Archive for science

A malaise in science, a failure in culture

Dr. Tim Ball thinks that the Credibility Loss in Climate Science is Part of a Wider Malaise in Science.

There are a widespread malaise and loss of direction in western society promulgated by bizarre ideas and theories produced by completely unaccountable academics. How can anyone promote ideas that were so wrong and did so much damage, like Paul Ehrlich, yet continue to practice?

Lack of accountability is endemic among the financial, political, and academic elite trio. It is no wonder that the modern attitude, especially among the young, is that you only broke the law if you got caught. Even then, it is most likely nothing will happen to you or anyone who benefits from your absolution if you are in the elite trio. So the malfeasance expands as the practices and false rewards continue.

One of many incorrect assumptions made in education is that it can increase a person’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ). The difference is between nature (IQ) and nurture (education). Aristotle defined the issue when he pointed out that you can have a mathematical genius of five years old, but you will never have a five-year-old philosophical genius. Aristotle’s point was that most of the subjects’ students study in school require life experience, which they don’t and can’t have.

The give away in the entire climate debacle were the actions taken before and after the emails were leaked. The resort to denial of freedom of information requests for data, use of intellectual property claims to prevent other scientists replicating results. The examples in climate science appear to be extreme.

There is worry about a lack of accountability and differing rules and standards for different cohorts. Why is it fostered and allowed to stand? That is the puzzle.

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False prophets

Luboš lets loose every now and then about false prophets in science. This time he thinks: Pesticides needed against anti-physics pests — “Their activity got too high in the summer.”

There’s absolutely nothing new about this particular rant – it’s the 5000th repetition of the anti-string delusions repeated by dozens of other mental cripples and fraudsters in the recent decade. To make things “cooler”, he says that many string theorists would agree with him and to make sure what they would agree with, he promotes both Šmoits’ crackpot books at the end as the “recommended reading”.

This particular rant has been read by more than 45,000 readers. The number of people indoctrinated with this junk is so high that one should almost start to be afraid to call the string critics vermin on the street (my fear is not this far, however). I am sure that most of them have been gullible imbeciles since the rant was upvoted a whopping 477 times. Every Quora commenter who has had something to do with high brow physics disagrees with Muller but it’s only Muller’s rant that is visible. Quora labels this Muller as the “most viewed writer in physics”. Quora is an anti-civilization force that deserves to be liquidated.

A more accurate formulation is that Mr Siegel doesn’t want to see any arguments in favor of grand unification because he is a dishonest and/or totally stupid prejudiced and demagogic crackpot. But I guess that Siegel’s own formulation, while totally untrue, sounds fancier to his brainwashed readers.

The number of individuals just like him has grown astronomical and they produce their lies on a daily basis without facing almost any genuine enemies.

It’s not only in string theory that you have the ignorant posing as experts pontificating nonsense. It is not only in arcane fields of study or science or technology that such people are doing their thing, either. String theory, climatology, genetics and farming, vaccinations, nutrition, criminal violence, and even the law all have false prophets garnering followings of the gullible. 

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was all nonsense but money gets spent, people suffer and die, and the followers waste so much. It does seem that the activity is rather high this summer.

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Flawed inflammatory: the GMO argument

Sarah Hartley seems a bit confused in an Opinion: Why scientists’ failure to understand GM opposition is stifling debate and halting progress.

Genetically modified crops are safe for human consumption and have the potential to feed the world and improve human health, scientists have been telling us for years. On June 30, 110 Nobel laureates from around the world signed a letter demanding that the environmental pressure group Greenpeace stop its campaign against GM crops. How many people must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”? the letter asks.

Note the selection from the letter and remember that this is an opinion about scientists that fail to understand. Also note that the question is factually accurate and reasonable although it is a confrontation to denial.

Our research has identified five requirements for advancing a responsible debate about GM crops. These are a commitment to honesty; recognition of the values underlying the practice of science; involvement of a broad range of people; consideration of a range of alternatives; and a preparedness to respond.

This is nice, but such advice should start at home. How can there be “a commitment to honesty” when a whole litany of dubious allegations and logical fallacies are presented in support of the opinion? How is calling the letter “inflammatory” be considered honest? How are these “requirements” considered relevant when they appear more to be accusation by innuendo and presented that way because the accusations have no merit?

It is clear that the scientists accusing Greenpeace of crimes against humanity feel deeply frustrated about what they see as shackles on a technology that for them has clear benefits for the world’s poor. However, by signing the inflammatory letter, they reveal a flawed and naïve understanding of the debate. This approach is likely to result in further agitating and polarising the debate rather than achieving the desired outcome. Indeed, some may even see these scientists as using their privilege and authority to promote a particular technological solution to a political problem.

The quote provided refutes the accusation here showing that the opinion is based on flawed perceptions chosen to support a bias. That is supported by labeling and judging the Nobel laureates with words such as “flawed and naïve” and asserting that it is they who are “agitating and polarising” and using “privilege and authority.” The opinion also describes health and nutrition as a political problem and maligns technological solutions.

The fact is that the opposition to GMO is based on promulgating fear, uncertainty, and doubt and shows no consideration for the damage its efforts do to integrity or even the physical human condition. Hartley’s concerns about the scientists are misdirected. She chooses the easy target and, in doing so, demonstrates that she is a part of the problem and not a part of the solution.

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More death from the left

One side effect of the environmentalists’s movements has been death, especially in the population of the poor and disadvantaged. Since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the termination of the use of DDT to control vector born diseases, the health and welfare of the silent classes seem to be of little concern. This is generating some pushback. See Scientists Scorn Greenpeace’s Deadly GMO Scare Tactics

A group of 107 Nobel laureates signed onto a letter calling out the environmental group Greenpeace for its longstanding opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The letter pays particular attention to Golden Rice, a GMO that, the letter states, “has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia.”

And yet, and yet…Greenpeace doesn’t approve. Worse than that, the group’s eco-activists have actively mobilized against its cultivation in the developing world (where it’s needed most), spreading fear and misinformation that’s lead to incidences of targeted vandalism against Golden Rice field trials.
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The Nobel laureates’ letter concludes with a question: “How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”?” From where we’re sitting, consigning hundreds of thousands of poor children to blindness and contributing to millions of otherwise preventable deaths every year certainly seems to cross that line.

The issue is one of ‘responsible use’ but the debate is plagued by binary position of yes or no. Yes, Carson had a point but no, total banning of all pesticides was not the most effective choice. Tugging on heartstrings with scary anecdote and hyperbolic exaggeration is not a proper way to present a point of view either. 

You can take the Malthusian approach, figure that all resources are limited so the human population must be limited, too- by force if necessary. An alternative is  to look at history and see that human ingenuity tends to solve problems if allowed to do so and human population is self limiting when fears of starvation and impoverishment are reduced. 

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Don’t need no stinkin’ data – we have our imaginations!

This falls into the ‘never let a catastrophe go to waste’ department. Michael Mann, scientist: Data ‘increasingly unnecessary’ because ‘we can see climate change’.

Leading climate doomsayer Michael Mann recently downplayed the importance of climate change science, telling [the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee] that data and models “increasingly are unnecessary” because the impact is obvious.

The panel’s draft, which now goes to the full platform committee for approval at a meeting July 8-9 in Orlando, Florida, includes a recommendation to call for a Justice Department investigation into “alleged corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies who have reportedly misled shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.”

The recommendation, adopted by unanimous consent, comes on the heels of a campaign by 17 attorneys general — 16 Democrats and one independent — to pursue Exxon Mobil Corp. and its supporters for climate change “fraud.” At least three attorneys general have issued subpoenas to Exxon.

Exxon is challenging subpoenas issued by the Virgin Islands and Massachusetts attorneys general, denouncing the probe as a fishing expedition that violates the company’s free speech rights.

Any flood, any big storm, any unusual weather, provide meat for claims about being able to “see climate change.” You’d think a person with the credentials and position of “Mann, scientist” would be well aware of the problems of perception and bias in measurement and, especially with his previous problems with statistics, especially careful about phenomena that are not simply measured.

It is telling that the pattern persists. Deceit and a lack of intellectual integrity in espousing a position, a call for the suppression of fundamental rights, moral preening, and the platform of the Democratic Party. Modeling that party with this pattern yields much more verifiable outcomes than climate models provide.

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Is evidence a matter of belief? (a problem in healthcare)

Robert Centor illustrates the problem as The conundrum of clinical medicine is what makes it difficult.

The term, “evidence-based medicine” (EBM), provokes strong feelings from its proponents and its skeptics. I spent a full day recently in discussions about EBM. As the day proceeded I understood that evidence is wonderful when it fits the clinical question, but that too often the clinical question does not, and probably will not have adequate evidence.

Even if one believes in EBM, controversies among guidelines must give one pause. These likely occur because differing guideline committees have differing priorities and values. Data are not cold hard facts that we can always apply to our patients. Rather we must filter data through a screen of patient preferences, co-morbidities and social concerns (including money).

Evidence, i.e. what can be observed and measured, has both proponents and skeptics and is a matter of belief in the medical community? That is (or should be) scary.

What is also scary is the really bad science education in the discussion. Evidence is based on measurement and that always comes along with a proper consideration for precision and accuracy. And both of those concepts consider the impact of the conditions of the measurement. When Centor talks about EBM and its fit to a clinical question, he ignores these measurement issues and tries to create a straw man making a complex scenario into a binary measure.

The comment about “filter data” tells of an effort to squish evidence into a small hole, a subset of measures that have specific numeric results. The issue in medicine has been, for the last century or so, that of trying to find objective and repeatable measures for the many situations a practicing encounters. It is one of trying to decipher the evidence and the models that were once just the province of gifted practitioners to the realm where they can be understood and applied by the less gifted.   

Why this is an issue is that medicine has been plagued by those who eschew evidence and use a longing for a cure and the issues in measurement and knowledge to sell their snake oil. 

Another example in clinical medicine where evidence gets short shrift is illustrated in the medical establishments efforts to bring gun control into their realm. If a sign on a local clinic was taken seriously, patients would need to leave their pocket contents at home and park canes and other assistive devices outside the clinic. The medical profession has taken leave of their charge to examine the person in favor of putting a focus on the tools their patient uses. This makes the false assumption that the tool is used for only one thing and, from that, concludes that the patient is mentally unhinged (but can be re-hinged by a sign on the door). Evidence and intellectual integrity go out the window.

Clinical medicine is difficult because it deals with interacting complex systems that are neither fixed nor consistent in their behavior. That requires a respect for evidence coupled with a proper understanding of measurement and a good awareness of what is known and what is not.

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For how long will it stand? (think Venezuela vs Chile)

Bruce Walker, How the Left Is Destroying Science:

Scientism is ossified and reactionary. There are never schools of thought, for example, in scientistic regimes. Honesty and integrity cannot survive, because honest inquiry is always punished and because the atheism at the heart of regimes of this sort means that there is no moral restraint regarding experiments, observation and the presentation of other explanations for data.

All of those factors are present in leftism today; every issue is political, honesty is nonexistent, and power is everything. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, we are sliding into a new Dark Age. This grim fact is something many of us feel about modern life. Those toxins in cognition and integrity that are the heart of leftism have infected many other areas of life and are strangling science to death. That is precisely what the left wants.

When reality becomes a matter of opinion there is no basis for learning; no basis for constructive efforts. The problem is that building skyscrapers with an opinion of reality tends to build monuments that do not stand.

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The real problem: blind?

Peter Dorman: The Climate Movement Needs to Get Radical, but What Does that Mean? — “A Delayed Review of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein.”

what I find diagnostic is the warm reception it received from virtually every media outlet on the English-speaking left. This suggests that Klein is moving with the political tide and not against it, and that the problems that seemed obvious to me were either invisible to her reviewers or regarded as too insignificant to bring up. The view that capitalism is a style of thinking, progress is a myth, and political contestation is irrelevant to “true” social change belongs not just to this one book but to all the commentators who found nothing to criticize. That’s the real problem.

Critical thinking? Examination of conclusions and opinions? Consideration of implications, costs, and benefits? All by the board. That is a real problem.

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Ideal gas law vs the NFL

Reason and reality don’t seem to make much of an impact on behavior these days. Scientists weigh in against the NFL’s war on physics and Tom Brady makes it clear that science isn’t at issue but rather the power politics about who is in charge.

If you’re not an American football fan, think of this as a story of a $13 billion company that can’t get its head around basic science.

Consider this further bit of analysis. The scientists gathered temperature data for more than 10,000 NFL outdoor games since 1960. They assumed a locker-room temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and that footballs were inflated to 13 pounds per square inch of pressure ahead of each game, and found that 61% of games would have been played in temperatures that would lead to “deflated” footballs as judged by the NFL.

That’s like in the WBCCI, the Airstream RV association, where the Trustees seem to think their job is to serve the Company and supervise the members instead of serving the members by supervising the Company. Power goes to people’s heads and can create situations where reality and reason get set aside.

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DHMO scares, now its DNA food labeling

Getting people to sign up to ban diHydrogen Monoxide (aka water) is an old joke that comes up now and then, But, wait! there’s a new one! Wapo reports: New study confirms that 80 percent of Americans support labeling of foods containing DNA

Nearly all food contains DNA, and there is no good reason to warn consumers about its presence. As McFadden and Lusk and explain, the survey answers on this subject are an indication of widespread scientific ignorance, proving that many of the respondents “have little knowledge of basic genetics.” Other data from the study also support this conclusion, including the fact that 33 percent of respondents believe that non-GMO tomatoes do not contain any genes, and 32 percent think that vegetables have no DNA. Our vegetables would be blissfully free of DNA if not for the nefarious corporations who maliciously insert it into the food supply!

More generally, the problem of public ignorance about genetics is just one part of a broader pattern of widespread ignorance about numerous public policy issues, both scientific and otherwise. The problem is not that voters are too stupid to learn basic facts about scientific and political issues, but that they have too little incentive to do so.

Sadly, there is no easy solution to widespread scientific and political ignorance. In my work on the subject, I have argued that the most promising approach is to limit and decentralize the power of government, which would enable us to make more of our decisions in settings where we have stronger incentives to become well-informed. At the very least, we should recognize that we have a serious problem with voter ignorance, and that majority public opinion is often a very poor guide to policy.

It isn’t only science. Consider the problem WBCCI Trustees have when it comes to understanding their organization’s tax exempt status. It takes work to demolish ignorance and even more work to actually make effective decisions. It is just much easier to put a label on things warning about fears whether they are well founded or not. 

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Where’s Star Wars?

Torgersen takes a look at The Martian and Mad Max and it is in water much deeper than just the Science Fiction and Fantasy writers. It is about a world view and the role of humanity past, present, and future.

Clearly, audiences across the globe had a much greater preference for the science fiction movie that focused on actual science being employed in a setting where science — and mankind — are making miracles happen.

But the professional body of Science Fiction and Fantasy writers liked their bleak future better. The future where a despotic madman keeps women as breeding and food stock, while the young men all die very bloodily, and too early; before the lymphoma and blood cancers (from the nuclear fallout, naturally) can kill them slow.

Of course, The Martian was every inch a Campbellian movie, while Fury Road was almost entirely New Wave.

Guess which aesthetic dominates and excites the imaginations of SF/F’s cognoscenti?

Now, I think there is a very strong argument to be made, for the fact that Campbellian vs. New Wave is merely the manifestation of a deeper problem — a field which no longer has a true center.

My personal stance has always been, “To hell with the hoity-toities! Give me my space cruisers and galactic adventure, like that which fired my imagination in the beginning!” But this is a very passé attitude. Nobody wants nuts-and-bolts SF/F anymore, do they?

The Martian box office take isn’t the only indicator. Look at the latest in the Star Wars saga. Whether it is almost feasible science extrapolated or dam’ the science for space adventure where the good guy wins, the box office seems to favor the feel good over the apocalyptic. Now consider that in light of political topics such as human caused catastrophic climate warming, the GMO and ‘natural organic’ foods controversies, energy resources, and other science related where is mankind political controversies. Does man overcome problems or does he (she) cause them?

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A perfect storm for corruption: science research edition

It may sound familiar. The sugar conspiracy — “In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?” is a ‘long read’ by Ian Leslie. Change the subject and rename the prominent characters and you have climate change.

The study’s biggest limitation was inherent to its method. Epidemiological research involves the collection of data on people’s behaviour and health, and a search for patterns. Originally developed to study infection, Keys and his successors adapted it to the study of chronic diseases, which, unlike most infections, take decades to develop, and are entangled with hundreds of dietary and lifestyle factors, effectively impossible to separate.

A scientist is part of what the Polish philosopher of science Ludwik Fleck called a “thought collective”: a group of people exchanging ideas in a mutually comprehensible idiom. The group, suggested Fleck, inevitably develops a mind of its own, as the individuals in it converge on a way of communicating, thinking and feeling.

This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error. Of course, such tendencies are precisely what the scientific method was invented to correct for, and over the long run, it does a good job of it. In the long run, however, we’re all dead, quite possibly sooner than we would be if we hadn’t been following a diet based on poor advice.

In the last 10 years, a theory that had somehow held up unsupported for nearly half a century has been rejected by several comprehensive evidence reviews, even as it staggers on, zombie-like, in our dietary guidelines and medical advice.

The nutritional establishment has proved itself, over the years, skilled at ad hominem takedowns, but it is harder for them to do to Robert Lustig or Nina Teicholz what they once did to John Yudkin. Harder, too, to deflect or smother the charge that the promotion of low-fat diets was a 40-year fad, with disastrous outcomes, conceived of, authorised, and policed by nutritionists.

This was cited by John Merline in How ‘Settled Science’ Helped Create A Massive Public Health Crisis. “Anyone who thinks it’s enough to rest an argument on “settled science” or a “scientific consensus” ought to read about John Yudkin … Still, had nutritionists listened to a “fat-denier” like Yudkin four decades ago, we might have avoided the scale of today’s obesity epidemic, which has claimed millions of lives.”

Then there is Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry who describes how Big Science is broken. “Sience is broken. That’s the thesis of a must-read article in First Things magazine, in which William A. Wilson accumulates evidence that a lot of published research is false. But that’s not even the worst part.”

The key in all of these is big money that is separated from results by government. Prestige and honor are, of course, significant motivators but it is money that is often a concrete measure. The feedback is positive: get pleasing results in research and that leads to publication and that leads to more funding. A part of being important is selling the idea that the research topic is critical for public health and safety. These factors are compounded when the research topic is complex with many variables that are difficult to separate and interact with each other in many ways. Then toss in ideological factors and base desires for simple fixes and you have a perfect storm. “This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error.” Look for these behaviors and you can know the quality if the ideas they defend.

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Preposterous, climate consensus

Valerie Richardson notes that More studies rebut climate change consensus amid government crackdown on dissent, As the siege continues, it is evident that any area of weakness is getting reinforced.

“As the body of evidence refuting climate alarmism continues to balloon, the question of how the IPCC can continue ignoring it becomes ever more glaring,” said engineer Pierre L. Gosselin, who runs the NoTricksZone website and translates climate news from German to English.

In spite of that research — or maybe because of it — Democrats have renewed their efforts to clamp down on climate dissent.

Two weeks ago, 17 attorneys general — 16 Democrats and Mr. Walker, an independent — announced that they would investigate and prosecute climate-related “fraud,” citing investigations by journalism outlets accusing Exxon Mobil Corp. of stifling its own scientific research in support of the “settled science.”

While Exxon Mobil has denounced the accusations as “preposterous,” Mr. Walker followed up Thursday with a subpoena calling for the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s work on climate and energy policy from 1997 to 2007, including the nonprofit’s “private donor information,” the institute said.

There is kickback. Part is due to the gross abuse of basic freedoms. Part is also due to the fact that many of the accusations and allegations apply to the accusers and not the accused. Doubling down on insanity only makes the lunacy more obvious.

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Case study comparisons

Rick Wallace takes a look at A case study bearing on the nature of “consensus” in normal science and in the AGW controversy. He looks at the idea of consensus in evolutionary biology and the definition of species, quantum mechanics, and other areas.

But I would contend that this is what real scientific consensus looks like. In such cases, discussants never take the ideas in question as sacrosanct, and because – at least in a normal, healthy science – intelligent inquiring intellects are constantly evaluating ideas for themselves and setting them against their own experience, such ideas are subject to vigorous and even harsh examination, often leading to a range of opinion, especially if there are serious conceptual or semantic difficulties (as there are in the case of the species concept).

Thus, in real science any state of agreement is labile at best – and establishing a consensus is about the last thing on peoples’ minds. I would go so far as to say that under these conditions, as often as not, a leading idea is a target to take aim at rather than a flag to rally ‘round.

Obviously, this cast of mind is utterly different from what we find in the AGW arena. Which in itself is compelling evidence that the motivations are different in normal science and in (C)AGW.

What is perhaps most fascinating about modern spectacles like the AGW movement (and here I’m thinking in particular of the Moscow show trials of the 1930s) is that the truth is always right there in front of everyone – and it is always apparent to those who can see.

Once again it is the point that the observable behavior can tell you about the quality of the intellectual integrity.

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It’s our response to the radiation

The BBC has a short video exploring the question: Has Fukushima’s radiation threat been exaggerated?

Five years after the devastating earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant in north-eastern Japan, one expert is asking if the impact of the radiation was massively exaggerated.

Professor Gerry Thomas, a leading authority on the effects of radiation, walks the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes through the deserted exclusion zone and measures radiation levels.

What goes totally by the board is the mass casualties due to the earthquake and tidal wave. That has now become history while FUD mongering about the nuclear plant hit by that event continues to make headlines. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island also come up on a regular basis in the same vein. The abandoned cities and other responses to fears are shown to illustrate a danger that has never been realized by any measure that makes a clear distinction from the normal.

It is the same with climate where the measures of an ideologically desired effect are so small that they are difficult to separate from ‘normal’ that FUD mongering has to take the place of actual reality.

Dragons and demons are real, it seems, but the still only exist in the minds of those invested in fairy tales and fears. The cost of the response to those fears is not considered in any rational way. Fukushima was hit by a natural disaster outside of its design considerations yet still did not provide a worst case scenario. How much is spent on trying to be perfectly safe in an unsafe world? What is the implication of such spending on the lives and health of the populace? How is the balance?

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The romantic eco-left

The romantic eco-left consists of upper-middle-class people who can’t put two and two together when it comes to economics or science. They just assume that water will come out of their faucets and electricity out of their outlets. These people love global warming because it provides a story that allows them to pursue their bizarre, anti-modern goals under the guise of saving the world.

Since science is no longer scientific, but political, global warming belief breaks down along political lines. The Democrats believe, and the Republicans are skeptical.

Norman Rogers: Yet Another Hottest Year on Record

Other than the ‘both sides do it’ fallacy (“Neither party pays much attention to the scientific facts”), Rogers brings up a few good points worth considering.

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Straw men in consensus – is that science?

Another survey by ‘social scientists’, another example of the problem. Ronald Bailey: The Debate Over Global Warming Is Just a Big Misunderstanding, Says Study — “Or is it?” The stimulus here is a study by Princeton psychologist Sander van der Linden and his colleagues.

Overall, the authors espouse what they call the “gateway belief” model of persuasion: If Americans are told that most scientists think man-made climate change is happening, they will think so too. Not only that: They will become more worried about it and start demanding government action to stop it. And so the study essentially endorses more science education as the way to resolve climate change rows.

These findings contradict previous research from the Yale Cultural Cognition Project, which concluded that beliefs about politicized areas of science are generally treated as cultural signals telling fellow partisans that you are a good person who is on their side. According to the Yale researchers, getting people to change their minds about a politicized issue amounts to trying to persuade them to betray their tribe. This dynamic makes them highly resistant to attempts to bombard them with alleged widely agreed-upon facts. Contrariwise, the folks at the Cognition Project find that the smarter a person is, the easier it is for them to find “proof” for his or her beliefs.

There are a few items mentioned that should lead to skepticism about the study report. First up is the political bias differences. When Democrats and Republicans disagree, the issue isn’t science, it is politics. Second on the list is the straw man based on fuzzy definitions and misdirection. The political disagreement is about governmental interference and cost versus benefit differences regarding the importance and level of understanding of potential human caused climate catastrophe. Exactly what global warming means and the specific items of ‘scientific consensus’ happen to be are not clearly defined nor placed into an appropriate context. A third item on the list is putting scientific consensus as something of value above all else. In science, skepticism is the value that takes precedence as it leads to learning and the advancement of knowledge. That leads to another item which is mislabeling appropriate skepticism as a denial and ideological ignorance.

The idea that ‘more science education’ will solve the problem has been around for a long time as well. It is a simplification of human cognition that has been around for ages and is as much a historically demonstrated falsehood as the idea that socialism will lead to economic prosperity. The correlation between the populations holding these two beliefs is something to consider carefully as well. An esoteric example of this is the argument about whether to teach the traditional biology then chemistry then physics order or to reverse the order to provide a more logical presentation based upon dependencies. From a cognition standpoint, it is a matter of learning to handle abstractions effectively. High school biology is mostly hands on observation and description while physics tends towards the abstractions of algebra and calculus. This, in turn, gets into the efforts to change curriculum away from algebra towards something ‘more useful’ like statistics or to implement programming techniques rather than intellectual development.

The amazing thing is that the U.S. does so well in STEM despite the populace fascination with alternative whatnot, snake oil cures, FUD mongering, and political candidates who make absurd promises and intellectually vacuous rationales for their behaviors. 

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Pushing snake oil and using voodoo while calling it science

jccarlton is asking What Is “Science”. Between the videos and links that prompted the question and illustrate why it is a question, there is enough material to peruse to spend a day or two or more. The focus is on behaviors and how they reflect the quality of the ideas being presented. Behaviors can be observed and that means they can provide an objective insight into subjective bias and presenter issues.

It’s rather amazing that nobody points out the logical fallacies involved stating that the opposition HAS no arguments and are all “deniers” rather than actually addressing their supposedly false arguments. Somehow in all the debate, the side that says that they are on the side of “science” never seems to present any, well science.

We, as human beings want to trust that there’s somebody who knows more than we do. That trust though is often misplaced. The problem starts when other factors influence research. When there’s agenda driving things the science becomes yet another tool to push the politics to drive the agenda and get the desired policies. When the policies are the desired result, all you end up with is people in lab coats spouting nonsense.

The problem with the scientist as prophet scenario is that science is ultimately about discovery, not prediction. So when you treat science like a religion you are no longer dealing with discovery of what is, you are preaching what you want things to be. That’s not science, it’s using the appearance of science to legitimize your agenda.

The integrity of the activists and the media friends is never called into question. Though maybe it should be. Whether it’s creating a consensus about AGW or attacking a pesticide the activities of these people leaves a lot to be desired. But this was inevitable. Give power to people and the corruption and all it brings soon follows.

The problem is to separate the good from the bad. The power of seeming reason is a powerful tool when you are pushing snake oil. Add to that that much of what science is surrounded by jargon that may be impenetrable by outsiders seemingly. Which is actually the point. The problem is that all it takes is one bad study surrounded by all the trappings of authority to do tremendous amounts of harm.

The typical pronouncements that we see should peg our BS meters. Especially when, like Tyson and Nye strong language is used to suppress dissent and debate. If there is an effort to suppress argument, that’s your first huge clue that what you are getting is BS.

So how do you tell real science from hokum. Simple, you don’t allow anybody to keep you from asking questions.

One of the big issues to consider is not only how to distinguish between real and hokum but why nobody seems to care. The examples of AGW, GM foods, vector born disease, and vaccination are one thing. Having the two leading candidates in a national election having to testify about their potentially felonious acts is another.  There was some wondering when there was so much enthusiasm for a socialist despite the reality of history but it seems the concerns are almost in the noise. It seems other issues, the promise of the snake oil, has overwhelmed reason and integrity.

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One funeral at a time

The death of Bob Carter provides an insight into how different people see things. From Stoat and William M. Connolley: Science advances one funeral at a time

Actually A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it, but I’m allowed to paraphrase in titles. And anyway he said it in German, naturally. Today brings us news of another such advancement in science, with the reported death of Robert Carter.

As far as I can recall, he was a minor figure in the Great Climate Wars; at least, I don’t seem to have been very interested in him. He gets those usual suspects Robert M. Carter, C. R. de Freitas, Indur M. Goklany, David Holland & Richard S. Lindzen wrote in 2007; a throwaway line ($1,667 per month) from Heartland in 2012. That seems to be it. It’s a bit of a sad end when even I couldn’t be bothered to attack him. Sou was a bit more interested; or Deltoid back in the day.

Compare and contrast that to Steve McIntyre

I will not attempt to comment on his work as that is covered elsewhere, but do wish to mention something personal. In 2003, when I was unknown to anyone other than my friends and family, I had been posting comments on climate reconstructions at a chatline. Bob emailed me out of the blue with encouragement, saying that I was looking at the data differently than anyone else and that I should definitely follow it through. Without his specific encouragement, it is not for sure that I ever would have bothered trying to write up what became McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) or anything else.

We’ve met personally on a number of occasions over the years – at AGU in 2004 or 2005, and on several occasions at Erice, most recently last summer. He was always full of good cheer, despite continuing provocations, and unfailingly encouraging.

So, For Connolley learning and teaching is out and death to remove unpleasant questions is the way to go. For McIntyre, mentors and investigation and learning and growth are the way to go. Where is the hate? Where is the love? Where is the humanity, intellectual integrity, and respect? Who is talking about “triumph” and winning and losing; war and conquest; destruction of the enemy (even after death)? Who is talking about the loss from death and destruction and valuing growth?

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Statistics and measurement: The climate brouhaha

In science, measurement matters. Issues of precision and accuracy are carefully noted as qualifications to be used in evaluating the meaning of the measurements. Statistics are used to help pull meaning from measures by finding a signal in the noise. Again, great care must be used to make sure that the methods and mathematics are sound. Mann’s Hockey Stick tale is an example of where these issues of precision, accuracy, and proper aggregation of measures can be distorted and twisted to suit a particular purpose. Climatology seems rife with such pollution. Here are two examples. John Hinderaker starts off with a tale about dueling temperature charts. The charts in question are temperature averages over the period from 1880 to the current. One shows average temperature by year on a scale from -10 to 110 (Fahrenheit degrees). This is the nominal temperature variation found in the measurements and the average temperature over the years is remarkably flat. The other graph, for comparison and contrast, is the temperature anomaly over 2.5 degrees for the same period. This graph emphasizes changes by using statistics to narrow down the range of measures and then show differences on a scale that is only 2% of the variations found in the source measures.

Steve wrote here about the global temperature chart that presented conventional data in a normal way, and therefore aroused the ire of climate alarmists, who deemed the graph “misleading” because it didn’t look scary enough

Dickson puts two charts side by side, one showing temperatures, the other showing temperature anomalies, from a presumed base*, on a very small scale so that purported changes are greatly magnified:

A fundamental problem is that the alleged changes that are depicted in magnified form are in fact minute in relation to the uncertainty that goes into their measurement and calculation.

The first problem with temperature measurements is how to qualify them for differences in siting and instrumentation. Anthony Watts got into that with his census of U.S. surface weather observation stations. A second problem is how to calculate an average temperature. This is often done by taking the difference between daily maximum and minimum for each day and then averaging that. It seems that heating and cooling degree days might be a better choice but that only highlights how distance the temperature averages are from something actually useful. A third problem is that of sampling locations. Temperature stations are widely dispersed and more common in urban environments and that doesn’t provide even a good measure of surface temperatures much less atmospheric temperatures. Data selection gets in here as well. There have been stories recently about how climate alarmists are dismissing satellite data as flawed because it does not show the desired increase in temperatures of the atmosphere.

Next up is from Luboš Motl about When religious beliefs trump one’s life“A heartbreaking opinion piece by a climate alarmist“.

Would you speculate about the question whether some change of the largely ill-defined global mean temperature from an ill-defined base to an ill-defined moment will be 2.0 °C or 2.3 °C? This man does. The minimum error margin isn’t much lower than 1 °C, however, and even 40 °C of warming would be way safer than the disease he’s been diagnosed with. I think that most people would think how many months of life await them.

Even if the temperatures in 2100 will be higher by 3 °C than today, and they won’t, it won’t represent any serious challenge for the people who will live in 2100. Worries about the climate are rationally indefensible and most people do this pseudoscientific stuff professionally because they want to get decent salaries for very little work and no valuable work and they want to enjoy the advantages.

The question is what drives this distortion of science?

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