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wellnamed last won the day on April 4 2019

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About wellnamed

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  • Birthday 05/05/1982

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    New Mexico
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    religion, mysticism, sociology, anthropology, science, technology, and etc
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    I am classified as a meat-popsicle

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
    le poulet rôti

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  1. Random but related: I saw this article yesterday and the number kind of blew my mind (n.b. I have no idea how skeptical you should be of this data either :P) Ethiopia plants more than 350 million trees in 12 hours
  2. I did try to provide an outline of the answer to the question of where the data comes from. I'm not sure if it actually helped or not One thing I was thinking the other day is that it seems like some of the debate on climate change is a useful context for thinking about making decisions while taking account of uncertainty, or risk. I think to some extent our normal language makes this seem harder than it is? That is we tend when speaking about stuff like climate to reduce the question to either "do you accept this or not?" as a very binary thing. And it seems like a false dichotomy when treated as indicating either absolute certainty or absolute disbelief. There's an epistemic need to evaluate claims like this that account for uncertainty without giving up all possibility of drawing any conclusions whatsoever. Awareness of uncertainty and different sources of potential error are really important, particularly when you reach the point of trying to decide what to do about it (I realize that question was disclaimed in the OP). Some courses of action might seem entirely reasonable even given a large amount of uncertainty (perhaps working towards a transition to renewable energy in some incremental way). Others won't seem desirable unless you're absolutely certain of devastating consequences (like say violently overthrowing the government in order to immediately implement some drastic climage change agenda).
  3. Your question seems like a misunderstanding to me. The data from the 19th century are not estimates of global temperature, they are thermometer reports from various ship and ground stations. The global temperature anomalies are estimated from aggregating all of the different station reports from a given time period and applying various corrections to them. The estimates then are the result of applying modern techniques to very old raw data. Bearing in mind that I'm disclaiming any expertise, you can find a lot of information about how this works from looking up various articles. One place I often start when I'm looking for information is the ACS Climate Science Toolkit, which is one of the better resources I've found. The page on temperature anomaly measurements gives a pretty good high level overview of the sources of information, and also shows how different data sets converge on similar results once you get to the 20th century, which makes sense given improvements in tech and record keeping. The Wiki page for the Instrumental temperature record also has some citations which I dug into a little bit. Those pages led me, for example, to this article: An Overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network-Daily Database, which provides a bit more detail about the data sources: Table 2 is unfortunately pretty hard to read (very small image), but mentions some NCDC data sets with data going back to the 19th century. I also looked briefly at this article: Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature changes: A new data set from 1850, which links to the overview above. It goes into less detail about the specific sources of data but does into quite a bit of detail about how its processed and how uncertainty is measured. From my perspective it would be nice if I could find an article intended for a more lay audience with a bit more history of some of this, but the gist seems to be that you have a large number of independent temperature readings, taken with different equipment, at different places, over a long period of time. Some of the original log-books for the older data exist in places like the British Museum (particularly maritime records). Eventually a lot of it was digitized and collected into these types of databases, and so it's unsurprising to me that most articles elide the kinds of questions about sourcing which you are raising, citing instead the databases. This is pretty typical of the way standard large datasets are developed in various scientific fields, in my experience. It seems like you could dig even further for more information about specific sources. I do think at some point it probably doesn't make that much sense to focus on uncertainties in data from the 19th century, though, because you could easily limit the graphs to the last 50-60 years and still feel quite confident in the general conclusion about temperatures rising.
  4. It is definitely known that data sets used for measuring climate change (say temperature anomalies at various locations over time) are messy. Whenever I've looked at IPCC publications they usually account for that by charting measures along with some indication of the estimated error. Just as a random example, I did a Google Image Search for "IPCC temperature anomaly with error bars" and the first result was this chart from NOAA, where the little gray bars above and below the line represent the uncertainty, most of which (as I understand it) is a result of known measurement issues, of which there are a variety. The bars tend to be smaller with more recent data because the technology has gotten better, obviously. It's not completely unreasonable to want to look at all of the data and to be curious about just how problematic the sources of error might be, and it's even scientifically worthwhile to have people engaged in that exercise, I think. But it is probably unreasonable to expect to get that kind of information on an internet discussion forum. It would probably require years of research for someone to satisfy their skepticism if they want to rely only on their own evaluation of primary evidence. I think it's one of those areas where (from a public policy perspective) there is an inescapable need to establish trust that scientific institutions have already done this work adequately. Here is where the comparison is made to trust in religious authorities (and also all the politics), but epistemologically speaking I don't think it's possible to completely escape the need to have some trust in various others, including scientific institutions. That's sort of the point of that old quote that "if I have seen further than others, it's because I stood on the shoulders of giants." No individual can know as much "from scratch" (as it were) as we can know working together. But that requires some level of trust. I'm comfortable with this because I think I have pretty good reasons to have a higher level of trust in various scientific institutions than I do in religious ones. Which is not to say that I don't also wish to understand more on an individual level, so as to require less trust. But given limited time and resources I have to make some choices about where to focus those efforts, and it seems to make sense to trust the established consensus about climate change, at least as far as the claim goes about increasing temperatures, CO2 levels, and things like that. A slightly higher amount of skepticism may be warranted about various predictive models. Anyway, that's my $.02
  5. I'm by no means an expert but I believe I've read cosmologists who argue that big bang cosmology doesn't actually say anything about a "before", or really anything about the singularity. The theory and all of the data are extrapolations back towards a kind of asymptote, but not an attempt to say anything about what could exist (or not exist) "before the big bang", as it were. The real work is trying to explain conditions at time T0 + δ for increasingly small (but not 0) deltas.
  6. I agree that "quantum foam" is not really nothing in the philosophical sense usually meant in the context of asking about being and nothingness, or whether something can come from nothing. I tend to think the underlying question about "why is there something rather than nothing" (which I think is closely related) is unanswerable. There's a line of argument related to the Principle of Sufficient Reason here, and I tend to think that principle is not absolutely true, or at least probably not knowable. Instead, it seems to me that it's probably necessary to take as a principle of pragmatic reason the axiom that there are some brute facts which just have to be taken as a given. That there is "something" and not "nothing" is the prime example, in my view. I wouldn't expect cosmology to be able to give some ultimately satisfying explanation anymore than I'd expect religion to be able to do so. As far as justifying the existence of brute facts, the argument that I've heard that I find most compelling goes something like this: "Why?" explanations (in comparison to how? or what? and so on) are mostly about placing some phenomenon into a larger context. If I ask you why you went to the store, your answer will necessarily invoke some larger universe of meaning outside the narrow mechanics of how you traveled there, what you purchased, and so on. You went to the store to buy milk. "Why did you want milk?" "So I could put it in my coffee in the morning." And you can just keep asking why questions that get at broader and broader contexts. You can start by asking why someone went to the store and eventually find yourself discussing some really high level conception of human nature, for example. But at some point it seems that there can be no broader context in which to place an explanation for a given phenomenon. This is as true for the religious as for atheists, of course. The Euthyphro dillema is like that (why is "the good" good? essentially). Or "why is there a God?" And of course "why is there something rather than nothing?" The universe in the sense of "all that exists" is the largest possible context for meaning that we could conceivably deal with. We can't give a "why" answer to reality itself because there is no "beyond reality" in which to situate an answer. As an aside, there's a Sanskrit phrase used to mean "reality" in some of the Upanishads that I really think captures something about this question: idam sarvam. "All this". As in "reality is idam sarvam, all this (or this 'all', even)." The fact that this is a demonstrative is relevant to the above argument. It's not a purely abstract thing viewed from nowhere. Our definitions of reality are grounded in what we can experience. Reality is a "this", it's something we can point towards. A "why" explanation requires a larger "this" to point at, but there is no larger "this" for reality itself.
  7. I kind of gave up after season 1, which was hit or miss for me. I love the book though.
  8. I believe it is here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1071-0 Full text: https://s3.amazonaws.com/wellnamed/10.1038%40s41586-019-1071-0.pdf
  9. Fair enough, for my purposes the fact that it's not widely accepted is good enough for answering the question. The original concept of the aether is wrong, at the very least, I think. New theories adopting that term notwithstanding?
  10. The reason for the paragraphs is to point out that you're probably asking the wrong question to begin with Like I said, the labeling has more to do with the use of scientific methods than anything else. It would still be called a theory if it were proven false. It would just no longer be used in the same way. For example, you could refer to the idea of the "aether" as a scientific theory, it's just one that's been disproven.
  11. this essay is pretty great:



    As I’m writing this, Wyoming’s state legislature just voted to preserve capital punishment in the state. Some legislators made the usual tough-on-crime excuses for their votes, but one state senator, incredibly, offered that the death penalty was good enough for Jesus, so we should keep it because if you think about it, we really owe our salvation to capital punishment. This conceivably could just be an episode of the show, but if you extend the logic far enough, you get to “we need to have the death penalty ready to go if any messiahs show up"...


  12. Another thing I like to think about, regarding knowledge in general: One of the classical definitions of knowledge is "justified, true belief". That is, we can say we "know that P" if and only if we believe that P, we are justified to believe that P, and P is true. There are some interesting issues with that definition (cf. Gettier problems), but I think that really all of epistemology boils down to just that one element: justification. Putting aside technical terminology for a second, what makes science valuable as an approach to knowledge is just the effort to justify beliefs in a more rigorous way. That's what all the talk about falsifiability, or observability, repeatability, and the qualifications of scientists (as fuego mentioned) is for. That is the essence of "scientific method". So if we call one idea "scientific" and doubt that another is equally scientific, then what we're really doing is evaluating epistemic justification, and I think it's more accurate to put it that way than to say we're evaluating some level of certainty. The other reason this framing is useful is because it tells you how to evaluate ideas: look at the how the idea can be arrived at -- the methods used to collect, analyze, and make generalizations from data (observations). This is why a theory which may be rather uncertain can still be scientific, if the theory is formulated following scientific methods. This makes sense because science is not just the body of accumulated knowledge about the world, but also the accumulated body of knowledge about the epistemic reliability of various methods for gaining knowledge in general.
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