The virtue of silence

According to Mark Twain “If you have nothing to say, say nothing”.  There are several reasons behind the quiet blog, however.

‘Losing my voice’ has been gradual.  In the past when I spotted bias or omission, I had to have my say. On the huge adjustments to station data for example, my initial lack up knowledge gave way to incredulity at the magnitude of some of the adjustments; the behaviour of many climate scientists, who should seem to be above such pettiness, outraged me.  Since I have always felt that ‘anger is a wasted emotion’ it seemed better to be moved to do something than just feel the anger. Blogging was an outlet. 

Then funny thing happened.  Essentially my level of understanding increased to the point where I could see both sides.  Often I could understand why people held opinions contrary to my own in the face of many pieces of evidence which each of us weighs differently.  I found I had started to move to the middle ground. Here it is much harder to find the passion to argue due to a lack of strongly held opinion. It is much easier to ‘let it go’ when up against a disagreement.  Simply put, I no longer feel such a passionate need to share analyses and opinions.

Nielsen-Gammon’s Paradox

From John Nielsen-Gammon’s recent six-part debate with Robert Brown (here)

Given that those most likely to speak out in public are either getting paid to do it or feel more extremely about the matter at hand than others, it follows that the people whose opinion you should trust the most are those whose opinion you never hear.

I can relate to that.  I wish I could say I was being paid to do it, but I’ve just used up the hot air.

The other aspect that has come with increased understanding is increased complexity of debate. I find myself wanting to add caveats and detailed explanations to posts or comments that would require checks of half-remembered facts and details, sucking up time I do not have.  I am no longer content with the same old arguments; while I’m not saying my opinion is one that people should trust, it is a case that I am now less likely to speak out.  Measured opinion is less fun; blogging needs a bit of passion, even polemic.

And another thing – it has been a tough year.  After months of overload (during which I should say blogging was an escape, not a burden) I just hit a brick wall. You know you are in trouble when the only responses you can think of is ‘oh’ or ‘hmm’. I needed a rest. I woke up one Saturday and literally thought ‘enough until I feel like it again’.  So, I have been merely lurking on blogs and restricting activity to moderating on WUWT, when I’ve been around that is.  Some sun, sea and sand and family time have helped too, while we avoided the rain at home (in fact our home was almost flooded in our absence).

If this sounds like a ‘good-bye’ or signing off, it isn’t – just an explanation.  I feel about ready to start up and tackle the unanswered comments; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and comment. Since I have promised my family a better blog-life balance so I’m not sure what sort of schedule I’ll settle into yet. Who knows what the next few months will bring!

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8 Responses to The virtue of silence

  1. Verity,
    You are exhibiting the symptoms of “burn out”. It is not fatal; what does not kill you makes you stronger! It is highly likely that you will get your “second wind”. It is just a matter of waiting for the right moment. I hope my story will encourage you.

    My passionate cause is the reform of government schools and I have a lofty goal that will not be achieved in my lifetime. My goal is to eliminate the federal “Department of Education” and the state “Departments of Public Instruction”. I support the New Zealand model for public education that puts each school in the hands of a locally elected school board. Like you I burned out but something was achieved. Now I am back to take up the fight with even greater resolve.

    After emigrating to the USA in 1982 I was appallled by the poor quality of high school education (grades 9-12) here. Eventually this motivated me to start seven independent charter schools, six of which survive in spite of the efforts of the education establishment. My guiding light is the RBAI (Royal Belfast Academical Institution) a truly world class school. For over 20 years I remained in contact with Tony Phillips (assistant principal and cricket coach) until he retired.

    One of the FREE charter schools consistently ranks in the top five out of North Carolina’s 350 high schools.

    Is the Woods Charter School comparable with “Inst”? No, but if the school survives as long as “Inst” (founded in 1805), one can hope.

    In 2002 I “burned out”. I resigned from the board of FREE (Financial Reform for Excellence in Education) and retired from my day job at the Duke University Free Electron Laser Laboratory.

    After retiring to Florida I got bored. First I started teaching on a part time basis:

    Then I tried blogging on energy policy issues but it was not enough, so in March of this year I joined the board of the Central Florida Virtual Charter Schools. We plan to open a school in Osceola county on August 20, 2012 and two more in 2013.

    Change of subject. One of the things that has given me immense satisfaction is the contributions to the “Climate Debate” made by my young ex-colleagues in the Duke university physics department. I never met Nicola Scafetta until a few months ago but his office is a matter of feet from the one I relinquished in 2002.

    Among his many capabilities, Robert G. Brown is a computer “Whiz”. He rescued my chestnuts from the fire on several occasions. Sadly, I did not discover that he brews his own beer (a skill I picked up from Charley Lavery in Belfast) until he started blogging on WUWT.

    If my contract with NC State University is re-instated I will be running a course there in September and that will give me an opportunity to get Scafetta and Brown together. I tried this once before without success.

    You mention the John Nielsen-Gammon/Robert G. Brown debate. If it was a boxing match I would score it 56-12 in rgb’s favor.

  2. ArndB says:

    @ gallopingcamel, Nicely said: “You are exhibiting the symptoms of “burn out”. It is not fatal; what does not kill you makes you stronger! It is highly likely that you will get your “second wind””.

    Whether another wind-change or another wave, it is surprising how often excitements re-emerge. My story today is the Norfolk Police (NP) decision to close their Climategate investigation. On 17th Nov. 2009 the material was loaded by “FOIA” over at The Air Vent in Comment 10 to a post titled” “Open Letter On Climate Legislation“ on 13 November 2009 , The opening sentence of FOIA said:
    ____“We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.“,
    indicating, imo, a profound knowledge about the debate and concern about the ability, competence and reliability of climate science. Instead the NP investigation speculates that it could have been ‘commercial organisations’ or “governments which have an interest in protecting their position”.
    As it had been my Open Letter to 18 US scientific institutions (here: ) in reply to their letter to the US Senate (21. Oct.2009 in original here: ), I hoped that “FOIA”, choose the place with intention in support of my complaint that:
    __” How could it happen that more than a dozen of the most prestigious scientific associations signed and submitted this letter on ‘climate change’ without having ensured that the used terminology is sufficiently defined.”

    As mentioned today over at “The Air Vent” (Comment 7; ), I expressed my sincere thanks to “FOIA” a short time later (on the same thread in Comment 21), still hoping that FOIA supported my further notion as well:
    __ “Good science can and is required to work with reasonable terms and explanations. The science about the behaviour of the atmosphere should be no exception.”
    With regard to the intention of “FOIA”, and that the day will come that science says what climate is, I stay optimistic. “Hope is the last thing to die.” Every side of a brick wall offers a 180 degree view, and if there are the Olympics and the summer season, it is not too difficult to choose Verity, suggests with best regards Arnd

  3. Verity Jones says:

    @Galloping Camel
    Burn Out does sound rather terminal, or a least long-lived. I just needed the batteries recharged and I think starting to be more honest with myself that I have generally more responsibilities than 3 years ago, such that I need to fit blogging around them, not the other way round.

    We met a teacher while on holiday and one of the conversations inevitably turned to comparison of the Scottish and English education systems. Both my husband and I experienced grammar schools, but by the time his younger brothers went to his school it had been converted to a Comprehensive and the quality of the teaching suffered. RBAI certainly has a good reputation – I think friends in NI sent their children there. I had hoped to get to see them this summer but I don’t think I’m going to get the chance of another break.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Well if FOIA was in any doubt how eagerly a further release is anticipated by many, the speculation over Anthony’s actions today at WUWT will not have left them in any doubt.

  4. Bloke down the pub says:

    Good to hear you’re still with us Verity.

    [- Thanks! Verity]

  5. Doug Proctor says:

    Your comments on why silence followed passionate response hit a chord. I’ve only been involved since late ’09 and Climategate, yet in that time I have seen a great change in the issues. But though we are probably at a more significant point now than three years ago, and I have gained more certainty on the issues, my intensity has declined. I see far more the strutting and preening and self-aggrandizement on both sides of the debate than I see scientific courage. I simply don’t care so much about the outlandish statements. It all seems to be stirring a pot of warm water and hoping that all this activity will come to a boil.

    Not that I think silence is a good idea: evil occurs because good men stay quiet and all that. But the world will change and show what is happening soon enough. By 2015, in my estimation. If Swensmark and Archibald are right – the dominant skeptic position being that the sun’s activity is the dominant climate change modifier – their proof will come in the next several years. The Earth will cool as the planetary cloud cover increases. No remnant of a mid-tropospheric “hotspot” will remain, and the Arctic sea ice will increase. If, however, Hansen is right, then the last decade or more of temperature flattening will end with a rush of rising temperatures to get back into the CO2 mandated temperature range. Either of these two things may happen, but they must happen by 2015 sufficiently for either hypothesis to be truth.

    So now I am more content to wait than to argue. There is no fact or logic to change a warmist’s or eco-green’s belief or socio-political position. Nor one that would change a skeptic’s position. No line of evidence is by itself unique to CO2 or outside of CO2, and no line of evidence is strong enough to suggest a global disaster is in the making. All fear and all contentment with the status quo lie in the future. The political decisions made in Australia and Germany and the EU with regard to CO2 will neither be expanded nor retracted by force of reason when they were created through caution, fear and passion. And even if CAGW is shown to be untenable as a theory, the sociological principles that underpin the drive to “de-carbonize” and deindustrialize the world will still be there. We will only go back to a humanity-first way of life if the electorate decides that holding onto their paychecks is more important than expunging their ’60s-era guilt.

    An interesting time in which to live. An era of false prophets, but right now it looks like the prophets’ pledges have lost their shine.

    (2020when the warmists recently seem to say will be long enough for “proof”, is really not that long from now. And the sun-connection is supposed to have us in well in its cold spell by then, heading for a low about 2040. But if your car is out of gas you don’t need to come to a complete stop to know you have a problem. In 2015 we will be 17 years since the ’98 El Nino superwarming event. By my eyeball that was the beginning of the end of warming. The warmists would like the trend up to ’98 to be the true heating path as that would match the alarmist predictions for disaster. If the trend to then was not the “true” trend, but an expression of the upside natural variability, so that continued warming occurs without a catch-up addition, then the actual trend is indeed at the “C” level of Hansen’s ’98 models. Which is without CO2. End of model value even in that scenario.)

  6. Verity Jones says:

    I started reading in early 2007 and blogging in 2009, but other than the timescales your experience and feelings echo mine very well.

    …though we are probably at a more significant point now than three years ago, and I have gained more certainty on the issues, my intensity has declined. I see far more the strutting and preening and self-aggrandizement on both sides of the debate than I see scientific courage. I simply don’t care so much about the outlandish statements. It all seems to be stirring a pot of warm water and hoping that all this activity will come to a boil.

    Very well put.
    You’re right too that we cannot give up the fight – we need the apathetic to care more and for the right reasons, but not driven by the fear and drivel of extremists, but to prevent them from taking over. Our best hope of winning hearts and minds is always to sound reasonable.

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