Sunday, February 28, 2010

Idiot Republicans - Making Stupid Look Easy

A bunch of total dickheads Republicans have got together in South Dakota where they hold sway to pass a law decrying the politicisation of climate science and insisting on real science being used. Sounds ok, but here is the text of the declaration:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the House of Representatives of the Eighty-fifth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the Senate concurring therein, that the South Dakota Legislature urges that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming include the following:

(1) That global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact;

(2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative; and

(3) That the debate on global warming has subsumed political and philosophical viewpoints which have complicated and prejudiced the scientific investigation of global warming phenomena;

Where do you start taking that part? You could not make it up!! I thought this might be a piss take, so I checked the official text - and no, it really is there. Let's dive in...

(1) That global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact;

Fucking idiots don't understand what a theory is. A theory is an overarching framework that explains the existence of facts. They are not opposites; quite the opposite - facts and theories work together. How somebody who does not get Science 101 thinks they should lecture people on it is gobsmacking.

(2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative; and

Astrological???? I assume you mean Astronomical in trying to push the false meme that the sun is to blame? Or perhaps they really mean that only Virgo and Sagittarius are subject to climate change? Twats - but as if that was not enough; Thermological?? Thermology is the study of heat-based images of the human body for medical imaging. It has nothing to do with climate science. Fucking idiots.

(3) That the debate on global warming has subsumed political and philosophical viewpoints which have complicated and prejudiced the scientific investigation of global warming phenomena;

Yup - that will be what you lot are doing too; a bunch of politicians passing laws trying to frame science is the very definition of politicising the science. Fucking flipperty-flopperty twats.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Lomborg Deception

So the anti sceptical environmentalist, as he likes to be known, Bjørn Lomborg - who is really an economist, likes to argue that while global warming is happening, we really should not worry about it too much. He's written lots on the subject and is accountable in that he references his arguments with footnotes... except that his references, if you take the time to read them can mean the total opposite of what he claims they do! The damming concision of somebody who has checked all the footnotes of his book 'Cool It' is damming; that Lomborg is "a performance artist disguised as an academic." Ouch!

One of Lomborg's most interesting claims is that global warming will avert more deaths (as fewer people die of cold) than it will cause. But three of the five sources he cites (including this and this) reached the opposite conclusion ...

This a key point as it does to the heart of the issue - accountability. At least Lomborg gave references that can be followed up and challenged. Most denial you encounter is a type of ranting innuendo that is a million times less accurate and accountable that the IPCC documents they attack.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fairford Protests Put The Shits Up 'em (Good)

I went along to a couple of the protests during the Iraq War at Fairford, the huge US airbase that was used to send B52 bombers over to iraq to bomb some democracy into the natives. The first protest I went to was small (hundred or so) and the second was huge (couple of thousand?) - both were noisy and confrontational affairs; as they should have been. Here's what I wrote at the time;

The massive police reactions in Fairford, Bristol, across the South West and UK show a system in trouble. For those of us attending the demo at the US airbase of Fairford on Saturday 22nd, and I suspect for those attending any of the hundreds of demos and actions across the UK, we witnessed what can only be called the state in panic. Police presence was overwhelming to the point where you could see the fear of the state manifested in a thick blue line around the gates of USAF Gloucestershire. It made you think of a cornered and wounded beast.

Such was the fear of the people attending that the first use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 / Section 60 in mainland Britian was at in effect. Its use was not to stop al Qaeda, but to protect a US airbase. As back up for the anti-terror laws there were huge number of police Forward Intelligence Teams, contracted civilian photographers and Evidence Gathering Teams. They had enough cameras to film a Hollywood epic, even if most of their footage was of people making roll-ups. Such was the panic of the authorities that they turned back coaches of protesters under the thin veil of 'legitimacy' as the numbers attending the demo threatened to spiraled out of their control. Police from all over the UK including Thames Valley, Manchester, Devon and Cornwall and Liverpool been drafted into sleepy Gloucestershire with their leave and rest days canceled as they struggle to cope with the popular resistance to war. ... more.

Now we find out that I was right - these protests really had put the willies up the Neo-Labour fuckers and thier neo-con backers! Good:

[Documents] show [anti-war] protests made the authorities very worried: the Americans leaned on defence minister Lewis Moonie, who leaned on Home Office minister John Denham to resist protests. Moonie wrote: "Concerns remain, especially on the part of the US authorities, who also see RAF Fairford becoming a focus of increased protester activity."

Moonie revealed that Americans helped plan policing this bit of Gloucester, writing: "Plans to respond to demonstrations and protest action in the Fairford area, whether at or away from the base itself, have been worked up by the Ministry of Defence police, the US authorities and the civil constabularies."

A draft reply from Denham shows the Home Office was worried that US soldiers might shoot protesters. Talking about the danger of "overreaction" by "American military personnel", the draft letter says: "We are all clear, I think, that the consequences of protesters being seriously injured, or even killed, would be very serious indeed."

For his part, Moonie was concerned that "the possibility clearly exists for unhelpful media coverage should future demonstrations get out of hand, and for our relationship with the US authorities to be damaged as a result". The papers also reveal David Veness, the Scotland Yard boss involved in dealing with terrorism and liaising with the head of MI5, was involved in discussions about how to police the Fairford demonstrations.

My recollection was that the national Stop The War hierarchy didn't want to protest there and wanted us to go to London. Local autonomy prevailed and we went and went. Let that be a lesson to us; same old same old marches in London do fuck all. Protests need to be focused.

(Also see here for more on the counter-intelligence tactics used on protesters.)

I'm on Twitter!

So it had to happen some time - but I noticed that Twitter, especially in Bristol, has got a healthy debate and discussion going on, so I've decided to dive in:

So feel free to follow with me if you're on Twitter, or sign up if not...


More on Denial's Bootboys

Part 2 of an ongoing investigation into the orchestrated campaign of bullying, disinformation and denial run by an unholy cabal of right-wing media, free-trade think-tanks and big oil/coal and gas concerns;

The floods of offensive and threatening emails aimed at intimidating climate scientists have all the signs of an orchestrated campaign by sceptics groups. The links are well-hidden because mobilizing people to send abuse and threats is well outside the accepted bounds of democratic participation; indeed, some of it is illegal. And an apparently spontaneous expression of citizen concern carries more weight than an organised operation by a zealous group.

Without access to ISP logs, it is difficult to trace the emails to a source. However, it is clear that hard-line denialists congregate electronically at a number of internet nodes where they engage in mutual reinforcement of their opinions and stoke the rage that lies behind them.

Those who operate these sites retail the "information" that reinforces the assertions made by their followers. They often post highly personal attacks on individuals who speak in favour of mainstream science and measures to combat global warming, knowing from experience that they will stimulate a stream of vituperation from their supporters.

The posts on these sites often provoke an outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and vilification of individuals. There is no restraining influence and, in the middle of one of these frenzies, it would be a brave sceptic who called for caution and moderation in the ideas expressed or the language used.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Climate Change - Some News from the Front

While the denalists are busy moaning and complaining about everything they can find (why not put that energy into some original research?), scientists have been busy doing actual research:

Top researchers now agree that the world is likely to get stronger but fewer hurricanes in the future because of global warming, seeming to settle a scientific debate on the subject. But they say there's not enough evidence yet to tell whether that effect has already begun.


The seas are slowly being made more acidic by the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from factories and cars being pumped into the atmosphere and then dissolved in the sea. The likely impact of this acidification worries scientists, because they have found that predicting the exact course of future damage is a tricky process.

Far from the theory of global warming getting weaker - it gets stronger by the day. It's just a pity that the right-wing pundits don't (or don't want) to read the actual science themselves.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From Makoney to Moritz - An Update

Update from this. So now it seems that a quack called Andreas Moritz is responsible for getting Wordpress to drop a critical blog. Nice.

Also see;

Maloney cherry picks information to scaremonger about the flu vaccine, he then recommends elderberry and garlic. Ironically, he exhorts mainstream practitioners offering the flu vaccine to provide published research – then he recommends two treatments without reference to published research.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

True Sceptic Blasts 'Denialists'

This is a great article, sceptic Mark Boslough of the Committee for Sceptical Inquiry takes an unshrinking broadside at the massed ranks of psudo-sceptics. Worth a read!!!

Science, however, has ground rules. Those who don’t follow the rules are entitled to their opinions but cannot legitimately claim to be participating in a scientific debate. One rule that must be followed for scientific results to be accepted is that they must be subjected to review and published in a scholarly scientific journal. This is a necessary but insufficient condition (nobody is compelled to accept the conclusions of a paper just because it has been refereed). ... The first thing I do when I read an editorial or blog entry is check to see if the supposed science has been published in scientific literature. If not, I don’t see why I should bother to read what nobody could be bothered to put through scientific peer review. My reasoning is not that such material is necessarily wrong, but without any scientific review I have no assurance that anyone has checked to see if the equations are right, data sources correctly cited, figures properly attributed, or other workers’ conclusions fairly represented. ... Having lost the scientific debate, denialists have now resorted to hacking into a computer system and stealing private correspondence to distract those who prefer controversy to science.

A reminder of the science for non-scientists posts I've been doing that link back to this and also the points made that denalists are not sceptics and why.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Denial's Bootboys

For all the protestations by denialists that they are sceptics just trying to have a debate and that all the warmists are trying to shut down the debate - it seems that the actions of some of the denial crew point to the opposite:

- Hacked email climate scientists receive death threats.
- Denialist writer publishes hate and name and home address of denialist critic.
- Hate mail to climate blogger.

And now it seems these is an organised cyber-bulling campaign aimed a forcing scientists to withdraw from the debate. Seems they only want right-wing nutters and Exxon funded shills to have a say...

Australia's most distinguished climate scientists have become the target of a new form of cyber-bullying aimed at driving them out of the public debate. ... In recent months, each time they enter the public debate through a newspaper article or radio interview these scientists are immediately subjected to a torrent of aggressive, abusive and, at times, threatening emails. Apart from the volume and viciousness of the emails, the campaign has two features - it is mostly anonymous and it appears to be orchestrated. ... Receiving emails like these is unsettling and at times disturbing, which of course is the point. They become worrying when they cross the line to personal threats, such as these sent to Professor Andy Pitman at the UNSW: "...Just do your science or you will end up collateral damage in the war, GET IT."

Such a pleasant bunch of people.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How the denial lobby creates fake scandals

This is an important post - it shows how a fake scandal over some data in a IPCC report is turned into a storm in a tea-cup by right-wing conspiracy theorists;

Anyone following the recent string of articles in the mainstream press attacking the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may have entertained a sneaking suspicion that the hidden hand of the climate denial lobby was at work behind many of them. That suspicion, it turns out, is exactly right – the fingerprints of the deniers are all over several of the key stories. More...

I have heard the lie time and time again that the denialists are not getting to tell the truth. Yet the reality is that a tiny group of oil-funded, ideologically driven fukbags are, time after time, allowed to puff up non-stories into bullshit-gate type stories with alarming regularity. Put simply the fruit-loons get masses of disproportional air-time. It seems to me that vast sections of the mainstream media desperately wants to believe the crack-post anti-science brigade. Facing the truth on gobal warming is so much harder (and harder work to report on as it is complex).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Demons! Devils! Aaargh!

I am not surprised to see that most religions have a very bronze-age view of the world and like to see things in very stark terms; that evil is personified with fiery hooves and brimstone hats! This is US wing-bag Christian witch-doctor Pat Robertson of all other religions and why his one is the best..

He is the God of all Gods. These others are mostly demonic powers. Sure they’re demons. There are many demons in the world.

Ssssssright. Watch out for the Buddha-demon - it's gonna karma you to death. Mmmuhahahah! (By the way, I thought that there was only one god in monotheistic Christianity? How can he be god of gods when there are no other gods? That's like being god of nothings? But then the monotheistic bit evolved from a polytheistic world-view, so Pat is jus' bein true to his roots.

Not only that but fighting those pesky demons is hard work, so in Poland the demonologists are getting together to exchange tips on holy hand-grenades and gospel kung-fu.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Protest Wordpress: Christopher Maloney is a quack

I'm joining in the protest at Wordpress shutting down a site over a blogger calling a naturopaths a quack;

Shutting down blogs that criticize him? That never, ever works. In fact, it tends to backfire rather severely — because now a much bigger blog is going to spread the word that Christopher Maloney is a quack. I'm also going to ask all of you out there who reads this to echo the message: Christopher Maloney is a quack. Won't that be fun? Poke the net, and the net pushes back.

Fighting Islamic Terror with Help from Muslims

One of the most dull and wrong-headed ideas you hear of is all the bollox about islam being fundamentally violent. Yes, there are islamic extremists and they are nutty and brutal fuckheds but - and this is a huge but - all religions have their nutters. I don't want to be killed by some idiot with delusions of martyrdom, so I also have an interest in stopping radical islam. The question is what works - and time and time again it is shown that the Bu$h approach of 'with us or with the terrorists' is a simplistic and violent and counter-productive way to go about it. The shouting angry grrr of the BNP/EDL is also counter-productive, forcing moderate muslims into the arms of radicals who'll say 'see, we told you there is a war on islam, you must join us blah blah infidels blah glory of god'.

Back in 2005 I quoted from Jason Burke's book on the best way to stop islamic terrorism;

"Currently military power is the default, the weapon of choice, in fact the greatest weapon available in the war on terrorism is the courage, decency, humour and integrity of the vast portion of the worlds 1.3 billion Muslims. It is this that is restricting the spread of al-Qaeda and its warped world view, not the activities of counter-terrorist experts or the military strategists."

So here's an example of how that approach gets results, from the New York Times/Observer section on 20th December and the quote is by Audrey Kurth Cronin of the National War College (can't find a URL!) talking about the arrest of some guys who were allegedly plotting some terror attacks;

"To me, the most interesting thing about the five guys is that it was their parents that immediately when to the FBI. It was members of the American Muslim community that put a stop to whatever those men may have been planning."

My guess would be that the parents are prepared to shop them in partly because they didn't agree with their sons actions and partly because they believed that this administration would give them a fair trial and not ship them off to be tortured. Another victory for human rights.

Another Global Warming Debate

This time it's the pompmus Ian Plimer vs George Monbiot. Plimer (wrongly) thinks that global warming is occurring and that volcanoes are causing it. This is in direct contrast to fellow denier Lord 'Snooty' Monkton who (wrongly) thinks that yes humans are altering the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere but that it wont have much of an impact and the little impact it will have will be a good thing.

For a couple of so-called sceptics, they are very un-sceptical of each other; they seem to be happy to hang out together and don't seem to argue about the incompatibility of their relative incompatible positions on the issue. Which again suggests that they are deniers more interested in denial of the mainstream position and less in what is really happening.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Cognative Bias Works in Global Warming Denial

Another follow up on the psychology of global warming denial and why deniers are not sceptics. A sceptic is somebody who is sceptical of all data sources and conclusion - and a really good sceptic knows that worst of all, we can be our own worst enemies. We have inbuilt a system of cognitive bias that not only seeks out information to confirm an existing prejudice, but also edits what we remember we have been to remove information that counters our prejudices. We call this process (broadly) cognitive bias (there is a great article on this in the UK Wired feb issue).

We all have it - me too. So what's the best way to stop it impacting on a judgement? To be aware it exists and account for it. Science is an inherently sceptical approach to a subject that demands findings be transparent and checked over by others (peer review). Science also spends time researching that bias to better understand it and then re-designing it's methods to account better for it. I've gone into more detail of the scientific process here.

Put simply, the key to accounting for cognitive bias is to have a rigorous and accountable system. Science has it; it's not perfect, but no human-run system will be. But it is there and is accountable. Global warming denial does not. It has zero accountability, is tainted thought and though with corporate cash and riddled with chancers, lies and errors. But it also panders to the worst of cogitative bias. Here's a example how. This is a quote from an article by rabid denier Andrew Bolt - who writes prolifically on the subject of global warming and the science behind it. In this instance he is commenting on the debate between Monkton and Lambert and confesses that on the technical details of who is right or wrong;

Don’t ask me to adjudicate on the Lambert-Monckton stoush. Many of these issues are over my head...

A tacit admission that he does not understand the workings of the science means that it is impossible for him to make his mind up on the basis of logic and facts; because he is ill equipped to understand them. No shame there, I'm not much better. That means he is making his mind up only on the basis of 'truthiness' - what he'd like to be true rather than what is true. However I don't then call out people as frauds who's work I don't understand simply because it does not accord with my bias. I do critique the work of denailists because it is written by fellow amateurs using simple tricks that even a basic bullshit detector will spot.

Again to put this simply; people like Andrew Bolt are simply blowing the trumpets of people who confirm their existing prejudice - that that in no guarantee of truth - indeed it is a logical gap that means you wont see the wood for the trees.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Denialist vs Warmist: Warmist Wins by TKO

You've seen the 'Rumble in the Jungle', now it's the 'Smashing in Sydney'. Roll up, roll up for what should be been an easy denialist win. In the blue corner was Lord 'Fuckwittington' Monkton and in the red corner was computer scientist Tim 'Deltoid' Lambert. Both were pitted against each other in a major debate. Prior to the debate the odds were against Deltoid; the referee host is very bias towards denial plus sympathetic towards Monkton, the crowd was organised by the said bias host, so, on the whole against Deltoid. In addition, for all his faults (and they are legion when it comes to science), Monkton was a very experienced political player and accomplished public speaker - whereas Deltoid had never done such a debate before.

However the three things Deltoid had on his side were key in this battle:

1. He was right.
2. He is very smart.
3. He was right.

Did I also mention that he was right? That helps. So What was the outcome? In summary, in the second round of the fight Deltoid landed a severe blow against Monkton that can only be described as a Technical Knock-Out (TKO).... and how he did it was very clever;

You know that famous scene in Annie Hall where a bore is going on and on about Marshall McLuhan's work and Allen produces McLuhan who tells the bore that he got McLuhan all wrong? Well, that's kind of what happened in my debate with Monckton. Based on what he had identified as his most important argument in previous talks I was pretty sure he would argue that climate sensitivity was low based on his misunderstanding of Pinker et al Do Satellites Detect Trends in Surface Solar Radiation?. And sure enough, he did.

If you read the title of Pinker's paper, you'll see that it's about changes in surface solar radiation, not climate forcing as Monckton would have it. In ideal world I could have had Rachel Pinker appear from behind the curtain to tell Monckton that he was wrong about her paper, but I was able to do the next best thing. I first played a recording of Monckton's building up Pinker as good scientist who was not interested in the global warming debate, and where he got her gender wrong again and again. Then I played a recording of a female colleague with an American accent reading out Pinker's message to me on how Monckton had misunderstood her work. It was as if she was there.

I finished off by correcting his climate sensitivity calculation by comparing the current climate with the last Ice Age. The fun bit here was that I got all the information about the Ice Age from "Heaven and Earth" [a denialist book]. Plimer's book + Monckton's calculation proves climate sensitivity is about 3.

Boom! From there on, the rest was noise.

Congratulations to Tim 'Deltiod' Lambert. Full debate can be found here; part 1, 2 and 3.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Denialists Not Sceptics

I read two letters printed in the newspapers recently - one in the Guardian and one in the Observer by people objecting to the use of the term 'denialist' to describe global warming denialists sceptics. I use the term denialist (as well a climate creationist) and I am happy to explain why...

A recent exchange between Benny 'Hill' Peiser and Robin McKie in the Observer shows why; Benny used an invented quote by Sir John Houghton to make his point - quotes, like any form of evidence need to be reliable. A sceptic would approach all sources of information with a sceptical mindset and demand authentication. What Benny did is took a talking point from the denialosphere and simply recycled it for use without confirming it's truth. That is not a sceptical mindset - it is the mindset of a propagandist. Propagandists exists to make a point whatever the data. People who have made their mind up about the conclusion before considering the data can never be sceptics. The denialists point to the errors in the IPCC as proof of their claims - yet they were making the claims event before the errors were uncovered. The are still making claims about conspiracies and lizard-men new-world-order shit now;

In the heat of the debate, the representative Mike Noel said environmentalists were part of a vast conspiracy to destroy the American way of life and control world population through forced sterilisation and abortion.

Put simply the IPCC and the scientists behind it are accountable and are part of a process - errors made (and I am surprised there are not more) are both inevitable and part of the science. They are expected as part of the process of learning and understanding a complex system. By contrast the denialosphere is able to make the craziest and wildest claims; make shit up, cherry-pick results and lie, lie and lie - without any accountability. Now I am sure there are the odd one or two genuine sceptics in the ranks of the denialosphere, but they are undoubtedly a tiny, tiny minority. If the denialist movement was stuffed with scepticism they'd be asking for evidence of such nutty shit-loon claims and holding the authors of them to account. They don't because they are not sceptics, but denialists.

...and it the cap fits...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Museum of Irony

I read this and was stunned by the irony of it all...

A group of Palestinians descended from 15 of Jerusalem's oldest Arab families lodged a protest with the UN today in a fresh effort to prevent the construction of a "Museum of Tolerance" on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery...

Jamal Nusseibeh said one of his ancestors, the former governor of Jerusalem Burhan al-Din al-Khazraji ibn Nusseibeh, was buried in the cemetery in 1432. "It is part of the rich fabric of Jerusalem which always has been a symbol of tolerance," he said. "The fact that anybody could wish to wipe out such a structural part of this fabric in order somehow to promote tolerance is very hard to understand."

Last month Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's founder, said the project was on a "fantastic site in the heart of Jerusalem" and would bring "to Jerusalem and the people of Israel, a project of crucial significance to its future"...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Shortage and Climate Change

Parts of the US have been deluged by snow while further north in Canada - where it is supposed to snow, has seen very little. This is what you'd expect to see as predicted by the theory of climate change - as there is more energy in the system (global warming) then there is more chaos in the system at a local level (climate change). You'd think this was simple to understand, but no - denialists crow over the snowfalls and shuffle quietly over the droughts (of snow in Canada, of water in Australia).

Honestly, the way the denial-machine goes on about it, you'd think there were billions of petrodollas at stake or something?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A prediction for the future from the past

Check this out...

The hope of the future does not rest, as commonly believed, in winning the people of the "buffer fringe" to one superpower or the other, but rather in the invention of new weapons and tactics that will be so cheap to obtain and so easy to use that they will increase the effectiveness of guerrilla warfare so greatly that the employment of our present weapons of mass destruction will become futile, and on this basis there can be a revival of democracy and of political decentralization in all three parts of our present world. This possible development in political and military matters, would, of course, require the development of decentralized economic techniques such as would arise if sunlight became the chief energy source for production and the advancement of science made it possible to manufacture any desired substance by molecular rearrangement....

Now this was written in 1961!!! It seems to be that it argues that big weapon systems will becomes pointless - which is happening as proliferation grows and the scenario of mutually assured destruction arises. But also the use of non-state forces - i.e. terrorism - to wave war means that such weapons are useless because how can you nuke a tiny cell of people that might only number 10 hiding within your own city? Answer - you can't. It's also prescient because it envisions the decentralization of power (economic/energy) that seems to be about to happen. Very interesting...

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Religion in Disasters - Haiti and more

That bunch of muppets, the Scientologists, turned up in Haiti and while some of them were doctors and stuff, fine, others were offering some wakko spiritual healing;

I knew we were traveling with doctors and EMTs, but I didn't expect to see 50 scientologists, in their yellow shirts with Volunteer Minister on them. They were completely unprepared for going to a third world country, let alone a disaster zone. One girl was in designer cowboy boots. I asked her if she'd brought any sturdier footwear.

"Oh no, these'll be fine."

I asked another guy what he'd packed and he said he hadn't bothered to bring soap or toilet paper or food, but that he'd just "buy whatever I need at Port-au-Prince airport." I couldn't break it to him.

They had no place to stay, and no supplies — their idea was to use the ton of money they had to buy food to distribute when they got there. But there was no food and no water. That was the point.

By the time we arrived in Haiti, after a stopover in Miami, we had missed three landing slots at the airport. Aid agencies — genuine aid agencies — from other countries were being turned away, refused permission to land. But we still got a slot straight away. The guy who ran our charter seemed to think that the Scientologists had some real influence with the US Government, who were assigning the slots.

The doctors and EMTs in our party headed straight downtown to start working. The Scientologists had nowhere to go, and nowhere to put up the big yellow tent they'd brought for touch healing people in. They went to the UN, and managed to get on to their list of approved NGOs somehow. That meant they could set up in the UN grounds.

But they had no-one who spoke Creole, and they brought the weirdness of touch healing into a very superstitious society. They'd leave the tent and come into the general hospital downtown, and try healing people. One of the doctors and one of the nurses told me that the wounded started coming to them to tell them they didn't want to be treated by the people in the yellow shirts.

One nurse told me that the Scientologists actually caused harm — they gave food to people who were scheduled to go into surgery. That then led to complications in the operating theater.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Sound like Haiti would be better of if they didn't bother sending the Volunteer Ministers. Fuck-heds. What is staggering is that they got UN accreditation!!!

We also need to spend a moment considering the comments of fellow wakko-fuck-hed, Pat Robertson, who told the world that the quake was Haiti's own fault because they'd entered into a 'pact with the devil'...

"They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'Ok it’s a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another,"

So to get free of slavery Haiti turned to the devil for freedom but God would get revenge by killing their descendants? What. The Fuck. Idiot x 2.

Why do people end up thinking that their god supports such a warped view? Because in their head, God's view coincidently coincidences with theirs...which is why God can simultaneously be supporting Bin Laden and America, telling mass murders to kill and doctors to save etc.

If not this, then the question I have for the religious is why does God call so many paedophiles to the priesthood?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Move Over X-Factor: It's KLF Time

We're all com'in through now 'cos the KLF manual - How to Have a No.1 Pop Song is now online!

KLF - The Manual is the famous book by the KLF which describes how to get a number one hit. Written by Bill Drummund and Jimmy Cauty, who have become famous as The KLF, The Manual teaches you everything you'll need to know to be successful in the music business. The printed edition is no longer available, but you can read The Manual right here, right now, so enjoy it and learn from it.

Am currently enjoying the amazing Kutiman's Thru You...

'Climate Flaws' Are a Normal Part of the Process

The Guardian has an article about the fact the once of the climate scientists at the centre of the swifthack was trying to avoid too much scrutiny 'Leaked climate change emails scientist 'hid' data flaws' - this is important news and yes given how much the data and science (rightly) will be scrutinised, he was in a difficult position which he responded to badly. However the denialist are also part of the problem; right-wing oil money mixed with conspiracy theories has corrupted their critical faculties to the point where their shrill bleatings of the same old same old - they have cried wolf so often that they are are simply unable to respond when a real issue around the science arises. We also need to keep this issue in perspective and this is the key point of the article:

The revelations on the inadequacies of the 1990 paper do not undermine the case that humans are causing climate change, and other studies have produced similar findings.

And relating that back to 'Science for Non-Scientists' bit I've been writing, it is clear that the overall theory of global warming is having it component parts being modified as the science advanced - exactly what you'd expect too see - and expect to see more of it - yet all this is against a backdrop of continued strengthening of the theory, for even is new science modifies it, it also adds to it - which strengthens it.

Ignore any drip-shit who knows so little science that they confuse the ongoing (and normal) evolution of a theory with it's fall - not the same thing and not what is happening here.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Science for Non-Scientists: Part 2 - Theories and Stuff

From Hypothesis to Law

Following on from part 1, a basic discussion of the Scientific Method, I'm now going to move to looking at theories. In science ideas move thought a series of stages which signify their acceptance. This is an important concept because as the idea moves though the stages, it also signifies the amount of facts and data they backup that idea. Broadly these are;

- 1. Hypothesis:
This is an idea that you wish to test out, a premiss or a concept. It is an idea waiting for evidence. However, confusingly this is what in normal language we would call a 'Theory'. A hypothesis can be anything: 'I think the moon is made of cheese', 'I think the planet is warming', 'I think milk comes from cows' - anything. There is also the null-hypothesis, which is where your stated premiss is a negative, so for example 'I don't think the moon is made of cheese', 'I don't think the earth is warming' etc. The null-hypothesis works by taking your hypothesis, then you then try to disprove it - this is considered a better method because you avoid the problem of confirmation bias (where you search for information that confirms of your prejudices, rather than what might be true). Hypothesis (and their nulls) are weak ideas that can (and are) easily overturned by contrary data and experiments.

- 2. Theory: This is a framework that explains lots of facts. It is what a hypothesis can become if you've gathered lots and lots of data and/or done lots and lots experiments and other people doing other experiments and data gathering that all arrive at the same point. Theories are not easy to get to in science and once something is considered a theory it is a mark of huge importance. It means that lots of divergent paths have come together to all underline the same point over and over. It is the opposite to what the word means in everyday speech. So when Darwin first published 'On the Origin of Species' it was a hypothesis - now, with it's added parts and divergent lines of evidence from biology, ecology, palaeontology, genetics and more it is considered a theory. Theories are strong ideas that are hard to overturn because not only would you need to produce data that the current cannot account for, but you would need to explain what happens to all the other lines of evidence that back up the theory.

Theories also tend to consist of inter-locking parts that work together. While a theory is hard to overturn, the interlocking parts can and are often modified, downgraded, upgraded etc. So when Darwin proposed evolution he only had one and a half parts of what the theory is today; he got natural selection and he sort of understood that there where other bits that had to exist for the theory to work, but didn't have the mechanisms to prove it. Later research filled the gaps and added the transmission of genes and random mutation of genes into the mix to complete the theory. Since then the relative importance of each of the bits has been/is debated and moved around - but the core idea of evolution only gets stronger as the evidence piles up.

- 3. Laws: A constant that is universal. This is the top stage for an idea in science. They are so strong that it is considered almost nothing can break them. They tend to be used for stuff where there are measurable and definable aspects to them - where mathematical predictions are at their core. An example would be Newton's Laws of Motion - for which there are definite measurements you can take that always end up being predicted by the laws. Laws can be overturned, but not very often. It would be a major, major event for this to happen.

So I hope you can see how ideas in science move though stages, if the idea is robust - it gathers more and more evidence and passes up the hierarchy of terms from hypothesis to theory to law. Like a martial arts student going from white belt to red belt to block belt as they accumulate skills and experience.

The Abuse of Theories

Put even more simply, a hypothesis is an opinion whereas a theory and a law is a fact. This is where you see people failing to grasp the concepts; they confuse opinion with fact. So a common pseudo-attack on evolution is to say something like, "If it is a fact, why do they call it a theory?" - this is a huge fail because that person does not understand what a theory in science is.

The second common mistake is to not understand that a theory is a robust and complex body of facts and ideas. Take the example of global warming denial; when a new bit of evidence comes out that suggests one aspect of the theory does not operate quite as it was thought, they assume the whole theory is broken and thus disproved. Not so, it means the theory may well get modified to account for the new data. This might sound a bit sneaky, but again remember that theories of large interlocking ideas with lots of evidence behind them; one part of the idea can easily be modified without breaking how they work together - indeed you expect modifications of the whole as the data piles up. Theories almost never stay the same - as new data arrives, it needs to be accounted for and so the theory advances - evolves, if you will. Here's an example; Some recent NASA research showed a cooling of the upper atmosphere. Denialists jumped on this as proof that the earth was not cooling. However, if they had bothered to read the whole thing, they'd see that one of the interlocking parts that the theory of global warming predicts is that this warming has no implications for climate change in the troposphere, a fundamental prediction of climate change theory is that the upper atmosphere will cool in response to increasing carbon dioxide.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

File Under 'Denial of Reality'

Further evidence, if any were needed, that those who claim to be in-denial sceptical of global warming. Here's what one fuck-all bejonas says about 'evolution', the age of the earth being millions of years old and global warming in one huge bundle of horse-shit...

In a nutshell, this is what I believe:

1. Origin studies, (whether Creation or evolution) and the idea of "millions of years" does not belong in the science classroom because these are not testable, repeatable or observable; they are philosophical and accepted by faith.

2. If evolution is taught in school, students should be taught the truth about it and the scientific data surrounding it. Ideas that were once championed by evolutionists are no longer valid, much like the false science behind man-made global warming. Students deserve the truth.

What he is saying is that: Students deserve the truth provided the truth is a myopic Christian-fundamentalist fantasy that has been disproved time after time be the evidence. That sort of truth.