Friday, 1 July 2016

Politics is a dirty business

Watch this video.

Compare with the climate science denial arguments.

No wonder half of the UK is angry. (That includes me)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Arguing with deniers

The other week I wrote about why we should argue with deniers - because their anti-science beliefs have real world consequences (delaying climate change mitigation, failing to vaccinate children against easily preventable diseases, allowing the deaths of hundreds of thousands from HIV/AIDS because they are denied life saving treatment, and so on).  Letting the deniers know they are wrong and educating them to understand better is a whole different matter.

When I began writing sceptical articles on this blog, it was because I had long been interested in it.  And being in education myself it was something I encountered quite frequently.  When I began in education, I met the Moon landing conspiracy arguments often and luckily a lifetime spent reading and studying the Apollo programme enabled me to answer the argument.  I knew my stuff.  For example, the famous picture of Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, was one being hawked around as evidence that the landing never took place.

A little research, a little mental modelling of the landing site, and it was clear what was portrayed in the reflection in the visor is neither a helicopter nor a floodlight.  It's the camera that was giving us the TV images that enabled the whole world to watch (assuming they had a TV set).

The key to arguing with the lunar landing deniers, then, was evidence.  Give them evidence and they either had to deny the evidence was real or find another bit of evidence to argue.  As each bit of evidence of a conspiracy was knocked down, the deniers rapidly lost the will to keep going.  It wasn't worth it then because they were on their own with no one to back them up.  In a one to one, face to face situation, turning a denier around was not easy but it was feasible.

In the anonymous world of the Internet, however, arguing with deniers is much harder.  For a start, an ad hoc gang of deniers will find a comment thread to join and the token realist is often on their own.  And one reason they are often on their own is because they have strayed onto denier home ground where deniers congregate to show their ignorance to one another and pat one another on the back for being so ignorant.  Not that they would agree that that is the case but there you go.

And the Internet allows them to find the links to the spurious evidence to support their ignorance and smugly shout "Ha ha, gotcha" when they think of something that you might not be able to answer.  And when you answer it, they move onto another point that they hope you can't answer.

The first time I entered the lions den that is WattsUpWithThat, I chose to pick on something I didn't really know about and ridicule Roy Spencer about it.  Not a good idea because he quickly corrected me and I just looked like an idiot, which is pretty much what I was.  I decided that I wouldn't argue with better informed deniers until I was better informed myself.  In far too many cases, that actually meant only thirty seconds research, such is the lack of quality in the average denier.  It wasn't too hard finding points that I could win against the rather dim James Dealing Pole and Anthony Watts.  It took a bit more before I felt confident to take on some more cunning deniers.

The downside of all this online argument is that time is taken to find out that an idiot is still an idiot, just thousands of miles away and fast asleep when I come up with my best stuff.  Because the denier is so entrenched in their denial, they won't respond to the brilliance of the argument with anything like an intellectual comment.  Oh, no.  They will have spent their time trying to come up with a fancy, witty comment that amounts (and often is) to "Yah, boo, sucks".  Those ones are beyond reach.

The upside is twofold.  Firstly there are those that can be won over.  They are less entrenched and willing to examine evidence, and have the intellectual skills to do so.  I don't mean they are any more intelligent, just that they have critical thinking skills that enable them to make sense of scientific arguments. 

Secondly, researching debating points has educated me to the point that I don't care who I argue with now.  I am not an expert by any means, but I do have enough learning in climate science to be able to point to the evidence.  And that's the big point - evidence.

The denial side of any scientific argument usually decays into a conspiracy argument, that the scientists are all in the pay of the politicians who want to feather their nests with grants, backhanders or whatever.  By sticking to the science, the denier ends up looking stupid to outsiders, and probably quite stupid to an educated person on the inside too.  And as those educated people tire of arguing with jellyfish, they drift off and perhaps they do start to realise the science is reliable.  And that the planet is getting warmer.

I was lucky.  I was brought up with no particular ideology.  My parents were not especially religious (if anything, my dad worshipped Arsenal football club and my mum Emmerdale Farm) nor political.  Indeed, they both loved laughing at politicians and clerics and passed that attitude on to me.  I suspect if I hadn't found so much to laugh at when I was younger, I might have been collecting my deserved Nobel this coming autumn.  But I did gain something.  I gained a healthy scepticism.  I gained a set of critical thinking skills that I think aren't too bad.  They seem to do the job.

One of the least satisfying aspects of arguing with deniers is the repetitive nature of their arguments.  I'd master those several years ago.  Isn't it about time they threw in the towel or they found new arguments?  Well, the latter isn't going to happen.  They only have the former left.

And to return to Buzz Aldrin.  He got fed up of being harried by Moon landing deniers, so he punched one.  I haven't reached that stage yet (but the facetious comments of Richard Tol have given me cause to face palm with a bit too much force for my own good).

Friday, 6 May 2016

Little Jimmy Delingpile and the Rapid Decline Of Denialism

It's been a while since this blog mentioned one of its favourite authors, and surely Nobel literature prize laureate this year (it can only be a matter of time), Little Jimmy Delingpile.

Little Jimmy Delingpile

Charles Atlas
A quick recap for new readers.  Little Jimmy, the man who makes Charles Atlas look like a wimp, is a long time climate science denialist given a platform at the Daily Torygraph (until he was offloaded), The Spectator and Breitbat News upon which to spout his interpretations of interpretations.  He also writes books which no one seems to stock aside from Amazon. 

This week he has utilised valuable ink and paper to write what can only be described as drivel.  His article is entitled The Slow Death Of Environmentalism (archived).  As ever, Delingpile fails to understand irony while writing yet another example of it.  Isn't it ironic that he writes this:
the decline [in people identifying as environmentalists in the USA] has been far more precipitous among Republicans (down to 27 per cent) than among Democrats (down to 56 per cent)...If you believe the greenies, the blame for this lies with an intransigent right so imprisoned by ideology that it stubbornly denies ‘the science’.
Well, Mr Delingpile, you are a right-winger and you stubbornly deny the science (no scare quotes needed) because, er, you are imprisoned by your ideology.

I used to think that  libertarianism might have something going for it.  And smaller government.  Until I had the chance to think about it and then it took only a nanosecond to realise that those things just don't work.  It's the political equivalent of having your cake and eating it.  I used to pay little attention to environmental causes until I thought about them too.  I want my new grandson growing up seeing a real elephant, a living breathing one, rather than a stuffed one in a glass case.  If humans did drive mammoths to extinction when there were a lot fewer of us to do so, our industrial killing machines are doing the same job with awful efficiency for the smaller African Elephas today.

Never let it be said that Jimmy Delingpile will waste an opportunity, like Heartland with the Unabomber, to equate environmentalists with terrorists or despotic regimes:
Like the Viet Minh or the Taleban, the environmental movement has become hugely skilled in the art of asymmetric warfare.
Heaven forbid that he should ignore the chance for hyperbole.  He could have reached for his Nuremburg Trials reference again, but that would be like repeating his greatest hits.

He goes on:
The number of true believers is much smaller than you’d think — but they’ve managed in recent years to punch massively above their weight by infiltrating all the key positions of influence and by terrorising those who disagree with them.
An analysis of Twitter exchanges suggests the true believers population is much bigger than Delingpile would have you believe. You know he wants you to believe that.  He also wants you to think that they terrorise people, rather than correcting them.  I can't remember too many true believers going on email fishing expeditions but that's old hat for deniers with power.  I can't remember hackers going after denialist websites but SkepticalScience has been hacked in the past.  And so was the server with the CRU emails.

Ah, those emails.  Delingpile takes great delight in having coined the term Climategate.  Perhaps Delingate might catch on. 

Challenge the ‘consensus’ — whether you’re a scientist like Willie Soon or even a cuddly TV presenter like David Bellamy or Johnny Ball — and these people will stop at nothing to try to destroy your career.

I think we can all work out that neither Bellamy nor Ball were A-list celebrities when they went denialist, and Willie Soon was pilloried for "forgetting" to mention where the cash that paid for his stationery came from.  And the "deliverables".

I quote these two paragraphs without comment:
The letter (sent privately, but leaked in the Guardian) was signed by no fewer than 13 members of the House of Lords, several of them scientists, who had held distinguished offices ranging from Astronomer Royal and president of the Royal Society to chairman of the Financial Services Authority. Any casual observer might naturally assume that such pillars of the establishment must have a point.
It’s only if you’re familiar with the territory that you realise how often the same names — Lords May, Rees, Stern and Deben; Sir Crispin Tickell; Sir Paul Nurse, et al — recur with tiresome regularity. Probably in their fields they were once rather good. But since then prestige has gone to their heads and they’ve turned into professional political activists brandishing a spurious environmental authority which is all too persuasive to people who don’t know better.
But they do give me the opportunity to show this video again, from the recurring "with tiresome regularity" Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate:

Enough said.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Why bother correcting the deniers? Because it matters.

Some years ago now, I read a book called The Ancient Economy by Moses Finley.  I read it because Mrs Catmando had tried to read it and had given up in frustration.  She had been told that the book contained a model of the ancient Roman economy and could not find anything that resembled a model.  So she passed it to me and asked me to try.  I couldn't find the model either.

What I did find was a description of class in ancient Roman society.  This was framed in the wider idea of an economy but it all seemed quaintly Marxist and made little effort to connect the classes in any modern idea of economic activity.  And there seemed to be a desperately lacking understanding of what actually makes economies tick: human greed and acquisitiveness. 

But Mrs Catmando's archaeology professor swore by the book, said it was a classic and would not hear a word said against it.  He was steeped in the ideas that the book really did describe an economic model whereas, I suspect, any economist would dismiss that thought instantly.  His beliefs had gone without challenge for decades but one of my wife's fellow students did challenge them and did get an admission that, perhaps, the model wasn't so much a model as a set of pretty unconnected chapters.  Finley, it must be pointed out, did not go beyond the qualitative.

Mose Finley may or may not have been a Marxist.  He did appear before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and he did keep quiet.  It does not matter if were a Marxist.  What matters is that his ideas were not being examined critically by my wife's archaeology professor, especially in the light of changing economic ideas over the period of time since Finley's book first came out (1973).  Undoubtedly, Finley was an impressive scholar but, even to a biologist like myself, it was clear that he was not an economist.  My economic understanding has come from a reading, many years ago, of a few books on basic economics, the titles of which now escape me.

I mention this because it is an example of the echo chamber at work.  Finley might be right by the archaeology professor did not ever seem to have considered that what Finley was doing was not what he professed to have been doing.  Indeed, a quick survey of work on the ancient economy in support of Finley seems strangely bereft of actual economists.  It might be the dismal science, but we should give them a hearing.  After all, they are the experts, the ones who have spent their working lifetimes in the arcane lanes and alleys of their subject, finding ever deeper and profound discoveries and explanations.

The question that the professor should have asked was this: what do economists say that might add to or alter the ideas presented by an historian of the ancient world?

The crucial question for deniers

There are deniers in so many areas of science and history.  There are Holocaust deniers, evolution deniers, climate science deniers, relativity deniers and, even, dinosaur deniers.  Having dipped a toe in many spurious debates that deniers have within their own communities, and having swum with the sharks in a few cases, there is one question I cannot recall being asked.

It is this:
what do the experts know that I don't?
 Yes, those experts in the field, the ones that have truly immersed themselves in the minutiae of a subject, have much to contribute and the accumulated years of knowledge and wisdom might just contain a nugget of information that could overturn the denier's unwarranted certainty.

Many years ago, I first encountered those that denied evolution.  I read the hippy dippy ramblings of Rupert Sheldrake and quickly dismissed it (I recently gave away my Sheldrakes, complete with marginal notes, to someone who thought he might have something worth listening to - I hate to disappoint that person but they really don't).  I also read Gordon Rattray Taylor's The Great Evolution Mystery, the most mysterious thing being that it got published at all.  The book appears wonderfully scientific.  It's just wrong from start to finish.

At the same time I was reading Stephen Jay Gould, John Maynard Smith, Colin Patterson amongst others.  What always struck me is the experts had so much evidence on their side and the deniers really had nothing.  Science is a jigsaw puzzle into which the pieces must be fitted as they are found.  If they don't fit, fundamental bits of the picture must either be modified or the piece thrown away.  If it cannot be found to fit, it isn't right.

So when deniers don't ask the question of why the experts believe that their science is true or at least as correct as we can make it at the moment, why don't they ask it?

I can hypothesise but I can't give a definitive answer.  There probably isn't one.  There are probably multiple answers.  The first is ideological.  Religious or political views can interrupt the intellectual journey and stall it at the starting line.  Many who deny evolution are creationists (I've come across almost none who deny evolution on scientific grounds alone, even when that is what they proclaim.  Stand up the Intelligent Design proponents, who, for all their hand waving for science, really aren't doing it for the science.) do so for religious reasons.  Many who deny environmental problems do so for political reasons. 

There is also personal incredulity.  How can humans be changing this enormous planet of ours?  Its so big and wide, there can't be any possibility that we have disturbed the balance of nature and ruined the thing.  This denial is also found in the political sphere as well.  Whereas once environmental concerns were the natural home of the conservative, they increasingly became a liberal matter. Caring for our home planet, caring for our fellow humans, caring for our fellow life forms, became something that the centre left espoused, so the knee jerk of the right was to oppose it.  Add in a little money from big business and, hey presto, a whole new area of denial.

If deniers don't want to like the experts, why don't they try to demonstrate the experts are wrong?

Well, they do but it is much harder to do unless you are an expert yourself.  Much easier to just make some stuff up instead.  And much, much easier just to claim that there is a gigantic conspiracy to suppress the real truth (ie the non-existent non-truth) that, for example, vaccines cause autism (they don't), carbon dioxide does not contribute to global warming (it does), the HIV virus doesn't cause AIDS (it does), dinosaurs never existed (they did). 

When deniers try to prove the experts wrong, they usually don't have full command of the facts, of the evidence, of the theories and their full implications.  Scientific mavericks are often reduced to just making stuff up to help their ideas along.  Non-existent morphic fields, for example.  Or they do spurious mathematical tricks that produce results they want but which are not scientifically or physically meaningful.  The now dead non-pause (or is it just pining for the fjords?).  Or they just outright lie and hope that no one will notice.  That's just about all of them.

If deniers are so concerned about the truth, why don't they listen when they are told the truth?

I have no idea.

So why correct them?

It matters because there are consequences to much of what deniers deny.  AIDS deniers have helped shape the policies that have led to thousands, if not millions, of unnecessary deaths over the last twenty years.  Climate change deniers are willing to see millions of people at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods as sea level rise takes them away.  Antivaxxers are willing to put their children at risk of preventable diseases, and to put those with compromised immune systems at risk of them too.  Shame on you for having had a kidney transplant through no fault of your own, they might as well say.

Since the scientific revolution four hundred years ago, science has produced an amazing accumulation of new knowledge from which deniers can pick and choose, as if it were an all you can eat buffet, denying the bits they don't much like. 

And sometimes the best they can do is to moan that they don't like being called deniers because that might make them sound like nutters, just like the Holocaust deniers.

I call them deniers because they are nutters, just like the Holocaust deniers (This is serious ad hom, is this the best that you can do? Ed.   Yes, Catmando)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Monckton's latest piece on the non-existent pause

Er, it doesn't exist.

The very warm February globally has brought an end to the endlessly boring claims of a pause that didn't exist.  At least, that's my conclusion from the silence of Lord Christopher Monckton who has posted pieces on the mathematical trickery he has been pursuing for the last few years.  Over the course of the last twelve months, he has posted no later than the 10th of the month.  Today, the 17th of March, and there is still precisely nothing.

The thoughts of Monckton now

Are we to believe that his eminence grease has nothing to say on the disappearance of his mathematical sleight of hand?  Or that nothing is to be said about the revision of the RSS data set?  RSS was the one that Monckton relied upon to deliver him his phoney flat line.  That's why the deniers went to Congress and told the world that the satellite data was the most reliable (it gave them what they wanted).  Now they can't do that.  And they can't use the adjustment argument either because it has been well publicised that all the data sets undergo adjustments.

So Monckton's response to the change at RSS and the high February temperature has been to retreat with his flunky to Monckton Towers and...  Your guess is as good as mine.

Lord Monckton, reacting to the news that February was jolly mild for the time of year, globally

Still, he is a fine specimen of scientific integrity, don't you think?  Well, don't you?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

DR Tim Ball denies pushing Velikovsky by, er, pushing Velikovsky

From the world's stupidest climate web site, WattsWrongWithThat comes Dr Tim Ball, credential exaggerator and world's worst actor.  Here's what Potholer54 makes of Ball, amongst others:

The other day, Ball wrote a misguided piece at WUWT that pushed Velikovsky, mostly as a martyr that the scientific elite threw to the lions, so to speak.  To defend himself against the accusation that he supports Velikovsky's crackpot ideas, Ball does the obvious.  At least the obvious to a denier and conspiracy fruitcake like Ball.  He says he doesn't support him then gives the reasons why he does.  That works - not.  If you don't believe me, here's the full thing.  My edited highlights follow.

The reaction to my recent reference to Immanuel Velikovsky was knee-jerk, ill-informed, and a classic example of scientific elitism. I suspect that like so many such reactions they are by people who read or know little about the events and issues involved.
Probably not, Tim.  Not here, anyway.  I've read some of Velikovsky's dross and I've read many critiques of it.  I know which side science will fall on every time, because it is so obvious which side scientific evidence is on.  Barely knee jerk but astonishment that anyone these days takes Velikovsky seriously and claims to have some expertise in science.

I was admonished for using him as a poor example because he represented “pseudo-science”. Who and how do you determine that someone or their work is pseudo-science? In this case, it is simply the endless repetition of half-truths because Velikovsky’s education and scientific affiliations don’t support the claim.
As the recent example of Ben Carson, superlative surgeon and total dingbat creationist show, you can be a genius at one thing and so, so, so wrong on something else.  And, as Orac explains often, most physicians are not scientists.  They are often not even scientifically trained in the same sense that, say, a physicist or a climate scientist are.  This is not to do down many doctors, just to point out that they are not trained as scientists even though we like to think they are.

There is little doubt that the major reason for the charge of pseudo-science was his interest in and use of ancient records. The biggest sin of all was use of the Bible while trying to determine similar descriptions of physical events across different cultural references.
No, his biggest sin was to be so uncritical about those ancient records.  He cherry picked and did not use the available evidence when it contradicted his thesis.  To have ignored references to Venus that predated the events Velikovsky said led to the creation of Venus out of Jupiter shows precisely what sort of pseud we are dealing with here.  Velikovsky, I am told often, is a great scholar.  He is very sloppy.

As a result of Velikovsky’s research, done with thoroughness and precision, he discovered anomalies that didn’t fit the prevailing sequence of events.
Oh, boy.  It wasn't done with thoroughness and precision.  He seems to have had a version he set out to prove correct.  There is a hint that there was a religious aspect to this but I am not convinced by that argument.  Whatever, confusing hydrocarbons and carbohydrates is childish stuff.

This reconstruction and comparison of historical data to analyze natural events was no different than earlier examples. The use of older star tables compared with the precise observations of Tycho Brahe were used by Johannes Kepler to confirm the Copernican heliocentric system.
I would be ashamed to have written this passage because even Ball must have known how wrong it was.  Brahe and Kepler used the best available observations of the planets and stars - measurements - not stories.  If Ball thinks the Bible is a record of scientific observations then... Oh, wait.  He probably does.

A colleague and I approached the President of our University with a plan to hold a conference on the ideas of Immanuel Velikovsky. He said he would not allow anything on campus associated with that “charlatan.” The President, Harry Duckworth was a physicist and Velikovsky committed the cardinal sin of challenging prevailing scientific views. We knew through questioning that Duckworth knew little about Velikovsky or his science. He simply repeated the gossip without question. The objective of our proposed conference was to show that it didn’t matter whether Velikovsky was right or wrong.
So there was a deeper, antiscientific agenda, hey, Tim?  Of course it matters if Velikovsky is right or wrong and you are hardly going to get a physicist to back down when the immutable laws of physics demonstrate with extreme clarity why Velikovsky is wrong.  You have to pity the poor old scientists who had to explain again and again just why Velikovsky could not be right and to get your own colleagues to come up to you and suggest that you just undermine all that scientific understanding by showing it doesn't matter.  I know Tim is writing this rubbish to his agenda, but he wants the rest of humanity to take him seriously, he needs to be a little more critical of his own thoughts.  They stand no scrutiny whatsoever.

Velikovsky’s treatment holds many lessons for today’s debate over climate change. The scientific communities condemnation of him was the same as today’s claim by AGW proponents that the science is settled.
I agree with the first half of the second sentence - scientists at the time behaved badly.  I do not agree with the sentiment in the second half.

Here is a synopsis of issues that provide context to the threat of Velikovsky to the establishment.
• He was trained in medicine, not specifically in geology or astronomy.
See Orac, ad nauseam.
• This meant he was not indoctrinated by formal education in specialized academic science – the bastions of dogmatism and intellectual tunnel vision.
This also meant he had little understanding of the subtleties of the subject.  It did not mean he was lacking dogmatism and tunnel vision.  And this is at the time when Plate Tectonics was being developed.
• He claimed that historical records were of actual events. They were similar to proxy data in climate, which suffer the same disdain from self-professed ‘hard’ climate scientists.
Well, this is a distinct problem.  Some records are more reliable than others and those that support one another, reporting the same event for example, are more useful still.  When one claims the Earth stood still, either Klaatu or magic did it because there is an enormous problem with the physics of it, so it isn't a surprise that the physicists were sniffy about Velikovsky.  I would be.  And not being a physicist, he didn't have to worry about the actual physics of this.
• His ideas did not conform to established astronomical views on planetary motion. For example, he correctly anticipated the retrograde rotation of Venus.
And they still don't, even though he lucked onto the retrograde rotation of Venus.  But a lucky prediction doesn't make you an expert.  Not everything he predicted turned out correct and not everything had anything like reliable evidence to support the prediction.
• His work was interdisciplinary at a time of specialization. Worse, it blended science with the humanities and the social sciences. As one person explained, Dr. Velikovsky’s work crosses so many of the jurisdictional boundaries of learning that few experts could check it against their own competence.”
Not sure who the person was but being wrong in several disciplines is clearly something to be celebrated according to Tim Ball.  In the real world, wrong in humanities is still wrong.
• Many of Velikovsky’s claims proved correct including the higher temperature for Venus; the radio waves from Jupiter; and the nine advanced claims he made in writing at the request of the New York Times before the moon landing, all of which were confirmed by the evidence.
And many haven't, but there you go.  Following the link in this does not take you to the list, just one of them, about water being found on the Moon.  So what, I hear you cry.  Indeed.

Velikovsky's first book, World's In Collision, was initially published by MacMillan but a concerted effort by scientists ensured that they dropped the hot potato and left it for someone else to pick up.

Ball again:
 Carl Sagan led the open assault on Velikovsky with the arrogant and scientifically elitist title book “Scientist’s Confront Velikovsky, which implies that Velikovsky is not a scientist.
I have a copy of the book. It is slim, accessible and fully referenced.  The biggest section is Sagan's and it is also one with a set of calculations that demonstrate the foolishness of Velikovsky.  As for the elitist title, what else could they have called it since it was a clear indication of what the contents were, scientifically based refutations.   And as for Velikovsky not being a scientist - that much is obvious from reading his own writings.
Carl Sagan (left) with Immanuel Velikovsky (right)

Sagan is a bit of a pariah for deniers.  He opposed nuclear weapons and promoted the greenhouse effect, if you like, and he was a phenomenally good science communicator, for which he met much envy.  But the biggest envy comes from deniers and Ball, true to form, denies bit time:
His claims about the temperature and role of CO2 on Venus was wrong. His claim that CO2 is causing global warming was wrong, yet like all scientific elitists he blindly ignores the facts. 
 There we have it: Tim Ball thinks he's one of the scientific elite because he blindly ignores the facts.  Case closed.

Well, it should be.  For some unknown reason, when Tim Ball has a kick at the late Stephen Jay Gould, he omits the fact that Gould was a Marxist and therefore must have let his leftist ideologies seep into his science (I am not sure that Ball wouldn't be right here, but it is hard to disentangle Gould's politics of revolution from the emerging ideas of catastrophism that did become somewhat mainstream in the seventies and eighties).

Ball should be more alert to the fact that science does take on board odd ideas. Witness Alvarez's comet collision wiping out the dinosaurs idea, something that, according to Ball, would have been impossible for the mainstream science elite to accept, but accept it they did, and remarkably quickly.  Within ten years, I was reading of fanciful ideas of periodic extinctions and a companion star to the Sun that churned up the Oort cloud every 25 million years or so.  Ideas that might seem extreme are rapidly absorbed into scientific mainstream when and only when they yield insights and gain the necessary evidence.  Velikovsky did not achieve this because there were perfectly adequate explanations for the fanciful ideas he put forward, and there was counter evidence readily available that said even his best wasn't good enough.  Astronomical records of Venus predate Velikovsky's suggested origin.

Anthony Watts suggests we can learn something from the Velikovsky affair.  Perhaps he can see what the rest of the world learnt a long time ago.  In case he reads this (and I expect he doesn't), the message is that blokes sitting in armchairs and searching the Internet (or in Velikovsky's case, sitting in a library for several years) and coming up with a world changing theory are highly unlikely to be right but not for the reasons that Watts and Ball think.  It's because they don't have their ideas shot down before the get the chance to let the world know how much of a genius they are.  Science, as I have said before, it like a puzzle and all the bits needs to fit together to work properly.  You can't just invent something to make your explanation work.  There is no X that makes it happen.  Einstein got caught out with his cosmological constant.

Let me leave one little learning moment to Stephen Jay Gould:
The Velikovsky affair raises what is perhaps the most disturbing question about the public impact of science. How is a layman to judge rival claims of supposed experts? Any person with a gift for words can spin a persuasive argument about any subject not in the domain of a reader's personal expertise. Even von Daniken sounds good if you just read Chariots of the Gods. I am in no position to judge the historical argument of Worlds in Collision. I know little of celestial mechanics and even less about the history of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom (although I have heard experts howl about Velikovsky's unorthodox chronology). I do not wish to assume that the nonprofessional must be wrong. Yet when I see how poorly Velikovsky uses the data I am familiar with, then I must entertain doubts about his handling of material unfamiliar to me. But what it is a person who knows neither astronomy, Egyptology, nor geology to do—especially when faced with a hypothesis so intrinsically exciting and a tendency, shared, I suspect, by all of us, to root for the underdog?
The Tim Ball Velikovsky affair illustrates a problem with deniers too.  How thin skinned they are?  I begin to wonder if they were all rather spoiled as children, that they learned to cry when something went wrong in order to get what they wanted.  More ice cream, Tim?  Now please stop crying.

But all deniers seem to be like it.  Monckton threatens writs.  Watts snips comments, then makes cowardly comments behind that shield of impenetrability.  The commentariat at WUWT bay like hounds at a dog fight.  But they whimper when shown up to be the fools they truly are.  When Tim Ball was called out as supporting Velikovsky, he could have just ignored it, or written that Velikovsky was a nutcase with no supporting evidence.  But he didn't.  He showed his true colours and supported not just Velikovsky but his ideas.

Further reading:
If you want to see what caused the fuss and see how wrong it is, here is Velikovsky's Worlds In Collision (pdf)
You can buy the book Scientists Confront Velikovsky on
Sou has her own take on Tim Ball's nonsense

 Watch Carl Sagan deal with Velikovsky in Cosmos (if you're reading, Tim, watch all the way to the end - you'll learn something):

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Monckton's non-pause goes into quantum of solace superposition

For many moons now, Christopher Monckton has been touring the denial blogs with his well worn routine: no warming since....  Unfortunately for him, events, dear boy, have resulted in a new act.  The pause that never was is going.

That's because, as Monckton says:
The start-date is not “cherry-picked” so as to coincide with the temperature spike caused by the 1998 el Niño. Instead, it is calculated so as to find the longest period with a zero trend.
But, and here's an important point, the 1997-8 El Nino is part of the hidden cherry pick and so is using the RSS database.  UAH data explodes the non-pause.  Myth busted.

The elephant in the Jacuzzi

What can you make of a statement like this:
The satellite datasets are based on reference measurements made by the most accurate thermometers available – platinum resistance thermometers, which provide an independent verification of the temperature measurements by checking via spaceward mirrors the known temperature of the cosmic background radiation, which is 1% of the freezing point of water, or just 2.73 degrees above absolute zero.
Is it a lie?  Pretty much so, because the satellites are not measuring temperature but radiance and require a whole lot of adjusting to come up with a temperature.   And, for good measure, does the bit I've picked out in bold actually mean anything?  Wiki doesn't list resistance thermometers being used on satellites but Roy Spencer says they are.  Qu & al Satellite Bassed Applications On Climate Change gives details, including the models needed to convert radiance to temperatures and the methods needed to callibrate the instruments.

As you might expect, Monckton thinks he knows more than the experts.

The non-ticking non-time non-bomb

Finally, how long will it be before the Freedom Clock (Fig. T12) reaches 20 years without any global warming? If it does, the climate scare will become unsustainable.
Just in case you want to know the answer to this imponderable question, I'll tell you in a minute.  But first, a pointless graphic from Monckton's article:
18 years 8 months takes us to June 1997.  That pause beginning has changed again but you knew that by now, didn't you?  What you are bursting to know is the answer to Monckton's question: when will the non-pause reach twenty years and thus the entire edifice of modern civilisation climate science collapse in an endless series of fraud trials?  I've searched high and low and found this:
The sharp el Niño spike is just about to abolish the long Pause in global temperatures
So now we know.   We know because the authority is impeccable.  It's from Monckton's own article.  Do you think he reads his own stuff?  Sometimes I wonder.
The Stig