Friday, August 23, 2013
Amusing. Empiricism without evidence?
The article below by Australian socialist Andrew Hunter appeared in a major newspaper under the heading: "Empiricism must be defended". Fair enough. I am an unrelenting empiricist and have 200+ published academic journal articles to prove it. But Hunter shows no evidence of being an empiricist at all.
Empiricism means "going by the facts" or "respecting the data" or "going by what our senses tell us". Yet in his diatribe in defence of "climate change" below, Hunter mentions not one climate fact or data point. He prefers airy waffle and vague generalities. He gives an appearance of erudition while displaying zero erudition concerning the theory he defends. The best he can do is an appeal to authority at one point. Strange empiricism indeed! I must confess that Mr Hunter's amusing lack of self-awareness has rather made my day.
One rather doubts his sanity -- except that saying one thing and doing another is typical Leftism. Barack Obama take a bow
Alan Jones stood in front of the nation's seat of government in June to generate public concern about wind turbines, and to publicly demand the renewable energy target be scrapped. The lack of empirical evidence in support of his position did not deter him. Jones and other prominent conservative public figures in Australia appear determined to erase the legacy of the Enlightenment.
The continuing legacy of the Enlightenment period constitutes one of the most creative strands in the fabric of Western civilisation. While some prominent ideas of the Enlightenment were misappropriated to justify odious events, such as the Terror in France and later colonisation, it also bestowed to future generations an important intellectual legacy.
A heterogeneous discourse, the European Enlightenment was stimulated by contact with the great non-European civilisations of China, India and Russia. It grew out of the Renaissance, itself essentially a rediscovery, re-evaluation and extension of scientific and cultural traditions of classical antiquity.
At the core of these traditions, in all of their immense complexity, was the principle of seeking truth - truth about the nature of the cosmos, truth about the fundamental nature of the human race, truth about the organisation of society. Truth discovered through a commitment to empirical research, based on careful observation and the logical analysis of verifiable facts.
Jones acted in the knowledge that a concerted campaign in the mainstream media will often overwhelm positions based on science, evidence and reason. This has been made abundantly clear in the climate change debate. Public debate in Australia (and elsewhere) is now increasingly dominated by often unsubstantiated positions devoid of empirical basis.
Other traditions have always existed. The history of Western society has been marked by periodic swings of the pendulum. There were periods when the spirit of inquiry has been in the ascendant, as well as long centuries when this spirit has been eclipsed and replaced by faith in religious authority, dogma or unsubstantiated personal beliefs. It appears we are witnessing another such swing of the pendulum.
As did Jones, Coalition Senator Cory Bernardi recently asserted on Q&A that climate change is not influenced by human activity. Although every national scientific body in the world, including the Australian Academy of Science, appears to be of the same accord, Bernardi insists there is no consensus within the scientific community.
Bernardi's arguments draw heavily on his personal beliefs. Later on the Q&A program, he referred to his commitment to protecting "Western values" that he asserted were based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Bernardi extolled the virtues of reciprocity. He inferred that reciprocity concept was unique to the Christian ethic, which in turn constituted the very foundation of Western civilisation and the Western values system.
He might have convinced some viewers but his assertions would not have stood up to even modest interrogation. The concept of reciprocity is central to most religions and ethical systems that have survived through time - if only for the reason that it is critical to a harmonious, functioning society.
The role of secularism was another core value of the Enlightenment. In a functioning democratic society, tolerance of different religious beliefs sits comfortably alongside a commitment to science and evidence-based public policy. Bernardi is able to practise his faith in Australia - and Ed Husic his - because we live in a secular, rational society. An equally rational approach should inform our environmental policy.
If public figures in a secular society have a values system based on faith, they should not hide from it. There is much beauty, wisdom and peace to be found in the scriptures. Personal values that inform public policy, however, should be considered alongside a profound reflection about the human condition, a dispassionate study of history and rational thinking.
To claim an ethical and intellectual tradition supposedly common to Western nations has come from a single source is intellectually unsound. So far as a common philosophical or ethical tradition exists, Western thinking is the product of a continually evolving sum of a vast range of influences.
Christian teachings have made an enormous contribution to the civilisation of the West but it also owes as much to classical Greece and Rome - in turn deeply influenced by Egypt, Persian as the other ancient societies of the Middle East, the pre-Christian Celts and Germans - and to the brilliant civilisation of mediaeval Islam. Conservative champions of Western values would benefit greatly from some knowledge of history.
Bernardi has apparently written a book, The Conservative Revolution, that explains how the "pillars of Western civilisation" are "under threat". Its integrity may unwittingly prove its underlying thesis.
Science, rationality and empiricism, once pillars of political discourse in Western democracies, have been weakened of late. Unfortunately, the instincts of most modern politicians often militate against a necessary resistance to this unfortunate tendency.
On issues of enduring importance, strong political movements must occasionally sacrifice political ground over the short term to win the long game. Those who have sided with populist, unsubstantiated personal positions on climate change in recent years will be judged poorly in the future.
A public naturally resistant to change will be disinclined to support action on climate change until all doubt is removed. Conservatives have successfully cultivated doubt that action is necessary, and have benefited politically.
Labor has a legacy to protect in the immediate period - a task that will be made easier if it grasps every opportunity to express indignation at the intellectually weak positions of Jones, Bernardi and many of their conservative allies.
We must fight to ensure empiricism remains central to policymaking and political discourse. To do so would benefit the national interest. It would also protect a critical tenet of the Enlightenment: the role science and reason plays in our understanding of the world.
Note: There is a similar, equally non-empirical,attack on climate skepticism in the NYT by Adam Frank. Now that true believers in Warmism can muster very little of a factual nature in defense of their creed, the strategy seems to be to put skepticism into bad company -- a classic "ad hominem" argument. I wonder how many more of the informal fallacies of logic they will finally manage to enlist in aid of their jihad?
The Category 6 hurricane: Al Gore’s science fiction
By Jason Samenow, the Washington Post's Weather Editor
In 2004, CBS aired a two-part sci-fi flick on a new class of end-of-the-world hurricanes, with the apt title “Category 6: Day of Destruction“.
If you believe former Vice President Al Gore, global warming is morphing science fiction into reality. In his exclusive interview with the Post’s Ezra Klein published Wednesday, Gore says:
The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.
But Gore’s statement about this new breed of hurricanes is patently false. There’s no new hurricane category in the works.
Just to be sure, I contacted Chris Vaccaro, director of the National Weather Service’s office of public affairs, and asked him whether the National Hurricane Center is about to unveil the doomsday Category 6. In less than 10 minutes, he fired back this response:
"No, we’re not pursuing any such change. I’m also not sure who VP Gore means by “they.” I’d also point out that the top rating, Category 5, has no ceiling: it includes hurricanes with top sustained winds of 157mph and higher"
Generally, Gore’s characterization of the links between global warming and hurricane intensity is a bit fast and loose. Whereas Gore tells Klein hurricanes are “stronger now” due to manmade warming, the freshly leaked United Nations climate assessment is much more equivocal. Although the assessment says hurricane activity has become more intense in the Atlantic since 1970, there is “low confidence” of a human contribution.
Or to quote the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin:
"According to the latest science, in most cases (outside of extreme heat waves) the connections between today’s extreme weather events and human-driven climate change range from weak (hurricanes) to nil (tornadoes) — and the dominant driver of losses in such events is fast-paced development or settlement in places with fundamental climatic or coastal vulnerability."
It’s unfortunate Gore doesn’t take more care in his climate science communication as there are legitimate reasons for concern (I presented 10 of them from the leaked UN report Tuesday). For the most part, his interview with Klein is a good read, and he makes some insightful points on climate policy.
But with his penchant for overstatement, Gore will continue to be a divisive and less than credible voice in climate change discourse.
“Global warming has sure as hell changed the rules,” says one of the characters in the Category 6 film. Too true in the case of our former VP.
Fracking protesters are 'blinkered totalitarians who want us to live in yurts and wigwams'
Sir Bernard Ingham has denounced anti-fracking demonstrators as 'blinkered totalitarians'.
Sir Bernard, who was Margaret Thatcher's press secretary, said: 'It seems they want us all to live in their yurts, tepees and wigwams in a sort of glorious save-the-planet pre-industrial squalor, regardless of our manifest objections.
'If that is not totalitarianism, I don't know what is.'
Sir Bernard said: 'The problem with anti-fracking fanatics is that like other zealots they are blinkered totalitarians,' adding the activists are 'guilty of hypocrisy, utter stupidity and exaggeration'.
'Their entire approach to energy is to plump for everything that does not work and exclude anything that does - coal, gas, oil and especially nuclear energy which emits next to no CO2.
'Worse still, their long campaign has captured our limited politicians.'
In his article in the Yorkshire Post, he added: 'The result is that short of an early shale gas bonanza we can no longer rely on any government of whatever political complexion to provide secure supplies of energy at affordable cost.'
There were fewer than 100 protesters left last night at a potential fracking site as they finally admitted defeat to the police.
More than 1,200 activists had brought exploratory shale gas drilling to a halt on the edge of the village of Balcombe, West Sussex, at the weekend.
But after officers from more than 10 police forces pushed back campaigners from the site’s entrance allowing lorries to enter on Monday, they left in their droves.
Before leaving the site activists staged a protest and tried to block the road as a lorry arrived at the Cuadrila site Before leaving the site activists staged a protest and tried to block the road as a lorry arrived at the Cuadrilla site
A ‘Reclaim the Power’ camp that had been illegally set up in a farmer’s field two miles away was completely dismantled yesterday afternoon.
Despite tents being camped out on the grass verges, traffic was not stopped and the country road was kept open by the police.
Some people who had set up camping areas on footpaths around the drill were evicted by police officers without a fuss. Their only resistance was walking slowly in front of a lorry while chanting.
One of the few remaining protesters is Natalie Hynde, daughter of Pretenders singer Chrissie and the Kinks frontman Ray Davies, who has returned after being arrested at the site for a public disorder offence last week.
It comes as energy company Cuadrilla is expected to start its exploratory drilling again soon.
Engineers were yesterday again carrying out maintenance work in preparation.
Despite being guarded by 25 police officers, the company has hired a team of security guards with dogs to patrol the barbed wire perimeter fence.
Dave Packham, 37, who is unemployed and from London, was trying to hitch-hike back to the capital. He said: ‘I think it’s all over now. I came down last week but numbers have really dropped.
‘It was fun while it lasted and there was a great atmosphere. This has been like a music festival and people have really pulled together. I think the police are now not going to let us carry on so it’s time to move on.’
Cuadrilla hopes to carry out exploratory drilling to assess if it is worth applying for a licence to extract shale gas that might involve fracking. The overall police operation against the protesters is expected to cost taxpayers more than £2million as it goes into its third week.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the whole country should accept fracking as it might potentially cut rising energy bills.
Secret British wind farm report into house price blight
An official report at the centre of a Coalition row over renewable energy will disclose for the first time the impact of wind farms on rural house prices. Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has commissioned a consultancy to investigate whether renewable technologies – including wind turbines – lower house prices in the countryside.
Coalition sources said the report is being blocked by officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), run by Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat, amid fears it will conclude that turbines harm property prices. Mr Paterson has made clear that he intends to make the document public as soon as it is completed.
On Tuesday, this newspaper disclosed that a report into renewable energy had been commissioned by Mr Paterson’s Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra). The decision to order the report is said to have caused anger within Mr Davey’s department, which viewed it as encroachment upon its remit.
Mr Davey has strongly denied that anyone in his department is trying to suppress the investigation.
It has emerged that a significant focus of the report will be the financial impact of wind farms upon the value of neighbouring properties.
Opponents of wind farms claim it is “highly likely” that the report will reveal that turbines in rural areas will detract from the value of nearby homes.
The consultancy company, Frontier Economics, has been asked by Defra to calculate how house prices will be affected by a series of energy projects across Britain. It has been asked to look at onshore and offshore wind, overhead power lines, shale gas, anaerobic digestion plants and nuclear power plants.
The remit of the report states that it “aims to determine whether [energy projects] have a significant impact on the prices of houses nearby and, if so, compare how that impact differs between different types”. It will feed into Mr Paterson’s final report on how renewables affect the countryside and the rural economy.
MPs tonight said that Mr Paterson must be allowed to publish his department’s findings.
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Conservative MP for Daventry, said: “Wind farms definitely affect house prices and it is highly likely that this report will come to that conclusion. “I would expect there to be billions of pounds of planning blight because of wind turbines close to properties.”
He added: “It’s almost like elements of DECC are acting like a mafia … now you’ve got DECC trying to stick its dirty great footprints all over another department’s work. “While this is unsurprising, it will all unravel in the end and I’m sure the evidence will come out soon that proves a number of these points correct.”
He said that one of his constituents had seen the value of their £700,000 property fall by £250,000 because of approved plans for a wind turbine.
Glyn Davies, the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, said: “I’m expecting this report to find that house prices will be reduced over the country by a measure of billions. It is my view that any unbiased study will show that. What is absolutely crucial is that this report is allowed to come out.” He added: “I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t want the public to know the conclusions – irrespective of what the report says.”
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph today, Mr Davey says: “My department is not blocking a Defra report on the impact of wind farms. “The Government is committed to moving to a secure, affordable, low carbon energy system, without excessively relying on any single technology. “So, this cross-government study will look at maximising the benefits and minimising the negative impacts of all technologies, including shale gas and nuclear.”
Details of the study, the first major review of renewables and their impact on house prices, were disclosed in The ENDS Report , an environmental policy magazine. A spokesman for Defra said: “It is our role to rural-proof policy. We need to ensure that energy is generated in a way that is sustainable. Sustainability includes the economic as well as social and environmental impacts.”
Jennifer Webber, of RenewableUK, said: “All the expert academic research published in this country and abroad over the last few years shows there’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that wind farms affect house prices.”
The dispute between Defra and DECC comes after a series of Coalition rows over wind farms. Mr Davey last year slapped down a former Conservative energy minister, John Hayes, after he said the spread of wind farms across the countryside would be brought to a halt.
David Cameron this month said people should not “expect to see a lot more wind power onshore in the UK” and that there was a “limited potential for onshore wind”.
$5.7M NSF Grant For Card Games, Videos To Teach Public About Global Warming
A multi-million dollar project funded by the National Science Foundation is developing card games, videos and other educational programs “to engage adult learners and inform public understanding and response to climate change.”
The $5.7 million Polar Learning and Responding (PoLAR) project is just the latest in a series of federally-funded climate change efforts since Congress established the Climate Change Educational Partnership (CCEP) in 2009.
CCEP has already spent $46 million on taxpayer-funded research projects around the country designed to find the most effective ways to convince Americans that the federal government should confront what researchers claim is the threat of global warming.
Stephanie Pfirman, principal investigator and professor of environmental science at Barnard College, told CNSNews.com that one of the games under development by PoLAR is “EcoChains” - a card game in which “players learn the components of an Arctic marine food chain, the reliance of some species on sea ice, and potential impacts of future changes.”
Other games include “Future Coast” - described as “a community-based activity where participants consider the implications of sea level rise coupled with a storm surge, as happened with [Hurricane] Sandy.”
Also under development is “The Polar Explorer” game, which “charts a range of ways to explore Earth climate data both spatially and temporally,” and “a mobile app that is designed to help people understand the relationships of climate change to their day-to-day lives.”
Educational initiatives include “radio programs that address both local Arctic and Antarctic perspectives on climate change,” and “online teacher professional development courses” that educate “middle and high school teachers” on contributing factors and consequences of climate change
Scientists and like-minded educators are hoping that the games developed by PoLAR will eventually lead to a society that accepts global warming as a fact, and is willing to adopt “responses and solutions.”
“Achieving this vision requires profound and sustained transformations in formal (K-16) and informal educational systems across the nation, both to improve the quality and effectiveness of learning materials, pedagogies, and educator preparation for climate education and to increase access and exposure to effective resources,” according to a CCEP Alliance Office solicitation.
Authorized in 2012 and running through 2017, PoLAR grantees will be spending $5.7 million of additional taxpayer funds in an effort to convince “millions of adults” to support a “change in practices and policies by seeding game-like approaches in informal and formal educational environments” – despite the fact that the Earth’s temperature has been at a statistical standstill for a decade and a half, and may have actually begun cooling instead of warming.
“Climate change is especially pronounced in polar regions – which is what our project addresses,” Pfirman told CNSNews. “Arctic sea ice reached historic low extent and volume last year,” she continued. “Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and many smaller glaciers, continue losing mass and contributing to sea level rise.”
However, data recently released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that temperatures in the North Pole are well below normal this year.
“Doom and gloom is not going to motivate anyone. It is more important to educate people so that they can come up with solutions,” said Mary-Elena Carr, associate director of Columbia University’s Climate Center.
According to the CCEP description on the National Science Foundation website, the program’s educational research objectives include “preparing a new generation of climate scientists, engineers, and technicians equipped to provide innovative and creative approaches to understanding global climate change and to mitigate its impact” and “preparing today's U.S. citizens to understand global climate change and its implications in ways that can lead to informed, evidence-based responses and solutions.”
As part of the CCEP program, the National Science Foundation funded the establishment of a national Climate Change Educational Partnership Alliance Office to coordinate the research efforts of various climate education studies across America.
Asked about the project’s benefits to American taxpayers, Pfirman said, “Educated citizens will be better prepared for a changing climate. Because the U.S. is an Arctic nation, public awareness of the implications of changes taking place in that region is important.”
The End of Global Sea Level Rise
Weather forecasters who attach great weight to celestial phenomena seem to have the greatest predictive success so for those who like prophecies, this prophecy should perhaps be given some weight
In a news conference held near Miami, Florida last night, the Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC) announced that the global threat of sea level rise caused by decades of global warming is ending. Speaking to cheering supporters from several groups from the general Miami area, SSRC President Mr. John Casey issued a formal declaration of the end of global sea level rise during a presentation in which he discussed the vital role the Sun plays in climate change and how the past growth in sea levels was caused by the Sun and not mankind. The event was sponsored by the American Citizens League. The declaration read:
“As a result of the Sun entering a ‘hibernation’ phase, the Space and Science Research Corporation hereby declares that the past two hundred years of global sea level rise is expected to end no earlier than mid-2014 and no later than 2020. After that time, global sea levels are expected to begin a long term period of decline, lasting at least through the decade of the 2030’s. The estimated global sea level decline during that period will range from 20 to 25 cm from current levels.”
Casey elaborated with, “The many climate models that have taken two decades and billions of dollars to fabricate have been utter scientific failures. Once you take the greenhouse gas theory out of the laboratory and try in in the real world it just does not stand up. Not only has there been no effective growth in the planet’s temperature for sixteen years, but current temperature trends show the Earth’s oceans have been cooling for ten years and the atmosphere for seven years! These real world indicators of the true status of the Earth’s climate are of course, an impossibility if the greenhouse gas theory really worked and mankind’s CO2 emissions had the effect as has been alleged. On the other hand, using solar variations for climate prediction, we see global warming ended and the next climate began right on schedule.”
Mr. Casey, is a former White House space program advisor, space shuttle engineer, and NASA Headquarters consultant, and is the Editor of the Global Climate Status Report (GCSR)©. Mr. Casey is also the author of the internationally acclaimed climate book, “Cold Sun,” which describes the cause and effects of this potentially dangerous new cold climate. (See www.coldsun.net). He has amassed a list of correct, major climate predictions that according to public records of predictions, is unmatched by the UN-IPCC, NASA, NOAA and all US university PhD’s funded for climate research by the government. In March of 2013, he was named “America’s best climate prediction expert” by Watchdogwire.com.
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