Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My new header statement

Regular readers will note that I have deleted the rogues' gallery from the heading of this blog and replaced it with a short statement.

The statement points out that global warming theory defies basic physics. That is still a minority view among skeptics. Most skeptics accept that CO2 could cause warming but say that any effect is trivial.

I have no idea why they do not question the physics but I suspect it is because arguments about physics would go right over the heads of most people. So I support what they do and think that their course is probably the wisest.

For me, however, truth is all and I have never concerned myself with how popular it is. So although I will continue to post articles that question Warmism from any and all perspectives, I like to make it clear where I stand on the matter.

I did take the precution of circulating my new heading among some people wiser in physics than I am and was pleased to get a rapid endorsement of my statement from Nasif Nahle. Nahle is a polymathic Mexican scientist of Jewish origins who knows a LOT about thermodynamics -- including thermodynamics in dynamic systems -- which would seem particularly relevant in this case.

Warmists and homophobes are birds of a feather

Let me elaborate on my heading above. For a start, I am using "homophobe" in the Leftist sense -- meaning anyone who dislikes homosexuality for whatever reason. Such sentiments are of course not in fact true phobias. Secondly, there may be some tolerant Warmists but they are few and far between so my heading applies to most, though not all of them. What follows is by Frank Furedi, who points out that their intolerance of dissent exposes their beliefs as religious rather than scientific

What do John Beddington, Britain’s chief scientific adviser, and Ryszard Legutko, leader of Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party, have in common? Both believe that intolerance is a virtue, and that it should be celebrated.

Legutko, a vociferous critic of the gay rights movement, has written a book called Why I Am Not Tolerant. And Beddington boasts about his intolerance, too. Earlier this month, at the annual conference of Britain’s scientific civil servants, he called upon his audience to be ‘grossly intolerant’ of the misuse of science by religious and political groups.

Beddington said: ‘We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality… We are not - and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this - grossly intolerant of pseudoscience.’

No doubt Beddington also feels intolerant towards Legutko’s views on homosexuality. Yet what is truly fascinating about these two crusaders against tolerance is that although they have diametrically opposed viewpoints on gay rights, they are at one in their affirmation of the ethos of intolerance. The targets of their intolerance might be different, but they share the worldview of the bigot. Legutko is offended by the sight of gay and lesbian people dressed up as nuns and priests, while Beddington objects to people he disagrees with masquerading as scientists. The casual manner with which European public figures celebrate intolerance is testimony to the censorious and illiberal spirit that now dominates political life across the continent.

In the current era, public figures only praise tolerance when they are giving Sunday school-style speeches. Political mission statements and EU declarations still contain exhortations to be tolerant. But increasingly, such tolerance-rhetoric is little more than a perfunctory gesture, which often serves as a prelude to narrow-minded bigotry. It is bad enough to hear a leading scientist brag about his contempt for tolerance. It is even worse when one scientist after another agrees with him and piles in to demand the silencing of views they disagree with. So following Beddington’s comments, we had Edzard Ernst, professor of the study of complementary medicine at Exeter University, exclaim that ‘for too long we have been tolerant of these postmodern ideas that more than one truth is valid’.

The idea that we should not be tolerant of problematic ideas, or indeed of any beliefs other than our own, dominated the political culture of pre-Enlightenment Europe. It is important to note that until the seventeenth century, it was intolerance rather than tolerance that was upheld as a virtue. So when Beddington declares that ‘we should not tolerate what is potentially something that can seriously undermine our ability to address important problems’, he is adopting the dominant narrative of late medieval Europe. In that medieval outlook, heretical beliefs represented such a danger to society that the only virtuous response was to silence them. Intolerance was seen as a marker of moral virtue. As late as 1691, the French theologian Jacques-BĂ©nigne Bossuet boasted that Catholicism was the least tolerant of all religions, stating: ‘I have the right to persecute you because I am right and you are wrong.’

Today, it is not only the casual manner in which tolerance is once again condemned as a sign of moral weakness that speaks to the re-emergence of the attitude of the Inquisition - it is also the way in which some views are implicitly labelled evil or destructive. Bossuet and his fellow moral crusaders did not simply call for muscular intolerance. They also invented an ideology of evil. They presented their opponents as morally corrupt. In pre-Enlightenment times, such moral condemnation of heretics usually involved linking their behaviour to some kind of Satanic plot. In today’s secular era, a new ideology of evil justifies demands for intolerance by attacking people for their ‘outrageous behaviour’.

So it is not surprising that Beddington did not merely say that pseudoscience is wrong or unscientific or even a source of misfortune. He also characterised it as ‘pernicious’, as the moral equivalent of racism and homophobia. His equation of dissent from his scientific opinions with the stigmatised categories of racism and homophobia was an arbitrary one. He could have achieved the same effect by depicting pseudoscience as something akin to Holocaust denial or support for slavery. The ideology of evil takes many forms. Edzard Ernst justified silencing dissent by arguing that journalists would not finish an article by ‘quoting the Ku Klux Klan’, and so they shouldn’t quote pseudoscientists either. Science columnist Ben Goldacre opted for an old-fashioned conspiracy theory in his expression of support for Beddington’s campaign for gross intolerance. ‘Society has been far too tolerant of politicians, lobbyists and journalists wilfully misusing science, distorting evidence by cherry-picking data that suits their view, giving bogus authority to people who misrepresent the absolute basics of science, and worse’, he stated.

The attempt to legitimise intolerance by constructing an ideology of evil has become a regular feature of the twenty-first-century debate on science. Time and again, dissent from conventional wisdom is dismissed as yet another example of ‘AIDS denialism’ or racism or some other modern evil. One consequence of this pathologisation of dissent is that it trivialises fundamental problems such as racism. The significance of the KKK’s lynching of black people or acts of anti-gay violence are judged to be comparable to the ‘pernicious arguments’ of those who distort science. Instead of racism being treated as a serious problem, it is denuded of its content and used simply as a rhetorical device for embarrassing an opponent. Such cavalier deployment of historically significant symbols is testimony to the morally impoverished state of public debate today.

When disagreement about some scientific claim is held up as the moral equivalent of racism, it seems pretty clear that the sole objective is to shut down dissent.

Tolerance is not for intellectual cowards

Science has always been the subject of bitter disputes. In modern times, scientists have rightly been concerned about the potentially confusing and destructive effects of pseudoscience. In the nineteenth century, numerous British liberal thinkers wrote essays expressing concern about the influence of pseudoscience on public opinion. In 1849, Sir George Cornwall Lewis noted that the popularity of science led to what he described as ‘mock science’, including ‘mesmerism, homeopathy and phrenology’. He feared that through mimicking the ‘phraseology of science’, charlatans might succeed in misleading the public.

John Stuart Mill shared these concerns. In 1836, he wrote about a ‘flowering of quackery and ephemeral literature’, all manipulated by the new ‘arts for attracting public attention’. Mill was no less hostile to the confusions sown by quacks and by ‘mock science’ than genuine scientists are today. But what distinguished Mill from someone like Beddington was his view on how to deal with erroneous ‘science’.

Mill adopted a consistent and courageous orientation towards tolerance, for many reasons. One reason was his sensitivity to the fact that uncertainty had become a condition of life in the modern world. Mill believed that, aside from the need to uphold freedom of speech and belief, uncertainty demanded tolerance. It is precisely because we cannot be certain of truth that we must allow for great openness and give people the right to express their beliefs and opinions. Uncertainty demands that people should be free to pursue their quest for truth. For Mill, the tolerance of all beliefs, even false ones, was not a matter of being soft or polite. Rather, openness towards the expression of any opinion was seen as essential to the flourishing of human creativity and a healthy public life. Mill believed that the ‘evil of silencing the expression of opinion’ is that it robs society, and future generations, of the potential insights that can emerge from a clash of views. He said: ‘If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.’

In his essay On Liberty, Mill argued that in an uncertain world refusal to tolerate what Beddington describes as ‘pernicious’ views means assuming that one possesses the authority of ‘infallibility’: ‘To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.’

Mill went even further and insisted that intolerance of a false belief is itself an evil. ‘We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion’, he said, before adding that even ‘if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still’. Mill took the view that society actually learns about itself through confronting ‘false opinion’. That is why On Liberty sometimes reads like a celebration of the heretic. Mill defends heretics because he recognises that, through their questioning of received wisdom, they ensure that society is forced to account for its views, and if necessary rectify them.

There is a chasm separating the outlook of someone like Mill from today’s celebrators of intolerance. If Mill were alive now, he would be horrified by the censorious attitude of men of science. When Beddington argues that since ‘there are enough difficult and important problems out there’ tolerance towards ‘what is politically or morally or religiously motivated nonsense’ becomes a luxury, he communicates a nonsensical idea of tolerance. Mill would not understand why someone’s nonsense should not be tolerated. After all, tolerance only really gains meaning through our refusal to silence views that we strongly disagree with; that is the real test. Beddington’s belief that tolerance means only putting up with sensible views is bizarre.

The great, and tragic, irony in all this is that science was one of the principal beneficiaries of the emergence of the ethos of tolerance. Science by its very nature thrives on open debate, which is why scientists were often in the forefront of advocating tolerance of dissident and despised views. The nineteenth-century biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, who was known as Darwin’s bulldog, said ‘scepticism is the highest of duties’. Many scientists believed that no ideas or views should be beyond discussion. The motto of the Royal Society was: ‘On the word of no one.’ Sadly, science has become politicised and has become prey to dogmatism. There is now a tendency to devalue debate and to replace argument with moral condemnation.

There are many reasons for this defensive moralistic turn in sections of the scientific community. The principal driver of the re-emergence of intolerance as a moral virtue is Western culture’s aversion to engaging with uncertainty. This is best captured by that unattractive term ‘zero tolerance’ - a concept which presents the world in the language of black-and-white and either/or. It spares the intolerant the trouble of having to fight for their views. It is far easier to resolve disagreement and confusion through shutting down discussion than to practise true tolerance. Tolerance demands courage - intolerance, the outlook of the intellectual coward, merely requires a censor’s pen.


What Do Climate Data Really Show? The Berkeley Climate Data Project

S. Fred Singer

The e-mails leaked from the University of East Anglia in November 2009 produced what is popularly called “Climategate.” They exposed the thoroughly unethical behavior of a group of climate scientists, mainly in the UK and US, involved in producing the global surface temperature record used and relied on by governments.

Not only did these climate scientists hide their raw data and their methodology of selection and adjustment of temperature data, but they fought hard against all attempts by independent outside scientists to replicate their results. They also undermined the peer-review system and tried to make it impossible for skeptical scientists to publish their work in scientific journals. There is voluminous evidence in the e-mails to this effect. In the process, they damaged not only the science enterprise—full publication of data and methods, replication of results, open debate, etc—but they also undermined the public credibility of all scientists.

However, the most serious revelation from the e-mails is that they tried to “hide the decline” in temperatures, using various “tricks” in order to keep alive a myth of rising temperatures in support of the dogma of anthropogenic global warming. There have now been a number of investigations of the activities of this group, mainly in the UK. These have all turned out to be complete whitewashes, aimed to exonerate the scientists involved. None of these investigations has even attempted to learn how and in what way the data might have been manipulated.

Much of this is described in the “Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the corruption of science” by A. W. Montford. Meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo and others have made a commendable effort to show how data might have been altered. But an independent effort to reconstruct the global temperature results of the past century really demands a dedicated project with proper resources.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Project aims to do what needs to be done: That is, to develop an independent analysis of the data from land stations, which would include many more stations than had been considered by the Global Historic Climatology Network. The Project is in the hands of a group of recognized scientists, who are not at all “climate skeptics”—which should enhance their credibility. The Project is mainly directed by physicists, chaired by Professor Richard Muller (UC Berkeley), with a steering group that includes Professor Judith Curry (Georgia Tech) and Arthur Rosenfeld (UC Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech).

I applaud and support what is being done by the Project—a very difficult but important undertaking. I personally have little faith in the quality of the surface data, having been exposed to the revealing work by Anthony Watts and others. However, I have an open mind on the issue and look forward to seeing the results of the Project in their forthcoming publications.

As far as I know, no government or industry funds are involved—at least at this stage. According to the Project’s website, support comes mostly from a group of charitable foundations.


Lest we forget: Greenie fanaticism destroyed two space shuttles

Because they seem well intentioned, people seldom hold Greenies to account for the vast damage and loss of life that they inflict through the imposition of their fads on the rest of us. The article below is from 2003 but the tragedy it describes should not be forgotten

When NASA's environmental concerns resulted in the tragic deaths of the Columbia crew, it wasn't the first time a space shuttle crew was lost because of misguided regulations and fads.

In fact, NASA's own investigations strongly suggest something very similar occurred back in 1986 resulting in the destruction of the Challenger and its entire crew.

Long before the space agency officially blamed the Feb. 1 disintegration of the Columbia upon re-entry – on foam insulation breaking free from the external tank and slamming into the leading edge of the left wing – I reported NASA knew of a continuing problem with foam insulation dating back six years. The new foam had been chosen for shuttle missions, I reported – the day after the Columbia tragedy – because it was "environmentally friendly."

More than six years ago, NASA investigated extensive thermal tile damage on the space shuttle Columbia as a direct result of the shedding of external tank insulation on launch. The problems began when the space agency switched to materials and parts that were considered more "environmentally friendly," according to a NASA report obtained by WorldNetDaily.

In 1997, during the 87th space shuttle mission, similar tile damage was experienced during launch when the external tank foam crashed into some tiles during the stress of takeoff. Fortunately, the damage was not catastrophic. But investigators then noted the damage followed changes in the methods of "foaming" the external tank – changes mandated by concerns about being "environmentally friendly."

Here's what that report said: "During the ... mission, there was a change made on the external tank. Because of NASA's goal to use environmentally friendly products, a new method of 'foaming' the external tank had been used for this mission and the (previous) mission. It is suspected that large amounts of foam separated from the external tank and impacted the orbiter. This caused significant damage to the protective tiles of the orbiter."

While the NASA report on that earlier Columbia mission ended on a positive note, suggesting changes would be made in procedures to avoid such problems in the future, obviously the problems were never corrected.

The original report is still there on NASA's website for any other enterprising journalist to go see for himself or herself.

Worse, this is apparently not the first shuttle mission and crew destroyed because of concerns about the environmental friendliness of certain products used by NASA.

Anyone alive in 1986 likely remembers where he or she was when the Challenger exploded shortly after launch. And everyone who followed the story of the investigation of the Challenger disaster knows the official findings – a problem with O-rings.

But what exactly was the problem with the O-rings?

In 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of asbestos in a wide range of paint products. NASA, through the mid-1980s, had used a commercially available, "off-the-shelf" putty manufactured by the Fuller O'Brien Paint Company in San Francisco to help seal the shuttle field joints. But the paint company, fearful of legal action as a result of the asbestos ban, stopped manufacturing the putty. NASA had to look for another solution.

Six months before the Challenger disaster, a July 23, 1985, memo by budget analyst Richard Cook warned about new burn-through problems with O-rings.

"Engineers have not yet determined the cause of the problem," he wrote. "Candidates include the use of a new type of putty (the putty formerly used was removed from the market by NASA because it contained asbestos)."

Indeed, NASA began buying putty from a New Jersey company. The experts working with it noted that it did not seem to seal the joints as well as the old putty, but they continued to use it anyway.

As long as I am the only one reporting that NASA has for 20 years put petty "environmental correctness" ahead of the lives of astronauts, I do not expect future missions to be any safer.

Problems are seldom corrected when they are not recognized.


Paul Ehrlich, Genius?

Below is a letter to the Los Angeles Times from economist Donald J. Boudreaux

Three different readers write today in praise of Paul Ehrlich and his predictions of eco-mageddon (Letters, Feb. 18). Such praise is odd, given that not one of the many catastrophes that Mr. Ehrlich has predicted over the past 43 years has occurred.

The drying of the Aral Sea, alas, is not – contrary to reader David McClave’s insinuation – evidence in support of Mr. Ehrlich’s proposition that one of the greatest threats to the environment is capitalism. Here’s what the BBC reported in 1998:

“correspondent Louise Hidalgo in Kazakhstan says that the most amazing thing about the disaster is that it is no accident. ‘The Soviet planners who fatally tapped the rivers, which fed the seas to irrigate central Asia’s vast cotton fields, expected it [to?] dry up. They either did not realise the consequences the Aral’s disappearance would bring or they simply did not care.’”

How interesting that the one genuine eco-disaster mentioned as confirmation of Mr. Ehrlich’s wisdom was caused by the same institution – the powerful, centralized state – that Mr. Ehrlich advises we must submit to if we are to be saved from genuine eco-disasters.


Another meteorologist denies global warming reality

Is global warming caused by man, is it real, or is it a scam. Meteorologist Kevin Martin thinks it is not a reality.

Martin challenges Al Gore on his global warming theory. Martin suggests that global warming is a scam for Gore and others to bank off of, and there is no hard evidence that it really exists in the first place. He brings some interesting thoughts to the table on the already very touchy subject.

Rumors are going around that because Joe Bastardi of Accuweather did not believe in global warming that he was forced to resign. Those rumors are just rumors at the current time. However due to these rumors Martin has agreed to allow publishing of his belief in the hoax.

"A volcanic eruption similar to the one we saw in Russia during June 2009 lets out more carbon dioxide than we humans let out in five years", Martin explained. "We just do not have the power to change the planet like Gore suggests. Gore's theory is flawed all the way around. We have lived a fraction of the amount of time this planet has been around and you honestly believe we know the natural cycles of this planet since it was made? Not to mention the warmer readings are likely population growth and urban development called heat islands, which have no direct effect on long range weather".

Martin urges the public to take a step back and look to how long they've lived on the planet. Not one person on the planet can say what the 2000s B.C. were like can they? Of course not, and this is the argument Martin is talking about. The planet has gone through cold and warm episodes and it will continue to do so even after man.

"Global warming is just another scam for the government to think they can control you", concluded Martin. "I will bet you ten to one that Al Gore's house uses more electricity than a block in the suburbs yet he is trying to tell you how to use energy. The fact is we do not have the power to change the planet. We have cold and warm periods. Los Angeles Basin has seen snow in the past, 110 degree temperatures, and it will again in the future. Global warming is a cycle and man have nothing to do with it".



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, 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 is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here



Murray Beauchamp said...

John, To your new header you might also consider the fact we are talking about 100ppm (supposedly) from us humans. That is 10 parts in 100,000. Think about the MCG on GF day (100,000) 10 of those suckers would be warming the rest to hell.... The whole idea of this co2 thing is illogical and absurd.
Murray Beauchamp.

Joseph said...

One thing Beddington and Legutko have in common is that they are both opposed to "crimes against nature."