Monday, April 2, 2012

Lesson 1: How to become a critical blogger

A critical blogger's mindset rests on a few basic assumptions. Here an example: Bishop Hill presents a new climate course by Mike Hulme via a story in the Times Higher Education. The course combines environmental sciences and the humanities; Hulme says that  he "became increasingly frustrated that science alone cannot motivate social change". Bishop Hill comments as follows:
"As a taxpayer, I must say I struggle with the idea that I should be forced to pay people to work on coming up with new tactics to get me to amend my ways. This seems to me to be political campaigning rather than academic research."

Hulme's announcement that " Insights from nature writing and eco-poetry will be considered alongside those of philosophy and science" is especially highlighted. First anonymous comment takes it up and simply states "Eco-poetry...Dear God".

Here we have it, the critical blogger's mindset in a nutshell. It's not that difficult - you can learn it, too, dude! Just try: "I, as a taxpayer, ...." and add the ingredients "social science, political campaign, oh my God!" Got it? Great! Now you are fit to comment as an expert on 99% of all climate issues!


Harry Dale Huffman said...

Public debate over science, particularly between those on the Left and those on the Right (who can both be counted on to dismiss one another, irrespective of the truth of the situation), is (as they say in courtroom dramas) incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial (and it assumes facts not in evidence). The public has absolutely no business trying to do what the scientists themselves have not done: show they know what they are talking about. That the public has been put into this position by scientifically unsupported and ruinously expensive political agendas, is an indictment of a science that is in fact, not ready for prime time.

...I know, as an independent physical scientist, that there is no carbon dioxide greenhouse effect, and "97 or 98%" of climate scientists are incompetent in their belief in it. There are no competent climate scientists, there is in fact no competent climate debate for the public to learn from, and all of our supposedly authoritative institutions have been suborned, by an incompetent consensus, into a continuing scientific travesty.... The public debates over science are symptomatic of something much larger than the catastrophes so easily accepted and promulgated by alarmists-- they betoken a failing scientific paradigm, foisted directly upon the public as a last resort, not as a commanding consensus of expert opinion, that cannot be saved by false "experts", who deign to say only "shut up" to their scientific critics,and "don't look at the man behind the curtain" to the public.

AnonyMoose said...

Won't the students be the ones paying? I'm sure they'll be able to pay their student loans with a high-paying eco-poetry job.
"I have a Master's Degree -- in Environmental Sciences and Humanities!"

Anonymous said...

Let's imagine an opposite ideology, for example the increased burning of fossil fuels, was being promoted in an effort to effect their social change by poetry and creative writing. I'm sure there would be exactly the same kind of comments from the opposing side, you'd probably be making them yourself.

Werner Krauss said...


For me, your comment is another fine example of a certain kind of narrow-mindedness which I think is kind of generic in parts of the climate blogosphere. Not even showing respect or curiosity for colleagues; instead, it's just guys bullying. Pouring scorn on poetry while calculating how much money you can lose or win and what it's worth: oh boy, that sounds really exciting...

Werner Krauss said...

@ #3
what a sad hope that is, that others might have the same misanthropic thoughts!

Anonymous said...

"Pouring scorn on poetry while calculating how much money you can lose or win and what it's worth: oh boy, that sounds really exciting..."

I think you bypassed the point of argument there. Are you saying you would be see it as an advance for climate skeptics to be using poetry and creative writing to advance their (supposed) ideology of increasing fossil fuel usage ?

I have no problem with people spending their own money on what they see fit.

RainerS said...

Studying eco-poetry definitely has the potential to enlighten us!

Already in the late 18th century, the great J. W. von Goethe wrote the following poem

Up there all summits
are still.
In all the tree-tops
you will
feel but the dew.
The birds in the forest stopped talking.
Soon, done with walking,
you shall rest, too.

foreseeing the effects of wind turbines on bird life and the possible doom spelled out for mankind when relying on volatile sources of power supply.

RainerS said...

My apologies to non-German speaking´s too late in the day for a decent translation. Maybe tomorrow.

This is a current example of German eco-poetry - the lyrics to a music video about a photovoltaic installation in the the eastern part of Germany.

Mirror soldiers fighting for the Light:

“Spiegelsoldaten kämpfen für das Licht, denn ihr schadet der Umwelt nicht. Jeder braucht’n Solarsoldaten, für Strom und Wasser in Haus und Garten. Sie schlucken das Licht in jeder Zelle und erhellen im Dunklen jede Stelle. Gespiegelt, gepanzert, gnadenlos gewappnet, kämpft die Arme auf dem gläsernen Schachbrett. Bauern setzen den König schachmatt, denn sie haben den Energiekrieg satt.”

“Wir haben zu viel gehört, auf den Konferenzen nur Bla Bla, Schluss mit Konjunktiv, alle machen mit. Wir bauen ein Kollektiv, auf zum nächsten Schritt! Es ist uns ein Bestreben, autonom zu leben, öffnet die Türen und lasst euch verführen! Öffnet die Türen und lasst euch verführen!”

“Alle Nachbarn tauschen ganz berauschend, alle Waren, die sie haben. Moment mal! Es kann nicht schaden ein autonomes Dorf zu haben, in dem jeder Nachbar das Eigene produziert, durch Tausch profitiert, eigenangagiert, die Arbeit ganz lokal ihre Früchte treibt und für jeden etwas übrig bleibt.”

“Und nun die Kurznachrichten, auf der L20 Ortsausgang Neukalen sorgte eine Spiegelarmee für kilometerlangen Stau, SEK und GSG9 wurden von Frau Merkel geordert, doch die Situation ist aussichtslos. Die Spiegelsoldaten bahnen sich den Weg, durch verschmutzte Abgase und überteuerten Strom. Ab sofort gibt es Strom zum Nulltarif.”

IMHO, a nice sujet for a comparative literature class. Being only a physicist, of course I am not qualified to pass judgement - but somehow the lyrics remind me of the cultural products of two late political systems in 20th century Germany.

I am sure every righteous taxpayer will contribute happily to such beacons of creativity and deep insight being produced, promoted and disseminated.

Stan said...


You stepped in it this time. First, you completely miss the point of the Bishop Hill post. Worse, you extrapolate from one post to denigrate the blogger's qualifications to comment. Really?! That's ridiculous.

Werner Krauss said...


would you mind adding an argument to your statement? Where exactly did I "step in"? Why did I miss the point of the Bishop Hill post? Thanks!

wflamme said...


the problem I have with such education is that it promotes broad thinking ... but only inside a rather confined agenda (as the course outline suggests).

Thus the outcome will probably result in an improved and more effective narrow-mindedness. I cannot applaud to that and I understand why Montford doesn't like to see tax money spent on that.

Werner Krauss said...

@ w flamme

Hm, so we should ask each time before we schedule a new course Mr. Montford, you and the other taxpayers if they agree or not? Don't you think the result of this kind of tax / university politics could result in narrow-mindedness, too?

And could you please specify Mike Hulme's "rather confined agenda"?

wflamme said...

"Hm, so we should ask each time before we schedule a new course Mr. Montford, you and the other taxpayers if they agree or not?"


looks like I didn't recognize this as being Werner Krauss & The Wees up against Montford, Flamme & The Taxpayers.

So yes, I think The Wees should ask The People because that's what democracy and trancparancy is about after all: The Wees being in service of The People.

Now since that's not feasible (yet) I'd expect The Wees to appreciate feedback by The People.

Just kidding, so perhaps: simply to respect feedback?

Okay, okay, seriously now: perhaps just to tolerate feedback - I mean just as an alternative to arrogantly telling The People to pay and shut up?

Do I ask for too much already, Werner?

Werner Krauss said...

w flamme,

you forgot to specify why Mike Hulme's course has a "rather confined agenda", as I kindly asked you in #12. As in future you as a taxpayer will be in charge of the university curriculum, I hope that you will also read the respective course outlines before you censor them, won't you? So just let me know where the problem is with this specific program!

wflamme said...

"In a world in which
environmental concern is gradually being recognised as integrally related to all human
, this course aims not only to initiate and foster fundamental academic inquiry, but
also to encourage practical and effective action. The course instructors are keen to share their
extensive experience in bringing environmental thought to life, whether it be in the form of bringing appropriate technologies into service, transitions to sustainable living, political
engagement or creative and artistic projects.
The Master's in Environmental Sciences and Humanities is the ideal gateway for anyone who wants to turn a passion for the natural world and concern for the future of humanity into a career that will forge new kinds of dialogue and engagement in sectors including conservation, the media, government, non-governmental organisations, research and education."

I think nobody has objected that the possibility to obtain training according to ones passion is a good thing in general - including training in how to further promote ones passions. It's about who pays for it.

In general we recognise and value such devotion and passion already, that's why we tax consumption but don't tax registered associations and public charities. And again I would not make an exceptions in this case.

However an even more extraordinary public support must rely upon extraordinary public agreement to that. This is where citizen Montford steps in and offers his personal opinion. Which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do in this situation. Because if we see that publicly financing such an endeavour lacks the neccessary public support it simply would be an immoral and anti-democratic thing to force upon the people.
If OTOH we find broad public support it would be an immoral and anti-democratic thing to deny additional support.


plazaeme said...


Would you mind adding an argument to your statement?

I don't mind. It's too obvious:

- science alone cannot motivate social change

- I struggle with the idea that I should be forced (by Hulme's idea of science) to get me to amend my ways.

You may agree, or not. It's an interesting question. But you missed the point. And you added something from other's comment, which didn't go with the argument. Maybe a nice mannian trick to sell a tidy story. Unfortunately your story doesn't address Bishop's argument.

plazaeme said...

Maybe we could change something:

Lesson 1: How to become a blogger's critic.


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