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Re: The Civil Heretic - Freeman Dyson - Profile - NYTimes.com
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sun, 29 Mar 2009 08:43:12 -0400



Begin forwarded message:

From: Rahul Tongia <tongia () cmu edu>
Date: March 28, 2009 11:55:25 PM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Cc: ip <ip () v2 listbox com>
Subject: Re: [IP] Re: The Civil Heretic - Freeman Dyson - Profile - NYTimes.com
Reply-To: tongia () cmu edu

Dave,

I enjoyed the article, but have a similar reaction as to, say, broadband skeptics who say we just don't have the data to make dire statements of the US falling behind.

If we accept that we don't know enough, esp. re. models and data, then isn't it entirely possible things might be worse than the models state?

Re. climate change, where I am less of an expert than even Freeman Dyson, my impression from discussions with expert is it's not "warming" but the change if not disruption that is the issue. Even if the average rise is only 1 degree, regions that experience much more can be hurt, hard.

I think there is a fundamental issue of what some may call "arrogance" - not the arrogance of models, modelers, science, scientists, etc., but the very idea that we can impact the world so severely means humans are way too powerful, when one would think we are not. Certainly nature is stronger and more resilient than we think.

I would posit there is a reverse arrogance, to not realize how powerful and disruptive we are. Species change (dodo, passenger pigeon, etc.) are simple manifestations of human activity. A much starker example is nuclear weapons, where, at some point, we had the ability to destroy life on earth some 100x in total. It was easy to recognize that problem. Much harder are issues that are not acute but chronic, the gradual creep that has much higher inertia.

Even if the climate models are off, way off, the impacts can be felt on things like drinking water. Glaciers are measurably receding. Perhaps this is something cyclic, and not mankind's fault. Regardless of how/why, the impact on water supplies in places like India will be painful. Already, there are parts of India where formal water supply is once in 3 or more days, for about an hour. The middle-class and higher all have to make alternative arrangements. None of those solutions (tanker supply, individual wells, etc.) is a scalable solution.

I might personally share some of Freeman Dyson's distaste for the hysteria over climate, which is the newest buzzword and marketing hype. Perhaps we'd be better off stepping back and examining our fundamental consumption lifestyles. Not to make pitches, but an interesting, provocative, and mostly right 20-min animation many might have seen is at: storyofstuff.com

Rahul

************************************************************************
Rahul Tongia, Ph.D.
Senior Systems Scientist

Program in Computation, Organizations, and Society (COS)
School of Computer Science (ISR) /
Dept. of Engineering & Public Policy

Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 USA
tel: 412-268-5619
fax: 412-268-2338
email: tongia () cmu edu
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rtongia



David Farber wrote:
Begin forwarded message:
*From: *"Mac McKnight" <dmcknight15 () comcast net <mailto:dmcknight15 () comcast net >>
*Date: *March 28, 2009 4:34:33 PM EDT
*To: *<dave () farber net <mailto:dave () farber net>>
*Subject: **RE: [IP] The Civil Heretic - Freeman Dyson - Profile - NYTimes.com*
*Reply-To: *<dmcknight15 () comcast net <mailto:dmcknight15 () comcast net>>
Dave, thank you for forwarding this link. I thought the article was fascinating! And that article from Climate Progress? That kind of ad hominem response does more to hurt the global warming cause than any article about Dyson. You can tell that Dyson is the classic skeptical scientist here, and the Climate Progress writer, Joseph Romm, is the stereotype for Eric Hoffer’s True Believer. When you know you are right, disagreement is not to be tolerated! IP is still going great! I don’t agree with everything that is said, and I certainly don’t have the engineering chops to understand the technical discussions, but that’s why I enjoy it!
Mac McKnight
------------------------------------------------------------------------
*From:* David Farber [mailto:dave () FARBER NET] *Sent:* Friday, March 27, 2009 12:07 PM
*To:* ip
*Subject:* [IP] The Civil Heretic - Freeman Dyson - Profile - NYTimes.com
Well worth reading  djf
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/magazine/29Dyson-t.html
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