Sunday, January 27, 2008

The American Denial of Global Warming

Every American should watch this talk. This is PRECISELY what is going on.

Oreilly Says Something True

Break out the champagne, Oreilly said something true. Once in awhile he does.

And drawing from the godfather of the modern conservative movement himself, here is Newt Gingrich. This is the most perfect distillation of the Conservative political motivation to obscure the global warming issue as any I've witnessed.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Horse Thief

Nothing more perfectly symbolizes the incompetence of George Bush, a man who stole the Presidency, than the "revelation" that his beloved painting is about a horse thief. That Bush took this painting "at face value", seeing *only* what he wanted to see in it, sums up his life and presidency in a way that a thousand words never could. (To call him a dolt would be a radical understatement.) One wonders, nevertheless, whether he will ever see the painting for what it really is. Nothing else has shaken him from his fantasy world of incuriosity, ignorance and denial. In Bush's fantasy world, God has made him President, Iraq continues its steady march toward peace and democracy, global warming is a politically motivated liberal hoax, and in New Orleans he is a hero, etc., etc., etc...

From the WP

The Horse Thief

Scott Horton blogs for Harpers: "George W. Bush is famous for his attachment to a
painting which he acquired after becoming a 'born again Christian.' It's by W.H.D.
Koerner and is entitled 'A Charge to Keep.' Bush was so taken by it, that he took the
painting's name for his own official autobiography. And here's what he says about it:
'I thought I would share with you a recent bit of Texas history which epitomizes our
mission. When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of
a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is
us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley
that we serve One greater than ourselves.' . . .

"Now, however, Jacob Weisberg [has tracked] down the commission behind the art work
and he gives us the full story in his forthcoming book on Bush, 'The Bush Tragedy'."

Weisberg writes: "[Bush] came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders
who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words,
the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.

"Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D.
Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled 'The Slipper Tongue,'
published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking
horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the
illustration bears the caption: 'Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not
Have Been Caught.'"

So, Horton writes: "Bush's inspiring, prosyletizing Methodist is in fact a
silver-tongued horse thief fleeing from a lynch mob. It seems a fitting marker for the
Bush presidency."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Global Warming Denialism Part 3

So enough of this denialism bullshit. If you're not a trained climatologist, I couldn't give a flying fuck at the end of a gun why you think the scientific consensus is wrong. As for Joe Blow denialist off the street-he has nothing at his disposal but a bunch of poorly understood, faith based, cherry picked arguments absorbed from the mouth of his favorite talk radio host. In short, he has the free-will of a termite.

So what do the vast majority of experts *actually* believe the deal is with AGW? Here's their main arguments and refutations with references if you care to learn about them:
(and refreshingly, Al Gore has absolutely nothing to do with any of this)

Scientific studies have shown that the current warming is not natural.

There are many basic scientific facts which can only be explained if the current global warming is being caused by an increased greenhouse effect due to carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere from humans burning fossil fuels. For example, the planet is warming as much or more during the night than day. If the warming were due to the Sun, the planet should warm a lot more during the day when the Sun has influence. Greenhouse gases trap heat all the time, so they warm the planet regardless of time of day. Another example is that the upper atmosphere is cooling because the greenhouse gases trap the heat in the lower atmosphere. If warming were due to the Sun, it would be warming all layers of the atmosphere.

We know it's warming, and we've measured how much.

Scientists have a good idea how the Sun and the Earth's natural cycles and volcanoes and all those natural effects change the global climate, so they've gone back and checked to see if they could be responsible for the current global warming. What they found is:Over the past 30 years, all solar effects on the global climate have been in the direction of (slight) cooling, not warming. This is during a very rapid period of global warming. (2) (3)

A recent study concluded:“the range of [Northern Hemisphere]-temperature reconstructions and natural forcing histories…constrain the natural contribution to 20th century warming to be <0.2°c>
You can see this in the third graph here (5), where the dotted lines are just from natural causes, and the full lines are natural + human causes.

If that’s not enough to convince you the Sun isn't responsible, consider the fact that no scientific study has ever attributed more than one-third of the warming over the past 30 years to the Sun, and most attribute just 0-10% to the Sun. So the Sun certainly isn't a large factor in the current warming. They've also looked at natural cycles, and found that we should be in the middle of a cooling period right now."An often-cited 1980 study by Imbrie and Imbrie determined that 'Ignoring anthropogenic and other possible sources of variation acting at frequencies higher than one cycle per 19,000 years, this model predicts that the long-term cooling trend which began some 6,000 years ago will continue for the next 23,000 years(6)

So it's definitely not the Earth's natural cycles. They looked at volcanoes, and found that a) volcanoes cause more global cooling than warming, because the particles they emit block sunlight b) humans emit over 150 times more CO2 than volcanoes annually So it's certainly not due to volcanoes.(7) Then they looked at human greenhouse gas emissions. We know how much atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased over the past 50 years (8)

And we know from isotope ratios that this increase is due entirely to human emissions from burning fossil fuels. We know how much of a greenhouse effect these gases like carbon dioxide have, and the increase we've seen is enough to have caused almost all of the warming we've seen over the past 30 years (about 80-90%). You can see a model of the various factors over the past century at the bottom of the page(9). The correlation with CO2 modeled temp is ridiculously close.

This is enough evidence to convince almost all climate scientists that humans are the primary cause of the current global warming.

If you think they're wrong you'd better have a good fucking reason. Because if their right, the denialist is a major part of the problem.

Global Warming Denialism Part 2

One scientist I heard made this remark concerning AGW- "When the science is on your side, you debate the science. When it's not, you attack the messenger".

Al Gore is certainly the messenger, and his name alone seems to be considered as an argument by the non-science trained denialists (who again, are almost all right wing ideologues with no science understanding who are trying desperately to protect corporate interests at the expense of truth. They are basically people rooting for their favorite football team).

So here is the long list of arguments made by the global warming denialists. I didn't make this up. This is a compilation of several other brainstormers and people with degrees studying climate science who have more knowledge and experience in debating denialists. I added one that I thought was missing from their list and I'll start with it-

From "The Top 10 Ways to Tell That a AGW Denialist Hasn't Done Any Honest Research" (warning, far more than 10)

*Attacks the sensationalist media as if the hype itself is evidence that AGW doesn't exist at all.

*Criticizes (or just mentions) Al Gore like that's a piece of evidence

*Claims that as many or more scientists doubt AGW as agree with it.

*Asks a simple question like "If humans are causing global warming, what made the planet come out of the last ice age?"

*Claims the current warming is part of a 'natural cycle' and doesn't know what causes natural cycles.

*Claims the current warming is due to the Sun even though no scientific study has come to this conclusion.

* Claims "Global warming has stalled" due to too small of a sample size in temperature data which flattens the graph and misrepresents overall trendlines.

* Makes a political remark (i.e. communist, liberal, etc.) as a refutation

* Makes a conspiracy remark (i.e. it's just the UN trying to take over the world). Or my personal favorite, "follow the money"

*Thinks scientists haven't considered the fact that climate has changed in the past, or that Mars is warming.

* Thinks the greenhouse effect is unproven

* Thinks that one volcanic eruption emits more CO2 than humans have in 5,000 years.

* "It's snowing in Vermont in the middle of winter. Where's global warming?!"

* Can't answer a simple scientific question (i.e. how is the observed increase in greenhouse gases NOT causing warming?)

* Cites JunkScience, Fox News, right-wing blog, Inhofe's site, etc..

* Makes absurd claims with zero citations

* Blames global warming on water vapor, cow farts, beer/soda carbonation, etc.

* "Models are just guesses" or "we can't predict the future"

* "Soon they're going to tax us for breathing!"

* Cites one outlying study and claims it disproves dozens of others which are in agreement

* Cites one scientist who has ignored the data and contradicted thousands of others

* "Warmer is better"

* "More CO2 is good for plants"

* "They predicted global cooling/an ice age in the 1970s"

* "They can't even predict the weather right for next week"

* "The Earth is 4.5 billion years old and we only have good data for 50/100 years"

* "Scientific consensus has been wrong before" or "the scientific consensus used to be that the Earth was flat!"

* Does not know what a peer reviewed journal is.

* Presents old theories already proven wrong as "new evidence"

* Uses a small part of an article taken out of context while the main article (complete) would contradict them

* States a political think tank as a "reliable source"

* Confuses vast timespans in the past with small windows of time in the present

* Argues that any advancement toward clean technologies will put us back to the stone age

* Quickly turns the issue to China and India and away from the science.

* Has a Christian fundamentalist worldview

* They complain about the word "consensus," as if the word did not imply that alternate theories were considered or as if the IPCC process did not include and consider skeptic opinions such as Gray, Lindzen, McKitrick, et al. They were considered, the consensus was reached. Get over it.

* Global warming science is labeled "fear-mongering," which ironically overlooks that claiming that there is a global conspiracy is the only clear fear-mongering present

* They use any variation of the glib "why is warming so bad?" line, which fails to consider the results of past warming on earth (extinction of most species on the planet; look up the Permian Triassic Extinction)

Global Warming Denialism Part 1

I love the anthropogenic global warming debate more than the evolution vs creation debate for a couple of reasons. They are both very similar in that they are science issues with large unidirectional consensus that are systematically attacked by a group of very angry people with an obvious agenda. These people, amazingly, are usually led by someone with a giant megaphone who surprise! has no degree in science.

Anthropogenic Global Warming(AGW) is more interesting in a way because it is not a wholly religious issue. It is a politically motivated debate over an issue which has already begun to have direct consequences within our lifetimes. Almost all AGW denialists who are non-scientists are right wing ideologues. Why is this? The obvious reason is that corporate interests have the most to lose over climate change policies which may restrict the way they do business.

What is fascinating is that these right wing ideologues will continually blame the left for "politicizing global warming". The main man to blame of course, is Al Gore. So you have a whole group of science uneducated right wing talk radio/Fox news listeners who jump on the global warming denialism bandwagon despite the overwhelming worldwide science consensus that AGW is true, and blame Al Gore for scaring the shit out of everyone. The obvious question is, how could anything be more of a display of "politicizing" a science issue than a bunch of armchair crackerjacks ignoring a worldwide science consensus over data they are completely incapable of understanding, and claiming that all these peer reviewed science papers in peer reviewed science journals are wrong, while their favorite talk radio guru (who has never taken a college level science class in his life, let alone one on climatology) who totally cherry picks his data and is an unashamed transparent spokesman for corporate interests just *happens* to be right.
Don't worry, I left nothing out. There are *no* peer reviewed papers in peer reviewed science journals by AGW denialists. Only debates over the *degree* at which mankind is causing warming.

Within the scientific community, the consensus is overwhelming and ever growing that mankind is responsible for the preponderance of warming. There is not one credible science agency left which is not in accord. This is not to say that every climatologist agrees. But the denialist ranks are shrinking as new evidence has come in.

None of this deters people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage-Weiner, and it certainly doesn't deter their listeners who swallow their upchuck blindly like baby chicks from their mother. They know what their ideology demands that they believe, and by Gawd they will find a way to make it so!

I have had the wonderful fortune of witnessing cross-arguments from denialists and climate experts recently and I have learned a hell of a lot about this issue. It has been highly entertaining. I mainly observed, since I am no climatologist. I didn't understand all the numbers and everything, but I learned the gist of the denialist motivation and I hope to share it in the next two entries.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Letter Avaliable at Target

I was just at my local Target store, and was astonished to notice the new paperback version of Letter to a Christian Nation. My eyes bulged out in amazement. Target doesn't exactly have a huge book selection, and this was one of them. How did Sam pull this off?!?!

I bet it's not at Walmart. If anyone goes to Walmart let me know if it's there.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Portable Atheist

Got my copy last week and just starting reading a few entries. This is a 480 page book full of excerpts from famous writing over the ages from people like Lucretius, Conrad, Orwell, Einstein, Russell, Spinoza, Mill, Darwin, Hume, Hobbes, Marx, as well as the modern "new atheism" writers. 47 people in total.

I have yet to understand why the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is included. He was a Persian poet from 1048-1123. There are widely varying translations of this into English in volving huge disputes, and people claim Kayyam was anything from a mystic to an atheist. I haven't read it, but my preconceived notion is that he was a mystic misinterpreted as a nihilist by people who didn't understand Sufism. Don't quote me. I have a feeleing however that including Kayyam in an atheist reader would be like including a Buddhist writing as a prop for atheism. I've long suspected that Hitchens deeply misconstrues the things that Harris harps on and this may be a case in point. But I'll look at it and get back.

There were three poems I read that seriously touched me. I have yet to develop into a steadfast poetry fan, but these really hit home and I can see why they were included. Two by Philip Larkin and one by Thomas Hardy.

Church Going- Philip Larkin
Aubade- Philip Larkin
God's Funeral- Thomas Harding

Nonzero- Robert Wright

This Robert Wright book is not related to his masterpiece "The Moral Animal". It is a very well done and well researched book arguing for "directionality" of evolution in both the cultural and the biological realms. Wright uses the concept of "nonzero sum" from game theory. The idea being that greater frequency of win-win scenarios involving things like cooperation, symbiosis, and community are at the tip of the arrow of evolution. This as opposed to the zero sum win-lose game where one party wins at the expense of the other.

Wright's thesis is that the way information is transferred through evolution and natural selection pretty much guarantees a culmination of greater nonzero sum games as evolution proceeds. He even goes on to speculate that things like love are pretty much guaranteed by the process of evolution.

He then addresses the problem of consciousness and where it fits into all this. Is it epiphenomenon just coming along for the ride or something more ingrained? I believe Wright is geniunely agnostic and open minded to this question which makes his attitude very refreshing and appealing to people. He started off his career with interests in psychology, evolution and human nature just when "sociobiology" turned into "evolutionary psychology" in the 70's. His book "The Moral Animal" was one of the first popular offerings of the new ideas at the time.
I first noticed Robert Wright in an issue of What is Enlightenment? magazine. This is a good
interview available online.

There is also a TED talk he gave about the concepts of his book.
He was a journalist for Slate and here he has this great site - where he interviews famous thinkers about these topics.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Moral Instinct

This very long article by Steven Pinker has been gaining popularity in the NY Times. I glanced at the first page when it came out, but today I finally got around to reading all 8 pages. It really is a masterpiece of an essay. It will really challenge the way most people think. But as always, those who really need to read it won't, and even if they did they wouldn't grasp it.
- Aaron, The Proud Elitist

Cheers professor Pinker.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Beck From the Dead

Right Wing tool Glenn Beck has a hemorrhoid surgery go bad and he contemplates suicide in the hospital. I can't stand Glenn Beck. He is a global warming denialist and a patsy of the religious right. Recently he said that it was good that the U.S. was 38th in healthcare because one of the parameters of quality healthcare was access for the poor. And, his reasoning goes, since the U.S. has probably the worst level of access for poor people, Glenn saw that as a good thing for our healthcare system. See, our taxes are made a miniscule fraction lower by not having to provide quality care to the losers of our society (about 1/6 who are uninsured). Thus, we have a really good system. Here's a little visual to help you out:

Beck states- "The politicians are right that we have a health care crisis in this country,". "Where they're wrong is that it's not going to be solved by government, it's not going to be solved by getting the HMOs out, it's not going to be solved by a new marbled-lobby health center," he said. "It's by hiring people that understand about caring for people."

This is utter bullshit. The workers do care, just as much as they do in any other country. That's what originally got them into the field in the first place. What Glenn will not admit and does not wish to understand is that a great cause of the problem is that healthcare is run as a big business. As long as the dough rolls in, nobody of any importance is complaining. Nobody that is... but the people.

So Glenn wants to launch a campaign to fight fight FIGHT the symptoms without acknowledging the problem. That's his job. That's why he makes the big bucks.

Matt Taibbi Telling it Like it is

What makes this doubly wonderous is that he does it right in front of white house spin secretary Tony Snowjob.

"You can send any shit up the flag pole and all these reporters will be fucking soluting right away"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tourettes Guy Has Died

Apparently Danny was in a car crash awhile ago. He recently died in his sleep. He made millions of us feel good about ourselves for brief periods of time. He will be sorely missed. I hope he is in a better place.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Gotta Love it!

I was into the writings of Sam Harris before this whole fashionability of "atheism" came into vogue (thanks to Pat's tip). I was surprised at how much attention was received. I was accustomed to keeping up to date with the latest writings on these issues. So it took me a long time before I really realized that this was not my own selective attention, but a national and even worldwide phenomenon. I was happy to see this ad appear in the New York Times:

Sunday, January 06, 2008


This cartoon was banned by the Mormon church, but I have it on word from an ex-Mormon that it's all true.

Now, even if there were a god of some kind, would it really matter whether you didn't believe anything at all, or you bought into this utter horseshit?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rabbi Wolpe versus Sam Harris

I thought this was a really great debate. The moderator did little to interfere, Harris and Wolpe were visibly in fighting mode with hackles raised, new territory was explored not covered so much in prior debates, and Wolpe (though not remotely convincing) handled himself pretty well and had some pretty clever things to say at times. Harris meets the challenge well, and at the end you feel the audience is sympathetic towards his views.

Judging from their reactions, I believe that the audience watching this debate was left mostly with an attitude of- "There might be something out there, but this religion shit is really not cutting the mustard", which I think is a success. The pressure being put upon the religious is working in dramatic fashion. The talking points are out and about all over the media (despite incessant attempts to distort Sam's position), and they are forcing the religious to become more honest about the meaning of their faith.

It will not collapse overnight. What happens when you change your position (as I've done a couple times), is you begin to discover on your own the points which other people have already made to you. Your own inner dialogue starts to challenge you with observations that feel as if you made them up, despite the fact that they are the same ones others have been telling you all along, you just weren't listening deeply and you weren't capable of allowing them to sink in. Finally you change your position on your own and credit yourself for having thought it through in your own unique way. Only years down the road do you realize that it was another person who really did the convincing. And you'll never admit it publicly. Give it some time, you can mark my words. The fruit of the recent books by Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins is still about 2+ years away. Suddenly alot of people will start making an Exodus away from their faith, and it won't be clear what caused it, and the atheist books won't get the credit.

Chickenshit in NJ will enjoy seeing Harris debate a Rabbi ;-)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Edge Question of the Year

It's that time. The question posed to our EDGE science and cultural leaders this year was-


Be warned. You cannot read just one.

Sam Harris was once of a "nature knows best" mentality and has changed. He states- "Like many people, I once trusted in the wisdom of Nature. I imagined that there were real boundaries between the natural and the artificial, between one species and another, and thought that, with the advent of genetic engineering, we would be tinkering with life at our peril. I now believe that this romantic view of Nature is a stultifying and dangerous mythology."

Neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni has lost faith in the idea that people are becoming more rational.

Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll is upset that so much modern science skepticism proceeds from ignorance and not expertise.

William Calvin, professor of medicine says Greenland ice melt data changed his opinion about the urgency of global warming.

Carolyn Porco no longer believes that the obvious benefit of science and reason for dissecting truth from fiction can stand alone in a society of superstition without constant effort and defending.

Biologist Brian Goodwin Believes that pan-sentience may be necessary to account for qualia.

Philosopher Helena Cronin now believes that the preponderance of males populating the highest outlier levels of I.Q. can only be explained by sex differences and not bias.

Chris Anderson editor of wired magazine went from climate change skeptic to "carbon zealot" in 2006 after looking at the overwhelming evidence for himself.

Freeman Dyson no longer believes that the dropping of two nukes on Japan is what brought the war to an end.

Mark Pagel, evolutionary biologist now thinks that Humans are more genetically different from each other than previously thought, and these differences can be behaviorally significant.

Archaeologist Timothy Taylor is no longer the cultural relativist he once was and is more and more choosing to see the past through modern eyes.

Social psychologist david Myers has revamped his whole view over the years and has decided- we are not born blank slates, The unconscious mind dwarfs the conscious mind, sex orientation is not a hoice, among other things.

Neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky thinks reductionism can't explain many problems in neuroscience, and if you want to be a healthy primate, strive to be high ranking.

Researcher Helen Fisher found worldwide that divorce was most common after 4 years of marriage. 4 years is also the usual length of time between pregnancy in our ancestor's hunter gatherer societies, thus supporting her idea of "serial monogamy" amongst primates.

Laurence Smith, professor of geology says that 2007 gave us tremendous climate change data, and long story short, we're pretty much fucked.

Molecular biologist Lee Silver has lost faith in humanity's ability to overcome superstition.

Associate professor Scott Sampson finally concedes that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs after being a doubter.

Wired editor Kevin Kelly thought Wikipedia would never work due to human nature, and concedes he was wrong.

Computer scientist Robert Schank thinks AI can't make a machine resemble human mental complexity in his lifetime or even his grandson's lifetime.

John Horgan now believes the mind/body problem can be solved.

And Many more.....

After going through all the responses I can see there are several themes to this years question:

1) Many people are downcast over the inability of science and reason to win out over superstition despite overwhelming evidence.

2) Consciousness and brain function cannot be understood through reductionism.

3.) The science community has gotten past political correctness on moral and gender issues.

4.) Climate change is really serious and action must be taken now, end of discussion.