public good. Who is going to win? The guy who works harder even though his motives are corrupt. If you want to see corruption on an understandable scale look at almost any town or small city government. Follow the money trail. Look who gets contracts to build a new school. Even when the old school is in good condition and school enrollment is falling.
Infrastructure can be built by profit or non-profit organizations. We are used to major stuff being built by government but there is no valid reason for that.

What about the notion that infrastructure is excludable but non-rivalrous, i.e. a club good? A natural monopoly can screw you whether it is private or public, but at least the people under the monopoly have some say if the monopoly is public. (The ideal case is a co-op.)
I dispute that there is any natural monopoly except for roads. It may be true that some services tend towards monopoly but the more the monopolist abuses his position the more beneficial it becomes to use another service. If your residential water supplier starts charging $100 per gallon you can buy bottled water or have a water truck come by.
Roads are different because you can't realistically evade a monopoly that literally surrounds you. Even access of water, electricity, cable can be controlled by a monopolist refusing to allow those things to cross his road. In this case a special rule should be created which prevents either party from unilaterally changing the terms of service. Road owners should negotiate any increase in rates, or changes in service terms via third party arbitration. This is the only exception I can think of to the principle that a business can change their rates and terms arbitrarily (unless a contract applies). I suppose roads could be regarded as a perpetual contract, since it would be bad for property owners on that road to have the contract run out. They would be in a bad position to re-negotiate even there is no alternative road.
Sorry, I've had a very hectic last ~3 weeks, and have not had a chance to think about your reply until recently.

I find a few a problems with your claim:

* Some goods cannot be usefully transported on roads, like data bits meant for the Internet.

* You describe a situation where a residential water supplier charge $100/gallon, making trucking water profitable. Isn't this a deadweight loss?

* Cannot the roads themselves grow congested?
Data may be transmitted on wires over or under roads. A reasonable charge for such access should be part of the negotiation.
There may be deadweight losses in some cases but competition will tend to reduce them. I don't argue there will be zero market failures, merely that market failures are always insignificant compared to government failures.
If a road is congested then the road owner can reasonably ask for an increase in tolls to pay for wider roads. The road users will have an incentive to agree to this since they want less congestion too.
I don't argue there will be zero market failures, merely that market failures are always insignificant compared to government failures.


That's a very succinct and useful way of putting it, neither is it an easy claim to prove.
55 million people died in a major government failure in the 1940s. It would take a vast number of market failures to equal that. This comparison may seem absurd at first because people are not used to thinking about wars that way but it is completely fair. Statists assert that states exist to protect people from violence and oppression. I think it is perfectly reasonable to call deaths in war a major failure of that protection. Whatever virtues one may ascribe to the power of the state, one should admit that such power allows for mass murder and colossal destruction.
It's true that statism, in particular "extreme" statism (e.g., totalitarianism), can cause massive death and destruction. On the other hand, the world would be very different without states: such a large population to kill would likely not exist in the first place, due to a lack of infrastructure and legal protections.

Is it better to provide the conditions so that population can grow from 100 million to 2 billion, then savagely kill 55 million of them? Or keep the population at 100 million, and let people die regularly of tribal warfare and disease?

If we choose the former, then perhaps it's possible to decide what's the optimum "amount" of statism on economic grounds.