[extropy-chat] Peak Oil news

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Wed Mar 8 13:10:02 UTC 2006

Hal's written some very fine pieces that clearly explain one
very good way to come to tentative conclusions about issues
that interest you. "Prudence", like "virtue" aren't terms that
you hear much of these days, but prudence was very high on the
list of desirable virtues in classical times, and you simply
must rate pretty highly the Hanson/Finney formula in terms of
prudence, and "Peak Oil" is a great esxample.

It even gets a little funny to anticipate how uncomfortable
these claims must make some people. One bottom line, "if you
are so sure, then put your money where your mouth is"
naturally provokes outrage.

Of course, given that one does hold strong beliefs one way
or another that are at variance with the market, there can
be prudent reasons that he or she may find it too risky to
gamble anyway: we all have our utility curves, after all.
But surely, I would think, you'd be at least a little more
inclined to be *less* certain in your own mind about
conclusions you've reached if so many others with good
"credentials" disagree with you: your immediate mission,
whether you choose to accept it or not, is to explain
how it is that they all could be so wrong.

Like others who demur a bit, I too subscribe to some beliefs
about this that may conflict a little with the market. I've
read---along with my book group, which is composed of folks
I respect a good deal---Thomas Gold's "The Deep Hot Biosphere".

We were convinced! Concretely: at the end of the evening we
discussed the book, most of us thought that the odds were
eighty percent that he was right about the abiotic theory
(we also thought that he had about a fifty percent chance
of being right about life itself first arising deep within
the earth.

I venture to say that anyone who's studied Gold's fine book
will significantly change his odds more towards the abiotic
theory, (even if he retains probability at less than 
fifty percent).


> Maybe science could be improved by considering all evidence equally and
> not favoring consensus views.  But maybe not!  Science has been very
> successful in terms of its goals of advancing knowledge.  It's not
> obvious a priori that its degree of conservatism is truly excessive.
> Maybe science is right to be skeptical of evidence that contravenes the
> conventional wisdom, even when the evidence looks good on its own.
> Here's an amusing example that I ran into today by accident:
> gasresources.net.  This is a site about the "abiogenic oil" theory,
> that oil does not come from the decay of biological material, but
> rather is a chemical resource that comes from deep within the earth.
> This theory is often associated in the West with the late Thomas Gold
> but actually originated in Russia and is relatively accepted there.
> This site's a real piece of work.  Reading it you get the impression
> that only cranks and lunatics hold to the opposing view, that oil is
> biological in origin.  They even have a whole section on sociological
> issues, including Feynman's "Cargo Cult Science" talk and examinations
> of the kinds of cognitive errors that could let supposed "junk science"
> like biological oil become accepted.
> It's a real "through the looking glass" experience because the truth is
> just the opposite: conventional wisdom in the geological community is that
> abiogenic oil is a fringe theory that has little evidence in its favor.
> Yet this site writes as though the biological origin theory has been
> totally discredited.
> ...
> My conclusion is that it does make sense to treat fringe views
> differently from widely accepted ones.  The strategy I am following is
> to find institutions for getting at the truth that seem like they work.
> Markets are one, and science is another.  If and when those ever disagree,
> as Robin's paper anticipated, then I don't know what to do!  There are
> a few cases like that on FX, and I'm not sure what to make of them.
> ...

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