Science

All About Ron Bailey

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The latest issue of DoubleThink, the magazine of America's Future Foundation, has an in-depth and very interesting story about reason's own science correspondent, Ronald Bailey, and why he changed his position on anthropogenic global warming (which, in my view, is testament to Bailey's dedication to going where the facts lead; as I say in the article, Ron Bailey is by far the most scrupulously honest and intellectually serious science writer I know). Here's an early snippet:

A socialist when he went to college in the early 1970s, Bailey's undergraduate years happened to coincide with a boom in books warning of a coming environmental apocalypse. In just a few years, natural resources would run out. Oil reserves would dry up. The air and rivers would turn toxic. Overpopulation would lead to famine and disease. To Bailey's college professors, it was the gospel truth.

Meanwhile the young socialist's idealism led him, ironically enough, towards libertarianism.

"I became a libertarian, politically speaking because—and I know this is going to sound sanctimonious but it is literally true—if you are really concerned about the poor people then you have to pick the system that in fact helps poor people. And the only one that has done that is democratic capitalism, period," he says during a long interview at his Dupont Circle apartment.

The whole article, which delves into Bailey's reasons for changing his position on global warming and the reception of that switch within the broadly defined free-market movement, is well worth reading. Check it out here.

And check out the fantastic panel on "Global Warming: Risks and Consequences" that we hosted at last fall's Reason in DC conference. Moderated by reason's Matt Welch, and featuring economist Lynne Kiesling, Competitive Enterprise Institute's Fred Smith, and Bailey himself, it's well worth watching over at reason.tv. Click below to get started.

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  1. in my view, is testament to Bailey’s dedication to going where the facts lead

    If opportunities are a form of facts, and I think they are, then I have to agree.

  2. I was hoping this article would help me “connect the dots” on Bailey’s journey from skeptic on global warming per se, all the way to AGW believer. I understand that getting better data on trends in climate change would make one less skeptical about whether the Earth is, in fact, warming. But isn’t it quite a leap to then assume that *since* temperatures are rising, this must be due to humans burning fossil fuels? That’s one obvious explanation, sure, but it’s not the only possible explanation.

    What is the scientific evidence that convinced Ron Bailey that GW is a man-made phenomenon? I’m not asking for how the greenhouse effect works, but rather how we know that the greenhouse effect is a major contributor to global warming, and how human activity is a major contributor to this, as compared with “natural” (human-independent) events.

  3. Ron Bailey is by far the most scrupulously honest and intellectually serious science writer I know

    I’m guessing you don’t know many science writers. The fetishism of Ron’s “conversion” to AGW is really fascinating to watch. It has all the same whiff of bullshit as John McCain’s status as a maverick.

    No, but seriously, Ron sucks. Remember when he got taken in by that global warming hoax web site a little while ago? That wasn’t some minor goof — no one who is “intellectually serious” would have taken that bait. He’s a hack.

  4. So if global warming doesn’t happen, or is proven to be non-anthropomorphic (say, sunspots), will Ron change his mind again? And will you lionize him for that too, Nick?

  5. Ron Bailey, you duh man!

    I recently read a novel by Michael Crichton called, “Next”. At the end MC cites a bibliography of sources with VERY high praise for our very own Ron Bailey. The MC novel was an excellent story, by the way.

    Ron, contrary to a prior post, you are not a hack.

    By the way, it is not clear to me that Mr. Bailey believes that global warming is caused by humans.

  6. I liked this quote from the interview: “I [Bailey] became more aware that environmentalism is not a science, it is an ideology.”

    This is true in my opinion as well. Ideology always clouds clear thinking, which is a problem in the libertarian movement too. The evironmentalists took a few valid conclusions and then try to use those to justify all things environmental. Libertarians take a valid, data based concept -free market allocation of resources is good- and then try to use that result to answer every question, often without going back to see if that is a valid conclusion based on the facts. Everyone would do well to minimize their ideologies and always skeptically look at the facts for each question. The world may become more boring but at the same time better.

  7. So if global warming doesn’t happen, or is proven to be non-anthropomorphic (say, sunspots), will Ron change his mind again?

    One would hope so. Science is about data, not ideology. When the best data source, the satellites, was correlated to other measurements, it became scientifically untenable to dispute a warming trend. Prior to that correlation, it was not reasonable (drink?*) to say for certain what the trend was. Changing is appropriate as more data comes in and is made to correspond with theory.

    What is the scientific evidence that convinced Ron Bailey that GW is a man-made phenomenon?

    Once the satellite data was correlated with other sources, it appears that trends match the models reasonably well. For instance, the end of the 60s/70s cooling matches the introduction of catalytic converters. The Mt Pinatubo eruption shows up in the data. Physics says that CO2 in the atmosphere will have a warming effect. When the models start to match the data, you need to pay attention to them.

    Unlike Ron, I’m not sure the models are solid enough for the government to take action. Why are the trends always at the low end of the models? Inertia is not a good answer, it is in the models already. Is it the classic scientific case of slow movement of accepted values of constants from their initial measurement to the real value?

    *tea at this time in the morning.

  8. Has anyone else noticed how much Mr. Bailey looks like the fellow who is occasionally on “Whose Line Is It Anyway”?

    Not the fat dude, black dude, tall dude or bald dude. The other one.

  9. If a hard-core skeptic like Ron Bailey can change his mind, where does that suggest the debate on global warming is heading?

    I could make the same case for Lee Strobel. This is a faulty argument.

  10. Wow, not quite at the same level of vitriol as comments on a Michael Young cloumn, but it’s growing. Ron’s made it tot he big time!

  11. Bailey is a talented writer, but a terrible scientist, and now an apostate to libertarianism. How can he be taken seriously about anything?

    AGW is the politically motivated hype of erroneous extrapolations: see
    http://www.environmentalwars.org/articles_climate_of_belief.php

  12. Can we please declare a moratorium on the use of the phrase “intellectually serious”?

    And to take it one step further — how about a moratorium on articles by Ron Bailey (and Cathy and Michael Young, for that matter)?

  13. I [Bailey] became more aware that environmentalism is not a science, it is an ideology.”

    Tautology.

    From the dictionary:
    ism

    Function:
    noun
    Etymology:
    -ism
    Date:
    1680

    1 : a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory

    Of course, this says nothing about Environmental Science as a science.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_science

    This is equivalent to saying…

    “I became aware that libertarianism is not economics, it is an ideology.”

  14. And to take it one step further — how about a moratorium on articles by Ron Bailey (and Cathy and Michael Young, for that matter)?

    Because nothing says “free market in ideas” like self-censorship of dissenting views.

  15. Not the fat dude, black dude, tall dude or bald dude. The other one.

    Greg Proops?

  16. They’ve long been busy trying to make the models match the data. So what?
    I have questions for the models.

    What is the contribution of the ocean to GW?

    What is the average temperature of the ocean?

    Data on solar magnetic cycles also appear to correspond to the temperature record. Do the models incorporate these cycles?

    Do the upper atmospheric temperatures (which, according to AGW theory are most impacted by CO2 levels), impact the surface temperatures?

    A brief google search for ‘current global average temperature’ hasn’t revealed to me the actual current global temperature. What is the current global average temperature? I want to compare it to this chart.

  17. I became aware that libertarianism is not economics, it is an ideology.

    Is there anyone who didn’t know that?

  18. Because nothing says “free market in ideas” like self-censorship of dissenting views.

    I am sure that they would still be allowed to post, along with us, below the fold, RCD. So, no censorship.

  19. stuartl:

    it was not reasonable (drink?*)

    *tea at this time in the morning.

    Wuss.

  20. One more for the models:

    Has there been any change in daily average cloud cover over any significant length of time?

  21. Yes, Greg Proops! thank you!

  22. So if global warming doesn’t happen, or is proven to be non-anthropomorphic (say, sunspots), will Ron change his mind again?

    Of course.

    After all, scientists changed their minds about how gravity works when the Theory of General Relativity was proven.

  23. I could make the same case for Lee Strobel. This is a faulty argument.

    Who is Lee Strobel, and how is he similar to Ron Bailey?

  24. To bad it’s just been in the news that all four global temperature monitoring agencies have reported a decline of .65-.75 degrees in the last year alone. Enough to wipe out all the warming in the last 100 years. I guess you have to change your mind again Ron.

  25. We’ll have to see what happens over the next few decades.

  26. Caption contest:

    “So then the priest sez….. Oh, crap. The, ummm, priest sez, …..”

  27. Sam Grove,

    I became aware that libertarianism is not economics, it is an ideology.

    Is there anyone who didn’t know that?

    I am glad that your reading skills allowed you to understand my point.

    Pointing out that environmentalism is an ideology rather than science is about as enlightening as pointing out that libertarianism is an ideology.

    And neither say anything about the validity of the science that produces information about their respective realms of interest.

  28. R C Dean: Because nothing says “free market in ideas” like self-censorship of dissenting views.

    This isn’t difficult. Michael Young, Ron Bailey, et al, are more than welcome to continue writing their thoughts and opinions — Reason, however, as an ostensibly libertarian magazine, is under no obligation to publish them when the write things that are, in fact, antithetical to libertarianism. You know, like advocating preemptive war. Again, pretty simple.

    Then again, Reason isn’t publishing my opinions, so it must be censorship! Why does Reason hate the free exchange of ideas?!

  29. “So if global warming doesn’t happen, or is proven to be non-anthropomorphic (say, sunspots), will Ron change his mind again?”

    Of course. What do you do, sir?

  30. “I became a libertarian, politically speaking because-and I know this is going to sound sanctimonious but it is literally true-if you are really concerned about the poor people then you have to pick the system that in fact helps poor people. And the only one that has done that is democratic capitalism, period,”

    Joe you are a total asshole.

  31. So if global warming doesn’t happen, or is proven to be non-anthropomorphic (say, sunspots), will Ron change his mind again? And will you lionize him for that too, Nick?

    Lets say an independent thinker on a desert island with only a bible to explain the universe with. then one day a book on newton physics washed up and this changed the desert islanders opinion on many things…then a month later a book on Einstine’s relativity and theory of gravity washed up and that also changed his thinking…then again a month later another book washed up on shore about quantum physics washed up on shore and that as well changed his thinking.

    Science really is not the place for sticking to your guns for the sake of sticking to your guns.

  32. Joe you are a total asshole.

    Joshua, I am not saying that Joe is not a total asshole, but I fail to see the connection of Joe’s assholyness and Ronald Bailey’s quote.

    Just for the record, I don’t think Joe is an asshole. He is a slippery opponent in an argument, and his positions on many things are absurd, but “asshole” is not accurate.

  33. Ron Bailey is really handsome. He’s also one of my favorite writers online, very smart and straightforward and well-spoken. I stay at Reason.com for the excellent writing, but I do come for the eye candy.

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