Donnerstag, November 27, 2008

Patterns and Recognition...Patternicity

This jibes nicely with what I have posted here recently.

One of the epistemological questions facing us that has yet to be well resolved is anthropogenic global warming (AGW). I say that it has not been well resolved because the proponents lack proper arguments - arguing that it is consensus is not an arguement, sorry: it is a logical fallacy, an appeal to authority. The IPCC publications are rife with errors - the Mann Hockey Stick, or instance - and have been compromised with politics, effectively perverting any inquiry as to what is really going on. I've documented in previous posts here how both models and data have been compromised as well.

But why? Well, there is the obvious reason: politics.

But the article I link to here points to an alternative: something that author calls "patternicity". We in the economics field call it "chartism", but the principle is the same: believing that there is meaning to a pattern that in and of itself lacks meaning. It helps explain the psychological mechanism behind the belief that AGW is real and existent.

To quote the author (Michael Shermer):

... we did not evolve a Baloney Detection Network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns. We have no error-detection governor to modulate the pattern-recognition engine. (Thus the need for science with its self-correcting mechanisms of replication and peer review.)

This is an important, if banal, point: the problem that AGW proponents face is their fight against replication of methods and the corruption of the peer review system (peer review collapses when the editors of journals consistently reject as unscientific articles that challenge the orthodoxy).

One way of expressing this is pb>c, i.e. a belief will be held when the benefits of that belief are greater than the costs of holding that belief. I'd take that one step further: there is also a distinction between the personal benefits and the costs of the commons, i.e. costs that are carried by all: this is where the proponents of AGW stand. They benefit enormously privately - their funding continues - but there are no costs for them: the costs are born by the commons, and only indirectly by the average individual. Hence the enthusiasm for such dogma and liberties taken both with models and data (manipulations of both have been shown to automagically lead to the results that the researchers want, even if fed with white, pink and other noise variants).


Through a series of complex formulas that include additional stimuli (wind in the trees) and prior events (past experience with predators and wind), the authors conclude that "the inability of individuals—human or otherwise—to assign causal probabilities to all sets of events that occur around them will often force them to lump causal associations with non-causal ones. From here, the evolutionary rationale for superstition is clear: natural selection will favour strategies that make many incorrect causal associations in order to establish those that are essential for survival and reproduction."

The obsession that more than a few AGW proponents have with their prescribed corrections as being necessary for the survival of the human race now starts to make sense: they truly believe this, but on the level of superstition, not ratio.

And finally:

Such patternicities, then, mean that people believe weird things because of our evolved need to believe nonweird things.

Which goes, I think, to explain conspiracy theories and both religious and pseudo-scientific cults quite well.

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