The Narrative Fallacy in Weather

Looking back at my most recent posts on rainfall I note that they were motivated at a reaction to what Nassim Taleb describes as the Narrative Fallacy, the desire people have to make a post-hoc story to so all events relate with a strict cause and effect. Journalists (amongsts others) love to try and join dots and so are typical propagators of this nonsense. Recently they have been keen to link everything weather related like the drought, to global warming.

Should I worry about this though? Ultimately I think we should be acting to mitigate AGW, so is it best for us not to be criticising our “side”? I think that this kind of partisanship is amongst the worst things that can be done. Claims that are unsupported by evidence will ultimately undermine the very case they are trying to support. They are in effect crying wolf.

The stupidity of course isn’t limited to AGW alarmists, with many if not more of the skeptics running the its a cold day, it can’t be warming line. Some of these are taking the piss but not all of them. Some seem to believe its a refutation.

Ultimately it would do well if people were to remember that a particular instance is usually not a good representation of the average. Its ridiculous to ascribe meaning to every single occurrence, and even a couple of years don’t really do much to hundred year trends. Climate is long term average weather. Year to year it varies, and we are looking at long term trends not day to day heatwaves or even year to year droughts.

7 Responses to The Narrative Fallacy in Weather

  1. Rod Clarke says:

    I think this is a great post Steve, in a great series on Weather – I tracked thru all the links from Taleb to Hayek in Wikipedia as well, very informative – well done

  2. Steve Munn says:

    I’ve wondered about the same, Steve.

    I concluded however that it isn’t worth worrying about because (a) the same phenomena applies to most issues and (b) the fact is that the Average Joe and Edna are the people who need convincing and they will never be convinced by dry the rational arguments, complete with caveats, that emanate from boffins. Average Joe and Edna have neither the time nor inclination to wade thru the debate in such a rational manner.

  3. graemebird says:

    You fucking wanker Steve Munn.

    YOU!!!!!! have never waded through the debate in a dry and rational manner. So you are looking down at your average Joe, who your crowd so desperately try to mislead… …….you are looking down on them with no good cause.

    And also we see, reading between the LINES of what you’ve said…….. That in fact you are advocating lying and misleading people.

    As all your crowd do no doubt when talking amongst themselves.

  4. Steve says:

    Good to see I can leave the site dormant forover a month and still get some argument. Or abuse or whatever.

  5. Rod Clarke says:

    I still think its a good series of posts

  6. Jason Soon says:

    hey steve
    your name is being mentioned in vain here

  7. […] to further discussion. I particularly want to mention the Narrative Fallacy, which I have actually mentioned before, the problem of prediction as well as whether I really am a fraud, idiot, or […]

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