Ignorance-never-settles-a-question Dep’t

Walter Russell Mead, who in real life has a higher-than-room-temperature IQ, has decided to check his intelligence at the door of the political process. Disliking the political consequences entailed in acknowledging the risk of massive climate change, http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2010/05/14/global-green-meltdown-gains-momentum/: “Experts armed with computer models are just guessing.”

Yes, imagining that any model captures all of reality is hubristic; the map is not the terrain. But concluding that it’s better never to look at a map and just set out at random in hopes of stumbling onto the right road is just dim-witted. Model-phobia may be a good reason to avoid making an intervention that could have disastrous impacts. But it can’t be a good reason to sit still while a potential catastrophe develops.

Conservatives are rapidly becoming, not just the stupid party, but the deliberately stupid party.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Ignorance-never-settles-a-question Dep’t”

  1. We've just had the warmest Jan-Apr in the instrumental record, and 12-month running averages are being set:


    Interesting that Mead could write such a long article on climate change with only a cryptic reference to whether he thinks it's real.

    You don't need to computer models to know temps are warming – child's math tells you that, and the physics has been understood since th 19th Century.

    I can only guess that conservatives are counting on future ignorance that will forget how wrong conservatives were over climate change.

  2. One strange thing about modelphobia: it seems that by some strange chance it's almost always invoked to argue that things will not get as bad as the models predict. I can only think that the travel-with-a-bomb theorem[1] leads to the conclusion that the financial crisis has already used up the chance that things will be much worse than the models predict.

    [1] This is the theorem that says you should always fly with a bomb in your luggage, because if the odds of one bomb on a plane are small, the odds of two must be vanishing.

  3. Hi all,

    It's been a while. Here is one reason why Mead wrote the way he did. This is from one of your 'enemies'–Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan winner and atmospheric scientist at MIT. You can disagree. You can label him however you want. What you can't really do is dismiss this as lunatic ravings of an unhinged mind. Even if he still smokes…


  4. One of my favorite lines in Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy: "Self-deceiving ignorance cannot change the true worth of anything."

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