Look closer. Think harder. Choose the sound argument over the clever one.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Race Card

This sounds very interesting:

What do Katrina victims waiting for federal disaster relief, millionaire rappers buying vintage champagne, Ivy League professors waiting for taxis, and ghetto hustlers trying to find steady work have in common? All have claimed to be victims of racism. These days almost no one openly expresses racist beliefs or defends bigoted motives. So lots of people are victims of bigotry, but no one’s a bigot? What gives? Either a lot of people are lying about their true beliefs and motivations, or a lot of people are jumping to unwarranted conclusions—or just playing the race card.

As the label of “prejudice” is applied to more and more situations, it loses a clear and agreed-upon meaning. This makes it easy for self-serving individuals and political hacks to use accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other types of “bias” to advance their own ends. Richard Thompson Ford, a Stanford Law School professor, brings sophisticated legal analysis, lively and eye-popping anecdotes, and plain old common sense to this heated topic. He offers ways to separate valid claims from bellyaching. Daring, entertaining, and incisive, The Race Card is a call for us to treat racism as a social problem that must be objectively understood and honestly evaluated.

It describes the book The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, by Richard Thompson Ford.

HT: Instapundit

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Lancing the Lancet's Iraqi Casualty Study

National Journal takes a close look at the Lancet's Iraqi casualty study. The study asserts that from the start of the 2003 war to its conclusion in mid-2006, an estimated 654,965 Iraqis were killed. The study's results met little skepticism in the media and were embraced by folks like Ted Kennedy and Islamist groups.

The closer they look, the fishier it gets. Not only is its methodology flawed (following "a model that ensured that even minor components of the data, when extrapolated over the whole population, would yield huge differences in the death toll"), but the data itself is likely bogus, and the authors won't release it. Not to mention it was financed by the political left.

The Lancet, founded in 1823, is one of the world's most-cited medical journals, ... In recent years, however, the journal's reputation has suffered from charges of politicization and a few prominent instances of scientific fraud.

It's a long article, but worth the read if you're interested.

Via Instapundit

More, 1/12: Soros funded nearly half the study.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Availability Entrepreneurs

Hats off to the NYT's John Tierney, for pointing out the selective reporting by the "availability entrepreneurs," and experts' reluctance to cross them: In 2008, a 100 Percent Chance of Alarm:

You’re in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change — and that these images are a mere preview of what’s in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet.

Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific. ...

But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

Today’s interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels. ...

The availability cascade is a self-perpetuating process: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and more fear. ...

“Many people concerned about climate change,” Dr. Sunstein says, “want to create an availability cascade by fixing an incident in people’s minds. Hurricane Katrina is just an early example; there will be others. I don’t doubt that climate change is real and that it presents a serious threat, but there’s a danger that any ‘consensus’ on particular events or specific findings is, in part, a cascade.”

Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there’s not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe’s other pole isn’t melting, too.

I'm skeptical of global warming because it seems mired in observer bias. In other areas of research, observer bias is presumed until disproven, as it should be. In climate science, models upon models obscure the fact that each model is another vehicle for more observer bias.

Via Instapundit

More, 1/12: Tierney, again (emphasis mine):

If scientists can’t even agree on what has happened in the past, imagine how much more difficult it is to figure out the future. I’m not suggesting that the global warming isn’t real, or that the uncertainties justify inaction — we take out insurance all the time against risks that are uncertain. I’d like to see a carbon tax. But I’d also like to see fewer dogmatists claiming that the scientific debate is over.


“Rather than select among predictions, why not verify them all? ... Once predictions are made, they should not be forgotten, but evaluated against experience. This is not skepticism at work, just the good old scientific method.”

Well put.

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