Climate Change Denial

Climate Change

Have you noticed that when the potties attack climate change they never engage with the actual science. I don’t know whether it is because they know that the scientific evidence supporting climate change is virtually unassailable and that they are deliberately misrepresenting the evidence or that they actually don’t understand the science.

Take a typical attack by James Delingpole published on the breitbart web site in response to the recent Obama speech on climate change.

The President correctly stated that: “the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have put that debate [the fact of anthropological climate change] to rest.”

Delingpole responded with: “scientific knowledge is not a numbers game. If it were, we would still be going with the majority view that tectonic plates are a myth, that stomach ulcers are caused by stress, that combustion is caused by phlogiston, that leeches can relieve fever, that malaria comes from the bad air in swamps, etc.”

Delingpole’s response completely misunderstands (or misrepresents); the scientific process, the evolutionary nature of science and the meaning of scientific consensus. A consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer.

Scientists change their minds on the basis of the evidence, and a consensus emerges over time. Not only do scientists stop arguing, they also start relying on each other’s work. All science depends on that which precedes it, and when one scientist builds on the work of another, he acknowledges the work of others through citations. The work underlying climate change science is cited with great frequency by many other scientists, demonstrating that the theory is widely accepted and relied upon.

Since 1991, around 14,000 papers have supported the theory that human causes are behind global warming (chiefly from burning fossil fuels over the past century), and just 24 papers rejected human causes. No scientific papers have taken the position that climate change is not happening.

Phlogiston was hypothesized in the 17th century as a fire-like element contained within combustible bodies that was released during combustion. Subsequent quantitative experiments revealed problems with the phlogiston hypothesis because some metals gained mass when they burned, even though they were supposed to have lost phlogiston. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier showed in the 18th century that combustion requires a gas that has mass (oxygen) and could be measured by means of weighing closed vessels. The use of closed vessels also negated the buoyancy that had disguised the mass of the gases of combustion. These observations solved the mass paradox and set the stage for the new caloric theory of combustion. Other scientists repeated Lavoisier’s work and built on it until a consensus was reached and the phlogiston hypothesis was abandoned.

The German meteorologist Alfred Wegener suggested that the relative positions of the continents are not rigidly fixed but are slowly moving. His ideas of “continental drift” were not accepted by the scientific community because there was no hard evidence for a mechanism to support the hypothesis. It wasn’t until 1968 that Geophysicist Jack Oliver published seismological evidence supporting the modern theory of plate tectonics which encompassed and superseded Wegener’s continental drift theory. The tectonic plate theory has been extensively tested and has now achieved a scientific consensus on the basis of overwhelming evidence.

The supposed beneficial effects of leeches based on the humors hypothesis was the first victims of evidence based medicine. In 1809, just a decade after Washington had undergone bloodletting on his deathbed, a Scottish military surgeon called Alexander Hamilton set out to determine whether or not it was advisable to bleed patients. Hamilton succeeded in conducting the first randomized clinical trial on the effects of bloodletting. French doctor Pierre Louis, conduct his own trials and confirm Hamilton’s conclusions. These results repeatedly showed that bloodletting was not a lifesaver, but rather it was a potential killer.

That is essentially the story of all scientific theories, they are first postulated as an explanation of one or more observations. The hypothesis is tested against further experimental observations and as evidence supporting the hypothesis accumulates the hypothesis becomes widely accepted and eventually gets promoted to the status of a theory and achieves a scientific consensus. On the other hand if the accumulating evidence weighs against the hypothesis, the hypothesis falls by the wayside and is eventually abandoned in favor of a better idea. The scientific method is self correcting, bad ideas may persist for a while but sooner or later they will be destroyed by the self correcting process called the scientific method.

All Delingpole’s examples were failed hypotheses, unsupported by any scientific observation or analysis. The exact opposite of the current state of climate change science.

Some comments after I posted this on Facebook:

Mick Stormonth Nicely argued Eric

After all, when it comes to bullsh*t, your a recognised master.

Many organisms have changed the earth’s climate over time, why should we be any different?

James L Acker…/climate-cultists_794401…

Eric Pickstone I have read the “”Climate Cultists” Link Jim. Just so that I understand the conservative position as stated by Steven F. Hayward. “Global warming by up to as much as 2 degrees would be no big deal, and possibly a net benefit”. Do I have it right ? Is that a fair statement of the Conservative position on Global Warming?

James L Acker Much more than that in the article. You’re a cultist, however

Eric Pickstone The article itself is quite emphatic in stating that ” If you strip away all of the noise from smaller scientific controversies that clutter the debate—arctic ice, extreme weather events, droughts, and so forth—the central issue is climate sensitivity: How much will average global temperature increase from adding a given level of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere?” and that ” Global warming by up to as much as 2 degrees would be no big deal, and possibly a net benefit”.

Eric Pickstone I am not sure what a cultist is beyond being a member of a small religious group following some sort of charismatic leader.

James L Acker Climate Cultists

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan spoke to me last night. Not in a John Edwards creepy sort of way, more of falling asleep with the iPod running and headphones on sort of way.

It was a “Point of Inquiry” podcast special from 2006 about Carl Sagan, it included Carl Sagan’s last public address for CSICOP in 1994.

Sagan’s address is entitled “Wonder and Skepticism”, Sagan conveys prescient insights with eloquence and humor about the future of science and technology, he argues why science is the best way of looking at the world, shares almost prophetic statements about the cultural war against science in America today, passionately calls for tempering skepticism with a humane understanding of why it is so easy in our society to not be skeptical.

You can listen to the whole episode speech at the link below (and I urge you to do so) . If you have never heard Carl Sagan speak, you are in for a treat.

Wonder and Skepticism 1


Islamism & Jihadism

I am about to attack Islamism so let me define exactly what I mean by the word Islamism:

Islamism is fundamentalist Islam, it is an ideology that demands total adherence to Shariah, the “sacred law” of Islam. Islamism rejects western influences, except for military and selective medical technology. Islamism is imbued with a deep seated antagonism towards non-Muslims and has a particular hostility towards the West. Islamism at its core is an effort to turn Islam, a religion and civilization, into a political ideology. Jihadism is essentially the propagation of Islamism by violent means.

Islamism is a creeping cancer on society but please do not misunderstand me: when I say Islamism I do not mean Muslims. My Muslim friends despise Islamism as much as my Christian friends despise the Ku Klux Klan. Islamism is to Islam as the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity. I despise the Klan but not Christians, I despise Islamism but not Muslims.

Islamism should be resisted wherever it tries to encroach. Shariah should not be allowed to insinuate itself into our schools and it should play no part in our judicial system. The wall between church/mosque/Temple and state should be absolute. We can learn from the Americans on this. The Establishment Clause is the first part of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”. The Amendment was specifically designed to ensure not only freedom of religion but freedom from religion.


So what’s a Podcast then ?

I have always been fond of radio, not so much the music but the talking and discussion programs and of course the comedy especially the comedy. I started with the BBC Home service (now BBC Radio 4) back in late fifties Liverpool. Long before Monty Python I listened to the Goons, Round the Horn, Tony Hancock and of course I’m sorry I’ll read that again.

As I started to travel the world, I listened to these programs on the BBC World Service but I also discovered NPR (National Public Radio) in the USA and ABC Radio National in Australia. I nearly crashed a hire car on Central Expressway on one of my early trips to Dallas, Tx because I was laughing uncontrollably at a program whose name I later learned was “A Prairie Home Companion”. Unfortunately I could only listen to some of this stuff some of the time in some places. Then around 2004, Adam Curry and Dave Winer invented the Podcast.

So what’s a Podcast then? In short it’s every radio program you ever listened to plus thousands of other programs on every subject imaginable, available when you want, where you want, how you want and all absolutely free and legal.

I posted this little essay because I realized that not everyone knows what a podcast is nor how to get them. Here’s one way:

1.Download and install iTunes on your PC or Mac.
2.Start iTunes
3.Click on the “iTunes Store” button (upper right)
4.Click on “Podcasts”
5.Select any Podcast you like.
6.Click the “Subscribe” button (no money required)
7.Click the “Library” button and select “Podcasts”.
8.You will see a list of the podcasts to which you have subscribed.

That’s it: the most recent episode of your selected subscription will be downloaded and new episodes will be downloaded automatically as they become available (whenever iTunes is running). You can also download all the past episodes if you wish. If you need additional help just ask.