Noah Cowan interviews Tyler Cowen

by on December 29, 2016 at 4:04 am in Books, Current Affairs, Economics, Education, Science | Permalink

He is from Brown University, we met at a tacqueria, here is the interview, here is one bit from it, from me:

Popular culture is not nearly pro-science enough…. It should be much higher status to be in science. This would boost the rate of innovation. I think people privately can just choose to respect science more. In a sense it’s a free lunch! You don’t have to spend money, people just have to actually believe science is really good. So that’s what I advocate. And that’s a question of role models and exposure when you’re young. I think TV shows are very important… Star Trek and even Gilligan’s Island I think made science cool to a lot of people. I think President Obama actually has done a pretty good job of being a pro-science role model and how he talks about science. His powers are limited but I think he actually gets this pretty well, because he’s made a real concerted attempt rhetorically to work that into what he’s about. I think historically, America has not been all that pro-science, but we invented the atomic bomb, we industrialized in this fantastic manner. In a bunch of ways pro-science and nationalism should overlap. Being the first country to put a man on the moon gave a huge boost to science. That boost has proven temporary, much to my dismay.

Here are bits and pieces on the very smart Noah Cowan, who was a Jeopardy champion at a very young age.

1 So Much For Subtlety December 29, 2016 at 4:38 am

t should be much higher status to be in science. This would boost the rate of innovation.

What is the evidence for this? Science and innovation have been driven by mainly socially awkward geeks. People like Freeman Dyson have written about how he found science a haven from his school’s relentless focus on sports and being a good chap. If you somehow create a situation where the cool kids take part – which is next to impossible – you will simply drive the geeks out. They will find their own niche in some other field.

The worst thing that could happen to science is that the people who say they f**king love science to actually mean it.


2 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2016 at 4:58 am

I still think Mr. Boris Sidis was right: American emphasis on high school/college sports is decadent and detrimental to the American educational system… And being awkward doesn’t make one good in sciences. If the “cool kids” take the place of the awkward based on their skills, what is the harm for the society? Americans should think less about cliques, races, religions and political parties and think more about the common good.


3 Thanatos Savehn December 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

My thought exactly. We’re in the midst of a reproducibility crisis driven by the decades-long failure of “scientists” to recognize the fact that untested conjectures (straw man-kicking NHST-ing isn’t testing) aren’t evidence of anything other than having been thunk, and TC’s profundity is an evidence-free claim that if people would start tweeting about “science” the way they tweet about Kim Kardashian’s backside we’d have more innovation. No TC, it was precisely the effort to popularize science, industrialize science and simplify its method that led The New York Times to herald and its gullible readers to be thrilled and amazed by the tweetable “discoveries” of the likes of Diederick Stapel.


4 Ray Lopez December 29, 2016 at 11:19 am

TC is promoting the traditional model of advancing science. It’s true what he says: the dream of a Nobel Prize and praise from society is what drives a lot of geeks. I’ve seen it myself first hand, as I’m in the invention business and have invented.

BTW, it’s true IMO that we’ve hit a hard wall in science, akin to what TC calls “The Great Stagnation”. The solution? Better patent laws, as I’ve outlined here, including no-filing ex-post patent rewards from a government body (for real good inventions, not stupid inventions) given to individual inventors not just the assignee (as in today, most inventions go to the inventor’s employer, the assignee, due to labor contract law).


5 carlospln December 29, 2016 at 3:25 pm

What have you ever invented?


6 Ray Lopez December 29, 2016 at 7:01 pm

That’s proprietary. Among other things however, I invented the idea of Al Gore inventing the internet. About the time I wrote Al Gore that he was the father of the internet, he came out with the saying that he invented the internet. Coincidence?

7 Trump Fan December 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

I do think raising the status of scientists would be good, lots of smart people who currently go into law, medicine, or business can be convinced to go into science. But having education bureaucrats say “science is fun” is just about the worst thing you could do. Think about law, medicine, and business. Are they high status because society goes out of its way to celebrate them? Nope. If you want to raise the status of scientists, portray them in that lawyers, doctors, and CEOs are portrayed, as well-paid experts who other people have to defer to. And maybe even engaging in a bit of mischief.


8 Cliff December 29, 2016 at 11:46 am

The problem is compensation. I’d rather do science than what I’m doing but I’m not going to take an 80% pay cut


9 Stuck-Record December 29, 2016 at 12:28 pm

I see a great deal of ‘Science-Worship’ amongst the Twitter/Facebook/MSM/Liberal Arts crowd.

It’s highly amusing watching my neighbour (arts grad hobby photographer) screaming vitriolic abuse online at mathematicians, physicists, statisticians and software coders who don’t like shoddy climate science. (They are anti-science, apparently.)

She loves to yell about ‘The Facts’, yet will smugly tell you in the next breath that ‘there is no such thing as objective reality’ and ‘facts are a cultural construct’.


10 Lanigram December 29, 2016 at 12:34 pm



11 Curt F. December 29, 2016 at 11:28 am

Science and innovation have been driven by mainly socially awkward geeks.

This is not true and I don’t think it has ever been true. Perhaps the socially awkward are overly represented among the engineer-managers like Jobs, Gates, Edison, and Musk, but actual science is certainly not a geeks-only affair. Feynman, F. Sanger, and Doudna come to mind.


12 Lanigram December 29, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Feynman et al are the exceptions. After a long career in high tech I can tell you I saw a disproportionately large number of geeks and high functioning autistics in software. Sitting and writing code has a high social-opportunity cost. Geeks find it easy to give up something they don’t like or are not good at – socializing. Since language and empathy are defining characteristics of homo sapiens sapiens, you have to wonder about the livability of a world run by non-empathic technocrats. You don’t have to wonder anymore. Here we are. For all you chess players, what’s the next move?


13 carlospln December 29, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Writing software code isn’t ‘science’.

Pay attention.


14 Curt F. December 29, 2016 at 5:02 pm

1. Software development is not science and much of it is not really innovation.
2. “Geeks” and “autistics” may disproportionately choose software development careers, but it does not follow that they are more prone to talent in software engineering than other more social folks.


15 Rich Berger December 29, 2016 at 4:41 am

You scratch my intellect, I’ll scratch yours.


16 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2016 at 4:48 am

Remember, remember the 29th of December, the original date which will live in infamy. Never forgive, never forget.

“Go, tell the Spartans, passerby, that here by Spartan law we lie.” A dozen Brazilians refused to surrender to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of savage invaders. “I know I will die, but my blood and my comrades’ will be a solemn protest against the invasion of the holy soil of our Fatherland” — Antônio João Ribeiro, commander of Dourados Military Colony
“The Empire hopes every Brazilian will fulfill his duty” — Admiral Francisco Manuel Barroso

“”Tho’ all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chain
Could not bring that proud soul under

The harp he loved ne’er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder

And said “No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!

Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!”


17 Scott Mauldin December 29, 2016 at 11:44 am

Some explanation or context would be nice…


18 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2016 at 1:28 pm

The Paraguayan aggressor started its coward attack against Brazil on 29 th December, 1864, trying to annex Brazil, the so-called Uruguay and Argentina. Only with the most utmost sacrifice of treasure and lives, Brazil saved South America from falling into the hands of Lopez, the Napoleon of South America, preventing the rise of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science .


19 Scott Mauldin December 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Some explanation or context would be nice…


20 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2016 at 5:23 pm

The Paraguayan aggressor invaded Brazil, murdered Brazilian soldiers and tried to conquer Brazil, Argentina and the so-called Uruguay. Brazil had armed Paraguay to protect it fron the Argentian imperialists. Unfortunatelym the tyrnt Lopez turned on Brazil. By the end of the war, Brazil, with its righteous might, had eliminated 95% of Paraguay’s male population and Paraguay’s tyrant, Lopez.

21 dearieme December 29, 2016 at 7:41 pm

“the so-called Uruguay”: eh?

22 Thiago Ribeiro December 30, 2016 at 4:14 am

The so-called Uruguay is a rogue province of the former Empire of Brazil. It will return to its rightful place in the Fatherland soon or later.

23 Ray Lopez December 29, 2016 at 9:14 pm

I am not a tyrant. And then in today’s news there’s this international incident. Brazil and Greece will soon go to war I’m afraid:

BBC: 1 hour ago:
Police in Rio de Janeiro have found a body inside a burnt-out car that had been rented by the Greek ambassador to Brazil, Kyriakos Amiridis. Mr Amiridis, 59, has been missing for three days after travelling to Rio from Brasilia for the traditional New Year celebrations on Copacabana beach.


24 Thiago Ribeiro December 30, 2016 at 4:17 am

Solano López, the Napoleon of South America, intended to conquer Brazil, Argentina and the so-called Uruguay after having enslaved his own people. His cruelty was famous, he was a proto-Pol Pot and the Empire of Brazil was a proto-Vietnan, freeing the people of Paraguay from its tyrant.

25 Ray Lopez December 30, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Thanks, I’ll Google that. And Googling the dead Greek ambassador to Brazil, seems his hot Brazilian wife had a lover and killed him:

26 dearieme December 29, 2016 at 5:06 am

“but we invented the atomic bomb”: if you believe that it’s your knowledge of history that needs improvement.

Scientists have in my lifetime promulgated two great frauds: (i) catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, and (ii) animal fat in your diet causes heart attacks. When the public comes to realise this it may be that the reputation of Science will plummet. Add to that three difficulties (a) fundamental physics has been stuck since the 70s, (b) the great lively science – genetics and all that – discovers truths that it is impolitic to discuss frankly, and (c) the Golden Age of medicine is over.

Add a fourth consideration: the current structure of education and training in science might almost be designed to repel intelligent and spirited people from pursuing science, unless they are utterly obsessive about it. But there aren’t enough clever obsessives to staff a mass science industry.


27 Jeff R December 29, 2016 at 6:40 am

Yeah, plus there’s this other small problem:

“Kemi Adeyemi is Assistant Professor of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies. She writes and teaches on issues of race, gender, and sexuality, focusing on the methods black queer women have for creating space for themselves in the contemporary city. She is working on a book manuscript that specifically explores how black queer women manipulate sound and the body to reorganize the racialized networks of pleasure in the nightlife scenes of gentrifying neighborhoods.”

Raising the status of science generally would be made much easier by extricating real science from the thousands of frauds and poseurs out there like this person. Neither a general will nor a plausible means exists for doing so.


28 albatross December 29, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Who thinks of a gender-studies professor as a scientist?


29 Willie December 29, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Dude, unless you’re a tax payer in the State of Washington, mind your own business. She’s not teaching physics or biology. She’s teaching a specialized course in the humanities. There’s plenty of room in the Academy for everyone.

As for our bigger problem… we need to figure out how to teach a unified theory of accounting, queer studies, software engineering, sports medicine, economics, neurochemistry, and 19th century french poetry, because over-specialization (and my proof comes from using the internet) is clearly ruining the entire world by denying the possibility of meaningful discourse and therefor denying any of the beneficial qualities of both competition and cooperation. That is, the Academy isn’t overrun with either postmodernism or neoliberalism, it is overrun with something akin to solipsism or a social media filter bubble.

Prof. Cowen would be about as useful discussing gender studies as Prof. Adeyemi would be discussing double-entry bookkeeping. Just to clarify, both of them would be hiding behind their own jargon and rhetoric rather than facing up to their obvious ignorances. That would clearly be too humbling for these very, ahem, sophisticated and well qualified professionals…


30 N.K Anton December 29, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Have you even read her work? or did you just randomly find someone who fit an academic group or studies something you hate? She probably adheres more to empirical research methods than stuffy old white dudes who study classics, history or literature.


31 anon December 29, 2016 at 7:21 am

Amazing that people think this is clever.

It reduces to: Since people are sometimes mistaken, we can never believe anything.

You don’t actually live that way, so don’t pretend.


32 dearieme December 29, 2016 at 7:42 am

You’ve entirely missed my point. Was that wilful?


33 anon December 29, 2016 at 7:52 am

Reading again, I think it is even worse: since people are sometimes mistaken, you get to choose whatever you want.

I can call b.s. with specificity, if you like.

Has the scientific community really “promulgated .. catastrophic anthropogenic global warming?”

Or is “catastrophic” a weasel word that (1) moves you from actual scientific consensus, and (2) allows you to ignore consensus, thus (3) allowing you to believe whatever you want?


34 Li Zhi December 29, 2016 at 8:18 am

His use of “catastrophic” is, based on the rest of his rant, an intentional distortion. In earlier times, we’d just classify him as an hyteric, and subsequently ignore him.

35 stephan December 29, 2016 at 2:17 pm

@anon, catastrophic/catastrophe with respect to climate change is very easy to find. It’s a wording very often used . Just google it. Here is one.

here is another one

Al Gore in an inconvenient truth 10 years ago, talked of emergency, cataclysmic dangers, catastrophic this and that etc.. He is not a scientist but mainstream climate change scientists did not challenge it. It was used in schools and got a lot of publicity everywhere

Here is a portrait of James Hansen , A guru of Climate change. The New Yorker calls him a catastrophist

Hansen is at it again in this paper predicting several meters of sea rise in 50 to 100 years. Never mind that the current rate is ~ 30 cm per century and has not accelerated in 150 years

36 anon December 29, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Those do not prove the claim that the scientific community has pushed catastrophe. From your first link, look at the wording. After some chain of events: “This would initiate the ice sheet’s demise, which would be ‘rapid, perhaps even catastrophic.’”

Perhaps even? From some guy?

37 anon December 29, 2016 at 2:57 pm

From your second link:

“There’s no precise term for the level of CO2 that will assure a climate disaster; the best that scientists and policymakers have been able to come up with is the phrase “dangerous anthropogenic interference,” or D.A.I. Most official discussions have been premised on the notion that D.A.I. will not be reached until CO2 levels hit four hundred and fifty parts per million. Hansen, however, has concluded that the threshold for D.A.I. is much lower.”

Avain, no actual catastrophe.

38 anon December 29, 2016 at 8:02 am

Here is the Union of Concerned Scientists page, they do the best they can to make it sound scary, but there is nothing there I would call “catastrophic.”


39 TMC December 29, 2016 at 8:49 am

Reading above- yes, willful.


40 A Definite Beta Guy December 29, 2016 at 9:15 am

How much of this is the fault of scientists and how much of it is the fault of science reporters? I would like to blame the scientists, but that would require assuming institutions like the NY Times have factually and accurately reported the actual “scientific consensus.”
Since I can’t trust the NY Times and the other media outlets, I can’t really assume scientists themselves are a problem. They may just be unwilling pawns. It certainly is a defensible stance to think that the Earth is Warming and we don’t know the damage it can cause, so we probably want to think about the mitigation measures: it’s not the fault of scientists that loser institutions like the NY Times do not accurately report on electric rates between Germany and the US and what this will actually cost, since that’s not something scientists should consider. They research, they don’t examine retail electric grid rates.


41 dearieme December 29, 2016 at 9:29 am

You are being too generous. I read a bit of the research literature a couple of decades ago. I formed the impression that the CAGW hoo-ha started partly from incompetence – the guys involved were, by the standards of the physical sciences, rather dim. But it quickly became fraud – perhaps because that seemed a better alternative than owning up to their incompetence. The propositions that the world is hotter than it’s ever been (sometimes qualified by “since the last Ice Age”) and that the rate of increase of the temperature is unprecedented, are either bogus (if we can believe attempts to estimate temperatures over the last few millennia) or vacuous (if we can’t).


42 The Anti-Gnostic December 29, 2016 at 10:23 am

Or they’re asking the wrong questions. Cities are hotter than farmland which is hotter than forest. So, more humans means warmer surface temperatures.

There’s a Scientist! who’s all over that last part: David Keith. Tyler and I wrote about him in December 2014. Dr. Keith wants to combat global warming by releasing giant clouds of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere. People will die but hey, everybody dies.

He also has a company that is. “developing technology to capture of CO2 from ambient air.” I should mention my own accomplishments in this field, having personally planted dozens of CO2-removing devices on the Earth’s surface.

Scientist. At Harvard.

As a matter of fact, scientists are not low status. Emotionally stunted, socially awkward scientists are low status. Richard Feynman, Ph.D., on the other hand, absolutely slayed.

Getting back to Dr. Keith, it’s obvious he realizes human population growth and rising living standards are problematic under his thesis, but suggesting that the Global South have only 1 – 2 children each is racist, fascist, genocidal, and will otherwise get you kicked out of the department, so he has to come up with this Mad Scientist Scheme to reduce global population. Now, if I proposed releasing giant clouds of toxic gas into the atmosphere I’d be reported to somebody. But since Mad Scientist is a high priest in the church, he can say things like that and nobody reports him or suggests he get his psych meds tweaked.


43 Dain December 30, 2016 at 4:06 pm

And hey look at Armand Leroi. Like, he dates models and stuff.

44 chuck martel December 29, 2016 at 7:25 am

There’s science and then there’s scientism, two very different things. Many can’t tell the difference.


45 Butler T. Reynolds December 29, 2016 at 8:00 am

I think of all the wonderful brains that have been wasted working for universities and other government research institutions.

If innovation from science is what we want, we need to free those brains from political enterprises so that they can start working on things that are more useful.


46 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2016 at 9:48 am

“If innovation from science is what we want, we need to free those brains from political enterprises so that they can start working on things that are more useful.”

Facebook for instance.


47 anon December 29, 2016 at 8:20 am

Science is an iterative search for the truth. It is not a guarantee that everything is known, or correct, but a process by which more things are known and correct over time.

It is the process that got us from no continental drift, to continental drift. No evolution, to evolution. And so on.

The thing that is bad right now in America is that people disagree “with scientists”, not understanding that this puts them at odds with the process, and not just individual issues.


48 Pshrnk December 29, 2016 at 12:32 pm



49 TMC December 29, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Maybe it’s a sign of scientific literacy when people disagree with scientists who reject the scientific method.


50 anon December 29, 2016 at 2:59 pm

If they actually find some, and don’t just pretend a vast worldwide conspiracy, sure.


51 Li Zhi December 29, 2016 at 8:36 am

Star Trek? Gilligan’s Island? You HAVE to be f__king kidding me. Let’s see the original ST ended in ’69 and GI ended (thank god!) in ’67, 50 years ago. They were no more scientifically accurate (FTL warp drive? really?) than any other tech based show. They all show science as easy, and as far as I can recall, push-button. (Consider ST:TNG’s continuous creation of new types of particles and radiation beams. “Modulate the frequency!” Or worse yet, the Holodeck. It’s like virtually all of the police/crime procedurals on TV now. Want to hack the FBI (or some terrorist network)? Only takes about 5 minutes to write the exploit code and acquire complete access to the data (or change the database). I CAN think of a show that uses science at its best: Mythbusters. There’s a lot of content on YouTube which also shows the trial and error, the need for replication, that are fundamental to good science.


52 Rich Berger December 29, 2016 at 8:57 am

Calm down – Tyler is just trying to show that he’s with it on pop culture. Of course, he did not mention NASA’s Muslim outreach -

Of course, when people made fun of this, the “pro-science role model” WH denied it -

And then we have the role model repeated the 97% consensus canard, and giving it a little extra weight -

I’m not going to miss Creased Pants.


53 austrartsua December 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

Scientists innovate? The most innovative thing they do is use ‘novel’ instead of ‘new’ in the thesis title.

Business innovates. Entrepreneurs innovate. Innovators innovate. An increase in status for these guys would be a boon.

All scientists do is seek rent.


54 Harun December 29, 2016 at 12:24 pm


And we notice Jobs, Musk, etc. are pretty much rock stars, so this is a good thing, as those people deliver the literal goods.


55 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2016 at 5:26 pm

What Musk delivered?


56 Willie December 29, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Musk hasn’t delivered anything other than another chapter in the Book of Technology, another expensive toy for the hopelessly lost souls drifting around Atherton and Menlo Park, who either think they’re just a few enlightened consumer purchases away from salvation or just pointlessly wasting time until The Singularity can prove how special they were to be around for the end-times, all the while mocking the Jehovah’s Witnesses that knock on their doors.

As for Jobs, all he’s delivered is a number of sanctimonious commodity devices that seem to be doing nothing other than creating some sort of hyperreal battleground for exploring how to desocialize the developed world’s populations while turning intellectual property into some sort of communistic goop.

But I’ve got a feeling that OP is just trolling, even if he realizes it or not… in fact, we’re all trolling, or orcing, or elving or justice warrioring.

Frankly, I can’t tell the difference between social media and World of Warcraft. The only difference is that participants in the latter are at least aware they are playing a game in a virtual world.

Prof. Cowen must be at least a Level 29 Orc-Mage by now… personally I’m vying for the title of World Heavyweight Champion by working on the epic Stone Cold Stunner I’m going to lay on The Donald in Wrestlemania 37.


57 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2016 at 5:26 pm

Between Facebook and the polio vaccine, I choose the vaccine. Thanks.


58 TMC December 29, 2016 at 9:08 am

“It should be much higher status to be in science.” This fits my feeling too, but re there too few people in science? Are the salaries too high, or unemployment rates next to zero?

Obama has a very mixed record on science. He pays it lip service, which is good for a leader to do, but I cringe everytime he mentions any stat. 97% consensus? 77% of what men make? One in five women on campus are raped? These things were debunked 24 hrs after they were published. He has to know these, and other stats he uses are garbage, but puts partisanship ahead of science. Is it really important that NASA reach out to the Muslims?

What about the group of scientist what made a discovery a year or so ago, and all the press was on the one guy how wore a shirt with sexy women on it? Science needs a safe space from all the PC idiots who who tear down any meritocracy they can find. Nerds want to compete just like jock, but on their own field.


59 Alain December 29, 2016 at 10:08 am

Indeed #shirtstorm was one of the low points of 2014. that horrible liberals would focus on the shirt rather than the mission shows their true character. That they would rather destroy this man rather than celebrate success, that they could never achieve in their wildest dreams, again shows their morals. Liberals, the worst people in the world.

As for Obama, he is simply hyper partisan, he has been from the start. He is a symptom of our time, he has complete disdain for the other side, a feeling which is reciprocated, and he feels no need to ever extend an olive branch. His actions of the last few weeks have been tellling. Further, as always, the media has cheered him on. I hope Trump ‘investigates’ the midea in the same manner this administration ‘investigated’ the banks.

If we want to increase the status of science we need to increase the incentives to do science, this means reform the patent system. Increase the gains that go to those who create the ideas.


60 Pshrnk December 29, 2016 at 12:35 pm

If he had worn a shirt with sexy guys on it, would he have been presumed to be gay and been immunized from criticism?


61 albatross December 29, 2016 at 2:29 pm

The online mobbing of the shirt guy was less driven by ideology than by the dynamics of social media mobbing. That’s a relatively new thing in the world, and we’re still getting used to it–hopefully in another generation, there won’t be so much tendency to either go along with a social media mobbing, or to listen to what the mob says.


62 Boonton December 30, 2016 at 7:33 am

Do you think your grandfather went to work in a shirt with pinup girls all over it? Do you recall footage from the Apollo mission with mission control wearing shirts like that?

Let’s be real, if he wore a Black Lives Matter shirt do you think alt-right types would be sitting around saying “let’s focus on this important mission and not the politics of one of the guys who works in the lab”?


63 msgkings December 30, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Exactly, more partisan bullshit. Like Alain’s comment of how Obama has complete disdain for the other side. Look in the mirror dude.

I swear ever since Clinton Derangement Syndrome got the ball rolling in the 90s, the partisanship has gotten out of control (BOTH sides….we had CDS, then BDS, then ODS, now TDS and CDS (again, the other C). I’m usually a pretty moderate guy, and generally (rationally) optimistic too, but if this partisanship pendulum doesn’t start swinging back towards reasonable moderation I think that could be a real problem.


64 prognostication December 29, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Unemployment rates are next to zero in many sciences, yes.


65 anon December 29, 2016 at 9:15 am

There is a sadly repeated pattern on this page.

When given a choice between accepting global warming and rejecting science, many reject science.

If it doesn’t give us the answers we want, what good is it?


66 A Definite Beta Guy December 29, 2016 at 9:23 am

You don’t have to not believe AGW to think it’s a better idea for our great-grandchildren to mitigate it than expect modern Americans to shell out 4 times the price for energy to avert it.


67 anon December 29, 2016 at 9:32 am

To partially agree first, to accept that AGW is happening is not to accept that one plan (or one cost estimate) goes with it.

That said, I think this has been a wedge issue that has driven many from science.

It really did become “all scientists do is seek rent” for that reason, because it was giving the politically incorrect answer.


68 Troll me December 29, 2016 at 8:23 pm

I can exaggerate prices beyond reality, and therefore the grandkids should solve problems that will be more severe due to inaction.


69 derek December 29, 2016 at 9:35 am

You are giving science a bad name. You say science is about consensus. I hear that and think one of two things; you are profoundly ignorant, or you are selling snake oil.


70 anon December 29, 2016 at 10:05 am
71 Alain December 29, 2016 at 10:19 am

“accept global warming” repent! Believe in the one true Gaia!

And you wonder why we (a) despise you and (b) why we will never give you religious wackos one inch.

Perhaps had you been interested in science you would have asked a scientific question.

Further, you clearly know nothing about the subject yet you spout on about it incessantly, this behavior is very common in team blue. I have lost count of the number of times I have attempted to engage rationally with members of team blue about this topic, to be aghast at their complete ignorance of the subject combined with their fervent passion.

You give science a horrible, horrible, name. Stop making the world worse.


72 anon December 29, 2016 at 10:24 am

Back at ya. After all, you are the one who cannot take science at face value.


73 chuck martel December 29, 2016 at 10:43 am

It’s not about “science”, per se. It’s about beliefs. Interestingly, although a definitive, detailed analysis of climatolgical history is unknown and unagreed upon, a portion of the pseudo-scientific peanut gallery feels able to predict the future. Furthermore, the presence of human life on earth must itself be finite. That means that it will end during the lifetimes of some humans. We don’t know who those humans will be and won’t be aware of it when it occurs, even if it should all end during the lifetimes of individuals now living on earth. Humans will simply cease to exist in their own consciousness, just like dinosaurs and dodos.


74 msgkings December 30, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Sure, and someday the entire universe will end with heat death. How’s that nihilism working out for ya?

75 Troll me December 29, 2016 at 8:27 pm

Religious lame mother earth people statement pre-discredits anything associated with such fuzzy and faggy hippy words.

As for relevant comments about science, scientific process, etc., I’m going to go read a few wikipedia articles because textbooks scare me


76 Todd Kreider December 29, 2016 at 9:20 am

Tyler Cowen: “Keep in mind, we’ve already seen almost 20 years with no real wage increases to the middle class, so this is not science fiction or my crazed imagination…..The Internet, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, other things will come together and we’ll have another series of big breakthroughs at some point in the future. Not next year, but certainly within your lifetime. And we’ll have like 20-30 year golden era of just some amazing shit happening.”

The next wave of great innovation is certainly going to happen within Noah Cowan’s lifetime? He’s turning 50 and Tyler Cowen has stated that he doesn’t expect his Great Stagnation to be over until the 2040s. That puts Noah Cowen at 75 in 2041 when the golden era of “some really amazing shit” begins. Considering the medical stagnation/small improvements Tyler thinks will occur until then in medicine as well, I wouldn’t say Noah living through the GS to see the 2040s is certain, but quite likely.

Speaking of amazing shit, here is a slice of what happened over the past 20 years:

In 1996, 1% of the world was using the internet, while 15% of Americans were, and these users averaged one minute per day online. That’s right, just 60 seconds a day, probably because there wasn’t much on the World Wide Web then.

In 2016, 50% of the world is online including 90% of Americans who are as well and 2/3 of them are using a smartphone with Skype, google searches, texting, email, free porn, countless blogs, wikipedia, youtube, facebook, GPS, free porn, Google Translate, etc.,and is used on average more than an hour a day. Did I mention the free porn?

The Next Big Things for 2017 to 2022: VR and those health pills on the horizon that Tyler never seems to remember. Fortunately, they will improve memory!


77 Mc December 29, 2016 at 10:41 am

First time I’ve seen you swear in 13 years Tyler.
At the link there’s also a good interview with Ron Chernow.


78 tedm December 29, 2016 at 11:01 am

One problem for science is that words like “ever” and “unprecedented” are used with a hidden “since…” and these words are used to mislead. When people find out that scientific observations contradict the “ever” and the “unprecedented” and that the speaker used those words to galvanize political action, science’s status is lowered.

For example. Is the Earth becoming warmer than it has ever been? Um, no. It has been much warmer. Is it becoming warmer than it has ever been with abundant life? Um, no – plenty of life during those prior hot climates. Is it warming more quickly than ever? Um, no – it has warmed quickly before.

However, we are in a relatively warm period of a relatively cold climate cycle, and we are warming more rapidly and more absolutely than we have recently. In particular, it is becoming warmer, and warming more rapidly, since humans have been wandering around. Should be concerned about it – but the “ever” stuff and threat to all life on Earth stuff is just flat out wrong and contradicted by the hidden “since.”

In contrast, scientist Dan Britt raises the status of science when he discusses climate.


79 Troll me December 29, 2016 at 8:29 pm

50 million years ago it was warmer.

Therefore what happens in the next 100 years doesn’t matter.

I’m a genius.


80 Boonton December 30, 2016 at 7:38 am

Hey as long as bacteria are doing ok the world is doing ok.


81 WC Varones December 29, 2016 at 11:27 am

Neil DeGrasse Tyson doesn’t turn anybody on?


82 Lanigram December 29, 2016 at 1:23 pm

He does, but his stuff is clownish. I start watching every one of his videos with enthusiasm and inevitably turn them off dissapointed. Shallow.


83 Willie December 29, 2016 at 12:17 pm

When are you positivists (and you postmodernists!) going to realize the importance of narrative? No one cares only about your facts and your figures. They want a good story! Why must you consistently overweigh the importance of quantitative reasoning? You’re purposefully choosing to operate with only half of your intellectual capacities!

Science is no more or less important than a popular song played on a country radio station just as Greco-Roman wrestling is no more or less important than the WWE.

Putting a man on the moon was primarily a fantastic story. Any scientific benefits that came of it were secondary effects.

Tyler, I love In Praise of Commercial Culture, but your Straussian tendancies are overwrought, arrogant, and actually contradict most of your more important insights. Stop hanging out with the 50 under 50 crowd and go talk to a freaking working man’s poet for a change!

That is, throw away your dusty old Mozart recordings and go pick up some bootleg Grateful Dead and Willie Nelson recordings from the 70s. You’re missing out on the real America, folk traditions put to test in the marketplace.


84 Lanigram December 29, 2016 at 1:19 pm

You are correct! We are a story telling species and narratives are the primary mnemonic, and I am a math guy! If you want to glaze the eyes of a group of people show them numbers and graphs and then say goodbye. The ones whos eyes narrow into focus are the future world leaders. As bad as inummeracy is, and it is ubiquitous, a world with less empathy is horrific to countenance. But there you go …


85 Willie December 29, 2016 at 1:31 pm

What a lovely and playful use of language!

Hover your mouse over my avatar’s name and you’ll find a link to my GitHub profile…


86 Lanigram December 29, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island did much for science and scientists. The prof on GI was totally cool and he got ALL the chicks (2). Spock made Asperger’s cool. Many of my software engineer bros don’t even have to fake Spock speak. Btw, they are almost all bros with an occasional high functioning autistic woman tossed into the mix. I am exaggerating, of course, but only a little.


87 Post-Truth Politics December 29, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Wouldn’t there be a problem if people started believing in science, in that fossil fuel companies that control so much of our politics, and the corresponding media propaganda messages, would not allow it? Fossil fuel companies would be more regulated, if more people agreed with the majority of scientists about global climate change, and the representatives of these powerful companies don’t want that. Also, the Christian Right creationists rack up a lot of votes for the powers that be.

Through our political power structure, and corresponding media structure, our society is structured so as to keep people ignorant of science, and also distracted by news about movie stars, rather than being curious about economics or science or about what bills their legislature is passing. That’s how the GOP controls all 3 branches of the federal government, most state legislatures, and most governorships. They’re not going to risk giving that up just so that there can be more science going on.

A growth economy is about people buying stuff they don’t need, that will not do what it is advertised to do– at least right now in the U.S. it is. And politics is about getting people to vote against their best economic interests, so that their ObamaCare can be ended, and the rest of the social safety net shredded too, in order to give more money to crony capitalist corporations. Not the public good, but the corporate good.

Any benefit that crony capitalist corporations might get if more science were done, would be taken away by their not having all the money and power that flows into the mouths of crony capitalist corporations, from the public trough.


88 albatross December 29, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Our society is structured to provide entertaining distractions so people will look at the ads and buy stuff. Most people don’t know much science because they’re not all that interested. People who are interested in science are living in a golden age–wikipedia, high-school and college classes, conference presentations, academic papers, technical podcasts and blogs by working scientists–all are available online for free. At the same time, though, there are engrossing video games, funny videos, outrage-farming operations with various partisan slants, conspiracy theory blogs, endless porn to fit every imaginable kink, movies and TV and books and fanfic. There’s an ocean of distraction available, but there’s also really good information at pretty-much anyone’s level out there for free, a couple Google searches away.


89 Elliot December 29, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Tyler, was the tacqueria Tallulah’s (, and if so what did you think of the food?


90 Bob December 29, 2016 at 6:42 pm

On healthcare, it’s startling how different incentives are for doctors in the US and in Europe: In the US we are offered more care and more expensive options far more often, while a doctor working for the government wants to give me just enough care I don’t go nagging her again.

I think that doctors’ preferences are hard to underestimate here. We consider them experts that have our best outcomes in mind, so they make most spending decisions for us. It’ll be hard to reduce spending if patients aren’t experts themselves, and it’s in the best interest of the doctor to do deliver expensive care.

I guess we could wait until computer diagnosis is good enough that we see venture capitalist money thrown at an HMO that tries to take large chunks of the current system out of business: if regulation didn’t stop it, we’d have someone trying already. Given the data, I’d be surprised if we weren’t able to change efficiency in medicine in the same way we are already seeing in law.


91 Boonton December 30, 2016 at 7:48 am

I think you’re wrong in assuming doctors in Europe just work for the gov’t. Europe actually has an array of health care payment systems.

I also think you’re confusing payment structure with who the employer is. Lots of docs in America work ‘for the gov’t’ in the sense that if you took away Medicare and Medicaid their practices would collapse (as well as support for local hospitals which make it easier for them run a nearby practice). But they aren’t trying to get their Medicare patients to just go away and stop nagging. If Medicare patient comes for a checkup they get paid, if they add on a diagnostic test or other procedure they get paid again, if they get hospitalized they get paid to check on them in the hospital. If the test finds something that merits treatment, there’s more potential payment.

But you could do payment based on their patient load and how they manage it. Imagine a doctor onboard a navy ship. He gets paid for being the ship’s doctor, he isn’t doing a bill for every treatment he does. You can do this with regular insurance in theory. You could take the medical information about a patient, issue a payment for managing their health with bonuses for outcomes above average and penalties for below and that’s what the doctor gets paid. Lower costs with outcomes not suffering means more profit for the doctor.


92 msgkings December 30, 2016 at 12:21 pm

In theory of course, but in practice the doctors make less and so they resist these innovations any chance they get, by voting with their feet and leaving systems that try to implement this.

Bottom line is the only way to get health care costs to get meaningfully contained is to hit the doctors (who make way more here than anywhere in the world) in the pocketbook, and if I were them I wouldn’t be too happy about it.


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