Really Sciency

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

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Creationism at odds with scientific fact.

It seems that when I expressed concern about creationism being taught in the British New School system I was not the only one. The Department for Education Minister has said that it is "crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact" after a warning that the new free schools could be exploited by religious fundamentalists looking to promote their anti-science beliefs.

One proposal that seems to be already accepted is from the Everyday Champions Church, in Nottinghamshire, which submitted its proposal for a 652-place school. Their leader said;
 "Creationism will be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences,"Similarly, evolution will be taught as a theory. We believe children should have a broad knowledge of all theories in order that they can make informed choice."
Such platitudes do not reassure me. Clearly creationism will permeate through school lessons and ethos even if it is not openly taught as science. Whereas Evolution will be taught as a 'theory' and by that I suspect theory will be used in it's everyday non technical definition of a conjecture or speculation and not in it's true scientific meaning; A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena.

And I have to wonder what other accepted scientific theories will be taught to explain the diversity of life on Earth to give their children this broad knowledge they mention.

Ministers have said they will not accept any proposal where there are concerns about the people behind the project. Well I still have concerns about the Everyday Champions Academy so lets see if their proposal is accepted or not.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A Glowing Report on Radiation!

Ann Coulter is at it again it seems. By 'it' I mean putting her foot in her mouth.

Setting aside the rather sick pun in my title, considering current events in Japan, which is actually the Coulter's title of her latest column, she is arguing that radiation exposure is a good thing. Well common sense shows that it can be if used in very controlled and specific ways but her glee at the idea of millions being exposed to greater than recommended doses following leaks at Fukushima nuclear plant with the clear implication that exposure will be beneficial to the health of many is both ignorant and absurd.

It is good and rather worrying to see Bill O'Reilly actually be the voice of sanity for a change. But just in case her rather persuasive way of shouting over him has anyone thinking that she might actually have a point it is worth checking out Scientific America and Philip Yam's piece; 'Attention, Ann Coulter: Report to aisle 5 for radiation clean-up' or even better Prof. PZ Myers blog; 'Will radiation hormesis protect us from exploding nuclear reactors?'

For more Coulter ignorance see;
The Christian Taliban!
Anonymous prejudice


Thursday, 17 March 2011

Global Warming does not exist - official!

I have been following events in the US House of Representatives where the US Congress was poised to pass legislation that would overturn a scientific finding on the dangers of global warming. The bill is intended to prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, which the agency declared a threat to public welfare in 2009. That assessment serves as the EPA’s legal basis for regulation, so repealing the ‘endangerment finding’ would eliminate its authority over greenhouse gases.

Several top climate scientists including the few qualified sceptics testified last week in front of Congress in an attempt to show the scientific case for global warming and therefore allowing the EPA to do its job.

But but as a podcast on the Scientific American site reports;
"Congress has finally acted on global warming - by denying it exists."
Not even the sceptical scientists deny that global warming exists, and as far as I know they even all apportion part of the blame to Human emissions. So for a legislative authority to actually declare that it doesn't even exist is bizarre. It really is like passing a law against gravity. That a scientifically sound finding had no bearing on the decision to push the legislation is a global embarrassment.

How can it be ethical, never mind legal, to pass judgement on scientific findings rather than their implicatiopns? This seems a clear case of politicians with their heads in the sand trying to avoid the implications of scientific findings.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Am I a hypocrite?

Before thoses who wish to remain annomyous jump in with a resounding yes;

I have been accused of being a hypocrite by 'Christians' several times. This has happened when I admitted to being a cultural Christian, attending some church services to support my religious family members and friends, sending my children to a faith school etc.

That's all by the by. However a Christian friend asked me to donate to Christian Aid. I already donate from my wages to a secular charity. Normally I would give without thinking but paused as I thought about those who have called me a hypocrite previously. However I did contribute in any case. Do Christians and people of faith think it was a hypocritical thing to do? Do other non believers?

To be honest I would prefer to contribute to secular charities only. I have a monthly debit to a children's leukaemia charity and will give to the likes of Oxfam but would not normally give to Christian Aid or Cathod unless asked directly by someone I know which is very likely to happen in the near future given the situation in Japan.

I would also prefer to have my kids go to a non faith school. But I have only a half vote in that decision and my wife is a regular church goer. The school is also one of the best in my area - so anything for an easy life.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Another finger print?

Just yesterday and article in Discovery News called; 'Earth's Core ID's Natural and Human-Induced Warming' looks at the human contribution to global warming in a novel way.

If I understand it correctly, a correlation between global temperature variation and the changes in the rate of Earth's rotation  has been found but this correlation breaks down after the 1930 suggesting the rise in temperatures is due to something other than natural influences - and we all know what the prime candidate for that is.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

CO2 Triggered a Global Warming 40 Million Years Ago

Atmospheric CO2 Triggered a Global Warming Event 40 Million Years Ago

Microfossils found in the drill cores.

An interesting study suggests that CO2 has been a primary driver of Co2 in the past;

It is interesting to see that they determined a very similar climate sensitivity to Hansen, IPCC etc. The article concludes;
"The result, he says, will help climatologists get a better grip on the concept of climate sensitivity—the degree to which a global temperature increase is entirely dependent on an accompanying rise in CO2. The authors conclude that the climate sensitivity during the MECO led to a 2- to 5-degree C increase per doubling of atmospheric CO2.

The study does leave one big question outstanding: Where did all the MECO CO2 come from? This remains an area of speculation, Houben says, although scientists are fairly sure the source was not organic."
One possibility I can think of that isn’t mentioned is Methane hydrate, an ice like combination of methane and water that forms in deep ocean. These have been studied as possible energy reserves by oil companies. There is now evidence that the methane in these can be released by events like undersea avalanches. These may have been the source of the massive Carbon Input During the Latest Paleocene Thermal Maximum.

"However the CO2 got there, the takeaway from this study is simple: "In the past," Zachos says, "whenever atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, the climate warms.""

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Atheist doctors more likely to care for the poor

Atheist doctors more likely to care for the poor than religious ones

"This came as both a surprise and a disappointment," study author Farr Curlin, MD, said. "The Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist scriptures all urge physicians to care for the poor, and the great majority of religious physicians describe their practice of medicine as a calling. Yet we found that religious physicians were not more likely to report practice among the underserved than their secular colleagues."

Reported with references here. This research is from a few years ago but I'm at a loss to explain why there were results like it describes. Why should a doctors faith make any difference? Perhaps the difference isn't really statistically significant and this result is more an artefact of the sample - I hope so.

But I am concerned that the doctor doing the study claimed to be disappointed. Did he expect people without religious belief to be less moral and more self centred?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

2011 census

Topical repost from satirical News Thump

Update: Our house census form just arrived today 07/03/20121

2011 census organisers brace themselves for millions pretending to be Christians

Census 2011 christianity
Organisers of the 2011 census are bracing themselves for a ‘tidal wave’ of jokers pretending to be Christians in this year’s household questionnaire.

Census-takers are gloomily predicting as many as 42,000,000 will style themselves as devout followers of Jesus Christ following an orchestrated campaign on Facebook to force the recognition of Christianity as Britain’s ‘official’ religion.

“I’m afraid it’s been coming for a while now,” admits Census Director Glen Watson.

“Clearly we can’t tell people not to make things up, and if they tell us that they really believe in the gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ, we have to take them at their word.”

“As long as they’re telling us their real name and address, that’s something I suppose.”

Census 2011 Religious Declaration

The option to declare oneself ‘Christian’ appears for the first time on this year’s census, alongside declarations of allegiance to paganism, voodoo, Baha’i, spirit worship, the veneration of ancestors, and ‘West Bromwich Albion’.

But while the long-running internet campaign to encourage Britons to declare themselves ‘Christian’ may have begun as a practical joke, it has snowballed after catching the imagination of plastic Catholics, Church Wedding Anglicans, and sanctimonious hypocrites everywhere.

“I haven’t been inside a church since my daughter was christened,” says self-styled Christian Sean Byrne, who will be ticking the box marked ‘Christian’ on March 27th.

“No, actually, I went back once when we applied to get her a place at St Anthony’s, and I needed Father Liam’s signature.”

“But I’m usually busy on Sundays.”

His neighbour, 58 year old Miriam Hythe, will also be describing herself as a Christian, as well as white, English, and living in a detached house with gas-fired central heating.

“My daughter had such a wonderful wedding, I really don’t think a Register Office is the same,” she enthused.
“The flowers were all lovely and we gave the bell-ringers a bottle of whisky. It rained a little, but you wouldn’t know from the photographs.”

“They’re separated now, of course.”

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Are reason and rationality trumped by emotions and feelings?

Would you rather earn £50,000 a year while other people make £25,000, or would you rather earn £100,000 a year while other people get £250,000? Assume for the moment that prices of goods and services will stay the same.

Question 2:
Mr A is waiting in line at a cinema. When he gets to the ticket window, he is told that as he is the 100,000th customer of the cinema, he has just won £100.
Mr B is waiting in line at a different cinema. The man in front of him wins £1,000 for being the 1-millionth customer of the theatre. Mr. B wins £150.
Would you prefer to be Mr A with £100 or Mr B with £150?

Apparently we have evolved to believe weird things about money and we are not rational, self-maximizing or efficient in making economic choices.

The common answers to the questions along with a fascinating experiment with monkeys and economics can be found in this article from a few years ago in the L.A. Times.

This story reminded me of a couple of things;

A friend got 5 numbers on the Lottery but only got a few hundred and was gutted as that week a lot of others also got the same and the sum was shared. Instead of feeling fortunate he felt unlucky and I really believe that he would have felt better if he had not won anything.

I was listening to a radio program recently about poverty within families in the UK. As expected, some people contacted the show saying the usual "Things were a lot worse in my day". However the poverty expert who was getting interviewed said it was about relative poverty. A kid going to school today may have shoes on their feet, enough food to eat and more that one set of good clothes but if all the other kids have so much more then they are still impoverished relative to them and will still be disadvantaged.

It seems to be in our nature not to get in a position where we will be disadvantaged compared to others and apparently evolution accounts for a lot of it.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011