Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Agnotology: The Surge - 16

Sen. Inhofe's Sea Level Rise Researchers
Today let's look at unexpected as well as expected surges that are taking place in a civilization that thinks of itself as the most advanced ever (don't they all?).

Obviously, there is not very much awareness in the United States concerning the power of ignorance in our so-called most modern, enlightened, advanced, exceptional, and most evolved society.

For example, in the congress a substantial portion of the elected members are climate change deniers.

A factor that causes a large number of the observers of the members of our governing bodies and institutions to literally ask American citizens travelling abroad, if our country is going crazy (Petroleum Civilization: The Final Chapter (Confusing Life with Death) - 3).

Why wouldn't they when this, among a hundred other climate changes, is happening:
Coastal sea levels along continental margins often show significant year-to-year upward and downward fluctuations. These fluctuations are superimposed on a longer term upward trend associated with the rise in global mean sea level, with global mean sea level rising at roughly 3 mm per year during the recent 20 years of accurate satellite measures. For society, it is the regional changes along any particular coastal zone that are most important. Our analysis of multi-decadal tide gauge records along the North American east coast identified an extreme sea-level rise event during 2009–2010. Within this relatively brief two-year period, coastal sea level north of New York City jumped by up to 128 mm. This magnitude of inter-annual sea level rise is unprecedented in the tide gauge records, with statistical methods suggesting that it was a 1-in-850 year event.
(NOAA, An Extreme Event of Sea-level Rise, emphasis added). In other words, in the language of the warrior congress, "a surge."

The rate of sea level rise has been consistently underestimated by conservative scientists who don't want any surge of fear in the sheeple (cf. here and here).

That recent study shows how large the underestimations have been, because they incessantly fail to consider acceleration in ice sheet melts, along with other cumulative events in a damaged climate system.

The 128mm (5.04 inches) sea level rise in only two years is 2.52 inches per year, or 25.2 inches (2 ft. 1.2 in.) over ten years.

It is 85 years until 2100, by which time conservative scientists have said that a six foot sea level rise could take place.

But, if there is a global 2.52 inch surge in only half (42.5) of those 85 years, the sea levels could rise about nine feet (2,52 * 42.5 = 107.1 in. / 12 = 8.93 ft.) --instead of only about six feet (the high estimate - 3ft. is lower IPCC estimate).

Conservative as 3 ft. is, still that is a serious rate of sea level rise, which could accelerate, because among other things even  the underlying non-surge rate is accelerating (Water, Water, Everywhere: Sea Level Rise in Miami).

No wonder Miami Beach property, and other coastal property, is going to become cheap (Will This Float Your Boat - 3).

Another place where Agnotology shows up is in U.S. law enforcement where military doctrine has replaced traditional peace officer doctrine (Will The Military Become The Police?, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

Even dark military practices are showing up in places like Chicago, where Chicago police detain Americans at an abuse-laden CIA-type 'black site':
“I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours. That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist,” said Trainum, who now studies national policing issues, to include interrogations, for the Innocence Project and the Constitution Project.

Regardless of departmental regulations, police frequently deny or elide access to lawyers even at regular police precincts, said Solowiej of First Defense Legal Aid. But she said the outright denial was exacerbated at Chicago’s secretive interrogation and holding facility: “It’s very, very rare for anyone to experience their constitutional rights in Chicago police custody, and even more so at Homan Square,” Solowiej said.
“The real danger in allowing practices like Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,” Siska said.

“They creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago.”
(The disappeared, cf. The AtlanticRawStory). Other government officials are also practising the ignorance of junk science and using it to put people in jail for life.

In Texas they go even further and execute them based on junk science:
Most famous among wrongful arson convictions is the Texas case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of killing his three young daughters in a fire and put to death in 2004. In The New Yorker, investigative journalist David Grann described in dramatic detail how, days before Willingham’s execution, a renowned fire scientist named Gerald Hurst rushed to show the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that the fire in his case had almost certainly been an accident. With evidence of prosecutorial misconduct emerging after Willingham’s death, today it is perhaps the most widely accepted example of a wrongful execution in the modern death penalty era.
Recent experiments have yielded troubling results. In one 2005 test, ATF researchers asked 53 professional fire investigators to pinpoint the origin of a series of post-flashover fires. Only three [5.7%] were able to do so accurately — most drew false conclusions based on burn patterns. In 2011, a test conducted by the California-based Arson Research Project asked professional fire investigators to assess 12 post-flashover burn patterns and distinguish between those that involved a liquid accelerant and those that did not. In reality, there is no way to tell the difference based on visual evidence alone. Yet out of 33 investigators, only three [9%] responded that such a conclusion could not be determined based on this evidence.

In a subsequent report, the Arson Research Project warned that between their subjective methodology and close identification with law enforcement, fire investigators are “uniquely positioned” to be susceptible to the affects of cognitive bias — in which one’s perception is colored by preexisting knowledge or assumptions. In a criminal investigation, the more contextual details a forensic analyst is given by law enforcement, the more likely he or she is to unconsciously reach conclusions that support the state’s theory. To mitigate this, the NAS report argued that forensic analysts should operate as independently from law enforcement as possible. But fire investigations involve the opposite approach, the Arson Research Project report said, instead embracing arson task forces in which “the lines between fire scene examiner and criminal investigator are not just blurred but are obliterated.”
(Playing With Fire, Junk Science). It is as if there is a surge of voodoo ignorance trances going around undetected (Choose Your Trances Carefully, 2, 3).

Why is this not generally known or reported by McTell News?

One serious study of Agnotology points out that:
"Philosophers love to talk about knowledge. A whole field is devoted to reflection on the topic, with product tie-ins to professorships and weighty conferences. Epistemology is serious business, taught in academies the world over: there is “moral” and “social” epistemology, epistemology of the sacred, the closet, and the family. There is a Computational Epistemology Laboratory at the University of Waterloo, and a Center for Epistemology at the Free University in Amsterdam. A Google search turns up separate websites for “constructivist,” “feminist,” and “evolutionary” epistemology, of course, but also “libidinal,” “android,” “Quaker,” “Internet,” and (my favorite) “erotometaphysical” epistemology. Harvard offers a course in the field (without the erotometaphysical part), which (if we are to believe its website) explores the epistemic status of weighty claims like “the standard meter is 1 meter long” and “I am not a brain in a vat.”1 We seem to know a lot about knowledge.

What is remarkable, though, is how little we know about ignorance. There is not even a well-known word for its study (though our hope is to change that—see Box 1), no fancy conferences or polished websites [take that Dredd Blog!]. This is particularly remarkable, given (a) how much ignorance there is, (b) how many kinds there are, and (c) how consequential ignorance is in our lives.

The point of this volume is to argue that there is much, in fact, to know. Ignorance has many friends and enemies, and figures big in everything from trade association propaganda to military operations to slogans chanted at children. Lawyers think a lot about it, since it often surfaces in consumer product liability and tort litigation, where the question is often “Who knew what, and when?” Ignorance has many interesting surrogates and overlaps in myriad ways with—as it is generated by—secrecy, stupidity, apathy, censorship, disinformation, faith, and forgetfulness, all of which are science-twitched. Ignorance hides in the shadows of philosophy and is frowned upon in sociology, but it also pops up in a great deal of popular rhetoric: it’s no excuse, it’s what can’t hurt you, it’s bliss. Ignorance has a history and a complex political and sexual geography, and does a lot of other odd and arresting work that bears exploring.
Military-sponsored research in the 1940s led to early predictions of global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps; the guardians of military secrecy kept this quiet, however, and the topic was not widely and openly discussed. Climate science has suffered new kinds of agnotology in recent years, as Bush administration strategists have tried to keep the question of anthropogenic global warming “open.” As with tobacco industry apologetics, calls for “more research” on climate change have served as an effective stalling tactic: the strong evidence of warming is denied, using the pretence of a quest for rigor as a trick to delay action. Calls for precision can play out as prevarication.

Military research has more often generated ignorance by passive agnogenesis: we have many examples where military funding has pushed certain areas, leaving others to languish.
(Agnotology, by Robert N. Proctor, emphasis added, PDF). Dr. Proctor is a serious authority on Agnotology (he and another fellow came up with the word circa 1992. ibid).

The military excuse for their denial tactics, which Dr. Proctor mentions in the quote above, reminds me of what one fellow from Texas noticed:
"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
(Butch Hancock, cf. MOMCOM: A Mean Welfare Queen). That is enough about Agnotology for one post.

See you next time.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.


  1. Ignorance has now been institutionalized within the congress of the U.S.

  2. Don't stop there, Randy - ignorance is TAUGHT via lack of critical thinking skills development during indoctrina - er education.


  3. Did you notice where I inserted "[take that Dredd Blog!]" into the quote of Dr. Proctor?

    He does not think that "websites", including blogs I suppose, are polished when it comes to exposing ignorance about Agnotology.

    Was the good doctor "polished" to diss us that way?

    FWIW I like all the polish in Warsaw.