Hardly anybody knows basic science and technology these days. Few of us are going to wade through the National Academy of Sciences report. We depend on intermediaries to tell us what to think, and a lot of them are also scientifically illiterate. Most journalists are generally more interested in controversy than in evidence. Environmental activists are in the business of opposing, and have no interest in solving real-world problems like providing heat and light at a reasonable cost. The people who actually know how things work – engineers and technology types – tend to be uninterested in politics and are poor communicators. Meantime, some of the most deeply anti-science activists (like the artfully named Union of Concerned Scientists) are quoted as if they were neutral actors for the public interest.
Some of my dearest friends harbour irrational fears about nuclear power, agricultural chemicals and anything genetically modified. They consider themselves enlightened, and since enlightened people are against these things, they are too. These beliefs are an expression of identity, just as a belief in creationism is part of the identity of a Southern Baptist.
Fifty years ago, enlightened people campaigned to ban the bomb. Today, they campaign to ban GMOs and modern agriculture. Vivienne Westwood, the famous British fashion designer, hand-delivered an anti-GMO petition to the British government earlier this month. Asked about people who can’t afford expensive organic food, she declared that they should “eat less.” She believes one of the problems with non-organic mass food is that it’s too cheap.
But in most parts of the world, food is not too cheap. And the fear-mongering campaign against genetically modified food by the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth has been a serious setback for global food security, depriving millions of people of more nutritious, affordable and sustainable food sources. “The actions of Greenpeace in forestalling the use of golden rice to address micronutrient deficiencies in children makes them the moral and indeed practical equivalent of the Nigerian mullahs who preached against the polio vaccine,” says Mark Lynas, an environmental activist who reversed his position on GMOs and now campaigns for them. “They were stopping a lifesaving technology solely to flatter their own fanaticism.”
The kind of doomsayers who warn that oil sands and pipelines will wreak environmental devastation are often the same people who warn that modern agriculture will prove catastrophic. These people are not harmless. As Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, observed, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”
If climate science is settled, why do its predictions keep changing? And how is it that the great physicist Freeman Dyson, who did some climate research in the late 1970s, thinks today’s climate-change Cassandras are hopelessly mistaken?
They deal with the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, argues Dyson, ignoring the effect of biology, i.e., vegetation and topsoil. Further, their predictions rest on models they fall in love with: “You sit in front of a computer screen for 10 years and you start to think of your model as being real.” Not surprisingly, these models have been “consistently and spectacularly wrong” in their predictions, write atmospheric scientists Richard McNider and John Christy — and always, amazingly, in the same direction.
Settled? Even the U.K.’s national weather service concedes there’s been no change — delicately called a “pause” — in global temperature in 15 years. If even the raw data is recalcitrant, let alone the assumptions and underlying models, how settled is the science?
Last Friday, Obama ostentatiously visited drought-stricken California. Surprise! He blamed climate change. Here even The New York Times gagged, pointing out that far from being supported by the evidence, “the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter.”
Another one from Alex Epstein in Forbes:
I explicitly acknowledged the phenomenon of global warming. And if you read the work of the rest of the “deniers,” you’ll find that most if not all of them do, too.
The real point of contention is not whether there is some global warming and whether human beings have some climate impact, but a) whether warming is a problem and b) whether fossil fuel energy should be restricted. My answers are a) “No” and b) “No!” As I explained in the column Rolling Stone cited (but may not have read):
Our cultural discussion on “climate change” fixates on whether or not fossil fuels impact the climate. Of course they do—everything does—but the question that matters is whether it is becoming safer or more dangerous. Here, the data is unambiguous—in the last 80 years, as fossil fuels have increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from .03% to all of .04%, we have become 50 times less likely to die because of climate-related causes. Give thanks to the proliferation of climate-protection technology (climate control, sturdy homes, weather satellites, drought-relief convoys, modern agriculture), which are made possible by fossil fuels.
And, as I also explained in the column, Rolling Stone cited, not only do fossil fuels make us safer from the climate, they dramatically improve human life across the board.
The average life expectancy of a human being without electricity–and there are 1.4 billion in this category–is 48 years old. In the last 30 years, thanks to a tripling or more of electricity production in countries throughout the developing world, mostly using coal, over 2.5 billion people have added 6 years to their life expectancy. Think about someone you love that you lost early, and think about what 6 more years would mean. Now multiply that by 2.5 billion people.
Around the world, hundreds of millions of individuals have gotten their first light-bulb, their first refrigerator, their first year with clean drinking water or a full stomach, their first decent-paying job thanks to coal-based electricity. Without coal, none of that would have been possible. In the US, 30 years ago the average household had 3 electronic devices—today it has 25, overwhelmingly thanks to fossil fuels.
If Rolling Stone has a counter-argument to the economic and environmental case for fossil fuels, let it make it. But to pretend that case doesn’t exist, to pretend that its advocates deny basic scientific facts, is dishonest.
Ben Carson is disappointing. Says evolution is anti-marriage.
“Dr. Carson has also used his platform as a famous neurosurgeon to promote the rejection of evolution,” the explanation reads. ”‘Ultimately, if you accept the evolutionary theory,’ he said, in a statement that would apply to the majority of students and faculty at Johns Hopkins, ‘you dismiss ethics, you don’t have to abide by a set of moral codes, you determine your own conscience based on your own desires.’ This belief of Dr. Carson’s was unknown to many of us at the time of his nomination.” [Link]
The two major US temperature databases have released their consolidated results for 2012, and as had been expected, global warming has failed to occur for approximately the fourteenth year running. One of the US agencies downgraded 2012 to tenth-hottest ever: it had been on track to rank as 9th hottest.
The tenth-hottest result comes from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one of the three main global databases used to assess planetary temperatures and the only one of the three not so far linked to political climate activism*.
The NOAA says that the 2012 average was 14.47±0.08°C, which makes it the tenth hottest in its records. Preliminary figures released last November ahead of the Doha carbon talks by the World Meteorological Organisation, which averages all three datasets, suggested that the year would be ninth hottest and NASA agrees. However the difference is not a big one: the projected WMO figure was 14.45°C.
However one slices it, the world has not warmed up noticeably since 1998 or so, though all three datasets show noticeable warming in the two decades prior to that.
Writes Scientist Keith Lockitch on FDA Versus Stem Cell Therapies:
Who owns your cells? The FDA seems to think it does, given its lawsuit against Regenerative Sciences, a company that treats orthopedic injuries by extracting, culturing and reinjecting adult stem cells derived from a patient’s bone marrow.
The case is precedent-setting in that FDA is claiming authority to regulate a patient’s own cells as though they were chemical drugs. As one researcher describes it:
If you start to look at this product as being the patient’s own stem cell, how can the FDA claim Regenerative is manufacturing [cells] – they’re culturing them. . . . They seem to have lost perspective on using autologous stem cells. There’s just no way you could apply manufacturing standards. . . . The FDA does not come into a cardiology practice and tell doctors how to do their surgeries or how to do heart replacements. And yet they feel they can come into a stem cell clinic.
The problem with FDA “coming into a stem cell clinic” is that this could have a significantly chilling effect on this whole field of medical research. Under the burden of FDA’s regulatory intervention, the costs of developing adult stem cell treatments would explode and treatments that might have otherwise been profitable might never even make it to market—as has happened with drug development in the U.S. And while stem cell therapies are under FDA review, patients will be denied government permission to use treatments derived from their own cells. [FDA Versus Stem Cell Therapies]
Read the full post at VOICES for REASON.
Dr. Hurd’s third book is finally available for sale! Autographed copies of “Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)” are available directly from DrHurd.com.
In his new book, Dr. Hurd shows people how to avoid the dangers of most contemporary therapies and how to rely on your own judgment when facing emotional problems. It is an indispensable guide to choosing a therapist who can produce the best results for you.
Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference) also includes a foreword written by none other than celebrated clinical psychologist Stanton Samenow, Ph.D.
Physicist David Harriman has started an online site where he gives insight into his excellent book, “The Logical Leap.” Sample articles include:
- The Logical Leap Goes to College
- Is the Discovery Process “Linear” or “Spiral”?
- Free Falling with Galileo
- Is My Account of History “Unconventional”?
Writes Harriman, “The Logical Leap is written for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of how we discover generalizations. When we generalize from observed cases, how do we know that we’re right? My book tries to answer this question for the field of physical science, but the basic points of method can be applied to any field. It’s a “self-help” book (albeit on a more philosophic level). I will use this blog to elaborate on interesting topics in epistemology and in history of science. Also, I may give some background on how the book developed and what I learned while writing it. And, occasionally, I’ll comment on reactions to the book (positive and negative).”
Definitely worth a visit.