Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is this the state of academics today?

It might be tempting to dismiss this post as an exception.  The problem is the academic in question was not some fringe, quasi-academic: he is a Fulbright scholar and a Senior one at that.  He is a scholar pontificating on environmental issues that are way beyond his area of expertise but his also a scholar able to have his views published, lending them a sheen of authority not validated by the substance of his remarks.
What chances would someone without a Fulbright Fellowship have of similar access and standing?  Oh, yes, that's right, a TV or Hollywood celebrity.  Coming soon, the Paris Hilton climate report...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Where cooler heads prevail

In reviewing the changes affecting consideration of climate change, Hayword opens his discussion with this excellent quote:
  • Is there really anything new to be said about climate change? Hasn't the issue become the public-policy equivalent of Groundhog Day, with the same arguments playing out in the same way every week? Perhaps there is. The weary and repetitive character of the climate-change debate is masking a number of fundamental changes now taking place that, 20 or 30 years from now, are likely to be recognized as the turning point on the issue. Despite the relentless media and advocacy-group frenzy, the case for catastrophic global warming is fraying around the edges.
    In true Groundhog Day fashion, weekly weather shifts are often portrayed through the media as evidence for climate change.  In a lovely reversal of circumstance, this year's Alpine ski season will not be cancelled as many predicted last year. 
    Reminds me of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen signing of Vermont snow on the train in White Christmas....

    Positive globalization and plumbing

    Here is the latest in an excellent series of articles by Alvaro Llosa on the effects of globalization and the positive impacts of capitalism in effecting real change and development.
    Those who are reluctant to acknowledge this progress often resort to alleged ecomyths and crises as a rationale for curtailing the progressive march of globalization.  Lately, much has been made of the supposed "water shortage" facing the earth.  Not only is this claim patently absurd given the physical nature of the planet, it also completely misses the real question of water and poverty: why do so many people in the world still lack proper santitation?
    Forget climate change. Forget habitat destruction, deforestation, species loss and ozone levels: what the world really needs for a measurable improvement in environmental health is more plumbing.  Not nearly as sexy.  Definitely not something that requires any more study, awareness creation nor advocacy: just active intervention, application and commitment. 
    To know and not to do, is to not know.  The environment is not something to be just talked about, it is something that requires action, even if that activity is as unglamorous as providing plumbing and installing toilets.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    The mechanism by which the Total State is being built

    The central thrust of today's post is to suggest that politically we are either a radical or a reactionary
    For many, that choice is being made for them by the steady, insidious march toward totalitarianism that passes for democratic thought today.  The mechanism for state control and imposition of dogma is manifest in the pronouncements of many politicians, in the actions of idealogues and in increasing imposition of "green" theocracy at all levels of society.
    It is reflected in the real world of politics in the erosion of free speech and independent thought.  In today's Brave New World, even science must conform and reflect a prescribed political consensus.  (Note this last post is satire: a style of humour once practiced to great effect by Swift but now, largely, a lost art).
    The source of much of this angst is a lack of understanding and appreciation for political philosophy.  As Feser points out in his excellent essay, we are all recipients of the legacy of John Locke and his conception of individual rights, government by consent, religious toleration, and scientific rationalitySadly, our failure to understand and appreciate the true measure of Locke, has left the general public with the impression that those imposing increasing governance "in the name of freedom" are in fact practicing freedom -- when in fact their stasis is slowly, inexorably, eroding the very freedoms and individual liberties that Locke sought to establish as the basis for democracy and contemporary society.
    To be a reactionary today is to endorse the very mechanism of state control that the radical alternatives of individual responsibility and liberty were established to supplant. 
    Its our choice.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Clinical trial on healthy eating

    Science is differentiated from ideology by its respect for empirical data. Science is open to refutation and when the observed, empirical data don't fit the theory, the theory is modified. Ideology holds to its precepts and excuses contrary data as variously flawed, irrelevant or just plain inconvenient.

    Evidence of this distinction comes from two disparate areas. The first is the largest, longest randomized clinical trial of dietary habits which shows that the conventional prescription for "healthy eating" results in no appreciable health benefits. The second, is the continued promotion of a supposed scientific consensus on climate change, despite the inherent lies in such a claim. Most laughably, are the attempts to link both sets of fears.

    Furedi discusses the implication of myth perpetuation as an extension and personification of a pervasive climate of fear. What is troublesome in both the obesity myth and with global warming, is that the contradictory science that should be employed to dismiss fears is itself vilified and demonized, and not the myth makers, fear-mongers and ideologues.

    Some while ago, I remember seeing an interview with Robert Redford where he stated that early in his career he viewed the world as sane with pockets of insanity and this he reflected in his movies. Later he realized the majority of the world was lacking in sanity and that only pockets of tranquility and sanity exist, and that this motif became the defining characteristic of his later films.

    In contemplating the state of science, its use and mis-use, the prescriptive dogma of ideology that passes under the rubric of official policy and the absence of extended outrage at such abuses, I reflect more and more why I take solace from films that reflect a river running through the passage of time or a random act of kindness changing the world one moment at a time....

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Fat, scientific consensus and AGW

    Not much I can add to this post courtesy of QanO which links to the NY Times admission that the great fat scare is just that. Sadly, it took a lot of empirical data to supplant the myths surrounding fat, diet and health, and still much more will have to be done to offset the effect that dogma has on public consciousness.

    But science will eventually dispel ecomyths: AGW included...eventually.

    Particularly if citizen's continue to take Gore's movie to the courts before it is shown in schools. A recent test case in the UK concluded that:

    • the film must be distributed with new guidance notes for students and teachers to prevent "promoting partisan political views".
    • The judge said that Stewart Dimmock, a Kent school governor with two children and a member of a political group called the New Party, had "substantially" won his case because without new guidance to schools from the government, it would have been in breach of the law." (
    • In order for the film to be shown, the Government must first amend their Guidance Notes to Teachers to make clear that:
    1. The Film is a political work and promotes only one side of the argument.
    2. If teachers present the Film without making this plain they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act 1996 and guilty of political indoctrination.
    3. Eleven inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.

    The specified inaccuracies are:

    • The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming.
      The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
    • The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years.
      The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by years.
    • The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming.
      The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
    • The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming.
      The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
    • The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice.
      It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
    • The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age
      The Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
    • The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching.
      The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
    • The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt causing sea levels to rise dangerously.
      The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.
    • The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting
    • The evidence was that it is in fact increasing.
    • The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people.
      In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
    • The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand.
      The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

    Thanks again to junkscience for the posting and the excellent commentary.

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Freedom and why stasis is the default condition

    Ontario heads into a provincial election this week. Sadly (at least from my perspective) most polls are predicting that the electorate will re-elect a Premier who openly lied to get elected last time and in his tenure as Premier has raised taxes, failed to improve either education, health care nor the environment (his three chosen issues last time out) and has created the very cynicism about politics he now claims he wants to fight.

    In short, on principle alone, the electorate should elect a different government just to send a message that such ineptitude will not be tolerated. Instead, the election has largely by-passed significant policy differences and remains focussed on the fear tactics employed by one-side to scare voters about what the main opposition might do if elected -- a common tactic in elections: vote not for what I might do but out of fear for what I claim the other side will do (even if rational analysis reveals that is not what they will do).

    Why do electorates huddle into the comfortable lies of those who claim to be coddling them but in fact will limit their individual freedoms and responsibilities? Why do parties advocating stasist intrusion into everyday life get away with lies and broken promises, generous (even gushing) media coverage and shrugged shoulders when their deceit is revealed?

    This article offers some good insight.

    For most people, it seems, the very idea of individual freedom and responsibility is itself a daunting prospect. Why not have personal irresponsibility, situational ethics and social justification as excuses for all actions: in short, why not replace your parents with the government?

    Sad that so many are so scared by so few. Churchill must wonder what has happened and why we have not kept faith with those who fought and died to give us freedom.

    Given democratic freedom, society regresses into the very governmental oppression that the truly oppressed die trying to escape from. As Heinlein writes, every time society reaches this stage of evolution, it is time to start anew, with principles and people that recognize their intrinsic value.

    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    The blogosphere: explained and illustrated

    A posting of this little video from the QandO blog -- requires no comment.

    But this blog and its use of YouTube to communicate provides a nifty integration of this post and the two that precede it on groupthink and the debate on climate change.

    Groupthinking Global Dogma

    The lesson of the early Kennedy era was how groupthink almost plunged the US into a nuclear confrontation. Apparently, that is a lesson easily forgotten by contemporary ideologues who still view the end as justifying the means.

    Contrast this ideology with a more enlightened view of environmentalism and the real state of the world.

    Dogma is the prescription for groupthink. Too often dogma appears to be the default condition of both the educational system and of the media: the two key components of a free democracy that must foster independent thought if a democracy is to be sustainable.

    Dogma and groupthink are the handmaidens of totalitarianism. Authoritative dictate, even when wrapped in green and justified by appeals to scientific "consensus" (an oxymoron in itself), is just a euphemism for totalitarian control. And those who seek control don't much care what the future looks like, just as long as they are the one's that are in control.

    Power over is the antithesis of empowerment.

    Dogma is power over people.

    Empowerment entails individual accountability, individual responsibility and independent thought -- not groupthink.

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Gore Dodges Repeated Calls to Debate Global Warming

    Interesting contrast in perspectives: most climate sceptics are happy, able and willing to appear, discuss and debate their beliefs about climate change and their reasoning for not subscribing to the dogma of fear and precautionary sacrifice of human prosperity on the alter of environmental ideology and totalitarian control. In contrast, leading dogmatists, doomsayers and purveyors of climate fear, appear to have developed a pronounced case of cold feet, unwilling to appear in any forum where their views might be scrutinized.

    Interesting again, is the range of public challenges now extant to the Oscar hungry Gore: could it be that global warming has now fully morphed into climate change and emerged as a "newly-discovered" concern over pending societal doom and decay due to....well we don't really know but there's lots of candidates that pundits would have you blame, such as:
    Shock Capitalism (Naomi Klein), the End of Ingenuity (Thomas Homer-Dixon), an Assault on Reason (Gore) or George Bush (the mainstream media).

    Alternatively, it could just be that the human race is in the midst of an unprecedented period of prosperity, technological innovation and democratic reform leading to unprecedented levels of life expectancy, human welfare and environmental quality.

    Not perfect yet. Far from it. But better than at any other time in human history. Just maybe.