Right and Wrong Don’t Matter

People don’t care about right and wrong.

That’s why my high school’s zero tolerance rule for fighting punished all parties in any fight equally. It didn’t matter if a person was a hapless bystander who tried to stop an assault. It didn’t matter if a person was an innocent victim who did nothing but get beaten unconscious. People who did nothing wrong were punished the same way as the people who attacked them without any cause or provocation.

A similar thing happened recently when an individual publicly called me an incredibly foul word on Twitter. I highlighted his tweet because that sort of thing shouldn’t be tolerated. The first person to respond said this:

In a sane world, it would be appropriate to call out people on their bad behavior. In this world though, it seems highlighting bad behavior can be every bit as unacceptable as behaving badly. People seem to act like all parties in any conflict are equally responsible.

I pointed this out, and this is the response I got:

Think about that. This person said he didn’t bother to read what was said before deciding I behaved poorly. This is clearly true because anyone who had read what was said would know I never called anyone that name. I think the word is offensive and would never call anyone it.

In fact, rather than call anyone that, I called for the word not to be used:

I highlighted bad behavior and called for it to cease. People responded by claiming I am guilty of that bad behavior (another user had responded by saying “exactly”). Even worse, they openly admitted they weren’t even going to look to see if I was guilty. The mere fact I was involved in the situation was enough for them to condemn me.

Suppose you were in back in high school, and some student came up to you and punched you in the face. I think you’d be forgiven if you exclaimed, “He punched me in the face!” I think you’d be forgiven for saying, “Dude, don’t punch people in the face!” At least, you’d be forgiven if this world were sane. Or fair.

It isn’t though. People don’t care about right and wrong. People want things to be a certain way, and anything that interferes is unacceptable. It’s the same concept Dr. House (of House M.D.) discussed when he said:

Spoken like a true circle queen. See, skinny, socially-privileged white people get to draw this neat little circle. And everyone inside the circle is “normal”. Anyone outside the circle should be beaten, broken and reset so that they can be brought into the circle. Failing that, they should be institutionalized. Or worse – Pitied.

We see this mentality all the time in the climate debate. Judith Curry stepped “outside the circle” by publicly addressing legitimate questions global warming skeptics raised. The people “inside the circle” didn’t reward her for this. They punished her. They tried to beat her into submission so she’d “come back inside.” She didn’t, and now, she says:

Am I the only climate scientist on the planet that is concerned about these issues and reads the social science literature relevant to these concerns? Well, I seem to be the only one speaking out publicly on these issues. Are those scientists that are so wrapped up in AGW ideology completely blind to the impact that their advocacy is having on climate science?

The same thing happens to skeptics who step “outside the circle.” Earlier this year I showed a major figure for the skeptical cause, Richard Tol, abused his power as a Lead Author of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report to to alter its conclusions and heavily promote his own work outside any of the normal IPCC channels or review processes (see here and here.

How did skeptics respond to this clear-cut proof the IPCC process is corrupted, an accusation they’ve made for years? They ignored it. Actually, they did worse than ignore it. Some of them defended it. In private communication, a couple even acknowledged I was right but told me to cover it up because talking about it would be bad for the cause.

I didn’t, of course. I pointed out Richard Tol’s bad behavior for what it was. I did the same with other “skeptic” figures as well. Christopher Monckton. Steven Goddard. Anthony Watts. At one time or another, each of these people behaved in a way which would be unacceptable in any fair world. And each time I pointed out that unacceptable behavior, “skeptics” said I was in the wrong. This sort of thing led me to ask, “Am I a Skeptic?

I still don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is I care about right and wrong, and I can’t find a “circle” which does. It seems these “circles” don’t want to think about anything that happens outside of them. All they care about is whether or not you’re with them. If you are, they like you. If you aren’t, you must be bullied into converting.

And if you won’t convert, you must be destroyed.

Advertisements

16 comments

  1. I can think of worse and more offensive things to call people, but then I had my older sister training me. Women are much more effective in my experience at “low blows” than guys ever could be.

    I think in respect to the Tol/IPCC issue, most people probably felt this was something better to address at that level, if you thought it were important. That doesn’t make it right or wrong just “we have other irons in our fire than the ones you think are important”.

    I’m going through 80 digital sensors right now. They will leave the building in two weeks for a field deployment and be left unattended for three weeks. In the mean time, I have to finish calibrating them, doing LINUX maintenance and preflight software checks. That’s just informational, but it’s what I’m really thinking about.

    Anyway, what you’re talking where with respect to Leopard is what I call “pie throwing”. People throw pies, then they move on. Rinse repeat.

    When I watch the way Michael E Mann or Anders (ATTP) behave, anything you are worried about pales in comparison. They are actively trying to shutdown meaningful, thoughtful conversation. ATTP actively attacks people including me from his little pedestal. If he likes the heat, he should stay in the kitchen. If he doesn’t, there’s another remedy for that.

  2. Carrick:

    I think in respect to the Tol/IPCC issue, most people probably felt this was something better to address at that level, if you thought it were important. That doesn’t make it right or wrong just “we have other irons in our fire than the ones you think are important”.

    I don’t agree. Plenty of people harped on far smaller problems in IPCC reports. Moreover, I can’t recall a single person who did comment suggesting anything of the sort. I find it difficult to believe “most people” share a view but none of the dozens of people who discussed the issue even hinted at it.

    I also know for certain it’s not true for a number of prominent “skeptics,” such as Anthony Watts. Watts would have ran the story if what I had found involved an author who changed the IPCC report to exaggerate global warming concerns. The reason he didn’t run the story is it was done by Richard Tol, and it downplayed global warming concerns.

    I know there are people who hold views similar to what you suggest. I’ve even talked to some of them. I just don’t think they make up the majority. Or at least, not the vocal majority. It might be true for the lurkers. I have no idea how to tell what they’re thinking.

    When I watch the way Michael E Mann or Anders (ATTP) behave, anything you are worried about pales in comparison. They are actively trying to shutdown meaningful, thoughtful conversation.

    I don’t think it’s on the same level. It certainly isn’t as bad as anything people like Judith Curry have gone through. At the same time, I’m also a far smaller fish. The fact a smaller fish isn’t treated as badly as larger fish doesn’t tell us much. I don’t think we can really know what would happen if I had a larger podium.

    JamesNV posted a relevant comment over at Judith Curry’s blog:

    One of the interesting things about this post is how it goes both ways. As soon as the “facts” no longer suit people, being “factual” is suddenly not a priority; standards suddenly drop and sloppy arguments abound. If the science did not support skeptics, I believe the majority of them would still be skeptics. (Watch what happens when skeptics have disagreements amongst themselves!)

    The climate debate offers a fascinating glimpse into human nature. It’s especially fascinating to watch scientists, who represent modern societies’ ideals of knowledge and reason, act like children. I like to joke à la Soylent Green, that “scientists are made of people!” What a horrifying truth to have to face.

    And that’s more what interests me. I use myself as an example because sometimes I’m petty (or whatever). I could find plenty of other examples if I wanted. It’s easy to see what I describe isn’t limited to one “side” or the other. It’s a trait which runs through all of human society.

    I find that as fascinating as I find it depressing.

  3. Resist the temptation to tweet. Metaphorically it’s a virus infecting all it touches. It maximizes harm through a minimum of content. It replicates out of control. It mutates and becomes worse. It spreads across the cybersphere in microseconds by carriers that it has turned into zombies. It’s victims are unable to tame it’s lethality. It’s a weapon in the hands of the terror-minded. Only by isolation (not tweeting) can you avoid much of its damage.

    I see absolutely no benefit to tweeting.

  4. I don’t think complaining about name-calling and insults means I shouldn’t give people silly nicknames in good humor.

    As for Typhoid Mary, Typhoid is a terrible first name. I could actually imagine people with “Luddite” as a surname. In fact, I think there are some.

  5. ==> “I don’t think complaining about name-calling and insults means I shouldn’t give people silly nicknames in good humor.”

    And if you don’t find being called a name humorous, that’s not Brandon’s problem. Because it doesn’t make sense.

  6. Brandon, if you think it’s important you should privately write the committee.

    Joshua, this is very childish. What gives?

  7. Childish? Moi?

    I like tweaking Brandon, particularly on his “That doesn’t make sense” style of rhetoric and notions such as that I’m responsible for decisions he makes or that he isn’t responsible if people don’t find it humorous that he calls them names.

    Not saying it isn’t childish.

  8. Carrick, Joshua is a troll. Part of being a troll for him mean misrepresenting what people say then repeatedly harassing them over it.

    For instance, I once told Joshua he was wasting everybody’s time. He responded by saying he couldn’t waste their time; they were the ones who chose to waste it. He has since made reference to that, claiming I blame him for my actions in this regard.

    Of course, that’s just stupid as it is obvious people can waste each other’s time. At the very least, seeing a user’s name and scrolling past his comments requires a bit of time every time you load a page he has commented on. As a blogger, I can’t even do that because I have to be mindful of what is posted on the site. That means I have to at least skim Joshua’s comments in order to ensure no rules are broken.

    But Joshua doesn’t care about getting things right. He’s a troll. My recommendation is for people to ignore him, and if that’s not possible, to at least not respond to his trolling directly.

  9. Carrick:

    Brandon, if you think it’s important you should privately write the committee.

    I agree with it in a general sense that it is good to contact organizations when you feel they’ve done something wrong. Given the context of this discussion though, you seem to be saying more than that. You seem to be saying I shouldn’t discuss it as I have, I should be taking it up with the IPCC. You previously said:

    I think in respect to the Tol/IPCC issue, most people probably felt this was something better to address at that level, if you thought it were important.

    But what you seem to be saying is just silly. It’d be like saying I shouldn’t discuss Cook et al’s wrongdoings like I have because I should be taking it up with the ERL. That I can try contacting a body we have no reason to believe will do anything about my concerns in no way suggests I should refrain from discussing it in public.

    I can be ignored by the ERL and discuss Cook et al’s paper in public. I can be ignored by the IPCC and discus Richard Tol’s abuse of it in public. These are not either/or things, and I should not be expected to keep quiet in one forum because another, probably useless forum, exists.

  10. Brandon:

    I agree with it in a general sense that it is good to contact organizations when you feel they’ve done something wrong. Given the context of this discussion though, you seem to be saying more than that. You seem to be saying I shouldn’t discuss it as I have, I should be taking it up with the IPCC.

    Yes I was saying something more. If you contact the committee, and you want them to take it seriously, it needs to be an “up the chain” communication. Which is to say confidential in nature.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t have published what you published. I’m saying if you wanted to go to the next logical step, having given people an opportunity to comment or your own blog, you should write a letter of inquiry to the committee chairperson.

  11. ==> “At the very least, seeing a user’s name and scrolling past his comments requires a bit of time every time you load a page he has commented on.

    If you decide to read a blog’s comments, and you decide that you don’t want to read certain comments, that’s on you. Your decisions about what to do with your time.

    ==> “As a blogger, I can’t even do that because I have to be mindful of what is posted on the site. That means I have to at least skim Joshua’s comments in order to ensure no rules are broken.””

    You “have” to do that?

    Really?

    You can’t just decide not to do so?

    So you decide to start a blog, and you decide to put up posts, and you decide to read the posts because you have decided to make rules and decided to enforce those rules, and you’re going to blame me for your series of decisions?

    So much for personal responsibility, eh? And BTW, Brandon, that there’s some beautiful logic.

  12. Carrick, I hope you realize the quandary you create when you say:

    I’m saying if you wanted to go to the next logical step, having given people an opportunity to comment or your own blog, you should write a letter of inquiry to the committee chairperson.

    And:

    If you contact the committee, and you want them to take it seriously, it needs to be an “up the chain” communication. Which is to say confidential in nature.

    You say if I took this seriously, I should have contacted certain people. You then say if I contacted them, I should have done so confidentially. If I did so, you wouldn’t know about it.

    It seems you’re telling me I ought to do something you’d have no way of knowing if I did.

  13. Joshua, at this point, it’s clear you’re either a die-hard troll or a complete idiot who refuses to even try to listen. Either way, engaging you is a waste of time, and it will likely just bring things down.

    I’d like it if you’d just stop talking, but you can continue to comment if you’d like. I’m just going to encourage everyone not to respond to you.

  14. Brandon –

    Sorry for forcing you to read my posts, and even worse, respond. I know that you “have” to read my comments and respond, and that it’s not like you decide to do those things.

    In my defense, it’s not really my fault, though. The devil made me do it.

    ——————–

    Allow me to remind you of this:

    Brandon Shollenberger
    July 13, 2014 at 5:34 pm
    “… but I am going to stop responding.”

    My response this time is the same as last time:

    A wise decision, Brandon, IMO. It is good to see that you have decided to accept responsibility for your own decisions. Kudos. I consider that progress, of sorts – although I question whether you can sustain that progress. Time will tell. That you could have so recently said the following:

    And I’ll also remind you that I said this, first quoting you:

    ==> ““I’ve never found a case of me engaging in this sort of behavior, and I’ve looked as hard as I can,”

    leaves me skeptical [that you will sustain your progress in accepting responsibility for your own decisions]. Unless, of course, the comment was tongue-in-cheek. I couldn’t quite tell.

    Looks like my skepticism was well placed. But I’m less skeptical this time. I suspect that this time you really will accept responsibility for your own behavior. I think that you may well have learned a lesson. Time will tell.

    And Brandon – a question for future reference: If you engage someone in a discussion about me and about my posts, does that comprise a response to me? ‘Cause it does seem to me at times that your responses to other people about me are kinda’ directed at me, you know, kinda like a response to me. So I was just wondering…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s