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40 Comments

  1. I prefer the term ‘denialist’ instead of ‘crank’; it puts them in the same ideological camp as antivaxers, creationists, moon landing hoaxers, Birthers, 9/11 Truthers, AGW ‘skeptics’ and Holocaust deniers. None can be swayed by evidence. The more you press them, the more contorted and outlandish their logic becomes. Too much of their identity is wrapped up in a narrative they believe as if it’s the gospel truth. Despite the variety of topics, they all share an immunity to evidence and reason and a blind zealotry.

      1. To fill that out, I’m not making any comment who is right or wrong, but that people who act as you describe exist on both sides of those debates. It’s an attitude that is the problem, not a position.

      2. Well, when the best argument that you can put forward is name-calling, what do you expect?

      3. Yes, the attitude is connected to name calling. ‘Denialists’, ‘Believers’ – use of these sort of derogatory titles is inherently indicative of the wrong attitude being brought to the discussion.

  2. This quotation on bullshit by Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt come to mind when I look at the broader nuclear debate:

    “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

    The problem is that we face both types of opponents and those who are just plain ignorant. It is generally easy to convert the latter by apprising them of the facts, and those that lie will change their position as it suits their perception of where their own interests are.

    The real problem is dealing with the BS contingent like Helen Caldicott and her ilk, that make things up as they go along. Because they are colorful, as well as shameless, they get the press, while those offering a more balanced narrative are excluded.

    While it is great that some doctrinaire anti nuclear zealots are reappraising their position, and moving from ignorant to informed. we still face those that are paid to lie in support of fossil-fuels, and those that BS for self aggrandizement and personal gain.

    These are tougher nuts to crack.

  3. I have a theory about cranks and deniers. They are not well versed in philosophy or intellectual pursuits. I would assume that a thinker who arrives at a conclusion or assumption based on a “light bulb” going off and their ability to find an audience that shares their view that they will not cling to that one way of seeing the world the well versed thinker or philosopher will weigh the arguments and not cling to the epiphany of their first encounter with mental gymnastics. The depth of experience that being engaged in real thinking permits is the rare moment in their lives. On the other hand a person who is raised in an environment where frequent conversation at dinner, sharing the meaning of a book or a film and exploring their creative selves is far more likely to see reality and can change their minds because that is part of growing. Somewhere along the way a thinker sees that personal growth is connected to a willingness to change.

  4. Mark Hertsgaard is a misguided greenie. If you look at the genesis of global warming, it had everything to do with population control, not science.
    http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202007/GWHoaxBorn.pdf

    The same Malthusians who created and funded the anti-nuclear movement continued their anti-science campaign with the fiction of global warming. Their object is to deindustrialize and depopulate the planet, a goal that they document in their own words.

    The real danger now is that of increased electromagnetic activity from the Sun and the Galaxy, and its connection to more severe earthquakes and volcanoes. We need more capability to predict these disasters in advance, so that we can evacuate areas (such as the U.S. West Coast) and save lives.

    1. I love the recent attacks on the Guardian by George Monbiot, Mark Lynas, and others. They say that if you accept scientific consensus on climate change, you have no right to reject it on nuclear power. I am hoping that A) this movement moves to the US, and B) we begin to hear people speaking truth to those who are pro-nuclear, insist the science is with them, but reject scientific consensus in other areas.

      There are many who know what those OTHERS want and believe. I remember participating in a discussion where I learned lots of stuff about myself (I am pro-nuclear) that no one but the speaker would recognize, and I’m sure that he lost a portion of the audience when he said WE this, THEY that.

      Once we begin making OTHER comments, it’s time to go make some friends with OTHERS. Many of the people in the anti-nuclear movement are also deeply into WE GOOD/THEY BAD, but I’m sure that you’ll meet some more reasonable people if you look around. And if you don’t, you’ll provide a chance for people to get to know someone as pro-nuclear, a chance to be treated nicely by one of THEM, and that will surely change some minds.

  5. There’s a lot of well-deserved criticism of anti-nuclear power people here, but it might be useful to consider how pro-nuclear people represent themselves. When I began looking into nuclear vs coal in 1995, there were only, on the one hand, non-scientists who were anti-nuclear power and clearly did not know what they are talking about, and on the other, scientists who clearly did (there were more, but the web was not so widely used then). The scientists pointed out that nuclear was much safer than coal, but much more dangerous than coal pollution (which kills >100,000 worldwide just from power, and another 200,000 from other uses) is climate change. (And I started looking at climate change.) Given one side’s scrupulous adherence to facts, accurate analysis, and respectful demeanor, it was easy to see one side as all that was rational and good, the other not so much.

    Now with the web, I hear pro-nuclear power people saying climate change isn’t happening or isn’t serious, or those who worry about climate change are bugs and a blight. That nuclear power can supply 100% of 2050 electricity (the most ardently pro-nuclear academics I know never say that).

    When pro-nuclear people say science is baloney, and those OTHER people are awful, when they say things that are clearly not true (like we can be 100% nuclear in 40 years), they are making life much more difficult for those of us who actively work with anti-nuclear people to try and change attitudes.

    Mutual respect and lack of respect go both ways. If you’re going to make assertions, you can find them or not in major reports from the scientific community. Going beyond what people will see as valid, with nothing to point to, and the too common name-calling, do not really facilitate the conversation.

    What I find most interesting about the climate change skeptics who are pro-nuclear is that I personally know boatloads of people who worry about climate change enough to become pro-nuclear. Since a nuclear power plant can be very expensive, especially for small utilities, they can be a less desirable option unless there is a cost added to greenhouse gases. So those pro-nuclear people who attack climate change science are doing everything in their power to harm nuclear power, by insulting those who are willing to change their mind, by opposing the GHG cost that the policy community so desperately sees as needed.

    Rod, perhaps you could establish a civility requirement? A no attacks on climate science requirement? Or write a blog to encourage pro-nuclear people to discuss the damage they do to the shift towards more nuclear?

    1. Karen – I try to encourage civility and moderate comments that are direct attacks on other people who are commenting. However, I am often guilty of allowing some foolish words to remain forever attached to certain commenters. I do that with the thought that careful and attentive readers will notice. One of my favorite cautions to people when discussing topics that they do not fully understand is this “Tis better to be silent and thought to be a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” (You can change the words a bit to make it applicable to the written word.) I defended free speech and the rest of the Constitution in uniform for 33 years; I am not going to delete comments that are moderately reasonable and not spam.

      Science and measurement has convinced me that humans are making some very real changes in the chemistry of our global atmosphere. By extension, that means that we are also changing the chemistry of both the oceans and the soils. While some may legitimately argue that there is uncertainty about the ultimate effects of those changes, I am not willing to conduct experiments with unknown consequences on the only atmosphere and planet that we know has been amenable to human life and agriculture for several hundred thousand years.

      I worry about continuing on our present path of throwing as much of the earth’s stored hydrocarbons into that atmospheric mix as we can extract. I am also worried about the economic, strategic and security implications of giving more and more of our wealth to those lucky or greedy few that control hydrocarbon resources.

      Sometimes, the people who share my concern about global climate change damage their cause and credibility by creating cataclysmic predictions. I believe that the changes will continue to happen fairly slowly and that we have enough time to implement real, workable solutions – like shifting more and more of our energy production (not just electricity) permanently away from fossil fuel and to nuclear energy.

      There are very some on the cataclysmic side who are obviously illogical and trying to use fear as a tactic to sell their costly, unreliable and ineffective wind turbines, solar panels, and geothermal power systems. There are also some on that side who freely admit that they would prefer for about 2/3 – 3/4 of the world’s human population to disappear – quickly – so that the population would return to a level that could be supported in some kind of primitive fashion.

      I know how you feel about automobiles, but I am unabashedly in favor of personal mobility, fresh vegetables in the middle of winter, and moderate indoor temperatures even in July and August in the steamy southeast US. I like fast boats, cruising back roads with the top down, and flying to exotic vacation spots every once in a while. I think our creator has offered us a technology that makes it possible to both eat cake today and to have some available tomorrow.

    2. When pro-nuclear people say science is baloney, and those OTHER people are awful, …

      Oh you mean like “The LNT Hypothesis: Ethical Travesties” and “Fear of Radiation is Killing People and Endangering the Planet Too“?

      Mutual respect and lack of respect go both ways. If you’re going to make assertions, you can find them or not in major reports from the scientific community.

      Does Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII – Phase 2 by the National Research Council’s Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation count as a “major report”?

      From the Executive Summary (page 15):

      CONCLUSION

      The committee concludes that current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, no-threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of cancer in humans.

      How about the 1990 Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection and its 2007 update? Do they represent the consensus of the “scientific community”?

      From the abstract of the article describing the update:

      ICRP has retained its fundamental hypothesis for the induction of stochastic effects of linearity of dose and effect without threshold …

      I guess some of Rod’s guest posts don’t show proper respect.

      Believe it or not, Karen, “science” is not as straightforward as you want to believe it is, and there is plenty of room for intelligent, well-informed people to discuss (and disagree on) topics of ongoing research. If silencing your opponents is the only way that you think you can win a debate, then you must not have had much of an argument.

      1. @Brian – yes, I have chosen to moderate posts with too many links. Though most referenced posts are legitimate, you would not believe the kind of spam that this site sometimes attracts.

        On another moderation related topic, please do not directly attack other commenters.

    3. The issue as to how quickly we could move to nuclear depends a lot on the regulatory environment as well as how many resources you’re willing to throw at it.

      France managed to get to about 80% in a few decades so I don’t think it’s out of the question to go to around that by 2050 if we decided to start now. Being able to supply 80% of electricity in a single country and that country being a net electricity exporter (which very rarely imports electricity) and the fact that we can control the power level of a nuclear reactor (sounds obvious but the wind power promoters don’t seem to have figured out the implications of that) does give some confidence that nuclear could technically handle 100% of the grid on its own if that were required.

      If we really saw the need we could probably do it much sooner though that might involve some corner cutting and would probably require a sufficient proportion of resources diverted to nuclear plant construction to hurt (though if global warming starts to get bad enough we might consider trying to switch everything to nuclear in a single decade (at the very least we’d have a better chance of success than trying to convert to all renewable in a decade).

  6. Those who are not convinced about climate change and at the same time pronuclear are pretty rare in my experience. But as you say civility is more effective at winning people over. I have a blog that raises awareness about regulatory issues. I try not to paint a picture of the regulators as evil. What they practice is largely a reflection of what the general public wants and if the masses are so ignorant and afraid we need to teach them that they don’t need to be.

    1. That’s largely because pronuclear people are pretty rare to start with.
      The biggest issue with climate change that I find is sifting the wheat from the chaff. It’s a bit like economics; if a few critical mistakes are made and accepted early on; if those in error end up as the gatekeepers – well in economics you ended up with the GFC, which was only anticipated beforehand by those outside the mainstream.
      It doesn’t mean that none of the science has validity; it does mean that much of it needs to be looked at in a new light. It also means that until that reexamination is done, it doesn’t carry the weight in public opinion that science normally does.

      1. @Rod – I’m in Australia, which may explain the difference in my perception of nuclear acceptance / support. Here I suspect you would be lucky to find 30%.

    2. I find those who are both prouclear and unconcerned about climate change to be quite common actually.

  7. Brief reply (my definition of brief) and then I’m disappearing for a while.

    Most people decide what is risky based on a couple of criteria: do I like the solutions? and does it fit my ideological worldview? Rod, our discussion about cars wasn’t saying that you need to give them up, I hate cars, and gave mine up when it broke in 1991 before I had ever looked at the climate change issue, and the universe did not lose such a wonderful driver when it lost me. (I’m average, maybe a tad above, and bluntly, I feel that it would be OK for a lot of the other average drivers to consider driving less.) I am aware that some like driving.

    The point I was trying to make is that independent of what we want the problems to be, and what we want the solutions to be, there are real problems calling for real solutions. At this point, according to the newest model, if we are really dedicated to addressing climate change, and work as hard and as fast as we can, we may be able to keep temperature increase to 3°C (http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2010GL046270.shtml). Only we’re not working very hard, or very fast. Well before these new results, Met Hadley predicted worst case, the hottest day of the year in eastern North America could be 18-22°F warmer by 2060, compared to the hottest day today, and precipitation could be similarly affected. We’re pretty much doing what we can to stay on the worst-case path.

    Problems exist independent of my wants and wishes. This was not my favorite choice for a problem. Solutions are called for independent of our wants and wishes. I bring this argument to the anti-nuclear community, and I ask those who are pro-nuclear to consider it as well.

    Long before you give up your car, you might consider campaigning for adding a cost to all GHG emissions (and that includes for transportation). A substantial cost that becomes more substantial with time. That is probably the single most important solution. Unfortunately, many who are pro-nuclear campaign against this (and some who are anti-nuclear).

    You may not like the solution, and I am not keen this and a number of other solutions needed to address climate change, I think that no one on Earth is happy about how many solutions are needed beyond our personal favorites. But the question is whether our wants have priority, or the need to keep the temperature increase as low as possible.

    Too often when climate change discussions start, people begin by objecting to solutions they don’t want. OK, people, you may not want this or that solution. But then we’re going to get the problem.

    1. Many of us try to help. I think your way of helping is good Karen. I have a drivers license but don’t own a car. I partially justify my sanity from avoiding city driving but also that I set an example that we can make a difference. Choosing to tackle climate change is a good thing not only because it may save the planet but because it improves the quality of life. Helping people see the value of nuclear energy is the best way I can imagine to speed up the correction that our water and atmosphere needs.

    2. Karen Street:

      Brief reply (my definition of brief) and then I’m disappearing for a while.

      Is it just me, or do these religious zealots never seem to want to stick around for a debate? Here, I’m talking about people like Karen and David Lewis, who seem to lob a bunch of insults at people who share common goals and then disappear.

      It is amusing, however, to note that people like Karen then complain that others “are making life much more difficult for those of us who actively work with anti-nuclear people to try and change attitudes.”

      Has it ever occurred to her that her communications skills simply suck? Common sense says that attacking your allies is one of the most obvious examples of how to lose a campaign, yet she seems to have made it her primary objective.

      All I can conclude from this is that these people are just not very bright.

      Footnote: I write this while I wait for my latest comment to pass through the moderation on this site. Apparently, referencing sources is a penalty in the modern world of the Internet. 😉

      1. There is no need to accuse others of zealotry or of dimness, especially when they have provided ample evidence of thoughtful commentary.

        Though your opinion about not offending allies is a common one, my view of the world is that winning campaigns often involves building uneasy and surprising coalitions of allies that often disagree vehemently. A major example is the Allies who won WWIi.

        In my new hometown, there is quite a controversy about the D-Day Memorial displaying historically relevant and accurate “busts” because they dislike admitting that people like Stalin and Chaing Kai-Shek (sp?) played important roles in the successful effort to rid the world of Hitler.

      2. I have dealt with religious zealots numerous times including encounters where I have had to substantially disassociate myself from certain individuals.

        My experience with this topic involves 25+ years.

        Karen is NOT a religious zealot. She is a member of a faith-based community, but it is a moderate one with deep roots in traditional American culture.

        I am not religious myself but am agnostic.

        If you want to find religious zealots, I suggest going to boards that support our once Ruler and King George H.W. Bush who had $4.00 gas not just this $3.85 gas.

        There you will find the Morality Police that you seem to be looking for.

        My little 2003 Prius is getting grayer by the day. I enjoy driving with the windows partly open but hate the liability.

      3. Yes, Rod, we don’t need to wait to build a coalition around Nuclear. It meets the needs that cut across world views and political alliances, though not all economic ones. There is plenty in the world to debate, and I, perhaps, enjoy debate too much. But in the Case of Nuclear we need to press for action and appeal to the arguments that persuade the group we are talking with. Economics, security, environmental protection, generational equity, and many others are met by a technology that is a multi thousand year resource.

      4. Well, please feel free to choose the terms you want, but I am at a loss to find a more appropriate term for someone who chooses to show up at a website and randomly proselytize on a completely off-topic issue. Both Karen and David are known to do that.

        If Karen had limited her comments to countering Marje Hecht (another comment that I do not endorse, because … well … it’s obvious), that would have been one thing, but she went on to do much more, even to the point of calling for censorship.

        In any case, I apologize for my outburst that resulted from a bit of frustration. I’m all for debate and differences of opinion. It’s when someone hurls criticisms because someone is not “towing the line” that I take offense and reserve the right to argue my position. Thus, it is very frustrating to see someone call for an end of debate and then leave the floor. I have no respect for someone like that.

      5. wesupportlee – I’m sorry, but I have to ask: are you in some sort of competition with Ioannes to see who can be the biggest jerk?

        I suggest that you tone down the political rhetoric. Thanks.

        1. Brian – there is absolutely no reason to engage in name calling. If you persist in calling other commenters “jerks” I might have to moderate all of your comments.

      6. Funny, Rod, but I figure that you’d be the first person to admonish Ioannes for using a disparaging term for a POTUS (at least a certain POTUS). Yet, “King George” gets a pass?

        Oh well, it’s your blog. You’re going to do what you feel you have to do.

        The real funny part is that I don’t remember paying $4/gallon for gas back in 1991. Gas cost only about $1/gallon back then, and in those days, I drove a car that could get 50 miles to the gallon on the highway. (It would average in the high 30’s with city driving.)

        Someone should tell wesupportlee that G.H.W. Bush was POTUS #41.

        1. Brian – if George Bush, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump participated in conversations on Atomic Insights, I would seek to protect them from direct attack and name calling. Since they are public figures who are regularly criticized by all kinds of people, however, they need no protection from me. Besides, since when is referring to someone as “king” equivalent to calling someone else a jerk?

          You are correct that G. H. W. Bush was President in an era with mostly cheap gas. (There was one brief spike in oil prices at the start of the first Gulf War.)

          However, I cannot recall anyone ever referring to the builder of a 25 member coalition for the first Gulf War as “King”. My memory of that era and that particular president is pretty clear and personal. He was the one who logically stopped his war, despite protestations, after less than 100 days and pulled out essentially all of the troops other than the pilots who enforced a no-fly zone for the next dozen years or so. He was the one who convinced the Saudi’s and the Kuwaitis to pay much of the cost of protecting them from Saddam by supplying essentially free fuel and writing checks. He was also the one who shook my hand as a crossed the stage when he was VP on the day I got promoted from midshipman to ensign.

          He was not the one who got us involved in a war that is still going on today – nearly 10 years later – that has helped to impoverish a mighty nation while enriching a few defense contractors. He is not the one whose policies have resulted in about a half a dozen members of my family and dozens of my friends serving for as many as 15 months in a war zone. He is not the one who begged OPEC members to pump more oil while ineffectively talking about building new nuclear power plants.

          Yes, wesupportlee is guilty of mistakingly adding an extra initial to her comment. I cannot agree that a typo makes someone a “jerk”.

      7. Rod – If you will read carefully, you might notice that I never actually called anybody a “jerk.” My “insult” was phrased as a question to draw a parallel between a couple of politically charged participants here, one of which I know that you do not like.

        The real purpose of my brief comment, if you’ll take the time to notice what I said, was to call for toning down the political rhetoric, something which you have apparently decided to turn up a notch. Obviously, my intentions backfired.

        If you want to turn your blog into yet another political blog (apparently a Republican-bashing blog, judging by your last comment), then feel free. It’s your blog to do with whatever you want.

        1. @Brian – though you might have been trying to avoid calling anyone a jerk, as a writer, you are sometimes a fine scientist. Your exact words were “are you in some sort of competition with Ioannes to see who can be the biggest jerk”. Deconstructing the logic of that phrase means you have already classified two people as jerks, you are just not sure who is the biggest one.

          You have also thoroughly misconstrued my comment. Go back and read it – I was quite a fan of George H. W. Bush, but I thought his son made some incredibly poor decisions that will haunt my children and grandchildren for their entire lives as they struggle to pay off the accumulated debts – not just money, but ill will and loss of moral standing in the international world. As I watched that Administration from the inside as a mid level staffer involved in every budget they put together, I gradually gained a perspective that turned me from a lifelong Republican into someone who is not terribly enamored with either party because I think both use exactly the wrong score card for decision making.

          One of the themes on Atomic Insights is that short term greed is deadly. Investing in nuclear plants is hard work that requires patient attention to detail and steady effort that does not make anyone any quick bucks. It does not allow politically selected winners to walk off with most of the prize. I will absolutely agree that I am disillusioned with the decisions during the past two years as well, but at least buying wind turbines with a hefty amount of tax money is slightly less destructive to the economy than spending nearly a billion dollars per copy on Little Crappy Ships initially budgeted at $250 million or about 2 million per copy on cruise missiles used to target mud huts or a million dollars per year per unsupervised mercenary.

          Atomic Insights is not a political blog, but there is a LOT of politics associated with changing the dynamic of energy investing away from moving massive quantities of money from the pockets of billions into the pockets of thousands of fossil fuel pushers.

    3. Karen,

      the question is if the solution is worse than the problem. You fear the results of higher temperatures and I fear the results of starvation and the concentration of power. I might agree with the basic need to move away from CO2 but timing and methods make a difference, if our real goal is the preservation and enhancement of humanity.

  8. P.S. Chiang-Kai Shek was hardly in a league with Stalin. He had corruption problems, like many or most people in positions of political power especially in developing countries (this was the 1940s).

    Nevertheless, he was the leader on the non-communist forces at the time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiang_Kai-shek

  9. None of you people seem to have considered the possibility that nuclear power is overblown, or simply a fraud. In fact there’s a lot of evidence for this.
    See http://www.nukelies.com (though it’s equally or more concerned with supposed nuclear weapons).

    1. What do you mean “overblown”? Many of the people who communicate on this blog have operated and or designed nuclear power plants. We know that the technology provides an incredible amount of energy from a very tiny amount of fuel without producing any noxious gases. I have spent several hundred days sealed up inside a nuclear powered submarine.

      You are here trying to tell us that we were victims of a fraud – ridiculous.

      1. It isn’t ridiculous. There are mnay frauds out there, and there’s also big money as the bait.

        Please look at nukelies.com including the ‘nuclear energy’ section. And log in and post if you can reply to the material. Thanks.

        1. Sorry, I am far too busy here on Atomic Insights and at other sites where there is free discussion among knowledgeable people to visit a closed site or respond in detail to arguments that I have probably already answered in one or more of the 2050 or so posts here. If I have not answered them, I would be willing to bet that one or more of the 16,000 or so comments on the site address them. If those numbers are too large to digest, never fear, you can search this site with ease. Put in a some key words and you can find the information that you are seeking.

  10. Terribly sorry to interrupt your really very busy schedule. I don’t recall any discussion on the fake nuclear explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki getting any mention in your tens of thousands of messages; but maybe I missed them. Nor do I see any discussion on the problematic points of nuclear power – such as the complete absence of standalone units in say Antacrttica or Alaska. Bit I’m sure they’re in there somewhere.

    Meanwhile, serious readers might be interested in nukelies.com

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