Getting Rich with Science


An angry man by the name of Jared stopped by the blog the other day and left this beauty of a comment on my old A/C article:

Oh, you anti-air conditioning freaks crack me up. Here in Alabama I keep my a/c unapologetically set between 68-71 all year around. […] I do not care about utility bills. Some mornings I have my house so cold my windows are dripping with dew. I love my air conditioner. You guys toughing it out make me laugh. Even on 62 degree days the western sun warms it enough to bump on the air conditioning. When I’m drinking I set it even lower. Who are you air conditioning Nazis– judging your neighbors for running the a/c’s? Enjoy sweating, I guess. It’s currently 69 degrees in my house. I have two spare window units in my garage that serve as emergency backups should the central systems fail for any reason. Have fun saving $50. Buy 3/4 of a tank of gas with it or something. Cry about the climate change lie our government wants you to be afraid of so they can control you.”


Now, my first inclination was probably the same as yours – a deep sigh as you pull on the 20 ounce XL bloxing gloves and prepare to Deliver some Education yet again. But if you set aside the facts and just look at the feeling behind these words, I’m right there with Jared. He and I are not so different after all. If I were to paraphrase a little:

Do you outsiders really think you can tell me what to do? Fuck that. I’m going to continue doing as I see fit, and now I’ll even make a show of it, just to prove that you don’t own me.


In fact, defiance and standing up for your own freedom while rejecting the influence of invaders is a natural human instinct. It has been pretty useful to us in the past, and it can still come in handy today if you use that rage for a good cause.

Unfortunately for our defiant friend, the substance of the argument doesn’t stand up quite as well as the emotion. And a good chunk of our society’s self-imposed hardships come from falling into the same basic trap: becoming so convinced that you are right, that you block yourself from ever learning anything.

Looking at this example specifically, we start with a guy rightfully seeking happiness. But in doing so, he seems to have snarled in the idea of comfort and convenience as being part of happiness. Both old philosophy and modern science have shown that this is counterproductive: voluntary discomfort and mastery of hardship are far more powerful life boosters than avoidance. Even Jared has probably noticed that kicking the ass of a daunting challenge is more satisfying than having all of life’s luxuries flow in through an IV needle and then back out through the catheter and the bedpan. The key is in what challenges you choose to embrace: I suggest as many as you can handle. Especially those dished out by Mother Nature herself.

Then there’s the rest of those factual errors. Lowering your dependence on climate control and other electrical extravagances isn’t about saving 50 bucks. It’s more like $100 per month, which compounds rapidly into $17,300 every ten years. And that 17 grand doesn’t have to go into your gas tank and out through the exhaust pipe. Instead, it could buy portions of businesses and thus become an army of employees that work for you for a lifetime. That’s a solid start at becoming a millionaire, which is something best done ten bucks at a time.

Then his argument goes on to reinforce my point perfectly with the generalization about climate change. Here our man has singlehandedly outfoxed the world’s scientific community and declared the last few decades of their research to be incorrect. The incredible irony is that he confuses climate science with a government plot to control society, when it’s actually quite clearly documented that the opposite is true: climate change doubt is a strategic misinformation campaign designed to control voters to rally continued support for the fossil fuel industry. The doubt is most prevalent in countries where the industry has close ties to the political system and the campaign has been well-funded.

For the past 20 years or so, I have watched with wonder from the sidelines as this societal experiment raged, because I’m shocked that it actually worked so well. Why is our species so easily duped by such transparent (and centuries-old) methods of tomfoolery? How are the morally good air-conditioning lovers of Alabama converted into campaigners against science itself (and unwittingly against their own best economic interests)? How has science become a political issue, with liberals and scientists being branded together as out-of-touch elites, and a certain 50% of Real Americans united in a mistrust of the whole field?

Let’s clear this all up right now and get one thing straight:

Science is your friend. It is the most useful thing humans have ever developed, and there is absolutely no downside to it.

Regardless of your religious or political views, understanding what Science is, and using everything it offers to your advantage is the fastest way to accelerate your path to leading a rich and fulfilling life.

Science is not about ideology, or trying to cover the truth, or trying to manipulate people. That is what politics are generally about, and Science is exactly the opposite of that.

Science is all about looking for evidence through experimentation, and forever questioning itself and refusing to simply repeat dogma. By refusing to cling to existing assumptions about what “The Truth” is, Science gets us forever incrementally closer to understanding what is really going on in our world.

In other words, Science is the method that we have developed to protect us from our own tendency to cling to incorrect assumptions forever.

Luckily for all of us, we don’t have to get into the bullshit national debates about the current political hot topics (which politicians are using to control you). Instead, you can apply the principles of science to improve your own life right now.

How to Get Rich through Scientific Living

1. Understand more about yourself as the Human Animal, so you can work around your own mental weaknesses.

At the core, you were “built” for exactly one reason: to produce as many healthy babies as possible. Every finger and toe, emotion and follicle of your being has been optimized for this purpose. If you have other goals, like deeper life satisfaction or getting out of debt, you need to learn to override some of your default programming. Learning about how we are all Predictably Irrational is the key to this.

The moment you think you are a perfectly rational being is the moment you stop being able to think critically (and the moment you become easy for others to manipulate). A study of your own species by learning some basic psychology and behavioral economics is the best bit of education you can get.

2. Understand the difference between correlation and causation, and the value of the double blind test.

When society falls for massive misinformation, it is often because of our tendency to latch on to simple patterns and fall into the herd mentality. “I always win at Roulette when I wear my bright red shirt”, or “these $59.00 Chi Energy Alignment Pills always make me have a better day”, or “Buying this more expensive wine will provide me with a happier life” are common blunders that could be avoided if we were all better at conducting semi-controlled experiments upon ourselves. And fear of doing something differently from everyone else tends to lead us all into group mediocrity, even while stepping out and doing things in your own better way is much more likely to earn you attention, respect, and greater success.

3. Instead of fighting the gifts of Science, embrace them and use them to live a better life.

Climate change skeptics aren’t really uncomfortable with the science, they are uncomfortable with the implication that their fossil-fuel dependent lifestyle is immoral and endangered. This is an incurable condition that will lead to lifelong unhappiness, because the science is not going away.

Try as you might, you are not going to out-science the scientists by reading “skeptic” websites and repeating their memes. You’d need to practice in the field for many years to make even a small new discovery, and yet the “armchair” climate scientists are fond of grabbing each news story and squawking about how the deep ocean results prove this or disprove that.

Don’t waste your time. The real scientists will just keep collecting evidence until you’re the last one standing on the shore insisting the world is flat and those sailing ships are falling off of a giant waterfall at the edge of the horizon.

Instead, I prefer to learn more about the science by letting the specialists do their work for me while sit back and read the summaries as they come in. I then have my own time free to decide what it all means to me, and how to best deal with reality. I too wish that the world wasn’t warming so quickly, but there’s a happier way to deal with it than angry denial.  I can choose to lead a happy and engaged life in my own community and consume a bit less stuff. More money, better health and closer friendships: No loss there.

Sometimes you may still choose to blatantly burn plenty of fossil fuels despite a full knowledge and acceptance of the results. I’ve been known to drive across the country, hop on a jet, or even eat a steak. But I get to do it with the understanding that it is a tradeoff, instead of hiding behind a plastic shield of wimpy denial. The extra bonus is that understanding some of the workings of our environment has greatly reduced my craving for BMWs, which has saved me at least $250,000 so far. It also brings me great optimism – I think the world’s transition away from sloppy and expensive fossil fuels is the biggest business opportunity we have yet stumbled across. The progress and prosperity involved will keep the stock market and the economy booming for more than the rest of my lifetime.

Although I now have this blog to share my own ideas about better living, its effects are obviously very finite. But there’s no need to fret about what the rest of the world is doing, because that is outside of my circle of control. Worrying is 100% counterproductive, and it was psychological studies that helped figure out that very principle.

Science is bound to deliver news that is sometimes convenient (the news that sex is very good for your health, for example), and sometimes less so (that fossil fuels and alcohol are not). But knowledge is power, and power means the opportunity to make the best of your own life, which includes dominating on the financial side of things, as well as just the ability to go to bed with a broad smile on your face each night.

Science is the way you get knowledge – nothing more, and nothing less. You’re free to fight it at your own peril, but I’ll be hanging out here in my own Life Laboratory keeping the grand experiment going as long as possible.


Further Reading: An earlier MMM Classic called Safety is an Expensive Illusion digs into some more examples of how scientific thinking about everyday life decisions and risk can lead to huge profits.

  • Kenneth October 7, 2014, 12:14 pm

    I’m 64 years old, so I’ve seen a lot of weather over the years. I cannot ever recall the news headlines being so dominated with drought, fires, earthquakes, monsoon like rains, tornados, hurricanes, heat, cold, snow. Global climate change is undeniable (to me at least). We had a brutal winter in Minnesota and Wisconsin last year (I owned homes in both states). So you would think we were getting a respite from “global warming”. Yet, 2013 went down as the 4th warmest year on record (stretching back into the 1800s).

    The top 5 warmest years have all been recent, in this multicentury data: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/01/global-temperature-2013/

    • JB October 7, 2014, 12:17 pm

      That is why they call it climate change and not global warming anymore. Extreme weather on both side.

      • lizzie October 7, 2014, 2:44 pm

        I once read that the term “climate change” was basically invented and promoted by Frank Luntz, a Republican political consultant who specializes in researching which terminology will help frame the debate in a way that’s favorable to conservatives. This seems consistent with what I read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Luntz

        Anyway, it strikes me as funny that he should have promoted the change in terminology because I mostly see climate-change deniers implying that the new term is an implied acknowledgement that the concept of global warming is a hoax.

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 3:38 pm

          Kenneth, while your conclusion is in line with the science, your method is exactly what you DON’T want follow if you’re trying to learn about the world.

          For example, US weather reports tend to focus disproportionately on US weather – what happens in our tiny 6.6% slice of the world’s surface area. Who cares about that bit of trivia if you are trying to figure out if the planet is warming?

          Watching the news headlines just tells you about what the news industry has decided would be the most profitable to show you.

          Following science a bit (maybe by reading scientific publications like Nature or Scientific American), or having real science nerds among your friends, gives you a bit more of a direct line on what people are actually studying.

          • Chris October 7, 2014, 7:59 pm

            Mr Mustache,
            Respectfully I say that climate change is a hoax and fraud. Did you ever hear about the climate gate scandal a few years ago where the University of East Anglia was caught doctoring its climate models to make the numbers support their claims? check out http://www.climatedepot.com or search for Christopher Monkton on youtube.com. Use your scientific mind to see the other side.
            Fine if you want to conserve. Nobody in their right mind hates the environment, but understand that the people pushing this on us have an agenda. What countries would benefit if the US and other industrialized countries cut industry? What Marxists love the global warming hoax? Answer: All of them

            • ProspectiveBum October 7, 2014, 9:02 pm


              That site you linked (http://www.climatedepot.com) is blatantly ridiculous. At this writing, their top article is a big headline that says that Antarctic sea ice has increased to record levels. Reading the actual article, which is from the Guardian, notes that the increase in Antarctic sea ice is only a third of the ice lost in the arctic over the same period of time due to climate change.

              The blatant attempt to spin that article to prove that climate change isn’t real is ridiculous.

              Why does working to prevent climate change have to mean cutting industry? If anything, it can CREATE industry.

            • John October 8, 2014, 1:51 am

              “All american presidents have been black. Just look at Obama, google him and you will find that he is black! Don’t fall for the obvious ‘white president agenda. Who would benefit if people think that there have been white presidents? What Marxists love the ‘white president’ lie? All of them”

              This is another opportunity to learn more about science. A single known example of something is not proof for anything other than the single example given. This is irrationality coming to play through our feelings, wanting to cling to one fact that fits our preferred story, the very opposite of the scientific method.

            • Marjan October 8, 2014, 3:35 am

              You don’t have to take global warming/climate change into account to notice that any use of fosil fuels tends to create much damage. The smoke just stinks, I hate seeing so many cars polute the air around my home (I’m in a town), the places where coal is mined and burned are environmental disasters, just like the environment around refineries, and don’t get me started on huge oil spills.

              And the fact is… There IS a better way. Saving on the gas and electricity bills can be done right away, without any investments. And further investing in renevable energy sources and battery technology can solve the issue completely, and free us from depending on dead trees and animals who died milions of years ago.

            • Paul October 8, 2014, 3:36 am


              UEA wasn’t caught “doctoring its climate models to make the numbers support their claims’. They did a poor job of exposing some of their data and methods (some of which isn’t their fault anyway, but part of data-sharing obligation). They also used wording in some emails that was entirely innocent, but absent context sure looked questionable. Put those two together and you can create a scandal where non existed.

              To back up what MMM is saying, it appears you’ve listened to the arguments on ‘Climategate’ until they got to the point where they confirmed what you wanted to hear, then stopped listening. I certainly know I tend to do that, and have to force myself to keep following the evidence to its conclusion.

            • taekvideo October 8, 2014, 3:56 am

              “climategate” was a complete non-event…. a few thousand emails were hacked from four people… then a couple of cherry-picked emails were taken out of context and misinterpreted/misrepresented… It was a completely manufactured controversy by people with AN AGENDA.

              And seriously, a Marxist conspiracy? The Red Scare has long since passed mate.

              oh and for those of you who doubt whether humans can have a global impact on our planet’s climate/atmosphere… remember that we already HAVE.

              If the governments of the world hadn’t stepped in to universally ban cfc’s back in the 80’s, our futures would be much more bleak than they are now.

        • brad October 7, 2014, 6:28 pm

          Lizzie — in fact, the term “climate change” is favored by climatologists because it’s more accurate and less misleading than “global warming.” The term “global warming” implies that warming is the only impact we need to worry about, when in fact it’s only one of many impacts from climate change. Changes in precipitation patterns, sea levels, and extreme weather events are all part of the package. So “climate change” is a better term.

          The other issue is that if you call it “global warming,” every year we have an unusually cold winter all the skeptics point to it as proof that global warming is a hoax. Somehow they conveniently neglected to learn in school that the Earth can warm on average even if some regions happen to be going through a cool spell. Believing that every place on earth must warm equally in order to produce global average warming is like believing every student in class must have gotten an 85% on their exam if the class average for that exam was 85%.

          Using the term “climate change” avoids all this nonsense.

          • Christoph October 8, 2014, 1:51 am

            Further to this a climate scientist, who s name I forgot, explained some of these seemingly contradictory findings with the analogy of keeping the door of your freezer open: Inside the freezer, I.e.. north and south pole, things warm up, while just around the freezer some regions are getting much colder initially. Which of course doesn t mean that the ice isn t melting and the sea levels rising.

          • lizzie October 8, 2014, 7:04 am

            Oh I don’t disagree with what you’re saying at all. I just found it interesting that a man who supposedly specializes in trying to shape the debate in favor of Republicans would think that “climate change” is preferable to “global warming.” I think that was a miscalculation on his part. I live in Minnesota, and it drives me nuts when my wingnut relatives post all over Facebook that “global warming” doesn’t exist because it’s cold outside.

          • acorn October 8, 2014, 8:18 am

            In my federal government office (which handled energy related issues) in 2001 we were told to start using the term “climate change” instead of global warming as soon as the Bush people arrived. And that the reason was that global warming sounded too scary and implied that people were the cause.

            • Ted Hu October 8, 2014, 6:58 pm

              That Lutz dude is a piece of mercenary work.

              Anyway, I prefer to call it volatile climate change.

              Changes the tone quite a bit and substantively adds to the accuracy of the phenomena it is describing.

              • Sciencegeek October 9, 2014, 10:35 am

                It might help some climate change deniers to understand what is going on if the term “volatile” was added to “climate change”. Although I wouldn’t count on it. At least labeling it “increasing climate volatility” would stop the ‘we’re having a cold winter so the planet can’t be warming’ inanity.

    • LennStar October 7, 2014, 1:22 pm

      We here in germany had the warmest… august? since the beginning of weather recordings, which in germany means mostly around 188X. Lest year we had another record month, march? I lost track of the records.

      Interestingly warmer climate on the globe could lead to colder climate here in germany, if the gulf stream stops. Berlin is the same latitude(?) as Detroit! So we could get cold winters every year then, combined with “italian” summers. Thanks, I dont need that.

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 3:46 pm

        Actually Berlin is about 1100 kilometers further NORTH than Detroit and the Canadian border. At 52 degrees latitude, you’re deep into the howling wolf wilderness of Northern Ontario :-)

        • Maxim Ч. October 7, 2014, 10:34 pm

          It really is a howling wilderness. I once drove it…all of it (twice, actually, now that I think of it, I came back). Took me three days and it’s mostly NOTHING. I once also had a large, heavily-breathing animal outside my tent. True story.

          • Kenoryn October 8, 2014, 4:03 pm

            But it’s a beautiful howling wilderness. :) (Except for the parts being logged and mined, maybe.)

          • Michelle October 9, 2014, 10:50 am

            Ironically, there are large parts of Canada that you may call ‘nothing’ but are a vital part of the environment. As a Western Canadian in a city I love being in areas of nothing………..beats being crowded anyday……

        • Amanda October 9, 2014, 10:56 am

          Climates don’t follow latitudes exactly and the largest difference are between Notrh America an dour European friends. An Isothermal world map can show you this. But what I find to be an easy reference is the differrence between the weather of NYC and Rome Italy, which are on similar latitudes with very different weather patterns. Also while science is not easily subject to emotion and is oriented towards truth and discovery, scientists as humans are not elevated to such an impartial standard. I have not been able to find an article from The Economist that addressed partiality among scientists that you might find intersesting. My apologies.

        • r October 10, 2014, 7:34 am

          Actually, that is just about Saskatoon (Saskatchewan). We in the east (I’m just north of 45 degrees) forget how far north the prairies are, they start at 49 degrees.

    • insourcelife October 7, 2014, 2:48 pm

      “I’m 64 years old, so I’ve seen a lot of weather over the years. I cannot ever recall the news headlines being so dominated with drought, fires, earthquakes, monsoon like rains, tornados, hurricanes, heat, cold, snow. ” Personally, I wouldn’t use this to support an argument that climate change is real. All these 24 hour news networks need something to report and fear and destruction sell advertisements. Plus there’s more information now with all the new technology that wasn’t around just 20 years ago. The “4th warmest year on record” is a much stronger argument, perhaps because it’s actually based on science :)

    • Mike October 7, 2014, 7:39 pm

      There has always been climate change and always will. Which power plant stopped the last ice age 10,000 years ago? Now I don’t believe we should waste our natural resources and run the A/C all the time or drive 1/2 a mile to the store but humans really don’t have that much control over the weather.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 9:06 am

        Again, more science. In this case “Axial tilt”.
        Science is cool.

      • Kevin October 8, 2014, 12:31 pm

        That is kind of like saying you forest fires have always existed and always will as an excuse for why you don’t need to put out your campfire when you leave. True, not all forest fires are caused by humans, but we sure as hell should try to reduce the number of ones that are. Similarly, not all changes in the climate have been because of humans, but we sure as hell better try to stop the ones that are.

        • Kenoryn October 8, 2014, 4:09 pm

          +1. Further to this point, both forest fires and climate change are mostly a problem for humans, not the planet. It’s unfortunate that the environmental movement has in the past been framed by a “save the planet” motto and mentality, when in fact it should be “save your own ass”. Fires pass through forests and they regenerate in new and interesting ways. But if you happen to be in a forest during a forest fire it likely won’t go well for you. Similarly, the planet doesn’t care if the climate changes. The map will look a bit different, some species will do some shuffling and the fittest will survive. The issue is what the change means for us humans with our settled societies and built infrastructure and reliance on predictable seasons for agriculture and whatnot.

          • tstreet October 12, 2014, 4:40 pm

            True dat. Human beings are choosing to deny or ignore the effects of global warming. Human beings will die by the billions, perhaps becoming largely extinct. The Earth will be very warm for awhile which will probably kill thousands of species. But some will survive and the Earth will continue in some form until the sun burns out.

      • Willy October 8, 2014, 12:44 pm

        You’re right, climate change has been around since the formation of the Earth. But we’ve observed the fluctuations in temperature are preceded slightly by fluctuations in CO2 levels in the atmosphere (http://static.skepticalscience.com/images/Milankovitch_Cycles_400000.gif). There’s a very clear correlation here, and while correlation does not equal causation, we’re running a very interesting experiment on that right now. On a global scale we’ve decided to output CO2 at a rate unprecedented in 4.5 billion years of our planets existence! All for science, all to solve this mystery. So far our hypothesis (CO2 levels are a controlling factor of climate) has been in line with observations, as the global temperature has also been rising at an unprecedented pace. But only time will tell if we’re right. Perhaps we should travel to other planets to fill the reproducable requirement of scientific experiments.

        • Craig October 12, 2014, 10:04 am

          Current research demonstrates the opposite has been observed. From http://www.sciencemag.org/content/291/5501/112.full (free registration required):”To define the points at which temperature and CO2 began to rise, we selected the crossing points of linear fits of the records and obtained ages of 17,000 ± 200 years for the start of the CO2 increase and 17,800 ± 300 years for the start of the δD increase. We found that the start of the CO2increase thus lagged the start of the δD increase by 800 ± 600 years”

          Perhaps further research will shed further light on to why this happens, or perhaps even lead to a second reversal of theory. Beauty of science! This does not mean that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, or that humans are not contributing to warming, only that natural increases of CO2 did not cause global warming in the past.

  • JB October 7, 2014, 12:16 pm

    You can say this about any expense in life. Why not just eat oatmeal for every meal? Why not carpool with 4 people instead of two. It is all about choices. If I have enough money to pay for air conditioning, then who cares. I haven’t bought a boat or a luxury vehicle. That pays for my AC. Anytime you eat out, you can say, I should put that money into the stock market. If you only make $24K a year, then you have to make tougher choices in life.

    • Chris October 7, 2014, 1:00 pm

      I think the point is that there is a continuum and people set their boundaries of what is okay and what isn’t at different places. However, that said there are empirically some luxuries/consumption patterns that have a better or worse impact on other people/the environment and the climate.

      For example, what if my luxury was smoking cigars. This, like other polluting activities can absolutely have a negative impact on people around me and therefore are generally on the less okay end of the spectrum. If your one luxury weakness is for collecting stamps or paintings this seems relatively benign, relative to flying in private jets for a weekend getaway and other options which negatively impact our climate.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods October 7, 2014, 1:06 pm

      Hey now, don’t be anti-oatmeal ;-) I eat rolled oats every morning for breakfast! Works out to $0.10 / serving, which leaves tons of room elsewhere in the food budget for splurges.

      And I think that’s the point. Be mindful about expenditures and capture efficiencies where it makes sense. For me, breakfast is fuel. So I eat a simple and healthy bowl of oats. I also splurge on other food, buying lots of organic greens and vegetables. For you the calculation might be different.

      • Gbone October 11, 2014, 8:33 am

        Here comes the anti-oatmeal crowd out of the woodwork! If you want breakfast to be your fuel you should try eating something more nutritious than a bowl of mushy grass seed laced with sugar. It is nutritionally poor food. Who cares if it’s cheap? It’s gross and it’s bad for you.

    • Clay October 7, 2014, 1:08 pm

      “That pays for my AC”

      No it doesn’t. There’s not enough of everything to go around; justifying one unnecessary expenditure by saying you didn’t incur another is like saying it’s cool to shoot heroin because you aren’t smoking crack.

      • B October 7, 2014, 7:21 pm

        There’s not enough AC to go around?

        • Aaron October 8, 2014, 8:44 am

          Yes, you are exactly correct. There is not enough AC (along with other resource consuming activities) to go around for everyone to use and not exhaust the Earth’s supply. It’s not specific to AC, and cutting out AC or not cutting out AC alone won’t resolve the problem.

          ” we now need 1.5 Earths to satisfy our current demands and desires. But that’s a global figure. Wealthy nations – such as the United States – have a larger Ecological Footprint than poorer ones, meaning they use larger areas of land and sea to maintain their lifestyles. If everyone in the world lived as Americans do, we would need 5 Earths to support humanity.”


          • B October 8, 2014, 8:55 am

            Wind and solar electricity capabilities are near infinite. My A/C runs on electricity.

            As we increase the efficiency of both our ability to collect electricity from nature and increase the efficiency of our A/C’s, vehicles, and homes, I don’t think we’re ever truly going to run in to an energy problem.

            I think our biggest concern will simply be physical space…where to put everybody. Food won’t even be a concern for awhile as all of our food is renewable resources, and our farming methods continue to get more efficient every single year.

            • Aaron October 8, 2014, 10:43 am

              It’s even simpler than that. Simply by having fewer children we can reduce the population of mankind to sustainable levels. We could all drive crazy clown cars and burn huge swaths of wilderness without ever running out if there were only a few thousand of us.

              Our current trajectory is unsustainable, that’s all that is being said. For purposes of my lifetime the amount of oil/uranium/coal remaining is effectively infinite (it won’t run out before I die). I could choose to improve things for future generations or not.

              Current levels of wind and solar electricity generation aren’t sufficient. Just like saving for retirement (making sure you will have enough money to live on for as long as you need) we can do the same for our energy use. This means that both earning more (producing more electricity sustainably) and cutting expenses (using less electricity now) will help us in the long run. But the argument isn’t just about electricity, it’s about other resources too. Rare metals obtained via strip-mining used in photovolatic cells for instance. There is a hard limit to how much we can dig up. There isn’t a hard limit on greed. Living with less can provide more for all. Thus there isn’t enough AC to go round for the whole world.

              • B October 8, 2014, 11:14 am

                Yes, it’s so simple. We’ll just implement a single world-wide socialist government and enforce the law that nobody is allowed to have more than 1 kid.

              • Aaron October 8, 2014, 11:54 am

                Glad to see you understand satire, you had me worried for a little bit.

              • Isaac November 2, 2014, 10:01 am

                Or just empower women, sinvethat has been consistently shown to decrease reproductive rates.

            • Sofie October 8, 2014, 1:04 pm

              Wind & solar aren’t even close to infinite; we’d reach the cap in 400 years or so. Efficiency gains are limited, and usually ends up consuming MORE resources, since you now get an even better deal. Modern agriculture is extremely inefficient, using up to 10 calories of nonrenewable oil per calorie of food – it’s unsustainable high yield.

              http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/post-index/ has a lot of great info on the topic.

              • B October 8, 2014, 1:44 pm

                Wind and solar are infinite, in that the wind will always blow and stars will always be burning.

                Modern agriculture is EXTREMELY efficient for producing food, and new records are set yearly for worldwide production.

                So again, when it comes to this planet handling people, the issues are not energy and food, but simply physical space that the people take up.

              • Isaac November 2, 2014, 10:20 am

                And if we had simply kept the nutrient cycle (plant/food -> mouth -> poop&pee/fertilizer -> repeat) intact all the synthetic fertilizers produced in the last century could of simply increased the amount of organic matter in the nutrient cycle and instead of facing mass famine and resource wars (and by resource wars, I mean wars where there is little pretense of it being about anything other than resources) when we run out of synthetic fertilizers we would instead just have the population leveling off… this isn’t as awful as it sounds because as long as we have enough synthetic fertilizers to grow a generation from conception to adualthood we should be able to add to the nutrient cycle and avert famine.

    • kiwano October 7, 2014, 8:15 pm

      I’ve bought a boat. I live on it. My dad lives in a house out in the exurbs, and I’ve been helping him out with chores and stuff a bunch lately. duringthistime it’s become clear to me that while a boat is a bloody expensive toy, it’s really quite an affordable residence (my annual mooring and maintenance costs are lower than his property tax and maintenance costs).

      Apart from being able to enjoy yachting, my big expensive luxury is a way-too-fancy bike that I built for myself when I worked at a bike shop. 3 years of maintenance on the thing cost me enough to buy a perfectly serviceable mustachian ride, but I like to tell myself that I save that each year in carsharing and rentals because it’s just that much easier and more comfortable to ride for longer distnces and with heavy loads.

  • Sir Salty October 7, 2014, 12:18 pm

    Great article.

    To expand on your second paragraph (double-blind tests): it has helped my wife & I to understand that trying something out, or testing, isn’t permanent. It’s pretty freeing to realize that if we don’t like a life-change then we can always go back. It’s not trying that is the shame because then we wouldn’t know.

    That perspective ultimately got us there on TV. We cut it off to sample cable-less lives with the full knowledge that the TV companies would be happy to cut it right back on if we didn’t like it. Haven’t gone back though.

    • Jeff October 7, 2014, 12:37 pm

      I’ve managed to talk my wife into trying it when this season of Boardwalk Empire ends… haha

      • Steve October 8, 2014, 6:19 am

        eztv.it and a $35 Chromecast will allow you to cut the cable and still get your Boardwalk Empire episodes!

    • Eldred October 7, 2014, 1:13 pm

      If I could watch auto racing(specifically Formula 1) without cable, I’d probably do it in a heartbeat. I was able to watch ONE race online at the office one weekend that I had a power outage at home, but I had to sign in under my cable account. I may shut it off after the last race of the season, and hope I find another way to watch by the start of NEXT season. That would save me maybe $150 for the 3 months… Not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but I’m trying to get used to the idea of ‘every little bit helps’. The trick is to not let that money trickle away on…whatever.

      • Thrifty McHaggis October 10, 2014, 11:29 pm

        Using BBC Iplayer with a Hotspot Shield subscription will get you Formula 1 races without cable, and with British commentators as well. It also gets you loads of great British TV programming, all with no commercials.

        • Just Pete October 15, 2014, 10:57 am

          I’m assuming you’re watching the content from outside the UK (given you’ve implied you need the VPN), and you’re breaking the BBC’s terms of use by doing so. Furthermore, this increases the BBC’s costs which are passed on to TV licence payers and all British tax payers.

          If your options are
          1) Skip the F1
          2) Pay for a cable service to watch F1
          3) Use a VPN to break the BBC’s terms of use, to watch F1 that _I’m_ paying for
          … I ask that you go for 1 or 2. 3 seems pretty unethical to me.

          • Mr. Money Mustache October 16, 2014, 10:10 am

            I can heartily endorse option 1 – everybody wins!

            • Eldred October 16, 2014, 10:17 am

              Not if you enjoy F1 racing…

          • Eldred October 16, 2014, 10:23 am

            I didn’t mention a VPN, and neither did Thrifty, so I’m not sure what(or who) you’re referring to. Unless you meant the Hotspot Shield?
            I was able to watch F1 online through the MSNBC website, I believe(I’d have to look it up again). So there’s no terms of use being broken there. But I don’t know if that same process would work if I cancel my cable TV.

          • Thrifty McHaggis October 16, 2014, 12:01 pm

            I don’t think it’s unethical. I am a UK citizen and taxpayer, so I’m helping pay for the programs. No TV license is required to download and watch BBC programs in the UK, only live streaming broadcasts.

            The BBC are increasing their own costs and foregoing a huge revenue stream by not providing a paid access alternative to their expat audience. I would gladly pay the £12/month ($18) TV license fee if they’d offer that choice, and many others feel the same. The BBC is a much better value than paying for US cable TV.

            I encourage everyone to support the BBC financially if they enjoy the programming, and I hope the BBC will soon give its fans an easy non-controversial option for doing so. Meanwhile, if it eases your conscience, I’m sure UK Inland Revenue gladly accepts donations.

    • CheapMom October 7, 2014, 1:34 pm

      Love the in-house experiments. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but you never know until you try! It’s great knowing they’re not “permanent”. We tried no A/C this summer. Got through the whole summer except the week we turned it on when we went on Vacation to help dehumidify the house after a botched DIY plumbing incident. Will we leave our A/C off forever? Probably not, the humidity made sleeping pretty unbearable for us. Will we go back to blasting A/C for 5 months of the year? Never. Now we know how much AC we need as human animals to be optimally happy.

  • Nicole October 7, 2014, 12:19 pm

    I don’t understand why religion and science can’t coexist. Isn’t the idea of God is him being the greatest scientist ever and we learn more as time goes on?

    • Dragline October 7, 2014, 12:31 pm

      You might not know it from public discourse, but they can and do — it all depends on who you talk to. But people who want to get along make much less noise than those looking for conflict.

    • JB October 7, 2014, 12:34 pm

      Because Science is fact and religion is based on faith. You can’t prove there is a God, which is what it basically comes down to.

      • NP October 7, 2014, 12:56 pm

        I agree that is what differentiates science and religion. However, science hasn’t proved that there isn’t a God so believing either way takes faith at this point…

        • Scott October 7, 2014, 7:20 pm

          Because you can’t prove that something doesn’t exist. That’s like me asking you to prove that you don’t know to ride a bike: you can’t do it because it’s an impossible request. I mean, you could go fall over a few times or slide into a tree, but for all I know you’re faking a lack of ability. Meanwhile, if I asked you to prove you could ride a bike, and you really could, all you’d have to do is get on one and ride around a block or two. Therefore, in the context of religion, the burden of proof rests on those who believe in God to prove that it is a Real Thing. Otherwise, the default assumption is Null– that is, there is no God.

          • Ferruccio October 10, 2014, 11:42 pm

            So how did chemists prove that `flogiston` didn’t exist? How did physicists prove that `ether` didn’t exist? You stated it’s impossible to do so… yet they did!-)

            If the hypothetical characteristics, behavior and consequences of hypothetical entity X are decently well-defined, it’s quite possible to prove empirically that X doesn’t exist — design experiments where the existence of X would have predictable results Y, run the exp, see if Y shows up or not.

            The problem with `God` is not all all what you state: rather, it’s that `God`’s definition is not very precise and subject to empirical proof ot dis-proof.

            Epicurus asserted that `gods` (plural, as per the consensus of his time) exist, but don’t care about this world and have no effect on it. Now THAT is an unprovable assertion either way — `existence` of an entity that’s asserted to be unobservable is indeed neither provable nor dis-provable.

            But, any God (or `gods`) who ARE asserted to have effects on this world — such as the One Jewish/Christian/Muslim God — would be provable AND dis-provable as soon as their alleged effects are precisely defined (you might still not be able to tell if it’s Yahve, the Trinity, or Allah, if close enough in their alleged effects — but, you’d be able, after experimenting, to state that none of them is around, OR that one of them or something very similar IS).

        • B October 7, 2014, 7:23 pm

          Here comes the part where everyone says “you can’t prove a negative” so therefore religious people are wrong.

          So f’ing annoying.

      • Mother Fussbudget October 7, 2014, 12:59 pm

        I don’t know why this made me think of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, and the Babel fish…

        “The Final Proof of the non-Existence of God was proved by a Babel Fish.

        Now, it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some have chosen to see it as the final proof of the NON-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:

        “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

        “But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that You exist, and so therefore, by Your own arguments, You don’t. QED”

        “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

        “Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”

      • LennStar October 7, 2014, 1:35 pm

        faith ends were science starts

        Luckily for believers, you cant prove that God doesnt exist. As long as everyone respects this, there is no problem in believing in His Noodliness.

        Problem is when you hold your believes (esp. in what some elder men have written thousands of years ago) higher then science (what older men have written thousands of minutes ago).
        The bible is an amazing book, full of useful guidelines and explanations. Problems are that 1) a lot of them are just outdated for a years, sometimes centuries (bc of things like birth control) and 2) the mordern reader understands it very differently.
        You just have to adjustsome details of your believe sometimes.

        Science is not very different from believe in God, really. It starts with a believe (called a theory), then proof for or against is shown (does the ship come back from the other side?), and then a new believe/theory is born and gets installed in place of the old, when the believers of the first one die out (as some famous scientists so delicately said about the quantum theory). It is really very similar.

        The problem is that we often dont have the time to let the old believers die out.

        • B October 7, 2014, 7:25 pm

          Why does birth control mean the Bible is outdated?

          • LennStar October 8, 2014, 2:08 am

            It means because there was no reliable birth control in the times the bible was written, all the advice and “moral” results are based on reasons that are no longer here. (look down to sara)

        • sara October 7, 2014, 9:08 pm

          The Bible does not say anything about birth control.

          • LennStar October 8, 2014, 2:14 am

            How about “no sex before marriage”?
            Thats 100% birth control . It was also used by Malthus for excact this reason, thats why he proposed no marriage before a well aged age, to prevent population getting bigger rises then production of food.

            No sex with people you are not marriaged to, esp. for women?
            That is a necessity (birth control) to assure sucession in a patrilineal society.

        • Druid October 8, 2014, 12:04 am

          Science tries to explain how the world works through observable events and religion tries to explain how the world works through emotional conjecture.

          • Scbtl October 9, 2014, 12:34 am

            That’s not quite right, Science makes an attempt determine the accuracy of a hypothesis through repeatable experimentation. Religion is an attempt to make the hypothesis where there is a lack of previous experimentation.
            There are a wide variety of religions in the world, and the main point of them is to try to make a hypothesis of why things happen. Science comes along and the hypothesis is either confirmed or denied.
            The simple rapid decent to “emotional conjecture” undermines your argument as you are using “emotional conjecture” to define religion.

    • Dave October 7, 2014, 12:46 pm

      Science and religion definitely can co-exist because they are addressing two completely different things. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this article about the difference between what people think science is, and what it actually is. Science is not the pursuit of truth or the search for the cause of all things, it is simply testing theories through controlled experimentation.


    • rjack October 7, 2014, 1:01 pm

      In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the author argues that Science is sort of a religion that belongs to the Church of Reason. The experimental or inductive logic used in science assumes that the universe will behave tomorrow as it has today. This is taken on faith because it has been true for so long. It is a really interesting book.

      • The Roamer October 7, 2014, 2:38 pm

        Yes that is a really interesting idea. I am currently reading a book on Buddhism and one of the things it mentions is that the only constant is change and so even simple things that are proven ” facts” are really just our perceptions.
        For example the facts of the north pole or south pole. Those have been constant and are regarded as facts but its been said they switch polarity every so often so is it still a fact?

        • Glenstache October 7, 2014, 4:41 pm

          Actually, the north pole has moved within your lifetime:

          Full reversals are less frequent, but numerous in the geologic record.

          Be very careful when transitioning between religion/philosophy and science. Some words are used in both, but are used/constrained very differently. This is especially true with use of words like “facts”.

          If a person could demonstrate that the application of physics has changed through time (or space), that would be incorporated into the conduct of science. The conflation of science with churches and faith is usually an attempt to redefine a way of thinking into an organizational structure… which misses the point.

          PS- I’ve read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance twice… I think MMM could have a lot of fun with the concept of “gumption traps.”

          • queen of string October 7, 2014, 9:58 pm

            I have read it twice too, made a lot more sense the second time around :-)

    • Oh Yonghao October 7, 2014, 1:13 pm

      The problem arises when religion tries to make scientific claims, or to control, or belittle people. When religion teaches the Earth is only 6,000 years old it is hard to have it coexist with science which shows the Earth to be 4.54 billion years old. The idea of God has changed throughout human history, from multiple pluralistic religions to monotheism. Religion was our first gander at understanding the world, it is also our worst.

      This debate can go on very long, from the existence of a god, to the original of humans, and into our source of morality. Some may argue that religion deals with spiritual things, and science with physical things, but again religion tends to want to step into science and declare things that can’t possibly be true.

      You could start with a deistic explanation, with god being a prime mover, the instigator of the universe, who set the worlds in motion and then stands aside while it works its course. This is highly unprovable, which makes it a very weak theory. Then you have to take a jump into theism and a personal god who chooses to intervene in people’s life. In this god is no longer just a great scientist who had set the laws of physics in motion, but goes around screwing with the results. This is where the mammalian in us is very apparent. We take correlations to mean causation. The fact that you took an herb on your 6th day of being sick and on the 7th day you were better doesn’t mean that the herb did anything for you necessarily, it may just mean that the illness needed 7 days to work itself out.

      It is when religion pushes faith over science, when people forgo blood transfusions, or chemo therapy, or even insulin for diabetics, in pursuit of their faith above all else that science and religion cannot coexist, and it becomes harmful to the individual. This is without getting into endless wars and conflicts, social policies, etc. heralded by religion to the detriment of society as a whole.

      Science requires evidence, and changes as new evidence is brought forth. Religion thrives on faith and tries to shut out new evidence, and to disprove it, or set it aside. It is by no coincidence that the time period with religion in power was also the time with the lowest amount of progress in science and technology, a time which we refer to as the dark ages.

      • Dragline October 7, 2014, 1:46 pm

        Then why do respected scientific organizations give awards to people like this?


        “The Carl Sagan Medal (hereafter referred to as the Sagan Medal) was established by the DPS to recognize and honor outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public. It is to be awarded to scientists whose efforts have significantly contributed to a public understanding of, and enthusiasm for, planetary science.”

        Is the good brother an “active scientist” or a religious person? Or is he both? And how can he be both if the two things can’t co-exist peacefully?

        And how could we uphold Isaac Newton as one of the greatest scientists when he also dabbled in alchemy and used bibilical interpretation to predict that the world will end in 2060?

        Too many people on both sides looking to foment conflict instead of conciliation.

        • Trekker52 October 8, 2014, 8:17 pm

          Bro Guy is both an active scientist and a religious person and worthy of admiration. His book, God’s Mechanics (How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion) is a great read, especially if anyone loved Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Science and religion are not exclusive. St. John Paul II addressed the Vatican Observatory in June 1988 indicating that each should draw its own conclusions, yet remain open to the discoveries and insights of the other.

      • tallgirl12014 October 7, 2014, 2:06 pm

        My dad made it pretty simple. He was an engineer, literally a “rocket scientist”– and he believed in the laws of physics and mathematics, unreservedly. He also sang in the Methodist church choir and was a devout and beloved child of God.

        When we were introduced to evolution in school (this was back in the day, the 1960s), a note got sent home requiring a parental signature (!) for us to attend the classes.

        My dad signed the paper, looked at me, and said “there is no conflict between science and faith. You don’t have to make one where none exists. You just have to be able to hold two ideas in your mind at once.”

        It wasn’t very complicated, and it never bothered me to hold both ideas at once. What does bother me is when someone else tells me I’m not allowed to be a Christian who believes in science– that I have to choose. No thanks, I’ll embrace both.

        • B October 7, 2014, 7:29 pm

          Agreed. Thank you for posting.

          “What does bother me is when someone else tells me I’m not allowed to be a Christian who believes in science– that I have to choose. No thanks, I’ll embrace both.”


        • Oh Yonghao October 8, 2014, 11:51 am

          That is all fine as long as you don’t try to profess that your book, constructed by committee around 1700 years ago is 100% accurate and the absolute truth and word of god. One large problem I have is when religious people defend their faith as being true, and the bible as the unfailable word of god.

          You can’t fully embrace that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, or that man came from dust, and woman from a rib, or the origin of the human species is from a clot of blood, while fully embracing astronomy, geology, and biology.

          • Mike Earl October 8, 2014, 12:23 pm

            Oh Yonghao,

            Why do you have a problem with Christians believing the Bible is infallible, or that the earth is young? Are you trying to control thought?

            Also: do you have a more plausible scenario for the beginning of life on earth?


            • Oh Yonghao October 20, 2014, 11:28 am

              “Are you trying to control thought?”

              Is MMM having a problem with people driving trying to control their mode of transportation? Is having a problem with Obama trying to control the US? Is having a problem with bleach trying to control your whites?

              This isn’t exactly the forum to get into problems with Christians believing the bible is infallible, other than the utter stupidity of it. But a belief like that leads to wars, suppression, rationalization for slavery, stoning, homophobia, and failed attempts at faith healing instead of proven medical remedies, like what is currently going on in Canada, and recently happened in Oregon.

              Washington state is running into problems with Catholic ran hospitals refusing to provide care, forcing doctors to conform to their own ideologies in recommendations to patients. They buy up hospitals, and now over 30% of beds are in catholic ran hospitals. Refusal to terminate an ectopic pregnancy except for removal of the fallopian tube, and not just refusal, but not even notifying the patient that there are much safer options than major surgery.

          • tallgirl1204 October 8, 2014, 4:07 pm

            Please don’t tell me what I can’t do, and I will refrain from telling you what you can do. I am able to hold two thoughts in my head at once, one being science and observable facts, and the other being a spiritual and deeply personal truth.

            So yes, when I read the Genesis story, I am reading the truth that that in a spiritual sense, this earth is a beautiful place worthy of care, and I am a beloved child of God (as is everyone else I come into contact with on a daily basis– whether or not I like them very much, my understanding is that they are God’s beloved and it is my duty to act accordingly.) In a spiritual sense, I am dust and to dust I will return (I admit I am not on board with the rib thing).

            It may not be “true” in your meaning as in physically observable “scientific fact” but it is Truth in a spiritual sense, for me. All I am asking is that people not confuse the two– maybe that is what you are trying to say, also.

            My son goes to a school where some of his classmates are taught at home that the earth is 6,000 years old, while a considerable block of others know that their ancestors emerged from the Sipapu near the Colorado River. These are deeply held truths that are part of their ancestry and their story about what it is to be human.

            All of these kids will learn about science and evolution at school, and some of them (like I did) will have books at home about science and evolution (remember Life Science books?) and I”m sure many of them, like me, will grow up to be people who can hold both sets of ideas side by side.

            So please don’t tell me what my truth is. Thank you.

            • Oh Yonghao October 8, 2014, 4:37 pm

              If you go redefining words then we are no longer talking the same language, hence it is very easy for others to get confused at what you’re trying to say.

              It sounds like you don’t believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, you like the story and morals taught like a Disney movie, or Greek and Roman folklore. You don’t hold the bible to be infallible, you hold it to whatever interpretation you feel like, doing the cherry-picking of verses like an all you can eat buffet.

              This is the most annoying part of debates with religious people, you can’t hold them to what their proclaimed scriptures say because they’ll say they take it in a spiritual sense, or they disagree with their religious leaders interpretation, or more boldly just say they don’t believe that part. It sounds as if you make the decision to apply science to all aspects of life that doesn’t conflict with whatever you want to believe.

              I stand by my claim that you can’t fully embrace both. You don’t let the evidence lead you where it may when it comes to religion or spirituality. Try to examine the idea of god and all the nonsense it entails, ask the tough questions, seek answers.

              You can believe whatever you think is truth, it doesn’t change reality.

              • Tallgirl1204 October 8, 2014, 10:40 pm

                I understand that you have no respect for spiritual belief or truths. I thought I could request and receive your respect, and with disappointment I realize I have not explained myself well. Never mind; I know how many questions I have asked and how far I have chased “nonsense,” as you put it, to find this truth I live in. Be well.

              • Trifele October 9, 2014, 7:54 am

                Oh Yonghao — Respectfully, I think you need to take a step back here. You seem to feel that “religious intellectual” is an oxymoron, and that spiritual beliefs hinder folks from doing the right, tough things. It just isn’t so. I am secular, but when I was younger I attended Catholic school, public school, and a prestigious private university. The best teachers I ever had — hands down — were in Catholic school. There I had the privilege to learn from kind, principled, and brilliant teachers. There are many good people in the world who, in TallGirl’s beautiful phrase, are “able to hold both sets of ideas side by side.”
                You appear to want to write them all off, or at the very least challenge them, because their paradigm does not make sense to you.
                Is this really the best use of your time? In my opinion life is far too short and precious to focus on our private spiritual differences. I prefer to focus on others’ deeds, and on doing well myself.

              • Tim October 10, 2014, 8:45 pm

                “This is the most annoying part of debates with religious people, you can’t hold them to what their proclaimed scriptures say because they’ll say they take it in a spiritual sense.”

                Why on Earth is it not acceptable to take a religious text in a spiritual sense?!

                Understanding a religious text in a spiritual or metaphorical sense seems to be an appropriate understanding of the writing. Interpretations may vary, but literal reading of religious texts usually seem to be severely misguided.

                Most of these religious texts are written the form of poetry or in fables. These are forms that throughout the history of human writing and storytelling have been specifically intended to be interpreted, not taken literally.

                Those who read the Bible (or the Torah, or the Quran, etc.) with a literal mindset seem to be misinterpreting them. This is true for the fundamentalists who insist that the Earth is 6000 years old. This is also true for atheists trying to play gotcha with anyone who is even vaguely religious.

                Also, yes, I do prefer morals taught through story–Disney, Greek fables, Aesop, Hans Christian Anderson, The Brothers Grimm (who didn’t write the stories–they were basically early anthropologists collecting stories). All of these are fascinating. I don’t agree with all of the morals, but they are excellent tools for teaching critical thinking.

                “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
                –Albert Einstein

              • green_knight008 October 14, 2014, 2:38 pm

                Science began in the halls of religion. That is a historical fact. Science requires a certain amount of faith, as does religion. If you don’t understand that, then I would submit that your understanding of science is limited in scope. Personally, it appears that you just hate religion, specifically Christianity. Too bad, as scientific studies have proven that belief in God tends to be a psychological advantage in life, one which apparently you do not have, and are unwilling to explore.

              • Oh Yonghao October 20, 2014, 11:55 am

                Since we have reached the thread max I will respond to myself.

                Tallgirl1204, perhaps I didn’t explain myself clearly. Yes, you can hold two conflicting ideas in your head, go ahead, I can’t stop you, but I don’t see a need to respect it.

                Trifele, religious intellectuals have to be intellectually dishonest to a point to hold both conflicting ideas. Sometimes they are a hindrance, just as anyone’s bias is a hindrance to progression. I don’t spend much time debating people’s private beliefs, but when they start lobbying for laws, writing out special privileges, or proselyting to me then it is no longer their private belief. Tallgirl1204 is holding two conflicting ideas, not just two ideas, side by side. To entertain a conflicting idea is one thing, but to not see it for what it is is another.

                Tim, perhaps I should have explained it differently. The annoying part is when they first argue something like the infallibility of their holy text, but when you bring up examples of contradiction, or conflicts, then they say, oh, but that part is meant in a spiritual sense. Had you not brought up the contradiction they would have continued to insist on its literalness. It is a game of changing the goal posts, rewriting definitions to fit their needs, and rationalizing to keep from having cognitive dissonance. If only they would all admit that their scripture is but poetry and fables!

                green_knight008, I have explored religion before. Being brought up Baptist, converting to Mormonism, serving a mission for 2 years, then afterwards realizing religion for the bullshit that it is. I’d be interested in these studies that prove a belief in the supernatural benefits people. A cursory look on google showed items such as, “Belief in God supports prejudices against gays and atheist”, and “those of higher intelligence less likely to believe in God”. Your argument for science being founded in the halls of religion also needs some more details, do you mean that religious institutions funded the scientists and philosophers? Or that it was a religious belief that led them to seek out a better understanding of their surroundings? Or some other meaning?

                To continue this conversation, feel free to contact me through my website available in my name, we have worn out our space here.

      • Matth October 7, 2014, 4:01 pm

        “It is when religion pushes faith over science, when people forgo blood transfusions, or chemo therapy, or even insulin for diabetics, in pursuit of their faith above all else that science and religion cannot coexist, and it becomes harmful to the individual. This is without getting into endless wars and conflicts, social policies, etc. heralded by religion to the detriment of society as a whole.

        Science requires evidence, and changes as new evidence is brought forth. Religion thrives on faith and tries to shut out new evidence, and to disprove it, or set it aside. It is by no coincidence that the time period with religion in power was also the time with the lowest amount of progress in science and technology, a time which we refer to as the dark ages”

        That’s certainly one interpretation of religious history, but it seems strongly limited by a distinctly Western and post-Enlightenment viewpoint. Your last sentence, for instance, is using “religion” when you really mean the Roman Catholic Church, since the Muslim world at the same time pushed scientific inquiry forward yet the state was essentially defined by its religion. In fact, it’s less secularism and more a dualist mentality which has allowed science and technology to progress, as tallgirl2014 alluded to below. The Enlightenment wasn’t notable because religion was thrown off, but because a secondary way of viewing the physical world was adopted alongside the religious. (Religion had actually been thrown off in the century and a half before, as the grip of the Pope was loosened through the Reformation.)

        My historical objections aside, what I really have a problem with is what you leave unsaid. You claim variously that science changes with evidence, while religion does not. You also make the claim that there’s some correlation between religion and “wars, social policies, etc.” which is not present with science. And further you suggest that the instances of mortal harm to the individual caused by religious belief are negative, while there are no similarly destructive actions caused by either a scientific or an non-religious personal ethic.

        To properly reply to all of that would take much too much space, isn’t appropriate here, and probably wouldn’t do anything to change your opinion or anyone else’s. However, let me at least mention these points:

        – Science rejects evidence, although this is often only generational. Still, Einstein refused to accept quantum uncertainty. Those scientists who hold to older opinions are often vehemently and even violently opposed to the new ideas.

        – Medieval Christianity had incredible moments of barbarism, but so did the 20th century rationalists. Stalin purged a million people in a nation with an official atheism, Hitler killed millions with no discernible ideology beyond the German State. Even today, there’s a war in Ukraine between people who speak two slightly different languages based on whether they want to buy goods from countries to the east or to the west. Religion may be used to gin up support for wars, but humans seem completely capable of brutalizing each other without God as justification.

        – And, yes, it’s sad to see someone die because of refusing medical treatment. But being a human, and having faith, isn’t necessarily about avoiding death and discomfort, but understanding it. Perhaps to those individuals, experiencing the fullness of their human condition through their terminal cancer enriched their experience of the divine in a way that you and I will never understand. And on the other side, regardless of your personal opinion of its legality, abortion does cause deep emotional scarring that is in its own way deeply harmful to the individual.

        You can, of course, say that this isn’t science I’m criticizing, and you’d be right. It’s humanity. But that’s kind of the point: there is no argument between science and religion. The argument is between science and humanity. Science is not a personal ethos, it is a methodological philosophy for investigation of observable phenomena and nothing more.

        • Matth October 7, 2014, 4:04 pm

          After posting this, I feel metaphorically tainted and need to state that I have a degree in hard science, work in a STEM profession, and unequivocally support a scientific interpretation of nature including Darwinian evolution. I’ve grown tired, however, of listening to the manufactured arguments between religion and science ignore the place of the human mind and its irrationality in driving personal choice and world history.

        • Oh Yonghao October 8, 2014, 11:33 am

          - Einstein had opinions on quantum mechanics, we didn’t have tools such as the large hadron collider yet, and the theory was in its infancy. A lot of time was put into each paper in various debates over the completeness of the theory and its statistical nature. I don’t see any headlines of Einstein and his followers bombing Bohr’s laboratories, or passing laws mandating only relativity be taught in schools, or requiring permission slips to teach quantum mechanics, or describing it as “just a theory”.

          – The arab advancement is an interesting thing to look at, it is there which we saw the invention of 0, algebra, and the naming of many of the stars. Then it’s flame was quenched and has fallen behind the rest of the world in contribution to science and advancement in human rights.

          – Hitler and Stalin both used religion to their advantage in controlling the people, and even if that were not so it is still a far claim to say, and a false dichotomy, that if it wasn’t religion then it must be science. The Japanese Emperor took it one step further and declared himself a god.

          I believe we at least both acknowledge the false dichotomy of the argument being science or religion.

          Religion gets in the way of science when they seek to legislate privilege, control or limit education, and protest, remove, or limit human autonomy.

          • Matth October 8, 2014, 1:25 pm

            I do not agree that “religion” gets in the way of anything. There is a strong tendency for groups of people to exert control over others, and they will use whatever excuse is handy to do that. Whether that is a religion, philosophy, or science, there will always be people who abuse it.

            Bohr and Einstein may not have come to blows, but eugenics was officially accepted for a very long time and was used to justify very real brutality. And there’s even a growing movement of direct action among the global warming crowd.

            Stalin, by the way, did not use religion in any way to justify the Great Purge, and unreservedly prosecuted the Orthodox Church. Hitler wasn’t as clearly separated from religion as Stalin, but his justifications were distinct enough that people continue to debate the role of religion in both his personal philosophy and the state justifications for the Holocaust.

            To be perfectly clear about my opinion, I totally understand what you’re saying, but I think you have a myopic view of the history and context you’re referring to.

        • SisterX October 8, 2014, 12:57 pm

          “And on the other side, regardless of your personal opinion of its legality, abortion does cause deep emotional scarring that is in its own way deeply harmful to the individual.”

          The same could be said for having children. There are books written about mothers who lose their identities in motherhood, and women who get PTSD from the very act of giving birth.

          Please don’t bring abortion into this debate. It’s a silly strawman argument here, and very out of place.

          • Matth October 8, 2014, 1:30 pm

            Oh Yonghao’s original point was that religion causes human suffering, while science does not. This is patently false, for a number of reasons, among them the fact that science is only a methodology and that humans have a tendency to cause suffering regardless of their beliefs. I used abortion to illustrate that example, since it’s a stereotypically non-religious action which causes pain and suffering, but I could have used any number of examples. Such as engaging in comment debates online.

            Still, I don’t think it’s out of place, and I don’t think it’s a strawman argument.

            • SisterX October 9, 2014, 10:44 am

              Abortion isn’t a non-religious action. I know plenty of spiritual women who’ve had abortions for one reason or another. In a country where 1 in 3 women has had or will have an abortion, you can’t categorically say that none of them are religious. It’s not a scientific act which causes pain and suffering, it’s a personal decision which is frequently difficult for all parties involved. So yes, it is a strawman argument because you’re labeling it improperly as a “non-religious action” to obfuscate your real point.

              • Matth October 9, 2014, 11:05 am

                My point, which I stated in my original post, was that we’re discussing a false dichotomy when we discuss religion and science. It’s really about a logical methodology versus the reality of being human, which is irrational. Science does not give us an alternative belief system which can supplant religion or spirituality. It’s my fault for letting that original point get lost in my response to you, but that’s what I was trying to say to Oh Yonghao.

        • Jeff October 8, 2014, 1:00 pm

          “abortion does cause deep emotional scarring that is in its own way deeply harmful to the individual”
          This is repeated often by pro-life activists. Anecdotally, I know that many women report NO ill effects. Where’s the research?

          • Matth October 8, 2014, 1:37 pm

            I’m not making a statement against abortion, although I guess any time someone says the word, the hounds will bay from one side or the other.

            I guess I should really respond by requesting the research that those who die due to religious belief feel that they suffered any ill effects.

        • Ted Hu October 8, 2014, 7:18 pm

          In the end, boils to evolution.

          Given ours, based on fight or flight, mitigating fear and surviving, the need for certitude is paramount for almost all humans except for a few enlightened ones.

          Religion and science both attempt to bridge the gulf of uncertainty.

          Given religion doesn’t require evidence and repeatable experimental proof, it can make some grand claims of free lunches that people latch on to, as a mortal crutch.

          Similarly science only lost its cachet when it failed to deliver – engendering more doubts than answers, its inability to stand up to religious certitude and its certain semantics e.g. accuracy over assertiveness – gravity is a theory, as is electromagnetism which is mediating this conversation for all of us, and yet because of its marketing and people’s mortal life and attention spans, it is not enough.

          Ntm science implicitly has enabled globalization and the loss of jobs, however inaccurate that perception may be. The world is complicated, more people than ever have grown out of the rubble that was WWII and now compete with Americans who are not sure of their footing anymore.

          So in that context, it is no surprise religion wins out more than I like, as it always has. In the end, all religion is a tribal device to garner power for economic gain. ISIL wants more land and oil using religion and ultra violence to obtain it. Kicks AQ out of mideast, who now goes to India to start a new membership drive. Terrorists are promised 72 virgins in the afterlife. Putin decides to do a grab job for oil and trade ports under guise of nationalism.

          All of which brings me back to my original point. Evolutionary survival underpins all our behaviors and beliefs. A life well lived is the unique accomplishment of human civilization and science which has brought more good in a brief time thanks to enlightenment. It’s useful to wrest with these issues knowing what unifies us is our mortality and what will afford a meaningful life is cooperation and open-mindedness so we evolve into a more symbiotic and sustainable species and a far less cancerous and calcified one than we are today.

      • JustLiberty October 10, 2014, 5:09 pm

        ” It is by no coincidence that the time period with religion in power was also the time with the lowest amount of progress in science and technology, a time which we refer to as the dark ages.”

        And I suppose that it is similarly no coincidence that DesCartes, Newton, Bacon, and many of the other lights that brought us out of the dark ages were ‘religious’ ?

  • CL October 7, 2014, 12:19 pm

    Thanks for your sensible talking-to on the value of scientific reasoning. I think your emphasis on logical reasoning is why you attract so many engineers. :)

  • interestingreadinglist October 7, 2014, 12:23 pm

    Unfortunately, in an economy based on greed, this is not an uncommon mindset. So much manipulation is disguised as reason and science, that those of a strong independent mindset can sometimes struggle to differentiate between truth and falseness, especially when being attemptedito be convinced to do something for the right reasons. You can’t win them all, as at the end of it all, people are free to consume as much as they want, so you will always get some people who are like this. Trolling is quick and fun in the short term, however a little counter productive.

  • Robin October 7, 2014, 12:29 pm

    I hate to hear that he’s from Alabama because that’s such a cliche. We Southerners are not all ignorant, I assure you. I love your response to his comment though! Wonder what nuggets of wisdom he would offer us if he saw this article (not that he will.) I get the impression that he probably didn’t subscribe to your blog which is a HUGE LOSS.

    • WageSlave October 8, 2014, 10:22 am

      “Here in Alabama… When I’m drinking I set it even lower…”

      The way he phrased his comment, and that he called out “when I’m drinking” in such a way as to suggest it has particular significance isn’t helping the stereotype! When I read that, Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel’s theme song started playing in my head: “Some folk’ll never lose a toe, but then again, some folk’ll. Some folk’ll never eat a skunk, but then again some folk’ll…”

  • Ron October 7, 2014, 12:29 pm

    Great article! And that’s a great analysis of Jared’s angry ignorant post.

    I stumbled on this one grammar error in section 3: “uncomfortable the science” should be “uncomfortable with science”.

  • Steve October 7, 2014, 12:29 pm

    Hope Jared has the fortitude to accept his dishing of humble pie you smacked down on him with that verbal jujitsu.

    This was an amazing post.

  • Jeff October 7, 2014, 12:31 pm

    God damn, what a small-minded tool. Luxury truly is just another form of weakness.
    Here (also) in Alabama, I turned off my AC almost two weeks ago and began my semiannual game of seeing how long we can go in spring and fall without climate control. The savings from what many people spend here could exceed his $50 figure in a single week. If we only make it two months, that $400 will pay for the insulation I plan on blowing into our new house before winter hits, with a lifetime return of thousands. All that money, just for spending two minutes a day, two hours in total, playing a little game with fans and curtains.
    But I’m the sucka.

  • Jason October 7, 2014, 12:33 pm

    Hey MMM – I’m with you in theory, but I have a criticism about the “science”. Right now I don’t hear a conversation between scientists on the subject, in fact for over a decade all that I’ve heard is that there is a “consensus” about global warming among scientists. That always angered me. I don’t go to scientists for consensus, I go to them for science. The problem is that I have yet to see the experiments that show mankind is behind the climate change that we are experiencing and that said climate change is taking us down a catastrophic road. All I get is “the scientists have decided, so shut up”. Yeah, but, I think to myself that most great advancements in science have come by questioning a consensus of the scientists of the day. I *believe* in global warming, but that’s something I take on faith based on gross observations. Will somebody show us the conclusions reached through the deployment of Science?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 3:25 pm

      The scientists are sharing their experiments every day! The key is that you have to read about it their journals rather than in mainstream newspapers, which prefer to cover the “controversy” as if it were a horse race, because that gets more page views than actual science.

      You can start reading here: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

      Just make sure you brew a strong coffee, because while scientists are valuable contributors to society, they generally suck at creating engaging narrative :-)

      • Matth October 7, 2014, 4:10 pm

        It’s important to note that there are HUGE unknowns, and that the models suck. As far as I have been able to find, none of the models predicted the warming trend would slow over the last decade as the oceans absorbed additional heat. That’s, like, a total failure. There are other examples, too, of observed behavior differing really, really greatly from the predictions.

        That said, I have seen NOTHING which fundamentally undermines the hypothesis that the Earth is warming, and that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary driver. That, to me, is the key point.

        (Forgive my caps lock.)

        • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 4:16 pm

          I agree, chaos theory itself shows how difficult it is to know much about our climate. Sometimes it is just wiser to say that we “don’t yet know”. Even scientists that have access to all the official figures disagree over what is happening to our climate and why.

        • Rebecca October 7, 2014, 10:40 pm

          The models are constantly improving… I suspect you’ve never tried to model anything (let me tell you – it’s not easy!). Only now are we developing the computing power to run these extremely complex models.

          As computers become more powerful, and we collect more data, we are able to build better models. A great example of a model is here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ourchangingworld/audio/20147217/climate-lessons-from-antarctica

          • Matth October 9, 2014, 9:54 am

            Sure, modeling is hard, but the models still suck.

            The models, however, are only part of the science of global warming. Not being a climate scientist, I can’t really comment on their role, but it seems to me that the core of global warming comes from observations of the environment and comparison to historical records (either natural or man-made). In fact, it seems likely to me that global warming would be strongly supported even if models were entirely disregarded.

            If that isn’t true, then I guess I would probably be more skeptical, but I really doubt the models are that important to the general hypothesis.

            • Maria October 9, 2014, 6:30 pm

              By day, I specialize in climate change and how to help people wrap their heads around the enormous complexity you mention and what it means for their jobs and livelihoods. The observational record is quite clear (per IPCC report above) and compelling, and it’s this evidence that points to climate change as something that is actually happening.

              Models that projected change aren’t so much trying to prove that climate change is happening (although they can be one line of evidence when used retroactively…), but rather to give us a sense of what direction we are heading in.

              They do suck in a lot of ways– I hate to make the comparison between weather and climate, but think of how hard is to accurately project how much it will rain tomorrow or next month or next year. Now add 85 years. The models aren’t meant to tell us exactly what will happen, but instead provide a trajectory: how much warmer? how much stormier? how disruptive?

              There’s tons of debate within the scientific community– not on whether climate change is happening– but how different parts of the system are working, how they are changing, and what it means for people.

              • Matth October 10, 2014, 9:06 am

                Thanks for posting this. That was my feeling, and I’m glad to hear from someone more closely involved with the science that direct observation is the main source of evidence for global warming.

        • Galliver October 8, 2014, 12:27 pm

          The models suck? That’s a pretty broad statement to make. I’ve heard that some work pretty darn well. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/07/3370481/california-drought/

        • Kelly October 8, 2014, 12:59 pm

          I read this yesterday and thought it was interesting. The bottom half of the ocean is not warming. Science seems unsure why the warming has slowed in the last decade. I’m always on the lookout for stories that will ease my intense anxiety about climate change. I’m uncertain what this particular story means, however…


      • Doug October 7, 2014, 4:26 pm

        Love the MMM ideal, don’t agree with the political nature of the ‘climate change’ debate…

        While everyone is reading the (hyper political ipcc reports, it is run by a political organization, right?) at it they can read and then review the cited sources of the wiki page of James Lovelock an early climate scientist – very interesting take on his own alarmist tendencies :


        Is the science settled on global warming?

        Lovelock now takes a more pragmatic view, “One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”

        He also notes that global warming is being treated just like a religion:

        “It just so happens that the green religion is now taking over from the Christian religion,”

        “I don’t think people have noticed that, but it’s got all the sort of terms that religions use … The greens use guilt. That just shows how religious greens are. You can’t win people round by saying they are guilty for putting (carbon dioxide) in the air.”[39]

      • PAO October 7, 2014, 7:07 pm

        Cliff Mass is a (Cornell educated) professor at the University of Washington who maintains an easy to read weather blog with plenty of science behind it – here’s one of his posts that talks about natural variations and human influences contributing to the 1.3 degree F increase in temperatures in the Pacific Northwest over the last century. He does a nice job of outlining the science behind the weather and occasionally throws in some one liners, like calling Donald Trump a hot air expert when quoting the Donald’s climate change opinions.


        In this post he references the IPCC regarding the amount of man-made vs. natural variation components impacting recent temperature change:


      • CALL 911 October 8, 2014, 3:23 pm

        I like your site and philosophy regarding luxuries and finances, which is why I come here.

        Matth is totally right about huge unknowns and a lot of “Hmmm. Didn’t expect that. Lets go retroactively explain it.”

        2000 years ago, people conducted experiments proving the earth was flat. They sent their boats and sailors out. They didn’t return – because they fell off the edge! See! Flat earth!

        Three hundred years ago, everyone could figure out anything! We had Newtonian physics! Proved time and again with experiments! It explained planetary motion well enough to land a man on the moon. Today, nobody believes it’s accurate. Close. Close enough for a lot – but it isn’t right.

        We are, and will always be, limited in our knowledge by what we can observe, and what we can calculate. Computers help. Increased measurements help. But we are still far from “knowing” with a system as large and complex as our planets climate.

        • Matth October 9, 2014, 10:02 am

          You forgot the second part of my comment, that I am unaware of any science which undermines the fundamental hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming. Fair enough, since I did tuck it in the second paragraph.

          • CALL 911 October 9, 2014, 1:42 pm

            I didn’t forget it. Now I worry you missed my point.

            The man who watched his son sail off for the last time wasn’t aware of any data proving the world was round.

            Haley wasn’t aware of any data proving comets were made of dust and ice when he (correctly) predicted the time and place of the return of the comet named for him.

            You’re not aware of data that shows our rate of burning carbon based fossil fuels doesn’t lead to AGW.

            I’m not aware of data showing life definitively exists outside of our lone planet.

            Since none of us are aware of the data, does that mean it doesn’t exist; can’t exist? I say n0. It just means we don’t (yet) have the data. Maybe someday we will. Maybe we never will. But we shouldn’t give up searching for it and questioning our conclusions.

        • Kevin October 11, 2014, 12:41 pm

          “2000 years ago, people conducted experiments proving the earth was flat. They sent their boats and sailors out. They didn’t return – because they fell off the edge! See! Flat earth!”

          You do know this is complete nonsense, right?

    • Druid October 8, 2014, 1:09 am

      You can try to use your intuition then. We know that closing our garage door when our car is running is a bad idea and the same goes for burning coal indoors. Obviously the millions of cars that are on this planet are lowering our air quality. Does it really matter if the ozone is being depleted? We are still breathing in chemicals our ancestors didn’t. Do we really need to convince every non scientist that using coal to power our economy is not good for the environment? No just the politicians that receive yearly donations from the coal industry.

      I honestly wish I didn’t believe in global warming, so I wouldn’t feel guilty about all of the animals that habitats are being destroyed so we can save $20 a month on our electric bill. By the time we actually do anything about the environment 1 out of every 2 children will be autistic, most animals will be extinct, and we will have to put on sunblock 10,000 spf indoors.

    • jpmcgee October 9, 2014, 9:53 am

      You don’t have to be 100% certain of human-caused climate change to take it seriously. It’s also a matter of risk asssessment: what is the cost-benefit analysis of doing nothing (due to uncertainty) versus doing something? If climate change is real and as serious as most scientists believe, the result could be catastrophic, both ecologically and economically. Compare that to the costs associated with moving away from fossil fuel use and ramping up renewable energy. Which has the bigger downside?

      This was cleverly summed up in a cartoon I once saw: “What if climate change is a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

  • Andrew October 7, 2014, 12:33 pm

    MMM, what are the limits to science, in your view?

    • rjack October 7, 2014, 1:04 pm

      I’m not MMM, but I would say that science cannot answer questions related to morals or ethics. What is good or bad? What is fair or not fair? That is the purview of religion and philosophy.

      • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 4:20 pm

        I’m not MMM either, but I would say science cannot answer any questions as what is running the universe, what creates consciousness. That’s philosophy that can answer that. Science obverses what is going on and classifies it. So a new particle gets discovered, qm gets discovered. They can trace it back to the big bang. But why those particles are there and what is running those laws, and what creates consciousness, is completely beyond science. It’s an incredible mystery, it may even always remain so.

        • Annamal October 7, 2014, 6:17 pm

          Consciousness is very definitely not beyond science and there is a pretty decent chance that, at some point in the future, scientists will be able to create an artificial consciousness.

          Just look at the studies on intelligence and self-awareness in animals.

          • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 7:32 pm

            Yes, but not that type. I work in AI so I know about intelligence. I am talking about the hard problem of consciousness, qualia. See this paper http://consc.net/papers/facing.html

            • taekvideo October 8, 2014, 12:16 am

              Very great paper thanks for posting it!
              Does a great job of explaining the same thoughts I’ve been having about consciousness for years.
              Only through a few sections so far… reading the rest now!

              • Andrew Norris October 8, 2014, 4:58 pm

                Glad you like it. Any thoughts let me know.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 6:26 pm

        Science can give you a fair idea, though, of what will keep you healthy, and what will cause you the most detrimental stress vs. the most useful and constructive challenges.
        It’s up to us to decide, however, that leading a life without excess traumatic events, or a society with lower infant mortality, is a good or bad thing.

      • RobbyJ October 8, 2014, 10:44 am

        Science can absolutely determine those things, it just hasn’t been done yet. We can look at the total effect of an action on people – does it overall increase wellness, or decrease? Check out “The Moral Landscape” by Sam Harris at your library, he writes extensively on this exact topic.

        • rjack October 9, 2014, 10:55 am

          I haven’t read Sam Harris’ book, but maybe I will. I did read an interesting summary on Amazon:

          “In ‘The Moral Landscape’, Sam Harris posits that there ‘are’ objective moral values and they can be determined by science. Briefly, his argument is that morality should be defined as the well-being of conscious creatures, and since the question of what acts or situations will promote/undermine well-being is an empirical one, it is a question that science can (in principle) answer.”

          Basically, I disagree with “morality should be defined as the well-being of conscious creatures.” His basic premise is a moral judgement. What about the living things that don’t directly impact conscious creatures? What about hurting some conscious creatures if it helps the majority of other conscious creatures?

          • RobbyJ October 9, 2014, 5:05 pm

            Gather all the information you can before making a decision – very sciency!

          • David Cain October 11, 2014, 10:47 am

            Harris addresses all these common questions in the book. It’s a great read.

            • rjack October 11, 2014, 3:06 pm

              OK…I’m checking the book out from the library.

      • Isaac November 2, 2014, 11:29 am

        Morality is nothing more than self serving pragmatism with a longer term outlook. Game theory provides excellent long and short term stratagies for the self serving pragmatist.

  • Alex October 7, 2014, 12:37 pm

    I know a few people like this — both friends and family — who have very strong opinions on all things. Some are more receptive than others with regards to opposing points of view, but they are all set in their ways.

    We still have good relationships because I don’t try to impose my views on them. Like MMM, I also recognize that changing their minds is most definitely outside my circle of influence.

  • Pretired Nick October 7, 2014, 12:39 pm

    You’re a better man than me. I have about zero patience for dealing with the willfully ignorant. I hope this changes a few minds but I doubt those minds are changeable. Logic doesn’t seem to penetrate much. My favorite one of these lately was watching the anti-evolution boneheads on FoxNews fanning the fear flames by speculating Ebola could become an airborne-spread virus. Um, hello?

    • LennStar October 7, 2014, 1:40 pm

      Well, it could. Every bilogist and statistican will assure you, it COULD. It is likely more “could” for you to get hit by a falling meteorite (that has already happened a few times on earth), but it is possible.

      Of course, if all of the Fox watchers would have spend 100$ every year for the last 20 years, we surely would have a vaccine by now.

      • Pretired Nick October 7, 2014, 4:12 pm

        Whether it could or not is irrelevant. I’m just saying you can’t simultaneously not believe in evolution and ALSO believe a virus can evolve.

      • Matth October 7, 2014, 4:12 pm

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Nick was suggesting the irony of someone who doesn’t believe in evolution speculating that a virus that is not airborne could become airborne.

        As in, what mechanism, precisely, do they think will cause a virus to change?

        • Pretired Nick October 7, 2014, 4:41 pm

          Thank you!

        • AdamF October 8, 2014, 10:49 pm

          Regarding the irony of “anti-evolution boneheads on Fox News speculating that the Ebola virus could become airborne.” So yes, the virus could mutate or combine genes with another virus in the right combination to become airborne, and maintain the deadly effects of Ebola. But it’s still a virus right? It didn’t mutate into packs of hyper-agressive chipmunks taking people down, did it? So it’s really not all that ironic. Viruses and bacteria combine DNA and mutate and change all the time. That’s micro-evolution, and it most definitely happens. It happens among all living things on the planet. Those with physical features best suited to the environment thrive and choke out others less suited. Viruses and bacteria are not changing into other species, which is macro-evolution (man came from an ape-like ancestor, all life came from lightning-struck pond scum), that the Fox News reporters don’t believe in.

    • B October 7, 2014, 7:35 pm

      I thoroughly believe that more folks on the left watch fox news than those on the right. Because all I ever hear about fox news is from lefties complaining about it.

      My office is very much full of right leaning folks and it’s rare to see anyone with fox news up on their screens or anyone bringing up anything from fox news during political discussions. But sure enough when someone leans left that’s the first thing they bring up. “Did you hear what fox news said blah blah blah blah”.

      Well, no I didn’t, because damn near everything on the national news is outside of my Circle of Control, as MMM would say.

      • Druid October 8, 2014, 1:16 am

        The left get exposed to Fox News through the Colbert Report and Daily Show.

        Politics is now such a waste of time. Democratic politicians try to win votes by promising expansions of welfare programs, while really prioritizing big business interests. Republicans try to win votes by being the party of god, while really prioritizing big business interests. Both parties need to appeal to the masses to get voted in, but then its all about serving the special interests with the fattest pockets.

        With the top 5% controlling over 70% of the wealth it is impossible for the poor and middle class to out spend the wealthy on political contributions. The game is over and many of us already lost.

  • Dan Andersen October 7, 2014, 12:46 pm

    I’m always fascinated by cognitive biases and all the ways we get things wrong. I have to recommend the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, for an in-depth exploration of how thinking works and how it can get things wrong.

    Also, anyone interested in improving their thinking or human rationality in general should check out LessWrong: http://lesswrong.com/

    • Cristie October 9, 2014, 1:11 pm

      I also recommend “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” by Kathryn Schulz. I give a talk on the Art of Being Wrong as part of my life coaching business and when I use examples from her work people are just speechless. She really gets into why being wrong is so uncomfortable, if not downright painful, and yet why being afraid of being wrong is far more dangerous than actually being wrong.

  • Peachfuzz Matt October 7, 2014, 12:51 pm

    I agree with the sentiments in this article. I would add some caveats:
    1. Realistically we live in a world where we must realize that much of “science” is unfortunately influenced by and mingled with social and political biases (which MMM hints at). Therefore some due-diligence is needed on our part, as well as some skepticism and humility.
    2. True science does not believe itself to have and be the end-all/final say in things. It always questions, observes and evolves. Unfortunately many who proclaim to be scientific seem to hold the belief that their current perspective must be the final say and lack the humility or perspective to see that in the future some of the things we hold as truths will probably be proven wrong. In that sense, science is more like a journey than a destination. Science is a tool, not a religion.

    While I don’t want to start any debates about the merits of religion vs. science, I do believe in God and in absolute Truth. I don’t think that if we end up knowing all there is to know that there will be any incompatibility between what God knows and what “science” proves. In a rational world (and I believe he is a rational God) they should be one and the same. However, the God I believe in is infinitely smarter than me, so I’m willing to keep observing and testing and see where that takes me. Interestingly I came to know him the same way I try to understand science.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 6:29 pm

      Dara O’briain is famous for saying, “Of course science doesn’t know everything. If science thought it knew everything, it would STOP!”

    • B October 7, 2014, 7:38 pm

      “I don’t think that if we end up knowing all there is to know that there will be any incompatibility between what God knows and what “science” proves.”

      For me it is really this simple. I don’t see a conflict between being religious and believing in science, but I get really damn tired of people telling me the two are not compatible. And the people telling me that are never the religious ones.

  • Dragline October 7, 2014, 12:52 pm

    Well, it kind of makes me wonder what Jared looks like given his apparent intolerance of temperature variations and propensity for drinking. (Pre-Subway or post-Subway?) To each his own, I suppose. Don’t know why he’s so fearful and angry about it, though. Nobody is going to seize his wall unit, or his spares, for that matter.

    The subject of Science is often fraught with disagreement. I find that people often have “ships passing in the night” conversations about it, because they define it differently. The 20th Century popular meme was “Science = Technology”, and people mostly like technology, so they liked Science. The new memes seem to be “Science = Misguided Intellectualism” or “Science = A System of Belief”, again depending on who you talk to.

    But none of these are correct. Science is really just a tool or methodology of creating models to hopefully explain natural phenomena, testing those models to see how well they work and trying to come up with better models over time, where “better” means first better descriptions, but then ideally an ability to predict future outcomes based on known factors, so when you aim that rocket at the moon, you can calculate whether it will actually get there.

    One of the funniest facts about Science is that the word was not even coined or understood in the modern form until about 1811, when some enterprising Englishmen wanted to redefine what had heretofore been described loosely as “natural philosophy.” And we’ve been arguing about Science ever since.

  • cptacek October 7, 2014, 12:53 pm

    “Science is not about ideology, or trying to cover the truth, or trying to manipulate people. That is what politics are generally about, and Science is exactly the opposite of that.”
    You should let the climate scientists at East Anglia University and Michael Mann at Penn State know.


    “Three themes are emerging from the newly released emails: (1) prominent scientists central to the global warming debate are taking measures to conceal rather than disseminate underlying data and discussions; (2) these scientists view global warming as a political “cause” rather than a balanced scientific inquiry and (3) many of these scientists frankly admit to each other that much of the science is weak and dependent on deliberate manipulation of facts and data.”

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 3:17 pm

      It’s true – not every scientist is perfect, and that’s because they are all also humans. But by following the model that tries to reduce their own acknowledged bias, scientists do better than the rest of us at learning more about the world.

      “Climategate” was a tiny blip in the overall collection of evidence on the world’s temperature, but you’ll notice how thoroughly it was blown up and held onto by the anti-climate-change movement. They’re still talking about it now, which sounds like desperate grasping at straws to me.

      There’s only one way to influence the real direction of this research: busting out the thermometers and core samples. The skeptics haven’t been too successful on that front.

      • mustachebill October 7, 2014, 4:14 pm

        You’re right, not every scientist is perfect. And the deniers haven’t really presented any data in support of their arguments.

        On the other hand, the data presented by the climate scientists is awfully obscure. And their analysis is very hard to follow. Have you tried reading the academic papers published even in prestigious journals like Nature? It’s almost like they’ve gone out of their way to obfuscate their methodologies. The only thing that’s (sort of) easy to understand is the conclusions.

        I would like to see clearly presented data and analysis before we go off and make major economic commitments around carbon dioxide. It seems to me that there are lots of nasty pollution problems we could be fixing.

        If temperature data is derived from tree rings, then lets make the data and the tools public, not keep them locked up in a university somewhere. Think about the problem… how would *you* go about estimating global temperatures 500 years ago?

        • SisterX October 8, 2014, 1:50 pm

          So you want them to dumb it down so that you can understand it? Of course it’s complex and difficult to understand. It’s a difficult problem with a vast number of different variables affecting it. When scientists do dumb things down so that the average person understands, I hear a lot of whining about “where’s the evidence?” When it’s shown to people again, the scientists are being “intellectual elitists”. This is a line of thinking and argument in which no one ever wins.

          I’m sure you could go online and buy the same tools to get core samples and whatnot. They’re “locked up in universities” because the unis are the ones footing the bills, since that equipment costs a butt ton. (Actual unit of monetary measurement, btw.)

      • Matth October 7, 2014, 4:21 pm

        Climategate wasn’t even a big problem. It’s possible, I suppose, that all 8 committees convened to investigate were tainted by the same ideology, but there was absolutely no misconduct found on the part of the climate scientists. It was purely politicized from the beginning, and the Climategate 2.0 that cptacek references above was even more of a non-event than the first.

    • Druid October 8, 2014, 1:50 am

      If I had to conceal, manipulate, or exaggerate to save the world….I would do it in a second and never look back. These scientist are fighting a well funded coalition of special interests and chances are they are losing heart.

      • B October 8, 2014, 7:28 am

        And who is funding these scientists?

        • Druid October 8, 2014, 9:55 am

          Greenpeace and The Nature Conservancy.

  • EarlyRetirementGuy October 7, 2014, 12:53 pm

    Poor Jared, fighting against both science and MMM. He didn’t stand a chance.

    Especially interesting to see his comment regarding dew on the windows. I hope he enjoys the various chest illnesses caused by poor ventilation and mould spores.

    • Holly October 7, 2014, 4:28 pm

      Ugh, I agree. I feel like air conditioning actually makes me sick. We run our ceiling fans all summer because I feel like I’m getting a cold whenever the air is on.
      Heat, on the other hand, is a must. We get cold winters in Indiana!

    • former player October 10, 2014, 1:32 am

      Asking purely in the spirit of scientific enquiry, wouldn’t the “dew” be on the outside of his windows? In which case, no “poor ventilation” or mould inside.

      • Kevin October 11, 2014, 1:37 pm

        You’re correct that summer window condensation will be on the outside. During the winter one often gets condensation on the inside. I’ve also seen interior mold and condensation around central air vents, and this seems to be an issue in the summer.

  • Brett October 7, 2014, 12:53 pm

    Love the blog, MMM. I’d encourage you to think a bit and perhaps even learn a bit about your scientism that you might avoid some of the blunders common to this currently popular school of thinking.

    Any good introductory philosophy of science class will show that while science is indeed useful, the “objectivity” of it and the absence of politics, subjectivity, wish fulfillment, selfishness, and closemindedness… is absolutely false.

    I’d highly recommend Thomas Kuhn’s classic “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”… but I guess that’s only for those who haven’t “become so convinced that they are right, that they block themselves from ever learning anything.” ;)

    • Jeff October 7, 2014, 12:56 pm

      What you describe as “scientism” is more of a failure to follow scientific principles than a flaw in science itself. Nobody denies that scientists [added to edit: “or science enthusiasts”] are capable of being dogmatic, egotistical, unwilling to rethink their own conclusions, and in various other ways, unscientific. That doesn’t invalidate the method they purport to follow – it just makes them human.

      • Brett October 7, 2014, 2:50 pm

        Hey Jeff,
        Actually scientism is the belief that science is the better/only (gulp) way of knowing something to be true. What I described was actually the way that “scientific progress” has worked and will likely continue to work. See Kuhn for more.

        While MMM is the undisputed master of all things financial… I simply want to encourage him to tread lightly and thoughtfully as he addresses topics like epistemology (how we know things) in order to avoid the philosophical carelessness and misplaced arrogance so common among positivists, both new and old.

        This isn’t a comment on global warming or our friend over in Alabama- just a thought for MMM (who I understand to be a thoughtful guy) as he has continued to make more philosophical and anthropological declarations as of late.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 6:52 pm

      The most important thing to note about the uncovering of scientific blunders?
      It’s the fact that the blunders are uncovered by other scientists.

      • Brett October 8, 2014, 8:45 am

        Thankfully those “blunders” have been taken care of so we can fully put our Faith in Today’s Science to construct our worldviews and our societies.

        We’re sooo far beyond craniometry, eugenics, and the holocaust so we don’t have to worry about the consequences of creating a society based on our current scientific understanding.

        • Matth October 8, 2014, 9:55 am

          Exactly! Because now we have genetics!

  • RBD October 7, 2014, 12:54 pm

    Much of what you’ve written can apply to another “questionable” work of science that is often challenged. The Theory of Evolution. I recall (but can’t find the video of it now), a congressional testimony where a Congressman questioned a scientist about evolution, trying to discredit him since it was a “theory” and not the Law of Evolution. In an elegant response, the scientist gives the viewer goosebumps explaining that a theory can be just as powerful as scientific law. This is because the Theory of Evolution cannot be completed proven, but it could scientifically be disproven (which it never has been). Over the course of time since Darwin, the theory has been questioned and challenged over and over again. Thousands of experiments and discoveries have been performed and made, each testing the theory like it’s a punching bag. Through it all, the theory has always prevailed and thus strengthened by each data point, becoming closer and closer to fact.

    I’m going to keep looking for the clip because it’s about as pro-science as it gets.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 3:21 pm

      Oh man, don’t even get me started on anti-evolution. It’s the most tragic waste of time – nothing in the whole planet, from biology up to beer goggles, makes sense without the context of evolution. I can’t believe anyone would fight against a theory that continues to work with all new evidence as it comes in, and explain everything so perfectly. Let’s dig in and study it further and reap even more benefits.

      • KT October 8, 2014, 1:21 pm

        I do have a question that has been bothering me lately and I don’t know where to look for the answer. In the theory of evolution, do scientists believe that all life happened by chance simultaneously? Why is there nothing around that looks to be half-way man and half-way monkey? Or, like, why can’t a fish give birth to a lizard? I’m so confused how if we are always evolving, why are monkeys still here? Wouldn’t they all have evolved into a human? Where can I go for these answers? Also, why does it seem like things are only getting worse and not better? Just because of how animal and human life treats the earth? I recently read that animals (not human animals) have now surpassed the transportation industry and electricity generation as the greatest source of green house gases! (http://www.aqr.ee/Sustainabilty/Climate_Change/091000_Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf) I have not read all of your blog, MMM. Have you read about this as well? Are you a vegetarian? Should we stop eating meat to save our world as well? I love meat! (But I guess I also love A/C and I have mostly given that up for this world…) I’m so confused about all this stuff!!

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2014, 9:16 pm

          You should get a book on evolution and starter biology from the library! Most of the questions you ask are among the first things covered in there.

          And, if you want to tread more lightly, eating less meat is a great way to do it.

        • Amy October 19, 2014, 5:23 pm

          .. I couldn’t help but to try to answer some of these questions.. (this is according my understanding, and of course, as MMM recommends, looking it up is best):
          In evolution, organisms relate in a kind of family tree; monkeys and humans are analogous to living cousins, and the link between them that you’re looking for is their common ancestor (which analogously is long gone). The key to evolution is adaptation; because the species developed in different environments, they ended up with different characteristics that helped them survive in those environments. Because of this, the fact that it’s been millions of years, and we’re pretty similar already (98% genetically for apes I believe), there aren’t ‘halfway’ creatures nowadays. Monkeys are still here because as mentioned, they’re more like cousins, they developed parallel to humans, just in different ways. Neither is totally like the ancestor; each survived in its own way (which is why they haven’t evolved into humans, as ‘humanness’ is not something to reach; survival and reproduction are..)
          A fish can’t give birth to a lizard because their genetic codes are far apart. And as far as I recall, evolution is separate from abiogenesis (how life came about). As for why things seem to be getting worse: possibly because evolution is solely about adaptation (not progress).. and we’ve begun to adapt in different ways.. But anyway, I at leasst think part of it is how we’re treating the Earth.. Hope this helps clear some of the confusion..

    • tct October 8, 2014, 3:22 pm

      I’m Christian. Evolution is awesome. More evidence that God is the ultimate scientist. I think it’s important to clarify this, as most folks I’ve come into contact with assume religious people don’t believe in the science of evolution.

  • Mrs PoP October 7, 2014, 12:58 pm

    See and I read his comment as was a tad more optimistic. If the difference between Jared’s climate controlled home and no climate control is as small $50/month then he must doing a great job by having a smaller home or has great insulation or energy efficiency in it all!

    • Jeff October 7, 2014, 1:15 pm

      I took it more as a dismissive attempt at minimizing the impact of our choices. I say this because 1) he had already said he doesn’t care about utility bills, and 2) even a tiny shack in AL would run a climate control bill higher than $50 most months of the year at the temps he gave without massive attention to detail (and significant expense) in the insulation department, something a guy with the above-identified priorities would be unlikely to have invested time, energy, or money in achieving.

  • The Roamer October 7, 2014, 1:00 pm

    This was great but even though you say science doesn’t care what religion you are religion does care about science.

    You will lose a lot of people just on point one. Because you refer to us as human animals. People to this day( I know a few) will deny that we are animals because of their religious beliefs.

    Also I wish you would expand on point 2 . the difference between correlation and causation. I was trying to think of a good example but drew a blank any other commenter who can put an example differentiating both I’d much appreciate. I understand what your saying but sometimes you have to draw people a picture.

    • Jeff October 7, 2014, 1:08 pm

      Correlation means two sets of data points tend to vary in the same way over time or space. Causation means the variation of one of those sets directly causes the variation of the other.
      Correlation can be a result of causation. It can also be a result of a third thing influencing both the things you’re watching, or even a complete coincidence.
      For examples: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3030529/infographic-of-the-day/hilarious-graphs-prove-that-correlation-isnt-causation

      • The Roamer October 7, 2014, 2:55 pm

        Haha thanks Jeff graph are powerful communication tools.
        That is a great way to show how people can correlate 2 things that don’t have anything tondo with each other and make them mutually exclusive.

        Kind of like people saying youngsters have worse future because of high student debt but not take into consideration any other possible contributing factors

        • gildedbutterfly October 8, 2014, 5:27 pm

          But let’s also not forget that correlation does not mean that data should be thrown out. While many correlations are ridiculous (the number of Nicholas Cage movies and number of people who drown by falling into swimming pools?!) a lot of science is correlational because it is not possible (or ethical) to prove causation. The classic example of this is the correlation between smoking and lung cancer. There is a strong correlation between the two, but (due to both ethical and practical reasons) we cannot do a study proving that smoking causes cancer. It could be that the people who smoke are engaging in other risk factors, like eating a poor diet or living with a higher level of stress.

          So, with correlational research, the important thing is to do your best to exclude other variables, which scientists do a number of ways, including looking at the strength of the correlation, random sampling, replicating findings in many different environments/scenarios, etc.

          • Cristie October 9, 2014, 1:42 pm

            I’d just like to add to this because in my day job I’m an Epidemiologist who deals with mental health so I’m in a position of doing research where we cannot ethically do randomized trials of dangerous exposures.

            There is a set of criteria we use to assess causality from essentially correlated data. That’s how we came to be conclusive about the smoking/lung cancer association. There are a few variations on the list of criteria but the main ones include:

            Association – Is there even a correlation between the two?
            Strength – is there a strong correlation between the two?
            Specificity – Are there other likely explanations? Is the effect specific to the exposure (e.g. if you rub a suspected irritant on a finger does the rash show up on the finger?)?
            Temporality – did the exposure come before the effect in time?
            Biological plausibility – is there a physiological mechanism that could account for this association?
            Replication – Do we continue to see the association when it’s tested in different groups of people, using different methods, and controlling for other exposures?
            Dose-response – as the level of exposure goes up does the probability of disease go up (this one is not mandatory because sometimes there is a threshold effect – where you have to have a certain level of exposure)?

            None of these alone is sufficient and not all of them are essential (e.g. specificity – an irritant could cause a systematic effect) but each adds to the weight of a probably causal relationship.

          • Kevin October 11, 2014, 8:24 am

            guildedbutterfly, your understanding of scientific proof isn’t quite correct. It has been proven hat tobacco products cause a variety of cancers in humans. You’ve focused entirely on population studies, which use epidemiological techniques, and which can be very powerful and convincing. The science begins after the correlation is noted. You seem to understand that there are a variety of scientific and statistical techniques to rule out other factors, but don’t realize how powerful those techniques are. Those techniques can also rank in order of importance those other factors, if some of them contribute to the focus of the study (cancer in this example), or even to establish synergy or protective effects between otherwise independent factors.

            In addition to the epidemiological studies, there is a vast amount of proof from animal studies, from cellular biology, and so on, that tobacco causes cancer. If the data from these studies conflicted with the epidemiological studies, the scientists would be going back to the drawing board. Science is powerful because it does not depend on a single line of inquiry.

            This is why it’s so difficult to convince a creationist of evolution. The proof of evolution comes from dozens of branches and subbranches of science. I’ve had a few ultra-religious friends challenge me, “Show me the single experiment that proves evolution,” or, “why haven’t they found the fossil of the ‘missing link’?” These questions betray not only a willful ignorance, but a hostility to any threat to their world view.

    • odput October 7, 2014, 1:29 pm

      Take the so-called hemline economy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemline_index

      It suggests that stocks rise and fall with the hemlines of women’s dresses. An examination of the historical data shows that these do in fact correlate well. It’s safe to say that you would call me crazy if I said “all we need to do to improve stock performance is raise the hemlines of women’s dresses” because even though they correlate, the rise and fall of hemlines does not cause stock prices to go up or down.

    • AEBinNC October 7, 2014, 3:24 pm

      My favorite explanation of causation vs correlation is this:
      1. Ice cream consumption goes up in the summer
      2. Crime goes up in the summer

      False Causation – ice cream causes crime and should be banned.
      Correlation – In warm weather people like to eat ice cream. I’m not really sure why crime goes up in the summer, maybe criminals would rather be at home in the cold parts of the year rather than out “working”. :)

    • Rod October 8, 2014, 1:57 pm

      This is the best comment on correlation vs. causation that I have ever seen:


  • Alessandra October 7, 2014, 1:02 pm

    Might I suggest Thomas Kuhn’s *The Structure of Scientific Revolutions*? He talks about paradigm shifts within the field of science, arguing that science is socially constructed, but still reveals valuable information that society should carry forward.

  • Meghan October 7, 2014, 1:04 pm

    Great response!

  • Even Steven October 7, 2014, 1:07 pm

    To each their own. I do not fault anyone for going their own direction, whether it be A/C on 100% of the time or spending too money on a brand new BMW. Do I think it is foolish to do either one, absolutely and with each path the results are magnified just like in your example of 10 years worth of A/C being worth 17K instead of the $50 that it appears to be. I would caution Jared on his path, unless he has no path at all, to be careful because if you choose one item in your life that costs you money what else are you scoffing at. Maybe he only drives 8mpg trucks because he does not care about spending $50 extra at the gas station or maybe he has cable tv and doesn’t care that the premium stations cost $50 extra. This path leads to a long path of debt and extra bills, it’s probably why many of us read MMM, because we have been Jared at one point in our lives and only now realize that we probably should turn off the A/C in many parts of our lives.

  • Jason October 7, 2014, 1:11 pm


    Great article, as usual!

    It’s so funny to see people consistently fight what has already been proven true in the name of stubbornness and defiance. Although your point of those seeking financial independence are also defiant of society’s norms, we at least have science as far as what truly buys happiness on our side.

    Referring back to the original article, I keep my A/C at 77 degrees during the day and 75 at night all year. Here in SW Florida that means I have almost no fancypants climate control running at all 6-7 months per year. During the summer, it’s running mostly at night when we’re sleeping. I could easily get by with it set even higher, but my significant other would kill me.

    Best wishes!

  • Kevin Hughes October 7, 2014, 1:14 pm

    I am disappointed at the wholesale bracketing of climate change skeptics as anti-science. I consider myself a pro-science climate change skeptic. I’m content to wait it out and see what time reveals, but I think posts like this should include falsification triggers: A statement like “If global temperatures don’t rise by X degrees in the next ten years, I will publicly apologize for my unwarranted dismissal of the skeptics.”

    The one thing I am certain of is that if global warming is false, there will be no apologies by 99% of all the people publicly belittling my doubts today.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 3:05 pm

      Of course, the scientific community would gladly rework the hypothesis and sheepishly apology if the stream of evidence somehow changed to suggest this stuff wasn’t happening. But it just keeps coming in on the “warming” side. The skeptics seem to keep repeating the same counterevidence even after it has been discredited over and over by the majority group of scientists.

      The majority of these scientists aren’t jumping on the bandwagon because it is in style, they are doing it because they love discovering more about their own planet, and on average they are impartially reporting their results to us.

      • Vanessa October 7, 2014, 5:17 pm

        MMM, totally agree with you on most things.

        It all makes me want to swear a lot. It’s annoying to me that there is much of a debate about this issue other than how we are going to fix it. Media sources confuse things. It is biased to even have a “balanced discussion” and advertise the opinions of climate change doubters when they make up less than 1% of the scientific community opinion. They make it sound like there is a big controversy when there is resounding consensus.

        Also, what is the harm if the world leaders actually did something about it and legislated so that less carbon is produced and cleaner energy is used and consumption goes down even if all this climate stuff is a non-issue? The cost of inaction if all that science is right is devastating, so why not just do something about it?

        • Kevin Hughes October 8, 2014, 7:53 am

          Only trillions of dollars wasted and billions more people in poverty. So… no harm at all!

          • Nathan October 8, 2014, 1:40 pm

            Not so, Kevin Hughes. Investments, in generally, are never truly “wasted” as you say. Maybe the return is less than 100% (if in the off chance the scientists are wrong), but there will still be some return (think about the broken windows hypothesis by Keynes).

            Let’s say billions or trillions are invested in reducing carbon and other emissions, what will happen? Maybe global warming could slow down or maybe it won’t. However, fewer adverse particulates are released in the atmosphere and the air we breathe is cleaning, significantly reducing health care costs. So rather than me supporting a child’s asthma costs, that child eventually supports my SS checks.

            Additionally, what about the investment into science and technology jobs (in America)? What about the wasted fortune in trying to find WMD in Iraq (the purpose of which changed to bringing democracy to the Middle East)?

            And finally, what if the scientists are correct? The price of moving or protecting coastal cities is unfathomable.

          • SisterX October 8, 2014, 2:11 pm

            Or millions of people saved from all of the other effects of our carbon economy and the pollution it creates, such as asthma. How is that a waste of money?

          • Matth October 9, 2014, 12:21 pm

            This seems like an excellent opportunity to apply run a simplistic cost-benefit analysis, such as the one MMM did in http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/06/13/bicycling-the-safest-form-of-transportation/.

            My guess is that even if the climate science only has a 5% chance of being correct, the possible economic downsides of not pursuing emission reductions far outweigh any costs incurred should global warming be shown to be junk science in a couple of generations. That would be something like: (0.05*[cost of not acting if global warming is true]) > (0.95*[total cost of misinvestment if global warming is false]).

            I haven’t run the numbers, but you surely could. Someone probably has.

    • B October 7, 2014, 7:43 pm

      “I am disappointed at the wholesale bracketing of climate change skeptics as anti-science. ”

      THANK YOU! It gets really old being both pro-science and pro-religion and yet any time of skepticism about the science of the day only leads to egregious insults.

  • Reed October 7, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I generally agree with the point that this guy’s resistance to change and general outlook on whether to run his A/C all the time is foolish, but a word of caution:

    Science, as long as it is run by humans, is going to be as susceptible to politics and ideology as anything else. It does no good to treat Science with an uncritical eye because “Science is fact.” That is circular reasoning and question begging. Sure, generally trust what comes from scientists above what John Q Public has to say, but at least be aware that science is not infallible in all matters. It has its margin of error, too.

    Funding for research can be a valuable example. It can prove beneficial to a scientist seeking funding to overstate or exaggerate his or her findings because it provides added emphasis for why the research is necessary. Not saying all scientists, or even most, do so, but it’s an obvious temptation they face.

    • Dragline October 7, 2014, 1:58 pm

      Good point, Moreover, Science is not “fact”. Seience is an intellectual method whereby models that are tested using observable facts.

      The academic purpose of science is actually to falsify prior models using observations (facts) so that bad models can be abandoned and better models can be developed. The practical purpose is to develop new and better technologies.

      • Kevin October 11, 2014, 8:46 am

        This is well put, Dragline. Somehow I doubt Reed will understand your correction, but I hope he does. What many people don’t realize is science does not require scientists to be impartial saints, any more that the free market requires businesspeople to be fair and honest for free markets to drive economic growth.

        There are a lot of great scientists who were very political, and even ruthless towards other scientists about their work. Read about Isaac Newton, for example. But it is that ‘falsifiability’ that makes the scientific method powerful. The Soviets tried to politicize the theory of evolution to support their ideology, but the research consistently falsified their attempts. It really doesn’t matter if scientists are politically conservative or liberal, political or apolitical. All it takes is a good, replicable study that falsifies the status quo, and we have scientific progress.

    • Mike October 7, 2014, 2:20 pm

      “”Do whatever it takes not to fool yourself into thinking that something is true that is not, or that something is not true that is.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

      Easily the best quote I’ve heard regarding what science is and the scientific method.

  • Mr. FI October 7, 2014, 1:17 pm

    First off, pulling on the 20 ounce XL boxing gloves to deliver some education is a brilliant line.

    Secondly, just to get this out of the way: Science can never prove anything. It can simply provide as much evidence possible (for or against) in order for us to make a logical conclusion. And it does so only with natural phenomena. As soon as you start trying to prove there is a God, gods, what have you, you lose the point of Science.

    As for Climate Change, clearly there is ample evidence for it. Can we 100% say that it is due to humans? No. But there is a strong correlation. This is for “The Roamer”: there is a strong correlation that climate change is due to humans and our polluting ways. But is it the causation? Maybe. Maybe not. The causation could be that this is simply how the earth works-in cycles. Or that there is some solar activity playing a part. Or that humans play a part, but not the whole part. Because humans only have historically accurate date on weather dating back 100-150 years, we can’t be entirely sure.

    This is the brilliance of Science–it always has time on it’s side and there is always room to learn more. In the meantime, there is no harm is doing what’s best for humanity. Reducing cancer causing pollutants, consuming less, etc. are good things. It may hurt the economy for a short while, but I see it as a challenge to find new job opportunities, make this earth a better place, and to start caring about our legacy as a population.

  • Chris October 7, 2014, 1:20 pm

    There is a direct connection between the science of climate change and mustachianism – they’re both about learning to live well within limits. Mustachianism is about arranging your life so you’re living off of dividends from your capital, and “climate mustachianism” — that is, living in a way that doesn’t contribute to climate change — is also about learning to live off of dividends from capital. Except with climate change the capital is natural capital – intact ecosystems, a functioning planet…that stuff – and the dividends are the planet’s ability to harmlessly process our pollution – in this case, our carbon dioxide. (Other dividends from natural capital include nice things like clean air, potable water, fertile soil, etc.)

    And just like with “regular” mustachianism, the most powerful way to move closer to living within the limits that (natural) capital and its dividends require is by reducing the amount you are spending; “spending” in this case means using up the planet’s capacity to absorb our pollution.

  • JJ October 7, 2014, 1:22 pm

    Please enlighten me on this point. I am all for taking care of our environment, but I am afraid of unintended consequences: ie
    wind mills = dead birds
    solar energy = endangering natural wildlife and wasting valuable water
    energy efficient light bulbs = mercury in our sewers and landfills
    gasoline additives = contamination of our water supply
    ethanol fuel = overproduction of corn which wastes water and increases corn prices
    I agree that we should use less energy, but I don’t think fossil fuels is that bad compared to these alternatives.

    • Juan October 7, 2014, 1:26 pm

      Fossil fuels are finite. It’s not a matter of “if” we run out, but “when”. Even conservation is just a way of delaying the inevitable. If we don’t start looking for alternatives now, we’ll be in a lot of trouble when that big switch is finally turned off.

      • Jeff October 7, 2014, 1:35 pm

        This is why, even though I’m deeply concerned about climate change, I make my advocacy efforts almost 100% on the supply side of things. I start by positing that all the fears are unfounded, and we’ll never choke on our own pollution. I then make a compelling case for getting the F$^% off fossil fuels sooner rather than later, strictly based on the economic impacts of supply depletion. It’s actually not that hard to do.

    • Jeff October 7, 2014, 1:30 pm

      >>wind mills = dead birds
      Compared to the devastation wrought on the *same* birds by the alternative, it’s very small in quantity. You’re still looking at a net reduction in wildlife deaths.
      >>solar energy = endangering natural wildlife and wasting valuable water
      Solar concentrating arrays do have this issue; see above for the response.
      Solar PV does not kill wildlife.
      It does take water to produce the hardware – but nowhere near as much as natural gas fracking (still a net gain)
      >>energy efficient light bulbs = mercury in our sewers and landfills
      Not if you skip the CFLs and go straight to LEDs, which are vastly better, last 10x longer, and have already achieved a lower lifetime cost of ownership than all other types. There’s no mercury in them at all, ever.
      Even CFLs can be recycled, btw, so there’s no excuse for mercury in the ground or water from them.
      >>gasoline additives = contamination of our water supply
      Stop using gas. Electric cars are here if you have to drive… bikes and trains the rest of the time.
      >>ethanol fuel = overproduction of corn which wastes water and increases corn prices
      I’m with you on that one. Ethanol (especially from corn) is a huge scam and a friggin’ waste of resources. People are literally starving as corn for ethanol displaces food crops. But this is not so much a side effect of environmental concern as a byproduct of a bullshit crony capitalist ag subsidy program.

      • Beth October 7, 2014, 4:10 pm

        Check out the current corn prices per bushel and you will see that they have fallen from a high of $7 a bushel a couple of years ago to the current low of around $3 a bushel. Farm crop projections show a world-wide glut of corn this year. I’m not advocating for ethanol, just updating the price information and availability on corn. Any commodity pricing web search will give you exact numbers as it changes daily.

      • JJ October 13, 2014, 3:41 pm

        Thanks for your reply especially with LED lights. When the CFLs came out, I thought it was absurd. With any product, you are relying on the lowest common denominator. Do the manufacturers really think that the typical American would hande this with care and take the time and effort to take it to a special recycling facility. A big fat No! I could foresee mercury contamination as more people purchased these products. I’m glad there is a good alternative. I used this as an example of good intentions gone wrong. My point is sometimes less usage is better than these “environmental alternatives.” What do you think about lithium batteries going to landfills with increasing electric vehicles?

    • LennStar October 7, 2014, 1:57 pm

      wind mills: As said by Jeff, if you discount e.g. coal emissions, then more birds are alive, also wind mills hitting birds (repeatedly) is a very very species-concentrated occurance and nobody can really say any reliable numbers for more then the top5 because it happens so seldom.

      solar energy: any fossil fuel (and fracking) pollutes more in the production per kWh then solar energy. Also new technology in photovoltaik can hopefully reduce this for 90-100% (unfortunately these cells live only up to 2 years atm, which is too short). More important: every T-shirt pollutes more water in production. Water wasting (not pollution) is also very big in lots of things to eat, especially meat, just the amont for PV is so minimal compared to that, you can ignore it.

      fuel: There are several possibilites where fuel of different sorts can be produced by regenerative energy.
      Also “conventional” fuel can be produced with algea, its just 5(?) times more expensive then getting oil out of the ground. Of course, if you do it really big style, after investing a ton of money and building these kind of production and refinery, you could do it at about 1,5 times the current price in germany. (roughly 3 US$ per liter)
      I personally thing hybrid cars (electric for shorter, daily drives; natural gas produced with electricity) is the future. Especially if automatic driven cars get normal. Then the car “population” could be reduced by 80%.

    • Lisa October 7, 2014, 7:33 pm

      No such thing as “green” energy. There are high environmental costs for any of the alternative energy solutions – those you listed, and many others too. It’s good to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but there will be no magic unlimited energy from any source that will allow us to indulge our current level of energy consumption without big environmental costs. At best there may be increased efficiencies in energy usage and production. The only way to reduce those consequences is to reduce consumption.

    • Kevin October 11, 2014, 9:00 am

      The dead bird issue is real, and as we understand it better the wind turbine makers will likely solve the problem. However, realize that turbines probably kill several hundred thousand birds per year. Meanwhile, our pet cats kills millions of birds per year, and hunters in some countries are actively driving many species to extinction.

      Not sure how solar energy wastes water. The biggest water waster in the world is farming to raise crops to feed livestock for meat for human consumption. If you’re honestly concerned about wasting water, stop eating beef.

      The mercury in CFL bulbs has been reduced dramatically, they’re easily recycled, and the newer LED don’t use mercury.

      Ethanol – agreed. This is a political boondoggle.

      gasoline = contamination. No argument. Fracking, drilling, refining, consuming petroleum products leads to copious pollutants. Wait, are you just focused on the ‘additives’?!? No, JJ, it’s the process of extracting and refining fossil fuels that contaminates and pollutes. Yes, adding things like lead to gas for engine valves compounded the problem, but if you think fossil fuels aren’t bad compared to the alternatives, you’re engaging in very biased reading.

  • James October 7, 2014, 1:23 pm

    “Regardless of your religious or political views”

    “Science is all about looking for evidence through experimentation, and forever questioning itself and refusing to simply repeat dogma. By refusing to cling to existing assumptions about what “The Truth” is, Science gets us forever incrementally closer to understanding what is really going on in our world.”

    In many cases religion is all about explaining evidence to match a preconceived story, never questioning itself and consistently repeating dogma. By completely clinging to existing assumptions about what “The Truth” is, religions ensures we never understand what is really going on in our world.

    In essence religion is the antithesis of science and that is why they are often at odds.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 3:00 pm

      I think you’re right if you talk about Olde Timey Religion, as it was practiced in the olden days and still in among the more stubborn parts of the more superstitious countries (the US among the top of them) to this day. But I think it’s unproductive to rule spiritual people out of the thinking and scientific world – take a look at Tallgirl12014’s comment somewhere in this string to see a bit more on that.

      Although I was raised completely outside of any religion, I’ve come to have some really close friends who have somehow combined towering intellect with strong religion. I think it plugs into a basic socket in our genetic makeup somewhere and it works for some people. So instead of creating a war between the religious and non-religious, it might be more productive to just focus on agreeing to collect evidence and conduct experiments when we’re deciding how to to run our world together.

      Science is something that all rational people can agree on – as long as you really understand what science really is.

      • James October 8, 2014, 7:07 am

        I’m not ruling anybody out, or creating some type of war or conflict, just stating the facts. I read the comment by Tallgirl12014, this quote stood out to me:

        “there is no conflict between science and faith. You don’t have to make one where none exists. You just have to be able to hold two ideas in your mind at once.”

        I think it’s great that people have learned to live with the cognitive dissonance of religion and science, it’s a step in the right direction, but don’t mistake these people for the norm or see them as proof that the two mesh perfectly.

        You are correct that science is something that all rational people can agree on, but religion is the acceptance of the irrational. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about all spirituality or all beliefs in god, but the major religions. When you read their scriptures or holy books and choose to believe them absent of any evidence (on faith) you are effectively disregarding the scientific process.

        I do think it’s counterproductive to point this out to rational people who identify as religious. It’s best to let them continue making rational decisions and let the religion fade away.

        • B October 8, 2014, 7:46 am

          “When you read their scriptures or holy books and choose to believe them absent of any evidence (on faith) you are effectively disregarding the scientific process.”

          What exactly are you referring to here? Most of the Bible itself is simply writing about things that happened. Jesus went to X town and talked to X people about X. There’s nothing to be believed or disbelieved here. We know from non-secular sources that a man named Jesus did these things. Science has helped to secularly back up parts of the Bible, not contradict it.

          But you’re right, there’s no way anybody can be both rational and religious. It’s simply just not possible.

          • James October 8, 2014, 9:06 am

            Sure you can cherry pick aspects that may have been based on history, but it all starts with a man, a rib woman, and a talking snake. Are you going to tell me there is non-secular science backing up a talking snake? There is no reason to debate this here as there is an abundance of content already written and websites dedicated to this discussion, I will just leave you with this link – http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/

          • tallgirl1204 October 8, 2014, 9:07 am

            At the risk of being thought either irrational or irreligious (neither of which I’m aiming for), I’ll jump in here with a few ideas.

            My faith, as it stands, is based on how it frames the big mysteries of life (you know, the ones that are as yet unexplored by science). I don’t see the Bible as a science text, and am puzzled by those who do. Overlaid (as many religions are) by tribal loyalties and wars, Jesus cleared it all up with two rules– to love God (the outward manifestation of which is love and care for all of creation) and to love your neighbor as yourself. “On this hang all the laws and the prophets.”

            My spiritual quest is to understand acts of altruism, acts of unrequited kindness, and acts of courage. “No greater love has a man, than to lay down his life for a friend.” This is a big puzzle for me, and one basis on which I return to my faith over and over.

            Humans are genetically programmed to reproduce, to protect their “tribe” from outsiders (hence the old testament which I completely agree is problematic). So, why do humans also act with self-disinterested kindness and courage? In other words, why do humans act in irrational and beautiful ways?

            For me, that is the mystery, and the grace of my religious faith. If that “irrationality” is a negative to others, it’s one I am willing to embrace.

            • Matth October 8, 2014, 10:08 am

              Have you read The Kingdom of God Is Within You? I read the book in college, and it had an outsized impact on me. I learned recently that it was also read by Mohandas Gandhi, and that he and Tolstoy corresponded over the last year of Tolstoy’s life, concerning concerning the topics presented in the book.

      • Richard October 21, 2014, 9:00 pm

        Dear MMM, Good Blog!, I have discovered it by finding tech Meshuanga…

        So many of your principles that you speak of, I was almost certain you were a believer, but then, notice some other things, so this post makes perfect sense.

        God is not going to reward you, if it takes no faith to believe: Sigmund Freud and other atheists have wrote profoundly on how “God is a made up entity to trick our children into being good, etc, etc”. I would encourage you to listen to some of C.S. Lewis’s CD’s etc… If you listened to 20 -30 minutes of his stuff, and you think he is not scientific enough for you, I’d be shocked. He was an atheist out to prove his point.

        But again, So many of your principles that you speak of:

        Complaining vs Abundance are stated in the Bible. Proverbs 11:24 deals with this directly.

        You admire discipline and education,Proverbs 12:1 (To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.) And it speaks to science.

        Having to work for what you get–Proverbs 10:4

        God is not a respecter of persons…in other words, if you do what is stated in the Bible you will get what God’s word says.

        Have you ever truly, sincerely asked God to reveal himself to you in a way, however unique you’d need it to be, to know that God does exist? He does reward those who diligently seek him, even in this modern age.


        • Oh Yonghao October 22, 2014, 6:22 pm

          It’s good if you like cannibalism too – Jeremiah 19:9
          Think women shouldn’t teach – 1 Timothy 2:12
          Endorse slavery – 1 Peter 2:18
          Have a problem with gays – Leviticus 2:18
          Love the idea of genocide – Joshua 6:20-21, Deuteronomy 2:32-35, Deuteronomy 3:3-7, Numbers 31:7-18, 1 Samuel 15:1-9
          and Child sacrifice – Judges 11:30-39

          Religion was our first and our worst attempt at explaining the natural world. Every mystery throughout history has turned out to be not magic.

  • Stephen October 7, 2014, 1:25 pm

    I was waiting on the ole climate change article and this one fits the bill. I enjoy the framing you used to addresses the inconsistencies that are often argued by the belligerent ignorant. Fighting science is surely an uphill battle but it is often done in more areas than one. I like the idea of using science to our advantage and leveraging the understanding that we are inherently and predictably irrational. That notion alone is enough to give us reason for self experimentation with the end goal of understanding what drives our happiness and life satisfaction. Oh, and nice reference to the bedpan article, one of my all time favorites.

    • JB October 7, 2014, 1:52 pm

      When other forms of energy are cheaper than oil/gas, then people will move away from those sources. If the gov’t mandated every car be electric, millions of jobs would be lost in the exploration/transportation of oil/gas. There might be an expansion in the power grid, but not as much as we could hope. The horse and buggy industry and the typewriter industry died. Maybe the internal combustion engine will someday as well, but to spend $35,000 on solar panels to save $50 a month on electricity isn’t a great choice for the majority of people. Here is Houston, the downtown parking is relatively cheap. If parking prices triple, more people will attempt to take the Park and Ride or carpool. Until the economics of their lives force them to chose a better option, the path of cheapest resistance will keep up. I try to ride my bike to work, but I have free parking. I don’t have a shower nearby so I wipe down with body wipes. Not perfect, but a solution. Not everyone can ride a bike to work. Not every town has a great infrastructure. It would be great if we could all live 5 miles from work, but it just isn’t feasible. If your cable bill hits $500 a month, you can learn to do something else if you can’t afford it.

      • LennStar October 7, 2014, 2:02 pm

        “$35,000 on solar panels to save $50 a month”
        now now, I know you have low prices for electricity in the US, but for 35.000$ you could get PV for several houses. It wouldnt fit on just one house! (25KWp or even more)
        Of course, if you are heating with electricity or running AC cooling round the clock, then we are only speaking of 2 houses here. MMM use could easily be a dozen with average(!) no el. from the grid.

        • Jeff October 7, 2014, 2:47 pm

          Yeah… I’m looking at $8-10k and ~$100/mo payback, in a less sunny area with cumbersome permitting processes that increase costs, and no incentives, yada yada yada

          • Cyndy October 7, 2014, 6:53 pm

            Agreed. $35,000 was probably true years ago but is no longer the case. Our PV system before incentives was only $12K, and several thousand less after incentives. I’m expecting to break even in 5 years. Throwing out outdated numbers like that just discourages people from going out and getting a quote for themselves.

            • JB October 7, 2014, 7:52 pm

              The Utility companies aren’t happy about the prices coming down on solar panels. http://grist.org/climate-energy/solar-panels-could-destroy-u-s-utilities-according-to-u-s-utilities/

            • JB October 8, 2014, 9:07 am

              This one is still in the $20K-$25K. Still not affordable for everyone. But costs are dropping due to whatever factor people want to put with it. It could be costs are lower or tax subsidies.


              • CT October 8, 2014, 10:27 pm

                Solar has proven to be very beneficial for us. We moved to Southern Calif. 3 years ago and after our first summer of electric bills we converted to solar. We financed the install and our monthly payment is lower than our lowest electric bill (even lower than our first month here which was a partial month). Due to our location & positioning of panels, our meter runs backwards 8 months of the year. We send back to the grid & get money back at the end of the year. Tax breaks/deductions really didn’t help us out any.
                As for cost effectiveness & even savings–it all depends on the amount, intensity & duration of the sun.
                As a side note–our son also has solar & just barely breaks even. Some is his usage, but mainly its the ability to catch the rays.

        • JB October 7, 2014, 3:09 pm

          I believe in Texas we are not allowed to be paid for the electricity put back into the grid. Yes, $35K might be an exaggeration, but there are plenty of cost/benefit analysis one must do for many things we buy.

      • Jeff October 7, 2014, 2:36 pm

        You’re right about human nature, but I’d like to make a couple of points here.
        1. As is often discussed here, humans are far from rational, and one pervasive example is the failure to understand and employ big-picture thinking when it comes to costs. People dismiss EVs as too expensive, for example, but factoring in operating costs, mine will pay for its EV premium in about 3 years and its entire purchase price in about 8. Too expensive? Hell, I can’t afford to NOT buy one. So, sometimes it takes more than making something cheaper to make people want it.
        2. While the ROI you describe for solar may be true for a few isolated cases, it’s nearly an order of magnitude below the experience of many operators in ideal areas, and about 1/5 the typical result even here in a non-ideal area. Maybe you’re still looking at old data (this changes substantially from year to year).

        • B October 7, 2014, 7:49 pm

          I’m not against buying an EV. I’d love to have one, but the Tesla is simply the only one that has the range I need to actually consider switching, and at it’s cost it’s an obvious poor choice.

  • Old BT October 7, 2014, 1:30 pm

    While I agree with your separation of science and politics, just like religion, science gets mired in the political world when grant money, new technology, legislation, and campaign contributions are concerned. It is a gross-oversimplification to simply label it a liberal vs. conservative or science vs. religion battle. It gets even deeper in the muck when scientific claims – whether theories or proven facts – lead to ethical, “You shall not…[insert moral rule]” as you become no different than the religious adherent who says, “You shall not…[insert moral rule], because God says.”

    • B October 7, 2014, 7:50 pm

      Right. I was not happy to see MMM give into the propaganda that science is liberal and religion is conservative. My area of the country and upbringing is very much pro-science and pro-religion.

  • Wade October 7, 2014, 1:41 pm

    I loved the start. Once you got to the “factual science” of certain climate change you lost me.

    There was 20 years of no “global warming” so the term was changed to “climate change” to better encompass all that mother nature can throw at us.

    Science cannot prove that there is a human element to climate change. There certainly appears to be. To say there is no political element to climate change is folly. Al Gore exists because of climate change. Climate change is nearly 100% political no matter what side you are on.

    I am by nature skeptical of the deniers and skeptical of the humans are killing the planet crowd. We are specks of dust on a large ball. Wherever you fall, I am certain that “never” and “always” are both wrong. Said with 5% confidence.

    • LennStar October 7, 2014, 2:24 pm

      To what 20 years do you refer to?
      The last 20 year period without global warming was between ~1950 and ~1970.
      After a lot of industry and domestic heat+pollution producing abilites were destroyed.
      After that global temperatur rose about 0,7C, or 1C since 1900. For comparison: The difference between medieval warm period ~1100AD and the “littel Ice Age” around 1600AD was 1C.
      From 1900 on teh water level also rose 20cm. There is no question – at least for scientist who work with climate – that there is a gloabl warming going on.
      The question is – if you want to question that – if the human race caused 100% of that or only 85%, which is really, in the best sense, of only academical interst.

      Yes, we are specks of dust on a large ball. We have changed the appearance of a great chunk of this ball and a lot of his atmosphere. NEVER before (as far as you can date back, which means as long as life existed) the CO2 concentration rose so much (not to speak about that short time), and never in the last XXX million years time the concentration was so high.

      Yes, science can not prove that humans made this. The same way science cannot prove that gravity always exists on earth. Ignoring that I would always wager for gravity. Thats why scientist speak of empirical proof. Nobody was able to show that it is optherwise.

      • Memories October 7, 2014, 7:10 pm

        Over 18 years – and no warming (not yet 20 years Wade said)


        • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 7:56 pm

          • Memories October 8, 2014, 5:47 am

            Did you just cite wikipedia?


            • Jeff October 8, 2014, 6:06 am

              Did you just attempt to imply that the source alone can render data valid or invalid?


              • Memories October 15, 2014, 7:11 am

                Wait, let me go edit the Wikipedia entry – then you can ask again!

          • Mark October 8, 2014, 12:01 pm

            That wikipedia article claims that the pause can be explained by more heat transfer to deeper ocean waters. While the upper layers are heating up it doesn’t explain all of the pause. A recent NASA study claims that deep ocean waters haven’t heated to any measurable degree. The explanation for the pause must be somewhere else.


        • LennStar October 8, 2014, 2:40 am

          1) it is very hard to compare figures.
          For example, the last report made a correction to temperature regarding the distribution of it. Some parts of the earth are warming a lot more then anticipated, others the reverse.
          The poles have heated a lot more, thats why the ice melting is way bigger then anticipated 10 years ago.

          2) what do these figures show? earth temperture, higher or lower atmosphere temperature, water temperature in different depths?

          3) dont trust the reports ;) A) it is watered down by politicians and lobbyists, B) because of this scientist conciously or unconsciously sharpen it a bit before giving it to the politicians.


          There is a lot of things not or not correctly used in the climate miodels. You cant take 20 year old one and say they are off. Of course they are. They did not include the big increase in cooling SO2, mainly from chinas coal burning. It also didnt include an extra big water circulation that put warm water down and cool water up. And so on.
          If you include this you get about what has happened.
          But that only changes the century-end temperature by a little bit.

          In fact, a “temperature stagnation” up to 2017 was predicted in 2007 by leading german scientists. Another prediction of them even extends this period for up to 30 years because of a salt anomaly.

          That doesnt mean that the energy from gloabal warming isnt here, it is just put away better then predicted and such cooling earth off a bit.

  • Sam October 7, 2014, 1:43 pm

    Science is pure and perfect, until we start experimenting with it.

    • Dragline October 7, 2014, 2:02 pm


      It’s like “poetry in motion.” But be careful, you might get blinded. ;-)

  • A.N. October 7, 2014, 1:45 pm

    Having moved to the U.S. from Europe, I have always been and still am shocked by the extremely low air-conditioned temperatures so many people here prefer. On a hot summer day you’re slightly (or perhaps not so slightly) sweaty because the streets and parking lots are hot, then you walk into a mall or get on a train and suddenly the perspiration on your body turns into ice. My wife and I carry sweaters in the summer whenever we expect we might spend more than 3 minutes in a store or if we take any form of public transportation.

    Can someone explain this? I love AC and use it all the time, high temperatures are the bane of my existence, but I’d never set the AC to anywhere near 68°F (20°C) during the summer.

    • LennStar October 7, 2014, 2:07 pm

      Haha! i have a friend who has set his car to 20C. If I drive with him, I always find it too cold. And that when at the same time I run around at home in pyamas at 23C ;)

      How about an automatic “doctors advice” setting? Not more then 6C under outside.

    • Eldred October 7, 2014, 2:08 pm

      It’s probably related to the same mindset that keeps Americans from riding bikes to work, because they’ll be all sweaty when they get there. I know MMM has mentioned in one of his cycling articles that Europeans don’t have that same stigma about being sweaty(offensive) coming into an office environment.

      • A.N. October 7, 2014, 3:17 pm

        But you don’t need 68°F (20°C) in order for not to sweat (unless you’re doing some strenuous physical exercise), especially since AC systems typically control humidity, too…

    • lizzie October 7, 2014, 2:14 pm

      I was born and raised in the U.S. and I share your confusion! It seems ludicrous to me that I have to wear warm clothes to work in an office in the summer. I mean, it’s an _office_. We’re desk jockeys sitting around typing. I’m not exactly working up a sweat, so why do I need it to be 68 degrees??

      • Eldred October 8, 2014, 6:53 am

        Maybe because some people ARE warmer than others? People in an office can’t exactly start removing clothes to be cooler, but they COULD add long sleeves or a sweater to be warmer.

        • lizzie October 8, 2014, 7:58 am

          There’s no inherent reason why people have to wear long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and a long-sleeve suitcoat in the summer. We could, as a culture, decide that it makes more sense to dress for the weather rather than artificially refrigerating giant office buildings just so that people can wear a whole bunch of extra clothing. If people could dress for the weather, I would think most people would not need the building to be cooled down to 68 degrees. And if there are people who still need that to feel comfortable, well—this level of consumption is not sustainable. Better for them to get used to natural weather and re-calibrate their inner thermostats.

          • Eldred October 8, 2014, 8:25 am

            I wonder if anyone has done an energy use study of places like Google or Pixar, or companies like that who let their employees wear shorts and t-shirts? It might be interesting… More efficient for the companies, since they wouldn’t need so much AC(in theory). More efficient for the workers, who wouldn’t need to spend money on ‘special’ clothes.

            • Kevin October 11, 2014, 10:40 am

              I’ve worked at DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Sony, and a bunch of other places with very casual dress, and visited Pixar a few times. The tendency is to keep things very cool, so people aren’t lethargic. A bigger factor is that the computers don’t work well when it’s warm, plus the computers generate a fair amount of heat (the rooms with the render farms are kept very cool, overcompensating for the tremendous amount of heat these setups generate). So the air conditioning costs at these places is probably very high compared to other businesses on a per-square-foot basis.

              It definitely does save a ton on the animator’s clothing costs! I know people who literally cycle between a couple of pairs of shorts and half a dozen t-shirts.

        • A.N. October 8, 2014, 9:58 am

          Some people being warmer than others doesn’t explain why setting extremely low AC temperatures is a much less common problem in Europe (according to my experience), even in very wealthy environments where the cost of energy isn’t important.

          • Eldred October 8, 2014, 11:09 am

            And…we’re right back to Americans’ aversion to sweat… :-)

    • Cyndy October 7, 2014, 7:05 pm

      I don’t get it either. They keep it at 73°F at my office which is even too cold for me, I have to bring a sweater all summer long. I would suggest if this “Jared” can’t handle temps over 71°, he is either a big wuss, or needs to see a doctor.

  • M Martin October 7, 2014, 1:47 pm

    I also used to keep my thermostat set to 71 in the day and 68 at night in the summer. However even before I started trying to get more frugal, during the sweet spots in spring and fall like Jeff I’d open up all the windows as much as I could possibly stand just cause I love the outdoors and during that time the electric bill would sink to nearly negligible levels. Now with my new SEER 16 heat pump, keeping the temperature set to 76 (80 while we’re away at work) and the fan on medium keeps the house surprisingly cool… Our electric bill was probably about 40-50% lower than in previous summers (but I’m just guestimating).

    I can sympathize with not wanting to feel guilt-tripped into making changes or sacrifices in life, but I feel like it used to be easier to raise a sense of civic duty in the general public with regards to conservation of goods and resources (just thinking of old WWII posters). But nowadays I guess civic duty revolves around swiping your credit card to your heart’s content on the idea that you must in order to keep the economy going and that by doing so you are simply exercising your rights as a free American.

    And I suppose some people are just not interested in having more money (or at least having to work harder for more money through self-discipline and more mindful spending).

    As far as climate change goes I was also a doubter until a few years ago when I stopped at a winery in western Canada on a road trip where the vintners said they’d only been able to successfully grow wine grapes within the past ten years. (Before that, I was told, grape-growing in that part of Canada was unheard of.) Even here in the DC area I’ve noticed much crappier winters, more humid summers, and more wildly-fluctuating temperatures in general than I remember having grown up around here. I don’t discount the possibility that natural forces could be a contributing factor (sun flare patterns and whatnot), but every year it gets harder to discount that manmade forces (including things like expansive meat production) are also a factor.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 2:45 pm

      It’s interesting that it took local cues to get you on board with understanding climate change a bit more. While it worked for you, it helps confuse others – I still hear the deniers chanting about how cold it was in the US Northeast during winter 2013/2014 as evidence AGAINST the theory.

      This is science ignorance at its finest, and the seeds are resown every week by the disinformation movement. Climate change does not mean temperature increases monotonically everywhere. It means average temperature of the whole planet increases (mostly in the oceans, which are 70% of the surface and almost 100% of the thermal mass!), which STIRS SHIT UP AND CREATES CRAZY WEATHER ON BOTH SIDES. The 1000-year-flood last year in my own town was very likely a side effect of this Shit Stirring as well. But of course it cannot be proven 100%, as you can’t run a controlled experiment on the whole planet.

      • Numbers October 7, 2014, 6:33 pm

        Have to disagree with the climate change hard line in this post as too many facts don’t line up such as this comment. There was no 1000 year flood in Colorado last year. There were 2 precedents of prior flooding eerily similar to last year just within the past 100 years. The media love hype and it sells and you and most of the population in the area are now convinced that it was a 1000 year flood. It doesn’t diminish that it was a big event, just not that unusual nor influenced by climate changing.

        In looking at above comments as well you don’t really want to be pointing at the IPCC as a source as the vast majority of ‘scientists’ in that body are political appointees for many if not most countries. There are much better sources on the side of climate change for data.

        I spent much time 2 years ago researching the underlying data and modelling and the publication of raw data and analysis and it is poorly (at best) disseminated for those with science and engineering backgrounds to peruse. In fact it turns out that the more educated in STEM that a population is the more skeptical the population is. Unfortunately the research teams have over and over been forced to realize that they are working with a complex system for which they don’t even know what it is that they don’t know about yet. That is a horrible place to be waging a supposedly scientific debate and trillions of dollars on.

        Instead the whole thing has been politicized on both sides so much that, being humans, a certain portion of both sides is going in 100% biased to find what they want no matter the data. In reality Science is determined by facts conforming to the hypothesis, not by human populations with perceived consensus. We are a long way from that with climate.

        As Carl Sagan used to say “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. I still wait for such to be published for this topic.

      • Lisa October 7, 2014, 7:58 pm

        I just read an article that described “attribution science” methods in determining if weather events can be attributed to climate change (High Country News). One of a collection of the studies described in the article determined that the flood events along the Colorado Front Range last year were not more likely to have occurred because of climate change, which just means they don’t really know for sure and can’t predict with climate models. Apparently temperature changes ( such as extreme heat seen in some areas) can be projected pretty well using current models and a substantial database of historic temperatures from a variety of sources; but precipitation and drought events are much more complicated to model.

        The same issue also had a somewhat relevant article about water fluoridation in Portland that also addresses science and political (& public) discourse.

      • M Martin October 8, 2014, 7:37 am

        Yes it usually take some kind of first-hand experience to start persuading an average person’s mind. Although I’m sure many honest people may just be cautious about jumping on the bandwagon because they’re wary of trendy scienctists getting too excited and crying wolf (thinking of stories about scientists in the 60s insisting the globe was cooling too fast). I also remember reading rumors a while back of global warming scientists cherry-picking data to support their theory.

        I won’t bother trying to debate anyone on science but again based on my personal anectodal experience it is ever harder to deny that the globe is indeed warming. But, again, it is still entirely possible that it’s largely caused by natural forces, as argued by guys like Henrik Svensmark.

        Having said that there are plenty of other reasons to conserve energy and resources and to reduce pollution, such as keeping our air and water clean and safe for breathing, drinking, and recreation, energy independence, sustainability, national security, etc. etc. etc. And last but not least fattening your own personal monetary resources.

      • M Martin October 8, 2014, 7:38 am

        Yes it usually takes some kind of first-hand experience to start persuading an average person’s mind. Although I’m sure many honest people may just be cautious about jumping on the bandwagon because they’re wary of trendy scienctists getting too excited and crying wolf (thinking of stories about scientists in the 60s insisting the globe was cooling too fast). I also remember reading rumors a while back of global warming scientists cherry-picking data to support their theory.

        I won’t bother trying to debate anyone on science but again based on my personal anectodal experience it is ever harder to deny that the globe is indeed warming. But, again, it is still entirely possible that it’s largely caused by natural forces, as argued by guys like Henrik Svensmark.

        Having said that there are plenty of other reasons to conserve energy and resources and to reduce pollution, such as keeping our air and water clean and safe for breathing, drinking, and recreation, energy independence, sustainability, national security, etc. etc. etc. And last but not least fattening your own personal monetary resources.

  • Shannon October 7, 2014, 1:49 pm

    Thanks for this. As a college chemistry professor in the Deep South- before FIRE- the whole religion vs science debacle was a terrible struggle. You coherently outline the usefulness of science, and some key ways that the masses are being led by the nose by snippets & sound bites instead of basic critical thinking.

  • Steve October 7, 2014, 2:04 pm

    You lost me when you tried to state that global warming was proven. Its not. I would even go so far to state that its getting closer to the time when we can clearly state that it has been proven a fraud.

    If I was going to write a MMM article on global warming I personally think a better article would be based upon scientists needing money to live and therefore they violate their integrity.

    I agree with most of your principles including don’t be a consumerist sucka. If you believe in global warming you just got caught out being a sucka.

    • Jeff October 7, 2014, 2:44 pm

      Every time I hear this assertion (without any evidence provided) that all the climate scientists are violating their integrity, I don’t know whether to laugh or kick things. There are so many things wrong with it that the only challenge is figuring out where to start.
      Do you know how much *more* money there is – regardless of one’s integrity – to be made by “proving” there’s no human effect on climate?
      Do you understand that most or all of the scientists supporting the case for manmade climate change would *still* get paid if they proved it was all BS?
      Are you aware that pretty much every scientist saying it’s all BS *is* paid to do so, and in most cases, paid by oil companies/lobbyists/PACs?
      Are you aware of how disrespectful and intellectually bankrupt it is to label an entire group as wilfully lying for money, without having any documented evidence that they have done so?
      I could go on for a while like this….

      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 11:40 am

        This reminds me a bit of the people who think that scientists already have a cure for cancer (as if there could be one cure for all of the diseases we call “cancer”) and are hiding it to make money.
        That’s right. All those people who got into oncology, expressly because someone they loved died of cancer, they’re *all* on the take.
        That’s totally reasonable.

  • Forrest L October 7, 2014, 2:10 pm

    With an engineering and science background, I’ve slowly changed my personal opinion from “How could we truly know if Climate Change is caused by humans?” to “Climate Change is likely human caused” with some personal research. For some amazing “visceral evidence” of Climate Change I can’t recommend the documentary “Chasing Ice” enough (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC3VTgIPoGU – also on netflix).

    However, I have always thought that arguing about it was silly because, to me, the result should be the same — lower energy usage, and cleaner energy usage. This isn’t just about Climate Change it is also about social justice –

    Energy and all types of consumption clearly are not making industrialized nations happy, and additionally are destroying ecosystems in the poorest countries increasing inequality in the world.

  • Eric October 7, 2014, 2:13 pm

    I’m a huge fan of science, but one thing that doesn’t help the cause is how the media runs with tenuous and incremental study findings. It seems almost every day a boring (but nonetheless necessary) study or peer-review gets picked up by a clueless journalist who needs a story. They almost assuredly misread the findings, pull out a correlation, and spin it into a tasty headline like “5 Reasons Bananas Killed Your Grandmother.” All in the name of science… No one bothers to read or understand the most-likely pay-walled paper and either believes this new “fact” or throws it in the “scientists are idiots” file.

    • JB October 7, 2014, 3:02 pm

      The problem is the media is just as biased depending what channel you watch.

      • Jeff October 7, 2014, 3:04 pm

        You’re absolutely right, but most people here don’t watch any news media, at least not as the primary basis of their factual understanding of the world.

      • Druid October 8, 2014, 2:24 am

        The problem is that people actually watch these shows and give them enough ratings to survive as a profitable entity.

  • Chris October 7, 2014, 2:23 pm

    I think you can continue this blog forever just responding to comments like Jared’s. Way to put a positive spin on it instead of just ripping him apart! Jareds are human too. This post does remind me of the South Park episode where everyone starts to worship Science instead of God. SCIENCE DAMN YOU!

  • dan October 7, 2014, 2:36 pm

    this is why Jared works at the Stop-n-Go and MMM is retired.

  • LeisureFreak Tommy October 7, 2014, 2:55 pm

    Love the post as always and I do enjoy the comments as they are very interactive. As an early retired engineer I try to maintain a logical and open mind whenever faced with a decision as to a direction or action to take. You are absolutely nailed it MMM, you can’t look at everything with a preconceived notion that you are right about something or you are closed to logical reasoning and observable facts to prove what you believed as either right or wrong. Staying open to scientific/logical thinking allows us to correct any false beliefs and change direction toward the truth. People should be open to facts and make logical choices fully understanding the tradeoffs of their decisions and actions instead of just following the herd. Unfortunately following the herd is what we have in the USA when it comes to consumerism and financial waste. I am just a freak who fights the norm so I question and test everything that others claim. BTW- in the summer my AC is set at 82 but I understand the tradeoff.

  • JB October 7, 2014, 3:02 pm

    Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.

    Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

  • mx_niko October 7, 2014, 3:03 pm

    As someone working in actual science, I have to say that politics does unfortunately play a large part in science, from government funding right on down to departmental and inter-departmental politics.

    There is a researcher, quite well respected, who refuses to pay the money he owes other labs, and anyone using instrumentation in his lab, where he has not participated in the least except for having his name on the door, he gets to be a co-author of their paper (even when he doesn’t know how to run the instruments or know what the paper is even about). But he is politically powerful and brings out department a lot of prestige and grant money, so no one challenges him.

    But fuck that. I’mma bout to go file a whistleblower report on his ass. BECAUSE SCIENCE!!!

  • Virginiabob October 7, 2014, 3:11 pm


    See above link – note that these scientists have largely been been chastised and threatened for their viewpoints. Say what you want, but the fact remains is that politics plays a heavy hand on both sides of that issue.

    That said, energy costs money, and we should all strive to save money.

  • Cubic October 7, 2014, 3:32 pm

    I really don’t understand the antiscientists. ;) (yes I just made a new word) It’s very simple to reason his point of view: Human beings may not be smart enough to survive ourselves. It really is that simple.

    We are selfish beings. It’s not an absolute, but we are more likely to destroy ourselves than not. You might think I’m just a pessimist, but you’d be wrong.

    It doesn’t take science to see that we are resource hogs, war mongers, controlling, I could go on and on. Look at the cars people drive, big 4 door 4wd’s, big SUV’s, etc. Look at how home sizes have exploded, a 3000 sq ft home is considered small ! We buy motorcycles to pull them around in trailers behind our motor homes? WHAT??

    Sorry people, but we are not ordained to survive. Especially if it’s inconvenient !

    • Erin October 7, 2014, 5:41 pm

      “Sorry people, but we are not ordained to survive. Especially if it’s inconvenient !”

      Not that I’d admit to knowing about them, but all of those reality TV shows about furriers, and homesteaders, and Alaskan-back-to-earthers are so novel and wild now. Less than 100 years ago that was the reality. No lights, no electric heat, no convenience. It’s kind of disturbing how far we’ve come so fast, isn’t it?

      • Cubic October 8, 2014, 5:37 pm

        Yes it truly is amazing how quickly things have changed. America is the biggest reason for that change good or bad.

        The idea of these homesteaders is to go into nature and do for yourself, but they turn around and act as if nature is attacking them, their animals, crops, furs, etc. They really aren’t any different than the rest of us. They still rely on the almighty dollar and the government when push comes to shove.

  • Tawcan October 7, 2014, 3:38 pm

    Great post.

    It’s all about choices and making a decision that will do greater good for everyone. If you just keep following the crowd you’ll just be one of those people that do not think for yourself.

    Science is good and has brought a lot of good things to the society. But it doesn’t mean you should take science and all the technology/gadgets for granted. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and live less advanced to appreciate what we already have.

  • McDuffy October 7, 2014, 3:59 pm

    An interesting quick case study on global warming is ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. His nuanced public comments reveal a scientist trying to balance data and an obvious conflict of interest.
    5 yrs ago he admitted “the globe is warming” but without “proven connection to human activities”. 2-3 yrs ago he indicated the world was getting warmer but with quantitative uncertainty. More recently, he stated that the temperature trend was flat in the most recent decade and that the globe needed more instrumentation to reduce the models’ uncertainties. In practice, Tillerson has expanded arctic technology development, suggesting to some buy-in to the theory.

    Go read the articles, view the evidence, and draw your own conclusions (as a good scientist should), but based on his position in society as a scientist, engineer, and businessman, it would seem difficult to justify a position more skeptical of climate change than Tillerson… at least until the evidence and analysis changes.

    • Mark October 7, 2014, 5:08 pm

      Is Rex Tillerson here, being held as an example of a climate scientist and authority on climate change? Rex Tillerson may have a science background, but he is not a scientist, he is the CEO of the company that might stand to gain the most from short term exploitation of fossil fuels. Its not hard to justify his position: if he wants to keep his job he will try to maximize next quarters profits for ExxonMobil, not cut back on fossil fuels and invest in research. And he cant just accept climate science on the issue and then keep acting contradictory to it, so to keep throwing everything at fossil fuels and not have to publicly say you dont care about science, the path is to create controversy in the science.

      • Matth October 8, 2014, 10:32 am

        Mark, I think you misread McDuffy’s comment. He was suggesting Tillerson is an exemplar to be imitated, or an authority to be accepted.

        I read his point as Tillerson represents the most skeptical position that can be rationally held, since he represents the monied interests that have the most to lose.

        • McDuffy October 11, 2014, 1:27 pm

          Thanks, Matth, Rex’s conflict of interest does evidence that holding a more skeptical stance than his would be difficult to justify.
          I encourage everyone to go read his comments and draw their own conclusions. That said, my interpretation is that, in a welcome break from politically- or media-sourced skepticism, his tone parallels that of a scientist. He presents a nuanced, coherent argument with a tone and historic precedent suggesting willingness to change as data changes. Those similarities and his occupation as a manager of tens of thousands of scientists neither qualify him as climate science expert nor lend credence to his position.

  • Jay October 7, 2014, 4:02 pm

    There is another aspect to the whole climate change thing that we don’t hear about too often. Climate changes by itself, even without human intervention (a point that deniers love to use to refute science). It’s happened before, like for the Vikings in Greenland, and the outcomes have been almost uniformly ugly. I think this might help convince climate change deniers to help solve the problem without compromising their own beliefs.

    To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter what causes climate change (although I too prefer to side with science, which says humans are responsible). Just accepting that it’s happening should be sufficient reason for anyone to change their ways.

    Humans are like a family living beyond their means when the economy booms. We’ve taken out multiple loans from the Bank of the Earth, at high interest rates. Climate (like economies) is cyclical; we’ll have a “bear market” sooner or later and face job loss, bankruptcy and foreclosure. The causes of the downturn are are not so important; being unprepared will lead to tragedy. Being Mustachian will help us ride it out much better.

    Jared’s not going to be able to afford his air-conditioning if food prices skyrocket because of climate change. That alone is a strong incentive for him to reduce his dependence on it.

  • Steve D October 7, 2014, 4:07 pm

    Not that I am doubting MMM, I agree completely. But I would love to see some references for:

    “Both old philosophy and modern science have shown that this is counterproductive: voluntary discomfort and mastery of hardship are far more powerful life boosters than avoidance.”

    I often have this discussion with friends and family and would love to have some studies to reference. Thanks to anyone who can help!

    • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 4:32 pm

      I have followed the science on happiness / positive psychology – and did not hear of that. It is something that Stephen Covey taught – and most of his 7 habits were based upon religion I recall reading! However, we can always experiment and see whether it works for us or not. Become our own scientists. We don’t have to wait for a study to confirm it yah or nah, as studies by their nature can be wrong. Some science is more pseudo than others, and that goes for happiness scientists. You are asking people are they happy, and they often do not report accurately for a variety of complex reasons / psychology.

    • Lisa October 7, 2014, 8:12 pm

      I’d be interest in reading more on this as well. I suspect reading the Stoics might provide some insight on this – something I’ve been meaning to read more of, but just haven’t. It does seem to me that voluntary discomfort and mastery of hardship at the very least would foster resilience and flexibility in dealing with unexpected changes in life. Or enable the strength needed to make your own changes in life – sometimes a very uncomfortable process. Trying to figure this out in my own life!

    • Chris D October 9, 2014, 12:27 pm

      I would also like to see any research done on this. I’ve embraced the idea of happiness through selected voluntary discomfort, but anecdotal evidence never really held much weight for me.

  • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 4:41 pm

    I think that when we adhere to one group or another, we take sides. We all need to remain independent, and not say, “I am on the side of science, it is best”, or a “religion” to make choices, or “philosophy”. If we are independent we don’t feel the need to agree with that peer group. In fact, it is often people on the outside of science that are disagreeing with the majority of scientists at the time, that make the biggest discoveries. Science as a community for example, at the moment, repels any idea that existence may be created from consciousness, and consciousness is all that exists. Yet this does simplify things and solves the “hard problem” of consciousness”, and the problem of why all the atoms, quarks etc, are obeying laws and all seem to know where each other is. What is computing the universe? All we are doing is observing the rules? It’s like looking at software without even thinking there must be a computer behind running it! So science, which claims to be truth seeking, is repelling one theory, that could be the key to explaining why everything is happening. This is why I say don’t take sides, because you are being as bad as those religious people who believe the world was created in 7 days. Truth seekers just look for the truth, they go where they need to. They are never on a side.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 7:58 pm

      We didn’t put people on the moon by thinking that the universe is a product of our imaginations. We didn’t eradicate smallpox or build nuclear reactors by treating the universe as a software program.
      When scientists have been wrong, it has never been people “outside” who disprove them with whacky yoga exercises and magical thinking, it’s always been people rigorously doing experiment after experiment until no one can doubt the failure of the old model.
      The thing about science, you see, is that it works.

      • Andrew Norris October 8, 2014, 5:14 pm

        You misread me. I’m with you on all of that. Science works!!! It is useful. I always loved science at school and watch the discovery channel, read new scientist etc. Now I’m a software engineer. Not sure why you mentioned “whacky yoya” – although if that works for people in terms of making their body more supple – then good with it. They don”t need to wait for studies, which in health are mainly funded by pharma bodies. They can be their own scientists and just give it a try!! In terms of outsiders you should read a short history of nearly everything, a well researched book that shows just how much those that made many of the most important scientific discoveries – had to fight the establishment. If you have read it – read it again! Science is not good with outsiders and innovators as much as you may think.

        But none of the above was my point!!!!

        Sorry, I had to the make that clear.

        I don’t think you got my point at all, that in terms of understanding what is going on, science is only ever looking at the software. And the culture of science does not presently allow radical viewpoints that put consciousness at the center. Yet it makes so much sense and simplifies things. Like I said philosophy is best placed at the moment to answer that. Science is not about the truth behind what is going on, but more about what works and making the world better (mostly) as a result of great new machines and ideas and continual innovation – all of which I love.

        But if you want to know what is really going on in the universe – look to philosophy. Because what is running this universe, the hardware, is beyond the permit of just looking at what is happening with quarks and atoms, or even quantum. mechanics (although that does show us weird things are happening). You actually have to think, and can work it out without any knowledge of the universe we see. As afterall, the whole universe somehow came from that state of nothing. The big bang does not explain how particles got here, how laws are being obeyed (the hardware running it all that science has not even touched upon). I find it quite funny that many scientists, and supporters, seem to think we now “understand it all mostly”, now that we have discovered, and seen evidence for, the big bang. What is going on here is still an extreme mystery. We are clueless which is why we need paradigm shifts.

        • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 9:09 pm

          Maybe I’ve misread you, but I still think this sounds like magic:
          “[science] repels any idea that existence may be created from consciousness, and consciousness is all that exists.”
          “You actually have to think, and can work it out without any knowledge of the universe we see.”
          Like I said elsewhere, if science really thought it had everything figured out, science would stop.
          Because science is the process of testing the universe to see how it reacts. You can’t do that just by thinking about stuff. You have to go out there and do the hard, rigorous, tedious work of hammering away at experiment after experiment and force those answers out of the universe. Some of those answers don’t come easy and some of them don’t make sense to laymen. But the idea that consciousness is something significant to the general application of science sounds bizarre and new-agey/pseudoscience to me. Consciousness is just an emergent property of our brains, nothing more.

  • Mark October 7, 2014, 4:42 pm

    I came here to say that modern science might be a little more nuanced and messy than seems to be implied in some of this, but I hope I avoid being grouped with these people demanding evidence for climate change.
    The point i would make is that there is politics in science (global warming, evolution) and there is way too much poorly done science (anti_evolution, and anti-global warming) and things that parade as science that are not science (astrology, homeopathy), for me to be comfortable saying something like “there is absolutely no downside to it”, or “use everything that comes from it as much as you can.”

    I think there is an importance in using science responsibly and having your critical faculties about you when digesting science that isnt being demonstrated here. Enthusiasm for science is great, but just saying “Im doing science so Im doing something good” can be dangerous. Even well intentioned science can fall victim to unconscious bias and institutional pressures. You cant really trust the result of one study to be “the science” on the issue. You really have to be able to take in the whole landscape of literature and be able to separate the good from the bad – and that is not always easy.

    Then again, this might not be the most ideal place to take on a critical review of the attitudes to take in science, alongside folks talking about science like its one big machine that pumps out doctrines – subtleties can get lost in the interest of landing stronger punches. So ill just say that while science has certain issues to be aware of, and taking healthy attitudes is important, science does achieve remarkable results and is responsible for all kinds of human progress. And as far as the AGW debate the facts are indeed in. (http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article). Climatology is not physics, climate models are messy and complex and producing one experiment that yields a 100% accurate model and being able to move on, having settled the debate, is not what happens in this kind of science. But when everyone (http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=57) agrees on certain facts and the empirical evidence, ancillary hypotheses (http://skepticalscience.com/comparing-global-temperature-predictions.html), studies from public and private sector (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/spmsspm-understanding-and.html), all keep pointing to the same conclusions (http://www.climatechange2013.org/), or if anything, say that we have vastly underestimated the seriousness (http://www.neomatica.com/2014/10/06/southern-hemisphere-analysis-reveals-global-warming-underestimated-24-58/) of the issue. The only thing stopping people from coming to those conclusions also are external (PR campaigns, family attitudes, peer groups, channels of information consumption) or internal (psychological) environmental factors. I think those are what primarily need to be addressed when attempting to change the attitudes/opinions of such people.

  • Texas Jim October 7, 2014, 4:48 pm

    Well I have not read everything down to here but being a scientist I can tell you that despite statements to the contrary there are many scientists who do not accept the hypothesis of man made climate change as currently packaged. No one denies that we are in a clear warming period that began before the rapid industrialization of the planet. For me two major questions arise…1) What proportion of the rising global temperature now results from the industrialization of the world and 2) Given the size and personality of the industrial world, can remedial actions on our part really change the direction of this behemouth. On another note, the concept of association and causation pointed out above is a most important one that effects us all. The key word missing here is “RISK”. Epidemologists and environmentat toxicologists use correlations from very large numbers of people to predict risk to the population. The population has very little appreciation of risk. Large scale studies routinely indicate that the risk of lung disease for smokers is great. However, someone will always identity a smoking relative who lived to 95 and died cancer free in his sleep. Although I can guarantee that gramps had reduced lung capacity and air flow the example misses the point. The risk is about the probability of disease in the larger populace. Whether one gets lung cancer is a probability event and if you smoke the probability goes up. The general public really does not assess risk well but particularly so when they feel they can’t control the risk. Example in point, the current risk of being injured in an vehicle crash is quite high. Everyone has been in some crash and yet one still sees reports of injuries due to not wearing seat belts. People are willing to accept this substantial risk because they feel they can control it with their outstanding driving skills. On the other hand, if they do not understand the risk or feel it is beyond their control (it’s in the water, or the air) they go ballistic. Improving agricultural yield and reducing food costs by adding a gene from another plant to a crop that makes the new plant taste bad to inch worms or resistant to drought is totally unacceptable. This is despite the fact that the scientists who know what they are doing have determined that the risk to human health is statistically not different from zero. This kind of missplaced risk leads them to pay extra for bottled water and the millions of plastic bottles and for organic and GMO free vegetables. How GMO free cooking oils is any different than that from any other plant is beyond me. But people who are unable to afford the extra cost are being sold a bill of goods.

    • Tallgirl1204 October 7, 2014, 10:15 pm

      So I think you wandered off course here a little with your examples. What makes you believe that the bulk of published climate change science is wrong?

      • texas Jim October 8, 2014, 8:33 am

        TG….I don’t think the bulk is wrong. The assertion that we are responsible for it is a hypothesis. We are in a real warming trend. The trend however has happened before and this one began before the current accumulation of greenhouse gases. The unanswerable part is how much of it is mankind responsible for and what can he or what is he willing to do about it. The Kyoto accords went nowhere accept for the silly profiteering of the carbon exchanges. Most of the proposed remedial steps are laudable goals in and of themselves but for most the degree of implementation is unlikely to have a significant impact. Some very goals might have serious negative economic consequences for the 3rd world. As for being off thract, the articles discuses correlation and causation and the majority of my examples are about that.

        • Kevin October 11, 2014, 11:29 am

          What strikes me about your comments is that you seem to be saying, “Yes, we are on a warming trend, but if it’s not definitely our fault, then it’s not our responsibility to do anything about it.”

          What scares the hell out of me, as a former scientist, is understanding how devastating past episodes of climate change have been, for life in general, and for civilization during the more recent times. And now we live in a world were much smaller disruptions in climate than have happened in the past would have catastrophic effects on millions of people, and would likely lead to staggering degrees of social and political unrest.

          Also, I’m even more alarmed that the current trend began before significant accumulation of greenhouse gases. There’s no model that indicates the ever rising levels of CO2 and methane won’t have huge effects, for both the oceans and the climate. Throwing that on top of a natural trend is like saying we don’t need to worry about the forest fire approaching the gasoline refinery, since forest fires happen naturally, and this one might not be arson.

      • Texas Jim October 8, 2014, 8:42 am

        TG….I don’t think the bulk is wrong. The assertion that we are responsible for it is a hypothesis. We are in a real warming trend. The trend however has happened before and this one began before the current accumulation of greenhouse gases. The unanswerable part is how much of it is mankind responsible and what can he or what is he willing to do about it. The Kyoto accord went nowhere accept for the silly profiteering of the carbon exchanges. Most of the proposed remedial steps are laudable goals in and of themselves but for most the degree of implementation is unlikely to have a significant impact. Some solution may even have unintended yet significant negative consequences for 3rd world economies. As for being off tract, the article discusses the importance of correlation and causation and the majority of my post and examples are intended to address that separate point.

  • Lil October 7, 2014, 5:20 pm

    I heard the jury is still out on science. ;)

  • Erin October 7, 2014, 5:36 pm

    This argument is currently full-swing in the TE household. My husband keeps coming home and complaining because it’s “too cold” yet he’s wearing ONE shirt. Either a t-shirt or a flannel. I work from home and I’m a baby about it being cold, yet here I am…me and my homeslice the thermostat. Layers, buddy…layers!

    • texas jim October 7, 2014, 7:17 pm

      I find that men are homeotherms and women are functional poikelotherms. Thus, the only sane solution is that she pays the electric bill from her SS and in return she has complete unrevokeable control of the thermostat.

      • Danielle October 8, 2014, 11:25 am

        I find that men struggle with reading comprehension whilst women are functional communicators.

        • Cubic October 8, 2014, 5:52 pm

          Yes, but it is often only reaction to what men have accomplished or lack there of.

  • MamaKate October 7, 2014, 6:03 pm

    Great post! I teach science methods courses at a local university, preparing pre-service teachers to teach science in the elementary school classroom. The failures of science education in this country come through loud and clear in your comment section… In recent history, the primary purpose of science education in schools was to prepare future scientists – we needed to win the cold war and science was the way. The unfortunate side effect of this was that we focused on finding the best and the brightest and preparing them for careers, while largely ignoring scientific literacy for all. The trend in teaching science is now moving towards promoting scientific literacy, but it’s still a work in progress.
    Scientific understanding, as you’ve noted, is constantly evolving. A scientifically literate population has a good understanding of this tentative nature of science (as well as the fact that science is empirical, creative and social, as I teach my students). The scientifically literate also recognize that scientific information, while tentative, is also dependable and represents the best understanding of a phenomenon given our current resources (technology, funding, etc).
    And, because I guess I’m in the mood to throw fuel into this fire… I do think it’s worth noting that the university I work at is Jesuit. There is no conflict between religion and science in my mind, or in my teaching. Science is based on empirical understanding of the natural world. Religion is a way of understanding the spiritual and supernatural.

  • Rowan Roberts October 7, 2014, 6:42 pm

    As a microbiologist, I’m not sure I agree with there being “absolutely no downside” to science – you should see the sheer volume of pipette tips, Petri dishes and other single-use plastics we send to landfill… it makes my insides cry!

  • businessgypsy October 7, 2014, 6:48 pm

    Every time you use about your boxing gloves metaphor, I wonder what is wrong with you. Really, you’re going to beat me down if I dare disagree? No, you are not. You can listen or not, engage or not, discuss or ignore – but you absolutely, positively are not going to use violence (or the written threat thereof) to change my mind. It’s a destructive and negative approach to the world, and stains an otherwise valuable dialogue. It doesn’t matter whether you could actually overpower me or not. I’m an eighty year old woman in a wheelchair, for all you know. It’s just a lowest common denominator approach.

    I logged in to ask if you’ve ever worked in an organization with a number of scientists on the payroll, or lived in the deep south? If not, I would ask that you temper your response a bit. Colorado is not Alabama. I’ve currently got the luxury of following the weather with a nomadic lifestyle, but spent my youth and young adult years in New Orleans. I’d pay to see how productive you’d be without A/C during the nine hot months. I’ve lived with and without. It can be done, but there is a cost in capability, not just comfort.

    On the subject of absolute faith in science, doesn’t seem very different than absolute faith in religion. A considerable number of scientists lie, cheat, falsify data and skew results with zeal and enthusiasm, for the same reason some accounting department employees embezzel : it keeps the money flowing. Apply the same critical eye you use with investment advisors and you’ll be less disappointed when the inevitable errors surface. I appreciate and value this blog, but the arrogance level exceeds digestion ability far too often.

    • Texas Jim October 7, 2014, 7:31 pm

      BG…I am sorry but you are incorrect about a considerable number of scientists. Two points…1) .everything in science is collaborative and repeated. There are too many students and technicians around for it to go far. Thus cheating and lying gets you nowhere fast and gets quickly exposed by your colleagues and others trying to replicate your work. 2) the reason everyone knows about falsification in science is because the scientific societies make a big deal about exposing it to the larger community.

      • Cubic October 8, 2014, 5:54 pm

        Me thinks your taking the boxing gloves comment WAAAAAYY to literal.

  • chris October 7, 2014, 6:59 pm

    If I may quote a previous MMM classic, “Science is the best chance we have at finding the Truth in this World (credit Señor MMM).”” If you think about it, it’s our best chance at finding objective, fact based information. Is it perfect, no. Is it sometimes manipulated, yes. That’s why the highest level of education/learning is discernment of fact based information.

    This is a bit paraphrased, but you get the point. I whole heartedly subscribe to this philosophy.


  • Andrew October 7, 2014, 7:30 pm

    I like the blog for the most part, but you’re a little over the top whacked out w/ your thinking that you are having that much effect on the planet. If India and China don’t care, and they don’t. You riding your bike pulling around a refrigerator isn’t going to make a shit of difference.

    I drive a reasonable vehicle, recycle, have a reusable bag for the grocery store. I do my part, but listening to people like you that think jerry rigging your bike to move your furniture is going to make some miraculous difference, is over the top crazy and people get sick of hearing about it. I’m not a wasteful person, and I get sick of environmentalists pissing on everything all the time. It gets old.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 8:23 pm

      All right Andrew, I appreciate the tips. But I think I missed how that comment relates to science and its benefits (or even lack thereof) in the context of personal finance?

      Maybe you can post a more detailed response on your own blog.

    • WageSlave October 8, 2014, 7:43 am

      “You riding your bike pulling around a refrigerator isn’t going to make a shit of difference.”

      That is probably true, the behavior of one in seven billion is likely insignificant. But, I suspect MMM is trying to be a leader. How many people see him pulling big, heavy stuff on a bike, and think, “Wow, if that guy can pull a refrigerator on a bike, surely I can ride mine to work a couple times a week.” And now you’re no longer talking about one person, but many. And maybe you get a critical mass of people in a community where enough are riding bikes that even more start doing it if only due to herd mentality.

    • Cubic October 8, 2014, 6:07 pm

      WOW Andrew ! If that’s how you truly feel ?? How did you even find this blog ?? Is China or India in your future plans for residency? I suspect not. Did you ever stop to thing maybe your the one doing the pissing?

      You should think more about what this guy has accomplished in a short amount of time. It’s truly marvelous and a GREAT example for anyone to live by anywhere. Take care Andrew and maybe a short nap is in order.

    • bigun October 8, 2014, 7:03 pm

      Andrew – I agree with WageSlave. I’m far less extreme than MMM on pretty much everything, on but this blog is helping move me in the right direction. I don’t give a shit about someone who drives a reasonable car, recycles, and “does their part”. It’s not interesting or inspiring to hear about your “normal” life, and read about how you ridicule people who is push boundaries.

      I think this is a blog about behavior change. It’s had an impact on my life, and apparently a lot of other people.

      If you want to feel good about your current lifestyle, and get some reassurance that you’re not a wasteful person, you’re probably in the wrong place.

  • JB October 7, 2014, 7:56 pm

    Going back to the solar panel/Utility thing, if it was mandated that new houses had to have solar panels, the prices would come down pretty quick. The building codes mandate a ton of things, why not solar? Especially in the West where there is a ton of sun.

    • B October 7, 2014, 7:58 pm

      Increasing demand for solar panels would raise their prices. Not lower them.

      Sounds like MMM needs to do an economics vs science article.

      • JB October 7, 2014, 8:09 pm

        Economies of scale make them cheaper. That is why if Tesla sell more cars, they become cheaper. The R&D is spread out over more units.

        • B October 7, 2014, 8:14 pm

          There are two curves, supply & demand vs cost & R&D.

          At some point the curves will cross and the cost will go down even as both supply and demand increase.

          But in the short term after such a law is passed the cost would rise very very high. Why not let economics and the free market take its course instead of using legislation? Eventually the cost of electricity from cheap solar panels will bring them into mass acceptance without force.

          • LennStar October 8, 2014, 1:36 pm

            Here again germany (and the rest of teh world btw) show the opposite.
            Of course, if you make a “80% reduction” law then it would take 2-3 years to build up capacities, but nobody is saying that.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 8:21 pm

        Um … “economies of scale”.
        If solar panels were a finite resource grown in a cave at the other end of Destiny Road, we might have an issue, but we keep finding new and better ways to make them – a series of scientific and engineering advances that will only be accelerated by increasing demand.
        You could look at, for example, the 40 Meg hard drive I keep as a paper weight/door stop and the 64 Gig USB thumb drive I bought last year for a better analogy of how we should expect solar panel costs to change.

        • B October 7, 2014, 8:26 pm

          Read the rest of the thread. Economies of scale would not immediately kick in if such a law was passed.

          • Kevin October 11, 2014, 11:37 am

            And yet building codes change all the time, as do car safety regulations, and food safety, and so on. This was the excuse to not go to ABS and airbags and have crash test requirements for cars, and why builders usually balk at energy efficient building techniques. Over time, it ends up being cheaper and better, and the time it takes is usually less than the nay-sayers expect.

      • LennStar October 8, 2014, 1:34 pm

        In germany, some renewable energy is mandatory. Most go for solar heat, bc its most effective.
        However, there are lots of PV panels set up on roofs and on “toxic” ground (old industry grounds).

        The price did not rise, in fact most of german PV producers have gone out of the market because China makes them so cheap now.

        • B October 8, 2014, 1:47 pm

          Ok, I get it, solar panels are not bound by economics.

          • LennStar October 9, 2014, 1:55 am

            They are. They work like everything else.
            Like: Even if solar heat saves you money on the middle/long run, people dont install it, because its costs are extra at the start.

            And for PV: As every expensive new technology, they need incentives for the first investors. In this case it was a guaranteed income per kWh.
            That made it possible to build the huge capacities needed for getting the price down – economies of scale.
            While the efficiany has improved by 50% in the last 20 years, the price has fallen to 1/5. For german electricity prices, PV is now at market prices or way under if you use for yourself (heavily depending on your usage pattern and of course your “sun income”).
            In other countries like spain that is so for several years because of more sun.

            The thing not bound by economics is cars. People buy too big cars, that are too expensive, drive them unneccesarily while ranting about fuel prices and also ranting about taxes to build roads and roads that are crowded. And not included is the “price” of teh destruction of nature and environment.

    • Cubic October 8, 2014, 6:14 pm

      2 words for why solar panel aren’t in the building codes, control and lobbyists. If we have our own power supply the corporate government can’t control us so power companies spend mucho dinero lobbying against it while slippery politicians line their pockets.

  • Karl Keefer October 7, 2014, 8:03 pm

    Dear MMM, this reply is long, but please read it. I’m a long time reader, and for once I think you’re not quite on point.

    Let’s not throw around “because science” if we’re not going to be scientific about things. Perhaps the most important ‘tenet’ of science is to be vigilantly skeptical. AGW is victim to politicization from both sides of the aisle, and both sides have lost sight of the actual science (it’s not just the gas companies trying to manipulate public opinion).

    The climate models we have been using are wrong (even if AGW is in fact happening). The IPCC has consistently over-estimated GW since they started releasing reports, and all of the ad-hoc explanations for the complete pause in warming (and recovery of arctic ice) over the last 10 years look like grasping for straws (even if it turns out their explanations are accurate, the contradictory evidence means you must abandon or adjust your hypotheses, and the ocean heat sink claims seem very difficult to falsify).

    A lot of people are acting a lot more sure about this than they should be, especially given the IPCC track record (over-prediction of warming in every single report they’ve released) – perhaps there is political motivation here that is undermining good science.

    The “consensus” figures that are bandied about are problematic for a number of reasons: http://econlog.econlib.org/…/02/david_friedman_14.html

    Furthermore, even if all climate scientists agree that it’s happening, that doesn’t speak to their thoughts on if it’s a bad or good thing, and also doesn’t speak to their thoughts on anything we could or should do about it, which to some extent becomes a question of economics.

    The science isn’t nearly as clear as a few particularly loud scientists would have you believe.

    Given the evidence we have, it’s very likely the human-generated c02 is strongly related to the warming trend we’ve seen, but it’s also clear that the IPCC models don’t accurately model reality (which is a very hard problem, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they mess it up).

    While Jared from your post likely doesn’t have such a nuanced position, that’s part of the point. There are lots of smart and informed people who have doubts about various claims related to the climate change discussions, even if most of them agree that humans have an effect on the climate.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 8:06 pm

    The first thing you’re going to get is a lot of flak from people who read a website somewhere saying that some part of the science was in dispute. It isn’t. We can use carbon isotope ratios to tell us the carbon in the atmosphere is ours and satellites to tell us that the CO2 is blocking infrared from going out into space. Done. But I can see already that we’re going to have a crazy festival of deniers.
    The second thing is that you accidentally made the use of A/C sound AWESOME. I mean what could be cooler than powering your house with a peleton of Tour de France cyclists attached to stationary bikes outside your house?
    Other that that: Woo! Science!

    “At the core, you were “built” for exactly one reason: to produce as many healthy babies as possible. Every finger and toe, emotion and follicle of your being has been optimized for this purpose.”
    You know this isn’t exactly true, though, right? There are a lot of adaptive features, yes, but also a lot of accidental genetic baggage because something is attached to something else, and a lot of random drift because, well, shit, your eyes had to be *some* colour or other, didn’t they? It probably isn’t a big deal, but people shouldn’t assume that every part of the human body is there for a good adaptive reason. You might make false conclusions.

    • B October 7, 2014, 8:11 pm

      Why must a skeptic be automatically categorized as the absolute definition of a denier?

      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 8:31 pm

        Because 97% of the relevant scientists in the world, who have been studying this at length, very seriously, with the best instrumentation available, have given us a very thoroughly worked out explanation of exactly what’s happening, what caused it and exactly how the cause has led to the effect.
        Pretending that you know better than these people, or that this is somehow a giant conspiracy to destroy the world and institute some bizarre United Nations government, is going off the deep end.

        • B October 7, 2014, 8:34 pm

          “or that this is somehow a giant conspiracy to destroy the world and institute some bizarre United Nations government, is going off the deep end.”

          And this is precisely the problem I have with people like you. I don’t think climate change is a giant conspiracy. I’m simply skeptical. But here YOU go off the deep end, making assumptions and criticizing people whom you know nothing about.

          Funny how you’re all about evidence and accuracy yet you so easily jump to fallacious conclusions about others. Practice what you preach.

          • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 5:23 am

            That was merely an example of one of the many ridiculous anti-science lines of reasoning.
            You’re derailing.
            The important part of that post is how 97% of the scientists in the world, who have been studying this for decades, have reached the same conclusion.
            Did you miss that part while you were derailing? You managed to avoid replying to it. Don’t think we didn’t all notice.
            This article is about using the results of the scientific process to take the best route in our lives. Are you going to be skeptical about cigarette smoking, too? I’m sure I can find some skepticism about cardiovascular exercise as well as more than a few people who think drinking your own urine is good for you.
            Best of luck with line of thinking.

            • B October 8, 2014, 7:40 am

              How old is the Earth? And scientists have been studying it for *decades*? Well I’ll be damned!

              At one time, even scientists didn’t believe that smoking was bad for you, now we know differently. If I was a skeptic about smoking back then, I imagine you would have criticized me then too.

              Scientists also thought everything revolved around the Earth at one time, now we know differently.

              I have to assume that these climate change findings will change over time. I will not be surprised in another few decades when these scientists begin to come to different conclusions. Climate change is simply the topic du jour. Best of luck with your arrogance and pompousness. You must be so proud of yourself as you pass the unenlightened on a daily basis. What say you of the 3% of disagreeing scientists? Surely they must be idiots in your opinion. All we’re seeing here is the herd mentality. Not even 97% of dentists will agree how to properly brush and floss. To expect climate change scientists to be so independently sure leaves me unconvinced.

              • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 8:48 am

                Yes. They’ve been studying climate for decades. They have dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit of that knowledge.
                Whereas you have read some websites and think you know better than them.
                You would also do well to see what the tiny minority of anti-AGW global warming scientists are saying – what part of it they’re speaking against – and who is funding them.
                Yes, natural philosophers thought the world was flat *thousands* of years ago. Then they thought it was a sphere and centre of the universe. Then they realized it wasn’t the centre. Then they realized it wasn’t a sphere, either. That’s what science does. If you think the sphere-thinkers were just as wrong as flat-earth thinkers, you’re more wrong than all of them combined. (That’s Asimov, btw.)

              • B October 8, 2014, 8:58 am

                Unfortunately (or fortunately) I can no longer directly reply to you.

                Thank you for avoiding the point of my writings. The science changes over time. Not all scientists, even at present, are in agreeance. We will see the current climate change egos find themselves having to adjust their stances again in the future as new SCIENCE proves the present science wrong.

              • Kevin October 11, 2014, 11:56 am

                “Scientists also thought everything revolved around the Earth at one time, now we know differently.”

                Actually, the guy who went against the religious establishment of the time and provided the scientific data that showed the earth was not the center of the universe is largely credited with ‘the’ father of modern science.” There really weren’t scientists then, in the way we consider the term now.

                The people who believed the earth was the center of the universe never attempted to make observations to verify this. They just ‘knew.’ Kind of like you seem to be doing.

                And dentists don’t agree about how to brush and floss? You really went there? Haha, okay, I now realize I completely wasted 5 minutes of my time trying to reason with you.

            • Doug October 8, 2014, 4:22 pm

              So were you siting the Cook et al. (2013) ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature’ paper as your basis for the 97% fact (term used loosely)?

              If so you might want to take another look at the data (seems data manipulation is a prerequisite to be a climate change scientist):


              Great quote by an actual scientist who’s papers were classified him as part of the 97%…

              The claim of a 97% consensus on global warming does not stand up!

              Consensus is irrelevant in science. There are plenty of examples in history where everyone agreed and everyone was wrong.


        • Mike Earl October 8, 2014, 12:13 pm

          Mr. Toque – where did you obtain your 97% statistic? And who decides which scientists are “relevant”? How about this group — are they relevant? http://climateconference.heartland.org/speakers/

          • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 12:31 pm

            Most of them aren’t qualified to comment on the issue at all.
            I don’t have time to research them all, but a lawyer, an architect, a Theology Ph.D. and a computer programmer don’t count as expert sources on climate change. It looks like maybe 2 or 3 of them might be qualified in related fields (uh … astrophysics? Maybe he could talk about solar variation, but that’s it.)
            That’s like listening to physicists tell us that evolution is impossible.

          • LennStar October 8, 2014, 1:40 pm

            Lets just say the leading climate expert of germany has said it were 99%, ok?

  • Mr. 1500 October 7, 2014, 8:56 pm

    It saddens me that while the rest of the world gets smarter, folks here in the US seem to be getting dumber. We have measles outbreaks because people won’t vaccinate their kids. We choose to believe ridiculous conspiracy theories spouted by uneducated people on AM radio. Science is what made America great. Don’t turn your back on it. Keep up the good fight MMM.

    • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 9:18 pm

      People are sceptical not to believe what they are told when it comes to “science” from drug companies. As there is a vested interest for them to make money. They fund studies and can select ones to be done that they think will support them. People thinking for themselves is a good thing mostly. Let’s not all bow down to authority. It’s harmless to “believe” in aliens or the lock ness monster. Deep down I don’t think people that say they “believe” really do with any certainty. They are just having fun and exploring their imagination. Although there will be some who will truly believe just about anything. But they are few.

    • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 9:21 pm

      It pays not to get sad about it, focus in your circle of influence. I don’t let it get to me that drug companies try to falsify studies, I’m just glad a growing number of people are seeing this. It makes me glad how it is going.

      • Cubic October 8, 2014, 6:23 pm

        Lol, your on point Mr. 1500. The rest of the world is getting smarter because we spend all our money on defense and being the world policeman.

        • Mr. 1500 October 8, 2014, 7:09 pm

          And buying into silly conspiracy theories.

  • doc tim October 7, 2014, 9:42 pm

    On the topic of science vs faith, one mentioned the horrors of athiest USSR. This misses the true problem that in my opinion is the concept of heresy, defining heresy as the making of questioning a set of beliefs a crime. In that sense the horrors of many religions over the years and those of Stalin, Hitler or other tyrants results from the creation of a system where questioning is not allowed.

    On the topic of God, the question “do you believe in God?” Cannot be answered yes or no as the differences between a deist, theist, and Spinoza’s God are so vast that more explaination is required. Back to heresy a good question for a nonbeliever is what evidence would they have to see to believe X (miracles,virgin birth, etc), while a good question for a believer is what would you have to see to change your mind. If one is not even open to being wrong, beware.

    On global warming\climate change\carbon emission I have long felt now that this is an argument about the existence of a system rather than the underlying disease and as a result focusing only on the symptom is a disservice. The root problem we are approaching is that civilization is large enough that the planet can’t be thought of as an infinite source of raw materials or as a sink for pollution. Arguing over whether we exactly know what the limits are and if mankind has hit them is a very different discussion than one on whether limits exist at all. In my opinion the denial of limits overall falls into the “religious” and political realm. Many arguments against global warming are people who don’t believe in limits but use won’t say so and instead point out errors in the models. I think many scientists are reluctant to discuss potential large modelling uncertainty because of fear it will be jumped on my deniers of any limits on planetary resources.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2014, 9:35 pm

      You’re on to something there. I find the climate change hypothesis very plausible because the rough numbers sound about right, and of COURSE we have the ability to impact the planet in many ways. We are no specks of dust – we’ve converted almost HALF OF THE PLANET’S LAND INTO FARMS – a spectacular destruction of natural ecosystem and replacing it with monocultures.

      This has been proven in almost every dimension of the ecosystem. Thank goodness it is so resilient and we haven’t run into more trouble than we have so far.

      So the implication of all the research is simply that we should wean ourselves mostly off of fossil fuels. As soon as we stop whining about how difficult this is, you can do some calculations and realize it is relatively easy. The key is reducing just a portion of the ridiculous consumption, while preserving everything that delivers actual quality of life. 75% of oil burning gone right off the bat.

      • doc tim October 9, 2014, 5:27 am

        I agree that climate change and the whole concept of the anthropocene epoch is plausible. Although as an engineer who does modeling I recognize that given the complexity of the system the uncertainty in what our impact will have is huge. The problem is some look at this and say business as usual while others have more caution to mitiagate the impact if the worst case happens. I do think that climate change has become a litmus test for one world view and has forced people to choose from the false dichotomy of viewing it as a certainty with certain outcomes versus a conspiracy hoax. I think our brains are biased toward this dichotomy thinking though and people don’t like to accept uncertainty as an answer. A good education formal or self taught in science, math, and probability helps but especially with probability most people don’t understand it well. So if a climate change report comes out with error bounds or different scenarios with estimates on likelihood what makes it into the general population is the worst case with no discission of the nuances of the analysis.

        So it goes with the religion debate also. Scientists I think have a better ability to accept uncertainty so more don’t have to formulate a concept of a god to fill in the gaps. Despite his being often overly antagonistic and caustic, Richard Dawkins had a good summary in the god delusion in the initial pages where he defined a spectrum from certain belief to certain disbelief and granted that he was not at certain disbelief only very close. I read another book a while back called wedge of truth by Phillip Johnson. I enjoyed the book whose main premise was to argue that sciences naturalism has an effective assumption of the absense of a god. I think he had some reasonable points but I felt there was a lot of hypocricy in that he didn’t have any discussion of the “wedge” of possibility that there was no personal god. Having been raised in a religious family and going to catholic school through high school some of my best math and science teachers were the priests and brothers who gave me examples of holding the conflicting ideas in my head and keeping the cognitive dissonance at bay. They stressed in school a lot that an unexamined faith is not as strong as an examined one. After high school when I did more examining, faith was on the losing side. I think this has to be a possible outcome of honest questioning. If I see more evidence to convince me of the claims of religion I am open to reevaluate it though. Apologizes for adding to the non finance/religion fires but good discussions on money politics and religion are the most interesting.

      • Eldred October 9, 2014, 7:27 am

        “The key is reducing just a portion of the ridiculous consumption, while preserving everything that delivers actual quality of life. 75% of oil burning gone right off the bat.”

        75%?!? Ok, that’s impressive. Is that figure based on just eliminating your car? I’m not in a position to do that right now, and probably never WILL be. But I could certainly stand to do better.

  • Steve October 7, 2014, 9:43 pm

    New here.

    While I am not sure I want be a Badass, I know I do not want to be an ass. I think we all need to find our right path in life. I am 55 married man and I like some of the comforts of life like A/C. Please I live in the South Jersey. However, I like way you challenge us softasses to think about the way we spend our money.

    This blog has become a must read for me and will help me plan for my retirement in seven years. If I was willing to live on $27,000 per year, I could retire now. Yes, I am softass. I am looking to retire on a spending limit of 80K, so I plan to work for another seven years. I will keep reading and learning and maybe reduce my spending needs.

  • Jordan October 7, 2014, 10:05 pm

    I certainly lean more towards MMM’s words here, but one reason I can’t completely dive into the “climate-change-is-real-and-is-caused-by-humans” camp is because of the sample size of the data. The earth is over 4 billion years old and we are basing the claims on 150 years of data. Everyone would laugh off an experiment with a sample size of one, so I don’t quite understand how scientists can just glaze over this detail. That being said, I don’t care if it’s a hoax either way. I’m a huge fan of efficiency and conservation and I think the only way to move forward is to pursue cleaner, more prevalent energy solutions. If the reason those technologies come about is because of climate change claims, that’s fine with me. Differing from the norm usually requires some sort of a catalyst, and that’s as good as any, hoax or not.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 7:07 am

      That’s the craziest part of the anti-science group.
      I mean, what’s the worst case if we’re wrong?
      We reduce our pollution, reduce our energy consumption, clean up our planet’s air and water … and Oh. My. God. We did it all for nothing!

      • B October 8, 2014, 7:43 am

        Are the 3% of scientists who don’t agree with climate change considered to be in the anti-science group?

      • JB October 8, 2014, 7:48 am

        There are costs associated with making air perfectly clean. I guess the gov’t has to mandate everyone live in a 1,000 sq ft house. One child per family, ration water and electricity. That will keep people from wasting resources.

        • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 8:59 am

          There are costs associated with pollution.
          The people who benefit from a product should pay for the actual costs of the product and let “the free market” work the rest out.

      • Juan October 9, 2014, 8:43 am

        This is how I’ve always felt about it too. Whether you believe in climate change or not…whether you believe it’s caused by humans or not, there’s a simple premise we should all follow…You don’t shit where you eat. This is our only planet (for now), so why not do what we can to ensure a clean place to live? Stop polluting, stop burning through every resource like a replay of The Lorax, recycle and leave things nicer than the way you found them. Maybe it won’t stop the “imaginary” global warming, but maybe we’ll all live a bit healthier. And maybe a bit smarter.

    • Kevin October 11, 2014, 12:32 pm

      @ Jordan – “The earth is over 4 billion years old and we are basing the claims on 150 years of data.”

      This is totally incorrect. There are a lot of amazing ways scientists have figured out to get data about climate over extremely long periods of time. In fact, it is the misuse of that data, which shows past episodes of VERY slow warming and cooling that the deniers use to try to let humans off the hook for the recent staggering increases in CO2, etc. We have huge amounts of data. The main argument is about the rapidity of the changes we’re seeing now, and how relevant those changes are (at least, the main argument between those who have purused the data — there are those who ‘just know’ the truth, and don’t need to look at anything).

  • GalinAZ October 7, 2014, 10:32 pm

    Mr M, this post got me wondering what you think about patenting genetically modified foods and the controversy surrounding it. Is it a good use of science to modify the plants? Or is that a moral/ethical issue, and if so, how should science address the moral and ethical impacts of its discoveries?

    • Druid October 8, 2014, 2:44 am

      Well at least you didn’t suggest an article on abortion.

    • Texas Jim October 8, 2014, 9:23 am

      GAZ….Those inside and outside science should always weigh the consequences of its discoveries. Anytime one alters the current ecosystem there is a potential for problems. I think for example kudzu was imported to control erosion and it simply went wild. However, I beleive the controversey surrounding GMO foods arises from a lack of understanding of the process and the results. We have be modifyong plants for centuries through selective preeding of more productive mutants. The process of gene insertion allow one to do the same thing with more efficiency and percision. If one edible plant naturally repels insects like the sweet basil in my garden (my observation) wouldn’t it be great if I could insert the gene for that particular enzyme into my cabbage which I apparently plant simply to feed the worms. I suspect the beneficial factor is the basil aroma and thus we might get a resistant cabbage that has more flavor. Patenting the new plant is another question. I believe the company should have the exclusive rights to sell the seed but I disagree with the lawsuits brought against farmers who bought the seed , grew the plants and reused the next generation seed from their fields. The company owns the process not the gene.

  • Frugal Strudel October 8, 2014, 1:06 am

    I like that the dude from Alabama got your mojo workin’ – I also like the fact that you respect his “fuck you” attitude. It’s what I love about America and Americans. For every uptight dick head, there’s a bunch of dickheads that don’t give a shit what others think and I find that healthy and refreshing – very punk rock.

    As far as the topic, lately I’ve had a hard time getting worked up over the climate debate.
    That’s not to say I haven’t seen things change over my life time – hotter summers, larger and more severe storm systems and colder winters. Who hasn’t see the strange pictures of melting glaciers and polar bears trying to figure out where the fucking ice and snow has gone? Change is real.

    And yet I am a skeptic…not skeptical about the changes, but what’s causing them. And then there’s the fatalistic reality that if global warming is truly man made then we’re probably doomed. I base that on the assumption that while North America and Europe MAY change their evil oil ways, the 3rd world developing nations – with billions and billions of people – will surely increase oil production and usage exponentially. There’s not much we can do about that right?

    And here’s another thought…there are so many urgent problems that are confronting the developed nations today I would put global warming about 15th on my list of things I care about, but can’t do shit about. When it comes right down to it, it seems the only problems I CAN do anything about are using less water (Calif), using less electricity (we like the dark) and drinking at least one glass of wine a day (doctor’s orders).

    When I was a little younger the media told me that the world was completely fucked because of war, pollution, corruption, poverty and endless other problems. As I got older I noticed that the wars ended, people who got educated and worked hard got out of poverty and most of the politicians were actually honest public servants. I also noticed that not only was the world not fucked, but people’s lives got infinitely better over the past 30 years. That damn media lied to me – they had been crying wolf since forever. Eventually I stopped listening or believing anything the media has to say.

    Ipso facto – my climate change skepticism.

    • Kevin October 11, 2014, 12:37 pm

      Yeah, that pollution thing was totally overblown. Glad we never tried to make any changes in how we do things. I still throw my batteries and used motor oil in the stream behind my house — as far as I can tell it never hurt anybody. And wars, what the heck?! Nobody ever dropped a bomb on me or mine, so that must be a lot of hoo-haw! Water shortages? Hey, it’s raining right now where I live. They must be lying!

  • Sparkie October 8, 2014, 1:31 am

    Dear oh dear. If you look at the science of climate change, you’ll see it has always changed. We have been coming out of an ice age, so obviously, you’d expect it to be getting warmer. The problem with the issue today, is ‘scientists’ trying to make a case that as CO2 increases, temperature increases. And then, because humans are increasing the CO2, we are responsible, so let’s tax you to stop it.

    Problem is, of all the CO2 put into the atmosphere, humans only contribute 3%. Second problem, is the empirical data (not the models) shows a big increase in CO2 over the last 2o years, yet measured temperatures globally haven’t risen for 17 years now.

    So if you believe in science MMM, then surely you believe the data of what has actually happened, rather than a model that has been shown to be wrong? Anthropogenic climate change is a theory put forward, that has shown to be incorrect by the evidence.

    It is politically driven. In Australia, the government run Bureau of Meteorology has altered the historic temperature record downwards, giving a relative rise today. Why? Pretty hard to claim good science regarding temperatures ‘since records began’ if you’re allowed to change the records to suit.

  • Jess October 8, 2014, 4:03 am

    I’m a long-time reader and am finally de-lurking to say THANK YOU for this post. As a scientist it infuriates me to see people display such willful ignorance and hostility toward science. It can get disheartening to constantly come up against these sorts of views, not least because they have real and damaging effects (measles anyone?), so it’s refreshing to see your excellent response. Keep up the bad-ass work! :)


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