Bill Maher, Living in an Echo Chamber

I refuse to assume (contrary to the modern practice) that someone who disagrees with me is either stupid or ill-intentioned or both [OK, I did call people idiots here -- sorry, I was ranting].  Intelligent people of goodwill can disagree with each other, and the world would be a better place if more people embraced that simple notion.

Anyway, I won't blame lack of intelligence or bad motivations for the following statement from Bill Maher.  He seems to be a smart guy who is honestly motivated by what he says motivates him.  But this statement is just so ignorant and provably false that it must be the result of living in a very powerful echo chamber where no voices other than ones that agree with him are allowed.

HBO’s Bill Maher complained that comparing climate change skepticism to vaccine skepticism was unfair to vaccine skeptics before attacking GMOs on Friday’s “Real Time.”

“The analogy that I see all the time is that if you ask any questions [about vaccines], you are the same thing as a global warming denier. I think this is a very bad analogy, because I don’t think all science is alike. I think climate science is rather straightforward because you’re dealing with the earth, it’s a rock…climate scientists, from the very beginning, have pretty much said the same thing, and their predictions have pretty much come true. It’s atmospherics, and it’s geology, and chemistry. That’s not true of the medical industry. I mean, they’ve had to retract a million things because the human body is infinitely more mysterious” he stated.

Climate science is astoundingly complex with thousands or millions of variables interacting chaotically.  Separating cause and effect is a nightmare, because controlled experiments are impossible.  It is stupendously laughable that he could think this task somehow straightforward, or easier than running a double-blind medical study  (By the way, this is one reason for the retractions in medicine vs. climate -- medical studies are straightforward enough they can be easily replicated... or not, and thus retracted.  Proving cause and effect in climate is so hard that studies may be of low quality, but they are also hard to absolutely disprove).

It is funny of course that he would also say that all of climate scientists predictions have come true.  Pretty much none have come true.  They expected  rapidly rising temperatures and they have in fact risen only modestly, if at all, over the last 20 years or so.  They expected more hurricanes and there have been fewer.  They called for more tornadoes and there have been fewer.  The only reason any have been right at all is that climate scientists have separately forecasts opposite occurrences (e.g. more snow / less snow) so someone has to be right, though this state of affairs hardly argues for the certainty of climate predictions.

By the way, the assumption that Bill Maher is an intelligent person of goodwill who simply disagrees with me on things like climate and vaccines and GMO's is apparently not one he is willing to make himself about his critics.  e.g.:

Weekly Standard Senior Writer John McCormack then pointed out that there are legitimate scientists, such as Dr. Richard Lindzen, who are skeptical of man-made climate change theories, but that there were no serious vaccine-skeptic professors, to which Maher rebutted “the ones who are skeptics [on climate change], usually are paid off by the oil industry.”

I will point out to you that the Left's positions on climate, vaccines, and GMO's have many things in common, as I wrote in a long article on evaluating risks here.

  • LoneSnark

    Bill Maher struck me as a conspiracy nut. He will believe whichever side doesn't have easily recognizable big pockets. It is easy to see the Oil Industry against climate change, therefore climate change must be true. It is easy to see the pharmaceutical industry in favor of vaccines, therefore anti-vaxers must be true. I once read he objected to libertarianism on the sole basis of the Koch family and other rich people being in favor of it.

  • Zachriel

    Coyote Blog: Climate science is astoundingly complex with thousands or millions of variables interacting chaotically.

    Sure. How the heat is distributed within the climate system is very complex, but treating the Earth as a rock, there are actually only a few variables that determine the overall heat; solar irradiance, albedo, and greenhouse gases.

  • http://EasyOpinions.blogspot.com/ Andrew_M_Garland

    There is a pervasive error in public acceptance of "scientific" statements and government pronounements. A "scientist" or government official says something. The public believes it until it is disproven. Most statements are very difficult to entirely disprove. But, the burden of proof is on the proponent, not the critic.

    Consider the type of real science or economics which can predict what will happen, and so is suited to guide policy. It is not primarily up to the reader or other scientists to find the evidence which supports and contradicts the proposed theory. In real science, the proponent examines all of that, especially the contradictory evidence.

    The late particle physicist Richard Feynman was a plain-spoken genius. This speech considers why we continue to not know the truth about many things, hundreds of years after people discovered how to do good science. An enjoyable must-read.

    Cargo Cult Science

    1974 by Richard P. Feynman
    Commencement speech at The California Institute of Technology
    === ===
    [edited]   Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can to explain them, if you know anything at all wrong or possibly wrong.

    If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it.

    There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory, but that the finished theory makes something else come out right.
    === ===

    Prediction is everything, it must work more than once, and it must work for data which has not already been put into the theory. Explaining everything after the fact is merely making up complicated stories. Noticing a trend on a graph does not empower the supposed theorist to extend that trend line into the future while shouting "we're all going to die".

    Feynman says that real science is a method for discovering facts about our world, and it requires bending over backwards not to fool others, and especially not to fool oneself. He notes it is particularly easy to fool oneself, and so requires the greatest dilligence and openness to criticism and disproof to avoid being that fool.

    The complicated theorizing of climate scientists, New (and old) Keynesianism, and now Pikkety, is a lot of story telling combined with math models which have not been shown by experience to predict anything. Then, these stories are presented without being tested against the known supporting and contradictory evidence. It isn't science, and it is not reliable. Yet, it is used to promote and justify massive experiments on the lives of the peasants. These experiments just happen to deliver massive resources to politicians for distribution to themselves and their friends.

    09/23/09 - National Review: The Dog Ate My Global Warming Data
    === ===
    Phil Jones and Tom Wigley authored the first comprehensive history of surface temperature, in the early 1980's. They worked at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia, Climate Research Unit. Their paper was the primary reference for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) until 2007. It supported the IPCC claim of a “discernible human influence on global climate", a warming of 0.6° ± 0.2°C in the 20th century.

    Jones and Wigley used data from ground weather stations not designed to monitor long term trends. Many stations were placed near trees, in parking lots, and near heat vents. Changing urban settings surely biased readings. They modified the temperature data before using it in climate models. But, Jones and Wigley did not report their original data or how thay had modified it.

    The Australian scientist Warwick Hughes wondered where the error estimate of “± 0.2°” came from. He wrote Phil Jones in early 2005, politely asking for the original data.

    Jones responded “We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”
    === ===

    These are not scientists, because they refuse to subject themselves to scientific discipline. They are merely shamans or politicians without that discipline. They fail the minimal test for being believed.

  • Nimrod

    I don't know why "oil companies" would do anything other than support pro-alarmist research when they're trading carbon credits: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-05-01/vitol-among-companies-seeking-california-carbon-offset-credits

    Companies just adapt to markets. If people start demanding halal or kosher meat, they'll just sign on to Islam and Judaism and start selling kosher and halal meat. Similarly, if climate apocalypse cultists demand carbon credits then they'll just start selling them carbon credits, or kosher/halal oil. There's no problem for them because these things come at a premium and thus they just make more money.

  • Nimrod

    Yea, and those few variable just happen to be extremely complex, especially albedo due to clouds. Ask the guys at CERN doing cloud formation controlled experiments.

  • randian

    That's a pretty standard leftist trope: "I'm for the little guy". I personally am not for the little guy, I'm for the right guy. If that happens to be the big guy that's ok with me.

  • Sam L.

    "I refuse to assume (contrary to the modern practice) that someone who
    disagrees with me is either stupid or ill-intentioned or both..." I trust you recognize that the possibility exists, however. "Figures don't lie, but liars figure" (out how to lie with the figures).

  • Sam L.

    OK, yes, the Oil Companies have a lot of money (Oh, the Horror!) But we must consider, who has more money than them? Governments do. So we might ought to consider being skeptical of government-sponsored studies. Remember regulatory capture, and if that money is available only to those on one side of the question, well, then.

  • randian

    When it comes to leftists (though not all people who disagree with me are leftists) I pretty much assume ill intention. They cannot be so stupid so I presume the "unintended consequences" are in fact intended. Then there are the simply malevolent leftists, like Barack Obama, who specifically aim to cause destruction so nothing they do can be construed as "unintended".

  • Zachriel

    While there is still uncertainty over the effect of clouds, the evidence indicates a positive feedback. See Dessler, A Determination of the Cloud
    Feedback from Climate Variations
    over the Past Decade, Science 2010; and Clement et al., Observational and Model Evidence for Positive Low-Level Cloud Feedback, Science 2009.

    The climate system is warming with most of the heat being absorbed by the oceans. Furthermore, various empirical measures of climate sensitivity nearly all show significant warming.

  • obloodyhell

    }}} They expected more hurricanes and there have been fewer. They called for more tornadoes and there have been fewer.

    Less Snow in Britain. More.
    More Droughts in Australia. Floods.
    Fewer Polar Bears. More.

    The litany is to laugh.

  • obloodyhell

    }}}} The climate system is warming with most of the heat being absorbed by the oceans

    Absolute crap. Change the koolaid.

    If the oceans were ACTUALLY warming significantly, then the SURFACE of the ocean would also be warming significantly. And IF that were happening, then we'd be seeing record numbers of hurricanes.

    Instead we see... a record LACK of hurricanes. Whoodathunkit??

    Oh, wait, no, "the ocean is MAGICALLY taking heat AWAY from the surface...!! and storing it deeper!! Yeah. Yeah!! That's the Ticket!!"

    Yeah, right. Hey, let me know when you run out of bogus excuses for why your pet theory fails endlessly, repeatedly....

  • obloodyhell

    Vocal version of Feynman's address. I don't think it's Feynman reading it, from what I've heard of his voice, but it doesn't make that clear.

    Aliens Cause Global Warming: A Caltech Lecture
    by Michael Crichton

    Fear, Complexity and Environmental Management in the 21st Century

    by Michael Crichton

  • Burnt Toast

    treat the Earth as a rock, there are actually only a few variables that determine
    the overall heat; solar irradiance, albedo, and greenhouse gases.

    Always forgetting that big ball of molten rock just a few thousand feet below with most the heat.

  • mesocyclone

    If you follow Maher for long, you will discover that he is a marginally intelligent person of ill will, a truly evil guy.

  • mesocyclone

    Hey, if the heat is going into the oceans, that's good news. You can dump an enormous amount of heat there without anything warming in any noticeable way. Once it's down there, it has real trouble coming back up - basic heat transfer laws.

    Of course, we do not have any actual measurements to support that assertion. The "heat is going into the oceans" claim is a result of, yep, a model. This is not surprising since the amount of heat alleged to have gone into the benthic deeps is enough to raise the temperature maybe <.01 C.

  • JW

    He may not be stupid, but he is a partisan and narcissistic twat who enjoys the smell of his own farts.

  • http://EasyOpinions.blogspot.com/ Andrew_M_Garland

    Feynman isn't reading this. It is a great version for listening on the way to work.

    Feynman wrote a few popular books on his experiences, all worth reading.

  • Sam L.

    Because, Nimrod, you nimrod, they're EVILE CAPITALIST CORPORATIONS! who want to screw you, me, and everybody out of every last cent they can because they're EVILE and CAPITALIST (sputter, sputter sputter) and they WANT the world to END if Fire and Flame and poisonous gasses and (sputter, sputter) FLOODs and earthquakes, and tornadoes... My abject apologies. I was taken over by the spirit of Al Franken Gore and dang! they are just nuts! (That was scary! One more thing and I'm going for a very stiff drink.)

    Oh. Bill Maher. Yes, he lives in an echo chamber with all the other lefties, and the reverb is cranked up to 11.

  • http://EasyOpinions.blogspot.com/ Andrew_M_Garland

    The Crichton lecture is also good reading. An examination of the complexity of the world and the fear mongering done for political effect.

    Our government killed Yellowstone Park in the name of scientifically preserving it.

  • Zachriel

    mesocyclone: You can dump an enormous amount of heat there without anything warming in any noticeable way.

    That is incorrect. Ocean heat will eventually seek equilibrium — basic heat transfer laws.

    mesocyclone: The "heat is going into the oceans" claim is a result of, yep, a model.

    There's an extensive network of instruments to monitor ocean heat content.
    http://www.argo.ucsd.edu/About_Argo.html

  • Zachriel

    obloodyhell: If the oceans were ACTUALLY warming significantly, then the SURFACE of the ocean would also be warming significantly.

    http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/heat_content700m2000myr.png

  • Foxman

    I love the units on that chart. 10^22 Joules. Sounds like a lot, right? Let's see... According to NOAA, there are 3.5x10^20 gallons in our oceans, which is 1.32x10^21 kilograms. With a specific heat of 3.93 kJ/kgK, that means those 18x10^22 Joules of energy, end up being a rise in temperature of... 0.035 degrees Celsius. I'm sure the ARGO floats are that accurate... After all, this was peer reviewed. We wouldn't want to be measuring noise, would we? I don't know that I would term that significant heat gain. But that's just me.

  • Mercury

    "While there is still uncertainty over the effect of clouds..."
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Yes, aside from that we have the whole climate thing nailed down pat.

    What began and what ended (approx. 11k yrs. ago) the last ice age?
    If the Laurentide Ice Sheet suddenly started creaping back down toward New York what are the chances it would not be blamed on anthropogenic climate change?
    Have the Earth's longer term climate cycles been suspended because humans are now so enlightened and believe so many good things?
    Why wouldn't anthropogenic climate change have a 50% chance of being a net "good thing" if it counteracted a trend/cycle beyond our control that was a net "bad thing" ?

    How many jars of artisanal pickels can you sell per day under 200ft of ice?

  • mesocyclone

    The Argos system is a great improvement over the past. But Argos cannot
    measure this heat for two reasons: it cannot resolve the tiny
    temperature deltas, and it doesn't go deep enough.

    Do the math. The heat capacity is so vast that the temperature changes are in the order of .01C, which is nowhere close to be measurable.

    The claim is that the heat is vanishing into the ocean *below* the Argo depths, which in itself is suspicious.

    As for seeking equilibrium, if you raise the temperature at the depths .01C, that temperature rise cannot raise the temperature at the surface more than .01C. Furthermore, even if the rise was more, it would take a very long time to raise the surface temperature.

    Vertical heat transport in the oceandoesn't work very well. The water is warmest at the top and coolest at the bottom, which means the ocean is very stable - water warmed at the bottom cannot rise far, analogous to a thermal inversion in the atmosphere. The means heat only transfers due to conduction (slowly) or forced convection (kinetic forcing of ascent/descent).

  • randian

    "The claim is that the heat is vanishing into the ocean *below* the Argo depths, which in itself is suspicious"

    That's not merely suspicious, it's aphysical. How can atmospheric effects heat the deep ocean without first heating the surface?

  • Zachriel

    mesocyclone: The claim is that the heat is vanishing into the ocean *below* the Argo depths, which in itself is suspicious.

    Um, no.
    http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/heat_content700m2000myr.png

  • Zachriel

    Mercury: Have the Earth's longer term climate cycles been suspended because humans are now so enlightened and believe so many good things?

    Nope. The long term cycles are still there, but anthropogenic causes are currently predominant.

    Mercury: Why wouldn't anthropogenic climate change have a 50% chance of being a net "good thing" if it counteracted a trend/cycle beyond our control that was a net "bad thing" ?

    The next ice age is due in the next 1000-1500 years or so, but that has been delayed.

  • mesocyclone

    Um, yeah. Read the reports - it is asserted that the "missing" heat is going below 2000m. Also, if you convert that graph to degrees, you see a tiny, tiny rise.

  • MJ

    Maher has really become intolerable.

    I used to watch his show several years ago. His anti-Bush rants were entertaining. He even used to nominally refer to himself as libertarian. But over time his unwillingness to subject the Left to the same criticism he often lodged against the Right became obvious. His only real criticisms of Democrats were that they weren't far enough to the left for his liking.

    The last straw was when he wrote a fat check to Obama's presidential campaign. Since then he has been virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the Hollywood Left. The hive mindset among them must be overwhelming.

    I also agree with LoneSnark that he has become more of a conspiracy nut over time. His rants against modern diets and use of prescription drugs as causes of poor health are mind-numbingly stupid, especially for someone who habitually smokes pot.