Really Sciency

Visit my other blog 'Really Sciency' looking at Climate Science and its portrayal, misrepresentation and denial in the media.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A short step from madness.

A schocking report in the Guardian made me think. In Ghania a 72 year old woman was burnt as a witch;
Ghanaian woman burned to death for being a 'witch' | World news | The Guardian
This terrible inicedent was carried out by several people including a Christian pastor and several apparently otherwise ordinary people.

This just goes to show that if you believe in a paranormal deity and supernatural evil you are a very short step away from this type of behaviour. Most liberal theists might try to disagree with me, but if they do hold such beliefs all it takes is a change in their personal or social circumstances or a charismatic leader and their god and religious beliefs will be invoked to explain it and drive their actions to rectify it. It matters not how liberal the theist is, how westernised or civilised they think they are, if they truly believe evil is affecting their lives they will take the actions they believe to defeat it.

To paraphrase something I've heard; Good people will do good things and evil people will do evil things but for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Why don't Creationists try to understand the science?

Most religious people are creationists to some degree but the vast majority accept the science and evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution even if they still hold that their deity started the spark of life and guided evolution in some way. I have no problem with religious people if they want to believe that as long as they don't actually deny the science. So when I talk of creationists it is the fundamental kind - the 6 day kind, even if they hold that a day in creation is longer that an actual day or not. It is this type of creationist I have the problem with, the ones that take their holy scripture as infallible and perfect and ultimately as a science book.

What annoys me is that these creationists have never bothered to really understand evolution and look at the evidence. They go straight to the creationists texts which show no level of understanding. If creationists really understood evolution, and they still rejected it, then they would be in a far better position to argue against it because there are still unknowns and lack of evidence about specific examples, but they just try to use the old blind chance/ eye complexity etc. as 'proof' of intelligent design.

I have crossed words with this type of creationist on various forums and  they see their blind faith and ignorance as a virtue - it isn't and if you believe in a deity that thinks it is, then you have to wonder what sort of creature would expect that from an intelligent creation.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

80 percent of Scientific American readers deny global warming!

Well this in a headline certainly got my interest. I consider myself a Scientific American on-line reader, see my Links page.

It was claimed in the the Wall Street Journal but actually turned out to be pure spin of a very flawed rough online poll carried out by the Magazine and they have refuted it and rebuked the author.

Just how desperate do these science deniers have to be? I have started to think it is all in an attempt to justify their own beliefs.

As to what Scientific American readers actually think;

"40 percent of respondents said that over the past year they became "more certain that humans are changing climate"; 46 percent said their views were "unchanged" and only 14 percent were "more doubtful that human activity is affecting the climate."

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Real Climategate

There are several things that could really qualify as a real scandal in climate science far above the release of scientists emails showing them to be the  normal type of people who get pissed at detractors and consider making things hard for them. One recent one must be the latest revelations about the Wegman report.

The Wegman report was commissioned in 2006 by two Republican US senators, Joe Barton and Ed Whitfield, to look at the statistical analysis of climatologist Michael Manns et al paper that contained the Hockey Stick graph, and also considered the personal and professional relationships between Mann et al. and other members of the paleoclimate community.It was used in a congressional hearing.

Although better qualified people could have bee chosen, the job was given to a team of statisticians led by Edward Wegman. It basically concluded that there were failings in Mann's analysis which was grabbed by climate deniers with shouts that hockey stick is broken, with the apparent belief that the whole theory of AGW was dependent on this paper and not the many independent threads of supporting scientific evidence.

As 'Hockey Sticks go Mann's may have been the first but as far as I know there have been a dozen or more independent historical temperature reconstructions and all show a marked increase in present temperatures, and most are very much 'Hockey Stick' in shape.

But now as the news article linked above shows, the Wegman report had some very serious failings indeed. Not least that of 35 of the report's 91 pages "are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning."

If there ever was a scandal in climate science, a true Climategate, surely this must be it?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Nuclear Power - No Way!

Actually yes way. Most AGW science deniers seem to assume that thoses who accept the science must be green, tree hugging lefties, rather than just someone who accepts that the scientific method is the best process we have for understanding the world, and it's conclusion the best information we have to base policy and decisions on.

So I do support the nuclear power option. It is s proven low carbon option we have to supply energy demand when all thing are considered. BTW nuclear is one of the safest forms of power. There and hundreds killed in the coal and gas industries around the world. How many people have been killed in nuclear accidents? Not sure of the total figure but most people assume Chernobyl killed hundreds or even thousands, but it was less than 60 and most of those were the ill prepared emergency services.

However Nuclear is not the silver bullet to offset carbon emissions. It is fairly expensive. Processing and mining uranium is very costly and environmentally damaging. There certainly isn't enough capacity or perhaps even  uranium to supply the worlds energy needs. Plus, currently there is little in the way of long term waste containment.

Add all this up with the simple fact that there are several countries that have growing energy needs but seem so politically unstable that even allowing them access to nuclear material might end up being a very bad thing, and nuclear can only ever be a limited option for any low carbon future.

So to put things simply, I have no problems with nuclear energy supplying power but it's ability to do so in the near future is limited.

God Changes His Mind!

Apparently revealed to his vicar on Earth, it could be acceptable to use condoms sometimes after all, if used to prevent infections;

Even though they are actually aggravate the AIDS problem;

Must be a miracle.

Or Maybe God doesn't!
It now appears that the Popes comments have been taken out of context. Catholics all over the world have been so desperate to feel good about the contraception they regularly uses that they jumped on the remark.

Strangely the Pope used an example of a male homosexual prostitute who might use a condom to prevent infection. It being used for the protection of women is still a terrible sin. This also just happens to be the kind of protection a abusive Priest might benefit from.

So that's cleared that up then. If you partner is HIV+ and you are a good Catholic then you must insist that any sexual congress be still carried out with the risk contracting a deadly, currently incurable disease.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Mother's Day vs Muslim Pligramage

Western commercialism can take a back seat - We managed to invent or a least commercially promote various 'days' like Mothers, Fathers, and Valentines with the shops and gift industries happy to convince us to buy a few cards or splash out on some flowers or chocolates. But all this fades into to background compared to the Hajj.

The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage that Muslims are obligated to make at least once in their lifetime and must be a travel agents dream. Pilgrims travel Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, and the pilgrimage is one of the religion’s chief obligations. It typically lasts five days is one of the greatest religious events in the world, with many Muslims, travelling long distances and incurring huge expenses.

If only we had the foresight to make Christmas or Easter a pilgrimage, Mr Branson or British Airways would be quids in getting us all to the Holy Land. Come to think of it, the last times hordes of Christians went to the Holy Land things didn't turn out well. I think I'll stick with a visit to Hallmark on line.

The Cost of Climate Change

I a previous post I was surprised that natural disaster, not including climate change, could amount to $185 billion a year by 2100 and climate change would be much less at $28-$68 billion annually. This was reported in Scientific American. But the climate costs didn't include other factors such as desertification or rising sea levels.

Now another report also in Scientific American suggests that costs have been underestimated and tries to nail down what the costs of Climate Change could be. There are still a lot of uncertainties in this but an inter-agency workgroup's best guess of what each ton of carbon dioxide dumped in the atmosphere costs is roughly $121 billion worth of damages annually. It should be noted that this is American research and these figures only reflect the cost to the US economy. Costs globally I imagine would be much, much more.

Can God really know everything?

God is supposed to know everything - he made it after all. Do Christians really believe this? Does he know the position of every atom in the universe? Does he know the speed of every insects wing. Did he know I'd be drawn to post this?

I suppose my question really is if he knows everything does he know every decision we are going to make through all ours lives even though we have free will? Does God already know the outcomes of our lives? Does he already know who gets to heaven and who doesn't? Surely he knows our souls before we were born as he made us, then he must already know the outcomes of our lives even if we do not. What is the point of us being here? According to this, God already knows who will make it to heaven and who won't. Yet we are still put on this earth so suffer and presumably amuse our creator. What is the point?

And if God doesn't 'know' the outcome of your life and It depends on the choices you make and the events you can't, or don't know about in time to avoid then surely this means that God isn’t really omnipotent. And at the risk of sounding silly it seems that life is just a celestial version of Big Brother. Everyone is put in the same place and God, and his son and angles I suppose, watch the entertainment and occasionally intervene or throw in a task to make things interesting.

Apoligist or Critical Thinker?

A video has appeared on-line which seems to show a university Prof, segregate his students in to groups of those who reject the idea of man made climate change and those who accept the science. He then goes on to berate the climate deniers for killing their children and billions of others.

I became aware of this video on Steve's Goddard's blog, ... ah-hem ... 'Real Science'. I have a feeling that Goddard's 'Real Science' may be mentioned in future posts.

Anyway the video does look terrible, with a teacher ranting at his poor students just because they disagree with the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). But something smelled a rat. It all seemed too convenient that climate science deniers would be offered this on a plate - students being coerced, frightened and ridiculed. But it was clear the video had been edited and what got me really suspicious was that there was a seating plan telling the various groups of students where to sit and at one point a student makes a comment about their spokesperson being allowed to speak. Surely this was just a lively class debate. I made a comment on Goddard's blog voicing my suspicions;

"I would be on Steve’s side about the indoctrination of young people but I strongly suspect that this has been spun into something it isn’t.
It looks like a class debate to me. Each side seems to have a spokesperson and there seems to be plenty of humour between the groups and the teacher. Because the video has been edited we do not know if we only see one side of the debate, nor the results of it."
This comment received a typical reply from Mr. Goddard's fans, I was an APOLOGIST (Yep, it was in caps). Imagine suggesting 'It must not be what it appears to be!'
Guess what? A few post latter and there was a retraction on 'Real Science'. Another video is found showing a different and very similar story to what I thought. The professor is seen challenging both sides with extreme rhetoric.

Because this poor guy was now the subject of science denial fever he issued his own version of this 'indoctrination' event, which was reported here. He said he used some stronger rhetoric to force students to think about possible solutions that could impact their futures. “There’s nothing wrong with anything I did there,” he said. “I was only trying to challenge them to think. “I was challenging everyone. That’s part of my job. I was not dictating any decision, because I wouldn’t know what to dictate anyway,” Which is exactly the opposite of what Goddard and others in the climate denial sphere initially accused him of. I wouldn't be surprised if the highly edited and misleading video is still used in future by some, creating a meme of poor students getting pressured into thinking in a particular way.

Of course with this information I could respond to my accuser;
 "I am not an APOLOGIST, I’m a skeptic, something science deniers like to be called but never live up to.
And it seems I was right to be skeptical because Steve has now issued a retraction. It does look like this was a debate and was edited to show only one side with the intention of getting those without critical thinking to react in exactly they way they did. It looks like this teacher was actually challenging his students to think for themselves and form their own counter arguments, which is exactly the opposite of indoctrination which is what some have claimed here. You wanted to take this video at face value simply because you thought it supported your beliefs.
Speaking of apologists, I’m man enough to accept one if you are man enough to make it."
Perhaps he will. Any further correspondence can be found here

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Is Scientology any less plausible than Christianity?

As I understand the religion/cult of Scientology it is decidedly weird, involving belief is space aliens and galactic wars but is this any less plausible than Christianity  with its miracles, virgin births and talking donkeys?

Of course it isn't. I'm even sure they have the holy writings to prove it!

The trouble with Christianity is that if the implausible is pointed out some Christians say it is not meant to be taken literally, while others still stick by it doggedly. Who decides how it should be interpreted? - Priests, pastors and others who can gain by their point of view being accepted.

Why wouldn't a god make things simple?

Natural disasters or climate change - which is worse?

I found something surprising in a recent article in Scientific American about a report in to natural disasters; most people would assume that climate change, since it is oft stated as mankind's biggest threat, would be top when it comes to losses. But this report sees natural disasters counting for about $185 billion a year by 2100. Climate change is not included but is estimated as an additional $28-$68 billion annually. However this did not include other costs linked to climate change, such as desertification or rising sea levels, which may be substantial.

The costs are expected to increase because the number of people at risk of storms or earthquakes in large cities could double to 1.5 billion by 2050. Simple preventative measures could curb losses from natural disasters if implemented as policy.

Suffering for God

It was pointed out to me once that if I use the worlds suffering to support my non-belief how come the world's poorest people, are not the greatest atheists. Those who suffer the most should presumably be those who believe least.

My reply; The poorest people are usually the least educated and the most susceptible to religious indoctrination. Belief in something better is often the only hope they have, so no, the worlds poorest people are not likely to be the greatest Atheists but the most religious. It should be perfectly obvious to most people that the deprived in this life are more likely to need the hope of something better after death, and thus rely on religion.

Many studies show the more educated/intelligent people are the least religious/most atheist they are.

Happy Birthday Climategate

Apparently today, I haven't actually marked it on the calendar, is the first anniversary of the theft / hacked / release (delete as appropriate) of personal emails from climatologists working at the Uni of East Anglia.

It was immediately followed by claims from those who deny the science that this was a smoking gun proving everything from fraud, to sacrificing children and viewing their entrails.

A year on, most of these claims remain plus that of white wash, since several enquires proved other wise, we now know that climate scientists are ordinary people after all and that the science, if not some of it's administration, is unaffected.

It also now seems that these scientists are starting to stick up for themselves and have formed a few groups like a 'climate rapid response team' to refute and rebuke the claims and misinformation of the people and groups that deny their scientific conclusions.

This is certainly one positive change over the last year so it might be good to make this birthday a regular time to view how climate science is being portrayed to the public.

Why I am not a Christian

Bertrand Russell the philospher delivered a lecture called 'Why I am not a Christian' on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall. I too am no Christian and while I would not compare my reasons in the same light as such an academic, I do have them.

The sort version is that I was once a  committed Christian who accepted Jesus as my personal saviour and prayed regularly. One thing that really began to worry me was the issue of suffering. There was so much suffering in the world. Children born into misery and dying in hunger in pain, I always asked Why? To me there was no point in saying God didn't do it, or it was evil men or even the devil - The god I believed in created everything including evil. He could step in and stop suffering at any time. When I asked the question myself I got the 'God works in Mysterious ways' type of answers. I decided that the God I believed in wouldn't let this happen and started to reconsider my beliefs. I gradually became agnostic and now would consider myself atheist. Stating this isn't to try and de-convert anyone but to me senseless suffering is not something a loving god would allow. I lost my believe in a god because I could not face the prospect that a being exists that can intervene and chooses not to.

Now as a recovering Christian the world without a god in it makes much more sense to me than it ever did when I believed there was one in it.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Why Lazarus? Why not John Smith?

My opinions are not intended to make me friends. In fact where religion ans pseudo-science abound, a rational opinion can incite the exact opposite, so I do not intend to use my own name or give enough information for some fundamentalist nut job to track me down if that is what the voices in his head are telling them to do. Some might see this as cowardice - I see it as common sense.

Often when posting, particularly on religious message boards, some assume calling myself Lazarus must have a religious connotation, usually assuming at first I must be religiously inclined. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started using the nick Lazarus many years ago when the only access to the internet most people had was a dial-up connection and a whistling modem. I like many other young men, (I was out of my teens), played games like DOOM and the original Quake against each other over the internet. The basic idea if you have never played, was to kill the others while running around Gothic type castle picking up weapons to do the job. Once dead you 're-spawned' back to life to continue play. Not being a great player, getting killed and re-spawning was an all to common occurrence. What other name could a player like me have?

First Post - Why?

The first post of a new blog must be the most difficult to write. It is supposed to be where your state your reasons for it's very existence, and justify why the world needs another opinion form someone they have never heard of. I can't give answers to any of this. All I can say is why I bothered.

I have been commenting for several years on a range of forums, and blogs, mainly where I see reason and rationally disappear in an avalanche of nonsense. So my posts have tended to end up on sites about religion, I'm not religious, and science where pseudo-science reigns. Some of mycomments seemed important to me, at least at the time. It seems that to keep these thoughts together will be a worthwhile exercise purely for myself so a journal or blog would fit the bill.

Since my comments have always been in public and have on occasion been commented on themselves by others it seems a blog where further comments could be made would be the way to go. So this blog will be a rehash of other postings I have made on several other sites, along with anything else that comes to mind including I'm sure the odd digression.

I have no ambitions about this becoming a blog of any particular note, just somewhere I can express myself and allow my own opinions to be challenged by others if they wish

Tuesday, 9 November 2010