The dilemma of science

January 11, 2010

“Science has the answers to all mankind’s problems.”

Do you believe this? Scientists make lots of mistakes, don’t they? For example:

The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson overestimated the number of people who’d contract Swine Flu; he estimated 65,000 would die. Consequently, we as taxpayers, purchased 29 million doses of Swine Flu vaccine from two drug companies, but only used four million doses. Now we’re going to give away millions of doses of vaccine at a potential cost of one billion pounds sterling.

Science is often inexact – or, rather, the pontifications of those high priests of science, the scientists themselves, are often inexact. So we had a “barbecue summer” predicted in the UK this year and a mild winter: the summer weather was wishy-washy at best and parts of Britain were colder than the South Pole this winter.

In fact the Met Office people have predicted mild winters for the past three years in the UK. We didn’t get them. Last winter’s abnormal cold pushed Britain’s death rate up to 40,000 above the average. This winter it’ll be far, far higher.

Scientists advised the Highways Agency and Local Authorities there’d no longer be a need for large stockpiles of salt for frozen roads. The world, after all, is warming. The Transport Minister, Lord Adonis then admits as a nation we entered this latest cold snap with only six days supply of grit! Crazy. But it has been claimed some councils have more “Climate Change Officials” than gritters.

Obviously climate change is something that needs to be studied over hundreds and even thousands of years. There’s been a scientific explanation from the met office about the current cold snap: “regional” phenomenon, due to “natural” factors. Yet it’s affecting the whole northern hemisphere; 1,200 places in the US last week reported record snow, and freezing low temperatures.

In part the advice of Climate Scientists helped dig the graves of those 40,000 people last winter; these would be the elderly, the infirm, the vulnerable. The “scientific” advice given, of course, was incorrect. While scientists talk about “warmer winters” government will take no action to defend against freezing arctic cold, or fuel poverty which is rife in Britain today.

Okay, enough about climate. What other mistakes have scientists made?

Well, what about Thalidomide? Remember that one, do you?

The introduction of the Cane Toad to the sugar cane fields of Queensland Australia to control pests – the Toads went out of control and are killing native wildlife as far away as the Northern Territory. And the Toads are still spreading.

What about DDT?

Ummm.

Scientific errors and controversies inevitably occur in the absence, ignorance, or dismissal of good data, and the promotion of bad data or analyses. We like to quote scientists as experts. We have put them high up on a pedestal. We forget they are human, too.

Take a step back in time and the first scientists, alchemists, believed it’d be possible to turn led into gold. They were wrong. Johann Joachim Becher in the mid 16th century was convinced there was another element beside air, fire, earth and water which he called “Phlogiston”. Most scientists of his time were convinced he was correct in this judgment. He wasn’t. Up until the nineteenth century most scientists accepted the claim that the earth was only 6,000 years old. They were so, so wrong. Until the nineteenth century, doctors didn’t see the need to wash their hands before surgery. They were wrong, too. The huge number of cases of gangrene that resulted were universally thought to be due to “bad air”! Again, they were mistaken in their analysis of the problem.

The list could go on and on and on.

The scientific method is a tool to help people progress toward the truth despite their all-too-human susceptibility to confirmation bias and other errors. It’s the bias and errors we need to watch out for: one day they may prove the death of us all.

In the meantime it would be as well to remember scientists are human. They aren’t omnipotent beings, Gods for the 21st century. They are individuals seeking funding for their projects and ideas. They have all the inconsistencies and frailties of other human beings. They do make mistakes. They do get it wrong. Sometimes spectacularly so.

Well, we had ten minutes to save the planet at Copenhagen according to those in the know. But we didn’t manage it. Instead, next year, the world’s great and good will meet again: they’ll have another ten minutes to save the planet. Al Gore, David Suzuki and oh so many others in the climate change industry, inform us that Global Warming (which is “man made”) will bring about the deaths of 300,000 people over the course of the next twenty years.

Ummm. That’s serious. No wonder all the world’s leaders are so concerned. Yet according to Julian Morris, the economist who is Executive Director, International Policy Network:

“Every year, at the moment, about 10 million children die of preventable and curable diseases, and yet we’re concerned that some time far in the future, a few hundred thousand people, maybe a few million people, at most, might suffer in some unknown way as a result of climate change.”

Really! That’s dreadful, isn’t it? Are the world’s leaders aware of this? They can’t be, surely…?

Each and every day on this little planet of ours 50,000 people die from the diseases of poverty. Around 42 million of the world’s population are infected with HIV, and it’s projected there’ll be 68 million deaths because of it by 2020 – that’s on top of the 20 million who have already died.

Well, surely all this got a mention at Copenhagen, didn’t it?

No it didn’t. Not really. The only concern expressed was for those 300,000 victims of “global warming”. It seems the rest didn’t matter.

But a billion people on this planet have no clean water. Wasn’t that discussed, a solution sort for?

Ummm. No.

In excess of half-a-billion individuals go to sleep hungry at night, and over thirty-two thousand of them never wake up again next morning. They talked about that, didn’t they?

Not really. No.

Over a third of the planet has no access to electricity – that must have been discussed, surely?

Ahhh, now that’s a big YES. We’ve got to be very careful how these people get access to a supply of electricity – it mustn’t contribute to “global warming”. Best not let them have any, not yet awhile, anyway.

So Copenhagen has maintained the status que. Nothing more. Not really. The developed world will spend many billions of £’s and $’s between now and 2100 in order to reduce carbon emissions, while during that same time span over one billion (1,000,000,000) people will die of starvation. Even a disease like malaria, easily eradicated with the use of the right pesticides and reasonable medical assistance, will claim the lives of over one hundred million people between now and 2100.

Oh, well. The poor will always be with us, so they say. Better to look into the more distant future and do something about those 300,000 “global warming” deaths. The rest will just have to look after themselves, won’t they?

H.G. Wells, one of the founding fathers of science fiction, novelist, visionary, popular educator – satyr, too, perhaps – believed a world government would cure all mankind’s ills. We know this to be the case because he said it so often. Too often, some might say. He imagined that such a government would be both humanistic and socialistic…and one can imagine Wells, stately as Socrates, an enthusiastic believer in “free love” – his big argument with the Fabian Society leadership, after all, was due to his determined pursuit and practice of “free love” – considering “the English reality…like the piercing light of lanterns swinging and swaying among the branches of dark trees at night”.

Even the most obtuse members of humanity, Wells decided, must see the benefits of a “world government”; in some ill defined way the world would assume the mantle of H.G.’s “English reality”. It would be as near to perfect as was possible. War would end. Hunger would become a thing of the past. There would be no rich, no poor. Mankind would live in harmony with its surroundings. Nationalism would dissipate, and swords be beaten into ploughshares. A land of milk and honey…almost a return to Eden.

I suspect there’s something, some small glitch in the genes of humankind, that leads particular individual’s to lust after power, to desire control and domination of others; after all, each of us in turn knows what’s best for us, don’t we? Wells knew what was best for us, obviously – “World Government”! But not a government of tired, crafty-eyed politicians, no, instead he’d have a Technocracy! A world leadership of scientists! Of course, Wells didn’t “lust after” power, only women, and the creation of a “World Government”.

Busy, as he eventually became, dashing here, dashing there; interviews with Roosevelt one day, Stalin the next; putting heart and soul into his attempts to transform the world, while demonstrating the desperate and urgent need for his world Technocracy. Wells was far from alone in his belief that mankind required a worldwide legislature in order to survive. Stalin thought he might well have a point; Hitler, too, ultimately saw a world dominated by…not scientists, like H.G., but true Aryans, a Germanic elite, the Übermensch, transcending national politics, class, creed, and even human nature itself!

But let’s take a step back to the year 1907 when Wells “saw in his mind’s eye” a future world dominated in the East by China and Japan, with Europe filled with bickering states – an aggressive Germany (what else), Italy, France, Spain and Portugal all armed but reluctant to fight; Russia in the throes of revolution; the USA split in civil strife between State and Federal governments. Germany starts a war, (prophetic, this)“the War in the Air”, and attacks the US…as does China and Japan (but for different reasons). Every country is bombed to destruction. London, Paris, Hamburg and Berlin are all destroyed. The story moves forward, allows us a fleeting glimpse of barbaric humanity trapped in a primitive, feudal society, the result of that terrible war.

Moving forward in “real time” to the 1914 – 18 war, the Great War, as it came to be called (though as far as scale goes, wars do seem to have increased in magnitude since then), H.G. simply couldn’t comprehend the terrible motivation leading humankind to such catastrophe – or rather, he could, but it defied logic. Politicians were the problem, and nationalism, and poverty, and wealth – especially the wealth that grew from armaments (for then as now military hardware comprised a big money spinner for Britain, France, the US, etc).

After that war, the war to end wars (well, nearly, but not quite – did you know Wells coined that phrase for the ministry of propaganda?), Wells saw the continued development of the aeroplane; from string bag to sophisticated weapon of mass destruction; as he’d predicted, civilisation would be threatened by use of such weapons; for the first time civilians and cities would BE the front line. Stanley Baldwin in a speech (“A Fear For The Future”) threateningly declared: “The bomber will always get through”. Military theorists believed a future war would be won entirely in the air. The Italian general Giulio Douhet, published his book “ The Command of the Air”, a seminal work on future air war. Wells didn’t believe a war could be won by bombers, instead he envisaged civilisation shattered by mass air attacks in a war that would have NO winners, only losers.

The solitary answer Wells could see to this approaching Armageddon was to deliver power to the hands of the scientists who in turn would form a World Government. Only then would peace reign supreme; only then would civilisation be safe and able to develop.

Well, inevitably war did come; Hitler, Stalin and Roosevelt in turn dreamed of empire, while that old imperialist, Churchill, looked on and lost an empire; though still no stranger to the world of Realpolitik, increasingly he appeared marginalised in the post war world. Civilisation wasn’t shattered by the bombers. A world Government didn’t come into being. Nor did the world’s problems go away.

And what of Wells, that great mind at the end of its tether? If still alive today, what would he make of our world? Poverty still rife, populations growing out of control, hunger and disease rampant. Science, however, is now accorded the sort of respect reserved for a “world” religion; its practitioners elevated to the status of cardinals in this cabala of scientific witchery; this new shamanism casts the runes of “climate modeling” (for example), its necromancers witch-wiggling at any and every dissenting voice, theirs is the only TRUE scarabee. And on the back of this strange new phenomenon, the politicians, recognised by Wells as one of the major problems in the world, have craftily politicised science and scientists. These new necromancers must dance to the tune of the £ or $ played on the politicians pipe!

And what of world government? Yes, the auguries are good. We may yet see one develop – but it won’t be Wells Technocracy!

No, sadly, I fear, we’ll see the rise of a worldwide mediocracy where unelected and unrepresentative individuals will reign supreme in a world bureaucracy, mind numbing in its unaccountability to anyone, other than its “political” masters, those representatives of massive self-interest in the developed parts of the globe.

This will be the way the world ends, not with a BANG nor a whimper, but with a shit storm of paperwork, regulations, and waste!

Dr James Hansen, the first scientist to warn of the dangers of global warming over twenty years ago, said that any deal reached at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen would be a “disaster track” for the world!

His main concern is the carbon market schemes , where permits to pollute are purchased as required and sold at will.

He suggested: “This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill. “On those kinds of issues you cannot compromise. You can’t say let’s reduce slavery, let’s find a compromise and reduce it 50 per cent or reduce it 40 per cent.”

Dr Hansen’s comments totally contradict Lord Stern of Brentford, the UK’s leading authority on climate change, who’s recent report (with the London School of Economics) stated this was our last chance to save the planet from “catastrophic” global warming.

In the meantime, the Australia Senate, already deeply divided over the science of climate change, voted down any new legislation. And “climategate” in the UK has resulted in a number of high profile figures, such as Mohammad Al-Sabban, the head of the Saudi delegation at the UN summit, to suggest the “leaked emails” indicate “there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change”.

If memory serves correct, it was Dr Hansen who suggested: “Present knowledge does not permit accurate specification of the dangerous level of human-made GHGs (Greenhouse gases). However, it is much lower than has commonly been assumed. If we have not already passed the dangerous level, the energy infrastructure in place ensures that we will pass it within several decades.”

Bob Reiss, author of “The Coming Storm: Extreme Weather and Our Terrifying Future” recounted this with regard to Hansen’s “predictions”:

‘While doing research I met Jim Hansen, the scientist who in 1988 predicted the greenhouse effect before Congress. I went over to the window with him and looked out on Broadway in New York City and said, “If what you’re saying about the greenhouse effect is true, is anything going to look different down there in 20 years?” He looked for a while and was quiet and didn’t say anything for a couple seconds. Then he said, “Well, there will be more traffic.” I, of course, didn’t think he heard the question right. Then he explained, “The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water. And there will be tape across the windows across the street because of high winds. And the same birds won’t be there. The trees in the median strip will change.” Then he said, “There will be more police cars.” Why? “Well, you know what happens to crime when the heat goes up.” ’

He went on to predict New York would have droughts which would become severe and result in restaurants displaying signs saying “Water by request only.”

These predictions were made way back in 1989. Hansen said they would take place within twenty or thirty years. Well, he still has ten years left to be able to say “Told you so!” On the other hand his climate “model” may have been a tad out of synch?

Meanwhile the good ship “anthropogenic GHGs” is tossed on the wild and unruly seas of debate, totally at the mercy of those “global climate models” everyone has so much faith in.

The big question will always be: Does the human race have the will to save itself? And I suspect the answer must always be: NO!

Copenhagen is just around the corner. The global catastrophe merchants are working themselves in to a veritable feeding frenzy. Why, even the new EU President pontificates, in the tones of an anguished but worthy divine, on the need for new EU wide Green Taxes – to help with the escalating costs of the EU administration.

Ummm.

The eureferendum blog makes casual mention of the “Canadian weather forecasting service doing its best to emulate the UK Met Office” but the whole process being turned upside down by…well, the climate weather? It’s being so damn difficult! See HERE.

We find the same problem in China – the weather will not conform to those wonderful scientific models! Early snow storms have caused massive disruption and a number of deaths so far. See HERE.

Global warming appears to have stalled. Climatologists are puzzled as to why average global temperatures have stopped rising over the last 10 years. Some attribute the trend to a lack of sunspots, while others explain it through ocean currents.


“At least the weather in Copenhagen is likely to be cooperating. The Danish Meteorological Institute predicts that temperatures in December, when the city will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, will be one degree above the long-term average.

Otherwise, however, not much is happening with global warming at the moment. The Earth’s average temperatures have stopped climbing since the beginning of the millennium, and it even looks as though global warming could come to a standstill this year.

Ironically, climate change appears to have stalled in the run-up to the upcoming world summit in the Danish capital, where thousands of politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, business leaders and environmental activists plan to negotiate a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Billions of euros are at stake in the negotiations.

The planet’s temperature curve rose sharply for almost 30 years, as global temperatures increased by an average of 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.25 degrees Fahrenheit) from the 1970s to the late 1990s. “At present, however, the warming is taking a break,” confirms meteorologist Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in the northern German city of Kiel. Latif, one of Germany’s best-known climatologists, says that the temperature curve has reached a plateau. “There can be no argument about that,” he says. “We have to face that fact.”

So, global cooling is looking more and more likely…we’re all going to freeze to death.

Climate Change and me…

October 29, 2009

nOhOPE

I’ve frequently been asked my views on climate change.  Put simply, the earth’s climate has never been static: huge shifts in temperature, for example,  have taken place over the last three hundred million years – changes that have had nothing whatsoever to do with hominoids or their activities!

So is the climate changing?

Yes, of course. The earth’s climate is NOT static. At this point in time we appear to be in a period of “global cooling”. Since 1998 temperatures have fallen slightly, year-on-year, which has led some of the “scientific community” to drop the mantra of “Global Warming” and to sing from the hymn sheet of “Climate Change” instead.

The big problem, for me, is their laying “blame” for this climate change (for this quite natural phenomena, in other words) on the activities of mankind. This I don’t accept. It’s perverse and egotistical.

How many people realise, for example, that if each European country achieves the EU target of a 20% reduction in carbon emissions, the effect this will have on climate change over the next one hundred years is so small as to be immeasurable!  If every country in the world adopted and achieved the same target, by the end of the century the statistics suggest we might have made a difference to  climate change of between one and two years. All that pain for two years grace? The EU incentive alone is set to cost the EU economies 180 billion euros annually.

180 billion annually to make no noticeable difference? Does that make sense? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on things that will make a difference to quality of life and to the future?

Then we have all the talk about the “Greenhouse Effect” and “Greenhouse Gases” don’t we? So what’s this “Greenhouse Effect”? As an issue it’s a biggy, but how many of us can explain what it is? In reality, probably not many. The explanations we see in the media are inaccurate oversimplifications that at times border on the absurd.

A very good explanation can be found HERE.

I’m afraid I don’t find nature or climate to be particularly benign; but I do see mankind as being somewhat puny in comparison.

See HERE on CO2 emissions…the facts!

People don’t want to believe they can’t make a difference. It’s unacceptable to their egos. If we really wanted to do something about the current changes in climate, we should have prevented the Industrial Revolution (so some scientists believe). And had we done that, the difference it would have made to the Earth’s climate is uncertain!

So instead we pour money into bad, very bad ideas – like banning conventional light bulbs and using “energy efficient” light bulbs that are filled with mercury – a substance  banned by the EU for use in thermometers…because of pollution!! (“official advice from the Department of the Environment states that if a low-energy bulb is smashed, the room needs to be vacated for at least 15 minutes.”) See HERE.

Ultimately we are making decisions on so much “bad” science, for example, HERE. And HERE.

For human beings to accomplish anything worthwhile a more common sense approach to the problems of climate and environment should be adopted. For example, the river Thames was at one time so badly polluted fish could not live in its waters (if you were unfortunate enough to fall in and swallow some of it, hospitals tended to pump your stomach). The pollution was caused by industry. We didn’t solve the problem by banning industry. No. Instead we cleaned up the industry, and now the fish have returned.

Finally, I do believe human beings can make a difference to the quality of life, and to the environment, but that their impact on the earth’s climate is going to be small, infinitesimal  almost. They just have to accept this, and get over it.

So, I post a link to What Happened to Global Warming from the BBC.

We all know the Pacific Ocean is cooling – as are the other oceans ever since 1998. So perhaps the World’s Governments would like to talk about an Ice Age tax? We need more Global Freezing taxes. We need to save the planet by a tax on refrigerators automobiles.

Ummm.

We can all rest in peace, put aside our fears, Pope Benedict is to provide prayers against global warming. The inhabitants of the Alpine villages of Fieschertal and Fiesch had in the past asked that the Pope pray to prevent the growth of their glacier. He did, but was too successful! The world has heated, the glacier is melting. Now the villagers want Benedict to pray for the glacier to stop melting – and as quickly as possible!

No pleasing some people, is there?

See HERE.

Global-Warming-Rejoice-e

People are strange, ain’t they? One man’s ecological disaster, is another man’s high point!

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‘University of Adelaide Professor of Mining Geology Ian Plimer this week launches his seventh book, Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, which aims to refute every scientific argument that humans are responsible for global warming.

Professor Plimer embarked on the project after being incensed by increasing public acceptance of the idea that humans have caused global warming.

Many scientists worldwide agree that high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have caused global temperatures to rise.

Professor Plimer said his book would “knock out every single argument we hear about climate change”, to prove that global warming is a cycle of the Earth.

“It’s got nothing to do with the atmosphere, it’s about what happens in the galaxy.”‘