Thursday, March 10, 2016

#1617: Steve Forbes

I don’t know whether it is reassuring or not to see that the candidates in the Republican primaries for the 2000 election contained the same kind of moronic clowns and Taliban fundies as they do today. One of the idiots running back then was Steve Forbes. Yes, that Steve Forbes, the publishing executive and editor-in-chief of business magazine Forbes. He also ran in 1996.

The campaign was not very successful, despite the money Forbes raised (e.g. by selling some of his Forbes Inc. voting shares), but what interests us is his platform. Oh, there were the standard issues: flat tax (really a regressive tax in Forbes’s case) and opposition to most government regulation of the environment, drug legalization, same-sex marriage and the UN, support for school prayers and combatting juvenile crime with “school morality”, and a promise to no longer donate money to Princeton University due to its hiring of philosopher Peter Singer because Singer views personhood as being limited to sentient beings (yeah, Forbes missed the nuances of that issue). One interesting detail about his plan, however, was his platform on education: “More Bible; less evolution”. One might be inclined to think there is a link between that one and the fact that Forbes Magazine has had an annoying tendency to “give equal time” to mindrotting cargo cult science when discussing scientific issues, though the Forbes site is, in fairness, an aggregator site, and Forbes himself probably has somewhat limited control over what gets published there.

Forbes also denied that there were any evidence that CO2 causes global warming, which even in 2000 was a pretty stupid position. We are not aware of him changing his mind. Making sure he ticks all the usual wingnut science denial boxes, Forbes has also promoted the usual DDT ban myths, backed up by the usual PRATTs. He is also a member of the board of trustees of the Heritage Foundation.

Diagnosis: His 2000 platform seems at least to be inspired by countries Forbes would never mention as sources of inspiration, and the guy himself seems to have bought into all the standard conspiracy theories and religiously fundamentalist anti-science attitudes that often come with wingnuttery. Still pretty influential in Tea Party circles, it seems.


  1. It's interesting you come from the position that man-made global warming is a settled fact. Here's some food for thought...

    There are approximately 120 years of scientific data pertaining to weather (about the time aviation was coming into its own). According to the radioactive decay method, the Earth is somewhere around 4.5 billion years old. How can any model using such a small sample size have any validity? Proportionally this is akin to determining and predicting US nationwide trends by sampling the views of 8 people (300 million is about 1/15 of 4.5 billion, 8 is 1/15 of 120).

    Models created with such a small amount of data have a long history of failure. Look at the fact no economist has been able to create a model that prevents toilet paper shortages in socialist/communist countries. Nobody has been able to create a model that could explain the "Pet Rock".

    One final thing to consider is the scientific method requires hypotheses and theories be tested in order for them to have any validity. How does one propose to test their theory of what the weather will be like in 100 years?

    Anthropogenic climate change skeptics are well justified in believing as they do. There is little in the way of facts to warrant disrupting the lives of billions over an unsubstantiated benefit...

    1. This must be one of the silliest objections to global warming I've seen. Yes, we have weather data for some 120 years (actually quite a bit longer, though it gets spottier). We do, however, have climate data for much longer than that. But what on earth is the relevance of the age of the Earth? Climate has varied over the course of the earth for various reasons, but that's not the question. The question is whether climate change is happening *now* and what is causing *this* change. Why should "whether climate data we have are representative for the whole history of the earth" be a relevant concern?

      As an aside, you clearly don't understand sample sizes. The question isn't the size of the sample but its representativity. Of course, a sample of 2 people couldn't be used to draw conclusions about a group of 1000 people. But a sample of 2000 *could* be used to draw a conclusion about a group of 1,000,000 people. The proportions are, percentagewise, the same, but percentagewise proportionality simply isn't particularly relevant to representativity.

      "the scientific method requires hypotheses and theories be tested in order for them to have any validity."

      Yes. There are two hypotheses here. First: "The climate is changing (i.e. warming)." To test it, we derive some observable predictions. That's not particularly hard. (In fact, we'd probably want to test the null hypothesis "there has been no warming". That one is easily falsified). Next hypothesis, then: "The warming is largely caused by human activity" (or use a null hypothesis "the warming is due to natural phenomena"). Not that hard to test against observations either (changes in CO2 levels and whatnot). If you really are interested - which I doubt - you could look it up.

      That gives us certain knowledge about how CO2 levels affect climate. And from that, we can make models about what will happen in the future, (relativized to future levels of human emissions). Analogous to how one uses physics to predict the presence of comets centuries before they appear - the uncertainty is higher in the climate models since there are more variables, but the basic principle is the same.

      "How does one propose to test their theory of what the weather will be like in 100 years?"

      How do you test the hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow? You can't until tomorrow arrives, of course. Does that mean that your "theory" that the sun will rise tomorrow is unjustified?