Friday, February 10, 2012

It's not skeptics who are the deniers

No facts can change the minds of true believers

Damien Carrington — who is head of environment at the Guardian, which tells you almost everything you need to know about what’s going on inside his head (if at all) — writes about the discovery that Himalayan glaciers may not have been as vulnerable as previously thought… "The Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows. Meltwater from Asia’s peaks is much less than previously estimated, but lead scientist says the loss of ice caps and glaciers around the world remains a serious concern"

Carrington quotes one of the researchers behind the study,

"People should be just as worried about the melting of the world’s ice as they were before. [...] The new data does not mean that concerns about climate change are overblown in any way. It means there is a much larger uncertainty in high mountain Asia than we thought. Taken globally all the observations of the Earth’s ice – permafrost, Arctic sea ice, snow cover and glaciers – are going in the same direction."

Hold on a minute. Environmentalists have been banging on about Himalayan Glaciers melting for years. Even when it turned out that the IPCC had take a completely wrong figure from ‘grey literature’, the claim that Himalayan glaciers are vulnerable to melting persisted. For instance, only this week, Donald R. Prothero, who claims to have been ‘Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena’, writes in an article called ‘How We Know Global Warming is Real and Human Caused‘, that,

"Glaciers are all retreating at the highest rates ever documented. Many of those glaciers, especially in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, and Sierras, provide most of the freshwater that the populations below the mountains depend upon—yet this fresh water supply is vanishing. Just think about the percentage of world’s population in southern Asia (especially India) that depend on Himalayan snowmelt for their fresh water. The implications are staggering."

Not only was doubt cast over the pace of Himalayan Glacial retreat by the IPCC/2035 claim, it was widely reported at the same time that the dependence on the glaciers by Asia’s population was massively over-stated too. What sceptics have tried to explain is that, when you overstate things like the speed of change and the human consequences of that change, other people naturally start to question the argument. It’s no good restating the same mythology that existed before, in defence of the idea that we ‘know’ that ‘climate change is happening’ and that ‘we caused it’.

And the same is true of the most recent discovery. Of course it means “that concerns about climate change are overblown”. What else could it possibly mean, when one of the concerns turns out — yet again, as it happens — to have been overblown? How many times were the Himalayan glaciers pointed at? How many times did sceptics reply that there wasn’t sufficient data? how many times did alarmists claim in response that the sceptics had ‘denied the science’, and even that they were being paid for by Big Oil? I have quite definitely lost count.

Donald R. Prothero, like many before him, tried to make the claim that a billion people depend on the glaciers. In just one discovery, we’ve established that Climate Change is a problem which has been reduced by that same magnitude. It’s a billion people less of a problem.

Elsewhere on the Guardian blogs, Leo Hickman asks,

"Are the world’s glaciers threatened by climate change? A Nature study has shocked researchers by finding that the Himalayas have lost no ice over the past decade. Leo Hickman, with your help, investigates. Get in touch below the line, email your views to or tweet @leohickman"

It’s an interesting inversion of traditional journalism.

In the past, journalists went out to discover things. They then formulated an argument about what they had researched and wrote about it. (Assuming that they didn’t just make it up in the pub).

And then it would be read by readers, who, presumably, then made up their mind about the article given their confidence in the journalist, and the quality of the article. Now, however, it seems it is the readers who are being asked to do the research, and then the journalist makes up his mind…

"If quoting figures to support your points, please provide a link to the source. I am particularly seeking links to data and papers which show the wider, global picture regarding the impact of climate change on glaciers, and, crucially, the impact on humans and habitats if they do melt. I will also be inviting various interested parties to join the debate, too. And later on today, I will return with my own verdict."

I will return with my own verdict, he promises, from ‘pon high. All of which begs the question, what is the point of Leo Hickman? We can all go and do our own research, and read it alongside others’, and form our own analyses; Hickman adds no value to the process of journalism — journalism 2.0… perhaps?


CO2 Causes Contempt for Childhood - a climate well-worthy of our alarm

When children less than 6 years old are seen as 'instruments' 'for the achievement of a sustainable society' and that 'we' must make them 'understand deeply, and even shock them out of their unawareness', then something is seriously amiss; somebody somewhere is up to something we should resist. The quotes are from a UNESCO report recently reported on by Donna Laframboise.

Targeting toddlers under the smokescreen of ‘sustainable development’ has more than just a hint of the peculiar impulses which grip some campaigners convinced that CO2 is a threat to life on earth, and most especially to humans and to polar bears. Their negativity and exploitation of fear can lead to the absurd as well as to the totalitarian. Their answer is invariably more state control of what we do and what we think, and where we live, and how we live, and what we might try to do. Some kind of global rulebook, devised and enforced by an elite is what they want.

Nothing new there – countless religious and political movements have sought exactly that for thousands of years. What is new is the appeal to climate science rather than to one or more deities, or the pseudo-science of Marxism. Sometimes the outputs of computer programs are brought down as if from on high to be treated as part of the new gospel, interpreted by experts who do not care to have their authority challenged. There is also nothing new in the targeting of the young, where the big idea is presumably to get at them before they have much chance of resistance.

The report is about a UNESCO conference held in 2007. The conference-culture it represents is almost caricatured by this extract from the report:

‘This report originates from the international workshop, ‘The Role of Early Childhood Education for a Sustainable Society’, jointly organized in Göteborg, Sweden, by Göteborg University, Chalmers University of Technology and the City of Göteborg, from 2 to 4 May 2007. It was attended by thirty-five participants from sixteen different countries (see ‘List of Participants’). The workshop was a follow-up to the international conference on education for sustainable development, ‘Learning to Change Our World’, held in May 2004, in Göteborg. It was one of four preparatory workshops leading to another international conference on education for sustainable development, to be organized in 2008 or 2009, in the same city. The aim of the four workshops is to discuss promoters and barriers related to learning for sustainability, and to propose recommendations for the upcoming international conference.'

The delegates were described as not really knowing what 'sustainable development' was (and who can blame them!): ‘A common question raised in the beginning was ‘What is sustainable development?’ Most of the participants were not familiar with the concept,’

Which makes me think one motivation for this conference was to spread the gospel to them, the innocent delegates, rather than as a meeting place for like-minded people to discuss their work and ideas. This is reinforced by most of the papers presented - they really are mostly about motherhood and apple pie, about how good it would be if more children could get out in the open-air, enjoy nature, and be kind to one another. But in amongst this worthy stuff, there are contentious materials that raise the hackles of the sensitive reader, such as this gem:

‘Al Gore’s (2006), An Inconvenient Truth, the Stern (2006) review into the economics of climate change, and the report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (2007), have heightened awareness of how humans are over-stretching the Earth’s life-support systems.’ (page 19)

Each of the three sources given has been widely discredited as reliable guides. The 'heightened awareness' of which she speaks is best decoded as 'irresponsible, ill-informed alarmism'.

Laframboise has spotted several other phrases to raise the hackles of the concerned citizen:

educating for sustainability should begin very early in life. (p. 12)

Young children can be encouraged to question over-consumption. (p. 13)

young children have capacities to be active agents of change now… (p. 20)

Through their learning and social activism, the children were able to highlight their concerns… (p. 22)

even very young children…can be proactive participants…as initiators, provocateurs, researchers and environmental activists. (p. 22)

learning begins at birth…and even before. (p. 54)

We must find some effective methods of teaching sustainable development that can make children understand deeply, and even shock them out of their unawareness. (p. 85)


‘The environmental movement has lost its way’

An interview

Professor Ian Clark just does not see any evidence of oil sands contributing to global warming. That’s quite a stand to take in the face of a global environmental community that considers the development of the Canadian heavy oil industry tantamount to hastening the end of the world.

But Prof. Clark can claim to know a bit more about the science behind climate change than the average person. As a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa, he focuses on paleoclimatology — the study of changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of earth — and isotope hydrology, which determines the age of ice or snow, which can help indicate climate conditions in the past.

Last December, the professor testified before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, The Environment, and Natural Resources, where he explained that our planet is experiencing global warming after 400 years of a cold period which he termed “the little ice age.” [Watch the video [external] here.]

“Our efforts to limit the use of fossil carbon-based energy has solved no environmental problems, yet has created many more, including the accelerated production of ethanol and the conversion of tropical rainforest to tropical palm oil production,” Prof. Clark told the committee. “It is time to address real, tangible environmental issues.”

In an emailed interview with Financial Post, Prof. Clark explains why the environmentalists “have lost their way” and why NASA scientist James Hansen and former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore are plain wrong.

Q: Could you elaborate on the theory that Co2 emissions lag the climate by 800 years.

A: During the ice ages, there is a very clear correlation between the concentration of CO2 and temperature. This is well demonstrated by ice core research, where ice cores have been collected that provide a continuous record of the past several hundred years.

During that time, temperature fluctuates by several degrees, and CO2 fluctuates between about 280 ppm during the interglacial periods (like today, except we have higher levels due to human emissions) and 180 ppm during glacial periods.

Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore showed this strong correlation and misrepresented it as showing CO2 warms the climate. The reverse is true. As the temperature rises for external reasons (solar and Earth orbital parameters) the deep ocean basins (Southern Ocean mainly) begin to warm and degas CO2 to the atmosphere (CO2 is less soluble in warmer water).

However, the rise in CO2 lags the rise in temperature by about 800 years. This shows that CO2 does not play a role in the warming, and even a reinforcing role must be minor considering the lag. When the climate starts to cool, CO2 remains high, again for hundreds of years, and so plays no role in sustaining the warm climate, as the climate cools despite the high CO2.

Q: Do you believe there is a lobby misrepresenting facts on global warming and exaggerating the role of Canadian oil sands in accelerating it.

A: Absolutely. The oil sands contribute very, very little to global CO2. If one believes in global warming, then one must accept that the oil sands contribute very, very little to warming. Shutting down those operations would do nothing to reducing CO2 emissions. These are driven by demand, and supply from other countries will simply increase to meet it.

Greenpeace has commended their success in killing the Keystone XL pipeline and stated that they will now kill the Northern Gateway using the mechanisms of protest that they have become so adept with and have the corporate and financial means to support. Perhaps they will. The pollution and emissions from the oil sands have been greatly exaggerated. Killing the oil sands would be to the great detriment of all Canadians, from aboriginal groups to engineers and other workers alike. It is greener energy than many other sources.

Q: So CO2 has nothing to do with global warming …

A: First we must be clear that there is, currently, no global warming. The global temperature has fluctuated over the past 15 years around a stable value, with no upward trend. The IPCC — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — models all predicted a steady increase of 0.2°C per decade, and this has not occurred. We have had global warming and cooling over geological time, and of course over the past century.

This is a good thing, as it warmed the planet from the cooler temperatures of the Little Ice Age. Agriculture, and civilisation flourishes with warmer temperatures. CO2, however, has had no apparent impact on the warming periods.

In fact, we experienced cooling during the years from 1950 to 1975 when global emissions were rising very quickly. Therefore, in the past we’ve seen no evidence for CO2 as a climate driver. Further, we can attribute the recent warming of the past century to a more active sun. The correlations are much stronger than between warming and CO2, and the science supporting a solar connection to climate warming and cooling becomes stronger each year.

Q: NASA scientist James Hansen says developing oil sands is “game over” for the climate. Do you agree with his assessment?

A: This is advocacy and has no basis in science, yet is stated by a leading scientist in the ranks of the global warming community. With or without the oil sands, humans will continue to burn fossil fuels. The oil sands are one of many sources of oil and gas.

Q: You also mentioned Al Gore in your testimony. How do you rate his work and do you think An Inconvenient Truth painted an accurate picture of the environmental issues facing the earth.

A: Mr. Al Gore is a politician, and an opportunist who gains much from the business of global warming alarmism. An Inconvenient Truth is a pack of lies and misrepresentations. It has done much to damage science. It states that CO2 is implicated in the increases in temperature in the ice ages when we know that it lags temperature by almost a millennium. His team has written and distributed a children’s book on global warming that has the audacity to switch the CO2 and temperature curves for the ice ages to show CO2 increasing first, followed by temperature. A scientist to deliberately misrepresent facts would lose his job.

Q: Are environmentalists wrong to blame oil sands for global pollution? Do you think Canada can develop its oil sands without adding to global pollution and global warming?

A: The environmental movement has lost its way. Saving whales and fighting for endangered species were worthy causes, but taking on the oil sands at any cost and any misrepresentation of the facts will accomplish nothing good for Canadians.

Yes, the oil sands have disrupted great tracts of the boreal forest, but in time these are recovered. Let’s compare that with urban sprawl and the mega-stores dominating suburban landscapes. The ecosystems that were paved over will never be recovered. Never.

The oil sands is a mega project that improves the lives of many Canadians, and will do so for many decades to come. The operations continue to improve, with less pollution and less impact. It is a focal point for innovation and technological development.

We have many serious environmental problems from overfishing of the oceans, coastal eutrophication, and habitat loss. Let’s focus on those. Perhaps we use too much energy and need more conservation. This will come through education and technologies to improve efficiencies. Let’s focus on that. Cutting off the oil sands energy supply will not reduce our addiction to fossil fuels. It will only require North Americans to import more.

Q: Scientists seem to present their findings as facts and absolutely truths. How can average people distinguish between fact and fiction and form their own opinions regarding scientific research.

A: This is not easy to answer. People must read a lot, and they must question what they read. They need to look at what the scientist has invested in the position that he is taking. Is he receiving lots of research funding? Is he advocating or presenting the results of his scientific work? Scientists are human, and consequently have personal sentiments and biases. It is easier to agree with the so-called consensus on global warming, as it aligns with the common sentiment that we live in a time of excess and over use of fossil fuels.


Obama’s amazing energy spin machine

The bankruptcy of Ener1, a "green energy" firm that got a $118 million stimulus grant, has brought the Obama administration's commitment to sinking billions of dollars into alternative energy boondoggles back into the spotlight. Unfortunately, President Obama remains committed to continuing down this wasteful path, as his statements about energy in his recent State of the Union Address made clear. While the president spent more time on the topic than any other policy area, he distorted the facts, misrepresented his plans, and ignored his record.

Obama announced that "tonight, I'm directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources." For those who favor energy production, this sounds great, but a close inspection reveals that this announcement was nothing new -- the sale should have been scheduled last year, and the only reason the administration is planning it now is that it is required under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. In fact, he didn't direct his administration to do anything new -- he just recycled a plan actually released in November 2011 that actually kept closed key areas for future oil and gas exploration in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic coastline.

The president claimed that, "over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration…. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years. That's right -- eight years." But that's no thanks to the federal government. In fact, oil production on federally owned lands has gone down during Obama's first three years. The administration didn't hold a single offshore lease sale in all of 2010 and canceled sales off the coast of Alaska and Virginia this year. It's the oil boom in North Dakota on private lands that's kept domestic oil production from falling -- not the president's policies.

Obama continued, "The easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here's another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings." But manufacturers already have huge incentives to reduce wasted energy. Airlines today, for example, use almost half as much energy per passenger mile as they did in 1979 and 24 percent less than in 2000. No one needed to tell them to do that. Energy is only "waste" if it cost less to save it than to not. Forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for manufacturers' energy costs isn't eliminating energy waste -- it's creating government waste.

Obama has already been burned by his poor energy investments, but that hasn't stopped him from promoting them in every speech. "In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world's leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries," he said in reference to stimulus grants to an electric car battery manufacturer. That manufacturer was Ener1. Two days later, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The president insists that it's time to "double-down on a clean energy industry that's never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs." Double-down on a slew of bankrupt clean energy investments? In addition, Ener1, Evergreen Energy, and Amonix -- all of which received millions of taxpayer dollars -- have either gone bankrupt (as Enr1 and Evergreen have) or cut their workforce by two-thirds (as Amonix has). And let's not forget Solyndra.

To be clear, the president does oppose some taxpayer-funded projects: "We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That's long enough. It's time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's rarely been more profitable." The oil industry does receive some subsidies -- which should be eliminated -- but they are orders of magnitude less than the clean energy industry. In fact, in 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration, clean energy and conservation programs received $22.4 billion in federal stimulus compared to $4.2 billion for coal, oil, and natural gas -- much of it designated for the environmentally motivated "clean coal" program.

The president made it clear that no Congress will stop his agenda. "So far, you haven't acted," he told Congress. "Well tonight, I will…. I'm proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world's largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history -- with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year." The role of the Defense Department isn't to promote the president's energy investments, it's to defend the United States. Forget energy independence -- our defense will now be weather dependent. If only we could get battleships that ran on spin.


Is 'fire ice' wonder fuel buried under the Scottish coast?

A new wonder fuel dubbed ‘fire ice’ could be buried under the Scottish coast, according to government ministers and experts.

They suspect that massive quantities of methane hydrates reserves are locked off the coast of western Shetland, and that there is possibly enough to last 300 years.

The sherbet-like substance, which consists of methane trapped in ice, has already been tipped by energy experts to be the next major energy resource. The wonder fuel was initially thought only to exist in the outer reaches of the solar system. But fire ice has been discovered under the permafrost in the Arctic Circle and on some seabeds.

UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry said the government believes it is ‘possible’ that the substance is buried in Scottish waters.

He said: ‘The presence of methane hydrates in deep waters west of Shetland is possible, but has not been established. In the absence of any commercial technology for exploiting such resources, no estimate of reserves can be made at the present time.’

Japanese experts are already carrying out test drilling off the south east coast of Japan and commercial production could start as soon as 2016. And global reserves of the substance could be more than the total for all other fossil fuels put together.

Professor Bahman Tohidi, director of the Centre for Gas Hydrate Research at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh said: ‘For methane hydrate you need water depths of more than 1,640ft. ‘The only place we have those water depths is west of Shetland. We haven’t seen any hydrates yet but there could be some there.

‘If there is a potential, it needs to be investigated. ‘I would say there are chances of it being in UK waters, but even if there is nothing in the UK we should be developing the technology.

‘It definitely will be a major industry. I always say it is far too big to be ignored - it’s like the elephant sitting outside your doorstep and we can’t ignore it. Sooner or later we will develop the technology.’

Despite fears that disrupting the seabed could release methane and accelerate climate change, scientists believe replacing the methane with oxygen could help tackle global warming.

A spokeswoman for industry body Oil and Gas UK said: ‘We’re not aware of anyone investigating it in the UK but the volume of methane trapped in hydrates is believed to be very large worldwide.’

Alex Kemp, renowned Aberdeen University professor of petroleum economics, said: ‘I haven’t heard of it being present in any significant amounts in the UK continental shelf. ‘In other countries, for example New Zealand, it is regarded as having a big potential. They think they have large amounts. There is the question of what technology to use to extract it. It’s all very futuristic.’

Methane hydrate has long been regarded by oil and gas companies as a nuisance, because it can block marine drilling rigs.

The substance is formed within marine sediments where the gas is generated by chemical reactions or by microbes breaking down organic matter. The gas then works its way up to the sea bed where sediments tend to be much cooler.

The cooling allows the methane molecules to form weak chemical bonds with the surrounding water molecules, producing solid methane hydrate. However, such bonds also require high pressure - so methane hydrate forms only in deep water.


The First Ever Climate Change Reporter (And Skeptic)

Who was the first one to write about climate change? For a while I thought I had found the most ancient reference in world literature: Lorenzo Magalotti in 1683 (referred to by Giacomo Leopardi in 1832)

[One and a half centuries ago Magalotti wrote] in the Family Letters: “It is certain that seasons’ natural order is worsening. Here in Italy it is common saying and lamentation that the half-seasons have disappeared; and in this confusion, it’s without doubt that the cold is advancing. I have heard my father that in his youth, in Rome, on the morning of Easter Sunday, everybody would change into summer clothes. Nowadays whoever can afford not to sell his shirt, I can tell you he’s very careful not to abandon any winter piece of clothing”. This is what Magalotti wrote in 1683.

Then Tony Brown and WUWT found something even more remote: Saint “Cyrian” (actually, Saint Cyprian) from around 250AD

The world has grown old and does not remain in its former vigour. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the suns warmth are both diminishing. The metals are nearly exhausted the husbandman is failing in his fields. Springs which once gushed forth liberally now barely give a trickle of water.’

I can happily report we can push the date a couple of centuries further back, by referring to “De re rustica” (“Agriculture“) by Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (around AD40-50). From Book 1, 1:4-5:

[...] I have found that many authorities now worthy of remembrance were convinced that with the long wasting of the ages, weather and climate undergo a change; and that among them the most learned professional astronomer, Hipparchus, has put it on record that the time will come when the poles will change position, a statement to which Saserna, no mean authority on husbandry, seems to have given credence. For in that book on agriculture which he has left behind he concludes that the position of the heavens had changed from this evidence: that regions which formerly, because of the unremitting severity of winter, could not safeguard any shoot of the vine or the olive planted in them, now that the earlier coldness has abated and the weather is becoming more clement, produce olive harvests and the vintages of Bacchus in the greatest abundance. But whether this theory be true or false, we must leave it to the writings on astronomy [...]

Note how little has changed, with Authorities convinced the climate is changing, and the unconvinced agriculture expert…


Australian Federal government support new brown-coal power station

As in East Germany, brown coal (lignite) has been a great resource for the State of Victoria because it is so cheap to mine -- but Greenies hate it because it does give off some real pollution. The new plant aims to reduce all pollution, real and imagined

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson will this morning throw a lifeline to a contentious coal-fired power plant project in Victoria's Latrobe Valley that is subject to a legal tussle with state environmental authorities.

Mr Ferguson will also pledge $100 million of Commonwealth funds for CarbonNet — a carbon capture and storage project in the Latrobe.

The Greens are strongly opposed to the controversial HRL power plant project at Morwell. In granting the project a six-month extension, Mr Ferguson will make it clear that this is the last lifeline for a project that began under the Howard government.

Following this morning's announcement, green groups will likely accuse Mr Ferguson of a double standard after he pulled the pin this week on a dawdling solar project, the Moree Solar Farm, which was in line for $306 million in government help.

Mr Ferguson re-opened the bidding on the solar money, allowing three other shortlisted projects to have another shot.

The six-month extension to the controversial HRL Dual Gas project near Morwell will allow the project to meet the terms of a contract first established by the Howard government.

The Resources Minister says this will be the final extension given to the project, which has been under way since 2009, and is the subject of a legal challenge by Environment Victoria.

Mr Ferguson has firmly rebuffed the green opposition, and argued the project, which aims to optimise brown coal and lower its emissions, should have the opportunity to proceed.

"Despite political pressure from the Greens and others, the Australian government has treated the HRL grant with the same measure of good faith that we've shown to other challenging clean energy technologies – including the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund grant to Solar Systems," Mr Ferguson says.

"The government is absolutely committed to a technology neutral approach and proper administration of grant programs in accordance with due process."

In Morwell this morning, Mr Ferguson will argue the $1-billion-plus CarbonNet project will provide job opportunities in the Latrobe — and preserve the value of brown coal as Australia moves to lower carbon dioxide emissions.

"I hope today's announcement takes us one step further to not only shoring up the value of Victoria's brown coal resource, but perhaps more importantly helping to secure the economic future of the Latrobe Valley," Mr Ferguson will say this morning at a function in the regional city of Morwell.



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1 comment:

Joseph said...

A possibly-relevant quote on the effectiveness of early education from Aldous Huxley:

The old Jesuits' boast that, if they were given the schooling of the child, they could answer for the man's religious opinions, was a product of wishful thinking. And the modern pedagogue is probably rather less efficient at conditioning his pupils' reflexes than were the reverend fathers who educated Voltaire.