August 20, 2006
Mark Rippetoe, CrossFit Wichita Falls, Starting Strength author, "The squat drives the hip up, not forward."
Complexity, by Michael Crichton
Post thoughts to comments.
Posted by lauren at August 20, 2006 3:25 PM
It's a very interesting article. Pretty easy to relate the Yellowstone managing to interventionism in our economy.
I guess he showed a similar point with Jurrasic Park; the things that happen when man tries to control a complex system.
Good speech, now I can go to bed. Favorite line is this:
"If you have a teenager, or if you invest in the stock market, you know very well that a complex system cannot be controlled, it can only be managed."
Speaking as a recent teenager, I don't really get why dealing with us (them? am I really no longer in generation 'z' or what have you?) is that difficult. Just leave us alone for about 6 years, accept that our room will be messy and we'll do things we'll regret later. We'll come around two days before we head off to college.
Just keep us from:
Drinking and driving, smoking (anything), getting a Tattoo, and/or having unprotected sex; we'll be pretty healthy by 20 years old.
Well put, Will.
Thank you for some insight from the young. It's been a long time since I could claim that description :)
The powers in the media want to baffle us with and their opinions which are not entirely based on facts. Do not beleive everything you read! Especially in the newspapers.
The problem is, Will, trying to prevent you from doing the things you say we should keep you from doing.
The mere fact that parents tell you not to, well, you do.
Ask me how I know....cuz I did it. Except the tattoo.
I think the woman in the photo looks great.
Great article. I really resonate with the idea of eliminating fear when trying to manage complexity. And the part about humility and self-reflection, admitting one is wrong, changing course, and so forth.
As far as Y2K, I am all for emergency preparedness, whether there is an alleged imminent disaster or not. I try to keep a month's worth of food and water. I've had to use my month's worth of food once, actually, due to an emergency. I'm all for people learning to be more self-sufficient instead of expecting the government or someone else to help them. This is not fear-based. In fact, this eliminates fear. Because of my emergency stash and a little bit of survival training (and my relationship with G-d, and my lovely support system, etc.), I am not afraid of emergencies. I am ready to deal with them.
I'm curious as to which "Indians" managed the land intrusively. As far as I know, different tribes practiced different things but most lived in harmony with the earth. Setting fires is not necessarily harming the land, but presents a deep level of awareness and involvement with natural processes. In Tucson, Mt. Lemmon burns every, gosh I forget how many years it is, but fires just seem to break out here. How about let's not build houses there? Everybody always freaks out when I throw out that idea. I think it's something I'd look at before buying a house though. You wanna buy a house in an area that has fires all the time, don't expect tons of sympathy from me... (I guess I'm lying, I helped plant trees there after the fire...)
I think it's pretty much proven that logging is dangerous to the spotted owl. There's this thing called a canopy... just because some articles are unscientific does not mean that we need to throw out science altogether.
I think comparing numbers of people affected by disasters clouds the real issue. Of course more people die each year than those killed in Chernobyl. More people die each year from car accidents that those killed on 9/11--and that doesn't make it any less significant.
The idea that we don't know how to manage land was a bit of a cop-out in some ways, in my opinion. For example, in Arizona we have some very bad wolf policy that goes against every law that was ever passed to protect and reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf, just look at the Paquet report, written by wildlife biologists, and yet people choose not to follow the recommendations for political reasons. Sometimes people know what to do to fix a problem and just don't do it.
Just some thoughts.
A butterfly flaps its wings?
Follow me now; I just saw a (very bad) cop movie called "Venice Underground", featuring UFC fighter turned actor, Tito Ortiz. Man, Tito sure is a great fighter.
Years ago I saw a very bad movie called "Congo", featuring actress Laura Linney. She is sure is a great actress, but she couldn't save "Congo". Michael Crichton sure is a great writer but he couldn't save "Congo". I wonder if he can save the us from the enviro-nazis and MSM's ministry of dis-information. He sure is trying.
My plan is simple. Laura handles the acting, Michael covers down on the fiction and we have Tito take care of the fear-mongers.
Anybody want an Elkburger?
What is up with all the dogs? I have a goofy Beagle and he hasn't been able to improve my squat yet. Need a new dog...
Interesting article. Treelizard, "How about lets not build houses there?!" Ha, that's perfect. Feel the same way about people that live in most catastrophe prone areas. I've got a brother that lives in northern California, I'll feel bad if anything happens to his house, and I hope he and his wife will be ok, but it's won't be a big suprise; it's not a case of if, but when. Same thing for my other brother that lives in Kansas. And when my parents complain about the heat, they live in Yuma, Arizona for gods sake, it's a fricken desert. Most people complain about things they inflict upon themselves and want to blame other people for. The human race as a whole needs to take a little more responsiblity for what it's done, is doing, and plans on doing. I think it might be more amusing if the "scientists" would parade around with sandwich -boards proclaming the end of the world. Have a good rest day. Life will take care of itself.
Nitpicking isn't exactly demonstrating a grasp of complexity.
Todd-neither is ignoring points that are not complex or accurate. :P
It is well documented that most Native American tribes who lived in prairies and hardwood forests (the midwest and great plains) practiced controlled burning to manage their "hunting grounds". Somehow, they reasoned out that controlling the undergrowth and providing soil renewal through the ash and other combustion products would sustain their biosystems. Unfortunately, it took us several hundred years to figure this out for ourselves. You will see this practiced today at managed forests and prairies in the American heartland.
Also, I don't think the article is trying to say that deforestation is not destructive of certain species habitat (such as the spotted owl). The problem is over reaction. Sixty years ago, the lumber companies would clearcut large sections of land. Thirty or so years ago, everyone figured out that this was not a sensible practice (from both an environmental and economic perspective) and reverted to selective cutting where forest were no longer being destroyed by logging and new trees were planted to supplement those being cut. Then, twenty years ago, someone discovered that the population of spotted owls was apparently declining. Instead of restricting clearcutting and other damaging practices, the EPA chose to stop all logging in large sections of the Pacific Northwest forest. This had a very detrimental effect on the local economy and didn't seem to do much for the owls anyway.
Deejay, I'd love to hear more about it. I was under the impression that the Northern spotted owl was doing quite well, and that only the Mexican and California spotted owls were in trouble.
I sat in a tree for a few weeks in Oregon, and was excited when I found out a huge huge amount of the fores (the Wilamette) had been saved, both because I *knew* it was spotted owl habitat (we found red tree vole nests while traversing between trees) and loggers shouldn't be there, and because I didn't think the treesitters should've been there either since they apparently had no concept of sustainable caretaking (i.e. they'd strip an entire area of all its dead wood, leave beer cans everywhere and basically trash the forest they were claiming to want to save...in fact, I wrote a whole article on this called "Why I Am No Longer A Treesitter" that got me lynched by all my friends)-- would be interested in hearing more on this, do you live in Oregon?
The only reason Crichton mentioned spotted owls was to make this statement:
"My point is that the drama surrounding such disputes—angry marches and press coverage, tree hugging, bulldozers—serves to obscure the deeper problem. We don't know how to manage wilderness environments, even when there is no conflict at all."
Nitpicking is not seeing the forest through the trees.
Todd--my point is that science does in fact often demonstrate how to manage wilderness environments. It's possible to look past the drama into the actual research and recognize this.
Crichton claims science isn't doing such a hot job in Yellowstone, and I haven't read anything in your posts that refutes his assertion. I gather the impression you are a self-styled environmentalist who feels attacked when Crichton calls your thinking un-complex.
I thought you resonated with the idea of admitting when you were wrong?
Hmm! It seems my lifelong attitude of "Does it really matter in the long run?" is once again proving the best idea. ...and here I thought I was just lazy.
Have a great day, everybody!
I am not as familiar with environmental issues in Yellowstone (aside from those involving the last buffalo) as I am with wolf issues in Arizona, as I already stated. I mentioned the Paquet Report, completed in June '01 by four independent wildlife biologists. This 86-page report offered many recommendations, none of which were implemented due to political reasons. My point is that science often isn't followed due to bad politics.
I've talked to a lot of ranchers who have some pretty weird ideas about wolves that don't match up to the scientific reports or common biological knowledge. Fear-based thinking, or buying into nonscientific bells and whistles of the lastest newspaper headlines, is not limited to environmentalists.
I do resonate with the idea of admitting when I'm wrong, and if you'd like to read this report (or check out the book Predatory Bureaucracy by Michael Robinson) and refute anything I've stated with facts, I'd be more than happy to listen.
The report is available here: www.gf.state.az.us/w_c/es/documents/MW5YRTechnicalComponent20051231Final.pdf
I actually did not feel attacked when Crichton said certain people's thinking was not complex (I don't recall seeing my name mentioned in the article), but I did think that certain points he made were themselves un-complex. For example, the fact that more people are killed in car accidents over a year than were killed in Chernobyl (or 9/11) I don't believe takes away from the significance.
Self-styled environmentalist? I'm an herbalist and a gardener and I used to do a television show on water policy, so guilty as charged. However, I also dissed treesitters for trashing the forest. I like to think I'm somewhat open-minded.
No rest for the wicked...
Beginning taper to family golf "grudge match" next weekend!
A couple more things:
1. "Fortunately, studies show that we can learn to manage complex systems." --Crichton (near the end, for those of us who made it that far)
2. Hey Todd, aren't you the guy who was writing about E85 the other day? Treehugger. ;)
#15 treelizard; the more you write, the more I dig your style. Like Bruce Lee said; "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question, than a fool can learn from a wise answer." or was that Kwai Chang Caine? ...Groucho Marx?
You were right to trash the tree-sittin' litterbugs, I'm mean really, the gall, what kind of decent beer comes in cans anyway?
Rest Day 5Km 27:21, 114 Deg (F)
Elkburgers? Anyone? Going begging.
Michael Crichton should not be minimalized simply because he wrote a good piece of fiction that was turned into a poor movie. He has proven himself a serious thinker and researcher. How was Chernobyl "significant"? Crichton adequately disputes both the death toll and short and long term environmental impacts. I can't help but immediately discount some of the validity of an arguement that cites "independent" sources; there is no such thing. We all have our agendas. It is refreshing to read someone like Crichton whose only agenda seems to be to make people think for themselves.
I have a question/statement. Was Crichton attempting to educate us on our inability to properly manage forest, the plight of the spotte owl, the glaring inaccuracies of statistics in the media when reporting on "catastropies"; or was he trying to impress upon us the nature of the world we live in as a complex system that we must alway pay attention to, ensuring that we make smaller that thought needed adjustments and wait and see what results are obtained. Our actions can have repercussions years from now that we never thought of when we made choices.
Remember, Crichton wrote "Rising Son" to point out the takeover of the United States by Japanese technology giants. Just saying.
Oh, it was also one of the worst novels I had the displeasure of finishing.
Sgt. Feather, make mine medium. Still the flowers in your dustbin.
Sgt. Feather, you crack me up! I want an elk burger. What kind of beer are you drinking?
Tony, Chernobyl was a bit more significant than 30 car accidents in that it caused the immediate evacuation of 116,00 people, the resettling of 210,000 people in a five-year period, the creation of a new town for Chernobyl personnel, the reduction of electricity supplies, 12.8 billion dollars of disruption to the Soviet economy, and an increase in thyroid cancer (this is documented).
As far as the Paquet report, the biologists were commissioned by Fish and Wildlife Services, the same body that is ignoring their recommendations. (Agenda?) The scientists work for the Conservation Breeding Specialists Group, which does indeed have the agenda of assisting in the conservation of endangered species.
Since this is complexity day though, let's not forget that wildlife biologists are not always in agreement with environmental activists. (I remember meeting wildlife biologist and author Jonathan Hanson around the same time there was a big to-do in Tucson over mountain lions and activists were getting arrested on felony charges for trying to stop them from being killed. I asked Hanson what he thought, and he told me they were doing more harm than good and that he only cares about preserving habitat and public support. He said that as a wildlife biologist he could care less about the death of a single animal or even a handful of animals. He also made fun of local environmental activists and activist groups (though he wouldn't name names until I cornered him after the booksigning.) He is my hero.
Travis--nail on the head, as usual.
When it comes to broad long term issues such as the environment I'll err on the side of 'simple solutioned' action over even the best complex system environmental visionary as what either of them really know is a but fraction of what will reveal itself within even a century down the road...... (and I haven't an ounce of fear regarding this issue ..nor really any issue..well maybe impotency).
So, the sky is not falling? No new at 11? I shouldn't have sold my beach house b/c I was worried about it washing away by rising sea levels? Darn.
Did yesterday's today ...plus 800m run at start and finish
Weights scaled to 66lbs - 75% of BW adjusted suggested load
Total 22:37. Run at end was a pitiful stagger. Still - got it done and pleased with improving form on squats.
Took yesterday off. Half-marathon today with Leanne B. Good job on your first 1/2.
on the vein of strength; check out the latest issue of Climbing magazine, they've got an interesting featurette on isometric training:
"In 1999, sports-fitness authors John Little and Pete Sisco published the results of a 10-week study on Isometrics...On average, their athletes showed a 51 percent increase in static strength, a 28 percent increase in their one-rep max, and a 34 percent increase in their 10-rep max...The subjects achieved all this with less than two-and-a-half minutes of isometric training per day!"
weighted L-hang lock-offs, anyone?
10x(situps, 40# good-mornings, pushups, dips, jumping pullup singles, 75# goblet squats -good form, max weight at home)
Crighton is one of my favorites.
Resting the rest of the day.
Note to self: don't work out with Air Force machines, esp. if it is a rest day and their favorite WOD is Murph.
treelizard + valkyries
1/4 mile run
1/4 mile run
10 squats (I think)
20 lunges (10 each side)
30 flutter kicks
1/4 mile run
10 pushups (V did Hindu pushups)
20 lunges (10 each side)
1/4 mile run
30 second sit hold, or whatever you call those things
Everything broken including me, run was more like a run/jog/walk/jog typa thing.
This took like 37 minutes, V was nice enough to sit and wait for me. I *was* working out harder than the dude who was slowly walking the track the whole time though, so at least I got that going for me.
V: 27 pullups
T: 7 assisted pullups, 7 assisted dips
L-sits (V at 40 seconds, I could only do 25 even though I tried twice, but I sware I can do 30 seconds even though he didn't believe me.)
Next time I'll scale my portion in half so I can keep up. :P
One hell of a WOD. Might be time for my half-week, I've been going really hard for 5 weeks now.
Steve Maxwell kb ladder
1-10, 26# kb. 20:30
Nice work, t-liz!
There's a place in this world for all of God's creatures...right next to the mashed potatoes.
Burn the forests.
Chop down the trees.
I don't trust wildlife biologists either...esp the type that were caugh planting some Lynx hair in a place no Lynx were in order to document some miraculous find and "preserve" an area.
Rest day w/o:
weighted pull ups/dips 10x3
10 min run practicing the POSE method.
Stella Artois, take me away.
Dodger fans love the Pods. They're so cute.
Where the hell is my elkburger? I do love my spotted owl wings as an appetizer.
why's that dog in the picture?
Many minutes later and still laughing!
"There's a place for all of God's creatures...right next to the mashed potatoes."
I want NO part of the in-coming on its way to you, but be assured that I will be stealing that and using it all week! Too funny, just too funny.
The key is the creation of a feedback loop. If you're going to try something, pay attention, see what happens, make adjustments, try again (or not).
Because complex systems, by definition, are complex, you can't predict in advance what will happen, but you can WATCH what happens, and if you keep in mind that you are as likely to cause harm as good, you may just wind up doing the right thing, after all other options are exhausted.
That feedback loop reminds me of something. . .
I take repeated solice in the mantra: Hard nose, literal, precise and accurate. Whenever I hear a news report, view point, advertisement, etc that does not fulfill these criteria, I consider it only ancedote and not fact. Consequently I am very skeptical of most everything I hear. Creighton's article reinforces this viewpoint.
Ron Nelson- It's funny how many few Dodger fans there were when the teams' Arthritis was acting up and they were on the DL due to old age. Seasons not over yet.
Mike #41- Because Mark Rippetoe is not only a man who knows how to coach lifting and a lover fine Ales. But a world respected animal activist. The dog represnts his lover for such creatures.
I'll give you a call tomorrow Rip.
As someone smart once told me:
Vegetarian is American Indian for, "Bad shot".
For another take on this topic, read "The Ingenuity Gap" by Thomas Homer Dixon. It is very well researched, detailed and comes to very differnt conclusions. Crighton's article is junk food analysis that makes parties to one side of the debate feel righteous, like - "see I told you there is nothing to worry about the environment, Crighton shows us that we were right all the time."
I find it hilarious that we can smugly apply Crighton's analysis to unveil the weak evidence of environmental claims, yet simultaneously on this site often take claims about terrorism and security threats by the current administration at face value. His argument can be applied in the same way about assumptions going in tot he war on iraq.
" I am going to challenge you today to revise your thinking, and to reconsider some fundamental assumptions. Assumptions so deeply embedded in our consciousness that we don’t even realize they are there."
Ask yourself if this opeing statement by the author can apply to any other discussions we have here from time to time, then note how the model is usually just applied against issues that reinforce the ideology of the user.
Is does not take a genious to take priveledged platform and knock holes in a theory or movement, there were many more accomplished scientists who wrote many more persuasive arguments than this one asserting that tobacco smoke was not dagerous. Does that mean they cassandras were wrong, or were the panglosses on the payroll?
My point is that it is easy to select the studies that support your own ideology and then feel comforted that science backs up your religion/politics. it is difficult to wander away from the security of your convictions and go exploring for ideas in other camps.
Rip's book, "Starting Strength", is excellent!
DJ and I are gonna have the same bumper sticker. :-)
CFWU, ran 300m 5 supermen 20-30 sec., 21 raised psp, 3 ring hang plp, 30 air squats, 15 raised psp, 3 ring hang plp, 30 air squats, 9 raised psp, 3 ring hang plp, 30 air squats, 17:23
Did Chelsea, 20 min, max rounds of 5 pullup, 10 pushup, 15 wall ball. 6.3 rounds.
I didn't read that article as an attempt to argue any specific case. Rather, it was an attempt to remove hysteria from discussions of the environment. The fact of the matter is, it's POSSIBLE that global warming isn't happening. It's possible it is, but it isn't our fault. It's possible the world is going to start getting colder next year.
The point is, we don't know, but sizable and vocal groups of people talk and act as if the conclusions were self evident and beyond discussion. Over and over and over, I have had people get exasperated with me: "Don't you KNOW burning fossil fuels causes global warming? Are you a NEANDERTHAL? Are you DUMB? To be more specific: are you a CONSERVARETARD TOON?
Crichton is offering an opinion not on objective facts--although he obviously has opinions--but about the manner in which we conduct the discussion. Your own post says, in effect, "you think you are right, but you could be wrong." This is undoubtedly true. At the same time, there is nothing at all preventing people of a liberal persuasion from consistently presenting facts which they believe support their case, facts upon which they ought, logically, to have depended in forming their own views--provided of course, they weren't discovered prepackaged at a campus discount store.
I myself was driven from sheer boredom into articulating views I really didn't believe, just to see if there actually was anything substantive which COULD be said.
Contrary to what seems to be the predominant PREJUDICE of most liberals I've met--and I went to Cal-Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement, and one of the most liberal schools in the country (they let a man attend class naked for months, until finally being forced to act by women complaining of a "hostile environment", which is the same as sexual harassment)--it is perfectly possible to be an intelligent, well-informed, systematic conservative, who both means well, and acts on it.
1/2 Angie (50 reps each)
Tabata of side hops, split jumps sit-ups and squats
Did Gymjones' "Joneworthy"
Squat: 80, 64, 48, 32, 24, 12
KB Swing: 40, 32, 24, 16, 12, 6
Pull-up: 20, 16, 12, 8, 6, 3
First round looks like: 80x Squats + 40x KBS + 20x Pull-up
Second round looks like: 64x Squats + 32x KBS + 16x Pull-up
Used 35# KB
Crichton' observations about fear and the media are entertaining and provocative. But his observations on linear and non-linear systems and on complexity theory don't hold water.
Someone said complexity theory was a glorious solution in search of a problem, somewhat paraphrased.
There are no linear systems in nature. The first problem is that the concept of linear systems is mathematical. It has nice applications to certain models of nature. The term is pretty much undefined outside of mathematics, or outside of a mathematical reference, such as in a certain kinds of computation, or relating to a line, a concept from geometry.
Non-linear is everything that is not linear. In one sense that could encompass everything else. But that violates one logical law or another to have the negative of a concept exceed the domain of the original concept. That is, non-linear things are mathematical things which are not linear. In that sense, the real world has neither linear or nonlinear things.
BTW, a rocket flight or the ballistics of a canon ball in the simplest of their models are far from linear.
Crichton wrote his piece under the auspices of the Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy. Its home page is
In its FAQs you'll find the following:
>>An inevitable difficulty that creeps in to any discussion regarding "complexity modeling" is that by virtue of its deep interdisciplinarity— indeed, that is what gives the whole field its meaning, which results in multiple fields using the same terms but with sometimes subtly different innate meaning—there is an unavoidable ambiguity and imprecision regarding basic terminology.
That is sufficient in the definition of science to place complexity theory outside the realm of science. In the bargain, it explains Crichton's thinking.
We cannot have a rational discussion of anything if the meanings of any words float.
You can find articles juxtaposing Intelligent Design and Cosmology with Complexity Theory. Beware them all.