Archive for science

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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doubleplusungood crimethink

That’s what Ed Driscoll says in describing the left’s war on science at Instapundit. The stimulus is Toby Young at the Spectator.

The witch hunt against Napoleon Chagnon shows us what happens if scientists challenge the core beliefs of ‘progressives’

How much longer can the liberal left survive in the face of growing scientific evidence that many of its core beliefs are false? I’m thinking in particular of the conviction that all human beings are born with the same capacities, particularly the capacity for good, and that all mankind’s sins can be laid at the door of the capitalist societies of the West. For the sake of brevity, let’s call this the myth of the noble savage.

This gets back to research by an anthropologist (Chagnon) that offended the fantasies of the left about pre-capitalist, pre-white man, ‘indigenous’ cultures. What happens when you confront an ideologue with reality? It isn’t pretty.

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Persistent in the assault. Creative (and desperate) in tactics.

Jazz Shaw: 2016 will usher in a fresh wave of assaults on Second Amendment rights. From California’s easy path to confiscation to Washington’s ‘tax’ to Virginia’s executive fiat ending interstate agreements, the efforts are ongoing and the rationales continue to be dishonest.

Having lost the battle of public opinion on the importance of Second Amendment rights and losing repeatedly in the courts at the federal level, gun rights opponents have been crafting new strategies to chip away the constitutional rights of gun owners at the state level. (This is traditionally the line of attack where they’ve enjoyed the most success.) Since the Democrats want to score big points with the gun grabbers in their base and there’s a big election on the horizon, you can count on these stories making the news all year long.

The entire demand for gun safety research is a smokescreen to provide some sort of pseudo-science support behind the effort to ban gun ownership.

Gun violence isn’t the only issue on the table with overblown exageration. Anthony Watts: Study: hyperbole is increasing in science

We’ve long noted at WUWT that the word “robust” has seen a significant rise in usage in climate science papers, becoming a favorite word to use when statistical Spackle has been applied to climate data. Now there’s evidence from a new study suggesting that observation is spot-on.

Researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands say that the frequency of positive-sounding words such as ‘novel’, ‘amazing’, ‘innovative’ and ‘unprecedented’ has increased almost nine-fold in the titles and abstracts of papers published between 1974 and 2014. There has also been a smaller — yet still statistically significant — rise in the frequency of negative words, such as ‘disappointing’ and ‘pessimistic’.

The most obvious interpretation of the results is that they reflect an increase in hype and exaggeration, rather than a real improvement in the incidence or quality of discoveries,

Vinkers and his colleagues think that the trend highlights a problem. “If everything is ‘robust’ and ‘novel’”, says Vinkers, then there is no distinction between the qualities of findings. “In that case, words used to describe scientific results are no longer driven by the content but by marketability.”

This sort of observation is why the efforts to get the CDC back into research on gun violence should be troubling. When it comes to corporations, money is corrupt and evil but when it comes to government ‘investment’ in ‘research’ money is a necessary good. Those who believe this way are not in touch with reality. But then, they may suffer confirmation bias supported by the mainstream propaganda machine. See Climate Depot: Meteorologists refute media claims that Arctic storm caused by humans: ‘That’s utter bullsh*t’ – ‘Who is feeding the media this crap?’

‘That’s utter bullshit,” meteorologist Dr. Ryan Maue declared on December 29, in a response to the Washington Post’s claim that the Arctic event “reeks of a human-forced warming of the Earth’s climate.” Maue added: “Who is feeding the media this crap?”
Meanwhile Arctic sea ice extent is currently at a 10 year high

Big Arctic Melt Fizzles: “One Arctic buoy 300 km from the pole reported temperatures just above freezing for an hour yesterday. Another buoy a mile away did not report any above freezing temperatures.”

The current warm spike is not unprecedented. Arctic temperature data shows three cases of North Pole temperatures exceeding freezing (32F) since 1948.

It is one thing to be delusional but that gets compounded when you seek out any anomaly or unusual event to support your delusions and compounded again when you go to extreme links to foist your delusion on everyone else. There is reason to worry.

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An illustration of why it’s not debatable

The site is named Reason.com and you’d think that it’d present reasonable material. Steve Chapman illustrates otherwise in Ted Cruz’s Climate Change Festival of Fraud
Response to global warming evidence mischaracterizes the truth
. Sounds good but only if you don’t consider what is being offered.

Consider the start: “You have to feel sorry for Ted Cruz.” This is called ad hominem and illustrates that the issue at hand is attacking the person and not climate change.

Then there is “The topic was global warming. Every major scientific body has confirmed its existence, but as “the son of two mathematicians and computer programmers and scientists,” he feels particularly qualified to debunk it.” This is an appeal to authority citing appeal to authority – double whammy. Do remember that Mann’s hockey stick debunking was done by a statistician.

Then considered this discovery of the victim’s flaws: “The second is that the satellite data don’t refute global warming. NASA says that based on surface temperatures.” There seems to be some conflict between satellite and surface measures. Choosing one or the other to suit one’s desires doesn’t instill confidence that truth is being sought. Keep in mind that the surface data record is subject to continuous “adjustments” while the satellite data is not. The most recent brouhaha deals with decisions about ship cooling water inlet temperatures being considered more reliable than buoy data. 

This same sort of confusion is evident in “The same data indicate that of the 14 hottest years ever, 13 occurred in this century. When Cruz says there has been “no significant warming” since 1997, he’s engaging in brazen deception.” The problem here is that rate of change is being confused with actual position. There is also a problem in asserting extremes without considering the facts that the measures are within margins of error and the reference period chosen is usually just recent history and quite limited.

Then there’s the money corruption angle: “Which scenario is more plausible, thousands of scientists pretending to believe in global warming to get government grants or Cruz denying it to get campaign donations?” Perhaps Chapman forgets Climategate from a few years back? In one case there is blatant evidence of corruption. In the other, only allegation. Sliming with a perceived taint of money is a phenomena that deserves proper attention as an escape from “reason.” 

The debate deserves better than this.

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Tactics: using the Kübler-Ross model to understand climate activist behavior

Larry Kummer says Activists go thru 5 stages of grief for the climate change campaign

Summary: Climate activists have begun to see the failure of their campaign to get public policy measures to fight climate change. Their actions follow the five stages of grief in the Kübler-Ross model. This helps us predict what comes next, and prepare. For example, stage four (bargaining) offers an opportunity to gain something from the expensive policy gridlock in this vital area. This is the third in a series attempting to understand the ending of this 26-year-story and find in it some useful lessons for the future.

Life goes on, even for activists. There is always another campaign, as the coming apocalypse from air & water pollution was followed by the The Population Bombclip_image002[1] (1968), which gave way to Limits to Growthclip_image002[2] (1972), then nuclear winter (1983), then several more campaigns until peak oil, peak everything, and climate change.

Activists will enjoy the certainty that they were correct even though defeated by an ignorant public led by conservatives and oil companies. They will look forward — as did previous generations of such prophets — to the eventual apocalypse that results from the world’s refusal to believe.

Eventually the weather will decide whose science was stronger, that of the “activists or the “skeptics”. It might take years to see decisive results, or perhaps decades (see some scientists’ predictions here). Climate change is a commonplace in history, sometimes destroying entire civilizations. Our refusal to prepare even for the obvious — continuation of the two centuries of warming or, even more irresponsibly, for repeat of past extreme weather — probably will prove expensive in lives and money.

One way to understand this is that grief is just one example of cognitive dissonance. The real world intrudes on the way one wants to see it. Coming to grips with reality is an emotional process whether it is dealing with the death of a person or the death of a fantasy. As Kimmer notes, acceptance may come but that does not necessarily mean compliance. The acceptance that comes with an ideology hitting the fan of reality is to go with the flow rather than to accept the reality and modify the ideology. That is why the effort goes on and on. Life goes on and the struggle continues. Chicken Little or the Prophets of Doom are only flavors of the phenomena. At least the behavior is being noted and described so all can see it for what it really is.

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The engineering standard?

Herchel Smith takes note of some commentary stimulated by the pending Paris Climate Conference in Global Warming Fraud? Say It Ain’t So!. There are two problems. One is that claims about extreme often depend upon differences in measure that are well under the noise threshold. The other is the lack of accountability in research.

give me an engineering report on the field measurements, and instrumentation used, calibration data sheets, and a data mean, prove to me that you meet the central limit theorem with the ten or so statistical tests used for Monte Carlo calculations, get it peer reviewed, and most of all, have it all done by a registered PE who can be taken to court and lose everything (including his livelihood) if he’s wrong, and then maybe I’ll take it seriously.

Otherwise, the AGW advocates are just wasting my time. But they won’t do that, because they want to write papers in the echo chamber that is AGW “science.”

The standard used is that of the role of a registered professional engineer. An application for a special use permit to build a million square foot warehousing facility near here was peppered with the seals of PE’s who signed off on various reports and findings. While legal culpability might be a bit much for research findings, the means and methods should not be. The problem with much research about climate is that the usual substitute for legal culpability is under assault. Rather than attempting to enhance duplication of results, any who question are told to shut up or even threatened with unemployment or legal prosecution. There is a smell coming from the climate research community and it is beginning to be noticed.

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Being able to reproduce results?

Ben Marwick gets into How computers broke science – and what we can do to fix it. The issue has a current high profile example of the problem in climatology right now. The Congressional brouhaha over an agency’s manipulation of data and that agency’s reluctance to comply with requests for information is a case in point.

The problem:

For most of the history of science, researchers have reported their methods in a way that enabled independent reproduction of their results. But, since the introduction of the personal computer – and the point-and-click software programs that have evolved to make it more user-friendly – reproducibility of much research has become questionable, if not impossible. Too much of the research process is now shrouded by the opaque use of computers that many researchers have come to depend on. This makes it almost impossible for an outsider to recreate their results.

The problem is that most modern science is so complicated, and most journal articles so brief, it’s impossible for the article to include details of many important methods and decisions made by the researcher as he analyzed his data on his computer. How, then, can another researcher judge the reliability of the results, or reproduce the analysis?

Stanford statisticians Jonathan Buckheit and David Donoho described this issue as early as 1995:

An article about computational science in a scientific publication is not the scholarship itself, it is merely advertising of the scholarship. The actual scholarship is the complete software development environment and the complete set of instructions which generated the figures.

It means all those private files on our personal computers, and the private analysis tasks we do as we work toward preparing for publication should be made public along with the journal article.

This would be a huge change in the way scientists work. We’d need to prepare from the start for everything we do on the computer to eventually be made available for others to see. For many researchers, that’s an overwhelming thought. Victoria Stodden has found the biggest objection to sharing files is the time it takes to prepare them by writing documentation and cleaning them up. The second biggest concern is the risk of not receiving credit for the files if someone else uses them.

What to do? FOSS is gaining attention.

Currently, these are the tools and methods of the avant-garde, and many midcareer and senior researchers have only a vague awareness of them. But many undergraduates are learning them now. Many graduate students, seeing personal advantages to getting organized, using open formats, free software and streamlined collaboration, are seeking out training and tools from volunteer organizations such as Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry and rOpenSci to fill the gaps in their formal training.

Measurements in the lab have always been described the tools being used and any peculiarities involved in the test and measurement setup and procedure as a routine part of reports. What Ben notes is that this bit of background in the reporting of investigations has become rather sloppy when it comes to twiddling with numbers using modern computer technologies. The suggestion for a fix is to go back to fundamentals. Describe the methods used to obtain and manipulate measurements. Provide the software and the well sourced data in a manner that anyone can replicate and examine.

Complicated? That’s an excuse. When there are enthusiasts reverse engineering cheap VHF-UHF radio firmware, hackers trying to see if they can get past security barriers in cell phones and business databases as entertainment, and FOSS projects such as the Linux kernal and the GNU project, excuses don’t cut it. What should cause wonderment is why it is only just now that “many graduate students” are just beginning to see personal advantages in the FOSS paradigm and why proprietary data formats such as those native to Microsoft Office, are so predominant. It’s been more than thirty years since VisiCalc took the  financial world by storm. Isn’t “avant-garde” getting a bit stale for this sort of technology?

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Actual denial

Orac says it is A sad day for public science advocacy and then illustrates hubris and denial in his plaint.

Over the years, I’ve noticed many traits that various antiscience cranks share in common, be they antivaccinationists, quacks, anthropogenic global climate change denialists, or anti-GMO activists, and that is an obsession with ad hominem attacks. They can’t win on the science because science doesn’t support them; so they attack the man—or woman. The tactics they use include online harassment, harassment of families, legal thuggery (as Steve Novella recently suffered), and, of course, harassing them at work by contacting their supervisors or administration. …  Of course, if harassment of one kind doesn’t work, maybe another type of harassment might. If harassment at a science communicator’s day job doesn’t work, maybe a bogus lawsuit or online public attacks might. Whatever the tactic, the idea is to intimidate the critic to silence, or at least to make speaking up so painful that the critic thinks twice about it. At the very least, other scientists who see what happened to, say, Dr. Folta might decide speaking up is just not worth the consequences. Again, that’s the idea.

Consider what he is doing here. His list of “antiscience cranks” list four issues and makes no distinction about the quality differences between them. The label itself tends to be an illustration of what he calls an “obsession with ad hominem attacks” because crank is about the person and not the quality of the argument. Who is it that is creating a straw man in making assertions about the “idea” these cranks have about goals for their action?

One of the fundamental issues in science, and especially in the social ‘sciences’, is an awareness of observer bias and its effects on measure and perception. The behaviors Orac cites are those that can be seen by anyone and have been noted in this blog for years. Where Orac fails is that he does not seem aware of observer bias and tends to commit the same behavior he impugns. There appears to be a self awareness missing. 

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Perfect storm for solar

David Bergeron explaines: Why I’m Still Not a Member of the Solar Energy Industries Association even though he runs a solar oriented business in Arizona.

The more I learned about this new artificial solar industry, the more disturbing I found it to be. On-grid solar is nowhere near a break-even economic proposition. It is a very expensive and futile means of reducing CO2. Its job-creation argument is hollow in terms of opportunity cost given that there is no free lunch in the real world of economic scarcity.

Solar is a great field. Many hardworking entrepreneurs have and will continue to strive in free markets to make products that meet real needs. My own company is on a high-growth mode from niche off-grid applications; we have no rooftop business that will inevitably go through a boom/bust cycle according to political favors or a retrenchment thereof.

On-grid solar is a perfect storm for taxpayers: concentrated benefits for the industry, diffuse cost for ratepayers and taxpayers, and, yet, a strong positive public sentiment for solar created by energy Malthusians.

The fact is, when you figure out the total cost of a typical residential on-grid solar plant before subsidies, rebates, incentives and other ‘crony capitalist’ artifacts, the rate of return on the money spent usually exceeds the normal power bills. And that doesn’t include maintenance and repair costs over the lifetime of the solar plant.

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Get a life. Think about pros and cons. Consider the context. How unusual an idea!

Jon Evans has an interesting post on a modern delemma: Is Uber The Root Of All Evil? There is a lot of nuance in the ride share business ranging from ideas about employment and workers to impacts of technology to the encrusted regulation as a means to protect business classes to matters of relativism and choice making based on evaluation of risk versus benefit.

Allow me to humbly propose that the pendulum has perhaps swung too far into backlash. Allow me to suggest that “Uber is evil / represents the worst of capitalism!” is not just wrong, but actually dangerous. Allow me to submit that perhaps Uber is the lesser of two evils.

It may be too soon to say that “the full-time job is dead,” but I think it’s clear that a growing fraction of workers will find themselves working a fragmented panoply of gigs and contracts, rather than pursuing a full-time career with benefits. Yes, this isn’t near as stable and secure. Yes, many-to-most of these people may find themselves living in the precariat for much of their lives, barring the hoped-for eventual introduction of a basic income.

Consider the concern for Uber’s “exploited” drivers today; will we be quite as concerned for them when they are no longer being exploited, because they have been replaced by self-driving cars? Somehow I doubt it.

Whenever defenders of the status quo object to a new idea on the hallowed grounds of security, you can be pretty confident that they are lying. So it is with Uber.

Does Uber knowingly violate local law in cities they enter? They sure do. Is knowingly violating the law always an evil thing to do? …No. Not if the law itself is manipulative, exploitative, and written only to benefit a small class of rentiers — which, alas, is all too often the case.
,,,
But just because Uber’s evils are front, center, and spotlit, doesn’t mean that they are the worst of all possible alternatives. I still counsel to ride Lyft instead, when you can. But when your choice is between Uber and the local taxi cartels, please think at least twice, hard, about which is actually the lesser evil. The answer may not be as obvious as it seems.

Think about the context? What a novel idea in this era of absolute ideologies that ban and even deny anything not in line with desires and fantasies! Note how much the propaganda machine has infiltrated the language and biased the discussion. precariat, renters, exploited, — where’s Marx when you need him?

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What happens to heretics

It is fairly well known that many media meteorologists are a bit reserved in their views on climate alarmism. Anthony Watts is one such individual who has a popular blog on the topic. Another example has ‘come out’ with a book: France’s top weatherman sparks storm over book questioning climate change – “Philippe Verdier, weather chief at France Télévisions, the country’s state broadcaster, reportedly sent on “forced holiday” for releasing book accusing top climatologists of “taking the world hostage

In a promotional video, Mr Verdier said: “Every night I address five million French people to talk to you about the wind, the clouds and the sun. And yet there is something important, very important that I haven’t been able to tell you, because it’s neither the time nor the place to do so.”

He added: “We are hostage to a planetary scandal over climate change – a war machine whose aim is to keep us in fear.”

His outspoken views led France 2 to take him off the air starting this Monday. “I received a letter telling me not to come. I’m in shock,” he told RTL radio. “This is a direct extension of what I say in my book, namely that any contrary views must be eliminated.”

Of course it is fear mongering as that is a useful tactic for all sorts of things where the evidence just doesn’t quite have the desired impact. Expulsion and censorship should not cause shock, either, as the RICO allegations for “deniers” illustrates (not to mention the Steyn vs Mann lawsuit).

There is dissonance here and it is causing behavioral anomalies in the alarmist and accommodation-at-any-cost crowds.  

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Overstep. And stumble? Alarmists misstep

When someone doesn’t realize a high profile is probably not a good idea, it lends credence to the hypothesis that maybe they don’t know that what they are doing is not so good an idea either. The IGES RICO allegations provide An Instance of Warmist Corruption.

We have often written about the fact that the world’s governments pour billions of dollars annually into the global warming project, the object of which is to increase the powers of government. And yet governments, the main parties that stand to benefit from the warmists’ campaign, pretend that their money is somehow innocent, while any private entity that supports climate research is suspect.

Alarmist scientists have gone so far as to urge the Obama administration to prosecute criminally scientists who disagree with them. The premise for this proposed RICO investigation was that “corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters”–i.e., scientists who don’t buy the global warming hype–are deceiving the public for financial gain. This despicable effort, which we wrote about here, is led by Jagadish Shukla of George Mason University and several of his colleagues.

That inspired curiosity about Shukla’s own funding. The results, while incomplete, are striking. Shukla is remarkably well paid by George Mason, for a professor. His salary is currently around $314,000 a year. But that isn’t the half of it. Steve McIntyre writes that Shukla set up a “non-profit” entity, the Institute for Global Environment and Security, Inc. (IGES), to which the federal government has funneled millions of dollars. IGES operates as a slush fund for Shukla and his family; not only is Shukla on the payroll, apparently double-dipping in violation of university regulations, but his wife and daughter also draw substantial income from the “non-profit.”

Generally, when you know that bringing attention to yourself might reveal problems, you avoid doing doing things that spark attention. The climate alarmists appear to be beyond this. That leads to wonder about just what blinds them so.

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Prosecute the deniers!

Russell Cook provides an example for comparison and contrast in methods of ‘debate’ when concluding that Those scientists who want to use RICO to prosecute AGW ‘deniers’ have a big problem. Names are listed with specific behaviors and citations. Detail is provided sufficient to make your eyes water.

At least it can be said I’ve never been accused of begging anyone to trust the assertions I make. Legions of pro-global warming people, including Pope Francis, President Obama, and nearly all of the mainstream media essentially beg us to trust them about the settled science, despite the existence of highly detailed climate assessments compiled by skeptic climate scientists. The egregious tragedy of this situation is that so many pro-global warming people have been blatantly misled about immoral “corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change” when no such evidence proving it exists, and when evidence is so easily found on how the accusation stems from one highly questionable source.

Begging for ‘trust me’ or an implicit assumption of a false reality abound on the other side of the argument. See for example Smart Grid Technology and Applications by Ekanayake et al that cites “Electric power systems throughout the world are facing radical change stimulated by the pressing need to decarbonise electricity supply” and uses a “consensus” to support its views. When alleging criminal activity, as in the RICO charges raises it to a whole ‘nother level.

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Breathless: finding confirmation of a belief – or so it seems.

The climate alarmists have, as a fundamental belief, that evil non-government corporations are in conspiracy to hide evidence of disaster and buying influence to deny the alarmist dogma. So when something is found that supports the belief, the reporting goes breathless in the affirmation of faith. Exxon Scientists Knew Fossil Fuels Caused Climate Change Back in 1977 is an example.

It’s a story reminiscent of the way Big Tobacco covered up the deadly effects of smoking. In the 1980s, Exxon spent millions of dollars on groundbreaking research which irrefutably showed how their products would change the climate. And then they buried it all.

The story is devastating in that Exxon is likely responsible for much of the anti-science climate denial rhetoric out there to this day. I just read the whole thing, and it’s made me incredibly angry.

A bit of education in both history and science might do a lot to quell that anger but anger tends to promote denial of reality rather than acceptance. Consider, for instance, that the issue in 1977 was global cooling, not global warming. Consider that the ‘greenhouse effect’ of CO2 was already well known. Consider the confusion and misdirection evident in using a photo showing “The Exxon Valdez spilled an estimated 10.8 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1989” as an illustration for the post. Neglect the fact that windmills are killing more birds, by orders of magnitude, than oil spills have. Stop to think a minute about just what Exxon could gain by trying to suppress common knowledge or how it could think such an effort might be anything but futile.

Too much anger, too much breathlessness, too little intellectual integrity.

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Ahmed’s clock

If there is any greater testament to failures in public schools, the recent saga of a 9th grader with a homebrew electronic clock should rank right up there.

I have to say, if I were a teacher and a student had a device that looked like this and started beeping during class, I’d be a little nervous too. Imagine how the Secret Service would react if it had been mailed to the White House: [Ed Driscoll]

A bomb has one major ingredient – the explosive. This is a mass of some chemical that can blow up. Do you see anything in the picture of Ahmed’s clock where there is any significant mass of something that could blow up? Or consider the Boston Bomber and his pressure cooker pots. Those were containers, like pipes with caps on each end, that could hold some explosive and provide a containment that could enhance the effect.

In this case, it was funny noises and perhaps some flashing LED’s and wires that caused the alarm. In microcontroller cook-books, making a beep and flashing a light are the first things you learn how to do. The biggest question is why Ahmed left the battery connected after the first period teacher told him he ought not show it to other teachers.

There is a lot of talk about wanting more students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM subjects). It is one thing for a pundit like Driscoll to be paranoid about anything electronic, but any high school teacher? and administrators? and cops? Avocational interests are fundamental to STEM pursuits and the Maker’s communities [see Makezine] show just how much of a need there is to share ideas, show off work results, and socialize with others of the same mind. That is why, perhaps, that community is all in a tizzy about Ahmed’s clock. It is yet another illustration of just what modern school systems, the establishment, thinks of geeks and nerds. It is fortunate for society that, so far, word about such atrocities as Ahmed’s clock get out and support for reason gets voiced.

Update: Here’s Dave Jone’s rant at EEVblog eevBLAB #14 – 14yo Hobbyist Arrested For Bringing DIY Clock To School and Hackaday explains why you should build a clock for social good this week. It should also be noted that the very quick invite to the White House appears to have a racial twinge – Ahmed was a victim of white privilege or something and had the appearance of a protected minority.

Update 2 – Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock… and Ourselves. Yep: looks like the kid found an 80’s digital alarm clock and re-packaged it in a pencil case off Amazon. This rather fits with the idea of a precocious 9th grader out to tweak teachers. He shoulda’ been guided to more modern, microcontroller based, ideas and ongoing development of add-on features. Instead, the schools provided destructive feedback. Rather than encourage technical education and experimentation, the positive feedback was directed towards social disruption and disorder. Modern school systems in a nutshell.

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A matter of integrity

Robert Sp[encer says “What disturbs people is not the Pope’s authority for his views but his seeming unawareness of opposing evidence”. He cites “On Pope Francis and Church Integrity,” by Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., Crisis.

we might say that the Pope’s positions are backed by scholarly opinions. The only trouble with this approach is that other scholars in both areas find evidence that the opposite views are more persuasive and valid. What disturbs people is not the Pope’s authority for his views but his seeming unawareness of opposing evidence.

To be in error on a matter of scientific opinion is, of course, not exactly heresy. It happens every day. Indeed, it is the nature of scientific method of testing and retesting. Likewise, to be wrong (or right) about earth warming is not a matter of faith.

But if the Church takes a position in the matters of, say, evolution, science, or economics that turns out, on further investigation, to be wrong or doubtful, it will seem untrustworthy also in areas over which it does claim competence. However tempting or popular to comment on, there are some things on which the Church should just avoid taking a stand.

Galileo provided a lesson and that case still impugns the integrity of the Church. Will they never learn? When the boundaries between politics, religion, and science become clouded, all lose.

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Doom! I tell ya’ – Doom

It is ‘oh so typical’ of modern ignorance. Danielle Nierenberg explains Here’s why industrial food is deceivingly cheap – “Food is seemingly cheaper and more convenient than ever before. However, what people don’t pay for at the cash register, they pay in healthcare costs and environmental consequences.”

The use of the word “industrial” is enough to raise suspicions. Then there’s the idea that people are living longer and healthier lives and the environment is cleaner than it has been in the past to realize that the base presumption is oxymoronic. Another issue on this ‘anti-industrial’ ethos is the disregard of the poor who benefit most from having inexpensive healthy food. The availability of cheap food is why starvation in the world today is nowhere near as desperate as it has been for most of human history.

Conventional agriculture isn’t cheap. From the use of artificial fertilizer and pesticides to the obesity epidemic, our current food system has a number of hidden costs to the natural environment and human health, far outweighing the benefits of cheap food.

“Agriculture is arguably the highest policy priority on today’s global political agenda, in recognition of its widespread impacts on food security, employment, climate change, human health, and severe environmental degradation,” says Alexander Müller, a leader of the TEEBAgFood project team. “I truly see this as being one of the most timely and important research initiatives in the field of sustainable agriculture.”

Step one of TEEBAgFood, already underway, is using a series of sector-specific, geographically widespread ‘feeder studies.’ These studies are assessing the misplaced environmental and social costs of different agricultural commodities–rice, livestock, palm oil, inland fisheries, maize, and agroforestry.

Next, the study will produce a Scientific and Economic Foundations Report, building the theoretical context of the connections between business, agriculture, food, and biodiversity and ecosystems. A Policies, Procedure, and Consumption Report will then present a variety of viable production systems and policies, adjusted for multiple socioeconomic contexts. Finally, a Synthesis Report, supported by complementary communication strategies, will communicate the key findings and recommendations.

It’s anthropogenic climate disaster all over again. Government money towards academics to produce ‘studies.’ Policies based on deceit and ideology. Propaganda campaigns to persuade the masses. It is top down with the elites, the in-crowd, the believers that are to be in charge of things. What is missing? How about bottom up decision making in many small decisions by individuals who vote with their self interest in mind?

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The climate front

The debate has turned to argument and then gone sour. Climate Statism: Science, Poverty, Free Speech at Issue by Paul Driessen offers a description and a call to action.

It appears the Climate Crisis Industry has too much invested in climate catastrophes: prestige, political power, billions of dollars in research and renewable energy grants, and the desire to control energy use, livelihoods, living standards and entire economies.

Instead of reasoned debate, they continue to predict manmade climate chaos, and engage in increasingly vicious and vitriolic attacks on replicable evidence-based science; on the scientific method that brought centuries of profound planetary and human progress; and on any scientists, scholars or ethicists who raise inconvenient questions or threaten alarmist views, policies and funding.

They are also waging war on capitalism … on hydrocarbon energy … on poor, minority, blue-collar and working class families – and on the most powerless, destitute, deprived, diseased families on Earth.

Equally unsettling, in league with Liberal-Progressive-Leftist politicians, activists and media, climate alarmists are also attacking the very idea of free speech and open, robust debate.

Tactics used to advance the Climate Crisis agenda are too numerous to recount here, but many are shameful, intolerable, dishonest and even lethal.

It is the rational and logical vs the ideological and religious, intellectual integrity vs deceit and dishonesty. The stakes are very high.

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GMO and FUD

William Saletan calls it an Unhealthy Fixation, that is “The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.”

I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

Some people, to this day, believe GE papayas are dangerous. They want more studies. They’ll always want more studies. They call themselves skeptics. But when you cling to an unsubstantiated belief, even after two decades of research and experience, that’s not skepticism. It’s dogma.

That’s the fundamental flaw in the anti-GMO movement. It only pretends to inform you. When you push past its dogmas and examine the evidence, you realize that the movement’s fixation on genetic engineering has been an enormous mistake. The principles it claims to stand for—environmental protection, public health, community agriculture—are better served by considering the facts of each case than by treating GMOs, categorically, as a proxy for all that’s wrong with the world. That’s the truth, in all its messy complexity. Too bad it won’t fit on a label.

One thing we’ve learned is that fear of GMOs is unfalsifiable. … Another thing we’ve learned is that it makes no sense to avoid GMOs based on standards that nobody applies to non-GMO food. … A third lesson is that GMO segregation, in the form of labels or GMO-free restaurants, is misguided. … The people who push GMO labels and GMO-free shopping aren’t informing you or protecting you. They’re using you.

That’s what genetic engineering can do for health and for our planet. The reason it hasn’t is that we’ve been stuck in a stupid, wasteful fight over GMOs. On one side is an army of quacks and pseudo-environmentalists waging a leftist war on science. On the other side are corporate cowards who would rather stick to profitable weed-killing than invest in products that might offend a suspicious public. The only way to end this fight is to educate ourselves and make it clear to everyone—European governments, trend-setting grocers, fad-hopping restaurant chains, research universities, and biotechnology investors—that we’re ready, as voters and consumers, to embrace nutritious, environmentally friendly food, no matter where it got its genes. We want our GMOs. Now, show us what you can do.

The behavior is the same as with climate change alarmists. The results with both false ideologies are to burden the less fortunate. In one case with an increased cost of food and in the other with an increased cost of energy. The advocates think they are doing “God’s work” but don’t seem to consider the implications of what they advocate nor to realize the depths to which they have sunk trying to rationalize and excuse their ideologies.

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