Monday, February 15, 2010

fershtunkener inevitable

I was doing a little research on the internet in preparation for a talk to be given by a warmist at our philosophy club. He was to make a presentation about his visits to Alaska and the shrinking of the Arctic ice cap. My search led me to the existence of massive polar volcanos that melt glaciers and emit carbon dioxide, a fact of which I wasn't aware. The volcanos add another element to the model of the global energy balance; another poorly understood element that cannot be quantified. My intent here is not to reopen a discussion of global climate change, but something philosophically broader. Let us assume that a sufficiently accurate model cannot be created and ask ourselves a few questions about that situation.

What does one do when science is not powerful enough to yield the required information about the risks of the future? Getting away from the controversial area of climate change, we can take collision with an asteroid or oversize meteor as unmodelable, yet the risk exists and the consequences would be massive. What is the rational strategy in such a situation? Arguing that we should do something, because the result of not doing something is huge, is fallacious. Edward Teller pointed out the logical fallacy of multiplying a probability that approaches zero by a consequence that approaches infinity which yields an indeterminant risk.

It would seem that at a high level of ignorance or a reliance on providence requires a strategy of flexibility. Decisions in favor of flexibility allow one to wait as long as possible which in turn decreases uncertainty. Adaptation is clearly the way to go, because it gives you precious time in an unknown environment. An example of an adaptation would be a local dike rather than shutting down energy consumption worldwide.