Arnold Kling  

Pushback on my Skepticism

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Former frequent commenter General Specific writes,


In a subsequent post, I'll consider each of these issues in more detail. In the mean time, Wikipedia has a page up on this topic. And in particular, consider the case of Carl Wunsch, who says he was completely misrepresened in this movie.

I am glad to see that he has his own blog. I coined the term GYOB ("get your own blog") for people who make many, wordy comments. We banned him not because he disagrees with us but because we felt like he was becoming a third blogger on our site. It's good to see him commenting--but on his own blog from now on.

Meanwhile, Bryan writes,


If consensus doesn't impress you, then you should be willing to bet at even odds that temperature will fall.

This seems to miss my point. The theory of man-made global warming could be wrong, and I would still lose my bet. For example, if solar activity were the cause of global warming and solar activity caused temperatures to rise going forward, then I would lose. That hardly seems fair. In theory, I should still make the bet, because on average I ought to be able to make money betting against people with the wrong model. However, I have a psychological aversion to losing unfairly that makes me unwilling to make the bet.

I don't see how conditional bets solve the problem. If we could actually run two separate scenarios (not in a model, but in multiple earths), with different levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, then fine. But the reality is we are only going to have one scenario, so only one of the conditional bets is going to be relevant. Then we're back to making one bet.


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COMMENTS (15 to date)
David N. Welton writes:

I can understand kicking someone off for being constantly off topic, rude or otherwise uncivil (the golden standard: how would people react if what was written was said face to face), but canning someone for generating free content for your site? That's a problem a lot of people would love to have!

Lauren writes:

Hi, David.

You said:

but canning someone for generating free content for your site?

Are you suggesting that any random commenter should get to post, say, thousands of megabytes of material on EconLog merely because it's free to hit the "post" button here?

So, say, spammers should be allowed to post 20mb ads because after all, they are "generating free content" for EconLog?

I think that's not what you want to argue. EconLog cans and will continue to can generating free content when that free content is not only not of value but is obstructive to our readership.

The individual in question has been banned from EconLog not once, but multiple times under multiple nicknames for multiple infractions. Providing "free content" was not a problem.

Lauren

David N. Welton writes:

Lauren - that makes perfect sense, but wasn't clear from the posting. It sounded as if he were being removed simply for writing too many long, insightful comments.

Tom writes:

"It sounded as if he were being removed simply for writing too many long, insightful comments."

Arnold was being too kind. While his comments were very long and his arrogance boundless, he added very little to the discussion. Good riddance.

This is the strangest and most disappointing thing ever posted on this blog. Why on earth would you ban someone for adding to the discussion. I can see banning trolls but it's ridiculous that you banned him for being too involved.

That said if what has been divulged in the comments in the true then you have a greater case for banning someone. Yet, I've maintained, and will continue to maintain, that heavy moderation of blogs is counter-productive. Arrogance is a bad reason to ban someone. Racism or sustained ad hominem attacks might justify it but merely being a jerk or nusance shouldn't qualify.

Are you suggesting that any random commenter should get to post, say, thousands of megabytes of material on EconLog merely because it's free to hit the "post" button here?

Let's be clear here, it would take hell of a lot of time to make text postings add up to "thousands of megabytes". Your analogy of posting "20mb ads" doesn't really hold up because you don't and shouldn't allow images in the comments.

I'm not trying to cause trouble, but the policy seems to be secretive and unclear.

mjh writes:

I'm surprised by the commentary on this post to be about the banning of a particular commenter. It's Arnold and Bryan's blog. I take it for granted that they can apply any criteria they want for allowing/disallowing comments, and that they don't need my (or anyone else's) permission to do so.

Barkley Rosser writes:

Regarding this whole emphasis on peoples' willingness or unwillingness to bet on their predictions, I confess that I find this particularly mindless and irrelevant. When someone says to me "yeah, you wanna bet on it, buddy?" I find myself tending to think that they are trying to avoid argument and engage in nonsense. So much of this has to do with peoples' propensities to gamble, and I never do.

I know that folks here are big fans of prediction markets, a la Robin Hanson and the overcoming bias crew. And I agree that they often work, even when sometimes they do not, for example on forecasting Nobel Prize winners. However, this kind of personal challenge, or judging someone, on whether or not they are willing to bet on their arguments or forecasts strikes me as being a sideshow distraction from discussing the issues. How about challenging people to sue each other over disagreements, or fight duels, or equally silly and mindless stuff?

Brad writes:

Robert,

I like that moderation of this site is secretive, with the rules "discovered" privately by people who step over them. In 5 years that this blog has existed, I've had one comment edited due to a complaint from a well-known sportscaster in Los Angeles and one comment recently removed for an ad hominem on, of all people, General Specific. I hope that I'm on the "Arnold fanboy" list rather than the GYOB list. But Arnold, Bryan, and Lauren have all been tolerant, fair, and even handed in keeping the posts and comments interesting and discussions valuable. GS's biggest transgression, in my opinion, is that he never tried to discuss here, just argue. Glad to see that enough of that is outside the bounds of acceptable.

Mason writes:

For the bet:

As I understand it, Arnold thinks that the global temperatures may go up, and that CO2 levels may go up, and that dispit the consensus that the two are related he does not agree.

So how about Arnold names all the measureable factors that may influence global temperatures, (sun spots, methane levels, magnetic activity... ect) and bets that holding all of these constant global temperatures will not go up regardless of CO2 levels.

This means that the bet will only be valid if there are no signifcant changes in any of his named factors over the next 50 years, and the otherside of the bet is only valid if there is significant increase in CO2 over ther next 50 years.

This situation is unlikely, but possible, so the bet would have too be for much more; $10,000 instead of $10 to signal the same level of confidence.

aaron writes:

One problem is that Skeptics/Deniers generally aren't "Deniers". They (or I) tend to disagree more with scaling and relevance. The warming attibutable to antropogenic greenhouse gasses is very small. To attribute not much over half of recent warming to anthro-greenhouse gasses, you need to include rather sketchy feedbacks and also ignore that those feedback may be due to other, natural warming.

Another problem is, again, scale. Variace is much larger than the tiny, direct affect of greenhouse gasses. What we don't know is far more relevant than what we do know at this point.

Yet more, our view of the past is much fuzzier than the trendlines suggest. Years and decades become blurred together our geographical sample becomes incredibly small. We don't know how temp and gas levels may have fluctuated over short time periods or how representitive our proxies are of the globe. And cosmic ray proxies don't differentiate between the low and the cloud-relevant, high energy rays.

The greenhouse affect means that heat is trapped in the earth's system. If something causes heat to leave the system or much less heat to enter, it makes the greeenhouse effect rather irrelevant... Ok, scaremongers say over half the warming of the past 30 years is due to the AGW. Wanna give me 50/50 that over the next 30 years we won't see a global mean temp lower than during the past 30 years? Yeah, might take that. Do I think the next 30 years will average warmer than the past 30? Probably, but not much. Better yet, wanna bet me 50/50 the warming of the next 30 years won't be greater than the warming of the past 30?

The nature of AGW suggests that we should see an increase in mean temps, a smaller increase in peaks of global mean temps, and a much larger increase in valleys of global mean temps. Do we see these trends? Are the increases in global mean temp minimums higher than the increases in average global mean temp increases?

Another is timing. During the recession, Michigan and the Autos kept moving ahead. I suggested that we were passing losses onto suppliers and financing (re: hiding) and ignoring problems/not-making-changes that would lead to more trouble later. Was I right? Not if I was betting or investing, it took several more years for the problems to surface, I was thinking more like 1-2 years.

Ok, next topic, into tinfoil land...

Lack of volcanoes. Who has seriously investigated volcanic activity in relation to solar activy and cosmic rays (including power, not just quantity)? Who has investigated aerosol levels in relation to CRF? Who has looked at the correlation and considered the relationship may be causal?

On the side...

Comment policy. Commented for years. I'm rather verbally challenged. Have chronic pain and RS problems. I'm often and short and terse. Many (most?) have often missed my points. I never had a problem with the moderation. I only recently had two encounters. One was a comment deleted and I was reprimand (very politely) for commenting on General Specific. The second, I was banned for swearing in the comments (unrelated to GS) in short order of my first offense. It takes a lot to draw the attention of moderation.

Also, there are talented people who can derail a good conversation, intentionally, without even disagreeing with the author or other commenters. Gavin Shmidt at realclimate is quite good. He's (allegedly) used psuedonyms to derail discussions in popular forums, like the Great Global Warming Swindle forum at the abc (see July 15,2:04PM). One tactic is burying a good idea with distractions like multiple, frequent, or long posts with a style to turns off the more general audience. Another is to cite publishings that don't support an assertion made, and usually presented as fact, or to cite new publishings that confirm already incorporated relationships and suggest they add to the existing model.

aaron writes:

Hey, aren't there lot's of people betting against AGW catastrophes by selling low rate long-term bonds?

But Arnold, Bryan, and Lauren have all been tolerant, fair, and even handed in keeping the posts and comments interesting and discussions valuable.

But how can we know that if it's secret?

Buzzcut writes:

I finally GMOB, but it's not as much fun as commenting on yours.

Lauren writes:

Hi, Robert, Brad, aaron, et al.

I wanted to let this thread spin out a little before leaping in again. I want to assure everyone that we read and consider carefully all suggestions that people have about EconLog.

EconLog's comment policy isn't secret. It's been discussed periodically in blog entries and comments. Here's one of Arnold's Civility Plea posts, and here's another thread with a comment of mine that clarifies the standards and the history. We link to it from the EconLog FAQ.

Fundamentally, we insist on civility and sticking to the point. EconLog is a space for engaged, civil discussion of the topics of the blog posts.

In general, I like to keep discussions of meta-issues out of public discussion. Readers are excited by Arnold and Bryan's ideas. Keeping the discussions on those ideas, or on thought-provoking offshoots that arise during the comment discussions, is the goal. People come here for economics, not meta-issues.

This is also part of the reason we insist on valid email addresses. Though we rarely have to email anyone to discuss meta-issues such as obscene language or ad hominem attacks, we believe it is first the commenter's private business. It generally shouldn't be aired in public, and doing so not only disrupts the discussions every else is having, but also would embarrass the commenter, who usually has merely made a mistake he wishes he could take back even without our reminding him. Usually someone's just slipped up in the heat of battle. It happens! Also, bans usually only happen after substantial private email discussion and only if the individual persists in inappropriate behavior. There are other reasons for requiring valid email addresses as well. For example, it slightly limits the number of personae an individual can post under. We believe it is important for people having a discussion to have some confidence that the person they are speaking with is not just gaming them. We can't guarantee that online, of course! Our insisting on having a valid email address for every nick is one step in that direction. A valid email address also protects the original commenter by avoiding the possibility that someone else can try to remove an opponent's comments merely by emailing us from his own email address.

But that concept of gaming leads me to my last observation, and comes full circle to the issue of secrecy. The primary reason we don't post an exact list of rules is that the minute you post something like that, people will game with it and sneak in around the edges to test the limits. ("I didn't say the F-word! I just said John F'N' Kennedy!") Listing specific details for rules is a formula for a disastrous policy as opposed to an effective policy.

EconLog's policies are clear and simple enough for 99% of our commenters: Be polite, stick to and address the issues, keep your anger under control even when the issues here are ones that provoke deep emotional reactions, and make sure we have a valid email address so we can talk out in private anything that isn't clear beyond that list--not a long list and a pretty obvious one at that!

For the record, we think we have a fabulous comment clientele! You guys are terrific. Carry on!

Lauren Landsburg
Editor, Library of Economics and Liberty

Bob Dobalina writes:

Do you really think that you coined the phrase "GYOB"?

Because it's been around a long time.

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