Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Academic journal article below: It was written with the many bogus theories in medicine in mind (e.g. longevity and the Mediterranean diet, the unhealthiness of "obesity" and the desirability of a low fat diet), but the article specified none of the theories concerned and certainly in my experience the critique applies to science generally. It was the tenacity of bogus theories in psychology that caused me to abandon psychological research. So the three areas of science that I know best -- psychology, medicine and climate science -- are all dominated by zombie science. From what I hear of astrophysics, the situation there is similar too -- but I don't have the energy to go there as well. The bottom line is that most people will believe what they want to believe -- and evidence be damned

Zombie science: A sinister consequence of evaluating scientific theories purely on the basis of enlightened self-interest

By Bruce G. Charlton, MD


Although the classical ideal is that scientific theories are evaluated by a careful teasing-out of their internal logic and external implications, and checking whether these deductions and predictions are in-line-with old and new observations; the fact that so many vague, dumb or incoherent scientific theories are apparently believed by so many scientists for so many years is suggestive that this ideal does not necessarily reflect real world practice. In the real world it looks more like most scientists are quite willing to pursue wrong ideas for so long as they are rewarded with a better chance of achieving more grants, publications and status.

The classic account has it that bogus theories should readily be demolished by sceptical (or jealous) competitor scientists. However, in practice even the most conclusive 'hatchet jobs' may fail to kill, or even weaken, phony hypotheses when they are backed-up with sufficient economic muscle in the form of lavish and sustained funding. And when a branch of science based on phony theories serves a useful but non-scientific purpose, it may be kept-going indefinitely by continuous transfusions of cash from those whose interests it serves.

If this happens, real science expires and a 'zombie science' evolves. Zombie science is science that is dead but will not lie down. It keeps twitching and lumbering around so that (from a distance, and with your eyes half-closed) zombie science looks much like the real thing. But in fact the zombie has no life of its own; it is animated and moved only by the incessant pumping of funds. If zombie science is not scientifically-useable - what is its function?

In a nutshell, zombie science is supported because it is useful propaganda to be deployed in arenas such as political rhetoric, public administration, management, public relations, marketing and the mass media generally. It persuades, it constructs taboos, it buttresses some kind of rhetorical attempt to shape mass opinion. Indeed, zombie science often comes across in the mass media as being more plausible than real science; and it is precisely the superficial face-plausibility which is the sole and sufficient purpose of zombie science.

Medical Hypotheses, Volume 71, Issue 3, Pages 327-329 (September 2008)


Under the weight of the global economic crisis, the new U.S. administration is having reservations about its own climate goals and is considering to relieve heavy industry from the cap-and-trade burden. In a speech to senior business representatives, President Barack Obama promised to reconsider the auctioning of emission permits for CO2 emissions, planned for 2012, for large coal-fired power plants, refineries and cement factories. "If this is so overburdening that you cannot carry it out, then it misses its purpose and we won't be able to enforce it politically," Obama said. "We will have to find an arrangement that creates a balance."

Only a few weeks ago, in his draft budget for 2012 to 2019, Obama had envisaged an annual revenue stream of $646 billion from the auctioning of emissions permits - under the premise that all industries, in the medium-term, would have to buy 100 percent of their emissions permits via auction. With this cash, Obama planned to, inter alia, subsidise renewable energy projects.

In the face of global competition, the EU, under pressure from Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), decided already in December to shield its heavy industry against the cost of a tighter EU emissions trading scheme. Accordingly, the EU's energy-intensive industries will contribute to receive its emissions permits for free - unless the United States and big emerging economies such as China, India and Russia agree to binding emissions cuts at the climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009.

In Brussels, the EU Commission is already working on the legal exemption of heavy industry from the auctioning process. The Commission has created an inventory that lists all industries that will be exempt, in accordance with criteria agreed at the EU's climate summit in December. The condition for the free allocation of emissions rights is that industry products are traded globally and that the cost due to auctioning would increase the gross value by more than five percent.

The energy-intensive chemicals, steel, cement, pharmaceutical and paper industries and refineries would thus receive free emissions credits until 2020. A preliminary analysis of an internal Commission paper which has been obtained by FTD shows that industry sectors that are above this threshold account for 80 to 90 percent of all emissions in the EU. Manufacturers of bricks, glass, detergents, paints and coatings, metal processors and automotive, textile and electrical industries would have to buy 20 percent of their allowances at auction as of 2013 - but they are responsible only for a maximum of one fifth of industrial emissions.

The extent of the financial burden to industry depends on two factors: By the end of 2010, Brussels plans to publish technical standards for the cleanest available equipment. Those companies that operate less clean plants would have to buy emissions credits. In addition, the costs for industry depend on the price for a tonne of CO2 which, as a result of the recession, has dropped by over 20 euros to 11,50 Euro per ton.

Revenue from emissions trading schemes of industrialized countries are regarded as important source of funding for the fight against climate change in emerging and developing countries. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas is holding talks in the U.S. with Obama's climate adviser Carol Browner until Tuesday on the issues of emissions trading and a global climate agreement.

SOURCE. (In German. Transl. BJP)


Germany's environment minister Sigmar Gabriel (Social Democratic Party) is pushing for the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Germany. "We need eight to twelve new coal plants if we want to get out of nuclear energy," Gabriel said on Friday at a meeting of the Mainz-Wiesbaden AG (KMW) in Mainz. With regard to the opponents of the planned coal-fired power in Mainz, the minister said: "Those who demonstrate against coal-fired power will get nuclear power plants instead." Gabriel said, the decision about which power plants are built is the responsibility of companies and not politics. He added that new coal power plants would not increase carbon dioxide emissions.

First of all, old plants would be closed. In additon, the emissions trading scheme would limit the level of emissions. "You can build 100 coal-fired power plants and don't have to have higher CO2 emissions," said the environment minister.

Renewable energies would not be able to close the gap in energy supply that will arise due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants by 2020, said Gabriel. Even gas-fired power plants are not a real alternative because their power generation is expensive and thus not competitive for the energy supply of industrial production.

SOURCE. (In German. Transl. BJP)

Nobody listens to the real climate change experts

The minds of world leaders are firmly shut to anything but the fantasies of the scaremongers, says Christopher Booker

Considering how the fear of global warming is inspiring the world's politicians to put forward the most costly and economically damaging package of measures ever imposed on mankind, it is obviously important that we can trust the basis on which all this is being proposed. Last week two international conferences addressed this issue and the contrast between them could not have been starker. The first in Copenhagen, billed as "an emergency summit on climate change" and attracting acres of worldwide media coverage, was explicitly designed to stoke up the fear of global warming to an unprecedented pitch. As one of the organisers put it, "this is not a regular scientific conference: this is a deliberate attempt to influence policy".

What worries them are all the signs that when the world's politicians converge on Copenhagen in December to discuss a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, under the guidance of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there will be so much disagreement that they may not get the much more drastic measures to cut carbon emissions that the alarmists are calling for.

Thus the name of the game last week, as we see from a sample of quotations, was to win headlines by claiming that everything is far worse than previously supposed. Sea level rises by 2100 could be "much greater than the 59cm predicted by the last IPCC report". Global warming could kill off 85 per cent of the Amazon rainforest, "much more than previously predicted". The ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica are melting "much faster than predicted". The number of people dying from heat could be "twice as many as previously predicted".

None of the government-funded scientists making these claims were particularly distinguished, but they succeeded in their object, as the media cheerfully recycled all this wild scaremongering without bothering to check the scientific facts.

What a striking contrast this was to the second conference, which I attended with 700 others in New York, organised by the Heartland Institute under the title Global Warming: Was It Ever Really A Crisis?. In Britain this received no coverage at all, apart from a sneering mention by the Guardian, although it was addressed by dozens of expert scientists, not a few of world rank, who for professional standing put those in Copenhagen in the shade.

Led off with stirring speeches from the Czech President Vaclav Klaus, the acting head of the European Union, and Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, perhaps the most distinguished climatologist in the world, the message of this gathering was that the scare over global warming has been deliberately stoked up for political reasons and has long since parted company with proper scientific evidence.

Nothing has more acutely demonstrated this than the reliance of the IPCC on computer models to predict what is going to happen to global temperatures over the next 100 years. On these predictions, that temperatures are likely to rise by up to 5.3C, all their other predictions and recommendations depend, yet nearly 10 years into the 21st century it is already painfully clear that the computer forecasts are going hopelessly astray. Far from rising with CO2, as the models are programmed to predict they should, the satellite-measured temperature curve has flattened out and then dropped. If the present trend were to continue, the world in 2100 would not in fact be hotter but 1.1C cooler than the 1979-1998 average.

Yet it is on this fundamental inability of the computer models to predict what has already happened that all else hangs. For two days in New York we heard distinguished experts, such as Professor Syun-Ichi Akasofu, former director of the International Arctic Research Center, Dr Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute, authoritatively (and often wittily) tear apart one piece of the scare orthodoxy after another.

Sea levels are not shooting up but only continuing their modest 3mm a year rise over the past 200 years. The vast Antarctic ice-sheet is not melting, except in one tiny corner, the Antarctic Peninsula. Tropical hurricane activity, far from increasing, is at its lowest level for 30 years. The best correlation for temperature fluctuations is not CO2 but the magnetic activity of the sun. (For an admirable summary of proceedings by the Australian paleoclimatologist Professor Bob Carter, Google "Heartland" and "Quadrant").

Yet the terrifying thing, as President Klaus observed in his magisterial opening address, is that there is no dialogue on these issues. When recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he found the minds of his fellow world leaders firmly shut to anything but the fantasies of the scaremongers. As I said in my own modest contribution to the conference, there seems little doubt that global warming is leading the world towards an unprecedented catastrophe. But it is not the Technicolor apocalypse promised by the likes of Al Gore. The real disaster hanging over us lies in all those astronomically costly measures proposed by politicians, to meet a crisis which in reality never existed.


Global Warming and The Endangered Species Act

There are indications that some in the media are finally figuring out that the environmental movement is very serious when it says it intends to use the federal Endangered Species Act and the listings of the polar bear and other species to force regulation of many "lower 48" operations, especially those in the energy business. This article covers a recent gathering of ESA experts wherein the path forward that environmental activists envision was discussed:

Under most traditional interpretations of the Endangered Species Act, an agency like the Bureau of Indian Affairs would have to determine how much of an impact a new coal-fired power plant in New Mexico or Colorado has on polar bears near the North Pole and penguins in Antarctica.

The vexing question is how to measure the site-specific impacts of such a project on a global scale. Top conservation leaders like Kieran Suckling, director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the federal government is legally obligated to do just that.

The about-to-be-impacted industries have adopted a "hear no evil, see no evil" approach, and have refused the sort of preemptive litigation strategy that would have defined the outer limits of the ESA's reach via test cases on carbon-emitting activities in industries unrelated to direct energy-production. Had the oil-and-gas industry brought suit, for example, to oblige a small airport expansion to conduct a Section 7 consultation, it could have begun to build a defense against overreaching by the Act's most aggressive proponents.

Instead it has ceded the legal initiative to the very capable lawyers at the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups, and the rollout of the prevent-global-warming-via-the-ESA strategy is beginning. The impact on energy production across the U.S. will be to sharply curtail new exploration and production and to greatly increase the cost of existing production. Every time a federal permit is proposed that will facilitate energy production --or any carbon-releasing activity for that matter-- environmental activists will argue that an ESA mandated permitting process is required. This process, called a Section 7 consultation, is very time-consuming and mandates necessary "mitigations" that are imposed on the sought-after permit. Landowners have learned how to negotiate this regulatory maze in the past two decades, but the vast expansion of jurisdiction foreseen by the advocates of the polar bear and related listings will greatly increase the scope of the Act's reach and the workload on the Fish & Wildlife Service, not to mention the cost of each permit if a cost can even be calculated.

All of this fallout was easy to predict at the time the Bush Adminstration listed the polar bear last year, but the coverage of the controversy has resolutely refused to explain to the public the enormous price tag it will be paying for the use of ice coverage models in the listing process that were at best speculative and at worse wildly so.


Australian Labor Party heartland turns on proposed Warmist laws as modelling shows big regional job losses

The mayors of three of the nation's biggest mining cities have demanded Kevin Rudd delay introducing carbon emissions trading, warning it will smash jobs and seriously damage key regional areas. The mayors of the traditional Labor strongholds of Newcastle, Gladstone and Mount Isa have called for the emissions trading scheme to be put off.

And the managing director of Frontier Economics, Danny Price, who conducted still-secret modelling for the NSW Treasury on the Rudd Government's plan, said the impact of the scheme across industrial regions, including central Queensland, the Hunter and Illawarra in NSW and Victoria's Gippsland, would be "very high" and "very severe". "In those regions, the effect on regional GDP would be many, many times more than the national effect forecast by the Treasury, which predicted an ETS would cut 0.1 per cent of average annual growth," Mr Price said.

The growing opposition to the Rudd Government's ETS came as the Opposition intensified its attack on the scheme as a job destroyer, with Malcolm Turnbull declaring the Coalition would not vote for the ETS in its current form. After the Opposition Leader's weekend declaration that the Coalition would not support a 2010 start-up date or the current design of the Rudd plan, the Government has become increasingly isolated on its support for the scheme.

Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate said any sensible person had to be concerned about climate change, but he saw no harm in delaying the introduction of the ETS while also pursuing alternative energy sources and developing technologies to reduce emissions from coal. "I just can't understand why you would put that sort of impost on Australian industry and agriculture at a time when we are trying to compete with the world," Mr Tate said. "I would urge the Government to consider the economic future and the job future of our citizens. Don't bring an impost on business large or small that's going to affect the viability of those businesses. It's just like another tax."

Mr Tate said Newcastle was faring reasonably well in the current economic climate because the federal and state governments were funding massive infrastructure spending, including a new coal loader at the city's port, works to deepen the south arm of the Hunter River and more than $580million on rail improvements. The spending was designed to boost the city's capacity to export coal.

Mount Isa Mayor John Molony said mines in his community employed 4000 people, including 300 apprentices. "I believe the ETS should be held in abeyance until the economic downturn is over," Mr Molony said. Mr Molony said copper and lead smelting and copper refining in Mt Isa and Townsville added major value to the nation's exports and would be severely hindered by emissions trading. Stressing that the problem of climate change required global action, he said it made sense to delay Australia's contribution to reducing emissions until it was clear what action other nations would take.

Gladstone Mayor George Creed, whose city's port is the exit point for massive coal exports from central Queensland, said the ETS would damage his community's industrial viability at a time it could least be afforded. Mr Creed said mines and heavy industry in Gladstone were already shedding jobs, and Australia's total carbon emissions accounted for a fraction of the world's output. "We are not going to hurt anything in the world if we wait for another year or two," Mr Creed said.

Latrobe Mayor Lisa Price, who represents an area that includes three open-cut brown coal mines, said her community was sitting on 500 years' worth of coal supplies and would not accept emissions trading without clear undertakings on structural adjustments to replace the jobs lost in mining.

The mayors spoke out as independent senator Nick Xenophon said the Government's legislation was doomed in the Senate, given that all parties on the cross benches believed it to be fundamentally flawed. During a sustained question-time attack on the claimed job-destroying consequences of the ETS, Mr Turnbull suggested the scheme should be shelved until the outcome of the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen later this year were known. The Opposition Leader said the Government should not commit itself before the administration of US President Barack Obama clarified the details of its proposed emissions scheme. Mr Turnbull cited a confidential briefing from coalmining giant Xstrata predicting that the scheme would force the closure of up to four mines and cost 1000 jobs, most of them in Queensland.

But Mr Rudd said the Government was determined to act on climate change, saying the economic costs of inaction would be far greater than the costs of action, particularly for a hot and dry nation such as Australia.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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